Thursday, August 30, 2012

Things That Made Me Happy...

... in my comics this week.

  • Actually, the kiss kind of makes sense.  I'm okay with it.  But it will, of course, never work out between them.
  • Now the Flash is almost as fast as it used to be slow.
  • Well, that's the most interesting Black Mask has ever been.  Although certainly not the most comprehensible.
  • I'm looking forward to seeing David make it up to Hartley. Yeah, I'd rent that.
  • Wow, Dr Elias is pretty much Luthor without, you know, conscience.
  • A-a-a-and there's the wind up for Justice League of America...
  • After what feels like ten years of trying,  Geoff Johns finally make me like Hal Jordan, and in only two pages.
  • See? I told you Aquaman should lead the Justice League.
  • I now need more than two hands to count the number of times I've seen Aquaman make the "I'm going to kill Black Manta" speech. I'm thinking of turning them into a collage.
  • Power Internalization!  Smart move, a logical development, and efficiently handled, Mr Manapul!
  • "And don't call me Monkey!"
  • Okay, Mera lied to Aquaman for years about who she really was, so I thinks it's quite fine that he never told her about his old war buddies.
  • Wait, did I just see Titano poop out a piece of red K in downtown Metropolis?
  • The Rogues' second rule.  Nice repudiation by Manapul of a bad misstep by Johns.
  • Lois fixing Clark's hair.  She totally knows.  She just doesn't care.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vibe in the Justice League of America

As Absorbascommenter Kevin Trudeau kindly pointed out in my previous post, the inevitable has, indeed, come to pass.

I speak, of course, of the Inevitable Return of Vibe (as I have spoken of before).

Vibe is part of the re-branding of the Justice League.  More accurately, the diversification of the JL brand.  There are a lot of comic book supergroups, but none has the power and Q rating of the Justice League, which ushered in the return of superheroes as a genre in the comic book medium, forged the Silver and Bronze Ages, and inspired the creation of the Marvel superhero line.  In 1980s, DC experiment with the brand, diversifying with the Justice League International, Justice League Europe, television's Justice League Unlimited, and more regrettable experiments like Extreme Justice, Justice League Elite, and Justice League Antarctica. 

The original Silver Age Justice League of America was, of course, an experiment to begin with. Let's put all our most popular heroes in one book and see what happens.  It was (as I have said 100 times) the opposite of the editorial philosophy behind the Justice Society of America (which was, "let's put all our heroes together who CAN'T sustain titles on their own, have them operate in coordinated solo missions, and see if we can generate a breakout character). The experiment succeeded.

The next level of experimentation came with the Bronze Age Justice League of America, which widened membership beyond the traditional Seven Icons (sacrificing also-ran Martian Manhunter in the process) and introduced some occasional internal conflict in the formerly oh-so-chummy group. On the whole, that experiment succeeded and many readers still remember the Satellite Era fondly.

The next experiment, meant to modernize the Justice League when its icons were deemed to have grown musty, was the Detroit-based Justice League.  That experiment, it is fair to say, did not succeed.

Further evidence not required.

Vibe, as a character, certainly had some flaws-- he was just a bit too brash, too irascible, too obviously a cultural reach-out.  In short, he was a tad too "Marvel'.  That's what DC had been going for and what they thought their readers wanted; a Marvel-style group of troubled misfits on a Marvel-style group with lots of internal conflict.   It's a valid editorial direction, sure...but it's not "the Justice League", and the readers rejected it rather strongly.   DC tried to recover, but big ships turn slowly.  By the time they started guest-starring the 'real' Leaguers to keep the boat afloat it had already run aground, and the Detroiters were done for. 

Again, Vibe had his flaws, but his biggest sin was being part and parcel of the failed Detroit League.  Of the three characters created specifically for the Detroit League, only one survived, no doubt by turning invisiblish and running away on her nearly-invulnerable feet.

Yet, as the linked article shows, Vibe will retain many of his core elements.  The vibration power.  The Detroit.  The "Low-rent" hero, um, vibe.  The connection with his brother.

But there are subtle changes calculated to make Vibe more viable.  Old Vibe was held back by his elder brother.  New Vibe is encouraged by him.  Old Vibe was over-confident and disrespectful; new Vibe is
more understated (as is his outfit).

I have high hopes for New Vibe.  Is he the brave and bold stroke he was in the Detroit League?

No.  But then again... this isn't the '80s.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hall of Justice

The latest Heroclix output from Wizkids is the wonderful "Justice League 52" set.

The figures are dynamic looking.

HeroClix Superman Justice League Dial Spoiler

The traditional super-uppercut.  Think about; it's amazing how often Superman does that.  

The dials are excellent.

Batman HeroClix justice League Dial new 52

Once day, they'll just make a dial that says, "Batman can do whatever you need him to. And then he can sic trained bats on an opponent, as a free action."

The special powers are very evocative of the characters.

Keep 'em flying, Hawkman.  Woof!

Heck, even they even managed to make a low-point Hal Jordan who's accurate, effective, but still an idiot:

In case you're wondering, figures who can take advantage of Hal's weakness toward yellow include Star Sapphire, Blue Beetle, Firestorm, Guy Gardner, the Composite Superman, Kyle Rayner, Mera, Saint Walker, the Martian Manhunter, Indigo-1, Brainiac, Larfleeze, Gypsy, Scar,  Dr. Mid-nite, John Stewart, Sgt Rock. Ganthet, Wonder Woman, Sinestro, Shazam, Amon Sur, The Penguin, Lyssa Drak, the Phantom Stranger, Power Ring, Jakeem Thunder, Yellow Lantern, Ch'p, Ambush Bug, Bruce Wayne, Zatanna, Alfred Pennyworth, Superman, Commissioner Gordon, Rachael freakin' Dawes, and Stan Lee.  This is now the only Hal Jordan figure I will play.

And in an even greater surprise, the new MAPS are good!  One is Paradise Island with the ocean running along its outside (Mera loves this) and the other is a very innovative Gotham Rooftop map (where I currently have Detective John Blake trying to help the Justice League defeat the Manhunter Grandmaster and his robotic minions).

To celebrate all the glories of the new Justice League Heroclix set, I have made a game map of the one JL-related location I have never dared to before:


The Hall of Justice is a pretty simple space.  I mean other than the highly recognizable pill-box table and "the Troubalert" video screen, the Super-Friends didn't really have lots of furniture and knickknacks. It's not "The Living Room of Justice"; it's a HALL, people.

The outside of the building is, of course, ridiculously iconic, and I did my best to represent it, given the awkwardness of an aerial view.  Tactically, there's a little hindering terrain for Batman to hide in, some water terrain for Aquaman to splash in, and lots of open area for Wonder Woman and Superman to charge around in.  But strategically it's all about the small entryway in the Hall of Justice's impregnable front wall. 

Ordinarily, walls and blocking terrain can be destroyed by anyone who can do 3 clicks of damage.  But I have given the Hall of Justice a trait that makes its hide nearly impenetrable.  It has the Heroclix Impervious power, reserved for super-tough characters like Superman.  Any damage done to it is reduced by two clicks, and when attacked it gets a "it tickles" roll; if it rolls 5 or 6 it takes no damage at all.  Plus, it has the Mystic ability, meaning that anyone who does manage to destroy one of its many squares takes an unavoidable and irreducible click of backlash damage.  In short, it ain't supposed to be easy to break into the Hall of Justice and it's probably more trouble than it's worth.  This will make control of that iconic entryway all the more important.

Many of the maps I design I never actually get printed for myself. But this one is too much fun to pass up, and I'm sure to get one so I can pit the Justice League against the Legion of Doom.  Or just to watch the Penguin slap Hal Jordan around like his bitch.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shopping with the Shield 5: Check out time!

After saving the folks on the elevator (who were kind of asking for it, really; I mean, the elevator didn't even have an operator, for pete's sake). the Shield captures the racketeers in the store using one of his more amazing powers: tactile-escalator-reversing-telekinesis!

Your guess is as good as mine just what the Shield is actually doing here.  I prefer to imagine him using some sort of magnetic crotch power.

Once the so-called racketeers are corralled, the Shield goes to confront the REAL villain, whom he has deduced, from absolutely no evidence whatsoever, is Store President Stacey!

I can't believe I voted for that guy.

The Shield crushes Stacey with the overwhelming weight of his word balloons, using another one of his amazing powers, super-exposition.

"Wait, you're saying I had people KILLED in my store to lower business, rather than just, say, hiring surly staff or unsellable merchandise? That's ludicrous!"

"Oh my god, I'll confess to anything if you just STOP TALKING!"

But the Store President Stacey's knows the Shield's secret weakness:


The Shield never sees that coming. Even though it happens almost every issue.  Like any store president worth his salt, Stacey has a safe-room wall and a getaway plane just waiting at his disposal.

Gotta love the fact that the Shield leaves a Shield-shaped hole in every wall when he bursts through it, just like Roger Rabbit.

But Store President's getaway plane is no match for the Shields' pointy-toes of justice!

You know, maybe the Shield wasn't lying to Betty about liking women's shoes.  Just a thought.

The Shield really loves stopping planes.

And once it's all said and done and the bad guys turned over to the authorities, the Shield & Co. are rewarded with the most exciting thing one could hope for...

ANOTHER trip to Stacey's! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shopping with the Shield 4: The Shield gets the shaft!

Well, I made fun of Betty for sticking her leg out the back window of her kidnappers' vehicle yesterday, but it turns out a dropped shoe was all the clue the Shield needed to track her down to the racketeers' hideout,  where he immediately indulges in some of his favorites schticks, including

bursting through walls, being set on fire, and, wait for it...

being strapped down on the Table of Pain and Pleasure.

It actually not a bad trap, which takes advantage of the fact that although the Shield is nearly invulnerable, his friends are not.  

'Um... I didn't actually know where you were.  I just really like women's shoes and found this nice one and needed to find a match for it and, oh, I bet they have one at Stacey's; gotta go!'  Smooth, Shield, really smooth.

Of course, the Shield arrives just at Stacey's JUST in time to prevent another horrible tragedy.

Stacey's is known, of course, for its famous open elevators shafts with windows to the outside of the building.  Really, just exactly how all this is happening is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shopping with the Shield 3: Tip for Tap

So, one dead elevator operator and one horribly murdered mother later, Joe has discovered that racketeers are behind the troubles at Stacey's Department Store.  Racketeering is all the excuse Joe needs. Mere murder is a matter for the local police, but when racketeering is involved FBI Agent Joe Higgins can butt his nose in.  

And Betty Warren has the perfect plan!  Deceipt + wiretapping = good clean American fun.

The latest in fashion: the Lockjaw Hat!  Not only is it a stunning look, but it gives you the ability to carry a primary attacker up to 12 squares.

Even though Betty's plan involves Joe's favorite hobby-- wiretapping-- he's having none of it, because it would expose Betty to danger.  But Betty Warren lives for danger and, as previously noted, does whatever the heck she wants.  

So Betty, the little minx, ignores Joe and dragoons JuJu the G-man into carrying out her plan.  

Truly, Stacey's Department store is an amazing place.
"Is the Wire-Tapping Department?"
"Yes, sir, can I help you?"
"I need something for a little casual eavesdropping."
"I'm afraid you need a license for that, sir."
"Oh, but I'm a G-man."
"I see, sir. What size wire-tap do you need?"

But as JuJu is tapping the phone wires from the inside, the Shield is tapping them from the outside!

Why, it's just like a wacky Frasier episode!

"Good gosh! Something HAS happened!" 
"Oh, shut up, Niles, and help me straighten this place up before Dad and Daphne get back!"

Turns out that, while our junior G-men were being all stealthy with their wiretapping, the racketeers just walked in the front door, beat the crap out of Store President Stacey and kidnapped Betty.

But don't worry!  Ever-resourceful Betty will defeat them by... 


Well, at least now we have a clearer idea what Joe sees in Betty.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shopping with the Shield 2; Mummy gets sick!

So the gangsters who lifted Joe (the Shield!) Higgins' idiot sidekick, JuJu the G-man, in Stacey's department didn't kill him after all, even though he can totally identify them.  What idiots.  Must be racketeers.  

So when Joe shows up, he immediately does what Betty should have done in the first place: calls the police. 

Huh.  The Shield is supposed to be set in Washington, DC, but if that were really Washington, DC, somebody would have already knocked JuJu off it for standing on the wrong side of the escalator. Probably a hurried heavy-set woman wearing a pantsuit and sneakers.

LOL, you fell for it!  The hero never calls the police, because that would end the story.  Instead, he goes to see the President of the Store.  I honestly didn't know stores even had presidents.  Maybe it's a Washington thing I don't know about.

But first, a stop at the Seven Floor: Miniature Boats, Velocipedes, and Matricide!

Pictured: the impassive apathy of the world's least concerned bicycle and boat.  I think they're in it together, frankly.

Yes, there lies a woman who's entire face has just been burned off with acid.

"My mummy's sick" ranks up there as one of the great understatements of all literature along with "Moi dyet bolen" in Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin.  Nice of Joe to clarify the situation for the boy, though.  "No, no, sweetie; your Mommy's not merely sick. Her entire face has been burned away with acid.  And the sooner you come to terms with that the better." Joe's old-school, folks.

"Whoa, Sonny!  You just killed your own mother in one of the horrible and painful ways imaginable!  That's what happens to little boys who don't study their irregular verb patterns!"

So, after buying little Orestes an impassive bicycle and toy boat to calm him down, Joe goes right to the police because people are dying like flies at Stacey's.  

Or, he goes to chat with the President of the United Stores of America, instead.

Ugh; racketeers.  I should have known.  It's always racketeers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shopping with the Shield, Part 1: Ju Ju gets lifted!

Shopping!  What task could be more mundane, more quotidian for your average American?  But THE SHIELD is no average American!  And when the Shield goes shopping mischief (and the hideous disfigurement of innocent citizens by their own children) is not far behind!  Grab your purses, kids, and head with us downtown as... THE SHIELD GOES SHOPPING!

One day, Joe (the Shield!) Higgins' girlfriend, Betty, is shopping at Stacey's, a thinly disguised analog of a major downtown department store.  Any ordinary boyfriend would be traipsing along behind her, carrying her packages.  But Joe is smarter than that and has sent his idiot comic relief sidekick, JuJu the G-Man.

Because you're an idiot, JuJu. Besides, just be glad it's a simple slingshot and not, say, a water-pistol filled with acid.  Because how horrible would THAT be...?!

Comic relief G-men.  Not enough of those in comics today, I say.  You know what else there aren't enough of in today's comics....?


Or live ones, really.  Because there are no elevator operators any more.  Is it any wonder, given the pay and the obvious dangers?

JuJu, perspicacious FBI agent that he is, solves the case immediately.  

And gets kidnapped. Because JuJu's an idiot.

What a crisis!  Now Betty has no one to carry her packages! So she calls Joe (the Shield!) Higgins, who, I guess, she figures can get down to basement at Stacey's fastest than the store security guards or, I dunno, the police. 

Don't you miss those decades where people sat around in their apartments in suit and tie?

In case you've never noticed it, Betty Warren just does whatever she darned well pleases...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Next week....

Shopping with the Shield!

A consumer experience you'll never forget.

Remember, kids; nothing escapes the Shield's keen eye for detail.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jim Gordon is odd

Okay.  Sure, Bruce Wayne is an odd fellow.

But Jim Gordon is MUCH odder.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Ziggurat

You know those times when you're stumbling along in a rainforest expedition, where you just might be lost, but you're not sure because your GPS isn't working, and suddenly you blunder into a ziggurat in a clearing, and kick yourself because your iPhone's dead and you can't snap a picture?

Boy, don't we all!  Well, if so, then this one's for you:


Now, before someone corrects me, this is very technically not a ziggurat, but rather a step pyramid (because it's in a jungle somewhere, rather than in the Middle East). But "The Step Pyramid" is not a cool name for a Heroclix map, and "The Ziggurat" is.

The Ziggurat Map takes advantage of a rule change from several years ago that allows for up to seven different levels of elevation on a Heroclix map.  The jungle floor is Level 1 and the other six levels are the successive tiers of the ziggurat.  I didn't mark the levels with the usual numbered triangles for elevated terrain because, well, if you can't perceive the levels of terrain on a ziggurat just by looking at it, then numbers probably aren't going to help you.

The map is quite simple in layout and feels very open; but the ziggurat in the center tends to break the play down in several smaller areas rather than one big clusterbust in the middle of the board (because I hate when that happens).

Do not go into this map with out flyers and leap/climbers on your team, or you're going to get a serious thrashing.  But deploy your Bronze Tigers and your Cheetahs and your Detective Chimps and this will be a fun map, indeed.