This is the first comic of Ergo, Season Two! Woo!
With that hurrah out of the way, my thoughts on the context of this comic strip:
I’m a strong believer in life-long learning, but I’m ambivalent on grades. With all our modern understanding of human psychology, is this stress-inducing system really the best thing we can come up with for our kids? Not only do grades lead to chronic pressure, they present a thoroughly flawed perspective of life. When’s the last time you were graded at work, other than your yearly performance review? When you succeed at work, you don’t get an arbitrary number or letter telling you how you’ve done. Most likely, you receive no feedback at all, and if you do, it’s hopefully in the financial terms of a commission or bonus.
I’m increasingly interested in the concept of gamification. What makes video games addictive and fun, and how can this be applied to education in a genuine way that isn’t forced or cheesy?
The first Ergo comic strip! Well, I actually drew the strip “Meet George Ergo” first, but I felt that this Sunday strip best sums up the overall feel of the comic, because it involves all main human characters. This strip, like many of the other strips, went through several style iterations before I found the look I was truly happy with.
One thing I feel this particular comic strip does well: It establishes that the events occurring in the panels are real. That is, they are not merely part of a child’s imagination. When we see George building a particle accelerator out of hamster tubes, he’s really building a functional particle accelerator, not just pretending that it functions.
In fiction, I enjoy stories where the character’s actions have actual consequences, and where the characters change and develop over time and reflect on their previous adventures. I remember reading about Jeff Smith’s comic epic “Bone.” I believe he had a similar opinion. In many comics, the characters reset after each adventure. Everything goes back to a static status quo. Perhaps in some ways this is comforting for the reader, but it also detracts from some sort of momentum that can be built up over story arcs.