New York Times best selling graphic novelist (for Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas), amazing artist and science nerd Maris Wicks chats with us about the inner workings of our inner workings in her new book, Human Body Theater.
From Abdomen to X-Ray, Maris takes us through the mysterious workings of the human body with a cute skeleton narrator and more than one smiley-faced platelet.
This is all ages science comics with a purpose!
Maris Wicks: Thank you! Well, I selfishly wanted to make this book because I just think the human body is AWESOME. I chose the form of comics because it’s the most efficient way for me to communicate information.
As far as I know, there hasn’t been a comic book dedicated to the human body (until now). Side note: I would totally take a remake of Innerspace. Just saying.
For Primates, and you were the artist on that book, this time you are the writer and artist for what needs to be a scientifically accurate book. How crazy did you go with your research?
My research for Human Body Theater unknowingly started way back in 2002 when I got certified to be an EMT. Before that, I always had a love for all things anatomical, whether it was purely for artistic inspiration, or if it was the topic of a book I was reading. When Human Body Theater got green-lit, I read every book for kids I could find about the human body (and some geared towards adults too).
My EMT and college human anatomy and physiology course books came in handy too. It was a little daunting to jump into writing my first book, but I actually had encouragement from Jim (who wrote Primates).
After Primates, I asked if he wanted to work on another book together and he offered “How about you write your own?” This response, from a science writer that I had long-admired, certainly helped to give me the confidence to pursue this project (thanks Jim!).
How long has this book been in development and what is your current relationship with your publisher First Second Books. Did they ask you to make this?
From start to finish, Human Body Theater took about 2.5 years to complete. I had pitched the project to First Second right as I was wrapping up Primates…I really liked working with them on Primates and I was tickled when they expressed interest in Human Body Theater.
What is your target age range for this book? To tell you the truth, I’m having one of those big birthdays with a ‘0’ at the end of it and I still learned a bunch!
Well, the book’s description say ages 10—14 (grades 4—8), but I wrote this book with a broad audience in mind: parents reading to younger kids, high schoolers, college kids, and full-on grown-ups (which, I hope you don’t mind, I consider us both to be).
How dare you! Anyway, how do you simplify and personify such abstractions as microbes and viruses? You do more than make them cute and put smiley faces on the blood cells!
The way I cartoon is, in a sense, the way I see the world.
Honestly, it’s hard for me to NOT see little smiley faces on everything. Part of my aim in making science accessible is to break the real-world rules a bit, and use the comedy and abstraction of cartooning to let these organisms, cells and sometimes even inanimate objects have a voice (and face and tiny hats and, well, you get the picture).
There has already been some great praise from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal to name a few, but how have your friends and family reacted to the book?
Positively! I mean, if you are related to me, or friends with me, you already know that I am a GIANT NERD. This book is just an extension of my nerdiness. What made me happy was to know how much my mom laughed out loud reading the book (in addition to admitting that she learned a bunch of stuff too). I hope that people who are not related to me will also be caused to laugh audibly by this book (and learn some stuff).
What’s the coolest thing about teaching people about science?
Getting to nerd-out about all the science-y things that I am passionate about, and sharing my enthusiasm for said science-y things with other humans.
Did you do this book as an excuse to scientifically put fart jokes into a text book?
Yes. Yes I did.
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