From the pages of The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, Minky Woodcock is back as The Girl Who Electrified Tesla in a brand-new story arc from Cynthia von Buhler. Featuring Nicola Tesla and maybe a special guest or two, von Buhler answered some of our questions about the series and what her research into Tesla uncovered.
Rachel Bellwoar: In 2018 it was announced that Minky Woodcock would be coming back for a second arc called Minky Woodcock: They Die Fast on Broadway about Ziegfeld girl, Olive Thomas. What made you decide to switch to Nikola Tesla?
Cynthia von Buhler: The publishers at Titan were keen on a Nikola Tesla book and asked me to look into his story. I started researching him two years ago and fell in love with the man. I still have the story about Olive Thomas in my back pocket; I produced a live theatrical version titled Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic that ran for a whole year in a secret Broadway theater back in 2015. So maybe that’ll still become a case for Minky eventually. But the more I learned about Tesla’s story, the more I wanted to tell it.
RB: Tesla and Minky have a very different relationship than Minky had with Harry Houdini in the first volume. What was it about this pairing that attracted you the most?
CvB: Tesla and Minky are attracted to each other because of their shared love of non-human animals and the fact that they have been underappreciated for their strong intellect and skill. Unlike with Houdini, this is an attraction of mind and not body.
RB: Like Houdini, Minky initially becomes involved with Tesla because she’s supposed to be investigating him. Will Minky’s moral conscience start to conflict with her professional ambitions?
CvB: Good question! Yes, she does have anxiety about her allegiance to unsavory clients when she realizes that they are not what they appear to be. In fact, there’s a page in issue two where Minky walks through Broadway and imagines all of the glowing marquee signs as statements of her regret. Minky has a strong imagination and her love of booze makes her have occasional nightmares and hallucinations. These occurrences help us see more deeply into her subconscious mind.
RB: Tesla isn’t the only famous person to appear in this arc. Did you always want Minky to cross paths with Josephine Baker or did that decision come about later, after realizing the timing checked out?
CvB: I wanted to do a whole episode about Josephine when I discovered she was a spy during World War II! The fact that the timing worked out for this episode was fortunate. Perhaps she’ll return again? Minky falls a bit in love with Josephine in this issue. How could you not fall in love with Josephine Baker?
RB: In the first issue Minky’s hair is quite longer, so you know some time has passed since the events of the first arc. Will we find out what Minky’s been up to during this time?
CvB: She’s also a bit thinner. She lost her baby fat. Minky was barely out of her teenage years in episode one. I’m happy to move around through time for each episode. We can fill in the missing years between Houdini and Tesla. We can also have a Granny Minky. Minky Woodcock is timeless.
RB: One of the best parts of reading Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini was getting to go through all the research you did and made available to fans online. Did you know a lot about Tesla going into this project, and what’s been your favorite discovery?
CvB: I’ve been researching Nikola Tesla for two years. He’s a fascinating character — I love him. There are so many interesting, bizarre facts about him. His love for a pigeon “like a wife” was my favorite detail. I raise and rehabilitate pigeons myself, so I know how special they are. Tesla’s pigeon has a starring role in this episode. I was also really surprised to find out that Donald Trump’s scientist uncle, John Trump, was involved in the confiscation of Tesla’s patents and belongings. Once again, I plan to upload evidence and research on the Minky Woodcock website when the first comic is released in April.
RB: While last year saw the release of Tesla starring Ethan Hawke, and a Doctor Who episode about Tesla, Thomas Edison is definitely the bigger name when it comes to electricity. Does that inform how you approach telling this story, knowing readers might not be as familiar with him?
CvB: I specifically did not watch either of those shows. I wanted my story to have its own take on his life — and death. Thanks to Elon Musk and his electric car company named after Tesla, Nikola Tesla is finally getting his due. Tesla was a genius who was constantly thwarted by his rival, Thomas Edison, and later by the JP Morgan family, who owned Edison’s company and changed its name to General Electric.
RB: With Minky, you’re both the writer and the artist for each issue. What have you enjoyed the most about drawing Minky and coloring the series as well?
CvB: I sketch and draw one page a day. After I sketch out the page, which requires my full concentration, I can turn on a podcast and go into a flow space as I draw. I enjoy being in an art flow space. It’s almost like a meditation.
RB: Thanks, Cynthia von Buhler, for taking the time to discuss Minky Woodcock with us!
Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla #1 goes on sale April 14th from Titan Comics.