Tuesday 5 April 2011

The Spirit of Dungeonpunk '82

Dungeonpunk is not always a one-way street, the influence of punk on fantasy gaming has a long and venerable tradition. But occasionally Punkers themselves seem influenced by fantasy imagery.
The punk credentials of Toyah Wilcox aren't really in any dispute, appearing in Derek Jarmans glorious 1978 occult time-travel movie Jubilee and releasing several high energy punk EPs early in her career. However, by the early 80's there's more than a slight echo of Kate Bush (sorry Toyah), a touch of Ziggy Stardust, and a glossier pop production that would bring Toyah mainstream success and platinum level record sales, which in turn made a lot of old punks turn their back on her. What is most surprising is this transformative success was accompanied by a pair of album covers and  spin-off media that blend various influences into a punky post-apocalyptic swords-and-sorcery epic.

Fairy above pyramids with severed head | Toyah Wilcox (1981)

The cover of Toyahs 1981 album Anthem features a dungeonpunk warrior fairy holding what looks like the severed head of one of Frazettas Neanderthals whilst standing on the ruins of a landscape filled with Mezoamerican pyramids (despite the Egyptian influence of the internal art). As an album cover, it's strange mix of Hawkwind and Jethro Tull, painted by Steve Weston (who sadly passed away in Feburary this year) probably best known for his cover illustrations for the UK editions of Anne McCafferys Pern books. We are firmly in the swords-and-sorcery tradition, far more accustomed to being aligned with prog-rock.
Thunder in the Mountains | Toyah Wilcox (1981)
We also get to see Toyah as a post-apocalyptic Boadicea in the 1981 video for Thunder in the Mountains (directed by Godley and Cream) where bows and arrows sit alongside wrecked cars tethered to horses as chariots. It should be noted Mad Max II was released the same year, but the Post-Apocalyptic Warrior Queen image of Tina Turner in Mad Max III would come riding in some while later.

As an aside, at the end of the video there is a symbol which looks vaguely similar to the sigil of Slannesh.  Perhaps the similarity is just coincidence, both based on the alchemical female. Apart from the quasi-medieval warrior stylings of her band-mates there's also the plot that seems to involve a psionic cleric unleashing various attacks worthy of a scene from Hawk the Slayer that clearly show a bucketload of Dungeons & Dragons influence going on here. The massive feathered hair, and general female sun-symbolism would be strongly echoed in John Blanche's Amazona Gothique. - itself a reaction to the passive role usually given to females in fantasy art (but not escaping the fetishism).

Pan / fawn by germanic castle | Toyah Wilcox |  (1982)

The second, and final, fantasy based art has Toyah in the rather attractive and somewhat puckish  theatrical guise of a fawn / daemonette / tiefling. Photographed by Bob Carlos Clarke, Toyah is wearing all-black contact lenses, used to great effect on Ariel in Jarmans Jubillee, and no less weird here. The setting is a somewhat more traditional fantasy fair, a European castle, yet the costume pattern displays an exotic 1980's tribal / aztec influence which contrasts both with the harlequin Peter Pan pantomime expectation and the generally moody gothic feel. It's those kind of contrasts that show genius is at work.
“Anthem” yeah was sort of middle age, medieval times and this new album "The Changeling" is a mixture, and conglomeration of depression, space age and the druids, as you say, the middle ages. It’s a mixture of everything.

Because the song The Druids is all about that, it’s about all earth’s magic and space technology and pagan man, thrown into one. And it’s about this meeting to decide who owns which planet, which is what goes on on this singular little speck of dust in the atmosphere, as to who owns which island...

If at this point you\re not rushing to break out Gamma World / D&D / WFB 2nd Edition and run a  Science Fantasy Dungeonpunk campaign then either there's simply no hope for you. Maybe some more pictures might help:

Daemonette of Slannesh | Toyah Wilcox (1982)
Daemonette of Slannesh | Toyah Wilcox (1982)
Daemonette of Slannesh | 1990x
Necromunda (1995, Games Workshop) is not really Dungeonpunk, it's more a tribalist version of Mega-City One with the serial numbers filed off and where Dredd and his cronies have fled and left the gangers to run the city. But rather than ignore the similarities between hairstyles sported by la femme Toyah and some character model that goes for over £20 on eBay with a name which is a pun on a less talented but more materially successful 80's pop singer, let's just get this out of the way while we are here.

Toyah (1982)

Mad Donna Ulanti (1995?)
Sorcery Spell Book (only joking!)

So is John Blanche a closet Toyah fan? Is his job as Art Director at Games Workshop really just an excuse to recreate the artwork on 80s pop-punk records? Where's my Imperial Guard army dressed like Adam and the Ants? Come on, chop chop GW.

++++ Zion Zuberon Necronomicon ++++

1 comment:

  1. Thats great research ! Thanks a lot !