Incendere et defugere

RANGE: From the profoundest inner reaches of the atom to the outermost limits of the universe; from the first instance called the Singularity, and for the hypothetically foreseeable future, we have with us the very experimental Werner Von Brownie.
HABITS: This Space Age sprite prefers to spend his time where the reaction is, making sure that what can go wrong, does. It is the dubious distinction of anyone who glimpses a Von Brownie, that he or she is probably about to experience a scientific disaster of unforgettable proportion. This nuclear family of fairies loves to invite the friendly atom out to play and it’s a lead pipe cinch that whenever these Brownies are up to their ThreeMile-Island-hijinks, you’ll find a red-faced, power company public relations executive holding a Geiger counter with a melted probe, talking in reassuring terms about acceptable levels of radiation while spitting out her teeth. These cosmic creatures enjoy nothing more than the science of rocketry. From Cape Canaveral to Santa Barbara, the Werner Von Brownie can be found conducting his own schedule of independent experiments on spacecraft: “Vat vould happen if only one engine fired? Ηmm? Vat happens if dis hose gets connected vere dat hose is supposed to go? Is dis material fireproof?” The answers to these and other questions of the Von Brownie more often than not take the form of a fireball. Last minute problems are the Brownie’s special delight. Shutting off cameras (with the help of the Glitches) as they are about to photograph Venus, removing solar panels from space shuttles, and causing telecommunications satellites to vanish from orbit, are just three of their extraordinary interplanetary jests.
HISTORY: When the first Chinese kid force-fed the first firecracker to an unfortunate and astonished Mongolian frog, the ancestors of Werner Von Brownie were there. Not quite there, but certainly at a safe distance. Travelling westward with the Spirit of Scientific Inquiry (a distant relative), the Brownie forebears sought to make their inquisitive way through Europe, but in doing so made one-too-many exhibits of their explosive charms and thus found themselves expelled from the Old World by its remaining fairies, including the beekeeping Brownies of Cornwall, whose hives had been exploded by a powder-happy member of the Von Brownie clan. The Werner Von Brownie emigrés arrived in the thirteen colonies in plenty of time to observe, with professional detachment, both the rocket’s red glare and the bombs bursting in air (a few of which were their own). The invention of the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, and solid fuel all owe a debt to the Werner Von Brownies’ endless store of explosions. Although they prefer to devote the majority of their time to the space program today, the Brownies are not above taking an evening off to meddle with the fuel propellant in sky rockets at a local fourth of July fireworks display (as anyone who has ever seen an obscene word spelled out in letters of fire two hundred feet tall will tell you).
SPOTTER’S TIPS: Postponed countdowns, unexpected setbacks, unavoidable budgetary overruns, and, of course, huge fireballs, are all indications that the Werner Von Brownies’ program is right on schedule.


  1. burnstyle

    Important notes. Inside of Hermann Park in Houston was a statue of a gnome named ‘Brownie”
    WERNER VON BROWNIE in these illustrations is seen as an engineering nerd, launching a space shuttle, wearing shoes that match the shoes in the front of the book which have a bird logo that is also found in Hermann Park.

  2. Canuck

    George, I respectfully disagree that the shoes are the same because there is no concrete proof of that. The shoes in the WVB image don’t clearly show a bird on them while the shoes in the margins at the beginning of the book don’t show the tops in order to match the buckle on the WVB shoes. The WVB shoes also have pointed toes whereas the shoes in the margins are flat-toed (look more like leather moccasins).
    Where is the proof that they match?


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