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Tag Archive: Art Deco


Review by C.J. Bunce

A great imagination is a rare thing.  Science fiction has always been, at its core, an avenue for writers to express the endless breadth of their imaginations.  In Bradley W. Schenck’s new novel from Tor Books, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Schenck creates a story within a world we’ve never seen before, a world only hinted at in early 20th century pop culture, early pulp novels, and film.  For fans of classic sci-fi and all things retro, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom deftly handles science fiction futurism like rarely seen before.  With the same awe and amazement that readers flocked to the future worlds created by Philip K. Dick in his myriad short stories, readers will be glued to the visuals Schenck introduces here.  Painted with shiny blue enamel and chrome, his details are filled with answers to questions from yesteryear.  Answers to questions about the handling of the day-to-day, the mundane, and the ordinary, in an uncertain world of tomorrow where nothing could possibly be mundane or ordinary.  After all they have ray guns and rockets and use slide rules like we use smart phones.

We’re introduced to Retropolis, its immense size and cities inspired by an Art Deco-era mindset and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, yet a world not at all dark or dreary.  This world is new, big, and bright, as detailed, and as big as the original world audiences discovered in Tron in 1982, but far more developed than the future world we met earlier in Logan’s Run.  Closer to anything else, this is Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland.  The hero is everyman, like Korben Dallas, a Plumber-Adventurer, with all the dash and dazzle of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, whose nemesis is a Bondian villain pulled right out of Moonraker, with an equally vile plan to destroy the world as we know it–or at least as our grandparents might have dreamed it.

Like Metropolis, Schenck delves into the trials of human nature at the personal level in an industrialized world, as he follows a crew of switchboard operators whose jobs appear to have been displaced by robots.  But even the robots of Retropolis are like nothing you’ve seen before.  They are several steps before Replicants, but they are People in an early climb up the ladder toward autonomy.  It’s a 1930s vision, with a 1950s shine, bogged down with 21st century problems.  But don’t think this is a political book–the plight of the humans and the robots merely give credibility and gravity to this exciting and fun reality as a small band of average Retropolitans attempt to save the world from certain doom.  And there’s more–Schenck is not only the author of the novel, but the artist supplying futuristic illustrations of his world, complete with end pages featuring a useful guide to each of the story’s main characters.  With so many books written to drive you to the happening at the end, it’s the whirlwind fun of the ride that will prompt you to slow down and enjoy every word–and not want to finish the book so quickly.  It’s great fun.  Even each chapter has a classic, grand, Saturday morning serial title.

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nordgren-devils-tower-copyright-2015    rocky-mountain-nordgren-2015-copyright

In the short days of winter, even if you are in the city with the imposition of urban skylights, the night sky seems to release a better view of the stars.  Something about the snap of the cold and the clean smell of the air almost lures you to stay outside a little longer when the darkness appears as an almost otherworldly blue.  But how long will we be able to have this kind of view of the universe?  It’s this kind of moment that an astronomer and artist has captured in a series of spectacular posters, promoting educational viewing events at the National Parks.

Dr. Tyler Nordgren, artist, astronomer, photographer, professor, and national parks “Night Sky Ambassador” is one of those multifaceted people who shares his knowledge with others, giving us all an appreciation for the world around us, and beyond.  His 2012 poster series first spread in a colorful and compelling way word of ranger naturalist programs at the U.S. National Parks Service, including the solar eclipse.  Dr. Nordgren created a series of retro-style travel posters beginning in 2005 exploring a “what if” of planetary travel referring to a “United Nations Department of the Exterior.”  His 2014 Milky Way “Half the Park is After Dark” posters stand out as uniquely magical.  All feature a blue and white color scheme, a national park location, and a constellation or star view visible overhead.  Although they immediately recall–and were inspired by–the famous Art Deco Works Progress Administration and Department of the Interior posters from the 1930s-1940s discussed previously here at borg.com, his 44 designs form their own museum gallery of wonder.

Print    Print

Dr. Nordgren’s latest project?  The August 21, 2017, solar eclipse.  According to Dr. Nordgren, “Every single man, woman and child in North America will be in the shadow of the moon together on that day and never before has a total solar eclipse passed over such a densely populated country for over 2000 miles.” Dr. Nordgren has created a new set of poster images, featuring 22 designs of varying style influences, each highlighting the total solar eclipse coming this year on August 21–not to appear again until April 8, 2024.  As the appropriately themed mod style poster for Oregon declares, this will be the first such eclipse since 1979.  Dr. Nordgren’s Willamette Valley design evokes those colorful fruit crate labels used throughout the early and mid-20th century.

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grand_tour    Mars Tour NASA

Our all-time favorite retro poster art can be found in the classic Art Deco Works Progress Administration posters issued in the 1930s-1940s and discussed previously at borg.com here and here.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has just released fourteen posters that look to the designs of the past to create a vision of our future that might inspire young scientists to make that future happen.  As said by to NASA:

Imagination is our window into the future.  At NASA/JPL we strive to be bold in advancing the edge of possibility so that someday, with the help of new generations of innovators and explorers, these visions of the future can become a reality.  As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future.

NASA travelogue poster set

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory commissioned Seattle design firm Invisible Creature for a 2016 “Visions Of The Future” calendar that will be given to NASA staff, scientists, engineers, and government officials.  In conjunction with this release JPL released beautiful, high quality digital copies of each month’s artwork for free download, for anyone to use as wallpaper or to print as full-sized posters.

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PF&A 6   PF&A 5

This weekend Disney released some new posters advertising the sequel to its popular animated film Planes, titled Planes: Fire & Rescue.  Taking on an entirely new look, these new posters are pretty stunning.  Inspired by well-known Art Deco posters from the National Park Service and Department of the Interior from the 1930s and 1940s that we discussed previously at borg.com here, we think these are better than any special limited Mondo edition posters we’ve seen.  Click on each image for a detailed view.

PF&A 1   PF&A 4

Planes was the DisneyToons Studios spin-off of the Disney-Pixar Cars franchise.  Planes: Fire & Rescue Art director Toby Wilson was responsible for the revisiting the National Parks classic era imagery, derived from the famous Works Progress Administration project posters that were re-printed and sold at U.S. National Parks in the 1990s.  Well done!

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IMAX 1201 banner

At the 12:01 a.m. IMAX premiere screening of Marvel’s Iron Man 3, on May 3, 2013, IMAX will be giving away limited edition Mondo Iron Man 3 prints.  The artwork, created by Detective Comics and Green Arrow: Year One comic book artist Jock, is a collaboration between Marvel Studios, IMAX, and Mondo, the Austin, Texas-based limited edition poster company.  According to Walt Disney Studios, owner of the Marvel properties, the Iron Man 3 print will be the last entry in the IMAX 12:01 poster series–a series that began in 2012 with alternate poster concepts to promote the films.  No idea what a Mondo poster is?  They are only released in limited editions and tend to sell out fast, and are created by a myriad of artists.  Here is the Iron Man 3 poster to be given away in this last IMAX 12:01 giveaway:

Iron Man 3 1201 print

Prior IMAX 12:01 posters have been created for Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Real Steel, John Carter of Mars, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Amazing Spider-man, The Avengers, Frankenweenie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Prometheus.  One of the best of these fantasy/sci-fi throwback designs was created for Oblivion:

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