What if Charles Babbage, inventor of the mechanical computer, and Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer and daughter of Lord Byron, had completed Babbage’s difference engine and then teamed up to fight crime? That’s the premise behind Sydney Padua’s heavily footnoted webcomic 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. The two geniuses battle the evil forces of street music and economic panic while trying to keep their funding and avoid the siren’s song of poetry. Blending historical fact, social commentary, and cartoon zaniness (plus just a dash of steampunk), 2D Goggles offers a smart and silly view of the alternate Victorian past.
Sydney Padua spoke to us over email about her historical inspirations, the appeal of Victorian speculative fiction, and monkeys.
Why did you select Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace as your super-scientist heroes?
They selected me, actually! I did the first comic, “Lovelace – The Origin,” as part of Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate women in technology started by a friend of mine. At the end of the comic I threw in a punchline about how they actually built the Difference Engine and fought crime, but I didn’t really mean for it to be an actual comic! It seemed like a fun thing to play with though so I started messing around with the idea, and it kind of snowballed from there.
What do you read when researching the lives of Babbage and Lovelace?
I like to browse around Google Books and Archive.org for primary documents mostly – everything is much more real and alive when you read the stuff the people themselves wrote. I’ve read a great deal of the secondary books as well – I had to join the British Library at some point to look at all the books I wanted to!