Well, of course Washburn would shoot the fusebox. For one thing, it’s made of steel and is probably on a load-bearing wall. (Yes, that rifle would probably shoot clear through the damn building, but allow us a certain amount of ballistic license here.) But of course the real reason, the important reason, was so I could throw some sizzling sparks in there. Because sparks. I was originally going to have him shoot an old TV set, but we realized that any furniture like that would probably be part of the barricade at this point, so fusebox it was.

Besides, when push comes to shove, a Ranger knows who he sides with.



(Although we had many inspired suggestions for the October vote incentive, some of them would have taken longer than the comic itself! So Max just did a succulent succubus based on the popular video game character Morrigan Aensland. Doubt anyone will mind. Full-rez version is on his Gumroad site.)

More below!




A Swirl of Embers


The fusebox hit was, of course, a pinch of powdered zirconium in a tiny burst capsule. Titanium powder works almost as well, but zirconium is the ultimate for bright white sparks – zirconium wool was used in flashbulbs (remember those?) Zirc powder (really more like fine sand) is not easy to come by these days but I managed to obtain a pound of the stuff (which for me is basically a lifetime supply) so I used a few grains for that effect.

The embers, however, have been an ongoing project for a couple of weeks. I already had some ember footage, but I wanted more embers, and we finally had some nights without the usual Santa Ana winds gusting around. So time to shoot some embers.

I may have mentioned that not all charcoal is alike when it comes to pyrotechnic effects. Your standard hardwood charcoal is slow-burning and dense, which makes it ideal for cooking, but it makes for weak black powder and it has dull yellow sparks that vanish almost instantly. Your proper effects pyrotechnician makes his own charcoal, usually cooking up batches in a retort during the winter months when there is a fire in the fireplace anyway. May as well put the flames to work.

Pine charcoal is noted for its sparkiness. Beautiful golden long-lasting sparks – and talk about cheap! You can make it with chopped-up 2×4 scrap. Pine charcoal was used to create the drifting embers (remains of the car fire) seen around Washburn on this and previous pages.

My personal favorite is the local manzanita wood that grows in the hills. It’s protected, but dry broken branches can be found in the trash piles cleared by park workers, and I only need a few to last me years. Once turned into charcoal, the sparks it produces are a glowing orange-red that I find appealing. I’ve been doing some ember bursts with that – I make a small charcoal fire in a grill using manzanita charcoal, and when the coals are all glowing, tongs are used to place a single hot coal atop a black metal C-stand. Then I start the camera, back out of frame, and shoot the hot coal with an air rifle.



But for the final swirl of embers I needed something larger and drifting. So that was actually crushed liquidambar leaves, placed in a wire mesh basket and ignited. Once they had burned to orange flakey coals, a simple shake of the basket gave the effect desired. We’d usually left them orange for Countdown’s previous backports, but in this case (with all the other embers floating around) Max-The-Artist decided to color-correct them to blue.

I think it works.

— Bob out