Despite the blog silence I have been drawing comics!! The Museum of the History of Science Steampunk Exhibit opens on the 13th of October– the comic is a 2-page insert for the Broadsheet . Thoroughly intimidated by the epic lineup of actual artists…
Giant monster conditions: severe. Comic output will continue sporadic.
Waiting-for-renders activity: cataloging the gazillions of bookmarks on Lovelace and Babbage I’ve amassed. Watching Google Books settlement with anxiety.. just don’t take down my 19th century periodicals!!
Hampered by being unable to choose between “Vampire Poets” (The Vampire Menace combated with STATISTICS! It’s Gothic! It’s Horrible! It’s Gothic Horrible!) and “The Organist” (which I thought I knew where it was going, until I went to the Museum of Self-Operating Musical Instruments, and now I have a million new ideas for fiendish tortures).
Suddenly, someday, when you are least expecting it, the next Lovelace and Babbage episode will appear, and then you’ll all be, like, “oh that’s so 150 years ago”.
So here’s a little tale for you. As it features ME, it is of course a gripping, hair-raising story of FUN and COOL and… okay, it’s a tale of.. LIBRARIES.
So I’ve been tromping all over London in search of a few bits and bobs of books on Babbage, and a public library catalogue search for “The Mathematical Work of Charles Babbage” took me down to the fine Upper Norwood Public Library (additional geek note: I have a map of London in my head that consists of locations of Sherlock Holmes stories).
I couldn’t find the book on the shelves, so I asked the librarians; and one of them went down into the basement to see if it might be there. The other librarian told me they used to have quite a few Babbage books there because he was born right around the corner, and had I seen the plaque?
I had not seen the plaque, so I ran out and looked at the Blue Plaque (it was blue! and a plaque!) and when I came back the librarian was emerging from the basement looking downcast and apologetic. “I’m really sorry– I can’t find the books you’re looking for; we must have cleared them out. This is the only book we have on Charles Babbage.” And she hands me this:
“Huh!” I said, “It’s Babbage’s autobiography, Passages From the Life of a Philosopher! I had no idea there was a modern reprint!” So I start flipping through it and then I say “Waaaaiit a minute.. I don’t think this IS a modern reprint..”
Call me crazy, but I think this is a first edition:
Click for larger, and to read the wildly inappropriate quotation from Byron’s “Don Juan”.
I could be wrong of course, but it certainly feels old, and there’s no other copyright in there. Hilariously, inside that criminal modern binding it’s got the traditional little library flag with all the stamps. It was last let out in 1972.
So I grabbed it and fled to Panama!
No no, of course not, I checked it out like a civilized person and THEN I fled to Panama.
Actually, it’s probably not worth THAT much, even if it is the real thing– copies in fair condition still in the original binding go for around 2000 pounds, so this one is… I dunno, a few hundred? It’s pretty beat up, sadly. Anyways I figure if it IS a first edition, and if the library is cool with it, I might take a little whip-round here on the site and see if I can get it re-bound properly and maybe put on display or something, I don’t know… it seems wrong to just put it back in the basement.
addendum for those burning with anxiety: I did finally track down The Mathematical Work of Charles Babbage in another libarary.. so far I haven’t gotten even one good gag out of it, can you believe it!
Long renders and an itchy Google finger turn up a strange, sudden little window into the past:
So, what DID Babbage talk about when he talked about Ada? WHOA.
I found that little story amazing for a few reasons-
-I’m kind of staggered by the fact that Babbage is telling this stuff to a complete stranger, less than two years, I think it would be, after Ada’s death.
– Mere interrelated symbols in the form of ‘words’ are insufficient to convey how madly I love that Babbage thought Lovelace was the too-logical one. Through the comic I am Channeling the Higher Truths of the Universe!!
– Oh God, the image of Babbage teasing Lovelace with shaggy-dog stories is so overwhelmingly adorable it’s kind of choking me up a little.
I have a policy here of linking only to primary sources, and mainly stuff that’s funny; this automatically means I can link to pretty much nothing about Lovelace. She lived in the realm of private letters and private gossip, lots of which is contradictory and none of which is online. She herself had a personality that I still find, after reading her collected letters and
three four! different biographies, incredibly opaque (certainly compared to Babbage!). Frankly Babbage’s view of her- a little over-thinkie, a little gullible, and with a lot of the ‘Byron Devil’- accords the closest to mine!
Ghu. Too much history! This is supposed to be my ‘learning comics’ blog!
So I think my main issue from the last episode was, as usual, panel flow. I think I’ll have to drop Victoria’s font, or find a more legible substitute, because it’s massively disrupting the pacing is my feeling. The other big difficulty I ran into here was juggling so many characters and keeping a clear sense of space. Probably I should have staged this shot differently:
If I had Babbage on the far side of Wellington to begin with, that cut would work better I think. I’m slowly figuring out that comics are different from storyboards in that you can effectively collapse several actions into one panel- my instinct, coming from film, is to think I need to draw all kinds of stuff that isn’t necessary– you can go from point A to point C without drawing in B, provided you compose A and C correctly.
Still depressed over Ada so to end on a lighter note:
You know you’ve arrived when some random sports mag calls somone “the Babbage of coursing writers”.
OMG BLACKWOOD’S MAGAZINE STOP STEALING MY GAGS!! I mean, I like my jokes to be extensively safety-tested, but a giant, crashy Difference Engine in 1851?! Now I’m worried about this material being fatigued…
Did I say two weeks? Erm… here! Look at some process art!
Please understand that at present my priories are necessarily: 1. Job 2. Pub 3. Comic 4. Food, laundry, etc.
I tend to do roughs while waiting for renders (that invaluable source of idleness in the visual effects industry). Something else I do is Scholarship. Some scholars search for Truth; here at 2dgoggles we search for Entertainment. Something I was surprised to discover was that Charles Babbage was really, REALLY famous, back in the day, if by famous you mean, useful as a punchline in popular comedy. A few highlights of my researches:
– ‘Charles Babbage’ as useful shorthand for ‘really smart person’. Nowadays you’d use Stephen Hawking for that kind of gag, who oddly enough holds Babbage’s old position of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge.
-Babbage the logarithmetical Frankenstein! :D
– How was Babbage’s autobiography received by his peers? Yeeeeaahh.. that’s about right.
And I’m not even touching on the street music thing, which was HUGE.
Ada coverage from the period is far fewer and farther between, as a Lady only appears in the papers on her birth, her wedding, and her death, and that time they publish a huge paper on computer programming. I did find an interesting entry in an 1860 encyclopedia (about 9 years after her death), which gets in the ever-popular horse-racing but also remarks on her as excelling in chess. She turns up as a footnote in Hereditary Genius (with special section on Oarsmen, which are no insignificant part of the community!) under her father’s footnote of “strange, proud, passionate, and half-mad.”
Babbage AND Lovelace miscellany:
– Great little bunch of anecdotes about both them— she’s too mathematical for one guys taste, but Babbage ‘loved to talk of her’; kids made fun of Babbage at school– you just wait till I get my time machine you little bastards!
Babbage to Michael Faraday: Ada Lovelace is an enchanted math fairy! I can’t cope with the whole Enchantress thing, which is why I needed a stiff drink or twenty to get through much of her correspondence.
– The motherlode of Babbage anecdotes! with special Lovelace cameo! A ‘Babbage’ search turns up, among plenty else, “Charles Babbage: Hot or Not?”, Babbage taking some ladies up to his place to see his etchings Ada Lovelace’s math, and proof that I’m PSYCHIC as his place is described as “crammed with books, papers, and apparatus in apparent confusion.” Stereotypes: never wrong!
Man, when I read too much about Lovelace and Babbage’s unhappy ends I get so depressed I can hardly carry on with the comic. However, I shall RESCUE THEM and keep them safe in a pocket dimension, where they will have a giant difference engine to play with in exchange for being made to do funny things.
Anyways– not too many more days until the Client Pt2, depending on how many gags I can throw overboard to lighten the load..
Posting something, so that it is understood that this has not been the haughty silence of one who is Too Famous to Respond to Comments, but rather the awkward, paralyzed muteness of one opening a door to a broom closet and finding a large expectant audience in there waiting for her to say something funny.
The Client Pt 2 is proceeding apace, or as apacey as it can get whilst I battle giant monsters by day, Twitter draw comics by night. The Giant Monsters care not for my fame, they want to be made to appear to be biting people’s legs, and they want it YESTERDAY.
Just so there’s a footnotey point to this post: the BBC Techlab comic, as a Sunday colour supplement, I did as an homage to Milton Caniff and Terry and the Pirates, the greatest comic in the history of the universe:
I know what you all come here for: timewasting links. You can read all of Caniff’s racy Terry spin-off Male Call strips online– they were done for military magazines, and although obviously more Prurient than his regular comic, show the same 1940s flair for female characters who could be sexy, strong, funny, and flawed.
By the way, OMG, I’ve been shouted out by Forbidden Planet!! Ahaha, you guys have so much of my money…
OH FAME THOU GAUDY BAUBLE! Charles Babbage Foresees the Future on BBC’s Techlab! When they asked me to do this I read their little intro where it says it’s a forum for “The World’s Leading Thinkers” to speculate about the future, and I thought, if that’s me, boy are we in trouble.
There’s footnotes (of course!!) on the comic but of NOT ENOUGH FOOTNOTES FOR ME!! So–
The expression on the front page comes from this drawing (scroll down). The pose on page 2 is based on my least favorite portrait of Babbage, where he conspires with Samuel Laurence to make himself look like a pompous ass. Not that he couldn’t be a pompous ass, but when I saw the ‘Laurence’ I momentarily thought it was Thomas Lawrence, and was like, “Geez, way to phone that one in, Lawrence!”.
For the record, my favorite image of Babbage is this one. He looks downright hot there. Well, kind of. As a rule, Babbage looks way happier in photographs than he does in portraits, I guess because there’s a gadget in the room.
I’m currently holed up in my hidden mountain base in the wilds of Canada, where I’m enjoying being chased into lakes by enraged elk. In my devotion to this proto-comic, I am nobly forgoing 20-mile hikes through bear- and elk-infested trackless wastes to dedicate myself to curling up on the couch and drawing.
The temporal discontinuity problem of the Person from Porlock episode has been profoundly troubling to me. Strict adherence to truthiness is my watchword here, so a gag, however irresistible, that depends on a 40-year piece of ahistoricity is hard for me to endure. My husband suggested the Difference Engine could have been used to tear a hole in the space-time continuum. I’m sorry, but we here at 2dgoggles do not indulge in such fancies. The Difference Engine prints large tables of numbers without error. If that is not cool enough for you, you are reading the wrong comic my friends. It does battle vampires at some point but it has its own way of doing that thank you very much.
To my enormous relief I was able to come up with a Rational Scientific Explanation for the Porlock Episode:
Sorted! This is especially convenient as for Important Comedy Reasons I may need to bring some people in from slightly incorrect areas in the Timestream. Heck this may even explain the Salamander-people.
In other random news, my attention is brought to this: How To Maintain a Difference Engine. I can add from inside information that some issues are cleared up by hitting it with a crowbar, something I intend to try out on Maya next chance I get.
The comments are interesting, and I’m glad some people point out the important (unimportant… important.. unimportant…) distinction between the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. Babbage designed two machines:
–One that COULD possibly theoretically have been built in the period, that WASN’T a computer (if you define a computer as something that could be programmed), called the Difference Engine. EDITED TO ADD: …for some reason a mass-amnesia has developed over the fact that a working Difference Engine was actually built in Babbage’s lifetime and put to use. Weirdly the Smithsonian Magazine has two articles on Babbage, one about how the Difference Engine was never built until 1991, and one about the Difference Engine that was built in 1853 that they actually have right there in the Smithsonian. WTF?
–One that COULDN’T HAVE BEEN BUILT IN A MILLION YEARS (EDITED TO ADD: IN MY HUMBLE YET IGNORANT OPINION) but that WAS a computer, as it could be programmed with punchcards, called the Analytical Engine. It was (in the imaginary space where it existed) powerful enough that Babbage calculated that it could play a game of chess. A little thing called “physics” is the reason no one is trying to build a replica of this one (again, I’m only an imaginary physicist so grain of salt here). 2DGOGGLES CONTEST! Build a working Analytical Engine to Babbage’s designs, win a tshirt!! Deadline: One million years from today.
EDITED TO ADD: Fantastic piece explaining the difference between the, er, Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine, and why the 19th century wasn’t taken over by cyborg cuckoo-clocks.
What else.. just so no one is thinking I’m using my last days of freedom idly, proof that 2dgoggles takes meticulous research extremely seriously:
Babbage has his Harmonic-Disruptor-Ray; but how exactly does one go about destroying poetry?
Okay, salamander-people are within the realm of possibility but this episode is merely fanciful, as Kubla Kahn’s interrupted composition happened in 1797, over a decade before Lovelace was even born. Crazily enough though Lovelace’s husband had an estate near Porlock, which I swear I didn’t know about when I started this gag. Freaky. Stoned!Coleridge courtesy of Nick Harkaway, with a good list of the Evils of Poetry and Why It Must Be Destroyed (that’s what you were going for, right?)
There’s a largish queue of Persons from Porlock outside of poor Coleridge’s door. 2dgoggles: No Gag Too Old! As I haven’t the smallest compunction in resurrecting 150-year-old Babbage-vs-street-musician gags from Punch (this one gets in street music, statistics, and difference engine… trifecta!) the lack of originality here doesn’t worry me a bit . I felt I needed a bit more practice in composing these black-and-white panels, so consider this an etude.
Charles Babbage was to develop a highly-targeted poetry-destroying method in what is one of his most famous quotations, in this Helpful Letter he wrote to Tennyson about his poem “The Vision of Sin” :
In your otherwise beautiful poem,one verse reads, “”Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born;”
I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows:
“Every moment dies a man, And one and a sixteenth is born.”
I may add that the exact figures are 1.067, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.”
When I was young in Babbage studies (like, a month ago) I thought this was apocryphal, but nope, this is an actual letter. In Babbage’s defense I should say that it’s often extremely difficult to tell when he’s joking. On the other hand his actual jokes are pretty much never this funny.
Life Insurance: not a random gag! My zeal from Primary sources is such that I’m currently reading (okay, currently skimming) Babbage’s piece on actuarial tables. I notice he can’t even write about freakin’ life insurance without opening with a please-tell-me-you-didn’t-hit-publish career-torching rant.
My own Person From Porlock has come knocking in the form of my Day Job (as in, Don’t Quit Your), which resumes in a couple of weeks. There’s a few things I’ll get out before then. After that obviously production will slow, but if you think this will merely be dropped you clearly have NO IDEA how obsessive I am.
In case any neurologists out there are studying the creative process, I thought it might be interesting to post the following enlightening non-episode.
As I mentioned earlier my Accomplice and I went to this steampunk shindig the other day. The theme for this shindig was “Journey To the Center of the Earth”, so of course I had to point out to Mr V, “Did you know that Charles Babbage once went into Mount Vesuvius, where he set his walking stick on fire, and almost lost his barometer?” (True! and an AWESOME story –Babbage get out of the Volcano!! Babbage? Babbage??!).
Of course then I do a doodle:
This is just the sort of contextless tableau I like to draw, so I worked it up when I got home:
Then I think of the caption– “Charles Babbage once went into Mount Vesuvius, where he battled the salamander people offered some guy a drink.”
But surely the amiable Charles Babbage, that most affable of men, wouldn’t battle the Salamander People, unless they were playing street music or refusing to fund the Difference Engine? For although fearless in defense of their subterranean flame-caverns, they have never been know to instigate hostilities against the human race (fact!). What he WOULD do of course is offer them a drink, which would make a great (if ancient) gag:
Which would fit really well into an actual plot-line… quick glance at wikipedia turns up a plethora of potential — salamanders are the only vertebrates that can re-grow limbs! they lay their eggs in hidden caches suspended by mucus tendrils! Many are poisonous or capture prey with sticky tongues! They can see ultraviolet light! Also… volcanoes.. sacrifices.. barometer.. Hattifatteners… and this where I’ve stopped myself because I already have enough episodes at this stage of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” Diagram:
And anyways, are there even salamander-people in this universe?! That’s not very Educational!! There’s vampires possibly at some point.. if a universe contains vampires does it follow it also contains salamander-people? Are there any statistics on this? Should I take a poll? That’s all ‘social media’ or something.
Final note: in doing the original drawing I had to ask myself if Babbage would be wearing a hat. For most of western history a man would sooner go outside without his trousers as without a hat, so this is pretty important. This raises the question: is an underground cavern ‘inside’ or ‘outside’? You wouldn’t think this would be an easy question to answer except that if you go to the Brunel museum, conveniently located where he built the world’s first underwater tunnel, you see this:
See, opinion is clearly divided even then. (Note to the 19th century– That’s TOTALLY ‘inside’, because it’s a man-made structure. That’s just plain logic.) Anyways it messes up my composition, plus Babbage goes really off-model with the hat. Possible solution: sequence where hat catches fire? Not sure why I put in this digression except I love those guys in the tunnel with their hats.
There is now a ‘Shop’ in the sidebar. This will take you to zazzle.com, where you can have a gander at some Lovelace and Babbage base mercantilism. The prototype I ordered came back looking surprisingly good (click for bigger), that’s some impressive printing tech they have:
I made the image a bit bigger on the shirt in the version up in the shop.. you can mess with image sizes and locations and shirt styles yourself, it’s pretty flexible and their software is amusing to play with (use the ‘customize it’ button on the bottom of the item panel). There’s a few other designs there– a Brunel one and the kind of crime-fighting pose one. So.. pick up chicks! Dazzle the blokes! Raise eyebrows! Mystify your friends! The caveat emptor: the only one I’ve physically printed is the “Difference Tubes” on that off-white shirt; I’m assuming the quality will be the same for the other designs, as they’re just as high rez.
As I can’t let a post go without a Babbage fact: some of the ideas Babbage considered to fund the Difference Engine once the government bailed: writing a novel, and building a tic-tac-toe playing automaton, thus potentially building the first computer game before building the first computer. I shall soon have a report, with charts, for him, on whether he should try selling tshirts.
In other news, I’ve been shifting some stuff around the website and added some more background in a sort of about-pagey thing. Also, seem to have broken the sidebar which now bumps to the bottom on post-pages… I’m no Ada Lovelace, anyone know what’s going on?