By Tim Eldred with Carol Hutchings
Here we look at the story one chapter at a time, showing the original Japanese notes that provided its foundation, highlights of our development discussions, and added trivia.
7. The Message
script completed July 2011
art completed and published October 2011
Not included in the 52-episode plan
Original story notes:
The Legend of Planet Shalbart
Comparing it to Christianity might be too easy; using words like Shalbart doctrine or Shalbart believer would be unsophisticated, and would undermine the true mystery. It is more like an ancient Greek myth or the story of Atlantis, a prosperous continent that disappeared overnight.
Shalbart believer: a Shalbartist
Location of Shalbart
In the upper or lower part of the galaxy, depending on your viewpoint. The planet exists with its sun, both alone in a closed space, a small system separate from the rest of the galaxy.
Shalbart is illusory. When you glance at it from the corner of your eye, it appears above you when you think it is below, or vice versa like a mirror image. Always inverted.
The way to planet Shalbart (Matsumoto plan)
There is a secret entrance into Shalbart’s enclosed space, in the center of the galaxy. Ruda guides Yamato to it. Gamilas and Bolar cannot enter without her. Dessler is surprised to find it within his own territory.
The opening shots of this chapter are sort of wish fulfillment. I’ve always thought the fairleader on the bow was a great visual place for a scene, so I put one there in Star Blazers Rebirth and here, too. Imagine my delight when a very similar scene showed up in Yamato 2199, while Misaki was possessed by Yurisha. And I’ll be honest, Mariposa speaks for me when she talks about enjoying the view. That’s exactly what I would do in her place.
I liked the part of the opening scene with Jason and Flash trying to chase Mariposa down with a spacesuit, which reminds me of one of the arts from one of the old “This Is Animation” books. (Above right, drawn by Yutaka Izubuchi.)
Writing a backstory for the Star Blazers universe had been done before (see it here) as a resource for the Argo Press comic books. When the time came to do it again, we had to abandon the idea of making them compatible with new information gleaned from the Series 3 notes written in Japan. The notion of having them all line up with each other didn’t serve much purpose. This story is no more canonical than Star Blazers Rebirth, with which it is fundamentally incompatible (since there’s no longer a Planet Phantom). Hope this didn’t burn out too many brains.
Trivia: the round ships departing from Planet Gardiana are the same design seen in Episode 19, in which the Star Force discovers the stranded pilgrims. We don’t see them in this story, so I guess they’re still stranded. Sorry, pilgrims.
I talked last time about a “trigger image” that guided the scriptwriting. This time, it was the image of Desslok’s giant flagship engulfing the Argo in its massive prime weapon. A Wave-Motion Gun bigger than the Argo itself. Definitely a statement.
Also, if you get flashbacks to the Dezarium witch at the end, that’s entirely intentional. The mechanization of House Dezarium mentioned earlier in the chapter is directly related, as we’ll find out in the next installment. The name-change from Shalbart to Gardiana still holds sway here, and it’s interesting to note that the name Shalbart was first coined in the development phase of Be Forever Yamato, when it was conceived as Dezarium’s mortal enemy.
Back in the starblazers.com days (before the website changed ownership), the main image on the home page changed with every update, and I came to refer to it as the “cover art.” When I discovered this gorgeous poster (at right, originally published by Nippon Columbia), I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to use it as “cover art” for this chapter.
I still have to wonder about what happened with that website. Sometimes I think Voyager behaved the way they did because of what they were planning with 2199. A lot of what we did with Extended showed up in bits and pieces in 2199. I’m sure they didn’t take our ideas, and there’s no way we could have known what they were planning, but we drew logical conclusions based on the information we were given from the Series 3 notes. Maybe it made them uneasy that foreigners knew Yamato so well? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter; they needed to protect their copyright. I can only guess they cut off ties with the American side of Voyager out of convenience.
Like Tim mentioned earlier, our backstory for the Star Blazers universe was very similar to the story of the Jirel race from 2199/Ark of the Stars – that all humans/humanoids come from the same roots. For our story, I used it as a means to explain where all the space goddesses come from.
I had all kinds of problems with Desslok’s breakfast scene! Of course I did, it’s me. Sometimes I would give stage directions when writing my story bits so Tim could draw that if he didn’t have his own ideas about how a scene should look, but other times I was as surprised as the readers by how things turned out.
Number one: there should have been a rack for his cape, standing to the right of the attendant (his right, our left). Every one of his uniforms is probably bespoke. Shoving the cape through a hole in the throne is just sloppy.
Number two: What is that thing on his desk? Strawberry Cactus? A bowl of Dugtrios facing the other way? An executive cookie tree? I’m in agreement he should have things on his desk. This is pre-Final Yamato, so white roses are out. This Desslok doesn’t keep pets, unlike his 2199 counterpart. Some kind of arty sculpture based on the backwards 4 logo could’ve worked. A miniature holo display of planets Starsha and Galman turning in their respective orbits might’ve been nice too. Anyway, I wasn’t big on the cactus.
Number three: Talan should have presented Keeling’s DNA evidence in a clear, sealed container about the size of an old 35 mm film tube. Jason Jetter will be the first one to tell you all about foodborne illness and medical waste around food is bad news no matter how clean you think it is. I would have had Talan set it down like a shot glass on the desk. Desslok would look up from his plate distastefully at the object in question.
Four: He shouldn’t be eating with his gloves on. I used to cosplay once or twice, I have a Desslok costume — and I can tell you with some authority that those white gloves can’t really hold anything. They’re the same kind of white dress gloves that the Marines wear with their dress uniforms. Good for holding onto a gunstock, or a saber. Not great with eating utensils. Maybe in the future they have grippy silicon (or something similar) bits on them, like my snow gloves do. But they’re still white and will get food stains on them.
I’m pretty happy with Talan’s spit-take. The rag-doll physics at work on Talan’s mustache are top notch.
In one of the earlier drafts I wanted Talan to mention Desslok’s mistreatment of the Gaidel situation and how it seemed to have precipitated the issues with Keeling and his sympathizers.
Five: The demonstration with the egg shows how volatile the political situation is with the Gardiana people, but at the same time, do Galmans eat raw eggs for breakfast? Is the egg underdone? Is someone going to get in trouble? Was it supposed to be mixed into another part of the meal? Is there a Galman breakfast hotpot?
Tim explained most, if not all of these things. He always has a good reason for whatever he does in his comics. That’s when I step away and explain he might “hear from the internet” about some of the things I mentioned, and he needs to be prepared. It was probably just me, though.
part 1 script completed October 2011
part 1 art completed November 2011
published December 1, 2011
parts 2 & 3 script completed January 2012
part 2 art completed and published April 2012
part 3 completed May 2012, published June 1, 2012
Original story notes:
– A star surrounded by layers of machinery
– star functions as a nucleus
– must past through several layers to reach it
– Ruda hidden inside, Yamato must find her
Shalbart is liberated
Yamato enters the subspace realm of Shalbart. The flow of time and space stops there. Shalbart once cared for the entire galaxy when it reached the peak of its science, before it was closed off into subspace. An evil Mechanized Queen arose. She challenged life itself to a war (declared war on all life).
At the end of this war, Shalbart and the Mechanized Queen were locked up in subspace. The citizens scattered outward to forget their science and seeded various planets (Earth, Galman, etc)
Shalbart is liberated from subspace when Ruda and Yamato reach the planet. Exposed to the rest of the galaxy, the Mechanized Queen’s heart slowly begins to beat again.
Yamato vs. the Mechanized Queen!
To this day, it’s still hard for me to believe this concept didn’t make it into the 52-episode plan. It has a passing resemblance to Dezarium from Be Forever, but other than that it’s unlike anything seen in Yamato before, and would have been electrifying if it reached its full on-screen potential. Much of what was written about Planet Shalbart stayed in, but imagine the surprise if it turned out to be one of the most dangerous places in the galaxy instead of a pacifist commune. The anime series managed to get some interesting conversation out of it (Domon and Kodai contemplating the idea of taking it by force was quite sobering), but once I stumbled across these notes about a Mechanized Queen, it demanded to be done.
FROM OUR 2009 NOTES:
Tim: The notion of a Mechanized Queen waiting at Planet Gardiana is a very Matsumoto concept, so I think we ought to play it through as he would have: the original queen was probably a flesh-and-blood leader who mechanized herself so that she could continue her reign. Over time, the mechanization twisted her into a monster and she had to be locked away. But the original reverence remained, and we see the echo of it in the Gardiana worshippers. (The pendant they all carry is a simple hologram projector of her in her original form.)
The truth of the matter is that there is no Queen Gardiana as the worshippers see her in the hologram. The real task of Princess Mariposa is to deactivate the Mechanized Queen after she starts to revive, then take her place as a mortal.
Carol: Who is the Mechanized Queen and what’s her relationship to Queen Gardiana? Is she someone from Gardiana’s royal family who got cyborged like Promethium and went crazy? Since it’s Mariposa’s job to deactivate her, maybe she never was alive, like Brainiac or V’ger?
The original Yamato notes refer to her as a separate character, and maybe that’s what the evil space goddess from the Dark Nebula planet was supposed to be. Or maybe even Matsumoto’s Dark Queen story bits he was supposed to be using in Dai Yamato.
At one point when I was writing, I’d thought the Mechanized Queen was Gardiana. That the living Queen hid herself away in a pocket dimension when Galman began its conquest of Space. That she still watched over her followers, but as her body deteriorated she replaced herself with cyborg parts until there was nothing of herself left. Gardiana the Mortal’s last act was to hide all knowledge of escape from the pocket dimension from her mechanoid self. Which sounds suitably Matsumoto-ey, but may not be correct for this story.
Tim: Could be this – the original Gardiana was a flesh & blood woman who did great works (Mother Teresa on a galactic scale?) and died of natural causes, but because every great religious figurehead has retainers who profit off him/her in some way, they didn’t want to lose a good thing and they were the ones who kept her “alive.” They could have perpetuated her through the high technology of the Planet Gardiana (remember, they were once top of the heap) and as far as the rest of the galaxy was concerned, she never lost a step.
If she had any children, they would either have to be complicit or “disappeared.” Hell, maybe her own children were the retainers. I think we have to establish a lineage early on so Mariposa doesn’t just walk in from nowhere — so let’s say her children were the instigators. And their motives could have been completely clean. The point is, they created a mechanical substitute that could have gained its own sentience and taken over the show completely. There was some kind of struggle, the Mechanized Queen was sealed underground or something, and the planet was closed off to the rest of the galaxy.
Let’s presume there is something like The Force in the history of Gardiana. Her children would use it to seal off the planet, and that seal would remain intact until another force-user (would have to be a member of the family) comes along with the innate ability to see through it — Mariposa.
Somehow, all of this would be known to the exile on Planet Lars (or at least the key portions that couldn’t be filled in later) but his duty would be to make sure the information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Breaking the “firewall” and giving the Mechanized Queen access to the galaxy again is the worst thing that could possibly happen. Even worse than the Bolar/Galman war. Why? How about because it’s suicidal for everyone everywhere to adopt only a single way of life. That’s something a machine could never grasp.
The V’ger comparison is an apt one, since the solution to all this would be for Mariposa to fuse herself with the Mechanized Queen and defuse the whole problem. So it will be important to show her growth as a person during her time with the Star Force. She’ll have to witness everything from birth to death — which gives us another reason to preserve the pregnancy storyline. That, in fact, could have a HUGE impact on things.
This was probably the most important chapter of the entire project, since everything before it was buildup and everything after it was outcome. For that reason, I felt it was worthy of its own “cover art” when it was published at starblazers.com. It took a couple tries to get it right. I took the first version all the way to the finish line but decided at the last minute that it looked a bit stiff. The second draft hit the right note.
The other big move in this chapter was the long-awaited face-to-face confrontation between Desslok and Wildstar, which had to be handled as carefully as everything else. Carol had this to say after reading my first draft of the plot…
Carol: I’m uneasy about spontaneous Desslok in sickbay, especially with no lead-in. He wouldn’t just come over. There’d be a point of entry, and he’d have an armed escort. Like all the other times he’s breached their ship, it would have been detected and alerted by the crew before he got as far as sickbay. To have a faceless “whoah, hey, Desslok’s here” before His Majesty shows up with his gun out seems kind of cheap.
Also, he knows that it’s already too late and the damage was done once Mariposa woke Gardiana. Storming onto the Argo with the intention of shooting her in the head isn’t going to do anything. He might want to go to face her and see the evil for himself and read her the riot act on everything she’s taken from him. And he might shoot her in the head if [a] she admits to her crimes [b] has no regrets about them and [c] he decides it will make him feel better afterward.
I can imagine him coming over in in his spacesuit with a squad of two riflemen, striding angrily through the ship past crewmen who call up to the bridge right away, so Wildstar knows he’s there and figures out where he’s heading, and he calls Dr. Sane to let him know immediately.
Desslok wouldn’t get close enough to put a gun to Mariposa’s head; Jason and flash would stand in the way the minute D steps into the operating room.
Desslok: Stand away from her, immediately! While she remains on this ship you’re all in danger.
Flash: I feel fine, don’t you, Jason?
Jason: Couldn’t be better.
Desslok clears his throat. His armed guards ready their guns.
“Did you need some water?” A chubby hand passes him a sake cup.
Desslok: “Dr. Sane?”
Dr. Sane (clearly upset): Desslok, what are you doing in my operating room? With guns?
That’s just an idea. I’ll keep going over it. I know you can only hint at that and let the reader presume the rest, but the way it’s written now it looks like he had Scotty beam him aboard. Mariposa’s gonna have to work a little harder to make Desslok speechless. He knows what his people need and he’s more than happy to tell her.
Looking back, I guess you’d have to give 10 points to Comics. When you write a novel, like I’m used to, you have to explain how things happen. Comics are such a dynamic form of storytelling – you can throw people into the action cold like that, and it’s okay. How did he get there? It doesn’t matter now, there he is! The story comes from what happens next.
The standoff at gunpoint is a purposeful callback to the end of second series where Nova intervenes on Wildstar and Desslok’s duel. It cements more of what the Star Force has taught Mariposa about love and sacrifice.
During this time, I wanted Talan to take Wildstar aside and explain what I mentioned earlier about poking the bear with a stick. “You can get the best results from the Emperor if he’s by himself. Don’t ever challenge his authority in public, or in front of his subordinates. Earth may be the injured party, but this fight was your fault!” There wasn’t a lot of room or time for that so the best I could do is have Talan commiserate that he’s tired of being enemies.
From here, we tackle that weird “Doesn’t need two gods –
I am the only god” line from Series 3. Sure, Desslok is full of pride and he loves himself almost as much as he loves Starsha and the subjects of his Empire, but it would take some serious crazy to make Galman worship him like a god. He’s upset that, after all he’s done for Galman, the Gardiana worshippers don’t show him any respect or gratitude. It’s very possible that they see him as the hand of Gardiana, but that never comes up. I’ve tried to think this out in my head for years. Does he mean he is The State and The State is god? I am your commander, so you should respect me like a god?
I had a similar discussion once with my long-suffering boyfriend Mike about Superman. He told me Superman is a god based on his potential to destroy. To me, that never worked as a deciding factor. To be divine, you need to create by yourself as well as destroy. People can aspire to be like gods, but they need tools in order to do so (dry ice to seed clouds to make it rain, build dams to re-route the flow of water, egg or sperm cells to make a baby, Death Stars to blow up planets, etc.).
The end of Desslok’s exposition seemed like a good time to resolve this issue. Also it puts more in Mariposa’s corner and endears herself further to the crew.
This was one of those times where the characters write themselves. This seemed the best way for Desslok to make peace overtures towards Wildstar, by putting his own neck out as a show of good will. Talan is no Kif Kroker, but there are definitely decisions Desslok makes that Talan does not agree with.
At the same time we resolved the Planet Gardiana storyline, we also resolved the god issue. If he was beloved as a god, he thought he might get the chance to meet Starsha again. Was that too sentimental?
Here’s a comedy bit we didn’t use: Wildstar was supposed to imagine himself in a Galman General’s costume for a split second, and make a weird face. Agreeably that would work better in an anime, or maybe even a movie, than in a comic.
On a purely artistic note, I explored new ground here with my first-ever fusion of hand-drawn and computer-generated art. This was courtesy of generous help from my friend (and cousin) Gordon Peterson, who agreed to render for me all the interiors of Planet Gardiana. I found a handful of circuit patterns that I liked, colorized them, and turned them over to Gordo to create tiled surfaces that exactly matched the shapes and contours I needed for the background images. This was a real godsend – if I had to draw them by hand, I’d probably still be noodling away on them today (and you wouldn’t be reading these words).
I want to thank Tim for those amazing space battles. There are so many! Between the Planet Gardiana battle and Talan’s tactic with the mines — I don’t know if I could ever write space battles like that. Using the Wave-Motion gun to slice — it’s genius. Most of the time my characters just talk, or fight, or go somewhere neat and talk. Or fight. There’s a reason why Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is still in book form and Star Wars is a world phenomenon. It’s not Star Blazers/Yamato without space battles, and Tim’s done so much more than I could have expected. Each one is different and exciting and absolutely beautiful. Aw, shucks! No charge!
Trivia: part 3 of this chapter was in production during the time of Yamatour 2012 Spring, and when I had the opportunity to interview Yamato 2199 manga artist Michio Murakawa, he was surprised and pleased to see it. For a brief moment, the only two artists on Earth doing Yamato/Star Blazers comics were in the same room.
script completed June 2012
art completed and published October 2012
Not included in the 52-episode plan
If you’re actually paying attention to the dates here, you’ll see a big gap between the script and the art, more so than with previous chapters. That was due to a change in my employment situation. When I started the series, I was still working as a freelance storyboard artist in TV animation. By early 2012, freelance opportunities were drying up, so I was compelled to take a staff position at Marvel Animation Studio as a director on Avengers Assemble. That took care of my employment problem, but really wrecked my ability to keep the webcomic on its previous schedule. Sorry about that.
Incidentally, this was the last chapter I completed before the “big hit” took place and starblazers.com was torpedoed by the Japan office of Voyager Entertainment. It was tied to the very last of the “cover images” that appeared on the website, which I lifted from a Yamato III LD jacket.
Original story notes:
After dealing with the Mechanized Queen at Shalbart, Yamato races to aid the EDF fleet at Alpha Centauri as Earth falls to Gaidel. On the way, Yamato finds Gamilas and Bolar fighting at Barnard’s star and helps the Galman side to win. Gamilas commander Zoenitz returns the favor by aiding Yamato and the EDF fleet against the Bolar at Alpha Centauri. Zoenitz then develops Operation Kamiyo.
Named for Admiral Karl Doenitz (1891-1980)
Admiral Zoenitz is the hero of the Gamilas Space Navy. He excels at choosing battlegrounds and the practical application of weapons. Changed to Frakken, commander of Dimensional Submarines.
As you can see, those early notes carry us past this chapter and into the next, but the real point is that a new Gamilon commander is introduced here, a military genius who allies himself with the Star Force. It’s always a risky idea to bring a wholly new character into the fray this late in the game, but once I discovered that Doenitz was merely an early name for Frakken, it turned out this wouldn’t be a new character after all – and it also indicated that he would probably have gotten a comeback if Yamato III had gone the full distance.
It should be stated for the record that, though the entirety of Yamato 2199 (in fact, the entire revival period beginning with Resurrection) came and went while The Bolar Wars Extended was in production, it was purely coincidental that Frakken/Von Feral would become such a major player in both stories – unless the 2199 writers read the same notes I did and ALSO decided he was just too cool to leave out.
That was a no-brainer for me. Two of his most competent generals (living) were Gaidel/Smeardom and Frakken/Von Feral. As far as the stories I wrote, Von Feral was always on the top of the roster. I was terrified that Yamato was going to kill him in 2199. I saw his character design on the 2199 website and I said to myself, “He looks awesome, but it’s too soon — anyone who comes up against Yamato dies. He’s working under Lysis — oh man, that’s not good at all.” I was on eggshells for the whole series of Yamato 2199 and worried for that character and his feisty submarine crew.
This chapter was in its final color phase at the end of September 2012, and I worked on some of it during the flight home from Anime Weekend Atlanta. I was so focused on it that it was a complete surprise for me to feel the plane touch down at LAX. It would have been less of a surprise if a flight attendant had noticed me with my laptop open and asked me to shut it down for landing. But not a word.
Now, some of you may remember Wildstar’s last conversation at the end of Chapter 8 (part 3) with Desslok, standing ship to ship a la New Voyage. Wildstar tells him he should have told Galman about the war with Earth — that Desslok hiding the truth from his people was wrong. His intentional omission caused all of the trouble with the Sun, making Series 3 necessary.
But right here, Wildstar explains to Von Feral that Earth kept Desslok’s existence a secret from her own citizens. It certainly seems like that’s the right thing to do if people are going to riot, but it’s no different from what Desslok did – only he got caught.
Complex moral choices AND burping robots? You’re welcome. 😉
Trivia: the Bolar officer shown on board the refueling station is Balkom, the last to appear in the anime.
Keeling’s speech at the end of the this one lays out his cold, calculating perspective on power in ways I hope are reminiscent of Prince Zordar’s talk with Trelaina in the second Star Blazers series. The difference is that he’s lying through his broken Galman teeth and only the Star Force is in a position to know it. To someone stranded on Earth, waiting to be burned alive, they are the unquestionable words of a savior. I’d never written a character like that before, and it was quite interesting to construct him as a master manipulator who could roam the Earth today. (And probably does.)
Not that his creepy speech full of deceit wasn’t already doing its job, but he missed the opportunity to compare himself to Starsha. He might not know about her, but he knows Galman’s moon got a new name for some reason. Yeah. I think he would totally know about her.
This may mark the one and only time the Star Force uses the Wave-Motion Gun in a pre-emptive strike with the express purpose of ending lives, which is definitely a big deal. It violates all the ethics laid down in Yamato 2199, but (a) they’re up against an enemy that has destroyed planets on a whim and (b) they will pay a price for this move. I made sure Nova would speak up in the next chapter for the readers who would question this.