You may never have heard of D’Arcy Thompson, but in his day, he was a well-known figure on the streets of Dundee and St Andrews in Scotland, famously strolling around town with a cowboy hat and a parrot on his shoulder.
He was also one of the most influential biologists of all time, and to mark the centenary of his landmark book, On Growth and Form, the University of Dundee has just published a new comic visualising D’Arcy’s life and ideas.
The comic has been written by the University’s museum curator Matthew Jarron, who explains: “I’ve always loved comics and the opportunity to present D’Arcy’s world in that form was irresistible. D’Arcy was the first to try to explain the natural world through physics and mathematics, finding and explaining patterns in nature – such as the logarithmic spiral of the nautilus and the Fibonacci sequence in the spirals of the sunflower.
“He also studied minute organisms such as Foraminifera and Radiolaria that grow into countless geometrically precise forms. All of these things were beautifully presented in diagrams in his book On Growth and Form, and have provided a wealth of inspiration for our artists.”
The comic has been illustrated by three recent graduates from the comics programmes at the University of Dundee – Elliot Balson, Helen Robinson and Letty Wilson.
“Each of them has brought something unique and wonderful to the subject matter,” says Matthew, “and I’m delighted by the results.”
As well as these exciting new talents, the editors have also been able to commission a special cover design from legendary Commando and Dan Dare artist Ian Kennedy.
Phillip Vaughan, Programme Director of the MDes in Comics & Graphic Novels said,
“This was a fantastic project for our graduates to take part in, and really pushed the creative boundaries of comics storytelling in this context. Each of the artists bring their distinctive voice to the script, and I love the way the different art styles blend together through the narrative.
“It was also an absolute pleasure to commission and work with Ian Kennedy on the front cover image, a true comics legend!”
Professor Chris Murray, Programme Director of the MLitt in Comics & Graphic Novels added, “I am thrilled to finally see the results of this ambitious project in print. The artists have beautifully captured the wonderful diversity of D’Arcy Thompson’s collection and imagination. The medium of comics is perfectly suited to this blend of science communication and entertainment, and we aim to produce a lot more of these kinds of educational comics in the future.”
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.