Monday, October 30, 2023


Scintilla are the common currency of civilized Gyndrion. They are naturally occurring shield-shaped crystals of various colors, with the most common known as opaline. The are typically harvested from areas with a history of volcanic activity, but their generation also relates in poorly understood ways to the flows or lines of fae, the energy which is harnessed to work magic.

Pre-scintilla crystals form within cysts occurring underground with have the appearance of geodes. The crystals within fracture into scintilla upon exposure to air. Scintilla are harvested from ruptured nodules, though the nodules themselves may be excavated and carefully ruptured by hand, a process called "cracking." Cracking tends to yield more scintilla, but over lower value.

Despite claims by montebanks, no sophont of Gnydrion has every been proven to be able to detect pre-scintilla nodules. So-called scintilla-sniffing nonnigs however are able to do so, though how they do this is mysterious.

In addition to their pleasing, crystalline appearance, scintilla are favored as currency because they are impossible to counterfeit, even through use of magic. In fact, scintilla are minor magical insulators, absorbing and dissipating fae energy directed specifically upon them, turning black and cracking in the process.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Island and the Censor

Pohjal or in older texts Cinis Pohjal is a large island of volcanic origin within the Lake of Vermilion Mists. It is a desolate place of ash and pumice, dotted with hot springs and smoking holes, and attracting an inordinate number of noisome gas flies. In summary, there is little to recommend it, except that is also a place where scintilla may be gathered without diving and the attendant risk of angry urulu.

Scintilla cysts burst in the warmth of the hotsprings, and sifting the loose sand from their bottoms can yield imperfect--but perfectly spendable--scintilla of opaline and citrine colors with the rare sanguine. By some oversight of Panarchic edict, the ownership of scintilla gathered naturally above the lake's surface is an open question, allowing a legal opportunity for others to lay a claim so long as they can avoid disputation with the Eminent Compulsor or his agents. 

Besides the inconvenience of reaching the island and retrieving the scintilla there is another factor discouraging their acquisition. The island is the home of a baleful Visitant known as the Censor. This being is said to appear as a slender automaton with feminine form and four arms, two of which have dexterous hands and two large, scalpel-blades. The Censor lies dormant much of the time, but when she awakens, she seeks sophonts to improve upon in the direction of her moral sensibilities.  There are cases of individuals emerging her editing free of their previous vices and deficits of character to go on to lives of distinction, but they are rare.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 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 October 28, 1982.

Action Comics #539: Wolfman and Kane continue the split Superman story. Our hero seeks the help of both the Atom and then the Flash to get back to the past, but Satanis has blocked him at every turn and his friends are worried about his defeatism and despair.

In the past, the other Superman has been working diligently to try to escape, but it's too late.  Syrene starts a ritual to filter the Runestone of Merlin's energies through his body and into hers, and just then, Satanis attacks her castle and appears to get the upper hand. Syrene absorbs the Runestone's powers, killing Superman in the process. Wanting to show off her powers before killing Satanis painfully, Syrene shatters a faraway planet and tosses the fragments at him. Satanis leaps inside Superman's body, which shields him from the avalanche of meteorites. Now possessing Superman's powers as well as his own magic, Satanis is ready to fight.

In the present, Clark Kent walks into the offices of the Daily Planet and immediately passes out. Lois Lane calls in the doctor who examines Clark and declares him dead! His body is taken for an autopsy while the Daily Planet staff mourns him.

In the Aquaman backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, Aquaman gets the full story on how Vlana, the woman who ruled her dimensional world of Xebel after Mera left to marry Aquaman, is now in possession of Mera's body. She's looking to telepathically recruit fish allies and take them back to Xebel. Perhaps saving her the embarrassment of enacting this plan, Aquaman and Mera go through a warp to Xebel. The crossing returns Mera's control of her own body to her. The two confront Vlana, who now has fish-summoning powers and draws an army of octopi, sharks, swordfish, and electric eels through the warp to fight for her. Aquaman is stunned by her telepathic strike, and Vlana tells Mera to choose which fish species she wants to be killed by!

Arion Lord of Atlantis #3: Kupperberg and Duursema resolve the seige of Atlantis from last issue with the presence of Arion tipping things decisively against the Thamuzian invaders. Arion is reuinted with Chian and Wyynde and mets Mara. When he examines the ram-head shaped crystal she carries, he accidentally releases the demon imprisoned within--a hulking ram-headed humanoid. The demon proceeds to kick Arion's butt, until Garn Danuuth shows up and the two combine their powers to reimprison the monster. That done, Danuuth almost literally backstabs Arion, and laughs triumphantly over the body of his unconscious foe. 

This is an issue I had as a kid. I got a lot of D&D game inspiration from it. It's also got my favorite cover by Duursema of the series, I think.

All-Star Squadron #17: Thomas and Gonzales/Hoberg seem set to do a riff on the Outer Limits episode "I, Robot" (based on a story by Eando Bender), but the trial aspect never really much develops and instead we get a retelling of Robotman's origin and the outing his secret identity before a typical "the hero proves his worth by being noble enough to save his enemy" ending in the courtroom. In the end though, the Squadron is approached by Dr Henry King (secretly Brain Wave) who secretly intends the kill them all, along with the JSA. They sort of brush him off, and he doesn't take that very well.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #11: The Wuz-Wolf's rampage continues thanks to the creative team of Bridwell and Hoberg/Gordon. After defeat at the hands of the Wuz-Wolf last issue, the team rushes to stop him from making a meal of Peter Porkchop (aka Pig-Iron). They manage to rescue there friend, but Wuz-Wolf slips away long enough that dawn turns him back into Andy Wolf with no memory of his actions. The next night, he strikes again, but an accidental touch of the magic talisman restores Pig Iron's powers and he flattens Wuz-Wolf. The Zoo Crew confiscates the charm (made from a meteor) than created Wuz-Wolf in the first place.

In the Rubberduck backup by Shaw,Bridwell, and Hoberg, the malleable mallard (I can't be the first one to think of that nickname) battles the Dr. Hoot's creation, Salamandroid who has heat powers.

Detective Comics #522: Conway apparently didn't think he wrung enough out of his dubious Snowman story from Batman #337 from a year and a half ago or either the loose ends nagged him. Whatever the motivations, Batman is in the Himalayas with a guide in full Batman costume and no snow gear tracking the albino, half-Yeti thief and murderer from that issue. He finds him, and events lead to the guy being severely wounded. He chooses to reuinte with his Yeti father and die in the mountains than live as a freak (and go to prison) returning with Batman. Novick's pencils don't enliven this lackluster material in the way Garcia-Lopez's did, and he makes the odd (and unfortunate when combined with poor coloring choices) choice to depict the father Yeti as a guy with vaguely bestial features with maybe half his body covered with a slurry of snow.

In the Cavalleri/von Eeden Green Arrow backup, Green Arrow manages to convince the guards and George Taylor, Jr. that he's not a thief, and learns that the Daily Star also shares computer time with a junior high school. Tracking down that lead, he discovers that Hi-Tek is really a 14-year-old computer nerd. Quick talking on the kid's part convinces Green Arrow to not turn the kid in and let him design a digital sight for his bow. He's Microchip before Microchip (who first appears in Punisher #4 in 1987),

Jonah Hex #68: Fleisher and DeZuniga continue the story Hex's trail of vengeance against the rogue cavalrymen responsible for the death of Jonah's fiancée, except that Hex doesn't seem to be really on a trail. He's just living his life, and the guilty parties are so afraid he's coming for them, they come after him--and meet their end. This time, he's in the town of Gravesboro where the town fathers have convinced him to become a deputy sheriff to help an old friend clean up the town--only the old friend doesn't want the help as it offends his pride, despite the fact he clearly needs it. While Jonah navigates this situation Kincaid, now a hired gun and a Native American who throws a mean tomahawk team up to lay an ambush for him. This creative team always does solid work on this title, I think.

New Adventures of Superboy #37: Superboy is still contending with the teacher gone wrong, Wright, who is somehow stealing mental energy from the kids to have the power to best the Boy of Steel. When a gloating Wright reveals the core of his power is his self-confidence, Superboy seeks to shake Wright's faith in himself. It works, and the bad guy is defeated.

There's a Dial-H for Hero backup by Bridwell and Bender. Vicki shows up and discovers the mysterious has Chris' Dial. The two manage to defeat him in his form of Great Jupiter, but he eludes capture. Then, it's more typical Dial H heroics, as Jimmy Gymnastic and Spyglass battle Firecracker.

Weird War Tales #119: I feel like Kanigher was probably the wrong man for Creature Commandos, despite a few good stories under his belt. It's gonzo-ness calls for a pulpier, Marvel war comic approach than Kanigher's usual style. It isn't that he doesn't provide outré elements, but they seemed to feel tacked on at times and don't add to the fun. Here for instance, most of the story hammers the typical Creature Commandos theme that they are viewed as monsters and not accepted anywhere. On a mission to Italy, they rescue a scientist who has built a time machine, which they use to go to the future hoping to find a cure. Instead, they find Aryan giants in sci-fi outfits, the survivors of an atomic apocalypse, who are appalled at their mutant nature and throw them in an arena. The Commandos manage to escape and head back to their own time. They should have shifted Bob Haney to this book after Unknown Soldier was cancelled. 

World's Finest Comics #287: This is another issue I had as a kid. Burkett is joined by von Eedon on art, continuing the Zodiac story. It's interesting how the switch to his more angular and harsher-lined style makes the story seem more mid-80s and thus ahead of its time than Buckler's more Bronze Age comic look. Superman, Batman and Robin have taken care of the zombies in Gotham City, but they don't know Bat's body has been possessed by the Dark Cloud. Until Batman attacks Robin then starts hitting Superman, that is. Superman restraints the frenzied Dark Knight and the Cloud is forced to leave Batman's body.

Madame Zodiac and Dr. Zodiac watch all this, but the Doc is having second thoughts about his involvement. Madame Zodiac threatens to rat him out to their dark lord and Dr. Zodiac is too cowardly to take any action.

Robin takes Batman home and Superman goes to the JLA Satellite, where he hears about the wave of crimes around the world. Wonder Woman reports Zatanna still hasn't recovered. Superman is on his own with this.

The next night, Bruce goes to a friend's party but leaves when he notices dark presence moving close near the building. Investigating as Batman, he's jumped by demons in Gotham Park summoned by Madame Zodiac. Superman, having received a mental warning of danger, flies to Gotham to help Batman, but the magic used against him makes his effort futile and he can only watch as the creature take his friend away. Later, in Madame Zodiac's hideout, Batman's body is prepared for possession by the dark lord.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Nine Years in Azurth


We didn't have a game this weekend, but the 20th (I believe) marked the 9th Anniversary of our Land of Azurth campaign.

The party started in Yanth Country and has now visited 3 of 4 regions of Azurth (and they passed beneath the 4th), as well as taking side trips to  other places like the Land of Under-Sea and Medieval France.

In all that time, we managed to hold on to all but 2 players. Eric dropped out due to life and dissatisfaction with the telegaming we had to adapt to in the pandemic versus in person. Jim passed away earlier this year after a nine year battle with colon cancer.

My imagination tends to wander pretty quickly. I would never have stayed with this world, this campaign, and this system this long without a group of players that it was fun to DM for. 

Thanks to Andrea, Gina, Bob, Tug, and our absent friends for the enjoyment they've given me over the years.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Telesthetic Hound

The telesthetic hounds of Gnydrion are a domestic animal of obscure origins. As their name suggests, they are superficially similar to the canines brought from Earth in ancient times, but they possess a number of anatomic and physiologic differences, most obviously the extended and flexible snout ending in a star-shaped sensory organ. The protuberances radiating from the nose are sensitive to magic and allow the hound to track the aura of creatures and in some cases predict their future whereabouts.

The hounds are commonly bred within the Doar Obdurate where they are used not only to track criminals, but to predict dissident behavior via their sensitivity to human emotion. Scholars are divided on whether the hounds' capabilities actually allow this, but the Obdurs have never been zealous to let mere proof get in the way of legal certainty.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 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 October 21, 1983.

Brave & the Bold #194: Barr is joined by Infantino, though in a way the story feels more like the sort of thing Bates and Infantino might do in Flash. A motivational therapist Andrea Wye counsels the Rainbow Raider and Dr. Double X to realize their potential as villains by switching super-heroic opponents--the Flash and Batman, respectively.

Flash is attacked by Doctor Double X in Central City, while Batman has to face the Rainbow Raider in Gotham City. The villains get the upper hand against the unprepared heroes, and defeat and capture them. They back to Wye's island, where she pretends to experiment on the heroes, but Flash recovers quick thanks to his fast metabolism and frees Batman. Working together, Batman and Flash defeat the crooks, but Wye manages to escape while the heroes are busy capturing the criminals.

Camelot 3000 #2: Barr, Bolland, and Patterson continue their futuristic Arthurian epic. King Arthur and his entourage arrive at the United Nations and fight some Neo-Men goons.  Then they head inside, where Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. Seven stars shoot out of the sword and fly to various points around the world. Each star finds the reincarnation of one of the Round Table knights (plus Guinevere) and awakening their memories. Arthur, Merlin and Tom set about gathering his allies. At United Earth Defense headquarters, Commander Joan Acton recalls she is the Lady Guinevere. In Paris, France, wealthy Jules Futrelle remembers being Sir Lancelot. Meanwhile, the wicked Morgan Le Fay watches and schemes against Arthur. Another good issue, thought the star here is Bolland's art.

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #3: Kupperberg and Infantino/Oksner pick up with the newly created Decay menacing the city. I'm not really sure what Pendergast's goal is now. He dissolves a homeless guy which is maybe in keeping with his previous mission, but then he dissolves some new construction. If he's just into destruction now, why start with the homeless guy? Anyway, Supergirl battle him, but she's almost defeated by his power when she allows him to grab her face with his dissolving hands! Luck for her, Psi has turned against Pendergast, whom she realizes has been manipulating her for his own ends. She appears at the battle, transforms Decay into Pendergast again, and vanishes from sight. There's also a subplot where Linda Danvers gets a part-time job as a secretary to her absent-minded major professor (and perhaps romantic interest). 

Overall, this really reads a lot like a 70s Marvel book, it's really only the Infantino art that keeps it from completely having that feel.

There's a Lois Lane backup by O'Flynn and Oksner continue the primetime TV drama sort of stories they were doing with Lois in Superman Family. In this one, an unsigned story on her desk seems to predict events in the future--but most of the story is about the apparent kidnapping of young model Missy Conrad, who actually ran away with her father whom she hadn't seen since her parent's divorce/ Then, she is really kidnapped by criminals her father owes money and Lois up in it.

Green Lantern #160: Barr and Pollard/La Rosa have Green Lantern abducted by The Headmen, goofy old foes of his that have elongated craniums like the Leader. They use their superhuman willpower to take control of his ring and knock him out. He's helped by Dorine Clay, a non-eggheaded member of the Headmen's race who explains that her previous rebellion failed. The Headmen are trying to join up with the Citadel and trying to use the captured Green Lantern as their admission ticket. Hal escapes briefly and tries to arm the rebels, but they overpower him again and put him and Dorine in a prison cell to be executed in the morning. Luckily, the Omega Men, who intercepted the Headmen's communication with the Citadel, come to their rescue.

Meanwhile, on Earth, there are still weird doings with a kid named Donny Weems and a crystal he found. On Tront, Green Lantern Eddore is determined to complete his mission, despite the Guardians telling him it's not in his jurisdiction anymore.

In the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup by Rozakis, Moore, and Rodriquez, continue the story from last issue. Penelops learns that the aliens heating his world are doing it accidentally as they try to increase the sun's energy to make another world warm enough for them to live. Penelops urges them to stop, but their process is irreversible. Thinking quickly, Penelops moves his world to a cooler orbit and the aliens still get their new home.

House of Mystery #312: Mishkin/Cohn and Gonzales have Bennett back in New York with his friends.  There have been a rash of disappearances in the subway, and they think it could be vampires. Bennett goes down to investigate and meets a reporter named Maggie Carle. They're attacked by a giant arachnoid beast who apparently has escaped from Barr Laboratories, the company responsible for creating the cancer cure that made humans poisonous to vampires. A team of men working for Barr Laboratories get the drop on Bennett and Carle and insist that they come with them.

Jones and Zamora tell the story of a poor waitress who is convinced the elixir she sees a strange, elderly man drink every day in the dinner where she works is some sort of miracle drug, but only after she's invaded his home to still a supply does she find out its embalming fluid and the man is undead. Boltinoff and Sangalang round out the issue with the tale of a wealthy, young couple in New York City who join the exclusive Suicide Club, only to find it lives up to its name in its expectations for its members who lose at games of chance. If that balk and following through, the club turns to murder.

Legion of Super-Heroes #295: Giffen gets a bit of a break as he shares penciling duties with Howard Bender this issue. Blok deduces that the Legion foe Universo is a renegade Green Lantern after watching tapes of an early adventure of the Legion in which they are at odds the Green Lanterns who are trying to stop a scientist from looking back at the origins of the universe (I feel like that's going to come up again). After the initially conflict, Green Lantern Vidar tries to do the same thing and gets kicked out for his crimes then goes on to become Universo.

Night Force #6: Once again, Wolfman and Colan/Smith show the scientific establishment out of its depth dealing with the paranormal. The head of Science City uses his psychics to unless Vanessa's link to darkness fully at it means their doom. Demons roam the complex and the KGB agents from his issue free Caine and Gold in the hopes they can help. But Vanessa feels abandoned by Gold and the demons are out to get him specifically! There's a Nigel Kneale sort of approach here. The demons are real things but not what folklore or ancient belief has said they are, but something more pseudo-scientific. It perhaps doesn't jibe with the DCU as a whole or even other elements in Night Force, but it works for this story.

While all of this is going on, Baron Winters gets a visit from the cops who promptly open the wrong door and get lose in the past, so now Winters has to rescue them.

Sgt. Rock #372: Another single appearance member of Easy Company meets his end as a kid who uses his (sanitized to hide the horrors of war) diary entries as letters who to his parents. Rock has the somber duty of writing the last entry and letter.

Warlord #65: I went over the main story in this issue here. In "The Barren Earth" backup, Jinal is found by some robed desert-dwellers who turn out to be reptilian. They don't harm her, but they aren't particularly helpful either. Then she's captured by human marauders who certainly don't have good intentions. Luckily, she's rescued by a guy that is dressed like one of the reptilians and rides a similar mount but is actually a human named Skinner who says he'll take her to civilization.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Phaelorn Gap

Shreev Seg Molok (art by Jason Sholtis)

Phaelorn Gap is a town near the Lake of Vermilion Mists along the Panarch's roadway heading east away from the great cities and across the mountains. It is the center of the scintilla harvesting industry with the Lake. The wealth harvested from the Lake belongs by law to the Panarch and flows to his coffers save that which is paid in renumeration or lost to corruption. 

The divers, young, unmarried women by tradition, receive little in the way of wages for their efforts, but do receive a state pension upon retirement. Some former divers become matrons, responsible for wrangling and discipline of the divers and insuring they do not skim from harvest unduly. The matrons, of course, take their gratuity before the Panarch gets his.

Operations in Phaelorn Gap are overseen by the Eminent Compulsor. The current holder of that position is Briszm Wungar. Officially his only function is to ensure the scintilla are transported West and the Panarch receives his due. In practice, he is the overseer of the entire operation, enriched by his own peculation.

Wungar is not personally an opposing man, so he must rely on the dignity of his office and the strong arms of his local enforcers to assure his will is done. Chief among these enforcers is the Shreev, Seg Molok, and his subalterns. Molok is a veteran of minor conflicts in the region and is said to have survived (after sufficient brave resistance, certainly) the Whelming of Fort Olmovar by the Great M'Gog Horde. He is a man respected by the townsfolk of Phaelorn Gap for his pragmatism and evenhandedness. His sense of honor and appreciation of duty is such that the size of the inducement proffered sways him less than his reckoning of the ethical questions involved. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 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 October 14, 1982. 

Batman #355:  Good cover by Hannigan and Giordano. On there drive home Bruce and Vicki are run off the road by Catwoman and into the river. Bruce manages to get them both out. Knowing that she has made a terrible mistake, Catwoman flees without looking back.

Later, as Vicki recuperates in the hospital, Bruce hears from Jason Bard and Jim Gordon that Rupert Thorne has been convicted of the murder of Pauling and Gordon gotten a call to meet with Mayor Hill. After leaving the hospital, Gordon goes to Hill's office. Hill is concerned that the Gotham City Council are call a recall election and in order to try to head than off, he gives James Gordon his old job back under the condition of his support.

That night, Batman goes to Selina's apartment and finds only her panther who hasn't been fed in a while. After taking care of the animal, he finds a clue that leads him to the Catamont warehouse. Catwoman is waiting and attacks. With Batman at her mercy due to his still healing injury, she could easily kill him, but she realizes her mistake and pulls back. They apologize to each other for the pain they each have caused and part ways.

A continuity glitch in this issue: Catwoman clearly knows Bruce is Batman, but earlier stories in this arc make it clear she doesn't know. Future stories (still pre-Crisis) will stick with the version where she never knew.

Flash #317: Bates and Infantino continue the Goldface story with the Eradicator lurking in the background. The Flash tangles with Goldface twice and gets defeated. Goldface demands Flash leave town or he'll continue murdering people in Central City.. The Flash isn't about to leave, but he recruits the reformed Heatwave to help him try to take down the villain. They get closer, but again Goldface escapes, and Flash is left in peril of drowning. Meanwhile, the Eradicator makes short work of Goldface's goons that come after him, and Creed Philips discovers that the Eradicator killed his physician (he doesn't appear to know that he's the Eradicator).

G.I. Combat #249: Kanigher and Vicatan bring back the Mercenaries are and get embroiled in saving Tibetan refugees from river pirates then meet a girl whose brother is the Dalai Lama(?). She offers them a jade pendant in exchange for helping get her brother across the border. Turns out she planned to sell out her brother to the Soviets, which the Mercenaries prevent, but then (as usual) they don't get paid because the emerald is shattered by bullets. 

There are two Haunted Tank stories as usual, but made a bit more memorable than average by a kind of ironic view of the fortunes of war. In the first, Jeb looses a bet with the tank retrieval crew when he assures them they won't have to pick up his disabled tank again, which of course they do on the next page. In the second, Jeb and his men spend the whole issue getting a captured German officer back to command only to have him almost immediately allowed to escape because he was a double agent.

The other two stories include a bleak short about a disabled former soldier who returns home to me mocked by young men eager to go fight themselves, unaware of his service. Finally, there's a "based on a true story" tale about how planting some bamboo aids soldiers in escaping a Japanese POW camp.

Masters of the Universe #2: I reviewed this issue here back in 2015. 

Saga of the Swamp Thing #9: Swamp Thing and crew arrive in New Jersey, where their helicopter (created by Reef in the previous issue) disintegrates and Reef is conveniently killed in the crash. Swamp Thing is morose the whole time because he's realized the little girl he was trying to protect (Karen Clancy) turns out to be evil incarnate.

Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Harry Kay takes Paul Feldner to a Sunderland facility to be treated for his burns. It turns out Karen Clancy had thought he might be the catalyst whose power she could consume to achieve her ultimate power, but nope, that's another associate of Kay's named David Marx. Karen develops into a fully grown woman over Feldner's burning body and offers to spare him in exchange for Marx. Marx goes to her willingly to save Feldner's life. Harry Kay is revealed to be a Nazi war criminal and he is operating his own mission, separate from the Sunderland's goals. 

Swampie and friends are confronted by Kay at the Barclay clinic where he explains that he is trying to obtain "information of vital importance to the future of the world" and asks for their help. They so Kay has his flunky Milton attack them with psychic powers.

In the Cavalieri/Carrillo Phantom Stranger backup, The Phantom Stranger and a builder investigate a murder and strange phenomena inside a church scheduled for demolition. Turns out it's living gargoyles.

New Teen Titans #26: Wolfman and Perez continue their story about runaways and street crime. Raven heals the wounded youth at the cost of nearly succumbing to the spirit of her demonic father, Trigon. The guy turns out to be the older brother of the teenager whose death Dick and Kory witnessed last issue. He had come to New York to investigate his brother's death only to nearly be killed by gangsters working for drug kingpin Anthony Scarapelli. Back at the youth center, the Titans meet with Adrian Chase and Roy Harper, the latter working as a liaison between federal and local authorities on drug-related cases. Leaving with the Titans, Roy gets into his Speedy gear, and they team-up to bust up Scarapelli's plans to have his new drug shipment distributed by duped, teenage runaways. Two of the kids, however, are killed in the fight, despite the Titans' efforts. Some of the ones that return home alive don't get happy endings, either. It's all a little heavy-handed and maybe even trite, perhaps, but no more so than what was in a lot of primetime dramas. And this was a comic for kids. it works as an arc and sort of differentiates the Titans from the X-Men.

There's also an Atari Force preview in this issue by Conway and Andru/Giordano. Disappointingly, this story is more an advertisement for DC's Comics that came with certain Atari game cartridges. It features the characters from those comics and is much more standard "toy tie-in comics" than the ongoing series than will follow the next year.

Superman #379: No mention is made of Superman's reduced power this issue. In Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics chronology for Superman, Wolfman's depowered Superman arc in Action (and crossing over into the Teen Titans) occurs well before the stuff going on in the other Superman titles, which is the most harmonious way of handling everyone else ignoring what Wolfman is doing.  

Anyway, in this issue Bates and Swan a strange proto-being is causing Bizarros all over Htrae to explode, and Bizarro No. 1 comes to Earth to see if Superman can help do anything about it. It turns out its actually a plot by Bizarro Luthor to save Bizarroworld from an alien invasion. 

This issue is the first appearance of the Bizarro Justice League and Bizarros Yellow Lantern, Hawkman, and Aquaman.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Rumble Beneath the Arena

 Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued back on last Sunday with a pretty much all combat session as the party thumbed their collective nose as the Looms' warning and entered the complex built with the junk wall behind the arena. They descended into subterranean rooms where they found a masked giant with a maul and a group of poisoned armed mooks.

These guys wore the group down. In fact, Waylon was have gone down if not for the timely healing of Dagmar. As some of the group had triumphed, Loom unleashed some sort of a sonic attack to soften them up for the attack of a large mechanical monster than was able to shoot fire out of its finger tips. Erekose and Waylon teamed up on it with their magic weapons while Shade and Dagmar hit him from a distance. When it was destroyed it exploded (or course), but the party managed to avoid major harm.

They were hurting after that and downed some good berries and took a short rest before moving on.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Thono Inn

The Thono Inn and Baths are a famed, but aging attraction near the Lake of Vermilion Mists, which offer "gas baths" of the peculiar substance of the Lake itself in addition to more traditional bathing. Yrming is the eleventh generation of Thonos to run the baths, though in truth she leaves the day-to-day management to her husband, Gris Samber, while she manages the special activities for the inn's extensive festival schedule that borrows holidays liberally from diverse civic and religious calendars. So large are the baths that Thono Village has arisen nearby to support it. 

The pumps which support the unique bath offerings require the work of an expert engineer to maintain. Ormaz Halx is the current individual charged with this task. He is given to reminding anyone that questions his decisions that he once studied at the hwaopt library (true in the strictest sense). He is also given to intemperance regarding the local distilled spirit. When deep in inebriation, he has been known to speak of a mysterious cave containing crystalline columns which somehow fulfill desires. He will angrily deny every having said anything of the sort when sober.

The Thono family and their loyal employees have a historic antipathy with the Cult of the Hierodule who bring their celebratory revels to the vicinity annually. This ill-feeling is primarily financial, owing to the grubby, vagabond nature of the cult leaders and their followers, and the promiscuous ways of the cult's youthful celebrants who provide for free erotic services for which the inn's contracted, professional staff would charge.

Gris Samber takes a broad view of who one day might be a paying customer and so does not urge his staff to violence against their transients, with the probable exception of Bardo Clart, the cult's current wild-eyed and hirsute leader.  

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 1983 (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 October 7, 1982. 

Arak Son of Thunder #17: Arak and Valda are almost able to fight their way out of the palace of the Emperor, but Aetius, counselor to the emperor, uses sleeping sand to knock them out aided by the untimely arrival of Haakon, an emissary from White Cathay, trying to curry favor with the Emperor. They wind up in the dungeon, but Irene, mother to the Emperor, visits the dungeons and offers Arak a deal for his freedom. It seems she doesn't trust Haakon and believes he is there to steal the secret of Greek fire. her suspicions prove correct, as Haakon tries just that at a demonstration that day, but she didn't reckon on Aetius being in cahoots. Arak is knocked out and kidnapped and the villains are about to set fire to a boat with Valda, Irene, and the Emperor on board.

In the backup, the Thomases and Gonzales/Alcala give Valda and Maligigi a city (mis)adventure As the cross paths with the thief Brunello who they believe is going to steal the remains of St. Denys which are kept in a jeweled reliquary. Then it turns out the theft has already occurred. Greeramada, the supposed friend of Malgigi, unleashes demons. She demands that the sorcerer provide her with the spell which will cause the beheaded saint to rise again.

Blackhawk #254: In the main story, Evanier and Spiegle have the Blackhawks helping to defend the French town of West Dieppe from Nazi invasion. When Blackhawk gets a report that Professor Merson was sighted in Berne, he flies there alone. It's a trap, though, and Domino is waiting. When the rest of the team gets word of his capture, they fly to Berne and find Blackhawk tied to the front of a tank. The 'Hawks have a dilemma: destroy the tank with Blackhawk on it or die. Instead, Olaf uses the bazooka on the German infantry instead and the surprising move allows them to get Blackhawk and get away.

The backup with art by Cockrum has Chuck on a solo mission to deliver a communique. He spots the plane of Nordling, Hitler's private courier. He follows the Nazi into an abandoned building, but Nordling becomes aware of him, and Chuck is shot and wounded. Chuck manages to make it outside. When he sneaks back in later, he finds the Nazi protecting a group of stray cats. Chuck calls Stan and Chop Chop to patch him up and take Nordling into custody.

DC Comics Presents #53: Mishkin and Swan/DeZuniga provide a seasonal story with "The Haunting Dooms of Halloween!" having Superman visit the House of Mystery. This sort of offbeat team-up has a certain charm for me, and it's the sort of thing Marvel didn't really do in their team-up books. Anyway, the villain here is Mr. Mxyzptlk who lures Supes into the House of Mystery to save Lois Lane and some transformed trick-or-treaters.

Fury of Firestorm #8: Conway and Moore/Rodriquez bring back Typhoon for some reason. Things haven't gone well for David Drake since the accident that made him Typhoon. He's been in a psychiatric hospital and gets out only to have his wife leave him. He snaps and goes looking for revenge. Meanwhile in New York City, after testing his powers under Stein's supervision, he goes to the movies with his friends and winds up beating up that jerk Cliff Carmichael. 

Typhoon arrives in New York and kills the former captain of the ship who inadvertently caused his transformation, then he goes after Stein, heaving the sea captain's corpse through his office window. Firestorm's first priority is to save innocent lives. Through trial and error, he attempts to direct people out of the path of Typhoon's fury. The villain gets the upper hand, however and delivers a blow that sends the unconscious Firestorm plummeting into the bay.

Justice League #210:  Conway and Buckler/Tanghal have Ray "the Atom" Palmer and his colleague Physicist David Dorman discover an "X-Element," a catalyst for all basic chemical reactions, which is about to decay, and thus disrupt all natural processes on Earth. As the Atom, Ray summons the Justice League, which splits up into sub-teams as they do to stave off world-wide apocalypse. Just as all seems lost, aliens calling themselves the Treasurers appear, offering to reverse the decay of the X-Element in exchange for specimens of Earth flora and fauna, including (unknown to the JLA) one human: a seemingly ordinary postal clerk named George Arthur Stuart.

Wonder Woman #298: Ed Hannigan/Dick Giordano cover on this issue. Believing Wonder Woman to be dead, Aegeus has forced Trevor to help him find Paradise Island in the Bermuda Triangle where he begins an assault. Wonder Woman, however, is still very much alive. She recovers and defeats the terrorists and Bellerophon, and heads for Paradise Island. Steve Trevor, dumped off Pegasus but caught by Queen Hippolyte, is taken to Science Island without touching ground and employs a hang-glider to try and attack Aegeus. Before his foolish heroics can lead to his death, Wonder Woman appears, takes Steve back to Science Island, and defeats Aegeus, who uses a last thunderbolt to teleport himself away to--well, not quite disappear until the Who's Who, but he doesn't have many rematches left.

In the Huntress backup by Cavalieri and Staton, Huntress looks like she may meet her end in the coils of Boa's pet constrictor but Blackwing comes to her aid. Huntress gets to hear his origin before she heads out to confront Boa and his gang, and this time, triumph over them. 

Adventure Comics #495: As usual, the only new story here is The Challengers of the Unknown by Rozakis and art this time by Toth/Gaicoia. Continuing the extended "Challengers Begin" origin story from last issue, the not-yet-Challs hang in Rocky's apartment, reading and paying bills. Professor Haley is still chewing on their as yet unsolved jet sabotage. They all have reasons to believe they might have been the target though the possibilities seem far-fetched: Native Alaskans angry about desecration of a burial ground, the allies of a deceased South American dictator, Haley's cousin Freddie hoping to gain an inheritance. That last seems the best lead, but before they can leave, Red has something else to issue.

Monday, October 2, 2023

A More Civilized Age

Art by Donato Giancola

I'm all for "lived-in futures" and dusty, grubby space Westerns, but I feel like there are some science fiction aesthetics that don't get their due. And I'm not talking gleaming, featureless rocket hulls and silver lamé outfits. I mean the more refined, swashbuckling, adventure film derived style.

Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon was probably the biggest feature in promoting this style, but it shows up in other places like Cody Starbuck by Howard Chaykin:

And in Milady 3000 and i Briganti by Magnus (Roberto Raviola):

It's not really absent from the Star Wars saga. It just shows up more in the prequels than in the original films. I think there's a hint of it in Lynch's Dune and the SyFy mini-series version--though it is sorely lacking from the drear Villeneuve version.