Steampunk Poised to Become ‘The Next Big Thing’

With hoards of sci-fi fans waiting to descend upon San Diego next week for Comic Con 2013, I thought it would be a good time to catch up with Fred Jeska, Steampunk craftsman extraordinaire and the proprietor of Kelly’s Heroes.

Fred Jeska aka Cmdr. "Whiskey Nick" Triton at the 2013 Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition. Credit: Clara Blackheart
Fred Jeska, a.k.a. Cmdr. “Whiskey Nick” Triton, at the 2013 Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition. Credit: Clara Blackheart

Jeska, otherwise known as Commander “Whiskey Nick” Triton of Her Majesty’s Royal Airship Service, spends his days deconstructing everyday items and magically transforming them into amazing one-of-a-kind custom steampunk creations which he sells exclusively at shows and conventions such as San Diego Comic Con and online at www.kellysheroes.webs.com.

I first encountered Jeska and his impressive array of handmade “gadgets, gizmos, goggles & gear” at SDCC two years ago when, amidst the cacophony of that ginormous pop-culture convention, I chanced across the Kelly’s Heroes booth, one of several at the convention offering steampunk-styled items.

Nautical goggles fit for Captain Nemo himself! Credit: Fred Jeska
Custom nautical goggles fit for Captain Nemo himself! Credit: Fred Jeska of Kelly’s Heroes

A member of the Sacramento Steampunk Society, Jeska takes particular pride in ensuring that each of his hand-painted and professionally crafted creations looks like it might have come straight out of the pages of a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells novel. Viewing his collection of authentic-looking “Turn of the Century” apparatus, elaborate timepieces and ingenious cosplay accoutrements, it was easy to see why his painstakingly intricate handmade creations were so popular with steampunk enthusiasts and cosplayers.

Next week the Kelly’s Heroes booth will again occupy its familiar spot (Booth D-07) on the San Diego Convention Center exhibit hall floor, and Jeska has been gearing up for SDCC with an even more fantastical selection of custom brass and leather contraptions and paraphernalia.

Batman Superhero Topper. Credit: Fred Jeska
Batman Superhero Topper. Credit: Fred Jeska of Kelly’s Heroes

In keeping with the current trend of cosplayers reimagining Marvel and DC superheroes in steampunk-style, Jeska will be offering a selection of neo-Victorian superhero-themed top hats, variously equipped with goggles and/or mechanical gadgetry perfectly suited to augment a retro superhero’s ensemble. Jeska is bringing a selection of his latest customized toppers to the San Diego convention in addition to all of the other inventive steampunk creations he fabricates.

The Captain America topper was the perfect addition to this cosplayer's outfit.
The Captain America topper was the perfect addition to this cosplayer’s outfit. Credit: Fred Jeska of Kelly’s Heroes

“With the Steampunk aesthetic expanding in every direction and superheroes being so prevalent at the pop-culture shows, marrying the two cultures was a logical transition for me,” says Jeska. “Steampunk superhero hats are the perfect topper for the many variations and interpretations of the characters who grace the cons. They also allow the con goer to proudly display their interest without the investment and encumbrance of the total costume ensemble.”

SDCC attendees who are fans of the neo-Victorian sci-fi aesthetic are encouraged to visit the convention exhibition floor as early as possible during the four-day event for the widest selection of these one-of-a-kind items.

Once considered just a science fiction sub-culture, steampunk seems poised to become the “next big thing” with mainstream consumers as well. During the National Retail Federation Convention held in New York this past January, IBM predicted that steampunk would be the next major trend to take hold of the retail industry. Big Blue’s prediction was based on its advanced supercomputer analytics, which measures trends across cultural domains, including billions of public posts on message boards, blogs, social media sites and news sources.

“From 2009 to 2012 the amount of social media chatter about Steampunk rose by an astonishing 11 times,” writes IBM consumer products expert Dr. Trevor Davison in the IBM-sponsored Smarter Planet Blog. “The aesthetics of steampunk are broad and diverse,” claims Davison, “Steampunk isn’t just about fiction any more, and it isn’t just for fans.”

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