Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wonder Comics #1 - pt. 1

I've covered a lot of comic books chronologically on this blog already, but when a new company comes along it's few and far between. This post marks the earliest title from Fox Feature Syndicate.

This filler material looks similar to the aviation pages found in the early Centaur comics. It's interestingly specific about how fast these planes are -- which brings up the topic of speed and movement rate in Hideouts & Hoodlums.  How much faster than an ordinary person does something need to be before, game mechanic-wise, it doesn't make any practical difference not to treat movement as teleportation? I don't have an answer for that, though if I did, I suspect it would radically change how Movement works in H&H.

The infamous first Superman clone, first to disappear after threat of litigation. Too bad, too, because Wonderman seems more distinctly different from Superman than many of the superheroes to come later.

It does bring up another really good question, though one I've dealt with before for H&H. Is WonderMan just an ordinary fighter with a magic ring that makes him strong and invulnerable, or is he statted as a superhero and the magic ring folded into his class-based game mechanics? In many cases (like in writing Supplements IV and V), I have opted for some balance between the two (like how Green Lantern's ring grants some extra abilities, but is mainly the source of his magic-user spells).

Fred Carson is an inventor, something that usually only fits into the background of the hero, unless he's actively invented things during stories and then I might give him a level or two in the Scientist class (from Supplement III).

The idea of televisions being able to broadcast images without a camera is an old one, it sort of anticipates satellite images, but is really more like a Crystal Ball in practice.

Here we finally see Wonderman in action. It's unclear if he's just leaping normally or using a leap power. It's also unclear to me if he's using a power to catch the bomb. If a hero asked to do this in the game, I might say "Okay, you can if you roll to attack the bomb and hit AC 2"...or it could be some variant of the power Feather Landing I had never considered before. The one power we're for sure seeing is Extend Missile Range for throwing the bomb back. Only, since Extend Missile Range III only adds an extra 300', I might have to boost those powers a bit.

This time Wonderman is for sure using a Leap power. And he's using Raise Car on the truck, because he's only picking up half of it.

Wonderman calls his gadget a "special telephone", and the narration tells us it's a handheld radio transmitter. Either way, it is a wireless radio and, as such, was not invented until at least 1945. I wonder if I should call this trophy item a Radio +1...

Here we finally see some measure of how far Wonderman can leap. It looks like a standing high jump of maybe 200' to me -- easily possible with the Leap I power.

Here we first see Wonderman using wrecking things. Crashing through an exterior wall is equal to wrecking cars on the wrecking things table, so it's only possible for superheroes of level 2 or higher. Wrecking a rifle is as easy as wrecking a door -- the easiest category -- and is how I imagined superheroes winning fights when I created the class (in actual play, the superheroes are usually just as likely to be using guns).

Wonderman is using at least Nigh-Invulnerable Skin to keep from being "hit" by those bullets.

I would suggest Wonderman is using Extend Missile Weapon I to turn the soldier into a missile, but since they are about 13 stories up, Wonderman is clearly counting on the fall to kill the soldier and not the impact with the wall. That Wonderman is comfortable killing the soldier, but only "taps" the officer unconscious, shows how mercurial Golden Age Heroes could be when it comes to killing (and why I didn't go the Marvel Super Heroes RPG route of assigning a giant penalty to killing).

This page starts with an interesting example of Wonderman trying to hand off duties to a non-Hero character. Some times when something like this might come up in a game of H&H are when the heroes want someone else to lead prisoners out of the hideout (because they're not ready to leave themselves yet), or sending someone to get help (if the heroes are outmatched). Occasionally in low-level play, heroes will hang back and send the police in first to deal with a hideout, to "soften up" the encounters ahead of them.

I'm wondering if I need a new power called Cow by Roar -- I currently have no game mechanic for calming down people en masse.

Wonderman, charging towards a machine gun, makes me think he might be using the Invulnerability power already. That's a fourth level power -- could that be a bonus property of his magic ring, besides his usual powers?

Ripping through a heavy vault door would be like wrecking a machine, and the fact that Wonderman can do it "with no apparent effort" means he likely did not need to roll very high to wreck it. At 2nd level, his chance would be roughly 50/50, but a 3rd level superhero has a very good chance.

So what level is Wonderman? At least 1st level (with a super-powerful magic ring!) and possibly as high as 6th level!  If I was statting him right now for a sequel to Supplement IV: Captains, Magicians, and Incredible Men -- because of this being his one and only appearance -- I would go the former route and stat him as 1st level.

Bear in mind that Wonder Comics was another anthology book, so Wonderman isn't it for contents, despite how much space I've used on it. This is Shorty Shortcake and, despite the goofy art style, this is a semi-serious adventure strip. I include it here for two reasons. One is that the smugglers' house is a hideout (and is even referred to as such),

The second reason is because of the faint gag at the sight of a spider. I wanted to point out that H&H has no game mechanic for weaknesses except for the specific weaknesses of aliens, androids, and mermen. Players can choose to play with additional weaknesses -- like a fear of spiders -- if they want to, but this is a role-playing choice to flesh out their characters, and not something that will balance out with a bonus elsewhere in their stats.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

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