20 March 2019

FWS Top 10: Forgotten Military SF Video Games (Vol. 4)

 On of the missions of Future War Stories to be a place where not just the popular elements of the genre are given a seat  at the table, but also the forgotten and the lost. Military science fiction is packed with manner of lost stories that are not confided to just one type of media. Over the course of the last nearly two years, FWS has been hard at work cataloging a range of forgotten military science fiction video games. Some are lost classics, some "meh", and some are best left in the past...but nevertheless, they deserve a place and here they will be. This is the 4th installment and they will be a total of 10.

1. Power Slave (Lobotomy 1996)
You could be forgiven if you thought we were talking about the Iron Maiden album, but Power Slave (Exhumed in Europe) is at first glance a DOOM clone…but it is much more. Appearing on MS-DOS machines and the failed Sega Saturn console in 1996, it would be ported over to the original PlayStation in 1997. This is a solid shooter with you going up against all manner of ancient Egyptian themed enemies in the ruins of Karnak. Some believe that Lobotomy Software was inspirited by the 1994 film Stargate.
In this first person shooter, you use human and Kilmaat ET weaponry to battle for control of King Ramese’s mummy that could be used by the aliens to take control over Earth. While some may write this game off as a simple DOOM clone, but Power Slave was something better than that like Strife. Interestingly enough, the Saturn, PSOne, and MS-DOS all had difference versions with different gaming mechanics and endings. What was this shooter forgotten? It is better remembered in Europe than the US, but it poor sales performance in the States is partly it is due to the crowed DOOM clone shooter market at the time. Given the current culture of resurrecting old games for review and/or modern graphical upgrades; Power Slave been dug up and reviewed allowing for many of us to discover a DOOM clone that is anything but typical and was a unique title during this era.

2. Krazy Ivan (Psygnosis 1996)
Back in the early days of the original PlayStation, all manner of titles were unleashed on us and it was good times for we were spoiled by choice. One game I saw often at my local Dallas BlockBuster was this title and I avoided it. For some reason, despite being a mech combat game, I just never was into this game. This game is a mecha-based shooter with you, a Russian soldier, taking the helm of a mech to defend the Earth from invading alien robots. Tongue-in-cheek, FMV sequences, and not bad overall, Krazy Ivan was lost in the sea of much better game at the time. It was only released on the original PlayStation here in the States, and the announced SEGA Saturn port was not imported to the US. It was a good thing, too. The reviews of the Saturn were terrible.

3. Knife Edge Nose Gunner (KEMCO 1998)
First Person POV futuristic flight simulators are not uncommon in the history of video games, even on home consoles. One of the core consoles of the 5th generation, the N64, was the only system to receive a very interesting flight shooter that allowed you to be the gunner on a endoatmospheric gunship vehicle called “the Knife Edge” while doing battle on a colonized Mars against aliens. Developed by Japanese game company Kemco (which is still around) in 1998 and takes some influence likely from Star Fox and Descent. Unlike many other spacecraft shooters, Nose Gunner has the player only controlling the weaponry of the gunship and according the game, the gunship is controlled via a computer. Odd. While interesting and one of the bestselling systems of the 5th generation, it not garner good reviews and was largely forgotten to other much better N64 spacecraft shooters.

4. Iron Storm (4x Studios 2002)
In 2002, the French 4X Studios would release a PC game that attempted to show an alternate history where World War One never ended and dragged on for fifty years. The game picked up in 1964 when one faction in the world war was developing nuclear weapons and it is up to the player to locate and sabotage the weapons program. The combat was a marriage of familiar WWI concepts and tactics with mixing in 1960’s technology as well. It was a basic shooter that received some good reviews and garnered fans, but it never achieved liftoff when compared to other shooters at the time despite the cool setting. I was never that impressed with the actual mechanics and it quickly bored me. The game has an interesting release history. It would release for Windows machines in 2002 with later releases coming onto the PS2 console as an updated game called Iron Storm: World War Zero in 2004 and 2005 by Rebellion Developments. There was to be a sequel, but it never materialized and portions of the work and some of the same staff were thrown into the spiritual sequel called “Bet on Soldier: Blood Sport”.

5. Battlestar Galactica (VU Games 2003)
There has been talk of resurrecting the 1978 TV series Glen A. Larson Battlestar Galactica for some time with Richard Hatch leading the charge with his own money. In the late 1990s, there was seriously talk of reviving the series via either Richard Hatch’s second coming project or the Battlestar Pegasus project with Glen A. Larson and Todd Moyer. In 2000, the most serious attempt was helmed by Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto for new mini-series set in the classic universe some 25 years after the original series. This attempt was serious and pre-production was undertaken…then the terrorist attacks of September 11th happened and Singer dropped out.
Then in 2002, the leadership at Universal/Sci-Fi Channel ordered a rebooted mini-series rather than a continuation of the original 1978 universe with the new project under the leadership Star Trek alum Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. On December 8th, 2003 the first episode of the four-part mini-series aired to massive numbers and praise…and the rest is TV history. Just before the mini-series came an oddball space shooter game on the PS2 and Xbox under the name “Battlestar Galactica”. While basically forgotten today by the larger gaming public, the 2003 BSG game was developed by UK developer Warthog Games and Universal Interactive as their swan song, and it is sort of a mash-up between several BSG projects.
According to the game itself, the game is set during the Cylon War and as William Adama as a Viper pilot onboard the Galactica. While some sources claim that this game takes place before the 2003 rebooted series that is untrue. Elements from the classic 1978 series, the abandoned Singer project (seen in the design of the Cylon Centurions), along with the new mini-series were all blended into this game. This makes the 2003 game only related onto itself. I can remember this game being reviewed in a gaming magazine I got back in the day and the review was very meh…and that is one reason why it is now largely forgotten. Another reason could be that the game came out a month before the new mini-series and the audience for BSG was limited. This game was eclipsed by later strategy games that are set in the proper rebooted BSG universe.

6. Ghen Wars (Jumpin' Jack Studios 1995)
SEGA always seemed to be in the shadow of Nintendo when it came to home console gaming systems. That was the case for the majority of SEGA’s existence with the balance in power altering with the release of Genesis/Mega-Drive gaming system.  For that generation alone, SEGA beat the mighty Nintendo…but it would not last. On the heels of the aging Genesis was SEGA next system, the 32 bit Saturn. This was to battle with the PlayStation, the 3DO, the “64 bit” ATARI Jaguer, and the SNES. While we all know that the Sony PlayStation was the dominate console in the 5th generation wars, it was really it was the battle that SEGA had to win…but lost. The inertia of the popularity of the Genesis/Mega-Drive had to be maintained via a new console, but the Saturn was not the system to accomplish that mission.  It lacked 3rd party support, it was overpriced, and too complex, along with the marketing campaign was not able to compete with the Sony PlayStation. While the Saturn was launched in 1994, it would not last has long as the home system it replaced. By 1997, SEGA America was laying off employees and the path was being prepared for the last gasp of the SEGA console market: the Dreamcast. During the NEXUS-6 like lifespan of Saturn, it is amazing that 600 games were released for the system, including this forgotten military SF game: Ghen Wars. Descent, Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels, and Tunnel B1 were similar was that were also on the much more successful PlayStation.   
Originally published in summer of 1995, Ghen Wars is one of the earlier games in the Saturn library and is a first-person mecha combat game. Developed by Jumpin’ Jack Studios that folded shortly after Ghen Wars was released, this FPS game was centered on off-world warfare on the planets within the solar system with the hero using an exo-suit to defeat the Ghen alien race. At the time, the game was praised for somewhat destructible environments, upgradeable weapons, many locations, and multi-path endings. However, the game was generally accepts as just okay and similar to other games at the time that also included FMV scenes. Why this game became forgotten was its inclusion on the SEGA Saturn and being similar to other games at the time, like Descent, but it was not as good as that vehicle-FPS. The difference for games like

7. Zero Tolerance (TechnoPop 1994)

Throughout the 1990’s, the video game industry and its fandom were dominated by the aftermath of the release of DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D. For years, there was a bumper crop of FPS games for us fans of shooters across all consoles and computer systems. On the very successful SEGA Genesis/Mega-Drive, there were three exclusive shooters, and one of them was Zero Tolerance. Developed by Technopop and released in 1994, it was military sci-fi corridor shooter taking place on three separate environments. The game was set in the future when humanity was establishing off-world colonies in other star systems when aliens attack the Terran flagship, causing the elite space commando force, Zero Tolerance, to board the flagship and investigate the situations.
Praised at the time and gained enough success to have a sequel in development, it was still on a console that had much success then faded along with the game company that developed it by the time of the PlayStation invasion. After watching some videos on the gameplay, it is a rather pretty shooter that appears to be a hard game with lackluster weaponry and players that stay dead once they are killed in the game. It is after the release of the original game that the story becomes much more interesting. There was a planned sequel called Beyond Zero Tolerance by the same studio and its story was to have the Terran space commandos travel to the alien homeworld to end the threat once and for all, but it was not released despite being nearly finished. According the information I found, the game was quite similar and was being worked on by Technopop in 1995 and the game was slated to be released on the Genesis/Mega-Drive and the 32X maybe in 1996(?). However, it was ended due to the winding down of the hardware in favor of the Saturn. Today, the ROM is available for download in its still unfinished state. Much later on in 2005, Tomb Raider publisher Eidos was eyeballing resurrecting the Zero Tolerance franchise for the PS2 and original Xbox. Eidos was going remaster the original 1994 game for the PSP system and put out a new game called “Zero Tolerance: City under Fire”. However, after legal trouble, the Zero Tolerance connection was dropped and the work on the game later came out on as the rather middle-of-the-road 2006 Urban Chaos: Riot Response.

8. Star Trek: Shattered Universe (TDK 2004)
Many Trekkies know that the Mirror Universe episodes and storylines are some of the finest in the Trek…and it seems a no-brainer for a video game to be set in the Mirror Universe. That seems like a solid concept until you experience a game like TDK’s Shattered Universe from 2004. The story has the Excelsior under the command of Sulu traveling into the Mirror Universe could have really worked, given the power and advanced nature of the Excelsior class battlecruiser. However, Starsphere Interactive screwed it up by included an ISS Excelsior as well.
This concept was somewhat explored in the original DC Comics Mirror Universe storyline in issue #09-16. While you may think that this game would be about you taking control of the USS Excelsior battling the forces of the Empire, but you actually take control of a Federation fighter and do battle with the forces of the alternative universe while trying to protect the Excelsior and find a way home. With poor reviews and having a space fighter-based game in the Trek universe all added up to this one being quickly forgotten.

9. Renegade Legion (SSI 1990)
With the popularity of Star Wars and D&D, the 1980’s were a fertile time period for table simulation games and RPGs, with all manner of companies spring up to fill any void they could with a vast array of games. A majority of these games were some form of military science fiction and some went on to become long remembered…and some did not. One of those companies that arose to popularity in the 1980’s was Chicago-based FASA. Having the license for Star Trek and Doctor Who made them a force on the RPG scene; however, it was Battletech that made them unique. In that inventory of games and licenses was Renegade Legion, a military sci-fi hex-based wargame about a war in the Milky Way in the 69th century. Starting off as a space fighter combat game called Interceptor, Renegade Legion took a different than FASA titan title Battletech. That premier title started off with a hex-based ground combat with Mecha and then expand into fighter and ship combat games, books, an RPG, then computer games. Renegade Legion would follow a similar path with ever expanding titles, books, an RPG, and then two computer games at the end of its lifespan. Again, very similar to the path of FASA’s Battletech. And why not?
The formula for Battletech had been extremely successful, why could it not happen with Renegade Legion? FWS will cover this forgotten classic of 1980;s MSF RPGs at a later date (hint!), but for now we need to examine the two computer games associated with RL. Given that RL started in the realm of space fighter combat with Interceptor, it seemed like a good place to start with the computer games. One of the features of Interceptor was a system to catalog the damage done to your space fighter that this pen-and-paper feature as carried over to the first computer game from and developed by Strategic Simulations and released in 1990 for DOS machines.Let us be honest here, Interceptor is a difficult game that has more in common with the tabletop warfare game than a space-sim.
Given it is complex and plotting nature caused Interceptor to be less engaging and ultimate forgotten when such classic space combat simulation games like X-Wing and Wing Commander came out. SSI sensed the way the wind was blowing and in 1995, Midnight Software would created an very similar MS-DOS space combat sim for the FASA created for the 67th century Renegade Legion universe: Renegade: The Battle for Jacob's Star. Unlike other games at the time, there was no FMV sequences. While this was a step in the right direction, it was no Wing Commander. However, it sold well enough to earn work on a sequel: Renegade II: Return to Jacob's Star. This was never completed and by this time, the franchise was sold off from FASA.  

10. Bethesda Softworks Terminator Series (Bethesda 1990-1996)
The Terminator franchise has seemingly always had good relationship with the video game industry, and many of us know the arcade games and the based-on-the-film titles. However, there video game titles that explored the war against the machines in the dark future…something the film franchise seems to be adverse about. In 1990, Bethesda Softworks released a first-person shooter called Terminator: 2029 (not related to the Dark Horse Comics series). The plot centers the results of a daring Special Operations mission undertaken by John Connor’s SOG unit, during the mission, the SOG Resistance unit captures an experimental (and abandoned) CLASS-I powered armor called A.C.E. (Advanced Cybernetic Exoskeleton).
Seemingly developed before the humanoid Terminator units, the Resistance recognized that this ACE APS could allow one specially trained human resistance fighter to transform into a one man slaughterhouse for the machines of Skynet. Originally sold on a 3.5 disks (how I had it) for DOS machines, it was later repacked on CD-ROM with the expansion pack “Operation Scour” that could be bought with a “Deluxe CD Version” that had voice actors and music. I had this game on my original HP computer on 3.5 disks, and it was a solid game that quickly became boring due a recycled format and some bullshit gaming mechanics.
While a solid game, it was older when placed onto the new medium of CD-ROM and given the rapid progress of computer games at the time, Terminator 2029 was lost, especially as the glow of T2 faded.  What followed is one of the weakest Terminator games of all time: 1993’s Rampage. This has Skynet send a pieces of its core back to 1984 to the HQ of Cyberdyne Systems, allowing it to survive, make Terminators and plot taking over the world (of course!). Again, Conner sends a Resistance fighter to do battle with the Skynet and hunt down pieces of a plasma weapon. Boring, buggy, and not well done. Easy to see why this one is forgotten. In 1995 and 1996 Bethesda would release two more FPS Terminator games set around the war against the machines: Future Shock and Skynet. Both are very similar and are a standard FPS game set in the dark future with you shooting Skynet’s metal minions with all manner weaponry and even taking control of various vehicles. Well received back in the day, but lost in the flood of CD-ROM FPS games of the time. 

03 March 2019

FWS Forgotten Classics: The ROBOTECH Graphic Novel (Comico 1986)

Every saga has a beginning that is in the background, hinting at events that echo in the characters and setting we know. We have seen this with the Clone Wars, the Bulterian Jihad, the Silmarillion, and the 1st Cylon War. If done properly, prequel stories allows to get to know a familiar world and character in a new light, adding to the richness of the original work…and then other times, not so much. One of the key landmark anime series in the United States is Harmony Gold’s ROBOTECH and it too, had echoes of a grand previous story. Many fans of ROBOTECH, like me, wanted to know about whom the original Zor was and the origin story of his super dimensional fortress that crashed landed on an unpopulated island called Macross in 1999. We original fans of ROBOTECH did not have to wait long because in August of 1986, Comico Comics published that very story in their ROBOTECH Graphic Novel. In this installment of Forgotten Classics, we will be opening the pages of this lost chapter of ROBOTECH history. 
 
What is the ROBOTECH: Graphic Novel?
Published in the late summer of 1986 by Comico Comics, holder of the ROBOTECH comic license, this 48 page oversized 10x8inch softcover book sold for a cover price of $5.95 ($13.63 today) and was a prequel to the ROBOTECH TV series, but not to its progenitor Super Dimension Macross. Ten years prior to the first episode of ROBOTECH “Booby Trap”, two worlds collided when an alien battle fortress crashed on a unpopulated island in the South Pacific. This came at a terrible time in the history of the human race. Across the face of Earth, various factions and nations fought in the so-called “Global Civil War” and with the outbreak of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East and poison gas in Asia, some of the leaders of the Western Alliance of the old United States were growing deeply considered that things were about to get grimmer. Thousands of lightyears away, another war was waging that would soon engulf Terra that was caused by a flower…the Invid Flower of Life. This powerful plant was a “gift” from the Invid Regis to a young Tirolian explorer/scientist named Zor after a romantic Captain Kirk style cultural exchange.
Within that plant was the science of Robotechology and power generation, causing a technological and society wide revolution on Tirol. Zor would become the First Robotech Master…but his “gift” soon caused a bitter between Tirol and the Invid. In the open of the graphic novel, Zor is at odds with his Zentraedi guards over Zor ignoring the orders of the Masters and the requests of the Zentraedi about seeding other worlds with the Flower of Life. He considered the Flower of Life a gift that could liberate new civilizations from the quest of energy. During on these seeding operations, Zor waits too long and his heavily armed vessel is attacked by the Invid.
It is here that Zor sends the battle fortress to a world that could use the power of the Invid flower: Terra. For much of the graphic novel, we are introduced to Roy Fokker, Captain Gloval, Rick Hunter, and Dr. Lang. It is here that we see some of the Global Civil War and Roy Fokker, based on the aircraft carrier Kenosha, battling mercenary pilot T.R. Edwards over the skies of the Western Alliance. After the crash, that briefly halted the Global Civil War, the Western Alliance Carrier Kenosha is sent to investigate the crashed massive alien vehicle. It is here that the graphic novel via some familiar characters, explores the SDF-1 in its original Tirolian state. Some very cool moments during that exploration and the graphic novel would led us up to the ever beginning of the first episode of ROBOTECH, beautifully tying it all together in a neat pretty bow.     

Why is the ROBOTECH Graphic Novel considered a “Forgotten Classic?”
While I’ll firmly believe that the 1986 ROBOTECH Graphic Novel is a great original ROBOTECH story that fulfilled the promise of showing the origins of the SDF-1 and Zor. For me, that deems it a classic due to the business of prequels are a tricky game to get right…just ask George Lucas. That being said, I felt at the time and even now, that the Comico 1986 graphic novel was the true (canon) story of how Zor’s battlefortress came to Terra and altered the history of the entire galaxy. But why was it forgotten if it was just a proper story that blended with the TV series?
Some graphic novels have endurance like the Dark Knight, the Watchmen, Maus,and Persepolis…then there are other titles that have their moment and fade away.  As I said above, Harmony Gold was attempting to forge an empire with the Sentients and "the movie", but those did not happen, and Harmony Gold could not extend the success of ROBOTECH much beyond 1988-1989. While it reran on the Sci-Fi Channel back in 1993 and there were comic books, ROBOTECH was on life support for over a decade. While ROBOTECH itself is legendary, the comic books are not given that status due to the fact they adaptations of the original series or just mostly terrible as we saw with Malibu/Eternity titles. It also did not help that Eternity comics came out with a ROBOTECH genesis limited-series in 1992 around how Zor sweet-talked the Flower of Life away from the Invid Regis. These were nowhere near as good as the Comico graphic novel, but confused and deluded the original “Genesis” title. Today, a first edition ROBOTECH Graphic Novel is sold online for about $12.     

The Historical Context of the ROBOTECH Graphic Novel

FWS discusses the 1980’s quite a bit due to the 80’s being totally awesome and because it was a key time-period in sci-fi history. Normally, when FWS covers the historical context of a certain work and why things did not work out, it’s because of bad timing…but that is not the case with the ROBOTECH Graphic Novel in 1986. When Comico released the impressive graphic novel, it was at the apex of the popularity of ROBOTECH given that it was liberally running across the nation in most TV markets. Not only was a hit in most TV markets with the intended audience, like ten-year old me, but Harmony Gold was attempting to expand the ROBOTECH band with various  related products as seen with the DEL REY books, the Art books, the Comico comics, Matchbox toys, model kits, and the RPG by Palladium Books.
In addition to various merchandising lines, Harmony Gold was attempting to establish an empire with ROBOTECH with a sequel that featured original animation and a re-dubbed of Megazone 23 as the “ROBOTECH Movie”. These failed ventures stand today as the remnants of the aborted Harmony Gold imperial dream. But, at the time of the graphic novel’s release, the sun still had not set on ROBOTECH or Harmony Gold’s dreams. Besides the world of animation, the 1980’s were a time of great change in the realm of comic books. During this time, newer smaller press comic book companies like Dark Horse, First Comics, Comico, and Now Comics were battling for a place in the sun alongside the Big Two. It was during this time as well that the graphic novel became a popular form of comic that had special meaning to us collectors. Graphic novels represented something special, something outside of the normal comic book titles and/or storylines. Established titles and companies dove into the graphic novel trend with Batman: Dark Knight, Batman: Digital Justice, Ironman Crash, and Alien Legion: A Grey Day to Die. These smaller press published would use the more mature format of the graphic novel to release some great titles and ideas along with creating buzz. That is why when Comico began teasing the graphic novel that we fans of ROBOTECH began to wonder what Comico had up their sleeves.     

The ROBOTECH Graphic Novel and Sentients Connection
When it was clear that ROBOTECH was going to be a big hit on the airwaves and with merchandising deals, Harmony Gold decided to move forward with two projects envisioned by Carl Macek: a feature length film and the TV series sequel. Much like the original saga, the ROBOTECH movie was cobbled from Megazone 23 and aired in the DFW Metroplex theaters around July 23rd 1986 . It would bomb and Harmony Gold put the rest of their eggs into the basket of the Sentients TV series sequel that would be original animation. These plans were in high gear in 1986 and these projects were mentioned in the first page of the Comico graphic novel.
Given the masterplan under the helm of Carl Macek, he was able to insert the seeds of the Sentients into the ROBOTECH Genesis graphic novel with Colonel TR Edwards. While the characters was altered during the Sentients initial development, he was presented in the pages of the 1986 graphic novel as TR Edwards. This skilled mercenary pilot was a key character in the graphic novel and would also be in the incoming Sentients TV shows as a real scumbag of the REF. For us original ROBOTECH fans, this was our introduction to TR Edwards. It was a pity that the character was just terribly done in the released Sentients episodes.


Where Else Have We Seen this Concept of the ROBOTECH Backstory?
There are two other titles that also mined the same subject
of the backstory to the SDF-1 crashing onto Macross Island during the Global Civil War: Eternity Comics’ “Robotech Genesis: The Legend of Zor” from 1992 and the DEL REY book “Robotech Genesis” by Jack McKinney published in 1987.  Due to the planned connection between the Jack McKinney books and the TV series by Harmony Gold, they align more closely than did the later telling of the backstory to the science of robotechnology presented in the Genesis graphic novel due to the 1986 Comico graphic novel being serialized into the pages of McKinny’s 1987 nvoel of the same name. However that fateful alignment does not apply to the Eternity Comics title. I am not a big fan of Eternity Comics’ handling of the ROBOTECH license and I think that they published real shit that degraded the remains of the collapsing ROBOTECH empire.     

What was the Impact and Legacy of the ROBOTECH Graphic Novel?
It is often difficult to track down the success or failure of an old comic during the Dark Ages prior to the internet. I firmly believe that the ROBOTECH graphic novel sold well given that there were two prints issued by Comico. The first printing was in August of 1986 (when I bought it) and the second in December of 1986. At the time, I had to preorder the graphic novel to be on a “guaranteed list” that my brother and I would be getting a copy and I remember how popular the guys at Starbase 21 in Tulsa thought of the ROBOTECH graphic novel was going to be. That or they just could have been after my hard earned allowance. Everyone I knew that was into ROBOTECH, had a copy of the graphic novel, but like many comic book fads and tie-ins…it fell into obscurity. For better or worse, the ROBOTECH graphic novel was still a product of its time and while ROBOTECH comic titles were continuously pumped out by other published until this very day, the graphic novel was largely forgotten. Partly this is due to Eternity Comics published a very similar storyline in 1992 with their ROBOTECH Genesis: The Legend of Zor limited series.
Falling into obscurity is true of a great number of comic titles and does not reflected how good or how bad a comic title is. Few comic titles endure like the comic titans of X-Men, Superman, or even Archie. They have their time in the sun and then lights fade out. However, the darkness ended for the ROBOTECH comics came on March of 2003, when DC Comics reprinted the classic Comico ROBOTECH comics. along with the graphic novel. In the first volume, which included #1-6 in a trade paperback volume, the 1986 graphic novel was included. This was done again in May of 2018 by the current holder of the license, Titan Comics, with the “ROBOTECH Archives”. The first volume of ROBOTECH Archives: Macross Saga included the first 11 issues of the Comico comic series as well as the graphic novel. Reading comments about these reprints, many commentators mention the inclusion of the ROBOTECH Genesis graphic novel being a big positive. This shows us some of the legacy of the graphic novel. 



My Experience with the ROBOTECH Graphic Novel
Many of you know that started watching anime during the 2nd Wave of Anime into America during the 1970’s with Battle of the Planets and Starblazers that aired on a local Dallas TV station when I was three. While as a fan of Starblazers, everything was transformed when ROBOTECH aired on a local Tulsa TV station in 1985. After seeing my first episode “Blue Wind”, the 13th episode of the Macross Saga, my life was altered in a profound way. I was singularly obsessed by ROBOTECH, Mecha, and Military SF for the next several years and forever would it dominate my path. During this time, my allowance was committed to buying everything and anything ROBOTECH/anime related.
At some point in 1985, I was made aware of an incoming graphic novel from Comico…likely from the Comico ROBOTECH comic series, and my brother and I reserved our copies from Starbase 21(at their old location next to Casa Bonita).  I read this over and over again when we picked up and it shaped how I view the larger ROBOTECH story. For me, the Comico ROBOTECH Genesis Graphic Novel was gossip and it was the canonized backstory to the events of the entire ROBOTECH saga. I still regard this as the backstory and I think it is one of the best original ROBOTECH stories. 

12 February 2019

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: The Weirding Modules of DUNE (1984)

On December 14, 1984 one of the most ambitious science fiction films was released: DUNE. This unique science fiction film saw the merging of the young talented director in David Lynch, the experienced hand of the De Laurentiis family, the music of Toto and Brian Eno, a wealth of talent behind the camera that designed the universe of 10,191 AG. All of this was built on the foundation of the legendary 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert that has been praised as the best science fiction book of all time. To breathe life into the pages of the book was one of the best casts were assembled for a sci-fi film ever. What was hoped by fans, backers, and the production was the fulfillment of Herbert's vision in a science fiction epic film similar to the Golden Age Hollywood historical epics. Sadly, that did not happen for Lynch's DUNE. Costing more than $40 million in 1984 ($97 million in 2019's money), DUNE lost a fortune, garnered bad and confused reviews, along nearly bankrupted Dino De Laurentiis and Universal Studios. Decades have passed since then and fans of the book remain divided on the 1984 film, which has not enjoyed the cult status of fellow 1980s sci-fi films like BLADE RUNNER. One of the most controversial elements incorporated by David Lynch not found in the original text was the inclusion of the sonic weapons known as the Weirding Modules. So controversial was the Weirding Modules that few DUNE works have included these weapons. In this latest installment of The Weapons of Sci-Fi, FWS will be shedding light on one of the most controversial weapons in all of science fiction: the Weirding Modules of 1984’s DUNE.

What is the “Weirding Way?”
Before we can discuss the Weirding Modules, we must investigate just the "Weirding Way" mentioned in the original 1965 text. In the DUNE novel by Frank Herbert, one of the oldest mental training school in the known universe that arose after the campaign against the thinking machines, the Bultrian Jihad, is the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. The goal of the school was to set up and direct a selective breeding program among the interstellar human societies to create the next evolutionary step in humanity's development. To insert themselves into society among the Great Houses to carry on their breeding program, they became royal mates, truthslayers, and advisories, to these important factions of the Imperium. One Bene Gesserit even rose to the position of wife to the Emperor Shaddam IV.
These abilities were due to the women of the Sisterhood were masters at control over their own bodies via Prana (nerve) and Bindu (body) training. This allowed them great abilities that bordered on witchcraft that also included their own martial art: the Weirding Way. The discipline of control via Prana and Bindu allowed a Weirding Way trained fighter to act and move much faster than a normal human. The control allowed for the Weirding warrior to picture something in their minds and having the body control to accomplish that move at the speed that made it appear as near teleportation. Paul Atreides was trained by his Bene Gesserit mother, Lady Jessica, in the way of the Weirding and it reflected in his fighting style.
The Weirding Way saved the lives of Paul and Jessica when they encountered Sietch Tabr and Stilgar after the fall of House Atredies. When Lady Jessica controlled Stilgar, he pledged protection for the two of them if they taught the Fremen their way of battle. This training of the Weirding Way to the Fremen tipped the balance on Arrakis and the known universe. While David Lynch altered and twisted the Weirding Way into a sonic weapon developed by House Atreides for their new army, the original pure idea from the book was resurrected by the 2000 Sci-Fi miniseries and allowed to see what Frank Herbert might have been envisioning.

The Origins of the Weirding Modules in 1984’s DUNE
I can remember reading the DUNE novel the first time in 1992 and being perplexed about the lack of inclusion of the Weirding Modules despite the Weirding Way being mentioned several times. With it being the pre-internet dark ages, I could not easily access the reason why David Lynch invented and then includes these sonic weapons into the 1984 film. But here is what we know about the origins of these devices. The idea of the sonic weapons and their basic operation are first seen in David Lynch’s second script that was dated May 29th, 1982 with the scene of Paul training the Fremen largely intact.
From the near beginning of his movie adaptation of the 1965 novel it seems that Lynch was going to include these Weirding Modules to overcome something he could not envision filming: the hand-to-hand combat of the novel. According to often cited quote, David Lynch did not want “Kung-Fu on sand dunes” and he felt the concept of the hyperspeed moves of the Weirding Way would be unworkable and unfilmable. His solution was to invent a device that harnessed some of the concepts of the Weirding Way and the Voice into a weapon that fired a blast of energy that could visit all manner of violence on the target. It had its own style and allowed Lynch to play within the oddness of his DUNE world. It worked, yet it did not work at the same time. Due to Lynch’s hatred for the film and complete lack of desire to ever discuss the much maligned film, some of the information concerning the genesis of the Weirding Modules has been lost.

How the Weirding Modules Neutered the Fremen (The Weirding Module Controversy)
Hidden in the rocks of the planet of Arrakis is the desert power of the Fremen tribes. Suppressed under the brutal Harkonnens, House Atreides was attempting to tap their desert power via Duncan Idaho’s intelligence/diplomacy mission to form an alliance. In the book, the Fremen were highly skilled desert guerrilla fighters that needed a common leader and some refinement to forge these tribes into a fighting force to rival the Emperor’s legions of Sardaukar terror troops.
When the Shaddam IV was deposed by Paul Muad’Did, the Fremen became the new military force that enacted a Jihad when House Atreides became the center of power for the imperium cross the known universe. While Lady Jessica did teach the Bene Gesserit way of battle to the Fremen, the core of the Fremen fierceness was due to the harshness of Arrakis, which forged them. Any discussion of the Fremen also entails that the type of combat seen in 10,191 AG is not like today given the use of personal shields and the teaching of knife and sword combat that take tactical importance alongside the lasgun. Then came the film and Lynch’s magical sonic weaponry. We see time and time again that the breaking of the Harknonnen and the defeat of the Imperial forces at Arrakeen was not due to the Fremen, but the weapons given to them by outworlders, thus neutering the Fremen. The power of the Fremen was robbed and replaced with screaming into a throat mic. The Fremen got their groove back in the bold-but-misguided Sci-Fi Channel miniseries from 2000.

What do those Weirding Modules Fire?
That is a tough one. According to the speech that Paul made to the gathered Fremen at his demonstration: “some thoughts have a certain sound, that being equivalent to a form. Though sound and motion, you will be able paralyze nerves, shatter bodies, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs. We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arrakeen air!” In the film, the House Atreides developed Weirding Module weapon system came in two pieces: one was the throat microphone and the other is a gun-like handheld device. When the operator chants a certain sound, the throat mic send into the to emitter device and out the "barrel" or "emitter". In the film, the  emitter cluster on the Weirding Modules do emit some sort of beam-like energy that does indeed shatter, send enemies flying, and set fires. The weapon is mentioned to be sonic-based, which makes the Weirding Modules fall into the category of a directed energy weapon (DEW). If we are to examine the actions of the actors when they fire the Weirding Modules, they seem to have a real kick or recoil.
Given the magically nature of some of the elements surrounding the Weirding Modules DEW, I am guessing that they fire a burst of some sort of energy with the flame sound being seen on screen as more of a stream of energy. There is no mention of the maximum range, ideal operational conditions, firing capacity, and endurance of the power source in any official source...if there was one.
       
What does the Weirding Module say about the DUNE Movie Setting?
At the opening of the 1984 film, the normal balance of the known universe under the Padishah Emperors, the great houses of the Landsraad, and the CHOAM Company was influx due to the popularity of Duke Leto Atreides I of planet Caladan. The Emperor felt threatened by his rising popularity and devised a plan to end the threat of the dear Duke by getting their arch-rival, House Harkonnen to attack them while House Atredies occupied Arrakis.
This would crush the Atreides, the Duke, and their new army once and for all. During these tense times, the Duke was betting heavily on a new weapons technology to put his new army on equal footing to the Emperor’s Sardukar Terror Troops: the Weirding Module. The Weirding Module directly speaks to the oddness of the DUNE universe, the power of the Bene Gesserit mental training, the influence of the Lady Jessica on the Duke, and the danger posed by developing an army to challenge the Emperor. Then there is the nature of the actual limited warfare of the universe of 10,191 AG.
With all of the travel of the known universe tightly controlled by the Spacing Guild and their greedy need for spice drug, any destabilizing conflict between the Great Houses was not allowed to happen. It was as simple as that. There was no real way to cross the vast gulfs of intergalactic space for the Great Houses without the Guild. If one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad was going to invade another House, they had to get the blessing and support of the Spacing Guild so that the invasion force could be loaded up and transported by Guild heighliners to the target world or system that could lay millions of lightyears away. Shaddam IV’s grand scheme to rid the Landsraad of Duke Leto and his house had to gain the consent of the Spacing Guild to be put into motion.
Even the Emperor had to ask for a lift from the navigators of the Guild. With this and the Great Convention, the nature of warfare was limited and while some of the Great Houses invested in military organizations to protect their worlds, it was still limited when compared to our modern combined arms centered armed forces. With personal energy shield generators and the sobering risk of rouge Lasgun striking a shield triggering a nuclear explosion, infantry combat was much more personal with blades and projectiles to overcome the shield barrier.
There was the limited use of armed Ornithopters, and artillery, but that was rare and mainly seen in the DUNE novel due to the weather conditions on the sandbox preventing the use of personal shielding in the open air. When the Baron assault Arrakeen, the Atreides were surprised at the use of armed ornithopters and even artillery, speaking to its rarity. War by assassin and raids were much more common and less likely to trigger a major conflict. But, the Guild could shut that down if they wanted and if the Spice bribes were not enough to make them look the other way. In these conditions, the Weirding Module arose in the hands of the Atreides and it is likely that these weapons could be used against shields and throw the nature of warfare in 10,191 AG into chaos.               
The Weirding Module Props

Sci-fi props are almost always a fun mystery to dive into and when it came to the infamous sound weapons of 1984’s DUNE, there were many lingering questions. In order to get them answered, FWS sought out people associated with the 1984 DUNE production or had knowledge of the props, including Ron Miller. I must day that we, as a community, got very lucky that in 2010 when one of the very rare (or only one) “hero” Atreides Weirding Modules props used by actor Kyle MacLauchlan was put up at auction allowing us to have detailed photos and information on this one-of-kind sci-fi prop weapon. According to the auction description the prop body was made from resin and wood with little stylistic elements made from black rubber tubing, machined aluminum with the prop not being black in color as I originally thought, but a maroon.
Internally, there was wiring and switches to control the red activation light. The overall measurements were 8 inches, by 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. Another auction of the only known Fremen hero Weirding Module prop used by Kyle MacLauchlan was conducted in December of 2003. In description it mentions similar materials were used to construct the Fremen Weirding Modules and their overall dimensions are somewhat smaller as well: 7 inches long by 8.5 inches high. As with the Atreides army model, is the only one of this version known to exist. It is likely that while dozens of stunt Freman Weirding Modules were assembled for the shoot, only one or two close-up “hero” props were made for the production. This maybe have been due to money, due was a very expensive production. A fact confirmed by none other than sci-fi design master Ron Miller via a 2018 FWS email interview. While he was involved heavily in designing the world of DUNE, he was not as directly involved with the design of the Weirding Modules that from he told me, were designed to look like animals. The duty of designing these sonic weapons fell, according to Miller, to director Lynch and the late production designer Tony Masters. The other two heavier Weirding Modules that seemed to be based around rotary cannons (which are some sort of weird theme in the DUNE film) are nearly completely unknown and none of them have surfaced online.
When I asked about why the Fremen and Atredis Weirding Modules were different in design, Ron Miller came back with this: “There seem to be alot of pyramids in the production design of DUNE overall. Other than the Emperor's tent, I've never noticed any overabundance of pyramids in the film. What there are is a lot of triangles, because Lynch likes them and a pyramid is just a kind of three-dimensional triangle. There is no other significance. But as to why the Atreides and Fremen modules looked so different is easy to answer. A great deal of very conscious effort was expended in making sure that the props, architecture, technology and costumes of each different planet had a distinctive look, and ideally one that reflected the planet's culture, history and resources. For instance, objects from Caladan were largely made of wood and brass, while Geidi Prime props were more industrial, focusing a lot on ceramics and iron. The goal was to be able to go into the prop shop, pick up anything at random and be able to tell what planet if belonged to simply from the materials it was made from. I think this was, and still is, a pretty unique thing to have done”.

The Killing Sounds/Words of the Weirding Modules
One of the often mocked elements of Lynch’s 1984 DUNE is those special words yelled out by the actors into their throat mics to fire their sonic guns. As we all know, the Weirding Modules and the words were a creation of David Lynch…but there may be one example for the original text. In the “Imperial Terminology” section of the original DUNE novel there is an entry on a weaponized sound used by the Bene Gesserit: “Uroshnor”.
As described, it is one of the sounds that the trained Bene Gesserit can “implant” into the mind of the subject, allowing the Bene Gesserit to control or immobilized the subject. This could a part of the origin of the Weirding Modules and their strange vocal stylings as seen in the movie. According to Ron Miller, these Weirding Words, like “Chak-Sa”, “Ummm-Cha”, “Inyuk-Chuk”, were “entirely an invention of David Lynch: he wanted something that sounded both alien (in the sense of not being any recognizable language) and powerful, since it is the magnified words that the weapons are projecting”. Where the hell did the killing sounds/words come from? There is no clear answer, but I have a theory. While we know all that Lynch is a one odd duck, but he is well-read and pulling inspiration for all sources.
For a while, Yoel and I researched to see if the words spoken by the actors were Arabic in origin...which they were not. To me, the process of sounds associated with the Weirding Way may originate from Buddhist monk chanting or even throat singing, but I think the best is from the Eastern internal energy concept of “Ki” or “Chi” from Martial Arts. Adding evidence to this theory is that actor Kyle MacLachlan is Martial Arts trained and he could have added the concept of the Ki into his performance. This is the best guess I have for the origin of Lynch’s killing words. I do think it was very cool concept to include the term "Maud’Dib" as a killing word. 

The "Sound Square Training" Cut Scene
Due to the incredible work of the Dune Info website, there is the remains of a cut-scene that would have given us more information on the Weirding Modules, especially during their incorporation into the Fremen martial philosophy and tactics. In the book by Ed Naha The Making of DUNE, the author included the picture of this cut-scene and some context to the odd looking device. According to Dune Info, the scene was not included into any of the scripts and was to have Fremen warriors enter into this underground chamber of the Sietch, walk over to the box, plug into the device, and begin to chant. When I learned this from an FaceBook chat with the creator of DuneInfo, it lend more credence to my theory that Buddhist monk chanting was a source of inspiration for the odd world of the DUNE film sonic weaponry. Sadly, there is no more about this scene, nor any footage or the "sonic square" device prop.

 
The Different Versions of the Weirding Modules:

The House Atreides Infantry Army Model
Very early on in the film as the setting and characters are being established, the Weirding Modules are established as well during a training sequence at the Atreides Castle on Caladan. The young Paul Atreides is outfitted with what could be the standard infantry Army Weirding Module of House Atreides. Then again, it could be a prototype or a training variant. Then film never specifies anything about the weapon when Paul was using it against the Fighter robot. The only part of the design that was carried over to the other Weirding Modules seen in the film was the throat microphone portion that seems to be universal for all Weirding Modules. The maroon-colored Atreides Army model was not seen again on-screen, but was seen in promotional material and the LJN Paul figure.
 
The Homebrew Fremen Infantry Model
After the fall of the House Atreides, Paul and Jessica were taken out of Arrakeen to die in the belly of a Sandworm, destroying all evidence. However, using his training, Paul and his mother overcame their Harkonnen guards using the Voice and made their way into the deep desert to find shelter. Inside the Harkonnen ornithopters was a care package left by Dr. Yueh while included the blueprints for the Weirding Modules.
Once the Weirding Way had impressed the Fremen, Paul and Jessica were able to secure safety among the tribe in exchange for teaching the Fremen the Bene Gesserit way of battle. Shortly after this, Paul assembled the finest warriors among Stilgar’s tribe to undergo Weirding Module training and here we get the best explanation of the function and lethality of the sonic weaponry. In this scene as well, we see that Fremen constructed or “homebrew” version of the Weirding Module is very different in appearance than the Atreides army variant. Smaller, more angled, more pyramid in shaped and in a brownish hue over the maroon of the Atreides model. This basic design would be the standard Fremen Weirding Module during their two-year campaign to rid their desert world of the Harkonnen occupation.

The Fremen Heavy Portable Waist-Mounted Weirding Cannon Model  
Not all of the Fremen Weirding Modules were small hand weapons, and these two heavier sonic weapons are puzzle for any researching this topic. For more punch against infantry and vehicle targets, the Fremen are armed with two Weirding Modules. One of these is a waist-mounted portable heavy cannon that was in two scenes in the film: one during the campaign to haul spice production on Arrakis and during the final battle at Arrakeen. Not much is known about this portable sonic cannons save for being a sort of rotary cannon in design and using moving control bars on either side of the rotary-like cannon for adding visual punch.
It looks like these are a collection of sound emitters, instead of barrels, designed to generate a more power blast and these could be culled from the smaller Weirding Module emitters to construct a larger, more powerful weapon. When I inquired to Ron Miller about the waist sonic cannon, he informed that the design was chosen for visual impact and he did a stretch for the weapon. Here what he said to me: “I did design those and (you are probably not going to want to hear this) mainly tried to come up with something that looked cool. There was a rationale behind the design, though, which was inspired in large part by the old childhood trick of making a vortex cannon from an old oatmeal box. In this case, the release of powerful springs, set and triggered much like a crossbow or air hammer, created the energy that generated the lethal sound”. Unlike their smaller brethren, the original props of these waist-mount cannons have never been seen outside of the film itself. Oddly, these were not seen in the Marvel Comic adaptation of the film.

The Mounted Freman Weirding Crew-Served Cannon
The last of the heavier Fremen Weirding Modules is the heavy, crew-served rotary-like cannon seen during the campaign to halt spice production on Arrakis and during the final battle at Arrakeen. Showing blasting Carryalls, Harvesters, and smaller starships into junk; this crew-served sonic weapon was the heaviest in the Fremen armory. There nothing mentioned about this weapon at all in the film or if it is a native Fremen design or an Atreides design. While I asked Ron Miller about these weapons, he knew nothing about them. In the film, the rotary-style weapon is mounted on a swivel base platform with the weapon hooked up to two small boxes with Fremen warriors tending to them. While shown in the storyboards for the film, it does not appear in the Marvel comic adaptation of the film and the prop (likely only a single prop) has never surfaced. 




Where else have we seen the Weirding Modules?
One of the most hatred elements that David Lynch incorporated into his vision of DUNE is the Weirding Modules. Whenever the 1984 sci-fi epic is brought up online, the subject of the Weirding Modules is resurrected and then promptly killed. Given that, any incorporation of the Weirding Modules into a DUNE work of any kind immediately tied it to the 1984 Lynch film…and that wasn’t always a good thing. With the film bombing at the box office and the deep rift the film cause in sci-fi fandom circles, the Lynch concept of the sonic weapons was largely abandoned and rejected by the DUNE community as a whole and even DUNE-related products. This included products released for a tie-in to the film, like the Parker Brothers DUNE boardgame. 

The Paul Atreides LJN 1984 Figure
Several years ago, FWS covered the mystifying 1984 LJN DUNE movie tie-in toyline. Despite the Weirding Modules being a major plot point of the film, only one single figure comes equipped with the sonic weapon: the Paul Atreides figure. To me, who actually owned the figure back in 1984, the Paul Atreides figure was all kinds of wrong. Outfitted in the standard Atreides green military uniform, which he only wore briefly in the film, he is equipped with the assumed soon-to-be standard issue Weirding Module and throat voice device. These were the model seen only during his training fight with the fighter robot.
After this, that Weirding Module model is never seen again. It would have been more correct to outfit him with the Fremen homebrew model and the Stillsuit. The LJN Stilgar figure was oddly omitted from being packaged with a Freman Weirding Module. He was still armed with the just badly designed orange Projectile Tarpel pistol, the same one that was given the light-up toy gun treatment. I actually owned this and it was a totally piece of shit. If the toyline had been a success, we would have seen another line of figures, another vehicle, and a Fremen roleplay set that STILL did not come with toy Weirding Module. It is worth noting that if the other figures had been released, they still would not have come with a Weirding Module based on the prototype photos and modes.                 

The “Scepter” Weirding Module model from the Cryo DUNE RTS (1992)
Some eight years after the release of DUNE into theaters, Cryo and Virgin Interactive released a real-time strategy game with the player taking control of Paul as he seeks to fulfill his destiny via controlling his Fremen allies to change the face of Arrakis. While I was super into DUNE in 1992 due to reading all of the novels and its divine providence that a PC game was released. I played the shit out of this game in 1992 on my Packard Bell PC, feeding my DUNE addiction. This game was developed over the course of years by loyal DUNE fans for DUNE fans that traveled a hard road to be released, but garnered praise and good sales. This is one of the only two video games to feature the Weirding Modules and the ones seen in the 1992 RTS game were an odd design. It is hard to see in the screenshots, but they appear to be similar in shape to a royal scepter. I’ve never been able to dig up much on the design of the gaming elements and all of the major weapons are an odd design like the Lasguns that look more like a microscope. With it being a real-time strategy game from the early 1990’s, these weapons were not seen being used in combat and were just tiny little symbols to be moved into Fremen tribal inventory. These added offensive capability to the assaulting Fremen troops. This is only time this design was seen.         

The 2001 Emperor: Battle for DUNE Fremen Fedaykin Weirding Modules
In the summer of 2001, Westwood Studios that had worked on two previous DUNE video game titles released another RTS based on the House-vs-House warfare seen in the movie and novels that was a direct sequel to DUNE 2000 RTS. While featuring live actor cut scenes, the rest of the game was considered outdated by the time it came out in 2001. Interestingly enough, there is one group within the Fremen faction that uses the Weirding Modules: the elite Fedaykin Death Commandos. These are a powerful weapon systems that allows the Fedaykin to kill infantry and vehicles as well. This is likely the last example of the Lynch Weirding Modules in a DUNE work and could be the last ever. 


The 1984 DUNE Cut-Out Activity Book Paper Fremen Weirding Module
When a film is targeted for the blanket treatment of tie-in merchandise (Thanks Star Wars), it can lead to strange bedfellows and 1984’s DUNE has a whole Roman orgy of bedfellows. One of those tie-in products was a common slight in the 1980’s: the activity book. I had one for TRON as a small kid and I can remember seeing these for DUNE on the shelves. Besides the batshit insane DUNE coloring book, there is the oddball cut-out activity book printed by Grosset & Dunlap with art from Daniel Kirk and the text by Maida Silverman. With the DUNE cut-out Activity Book, you can assembly paper copies of the ornithopter, the sandworm, and even a Fremen Weirding Module! Spread out over seven pages is the heavy paper Fremen Weirding Module and this the only “role-play” Weirding Module product released. Don’t worry! FWS found scans of the pages and they are below for you if you like to make your own paper copy of the Fremen sonic weapon. 


The 1984 DUNE Coloring Book

We all know and love coloring books, they represent an important, but easy tie-in merchandising avenue for many products. Many of us happily colored to our favorite 1980's characters...however, DUNE should not have been one of those 1980's movies that got a coloring book. Seriously. I can remember at the time of DUNE’s release the tie-in products flooding the book stores and toy stores with mostly head scratching results until they were mercilessly removed for the recycling center. While mostly ignored at the time and very poor sellers, the DUNE Coloring Book is now infamous-in-a-WTF-way and clean copies are very expensive (where is my TARDIS?!). When it comes to the discussion of the Weirding Modules, several of the coloring pages indeed have Weirding Modules, including the Atriedes and Fremen models featured. Scenes like Paul challenging the Fighter on Caladan, the fighting in the desert where including for your coloring pleasure.   

The 1984 Marvel Comics DUNE Movie Comic Adaptation 
Prior to home video and the machines to run the tapes, the only way to re-watch and re-enjoy films was either find a theater playing it or find an book or comic adaptation. Long before I could watch DUNE on VHS, I bought and read in the Marvel Comics adaptation with art by Bill Sienkiewicz. The art is otherworldly and as odd as the Lynch movie in its own special way. In the pages are the sections on the Weirding Modules with both designs being represented, but the other two larger Weirding Modules are not seen in the comic pages. While the Weirding Modules look mostly the same, there is something off about them. During the showdown with Paul and the Fighter, it appears on the page like Paul could only use the throat microphone to send out a blast. When Paul is training the Fremen, it appears that when the warrior says “Maud’Dib”, it activates the module and takes out a wall. In the comic, it almost appears the throat portion of the Weirding Module somehow charges the gun-emitter portion to fire. It may be just the art, but it could be this was the original plan for the operation of the Weirding Module.     

The Weirding Modules in Ready Player One (2018)
In an recent interview about the massive amount of easter eggs in Ready Player One, one of the  movie's screenwriters: “Zak [Penn] and I [Ernest Cline] are both big fans of the David Lynch adaptation of Dune and we wanted to have one of the characters, i-R0k (TJ Miller), fire a Weirding Module at one point and we couldn't get that. [...]Still, even though they were unable to include the Weirding Module, Penn assures fans that there is a nod to the film in there for those paying close enough attention. “There is a reference to [Lynch's] version of Dune," he teases. "[Parzival] talks about the Harkonnen Drop-Ship".

The Impact and Legacy of the Weirding Modules 
When DUNE was released on December 14th, 1984, it was met with confusion by the sci-fi audience, terrible critical reviews, but ranked number two at the box office at opening weekend. While a disappoint in the box office due to it failing to make back its money and turn a profit, the 1984 DUNE film as lived on through the decades as a cult classic to some and a warning to others. One of the elements cited by fans at the time and now is the inclusion of the sonic weaponry that was not in the original text. I’ve read that some fans of the book would not see the film due to the Weirding Modules saying that it cheapened the Fremen and reframed the story itself.
For the most part, the impact of the Weirding Modules was negative and that is part of the legacy of these unorthodox sci-fi weapons. For some newly minted fans of DUNE, like myself, their initial experience with the strange universe of 10,191 included the Weirding Modules. I can remember reading DUNE for the first time in 1992 and not understanding why the Weirding Modules were not in the original book and in their place was something called the “Weirding Way”. That is an interesting element of the impact and legacy of the Weirding Modules, for some, they were in the original version of DUNE that they experienced for the first either on the big screen, read in the Marvel comic, or rented on VHS.
With their conversational nature among fans along with the failure of the 1984 film, the legacy of the Weirding Modules was tainted. Any creator that boldly decided to include the Weirding Modules in the DUNE work was linked to the impact and legacy of the Lynch’s DUNE film. This translated to only a few DUNE works featuring the Weirding Modules. Decades after the Lynch film, the challenge of creating another DUNE movie was undertaken by the Sci-Fi Channel in the form of massive mini-series in 2000.
Wisely, the attempt was made to bring the Weirding Way into reality and ditch the Weirding Modules. The Kung-Fu on the sand was back and it reinforced the martial prowess of the Fremen warrior. Since then, the Weirding Module was isolated to the Lynch’s DUNE vision and there is no mention of these sonic weapons being included in the upcoming DUNE movie by Denis Villeneuve. Interestingly enough, there are two prop reproduction companies: Monster in Motion and Panik! Props both makes a Fremen Weirding Module prop sold in two parts: the emitter and the throat microphone. If I had the money to burn, I would buy these and proudly display them next to my Lynch DUNE movie poster in the FWS offices. 

The Paper Fremen Weirding Module from the Activity Book...Happy Folding!