Comic books don’t just chronicle superheroes — for decades, they’ve been teaching science, too.
An exhibition at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington explores the science storytelling found in the funny pages and between the covers of comic books.
It’s called “S.T.E.A.M. Within the Panels: Science Storytelling Through Comic Books, Comic Strips, and Graphic Novels,” and it’s devoted to the ways the art form describes and reacts to science and technology.
STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — takes STEM education one step further by adding creativity to the mix. That inventiveness is on full display in a show that finds science in unexpected places.
Sequential art and science fiction have always been closely linked. (Think of the radioactive effects of kryptonite, the mineral with the power to weaken Superman.) Science fact can also be found in comics form, as with the work of one of the exhibit’s artists, Matteo Farinella, a neuroscientist who uses comics as a way to communicate scientific concepts.
Other featured artists include D.M. Higgins, a writer known for her “Jill Trent: Science Sleuth” books, and Rosemary Mosco, who describes herself as a science communicator, putting such things as ecology and astronomy in comic form.
The exhibition includes art from the 1930s on. It also contains new works: AAAS commissioned a group of artists to reimagine classic superheroes who got their powers from scientific discoveries. It’s a chance to look back on how comics have portrayed science and consider how artists might communicate complex issues such as climate change.
The show runs through Sept. 15 in the lobby of the AAAS building in Washington. Check it out during business hours: Admission is free.