Maris Wicks was never good at science in school. “I didn’t test well,” she says. “It took really good teachers to get me engaged.”
So what makes her qualified to write and draw Human Body Theater, a kids’ guide to what’s inside us? “I took a human anatomy and physiology class in college, but I went to art school, so I don’t know if that counts,” Wicks says. “I’m mostly a hobbyist.”
Hobbyists aren’t usually certified EMTs, though. Combine that with a degree in illustration and a couple medical professional friends as fact-checkers and it becomes clear that Wicks is the exact right person to pen the First Second Books offering, one that features a skeleton performing a tour of each human system.
Human Body Theater began years ago as a mini-comic for the subscription service Uncle Envelope. That first story dealt only with the digestion of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, while this fully-realized, 240-page volume, available everywhere now, covers all of our internal processes, starting with our bone structure and adding layers like organs and musculature as the book progresses.
“You could sit down and read it all over the place, but I did structure it so each [section] builds,” Wicks says.
Human Body Theater isn’t Wicks’ first foray into children’s science comics, though it is the first project she’s helmed completely on her own. Wicks broke into the genre illustrating Jim Ottaviani’s now-legendary Primates, which graphically details the lives and work of researchers Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas. Primates was aimed at a high school audience, while Human Body Theater is more suited for junior high students, or even younger.
“Human Body Theater totally would be fine for a second-grader,” Wicks says, “but the reading level might be a little too high.” High enough for college students, apparently, as at least one professor has told Wicks he’ll use the book as a text for his introductory biology course.
Following Human Body Theater, Wicks will continue to put her background to good use for First Second and their newly launched Science Comics series. The Program Educator at the New England Aquarium is currently putting together a book on coral reefs due out in May of 2016.
Wicks became scuba certified to dive into her research for the upcoming Science Comics: Coral Reefs.