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#92 [Feb. 19th, 2008|02:02 pm]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#92 ACTION PHILOSOPHERS! – Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey
(Evil Twin Comics)

“Plato smash!”

Comics with an educational bent have an edge over books in that they can tie the dry facts of their subject matter to entertaining images, making them more memorable than they would have been if presented in plain prose. Action Philosophers! takes advantage of that to the fullest, detailing the lives and ideas of philosophers by presenting them not just in the format, but in the idiom of comic books. Plato, who was a wrestler in his youth (his name literally meant ‘broad shoulders’), is therefore shown wearing a Mexican wrestler’s mask and defeating his intellectual opponents with chokeholds. Karl Marx demonstrates seizing the means of production with an M-60 and St Augustine’s defeat of the Pelagian heresies becomes a boxing match.

Humorous touches in the artwork like these are plenty enjoyable, but what makes Action Philosophers! truly worthwhile is the way that, as the title suggests, it focuses on the philosophers rather than just their philosophy. There’s as much doing as there is thinking. Telling the stories of their flawed lives and the ways they failed to live up to their ideals – like Thomas Jefferson keeping slaves – and the ways that their philosophies were often specific reflections of their life experiences – like Ayn Rand founding objectivism because her dad lost his business – puts them in perspective. They go from being historical figures to actual people, without becoming any less fascinating.

As an introductory work it does its job perfectly, summarising in an engaging way that leaves you wanting to know more. The further reading section in the back of each issue suggests a few ‘proper’ books worth seeking out to that end, but what you really want to read next is another issue of Action Philosophers! as good as the last one.