Who doesn’t love comics? I’m obsessed with them.
When I was a small boy, I vividly remember the highlight at the end of the week was going to Salmons newsagents in Ballinasloe with my Nan and getting the latest issue of The Beano, The Dandy, or Roy of the Rovers. I’d race home and settle myself on the sofa for the latest update from whatever comic world I was about to dive into. The minute you open the cover, you are transported to another place and completely disconnected from reality. It’s a great feeling.
I rediscovered that feeling in my twenties with the razor sharp, and touching humour of the Calvin and Hobbes series. Calvin and Hobbes started out as a syndicated newspaper comic strip in the USA, before it’s popularity lead to many different books. The adventures of 6-year-old Calvin and his stuffed toy tiger Hobbes are touching, thought-provoking and side splittingly funny.
After Clavin and Hobbes my appetite was whetted for more comics – that’s when I discovered graphic novels. You have to be careful describing graphic novels because it is a very strange genre.
Within the genre there are many niches from Manga, Sci-fi and Fantasy to Non-fiction, History and Documentary. The genre I’m interested in is non-fiction storytelling through graphics. That’s where Logicomix comes in.
On so many levels this book should fail. When people ask me what’s my favourite ever graphic novel I will always pick it. Once it’s announced as my favorite, I’m usually asked: “What’s it about?” and that’s where I struggle.
Let me try and explain. It’s about how philosophy and critical thinking form the basis of modern computing and it’s written by a greek computer scientist. It looks at some of the most complicated intellectual problems in philosophy. My favourite of these is called Russell’s Paradox – named after the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Russell’s paradox is the most famous of what are called a logical or set-theoretical paradoxes. The paradox arises within naive set theory (please bear with me) by considering the set of all sets that are not members of themselves. Such a set appears to be a member of itself if and only if it is not a member of itself. Hence the paradox.
Some sets, such as the set of all teacups, are not members of themselves. Because a set of teacups is not a teacup. Other sets, such as the set of all non-teacups, are members of themselves.
You might be fully glossed over now, but you shouldn’t be. Consider this. Philosophy is about how we think. How we communicate and how we use language is central to that. As we build technology at MediaHQ, we spend a considerable amount of time talking about how to describe the new thing that we make. We create new things and then we called them different things, until we all agree the new thing should be called this. With clarity comes understanding and then deeper learning.
This book is a work of genius. When the philosophical narrative gets complicated the cartoon comes out of the story into the cartoonists drawing room. He goes for a walk, and he draws the walk, and his musings on it. Why? Because he, the writer and illustrator is struggling with the story the same way we are. Everything worthwhile is a struggle and if it was easy they’d all be at it. This book will bring your brain to a new place. That’s a good enough reason to read it. Enjoy it – I wish I was reading it again for the first time.
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