COVID Check-In with Jim Ottaviani

Virtual Memories Show
COVID Check-In: Jim Ottaviani

“I really don’t want to test my introversion and find out where the vein peters out and empties into the magma core of horror.”

Jim Ottaviani, award-winning & best-selling author of graphic novels about scientists (think Hawking, Feynman, Fossey, Turing), provides a COVID check-in from Ann Arbor, MI. We talk about how he’s balancing his day job and comics writing with the compulsion to read the news and graph out infection rates. We also get into whether his science background has helped his perspective on the pandemic, how the university model might change when we’re past this, and what new books he has coming (fingers crossed). You also get a story from me about the limits of risk mitigation plans. Give it a listen! And go check out Jim’s work and his 2016 appearance on the podcast!

“This is teaching us what primates really are.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Jim Ottaviani is the author of thirteen (and counting) graphic novels about scientists, ranging from physicists to paleontologists to behaviorists. His latest, Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, illustrated by Maris Wicks, features the first women astronauts. Others include Hawking, illustrated by Leland Myrick, tells the story of the renowned cosmologist and icon. Other books include 2016’s The Imitation Game, a biography of Alan Turing illustrated by Leland Purvis, which came out in 2016 and spent more than a month on the New York Times bestseller list; Primates, about Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas with art by Maris Wicks; and Feynman, with Leland Myrick, a book about the Nobel-prize winning physicist, bongo-playing artist, and raconteur Richard Feynman which debuted as a #1 New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels. His books are probably the only ones to have received praise from both Nature and Vampirella Magazine . . . and everything in between, from Physics World to Entertainment Weekly to Discover to Variety to Time.

He lives in Michigan and comes to comics via careers in nuclear engineering and librarianship. Find out more via his site at and on Twitter at @gtlabsrat.

Credits: The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Jim by me. It’s on my instagram.

Crazy Apes

I haven’t posted an ape-attack story in a long time (ook!), so here’s the sad story of the Connecticut policeman who had to shoot Travis, an enraged, 200-lb. chimp, to death last year. Travis, you may recall, had mauled a friend of his owner.

It’s a little Reno 911!-like to visualize the chimp actually opening the police car’s driver-side door, while Officer Chiafari was in the car, but his description of the scene and the Ms. Nash’s wounds is downright horrifying, so don’t click through if you’ve got a weak stomach.

Even as Officer C. struggles with PTSD and depression, I think we can all learn from his closing words:

“I consider [Travis] a victim,” he said. “He should have been in the jungle where he’s supposed to be. Not in a house drinking wine and taking Xanax.”

Sometimes I feel that way myself. Then I switch to gin and Ambien. Ook!