The 19XX is a dieselpunk webcomic that updates with two pages every other Wednesday. It relates the adventures of a secret group commissioned by the League of Nations after the Great War to scour the globe to find magic artifacts, undiscovered superweapons, and dangerous magic spells before the next war. Drawn by a web designer named, as far as I can tell, “Kopetkai,” it’s just plain oodles of fun.
The “About the Comic” page tells it thusly:
Not long after the end of the Great War, those who were capable of hearing it, received a revelation… another Great War was coming…
…A weak League of Nations banded together to form a group. A group capable of doing what those countries could not. A group of adventurers, explorers, and scientists from every allied country to search the globe and fight a battle far from the public eye. This group is The 19XX, all the public has been told is that they are fighting for all of the good in humanity to survive the nineteen hundreds and beyond.
Their mission is to track down every powerful relic, every modern and undiscovered weapon, and every magic incantation ever uttered on the earth’s crust, because the forces of evil responsible for the next Great War would be searching for the very same thing. Nothing in the realm of the tangible or intangible is off limits when the fate of the entire world is at stake.
Because comics and pulp fiction were where the really wonderful adventures of the late ’20s and the ’30s were happening, to my mind, comics are the place where this genre belongs. Like the genre overall, 19XX brings in an overall Art Deco look and gorgeous influences from places like TinTin and German Expressionism.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “dieselpunk” is the interbellum (1920-1940) version of “steampunk.” It’s a term for modern science fiction that memorializes previous dreams of the future. Instead of spinning off from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, dieselpunk is spun off of 1920s and 1930s adventure pulp, with science fiction and fantasy elements out of Doc Savage, The Shadow and Buck Rogers, with some Weimar-era Germanic and Hindu mysticism thrown in.
If you need an example, the first three Indiana Jones films were probably, because of the fantasy elements in each story, dieselpunk, though really only peripherally. Those aside, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was the best promoted (not to mention most ham-handed and inexpert, if you ask me) attempt yet to realize a purely dieselpunk vision on the screen. Disney’s film The Rocketeer was, to my mind, much more successful, and in fact it’s based on a comic as well. It bombed at the box office — ahead of its time?
Damn straight it’s ahead of its time — it’s all ahead of its time. It’s as ahead of its time as a Super Proton Spazzer Ray mounted on a Henderson.