Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Human Flame is in my house!




From the modder's records: The Human Flame is an old Martian Manhunter villain who went 50 years between appearances. Made for a friend of my venue's judge, the Human Flame is made from a Danger Room Cyclops. His costume is lumped out with green stuff. His flame spurts are made from a couple of Horrorclix Firebreather flames. He is on a Checkmate Knight (Black) dial from Brave and the Bold with a custom character card (with a Trait that nerfs DC Martian characters and adds 15 points to his total)."

If you don't know who he is, click on the "Human Flame" label at the bottom of the post.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Real Adversary

Could Archie be any more vile? He's like a fourth Fabulous Furry Freak Brother.

And where was Dr. Wertham when we needed him, any way? No doubt, he was in Archie's pay, destroying any threats to the Riverdale iron hegemony.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Welcome Back to Apex CIty!

I hate to gloat...

Okay. Who am I kidding?

I love to gloat.

And so now I shall.

DC has now acknowledged the existence of the Martian Manhunter's contextualizing city, Apex City, in an official publication, celebrating the company's 75 anniversary.

Oh, here... let me make that clearer for you:

I got this news from my good blog-buddy Diamondrock over at Title Undetermined.

I can only hope that this may serve as a step toward one day returning the Martian Manhunter to his Earthian hometown (a.k.a, America's Most Flammable City). I'm tired of poor J'onn being treated like some sadsack, homeless orphan. Reality check, or perhaps more accurately, continuity check: J'onn's been living on Earth longer than anyone else in the Justice League. He should be used to it by now. He deserves to start to treating it like his home.

During his original adventures in Apex City, he had a home, a context. Sure, Apex City was ridiculous, with its weekly meteors, ludicrous villains (like the Human Flame, Mr. Moth, the Human Squirrel, or gangsters who ride around in giant mechanical bears) and its host of strange businesses and buildings that seemed to have escaped from the panels of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer. But the bizarreness of Apex City is what made it work: J'onn fit in perfectly. A Martian with a Crayola box full of powers like creating ice cream cones with his mind makes a weird kind of sense in Apex City.

That's the whole point of a contextualizing city: to give a hero a place where they fit in, where Hero and City make sense together. Batman in Gotham City makes sense. Batman in Central City would be... very odd. Central City's incomprehensible dimensions make no sense at all... except as a showcase for the Fastest Man Alive. Wonder Woman--who is a conflation of Americanism, psychosocial theories, insincere palaver about equal rights, Greco-Roman mythology, and flights of fancy--makes complete sense in Washington DC (which is a conflation of Americanism, psychosocial theories, insincere palaver about equal rights, Greco-Roman mythology, and flights of fancy).

Heroes without such a place suffer badly. That's why, in the modern era, St. Roch was created for the Hawks, and Opal City for Starman; that's why Green Lantern was given back Coast City and Green Arrow given back to Star City. The absence of a proper contextualizing city -- Apex City -- is one of the reasons that the Martian Manhunter has limped along as the Poor Cousin in the Justice League for decades, one of the things that's blocking him from bringing the same kind of iconic power to the table that his colleagues have had the chance to develop.

DC, now that we all know that Apex City is "real", please put it back on the map of current storylines. Once J'onn is done his duty in Brightest Day, do him, yourselves, and us a favor...

and bring J'onn home to..

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Clixmas!

Here's a Clixmas gift to you all: a new map.

It's a temple on Paradise Island (Themyscira). It's not quite finished (I may add a few touches here and there), but this is certainly the gist of it.

Features include the chokeholds at the single staircase and at the bridge over the Pools of Purification. Note that the Pools are not elevated, but lie below the elevated plane.

The colonnades of the temple make long-range attacks difficult. If you want an open fire-fight you'll have to occupy the area in front of the temple. But the Pools of Purification and the cliff edge make that a challenge; you just know somebody's going to suffer knockback and fall with a thud or a splash!

You may want to have Aquaman help Wonder Woman out on this map; he'll probably come in handy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Scariest Place on Earth

This is the scariest place I know:

Monarch Novelties.

Ever read one of those comic book stories where the villain holes out in some semi-abandoned area, using a run-down store as a front? The dilapidated seafood store along the docks, the unloved curio shop, the forgotten magic emporium? Behind such facades lurk the likes of Captain Squid, Hugo Strange, and Eivol Ekdal. There seem to be an endless supply of such places in Gotham City. They reek of evildoing; they obviously do no real business and couldn't possibly remain open if they were legitimate.

One wonders, in fact, why, whenever some malefactor threatens the city, the GCPD doesn't simply go out shopping until they inevitably arrive at the appropriate storefront. The dusty merchandise, the ex-con at the register, the red light bulb that starts flashing above the door to the backroom as soon as the cops enter: it would all be so obvious to spot!

Of course, that's just the comic books, we say to ourselves. Such places are merely convenient plot devices; there aren't such places in the real world.

Oh; but that's what they (the villains) want you to think. Because there are. And Monarch Novelties is the king of them all.

Monarch Novelties is, improbably, smack-dab in the middle of downtown DC. It should have folded, or its building been sold out from under it years ago. DECADES ago. And yet it remains, purporting to purvey "rain bonnets", "glasses drinking" and "reunion favors".

Don't call that number.
If you do, someone you love will die with 24 hours.
I have never seen anyone go in or out of it. After years of building curiosity, I myself ventured in... once. There was a bewildered proprietor, obviously unfamilar with the concept of a 'customer', and I discovered that, impossible though it might seem, the merchandise displayed in the window was much better than most of what was inside, stacked in unappealing mounds, floor to ceiling.
Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for your seriously disturbed child?
I feigned nonchalance, but I was terrified, expecting to be walloped by a giant rubber mallet at any second, and then dragged to some dungeon workroom where I'd undergo some torturous cyborgification into one of the Toyman's playthings of doom. However, I did, to my surprise, make it out alive.

"Rescue us!', the toys cry; "Save us from the horror and the screams!"
Monarch Novelties is like a building on the cover of a '70s issue of House of Mystery, where the kids are going in the front door, and one ringleader kid is egging the others on with "C'mon, this'll be killer!', and the scary monster/witch/psycho is in shadow, just beyond the door... .
If you visit Washington DC, forget the Mall and the White House. Make sure you stop by Monarch Novelties... if you DARE.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bystanders: Who They Are and How They Came to Be

You know what’s missing from Heroclix?


Warm, living, innocent civilian bodies (or at least tiny cold plastic representations thereof). In a “real” comic book battle, one of the most common issues is the welfare of the innocent bystanders. How often the hero has to “take the fight away from this populated area”. How often the weaker but more mobile team-members are assigned crowd control and evacuation. How often an evildoer takes a hostage to proof himself against batarangs, plastic-cat arrows, and ill-defined energy blasts. Without such opportunities, how’s a villain supposed to do his job?

Yet Heroclix battles seem to take place in an unpeopled social vacuum, an oddly tidy post-apocalyptic wasteland where no signs of life remain other than abandoned hot-carts and bubblegum machines. There are no elders, no adults, no children, no pets, no birds, no bugs, and no airborne viruses. Nothing but capes and criminals. And Lois Lane.

And that’s just not how the real (?) comic book world is. So I’ve begun incorporating bystanders into my Heroclix games.

Heroclix did originally began with Bystanders as part of the game. They were tokens—pogs, as it were—of either stock characters (e.g., “The Politician” or “The Paper Boy”) or of well-known supporting characters (e.g. “Alfred Pennyworth” or “Linda Park”). Wizkids (makers of Heroclix) clearly had a sense that such characters needed to be included in the game, but they gave insufficient thought to making an appropriate role for them in the game’s mechanics. As a result, the on-line forums for Heroclix players blossomed with strategies like Superman using baby Lian Harper as a ‘meat shield’ to protect himself, Alfred’s enduring partnership with the Legion of Super-Heroes as their camouflage expert, and how Galactus can conquer the universe aided only by an army of clones of Aunt May.

Over time, Wizkids realized that Heroclix’s ability to represent comic book characters accurately is one of its competitive advantages, and one that distinguishes it from a host of other table-top games. Heroclix is at least as much about its four-color atmosphere as it is game mechanics. Within that in mind, they’ve discontinued “pogs” (along with the out-of-character strategies they fostered) and have made some of the more important supporting characters into regular figures (e.g. Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Lois Lane).

But my nature abhors a social vacuum, so recently I’ve been adding bystanders back into the mix as part of my house rules for the game. And you can, too!

Buy Standers

You could use pennies or beads to represent bystanders but it ruins the flavor of the game. It would be like playing Heroclix with no sculpts on the dials and with only terrain markers on the maps. Just do what I did, go to the dollar store and buy some toy soldiers or firefighters or such. They are recognizable as people, similar to Heroclix in size, stand up on their own, and easily distinguished from the “real” figures in the game. You’ll need about 40.

Extras Find their Marks

After the real game pieces have been set up in their starting areas, place the bystanders as follows.
· Do not put any in the starting area rows or the row adjacent.
· For each other row, roll a pair of dice of two different colors (let’s say, one red and one blue). The red die tells you where to place figures to the right of the spine of the map (the line between Columns H & I) and the blue one is for the left. For example, if for Row 4 you roll a Red 1 and a Blue 6, you would place a bystander at I4 (one space to the right of the spine) and at C4 (six spaces to the left of the spine). If you want bystanders to be sparser, roll two dice for each side rather than one. Treat a roll of nine as if it were a one, and if you roll 10-12, omit placing the figure.
· If a square is blocked, just skip putting a bystander there.
· Repeat the process for Rows 4 through 21, and you’ll have bystanders randomly distributed throughout the map.

“Get out of my way, inferior beings!”

Bystanders block lines of sight. Non-flying figures (including bystanders) cannot move through a square occupied by a bystander. Bystanders are neutral figures with regard to breakaway. Bystanders are affected by hindering terrain and blocking terrain as normal.

Bystanders have only one goal: run away from the fighting. Because when a guy with a bow and arrow starts shooting at a talking gorilla in your airport terminal, you change your travel plans mighty fast. None of this “Gosh, the Spoiler needs our help!” or “If you want to hurt Halo you’ll have to get through me!” nonsense for our bystanders; they are practical people, with other, non-combat places to be Besides, since they live in the DCU, they’ve see all this already. So at the end of each round of turns, they try to run away. But how? And whither?

Bystanders head for the closest exits, of course. You need to decide in advance where those are. What makes sense as an exit depends on what map you’re playing on, of course, but a good ‘default exit’ is the starting areas. That way, both teams are sure to have panicked citizens pouring toward them as they wade their way into battle.

At the end of each round of turns, one die is rolled to determine movement for all the bystanders. Each bystander moves toward the closet exit, as many squares as the die roll (and other obstacles) permit. They should always move, if possible, away from regular figures, as well. For example, if a regular figure is directly between a bystander and an exit, the bystander will, obstacles permitting, move diagonally so that he’s both moving both toward the exit and away from the figure. Although all bystanders get a move after each round, they don’t exactly move simultaneously; ones on outer rows move first, followed by the inner rows. So, first the ones in Rows 4 and 21 are moved, followed by those in Row 5 and 20, etc.

With the right terrain, the bystander will create unpredictable logjams that regular figures will have to work around until the citizens clear out. After a few rounds, almost all the bystanders will have escaped, except for those who have become …


I love this part. Bystanders aren’t just ‘moving terrain’; they’re ‘special objects’, too. Villains can, if you wish, land on the same square as a bystander and take it hostage. Hostages function sort of like objects, except a figure doesn’t need superstrength to “carry” one.

Villains with a hostage:
· Move at half their speed
· Cannot be the target of a ranged attack
· Get plus one to their Defense against close combat attack
· Can, if they have superstrength, throw the hostage at an opponent up to six squares away to whom he has line of fire; this action incapacitates the opponent automatically (because they have to ‘catch’ the hostage). The hostage is then placed adjacent to the hero, but not in between the hero and the hostage-taker.

Naturally, the main advantage to hostage-taking is immunity from ranged attack. Sick of getting bopped by batarangs from the shadows? Grab a hostage! Oh, and no sneaky rules-lawyering to get around the direct attack thing. No fair trying to zap the hostage-taker with Pulse Wave or splash damage or Force Blast; don’t want to hurt an innocent hostage!

Now, if you’re automatically thinking, “Well, how can I tell the difference between a villain and a hero? How do I make such an arbitrary distinction not covered by the keywords in the game? And what if I’m playing two teams of heroes against each other?” Well, if that’s what you’re thinking, then I can’t help you and you’re probably playing Marvel Heroclix anyway.


Hostages can escape from villains:
· If a hero does damage to the hostage-taker, or
· If a player uses an action to give him a chance to breakaway (which requires a roll of six), or
· If the hostage-taker makes a critical miss or
· If the hostage-taker has two action tokens on him, and adjacent hero breaks away, the hero can carry the hostage off with him, releasing it in a square adjacent to wherever he stops.
In these cases the hostage is ‘released’ into an adjacent square, then to run away to be interviewed by Clark Kent, looking for a human interest angle to the latest super-donnybrook.

Is this a foolproof, watertight addition to the regular rules of the game without any unforeseen issues for game mechanics? HECK, NO!

But it is fun, gives the villains a fighting chance, and feels a lot more like a comic book than a battle in an utterly barren landscape.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lack of Education: A Rant.

Actually, Guy...

you're wrong.

Or, at least, your writer is.

Guy is from Baltimore; he majored in psychology and education. He served as a counselor for prisoners, and is best known professionally for having taught physical education to the mentally handicapped.

Who wrote this panel? Does DC even have editors? Is there no longer a requirement that writers know, quite literally, the first thing about the characters they write?

Next year, I hope to read more stories from this author about:
  • Kate Kane's Christmas
  • Clark Kent's upbringing in the tough streets of Suicide Slum
  • How Bruce Wayne started penniless and earned his millions
  • and the Martian Manhunter's early life on Jupiter.
If I thought the writer knew better, and was just having Guy be ironic -- "I don't want to be a teacher, or, I know what really teaching is, and this is just a waste of my time"-- then I'd feel better.

But I don't believe that for one second, and I doubt you do either.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heroclix Map: the Crime Lab

There's a lot of fun Heroclix figures in the new DC 75th Anniversary set from Wizkids, including great versions of Barry "Flash" Allen" and his grandson Bart "Impulse" Allen. They deserve a new map made with them in mind.

It may not be possible to represent Central City on a Heroclix map, but we can see a small, yet important, section of it: the Crime Lab at the Central City Police Department.

This map is based (ahem, roughly) on the lab portrayed in the recent issues of Flash, where Barry Allen now works. There's a thunderstorm outside, which is lighting up the lab dramatically.

In addition to the standard terrain types, the chemical cabinets on the right occupy special "orange-bordered" terrain. Any character suffering knock-back that is stopped by the right wall in that terrain suffers two additional clicks of damage for hitting the wall (instead of the usual one); those chemicals burn!

It used to be when I posted these maps, that you could click on them and see them in their glory at full size. But now all you can see are these indistinct thumbnails. Anyone know how to fix that?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pep #38: The Shield Knuckles Down

Not even Archie's blatant attempt to overwrite this Pep cover with his self-aggrandizing advertisements can dim the glory of this eye-popping scene. Archie; post no bills!

The Hangman -- who doesn't look anything like Batman -- is where he belongs: in the background, sequestered from the rest of the scene by the boundary created by the cannon. At first I thought the Hangman was going to take that Nazi and do a Bane-style backbreaking maneuver. But then I realized he's in the middle of enacting a much more horrible punishment: he's forcing the Nazi to stare up at the ineffable horror of the name of ARCHIE, the Fuhrer of Riverdale. You think that Nazi's wearing jodhpurs? Think again; just like his soul, his body has evacuated itself when faced with the existential terror of the Andrews Abyss. Shame on you, Hangman (who is not designed to make you think of Batman at all)-- that's a fate too cruel to impose even on a Nazi.

Dusty's having a high old time, having switched out his starched cape for a parachute, as he plummets down to --
hm, well, judging by the file of tanks on that long pink winding road, he's the Grand Marshall at the parade celebrating the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell".

And the Shield? The Shield is no-nonsense this month! He has ZERO tolerance for Nazis who dare to steal American culture by doing the Lady Gaga Bad Romance Dance at their National Socialist Rallies. "You'll not be filming THIS choreography, Leni Riefensthal!" he shouts.

Usually I make fun of the Shield's apparent fondness for golden showers as a form of punishment, as this month's yellow cover reminds us. But, gosh, he's got other tricks up his sleeve-- specifically, his FIST! Watch him shove his fist in that aperture, causing the cannon to explode back on to its owner...! "And THIS one's for the Future Farmers of America!" he cracks.

Wow, is it warm on this cover, or is it just me...?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Aquaman Rules

Aquaman rules.

And I mean that both figuratively and literally.

Like most Aqua-philes, I am all a-twitter about the (supposed) revelation that Geoff Johns will be writing Aquaman next year, and writing him as the head of the Justice League.

Is this truth? Does it mean GJ will be writing the "Justice League" and it'll have Aquaman return to whip the current cast of also-rans into shape? Or will his Superfriends rejoin? Or does it mean that there will be a new Aquaman title, GJ's writing it, and Aquaman's role as JLA leader will be explored there? Or is all this just something that will be noted in passing as GJ writes Aquaman in some other book, like Brightest Day?

I don't know exactly what is The Truth; but I know that GJ writing Aquaman is The Good, and that's close enough for me.

As I've written before, seriously and not so seriously, Aquaman is a leader, a commander. Other heroes, in their private lives, have substantial but typical roles: reporters, policeman, military, scientists, engineers, architects, billionaire playboys. You know, the regular kind of people who show up at your high school reunion.

But in his private life, Aquaman rules an undersea continent. Or, every living thing in the sea. Or both. Aquaman is not just powerful as an individual, but as someone who directs the collective power of others. As powerful and interesting as his colleagues are, they are, for the most part, solo acts. As such, they are not as well suited to lead the JLA as someone who is all about command.

Ever watch the Filmation Aquaman series? Do you remember the one thing Aquaman said in almost every episode? It was...

"We need help."

To the naive, that may seem like weakness: Poor "lame Aquaman" can't handle anything by himself and needs fish to save him. To the experienced, that shows that Aquaman is a leader who realizes he can accomplish more and do it more effectively with the help of others. And, isn't that the concept at the very core of the Justice League? Or any team?

Alex Ross recognized this when he made Aquaman the tacit leader-among-equals in Justice. Geoff Johns recognizes this, too. Even the Silver Age writers of the Justice League had a sense of Aquaman's unique role , as you can see by The Time Aquaman Defeated Felix Faust When Everyone Else Was Helpless, or the time when the JLA were each pitted in individual death contests on alien worlds, and it was Aquaman who coached every single one of them to victory.

Even the Batman: Brave & the Bold series version of Aquaman, who is known mostly for his boisteriousness, is portrayed as someone who intentionally inspires others to heroism and who coordinates other in heroic escapades (as in the episode on planet Rann).

To those who say Aquaman cannot be saved, here's a reminder. Not that long ago, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were dead characters, both in and out of story. All it took was someone to identify their characters' essential features and build around them to bring them back better than ever. That someone was Geoff Johns, and I'm hoping that his perceptiveness in that regard will help make Aquaman the Sensational Character Find of 2011.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

You're a Mean One, Iris West

Oh, I know I've made my point about Iris West. In fact, I was at a party last weekend, and a guy I didn't even know was a reader of my blog recited for me the exactly characterization of each of the Silver Age Girlfriends, quoting from memory from my post on the subject. It made me proud of my role in perpetuating negative stereotypes of characters whose past behaviors DC has been trying to whitewash in recent years; you're welcome, ladies!
But some points bear repeating (as the apparent memorability of that post has proven). And the point that Iris West is meaner than most DC supervillains is one of them.

And what better way to make this point memorable than by setting it to song, as we did, say, with the Central City Song? I know it's bit early for a Christmas song, but I want you to have time to teach this to children before the holiday season begins..

Open this karaoke link in another window and sing along, won't you?

You're a mean one, Iris West;
you really are a shrew

You're as cuddly as the Axis,

you're as welcome as the flu.

Iris We-est! You're a bad banana under Flash's boot heel.

You're a monster, Iris West;

your heart's an empty hole.

Your brain is full of caffeine,

you have coffee in your soul.

Iris We-est! I wouldn't touch you with a stolen character from Jack Cole.

You're a vile one, Iris West.

You have daggers in your eyes.

You have all the tender sweetness of Gorilla Grodd in disguise.

Iris We-est! Give the choice between the two of you, I'd take...

Gorilla Grodd in disguise!

You're a plot-bore, Iris West.

You're the queen of awful plots.

Your timeline's a McGuffin tied in Silver Age-y knots.

During this time, the couple discovered that Iris was born in the 30th Century (c 2945 AD), and had been sent back to the present shortly before "Earth-East" attacked "Earth-West," when Central City was a self-contained city. After years as a prominent presence in the Flash's life and Central City, she was killed by Professor Zoom during a costume party. Zoom vibrates his hand into her head, solidifying it just enough to kill her.[2][3] Enraged by his wife's death, Barry, as the Flash, killed Zoom by breaking his neck.

Iris did not stay dead for long. As Iris's biological parents, the Russells (with the help of a future Flash, John Fox), sent the then-infant Iris to the past, where she was adopted by Ira West, her "death" caused a paradox that was resolved after the Russells placed her consciousness into a new body. Barry was reunited with Iris in her time,[4] and were able to spend a month together. However, the couple knew if Barry returned to the past, he would die in the catalytic Crisis on Infinite Earths.[5] During their time together, they conceived the Tornado Twins, Don and Dawn. Don married the descendant of Professor Zoom, Meloni Thawne, hoping to end the feud between the two families. They had a son, Bart, whose powers manifested at an early age and caused him to age at an accelerated rate. Don and Dawn died saving 30th Century Earth from an invasion by the Dominators. Iris took Bart to the past to enlist the aid of her nephew (by then, Wally had taken the mantle of the Flash) in saving her grandson. After Bart's accelerated aging slowed down, he went by the name of Impulse. Not much is known about her after that, but Iris volunteered to take care of the Weather Wizard's orphaned son. Wally West later named his daughter Iris in honor of his aunt.

Iris We-est! You're a multiverse time-travel old-school sandwich

with gender-bent sauce!

You irritate me, Iris West.

With your henpecked super-spouse.

You're a red-haired vicious fishwife who treats Barry like a louse.

Iris We-est! Your role is an appalling parody overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of sexist imaginings, with your hair in

tangled up knots.

You're a foul one, Iris West.
You're a torrid, horrid, skunk.

You're heart is made of solid rock,
your role is full of bunk.

Iris We-est! The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote:




Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why I Hope Spider-Man Fails

Yeah, you heard me. I want the Spider-Man musical to fail.

Is this my typical anti-Marvel schadenfreude? Hm; perhaps. But not entirely.

As a comic book True Believer, I cringe that the show's producers felt the need to create a new villain. Sigh. "Yes, this intellectual property is so valuable and rich and culturally resonant with so many people that we MUST make it a musical and then pervert or ignore the source material." Sure, Green Goblin is there. But I mean... Swiss Miss? Really? A... a female villain, themed on a Swiss Army Knife? And I bet her background includes being a cocoa addict. If I were Switzerland I'd sue (although I'm sure they're just remaining carefull neutral). Even Marvel shouldn't have to put up with the likes of "Swiss Miss". It's an embarrasment to the company, even the one that produced U.S. 1.

Do I dislike the concept of the show because it's, well, tacky? Yes. Despite being a performer myself, I'm no fan of modern Broadway musicals. For my tastes, they are usually too serious, or, if not, too tasteless in their humor. Besides, their music is often, well... not-musical. Or at least, it's tune-less. I can't say I've heard the music to this show, but I'm presuming people like Bono and, ahem, "The Edge" didn't exactly load it with toe-tappers you can't stop humming as you leave the theater. Just a guess.

As I have mentioned before,
DC is Greek theater and Marvel is opera. Wagnerian opera, in fact. So perhaps it's only fitting that it's getting the Serious Rock Opera treatment. But "fitting" doesn't necessarily mean good or artistic. Obviously, one of the reasons I want the show to fail is to prevent DC characters from being Broadawayized as Spider-Man has been. The very idea of Batman: The Musical was the height of humor achieved by the otherwise depressing Batman Beyond series.

But the most powerful reason that I want the Spider-Man musical to fail, badly, is also the simplest one:

I want us to remember that the comic book itself is still the ideal medium for superhero stories.

Comic books can and have been used to tell all stories of all types and genres. But there is a reason that the superhero story became its native genre. Long before there were the kind of cinematic and stage wizardy for special effects that audience take for granted today, the comic book page was the only place where you could depict such fantastic people and adventures. For the longest time, it was accepted wisdom that there would never be a Green Lantern movie because what the character does could never be represented well enough on screen. That's no longer the case, and we can all look forward to GL's first big screen adventure soon. I personally am praying for a scene where Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan slips and hits his head in the shower. Sexy, hilarious, and What Green Lantern Does Best all at the same time!

But now we think we can do anything on stage and screen, including tell the stories of superheroes. To some degree, we can... .

But it's not the same. Never will be. And that's important to remember.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Time for some Herclix maps, because, well, the renaissance of Heroclix is one of the many things I have to be thankful for.

And since the return of the real Aquaman is another we have to be thankful for, let's celebrate with some underwater maps. First I'll remind you of my original underwater map, Mercy Reef, which still looks at pretty to me now as the day I first got it.

More fun, however, is the "Ray Ship" map from the resident genius at Curious Lurkings. Vehicles In The Shape Of Things are one of the great glories of comic books and few are as glorious or enduring as a big sub shaped like a manta ray.

Now, Aquaman-related clix put out in the past have not been as thrilling as we deserve, either in quantity or quality. But that's beginning to change with the wonderful new Black Manta, the Aquaman and Mera figures from the Brightest Day pack, and upcoming DC75th Anniversary figures of Aquaman, Ocean Master, and Mera.

So I've been upgrading my Aqua-clix, finally putting my Aquagirl custom on a Teen Titan Aqualad dial, finding a new dial for my custom Fisherman (Marvel's Karnilla, if you're interested) and revitalizing one of my most popular introductions to the game...


I like my fish like I like my women: pretty, but deadly, pawns in my larger game.

My original fishclix had individualized "powers" suitable to their species, but were, in the final analysis, just one-click pogs. Well, such pogs are no longer au courant in Heroclix, so my new-style fishclix all sit upon Multiplex dials. This works well for a variety of reasons. First, they have leap/climb, which means fish can slip out an opponent's grasp. Second, they have that neat Multiplex special power that reduces any damage done to them down to one click as long as they are beside another fishclix. Third, with the Suicide Squad ability, they heal every time an adjacent friendly figures gets kayoed (which can be interpreted either as rallying or, well, just eating whoever got kayoed). This qualities make them just perfect for swarming the enemy and tying up their ranged combat fighters.

And where will Aquaman and his finny friends be deployed?


At first I was worried that the sea floor would be too boring and featureless a place. But by changing my concept of scale a bit, I realized that Atlantis's main dome (Poseidonis) would be large enough to constitute blocking terrain and the smaller domes (named for Atlas's mother and brothers) would serve as elevated terrain. Some thermal vents, vegetation and spawning areas, and a cold seep provide hindering terrain, with some outcropping as smaller blocking terrain. A few decorative touches (divers, some creatures, and a sub) and you have a surprisingly interesting little battlefield, whereupon you can fight to a finish or enact a scenario crafted around occupying the smaller domes.

I'm afraid the resolution here doesn't really do the map justice, but I'd be happy to send anyone the file who is interested.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just Simply Absurd: JSA #44

Marc Guggenheim, what on Earth-2 are you thinking?

Usually, I’m not given to pure reviews of new comics here at the Absorbascon. And Guggenheim was part of the beloved Sub Diego run of Aquaman (beloved by me, anyway), so I’m naturally favorably inclined toward anything with his name on it (even though he killed Bart Allen, who later got better).

But this new issue of Justice Society? Unacceptable.

Page one? Jay Garrick gets appointed mayor of Monument Point, a previously unheard of city (unheard of by me, anyway), and decides to retire from super-heroics.

Well! I’m a foe a decompression, so getting right into the swing of Big Changes on the first page is fine by me. For example, the first few pages of the beloved Sub Diego run of Aquaman began in medias res, with half of San Diego already sunken into the sea; a brilliant and dramatic opening. But the Mayor of Monument Point is not a brilliant and dramatic opening…

Jay is a chemist and a superhero; why would anyone think to select him as a mayor and why on earth would that seem attractive to him? Oh, and he wasn’t elected, he was appointed. Guggenheim pretty much has to lampshade / handwave the affair, with less explanation and aplomb than was accorded
Chief Screaming Chicken’s repossession of Gotham City in 1966.

Jay, retiring? What, again? Because… why? He’s tired? Or because the world’s fastest senior citizen doesn’t have enough time on his hands? It’s tough to reconcile such a decision with his “Barry brought me out of retirement” speech in recent issues of the Flash. In fact, it’s not in character any more than the near argument he has about it with Alan Scott.

Speaking of Alan Scott, let’s portray one of comic’s most experienced heroes as an overconfident, domineering blowhard, who gets his neck snapped because he doesn’t notice how tough his opponent is (the one who just kicked the rest of the JSA’s butts) and seems to forget that his magic ring doesn’t require him to be within 3 feet of his foe. Doiby Dickles wouldn’t have made that kind of mistake.

All these shenanigans are a clumsy way to take the JSA’s two most dominant figures off the table, I suppose so that some lesser lights will shine more brightly. Similarly clumsy is the, what, six hour fight (during which NO other superheroes/teams show up!!!) with the unnamed “super-terrorist” that destroys downtown Monument Point. Gosh, I wonder whether the heroes, feeling guilty, are gonna rebuild Monument Point into a wonderful new city of tomorrow and take up its protection? Oh, and what happened to Alan Scott’s ridiculous Moon Colony for Magical Friends? I must have blinked when editorial (if such a thing still exists) decided to ignore/retcon that away.

Look—there is NO bigger supporter of the individualized fictionopolis as the backdrop for superheroics than I. Having the JSA in NYC was awkward (no matter what the Past Scipio thinks). But why not simply use
Civic City, the original location for the JSA? That would at least have a Golden Age connection and make Jay Garrick a (marginally) more logical choice as mayor.

Mr. Terrific has caught magical movie disease that is slowly lowering his intelligence? Oh ,for pity’s sake, the Kingpin-o-matic “Put the Heroes Through the Wringer” machine is going to burnout from being in overdrive; heck, it’s already broken the suspension of disbelief in the engine of my imagination.

Clumsy. The JSa--and we--deserve better.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pep 37: Awakening from the Nightmare

Phew! That cover is SUCH a relief. The Shield, with heavily inked musculature (even in his hair!), is pole-vaulting into a hay-carpeted redoubt teeming with Japanazis, who are apparently in the midst of boring to death some bound Americans, several of whom have already nodded off. Dusty, his cape in extra-starched glory, is socking Tojo Junior in the jaw with, um, a Nikon camera? It's hard to tell, but I'm sure Dusty is indulging in adolescent war-time smack-talk: "Turns out your inferior foreign electronics are good for something after all, Colonel-san!" And the odious Hangman is relegated to the background, busy casting shadows and mopping up the also-rans. ALL IS AS IT SHOULD BE on the cover of PEP!

You see, I had this horrible nightmare last night. There was this red-haired beaver or woodchuck or something in black pullover with an R on it, and he was using his buckteeth to chew away at the cover of a Pep magazine, just chewing it all away, and as he chewed it, it was killing off each character as he ate their picture on the cover, first the Hangman, then Dusty, then the Shield, with finally nothing left to stop him from consuming the entire soul of the nation=== the surreal horror of it was overwhelming.

Phew! Thank Jove it was just a dream...!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Bronze Age Batman Boogie

I grew up reading Bronze Age comics and, like any sensible person, hating them. I reserve particular odium for the Bronze Age Batman.

In the past I've had difficulty finding ways of expressing my exasperation at this goofball version of the Caped Crusader (though that hasn't stopped me from trying). Somehow, he managed to be less competent than the Golden Age neophyte Batman, less emotionally stable than the irascible Iron Age Batman, and goofier than the space-faring Silver Age Batman.

In fact, the only I like about him is that he used to go dancing. A lot. And not subtly, either. But that's okay, because I like my heroes to dance.

But thinking of dancing gave me an idea. I will express myself just as I do on stage: IN SONG!

And so I give you, to the tune of American Bandstand's theme song (Charles Albertine's Bandstand Boogie, as lyricized by Bronze Age goofball Barry Manilow)...

The Bronze Age Batman Boogie!

I'm Bronze Age Batman!
I'm stupid in my own way.

I'm Bronze Age Batman!
I'm stupid both night and day.

I"m Bronze Age Batman,
and I don't care what you say,

'cause I'm Bronze Age

I'm goin' swingin'
We're gonna swing in the crowd

And we'll be clingin'
And floatin' high as a cloud

My head is ringin'

I'm always talking out loud
'cause I'm Bronze Age

And I'll jump, and hey,
I may even show'em my handstand
Because I am the dumb
and wholly incompetent Bronze Age

when we dance real slow
I'll show every slavering Bat-fan
What a swinger I am,
because I'm the Bronze Age Batman

I'm Bronze Age Batman!
Can't trust a word that I say!

I'm Bronze Age Batman!
I'm goofy, happy, and gay.

I'm Bronze Age Batman!
I let the crooks get away,

'cause I'm Bronze Age

Bronze Age
Bolas away! Suddenly ten, fighting Big Ben, all in day.

Hey I'm makin' my markGee, my bed is jumpin'

Dick made such a fuss just to go for a driveHey, it's Mr. Dick Gray-
son, he's shedding a tear;

Swell, son! The music's hot here

Dancing in line,
Dance like it's nineteen seventy five!

For an all time-low
I'm caught by the dumb Ten-Eyed Man's hands

Because I am,
Because I'm stupid Bronze Age Batman
I react real slowI'm showin' my ass layed out flat, man!
I fight like a girl,
'Cause I'm stupid Bronze Age Batman

I'm Bronze Age Batman
and I am frequently bruised

I'm Bronze Age Batman
and I am easily rused

I'm Bronze Age Batman
you'll find me often confused

'cause I'm Bronze Age

I'm Bronze Age Batman,

and I am helpless alone.

I'm Bronze Age Batman,
sometimes I'm Matches Malone,

I'm Bronze Age Batman
and I am accident prone,

'cause I'm Bronze Age

And I'll shout and pout and grouse every chance I can,
Fight on giant props, just because I canTune in, dope up, turn on, drop out, I'm on
No way! (BATMAN!)