I'm a great admirer of Jim Ottaviani, who may well be producing the best science-related comics in the world today. Jim is a bright guy, a good storyteller (both in print and in person) and he brings an unusual skill set to his work, as his biography attests.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Jim at his table in 'Artist's Alley' during the 2008 San Diego ComicCon. Jim was gracious with his time, and so I hasten to say that the quality of the videos below rests with me. This is the most ambitious usage of my Flip Video Cam yet, and I had to break it into smaller chunks so that it could be uploaded to YouTube. Also, I'm afraid that I (gulp) mispelled his name in the brief blurb at the beginning of each video, but it took me so long to make this with my feeble resources, that I'm just going to let it go. It's OTTAVIANI, folks, and the big point is to draw attention to the work. Here Jim talks about the potential of comics as a medium:

In this segment Jim talks specifically about some aspects of his work, particularly Fallout, his treatment of the events surrounding the Manhattan Project:

In this final segment, Jim challenges my preconceptions about one's academic background and either creating or appreciating science-related comics. Good stuff!

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Jim has an entire web site where you can learn more about his works, not to mention buy them:

Despite my softball (even sophomoric) questions in the video above, his work really is accessible. We've purchased several of his comics for our high school library. Please consider these as good gift ideas for your friends who may or may not know much science, but are open to fresh presentations of new ideas.

***** UPDATE: *****

I've just learned that Jim was interviewed by Skepticality (the official podcast of Skeptics magazine) back in October of 2006. You can listen to this interview in their archives here.

Other stuff:

Another interview on YouTube.

A business-oriented conversation with Jane Irwin

An interview with Carol Fox
of Sequential Tart.

The Comics Reporter interview, from back in 2005.



My brother, the college professor, is an expert on comics. He's a bona-fide published authority!

Here's a shot of him actually autographing his work for admirers at the conclusion of a scholarly, academic-style panel at the recent Comic-Con:

Now, this is a far cry from the hordes of geekdom that were inhabiting the large ballrooms. (Personal aside: one of my companions on this trip remarked that 'Nerdiness is just unappreciated expertise'....so true!) Having said that, though, I have to say that this panel from Ph.D is a hoot:



Shortly after I returned from my vacation in San Diego, my father-in-law, Jay Lawley, passed away in the presence of his family and friends. I was fortunate to return when I did, and I am grateful that my colleagues (who could've easily spent another half-day on the convention floor) were more than willing to get off to an early start on Sunday morning.

Jay was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer back in February
and has suffered through increasingly reduced health circumstances since early April, as I chronicled here. He was aware of his family's presence at the end as we held, kissed and cried over his form. As his labored breathing gradually became more irregular, I applied lotion to his feet as others held his hands and head. As I looked at his one open eye, I saw the phenomena wherein 'the light goes out': the eye became dull and gray. His chest rose mechanically twice more, and then he was gone, released from his pain and suffering.

We are left behind, to deal with ours. I will write more later, as I can bear it.



Vox replies to my earlier comments here. Again, I note that despite his reputation and ideological commitments, Vox asks a fair question:

Now, if New Scientist magazine is little more than puffed-up science fiction, perhaps Scott or another science enthusiast would be so kind as to direct my attention to a more reliable source of science information.

Well, I can certainly talk about the state of affairs, Vox! I'm sorry I didn't see this post and reply earlier. I've been at the San Diego Comic Con. Which raises a question...do you ever go to conventions?

Anyway, it's true that a lot of the stuff that appears in magazines like New Scientist is unreliable, broad and breathless to the point of distortion, and often pointing to unwarranted conclusions. To be fair, I think it would be hyperbolic the other way to call the piece in question 'science fiction'...more like 'science, misunderstood.' Drink deeply of the Pierian spring, and all that.

As far as a reliable source of information, Nature and Science are the premier general science journals and some of their overview articles are accessible to well-educated non-specialists, which would definitely apply to many, including Vox. The downside is that they tend to be expensive and time-consuming to appreciate. Conversely, the popular magazines are getting less informative all the time, sadly. Scientific American has pared much of its more difficult content, and Discover magazine has not only gone the same route, they both are starting to run terminally-vague and mystical-sounding articles about speculative areas in physics and cosmology.

So this is a more general problem than most folk realize, and it contributes to the problems, both real and imagined, of those Vox calls 'science fetishists' in that they would like science to be a generally-applied tool and (in some cases) the font of explanation. After all, if we can't generally rely on science magazines crafted for the general public to do a good basic job of presenting new findings, we're really in a lot of trouble.

It is in part why those of us who care about science and science education spend time blogging and such. In general, my advice to Vox and others is seek out not just publications, but look for writers of quality who are known for their commitment to accuracy and caution in describing new scientific developments. Carl Zimmer and Michael Lemonick come to mind.