I'd never met Paul Guinan before I discovered his table in Comic-Con's Artists Alley. I thought his book Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel, co-authored with his wife Anina Bennett, was fantastic and stopped to tell him so.
Boilerplate is a robot who, like Zelig or Forrest Gump, happens to show up to play a role in key turn-of-the-century events. Although the robot is (spoiler alert!) fictional, Paul worked hard to get the history right, and it's a fun and interesting blend. We talked for just a few minutes before I got the bright idea to pull out my Flip and record a Two-Minute Interview with him, the fourth of six.
My first question to Paul was really stupid. I asked if he did the writing or the drawing. In fact, there's little "drawing" in Boilerplate, and I knew that. I guess I'm just used to thinking in terms of comics (which Boilerplate isn't) and it was the first thing out of my mouth. Fortunately, Paul executed a graceful save and we went on from there:
The question about people being fooled by Boilerplate was prompted by an incident involving comic actor and writer Chris Elliott, who came across Boilerplate, thought the robot was a hoax from the late 19th century rather than the early 21st, and incorporated the character into his novel The Shroud of the Thwacker. I remember enjoying this New York Times article about it at the time. In an unusually civil fashion, Messrs. Guinan and Elliott worked out a deal between themselves giving Paul a cut of Elliott's earnings to compensate him for the copyright violation. Elliott's confusion was understandable.
I may have gotten the interview off on the wrong foot, but my enthusiasm for Boilerplate is genuine. Visit Paul's website, and if that looks like the kind of thing you'd enjoy, check out the book with my recommendation.
Tomorrow: a Two-Minute Interview goes horribly awry.