Marie Curie – The Radium Fairy


By Chantal Montellier & Renaud Huynh translated by Lara Vergnaud (Europe Comics)
No ISBN: digital-only publication

I’ve waited ages (well, since March 2017, but I’m old and my days are limited) for this superb book to be picked up by a print publisher, but now I’m just going to review it anyway and assume that as you’re reading this on a computer, you can make the leap to seeing comics that way too. And yes, I know all about the smell and feel of proper books. I feel that way too, but we’re killing more trees than we really need to, guys. Just think of it as portable fun you can’t fold, or tear…

Originally released across Europe in 2011, Marie Curie La Fée du Radium was produced in collaboration with the Curie Museum and the Cité des sciences et del ’industrie (part of Universcience), with educator, illustrator and bande dessinée creator Chantal Montellier (Odile et les crocodiles, Les Damnés de Nantes) summarising and dramatizing in graphic narrative a most astounding life, after which research scientist, educator and museum curator Renaud Huynh (La fantastique histoire du radium) provides an extensive and copious Timeline, tracing the triumphs, tribulations and legacy of Marie Sklodowska-Curie (1867-1934): thus far, the only woman to ever be awarded two Nobel Prizes.

The crucial comics component kicks off in Stockholm on September 4th as aging Marie Curie works on a speech; preparing to receive that second cherished accolade…

Thinking back, she pictures her departed husband Pierre Curie. Their joint isolation of the element they named Polonium after her place of birth was a grand achievement but doesn’t make up for her years of struggle for acceptance or his tragic accidental death so early in their marriage…

And so, briefly, concisely and without fanfare unfolds a true epic of brilliance applied, adversity overcome and persistence rewarded. Today Curie is credited with adding two elements to the Periodic Table – Radium was the other one – and venerated for her researches. She was also the first woman allowed to teach at the prestigious Sorbonne, but for much of her life had to overcome entrenched patriarchal attitudes and oppression whilst being vilified in the media and by wider society for her “scandalous” personal life and generally just for being an uppity female who didn’t know her place. Isn’t it great how much everything has changed since then? (I am of course waiting for my own Nobel for the isolation of Sarcastium™…).

This small but powerful digital only tome concludes with a large and detailed Timeline. Huynh’s pictorial essay is packed with photographic illustrations, cartoons and clippings; encapsulating and clarifying Curie’s life and achievements and précised in chapters entitled ‘1867/1895 Warsaw-Paris’, ‘1896/1905 A Scientific Dream’, ‘1906/1911 Hardships and Success’, ‘1912/1921 The Radium Institute’ and ‘1922/1934 An International Figure’, and closes with an ‘Epilogue’ revealing how sixty years after her death, Marie Curie’s ashes were transferred to the Pantheon (resting place of the nation’s greatest citizens). She was the first woman to be accorded this honour based solely on her own merits…

Making learning fun, Marie Curie – The Radium Fairy is a potent and powerful inspiration, venerating one of histories most dedicated scientists, and one every youngster should read.
© 2016 – DUPUIS – Chantal Montellier & Renaud Huynh. All rights reserved.