Do comics still inspire future scientists and engineers?
Here’s a curiosity from the days of the original Eagle, comic, released around 1959 – an Eagle Presents British European Airways supplement given away with the title, which prompted me to wonder if the comics of today still inspire readers to not only create new comics, but take up jobs in science and industry, too?
British European Airways (BEA), formally British European Airways Corporation, was a British airline which existed from 1946 until 1974.
I haven’t tracked down a physical copy of this supplements, one of several released by Eagle, but I was intrigued by the inclusion of a projected VTOL “Jubilee Jetliner“, which Dan Dare himself assures readers would be in service by 2000AD.
I wonder if the design featured was indeed based on actual research into jet engine-powered planes by BEA “boffins” at the time, or simply the fanciful work of an Eagle artist?
Whatever the answer, I’m sure that like Eagle‘s cutaways and the “Dan Dare” strip itself, this prediction of the future may well have inspired some readers to take up a career in engineering or science, as Richard Sheaf highlighted in our report on the one day British Interplanetary Society “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” event, back in 2015.
(Not to mention that the BEA supplement may well have helped encouragement company recruitment!)
Eagle wasn’t the only comic to highlight the development of jet engines or their potential. The Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady, in the United States, holds a copy of “custom comics” published by GE in 1958, around the same time as this Eagle giveaway. Adventures in Jet Power tells the whole story of how US company GE’s turbine engineers turned Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine design into a working machine that in 1942 powered America’s first jet plane.
Back then, companies like GE saw comics as a viral medium to explain and demystify science, just like it uses Snapchat or Instagram today. The company hired renowned comics artists, including George “Inky” Roussos of Batman fame, to draw a series of books released under the banner Adventures in Science.
The series covered everything from space travel to electricity, and to answer my question about whether comics might still inspire future scientists and engineers, GE, for one certainly still thinks so.
Back in 2015, the company took its Adventures in Science heroes out of retirement, partnering with the storytelling app Wattpad and asked its resident writers to create short fiction based on the ideas featured in the six comics.
• Have you been inspired into your current career by, in part, reading comics – and what do you do? Why not comment below?