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…


  1. Janice on August 20, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    How many Babbages does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    I do not know, but I shall calculate the answer.

    Ta-dah! Bet you won’t find that in Punch or Blackwoods. (It may not even be bad enough for Punch.)

  2. Selki on August 15, 2009 at 6:09 am

    I like Victoria’s font!

  3. John on August 14, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Two other comments…

    Li’l Victoria is the most adorable thing ever. I don’t care if the font becomes even less readable or if she comes off as a ditz.

    The Wellington thing works, and I think you’re overthinking the setup. He’s not quipping or engaging in the common conversation, so he’s splitting Babbage off from the group to talk confidentially.

    Your instincts were mostly right, in my eyes, even though there’s a “missing” panel where he walks three steps to the (camera) left. But it’s a comic, not a movie, so we actually don’t need to see every step. That way lies boring comic books filled with expansive splash pages that convey no information, with captions to tell us what’s happening.

    It might play slightly better if he’s originally directly behind Babbage or if there’s some minor evidence that the horse is still to the (camera) right, like the reins showing in Wellie’s hand, but that’s a minor issue.

    Now, if Wellington had a scar that switched cheeks or suddenly had on a different jacket, then there’d be a problem.

  4. Ceridwen on August 14, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Okay. Massively disrupting the pace can be a comedic device if used sparingly. Think about the Three Stooges plunging headlong and then suddenly being brought to a halt. Victoria’s font did take me aback when I first saw it but I didn’t find it hard to read. I’m not representative of most comic readers.

    I didn’t notice the inconsistency in the above panel. If Wellington was far enough behind Babbage, he could have come up on Babbage’s right as he did in the close-ups. Simple is the most straightforward, though, so you’re probably right. The only thing is, putting Babbage on Wellington’s left as in the sketch, puts Babbage with Copenhagen in Wellington’s stead.

    Back to the font, John has a point about the differences in class language. One of the funnier gags in the old I Love Lucy show was, on a visit to England, Lucy and Ethel ask directions from a man on the street. His response is completely unintelligible but obviously clear to him as he points and gestures. Lucy tells him they don’t understand English, they’re Americans. I guess that goes back to timing, but a certain type of accent just makes me think of severely proper.

    I liked the Wellington aside to Babbage. The expressions of concern, boredom, and Babbage’s hurrying up to assure Wellington of the whole incident’s innocence were perfect.

  5. John on August 13, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Funny, I thought the font worked really well. Of course, I assumed that it was conveying that her comments were far more flowery than was being recorded and she was difficult to understand. If that wasn’t the intention, then…yeah, maybe a bad choice…

    Still. Really funny.

    And yes, I love Babbage’s description of Ada. It kinda makes her seem that much more like most programmers.

  6. ted on August 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks on that font choice, I would agree as well. Also I again agree with the panel flow and movement of the stage. I guess the comments do get read.
    Looking forward to the next part.
    Thanks you

  7. SpotWeld on August 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Perhaps instead of a difficult to read font for Victoria, you can give her an embellished word balloon, or balloon-tail?

  8. Rich M on August 13, 2009 at 6:29 pm


    Just another person who wants to register Lovelace and Babbage as the smartest, wittiest comic ever. Just choosing Babbage and Lovelace as the heroes is pure genius! I like your use of “mixed-media” in the comic. Placing a color painting in the middle of a black and white comic was cool!

    Perhaps the Time Police have caused another disruption in timespace and L&B could meet up with John Harrison.

    Don’t stop!

  9. Mary Branscombe on August 13, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    what I’ve always understood(courtesy of Scott McCloud and my friend, the amazingly talented Bryan Talbot) is that the action in Western comics takes place between the frame (in the gutter – printing joke), in your head; manga and anime convey the action inside the frame, with a great deal more ink.

  10. Richard on August 13, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    re Blackwoods: this happens to me all the time in my research: I find the people who are always one step ahead of me in my thinking about the 18th century are not the postwar historians or post-structural cultural commentators, much less the early 20th century historians with their tidy theories about life and rightness, but the people writing at the time; they seem thoroughly modern, flexible, smart and thoughtful.
    …so I’d say if you’re in competition with Blackwoods, you’re probably doing it right. As long as you don’t sink to Punch.

    • sydney on August 13, 2009 at 2:59 pm

      I’m having a really hard time finding Babbage-vs-street-music gags that Punch didn’t already do..