For the November issue of Wired Magazine (UK) I illustrated a number of panels for a comic strip article about the latest case of Donald Olson, an astrophysicist who ‘uses astronomical references in painting and literature as clues to academic puzzles.’
The investigation (published in Sky and Telescope Journal) covered in the article involves the precise origin date of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Using a combination of lunar references from the diaries of those present (when Shelley woke from the dream that inspired the book, she noted that the moon was shining outside her window), GPS (Olson calculated that the slope of the hill behind Villa Diodati was 15 degrees) and planetarium computer programs to chart the position and phases of the moon, Olson was able to calculate exactly when the moon would have been visible from Shelley’s bedroom window and therefore when the inspirational dream took place: between 2 and 3am, June 16th, 1816.
Above are a few of my favourite panels. The top one is Lord Byron suggesting to Shelley and Co that they should all try and write a ghost story (a suggestion that was ultimately responsible for Frankenstein and Dracula), the second of Villa Diodati where they were staying and the third of Donald Olson, doing his thing.
Below is how the spread appeared in the magazine (excuse the arrows, I nicked it from Wired’s digital preview of the issue). There’s also a partially animated version for the Wired iPad app but I have no idea how that turned out as I’m not blessed with said pad.