Saturday, August 24, 2019

Famous Funnies #67 - pt. 2

Just a few pages left to share from this issue...

Jack Kirby isn't doing the art anymore on Lightnin' and the Lone Rider at this point, but it's still an interesting set-up with some unusual additions to the cowboy genre -- a Dragon Lady-like femme fatale, and "advanced" technology, like television, in the villains' lair.

This is from Mescal Ike, and while I think the top strip is pretty funny, I'm including this for the interesting turn of phrase in the middle tier. "Head of the class" is still a common term in use today, but if there's a head it stands to reason there's also a "foot of the class," with the bottom scores. Today's school system would not emphasize this fact and humiliate the student, but in 1940...?

This is from the one-page gag filler, Life's Like That. I'm partial to librarians, even though the "Squeaky" panels aren't as funny. What I found really funny was the baby panel.

We're checking in on Homer Hoopee again for the first time in awhile for several reasons. One, even though the chase sequence is over, it alludes to two important factors -- attack penalties for hitting a target moving at great speed (found in 1st edition Hideouts & Hoodlums' vehicular combat rules, but should also apply to attacking movement-buffed speedsters), and ranges on missile attacks. Further, Homer's prize is an example of how generous monetary rewards can be at the end of a long adventure ($50,000 -- in 1940 no less!).

If you can ignore the racism in this page of Spunky Dory, you'll see perhaps the first critical hit to the groin in comic books, and delivered by a goat no less (longtime readers of this blog are aware of the importance of goats in golden age comics)!

The question then is, is this evidence of the need for a critical hit mechanic in H&H, or does the headbutt to the groin simply explain how it did maximum damage on the damage die? I lean towards the latter.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Friday, August 23, 2019

Famous Funnies #67 - pt. 1

We rejoin Roy Powers, Eagle Scout today after a long time separated. Here, we see how easy traps are in the modern age of Hideouts & Hoodlums. A simple oil flask hanging from a string in D&D would be of little threat to anyone, but substitute it with nitroglycerine and suddenly you've got a trap that can be deadly for even mid-level Heroes.

We also see some nice tactics from Roy, using role-playing to his advantage against the mad scientist.
Just a couple pages later, Roy is already jumping into his next scenario.

Editors may be tempted to roll randomly for mobsters to see which target they choose; I've done this many times, and it does present an element of fairness that keeps players from feeling picked on. And yet, if there are common sense reasons to attack one target over another, the Editor should follow his common sense.
I'll be honest; Skyroads is such a generic aviator feature that I have no idea who this guy is!

Whoever he is, he comes up with a good rationale for getting a +1 modifier to his wrecking things roll. He probably asked if there was a hoisting tackle lying around and the Editor, unprepared for that tactic, had him make a save vs. plot to determine if there was or not.
Hairbreadth Harry leaps back and forth between being a credible source for H&H inspiration and outlandishness too zany to emulate with any seriousness game mechanics. Here, Harry swings towards the latter, as he claims to have used the pushing mechanic to push his melee combat with Rudolph 3,000 miles, or the equivalent of 15,840,000 points of damage, by H&H's current rules.

When I see panels of villains trying to bribe heroes, and I remember that taking money is a huge motivation in H&H, I wonder if we need to have different mechanics, even if only optional. Or would a saving throw vs. plot cover this? Yes, I think it might, at least for Lawful Heroes to take a bribe. But would that just deter players from playing Lawful Heroes...?
Sergeant Stoney Craig, even without his U.S. Marines, really (ahem) mops up with an improvised weapon in this combat. The spears are uncommonly short, and are maybe harpoons instead of spears. A harpoon would not count as an improvised weapon.

The knife is thrown by an assassin. There's a considerable amount of racism here, with the half-Asian man being called a "breed," but this actually plays well in the story, with the locals' racism explaining how quickly they accept this scapegoating.

Near Island is a real place, in Alaska. It seems strange that anyone in Alaska would hear "They had Jeremy Blade at near" and not think of Near Island...but this would make sense at a game session; players never get clues.
Dickie Dare is relegated to cheerleader in this month's installment, as these pages focus on the gorilla-lion battle. I'll have to add a note to the lion entry that, even when grappling, lions still get raking attacks.
I'm not even sure what's going on here, so it's even harder to figure out how this might apply to game mechanics. I guess...hearing Miss Karson's voice reminds Tiny that someone loves him, and gives him the will to keep fighting, even as his body tells him to quit...?

Yeah, that's really hard to quantify into crunchy rules. I suppose you could include a rule that supporting cast can rally you once per day to give you a +1 bonus to something -- and that would give players more impetus to bring supporting cast along besides the meager XP award.

Or, this is all flavor text and Miss Karson's rallying cries didn't influence Tiny's dice rolls at all.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Comics on Parade v. 2 #11 - pt. 2

We're wrapping up with just a few more pages from this issue, starting with Looy Dot Dope. Here we get a glimpse into salary information, though we likely could have guessed that $20 extra a week would be too steep a raise for his boss.

More interesting, for me, was seeing the verb "buttle" in use.  We see the word butler all the time, but we forget exactly what it is that butlers do -- butlers buttle.
This is Ella Cinders, and I only share it for an example of how high reward money can go for even low-level mobsters.
This is the filler page Grin and Bear It; I particularly like the bottom left gag.

I've showed pages with salary information before, but this page of Dynamite Dunn reveals how expensive it is to hire a vamp to break up a couple.

Lastly, Knurl the Gnome intrigues me this time with the concept of goat-mounted mobile radios. Would Heroes ever consider buying pack animals to carry radios for them?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Comics on Parade v. 2 #11 - pt. 1

I have been reading Tailspin Tommy off and on since this blog began, but never enjoyed it until this storyline, with an eccentric group of passengers and crew trapped in a remote valley. There is all kinds of survival advice players could use if someone sprang a similar scenario on them, like how important rationing food is, how many watts of power it takes to power a radio to reach 50-60 miles, and slang terms like "fan his conk." I'm pretty sure that means punch him in the nose...
The stranded passengers and crew do all the right things, figuring out how to hunt birds (they have to improvise missile weapons), foraging for edible berries, and looking for frogs down by th' creek.

We see a rare example of cussing from a newspaper strip as Tommy fails to see the value in trigonometry -- and, to be fair, I'm not sure how the professor's plan helps them any either.

Also note how soap opera relationships help keep tensions high among the cast.
Sorry if you planned on building your own Seversky Trainer out of paper; I'm more interested in capturing its max. speed and landing speed.
I never thought we'd talk so much about Abbie an' Slats -- but I've said that about a lot of strips by now, haven't I?

What I like about this page is that it deals with the main character's failure to win a scenario. Good guys always win? Not in Abbie an Slats they don't, and your players shouldn't feel like victory is always assured either.
Here we get some pricing information and, while some of it suspect, since the man paying is filthy rich and showing off that fact ($50 a day for room and board?), $40,000 for a high-end Rolls-Royce is definitely still believable, even for the 1930s.
And now, since it's much in the news these days, let's discuss misogyny in golden age comic books. Or, is it ever okay for your character to spank a lady?

Since the object of many role-playing games is to kill your opponents, spanking them seems pretty mild in comparison. I think it's also relevant that she slapped first, and he's doing the same amount of damage back. Would it be worse, or better, if he returned the smack instead of switching to spanking? From a game mechanics standpoint, he has to initiate grappling before he can spank, meaning he's invested more actions in his violent act than she did. And he would have taken an extra element of risk to do so in Hideouts & Hoodlums, as she would have an equal chance as him of reversing the hold!

I would say, had he spanked her butt as she walked away, that would have been a more tit-for-tat for the slap.
Moving on, this is from a full page of For the Record, but I only found the bottom two funny.
The Captain and the Kids also takes an unusual turn this issue, as it becomes a long flashback sequence for the Inspector, in his "youth" back in the 1890s. Note how Mitzi was of age to marry at 16, and everyone objects to the Inspector for leaving her at the altar, not for clearly being at least in his 40s at the time.
A few new nuggets turn up on this page. One is that the steamer's voyage across the Atlantic takes 30 days. Two, I love the detail about finding your way in the New York of the 1930s -- turn right at the lamp post with a cop tied to it. It's a grim detail if the cop happens to be dead, but certainly a good clue for any H&H Heroes that they are about to be on an adventure!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Planet Comics #2 - pt. 4

Last post on this issue! We're still looking at Captain Nelson Cole of the Solar Force. On this page, their tiny fleet encounters floating radium asteroids. Instant destruction within 1,000 miles? I don't know about about giving them a saving throw vs. poison at least? Saving throws don't work like that for inanimate objects like spaceships, but if the crew all dies, that's effectively the same as destruction, right...?
Skipping ahead...Nelson is the sole survivor of his entire fleet and when he arrives on the planet they were heading for, he gets upgraded with magic trophies. How awkward it would have been had more crew survived than there was magic trophies to go around to!

So, one, it's a pretty weird shift to go from a science fiction story into a magic-fantasy story. Weirder, he's given a fake mustache and told he has to pretend to be this world's Zorro now. What a mid-campaign shift!
Two-headed giants are already planned to be in the Mobster Manual, but this one at 40' tall might mean revising the entry to be tougher.

In Hideouts & Hoodlums terms, it's possible that Nelson/Torro hasn't been given actual trophy items at all, but has been allowed to switch classes to Superhero. Or maybe one or more of the items gives him levels in Superhero. Because the first thing he does seems very much like the 1st-level power Feather Landing. And then he wrecks things on the tree with his magic whip.
Wrecking things in front of mobsters provokes a morale save, as we see here.

"Boy, let me tell ya all about what my magic clothes can do! And don't get me started on what my socks and underwear are capable of..."

This makes me even more strongly suspect that "Torro" is a superhero now using flavor text to describe how his powers work -- because it seems a lot like he's describing Nigh-Invulnerable Skin, Leap I (well, technically, a much higher level Leap power, but maybe he's exaggerating), and wrecking things to me. Or maybe the clothes give him 1 level in Superhero, and the whip gives him another.
And lastly, we're going to jump ahead to the final feature, Auro, Lord of Jupiter. Again, there's a lot of John Carter of Mars influence here, right down to how common apes are just wandering around.

Auro is likely another superhero, buffed with one of the Get Tough powers, to be able to beat a gorilla bare-handed like that.
It's going to take weeks for that bite wound to heal? Does Auro have an immune system deficiency, or is he just making that up to score pity points from Ava?

Actually, if he was statted as an alien, and needed to have a racial weakness, I would allow slow healing to be his -- though I can't imagine a player choosing such an agregious handicap.
So the game mechanic question here is, is there a combat penalty for fighting with one hand behind your back? Technically, no, and judging by this page, there shouldn't be. However, I think an Editor would be well within his rights to assign a -1 penalty to attacks, and maybe a -2 penalty to grappling, while one-armed.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Planet Comics #2 - pt. 3

Well...that was a disappointing debut for the Taloned Man. We don't even get to see if Tiger Beat punched him off the roof or just pushed him off. At least we know he's okay, as he must have fallen into the same moat.

That is some sword Tiger Beat has; he just whacks a diamond and it shatters into a thousand pieces? That's better than a Ginsu knife!


That's also a really improbable example of the wrecking things mechanic from Hideouts & Hoodlums. This would be like wrecking a dam, but at a -1 or -2 penalty.


There's a whimsical naivte to thinking that we'll still have a Washington in the year 40,000, not to mention the notion that we'll be launching our spaceships from giant mortars.

The notion of our power source being special elements only found on some planets, though...well, that's textbook Star Trek with its dilithium crystals.
As Spurt Hammond might conceivably go on to become an obscure influence on Star Trek, so does this page show us how Spurt is inspired by the John Carter of Mars series. Well, "inspired" might be too generous, as the Red Men of Mars are blatantly ripped off from A Princess of Mars here.
Even the Martian ships look like they were taken straight from Edgar Rice Burroughs' imagination, while the Earth ships are more boring rocket-like ships.


This is a large scale aerial combat. I have no plans to produce game mechanics for such; it would need to be handled by someone with a firmer grasp of wargames than me.
Spurt uses a raygun to wreck his way inside, takes out a guard, and uses the guard's cloak as a disguise -- some of the details are different, but the tactic has been used a thousand times in fiction up to this point.

Now, how Spurt knew this was the ship that the prince was on, that part is much harder to follow. Was he somehow able to detect that this ship was more heavily protected than the others?

You would also think that at least one of the prince's guards would have a weapon on them, but Spurt catches them all empty-handed and gets to wale on them with his fists!

Now we're moving on to the next story, with Buzz Crandall of the Space Patrol. Here we get a new mobstertype -- crab-men! Crab-men are numerous in appearance, outnumbering a spaceship's crew. We also find out here that crab-men are vulnerable to radiation, and this makes them susceptible to commands.
Look at how tough this crab-man is, picking Buzzup and just throwing him on the ground like a rag doll. These bad boys have got to be at least 4 Hit Dice.

Being trapped in giant specimen jars is an unusual form of trap too.

Spoilers: Buzz wins.
...So we're going to jump ahead now to the next feature, Captain Nelson Cole of the Solar Force. 

Dwight Field Airport is a real place, and I strongly support using real world locations in comic book stories for realism, though the ground-based, sideways-launching spacecraft then take some of that realism away.

There's also no such thing as  "light mile," though this might just be future shorthand for miles traveled at the speed of light. If 250,000 is the number of light years, though, that makes the number of miles 1.4696563 x 1018. Conversely, if it means 250,000 miles, that is just the distance to Earth's Moon, and reaching it at the speed of light would be like teleportation.

The object that can take out two spaceships moving at the speed of light? A shooting star, or meteor. Meteors, of course, move nothing close to the speed of light.

"Poor fellows! Oh well, they were newbies and kinda deserved it for being dumb. Full speed ahead, and let's skip contacting their families back home!"

Note how spaceships are controlled by simple levers.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, August 2, 2019

Planet Comics #2 - pt. 2

I'm picking up where I left off in this issue's Flint Baker adventure, as there's still a lot of interesting ground to cover here.

This page introduces a new alien, only referred to as "the creature" or the "tiny fiend." I'm tempted to call him a little green man, but I think he's being treated generically enough that he only needs to be statted as an alien. 
Last post I talked about this giant "white" ape, and now I found out that it's actually some sort of super-science golem, created from a combination of animate and inanimate parts. This transmogrification tube, or whatever you'd call it, is some huge mad science. It's essentially a mobster-maker.
Despite being so cartoony-looking and having no name or personality -- man, that's one tough adversary, unusually tough during a time in comic books when most adversaries go down after one hit or one shot. He's strong enough to do a lot of "pushing damage" to Parks. The ray unaffects him -- although, if it's a wrecking things ray, it wouldn't affect anyone anyway.
Our little unnamed alien even uses smart hostage-taking tactics.

Here, though, we have another example of how easy it is to disarm and grapple someone in comics. Even though we're told how fast and agile this alien is, the two unarmed women easily disarm him and knock him prone.
This caption is the only proof we have of the alien's agility, unless his twisting himself free is agility.

His ability to throw boulders (even small boulders) suggests the alien is statted as a superhero of at least 1st-level, with the Extend Missile Range I power activated.
Wrecking missile weapons before they can be used is actually a tactic that got used in my last Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign (and quite a lot, towards the end)!

Wait...what is Flint trying to do to the alien? I don't think he was trying to explode him into atoms, that was a random result of tinkering with the machine (I can just imagine the random mishap table to go along with the machine, with blowing up being the worst result)...but what result was he hoping for?
Time to finally move on to the next feature, which is Tiger Hart, the goofy Fletcher Hanks' one attempt at making a Prince Valiant-like strip. And there's certainly some goofiness here, like the name Tiger Hart, naming his horse Zip, the fact that Zip knows how to power dive, and that impossibly barrel-shaped chest on Tiger -- but I do like that trapped bridge. I'm not sure how the hanging rope triggers it, but the bridge folds up into a box, trapping anyone on it, which is a pretty cool trap.

Tiger is nice enough to give the men some privacy while they strip off their clothes, searches them (a very thorough tactic, by the way), and then lets them put their clothes back on -- before threatening to feed them to tigers. So Tiger isn't so much nice to his prisoners as he just didn't want to see them naked. And isn't he just like a Batman villain here, incorporating an animal in his name into his deathtrap?

But most bizarre of all -- how do you hide a glowing gem that big inside a horse's mane?? A saddle bag, maybe, but inside the mane? And how did it not just fall out?
Bending bars isn't that hard for comic book Heroes, but should maybe be slightly harder than doors - so, treat as machines.

Talon men would be a new mobster type. Its distinguishing features are, obviously, those over-sized claws that would let it do extra damage (maybe 2-8 with claw attack?).

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)