#6. Iron Man: Origins
This is another one you need to really stop and look at. Are you seeing its Captain Hook hand? How about its huge, hexagonal robo-nipples? WHY DID IT NEED NIPPLES?!?
While we would love to pretend that this is Tony Stark's grandfather Sir Augustus Leopold Stark and that this was his utterly terrifying crime-fighting suit, it is instead a man named Chester MacDuffee standing beside a diving suit he invented. It weighed about 550 pounds and wasn't completely watertight, which meant that it came equipped with a pump to suck the water out as you struggled not to drown. Shit, what did you expect from pre-World War I diving gear?
And if you think that 1911 model looks cool, check out its subsequent spawn, which inspired the Big Daddies we all learned to fear in BioShock.
NOAA Photo Library
Piloted by Steampunk-Bane.
It's hard to believe you could actually fit someone into their own underwater Iron Man suit so goddamn long ago, but the photos come from a 1935 attempt to examine the wreck of the Lusitania. Which was to be preceded by a wedding, apparently:
NOAA Photo Library
The wedding night featured two minutes of sex after three hours of strenuous undressing.
#5. Back to the Future Part II, Circa 1947
Where we're going, we don't need logic.
Every New Year's, jokers on Facebook pose the same question -- why don't we have flying cars yet? What the hell are you waiting for, science? Well, you can all shut up, because it turns out we had flying cars as far back as 1947.
via Diseno Art
The plane's not behind the car. You're thinking three-dimensionally.
This is the Convair Model 118. Although it looks like a shitty Photoshop job where somebody copy-pasted an old-timey plane onto a picture of a car, this is a legitimate thing that really worked as advertised.
via Diseno Art
The hugely successful advertisement read, "Flying car. 'Nuff said."
So why aren't we zipping around space highways and getting caught in atmospheric traffic jams like in The Fifth Element? Despite two successful test flights, nobody wanted to invest in the damn thing, and so the company cancelled the program by 1948. Come on, guys! We can't think of a single problem that thing would cause driving down a busy street. Not a single one.
#4. That's No Moon ...
What's with the delay?"
"Some crazy chick with weird hair stole the blueprints."
What, you thought zeppelins were just blown up like gigantic balloons? Those badass mothers were actually enormous, rigid structures the size of the Death Star. And back in those days, there was only one way to build a frame of this magnitude: a ladder and a hammer. Are you seeing the tiny workers waaaaay at the top of those ladders?
Yeah, these photographs of the construction of the USS Macon should serve as testament to what a magnificently hardcore process it was to give birth to the largest aircraft in human history.
And a hangar that inspired Darth Vader's helmet.
Speaking of the insanity of zeppelins ...
As though ordinary zeppelins weren't phallic enough.
If you think that's a little bit of stunt flying by a daredevil zeppelin pilot, think again -- that shit is not intentional. That is what happens when you dock a zeppelin and it gets hit by a huge gust of wind.
That pic is from August 25, 1927, when the USS Los Angeles had a serious problem with wind gusts while it was moored at a New Jersey docking station. Before it could correct its orientation, the airship was picked up tail-first and wound up balancing vertically on the tip of the station. On the inside, it probably felt like The Poseidon Adventure.
"Someday, gentlemen, we're going to set one of these fuckers on fire."
Miraculously, the airship suffered only modest damage and was back in use the next day. After all its walls and floors were hosed down for vomit, of course.
#2. The Paris Eye of Sauron
via Boston College
If you remember Lite-Brite, your childhood was magnifique.
Oh come on, it looks like someone just sketched an outline of the Eiffel Tower onto this photograph. At best, it's some gaudy Paris replica in Las Vegas or Disney World.
In reality, this is what the Tower looked like during the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, complete with a beacon on top that looks like Sauron's eye gazing over Mordor. The frame is so dark that it's nearly invisible in old-fashioned photography, so the lights just make it look fake, even in the color version:
It flashed and thumped the city with techno music 24 hours a day.
#1. Mark Twain, Topless
We leave you with this image, and no further comment.
Seriously, there are no further words in this article. Not just because there's nothing more that needs to be said (are you looking at it?), but also because nobody actually knows why Mark Twain sat for a naked photograph. And he is nude; don't try to tell yourself he's not. "What? He could be wearing pants, Cracked!" Really? Look at his facial expression. Yeah, he's naked, and fully erect.
There is speculation that Twain was asked to take the photo as a model for a bust that was being made. If so, we like to think that nudity was nowhere in the instructions.
For more jaw-dropping goodness from the old-timey era, please pre-order Jacopo's upcoming book, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and other fine stores today!
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Related Reading: We've got more unbelievably unphotoshopped old-timey photos, right here. Hey, while we're going back to simpler times why not bring the cages back to basketball? And if you think that's a sketchy past-time, we'd like to introduce you to live Civil War battle tourists.
It's hard to imagine, but a singular great idea can come from more than one brain. In this week's podcast, Jack O'Brien, David Wong, and Kristi Harrison look at the curious cases of the telephone and Harry Potter to determine whether plagiarism took place, or if something more bizarre is at hand. You can download the episode here, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast here.