Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CW misses the target

Curse you, CW Network!  Curse you for putting me in the worst of all possible positions with the worst of all possible duties, specifically:

Defending Green Arrow.

As long-time readers know, Green Arrow is, well, not my top favorite hero.  He's not in my Top Ten.  Or Top 100.  In fact, he falls somewhere between and the Bloodlines characters and Arms-Fall-Off Boy.. 

Hm. Perhaps I need to re-evaluate Arms-Fall-Off Boy's ranking.

However, he is high on the CW's list of heroes, thanks to his breakout appearances on Smallville, the CW's 27-season bastardization of the Superman mythos.  The series took place on a world SO far removed from the DCU ones we all know and love (Earth-[some unspecified Knuth number]) that Green Arrow is the mature, accomplished superhero who mentors young Clark Kent.  Kind of makes the Ellie Wood Walker thing seem reasonable by comparison, doesn't it?

Therefore it should come as no surprise that, with Smallville (finally!) over, the CW is

---really, I can't believe I'm typing these words--

actually giving Green Arrow his own television series, which is one of the seven signs of the oncoming apocalypse.

So both of Smallville's surviving fans are apparently having a hissy fit because "their" Green Arrow (actor Justin Hartley) isn't going to be in it. He's been succeeded in the role of Green Arrow by a Stephen Arnell, mostly because Arnell can do many of his own stunts.  Anything to cut costs, I guess, since Arnell couldn't look much LESS like Green Arrow if he tried.

Hey, I remember this pic from your on-line profile during the Mid-Atlantic Leather Convention: 
"Meaty cub seeks papa bear for cuddling and tough love."

At least he's got plenty of meat on him, so he looks like someone who could actually be pulling a bowstring frequently.

 I mean, Justin is certainly sexy and shapely and all, but he looks more like a violinist than an archer.

 Hey,  weren't you in Riverdance at Wolftrap? I'm sure that was you...

Jeremy "Hawkeye" Renner, for example, looks like he could not only shoot arrows with the massive guns of his, but like he could just walk right up and shove one through you with his bare meaty hands.

 "I'm a love-god and if I shove this arrow through your heart, you'll love me. Briefly, at least."

All of this, of course, misses the point.  What is distressing about the CW's announcement is not that Pretty Actor Y rather than Pretty Actor X will be playing Green Arrow (oops, sorry, just "Arrow", because apparently the "green" is what makes him silly, not the whole "fighting crime with arrows" thing). What's is distressing is that they are having Ollie KILL PEOPLE.  

"Though Guggenheim made the comparison to Batman, one notable difference between the two comic book characters is that Green Arrow deliberately kills bad guys (pretty tough to use an bow and arrow and always aim for the leg)."

Um... but Green Arrow IS good enough to aim for the leg; even I know that's part of the point of Green Arrow.

"“The Arrow always gives the bad guy the opportunity to do the right thing … when he kills, he kills for necessity … it’s not just random violence."

Ollie gives the bad guy the chance to become good... RIGHT BEFORE HE KILLS HIM.  Um... if these bad guys were people who took the opportunity to do the right thing....they wouldn't be bad guys.  WTF?  And what kind of moral turnaround is it really when a bad guy is told, "Pick up your used soda can NOW, Mister, or this arrow goes right through your left ventricle."

"We’ll face the issues of his morality head on…that’s part of the fun quite, frankly, when telling a story about a vigilante.”

Yes, having a hero kill  is all part of the fun, people! C'mon, don't you know that?  Isn't killing what we want our heroes to do?  Isn't that why THE PUNISHER is everyone's favorite hero?

Look, I can respect the artisict decision to tell the story they want to tell.  But I can't respect using Green Arrow to do it.  Green Arrow deserves better than that.  

There are a bunch of kids out there who grew to like Green Arrow as he was portrayed on the Batman: Brave & the Bold animated series, and frankly I don't want them tuning in to watch their childhood hero intentionally shooting arrows through people's necks and hearts.  Now, you may counter that young adults have to expect that the "adult" versions of their childhood heroes are going to be darker and more mature.  Fair enough.  However.... the Batman in Brave & the Bold and the Batman in Dark Knight Rises aren't all that different.  Sure, the tone's a little different, but they are very much the same kind of person with the same kind of morals.  This is not a matter of tone; it's a matter of substance.

Ladies and gentleman, behold the face of a killer.

Just as I complained when DC decided to take Ollie off the deep end and having him turn murderous, I complain now when CW does it.  This is not the Green Arrow who had a crisis of conscience when he accidentally killed someone with one of his arrows.  This is not the billionaire philanthropist Ollie.  This is not the happy go luck Brave and Bold Ollie, the responsible Smallville Ollie, the JLA Satellite era Ollie -- this is not ANY version of Green Arrow.  

And I don't WANT it to be.

Green Arrow deserves better.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Borrowed Penthouse Apartment

"May I see you home to that borrowed penthouse apartment?" So said suave Bruce Wayne to the Russian journalist Kitanya Irenya Titanya Karenska Alissov of the Moscow Bugle (who was, in fact... the Catwoman in disguise!) in the 1968 film, Batman.

"It's all I can do not to burst out laughing in your face; I just can't believe you're falling for my 'Russian journalist' schtick.  You obviously must have inherited your money, Brucie, because you're as dumb as a box of rocks."

Ah, the penthouse apartment.  It's a staple in comic books. Why, Bruce Wayne himself lived in one himself during the swinging '70s.

A horrendous waste of space, pedestrian unfriendly, and structurally irresponsible. 
But still groovy.

So, with lots of new Heroclix figures likes Bruce Waynes, and Tony Starks, and Miranda Tates coming out, I thought it was high-time someone (me) produced a rooftop penthouse map...

And so I did.

Using Batman's methods as my inspiration, I created this map exactly the way he would: by cheating. After several unsatisfactory attempts to design one myself, I finally started searching for penthouse blueprints and found a 3D rendering that suited my purposes perfectly.  All I did was add the terrain markings (walls and hindering) to clarify the game play and voila.

Doors block any diagonal lines of fire; windows can be destroyed by an attack that does two clicks of damage and their destruction does not create any hindering terrain (like the rubble caused when walls are destroyed).   And for you fans of Aquaman and aquatherapy, there's a built-in hot tub for one square of water terrain.

Honestly, I feel this is one of my most attractive maps ever.  Mostly because I didn't draw it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I saw "The Dark Knight Rises"

I went to see The Dark Knight Rises on opening night (my birthday, as it happened) in the madhouse that is the District’s Chinatown.  On the whole, I was very pleased, enjoyed the film way more than I could have imagined enjoying anything with “Bane” in it, and felt it was a very satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s filmic trilogy.

I’ll endeavor to keep this review spoiler-free; I would appreciate it if any commenters followed suit.
First off: Bane.  I’d be hard pressed to think of a Bat-villain I find stupider than Bane, one of the great avatars of All That Was Wrong with the Nineties.  I don’t think I’m alone in this; I think most Batman readers who were past adolescence when Bane was introduced have a similar opinion.  The name, the costume, the ‘venom’, the motivation; and that’s just the character, not even the storyline.  Honestly, I’d rather see Batman versus a grim’n’gritty reimagining of the Eraser or Mr. Polka Dot. 
Okay; maybe not Mr. Polka Dot.

But the choice of Bane as the film’s villain almost kept me from seeing it.  However, Nolan (and actor Tom Hardy) did a good job of editing the Bane character enough to make him acceptable while still leaving him recognizable. He’s still big and strong, he’s still ‘born in a prison’, and he’s still got a thing on his face.  The rest of him, however, got a welcome make-over; no venom, new connection to League of Shadows, new motivation.

In the original storyline we were expected to believe that Bane decides to take down Batman as an exercise in pure alpha dog-dom.  Which is, frankly, really unlikely and supremely stupid (which Bane was NOT supposed to be).  It was another example—one of the worst—of an ad hoc villain, one very obviously designed and tailored only for the purpose of taking on the hero, which is lazy writing.  Heck, it’s almost like a Spider-Man villain, whose only motivation always seems to be fighting Spider-Man.

The movie Bane has a motivation—it’s whacked out, of course, but it’s identifiable.  Even better, it combines the motivations of the villains from the previous two films. 

The first film’s villain, Ra’s Al Ghul, wants to destroy Gotham for, um, “balance, mumble mumble hubris something”.  Actually understanding the motivation would be tantamount to agreeing with it, so suffice to say, he (and the League) deem Gotham City a Tower of Babel and symbol of Western decadence that must be toppled.  Misguised? Yes; but comprehensible.  Of course, neither the villain nor the film itself try all that hard to prove the thesis that Gotham City is morally reprehensible.  Sure, it’s got some Big City/Mafia-driven corruption. But neither the Mayor nor the Police Commissioner are on the take, so it’s already better than many real world cities.

The second film’s villain, the Joker, takes that next step, trying to prove that Gotham’s people are corrupt or easily corruptible.  One can argue that his “prisoner’s dilemma” set up didn’t really do that, and wouldn’t have regardless of the outcome.  Nevertheless, that’s pretty much his stated motive.

The third film’s villain, Bane, aims to do BOTH.  It’s that dual goal that is confusing some viewers, who think, “If Bane is going to annihilate the city anyway, why does he waste five months bringing it low?  It makes no sense.”  But it does… if Bane’s goal is to show that Gotham deserves destruction before he destroys it.  Occupying Gotham proves something, but accomplishes nothing; his occupation will inevitably fall.  Destroying Gotham accomplishes something, but proves nothing; um, so you got a bomb and blew up Gotham City, good for you.  Now our second most important city becomes our first and what’s on TV tonight?

Bane is out to demoralize AND destroy Gotham, as an object lesson to the world on the wages of sin and hypocrisy.  Why else would he bother exposing the Harvey Dent Lie?  In that context, his actions make a bit more sense, and it’s a much more comprehensible motivation than, “I’m gonna take out Batman just because, you know… BATMAN.”

Plus, there are certain occurrences toward the end of the film that really .... put Bane is his proper place, let's say.  Even before then, Tom Hardy makes it pretty clear: Bane is, in fact, kind of silly.  He's grandiose and talks like a Bond villain, and is a little hard to take seriously.  Unless he's cracking you in half.  Or blowing up your city.  Because evil--real, dangerous, twisted, devastating evil--often looks kind of goofy.

Hitler? Rather dweeby, certainly not physically impressive, and laughable in his scenery-chewing on stage.  That nut-job who opened fire on the cinema crowd in Aurora?  Sitting there in court with his dyed bozo hair, he looks ridiculous; but a lot of people are still dead or injured.  Evil often seems ridiculous and unthreatening--that's the worst part about the threat.  And isn't that the point of many Batman villains, the Joker and Penguin included?  Instead of trying to puff Bane up into the Ulimate '90s Bad-Ass, Hardy and Nolan take Bane over the line, letting him resemble every ridiculous tin-pot dictator and cult leader who's ever disgraced the face of the earth.  But no less dangerous for it.

There are plenty of other reasons I enjoyed the film.  The things set up in the first film that finally pay off in the third.  Jim Gordon, who is on the one hand kind of goofy schlub with a funny moustache.  On the hand… he’s still Jim Gordon, and shows that people with capes aren’t the only ones who make a difference.  The character arc for Matthew Modine’s character.  Catwoman is a morally ambiguous delight.  John Blake, who is SO dreamy.  And the fact that this film takes Batman to a place that, well, a place that I have never ever seen Batman go before; that ALONE is an accomplishment, and one you’ll understand once you see the film.

But what did YOU think?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bugging in

At first, this will seem like a Heroclix post; but it isn't.  So stick with me...

One of the innovations that's coming in Heroclix this years is figures that are vehicles, such as the Batmobile and the Invisible Jet.  It's a much anticipated development for players of the game, because there are some vehicles that are more iconic than most characters.  Just imagine the ratio of "People Who've Heard of the Batmobile/People Who've Heard of Grifter and Maul".

Here's a photo of the models for some of those vehicles, in fact:

The Batmobile is a pretty darned clever composite of the many Batmobiles over the years.  But I have a feeling it's that unprepossessing cop car, oh yes, that I will be using the CRAP out of. 

The eye-popper, of course, is "the Bug", Blue Beetle's airship, which is both beautiful and freakin' HUGE

One of the one hand, it makes perfect sense: it will go nicely with the new Ted Kord Blue Beetle figure that will be in the Heroclix 10th Anniversary set coming out, oh, next month.  On the other hand...

Ted Kord was killed off some seven years ago.  What's more, with the New 52, he's not in continuity at all.  Now, there never was a Ted Kord.  At least...

not on Earth-1.

And that's the point of this post.  While there are certainly nostalgia pieces in Heroclix, there's also a strong impetus from DC to use it to push the new 52.  It just seems a little strange that they would have the maker of Heroclix, Wizkids, create a "Bug" figure.  UNLESS... 

we're going to see Ted Kord again.  Specifically, as the Earth-2 Blue Beetle. 

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chinatown, My Chinatown

DC -- the city (District of Columbia), not DC Entertainment the comics publisher -- is full of fascinating neighborhoods, each with its own character.  Actually, so is the DCU, but I'm only talking about the DC my body occupies, not the one that occupies my mind.

I myself live in trendy Columbia Heights, which is "arguably DC's most ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood" (whose Civic Plaza is pictured below).

 Children; shudder.  Fortunately, the fountains pretty much wash themselves.
Still, children in a neighborhood have one useful side-effect; they scare away bums, who are afraid children will set them on fire or tie tin cans to them. 

One of my favorite DC neighborhoods is Chinatown:

And that's WITHOUT make-up on.

I'll often swing by there on my way home (it's on the same subway line) just to have dinner or take in a film or simply soak in the crazy.  You see,  DC's Chinatown isn't just active; it's hyperactive.  If you want a family-sized helping of crazy in DC, go to Chinatown.  (P.S. Eat at Chinatown Garden; do NOT eat at Big Wong's.)  There are few DCers who do not have at least one bizarre anecdote that begins with, "So, we're in Chinatown, right, and then..."

Chinatowns are a great setting in popular entertainment, including superhero lore; both Metropolis and Gotham City of the DC Universe On-Line game, for example, have a Chinatown.  The colorful scenery, the unusual architecture, the bustling ethnic community, the air of mystery;  it's a great setting for a confrontation between the good guys and bad guys. 

So I made a "Chinatown" Heroclix map! 

This isn't an accurate representation of DC's Chinatown, by any means. However, the arch is;  I used a screen capture from Google Earth to get the dimensions of it right.  

My Chinatown is filled with some appropriate businesses (some Chinese restaurants, an herbalist, a tea house, a curio shop, and open-air market), including some nods to actual places in DC's Chinatown (such as Big Wong's and the Wah Luck House). 

I've been trying to avoid using the 'neon outlines' method of marking types of special terrain.  On this map, the areas with green flooring (The Green Dragon restaurant and the Marketplace ) are hindering terrain, as are the shadowed areas in the alleyways.  Elevated terrain is marked by red roofing and blocking terrain by yellow roofing.  Special note: the elevated terrain of the arch can be walked or aimed "under", for obvious reasons.

Another special touch: even though they are interior spaces and can't be fired at from above, most of the business have ladders within them that provide access to the roofs of the adjacent buildings.  It's all very "Hong Kong" chase scene, you know.

I hope you enjoy playing on my custom Chinatown Heroclix map as much as I enjoyed making it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Batman's Brother

Well, well, well; Scott Snyder has brought us the return of “Batman’s brother”.  I'm not the first person on the internet to point this out, by any means, but I still thought I'd mention it here for those not in the know.

In the recent epic “Court of Owls” storyline, Batman author Scott Snyder has been drawing a picture of an unknown history for Gotham (one that is being embraced across the company’s line of titles, judging by storylines in the Bat-books, the JL line, and even outlying titles like All-Star Western).  The story has been powerful and colorful, although it suffers from a lack of logic and motivation.  For example, if the Court of Owls is already composed of Gotham’s elite, what’s with all the elaborate schemes and undead agents?  They already run Gotham and have for generations; what the heck do they WANT?  Their motivations are completely unclear, and they smack far too much of opponents created specifically to give the hero trouble, rather than independent characters with their own agenda, which the hero runs up against and then opposes.  I mean, really… they built an underground MAZE?  With hallucinogenic water fountains?   Rather than just shoot their enemies? How bored ARE these people?  They remind me of Senor Senor Senior on Kim Possible; they seem to be ‘rich people being villainous for the purpose of being villainous”.   

 I would love to know who wrote that book.

At best, they are reminiscent of the thin-tied gangsters of Apex City who build giant mechanicalbears just to rob a bank.  It may be slightly crazy fun, but it is definitely fun, and it’s culminated in a development at the intersection of two concepts from Bat-history.

One, obviously, is the concept of “Owlman, the anti-Batman”.  Now, there have been a number of ‘anti-Batmans’ over the years; Cat-Man, Killer Moth (yes, really), Prometheus.  But Owlman is probably the most consistent and enduring ‘anti-Batman’.  Owlman, a concept originally introduced in the classic Crisis on Earth-3 story, was an evil Batman counterpart in a parallel universe.  Interestingly, he actually had a superpower, similar to Grodd’s ‘force of mind’; it was intended as a reflection of the fact that Batman’s brilliant mind was his greatest weapon.  

That part of the concept didn’t last, and later iterations of the Earth-3 Owlman were simply ‘Batman on the wrong side of the law’.  There was a short-lived, “Earth-1” version of Owlman, instantiated as the son of Roy Raymond, TV Detective (an old back-up feature in DC Comics), whose skills were almost entirely deductive; he served as the in-house detective with the Outsiders.

But on the whole “Owlman” has been “the evil anti-Batman”, as featured in Grant Morrison's Earth-2 and elsewhere.

None of this should be confused, of course, with Dell Comic's Owlman, who was.... well, he was this:

For my birthday this Friday I want an owl-gun that makes people go-go dance

The “Lincoln March” character in Snyder’s story is never called “Owlman” per se.  He is, in fact, "The Talon", a former functionary of the Court of Owls.  But that's just about as close to being called "Owlman" as you can get without the actual name. 

The other concept is, of course, the idea that Bruce Wayne had an older, brain-damaged brother he never knew about because his parents had him locked away and kept him a secret.  That idea was originally one of the fever dreams of the ridiculously irreverent writer Bob Haney, who lived to defy continuity, convention, and common sense.  Which I suppose makes sense, since he himself is actually Spock's crazy brother, Sybok:


You can follow the first link in this post for more on Zany Haney's original tale of Batman's brain-damaged brother.  But suffice it say that in the character of the Talon, Snyder has cleverly given us a literary Reese's: two old Batman concepts that taste new together.

Much wiser and more prudent than Haney, however, Snyder has made it pretty clear that Lincoln March is NOT Batman's brother.  And that's good, since all that really matters is that Lincoln March THINKS he's Batman's brother.

And iif  The Talon is Batman's brother, well....

at least it's not BANE.  But the less said about that story, the better.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Abandoned Warehouse District

Inspired by all the new DC Heroclix sets I've been on something of a tear designing new Heroclix maps to play them on.

Recently, I gave you the Alleyway Map (which I've already ordered for myself, because it's just such a basic for cops'n'robbers, and a staple for Batman fans).

and last time, I gave you the circensis Big Top map.  Now, as much as I knew a circus map needed to be made for the Heroclix playing masses, I doubt that I will have one printed for myself.  But this next one, I will definitely be getting printed for myself-- probably today, in fact.  Like the Alleyway map, it's such a sine qua non for proper Gotham-style conflict that I'm embarrassed I didn't make it sooner.  

Why, what would being a villain in Gotham be like without....


Oh, the shadows!  Oh, the lurkingness!  

As in my other recent maps, I've tried to be subtler in how things like hindering terrain are marked.  It can kind of spoil the murky atmosphere you want in a Batman game to have neon green and purples borders around huge chunks of the board.  In fact, I haven't marked any terrain at all because it seems so obvious.  If there's some kind of object in a square, then it's hindering terrain.  Also, in each of the three warehouses (Apex, Warren, and Dexter), there are two particularly dark rooms with no light; those, too,  are hindering terrain.

That and the blocking walls of the buildings are pretty much it.  Note that I intentional put doors in the doorways.  Unlike Wizkids, which seems to think that doorways without doors in them are the rule in life rather than the exception, I consider the doors on my maps to block line of fire (although the do not interrupt adjacency, like a wall would).  This means there will lots of scurrying and hiding on this map; if you want to get your foes, you're going to have to dig in there and root them out face to face, rather than pick them off from 10 squares away with Long Ranged Combat Expert figures.

But there's a little something extra to this map, an idea that I've wanted to instantiate for quite some time:  it can be played as one regular sized (2' x 3') map, OR you can play each third of it (marked by the glowing white transversal lines) as a smaller  (1' x 2') mini-map.  I have often longed for smaller maps because the smaller teams I favor (such a member of the Batman family with some GCPD versus a single Bat-villains with some back-up goons) tend to get lost on a full-sized map.  So the Abandoned Warehouse District map is designed so that you can play a small game on any third of it, a medium game on either two-thirds of it, or a large game on the entire map.  

If you play on less than the full map, place your figures along the outer edges of the parking lot to start (rather than at the traditional "goalpost" locations on a full-sized map).

The  map--and each of its segments--is designed to prevent the *ahem* "clusterfudge" that arises in many maps, where all the figures just rush into a big melee in the center of the board. You won't be doing that with those warehouses in the way!

Oh, and for extra "realistic" fun, you can start with your villains INSIDE the warehouses, and the good guys 'surrounding' them from the parking lot on the outside.  That will make your game seem more like a Gotham battle, and less like football with superpowers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Big Top

Circuses figure much more prominently in comic books and comic book history than they do in modern life.  Clearly, this is because comic books have their origins in previous decades when circuses were a more widespread form of entertainment.  They fell on pretty hard times in the 1960s and 1970s and the entire genre then took a huge turn toward nouveau cirque, blurring the lines between circus and theater.  And as I have written in the past, comics make a big distinction between circus and theater.

But back in the formative, pre-television decades of the Golden Age of comics, circuses were big stuff, and the comics reflect it.  Robin the Boy Wonder; circus boy.  The original Batwoman: circus aerialist.  Marvel's Circus of Crime.  Ragman's pre-Crisis origin (he got his powers from circus folk through science-magic) and, of course, Deadman's.  Killer Croc; circus freak.

In comics people are always dying at the circus, or wild animals are rampaging, or freaks are kidnapping/being kidnapped, or some freakish villain is using the circus as a private playground. The Joker, Two-Face, the Penguin, the Catwoman, Killer Croc, Brainiac, and more; you've seen lots of familiar villains at the circus.

So I thought it was high time that we have a circensic Heroclix map.  And, so, ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, the Absorbascon Circus is proud to present to you... The Big Top.

Gameplaywise, it's not all that fancy.  The stands and the aerialist poles are elevated, and there's some hindering in the form of the entry chutes, the human cannon, the animal cages, and some circus folk (who smell of cabbage).  It's not entirely realistic that even unflappable circus folks would just stand there while a superheroic battle rages around them, but, hey, without them it would be a pretty empty map.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Twist and shout

It's not just me reading something into this, is it...?

NOT the kind of humor I expect in a JSA All-Stars comic!

Roy Thomas is a naughty naughty man.  But....

a poetic one:

Says the man who can
twist himself into any
shape he can think of.

Yeesh, Plastic Man sexual innuendo haiku.  That's not something you see every day.  Fortunately.

What haiku can you compose to condemn Thomas's naughtiness, skewer Hawkman's jealously, or celebrate Plas's.... special charms?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Steve Jobs of Earth-9

The Riddler was the Steve Jobs of Earth-9 (The BTAS Universe)....

and invented the iPhone in 2003, four years before Jobs did.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Alley Map

There are lots of new DC Heroclix figures coming our way, what with the movie-based Dark Knight Rises set (already released and in my hands), the DC Heroclix 10th Anniversary set (with corresponding Golden/Silver & Modern versions of a handful of iconic characters, such as Brainiac, Superman, and Catwoman), the New 52 Justice League set (whose Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman have already been previewed), and the forthcoming Batman set (which remains mostly in a deliciously dark Gotham-like fog).  .

In celebration, I've decided to refresh my collection of home-spun Heroclix maps.  Wizkids shows gobs of imagination and ingenuity in their creation of power dials for characters, but their map-making is, on the whole...uninspired. 

So, I've always dabbled in creating my own, with varying results. Some are crackerjack, enough in fact that other players have written me requesting the file so that they could get them printed for themselves (the Iceberg Lounge and the Abandoned Church seem to be perennial favorites).  Others have been less successful in my eyes, often because what seemed workable or attractive on the screen turned out to me less playable than anticipated.

The most common flaws in my maps have been overcomplexity and a tendency toward garishness.  The map below, of an alley in Gotham City, is my attempt to course-correct.

I've used a more muted color-scheme, much lower on the Sin City/Dick Tracy scale of color saturation than in the past.  I have also experimented here with ways to convey essential gameplay information (such as hindering and elevated terrain) that I hope are more subtle than the rather garish neon markings that Wizkids uses on all its standard maps (for reasons of clarity, I'm sure). 

I made the whole map first in a "normal city" way:

This could be any city, really.  Except for Apex City, of course: no meteors and none of the buildings are on fire.

But then I ... I just couldn't stop myself.  With the dark alley, poorly lit streets, an urban rooftops, it was obvious the map has Batman in mind.  Meaning this is Gotham City...

So, if this is in Gotham City, I knew "H" from the Comic Treadmill would never forgive me if I didn't do a version that had rooftop giant props.  And thus...

Hats. Typewriters.  Record-players.  Globes.  Mmmmm.  Giant prop goodness.  They just don't make 'em like that any more... .

Thursday, July 05, 2012

No pants needed

Well!  I was right... Earth-2 is the title to watch!

This issue gave us the origin of the Earth-2 Green Lantern, Alan Scott (see preceding post for information about Alan, in song).

Now, What Kids Don't Know about this story would be....it's same as his origin in the Golden Age.  Alan Scott was the sole survivor of a train wreck, after which he had a brief but exposition-filled conversation with a talking green flame.  But author James Robinson puts some very clever twists on this version (particularly the origin of Alan's ring).

I kind of teared up at the whole ring thing.. .but Alan sure didn't.  I was a little taken aback by how quickly and coolly Alan moved from "I'm badly injured and my lover is dead" to "Ah ha, I see; I appear to having my origin story now; got it."  On the other hand... (1) Alan is the powerful head of an international multi-billion dollar communications company and (2) Golden Age heroes ALWAYS recovered lickety-split from whatever horrible origin-tragedy befell them and got right into the "Whee! I have powers! Time to kick some ass!" phase of things.

But mark my words.  We--and Alan-- have not seen the last of Sam. Even though Sam is very very dead.

Where Robinson REALLY floored me was the reveal at the end.  I was ready for lots of things: I was NOT ready for that.  In fact, I was so not ready for that, that I literally stopped breathing for 30 minutes out of shock.  Then I gasped, and not just for lack of oxygen. Honestly, I cannot recalled when I was so simply stunned by a comic's end.

But be clear:  I was not shocked because "I didn't see that coming."  I was shocked because I could have seen it coming, I should have seen it coming, but I still didn't, so ingrained in me by popular culture are certain preconceptions about certain characters.  NOW, thanks to Robinson, it all makes perfect sense, and the Earth-2 Green Lantern has a perfect set-up. 

Bravo, James Robinson; I'm not an easy man to strike out with a curve ball; bravo.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

How Batman celebrates Independence Day...

... by killing an American Bald Eagle.

Happy 4th of July, Batman! You are truly an independent spirit.