Legendary inventor Nikola Tesla is finally getting some long-overdue historical recognition in the form of a new museum thanks to Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, the Internet and a clever cartoonist.
Illustrator Matthew Inman of the immensely popular online cartoon site The Oatmeal recently led a successful Indiegogo online fundraising campaign to buy an old upstate New York property where Tesla worked. Though the facility that formerly occupied the property has since been torn down, Inman raised the $1.5 million needed to buy the land.
Now the cartoonist needs another $8 million to build the museum, and this week began using his art to get the attention of a very important and appropriate sponsor — Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who has literally built his automobile empire — the most successful all-electric one to date – on Tesla’s name and technology.
Inman has since published a two-part comic about owning a Tesla Model S, in which he describes the car as “an intergalactic spaceboat of light and wonder.” The comics contain equally hilarious and informative bits about Teslas like the following:
Inman then tweeted his “cartoonist’s review of his magical space car” to Musk, who replied positively on Wednesday.
— Matthew Inman (@Oatmeal) May 13, 2014
@Oatmeal I would be happy to help
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2014
Nikola Tesla is widely known to have been a brilliant inventor and in some cult-classic instances something of a “mad scientist.” The eccentric inventor became world famous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and made a significant amount of money from his patents. However, Tesla put almost all of it back into his research, and as a result, died with almost nothing to his name.
Those patents have since expired, meaning Musk hasn’t had to pay anything for the use of Tesla’s AC induction system, which powers Musk’s leading electric car, or his name, which bestows it with timeless pop culture iconography.
“You owe us nothing, and you’ve done nothing but good things in the name of Nikola Tesla,” Inman wrote in the cartoon. “But the fact remains: Tesla Motors, a company now worth billions, is using Nikola Tesla’s name, and they’re using his technology, and all we want in return is a little bit of help.”
According to Musk, they’re going to get it.