Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 1982 (week 4)

My ongoing mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we review the comics hitting the newsstand on July 22, 1982.

Action Comics #536: This is more of the Omega Men crossover, and Wolfman/Kupperberg and Staton/Trapani have the injured Superman in the hands of the Mole and his gang. They've taken him to an underground city they're using as a hideout. The Mole plans to auction of the right to kill the Man of Steel, provided he gets the weapon they use in exchange. The Omega Men are from space and don't know from spelunking, so Lois leads on a search for Cave Carson. Kallista's magic is able to locate him. Carson isn't interested in helping, until Lois tells them that Superman is in danger. They hop into the Mighty Mole and take off. Carson suspects he knows where their heading. His crew discovered the abandoned city, and one of his former crew absconded with a prototype Mighty Mole.

The group arrives in the nick of time and rescues Superman, with Lois shooting the villain about to kill him. In the aftermath, Superman takes the Omega Men to the JLA satellite in an effort to help them get the fuel they need, but the Teen Titans show up needing help, so this story actually precedes the Teen Titans issue earlier this month.  

All-Star Squadron #14: Thomas cannot get enough Per Degaton--or maybe "plotter" Conway is the instigator here. Anyway, this is sort of the backstory of this month's issue of Justice League. Degaton regains his memory, steals Professor Zee’s time machine, then discovers the existence of Earth-Prime. He rescues the Crime Syndicate from their imprisonment and enlists their help in stealing atomic missiles from Earth-Prime Cuba of 1962. When they try to double cross him, he hurls them into another dimension.

Meanwhile, on Earth-2 in 1942, the All-Star Squadron members battle a badguy called Nuclear. After he disappears, they return to their meeting room and discover the presence of the Justice League.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #8: Scott Shaw turns one man band on this book, taking over writing duties from Thomas. It doesn't really change much in terms of content. Everyone experiences a segment of missing time and it turns out this cosmically powered Bear from outside spacetime known as the Time-Keeper is responsible. He was awakened from his hibernation by the time travel shenanigans of Bow-Zar mentioned last issue. He does the usual time villain thing of turning Captain Carrot old and the other usul time villain thing of turning the rest of the Crew into babies. Even with Yankee Poodle backup them main story still seems to drag on for too many pages.

Detective Comics #519: I may never forgive Conway and Kupperberg for forcing me to write the description: "Batman has his final showdown with Colonel Blimp." But really though, it's not bad despite the Batman TV show sort of concept behind the villain (complete with backstory of avenging his father's disgrace for championing blimps to the military, then having his career tank). It seems like maybe one of the writers read something about blimps and got his imagination fired up, because we get tidbits like blimp hangars can be so big they can have rain inside. Anyway. Batman and Robin use teamwork and a combo of brains and brawn to win the day, so it's a decent Batman yarn.

In the Batgirl backup, she's on the trail of Velvet Tiger. Batgirl manages to capture most of the villain's gang, but the Tiger escapes thanks to her brother's mercy. Frustrated by the Ward's action but more by her own failure, Barbara returns home to her loving and understanding father, who definitely knows what it's like to have the villains get away!

New Adventures of Superboy #34: I know the Yellow Peri only from the Who's Who and would never have guessed she debuted in the 80s, but here she is, courtesy of Rozakis and Schaffenberger. She's a circus sideshow performer who gives herself real magical powers by conjuring up an imp named Gazook from a book of magic and names herself the Yellow Peri. When her attempt to help the farmers around Smallville goes awry and Superboy gets in the way, decides to bedevil the Boy of Steel as revenge.

The backup is Dial H was hero which is still about the water-based villain Naiad trying to get revenge on her former friend, the movie director. Our heroes defeat her, but then somebody shoots the director!

Unknown Soldier #266: Haney and Ayers bring this title to close with the Soldier trying to kill Hitler and stop a doomsday weapon--which involves bioengineered octopuses with vampire bat genes--during the fall of Berlin. Old Unknown Soldier allies Chat Noir, Sparrow, and Inge give their lives for the cause. The Solider kills Hitler (Braun commits suicide) then impersonates him to stop the weapon from being deployed before appearing to give his own life to save a child. I can't say I will miss reading this title in the months (and years!) to come, but I do like the character of the Unknown Soldier and wish something a little different had been done with the title. Not sure what. I feel like Larry Hama might have been a good fit.

Weird War Tales #116: The stars the Creature Commandos and G.I. Robot now have bigger billing on the cover than the books title. In the first story by Kanigher and Carillo, the Commandos encounter a prevously unknown Greek goddess in Sicily: Inferna, daughter of Pluto. The lonely goddess has taken a shine to Shrieve, but her fiery love threatens to burn them all up until Myrra convinces her that she's going to destroy the thing she's after. Lovelorn Inferna relents and returns to the Netherworld.

Better is Kanigher's and Infantino's sentimental and goofy, but charming, G.I. Robot tale. On the island of Tattu, Sgt. Coker wonders if the G.I. Robot ever gets lonely. When they get back to camp, Coker finds a package that contains a robotic canine named C.A.P. The robo-dog's a big help to them both, as he swims out into the ocean to expose an ambush from a Japanese sub. A great white shark tries to eat C.A.P., but J.A.K.E. shoots the shark and takes his pooch back to the military scientists for repairs. Coker is happy that J.A.K.E. won't ever have to worry about being lonely.

World's Finest Comics #284: The Burkett/Tuska Composite Superman story continues, with Supes Superman bringing the Legion back to the 20th Century to help him and Batman fight their foe, who now calls himself "Amalgamax." Even with the Legion's help, Amalgamax is too tough, but once they figure out is identity, Batman and Superman formulate a plan to trick the villain into thinking that he has a lethal disease that can only be cured if he gives up his powers. Amalgamax falls for it.

This turns out to be the last issue of World's Finest with more than one story, though I guess you wouldn't know that until next month. As it is, only Green Arrow by Barr and Spiegle is left. Ollie stops a young girl, Ronnie Tempus get away with stealing a hot dog because she's hungry; her grandfather spends all their money on a grandfather clock. When Ollie takes Ronnie home, the old man explains that  he feels that he must keep the clock working, because when it stops, he'll die. The Clock King, loser that he is, tries to steal to clock, but Green Arrow stops him. The clock stops and old Tempus has a heart attack, but GA gets him to the hospital and he survives, having learned to pay more attention to people than clocks.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Et in Arcadia Formicae Sunt

Arcadia was born from the schism between Absolute Order and the Archons which believed in transcendence, those who raised up the Heavenly Mountain. The Archons of what would become Arcadia, were in awe of the Mountain, but worried its rigors would not create the optimal balance of Order and Good for the most souls. The Mountain, they felt, risked unacceptable numbers of souls potentially falling to Chaos and error in the name of a goal that might never be attainable. Only through Mechanus could the Cosmos be salvaged, but the algorithms must be modified to reflect the needs of the willful souls of the Primes. Arcadia would be that benevolent Order. 

Long ago, the greatest of Arcadia's builders distributed their being among a crafted species. The ant-like formians carry out and carry forward the great working through that divine spark within.  For the souls which come to reside in the ordered collectives of Arcadia, the formians are both humble servants and strict correctors of infractions. They model for the other inhabitants self-less service of the community.

Visitors to Arcadia find it a place of great serenity and happiness. Its souls live in ziggurat arcologies with terraced gardens and precise, geometric parks. They are amiable, though highly conformist and given to speaking in aphorisms regarding the virtues of their lifestyle.

It could be said that Arcadia is a benevolent dictatorship. While the souls have a great deal of freedom, there is little tolerance of behaviors which are detrimental to the community. Friendly warnings and lectures are the first response, then tasks meant to create awareness. If those interventions are ineffective or resisted, the community practices ostracism and a truly rebel soul will find the plane itself rejecting them.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Swords Against Sorcery: Showdown in The Tower of Eyes!

Last weekend, we continued the playtest of Swords Against Sorcery, the Bronze Age comic book Swords & Sorcery system I have been working on. Here are the characters in the session:

  • Zanjar, Gallant Thief (Tug)
  • Thunda, Barbarian Acolyte (Andrea)
  • Korag, Primitive Warrior (Jason)
  • Kharron, Cursed Warrior (Paul
When last we left our heroes they were facing the mind-boggling inner dimension of the Tower of Eyes. They had to travel through this space presumably to reach the sanctum of the wizard Narznn Gath who had tried to kill them. Everyone had to succeed at a Tough (2 successes) Instinct+Sorcery roll to be able to navigate the space without error. Several didn't succeed and so received a "Confused" penalty condition when trying to navigate. Luckily, they have Thunda's instincts, honed to the Shaman's Realm, which allowed her to be their guide.

They had barely began their descent when a strangely doubled bellow assailed them from all directions. They hastened on, only to have a hulking monster appear some distance below them--they materialize on the catwalk in front of them! 

The creature named himself in both his voices at once: Y'gnathra! And he announced his intention to kill them! Y'gnathra's stats in the system were:

This made him a formidable opponent! The player's were going to have to be smart and luck. They had get Momentum (often by taking risky rerolls by "Tempting the Gods") and by spending that Momentum.

Kharron, unafraid of any demon, strode forward, slashing his blade. Against the odds, he scored a blow. Thunda followed that up by calling upon ancestral spirits to bedevil the creature, hampering its attacks, but it still sent Kharron sprawling with a backhand blow, and a combined attack by Zanjar and Korag to blind it and push it from the walkway failed.

Y'gnathra proved able to transport quickly from one place to another too. Frantically seeking a means of escape as they fought to hold the creature at bay, Korag's keen hunter's vision noted an ornate doorway out of this central space a couple of levels beneath them. They all made daring escapes to the crosswalk below and ran for the door, but again Y'gnathra teleported in a way to bar their path. Thunda and Kharron made it past, but Y'gnathra caught Zanjar and Korag and tossed them like missiles, causing our heroes to fall into the room beyond the doors in a jumbled heap. By now, Zanjar had exhausted his Luck. Further "damage" would place him in The Hand of Doom!

Y'gnathra withdraws. In a round ceremonial chamber, the wizard Narznn Gath stood before a floating mirror in the shape of a stylized eye. He turns and removes the dome he wore over his head, revealing...

Narznn Gath welcomes the group. He had always intended they should be present for his ultimate triumph. He is drawing forth Occuloth the All Seeing from the Outer Dark, so he can merge with that being and attain his power. While he gloats, Korag tries an attack, but the many eyes of Narznn Gath give him an advantage, and he avoids it. 

The wizard waves a hand and casts a spell to bind them all. Kharron and Korag resist binding, but they pretend to be caught by the energy bands. They ask while Gath tried to kill them, he reveals he didn't--it was an a strategem to bring them here, as his auguries had said they would be present when he merged with Occuloth.

When he turns back to his mirror through which a swirling cloud of eyes and tentacles can be seen approaching through space, the free heroes make their attacks. They are unable to seriously harm Narznn but they keep him off balance and distracted until the others free themselves. Korag makes a rushing attack against him, slamming the wizard against the mirror, then he's grabbed by tentacles from beyond.


The wizard screams as he is drawn into the mirror.

The heroes now find the interior of the tower much more mundane than before. The magic has fled. They quickly find the exit and depart for more civilized realms.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

All Your Hydra Favorites


A new Bundle of Holding launched yesterday featuring all the Hydra hits including a few cuts from yours truly. Here's the list:

  • Chris Kutalik's sourcebooks and modules set in his Weird-infested Marlinko Canton, a Slavic myth-inspired, acid fantasy world of Moorcockian extradimensional incursions, Vancian swindlers, and petty bureaucrats: Slumbering Ursine Dunes; Fever-Dreaming Marlinko, plus its free Map Pack; Misty Isles of the Eld; the hexcrawl What Ho, Frog Demons; and the collection that started it all, the Hill Cantons Compendium II.
  • From another Hydra stalwart, Trey Causey, the Strange Stars; the pulp-era rulebook Weird Adventures and Strange Trails; and a deceptively whimsical foray into a wild wizard's mad magic mansion, Mortzengersturm, the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak.
  • Zedeck Siew's Malay-themed sandbox module about river exploration, horrific eternal bargains, and a very hungry crocodile, Lorn Song of the Bachelor.
You might expect to pay as much as $74.50, but for a short time you can get all these books for the low, low price $14.95!

Don't wait! Order today!

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 1982 (week 3)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around July 15, 1982.

Batman Annual #8: If I didn't know the publication date, this annual would make me think it was from a few years later. Maybe 1984 or even '86. Von Eeden's art seems much more of that time period when he inks himself than the other stuff I've seen by him up to this point. Barr's portrayal of Batman is what I remember from a lot of comics from my earliest days of being a concerted reader of them. He's pretty taciturn and no nonsense, but to the point where it seems less a flaw or pathology rather than just a trait; and he still calls Robin "chum" on occasion. This is not the Batman of Barr's earlier stories so much, but the one found in Barr's later work like Batman and the Outsiders and his run in Detective starting in 1986 with Alan Davis. It's a bit of a "middle path" Batman between the late 70s-early 80s good guy and the grim crusader of the night that was going to come back into vogue. 

Anyway, a masked, terrorist cult leader destroys a town by reducing its populace to charred skeletons and there are only 2 survivors, but that's enough for Batman and Robin to unravel the mystery and determine the causitive agent is in the drinking water. Ultimately, the masked mastermind is revealed to be Ra's al-Ghul and the dynamic duo foil his plans. As that thumbnail might suggest, this is a pulp story harkening back to the lurid menaces and mysteries of pulp heroes like Doc Savage and the Shadow.

Brave & the Bold #191: Mishkin/Cohn and Aparo present the unlikely team-up of Batman and the Joker. After the Penguin is apparently murdered on live TV by the Joker, Batman goes on a manhunt, but the Joker calls him in, declaring his innocence and wanting to enlist Batman's help. Apparently, the Joker is also a bit fond of Penguin and doesn't want his murderer to get away. There's a lot of silliness here as the Joker keeps falling back into old habits and trying to kill Batman with surprise attacks or traps before remembering their allies, and Batman just puts up with it. In the end, it's revealed that Penguin faked his death and pinned it on the Joker as part of some elaborate plan to kidnap a cardinal and get a ransom from the Vatican, but the Joker and Batman foil his plans. It's definitely Bronze Age silliness that wouldn't fly in the Modern Age, but it's not bad.

Nemesis still limps along in the backup. I honestly have a hard time keeping track of where he's at in his battle against this organized crime conspiracy. There's something to be said for colorful costumes and over-the-top villains in making comics stories memorable. Anyway, Nemesis tries to turn this guy Carl Sheffield against the Council.

Legion of Super-Heroes #292: Levitz and Giffen/Mahlstedt present Chapter 3 of the Great Darkness Saga. Chameleon Boy arrives on Takron-Galtos with his trial looming. On Earth, a group of horrified Legionnaires discover that the Master of Darkness cloned Superman and a Guardian of the Universe to make a couple of his servants.

Two Legion cruisers arrive at the Sorcerer's World of Zerox to find it embattled by the forces of Darkness. The Master sets his sites on Daxam, while the Teacher's of Sorcerer's World summon help in the form infant. The Legionnaires make what may be their last stand on Teacher's Island. The Master shatters their defenses--but leaves them all alive so that they can witness his ultimate triumph.

Green Lantern #157: Barr gets new artistic team: Keith Pollard on pencils and Mike DeCarlo on inks.  Green Lantern finds himself attacked by his asteroid home and he's forced to blow up the whole rock. After that weirdness, Hal notices a glowing rock that looks familiar, but it hits him with a blast, leaving him unconscious in space. The rock is drawn to Earth by Hector Hammond who's behind all this. It's the sort of substance that hyper-evolved Hammond and can cure his immobility, and he's been using his mind to search space for it, until he (conveniently) found it inside Hal's asteroid. restored, he breaks out of prison and rushes out for a confrontation. Fighting Jordan seems to drain Hammond's power, though, threatening to shrink his head until his a normal, 20th Century man. He'd rather give up mobility, so he returns to Earth.  Jordan sends an energy form to check on Hammond, but also visit Carol Ferris to remind her that he loves her. 

In The Green Lantern Corps backup by Kupperberg and Novick, we check in on Charles Vicker (a former TV star turned Green Lantern of Sector 3319 (who first appeared in Green Lantern #55 in 1967). Vicker finds it hard to cope with the alien lifeforms of his sector, with not a single planet similar to home he could settle in. He's built his own house on a little planetoid, which only served to make him miss Earth more. When he saves the inhabitants of Axelbob III from disaster, the xenophobic folk run away from him when he tries to be friendly. Still, he keeps on, saving various worlds, each one with weirder and weirder inhabitants. Then, the Guardians of the Universe order him to assist the planet Ftl'yl XI...

House of Mystery #309: Kaluta's cover looks nice, but its Prince Valiant looking Bennett suggests our hero is back in Medieval times when the story actually seems to take place in the late 18th-early 19th Century. Well, the witch hunters seem a throwback, so maybe it's unclear. Anyway, while in the past seeking Mary, Bennett is impersonating his younger, pre-vampire self. Bennett uses his powers to rescue a girl from being murdered by witch-hunters. He goes to the costume party as planned, but the girl he dances with is the vampiric Mary who has also replaced her past self. Suddenly the witch-hunters burst in led by the girl, searching for the monster that saved her. Young Andrew Bennett also shows up to denounce the vampire one. Before vampire Bennett can killed by the mob. Mary accidentally reveals herself, as she's forced to rescue her past self to secure her own existence. The mob turns on vampire Mary who is unable to use her ring, but Bennett slips away to the future.

The other two stories are an EC style riff told from the perspective of a guy who had some horrible accident (turns out it was a failed suicide attempt) who is now a brain in a jar being tormented by his cruel wife, and then in the last one, aging, wealthy business men are stealing the bodies of their young subordinates, but the mustachioed protagonist escapes because a cat gets in the way and becomes the recipient instead.

Night Force #3: Baron Winter is forced by events to accelerate his efforts and coerces Jack Gold into joining forces with Donovan Caine by causing him to lose his job. We learn that Vanessa is the granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing who was a real person, though the events of Dracula aren't what happened in reality. Does Wolfman just really like Dracula or is he trying to sneakily tie in Night Force to his work at Marvel? Anyway, it's Russian agents that kidnapped Vanessa, and Caine and Gold follow them to London there they meet and elderly antiquarian bookstore owner who had a thing with Winter, and she says he was an older man. Then they are shot at by goons in a car so they jump into the Thames where they are shot at by goons in a hydrofoil!

Sgt. Rock #369: I read this issue as a kid or at least I saw it in my cousin's collection. Easy gets a new recruit who thinks things are too tough. Rock (in typical Kanigher storytelling mode) reminds him as they face challenges and trials that "dying is too easy." Contrary to a lot of those stories, the new guy doesn't die at the end. This is a followed by a downer story with art by Arata about a soldier who dives to rescue a drowning German pilot at Dunkirk only to have them both die a little later as the Luftwaffe sinks the boat they are on fleeing the battle. In the last story by Kelley and Mandrake, a big game hunter is forced to use all his skills to survive and overcome a rival who has joined the Nazis. 

Warlord #62: I reviewed the main story in this issue here. In the Kupperberg/Duursema Arion backup, Caculha shoots across the Astral Plane in an effort to reach Arion, who has become ensnared by a being of energy. Caculha's way is blocked by the very annoying at this point chaos avatar Chaon. The two battle and Calculha is victorious. This story promises to be continued in Arion #1. I hope they do something to make it more interesting than these backups have been.

Monday, July 17, 2023

The Structure of the Inner Planes Revealed

Back in Dragon Magazine #8 when Gygax presents the first diagram of the standard planes of D&D (which wasn't yet a "Great Wheel") he assures us the image is "a 2-dimensional diagram of a 4-dimensional concept." Gygax doesn't explain what he means (is the entire conception 4D or only some part>), and so far as I know, no one else seems to have picked up this thread. 

In Dragon #42, for example, Lafoka makes the both suggestive and hard to parse statement about travel to the Elemental Planes from the Prime: 

A figure with ethereal access can freely travel on the Prime Material, go “up” into the Elemental Plane of Air, “down” into the volcanic Elemental Plane of Fire, can go into the Elemental Plane of Water (if a large body of water is nearby), or can go “down” into the Elemental Plane of Earth. 
I think this is mainly saying that areas of the element on the Prime Material are effectively portals in the Ethereal, but it could be more clearly worded if so, and why are up and down in quotes as if they are only so-called? Anyway, unless that scare-quoted up and down are referencing directions other than the usual, this doesn't offer anything.

Next, in Dragon #73, Gygax (inspired likely by Swycaffe's article in Dragon #27, though he doesn't credit it here) proposes a cubic model of the Inner Planes to accommodate the Positive and Negative Material Planes and the various para- and quasi-elemental stuff. Still no indication of dimensions beyond three, though.

I've written posts about the much-maligned inner planes before, I've never addressed this aspect either, so now, in full recognition of what has been written about them by above, I'm going to suggest that the inner planes exist in a 4-dimensional space. So, a better model for them and their relationships would be a hypercube or tesseract (to use the word coined by Charles Hinton to refer to such). Here's a 2D representation of the spatial relationship of the 3D "faces" of the 4D structure:

So this means the elemental planes (with the Prime Material unpictured in the center) are all 3D cells accessible by travel along the 4th axis. Hinton calls these directions kata and ana, and they stand with left and right, forward and backward, and up and down, to define location in a 4D space. This video shows how the above projection is arrived at by "unfolding" the 4D shape in 3 dimensions.

Of course, the Inner Planes don't really form a 4D hypercube any more than they were a cube. It's a model to show their spatial relationships. 

Thursday, July 13, 2023


I've recently started watching the Epix (now MGM+) TV series From on a free preview. It's the story of a family that find themselves stranded in a small town where no one can leave and they are beset each night by apparently supernatural creatures that appear human, but are not. As a setting and situation, it's the sort of thing I've called a mystery sandbox before--though there's always the chance it will be revealed to be more of a sort of mystery terrarium where the true mysteries are other than what they initially appear. I'm only 4 episodes in, so it's hard to say!

Reviews tend to compared it to Lost, which is not completely off-base, but  think it's a bit lazy and possibly inspired by the presence of Harold Perrineau as the town sheriff. More apt comparisons I think are in the works of Stephen King. You've got a family where the parents have some relationship stress, a kid who has supernatural insights, and an eclectic group of characters, some of whom are dangerous to the others. It's perhaps a bit less volatile than how King would mix those elements, because it's meant to potentially last longer. So maybe it's a mix of a Lost-type show and a King work--the second one of it's type, since King's book The Dome was stretched into that sort of show.

Anyway,  think this sort of thing would make an interesting sort of short to medium rpg campaign. I'm sort of surprised their isn't a Powered by the Apocalypse hack to do this sort of thing, though maybe their is and I just don't know it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 1982 (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 July 8, 1982. 

Batman #352: Kupperberg joins Conway on this one with Newton/Calnan on art. Gordon is in the hospital after being beat up by cops where he's visited by the new commissioner who tells him to stop investigating the electoral fraud. Batman shows up and warns them to stay away from James Gordon or else they would have him to deal with. When they're gone, Gordon asks Batman to continue the investigation on his behalf. Meanwhile, Vicki sees Thorne at her editors office, but then Morton commits suicide.

 Later, Vicki and Bruce are on a romantic cruise, and they see giant zeppelin appear and steal a nearby battleship with antigravity technology. Bruce pulls his disappearing act on Vicki to change into Batman. He uses his equipment to climb to the dirigible, but he doesn't do it unseen. Colonel Blimp commands his men to take care of Batman and a tussle with them leads to Bats being thrown off the zeppelin, though he leaves a bat-tracer behind.

Batman barely makes it back to the Batcave after the fall the zeppelin. The next day, he and Robin follow the tracking signal. Out in the woods, the Batmobile is wrecked by land mines. Only a few miles away, Colonel Blimp and his small army prepare their next attack.

Flash #314: Bates is back with Infantino. Barry has apparently lost Fiona to a relationship with her State Senator boss, Phillip Creed. There's also a new, deadly vigilante in town, the Eradicator, who with a touch dissolves criminals into a puddle of goo. I'm sure these things are totally unrelated, though!

G.I. Combat #246: 30th Anniversary issue where Kanigher and various artist pull one of those DC War Comic crossovers here. I always like these; they seldom produce the best stories in these comics, but they also aren't as boring as the mediocre ones. The concept here is that the Haunted Tank boys are on a suicide mission that involves taking the tank into the Lascaux Caves where there are Germans hiding. Glanzman handles the art on the Tank parts of the story. After a prologue, the narrative flashes back to Capt. Storm and the O.S.S. (art by E.R. Cruz) who discover a sub pen deep beneath the caves with experimental missiles that can destroy Allied cities. Control tasks the Haunted Tank with taking that base out. 

Next, Johnny Cloud ends some air support to the crew, and Easy shows up to help out. Cruz is up again, as the Losers and Kana take out a German U-boat with advanced missiles in the Pacific. Easy and the Tank crew have to dissemble and re-assemble the tank to carry it down some stairs before they can final complete their mission, in the final parts again drawn by Glanzman.

There's a text piece this issue where Robin Snyder the diegetic history of the Haunted Tanks service from landing in North Africa to Europe. I dig this stuff that strongly roots war comics (or any kind of comics really) in real history.

Jonah Hex #64: Fleisher and Ayers/DeZuniga pour some more misery into Hex's backstory, as we find out in his days as a scout (prior to the Civil War) he was engaged to Cassie Wainwright, the daughter of the general he was working for. When a group of corrupt soldiers led by Walt Barstow contrive to steal money from the government, Cassie is an unfortunate casualty as they leave her at the mercy of Comanches. Hex hasn't though about Barstow and those guys in years, but trying to collect a bounty, he discovers Barstow is now a corrupt sheriff playing both sides in bandit predations on a town. So afraid Hex has come after then, Barstow forces a show down, which ends in his death. 

Saga of the Swamp Thing #6: Pasko and Yeates really serve up an odd title. It would have been at home at Vertigo if it just had a more 90s sensibility. This issue, we get more evidence that "Casey" (turns out, not her real name) the little girl Swampie is bent in trying to save ain't as innocent as she appears. Her dying mother asks someone to kill the girl to kill her, for one thing. And the formerly possessed child killer that supposedly kidnapped her, runs out to beg armed men to get him away from her. Then the girl blasts the guys with her power. Harry Kay (that guy just won't die) is flying around in a helicopter, trying to find the girl with a psychic. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing and his crew sneak onto a Sunderland luxury cruise, and Swamp Thing has to contend with some tentacled creature, then at a costume party, a bunch of guests unmasks to reveal their single, cyclops-like eyes. Sunderland is almost comically into weirdness every way you turn, it seems like.

New Teen Titans #24: Wolfman and Perez are still pushing the Omega Men and their Vega System deal. This issue follows their appearance in Action last month. Superman introduces them to the Titans, which is convenient because they can take the Titans with them on their return to their home system so the Titans can rescue Starfire. On the Citadel homeworld, Blackfire turns Starfire over to Lord Damyn, the none too bright Citadel chieftain, and learns of the Citadel's plan to kidnap the Vegans' living goddess, X'Hal. When the Citadel attacks Okaara, the Titans and the Omega Men aid in the planet's defense, while Changeling, disguised as a Gordanian, attempts to smuggle Robin and Cyborg into the enemy mother ship to rescue Starfire.

Superman #376: The Superman titles in this era often seem very retro with throwback Silver Age-y stories. It's not consistent, but it happens enough to make his two titles standout from DC's Bronze Age output (with 3 titles: Swamp Thing, New Teen Titans, and Legion of Super-Heroes perhaps harbingering something knew). Elliot S. Maggin takes over writing here, and his approach is definitely Silver Age (or perhaps Paleo-Neo-Silver Age). Here, Perry White is struck down by the super-villain Ozone-Master. As he's in the hospital in critical condition, he gets Superman to bring him one last cigar--one given to him by mutant children--gains super-powers, and team-ups with Superman in bringing their foe to justice.

Kupperberg/Infantio's Supergirl backup is mostly just advertising to Superman readers that she's go a new series coming up as most of this was implied by her last story in Superman Family. Linda gives notice on her soap opera job, then meets up with Superman in Kansas to inform him of her decision. He tries to talk her out of it, but Supergirl stands firm and tells him that she hasn't come to get his advice, only to tell him her decision. Superman accepts the fact that Kara is an adult now. She tells him (and the audience) that she is relocating to Chicago and flies off in that direction.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Creepy Spheroids and Mutant Manticores

Our 5e game continued last night with the part exploring the strange ruin with the dish on top. The first thing they discovered was a cell, and inside was someone they knew: the former Mayor Gladhand. They had last seen Gladhand in Rivertown after helping him acquire (well, steal it from the Raccoon Crime Family's vault) money to hire mercenaries to take back the town from Mayor Drumpf. Gladhand tells them he had come to Sang where the Clockwork Princess had agreed to help him, and he had been running errands for her, checking up on wayward "Looms." Looms, he says, are duplicates of Mirabiilis Lum the genius who built her, who is now in advanced state of senility. One of the wayward Looms is in league with the Shadow.

Gladhand was captured by one of the Junk City's gangs for some reason. They threw him in this cell, but then stopped coming a few days ago. The group sends Gladhand off to an end to meet up with him later. This proves to be a mistake.

Shortly before freeing Gladhand, they had encountered a folksy talking but very creepy spheroid being. He had asked to touch them with a sucker-ended tentacle. They had obviously declined. He disappeared. 

The group had explored much farther before they here Gladhand scream. They return to find unconscious but otherwise apparently unharmed. They assume it was the ball face, but the thing is nowhere to be seen.

They pick up Gladhand and carry him back to an inn. Looking to save time, they use a back alley. That's a mistake too, when a weird manticore flies down to attack. The creature is toxic and makes a few of the party sick before they are able to kill him.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Weird Revisited: High Flyin' Hawkman

This post originally appeared in 2018 and was a follow-up to this post.


F                 EX   (20)
A                 RM  (30)
S                 GD  (10)
E                 EX   (20)
R                 RM (30)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  EX   (20)
Health: 80
Karma: 70
Resources: GD (10)
Popularity: 20

Real Name: Henry Carter Hall
Occupation: Inventor, adventurer
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with no criminal record.
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois
Marital Status: Married.
Known Relatives: Susan Sanders Hall (wife)
Base of Operations: New York City
Group Affiliation: Partner of Hawkwoman, Avengers

Winged Flight: His artificial wings and nth metal belt (Unearthly material) allow Hawkman to fly at Remarkable speed.
Avian Communication: Cybernetic circuitry incoporated into his cowl allow him to command birds at Remarkable ability.

Hawkman has Remarkable knowledge of aerial combat. He is a brillaint scientist skilled in Electronics, Physics, Biophysics. Orinthology, and Engineering. He also has the Repair/Tinkering talent, and is an armchair Egyptologist.

History: Henry "Hank" Hall, scientist and inventor, was experimenting with a metal of extraterrestrial origin that could be used to produced antigravity effects. He dubbed "nth metal" which had been recovered from a meteorite in Africa. He attended an exhibition of newly discovered artifacts at a local museum to investigate his theory that the  Ancient Egyptians had utilized nth metal in tools.

At the exhibition, Hall surreptitiously exposed a ceremonial dagger he suspected of being nth metal to high frequency sound waves. Energy emitted by the dagger caused Hall to experience a vision of the distant past that felt like he had lived it. He was an ancient Egyptian prince who was slain along with his betrothed by a treacherous and power-hungry high priest. Unknown to Hall, two others present experienced that same vision. Susan Sanders saw it through the eyes of the Prince's wife to be, and Anton Hastor, a Soviet agent who had been monitoring Hall's research, felt he had been the high priest.

The three left somewhat disoriented, but Hastor kidnapped Sanders on her way home, planning to use her to coerce Hall into turning over his nth metal research, then kill the both of them as he believed he had done in his previous life.

Hall agreed to meet Hastor and turn over his notes, but instead donned his experimental wings and nth metal lift belt, a cybernetic helmet he had been working on to communicate with birds, and a makeshift costume. He rescued Sanders in the guise of Hawkman.

Hall and Sanders instantly fell in love. She suggested he continued fighting crime as Hawkman and had him build fight gear for her so that she could assist him as Hawkgirl.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 1982 (week 1)

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 July 1, 1982. 

Adventure Comics #492: The Adventure Comics digest is again mostly reprints, but there's the continuation of the Captain Marvel story by Bridwell and Newton. The Marvel Family and Kid Eternty must contend with "gods of evil"--Set, Cernabog, Ahriman, and Tezcatlipoca--summoned by Master Man. Kid Eternity offers to summon some "good gods" to help out, but the Marvels want to do it on their own. And they do! Kid Eternity gets into the act by defeating Ahriman by taking him back to the Big Bang.

Arak Son of Thunder #14: As we saw at the end of last issue, Arak finds a tapestry which depicts the story of his life in this eldritch cavern in Greece. Following the tapestry leads him to its weaver, the Fate Lachesis. She's taken with ol' Arak and we get a sexy interlude. After that business, Arak and Lachesis are greeting by the other fates Clotho and Atropos, who are none too happy. Atropos wants cut his thread and kill him, but Arak says they should at least allow him to die in battle. She summons the Ker, but Arak beats him. It's revealed that he is indeed the son of a god. He-No is of the same spirit as Zeus. Arak cuts his own life thread with the knife of Atropos to prove he controls his destiny. Clotho restores the thread, and two out of three Fates agree, Arak has earned the right to follow his own path. In a sign that he has now accepted his own Quontaukan heritage, Arak is given a mohawk, and he struts out of the cave with Satyricus.

In the Valda backup by the Thomases and Colon, after the Huns failure the assassinate Carolus Magnus, a battle breaks out between the forces. After the battle, Valda takes the opportunity to bathe in the River Istir. She sees a beautiful horse on the opposite bank and swims (in chain armor) to investigate. She finds the bodies of three scouts--and a group of man-eating horses! Valda kills one of them, but she falls and is knocked unconscious. A guy in a horse mask arrives on the scene and calls off the horses before they kill her.

Blackhawk #251: The Blackhawks are back and back in World War II after a modernizing revamp that ended in 1977. Evanier, the writer of this run, has admitted it was done for licensing purposes (Spielberg was rumored to be interested in doing a Blackhawks movie), but I've read most of the run before, and I think it's pretty good. Spiegle provides the interior art and Cockrum does this first cover. 

During the Nazi invasion of Holland, the Blackhawks try to help the people of a small town whom the Germans have forced to hold a plebiscite to determine whether the people will willing accept occupation. The vote is of course, a "no win" for the town: Should they vote for the Germans, the Nazis will use it for propaganda purposes, but should the town reject the occupation, the Germans will destroy them. The town leader is initially for playing along, despite Blackhawk's arguments.

Blackhawk is captured and questioned under hypnosis by his old nemesis, Von Tepp.  The other Blackhawks trick the Germans into revealing his location and stage rescue, but not before Blackhawk apparently gives  up resistance plans, as well as recapping his origin. Luckily,  he fed them false information.

When the Blackhawks get back to the Dutch village they find that it is partially destroyed. The town leader has changed his mind and chosen the path of resistance.

DC Comics Presents #50: Mishkin/Cohn and Swan spin an unusual yarn with the wayward Miracle Machine, that happens to be lodged on a meteor Superman is moving, secretly granting his subconscious wish to be split into two beings, Clark Kent and Superman. No one can figure out why Superman is so cold to his friends and just keeps flying around to natural disasters, until ace reporter Clark Kent solves the case. And just in time in time, too because the Atomic Skull is up to some nefarious plot. It's Clark that saves the day by getting Superman to pay attention and thwart the Skull, then he reminds Superman of his connection to the now deceased Kents to get him to realize his human side is important and unite with Clark again.

Fury of Firestorm #5: Conway and Broderick/Rodriquez have Ronnie feeling sorry for himself due to personal setbacks and deciding that Firestorm should take Lorraine Reilly, the Senator's daughter he rescue previously, up on her dinner offer. Afterwards, he returns to Bradley High School where he begs Coach Mason to allow him back onto the basketball team.

Meanwhile, Senator Reilly buys an ancient artifact, the Pipes of Pan. The Pied Piper is interested in getting his hands on those, so he invades the Senator's home. He steals the pipes then uses then to hypnotize all Manhattan. Firestorm flies into action. The Piper commands his legion of subservient citizens to attack Firestorm. Realizing that the hypnotized people are just innocent victims, Firestorm is reluctant to use his powers against them. As the Piper continues to play, New Yorkers swarm over Firestorm.

Justice League #207: It's time for a Crisis! No, not that one, one of the periodic crossovers between the JLA and JSA. Conway has already done one, but I guess he's hungry for more as he and Heck/Tanghal present, "Crisis on Earth-Prime!" Members of the JLA are preparing to receive guests from Earth-Two, but instead the transporter somehow brings them the Crime Syndicate from Earth-Three. The League is taken by surprise and defeated by the Syndicate who then steal an experimental space shuttle from the JLA's hangar and fly towards Earth-One, intent on establishing a foothold on the planet from which to stage their revenge against Per Degaton.

The JSA members, meanwhile, appear in the limbo between worlds and find the abandoned prison of the Syndicate. Green Lantern uses his ring to follow the Syndicates trail, and they arrive on Earth-Prime, but it has been devastated by a nuclear war years before. Dr. Fate picks up Per Degaton's psychic vibration all over this. 

The recovered JLA goes looking for the missing JSA and winds up on Earth-Two on October 2, 1982, but not one they recognize. It's a fascist state where 40s styles never went away. Escaping the cops, they decide the only way to solve this mystery is to head into the past, so they do. In January 1942, they go to the JSA headquarters, but instead of the JSA they know, they encounter the All-Star Squadron.

Warlord Annual #1: I reviewed this annual by Grell and Rodriquez here.

Wonder Woman #296: Thomas/Mishkin and Colan/McLaughlin conclude the Commander Video story. Wonder Woman, is captured by General Electric. He tries to brainwash her as he has the others, but she's more resistant, so he resorts to the psychic dual within the Commander Video game that ultimately gave him control over the others. Wonder Woman's will is too strong, and he decides his only recourse is to kill her. Wonder Woman beats him though and joins the counter-offensive by Etta Candy and Steve Trevor. Electric is defeated and his mental thralls are freed.

In the Huntress backup by Levitz and Staton/Ordway, the Huntress "status quo" is represented: her boss, her job, her boyfriend (though he's feeling the pressure of keeping her secret). She also does some musing over the advantages of her vigilantism over her legal work in dealing with crime. That's about it.

Monday, July 3, 2023

Swords Against Sorcery: On Wings of Night!


Last night, we continued the playtest of Swords Against Sorcery, the Bronze Age comic book Swords & Sorcery system I have been working on. Paul was out, but everyone else could make it, and we were joined by Tug from my Azurth group. The scroll of glory:

  • Oriax the Red, Gladiator Champion (Aaron)
  • Thunda, Barbarian Acolyte (Andrea)
  • Korag, Primitive Warrior (Jason)
  • Zanjar, Gallant Thief (Tug)
Having escaped Zaarzog the Demon and the imps of the tree with an armload of fruit, our heroes made it back through the portal to Yasheeng's sanctum. They give her the eye (as promised), and she tells them a bit more detail regarding their potential mounts. At the foot of the Vestari Hills there is a woodland of jagged karst formations, some of great size, known as the Nightfang Forest. Here dwell beast folk who make sacrifices to the giant bat-things that roost in the caves in the largest spires. 

The beast folk are generally known to be inimical to humans, but Korag has the Distinction "Raised by Beast Men," so he is feeling pretty prepared for this development.

Bats being nocturnal, our heroes waste no time in heading to the Nightfang Forest, only a short ride from the city's walls. They reach the edge of the forest as the moon is high in the sky. 

At the edge of the forest, they meet Zanjar who was contemplating entering himself. Zanjar is currently on the run, having robed a lackey of a certain wizard, earning him the wizard's enmity. He decides to join the party as the wizard threatening him is none other than Nazrnn Gath.

Making their way down the narrow trail, Korag's jungle-born senses detect that they are being observed. They also notice large shapes flying across the sky. Suddenly, there's a fearful human cry from the forest. Thunda is able to track it, and the group comes upon a bowl-shaped depression with a pole mounted in the middle. There, a fat merchant of Djadishar is tied as the beast folk, arrayed around the periphery, chant ominously. With a high-pitched cry, the bat creatures descend to take the sacrifice.

Korag speaks with the beast folk who are not of his tribe but speak the same prehuman tongue. The leader of the beast folk warns Korag not to interfere. Korag suggests the fruit will tempt the "bloodwings" as the beast folk call the bats. With a successful roll of Presence+Wild, the leader agrees to let him try.

With all eyes on Korag and the bats, Zanjar sidles up to the merchant and offers him his freedom for his gold. The blubbering merchant would agree to anything at this point. Zanjar deftly cuts the man's bonds and his purse with one stroke, catching a handful of gold in his palm.

Meanwhile, presenting the fruit and talking commandingly to the bats, proves to do the trick. After gorging on a fruit each, the bats allow the heroes to mount them. Korag with his rapport with beasts (Kinship with Beasts Talent, in fact) is able to guide his mount easier and the others merely follow is lead.

They fly over the hills and out into the desert of Urrd. Soon, the tower is in sight. It is an odd structure, with no decoration save that it is ringed at 3 places by a set of 3 evenly spaced, large eye reliefs. 

The group flew up close to the tower, looking for a way in. One of the rings with the eyes, began to turn, tracking them--and a last of energy came out of the eyes strafing them all! Most of the bats did evasive maneuvers to avoid it, but Zanjar wasn't so lucky and was forced to jump from his bat, aiming for Korag and his mount spiraling back. He succeeded (with some Momentum spent!) but the extra weight forced the two to jump for the angled roof of the tower.

Zanjar climbs down the closest ring to have a cautious look in one of the irises. It seems to have a window or lens. He shatters it with his dagger handle, and he and Korag tumble inside. The others follow them but have a bit more difficulty (losing some Luck in the process). 

They start down the central stairway, but at the next landing they discovered the Tower is no mundane structure: