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First Second Explores the World With New Science Comics Line
By Mark Banaszak

First Second has published a number of critically acclaimed and award-winning graphic novels covering both fiction and non-fiction, and this spring they present a highly detailed look at the world around us with their new Science Comics line. This series of middle-reader graphic novels begins with two volumes, Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean by Maris Wicks, and Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood.

Science Comics: Coral Reefs - Cities of the Ocean Science Comics: Dinosaurs - Fossils and Feathers
Science Comics:
Coral Reefs - Cities of the Ocean
HC: 978-1-62672-146-3, $19.99
SC:  978-1-62672-145-6, $9.99
Science Comics:
Dinosaurs - Fossils and Feathers
HC: 978-1-62672-144-9, $19.99
SC: 978-1-62672-143-2, $9.99 

In Coral Reefs, Human Body Theater creator Wicks explores the reefs, the animals that live in and around them and rely on them for survival, and their impact on the ocean as a whole, while in Dinosaurs Reed and Flood (The Cute Girl Network) examine not only the history and ecosystem of the dinosaurs themselves, but chronicles the long, slow process by which humans uncovered information on the ancient lizards (including how our understanding changed throughout the years).

Each volume of Science Comics is meant to act as a complete introduction to the subject covered, and the publisher has long-term plans for this series.

In this interview conducted via email, series editor Dave Roman discusses the motivations behind the new Science Comics line, how the creators and subjects are chosen, and how the books have been received by readers and educators.

Diamond BookShelf: First Second has published non-fiction graphic novels before, but what was the impetus to move into science?

Dave Roman: Comics have always appealed to the curious minded, so First Second has this great opportunity to introduce young readers to a diverse array of fascinating topics. And we do so in a way that is completely entertaining, visually dynamic and often very funny! Science Comics speaks directly to part of us that gets excited by shooting stars, real life creatures that are stranger than fiction, and that satisfaction that comes from understanding how things work.

How did you choose the creators and subjects for these graphic novels?

It's best when we can match authors with subjects that they already have a personal interest in. Certainly Maris Wicks set the bar crazy high with Coral Reefs. She's an amazing cartoonist, who worked at the New England Aquarium, and had lot of experience scuba diving. That kind of combination is one of a kind, but everyone brings a level of enthusiasm or curiosity about their subject matter that makes each volume of Science Comics a labor of love. That said, if there are any cartoonists out there who have been to outer space, spent time with polar bears, or happens to be a robot, I encourage them to reach out to First Second.

What kind of criteria do you have for the Science Comics graphic novels? Is there a certain amount of information you’re looking for each volume to contain?

Our mission is to fit as much fun information as can be synthesized into 116 pages of comics. At least until the advent of graphic novels made using quantum mechanics.

What age or reading level are these books aimed at?

The books are designed with middle grade readers in mind. But of course, the non-fiction subject matter and inviting nature of comics makes them appealing to a wide range of readers. Certainly Joe Flood's ferocious rendition of the Archaeopteryx will be appreciated by dinosaur novices, enthusiasts and even those hardcore critics who complained that the recent Jurassic World movie didn't have enough feathers. The script by MK Reed also humorously dramatizes a lot of great historical backstabbing between the earliest paleontologists; which I think will be highly entertaining to kids, adults, and especially the missing link.

Are these graphic novels designed for school use?

Science Comics will be especially useful to creative educators and devoured by curious students everywhere; they're designed to supplement traditional curriculum texts. As someone who has always been more of a visual learner, I would have really benefited having graphic novels like these to graphically explain concepts in physics, chemistry, engineering and computing. In addition to the comics content, the books contain glossaries, diagrams, further reading lists, and fun bonus material that make them a great complement to traditional classroom activities.

Have you had any early feedback, particularly from educators?

We've already had a few kids who grew up reading these books reach out to us. Turns out Science Comics is so effective at getting kids excited about science that a few of them ended up building time machines!!! They travelled back in time so they could visit the First Second offices and thank us personally!

I've also done a few author visits where I showed some previews of Dinosaurs and Coral Reefs books to great interest. So I'm confident they are going to be perennials in the publishing world and inspire the next wave of science heroes.

How many volumes do you have planned? What’s next after the first two?

Volcanos by Jon Chad and Bats by Falynn Koch are next on the docket. And I just saw the first page from Dogs by Andy Hirsch (Varmints) who is quickly becoming one of my favorite cartoonists ever. The current plan is to produce 18 books over the next few years. But there's enough science out there to keep Science Comics going till the end of time and space. And whatever comes after that!