The legacy of Frank Herbert’s Dune has stretched across many different media and iterations over the nearly 50 years since the novel’s original publication. David Lynch’s film version is divisive at best, the Sci-Fi Channel’s miniseries adaptations were well done but remain obscure, and the road not traveled of director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted film version has become the subject of an acclaimed documentary. But one incarnation that might never have hit your radar was a collectible card game put out during the mid ’90s. And it’s a collection worth revisiting, because the games artwork was flat-out beautiful.
Do people still send postcards back home? Is that still a thing or has it officially faded into obsolescence, the sort of thing kids these days would be befuddled by, like wrist watches or using a pencil to fix an unwound cassette tape? Even if so, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who collect the things, since they are by definition artistic, and some of them can sport some genuinely beautiful work. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years, it’s that the only thing more relaxing than a day at the beach is a day at the beach accompanied by the assembled might of the Empire.
I’ll fully concede, “papercraft” was not even a thing that was anywhere on my radar, but if you’d asked me about it I would probably have assumed you meant origami or maybe some nice collage work. These papercraft creations by DeviantArtist TankBall are on a whole other level, one significantly above the little paper dude with the erection Gaff made in Blade Runner. Honestly, part of me doesn’t even want to know how these things were made; I’d rather treat it like a magic trick, just sit back and be impressed. It doesn’t hurt that TankBall has replicated two characters from my favorite game series of all time, and indeed one of my favorite science fictional things of all time, Mass Effect.
As the father of a pair of young lads, I think a lot about their education. There’s so much to teach a child, after all, it’s almost overwhelming to think about where to start. Should I introduce Star Trek or Star Wars first? (Too late: they’re already hooked on Clone Wars.) Are they old enough to be properly traumatized by Labyrinth or Return to Oz? Is it too soon to assign Have Space Suit Will Travel as homework? (I should probably wait until they can read.) Now a pair of artists have made my job just a little bit easier when it comes to raising up my little geeklings, courtesy of a pair of rather awesome variations on that old chestnut, the alphabet.
First up is the “Ultimate Pop Culture ABC’s,” created by Los Angeles artist/illustrator Jeff Victor. It’s your basic riff on the whole “A is for apple” concept, but with some much more fun examples. I really love Victor’s style, particularly his top-heavy rendition of Khan below, which actually manages to look less like his pectorals are about to explode in cartoon form than Ricardo Montalban did in live action. Also, kudos also for going with a less-obvious choice than “Transformer” or “Thundercat” when it came time to pick the T entry.
The more we learn about our universe, the more marvelous and overwhelming it is. The cosmos is of such unfathomable size, full of such bewildering variety, it seems that no matter how much we learn about it, there will always be more to explore. And while manned spaceflight isn’t in 2014 where I hoped it would be when I was younger, I’m still awed by the images and information sent back by Curiosity on Mars, by the Cassini mission to Saturn, and by Voyager 1, out beyond the fringe of our solar system. Still, the universe as we know it now remains full of wonders, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic for the early days when we didn’t know nearly as much, and when pulp science fiction imagined a solar system replete with life on every world and moon trekking around our sun. If you want a beautiful vision of that dreamed-of solar system, you need look no further than these images by pulp artist Frank R. Paul.