Monday, July 27, 2015

More Fun Comics #25

We'll start this revisit of More Fun with Sandra of the Service and this question -- in Hideouts & Hoodlums, do non-Heroes have to roll to notice things, like the men on the larger boat spotting Sandra's rowboat? It does make the game more fair if everyone rolls and plays by the results of the dice rolls. If, however, a specific result would make for a better story, the Editor should hand-wave the dice roll, or fudge the results to a better one. The most important thing is that the players should never feel cheated by hand-waving of dice fudging.

A seemingly simple, 2-page story of Doctor Occult, the Ghost Detective, actually requires a lot of unpacking. One point is that, in the climactic scene, the scientist seems to be casting a spell, one that can transmute, or polymorph, a human being into a small statuette. It's worth pointing out again that the narrator specifically refers to the villain as a scientist.  

Another point is that we see Dr. Occult's magic symbol reflecting the spell back on the scientist. Now, this seems very much like the Superhero power Turn Gun on Bad Guy, but the scientist has no visible weapon. A less literal interpretation of the power might allow it to reflect any form of attack. Or perhaps we need a new spell for spell reflection. 

The difficulty we're seeing here in Doctor Occult we've seen before -- it's the trope of magic and advanced science being indistinguishable and it tends to play havoc with a set of game mechanics that tries very hard to keep magic and science separate. Ultimately, I'll have to look at whether this is really the exception, or is it the rule, when dealing with magic in comic books. The latter situation could require a drastic overhaul of H&H.

Less dramatically, Johnnie Law deals with the threat of -- marijuana!  Reefer madness will occur frequently in comics until all mention is squashed by the comics book code in the 1950s, and it will be interesting to trace all the permutations of how the effects of marijuana were perceived by the average comic book artist, who was almost always too square to know anything about the drug other than its name. Here, we learn that marijuana causes hallucinations and fits of violence. 

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

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