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June 14, 2013

Book Notes - Maris Wicks "Primates"


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jim Ottaviani follows up his acclaimed graphic novel biography of Richard Feynman with Primates, a creative look at the lives of three of the 20th century's most renowned primatologists. The lives of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas are vibrantly illustrated by Maris Wicks in this informative, enjoyable, and (to the younger set) inspiring book.

School Library Journal wrote of the book:

"The story of how each of these women loved primates and lived among them to study their behavior is compelling, and might inspire a whole new generation of scientists to follow in their footsteps."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In her own words, here is Maris Wicks's Book Notes music playlist for her graphic novel, Primates:

Illustrating Primates had many stages: reading the script, creating rough sketches of each page (aka "thumbnails), penciling, inking, and coloring. Most of the time, I listened to music (or podcasts - more about that later). Similar to Jim, I can't listen to music (or anything) during the writing process, and although I did not write Primates, translating the script to comics is a very similar thought process. So the thumbnails for Primates were done in silence. But the pencils, inks and color? Turn it on and TURN IT UP! Here's a selection of songs that I listened to, or songs that I actually sang to myself, while working on Primates. When I tired of music, I turned to science-y podcasts. It was like extra-curricular research for the book, while at the same time, completely entertaining.

"I Am a Paleontologist" by They Might Be Giants, from Here Comes Science

Any of the beginning scenes with Goodall and Leakey on a dig reminded me of this little-kid anthem.

"My Brother the Ape" by They Might Be Giants, from Here Comes Science

A song about evolutionary biology? Yes, PLEASE! The whole Here Comes Science album is awesome, whether you've got science-loving kids, or you're a science-loving grownup.

"Mammal" by They Might Be Giants, from Apollo 18

More TMBG. I love them. Their songs are amazing. I mean, c'mon. This song is about MAMMALS.

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" as performed by The Tokens

Ok, at the risk of being a little silly, I've included some jungle-themed songs. I've loved this song since I was a kid, and the visual that it paints in each of it's verses. But yeah. SILLY.

"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses, from Appetite for Destruction

More silly. I totally picture a Great Ape version of GNR, with Axl Rose as a chimp, Slash as an orangutan, and a big ol' gorilla on drums. Hold on. I might need to draw this...

"Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora, from Living in the Background

Thought I was done with the silly songs? Nope. Get ready to have this song stuck in your head FOREVER.

"Are You Sleeping?" by Harry Nilsson, from The Point!

Not jungle-themed, but a favorite of mine. Especially for the quiet moments of the book.

Here's where I break the rules: because this story was so rooted in science and animals and field work, I supplemented my research with science-themed podcasts. This allowed for me to get into the right head-space for the project (I like A LOT of information for things I'm working on). Radiolab was my preferred method of podcast consumption; here are a few episodes that I find complementary to Primates:

Radiolab, Season 7, Episode 2 "Lucy"
Radiolab, Season 7, Episode 1 "Animal Minds"
Radiolab, Season 3, Episode 3 "Zoos"

Other albums that are not Primates-y, but accompanied me through the illustration process:

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible, The Suburbs
Good Luck - Into Lake Griffy
Love is All - Nine Times That Same Song
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Biomusicology
Islands - Return to the Sea
Menomena - Friend and Foe
Mates of State - Re-arrange Us
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
BLOW - Paper Television
The Golden Dogs - Big Eye Little Eye
LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
The National - The Boxer
Quasi - Featuring 'Birds'
Any and all David Bowie, Morrissey/The Smiths, Guided by Voices, The Magnetic Fields, Elliott Smith and Jonathan Richman

Maris Wicks and Primates links:

the illustrator's blog
excerpt from the book (at Boing Boing)
excerpt from the book (at

Graphic Policy review
Kirkus Reviews review
New York Journal of Books review
New York Times review
Paste review

Comic Book Resources interview with Jim Ottaviani
Whatever guest post by Jim Ottaviani
Wired profile of the illustrator

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists