Friday, March 29, 2013

Rocky Grimes Week #0: I Finally Remembered

I finally remembered.

There I was, lying in bed listening to the expected hailstorm we were having here in DC.  

A hailstorm; that reminded of something, some story I wanted to talk about.  But I just couldn’t quite recall what it was, or where I’d seen it. So I just lay there, tossing and turning, listening to the drumbeat of the hail on the windows.  Until…

I finally remembered.

It was the story of this man:

This man’s name is Grimes.  I’m sure you’ve never heard of him.  

Yet Grimes is symbol, an encapsulation of perfect Golden Age -style storytelling, both good and bad.  His is a triumphant of concept so pure, so absolute, that in the coming week it will cleanse your mind and soul.  His story will help you realize that (1) whatever you read this week wasn’t nearly as stupid as it could have been and (2) no, you would not want to be a comic book character in a comic book world.
Next week, ladies and gentleman, is Rocky Grimes Week.  Yes, I have finally remembered; and I intend to make sure that none of us ever forget.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Things That Made Me Happy

... in my comics this week.

When I first read "Orm's sister", I thought, "Well, she's just been introducted to produce dramatic tension.  I don't think she's going to be any real trouble."  Then I read her NAME.  Oh, yeah; that's trouble.

Finally, a sensible reason why the Fortress of Solitude is where it is.

"I'm a work in progress."  See? This is why people love Barry Allen.  Try to imagine Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman saying, "I'm a work in progress."  Wonder Woman would just say, "I'm progress!"  Superman would just say,  "Excuse me, I'm working."  Batman would--well, Batman would just walk away.  Or gas you.

"Oofta."  Heh, apparently Jimmy actually IS scandanavian.
Scavenger.  Oh, I could have told you THAT last month.

Hey, it's Go-Go Gomez! BWAHAHAHAHA!

"No."  Look, you can call Superman boring all you want.  He's still got Golden Age-style, anti-authoritarian balls of steel, and that's alright in my book.

Orion likes Earth.  Somehow, that actually makes a difference to me. Plus, he knows that the New Gods are boring.

It occurs to me that Flash is the (potentially) perfect intersection of Batman (detective with colorful rogues gallery in an urban environment) and Superman (god-like powers but lowly secret ID and gobs of humility).
Hector Hammond.  I'm like the NewDCU more and more.

Speaking of anti-authoritarian balls of steel, I love how I-am-very-ready-to-kick-your-ass Mera was talked down off the ledge of violence by a sensible, normal woman.

Superman's showdown with Congress.  Yes; that is almost exactly what would happen. So seldom do comics get politics right or even remotely realistic, that I must praise them when they do.  Congress would not go, "Oh, how lovely; Superman has a country cottage!  I hope Lois Lane does a story on it and all its wonders at some point."  Congress would definitely go, "Uh, so you built a FORTRESS filled with world-threatening weapons and dangerous substances and creatures? Can we discuss this?"

Oh, I am SURE Iris has been touched by the speed force, which is how she can go from zero to MEAN in under 15 seconds.

"Caesar knows." You're a good Roman, Perry.

The Outlanders. More real-politik,  indeed!

Hey, Superman; next time, try just unplugging the thing.  It's what anyone without heat vision would have done.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Scream Team and the Scary House

Well, I know it's a little early for Halloween.  Okay-- a lot.  But when you're a horror fan like me, Halloween is more of an attitude than an event.  Kind of like how DC is with reboots.

Anyway, my Halloweeniness has been inspired by the release of the newest Marvel Heroclix set, which features many of Marvel's classic monster characters.

I've commented before that one of the sources of the differences between DC and Marvel is that, while DC's principal roots are in detective and pulp stories, Marvel's are in monster and romance stories. This has given Marvel a rich tradition of monster lore: Tomb of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Living Mummy, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, "Zuvembies", Dazzler.

These characters are represented in Marvel's most recent Heroclix set, and I snagged some myself to help complete my longstanding desire for a Halloween theme team with which to surround DC's Scarecrow.

Here's a 401 pt Halloween Scream Team(I don't sweat a couple points one way or the other in my builds):
BS-023 Scarecrow; 74 pt
AS-010 Frankenstein's Monster; 65 pts
AS-011 Living Mummy; 92 pt
AS-012 Vampire; 43 pt
OR-090 Gentleman Ghost; 83 pt
BM-099 Flock of Bats (black); 13 pt

Sure, Gentlemen Ghost isn't exactly the most terrifying specter in the afterlife, but he is DC's best known ghostly villain (certainly in Heroclix).

Add in a black cat (DS-102 Catwoman; 75 pt) for bad luck and a Flock of Bats Grey BM-009 (18 pts) and you have a 494 pt team.

Once I composed this team, I longed for an appropriate map to play them on; Heroclix just doesn't have any scary maps.  Then I stumbled across a custom one that I had forgotten about! I'd designed it but never had it printed.  Here, then, is 

The Scary House

Those of you who ever heard of the defunct "Horroclix" game will recognize the style.  

I'd been trying to put together a team of DC scientists to fight this group.  Now, most of DC's really science-y scientists are villains... but I managed to come with these guys:

JL-107 Barry Allen 80 pts (he's a police scientist)
BS-006 Blue Beetle 61 pts (that's Ted Kord, the inventor)
CJ-222 The Atom 50 pts (physicist Ray Palmer)
DC-041 Batman 102 pts (in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "Batman's a scientist.")
CR-049 Will Magnus & Platinum 75 pts (crazy roboticist Will!)
BB-022 Cave Carson 24 pts (speluncologists are scientists, too).

That's 392 pts, which perfect to fight the 401 Scream Team, and if you want them to go up against the 494 version the answer is simple.  Just add on:

OR-068 Starman 106 pts (Astronomer, physicists, inventor Ted Knight).

I know which side my money's on.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Things That Made Me Happy... my comics this week.
I appreciate that in his writing of the Flash character in Justice League, Geoff Johns is trying to split the difference between Barry’s and Wally’s personalities.  It’s not working, but I appreciate the effort nonetheless.
So glad to learn that Element Woman isn’t Urania Blackwell, because, thanks to Neil Gaiman, it’s impossible to read the name “Urania Blackwell” without feeling sad.
Brimstone.  Heh.  Given his original MacGuffin role in Legends many years ago, his on-going status as a shorthand for “off-camera generic monster attacking city” brings a wry smile to my face.
Dang.  Azzarello is going to make me LIKE Orion, isn’t he?  Well done.
The repeated dialog in JLA and Vibe.  Some might call it redundant.  I call it “continuity”.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have confirmed that Human Flying Fish does exist in New52 continuity.  Let the celebrations commence!
Tharok is pretty much single-handedly destroying the United Planets.  THEN, he wakes up the Promethean Giants. And the rest of the Fatal Five hasn’t even started to make trouble. I love the fact that they are even MORE terrifying now than they were when I was a child.
Love that Platinum’s design is a shout-out to Robot Maria.
And that is why Prof Ivo is one of the Justice League’s greatest enemies.
“It’ll be fun” is not a reason Batman does things.
Now THAT is a legitimate reason to slap Wonder Woman in the ass.
The sharks, Vixen, and the ducks.
You know, of all the people I’d allow to play with giant gurgling vats of molten metal, crackpot genius Will Magnus is not on the list.
“I still vote ‘no’.”  Barry Allen can be funny; just not intentionally.
This person is a LOT more interesting than Cindy Reynolds.
I really want an Evil Android Batman in the next Heroclix set.
The fact that the design of the last page of Batwoman is such a dramatic contrast that it hits you like a pie in the face.
If reading the word “responsometer” doesn’t make you smile a little, then you probably shouldn’t be reading DC comics.
So, I guess Nightwing doesn’t really read his evites; or is really stupid.  He’s that guy who unlocks his pics for you on-line and when you ask whether he’s read your profile, he says, “No, why?”
Black Lightning + Blue Devil = bromance.
“One” and “B”.
Oh, I am SO sure Zatanna is happy to be ‘on call’ for Superman anytime. Yeesh, Z; Wonder Woman is RIGHT THERE IN THE ROOM!
So, I guess Maggie said ‘yes’, huh?
“Did you hear that, Aquaman?”  Aquaman is Superman’s closest equal in the League, since he’s basically the Golden Age Superman with added aqua-powers.
“While I’m in there, you want me to fix anything?”  BWAHAHAHA, I love you, J’onn J’onnz, particularly now that you’re being written exactly as creepy and crazy as I’ve always pictured you.
Dang.  Johns is going to make me LIKE Catwoman, isn’t he?  Well done.
Is it just me or it is intentionally hilarious that “It’s so nice to be around professionals for once” is said by someone wearing fishnet to someone wearing fishnet?
But the sad part is: you just know that face is going to fall off at some point.
Hawkman + Vibe = comedy gold.
“What kind of dogs were they?” See, now THAT is Barry Allen.
Hot, hot Vixen-on-Platinum action is definitely a fetish for someone.  Possibly everyone.
“Have a nice day” + skull/n/bones = I love villains who ACT like villains!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Look! Up in the sky!

I have long puzzled over how to represent a 3D fighting space on a 2d Heroclix map. The answer is simple: you can't.

Perhaps that's why I enjoy the challenge.  I can't feel bad if I fail (because it's clearly impossible), and any small success I have in capturing the flavor of 3D action feels ENORMOUS.

Besides, there are some comic books scenes that just demand it.  Villains attack from space.  Or a battle is raging too close to occupied areas and a hero tries to take it up, up, and away from vulnerable civilians and property.  Or someone tries to escape a flying pursuer by darting in and among the maze-like city environment.

Also the perfectly foursquare 'from above' view on all standard Heroclix maps can get boring, since that is not at all how we see the world, even if we are flying above it.

So, here's my latest attempt, titled, "Look, Up in the Sky!"

It works by dividing the map into three sections that function as different "levels" in the 3D arena (those are separate by the fuzzy white boundary lines).  You can move from one to the other but adjacency/line-of-fire (and other game effects, such as Poison, Perplex, Pulse Wave, etc.) do not cross the boundary between sections.  If someone is in another section of the board, you gotta go get 'em, if you want 'em.

The lowest section is full of blocking and hindering terrain (as you would expect).  But no elevated terrain; that would just confuse things.

The middle section has a bit of blocking terrain, representing the tops of skyscrapers.  The sun (well, the sunLIGHT, really, but you get the idea) and some clouds provide hindering terrain.  The second level is restricted to flyers, so the hindering terrain really only hinders their line of fire, not their movement.

The upper section (naturally, also restricted to flyers) is the empty space above the city, where hiding is just not an option.  Oh, since some characters can actually lose the power of flight at certain points on their dial, there is a rule on how to let the figure "fall" back down to the lowest section with a loud "OW!" (represented by three clicks of damage).  

There's a lot of characters that would feel good on this map. The Superman family and foes, of course.  The Lanterns.  The Hawkfolk.  Certain versions of Wonder Woman (particularly with the Invisible Plane). The "Brave & Bold" style Batman with his Batplane.  The Martian Manhunter (particularly if you throw in some sort of 'flaming meteorite' heavy object he's got to stop without getting too close to).

Aquaman and Flash, however, are going to feel a little left out.  But perhaps I can find a way to make it up to them in the future...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Manapul Plaza

Oh, it's been too long since I posted a new Heroclix map!

Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern have done very well in Heroclix.  Each has had own set, mini set, or some such.  As a result, there are many versions of them to play, plenty of allies to put on teams with them, and enough of their villains to give them a fair challenge.  

But Flash? Poor Flash.

Sure, there are plenty of versions of Flash (both Barry and that kid who used to be his sidekick who no longer exists and whose name escapes me).  But his foes?  Frankly... they suck.

By that, I mean, their Heroclix figures suck.  The Rogues themselves---well, I've never been their biggest fan.  Still, whatever their failings, they are one of the most famous Rogues Galleries in comic books.  And the Flash (both in comic books and Heroclix) deserves foes who can give him a run for his money.

Take the Weather Wizard.  He was the first of the Central City Rogues to be 'clixed', and was in the very first set of DC Heroclix some eleven years ago.  But as a result, his dials are so underpowered as to make him completely unusable.  Heck, at one point on one of his dials his Attack Value is 5 and his Defense Value is 11, which is about what you would expect from, say, a clix of Aunt May in the hospital on a respirator (and even then she'd probably have Willpower).  And yet, unlike many, many characters, the Weather Wizard has never been remade.

In such cases, Flash fans like me have had to resort to re-dialing the figure using a more modern, appropriate dial from some other figure.  For the Weather Wizard, I made the obvious choice: I gave him a "Storm" dial from Marvel Heroclix.  Here's the custom character card I made to go with it:

Mirror Master's not as bad as Weather Wizard, but he's still bad enough to warrant a re-dialing.  I actually made two different versions of Mirror Master, one based on the Dr Manhattan/Silk Specter duo from the Watchmen set and another on the Mysterio (whose illusory/fake copies of himself are very similar to Mirror Master mirror duplicates).

Sadly, some original Rogues, like the Trickster and the Pied Piper, don't even have their own clix figures at all!  It's criminal, and I'm hoping that Wizkids, the makers of Heroclix, will find some slots in upcoming sets to correct such injustices.  

When they do, I've taken the liberty to create some Flash-oriented maps to play them on.  I have posted here before my Flash Museum map and my Central City Police Forensics Lab.  But I've missing the most characteristic venue for Flash battles: a large empty plaza of the kind that seems to be the principle constituent element of Central City urban design.  In fact, I've long suspected that LeCorbusier was actually a Central City escapee, come to our world through of the myriad extradimensional portals that pop up in Flash stories all the time.  Because no person from a normal world could possibly have his viewpoint on urban design.

Now to make an accurate Central City -style plaza,  you'd have to double the size of normal Heroclix map and put on it, well, nothing at all, because Central Plazas are always utterly featureless except for vast expanses of unpeopled sidewalk.

That, however, would make for a boring Heroclix game.  So I created a plaza map (below) with a few features like pools and a statue (of the Flash, of course), and some street commerce.  I call it "Manapul Plaza":

The yellow and red is in case you forget who the map is for, by the time Wizkids makes some decent Rogue clix for Flash to fight.

Friday, March 08, 2013

JLI: Doomed from the start


In case you didn’t notice it, there was a JLI (Justice League International) in the New52, but it didn’t survive (as a team, as a team, and in some cases, as constituent individuals).  In the words of faithful JLI fan and Absorbascommando CobraMisfit:
“Basically, OMAC was overridden by Brother Eye and kicked everyone's butt. They introduced three new characters to join the team who were immediately placed in the hospital thanks to OMAC. Booster and Godiva shared a kiss, then Booster got owned, failed to stop OMAC, and then had him and his future self vanish from existence because of the WW/Supes kiss.  Everyone else was either in the hospital or kicked to other third-tier teams.  It was one gigantic failure.”
It is sad, but the JLI had a target upon from the very start of the NewDCU.  The original Justice League International did have a fun and popular run… but it was predicated on the absence of “the real Justice League.”  Just as the return of the iconic Justice League meant the end of the JLI in the pre-boot DCU, so too the juggernaut of the newly forming Justice League in the 52U rendering the JLI essentially stillborn.
Some people think of the JLI as a parallel to the ‘Justice League Unlimited’ animated series, and think, “If that worked, why won’t the JLI?”  But they miss the mark.  The JLI isn’t the comic book counterpart to the JLUnltd; the Real Justice League is.  The Real League started with DC’s most iconic, longstanding heroes (um… and Cyborg) and is now expanding to include ‘auxiliary members’ (as seen in the recent Atlantis War storyline).  What the JLI is actually most parallel with is the Global Guardians.
A few of you may not even know who the Global Guardians are. Well, once upon time (a rather long time, in fact) there was a cartoon version of the Justice League BEFORE Justice League Animated. It was called ‘the Super-Friends’ and was geared toward a younger audience.  There was also for a few years an associated comic book of this Super-Friends series.  It was in that series that the Global Guardians were introduced.
The Global Guardians were a confederation of heroes from around the globe; each member was representative of a particular country or culture. 
1.Doctor Mist (Nommo of Kor, Africa) - Leader and Visionary
2.The Little Mermaid (Ulla Paske of Denmark)
3.Jack O'Lantern (Daniel Cormac of Ireland)
4.Owlwoman (Wenonah Littlebird of Oklahoma, United States)
5.Rising Sun (Izumi Yasunari of Japan)
6.Tasmanian Devil (Hugh Dawkins of Australia)
7.Seraph (Chaim Lavon of Israel)
8.Tuatara (Jeremy Wakefield of New Zealand)
9.Thunderlord (Liang Xih-k'ai of Taiwan)
10.Olympian (Aristides Demetrios of Greece)
11.Godiva (Dorcas Leigh of England)
12.Impala (M'Bulaze of South Africa)
13.Wild Huntsman (Albrecht Von Mannheim of Germany)
14.Bushmaster (Bernal Rojas of Venezuela)
15.Fire, formerly Green Fury and Green Flame (Beatriz da Costa of Brazil)
16.Icemaiden (Sigrid Nansen of Norway)
Recognize any of those names from JLI?  I’m sure you do.
After the Super-Friends comic was discontinued in 1981, the Global Guardians – a natural gimmick –were introduced in the regular DCU in 1982.  The Global Guardians are not best viewed as ‘an international version of the Justice League,” though.  They have many more members and their powers are keyed to their countries of origin.  In point of fact, they weren’t ‘the international Justice League”; they were “the present-day Legion of Super-Heroes”.  Chew on that one for a while.
If the “JLI” had not been named that, and if had been constituted more like the Global Guardians, rather than a “UN-controlled JL-lite”, it might still be with us. 

Monday, March 04, 2013


My Killer Moth 3-D printing custom Heroclix figure (I got two of them), along with my custom Mothmoble 'clix.

That is all.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Fisch on Friday: Show-off

Sholly Fisch, as I've mentioned, is one of my very favorite writers.
The panel below is one of  the many reasons why.

It's his version of the classic JLA story (Justice League of America #10 (March 1962) where the Leaguers tried to prevent three very powerful magical artifacts from falling into the wrong hands.

In this scene, Flash and Wonder Woman have gone to retrieve one of the artifacts, the Bell of Uthool, from a Himalayan mountaintop.  Flash naturally assumes he'll get their first because he's the fastest man alive. 

He doesn't.

Thanks to Sholly Fisch, there's more personality in that one panel than some entire issues that other writers have penned for Flash or Wonder Woman.