Kickstarter: Retropolis Rocket Ship

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_ImageBradley W. Schenck, developer of the now-ubiquitous Pulp-o-miser, has launched another Kickstarter project – this time offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at his 3D-based artwork.

Retropolis Rocket Ship preview

Focused around a new piece, apparently entitled Retropolis Rocket Ship (at least for now), this fundraising effort will offer fans of his work the chance to own limited edition, numbered prints of a work whose creation is to be documented in video. Schenck is also offering a range of Retropolis merchandise, and the opportunity for backers to create their own Pulp-o-miser titles.

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Mariangela Melato Dies

General KalaThere’s been sad news this week, with the news that Italian actress Mariangela Melato – best known to us for her portrayal of General Kala in Dino De Laurentiis’ Flash Gordon – has died as a result of pancreatic cancer aged 71. As The Guardian‘s own obituary puts it:

She won international cult status for three films directed by Lina Wertmüller in which she co-starred with Giancarlo Giannini: The Seduction of Mimi (1972), Love and Anarchy (1973) and Swept Away (1974), in all of which the controversial Wertmüller mixed sex and politics.

Having known so little about her work, I am in no way qualified to write my own obituary – but I’m sure that I’m not alone in being saddened by the loss of an actress who left us such a thoroughly iconic performance. After all, who out there doesn’t know the line:
“What do you mean, Flash Gordon approaching?”

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Rocketeer Reboot?

Theatrical release poster for “The Rocketeer” in 1991

Sci-fi and geek culture website IO9 has caught an early whiff of what could be this decade’s answer to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, with a rumour that Disney may reboot The Rocketeer.

I confess that I know very little about The Rocketeer beyond what I’ve seen in trailers and in fanart hereabouts, and when it’s compared to the Conran brothers’ adventure tale of rayguns, robots and a rocket bound for a new Earth, it’s arguably more subtle in its raypunk tone. As we saw in Captain America, however, this can still result in a thoroughly entertaining piece of work – and as IO9’s Meredith Woerner says, it’s likely that this Marvel piece is being taken as a proof.

From what I can tell, The Rocketeer is a thoroughly art deco-influenced story of a Howard Hughes-made jetpack and the pilot who accidentally finds it before mobsters deliver it to a Nazi secret agent. The jetpack is seen as key to the war effort, but as you can guess, it makes a hero instead in the form of pilot, Cliff Secord.

You can view the trailer for 1991’s The Rocketeer (starring Billy Campbell) below:

As for what this could mean: a Disney reboot in this day and age could spawn a whole heap of art deco-themed excitement, and while there’s nary a raygun to be seen so far, jetpacks and evil empires are rich pickings indeed for a nice slice of raypunk hype. I shall be keeping a keen ear out for developments over the next couple of years.

Tabletop Combat with Hydra Miniatures

I think it was Wes Herbst who brought this to my attention some time ago, but I see that quite recently, Hydra Miniatures has come to British shores. So, in the hopes of making up for lost time, I thought I’d draw interested eyes towards this growing tabletop collection.

Hydra Miniatures is a US-based producer of pulp-inspired wargames sets, with ranges including spaceships and prehistoric monsters. To quote their website:

We feel the market is flooded with Tolkienesque fantasy miniatures—orcs, dwarves, and elves. The same goes for sci-fi bodybuilder commandoes in power armor fighting H.R. Giger-inspired xenomorphs. Frankly, we’re sick of it. And who needs yet another miniatures company creating the same thing you’ve seen a hundred times? Our mission is to break away from these clichés and create never before seen figures that no one else is doing. Figures that fire your imagination and inspire you to new gaming possibilities.

All their sets have an element of pulp to them, but raypunk tastes draw us to the Retro Raygun and War Rocket sets. Without having bought or seen any of these pieces myself, I can’t actually speak for how the game plays, but one of the joy of tabletop lays in simply appreciating the figures:

Hydra’s president and chief sculptor is Matt Beauchamp, with Scott Francek contributing to the product sculptures. Theirs is a US-based, online retail venture, but as I’ve mentioned, Hydra Miniatures are now stocked in Britain too, at Wargames Emporium of Sheffield and Mansfield.

Individual figures start at around £3/$4 each for Retro Raygun, and £5/$6.95 for War Rocket. There’s also a rule book for War Rocket, priced at £18, though curiously none listed for the infantry series, which are $18 direct from Hydra.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

I recently had the pleasure of watching this, one of the more recent entries in Marvel’s Avengers Assemble series of films. While on the face of it, this film – about a man who’s heroic beyond his diminutive appearance – is not an obviously raypunk one, I found it shared many of the values of the genre, and a passing similarity to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I wouldn’t dare to review the film in the proper, critical manner, but I thought I might explore those parts where raypunk ideals and technology seemed to come to the fore.

Things start in earnest at an echo of the 1938 World’s Fair in New York:

This exposition gives Steve Rogers his chance to enter the war he so longs to stand for, but it also exposes the world to a dazzling array of scientific endeavours and ideals, punctuated by a futuristic monorail. We even have a glimpse of flying cars, courtesy of Howard Stark – father of Tony Stark, later Iron Man. I recently included some further visual examples from this show over on Raypunk Wonders, the sister-blog to this ‘site.

The U.S. Army’s contribution to this fair is essentially a recruitment tent, but it allows Rogers to join an initiative which boldly embraces unfamiliar technology, in an effort to combat evil and to further human development. The fight may be in Europe rather than in space, but where dials, Vita-Rays and strange alchemy are concerned, I’d say we’re still pretty firmly in raypunk territory.

Contrasted with this are the efforts of the Red Skull, Johann Schmidt, who’s taken to bolstering the efforts of his Hydra army using found, alien devices. In typical raypunk style, we are never told what a Tasseract (formerly known as a cosmic cube, in the comics) is or how it works – only that it produces boundless amounts of energy. It’s capable of powering vast aircraft and sleek submarines, but is also rife for weaponising, in the form of potent disintegration rays. Schmidt boldly claims that he has unlocked the science behind myth, and it is soon up to Captain America to put a stop to his schemes.

Ultimately what we have in this film is a hero brave enough to go up against science itself, pushing human ideals in the face of a would-be dictator, who stands as head of a vast war machine. The aesthetic is familiar, with a focus on art deco and streamline, gilded in neon blue. The action is well-grounded, too; fists and a sturdy shield are all this hero has, and all he needs to go up against a devastating armoury of death rays and aircraft. Admittedly it is not often that an organisation as powerful as the U.S. Army is painted as the “-punk” protagonists, but in that, I believe Captain America is essentially the infantry version of Col. Dan Dare, ace pilot and explorer.

I recommend the film heartily, on its own merits and as one of the more gripping chapters in this lead up to Avengers Assemble. It also makes fun viewing from an aesthetic viewpoint, for the reasons I’ve already laid out, and its music – composed by Alan Silvestri – stands as a bold soundtrack, reminiscent of Edward Shearmur’s work on the aforementioned Sky Captain.

For more visuals from the film (which are worth far more than my wittering), be sure to check out Raypunk Wonders, whose queue has a decidedly ‘Marvel-esque’ theme to it for the next few days. If you have any recommendations for raypunk films, or reviews of your own which you’d like to submit as guest blogs, please do get in touch!