Years ago, I reviewed a little marvelous book I had chanced upon and loved: How to Be a Villain by Neil Zawacki. It’s hilarious, the art is brilliant (very 1960s atompunk) and sure to put a smile on your face, whether you aspire to be an evil overlord or not.
The first volume’s artist, James Dignan, does not return for the sequel, but the art of Bill Brown is very similar and definitely not of lesser quality.
The Villain’s Guide to Better Living will tell you all you need to know about the homes of different types of evildoers. From (olde world) vampires to mad scientists and everything in between, there are many hilarious tips and tricks, magazine-like quizzes (gotta make sure you get that interior right!) and art as funny as the writing.
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For a while, the Soviet Union was ahead in the Space Race. It launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space in 1961. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space two years later.
These early victories spurred the United States into action. President John F. Kennedy set a goal of putting an American on the Moon before 1970. NASA, created by his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, received massive funding. The Apollo program succeeded while the Soviet space program languished. Following the 1969 Moon landing, both sides returned their attention to Earth.
What if they hadn’t? What if the American program had failed and the Soviet Union had continued its exploration of — and expansion into — space?
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Andrei Sokolov was one of the most prolific Russian space artists. He worked closely with cosmonauts, in particular his friend Alexei Leonov, to make sure his depictions were realistic. Some of his works were carried into space aboard the 1971 Soyuz 11 mission and later transferred to the Salyut space station.
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Robert Theodore McCall (1919-2010) was an iconic illustrator of the Space Age. He created concept art for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and was hired by NASA to document the history of the Space Race.
He also painted many scenes of what the future of space exploration might look like.
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An American military base on the Moon, defended by nuclear grenade launchers. If that doesn’t sound like an atomicpunk fantasy, I don’t know what does.
Except it was a real plan.
A 1959 feasibility study, codenamed Project Horizon, argued for a lunar outpost, manned by about a dozen soldiers, to keep the Moon out of Soviet hands.
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Last month, we listed the most fabulous vehicles of Thunderbirds, the 1960s marionette science-fiction show about the Tracy family and their International Rescue organization, set in the 2060s.
International Rescue is headquartered on a remote island in the South Pacific, the most recognizable location of the franchise. But the Thunderbirds visited plenty of other fabulous locations, from Lady Penelope’s Australian ranch to the Paradise Peaks Hotel, high up in the Alps, to Cape Kennedy.
Let’s take a trip around the word of Thunderbirds!
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In late 1949, the Soviet Union claimed to have detonated a nuclear device to blow up a mountain range and start the reversal of two mighty rivers in Siberia: the Ob and the Yenisei.
The goal, Life magazine reported at the time, was to turn the arid desert of what is now Kazakhstan into a “pastoral landscape”.
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From Deutschland 83 to HBO’s Chernobyl, “Ostalgie” — which is what the Germans call nostalgia for the communist era — has become a trend in period and alternate-history fiction.
There are many variations of this. There is “Yugo-nostalgia” in the former Yugoslavia, Soviet nostalgia in Russia, and “Communist chic” in the West.
Here is an overview of the best productions.
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Fail Safe (1964) accomplishes a lot with very little. Almost the entire movie is shot on just four sets. There is no score. Many of the shots are closeups, which feels appropriate to the crisis atmosphere. The movie succeeds because it has a solid plot and solid acting from such actors as Henry Fonda, Dan O’Herlihy, Walter Matthau and Frank Overton.
Fail Safe was compared unfavorably to Dr. Strangelove when it first came out (a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis). Both show how a nuclear war might happen accidentally between the Soviet Union and the United States. Strangelove is superior, but, judged on its merits, Fail Safe is a strong entry in the Cold War genre.
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Justin Van Genderen is an American graphic designer, who Space Age-style illustrations draw on movies like Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey for inspiration.
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