Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Secrets of Harveylands


This map of "various Harveylands" comes to us from Richie Rich #230 (1987). Before its publications, the proximity of many Harvey characters was apparent, but the fact that their entire kids comic "universe" existed in one locality was a bit of surprise. Looking at the map, I think we can discern other truths about the "Harvey Universe."

The mountains separating it from the outside world reveals it to be a hidden land in the old tradition of Oz or Opar. It is primarily inhabited by magical or fairytale creatures (some in semi-isolated subregions), with one isolated island being the home of talking animals. Based on the comics, these animals enjoy a higher level of technology and infrastructure than the surrounding "enchanted forest" dwellers (though so stories suggest at least the Devils have access to TV and radio.) There are also the two anomalous comics related industries.

Richville's wealth and isolation are a bit of a puzzle. I suspect it is something like the isolated Amazon cities of the rubber boom. The only question is what provided the fortune for the Richs and their city? Whatever it is, it likely has something to do with the magical nature of the surrounding countryside.

Spooktown seems to be the next largest city, and it is walled. Possibly it isn't open to non-ghosts? Maybe witches, since they seem to live in close proximity. Spooktown is big enough that it has suburbs, apparently, where Casper resides.

I always took Tiny Town to be a settlement of normal humans in the Stumbo stories--tiny only in comparison. I wonder now if they are actually smaller, and so Stumbo's size in the stories was exaggerated by the comparison.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Charlton Action Heroes

Since I've covered the MLJ/Archie characters recently, and the Tower Comics T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents back in 2017, it's time the Charlton Comics "Action Heroes" got there due. Charlton had published superheroes in the Golden Age, but what they are remembered for (well, besides what DC has done with their characters since) is their Silver Age publications.

Like Archie Comics' hero universe, Charlton's had an early, false start. In the wake of DC's Silver Age success in the late 50s, Captain Atom by Joe Gill and Steve Ditko debuted in the science fiction anthology series, Space Adventures, starting in 1960. Captain Atom last appeared there in 1961 and by the end of that year, his artist was doing seminal work for Marvel.

In 1965, with Marvel and DC enjoying great success with superheroes, Charlton revived Captain Atom with reprints. The Golden Age Dan Garrett Blue Beetle had been reworked and re-introduced in 1964, but that character and Charlton superheroics really took off in 1966 when Dikto returned. His renewed work with Captain Atom and his introduction of a new Blue Beetle led Charlton editor Dick Giordano to debut the "Action Heroes" line. Along with these two Ditko characters (and later the Question), Giordano included Peter Morisi's Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt, Frank McLaughlin's Judomaster, and Pat Boyette's Peacemaker.

Unfortunately, the Action Heroes were not a resounding success. By the end of 1967, all the series were cancelled. After the demise of Charlton in the 80s, DC would acquire the characters. It's thanks to DC that we have any of the Action Heroes material collected at all. Maybe we'll eventually get an omnibus due the Watchmen connection?

Peter Morisi's estate owns Peter Cannon. Dynamite Comics currently has the license for him and has published two series since 2012, the latest is currently ongoing.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Greek Myth Godbound

Reading Kevin Crawford's Godbound (which is pretty cool!), I've been thinking about how I might use it, if I ever got around to it. I have two ways I might use it, actually, but here's one of them.

The first borrows some from my old Gods, Demi-gods and Strangeness idea, except it would shift to being more about Kirby-esque super-gods heroics like The Eternals or The New Gods rather than mortal plagued by science fictional gods.

The background: For reasons not fully known to anyone but himself, the titan Kronos sought to create a more permanent world of matter and time, something less mutable than the idea-space of chaos where the titans existed. Eleven of his peers were either dupes or co-conspirators in the creation.

The Titans were lessened by their participation in the Cosmos project. They were forced to embody and support fixed aspects of the architecture of Kronos's world: They entered as creators but became as much prisoners as those that came after them. Like in Greek Myth (and Exalted's Creation), the Earth is flat:


(The world probably resembles the world known to the Ancient Greeks, but maybe "blown up" slightly.)

Kronos's rule was in many ways a Golden Age, with human's living in protected gardens, yet at the caprice of Kronos and his allies. The Olympians also resented his command, and they led a usurpation, that toppled the Titans and imprisoned them away.  Humans were freer, but also suffered from disease and hunger and lived shorter lives. The Olympians restricted human technology, fearful initially of another revolt.

In the current age, the Olympians are decadent and distracted. Mighty heroes and demi-gods have appeared among human, ready to rediscover the technology of the Titans and challenge the gods themselves with their deeds.

The Feel: Mythic Greece as a science fantasy, superhero epic. This is a "ahistorical," mythical ancient Greece. I mean, more ahistorical than usual. It might be a distant past like the Camelot of 8000 BC in DC Comics' Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight. It has a bit of Kirby, a bit of Starlin, maybe a bit of Peter Chung's Reign: The Conqueror.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Why Isn't There a Game for That? [Update]

I originally wrote this post in 2014, so it's probably time to check back in and see how the rpg landscape is changed. There are a number of genres/subgenres that are under-utilized or not utilized at all in rpgs, despite the fact they would probably work pretty well. Here are a few off the top of my head:

Humorous Adventure Pulp
Basically this would cover the whimsical, fantastical, and often violent world of Thimble Theatre (later Popeye) and the Fleischer Popeye cartoon. A lot of fist-fights, fewer guns. This would also cover Little Orphan Annie, various kid gang comics, and (on the more violent end) Dick Tracy.
Update: Still nothing. It's probably not a genre that has a lot of cachet for modern audiences.

Wainscot Fantasy
Little creatures hiding in the big world. Think The Borrowers, The Littles, and Fraggle Rock.
Update: I've found forums and blogposts where others are asking about this sort of thing, but no games still. Well, no published games. There's a quick and lite Fraggle Rock game here.

Kid Mystery Solvers
Scooby Doo is probably the most well-known example, but you've got several Hanna-Barbera returns to the same concept. Ditch weird pet/side kick, and you've got The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys. 
Update: Looks like there is a game called Meddling Kids. I don't know anything about it though.

Wacky Races
I've written about this one before--and Richard has run it. Still needs a game, though.
Update: There is a board game, which perhaps is a better fit for it.

The Dungeon That is Never Cleared


I'm sure there are the exceptions, but it seems like that Gygax-approved secondary goal of dungeoncrawling is to clear dungeons to make the land safe for decent folk or something like that. I don't know how much that's that's done these days, but at least dungeon rooms and levels are cleared to allow safe havens/base camps.

What if the dungeon were so alien that sort of thing were unlikely? A dungeon could be looted, but it never could be tamed. This wouldn't mean that the dungeon is static or unchangeable by adventurers, just that it would always retain its essential, deadly, character.

I've been reading The Vorrh by Brian Catling, a novel which has at its center (sort of) the eponymous, immense, ancient forest that is steals people's memories and is supposedly uncrossable. I'm also thinking of the toxic, alien nature of the Zones in Roadside Picnic.

Maybe a mythic underworld as hostile as either of these, would be a bit too much of a killer dungeon (but then again, maybe not) but some movement in this direction might be interesting. In both cases, the appropriate sort of preparation might be key. In the Roadside Picnic case, that means good intel and appropriate gear. In the case of the more mystical Vorrh, it might involve a separate quest to get the needed knowledge, blessing, or key.

Philotomy in his off-quoted "Musings" got it, particularly if we go light on "versimilitude" and allow just enough "internal consistency" for player choices to be meaningful:
"...a megadungeon should have a certain amount of verisimilitude and internal consistency, but it is an underworld: a place where the normal laws of reality may not apply, and may be bent, warped, or broken. Not merely an underground site or a lair, not sane, the underworld gnaws on the physical world like some chaotic cancer.   
It is inimical to men; the dungeon, itself, opposes and obstructs the adventurers brave enough to explore it."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Marvel's Planet of the Apes

The Planet of the Apes film series ended with a whimper rather than a bang with 1973's Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but it was followed by a 1974 TV series that was likely the catalyst for Marvel Comics licensed adventures. The color series, Adventures on the Planet of the Apes only lasted 11 issues. It began with a colorized adaptation of the first film, reprinted from the more successful series the black and white Curtis Magazine title, Planet of the Apes.

Doug Moench was the only writer, working with a rotating cadre of artists, including Mike Ploog and Tom Sutton. The entire film series was adapted with varying degrees of fidelity, but what was more interesting was the new content where Moench's imagination was given freer rein to add to the Apes mythos. There were brains in jars and Middle Ages style jousting apes, coonskin cap wearing frontier apes, and ape mutants riding giant-frogs called Her Majesty's Cannibal Corps.


Boom! Studios has collected the entire run of the magazine series in four hard cover archives, but unfortunately the first volume (at least) is out of print, and tends to be sort of pricey on ebay.

Luckily, the internet comes to your rescue! If you interested in the magazine series, this site will be useful.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Planes of Chaos

Discussing cosmogony with an being of chaos, much less a Chaos Lord, is likely to only led to more confusion. Linear logic, causality, even truth, are concepts beings of Chaos find unnecessarily limiting. Turning to their sacred writ (such as there is) will be of little help, either. The Hymn to Perplexity is composed entirely of questions and no answers.

Still, when they choose to, the ancient monsters and angels of Chaos remember the Godhead, the One that encompassed all. It was no more Order than Disorder, no more Constant than Mutable. If there was a Fall, it was Chaos that was indistinguishable in any meaningful way from what came before; It is Law that is the aberration. And even that aberration was born of Chaos.

Limbo is akin to what the multiverse was before Mechanus, before time itself existed. It is primordial soup from which any concept or being might be instantiate.  Chaos did not remain untainted by Law, however. Form, causality and other concepts gave shape to the previously formless. The border regions coalesced into something different.


Arborea is the home of beings who revel in the the gratification of the senses. They seek to woo other souls to throw off the shackles of Law and experience the pleasures of greater freedom. They never coerce beings into accepting their gifts (such would be a violation of freedom), but mortal souls may not be prepared for the experiences they offer.

The sad, dangerous monsters of the Abyss cling only to the concept of Self. The entirety of cosmos is merely an insufferable dream they can never wake up from. They torment or toy with other beings, even other demons, in attempts to exorcise their irritation. They are seldom successful.