Zen Pencils does Tyson

By Phil Plait | May 1, 2012 8:25 am

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time then you’re familiar with astronomer Neil Tyson. You may remember the speech he gave when asked about the most astounding fact he knew. It’s an amazing passage, probably the best speech he’s made.

You may also remember Gavin Aung Than, who does the web comic Zen Pencils. He takes famous quotations and creates comics to go with them, reinterpreting the words with his art and adding extra depth to them. I wrote about him when he drew a series of panels for a Carl Sagan quotation.

So what do you get when Gavin takes on Neil?

Pure awesome.

That’s only the first few panels. You really, really need to see the rest. He did a fantastic job with Neil’s words.

He’s done quite a few of these comics in the past, but this is easily the best yet. Gavin should be a lot more popular on the web, and I fully expect he will be. It’s moving and beautiful and wonderful. Go.

Tip o’ the zen pencil to Gavin himself on Twitter.

Comments (21)

  1. Ian

    Very nice, but rather unoriginal. It follows very closely a video that circulates the interwebs of this quote with a very nice montage video from various sources.

    I like the video better, because there is some great imagery in it.

  2. Mac

    Gavin limits his popularity by being too Asian influenced cute. His art style derives more from “Hello Kitty” than Marvel. Unfortunately for him, most of the core online tech geeks were raised on Kirby, Strenko, Moore, or Mignola (depending on their era) so they automatically discount sweet or pretty. Too bad, Gavin sometimes does a good job (though his version of the Sagen quote still makes me cringe – art is too close to 50’s propaganda).

  3. Ian, Mac: If there’s anything else I say I like or any other folks who are putting their work out there for all to see that you’d like to throw a wet blanket on, please feel free to do so elsewhere.

  4. The thing I hate about Gavin is that he uses his undeniable artistic talent to expose his (deservedly growing) audience to some truly inspirational and thought-provoking material and the associated authors. How very dare he.

    That was written in all seriousness. What follows is my sarcastic aside: I love Zen Pencils. It’s quickly become one of the best webcomics out there right now.

  5. I’ll defend Mac’s right to criticize, but the substance of his remark strikes me as the polar opposite of the truth. Not only do I see no hint of “Asian cute” in Gavin Than’s art — but also I see quite a bit of Mike Mignola’s influence.

  6. Damon B.

    [i]Ian, Mac: If there’s anything else I say I like or any other folks who are putting their work out there for all to see that you’d like to throw a wet blanket on, please feel free to do so elsewhere.[/i]

    EPIC RESPONSE.

  7. Sarah

    Cute. It *did* remind me of Tree of Life
    Phil, I signed you up in the “famous astrophysicist band” roster in the comment thread.

  8. Cris (5): Actually, people have the right to do all sorts of things. That doesn’t mean they have to do them.

  9. Liath

    Thank you for sharing this. In fact, thank you for all the sharing you do.

  10. Russell

    Ahhhh!! Phil! You did it to me again…now I’m sitting at my desk in the office all sniffy and watery eyed!! Coworkers are wondering what’s wrong with me!

    Nothing it’s just that I was exposed to beauty and, it does that to me.

    Oh my…..sigh

  11. This is, quite honestly, one of the most amazing pieces of graphic artwork I’ve ever seen. Any criticism is unfounded and any arguments are invalid.

    It’s breathtaking. Pure and simple.

  12. Jimme Blue

    Just in case some of Gavin’s explanation was missed (not to pile on):

    Ian said:
    “Very nice, but rather unoriginal. It follows very closely a video that circulates the interwebs of this quote with a very nice montage video from various sources. ”

    Gavin below the comic “Thanks to Tanya for submitting this quote. Tyson said it in an interview with Time magazine and it’s been adapted into this sweet video montage.” with a link to here (http://vimeo.com/38101676)
    =======
    Sarah said:
    “Cute. It *did* remind me of Tree of Life.”

    Gavin further said: “I guess I was also inspired by the film The Tree of Life which connects the story of a family with the history of the Universe. I still haven’t decided if I like that film or not.”

    So both of you were spot on with your recognition of his inspirations, in his own words.

  13. Grand Lunar

    More people across the world ought to take in the message provided there.

    I find it far more inspirational than any of the religous works I’ve been exposed to in my life.

  14. Daviticus

    Apparently, only Gavin Aung Than fans can post here without fear of retribution. Good to know.

    Not that I have anything against the guy, mind you. I’m not sufficiently familiar with him to have an opinion. I just find the defensiveness a bit off-putting.

  15. twinner42

    I fully agree with Grand Lunar here. Neil Tyson is my pastor. These words are my Genesis.
    I feel like religious people think of the universe as just a habitat in which we run out our lives. Now we know that we’re not just occupying the universe, we’re a natural part of it.
    To quote another great astronomer, “We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

  16. icemith

    Oh boy, the wet blanket brigade were quick out of the barrier today! They must have been eager for a fight. (I know – mixed metaphors abound here, but that’s me).

    As one who likes lots of illustrations accompanying my reading, I find the whole feature quite acceptable. Whether the style is one type or another, does not matter. That someone has re-envisioned something worthwhile, has translated it into another form, and in the process, has enabled others to share that insight, ought to be considered a teacher at least, and certainly no less.

    Now all I have to do is find more of this work.

    Ahh ha – I have found them, and am mightily impressed. I read a few of the previous panels, and I find I am of the same mind – I understand and appreciate the sentiments.

    I can see I will have to go all the way back to the beginning and progress through them. Going to be busy for a while methinks!

    Thanks, Phil, for leading the way again.

    Ivan.

  17. icemith

    Oh boy, the wet blanket brigade were quick out of the barrier today! They must have been eager for a fight. (I know – mixed metaphors abound here, but that’s me).

    As one who likes lots of illustrations accompanying one’s reading, I find the whole feature quite acceptable. Whether the style is one type or another, does not matter. That someone has re-envisioned something worthwhile, has translated it into another form, and in the process, has enabled others to share that insight, ought to be considered a teacher at least, certainly no less.

    Now all I have to do is find more of this work.

    Ahh ha – I have found them, and am mightily impressed. I read a few of the previous panels, and I find I am of the same mind – I understand and appreciate the sentiments.

    I can see I will have to go all the way back to the beginning and progress through them. Going to be busy for a while methinks!

    Thanks, Phil, for leading the way again.

    Ivan.

  18. Mike

    The voice narration in my brain immediately took on Dr. Tyson’s after reading the first four words.

  19. Ian

    Clarification: I love the quote and nearly everything else NdGT does. I love the video that Jimmie Blue linked (the one I was referring to in my comment). I also enjoy reading Zen Pencils and think he does fine work; I have no qualms about his style of illustration.

    But for me, reading this particular comic loses much of its luster because it pretty much follows the same imagery as the above-referenced video. I suppose it may be difficult to make it entirely different (after all, they use the same quote to base their imagery off of), but did he really have to use the “stars in your eyes” trope, particularly after the video already did? Seems a bit cliche by now…

    Perhaps if I had seen them in a different order… it’s like reading Frank Miller’s “300” graphic novel AFTER watching the movie – much of the drama of the book is trumped by having seen a great video of the same material.

    I apologize for being a Debby Downer, Phil. I have a nasty habit of speaking my mind.

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