Saturday, February 21, 2015

Beware of ice-holes

If you're anywhere on the East Coast then you've been experiencing a disturbingly cold week, with nasty precipitation to boot.  This means you are housebound and probably wondering, "Gosh, isn't there an appropriate Heroclix map I could use under these circumstances?"

Well, now there is: 


Golden Gilder fans, you are welcome.

Just like the 'Archipelago' map I posted last weekend, this map uses a hex grid rather than a square one, because it's more fitting with a natural, outdoor environment.  In this case that environment is a snowy ice fishing lake.

While you're reaching for your Heroclix figures of Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold, Killer Frost, the Icicle, et al., note the special features and terrain.  Around the lake itself is a wooded path for playing hide-and-seek with your foes.  The ice terrain itself has a special characteristic: any figure that receives 'knock-back' for any reason is knocked back and extra two squares (because slides farther on the ice, of course).  

On the lake are two ice houses (those are huts that people ice fish from, in case you don't know), which are blocking terrain.  There are also three spots with exposed ice holes, a special type of water terrain which are a unique danger.

Any figure that ends its opponent's turn on one receives an action token as if it were the subject of a successful incapacitation attack.  Basically, you fell in the hole and got all frozed. Naturally, you're not likely to move a figure to do this intentionally; more likely your opponent will try to do something on his turn to move your piece over an ice hole (like cause knock-back or use his fancy telekinesis powers to dunk you).  Brr!  That's when you call him an ice-hole.  For obvious reasons, flyers are immune to this effect.

Aquatic figures are also immune (they don't mind getting wet and cold). But they also get a special bonus!  If they start their turn on an ice hole they can 'teleport' to another unoccupied ice hole (which represents swimming under the ice). Tricky!  How big an advantage will this be? It depends on which figures are in play, doesn't it?  

Friday, February 20, 2015


Let's talk about ....

Superman's new power.

For those who don't know, in the recent "Ulysses" storyline, Geoff Johns had Superman accidentally discover a new power: SUPER-FLARE!

Although Jeremy Rizza would prefer: super-FLAIR.

"Puhlease!  Once I'm done with this place it'll be SUPERfabulous!
That bitch Bivolo will be green with envy!"

It's like an omni-directional unfocused version of heat vision that basically incinerates everything within an 1/8 of a mile.  In Heroclix terms, if Heat Vision is Ranged Combat Expert, then Super-Flare is Pulse Wave.

First off; sure, it's a little crazy.  But for that matter, so is most of what Superman does.  Heat vision?  Wait, light comes OUT of your eyes instead of.. INTO them? How does that even work?  Freeze breath? Wait, you inhale and then, um, draw the kinetic energy OUT OF it, to make it really cold?  What?  Telescopic vision, and micro--well, you get the idea.  Suffice it to say, "Superman can do the Captain Atom blow up thing, without blowing himself up" is probably more consistent with the rest of his powers than superventriloquism.  Sure, why not?

Actually that's more like 'super-weighing'. 

Second: do not let Batman name your powers.  He's not good at it.  Anyone else who saw Superman blow out all the solar energy stored in him in one all-engulfing shock wave would call it what it is: a super-nova.  We've got a word that describes that exact phenomenon that already has the word super in it.  Perhaps Batman thought "super-nova" wasn't a stupid enough name for it and picked something goofier on purpose.  Because making sure that Superman seems cool--let's just say it's probably not one of Batman's highest priorities.

Third; it's only for extreme circumstances because he can't control it. That's good. Because being at the center of a big explosion is one of the ONLY things Shazam has on Superman, and now he's lost that edge.  He's not going to be using it in the middle of Metropolis because that would result in untold loss of life and property damage, which Superman would never do. Except in a major motion picture.

"I am NOT soiling my S on these shoddy hovels!"

Fourth: it robs him of super-powers for 24 hours.  This is so patently absurd that... okay, I love that, actually.  It's completely ridiculous and totally Silver Age science.  Because in the Silver Age, the unit of time for ALL silver-science phenomena is 24 hours.  Aquaman can survive without water... until  exactly 24 hours have passed.  Green Lantern's ring can do anything at all ... until exactly 24 hours have passed, when it shuts down completely.  The effects of Red Kryptonite, though unpredictable, often expire after 24 hours.  Besides, it is such an unabashed set-up plot device!  Superman needs to protect his secret ID for the office physical? Superflare those pesky powers away! Oh but then.... there's an emergency! WHAT WILL HE DO?!

Well, what he's NOT going to is clean under the fridge, that's for sure.

Fifth; yeah, you may not care, but this means Superman needs a new Heroclix dial! One that has an extra power Pulse Wave at his end dial, that double-action pushes him onto a powerless click that has Regen.  Oh, yeah, that'll happen, no question.  And it will be kind of awesome.  

Now THOSE are super-flares.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Driq, is that you....?

I was GOING to write about Superman's new power today.  But everything has to stop when you see this in the news:

Somewhere, Black Hand is laughing his ass off.

During the last few weeks of his life, 50-year-old Puerto Rico resident Renato Garcia took a shine to wearing the costume of DC Comics character Green Lantern after finding it in a bag of donated clothes. Unfortunately, Garcia passed away on Monday because of what Huffington Post reported were “respiratory issues.” Given Garcia’s attachment to the costume, his family was inspired to dress him up as the superhero for his wake held in his sister’s San Juan apartment. Although Garcia didn’t leave any instructions for his funeral arrangements, his family is pretty confident that he wouldn’t mind being last seen in the costume to which he had grown so attached.
Although he presumably didn’t fight crime, Garcia was considered something of a superhero to his loved ones.
“He was always very helpful,” his sister, Milagros Garcia, told Puerto Rican newspaper, Primera Hora. “You beckoned and he was always there.”
According to New York Daily News, posing the deceased upright and in a manner that is representative of their interests is a tradition gaining popularity in Puerto Rico. In 2014, professional boxer Christopher Rivera was propped up in the corner of a boxing ring and dressed in his fighting gear after his murder. The practice isn’t entirely unheard of in the continental U.S. either. Just last year, New Orleans socialite Mickey Easterling specifically instructed her family to make sure she looked just as fabulous in death as in life by displaying her with a cigarette holder, champagne flute, and a brooch emblazoned with the word “bitch.”

No comment from me is necessary here.  But one question:
what superhero costume would YOU like your corpse to be dressed in and propped up in public?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Simple; clean; shallow.

My latest Heroclix map; treads some new ground.

Or, rather...the lack thereof.

It's called


Sometimes simple and clean is good.  At least that's what I used to tell people when they asked about my boyfriend.

Heroclix maps are actually square grids, but the rules are such that you can pretty much play the game on a hex grid map as well.  I've never made one that way before, but this subject matter seemed to call for it.  Square grids are fine for most man-made environments (such as rooms, buildings, and streets), but a natural environment is better captured by the organic feel of a hex grid.

I'm happy with how this one turned out, and if it plays well, I will look to make similar hex grid maps of natural environments (such as tundra, jungle, desert, or canyon).  Suggestions are welcome.

In addition to the grid, I've designed some special terrain.  The map is all water except for the yellow-bordered "island" terrain, which is treated as elevated terrain for purposes of line of fire.  That means it doesn't impede movement, but it does make it possible to 'hide" from characters on the water by 'climbing' to the center of the island (where in some spots there is also vegetative hindering terrain).  

In addition, the islands are surrounded by the white-washed hexes that represent 'shallow water' terrain.  Shallow water terrain may be treated as regular non-water terrain by non-aquatic characters.

That litotes may be a bit confusing, particularly if you're not a frequent player.  You see, usually when a character enters water terrain it has to stop; then its speed is halved for all subsequent movements within or from water terrain.  There are abilities that let you ignore this effect, such as being a flyer (they fly above the water) or an aquatic figure (they are built to move in the water).  But in this case, the "shallow" terrain itself allows you to ignore the effect.   

But, then why have it be water at all?  Because it's still water terrain, which is relevant to a lot of special powers possessed by aquatic figures like Aquaman and Mera.  Who, believe you me, will be spending some quality time on this map (probably rescuing Green Arrow, who has a propensity for getting stranded).

This map is (another) attempt to find a way to make it easier to play aquatic figures (which there are more cool examples of which each new Heroclix set)  with non-aquatic figures.  For a bird may love a fish, but where will they fight a heroclix battle together?  With this map, each type of figure has its own turf (or surf) and they share the 'middle ground of the shallow water.  

For conversational convenience, I named the islands, taking the names from, well... actual (but fairly obscure) islands, from a variety of cultures, places, and languages.  It sounds much better than "Cay del Lex" or "Otis Bay".  

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Harley Has No Clothes

This is "Harley Quin" Month.  Why I do not know.  Except for the possible reason that sexy-time cupie-doll, cutesy Quirky Girls get straight guys hot and sell books.

Well, someone needs to cry foul on this disturbing violent sexist crap, so I'll do it.  

Hey, kids! Comics!

Harley Quinn is a dangerous, murderous psycho.  There is nothing cute or funny or sexy about that.

Plus, the double standard on this is terrifying.  If DC started treating the Joker, Deathstroke, Lobo -- ANY male villain -- as a fun playful sexy symbol, the public would--

well, honestly, I can't imagine how the public would react.  Because the idea that DC would do such a thing is so ludicrous.

Okay, I get it; I remember the '90s, too, and I watched BTAS.  The FIRST time it was on.  And I read all the comics, too.  I don't dislike the character at all.  She's a great character.  And I get how amusing she could be in the context of the show and those books.  

But she's not in that context any more.  And you know what allowed that context?  In BTAS (and associated comics) Harley never killed anybody.  A crazy crook? Yes.  But she wasn't a psychokiller, and the principal manifestation of her madness was her infatuation with the Joker.

Once she becomes female sexy-time Joker (as she has in the comics)....
well, I don't think it's funny. Or sexy.  It's disturbing, like, "modern Japanese-culture" level disturbing.

Is no one else speaking out about this?

Are you? 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

He's a Lumberjack, but it's okay

So, it seems one of TV Supergirl's first foes is going to be *snicker*...Lumberjack.

I can only assume that "The Gang" and John Ostrander were unavailable.

Now, not that the Lumberjack can't be exciting.  He certainly is in this clip (even though a strong Virginian accent--"Ah inTEEND to!"-- doesn't really scream Brother from Another Planet); shivers my timbers, for sure!

Actually, he's being played by this guy, Rory McCann, who's some gigantic actor from Some Other Show I Don't Watch.
That is NOT a 'lumbersexual'.

If  you've never heard of the Lumberjack, well... you're perfectly normal.  He only appeared once, and not very memorably  They can't all be the Human Flame, you know.

He's probably just a 'getting up to speed' villain. I mean, it's not like you'd expect them right out of the box to start with some big, classic Supergirl villain like...




That IS a potential problem for the Supergirl showrunners, isn't it?  Not only does Supergirl have zero recognizable villains of her own, she pretty much has zero villains of her own at all.  Or even somebody else's villains whom she's been know to fight. In fact--hey, what they heck HAS Supergirl been doing all these years?

You can just "her foes" for yourself, but most of the ones with even a little substances are from elsewhere (such as the Superman or LSH or Batman or Aquaman or the JLA)

Of course this problem can also be viewed as an opportunity to create a mythos around Supergirl, one that will help solidify her in the comics.  Expect to see:

Repurposed secondary supporting characters (such as Jimmy Olsen and Cat Grant: I'd bet dollars to donuts Cat Grant is there).  Flash and Arrow do this a lot (e.g. Felicity Smoak, Cisco Ramone, and Caitlin Snow, all of whom are lesser-known comic characters NOT associated with Flash or Arrow).

Cast-off secondary villains. Just as Batman offloaded Ra's Al-Ghul to TVArrow and Starman bequeathed the Mist to TVFlash, so too some secondary villains from someone else's rogues gallery will be appear as hand-me-downs for Supergirl.  Most likely candidates are lesser Superman villains, since there's no Superman tv show to save them for and they won't rise to silver screen.  Female villains would be especially useful, so expect to see Livewire and Silver Banshee.  

Reimagined native villains. What few villains that are really Supergirl's are likely to be spruced up for teevee. Simon Tycho, for example, is a recent villain native to the Supergirl stories. I would expect him to appear in some form.  Perhaps Satan Girl?  Oh, and Bizarrogirl, because there is no way they will pass that up.

What do YOU imagine they will do for Supergirl foes?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fantastic Foreshadowing

I'm often mystified by what outrages the internet fanbase (and by what doesn't).  Seldom has that been true than by the underwhelming response to the recent trailer for the forthcoming Fantastic Four film.

Perhaps it just Marvel fans I don't understand.  Face it: the Fantastic Four is one of Marvel's more ludicrous IPs.  Its extremely Kirbyesque archtypes are as subtle as bricks, underscored by their embarrassing 'battle cries', their incessant squabbling, and the fact that their principal adversary is the most laughable exercise in self-parody ever created by comics (evil scientist/evil wizard/evil European tyrant/evil semi-cyborg/evil vengeful college roommate/evil drama queen Doctor Doom).

There are no amount of stories that can make me take THAT seriously.  And I'm afraid of acid-scarred attorneys and unstable clowns.
And jeez can they YAK. Doom's self-referential monologues, Reed's longwinded scifibabble, Ben's needless nonfunny earthy commentary, and Sue's endless inner monologues of suppressed self-doubt are the stuff of periphrastic legend. All they do is TALK, TALK, TALK.

You tell 'em, Doctor Doo-, er, I mean, Dr. Domino.

And the goofy powers.  Stretching? Being on fire?  Being a big rock guy?  Invisibilizing? In the DCU, they'd be in the Doom Patrol, at best.  Or the Legion (like, say, Elastic Lad, Sun Boy, Blok, and Invisible Kid).  The main thing they've got going for them is Sue's force fields (very cool) and Reed's genius. (which are basically Brainiac 5 as a married couple).

Marvel-fans like to talk them up, like the FF are so all-revered-n-stuff for having put Marvel and superteams on the map.  Yes, that's true; they did that.  But don't lie to me or yourselves, Marvel-fans; you don't really 'revere' them. You don't like them or their comics and you haven't for a long time.  You abandoned the FF for the X-Men about 1000 years ago, and never looked back.  

Until you see a movie trailer that tries to give them exactly the dignity that the didn't get in their previous film versions, Something that emphasizes the awesomeness of science and the unknown, like the original Fantastic Four was intended to do.  Something that gives them an iconic significance for the general public who've not spent the last 40 years taking Victor Von Doom seriously.  Something that dares to realize that 'superhero' isn't a genre, its a mode that encompasses other genres, such as a science fiction.

THEN suddenly you decide no longer to remain unseen as a "FF-Fan", are up in elongated arms about the trailer, flame on about it on the internet because it's clobbering time.

The truth is you don't care about the Fantastic Four.  What  you care about is the implication that, after several years of rejoicing that the general public was starting to embrace the goofiness of comics thanks to AvengersCaptain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. somebody finally decides, "yeah, no, we need to sober this crap up a bit before we take it to the general public".  You're mad because instead of praising geekdom as normal in the media, this trailer points at your cosplay out and says "not what we're going for, sorry."
Me? I'm finally interested in the Fantastic Four and I think a lot of other sci fi fans will be too.  We hope to see you at there at the cinema.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

James Olsen, Underwear Model

This,  apparently, is the actor (Mehcad Brooks) playing Jimmy Olsen in the forthcoming Supergirl series.

Suddenly, the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club makes a LOT more sense.

So, what's wrong with this picture?

Hint: it's not that this guy isn't a white guy with red hair and freckles.

Because, after all,  these guys (although white) don't really have the red hair and freckles thing going that (visually) is always what made Jimmy Olsen recognizable either!

Except maybe that first guy.  He was fairly Olsenesque.  Which is now a word.

I don't care whether Jimmy Olsen is black. Or has red hair or freckles.

I care that he seems like... Jimmy Olsen.

Jimmy Olsen was frankly, a geek. He was a stand-in for the comic book reader, a Superman fan but one who got to hang out with Superman. He had an unreasonably high opinion of his own abilities and his biggest power was lack of foresight.   Jimmy Olsen was a mess, but he was a mess that readers could identify with.  Was he a little goofier than you? Maybe.  Was he occasionally smarter at some crazy Silver Age last minute idea that save the day? Probably.

But Jimmy Olsen was not an underwear model who's two inches taller than Superman>

I'd really really like to identify with that.  But I can't.

ALL they had to do to make this work smoothly was NOT make him Jimmy Olsen. Make him Richard Malverne, who actually WAS Supergirl's love interest.  

Supergirl needs a man like this in her story (don't we all?!).  But she deserves her own, not one borrowed from her cousin's storyline for the sake of name recognition.  It's one thing to do that on the Flash with the likes of Cisco Ramone and Linda Park; it's quite another to do it with Jimmy Olsen, who's know to the entire viewing public.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Everything New is Old Again

The Marvel Universe is rebooting.  The Archieverse is rebooting.  The DCU is, well, 'converging', if not exactly 'rebooting'.  It's hard to tell what 'rebooting' would mean in the modern DCU any more..  Rebooting, in the DCU, is no longer an event, it's an on-going state of being.

Whether hard or soft, universal or partial, continual or sudden, premature or long long overdue--

the comics-based universes are all rebooting.

Comics aren't alone in that; many other fantastical properties, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, The Terminator, and, of course, Little Orphan Annie, are being rebooted whether YOU think they need it or not.  Leprechaun reboot?  Absurd! How could one hope to improve on the Leprechaun series!?

I mean, what are they smoking?!

I have certain friends and fans who are, frankly, fed up with reboots. On the one hand, I feel their pain.  When you've invested so much (time, energy, emotion) in a literary universe, it's sad to feel like it went to waste.  Characters you cared about, that meant something to you are suddenly reset at square one, or completely re-imagined, or in limbo, or flat-out nonexistent/impossible.  Particularly if  you were with them during a period where they had a lot of character development to which you were committed and liked. But, as I was moved to say to one of them:

"If you want character development, don't read comic books."

It's ironic, really, Given that some comics, and the characters born in them, have been going strong (more or less) for some seventy years now, there's no better venue for carrying out long-term character development. Very very very long-term.  In fact, longer than most humans get for character development.

But that can't happen and if it does it's generally terrible (q.v. "Gasoline Alley"). So instead, such characters live in an ephemerium, an eternally renewed present that adjusts its past accordingly.  Retcons-- and reboots when retcons are just not enough-- are built into the very genre.  For example, do you know the original reason the brilliant surgeon Dr. Ekhart wasn't available to repair Harvey Dent's face?  He had been captured by the Nazis.  That's not really an evergreen element in an origin story.

For some people, this sort of thing is a downside of comics (and things like comics).  They want to see Wally's kids grow up and Dick marry Kory. Or Barbara. Or Mary Sue.  But for me, in the final analysis, it's an upside of comics.  Whenever a character's story takes a turn you really don't think it should, one that just changes things too much, or goes too far, or is just, well dumb, you can wait it out, knowing that eventually time will erode it away.  It may be a large and imposing castle of a story... but it's still made of sand, all of which time will at some point push through the hourglass. becomes part of the myth.

Did you read Scott Snyder's "Death of the Family" storyline, about the Joker wanting to rid Batman of the encumbrance of the rest of the Bat-family?  One of its plot points was the Joker doing 'call-backs' to highlights of his career in fighting Batman.  Problem is, this was pretty much only the second Joker story since the New52 reboot.  Plus, how many times could the Joker have encountered Batman in the "five years previous"?  So a vague reference was made to poisoning the reservoir (something everyone just feels that the Joker has done, even though no one has read a story where's he actually done that and the closest thing is the time Cesar Romero turn Gotham's water supply into strawberry jam)

If there is an exception to Rule 41, it's Chief O'Hara covered in jam.

and another to killing Henry Claridge (the Joker's first victim, in his first story).

"If ya gotta go...go with a smile!"

But other classic Joker stories -- the Joker's utility belt, the Jokerfish, killing Jason Todd -- gone, really.  Only shooting Barbara Gordon remained, and that was only because that's part of HER story, not his.

These things stresses out those who do not truly embrace the mythic nature of DCU denizens.  They aren't 'characters'.  Characters have development; characters have continuity.  Batman; the Joker; heck, even Jim Gordon; they are now myths.  Your 'version' of them, the one you remember most fondly, the one imprinted on your brain during whatever your formative reading experiences were: THAT is a character, around whom specific stories were told.  But characters only become mythic when there is more than one version of them.  The Batman of  "Brave & Bold' animated, or the Stupid Bronze Age Batman, or the Adam West Batman, or Tim Burton's Batman-- they may not be YOUR Batman, but that doesn't make them as less "Batman".

Each of what you think of as a character is actually only an instantiation of the platonic form that is the myth.  Each of the stories you read with, say, 'Batman versus the Joker', is just a different way of presenting their conceptual conflict.  This is when things REALLY get interesting, when the characters become more that just literary people and become literary concepts.  Something like Star Trek, for example, was epic almost instantly; but didn't become truly 'mythic' until the Abrams reboot where Kirk/Spock/McCoy/et al.  were finally 'freed' from the actors who created the roles (regardless of how you feel about the reboot otherwise).

This is the aspect of comics (and similar pop culture lit) that I find most interesting and in which I find most value. And, in the long run, it's well worth stories that you love being excised from continuity.  Stop viewing continuity as some sort of Comics Code Seal of Approval, without which a story has no meaning.  Stop pretending that you can no longer enjoy a story if it's no longer "in continuity" or that you can no longer enjoy continuity if it doesn't contain a particular story.  Don't get so hung up on particular characters that you can't enjoy the myth that underlies them.

Go back and read how Milton Fine became Brainiac or how They Saved Luthor's Brain.

I just LOVE that story.  One of the ballsiest Superman stories ever.  And it was NOT a hoax, NOT an imaginary story!

Then get ready for a whole new set of stories that will be told after Convergence.  You are allowed to enjoy them all.  Don't be mad that 'continuity' (whatever THAT means) isn't large enough to contain all the stories you love.  Rejoice that there are SO many comic book stories and characters that you love that there is simply no continuity large enough to hold them.