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Steampunk and Dieselpunk Superheroes

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The rise of retrofuturism has introduced a fantastical new line with the DC Bombshells -- heroines without the men, all set in World War II. Their aesthetic and clever adaptation mirrors the best of steampunk rewriting. There's also Gotham by Gaslight, JLA: Age of Wonder, The Golden Age, Batman: Leatherwing, Batman/Houdini, and more. Marvel has offered their own retellings, in the alt-Battleworld, with J. Michael Straczynski's Golden Age-style The Twelve, and with even earlier fantasies back to 1602: Witchhunter Angela. Who's doing it right, and how steampunk are these stories?
(Presented at Clockwork Alchemy, May 28 2016, San Jose, CA)

Published in: Entertainment & Humor
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Steampunk and Dieselpunk Superheroes

  1. 1. Steampunk Superheroes AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
  2. 2. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen •The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a comic book series by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (1999). According to Moore, the concept behind the series was initially a "Justice League of Victorian England." •The film arrived in 2003. It was even more “superhero” style, with heightened powers and more young characters like Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray. Allan Quatermain (played by star Sean Connery) was elevated to the central character over Mina, much as the X-Men series focused on Wolverine. In this and especially in its advertising it cleaved close to the new X-Men franchise.
  3. 3. Legenderry • Dynamite Entertainment’s Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure (2013) by Bill Willingham (Fables) teams up The Phantom, Vampirella, The Green Hornet, Flash Gordon, Red Sonja, Zorro, and others in a steampunk setting.
  4. 4. Girl Genius • Kaja Foglio and Phil Foglio created the genius inventor with her many gadgets. Agatha Heterodyne discovers she has magical powers of invention in a world ruled by the tyrannical Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and his rather attractive son Gilgamesh. These powers link her with the legendary swashbucklers of the past, as she discovers her heritage piece by piece. Girl Genius is an ongoing "gaslamp fantasy" in web comics/ graphic novels and a series of prose novels. At the end of December 2013, the comic was over 1650 pages in length.
  5. 5. Lady Mechanika • Lady Mechanika is a top PI with a set of pistols. A detective of the supernatural, the lady is more than a little mystical herself. Part human and part machine, she has no concept of the past that made her this way. She was created in 2010 by Joe Benitez and Peter Steigerwald for an original series with Aspen publishers.
  6. 6. Athena Voltaire • From APE Entertainment, she reads like a female Indiana Jones, battling Nazis and their Thule Society for artifacts in the 1930s. A widowed stunt-pilot, sharpshot, and fencer from Hollywood, she’s formidable in this delightful pulp comic. • In Flight of the Falcon, she quests for the secrets of the hollow Earth and a lost race of super-mortals. • Writer/Artist/Creator: Steve Bryant. Writer: Paul Daly. 2006. 2 Eisner Award nominations. Kickstarter to create more.
  7. 7. More Indies • The Jekyll Island Chronicles: Created by Steve Nedvidek, Ed Crowell, and Jack Lowe, and released by IDW Publishing, this comic features Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford who recruit a strongman with mechanical legs, an elctro-woman, an ace pilot of a steam-powered warplane, and a Tuskegee cryptologist, as they combat the rising threat of Anarchists. • The Five Fists of Science: A steampunk graphic novel by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders (2006, Image Comics) • The Steam Engines of Oz crossover
  8. 8. Janus Stark • The Incredible Adventures of Janus Stark, a British comic strip by Tom Tully and Francisco Solano López ran in the British magazine Smash 1969-1971. It featured a Victorian escapologist using his powers to battle crime. • His bizarrely rubbery bones made him similar to Reed Richards, especially in how he was drawn.
  9. 9. TV • Adam Adamant Lives! ran 1966 to 1967 on BBC. It starred an Edwardian swashbuckler played by Gerald Harper who fought crime and solved mysteries. Frozen in stasis since the turn of the century, he teamed up with a modern young woman and butler to solve modern crimes.
  10. 10. Novels • The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam, #1) by Andrew P. Mayer • The Girl in the Steel Corset
  11. 11. DC Comics: Elseworlds • Gotham by Gaslight (1989) is a DC Comics one-shot by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola, with inks by P. Craig Russell. A sequel followed, Master of the Future (1991), also written by Augustyn, but with drawings by Eduardo Barreto. This was the first Elseworlds story, a logical channel for Steampunk
  12. 12. JLA: Age of Wonder • DC's Elseworlds series has Superman land in Kansas in the 1850s and emerge on the world stage at the 1876 Centennial Exposition
  13. 13. Civil War and Turn of the Century • Batman: The Golden Streets of Gotham Turn-of- the-century Gotham is full of greedy industrialists so railroad worker Bruno Vaneko dons a bat costume and joins a citywide strike. • The Batman of Arkham (2000) - Set in 1900, Bruce Wayne is head of Arkham Asylum. • Superman: A Nation Divided Superman as a Union soldier • Steel Annual #1 - "Crucible of Freedom" - John Henry Irons as a plantation slave fighting for his family's freedom. • Green Lantern: Evil's Might New York City 1888. • Justice Riders (1997) - The JLI as a team of marshals, gamblers, inventors, etc. in the Wild West.
  14. 14. Batman/Houdini and Wonder Woman vs Jack the Ripper • A 1993 Elseworlds one-shot narrated by Houdini: They meet at a séance and discover something supernatural is happening in 1907 Gotham. He brings up Batman's comparatively poor lock picking and escapology skills, though Houdini teaches him. • Wonder Woman: Amazonia
  15. 15. Batman 1600-1800 • Let’s make Batman a pirate! In Leatherwing, he works for James II, putting this in the 1680s. Robin Redblade, Capitana Felina, and the trusty Alfredo…Batman's ship, the Flying Fox is a reference to Zorro • Batman: Reign of Terror in the French Revolution makes him a French nobleman and masked crimefighter, like The Scarlet Pimpernel. • Batman Annual #18 - "Black Masterpiece" - Leonardo da Vinci's apprentice uses his master's hang-glider design and fights crime.
  16. 16. 20s and 30s • Batman/Tarzan: Claws of the Cat- woman Batman/Tarzan 30s teamup • Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham by Mike Mignola involves fighting Lovecraftian monsters in the 1920s • Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle Guess who’s raised by apes? • Superman: War of the Worlds: the Martian invaders from H. G. Wells in 1938. • Elseworld's Finest: Batman and Superman in a 1920s pulp adventure
  17. 17. Frankenstein • DC Elseworlds • In 1819 Bruce Wayne revives his father from the dead, paralleling Frankenstein (both novel and Boris Karloff film). He clothes him in a bat costume, but is tormented as his creation menaces the countryside. This emphasizes the Batman vs Bruce struggle, now making it external. • Philosophy student and scientist Vicktor Luthor revives Kal-El. His new creation learns ethics and fights to bring him to justice as they fight over the heroine Eloise.
  18. 18. Batman Does Classic Gothic • Batman: Masque retells the Phantom of the Opera, with Batman and Two-Face in the Phantom role. • Batman: Two Faces (1998) - A recasting of Jekyll and Hyde, as a Victorian era Bruce Wayne tries to purge his own evil side, a version of The Joker, and that of Two- Face. • The Batman and Dracula trilogy "perhaps the finest written [Elseworlds story] to date" and "flawless in its execution." • JLA: The Island of Dr. Moreau Set in the 1880s, the League is combined with Dr. Moreau's animal-men.
  19. 19. DC Comics • DC Bombshells is currently doing World War II retro reenvisionings, with no men. This was based around statuettes in cool costumes.
  20. 20. DC Comics: Steampunk Variant Covers
  21. 21. DC Comics: Cosplay • There’s too much cosplay and fanart to list, all over the web.
  22. 22. Marvel Comics: Cosplay • DC Bombshells is currently doing World War II retro reenvisionings, with no men. This was based around statuettes in cool costumes.
  23. 23. X-Men’s Logan • Logan, from X-Men, goes back this far. Born in Alberta, Canada during the late 19th Century, James Howlett was a frail child, the son of rich landowners. When his friend Dog Logan, abused son of the groundskeeper, was expelled from the estate, Dog’s father then attacked James’ parents. Shocked as he is, James erupts with claws and more tragedy follows. This backstory, divulged in Wolverine: Origins, reveals him as a Victorian hero. Hilariously, in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men: Torn, he reverts to the Victorian fop he might have been.
  24. 24. Marvel’s Runaways: • Joss Whedon’s six-part story arc in the Marvel comic Runaways, “Dead End Kids,” took them back to 1907, meeting runaways, heroes, and villains in three different New York teams. The Runaways are the children of a team of supervillains who delighted readers by sounding like real teens: Nico Minoru can do magic through her mystical Staff of One. Molly Hayes (codenamed Bruiser and Princess Powerful) is nine but has Hulk-like superstrength. Chase Stein (codenamed Talkback) has technological prowess from his mad-scientist parents. Karolina Dean (Lucy in the Sky) discovers she is an alien with the powers of flight and light manipulation. Victor Mancha, the son of Ultron, can control electromagnetism, and Xavin, an alien Skrull, changes shape (and is in a lesbian relationship with Karolina). They recruit a 1907 adolescent, Klara Prast, but must deal with her horror at lesbianism, even while expressing their own at her abusive marriage.
  25. 25. Marvel: The Twelve J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston in 2008 created The Twelve: 40s heroes from Timely Comics frozen by the Nazis and awakened in modern times to a new world. The contrast gives it a delightful retro aesthetic and comments on how morals and heroism have changed.
  26. 26. Marvel: Battleworld • Battleworld was assembled by The Beyonder, who used parts of different planets to create a battlefield for the heroes and villains of Earth. • Valley of Doom (1872, Wild West) • King James; England 1602: Witch Hunter Angela Created by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert, Marvel 1602 was a series that asked, “What If Marvel’s heroic age began in the age of exploration?” So we get The Fantastick Four, Peter Parquagh, and more. • Noir Spider-Man, X-Men, Daredevil
  27. 27. Agent Carter
  28. 28. Discover More about Superheroes

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