The Biotech Comic Book (United Therapeutics Annual Report 2010)

United Therapeutics (UTHR), is a biotechnology company which provides life-extending technologies, particularly related to lung disease and organ manufacturing. Their 2010 annual report presents all its information in an unusual format – a comic book.

The art is by American illustrator, Jed Mickle. Each page of the report is packed with colourful images, neatly sequenced and telling a compelling story.

The story is communicated using first person narration by a vice president of business management, Martin Auster. The report opens with Martin’s backstory – both in the business and in his personal life, allowing the reader to understand Martin’s role in the company.

The narrative is humourous – “I’m not saying I like hugs better than cash, but at the same time… who wouldn’t want both?” says Martin on page 18, and later on jokingly refers to Ralph Waldo Emerson as a drug dealer simply because he “like[d] how it sounds!”

Later on, Martin magically turns into a rock star to tell us about the performance of the company, even ‘singing’ parts of the report, with the addition of the phrase “I like it!” at the end of each line. His passion for the mission of UTHR is evident, even in this comical presentation.

All text in this report is handwritten, down to the graphs and footnotes, save one printed letter held in the illustrated hand of Martin.

A special feature of this report is the financial results section on company revenue, which, due to the anaglyph printing technique used, requires 3D glasses (provided) for proper viewing.

The introduction of board members is done by Martin as well, with the use of creative illustrations. The chief financial officer, for example, is presented as the portrait on a bank note.

The use of informal language in communication serves to keep the reader hooked to the very end, when Martin has to ‘leave’ to attend a hockey game. One last comedic moment, to leave the reader with a smile on their face is the assurance that Martin’s dog, Squirrel-O, approves the report.

Readers of this report will most certainly be echoing Martin’s repeated exclamation “I like it!”

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