The Express Series, comprising graphic novels that usher its readers on a journey of discovery along with a cast of intrepid scientists, was conceived with a clear vision for delivering high-quality academic content and developing valuable intellectual property through compelling visual narratives and appealing characters. Jo Jin-ho, the author creator of the Express Series, previously founded a video game development company that was eventually acquired by one of the largest gaming companies in the world and then devoted eight years to teaching advanced science to gifted high school students at the prestigious Korean Minjok Leadership Academy in South Korea. As a result, he possesses an ideal combination of talent for creating rich visual narratives, expertise in dealing with a highly-technical subject matter, and irrepressible passion for reaching young audiences. Currently, there have been three full-length graphic novels published under the Express Series with plans to expand the series to a total of eight volumes.
Jo’s work as a content creator began from his personal frustration with science education in the classroom and with the limitations of current popular science. The typical science curriculum taught in school placed too much emphasis on the technical minutiae while failing to appropriately communicate the bigger themes and philosophies. This approach failed to properly introduce the subject to a general audience and engage their minds to think at a more fundamental level. Existing popular science publications are inadequate as, while they vary greatly in the level of detail and sophistication in discussing the subject, they are uniform in their single-minded focus to deliver information first and foremost with entertainment as an afterthought. Even where the author has deliberately sought to popularize science, traditional books cannot overcome the limitations inherent to relying on the written text as the primary mode of narration.
The Express Series seeks to recognize entertainment and information as equal partners in engaging its audience and communicate science as a form of cultural content like art, music, and film. Science has the potential to be fun, meaningful, and memorable but too many feel that science is complicated, beyond reach, and lacking in drama. This is a result of the one-way reception of science-related knowledge that characterized our education system and popular media that has dominated the public’s engagement with science. Science, however, should be seen as a way of looking at life, a system of fascinating human creations and discoveries akin to art and music.
The Express Series tells the behind-the-scenes story about some of humanity’s most brilliant ideas and pursuits. It allows the readers to experience and participate in the discovery process along with science’s greatest thinkers. With these great minds, readers are led on a fascinating ride of agony, confusion, and occasional victories. The series takes on a format of a fantasy novel to maximize entertainment and keep readers easily connected, but the underlying science is thoroughly fact-checked and backed up with research.
This bold, novel approach has been a huge success. Sales are impressive, online feedback is encouraging, and the scientific community has been delighted to see the public engage so enthusiastically to serious science content.
In South Korea, the Express Series is seen to have pioneered a new segment in graphic popular science content targeting a more educated audience (middle school, high school, and adult audience). Content targeting this demographic is rare, as most graphic popular science content focuses on children (K-6), so a mix of entertainment and high-level content for a more sophisticated audience has been an unmet market need for some time.
The eight graphic novels are the beginning and cornerstone for the Express Series project and will serve as the foundational content for secondary and tertiary content creation in animation, film, documentaries, and learning curriculum. To date, Gravity Express, Genome Express, and Atom Express have been published on the subjects of gravity, genes, and the atom, respectively. Upcoming publications will cover the following subjects: (a) evolution, (b) quantum mechanics, (c) metabolism, (d) immunity, and (e) cosmology. Overseas publishing and production of secondary works (film, documentary, and animation) will occur concurrently.
In February 2020, Genome Express will be reinterpreted as a live stage show with support from the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity. Gravity Express and Genome Express are also scheduled to be published in Japan with Mynavi Publishing.