Underground Film Journal

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The Sandwalk Adventures

The Sandwalk Adventures #1

Could Charles Darwin become the next big cartoon and action figure line for kids? The obvious answer is: He should! Heck, it worked for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so why shouldn’t it for THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES?

In his newest science series, Jay Hosler seeks to explain in understandable terms Darwin’s theory of natural selection. But instead of a dry recantation of the theory, Hosler presents the material as a tale of the kindly old evolutionist engaging in a dialogue with a curious young eyebrow mite. That’s the first thing that the book teaches: That there are hundreds of microscopic organisms living in my eyebrows. Ick. The good news, though, is at least they don’t have butts.

Hosler keeps his storytelling and illustration pretty loose and cartoony, which really comes in handy when he’s describing somewhat complicated scientific concepts. What Hosler is particularly adept at, however, is using concrete examples to explain theories. For example, a two page sequence in “Chapter 3” using the mating process of beetles to discuss the idea of “survival of the fittest,” which also ends up revealing the true meaning of Darwin’s most famous — and famously bastardized — concept. As Hosler’s Darwin tells his tiny student, ” Fitness is a description of reproductive success. A beetle could be very quick, but if it doesn’t reproduce and pass on its traits, its fitness is ZERO.”

As important as science is to THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES, Hosler also makes an astounding connection between the evolution of species and the evolution of stories. As tales get passed on from one generation to the next, they morph as the teller inputs a little of herself into the telling. Or, in extreme cases, whole new stories can be created from the ideas learned from the old stories.

For example, when Mara the eyebrow mite passes on Darwin’s story of the beetles and their relative “fitness” to her bored siblings, she livens up the data by creating a parable within a sci-fi epic about conqueror beetles from space. According to Mara, the beetles will fail to take over the Earth because they were too busy conquering to stop and reproduce, while Darwin sired several children before being attacked. Thus, the beetles’ numbers will dwindle in reverse proportion to Darwin’s progeny growing.

Hosler is like a fun high school science teacher (in reality he’s a college Biology professor). All my teachers — from Chemistry to Physics to especially Biology — sucked. It’s also highly doubtful that I will ever read Darwin’s ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES in my lifetime, but I’m very thankful for THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES as a happy substitute for the real thing.

According to Hosler’s publishing company website, Active Synapse, his graphic novels are readily available to public and school libraries in addition to being found in comic book stores. I think that’s a tremendous idea, especially since the comic book market seems to get further marginalized each year. Hosler makes comics, not only fun again, but educational and thought provoking.

THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES works on so many different layers. It’s a deep, complex combination of science, philosophy, sociology and, just as importantly, humor all wrapped into one tight package. I think adults and kids alike can be grossly entertained by this work and not realize that they’re actually learning something.

Right now (Jan. 2003), the comic is available as individual issues — five total — but will be published this March in a collected graphic novel edition.

Buy this graphic novel at Amazon.com!