They’re back! The Tesla Twins — that dynamic superhero duo who delighted IEEE-USA members last year with their battles against the Forces of Evil — are here again.
Once more, these two make-believe descendants of one of the most prolific inventors and futurists in engineering history are offering readers of all ages, both a touch of fantasy and plenty of inspiration about engineering.
The Tesla Twins: Rescue at the Speed of Light is the second in the IEEE-USA e-comic book series featuring the young electrical engineering superheroes. Fittingly, these comic books are dedicated to “all engineers and engineers to come — who do, and will do, great things to make our world a better place.”
On 1 June, this new e-comic is available free to members from the IEEE-USA Shop. Non-members pay $4.99.
According to Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager and Manager/Editor, IEEE-USA E-BOOKS, “Getting kids excited about engineering is our main goal. But we also want to put the fun back into engineering for IEEE’s Young Professionals, as well as for more experienced engineers.”
While seeking new approaches to meet the vital need to attract more young people to STEM studies, Stelluto recognized a powerful way to reach them – today’s wildly popular superhero comic books, movies and videos.
“Offering role models for younger readers through a comic book, with superheroes who are electrical engineers, was very appropriate,” she says. “The characters are intelligent and highly educated, yet amazingly cool. Their alter egos are often scientists, doctors and journalists — fields where knowledge is a very important part of a superhero’s character. Both their intelligence, and powers of reasoning, tend to rescue the situation — not their brute strength.”
Stelluto’s comic-book brainchild required several years of planning and hard work to execute – and was realized with support from her Director of Communications, John Yaglenski — as well as support and feedback from the entire IEEE-USA Communications team. The Tesla Twins: Rescue at the Speed of Light follows on the heels of the successful first IEEE-USA e-comic, The Slate Twins – Caught in the Currents, published last year.
Who are these Tesla Twins? Introduced in the first comic book with the surname “Slate,” to foil potential evildoers looking to steal their brilliant grandfather’s inventions, both Nick and Tess are bright, curious young people. They aren’t billionaires or geniuses — unlike Iron Man, who invented his electromechanical suits of iron.
In the first comic book, the Tesla twins not only learned about their renowned ancestor and rightful last name, but also sent tech mogul Buck Gains running back into the circuitry to stop his death-ray experiment. In Rescue at the Speed of Light, they re-enter the circuitry — after receiving a mysterious message claiming to be from their presumed-dead parents.
The Tesla Twins’ adventures take off from there — complete with micro particle accelerators, androids and robots. They must also overcome the wicked tech billionaire, Count Mario Ingannamorte. The Count was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, but is searching for a way to live forever. (In English, “Ingannamorte,” for those who don’t speak Italian, translates to “Cheat Death.”)
Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity also figures in the story, as do some of the teachings of the British theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking.
All this technology – real and fantasy – is designed to help fuel imaginations and to stimulate readers’ creativity, no matter their ages. Much like other superhero comic books, this tale about the Tesla Twins also offers the benefits of stress reduction, social representation, and intellectual stimulation for all age groups.
To help bring the second IEEE-USA digital comic book to reality, Stelluto again enlisted the talents of Jeff Knurek, a nationally known graphic artist and award-winning toy and game inventor. Knurek, who comes up with and illustrates the widely syndicated Jumble puzzle, created last year’s inaugural digital comic book, and prior to that, two engineering-themed coloring e-books for IEEE-USA E-BOOKS.
Knurek’s talents and interests are practically tailor-made for this assignment. A self-confessed devotee of superhero movies and TV series, he regularly plays them as he works in his home office.
“Superhero stories help me see how far I can twist the story; and how much I can hide from the reader,” he explains. “The films also let me indulge myself while I’m creating.”
Knurek has attended several “comic cons,” the hugely popular comic book conventions held in many cities. “People’s devotion and enthusiasm for the parallel fantasy worlds depicted in comic books, as well as the creative costumes you see at these events, blow me away,” he says.
But Knurek emphasizes that despite his work for IEEE-USA, he is not a comic book creator by trade — which is why he values his working relationship with Chad Frye, a fellow cartoonist and illustrator who has worked at Walt Disney Animation Studios on many films.
“One of the problems of writing alone is that holes and story lines sometimes don’t add up,” says Knurek. “Chad has an incredible talent for giving characters personality and traits. He helped me with story questions I for which I didn’t have the answers.”
Knurek’s longtime fascination with Nikola Tesla has been a big advantage for IEEE-USA’s digital comic book project. “Tesla was a genius who was ignored through much of history,” says Knurek, who has a degree in industrial design from the University of Michigan. “He was a true visionary, as well as an engineer. Most people don’t realize how much Tesla actually pushed the envelope.”
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.