You Can with Beakman and Jax
|You Can with Beakman and Jax|
Title logo of comic, with Beakman (left), Jak (right), their U-can, and rainbow star.
|Current status / schedule||running weekly|
|Launch date||July 14, 1991 and had only one character named Beakman.|
|Syndicate(s)||Universal Press Syndicate|
You Can with Beakman and Jax also known in its Spanish language version as "El Mundo de Beakman" (The World of Beakman) is a science and education syndicated comic strip by Jok Church, which began on July 14, 1991.
The comic strip is a text based comic, that answers readers questions, with illustrations of the main characters, various objects, and, or the experiments being discussed. It is run as a single panel comic that appears in newspapers as a color, or black and white Sunday feature, in either a 1/4 page strip, or 1/2 tab format. The comic has reached a readership of 52 million readers, in 13 countries. With about 80 percent of the letters it receives being from females. From its comic origins, its lead character Beakman would later star in his own live action television series called Beakman's World. The comic also branched out into other media, gaining numerous awards along the way.
The comic strip was originally named "You Can with Beakman' also called 'U Can with Beakman'. Its only main character at the time was Beakman Place, a male figure with spiky blue hair, glasses, a neck tie, and a breast pocket full of instruments. Beakman is a non-scientist that learns about the world through books, and then finds ways to prove what he's read about. He was named after Beekman Place, a small street on the east side of Manhattan, New York City. The comic is in a question-and-answer format, in which a reader asks a question, addressed to either Beakman, or also later, his sister Jax Place, a red head, with her hair curled up behind her head in blue circular bands, she wears glasses, and jacks in her hair, and as earrings. Church provides the answer, usually by means of a simple experiment the children reading can do (often with parental assistance or supervision). A paragraph after the results of the experiment, in inverted text at the bottom of the comic, would explain the answer.
The idea for doing a comic strip came to Jok while he was working for Lucasfilm, and answering questions from George Lucas' fan mail, stating that he was “overcome by the bravery children showed by asking Mr. Lucas anything at all" and he "decided to write about real questions from real kids". He would receive these science questions from children, and he would choose to answer them based on subjects that he didn't know about, and wanted to learn. The comic was written for an audience that includes children, but not exclusively children. He felt his purpose in making the comics was "to make sure my readers are not intimidated by the world through which they walk". He would then research the subject, write, draw, and color the comics by using a Macintosh computer. A process which in May 1994, gained him criticism when he explained how to do an experiment separating hydrogen and oxygen from water, through electrolysis using a single jar, and a nine-volt battery, for which he defended the comic strip, by explaining the amount of gas that would be produced in this way. While this was reported to be the first time an experiment's safety was questioned.
Besides answering question from children, Jok also took questions from adults. One such question came from the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. Who asked about why golf balls had little dents. Jok later explained that he "has world leaders periodically contribute to his... feature." Within the comic strip Jok also introduced an annual "Beakman and Jax Make Up Your Own Rules Contest", which the reader could report on an experiment or research they did. There were up to 100 winners from around the world, and the prizes were such things as a free telescopes and copies of the Beakman & Jax books.
History and media
The comic first appeared in the Marin Independent Journal, and was offered to them for free. The earlier comic strips were then reprinted in three "Science Stuff You Can Do" books, a 'Best of', and was the bases for two specialty books, 'Beakman & Jax's Bubble Book' and Beakman & Jax's Microscope Book'. Shortly after the release of the first book June 1, 1992, on September 18, 1992 an Emmy Award winning television series named Beakman's World began, starring Paul Zaloom as the show's main character, along with three female lab assistants over the years, Lester the Rat, and two puppet penguins. According to Jok the television series was "written to build a bridge between children and the adult members of their family," and "we created the show to be like a live action cartoon." Beakman's sister Jax however, was not included in the television series, which Jok referred to as "my one disappointment with the show." Although his sister wasn't present in the television show, two of Beakman's other relatives did appear on the television show, his mother Beakmom, and his brother Meekman.
In 1995 an official website opened for the strip published by the "North Bay Network", it won many awards. It later moved to its current location in 1996, published by Network Solutions. Where it has received several positive reviews from such internet guides as "The parents' pocket guide to kids & computers" by Family Computer Workshop, which gave the site 5 out of 5 stars and recommended it for readers 7-13. At the time the site contained questions and answers, as well as hands-on activities, some of which required Netscape and Shockwave.
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- The parents' pocket guide to kids & computers. Family Computer Workshop. 1998. p. 166. ISBN 0966645634.
- Miller, Elizabeth B. (2001). The Internet Resource Directory for K-12 Teachers and Librarians. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 174. ISBN 1563089130.