Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mercy Reef Heroclix Map

Click on it to see it at full size and detail.

It's an underwater map (no surprise there). There's both Hindering and Blocking Terrain atop the Elevated Terrain of the reef. Because everything is underwater where you can swim over stuff, terrain does not affect movement, only line of sight.

As you can see, I'm getting ready for the two new Aquaman clix...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Least Likely to Change: Superman

Who has changed the least?

Only a select group of Golden Age heroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Black Canary) are still around. And I don't mean "retrieved" characters like Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, or any of the JSA-style inheritors. They are a different animal entirely from the Underoos Icon Gang.

So let's pull our Underoos out of the drawer and examine them over the next few days ... just to see how they're holding up.


Well, he looks the same except for some minor vagaries of costuming. But he's changed alot.

He's added a host of powers (many of which, such as superventroliquism, were mercifully shed along the way), and the powers that have been consistent in kind have increased dramatically in degree.

His personality, on the hand, has changed in kind. The Golden Age Superman was almost anti-authoritarian. As a reaction to the powerless people felt during the Depression, the GA Superman broke into people's houses (including the Governor), beat the snot out of normal humans, hung them from flagpoles, grabbed unsympathetic employers and forced them to experience the deplorable conditions of their workers... . Superman (no matter what Frank Miller might think of him), has never been about supporting authority, but about having the power to circumvent it.

Yet, nowadays, we not only respect and envy that power, we fear its misuse. So Superman, most powerful of heroes, has had to evolve into the very image of He Who Would Not Abuse His Power, and come to be an authority figure himself. John Byrne (no matter what you might think of him) understood this tension and very early on he cleverly had Mayor Berkowitz use Superman to circumvent regular, slow justice and arrest Lex Luthor on the spot ... after saying he'd "deputized" him, of course.

His larger "secret identity" schtick is still very much intact. Clark Kent is still mild-mannered (I mean, as much as an investigative report can be) and his difference in personality from smiling, confident Superman is still his best disguise. But the two-and-half-sided triangle between Clark, Lois, and Superman is no more.

That's a big change. Superman used to symbolize men's need to be loved and admired not only for their aggressive confrontational selves, but for their quiet nurturing selves as well. And, I might add, some woman's refusal to do so, particularly strong capable ones like Lois. Despite professing to want "sensitive" men, women usually really go for a confident macho guy. How else would you explain that so many comic-reading women who would call themselves feminists are googly-eyed over Hal Jordan, of all people? I don't know a single comic-reading gay guy who goes googly-eyed over Hal Jordan; only women. Comic-reading gay guys go googly-eyed over guys who are confident yet secure enough in their masculinity to wear yellow balloon pants and red neckerchiefs. And breakdance.

Anyway, while that idea of being loved that way used to be presented through Superman as nearly impossible, his marriage to Lois (in which she loves both the Clark Kent Him and the Superman Him) is now shown as an ideal. In all fairness, then that's not a change: that kind of love was presented as ideal and the only kind worth having in the Golden Age, too. That's why Superman never accepted Lois's advances; if she was too good for Clark Kent, then she wasn't good enough for Superman. It's not Superman who changed; it was Lois.

It's a pity they never really showed us that change; they were kind of suddenly, you know, married.

In any case, how much has Superman changed in your eyes?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Prepackaged Fun!

The new JLA Heroclix set is going to make some fun things possible...

The Superfriends 550 p
Superman (197p), Batman&Robin (138p), Wonder Woman (127p), Aquaman with "Submerged" (75p), Wendy&Marvin (9p).

The Fatal Five 550p
Tharok (100p), Validus(152p), Emerald Empress (102p), Mano (56p) with "Sidekick" (10p) to the Persuader (129p).

Goal: If the Fatal Five kill Wendy & Marvin, they win. We all do, really.

Time Out 250p
Thomas Oscar Morrow 37p + Sidekick (10p) to the Time Trapper 125p, Chronos 77 p.

Time In 250p
Android Hourman 100p, Dream Girl 50p, Veteran Hourman 100p.

Goal: Whoever keeps track of the use of Probability Control most easily wins.

Quien es Mas Macho? 337 p
The Shining Knight 48p, Vigilante 45p, Green Arrow 50p, Aquaman 56 p, Hawkman 135p, Perry White 3p.

Quien es Mas Macho? 337 p
Lobo 207 p, Hawk 69, Bane 61.

Goal: Try to keep Perry's teammates from attacking him.

The Crime Syndicate 600p
Ultraman 242p, Superwoman 93p, Power Ring 90p, Owlman 87 p, Johnny Quick 77p (with "Damage Shield" 10p

Earth 1 vs. the Crime Syndicate 600p
Superman 222p, Wonder Woman 109p, Green Lantern 93p, Batman 79p + Indomitable 5p, Flash 82p + Armor Piercing 10p.

Earth 2 vs. the Crime Syndicate 600p
Starman 106p + Fortitude 25p + Damage Shield 10p + Armor Piercing 10p, Black Canary 46 + Stunning Blow 10p, Dr. Fate 155p, Dr. Mid-Nite 58p + Ambush & Entrench & Flashbang & Running Start & Indomitable & Triage (ttl 35p), Golden Age Flash 101p + Armor Piercing 10p & Fortitude 25p.

Goal: Try not to embarrass Earth 2.

The Committee to Kick Hal Jordan's Ass 200p
Hector Hammond 88p, Doctor Polaris 111p

The Committee to Kick Hal Jordan's Ass 300p
Hector Hammon 88 p, Sinestro 102p, Major Disaster 59p, Black Hand 48p, Carol Ferris 3p

The Committee to Kick Hal Jordan's Ass 400 p
Power Ring 90p, Hector Hammond 88 p, Sinestro 102p, Doctor Polaris 111p, Carol Ferris 3p, Thom Kamalku 5 p.

The Committee to Kick Hal Jordan's Ass 500p
Power Ring 90p, Hector Hammond 88 p, Sinestro 102p, Doctor Polaris 111p, Major Disaster 59p, Black Hand 48p.

Goal: To join the august ranks of the Yellow Ceiling Tile, the Bar of Soap, the Toy Airplane, the Falling Branch, and the Heavy Yellow Lamp.

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Between the amazing work in redefining (or is it just refining?) Green Arrow's character in Green Arrow Year One and the Black Canary miniseries, I am being won over to admiration of GA. I mean taking the boat that's an escape from horrible torture and death... and burning it? To attract the bad guys? That's the crazy heroism that's the stuff of legend.
  • But I'm still glad that some people-- very very smart people-- question Black Canary on the stupidity of marrying Ollie Queen, rather than everyone in the DCU blindly going, "Oh, a wedding, how lovely! This will be as nice as when the Atom married that cruel, self-centered, psychotic who Eclipso liked so much!"
  • Thank heaven somebody finally called Wonder Girl and Supergirl out on their ridiculously tacky belly-shirts.
  • Piper's "immunity".
  • The very Last of Great Lesbian Love Scenes. Well, for them, anyway.
  • John Rogers needs to be writing Teen Titans. Immediately.
  • So I assume Ranx versus Mogo symbolizes Humanity's Vicious Self-Absorbed Denaturized Urbanism versus Recognizing Our Planet as a Nurturing Guide and Provider That Deserves Our Protection. Either that or it just looked cool to draw.
  • Thanks for the pic of nearly naked pre- or post-coital Deathstroke in bed. No, really! Boxers should be his new uniform.
  • The Mega-Rod versus Charizard.
  • Blue Beetle versus Lobo.
  • "Green Arrow's Secret Healing Factor?" or "Gosh, that minimum six to eight weeks of recovering from an open fracture sped by quickly!"
  • I love this Club of Heroes story Grant Morrison is doing; it's like he's on new meds or something. What a great locked-room mystery, with some ace detective work going on. And the art! Extremely impressive, particularly the composition!
  • I really what to know what has Knockout terrified, since she considers fighting Big Barda a hobby.
  • Black Lightning's "Shut up, ho, this is my chair now; go make me a sammich!" look that he gives Vixen at the JLA meeting.
  • I can never remember the name of Blue Beetle's two sidekicks, but I adore them nonetheless. Paco; the big cute one's name is Paco.
  • Mr. Terrific + U.S. politics + Nazis = Jeez, Mr. Terrific is tall + Wildcat is enormous!
  • No matter how nasty they make Eclipso, it still seems like a demotion for Jean Loring.
  • So ... does that make Ollie's reaction to Roy's problem better or worse? Or simply understandable?
  • Kid Devil made me do a Spit-Take of Amusement. That's pretty rare.
  • Now that I realize that Big Barda would love playing Heroclix, I think I love her, too.
  • Nothing says "I care!" like Kilowogg covered in corpses.
  • We don't always get to say goodbye to the ones we love, do we? In fact, we seldom do. It's a good thing to remember.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Aquaman has perfect pitch

On the most recent Big Monkey Podcast, the gang and I mourned the loss of comic book artist Mike Wieringo, who was beloved both for who he was and the work he did. Remembrances by his colleagues (like Mark Waid here at Newsarama) have brought to my attention the pitch that Waid and Wieringo did for Aquaman four years ago, which I include in its entirety below.

It's nice-- very nice-- to see that there are people who get Aquaman. Sadly, DC's editors weren't, and apparently, still aren't among them.

How delightful, how different Aquaman's recent history would have been, had the Waid/Wieringo pitch been accepted. Aquaman would have been leading DC's charge toward brighter, more inspiring heroes, rather than trailing far behind.

Tad Williams would have this guy at right to work with, rather than having been given the superhuman task of writing Aquaman without Aquaman in it, of making bricks without straw. Tad has, in fact, done a superhuman job of pulling together the various pieces of Aquaman's broken history, adding new and interesting elements, and weaving them into a narrative quilt that's made DC's underwater world seem larger and more fascinating than ever before. For that, he gets my highest praise. But DC, in forbidding him to bring back the real Aquaman, has essentially doomed his ingenious series and might as well rename it Aquaman: Meatless Lasagna.

I take some comfort in knowing that the type of Aquaman described below will be coming back. DC's new Superfriends comic (and its concurrent toy line) will, of course, include the Classic version of Aquaman, because, although Editorial doesn't also know what sells, Marketing does. Surely DC won't let pass that opportunity to reassert Classic Aquaman in a manner similar to what Waid and Wieringo laid out below.

Why, that would be like wasting the unprecedented level of public recognition that JLU brought the Martian Manhunter by not having him in the JLA or by dramatically altering his visual and character design!

The Waid/Wieringo pitch

"I am so sick of people making fun of Aquaman that I’m beginning to take it personally. For the last ten years or so, the way we’ve been scrambling to combat Aquaman’s “Dork of the Sea” image--and I’ve been guilty of trying this, too--is by making Aquaman increasingly darker, grittier, and tougher, the brooding, angry king beset with trouble. Each incarnation of the character seems grimmer than the last, to the point where all that’s left for us to do is give him two hooks. And a peg-leg.

OR--here’s ANOTHER thought. Yes, the seas can be turbulent and stormy, but y’know what? Far more often, the ocean is a universal symbol for peace and contentment. It’s a calming influence. If it weren’t, Bermuda would be deserted and Hawaii would be an industrial trade port. It is most people’s “happy place.” Yes, the ocean is the set piece for “A Perfect Storm,” but it’s also the world of “Finding Nemo” and “The Little Mermaid.” I have never yet met anyone of any age who didn’t come away from Sea World envying the guides who swim with the whales and porpoises. I propose we turn this “grim Aquaman” paradigm around for a one-shot and see what happens. “Test the waters,” if you will. I know, I slay me. Anyway....

Our POV character in this story is a female marine biologist--and since Aquaman’s turf covers the world, there’s no need to make her American. (In fact, Russian is preferable--I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the culture of Russian courtship, and that could really play in nicely.) At any rate, our biologist--let’s call her Yelena for now--may have heard the name “Aquaman” here and there, but to her, he’s about as real and significant as, say, German football stars are to you and me.

Yelena’s work is done with grungy old equipment and spit-and-bailing-wire technology, the best she has to work with. Her whole world has a gritty feel to it--

--so when this bright, blond, shining knight of a man pops out of the water and into her life, she’s addled simply by the contrast.

Their paths cross, she’s drawn into an adventure, and to Yelena, this “Aquaman” is, yes, mysterious like the sea--but in a warm, enticing way. To Yelena, he is otherworldly, like a fairy tale character come to life. He rarely speaks (though when he does, he’s staggeringly charming), he lives in the water, and he smiles. Constantly. In fact, at first, Yelena has a nearly impossible time taking him seriously. He’s like a walking cartoon.

And yet...the more she gets to know him, the further she’s drawn out of her world and into his, she’ll come to realize that there’s something going on behind those wide eyes of his. Looking in them, she sees peace and confidence; looking through them, she’s gradually introduced to an underwater world of absolute wonder, a place that is far more colorful and in tune with nature than is her own gritty lifestyle. Once she surrenders to the implausibility of it all, she’s rewarded a thousandfold, and so are we. Aquaman’s joy becomes her joy becomes OUR joy.

There will be no mocking. NO jokes about how “dumb” talking to fish is. Anyone with a keyboard can make cynical jokes. That’s easy. What’s harder is reminding you why, when you were a kid, you thought the idea of living underwater or commanding the creatures of the sea WAS cool. We can do that. We can remind you, and Yelena’s awed voice will be there to back us up."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Be My Thug!

Sorry I'm not a lot of fun right now, but I'm still glowing with pain, which makes witty badinage about comic book panels and insightful analysis of structures within the medium unlikely. Or, perhaps I should say, unlikelier. (If you want some of that tune in to the new episode of the Big Monkey Podcast, and meet Black Manta's new pet.)

But I can craft. If you think I'm the kind of person who lies around watching the television, think again. I'm making some person tokens for Heroclix games: lots of little crooks and goons to help out the villains. The templates are all laid out, but I'm missing just one thing: pictures of crooks and goons.

Now, I could just use photos from movies and such, downloaded from the internet. But that doesn't seem quite fun enough...

This is where you come in. Send me a picture of YOURSELF looking particularly crooked or goonish and I will make YOU into a pog (much as I did for Officers Garling and Sanders). Then I will put the finished products up here on the blog for all to see and print out. Then you too can have the privilege of being kayoed by the Caped Crusaders or crippled by Green Arrow.

Oh, and these pogs are game-legal (well, except for the whole "retired figures" thing). Each one is based on an actual pre-existing Token in Heroclix, so they are playable.

The goon tokens you can submit your photo for are listed below. There are several "rules" for the photos. Please...
  • Be appropriately attired for the token you want to portray.
  • Don't smile, unless it's a nasty smile. You know, like a leer or a smirk.
  • Brings your guns. Real guns. HUGE extra points for having a gun in the photo.
  • Have a background that is colorwise very distinct and different from the part of photo that is you. Otherwise, it will be too hard for me to get rid of the background in Photoshop.
  • Extra points if you send me a Photoshop file with the background already eliminated.
  • Photos should be in color, if at all possible.
  • Photos should be pretty much from the waist up. Just a head shot is too little and a full body shot is too much.
  • If your photo is sufficiently fabulous, but doesn't quite match with one of the tokens below, I'll may make up one to go with it. You want to be "the Moll" or "the Patsy" or "the Underling" or "the Lunatic?? Sell me on it with your pic!

(ones with * should not have guns in the pic, because that token has no range)
  1. The Scrapper* (he's fast in a fight)
  2. The Gashouser* (he's bigger than the Scrapper, but still fast)
  3. The Dirty Cop (extra points for raincoat or cheesy moustache)
  4. The Gunsel (look weaselly; gunsels are always weaselly. The Gunsel has Stealth).
  5. The Black Belt* (Ariel...?)
  6. The Lieutenant (the boss's number one guy. Should not be hefty, because he'll have Leap/Climb)
  7. "Two-Gun" (I don't care if you're a grandmother of four, if you can get two real pistols in your hands in the pic, then you are Two-Gun)
  8. The Gunwoman (in a pantsuit, I should think)
  9. The Gunman (what's the male equivalent of a pants suit?)
  10. The Slugger* (maybe with a baseball bat...?)
  11. The Gunslinger (he watches the Country/Western channel)
  12. Yojimbo (Asian guy, black suit)
  13. The Punk Kid* (if you're a bit long in the tooth, I'll just take off the 'kid' part)
  14. The Hireling* (he's a little nervous but he needs the money)
  15. The Running Dog (this guy is very good but very hyper, kind of wild-eyed)
  16. The Hoodlum* (extra points for a hoodie or a 'newsie cap')
  17. The Enforcer* (this guy looks ... unpleasant)
  18. The Bruiser* (this guy is big but slow)
  19. The Tough Guy* (this one has Toughness, so please look you could actually take a punch to the face without falling over)
  20. Judo Guy* ("I paid Joon Rhee good money for those classes and now is my chance to show off for the boss!)
  21. Judo Gal* ("I am totally going to show up that jackass, Judo Guy!")

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunburn Beach

I went to the beach yesterday.

I did all the normal things you do when you go to the beach. I swam in the ocean. I tried to activate my water-breathing genes. I attempted to communicate aquatelepathically. 'Cuz ya never know. What? Oh, like you never tried saying "Shazam!", just in case. Turns out, I wasn't able to summon fish, but while squunching my forehead trying to emanate concentric circles, I was able to summon a giant wave that nearly knocked me on my ass, which I suppose is a start.

I also discovered that if you fall asleep by yourself in the sun, without anyone to wake you, you get sunburnt. Badly sunburnt. I look like one of the female Legionnaires whom Satan Girl infected with the Crimson Virus. Except without, you know, the female parts. And, since my hair looks pretty much like Fire Lad's (particularly after a trip to the beach), I now look like one of the Heat Miser's backup singers. Except not that fat.

And the pain. Oh, as Dr. Smith would have said, the pain. Want to deepen your understanding of characters like the Joker or Two-Face, whose origin involves acid or falling into vats of chemical wastes? Get a sunburn. Suddenly, the way they lash out at the world seems a model of restraint.

So, in that kind of pain, I naturally had trouble sleeping last night (that, and the sleeping all afternoon at the beach and the large coffee I had to steel my nerves). Therefore, I did what any normal person would do, awake a night in teeth-clenching pain from photonic poisoning...

I made a Heroclix map about it.

The "Sunburn Beach" map is for pitting aquatic characters against non-aquatic characters. And unless those non-aquatic characters are Superman, they're going to have a hard time targeting the aquatic ones, who according to the map rules are stealthed from them in the water.

It's pretty shallow water, though; flyers will still be able float out and base aquatic figures. They'll probably have to, because aquatic figures don't like to wander on land, where they have to deal with tedious hindrances like beach umbrellas. And everyone who's not a flyer or a leap/climber is going to have trouble right at the water's edge, which is all hindering terrain.

I hope you have more fun at Sunburn Beach than I did!