Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Thrilling Comics #1 - pt. 4

So, instead of tracking down the Faceless Phantom, Dr. Strange takes Jerry to the circus. Apparently, it was not ridiculous in 1940 to have a boxing ring in a circus tent, or for a circus to have $5,000 to put up on a publicity stunt?
The gorilla, at least, seems to hold out longer than the tiger and the octopus did. Despite the fact that the circus ringmaster just tried to kill him to get the $5,000 back, Strange lets this slide so Jerry can get to a bank. By random (?) coincidence, Faceless just happens to show up to rob the bank right then.

 Here we see another example of why it's important for a superhero to keep a Raise power prepared; Strange doesn't have it so, even though he has superhuman strength, he can't get out of the rubble without help.

Strange says his amnesia is gone, but he seems to have forgotten all about his Supporting Cast Members Jerry and Parker (remember Parker, the pilot?).

Now, at this point, Strange has maybe 3,000 xp under his belt, yet when he goes to talk to these guys, who I'm guessing are the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Armed Forces, given their authority, they agree to give Strange carte blanche (or are they only humoring him?).
The trophy armor Strange has invented here is Ray-Proof armor (AC 3, immune to rayguns). With Army financial backing and enough time I suppose he could make a dozen suits like this...but isn't Faceless taking over the East Coast while he's kicking back in this down time activity...?

If Strange's gun shoots Alosun-negating gas into the air, shouldn't he be worried about entering its area of effect? Once it's in the air, he's going to have to be very careful where he moves.

This page just reminds us that even a smell can be a clue the Editor means for you to follow up on.
So now we're finally told that Faceless is only turning invisible after all. I guess Strange's player just didn't know that he could still try to attack invisible opponents!

It seems highly unlikely that Strange knows of an ancient society that had invisibility chemicals and reagents to counteract them, but okay.

After all Strange has been seen doing, you'd think seven hoodlums would not be this confident against him. Maybe we need a new mobstertype -- overconfident hoodlums!
Alosun or no Alosun, the Editor has decided to bump up the main bad guy's level to match the Hero's, just for a climactic final battle -- which is within the Editor's purview to do.
Really only included this page in case you were interested to find out who Faceless was. Surprise!
This is from another feature in this issue, Nickie Norton, Secret Service Agent. It reminds us that Heroes can hire lookouts too, hideouts don't have to be entered by the front door, and it's always a good idea to bring a flashlight.

The idea of pressing a statue's eye to open a secret panel is interesting hideout dressing.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thrilling Comics #1 - pt. 3

And we're back with more of Dr. Strange! If this feature seems unusually long, it's because it is! It runs on for a record-breaking 37 pages and was probably intended for the first three issues, but I'm guessing the new publisher, Better Publications, didn't have enough other material to get a full anthology out.

We get an example of wrecking things in panel 2, unarmed combat (2 attacks vs. unarmed foes) in panel 3, but now we have to decide what to do about panel 4. Is the Faceless Phantom using Invisibility (as I first thought, but now seems increasingly unlikely), the spell Poof! (disappearing in a swirling purple mist is very Poof!-like), or is this a new power of Intangibility? Or, is intangibility just flavor text for Imperviousness?

What's more important is that, without Super-Senses, a superhero is practically powerless in the dark. Had the lights stayed on, there was no way anyone would have been able to spirit Victoria away from him again.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting kind of annoyed with these early superheroes killing every animal they encounter. What is with that?

The hidden aeroplane is dropped trophy loot, meant for the Hero to find.


It would be nice if I could tell from this blurry picture how many natives it takes to "hopelessly outnumber" Strange. Very likely, they just keep coming at him in waves until the durations end on all his buffing powers.

What doesn't emulate well in Hideouts & Hoodlums is not being able to wreck things, and getting back his defensive powers. I have considered putting a cap on how often per day a superhero can wreck things, and maybe he wasted them all on wrecking spears and shields in the big fight.

As for getting his powers back, maybe he was a prisoner for 8 hours, giving him time to get his power slots refilled, but it doesn't make sense to waste 1 turn of a high-level power protecting himself from the fire when he could just bust the ropes by flexing his muscles instead. Even ignoring game mechanics and looking at this from a story perspective, it doesn't make much sense.
Poisonous snakes can be encountered in groups up to 7, when found in their dens, which are apparently sometimes at the bottom of 20' deep pits.

Pushing attacks must always work on superheroes, no matter how defensively they are buffed up.

Wha?? The delta ray gun is only a rifle? That's the weapon that had a range of about a mile?
Amazingly, after killing a tiger in one hit, Strange is unable to save himself from seven poisonous snakes without help. Perhaps he burnt through all his powers fighting the natives.

The Faceless Phantom had a pen and paper on him in the jungle, and took the time to write Strange a note? Or was he so cocky he wrote the note in advance?
Again, Strange failed a save vs. poison and was kept asleep.

Watch this plot hole about the stolen Alosun. Despite not having his Alosun, he will be displaying superpowers repeatedly for the rest of the story (and don't forget how he recovered his powers while tied to a stake without taking more Alosun). The Alosun is clearly flavor text and does not affect him game mechanics-wise in any way.

Tropical hurricanes need to be on outdoor wandering encounter lists when out at sea. As must giant octopi (naturally).
Almost as bad as all this animal killing is how they never even stand a chance against the Hero. If anything killed the superhero genre, it's probably the lack of suspense that engendered.

Without any fatigue rules tied to movement, there is no game mechanic stopping Strange from swimming a few miles without even needing to buff with a power.

If I was Strange's player, I would call shenanigans on my Editor for this agent of the Faceless Phantom, who just happens to be near the beach where Strange just happens to wash up on shore. How the Faceless Phantom could possibly anticipate that Strange's plane was downed by a hurricane and had to swim to Florida, instead of arriving at an airport, is beyond suspicious.

And speaking of that hurricane, what happened to the hurricane that was just miles away from mainland Florida a little while ago? Now there's not even a tropical storm on the coast.
I skipped a page where the Phantom's men tried to off Strange by crashing another train into his (they were two well-drawn trains at that). The crash gave him amnesia - a comic book staple so common that I finally included it in 2nd edition (p. 90) of the Basic book, but only under head blows.


The amnesia was only temporary and the hobos all got beat up on the pages I skipped over.

By now, you've probably figured out that I'm not a fan of this story, over all. One of the things I do like about it occurs here -- Strange's failure to stop the Faceless Phantom earlier has campaign-changing consequences. Now, weeks later, New York City is in a state of terror, besieged by FP's mobster henchmen.

Oh, and Strange picks up a kid sidekick. This is kind of a big deal because this is two months before Robin debuts in Detective Comics, making Jerry one of the first kid sidekicks, and the first one for a superhero.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Thrilling Comics #1 - pt. 2

Returning to Dr. Strange's debut adventure (already in progress), we find Strange has activated either the Imperviousness or the Invulnerability power. He grapples two men at once, which he could do if he has activated Multi-Attack.

Here, we also get a great example of how the power Raise Car can be used offensively, by tossing it and its occupants over a cliff.

It really looks like the "mysterious figure" is also grappling two opponents at the same time, even though there is no further evidence that this guy is a superhero.
What appears to have happened is that a wandering good man (1st level superhero) just happened to come by and see a chance to do a good deed. Of course, what makes this much more interesting is that Togo is a third-party agent, ingratiating himself into the supporting cast in order to spy on them.

Which reminds me that, non-Heroes should have the option of waving the Supporting Cast recruitment roll and volunteering to become SCMs, if it makes sense for them to do so.
Strange says the address and stamp are on the letter, but I suspect what he meant is that they are on the envelope. A stamped envelope is a great clue to find at the scene of a crime.

Not to put too big a spoiler out there, but Strange should be suspicious that a police commissioner has enough free time for long ocean voyages...



Not buffed with Different Physical Structure (to boost his saves), Strange easily falls victim to the sleeping poison in his food.

The shark could be a random wandering encounter, but as often as sharks seem to show up every time in this situation, I think we have to assume that the Editor just likes to have this happen.





Superheroes shouldn't be able to "tear apart" living things (that sounds like wrecking things), but it is also possible that the shark just ran out of hit points while being grappled.

The plane swooping down at just that moment, immediately after a shark encounter, is unlikely a wandering encounter. One does not normally roll for wandering encounters during combat turns unless there are lots of mobsters in that area. This event just screams Editor intervention. Perhaps Strange legitimately made his SCM roll for Parker, at least.

By now, Strange's player should be expecting that everyone he encounters was planned out by the Editor -- and some Editors do prefer to work that way.

Strange fails an encounter reaction check, but a bribe gets him a new encounter reaction check from one of them.
Okay, punching planes out of the sky does look pretty cool...but it is pretty hard to believe that any pilot would intentionally fly that close to another plane. Maybe we need a new power called Extend Melee Range? Or, this could be the power Wreck at Range (since he is wrecking the planes), and the punching is only flavor text.
Stationary rayguns have enormous range, as is demonstrated in entries of the 2nd edition Basic book.

Being hit by a vehicle normally does (ahem) a boatload of damage, see the Basic book for examples of ramming damage.

Although the encounter with the huge constrictor snake seems to come directly after landing, Strange's Invulnerability power might still be active then, which would negate any suspense from this encounter.
Strange uses Flurry of Blows vs. the giant crocodiles. It seems like Strange has an awful lot of power slots available to him, but there may be some time compression in the telling of this story, as I hinted at about the previous page. He may be swimming towards the island on the say after fighting the serpent.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Thrilling Comics #1 - pt. 1

Ouch, my eyes! I haven't had to look at a scan from fiche in a while.

Anyway, this is the first Dr. Strange in comics, and you'll notice he's more Superman than Master of the Mystic Arts.

Adventure begins quickly for Dr. Strange, as he's just walking along and hears a scream.

Here we have an example of a head blow not knocking out a Hero.

It's unclear what the villain is doing here. Turning invisible? Most players would want to continue trying to attack, but the Editor, perhaps insisting on a more realistic reaction, required a save vs. plot or be too shocked to act for 1 turn, which seems to have happened here.
The superhero power Leap I is in clear evidence here, but it gets sketchier once the shooting starts. It's unlikely that Strange can take a hail of bullets at 1st level, but if he's activated a second, buffing power like Nigh-Invulnerable Skin, then he probably has at least one brevet rank. And then again, the average gangster can't shoot that many times with even a tommy gun, so maybe Strange could take that damage and just be "sorely wounded."
Virginia performs first aid, restoring 1 hp to Dr. Strange. It's unclear if he can't perform first aid on himself, or if he accepts her offer just out of politeness.

The delta ray is an unusually powerful weapon because it kills and it wrecks things, as if at least a level 5 superhero. Of course, for now, it's only a MacGuffin; the danger is only if the Heroes get their hands on it.


I thought panel 4 was unusual enough to warrant sharing. "Carson Manor" isn't written on the card, but is printed as if it was a business card. Yet we'll find out on the next page that Carson Manor is a haunted house. So I wonder what the history is there; is Carson Manor such a well-known haunted house that it serves as a local tourist attraction?
On this page we finally learn what gives Dr. Strange his strength and leaping abilities, but we also learn that superheroes need a self-healing ability. I have toyed with the notion before and, while it didn't make it into the 2nd ed. Hideouts & Hoodlums Basic rulebook, it will surely be in the Heroes Handbook.

The manor's foyer looks suspiciously like a storeroom, or is being used as a storeroom. The mobsters inside smartly keep a pair of lookouts by the entrance (and, one could presume, by every entrance around the manor).
Another example of a superhero forgetting to take defensive buffs and going down quickly.

A possible problem with how the superhero class works: wrecking things is supposed to have no duration, so Strange shouldn't need a new dose of Alosun. Of course, it is also possible that Strange's player just keeps blowing his wrecking things rolls, and joked about needing an extra dose of Alosun to charge his dice. Sure enough, the player easily makes the very next roll (possibly getting double 6's, with those results).
Crashing upwards through a ceiling could be as easy as wrecking robots, if Strange also has a Leap power engaged.

Panel 2 is difficult; it looks like Strange is grappling four opponents at once and no power currently allows this. There might need to be a level 2 power called Step Right Up, Boys! that lets you grapple up to four times per turn.

Strange sure took his sweet time activating his Invulnerability power. This also tells us that Strange has at least five brevet ranks.
That leap would have done 3-18 points of damage without either his Leap or Invulnerability power still engaged.

It does not normally work this way that one's clothes catch on fire in 1 turn, and then the body takes damage in the following turn. More likely, Virginia did take fire damage, but only 1 point.
Shielding Virginia, or taking damage for another target, is something I struggle with. On one side, it's very super-heroic. On the other side, if meta-gamed it could really change how combat plays out ("How many hp do you have left? 3? I've got 7, I'll take that hit instead").  

There is precedent on this blog for using others to absorb falling damage (if you land on them), which is mechanically the same as absorbing car-rolling damage. 

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Target Comics #1 - pt. 2

Now, let's jump ahead to the next feature, Lucky Byrd, Flying Cadet. Although it looks like someone different inked over him, this is our old friend Harry Francis Campbell, from Dean Denton and John Law. Like his predecessors, Lucky wins the day with his scientific know-how, and here he explains to us how he figured out how a bomb set off by altitude could work.








Next up in this all-star line-up of artists is Joe Simon (minus Jack Kirby), drawing T-Men. T-Men, as the first page (not seen here) explained to us, are like G-Men, but they work for the Treasury Department. 

Here, a disguised T-Man is captured and is put into a deathtrap -- or rather, a deathtrap is sat in his lap. A black soldier spider isn't a real thing -- thank goodness, because that thing is huge! Well, using large/huge/giant terminology, this could be our first example of a large spider. Its bite is implied to be quite lethal.

It's unclear if the hoodlum falls because he's dead or just because he's been shot. Under normal circumstances, you don't have to worry about falling down after taking damage in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but common sense can overrule that for situations like this, when you happen to be leaning over a trapdoor at the time.

A rare example of a bullet wrecking things. I've never been happy with how to handle this, but perhaps the bullet can just be treated as flavor text, now that non-superheroes can all wreck things.

And we get an example of a secret door and a hideout connected to sewers.
This true crime genre feature is called City Editor, with the hook being that journalists are investigating instead of the police. Though, really, this kid winds up doing most of the detective work. And just for a plate of beans and some coffee too! Half-pints are easily bribed. They also can have surprising skills, like photographic memories and the ability to draw photo-realistic.








This feature is really different. Calling 2R is a twisted boys town with super science weapons doled out to the kids.

This first weapon is a raygun that can make you blind and stunned for 24 hours (though I would allow saving throws for both effects and have the duration be a range of hours, like 3-24). 

A vest that projects force blasts, or the Blast I power, seems awfully potent to turn on another half-pint with 1-3 hit points.
Three of the bad guys here are gangsters, accompanied by the spy in the green coat.

The electrical force wall seems to act as more than a Wall of Force spell; it does some damage (1-3 or a full die?) against anyone touching it, but apparently does more damage if you're touching metal and not grounded, and stalls electronics that touch the wall.

The airbug is an interesting design. I doubt it would fly, yet it almost seems feasible.
The Captain tries to sneak up on the spy, but the surprise check the Editor rolled said he failed. He might still have gotten lucky and gone first by winning the initiative on turn 1 of combat, but was not so lucky and apparently only had 6 or less hit points.

Speck was only stunned on a previous page, and that's not applesauce on his head. This strip is really violent, by the way.
At the end of this page is a very rare indication in a comic book that skills have to be learned, as most of the time anyone seems to have a chance to try anything.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)






Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Target Comics #1 - pt. 1

Here we are, starting out on a new comic book series again. This uncredited artwork is obviously Bill Everett, who we've already seen at Centaur and Timely.

Wenton, Arizona isn't a real place -- but Wenden, Arizona is.
Cowboys in comic books are really acrobatic. I mean, jumping up, grabbing the rafters, swinging yourself up -- while wearing spurred boots and heavy chaps, no less -- and then kicking the door open in mid-swing to boot? That's one, possibly two stunts right there.

If I don't introduce a Cowboy class in 2nd edition Hideouts & Hoodlums -- and I'm leaning towards not -- it will be because most cowboys are Mysterymen.

Further, that's an interesting tidbit at the end about what you can tell from how a cowboy leaves his reins.
I can't help it; I am so amused by the over-the-top misogyny of this first panel. I also can't decide if he's that hard to please, or if she's admitting to herself that her coffee just isn't that good.

As bad as that is, the racist dialog in the second tier is even worse and only excusable because it's coming out of a bad guy's mouth.

Lastly -- the real reason I shared this page -- is the interesting effect of being hit in the face by a hot coffeepot. Not only does it seem to do significant damage (perhaps treating it as a regular club and not an improvised weapon), but the heat seems to do residual damage on the following turn.
Bill studied his cowboy tropes for this story; here we see Vault into Saddle, which I believe was one of my original stunts for the Cowboy class (back when stunts worked more like powers and spells).

Bill's idea of "point-blank" range looks a little long to me, as I'd guess that's...at least 80' between them?

Shooting at someone behind you, when you can't turn to face them, should probably be at some sort of penalty, and maybe as much as -2.

And we have precedent here for grappling attacks from on horseback.
Along with Bill Everett is that other Timely Comics stalwart, Carl Burgos, here offering us his third android superhero, Manowar. This page covers his origin, with the big difference being that, while the Human Torch came from the present and Iron Skull is from the future, Manowar comes to us from the past.



His electric eyes (that sounds like a song title...) can wreck things, and it looks like he could wreck through a brick wall, which is the Cars category. That means Manowar has to be at least 2nd level (an android great man), with 1 brevet rank since he's just started gaining XP.

Manowar, at least at this point, doesn't seem to have any defensive-buffing powers engaged, so the machine gun is just missing him.
Here's what appears to be a clear example of a single, normal strength head blow downing a superhuman (and an android to boot; does he have an off switch on the back of his head, maybe?). Or is it? Perhaps the machine gun was "hitting" him, abstractly, reducing his hit points until this moment when he finally went down to 0.

"Bolita" is obviously Bolivia.



(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)