by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

The duo of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have done it again in the 10th anniversary edition of their comic book series Action Philosophers. It’s available in late October from Dark Horse in a beautiful hardcover one volume edition with new cover art. This smart and witty non-fiction graphic book is the introduction to philosophy that should be required reading. I wish it had been around when I struggled through some of these works!

The series originally published by Van Lente and Dunlavey under their company Evil Twin Comics began life as a single issue comic book about Frederick Niestche, he of  the “God is Dead” philosophy. The comic book proved to be so popular that the guys developed a series that was eventually distributed by Diamond. For those of you unfamiliar with the industry that’s pretty impressive for an indie company. With support and appreciation from the industry the series won a Xeric Grant in 2004, was nominated twice for an Ignatz award and lauded by the American Library Association. For Evil Twin Comics they’ve also created Action Presidents and The Comic Book History of Comics.

Action Philosophers 10th Edition by Dark Horse.
Action Philosophers 10th Edition by Dark Horse.

Beginning with Plato and Socrates the comics in both dialogue and art reveal complex intellectual thought in an easy to understand and cheeky manner. The dialogue juxtaposed by the drawings ranges from amusing to laugh out loud funny. This is comics at it’s best. The work is appealing and available. Ryan noted that they consider the audience for the comics as 11 and up and that the comics are for comic book fans and philosophy fans. Now that’s comics for a general audience!

From Plato, Action Philosophers.
From Plato, Action Philosophers.

Van Lente and Dunlavey have impressive resumes. Fred is noted for his work at Marvel Comics for Iron Man, Spider Man, X-Men and Hercules. He also wrote Cowboys and Aliens with co-author Andrew Foley that was the basis for the film. Van Lente began his studies in film and then majored in English. It’s an excellent combination for working in comics with a strong sense of writing and the ability to frame the story. That clarity of story line comes across so well in Action Philosophers.

Ryan’s background is in illustration, writing and drawing and he has worked for Disney, Marvel, Warner Brothers and Comedy Central creating cartoons and designs. Both attended Syracuse University and as with colleagues whose experiences go back for a long time their work appears complimentary and seamless in its collaboration. Ryan’s illustrations are bold, clear and have classic comic book references in his artwork. In other words it’s recognizable and fun.

From Plato, Action Philosophers
From Plato, Action Philosophers

I love the fact that this is called Action Philosophers and for something that could be difficult and dry this is a book of Action. The pages burst with activity and energy in the drawings themselves as well as the smart dialogue and storyline.

This is a book that should be on your list for yourself and as a gift. It’s out of the ordinary and that’s a good thing. It’s also completely accessible and a fascinating read. Go Action Philosophers!

[Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is writing a biography of her grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, military intelligence officer, prolific pulp writer, inventor and founder of DC Comics, with Gerard Jones (Men of Tomorrow) entitled Lost Hero. Her most recent publication is co-editing and writing an Introduction to a reprint of some of the Major’s adventure tales from the pulps entitled The Texas-Siberia Trail published by Off-Trail Publications. Nicky is a writer, editor and audio publisher and holds a Master’s in Classical Greek Mythology. She was featured in Women’s Enews with an article on Wonder Woman and San Diego Comic Con and appears frequently at Comics Conventions throughout the US speaking about early comic book history.]

7 COMMENTS

  1. I agree. This was a fantastic comic series. I truly enjoyed when a new issue came out.

    Is Nicky a sister or cousin to Dana Wheeler-Nicholson?

  2. That’s an unfair misconcepption, yupsolo. I can think of quite a few B&W comics that are required reading for discernning comic readers, like most of Robert Crumb’s oeuvre, Love & Rockets, Cerebus, Corto Maltese, Ken Parker, Epileptic and quite a lot of manga.

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