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Comic Book / Logicomix

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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:

  • Abusive Parents: Bertrand's grandma was extremely strict, forbade him to visit certain parts of the house and imposed him rules and religious activities, like reading the Bible. It's no wonder that Bertrand ended up atheist and kept things secret from her.
  • Adapted Out: Bertrand's older brother (who was the one to introduce him to Euclidean geometry) isn't in the story. The authors were fully aware of this, since in that time, he was in a private school.
  • All There in the Manual: The Useful Notes at the end of the graphic novel provide extra information about the heroes. For example, Allan Turing's (who was referenced at the end of the book) work and death are mentioned in great detail.
  • 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 apparently, 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; thankfully, the story isn't about them anyway.
  • Big "NO!": Evelyn lets one out as Russell 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, Russell'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 wrecks 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.
  • Dramatic Thunder:
    • A couple of them appear in the first chapter, when Bertrand was in his bed at Pembroke Lodge. For his 5-year-old self, this was a traumatic experience…
    • Again, appearing during the night where him and Whitehead discussed about the Principles of Mathematics. Due to his exhaustion and the thought of his awful childhood that the sound of the thunder reminded him, he bursts.
  • 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).
  • Happily Married: Despite Frege being a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot, his wife loves him and defends him, saying that he is actually a nice man, just odd. And while he may have his quirks, these two seem to get just fine.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Gotlob dedicated his life into creating a language that represents truth and logic. This, however, has resulted in him forming prejudice thoughts against Jews and women.
    Gotlob: Women are such illogical creatures. I try to explain the fact to my wife… but she cannot understand!
  • 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.
  • It Runs in the Family: Insanity runs in the family, for Russell as well as his wife Alys. For that reason, his grandmother is opposed to their marriage.
  • Jerkass: Ludwig Wittgenstein isn't the greatest teacher to have around. He abused his students physically and verbally. Eventually, the villagers discovered this and kicked him out.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Bertrand's students have no intention on learning maths, disrespect their teacher and create a chaos in their classroom.
  • The Killjoy:
    • The first example is Bertrand's grandmother, an extremely strict woman who believes in Christian religion and that is the sole solution to all the problems. She tried to raise Bertrand this way, but he ended up hating and tried to find the truth through logic.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein isn't the greatest teacher to have around. He abused his students physically and verbally. Eventually, the villagers discovered this and kicked him out.
  • 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.
  • Logic Bomb: A number appear. The problem many of the logicians seemed to be having was that they were trying very very hard to create a system in which these could not exist, a task eventually proven impossible by Gödel.
  • Mad Logician: Half of the point (as far as there is one) is the "logic and madness" theme. Is there something about logic that inherently drives people mad or do people who are mad turn to logic to straighten out their lives? Ultimately, the books advocates a third option: the logicians and logic itself aren't mad, it's attempting to force the models of logic onto reality that's mad.
  • Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves: There is a trend of the male characters being drawn with more defined muscles, sharp lines, and squares (e.g., Bertrand Russell, Alecos Papadatos) and the female characters being drawn with rounder features and curves (e.g., Alice, Ann).
  • Mathematician's Answer: Frege does this when Russell first meets him; it gets lampshaded/discussed at this point. Surprisingly, it's not used anywhere else in the whole comic.
  • Men Act, Women Are: Regarding the time period, it would make sense for women not having major role in the mathematical field. Instead, men, like Bertrand, Frege, Whitehead and Ludwig, are the ones who are constantly in the spotlight.
  • 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.
  • The Power of Lust: Bertrand's realization that he has developed feelings for Whitehead's wife is what made him rush towards her, admit that he loves her and asks to hear her say that as well. Later, he realises that that was all a marriage and that the problem was found on the book.
  • 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".
  • The Reveal: When Bertrand first arrived at Pembroke Lodge, he heard weird howls from the outside, but when he asked the servants about that, they all said that it was from his imagination. Later, he finds outs that the howls are from deeply sick uncle.
  • Rotating Protagonist: Played with. While Bertrand is always on the focus, the authors interrupt plenty of times the story to analyse his behaviour or to explain some element that the audience may not understand. At the middle of the graphic novel, the narration swifts from Bertrand and follows Christos and Ann trying to find the rehearsal place. After they are done, the audience is back to Bertrand and his quest for truth.
  • Running Gag: The most frequent is the one where Bertrand mentions tone of his biggest achievements, only to call it a "failure". Followed by Christos' look of annoyance.
  • 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!
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Bertrand is determined to find out the truth about his parents and sister's death and looks for clues in his grandpa's library, a place forbidden by his grandmother. When his grandmother finds him looking in some books, she scolds him for daring to disobey her, but Bertrand replies that he ought to know about his parents and that there's nothing she can do to stop, leaving her astounded.
  • Skyward Scream: Bertrand lets an epic cry, accompanied by Shelley's "Alastora" while he stands upon a mountain in Wales.
  • 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: Frege, being totally honest and devoted to truth & logic, but also eccentric and difficult. Sadly, this devotion combined with Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance leads to Black-and-White Insanity in the form of hatred for women and jews.
  • Understatement: While Bertrand is at Frege's house and they discuss about the creation of a new language (far more logic than the previous one), Frege notices that one of his biscuits is missing and accuses his wife for only putting two. Bertrand interrupts their argument, saying that he was the one who ate it, thinking it was a treat.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Averted, to an extent; see "artistic licence" above.
  • Wacky Homeroom: Bertrand's class at Beacon Hill School is, much to his dismay, full of troublesome students.
  • World Limited to the Plot: Averted. Bertrand, along with Alice (his first wife) are seen in travelling to German and France, in order to get in contact with various famous philosophers and mathematicians.
  • World of Ham: Yes, because even the mathematicians (who are thought to be serious and logic) can start a fight due to disagreements, especially when it has to do between the ideas of Poincaré and the ideas of Hilbert).
  • 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.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • When Bertrand first met Ludwig, he was impressed by his passion for mathematics and hoped that together, they would finally continue with the Principles. Then, his new student turned out to be so hammy and insane, that he couldn't stand him and their bond got ruined.
    • At first, everything went right with Bertrand and his two wives. However:
      • Due to exhaustion and nervousness he developed while he and Whitehead were writing the Principle of Mathematics, he started having feelings for Whitehead's extremely young wife and divorced Alice.
      • With Dora, they raised a child and founded the Beacon Hill School. Later, he realised that the latter was a bad idea, just like their wedding. And he told her so while she was with one of her lovers!