Which Came First: The Superhero or the Science?

As part of the ISE Department’s continued effort to reach potential students, assistant professor Karen Chen takes her knowledge of virtual and augmented realities to NC Comicon. Chen was part of a four-person panel that was led by NC Engineering alumna Tamara Robertson. Also on the panel was comic book writers Jeremy Whitley – The Unstoppable Wasp, Rainbow Brite – and Chris Sims – Deadpool, X-men.

The panel discussion addressed the chicken or egg nature of comic book science and technology. Does real life science inspire comic book creators or do the ideas from comics inspire today’s scientists and engineers to create the future?

Chen’s role as a panelist was to discuss whether virtual and augmented reality technology represented in popular media has affected its development. “We’ve seen augmented reality in Star Trek – the holodeck and emergency medical hologram,” said Chen. “But some early 3D displays emerged back in the 1960s around the same time as Star Trek aired.”

She also talked about how science fiction gets it wrong. She talked about how comics may dramatize science. “Some comics may want to emphasize really geeky and nerdy scientists drinking out of a beaker in a lab,” said Chen. “In the real world, you should definitely NOT do that.”

Chen loves going to Comicon to see how people dress up as their favorite characters, also known as cosplay. “I get a sense of belonging there because I like manga (comics) and anime (animations) a lot,” shared Chen. “also, this is a great way to reach the public and promote science and technology.”

Chen’s NC Comicon Photos

Watch the Panel Discussion