One of the most memorable cosplayers I saw at NYCC was a “steampunk Iron Man” who was walking around the Marvel booth. When G-Man pointed my attention to a steampunk R2-D2 that’s popped up online, it got us both thinking about how the steampunk genre’s experiencing a bit of a craze in these circles, right now. Haven’t we been seeing a lot of steampunk versions of heroes lately?
Me, myself… I first became aware of the genre through Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo’s eponymous (and superlative) series, STEAMPUNK. Anybody who’s a fan of the genre would do well to go pick up the trades of that series, as it’s a serious tour du force for this kind of thing. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t been able to finish the series; so I can only hope that the new popularity of the genre will allow the story to be finished.
That comic came out about ten years ago, but the genre’s been around since the 80s, at least. NUEROMANCER author William Gibson’s novel, THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE, is arguably the most seminal example - - the term “steampunk” itself is a riff on the “cyberpunk” genre he pioneered. And, of course, less self-aware predecessors can be found in the likes of the WILD, WILD WEST TV show and Jules Vernes’ novels (which would’ve just been called plain science fiction at the time.)
But, getting back on point…. Why? Where’s in the interest in these alternate versions come from? Would these characters be any different if they existed in such a bygone, anachronistic era? == TEASER ==
I think the answer’s a combination of fashion and tension. Men and woman had a lot more license to accessorize in this time - - be it with monocles, corsets, vests, umbrellas or even wild facial hair. It’s a distinct look that we don’t have as much freedom to enjoy today, so it's naturally exotic. Also, I think the milieu has an inherently greater sense of danger and, thus, excitement. A steam-powered Iron Man is probably going to run out of fuel or break a gear while battling a coal-powered Crimson Dynamo - - and he isn't going to be able to call anybody on his cell phone for help.And so are my thoughts on the matter. If you're into this aesthetic, how about you enjoy some anachronistic visions of Iron Man, Batman and the JLA I found...?