Saturday, December 30, 2017
Professor Henry Travers is so worried about the plague killing people in... is this still Cleveland? The headline of The Daily Star says "Purple Plague Grips Metropolis," but that was probably not a proper name yet at this point. Anyway, Travers is so flustered that he accidentally says the plague that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages was the purple plague, when of course it was the bubonic plague.
The "De Fauvier's study of the Purple Plague" sounded so specific that I wondered if De Fauvier was an actual scientist who had once studied diseases. It seems to be purely fictitious, though.
I don't think I ever made a trophy item out of this, but Ultra-Humanite fools Superman wearing a "false-face mask", despite the fact that rubber masks never would fool anyone in real life.
Superman does not always have the Quick Change power prepared. In this story, he knows Travers has been attacked after hearing it over a phone call, yet curiously takes the time to untie his shoes before removing them so he can go leap off to Travers' apartment.
Thugs are also called "muscle men" in this story, proving to me I was right to give thugs better than average Hit Dice.
Superman halting his fall by catching a ledge is cliche -- and can be supported by game mechanics in several different ways. The Editor could have conveniently put the ledge there and offered the chance to roll "to hit" the ledge (an attack roll). Or, Superman's player could have suggested there might be a ledge nearby to grab, and the Editor gave him a save vs. plot for there to be a ledge to grab. Or, the ledge is actually flavor text for the Feather Landing power being activated.
I'm curious about who Travers' "scientific society" was. The story is three years too early for it to be the Cleveland Technical Societies Council.
Superman is still not a Lawful hero at this point; he steals chemicals for Travers that Travers needs for his research into the plague cure. He does so by uprooting a massive skylight to break in and then walking through a wall to break out -- both examples of wrecking things.
For the second time, the Ultra-Humanite knocks Superman unconscious with electricity. It may be important that Superman is taken by surprise each time, so he is not able to activate any defensive powers first.
In addition to the electric raygun, Ultra uses a mind control helmet on Superman, but it comes with a saving throw vs. science that Superman easily makes. Ultra's "fantastic airship" is propeller-less, and almost surely an early jet plane.
The power 4th level power (in first edition Hideouts & Hoodlums) Turn Gun on Bad Guy comes from the final scene of this story, where Ultra shoots his electric gun at Superman, yet Superman is improbably able to pull Ultra in front of the blast first.
In the Pep Morgan feature, stopping to perform a good deed -- moving a loose rail off the railroad tracks -- leads to an encounter with gangster/robbers (perhaps a mixed group of both mobster types), and demonstrates how good deeds can become plot hooks or be tied to plot hooks.
Pep foils the efforts of the mobsters to jump off the train by reaching the engine and telling the crew to speed up too fast for them to risk jumping off. So how fast is too fast? If we assume 30 MPH = 1-6 points of falling sideways damage, and the train made it up to 90 MPH, that would equate to a brutal 3-18 points of damage -- more than most gangsters and robbers would be able to endure.
It also appears that Pep might have a brother in this story, though there is no text that corroborates this when he is seen with his family.
In the Chuck Dawson feature, Chuck is attacked by roughnecks. I don't have a mobster type for "roughnecks", but outlaws are the evil version of cowboys and it sounds like these are just some of those, or maybe bandits. Chuck is defeated with lassos -- and in fact 2nd edition H&H now has entangling rules for just this situation. Luckily, he had trained his horse, Blacky, to untie knots, freeing Chuck, and showing just how complex the actions of animal Supporting Cast Members can be.
Later, catching up to the outlaw/bandits, Chuck jumps down off a ledge behind them to attack them. Now, there is little tactical advantage to taking falling damage, losing surprise, and then attacking your opponents. We have already seen lots of comic book characters fall on mobsters from a height, as an attack, which I suspect Chuck was trying to do here -- Chuck was just the first hero to miss!
In the Clip Carson feature, Clip is in "Kenye," which is surely an intentional misspelling of Kenya. In 1939, this would be the British colony of Kenya. The first thing Clip does is go to a bar and get in a fight with a drunken hoodlum...which reminds me of about half the D&D campaigns I've ever played in. The drunken hoodlum holds a grudge and hides a cobra in Clip's room. Later, Clip runs into cannibals -- which I've said before I plan to leave statted as "natives" and not stat them separately -- but chooses not to fight them and bribes them for safe passage instead.
In the Tex Thompson feature, Tex and his sidekick, Bob Daley, meet actor "John Barryless" -- har har -- obviously meant to be John Barrymore. Tex and his associates head to Egypt to find John's missing son, Bart (John Barrymore's son was also named John). One doesn't normally associate the savage native trope with Egypt, nor zombies, but Tex encounters both while there. We also learn that salt can counter the potion that turns living people into zombies.
Gargantua T. Potts, by the way, is a minstrel show-level racist caricature of a sidekick for Tex.
In the Three Aces feature, I learned (or maybe I knew this before and forgot) that the Three Aces ("Fog" Fortune, "Gunner" Bill, and "Whistler" Will) are members of the U.S. Naval Reserves -- which seems an odd choice, as I would have thought the Army had more fliers than the Navy at that time. They have to "solve" a murder mystery, and I use the term loosely because they overhear practically everything and then just have to prove who did it. It can be a useful reminder to Editors not to make mysteries too difficult to solve during game sessions.
In the Zatara feature, Zatara -- who usually throws around high level spells like they were nothing -- solves this scenario where a mad scientist in Mexico is creating an army of gorillas with transplanted human brains (and apparently is shipping the gorillas all the way into Mexico, since they are clearly not indigenous) using only two second-level spells, Invisibility and Hold Person. Of course, you could call the scenario only a partial success because Zatara only frees the scientist's prisoners who still have their brains, leaving all the transplant victims to be blown up along with the scientist after Zatara escapes.
(Superman story read in Action Comics Archives v. 1; select pages from the rest were read at the Babbling about DC ,o;Comics blog and the rest was read in summary at DC Wikia.)
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Although the feature refers to them as both units and "cells," I think what we're talking about is batteries. Batteries have been around forever. Recharging (what I think "self-energizing" means) have been around since 1859, but they used lead instead of sodium. In fact, I can't find any evidence of sodium-based batteries before the 1960s. So where did this idea come from? I'm stumped, gentle reader!
Cultists are now a mobster type in second edition Hideouts & Hoodlums.
(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)
Friday, December 22, 2017
The backstory here is that a museum idol seems to be killing people who went on an expedition to Tibet. Li Wan is apparently able to control the idol when he goes into a trance.
Telepathy is the second power he seems to demonstrate here.
It's also worth pointing out that The Eye doesn't seem to be able to Teleport, as he doesn't turn up in the U.S. for weeks after leaving Afghanistan.
(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Here we have the return of "The Masked Marvel." If some of this art looks familiar, it is because it was featured prominently in Books II and III of 1st edition Hideouts & Hoodlums. We see a master criminal at work with a high number of thugs working for him; I may have to up the "number appearing" range to 1-12 for thugs.
Note how most of them have Tommy guns, except for that one guy who only brought a pistol. Don't bring a pistol to a Tommy gun fight, Muggsy! In hoodlum descriptions, I tend to present a random range of likely weapons. If the Editor has time, he should determine weapons individually instead of having every mobster fight with the same thing.
Or are they all thugs? One or two of them may be gangsters instead, including the lone guy armed with a revolver. Gangsters are a new mobster type in 2nd edition H&H who have a skill for coercing people to get into cars, not unlike what we're seeing in that last panel.
I'm also amused by the phrase "that's a lot of sugar," instead of the more familiar to our ears phrase "that's a lot of dough." I wonder how interchangeable these terms were in common parlance of the time.
It's almost worth mentioning that this story is the first time a sidekick character dies in a comic book. But then, it's just Zl, so no one was ever shaken up over this.
I point out the fingerprint collecting in particular because this is a go-to for my players, despite the limitations on it at the time. They have to remember that there is no national database of fingerprints they can scan for a match in; the local police station can try to match them against the ones they have on file. They can then try contacting other agencies, but it will be a slow process. At best, I would let you have a save vs. plot to try and get results back as fast as Spark gets them here.
Of course, there goes my magic-user theory, as Dan would not be able to use a wand unless he was also a magic-user. It seems the organ is, instead, a powerful trophy item with a range of, at first, random effects Heroes could trigger -- sort of like a Wand of Wonder, until they figure out how to play it.
(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Here, we see an unintelligent mobster not taking advantage of its hostage. Editors must keep the relative intelligence of the mobsters they use in mind.
Nowhere in the rules will you find swords being able to do extra damage as the result of a charge. It really seems like it should be a lance Ab is using in this scene anyway.
We also see evidence (which I had always presumed to be true anyway) that ogres cannot move as fast as horses.
Bank robberies in comic books are as old as comic books, but the new wrinkle here is that the robbers are robbing the post office. At least, the text tells us it's a post office; it looks suspiciously bank-like inside, down to the on-duty armed guard. Perhaps the guard came with the special delivery.
Note the unique weapon: the shoulder-mounted machine gun. A trophy item, or just badly drawn? You decide!
(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum -- and yes, black and white scans seem to be the only ones there are.)
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
The chase scene is also ended conveniently fast. My new chase mechanics in 2nd edition slow it down somewhat, though they still play fast (I've had cause to use them twice now in my current campaign). Nothing in my rules allows for shooting a tire to make it skid off the road, though -- unless you treat the bullet as a halting obstacle (which is a bit of a stress).
(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)