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Handmade Steampunk Rayguns From the F/X Guys at Weta 103

An anonymous reader writes "Wired is presenting a gallery of artwork that inspired Weta's collectible rayguns, plus exclusive photos of the retrofurist sidearms. The article offers more than just images; each weapon has a description of where they were inspired from, as well as possible uses. 'In this illustration by Greg Broadmore, a hunter poses with his latest kill and his elegant retrofurist rifle ... "I started drawing these things just for fun," says Broadmore. "I did dozens of designs, all really stylized and Flash Gordon looking. I remember those black and white serials playing on TV as a kid and the imagery always stuck with me. Really hokey, but really scary and weird at the same time. And, of course, if you're a fan of classic rayguns you'll see the influence of the old toy rayguns. The Buck Rogers disintegrator pistol -- of course directly referenced in Han Solo's blaster in Star Wars -- is iconic, and that original raygun, along with many others, inspired me massively.'"
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Handmade Steampunk Rayguns From the F/X Guys at Weta

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  • I was just talking about steampunk and am sending a friend the pilot of Amazing Screw On Head right now. Wish they'd make the damn series...
  • Where's the orange plastic blob at the barrel end?
    • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @04:43AM (#19298299) Homepage
      These aren't toy guns, they're art pieces. No self respecting artist is going to make them "safety compliant".
      • Orange light, of course, existing near the top of the rainbow, which is to say, possessing enough height to travel neatly over one's head.
      • by rspress ( 623984 )
        I would like to have one of the working Sandman guns from Logans Run. It was a glorified lighter, but it surely looked cool with the flames shooting out at angles.
      • I always thought that the orange plug at the end of a toy pistol was so that the cops would not mistake it for a real gun, and tragically shoot the child.

        If your steampunk ray gun needs an orange plug, then I would say that your local police force has been eating doughnuts filled with LSD.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Mmmmmmm donuts filled with LSD. Why do you have 3 heads Marge?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by suv4x4 ( 956391 )
      Where's the orange plastic blob at the barrel end?

      If I put a blob for you, would you still hand a $1500 art piece to your kid to "shoot" around?
  • by Excelcia ( 906188 ) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Monday May 28, 2007 @04:50AM (#19298313) Homepage Journal
    I'd rather see a sci-fi use a firearm, like Firefly did and Battlestar Galactica does, than have them insult my intelligence with the twisty, curvy, spiky, doo-dad-ly junk we've been fed the last fifty years. I mean, for artistic reasons, every show is going to want to have the iconic BFG every now and then. For humour value if nothing less. You see this in Firefly sometimes. But weapons exist for one reason, to make it easier to project force. I don't look back at "ray gun" designs with fondness. I see a bunch of catering to the lowest-common-denominator intelligence, let's make things look as funky different as possible just to make them look funky different. It was a tool used by bad writers and bad producers who didn't have content that was distinctive enough, so had to be distinctive with bling.
    • by l3mr ( 1070918 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @05:31AM (#19298431)
      Other people just have fonds memories of old, trashy sci-fi movies or the Fallout games...these cater to that crowd. Me, for example.
      • by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @08:27AM (#19299021)
        Me, too. These are art objects paying homage to designs from the beginnings of sci-fi and science itself. If you dont get the humor in the vials "phlogiston and aether" this is not for you.

        I can understand someone disliking bad and/or inappropriate set design, but some folks will have a bad attitude toward everything - honestly it's their loss.
    • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @07:25AM (#19298773)
      But weapons exist for one reason, to make it easier to project force.

      And were science-fiction movies documentaries, you'd have a point. But they're not. They're entertainment, and I'm entertained by fancy weapons, loud explosions in space, and planetary princesses whose costumes are held up solely by centrifugal force.

      It was a tool used by bad writers and bad producers who didn't have content that was distinctive enough, so had to be distinctive with bling.

      "Content?" "Content" is for websites. Movies are a visual medium, and the art direction and photography can be at least as important to the movie as the script, if the director says so. If you don't want the creator mucking up the plot with sounds and visuals, read a novel. Just stay away from E.R. Burroughs, and other classic authors of the genre.

      I see a bunch of catering to the lowest-common-denominator intelligence

      For the record, I'm smarter than you. And I say, "Bring on the Laser Beams!"

      • by atrocious cowpat ( 850512 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @07:35AM (#19298811)
        "planetary princesses whose costumes are held up solely by centrifugal force."

        I think you meant: "held up [...] by the gravitational pull of their tits."
      • by Chrisje ( 471362 )
        Content is not for websites. And Science Fiction is not for the movies.

        Any decent Sci-Fi book I've ever read, be it Ender's Game, the Foundation or Dune, is an exercise in philosophical thinking. They either look long and hard at human behavior in extreme situations (The moon is a harsh mistress, anyone?) or they test socio-economical theories (Foundation) or it deals with Psychology (Ender's game), but it's never about the DF-Disruptor 2000 rifle with the twisty nobbies on it.

        This is why I am a Battlestar
    • by MidnightBrewer ( 97195 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @08:50AM (#19299101)
      If you want to watch shows that portray things realistically, why are you watching sci-fi in the first place? Humans have always had a desire to make things look beautiful, or powerful, or graceful, etc. Firefly is a perfect example of things done for the aesthetics rather than because they're "practical"; heck, it's a western set in space. They often ride horses. The ship is designed to look like a big bug because it *can*. It has a butt and it lights up, for goodness' sake! I think you're barking up the wrong tree here.
    • by toQDuj ( 806112 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @08:56AM (#19299129) Homepage Journal
      Well, surely not every part on an ordinary firearm was designed with pure functionality in mind. I am thinking of the "bling" on old revolvers. Pearl handles, patterns on the side and such.

      So the Bling on a ray-gun might be a little over the top in our eyes, perhaps they are nothing more than a simple bit of decoration, or (you never know) it might actually have function. No-one can tell wether they are useless twisty spiky, doo-dadly junk that are stuck to the side, or functional elements. That's fiction for you.

      • Mother of pearl looks great, so there's always been a "bling" element to its use. However, you should know that mother of pearl as well as ivory, bone, stag horn, and other decorative grip materials for pistols did, indeed, have a functional use back in the day.

        Pre-1900, a number of pistol shooting competitions were a big deal, with near full-page coverage in major newspapers. There was a lot on the line and any small advantage was eagerly desired. Generally, the big matches took place over several days
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      But you need a permit to buy a firearm.

      Not so with a laser.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is exactly why Han Solo's gun was based on
      an old "broom handle" Mauser.
    • Say what you will, but a vacuum tube-powered space gun (such as one in TFA) is and always will be cooler than any realistic firearm. As an art piece based on a specific style, it not only makes a but of esoteric sense but also just sort of rules.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    inquiring geeks want to know if they work or not. :)
  • I want a Lazy Gun (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 15Bit ( 940730 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @05:05AM (#19298363)
  • I don't see it... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Loligo ( 12021 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @05:14AM (#19298387) Homepage

    Beyond the images in the article, I just did a google image search for "buck rogers pistol" and don't see anything significantly relevant to Han Solo's D-44... if anything, it reminds me just how little they changed the Mauser Broomhandle to turn it into a blaster.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 28, 2007 @05:31AM (#19298429)
    Along with a few work colleagues I met Richard Taylor here in New Zealand a year or so back after he'd just returned from the Academy Awards in LA. He showed us a metal carry case which contained a couple of these guns and mentioned in passing that he'd carried them with him on the flight home. I had mental pictures of the ATS guy sitting behind the LAX baggage scanner going through a "it's a gun, no wait, it's not a gun..." endless loop.
  • by Ceriel Nosforit ( 682174 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @05:59AM (#19298505)
    I'm building a Van de Graaff generator from which I'ma try accelereating an electron beam, or bolt. It won't of course be portable, but it would be fun if I could fling plasma a meter or so away from the VDG gen. With some metal sheets I could build a rather large air-gap capacitator that I could first charge with the VDG and then tap to a coil to pull the free electrons from the VDG.

    Okay, maybe a bit sci-fi, but I'm having fun building the VDG regardless. :D
  • by Handyman ( 97520 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @06:54AM (#19298655) Homepage Journal
    What the fsck is "retrofurist"? It's even in TFA. I'm guessing they meant to say "retrofuturist", but being lysdectics they had an excuse to use this abbrevion...
    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Monday May 28, 2007 @07:14AM (#19298719) Journal
      What the fsck is "retrofurist"?

      Someone who's furious in a retrograde manner?


    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by famebait ( 450028 )
      What the fsck is "retrofurist"?

      A person who identifies with or is sexually attracted
      to old-fashioned stuffed toys and/or anthropomorphic
      animal characters in fiction and illustration.

      Derived from "furry", denoting the similar but more common
      inclination that accepts, and is chiefly oriented towards,
      more modern depictions. Adherents of retrofurism mostly
      use only "furist" to denote their group, feeling its
      clever variation on "furry" suffices to convey the archaic
      aspect. "Retro" is added mostly by outsiders to t
    • What the fsck is "retrofurist"?

      Where the android Rachael got her coat? [bladezone.com]
    • by dasunt ( 249686 )

      Don't ask me, I'm still stuck on how this is 'steampunk'.

      Are rayguns steampunk technology?

      Or has the 'steampunk' genre evolved into anything goes in a Victorian-era setting?

      • by Handyman ( 97520 )

        Or has the 'steampunk' genre evolved into anything goes in a Victorian-era setting?

        AFAICT the 'steampunk' label basically applies to anything that you could have seen in the movie Wild Wild West [imdb.com] or in Back To The Future III [imdb.com]. But IIRC the guns in WWW were normal guns, so this has to have been from BTTF3. But that used regular guns too. So: no steampunk. Period.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      Oh, it's about harking back to the days when science fiction married the ideas of futuristic technology with spirit of European colonial imperialism. With a fast rocket ship under your feet and a deadly raygun on your hip, the galaxy was your oyster, and most of the organisms in it grit that hadn't transformed into a pearl.
      • In other words, "The future ain't as cool as it used to be."

        Take Disneyworld's "Tomorrowland" for a great example. I haven't been to Disneyworld in about 20 years, but by the 1980's Tomorrowland was looking really dated. It was a 1960's version of the future, which today looks like the 1960's. When they renovated Tomorrowland, they went for a more "classic", less "realistic" futuristic look, which (from what little I've seen in photographs) won't look any more dated in the 2010's than in the 1990's.

        In fa
    • by uradu ( 10768 )
      I guess the word looked "about right" to them, just like all those guns. Perhaps it's a steampunk expression?!
  • by bertok ( 226922 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @07:03AM (#19298689)

    I wish more artists would embrace realistic fantasy.

    It sounds like an oxymoron, but it's the difference between a movie only kids could enjoy, and something adults would want to go see too.

    The first thing that struck me about those pictures is that nobody would ever, ever, ever use one of those contrived contraptions in a battle. A weapon in a science fiction flick can shoot lasers, warp space, or spray hot grits, but no weapon, fictional or real, can have that many protrusions. You'd never get it into, our out of, a holster. Every branch and bush would tear it out of your hand. And a gun with a glass bulb as a functional unit? Are you kidding me? The reason the guns looked so awesome in Star Wars was because they were made from real guns. Many of them were made from, or based on, real, practical designs. The science fiction element was that they shot laser beams.

    There's suspension of disbelief, then there's suspension of common sense. Not the same thing!

    Rant over. Please return to your scheduled fawning. 8)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vidarh ( 309115 )
      Do you also complain because cartoons look drawn?

      These specifically reference a subgenre that never concerned itself with realism.

      Realism or at least practicality in sci fi has it's place, but this is not it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by denali99755 ( 974676 )
        There's an awesome aspect in steampunk culture that is concerned with practicality as well, though...google 'steampunk keyboard' to see what I mean. IANASP, but the element of the steampunk aesthetic that really impresses me is the imagining of real-world devices with a late nineteenth century twist.

        I agree with parent...these don't look practical at all; any self-respecting steampunk warrior would be better off with a trusty .45. ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tribbin ( 565963 )
      I don't agree with you. All auxilery modular options an an 'mech' with extensions make it look kooler.

      http://images.google.nl/images?svnum=10&um=1&hl=nl &q=mech [google.nl]

    • Agreed. Those guns seem totally ridiculous to me. I'd rather have a Stargate P90 any day.
      • No kidding!
        FNH's P90 PDW -- the gun so badass that MacGyver uses it to defend earth from evil alien armies.
        Let's not forget the companion sidearm, the Five-seveN -- perfect for pistolwhipping any crazy scientist who becomes VP and thinks that they're a Cylon.
    • Real "rayguns" (Score:2, Interesting)

      by esc67 ( 813257 )

      Here is somebody who builds rayguns out of scrap. Perhaps these are more to your liking. I believe one of them is a functioning pea-shotter!

      http://claytonbailey.com/galleryrayguns.htm [claytonbailey.com]

      Makezine [makezine.com] published an nice article about these some time ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goaway ( 82658 )
      Please, just because your imagination and sense of wonder is so limited, don't try to drag the rest of us down with you.

      Thank you.
    • Actually, they put me in mind of Kill-O-Zap guns:

      "Standing silhouetted in the doorway through which they had entered the vault was the man who wasn't pleased to see them. His displeasure was communicated partly by the barking hectoring quality of his voice and partly by the viciousness with which he waved a long silver Kill-O-Zap gun at them. The designer of the gun had clearly not been instructed to beat about the bush. "Make it evil," he'd been told. "Make it totally clear that this gun has a right end
    • What the weapons look like depends largely on what the creative people want to present.

      For example, compare the phasers used in Star Trek V and VI with those used in The Next Generation. Both were produced in the same time period by the same studio using most of the same creative and prop people.

      The V/VI phasers look mostly like handguns (except with the barrel mounted over the hand grip, instead of forward of it.) They're beefy, black, and serious-looking. The director of Star Trek V (William Shatner [khaaan.com], actu
    • The reason the guns looked so awesome in Star Wars was because they were made from real guns. Many of them were made from, or based on, real, practical designs. The science fiction element was that they shot laser beams.

      If I recall, Han Solo's pistol had a huge rifle scope on it. You think it looks "realistic", but I've read several rants from 'gun nerds' complaining how ridiculous "hollwood" gets things.

    • If you consider them series production, then yes, they are dumb. But think an old slightly mad scientist in a golden-framed monocle pieced one for you half a hour ago, it's one of a kind, every piece is essential (or so he says) and most of them need to be exposed to allow free inflow of Iota Energy, proper cooling of the Cerptarition Unit and easy replacement od Hydranium and Frenzium capsules. It's not only the best weapon there is. It's the only weapon you're going to get. And a an army of Guzdargarhania
    • I agree. Except for one point... the entire theme of steampunk fantasy embraces the implausible complexity of steam engines, and extrapolates out to implusibility.

      Steam engines were always cantankerous, requiring as much or more maintenance as helicopters do today (and helicopters have a downtime for repairs that about matches their flying time, which is insane). They were high maintenance, and high failure. Fast forward to the first computers... thousands of glass tubes, which had to be replaced endlessly
  • Steampunk Air Rifles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @07:42AM (#19298851)
    Sorry, but I find those toys far less impressive than these: http://www.glbarnes.com/ [glbarnes.com]

    These are some of the most steampunk-ish actual working devices I've seen. Some are fancier than others, with the more ornate models looking like they came right out of Myst. They aren't movie or vidgame props, they are some of the most powerful and accurate (and expensive) air rifles in the world -- and all hand-made by Gary Barnes himself. Although not technically (or legally, in the USA) considered to be firearms, these air rifles have been used successfully for hunting deer, wild hogs, and in at least one case a buffalo.
    • These aren't really steam-punk inspired; but they ARE beautiful works of functional art... thanks for pointing them out!
  • Han Solo weapon (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Han Solo's weapon is simply an augmented Mauser C96 pistol.
  • This article's been out for five hours and NOT ONE /.ER HAS USED THE WORD "PHASER".

    (Well, until now.)

    Are all the trekkies getting hammered and watching Boston Legal these days?
    • This article's been out for five hours and NOT ONE /.ER HAS USED THE WORD "PHASER".
      Probably because the guns from star trek are about the wimpiest looking things in science fiction.
      • by tftp ( 111690 )
        And that is because ST was never centered around guns and warfare. ST:TNG especially was as pacifist as it could possibly be, and the weapons were the plot devices of last resort, and even then they were "set on stun" so that nobody's feelings are harmed. Most of the conflicts, or challenges, or battles were won by ingenuity and tactics and science rather than by application of a larger BFG that the opponent had.
  • by AaronLawrence ( 600990 ) * on Monday May 28, 2007 @11:46AM (#19300309)
    These rayguns are fantastic pieces of art, of a kind you rarely see. I saw them at the Weta stand at an expo in Wellington - they were only on display then, not for sale - and they really look like the business as imagined by 1950's science fiction. They seem a little used, covered in mysterious spikes and weird tubes. And it's real glass and metal, as far as I can tell, hand-welded etc. Theres a good sense of humour in the marketing too.

    Pretty amazing to see so many cynics completely miss the point on Slashdot. This is one thing I thought most geeks would be right into. Humorous yet artistic rayguns!
  • More directly referencing the Mauser [world.guns.ru].
  • As nice and groovy as these guns are, they've been nosed around for about a year now.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll