Jill Trent, Science Detective, was a Kickstarter project that included this new Jill Trent comic with five different stories by five different teams of writers and artists. Backers also received a PDF of the original Jill Trent comics from the 40’s which have recently fallen into, or perhaps been elevated into, public domain. I haven’t read those yet.
I supported this Kickstarter because I teach high school engineering and I like comics. The big push in STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) is to get girls excited about such things. Of my 25 level-one engineering students last year, one of them was a girl. School-wide, in grades 9-12, we have two. So I’m aware of the situation. And I thought maybe the Jill Trent comics, both old and new, could somehow be used as marketing for our engineering program. And, as I said, I like comics.
As with any collection of stories like this, you’re going to find some things you like, and some you don’t. I’ve said before that I’m hard to please when it comes to short comic stories. Four pages is not enough for me; I generally want more. But if these stories are sometimes too quick for me, they are all smart and clever and earnest in the way they give us two intelligent and powerful butt-kicking women who show girls especially, the power and fun of science. It’s great that each story is so different. This book includes a dark futuristic tale, a giant monster story, an Indiana Jones homage, a robot love story, and an old fashion mystery. The artwork is as varied as the stories, and each artist perfectly (not hyperbole–I really mean it) matches his artwork to the tone of the story being illustrated. And maybe coolest of all, Jill Trent and her sidekick Daisy Smyth are as varied as the rest of this book is. In each story Jill and Daisy are re-imagined in a variety of races, hair styles, and body types.
What makes this book tricky for me as a high school teacher is that in most of these stories Jill and Daisy are a couple. And in a small town Missouri school, it’s been my experience that reading to a class a short story in which the protagonist has two dads (and two moms) (I’m looking at you Mr. Crutcher), or even just discussing the national day of silence, can lead to parent phone calls and teacher visits with administrators. This is a shame. So I have to ask myself as a teacher, is making this comic available in my classroom worth the possible trouble? Maybe a bit. I have no problem that Jill and Daisy are gay. So it’s too bad I will be less likely to share this book as a result. And I know that’s on me; it’s one of those tricky decisions a teacher has to make. That’s all worth a longer discussion somewhere, but not here today.
My point today is to say that Jill Trent, Science Sleuth is great fun. Maybe you’re not a person who is trying to get girls interested in science, and really, don’t you think you should be. Maybe you just like comics. Either way, I’d recommend that you head over to Superdames and pick up a copy of Jill Trent.