Sunday, October 25, 2015

Superhero Media: My Super Ex-Girlfriend

Dear god but I watch some pretty woeful films to do these little articles. I swear that the producers of My Super Ex-Girlfriend just came up with the name whilst drunk and didn't realise that the contract was binding. If this had been a direct-to-video release that languished in petrol station bargain bins, I would not have been shocked; the shocking part is that it was a major cinema release. Emphasis on "release". Yes, this film was so bad, I've made my first poo joke in over 100 posts. Now, I have a big tolerance for rubbish films, I'll watch Kaiju, Wuxia, Blacksploitation or pretty much anything if I think I'll get a laugh out of it or at least enjoy a bit of it, but when "proper" films are utter dross, I can be a bit unforgiving. I'd relay the story, as is my habit, but here, the title tells you everything you need to know; a guy dates a superhero, breaks up with her and is tormented by a crazy woman with superpowers. Oh, yes, the woman is crazy, because let's fall back on that sexist and tired trope to get a few laughs. 

I could forgive the film a little if there was something clever to latch on to, but there just isn't. The characters are pretty two-dimensional, the superhero fights are terrible and there's no world-building to speak of. Jesus, can I say anything nice about this film? The costumes for "G-Girl" (ugh, bad) are uninteresting, but at least she has her limbs covered? The powers are generic and only really play a role in jocular sex scenes and the idiotic "revenge" sequences. There is only one element of this film that is at all redeemable and that is the villain, played by Eddie Izzard. 

Eddie Izzard should play villains more often. I can't even remember his character's name, but he ate the scenery and dominated the scene any time he was on screen. Disappointingly, his motivation turns out to be a high school crush, but watching, I really got the feeling that he was more than a match for anything that was thrown at him. He's not just several moves ahead, he's playing an entirely different game and you've already lost. I really want to see Izzard play a villain in a less comical film, someone like Purple Man, Lex Luthor or Vandal Savage. I cannot recommend My Super Ex-Girlfriend as a film to watch, even on the strength of Izzard's performance, just skip it and spend the time painting minis or something.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Five characters I'm honestly getting a bit sick of...

Ever flip open a comic or switch on some cartoons and think, "Gee, this guy again?". Maybe I'm just getting old, but some characters are just getting a little tired to my eyes. Perhaps they're overplayed or just over-hyped, but when I see these characters, I'm inclined to to just put the book down or turn of the programme and walk away. I rarely do, but I think about it.

1. Batman 

First things first, it's not so much Batman in his own comics that gets to me, but rather, his proliferation and representation in other comics. Growing up reading comics in the 1990s, I always got the impression that Batman was a little too busy to be dealing with the Justice League all the time; like he was on the books, but only showed up to the big meetings and world-ending crises. However, since about 1999, it seems like Batman is pretty much living in JLA HQ, telling everyone how shit they are and saving the day single-handed. You have a goddess, a space cop and a guy who can go for a swim in the sun and they have to rely on the insane billionaire with a bat fetish to pull them out of the fire.
I blame the writers for this one. The guys who grew up with Batman and are unable to separate their childhood hero-worship from the job they have to do now. It seems to me that all Batman does these days is grunt "I'm Batman" and punch people whilst brooding. What happened to the world's greatest detective? For me, Batman's humanity was always his greatest strength, and that seems to have been lost over the years.

Have I mentioned that I really enjoyed Deadpool/Cable? Because I did. I know it may seem like I rip on Deadpool a bit, but really, there are some comics of his that I think are pretty damn good. That said, you know what comics those are? The ones were Deadpool  has a team backing him up or is involved in a partnership. Deadpool by himself, cracking wise and breaking the fourth wall, can get a bit tiresome for me; wall-to-wall shtick can wear out its welcome after a couple of issues. Deadpool is a great guest-star or good partnered with someone very different; in fact, Deadpool/Cable does this very well. Cable's Messianic preaching and self-inflicted martyrdom would be tiresome by itself, as would Wilson's violent tendencies, but together, they work in a manner that most tired buddy-cop films would envy. 
Much as with Batman, it's the rabid fandom that has grown up around Deadpool that irks me the most. Even suggesting that the quality of Deadpool comics is patchy invokes a reaction almost as severe as implying that slow children would be an inexpensive source of dog meat. To me Deadpool is like sprinkles, great on something else (like ice cream), but I don't want a whole bowl.


Yeah, going to cop it over this one, but damn, I wish there was less Goku in Dragonball/Z/Super. Personally, I've grown out of the adolescent power-fantasy stage, so Goku is about the least interesting character in the Dragonball setting for me; all he does is train, fight and eat, he has no depth or development. Hey, I can sum-up every DBZ story in one sentence: Goku finds the problem, gets injured, the Z-Fighters try not to die, Goku comes back and defeats the villain by being more powerful than before. Can't wait to see the next stage after Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan, what will it be? Super Super Saiyan God Ascended Super Saiyan? Triple Extra Bacon Deluxe God Super Saiyan?
I guess it just bugs me that, in a show with so many characters and that tried to put the focus on Gohan repeatedly, that we keep coming back to "Goku powers up and punches it harder" as a narrative solution. With the right kind of eye, one can see the editorial hand come in on DBZ a few times and sit Goku back in the spotlight to appease the fans. Akira Toryiama must have a veritable mountain of cash by now, why is he still pandering to the masses? This is the stage in his career when I expect to see a Poly-rhythmic synth Jazz album or something, not more of the same.


Again, another "don't get me wrong" moment. Thanos is a brilliant villain, hands down one of the best in the Marvel Multiverse and I can't wait to see him tear up the MCU. Through Adam Warlock, the Infinity Sagas, Annihilation and other stories, Thanos has left an indelible mark on the Universe. Honestly, his death in Annihilation was the perfect capstone for his story in my mind and I was a little disappointed to see him come back so soon in Guardians of the Galaxy. The passing of Thanos should have been a big deal, but it never rippled back to the larger Superhuman community. I know why Thanos is back, it's because people picking up comics want to see the characters they see in the films. That's why Bucky is no longer Captain America and why Thanos was dead a New York Minute. 
For me, Thanos is a big deal and should always be a big deal. Yes, tying him into the MCU was a great choice and has me champing at the bit for Infinity War, but it has made him a bit ubiquitous. When Thanos shows up it should be the pinnacle of the story, not the overture. Again, it's not that I dislike Thanos, but rather that I'm seeing him a bit too often.

The Joker  

Seems like every time I get a new Batman story, the Joker shows up to cause some chaos. Even a story about Black Mask or Bane or Catwoman will have an unesesscary Joker cameo to drag in readers, plus he'll be on the cover. I get that with a medium with as small an appeal as comics, every issue sold is a big deal, so you may as well bring out the big guns, but Batman has such a big Rogue's Gallery and it's always the bloody Joker! The Joker is a loose canon, an unknown quantity, a grenade with the pin pulled, now knowing what he's up to is almost as nerve-wracking as seeing where he's at. The novelization of Batman: No Man's Land does it about as well as one could hope to; showing the Joker walking out of Arkham at the beginning, then not having him crop up again until the final third of the book. 
Is anyone else a little annoyed that Joker is in Suicide Squad/Batman vs Superman? Ok, so The Dark Knight was a little while ago now, but he seems unnecessary to the story really. The best Joker stories place him at the centre of the narrative, having him being a supporting character seems a bit wasteful, if one were cynical, one may be tempted to say that it was a bit of a cheap cash-in.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Superhero Media: Rise of the Guardians

Another "hey it's on so why not record it and have a watch?" moment for me. I remember Rise of the Guardians being marketed as "The Avengers of holiday movies", which is way off; it's more like the X-Men of holiday movies. When I say "holiday" I actually mean "American Christian appropriations of Pagan concepts into family-friendly bullshit", yeah, I've studied plenty of Mythology over the years and I kind of cringe when Santa starts hinting pretty strongly at Jesus. For those who don't know, Father Christmas is a Christian appropriation of Odin wrapped in the colours of the Coca-Cola Corporation; as in the Father of Thor, one eye and slayer of Frost Giants. For some reason, in Rise of the Guardians, he's played as Russian by Jack Donaghy and has something of a pro-wrestler vibe. But enough about the one interesting character, because the film centres around Jack Frost and his journey to discover the meaning of love or some shit. Yeah, not going to lie, I pretty much got nothing from this film. 

Right, so the Sandman, Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy and Santa have to team up to save the Holidays from the Bogeyman, played with lazy luster by Jude Law who was clearly there for half a day and walked out with cash in hand. There's something about dreams dying and snow being magic happiness or liquid fun or fairy shit, I kind of zoned out and was sorting DBZ cards at the time. I like Jack Frost's look, with the snowy hoodie and bare feet, it would work well for a teenage Bobby Drake or similar, but he's about as deep as a puddle and has no real hero's journey to speak of. Also, as an Australian, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with being given an animal that is responsible for destroying so much of our native environment as a national symbol. In the end, the heroes triumph with the power of love and kindness and the bad guy gets away for obvious sequel. 

Thing is, this film gave me some pretty good ideas for supers. No joke. Just replace the rubbish greeting card icons with some bigger and better Mythological powerhouses. Just imagine; Santa could be Odin or even Rus, he gathers Sun Wu Kong (Frost), Ishtar (Easter Bunny), Charon (Sandman) and Persephone (Tooth Fairy) to stop a supernatural serial killer who preys on children, ala Freddy Kruger or the Candyman. This team would be unlikely to want to work with existing heroes, but would find themselves out of touch with the modern world and not able to deal with supervillains. I've had some notes on such a concept for about six months, but suffering through Rise of the Guardians helped me flesh it out a bit. Who knows, maybe I can run a holiday game of my own down the track? 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Rethinking the Wish List

Hey True Believers! Sorry that the posts have been more about writing than games or miniatures of late; I've been focusing on other games and my studies. One thing I have been doing though, is trying to get a bit more of a focus on the ongoing Ultimate Alliance project, now that I have the table looking pretty damn good. To that end, I'm going to be planning out my future goals here, so that I have something to work to other than pages of notes handwritten in the back of workbooks. 

1. New Roads/Pavement 

I currently have a set of cork tile roads and un-expanded foam footpaths that sit under the buildings of my city table. Together these look great, but they are easily damaged, are heavy and awkward to transport. I've seen a couple of other options, like the Hawk Wargames urban battleboards or getting a mat printed, but I'm currently discussing some lasercut MDF with a local guy, which I'm hoping will be a decent compromise. I think the Mat would be the ideal solution, but no one seems to be making a "clean" (i.e. without craters and battle-damage) urban road mats at the moment. 

2. Traffic Lights
I may finally have a lead on O-Scale Traffic lights! It's only taken four years! Still a little shocked that no one is putting this out in a lasercut. 

3. Buildings 

I'm pretty good for buildings, but I'd like to replace my abandoned building, shoe-box warehouse and foamcore skyscrapers eventually. They're nice "enough" but don't quite look up to scratch next to the Sarassia and Impudent Mortal stuff. Knights of dice are getting going locally, and my love of all things Art Deco will be having me pick up at least a couple of their things. Multiverse's Magnetic towers as well are very tempting, and Mind Games Melbourne is stocking them now, so I should have something soonish. My Cor-Sec shop that I've done up as a bank is problematic; it was warped and broken when it turned up and is slowly falling apart, even with my heavy mods to keep it together. I'm never bothering with that mob again. 

4. Heroclix 
The great thing about superhero games is that you only really need one of most characters an miniatures. The bad thing is, if you read as many comics as I do, you still want a heck of a lot of those characters. I've had a "Buy List" of heroes (mostly clix) on my desktop for a few years now, and I finally think it's getting shorter. Also, it helps that there isn't many new Clix coming out that grab my fancy; time will tell with TMNT, but we'll deal with that below. In terms of Clix, the current list is as follows:
Nick Fury (616), Ragdoll, Spiderman 2099, Batman Beyond, Cosmo, Firefly, Captain Marvel (SHAZAM), Apocalypse, Metallo, Drax the Destroyer, Prowler, Quake, Desaad, Granny Goodness, Mongul, Starlord, Gamora, Brainiac, Jackal, Vapor, Rogue, Asp, Princess Python, Sidewinder, Lizard, Calendar Man, Guy Gardner, Mojo, Doctor Bong, Cloak, Melter, Black Adam, Titanium Man, Bizaro, Baron Zemo, Mister Sinister, Taskmaster, Blood Brother, Killowog, Gabriel Air Walker, Mirror Master, Captain Cold, Gravitron, Hulkbuster and some Badoon. 
As you can see, nothing too insurmountable or too expensive on the secondary market, my main hurdle is student income. 

5. Knight Models 

I have to say, I've managed to resist the allure of Knight Models so far, but there are a few that I do plan to grab. Jim Lee Superman, Lobo, Doctor Doom and the starter set Bane are all on my radar, but I'm waiting for sale/discount stock so that I'm not dropping $100AUD on four miniatures. I have, as of this moment, no real plans to get into the Batman Miniatures game, but time may tell. 

6. TMNT 

So TMNT Heroclix are on the way. Hells to the yeah! I'm not sure how many actual boosters, I'll be buying, I'm pretty sure my focus will be more on singles, as I already have a very nice set of turtles. Basically, I'd like Bebop, Rocksteady, Shredder, Splinter, April, Casey Jones and Metalhead. You know, the secondary characters. So far, the previews only really show many variations of turtle, but hopefully there'll be common or uncommon versions of the other major characters. 

7. Dragonball/Z/GT/Super 

Did you know that there's a Dragonball Z board game and possibly collectible miniature game in the works? Jasco Games, an American company, has a card game called the Universal Fighting System that includes several Animes, Megaman and has recently picked up the rights to Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Dragonball Z. Last year they Kickstarted a Megaman Board Game and are set to do the same for Dragonball Z in the near future. Jasco has also announced a CMG in the works, featuring several of the properties they have access to, though specifics are thin on the ground at the moment. Unlike TMNT, Image or Dark Horse, I'd happily have just about every character from the Dragonball universe. Supreme West Kai, Bra, Mercenary Tao, Launch, Jeice, I'll take them all. Actually, almost all the main characters interest me far less than than the minor players, which will hopefully work out in my favour if the go CMG. Watch out for the Great Saiyaman mixing it up with Moon Knight at some point. 

8. Other Manufacturers 

There are a few other things out there that I'll be picking up to fill out some heroes and villains. Hasslefree do a couple of characters I'm currently without and I must pick up some Ninja at some point to serve as Hand/Foot or whatever Japanese henchmen I need access to. It's great to see that there are companies turning out the occasional knockoff for those of us that can't resist mashing their settings together. 

9. Wish List 

Because that's what it's all about at the end of the day, right? Playing all the fantasy team-ups that we'll never get to see in comics because of the crazy IP laws that the USA have created to protect Mickey Mouse. It's actually kind of amazing how many characters I've been able to find over the years from scrounging through the dark parts of the internet, but there are always more, aren't there? Here's a look at the current line-up of desire: 

 Allen the Alien (Invincible, Image Comics)
I'll cover this more with the titular character below, but Invincible is an amazing comic and you should all read it. Allen is a great secondary character from the comic with a huge fan following and an amazing back-story. I won't ruin it too much here, but Allen has some great generic "Paragon" abilities and a cool look. I'd like to see him alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy on my gaming table one day. 

 Astro Boy 
Actually, a friend is keen to sculpt up an Astro for use in my Ultimate Alliance games, so this may no longer be a fantasy in the near future. Like many born in the 1980s, I grew up with Astro Boy and his adventures are ingrained on my consciousness. Now, everybody; "Soaring high in the sky..." 

 Commander Keen (Commander Keen, ID Software) 
Yeah, still on the Commander Keen train of thought. Replaying the classic games just increased my enthusiasm, which is pretty atypical for me; what with The Maxx and Darkwing Duck falling off the Wish List pretty quick when I watched the programmes again. However, Commander Keen is just the kind of hero I'd like to see grace the table; nothing but a pogo stick, a ray gun and a bit of pluck, sounds like a winner to me. 

Doctor Dinosaur (Atomic Robo, Red 5 Comics)
I have an Atomic Robo now, so, of course, I need a Doctor Dinosaur to fight him. I thought Doctor Dinosaur was genius the minute I read his dialogue on the page and knew I must have one. In a world with Doctor Doom and Lex Luthor running their Machiavellian schemes, we need a crazy dinosaur who powers his machines with Crystals and mangles the English language. 
General Zod (As portrayed by Terrance Stamp)
C'mon, I can't be the only person that thinks this is the superior version of Zod. Modern power-armour or classic spandex doesn't do anything for me, but a widow's peak and chest hair? Brilliant. Yeah, it's camp and silly, but Silver Age Superman is camp and silly and that should be celebrated, not forgotten and shoved aside for "dark and edgy" Superman. "Kneel before Zod" is a classic line that deserves some play on the tabletop. 
Invincible (Invincible, Image Comics) 
Once again, Invincible is an amazing comic and you must read it. Go read it right now. Mark Grayson is the son of one of the most powerful heroes in the world and his powers have just kicked in. Awesome. Imagine if Superman was Peter Parker's dad and you have a vague idea of what's going on. Mark has to grow up with a great deal of "power and responsibility" and still balance his normal life. A great comic, a great character and I really want one.  
John Hours (Black Summer, Avatar Press) 
How many superheroes do you know that have murdered a sitting president? John is the leader of the Six Guns, a team of cybernetics-enhanced University nerds who took it upon themselves to clean up their city, with guns. A patently libertarian reactionary piece to the lies and crimes of the Bush Administration, Black Summer is a great read with a couple of really great characters, including John Hours, a man willing to commit the worst crime he can think of in order to set his country free. Imagine Captain America with The Punisher's morality and Mister Miracle's tech. 
Max Damage (Incorruptible, Boom) 
And I though Irredeemable was good. Max Damage is the world's most dangerous Super-criminal, but when he sees the Plutonian go on a rampage, he has an epiphany and realises that it's time to be a hero. Max's motivations are somewhat puzzling to those around him, as he destroys his lair, abandons his teenage sidekick and even burns a mountain of cash that he stole. Max knows that he is the only one who can defeat the Plutonian, but can he get past his own history and reputation to do so?  
Samus (Metroid Series, Nintendo)
I used to want a fair few Nintendo characters for Ultimate Alliance, but the frankly stupid powers they give them these days makes me cringe. For some reason, Samus has escaped relatively unscathed, I'd like to not have to put that down to misogyny, but you never know with Nintendo. Samus is a bounty hunter with an awesome set of power armour with a proud history of preventing genocide. Perhaps her motivates aren't always grand, but she's on the right side when the chips are down. 

The Crow (The Crow) 
Nothing like Gothic, harlequin, undead justice tearing up the mean streets. The Crow is in indy comics icon and one I feel needs representing in miniature. I believe he'd be one of those characters like Gamera or Snake Eyes; not many people would want to play him, but those who do will be thrilled at the option. A sculpt that looked like the above art would be really great. 
The Spirit (by Will Eisner) 
The original comic hero, how could I not? Again, not a character I'd see picked up and played all the time, but a much-needed addition to Golden Age games. So long as I manged to stay away from Frank Miller and terrible film adaptations, I think The Spirit would work well in Ultimate Alliance. 
Tom Noir (Black Summer, Avatar Press) 
The only other really interesting character from the Six Guns, Tom Noir can read and see telecommunications in the air around him and hack at the speed of thought. Drunk and injured and pulled out of retirement for one last job, Tom hates the idea of corruption and is perfectly willing to fight against Government and Police in the name of true freedom. He also looks cool, which is a good thing for a miniature. 
Watchmen (DC Comics and Alan Moore) 
I can't be the only person disappointed that the only Watchmen miniatures available, both in Clix and Knight models, are based on the terrible film rather than the original comics, right? Ok, so my Rorschach doesn't matter either way and I'd never put Doctor Manhattan on the table ("God exists, and he's American"), but everyone else would be welcome. Pudgy Nite Owl II, Dollar Bill, even Moloch and Hooded Justice would be great to have mixing it up. The sooner I can consign the film to a bitter memory, the better. 

The Venture Bros. (Adult Swim) 
Man, I could write the shit out of a Venture Brothers miniature game. Seriously, I already know the basic mechanics in my head and how it would work (a little like a Pulp Alley/7TV/Pulp City mashup) and I could bash out an alpha in a weekend. Give me a call Doc Hammer. 

Andrew W.K. (A free spirit that can never truly be contained)
Yeah, Andrew W.K., seriously. I have my reasons. 

Earthworm Jim (Universal) 
Great big muscles and a really big ray gun, Jim is a hero through and through despite his general incompetence and lack of comprehension of almost everything. Another slightly-wacky space adventurer that I'd like to have alongside Allen the Alien, Ratchet and Clank and Commander Keen. 

Mewtwo (Pokemon, Nintendo) 
There are people who look at the characters they can play in Ultimate Alliance and see the Pokemon Trainer and cringe. Then there are those who realise the potential and settle in for a fun game. As I tend to like to have at least one matching hero and villain, Mewtwo is probably the best fit for my G1 Pokemon mindset. Also, he's been known to fight the good fight when he really needs to; nothing like a villain turning hero just long enough to save the day before turning on his temporary allies. 
Ratchet and Clank (Insomniac) 
The galaxy's greatest heroes are due their own film next year and it actually looks pretty good. I guess that's what happens when Sony goes the Marvel Studios route and gets people who actually worked on the games to work on the film. I think a gravity-feed clix set of the film may be a bit much to hope for, but maybe some mircofigs? Come hell or high water, one day Ratchet and Clank are going to kick some arse on my table. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Superhero Media: Chronicle

Chronicle was sold to me as a pretty decent film, with many insisting that I would find it engrossing and entertaining. I was hesitant and avoided the film for quite some time, as I've never been a fan of the "found footage" style of cinematography, finding it to be disjointed and never really used the the full as a storytelling device. Chronicle does it better than many other films I've seen, but sometimes the amount and quality of cameras on the characters gets a bit silly. Our story begins with three youths finding an alien device that unlocks their latent potential for telekinetic powers. The three form a bond over this and soon the jock, the stoner and the nerd are causing havoc and testing the limits of their abilities. 

First up, I really like telekinesis as a powers set, it's right up the top of my list of super powers I'd like, but it rarely gets pushed to the limits in any media. One of the better elements of Chronicle is that the characters have to test and analyse their powers and the limits thereof, something that all too often gets skimmed over in origin stories, the focus instead being on action. Sadly, the character development is both a bit lacking and a bit obvious in places; the abused nerd lashes out pretty much straight away, even when he starts to form a genuine friendship with the Jock. The fact that I can't actually remember the names of any of the character is about the best indication of their lack of any real depth or interest. 

So, if you haven't seen it, Chronicle is worth a look, it's kind of nifty and pretty unique. I'd say it has more value as inspiration for supers Roleplaying rather than miniature wargames, with people trying to come to terms with what has happened to him and very few answers to the big questions. I'm not in a rush to see it again, but I don' feel like the time was wasted. Something a bit like this for a MCU "Marvels" film would be really interesting and work with the whole "point of view" thing a lot better.