from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
Philosophy and comics are much more common bedfellows than might be expected; take, for instance, that philosophy was Art Spiegelman’s academic choice although his parents had promoted dentistry as a good choice. Margreet de Heer studied the life of the mind for years within academia, but presents the path to knowledge with the ingenuousness of the small child who has questions too large to enunciate: do we see the same color the same way? how do I know that reality isn’t a dream? Clever depiction and generosity of visual expression make it easy for teen readers to remember their own childhoods, and get aboard the train of documented historical thought de Heer provides from these questions to Descartes’ cogito.
By augmenting her tour of famous names in the history of philosophy with “interviews” with four good personal and contemporary friends, de Heer bookends her tour of late greats with the essential premise that we are all philosophical; it may take patience, humor and a good visual joke to remind us of it, but philosophy is one of the essentially humanizing realities of our lives.
Adult/High School–Colorful, clever, and bouncy cartoons provide an educated philosophy scholar-cartoonist with the method for engaging and informing casual readers about the why and how of Western philosophy’s foundations and development. De Heer opens the discussion by providing an admirably direct and charming exploration of her own philosophical mind, from preschool aged wonders and questions, through her journey through academia and into the comics field. While brevity of panel count forces her to hit only the highest highlights of the likes of Aristotle and Spinozaa–along with the other dozen or so specific “big names” she treats–the narrative frame she uses allows readers to understand that there are reasons for these particular individual thinkers to be called out as important and where to look for more by any one of them. Book colorist Yiri Kohl stands as his wife’s interlocutor during the narrative, suggesting where her first run at an explanation needs help and demonstrating how discussion aids clarity of thought. A final section offers the personal philosophies of four of de Heer’s friends, an added invitation to readers to think on their own. The panels throughout, besides being beautifully watercolored, are full of movement and energy as their enclosed concepts unfold and cycle from and around other aspects of philosophy’s history. All in all, this is an accessible and fun primer on a topic that too often is considered to be musty and shrouded in academic argot.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA