Thursday, September 11, 2014

Heroes of a Golden Age DC 52 - pt. 3

Just a remainder of heroes remain unexamined in this last installment of a look back at the DC Comics character of 1943 and what could have been done with them to boost their success.

Shining Knight. Always seeming more like a fantasy strip poorly married to the superhero genre, the Shining Knight needs more grounding.  If you're going to keep the winged horse, then the Shining Knight needs a less gaudy outfit -- realistic armor instead of gold chain (the "shining" quality could be from his sword and/or shield) -- a day job (something in the government, like the Training within Industry service, teaching chivalry to common Joes), and a supporting cast of regular people. Even more than Captain America, Shining Knight could really play up the "fish out of water" angle, having to constantly find new ways to adjust his 6th century thinking to the 20th century.

Star-Spangled Kid.  Sylvester needs some of the retconning he would later get, like actual powers instead of just being an athletic kid.  I'd, first, specify that he's 14, so he's more of a young man than a kid. Then I'd have a weaker prototype of Starman's gravity rod wind up in Sylvester's hands, like Roy Thomas would later do with the character. Make his "sidekick" Stripsey a smarter inventor, like was done in the Stars and STRIPE series of the '90s, and have him build an exoskeleton that doubles his normal strength (just not as powerful as the armor the later series would give him).  Like the rest of the Soldiers of Victory, give them government jobs -- in their cases, honorary positions in the Office of Civilian Defense.

Starman. James Robinson showed Starman had, er, star power in the 1990s and much of that could be reapplied to the original Starman. Keep Robinson's innovations of a well-developed cityscape to base his adventures in, a rogues gallery that interacts with him differently than just wanting to fight all the time, the interesting hobby of collecting, and a strong supporting cast -- but without all of Robinson's dark cynicism. Since the original Starman would not have previous incarnations to interact with, play up the scientist angle and give him a group of scientists to hang out with. Maybe he's still a genius, but he didn't invent the gravity rod all on his lonesome. He could also use a love interest.

Three Aces.  From what I gather, this strip was not canceled for lack of quality, but because its creator unfortunately died while serving in WWII.  The story of the American Volunteer Group, pilots "unofficially" aiding China against Japan during the War, is a story modern audiences could use reminding of. "Whistler" Will Saunders, "Gunner" Bill, and "Fog" Fortune could use a dash of humor, some recurring villains, and maybe some of their supporting cast and villains could use magic to make up for the lack of superpowers in this strip. It could be an all-grownups version of Terry and the Pirates.

Vigilante.The modern day cowboy should always have been cool enough to carry his own title. I would only change his sidekick Stuff's name to something less offensive, like maybe Song. Make Song an equal partner (and specify that he's 20 years old). Then I'd soup up his rogues gallery, give Vigilante a love interest, and a job in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to help give him focus.

Whip.  This one required an awful lot of thought. Substituting a whip for a sword doesn't make this any less of a Zorro clone and taking just a few elements away from the character barely conceals that. I think this is one character that is better served by a complete do-over. Keep the name, location (LA), and the weapon of choice, but make him a soldier of fortune/weapons master who has killed and is looking to redeem himself by acts of good.

Wildcat.  One of those golden age heroes who seems more popular now than he ever was back in the day.  I think what Wildcat was missing back then was more time out of uniform. In the '90s he was shown to be a personable and chummy guy. He should have a larger supporting cast to pal around with when not in costume.

Zatara. Get the man out of the tuxedo. He can wear fine suits, but he needs to look less like a Mandrake clone. His magic needs to be less than all-powerful, too.  We need to see Zatara in danger. International intrigue would be nice. He has a recurring villainess, the Tigress, and that could be spiced up with more tension.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Heroes of a Golden Age DC 52 - pt. 2



Crimson Avenger. Keep the red trench coat, fedora, and mask look, but over a tight-fitting bodysuit. Keep the retcon idea of him using a gun that shoots a red smokescreen instead of the gas gun.  Upgrade the Kato-like Wing to Crimson’s partner, wearing a similar costume, but a shorter coat and no hat, and call him Redwing.  Make it a buddy story, like the Green Hornet movie, but taking itself about 20% more seriously. Although still based in New York City, as a member of the Soldiers of Victory he goes wherever the government asks him to.

Dr. Fate.  Reveal that the whole half-masked crimefighter version of Dr. Fate was made-up so he could take his relationship with Inza to the next level, by realizing that he’s been negligent in being the world’s supernatural protector and there’s lots of cosmic badness descending on Earth, attracted by all the evil of WWII.  To make up for lost time, Dr. Fate rejects his false identity of Kent Nelson and returns to being a magical construct the Elder Gods created 400 years ago, who is now ready to take those same gods down.  It’s going to be like Terminator 2, with Dr. Fate as the Terminator, Inza as Sarah Conner, and instead of a shape-shifting Terminator, the ‘Elder Gods’ of Dunsany and Lovecraft.

Dr. Mid-Nite.  Dr. Mid-Nite moves to Hawaii, where he fights Japanese agents. The pet owl stays at home. Play up the doctor angle (like was done with Dr. Mid-Nite II in the modern JSA), using medical knowledge to find weaknesses in his foes, or to save his injured foes after kicking their butts.  As an active JSA member, expect lots of guest-appearances.

Gay Ghost. Play up the relationship between the possessed Charles Collins and his fiancée. Charles feels violated and emasculated by being possessed by another man, while the spirit of Keith Everet is pure ego and neglectful of Charles’ feelings. They’re an odd couple who will have to learn to live together. Eventually, before Charles and Deborah Wallace can get married, she’ll have to learn about Charles’ secret and learn to deal with it.

Ghost Patrol.  Fred, Pedro, and Slim are the ghosts of three French Foreign Legionnaires, each possessing their original weapons – a rifle, handgun, and knife. Their book is an anthology war book, as the weapons fall into the hands of various soldiers fighting in the closing months of warfare in the European Theater of WWII and the ghosts guide the soldiers wielding their weapons to victory.

Green Arrow.  Downplay the similarities to Batman -- Green Arrow works out of an abandoned hangar, not an “Arrow Cave”, drives a motorcycle instead of an “Arrow Car” and uses an autogyro not called the “Arrow Plane” if he absolutely has to travel by air. Speedy is a 13-year old boy and make him a nephew instead of a ward.  Although still based in Star City, as a member of the Soldiers of Victory he goes wherever the government asks him to. If he was working for the Fair Employment Practices Committee, it might open his eyes to racial inequality that marked the social agenda of his Silver Age version.  

Hawkman.  Play up the reincarnation, remembering ancient Egypt aspect of his origin and ignore the talking to birds and hanging out with birds stuff. But Hawkman is situated in the Philippines (Carter Hall joined Interceptor Coast Command and Hawkgirl is a war nurse by day), allowing for lots of South Seas adventure, as well as fighting the Japanese. As a JSA member, expect crossovers.

Hop Harrigan. A vigilante in the air, Hop Harrigan is assumed dead, but is still around in the European Theater, shooting down enemy planes from an unmarked plane and becoming known as the Guardian Angel.

Johnny Thunder. Johnny is in the Navy, Pacific Theater. Commander Sewell and his superiors know about Johnny’s magic Thunderbolt (genie), so they put up with how Johnny’s a bit of a screw-up (though he does something smart about 1 time in 3).  Johnny gets transferred around a lot as they try to find a niche for him.  And sometimes he gets called away to do JSA business too.

King.  A spy working for the Office of Strategic Services and putting his mastery of disguise to good use. King will never allow his face to be seen, choosing to wear a mask when not in disguise. King is like a 1940s James Bond.

Manhunter.  Keep Kirby's version of Paul Kirk, a big game hunter returned to the states, turned P.I. + vigilante (depending on whether he's getting paid or not).  

Mr. America.  Tex Thompson was a soldier of fortune, but now he’s a soldier infiltrating Germany. He loses his flying carpet, but picks up a pistol that shoots exploding bullets (which he has to use judiciously, as it’s hard to come by exploding bullets). Bob Haney is still his sidekick, but calls himself Bob instead of Fatman.  Mr. America is still Zorro-like, otherwise, posing as a wealthy landholder by day, but attacking Germany instead of defending Mexico.

Mr. Terrific.  Keep the green jacket over the red bodysuit, but ditch the “Fair Play” badge on his chest and change it to each word being written on a pocket on either side of his jacket. Since combatting juvenile delinquency is one of his priorities, he picks up two kid sidekicks, both around 9.  He’s purely an urban crime fighter otherwise.

Newsboy Legion.  Other than letting Big Words figure out that Roy Harper is the Guardian (and protecting his secret from the others), this title could be left largely as-is. The four newsies should be established as being 10 years old.  Being a “legion”, they should probably pick up at least one new member – but NOT Flippa Dippa.

Penniless Palmer.  A vain, short man with big wavy brown hair, Palmer is a P.I., but a literally poor one.  He lives in the office he can barely keep open, doesn’t have a gun because he always has to sell it for food when he does have one, gets around on foot a lot because he can’t afford the bus let alone a car, and often takes dangerous cases but fails to get paid.

Red, White, and Blue.  Red Dugan of Army G2 Intelligence, Whitey Smith (Army), and “Blooey” Blue (Navy) are three experienced combat veterans already in their late 20s who have a series of war-themed adventures that are 2/3 serious and 1/3 comedy.

Sandman.  Keep him in the black and yellow tights, as per Kirby’s redesign.  Bring back Dian Belmont (only shortly presumed dead) and get those two engaged.  Sandy is his 12 year old kid sidekick (and Dian’s nephew).  Maybe bring back the gas gun more, but keep everything else Kirby-riffic.

Scribbly and the Red Tornado.  Scribbly is a 13-year old professional cartoonist now, following the adventures of the Red Tornado and the 12-year old Cyclone Kids.  Scribbly knows Red is really Ma Hunkel and the Kids are her children Huey and Amelia, but conceals their identities to write about a more dashing male superhero Red Tornado.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Heroes of a Golden Age DC 52: Part 1

Last time, I talked about what a Golden Age DC 52 would look like.  This time, I want to talk about what would keep such a comic book line successful. 
 
The goal would be to make every character as capable of permanently sustaining a comic book title as Batman or Superman, while also revamping them as little as possible.  First, some notes on the heroes who already had their own books.
 
All-Flash. Keep his iconic costume the same, but maybe adding yellow lightning bolt-themed gauntlets. The adventures would lose the comedy elements that dragged down the Flash in later years and refocus on Flash being a super-detective, like in the early days, while highlighting his strong rogues gallery from the later years. Allow for frequent guest-stars from the JSA, along with their rogues. Keep his girlfriend Joan involved in his stories as a strong partner character and get them engaged. The Flash’s speed would cap off at about 700 MPH, with him not breaking the sound barrier by becoming vibrationally out-of-phase when he hits that speed.
 
All-Star Comics.  The Justice Society of America needed only consistently stronger stories, and keep them focused on improving the world, socializing amongst each other, overseeing the superhuman community, and occasionally stopping supervillains.  I would restore its membership to Sandman, Dr. Fate, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Flash, Green Lantern, and Johnny Thunder. Maybe allow the Atom to rejoin later and break the 8-member rule. Make it clear that Wonder Woman is a full member and not the secretary.
 
Batman. Keep him as he was in the 1940s, except make him a more formidable combatant again so he doesn’t get knocked out and captured so often. Acknowledge that Robin is 11, not 8, and let him age 1 year per 2 years of real time passing, graduating to long pants when he hits 14.
 
Boy Commandos.  These kids were really popular during the War, so their continued popularity would seem to hinge on keeping them fighting one. After Europe is settled, they can be shipped off to China to fight the Japanese and then the Communists, giving it a Terry and the Pirates slant, or maybe even off to Russia to fight an early covert war against them. Instead of replacing commandos, I’d expand their numbers slowly, and allow them to slowly age into their teen years. I’d also like to give them a female cook as a supporting cast member, and someone for them to be constantly trying to hook her up with their father figure, Capt. Rip Carter.
 
Green Lantern. Swap the high collar for a cowl and have the long cape attach to the front of a military-style jacket instead of attached to a cord in front of his throat, over a loose blouse-like shirt. Give him green gloves. Play up the magic angle of his powers more and give him more magic foes. Sideline “Doiby” Dickles more and play up the romantic triangle of Green Lantern, Harlequin, and his long-time fiancé Irene. Like with the Flash, allow for guest appearances by the rest of the JSA and their rogues galleries.
 
Leading Comics. The Soldiers of Victory need more to distinguish them from the JSA. I would make them federal agents, answerable to the President (more like the All-Star Squadron), while the JSA is a gentleman’s club that sets itself above politics.
 
Mutt & Jeff.  This title would differentiate from the rest, having only 2 8-page stories of new material, while the rest would be comic strip reprints from the 1940s.
 
Picture Stories from the Bible.  Granted, there are only so many stories from the Bible to draw. Some “fleshing out” might be required with stories related by giving some historical context, or even non-canonical texts from the Judeo-Christian tradition.
 
Superman. I would scale back the power inflation on Superman, having him lift/press about 44 tons at the start of 1943 and have it increase gradually over time, capping his lift capacity at around twice that. He’d still be bulletproof, but not invulnerable. He could fly, but with limited maneuverability, and would run faster than he could fly (about 250 MPH and 125 MPH respectively). Lois needs to figure out his identity so she doesn’t look so dense. But otherwise, the Golden Age Superman was solid.
 
Wonder Woman.  Make it consistent that she does have some superhuman strength (say, lifting 9 tons). Severely tone down the bondage fetish stuff. Cut off the hi-tech level of Paradise Island to 1950s level tech (always about 10 years ahead of the comics).  
 
And then the heroes who would be upgraded from bit players to carrying their own titles. 
 
Air Wave. Remove the skating on power lines and focus on the helmet being able to detect, redirect, scramble, listen to, or broadcast into any electrical communications within a 2-mile radius.  The aquamarine bodysuit conceals a light bulletproof vest. Retain the yellow cape as a half-cape, along with a wide V-shaped chest emblem, to keep him looking like a superhero. His supporting cast can be girlfriend Helen (who adopts his parrot Static) and a D.A.’s assistant who’s a real straight arrow and hates vigilantes like Air Wave.  He’ll fight organized crime.
 
Aquaman. Keep him in the South Seas, fighting the Japanese Navy and pirates like Black Jack (who will have super-strength from a magic gem, maybe half as strong as Aquaman, so he still has to be crafty to win). Let him have some elements of the Silver Age Aquaman – some super-strength (maybe lift 6 tons), empathy with sea animals (they won’t attack him and he can sense what they’re feeling), and some connection with Atlantis (his mother was the baroness of a South Seas outpost, though he hasn’t seen an Atlantean in 7 years).  His supporting cast can be a friendly sea captain and a U.S. Navy sailor.
 
Atom. Shorten the cape to a half-cape, give him blue tights so he’s not bare-legged and to match the hood and cape. Give him yellow gloves. Keep him a short scrapper, but he really needs a superpower. A recent college grad, he minored in chemistry and was working with some professors on a shrinking formula. It works, though only so far on the Atom, who can shrink to 3’ tall and, with his enhanced density, lift about 1 ton. He needs a purpose too, so he’s joined the U.S. Army and is in the tank division. His adventures are in Europe, where he’s still stationed even as the War winds down, and rights wrongs on the side as the Atom. His supporting cast can be his fellow officers, who learn he is the Atom and receive mysterious orders to allow the Atom to do whatever he wants in costume.
 
Bart Regan, Spy. Bart wouldn’t need much but to be taken up a notch. He could be a jet-setting, globe-trotting American James Bond before there was James Bond. He would still be in the Secret Service, since this is pre-CIA years, and have two agents under him he could both boss around but also pal around with. He would also be distinguished from James Bond by having a very close relationship with his fiancé, Sally Norris, who is also Secret Service.
 
Black Pirate. In 1558, privateer Jon Valor is to be hanged for having backed Mary, Queen of Scots. Jon escapes, takes up a new identity to hide as, and then another identity -- that of the Black Pirate -- to seek revenge against those who betrayed him. It would be Count of Monte Cristo mixed with Zorro on the high seas, with Queen Victoria as the big Bad Guy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Golden Age DC 52?



Could DC have supported 52 titles in the Golden Age? I took a look at 1943. Why 1943? Because DC’s period of innovation was largely over by 1943 (not a lot of new characters after that), plus Kirby was there in 1943.

In 1943, DC titles per month fluctuated wildly between 8-18 titles. Those titles, 20 in all, were:

Action Comics
Adventure Comics
All-American Comics
All-Flash
All-Star Comics
Batman
Boy Commandos
Comic Cavalcade
Detective Comics
Flash Comics
Green Lantern
Leading Comics
More Fun Comics
Mutt & Jeff
Picture Stories from the Bible
Sensation Comics
Star Spangled Comics
Superman
Wonder Woman
World’s Finest

So who else would need to get their own titles? If you took 3 more characters from each of the anthology titles and gave them their own titles, you’d get 50. To choose who, I went by cover appearances, then whoever most often had the first story in the book (who didn’t already have their own title).

Air Wave
Aquaman
Atom
Bart Regan, Spy
Black Pirate
Crimson Avenger
Doctor Fate
Doctor Mid-Nite
Gay Ghost
Ghost Patrol
Green Arrow
Hawkman
Hop Harrigan
Johnny Thunder
King
Mr. America
Mr. Terrific
Newsboy Legion
Penniless Palmer
Red, White, and Blue
Sandman
Scribbly
Shining Knight
Star-Spangled Kid
Starman
Three Aces
Vigilante
Whip
Wildcat
Zatara

So we would need two more. Who gets to make the cut? Out of who’s left from their stable of characters, I’d give it Manhunter and Slam Bradley as most worthy.

What would these stories look like? Solo titles were usually 4 stories of 13 pages each. Let’s make them a bit closer to modern length and make them 3 stories of 17 pages each. The anthologies would be 6 stories, averaging 9 pages per story. Let’s make that 3 stories of 15 pages each, with a fourth story that would be only 9 pages long. Back then, most story arcs would be complete in 13 pages. Nowadays, story arcs usually play out over 6 issues to fit trade paperbacks. Let’s compromise on this too and say story arcs could stretch across no more than 5 stories per 2 issues.

Lastly, what would the anthology titles look like? The most popular characters should continue to get extra exposure, while ensuring that the characters without their own titles are not forgotten.

Action Comics – Superman, Vigilante, Mr. America (3 Aces gets the short story)
Adventure Comics – Sandman, Hourman, Genius Jones (Mike Gibbs gets the short story)
All-American Comics – Green Lantern, Atom, Sargon (Hop Harrigan gets the short story)
Comic Cavalcade – Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman (Red, White, and Blue gets the short story)
Detective Comics – Batman, Boy Commandos, Crimson Avenger (Bart Regan, Spy gets the short story)
Flash Comics – Flash, Hawkman, Johnny Thunder (Ghost Patrol – Haunted Tank gets the short story)
More Fun Comics – Green Arrow, Johnny Quick, Spectre (Radio Squad gets the short story)
Sensation Comics – Wonder Woman, Gay Ghost, Little Boy Blue (Black Pirate gets the short story)
Star Spangled Comics – Tarantula, Liberty Belle, Robotman (Penniless Palmer gets the short story)
World’s Finest Comics – Superman, Batman, Drafty (Martin of the Marines gets the short story)

ADDENDA:

What would their stories be like? Nothing racy or violent that you'd feel uncomfortable showing to a 12-year old, but written with a high school vocabulary in mind. No cussing worse than the H- or A- words. No more than one death per story, and death has to really mean something -- no bringing characters back from the dead or people dying without being mourned, and murder has to be seen as a horrible, reprehensible act by all heroes.  Most heroes need more supporting cast, but not too many that stories are slowed down peeking in on them all; maybe 2-5 per hero.

What would be done to revamp these characters to give them more lasting popularity? That should be the subject of its own post...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Top 10 ....and 10 Worst Comic Books from Free Comic Book Day 2014

It took me a long time to get through my stack of new comic books this year! The reason was that I had some extra money for a change this year so Megan and I went through the bargain bins at Keith's Komix and bought a whole bunch more. So not everything on this list were Free Comic Book Day comics, but they were bought on Free Comic Book Day, so I'm including them!

With that explanation out of the way, the top 10 were...

10. Magicka #0. This new company called Red Giant Entertainment put out a lot of free comics this year to plug their new product line. Some of them were 'eh', some of them came close to making it onto the top 10 list, but this one is the one that made it. Magicka is a cute, fun, family-friendly fantasy. There's one very funny page about apple ogres. But what really got it onto the top 10 list was the pretty, painting-like artwork. If Magicka can maintain this level of quality, I'll have to look for it again. (Magicka was also a flip book with another new book called The First Daughter, but I wasn't as impressed with that.)

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventurers. It seems like Archie just tried this reboot only a few years ago, but now IDW is giving it a try. The story is funny, clever, and memorable. The art is good and dynamic, though not what I'd consider exceptional.

8. Hourman #19. I don't have a lot of issues of DC's attempt to reinvent Hourman for the 1990s as a time-controlling android. Normally what I like best about him is his crossover potential with the JSA, but they barely appear here (despite being prominently on the cover). What I do like a lot is how the mystery villain cleverly manipulates all of Hourman's surprisingly large supporting cast into turning on him. I did not like what happened to Snapper Carr at the end, but Hourman can control time, so I'm sure it got undone eventually.
 
7. Marvel Adventures: Giant-Size Avengers #1. I liked -- not loved, but liked, Marvel's canceled continuity-lite, family-friendly Marvel Adventures imprint. I love the Avengers (normally; it bothers me that the Marvel Adventures version has X-Men mixed in on the team). I like the Agents of Atlas, who clash with the Avengers in this story. I like Kang, who arranges the clash. I like how all the characters are handled, though Kang is defeated much too quickly (to wrap up the story in one issue). Plus Leonard Kirk artwork. Plus a bonus reprint of the first appearance of Namora!  I would have rated this higher had the first appearance of Namora not been such a letdown.

6. Howard Chaykin's Amerikan Flagg! #12. I've never owned an Amerikan Flagg issue before. I probably wouldn't have liked most of them. From what I know of Chaykin, he's too dark and cynical for my tastes, but this isn't Chaykin's original Flagg series, but a limited series revival from First Comics back in '89. John Moore writes a fun comic romp that wraps up ....whatever had been going on and apparently gives Flagg a happy ending with his girlfriend. I do like happy endings!

5.   Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity. Don Rosa doing the ducks, plus Magica De Spell?  All that's missing is the Duck Tales theme song!  Huge fun!  For free?  Thank you, Fantagraphics!

4. [Untitled Image Comics 20th Anniversary Sampler]. How did this sampler with 4-page outtakes rank so high? It isn't for the cliche "Guarding the Globe", or 'Invincible with More Superheroes'.  It isn't for the boring "Crime and Terror".  It isn't for "Revival", which is both too gruesome and too derivative of similar TV shows. It isn't for "It-Girl and the Atomics", though that was pretty decent (and reminded me of one of my favorite webcomics, Superhero Girl). It isn't for "Near Death", a well-written crime procedural told from the point of view of a ...bounty hunter? The outtake is too brief to be clear on that. It was well-executed, but not exciting. No, what excited me was to see that Chris Giarrrusso's G-Man -- a world where Peanuts-like characters are superheroes -- is not only still around but on its third volume already! I thought I'd seen the last of it after volume one and now I have so much catching up to do!

3. [Untitled Dark Horse Comics Sampler]. A 10-page complete story about Avatar: the Last Airbender? Yes, please!  In it, Sokka and Suki visit a collectable shell shop, but it's not really about shells or Sokaa and Suki -- it's about comic book collecting and how the hobby shuts girls out. Plus you get a two-page treat of Art Baltazar's He--Boy, moving his Tiny Titans shtick successfully over to Dark Horse's properties. There's also an outtake from something called "Juice Squeezers", but I was bored by this particular attempt to combine coming-of-age story with superpowers.

2. Superman: Last Son of Krypton #1. I had given up on regular DC Comics continuity some time ago, so I am surprised to learn that DC was actually cranking out good stuff as recently as this 2013 limited series. Geoff Johns and Richard Donner (yes, that Richard Donner) write the story of what would happen if Superman was given the chance to raise a baby from Krypton. Adam Kubert, doing his first art assignment for DC I've ever seen, makes it all look really good (even though I don't like how Adam draws chins).  I wish I had the rest of the series now!

1. Steam Wars #1.
SO glad I picked up this free comic from Antarctic Press. I've never been an AP fan, so it was extra impressive to see how good this steampunk reimagining of Star Wars is. It's smart, it's funny, it's simultaneously derivative yet creatively original. In some ways it improves on the original! (In this version, Luke is immediately likeable instead of whiny.) It zips through about half the plot of Star Wars: a New Hope in 26 pages. At such a breakneck pace, it must have lots of new directions planned after it covers the movies, and I hope to see them.

Ah, the best of the best!  But now to take the opposite direction...the worst of the worst...

10. Dungeons & Dragons: Infestations #1. IDW got the license for D&D around 2012 and chose to write about Eberron, one of D&D's more gonzo campaign settings.  Trying to avoid fantasy stereotypes as if they were bad things, we're treated to a Sherlock Holmes-like elf and his dwarf John Watson with tattoos and piercings.  Grr...even this Eberron setting looks more like 19th century steampunk than D&D. Very disappointing.

9. Dungeons & Dragons: Cutter #3. This time, IDW got famous D&D novelist R.A. Salvatore to write them a drow story. That's going to work out great, right? Not when your writer is still accustomed to novel pacing. Here we're treated to 22 pages of one long scene in a seemingly slight story about a girl who runs away with her father's murderously evil intelligent sword. That's why you're supposed to keep them under lock and key, Dad!

8. Checkmate! #4. This is the original Checkmate! series from DC, back in '88. It's a spy thriller where the boss looks like Alfred Hitchkock and the spies dress like superheroes and shoot harmless batons at people instead of bullets. It might have worked if the lead character here was interesting, but he's just one of many Knights in the organization and doesn't stand out. There's a more interesting back-up feature -- more interesting in that it was drawn by Don Heck, showing he still had his art chops into the late '80s -- but the whole book was frustratingly disappointing.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy (free comic book day one-shot). Can you stand the thought of Venom as a hero? Can you believe Flash Thompson as Venom?  Can you believe that the Guardians of the Galaxy is based in modern times and not the 30th century? Can you stand the costume redesigns on Drax the Destroyer and Star Lord?  Can you stand Gamora at all?  ("Most dangerous woman in the galaxy"? Nope, sorry -- that's Mantis, not this joker's daughter.) Face it, the only reason you would read this at all is for Rocket Raccoon. Why not just give him a new solo series?  *Sigh*...

6. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (free comic book day one-shot). Thank you, Papercutz, for giving us a continuation of the original TV series that includes all the stupidity and clownishness of the original. For once, a reinvention might have been welcome.

5. Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #10. Oh...this is why this series got canceled back in '99!  After Mark Waid left, it was turned over to hack writers and artists who didn't take it seriously. Everyone looks like a clownish ape. Cap's greatest secret fear is a fear of snails?? Yeah, I didn't think so.

4. Love and Rockets #1.  After hearing so much about the Hernandez Brothers and Love and Rockets over the years, it was a shame that this issue was both boring and impenetrable at the same time. Jaime's Hernandez's art is pretty, but his story is the boring one. I don't understand his shrieking woman and am turned off by all the obscenities. Gilbert Hernandez's story is the impenetrable one. There's a lot of screaming in this one too. And a boy grows up and...wrestles a pig. I think. There are two more back-up features, neither of which grabbed me.

3. All You Need Is Kill/Terraformers (flipbook). So this is what passes for manga these days? In the first story, the aliens are bulletproof, but if you hit them just right with an axe, you can kill them, even if you're just a skinny girl on a farm who's probably never killed anything more dangerous than a chicken before.  Right....The other half is about man's first encounter with aliens on Mars. How disappointing, that man's first encounter with aliens will be when they just casually stroll past and then start killing people.

2. Futures End #0. Ah, DC -- now this is why I abandoned you! A dark future where superheroes are being brutally and gruesomely transformed against their will into cyborgs to serve Jack Kirby's Brother Eye concept from OMAC?  Pass.  Oh, and this will bring the Batman Beyond character from the TV series into the mainstream DC universe? Double pass.

1. Banshee: Origins. So, apparently there was once a Sopranos-like TV show called Banshee, which is really disappointing because for a moment I thought IDW had somehow secured a license for Marvel's mutant superhero! Two crooks fall in love, they want out, but they can't get out, blah blah blah. Because everyone's a bad guy, why should I care? Is the bald crossdresser supposed to distract me from the endless cliches? Naw. It's simply the most disappointing comic book I've read all year. Congrats, IDW!




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Three Magic Items

These items, written for D&D, were wasted on a Tenkar's Tavern contest.

Enlar's Disenchanting Hammer: Once there was a king who bestowed magic weapons to his most favored knights.  The most special weapons were enchanted by the Wizard-Smith Enlar, favored retainer of the king.  Enlar was proud of all his handiwork and had etched into each his personal symbol of entwined antlers.  But the day came when Enlar left the confines of his laboratory-smithy and traveled abroad, and during these travels he discovered that the king he served was not a good
king and that his knights used his weapons to commit acts of evil across the land.  Devastated, Enlar fled back to his smithy to craft one last magic item.  The hammer with which he had long used to make weapons became his last weapon, one which a champion could use to undo what he had wrought before.

Enlar's Disenchanting Hammer appears to be a black, cold iron smithing hammer with entwined antlers etched into both sides.  The 18-inch handle is an iron rod, wrapped in silver filigree on the upper half and one strip of gargoyle hide around the lower half.

The weapon is a Hammer +1, at first.  Every time the wielder hits with a natural 20 in combat, the Hammer disenchants one random magic item on the target completely of all magic, and bestows an additional +1 to hit and damage with the Hammer.  Each cumulative enchantment is temporary, lasting only 1 hour, and cannot exceed +5 at any given time.

The Disenchanting Hammer is powered by conflict and cannot disenchant by any other means, such as being touched to magic items before combat to "charge it up".

Cero's Shield of Instant Summons: Cero's Shield is a round bronze disc 30 inches in diameter, with runes of conjuration magic etched around its diameter.

The Shield is a Shield +3 in combat.  The owner of the Shield does not have to carry it with him; it can be left anywhere and magically summoned to the owner's hand with a spoken command word so long as it is within 15 miles of the owner.  In addition, the owner need merely drop or place the shield on the ground, speak a second command word, and a single being will appear in 10 minutes.  The summoned being will retrieve the shield for the owner and then serve him, exactly as one would if summoned by a Monster Summoning I spell (roll for the spell to determine the being summoned, ignoring monsters without hands).

Both special functions of the shield will only function once per day.

Janzymir's Boots of Time Jumping:  Janzymir was a patriarch of the god of time's church.  The idea of traveling faster through time consumed him, for he fervently believed that he would reach his god in this way.  He drained his temple's coffers and commissioned a host of wizards to develop such magic and, while they did not succeed to the degree Janzymir had hoped, they did create something truly novel.

Janzymir's Boots of Time Jumping appear to be a rich man's embroidered cloth indoor boots, but if held up to the light and examined closely one can see what appears to be sand flowing down through the empty space in the fabric.  This 'sand of time' cannot be shaken out of the boots by any means and any other attempt to remove it would destroy the boots.

The wearer of the Boots can, twice per day, physically make a broad jump in the boots (it does not have to be long; jumping just two ft. will do) and will the Boots to transfer him to a point in the near
future.  The wearer will skip over 1-3 minutes of game time before reappearing.

There is a danger of using the Boots too often; there is a 1% cumulative chance per time jump of the wearer being aged 1 year for every time the wearer has time jumped up to that point.