Monday, December 26, 2011

The JLA Satellite Heroclix Map!

Like all decent citizens of the DCU's future, I celebrate Klordny; to Freedom, Friendship, and Frunt!

The "JLA Fortnight" series, chronicling the JLA's transition out of the Silver Age and into the Bronze Age and particularly their move from the Secret Sanctuary to the Satellite, has all been a build up to my Klordny gift to your: a custom Heroclix map of the JLA Satellite.

In designing the map, I had to review the published diagrams of the Satellite, which are rather inconsistent, except that they are all, you know... round.

Here's an excellent description of the history of the Satellite I found on an apparently inactive JLA site:

The Justice League's second headquarters was fixed orbit satellite orbiting Earth at Roche's Limit, 22,300 miles from the surface, and was constructed by Hawkman Katar Hol, Superman, and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Originally, the main entrance was a teleportation tube (utilizing a Thanagarian Relativity Beam) inferred to be atop the building that at the time published DC Comics in New York City. It was never stated why this location was chosen, or whether this was the only terminal in existence. The JLA is shown to have the capacity to "beam up" people and things that are not in the terminal, ala the Star Trek transporters (JLOA-118, -129). This modification would, of course, eliminate the need for terminal tubes anywhere on the surface, since the teleporter could lock onto the homing mechanism in each JLAer's signal device and beam them aboard. Evidently it was an improvement Hawkman brought back from Thanagar (JLOA-117).

Although initial diagrams of the satellite depict but one of the decks (JLOA-78, -95), the entire satellite complex was eventually revealed (JLOA-130). These diagrams depict the satellite as it was at the time of its original construction. The varied appearance of the meeting room facilities would indicate that the space station was modified from time to time to fit the JLA's changing needs and tastes. Noteworthy areas were the Souvenir Room, the gymnasium, the computer facilities, and the outer rim (JLOA-104). An alien called the Dharlu resided in suspended animation in the station's computer terminal (JLOA-130). A device to travel to parallel dimensions called the Transmatter Cube was also installed (JLA-107). Another contribution from Hawkman's homeworld was the Thanagarian "healing ray" in the JLA's sick bay (JLOA-118).

The satellite was ravaged in the wake of a Martian invasion of Earth (JLOA-228-230). It was also subject to subsequent destruction following the Great Crisis in which a transformed Red Tornado exploded within the satellite (JLOA-A3). The remainder of the once-great orbiting headquarters fell to the onslaught of a rampaging Despero.

Ordinarily, I'd just link to such a thing, but I'm afraid the link will go inactive if the site is closed.

Anyway, the first diagram of the Satellite is this one:

DCU architects must be union. "You want more detail? That'll cost you extra, mister!"

A little later it got filled in a bit.

By "individual offices" we mean "phone booths". Only Clark and Ray seemed okay with them.

Eventually, the JLA seems to realize that the Satellite had no doors or hallways, which is inconvenient when only one of your members can vibrate through walls. So a new diagram was introduced. But first, a brief digression into utter madness!

Not NOW, Jean! Later!

In JLA 130, for no reason at all, DC re-does the "Hey, we have a new HQ in space" scene, replacing Flash for Green Arrow, even down to using some of the same dialog (which sounds ridiculous coming out of Flash's mouth, rather than Green Arrow's).

"Yes, yes! I was there! So get to the point!" Actually, Barry... that is the point. You were there... repeatedly. Flash was in the Satellite when it was introduced, had been shown to be in it repeatedly over the intervening FIFTY issues since then, and, in fact, was JUST IN IT LAST ISSUE (Justice League of America v 1 #129). In short, this scene one of the most flagrant, nonsensical, egregious, and pointless violations of continuity of all time. Oh, and it's stupid and out of character. Nice lettering, though.

Okay, I'm being unfair; this is presented as an "Untold Tale", an obvious excuse to re-introduce the Satellite with a new map. Still, writer Marty Pasko blundered badly in using Flash instead of Green Arrow. But this, I suppose, is far down on the list of crimes of the man who created Kobra and Ookla the Mok.

And it did give us this, the first multilevel diagram of the Satellite:

Hm. Architects on strike again, I see.

The original plan is kept as the "B" Deck. The all-important Observation Deck (which is just about the only part of the Satellite we ever really see) becomes "A" Deck. "C" Deck is added to house some HQ basics with private quarters on "D" & "E" Decks.

Once the Satellite goes multi-level, all architectural heck breaks loose in this next diagram from later in the series:

Oh, look there's an Annie's Pretzels next to the Apple Store!

Very thorough! WILDLY out of scale perhaps, but thorough. Somebody seemed to realize that imposing square room designs on a round satellite didn't make a lot of sense, got out their Trivial Pursuit pucks and went to town on this one.

This was the diagram that I used as the model for my first attempt at a custom Heroclix map for the JLA Satellite, but I found it unworkable; the six decks couldn't be well enough represented on even an expanded 3'x3' map. I would be "accurate" but awkward and not fun.

So, rather than go "literal" with the map, I decide to compose it in such a way as to include the elements of the existing diagram, with some more realistic proportioning. I also took inspiration from the way the Satellite scenes are drawn, rather than just the diagrams. So much of the action takes place on the Observation Deck that had to be the
key place on the map not just the top sliver.

Also, with changing times, certain rooms now make more sense than others (even in "the past", as it continues to roll up behind the moving comic book timeline). For example, a physical library seems amusingly quaint in a satellite and was omitted. Conversely, the idea of a 'virtual training room', seen on various media versions of the Satellite, seemed like a must. I also had to do some creative "explosion" of the sections of the Satellite: the four areas beneath the Observation Deck are 'exploded' out and placed in what would otherwise be empty space between the hub of the Satellite and the outer ring.

Note that they kept the table from the original headquarters. Because they would. Also note the color-coding of each member's private quarters and the connection between the amphibious quarters and the pool (because, stupid though that is, they would have it). And if you look really really closely at the Atom's quarters, you'll see that, sitting on a table, is a miniature version of the entire room, just so that he can relax there at his miniature size.

All in all, I'm happy with the result and hope those of you who've been eager to play a Heroclix game set on the JLA Satellite will enjoy it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

JLA FORTNIGHT: Dennygration

So, as you've probably noticed, the architect of all this chaos for the JLA at the end of SilverAge was Denny O'Neil. DC's iconic characters definitely needed some sort of revitalization; the goofy antics of Generalissimo Demmy Gog (JLA #66) seemed horribly out of place in the tumultuous late 1960s. O'Neil did more than his part to shake up the Silver Age's goofy status quo. O'Neill:

  • made Batman's world a serious one again,
  • brought Wonder Woman away from her mythical fantastical connections and grounded her as a non-super woman on her own,
  • raised Green Arrow's consciousness,
  • tried to wake up Green Lantern from his brain-dead stupor,
  • shipped the toxically ludicrous Martian Manhunter off-planet,
  • gave Snapper Carr a very dishonorable discharge,
  • classed up the JLA by getting them out a cave in New England and giving them a high-tech palace in orbit.
O'Neil was, in short, the Geoff Johns of his day.

I haven't presented the whole process in a tidy order (hey, this ain't the Comic Treadmill!), so here's a recap:

JLA #66: Denny O'Neil comes on board. Writes the "General Demmy Gog" story, one of the worst JLA stories ever written. Really, one of the worst stories ever written period.

JLA #67: An all-reprint issue.

JLA #68: JLA fights another Giant Amorphous Godlike Space Entity/Simpleton (in this case, "Neverwas").

JLA #69: The revelation that Wonder Woman is now powerless; Diana Prince goes on "permanent leave".

JLA #70: Denny and DC try to foist the "Mind-Grabber Kid" on the readers. Crickets are heard.

JLA #71. The Martian Manhunter, who's actually been absent from the title since #61, finally makes it official and leaves Earth. Oh, and everything and almost everyone on Mars is destroyed. More crickets are heard.

JLA #72: Red Tornado arrives and becomes the guest who never leaves. The Atom seems to be the only one with the guts to talk about the problem out loud.

JLA #73-74: The Aquarius story, in which Larry Lance is squished flat by a giant lint ball and his widow, Black Canary takes two panels to abandon her entire life and moves to Earth-1.

JLA #75: The 'canary cry' is discovered and Black Canary joins the JLA. She is the first member never to have had her own book, making her the Patron Saint of every crappy also-ran ever to join the League (I'm looking at YOU, Ralph Dibny).

JLA #76: Another all-reprint issue.

JLA #77: Snapper Carr (who, like the Martian Manhunter, hasn't been seen in some time any way) betrays the Justice League to the Joker. Crickets clap loudly.

JLA #78: The Satellite is introduced. Remarkably casually, I might add.

In fact, the Satellite in introduced almost absurbdly casually, even for the breezy Silver Age. The JLA is needed, so Superman and Green Lantern pick up Green Arrow and his new ridiculous facial hair and take him to.... the rooftop of DC Comics. Oh, it's not mentioned by name, but it's "That publishing company that's always bugging us for stories."

Oh, I'm sure their just begging for stories about YOU, Ollie.

The folks at DC (in exchange for a few licensing rights, I'm sure) have allowed the JLA to install a teleporter on their rooftop. Because NO ONE will notice a teleporter on a rooftop. Fortunately, there's no flying machines in the DCU and no one other than the Justice Leagues can fly!

"Heh. You're a funny guy, Arrow. You do realize that if I were to, say, accidentally sneeze right now or have a hand spasm, I might easily crush your left shoulder into paste? Kind of hard to use a bow and arrow when you only have the use of one arm."

As to why it has to be in an incredibly insecure place like a rooftop in downtown Manhattan, well, I guess the signal from the teleporter needs to be unimpeded by a roof. Or a passing plane. Or a flock of a geese. Or the horizon, given the fact that the Satellite, being in geosynchronous orbit must be above the equator and the rooftop of DC Comics is WAY north of the Topic of Cancer, and... oh, never mind, I'm getting a headache.

"Heh, by Rao, you sure are 'comical', Arrow. Yes, the tube is small, but that would help contain the debris if were to, say, accidentally sneeze or have an eye spasm and nuke your insides with my super-vision till you explode in a bloody mess."

Anyway, the teleporter is handwaved as Thanagarian tech (presumably based on the Twin Dogs of Sebek, but that's another story), and the Satellite is explained as...


Um. Well, it's just... there. Who built it and when? How was it paid for? Who chose the color scheme for the decor? And how (literally) on Earth do the governments of the world feel about a Satellite of godlike beings hanging over their heads?

"Surprise! It's actually not a teleporter, just a big Kryptonian crystal cannon that shoots you out to land as a green blotch somewhere on the lower east side of a very large city on the Eastern seaboard! See, Ollie, I can be comical, too!"

And (most amusingly), how did all this happen without Green Arrow knowing a single thing about it? That, I think, says everything you need to know about Green Arrow's place in the Justice League (as even written by Denny O'Neil, who loves him most).

You know damn well the Martian Manhunter would have known about the Satellite. In fact, since he's a crazy homeless person, he'd probably already be living in it and named it something weird, like "M'artha".

And so, with the introduction of the Satellite (Feb 1970, by the way), the Bronze Age begins for the Justice League of America.

Tomorrow: JLA Satellite.... THE MAP!