"The future was a chrome-trimmed triangular window in the front of dad's car, and it had its own knob to open it up. The future was a hamburger under a light fixture that looked like an atom. The future was going to be awesome.""Welcome to THE WORLD OF* TOMORROW!" Raygun Gothic is a ubiquitous aesthetic of early- and mid-20th century Science Fiction, roughly from Metropolis to Star Trek: The Original Series. Raygun Gothic architecture is modeled after Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and/or Populuxe (aka Googie). Everything is slick and streamlined, with geometric shapes and clean parallel lines constructed of shiny metal and glass, lit prominently by neon. Sweeping curves, parabolas, and acute angles are used to suggest movement — movement into The Future. And of course, futuristic fancy-pants technology of the future is ubiquitous. Ray Guns, jet packs, flying cars, Video Phones, Space Clothes, atomic-powered everything, cigar-shaped Retro Rockets and other Shiny-Looking Spaceships, and "electronic brains" capable of calculating complex equations in mere minutes, all decorated with little blinking lights that don't really serve any purpose (but they sure look futuristic!). This is the bright, optimistic vision of The Future that, until sometime in the mid-1960s, the Western world believed was just around the corner. Our failure to make these dreams a reality means that works featuring Raygun Gothic are highly prone to Zeerust. Retro-Futurism is a Genre Throwback to this vision. Stick "Atomic Power" logos on everything, (as well as perhaps slide the scale a bit to the "cynical" side) and you've got Atom Punk. The Mad Scientist Laboratory and Spaceship are among the most commonly used locations in a Raygun Gothic setting. The most commonly used monsters tend to be nuclear mutants and aliens in general. The only thing that could possibly look more futuristic is Crystal Spires and Togas. See also Zeerust, Weird Science, and Retro Rocket. Contrast with Diesel Punk, Used Future, Cassette Futurism and Everything Is an iPod in the Future. Now of course, while it's true that Technology Marches On, it's also true that the Aesthetics Of Technology will always be basically arbitrary. These days, Everything Is an iPod in the Future because that's the current popular design aesthetic. It will certainly change in time, and who's to say that Art Deco might not come back into fashion one day? Look at the nostalgic design of cars like the Mini-Cooper. Not to be confused with Warhammer 40,000, which is just Gothic with rayguns.
— James Lileks, The Bleat, October 31, 2008
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Anime and Manga
- Giant Robo: Although the OAV was produced in the early 90s, it retains the look and feel of the 60s manga it was based on.
- Project Blue Earth SOS
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Space definitely has a Raygun Gothic feel.
- Cyborg 009 has shades of this, mainly in the Cyborgs' uniforms and their rayguns.
- Astro Boy: Is the one of the first anime to use this aesthetic.
- Space Dandy is a humorous send-up to this era of sci-fi.
- Zot!, who lives in the far-flung future year of 1965. Note that Zot! began publication in 1984.
- Several DC Comics characters who live in between the present era and the Crystal Spires and Togas era of the Legion of Super-Heroes, including Tommy Tomorrow and the Planeteers, the Knights of the Galaxy, Ultra the Multi-Alien, Space Ranger, and Space Cabbie. Adam Strange does this in present time.
- Adam Strange appeared in some Starman comics and fit in very well because the title already had a certain Raygun Gothic aesthetic.
- Warren Ellis's Ignition City.
- Dan Dare.
- Weird Science by EC Comics had a lot of streamlined rocketships and cool futuristic tech, especially Wally Wood's work.
- Flashbacks to Krypton in the Superman comics from the Golden Age through most of the Bronze Age maintained this look.
- The Silver Age Fantastic Four stories often have several Ray Gun Gothic elements.
- This cover◊ of Katy Keene shows her wearing sci-fi themed outfits, the middle one even having a green Showgirl Skirt.
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen takes place in a parallel universe where all fiction is true, so the aesthetics of the world shift in every time period to match the aesthetics of that time period's pop culture. Appropriately, the first two volumes (which take place in the late Victorian era) have a pronounced Steampunk vibe, whereas the standalone graphic novel The Black Dossier (which shifts the action to the 1950s) changes this to Raygun Gothic.
- Magnus Robot Fighter, both the Silver Age original and (at least in the beginning) the 1990's revival. More recent revivals have averted this.
- Mike Baron and Steve Rude's Nexus is an interesting example, since Steve Rude has always said his two biggest artistic influences are Space Ghost and Dr. Seuss.
- Notably, Nexus and Magnus once had a Crossover.
- Jonni Future from Tom Strong strongly embodies the Raygun Gothic aesthetic.
- Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire has a lovely Zeerust feel to it, and was published "late in the 20th century".
- Despite its horror trappings, Solar City and much of the world that Halloween Man takes place in has this style to it.
- Spoofed and homaged in Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space with Captain Proton tracking down a Tesla doomsday device in the far-flung future of 2009 with its jetpacks, flying cars, domed cities and vast electronic superbrains, not to mention inconceivable marvels like mobile telephones, interstate highways, automatic sliding doors, artificial satellites, and weapons of mass destruction.
- The Fifth Element is a weird fusion of this trope and Cyber Punk.
- Used in the Star Wars prequel trilogy: The Naboo space fleet and the architecture of Coruscant are modeled after this, while the Republic space fleet morphs over time into the blocky, Used Future Imperial fleet.
- The Necromonger fleet from The Chronicles of Riddick is a much darker interpretation of this aesthetic.
- Star Trek: The Original Series was always very much this way, although the 2009 reboot combines it with the aesthetics of an iPod and looks every bit as cool (or trite, depending on your perspective) as that implies.
- Men in Black had the same idea as the above example interestingly just a few years before the iPod was even developed. It could be justified in that the MiB was formed in the mid-1950s in which this aesthetic was in at the time.
- Anton Furst's designs for Gotham City for the 1989 Batman film have some elements of this.
- Like the source material, the Flash Gordon movie is full of this; unlike the original, it is one of the first entirely conscious uses of the trope. Of note is that the Cool Airship Ajax is referred to by the delightfully old-timey title of "war rocket". Also note that Zarkov's rocket, built on Earth, does NOT invoke this trope, at least in comparison to the ships of Mongo.
- Zathura takes place in more or less present day, but the magical board game of the same name is most definitely Raygun Gothic.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a funny corner case. It's set in an alternate-universe version of the 1930's, so it's often cited as an example of Diesel Punk, but the aesthetics and optimistic worldview are much closer to Raygun Gothic.
- The villains in J-Men Forever are all about this, especially the Lightning Bug baby!
- Bedtime Stories: The final story Skeeter and the kids make up together is set in a futuristic space arena very much adhering to this trope
- The Martians from Mars Attacks! seem to covet this style.
- The Trope Namer, William Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum", is about a freelance photographer hired to take pictures of buildings inspired by this aesthetic, who either slowly finds himself being sucked into an alternate timeline where it was all Canon or is hallucinating the whole thing.
- Gibson's story refers to Hugo Gernsback, the "Father of Science Fiction," who founded the first science fiction magazine, created science fiction fandom (by encouraging readers who wrote to him to interact with each other directly), wrote very early examples of the genre, such as Ralph 124C 41+, and coined the term "Scientifiction."
- Gernsback's Amazing Stories, John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction, and other classic pulp Speculative Fiction magazines.
- The cover art of many of the Tom Swift novels.
- A lot of cover art for Philip K. Dick's novels from back when Ace published them clearly fits into this. More downplayed in the books themselves, assuming the trope was applied in the first place.
- Lensman. In fact, the bulk of E.E. "Doc" Smith's better-known work is this. Although his early works had their first origins as early as 1917, Smith continued writing into the mid 1960s (he died in 1965), by which time men had travelled in space, and his writing takes on a somewhat different focus and flavour after the first manned flights.
- Most of the Robert A. Heinlein juveniles.
- Larry Doyle's Go, Mutants!! is a parody of this.
- E3 in Ian McDonald's Planesrunner is an Alternate History that combines aspects of this trope and Steam Punk. Zeppelins are the main form of air transport but their bags are woven of carbon nanofibers. The main motive power is coal powered (because there's no oil in this world) electric motors, which were invented before the steam engine. Their computers are of the vacuum tube and punch card variety. There's radio but no TV, but they use monofilament wire.
Live Action TV
- Pick a Gerry Anderson TV show, any Gerry Anderson TV show. Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Fireball XL5...
- Any Space Cadet show aired in the 50's, from Tom Corbett Space Cadet to Captain Video.
- Star Trek The Original Series, the last unselfconscious example. Subsequent visual media followed the leads of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Real Life space program.
- Star Trek: Voyager's Show Within a Show The Adventures of Captain Proton is an Affectionate Parody modeled after 1930's sci-fi Film Serial's like Flash Gordon and Commando Cody.
- The alien message decoded in the final episode of Dark Skies had elements of this, presumably as a nostalgic in-joke, since the rest of the series's aesthetics and mythology were much more modern X-Files-inspired sci-fi.
- On The Flash (1990), 1950s villain the Ghost adheres to this motif, and is rather dismayed to find that 1990 isn't like this when he awakens from cryogenic sleep.
- Doctor Who, especially in its earlier seasons (as they were made in the early 1960s). This particularly leads to Zeerust Canon, as the look of the inside of the TARDIS (particularly the a big hexagonal console with a glass column that comes up and down) and the Daleks (very Art Deco, but with plungers) can only really be changed so much before they don't look like they're supposed to any more. It should also be noted that during the early Sixties, there was an obsession with hemispheres as being futuristic (similar to the modern-day High-Tech Hexagons aesthetic) which helps to explain the round things on the TARDIS walls and the weird little orbs on the Dalek armour, all of which would cause fan despair if it were removed. This aesthetic carried on showing up as late as the early 70s thanks to the show's No Budget nature - the original Sonic Screwdriver as used by the Third Doctor was actually an unused prop from Thunderbirds (which began in 1965) and hence looks 60s as heck. While the new series modernised everything as much as possible - starting off during the Ninth Doctor's tenure with a semi-organic, Steampunk influenced TARDIS interior and weighty-looking, almost industrial Daleks - the sonic screwdrivers are still knowingly designed to follow this aesthetic, perhaps because in the Ninth Doctor's tenure it's revealed that the screwdriver is laughably low-quality, dated technology.
- Other things that deserve mentions - the Dalek warships are the most cheesily stereotypical Flying Saucer things ever, designed as they were for the 1950s-B-Movie-influenced "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". They were redesigned with a 00s-SF Used Future paint job in the new series, but kept the original basic shape, the contrast between the two visual styles coming off as rather silly.
- The Thals in "The Daleks" favour these kinds of Space Clothes even though they live in a low-tech farming society After the End.
- "The Robots of Death" uses this as an intentional homage to the 1920s and 30s science fiction the story is based on, with the sets, robots and human costumes all fitting a distinctive Art Deco aesthetic.
- "The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone" had the Byzantium. Take a look.◊
- Episodes of The Twilight Zone that involved aliens or space travel frequently contained a sizable dose of this aesthetic, and even more so if the episode in question was a comical one
- Doctor Steel plays with this aesthetic in his music and interactive Fandom community.
- Stereolab played "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music".
- The phrase was applied (probably before Stereolab) to the distinctive lounge musical stylings of Juan García Esquivel. note Have a listen.
- "IGY," the first track on Donald Fagen's 1982 album The Nightfly, is pretty much this trope in a nutshell. He describes a world where there's a train running undersea from New York to Paris every 90 minutes, everyone gets their own Spandex jacket, weather is controlled and solar power is plentiful - and it's all run by computers programmed "with compassion and vision." The liner notes describe the album as "certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man growing up [...] during the late fifties and early sixties, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build."
- The title is a reference to the International Geophysical Year, a scientific event in 1957-8 that was the USSR's excuse to launch Sputnik into space, thus kicking off the "rocket age" for real.
- Lights' Drive My Soul video.
- Tom Smith's filk song "Rocket Ride" is a paean to this old-fashioned space-adventure style:
I want a shining tower of glass and steel,
A rubber jumpsuit and a freeze-dried meal,
The will to survive, the need to explore,
The love of adventure, who could ask for more?
- Some of the elements in The Twilight Zone are reminiscent of this, particularly the rocket.
- This is the predominant aesthetic of The Party Zone, which includes Retro Rockets and attractive young women flying around with jet packs and fishbowl space helmets.
- Time Machine (Zaccaria) uses this to represent the Future, with massive silver towers and women wearing skin-tight Space Clothes.
- Part and parcel of Flash Gordon, naturally.
- The aesthetics of Future Spa favors form-fitting jumpsuits, buildings and structures dominated with swooping curves, and lots of gleaming glass and steel everywhere.
- Several GURPS supplements cover the creation of games with a Raygun Gothic flavor:
- GURPS Alternate Earths explores the Alternate History of "Gernsback," which is basically 1930s science fiction come to life.
- GURPS Tales of the Solar Patrol is a more fleshed-out version of the concept, set in a universe consciously modeled after Flash Gordon and 1950s-era Young Adult science fiction stories.
- GURPS Atomic Horror covers similar material as Solar Patrol, but focuses more on the dark side — stuff seen in 1950s B-Movies such as giant insects, blobs, flying saucers, and so forth.
- GURPS Steampunk 1 discusses Raygun Gothic by name, primarily as a visual style that follows on directly from the end of the steampunk period, and which is in fact the basis for some "steampunk" costumes and visual designs.
- One of the styles used by Mad Scientists in Genius: The Transgression.
- Many, many Sons of Ether made use of this aesthetic, their greatest triumph being their alternate dimensional laboratory city - and perfect example of this trope - the Gernsback Continuum. Occasionally an eccentric Technocrat, usually a Void Engineer, would do something similar, particularly if they'd been around for a while.
- Spaceship Zero featured a retro-Space Opera setting where, for instance, there was no miniaturization, and bigger computers were always better. Partially deconstructed as well, as there were definite indications that underneath all that chrome was a decent amount of grit, causing one reviewer to refer to it as "pulp—with bathrooms."
- Realms of Mars from Exile Game Studio promises to be this for sword and planet, much as Hollow Earth Expedition harkened back to adventure pulps.
- Rocketmen utilizes this as part of its theme, from its space ships, lasers guns, and the whole solar system being colonized.
- The look and feel of Rocket Age. The corebook even states that all technology will look sleek, clothing worn by adventurers should usually be form fitting and every space suit has a fishbowl helmet.
- The Skitarii/Cult Mechanicus models from Warhammer 40,000 have got some of this aesthetic going on.
- The Fallout series is set in a post apocalyptic Raygun Gothic world. In Fallout 4, the Institute plays this aesthetic completely straight. The actual ideals, not so much.
- Blasto falls neatly into this trope.
- X-COM: Apocalypse, blended with some distinctly Cyber Punk elements.
- The Covenant in Halo are modeled after a version of this, as everything they design has a very sleek form. As do most things on the titular Halo rings and other installations built by the Forerunners. Understandable, as the Covenant just copied everything they have from the Forerunner.
- Rapture in BioShock has strong elements of this in its design to go along with the Dieselpunk.
- The character designs for Disgaea's EDF soldiers, particularly
FlashCaptain Gordon, Defender of Earth!
- The Adventures Of Rad Gravity.
- The Zombie missions in Call of Duty: World At War qualify.
- In Star Control II, the Syreen had this aesthetic — their ships were old-fashioned rockets, and what you saw of the Syreen themselves and their ship controls would look right at home illustrating some 1920s sci-fi pulp about Amazon princesses in space or what-have-you. Appropriate, as the Syreen were a species of good old-fashioned Blue Skinned Space Babes in a game otherwise populated by Starfish Aliens and Eldritch Abominations; their pulpy style helped lampshade this fact.
- The Deadly Tower Of Monsters takes every cheesy, dated sci-fi trope there is and uses to craft an early 1970's "movie" that you play through, all while the director of said film gives behind-the-scenes trivia.
- The Soldier of Team Fortress 2 has several retro rayguns modeled after Weta's "Dr. Grordbort's" line.
- As have the Engineer and Pyro now, and the Medic and Scout are next in line.
- Space Channel 5 uses more of a 60's and 70's take on this design.
- Destroy All Humans! takes place during the mid-20th century and you're an alien with cool rayguns and a UFO. What else is there to say?
- The Planet X missions from TimeSplitters are certainly influenced from this.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, the plot inside the simulator features a spaceship, a Death Ray, and Latex Spacesuits straight out of 1950's pulp sci-fi.
- See the poster and following pages.
- One of the characters in Andrew Kepple's Goodbye Cruel World! accidentally turns the entire world into this by activating a non-Y2K-compliant VCR and triggering the bug.
- Zap! has a lot of aspects of this, especially in the spaceship design.
- Dresden Codak is in love with this trope, married it, and now has a house in the suburbs with two kids and a robot dog with it.
New Media and Web
- The Jetsons
- Meet the Robinsons
- Gru's style in Despicable Me is very much cold-war atompunk.
- Parodied in Futurama, where a novelty bar is decorated in this style, and the patrons enjoy it in an ironic sort of way. "Everything's so retro!"
- Of course, a lot of the look of Futurama as a whole is partly inspired by Raygun Gothic itself, particulary some of the buildings, the technology and the lot of the Planet Express Ship.
- Futurama itself is an inversion of this trope, using the Raygun Gothic style as a backdrop for a Crapsaccharine World where what would normally be helpful technology is instead trying to kill you.
- Dexter's Laboratory.
- The art style of Kim Possible was designed to be like this, and of course, they have all the Ray guns, jet packs, flying cars and the rest of the fancy-pants technology.
- The classic Looney Tunes short Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century.
- The 2003-2005 Duck Dodgers also carries this theme.
- Let's not forget about almost every Marvin the Martian appearance.
- The TV show Jonny Quest features hints of this design style in the design of the vehicles and guns.
- And its sardonic successor The Venture Bros. continues the tradition of "super-science" and retro-looking technology.
- The Incredibles takes place in an alternate-universe version of The '70s, and features a strong mid-sixties take on how wonderful the future nearly was.
- Atomic Betty's art style is largely an homage to sci-fi Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the sixties. See here for an example.
- Pinocchio in Outer Space.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot shows this, as the art style being based the old Zeerust cartoons of 40's and 50's.
- Planet51 certainly has this aesthetic.
- The titular character from The Iron Giant.
- Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius takes place in a Retro Universe where the technology, vehicles, and buildings resemble the fifties and sixties. As such, Jimmy's inventions tend to fit this trope.
- Sealab2020 and its parody, Sealab2021.
- The characters in Robots all look retro-futuristic.
- Buzz Lightyear and Zurg have a raygun gothic vibe, more so in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
- The website Days of Future Past collects a great deal of art predicting this kind of future — good, bad, and ugly.
- Also the Paleo-Future website.
- /r/retrofuturism on Reddit
- The Tomorrowland sections of Disney parks were redesigned in 1998 to look like this, Disney having (perhaps wisely) given up on trying to keep up with present-day visions of the future.
- These space travel posters by Steven Thomas.
- Atomic Rockets is a website that starts with this trope, but uses it as a launchpad to explore very hard science-fiction ideas about space flight. It refers to "raygun gothic" as "rocketpunk", to follow "steampunk" and "dieselpunk".
- Much artwork associated with the various World's Fairs. For example, this map cover which manages to make a bus look absolutely glorious.
- Guess what's staying at Pier 14 in San Francisco for 14 months starting in August 2010?
- Revived from a Disco-like death in the modern age of industrial design: Urwerk Watches. They were specifically made to look like they were going to be worn by Darth Vader over the sleeve of his suit. With one small twist, they were designed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- And something that maybe helped to create this trope: Just compare the R-7 Rocket◊ that put the Sputnik in orbit, to the Saturn Rockets◊ of the Apollo Program.
- Subverted by architect Santiago Calatrava, whose High-tech architectural style buildings resemble Raygun Gothic but still manage to look somehow modern.
- A popular theme in the 1950's. Showcased rather dramatically in this promotional film for the 1956 General Motors "Motorama" car show.