Leah Williams' Writer's Commentary on Barbarella/Dejah Thoris #3 – 'Inspired by a Real Scientific Phenomenon'

Leah Williams has a Writer's Commentary on Barbarella/Dejah Thoris #3, on sale now from Dynamite. As ever, we are always happy to run comic book creator commentar on their own work. It's a lot more inciteful that relying on my own witterings, which I'm sure the commenters below will concur. Take it away, Leah…


The first time I saw this page was at ECCC while talking to Addison Duke when he just casually brought this out to show me the colors he'd been working on. It was the first time I'd even seen Germán's art for it, too, so that plus Addison's colors absolutely blew me away. The way they each translated a concept as familiar and earthy as "ocean" to a Martian setting is stunning. I am blown away by the detail in these skies – it looks like a photo-realistic galaxy, but it's the meticulous work of Addison Duke's colors.

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I'm not sure how interesting this will be for folks to know, but the way this planet is losing its ocean through a wounded atmosphere is inspired by a real scientific phenomenon! For hundreds of millions of years Mars was covered in oceans, rivers, and rains, but once Mars doesn't have the magnetic poles protecting it the way Earth does, and lost its atmosphere to solar winds stripping it down to nothing. Without its atmosphere protecting the water inside, all moisture was leeched out into space or frozen. I imagine it as a terribly tragic event – something to the level of the extinction event that killed Earth's dinosaurs. So much astronomy in general is so beyond my comfort level as a human mortal that I tend to romanticize it as something magical; both great and terrible. There's nothing more calamitously violent to me than the way the cosmos lives and dies, and I love Barbarella so much for her calm demeanor in the face of that.


I always knew that I wanted to have a moment where Dejah drinks ocean water while Barbarella isn't paying attention, but the sly amusement that Germán drew Barbarella's reaction with gives me so much life.


One of the aspects I love most about Dejah's character is her warmth and ferocity – even if she's warming up to Barbarella, that doesn't mean she lets her off the hook for dragging her away from the deaths of their hosts down below. Dejah really would have stayed there and fought to the death alongside King Nautilus because it was the honorable thing to do, but Barbarella was never going to allow that to happen. She's practical, but cool-headed in a way that Dejah doesn't recognize yet – but soon will. Right now it comes across as Barbarella being cold and uncaring.

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Barbarella has this kind of debonair attitude that I adore seeing at work with Dejah's warmth. She's coy but never oversteps boundaries, and she's more open and flirty as their lives are in less immediate danger. At the bottom of the page, Barbarella is patting the notes from Doctor Gitu she's got stored in her cleavage, which is what Dejah looks at, not understanding at first – and then gets distracted looking at Barbarella's boobs and gets flustered about it when Barbarella notices that. I think the efficiency with which Barbarella 1) notices Dejah pouting 2) gets Dejah to stop pouting is my favorite part of this exchange.


As always, I am amazed at what Germán García has done. The way we shift so concisely from the flirty, smiley warmth on the previous page back into the hectic mechanical sci-fi of this one is a transition made more smoothly all thanks to Germán's art direction. He takes the focus back to the alien ships and the strange sounds of them, so while we still see Barbarella and Dejah in the context of what's happening, they feel small in comparison to these behemoth ships. Addison Duke's introduction of coldness into the color palette here is also amazing.


I think what I had in the script was a note next to Barbarella's laser pistol sound that was like "Can we make this sfx as cute as she is?!?" and Germán took that even further and made it cute and psychedelia-reminiscent. I love it so much, and I love that the laser pistol itself is vaguely reminiscent of a hair dryer. The cheerful dissonance of this fight scene is what gets me, though – they're still flirting while battling hostile aliens!

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Dejah is a master tactician and brilliant strategist as well as a fast learner, so I loved the idea of her retaining one of the new concepts she learned in the previous issues – that of "commuting." She's using the one of the Wind-Walker projectile ships to launch her and Barbarella down to the depths again here.

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This might be my favorite page. It breaks my heart – we see the wounded prehistoric sea creatures and then see Barbarella and Dejah working together to help them, and heal who they can using starfish as a bandage of sorts. That detail was definitely all Germán's doing and I love it so much. The watery panels surrounded by bubbles adds a lovely effect as well.

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Like the last issue, writing this last scene felt like a dream. But unlike the last issue, this one was more dreamy than anything else –i t's soft and sweet, and we get a moment of connection between the women as they find themselves in a safer location. There's zero-g hijinks in here that make it feel like Alice in Wonderland, and the sparse colors only add to that – I love Addison's choices of indistinct, amorphous color blobs over the art. This is my favorite scene of this issue. Barbarella's pretty smooth with Dejah as they're floating around in zero gravity as well. I wrote in the script that their dialogue bubbles would be bumping into each other/overlapping and Crank! Lettering nailed it.

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Princess Dejah and Barbarella are having this perfect, sweet and romantic moment that gets interrupted by Doctor Gitu who appears as, according to a someone I saw writing about this page, "a ghost made of Post-It notes." (The full sentiment was "I've never seen a ghost made of Post-It Notes." which is something I'm actually kind of proud of for helping bring into the world!) I love Crank's lettering for Paper Doctor Gitu, too.

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Immediately, once the world is righted by Doctor Gitu, the colors snap back into their designated seats and gravity works like it's supposed to. We lose the dreamy, surrealist aspect of this location but gain Doctor Gitu's communication in the process. I also want to take a moment to really stand up and salute Germán's understanding of boob physics because 10/10 this is how they actually work. They're squishy! They have movement! Not, like, anime-sentience but absolutely the way it happens in this miniseries.

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This just gets me so amped for the last issue to come out. This page is a cliffhanger and dovetails as a bewildering start to the finale of #4. I fretted to Matt Idelson, my editor, about how this issue felt slower or less action-packed than the previous issues, but he pointed out that we were laying the foundations for the fourth issue to really hit the ground running. And being able to spend more time with these characters and get to know them a little better too, that is really going to make the ending all the more poignant. I love this story and these characters and can't wait for you all to see what's next with the conclusive issue.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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