Nikola Tesla in popular culture

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Nikola Tesla in a photograph taken by Napoleon Sarony in the 1890s.

Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) is portrayed in many forms of popular culture. The Serbian-American engineer has particularly been depicted in science fiction, a genre which is well suited to address his inventions; while often exaggerated, the fictionalized variants build mostly upon his own alleged claims or ideas. A popular, growing fixation among science fiction, comic book, and speculative history storytellers is to portray Tesla as a member of a secret society, along with other luminaries of science.[citation needed] The impacts of the technologies invented by Nikola Tesla are a recurring theme in the steampunk genre of alternate technology science-fiction.

Board games[edit]

  • In the alternate World War I setting in the board game Tannhäuser, Nikola Tesla is a major figure in the Russian Matriarchy faction, where his inventions have not only been used to create deadly weaponry but also harness the power of other worldly forces.[1]

Books[edit]

Appearances[edit]

Allusions[edit]

H. P. Lovecraft's character Nyarlathotep in the guise of Tesla in Rotomago and Julien Noirel's comic-book adaptation of the prose poem "Nyarlathotep".[9]

Comics and graphic novels[edit]

Appearances[edit]

  • In The Light and Darkness War (1988–89) by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, Tesla appears as a supporting character who has been transported, upon death, to another dimension where other deceased human warriors and scientists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, are engaged in a never-ending battle against the forces of Outer Darkness. A biography of Tesla featured in the second issue in order to introduce Tesla to contemporary readers unfamiliar with the scientist.
  • In the eight-issue Serbian comic book series Generation Tesla (1995), created by writer Milan Konjević, and artists Siniša Radović and Zdravko Zupan, Tesla evades his own death by transferring himself to another plane of existence. In 2020, he resurrects a number of humans slain by the evil Kobalt, transforming them into superhumans who can counter the threats of such villains. He is founder and mentor of super-hero team Generation Tesla.[11]
  • In Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders' graphic novel The Five Fists of Science (2006), Tesla teams up with Mark Twain to battle Thomas Edison.[citation needed]
  • The Inventor: The Story of Tesla (2012) written by Ravé Mehta with art by Erik Williams, is a graphic novel based on the story of Nikola Tesla. It begins with Tesla's birth in Smiljan, continues through Tesla's battle with Thomas Edison during the war of the currents, and ends when J.P. Morgan pulls the plug on Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower project. Other major characters in the graphic novel are George Westinghouse, Mark Twain, Guglielmo Marconi, Lord Kelvin, U.S. President Herbert Hoover, and Swami Vivekananda.[12][13]
  • JLA: Age of Wonder (2003) is a two-issue mini-series from DC Comics' Elseworlds line, in which Superman lands in Kansas in the 1850s and emerges on the world stage at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. He teams up with Edison but ends up working with Tesla, who eventually deploys a death ray during World War I.[14]
  • In Jeff Smith's comic book series Rasl, Tesla's ideas are prominently featured as the foundation of travel between alternate realities. The story also features an alternate take on Tesla's biography and uses his journals as a plot device.[citation needed]
  • Red Giant Entertainment's comic book series Tesla features Nikola Tesla as he uses his greatest inventions to battle against a shadowy organization of the planet's most brilliant minds, who are bent on world domination.[15]

Companies[edit]

Events and holidays[edit]

Nikola Tesla Day[edit]

Tesla's birthday, 10 July, is celebrated by some as World Tesla Day, Nikola Tesla Day, or simply, Tesla Day.[16] Some organizations celebrate Tesla Day informally on 10 July.[17] However, The Tesla Memorial Society wrote letters to several officials asking to commemorate 10 July as international Nikola Tesla Day.[18]

Tesla's birthday (or in one case, both the day itself and the week leading up to it) is officially celebrated as a holiday in various parts of the world. In Serbia, 10 July is celebrated as the National Day of Science.[19] In Croatia, it is called Nikola Tesla Day.[20] In Niagara Falls, Canada, it is named as the Day of Nikola Tesla.[21] In the autonomous province of Vojvodina in Serbia, the local Association of Teachers also officially celebrate 10 July as the Day of Nikola Tesla though in practice, the celebrations last the seven days (one week) from 4 July to 10 July inclusive.[22]

Google honored Tesla on his birthday on 10 July 2009 by displaying a Google Doodle in the Google search home page, that showed the G as a Tesla coil.[23][24]

Saint Tesla (2021) by Tatiana Basova, inspired by the proposal to have Tesla canonized as a saint[25]

On 7 January 2021 (which is both Orthodox Christmas and the anniversary of Nikola Tesla's death), the Tesla Science Foundation Serbia (TSFA) sent a petition to the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church proposing that the Synod consider the canonization of Nikola Tesla as an Orthodox saint with his birthday, 10 July as his feast day.[26]

Film[edit]

Appearances[edit]

The "Mad Scientist" from The Mad Scientist, the first of Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons, this character said to be inspired by Tesla

Allusions[edit]

  • Disney's Tomorrowland depicts Nikola Tesla as one of four members (with Thomas Edison, Gustave Eiffel, and Jules Verne) of a group of inventors called Plus Ultra, dedicated to finding dreamers and inventors who wanted to create a better future. Plus Ultra later discovers an alternate dimension in which the titular City of Tomorrow is constructed.
  • In Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee and Cigarettes, the vignette "Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil" features Jack White of the band The White Stripes praising Tesla's work and showing his bandmate Meg a Tesla coil he built; Jack is also a fan of Tesla in real life.[37][38]
  • The 1986 Science Fiction Comedy The American Way (also known as Riders of the Storm) features a character named "Tesla" (played by Michael J. Pollard), an engineer on an airborne pirate television station.

Music[edit]

Allusions[edit]

  • Tesla is the subject of The Handsome Family's song "Tesla's Hotel Room". The song is featured on the duo's 2006 album Last Days of Wonder.[39]
  • The Human Abstract released the album Midheaven, which includes songs referring to Tesla and his struggles.[citation needed]
  • The electronic dance album RISE (2013) by electro-pop band Renaiszance is themed after The Inventor: The Story of Tesla graphic novel created by Ravé Mehta. The first single and "I Will Rise" are written to Tesla's story and use edgy electronic Tesla coil sounds and dubstep in the production. RISE is produced by Ravé Mehta and co-written with his sister and Renaiszance lead singer Radha Mehta.[40][41]
  • Tesla is the subject of the song "Tesla" by the American band They Might Be Giants which appears on their 2013 album Nanobots.[42]
  • The rock band Tesla is named after him. They have referenced his life and works a number of times, such as in their debut album Mechanical Resonance (1986), their second album The Great Radio controversy (1989) and the song "Edison's Medicine" (and accompanying music video), from their 1991 album Psychotic Supper[citation needed]
  • Tesla featured in the official "My Demons" music video by the electronic rock group Starset.
  • The Norwegian artist Sturle Dagsland released a single in 2013 entitled "Wardenclyffe Auquarium" with reference to Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower
  • Russian synthpop band Tesla boy, is named after Tesla.
  • Some of Rami Fortis's 2011 album "החבר אני" (The Friend Me) lyrics was inspired by the life and works of Tesla. Fortis had dedicated the album to Tesla, and said his works inspired him.[43]
  • Tesla Girls was a 1984 single by English band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Online[edit]

  • In the YouTube series Epic Rap Battles of History, in season 2, Tesla is depicted in a rap battle against Thomas Edison. Tesla is portrayed by Dante Cimadamore and his singing voice is provided by both Cimadamore and Nice Peter.[44]
  • The Oatmeal, a website created by Matthew Inman, contains a section on "Why Nikola Tesla Was The Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived"

Stage productions[edit]

A number of live theatrical plays based on Tesla's life have been produced and staged worldwide.

Opera[edit]

Television[edit]

Appearances[edit]

Allusions[edit]

Video games[edit]

  • Tesla's proposal of teleforce weapons and the destructive possibilities of massive electric arcs created by tesla coils have inspired many video game designers to incorporate Tesla weapons and armors.
  • The asymmetrical horror multiplayer game Identity V developed by Netease released a character named Luca Balsa ( also known as "the Prisoner" ) who shares the same birthday as Tesla. In game, Balsa is characterized as a young and aspiring inventor working as an apprentice under Alva Lorenz, who shares his name with the middle name of Thomas Edison. The two worked together until they had an argument, resulting in Lorenz's accidental death and Balsa's imprisonment.

Appearances[edit]

  • In the Command & Conquer Red Alert series of video games, Nikola Tesla is a scientist working for the USSR, and "Tesla" is the name of the technology the Soviets use to generate power and for their lightning-based weapons. Perhaps the most widely known example is the Tesla Coil defense structure, capable of sending short electric arcs towards oncoming units, also in their arsenal are Tesla troopers, who carry portable tesla coil-based weaponry and tesla tanks, which have a large glowing blue sphere that ejects great bolts of electricity (the Red Alert 2 version is a small tracked vehicle with a pair of forward-facing, miniature Tesla coils mounted on a turret).
  • Nikola Tesla is also one of the characters in the game Martian Dreams, by Origin, which is part of the Worlds of Ultima series.
  • Tesla features in The Order: 1886, and aids the main character in the game set in an alternate history 1886.
  • Tesla is one of the main characters in the game Dark Void, where he is kept in an alternate universe, like a 'skin' between universes, to which one can travel through the Bermuda Triangle. He uses his great intelligence to create a huge spaceship called the Ark, kept in another, tropical Earth-like universe called the Void. The Ark can be used by others stranded in the alternate universe to defeat the post-singularity robotic AI that manifests itself as an army of anthropomorphic robots. After defeating the robotic menace, Tesla and the other protagonists return to the 'skin' universe, where Tesla stays to keep his youth and his inventions.
  • In the Rockstar Games 2018 title Red Dead Redemption 2, Tesla is paid homage to with a character called “Marko Dragic”. In the game, the player meets Dragic in the town of Saint Denis where he is convincing investors to invest in his work on electromagnetic waves, showing off a remotely controlled boat. A later mission entails the player helping Dragic set up a series of lightning rods, assisting Dragic in the activation of an automaton, and a return to the laboratory uncovers a deceased Marko Dragic, and awarding the player with the “Artificial Intelligence” achievement or trophy. Exploration into the mountain region will allow the player to find the automaton sitting on the edge of a mountain, regretting its transgressions.
  • Tesla is the protagonist of Tesla vs Lovecraft and fights monsters summoned by Lovecraft.[48]
  • Tesla is an ally of the Assassin's order in the Assassin's Creed series.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, Tesla appears in the London Singularity and briefly in E Pluribus Unum Singularity as an Archer-class Servant. His Noble Phantasm, System Keraunos, is a powerful electromagnetic attack that deals extra damage against servants with Earth or Sky Attribute.
  • Zen Studios developed a virtual pinball table about Tesla's work and experiments, which became one of the first four tables in its first pinball game, Zen Pinball, released in 2009. It went on to appear in the game's subsequent ports and is available as add-on content for the game's sequels.[49] Nikolai Tesla himself, portrayed by a voice actor, is the table's unseen announcer.
  • Tesla appears in the 2019 adventure horror video game Close to the Sun, voice acted by Jannik Archer. Set in an alternate reality in 1897, he has created a company called Wardenclyffe, and has pulled ahead in a technology war against American inventor Thomas Edison.
  • In the 2020 game Iron Harvest, the mechs, or automachines as they are called, are inventions of Tesla, which he had created to improve Human quality of life, but instead they were used by the various world powers in the Great War. Dismayed that his inventions were used for war, he shut himself, and his personal Factory, away from the nations of the world. Tesla, and his Factory, play a major role throughout the game's campaign story.

Allusions[edit]

  • The 2014 adventure game Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure deals with many of Tesla's inventions such as the Spirit Radio, Tesla's Egg, the Death Ray, and a recreation of the Wardenclyffe Tower. It also includes an organization called the "Tesla Legacy Society" dedicated to solving the problems of humanity through the works and inspiration of Tesla.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]