Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sinestro Corps, the Early Years

Surely, you don't think Geoff Johns (brilliant though he is) was the first to imagine Sinestro creating a corps of anti-Lanterns, do you?

John Broome did it in the 1967 cringe-worthy classic, "My Mastermind, The Car!", in which the spirit of Sinestro possesses "Goitrude", the former cab of the former Green Lantern's former sidekick, Doiby Dickles. Yes, really; could I make that up?

"In brightest day, in blackest night,
no justice shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship justice's might
beware my power,
Evil Green Lantern's light!"

Evil people have no regard for scansion and meter, folks (for example, have you ever read Maya Angelou?). Either that, or Sinestro hired William S. Gilbert to pen the oath.

Nah; that would have come out more like this:

"In brightest day, I dare surmise,
or blackest night, to all surprise,
all justice seen before my eyes
shall surely quake and quiver.

Then justice-lovers, softly simpering,

bow their heads in shameful whimpering.
Evil Green Lantern light come shimmer, bring

death, and doom deliver!"

Anyway, the reason you never heard of the Evil Green Lanter Corps (a.k.a. Sinestro Corps 1.0), is that it failed in the beta test... in one panel.

"Coming up on DC-ESPN: Sinestro Bowling!"

Yeah, back in the day, all it took was Alan Scott and Hal Jordan to defeat the entire Sinestro Corps, and they did it in one panel, rather than 12 issues plus special one-shots.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Spooky Churchyard

Most Heroclix maps just aren't spooky enough.

Oh, they're fine if you're fond of the glitterati heroes, with their zappy powers and flaming hairdos. But I'm a fan of the scitterati set, with their smoke bombs and skulking capes. And face it, these are not characters who fling hot dog carts at you in the middle of a sunlit park.

I want an appropriate place where Batman and Dr. Mid-Nite can throw smoke bombs at the Scarecrow; where the Blue and Red Devils can confront Etrigan about his breath; where Deadman and the Phantom Stranger can chase the Gentleman Ghost and the Shade; where the Spectre can teach Ragman to sew.

And, so, I created

The Spooky Churchyard

The abandoned church and its adjacent graveyard make for lots of changing terrain, where walls and hindering abound. The windows in the church and the closed back-gate of the graveyard could be treated as clear terrain entrances or as walls that need to be destroyed; I leave that up to those who play the map!

Too many maps are big open affairs, where all the figures just charge up the middle, as if in a big football game. I like maps that force you to make choices, and finding the right place to confront your opponents on this map will be challenging. Of course, any ghostly figures with phasing are going to have a distinct advantage here, as they'll be able to ignore all those pesky walls.

As for layout, this map was about orienting the "rooms" (the church and graveyard) the "wrong way". Because there's not one obvious way to approach the enemy, it encourages different theaters of action, increasingly the repeat playability of the map. Too many Heroclix maps are almost perfectly symmetrical, which, although fair, is rather boring; I mean, it's not chess, people!

The design was all about trying to create a spooky atmosphere without having the map be too dull. I had fun playing with lighting/shadowing, and using gradient on the grid so that it was visible in both light and shadow. The fog was the hardest thing. Tried a million different things, then I simply cheated. If you can figure out how I cheated, I will be mightily impressed...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thank Goodness for Whores and Crazy People!

I have laryngitis. When you talk as much (only out of necessity, of course!) as I do, that's bad. But I can still type. Which means I can still post this:

Marvel is a whore. And people are crazy.

Now, I'd been intending to start a post with those words as a complaint. But after today, I'm not certain that those aren't words of gratitude.

Which, naturally, is why I have laryngitis. This morning, I just had a sore throat. But I spent all day, pretty much non-stop, talking at Big Monkey, until my voice simply stopped.

What was I saying? The same thing, over and over, again. "Yes, it came out today. No, we can't hold a copy for you. Yes, it's only $3.99. No, it's sold out. No, he's on the second cover, not the first one. Yes, we can order it for you for next week if you pre-pay."

I've talking, of course, about Amazing Spider-Man #583. At first, I was keeping count of the number of calls and drop ins asking about it. But I quickly became too busy for that. Really, I don't think we'd even get these many inquiries about a comic book if it had been proven and publicized to cure acne and halitosis. Or, perhaps I underestimate the level of self-awareness of the average fanboy...?

In any case, this comic book, which doesn't cure any known ailments (which the possible exception of sickly sales at comic book shops) has generated almost... disturbing levels of interest. Almost as if Stan Lee has stumbled across the anti-life equation scrawled on the back of an old manuscript he stolen from Jack Kirby, and used to simply compel people to buy it.

Have you ever stolen a toy from a dog, or seen a small child drops its ice cream cone, or had to tell your patient that the cancer is inoperable? Well, then you have an inkling of the looks of the faces of people when they're told, "I'm sorry, we're sold out of Amazing Spider-Man #583... ." DC Comics, forget about Enemy Ace and Prometheus (since the rest of us have already): if you want to do a "Faces of Evil" series, base it on the faces of first-time comic shop visitors when they discover that Amazing Spider-Man #583 is not available in limitless supply.

Sure, we'd ordered extra copies. Didn't everyone? But we didn't really understand the breadth of Obama-mania. Did anyone? People called us from California.

Now, granted, we are in the Nation's Capital, and things sell here that don't really sell well anywhere else (like, say, C-SPAN). But, really: we sold only about 15 copies of the comic that was ABOUT Obama. Today, before I had to stagger out of the store at about 5PM, speechless, we took orders for 350 copies of Amazing Spider-Man #583. Heaven knows how many more will be taken in the rest of the evening.

I don't usually write about comics from the perspective of a store owner (it's not an especially interesting vantage point, usually, and gives little in the way of extra literary insight to the meaning and delights of comics themselves). So, as a reader, I had been planning to bitch about how, frankly, whorish Marvel is in throwing together a quick back-up story and stapling it awkwardly on end of Spider-Man's current storyline.

It's such a blatantly tawdry grab at borrowed spotlight, and so in keeping with the Marvel's utter lack of dignity. And the "story" itself? I hesitate to do it the honor of calling it "slapdash". In fact, I hated the story the first time I read it, over 20 years ago (which was in Booster Gold #8, in case you're curious). Really, how bad is it when you're stealing plots from the original Boo$ter Gold series? And is the Chameleon thinking basketball is played with helmets supposed to be... funny?

And people are falling over themselves to buy this story. It's... crazy. And maddening! There are some many good comics. And this isn't Marvel-bashing; there are plenty of good Marvel comis to be reading. In fact, until this month, I would have put Amazing Spider-Man at the top of that list. Why aren't people reading Blue Marvel, PistolFist, and Invincible? For that matter, if their interest is in Obama and not comics per se, why didn't they buy the comics that actually help you understand how impressive he and his rise are? That's a way to honor the man, not this cheap walk-on publicity stunt.


This "publicity stunt" worked. Many people came to our store for the first time today. I got of a lot of people to leave with copies of Blue Marvel, PistolFist, and Invincible. Comic books reasserted their relevance today; even if they don't always deserve it, comic book still, in basic cultural ways, matter. That only happened because "Marvel is a whore" and because "people are crazy".

So I suppose I should just shut my trap and be grateful for it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Temple for Diana

This one is for you, Wonder Woman!

Or, at least, for you Heroclix-playing fans of Wonder Woman. Some of my favorite Heroclix figures don't always have the maps that they deserve. Take, for example, the most recent Wonder Woman Heroclix figure:

"I am sorry, sister; but I must shove this Ionic column up your septum!"

Even without going into her dial, it's pretty clear this Wonder Woman is not to be trifled with. So I made her this temple map.

Yeah, I know that actual rituals were seldom performed within the naos of a temple, so the altar is kind of out of place; but nobody knows that other than you and I. Besides, the map needed both color and cover, which the altar, the braziers, and (if you're Aquaman) the pools provide. There's even some elevated terrain, courtesy of the goddess's pedestal. And, please note that the columns are blocking terrain.

Get this map printed and trot this 700-pt level team:
  • Nubia (69 pts),
  • Cassie "Wonder Girl" Sandsmark (87 pts),
  • Donna "Wonder Girl" Troy (94 pts),
  • Artemis (95 pts),
  • Hipployta in her WW garb (106 pts), and
  • Wonder Woman the Column-Carrier herself (at a whopping 248 pts).

To oppose them, field these Wonder-Foes:

  • The Cheetah (63 pts),
  • Dr. Psycho (100 pts),
  • Giganta (108 pts),
  • Circe (149 pts),
  • and the Big Bad himself, Ares (275 pts).

Hola! Place your bets and see who wins!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pep 2: Yellow Rain versus Yellow Peril

I told you yellow was the Shield's favorite color.

There aren't a lot of "golden showers" themed covers; this is one of the best. Love the Shield's "I got a whole keg here, so I can do this all night, boys" pose.

It's not just the obviousness of the imagery, it's using the subtle yellow sky and title to reinforce that's so impressive.

The fetid stew of man-limbs, like some sort of EC grotesque, contributes as well. Truly this cover is the fuel of nightmares. Or the kernel some boy's lifelong fetish.

It would have been nice if this had become a running theme for the Shield, kind of like bondage was for Wonder Woman. A fun challenge for the writers to work it into every story: "The hydrants are useless! The Moscovians have halted the reservoir... but they didn't count on me hooking up a fire hose to this lemonade truck!"