Tuesday, 2 April 2013

White Dwarf The 80s Soap Opera

Was 1980s US TV series Dynasty the unlikely design inspiration for the 2012 White Dwarf revamp?

Yes, it was.

It appears that 1980s TV series Dynasty and subsequent spin off The Colbys provided the design inspiration for White Dwarf magazines recent revamp (since #394). Through use of  colour and typography the new White Dwarf is eerily familiar to aficionados of trashy camp 80s pop-culture. The new White Dwarf masthead is relentlessly set in the yellow / orange / gold end of the spectrum and utilises the the exact same font as the Dynasty titles - Aurora, designed by Jackson Burke in 1960. Both designs also use just the one font throughout the layout, not only for the masthead "White Dwarf", as the programme title "Dynasty" does, but for the featured contents of the magazine, as the TV show does for the actor names as well. Compare with something like Doctor Who, which has a unique logo for the series title and separate font used for the episode title, with earlier White Dwarf that likewise have a similar split between masthead and cover copy.

Not only that, but I'd suggest the new art direction is also mirroring the fantasy of wealth, ownership and the conspicuous consumption of status-symbols that Dynasty invaded our 1980s analogue televisions with. The traditionally painted fantasy scene, with its long tradition going back to the depiction of historical battles and pulp sci-fi novel covers - and a long standing motif of the White Dwarf cover - has been replaced by the highly mimetic, representational imagery of product photography which is not at all unlike the sequences of high end consumer lifestyle goods paraded behind the characters in the title sequence of Dynasty.  Although with the Dwarf it is toy soldiers, not diamonds, Rolls Royces or real estate that define the corpus of the Games Workshop consumerist fantasy. So the White Dwarf cover has gone from imagery that depicts a fantasy world of the imagination, to imagery that depicts an aspirational collection of objects. Not to mention there are some genuinely laugh out loud examples of Freudian imagery, from oil wells to champagne bottles, to big guns and long necked daemons to consider...

And you thought Space Marine shoulder-pads were ripped off Judge Dredd, but no, GW have finally let slip. It was powered armour  = power dressing all along...


  1. Ha - Greed is obviously still good...

  2. you hit the nail on the head there

  3. I have long suspected this, thank you for exposing the cover-up. There is no way the Emperor's wealthy and influential dysfunctional family could have been inspired by anything other than 80s soap operas. The unthinking expenditure of money/guardsmen's lives and the constant danger from external threats is too close to be mere coincidence. Let us not forget that Billy Dee Williams/Brady Lloyd has some previous in the Sci-Fi genre too.

  4. Apart from Joan Collins perhaps sharing more in common with a *ahem* Maulerfiend than the lovely Linda Evans, I think your analysis to be compelling and, in the end, undeniable. Thank you for shining a light into an especially dark corner.

  5. Dynasty was always xenophobic bolter-porn anyway. Grim darkness of the recent past/near future.

  6. Can I get Matthew Monster to re-write my digital TV guide.

    Joan Collins was no stranger to sci-fi, having appeared in Star Trek - The City on the Edge of Forever, arguably the best episode. And lest we forget, Micheal Praed (Prince Michael of Moldavia) was The Hooded Man himself. But of course, that game just ends up as a variation of 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.

    Nontheless the design is less about character and narrative than a purely semiotic reference marking out intentionality and value communications.

    Although anyone wanting to take on a semiological analysis of the quite frankly dreadful logo Games Workshop have been littering the nations high-streets with for the past 30 odd years should probably start at the 1980s cross-media gaming phenomenon that was Pac Man.