Monday, June 27, 2022

West Coast Avengers: The Last Resort

 


I've got interested in trying Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, the years out-of-print game based on the Cortex Plus system, and we were between games in one of my groups so it seemed a good time to give it a try. As MHR is geared to playing characters in the Marvel Universe, I decided to adapt a module from TSR's old Marvel Superheroes game, and since I could find MHR stats for all the characters online, I went with possibly the only MSHRPG module I ever played, The Last Resort by Kim Eastland, which stars the West Coast Avengers--a team I have some nostalgia for, since I subscribed to their comic. 

Paul, Aaron, and Andrea were the group or the season playing Hawkeye, Wonder Man, and Tigra respectively. The stats, unfortunately, weren't period perfect, being based on the versions of the characters from 30 years later, but that's to be expected and only mildly offends my sense of nostalgia, really. 

The story involvements Iron Man and a group of Boy Scouts going missing during the hero's appearance at a Jamboree in Idaho. The other Avengers must investigate, and of course, discover nefarious doings.

I'll reserve my full judgements for both the system and the adventure until we've completed the latter, but some initial thoughts on both: I liked MHR on my read through of it, and so far it has held up well in play, moving fairly fast despite our lack of familiarity with it, but for the simplicity of its base mechanic it does have a lot of exceptions and options to keep track of. The module is silly in concept and detail, and not silly in a way that is congruent with what would be likely to occur in the comics, but it has thus far served its purpose of allowing us to test out the system.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Power Scale in Superhero Comics

 Superhero rpgs often wrestle with the scale of super-power characters. This typically manifests itself in attribute benchmarks like in FASERIP-derived games or Mayfair's DC Heroes, but some games like Mutants & Masterminds have "levels" or even a separate scale trait. In all cases, it's some means of separating the capabilities of more normal heroes from cosmic or godlike ones.

There's another factor that could be called scale that is observable in superhero comics. It is not an "in-world" element; the characters aren't aware it exists, but its existence presents a barrier to superhero rpgs being able to emulate the comics (if that's something you care about), and I think its existence is just sort of an interesting observation about superhero universe comics storytelling in general.

It's pretty noticeable when you look at Batman.

In Batman's solo stories he is often given a hard time or gotten the better of by his rogue's gallery (most of whom are not superhuman and seldom as proficient in combat as him) or street thugs and the like. In Batman's team-up appearances or in his appearances as a member of the Justice League, he is far more formidable. He holds his own or triumphs against very powerful foes. Batman in his solo stories is almost a costumed, pulp vigilante in the vein of the Shadow or the Spider, but Batman in the Justice League is a superhero.

Spider-Man is sort of like this, too. The Enforcers given him a hard time in his own comic, but then in Secret Wars #2 he makes the X-Men look like amateurs, at least briefly.

Superman and Supergirl (and I think Thor and Iron Man) work in the opposite way. In Bronze and Silver Age comics, a Kryptonian can do almost anything the plot requires. Supergirl kicks the moon out of orbit in Superman Family #204...

...but she seldom seems that powerful in team-ups or crossovers.

The narrative reasons for these shifts, I think, are pretty clear. If Superman can solve any problem himself, what does the Justice League do? The type of stories that are classically told with Batman or Spider-Man as solo characters require them to be more vulnerable.

I'm not sure these sorts of "scales" in portrayal exist for all characters but they are certainly pretty common.

Could something approaching this be implemented in a supers game? Sure, in some sorts of rpgs. Marvel Heroic already has "Affiliation" (Solo, Buddy, Team) which doesn't do the same thing, but it could. Still, unless a campaign was going to include a lot solo character adventures as well as team adventures, I don't know that it would be particular necessary.

Still, I think it's interesting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 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 June 18, 1981. 


Detective Comics #506: This whole issue has a bit of a (comics code approved) giallo vibe, I think. In the main story by Conway and Newton/Mitchell, 10 months ago, Batman saves a woman from a burning car. The woman is horribly burned, but alive. The car seems to have been bombed. In the present, men in the fashion industry are being killed, and Bruce Wayne winds up in an altercation in a dance club with a woman with immense strength who snaps the neck of a fashion designer with one hand. The woman, the Manikin, removes her coat and mask and appears incased in an articulated, full-body, metal outfit. The clothes she leaves behind are designer and not of the commercial produced variety. Batman goes to question the designer of the garment in question, but the Manikin attacks again. She is too strong and fast for the Batman, and eventually tricks him and knocks him out. To be continued.

In the Batgirl backup by Burkett and Delbo/Giella, the hunchback killer believes he's killed Batgirl, so he leaves her alone when she is merely unconscious. Noticing the hands of a cellist at a concert, Batgirl realizes that the hunchback is a musician of a stringed instrument due to his calluses. Guessing he is a mandolin player, she manages to track his likely identity by checking music stores in the areas the hunchback has operated. She gets lucky and discovers the hunchback look is merely a costume worn by the musician who believes his Muse only speaks to him after he kills. Slipping on a page of sheet music gets Batgirl captured again, he plays his haunting music for her, but then kills himself.


Legion of Super-Heroes #279: We reach the conclusion of the Grimbor story. With most of the LSH neutralized or captured by Grimbor, Princess Projectra and Karate Kid try to take out the energy chains with the Kid's weakness locating abilities, while Reflecto takes on Grimbor. Our heroes triumph, of course, and Reflecto is revealed to be not Ultra-Boy as the story has been leading us to think but Superboy! Thomas gets solo writing credit on this one, Conway having moved on, I guess.


New Adventures of Superboy #21: Bates and Schaffenberger present a pretty rare situation outside of Kryptonite: Superboy being uniquely susceptible to something. In this case, it's the tone frequencies of the voice of a wheeler-dealer business man named McKay. He gets Superboy in a contract that has him performing "charity" benefits weekly. Meanwhile, there's some sort of semi-corporeal creature in a lake whose touch turns things to crumbling mineral. In the end, Superboy returns the creature to space where it belongs, and Pa Kent points out Superboy is a minor and couldn't enter into the contract with McKay, voiding it. In the backup, Superboy builds a ship with the help of his slug sapient friends and escapes the planet under a red sun.


Sgt. Rock #356: In the first story (in a pattern not uncommon in this book), a by-the-book lieutenant learns a thing or two from Rock after he forces the sergeant to stop taking point all the time. They have to go into a French town overrun by Germans to get back the soldiers that got sent ahead instead. In a story by the Veitch brothers, three green and somewhat frightened troops are sent on a mission with a corporal famed for his bravery. When he is captured, they find their courage to rescue him, and also choose to keep his memory untarnished by not revealing he cracked under torture. In the last story, Rock recalls a nameless loner in Easy who nevertheless died making a heroic sacrifice for the unit.

We have no issue of Super Friends this month. That's because last month's was the final issue, and I forgot to note it at the time.


Unexpected #214: No Johnny Peril this issue (in fact, the Johnny Peril revival is over. Outside of Who's Who he won't be seen again until the 1990s), and the issue is better than average. In the first story by Kashdan and Panaligan, an archeological swindler gets buried in the fake tomb he had built by angry native peoples. In the cover story by Kelley/Bissette and Gonzales, a prizefighter is booked to fight a minotaur in a Greek cave by his avaricious son. Then there's a nonhorror pseudohistorical bit of nonsense about Teddy Roosevelt in the old west. The last story, written by Mishkin and Cohn with art by Gonzales/Colletta, is an atypical werewolf yarn. A tagger with dreams of making a name for himself as a graffiti artist instead becomes a hero when a well-placed spray can spray thwarts a subway werewolf.


Unknown Soldier #255: Haney and Ayers/Tlaloc continue the Soldier's adventures in China with his new lady friend, the pirate Lady Jade. Their beached ship is overrun by the troops of the Warlord Chang. Chang intends to use the artillery the Soldier was taking to the Chinese fighters to breach the citadel of Ur Jal. On the festival of Ching Ming he's got to sweep the tomb of his family. That works out ok because Ur Jal is exactly where the Soldier intended to go as the Japanese are using it as a munition depot. They breach the Citadel and Chang sweeps the tomb--before the Unknown Soldier blows the fortress up to destroy the munitions. Jade returns to her piratical ways, and the Unknown Soldier heads off to his next mission.

The Captain Fear story has a pirate fighting a ninja, which is pretty much all the comics reading youth of the early 80s could ask for, I think. The conflict is over the scroll Fear captured last installment where a samurai clan requests the help of the British in overthrowing the Shogun in return for helping fund the war against Austria. Fear doesn't know this though because he can't read, but a Spanish governor and ninja in the service of the Shogun want the scroll for themselves. The art by Simonson is great here.

The last story is a Dateline: Frontline story by Burkett and Estrada. Things are getting desperate in Bataan, with low food and high numbers of sick and wounded. The U.S. general surrenders, and it seems there may be worse things to come.


Warlord #49:  Read about this issue here. In the Claw the Unconquered backup by Harris and Yeates, Claw does battle with the demon his demonic hand originally came from. The battle seems to be a stalemate until Shalieka, the woman he met last issue, suggests she can perform a ritual to return their hands, though one will die. They agree, but Claw double-crosses the demon, cutting off his human hand and casting him into the maw of the Lord of Death. Claw enters the city the conquering hero, but a robed figure watching suggests Shalieka's actions have all been in the service of the Lords of Shadow. We never find out to what end, as this is the last Claw the Unconquered backup.


World's Finest Comics #271: Superman Thomas, Harris, and Bridwell write the sort of continuity heavy story Thomas is known for with art by Buckler/McLaughlin. Superman dreams of a masked man that shoots him with Kryptonite beams, and weirdly, that happens the next day as Atoman is released from a coffin. In trying to determine the identity of Atoman, Superman and Batman remember all the times they met for the first time (in their alter egos, etc.). Finally, they figure out Atoman is from Earth-Two. The defeat him there with the assistant of Superman and Robin from that world.

Monday, June 20, 2022

The F.R.E.E. Lancers Cinematic Universe


"The idea was to bring together a group of of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could."

- Nick Fury, The Avengers

I figure at least some of you remember F.R.E.E. Lancers, the Top Secret/S.I. setting supplement from 1988. The game takes place in a fractured America of 1998 with where low-powered supers exist powered by cybertech, biotech, and psychic powers. It's the sort of idea that was kind of in the Zeitgeist of the era, with Marvel's New Universe, Misfits of Science, and some direct market comics offering up low-powered supers, realistic supers, or the like.

It's not an approach much in vogue today, but it isn't a bad one.

An interesting thing I noticed about F.R.E.E. Lancers the other day, the breakdown of the U.S. Federal government began when a politician tried to build a wall along the border with Mexico. In this case, it was a fictional governor of Texas and the year was 1994, but it got me thinking: one way to update F.R.E.E. Lancers would be to make it an alternate present. 

Of course, it would need an update in some ways. Computer tech, the internet, smartphones. Technological advances since that time would have made some of the "superhuman" characters seem all the more plausible:

Other things like psi powers would still remain in a more fantastical realm. I think it would be an interesting mix.

Of course uniforms/costumes would be updated to the current "realistic" style of superheroic movies and tv shows.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Weird Revisited: Random Rampage Table


On occasion, someone in the City can be heard to ask, incredulously: "What's climbing to the top of that skyscraper?!":

1. nonhuman hominid or primate
2. Gargantuan crustacean (lobstrosity)
3. Fifty-foot showgirl
4. Gi-ant
5. Flesh golem compose of parts of 1-6 other giant creatures
6. Animated statute
8. Man mutated by thaumaturgic accident
9. Gigantolycanthrope
10. Ghost of another creature (roll again to determine which)
11. Amorphous blob or slime
12. Mega-flumph

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 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 June 18, 1981.


Action Comics #523: It's a good thing the DC Who's Who didn't pay as much attention to alien species as the OHOTMU did, otherwise they would have needed a whole appendix for the aliens in Conway's Action run alone. Is it editorial that keeps Superman's adventures here so formulaic? Or just simply nostalgia for the 50s by the writers? Still, I've got to commend their inventiveness in terms of the variety of shenanigans the aliens of the month get up to. This time, a shapeshifting alien shows up and claims jock doofus Steve Lombard is really his long lost brother. Tests seem to support the claim, and Lombard goes off to his homeworld. Superman follows and finds the aliens are stealing the athletic abilities from the galaxy's best physical specimens--but really Lombard was just a means to get Superman in a trap. Supes saw all this coming though and defeats them, returning Lombard to Earth. 

In the Rozakis/Saviuk Atom backup, the tiny titan falls back in time to the extreme hurricane season of 1938. There he manages to meet his parents as younger people and help his future father rescue his future mother from the storm. He is able to climb the cable back into 1981 and take out the Calculator by having the professor press all the buttons on Calculator's chest plate at once.


Adventure Comics #485: Really nice Perez cover on this one. On the inside, well, we get a shadowy big bad introduced this issue that may signal a shift to an overarching story. Or maybe not. Anyway, this issue sees said Shadowy "Master" sending a team of villains called the Evil Eight against our heroes in a series of skirmishes in an attempt to get their Hero dials. They do not succeed. Oh, and the kid's friend who ran away and joined a gang because his parents were getting divorced, finally gets away from those delinquents.


Brave & the Bold #178: Brennert and Aparo come up with an interesting villain design in the form of the Origami Man, who pretty much looks like you might think except you might not imagine his really angry looking eyes. Anyway, Jack Ryder is concerned that Clayton Whetley a fellow commentator at WHAM is beginning to take aim at minorities. Meanwhile, Batman is trying to track down the so-called "doll killer" who leaves paper dolls at the scene and also tends to target minorities. The Creeper and Batman manage to corner the Origami creature, but it's too tough for them. Analysis of the paper it's made up of shows that it's a special paper used for origami, likely known only to collectors--like Whetley. Batman and the Creeper confront Whetley, but the creature attacks again. Whetley realizes that he is responsible for creating the monster and has been unwittingly channeling the hate of his audience to fuel the creature's rampage. Whetley's horror and rejection of what he has done causes the creature to burst into flame. In the end, the Creeper points out that the real murderers are of course still out there, and all they need is another focus for their hate.

In the Nemesis backup, our hero is in the hands of Samuel Solomon who wants to use him to take down the other members of the Council to consolidate his power. To ensure Nemesis' cooperation, Solomon's clamped a device to his heart that can induce a heart attack. Nemesis manages to escape, and he hopes Solomon believes he's dead so we won't use the device.


All-Star Squadron #1: Thomas, Buckler, and Ordway follow-up from last month's preview, still introducing their large cast of characters. Hawkman and Plastic Man try to find out what happened to Hawkman's JSA buddies and run afoul of some other villains that are likely time displaced. The two heroes head to Washington to answer Roosevelt's summons. 

Meanwhile, vulcanologist Danette Reilly and the Shining Knight run into Per Degaton and his villainous crew in Hawaii. Soon, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurs and Danette's brother Dan is apparently killed.

Hawkman and Plastic Man meet up in D.C. with Dr. Mid-Nite and the Atom. Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle weren't summoned, but just happen to be there anyway. FDR asks them to mobilize all costumed heroes in an All-Star Squadron. They should go to the West Coast to deal with further attacks.

They may not make it. Per Degaton and his forces are making a submarine attack on San Francisco.


House of Mystery #296: The first story here is a real bit of anti-homeless paranoia by Conway and Infantino. A doctor in a emergency department becomes curious about the bag ladies from the subway tunnels she treats. She goes looking for them and discovers it's one big coven of witches. She joins up, sacrificing her life and looks for secrets of the universe, and we last see her aged and disheveled so much as to be unrecognizable, picking from the garbage and putting stuff into her shopping bags. 

The next story by Kashdan and Randall/Blaisdell has a rebel in a dystopian, robot-controlled future sentenced to give up his brain for the very robot he smashed in the head. In a silly story by Kupperberg and Carrillo, an actor on a soon to be cancelled Gothic soap summons an angel of death to put an end to the talk show host beating his show in the ratings. The angel must take a soul, so when he's pointed to the talk show that happens to be airing a rerun, the actor is taken instead. 

In the final story by Mishkin/Cohn and Hall/Celardo, a struggling community in a post-nuclear war America inadvertently brings a serial killer into its walls after a foraging expedition into the ruins. Ultimately though, it's fear and suspicion of outsiders and the desire to resort to violence to salve that fear that does more damage to the community than the killer by pushing it to isolationism.


Green Lantern #143: Wolfman and Staton have Hal and Carol bid goodbye to the Omega Men and head back into the less interesting "Carol's father makes Ferris Aircraft great again" storyline. An old mentor of Jordan's brought in to replace Carol, so Carol and Hal storm out again and coincidentally run into the Tattooed Man. He does a lot better against GL than you might think because there's "yellow ink" in his tattoos or something. Ultimately, he's shot and killed by whoever the shadowy foe is he's on the run from, and Jordan vows to avenge his death.

In the Sutton/Rodriguez Adam Strange backup, Adam leads an assault on Alva Xur's base with the help of the aquatic folks he met earlier in this arc, and they free Alanna and defeat the badguy.


Superman Family #210: This is a title where the stories are often well-crafted (though not always) but also just not the sort of thing that people read superhero comics for in 2021--not just in the anthology aspect but in the focus and style of a lot of the stories. Sort of good this issue is the goofy Supergirl story by Rozakis and Mortimer/Colletta where it turns out the sports commentator who is somehow making people act badly at sporting events is doing it because he secretly hates sports because he was never any good at them. Supergirl prevails in the end, of course. The Pasko/Delbo Jimmy Olsen story has Jimmy accidentally getting into a cab with 3 lookalikes. It turns out a guy who feels Olsen's reporting ruined his life has hired four stand-ins to ruin Jimmy's! 

The less good: The Mr. and Mrs. Superman has the Earth-2 Lex Luthor (the one with hair) using some tribal mask with magical powers to get back at Superman. The Clark Kent story has the intriguing (ok, mildly interesting) conceit of him writing the story about how Superman stops a bomber before he goes out to actually do it. A mistake on Superman's part when spying on the bomber sends him to the wrong place, and he almost doesn't stop the bomb. The Conway/Oksner Lois Lane story has her thwarting theft at a dog show. A dog show.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Marvel Superheroes RPG Derivates

 Lately, I've been been looking at games employing the old Universal Table. That is derivates of TSR's Marvel Superheroes Roleplaying Game, sometimes called FASERIP, which is potentially confusing as one of these derivatives is name FASERIP. I haven't made an exhaustive study of them, but I have gotten a feel I think for what the authors were looking to update or add to them.

Interestingly, the Karma system is tweaked in all three of them, suggesting the way it works in the published editions is high on the list of thinks to fix.

Anyway, here's my brief rundown:


FASERIP: This one hews the closest to the original. Mainly it seems to switch out the original powers and their descriptions for a semi-"effects based" system system derived from Icons. It also changes advancement to be based around "milestones" and the pushing of abilities. I hear the character generation system is based on Golden Heroes, but I'm not familiar with that game.

Astonishing Superheroes Book 1: The Basic Rulebook: This is the newest of the three. In fact, it's not really complete yet, though the the published books and a Beta of the second book give you enough to actually play it. It occupies a middle position of the three. It's changes/innovations include adding a mental/spiritual health score called Resolve, and rolls for social interactions like persuasion and the like. It's Karma system cuts character's initial Karma by 10, but makes up for it by more greater rewards based around character personality traits/ideals/ believes. It's power system is a looser than FASERIPs, though perhaps not looser that the original games, other than drawing attention to this looseness by discussing how you would create new powers.

Marvel Superheroes Nth Edition: Is a bit like a mashup of Fate and MSHRPG with a bit of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying in there. Like more than one MSHRPG "heartbreaker" or fan-tweak it adds more ability ranks (more than most others I've seen) and a critical failure level on the universal table. It also adds more attributes, making them more specific in their focus. Talents also get expanded ranks. It adapts the "Four Actions" of Fate, and ditches Karma entirely for a system of Drama Points based on invoking Distinctions, traits that define the personality and backstory of characters. Like ASH, it adds a mental/spiritual stress track (Sanity) and rules for social interaction.

Nth Edition has some interesting ideas, but there's just too much there for me. It's like it wants to be a crunchier MSHRPG and a more narrative one. I'd prefer it picked one or the other. FASERIP is probably the game for those that just want a cleaned up MSHRPG, but really, unless the author's concerns are exactly congruent with your own, it seems like it's playing with someone else's house rules. Of the three, Astonishing Superheroes seems like it overall balances putting some modern innovations into the game without making it alien to the people who love it.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Marva

More about the setting I'm going to use or my 5e pulp sci-fi game...


Marva, fourth planet from the sun, is harsh, desert world, made so by natural processes but also as the result of a long ago atomic war. In ancient times, the advanced science of Marva's native intelligent species, the Vrusk, was bent to the art of weapon-making to wield against the members of rival sociopolitical groups. The Vrusk refer to these conflicts as the Hive Wars. They very nearly led to the race's extinction.

The Vrusk bear some resemble to giant insects in their form, though they actually have internal skeletons and possess eight limbs. Most of the "civilized" Vrusk live within one o several domed cities or the underground structures beneath. Toxins from the ancient wars are still present, so it is prudent to limit exposure the the exterior environment unprotected.

The dwindling resources of their world have forced the Vrusk to develop a fairly regimented society by human standards. Every Vrusk knows their role and performs it for the good of all. Their Council of Experts advises and oversees the various  citizen committees which manage most aspects of Vrusk civilization. Vrusk consider it their duty to serve their race in whatever capacity required of them. Modern Vrusk are seen as industrious, stoic, and rational by most of the Solar Systems peoples--some (like the Hadozee) might call them boring and pedantic.

Of course, Vrusk have their free thinkers and eccentrics just like any other people. When the Vrusk collective cannot find creative ways to utilize these individuals, they are politely ostracized and they typically drift elsewhere in the system.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 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 June 4, 1981.


G.I. Combat #233: I'll say this for Haunted Tank: for a kids comic, it doesn't skimp on the everyday grimness of war. In the first story, the crew is given a tank that they have just pulled the bodies of the previous crew out of. Their ghosts haunt Jeb and the boys until they get the German plane that killed them. The second story plays on the "honor among soldiers" thing Kanigher likes to get into from time to time. A German nurse threatens to blow up the Haunted Tank with a bazooka to save the wounded men in her charge. Instead of leaving them to die, Jeb and his crew transport them back to German lines. They are about to be executed, but the nurse argues for letting them go. The German tank commander appears prepared to take them prisoner, but instead escorts them back to the front and lets them go.

The O.S.S. story is the first appearance of the agent, Fleur, who claims to be the daughter of Mata Hari and appears to be working for the Germans, but then reveals herself to be a double agent. Drake and Tlaloc a story called "The Dummy G.I.s" where three illiterate and probably disadvantaged soldiers prove their worth. Kanigher and Henson tell the story of a heroic Gurkha fighting for his colonial rulers in various places, but he loses the use of his legs in Burma.


Justice League of America #194: Several members of the JLA have encounters (which they lose) with characters based off of Tarot card Major Arcana, leaving them all hobbled in some way. Zatanna (though blinded by her encounter with Devil) is able to cast a spell to lead them them to the cards' creator, Amos Fortune. Fortune unleashes the final card, Death, on them, but the League defeats him and they are returned to normal. Fortune tries to escape using his magic cards but only succeeds in getting himself trapped in the world of the Tarot deck. Another solid Conway/Perez installment.



Krypton Chronicles #1: This sort of thing is the closest we got to stuff like Marvel Saga or the History of the DC Universe until, well, we got those things. Bridwell and Swan have Morgan Edge deciding with the popularity of Roots and Shogun, they need to do a tv mini-series about Superman's Kryptonian roots. He tasks Clark with writing the articles that they will turn into a book and then a TV show. Clark realizes he doesn't know much about his family tree, so he and Supergirl head to Kandor to get some info from Supergirl's dad (Superman's uncle). In the House of El's Vault, they hear stories about their prestigious family line. While they do, a shadowy foe sneaks up and releases a Kryptonian yargrum with which our heroes must prepare to do battle.


New Teen Titans #11: Gar was critically injured by the Terminator, so the team is flying him to Paradise Island to save him with some Amazonian super-science. Before they can do that, Hyperion, Titan of the Sun, busts out of Tartarus and throws some mind control on Wonder Girl to make her fall in love with him. He whisks her away to free the other Titans. Starfire and the Amazons ride to her rescue, but Wonder Girl herself asks them to stand down. Then, a mysterious someone else appears. I know Greek myth has always been a part of the Wonder Woman mythos, but this story gives real Marvel vibes to me with its emphasis on supers versus mythological beings.



Secrets of Haunted House #40: Not great. In the first story by Wessler and Tanghal/Smith, a hag leaves her baby on a doorstep, because she's too poor to support the infant and her brother. And the baby looks "normal" so the family will take her in. The elderly couple does, but the baby's abnormality quickly becomes apparent. Soon the hag comes back for her, but the old woman doesn't want to give the child up and invites the hag and her soon to stay. Soon, the hag is ordering the couple around, and when the husband stands up to her, she threatens to turn them into the police for kidnapping. Ultimately, the couple is forced to move into an old shack on their land and the hag's family gets the house. Then there's a story by Harris and Rodriquez that has the shards of a crystal ball predict the fates of the cops that took it from a fortune teller--and seem to show the fates of their grown kids, who ultimately discovered a demon is responsible, but it's weakness is it's tied to the crystal ball.

The Mr. E story by Rozakis and Spiegle barely has Mr. E in it. Instead, the guy he met last issue and E's assistant, Kelly O'Toole, deal with a dog that turns into a monster. It's no werewolf but a witch-dog! It's all rather silly.


Superman #363: Bates and Swan continue the story from last issue. Lana and Lois are dying of the same infection that killed the Kents, though Superman is the only one who knows it. Superman thinks about sending them to the Phantom Zone until a cure can be found, but the vindictive Phantom Zone criminals overload the projector so he can't. Next he goes to Luthor to help. Luthor points out Superman could coerce him, but infecting Luthor, too, but he know Superman won't. Luthor laughs at him cruelly as he refuses. Finally, Superman travels to the future (the 88th Century) to find a cure, but the they won't give it to him, citing potential disruption to the future. They do tell him that someone in his time will soon discover a cure. Supes realizes since he is immune he can pass the immunity in his blood. He saves Lana and Lois and the future folks muse on whether it was cruel not to tell Superman that he was one to discover the cure. The basic story was only so so, but I like Bates characterization of Luthor and he does a good job of giving Supes conundrums he can't punch his way out of.

The backup by Rozakis and Bucker is a another Bruce Wayne: Superman story. Wayne marries Barbara Gordon. She eventually makes him give up crimefighting in favor of putting his scientific talents to use finding medical cures. He's cured headaches and he's working on the common cold, when Barbara gets word her father was gunned down by a criminal. She turns vigilante and Batgirl and Superman team-up to bring Lew Moxon to justice.


Weird War Tales #103: Every one of these War That Time Forgot stories makes it abundantly clear that Kanigher is no paleontologist and neither is Bob Hall. This story features a giant (like big enough to carry a WWII sub), orange carnosaur that encounters a U.S. submarine while submerged, then carries it on land and defends it from a bunch of other monstrous dinosaurs.

Jones and Sutton present a story than seems inspired by Twilight Zone episodes and is the strongest of the issue. An astronaut awaiting rescue watches ants develop civilization and destroy themselves in nuclear war after consuming the brain nutrient leaking from his damaged rocket. It turns out he's on Earth and his rescuers don't believe what he saw, but the detritus of the ant civilization remains. 

Allikas and Tuska present a weak story about a German World War I holdout locked in a tower. The remaining story by Newman and Yeates has a White Knight championing fighting for the Christian forces in the Outremer. It turns out the knight is an illusion created by a minstrel with hypnotic powers, but then the Knight takes on a life of his own.


Wonder Woman #283: Conway's and Delbo's story is much less interesting this time around: no Demon or Klarion. Instead we get international intrigue with the Red Dragon trying to restore feudalism to China. The only interesting twist is that the Red Dragon is revealed to be an actual dragon.

The Huntress backup by Levitz and Staton/Mitchell backup wraps up the arc with the Huntress taking down the Joker after he's flushed out of hiding by the supposed return of Batman (whose actually deceased). The Huntress had intended to pull this trick, but Dick Grayson returns to Gotham in this story and beats her to the punch. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Rockets & Rayguns


Most of my gaming group got together (virtually) for a character creation session for the pulpy science fantasy thing in 5e. I've been blogging about the setting here which borrows from Star Frontiers, Spelljammer, and assorted works of the pulp era of science fiction. The mechanics are the pertinent bits of Rocket Age 5e on top of regular 5e.

Anyway, so far the the party has a Hadozee Explorer, a Vrusk Scientist, a Human Soldier, and a Plasmoid Scoundrel. 

I'll probably be posting some of the material I wrote up or that in an abbreviated form, and certainly the session reports will show up here.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Weird Revisted: An Assortment of Faeries and Spirits

The Denham Tracts (1846-1859) on folklore contain a list of fairies and other creatures of the North of England. The list is supposedly based on alist given in Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) but is much expanded (in some cases, by duplication). In fact, the Tract contains beings not otherwise attested, suggesting Denham may have invented them.

Of course, that's not particular bar to their use in-game. Here's the complete list to start statting from:

"ghosts, boggles, Bloody Bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, spectres, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles, korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape..."

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1981 (wk 1 pt 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! I'm a couple of days later than my usual Wednesday post, but I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of  June 4, 1981. 

This month is notable as we have 2 new series. These are the first new series from DC since New Teen Titans debuted with a November 1980 cover date.


Arak Son of Thunder #1: Thomas and Colon/DeZuniga present a partial origin of the 8th Century Native American, Sword & Sorcery hero. He's picked up afloat in the Atlantic in a canoe and adopted into a group of Vikings. As an adult, he's at odds with the leader's bloodthirsty nature. He battles a sea monster that's in the service of the sorceress Angelica, then sets off for the court of Charlemagne. In a sea of off-bramd Conans, Arak is certainly a bit more original in concept that the usual comics S&S fare.


Batman #339: Conway and Novick/Mitchell bring back Poison Ivy, not in her later, plant-controlling eco-terrorist mode, but doing her original femme fatale with plant toxins conception. Here she kisses a number of prominent men in Gotham (the board of Wayne Enterprises as it turns out) on one pretext or another and puts them in her thrall--including Bruce Wayne. She calls them all together and has them sign a document giving her control, and forbids them to tell what has happened. As Batman, Bruce confronts her, but using some vines to strangle him, she makes her escape. Batman is afraid he won't be able to stop her, and is unable even to tell the police what she is doing thanks to the suggestion.

The Conway/Novick Robin backup has him still performing with the Hill Circus. He reflects on how he was shaped by two fathers: his biological one and Batman. His quick thinking saves him from plummeting to his death when his distraction harms his performance.


DC Comics Presents #37: Starlin and Thomas present a sort of off-beat team-up with Hawkgirl. When a Kryptonese inscription is found in an archeological dig, Hawkgirl calls in Superman. They discover the site used to be a laboratory for Supes' grandfather, Var-El. He found a way into an "X-Dimension" where the expended energy of suns is pooled. While exploring, Superman falls into a vortex toward a red sun. Hawkgirl flies in to rescue him, dodging the weird bird creatures that live there and having her wings catch fire to save the Man of Steel. This is the sort of quirky but throwaway story typical of team-up books from the Big Two, but the characterization of Hawkgirl is pretty good for the era.


Flash #301: Barry Allen gets fired for missing work all the time, because he can hardly tell his boss what's really been going on. But when his boss goes for a pacemaker tune-up and gets kidnapped, the Flash runs to the rescue. He also figures out that the kidnapping was a ruse to turn the guy's pacemaker into an atomic bomb. Meanwhile, the villain masquerading as Barry's dad seems to be getting closer to revealing his plan (finally). 

In the Firestorm backup by Conway and Cowan/Smith, Hothead is still dealing with the Hyena, and the mystery of the hyena's alter ego. All signs point to a member of Day household, possibly Doreen's sister.


Ghosts #104: Dr. Paul Geist, Dr. 13's in-story mentor and the guy whose files all these stories are supposedly from, is out in favor of Squire Shade, a more conventional horror host who looks like the Gentleman Ghost put on a few pounds. He's not off to a great start.

The first story by Kanigher and Silvestri is about a brutal, Stone Age guy, who is convinced he's being haunted when he seems is own shadow in bright light and runs right into his comeuppance at the hands of a mama triceratops. The next (by Kanigher and Bender) is about a stuntman turned director who is getting spectacular, Oscar-winning stunts in his films by making sure the stunt performers die. The table's are turned when the ghosts of two of them ensures the director dies performing a stunt. 

The last is almost a 2000AD sort of tale, again written by Kanigher, but with suitably grotty art by Giffen and Beatty. In the distant future following a nuclear war, a cruel but wealthy man falls into the hands of all the robots he's tortured and mistreated, who remake him in their image and vow to replace his parts as they wear out so their vengeance can go on forever.


Jonah Hex #52: Mei Ling leaves their son to be watched by Jonah and the young boy from last issue while they are working on the farm, but the baby gets stung by a scorpion. Hex tries to suck the poison out, but the baby still mounts a fever and Mei Ling is furious. The fight turns to his inability to give up the gun over these past few issues, and she doesn't want to hear his excuses. When the mother of the boy who was helping him shows up to say her son has been kidnapped by men out for revenge on Hex, Hex takes up his guns to ride out and save him. Mei Ling warns him that if he leaves she won't be here when he gets back. Hex tracks the kidnappers down, but walks into a trap in a shack rigged with dynamite.

The Bat Lash story picks up where the last installment left off: a bunch of soiled doves have guns on Lash. The entrance of a blundering customer allows Bat Lash the chance to escape, but conflict between him, the woman who robbed him, and her henchman, wind up with the social club burning down and the Confederate gold melting and running down the street. Lash saves the woman, and she just might be starting to warm to his charms, but then she notices he stole her horse.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Weird Revisited: The Room At The End of the Hall

This post first appeared in May of 2012. It didn't make it into Weird Adventures...

 

An ominous door at the end of a hall in a cheap tenement somewhere in the City.  You step over the drunk sleeping it off outside.  Behind the door you find:

1. Two sets of men's clothes in puddles of goo.
2. A roiling, red-tinged fog that seems to pulsate as if with the beating of a heart.
3. A well-dressed man from nowhere.
4. Walls bare but for peeling paint.  The faint sound of a child sobbing.
5. A group of 1d6 hobogoblins gathered around table watching two men play Russian roulette.
6. A single bed with a large constrictor snake curled upon it with a ominous bulge.
7. Smears of blood on the floor; a naked hanging lightbulb swinging, as if recently disturbed.
8. A nest of bugbear hatchlings and their strange birthing machinery.
9. A hillybilly giant in a gingham dress sitting on a bed and sobbing into her hands.
10. The grim reaper seated at a table with a chess board.
11. The complete skin of an elderly man draped across a bed as if in repose.
12. Pulp magazines stacked almost ceiling high and forming a veritable maze.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Moons of Wanaxar

Art by TerranAmbassador

There are eleven moons of the gas giant Wanaxar. At least four of the moons are habitable due to their large size, the heat from their primary, and the churning of their molten cores. 

Ivo (Wanaxar I): Mud world, third largest of the major moons. It's oceans are kept muddy by the tug of Wanaxar, both it's gravity and the effects of its magnetic field on the metals in the mud. There are no intelligent inhabitants but mini-submarines adapted to its sludgy seas sift mineral wealth from it. There are some ruins in the highland regions and it has been suggested that this was the original homeworld of the Giff.

Halia (Wanaxar II) Fourth largest of the major moons, it is overwhelming covered by ocean. It's inhabitants are an intelligent invertebrate species known as the S'sessu, who look something like a cross between a earthworm and a salamander. The S'sessu do not appear to be native to Halia but don't discuss their origins with other species. S'sessu are widely disliked by members of other species owing to their extremely competitive and self-centered natures, but they pay well with radioactive isotopes from Halia's depths, so merchants from other worlds are willing to overlook their faults.

Ganameen (Wanaxar III): Largest known moon in the Solar System, Ganameen is a volcanic, world, mostly covered by cool forests. There are ruins on Ganameen relating to an advanced precursor civilization, but the main draw is its port, through which most of the goods of the Wanaxar system pass. Ganameen's native race are the dwarfish, hairy anthropoid Ifshnit. They are tolerant and easy-going, but not overly social. They let humans engage in most of the operation of the port, while they take a share of the profits.

Sallista (Wanaxar IV): Second largest of Wanaxar's moons, it was once the home of an advanced civilization, but now it is a scared, toxic ruin. Sallista is home to the Scro, a militaristic humanoid species with gaunt features. It is unknown if the Scro colonized Sallista after the destruction of its previous civilization (perhaps even having caused it) or if they are the mutated descendants of that people. Generally, Sallista is avoided, but the government of New Earth has taken the unprecedented step of using Scro units as troops in its operations in the outer system.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, August 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 May 21, 1981. This weeks entries will be a bit abbreviated as our internet's out and I'm doing this via my cellphone, but here goes:


Legion of Super-Heroes #278: Grimbor is threatening to crush Earth's atmosphere with his cosmic chains and the Legion has only one hour to stop him. In this issue, they aren't doing so great a job as he appears to outthink them at every turn. Reflecto shows up to save Shrinking Violet from drowning, and the team has to fight him, well--just because. And he beats them too. The story ends with several of the Legionnaires other taken out or captured by Grimbor.


New Adventures of Superboy #20: Bates and Schaffenberger have Superboy kidnapped by aliens who wish to add them to their collection and use a sort of mind control to keep him from leaving, but Superboy ultimately does and ends their coercive ways after saving them from an invasion. In the backup, a lost (and younger) Superboy winds up on a planet under a red sun and befriends some slug-like natives.


Sgt. Rock #355: Easy Company meets a group of 3 black WWI vets who stayed in France after the war, but are eager to to defend their adopted home with Sgt. Rock and his crew. They take to the bazooka well, but one of him winds up giving his life in this new war.

Kelley and Veitch present a story of a French professor in a runaway balloon who manages to strike a blow against the Germans and escape alive. Kim DeMulder gives us a sci-fi story of scientists testing a weapon on presumed subhuman creatures only to fine the creatures have similar designs on them. The "Men of Easy" feature is about a chess fan that likens war to chess, until Rock shows him the infantry aren't pawns.


Super Friends #46: This is a whole Green Fury-centric issue. We get her origin and the Justice League helps her battle a wicked shaman (grandson of the one who foretold her powers at birth) in the Amazon. Who knew Fire got so much "screen time" before the post-Legends Justice League?


Superman Family #209: Supergirl is welcomed in New York, while as Linda she is praised for her acting in the soap opera--and she gets a date with a guy who seems to prefer her to Supergirl. He may prefer baseball to her, though, but at least that gives her time to intervene in the mysterious violence breaking out at the game. Somehow, sports announcer Fred Fox is behind it, but the story's continued.

In the Mr. and Mrs. Superman feature, George Taylor (their old boss at the Daily Star) claims to have discovered Superman's secret ID, but he's killed by mobsters before he can reveal it, giving Clark a chance to doctor the evidence and catch Taylor's killers. In "The Private Life of Clark Kent" Clark thwarts a city bus hijacker secretly so a brave bus driver gets credit. In the  Conway/Oksner/Colletta Lois Lane story, Lois has to get rough with some mobsters who are threatening a family in witness relocation. Finally, Jimmy Olsen and his date find a diamond ring in a theater which involves them with drug dealers operating out of a novelty toy company.


Unexpected #213: Barr and von Eedon/Smith conclude the Johnny Peril story. Johnny manages to give the police the slip and seeks out his psychic friend from the previous story to help him get to the bottom of the mystery. He's able to full the would-be thieves from last issue with a smoke bomb and his friend posing as the mysterious woman into leading him to her. The woman is indeed the woman in the painting, cursed with immortality. She wants to die, but needs a dagger in the possession of the man that hired Peril to do so. The police arrive and try to convince Peril that the woman is crazy while his psychic friend urges him to give her the dagger. Ultimately, Johnny does so, and the woman stabs herself and ages to dust before their eyes.

Kashdan and Florese have a guy visiting a warlock to get a new appearance and identity so he can fake his death to escape liability for faulty school construction he did, but when his wife is accused of murdering him, he tries to get his identity back to save her. In the end, he and the warlock come to ruin as you would expect. In the last story by Kashdan and Mandrake, an anthropologist uncovers a fanged human skull--that bites him! The next day the the skull looks entirely human, but then the murders start. The professor has been turned into a werewolf by a prehistoric werewolf skull bite!


Unknown Soldier #254: Haney and Ayers/Tlaloc have the Soldier taking a junk down the Yang-Tze smuggling guns to help the Chinese against the Japanese invaders. They haven't reckoned on river pirates led by a beautiful captain, Lady Jade. Once the Soldier is captured, he appears to be falling for her charms, but he's still got a mission to complete.

Micheline and Simonson greatly revise Captain Fear and put the Carib pirate captain in the middle of some intrigue that connects the War of Austrian Succession with Japan.  In Dateline: Frontline by Burkett and Estrada, Wayne Clifford risks a lot to sneak into Bataan right before the Japanese overwhelm the U.S. forces.


Warlord #48:  Good issue. Read more about it here. The backup switches to Claw the Unconquered by Harris and Yeates. Claw's demon hand offends him, so he cut it off, only to have it crawl back and reattach itself. He complains to the Lords of Light, so they give him a magic sword and shield, and say "go forth and conquer, you big whiner." So, he rides out and into a battle where he befriends a warrior woman who's mail shirt suggests she fears not for the safety of her underboob, and meets the leader of the demonic horde--who has one human hand! 

A second backup from Thomas and Colon/DeZuniga introduces Arak, Son of Thunder. Arak is a Native America who has somehow come to Dark Ages Europe. In this story, he encounters a woman who is the "goddess" of an ancient temple. When viking raiders try to sacrifice her to some monster which hides in a drove of amber, Arak rescues her. A rather Conan-ish story to introduce Arak to the world.