Disseminating science is an art, and seldom is it as demonstrable as it is in the case of Marco Merlin and his Little Scientists, who started online a little over five years ago and have been growing ever since. Now the series is getting a book version.
The work will appear this week at the Miguilim publishing house according to the pandemic model, i.e. in a live version. The event will take place on the channel of the Dragões de Garagem science dissemination group, an important figure in history, with the participation of Iberê Thenório from the Manual do Mundo channel.
In January 2016, Merlin’s partnership with the Dragons was born. “Even if I do not come from the scientific field, I always followed the news and managed to acquire a good repertoire for a layperson. Until then, I’ve been doing comics with a more general vibe, without that particular theme. Then came this animation to produce this kind of material that was so interesting to them [Dragões de Garagem] as far as I’m concerned, ”says Merlin, who is an advertising specialist and is completing his degree in fine arts.
One of the great references of the cartoonist is the astronomer and science popular Carl Sagan (1934-1996), known for books such as “The Haunted World by the Demons” and for the TV series “Cosmos”.
It is no coincidence that one of the most explored topics in the strips is #Space – from cheerful conversations between the sun, earth, and moon to a more poetic conversation about man’s place in the universe.
(Since the Cientirinhas are webcomics, comics for the web, the author wanted to simulate a bit of that environment on paper. The reader can browse the book’s page markers and find comics on topics like #physics, #cultura_nerd, #geography, # personalities, and #Society.)
One of Merlin’s favorite flicks is one in which Terra talks about the moon and says he likes Raul Seixas’ songs a lot, besides the one that says “I was born 10,000 years ago.” “I’m a good 4.5 billion years old,” the planet tells its satellite. In addition to geological information, embedded therein is the denial of creationist hypotheses that the earth would only exist for a few thousand years.
But the most successful comic is one from 2018 that deals with a current topic: virus lethality. A death committee is discussing how they could be more effective, and one suggests, “If we spread the rumor that vaccines are bad, we could be working with viruses and bacteria that are already on the market for free.” This death is chosen as an employee of month.
There have been translations of this strip, number 113, into at least 14 languages. It also became a meme, with the replacement of the original text by others from other subjects, further evidence of the work’s success.
In just four pictures, Merlin succeeds in “brushing” the scientific content as he defines it, and putting everything together with a surprise or reversal of expectations that is characteristic of humor. That arouses curiosity and opens the door for deeper discussions, he says.
The cientirinhas have already found their way into textbooks and have already appeared in college entrance exams. “It was a good surprise to see that teachers saw the potential to introduce a topic or use it in a classroom and break student resistance with humor, with something playful,” says the cartoonist.
Success lies in the balance between agility and content. “If I spend too much time explaining things, I lose the joke,” says the artist. “That is a very nice exercise in a nutshell,” he sums up, using the skills he has acquired as a copywriter for the lean copy.
He says he has difficulty seeing himself as a science communicator and sees himself more as a person who doesn’t necessarily produce scientific knowledge, but rather brings it to people outside of the academic world. And here, he says, external recognition helps.
Sources of inspiration for the work vary, says Merlin. Often when he immerses himself in a topic, he finds several hooks that end up in series. On the other hand, you have to push a little until you get out. In the beginning it was produced once every 14 days. Today he reaches two strips a week.
In addition to Cientirinhas, Merlin publishes other projects as part of Quadrinhorama.
Author: Marco Merlin; Editor Miguilim; BRL 65.00 (180 pages)
Live on the Dragões de Garage Channel on YouTube (bit.ly/livroCientirinhas)
This Thursday (17th) at 7 p.m.