Action Philosophers uses humor, exaggeration, and sight gags to spice up a subject that many people avoid just because it’s too damn boring. Writer Fred van Lente and artist Ryan Dunlavey bring much-needed life to the topic in their irreverent yet educational takes on many of the most influential philosophers, from ancient times to modern.
Consider Bodhidharma, an important figure in the development of both Zen and martial arts. Did you think a lesson on Zen was going to be a bunch of boring monks sitting around meditating? Think again!
Then there’s Isaac Luria, portrayed in an homage to the sorcerer Dr. Strange of Marvel Comics fame.
In their quest to make philosophy exciting, the creative team pays other tributes to action-packed comic book styles, including Jack Kirby’s pulse-pounding visuals.
Pop culture references abound, such as imagining David Hume using the old Saturday Night Live catchphrase, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!” I’ve read Hume before, and it was nowhere near as fun as this version.
The conventions of comic book art lend themselves to illustrating some abstract concepts, like this page where objects and people disappear because the philosopher isn’t thinking about them.
And why suffer through tedious history books about Francis Bacon when a handy infographic does the trick?
This is a fun series, and I thank reader Ergozen for recommending it a few months ago. The Tenth Anniversary “uber-edition” collects all the material so that the philosophers appear in chronological order, but it’s often out of stock or exorbitantly priced. However, you can find a similar complete collection on Amazon at a reasonable price.
You can also explore more fun and educational works at Ryan Dunlavey’s site, including a lengthy sample of his history of comic books.