Thursday, December 31, 2015

5 Animated Films Warner Premiere should consider making

Ever checked out the DC Universe animated films from Warner Premiere? They're direct to DVD releases based on "famous" DC comics and they're often a bit of fun. Sometimes they're even better than the comic they're based on; other times, they're dross, but hey, it's only 70 minutes of your life so who cares? The good ones can be really good, and I've never found one so bad that I couldn't at least paint to it. The very best manage to tell the stories better than the comics they're based on; Flashpoint and Justice League: New Frontier are better than most of the DC live action films. The Warner Premiere films are a great showcase for some of the DC stories that could never carry a full film or television release, however, they do seem tied to "recent" events in the DCU. Yes, there are some "classics" like Batman: Year One, but it really seems like there's a wealth of untapped potential. So here are my suggestions for fun animated titles that WP and DC could potentially make some coin with.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Often seen as the ugly stepchild of the classic The Dark Knight Returns and the beginning of Frank Miller's slide into insanity, I actually quite enjoy DKSA on it's own merits, few though they may be. Miller's schizophrenic style and bizarre artwork actually complement the storytelling device of internet talking heads and the social decay of a digital society. Batman, having revealed his secret identity and faked his death in The Dark Knight Returns, has organised his army of former street gangs in order to take back the world from Lex Luthor and Brainiac. If The Dark Knight Returns is the story of the death and rebirth of Batman, DKSA does the same for the Justice League, with many of the old guard dying or moving on and a new generation taking up the fight. Due to the odd art and unique set-pieces, DKSA would make an interesting animated film that could highlight the cleverness of the original and hide some of the stupidity that fans tend to focus on. And who doesn't want to see Batman wail on Superman with kryptonite gauntlets?

Amazons Attack! 
A Wonder Woman crossover event that was epic in it's stupidity, this suggestion will leave many scratching their heads. This event series is infamous for having Batman spout the line "Bees... my god." and fighter jets getting taken down by spears and arrows. It's dumb, inescapably dumb, and that's why I think it should be animated for all to see. In evidence, I'd like to submit Superman vs The Elite, an, at best, passable comic, with shallow villains and childish morality but pretty cool fight scenes, but an amazing animated film, with a great villain in the form of Manchester Black, Superman actually explaining his moral stance and plenty of cool fights. Now take that approach with Amazons Attack!, fix up the dialogue slightly (but leave in the bees line), boost the action and bury the story in amazing action faster than Zach Snyder. I'd watch it. 

Probably one of the best limited series that I've ever read, and practically no one has heard of it. 52 (or DC Comics' 52 as I've seen it called), was a weekly series that covered the events of a year in the DCU without Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman. Instead the story focuses on characters like Animal Man, Adam Strange, Elongated Man, Renee Montoya, Batwoman, Booster Gold, Black Adam and Steel. The writing is sharp and the use of secondary characters really allows for some interesting storytelling. The trade is in four volumes, so more than one DVD would probably be needed, but I think it would be worth it to get the story out there and generate more interest from some of the often-overlooked characters of the DCU, like Booster Gold and The Question.

Superman: Red Son 
Everyone knows the story of Superman. Last son of a dying planet, crash lands outside a collective farm in the former Ukraine, raised under Stalin and fights for Socialism, The Worker and the International Expansion of the Warsaw Pact! Red Son is one of the best Superman stories ever told, achieving critical acclaim and spawning lesser imitators in its wake, so why is so little done with it? Is it because its an atypical Superman story? Is it because it kind of paints Superman as a villain? Whatever the reason, it's not as good as it needs to be to convince me that Red Son should be a DVD film. There's not much more I can say about this other than that you really should go pick up a copy and give it a read.

Animal Man: The Hunt    
You wanna see some fucked up shit? Check out Animal Man. Buddy Baker gets his powers from the "life grid" formed by all of the animals on the planet, but what does that look like and how does it work? Turns out the answers involve a Geiger-esque netherworld made of flesh and bone. Add in Buddy's daughter's developing powers and getting hunted by literal monsters and this series manages to be enthralling and subtle. Visually, the look of Animal Man would stand it apart from the other WP titles, as well as the more adult themes and spiritual concepts. Fans of classic Swamp Thing would be well served checking this title out, as it links back to some of the older stories from the era of Hellblazer and Swamp Thing crossovers. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Superhero Media: Young Justice

I can imagine the pitch meetings for this show very clearly. On one side of the table are a bunch of nerdy writers who really love the Teen Titans and on the other is a bunch of studio executives who want another Batman, The Animated Series. The programme can go ahead so long as it's angst-ridden, dark and brooding, so some of the characters need a rewrite. The meetings about trying to find a way to make Aqualad cool must have taken weeks. Tattoos? Yeah. Buff? Yeah. Water control? For some reason, yes. Also Robin is a hacker, despite being Dick Grayson, not Tim Drake, Superboy is emo and Kid Flash is horny. Together, they will save the world from a cadre of villains using bits of Starro to destroy the reputation of the Justice League. Yeah, it's not the best story. 

Where the programme shines (and why it has such a dedicated fanbase) is in the relationship between the characters. Unlike in many teen/tween dramas, the characters in Young Justice actually come across as real people, real adolescents with real problems of identity that go along with burgeoning adulthood. Entire episodes are given over to interactions within the team, which can be tedious in programmes like Arrow, but works with the less emotionally developed characters of Young Justice. The choice of villains is interesting too, with D-listers like Sportsmaster and The Brain not only making appearances, but playing major roles.

Has it come across that I have a few big niggles with this programme? Yes, it's good, really good, in fact, but there were a few things I just couldn't shake while watching it. Firstly, it's trying really hard to be "edgy" and cool, which can grate with the inherent silliness of the source material; it's Teen Titains for Zod's sake! Second, I get the feeling that this was a backdoor pilot for a new Justice League programme. The League show up a lot. Some episodes deal with League politics a great deal, which do lead somewhere in Young Justice: Invasion, but kind of jar with the theme of young heroes trying to be taken seriously. Still worth a look, just take with a grain of salt. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Greatest Generation [GA]

June 1940, the Allied forces have been beaten out of France and the German War-Machine is nearing its height. With the United States of America still reluctant to fight, the tenuous alliance between Great Britain and the USSR is all that holds the march of Fascism back from global domination. MI-13 and the NKVD are thrown into turmoil when the SS and SWD announce that they have a genuine Super-Human in their arsenal. Der Flieger was super-strong, could fly at supersonic speeds under his own power and bullets bounced off his skin; all of this wrapped up in a perfect Aryan form and manipulated directly by Goreing and Hitler themselves. The propaganda coup alone would have been enough to encourage desertion and fifth-column activities, let alone the impact on the war raging in Africa. Both British and Soviet intelligence immediately embarked upon programmes to level the superhuman playing field of the war.

Can even "Fighting" Jack Churchill hope to stand against Der Flieger? 

Having had a reputation for being a land of legend and wonder since ancient times, England was primed, in this time of apocalyptic conflict, to produce an array of defenders. Figures from history and mythology, including the great wizard Merlin himself, came forward in the nation's hour of need, the result being that MI-13 had little work to do in order to fill the rosters of their own "team". The USSR however, despite their large population, found superhumanity a bit harder to garner. Rituals and unrestrained experimentation finally yielded a handful of results for the NKVD from the hundreds of selfless "Comrade Volunteers" that were willing to sacrifice their own humanity to stop the Nazi Monsters flying through the skies of Eastern Europe. Before long, costumed warriors are being spotted in Poland, France, Italy and even the USA. 
Kilroy and Jacques Noir operate deep behind Axis lines. 

Who doesn't love some four-colour action? Two-fisted pulp heroes putting boot to Nazi backside and saving the plucky, determined (and pretty) correspondent girl? From classic Eisner through to Atomic Robo and New Invaders, WWII, weird science and pulp have been a fertile ground for comics since their inception. When I got started on playing supers, the Golden Age was my first stop outside of Marvel and DC. Playing Secrets of the Third Reich helped get me grounded in the setting, and now I'm ready to invade historical wargames tables and cause mischief by having caped lunatics throwing tanks around. Excelsior! 

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!