Radiation. Genetic modification. Mutation. These words are often found in science textbooks. They are also frequently found in comic books and graphic novels! While the stories are often fantastical, the characters themselves owe much of their origins and adventures to science, often reflecting cutting-edge science at the time of publication.
“Daredevil: Vol 1, by Mark Waid,” is a great starting point for the title character. Hit by a radioactive substance as a child, Matt Murdock lost his site but increased his remaining senses to the point where he has radar vision. Mark Waid deftly describes how his remaining senses function, and the art does a good job of demonstrating his powers. (The cover showing different shapes made of sounds is ingenious.)
The “Hulk: Season 1” graphic novel is a great one-shot introduction to the character, and shows how Bruce Banner was turned into the Incredible Hulk during a gamma bomb ground zero test. While Bruce Banner is a man of science, the Hulk is a hero/monster of destruction. Like many characters, radiation is a big factor due to the nuclear threat of the 1960s when many comic heroes debuted.
Batman Science Books are new to the library! Whether you want to learn the science behind Batman’s utility belt or how his batmobile and batcycle are engineered, these books are for you! You can even find secrets about his costume! Hopefully his rogue’s gallery won’t be reading these books anytime soon…
“Fantastic Four: Season 1” graphic novel is another great origin story. See how the Fantastic Four got their powers during a space expedition and why Mr. Fantastic is smartest person in the Marvel universe.
How fast is lightning? Just ask Flash! Police scientist Barry Allen was thrown into chemicals during a lightning explosion, and the world’s fastest speedster was created. There are lots of great Flash graphic novels, but I might start with “The Flash: Volume 1, Move Forward.” Like many superheroes, Flash died and came back (with a pretty respectable gap in-between). To see how he came back to the land of the living, pick up “The Flash: The Rebirth.”
Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider (or sometimes referred to as “genetically-modified spider in more modern comics), and Spider-man was born! There are a ton of excellent graphic novels to choose from…”Spider-man: Season One” is a good origin story, “Spider-man: Blue” is a good character-driven story (especially if you watched 2014’s “Amazing Spider-man 2” movie), and “Ultimate Spider-man: Volume 1, Power and Responsibility” is the start of a series setting Spider-man’s origin in modern times.
Mutants are comics’ big exploration of race, prejudice, and discrimination. (Again, X-Men debuted in the 1960s, when race was a much bigger issue.) Sometimes celebrated but more often feared, the X-Men are known by all. There are a LOT of mutants to keep track of, but my library picks are “X-Men: Season One” (obligatory origin story), “X-Men: the Dark Phoenix Saga” (still one of the best X-Men stories after over 30 years), “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (especially if you’re a fan of the 2014 movie), and “Astonishing X-Men: Vol. 1, Gifted” (written by Buffy and Firefly creator Joss Whedon!).
There are tons more science-centric characters out there, such as Atom, Iron Man, Swamp Thing, and many others. Science can be pretty fantastic – whether in real life or in the comics! Enjoy!