Monday, April 7, 2014

Famous Words in Webcomic Form: "Zen Pencils" Gives New Voice to Powerful Ideas

Image credit: Gavin Aun Thang & Zen Pencils
Somewhere between Calvin and Hobbes, Mohandas Gandhi, and Steve Jobs, there's an Internet gem called Zen Pencils.  And it's changing lives.

At its most basic level, Zen Pencils is a webcomic, part of a genre of art and story-telling born from the unique technological and self-publishing opportunities of the Internet. (Examples range from XKCD, an innovative and sardonic comic told entirely with stick figures, to Sheldon, a three-panel strip about a naïve and rich child genius and his talking duck.)

But Zen Pencils is unique in its genre. Each beautifully crafted strip is created from a quotation by some of history’s and literature's greatest figures, including Nelson Mandela, C.S. Lewis, and Carl Sagan. The footnotes to these comics are well-researched and insightful – a great reason to read the comic in its own right.

Zen Pencils is the result of creator Gavin Aung Than's decision to make a living as a freelance artist, instead of through a graphic design job. The project went from virtually unknown to signing a book deal in a little less than three years. The entrepreneurial bent is obvious in comics like “Make Gifts for People” and “What If Money Was No Object?” The comic also seems to favor the work of famous anti-theists like Richard Dawkins and Caitlin Moran.

Most importantly, Zen Pencils is having life-changing impacts on its readers.  The accompanying blog is full of stories of readers who decided to take a leap and do something they never had the courage to do before, like take an overseas trip or start a business. Clearly these are powerful words.

Ultimately, Zen Pencils asks a new generation to wrestle with the dangerously powerful ideas that continue to shape the world, in a creative way all its own. With that idea, Axis couldn't agree more. We’re all for something that encourages an apathetic and distracted generation to leave its apathy behind and begin thinking, even when it’s hard. And it's an added bonus when that thinking leads to action and changed lives.

The best thing any parent can do throughout the journey is be there . . . to ask tough questions, to guide them, to offer wisdom, to listen to their questions and doubts, to love them, and to help them become thoughtful adults who know why they believe what they believe.

Lucas Zellers is a regular contributor to the Axis blog and a former intern.

No comments:

Post a Comment