Graphic novelist Jim Ottaviani has taken on big topics before, including the early history of paleontology, the development of the atomic bomb, and the space race. Now he has turned his attention to celebrated physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), who never fit the mold of serious scientist. Feynman was brilliant and even won the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in quantum electrodynamics, but he also was a mischievous, unruly character who tested the patience of mentors, employers, and national security agencies. One of his hobbies was safecracking. No secret could be kept from Feynman.
In this graphic novel biography Feynman, Ottaviani and his artist friends Leland Myrick and Hilary Sycamore take a traditional narrative path. They start with a scene from Feynman's adult career and then step back to Feynman's childhood to tell a mostly youth to death story. They throw in a few flashbacks and flash-aheads, but readers mostly find an understandable and entertaining chronological account. Readers do not have to understand complicated scientific theory to read Feynman. Some readers may want to skip the lengthy explanation of quantum electrodynamics. Overall, the authors focus as much on Feynman the person as Feynman the scientist.
Of course, Feynman's long and varied career is hard to fit into only 262 pages. I would have liked a few more clarifying panels in some of the stories. If I had not already read about Feynman, I would certainly want to read more. Offer Feynman as an introduction or supplement and have Feynman's own books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, What Do YOU Care What Other People Think?, and The Meaning of It All ready for the curious.
Ottaviani, Jim and Leland Myrick. Feynman. First Second, 2011. 262p. ISBN 9781596432598.