Saturday, December 30, 2017

Action Comics #19

In the Superman feature, Superman demonstrates a "super-resistance to disease", but could have just been a successful saving throw vs. the "purple plague."

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.)

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