Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Curious Resurrection of the Bronze Terror

I read a lot of golden age comic books, thanks to sources like the Digital Comic Museum.  And I read a lot of racism.  Not just in the post-war depictions of the Germans and Japanese either; for my money, the most grievous offenders were the early Centaur comics. 

Which is why it struck me as unusual when Gallant Comics, a web comics team that is currently resurrecting some golden age characters now in the public domain, brought back the Bronze Terror, but changed his name to Medicine Man because they thought “bronze terror” sounded racist.  Now, the Gallant team has already done a great job with Amazing Man and I'm going to keep reading regardless, but I can't help feel they made a bad call with the Bronze Terror. 

A peculiar dynamic was going on in the golden age.  Yes, there was racism, but there was also surprising diversity, as a slew of companies all sought to distinguish their characters from each other.  The Bronze Terror was an Indian hero, but he was not even the first (which would be Mantoka, who debuted months earlier from another publisher; ironically, Mantoka was the medicine man, not the Bronze Terror).  The Bronze Terror was a completely serious character; he kicked butt and looked cool doing it.  The color bronze, to my knowledge, doesn’t even have a racist connotation.  Now, if he’d been called the Red Terror, maybe the boys at Gallant would be onto something.  Further – and maybe Indians would feel differently – but it seems to me that the traditional role of the medicine man in their culture has become a stereotype and would be more offensive than the Bronze Terror.

Nuelow Games, a repackager of golden age comics content along with bonus, related gaming material, recently released Real American No. 1, the name of which comes from the tag line on the old Bronze Terror stories.  They are short, six-pages features from 1941-42, but not devoid of substance.  While there are comical caricatures of some Indians, there are also realistic depictions of Indians, as well as a mix of realistic and caricature Caucasians.  Yes, Indians are shown walking around in 1941 shirtless and with bows and arrows, but there are other elements of the Mythic West depicted on the Caucasian side, with bad guys gambling in saloons and public hangings.

Real American No. 1, incidentally, comes with two pages of bonus gaming material.  While the stories have substance, the gaming material is disappointingly slight.  Using the ROLF rules (and adding some more optional rules, none of which are bad), it sets up a series of possible brawls on a poorly-defined mansion on an estate.  It would have been nice to get a map of the estate or at least some suggestions for how to incorporate the location into the fight scenes.     

This package contains four of the original nine Bronze Terror stories.  I like the Bronze Terror.  Time will tell if the Medicine Man also grows on me.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Player Character Morgue: Adolphus Magnusson

My solo gaming has continued through classic AD&D modules, including the Tomb of Horrors.  Deterred by traps and unable to find their way very deep into the tomb, the PCs had to leave behind Adolphus Magnusson, trapped in the forsaken prison.

Adolphus was the highest level character I'd played in a long time, raised all the way from 1st level to 9th.  I had run his original party through Castle Blackmoor and Tegel Manor, then he joined a different group of PCs I was running through the G and D series modules.  They made it all the way to the Vault of the Drow, though they were overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Vault and had to flee for their lives.

I even tried to get Adolphus in a non-solo game when one of my friends was running Expedition to Castle Greyhawk, but Adolphus was rejected because of some non-standard magic items.

Adolphus was fabulously wealthy and certainly didn't need to keep adventuring for a living.  But he adventured to live.  Until he died.

Character Name:  Adolphus Magnusson
Race/Sex:  Half-Elf/Male
Alignment:  Neutral
Regional Origin:  Blackmoor
Faith: Nature worship
Level/Title:  9/Initiate of the 7th Circle
Experience Points:  109,361
XP Bonus:  +10%

Strength:  15
Intelligence:  14
Wisdom:  17
Dexterity:  11
Constitution:  14
Charisma:  16

Hit Points:  52
Armor Class:  6

Special Abilities:  Druidic spells; identifies plants, animals, pure water; pass without trace at will; +2 to save vs. fire and lightning; 30% resist sleep and charm; 60' infra-vision; 1 in 6 chance to find concealed doors within 10'; 3 in 6 chance to find concealed doors if sought

Spells Typically Memorized:
1st - Detect Magic, Entangle x2, Faerie Fire, Invisibility to Animals, Locate Animals, Speak with Animals
2nd - Charm Person or Mammal, Create Water, Cure Light Wounds x2, Heat Metal, Warp Wood
3rd - Cure Disease, Hold Animal, Neutralize Poison, Stone Shape
4th - Cure Serious Wounds x2
5th - Commune with Nature

Treasure Stashed:  3,377 cp; 5,823 sp; 5 ep; 14,170 gp; 20 pp; 3 amber stones worth 10 gp each; 3 gems worth 50 gp each; 3 gems worth 100 gp each; 1 gold sickle worth 90 gp; 8 crystals worth 10 gp each; 7 pearls worth 100 gp each; 4 scrolls worth 1,000 gp each; 2 books worth 2,500 gp each; 3,724 gp in folios; 1 ruby worth 100 gp; 1 topaz worth 100 gp; 1 garnet worth 10 gp; 3 gems worth 10 gp each

Magic Items:  Silver War Hammer +2, Silver Torc of Spell Reflection (65% effective), Ring of Spell Storing (Animal Summoning I, Call Woodland Beings, Dispel Magic, Transmute Rock to Mud, Wall of Fire), Scroll of Plant Growth and Control Weather, Wooden Shield +1, Dagger +1

Other Mundane Equipment:  Leather armor, leather backpack, large belt pouch, 1 garlic bud, 1 bunch of greater mistletoe, 3 days of iron rations, 2 iron spikes

Mount:  Agamemnon, a heavy warhorse




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Player Character Morgue: Skalar Kallionkiel

I haven't done this since 2007

I wanted to play a dwarf paladin.  The fact that the rules forbade that combination only made it more tantalizing.  When I learned that the original write-up for the paladin class in the Greyhawk Supplement made no specific reference to the "humans only" rule, I knew I wanted to play some OD&D real bad.  Lacking a game at that time, I made up a slate of new PCs -- including my dwarf paladin (I cheated and rolled 3d8 for stats -- I was going to make sure I qualified for a paladin!).  Then I went about solo gaming (which consists of rolling randomly for everything, to eliminate player knowledge from the equation).  To keep an element of danger in the game, I decided that I would not fudge any character deaths.  And so, at 4th level, my beloved and only ever dwarf paladin, bit it in mortal combat with a fire giant.  Pretty unfair, I know; there was only a random chance of the PCs running away...

Character Name:  Skalar Kallionkiel
Race/Sex:  Dwarf/Male
Alignment:  Lawful
Regional Origin:  Blackmoor
Faith:  Church of the Facts of Life
Level/Title:  4/Paladin
Experience Points:  12,000
XP Bonus:  10%

Strength:  18/73 (+3 to hit and damage)
Intelligence:  11
Wisdom:  17
Constitution:  15 (+1 hp/die)
Dexterity:  16 (+1 to hit, -2 to be hit)
Charisma:  18

Languages:  Common, Lawful, Dwarf, Gnome, Hobbit, Elf, Kobold, Goblin

Hit Points:  32
Armor Class:  3 (-2)

Money:  12 sp, 1 ep, 273 gp, 1 37 gp gem, 1 100 gp gem

Items:  Platemail armor, helmet, leather backpack, wineskin, silver cross, shortbow, quiver of 20 silver arrows, silver dagger

Magic Items:  Sword +1







Monday, November 25, 2013

A Vision for Progressive Fiction in the Superhero Genre

The fanfiction site, Altered Visions, is rebooting itself.  I contacted the editors privately to share with them what I thought would be good world-building.  It was rejected, but now I share it here, so perhaps others will profit by it someday.

Most people who know my fanfiction know I have a fondness for a) writing in past decades and b) advancing superheroes in real time.  I have a particular vision for how a superhero world would turn out by modern times and I've written a short essay about it. 


If superheroes had really been around since 1939, then the world should be about ¾ of the way to utopia by now.  By the year 2013, then, technology (boosted by super-intelligent superheroes and alien tech) should be around 2089-level tech, with androids in public service, AI computers, solar power and fusion power everywhere, magnetic rail robot cars, and inter-solar system space travel.  Some things are still off-limits for most people, like teleportation technology, that only the superheroes (and villains) have. 

Further, the superheroes should have long since given up defending the status quo and worked collectively to better the world in a liberal progressive direction – the only political direction based on wanting to help make everyone’s lives better.  Universal health care is now truly universal.  The rain forests have been mostly replanted.  Global warming has been slowed down.  There are no third world countries anymore, just developed and developing countries.  Crime is almost unheard of and when it does happen, it tends to be something BIG that only superheroes can stop.

Globalization has happened too, just because of all these global emergencies that have needed rapid responses.  There is a world currency (though many people now use microchip embedded debit cards in their hands) and the United Nations is an actual, working government with nations’ leaders serving more like state governors now. 

Man is spreading throughout the solar system, with a base on or orbiting every planet even out to Pluto.  Orbiting Saturn is Baxter Station, a scientific satellite home to Fantastic Four Inc., a hundred scientists and their families and support staff, numbering 1,000 people.  Mars has two domed cities on it.

Forget that sliding scale of history.  The Golden Age took place in the 1940s.  The Silver Age took place in the 1960s.  Mr. Fantastic was 60 in 1980 and Spider-Man was 33.  The superheroes around now are often the adult sons and daughters of the Silver Age heroes and -- because this business is dangerous – some legacy heroes are actually the third or fourth person to wear the costume. 

And these superheroes are more cooperative than ever.  The teams are specialized in function, but coordinate their efforts.  Everyone can get in touch with everyone else.  And the superhero community has a very active role in both society and politics.  These heroes are actively guiding mankind into the future.

Most supervillains from before mid-1966 are dead and the remaining ones are reformed. 

So where will conflict come from in this brave new world?  There are still haves and have-nots – though 78% of the population wants for nothing now.  There will always be people trying to make more have-nots – either by claiming political power in some country or withholding some new or developing technology that could benefit everyone – and these people are willing and able to hire old-fashioned supervillains to protect/enforce them.  By now, Earth’s superheroes have humiliated every alien empire out there.  Some aliens races have responded by trying diplomatic relations with Earth, but others are still looking to get back at Earth for past embarrassments.  And then there are ecological issues related to overcrowding -- terraforming the deserts on Earth, making Antarctica inhabitable, and living with mermen in the oceans to consider.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Beatles music

Nothing to do with me, other than wanting to listen...

Monday, November 4, 2013

From the Dominican Star, 4/22/1998

One of the few comic strips I had printed during my last stint in college. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Dun" Drover, Cowboy Spy

Continuing from this project.

#1 - September 1939 – (“Red Ryder” feature in Crackajack Funnies #15) – Dun Drover rides the range and chases off a rustler (40 xp in Cowboy).
#2 – October 1939 – (“Biff Bronson” feature in More Fun Comics #48) – Dun is recruited by a government agent to go on a secret mission to Spain and track down a missing American (100 xp in Cowboy).
#3 – November 1939 – (“Sis Sez” feature in King Comics #43) – Dun returns to America, successful, and stops in New York City to visit his sister, Ruth (200 xp in Cowboy).
#4 – December 1939 – (“Chuck Dawson” feature in Action Comics #19) – Dun returns out west to find being a cowboy is boring to him now, to the point where he tracks down a boot thief (240 xp in Cowboy).
#5 – January 1940 – (“Capt. Cook of Scotland Yard” feature in Smash Comics #6) – Dun joins U.S. Espionage Division just in time to investigate a mysterious dirigible pilot terrorizing New England cities (240 xp in Cowboy/-80 xp in Spy).
#6 – February 1940 – (“Mr. Satan” feature in Zip Comics #1) – When a young girl’s father goes missing in the German embassy, Dun investigates and finds it a plot by a Count Bocker to find a mystic item called the Eye of Oglu (240 xp in Cowboy/-20 xp in Spy).
#7 – March 1940 – (“Herky” feature in Popular Comics #49) – Dun is taken off the task of searching for Count Bocker and the Eye of Oglu and is put on guard detail for the girl, “Tippy” Nelson, and her brother Arnold, who like to get into mischief (240 xp in Cowboy/180 xp in Spy).
#8 – April 1940 – (“Fantasy Isle” feature in Amazing Mystery Funnies #19) – While bored with his assignment, Dun misses the abduction by the Nelson children.  He pursues them to “Fantasy Isle”, in the Atlantic, where the Eye of Oglu had been kept and the Nelson children are now held by its worshippers (240 xp in Cowboy/230 xp in Spy).
#9 – May 1940 – (“Rance Keane” feature in Feature Comics #32) – Still on Fantasy Isle, Dun investigates the death of the only other American on the island, “Bus” Pritchard, and suspects Count Bocker is already on the island (240 xp in Cowboy/260 xp in Spy).
#10 – June 1940 – (“Ellery Queen” feature in Crackajack Funnies #24) – Count Bocker kills again on the island while Dun slowly ferrets out which islander is the Count in disguise.  Dun figures it out and saves a third victim (240 xp in Cowboy/390 xp in Spy).
#11 – July 1940 – (“Scoop Smith” feature in Whiz Comics #6) – Dun has his final showdown with Count Bocker, finds the Eye of Uglo (which Bocker had guessed correctly magically returned to the island), and is proclaimed emperor of the island.  But turns it down to get the Nelson children back home to the States (240 xp in Cowboy/1,700 xp in Spy).
#12 – August 1940 – (“Did You Know That” feature in Popular Comics #54) – Reporting back in to U.S. Espionage Division, Dun is briefed by a Lt. Tito Falconi for an undercover mission to Japan (240 xp/1,800 xp in Spy – 2nd level!).
#13 – September 1940 – (“Prop Powers” feature in National Comics #3) – After a long trip across the Pacific, aviator “Prop” Powers flies Dun into Japan (240 xp/1,960 xp in Spy).
#14 – October 1940 – (“Chip Collins” feature in Fight Comics #9) – Dun makes his rendezvous with Chip Collins and begins a manhunt for the Japanese air force general called “The War-Eagle” (240 xp/2,140 xp in Spy).
#15 – November 1940 – (“Black X” feature in Smash Comics #16) – Dun and Chip pursue the War-Eagle into China (240 xp/2,300 xp in Spy).
#16 – December 1940 – (“Human Torch” feature in Human Torch #3) – After sabotaging the War-Eagle’s plane (a trap the War-Eagle escapes), Dun finds a dead Chinese scientist in his bombed lab and saves a half-android boy named Tai who becomes Dun’s sidekick (240 xp/2,600 xp in Spy).
#17 – January 1941 – (“Flash Picture Novelette” feature in Flash Comics #13) – Dun stays in China to try and find Tai’s parents and locates an older sister, Min, who Dun starts to fall for while saving her from a blackmailer (240 xp/2,920 xp in Spy).
#18 – February 1941 – (“Spark Stevens” feature in Green Mask #4) – Dun is sneaking Tai and Min out of China when he hears of a very familiar attack dirigible terrorizing India.  Yes, it’s the same mad scientist who escaped from Dun 13 months earlier, now calling himself The Master.  Dun takes him down (240 xp/3,140 xp in Spy).
#19 – March 1941 – (“Greasemonkey Griffin” feature in Wing Comics #7) – En route by ship to South Africa, Dun, Tai, and Min’s boat is attacked by a Nazi U-boat (240 xp/3,490 xp in Spy).
#20 – April 1941 – (“Spin Shaw” feature in Feature Comics #43) – In South Africa, Dun, Tai, and Min run into hoodlums trying to shake down an airport (240 xp/3,810 xp in Spy – 3rd level!).
#21 – May 1941 – (“Blaze Barton” feature in Hit Comics #11) – While still in South Africa, aliens attack, using some sort of vacuum-like weapon to suck up diamonds to their ship.  Dun and Tai borrow a plane, board the alien ship, and while trying to take control of it, accidentally set off its self-destruct (240 xp/5,070 xp in Spy).
#22 – June 1941 – (“Jungle Detective” feature in Wonderworld Comics #26) – Dun and Tai came down in the jungles of Africa, still trying to find their way out so they can be reunited with Min (240 xp/5,190 xp in Spy).
#23 – July 1941 – (“Dr. Mortal” feature in Weird Comics #16) – Dun and Tai stumble across a Nazi science lab in the jungle where a cosmic wave monster has been unleashed.  Dun and Tai manage to beat it after a dying scientist figures out how to use the cosmic wave rifle that Dun had earlier brought back from the alien spacecraft (240 xp/6,070 xp in Spy).