Thursday, April 28, 2022

Adventuring on Mongo

 


I've often thought that Mongo would be a good setting (or at least good close inspiration) for a D&D setting. Ditch Flash Gordon and visitors from Earth, and (for maximum ease), replace comic derived cultures with analogous D&D "races"/cultures: So the Magic Men of Azura's subterranean kingdom become drow, and maybe the half-orc gets reskinned as Lion Men.

That could certainly work, but this guy went an adapted the most recent Flash Gordon rpg to 5e, so if you want to play in the "real thing" you can.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, July 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 April 23, 1981. 


Detective Comics #504: Conway and Newton present "The Joker's Rumpus Room Revenge." The Joker has escaped from prison and has gotten a number of deadly toys from a toymaker to set a trap for Batman. The Dark Knight predictably, overcomes the Joker's machinations. 

The backup is a Tales of Gotham City story by Kupperberg and Delbo/Giella where Gordon finds out the son of an old friend is actually a dirty cop. I like that this story goes against the mold, because a stern talking to by Gordon doesn't turn the kid around, instead he tries to run out on Gordon and dies of his own incompetence.


New Adventures of Superboy #19: Bates and Schaffenberger reveal that, before adopting Kal-El, the Kents took in a juvenile delinquent, Cory Renwald, and attempted to reformed him into a model citizen. They never knew if they succeeded, but years later, Renwald and 2 Soviet agents cross paths with Clark and Jonathan on a camping trip--and Renwald shoots them both with a poison dart. All is not as it seems, of course, as Cory is revealed to be a U.S. agent in deep cover pretending to work for the Russians. He switched out the darts so Jonathan was only sleeping. Superboy nabs the spies. The Kents find out they did right with the kid in the end. The Rozakis/Calnan Superbaby backup is Easter themed and features young Clark naively thwarting jewel thieves at a Easter egg hunt.



Sgt. Rock #354: Kanigher and Redondo give the first Sgt. Rock story I've read with a hint of the supernatural. Something is stalking both U.S. and German troops as both sides try to get to a noble in an isolated castle. Was he a werewolf? We never find out. The next story is a grotty, post-apocalyptic yarn by Tim Truman where the last human is killed by a mutant sniper leaving the earth to the robot soldiers and the mutants. 

There's an uncredited short about the introduction of the flamethrower, then Kanigher and Mandrake serve up a short about the merciless tick of the watch and death in the trenches of World War I. In another uncredited story, a G.I. in Vietnam loses his life and his Stones tape to the VC as he writes a letter to his mother. The "Men of Easy" feature has Tag-A-Long Thomas learning the value of sticking close to Rock.



Super Friends #46: The team the Justice League up with the Global Guardians to free villains captured by the mysterious Conqueror continues. When that's done they confront the Conqueror himself and defeat him with the help of Dr. Mist.

The Seraph backup by Oksner has the Israeli hero taking on the ghost of a Roman soldier at the site of Masada.


Superman Family #208: Harris gives the title a shake-up by having Linda quit the New Athens Experimental School after getting insulted by her boss and head of to New York City to become a soap opera actress. Supergirl precedes her to New York to establish her presence so as not to have them both arriving at the same time. She foils an Middle Eastern coded terrorist. Bridwell and Schaffenberger have Clark and Lois on a plane to Europe that gets hijacked to Zrfff by the Mr. Mxyztplk of Earth-Two. The imp lets it slip he can't stand anything that reminds him of Superman, so Supes causes images of himself to appear everywhere and drive Mxyztplk crazy until he sends everyone home.

In the Private Life of Clark Kent story, we find out Edge is a big fan of a 50s sci-fi show and was a collector of memorabilia as a kid (and also that he anglicized his name and is probably Jewish). Edge tries to by a branded clock he never got in his childhood, but an old childhood friend (and rival) tries to steal it. In a another somewhat humorous Lois Lane story by Conway and Oksner, Lois stumbles upon what she thinks is "another Abscam" but it turns out to be an FBI sting against some Middle Eastern types, that Lois almost spoils. Conway and Tuska have Jimmy stumbling unto an actual story when he tries to impress Edge's niece and her college friends after she denigrates his skills as a reporter.


Unexpected #211: Barr and von Eedon/Breeding start a new Johnny Peril storyline where Johnny returns to his office and finds a mysterious woman going through his mail, who pretty much disappears before his eyes. He's hired to guard a necklace called The Angel's Smile--and he sees a painting of a 19th century actress that's the spitting image of the woman he saw earlier. That night thieves with a knockout gas try to steal the necklace, but Johnny is ready. What he isn't ready for his the reappearance of the woman, who steals the necklace and his gun, shoots the guy who hired him, then disappears.

The other stories this issue are less interesting. Wessler and Sparling/Colletta have a Southern fried crime boss failing to keep a promise to Death to not kill anyone. Drake and Mortimer/DeMulder have a son run afoul of a real stickler of a funeral home owner who refuses to bury the man's parents side by side because his mother committed suicide, so the father rises from the grave to get revenge. Finally, Kashdan and Nicholas/Colletta give us the well worn trope of a spaceship crew being used as lab rats by advanced aliens.


Green Lantern #142: Wolfman's and Staton's Omega Men introduction continues. Jordan and Ferris are captured by the Omega Men, which gives Kalista time to provide the secret origin of the Omega Men. Their escape from the Citadel was secured by the sacrifice of Lambien, a god-like energy being. They made it to Earth with the Citadel on their heels. Jordan convinces them to let him help, just as the Citadel attacks.

In the Adam Strange backup by Sutton and Rodriquez, Strange escapes his ice cage in the city of Kryys and saves Alanna. When he once again refuses to unite with Alva Xar, the dictator from the past turns Alanna into crystal and shatters her, then sends and enraged Strange back to Earth with an Anti-Zeta-Beam. It's a shame these backups have never been collected, so as I know.


Warlord #47:  Read more about it here. The OMAC backup has our hero saving the city of Marseille from a runaway giant protozoa. I'm not even completely sure why that's happening to be honest, and I think this arc his finished, so I have no desire to refresh myself on earlier installments.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Zephyrus to the Rescue


Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued last night with the party trying to find a way to free Queen Desira of Virid from the influence of the shadow man. They have no magic with which to uncharm her and it doesn't seem reason alone will do it. Not wanting to fight the shadow man and his magic-using victim, the party retreats to the castle to seek the advice of Glafko.

Glafko is not particularly helpful, offering to write a strongly worded missive to his Queen making the party's points forcefully. Just as they are about to return to the garden folly and resort to violence, Glafko suggests the crystal winged horse Zephyrus might be helpful. He has freed her from magical influence before. The majordomo summons the crystal horse and he agrees to help.

Back in the garden, the shadow man isn't pleased when he sees Zephyrus, but contact with horse does the trick and Desira falls unconscious. Then, the fight breaks out with Erekose whipping out the ray pistol he got from the future, and blasting the shadow several times. Kully forces the shadow to retreat further with dissonant whispers, but that may not have been the best move, because then he's hidden in the deeper shadows of the garden.

Black tentacles erupt from the ground and grab Waylon and Erekose. Dagmar casts a light spell and reveals the shadow, and Shade puts two magic arrows in him. The shadow disappears. It's unclear whether he is dead or he just fled, but they can't find him anywhere and the tentacles are gone.

They return to the palace and find the Queen is still sleeping. They establish a watch, using Celestie (Waylon's owl familiar) as a window guard. 

During the night, Desira awakens and summons the party via Celestie. She appears to be her normal self again (as much as they can determine that). She listens to what they have to say with interest, particularly when she shows them the Triumph of the Wizard of Azurth volume. She tells them she believes the book to possibly be connected the the Pleasure Dome of Yai--or at least she believes that is where they are likely to find out about it.

To make her point, she has Zephyrus bring out a device. 

And produces a thin black box and puts it in the machine. He makes images of a play where actors appear to be portraying them appear! Desira says she got this from a demon who said it was from Yai and called it a "bootleg." The party is intrigued, to say the least.

The party stays the night and samples the local cuisine in at the Silver Unicorn Inn. In the morning, Desira sees them off, offering to take them to the entrance to Subazurth so they can pass through the kingdom of her friend Prince Gheode, ruler of the earth elemental fae (kobolds or gnomes they are called), which she believes will ultimately be the safest way to the Noxian northern border.

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Belt


The Asteroid Belt between the orbits of Marva and Wanaxar is the remnant of an ancient, inhabited world shattered in some cataclysm. The nature of calamity is unknown, though an encounter with contraterrene matter is a possibility.

The mineral wealth of the asteroid belt has drawn prospectors from all over the System and the fragmentary remains of the progenitor planet's civilization have drawn scientists and researchers. Despite these visitors, the Belt remains a relatively lawless frontier. Zerene, the largest of the worldlets in the Belt, is famed as the raucous port of pirates and smugglers.

Art by Jordu Schell

A particularly rapacious group of outlaws are the mysterious Gith. A species of folk seemingly native to the Belt, these marauders are fearsome in appearance: skeletally thin, with parchment yellow skin, and emaciated, corpse-like faces. The Gith. seemingly materialize from nowhere, gutting ships and taking no prisoners, then vanish--sometimes while still in the scopes of pursuers.

There are rumors of a related group of beings, the so-called adepts of asteroids, who tend to remain hidden. They are less aggressive, but not much more friendly to outsiders.

It has been suggested that the Gith races are the descendants of the people of the lost progenitor world, but the iconography of large-craniumed, tentacle-mouthed beings found in the ruins on some asteroids is puzzling, if that's true.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Pulp Inspirations: Uranus from Captain Future


Uranus figures prominently in the Captain Future story The Magician of Mars published in 1941. Here are some details on Hamilton's version of Uranus, which is not at all scientifically accurate, but very useful for gaming inspiration. Quotes are provided from the issue of the pulp magazine.

Geography
  • Mountains are Uranus's best known feature.
  • Mystery Mountains: "And there is one colossal range in the northern hemisphere, called the Mystery Mountains, which have an altitude of at least twenty miles and possibly much more."
    • "The Mystery Mountains’ eternally cloud-wrapped upper heights have never been explored. It is believed that strange creatures inhabit those lofty hidden heights, since occasionally men have found grotesque bodies floating down the North River that flows from those mountains toward the Polar Sea."
  • Meteor Peak: "In the wilds south of Losor is the remarkable mountain called Meteor Peak. It is not a natural mountain like the other peaks of Uranus, but is in fact a huge meteor which fell there in times past and half -buried itself in the ground. Because of its unique metallic nature the meteor did not shatter, and still rises from the wilds as a great, dome-like mass of metal. It has sometimes been used as a quarry for certain metals, but that has now been prohibited."
  • Valley of Voices: "...in the Valley of Voices, sheets of a talc-like material exuded from the cliffs seem to have the power of recording in some way any sound vibrations which fall upon them. These queer talc-sheets, whenever the wind strikes them, give forth all the sounds they have “recorded.” The result is that in the Valley of Voices one can still clearly hear sounds and human voices which are echoing after thousands of years."
  • Endless River: "It was a foaming river that roared ceaselessly around the planet in the titanic canyon it had eroded for itself, its current being the result of tidal pull of the four moons."
  • Shining Sea: "It is a sea whose waters are so impregnated with radioactive material from deposits in its bed that it glows at night like a great lake of light. The Uranian city of Lulanee is built on the shores of the Shining Sea, and is considered by inter- planetary travelers to possess one of the most beautiful settings of any city in the System."
  • The Great Caves: "Beneath the surface of the planet is a natural wonder almost as great as the mountains, the great caves of Uranus. The interior of the planet is honeycombed by a labyrinth of caverns unmatched anywhere else in the System...Men have explored some of the upper caverns. There is a tiny amount of light in them, emitted from the radioactive minerals in which Uranus is rich. And there is a whole range of life-forms that exist in the caverns and never emerge into the sunlight."
Lifeforms
  • Floating Flowers: "Perhaps the most distinctive plant-life of Uranus are its Floating Flowers — flowers that drift in the air by means of sacs into which pure hydro- gen is exuded, and whose trailing air-roots supply them with water and nutrition from the air."
  • "The animal life of Uranus is abundant, and comprises many of the most ferocious carnivores in the System."
  • Cliff Apes: "are the most dreaded, being not really apes but huge bear-like animals whose six limbs are adapted for clambering over the sheer precipices."
  • Cloud Cats: "haunt the cloud-wrapped up- per heights of the peaks, and stalk their prey in the eternal mists."
  • Thunder-hawk: "has vast wings which can shadow a whole village and can carry off huge beasts in its claws."
  • Harpies: "Their human-like appearance is mere accident, and they are in no way as intelligent as the Qualus, the famous winged men of north Saturn."
  • Uranians: "have yellow skins, dark hair, and small, dark eyes." 
    • "they are perhaps the most conservative and tradition-ridden people in all the nine worlds. They revere custom, and practice a suave courtesy that most people find rather wearying."
    • "they are perhaps the most skilled miners in the System, due to their long acquairitance with the underground labyrinth of their world."
  • People of Darkness: "humans of a primitive kind who dwell in the caves and are known as the People of Darkness. They are presumed to be descendants of Uranian stock who ages ago went down into the caves and developed eyesight capable of seeing well there. These People of Dark- ness never appear on the surface. Intense light dazzles them."

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, July 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 April 23, 1981.


Action Comics #521: Conway and Oksner had pitched Vixen (which is her official name here, but she's called Lady Fox more often this issue) for the DC Explosion, but that was not to be. She is introduced here, stealing a truck load of furs belonging to Mordecai Mule. Superman views her as a criminal at first, but Lois and Clark discover that Mule is dealing in illegal furs, so instigates an elephant herd to stampede, hopping to kill them. Superman and Vixen  team up to stop them, then Vixen apprehends Mule.

In the Aquaman backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, Aquaman is practicing his fish telepathy because he's envious of Hawkman's ability to talk to birds, because Aquaman can only send thoughts, not hold a conversation. This dubious premise laid out, Aquaman soon discovers a gelatinous sea creature with the power to shrink. He calls in the Atom, who's the only shrinking expert he knows. Ultimately, they discover the creature changes size in response to threats and Aquaman's telepathy frightened it. I bet that never happened to Hawkman.


Adventure Comics #483: The first story here is the most interesting for it's world-building. The villain is the Games-Master who uses various game themed gadgets. We are told he was a former hitman for the Joker and his lieutenant also is a former member of the Joker's gang. He's unusually stiff opposition for the Dial H kids--or maybe their just off their game. The rest of the issue they have a tough time with a big game poacher in a furry outfit called the Wildebeest. The kids dial up their first superhero duo with Black and White. In a subplot, the parents of the kid whose always antagonizing Chris are getting divorced, so he starts ditching school and falls in with a street gang like out of a 60s tv show.


Brave & the Bold #176: Batman teams up with Swamp Thing in a story by Aparo and future Saga of the Swamp Thing writer, Martin Pasko. Selina Kyle asks Batman to help save the life of her sister (who knew she had a sister?) who is going to be killed in the Louisiana prison she's in by former criminal associates. Batman gets there too late, and Felicia has already escaped into the swamps, but she's being pursued by hired killers. She's killed, but Swamp Thing mistakes her for his wife Linda and attacks the killers. The killers escape, but Batman and the Swamp Thing team up (after the required initial confusion and conflict) to track down the killers and bring them to justice. The lack of success in saving Felicia makes them story a bit more the ending more downbeat that typical.


Madame Xanadu #1: This was DC's first comic exclusive to the direct market, and their second publication to not be available on the newsstand. It's pretty much like an issue of her cancelled 70's title Doorway to Nightmare. In the main story by Englehart and Rogers, Madame Xanadu deals with two difficult visitors. The first is a drug addict that tries to rob her, but she convinces him to go to treatment. Then, a woman shows up with a book of spells wanting to learn witchcraft. Xanadu refuses to teach her and tries to warn her off, but the woman storms out and runs into the addict and they have an instant attraction. Next Xanadu sees them, they're swingers living together with drugs and magic. They throw a big party and the night of debauchery culminates with the demons Ishtar and Tammuz being summoned, but Xanadu reveals her presence. She appeals to the couple's sweeter, more tender side and the two break the spell. The guy gets clean and the woman swears off magic.

The other story reminds me a bit of The Martian Chronicles. It's by DeMatteis and Bolland. A native of an alien world takes an injured human from a spaceship crash into his home. His wife, who seems ill herself, demands he kill the human, blaming him for the deaths of her friends and children. The alien uses his powers to heal the human and sees into his mind at the same time. Including the desperate search for resources that drove humans to strip the resources of other worlds (like this one). This man, however, tried to stop the other humans and was an outcast because of it. The alien's wife believes he is being deceived and again demands he kill the human before succumbing to her illness. The alien considering that humans killed his wife too in a way looks at the unconscious man with anger. Later, other humans come looking him. The alien and his wife tell them the man Turner has died. They go away laughing that he won't get his back pay. The alien drops the illusion. He and Turner are left alive.  The alien comments on the disease of hate, and the two go together to bury his wife.

These two stories are above average for anthologies of the period. Maybe they felt they could stretch a bit more in the direct market?


House of Mystery #294: Kaluta's cover is more intriguing than the stories, per usual. The first story by Conway and Infantino/Beatty is about wealthy financer Craig who is completely afraid of the dark since he stole a charm from a voodoo practitioner in Haiti as a boy and felt the presence of something in the darkness. When the power goes out in his home, taking all his lights with it, Craig panics and has a heart attack. It turns out his subordinate (looking to take over his company) did it, but when he turns out the lights whatever it was that had haunted Craig bites him in two. 

The second story by Jones and Yeates is a bit better, and "samples" The Haunting of Hill House in some of its narration. Jud periodically visits a an abandoned old house where a murder took place and meets a beautiful woman who only appears at night. She claims to be ghost who killed herself after catching her husband in an affair, but Jud discovers the truth. She isn't a ghost at all but a living woman "haunting" her old house in her guilt over the accidental death of her husband after he caught her in an affair. Jud coaxes her out of the house and back into the world, but disappears--and she sees his grave in the yard.

The last story by Kupperberg and Tuska/DeZuniga is a EC sort of tale updated for the 80s. The Bates family has a new baby, but John Bates doesn't want the baby to grow up in the witch coven he and his wife are members off. He starts a legal preceding to stop her, but in the course of the trial his wife asks they consider the child's wishes--then John Bates disappears, his baby having changed him into a teddy bear.


Legion of Super-Heroes #277: So, the Legionnaires are back on Earth trying to save a cargo ship of these camel-headed aliens when Phantom Girl is attacked by kelp that has somehow been brought to life. her teammates are distracted, but luckily a costumed guy called Reflecto shows up to save her and whisk her off to Legion HQ for medical attention. Some of the Legion (well, Wildfire) is suspicious of Reflecto but other than refusing to say who he is or what his deal is, he seems a decent guy, so they let him fly off. Meanwhile, Grimbor the Chainsman is out for revenge for the death of Charma, so he wraps the Earth in light-chains to hold it hostage. The Legion flies off to help, and Reflecto follows. Conway and Thomas wrote this nonsense, but hey, Janes is back on art, so it's better than it could be.


The Unknown Solider #253: Haney and Ayers/Tlaloc manage to contrive to have the Soldier fighting Nazi spies at the Statue of Liberty. The actually events of the story aren't as cool as the cover, though. The Solider has to bring a German American corporal back to New York City from Europe. The government wants the corporal to help stop his grandfather who is apparently spying for the Germans. The corporal is reluctant to do the mission, in part because it's his grandfather, but also because he knows the mob will be after him once he's back in New York. In the end, the Soldier takes care of the mob interference and the corporal's grandfather takes a dive from the crown of the Statue of Liberty after refusing to see error of his ways.

The Enemy Ace backup is a disappointment. Von Hammer takes the young woman he caught signaling the British up with him to protect the German zeppelins. She gets hit by stray shot and dying, she reveals she is the sister of the soldier he's been looking for, showing her matching bracelet. She the first person he happened to tell the story to was the one he was looking for. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Solar System Recap (So Far)

 

Stopping here to collate my pulpish sci-fi solar system for a game that I'm planning. 

In order from the sun (there are a lot of gaps here):
Merkuro

Friday, April 15, 2022

Verdis


Verdis, second planet from the sun, is closest in many respects to New Terra (and Old Earth), but has a slightly thicker atmosphere, higher average temperatures, and more area covered by water. Its polar continents (without ice caps) are the most comfortable place for human visitors. Though there are reasons for humans to visit the marshy, equatorial islands (the collection of plants for sale to pharmaceutical companies being a major one), the climate and local lifeforms insure that few reside there longterm.

Though Verdis has at least two intelligent species, it is the hadozee humans think of as Verdisians. They are tall, thin humanoids who largely resemble earthly primates except for the flying squirrel-like patagia. The cradle of hadozee civilization is centered in the forests of massive trees on plateaus on the south polar continent. These trees dwarf the mighty redwoods of Old Earth. The the hadozee have built cities among there branches.

The hadozee were mostly pre-industrial at the time of first contact with humans but with some advanced knowledge they claimed to have acquired from the "Sky People" from New Terra, presumably the Precursors. The hadozee clans were frequently at war with each other, but gradually formed regional leagues to protect certain sites of significance. These leagues eventually coalesced into larger structures and eventually a council of leagues, loose enough to bring in more clans as time went on. The death of council leaders as a potential  a loss to all the clans of in a dissolution of the council has insured that any attempted violence on their persons is punished severely. Despite the volatile (from the human perspective) nature of hadozee, this system has worked.


The vast seas of Verdis are home to an aquatic species, called Mer-folk by humans and "Deep Hunters" by hadozee. Little about them is known, as they have mostly resisted communication, though some hadozee island dwellers have been known to trade with them.

Art by Tony Moore

Thursday, April 14, 2022

A Rough Planet of the Apes Chronology



I was talking with Jim Shelley of the Flashback Universe blog yesterday about the Planet of the Apes franchise (a not uncommon occurrence), and I suggested to him a way though prequel series from the 21st Century could be merged with the original series of films. Well, actually a couple of ways, but I'm only going to talk about one here.

The "original" timeline, is the story presented is definitively present in Rise of the Planet of the Apes through War for the Planet of the Apes. An experimental Alzheimer's drug inadvertently leads to an increase in simian intelligence and a super-flu. These events lead to conflict between humans and apes.

In the end, the apes have defeated their foes and migrated to an isolated place to build their city. Their leader, Caesar, first of the intelligence apes, dies.

Rise in passing mentions the Icarus spacecraft was lost, allowing for the possibly that it will return to earth at some point in the far future and events similar to Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes play out. Not identical perhaps, but similar.

Somehow, Cornelius, Zira, and Milo manage to go back in time as shown in Escape the Planet of the Apes to 1973. Much of what was depicted in this film would work exactly, as it posits an Icarus which had launched prior to '73, but a group of apes coming to Earth in an advanced spacecraft and revealing things about the future could. These events change to timeline.

This altered timeline ironically accelerates some events people were trying to avoid, leading to the events depicted in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes and limited nuclear war.

So there you go. Like I said, it's rough, but it works if you don't sweat every detail. For a much more detailed timeline (though not taking into account the newer films) check out Timeline of the Planet of the Apes by Rich Handley.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Wednesday Comics: Marvel Treasury Edition #28


Since my goal is to read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis, why am I talking about Marvel Treasury Edition #28? Well, that's because the title of this issue is Superman and Spider-Man. Released around April 28, 1981, this is a follow-up to Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 1976. It is the last issue of Marvel Treasury Edition.

Jim Shooter is the writer here and John Buscema is on pencils, embellished by a whole slew of inkers, on backgrounds mostly, with Joe Sinnott handling the figures. 

Spider-Man inadvertently interferes with the plans of Dr. Doom, but Doom's got even bigger plans. It involves inducing the Hulk to rampage in Metropolis where we get to see some Superman vs. Hulk action. Spider-Man (Peter Parker having been sent to Metropolis to take photos) gets to stand around and watch the titans tussle. Superman locates and destroys the Doom device enraging Hulk.

All this rampaging releases the Parasite, though, which was apparently what Doom planned. While he's breaking out, Peter and Jimmy Olsen are paling around (which makes sense), and Superman is confronting Doom, who tells him "we're a lot alike you and me." Sure, this shows Doom's ego, but he also has a not crazy point that Superman's inaction on any number of things decides the fate of any number of people as much as him taking action would. Then he blasts Superman with Kryptonite.


Superman beats that trap, but Doom pulls the ol' diplomatic immunity thing, and Supes leaves. Parasite comes out of hiding. The two villains are already in cahoots.

Superman gets to meet the Daily Bugle staff and take care of some street crime in New York. Spidey can't catch a break in Metropolis, getting turned down by Lana Lang, and being thought of as a criminal by the police. Even Wonder Woman calls him "creepy." 

Superman and Spider-Man meet up and compare notes from their investigations on Doom's world conquering plan (which is so bold and so ridiculous I'm not going to go into it, but suffice to say it involves destroying all the world's energy resources and all the worlds weapons). Superman says it's all too dangerous for Spider-Man and heads in to tackle Doom and Parasite alone, but he gets into trouble, so it's a good thing Spidey didn't listen to him. He doesn't help much though, and Superman and Spider-Man are both captured.

Now it's time for the villain betrayal. It turns out Doom doesn't want Parasite as a lackey, but instead needs him to get crystalized by absorbing too much power (Hulk, Wonder Woman, and Superman). This crystal is integral to his plan because without it, well, his device will blow up and destroy the planet.

But Parasite now has spider-sense, and gets forewarned of the danger. A fight breaks out and the device gets damaged, so now it's going to destroy the planet. Doom tries to escape in a spacecraft. Superman and Spider-Man try to stop the reactor build up, and Spider-Man saves the day with a bit of spider-sense gifted intuition.

The villains defeated, the heroes return to their respective towns.

A goofy Bronze Age story, admittedly, but it's sort of fun. Buscema's Superman is not the best, but that's the only character that seems slightly "off model."

Monday, April 11, 2022

Shrouded Vurania


Distant Vurania is cloaked in impenetrable clouds, but is known from two recorded Terran expeditions to have a surface capable of supporting human life, at least for a time. It is warmed by volcanism and radioactive elements, and is aided in retaining the heat these produce by it's thick clouds. The light from these sources plays luridly in the gray-green fog, but only partially relieves the darkness. No light from the sun or stars penetrates the gloom, and indeed the atmosphere is opaque to sound and electromagnetic waves in a fairly sort distance. Vurania holds on to its secrets.

There is little life beyond the level of arthropods apparent on the surface of Vurania, though there is evidence that intelligent life once resided there in the form of crumbling monumental structures believed to be temple complexes. Some are decorated with images known from subterranean Precursor ruins on New Terra associated with the worship of the "Spider Goddess." The prevailing theory is that these were built by Precursor dissidents who fled to Vurania following a war, but why Vurania ought of all the worlds in the System is unknown. Scholars who disagree with this theory point to the lack of any apparent buildings beyond the temples in the (admittedly limited) explored areas of the planet, and suggest this was a religious site, and possibly the source of the Spider Goddess cult.

Vurania might be a tempting haven for interplanetary outlaws, but its environmental conditions and distance are factors against it. The everpresent fog has probably contributed to the frequent old spacers' yarns that paint it as a haunted world, a sort of purgatory where crews unlucky enough to stop there may be held forever by the ghosts of their own misdeeds.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Weird Revisited: Gods from the Comics Page

This post first appeared in 2011...

Fantasy rpg settings usually make-do with Bullfinch’s Mythology derived/inspired pantheons, monstrous deities of the Lovecraftian or Howardian variety, or the occasional monotheism. Nothing wrong with those, but looking to the pages of comic books suggests some interesting variations:

Space Gods
Kirby’s Eternals posits that those classical pantheons were just misidentifications of a subspecies of humanity uplifted enigmatic aliens. In the fantasy context, maybe the aliens are some sort of elder gods (recall that Lovecraft’s Elder Gods felt unaccountably protective to the gods of the Dreamlands) and the Eternal stand-ins could be something like the Menzter’s Immortals. The other option would be to play up the science fantasy aspects for the full von Daniken. “A sufficiently advanced technology, etc., etc,”--maybe the world only appears to be a fantasy world and alien super-science is the order of the day?

The Endless
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman strips down the pantheon idea with the Endless. Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Desire, and Delirium are (as their names would imply) personifications of concepts. Marvel Comics has a similar (though less developed) class of beings like this: Eternity, Oblivion, Lord Chaos and Master Order, and again Death. The Endless fit into the mythologies of various cultures in various ways, but they don’t have mythology of their own really, just personal history. A group of beings like the Endless could be the sole deities of a world, just worshipped under different names by different cultures, or (like in Sandman) these sorts of personifications could be an order of cosmic beings separate and “above” the usual pantheons with whom PCs could interact.

New Gods
“There came a time when the old gods died!” as Kirby told us in New Gods #1. As the title suggests, Kirby started in with the exploits of the New Gods--and Grant Morrison gave us even newer new gods in Final Crisis. A world could be post-god shift, adding some interesting background, or the setting could be in the midst of the “godless” period, post-Götterdämmerung but pre-reemergence of the new gods. Players might actually have a roll in finding/shaping the new gods that would appear.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Wanaxar

 Further developing this idea.

Art by Matt Hilker

Wanaxar is the fifth planet (currently), and the largest in the System. The crushing gravity and terrible atmospheric pressure make whatever surface might exist inaccessible to most denizens of the System, but Wanaxar is not uninhabited. Floating cities drift through its colorful, poison clouds and ride its frequent storms.

The Wanaxarans (Giff or Giv, in their language) are a broad, powerfully built people, adapted to their homeworld's high gravity. It has been suggested that they resemble anthropomorphic hippopotamuses, but in truth, no living human has actually seen these fabled beasts as they did not survive Old Earth, if they ever existed at all. The source for this reference is a popular animated character inspired by archaic children's books.

The Giff are not native to Wanaxar. Their own legends say their ancestors came here from one of Wanaxar's numerous moons fleeing a rapacious invader that they never saw in the flesh but whose warships laid waste to several worlds. It is the memory of this event that likely led to militaristic bent of Wanaxaran cultural today. Indeed, the entirety of their society is organized along military lines, though obviously not all serve in a combat-related capacity. Still, Wanaxarans find it usual to contractors of other species to perform tasks they consider beneath them, and aliens on Wanaxar can be found in positions form menial laborers to city administrators.

Wanaxarans can be rather stiff from the human perspective, governed as they are by complicated system of military courtesy, but they can be quite affable once initial formalities have been honored.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Merkuro

 This is a follow-up to this post.

Merkuro is the closest planet to the sun and tidally locked, so that it has a searing Dayside where temperatures climb high enough to melt lead, and a frigid Nightside that's cold enough to chill oxygen to a liquid. Only the narrow band of the Twilight Belt is close to habitable, and it is a badland riven by canyons and caves, wracked by storms. 

Human explorers would have been surprised to find life here, had the Vrusk of Marva not tipped them off. Liquid gases flow underground from the Nightside and melt to provide breathable, if rarified, air for cave complexes and even deep canyons in the Twilight Belt. Here peculiar invertebrate life developed, amorphous like amebae, but multicellular. One species (if such a term has any meaning with these lifeforms) developed sentience. These unlikely, elastic creatures, the plasmoids, would become one of humanity's best allies in the System.

Plasmoids are somewhat mysterious in that while they did not have particularly advanced technology at the time of human first contact, they possessed the theoretical framework to understand advanced concepts, and took to modern technology easily.  Some have proposed that plasmoid knowledge, perhaps even plasmoid sentience, may have come from consuming earlier interplanetary explorers (perhaps members of the Precursor race that inhabited New Terra before humanity's arrival) and absorbing their knowledge. It is a credit to plasmoid broadmindedness (and perhaps their renowned sense of humor) that they do not find such speculation offensive.

There is a human-operated spaceport in the Twilight Belt, called Solar City. This is a mining and broadcast power planet for New Terra. Most of it's inhabitants are roughnecks, miners, and technicians who do their hitch and then return to New Terra with a big paycheck. There are naturally ramshackle saloons, gambling houses, and other places of entertainment that tend to grow up around such camps to separate the workers from their money.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, July 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 April 9, 1981.


Justice League of America #192: This is a pretty good issue from Conway and Perez. Red Tornado shows up and tries to kill the JLA, injuring Batman (imagine a Justice League issue that treats Batman as more fragile than the rest of the team!) and the Flash. They destroy that one, but then another attacks and this one has Kryptonite, and is only defeated when the Flash gets out of the bacta-tank (well, that's what it looks like) to save Superman. All of these Reddy duplicates come from T.O. Morrow who retcons eh, explains, why it is he's still alive when we saw him die a few months ago in World's Finest. It's Marvel retcon convoluted. Anyway, it turns out none of these Red Tornado's weren't the original, but now Morrow has gone after him, too.


New Teen Titans #9: HIVE is out to steal promethium from Changeling's adopted father's company, and they send the Puppeteer/Puppetmaster (not the one you're thinking of) to take out the Titans. Over half the team is controlled by the Puppeteer, but the other manage to defeat. Nothing noteworthy about this issue, but it's not bad.


Secrets of Haunted House #38: This is a pretty good issue art-wise. Story-wise, it's lackluster. In the first story, a Native American legend about a cave full of gold where a demon was unleashed draws in two criminals. In the end, it turns out the legend had a kernel of truth as the men are killed by a torrent of oil unleashed by their searching. The second story, written by Ms. Charlie Seegar, doesn't make a lot of sense, but has grotty art by Jodloman. It involves a sweatshop owner making a deal with the Devil for slave labor, only to have men wearing the Satan-imbued jackets his factory made come to kill him so the Devil could claim his due.

The Mister E story by Rozakis and Spiegle has E on the trail of Judge Kobold from his first appearance, but Kobold has apparently disguised himself as one of a group of business men. This installment is probably the weakest Mister E story was far.



Superman #361: Captain Strong (DC's Popeye stand-in) guest stars, which distracts a bit from the fact that this is yet another "never to be seen again alien coming to Earth with a problem" story from Bates and Swan. The alien is transforming into all sorts of creatures, including a Kryptonian beast Supes needs Strong's help to defeat, but ultimately she's just trying to feed her starving people. It turns out Strong's sauncha seaweed that gives him his strength is just the thing.

The backup is more forgettable than the main tale, as most of these "Superman of 2021" stories seem to be. Superman has a second secret identity as some sort of future sports star. Step up your game, Rozakis!


Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #3: After their defeat last issue, the Corps is ready to pack it in and go home to spend the last days of the Universe with their families, but Jordan rallies them to do their duty to the last. The Corps arrives at the riff to Nekron's realm and the battle is again joined. One of Krona's minions is inspired to by the Lanterns and is given a ring by Jordan to become one himself. Jordan flies through the riff and recruits dead Lanterns to fight, and they over-power Nekron, but Jordan is trapped in his dimension. The other Lanterns get him out, and the day is saved. The Guardians offer to make Jordan head of the Corps, but he declines. A satisfying finale from Barr/Wein and Staton.


Weird War Tales #101: G.I. Robot makes his debut in a story by Kanigher and Casares. In the standard "robot partner" sort of story, a loner sergeant is initially skeptical of having a robot partner, but learns the power of buddy-dom from his more-human-than-expected companion. It's the best story of the issue for all its formula.

Kashdan and Taberna present a story of child soldiers, who it turns out are only taking part in a game to scare (more like traumatize) them away from war forever. A ex-Nazi gets what he deserves as a member of the French Foreign Legion when he is betrayed by the ghost of a man he spared in return for betraying his neighbors in a Jewish ghetto. Kashdan returns for the last story with Vicatan Jr. It's a story of a calculator device found by some G.I.'s that seems to predict successful battle tactics, but in the end only brings misery.


Wonder Woman #281: Conway and Delbo/Hunt send Wonder Woman and the Demon through a weird, mystical dimension to rescue Etta Candy from Baal-Satyr. Delbo does okay mystical realms, but his Demon his pretty rough, which brings down the issue for me. In the end, they rescue Candy, but they appear to be trapped in the netherworld. 

In the Huntress backup by Levitz and Staton/Mitchell, it turns out Helena Wayne's DA beau wasn't killed by the joker venom, but he's in the hospital. Next, the Joker gets Commissioner O'Hara. The story ends with one of those nonsensical hero moves you sometimes see in comics: Huntress breaks her own dart-firing crossbow in half--because the Joker is firing darts at people? Doesn't make much sense to me. Anyway, she vows "the gloves are off!" There's also a panel in this issue where he appears that Staton has drawn Helena Wayne in a parted robe that appears to show public hair. Surprised he got that one by the Code Authority!

Monday, April 4, 2022

Rockets , Rayguns, and Other Worlds


I've been thinking about a campaign setting that would utilize a bit of material from Spelljammer, a bit of material from Star Frontiers, and then some reconfigured stuff from D&D in general. The ruleset would be 5e (it's what the group I would likely play it with knows the best), but that would allow me to draw from Rocket Age 5e and other sources saving me some work. 

I sketched some of the bones last week, and it would conform to some of the particulars I outlined in this alternate Spelljammer idea, here. The basic idea is that humanity, fleeing some cataclysm on Earth, wind up either in a distant star system or either an alternate universe (I don't know if the players will know which or if it will matter) where the solar system is uncannily like a pulp version of our own. The laws of physics will obviously be somewhat different here, but I don't expect that to be a focus of play.

Technology will conform to pulp sci-fi standards, with rockets with some sort of atomic powered aether drive playing their way through the system. Swords of some sort will be present side-by-side with rayguns, but I haven't decided whether they will be or everyone or particular characters, or whether they will be normal swords or something special. Psychic powers will take the place of magic.