Merry Christmas!

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

Happy whatever-seasonal-celebrations you celebrate from 2dgoggles Amalgamated Comics Industries! I drew up this gag and then went looking for a nice Primary Document to wrap up as a present for the readers, when what should I find but this about Scottish Yuletide traditions:

Is there not one of my gags those danged Victorians won’t steal! Good lord. That’s the best Babbage/Christmas thing I could find, unless you count that time Babbage got naked on Christmas but that’s not quite the tone I’m looking to set (a ‘screw loose’ you say Babbage..).

So I’ll leave you with a a festive Difference Engine reference from 1867:

Happy holidays all and hope to have the next episode up soonish!

The Usual Grovelling; Brunel Beefcake; Musical Tortures; Thaumatrope, and Caption!

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

I know everyone is used to the blistering pace we usually set around here at 2dGoggles Amalgamated Comic Industries, but apologies for the long pause.  Get used to it, loyal fan base, as day job is entering the phase technically known in the VFX business as AAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!

Throwing a chunk of hunky red meat to you baying hounds at my heels, here’s some Brunel beefcake I mysteriously found time to draw:

This was actually very necessary preparatory groundwork, as there’s a lot of Brunel, and coffee, in next episode.  I’ve also devoted some time to an exhaustive search for the all-important Brunel theme song.. SORTED:

I always like to have a soundtrack for every project I work on.. heck, I have individual soundtracks for every character, or sometimes every shot. Funny that way. The nifty thru the magic of computing and the even more mysterious magic of copyright law naviagation allows me at last to present a Selection of Musical Stylings from my internal 2dgoggles sountrack:

Tracks are:

A Drop Filled With Memories x Susumu Hirasawa
Album: Paprika (Original Soundtrack)

The Calculation x Regina Spektor
Album: Far

Texas Eagle x Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band
Album: The Mountain

Enterprising Young Men x Michel Giacchino
Album: Star Trek

M79 x Vampire Weekend
Album: Vampire Weekend

Humpty Dumpty x Aimee Mann
Album: Lost In Space

Discombobulate x Hans Zimmer
Album: Sherlock Holmes

Extraordinary Machine x Fiona Apple
Album: Extraordinary Machine (John Brion)

Human x The Killers
Album: Day and Age

“Texas Eagle” is the alternative Brunel song because it’s cool and train-y; ‘Enterprising Young Men’ I kept listening to over and over when I drew the Difference Engine interiors that open Economic Model pt 2. “Humpty Dumpty” is a painfully appropriate Ada song for her descent into Poetry addiction.

What else… a few weeks ago I was doing some clearout of the Old Homestead and came across this:

Made at some indeterminate point in my Youth. A most serendipitous find, as not only is it Alice-related, that, my friends, is a Thaumatrope, the invention of which is sometimes credited to none other than Charles Babbage! Of course it’s also sometimes credited to Roget, of Thesaurus fame, and Herschel, of astronomy fame, and a few other random guys in waistcoats. Nobody assigns it to Wheatstone, whose optical toy invention was the stereoscope– I’ve been trying to come up with a cut-out-and-keep stereoscope but it’s not QUITE so simple as I would like. Nothing could be simpler than a Thaumatrope however so here is one for you Kids to Make at Home. Get a responsible adult to help you with the scissors, and if you can find a responsible adult, congratulations! and be sure to file the sighting with the RSPB. Click the image for the PDF.

Instructions here.

In other news, I’ll be making an appearance — my VERY FIRST comic con appearance! of any kind! — at Caption in Oxford on the 31st of July and 1st of August. Not quite sure yet what this will involve, I guess I’ll be on display on some sort of slowly revolving platform, with a small placard describing my History and Features. Please do not climb on the exhibit.

Anyways, that should keep y’all busy, Organist 6 should be up in a couple of days.. coffee! monkeys! Inspiration Speeches! Top hat conundrums!

We Interrupt This Comic Because I’m Really Distractable

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

Here at 2dGoggles we are always On The Alert for the very latest Babbage facts, especially facts as awesomely cool as these.. via Bruce Sterling at Beyond the Beyond: Charles Babbage, the Secret Police Reports!!

“The known Fortunato Prandi of Camerana, arrived here from Lyon during the 10th day of the present month in the company of a certain Mr. Babbage, an English mechanician, and he lodged in the Penzione Svizzera.

The following day, he rented two furnished rooms in the Arcade of the River Po, on the second floor of No. 22, a house of the Hospital for the Poor, and he moved in with the above-mentioned Englishman, to whom he is the interpreter. The Englishman has the intention of presenting shortly to the Scientific Congress an engine of his invention, which facilitates mathematical calculations.”

This would be Babbage’s lecture trip to Italy, from which Frederico Menabrea wrote his Sketch of the Analytical Engine, which Lovelace was to translate the next year.

So I know what we’re all thinking…


Title: The Vigenere cipher (I drink a lot more wine than I break codes, so my brain insists on pronouncing it, the Vioginer cypher) was the supposedly unbreakable code secretly broken by Babbage in the late 1840s by means of, as Simon Singh puts it in his great The Code Book, ‘sheer cunning’.

Materials:  The Experimental Carriage (aka the Mystery Mobile, to be equipped with oil-slick and missile launchers etc), spy-vs-spy, James Bond, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Charade, codes and cyphers, my vast knowledge of 19th century Italian secret police drawn from ‘Tosca’. Poss. Menabrea could appear.. was he Entertaining? Might make plausible Tintin-esque military Dictator type?

Method: haphazard

Hypothesis: (this is my husband’s theory, which is is very keen on Sharing for the World’s Edification) That the 17,000 pounds the British government put towards the Difference Engine, was ACTUALLY for the Black Ops project of Babbage’s code breaking.  I counter that Babbage’s open, dare I say, transparent personality was not exactly suited for espionage.  Why, he’d be giving away his secrets in his widely-read autobiography, where he enthuses about his deciphering project that involved the copying out of 26 separate dictionaries broken up by letter count and frequency! Babbage had that most enviable of gifts, viz. huge piles of personal cash, but would he be spending his own money on stuff like this?  Hmmmmmmm…..

Anyways.. what was I supposed to be doing? Oh yeah, The Organist! Next episode.. uh.. soonish. Really!

The Story

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

So although I finished up on the virtual Giant Monsters a couple of weeks ago, I still had to face ACTUAL Giant Monsters in the form of a live audience at The Story last Friday. A great time was had by all, including even me when I emerged from my haze of terror!

I’ve assembled a slideshow of my talk– with the warning that THIS POWERPOINT CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ORGANSIT! It’s about 15 minutes long; that incoherent high-pitched squeaking you hear is me erming and ahing and forgetting all my brilliant punchlines.

I believe you can see it a bit bigger onsite at myplick.

I also did a little comic for their handout newspaper thingie (click for larger):

Footnotes to the comic!

–“Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait” was the motto of Wilkie Collins; he was pretty good at it, as anyone kept up until 3 in the morning by the last chapters of “No Name” can attest. Personally I’ve nailed the ‘Make ‘Em Wait’ part.

–Charles Babbage did indeed propose writing a three-volume novel, as he describes in his autobiography: “solely for the purpose of making money to assist me in completing the Analytical Engine.” On consulting with a poet friend, he received the dispiriting news that it was likely to cost him more to publish a novel than he would ever earn back from it.

–The Classics gag (Latin and Greek) is shamelessly robbed from Alice in Wonderland; Laughing and Grief are amongst the subjects (along with Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils) included in the excellent education of the Mock Turtle.

–In her Notes on the Analytical Engine, Ada Lovelace speculates that the Engine could potentially “compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”– that is, ” supposing that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations”. Computer-composed music has been achieved; the world still awaits scientific storytelling.

AND, if that’s not enough crazy overexposure, I’m going to be on the ShiftRunStop podcast this week, where they have inexplicably asked me to appear despite having heard my Smooth Dulcet Tones at The Story.

This entry has been heroically posted inbetween hockey periods.

The Style Edition

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

Man, you know everyone on earth gets their fifteen minutes of fame when even lowly cartoonists get interviews.  My Deep Thoughts on steampunk and the universe, over at!

I make one extremely contraversial statement in that interview that is bound to set off a firestorm.  That is:  the fashion of the 1830s is hideous. Here at 2dgoggles we pride ourselves on our strict historical accuracy on all points save one.  And on that one point, I feel myself entirely justified.  There is just no way I’m going to draw clothes like these:


As you can see from the following chart, the comic unfortunately coincides with the absolute nadir of western fashion in the last 500 years.. what are the odds!  Babbage, seriously, you’re a statistician– what are the odds??!  Ghastly proportions, nasty pointless detail, huge lapels.. I swear to god, it wants only polyester.


Further proof:  spot the point at which fashion FALLS OFF A CLIFF (Alfred Roller drawings courtesy of Wikimedia):


I’m doing what I can to keep the clothes bearable.  This means going for a generic-olde-fashioned-dress for lovelace, with a vague nod to the bizarre lozenge-shape bodices.  No power on earth can save the men’s jackets of this period but anyone can look good in a poofy shirt and a waistcoat (can we bring those back?  because they’re stylin’).


Mind you, much of the time I’m just going to have to throw everything out the window and put Lovelace in trousers, not only because she would totally have worn them if given half a chance, but as Marian Halcombe puts it in “The Woman in White”- “In my ordinary evening costume I took up the room of three men at least.”

Yeah, no kidding, Wilkie Collins.   You try composing a comic panel with three women having a conversation in skirts five feet in diameter.  By the way– it seems like everybody knew everybody else in Victorian England, but sadly there is only the slimmest of connections between Wilkie Collins and Ada Lovelace– his father met her once and described her as delightful and simple-minded.  It’s a shame they never met as I have a feeling they would have gotten on like a HOUSE ON FIRE.

We do have some info on both Babbage and Lovelace’s dress sense: in true geek fashion, it seems to have been terrible.  Sources:

Babbage: the waistcoast story. I darkly suspect Babbage would have been a Hawaiian-shirt-wearer.. not to throw a cloud over his memory or anything.

Ada Lovelace: awkward, badly dressed geek.  -this is a recollection of Lovelace’s visit to her father’s old estate the year before she died;   it is typical of her in this anectode that she goes through two entirely different personalities in the course of three days (speaking of clouds over memory, I should say that the actual extent of Ada’s racing losses were around 3000 pounds, as far as scholarship can determine.).  There are surprisingly few contemporary descriptions of her; see seems to have been rather reclusive.  You can see everything I’ve found regarding her from the period online here (the entire list of my primary sources is here).  From “bouyant and hearty” to “melancholic” to “haughty and arrogant” or was she “without an atom of pride”?   “She had, indeed, a most variable personality”, wrote her first biographer Doris Langley Moore.. indeed!

Anyways, doodling away on “The Organist” but won’t make any promises as to time.. Giant Monsters being what they are and all.  In the meantime, any nagging questions re the comic, I’ll make this an ‘any questions’ post.

Steampunk in Oxford!

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

Whooo! The Amaaaaazing Steampunk Exhibit at the Museum of the History of Science is now open! Behold (good thing I went for the 600dpi..):

There’s 3, count ‘em, 3! ways to see the comic.

1.The best way to see the comic online is at, the Sci Fi Supersite!  which has kindly up it up in a way that you can, like, actually see it clearly.


2. Also, until Saturday, you can download the print resolution here (it’s 600dpi, so seriously, they’re big files).  Get it while it’s hot!  I was going to keep it up there, but that turns out to be expensive..

3. Last but not least!  you can download the PDF of the Broadsheet from the Museum (link at the bottom), which includes the comic in the context for which it was drawn and also comes with beautiful photographs of the exhibits.

With all these viewing options, surely we need a gadget to go with this.  Here at 2D Goggles we like to keep up with the very latest technology, and we hear there is a great deal of excitement over the ‘3D experience’. I fail to see the thrill of this, as our mundane existence is already carried out in 3 dimensions. If you really want a Journey Into the Unknown-

KIDS! INSTANT 2D VISION with our exclusive 2D cut-out-and-keep FLATTENING GOGGLES!!* Enter a world you have NEVER SEEN! Requires no steam power!  Click to download the PDF! (hirez tiff available at until Saturday)


Merely fold down the Dimensional Occluder for INCREDIBLE 2D EFFECT! You won’t believe your eye!


Cheers to old war-buddy Duncan, who suggested, “how about a pair of cut-out-and-keep 2d goggles?”

A few footnotes on the comic..

— In her early teens Ada had an obsession with flying machines, her ambition at 13 being to produce a ‘book of Flyology, illustrated with Plates’. She always loved machines– the first thing she did when she saw the Difference Engine when she was 17, was ask Babbage if she could borrow the diagrams to study!

– My bouncing-off point for the comic (other than just basically cramming as many steampunk tropes into two pages as I could), was Babbage’s reaction the the not-very-prominent placing of the Difference Engine prototype in the Exhibition of 1862:

This is UNCANNILY similar to the way the same fragments of the Engine are normally displayed in the MHS, and I would like to take this opportunity to suggest how much the Old Ashmolean would be Ennobled by the building of a separate wing for their proper display, along with the 800 square feet of diagrams.

By the way, my exhaustive searches of Punch have failed turn up an undisputed Babbage caricature, but this just might possibly be him! Babbage was pretty mad that the Difference Engine wasn’t displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and it does bear some resemblance to this portrait.

Brunel’s sextant and bits of Babbage’s engine can indeed be seen in MHS’s Steampunk Exhibit, or any old time you happen to be in Oxford.

Anyways, thanks so much to the AWESOME curators at the Museum of the History of Science, hope to meet again soon!

After all this visual, if you’d like a little audio:  BBC coverage of the Exhibit! And, my Better Half interviews super-cool Museum Director Jim Bennett! With cute accents!

*’2D effect’ is illusory; ink and paper contain some microns of depth.E

Thrilling Adventure! Treasure Discovered!

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

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!


This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

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:

Celebrity Chef fears Babbage’s army of steam-automota line-cooks!

‘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..

Babbage and Lovelace in Glorious Technicolor

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

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.

The Person From Porlock

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series Meanwhile..

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.

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