The Oatmeal Cartoonist Begs Elon Musk to Help Fund a Museum. Musk Agrees.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 14 2014 12:46 PM

Elon Musk Is Going to Help Fund a Nikola Tesla Museum

Matthew Inman Oatmeal Tesla Model S comic
Flattery will get you everywhere.

Screenshot / The Oatmeal

Matthew Inman, the cartoonist behind The Oatmeal, wrote an illustrated love letter to his Tesla Model S this week. He followed it up with an out-of-the-blue request for $8 million from Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk to help fund a Nikola Tesla-themed science museum.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

It worked.

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Titled “What it’s like to own a Tesla Model S: A cartoonist’s review of his magical space car,” Inman’s comic compared the futuristic electric sedan to everything from an “electric cruisebeast” to an “ultra stealth ninja car” to an “intergalactic spaceboat of light and wonder.” Accelerating in the Model S, Inman raved, is “like being fired out of a gun with a silencer on.” It handles, he observed, “like a Ferrari that got porked by a luck dragon.” Where Consumer Reports awarded the car 99 points out of a possible 100, Inman gave it “one hundred stars, two black holes, five supernovae, and an ever-expanding singularity of engorged Luck Dragons and woooo-shit-yeahs.”

That’s part one of the comic. In part two, Inman implored Musk to help fund a science museum on the site of inventor Nikola Tesla’s former laboratory on Long Island. A prior crowdfunding campaign, to which Musk chipped in, raised $1.37 million to buy the property, which had been up for sale. But it wasn’t enough to actually build a museum there. So this time Inman tried going straight to the man himself. He wrote:

Elon Musk, if you’re reading this: You owe us nothing, and you’ve done nothing but good things in the name of Nikola Tesla. 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.

On Tuesday, Inman reiterated the plea on Twitter:

Musk being Musk, the response came swiftly and directly:

Whether that means he’s in for the full $8 million is not yet clear. But he’s certainly in for something. Well done, Matthew Inman. Nikola Tesla may not have accepted strangers' charity in his own lifetime, but he can't very well stop his admirers from preserving his legacy now that he's gone.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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