Professor Charles Xavier, the brain and leader behind the popular X-Men comic book heroes, had a wheelchair that didn’t do very much when it was first conceived, but later became a hovering, futuristic device. Daniel Valdez took that a step further by imagining what Professor X’s wheelchair would look like in a steampunk universe, and he made that idea a reality.
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, frequently featuring elements of fantasy that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England — but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.
Valdez says he views his Professor Xavier’s Steampunk Wheelchair as an art project inspired by the idea of Professor X’s character, because he is “mysterious, comforting and interacts with his followers in a distinct way.” His creation has been featured in numerous magazines and websites for its innovative design and concept. While these features tend to focus on the on-board control panel itself, rather than the exquisite brass detailing on the corners of the control box or the beautiful metal work over the front tires, it goes without saying that this wheelchair is nothing short of amazing.
To create a steampunk version of Professor X‘s wheelchair, Valdez took a late 19th-century rocking chair, reupholstered it in crushed red velvet, and attached it to a a typical four-wheel, power wheelchair base. Every detail was modified and decorated with objects such as pistons from a 1930s ironworks. The front wheels are covered in wicker to complement the Victorian style of the chair and control panel, which was modeled after the movies The Time Machine and Wild Wild West, and made from beautifully varnished wood with brass, antique-style levers to control the steering, speed, battery, ignition, volume, and pumps.
A custom audio system was put into the chair, including speakers and a sub-woofer that emit different sounds depending on whether the chair is starting, idling, turning, braking, and so forth. There is also a multicolor battery indicator and a working smokestack, complete with crown shaped topper on a pipe coming out of the back, giving the illusion that the chair is steam-powered.
Additionally, no steampunk vehicle would be complete without a drink dispensary filled with a vodka-cranberry mix encased in four bubbling tubes, keeping the alcoholic concoction perfectly mixed, and attached to the back of the wheelchair with an accessible tap at the front, with an ice tank to keep it cold.
Valdez is often asked if he needs the wheelchair to get around, and the answer is no. “I get asked that a lot by many people and I hope that fact doesn’t offend anyone. I’m fascinated by motorized wheelchairs, always have been,” explains Valdez. “Whenever I’ve shown this, I’ve perked the interest of many people who do need a wheelchair, and I hope it has inspired them to seek out modifications of their own to individualize themselves.”