Friday, December 29, 2023

Star Scoundrels


I mentioned Black Star from LakeSide Games a few weeks ago, but since I've discovered another neat, rules lite, space opera game, Star Scoundrels is from Peril Planet. It's another game clearly intended to play Star Wars without obviously violating the IP and mentioning that. It uses the Action Tales system I've appreciated in the cyberpunk game Neon City Overdrive, which is also pretty much the same system as the fantasy game Dungeon Crawlers and the author's game Hard City for Osprey.

The basic mechanic is a d6 dice pool of Action Die and Danger Die, with graduated success from complete failure to complete success. Dice are added to the pool based on player traits, Threat (enemy) traits, and situational modifiers. All rolls are done by the players. 

Each Danger Die can cancel out a matching result on an Action Die, and uncancelled 6s on Danger Die accumulating Pressure. Pressure gives the GM the ability to make things more difficult for the players when it reaches a certain level. It's like Threat in 2d20 games in that regard but isn't near as much of an economy around it nor as many rules relating to it.

PCs are described by Trademarks (sort of a basic concept, role, profession, and alien species), Edges (specializations or talents linked to a Trademark), Flaws (disadvantages or troubles), gear, Grit (hit points), and Flow (the Force stand-in). Flow can be used to increase the success of roles or use a second Trademark die in a check.

Starships are statted similar to Threats. There are some fairly simple rules given for space battles and a table of random space travel encounters.

There are also random tables for adventure generation, planets, and names.

All and all, it offers the barest bit more crunch (but in places that flesh out a character a bit more) than Black Star while remaining very rules light. Either would be a great choice for a Star Wars pickup game or one shot.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1983 (week 4)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we look at the comics hitting the newsstand on December 30, 1982.

Detective Comics #524: Conway and Newton get to the end of this Squid interlude and the point of this 2-parter: namely to build up Conway's next big villain, Croc. Batman, though injured, manages to escape the Squid's deathtrap. After some ranting, Squid sends the assembled thugs out to search for him, but one, Croc refuses, calling Squid a loser. Squid accosts him and we see Croc's reptilian visage revealed for the first time. 

Batman makes it home where Dick Grayson is holding a reception for the circus folk, including the Flying Todds. While Alfred is bandaging Bruce and the two are talking with Dick, Trina Todd blunders in. Dick is sure she now knows Bruce is Batman.

Elsewhere, Squid is still ranting about how he's going to overcome this setback. Suddenly, a window breaks and there's a shot. Squid sees Batman arrive and after a melee shoots and kills him, yelling in triumph... Except none of that happened. There was a shot through the window, but it hit Squid and he dies there on the warehouse floor, experiencing one last grandiose fantasy. The shot was fired from a neighboring roof by Croc, avenging the insult from earlier.

In the Green Arrow backup, Ollie defeats Executrix with reflector-signal arrows and grills her for information about Machiavelli. In the meantime, Machiavelli has convinced the Wall Street Irregulars that criminals can run Star City better than its elected officials. Later, he crashes a town hall on the anti-strike proposal and gives a speech that is greeted with cries of "Mac for mayor!" Green Arrow starts to intervene, but one of the villain's goons gets the jump on him.

Weird War Tales #121: We get it already, Bob Kanigher, people are horrified and repelled by the Creature Commandos, and they are unjustly ostracized! The last 3 issues, at least, have had the Commandos in Allied control territory where they can be mocked and ridiculed before they head out to some ridiculous but uninteresting mission. Where are the robot Aztecs/Lemurians and such of early in his run? So here, the Commandos anger the carnival freakshow performers because customers would rather gawk and ridicule them for free instead of paying. Then, they head to Holland where 3 beautiful Dutch Freedom fighters show an interest in Shrieve, Velcro, and Griffith. They turn out to be robots. There's also a windmill firing rockets. This later stuff is crazy enough to work, but it's thin.

In the second story, German spies steal the U.S. Navy zeppelin LZS-6, but they didn't reckon with Gremlins, and they all meet their doom.

Action Comics #541: Wolfman and Kane bring us to the finally of the Satanis storyline, and it's pretty much one long fight. It's sort of modern (or Marvel) feeling in that regard, and it's all Gil Kane art, but in the end, there aren't really any twists or surprises sufficiently surprising to make it not feel perfunctory. It's well enough executed, but not really memorable. Meanwhile, in the Daily Planet, Lois seems to be getting a bit jealous of Lana in regard to her relationship with Clark, and a mysterious "Mr. Moore" (whose face, in soap opera style, we aren't shown) arrives at the office.

Arion Lord of Atlantis #5: I hadn't noticed last issue, but Moench took over as writer after #3. That explains the degree to which the origin given in the past two issues doesn't seem to entire jibe with what we were told before. Anyway, the tale of Arion's origin continues, this time revealing how he met Chian and Wyynde. Arion breaks free and also frees his friends. Danuuth is defeated and routed (but not killed), though at the cost of the life of Calculha.

All-Star Squadron #19: Thomas and Ordway have the Squadron, responding to Brain Wave's challenge, fight their way into the Perisphere on the grounds of the '39 New York World's Fair and find members of the Justice Society unconscious and captive, forced to dream of making a bloody assault on the Japanese, and being killed in the process...which will eventually kill them in the real world. Brain Wave taunts the Squadron and they are pretty much powerless this issue to do anything but watch this happen. Far be it from me to tell a guy with a career as long as Thomas' how to right funny books, but devoting whole issues to the exploits of others while your ostensible protagonists set on the sidelines seems a questionable approach, at least.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #13: Shaw and Goldberg/Gordon have Southern Califurnia beset with a snowstorm thanks the the villainous Cold Turkey and his minions. The Zoo Crew tracks him down before he can muscle his way into part ownership of a rich gold mine. There are also extended (and unfunny) Bob Hope and Marx Brothers gags, would no doubt lost on the titles presumed readership even in 1982.

Jonah Hex #70: Fleisher and Ayers/DeZuniga start with Jonah dumping White Claw in a grave before he and Emmy head out to steal his Colt dragoons back from the Shoshone. Meanwhile, Ernest Daniels, the last man involved in the robbery which led to the death of Hex's fiancee those years ago has made a better man of himself over the years but feels that isn't enough and sets out with one of his sons to find Hex and try to make amends. His other son, Jason, has an alternate plan, hoping to kill his father and his brother and inherit his father's fortune.

Ernest and his good son wind up with Jonah and Emmy in the hands of a cult leader nut who calls himself the Manitou and plans to blow a damn, flooding a town, and have it planned on the local Indian tribe to start a war. After Manitou leads his men out, they manage to escape but run right into the hands of Jason and his thugs.

New Adventures of Superboy #39: Kupperberg and Schaffenberger take a break from the Freaky Friday storyline for a holiday themed issue. When Flash Thompson Bash Bashford gets all cynical about Christmas, Superboy takes him to a post-apocalyptic Smallville on an alternate Earth where there is no Christmas, and amazingly, that works to cheer him up. 

In the Dial H backup by Bridwell/Rozakis and Bender/Adkins the Chris and Vicki dial up the heroes Rock and Roll (heroes again created by their friend Nick Stevens) to deal with an emergency. Meanwhile, the police are flummoxed on a case, which is just what the Master wants--and somehow, he has Greg King, Chris' father, doing his bidding.

World's Finest Comics #289: Third Gil Kane cover this week. Moench takes over writing duties, but the approach is so consistent with the previous arc I feel like the editor Wolfman is has a strong hand in it. While I think the emphasis on the bromance between Batman and Superman is an interesting element, it seems a bit overdone. I wonder if it's this series that perhaps suggested the romantic pairing of Batman and Superman stand-ins in The Authority? Anyway, Batman is unable to prevent the death of a mugging victim and that triggers his childhood trauma. Meanwhile, Superman, a Kryptonian orphan among mortals, is feeling isolated and melancholy, and the two get together for some friend therapy and the Fortress of Solitude. Then there's some business with a meteor that contains these worm-like, living alien probes. After first, the probes are making weapons in the Fortress go haywire, but they eventually calm down and talk to our heroes.

The probes say that they were created by the Kryll, a race which had lost emotion in their quest for immortality and sent these probes out to find it. After coming to Earth, the probes have discovered through the mopiness of Superman and Batman that emotion requires death, and so the probes sacrifice their own lives and transmit this message to their makers. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Thursday, December 21, 2023

On The Frontier

My recent readings in science fiction have had me thinking about Star Frontiers. The setting more than the game mechanics. I've done various riffs on the species and things before, but I don't think I've ever really thought about how I'd run it "straight"--at least not since I ran it in middle school. Here are some bullet points of things I've thought of:

Managed Tech
"We of the Institute receive an intensive historical inculcation; we know the men of the past, and we have projected dozens of possible future variations, which, without exception, are repulsive. Man, as he exists now, with all his faults and vices, a thousand gloriously irrational compromises between two thousand sterile absolutes – is optimal. Or so it seems to us who are men."
- Jack Vance, The Killing Machine
Technology marches on and Star Frontiers is very much retrotech, which I would mostly keep, I think, but rather than just pretend technology never advanced in some areas, I like I would lampshade it with the existence of something like the Institute in Vance's Demon Princes novels that limits the available technology. Perhaps they do so because of the excesses of the past? Maybe AI or transhumanism or both drove humanity to Frontier Space from their homeworld?

We're Pan-Galactic

The pervasive Pan-Galactic Corporation could drive things in a cyberpunkian direction, but I think I would want to wink at the dystopian potential of this rather than making it the primary theme. Corporate futures aren't uncommon in science fiction pre-cyberpunk (it shows up in the 70s comic Star Hunters, for instance) but I'd think I'd want to take a sort of American Flagg! or 2000AD satirical nod to it rather than make everything about fighting the system.


Star Frontiers doesn't mention any sort of gravity generating tech and Knight Hawks has ship decks aligned like floors in a skyscraper. I'd retain that hard(er) science fiction approach.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1983 (week 3)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around December 23, 1983.

Night Force #8: I got this issue in a comics collector set when I was a kid. The Night Force is back from Russia, but all of them have changed. Caine realizes he was wrong to have attempted to use Vanessa to help make a weapon. He lost an arm and a leg and his wife for his crimes, but now he intends to be a better father to his son. Gold is forced by fear of unleashing her demons again (which is not a concern, but Jack doesn't know that) to play the dutiful lover to Vanessa. There are wedding plans. Vanessa doesn't really deserve to be stuck with him, but she's out of the psychiatric hospital where she's spent most of her life and no longer tormented by demons, so improvement. Meanwhile, a woman comes to the Baron for help. An alien horror is holding the residents captive within a Manhattan brownstone. The Baron somehow contrives to send a criminal on the run, Paul Brooks, into the building to investigate.

Sgt. Rock #374: This is a goof one from Kanigher and Redondo present a much better main story than last issue. Afte Easy finds paratroopers strung up, Rock heads out on solo recon to locate the SS murder squad responsible. First he finds a boy missing a leg, an escapee from a death camp. After an encounter with a tank they make it to a village with a doctor who will treat the sick boy. There are some tense moments where it appears the doctor and his wife may betray them. Rock finds a picture that shows their now-dead son was in the SS. But in the end, the scissors the wife had been holding behind her back so ominously the whole time get buried in the back of a Nazi soldier that discovers them. Rock believes he can leave the boy with them, and they promise to keep him safe. Later, Easy ambushes the SS murder squad and gets retribution for the paratroopers' deaths.

Then there are two shorts. The first involves a sailor who can't manage to roll a 7 in craps. Then when he's trapped in the sinking carrier, his luck turns around. The last story is short of pointless, being an extended joke (I guess) about the driving skills of New York cabbies as one distinguishes himself as a tanker in the War.

Brave & the Bold #196: Kanigher and Aparo team Batman up with Ragman, and it's an okay basic story of a kidnapping of a young woman by a terrorist group, inspired by Patty Hearst, but it's standard team-up book story is made silly by two costume switcheroos where Ragman plays Batman for a while, then Batman plays Ragman. Ragman gives me feel early 80s Moon Knight vibes here, but the thing that stands out the most about him in this issue to me, is how tall Aparo draws his hood. It looks silly, like he has a conehead, and I can't imagine what Aparo thought was going on under they to make it stand up so high.

Camelot 3000 #4: We're still in the "getting the band together" phase as Arthur assembles his knights as the new round table, but now the governments of Earth (their leaders burlesqued as an American president in a sort of futuristic star-spangled cowboy suit, a Soviet dictator, and an African military strongman) are nervous about the popularity of this King Arthur. Lucky for them the U.N. security director has got the problem sorted as he sends a team lead by the guy Tristram jilted at the altar to attack them. Tristram puts a shot through his head, and the knights defeat his troops. Not much to warrant a whole issue here, but it looks good.

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #5: Kupperberg and Infantino/Oksner continue her conflict with the Gang, who have kidnapped her acquaintance, John Ostrander so he will give them the money they are owed. Supergirl's parents clue her in that she was only hallucinating when she thought her secret identity was revealed. The Gang forces John Ostrander to take them to the theater where he was auditioning and apparently left their payment. While there, Ms. Mesmer gets shot by a security guard. Supergirl, still fighting Mesmer's hypnosis, shows up to fight the Gang, and captures all of them but Brains. She also gets Ms. Mesmer to release her from her hypnotic suggestion in return for a quick flight to the hospital.

In the Lois Lane backup by O'Flynn and Oksner, Jimmy's precognition is revealed to be a side-effect of Brainstorm's previous influence on him. He' s nabbed by some of Brainstorm's former gang, who hope to force him to use that power to their advantage. The power has worn off, though. and Lois makes an attempt to rescue Jimmy.

Green Lantern #162: Barr and Pollard/Hoberg have Jordan take the liberated people of Garon to the planet Aoran (which Evil Star had wiped of life) to settle on, with Dorine as their new leader. When Hal and Dorine go to his space cruiser so Hal can recharge his ring, he finds his power battery gone. They find a kid running around, but he doesn't have anything to do with it. It turns out the ship's artificial intelligence has gone roque. So roque, that when the kid innocently enters an airlock, he sends him into space, killing him! In anger, Jordan smashes one of the ship's viewscreens, but then the ship sends food shooting out at them in the galley.

Meanwhile on Earth, a guy finds a crystal on the street and, when he picks it up, the mineral starts growing up his arm. On Oa, the Guardians see this, but they note the Guardian of Earth is in exile.

In the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup by Snyder and Gibbons, Harvid, a retired Green Lantern is tending his garden as a storm approaches, when he gets a surprise visit from his brother. A brother he sent to 100 years of solitary confinement during his time of service. The two old men begin to fight while around them the storm gathers strength. When the storm causes the dam to break, neither man has the strength to fix it alone, forcing them to work together. In the end, the exhausted brothers make peace and head to Harvid's house for some wine.

House of Mystery #314: In "I...Vampire" Mishkin and Sutton have Deborah and Dimitri captured with a vampire named Edward Trane with a grudge against. Bennett. It seems Trane was a former human ally of Bennett's, but when they both were captured by the Blood Red Moon, a ravenous Bennett drank his blood then abandoned him. Trane has hungered for revenge against the man that made him a monster ever since. Bennett falls into his trap, and Trane plans to hold Bennett until he is so hungry he attacks Deborah. Bennett tricks him and escapes, and Deborah stakes Trane. Bennett reveals to his former ally that it was a vampire of the Blood Red Moon that turned him, and they made Bennett believe Trane had died.

That's followed by an update to Hansel & Gretel by Rosenberg and Janes where children are lured to their doom by a magical fast food joint in the woods. The last story by Mishkin and Trinidad is a Twilight Zone-esque yarn about a couple who narrowly avoid a head-on collision with a semi to wind up on a strange highway with vintage cars, pursued by a white sedan (which is actually colored purple). The woman steals a map from a gas station and they manage to make their way out of this limbo back into the land of the living.

Legion of Super-Heroes #297: Following last issue, Levitz and Giffen/Mahlstedt focus on Cosmic Boy. With his mother dead and his father and brother injured, He's struggling with a desire for revenge. The first time he attempts it, the Legion sort of stands back to "let him make the choice" which doesn't really seem like the best play, however, after reviewing his origin, he goes back again and comes close to killing the terrorists before backing off. This issue has a rather Marvel feel, particularly with the "we never knew he was so powerful until he cut loose in anger" angle.

Warlord #67: I reviewed the story in this issue here. The Barren Earth backup returns. Jinal and her new companion make it Skinner make it to Skinner's city after an encounter with a giant, mutant honey badger. Jinal finds the city folk primitive and unprepared for a Qlov invasion, but there is more pressing concern as folk from the desert attack.

Monday, December 18, 2023

A Meeting with the Compulsor

Parth Trantlor

Our Gnydrion game in Grok?! continued last night. The party on hand:
  • Jerfus Grek (Jason) - A Vagabond with the item everyone wants, but no clear idea how to make it pay.
  • Nortin Tauss (Aaron) - An arcane dabbler who doesn't want to be tracked by telesthetic hounds.
  • Yzma Vekna (Andrea) - A grubby teamster who wonders how she got into this mess.
Jerfus Grek watched the events of the previous adventure unfold from a dark alley across the street from the Shreev's office and with the mysterious item secreted under his colorful cloak. In the morning when his confederates emerge, he accosted then and learned of the compulsion the Eminent Compulsor had put them under. 

There followed much discussion of just what to do. Jerfus argued for carefully consideration of all options: Perhaps they could yet turn this to their advantage? Yzma, mindful of the invisible brand on her hand, argued for immediate surrender of the item to the Shreev so they could be done with this. Given there was the shop of a purveyor of talismans and other magics nearby, Jerfus prevailed on the other two to at least inquire there first for possible magical remedies.

The talisman merchant was an unctuous individual named Parth Trantlor. He said he could acquire an obscuring enchantment which would theoretically keep one from the senses of a telesthetic hound, but it would cost a smaragdine scintilla--a price considerably more than any of them possessed. They also tried to surreptitiously inquire about the mirror. Trantlor hadn't heard of such a device and after consulting a tome proclaimed it must be an artifact of some sort, worth at least a purpure scintilla.

After leaving the talisman shop, Nortin examined the container tube using his arcane-honed senses. He "detected magic," to use the vernacular. Nortin and Yzma were firm it must be given to the Compulsor. Seeing the way of things, Jerfus agreed with the provision that he would be able to present it to the Compulsor along with his narrative of events. The two agreed.

At the Compulsor's office, Jerfus related to his Eminence and the Shreev that he had only taken the item with the safety of the populace in mind, and when he had learned of the items potential power, he had sought to put it in the rightful hands. 

Compulsor Wungar commended Jerfus' civic-mindedness and suggested there was a way he and his friends could be of service to the Panarch as they were obviously people of principle. He conscripted them on the spot and charged them with going undercover to meet the person Kreik was to take the tube to. When the individual was identified, they were to summon the authorities.

Sensing no way out, the group acquiesced, only arguing for some sort of stipend. The Compulsor agreed to provisioning, and allowed there might be some reward in the future. Not as hopeful an answer as they miight of wished, but it was something. They left with the Shreev to prepare. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

An Alternate Star Wars


As the Republic spread throughout the galaxy, encompassing over a million worlds, the GREAT SENATE grew to such overwhelming proportions that it no longer responded to the needs of its citizens. After a series of assassinations and elaborately rigged elections, the Great Senate became secretly controlled by the Power and Transport guilds. When the Jedi discovered the conspiracy and attempted to purge the Senate, they were denounced as traitors. Several Jedi allowed themselves to be tried and executed, but most of them fled into the Outland systems and tried to tell people of the conspiracy. But the elders chose to remain behind, and the Great Senate diverted them by creating civil disorder. The Senate secretly instigated race wars, and aided anti-government terrorists. They slowed down the system of justice, which caused the crime rate to rise to the point where a totally controlled and oppressive police state was welcomed by the systems. The Empire was born. 

- Adventures of the Starkiller (2nd Draft), George Lucas 

Reading Christopher Ruocchio's Sun Eater series and having the internet offer me trailers for Rebel Moon and Andor Season 2, I've been thinking about space opera, and had a Star Wars (or maybe it would be better for Star Wars-inspired) idea. Readers of this blog are aware that I'm a fan of the pulp aspects of Star Wars, but in recent years my favorite SW media has been the stuff with a grittier, more realistic take like Rogue One, Andor, or some episodes of Tales of the Jedi. 

This sort of thing isn't really new. It shows up in earlier drafts of Lucas' Star Wars script:and of course, political maneuvers and the fate of the Republic are at the heart of the prequel trilogy. But it could be emphasized more and handled better.

The idea, in brief: Take the political maneuvering, grittiness, and shades of gray of these latter-day Star Wars works but strip the mythos back to the earliest stages, maybe taking inspiration from the best of everything that came after.

The jedi would still be fairly central to the whole thing, but as a sort of Lensmen or Green Lantern Corps adhering to a philosophy generally based around nonaction and stillness, they are ill-equipped to deal with a failing, corrupt Republic. This leads to fracturing and internal conflict. The separatists have a point, but separatism is also a way for megacorporations and commercial concerns to gain power and freedom from governmental restraint.

I suppose Palpatine is still a Sith lord, but if the conflict were ever just with him, the problem could be solved. The real danger is the systematic issues for which the Empire is a seductive solution.

A couple of things I would change that aren't essential to the premise, but I might as well change them while I'm changing stuff. The Clone Wars are a series of conficts fought with clones, but that's not why they are called that. Rather, the ethical issue raised by the clones' existence and the appearance of government cover-up are the "straw that breaks the tauntauns back" for many. The clones' conscription is an act of desperation on the part of the Republic. Or cynical maneuvering by a Sith Lord.

While I'm at it, I would certainly ignore things that definitively position droids as sophont or sentient beings such as Jabba's use of torture and the ridiculous droid bar from Mandalorian. I think the possibility that droids are fully sophont should exist--and the people of the Republic are generally blind to it--but they shouldn't be treating them as if they already know they are.

As an aside, I think the origins of droids and clones can easily point to the Republic being a purposely limited technological region not unlike the Empire in Dune or in the Sun Eater series. Canon sort of supports this by the droid foundries of Genosis or the Kamino clone facilities as being on the periphery of galactic civilization. I would suspect must of the high tech industry is on the Rim where the restrictions of the Republic are weaker.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1983 (week 2)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of December 16, 1982. 

Batman #357:  Conway and Newton bring back a minor villain they introduced back in Detective Comics #497, the Squid. Batman is looking for the associates of the crimelord Tony Falco, who is already in custody. He learns that most of them are being recruited by the Squid, a former spy turned would-be kingpin. The Squid is trying to take out all the competition and become the crimelord of Gotham.

The Squid snatches Falco from a prison transport, but it's really Batman in disguise. In his abandoned aquarium hideout, Squid reveals that he knows about the deception. Batman fights Squid's henchmen, but he's outnumbered. The Squid has Batman thrown inside a tank where his giant squid will devour the Dark Knight.

Meanwhile, Dick Grayson goes to a circus in New Jersey, where his friend Waldo the Clown introduces him to the Todds, the circus' trapeze artists. At the same time, Mr. Sloan, the circus owner, is being shaken down by the goons of the mysterious Croc for protection money.

Flash #319: We open where we left off last issue with Flash and Captain Invincible plunging to their deaths from Creed's highrise apartment. Bates and Infantino do one of those ridiculous comic book things were the fall, which would be maybe 10 seconds in the real world, is long enough for cops on the ground to have a brief conversation about the fall, Captain Invincible to try the rouse Flash first with words and then a series of slaps, and Flash to save them both. 

The issue stays ridiculous, really. Invincible goes after Eradicator over the Flash's protests. He is almost disintegrated too, but the Flash snatches him out of his clothes at the last second to save him. 

In the Creeper backup from Gafford and Gibbons. The Creeper hauls himself out of the river, his bullet wounds already healing thanks to his healing factor. It appears a corrupt doctor is tied to both Tamblin and the crimelord Winterborn. And Jack Ryder's new boss' son is a drug addict connected to the doctor. All this crime drama seems more suited to 80s Daredevil or Vigilante than Creeper, really.

G.I. Combat #251: This first Haunted Tank story is the sort of thing you'd get in TV dramas of the era, but its done in a kid's comic in 15 pages, so it doesn't work as well as it might have. Sgt. Craig's estranged son joins the tank crew, which leads to a bit of a reconciliation between father and son before the son is shipped off to another crew, likely never to be mentioned again. The second story involves the crew each looking to get a souvenir to take home from the war, but the fortunes of combat continuously thwarting their efforts.

The Mercenaries are back and in Central America where a General Ramos hires them to "liberate" his country from the Juanistas who apparently gained power through popular support but are now oppressing the people (according to the general). The trio are to swim to the island and take out the guns on Fortress Fuego so the General's force can make a beachhead. They've got two problems: Their path is littered with underwater mines, and the General betrays them and sends divers to kill them. They prevail of course, and lure the General in to be destroyed under the Fortress' guns.

The non-series tales by Kashdan with Catan and Talaoc aren't bad. In the first, a G.I. teased for his belief that the message on a pinup of Betty Grable he received was a personal one, goes AWOL to meet the actress, but winds up foiling a German attack (which he can't mention because he was AWOL at the time) and getting Grable's monogrammed handkerchief to shut up the other dogfaces. In the second, the German's still a map cannister from two couriers only to find it's a dummy that has been boobytrapped. 

Saga of the Swamp Thing #11: Pasko and Yeates reveal that Kripptman (Kay) was a Jewish kapo at Dachau. Barclay sneers at him as a collaborator. Feldner for his part reveals that Karen Clancy is the herald of the Beast, the "antichrist" foretold in the Book of Revelation. To stop her, Kay and his aide Alan reconstruct the Golem, but it senses Casey's presence in the locket on Swamp Thing's body and attacks him! 

In the Levitz/Carrillo Phantom Stranger backup, The Phantom Stranger makes the case for an advanced healthcare directive as Millicent Bedford wishes to help her aged, comatose mother by disconnecting her from a life-support system. But the Phantom Stranger shows her the fate that might await both of them if her mother dies.

New Teen Titans #29: Brother Blood continues to be a villain I don't really get, but at least he's involved here in an interesting villain-on-villain clash with the Brotherhood of Evil who just struck Zandia. The Brotherhood heads to New York to kidnap Raven, whom the Brain believes is the key to overcoming Blood. Back at Titans HQ, Dick is still being a mood,  angry jerk for no good reason, which worries Kory and Donna. Wally and Raven talk about how they can't have a relationship. Changeling keeps trying to make Terra his personal project. The visiting Speedy is mused by all of this. Frances Kane, again dealing with unwanted magnetic powers, comes to Titans Tower to see Kid Flash. When the Brotherhood of Evil attacks, Speedy and Frances manage to stop them, but not before Phobia causes Raven to attack and almost kill Kid Flash, who decides he isn't so into the Goth chick after all.

Superman #381: Bates and Swan continue the Superman/Superboy Freaky Friday mix up. A by-product of the self-contained stories of the era: every issue of this crossover must spend pages retreading how it happened. They can't seem to just recap it in a caption. Superboy in 1982 is kind of making a mess of thing. He does manage to defeat three Superman-hating cranks empowered by emotion-siphoning baddie Euphor, but he snubs Lois so badly she becomes Euphor's next anti-Superman soldier, and makes a pass at Lana who slaps him and sends him away.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Gnydrion Chargen Tables for Grok?!

The lite rpg Grok?! uses random tables for character generation, but the standard ones weren't entirely suitable to my Gnydrion setting. I made my own for the columns where I thought it mattered. These were done quick to have something to use in play but if I ever were to publish them, they would probably get a more thoughtful review.

Background and an Asset
  1. Fringe Theorist - a map detailing the location of fae vortices
  2. Wastrel - a pillbox with an assortment of calmatives, excitants, analeptics, and euphoriants
  3. Gambler - a deck of marked cards
  4. Civil Servant - impenetrable but official looking documents
  5. Academician - reference works
  6. Rogue - dagger
  7. Fugitive - shiv
  8. Itinerant Mystic - worn mat for meditation and begging bowl
  9. Dilettante - servant
  10. Veteran - scars, each with a colorful story
  11. Freelance Scrutinizer - sap
  12. Mountebank - traveling case of tonic elixirs
  13. Rhabdomancer - crystalline rod carried in a velvet-lined case
  14. Vagabond - tinder pouch and firestone
  15. Teamster - blunderbuss
  16. Traveling Merchant - case full of wares
  17. Entertainer - essential implement for your act
  18. Arcane Dabbler - talisman with one spell
  19. Artisan - trade tools
  20. Mercenary - a good sword

Asset 2
  1. outlandish hat
  2. cape of shifting colors
  3. muff pistol
  4. nonnig
  5. armor
  6. throwing dagger
  7. cracked eidolon crystal showing the image of a beautiful, desperate seeming woman
  8. round trip first class airship ticket
  9. magic spyglass
  10. portable writing desk with pen, ink, and stationary
  11. stylish rapier
  12. vial of hwaopt intoxicant scent, malodorous to humans
  13. letter of credit from a hohmmkudhuk craftsman
  14. cage with fighting zegej
  15. pouch of cured meat
  16. invigorating elixir 
  17. 25 feet of rope
  18. lantern
  19. pouch of dried mushrooms
  20. stun wand

Asset 3
  1. small jar of cured glount roe, sealed
  2. guardsman's baton
  3. velvet-lined case of military medals
  4. punch dagger
  5. voice altering oral lozenge stone
  6. leather case with two syringes of thrall slime
  7. Wurvulb's Primer on Ieldri Language
  8. jar of analgesic linament
  9. broad-brimmed hat concealing steal skullcap
  10. signet ring with enigmatic but portentous engraving
  11. brass knuckles
  12. sedative powder (2 beast of burden calibrated doses)
  13. hatchet
  14. box of cheep cheroots
  15. medallion authorizing operation of a commercial paddle boat in Whulggan Sound 
  16. basket of two candy manikins
  17. Offical pardon for a Jeng Turly signed by the Provincal Governor
  18. toiletry kit with mirror, tweezers, straight razor, and coagulating powder
  19. pistol ballester
  20. scratch and smell pamphlet map of the library of Ao-Dweb
Names, Female:
  1. Nurila Tambrol
  2. Tobrana Velth
  3. An Morold
  4. Inerva Alanx
  5. Fanora Zriol
  6. Pema Rheest
  7. Nima Ermot
  8. Yzma Vekna
  9. Alux Vrys
  10. Raiga Mehtaloon
  11. Syara Wanzor
  12. Irallene Tark
Names, Male:
  1. Glismo Nadok
  2. Reet Ulam
  3. Antor Hogus
  4. Ger Vortin
  5. Zamo Thrase
  6. Druf Ombry
  7. Nortin Tauss
  8. Grevan Calo
  9. Trane Durnur
  10. Mulz Thomber
  11. Jerfus Grek
  12. Sy Kamor

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1983 (week 1)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of December 9, 1982. 

Superman Special #1: We get 52 pages written and drawn by Gil Kane which is kind of special, I guess, but the story doesn't really seem to merit that treatment. A scientist who admires Superman and seeks accelerate human evolution in order to create a vanguard of superior beings to protect the planet. Naturally, he experiments on himself to make himself the Ultimate Man. As happens in these sorts of situations, his goals shift as his perspective changes, and he comes into conflict with Superman. In the end he evolves himself to his on defeat, as also tends to happen. This really reminds me of the sort of thing one might have read in a 70s Marvel title.

Wonder Woman #301: Mishkin takes over writing duties with Colan still on art. Sofia Constantinas, the former terrorist from the Aegeus arc, is undergoing Amazon training. She has to do a half-mile swim to an island, but on her way, she is grabbed and dragged underwater by a skeleton wielding a sword--and wearing a tiara like Wonder Woman's. Wonder Woman jumps in to help her and does battle with the skeleton. The skeleton follows Wonder Woman to shore, and Queen Hippolyte cries out its name: Artemis. The skeleton, which is able to communicate, demands that the queen call her by the name she was known by 3000 years ago, and Hippolyte does: "It--it was Wonder Woman!"

Arak Son of Thunder #19: The Thomases and Gonzales/Alcala pick up with Arak and friends along the Black Sea on the way to White Cathay. A powerful storm sinks their ship. Arak, and Valda, Satyricus, and Johannes are the only survivors. They wash up on the sandy shores of the coast. Johannes points to a gleaming spot on a mountainside that represents their destination. As they get closer, he warns them not to look directly at the light, lest they be blinded.

When they are distracted by the appearance of a roc, Valda accidentally looks at the gleaming city and is blinded. Johannes tells them the only cure for her is a gem that can conveniently be found in the roc's nest.

Satyricus and Arak climb the cliffs to get the jewel. The satyr gets there first and grabs the gem, but the roc grabs him. Arak jumps on the bird and do battle. He prevails and returns with Satyricus and the gem. Johannes uses the gem to restore Valda's eyesight.

In the Valda backup, Valda and Malagigi attend a yule feast held by the king. His sons give him gifts. His illegitimate son, Pip the hunchback, presents a finer gift than the others, a tree that grows many varieties of fruit even in winter. The king views it as sorcery and an abomination and destroys it.
In anger, Pip throws wine into the fire, and accidentally extinguishes the yule logs. It's a bad omen. Seeking to capitalize, Baron Ovis, the last surviving Merovingian, uses a tiny bell to summon some sort of berserkers from the cold. Valda fights her way through them and helps Malagigi reignite the fire. Once restarted, the fire banishes the berserkers. Carolus Magnus disowns Pip for his careless actions.

Blackhawk #256: Evanier points out in the letter column that this is the first chronicling of the Blackhawks adventures on Earth-One. All the previous ones where on Earth-Two or Earth-X. While Blackhawk is still recovering (and still apparently victim of the nightmare transmitting medallion), Stanislaus leads a raid on a Nazi research bunker in Czechoslovakia where they have projects going to create Hitler duplicates and to make monstrous super-soldiers. One of these reject super-soldiers has been sent to kill Blackhawk in the hospital, and two more are sent after the raiding part, capturing four of the team. Six Blackhawks wind up in the same cell. Only Stanislaus is still free.

The next day, he gets captured after killing a Reject with a grenade, so von Tepp and Merson seek to turn him into a replacement. The other Blackhawks escape, killing another Reject with a bazooka in the process. Von Tepp and Merson leave with their subjects and the bunker is destroyed.

DC Comics Presents #55: Rozakis and Saviuk manage to have Superman encounter both Air Waves, the original when he was Superboy and the "Hal Jordan," teen Air Wave in the modern day. Superboy and the first Air Wave had a brief encounter in the past, where Air Wave is brusque with the young hero, but it's revealed he was doing so for a good reason. In the present, while tracking down some of that gold kryptonite, Superman tries to help the young Air Wave, whose powers have mysteriously disappeared, and they team-up to take down the Parasite.

Fury of Firestorm #10: Broderick is back and so is the Hyena. Firestorm goes to the airport to meet Summer Day who has been often having therapy for being the Hyena. (Wonder what modality works best for that?) Anyway, the family and Ronnie meet Summer's therapist, Jivan Shi. Later that night, Doreen Day discovers that Summer is missing. She goes to Ronnie's house and asks for his help. Ronnie secretly transforms into Firestorm and flies towards Eastside Hospital. He suspects that Summer may have returned there, as this was the one other locale that she was most familiar with. At the hospital, Firestorm encounters the Hyena and they fight. The Hyena gets burned by some chemicals in the hospital.

Ronnie goes to tell the day family about Summer. She returns home but has no memory of her whereabouts of the past few hours. Mr. and Mrs. Moments after Summer goes inside, the Hyena appears outside and scratches Ronnie across the back of the neck. 

Justice League #212: Conway and Buckler/Tanghal bring the X-Element story to a conclusion, as the League (with the help of Phantom Stranger) battle the invading War-Kohn on multiple fronts and free Arthur Stuart. The JLA learns that Stuart's unique genetic code holds the cure for the transformed humans and animals. With everyone cured, David Dorfman is reunited with his fiancée, and all is well. Well, except for the ominous stinger where the Leaguers recall that there will come a day when the X-Element begins to decay again. Good thing Crisis wiped out this continuity!

Adventure Comics #497: The only new story here again is the expanded origin of the Challengers of the Unknown by Rozakis and Toth/Giacola, which concludes this issue. The Challs to-be are still investigating the sabotage of their plane. Red Ryan is in Vegas with an old friend, Johnny Green, when a car tries to run them down! Johnny reveals he was the target of the plane sabotage, not our heroes. Johnny won a lot of money from the mob but hadn't collected. He was planning to fly to Vegas with Red, so the mob put a device on the plane to keep him from collecting. The heroes confront the mobsters in a casino and win the day. Our heroes finally get their TV appearance as "Challengers of the Unknown!" And that's it. There was apparently going to be more Challenger stories here, but they decided to go full reprint instead.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Under Compulsion in Phaelorn Gap


Our Gnydrion game using Grok?! continued last night. The party on hand:
  • Antor Hogus (Paul) - Vagabond with a stun gun and a dislike of authority, worse now than ever!
  • Nortin Tauss (Aaron) - An arcane dabbler just trying to get by.
  • Yzma Vekna (Andrea) - A grubby teamster watching things spiral out of control.
Having rashly summoned the law last adventure, the party must now deal the consequences. Var Nee the deputy is out of his depth and aware of it once he hears the story of the quaklu and the double Kreik Gelmots. He wisely goes to summon the Shreev while leaving the bleary-eyed innkeeper to watch them.

Shreev Molok is in no mood for the situation that confronts him. He rounds them all up and takes them back to the jail. The original (presumed) Gelmot, still stunned, is locked in a cell, while the others are invited to be guests until the matter can be sorted out. They protest this confinement and while they argued with the Shreev, two things happen. The first is that Gelmot wakes up and more or less confirms their story (while trying to present himself in the best light). The remaining mystery is what has become of the mirror. While they are contemplating this, the other happens, which is that the Fake Gelmot tries to leave.

Molok and Var Nee try to confine him, but his limbs do not appear to be made of mundane flesh. He twists free and scuttles out the door on four limbs. Molok pursues him, ballester in hand, while Var Nee continues to watch the others.

Var Nee shares some liquor with Hogus which serves to moderate the latter's ill-temper for a while. Molok returns and tells them that the other Gelmot dissolved after stumbling into a fumarole and being shot in the head by Molok's ballester.

He tells everyone that they will likely be released, however, they must tell their stories to his superior, Eminent Compulsor Briszm Wungar. Var Nee had already hinted that Wungar is a man much concerned with personal enrichment.

Not having any place else to go, the party takes Molok up on his offer to sleep in the jail, only to consider they might have made an error when the building is locked from the outside and they are trapped. The recriminations fly, then, both from and to Gelmot (who Hogus eventually stuns again) and between Tauss and Hogus. They consider breaking out in some way, but ultimately decide to play it cool and not become fugitives.

The next morning, Briszm Wungar arrives to speak with them, the small man riding some alien creature. He suggests the way to ensure their freedom from any legal suspicion is to locate the mirror and return it to him. Gelmot blames its absence on their also conspicuously absent friend, Jerfus Grek. The Compulsor releases them to find Grek and the mirror (though Gelmot must await their efforts in jail) but has their hands marked with a device that will allow telesthetic hounds to track them, should they choose to shirk this charge.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Oz and the Dying Earth

Driving over the Thanksgiving holiday my family listened to the audiobook of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and I was struck by how similar Baum's Oz stories are and some of Vance's work, particularly the Dying Earth related material. Some of it, of course, would be resemblances shared with other works of fantasy, but I think there is much more homology of Baum with Vance than say Howard, Smith, or Martin.

I've mentioned before the list of the elements of Vance's Dying Earth stories as outlined in Pelgrane Press' Dying Earth rpg:

  • Odd Customs
  • Crafty Swindles
  • Heated Protests and Presumptuous Claims
  • Casual Cruelty
  • Weird Magic
  • Strange Vistas
  • Ruined Wonders
  • Exotic Food
  • Foppish Apparel

Some of those I think are present in Baum's Oz books, but there are others that have analogs. These are the ones that I think are most prominent:

Odd Customs. In the Dying Earth this relegated to cultural practices. In Oz, the people themselves may be odd not unlike the mythological peoples seem in Medieval or ancient travel tales. Still, the central aspect of using a culture taken to the absurd as an object of satire is present.

Weird Magic. This is all over the place in Oz, with many of the protagonists being products of it. The powder of life made by the Crooked Magician or the "Square Meal Tablets" certainly count.

Strange Vistas. Exploration is as important part of Oz as the Dying Earth. The weird underground world of the vegetable Mangaboos lit by glowing glass orbs in the sky would count, as would the the Land of Naught where the wooden gargoyles dwell.

Ruined Wonders. Oz doesn't have many ruins, but they do have Hidden Wonders, like the city of the China Dolls or the radium decorated city of the subterranean Horners.

Foppish Apparel. It isn't emphasized as much in the text, but it goes through in the illustration...

The other elements are less present in Oz, but Heated Protests/Presumptuous Claims has its analog in humorous exchanges and bickering. Oz isn't as cruel a place as the Dying earth--it shows up in children's stories after all--but it isn't without cruelty. It's a cruelty of the fairytale sort really where axes enchanted by witches might chop off a woodsman's limbs and an evil queen might desire a little girl's head enough to have it cut off.

There are other similarities not really accounted for here. Outlandish, unnatural monsters haunt the wilderness in both (and in both they are often capable of speech). Habitations are separated by wilderness and isolated cultures seem to exist along well-travelled roads. For the most part the societies of both settings seem fairly static (Oz a bit less so than the Dying Earth), in contrast to epic fantasies where world-changing events are part of the narrative. Overall, I think these could be summed up is that both settings seem perhaps descended from fairy stories, Oz more directly, and the Dying Earth through the fantasies of Smith, Cabell, and (maybe) Dunsany.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, February 1982 (week 4)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we look at the comics hitting the newsstand on November 24, 1982.

Detective Comics #523: Conway and Colan/DeZuniga bring back the Earth-One Solomon Grundy (who I only learned about since I started this reading series). It seems a designer clothing shop is wrecked, and a number of furs are taken. The carnage makes it look personal, so Batman decides to investigate, it turns out its a gang that has teamed up with Grundy and have to deal with Grundy's childish whims and destructiveness. The leader of the gang is visited by a guy hidden by a trench coat, hat, and shadows named "Croc" who disapproves of the inclusion of Grundy and severs ties with the gang with a warning. But enough about him. I'm sure this Croc won't show up again.

Anyway, Robin visits his friend Waldo the Clown in a traveling circus passing through, while Batman tracks down the gang. Grundy gets the better of Batman in their first encounter with the Caped Crusader having to play dead to survive. Later, Batman tracks Grundy to the gang's warehouse hideout and he lures Grundy into a furnace where the monster is apparently burned up! Batman's "no killing" thing is apparently narrowly construed.

In the Green Arrow backup by Cavalieri and Novick, Star City is in the grips of a transit workers strike, which threatens to boil over into violence, but Arrow discovers that agent provocateurs are responsible, and the plot is being orchestrated by a group of wealthy elites that intends to throw Star City into chaos and then usurp power, and masterminded by their adviser, the Lord Machiavelli. GA confronts so Machiavelli calls upon his partner, the Executrix, to battle him with twin laser-torches! 

Weird War Tales #120: What I said last issue about Kanigher and Weird War Tales still holds, but this one has a bit of goofy sentimentality that gives it some charm. J.A.K.E.-II who is waiting for his pet robo-cat to be fixed, winds up on Dinosaur Island where a Queen Kong takes a fancy to him and J.A.K.E. seems to like her as well. It ends poorly of course but the gorilla gives her life so that J.A.K.E. and his friends can get away.

In the second story by Gwyon and Jodloman, a group of G.I.s finds a statute fashioned by the ancient druids. A dying soldier winds up with his spirit driving the statue to kill Germans. But on a bridge slaughtered German spirits take control. The statue keeps going back and forth between the sides until a bridge collapses and it's washed away by the river.

Action Comics #540: Wolfman and Kane seem to be getting close to their conclusion of the split Superman story. In the 14th Century, Syrene and Satanis (inhabiting the body of Superman) start continue their magical duel. Syrene gets the upper hand an imprisons Satanis in a ball of Earth. Frantic, Satanis begs Superman to ally with him so that both of them can survive.

In the 20th Century, Clark Kent seems to come back to life on the autopsy table. He sent home to rest. He realizes he needs to get to the past, but Satanis has every time-travelling method he knows of blocked. Clark Kent goes to the Daily Planet to ask for a vacation when he overhears Perry White and Lois arguing about her piece on Forgotten Heroes. Superman streaks towards Rip Hunter's Time Lab.

In the past, Syrene is poised to kill Satanis, but her foe bursts from the ball of earth--Superman has agreed to help him subdue Syrene. Satanis does plan to merely subdue her however, he plans to kill her, take her power, and then take over Superman's body completely. Suddenly, a Time Sphere appears and with it 20th Century Superman.

In the Aquaman backup by Rozakis and Saviuk we get to the end of the current story. Mera defeats Vlana in one-on-one combat, and Vlana, not wanting to admit defeat, commits suicide by electric eel. Having won back her throne, Mera again gives it up to go to Earth with her husband.

Arion Lord of Atlantis #4: Arion is in the hands of his enemy, Garn Danuuth, and the City of Atlantis has fallen to the invaders. Garn gets a chance to relate to the chained Arion their sort of joint origin. A hundred thousand years ago Arion and Garn were the apprentices of  Caculha and Majistra, respectively, two of the twelve great mages of the day, and mortal enemies. Caculha sensed a threat to the 12 crystals beneath the 12 cities whose magic kept the world in balance. He proposed increases the guard upon the crystals and onnly Majistra opposed him. Seeking power for herself, Majistra stole the crystals. Earthquakes shake the world. Ari'ahn sacrifices himself to wrest control of the crystals from Mjistra, and they are both killed. Caculha was exiled to the Darkworld, and Garn's skin was bleached white. To reward his fallen son, Caculha used magic to send Ahri'ahn's energy into the sun.

Cataclysm was averted for a while, but the battle caused a shift in the Earth's axis which would eventually cause an ice age. To save Atlantis again, Caculha used his new power to bring about a rebirth of his son, now called Arion. Although he had no memory of his past life, Arion became a great mage in Atlantis. Now with the fall of the city, it appears that Garn has finally won.

All-Star Squadron #18: Thomas and Gonzales/Hoberg introduce the Tarantula and spend most of the issue plugging continuity holes like why Tarantula and Sandman basically wear the same costume and what became of Dian Belmont. Then there's a fight with the Sadman foe Fairy Tale Fenton in the guise of Thor so it isn't all retcons. One thing I like about All-Star Squadron is how, thanks to it being a period piece, Thomas can be more concrete on dates. Here we learn, for instance, that Tarantula began his costumed career on June 22, 1941.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #12: Shaw and Gordon introduce Little Cheese, a mouse with shrinking powers. Together they take on the criminal mastermind, Fatkat. The last panel also introduces the Just'A Lotta Animals.

The letter column of this issue publishes a piece of artwork from a fan named Arthur Adams, who seems like he might have some talent...

Jonah Hex #69: Fleisher and DeZuniga pick up where we left off last issue, with Jonah walking into an ambush. Kincaid's talking gives Hex a chance to notice White Claw, so when the shooting is over Kincaid is dead and White Claw is on the run. Hex tracks him and eventually winds up in the hands of ta Shoshone tribe who White Claw has convinced that Hex is tried to kill him for no reason. Hex tries to tell his side of the story, but given his experience with white men the chief, somewhat understandably, will not allow White Claw to be taken to the white men's courts. White Claw wants Hex killed, but the Chief gives Hex a chance to run the gauntlet. Hex survives, but barely, and makes it to the river where he is found then nursed back to health by Emmylou from several issues back. White Claw eventually shows up, but Jonah kills him, though not before he stabs Emmylou. Unusual for a supporting character and friend of Hex's, she doesn't die. At least not in this issue.

New Adventures of Superboy #38: This is a continuation of the switched Superboy and Superman story, or rather the Superboy era side of the tale. Superboy enters that rift in time when returning from the Soames Reform School and his annual Thanksgiving visit. The date is given as November 27th, which would suggest this is set in 1969. Anyway, Superman is now in his 16 year-old self's body and going to have dinner with his parents.

When he wakes up in the morning, it's again Thanksgiving Day. Forced to relive the events of the last day, he realizes he's trapped in some kind of time loop. He knows he can't escape by travelling into the future, so using some dodgy theory about time being a flat circle, he comes up with the idea of going back further into the past.

Luthor, who expects Superboy to be trapped in Thanksgiving prepares to commit a crime, but Superboy stops him. Lex doesn't understand how his latest device can have failed, and Superboy reveals how he did it, to gloat, I guess. Luthor isn't willing to give up just yet and pulls out a magnetic repellent device. Supes ain't in the mood. Knowing Lex will never change and just keep causing trouble over the next decade, Superboy/man starts beating Lex up, but he's stopped by Chief Parker who calms him down. Knowing it's futile to try to change the past, Superboy apologizes for losing his temper and flies away. He's still got to find a way back into his adult body.

In the Dial H backup by Bridwell/Rozakis and Bender/Adkins the Chris and Vicki dial up identities that interestingly come from the sketchbook of a guy they know to take on a new villain, Windrider.

World's Finest Comics #288: Superman is frantically trying to find Batman after he was snatched away by demons. In discussing an early issue in this storyline, I had praised Burkett's handling of the friendship of Superman and Batman, even if it was jarring to modern portrayals of the characters. Here thought Barr and Wolfman have Superman being a bit overwrought. More like what I would expect from him if Lois were in danger, if at all. He snaps at Flash and even tries to punch him in misplaced anger.

Meanwhile, Madame Zodiac and her master complete the ritual giving it control over Batman's body. The dark entity plans to take over the world using several and has clones of the Batman's body he plans to run through during his conquest.

Battling one of the dark entity's minions, Superman is transported to the place where the ritual occurred. Using (super-)hypnosis, Superman induces Batman into fight the evil inside him by making him recall the past tragedy that shaped him.

While Batman fights for control of his body, Superman gets help from Dr. Zodiac, who tells Superman about a barred door behind which there is someone can help them against the dark entity. Superman breaks down the door and they find the real Madame Zodiac inside. The dark entity used the Zodiac Idol to separate her into two parts. Her evil counterpart allied with the creature, and they imprisoned her other self. Once freed, the good Madame Zodiac confronts her evil self and a single person emerges. Unfortunately, it's evil Madame Zodiac who does battle with Dr. Zodiac. Both are swept aside by the dark being who has been defeated by Batman and cast back into the sphere that held it, where it commands all the Batman clones to fight Batman and Superman. The heroes destroy the clones and then they use the Zodiac Idol to destroy the dark entity's sphere and send it back to its own dimension.

A decent end to the storyline, I think, at least for the standards of the era where it was all about the journey not the destination.