This article traces the reception of a “science comic book” by various audiences including readers and reviewers after publication as well as grant application review committees vetting the proposed project in its conceptual stage. Specifically, the work is a biology textbook containing comics-style visual explanations couched in the form of an imaginative story interwoven with and supplementing traditional text-based explanations of the same ideas. The analysis uses Genette’s concept of “paratexts” (i.e., a class of speech genres comprising those supplementary texts that contextualize and inform readers’ interpretations of the primary text that they accompany) to examine the rhetoric of the visual in the discourse of science education. This analysis observes that the stigmatization of comics as a medium played some role in how readers, critics, and reviewers responded to the text. The implications of this stigma for cultural conceptions of science and their relationships to other knowledge domains, including the arts and humanities, raise a concern for the mediation of public impressions of science as an institution.
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