Comic Talk and General Discussion

Advice for drawing and writing weapons in fiction.
ozoneocean at 4:53PM, Dec. 30, 2015
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This is good advice for comic creators when creating Scifi and fantasy weapons: http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/12/6-ways-to-make-scifi-and-fantasy-weapons-more-believable/
 
It's an excerpt from this book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599638150
 
Example:
 
Firearms and knives in the real world are often tweaked for specific
purposes, but here’s a little secret: The more tricked out the gun or
knife, the less practical it becomes.
 
Every accessory, modification or addition of something “cool” narrows the function of the gun or knife.
 
There’s a reason the most popular firearms and knives in reality are
also the most mundane. Simplicity equals versatility, and I’m betting
your characters require a truckload of the latter.
 
Which do you use more often on a daily basis: a steak knife or a
Swiss Army Knife? The steak knife might be intended for cutting meat,
but you probably use it for scores of other tasks, from prepping
vegetables to opening mail.
 
Despite all the roles it tries to fill, the Swiss Army Knife is
actually less functional from a practical standpoint. It requires a
specific need before it’s used.
 
Instead of creating a crossbow that fires arrows and bombs and
uses a backup pistol embedded in the design, stick to a dedicated
weapon that can do a single thing well. Give the character a separate
backup pistol instead of building it into the crossbow.
 
last edited on Dec. 30, 2015 4:54PM
Genejoke at 5:59PM, Dec. 30, 2015
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I often find funky fantasy weapons painful to see as they are so unconvincing. Novelties I suppose. 
That said I do like some visually striking weapons that are perhaps less than practical.  Calisa and Domingus both have over sized axes in lore and many a gun in Baso is on the large size too.  
I often like seeing less common weapons in use in visual mediums, but mostly down to the execution of the visuals.
ozoneocean at 6:28PM, Dec. 30, 2015
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I like unusual weapons when they're used for a specific purpose and not generally. It's really cool when I character has this unusual thing and uses it in a specific way that even helps to further the plot.
 
Pinky has a giant flame projecting rifle- a very useless weapon in most situations- but it would HVE to be big to work the way it does - unlike a crappy old fashioned flamethrower like the ones they basically stopped development on in WW2 and use in the Starwars movie, Pinky's rifle works with a cartridge containing a very compressed, very reactive gass and a toxic reative powder. The barrel is a long jet turbine. Traditional flamethrowers work with a compressed gass of pump for spraying flaming liquid over a distance- tech that has been used since the Ancient Greeks, Moviie flamthrowers work with flaming gass, which has very limited range.
 
Pinky uses her big gun very, very rarely and only in specific ways.
 
I made a giant fantasy axe once out of solid 1 inch + thick steel. It had a huge long “bearded” blade. The thing weighed a LOT!!!!!!  It was very hard to pick up and hold for very long. Any serious chopping would have shattered the handle.STupidly  I cut off the long bearded part to try and make it more “practical”…. derrrrrr…. just made it boring instead.
 
usedbooks at 7:50PM, Dec. 30, 2015
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usedbooks at 8:10PM, Dec. 30, 2015
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I usually pick one or two mundane weapons per armed character and have them specialize. Then again, I don't write fantasy, so I'm not sure how much applies, but I do find choosing the right weapon for a character can also say a few things about his personality. I have one aristocratic-type who's not usually armed, even though he deals with shady people. Instead, he keeps a very well-trained personal guard dog at his side. One of my main protagonists carries concealed handgun(s) 100% of the time, solely for protection from her questionable past. Then there's the guy who ties his hair with a garrote. Admittedly, that's not practical from any angle, but I like the effect of him taking his hair down to go psycho.
 
I like the angle of having a character's posessions emphasize his traits, especially when talking about weapons or vehicles. If a character is a larger-than-life type, then an oversized customized monstrosity could be exactly the weapon of choice. For a practical character, something functional. For 99 from Get Smart, a pretty red revolver.
 
(A bit off-topic, but it does sort of apply to the weapons in fiction theme.)
KimLuster at 8:15PM, Dec. 30, 2015
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I agree, especially when you're making a nod to reality!  And even when you're not, a single weapon with a basic function can have ‘accessories’ that make it more interesting in ways that weren't really intended as being part of the weapon's function.  Take Elric's sword, Stormbringer.  It's a sword, more ornate than most, but oh, the accessory - the soul-sucking power of a demon.  Lightsabres: they're swords made of energy, but their nature allows them to block other forms of energy, and even redirect them.  They're super useful for cutting through otherwise impenetrable barriers, or being thrown and cutting stuff from a distance!
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The most interesting weapons become an integral part of the character.  Wolverine's claws; Wonder Woman's lasso; Lara Crof's pistols (she uses other weapons too but the pistols are iconic)…  It's sorta hard to even imagine the character without that weapon!
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Multi-purpose stuff as part of the package does push belief sometimes.  The bow-and-arrow heroes, with their exploding arrows, their net-arrows, they're tear-gas arrows…  They really carry all that stuff…?!!  Robin Hood is plenty interesting with just plain ol' arrows, shooting them in jaw-dropping ways…!
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I think that's the key.  Take a weapon with basic properties, and make it interesting through how the character uses it, and when you mental image of the characters always includes that weapon, I'd say you've made a good one!
bravo1102 at 1:03AM, Dec. 31, 2015
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I've always followed the advice but then I have had real life training with weapons and the KISS principle. Keep it simple stupid.

I have plenty of complaints about depicting weapons, like carrying multiple guns instead of reloads. Fire and drop! Really?

Remember all the add-ons for real weapons are for quite specific purposes. The flashlight and laser pointer and night sight and grenade launcher are there to support the rifle not replace it.
bravo1102 at 4:11AM, Dec. 31, 2015
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By the way 2015 was the centennial of the first use of the modern flamethrower among other things introduced in the First World War. The flamethrower was replaced by incendiary grenades. Easier to carry and use. Fire in the hole!
KimLuster at 7:00PM, Dec. 31, 2015
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i read those early flamethrower were more dangerous for the thrower  - which i can see, carrying a few gallons of flammable liquid on your back, and you have to get so close to the foe to be affective!!
El Cid at 11:45AM, Jan. 1, 2016
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I'm sorta torn here… I like practicality in general, but then comics are one of the few places where you do get to play with totally impractical weapons and superpowers and get away with it! But you shouldn't make a weapon or superpwer so over-powering that there's no drama; it should have constraints and they should be applied consistently. Like, don't give your sci-fi hero a super gun that has infinite ammo and can penetrate anything and has smart bullets that track targets without aiming.
 
Also, weapons should be environment-specific. Like, on a space station, you'd need weapons that aren't likely to puncture the hull and kill everybody, but can still incapacitate a space pirate… so probably energy weapons or some kind of taser or low-velocity round. Flamethrowers would probably not be a good idea for that situation.
maskdt at 2:22PM, Jan. 1, 2016
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This is why Grenadier carries a handgun and a combat knife in addition to his iconic plasma grenade launcher. Sure, the plasma grenades do a whole lot of damage to people and architecture, and earned him his name, but they're not terribly useful in everyday combat situations where you don't want the other guy to wind up splattered all over the walls. So, you won't see him using it against most of his foes, but it certainly will see use against walls and monsters that can't just be put away in jail.
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The way I see it, if you're going to have a character haul around a specialized weapon, then they really should carry something for when things go completely tits up and their fancy weapon doesn't work so well anymore. It's common in role playing games because things absolutely will go tits up if your character can't cope with situations they didn't plan for, and I personally see role playing games as a good way to practice getting into the head of a sci-fi or fantasy character.
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At the same time, I also love the idea of characters with super powers or magic using them for as many tasks as possible. If you could shoot fire from your fingers, wouldn't you use it to start campfires or warm your hands up on a cold winter's day? They've been given one heck of a hammer, so why wouldn't they try to use it on as many of the world's problem nails as possible?
bravo1102 at 5:50AM, Jan. 2, 2016
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yeah a lot can be said for considering weapons as tools. You gonna use a sledge hammer to drive brads?

The one thing I have to quibble with is the use of so called archaic weapons. The example of a crossbow versus a firearm is a poor one. Crossbows have their uses even today. Also you never know that maybe gunpowder just isn't available so it is back to torsion powered missile weapons. Remember that the long bow remained a much more effective weapon than a firearm. Except that it takes a lifetime to learn to shoot a bow and a couple of weeks to shoot a gun (or a crossbow). 

Something to consider about in sci-fi that directed beam weapons may be all the rage but a good pellet pusher still has plenty of uses.  Look at all the times where the Star Trek phasers didn't do the job and a good old shotgun would have been a lifesaver. The thing is it's easier to carry a couple of spare power packs for your phaser than 100 rounds of shotgun ammo.  It took nearly 300 years for the long gun to banish the polearm from the battlefield and that was only after a way was developed to make the firearm into an ad hoc polearm. If your enemy can't shoot as fast as he can pull the trigger there is time to get to him with a sword. There are plenty of things you really have to study weaponry and history to understand and still not get it. One author was a very good archer and bow hunter yet still had the officer command “fire” for the archers to loose their arrows.

You gotta go to museums, see live displays and have a good reference library. 
ozoneocean at 12:40AM, Jan. 3, 2016
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Good comments!
Especially that last one Bravo about mixing the old with the new. Matt Easton here https://www.youtube.com/user/scholagladiatoria talks about that kind of thing a bit in various vids.
 
Although, there's a big difference between theory and reality even for actual real life military!
 
I'll unpack that-
Tanks, warships, aeroplanes etc are all logically fitted out with sensibly though out armaments.
An old tank will have its main gun, a machine gun aligned with the main gun to help sight it, and another bigger machine gun on the top of the turret.
A ship will have a bunch of missle launchers, one autoloading main gun, some anti-submarine stuff, a CIWS antimissle gatling gun and mounts for antipersonel machine guns around the rails.
A 1930s bomber had a bomb bay and a couple of machine gun turrets for defence.
   
But when these things are tested by real war a massive change happens- Invariably these spare armaments multiply, till evey spare sqaure centimeter is packed out with weapory of some kind. It's like the way a little kid draws a war machine: like a procupine with guns instead of quills.
  
That's a good lesson to keep in mind if you want to create a big weapon system like a tank or a warship: In peace time they'll be armed minimally and sensibly, keeping in mind what weapons they should logically need VS space VS crew comfort VS expense VS other roles the thing is needed for etc.
In war though the only thing that matters is firepower.
 
In Pinky TA I designed the mecha around the idea of a peace time “standard” configuration. Even later on in the story they're still test vehicles so they haven't yet been tricked out with the massive varitey of of weaponry you get with front line weapons systems.
 
bravo1102 at 4:57AM, Jan. 3, 2016
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You mean like that? (Top to bottom, original M1A1 Abrams, post Iraq-Afghanistan M1A2 TUSK 2. M60A3 in standard configuration and Magach 7 the Israeli tricked out from war experience version of the M60)
bravo1102 at 5:03AM, Jan. 3, 2016
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Top USS Arizona as she was in 1941 in clean pre-war configuration. Bottom her surviving sister USS Pennsylvania in 1944 in wartime configuration tricked out with lots of extra weapons.
ozoneocean at 7:06AM, Jan. 3, 2016
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Exactly.
There are some great Vientnam examples too: guntrucks, that were normal heavy army trucks decked out with 5 or 6 50cal heavy machine guns, transport planes and Chinook helicopters carrying so many guns they could literally destroy whole forests, Huey choppers with multiple gimbled machine guns hanging from improvised stub wings…
 
The Russian Mil-Mi 24 D “Hind” is well known from its nose turret gun, wing rocket pods and crew transport cabin. But in battle the cabbin was often just used for extra fuel or ammunition, while the wings could be carrying up to 12 rottery machine guns in pods if they so chose- or twin linked 20mm cannons, or 40mm grenade launchers etc. 
 
bravo1102 at 7:49AM, Jan. 3, 2016
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Gun trucks were resurrected in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army got smart and designed and bought specific gun trucks.

The British and Canadians have various similar vehicles. The armored car has made a come back.
ozoneocean at 5:01AM, Jan. 7, 2016
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People made some good points and this would be a great future Quackcast!
For now it's todays Newspost. PHEW!
http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/news/2016/jan/07/advice-for-creating-and-using-weapons-in-fiction/
 
fallopiancrusader at 7:56AM, Jan. 7, 2016
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If we are mentioning real-world historical factors that influence weapons design, I suspect that greed is occasionally a larger factor in the design of a military item than whether or not it will help win the war.
bravo1102 at 8:13AM, Jan. 7, 2016
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Not in the long term. You can be greedy and make lots of money up front by supplying shoddy merchandise but if it causes your customer to lose the war you're not making any more sales. See any number of examples during the American Civil War. 

Of course if you get the reputation of supplying superior goods consistently, eventually you will be able to charge what the market will bear like Krupp.  But greedy up front leads to failure and angry generals and legislators banging on your door. A few Congressmen built careers out of investigating war profiteering.  Like Harry Truman.
ozoneocean at 8:24AM, Jan. 7, 2016
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We're more talking about straight forward form and function and how that applies to fiction. The absolute basics.
 
Greed is a secondary or tertiary factor here, like culture influencing the shape of a sword, or resource scarcity leading to smaller tanks, that sort of thing. That's an advanced level of writing :)
 
bravo1102 at 8:59AM, Jan. 7, 2016
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ozoneocean wrote:
We're more talking about straight forward form and function and how that applies to fiction. The absolute basics.
 
Greed is a secondary or tertiary factor here, like culture influencing the shape of a sword, or resource scarcity leading to smaller tanks, that sort of thing. That's an advanced level of writing :)
Like portraying war profiteering as in the novels North and South or Sharpe's Regiment for example. A bit more complicated than how you fit out a cheetah woman who flies an airplane or design a biological weapon system based on mind controlled human females.
KimLuster at 9:57AM, Jan. 7, 2016
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I've visited the Battleship Alabama in Mobile Bay - that thing has guns EVERYWHERE!!!  Kinda fun climbing around on it!!
bravo1102 at 3:19AM, Jan. 8, 2016
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KimLuster wrote:
I've visited the Battleship Alabama in Mobile Bay - that thing has guns EVERYWHERE!!!  Kinda fun climbing around on it!!
And that's actually a disarmed post war configuration.  I've been on Wisconsin in Norfolk.  That's one that was modernized in the 1980's so also has a smaller more compact weapons fit in keeping with modern naval weapons tech. One weapons system that can do multiple things like missile launchers.  I've also visited a destroyer, a bunch of submarines and some sailing ships. I went below decks on the US civil war era Constellation and told the tour guide that even being a tank crewman it was too tight for me. I have no idea how they manned those huge iron cannon. So much bigger than the 17th and 18th century cannon I'd seen before.

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