Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Superhero Media: 52

Probably one of the best series that DC Comics has ever produced, 52 is also referred to as "DC Comics' 52" or "52: The Series" around the place, and is not to be confused with all of the "New 52" titles. After the events of Infinite Crisis, a year of the DCU was lost, 52 tells the story of that year, in 52 weekly installments, from the perspective of those living in a world without Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. The strength of 52 comes from the characters that drive its narrative, including Booster Gold, The Question, Renee Montoya, Steel, Batwoman, Elongated Man, Animal Man, Starfire, Adam Strange, Black Adam and more, each of whom have their own arc within the broader whole. I loaned 52 to my girlfriend because she has become a fan of Batwoman and wanted to see where the current incarnation of the character got started, and now she wants to read more about Elongated Man and Booster Gold. Even when I first read 52, I only reconised some of the characters, and now I have entire collections of Animal Man and Booster Gold

The problem with 52 is that so much happens, to single out any particular plot line or moment seems disingenuous to the whole. It's not just Booster Gold's story that's great, but it touches on what is also happening to Skeets, Rip Hunter, Professor Morrow, Wonder Girl and others, so it can't be isolated from the web of narrative happening through the series. The one character I can talk about with relative impunity is Black Adam, who begins the series as the brutal dictator of his own nation, and ends it being hunted by every hero on the planet. Black Adam changes so much throughout 52, that it is difficult for me to see him as the simple, "bad guy" antagonist to Captain Marvel that he once was. After the success of the SHAZAM! film, I now look forward to the Black Marvel spin-off where Isis, Osiris and Sobek appear. But wait, now I want to talk about the Science Squad and Oolong Island, or how Doc Magnus is an interesting character apart from the Metal Men. 

One of the best things about 52 is how it ties into other great DC comics, like New 52 Booster Gold, Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle, and Greg Ruka's Batwoman run. Yes, the DC reboot roundabout means that many of these series never got a great run, but I do tend to re-read the four-volume Blue Beetle more often than the twenty five-volume Ultimate Spider-Man, so there's that. If you're getting a serious comic collection together, pick up the four 52 trades, they're a great read and an even better introduction to some interesting side-characters, as well as a rewarding story for existing fans, with plenty of Easter Eggs and trainspotting to be had. Also, get some Booster Gold, Animal Man and Batwoman while you're at it. Naturally, I have many of the characters that feature in 52 in miniature, though the current options on Supernova and Captain Comet are pretty poor and I don't think anyone makes a Lady Styx. 

Friday, July 23, 2021


Been busy ticking through the 6mm Soviets because I have so damn many of them and was sick of looking at the bare metal. They're pretty easy to paint and it feels good to break up the more complex minis that can sometimes take hours. 

SU76 76mm SPGs, with converted loader to denote unit leader. Been thinking about rules for Kaiju, and only large guns like these and bigger will be able to affect the Kaiju, but probably more of an annoyance than actual harm. 

The Spaceship came in a box with a Kaiju I'm yet to paint, and I picked up the Russian Revolution Armoured Cars to fit in a bit better with a "Weird Wars" concept, but I figure for Kaiju, they house flame-throwers and are for tacking the Kaiju Spawn. The Spaceship will likely house a team of "Teenagers with Attitude" at some stage. 

Similarly the jet came with a Kaiju kit and looked enough like a MIG-15 that I reckon I can get away with it. For an extra 'Weird Wars" vibe, check out these T-80s! I'm a little disappointed in them and may retire them soon, as my IS-2s are about the same size. 

 Here another finished Annihilation Wave Nightmare demonstrates just how small the 6mm looks next to big monsters. 10mm would probably be a better scale for the Kaiju, but I already had the Soviets and I don't mind the scale being exaggerated to make the Kaiju look even more dangerous. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Superhero Media: Ghostbusters II

I really like Ghostbusters II and I honestly don't get why people are so set against it. Yes, it isn't as good as the original, but the level of derision this film is met with simply baffles me. Years after saving New York from Gozer and Mr Staypuft, the team are split, having been sued into deep debt for destroying an apartment building. I really like that take, you don't see heroes having to deal with the legal consequences of their actions too often in films, it's something I need to work into my Supers roleplaying at some point. Sure, the Avengers have insurance and all that, but what happens when Ghost Rider wrecks your house during a fight? Who covers that? I can't get the hail damage on my car fixed! Dana and Venkman are no longer together, she having married someone else, had a child and divorced in the interim. When a mysterious happenstance almost kills baby Oscar, Dana goes to Egon for advice and the team comes back together to start an investigation. I personally think that's a reasonable premise for a sequel, but then, I never watched The Real Ghostbusters

I personally believe that The Real Ghostbusters is the reason Ghostbusters II gets such a bad rap. The original Ghostbusters is a frat comedy in the same vein as Caddyshack and Animal House, but the supernatural elements and slapstick made it play well with children as well. Of course, being the 1980s, a cartoon and toy line were commissioned and the brand became quickly associated with a school-aged group, rather than the original audience. Now, when we look at Ghostbusters II, with its characters getting a bit older, having to deal with life's disappointments and thinking hard about their values. That's not the film that several years of toys, cartoons and Ecto Cooler had prepared the youthful audience for; but I do appreciate it now that I am an adult going through my own shit. If you're really invested in the "mythos" of Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II has plenty to draw on, Vigo is an interesting villain, an evil Wizard, setting up a nice science vs magic bit, though the actual resolution lets him down a bit. What I really like, and has been burnt into my psyche since childhood, is the "mood slime". 

What is the slime? Where does it come from? It responds to emotion, is it alive? It can store and broadcast emotions, we see that, but for how long? Does it run down like a battery? Do some emotions work better than others? Could it be used to treat depression and other mental mood disorders? On the subject, I think the Statue of Liberty bit is awesome, if silly, and the idea of using a symbol to unite a city against evil is one worth exploring, imagine using Cap's shield, the Bat-Signal or Excalibur to better effect in a superhero narrative. I still like Ghostbusters II and I'm probably not going to be turned around on that by any films that are yet to come. Personally, I'm disappointed that the 2016 version of Ghostbusters isn't going to continue and the pitch for the new one seems odd, but I'll give it a go anyway. I'll never get the devotion of the Ghostbusters fan-base that hate everything except the original and The Real Ghostbusters, I've been a Spider-Man fan my whole life and will even defend parts of "One More Day". As always, make up your own mind.

Friday, July 16, 2021

SS4 AAR: Victor India Papa

After more than a year without a game, I had a chance to get some SuperSystem games in at a club meeting. I missed this game, but I also realised that there is still a lot of work to do on my city table. Ok, so I may never actually "finish" this table, it's the kind of thing that I can just fiddle with for years, adding little touches and improvements. When I get a chance, I'll set the whole thing up and make a list of what needs to be finished, fixed, replaced, improved, etc. Maybe finally get to that stash of pieces to fill out building interiors and those graffiti transfers. Anyway, on with the game; we played the "Rescue" scenario, which I've never been a huge fan of, as I felt the balance was off, especially if the defending team can just move the VIP wherever they want. I want to go back to writing Mission Scripts for SuperSystem, but it always seems to be far down the project stack.

It was a chilly day in Superhero City, the slight breeze doing little to dry the steady and soaking rain. On one street corner, the wind intensified for a moment as a Boom Tube opened and out came The Champions of the Omniverse! For this mission, the inscrutable Eon has sent that Magnanimous Mutant, the Mighty Manzilla! The X-Treme Arachnid, Spider-Strike! Mystical Martial Arts Master San-Te! Beneficent Cyborg The Bi-Centurion! Super Sentai Stalwart Koga! Why are they back? Why are they here? Is this the start of a new adventure for the team? Only time will tell!

The reason the Champions have been summoned to rescue Anderson Sterling, a young executive for the Cicada Corporation, a digital firm specialising in Security Algorithms. Sterling has been captured by a team of villains (from the left), the Bulk, Doctor Psycho, Ion and Red Diamond, a nefarious crew out to make a quick buck in the ransom racket.

Being a tad more sneaky than other Champions, San-Te and Koga approach from the South, using the cars and pedestrian park as cover. Somehow, Koga forgets that he can turn Invisible, so it's up to the former Wu-Tang monk to charge in and pin the villains down.

Coming up from the other side, the remaining Champions, Spider-Strike, Manzilla and Bi-Centurion, are actually a little closer to the kidnappers, but are slower, so they make a direct line for their foes.

San-Te quickly becomes surrounded, but his speed and agility prevents The Bulk from landing a blow, and his hits are telling on the physically weaker Doctor Psycho. Best of all, the distraction of a whirling Kung-Fu monk in their ranks has caused the villains to not keep as close a watch on Sterling as they had been.

Unable to hold back his X-TREME power, Spider-Strike makes a dash for the fray, spotting the VIP, he calls for backup from his teammates. Red Diamond takes to the air, but his energy blasts fail to injure the agile arachnid.

Also leaping into the skies, Manzilla attempts to draw Red Diamond's fire whilst the Bi-Centurion takes cover from Ion's energy blasts. What little plan the Champions have used is working, as the villains are scattered and there is a clear path to Sterling for a rescue.

Finally remembering to use his Invisibility, Koga sneaks forward and grabs Sterling, moving him to the cover of a nearby police car. Finally twigging that they've been had, the villains break away from San-Te and Spider-Strike and give chase.

Attempting to slow down the chasing villains, the Mighty Manzilla swoops in, lining up the cluster of baddies around San-Te and preparing to unleash his secret weapon. A foul and viscous stream of slippery goo erupts forth from Manzilla's snout, covering Doctor Psycho, San-Te and The Bulk and knocking all of them off their feet.

Sliding around in the goo, hero and villains alike find themselves temporarily out of the fight. In the confusion, Koga hands Sterling off to Bi-Centurion and the Champions of the Omniverse make a break for safety.

Due to originally being built as a bodyguard droid, the Bi-Centurion is tough and strong, but not quite as fast as it could be. Making a dash with Sterling, Bi-Centurion gets to the Monorail Station entrance, but finds his path blocked by Red Diamond.

Meanwhile, San-Te has sprung to his feet and is unleashing a brutal assault on Doctor Psycho, keeping the sinister psychic pinned against a wall and unable to use his vile mind powers.

Not letting the heroes get away so easily, Ion charges into the Bi-Centurion, but the two metal warriors clash without damaging each other.

To head off further interference, Manzilla throws himself at The Bulk and the two muscular monstrosities proceed to beat each other senseless. Thankfully neither beast is bright enough to twig to the fact that they are pretty evenly matched and the fight will go nowhere.

With a satisfying snap, one final kick from San-Te lays out Doctor Psycho, causing the only casualty of the entire game. Sometimes SuperSystem is like that, especially with high Toughness characters on the board.

In the chaos, Bi-Centurion is able to slip away with Sterling, and, lacking options, bundles him onto a Monorail carriage, making good their escape. Victory to the Champions of the Omniverse!

This was a pretty fun game, so we played another, but that one didn't go well and we had to wrap up early, so I just did the AAR on the one. I still really like SuperSystem for this kind of game, even if it can get a little complex at times. Hopefully, I can play some more games this year and draw a few new players in with my city table.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Superhero Media: Justice League The New Frontier

When people ask me "what a good Justice league movie looks like", I refer them to The New Frontier, a Warner Premiere adaptation of a comic of the same name which bridges the DC Golden and Silver ages of comics. Set in the 1950s, most superheroes are inactive due to the McCarthy trials, with Superman and Wonder Woman mopping up the last of the Korean conflict and Batman keeping a low profile in Gotham. Pacifist pilot Hal Jordan is shot down and forced to kill an enemy soldier on the last day of the war, to preserve his own life. Meanwhile, an experiment gone wrong brings J'onn J'onzz from Mars to the Earth and a new superhero known as "The Flash" is seen in and around Central City. Despite being an animated feature, The New Frontier is grim and brutal in parts, contrasted with the classic 'four-colour' style of artwork and horn-heavy soundtrack, it can make for intense viewing at times. Despite these brutal sequences and elder god villain, the theme of the film is certainly "hope", with the overriding idea that people are stronger when they work together punctuating the narrative.

With so many characters, few get much of a chance to develop, but the versions of the characters presented are excellent. One of my favourite scenes involves a disagreement between Wonder Woman and Superman over the execution of war criminals, Diana criticizes Clark and steps down off a table to reveal that she is the taller of the pair. Of course Wonder Woman is taller than Superman, she's an Amazon and he masquerades as human. One day, I hope to see this moment recreated in a live-action film, just for the jaw-drop moment it will create. The scenes of Martian Manhunter acting as a detective, using his powers to solve pedestrian crimes made me track down Silver Age comics to enjoy this trope a little more; again, this would be great to see in a film one day. The villain of the piece is 'The Center', a cyclopian entity the size of an island, with vast psychic powers and a plot to destroy humanity before they destroy the planet with nuclear arms. To do this, the Center starts with a subtle approach of doomsday cultists, but ends with an all-out dinosaur attack on Cape Canivaral. 

The New Frontier does an admirable job of bridging the Golden and Silver Ages of DC comics, but, perhaps more importantly, it provides an explanation of how and why the disparate heroes of the setting come together to form the nascent Justice League, answering all of those annoying questions non-fans can't seem to shut up about. You know the ones I mean, "why do they need anyone other than Superman?" and the like. Well maybe they have to fight a psychic island and the indomitable will power of Green Lantern and mental might of Martian Manhunter will be of more use than just punching things really hard. Maybe Superman's close relationship with the US government limits his effectiveness in "grey area" situations, so the more anarchic approach of Batman or the unsupervised heroics of the Flash are of more use. Seriously, Justice League comics have been around since the 1960s, is it that hard to translate this into a live action film? Tall Wonder Woman. Highlight difference. Stronger together than apart. Green Lantern is a decent guy. Done. Send me a check in the mail, Warner Bros.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Miniatures Finished: EDF II

More 6mm Soviets are rolling off the painting table, set for Weird World War II and Kaiju games as well as historical. In Kaiju, they will play the role of my human forces doing their best to turn back the tide of monsters trashing cities. Why bother buying something more modern when I got all this little commies for free, after all? In terms of scale, they're a little off, I really should be going 10-15mm, but the smaller infantry will really highlight the lack of effect conventional weapons will have against giant atomic monsters. There are some more Sci-Fi and "Weird" elements coming to add to what's here.

A second Infantry Platoon, Artillery and Armoured Cars. 
These guns aren't my work, hence the different bases, but maybe the artillery can deter or even hurt Kaiju? 
More infantry, a second Platoon, I have lots more of these. 
There were a lot of these Armoured Cars as well, which I figured may see some use in Kaiju games as Military Police. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Superhero Media: Blade Trinity

Sometimes, a superhero film I haven't seen for years turns out to be better than I remembered; sometimes, I get Blade Trinity. Almost nothing in this film actually works, which is astonishing, it's rare to see such a complete failure of a film; who directed this mess? Oh, David S Goyer you say? And he wrote it too? There we go. I honestly find it hard to believe that the guy wrote Dark City, given how shallow the rest of his output tends to be. Sure, he wrote The Dark Knight, but it's not really the script of that film which everyone is still talking about, is it? Some years[?] after the events of Blade II (which are never referenced or referred to), Blade and Whistler are continuing their war against vampires, with the conflict escalating as vampire numbers dwindle. After an elaborate car chase, Blade is framed for the murder of a police officer and a major manhunt begins. I mean, I'm pretty sure Blade killed a cop in the first film and it didn't result in this, but whatever. Whistler is killed in a police raid and Blade captured, meaning the best character in the franchise has left the building. 

When a pack of uninteresting vampires is about to kill Blade, he is suddenly rescued by Whistler's illegitimate and never before mentioned daughter and Ryan Reynolds. I know Reynolds is meant to be playing obscure Marvel character Hannibal King, but this is really one of his roles where he's just playing Ryan Reynolds in an odd circumstance; not that I didn't enjoy it or anything. Much like Typhoid Mary in Elektra, Hannibal King is an obscure character I have some fondness for and was shocked to see on the big screen before Iron Man and Thor got there. I feel that King's identity apart from the Reynolds interpretation would be interesting enough to bring to the screen again, should there be a place for vampires in the MCU in the future. For those who are looking for the origins of the Reynolds Deadpool, look no further than Blade Trinity, as soon as this film was finished, the process of getting the Merc with a Mouth to the screen began; it would take more than a decade. No, we're not counting X-Men Origins Wolverine, why even ask that? The casting on this film is nuts, Jessica Biel, Parker Poesy, Triple H and Patton Oswalt are all in there, not to mention that Dracula is played by Dominic Purcell, of all people. 

Dracula, or "Drake", is probably the weakest point of the film, Purcell is just a terrible cast, not really making sense in the role, and the presence of the character is baffling. Drake is reawakened because of Blade's continued success as a vampire-slayer, but I thought the plan was to get him arrested? Also, the Nightstalkers are out there too, so is the idea that there are too many Vampire hunters out there emboldened by Blade? None of this is clear and I'm probably just reading into it too much. The film ends with Blade almost dying to a designer virus made to wipe out Vampires, but resurrecting on the autopsy table and running off into the night. The voice-over from Hannibal implies that Blade started a new generation of vampires and the hunt began again, but this too, is not clear. This film is a mess, and I honestly can't recommend it beyond the need for completion or as ideas for an alternate Vampire: The Masquerade game. A poor end to what was a great series for a couple of films.