Sunday, May 30, 2021

Images Under A Dying Sun

 Thinking about doing something with this old post condensing my ideas about Dark Sun. Here are some images that get me in the right frame of mind. No actual Dark Sun art here, though of course a lot of that is pretty inspirational.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, August 1980 (part 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of May 8, 1980.

Batman #326: Wein and Novick have Batman facing a criminal he knows should be in Arkham. Gordon calls the head of the facility who assures him it's all okay, but the guy's all hidden in shadow so I'm suspicious, but Gordon just takes his word for it. It turns out it's Professor Milo with another nefarious scheme. Wein evidently likes Milo, as he brought him back in the 70s after an absence of over a decade, and brings him back again here.

DC Comics Presents #24: This is my favorite issue of this title since I've been doing this review. The basic plot is, admittedly, a little silly, but it's solidly Bronze Age. A scientist somehow hooked his heart device up to the Earth, hoping it would stabilize his arrhythmia, but instead it works the other way and causes earthquakes. Deadman is sent by Rama Krishna to get involved with this because he's being all mopey. No one in this issue sees or hears, him but he does some humorous cheerleading from Superman who is uncharacteristically hard-ass and no nonsense here. Garcia-Lopez is always great on Superman or Deadman.

Flash #288: Flash is still dealing with the returned Dr. Alchemy, who isn't who he expects. It turns out he's some sort of astrological twin, with a weird sort of relationship with the Desmond Flash has known so that they influence each other. Yeah, I don't get it either. Anyway, the original Desmond goes into action on the last panel--but for good or evil?

Ghosts #91: The thing that hurts this title compared to DC's other horror books is that the plots have a much more rigid formula: malefactor kills someone, then the murdered person's ghost somehow causes the malefactor's death. The Kashdan/Rubeny story tries a novel riff on the formula where the ghost makes it into a glassblower's glass. Haney/Landgraf have a ghost haunting a wealthy family over generations, with the twist being that the evil-doer doesn't know he's a member of the family, and the murder he committed wasn't the murder of the ghost. Nice effort, but they still feel straight-jacketed.

G.I. Combat #221: I've mentioned before that I'm not terribly fond of the Haunted Tank feature and none of the stories here change my mind, though Kanigher and Glanzman get points for sheer weirdness in "Wars Never Change" by having Stonewall Jackson's ghost mix it up with Attila the Hun's ghost--and suggesting these two are old enemies! In "Falling Star" they have a 4-F Hollywood star desperate to prove himself riding to the rescue of the Haunted Tank crew on horseback, and dying of a heart attack in a twist I didn't expect, I must admit. In other stories, a private saving his unit thanks to his adopting a stray cat, and POW gets into the ring with a sadistic German commandant.

Jonah Hex #39: Fleisher must have seen Red Sun, because we get Hex befriending a samurai looking for his kidnapped daughter (who has Chinese name rather than a Japanese one for some reason). It ends in characteristic downer Hex fashion with Hex forced to serve as second for the samurai's seppuku. The art here is by Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga.

Justice League of America #181: Conway and Dillin  carry on the tradition of bowmen being pains in the ass in superhero teams. Green Arrow narrates this tale that starts with him complaining that the Justice League is out of touch with the "little guy" or something, then saving the day when Star Tsar returns. Notably Batman is absent, and it's sort of Batman-type "detective work" that allows Green Arrow to succeed.

Secrets of Haunted House #27: A lackluster issue with a story by Kelly with stiff Nicholas/Colletta art about a street gang terrorizing the New York subway being manipulated by a witch who wants to get back in Satan's good graces. The second story by Seeger and Redondo has a nice title ("Cold as Isis") but is a muddled tale of a mummies, reincarnation, an Egyptian god, and a swimsuit model.

Superman #350: In typical Superman fashion of this era, there is a lot going on here. Conway has Clark and Lana attending a college reunion where a number of their classmates just disappear during a boring speech by a professor. The professor's named Lemuel B. Tolkein, for no particular reason. When an office building disappears too, it turns out it all has to do with side-effects of the Prof's experiment that has turned the subconsciouses of the disappeared students into some sort of psychic monster. 

Weird War Tales #90: This one is pretty good. The first story by Haney and Cruz has a German U-boat transporting a set of coffins to South America after the fall of Berlin. The only problem is his crew keeps dying, and Hitler, occupying one of the coffins, seems very much alive! A nice riff on the Demeter parts of Dracula with some Haney twists. The second story by Kashdan and Carrillo has the French colonial army facing an army of ants in the Congo.

Wonder Woman #270: So Conway and Delbo have Hippolyte praying to Aphrodite to make Diana forget Steve Trevor and the tragedy of his death, which the goddess does. There's a fight with another elemental monster, then some Bermuda Triangle stuff, and a new Steve Trevor crashes a jet in the ocean for Diana to save. Conway's whole goal here appears to have been a reset of the Wonder Woman status quo before Trevor's death, and he's taken the long way around to do it.

World's Finest #264: I have questions about the lead Batman/Superman story by O'Neil and Buckler. Why is the Clayface of this story called "Clayface I" when he is Clayface II by Who's Who standards? Is it a mistake or is O'Neil counting him as the first Earth-1 Clayface? And since when can Clayface replicate Kryptonite? Anyway, not a bad story despite my questions. The Green Arrow story by Haney and von Eoden has Queen writing a utterly unsourced column accusing a new casino of being mobbed up (which he knew because of illegal surveillance). Then as Green Arrow, he takes down the transgender gangster running the joint. The Hawkman story by DeMatteis and Landgraf has a very Marvel vibe, to me, but B-grade Marvel, at best. Rozakis and Delbo have Dr. Light taking on Aquaman, with all the lack of thrills that implies. Bridwell and Newton bring the charm along with the Monster Society of Evil in the Marvel Family tale.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Army of the Dead and "The Job Gone Wrong" Adventure

I watched Army of the Dead on Netflix this weekend and thought it was pretty enjoyable. Briefly, it's the story of an eclectic group hired to get $200 million in cash out of a Vegas casino vault. The catch being Las Vegas is walled off after having been overrun by zombies, and the government plans to destroy the city with a tactical nuclear weapon in just a few days.

As a combination of a heist film and a zombie movie, it's heist aspect is probably most compelling. There is only mild inventiveness in its zombie aspects, consisting mostly of making that like the "vampires" in I Am Legend--and I don't mean "bad CGI" but instead fast, strong, and able to work in a group. As a heist film, it is less a caper film like Ocean's 11 or Kelly's Heroes, and more a "job goes wrong" film like Reservoir Dogs or Dead Presidents. In fact, I'm fairly certain it's not the first horror film or thriller with larcenous job and a group of competent professionals at its center.

Anyway, I think this sort of set up would make a good roleplaying game adventure, at least for a con game or one shot. A con game or one shot, because there's a very good chance that all the characters (or most) aren't going to make it out a live, so why plan for a future unlikely to happen?

In a con game, you could seed the pregens with hidden motivations that would goad them into derailing the mission, though I suppose you could let the player's make up the characters and just have a random secret motive table.

I think it could be a lot of fun with the right group.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Monks of Gith

The city of Gith is dead and fallen, save for the walled monastery. The looming ziggurat at its center can be seen from some distance across the desert and surely accounts for most of the city's visitors. Some have come in wonder, having heard the tales that the ziggurat was built atop the grave of a vessel fallen from the void beyond. 

There are two people consumed by old hatreds and locked in an unending feud who claim the city and what is buried beneath as their birthright. Those left at Gith, built the monastery and devoted themselves to asceticism and contemplation. Those who went to dwell in the deep desert, became nomads and raiders.

The Gittite monks and nuns, who call themselves as a people yehirai, are ascetics and contemplative in their rites, it is true, but also seek to hone their bodies through martial arts.  They live off bland fare grown in underground gardens, perhaps within the buried vessel. They supplement their simple diets with a powder, invigorating to the mind and body, made from the ashes of their dead.

After the water has been reclaimed, the desiccated corpses of their folk are placed top the ziggurat and pipes are sounded to summon swarms of carrion insects for excarnation. The bones, save only the skulls which are stored in a subterranean ossuary, are then processed for the good of the community. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Weird Revisited: In the Vicinity of the Unthran Wood

The tents of the traveling Carnival Mirabilis are set up on the outskirts of Worroth town. Its owner, Slytus Ompt (known to authorities in various jurisdictions as Feldsphur Zwand and Archim Greff) purveys the usual shabby wonders: ailing chimerical beasts in cramped cages and faded eidolons from damaged ieldra crystals—but he also boasts a free plasmoid duelist who will engage in a nonlethal prizefight with any takers. The plasmoid (its name is a gurgling something like Gwoothl Ploorl) is a thane of a subterranean freehold captured by Ompt and drugged with injections of thrall slime so that it is too weak-willed to escape, though it yearns to be free. It will promise to reveal the location of underground treasures undercovered by its coalescence for aid in making its escape.

by Wayne Barlowe
A roadside shrine draws more pilgrims than might be expected due to its living statue of the Trell mystic, Agakamunath who is said to have physical ascended to a higher plane from that very spot. The full-size statue depicts the giant at the time of Schizopurgation, wherein he split from the primal chaos burdening his soul. Nonbelievers are more fascinated by the artifice of the  Hohmmkhudhuk craftsmen--and the persistent legend that the motions of the statue's limbs in the performance of the mystery provide a clue as to the location of the sky castle Agakamunath also renounced and its treasures.

Half-ruined Maggot Tower, deep in the forest, is avoided by most folk, and not merely because its rugose and twisted spire appears unpleasantly like its namesake. The tower is a relic of the power of a rogue ieldri queen with an abiding hatred of humans. The tortures she inflicted on captives and the sacrifices to dark gods are said to have left her tower haunted. Some seekers after the magical secrets of the ieldra and willing to risk phantom horrors for power.

These locales are in the same world as these two posts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, July 1980 (part 2)

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

Action Comics #509: A group of kooks garner media attention for their claims space travel is fake news and Superman is a big liar for claiming he's an alien. The twist: the kooks are actually aliens who have hypnotized themselves into forgetting their nature as self-protection. Clever plot by Bates, but no real action.

Adventure Comics #473: More Plastic Man and Starman! I have to say, it's a struggle to read this one every other week. I'm just not in to either of these.

Brave & the Bold #164: A Hawkman/Batman team-up by DeMatteis and Garcia-Lopez. It looks good, but the story about extradimensional aliens didn't really grab me, possibly because my copy is missing half a page of crucial exposition near the end.

Detective Comics #492: Burkett and Newton resolve the Batgirl story from last issue in a team-up with Batman. Mostly it's a story of Batgirl re-dedicating herself to crimefighting, which is a nice resolution to the uncertainty she seems to have been feeling since losing re-election. It's weird that her father who also happens to be a cop, seems to really want her to risk her life as a costumed vigilante. We get a somewhat charming slice of Gotham life with a heroic bridge painter in a story by Haney and Oskner. Then there's a unmemorable Man-Bat tale by Rozakis and Tanghal. The issue ends with another Robin at college story, but the Penguin's in the this one.

Green Lantern #130: I've read this issue before, and the lead story by Rozakis and Staton involving shenanigans in Modora with the villain Sonar isn't bad, but the backup Tales of the Green Lantern Corp strip by Toomey and Saviuk, "The Trial of Arkkis Chummuck" is great! Chummuck becomes a Green Lantern after killing--and eating--his predecessor, and some Lanterns are unhappy about it. 

House of Mystery #282: Several issues this month have the comics equivalent of an infomercial brought to you by Tandy's TRS-80, where the "Computer Whiz Kids" somehow help Superman defeat Major Disaster. It was written by Bates and drawn by Starlin. Anyway, in the comparatively less horrifying House of Mystery, de Matteis and Talaoc deliver a tale with an EC level of twists about a writer who's secretly a vampire pursuing a lover's lane serial killer who murdered his wife, then killing himself when he realizes the monster he's become. Then there's a very silly story about a guy who has his near-death body shot in to space because he's creeped out by the idea of cremation or burial, but he winds up burning up in re-entry. The last story involves a wealthy businessman who makes a deal with the devil for the sun never to set in his town for no good reason. The townsfolk murder her to get the sun to go down, thus forfeiting their souls too--and making it eternally night.

Legion of Super-Heroes #265: Conway/de Matteis and Janes/Hunt have Dawnstar and Shadow Lass (the other people of color on the Legion) wind up in Tyroc's Brigadoon-esque island homeland of Marzal. Marzal's origin is revealed (or repeated), and the ladies go home, so it all seems contrived to write Tyroc out of the book. Nice Dick Giordano cover.

New Adventures of Superboy #7: Some aliens trick Superboy into coming to their world, where he natural absorbs radiation that would harm the alien populace. But if Superboy leaves to go home, the return of the heavy radiation will kill them. Luckily, an comment by Ma Kent suggests Kryptonite is the solution to Superboy's dilemma. 

Sgt. Rock #342: Kanigher phones this one in. I'm not fond of it for two reasons. One, it posits Sgt. Rock as some sort of celebrity that would get interviewed: "the sargeant generals want to be." Two, it is based on members of Easy Company telling stories of "six different sides" of Rock, but all of them are really just he's a badass who's a good leader. It's just the one side!

Super Friends #34: This is like an all alien creature issue. The lead story has the Justice League trying to capture this lamb-tofu-squid hybrid looking thing which I assume is suppose to be cute but gets creepier the more you think about what it would look like if it was real and not drawn by Fradon. The backup involves the Wonder Twins, crooks, and a Kryptonian metal-eater.

Unexpected #200: Johnny Peril is back, having not appeared since 1969, courtesy of Barr and Tuska. Peril (at least in this story) in skeptical of the supernatural, and it turns out here he's right. The supposed supernatural disappearance of a wealth man, is really due to the actions of an extradimensional alien. In the next story by Kashdan and Abel, a young witch falls for a guy she's suppose to seduce and kill for her coven. In the final story, DeMatteis and Patricio take us to Summer Camp where a campfire monster story turns out to be true--despite being completely made up.

Unknown Soldier #241: Haney and Ayers send our hero to a Greek Island to find a German listening station and call in allied bombers. The problem is, the German's have built it under an ancient Greek oracle, that the folk of the island are still very much into. The Soldier comes up with a clever solution, then tricks a kid who helped him into believe the oracle said his father would definitely be coming home, which seems like it could set the kid up for disappointment, but oh well.

Untold Legend of Batman #1: This story by Wein and Byrne and Aparo is basically an excuse to tell the definitive Bronze Age origin of Batman--which really has a lot more to it than the modern version (or at least the last modern version I read). It covers the origin of the bat costume with Thomas Wayne's costume party outfit, and the fate of Joe Chill and Lew Moxon. All of these things were Golden Age stories, but I wonder if they had appeared since that time before this?

Warlord #35: Read more about it here

Weird Western Tales #69: We find Scalphunter still in Pennsylvania, serving as a scout for a Union Army company. He befriends a young soldier who turns out to be a woman in disguise. The story ends on a cliffhanger as her identity is revealed by a sadistic sargeant after a fight with Scalphunter.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Sentinel Comics RPG Session 4: "The Heart of Darkness"

Roll Call:
Blur: Amnesiac Speedster!
Fibbit: Manic Pixie Extradimensional Dream Girl!
Infranaut: IR-Powered Celebrity Hero!
Il Masso: The Rock-Solid Hero of Little Italy!

Supporting Characters: Moonshadow

Villains: Dark Duplicates (Mindfire, Warhead, Sub-Zero, Talon, Robrute); The Void Crystal, Silver Orb, Gold Orb.

Synopsis: Our heroes enter combat with the five villains, and after a couple of exchanges to gauge their powers, find them surprisingly easy to defeat. Moonshadow, via psychic link, tells them that these are merely "dark energy shadows" of a group of young heroes from alternate futures: The Legion of Alternity. She believes their presence here means they have been captured by Anachronus.

With the duplicates defeated, the group sets out to find the location of the evil energy with the Never. Fibit manages to locate but also draws strange, translucent wasp creatures to them. Their presence shakes our heroes resolve but doesn't cause any real damage. They also have to face dark duplicates of Talon and Sub-Zero again, before they reach their destination: A sinisterly pulsing crystal in which they see scenes of other times, perhaps other worlds. Flying around it are gold and silver orbs that attack the heroes.

The team is confronted with their most difficult battle so far. All of the duplicates are recreated, and they quickly re-appear when destroyed. The orbs work against them and protect the crystal. Il Masso shatters the gold orb and Fibit twice creates duplicates of her own to make attacks on all the dark duplicates. Eventually, Infranaut makes a massive attack that shatters the weakened crystal and destroys the silver orb.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

My Less Popular Setting Ideas

 Not ever post is a winner, particularly in these days where blog-reading is at an ebb, but some ideas seem to garner more approval than others. It's not uncommon for a single, dashed off post not to attract an attention, but occasionally there are ideas I write multiple posts on that just don't seem to make what readers I have here and on other social media as enthusiastic as they make me. Admittedly, none of these I've actually tried to play, so maybe they just don't have what it takes despite my blogging interest in them. Anyway, here are three of them:

Scavengers of the Latter Days

Far future, rationalized ("hard"). science fantasy. I've written several posts on various permutations of this. The comments often suggest this appeals to me more than it does others. In fact, after my various riffs on uses of the the Great Wheel, this may be the D&D idea that seems to appeal to my readers the least. 

Planet of the Elves

Here, maybe it's about the presentation. I got a bit more positive reception when I presented the same idea but de-emphasized the post-apocalyptic nature and didn't mention elves in the name (and to be fair, the initial post garnered better comment than I remembered on the blog). Anyway, this is Ploog/Bakshi/Wood sort of stoner, fairytale fantasy.

Ways & Sigils

Ok, this one is admittedly a bit weird because it is really a science fiction or science fantasy thing, that just happens to borrow some elements from some classic D&D settings. Anyway, the idea is that in the future, essentially the Great Wheel is discovered via hyperspace, so it's a bit sci-fi Spelljammer+Planescape. I wrote a follow-up post, then sort of did a slightly different version of the same idea later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, July 1980 (part 1)

I'm continuing my read through of DC Comics output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis. This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around April 10, 1980.

All-Out War #6: Kanigher and Evans pull an unexpected Buck Rogers (original version) riff, with Viking Commando transported briefly to a post-apocalyptic future with Yellow Peril Asians who revere Hitler trying to kill a girl with an outfit like Shakira in Warlord. After that, there's a really grounded story of the Seabees. Black Eagle and crew take on a submarine. A WWI doughboy runs away to hide in a cave for years, but comes out to kill some approaching Germans in WWII. The best story here is the Force 3 yarn. It's not Grandenetti's best art on the strip, but istory-wise it feels like a capstone, with brief origins presented for the three--and then they get to kill Hitler! And this story is a capstone, given this is the final issue of All-Out War and the last appearance to date of Force 3 and Black Eagle.

Batman #325: There's a fill-in writer, Roger McKenzie, but weirdly they let him tie up the storyline with the challenge to Gordon's leadership of the GCPD. The title page suggests Batman is trying to kill Gordon, but in Silver Age style, it's a lie. It is actually a scene from the story, though, which is a bit unusual. Not a bad issue, but nothing notable.

DC Comics Presents #23: This one has a lot going on, which is par for the course for Superman titles in this era. O'Neil and Staton set up Dr. Fate as trying to find a cure for a generational curse that is turning his wife into a monster, but he needs the corpse of her ancestor, and that guy isn't in the grave. Meanwhile, on Earth-1, a physics experiment brings a flying pirate galleon from the past of Earth-2 to Earth-1--with Inza'a ancestor as captain. Superman discovers an imp with a grudge against the pirate is involved. Dr. Fate arrives in time to wrap it all up.

Flash #28: Another pretty good one from Bates and Heck. Doctor Alchemy is back, despite Al Desmond's supposed reform. Has Barry Allen's friend reverted to his criminal ways?

Ghosts #90: This issue is weaker than most (and that's saying something), or maybe it only feels that way because the cover story "Phantom of the Disco" doesn't really do much with that intriguing title. The Kashdan/Nicholas yarn has a murderous heroin addict hiding from the cops in a disco, but the ghost of the girlfriend he killed makes him reveal himself to the police. The lead story has a weird, elemental monster and a cursed ship captain, but no actual ghost. The middle story is one of the standard "a ghost can't hurt a person but can make them do something stupid" tales. It's sort of a staple for this comic.

Jonah Hex #34: I like Spiegle's art, but he definitely isn't the definitive Jonah Hex artist. The scar doesn't quite work. He does make him look a bit like Josh Holloway, which is interesting. Anyway, this story--about a gang after gold in a hidden valley sacred to the Cree--is pretty good, if fairly standard stuff.

Justice League of America #176: Conway doesn't beat around the bush. This issue starts with the whole JLA busting in on the Satin Satan's sanctum to rescue Firestorm. The final battle occurs at a roller disco called Hell on Wheels. There's the suggestion that the Satin Satan was possessed by the a demon, but the last panel casts doubt on that. We never find out, because this is her last appearance, which is too bad.

Secrets of Haunted House #26: The cover story is a EC riff by J.M. DeMatteis and Nicholas and Gil about a boy with an imaginary friend and a horrible foster family. Spoiler: the friend's not imaginary and the foster family dies one by one. The other two stories are kind of dumb: A guy kills his twin for a heart transplant and dies in the same elevator shaft due to his brother's ghost, and a forcibly retired conductor gets to drive Merlin's toy train forever.

Superman #349: Pasko and Swan have Superman returning from a trip into space to a gender-switched Earth--and the various superfolks think he's a notorious criminal! Turns out it's all a trick by Mxyzptlk, which is telegraphed in a couple of clues early on. It's a nice story of the Superman type.

Superman Family #202: The jerk Supergirl is crushing on apparently isn't cured of being accidentally super-hypnotized by her into becoming a superhero. He causes all kinds of trouble until she can recreate the accident and un-super-hypnotize him. A Bridwell/Schaffenberger Mr. and Mrs. Superman tale reveals when the Earth-2 Superman first encountered Kryptonite, and how he found out about Krypton. Rozakis and Calnan give Clark Kent jury duty, where (on the sly) he helps one Angry Man convince the other jurors to acquit. Lois helps a ballerina to defect from Russia by impersonating her in a Conway scripted tale with nice art by Oksner and Colletta. In the final story, Jimmy Olsen gets rescued from criminals by a high school journalism student.

Weird War Tales #89: The cover to this issue has Nazi Gorillas. If you know Bronze Age comics, you will already have a suspicion the story doesn't live up to the cover. It doesn't, but Kashdan and Landgraf do give us gorillas. The best story this issue is a perhaps goofy but affecting tale by Kanigher and Rubeny about WWI soldiers rising from their battlefield graves to save their sons from dying at the same spot in WWII. Rubeny's mood and sometimes gruesome (for the Comics Code) art sells it.

Wonder Woman #269: Stressed out over all her recent life upheavals, Wonder Woman decides to pack it in and return to Paradise Island. There's she's got a giant monster to fight. I've read beyond this, so I know, but on the basis of this issue, I think you'd be hard-pressed to guess where Conway is going with all this.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Lake of Vermilion Mists

On shores of the Lake of Vermilion Mists nearly-naked, female divers inspect their haul of rare, ultramarine scintilla. Here and there their bodies bear what appear to be wave-like, mauve tattoos, darkened to the color of fresh bruises in the lake’s lurid, roiling glow. The marks are actually scars from the lash of urulu tentacles. The divers become tolerant to the hallucinogenic effects over time but not the pain, so they try to snatch the scintilla when the urulu are lost in pre-mating combat dances.

The urulu do not seem to value the scintilla or pre-scintilla clusters, but they zealously guard their territory and do not communicate or trade with humans or other sophonts as far as is known. Indeed, humankin long held them to be merely animals, despite their rituals and tool use, but the view of hwaopt academics that they are in fact sapient is the current prevailing theory.

There is a black market for the urulu toxin. Unscrupulous procurers use desperate addicts as lures to provoke ururlu to the shallows where they can be ensnared and their tentacles milked.

The urulu, despite their vague resemblance to cephalopods of Old Earth, are air breathers. The lake is no lake in the traditional sense, but instead a large depression filled with a thick, red mist, with currents of darker or lighter shades, and the occasional flash of static discharge. It is unknown where the mist is natural or a product of ancient ieldra magic, but there is no other body of its type known. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Weird Revisited: Two Towns

The original version of this post appeared in 2018. These settlements go in this world, but certainly could be placed elsewhere.

: A village whose primary industry is nonnig husbandry. it specializes in the so-called healing breed of furry nonnig, whose purring and warmth is said to have a calming influence on the nerves which aids in healing, and of course, nonnig of any breed are highly nutritious and flavorful. The nonnig yards are composed of hill-mounds surrounded by small moats (the nonnigs avoid water). The nonnig breeders can be recognized by the mail gauntlets they wear on their left hands, to protect themselves from the sting of the mound wyrms that form a symbiotic relationship with the nonnigs and protect them from predation with the warrens. Some nonnig breeders may keep small mounds of scintilla-sniffers on the side, but the practical folk of Tuskinth look down upon treasure-seekers.

Harfo and Sons is the most prosperous of the breeders, though many in Tuskinth would opine that only the old man, Grenz Harfo has any particular head for nonnig-breeding. His eldest son, Halx, is a handsome dullard, and his youngest. Festeu, is a idler and wastrel. Of note, he does own a rare (outside of the Daor Obdurate) telesthetic hound. The poor beast is quite mad, made so by an over-sensitivity to human anxieties resulting from over-breeding. Its shrew-like snout is has a-quiver and dripping, and it's whip-like tail sways nervously.

Horbizond: Was the name of an ancient city, and also the current modest village that squats in a meager portion of it. The people of Horbizond dress in the decaying finery of the ancients and appoint their over-sized but crumbling homes in an equally ostentatious fashion. They live in holy dread of the Prismatic Man, an angular, crystalline visitant, who materializes at random intervals to isolated folk of the town. The actions of the Prismatic Man are various and strange. He has at times pointed with a glassy finger to hidden treasures. Other times, he has emitted a chiming that the hear perceived as some spiritual wisdom. Then there are the occasions when he has seemed to produce rays of color from his palms that struck an individual dead. If there is any rationale to whom the Prismatic Man favors and whom he destroys, the folk of Horbizond have yet to discern it. In fact, they believe it would be blasphemous to do so. The Hwaopt Library is willing to pay for detailed observations of the Prismatic Man, whose nature and purpose they are eager to discover.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, June 1980 (part 2)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around March 27, 1980.

Action Comics #508: The mystery of Jonathan Kent is revealed. Turns out he's briefly time traveling thanks to the friendly (and powerful, apparently) aliens from Superboy. The unfortunate side effect of his travel was a cloud of weird smoke than empowered the hippy. This isn't bad, but it's overly  complicated and not particularly exciting.

Adventure Comics #472: More of the same Starman and Plastic Man stuff. The Plastic Man story continues with the Dick Tracy-esque villains. This issue's primary antagonist is Lowbrow who is really dumb, buy manages to run a criminal enterprise, somehow.

Brave & the Bold #163: Kupperberg and Giordano present this topical team-up with Black Lightning where a general is building a stolen reserve of oil. Black lightning is without powers here as established in this months Detective.

Detective Comics #491: These anthologies can be a slog, but there's an okay Jason Bard story by Barr and Spiegle with the intriguing opening of the detective putting flowers of the grave of the man who killed his father. The Pasko/Broderick Black Lightning story has him losing his powers, which seems like a misstep. The Burkett/Delbo Batgirl story has her in an assassin's crosshairs as Barbara Gordon goes to work for the Social Services Department. 

Green Lantern #129: The usual team of O'Neil and Staton are back. The Qwardian general, Fabrikant, disguised as a kid turns Carol Ferris back into Star Sapphire to attack Green Lantern. Also, Hal Jordan has conflict with a reckless cowboy of a test pilot, Rance Rideout.  

House of Mystery #281: A boxer with a fatal heart condition fights on after his death thanks to voodoo in a tale by Arnold Drake and Joel Magpayo. In the second story by Wessler and Redondo a doctor at an asylum uses impressionable youth to carry out murders.

Legion of Super-Heroes #264: Turns out horn-headed Dagon has a grudge against Brande. The Legionnaires solve the mystery of his identity and his location. A fine ending to a so-so story.

New Adventures of Superboy #6: The cover to this issue lies! A cop comes from Metropolis to convince Superboy to re-locate to the big city, but in the end he decides to stay in Smallville for now.

Sgt. Rock #341: Kanigher and Rubeny introduce a quirky new recruit to Easy--who dies, of course, but not before coming out with a hang-gliding plan that saves the unit. The Kelley/Estrada backup is a grim tale of the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Super Friends #33: Bridwell and Fradon have the Super Friends tangling with the Menagerie Man, World's Greatest Animal Trainer, who has a very silly costume.

Time Warp #5: This is the last issue of this title, and it doesn't really go out with a bang. At best they are sort of modern EC comics sort of sci-fi yarns. None are really standouts, but some are definitely dumber than others.

Unexpected #199: This one is the best of these horror anthologies for a couple of months. "Dracula's Daughter" by Kashdan with art that reminds me a bit of Joe Maneely by Lee Elias has double EC-style twists regarding who the real vampire is. "Project Eternity" by de Matteis and Henson sees an experiment in simulating death complicated by a psychic fight over the scientist between his current girlfriend and his dead wife. His wife makes it make to the land of the living in the girlfriend's body, and the girlfriend...well, I won't spoil it.

Unknown Soldier #240: Haney and Ayers have the Unknown Soldier reluctantly teaming up with a French resistance leader who is obsessed with recovering the Hammer of Charles Martel which has fallen into German hands. As is almost required in a story with this concept, the climax involves a Nazi commander getting walloped with a war hammer.

Warlord #34: Morgan gets a new sword while Mariah and Machiste have an adventure in Wizardworld. Read more about it here

Weird Western Tales #68: A little better than last issue, as Scalphunter helps a group of snow bound travelers might of a group of Confederates intent on stealing a train. The gold from last issue winds up lost in a fire.

World's Finest Comics #263: The lead story here by O'Neil, Buckler and Giordano is the resolution to Bob Haney's "Super-Sons" stories of the 70s. Turns out they were only a computer simulation. Whether you thought the Super-Sons were cool or not, that seems sort of lame. The Green Arrow story by Haney and von Eeden sees Oliver Queen drawing a lot of heat (and praise) for one paragraph editorials, taking on a shady redevelopment project. Captain Marvel, Jr. takes on a villain whose schtick is he's really old. I don't mean like Vandal Savage, I mean a guy that spent 99 years in prison. There are also Aquaman and Adam Strange stories, but there's not much to them.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Sentinels Comics RPG Session 3: "Demons from Never"

Roll Call:
Blur: Amnesiac Speedster!
Fibbit: Manic Pixie Extradimensional Dream Girl!
Infranaut: IR-Powered Celebrity Hero!
Il Masso: The Rock-Solid Hero of Little Italy!

Supporting Characters: Moonshadow

Villains: demons from Never (first appearance); Dark Duplicates (cameo)

Synopsis: Fearing another attack on Zauber, Action Jack accompanies him to the hospital while his companions stay behind to try to sort out why this happened. Fibit appears with a speedster in tow, confident she's found their missing teammate. The others don't remember a missing teammate clearly, but don't think that teammate was Blur if there was one. Blur doesn't know why she's here or where here is, but she goes with it.

Fibit tries to read the mysterious book and discovers it isn't really a book at all. It's a multidimensional object whose 4D cross section looks like a book. In any case, she senses it won't help them at this time. They decide to investigate the air gallery/museum further only to see an apparition of a woman.

It turns out this is a thought-projection of Moonshadow who was looking for Zauber. She asks for the team's help in protecting a family in suburban Ravenwood who is beset by demonic entities from a place called the Never--a realm outside of time of conceptions never realized. She uses her power to transport them.

In the house, they find reality warped in the master bedroom. A couple and their young daughter are sleeping, obviously to the demonic creatures that attack the mental shields Moonshadow has erected. Moonshadow explains the girl is her younger self and that she is from a parallel world.

The group destroys the demons, but Moonshadow tells them more will return. There is something malignant in the Never, and it appears drawn to the psychic potential of her younger duplicate. She believes it may be related to Anachronus somehow.

The team agrees to enter the portal and find the source of the malevolence. This find a strange maelstrom of floating shapes, and half-real ideas.

Suddenly, I blast strikes near them from a floating asteroid overhead. They look out to see five sinister looking superhumans.

"Anachronus sends his regards, " one of them sneers.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

DC, June 1980 (part 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of March 13,1980.

Batman #323: Cat-Man puts Batman and Catwoman in an almost 60s TV show death trap, which they escape. Cat-Man's potentially magical cloak seems to heal Catwoman's fatal-at-any-moment illness no one ever seemed to name. Weak sauce, Wein and Novick! Nice Aparo cover, though.

DC Comics Presents #21: In a story by Barr and Dillin, we get an appearance by Captain Comet, comics' first identified mutant superhero (as far as I know). Another mutant tries to steal Captain Comet's powers out of jealousy in an elaborate plot.

Flash #283: This issue is like a Silver Age throwback complete with a title page and a silly villain like the Rainbow Raider. The Flash triumphs by using his power creatively, though, which is kind of cool.

Ghosts #86: Three sort of novel ghostly stories of revenge. These stories drive home how much the ghost story (at least as DC does it) often involves the murderer dying in the same way as their victim. The Kashdan/Yeates story "The Phantom's Last Act" has the twist of the killer acknowledging the ghost's existence, but not being afraid of it due to its incorporeality, then panicking when it threatens to reveal his secret in a halogram display, and getting himself killed.

G.I. Combat #220: One thing I've noticed about these Haunted Tank stories: the ghost of J.E.B. Stuart shows up less than you might think from the name of the strip. In these 3 stories written by Kanigher and grittily rendered by Glanzman, the crew play host to a no-nonsense Soviet Major who happens to be a woman, they are forced to haul a big gun for the Germans to keep Belgian hostages safe, and they run into Rock and Easy Company on the way to Bastogne. There are a lot of cameos in these war books. In other tales, Kanigher puts a plug in for the indigenous people of a Pacific Island (if with a cringeworthy portrayal) as a warrior gets the better of both the Japanese and American invaders, and Haney and Caliva tell the life story of a G.I. canteen.

Jonah Hex #34: Fleisher gives us another story of Hex's Civil war past, this one revealing how he was the one that killed Stonewall Jackson in a friendly fire incident at Chancellorsville. The only problem is Fleisher told us a couple of issues ago that Hex left the Confederate Army right after the Emancipation Proclamation, and so shouldn't have even been there.

Justice League of America #179: Conway's creation, Firestorm, gets to join the JLA. He immediately gets into trouble crossing a disco super-model vampire, the Satin Satan!

Secrets of Haunted House #25: A criminal and a vampire (who apparently doesn't know how her powers work in some crucial ways) try to make it across some really hostile wilderness in a weird story by Catherine Barrett Andrews, Stuart Hopen, and artist June Lofamia. The second story was written by famous letterer Todd Klein and has art by von Eeden. It's one of those typical "trying to escape Destiny only leads you to do the exact thing you were supposed to do" yarns.

Superman #348: Conway and Swan deliver a pretty nonsensical tale of an old Native American who summons an extradimensional storm monsters with some sort of alien artifact. Neither the monster or the artifact are ever explained, but hey, Superman tosses them both into another dimension where they're somebody else's problem, I guess, and gives the old guy a regular rock as a replacement. Problem solved!

Weird War Tales #88: Fleisher and Ocampo deliver a problematic story about the Seminole Wars where the U.S. can't defeat the tribe because they have the fountain of youth to keep their people young and healthy. It all ends in tears though as a would-be white savior you turned on his unit gets killed by his commander who then destroys the sacred waters, dooming the Seminole. Alligators get him in the end, though.

Wonder Woman #268: Animal Man is still guest staring, but now they're in France fighting some ridiculous assassins.