Science Comic Books
The first Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology comic was produced in 2010 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Wellcome Trust. PhD student Jamie Hall approached comic artist Edward Ross to help communicate about parasitic disease and the research carried out at the Centre. A few months later, Jamie and Edward, together with artist Rachel Morris, created the comic ‘Parasites’. Graphic Medicine (a website promoting medical and science art and illustration) described the comic as “a clever way of engaging the public and raising awareness of the devastating effects of parasitic diseases on the people of developing nations.”
The success of the ‘Parasites’ comic was followed in 2012 with ‘Malaria: the battle against a microscopic killer’ which details the long history and impact of malaria on humans, and explains the complex life-cycle of the plasmodium parasite in simple and accessible language. Next was ‘Sleeping Sickness: a tale of a nightmarish disease’, based upon the research of Dr Annette Macleod and our latest comic produced in 2017 is called ‘Toxoplasmosis: unlocking the secrets of a mysterious parasite’. This is based on the work of Dr Lilach Sheiner and her group.
Developing each comic takes several months, starting with the development of a narrative around a specific aspect of our research. We try to incorporate real researchers where possible, and put their research into context by introducing realistic settings and situations.
Comics are hugely accessible and appeal to a wide range of audiences, from young children to adults. Their visual impact draws in the reader, and complex scientific concepts can be simplified and illustrated in a straightforward manner. The use of narratives and storytelling is a powerful component of comics, and research has shown that this can be an effective way to engage an audience with science. The comics link what we do every day in our labs, to the experiences of those living in regions where parasitic diseases are endemic. This makes them a powerful communication tool.
These award-winning comics have become a vital component of the Centre’s public engagement activities. Translated into several languages including Swahili, they have been distributed at events in countries such as Malawi, where parasitic diseases have a major impact on public health.