Jamie Lu Dunbar creates “Bang! The Universe Verse: Book 1” and more. Marrying the art form of graphic storytelling with educational content is no easy task. Many have tried with varying degrees of success. Local creator James Lu Dunbar who has taken on that challenge with his book Bang! The Universe Verse: Book 1 and his upcoming “It’s Alive! The Universe Verse: Book 2” was kind of enough to share some of his thoughts on his inspiration, work, and love of sharing the sciences. Enjoy!
MT: What inspired you to take up the project of creating a science comic book?
JLD: I’ve always enjoyed writing, drawing and making books, and I’ve always enjoyed science. I love learning how things work and sharing that understanding with others, especially children. I think most children have an innate curiosity towards the workings of the natural world, and that it’s incredibly important that we support and encourage that curiosity. Too many children (and adults) think they don’t like science because they have not enjoyed the way it’s been presented to them in school. I think there’s great value in learning facts, but when it comes to science education the ultimate goal should be inspiring and nurturing natural curiosity.
That’s why I wanted to make a book that presents the most important concepts in science in an engaging and entertaining way. I know that this book deals with some intellectually challenging topics, but I’ve worked very hard to make it as approachable as possible, in the hope that even very young children will be interested in hearing the story, and will be able to take something from the experience of hearing it.
MT: Any previous experience with sequential art (background/ and did you grow up exposed to comics)? Do you follow comics at all (if so any particular titles, artist or writers)?
JLD: In high school I wrote and illustrated a couple of children’s books, one about racism and one about calculus. I also wrote and illustrated the comic strip for our school’s newspaper with a friend. Those were my only experiences with comic-book style illustrations, with panels and text bubbles. I didn’t actually read a lot of comic-books growing up, though when I began illustrating BANG! I made an effort to look at some different children’s book and comic book illustration styles. One book that stands out in my mind is Black Hole, by Charles Burns. I really loved the illustration style and I think that was probably where I first got the idea to illustrate with a black bleed as the background.
My real hero though is Dr. Seuss. His books inspired me to get into the world of children’s books, and I aspire to someday make stories like The Lorax, The Sneetches, Yertle the Turtle and The Butter Battle Book. These are all entertaining and wonderfully well-written tales that are fun to read but also communicate a powerful commentary on society. And they’re on subjects that most people would consider unfit for a children’s book. But Dr. Seuss’ presentation is so engaging that children love them, despite the fact that they’re about environmentalism, discrimination, totalitarianism and the Cold War.
MT: As the creator of Bang! The Universe Verse: Book 1 (and the currently in development It’s Alive! The Universe Verse: Book 2) you’ve taken on quite a load with writing, penciling and self publishing your book(s). Any lessons learned from this process. What is currently on the horizon for you?
JLD: Yep, I have certainly undertaken an ambitious project. Writing and
illustrating a scientifically accurate, rhyming comic book about the origin of the universe, life on Earth and the evolution of humanity would be a pretty big project in itself. What I’ve learned over the past year is that self-publishing is also a huge project. It’s been quite challenging trying to get publicity and feedback without the benefit of a budget, marketing team or publicist. I’m very glad I chose to make BANG! Available for free as an eBook though, as this has led to a lot of positive feedback, which has been important for motivation.
I’ll be curious to find out how much more time it will take to illustrate Book 2 in color, but I’m also excited about the prospect. I think I’ll be using a very different illustration style for Book 2, and I’m looking forward to changing things up a little.
MT: Where can readers find your work?
JLD: The best place to learn about me and my work is on my website, JLDunbar.com. I’m also raising money on Kickstarter.com until Sept. 15th, so I’ve got a short video there about “It’s Alive! The Universe Verse: Book 2.” Paperback copies of BANG! can be purchased at JamesAndKenneth.com or Amazon.com, and the eBook is available for free to anyone who e-mails me at [email protected]
I encourage everyone to check out this great work, it truly illustrates what can be done with the medium with a little imagination and determination. Stay tuned for a review of “Bang! The Universe Verse: Book 1”