Monday, July 2, 2007


AUTHOR: Fred Van Lente
ILLUSTRATOR: Ryan Dunlavey
PUBLISHER: Evil Twin Comics
GENRE: Philosophy

ISSUE: Covering issues 1-3
FORMAT: Trade Paperback
PAGES: 96 pages
COLOR: Black and White
ISBN-10: 0-9778329-0-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-9778329-0-3


This book takes a very humorous look at the great thinkers of the world – Plato, Bodhidharma, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Jefferson, St. Augustine, Ayn Rand, Sigmund Freud, C.G. Jung, and Joseph Campbell – and makes them accessible and interesting to the common folk.

This is not your college professor’s philosophy textbook. Maybe that is a problem for some, but not for writer Van Lente and it shouldn’t be for us either. Often academia takes subjects too seriously, leather patches imparting their knowledge with a heavy-handed authority and religious reverence for their particular field. Influential thinkers all, but Plato, Jung and the rest were people just the same, and Van Lente approaches the subject from a youthful standpoint, looking for a way to impart knowledge in a contemporary manner, allowing the people behind the theories show through, complete with scars and human qualities. He’s done it well.

The pages are packed with panels and dense with information, which is a necessity as each character only gets between six and 13 pages. The paper is newsprint and the art is black and white, which is too bad because better paper and the addition of color would have been more in keeping with the quality of the story.

My Rating: College
Comics in the Classroom: College

It’s been said already and I will reaffirm the sentiments: This is not a comic to be used in any classroom except those on the college level. There are high school students who could really benefit from reading this, and they may need a good teacher to recommend it. As for keeping a copy in the classroom, I would refrain.

A creative college professor could make his or her class the talk of the philosophy department, and I suspect classes would fill up with the addition of these books to the required reading list. Not a traditional text, ACTION PHILOSOPHERS would be that great introduction to philosophy that would help all kinds of students really understand and remember the information rather than cramming theories into the brain on a temporary basis in order to attain a passing grade.

ACTION PHILOSOPHERS: Volume 2 is also available ($9 plus $3 s/h) and it covers: Karl Marx, Machiavelli, The Kabbalah, Descartes, Sartre, Derrida, Wittgenstein, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Kierkegaard. The ACTION PHILOSOPHERS’ website also offers a list of recommended reading for those looking for more information on his or her favorite philosopher. Digital versions of the individual comics can be purchased for $1.99 per issue on the website.

Not Recommended
That is to say, this is not recommended for the elementary or secondary classroom. I would highly recommend this book for the college philosophy classroom. The primary reason is because the comic has too many adult sexual situations that would prevent it from being offered in a high school classroom. Teaching about the toils and troubles of the great thinkers is one thing. Illustrating them in compromising adult situations is quite another and is likely to raise the ire of many of parent.

Take the St. Augustine storyline as only one example. In the first panel he is portrayed in bed with a lady on each side, getting drunk. Throughout the story he is exposed as a womanizer. True though it may be, having the knowledge and seeing it illustrated in a comedic fashion are two different things. I howled at that particular story. I thought it was great. I learned more about philosophy in the one trade paperback of ACTION PHILOSOPHERS than I ever did in my undergraduate years at college. Van Lente and Dunlavey deserve lots of praise for bringing this to us. I would give ACTION PHILOSOPHERS to my daughter when she is in high school, but considering the adult situations in the book, I would not keep it on a shelf in the classroom or the high school library.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reviewing our book!
But I'm confused as to why you wouldn't recommend it to a high school audience - you don't really give a reason.
-Ryan Dunlavey

admin said...

Ryan, thanks for asking. I will be glad to respond to that. I'll be sure to my response in the article. Give me a few days.