The latest all-ages graphic novel from Lion Forge’s Caracal imprint, Debian Perl, manages to mix entertainment and education wonderfully well in a comic that’s so much fun, with an adventure and a fabulous style obviously pitched to a younger audience but never shying away from both learning opportunities and wider, darker issues.
Debian Perl lives and works in Megalopolis as a technomancer, programming, fixing computers, and just isn’t doing too well from it all. Customers aren’t paying, and more and more are just buying Omelette products…when it breaks, they just go out and buy a newer model. All around her, businesses just aren’t doing too well at all.
Debian tries her best to take it all in her stride, even loving a little fresh rain… but even that little joy is stolen from her…
When she finds an old clunker of a Ray-Bot robot marauding its way around the arcade, her technomancer coding knowledge helps get things back under control, with the coding her written out as an understandable pseudo-coding language, getting the ideas over to the young audience so simply and effectively.
There’s a wonderful example of this relatively early on where Debian teaches a bit of coding to Digit, using the simple idea of teaching by doing, getting Digit to give the Ray-Bot instructions on how to do something as easy as making a sandwich. Over nearly 20 pages, it’s written up as a perfect teaching example, one that reinforces the benefits of failure and re-testing in not just coding but all sorts of learning.
The real trick with this sort of educational comic is to get the balance right between pushing the knowledge on the reader and creating a narrative that flows well. The best of these sorts of educational comics manage to seamlessly integrate the knowledge and the plot, creating an entertaining comic that also happens to be full of information and knowledge… and that’s just what’s happening here in Debian, where there’s an amazing amount of information being disseminated but it never really feels like an info-dump.
It’s not just coding though, as there’s plenty of other important lessons included; a bit of computers 101 thrown in as Debian fills in her new friend, Digit, on the digital domain, the ethics of jailbreaking, the pros and cons of walled tech systems. But as the story develops, with Debian and Digit looking into ways to get a Ray-Bot’s memories back and return it to its home.
But when they do, there are more issues of robot rights, questions of sentience, even darker idea of modern-day slavery coming up, setting Debian and Digit up for the final phase of the story, as they go up against the might of big corporations.
It’s also a perfectly inclusive narrative, with Debian and Digit naturally using gender-neutral pronouns to describe one of Debian’s friends. And it’s that simplicity of acceptance that’s the most important here, a way of teaching a new generation in practical, easy terms.
Finally, a word on the fabulous artwork from Katie Longua, which never fails to delight, whether it’s those neon-drenched cityscapes and her delightfully rounded, playful characters, or a fabulous turn of action when the robots do finally rise up…
Oh yes, in Debian Perl…it’s definitely on…a clever, exciting, fun exercise in just how to make a fabulous comic for all-ages that educates and entertains so very well!
Debian Perl: Digital Detective – The Memory Thief – written by Lauren Davis and Mel Hilario, art by Katie Longua, colors by Brittany Currie, letters by Andworld Design. Published by Lion Forge/Caracal.