Though now he is a little bit more mainstream, back when I was growing up, when many people heard the name Tesla, they thought of the hard rock band, not the scientist. Then again, back when I was growing up, not many kids could say they had a Tesla coil being built in their basement. Yes, courtesy of my father’s obsession with the mad scientist, I was fully initiated into the world of Tesla way before I even knew there was a band by the same name, before Scott Westerfeld’s novel Goliath, before Tesla was depicted as a vampire on Sanctuary, before Warehouse 13 needed weapons, before the movies The Prestige and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice were released, and way before YouTube boasted viral videos from ArcAttack. (Okay, so maybe my obsession is references to Tesla.) When I heard that NFNT had the opportunity to review a new graphic novel called The Inventor: The Story of Tesla, I immediately jumped at the chance.
Nikola Tesla was born in Serbia in the mid 1800s to an orthodox family. His father was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and wanted him to enter the church, not science. But growing up, Tesla could not quiet his mind and was always exploring and inventing. Upon finally convincing his father to let him follow his dreams, he became an engineer and eventually found his way to Thomas Edison’s doorstep. So begins his journey, from engineer to ditch digger to Master of Lightning.
Ravé Mehta, who not only is the writer of the book, but also happens to be the CEO at Helios Interactive and Helios Entertainment, states on the series’ blog that he set out to portray Tesla not from a documentarian perspective, but from that of a fan. Speaking as another fan, I think he did a great job. The story is as exciting as any superhero tome. Yes, there are some details that have been skipped over; however, all the important stuff is portrayed including Tesla’s unstable mental state, literal flashes of inspiration, and his OCD. The professional and personal relationships are also clearly represented, like Tesla’s relationship with his mother, the animosity with Edison and with JP Morgan, and the importance that Westinghouse played in Tesla’s success.
The first thing that stands out in this graphic novel is the artwork. It is vivid and dramatic. Erik Williams definitely did an outstanding job in supporting the story written by Mehta. While it does depict a scene where Edison is getting ready to electrocute an elephant to demonstrate the supposed danger of AC electricity, the graphic novel is devoid of any overly gruesome and violent scenes. My favorite image in the entire book is on the page directly following the title page that depicts Tesla with his back facing the reader and a hand outstretched towards a Tesla coil with electricity arcing all around him. It really demonstrates the depiction of Tesla as the Master of Lightning.
The Inventor: The Story of Tesla by Ravé Mehta will be officially available in print after it is unveiled at Comic-Con 2012. It is the first book in a series of books on inventors of the 19th and 20th centuries to be published by Helios Entertainment in partnership with Arcana. Helios already plans to create apps, games, and movies to correspond with the interest in the series.
At 150 pages and told through six chapters, this graphic novel would be a great supplement to any library collection not only because of Tesla’s current popularity, but also because it supports young adult development in terms of identity. Tesla was the little guy who changed his fate and took on the powers of his time to also change the world. It would also make a great addition to any library interested in STEM (an acronym for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields).