The making of The Bolar Wars Extended
Part 4, continued

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4. Eruption

part 1 script completed March 2010
part 1 art completed May 2010
    published June 1, 2010

parts 2 & 3 scripts completed June 2010
part 2 art completed July 2010
    published August 1, 2010
part 3 art completed September 2010
    published October 1, 2010

Based on eps 25, 26 from the 52-episode
plan: Battle with Dessler (1)

Fight the force dispatched by Dessler; love between Domon and the “princess” is born.

Original story notes:

Yamato vs. General Guderu (part 1)

Named after German General Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (1888-1954), the founder of the German Armored Unit, Panzer Divisions

General Guderu is the inspector of the Gamilas Space Armed Forces (GSAF) and is called “Father of the space blitzkrieg.” The GSAF is the most important offensive element, incorporating the Task Force and the Air Assault Armored Division. The Task Force consists mainly of heavily-armed battleships. Their function is to pierce the battle line, and the Air Assault Armored Division drives in a wedge.

In a fight with Yamato, Guderu’s Task Force will deploy battleships in two wings, centered around destroyers which cruise at higher speeds. While they bombard Yamato from a distance, the Air Assault Division rushes in at maximum speed! Yamato desperately fights back. The high-speed destroyers conduct hit-and-run maneuvers, firing hyper-torpedoes into both her flanks. A followup unit will lay mines in Yamato‘s projected course (estimated by strategic analysis) and deploy at both wings, thereby preventing Yamato from changing course.

By this time, Yamato must have exchanged fire with the heavily-armed battleships and taken severe damage. The high-speed destroyers turn and re-commence their attacks. Following them are more heavily-armed fighting units. They all intend to herd Yamato into the net of space mines. Moving at high speed, it is extremely difficult for Yamato to avoid them. Additionally, a super-magnetic barrier-net is set between the mines (The same type which Gamilas used in the first series) and cripples Yamato‘s ability to move.

Though Yamato manages to break through the minefield, Guderu’s forces press the attack again. Down to half its fighting capability, Yamato drops toward a nearby planet, as if making an emergency landing. Now the Atmospheric Air Assault Armored Division takes up the chase, attempting to secure positions and finish Yamato. Like paratroopers, they drop from a mothership in orbit around the planet.

This Division consists of mobile infantry in powered suits and an airborne brigade. The M.I. takes up fighting positions and provides cover for descent capsules carrying fighting vehicles. The airborne brigade uses fighter/bombers designed for both the vacuum of space and the atmosphere of a planet.

A fierce hand-to-hand battle occurs both inside and outside Yamato. However, because of a convulsion on the surface of the planet, the Air Assault Division is forced to retreat. Using the convulsion to his advantage, Guderu orders all his ships to pull back, and he attempts to destroy Yamato along with the whole planet by firing his ship’s hyper-Dessler cannon. In an instant, the heavily-damaged Yamato converts the energy of the explosion to warp energy and escapes Guderu’s siege.

This chapter didn’t exactly write itself, but that in-depth description of an unfolding strategy provided a solid synopsis to start from. As we know, “Guderu” was a name that didn’t end up in the anime, though it probably evolved into Gaidel. Since we’d decided not to use Gaidel, the strategic mastermind became Gustav.

This was the first of two chapters that was so lengthy it had to be split into three parts. Since the next chapter was to feature Jonathan Contrail’s plot against the Argo, it was important to establish him in advance, so we got that done at the beginning along with advancing the various personal dramas of the Star Force.

In this one you really start to see the wear and tear on Wildstar. If he was having a problem with a crewmate, he could have a brotherly fistfight, like he did with Venture, Sgt Knox and Jetter. You can’t have a brotherly fistfight with Desslok. Being a soldier, he undoubtedly is capable in hand to hand fighting, but his real calling is his marksmanship. Also being an alien and never seeing that side of Kodai before, Desslok would probably refuse and call him a barbarian, just making him madder.

Some fans I know got upset that it looks like Talan is drinking coffee. Clearly it can’t be, since coffee is only found on Earth, but to me that doesn’t mean (being humans who need to stay awake) they wouldn’t have their own version of something similar. I’m always trying to pull together the similarities in our cultures; it’s the similarities that unite us.

Carol put a lot of thought into the evolving relationship between the Galmans and the Gamilons, and we see the first hints of it in this chapter. The Galmans still have an innate sense of superiority and the Gamilons become second-class citizens in their eyes. It was quite a surprise to see this same idea unfold in Yamato 2199 between the Garmillas and the soldiers of Zalts. In both cases, the impact on the story was substantial.

Part of the fun of this chapter was packing in as many tropes as possible from the first series: classic Gamilon traps, Sandor using an emergency tube, the simultaneous countdown, and IQ-9 ordering his robots to hiccup while disarming the mines. All the robots were designed for the anime, including one that seemed tailor-made for comedy – so we named him Burpy.

Yeah, that’s me, I’m all about burping robots. Do I serve Earth or Gamilon? When it comes right down to it, I serve Comedy. But Burpy getting more screen time in the next chapter — I don’t remember whose fault that was (looks away nervously).

Then there’s one of the greatest Yamato tropes of them all, the destruction of the third bridge. As soon as I read the original note about an infantry attack on a planet, it became obvious that this was the time and place to do it. But I didn’t want to just have it conveniently put back together afterward. If it was blown off, it was gonna stay off until we found a practical way to restore it. That meant I couldn’t just drop in pre-made ship art from the library – I’d have to shave that damn bridge off every time until we got to Chapter 10. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

Finally, the “convulsion on the surface of the planet” sounded a bit too coincidental to be taken seriously, but it was the only turning point that was offered in the original text. Fortunately, it gave us a perfect means to introduce Mariposa’s secret abilities. At the time, the ship had never enjoyed the advantage of carrying a space goddess around with them, so it was an entirely new idea. Then, a few years later, we all met Yurisha Iscandar.

5. Insurrection

script completed October 2010
part 1 art completed January 2011
    published February 1, 2011
part 2 art completed February 2011
    published April 1, 2011

Based on eps 36-38 from the 52-episode
plan: Uprising of the Ageha Family

The Ageha consortium plans to take over Yamato; Ageha [Flash] takes over at first, then betrays the consortium and saves Yamato

Original story notes:

The Ageha Financial Group [Contrail Industries] gets the construction contract for emigration ships, builds Ageha City on Mars, and sells land on Pluto. If the second Earth is not discovered, there is a ‘black clause’ in the contract that will allow Ageha FG to take possession of Yamato. This is a condition of the funding. This sets the crew and the government against each other when the clause is activated later in the story.

Jiro Saruta [Dan Hammer]

1st class officer in EDF weather/meteorology corps. As with most bureaucrats, he takes a servile attitude when among superiors but is tough on inferiors. When his observation ship is damaged in a space current, Yamato arrives to assist. His ship is repaired, but he comes away with a negative attitude of the “spoiled” crew. He is later attacked by Dagon’s forces and Yamato arrives to save him. His opinion changes.

Later, he transfers to the emigration department and becomes Yamato‘s comm liaison. When the Ageha group rebels, Saruta is caught in the middle and becomes the voice of the new boss.

This chapter was going to be a tricky one, but it couldn’t be ignored. The setup for it was there in the anime with the appearances of both Flash’s father and Dan Hammer. By the time Hammer showed up in Episode 10, the axe had fallen on the second half of the series, so he was killed off by the writers. But the fact that his relationship with the Ageha family was still in play was a clear indicator of the commitment to the initial idea. So we were obligated to follow through.

The question we then had to answer was, how do you take over the Argo without being there? You can’t just tell them to come home, and a wi-fi hack wouldn’t be an option over thousands of light years. The short outline for the story had Flash temporarily siding with his father before relenting, but even if it was in his character to do so, a one-man rebellion wouldn’t have gotten very far.

That left just one vulnerability: the robot crew. We didn’t see much of them in the anime, so it was sort of easy to forget they were there. But when the time came to grapple with this chapter, they were the obvious foil. That made it important to re-establish them in Chapter 4, and it gave Burpy another chance to take the spotlight. (By the way, we all agreed that Burpy should not become a regular cast member. But we wanted him to be remembered fondly…)

That scene where IQ-9 is Briefing Burpy was written on purpose to sound a little like Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja. There, I said it. I love video games, I’m just horrible at them.

Production trivia: this was the first time in my entire career that I decided to make the switch from hand-lettering my comics to using a font. I’d been lettering my own stuff since the very beginning, so it was a point of pride to continue. But when it became obvious that I could save two entire days of production time by going digital, it was a no-brainer. (And to be honest, hand lettering is pretty darn tedious.)

The quiet scene between Tomoko and Sandor was one I’d been eager to get to since the start, since it was the first major step forward in their romance. Whereas most of the love stories found in Yamato were about young people coupling for the first time, these are older characters with history and maturity that made it more interesting to me as an adult. And by the way, the last of Sasha’s growing-up photos features a cameo from Deke Wakefield, a character created by Derek who originally showed up in the Star Blazers comics from Argo Press. Derek was very, very happy to see him again.

Mecha-wise, I really wanted to get the service ship into a chapter somehow. It always bugged me that it appeared in the anime but no design sheet for it ever showed up in print. So consider this my personal salute to its designer, the great Naoyuki Katoh.

The name “Contrell” was something I’d come up with years earlier while daydreaming about writing this story. “Flash Contrail” was an invention of Series 3 dub director Peter Fernandez, who had made wordplay an art form in Speed Racer. We were obligated to use the name, but not without discretion. August seemed like a decent alternative to his Japanese name Ageha, and the notion of his dad changing “Contrell” to “Contrail” for the sake of a business name was a simple way to define his character. (The Jetter/Jehter detail was a bonus.)

But the REALLY tough part was coming up with the password that would allow Flash and the others to break past his dad’s firewall. We essentially went through the same list as the characters in the story before settling on “Too big to fail.” Admittedly, that’s a bon mot rooted in our time, but there was no better way to sum up Jonathan Contrail.

6. Ultimatum

part 1 script completed February 2011
part 1 art completed May 2011
    published June 1, 2011

part 2 script completed June 2011
part 2 art completed July 2011
    published August 1, 2011

Based on eps 34, 35 from the 52-episode
plan: Battle with Dessler (2)

Fight forces dispatched by Dessler

Original story notes:

The site of a space battleground

The remains of a huge space battle appear in front of Yamato, which wanders the vastness of space seeking a new home planet. It was once a battlefield between the Bolar Federation and the Galman Empire.

The remains of battleships and bodies drift endlessly. There is a devastated planet; a colonial planet on which all life has been exterminated. Everyone on board Yamato feels the tragedy of war.

Suddenly, a crisis erupts — automated ships of both the Bolar and the Galmans detect Yamato and attack! Yamato is forced into a hollow and meaningless fight against soulless machines designed for slaughter. Yamato must prevail – the future of mankind depends on it!

You may wonder how that note applies to this chapter. The concept of the ship bumping into the remains of a battlefield was fantastic, but we couldn’t find a way to weave it into the ongoing narrative. However, the “meaningless fight against soulless machines” had some promise. And it bore a strong resemblance to this concept:

Yamato vs. General Guderu (part 2)

Guderu has developed his own unique anti-warp tactics using automated battleships equipped with sensors that can accurately pursue an enemy ship through a space warp.

Thus, even if Yamato avoids a fight by warping, the automated battleships can calculate her warp-out point and follow in a battle formation so that at the moment Yamato de-warps, they do the same and start shooting in tandem. Guderu attacks Yamato several times in different places with this pattern, gaining the upper hand. Every time Yamato attempts to escape by warping, it finds the enemy’s newest fleets waiting in perfect formation! The effect is the same as a surprise attack.

Yamato‘s crew perceives the enemy’s pattern and attempts to counter by taking battle stations just before warping. This fails against the enemy’s sheer numbers. Now desperate, they try the extremely risky maneuver of warping into an unsafe region of space – a high-gravity star cluster. Guderu does not anticipate this, certain that they would not take the risk. His ships again calculate Yamato‘s destination and warp to follow, but they are caught by the hyper-gravity and are unable to get in formation. Yamato shoots out their engines and computerized bridges. Trying in vain to shoot back, the ships are caught in the cluster and crushed to atoms by the gravitational forces.

Next, Yamato needs to escape from the star cluster, but Guderu’s flagship, accompanied by several destroyers, appears in a relatively safe region nearby. He dispatches the destroyers using the Gamilas instantaneous matter transporter and presses his attack. He attacks with a warp-laser, which forcibly transports Yamato into the center of the star cluster.

This chapter is what the entire first half of the story was leading up to: Talan cracking the conspiracy and Mariposa awakening to her true self. If it was an anime series, this would be the midpoint twist. Another subplot that would culminate here was the uncovering of the floating craps game and the surprise appearance of Wildstar, one last bit of levity before everything dialed up. It was worth it just to get to the panel of Orion drooling.

Carol: I love that panel of Kodai skulking down the hall. I imagined it animated, and I heard the angry Fred Flintstone trombone music, you know, the one that ends sounding like Inky Dinky Parlez Vous?

It was also the first chapter where I had to get into the habit of slicing off the third bridge, but next to all the other torture the poor ship went through here, it was small potatoes. Incidentally, since the coloring process for these comics could be done on a laptop, I often worked on it while traveling. In this case, some of Part 1 was colored in a Paris hotel room.

With Talan’s interviews, I wanted one of the characters to be a woman. I presumed the New Gamilon Empire would have a co-ed military for three reasons.

1) With the population dwindling before they found Galman I thought they’d have to put aside whatever old fashioned notions kept women from fighting in the first two series.

2) Gamilon is the only civilization in the Star Blazers universe whose civilization and way of life resembles our own. In the future of 2199, men and women serve equally in the Star Force – an idea they dropped after the early episodes. After Desslok had that final confrontation with Derek and Nova, he would certainly see women can be as strong and courageous as men, and fight with strength, honor and the same burning heart of justice.

3) other than Science officer Vixol from Comico’s second Star Blazers comic, we’ve never heard a Gamilon woman’s point of view before. You can do anything with a story, and even though it’s not official, wouldn’t that be some groundbreaking storytelling?

Tim loves women characters. Grease Monkey is full of awesome strong female characters. But when it came to Yamato/Star Blazers, he told me that he couldn’t see a female Gamilon crew member in the story; adding one would infer to the reader that that character is something special (like “a rabbit living with lions” to take a line from Cromartie High School). The reader would see that character as a Gamilon Nova — and there’s no one like Nova. I agreed to scrap the idea but it never sat well with me. Women are half of their population as much as our own. It was an inconsistency to me if we were going to keep all the nurses and Tomoko on board the ship, but keep Gamilon all male. To me that further cemented them as “bad guys” to our readers.

No doubt about it, there should have been at least as many female Gamilons in the story and they should have made the same contribution as the males – something Yamato 2199 definitely got right – but it was so unprecedented at the time that I felt it would stand out for the wrong reasons and require more storytelling service than we could spare. I’m glad the 2199 writers finally crossed the cultural line that their 1970s counterparts would not.

Tim did great work with the Gamilon characters Talan interviews. Sometimes I wish there was a Roman Album for our story. None of them have names, but I can see them in my mind’s eye on a page of one of the old Yamato books I would “read” over and over in my high school years. I was glad all of them had pupils, and each one had their own distinctive look. The first one I called “Artichoke Hair.” The second was “Scarred guy who could have been a lady.” I was super happy when Yamato 2199 came out to see the new Gamilon did indeed have a co-ed military.

I had a lot of fun writing for the “Little Guy/Baby Face” character in Talan’s last interview, but most of his character didn’t make the comic. He was supposed to be a Gamilon who wasn’t raised on the home world. He was supposed to have grown up on one of the way stations along Gamilon space routes and emigrated to Galman with his family after The New Voyage. I liked the idea of him being as young as Series 1 Wildstar, but an officer like the original version of Fomto Berger. He would have an odd slang to how he spoke, not entirely professional, but he’s a whiz at his job. I saw him as somewhat Seth Green-ish.

There were some deleted scenes where he and Talan might have done some detective work together, but ultimately my wild tangents needed to be cut for time. I learned comic book shorthand, which meant characters don’t change their clothes, and so to associate them all with Gamilon they wear the brown uniform. I had always presumed the green tunic was for the Space Navy and the brown uniform for Army/Ground forces, but all-green might confuse the reader, so brown uniforms and helmets all around. He’s also the only one with a backstory: Baby face married his school sweetheart and has a toddler at home.

“Cut for time” may sound weird when applied to a deleted scene in a comic, since it’s not a TV show or a film. In this case, it refers to storytelling time. I learned long ago that you need to be ruthless when it comes to this stuff, identifying everything that can bog you down or pull you off course, and either slicing it out or paring it down to only what can help you reach your goal. It would have been fun to see Talan get a youthful ward for a little while, but it wasn’t going to get us any closer to where we were going. We had already cut Japanese material that fell into this category, so we needed to apply the same discipline to our own.

Another example was when Carol wrote an elaborate script for Talan using a personal computer to crack the encrypted communication signal. She worked out all sorts of interface graphics and multiple steps. It would have been really interesting as an animated scene, but not at all in a comic. I always felt like the bad guy when Carol would send me a long, fully fleshed-out script oozing with charm and wit, only to see most of it land in a blood puddle with her last one. That said, at least half the dialogue in the story was all hers, if not more. My job was usually to compress it into its purest blend. To her credit, she kept coming back for more. Maybe there’s a fanfic in her future titled The Bolar Wars Extended Extended.

Gustav uses the words “ignoble end” in this chapter. I actually borrowed them from myself; shortly before writing began on this script, the world got the sad news of Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s death by drowning in November 2010. At the time, I described it in conversation as “ignoble end to a remarkable life.”

One thing we really puzzled over was how Talan would assert his authority when arresting Keeling on his own bridge.


Carol: When Talan comes in to arrest Keeling, does he need anything official from the Emperor to do so? Some armed guards would be nice, but should he have some kind of special googah with a backwards 4 on it to send the message home to Keeling that the jig is up? Keeling, who doesn’t care about Desslok’s authority at all, might just laugh at it and have Talan’s guards turn on him.

Tim: That’s a good question. He may just assume that he can pull rank and everyone will toe the line, but that’s a bit naive considering he’s uncovered a conspiracy involving others, and there’s general racial distrust going on.

There should be some sort of trump card with Desslok attached. I’m not sure a hand-held trinket would give us the impact we need. But there’s the giant Desslok head on the bridge – maybe big D gave Talan a contingency recording to be activated in case of trouble. Talan makes the arrest, hits a switch, the giant head’s giant eyes light up and the voice of Oz the Great and Powerful lays down some law.

Keeling just smirks and shoots out its eyes. Does that work for you?

Carol: Wow, that is harsh! Smoking eye sockets. Will they spark or fizzle a little, too? Are you really set on a switch? Right now I sort of imagine the scene as Talan marching in from off-stage to bring Keeling his comeuppance. If there’s a “head switch” I don’t know where the trigger would be. Maybe he would need the Gamilon communications officer’s help (it could be part of his console controls), or maybe there’s a code Talan recites to trigger it.

Not exactly sure what should be said yet, but it should include somewhere “submit yourself immediately into armed custody for your eventual execution.” No Lysis-esque fakey kangaroo trial for him. No Lars rehabilitation/recycling plan. He’s to be delivered back to the capitol where a firing squad will be waiting for him. Desslok doesn’t even want to give him the personal touch of a shot in the back. He doesn’t want to get his gun dirty shooting someone like Keeling himself. By rekindling war with Earth he’s done worse than show incompetence in battle, or failure to serve the Empire. He’s committed an unforgivable offense and must be executed anonymously.

Tim: After continued pondering, I thought Talan could have a handheld remote of some kind that interacts with the head, instantly downloading a pre-recorded message from Desslok to the crew. You’re right, Keeling would be beneath contempt at that point, so it would be a general notice to the underlings, like: my guy has my full endorsement. Do what he says or my new office curtains will be sewn together from your entrails.

Under normal circs, that would be enough, but this is Keeling’s hand-picked crew of he-man Gamilon Haters, so they don’t flinch when the eyes get shot out. Right after I thought of that, I pictured a 4-panel gag comic with Talan accidentally downloading the wrong message once or twice…

Unlike many other comics, mine don’t go out of their way to get fist-punching action into the mix, but once in a while it’s really, REALLY satisfying. It was Carol’s idea for Talan to paste Keeling a good one and knock out his tooth as a trophy.

He was actually supposed to get beat up even more! Keeling has a sword cane and Talan was going to wrap his cape in one arm and parry with the wrapped arm (he expected to get a little cut from Keelings stupid rapier) while he punched with the other. I had multiple ideas for this scene. I wanted Keeling to get disfigured between the hand to hand with Talan and ship explosions and have to wear a mask for the rest of the story like the creepy freak he is.

Like the Argo‘s third bridge, I had to remember to put a gap in Keeling’s mouth for the rest of the story.

Oop, there’s an error in the dialogue. Pretty sure I had Talan use “a bolt” between the eyes, referring to a blast bolt. I swear, you guys, I know there are no bullets in Star Blazers/Yamato.

Also, one of our three Gamilon Interview soldiers was going to be a suicide bomber. I planned for him to dive into one of the navigation consoles, salute the Emperor and blow himself up to buy time for Talan and the other two to get away. I don’t entirely know why that idea got scrapped, maybe because we were keeping the story as PG-rated as possible. It also could have been too close to the bone with the middle eastern conflicts that were going on back when we wrote it. Gamilons blow themselves up. They can’t surrender. Failure is treason. Faced with a situation they can’t get out of, the only strategy remaining is to sacrifice oneself for the others.

In the original Yamato episode where the Gamilon pilot was captured, he did attempt suicide with a scalpel (in a scene cut from Star Blazers), shouting “Glory to the leader” before Wildstar knocked it out of his hand. Having a suicide bomber do the same here would have been in keeping with this, but having real suicide bombings in the news made it feel really icky, and I also had Leiji Matsumoto in my head saying “DON’T KILL EVERYBODY.” So ALL the Gamilons got out alive. You can see them again later in Desslok’s command ship.

And finally, Mariposa’s full awakening. I don’t know if anyone else saw it coming, but MAN was I looking forward to drawing it. Each chapter contains at least one key image that popped into my head and steered the script toward itself. Mariposa reaching her full power and manifesting as a giant goddess on both Bolar and Galman was THE key image of the entire first half.

I was rewarded the following year when a Japanese fan approached me at Yamato Party 2012 to compliment me on my work, citing that moment in particular. Of course, I’m overjoyed that English-speaking fans enjoyed the comic, but a stamp of approval from the homeland is something extra special.

Production trivia: if you look closely, you’ll see that Mariposa’s color treatment changes at the end of the chapter. It was a stylistic choice in the anime for cels of Starsha and Trelaina to be drawn in colored ink rather than the usual black, to differentiate them from humans. It was my plan from the start to do the same with Mariposa at this stage. It’s actually harder than it looks – from here on, she became a special effect. Like the many other special effects (explosions, beams, helmet visors, etc.) she often had to be drawn separately and composited into a scene to make the color treatment feasible. Between that, the third bridge, and Keeling’s tooth, drawing these comics got more challenging every chapter.

Continue to chapters 7-12

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