Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plastic Cat Arrow UPDATE!

I'm sure you all remember Green Arrow's greatest invention, the plastic cat arrow.

Well, apparently the Israeli military are big fans of Green Arrow. Or this blog. Or both.
And are now using the Plastic Cat Gun to shoot at their enemies while stealthed.

Who says comics books are unrealistic...?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Don't Spare the Innocents

Recently, some of my friends have learned Heroclix and their fresh eyes on the game have made me re-examine ideas for improving and varying gameplay.

As we have discussed here before, Heroclix is well designed for comic book style battles, but not for the other elements of comic book plots.

In most comic book stories, you don't have two big teams of super-characters rush up and fight, apparently over nothing. I mean, unless it's a Marvel comic.

Usually, it's a heroes working together to solve a problem, villains working against each one other to take something, or heroes trying to capture villains while the villains try to get away.

Yet, the creators have never succeeded in coming forth with usable adaptations to the games or scenarios for play that would replicate more typical situations (e.g., villains trying to grab valuable objects or people and abscond with it/them as a group of heroes try to stop them).

Where are the tokens for priceless collections of Etruscan snoods? Where are the innocent bystanders who constantly get in the way of full-fledged super-heists?

Wizkids (the makers of Heroclix) used to make "bystander tokens" (or, as the were more commonly called "pogs"). But Wizkids thought little about those would work in gameplay. The tokens were, in essence, one-click figures; perfect cannon fodder, meat shields, and moving terrain. The result was the civilians (cheap figures) were being used to protect heroes, rather than vice versa. Once you see Superman save himself by using Lian Harper to absorb a shot from Brainiac, you know how wrong those bystander tokens were. Wizkids, wisely, stopped making them long ago.

However, I haven't given up on the idea and this post is a refinement of previous attempts.

Below I detail how to use these Innocent Bystanders in a game.

To the right are a bunch of Innocents tokens I threw together. Many of them are designed specifically to go with previous maps I've created or maps from Wizkids.

The Sommelier and the Chef, for example, go nicely on my Iceberg Lounge map. The Art Dealer and the Parisienne are for an Art Gallery map I'm working on. The Actor and Magician are for my Civic Theater map.

Here you see them large, for detail. Naturally, I print them out at a diameter of 1.5 inches so they fit on one square on a Heroclix map.

Regular Heroclix figures have five different combat values (range, speed, attack, defense, and damage). Innocents have only one combat value, which we'll call "Evasion". An Innocent's evasion value tells you two things: how fast they can move and how hard it is to capture/attack them.

An innocent can move as many squares as its evasion value. For example, the Scientist can be given a move of up to four spaces, whereas the Schoolkid can move no more than three spaces.

The Innocent's evasion value also tells you what their defense value is in any given game situation. Their defense value is their evasion value plus the final attack value or whoever is attacking them. Much more simply put, their evasion value is the number an attacker needs to roll to succeed in attacking them.

A successful attack against the burdened Shopper only requires a roll of 3, a 4 is needed for the healthy doctor; and the wily stage magician requires a 5. These are not difficult rolls to make, but it is still possible for an attack to fail.

So to recap with an example...

The Customer has an evasion value of 5. So, if The Customer is moved he can be moved up to 5 squares, and it takes a roll of 5 for an attack against him to succeed.

Experienced Heroclix players will already notice something neat about using the evasion value for defense: it levels the playing field a bit for figures with low attack values. Whether you're a high and mighty Sinestro with an attack of 12 or a lowly Street Thug with an attack of 7, you still have to roll the same thing when attacking an Innocent.

This makes taking a hostage a good tactic for less powerful figures and figures that are on their last legs.


Innocents may be used as part of a regular game or as part of a scenario game. In either case, Innocents are placed on the board at the beginning of the game.

1. Innocents are placed near the middle of the board; their evasion value tells you how close they have to be to the center line across the map's width. For example, a figure with an evasion value of 4 must be placed within four squares of the center line. Innocents of different evasion values must be placed in equal numbers, with any inequities favoring the higher evasion values.

2. In a regular game, Innocents may be placed instead of Objects. For every figure on your team that starts with Leadership, you can place an extra Innocent.

3. In a scenario game, you may place one Innocent for each figure you have on your team (plus extras for Leadership, as above).

4. Innocents do not block line of fire (probably because they've already hit the floor when your crazed cape 'n' costume crowd burst in).

5. Similarly, innocents do not hinder movement (they are fairly easy to step over, after all).

6. Innocents can be captured by a close combat attack.

7. Once captured, Innocents are 'carried' along by a character in the manner of an Object.

8. While captured, Innocents reduce their captor's speed value by 3.

9. Captors of Innocents cannot be subject to ranged combat attacks, nor can line of fire be drawn to them. Exception: figures with the "Sharpshooter" ability can make range combat attacks against Captors. This rule does not apply to heroic figures who 'capture' Innocents in order to protect them.

10. When a Captor takes a click of damage or receives a successful attack, the Innocent is 'released' and placed in an adjacent square of the opponent's choosing. Note the attack merely has to be successful; it does not have to do damage.

11. A player may use one of his allotted actions for a turn to move an Innocent that he did not place on the board.

12. An Innocent cannot move to or through a space that is occupied by a regular figure or is adjacent to one that is occupied by a regular figure.

13. An Innocent's evasion value cannot be altered by any game effect.

14. A Captor may release an Innocent at any point, as a free action. His team may not capture that Innocent during the remainder of that turn or the player's next turn.

15. A heroic figure can "capture" an Innocent and become its Protector; Rule 9 does not apply to Protectors.

16. Innocents do not receive action tokens.

Several things to note.

The rules of Innocents are designed to make them useful in a game with a villain who has Leadership, who has lots of minions.

Furthermore, grabbing a hostage makes you immune to Outwit and Perplex, because line of fire cannot be drawn to a Captor. Hm, what does this sound like? Yes, Innocents are great for a Bat-villain with a bunch of goons facing a Batfamily Team. Sorry Batman... no more picking us off one by one with a batarang from the shadows, not while we have hostages!

The rules for placing Innocents ensure that they are likely to be in the way of battle. Villains get an advantage for Innocents being on the battlefield; heroes get a disadvantage. Also, in a regular game, you're not going to see more than 3,4, maybe 5 Innocents on the board. They are meant to help make the gameplay more realistic, not totally take over the regular mechanics.


In a later post, I'm going to outline some scenarios that Innocents might make possible, mostly variants on rescuing hostages and getting them off the board or kayoing any potential threats to them. I also intend create a parallel token for "Treasures", objects that villains want to steal.

But meanwhile, I'm still having fun thinking up more "Innocents" to endanger such as:

The Professor
The Architect
The Bank Guard
The Museum Guard
The Collegian
The Nanny
The Movie Star
The Mayor
The Waiter
The Usher
The Patron of the Arts
The Millionaire
The Sports Star
The Heiress
The Fisherman
The Sailor
The Stewardess
The Pilot
The Schoolteacher
The Chauffeur
The Courier
The Newspaper Boy

Anyth other thematically interesting "Innocents" that would interest... YOU?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Scipio sees "Green Lantern"...

Bottom line up front? I enjoyed it.

I certainly enjoyed the 'tightening up' of some of the GL plot elements. This is a staple feature in cinematic adaptations of comic books, out of necessity. Hollywood (and its audience) have neither the time nor the patience in a two-hour flick to slowly unroll 40-70 years of a comc book character's history. Often this results in a lot of exposition, but, hey, that's part of comic books themselves.

Sometimes this can go spectacularly badly, usually when Hollywood is not sufficiently sensitive to the movie's base property ("Hey! Let's just make the JOKER the guy who killed Batman's parents!"). Sometimes it's "okay except for those fanboys who know better" ("Gwen Stacy? Never heard of her! Go with the incredibly hot MJ! What? Kirsten Dunst? Oh; well, then just make that 'go with MJ'...")

In Green Lantern, the tightening is appreciated and helpful. It's the kind of thing that writers like Geoff Johns like to do, but have to swim up stream against decades of continuity to try to accomplish (such as his changes to the origins of Black Hand and Hector Hammond in his own GL run). Having Parallax being an actual person possessed by the power of fear, rather than some awkward personification of it makes much more sense than the comic book version. Plus it helps ground the Guardians' and Sinestro's subsequent behavior more realistically. In fact, I really hope DC takes the opportunity to use this as the new backstory for Parallax in the DCnU. They won't, but I still hope for that anyway.

Tying Hector Hammond into the Parallax story was also sensible. Hector's comic book origin is about getting his power somewhat unintentionally as a result of exposure to alien life; might as well have that alien life be Abin Sur/ Parallax. Now, I'd rather have seen Hector carry his own film.... but that's not realistic. While he's definitely a GL Big Bad, he doesn't exactly have the Q Rating or audience appeal of a Joker or Lex Luthor.

There was other "tightening" I appreciated wasn't really plot-altering, just time-efficient. How Hal's dad's death was shown; casually noting that Hector and Hal know each other (as they would, given how absurdly and inappropriately chummy the military contracting process is portrayed); and mercifully reducing Kilowog and Tomar Re's time on screen to exactly what was needed to convey their personalities and their roles in Hal's training, rather than the entire process.

And Bzzd was in it. Which is an instant win.

I'm always surprised when I hear people talk about 'wasting' an actor in a role (in this case, Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller and Tim Robbins as Senator Hammond). Actors are not a natural resource. They don't get 'wasted' (um, well, not in that sense). Are both those actors capable of much more? Yes. Should they confine themselves to starring roles in Oscar-worthy vehicles? No; not everyone needs to be Daniel-Day Lewis, folks. Let these people earn their money and keep themselves visible. If one of your complaints about a film is that the lesser parts are being played by people who are too good or too famous, then you should probably just shut yer trap.

Ryan Reynolds is just perfect as Hal Jordan. He looks the part (check the early drawings of Hal Jordan, who, like Reynolds, had creepy eyes that were too close together), acts the part, and gets his face bashed in just like Hal would. I was shocked that people were worried that Reynolds would be too funny. TOO funny?!?! Hal Jordan is a veritable baggy-pants, pratfalling comedian (as any longtime reader of this blog knows!) who makes Plastic Man look like a Shakespearean actor. If anything, Reynolds was not funny enough.

Oh, and he danced with Carol Ferris. That's good; Hal should dance. In fact, his whole relationship and chemistry with her worked well (something you can say about almost NO comic book movies outside of Iron Man), and Blake Lively was good in her role. I also appreciate the inversion that's going on in the GL/HJ/CF triangle. Carol is not an unattainable woman, barred from Hal by his role as GL. In fact, they've already had a relationship together. Carol Ferris isn't smitten with GL, she's smitten with Hal. And finally, when she finds out he's GL, that knowledge winds up making her more disappointed in him. Their relationship is realistic, humanizing, and felt essential to the plot, rather than being a shoe-horned Hollywood love interest.

The same feels true of Hal's other relationships in the film (with Tom Kalmaku and his family). And since the point of the film is the (Potential) Glory of Being Human, making sure that Jordan is humanized as a character is essential.

Oh, and insert appropriate and obligatory praise for the CGI/SFX here.

Was this my favorite comic book movie of all time? No; but Green Lantern is not my favorite comic book character of all time, so I would not expect otherwise. Can I imagine this inspiring kids to want a power ring and developing the backbone to wield one? Yes.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

DC Reboots Christianity and 52 Other Things, Too

Okay, now that the bloom of the DCU's reboot has blossomed through the September solicitations, let's see how it smells, shall we?

First, though I want to thank Newsarama for breaking the news that DC is rebooting Christianity, as evidenced by this headline image:

Dan Didio hastened to comfort the faithful: "All your favorites characters -- Jesus, John, that little tax-collector guy in the tree -- will still be there, still recognizable. But we have redesigned and updated their costumes for modern readers (such as Crocks rather than sandals). We're not completely throwing out 2000 years of continuity or wiping out classic storylines like The Flood/Cataclysm and The Exodus/No Man's Land. But we want to make the Christian universe more diverse, rather than just have all our heroes be Middle Eastern Jewish males who died 2000 years ago and dressed like hippies. So we'll be launching some new books in the Bible this fall, including Tobit (starring Sargon the Sorceror and Rex the Wonder Dog), the Rest of Esther/The Dreaming, the Story of Susanna/Gotham Central, Judith the Time Hunter, and Bel and the Dragon/House of Mystery."

Justice League #1. Dropped "of America"; check, good idea. Dropped Martian Manhunter; check, good idea. Hey, you know I love J'onny, but he only got in the first time by historical accident (and they never knew what to do with him there). The universe has been trying to correct that mistake ever since by sending him off-planet or having the whole damned League collapse around him every time he tries to re-start it around himself.

Justice League International #1. Say what you will about the Griffen-era League, but the idea of a superhero NATO just plain makes sense in a world like the DCU. Besides, what better place to dump Vixen, er, I mean, give her a chance to shine, as the Crimson Fox for a new generation?

Aquaman #1. "Aquaman has renounced the throne of Atlantis." Thank Neptune. The introduction of Atlantis as a player/setting in the Aquaverse was the key event that derailed Aquaman's development; all the rest was just the slow unraveling of the character.

Wonder Woman #1. "The Gods walk among us. To them, our lives are playthings. Only one woman would dare to protect humanity from the wrath of such strange and powerful forces. But is she one of us – or one of them?" Wow; that's clever and bold. In 1940, the odd thing about Wonder Woman was that... she was a woman. Face it; that's not particularly odd any more in the world of DC superheroes. But the fact that she's, in essence, a mythological creature? Very odd; creepy, really. Smart move, DC.

The Flash #1. "The Flash knows he can’t be everywhere at once, but what happens when he faces an all-new villain who really can!" Excellent; a new appropriately-powered villain for the Flash. Because, your affection for them and Geoff Johns's attempts at bad-assification aside, the Rogues have always been a bunch of pansies and feebs.

Captain Atom #1. Hm. I was kind of hoping they'd lump him in with the Wildstorm bunch; that's when I learned to like him, during his travels in the Wildstormyverse.

Firestorm #1. Jason and Ronnie; I like it (to the degree I could ever like Firestorm). And if I'm guessing right from that cover, either one of them will be able to evoke/control Firestorm, giving him two different appearances; nice touch.

Green Arrow #1. Sigh. Well, if there must be a Green Arrow (which is apparently the comic book version of eating our daily bread soaked in the sweat of our brows) having him be a vigilante who isn't afraid of what that word actually means is as good a use as any.

Hawkman #1. Sounds like we're reasserting the character's roots as the flying Indiana Jones; I'm all for it.

Mister Terrific #1. GREAT! His light was always hid under the bushel of the JSA, where he seemed mostly (and very inappropriately) to function as Dr Mid-Nite's nurse. And actually characteristizing him as non-miserable? Sign me up.

DC Comics Presents #1. I love potpourri series; yay! Not all characters should get their own books, nor should they necessarily be relegated to being a bit player in someone else's story or in a mega-crossover. Give these characters a playground where writers can play with them.

Action #1. Putting the "cornerstone of the entire DCU" in the hands of addlepated ex-pat pom whose writing is nearly incomprehensible to the man on the street? Oh, yeah; great idea *eyeroll*.

Superboy #1. "Can a clone develop a conscience?" Gee, maybe if Superman actually mentors him this time, yes.

Batman #1. Sounds like there's a new committment to making Gotham City a character in its own right. Another victory for the fictionopolis!

Detective #1. "The Gotham Ripper"? That's not particularly original, but I'm certainly in favor of a book where Batman chases (comparatively) normal criminals, rather than spending all his spare time whipping up Brother Eye off panel or polishing his green kryptonite ring.

Batwing #1. The Batman of Africa? Okay, I'll buy that. I mean the concept, not the comic; it's Winick, after all. Doesn't Marvel wish they'd thought of black Batman-like character protecting an African community?

The Dark Knight #1. "The unexpected ramifications of Batman Incorporated"? Like, lawsuits? Unexpected by WHOM? Not anyone in the world I live in!

Batman and Robin #1. Damian. Ugh. So if 'our favorite important stories' are still in continuity, does that include the time Damian decapitated the Spook...?

Batgirl #1. Ah... there's Batgirl. Good.

Batwoman #1. With Bette Kane as her sidekick, Flamebird? Heh heh; excellent.

Nightwing #1. If they just squint when they read it, those Batman Beyond fans could be SO happy. But I think Batman Beyond fans are like Spider-Man fans: they don't really want to be happy.

Catwoman #1. "Catwoman is addicted to danger. She can’t help herself, and the truth is – she doesn’t want to. She’s good at being bad, and very bad at being good." Ah... there's Catwoman. Good.

Birds of Prey #1. Hm, Starling, eh? Okay, I'm in.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. So, Jason Todd, Arsenal, and Starfire walk into a bar ... . Well, at least, they've finally found a way to make me identify with Jason Todd: "Jason has absolutely no interest in this motley crew of outlaws. "

Green Lantern #1 and GLCorps #1. Really, all I want is for Hal to be funny again. Can we have some of that? And funny not as in "Ryan Reynolds is funny" but funny as in "he got hit in the head with a WHAT?!?!"

New Guardians #1. Hm; interesting use of the Crayola Corps... and of Kyle.

Red Lanterns #1. I guessing this is for old-school Spectre-style retribution from people we don't have to pretend are heroes.

Justice League Dark #1. Wow; wish I'd thought of this! Oh, right; I did.

Swamp Thing #1. Monsters return to the DCU. Good.

Animal Man #1. Buddy as family man was always one of the things that distinguished his modern character. It's a sensible tack to take, though I'm not sure I'll sail too far in that direction.

Frankstein #1, I Vampire #1, Resurrection Man #1. The kids, they just love the un-dead!

Demon Knights #1. Not for me, of course, but not a bad pitch for all those Harry Potter, RenFair, Tolkienist types. You know, the ones even we comic book nerds can beat up.

Stormwatch #1. Finally, a place where the Martian Manhunter seems like the normal one. Besides, Apollo and Midnight in the DCU proper...? Can't fight that.

Voodoo #1. If Mary Sue had a daughter by Klaw the Unconquered.

Grifter #1. Smells like Captain Triumph. Still, it may just be weird enough in the DCU to work.

Deathstroke #1. Kill me now, Slade, please; before your comic comes out.

Suicide Squad #1. Like the JLI, another hard-to-avoid concept. Yet... a slippery slope toward the Revolving Door of Death...?

O.M.A.C. #1. DC, if you really love Jack Kirby as much as you say you do, let him rest in peace.

Blackhawks #1 and Men of War #1. Yeah, you can laugh at these all you want. But I've got plenty of deployed friends who won't mind reading about military types kicking the butts of terrorists and their ilk. These are also the titles I am most likely to gift as digital subscriptions.

All-Star Western #1. GUTS: DC's got 'em. Brains? The jury is still out. But Gray and Palmiotti writing Jonah Hex in Gotham working with Amadeus Arkham is a can't-miss proposition.

Teen Titans #1. The Junior League of Icons (Tim, Cassie, Connor, and Bart) plus some forgettable tofu characters (Dirt Bag! Bug Chick!) to fluff up the recipe. Pretty much the best one can hope for, I suppose, outside of the Young Justice tv series.. But no Aqualad? Gotta fix that, DC.

Static Shock #1. Of course, we all love Static. But is this perhaps why Black Lightning is among the missing...?

Hawk & Dove #1. Seems someone remembers what H&D were originally about: the inherent political tensions in America. With the added bonus of dating dead people, which is always funny.

Blue Beetle #1. Jaime Reyes was once the most promising sensational character find of our era. Now, perhaps he can be again.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1. "The Legion of Super-Heroes has been decimated by the worst disaster in its history. " Um, yeah, in Legion-land we call that "a Monday". Alien threat to the entire U.P.? Yup; Tuesday. The Legion never needs to be anything different than what it always is; it just needs to be done well.

Legion Lost #1. Sounds like one of my grandfather's old headlines: "Team benchwarmers sent back to temporal minor leagues". Still, Legionaires Stuck in the Past stories are a staple of the Legion genre, and usually do a lot to make their participants into relatable, interesting characters, so it's a smart move.

What's YOUR take on this 52 pick-up of titles?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

This time, the Giant Ants have come for YOU

So, last night I was playing a solitaire game of Heroclix, with the 1954 film Them playing in the background... not because I was actually watching it, mind you. It's just one of those films you simply don't change the channel from or turn off once it's on. Truly, the finest film ever made in which giant ants kidnap children in Los Angeles.

Anyway, I wasn't paying it any mind, so intent was I on the Dynamic Duo's attempts to get past the Joker's goons. Suddenly, I was jolted out of my Gothamite reverie by two quick and truncated iterations of.... the Wilhelm Scream.

Now, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that if you are reading my blog, that you have heard the Wilhelm Scream at some point, although you may not have recognized it as such. You'd have to have avoided films nearly entirely never to heard it. My father, may he rest in peace, knew next to nothing about comic books, but he was a movie nut who was able to rattle off the filmography of Francis X. Bushman long, long before there was And my dear sweet white-haired flower-tending mother is a monster/horror movie expert who's counting the days until she can toddle down to the Bijou with her bonnet and reticule to see "Final Destination 5" in 3D. As result, while I'm definitely not a movie fan, I can't help but pay attention to movie trivia, like the Wilhelm Scream.

So, while it had slipped my mind that the Wilhelm Scream occurs in "Them" (four times, in fact), even in the distant background it was instantly recognizable and shook me from my comic book dreaming.

Well, the same thing is happening right now. Except the giant ants have been replaced by...
universal reboot.

And I can no longer fight the schadenfreude of it all. I am now laughing, out loud, at the Wilhelm-screaming panic of my fellow comic book fans. "*Sputter*! The... the continuity that I've invested so much time and emotional commitment to is... is being tossed aside! BETRAYERS!!!!"

I puff my metaphorical cigarette nonchalantly at your distress... welcome to 1986, kids. You'll get zero sympathy from my corner (that's zero as in "Zero Hour") during your little crisis (that's crisis as in, well, every other reboot). Where were your voices when the Penny Plunderer was erased but the Giant Penny remained? Why were you silent when people started pretending that J'onn J'onnzz, who had been absent for the entire Bronze Age "has always been the soul of the Justice League"? Where was your outcry over losing characters when they killed Supergirl or Vibe? Where were you when
my DCU was taken from me...?

Perhaps you weren't a reader at the time, or weren't even born yet. For whatever reason, you didn't care about these things, because, well... they were before time. They weren't part of
your comic books.

When I was a kid, comic books and associated publications had reprints of Golden Age and Silver Age material in them. It was wild and weird or at least very very different from what I was used to reading. But I was still trained by DC to consider it an important or at least relevant part of "my comic books" and their background.

When the Giant Ants of the Crises came, I didn't scream. I knew I didn't need all those stories "in continuity". They were, after all, still in my head, which has a greater capacity to hold stories than continuity does. Continuity has trouble containing contradictory stories within itself; my head does not. And, who knows, clearing the decks for new stories might bring me some new stories I might enjoy. Which is, in fact, what happened.

You didn't care when the Giant Ants came for someone else's version of the DCU. So now the Giant Ants of the Universal Reboot (and, yeah, I will continue to call it that, no matter what DC tells me) have come to destroy your version of Barbara Gordon. Or the Atom. Or the Teen Titans. Or Superman.

Well, you know what?
I do not care; man up. You don't own these characters and neither do the creators who write their adventures; the publisher does. Do I always like what they do with them? No. But I do like the fact that they are, for the first time in what seems like forever, more interested in getting new readers and in going forward than they are in looking backward and keeping old readers (that means you now, kiddies; welcome to adulthood).

You've been enjoying your shrinking picnic in your private little sandbox of continuity for some thirty years now. And now the Giant Ants-- the fiends!-- have come to spoil it for you.

Go ahead and run away screaming the Wilhelm Scream if you want; I'll be laughing at you as you do. Because you, the reader, can, will, and eventually
must be replaced. DC knows this, even if you're only just figuring it out.

Or you could stay and welcome our new insect overlords, as I intend to. Because the Giant Ants
will win; whether you will win depends on which side you pick, not how hard you fight.

Say "uncle" to the ants!

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Ocean Platform

Some planned posts have been delayed because it’s my busy season with the chorus; our Annual Retreat was this last weekend and tonight I’m emceeing our performance at the annual dinner of the Supreme Court Historical Society. PLUS, to prepare for the New Age of DC Comics, I’ve been sewing collars on all my tee shirts and practicing wearing my underwear on the inside of my pants, instead of the usual way.

But, with the conceptual assistance of my friend Noah and several Navy Seals...

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

...I did manage to create a new Heroclix map designed as a perfect arena for battles between land and sea forces. It began as a simple intellectual exercise in how to represent the vertical nature of the thalassic environment, using Heroclix rules to mimic the epipelagic, mesopelagic, and bathypelagic zones...

Hey, the ocean drops off almost as fast as the sales of "Seaguy"!

...but evolved into finding a way to tune a map into a form where both aquatic and non-aquatic figures can play, each with their own home-turf but sharing a common mid-ground.

Behold, then...


Embrace drop shadow, but eschew lens flare.

I usually do not mark the starting areas on my maps (since the traditional starting areas at the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the map are well known to Heroclix players). On this map, if you are pitting a land-based team against a sea-based one, you’ll use the traditional starting areas (with, in this case, the land forces on the ocean platform at left and the sea forces in the Midnight Zone at right). If, however, you arraying two land-sea teams against each other, you’ll want to opt for the very ‘outside’ edges of the map as starting areas, placing each type of team member, aquatic and non-aquatic, in their ideal terrain.

One end of the map shows a concrete platform at sea. In its center is a building or structure whose roof serves as first level elevated terrain accessed by stairways in the rear. At its far corners are second-level elevation observation towers, each accessible by two ladders. Note that I’ve tried to use shadow size and placement to clarify the map’s various levels of elevation/submersion.

The platform terminates in five piers, at which are moored five smuggling boats, whose holds and hatches serve as hindering terrain. These dry areas are interleaved with standard water terrain to represent the surface of the sea (if you like, use a house rule to permit the aquatic figures to ‘swim under’ the piers and boats when they move). This combination of dry and water terrain forms the most likely ‘battle line’ of the opposing teams.

Then comes the sea. At first, I thought that the verticality of the ocean column could only be represented as a cutaway – very much at odds with the ‘top-down’ view of Heroclix maps. But I found a way around that by adapting the new rules for multiple elevated terrain. In short, the map employs “submerged terrain”, which combines the qualities of water terrain and elevated terrain (note that unlike elevated terrain, submerged terrain requires no "ladders" for access).

The first submerged terrain (at Depth Level 1) is the Sunlight Zone (a.k.a, the Epipelagic), the area where sunlight penetrates below the surface of sea. Text layouts the common characteristics of all submerged terrain: speed is halved for non-aquatic figures (due to water resistance, of course), all figures are grounded (because flying figs cannot hover above terrain that they are immersed in it), and figures do not block line of sight (due to the 3D nature of the environment). Additional text adds a rule specific to the Sunlight Zone: non-aquatic figures must halt their move when entering the Sunlight Zone. This represents the halting effect of dealing with change in the density of the environment (if coming from ‘above’) or pressure (if coming from ‘below’).

The second submerged terrain (at Depth Level 2) is the Twilight Zone (a.k.a. the Mesopelagic), where the light from the sea falls off. Here, for non-aquatic characters their range is halved and their line of sight only reaches four squares … unless they have an adjacent friendly aquatic character to guide their aim! So don’t send your land figs into the sea without a diving buddy, or the opposing aquatic forces will run rings around you.

That’s even more true in the third submerged terrain (at Depth Level 3), the Midnight Zone (a.k.a. the Bathypelagic), where sunlight simply does not reach. Due to the perpetual dark, all lines of sight from non-aquatic figs without an aquatic diving buddy are blocked. Furthermore the pressure is such that the terrain has effect of the ‘Poison’ power on any non-aquatic figs. That’s not something diving buddies can help out with, so don’t count on sending any land figs down this deep unless they have an inoculative power (Toughness, Invulnerability, Imperviousness). And when land figs return from the Deep, they have to take their time to avoid getting the bends; such figs take a click of damage upon leaving the Midnight Zone, unless they stop in the Twilight Zone along the way.

This is not an equal opportunity map. Aqua-fans will take to it swimmingly, but Bat-fans will be saddened to find that the Dark Knight is not suited to the dark deep (guess he didn’t have enough time to prepare). Marvel players will wish Dr Octopus were more like his namesake and even beleaguered Spider-man will be unable to turn off the dark.

I have some finishing touches to add: some sea gulls shadows, a scuba diver to decorate the Sunlight Zone, and in the Twilight Zone some fishes in the way found in the vicinity. Till then, you can get some of my other Heroclix maps (including the Carnival of Doom, the Civic Theater and two others that no one has seen: Civic City, and The Hideout) from the lovely folks at PosterBrain (They’re great, I use them for all my maps), who’ve been kind enough to set up a gallery of some of my recent maps ready to order here at this link. No profit for me; just want to make sure these are very easily available to anyone else interested in my custom Heroclix maps.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

52 Reasons for a Universal Reboot

Well, now.

I have a new Heroclix map or two to share with you, and I have to finish up Supergirl versus the Gang, and I need to get current with the Shield's adventures---

but given DC's announcement this week of a universal reboot in September, those will all have to wait a bit. Apparently a REAL universal reboot, not just a 'housecleaning'.

For good or for ill, this is astonishing. As discussed in my previous post, nothing of this sort has really been done before (despite what anyone tells you). This is, potentially, the biggest deal in all of of DC's history, other than the Golden Age itself.

Whatever else, it is an enormous opportunity. In fact, I can think of, oh, let's say, 52 things, large and small, that this is the opportunity to fix:

  1. A Penguin who's not a punching bag.
  2. We can all be mind-wiped of Identity Crisis. Tegrof!
  3. Lex Luthor will no longer have been president.
  4. Removing NYC from the DCU. Because really... it's just in the way.
  5. The 'generation creep' that's caused a temporal pile-up of aging teen sidekicks bumping up against un-aging icons can go away.
  6. Pa Kent. Because, well, he's a better character alive than dead, basically.
  7. The Death of Aqua-baby -- the crack in the ice that led to our recent decades of darkness, death, and damage -- can be avoided.
  8. Jean Loring. Period.
  9. Detaching the JSA from WWII, which is the current ruination of a sliding timeline. They didn't actually fight in WWII, you know, despite what many of you think. They fought saboteurs and profiteers on the homefront; sometimes I wonder whether any of you have actually read a Golden Age JSA story!
  10. Martian Manhunter as a actual detective in Apex City. Oh, yes; embrace it now.
  11. Marv Wolfman's Teen Titans -- the crack in the ice that led to our recent decade of faux-Marvel whining, talky-talking, and adolescent drama. Avoiding that alone is worth a universal reboot.
  12. You want ADULT drama, instead? Golden Age Starman, folks. Golden Age Starman.
  13. Clayface as the mad movie actor he originally was, not a Marvel-style monster-villain with sci-fi powers.
  14. No more earth-based GLs other than Hal Jordan.
  15. Replace Washington DC with Federal City again, and make it Wonder Woman's fictionopolis. That will go a long way to putting her back on track.
  16. Making the Chief a good guy again.
  17. No more "Deathstroke the Terminator". Really, just do not go there at all.
  18. A JLA origin that doesn't involved the Appellaxians. Because, classic though it is, that story is really really stupid.
  19. An actual purpose for Wonder Woman.
  20. A version of Gotham City that doesn't make you wonder, "Why the heck does anyone live there?"
  21. Jimmy Olsen as a well-intentioned but hapless young nerd with heroic pretensions that geeky younger readers can identify with. I mean, one without spider-powers.
  22. Green Arrow back to his Golden Age glory. Glory being a relevant term, of course.
  23. Barbara Gordon = Batgirl.
  24. The return of Sensation Comics.
  25. Maybe an actual gay superhero; I mean, one with name that people might actually recognize, not junk-drawer
  26. The Catwoman as an actual villain, not a 'cat-burglar with a heart of gold'. A villain in a dress, goshdarnit.
  27. Etta Candy, baby. Real Etta Candy, fat 'n' sassy.
  28. Villains like Killer Moth can be reintroduced without the baggage of years of continuity treating them as laughingstocks. Okay, really, there are no villains quite like Killer Moth; but you know what I mean.
  29. Kal'durh as the original Aqualad, without the embarrassment of the Silver Age big-headed, purple-eyed freak who preceded him.
  30. The Riddler as a gore-free-Jigsaw-style, Xanatos-gambitin', big-time player, rather than a joke.
  31. A whole revamp of J'onn J'onnz's powers to make him easier to use. Just give him a few powers unique in the JLA like shape-change, phasing, telekinesis, and the ability to create ice cream cones with his mind.
  32. A series for the Phantom Stranger. And perhaps another for just his hat.
  33. A renaissance of the some of the "lesser" fictionpolises, like Opal City, Calvin City, Midway City, etc.
  34. Non-addict Speedy.
  35. Lois and Clark not married. NOT because I don't like them married. But because there was no build up to it. There was no real development of a relationship between the two that made you believe Clark and Lois fell in love and would marry, just a rush to match the plot of the silly Lois & Clark television show.
  36. A re-telling of the Case of the Penny Plunderer, with Joe Coyne as an obviously deranged lunatic. "PENNIES WILL BE MY CRIME SYMBOL!"
  37. No Doomsday!
  38. The chance to give Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter actual rogues' galleries of their own that don't embarrass them. As long as there is still the Human Flame.
  39. Potentially, a clear break to begin a new Comic Book Era. The Gilded Age...? The Platinum Age?
  40. No more attempts to make the Fourth World live on when its creator, who should have been the only person to handle the characters, does not.
  41. "Montevideo of Uruguay: LIVE!"
  42. A Golden Age style, sane Joker. Pure malevolent wickedness that scares the crap out of you and swims really really well. Not an irrational gibbering mountebank. Yeah, you go ahead and fight me on this one.
  43. Aquaman as a/the leader of the JLA. It would help define who he is, a lot, and it's really not a role one of the Big Three should ever have.
  44. The opportunity to apply the Dynastic Centerpiece model with a little forethought and diversity, rather than having a supporting cast of archetypes simply crop up like inevitable mytho-structural dandelions.
  45. Returning Plastic Man to his original role as a straight man around whom wackiness occurs, rather than his current one as a consistently unfunny comedian.
  46. The opportunity to focus on creating new stand-alone stories rather than merely extending continuity.
  47. Vibe. Alive, breakdancing, and living large. Shut up, you know you want it, too.
As for the last five, well...
this is the audience participation part.

What do you perceive as the top five opportunities in this Platinum age reboot that I've not listed?