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?