*Wire Mothers — Recommended

Subtitled Harry Harlow and the Science of Love

I love Jim Ottaviani’s work. His true-science comics are entertaining, educational, and eye-opening. Now he’s back with two new books, part of a series exploring “the science of the unscientific”.

The first explores a basic human need: love. As always, it’s a true story, about “one man’s quest to prove that love is real, that it’s learned, and that it matters.” Science history books are interesting reads in part because a modern reader often has a different perspective. The idea that someone would need to prove that love is needed for the proper development of a person seems obviously ridiculous to me, but in the 1950s, behaviorists thought otherwise, and they had to be proven wrong.

Wire Mothers cover
Wire Mothers
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That’s not the only difference between then and modern day — the frequent smoking, not to mention the fears of anti-Semitism, are also convenient reminders that we’re reading about a different time.

Professor Harlow was studying abnormal psychology when he began investigating how primates learn. A lot of coincidences drove him to work with monkeys, the result of poor office locations, lack of rats, and family connections. He quickly found that monkeys quit learning when they were isolated, and that discovery, coupled with disdain for scientists who preached on what they knew little about, led him to argue against the atrocious idea of the Skinner box, raising children in a ventilated incubator. He also objected to the substitution of the word “proximity” for “love” in scientific literature, an amusing quirk that I suspect was meant all too seriously for some.

The human component of the story is enhanced by the contrast between his love for his work and his increasing distances at home. The third sign of a different era is his expectations that he could focus on the job while his wife put up with his silences. Thankfully, he seemed to learn from his experiences as well.

I wasn’t previously familiar with the work of artist Dylan Meconis, but I’m told she has contributed to both Flight and Girlamatic. Her style here is cluttered (appropriate to the period) but still clear to read, with lumpy, down-to-earth figures. I find that appropriate for a story about trying to restrict the grand flight of love to an experiment.

Find out more at the publisher’s website or through this interview with the creators.

Wire Mothers is now available for order through comic shops with Diamond code MAY07 3507. This review was based on a draft online preview copy.


2 Responses to “*Wire Mothers — Recommended”

  1. *Levitation — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Along with Wire Mothers, this book initiates GT Labs’ new series exploring “the science of the unscientific”. This time, it’s an exploration of stage magic. [...]

  2. Sci-Fi Zombie Cats » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Ottaviani, writer of true science graphic novels such as Wire Mothers, Suspended in Language, and Levitation, has a new Sunday comic strip appearing at [...]

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