Comic creator visits North to share his recent educational project

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A panel from Jason Viola's “Science Comics: Polar Bears,” which shows a mother polar bear teaching her young cubs all that goes into being a polar bear, including what they eat, how to stay warm, and more. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

The “bear” necessities

Comic creator visits North to share his recent educational project

How well do you know polar bears?

Comic writer Jason Viola’s newest work may prove an education for some on this topic. “Science Comics: Polar Bears,” available through First Second/Macmillan, is his first published work, and part of a 20-volume series from the company, pairing cartoonists with topics such as dinosaurs, robots, rockets, and yes, polar bears. In this book, a mother bear is instructing her young cubs—as well as the readers—how to be proper polar bears. 

On Aug. 14, Viola went to the senior center to present his work. He walked those in the audience through the creation process, from the script to pencil sketches and the final product. He said that research was a big part of the writing, and cited the Richards Memorial Library as a great resource. He read many books and watched videos to prepare. 

“If not for the library, this book wouldn’t have happened,” said Viola at the senior center. 

The comics are thoroughly fact-checked by experts in the fields to ensure children get the right information and that it is presented in the right way. Viola said there were a lot of revisions made as a result. He said having experts review the work really helped, and joked that he didn’t know much about polar bears before working on this comic. 

“Comics can present complex ideas that if you’re just reading the text in a textbook, can be tough to comprehend,” he said. “When paired with images, it makes it easier to understand.” 

Viola—son of Joe Viola, who runs the Jabberwalkers group—met one of the editors of the Macmillan series at a comic-con, which led to him working with artist Zack Giallongo on the book. He said it was his first comic book for children, and took him back to when he made comics as a child, including one based on the popular Garfield series.

“Doing this felt like using the tools and experience I have now as an adult and what I did as a kid,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to do it.”