Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, June 1980 (part 2)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around March 27, 1980.


Action Comics #508: The mystery of Jonathan Kent is revealed. Turns out he's briefly time traveling thanks to the friendly (and powerful, apparently) aliens from Superboy. The unfortunate side effect of his travel was a cloud of weird smoke than empowered the hippy. This isn't bad, but it's overly  complicated and not particularly exciting.

Adventure Comics #471: More of the same Starman and Plastic Man stuff. The Plastic Man story continues with the Dick Tracy-esque villains. This issue's primary antagonist is Lowbrow who is really dumb, buy manages to run a criminal enterprise, somehow.

Brave & the Bold #163: Kupperberg and Giordano present this topical team-up with Black Lightning where a general is building a stolen reserve of oil. Black lightning is without powers here as established in this months Detective.

Detective Comics #491: These anthologies can be a slog, but there's an okay Jason Bard story by Barr and Spiegle with the intriguing opening of the detective putting flowers of the grave of the man who killed his father. The Pasko/Broderick Black Lightning story has him losing his powers, which seems like a misstep. The Burkett/Delbo Batgirl story has her in an assassin's crosshairs as Barbara Gordon goes to work for the Social Services Department. 

Green Lantern #129: The usual team of O'Neil and Staton are back. The Qwardian general, Fabrikant, disguised as a kid turns Carol Ferris back into Star Sapphire to attack Green Lantern. Also, Hal Jordan has conflict with a reckless cowboy of a test pilot, Rance Rideout.  


House of Mystery #280: A boxer with a fatal heart condition fights on after his death thanks to voodoo in a tale by Arnold Drake and Joel Magpayo. In the second story by Wessler and Redondo a doctor at an asylum uses impressionable youth to carry out murders.

Legion of Super-Heroes #264: Turns out horn-headed Dagon has a grudge against Brande. The Legionnaires solve the mystery of his identity and his location. A fine ending to a so-so story.

New Adventures of Superboy #6: The cover to this issue lies! A cop comes from Metropolis to convince Superboy to re-locate to the big city, but in the end he decides to stay in Smallville for now.

Sgt. Rock #340: Kanigher and Rubeny introduce a quirky new recruit to Easy--who dies, of course, but not before coming out with a hang-gliding plan that saves the unit. The Kelley/Estrada backup is a grim tale of the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Super Friends #32: Bridwell and Fradon have the Super Friends tangling with the Menagerie Man, World's Greatest Animal Trainer, who has a very silly costume.


Time Warp #5: This is the last issue of this title, and it doesn't really go out with a bang. At best they are sort of modern EC comics sort of sci-fi yarns. None are really standouts, but some are definitely dumber than others.

Unexpected #198: This one is the best of these horror anthologies for a couple of months. "Dracula's Daughter" by Kashdan with art that reminds me a bit of Joe Maneely by Lee Elias has double EC-style twists regarding who the real vampire is. "Project Eternity" by de Matteis and Henson sees an experiment in simulating death complicated by a psychic fight over the scientist between his current girlfriend and his dead wife. His wife makes it make to the land of the living in the girlfriend's body, and the girlfriend...well, I won't spoil it.

Unknown Soldier #239: Haney and Ayers have the Unknown Soldier reluctantly teaming up with a French resistance leader who is obsessed with recovering the Hammer of Charles Martel which has fallen into German hands. As is almost required in a story with this concept, the climax involves a Nazi commander getting walloped with a war hammer.


Warlord #34: Morgan gets a new sword while Mariah and Machiste have an adventure in Wizardworld. Read more about it here

Weird Western Tales #68: A little better than last issue, as Scalphunter helps a group of snow bound travelers might of a group of Confederates intent on stealing a train. The gold from last issue winds up lost in a fire.

World's Finest Comics #263: The lead story here by O'Neil, Buckler and Giordano is the resolution to Bob Haney's "Super-Sons" stories of the 70s. Turns out they were only a computer simulation. Whether you thought the Super-Sons were cool or not, that seems sort of lame. The Green Arrow story by Haney and von Eeden sees Oliver Queen drawing a lot of heat (and praise) for one paragraph editorials, taking on a shady redevelopment project. Captain Marvel, Jr. takes on a villain whose schtick is he's really old. I don't mean like Vandal Savage, I mean a guy that spent 99 years in prison. There are also Aquaman and Adam Strange stories, but there's not much to them.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Sentinels Comics RPG Session 3: "Demons from Never"


Roll Call:
Blur: Amnesiac Speedster!
Fibbit: Manic Pixie Extradimensional Dream Girl!
Infranaut: IR-Powered Celebrity Hero!
Il Masso: The Rock-Solid Hero of Little Italy!

Supporting Characters: Moonshadow

Villains: demons from Never (first appearance); Dark Duplicates (cameo)

Synopsis: Fearing another attack on Zauber, Action Jack accompanies him to the hospital while his companions stay behind to try to sort out why this happened. Fibit appears with a speedster in tow, confident she's found their missing teammate. The others don't remember a missing teammate clearly, but don't think that teammate was Blur if there was one. Blur doesn't know why she's here or where here is, but she goes with it.

Fibit tries to read the mysterious book and discovers it isn't really a book at all. It's a multidimensional object whose 4D cross section looks like a book. In any case, she senses it won't help them at this time. They decide to investigate the air gallery/museum further only to see an apparition of a woman.

It turns out this is a thought-projection of Moonshadow who was looking for Zauber. She asks for the team's help in protecting a family in suburban Ravenwood who is beset by demonic entities from a place called the Never--a realm outside of time of conceptions never realized. She uses her power to transport them.

In the house, they find reality warped in the master bedroom. A couple and their young daughter are sleeping, obviously to the demonic creatures that attack the mental shields Moonshadow has erected. Moonshadow explains the girl is her younger self and that she is from a parallel world.

The group destroys the demons, but Moonshadow tells them more will return. There is something malignant in the Never, and it appears drawn to the psychic potential of her younger duplicate. She believes it may be related to Anachronus somehow.

The team agrees to enter the portal and find the source of the malevolence. This find a strange maelstrom of floating shapes, and half-real ideas.

Suddenly, I blast strikes near them from a floating asteroid overhead. They look out to see five sinister looking superhumans.

"Anachronus sends his regards, " one of them sneers.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

DC, June 1980 (part 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of March 13,1980.


Batman #323: Cat-Man puts Batman and Catwoman in an almost 60s TV show death trap, which they escape. Cat-Man's potentially magical cloak seems to heal Catwoman's fatal-at-any-moment illness no one ever seemed to name. Weak sauce, Wein and Novick! Nice Aparo cover, though.

DC Comics Presents #21: In a story by Barr and Dillin, we get an appearance by Captain Comet, comics' first identified mutant superhero (as far as I know). Another mutant tries to steal Captain Comet's powers out of jealousy in an elaborate plot.

Flash #283: This issue is like a Silver Age throwback complete with a title page and a silly villain like the Rainbow Raider. The Flash triumphs by using his power creatively, though, which is kind of cool.

Ghosts #86: Three sort of novel ghostly stories of revenge. These stories drive home how much the ghost story (at least as DC does it) often involves the murderer dying in the same way as their victim. The Kashdan/Yeates story "The Phantom's Last Act" has the twist of the killer acknowledging the ghost's existence, but not being afraid of it due to its incorporeality, then panicking when it threatens to reveal his secret in a halogram display, and getting himself killed.


G.I. Combat #220: One thing I've noticed about these Haunted Tank stories: the ghost of J.E.B. Stuart shows up less than you might think from the name of the strip. In these 3 stories written by Kanigher and grittily rendered by Glanzman, the crew play host to a no-nonsense Soviet Major who happens to be a woman, they are forced to haul a big gun for the Germans to keep Belgian hostages safe, and they run into Rock and Easy Company on the way to Bastogne. There are a lot of cameos in these war books. In other tales, Kanigher puts a plug in for the indigenous people of a Pacific Island (if with a cringeworthy portrayal) as a warrior gets the better of both the Japanese and American invaders, and Haney and Caliva tell the life story of a G.I. canteen.

Jonah Hex #34: Fleisher gives us another story of Hex's Civil war past, this one revealing how he was the one that killed Stonewall Jackson in a friendly fire incident at Chancellorsville. The only problem is Fleisher told us a couple of issues ago that Hex left the Confederate Army right after the Emancipation Proclamation, and so shouldn't have even been there.

Justice League of America #179: Conway's creation, Firestorm, gets to join the JLA. He immediately gets into trouble crossing a disco super-model vampire, the Satin Satan!


Secrets of Haunted House #25: A criminal and a vampire (who apparently doesn't know how her powers work in some crucial ways) try to make it across some really hostile wilderness in a weird story by Catherine Barrett Andrews, Stuart Hopen, and artist June Lofamia. The second story was written by famous letterer Todd Klein and has art by von Eeden. It's one of those typical "trying to escape Destiny only leads you to do the exact thing you were supposed to do" yarns.

Superman #348: Conway and Swan deliver a pretty nonsensical tale of an old Native American who summons an extradimensional storm monsters with some sort of alien artifact. Neither the monster or the artifact are ever explained, but hey, Superman tosses them both into another dimension where they're somebody else's problem, I guess, and gives the old guy a regular rock as a replacement. Problem solved!

Weird War Tales #88: Fleisher and Ocampo deliver a problematic story about the Seminole Wars where the U.S. can't defeat the tribe because they have the fountain of youth to keep their people young and healthy. It all ends in tears though as a would-be white savior you turned on his unit gets killed by his commander who then destroys the sacred waters, dooming the Seminole. Alligators get him in the end, though.

Wonder Woman #268: Animal Man is still guest staring, but now they're in France fighting some ridiculous assassins. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Wednesday Comics: Who's Who Omnibus


I was sick all last weekend, so my reading on June 1980 cover date DC got slowed down. So while you wait on that, you should check out the gorgeous tome that is the DC Who's Who Omnibus vol 1. It's got all of the pre-loose leaf Who's Who entry in it (well, except Atari Force characters they no longer had the rights to) and it looks great.

Here's an image on an interior spread:



Friday, April 23, 2021

Sentinel Comics Role-playing Game


The Sentinel Comics rpg
is based off of a superhero card game. Presumably like the card game, it has the conceit of being based on a comic book universe. Mock covers are shown and issue numbers thrown around, etc. It's art is a bit cartoony, which seems to be kind of a trend in supers rpgs (ICONS is the same way).

The game is best characterized as a somewhat narrativist, superhero combat simulator. "Somewhat narrativist" meaning that it is built to emulate superhero stories not model a world which has superheroes, and that some things that might be specified in other games are left loose, or a lot of different fictional descriptions might fit the same basic mechanics. I say "combat simulator" meaning that it, like 4e D&D, seems geared toward combats. Almost all of it's abilities are aimed in that direction and it's bells and whistles for players to engage with are combat oriented. Unlike 4e, combat really isn't tackle; their is no strict movements or battle maps. I guess you could say combat most reflects its card game roots.

I find a lot of things about the system compelling. In many ways, it seems a refinement of some of the concepts in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (at least one of the same designers worked on both). It's basic mechanic is make a dice pool from a Power, Quality, and their status (more on this soon), and take the middle number. It's pretty easy and quick.

Status follows a color-coded system called GYRO (Green, Yellow, Red, and Out). Advancing from one color to the next "unlocks" new abilities specific to your character. I think this models pretty well something seen in comics, where Spider-Man does usually seem to have the proportional strength of a spider until he really needs to have the proportional strength of a spider. The Hulk gets angrier and stronger the longer he fights, etc. 

All actions are subsumed into four categories: Attack, Overcome, Boost/Hinder, Defend. Overcome is probably the broadest of these. It's used for most sorts of story obstacles from finding information to disarming a bomb. It's also the main one that gets leaned on in none combat situations. Success at it is graded with narrative consequences: twists of the major or minor variety, than are similar to 2d20 system Complications. Sentinel Comics only having subsystems for combat is one of its deficits for me, though admittedly the Overcome action works in a more "cinematic" (or comic book) way than a bunch of skill challenges or the like.

My biggest complaint with it is character creation. It's kind of a mini-game onto itself and can be done Guided (random die roll), Constructed (choosing the options you could have rolled), or then for modelling characters, just picking and choosing individual abilities, which would be the hardest of the three. Every step gives you certain options and dice types to distribute to those options. It takes a longer time than I would like and requires a lot of flipping back and forth in the book, without even giving you the freedom that other "complicated character generation" supers games like Champions or Mutants & Masterminds. It's easier to tolerate an extended character generation to get exactly the sort of character you want, but Sentinel Comics rpg is an exercise in making compromises, some of which seem arbitrary.

Ending on my big complaint perhaps makes my review seem more negative than I intend. With two sessions in, I feel like the game plays pretty well at the table. It would be great for pregens and a con game. I'm less sold on it, as yet, for a longterm campaign.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, May 1980 (part 2)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around February 28, 1980.

Action Comics #507: Jonathan Kent appears to have returned from the grave. Meanwhile, a hippy with the power to make anyone follow his suggestions (including Superman!). It's an odd story, but I feel like Bates and Swan are going somewhere with it.


Adventure Comics #471: Plastic Man takes on the (Chester) Gouldian villain, Brickface, in a tale by Pasko, Staton, and Smith. We also meet I.Q. Small, alias Lowbrow. The Levitz/Ditko Starman has him taking on the alien Captain Krydd and featuring high quality dialog like: "That's right--Starman--and right now, that's spelled: F-U-R-I-O-U-S!"

Brave & the Bold #162: Kelley and Aparo present a tale of "the original" Batman (the Golden Age version. You could say the Earth-2 Batman, but Sgt. Rock is typically considered an Earth-1 character, so that doesn't fight exactly, either) and Sgt. Rock in World War II. It's a fun, if lightweight, story with the Iron Major as the villain.

Detective Comics #490: Only two of these stories are in any way interesting to me. The O'Neil/Newton lead feature sees Batman finally catching up with the Sensei for the death of Kathy Kane, but it's not really all that exciting in the end. The Robin story by Harris and Saviuk is amusing. Robin takes down a cheating ring that caused his girlfriend to have to retake a test. The masked ringleader is called the Answer Man!

Green Lantern #128: Wein and Cockrum take over from the usual team for a encounter with Hector Hammond, who (somehow) appears to be working for the Qwardian general who--in a shocking twist appears now as a teenage kid from some reason. Interestingly, this story asserts that GL's ring doesn't actually talk, but it's just Jordan projecting his subconscious thoughts. This runs counter to the portrayal in Morrison's recent run, at least.


House of Mystery #280: Both of these stories are weird. Wessler and Bulanadi present a tale of a wicked ruler who keeps the people in line with fear of monsters that come out of a magic painting he has. Except, that they are only illusions of monsters coming out of the magic painting. Until they aren't, and the ruler gets his comeuppance. The second story by Kashdan and Ayers is like something out of an Atlas/Marvel monster title from the '50s: A scientist tangles with Kharnu, the God of Lightning.

Legion of Super-Heroes #263: The parents of a handful of Legionnaires are lured to the clubhouse to be kidnapped by the Dagon the Avenger, who looks like a green, longhorned, Baron Karza. Jimmy Janes art on this Conway tale is pretty good, but the Legionnaires' parents aren't only in really good shape and fans of similar, revealing, clothing to their kids, they don't really look any older than them, either.

New Adventures of Superboy #5: This silly story about alien seeds in Ma Kent's tomatoes is interesting because it's ending has aliens offering to do something "impossible" for Jonathan Kent, and the caption at the end specifically ties it in to the storyline in Action Comics with Jonathan's return from the grave. I wasn't expecting that!

Sgt. Rock #340: If I told you that a Westpoint Lieutenant, author of a book called How to Win A War showed up to lead Easy Company, thinking he knows better than Rock, well, I'm sure you can predict what happens. The only surprise is that the Lieutenant is man enough to admit his errors. Back up stories in this issue are by Kelley and Yeates.


Super Friends #32: Scarecrow makes a forgettable appearance and Schaffenberger fills in for Fradon. He seems to be trying to follow the cartoon character designs a bit more than Fradon and gives the panels rounded borders, presumably for a TV feel. 

Unexpected #198: Two stories in this are okay. In a very EC-esque tale by Wessler and Ayers, a brilliant scientist who becomes a brain in a jar to escape the death of his body due to a medical condition, gets revenge on the assistant who tries to exploit his genius for financial gain. In "Eye on Evil" by Kashdan and Tanghal, a mix-up in a glasses prescription seals a man's doom when he is able to see the invisible lord of an evil cult.


Unknown Soldier #239: Haney and Ayers reveal a secret plot by the Germans to build a tunnel beneath the English Channel. Luckily the Unknown Soldier is there to thwart it. This story feels like it drags on to me.

Warlord #33: Warlord and Shakira meet munchkins and the hawkmen that eat them. Read more about it here

Weird Western Tales #67: A a snoozer of a morality play about greed with stiff art by Ayers and Tanghal. Maybe part two will get better, but I'm not counting on it.

This month also had two digests. Best of DC #5 is the year's best stories of 1979. I haven't read any of these. DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #2 features a number of Flash and Kid Flash stories.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Sentinel Comics RPG Session 2: "Mayhem at the Midnight Museum!"


Roll Call:

Action Jack: Man of Action--Man Out of Time!
Infranaut: IR-Powered Celebrity Hero!
Il Masso: The Rock-Solid Hero of Little Italy!

Supporting Characters: Zauber the Magnificent; Fibbit

Villains: Spiderbots

Synopsis: Only moments after the revelations at the end of the last adventure, the group experiences a wave of what can only be described as jamais vu, and Space Racer is gone! Only Fibbit notices for certain he is gone, but when she points it out to the others, they agree that they vaguely remember him. Fibbit walks off into high order dimensions to investigate, promising to catch up with the guys "somewhere in the timeline."

A frantic police officer tells the heroes that a giant spiderbot has risen from the Eald River and is attacking a building in vicinity of the Gasworks. Infranaut flies himself and Action Jack to the scene. He doesn't quite stick the landing and they both come up a little off-balance. Il Masso takes a prodigious leap, but winds up crashing through a building on the way there.

They find the strange building they saw before surrounds by a shimmering field, which is in turn cover with spiderbots. The spiderbots are being steadily released by a sixteen foot tall "mothership" like a bigger version of them. There are a number of bystanders webbed up and strung around the area. Within the shield, Zauber the Magnificent seems taxed to his limit.

In a pitch battle, the heroes defeat the spiderbot, and Infranaut manages to rescue some of the bystanders. Even with the mothership disabled, the attack continues. Each hero trashes a number of spiderbots, and Infranaut throws Action Jack in the midst of them to play hell, but one manages to make it into the building.

Il Masso busts through the wall. It registers with him that the place must be a museum of some sort from the looks of it, but he doesn't have much time to look around, as he is scrambling to grab the spiderbot. It seems to be going for antique book within a plexiglas case. In their struggle they knock the display over.


Jack and Infranaut launch attacks that destroy the bot. While Infranaut and il Masso puzzle over the book, Jack helps Zauber to a waiting ambulance. They notice that Zauber has aged significantly during the fight; he now looks more like a man of his actual years.

Before Zauber is carried away he warns Jack: "We won't stop coming. If he can't get the book now, he will try in some other time."

"Who?" Jack asks.

"Anachronus, the Destroyer of Timelines," Zauber replies before falling unconscious.