Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
is an award-winning graphic novel written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna, and published in 2009. It's the story of Apostolos and Christos making a comic book about
Bertrand Russel, a famous Real Life
philosopher and logician, telling the story of his life to a group of isolationist Americans in 1939.
Going through from his youth on his grandfather's estate, through his dissatisfaction in college, collaboration on the Principia Mathematica
, wooing and breakup with two women, all the way to the lecture, it is a story of the seemingly paradoxical interrelation between logic and insanity and the difference between models and reality.
Logicomix contains examples of:
- An Aesop: Debatable. Christos suggests something along the lines of "we can't prove everything, but that's okay" and there's hints of "don't confuse the model and reality", but the story is pretty far from Anvilicious or even having a clear "moral".
- Anti-Intellectualism: Actually quite handily averted, despite the "logic and madness" theme; Christos protests when it seems story is going that way, but it always turns away from it again.
- Artistic License: Averted as far as they could, according to the afterword; the authors had some meetings take place that didn't in reality and simplified the plot a little, but apparantly, they tried to stay as close to the "real" story as possible. They did cut Russell's brother, but this is pointed out and debated in-story.
- Art Shift: Occurs in the prologue; the font in the speech bubbles changes and the panels turn grayscale as Apostolos introduces Christos to the general plot. Does not happen during later flashbacks or "fictional episodes", however (and it'd be rather annoying anyway).
- Author Avatar: All four authors show up as characters in the main "framing plot". None of them have Mary Sue tendecies, thankfully, and the story isn't really about them anyway.
- Big NO: Evelyn lets one out as Russel defeats her at Croquet. Her husband jokingly replies that what he has done to her game is nothing compared to what he has done to mathematics. Meanwhile, Russel's wife Alys builds up hatred towards Evelyn, considering her to be covertly flirting.
- Black and White Insanity: See the Troubled Sympathetic Bigot example.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most if not all of the logicians, actually; this, in form of the "logic and madness" theme, is discussed on several levels of the meta-story as well. Specific examples:
- Gottlob Frege has some difficulty adapting to new situations. To quote (slighly paraphrased): "Ach! Woman! Where are the three cookies of mine? The three cookies I require for my tea! Of course I did not [eat one]! I never eat a cookie before 5:00 and it is only 4:48! Do you think I'm senile? [No?] Then why are you implying it?"
- Professor Cantor is not quite the man he used to be. To quote again: "Who cares of set theory? All that matters is my new work! After unmasking the plagiarist Shakespeare, I now have completed my magnum opus. The time has come for the great truth! Jesus Christ was in reality the son of Joseph of Arimathea!!! The conspiracy is exposed! You must go to the queen!!! She must protest my imprisonment! I am held captive against my will! I SPEAK THE WORDS OF THE PROPHET!!! I WILL BLOW IN THE FIRE OF MY WRATH!"
- Alfred Whitehead is, in the words of his wife, "otherworldly at times" - as in, "he won't speak for days, and then he'll rage at [her] for some triviality".
- Ludwig Wittgenstein has rather creepy eyes and is somewhat... intense. ("But don't you understand the SIGNIFICANCE of types? They are our SAFEGUARD against PARADOX, they are essential to LOGIC itself! TYPES must be salvaged... at ALL COSTS!")
- And, of course, there's the in-story narrator Russell himself, who drives himself to the brink of madness and wreaks his marriage while trying to build a solid foundation for Logic and Mathematics. He also has nightmares about a statue of Händel turning into one of Gauss, which then comes to life and yells at him for "messing with infinity".
- Door Stopper: Well, not by book standards, but it is a 345-page comic book.
- Downer Ending: The quest of truth ends with one. (Sort of, anyway; Christos protests quite sharply against the conclusion that the quest "failed" and points out that only ten years after the end of the in-story, the computer was invented, for which the Principia Mathematica laid the foundation.) The comic itself ends with a significantly lighter tone.
- E = MC Hammer: Rarely. The maths (and predicate logic) in-story always checks out, but it doesn't always have relevance to the plot; sometimes it's just kinda thrown in there.
- Everybody Hates Mathematics: Inverted, actually; Russell does rant about disliking mathematics as-is in an early chapter, but that's because he feels it lacks a solid foundation, not because he dislikes it. Well, the story is about logic and mathematics.
- Fourth Wall Observer: Apostolos is the only one from the authors who knows he's in a comic book, and sometimes adressess the readers themselves.
- Framing Device: Several ones, actually. The in-story authors tell a story about Russell telling the story of his life to isolationist Americans.
- Funetik Aksent: Some character have their accent transcribed, generally to indicate they don't really speak English too well. Examples include Annie and a nameless German philosopher.
- Geek: Christos the theoretical computer scientist, whom the authors ask for help on mathematical logic. (In Real Life, he's the professor of Computer Science in Berkeley.) All the logicians in the story probably count as well; Kurt Gödel deserves special mention, however, being somewhat portrayed as a geek among geeks and seemingly the only character who actually took the time to read through the Principia Mathematica.
- Gratuitous German: The third chapter is called "Wanderjahre" and the German characters have a habit of sprinkling their English dialogue with some of this (e. g. calling the protagonist Herr Doktor). It varies from character to character, though.
- Gratuitous French: Annie sometimes does this. In her defense, she really is from France. (Also, the song playing in the prologue.)
- Historical-Domain Character: Too many to count. Important ones include Betrand Russell (protagonist of the story-in-the-story), Georg Cantor, Gottlob Frege, Kurt Gödel, David Hilbert, Henri Poincaré, John von Neumann, Alfred Whitehead and Ludwig Wittgenstein; mentioned but not shown are others like Aristotle, Georg Boole, Euclid, Alan Turing and many, many others.
- Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: see the Troubled Sympathetic Bigot example.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Always a risk for the mathematicians (including Russell himself), but this is less due to their intelligence and more because they grow obsessed.
- In the Blood: Insanity runs in the family, for Russel s well as his wife Alys. For that reason, his grandmother is opposed to their marriage.
- Large Ham: Ludwig Wittgenstein. Even his letters are in Large Ham mode.
- Ludd Was Right: Averted, beaten unconscious with a rusty shovel and thrown off of a bridge.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: This does tend to happen when Real Life Writes the Plot.
- Mad Logician: Half of the point (as far as there is one) is the "logic and madness" theme.
- Mathematician's Answer: Frege does this when Russel first meets him; it gets lampshaded/discussed at this point. Surprisingly, it's not used anywhere else in the whole comic.
- Painting the Medium: The font in the speech bubbles sometimes changes. Poetry gets a flourishing, handwritten look, exposition looks slightly different than dialogue (even if it's exposition in speech bubbles, not text boxes), purely German text is generally in Fraktur script and so on.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: It's not a "historical" novel per se, but it's fairly closely based on real events and follows the general "red line".
- Shaped Like Itself: A bit of a recurring (and discussed) theme with self-evident statements (or tautologies). Examples include "Pink flowers are pink." and "Red ants are red."
- Shown Their Work: And how!
- Talkative Loon: What logicians seem like to everybody else. At one point this is indicated by having a speech bubbled filled with notation instead of words.
- Those Wacky Nazis: They show up in the second framing device - Russell is giving a speech in 1939, right after the invasion of Poland, and is asked by a group of American isolationists to support their cause and keep America out of the war.
- Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Ferge, being totally honest and devoted to truth & logic. Sadly, this devotion combined with Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance leads to Black and White Insanity in the form of a Straw Vulcan despise for women and jews.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Averted, to an extent; see "artistic licence" above.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: In-story, they actually can, but Christos is brought in to make sure it's all correct. In reality, said Christos is a professor of Computer Science, so I think we can call this a full aversion.