Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Holy Mountain and the Silver City

The Heavenly Mountain, rises majestically and alone from a tranquil sea, which itself is separated from the astral only by a thick, silvery mist. The deva of the Mountain, and possibly the Mountain itself, like others of the Wheel, are dedicated to the great work restoring oneness to the divided multiverse. The Mountain is the Path by which Unity may achieved by the abnegation of ego, one soul at a time.

The path isn't easy. Few are those that start upon it, and fewer still those that reach it. Only rumors return regarding the final trial: the pilgrim must gain admittance from the four Heavenly Archons, and then cross a bridge as narrow as the edge of a blade, beneath which yawns a chasm that extends to The Abyss. What lies beyond is even more uncertain and variegated in the telling.

The beginnings of the path in the first of the Seven Cities of Heaven is more certain. Many visits have crossed the Astral into the pearl-bright sea that laps against the white sand beach and the marble quays. Beyond, the Silver City climbs onto the foot of the mountain beneath a night that seems more like a velvet drapery decorated with bright jewels than the cold void.

The Silver City is a very hospitable place. Its pedestrian thoroughfares and atria are garlanded with paper lanterns and strings of glowing orbs with firefly light, are full of soirées. It's central garden is decorated with alabaster sculptures of heavenly bodies and magical symbols, inlaid with moonstone. It is here the ruler of the city, a silver sphinx, holds court. The wine shops and cafes are open all night, indeed there is never anything but night in the Silver City. Many a visitor intends to leave in the morning, to continue their ascent at first light of dawn. Few ever do. This is the Trial of the Silver City: it tests Resolve.

Only the stalwart few take the path out of the Silver City and continue their trek up the Mountain.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 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 December 23, 1980. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #273: Conway improves on his performance from last issue with a callback to a plotline started by Levtiz and Starlin in issue 239 where it appears Brainiac 5 murdered Ultra Boy's ex-girlfriend and framed Ultra Boy for it. It was all put down to "temporary insanity," and he got better, but the Federation's new President (Colossal Boy's mom) is having none of that. Brainy is out, or the Legion is done! The Legionnaires do a thorough investigation and discover it was Pulsar Stargrave that did the deed and drove Brainy insane. The issue ends with a showdown between Brainiac 5 and Stargrave that is pretty well done.

Mystery in Space #117: This is better than last issue. DeMatteis and Infantino open it with a sort of trippy space opera yarn of a space general willing to stop at nothing to resurrect the gentle, poet lover of her youth, only to find he doesn't recognize the woman she has become. Watson and Netwon paint a quick portrait of a dedicated DJ, still broadcasting in the post-apocalypse for an audience of one--himself. This one is interesting mainly for the real world songs it references, showing perhaps what the writer was listening to at the time. Bruce Jones with Veitch and Yeates have a ne'er-do-well murder an alien and steal his ship, but he discovers that sometimes dreams are the stuff spaceships are made of. 

The final story gets the cover. Barr and Tuska tell the somewhat obvious if kind of gruesome tale of a cold, misanthropic, robot pilot learning humanity after he's partially grafted to part of a gravely injured family man to keep both of them alive.

New Adventures of Superboy #15: The name story by Bates and Schaffenberger involves a wealthy, childless couple coming to Smallville to try to convince Superboy to be their son. It's the sort of forgettable Silver Age pastiches this title sometimes lapses into. The backup is mildly interesting in that it posits a meeting between a time traveling Superboy and a young Clark Kent of the 1930s. This story both re-establishing that this title takes place in the 1960s. It's unclear if this is a visit to Earth-2 or some other timeline yet, but there is suppose to be a part two.

Sgt. Rock #350: The main Sgt. Rock story by Kanigher and Redondo is a Christmas-themed tale of a new recruit in Easy so eager to get home by Christmas that he deserts. Rock, not wanting the kid to face a firing squad, tracks him down to a farm house where he's sharing Christmas with an Italian family. Rock brings him back and the kid learns they have to fight the war until they're done. The next story with art by DeMulder romanticizes the Confederacy, so moving on we find a story with no artist credited that relates the life and death of the Cheyenne chief, Roman Nose. Last up is another "Men of Easy" feature with art by Duursema that gives Bulldozer's perspective on Rock.

Super Friends #42: Bridwell and Tanghal present the story of a villain with a dangerous green thumb terrorizing Gotham. The Super-Friends get some help from Green Fury, the Brazilian superheroine who can shoot green flame out her nose and will eventually join the JLA as Fire. The Wonder Twins backup by the same creative team is Christmas themed. It has Jayna taking the form of a Krytonian deer, which of course can fly under a yellow sun to help Santa.

Unexpected #208: The stories in this issue are all weird, and not in the "Weird Tales" sort of way. The Barr/Sparling Jonny Peril story has him still tracking those mysterious star amulets. He's in the midwest at an almost deserted factory town, where he's set up by zombies or something and saved by a local woman. She explains that few of the townsfolk are left and no one knows what the factory does, but doesn't comment on the zombie guys. She takes Peril to the factory and is promptly captured by the zombies who serve the mysterious guy in the cloak (who somehow is able to watch Jonny on camera all the time and always has his hand in front of his face so we don't see his identity). Jonny chooses to make a move to save himself from being capture rather than to save the girl. He manages to set off some explosions and escape. He passes the woman who appears to be melting but either is revealed as one of the zombies or turning into one. She was part of the Master's plan to capture Jonny and she says he saw through her ruse, but there is no real indication that he did. It reads like he was just unconcerned for her safety. Anyway, now Peril is on the run in the woods.

The next story by Elliott Maggin and Murphy Anderson has a city in grip of weird, motiveless crimes by previously respectable citizens and the stressed police commissioner who goes into the place of business of an occultist that looks more like Aunt Bea than anything else, and getting so freaked out he leaves without his soul. Which is apparently what happened to the other former upstanding citizens. The story really doesn't make it clear whether this is by the woman's design or all just bumbling accident. The last story by Wessler and Sesarego opens with a guy carrying a woman away from rampaging giant beetles--a rampage each blames on the other. In the flashback, we see a UFO land, then the guy talking to beetles. When they complain about people stepping on them, he makes them giant so they can defend themselves. The woman, meanwhile, has the guy thrown off her land. She even has the area sprayed with special gas. The guy leads the beetles in attack, but saves the woman when they demolish her house. It's revealed in the end that their an alien couple who's just been having a spat.

Unknown Soldier #249: The story picks up from last issue with the Nazi agent Helga gloating about killing the Unknown Soldier and about to kill the man she believes to be his father. The old guy fights back, and defeats her. As she lays dying, he reveals he's the Unknown Soldier in disguise and gives his true origin--which really, isn't that different from the planted story she found out, other than it starts before the U.S. official entered the war and involves possible supernatural intervention. It's not clear why Haney thought that was better than what he gave last issue or why he didn't make it more different. 

The backup is a story of Mlle. Marie, mini-skirted, bereted, brunette Red Sonja of the Maquis (spelled Maqui throughout this story) by Kanigher and Ayers. Marie is caught in an explosion and has a face bandaged exactly like the Unknown Soldier during most of this issue, only in a sexist turn, she doesn't take potentially being disfigured near as well nor do the people around her (to be fair, she does take it better than most people would in real life). In the end, though her face heals completely with not even any scar. Whew!

Warlord #43:  Read more about it here.  The backup is more OMAC. He defeats the Vanguisher and confronts the Verner Brothers who look like clones of balding fat guys in early 19th Century coats and cravats. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Star Trek Endeavour: Uzaveh the Infinite

Back from a hiatus for a couple more episodes, a campaign in Star Trek Adventures... 

Episode 6: "Uzaveh the Infinite"

Player Characters: 
The Crew of the USS Endeavour, NCC-1895, Constitution Class Starship (refit):
Andrea as Lt. Ona Greer, Engineer 
Bob as Capt. Robert Locke
Gina as Cmdr. Isabella Hale, Helm Chief
Jim as Lt. Ross Gordon, Science Officer
Tug as Dr. Azala Vex, Trill Chief Medical Officer

Supporting Cast:
Julie Cobb as Lt. Perez, Security Officer
Michael Zaslow as Lt. Nesmith, Geologist

Synopsis: Endeavour is surveying the 13th moon o Parjali II as a potential cite for an outpost when they discover a humanoid life sign that shouldn't be there. Investigating, they find a robed figure who appears to be a Rhaandarite and a small hut. The being declares himsef Uzaveh, once worshipped as a god by the primitive Rhaandarites, whose evolution he takes credit for. He offers to further "improve" the Endeavour's crew. Locke and his senior officers are suspicious. Locke particularly recalls what led to the Eugenics Wars, but Perez and Nesmith take Uzaveh up on his offer, and Perez is given superhuman strength, while Nesmith is freed from the need to take medication for a genetic condition.

But the crew is unable to contact their ship and they believe Uzaveh is responsible. Eventually, they confront him, and he reveals his true purpose: he needs to evolve them to transfer his consciousness to a suitable body, and he is wearing out the Rhaandarite he is in. A battle ensues with the enhanced crew under Uzaveh's control. A phaser blast eventually disrupts his energies, causing his body to rapidly decay. The crew who were controlled were freed, and their biologies gradually return to normal.

Commentary: This was a mission brief from Mission Briefs 1: Growing Pains, by Michael Dismuke. It was set during the Enterprise era, but easy enough to adapt to a later one. In the original, Uzaveh had an Andorian body.

Jim joined this game for the first time playing Lt. Gordon:

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Where the Chaos Thing Fell

When the hordes of the Abyss surged toward the very borders of Hell, one of the mightest of that host was only brought down on the plains of Gehenna. Where the great worm fell, it created a gigantic crater, contributing to the broken nature of the plane to this day. It's in this crater that the corpse of the creature remains.

The shadow of its bulk is tangible, like a black, velvet fungus, it moves over time as if chased by a sun that Gehenna does not have. It is not good to touch the shadow, as it will grow on anything until it consumes it. The Ultroloths sacrificed any number of souls and simulacra in their experiments trying to find a way to bend it to their purposes but to no avail.

They found no use for the shadow, but the same can not be said for the carcass. The Yugoloth consider it a goldmine. The crater is held in the highest security; not even their diabolic allies and clients are allowed to visit their mining and rendering facilities. The dissolution of an abyssal monstrosity is not like the decay of some corpse on the Prime Material Plane. Freed of the monster's alien, but dominating sense of self, its flesh slowly sloughs free and becomes all sorts of smaller grotesqueries. The Ultroloth sorcerer-scientists have been ingenious in the applications they have found for these creatures, including using them as a substrate for the generation of new, lesser Yugoloth. The things also found their way into weapons and material for armor. 

The plague caused in Hell by an attempt to use the creatures' ichor as an enhancement for soldiers was, at best, a minor setback.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1981 (wk 2 pt 1)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around December 23, 1980.

Action Comics #517: Conway and Swan/Hunt give us a topical Christmas story (in contrast to the Green Lantern story that states its "1981," ignoring when the comic was actually published). Superman has to leave a Planet office party to help an alien get back a quasi-religious artifact given to his race by a messiah type, which has supposedly been stolen by another species. It turns out the first alien's race had actually stolen it back from the others and are now planning to launch a war of retaliation. Superman has to stop a war between these two factions with long religious enmity--and get back to Earth in time to kiss Lois under the mistletoe.

The Aquaman backup by DeMatteis and Heck reveals that the villain behind the bogus Black Manta (and maybe the Poseidon, too) is Ocean-Master. Aquaman fights with him on a rooftop in a pretty atypical move for these aqua-characters, but Ocean-Master escapes.

Adventure Comics #479: Adventure is back, and it's been turned over completely to Dial H for Hero. This is a reboot of a strip from the late '60s. The conceit of this one is that teens Chris and Vicki discover "dials" (resembling rotary phone dials if you kids remember those), which allow them to transform into a new superhero identity every time they dial H-E-R-O. These stories are by Wolfman and Infantino, but the superhero/villain designs are reader submissions and are credited in the stories. None of the stories are at all memorable, and I refuse to look them up as I have a super-sized issue of Detective to discuss below, but I do recall one of the characters this issue (the villain, Silver Fog), was created by Harlan Ellison, age 46, of Sherman Oaks, CA.

Brave & the Bold #172: Conway and Infantino/Mitchell bring Conway's Firestorm over for a visit. Jason Bard, detective from well, Detective Comics, is here too, and his presence reveals either Infantino or Mitchell or both can't draw a fedora that doesn't look like a travesty. Anyway, Stein and Raymond are having blackouts, and Batman does what any concerned teammate would do, he spies on Firestorm. He discovers that the Nuclear Man is under the control of a sentient nuclear reactor, somehow brought to that state by the accident that created Firestorm. It's now out for world conquest or something. Firestorm's power holds the key to its defeat, though, in a battle of fusion versus fission. Firestorm's able to absorb the probably-lethal dose of radiation Batman took, too.

Nemesis is back in the backup by Burkett and Spiegle. I like Spiegle's art, but I find these just don't hold my interest. This lowkey organized crime fighting is sort of bland. Maybe it would be more appealing not sandwiched at the end of a unremarkable superhero yarn, I don't know.

Detective Comics #500: This is an anniversary issues with a number of creators and at least one story that has gone on to be reprinted elsewhere. Brennert's and Giordano's "To Kill A Legend" is that one. The Phantom Stranger offers Batman (and Robin) a chance to go to another Earth and prevent the death of Wayne's parents on that world. They succeed, and the spoiled, young Bruce Wayne of that world is inspired to to change his life not by the loss of his parents but by the Dynamic Duo's heroic example. On this re-read, what's most interesting to me is the dates this story gives. It sets the death of the Waynes "20 years" before the present on Earth-1--all well and good. But the Phantom Stranger says there was another Bruce who's parents died "40 years before." The associated image looks like the Golden Age Batman, but 40 years from from the present would be the time period when Earth-2 Batman was an adult, not a kid.

Wein and Aparo bring us a fun one: "The Too Many Cooks Caper." Slam Bradley is ostensibly the lead, but it's all all-star jam of non-powered, non-costumed DC heroes: Mysto, Captain Compass, Jason Bard (again!), Roy Raymond, TV Detective, Pow-Wow Smith, and Christopher Chance, the Human Target. "Once Upon A Time" is a clever short by Wein and Simonson, where there is no dialogue but only well-placed, cliched literary lines. 

Barr and Garcia-Lopez set The Elongated Man and his wife to Sue to solving "The Final Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe" in their somewhat humorous style. Next up is a Batman prose piece by Walter Gibson, creator of the Shadow, with illustrations by Tom Yeates. Levitz and Adam Kubert present Hawkman and Hawkgirl discovering the truth behind "The Strange Death of Dr. Erdel." This is a bit weaker as a story than the previous ones, but it's a nice component to a anniversary collection like this. Bates, Infantino, and Smith provide an answer to "What Happens When A Batman Dies?" which is Deadman shows up and tries to keep him from going to the Afterlife, and the spirits of his parents tell him to get back down there and keep fighting. All and all, this is a really good issue, perhaps the best all around of the year.

Green Lantern #138: Maybe Wolfman is stretched too thin, because Thomas is brought on as scripter here. I can't say this issue is an improvement over the last two. In fact, returning to the Eclipso story from the future is a bit of a let down, but only a little since all of this feels like treading water. After a couple of skirmishes, Eclipso unleashes his master plan: a satellite launched from Ferris Aircraft that will create an eclipse. He also uses a beam from his diamond to bifurcate Jordan into good an evil. Meanwhile, there's just enough of the kidnapping of Carol to remind you its there without it actually going much of anywhere.

The Adam Strange backup by Sutton and Rodriquez gives Alanna a chance to come to Earth for once. The two visit New York and foil a terrorist plot at the Statue of Liberty.

House of Mystery #289: This issue introduces the "I...Vampire" strip by DeMatteis (listed as creator as well as writer) and Sutton. We are thrown in in media res with the vampire, Andrew Bennett, and his human companions taking on the vampiric minions of the Queen of the Blood Red Moon. Only a bit later do we get Bennett's origins and learn that his former love Elizabeth is that queen. A good start for the series. 

The rest of the issue isn't that great. Dennehy and Chan deliver a ironic tale of a killer getting run over by his own car (I guess? The art is unclear) when he goes back to gloat over a guy he left to die. Kashdan and Rubeny execute an idea by Don Glut, which sees an inventor get revenge on the guy who stole the credit and the money from his hologram projector by somehow putting the villain in a literal hell caught on film. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Late Era Role-Aids

Photo by Needles

I've been revisiting some late era Role-Aids (90s) products recently, some purchased at my only Gen-Con experience to date, the others a gift from Hydra compadre, Robert Parker. While earlier Role-Aids products are hit or miss, these are quite good, I think. 

One thing that immediately caught my eye was art by some comic book illuminaries: Arch Magic has a cover by Dave McKean, Demons II has one by Glenn Fabry, and a couple of Demons supplements have art by Alex Niño. Beyond that they seem to borrow both from innovations at TSR (the loose leaf monster format) and White Wolf (some of the subject matter and design), and in some minor ways anticipate the aesthetic and subject matter of Planescape.

The Demons related products (Demons and its loose leaf spinoffs, Demons II, and Sentinels and Apocalypse) suggest use in a campaign setting that is more a battleground for the forces of good and evil in a Heaven versus Hell sort of way than the standard D&D setting. The descriptions of it's demons are somewhere between Monster Manual and demonology book, both in terms of their physical appearance and what sort of requirements they have for the making of pacts. All in all, it provides a push more in the roleplaying than combat encounter direction for these beings (not that they are full stated for combat).

Arch Magic gives a whole new class (the Archmage) for sort of ultra-high level magic-users and some new, powerful spells, but the interesting part is the adventuring locales: a city built in the bones of a monstrous skeleton, The Macrodome, where a game controlling the destiny of the universe is played out, and the Red Room of madness (probably inspired by Twin Peaks).

These products feel like the creators had much more free rein than AD&D products of the era. The are no better executed--perhaps at times a little worse--but the imagination involved seems less fettered,

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Weird Revisited: Midnight in the House Tenebrous

This post first appeared in 2011...


There are places in Nla-Ogupta--that ancient, decadent, Venusian Venice--where Terrans do not go. The Street of Blue Vines was one of those. The buildings along it crowded close, as if trying to conceal some secret. The uncanny glow of bioluminescent lantern-jellies that cling to haphazard lines seem dimmer than elsewhere--as if they too were conspirators. It's said that in millennia past, when Sumer was young, the Street of Blue Vines was a place where cultists trafficked with inhuman gods. Old Venus-hands, deep in their cups, spin tales of cannibalism, and alien sexual rites. That's what the rumors say.  No Terran knows, and if any polite Venusian knows, they don't speak of it to off-worlders.

But on this night, a Terran does wind his way down the serpentine Street of Blue Vines. His stride is unhesitating--he hasn't come this way accidentally. He moves purposely to the darkened, leaning structure which bears no sign or legend, but nevertheless is known to the denizens of Nla-Ogupta's underworld as the House Tenebrous. He has come seeking this house, and the service it sells.  He's come to buy a man's death.

The Street of Blue Vines gets its name from the eerie, electric indigo vines and foliage that entwine 'round its most infamous denizen, the House Tenebrous. The House only permits entrance at night--in fact, it may be that it can only be located at night.

A seated, robed figured, appearing as a short and portly man, his features completely hidden in a cowl, asks any visitor who he or she might wished kill, and why. The figure’s voice sounds distant, and tinny, and seems to emanate from all around. The man never moves, even in the slightest.  Sometimes visitors get the impression that there are others in the room--the feeling of eyes upon them, or the hint of motion in the shadows of the audience chamber. Psychically sensitive individuals report “hearing” distant, unintelligible, whispers, and an unpleasant mental sensation not unlike smothering.

If the man chooses to accept the commission, the price is variable, and not always in money.  If a goal can be discerned from House's representative's payment demands, it is that they seem to be aimed at reducing Terran influence on Venus.

Eventually, though a space of week or months may pass, all victims of the House Tenebrous are found dead somewhere in Nla-Ogupta (or in one case, on a ship having recently departed there) without any apparent signs of violence or physical injury. Victims always appear to have died in their sleep, though often their face and bodies are contorted as if in fear or pain.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

In the Furnace

If some resolute pilgrim were to limp or crawl through miles of the sepulchral dust and crumbling, cinerous statuary of anguish of Hades, they might find the leaden skies giving way to a void of eternal night. They would see before them a landscape of tortured rock formations, and boiling, mephitic, salt-rimmed pools that make the lurid colors of the surrounding rock manifest with their wan glow. Beyond, they would see broken and lava-clotted crags rising ever upward, disappearing into distant darkness. They would have reached the border of Gehenna.

Those who don't succumb to despair in the gray wastes are potential fodder for the Devils' war against Chaos. But first, they must be broken and reconditioned to that purpose. Yugoloth patrol the border, and their press gangs conscript all available prospects. Captives are whisked off to a number of re-education centers. Under the conditioning of their fiendish captors, they become suitable, perhaps, for minor positions in the apparatus of Hell, or either for future service of the Yugoloth.

It is possible to scale the forbidden scarp of Gehenna. If one can avoid the plateau encampments of the Yugoloth, the monsters of the lava tube caves, and assorted natural dangers from jagged rock, blasts of toxic gas, and flows of lava, you can stand upon the mountains ringing Hell itself. It is not a trip anyone would wish to make except with the direst of need.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1981 (wk 1 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 December 11, 1980.

Justice League of America #188: Perhaps editorial--or maybe even Conway, himself--realized the Super-Friends level story of duplicated powers and JLA members turned into working stiffs was weak sauce for a two-parter. So it winds up a one-and-a-half parter with the cover this issue being taken by a Conway/Buckler joint about about malfunctioning killer-satellite that attacks the JLA's satellite, trapping the Leaguers not in the other story there. It's an interesting "race against time" problem-solving tale, superior to the other story. It weirdly tries to be a Hanukkah story too, with the Atom learning the meaning of the holiday and ends with him telling the other League members about it.

The first story sees the JLA coming to join Flash (who has evaded transformation into a normie himself) to defeat the counterfeit, jewel-thief League. Zatana, transformed into an old woman, doesn't make it back on her own, but the Flash goes to rescue her. Those two seen to decide to nip their romance in the bud and just be friends.

New Teen Titans #5: So much keeps happening in these issues, but not a lot of importance yet. The Titans abandoned Raven last issue after learning how she manipulated them--particularly Kid Flash, but when she's captured by Trigon, they come to her rescue. They defeat a minion of of Trigon's with teamwork, but then the main man show's up and they all go to Azarath. There the Titans are unable to defeat him and the pacifists of Azarath won't help, so Raven agrees to join Trigon to save everyone.

Secrets of Haunted House #34: In the first story, Destiny just kind of toys with an unpleasant blonde model who wants desperately to one up her brunette rival. Destiny seems to be granting her wishes, but whatever the she gets her rival receives double. She keeps trying to think of something good that either can't be doubled or will be bad when doubled, but she keeps being frustrated. On the last go-round, she asks for a handsome lover six feet tall, but then her rival gets two identical lovers meeting that description--except all three guys turn out to be vampires. Ms. Charlie Seegar and E Cruz were responsible for this nonsense. The next story by Wessler and Ken Barr isn't much better. It involves occupying Nazi forces suffering all sorts of calamities, and the source turns out to be--a group of Maquis dwarfs hiding underground, and I don't mean dwarfs of the fairytale kind.

The Mister E story by Rozakis and Speigle doesn't really redeem this issue, but it does have a kind of amusing ending, where Mister E uses acid to dissolve the stitching between parts in a Frankenstein's monster, causing it to fall apart.

Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #3: After last issue's reveal that a Legionnaire may be Brande's kid (though it's not revealed how that know this), Brande's assistant and the doctors explain that Brande has a rare blood type, but he needs a transfusion to survive Yorssian Fever. They review the histories of the remaining Legionnaires, even the dead ones and the Subs! Then they get to the reservists like Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang. It seems like just taking blood samples would be better than reviewing origin stories, but what do I know about the holistic nature of 30th Century medicine, right? Saturn Girl manages to telepathic pick up from Brande's unconscious brain that he once had powers. They realize they have made a mistake excluding nonhuman species and humanoid races that inherit powers.  In the end they figure it out: Chameleon Boy, of course. Brande is saved.

Superman #357: This story opens with both Superman and Vartox effectively prisoners on Tynola. Superman literally so, as he's gone "undercover" as a interplanetary criminal and has been imprison in a smallish sphere, which really is cruel and unusual punishment. Still, he's able to use his super-senses to suss out that the Tynolans derive their reality manipulating "chant" powers from Noxumbra, a space-traveling, god-monster. They plan to feed Vartox to Noxumbra in exchange for his continued blessing. They mostly seem to use their power to magic up things for Vartox to fight, so it all seems a bit circular to me, but anyway! Superman breaks out and gives Noxumbra indigestion by substituting himself for the hyper-power Noxumbra usual feeds on. With the god-monster, gone Vartox still agrees to stay and help the Tynolans and Superman goes home. There is some cleverness here in how Vartox and Superman use their super-powers to avoid their plotting being detected by the advanced Tynolans, but overall it's a better idea than execution.

The backup story is another "Superman of 2021" yarn. He fights a forgettable villain and gets a date with his boss.

Superman Family #206: Superman Family was just not what I needed this week. It feels like a step-down from last time--and that was not a comic I was dying to read. The okay stuff include the Harris/Mortimer Supergirl tale which i think has more scenes of Supergirl in lingerie than I've ever seen in a comic. It really has a romance comic feel at the beginning, which is not wholly out of place because it's about a lookalike (Lesla-Lar) trying to steal Kara's life--literally. The non-romance angle is that it revolves around her parents, not a beau. The "Mr. and Mrs. Superman" story guest stars Harlequin (the Earth-2 character) and briefly Green Lantern (Earth-2), but it's better than the rock-bottom silliness of "The Private Life of Clark Kent" bit by Rozakis and Calnan. 

The Lois Lane story is sort of a coda to the multi-part arc that ended last issue. Lois gets her memories back finally in the Fortress of Solitude, then goes off to say good-bye to the guy she fell for while amnestic. Superman is cool with all that, but I guess he would be, because he's Superman. The final story has Jimmy Olsen chased by yokels on the payroll of chemical polluters in the Poconos.

Weird War Tales #97: The Creature Commandos are back! This time, the story is a bit better, and the characters are less universal monster knockoffs. DeMatteis (credited as creator here as well as writer), focuses the dramatic core of this story on Lt. Shrieve and what appears to be a burgeoning attraction between him and a scientist, Dr. Frederique, the Commandos have rescued from the Germans. The Doctor argues against Shrieve's reduction of the Germans to simply faceless "Nazi Pigs" to be killed. Unfortunately, she isn't the scientist but a German spy. Though she leads the Commandos into an ambush, she warns them at the last minute, getting shot in the process. The Commandos prevail, but the fake Frederique dies after confessing her duplicity and her remorse to Shrieve. The Commandos ask about burying her, but Shrieve replies there's no need as she's just another Nazi Pig, but his face as he turns away from his men betrays his true feelings.

The second story by Rozakis and Spiegle is a mini-epic with a U.S. agent discovering a Nazi experiment in mind control via something like astral projection. They have already taken over Stalin. The agent infiltrates the Kremlin and frees Stalin with some judiciously applied electricity from a broken lamp. Back in London, he discovers that the Nazi scientist Kreuger has now gotten to Churchill. The agent steals an RAF plane and drops strips of tinfoil (used to block radar) over Parliament when Churchill is there, blocking the signal and freeing the Prime Minister. In the U.S., they recreate the German device with the agent as the guinea pig. It kills him--but his mental projection is freed to protect FDR from Nazi control. The thoughtforms of Kreuger and the agent do battle in the sky, until a lightning bolt destroys the Nazi. The agent goes into the scientist's body long enough to sabotage the German device.

Wonder Woman #277: If you've ever wanted to see a group of Kobra agents shake themselves until they explode in a pile of goo when compelled to tell the truth by Wonder Woman's magic lasso, well Conway and Delbo made this issue for you! Wonder Woman is on the trail of Kobra who has the Cobalt 93 bomb and is holding the world's oil fields for ransom. She consults an old voodoo practitioner for some reason and gets to hear the Kobra cults origin and that of King Kobra (though minus Jason Burr). She heads off to Delhi and winds up falling into Kobra's hands.

The Levitz and Staton Huntress backup has Helena worrying over the fact that her DA sort of boyfriend has figured out her secret identity. Lucky for her she lives next to a woman being blackmailed by her estranged husband, which allows her to distract herself with a little easy crimefighting.

Monday, December 13, 2021

A Stop in the Planar Tour

I've done enough posts in this series on the Outer Planes that I thought it was time to stop and collate them so folks could catch up.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Showdown with the Cyan Sorceress


A week ago, our Land of Azurth 5e game continued a week ago with the party coming to what they had initially take to be a hill at the center of the forest of stone shapes, but was actually a circle of close standing forms. There was one stone toppled over to form a platform over a deep abyss chasm beyond where floated the Singing Monolith. On this platform, the Cyan Sorceress had made her camp. 

She tried to shoo the party away, but when they weren't having it, she threw a trinket into their midst that suddenly cause gravity to intensify, slamming them to the ground. Obviously, the time for palaver had passed!

The Cyan Sorceress had powerful magic and several strange devices at her disposal, but in the end their was only one of her against the entire party. With Dagmar's healing keeping Erekose and Waylon able to attack, the Sorceress was subdued. Belatedly some of the weird cyber-zombies attacked, but they were easily dispatched.

With a spell to compel her truth-telling, the party got down to questioning the Sorceress. They found out she and the other Chromic Witches were agents of Queen Desira of Virid, but they had become concerned that the Wizard of Azurth was exerting a strange influence over her, and struck out on their own to find magics to potentially counter his. Somewhere along the way, she fell under the influence of a Shadow. Who or what the Shadow was, she had difficulty describing she seemed to indicate that somehow it was displayed in time and possible world. It was somehow related to the book which was sometimes the Wondrous Wizard of Azurth and sometimes the Marvelous Monarch of Mu. The Shadow wished to use the book to remake the world, or perhaps had done so already. Somehow the revival of these action devices were going to help the Shadow do this. When the Cyan Sorceress was defeated, the Shadow seemed to have lost its influence.

The party was unable to stop the Monolith's emergence, meaning an increased revival of the ancient trinkets and related artifacts, but since the Sorceress was unable to complete the ritual it had been a less significant event than it might have been. The group emerged on to the surface of the Crooked Hills, more informed than before, but perhaps no more enlightened.

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Call of the Wild

The Beastlands is the plane of idealized nature. The prevailing theory is that it was formed by the will of the Titans, the proto-gods born of chaos, blamed for the creation of material world, as a conceptual model of the Material Plane, though this is perhaps an anthropomorphic misapprehension, attributing as it does rational, fathomable motives to alien their minds.

It's location (if a conceptual realm can truly be said to have location) between Arborea and Elysium has been ascribed to mere sympathetic aggregation (owing to all three evoking the natural world), though some have argued equally persuasively that it partakes of both the harmony of Elysium and the carnal nature of Arborea. 

The Beastlands is primeval wilderness, unspoiled by the action of thinking creatures. Its inhabitants are are animals--or rather the iconic spirits of all wildlife, fierce and beautiful. These animals may speak if they wish to do so, but it is wrong to imbue them with human characteristics beyond this or processes of thought. At all times they are wild beasts, and are not given to acting outside their natural roles.

Travelers who spend time in the Beastlands will feel the call of the beast within. Lycanthropes are empowered by the realm, and other humans may be susceptible to being transformed into animalistic forms the longer they stay. The partaking of certain foodstuffs within the Beastlands hastens this transformation, and varieties of Bestland fungi are sought for ritual use on the Material Plane for their potent connection to this realm.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1981 (wk 1 pt 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  December 11, 1980. 

Batman #333: Wolfman and Novick/McLaughlin cast Batman and Talia in an international spy thriller. They are first in the Swiss Alps checking out secret bank accounts and getting chased on skiis by guys with lasers, then they're flying to Nepal, and finally sneaking into Hong Kong through the marsh, all in an attempt to find out who was behind Falstaff. Talia really gives the reader some basic info on the then-current status of Hong Kong, which has the effect of making Bruce look terribly uneducated. Leaving Hong Kong, Bruce is drugged and captured.

In the backup, Robin and Catwoman are doing their own globetrotting investigating the same issue. They wind up in Shanghai and meet up with King Faraday, who Catwoman does not like. Then they're double-crossed by Chin Ho, terribly stereotypical Chinese criminal and former associate of Catwoman's. The story ends with our heroes about to be injected with cocaine against their will.

DC Comics Presents #31: Conway delivers a slight story, but it's got Garcia-Lopez art so it isn't all bad. Robin and Superman independently stumble upon a circus where someone is mind controlling the performers. Turns out it's one of the clowns, and he isn't doing it for crime or world domination or the like. He just wants to be in charge of the circus!

The "Whatever Happened to..." backup is about the Golden Age Robotman by Rozakis and Saviuk. Of these stories so far, it actually tells what happened to Robotman (he was in a cave in and wound up in suspended animation) and provides an end to his story (he gets a new-ish human body), so I call it a success.

Flash #295: Though Flash has never been a favorite character of mine (I have probably read more issues of Flash in this series than I have at any other point in my life!), I would describe this run by Burkett/Heck as solid, late Bronze Age material. It isn't a series that is particularly remembered, but it's a lot more consistent, I think, than say Conway's work of this period--maybe even Wolfman's outside of Teen Titans. But nobody is writing articles praising it in 2021. This issue--the wrap-up of the plot by Gorilla Grodd to make everyone forget him--pretty much continues in that vein, except that I feel it has a bit flatter resolution than some other stories. Grodd's plan is to get Solovar and the Flash to kill each other, and he does this by mind controlling them and causing them to act out an interaction where he plays the other and betrays them in the semblance of a dream. Now, he doesn't mind control them to think this happens or actual just dream it, they act it out. And he doesn't mind control them to think he's the other one, he actually disguises himself to look like them. That all just seems silly to me, given Grodd's power set. Anyway, it's this having to act it out that clues the Flash into the fact this isn't an actual dream (he dreams in super-speed) and allows him to warn Solovar so they can thwart Grodd.

The Firestorm back-up has Stein calling in Ronnie so they can save a scientist in an experimental bathyscape form a ship captain bent on killing him for some reason. An accident turns the scientist into Typhoon with blue skin and really long orange sideburns. To be continued!

Ghosts #98: Ghosts continues to haunt me with stories free of any horror or even atmosphere for the most part. The Dr. Thirteen/Spectre cover story by Kupperberg and Adams/Blaisdell is the best of the bunch. Thirteen is still out to prove the Spectre is a fake, but gets distracted by a return to his ancestral home to help an investigative reporter get the goods on his father's former partner, Sontag. Seems the guy has sold shoddy construction materials, leading to 30 deaths. It turns out that not only is Sontag guilty, but he murdered Thirteen's father as well. The Spectre shows up and has Sontag kill himself. Thirteen still vows to get that vengeful spirit, and he notices that police Lt. Corrigan and the Spectre always show up at the same places. Something interesting about Thirteen's dad: he was a diehard rationalist too, and got his assistant to fake a haunting after his death, so his son was disprove it and learn a lesson about being skeptical of the supernatural. Parenting 101, right there.

The Ayers/Giella art on the story by Wessler is rough, and the story itself is a confusing tale about a guy's ghost haunting his hotel, but then returning to his body to animate it so he doesn't know he's driving his own customers away. Or dead. The second story by Wessler and the Redondo Studio is kind of amusing as a money-grubbing, abusive orphanage operator gets smacked around by the ghosts of the parents of a young girl she won't let get adopted because she wants to milk the girl's inheritance. "Spirit, Don't Save Me!" by Kashdan and Mandrake has a chemist killing his partner, but then getting so badly burned by chemicals he wants to die, but his partner's ghost gets him medical attention to keep him alive and prolong his agony.

G.I. Combat #227: Three Haunted Tank yarns, as usual, all by Kanigher, Ayers and Glanzman (who trade off penciling and inking). The first one at least has novelty going for it, in that it's told from the point of view of the tank. Not the ghost of a Civil War general haunting the tank, but the tank itself. This highlights one interesting thing about the Haunted Tank, that I didn't expect before I embarked on this project, which is it isn't always the same tank. In fact, it might be multiple tanks in one story. Okay, perhaps it's not that interesting. Anyway, we've also got "The Bleeding Target" wherein one of the tank crew realizes the tanks he's blowing up actually have living people on the inside, and the best of the three, "The 13th Kill," where the Haunted Tank helps take out an installation protecting a u-boat pen, and manages to out smart a German tank commander "ace."

The O.S.S. story has always-interesting Grandenetti art. In it, an agent poses as a dead parachutist (thanks to a drug) to fool the Germans into thinking they've gotten secret intel on Allied plans, but it's all a ruse to plant disinformation. Kashdan and Borillo give us the obligatory Korean War story, with a soldier shooting in Morse Code to give the U.S. forces the enemy's position. Finally, a Marine tricks his buddy with kids in to letting him be the one to take the suicide mission in the perfunctory "Helping Hand."

Jonah Hex #46: This Fleisher/Ayers and DeZuniga story may be the highlight this week. Hex and his new bride are trying to find a town where they can buy land and settle down, but face prejudice at every turn as a mixed race couple. Taunted by bigoted goons in one town, Hex has had enough--but his bride reminds him of his vow to forsake violence. The bigots don't give up so easy though and follow the Hexes as they leave town. When a broken wagon axle leaves Hex unable to walk with an injured back, and Mei Ling rides into town for help, the goons come after him. Hex injured and with jammed pistols, uses his knife, a convenient rattlesnake, a field fire, and final concealed rotten boards in a barn to dispatch his foes in a kind of rural Die Hard. It all ends happily with the doctor Mei Ling found agreeing to sell them some land.

The Scalphunter backup by Conway and Ayers sees Ke-Woh-No-Tay go through some torturous rituals to join the Mandan tribe. He completes them, though, and there's a girl there he's interested in, but trouble rears it's head as the tribe has captured an old trader, a friend of his father's.

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Magic Comes Back

Matthew Hughes's Henghis Hapthorn stories (and related stories of The Spray) take place in Earth's Penultimate Age, an era where science is beginning to wain and magic returning. Implicitly, this seems to be the age before Vance's Dying Earth, an era, of course, dominated by magic. This isn't the only setting with the pretense of returning magic: it shows up in place as diverse as Shadowrun and the 80s cartoon and toyline Visionaries.

I think this would be an interesting direction to take a science fiction setting in. You could use your favorite: Star Frontiers--or Strange Stars. The easiest thing to do would be to play post the change and just use those species and setting elements (minus the technology) in a fantasy setting. You could also play during the transition from tech to magic, which I could see having some interesting possibilities. Maybe have an era where spells and the like are beginning to appear but spaceships and other high tech stuff are still operational.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Elysian Fields Forever

The existence of Elysium is seen by many a planar theoretician as proof of a mulitversal law of equipose. The existence of Hades by this way of thinking requires an Elysium--or vice versa--for the sake of balance. While Hades leeches everything of meaning and embodies a sense of hopeless, Elysium is pervaded by a sense of contentment and quiet joy, absent from considerations of the past or future of the cosmos. It is the middle ground between the transcendence of self of the Holy Mountain and the pursuit of absolute freedom and sensate pleasure of Arborea.

The theriocephalic guardinals may appear fierce on other planes but in Elysium they are more gentle of mein. They are mostly content to observe, only occasionally engaging visitors in conversation. In general, there is less conversation in Elysium than elsewhere; people are content merely to be

To the sages and seekers of the Holy Mountain, the tranquil meadows and forests of Elysium are actually another trial. If one can forsake personal contentment in the name of restoring the Godhead and Unity, then one may be worthy to see the summit of the Mountain, though of course, this may take life times.

The waters of the streams and limpid pools of Elysium are veritable liquid balms to the soul. Small vials go for high prices on material worlds where they are employed as nostrums and curatives. In the lower planes, such liquid is even more potent, though its mere possession may cause something akin to an immune response from reality itself and bring unwanted attention upon the possessor.

Acquiring waters for resale isn't as easy as it might appear. Elysium resists. Not in any violent way, but its nature contrives to lull visitors into its calm and contentment. Previous goals may come to seem less worthwhile or completely useless.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Spacehunters Reprise

With Cowboy Bebop in live action on Netflix and a new season of The Expanse on the way, I was thinking about this post, originally from February of 2017.

Luis Royo
There was this short-lived GURPS campaign I ran perhaps decade ago: A "hard" science fiction thing using a lot of stuff from Transhuman Space put giving it more of a Cowboy Bebop spin: a little bit cyberpunk, a little bit 70s action film.

Howard Chaykin
If I ever ran a similar game again, besides using a system other than GURPS, I think I would draw more visually from '80s and 80's sci-fi, borrowing some elements from things like American Flagg! and 80s cyperpunk rpgs. The players' would still be ne'er-do-well, planet-hopping bounty hunters/troubleshooters within the solar system, but with it would have a different veneer.

Janet Aulisio

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Gray Wasteland

While the existence of some planes are comprehensible based on the desires or allegiances of the beings living there, Hades, the Gray Wastes, presents a problem for planar philosophers. There are many theories, but most are some variant of the idea that the suffering of souls within the cosmos seeped into a reservoir or found its level. The existence of despair, in other words, created Hades. It is perhaps no accident that it exists in some metaphysical sense equidistance between the oppression of Hell and the malignant egotism of the Abyss.

The beings that willfully reside in the Gloom, both exploit and partake of despair. The devils hold the yugoloth were once a cadre of Hell, but deployment on the frontlines of the war with Chaos led to trauma. Their methods became first unsound and then alien. Devils will work with them to achieve goals, but hold them in disdain. 

Their primary value to Hell's high command is the process they have developed for extracting the essence of despair from souls of beings consigned to Hades. Over time, souls cease to fight against the pull of despair and are cover in gray dust or ash, like the victims of a volcanic disruption. Eventually their substance is wholly petrified to that of Hades, but before that point, there is a time where their souls are still somewhat fluid, yet tainted. The yugoloths tap the corpse and remove the fluid. It can be used to form the basis of an elixir that robs souls of their free will. The prospect of absolutely obedient masses greatly excites diabolic strategists, and they wish to study the substance to see if it can be produced elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, February 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 November 25, 1980. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #272: Conway was doing better for a bit, but this issue ruins that streak. It doesn't help that Ditko is on art. We get the origin of Blok, which is really dumb because his hatred of the Legion (strong enough to become a Super-Assassin) stems from a childhood misunderstanding of their evacuation of his homeworld. No one has since explained to him what really happened. He hasn't bothered to read about it anywhere. Nothing for it but to plan to kill the Legion. There's supposed to be a Dial H for Hero preview, too, but my digital copy didn't have it.

Mystery in Space #116: This one wasn't very good, either, despite an intriguing cover. The DeMatteis/Craig lead is probably the best of the bunch, with a race of robots capturing a disguised human who has come to enlist the robot's help against a mysterious alien invasion force. The robots, previously subjugated by humanity, are in no mood to help. It's revealed the robots were actually built from humans considered "inferior." Then in a twist, the disguised human reveals himself to actually be a robot--one of the invaders looking to ferret out hidden biologic life! The next story by Barr and Delbo is so dumb, I can't even bring myself to write about it in detail. Suffice to say,  it includes a alien race of living skeletons stealing an earth spaceship, crashing on a primitive alien world, and getting worshipped as a god, then sacrificed, thwarting an invasion of Earth. Dammit! I wrote too much. The next story by Wolfman and Smith is shaggy dog yarn about a mission to another world flummoxed by aliens giving them the silent treatment so they'll go away. 

Mishkin/Cohn and von Eeden/Celardo delivery a complicated time travel mystery, but by this point I'm skimming so I couldn't make sense of it. The last story by Drake and Ditko is like the sort of thing that would be published in an Atlas era Marvel sci-fi/suspense comic and involves a scientist making his house a rocket to escape a dictator.

New Adventures of Superboy #14: Luthor is in reform school but still manages to make a "power distorter" device he tries out on Superboy when he visits the school to give a talk to the inmates. With his powers going haywire, Superboy does things like set the fridge on fire with his heat vision and turn an armed car as transparent as Wonder Woman's jet with his x-ray vision. The funny thing is, Luthor had already thrown his distorter out in disgust because when he didn't work instantly, he thought it was flawed. Luthor breaks out to get it back, and he's bushwhacked by Pa Kent and son who take the device from him.

The backup has Superbaby (i.e. Superman as a toddler) teaming up with Zatara. It's goofy and mildly fun, in exactly the way you would expect.

Sgt. Rock #349: Easy gets a new soldier, which over course means he's going to die heroically this issue. And a good thing for him, too, because Kanigher gives him an singular trait that would have made his fellow G.I.'s kill him eventually: he's a ventriloquist who's always "on" and uses his dummy to insult his fellow troops and officers. Maybe I'm reading this all wrong, though! Could this really be the secret origin of Scarface, the dummy of the Ventriloquist in various Batman comics?

Bill Kelley (and no artist credited) gives a story of a Nazi-collaborating French singer who gets sent to a concentration camp anyway after his son and a Jewish fiancée escape Paris. Duursema does the art on a story of "game recognizing game" in the Korean War, where a U.S. bugler plays taps for a dying North Korean bugler. The last story is a "Men of Easy Co." feature where he learn that Bulldozer is really strong and doesn't care much about medals.

Super Friends #41: Rozakis is guest writer with Fradon still on pencils for a clash with the Toyman. The Wonder Twins are so often central to these Super Friends stories, it makes me wonder if that was editorial mandate. Anyway, they get fooled by a false Toyman, but then redeem themselves. 

The backup features the return of the Israeli hero Seraph courtesy of Bob Oksner. Seraph has to defeat a group of crooks or terrorists looking to steal the technology behind a new desalinization plant.

Unexpected #207: Barr and Sparling/Patterson bring us a continuation of the Johnny Peril story about the star gem amulet. A mob boss, Dan Blodgett, who already has one such talisman is eager to get a hold of the one Peril has too. He sends his fiancée to lure Peril from his office, but instead she tries to enlist his help.  Thugs show up to take the detective to their boss. Blodgett demands Peril give him the amulet and reveals the powers the star gem has given him in an attempt to get his way.  Before he can kill Johnny, the fiancée pulls the amulet away, causes Blodgett to change from a bloated slob back to his normal, nonpowered self. Still, the true master of the amulets plans on stopping Peril from interfering with his plans. One weird thing about this story is that twice Peril and a police lieutenant have a moment where we are told "their eyes meet, and a seeming eternity passes" like there's something going on between the two of them.

The rest of the stories here are pretty rough. Seeger and Nicholas/Trapani present a yarn where a money-grubbing charmer realizes the rich girl he's been wooing really does have a father with magical powers when a winged bear kidnaps her. The guy does what anyone would do: he decides to follow them to Iceland so he can learn magic, too, and get rich. Unfortunately, the harsh winter led to the father burn his magic books to stay warm; he's trapped in wing bear form, so instead of magical knowledge the guy gets eaten. The Kashdan/Infante "Timewarp" tale sees a stranger hung for the murder of a girl, but then it's revealed the true murderers were shape-shifting aliens who framed one of their own who was threatening to reveal their presence to Earth. The last story is again by Kasdan but has nice Grandenetti art. When a skull begins appearing to members of a family before their deaths, they all believe it is the result of a curse by one of their own, but in reality it's a hoax perpetrated by a living family member, who gets a supernatural comeuppance in the end.

Unknown Soldier #248: Haney and Ayers/Talaoc reveal a bit (possibly) of the Soldier's origin. SS officer von Stauffen has trained a deadly female agent named Helga for the express purpose of finding some weakness in the Soldier's past and killing him. In the U.S. she gains access to secret files that reveal the Soldier is the second son of a family with a long, proud military history. His father wants the older son in military service, and the second carrying on the family name, but both sons wind up in service in the Philippines. A grenade kills the older son and disfigures the younger, who goes on to train to be the Unknown Soldier. Helga takes the Soldier's father hostage and demands the Soldier show up. When he does she apparently shoots and kills him. Of course, the story is continued, though.

The backup story is more of Burkett and Ayers "Tales of the Ruptured Duck." I just don't care about this. I have a hard time believing anyone did. "The Duck" winds up saving the guy that fell out of the plane and was captured. Does that surprise anyone? Enough already! 

Warlord #42:  Read more about it here.  We also get the return of OMAC with writers Mishkin and Cohn and art by LaRocque/Coletta. OMAC has made an alliance with IC&C against Verner Bros., but the war isn't going well. Things get worse when OMAC is attacked by Vanquisher, a superhero working for Verners, the two are transported to have their battle in front of rolling cameras. The next issue promises "Vanquisher the Movie."