And thus we follow Martina as she goes back in time millions of years, sees giant stratovolcanoes form the land out of magma, witness the Great American Biotic Interchange that took place when the South and North American continents touched each other for the first time in millennia, and saw the appearance of early humans on the land and the effects they had on flora and fauna.This story is at its core, a bildungsroman. A tale of one young girl realising the limits of what she could do and having to deal with the unintended consequences of her actions.
merican Biotic Interchange that took place when the South and North American continents touched each other for the first time in millennia, and saw the appearance of early humans on the land and the effects they had on flora and fauna.This story is at its core a bildungsroman. A tale of one young girl realising the limits of what she could do and having to deal with the unintended consequences of her actions.
Filling in an Educational Void
This project came about as a collaboration between Dr Aaron O’Dea of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama’s Department for Science and Technology, SENACYT, and Cooked Illustrations, to share years of research to a broader audience. But beyond just creating a story and being done with it, we had to be very clear about our goals. As we explore in the book, Panama’s education system is not the best, and it has massive gaps in its curriculum. In the face of this dereliction of duty, we decided that this comic will, at the very least, try to fill in those gaps while telling a story that we hope will increase engagement with the subject matter. Which becomes a little easier as, eventually, we would’ve delivered 2000 books (and hopefully more!) to every school in the country. Something that both STRI and SENACYT have been invaluable in their support.
Another of our specific goals was to help transform the perception of academia as closed off and the realm of privilege. In the very specific context of STRI and its relationship to its home country for 100 years, that means helping translate complex research into a cultural language that speaks to the people who would most benefit from an increased understanding of their very homeland. In other words, “transforming research into culture”. This aspect, however, cannot be measured until after the book has been in the wild for a good number of years.
Making the comic:
After these initial meetings, Ian and Dr O’Dea simultaneously worked remotely on a script and storyboard, further character designs, and specific details about the story. Something that proved challenging, as they had to build a new way of working as they went along.
A tight deadline kept the work focused, and once the storyboard was finished, Ian worked on finalising the artwork pages over a period of three months, with colour support by our wonderful partner illustrator Jess Jenkins. To accelerate production, every time a page was finalised it would immediately be sent to Puntoaparte Publishing, our wonderful partners in Colombia in charge of design, typesetting and printing. A tough and trying process, but the results speak for themselves. At the time of writing, we’re still awaiting a final launch date and are working on a series of long-term strategies to turn Martina into an icon of science communication not just in Panama, but for the entire Central American region.http://panamartina.com/
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