“Stephen Hawking: Riddles of Time & Space” is a biographical comic book examining the life of one of modern science’s most intriguing figures: theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. “Stephen Hawking: Riddles of Time & Space” is written by Michael Lent & Brian McCarthy and illustrated by Zach Bassett with a cover by Robert Aragon.
The story begins during World War II in London, where we learn that Hawking grew up with his parents and sister. His father was a scientist but his mother was a “free thinker.”
I enjoyed the fact that the creators point out that his mother’s way of thinking had a substantial influence on Hawkings’ life. It makes the scientist more relatable – I’m horrible with numbers and math, but I’ve always felt that the ease with which I contemplate philosophy and metaphysics is connected to the more active, creative space in my brain as well as my learning style.
We also learn that like many students, Hawking wasn’t perfect. He only studied one hour per day at university, and he pursued physics only because math was not available as a major.
Physically, Hawking had only minor difficulties until graduate school. At that time, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was only 21 when he found out about this. He was told he only had months to live and suffered from severe depression as a result.
Learning about how Hawking felt as he faced his diagnosis also made him relatable as a scientist of note, and as a character in his biography.
The comic also covers Hawking’s love life, illustrating how he spent his time at the opera with Jane Wilde, who became his first wife.
The comic then goes on to describe and brilliantly depict Hawking’s work. This is done so in an intelligent manner, but in a way that someone at a high school reading level could understand, making the comic continually accessible.
The comic book creators use a combination of illustrated gears and careful description to describe how Hawking’s physical ailments forced him to adapt. His inability to write out equations resulted in a new way of scientific thinking and explanation for him.
Even the most casual science news followers know a bit about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and the comic generally describes how Hawking’s complex theories relate to the device.
I’ve never read a biography of any type that focuses primarily on the subject’s mind and how it operates, and to do so was more of an adventure than most common action comics. While the comic book does of course include Hawking’s immobility, it is hardly depressing – it shows how Hawking continually does more than cope; he uses his limitations as asssets to expand his possibilities.
“Stephen Hawking: Riddle of Time & Space” is published by Bluewater Productions. Physical copies of the comic book are available for $3.99 at Comic Flea Market. Digital downloads are available on multiple sites including Amazon.com for Kindle.