Beautiful and cool magazines purportedly from the movie Blade Runner are circling the Internet. But are they real?
A science-fiction Tumblr recently unearthed some magazine covers that purportedly appear on a rack in the background of the classic film Blade Runner. You can see four more at the original site.
I couldn't think of the moment in the film when they might have appeared and I didn't have the film on hand to confirm, so I did some Googling around to see what I could find about their provenance. I want to lead you through that journey, only because it's kind of weird and fun.
Basic Googling various combinations of Blade Runner and magazines with some other keywords yielded nothing. So, I took the image of Dorgon Magazine and ran it through Google Images to see if it had shown up anywhere else with more information attached. It had indeed been posted a few times around the web including at a site for Manahan Design, where they were presented as custom Kindle screensavers for jailbroken devices. But down at the bottom of that site, there was a little inscription: "Much credit goes to Kevin From the Propsummit forums for his amazingly made high-res reproductions of the magazine covers seen in various locations in Blade Runner," we read.
Who is this mysterious, Kevin? And what is Propsummit? And are these covers actually *recreations* by someone who looked at the magazines in the film and somehow designed from anew from scratch? Are these completely new design fiction objects modeled on old design fiction objects for a movie that came out 30 years ago?
At first, it seemed like the answer was yes. Kevin, who provides no other information about himself, posted this image and commentary to the Propsummit Blade Runner fan forum.
The text is all new, clean and original. So too is the marker pen colouring and the pointy hand. I had to redraw the Dorgon lettering by hand. It is similar to a lot of fonts, but not the same.He also posted a pretty clear screen grab of the spot where you can see Dorgon.
I have spent hours (I'm not kidding) trawling through clip art libraries trying to find the original pictures.
If anyone can help me out with finding these images I shall be very grateful.
I am particularly keen to find this one because we have clear provenance for it being used on the set along with Droid and Kill.
At this point, I am starting to feel the thrill of the chase. These covers are bouncing around the Internet right now (at Gawker's io9, etc) and now it may be that they are fakes, but not in a bad way. The idea that some guy out there saw the movie and painstakingly recreated them with the vintage clipart that the original designer used is mindblowing! I mean: the Internet! Borges! The flip flop!
If you're not familiar with that last term, it's a concept that ex-Twitter media creator and novelist Robin Sloan came up. His definition: "the flip-flop (n.) the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back again--maybe more than once."
In this case, clip art from a computer in the early 1980s was used to make magazine covers that were printed and then filmed in a classic movie. These things were forgotten for decades until sometime during or shortly before 2009, someone (Kevin) started to reconstruct them for his friends in an Internet forum about the movie. Some forumgoer used them as a Kindle screensaver; another was going to print them out and frame them, according to a forum posting.
"I need to talk to this Kevin!" I thought. Unfortunately, I had to join the forum in order to send him a message and an administrator has to approve my request (I'm still waiting). So, to kill time, I started peering at the two covers.
And I notice: these aren't quite the same. The typeface on "Dealing with Ram!" is different. The highlighting has harder edges. The "Magazine" in the Dorgon header is thinner and sharper. And most obviously: in the bottom right corner, there is *too much* of the text exposed.
I become convinced: whatever the images bouncing around the Internet are, they are not these covers that Kevin from Propsummit has painstakingly, brilliantly reconstructed. That was just a diversion! (Albeit an awesome one.)
So where did the other cover come from? I decide to stick with searches related to Dorgon because it is a unique search string. "Blade Runner magazines" is a terrible search. "Dorgon Magazine" on the other hand, yields gold. (And, honestly, I probably should have started my search off this way, though I'm glad that I didn't.)
The very first hit for "Dorgon Magazine" is a flickr set by Simon Woodside in which he reveals that these covers appear in a Blade Runner bonus feature, "Signs of the Times: Graphic Design."
Furthermore, he writes, "The covers were created by production illustrator Tom Southwell in 1980-1981 and appeared in the background on a magazine stand in the city streets." Southwell, it turns out, is still working in Hollywood. His most recent work is as a production designer for an Elmore Leonard adaptation, Freaky Deaky, which debuted this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. (And that is directed by Walter Mathau's son.)
So, there you have it. The covers are real. Their creator is still alive and working. And some guy named Kevin has done something almost unbelievable for a small set of Blade Runner fans at an Internet forum devoted to the movie.
Oh, and before you get any ideas, I already registered DorgonMagazine.com. Just wanted to save you the trip.
Alexis C. Madrigal is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology.