Friday, November 28, 2008

X-Men: the Last Stand Reviewed

[Includes spoilers]
After being warned away from it and considering it a low priority for some time, I finally watched X-Men: the Last Stand. I have not been a huge fan of any of the X-Men movies, thinking them to be okay action movies and superhero movies, but not great on either scale. This one starts surprisingly promising, with a prolog featuring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan together. I have said before that I would have happily watched a whole movie with just these two actors sitting together and talking and was glad to at least get one good scene of this out of the movie.

Hugh Jackman is as delightful as ever as Wolverine and it is mainly to Jackman’s and McKellan’s credit that they are both able to take visually changing characters and play them with such absolute sincerity that you have no choice but to believe Jackman is going to “pop claws” when he twitches his wrists or that McKellan can wear a helmet and cape and gesture a lot and not look silly doing it.

Poor Halle Berry is still given so little to work with that anyone could have played the part of Storm. At least her role isn’t laughably bad anymore like in the first film.

Patrick Stewart is given the difficult task of having to bite it early in the film, but is that really a spoiler? Prof. X is always being killed off in the comics. It’s vital to the X-Men that Prof. X die so the youngsters can all move out from his shadow and come into their own adulthoods. Yet, writers are constantly finding a need for Prof. X in their storylines and bringing him back. But this time, Prof. X has been killed off for another reason. His death at Phoenix’s hands is karmic payback for tampering with her mind all those years ago, which I suppose is why he looks disturbingly okay with being disintegrated when his time comes.

Was Famke Janssen really ever a model? I still marvel over how unattractive this woman is and how unappealing her interpretation of Jean Grey is. Is she supposed to seem menacing when she’s Phoenix? Because she looks like she’s just sleepwalking.

Anna Paquin must have been so disappointed when she read the scripts for X2 and Last Stand, after how large her role was in the first film. Rogue just stands around a lot and…pines after Iceman like a lovesick puppy? Huh?

I like Kelsey Grammer’s rich voice as much as the next guy, but, c’mon, Grammer is over 50 years old. Even heavy make-up can’t conceal that. I just can’t buy him leaping and jumping around like a monkey. He’d slip a disc!

And speaking of actors getting the shaft in this movie, how about poor James Marsden! Sure, he was a lackluster Cyclops, but Cyclops was always a lackluster character anyway. That’s no excuse to kill him! And what does his death accomplish for the story? One more gravestone at the end? No, it simply makes it less awkward for Wolverine to say “I love you” before killing Phoenix. If Cyclops was still alive, Wolverine would have to walk up to him sheepishly and say, “I meant, like a friend.”

Should I go on? There’s really too many characters to mention – too many characters, period. This movie is way too busy and trying to tell too many stories without finishing any of them. I generously give the movie a B- because it is clearly not aiming higher than what it manages to be, an excuse for putting as many X-Men-related characters on the big screen as possible. Hmm…okay, and Magneto and Pyro throwing flaming cars at the X-Men was really cool too…

Friday, November 21, 2008

Harby Encounter Area/Business Tables

[Written in 1990, while transitioning from the Fate of Istus campaign to the City of Greyhawk campaign. We never did visit Hardby…]

HARDBY, despotrix on the Woolly Bay
Population: 10,000 Major Races: Human, Dwarves
Align: LN(E) Archetype: A small Russian city (communist)
Founded: 445 CY Leader: Lord Kiltakken Caerwich
Northwest Quarter
01. The Weary Workhorse Tavern
02. Chapel to Hextor
03. Coppersmith’s Shoppe
04. Glassblower’s Shoppe
05. Hardbian Police Watch Station
06. Cobblepot Square (tinkers’ market)
07. The Abor-Alz Inn
08. The Herbal Cleric Apothecary
09. Sallivar’s Tavern (thieves’ guild meeting hall)
10. The Hundred Elven Maidens Bawdy House
11. Shrine to Zilchus
12. Merchants’ Guildhall
13. Traders’ Guildhall
14. Caerwich Magic Institute of Hardby
15. The Sailing Cog Tavern
16. Hardbian Secret Police Headquarters
17. Mercenaries and Adventurers’ Guildhall
18. The Golden Gryphon Feasthall
19. Chapel of Norebo
20. The Bayside Theatre
21. Civic Tombs
22. Sign of the Red Scarf Weaving and Dying Shoppe
23. Sardu’s Warehouse
24. The Happy Beggar Hostel
25. The Crossed Cutlasses Tavern
Southwest Quarter
26. The Sailing Man’s Clothiery
27. Safeton Imports (clothes, pottery)
28. The Spinning Dwarf Gambling Hall
29. The Wooly Street Pawnshop
30. Myrick’s Locksmithy
31. Sign of the Skullcap Leatherworker and Hatter
32. The Greyhawk Inn
33. The Abor-Alz Expedition Supple Store
34. Sign of the Chair and Table Carpenters
35. The Port in the Storm Boardinghouse
36. Sign of the Buxom Wench Hostelry and Bawdy House
37. The Cherry Pie Bakery
38. The Sea Dragon Inn
39. Sign of the Weaponrack (weaponsmithy)
40. Augilin’s Warehouse
41. The Mermaid Alehouse
42. Sardu’s Shipping and Hauling
43. Augilin’s Shipping and Hauling
44. The Sailor’s Knot Ropes & Rigging Shoppe
45. The Wharf Rate Alehouse
46. The Bloody Stump Butchery
47. Tilcen’s Bootmaking Shoppe
48. Argo’s Boat Repair Service
49. The Lost Soul Boarding House
50. Chapel to Xerbo
Southeast Quarter
51. The Blind Man’s Bawdy House
52. The Goodwife’s Bakehouse
53. Sign of Chain Links Armory
54. Civic Workhouse
55. Laborers’ Guildhall
56. Tavernkeepers’ Guildhall
57. Scribes’ Guildhall
58. Hardbian Police Watch Station
59. Metalsmiths’ Guildhall
60. Weavers’ and Tailors’ Guildhall
61. The Red Beetle Tavern (assassins’ front)
62. The Dancing Maidens Hostel
63. The Open Door Boardinghouse
64. The Red Meat Butchery
65. The Snapping Turtle Brewery and Eatery
66. Shrine to Pelor
67. Church to Rao
68. Church to Delleb
69. Harmony Park
70. The Church Street Theatre
71. Alistor’s Silversmithy
72. Leatherworker’s Shoppe
73. Sign of Six Vials Alchemist & Apothecary
74. Hardbian Police Watch Station
75. Royal Blacksmithy
Northeast Quarter [never done]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rookroost Encounter Area/Business Tables

[Written back in 1989-1990, when I was running my Fate of Istus campaign.]
ROOKROOST, largest city of the Bandit Kingdoms (N3-26)
Population: 17,300 Major Races: Humans, Orcs, Hobgoblins
Align: CN(E) Archetype: Fragmented Poland (c. 1200 AD)
Founded: 325 CY Leader: Lord Pernevi (6th level f, 12th level t)
01. The Lord’s Palace
02. Raven Square
03. Ereaden’s Tower (royal apothecary)
04. Elara’s Villa (guildmistress of thieves)
05. Police Guardhouse
06. The White Elf Inn
07. Peak Gate
08. Temple to Zilchus
09. Temple to Atroa
10. Chapel to Celestian
11. Mechants’ Guildhall
12. Wizards’ Guildhall
13. The Palace Guard Inn
14. Royal Guardhouse
15. Ambassador Hall
16. Mercenaries’ Guildhall
17. The Hunters’ Club
18. The Fortune’s Fool Gambling House
19. Chapel to Hextor
20. Shrine to Fharlanghn
21. The Prince’s Club
22. The Aerie Opera House
23. Royal Tomb
24. Civic Courthouse
25. The Donjon (prison)
01. Benedict’s Trading Office (thieves’ guild)
02. Northern Police Barracks
03. The Drunken Dragon Tavern
04. Chapel to Kurell
05. Teamsters’ Guildhall
06. The Wayfarer Tavern
07. The Ravenshead Inn
08. Triumphary Gate
09. Metalsmiths’ Guildhall
10. Greystaff’s Sale of Arms
11. Random’s Trading Warehouse
12. Greyhaven Armorers
13. The Northaven Tavern
14. Aliss Westwind’s Apothecary
15. Funary Gate
16. Cheap Street Market
17. Shrine to Erythnul
18. Eastern Police Barracks
19. Jallar Selivant’s Mansion (wizards’ guildmaster)
20. Tax Office (small fortress)
21. The Dryad’s Cat Alehouse
22. Chapel of St. Cuthbert
23. The Crowsbill Holstelry
24. The Sapphire Inn (for dwarves)
25. The Green Dragon Hostelry (and Bawdy House)
26. The Playhouse Theatre
27. Chapel to Pelor
28. Prince College
29. The Rooster’s Bookshop
30. The Purple Ogre Hostelry
31. Moneychangers’ Guildhall
32. Fochulcan College
33. The Blind Man’s Alehouse
34. Civic Arena (seats 3,000)
35. Southern Police Barracks
36. Carpenters’ Guildhall
37. Tailors’ Guildhall
38. Red Dragon Inn
39. City Workhouse
40. Western Police Barracks
41. The Conjurer’s Pit Tavern (for specialist magic-users)
42. Civic Warehouse
43. Shrine to Pholtus
44. The Dirk and the Moon (bawdy house)
45. Shrine to Trithereon
46. Auction House
47. Slaughterhouse
48. The Goldfinch (bawdy house)
49. Shrine to Olidammara
50. Hubbard’s Gambling House
51. Civic Bathhouse
52. Riftcanyon Brewery
53. Curossa’s Boarding House (for halflings)
54. Kulhoch’s Pawnshop (thief fence)
55. Assassins’ Guildhall
56. Dirk’s Object Reading (3rd level psionicist)
57. Civic Depot
58. Darda Diggerdown, gnomish gemcutter
59. The Broom and Barrel Feasthall
60. Shrine and Gambling House to Norebo
61. The Poorhouse Bakery
62. The Fruit Vendor (foodshop)
63. Reftas’ Slaughterhouse
64. The Shield Shoppe
65. The Leather Hauberk, leatherworkers
66. Cobbler’s Shoppe
67. Fabrics and Clothier
68. Paint and Canvas Shoppe
69. Ibur’s Statuettes and Jewelry
70. The Quaildrink Brewery
71. Serfek’s Bakery
72. The Scale and Chain Armory
73. The Axe and Dagger Weaponer
74. The Redhand Brewery
75. The Saddle Shoppe (leatherworker)
76. The Wandering Wyvern Inn
77. Sing of the Grey Ox Tavern
78. The Wizard’s Tailor (clothes and staves)
79. Sing of the Mounted Knight Stables
80. Chapel to Obad-Hai
81. The Boarshead Brewery
82. The Thousandheads Trading Coster (walled compound)
83. The Serpentine Street Slaughterhouse
84. The Shank Street Tannery
85. The Great Northern Way Stables
86. The Dead Man’s Carter Shoppe
87. The Clothier’s Trading Post
88. Dwarven Ores & Gemstones
89. The Sign of the Woodsman (boardinghouse for elves)
90. Swordman’s Training Hall
91. The Commoner’s Stables
92. The Incantation Club (inn for invokers only)
93. The Good Gnome’s Outfitter (small-sized weapons and armor)
94. Sign of the Blue Mule Alehouse
95. Sign of Tanned Hide, Leather Good’s Shoppe
96. Stoink Guild Warehouse
97. Northern Way Bakehouse
98. The Naughty Nymph Bawdy House
99. The Rookroost Militia Armory
00. Signpainter’s Shoppe

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Overview of Blackmoor - Greyhawk Version

[Written in 2006 for a "Blackmoor in Greyhawk" campaign]
Tucked away in a little corner of the Flanaess, between the Land of Black Ice to the north, the Icy Sea to the west, the Cold Marshes to the south, and the Burneal Forest to the west, is the land of Blackmoor. Although isolated from most of the doings of the Flanaess, Blackmoor is an active place with its own dramatic history.

Though hilly, even mountainous, to the southeast and west, half of Blackmoor is below sea level. Peat, or "sinking land," is the most common soil. The forests are half-coniferous and half-deciduous. The most prominent geographic features are Lake Blackmoor, which flows into the Icy Sea; the Island of Coot in Lake Blackmoor; the
sylvan Redwood Forest to the east, between the City of Maus and the Dragon Hills; "Lake" Gloomen, an island-filled swamp to the southwest; and the Skandaharian Strait that feeds Lake Blackmoor with run-off from the Black Ice.

The indigenous humans of Blackmoor were the caramel-skinned Flanae-Skandaharians (the Skandaharians being a fierce Viking people that live in the Land of the Black Ice). In the ancient past, Baklunish and Oerdian immigrants came to the region. The Baklunish were small in number, remnants flung from their fallen empire to the far west. They brought some of their exotic culture to Blackmoor, but remained
largely aloof from the indigenous people. Some half-Baklunish people remain in Blackmoor today. The Oerdians, an expansionist people, brought Blackmoor a sense of connection with the rest of the Flanaess. This last migration was 500 years ago, when Blackmoor was still a little kingdom.

Although he lived almost 500 years ago, everyone in Blackmoor knows the name of Uther, last king of Blackmoor. Uther was fascinated with Oerdian tales of the "great kingdom" of Ferrond to the south. He journeyed there, through the orc-infested Cold Marshes and the nomad lands beyond and finally pledged his fealty to the Ferrondian
King. Uther became Marquis to the March of Blackmoor, farthest province of Ferrond.

Over time, Ferrond grew unstable and broke apart. Contact with Ferrond, or Furyondy as it would become, grew faint. And Blackmoor became busy with new matters outside its borders. To the far west, the Witch-Queen Iggwilv was trying to whip the Tiger Nomads into an army. Some nomads fled north through the Burneal Forest and came
into conflict with the forest's goblins and kobolds. The goblins in particular were pushed east and spilled into Blackmoor. Worse, when the nomads emerged from the north side of the forest, they settled down and became a rival and threat to Blackmoor. Their leaders were the Wolf Dukes. The then-Marquis of Blackmoor answered their threat by changing his own title to Arch-Duke, which his descendents have
kept since. Meanwhile, the goblins were harried north, where they were absorbed into the Barony of Coot, where evil men were gathering. All there were under the spell of a monstrous being called the Egg of Coot. Intent on conquest, the Coot Invasion of
the southern baronies began 400 years ago and took the combined effort of man and the fairy races, who had previously remained neutral in Blackmoor's affairs, to repel.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Human Torch Story from Marvel Mystery Comics #2 Reviewed

Marvel Mystery Comics #2
“The Human Torch.” Grade: D.
This starts out real nice, with a collage splash page of art from the last issue with five diary entries from the Torch's creator interspersed. Then the story starts in earnest with more busy pages averaging 10 panels per page. The Torch is now acting just like an ordinary human, wearing a suit and hanging out at a race track to watch the races. We also learn for the first time that Prof. Horton was killed when the Torch left him at the end of last issue, as the Torch burned through the roof and caused it to collapse on top of him. Showing little regret (he “didn't approve” of Horton), the Torch jumps right into the case of a bizarre racing racket where, instead of subtly sabotaging the other cars in a race, someone is causing the other cars to burst into flames and kill the drivers. Since this has been going on for awhile, it's unclear how this hasn't caused all races to be canceled until the killers are found. It's also unclear how everyone but the Torch could be so stupid as to not see the suspiciousness of a low flying plane passing over each car before it bursts into flame.
As if this would be a hard mystery to solve, the Torch is arrested for Horton's murder and thrown in jail so the Torch can pick up a clue from an inmate before breaking back out again. Back at the tracks (they're ALREADY racing again!), the Torch sees the same plane and attacks it, forcing it to land. He catches the pilot, but then the plane explodes and the pilot claims the Torch can't do anything to him because the evidence was just destroyed. At this point most superheroes would have scared a confession out of this punk or simply handed him over to the police, but the Torch naively lets him go and has to wait for the next clues to fall in his lap! And they do too, because the bad guys, led by Blackie, send a woman to lure the Torch into a trap involving a false door and a vat of water on the other side for him to fall into. And then they dump him into a boiling lime pit. But, of course, the Torch is virtually indestructible and just walks out later.
The next day, there's a race AGAIN! The Torch attacks the men who had attacked him at the track, but he accidentally sets the stands on fire and has to let them escape to put out the flames. Here the Torch demonstrates his control of flame – but unlike the latter Johnny Storm who just thinks about controlling flame and it happens, this Torch has to let out a “long, weird yell” ala Tarzan and the flames obey him. Then the Torch chases the crooks into ANOTHER deathtrap, this time involving water hoses and molten steel. He gets out of this even faster than the lime trap and attacks Blackie's men, but they're protected by asbestos suits and escape him because their car can make a smokescreen. The inmate from the jail shows up, revealing that he's an undercover cop (he'll also become the Torch's first reoccurring supporting cast member) and helps the Torch chase Blackie to an airport. Blackie's men are on a plane that's taking off, but the Torch grounds the plane and burns the pilot's jaw with a flaming punch. But Blackie isn't with his gang, he's trying to escape by car. So the Torch sets the car on fire and offers to get Blackie out if he signs a confession. Blackie, terrified, agrees, having forgot he was still wearing his asbestos suit.
The undercover cop returns and we learn his name is Johnson. Once the police have the confession, the Torch vanishes, leaving only flaming footprints behind (which is supposed to be like a calling card for him, as he had left them earlier at the lime pit too).
So, yeah, this review was basically one long vent.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flushed Away Reviewed

I was not ready for Flushed Away when it came out, turned off by what looked like over-hype (the usual movie tie-in merchandise I was used to, but ads played over the intercom in Kohl’s?). I also dislike rodents intensely and tire of the cliché of mice as heroes. After Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, though, I was primed for more stop-motion clay animation (this time heavily assisted by computer animation) and watching Pixar’s Ratatouille opened me up to the possibility of rodent heroes again. Which was good, because this movie has lots and lots of rats in it. A whole city’s worth.

That the rats talk and act like typical English humans was no surprise. Personification is an old staple of animation and has been a useful tool for telling fables for even longer. More surprisingly, when our rodent hero is literally flushed out of his expository scenes into the world of sewer rats, almost all of the rats he encounters are busy doing something instead of just standing around waiting to be encountered. Indeed, once the story moves to the rat city, we find the rats are so busy that there is a story already in progress! This in medias res second beginning – Rita’s flight and capture from rats after a ruby in her possession -- annoyed me at first, until I realized that it is the richness of the backstory of the secondary characters that makes it feel, initially, as if we have missed some important plot points. And everyone knows each other. On one level, it’s just a running gag when characters you don’t think would know each other do, but on another level it speaks of the dynamic environment all these characters hail from. They know each other because they all had rich lives before the story ever started.

The story is a flaky confection that doesn’t bear up to much scrutiny, but in a zany comedy like this it hardly matters. The real test is how much you care about the characters and here the movie succeeds. Roddy and Rita’s relationship builds organically without feeling forced (compare to the forced mammoth love of Ice Age 2). The villains each have at least one whimsical foible and are sympathetic to varying degrees. The henchrats Spike and Whitey, are charming and hilarious, easily getting the funniest lines of the movie (“You’ve got soft hands,” “They may be soft, but they’re lethal weapons!” and “Danger is my middle name!” “I thought it was Leslie.”) Even the boat, the Jammy Dodger, turns out to be a character and I was surprised to be moved by its loss. Rita’s absurdly dysfunctional family (right down to their precarious house boat), in a live action movie, would be character actor heaven, but you do hope that things turn out alright for them and, indeed, all of the rats as disaster threatens them at the end.

There are hidden gems and inside jokes enough to make multiple viewings necessary. The movie sold me right away with the inside joke about Roddy holding up a Wolverine costume (since he’s voiced by Hugh Jackman, Wolverine in the X-Men films). The Finding Nemo running gag is a lot of fun. The surfer, the one person in the crowd scene disappointed by the saving of the city, is a hilarious sight gag. And there is the top-rate voiceover work to go back and listen to. Sir Ian McKellen is wonderfully, manically expressive as the mad master villain, The Toad. You can see in the bonus features how he had to contort himself to stretch so much out of his voice.

I give the movie an A. If 2006 had not been an unusually good year for movies, this would have ranked higher, but as it is it surely is my fourth favorite movie from that year.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ongoing Adventures of Elongated Man

[So, I've been playing in this campaign called "Animated JLU" over on for awhile, but that site has this frustrating feature where old threads are deleted after awhile and all the stuff I've written while playing DC Comic's Elongated Man is disappearing. So, while this posts, extracted from all the posts around them, are not going to make any sense to the average visitor, I still feel the need to see some of them permanently archived somehow. Hence...]

Elongated Man did not particularly care for hanging out on the orbital satellite, but had heard Flash say they were organizing a bridge party and dropped everything to come play. Ralph was Old School and preferred bridge to poker. Unfortunately, Flash had just been joking and Ralph had found himself in orbit with little to do until the announcement. Not being as familiar with the layout of the satellite, Ralph had found everyone else just as Solovar's transmission from Gorilla City ended.

"Hey, wait for me!" Ralph said as the others all headed for the hangar bay. "When did Mr. Terrific become leader around here?" he asked quietly to Gypsy en route.

Elongated Man waited, because it seemed Flash was team leader here and would answer Green Lantern's question. Ralph also glanced at the equipment in their jet, wondering if any of it could be used to detect their opponents, like radar to pick up flying foes, or detectors that could scan for radiation from energy-emitting foes, etc.

Elongated Man saw the flame jet out the window and realized he didn't need to scan for energy-emitting foes. "Hey, wait for me!" Ralph cried as he stretched after the Flash.

Elongated Man barely recognized the newbie Green Lantern, but he was handling his power ring like a pro already. Ralph had yet to see how well this "Kyle" held up in combat, compared to John Stewart, so he only gave Kyle a half-smile as he stood in the energy bubble.

Elongated Man stretched towards Clayface. "Never doubted you, Flash!" Ralph cheered him on. As he approached Clayface, Ralph caused his own two arms to expand into flail-like appendages. "Can you get anymore disgusting, Clayface?" he asked as Ralph attempted to entangle his own arms with Clayface's tentacles.

Naturally, Elongated Man waited until Green Lantern released him from the energy bubble before charging Clayface (and, actually, will probably stand back and wait if he sees Superboy is already melting the weakest foe the weaker heroes could have dealt with). :(

"Wow...hope Clayface can reform from that!" Elongated Man cried out with alarm as his foe was inadvertently smashed to pieces. He could see the two greater threats were still very real.

"I'm on the robot with G.L.!" Ralph called out. With great difficulty, he stretched himself out and bent around himself over and over until he looked like a big ball made of rubber bands. Then he rolled himself towards the giant robot, trying to get under one of its feet and make it trip on him (provided he wasn't just squashed flat).

"I guess that was just for warming up," Elongated Man said. "Do we want to go in any further sneaky-like or just rush the next set of bad guys?"

"If you're offering Gypsy and me another bubble ride, you're on," Elongated Man replied. Was he actually going to beat a Flash to a villain? He hadn't done that in ages.

When Elongated Man saw the robots, he asked Green Lantern, "Can you get me up to one of those robots before you take out the others? I want to see if I can stretch thin enough to slip inside it."

Elongated Man slipped into the robot's mouth, only to find he was staring into the muzzle of a giant flame thrower! The robot was being jostled outside by one of his friends (and has no idea which one), so he had to act fast. With perhaps seconds at best before the robot used its flame thrower, Ralph looked to see if there was anyway he could sabotage the flame thrower (maybe remove some screws by shaping his hand into a wrench) so it would aim at the inside of the mouth and slag the robot's chin without harming anyone outside the robot.

THEN, Ralph had to make sure he was outside of the robot, whether he had succeeded or not, before the flame thrower went off!

((I think that was my longest delay in posting yet. Sorry!))

Elongated Man had helped with one of the robots, but found himself literally flattened as another one came down right on top of him. The disabled robot did not move, making it even harder for Ralph to free himself. "Sorry, guys! Need a hand here when someone's free!" he called out, embarrassed to be stuck under a robot in just their second battle.

"Thanks Superboy," Elongated Man said. Superboy had lifted the robot off him so fast, Ralph didn't even see him do it. He would have loved to high-five Flash, but was still a little embarrassed and missed the opportunity.

"Hmm...the gorillas seem awful quiet," Ralph said, his nose starting to wiggle as he contemplated their radio silence. "Can anyone find us what passes for City Hall around here? That seems the best place to go to find them."

"Glad you could join us, Zatanna," Elongated Man said belatedly. "You could transport us all to City Hall even faster than Green Lantern could..."

Elongated Man found himself being scooped up in one of Superboy's arms, across from Gypsy and Zatanna perched precariously on the other.

"That's the thing about being in the Justice League," he joked. "You never know what you're going to be using for transportation."

As they reached altitude, Ralph stretched out an arm and pointed. "That looks like it would be the Town Square!"

"Grodd might be controlling them all," Elongated Man suggested after Gypsy's comments got him thinking. "Superboy, can you see or hear Grodd with your super-senses? We need to take him down as quickly as we can."

Elongated Man chose his target. "Dibs on Weather Wizard!" he said so at least Gypsy, Zatanna, and Superboy would hear. Then he began to stretch and wrap himself into a ball. "Superboy!" he hollered from inside himself. "Before you take Giganta, pitch me like a fastball at Weather Wizard!"

In Superboy's haste, he seemed to have forgotten what Elongated Man has asked of him. Dropped rather than thrown, Ralph had no choice but to bounce around like a giant beach ball, hoping to "steer" his bounces so that he could ricochet off of Weather Wizard's noggin from behind.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Greyhawk Comic Book Script

[Possibly from as late as 2005, this was a project I worked on when I was going to show Kenzer & Co. how a Greyhawk-related comic book should really look. I aborted this script when I proposed it to them and was told that they were purposely using as little Greyhawk intellectual property as possible. Heavily, heavily modified, this story grew into the "Castle Greyhawk" novella.]

Panel A (Splash Page)
The scene is a panoramic view of the Slum Quarter of the City of Greyhawk (feel free to use the poster map of the City of Greyhawk boxed set as a reference). The buildings are almost all one-story tall, made of wood and stucco, with thatched roofs. Blocks are arranged in narrow triangular shapes, with skinny yards between homes. The streets are narrow and muddy.
The time is dusk. The glow of fires can be seen from the cracks of shuttered windows. Wispy trails of smoke rise from roof holes (and only a few true chimneys). Light purple clouds can be seen in the dark blue, starry sky. The shadowy shapes of what are probably pigeons and bats can be seen flying overhead, plus one silhouette of a pseudodragon (tiny dragon) in their midst.
Caption: Night spreads its dark cloak over the City of Greyhawk. Many of its people interrupt the dull tedium of their daily labor with blissful sleep. Some, the less disciplined, seek entertainments not available by daylight. Others, the more adventurous, search for truths that day sheds no light on...
A Single Word Balloon Rising Out from the City: Tenser is wrong.
Panel A
Full-width, one-third page tall, medium-range, exterior shot, slightly angled upward.
The wooden sign hanging overhead shows a tankard over the words "Left Hand Inn." The ground floor of the inn is stone, with wooden crossbeams over stucco on the upper levels (only part of the second floor may be visible in this panel, though). The window is shuttered, but brightly outlined by the hearth-fire within. The front door stands halfway open. There is a currently unused hitching post and trough visible out front in the street.
Two men are standing between the trough and the window. They are both large, tan-skinned men with black hair and beards, similar enough in appearance that they could be brothers (and are). Both men wear long, long-sleeve tunics with yellow and green checkered pattern, that come down below their belts. They wear brown hose on their legs, and darker brown hooded cloaks. Their dress only differs in ornamentation -- different cut to their gauntlets and boots, clasps on their cloaks, or belt buckles (see module WGA, Rary the Traitor, for picture reference of Robilar).
Teric: This isn't a good idea.
Robilar: No, I agree with him. If we are to explore this ruined castle, it will help to learn all of its known lore.
Panel B
Full-width, one-third page tall, medium-range, interior shot, from the side.
The common room of the Left Hand Inn has about eight patrons visible as Robilar and Terik walk cautiously into the room. None of the patrons at first seem more exotic than a drabbly dressed dwarf. All of the patrons are ugly people, the sort Leonardo da Vinci would have enjoyed sketching, with oversized ears, warty noses, scars, and the like. But they are also a quiet, laid back bunch. Half of them are just sitting and drinking. Two are holding darts, caught in mid-game. One is getting up from his table just as another one came to sit down next to him.
The wooden tables are slightly warped and stained. The patrons sit on benches or stools, but no chairs. The whole room is wood except for a stone hearth. There is a small fire in the hearth, and candles dripping wax from a low-hanging, cheap-looking chandelier to light the room. The dim light casts many shadows on the patrons. There are thin pillars in the room, which cast shadows too.
Robilar: I see him.
Panel C
Just over a half-page width, one-third page tall, medium-range, interior shot, looking between Robilar and Teric.
The two heroes are standing in front of a seated man, towards the back of the common room. He has hair like seaweed, large round ears, one baggy, squinty eye and one missing eye (no patch, just squinted shut), a round nub of a nose, drooping jowls, and bit of a hunchback, and a peg leg. He wears a black surcoat. Where the surcoat is open, a red and white checkered shirt can be seen beneath, stretched tight over his paunch (see module WGA4, Vecna Lives!, for picture reference of Turim Varnostak).
Robilar: You are Turim Varnostak?