Saturday, July 15, 2006

Establishing a New Power Base

I know a lot of you don't play Heroclix and so don't care much about it, but, well...

I do. A better way to spend an evening "playing" superheroes with your friends I've never found. I mean, without, you know, renting costumes. And the local costume shoppe still has that restraining order on me.

Anyway, I enjoy the game and think it does an amazing job of representing what characters can do and capturing that 'comic book feel". But it could be improved, so every once in a while I'm going to throw out an idea for change to Heroclix that would make me happy. Soon, all Heroclix players in the world will flock to these posts, rise up to have my word declared law, and the company will give me 51% of the stock and I'll personally get to decide on all dials and sculpts. Hey, it could happen.

My first idea is about Heroclix's Team Ability system. It's a bit of a hodgepodge now and deserves to be better thought out; some TAs are so complicated they are difficult to explain and even harder to use. But the real problem is that the current system leads to "un-comic booky" situations, silly annoyances like:
  • Batman figures without the Batman Team ability;
  • villians from the 31st Century with the Calculator TA;
  • a Lois Lane who's not a Superman Ally;
  • a Green Lantern TA that doesn't help the Green Lanterns work with one another;
  • Batman villains palling around together as if they were Keystone Rogues, just so they can use their TA;
  • a Legion TA that's useless unless a non-Legionnaire is on the team (usually Alfred!).

I think it would be better to have more such abilities, have them be simpler, and give them an overall structure that would them easier to remember. A revised TA system would also be better able to represent what the comic book characters should be able to do (a task that the overburdened color-coded power dial could use some help with).

Part of the problem is that characteristics of very different types are being represented under the same system. Those types are:
  • being a part of Team (either a "family" of similar characters, like the Batman family or Superman family, or a group of dissimilar characters, like the JLA or JSA);
  • being an Ally or an Enemy of a particular team.

What are now called TAs are marked on the base of a figure and, as opposed to the powers that come and go on its dial, are permanent. Let's call them "Base Abilities" instead.

Base Abilities should come in four types (the ones listed above) and should be arranged along major characters and teams. [You can see the kernels of this in the current system, but you can tell it was designed by "people who designed our previous D&D games" rather than "people who also read comics".]

Base Abilities in most of the three types should exist for major groups and iconic characters: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, the JLA, the JSA, the LSH, the TT, the Doom Patrol, a few others. Each figure should be able to have more than one Base Ability; that way, an Experienced Superman could have both the Superman TA and the JLA TA.

Seem like too much? Not necessarily; not if you keep the Base Abilities simple, and give them a pattern.

The Team Ability for "families" should convey a single regular combat power. For example, the existing Batman TA conveys Stealth. No one has any trouble remember that! That should be for others as well, something like this:

  • Batman TA = Stealth
  • Superman TA = Superstrength and automatic breakaway
  • Wonder Woman TA = Deflection (bracelets, you know!)
  • Flash TA = Hypersonic Speed
  • Aquaman TA = Aquatic and Flurry (or perhaps Incapacitate)
  • Green Lantern TA = Will Power
  • Hawkman TA = Charge
  • Martian Manhunter TA = Shape Change
  • Mystics TA = Supersenses (except against other Mystics)
  • Police TA = add 1 to Attack of adjacent figures (same as it is now)

Even if you've never played the game, you can remember those pretty easily, huh?

Group affiliations should convey abilities that work only in combination with members of that same group. Picture something like...

  • JLA TA = grants an "extra" move if the figure is moving to join another JLAer
  • JSA TA = adjacent JSAers may share Defense Values
  • LSH TA = adjacent LSHer's may share Attack Values
  • TT TA = any TT may "carry" another when moving.
  • DP TA = adjacent DPers are immune to Perplex or its effects on others.
  • Green Lantern Corps TA = members can use TK on other members
That way, you are motivated to play those figures together as a team, and their team affiliation has no effect on other figures.
Base Abilities for Enemies should be very simple and targeted toward their usual opponents.
  • Because Superman family figures have so many damage-reducing powers, Superman Enemies should get Exploit Weakness if their attack exceeds the Defense of their target by a certain amount.
  • Because Batman family figures all have Stealth, Batman Enemies should get to roll for the ability to ignore Stealth.
  • Flash Enemies should be able to share Attack Values (because they do work together).
  • Because WW figures excel in close combat, Wonder Woman Enemies should get to roll for Flurry.
  • Because Aquacharacters are brawlers, Aquaman Enemies should get an easy breakaway roll (and have Aquatic).
  • Hawkman Enemies should get automatic Combat Reflexes, making it easier to roll away screaming when they get smacked.
  • Police Enemies (criminal generics) should increase their adjacent companions' Defense Values against ranged attacks (the exact opposite of Police).

As for Base Abilities for Allies, those should increase the Defense Values of the Allies when their "main figure" is on the board. For example, Lois, Jimmy, Perry, et al, should have a Superman Ally abilities that gives them, say, Deflection, as long as a Superman TA figure is on the board. They should be used mostly for the Bystander tokens ... but I'll be talking more about those in a later installment!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Leave it to Hal

Oh, by the way, since I seem have become the "expert" on being sexist...

This is what it REALLY looks like:

Ladies and Gentlemen, your hero, Hal Jordan. And, remember, ladies, no rock climbing!

Reasons to read "Manhunter" #12

In issue #12, Kate discovers that Dylan's barn, where he keeps his tech stuff, is larger on the inside than on the outside due to some tesseract tech, procured from Warp, whom Dylan used to work for.

If you're like me at all, you can't help but think about some of the ramifications of stuff in the DCU, particularly all the super-tech they have lying around. I mean, the JLA has teleporters. TEL E PORT ERS. Even if, for some reasons those can't be shared or duplicated easily for regular folk, the knowledge that teleportation is possible would lead (in our world) to furious investment and research until it became feasible and profitable.

Only occasionally do we see such matters explored in the DCU. That makes sense, because if you start to follow through on things like that, and the world the characters live in becomes too unrecognizable for us to relate to it. It's okay if some superheroes teleport on occasion, as long as schoolteachers aren't all teleporting to class every day. I don't really want to read about a world where heroes and villains are upstaged by their props.

But Manhunter's a place where you get to see some of those ideas come into play. It's, well, sort of a lint trap for the DCU; weapon, villains, concepts, characters that have shaken out from stories elsewhere are finding a home there, and a world is being built around them.

Sure, it's not the kind of "essential" reading that something like Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman is supposed to be. But it's a clever "literary orphanage" that feels more and more like a home as you read it, and helps the whole DCU feel like a "real" place, a place that you're comfortable in and that makes sense to you.

Buy Manhunter.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Operation Green Light

Over here, President Bush and his attitude toward foreign policy is being cleverly likened to the Green Lanterns.

Of course, readers of the Absorbascon knew that already.

If Blockade Boy Ruled the Silver Age...

Rockin' Robin

Honestly, all I really want to know about this cover...
is exactly
how Robin learned this move:

Kids! They grow up so fast...

Things That Made Me Happy...

in this week's comics.

  • Adam's cape.
  • Lana Lang, Professional Plot Device.
  • The return of Sonar.
  • The return of Ibis. No, not Isis; IBIS.
  • How Clark got to keep his job.
  • How Lois reacted to how Clark got to keep his job.
  • Giant mob bosses.
  • Giant Manhunters.
  • Giant electrified popcorn. Giant electrified popcorn.
  • People beating the snot out of Hal Jordan.
  • Gehenna's shoes.
  • Lois saving Clark's butt.
  • Vixen discussing her equipment.
  • "Arcanobiologist"?
  • Aquaman's unorthodox facial.
  • The sexiness of Lois.
  • The noseyness of Jimmy.
  • The Detroit League's inability to simply jump in a nearby stream to escape the forest fire.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wow! He really IS amazing, isn't he?

Well, THAT'll make your spidersenses tingle, won't it?

I don't know the other fellow is (Vaselineman? Rubber Fist?), but he's now by far my favorite Marvel character. Glove-butt Spiderman totally needs to be a Unique in the next Heroclic set, along with little Miss Intimacy Gauntlet there...

"You are found guilty of First Degree Snark..."

There are two things you need to learn from the panel below.

First, you should know that, like his cousin Supergirl, lives in the crushing clockwork universe where all is fated and there is no freedom of will. You see, Supergirl's spirit-shredding determinism eventually wears down even Superman's nigh-indefatiguable optimism. Conceptually, Superman Symbol of Hope loses to Supergirl Symbol of Hopelessness; it's inevitable.

snark is apparently against the law.

I am in SUCH trouble...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Green Lantern Corpse

Let's see, how do I put this in a loving and supportive way...?

The Green Lanterns STINK.

Last night I fielded, upon sudden inspiration, a Heroclix team composed entirely of Green Lanterns: Hal "Hard-Head" Jordan, John "Dancing Queen" Stewart, Kyle "Honey, why aren't you breathing?" Rayner, and freakin' Kilowogg. And darned if they don't look impressive together.

We were up against Devon's patented "Atomic Dogs" Team (Captain Atom, Adam Strange, Orion, and Krypto) and Glen's "The Future Belongs to Us" Team (The Emerald Empress, the Persuader, Validus, and Mordu).

OH, you should have seen my opponents SWEAT and struggle to maintain their poker faces! But I had the GREEN LANTERNS on the board; my victory was inevitable.

Naturally, the first thing I did was go for the "gorilla on the board": The Emerald Empress and the terrifying Emerald Eye of Ekron. I had to because (A) the presence of the Emerald Eye makes me want to wet my pants and (B) I can't resist an"injury to the eye motif" joke when the opportunity presents itself (that happens to you after you've read Wertham). I had Hal smack her halfway to the rimworlds and back, and she ran screaming back to the edge of the board to fix her hair. "Ha!," Hal thought, "your hair will never be as pretty as mine!"

Then... well, something went wrong.

It started with Kyle. There's a shock, huh? John transported Kyle face-to-face with Orion, where Kyle attacked with a savage roll of ... two, which is the Heroclix equivalent of tripping over your shoelaces while running into battle wearing loafers. Orion was not amused.

The rest was mostly a blur of shredded green latex floating around the board, and little glowing rings saying "Green Lantern terminated; commencing search for new ringbearer."

The GLs are front-loaded; effective if they get in the first hit, but if you can punch them in the face or hit them with a ceiling tile or heavy yellow lamp, they fall faster than Aunt Harriet without her medication.

Oh, and the best news of all: the next set of DC Heroclix available arrives in September...

the Special Collectors Sets of Alien Green Lanterns, including Arisia, Ch'p, Tomar Re, Abin Sur, Ganthet, Katma Tui, and Gnort. Yes, Gnort.


Touch My Monkey

The Monkey discusses Super Sex Changes.

The Monkey asks, "Where is Marvel's Gold?"

The Monkey promises a Dramatic Reading Contest.

The Monkey knows that "Beyond" is the new "Secret Wars".

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hell is a Matter of Perspective

You said it, Ralph! And there's no place that has more elbow room than ...


As we have discussed before, Central City is a very special place. Simply to ensure that its citizens can survive in this phantasmagoraphobical city, Central City has charged its educational system with inculcating all schoolchildren with the necessary math skills to survive a place whose volumes and distances are nearly incalculable.

Are you as smart as a Central City highschooler? Find out by taking....

The Central City "Survival Math" Test!

Question 1.

Assuming that Flash travels at just under the speed of sound (to minimize possible property damage), how long does it take him to cross that street?

Question 2

Assume that average height of the line of buildings is 100 stories and that the Flash, despite bracchial distention, is at his normal height. What is the width of the road that separates the two sides of the street?

Question 3

Adjusting for walking posture, assume that Ralph is at a 90 degree angle with the ground. At what angle is that pole to the ground and, more interestingly, why has that man not fallen off it?

Question 4

Based on the perspective, who took this shot?
(a) Dr. Psycho, limping
(b) a collapsed madeira-sotted photographer from Picture News
(c) an aged chihuahua with a doggie-cam
(d) Ray Palmer with a micropolaroid.

Question 5
Sue is wearing 2.5 inch heels, carrying 9.8 pounds of raw beef, stands at 5'6", and is running at top speed for a 23 year old women in peak physical condition; how long does it take her to reach Ralph's butt?

Extra credit: assuming that the three criminals the distant policeman is covering with his gun are all the same height, how far apart are they, and what angle of vision does the officer require to keep them all within view simultaneously?

Question 6

Is Ralph stretching or is this merely an effect of Central City's unique perspective? Cite examples from the text.

Question 7

Driving at safe and fuel-efficient 55 MPH on consistent road curvatures, how long will it take Iris to drive to her mailbox on the horizon?

Question 8

If the maximum height of any visible building is 300 stories, and assuming full occupancy with a 2% vacation rate, estimate the population of the Central City block in the distance.

Question 9

If the Flash, traveling at 700 MPH arrives at an open bar at 10:30AM, how does that tallest building manage to remain standing? For the matter, how does the Flash?

Question 10

If 40 percent of household income goes to mortgage and the average living room encompasses 40 percent of a house's square footage, with property values at $400 per square foot, what must this family's annual income be to afford that living room?

Question 11

If Batman and Robin run a 4-minute mile, and the crooks run a 6 minute mile, how long does the Dynamic Duo take to reach each of the four crooks and what on earth is the size of that merry-go-round?

Question 12

At minimum wage with standard 8-hour days, how much does it cost the city to maintain that park annually?

Question 13

If that's the curvature of this planet, then what's the average height of those buildings, and what percentage of the distance to the moon does that constitute?


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Reasons to read "Manhunter" #11

Starting in issue #11, Cameron Chase of the DEO is part of the regular cast of Manhunter.

She and Kate are old friends. For those of you who read Chase, that's all the reason you need. For those of you who didn't, this is your chance to find out why they did.

Buy Manhunter.

The Importance of Word Balloons

Ordinarily, I'm not in favor of word ballons on comic book covers.

But sometimes...?

Sometimes they are
absolutely necessary.