Martina And The Bridge Of Time is a new graphic novel by marine paleobiologist and staff scientist of Smithsonial Tropical Research Institiute, Aaron O'Dea, and illustrator and science communicator Ian Cooke Tapia.
During a very boring school morning, Martina notices that her history book only starts with the arrival of Christopher Columbus, in 1502. Martina knows that nothing starts with the number one-thousand five hundred and two! It's obvious to her that something – or someone – was already in Panamá before then. But what?
Frustrated with the lack of answers, Martina decides to find out the real history of Panama by herself: by building a time machine! Scraped together from a fishing boat, parts from one of the iconic Diablo Rojo buses of Panama's recent past, and whatever else she could get her hands on, the time machine is her ticket to discovering what the history books do not say!
And the true history of the Isthmus of Panama is more fascinating than anything Martina could have ever imagined: ever-erupting volcanoes, long-extinct animals the size of cars, and human complex human societies.
But time travel is trickier than she thought. When the time machine's energy source unexpectedly shatters, Martina gets trapped in the past. She must now learn to navigate this ancient society in order to return to her own time. But as lives with her new friends, she discovers not just the true history of the original people that lived in Panama but learns some unexpected truths about her own family history – and herself.
Martina And The Bridge Of Time tells the history of Panama over millions of years, and was created with STRI and financed by Panama's National Office of Science, Technology and Innovation, and emerged from a team of scientists analyzing the biodiversity of Panama, using a group of organisms not often studied but with great potential as ecological indicators.
"Martina was born out of that research, and it's the first product resulting from such a project that is directed at a younger audience," said Milagros Manieri, director of Research and Development at SENACYT. "It highlights the importance of scientific communication. The way the project was structured was meant to be a bridge between scientific discovery and the public, in this case a very special part of the public: school children."
Martina And The Bridge Of Time was officially launched on the 17th of March 17 via a Zoom webinar, allowing educators and students to watch a reading from Hilary Hughes and ask questions and connect with Martina's creators.
Two thousand copies of the graphic novel have been distributed to schools, and a hundred copies were also given away for free at the Biomuseo. The digital version is also available on ComiXology Originals.