Darwin: a Graphic Biography

Published On January 14, 2009 | By Joe Gordon | Books, Comics

Yesterday Charles Darwin’s name came up in relation to the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, which this year will have theme relating to the natural sciences and also pay tribute to their local lad Charles Darwin (it being the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth this year). It gave me an excuse to post the famous illustration of Darwin as an ape holding up a hand mirror to a thoughtful looking ape, as if to demonstrate how close humans and the simian world were (although it can also be seen as a satirical attack on Darwin’s evolutionry ideas), but I didn’t know who the artist was – fortunately our readers are a well-educated lot and Simon Gurr left a comment to say that he thought it was by Faustin Betbeder, a French artist who often worked under the pen name Faustin.

Simon also mentioned that he had been working on a 100-page comic, Darwin: a Graphic Biography, similar in style to one on the life of the great engineer Brunel he was involved with a few years ago. And I thought I should really point out that the Darwin biographical comic is coming out very soon because it sounds interesting, its a project with some educational as well as entertaiment value (a good way for those who might not pick up a science book to still fill in some gaps in their knowledge of one of the key theories underpinning modern biological sciences) and, I must add with a touch of perverse pleasure, because I suspect it will annoy those who keep trying to legitimise ‘intelligent’ design (on a related note, one of my favourite books from last year, Ken MacLeod’s Night Sessions, had a great take on Creatonism). And I also had to mention it because, as with the earlier Brunel work Simon has been working in collaboration with Eugene Byrne.

Darwin A Graphic Biography Simon Gurr Eugene Byrne.jpg

(an illustration from Darwin: A Graphic Biography by Simon Gurr and Eugene Byrne, (c) Gurr and Byrne)

Some of you will be familiar with Eugene’s work – I first came across him through his science fiction novels and I still rank his novel Things Unborn as one of my favourites. Things Unborn is set after a devastating war; afterwards people who died before their time (murdered, killed in war, died suddenly from illnesses) from throughout history reappear in a Britain trying to rebuild itself – complete with flashbacks to a returned Lawrence of Arabia who leads the good guys in the fight to control the wrecked country and Richard III installed as the king (although keeping schtum on what happened to the princes in the Tower – saving it for his ‘memoirs’). I’m singling out that particular book by Eugene because its damned clever and well worth reading but also because I’ve often though it would adapt well to a comics format. But to return to the main point here, Simon and Eugene have their Darwin comics biog coming out very soon; check Simon’s blog for more details.

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About The Author

Joe Gordon

Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk’s chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

5 Responses to Darwin: a Graphic Biography

  1. Horst D. Deckert says:

    Why are there still apes, if those were allegedly our ancestors?

  2. BaldySlaphead says:

    Wahey – just came on here to say I thought the book looked great, and I find one of the worst Creationist arguments ever as the first comment!

    1) Modern apes and human beings are both decended from a common ancestor. Modern apes are NOT our ancestor.
    2) It does not follow that because one species has evolved to become two that the original species need become extinct.

    Anyway, the book looks great.

  3. foobarmojomgrath says:

    To commenter #1: Apes that you see today are NOT our ancestors. THEIR ape ancestors are the same as OUR ape ancestors. Both of our species descended from the SAME ancestor. Since us and extant (currently alive) apes share certain (and many) features, we know that our ancestors must have shared these features. Since the ancestral features were consistent with what we describe as an ape, our ancestors must have been apes. It’s really quite simple.

  4. JC says:

    This looks like it could be a fantastic way to educate just about anybody on one of the most important figures in human thought….from children to adults, as illustrated by the first comment above….
    The very fact that the misconception that we are “descended from monkeys” lives on to this day is one of the reasons that a graphic novel like this is necessary, since Origin of the Species is TLDR (too long, didn’t read) for just about everybody…

  5. Derek says:

    Why are there still men, if those were allegedly our ancestors?