Monday, October 31, 2016

Adventure Comics #42

The adventures of The Sandman continue, and he's got to have one of the best fleshed-out, yet little-known, backstories in all of early comic book history. Here, we learn that Wesley Dodds was in the U.S. Navy Air Corps as of 1933. We also get backstory SCMs for Wes -- Dr. Clyde Dunlap and "Happy" O'Shea. Supporting Cast Members can be assigned like that by the Editor as a story demands, though players should be discouraged from just "saying" they have old friends they can call on for help.

In this case, Clyde and Happy even know about Wes being The Sandman. It does not seem to be implied that the Sandman identity extends back to '33, so they likely learned about it from him sometime since then.

Wes, Clyde, and Happy all have access to fighter planes. Wes is a billionaire in his backstory, but has likely not had time to accumulate the $20,000+ he would need to purchase a fighter plane in game play. This has to be another hand-out from the Editor for this scenario.

The scenario has the three good guy fighter planes up against four bad guy biplanes. The good guys start out with the advantage of surprise and use the aviation stunt Out of the Sun against them. They immediately fail their primary objective, though, to protect an eighth plane in the air full of innocent passengers. Luckily, the passenger plane has more hit points because it only goes down from complications, while the biplanes are weaker and crash violently instead.

Hideouts & Hoodlums will, eventually, be able to play out a scenario just like that.

Wes has a gas bomb -- different from his gas gun -- that he uses for the only time in this story.

In Barry O'Neil's adventure, he uses not one but three aviator stunts -- Wing Walking, Deadstick, and Improvised Landing.

Then Barry picks up a crate and hits two thugs with it at once -- not possible by the H&H rules, unless these are actually weaker hoodlums instead of 2 HD thugs.

Barry passes up the chance to search Krull's ship for loot by blowing it up with mines first. The scenario kind of demanded it, since other ships were in jeopardy, but Barry's player might be ticked off about that.

Socko Strong meets an ape-man (that's getting a stat entry in 2nd ed.) and sails to its lost world island. The lost world seems, for some reason, limited to a valley on the island that you have to climb a cliff and cross a fallen tree over a gorge to get to. The valley is somehow big enough to support both a tyrannosaurus rex and a stegosaurus with food. Both of these dinosaurs will likely be left out of the basic book, for being just too big and dangerous.

Captain Desmo and Gabby are up against cultists (also getting an entry in 2nd ed.). probably with thugs and assassins (another 2nd ed. add) mixed in. The bad guys have a simple deathtrap for Gabby, tossing him into a pit full of cobras.

Anchors Aweigh puts Don and Red in an unusual situation; they find themselves in an unbeatable scenario, if the scenario is wrongly interpreted as a "save the ship" scenario. The torpedo is too close to the ship for them to do anything about, so this is a survival scenario -- at least initially.

Don and Red meet Admiral Cato, our first bonafide Napoleon character (we've seen some mad scientists so far with Napoleon complexes, but they all fit the mad scientist mold better). From the summary I have to read, I don't know what all of Cato's weapons are, but some of them appear to be poison gas bombs.

Don and Red can't figure a way out of this underwater lair they are trapped in, so they come up with a rather clever plan. After sabotaging the oxygen supply for the hideout, Cato's henchmen fail their morale saves and offer to come up with a way out of the hideout for them.

Sometimes the bigger picture of world war is just going to be backdrop for your H&H stories. The Skip Schuyler story takes place in a Chinese city just as it's being bombed by the Japanese -- but the story doesn't really have anything to do with that. The scenario starts when Skip rescues a boy who serves as the plot hook to uncover the kidnapping of an American reporter. The reporter has a guard guarding her (guards were statted in the first H&H module and will be in 2nd ed. too).

Rusty, of Rusty and His Pals, is menaced by yellow peril hoodlums serving a Fu Manchu villain. Fu Manchu is guarded by guards, but Steve -- Rusty's adult pal -- shows up, makes his save vs. plot, and is able to ignore the guards and go straight after the Fu Manchu villain, Chen Fu. Steve still loses, though, and is placed in a complex deathtrap. He's tied on a plank over a pit full of metal spikes, with a pendulum blade swinging down at him from above (I presume Steve is under the plank and the pendulum  blade is to cut the rope and drop him in the pit, though the trap seems like it would work just as well if Steve was on top of the plank and the blade is coming down to cut him).

Cotton Carver has to rescue his friends when they are kidnapped by cultists and taken to be sacrificed. Cotton tracks them through a forest and starts shooting the cultists, but his friends still get dumped into a pit with water in the bottom. He dives in and they all get sucked by an undertow into a subterranean cavern that opens to the sky (? -- hollow world settings confuse me). The "god" of the cultists is a brontosaurus. Like the earlier dinosaurs mentioned, this is way too big and dangerous for the basic book. And yet...Cotton somehow kills it by catching it in a grass fire. Infused with massive amounts of experience points, Cotton and his friends enter a kingdom defended by medieval-esque knights. Do knights need to be their own mobster type?

(Sandman story read in Golden Age Sandman Archives, summaries of the rest read at DC Wikia.)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Comics on Parade v. 2 #6

I have the rare opportunity to peruse a United Features comic book again, and this one starts with a surprisingly adventurous scenario in Abbie an' Slats!

I've talked before about the difficulty of scenarios requiring navigating burning buildings. One thing that should never be difficult, though, is for a woman to get a man to do something by calling his manhood into question. That doesn't even require an encounter reaction check.

The previous page featured Abbie and this page has Slats on it. This page reminds me of the importance of roleplaying well-rounded characters for the Heroes to interact with. Personality quirks, like being a busybody, could later work out to the Heroes' advantage.

Brass knuckles are very popular weapons in Hideouts & Hoodlums -- but this, surprisingly, is the first time I've seen them in the comics (and this is The Captain and the Kids).

Speaking of starting equipment, Ella Cinders reminds me about smelling salts. These are, apparently, invaluable for reviving fainting women, but fainting isn't in the game mechanics so we're not concerned with that. Normal smelling salts cannot revive a person unconscious from injuries. Could a trophy item version of smelling salts do that? But then, a normal, non-trophy first aid kit can already do that. So what do we need smelling salts for again...?

You probably wouldn't be able to guess from looking at it, but that's a grizzly bear menacing the half-pints in Broncho Bill. It does present me with some interesting ideas, though...should there be a morale save required whenever meeting something with x number of Hit Dice more than you have? Should morale, in at least this instance, apply to Heroes? And should being petrified with fright be a possible morale failure result?

Billy Make-Believe features a pack of wolves, but correctly points out that wolves do not attack unless hungry.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Books Plus)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Amazing Man Comics #5 - pt. 3

And there are still more characters to introduce from this issue!  Next is Chuck Hardy In the Land beneath the Sea.  Yes, it's a hollow world campaign, this time set under the South Pacific, and can only be reached when a volcano causes a fissure on the ocean floor to open. How the entire ocean doesn't start pouring into the hollow world and drown everyone there is never explained.

What is explained to us is that this is a salamandron -- which, I'm guessing, is like a cross between a salamander and a dimetrodon. It sure looks big and fearsome, but sure doesn't last long against Chuck (unless he just happened to pick up a magical Axe of Salamandron Slaying...?).

Someone's been reading a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The science continues to remain goofy, but as long as your players are fine with that, let the environment give their Heroes any bonuses you feel comfortable with.

Speaking of "lost world" settings, here we get another smaller example of that in Mighty Man -- which is ironic, given that this is a lost Valley of the Giants. It's hard to get a sense of scale from that close-up of a deer, but Sonny says it is twice normal size. The trees are supposed to be twice normal size too (though how can you really tell with a tree?). The scale of the building suggests its occupant will be more than twice human size, though.

Here's an origin story ripe for abuse -- if staying in this valley turns people into giants, then what's to stop your Heroes from just choosing to stay here for 5-10 years of game time, and then go out and stomp all over your campaign world?  Unless it's the growing process that killed everyone else off, of course.

Although Mighty Man says he's the son of normal humans, he's close to the right size to be a moon giant (appearing in 2nd ed.).

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Amazing Man Comics #5 - pt. 2

Our first clue that the Iron Skull is a superhero is these bullets bouncing off of him. It could be the Nigh-Invulnerable Skin power in play, though at this point he could just be a guy in armor.

This is the best clue yet that Iron Skull is a superhero, as he seems to be wrecking these robots too easily to just be punching them for normal damage.

Here's an interesting question -- are mech spiders a new mobster type, or just robots whose appearance is flavor text?

We know the mech spiders are tougher than a beat cop can handle. Those huge robots fall very quickly to Iron Skull, faster than we can really get a feel for how tough they are, or would be against normal foes.

The caption makes it seems like Iron Skull has a high-tech device concealed on his person that lets him shoot out an electronic wrecking ray -- but I wonder if this isn't just flavor text for the power Wreck at Range? Either that, I have to write up something with the ungainly name of a "compact annod comptod machine."

This "fact" is from an "educational" filler called Stranger than Fiction.  And, while I'm highly dubious about this thing about lions and spiders, maybe it could be one of those things that is at least true in a comic book world...

This is an interesting page layout, with the first panel serving like the opening teaser of a movie before the credits roll. It's more innovative than I would have expected from Gustavson, who still has trouble at this point with basic figure work.

But that's not what I'm sharing this for. What I wanted to call your attention to is the last panel, and the expectation of the expedition lasting three months. That's pretty long for a single scenario, unless it features a lot of traveling. And even then, you'd best be sure your players are okay with spending a lot of their play time on travel and not on hero-stuff.

There's a fair amount of racism inherent in this page, about how you can't give Africans liquor because they can't hold it and makes them start wars with each other. There are two things worth noting here, though.

One is about tracking across water. It's easy to forget about how telling wet footprints would be, so if the tracks were recent, I would give no penalty to the roll to track across water.

The other point is about combining mobster types, as I've recently brought up.  Here we see what drunken natives would look like, as a combination of drunken hoodlums and natives. And, while I could lump all human archetypes into one "Man" entry, with only modifiers for each sub-type (i.e., +1 HD for thug, drunk breath weapon if drunken, better tracking if a native), I don't think I want my mobster section to look like that. So I'll let Editors work on combining mobster types on their own.

We don't know how Minimidget and Ritty were shrunk, but we can gather clues from the lab that it involved electricity and chemicals. Note that the effects are much more dramatic than the spell Reduce Person (which will be in 2nd ed.).

We can also infer from this that people shrunk in this fashion retain little of their mass and strength, or they wouldn't need poison weapons.

I hesitate to even share this page because it's just so awful what happens to that poor cat, but it does illustrate that poisoned weapons can be used more than once and retain their poison.

Also, if it wasn't already clear, Minimidget is not a Hero. So this is not an exception to my "Heroes can't use poison" rule (which is now codified in 2nd. ed., if I never wrote it before).

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Amazing Man Comics #5 - pt. 1

No, I haven't skipped any issues; Amazing Man Comics really did start with issue #5. It was, after Superman, the second comic book named after its lead character.

We know from the caption that Amazing Man is over 25 years old. Hideouts & Hoodlums doesn't worry about character age or aging, but it was generally true in the Golden Age that Heroes were college-educated, which meant being at least 22 years old when they started.

John Aman is known both as Amazing Man and as The Green Mist, depending on who you ask, I guess. It would not be unsuitable for H&H Heroes to have more than one superhero name.

The Council uses a sleep-ray on John, I guess so he can't hear their deliberations. It seems to have a very short range, but is fairly portable.

Amazing Man is showing off his powers in the first test. This could be the power Raise Elephant at play -- though, since he isn't technically raising it, maybe he only needs Raise Car to stop it.

Bereft of other weapons, John uses his teeth on a poisonous snake. Although biting is not a particularly effective attack, he might have buffed it up with Get Tough or a similar power.

We know that Amazing Man has enough hit points to take two knife wounds and still be only lightly wounded. So...8-15 hit points? At least they're nice enough to bandage him up afterwards.

 I've no idea why the head of the Council is green.

The invisibility formula is like a potion meant to be taken intravenously. There is a side effect that not all invisibility potions have, but (as explained on the next page) the duration of this potion is a full week.

John's first case is solving railroad sabotage in Wyoming (you'd think there would be plenty to keep him busy in Asia, what with the Japanese occupation of China going on).

John finds his first clue, a monogrammed pencil -- with silver lead. I wonder if that would poke werewolves?

Also note that John has an airplane as a starting item. This is not commonly the case in H&H -- though an Editor could choose to hand out trophy items at the start of a campaign.

I'm not sure how John saves this train in such a way that no one else could have done it. The really amazing thing is that he just tells the engineer to let him take over before the crash -- and the engineer goes along with it!  John must have a high Charisma, and/or a lucky encounter reaction roll.

There's no power for superheroes to do this yet. Psychic Auto Writing? It seems too specific a trick to be useful often. Object Reading might be do-able (perhaps the "automatic writing" part is flavor text?). I would think that this is just a trick with telekinesis to flush a confession out of the villain, except that John seems genuinely surprised.

This is the bizarre last page of the bizarre first and only appearance of the very first Cat Man in comics. He's a man who dresses up like a crazy old cat lady, then has his trained cat scratch people with poisoned claws. The poison must be something that smells bad to the cat so it knows not to try and lick it off. The Cat Man's only superpower is somehow keeping from getting scratched himself, and his cat's only power seems to be that weird ability to smile it has.

No real bearing on H&H, except for the idea that you could have Heroes run into poisonous pets.

This story is the debut of the Iron Skull, but these are just robot bank robbers we see here. They are a pretty good match for the copper robots found in Book II, except for the added ability to shoot poison gas (save or die) out of their chests.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Detective Comics #31

This month's Batman story starts with something remarkable. No, I don't mean that it's now "Batman" and not "Bat-Man" any longer. And I don't mean that Bruce Wayne now has a fiancee we've never met before. No, I mean we first see Batman at the top of a utility pole -- from which he hops down and lands safely. That's got to be a 20-25' jump? That's not something you can currently do, by the rules, in Hideouts & Hoodlums. Heck, I'm not sure I'd allow that as a stunt!

Batman still doesn't have a Batcave, but he does have a secret hangar located somewhere, containing a bat-themed autogyro. We also get the Batarang in this story. Luckily, I've already added boomerangs to the weapons list in 2nd edition.

We learn that Hungary is well known for its werewolves. I'll have to put that in the werewolf entry!

The Batgyro makes a transatlantic crossing, which is conceivably possible. The 1942 Sikorsky R-4 autogyro could go 9,000 miles, which is far more than the ocean voyage between New York and France.

When Batman encounters the Monk, Batman makes his save vs. spells to avoid being hypnotized, but is aware of what was being attempted on him.

The plot requires Batman to make some pretty bizarre decisions to get him all the way to France. He allows Julie to go to France in the first place, even though he's suspicious of the doctor who tells her to go. He leaves Julie alone on the cruise ship to France with the Monk. He follows the ship to the docks, but then somehow loses sight of Julie and has to search the city to find her again. There's a lot of room here for Batman's player to make a different decision and throw off the entire scenario. It would make more sense for most of this to be backstory and for the scenario to begin in Paris.

In Julie's room is a huge gorilla. No idea how Batman doesn't see it from the window, other than a good surprise roll by the Editor.

The Monk's deathtrap for Batman is a net that closes up around him, that the Monk can drop into a pit of snakes at his leisure.

In a separate trap, Batman encounters a "gigantic" gorilla, far larger than the huge gorilla we saw earlier. 15' tall? Easily escaping the gorilla with some leaping and climbing, Batman only has a single guard left to overcome before escaping.

Batman saves Julie from her abductors (more normal guys like the guard) with a sleeping gas pellet, like we've seen him use before.

Following the Batman feature, an educational filler page called "Crime Never Pays" talks about bloodhounds being able to follow a trail 135 miles. It would be nice to know if that was true.

Humor filler is drawn by Paul Gustavson -- of Centaur Comics fame -- in this issue.

Buck Marshall sneaks up on a cabin with some outlaws in it by deliberately missing some shots at game fowl to fool the outlaws into think he's no threat. I want to turn this idea around on my players some time -- have the bad guys pretend to be incompetent to fool the Heroes, then turn out to be really dangerous!

Bart Regan fights "cowardly thugs" in Spy. Now that could be an interesting combination of two stat types. Tough as a thug, but with a cowardly hoodlum's low morale?

The cowardly thugs have a bulletproof car. Trophy item!

Larry Steele solves a murder mystery with an unusual clue -- the murderer slips up and describes a man by the color of his clothes, then Larry learns that suspect is color blind.

Speed Saunders, now relegated to the middle of the magazine, has a murder with an unusual murder weapon -- a mammoth tusk! Speed mounts a methodical investigation at a circus, questioning the witnesses, searching their tents, and corroborating evidence off-site via telegram. I'm not sure about the stolen tusk though...would trying a stolen tusk to a real elephant's tusk really impale a man before it broke loose from its bonds? Path of least resistance seems like it would be the latter. And then, doing it to avoid blood on the elephant doesn't make much sense. If an elephant's real tusk is right next to the fake tusk doing the actual goring, I would still think it would get some blood on it. And how would the killer know the elephant would use that specific tusk and not the opposing tusk?

Speed gets whipped in the face with a real whip and has temporary scarring from it -- a rare complication for a Hero.

Bruce Nelson's scenario is a pretty interesting one too. The plot hooks he receives are all intentional bait to lure him away from home. The scenario is faked so a robber can get into Bruce's home while he's busy elsewhere and rob him of valuable evidence from another case. I could see myself using this in my current online H&H campaign, where there are major events going on in two locations -- but I would need to lay out clues in advance that there's something not kosher about one of the two sets of plot hooks.

Cosmo, Phantom of Disguise, is dealing with two trophy item/potions. One is a paralyzing drug. The other is "essence of intelligence" -- someone else's stolen intelligence, distilled into a potion you can drink, and then increases your own intelligence (+1-2 to INT for 1-4 weeks?).

Slam Bradley tries to rescue a photographer at the zoo who falls into a bear cage. Slam pushes the bear away, then grabs the photographer and runs. Shorty is menaced by a bear cub (1+1 HD?), judging from the size of it. Then they find a constrictor snake in their room and Slam has to shoot it. And lastly they have to fight a tiger in the zoo.

All of that is pretty cut and dry, as far as game mechanics go. But there's this weird scene where Slam is clubbed from behind, and he's not knocked out or even stunned senseless, but he's groggy enough that he can attack, seemingly at a penalty.

(Batman story read in Batman Archives vol. 1, the rest read at

Monday, October 24, 2016

Amazing Mystery Funnies v.2 #9

We rejoin the Fantom of the Fair as he's chillin', just watching a circus act, when ...well, let's think about what's happening here.

The Fantom somehow senses that something is amiss, but we don't know how. Perhaps he was using Super-Hearing for some reason and overheard the man at the tank, far below, over the din of the crowd. Perhaps the Fantom just has a really good sense of volume and figured out that the water was low from looking at it. Or maybe he was using some kind of heretofore unknown Detect Danger power/spell (or would Find Traps duplicate that?).

Then The Fantom defies physics by leaping after Jane, and less aerodynamically than Jane (and with the drag of the cape no less), and still manages to hit the water before her. Some new power called Fall Faster?

There's more going on, unsaid, here too. The Fantom claims this man looked suspicious because he was standing around nearby. But this is the 1939 World's Fair -- there should be hundreds of people standing around nearby! So this has to be The Fantom using Detect Evil to sense the wrongdoer.

And then there's The Fantom throwing the guy and him landing dead. In Hideouts & Hoodlums you cannot kill in one hit, no matter how much damage it does. I could change that rule -- say, adding an amendment where if you do 10 or 20 points of damage more than what would drop you to zero hit points, then it can be an instant kill, but this is a throw attack that shouldn't possibly do that much damage. Unless The Fantom is using some new power called Super-Throw (with increased grappling damage), or Killing Blow (that gets around the not killed at "zero hp" rule).

This page I include for trivia. From Jane's comments at the end, coupled with the clear outline of a face on The Fantom -- I'm beginning to suspect that The Fantom isn't wearing a mask at all. Rather, his face is always masked in shadow, thanks to magic, and we're just seeing him in silhouette.

A prototype for Marvel Comics' High Evolutionary. More proof that Carl Burgos invented the Silver Age of Marvel Comics back in 1939...?

Now I'm trying to decide if rocket cars needs to be a trophy item. A commonplace rocket car might seem futuristic, but a rocket car held the land speed record (345 MPH) as of 1938. Maybe the Thunderbolt (#7 on this list) will get a stat.

I think I've just solved my problem of how to justify keeping the acetylene torch on the trophy list. A "blue ray" acetylene torch makes it seem more exotic, and could maybe justify boosting the damage it causes a little.

A note to myself that a large transport plane can be a trophy item. A large transport plane has several benefits for a group of Heroes -- it can easily transport them all in one trip, as well as storing all the supplies they might need on adventures (you can see how the interior side of this plane is set up like an armory).

This is Don Dixon. Don't drink was apparently drugged with a Potion of Madness. It makes him gibber and sound like an egomaniac.  Hmm...did someone slip this to Donald Trump?

Oh, Speed Centaur, you goofy feature! I guess Speed cut off his arms in order to fit his torso into that fake horse head? The lesson here is that you don't have to think too hard about disguise for it to work in H&H.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Popular Comics #43 - pt. 2

We've seen some crazy disarming attacks already on this blog, but this time we're treated to a horse being trained to disarm gunmen!

I don't think I've ever shared The Comic Zoo before. It's usually no more than a humor page, but this page could be summarizing a funny, low-threat level adventure. And what is gaming all about than putting your character in danger, but coming out of it having had fun?

"Lookee what we've found! It's a treasure map. Hey's a map to the same place we've already been exploring! That's like giving me silver weapons only after making me fight a werewolf!"

Why yes, Bronc, yes it is. Mwahahaha....

Whoa -- this is dark! Bear in mind that Bronc isn't painting a skeleton onto his clothes -- he's making Babs tie her own dead uncle's bones onto him. That's some crazy stuff!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Popular Comics #43 - pt. 1

This page of Tex Thorne got me to thinking...could game play switch one type of mobster into another? These outlaws, for example, become drunken hoodlums because Tex gets them drunk to make it easier to overpower them.

My first thought on reading this was -- how bad are these bad guys, to throw their dead into a cabin and turn it into a funeral pyre instead of taking the time to bury them? And then I remembered -- the players in my various campaigns have almost never taken the time to bury their dead allies, let alone their enemies.

Moose-like creature? That's pretty clearly drawn as a moose.

It does remind me of this session of D&D I once played, though, where we spent this time chasing a "fox-like creature" through the dungeon, curious to find out what it was. The trick was that it really was just a fox.

Triceratops are such a common dinosaur that I was tempted to put them in the new "basic" book -- but decided against it. The basic book will be for levels 1-6 and triceratops would be too tough to fight for even 6th level Heroes.

This page illustrates the problem with including more dinosaurs in H&H. What is that potbellied carnosaur supposed to be? I mean, the obvious guess is a Tyrannosaurus Rex because that was one of the five or six types of dinosaurs that everyone knew back then, but that drawing...ugh.

Yes, this grisly scene was brought to you by the same company that was producing wholesome Disney comics at the same time!

Bat-birds? Really? You can call a triceratops what it is, but you have to be coy about pterodactyls?

This is The Masked Pilot's strip, though that is his supporting cast member, Jenkins, having all the trouble. Engines conking out and planes catching on fire are just some of the complications that can happen during a dogfight. The plane busting into pieces is what happens when a light cannon takes out the last of a plane's hit points.

Power dive is shown here giving some combat benefit, either to hit or to damage, or both.

A rare instance of first aid being shown applied to a Hero.

There have been several versions of how first aid works in H&H over the years. Right now, I'm leaning towards it giving an immediate 1 hp back.

Doctors were statted for Supplement V as a Lawful mobster type, but here we see an example of a chaotic doctor, giving other mobsters bonuses on their disguise chances.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)