Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1981 (wk 2 pt 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around September 24, 1981. 

Adventure Comics #488: Two Dial H stories here. In the first by Rozakis and Infantino, Jinx, a villain with bad luck powers is convinced that all the superheroic duos appearing in this one small city most be the same people, and he surveils them long enough to confirm his suspicions.  In the end, not even bad luck can stop the ring-throwing Captain Saturn and the cold-powered Snowball from taking him down.

The second story by Kashdan and von Eeden is weird because it's odd to see the Dial H stuff drawn by anybody but Infantino. Beyond that, it isn't memorable at all, as the kids take on the poison-wielding Belladona, "Princess of Potions." 

Detective Comics #509: Conway and Newton bring Catman sets a trap for Batman as he wants to retrieve the scrap of his cape Batman tore off last time they met. Catman is convinced his cape is magical, giving him nine lives, and the tearing of the cape ruined it's magic--and now Catman has a scarred face to prove the loss of his luck. He thinks the cape can heal it. He puts Batman in a rising tide death trap, but of course Batman escapes. He tracks Catman to where he has Selina Kyle captive and he has finally recovered the missing piece of his costume. His face isn't fixed, though, and Selina explains that perhaps the magical cloth has been used too many times and it doesn't work anymore. (She doesn't mention she might have used it to cure her illness.) Batman defeats Catman. Later, Selina tells Bruce she is leaving Gotham because her past is always in the way between the two. Meanwhile, Bruce, unaware that he is being watched closely by someone from his past, who is determined to find a connection between Bruce Wayne and Batman.

In the Batgirl backup, she is still trying to take down the Annihilator who has siphoned Supergirl's power. Batgirl manages to free her friend, but they are unable to defeat the Annihilator (who continues to mutate), and he teleports away. Annihilator decides he's going to repopulate Gotham (after he destroys it) with his own super-progeny, but he needs to mind the right mate. He starts building a ray to use on the woman he wants to carry his offspring. Batgirl and Supergirl have tracked him down, but with his precognitive powers he knows they are coming. He muses that Batgirl is a prime specimen for his mate.

Legion of Super-Heroes #282: I get the feeling Thomas fashioned this entire arc just to give an explanation for the Reflecto statue in the adult Legion story in Adventure Comics #354, and it shows. Anyway, we've got most the Legionnaires still imprisoned on Earth in the 60s as commies or something, and Superboy, Dawnstar, and Phantom Girl are in Bgztl. Luckily, Superboy regains his memory, and even more luckily, Dawnie is able to track down the not-dead Ultra Boy. Also, the Time Trapper is defeated, the other Legion members escape, and back in the 30th Century they change the statue of a dead Ultra Boy to Reflecto, 'cause he kinda died. Sure, Roy (and Paul).

New Adventures of Superboy #24: I had this issue as a kid. After the Curator strikes Superboy with a Red Kryptonite bomb, the Boy of Steel is blind without his Kryptonian glasses, imperiling either his effectiveness as a hero or his secret identity. A blind Superboy is still an effective one, though. In the Superbaby backup by Rozakis and Calnan, Superboy foils an alien invasion while being baby-sat.

Sgt. Rock #359: Kanigher and Redondo bring back the Iron Major, who manages to capture Rock and beat the hell of of him but doesn't kill him since Rock spared his life last time. The next story by Bill Kelley with amateurish art by Ron Randall has a young woman getting close to a Nazi officer to get travel papers for her husband. The Nazi double-crosses her and kills her husband but is killed accidentally by his subordinate, trying to shoot the woman. 

The Men of Easy feature has whistler Canary providing the wedding march for a couple whose church pipe organ was destroyed by a German attack. In the last story, a WWI pilot's cat, Blind Faith, helps him after a crash when he has been blinded. The cat jumps at a German sneaking up on him, allow the pilot to turn and shoot.

Unexpected #217: In the cover story by Sheldon Mayer, Lincoln is removed from the timestream moments before his assassination and brought to 2265 in order to run for president of the galaxy. The ol' Railsplitter figures out everything is not on the up and up, and turns the tables on the disguised aliens, foiling their plans. Next up, Sciacca and Carrillo give a slightly modified version of the Japanese Yuki-onna legend where a man marries a beautiful but mysterious wife and has kids, but loses it all when he asks too many questions about his wife's past.

Mishkin/Cohn and Speigle present the tail of a hat store owner who chooses not to ask too many questions when his business turns around with the patronage of an odd man and his equally odd friends--even after he discovers they all are hiding aliens under the hats they bought. Drake and Vince Perez/Vicatan present the sort of story you might have seen in an EC sci-fi book.  In the future, a criminal left adrift in space after she tried to steal from her partner crashes on a planet with deformed mutants, descendants of the victims of ancient Earth nuclear accidents. ("3 Mile Land," offer as example.) They want to breed with her to produce normal children, but she isn't having any of that. After poisoning the mutants, she escapes with a seeming "normal" human only to find he is another mutant concealing that all of his limbs are separate mutants, and all vying for her affection.

The closing page is another meta bit, signaling the 3 Witches will no longer be hosting the book. We see tombstones of other DC horror hosts like Destiny and Dr. Geist and features like Johnny Peril and Dr. Thirteen.

Unknown Soldier #258: Haney and Ayers/Talaoc love their dramatic set-pieces gets to battle a Nazi in the bell of the Notre Dame Cathedral on a mission in Paris to find the injured Allied spy, the Sparrow. In "Swan Song" by Mitchell and Spiegle a young pianist turned "demo man" plays his last to lure German soldiers toward a home before he blows up their artillery outside. 

The Captain Storm story has got a guest appearance by JFK, as Storm goes on a mission to find the missing PT-109, unfortunately, the story ends on a cliffhanger with it unclear if they all make it back home with a Japanese sub blocking their way. I'm guessing they do, but we'll see next issue!

World's Finest Comics #274: In the Burkett and Gonzales/Breeding pick up from last issue. With Batman now super-powered but dying thanks to the Power Charger, he rushes off to save Superman from the Weapon Master. Armed with futuristic weapons stolen from the Fortress of Solitude and maybe elsewhere, he's tough to handle, but even he can't stand up to the combined might of Superman and Super-Batman. In the end Weapon Master makes his escape, and Superman has to let him go to rush to save Batman. Using the Weapon Master's device to drain the powers from Batman, the Dark Knight is depowered but not dying. The Barr/von Eeden Green Arrow story plays on the plot of the reporter refusing to reveal his source after the police want to know how GA knew about a drug deal he busted. Ollie refuses to reveal his source and a judge gives him 24 hours to change his mind or go to jail. Ollie does some soul-searching, but ultimately decides to take the jail time for his ethics.

In a new Zatanna feature, Conway and Colon pit the the sorceress against a mystically empowered food critic who becomes The Shrieker on a fancy cruise. Rozakis and Saviuk have Hawkgirl live Hawkman and take the rocket so he can't follow. Katar tries to enlist his JLA friends to follow her, but they aren't willing to get involved in this marital drama. He goes home and let's himself go for a bit, but a serious of robberies at the museum get him to pull himself together and get back in action. In the Marvel Family story by Bridwell and Newton, Captain Marvel is stymied by a villain with the ability to create silence, which keeps Billy from turning into his heroic form. Billy's a smart kid, though and has a plan involving a telephone and a tape recorder.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Into The Phantom Jungle

 Last night, I got my other gaming group to try Broken Compass in one of our "not Azurth" off-weeks. I decided to run "The Phantom Jungle," which I found on One Shot Adventures. The group were headed up the Javary River in South America, inadvertently carrying and Inca artifact sought be a cult.

As we the other group, the part was impressed by the simplicity and cinematicness of Broken Compass' rules. I made some pregen's for them (well, adapted some from the basic rules) using some new images.

From the top left they are: Jake O'Donnell (Daredevil Action Hero), Gus Geraty (Old Cheater Wingman), Laura van der Woodsen (Explorer Professor), and Sam Stone (Hunk Soldier).

Thursday, September 22, 2022


There are rustic folk that sometimes visit the Anadem from more remote asteroids. These insular people build ramshackle settlements on whatever tumbling rock or abandoned worldlet they can find, eking out a hardscrabble existence growing what crops they can and raising their weird livestock, but often staying only one season. Long enough to produce one good batch of their primary trade stuff and cultural artifact: earthshine.

Earthshine, so these rockhoppers aver, can only be distilled from the captured radiance of humanity's homeworld. It is collected in "pans," broad-rimmed, shallow dishes which are pointed at the Earth and somehow collect it's light, which then flows down coiling tubing to the heated processing apparatus. The end product is clear but tinged silvery-blue has a slight glow in darkness. It can be “poured” or contained, but moves more like a heavy fog than a liquid. It is bottled in opaque receptacles--sunlight will degrade it within others. After a day or two, it becomes more volatile, and can by used as an intoxicant by inhalation from bottles or from cloths on which some of the substance has been pored.  The earthshiners also use it some how to power their dubious vessels to cross the void, to the next convenient place to make their concoction.

The Earthshiners are clearly of human stock, but tend to be taller than Earthly humans, strapping and clean-limbed in youth. In old age, they can sometimes by gnarled, perhaps even dwarfish. It is believed the habitual use of earthshine takes its toll.

For obscure reasons, the fey empire of the Moon has no love for the Earthshiners. It's swift, silver-white patrol ships uproot them where they find them, deporting them beyond the bounds of the Anadem. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1981 (wk 2 pt 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around September 24, 1981.

Action Comics #526: Wolfman and Staton continue their Neutron story. Superman races against time to discover where Neutron has planted an atomic bomb which, if and when it goes off, will destroy Metropolis. He's hampered by the fact Neutron has planted decoys, and HIVE is involved. Ultimately, he discovers the bomb is the new Daily Planet globe. This is a real Marvel style story, I think, different that the "alien conundrum of the month" stories we often get with Superman.

In the Air Wave backup, Hal temporarily develops the power to read minds after receiving an electric shock.

Brave & the Bold #181: Brennert and Aparo team Batman up with Hawk and Dove, who haven't made an appearance since Showcase #100 in 1978. When Hawk accidentally causes the death of a drug kingpin's son, Batman and the Dove team up to try and get to him before the gangster can do so. Hawk and Dove have become "stuck" in personal/political ruts since the 60s, leading to both losing their way. In this story, Hawk and Dove reconcile as brothers, and regain the powers they (briefly) lost. I like that the story specifically places the two in their 60s context and appears to take place in the early 80s.

The Nemesis storyline comes to an end as he makes a final assault on Samuel Solomon, and manages to at least free himself of the device controlling his heart.

All-Star Squadron #4: Thomas debuts his explanation for who the existence of superheroes didn't alter the course of the war. After seeing the devastation at Pearl Harbor, the combined All-Star Squadron is ready to hunt down the Japanese fleet for some payback, despite FDR's desire that they protect the homefront. When they fly off toward Wake Island, the most powerful heroes fall under the sway of the Dragon King who with the help of the Germans and some mystic artifacts, has set-up of protective shield around Axis-controlled territory. The heroes barely make it out of the sphere of influence and are forced to return home.

Green Lantern #147: Wolfman and Staton threw Jordan in prison last issue, so now we get the fight with the inmates out for revenge. It's rendered a bit sillier because Jordan is jailed in his Green Lantern outfit--and put in a cell with Black Hand who is in his costume! Of course, we're also told Goldface has police on his payroll and bribed a judge, so maybe things were arranged. Anyway, it's a fairly tense issue with a powerless Jordan forced to take on one group of inmates after another, while elsewhere Tom races against time to find the power battery and recharge Jordan's ring. Of course, he does in the nick of time, and Green Lantern makes short work of his assailants.

However, they can't tie any of this to Goldface rather amazingly, so GL is forced to leave him alone or get in trouble with the law again. Also, the congressman out for revenge against Ferris Aircraft makes his move and accuses Ferris of treason. The next issue blurb promises a wrap-up of all this and a new creative team with a more cosmic approach. I think that's a good move.

In the Adam Strange backup by Sutton and Infantino, Adam and Alanna take the lost boy, Rad, to the place that he says is his home: a ruined city in the jungle. In turns out Rad was put in a thousand year stasis after a monster attacked the city. When the monster wakens, Strange and crew defeat it. They discover Rad's family have transported themselves 2000 years into the future, and Rad goes to join them.

House of Mystery #299: "I...Vampire" gets a new writer in Bruce Jones. This story smacks of "a new direction" sort of writing, as Bennett decides he's putting his companions too much in danger and heads off on his own (hitchhiking) for a show down with the cult of the Blood Red Moon. When the guy that gave him a ride is killed, Bennett sees it as an opportunity to fake his own (un)death.

Mishkin/Cohn and Matucenio have a great white hunter in India who meets his end when "thinking like a tiger" winds up putting him just where the maneater wants him. McKenzie and Spiegle present a nonhorror but interesting story of a future Earth where humanity is rich and moving off-world owing to the sale of the Sun to aliens. An elder couple (named Kuttner and Bradbury) and a robot wind up getting left behind, but wind up believing it's for the best. Kelley and Bissette sort of lampoon the excitement around a grunion run, as giant aliens use it as an opportunity to snag large groups of humans to snack on.

Superman Family #213: Pasko and Mortimer choose the title that was going to come up at some point with Blackrock as the heavy: "Bad Day with Blackrock." He and Supergirl fight to a standstill, but the Maid of Might ultimately triumphs due to trickery, enticing the villain to chase her into a tunnel where he can't get a radio signal and his power depletes. Also, the Lena Thorul subplot moves toward its conclusion as everyone finds out she is Lex Luthor's sister. 

In the Mr. and Mrs. Superman story, Lana Lang turns into an evil Insect Queen thanks to a scarab she got from her archeologist father and gives Superman trouble. To be continued. Rozakis and Calnan present a weird Private Life of Clark Kent, where Clark lies to another reporter about the circumstances of Superman interviewing him, so he has to stage Superman taking a photo of him to convince her the interview happened. They're the same guy, why would Clark spin a tale for the reporter that she could obviously know was made up because of Superman's verifiable whereabouts at the time? It's a weird slip. Levitz and Oksner have Lois helping out Inspector Henderson after his Sherlock Award is stolen during the award dinner. In the Pasko/Delbo Jimmy Olsen story, his old flame Lucy Lane shows up (and she has white hair, which I don't think she had before and it makes her look old) and tells him that her new airline pilot boyfriend, had a disastrous landing which killed the passengers in his plane, and thinks the crash was engineered by crooks. Jimmy investigates and finds up put in a slowly filling pool with weights holding him down by the crooks.

Warlord #52: I talked about the main story in this issue in detail here. In the Dragonsword backup by Levitz and Yeates Thiron is upset at having a talking dragonsword and attacks his masters because they won't explain. The Archmage Anna shows up to halt the fight and explains that Thiron wielding the dragonsword is the only chance the world has got against Emperor Quisel and his demonic axe. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Choice of Primary Ability Score

While it's not the only reason, one of the primary motivations beyond removing racial ability bonuses in 5e (and D&D One) is so every race can be optimal at every class. Whether optimized race/class combos are a thing one feels like is necessary, it seems to me the unasked question here is my are classes still tied to specific abilities to begin with? Why can't you have a dexterity based fighter or even an intelligence based one? They'd be a bit different "in the fiction" from a strength-based fighter, but wouldn't that be part of the fun?

I know primary ability scores are still a thing for legacy reasons, but if you can given up racial ability bonuses (and penalties!) and broaden spellcasters to be able to use various ability scores for spellcasting, then I hardly think this is a bridge too far.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Toymaker

One of the most enigmatic figures of the Anadem and Old Earth is the Toymaker. Hailed as a genius, albeit an eccentric one, his smaller creations are sought by wealthy collectors and his larger recreational devices, benevolently gifted to communities are sources of civic pride. Each of these is marked with a modest, but never-tarnishing brass legend proclaiming it "A Gift of the Toymaker."

A list of known works of the Toymaker would run too long, but I will remind you of but a few you have likely heard of: The Clockwork Courtesan of Yejem, the Arcade Spatterlight in the Pleasure Garden of Oressund Major, the Leaping Lepidopterists in the possession of the Pajandrum of Gloorb, and of course the Merry-go-Round Tower of Ooth-Ithrain,

The Toymaker's most commonly encountered creation are the Wind-Up Gnomes. Most serve their generally wealthy owners as servants, but a few have experienced some sort of damage and become freewilled.  Some localities are fearful of freewilled wind-ups, but in most places they are accepted into society. There are persistent rumors of isolated wordlets of wind-up beings that have become quite mad and constitute a danger to flesh beings, but these are no doubt just old space-sailor tales. Probably.

No one knows where the Toymaker himself resides. Some people believe the Toymaker to not be an individual at all, but rather a brand. They suggest that it perpetuates itself by the kidnapping of promising artificers and forces them to work on its factory world, guarded by ever-smiling wind-up soldiers. If such a world existed (and really, it is ridiculous to believe it does), it might even lie beyond the Anadem, perhaps in the wilds of the Belt.

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Anadem

Millions of years hence, when the technology and magic have long ago become one, the center of human-descended civilization will have largely forgotten the quaint backwater of its birth. Still, there  is much to recommend Old Earth as a diverting, if rustic, tourist destination.

The still-blue (or once more blue) world is garlanded with a  swarm of habitats and microworlds, aggregated in orbit over millennia. This curious and eclectic mixes of cultures and species is known as the Anadem.

Upper class youths of Earth have the custom of a the Grand Tour, a rite of passage where they visit worlds of the Anadem in the ships of alien, antigravity wood, brought to Earth in previous ages from some distant world. 

This is a Spelljammer campaign idea. Inspirational media include any number of bande dessinée from Barbarella to the works of Moebius, Don Lawrence's Storm, the works of Jack Vance including The Dying Earth and Planet of Adventure; Matthew Hughes' Henghis Hapthorn stories, and Rob Chilson's Prime Mondeign stories.