Comic author Jim Ottaviani speaks about physicist Richard Feynman.

Sarah Lawson

Physics meets graphic novels in Jim Ottaviani’s newest graphic novel about the famed physicist, Richard Feynman.

Ottaviani said most people aren’t aware of the many nuances that come into play when writing a graphic novel. He said he has to create the scene through his writing for artists to refer to when they are drawing out the graphic novels. 

“I think a lot of people are totally wrong about comics. There is definitely a lot that comes into play,” Ottaviani said. “I mean I might sit there and write out an 800-page script for a 200-paged graphic novel.” 

Many of the attendees at a speech by Ottaviani in Robert A. Welch Hall on Friday were physics majors, and physics graduate student Maria Becker said she was interested in the graphic novel because of her admiration of Feynman’s work on quantum mechanics. Feynman received the Nobel prize in physics in 1965 for his work in the field. 

“I was primarily interested in hearing about Feynman, and I knew the book was going to be here as well. Of course, I was also interested in the graphic novel,” Becker said.

Ottaviani detailed the planning, processing, drawing and editing of graphic novels. 

“The way it starts for me is page one, panel one. Give the artist a feel for the setting,” Ottaviani said. “You want to give the artists a feel for the setting by including those really minute details.”

Ottaviani shared some of the tricks he uses to make his graphic novels with the audience.

“If you want a surprise to happen, you put it at the top left-hand side of an odd-numbered page,” he said. “Then, the reader turns the page and bam!”

Ottaviani said that after he writes the scripts, his degree of usefulness to the project varies on how much he trusts the artist. He said sometimes he is very involved while other times he realizes he would just interfere with the artist’s creativity. 

Many were interested in the creative process that went into the graphic novels, but others were more interested in hearing about Feynman himself.

“I came to see him speak because I am a physics major, and it’s Feynman,” said physics junior Alex Reinhart. “It’s obligatory.”

Ottaviani said his admiration for Feynman inspired him to create his latest graphic novel. 

“I think, though, that part of what made Feynman great was his curiosity,” Ottaviani said. “The desire to learn and experience more made him great.”

Printed on Monday, October 3, 2011 as: Comic author Jim Ottaviani speaks about physicist, art to students