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 joyless and my days are clearly pretty limited now) for this superb book to be picked up by a print publisher, but now I’m just going to plug it again 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 need to. Just think of it as portable fun you can’t crumple or rip…

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).

The book summarises and dramatizes via graphic narrative a most astounding life, prior to research scientist, educator and museum curator Renaud Huynh’s (La fantastique histoire du radium) extensive and copious Timeline which traces the triumphs, tribulations and legacy of Marie Sklodowska-Curie (1867-1934): thus far the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes.

The critical 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 sans fanfare unfolds a true tale 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 unceasing 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 that large and detailed Timeline. Huynh’s pictorial essay is packed with photographic illustrations, cartoons and clippings combining to encapsulate and clarify Curie’s life and achievements. It is all deconstructed 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’, before concluding with an ‘Epilogue’ revealing how 60 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 history’s most dedicated scientists: one every youngster of any age should know.
© 2016 – DUPUIS – Chantal Montellier & Renaud Huynh. All rights reserved.