Monday, November 30, 2015

Superhero Media: Thunderbirds Are Go! Season 1

5... 4... 3... 2... 1! What the hell is this? Is that CGI? Where's the "Supermarionation"? I can't believe they did this to Thunderbirds! This is... pretty damn good actually. So the characters are animated, but the sets and vehicles all remain model work, done by none other than Weta Workshop, which do a great bloody job. The programme itself is nicely updated, keeping the themes of benevolent technology, humanism and global adventure from the original, but updating it for a new audience. The Tracy boys are back and it's time to defend the planet from disaster and the sinister machinations of The Hood. Ok, so it's not exactly the same as the original, but it's also not the first remake (Turbocharged Thunderbirds anyone?) and stays true enough to the original that complaining about it would be akin to complaining that Billy Hartnell is no longer on Doctor Who

You know what I like best about Thunderbirds Are Go!? It's a superhero programme. Well, duh, I'm writing about it here, right? But not simply that it is about superheroes, but that they are heroes who don't beat up the bad guys. Now, I don't believe that watching cartoon violence does any harm to children (or anyone), but I do like that there are alternatives like this out there. Thunderbirds Are Go! manages to be fun, exciting and action-packed with very few punches thrown or guns going off; in today's market, that's pretty rare and a bit special.

Maybe it's nostalgia, but I get a bit excited when the countdown starts. It's all I can do to not shout "Thunderbirds are go!" with the announcer. Due to the fact that it's the same for me with "Avengers assemble!", I'm not overly embarrassed by that, but I do try and not get too caught up. I love the idea of International Rescue and the Thunderbirds and I'd love to find a way to include them in my games, though I'm not sure quite how as yet. My hopes that Crooked Dice would rush some Tracy boys into production hasn't panned out and the idea of having a 1/48 Thunderbird 2 is a bit daunting. Still, I've plenty of time and opportunity to work something out, I'm sure before too long Ultimate Alliance players can shout out a countdown with me. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

WIP: Alternate Hulkbuster

Like pretty much everyone, I loved the Hulkbuster scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Hulkbuster has a proud history in Marvel comics and it was a real fanboy gushing moment to see it on the big screen. Naturally, I was keen for the heroclix version as well, but was underwhelmed when it was a Chase Ultra-Rare in a Gravity Feed set. It goes for about $20-30USD on eBay at the moment, which means, with the struggling Aussie dollar and exorbitant US shipping, that I'm looking at at least $50AUD to get one in my hands. A bit pricey for a clix. There are a couple of toy options, but all lack real detail and decent posing. 

Then I found this: 
It's a Disney Infinity figure for video games. It cost me $14. As you can see, it's pretty damn big, those are a Knight Models Doctor Doom and Eureka 28mm Modern next to it. Now, in the film, the Hulkbuster is a little taller than the Hulk, and my Hulks (I have a Hulk problem) tend to top out at about 54mm, making this one damn big Hulkbuster. It's a bit hard to see in the blister packaging (I'm keeping it sealed until I decide to keep it), but it's about twice as tall as the KM Doom. 

Now, in World War Hulk, Iron Man breaks out a new Hulkbuster that's a fair bit taller than old Jade Jaws; Heroclix make one of those too, but it looks pretty naff and would be upwards of $50 again. So what if I called this big boy the latest model? As you may be able to tell, he's pretty nicely pre-painted and shouldn't require much work to get to a tabletop standard. 

So, true believers, what do you think? I'm going to base my decision to keep it or return it based on the feedback I get here. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Superhero Media: Lost Boys - The Thirst

I really enjoy the original The Lost Boys, sure it's a bit camp, but it does teenage vampires better than than just about any other bloodsucker film. I have a soft spot for the soundtrack as well, Echo and the Bunnymen, Roger Daltry, The Cure, it's a good mix. There are fun little references to comics, Hammer Horror and even the '60s monster craze, it's a good film and you should probably go watch it, it's way better than this piece of tripe. Maybe it's the fact that Cory Felman has somehow become an even worse actor than he was in the mid-80s, or that the drab filter makes everything look bland, or maybe it's that the over-the-top elements were kind of fun back in the day, but "The Thirst" just can't hold a candle to the original. The story picks up with the Frog Brothers hunting vampires (of course), but tragedy strikes when Alan is bitten and turned! 

Flash forward and Edgar is trying to mope around and look like Snake Plissken (and failing), when a nubile scientist turns up and talks about "The Thirst" a drug that turns people into vampires, maybe, kinda, that's none too clear. Also he needs to find her brother and there's a cute comic store girl that turns out to be a werewolf, but the plot only gets in the way of Feldman wishing he had one iota of Kurt Russell's talent and masculine badarsedness. There's a terrible cover of "Cry Little Sister" that almost ruined the original for me and the main villain is so bland that he makes Richard Roxburgh's perfromance in Van Helsing look positively Shakespearean. That said, the way Edgar kills the main villain is actually pretty cool and deserves a positive mention. I'm sure you can find it on YouTube rather than having to sit through the whole film. 

To call this an obvious cash-in would be an insult to obvious cash-ins. It has none of the charm of the original, or the cleverness or even the quality of acting, whilst having two of the original actors in it. Even as a silly action-horror vampire film, it has little to offer when compared to the Blade series or Supernatural. The villains' plan, of getting a bunch of ravers turned, could be decent inspiration for an adventure featuring the Midnight Sons or MI-13, but most gamers could come up with a much better variation on that theme with that fragment to go on. Give this one a miss.

Reboot: Interesting Times [FR]

The year is 1789 and the Bastille has just been stormed. History will show that it was a revolutionary raid to free political prisoners, but the truth is far more shocking and fantastic. The storming of the Bastille was the opening move in a secret war for power that lasted until Napoleon Bonaparte deposed the Directory in November 1799. One of the major players of this struggle was Maximilian Robespierre, an early proponent of Chaos Magic, whose forces staged the raid on the infamous prison in order to recover powerful artifacts hidden there by the French Clergy. Many saw the chaos in France as a chance to execute grabs for power. The loyal Vampire minions of Vladimir Tepes Dracula are active and so is the mysterious Illuminated Order. [THE ILLUMINATED ORDER DOES NOT EXIST>YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THE ILLUMINATED ORDER]

Robespierre gathers his minions...

Into this turbulent time came an enigmatic figure known only as Ulysses, a man who wields vast power, but seeks to free France from the evil that would overwhelm it. Thus are The Heroes of the Revolution born; a team of criminals, legends and iconoclasts who are destined to be the world's first Superheroes. A great, and mostly unseen conflict erupted in the secret, magic places of France for the next decade, forging the destiny of the world in a way that few would ever know. The Nineteenth Century would be born of the struggle between Robespierre, Dracula, The Illuminated Order [THE ILLUMINATED ORDER DOES NOT EXIST>YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THE ILLUMINATED ORDER] and the small band of heroes trying to stop them from destroying everything. 


In terms of games, the French Revolution era is intended to be a mini-campaign, with four factions vying for supremacyThere will be a series of magical artifacts that provide in-game power-ups and each victory or defeat will effect the games that come afterwards. Unlike some of the other eras I'm working on, I really need to get everything done before I start playing the games. I'm hoping to maybe interest some players by having a narrative campaign and interesting miniatures ready to go. I'm still about ten minis away from having everything I need, let alone the painting, but now at least I can share some of the work I have done with you. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Superhero Media: The Fly

Oh god the hubris! What has science wrought? Was Jeff Goldblum cast in Jurassic Park on the strength of this performance? Only The Fly can provide the answers. As I continually mention, I have a major in Flim and Television Studies (as well as Literature Major), which is a great way to understand cinema, but a very bad way to enjoy it. You see, Cronenberg is a visionary of body horror, if you've never seen any of the films of Shinya Tsukamoto, the guy ol' Dave basically stole his ideas from. So yes, I can enjoy The Fly on it's own merits, but the whole time, I'm thinking that I'd rather be watching Tetsuo: The Iron Man. So, a mad scientist accidentally crosses his DNA with a housefly in a teleportation experiment and we get the world's newest hero, this thing: 

Well, no. There aren't any colourful costumes or villains to battle or sexy upside-down kiss in the rain with a fit redhead in a soaking crop-top, but aside from all that, Seth Brundle could basically be one of Peter Parker's classmates. So what do you do when a failed experiment turns you into a human/fly hybrid? Attempt to do the same to your girlfriend and unborn child, of course! Somehow a big injection of fly DNA and superpowers makes you evil. I'm not going to dispute that as Curt Conners proved that the same is true of lizard DNA, but makes you think, doesn't it? I wonder what other creatures have intrinsically evil DNA? And do things like kittens have good DNA? Can I become a better person by injecting kittens into myself? These are questions that need answering. To the lab!

I've never been a fan of horror, really. I try out the odd film an J and K-Horror are starting to do it for me a bit, but overall the genre leaves me a bit cold. The entire time watching The Fly, up until the bloodbath at the end, I felt like I was seeing the origin of a superhero or villain; the failed experiment, crossed DNA and awakening super powers. Seth Brundle is not overly dissimilar to Curt Conners or Kirk Langstrom, and having a costumed hero swing through the window, beat down Brundlefly and deliver a pithy one-liner would not be terribly out of place. 

Monday, November 9, 2015


So this year, I've played a lot of Empire of the Dead, tried out some new games and done a few Ultimate Alliance games. I haven't got as many SuperSystem games in as I would like, but I've watch a lot of films and television that I'm slowing getting through making Superhero Media[s] for (seriously, there are nine in the backlog, and I don't know how many DVDs and recordings, plus actual comics). On the plus side, I've managed to plan out a great deal off stuff for SS4 that I'm finally getting to, and play a bit of Retro DBZ, which I'll post more about down the track as well. For now, I want to share with you my SS4 supers, who they are, the world they inhabit and what they fight for. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of miniature wargamers the world over never quite work out and teams don't get painted in order.To remedy this, I'm going to do something of a "primer" for readers, so that I can just post what I finish as I finish it. (for a quick catch-up, click the "Equalisers" tag) 

There are four "time periods" that I'm working on for supers gaming so far; French Revolution [FR], Golden Age/WWII [GA], Silver/Bronze Age (though in the 1980s rather than the 1960s) [SA] and the primary Modern/Platinum Age Equalisers stuff [EQ]. There'll also be some time-travel and alternate dimensions, because what's comics without time travel and alternate dimensions? There are also vague plans for adventures in space (thanks Jim Starlin) and after the apocalypse (blame Old Man Logan). Each era has its own heroes, villains, teams and themes. A big Secret Wars/Infinity War style crossover will have to happen at some stage as well, because why not? 

Starting at the top, the French Revolution [FR] centres around magic, secret societies and hidden power struggles. The revolution itself is the perfect cover for an epic power-play that can reference historic events and annoy pedants. I plan to run a campaign around these heroes, so far consisting of the Minions of Robespierre, the Illuminated Order, the Knights of Dracul and the Heroes of the Revolution. Watch this space for more. 
I figure Golden Age (WWII) games will be a good way to trick historical players into trying out SS4. Once again, there'll be an element of Historical events involved as well as classic Captain America style plots with crazy Nazi experiments and ancient artifacts. The teams will focus on the UK, USSR and Germany, again, plenty of stuff in the pipeline for this. 
The Silver age of Equalisers Earth kind of grew out of the background I wrote when I ran the Equalisers as a Mutants and Masterminds campaign about a decade ago. Like all good comics, I wanted some continuity. Were the (player character) heroes the first on the planet? How long had mutants been around? How do the governments of the world deal with people who can punch holes in the planet? The Silver Age enables me to build a mythos for the Equalisers setting and leaves opportunities for more time travel. 
Equalisers is the "main" story, the 616 if you will. There are more metahumans than ever before and they fight to keep the earth safe. There are more teams, more individual heroes and villains and more action. Some heroes and even teams carry over from [SA] and characters develop over time. 

Sorry for another big text-based post, more minis and games coming really soon! 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Superhero Media: Spawn (1997)

Well, I don't like Spawn to begin with, so you can imagine the trepidation with which I approached this film. I had also seen the film ages ago, so long ago, in fact, I believe I was watching it on VHS. The memories of that first viewing were not fond, but I place little stock in the opinions on art that I formed when I was a child, so I was willing to give it another go. Spawn tells the story of a special forces soldier who is betrayed by his CO and is killed; when he arrives in hell, he is made into the general of Satan's armies, only to refuse and rebel because he loves his wife and family. Wow, that is so '90s that I'm shocked the film didn't come with a holographic foil cover and shoulder pads bigger than its head. Oh, and the film is filled with crappy '90s CGI too! Check this shit out:

Aww, yeah! That's some crappy early CGI right there!

Hey, it's not like Spawn's powers pretty much have to be animated right? What with the flowing cape and scything chains. I feel like the choice to do CGI when the technology was still so basic was a cost-saving measure, as stop-motion would have been a much better choice to realise the look of the comic. Living in a cinematic world that Marvel Studios helped shape makes going back to 1990s superhero films a bit jarring. Spawn and many of its contemporaries were shot like action films, with no real appreciation for how comics worked, looked or "felt". Think about it, how many "good" superhero films were there in the 1990s? Batman Returns and The Phantom? But hey, we all went to see the silver bat-nipples anyway, because it was all that was on offer. Guardians of the Galaxy would never have been made in that climate, we're now spoiled for choice and quality, so of course these vintage flicks look poor in comparison. 
Is Spawn worth another look? Probably not. It's a relic of a time in comics that most choose to forget, though I have a soft-spot for (Doom 2099 bitches!). It has dated and was not that great to begin with, so looks like shlock now. I've heard that Todd McFarlane is looking write and produce another Spawn film or television series, news I fail to be excited about in a world with The Flash, Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Spawn belongs to the over-hyped, post-speculator boom 1990s, I have difficulty imagining him walking the same world as Invincible and not looking goofy by comparison.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Miniatures Finished - Gods, Robots and Hillbillies

What's that? I've finished painting everything I need for tournaments and can paint whatever I want? Hooray! 

 Sutekh the Destroyer, Baymax and K-9. 
Yes, Baymax is way too big for 28mm, but for $4, he'll do as a placeholder until I can find a better version. Sutekh is Eureka and K-9 is from Black Tree. 

 Wonder Man, Whistler and a Camera man.

Superhero Media: Superhero Movie

Woeful. Rarely funny. Another of those "why did I bother?" moments in the colourful history of Superhero Media. Ok, so it didn't cost me anything and I was painting miniatures at the time, so I can hardly call it time wasted, but it was close. What really bugged me was the cast. Look at this list of names; Leslie Neilsen, Tracy Morgan, Jeffery Tambor, Brent Spiner and Christopher McDonald. How is it possible to make a piece of tripe with that list? The Abrahams/Zuker combo (of Flying High Fame) could have turned out a comedic masterpiece with a cast like that. Instead we get a meandering, mediocre plot peppered with jokes about teenage hormones and nonsensical celebrity cameos. 

The, perhaps, one redeemable factor of the film (aside from Leslie Neilson, whose genius can not be dulled by anything) is the villain, whose name I do not reacal, but is a poor rendition of Norman Osborn; after an industrial accident of some kind, the owner of a big corporation that does science can now absorb people to make himself superhuman. There may also be something about him dying without doing the absorbing thing, but I forget as the film was too poor to make me care much. Extrapolating the data with a computer, the villain figures out that if he kills like, 100,000 [?] people, he'll be immortal. Now that's actually a pretty good motivation for a villain. In fact, it's a good motivation for a super-powered character in general. Pity it was in such an awful film. 

Umm, what else can I say? Superhero Movie was bad and I don't recommend watching it. Sure there are some funny moments here and there, but YouTube exists for you to see those without sitting through the whole thing. Go watch Flying High or Naked Gun or Top Secret instead, same basic idea but actually funny. Pretty much nothing here of value for Supers gaming. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Five characters I'd like to see more of...

Ever flip open a comic or switch on some cartoons and think, "Hey, I love that guy! Why doesn't he show up more often?" Maybe I'm just a big kid at heart, but sometimes I harbor elaborate fantasies for characters with great narrative possibilities. I know the reality will probably never live up to my hopes and dreams, but I keep watching and reading anyway and maybe one day I'll be rewarded. 


Follow me on this; Dick Grayson is Batman. Jean-Paul Valley is Batman. Terry McGuinness is Batman. Bruce Wayne has had the cowl pretty much uninterrupted since 1939, even the brief periods he's been without it have been few and far between. In recent months, my favourite Batman stories have become the ones where someone else is under the hood; Knightfall, Batman Beyond, Batman Incorporated and Dick's brief run have all been pretty brilliant in their own ways. For starters, only Bruce has the tendency to grunt "I'm Batman" though clenched teeth and an impacted bowel. 
There's a fan theory that Batman in the Justice League and the Batman patrolling the streets of Gotham are two separate people. In the Freedom City setting of the Mutants and Masterminds RPG, this is exactly the case, two different heroes filling the same role in different places. Now imagine that with Batman. Bruce Wayne spends most of his time at the Watchtower, running operations for the League, Dick and Tim deal with the Gotham street crime while Jean-Paul and Red Hood deal with the big-league stuff that requires real firepower. A new take on Batman that gives everyone what they want; more Batman. 

Howard the Duck 

Need a wise-cracking, fourth wall-breaking, politically incorrect cameo character in your Marvel comic? Look no further. Stuck in a world he never made, Howard the Duck is an iconoclastic autodidact with a strong sense of social justice and a mastery of Quack-Fu. The original run of Howard the Duck is a 1970s counter-culture classic, culminating with Howard running for President on a platform of honesty and integrity, which, of course, makes him enemies at all turns. I really feel like Bendis, Fraction or Ellis would be great matches for Howard, bringing him in on Corporate Greed, American Imperialism and Civil Rights. Howard can point a finger at the world and say the controversial things we're all thinking because he's a Duck, a foul-mouthed fowl who just wants to get along in this crazy world of hairless apes. *WAAAUGH!* 

Future Trunks 

Seriously, what happened to Trunks? In Free The Future (one of my "Top 10" DBZ episodes), we see Trunks defeat the Androids and Cell, freeing his world and then jump into the time machine for one last trip back to say "thanks" to the Z Fighters. Not only do we not get to see that moment, we never find out what happens to the ruined world Trunks came from. What about Androids 19, 16 and 13? Is there a trip to New Namek in the works to use the Dragonballs and get a new guardian? Goku can't be resurrected, so will Trunks be the new leader of the Z Fighters, or will Gohan? Will Gohan's arm be restored if he's resurrected or will Bulma build him a cool robot arm? What about Babadi and Buu? Will any of the Z Fighters even want to be wished back after more than a decade of being dead? 
The pedantic fans out there will point out that Trunks' story is continued in the Dragonball Z: Xenoverse video game, but my complaint there is that Trunks mainly serves as a plot device and it doesn't continue the story of his world. The Dragonball Multiverse webcomic does a pretty good job as well, but again, it's bits and pieces that don't make a full picture. There's a whole world here that can be explored and I'd like to see what's there.

The Universal Church of Truth 

For those who have not read the Jim Starlin Warlock comics; you're missing out. Yes, they're  very '70s and a little trippy, but the story is amazing and Adam Warlock's struggle to deal with the destructive power he wields creates some great moments of superhero hubris. Adam's initial conflicts are with the Universal Church of Truth, a thinly-veiled metaphor for militant religious extremism in the United States lead by The Magus, an evil version of Warlock from the future. It's a classic story about power corrupting and attempting to escape one's own fate. If the Magus wasn't a big enough foe to overcome, the Church itself is well-equipped with Cardinals (epic warriors powered by their own beliefs), Black Knights (cyborg super-cops) and even the faithful who will kill anyone who defiles the Church. 
After the Magus' defeat, the Church is reborn as a faith that worships life. They love life so much, that if you don't share that love, they'll kill you for it. What makes the Church such a great antagonist for comics is the variation they can put out in terms of fodder for the heroes to beat on. Taking on an organisation rather than an individual bad guy makes a hero or team of heroes have to work a bit smarter to win. Sure, you can plow through ranks of mooks, but are you really getting anywhere? So go for the head right? Kill the space pope and watch the Church crumble. That's all well and good until a new guy puts on the pope hat and has a vendetta for your team. A really cool concept from Marvel's Golden Space Age that needs to see more print.


Screw The Joker, you know who Batman's greatest foe is? Bane. First up, Bane defeated Batman. Straight up wore him down to nothing and beat him into submission. Broke his damn spine, he's that badass. Bane is also the perfect antithesis for Batman. The man who would be Bane was born into the toughest prison on the planet with no hope of ever escaping. Rather than succumbing to his fate, the child trains his body and sharpens his mind to the peak of perfection, becoming the most dangerous man alive. Forget the Venom, forget roided-out hulk Bane, everything that happened before the Venom is everything you need to know about the character. Batman trained his mind and body to perfection so that he could become the ultimate champion for justice; Bane did the same so that he would be feared. 
Read some of the No Man's Land stuff, or watch Young Justice, Bane is a rogue element that can never be second-guessed and is always several steps ahead. Sadly, the Arkham video games have presented Bane as a mindless brute villain and it seems to have stuck, wasting so much of the character's potential. Perhaps Bane is scarce because he's not based in Gotham, but that hardly seems like an excuse, he and Batman are at a one-all draw at the moment, maybe now's the time to settle it.