I have a confession to make: I’m not good at science. Here’s another one: I was never good at science. And finally, though it pains me to say this, I must confess one last thing: I will never be good at science.
Under any other circumstances, these declarations of guilt would not seem exceptional at all, given that there are lots of people in the world whose intellect doesn’t rest in the scientific realm. Forgetting that “Cu” stands for Copper and not understanding exactly why oil and water refuse to mix are hardly things to be ashamed of, especially if you can take pride in the fact that you passed your AP English classes with flying colors.
The fact is that I have never been embarrassed about my lack of drive or comprehension for all things science -- until several months ago, when I was cast as Special Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth in the new sci-fi television show "Fringe."
Suddenly I was thrust into a foreign environment where every inch mimicked a completely functional and secret scientific lab, complete with beakers and potions and smoke and Bunsen burners and lots of pieces of machinery covered with bright red buttons that were nearly impossible not to touch. Unlike Astrid, I am totally out of my element amongst the science and physics textbooks that cover all of the desks and lab tables, so to combat my own ignorance, I find myself reverting to the same doodling that consumed me when I was younger; now, all the prop composition notebooks that Dr. Bishop’s character has filled with scientific equations and hypothesis are paired with my own pen lines swooping down flowers and faces and hair from the corners of the page.
I have been drawing since I was very young but it was only in the last couple of years that I discovered how I could connect my writing with my artwork in a new way. "Lucifer" was the first graphic novel series that I read, and I found it amazing in every single way. I had never known adult storytelling like this, had never realized that you could couple the manual process of reading words with the visual process of seeing and absorbing artwork at the same time.
Although "Lucifer" was incredibly entertaining and exciting, nothing inspired me as much as Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel "Fun Home." By the time I got to the fourth page of her book, I was dying to see if I could marry my own drawings and words in the same way she had. "Fun Home" captivated me for different reasons than "Lucifer" and "Fables" and "Strangers in Paradise" eventually did. Artists like Bechdel, Pheobe Gloeckner and Jeffrey Brown have a voice and a style that seems personal and specific to me, quiet and heartbreaking and honest, and I was fully influenced to create my own comic -- "High Yella Magic" -- solely because of the impact that their work had on me.
It’s such a bizarre twist of fate that I find myself cast in a television show that is breaking ground by creating a comic to help fill in the gaps that the TV show is purposely creating, and I guess this is where everything comes full circle for me. I came into this project not knowing (or being particularly interested in) the similarities between cow blood and human blood or how to prepare a conscious human for brain surgery. But I do know about the element of illustrating dramatic suspense, about how changing the weight of a drawn line can signify different energy, about how negative space can enhance the action in a drawing and how layout can affect the way a story is told.
Now that "Fringe" is also a comic, understanding these concepts might prove to be just as useful as knowing what to expect when conducting an autopsy. I keep telling myself that not being a science genius isn’t really all that embarrassing -- Astrid may know a lot more than I do about how to make science work, but I’ve got her beat on the fiction part.
Did you see the season premiere of "Fringe?" Looking forward to tonight's episode? Let us know in the comments.