Dieselpunk is a genre and art style based on the aesthetics popular in the interwar period through the end of World War II into the 1950s when diesel displaced the steam engine. The style combines the artistic and genre influences of the period (including pulp magazines, serial films, film noir, art deco, and wartime pin-ups) with retro-futuristic technology and postmodern sensibilities.
First coined in 2001 as a marketing term by game designer Lewis Pollak to describe his role-playing game Children of the Sun, dieselpunk has since grown to describe a distinct style of visual art, music, motion pictures, fiction, and engineering.
Examples include the movies Iron Sky (2012), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), The Rocketeer (1991), K-20: Legend of the Mask (2008), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), and Dark City (1998); video games such as the Crimson Skies series, Greed Corp, Gatling Gears, BioShock and its sequel, Skullgirls, the Wolfenstein series, Iron Harvest, and Final Fantasy VII; and television shows like The Legend of Korra.
Decopunk, also known as coalpunk, is a recent subset of dieselpunk, centered around the art deco and Streamline Moderne art styles, and based on the cities of New York, Chicago, and Boston around the period between the 1920s and 1950s.
Steampunk author Sara M. Harvey made the distinction that decopunk is “shinier than dieselpunk;” more specifically, dieselpunk is “a gritty version of steampunk set in the 1920s–1950s” (i.e., the war eras), whereas decopunk “is the sleek, shiny very art deco version; same time period, but everything is chrome!”
Possibly the most notable examples of this genre are games like the first two BioShocks and Skullgirls; films like Dick Tracy (1990), The Rocketeer (1991), The Shadow (1994), and Dark City (1998); comic books like The Goon; and the cartoon Batman: The Animated Series, which included neo-noir elements along with modern elements such as the use of VHS cassettes.