Health Care Reform is a subject that affects every single American. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can’t go through life without at least occasionally needing medical help. Jonathan Gruber, an expert on the economics of health care, was the perfect candidate to write an overview of the current controversial law. After all, he had been asked to contribute to both the Massachusetts state health care plan and then the national plan, the Affordable Care Act. (Also known as Romneycare and Obamacare.)
So Gruber was the man, but when approached he said “No.” But publishers can be persistent, and when Jon finally told his family about the offer, his kids thought it would be totally cool. So Jon agreed. He identified and organized the key material that had to be presented and explained, much of it from academic papers he’d written and lectures he had given.
How do you turn that into a fairly light and breezy narrative that is accessible to any intelligent person? You hire a brilliantly organized mind—HP Newquist—to work with the author on extracting the key information and the logic behind it. You follow Scott McCloud’s general rules for appealing to the broadest possible demographics, and you contract with the brilliant young Nathan Schreiber to execute your mad plans.
I explained to Jon that the most logical way to tell the story was to give him an avatar—a cartoon version of himself—and let him speak directly to the readers that way. He was leery; no one likes to be caricatured. We promised to be gentle and gave him the right to reject any cartoon image of Gruber he didn’t like. He was a trooper and went along, and things worked out surprisingly well. To wit: Not a single review critiques the avatar, and only a few even mention that Jon is represented that way. Even more impressive, in terms of how the book has and is being read, is that almost universally the reviews from professionals and readers alike focus on the content over the format.