And we’re back! Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a great holiday — even if you didn’t get a functioning lightsaber in your stocking.

Discussion below the jump!

The Collaborative Force


Just as background, I grew up in an age when you couldn’t buy an actual functioning laser in the dollar store as a cat toy. But I did have a scientist for a father, who worked in a place called Hughes Research Labs in Malibu. It’s still there. The building looks a bit dated now, but when I was a kid, that 50’s-modern building set into the rugged hillside looked for all the world like Tracy Island. And when they had an Open House once a year, it was the coolest thing ever. Strange crystals growing in illuminated tanks; a working ion engine in a vacuum chamber (just a faint blue glow, but I was enthralled); actual projection holograms (remember, this was 1972); and coolest of all, a working CO2 laser. The beam was invisible, and the laser itself took up an entire room. The demonstration chamber was just a concrete box with a hole in one wall and a white-hot block of ceramic at the other (the precursor to the Space Shuttle tiles.)

The laser beam came out of the hole and was heating the tile. The chamber was just big enough for a scientist in a white lab coat and goggles to patiently wait for enough of us kids to gather in front of the window, whereupon he would pick up a standard Louisville Slugger baseball bat, rap it on the window to show us it was real, and then swing it through the beam. The bat would be sliced right in half with a bit of flame and a trail of sparks as the loose end sailed away and banged off the concrete wall.

It was the freakin’ future, man, and I could not wait. Flying cars any day now!

And every once in a while my father would bring home a HeNe laser. This was a complicated device containing a glowing tube of helium-neon gas, a power supply, and some adjustment mechanisms. All our friends would come over with their mom’s hand mirrors, and that night, we, with the help of all the neighborhood kids, would attempt to send the beam around the block. It was a red laser, about as powerful as your standard office laser pointer nowadays, but at the time it was a big deal.

One of the things my dad showed me was that you couldn’t reflect the beam back on itself. No matter how you angled the mirror, the beam would slip to one side or the other. Like trying to squirt two firehoses at each other. He also told me that the reason the beam didn’t work well in daylight was that the ultraviolet light in sunlight broke down the coherence of the beam and caused it to dissipate. (If I have any of this wrong, it’s my memory, not my father’s original information.)

So anyway, when I wanted Marissa to have a “lightsaber” as part of her Star Wars cosplay outfit, and (because we’re talking Marissa here) make it actually capable of cutting a chain, MY thought was a single souped-up Wicked Laser coming from the emitter, surrounded by an array of UV diodes focused at one meter. The beam would go a short distance at full power and then be scatted by the concentrated UV at the intersection.

I described this in the script, but when Max did the drawing, he reversed the components — he had a whole cluster of lasers around the outside of the emitter hole. And the problem was, it looked so much cooler than my initial concept I agreed we should just keep it that way. So I changed the dialogue to try to match. Despite what some writers will tell you, dialogue is always easier to change than art. Especially cool art.

I’m not pretending that this would work as shown — oh, you could probably slice a fence with it, given time, but Madison would have a nice big scorch mark down the center of his shirt there. But this is comics. And I’m just detailing just the thought process behind the idea.

Actually, the collaboration goes both ways. In case you missed it, last week Max updated the previous page’s blog post with a video detailing a revision on the previous page’s art. Because while I loved the lightsaber version he’d come up with, I felt that his original rough sketch of Marissa’s face was far more… well, Marissa… than the final art he’d first turned in. He’d made her pretty, but the sauciness had been lost. Fortunately, that was all I had to say. He took it from there.

— Bob out