30 April 2015

FWS Forgotten Classics: The Forever War Graphic Novels (Vol 1-3)

There are few works in the realm of military science fiction that loom as large as 1974's sci-fi classic by Vietnam Veteran and scientist Joe Haldeman: The Forever War. It's nature that adaptation into other media was a forgone conclusion for this much celebrated novel, but one of the few that ever saw the light-of-day was the 1988 graphic novel. While we are still waiting on our Forever War movie, we do have these graphic novel adaptation from the late 1980's with art from the very talented Marvano. Not only do I love the novel, the Forever War graphic novel has a place of importance here on FWS. Way back in 2010, when FWS was founded, the first real blogpost was a review of Volume One of The Forever War graphic novel. Originally, these graphic novels were published by Belgian comic company, Dupuis back in 1988 in various formats and languages. In French, the comics were called La Guerre Eternelle and in Dutch, the comics were called De  Eeuwige Oorlog. It was later picked up by American comic publish NBM in 1990, and released in English here in the States in graphic novel format...but that is not all there is about these intriguing military science fiction graphic novels. Here is the long-awaited and very extensive FWS Forgotten Classics blog article on The Forever War graphic novels!

Who's Who in the Forever War Graphic Novels

-NBM Publishing= Started in 1976, this importer of European graphic novels and publisher of various American graphic novels became the leader in graphic novel publication by the late 1980's working with the best and brightest in the industry. Since the original graphic novel was published by a European company, it was right up NBM's alley. The company is still around today, publishing all manner of title that the more mainstream comic companies will not.

-Marvano= is a Belgian artist that became well known for his work with Joe Haldeman and drawing historical comics. They have worked together on two other comic ventures since these graphic novels.

-Dupuis= This is a Belgian comic publisher that was founded in 1922 and publishes mainly in the Dutch and French languages. In 2004, Dupuis was bought by the giant Media-Participations company that also owns Dargaud. This is why the Dargaud and Dupuis names appear on the Forever Free graphic novels.

-Joe Haldeman= Vietnam Veteran, fellow Oklahoman, and has a BS in physics and astronomy. His best known work is 1974's The Forever War.

The Historical Context of The Forever War Graphic Novels
In the mid-1970's, the term "graphic novel" gained popularity in the comic book world, and slowly, the more European traditional of graphic novels was coming to America, helped by companies like NBM. By the 1980's, the graphic novel symbolized the cool edge of the comic book industry, and it was helped by omnibus editions of The Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. During this time in the 1980', I was collecting comics, and the term "graphic novel" was always a keyword for a more mature content and a higher price. At this time, graphic novels were the hot item, and everyone wanted in on the action. This format was seen as the vehicle for different kind of stories (Transmetropolitan), and it was a traditional format for adapting novels into comics. This can been seen in Maus, The Dark Tower, and Persepolis. Of course, this is during the apex of smaller press comic publishers that operated differently than the Big Two. This helped that these newer, smaller publishers were wanting to attract the cash of the public, and they took risks. These elements added up to fertile ground that Dupuis released The Forever War graphic novels into.

The Forever War: Volume One "Private Mandella"
When you open Volume One, you are met with several pages of the author and artist explaining how they became involved in the world of The Forever War. I found the section on Joe Haldeman's genesis story with the story very compelling and powerful, especially with the rarely seen pictures of the author in Vietnam. Volume One covers from page 1 to page 80 in the Eos 2003 trade paperback edition that I own. This details the harsh and unforgiving training on Charon (called Cerberus in the graphic novel) all the way to the Aleph Campaign, from 2007-2036. Out of all three graphic novels, the first volumes is likely the most "true" to the novel and is the most striking in terms of events and art. The iconic image of William Mandella in his space combat suit with his laser rifle and the might of the UNEF that dominates the graphic novels is from these volume and speaks to the power of this volume. Throughout Volume I, we read mostly the text of the novel set with Marvano's peerless art. Much like the original text, it ends with the first encounter with the aliens being a slaughter and William's depressed mood about this new war.

The Forever War: Volume Two "Lt. Mandella"
Volume Two covers from page 81 to page 185 in the Eos 2003 trade paperback edition that I own. This details from the time that the veterans of Aleph come home to Earth in the year 2036 to 2458 when William and Marygay are separated after some time on the UNEF hospital planet  Heaven and the crushing defeat of the Tet-2 Campaign. This is probably the most chopped and altered of the three graphic novels from their original source material. Most of the "author's preferred edition" changes published by Eos Books are not found in here. This is the Future Shock of the UNEF veterans coming back to a very different and nearly alien Earth of the 22nd century with the government run job market and the economy based on calories not coins. While the novel goes into some depth about the changes to the Earth and even Marygay's and William's families, the graphic novel is mostly focused on the failing health of William's mother. What is very powerful in this second volume is the defeat at Tet-2 and the nearly death of Marygay when alien missiles strike the Anniversary. I have to admit, the ending of Volume II is the most bittersweet. At the end, William and Marygay are assigned to different units by the UNEF and separate campaigns, which means separation of decades or centuries for the two lovers. The art is expertly mated to the text, and is just as powerful as the original novel. This is the most difficult and expensive volume of the Forever War graphic novels.

The Forever War: Volume Three "Major Mandella"

Volume Three covers from page 189 to page 278 in the Eos 2003 trade paperback edition that I own. This details the Sade-138 Campaign, the longest Collapsar jump made by a manned vessel in human history and it eats up over 700 years of relative time for William. He leaves Stargate with Strike Force Gamma in 2458 and returns in 3143. This graphic novel is forced to cover the most ground and some of the most difficult subjects and concepts in the novels. Here we see the new human species, called "Man", the completely homosexual crew, and even the similar looking humans, while the "old queer" commands them to the most distant battlefield. Overall, this covers the end of the novel with grace and beauty, especially the beautiful ending. One concept that is more difficult to under in the novel, the "Stasis Field", is presented here in the 3rd graphic novel with more easy and a wonderful artistic representation. Once again, the combination of Marvano's art and Haldeman's works sing beautifully together. 

The Difference Between the Novel and the Graphic Novel
It is risky to take an iconic novel of any genre and translate into another media format. At times, it can be complementary work that attracts new fans and is respected by the original fans of the novel. Gone with the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird are two of the best examples. Other times, the adaption bears little relationship to the original literary work, and is treated as an insult by the fans of the book. This is true of Starship Troopers and Constantine. Other times, the conversion between novel to other media can bring new eyes to the original words and setting, and a new vision is offered. Of course, anytime you adapt something like a novel into a more condensed media format, changes and alternations will have to be made. Before we get into the differences between the novel and the graphic novel, I have to say that I think the comic adaptation is very good and retains the spirit and most of the original work in its pages.

The Opening

In the novel, the backstory with the contact being Earth and the aliens is handled via William's narration while he is boot back on Earth, just before leaving for Charon. The scene is the one about "there 8 silent ways to kill a man". In the graphic novel, a TV report summarizes the events leading up to the UNEF and the Eternal War. I actually prefer the graphic novel set up much more. So much so, that I used it has an inspiration for the opening of my own novel Endangered Species.

"You Can Never Go Back"
The reason behind this difference could be due to the version of the novel that staff at Dupuis probably used to craft the graphic novel adaption in the late 1980's. The original novel had a deleted section that expanded on William and Marygay's experiences back on Earth after their first deployment throughout the Collapsar. This detailed the calorie economy, the armed raid on Marygay's family farm and other small details. After the 1997 "definitive author's edition" was published by Avon, we finally got to read the missing sections. Naturally, when comparing these sections, we can see that those experiences and scenes are missing from the graphic novel. And this is just as well. This section slows down the story and they are not a needed as a motivator for the characters to reenlist in the UNEF.

The Weaponry of the UNEF
In the graphic novel, one of the charges I noticed due to my interest in futuristic firearms was the use of laser DE rifles by the UNEF. This are very much similar to standard sci-fi "laser blaster" rifles seen in Star Wars, but it is not what was in the original text. the book describes "laser fingers" that fire megawatt laser beams that are mounted to the fighting powered armor suits. I guess it is a point-and-kill weapon system? Anyways, throughout the three graphic novels, the UNEF soldiers use laser blaster rifles, while in the book, they are more realistic laser light emitters mounted to the fighting suits.

The Fighting Suits of the UNEF
Powered armor and military sci-fi go hand-in-hand, like Jack & Coke, and the Forever War novel has the soldiers of the UNEF donning "fighting suits". These were a hybrid design that allowed the soldiers of the UNEF fighting on the exo-planets that possess hostile atmospheres along with being protected and armed. The Fighting Suits were the standard infantry gear throughout the Eternal War, and altered everytime William Mandella came back into "the present". At one point in the novel, UNEF soldiers spend weeks encased in their powered armor, living off the recycled fluids and air. In addition, the fighting suit can adjust its camouflage to several preset patterns for various vegetation types and magnifies the wear's straight. However, in the graphic novel, the fighting suit is more of a combat-rated space suit than a powered armor system that does not camouflage itself and remains similar in design throughout the Eternal War. While the graphic novel is cool "astronauts-with-guns" image, it is not true to the novel's APS.

The Taurans
For the "enemy", the Taurans, the author creates a very design with that triangled torso and compound eyes and bent legs. While some artists have maintained the author's vision of the Taurans and their technology, Marvano strikes out on his own with the design. Instead we see the graphic novel Taurans as more of a simian like being that is bent over and runs like an ape. They are completely physically underwhelming to the characters and the readers. I always had an issue with the appearance of the Taurans and the their technology with is just not "alien enough" for me, nor the original text. Also, the Taurans themselves change little throughout the graphic novels, save for their ships. They appear as they did in the first encounter as the last with different ship and these oddball DEW hand-modules.

The "Teddy Bears" on Aleph Aurigae
The first volume of the graphic novel does an expert job at showing the first encounter being the UNEF on Aleph and the native beings. the so-called "Teddy Bears".  While the events are similar, the Teddy Bears have been replaced with telepathic Apatosaurus. I never understood why Marvano changed this...what was the problem with the Teddy Bears from the book?

The Fuck-Buddy System and Sweet Lady Mary Jane
One of the more "interesting" parts of the lives of the soldiers of the UNEF is that male and female soldiers are paired up for sexual purposes and the schedule rotates. Also, the soldiers are allowed to smoke joints and even given an allowance of pot. This shocked me when I first read the novel back in 2010, but it made sense given the context of the author's service, where weed was commonly used to counter the savage conditions of the Vietnam War. Weed and the fuck buddy system are hinted at in the graphic novel, but not as original text. This undercuts Mandella and Potter relationship in the graphic novel, and only makes sense if you have read the novel. While this is a small thing, it hits at one of the unique elements of the Forever War universe.

Is that an American Space Shuttle?
In Volume One and Two, we see the UNEF using the NASA Orbiter design for their own assault shuttles! It clearly is the American Space Shuttle with the same cockpit, coloring, booster rockets, and shape, but it has abilities that the discontinued Space Shuttle possess, like lifting off from the surface of an exo-planet, a laser cannon, remote piloting, and smooth endoatmospheric flight. Given that the graphic novels were created in 1988, at the apex of NASA's STS program, Marvano may have fancied the design and used for the UNEF assault shuttles...but it makes little logical sense and appears out of place when reading the graphic novel today. In Volume III, we see new assault shuttles that bear no appearance to the American Space Shuttle.

The Forever War Graphic Novel/Cheval Noir Connection
If you were old enough, and reading non-mainstream comics in the late 1980's, like I was, than in the pages of Dark Horse comics was an advert for their new series of comics aimed at mature audience that were imported from around the global and translated into English. This comic series, called Cheval Noir, which means "dark horse" in French. This anthology comic series ran for fifty issues from August of 1989 to January of 1994. Given the aim of the comic was to bring international comics to an American audience, the Belgium/French Forever War graphic novel were a perfect fit. From June 1, 1990 until October 1, 1991, Cheval Noir would serialize the three-volumes along with translating it into English, but was devoid of color. One of the questions that could not answer originally was why Dark Horse Comics and NBM Publishing both were able to publish the graphic novel? I know that NBM published their graphic novels from January 1990 to January of 1991, but why Cheval Noir? Even in the front cover of the graphic novels it even says that the Forever War graphic novel can be seen in the pages of Dark Horse's Cheval Noir. NBM was the distributor for Dark Horse Comics when it first started up and that relationship allowed for Cheval Noir to reissue the Forever War Graphic Novels in that serialized form. While the NBM graphic novels are hard to come by,  the issues of Cheval Noir that contain the Forever War graphic novels are more or less common, and somewhat easier to locate and buy, given that Cheval Noir was not that popular of a series. If you want to buy The Forever War graphic novel in this format, here is the issues of Cheval Noir:
Volume One: #8-#12
Volume Two: #13-#18
Volume Three: #19-#23

Buying The Forever War Graphic Novels Today
After establishing FWS in 2010, I began to search for The Forever War graphic novels, and could lay my hands on volume I and III legally and easily. I bought Volume I from Lone Star Comics for about $18, and Volume III from Mile High Comics for about $16. At the time of this writing of blogpost, Mile High Comics had Volume I and III at good prices, while Volume II has beyond stupid prices...like hundreds of dollars. At the time of this blogpost being written, Volume II is selling for $40+ for okay copies and $147 for great condition, all the way up to $4,000! I've seen the super-rare hardcover complete graphic novel collection for $400. The prospect of buying physical copies of this rare and hard-to-find graphic novel increase greatly if you can speak French or Dutch. Several sites I ran across had the complete volumes or even the next-to-impossible hardcover edition on their websites for around 25 Euros. The largest online comic book dealers (Lone Star Comics and Mile High Comics) offer volumes of the English The Forever War graphic novel from time-to-time, but only Volume I and III, never II. Why? This I am not sure about, and no one as supplied me with the answer. My only guess is that Volume One was printed in the greatest of numbers, and Volume II and III were not. However, there is a way to buy Volume II...legally...in the pages of Dark Horse Comics old Cheval Noir international comic series. Here is, again, the issues you need to buy in order to obtain the complete graphic novel:
Volume One: #8-#12
Volume Two: #13-#18
Volume Three: #19-#23

The Special Editions of The Forever War Graphic Novels

The Leather-Bound Editions
The single rarest edition of the Forever War graphic novels is the leather-bound editions. In the front inside cover of the NBM graphic novels is an advert for leather-bound editions that are signed by Haldeman and Marvano. Each was sold for $40 back in the 1990/1991 and were numbered. Information on this special edition is very difficult to track down, and only a few examples are for sale today that yield information. One of the few examples of these leather bound editions was recently offered on Abebooks.com. From that entry, I believe that Forever War graphic novels were in a limited run of 300 leather editions of each volume. I have yet to see Volume I or II in the leather bounded form. Given the limited run of the normal graphic novels, these special editions are naturally rare, and sell for around $130+ on specialized booksellers. I have seen one of these in a bookstore in Ashland, Oregon that was $200 back in 2000/ No, I didn't buy it. Mile High Comics has one of these for sale, and lists it as an "leather hardcover slipcase". Price? $189, down from $270.

The Forever War: Complete Edition
It is natural for comic book publishers to issue complete editions of their series, and the same is true of the Forever War graphic novels. In 2002 (some sources say 2009), the original Belgium publisher, Dupuis, released an complete edition of the Marvano/Haldeman graphic novels called the "Edition Integrale". These editions included all three of the Forever War and the comic sequel This was published in a variety of languages and different formats. In the Spanish edition published by Norma Editorial, it was hardcover, new cover art, and included a number of sketches by Marvano showing more of the world that he created out of Haldeman's words. While the varying editions of this omnibus work are available in a number of languages and countries, it was never released in the United States. It is amazing that these completed editions of the Forever War graphic novels were released years after their originally release.

Here is the Norma Editorial hardcover edition:

What Happened to The Forever War Graphic Novels?
Given that the graphic novel was released in pre-internet days and the original country of publication was Belgium, information is scarce on sales numbers of this comic adaption. At the time, much was made of the release in publications like Comic Shop News and even copies of Volume One graphic novel were proudly displayed at my local Tulsa-area comic book shops. The first volume was praised by various reviewers like the New York Time and Publishers Weekly. But then...Despite going to comic book stores around the same time and being interested in these graphic novels, I never laid eyes on Volume II or III. While there is nothing to support this, I do believe that Volume I was met with weaker sales than expected and Volume II and III also saw a decrease in sales as well. This would account for the rarity of Volume II and III on secondary markets. 

Will the Graphic Novels be Re-Issued by NBM?
When the ICv2 website discussed the Forever War movie, they talked about the possibility of NBM Publishing (which mostly publishes "adult" graphic novels these days) reissuing their long-out-of-print Forever War graphic novels. According to NBM's Terry Nantier, if and when the Ridley Scott film adaptation moves to reality, NBM is open to possibility of reprinting their graphic novel series. This is great news for fans of the book and graphic novel, or even just fans of military sci-fi. C'mon, Ridley! Make the movie so NBM can reprint the graphic novels!

What About the Sequel to The Forever War: Forever Free?
Around the internet, there is information saying that there is a comic sequel to the Forever War graphic novel is called: "A New Beginning". However, they are wrong. Given the praise of the first venture between Haldeman and Marvano, European publisher Dargaud/Dupuris moved to adapt two more of Haldeman's stories in the Forever War universe: "Free Forever" and "A Separate War". Three graphic novels were published by Dargaud/Dupuis in 2002-2003 for the European market and were never imported to these shores. These three graphic novels are the comic adaption of "A Separate War" and "Free Forever", but I am sure of the changes from novel-to-comic. Out of the three graphic novels that comprise Libre A Jamais, only the first volume "Another War" is related to the Eternal War and peaks my interest. Much like the novel it is based on, Libre A Jamis, is flawed with a Deus Ex Machina ending that disappointed fans and critics. One day, I plan on buying the first volume of Libre A Jamais given its connection to the rest of the Forever War universe.
Here is the link to the FWS topics blogpost about Libre A Jamis:

The Impact of The Forever War Graphic Novels
Anytime that a work is translated into another media form, say book to film, it increases the exposure of that work to a wider audience. For example, fans of the Blade Runner film sought out the original book that the film was based, PKD's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The same is true of the graphic novel adaption of that icon work of military science fiction. This is especially true in the pre-internet years. New adaptations into different media allowed for new markets to be discovered. Since graphic novels were en vogue during the time period when the Forever War Graphic Novels came out, this helped a new audience discovery the 1974 book and its author.
This also helped artist Marvano gain new fans of his talent in the comic book art arena. Given that the original publisher of the graphic novel was European, this also helped European fans of science fiction discovery the American novel as well. However, given the rarity of the graphic novels today and the few internet entries on it, I am assuming that it was not as successful as planned nor had widespread impact.The various articles on FWS about these graphic novels are some of the few in-depth articles available on the internet. However, the fans of the graphic novels are out there (like me) and passionate. So much so, that stripinfo.be members voted the original Dutch version of the graphic novel number 9 on their top 100 graphic novels of all time.

The Forever War Graphic Novel and the Long-Awaited Film Adaption 
In October 2008, Ridley Scott's film company, Scott Free Productions informed the world that one of the most iconic works of military science fiction would be transformed into a cinema reality. That was in 2008. Since then, a few more scripts have been written and nothing is happening. There was a rumor that a copy of the Forever War graphic novel was used to crafted some of the scripts and could be used  as an inspiration for the film. After all, Ridley used to read Heavy Metal magazine in this early film days. I wonder if we will ever see the Forever War movie?

My Experience with the Forever War Graphic Novels
Back in the late 1980's, I went to comic book shops in Bartlesville, Tulsa, and Albuquerque nearly weekly, and while at these fine geeky establishments, I picked up the free Comic Shop News. This was a newsletter detailing current and future state of the  comic book world in those dark days prior to the internet. It was during this time that I read an article on the upcoming imported title from NBM called "The Forever War". I thought it was a clever title and the cover of the first volume was arresting...so much so, that I never forgot it. I would see Volume One at Starbase 21 on a shelf, but never made it a priority purchase. I would see the first volume again in 1997 at a Lone Star Comics shop near TCU, and once again I was interested. At this time, I had yet to read the novel. When FWS was founded in summer of 2010, I wanted the blog to standout, and in doing so, I decided to locate and buy the Forever War graphic novels.
Fast-forward to 2010 when FWS reviewed Volume One of the graphic novel. I bought the first issue from my local comic book shop, Lone Star Comics and paid less than ten dollars for it in very good condition. I thought this would make for a unique blogpost for the fledgling FWS. Boy, I was right. For a time, it was the most visited and read blogposts on FWS. A clerk at Lone Star Comics told me that article triggered sales of the graphic novel, causing it to sell out. He told me that years had gone by without anyone ordering the graphic novel. I should have made a deal with them prior posting it to get some cash for that business that FWS triggered. I bought Volume III from Mile High Comics for less than 20 dollars, and it would take years before I was able to acquire Volume II from Ted Boudreaux, who reached out to me after reading the FWS blogpost on Forever Free. After that, it was time to final write the definitive blogpost on the Forever War graphic novels.

The Bottom Line on The Forever War Graphic Novels
During the writing of this important blog article here on FWS, my wife was hospitalized, giving me long hours to research and read. Over the course of the week she was in hospital, I reread The Forever War novel and graphic novels, giving me a new understanding of these works; how they are different and how they are similar. For the most part, the graphic novels are extremely effective at transmitting the world of William Mandella and the Eternal War to the reader. Marvano's art only adds to the favor and seems rather organic to the text of the original 1974 novel. Despite a few changes, the bulk of the novel is in these three European graphic novels, and these may be one of the best adaptations from novel to comic. Personally, I think these are a great piece of military science fiction comic literature that rises above the normal superhero bullshit found in most comics of the time. These might the best military science fiction comic of all time. Even if you have read the novel and a fan of the novel, you owe it to yourself to read these graphic novels. I, as an author, would be relieved if my books were transformed into graphic novels of this caliber.

Next Time on FWS...
Out there in the black are the future of global economics: asteroids. These chunks of space rocks are considered the goldmine of space that could be loaded with rare-earth minerals and possible elements that we are unaware here on Earth. With great economic benefit comes wars and conflicts. Science fiction has projected that  asteroids will be a future battlegrounds for nations, corporations, wildcat miners, and even space pirates...but, will asteroids be a source of future warfare? In the next installment of the FWS serial What We Will Fight Over, we will be exploring and explaining if indeed asteroids will be the source of future space wars. Oh, and yes, I did have an ATARI 7800 back in the day.

18 April 2015

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: The MORITA Rifle

In the original 1959 Starship Troopers novel, that became the founding literary classic of military science fiction, the powered armor wearing Mobile Infantry uses Atomic grenades and hand-held flamethrowers. There was no convention assault rifle, let alone the Morita, mention in original text that was prominently featured in the perplexing 1997 film adaptation. However, despite that fact, the Morita Rifle (especially the Mark I) has become one of the most popular and iconic weapons of science fiction. Here is everything and anything you wanted to know about the Morita Rifle.

Why is the Morita called "the Morita" and Was it in the Original 1959 Novel?
Unlike many sci-fi weaponry, the Morita has a proper name and that name is said in the film leaving no doubt about its identity (do you hear me Blade Runner?!). However, unlike many military weaponry, it has a Japanese last name that reminds most people of famed actor Pat Morita. In actuality, the Morita Rifle was named for the co-founder of Sony, Akio Morita. Sony Pictures released SST back in 1997. I've never been able to discover the genesis for the rifle being named for Mr. Morita...perhaps because of his involvement in some weapons development or as some weird tribute. When it comes to the original of the Morita Rifle, it was a complete construction of the 1997 film production and does not appear in Robert Heinlein's book...nor does any real rifle-based offensive weapon systems for that matter. Only weapons close in the SST world before the film was the "sci-fi" looking laser rifle of the 1976 Avalon Hill boardgame and the "standard rifle" of the 1987 Japanese OVA SST called "Uchu no  Senshi".

The Connection Between Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers (1997)
In the original 1990 Total Recall film, which is also directed by Paul Verhoeven, there is another bullpup brass-spitting rifle: the Federal Colony Soldiers' Muzzelite Carbine. Both the Morita Mk. 1 and that standard assault rifle of the Federal Colonies are made from the Muzzelite Bullpup Stock kit for the Ruger Mini-14. Both these futuristic firearms are designed based around Ruger Mini-14 rifles, however, both films had different armorers. 

The Morita Rifle Mk. I 
During the 1st Bug War, the Mobile Infantry and the Fleet use the iconic and (in)famous Morita Mk. I rifle that was the progenitor of the entire Morita family of MI firearms. This bullpup full sized assault rifle fires the NATO 7.62mm round from a 50 round magazine with an secondary 12 gauge shotgun with separate trigger for those close encounters. The weapon is over 44 inches long with an barrel length of over 30 inches(!). This science fiction rifle was created by Rock Galotti based on the notes from the studio that they wanted these MI troopers to be outfitted with a weapon to take down armies of bugs and they wanted a "real" weapon not a laser blaster.
Based on that requirement and the massive cinema battles between alien insects and humans that the Morita would be inolved, Rock Galotti used one of the most reliably blank-fire weapons: the Ruger Mini-14 and the AC556. Some of the Moritas on set where live-fire, others were rubber stun props, and most of the background Moritas were fiberglass; and only one had the working shotgun. The live-fire hero props were handbuilt and no two are alike. One interesting design element was the shotgun trigger located under the assault rifle trigger, allowing the user to operate with very minimum adjustment...handy when a bug comes a callin'. This design detail is seen in the real-steel FN EGLM grenade launcher.

The Morita Rifle Mk. II "Advanced Systems Rifle"

This Morita is a bit of a mystery, the Morita at the end of the 1997 film in a FedNet Propaganda segment. The weapon is called the "Morita Tonshi (Japanese for sudden death)" and it was not based on any real-steel weapon. It is on-screen for about 30 seconds, and it never appears in live-action form again. So, what the frak is it? The Morita Mk. II Advanced Systems Rifle was a major update to the individual destructive power of the MI trooper's Morita assault rifle. It is shown bring the hate on a mesa, but it is uncertain which barrel produced that blast or how.
Some sources state that the grenade launcher on the Mk. II ASR is the cause for the explosion. One website says that the Morita Mk.II is: "Microwave Accelerated Particle Rifle". After rewatching that short portion of the 1997 film, I am not certain which barrel is responsible for the landscaping. Either way, we never see the ASR again and it could be that the Mk.II ASR was a prototype that the Federation could not product in any numbers. Or that the ASR was to be heavy support weapon for the MI and not their standard assault rifles. It could also be true that Federation used the ASR as a tool of propaganda. In the 2005 SST PC game, there is a plasma DE rifle called the "PIG-1 Plasma Rifle", which resembles the Morita Rifle Mk. II ASR and could be the same weapon.

The Morita "E-Pulse 44" Directed-Energy Rifle

Okay...this is not completely an "Morita", but it deserves a place here. In the 2004 straight-to-video shitty Z-Rated sequel to the 1997 film, we see our hapless MI troopers locked in a deadly Rorke's Drift scenario. Instead of the familiar 7.62mm Morita Mk. I rifles, we see the MI troopers uses an DE weapon called the "E-Pulse 44 rifle"? SST II: The Hero of the Federation is not a good film and the inclusion of a DEW Morita could be due to budget. Blank ammo costs money and the laser gun flashes seen in the film could have been cheaper than blank ammo. In fact, after seen the film, I believe that the E-Pulse 44's trigger was rigged up to a lightbulb at the barrel of the prop gun to show the visual effects minions were to put in the DE laser flashes. The overall design of the E-Pulse 44 is not bad at all and unlike the Moritas from the 1997 film and 2008 films, this one was not based around a real-steel weapon, it is just a plastic-fantastic snowjob. The E-Pulse 44 rifle was only seen in the second film.

The Morita Rifle Mk. III

In the continuing trend of SST borrowing liberally from ALIENS, we now have a 10x50mm caseless variant of the Morita rifle: the Morita rifle Mark III. As seen in the 2008 not-too-bad 3rd film, the Morita III is similar in overall design to the Mk. I, but sports an traditional layout from the bullpup, an optical aiming system, flashlight, and a grenade launcher. The Mk. III feeds from an 90 round magazine of 10mm caseless rounds with a magazine-fed 30x71mm grenade launcher that has a 4+1 capacity. This allows M.I. and Fleet Marines to engage the bugs for longer and with more tools to cut down the number of incoming hostiles via the grenade launcher and the larger magazine.
During the 2nd Bug War, MI were trained to form firing lines, like 19th century infantry tactics, and concrete fire on the alien phalanx. Unlike the Mk. I, the prop gun was based around an South African R5 assault carbine, an clone of the IMI Galil, and not the Mini-14, however, both are 5.56x45mm. Much like the M41 Pulse Rifle, shell casings of the blank-fire ammunition can be seen despite being an caseless weapon. Some fans of SST believe that the Morita Smart Rifle from the Roughnecks animated series was the inspiration for the Morita Mk. III. IMFDB.org believes that the Morita III was inspirited by the old XM29 OICW. The Morita Ml. III is only seen in the 3rd film.

The Morita Rifle Mk. IV
There are several types of Moritas available in this 2005 PC game, and one being the Mk. IV "unlimited ammo" rifle. According to the in-game information, the Marauder Program MI Special Forces are the only ones issued the Morita Mk. IV and it uses an on-board plasma generator to plasma projectiles. Yes, the Marauders get plasma rifles in the 40 watt range here. While this sounds great, it overheats and it is short ranged. This weapon was designed for the Marauder Program so that the powered armor wearing MI trooper could engage several unarmored bugs at once. For armored targets, the player switches to the conventional ammo Morita Mk. I rifle. Given that the 2005 game connects the first and second films together, the Morita Mk. IV may or may not be another version of the DE weapon seen in Hero of the Federation, the mysterious E-Pulse 44.

The Morita "Invasion" Rifle 
In the computer animated 4th SST film, Invasion, we get yet another Morita rifle, the 5th in the generation of the Mortia. Not much is known or said about this weapon, and even the name is odd. According to my research, this Morita was called "the Mk. I" and may fire the .338 Lapua Magnum round instead of the 7.62mm of the older Moritas. It appears to feed from a boxy magazine in the from of the weapon(?) and this Morita can be fitted with an grenade launcher similar in design to the M203. This Morita has only been seen in the CGI Invasion film.

The SCION "Smart" Morita Rifle
 In the short-lived American animated series that was based on the 1997 film, the CGI Mobile Infantry troopers carry yet another variant of the familiar Morita: the Smart Morita Rifle. This interesting version of the Morita was more akin to the Colonial Marines M41A1 Pulse Rifle than what we saw on-screen in 1997. This seems to fire caseless rounds and is still bullpup, but the dense boxy magazine is loaded into the upper rear. The overall size of the weapon is more compact the Mark I, and this one, like the Mk. III, is equipped with a pump-action grenade launcher that also feds from an magazine as well. Oh, one of the bullshit grenade types is anti-matter. Fuck me that would be expensive to lob at some bugs.
In the series, the Smart Morita is used in all types of environments and  appears to more SMG/PDW than assault carbine, and could even fire a smaller high-velocity round, like the Pulse Rifle or even the FN P90. This is all based on the report of the weapon and a general feeling. Fleet uses a carbine variant as well. Of course, the Smart Morita was inspirited by the ALIEN Pulse Rifle and possibly the HK XM29 OICW. To me, this is a very cool Morita rifle and is more realistic for future soldiers to carry than the Morita Mk. I, however, the "smart" portion is never explained. Some websites have called this Morita the "pulse rifle Morita". This Morita was seen in the series, the Mongoose RPG games, and seen in some comics.

The Morita Rifle Variants

The Morita Carbine
In one of the cool real-world touches that the 1997 film uses in their firearms was the inclusion of an carbine variant and who uses them. In the film, Fleet personnel, Marines, Special Forces, and NCOs are seen with a cut-down carbine of the Morita Mk. I. The film gets the issue of who gets to use the carbine variant correct (to my surprise) and that the carbine is devoid of the shotgun attachment. During the climax of the 1997 film, we also see that the escape pods of the Roger Young have Morita Carbines stowed inside to fend off nasty bugs.

The Morita DMR
In the 1997 film, we see an interesting variant of the Mk. I Morita: the "sniper rifle" in the hands of badass Sugar Watkins of the Roughnecks. There is only one sniper variant of the Morita Mk.I seen in that film. This weapon is wrongly called a "sniper rifle", instead it is an Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) because it is using an existing assault rifle foundation for a more accurized weapon.
Of course, in the tongue-in-cheek SST universe, this is a fully automatic DMR with a massively oversized optical system AND an shotgun attachment is considered an "sniper rifle". We clearly see Watkins banging away with this Morita DMR on fully auto, spray bugs with no regard for the advanced futuristic scope system. The only time that the DMR Morita is used in the manner of an DMR is when Lt. Rasczak takes Watkins' rifle to kill a captured trooper. Other than that, it is spraying time. There is not another DMR/Sniper Rifle with the Morita moniker until SST: Invasion. 

The Morita Mk. III "Survival Rifle"
Much like the first film, Federal personnel are forced to abandon their starship and take to the escape pods in the 3rd 2008 film. Inside these escape pods are Morita IIIs. In the first film, they were the carbine variant, in the 3rd film, Marauder, they are an "survival rifle" that simply has the stock deleted. That's it. There is still the oversized optical system, the grenade launcher, and without the stock, it is wonder that anyone could fire it accurately.

The Force-on-Force DE Morita Trainer
Today, force-on-force training is done via IR MILES (laser tag) gear, simunition, and good ole paintball. In the future, as predicted by SST, there will be another options: laser beams. During the boot-camp scenes in the 1997 film, we see our fearless recruits of the MI battling in a force-on-force training ground at Camp Currie with "Training Beam" Moritas. These very Star Wars laser beams are blue and red and are highly visible to the naked eye. They operate similar to current MILES gear, but these training beams activate a violent shock feature in the MI vest. Much like MILES, the real-steel Morita are fitted with a training beam tip attachment, allowing for the real Morita to be used, allowing troopers to train-like-you-fight.

The Morita Mk. III SAW LMG
Well, it only took three movies for the Mobile Infantry to get an frakking light machine gun! The Morita SAW is an LMG variant of the Morita seen in the CGI Invasion film and the handheld phone game. There is nothing on this gun save for it being in the film. It is heavily dotted with barrel shroud for heat ventilation/air cooling and has a bipod. I'm guessing that if the Morita rifle calibers the .338 Lapua that the SAW would be firing the same round which seems completely insane and you would need powered armor to deal with the recoil of that package. 

What Do Those Morita Rifles Fire?
That question largely depends on what movie we are addressing. In the originally 1997 film, the Mortia rifles are said to be firing 7.62x51mm rounds. This round is mostly found in battle rifles, LMGs, and DMRs. In actuality, the prop gun under the plastic-fantastic covering is firing 5.56mm blanks. In the 2nd "film", the DEW Moritas fire some sort of directed-energy pulse beam, and the effect is mostly post-production. In the 3rd film, the MI troopers 3rd generation Morita fires an 10x50mm caseless round (similar to the M41A1 Pulse Rifle). The prop South African R5 under the plastic fired an 5.56mm, which spent brass can be seen in the frames of the film. In the last entry in the SST world, Invasion, those CGI Moritas are rumored to be firing the deadly .338 Lapua Magnum round. This round is mostly seen in sniper rifles in today's military and I am not sure how the .338 would perform in an assault rifle platform.

What Does the Morita Rifle Say About the Federation?
Actually, quite a bit. The 1997 film takes place in the 23rd century, but the Mortia Rifle seen in the film is very 20th century technology. We have to remember that there is nothing stopping you from constructing a Mortia Rifle today that is the same technological level as the M.I. Troopers have in the film. Hell, there was nothing futuristic about the Mark I Morita Rifle back in 1997 when the prop armorers constructed the weapon. In the 23rd century, the Federation's elite troopers, the Mobile Infantry are outfitted with a primary weapon that is three centuries out of date technologically speaking and lacks the most basic aiming system: iron sights.. Weapons of today are more advanced with more features than the Morita Rifle of the 1997 film. This may speak to how the Federation views the Mobile Infantry due to giving them rifles without iron sights and spray-and-pray tactics observed in the field. The Federation may view the MI as meat for the grinder and that numbers are more important than individuals. The more MI, the greater the volume of fire. This is similar to the thinking of Soviet-era commanders.

Under the Plastic: the Morita Rifle Blank-Fire Weapons
During the film of Starship Troopers, over 300,000 blank ammunition were fired. Most of the live-fire Moritas were Ruger Mini-14s and AC556k rifles due to their proven track record with blank-fire and given the script and the requirements, Rock Galotti knew that the Mortias need to be up to the task of firing blank ammo on full auto. Interestingly, the caliber that the Morita Mk. I are suppose to be firing, the 7.62mm. Not one of the real-steel gun under the plastic casting fired that caliber. When it came time for the sequel to SST, the Z-rated Hero of the Federation, no real-steel weapons were used under the plastic. However, that trend was ended with the 3rd film, Marauder, when the South African carbine variant of the Vekotr R4 5.56mm assault rifle, the R5, was used surrounded in a bulky plastic casting. What happened to the blank-firing Ruger Moritas? Due to firearm laws, the nearly trashed Mini-14s and AC556s were returned to the prop master, and any in private hands are void of the action. The shotgun attachment on the Morita Mk. I was an cut-down ithaca Model 37 12 gauge and according to sources, there was only one working Morita prop gun with an working shotgun, the others were visual fabrications.

Why is the Morita Rifle So Popular?
The Morita Mk.I has become one of the most popular science fiction weapons of all time, ranking up there with the M41A1 Pulse Rifle, the Lightsaber, and Deckard's PKD. Today, it is easy to find live-fire Moritas, even ones that fire airsoft, paintball, and display props littering the internet...but the question is why is the Morita such a popular sci-fi gun? One reason could be that the Morita rifles in SST films bang harder on-screen than pornstar Gianna Michaels and the bolt can be seen cycling away as brass flies in a nearly pornographic display of firepower.
More than 300,000 rounds of blank ammunition was used on SST and it says something about how hardcore the Morita is...this is no "phasers on stun" sci-fi weapon system! This more realistic hard-edged reality of the Morita over raygun laser sci-fi weapon could be another factor coupled with the spitting brass and huge muzzle flash. Also, SST is a cult favorite and a guilty pleasure, and combined with the coolness factor of the Morita itself, could be another source of the gun's popularity. To the fans of SST, the Morita is their Lightsaber or phaser, you cannot have a cosplay MI trooper outfit without the Morita.

The Things that Piss Me Off About the Morita
One of the things that really pisses me off about the Morita Mk. I is that it was a bullpup layout. Real world bullpup assault rifles are designed that way to take advantage of the mechanics being in the rear stock assembly over traditional layout. Thus, bullpup assault rifles can have traditional length barrels (16-20 inches) with the overall rifle length being similar to a carbine. That's the big advantage of bullpups over traditional assault rifles and SST is doing it wrong...very wrong. The Morita Mk. I is 44 inches long, about the same as FN FAL with the fixed stock and the 21 inch barrel. A weapon similar to the Morita Mk. I, the bullpup Steyr AUG is 31 inches in length with a 20 inch barrel. While I could not find the exact barrel length, it seems to be over 30 inches long!
So, why is the hell is the Morita a bullpup then? Simple answer: bullpups are future cool. That is my only answer. The armorers used the Muzzlite kit for the Mini-14 and being that the Muzzlite has a long history of being in science fiction films, allowed the Morita Mk. I to have a foundation...hence it is a bullpup. If the Morita Mk. I was the carbine, I wouldn't be bitching or if the full-length Morita Mk. I was the LMG variant...but it isn't. Another element that pisses me off is that the Morita Mk. I has no iron sights. That is bad tactics. Always have a backup rule and the KISS rule apply here, but not in the SST universe apparently. Of course, we are talking about the future starflung military organizations that offers no support to their infantry once they are dirtside. Lastly, there is the bulk of the Morita Mk. III seen in the 3rd SST film. That weapon was based around the HK XM29 OICW concept. Surely, in the 23rd century, firearms companies can construct something smaller and more compact that the bulky Morita Mk. III? And why is the "caseless Morita Mk. III fire a 10mm round that is longer than the regular cartridge round? The 10x50mm is longer than the 5.56x45mm round...does it need that much propellant or is someone not paying attention? Okay, rant over.

Where Else Have We Seen the Morita?

The Starship Trooper PC Game (2005)

Before Strangelite was bought by Rebellion, they gave us the 2005 SST PC video game. This had the player take the role of a powered armor equipped elite member of the Mobile Infantry's Marauder Program. Marauder Zero Six is tasked with a number of missions on planet Hesperus too tough for the regular troopers, and besides the powered armor, Marauder Zero Six has an entire armory of weapons, including two Moritas. The Morita Mk. IV is the endless plasma DE Morita and the Morita Mk. I is featured and is to be used against armored bugs. This game was raped at the time in reviews due to errors in the programing and a lackluster experience overall. However, it was cool to take on massive amounts of bugs with cool SST universe weaponry.

The Galoob SST film Action Figures

It is hard to believe that SST had a toyline and that said toys were marketed to children considering the hardcore gore and nudity in the first film. Galoob's line of SST toys did feature some of the core characters from the film, however, much like the Kenner ALIENS toyline, the characters are mere shadows of themselves. Some figures were packaged with the standard infantry Morita Mk. I. As you can see, the Morita is close to the film's and is just as long as the film's as well. This toyline sold poorly and was quickly forgotten. FWS will be explore and tying to explain the Galoob SST toyline in a future Military Sci-Fi Toys blog article.

IR "Laser Tag" Morita-like Rifles
Oddly, the Morita Mk. I rifles have been created for an IR laser tag game by a company called Battlefield Sports that operates international. These IR beam guns are called "Moritas" and are available in either "sniper rifles" or "SAW". The company states these IR laser tag guns are for more long range laser tag experiences and realistic battlefield experiences with the mess or pain of paint. They resemble the Morita Mk. I assault rifles in a more boxy format.

The SST Comics
There have been a number of SST comics over the years with some being published by Dark Horse and other smaller presses. Some are set the world established by the 1997 film while others are based on the 1999/2000 Roughnecks: the SST Chronicles. The SST comic follow some of the gear and weapons seen in those works, while some artists take liberties with the weaponry and design new Moritas. I contacted a few friends that have the SST comics, and they informed me that during the Dark Horse run, the Moritas were front and center with additional variants. They could not provide me with scans of those other variants,

The SST Minature Game 

In 2005, Mongoose Publishing released a miniature RPG wargame based on the Verhoeven SST universe. The game liberally borrow from heavily from the 1997 film, while other elements were culled from the Roughnecks animated series. The United Citizens Federation armies miniatures for sale had MI troopers from both the film and animated series with Moritas to match. The game was disconnected in 2008.

Next Time on FWS...
 Here it is...the blogpost I've been wanting to write since I started FWS way back in 2010: the complete the Forever War Graphic Novel series. After finally getting my hands on Volume 2, I now have the complete collection and it is time to write. Join this next time when FWS will be diving into a true Forgotten Classic of military science fiction comics!