Dr Jo Heaton-Marriott and engineering lecturer Matt Dickinson with cut outs of Mecha-man and Doktor Darkness

Comic creators team up with science educators

The creators of some of Marvel and DC Comics’ famous characters have teamed up with a university to design an educational comic.

Over the last 25 years Andy Lanning and Anthony Williams have illustrated and written 'The Avengers', 'Batman', 'Captain America', 'Superman', 'Iron Man' and 'X-Men' comics among others.

But now they’ve used their talents to turn University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) engineering lecturer Matt Dickinson into a superhero character as part of a national schools’ science competition.

Computer-aided engineering lecturer Dickinson said: “We want to demonstrate the power of science and the impact it can have on everyday life; the sea cucumber for instance when completely severed will re-stitch itself like Wolverine’s healing capabilities.  

“Relating science to magical super powers will allow us to share some really detailed information on a level that primary school children will not only understand but be inspired by.”

In the 'Hero Lab' comic, Dickinson is the main character who is turned into two characters; superhero Mecha-man and super villain Doktor Darkness, after being struck by lightning while working in his lab.
Doktor Darkness Primary school age children are being encouraged to create 10 new characters for the final story that will help the nemeses fight each other. The only requirement is that any super powers must be based on real-life science.

Writer Lanning said: “It’s an exciting concept to develop new characters grounded in real life engineering. Working with Matt and the team has been really insightful and has given us some fantastic ideas for 'Hero Lab'; we are looking forward to seeing what the children come up with.”

A team of engineers will also work on the project providing online materials that children can access as part of their research into what science fact rather than science fiction can be applied to the characters’ super powers.  

Dr Jo Heaton-Marriott, public engagement manager at UCLan, is co-ordinating the 'Hero Lab' project and will also be included as a character in the comic book.

She said: “UCLan has a long history of community engagement. Through this latest project we hope to debunk stereotypes about engineering and show the breadth and depth of engineering research in the UK. The comic book will allow primary school children to explore cutting-edge research and fuel their imagination.”

Mecha-man To enter the competition children should visit the Hero Lab website for an entry form and choose whether they want to join Mecha-Man in creating the next generation of superheroes or join Doktor Darkness in his Vault of Villains. 

The ten winners will see their characters developed by the two comic book artists to play a starring role in the 'Hero Lab' comic. They will also receive signed artwork of their characters.

The 'Hero Lab' project has been funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering as a follow-up to the successful Science of Superheroes show run by Dickinson over the last three years where the lecturer shared the science fact behind the science fiction of many well-known characters such as Spiderman, Wolverine and Iron Man.

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