Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Amazing Mystery Funnies v. 2 #12 - pt. 3

Ah, Speed Centaur, the ultimate test of the comic book fan's suspension of disbelief.

Here, we see Speed pushing a boulder, which is a fair use of the Raise Car power. But, of course, the biggest thing here is that Speed has found this whole, crazy subterranean lair right behind his own hideout cave -- as if Batman found a secret passage behind the Batcave that led straight to Castle Greyhawk. This is some really Old School nutty dungeon-type stuff here -- Speed and Reel run into a subterranean rhinoceros in this cave complex.

Also worth pointing out is "Yeh man!!! Put your peepers on that baby!!" -- one of the goofiest lines of dialog I've ever read in a comic book.

Exciting the cave complex, Speed and Reel find themselves...hurled back in space and time? In a lost world setting where early European settlers were trapped here and never moved past the Middle Ages? At this point in the lunacy, does it even really matter?

Knights are going to be a statted mobster type in the Mobster Manual; in fact, they were statted for the basic rulebook, but were one of the mobster types cut because the section just seemed too big and unwieldy.

Disarming is a combat option in 2nd edition Hideouts & Hoodlums. Unhorsing a rider is not, simply because I do not expect it to come up as often. In lieu of its own mechanic, I would simply require the rider to make a save vs. science to avoid disarming.

I'm skeptical about that stick between the legs working to trip a horse; I think the stick would just snap like a twig. I suppose the fair thing to do would be to make the horse save vs. science to keep from being knocked prone, but with a situational bonus of at least +2.

This page illustrates three things -- how much of a hideout can be just empty space before reaching an encounter (though that tends to not be too fun for most players), the importance of frequent "hear noise" skill checks in a hideout, and an example of how easy wrecking through locked doors is for superheroes.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Amazing Mystery Funnies v. 2 #12 - pt. 2

We return to Space Patrol to find the space bandit (which is like a normal bandit, only encountered in space and with a spaceship instead of a horse) Kosterman has already failed a morale save despite not having even entered combat yet.

A shock gun seems an odd name for a weapon used to wreck spaceships, but perhaps the blue flame somehow delivers a violent shock that shakes ships apart. Here, the ship is only partially wrecked.

Right now, wrecking things is an all-or-nothing mechanic. One would have to revise it to three categories to include a "partially wrecked" column.

I think this is our first scenic view of Venus in all of comic books. We get a good sense of the flora and fauna. Of course, the only detail Basil gets right is that the air isn't breathable.

Venus got a write-up in Supplement III: Better Quality, where I tried to compromise between the factual Venus and the comic book Venus, while keeping to the side where it was inhabitable enough a place to go and have adventures. The comic book version I was working from was the Fawcett comics' version; next time I write a gazeteer for Venus, it will have to include a lot more details from Basil's vision of it.

The Venusian Spider-Men will definitely need to get statted for the upcoming Mobster Manual. They are only vaguely spider-shaped, with their legs being more like tentacles that they use to grapple tree branches and victims. They seem to travel only via brachiation.

We will have to wait and see what all Kosterman's flame gun can do; it could be statted as nothing other than an acetylene torch with some space-age flavor text added.

Here we see that spider-men prefer caves to jungle dwelling when it comes to lairs, that they strew bones around their lairs, that they eat humans (though I don't agree that makes them cannibals), and we see that they use simple stone age technology.

This is a page (likely a Sunday page) of Don Dixon. You have to read carefully to pick out which character is the merman because this merman looks just like an ordinary human, but simply can't handle the air pressure above water without a breathing helmet.

This is one of the more obscure strips by Harry Francis Campbell. I love his John Law, Scientective, and thought John's prototype, Dean Denton, still had a lot of potential. Which makes it sad to see Jon Linton is so goofy. Though, to be fair, most attempts to depict the future in comic books tend to have looked pretty goofy.

Here, we learn that, by 2009 AD, we're going to have intercontinental rocket planes that can go 1,000 MPH (which sounds really impressive, but was possible by 1956), hooded robes are going to be stylish, and televisions (which already existed in 1939) will be called "visigrams."

It seems like Jon has performed some kind of aviator stunt here, but I think by now we know what the answer to aviator stunts are in most comic books; by 2nd edition Hideouts & Hoodlums rules, they must be simply the use of a piloting skill (and a successful roll).

As for thermite shells, one could make a case that they ignore armor and cover when attacking (all targets are AC 9, though still subject to other modifiers like the Dexterity bonus of Mysterymen).

Tibet? Green mist? Someone was reading Bill Everett's Amazing Man...

The Wall of Green Mist is actually a Wall of Force spell (or the power equivalent).

Tracking mundane resources like rations should only matter when Heroes are trapped in the wilderness, or spending long periods of time in hideouts. In an urban environment where food is plentiful, players and Editors can skip over detailing the mundane tasks of every day life like stopping to eat and drink periodically.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Amazing Mystery Funnies v. 2 #12 - pt. 1

I have been surprisingly enjoying The Fantom of the Fair, so I was wondering what this feature would do once the World's Fair closed down at the end of the year. It turns out he wasn't so tied to that location after all, as he's already just packed up and gone off to Pennsylvania to fight crime!

Swinging out of nowhere to save a falling woman is pretty typical comic book fare, but on just the page before this, Jane was using that whip on her employees! Things aren't cut and dried here; should The Fantom be rescuing Jane, or her employees from her? It would be interesting if a Hideouts & Hoodlums Editor had been running this and intended for the player to do the later, but the player misunderstood the situation and did the former. Editors need to be flexible in what players can justify as good deeds, and award them with XP accordingly.

I'm tempted to say this is evidence of a new power called Unpassable. You would not be able to move past the Hero and the Hero could block an area 10' wide. It would probably be a 1st level power.

The Fantom probably gets called a tough guy because he's using the Get Tough power -- which makes sense; he can now transfer his extra damage into feet pushed, via the pushing rule for combat. He must also be buffed with Multi-Attack, since he's able to push multiple opponents at once.

I don't think we need a power for swinging. I do like that this combat takes place both horizontally and vertically. Multi-level encounter areas give the Editor and players that much room for creativity.

I've written before about using saves vs. plot to see through disguises, which would also apply to recognizing voices -- but the real reason I shared this page was so that I could rant about the changes made to the Fantom strip in this issue. Before, the Fantom did not appear to be masked -- his hair was visible in silhouette, and he was always somehow magically in silhouette no matter what the lighting, and with his blue costume and red cape...he could have been Superman. Now, he's very clearly not and is so much less interesting for it.

We've briefly seen Daredevil Barry Finn on this blog before, though he really seems more like a soap opera star than a daredevil. We first met Frogga back in issue #5 and he seemed more monstrous; here he's a comic sidekick character, despite being an artificially created merman.

Frogga fights a huge octopus (which, if we keep the large/huge/giant dynamics, we know falls halfway between the other two Hit Dice-wise).

Oil of Corrosion is a powerful consumable trophy that destroys everything it touches and does at least 1-6 points of damage to living targets.

Basil Wolverton's Space Patrol debuts here (Basil Wolverton's debut too!).  We see here how cleanly Basil lifts the tropes of the cowboy genre and transplants them in space, from the patrolling lawman and loyal sidekick, to bank robbing, to chasing bandits.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Feature Comics #27

This issue is the debut of Dollman and, while I prefer The Flame from Lou Fine's ouevre, Dollman seems to be the one who lasted the longest.

Aqua regia is a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid.

Dollman's ability to throw a syringe really far, relative to his size, is not so surprising if shrinking is only flavor text. Then Dollman's throwing range doesn't change at all.

It does seem like he's about to lose two supporting cast members here, though...

Wait, where did this idea that Dollman has the strength of 20 men come from?  Did they do some testing on him between the 2nd and 3rd panels?
Still...if he does have the strength of 20 men, then it sounds like he has access to the Get Tougher power already!

This is Reynolds of the Mounted, that is one weird pillow! I don't think I will ever again see a pillow used in a trap, but placing radium ore inside it is devilishly weird and perfect for Hideouts & Hoodlums. I suppose there is a saving throw vs. science required every hour before the radium gives you amnesia?

This is Rance Keane, and here's an interesting fact: if you want to know if a mine has been played out, you can just call the U.S. State Department and they can tell you over the phone.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Popular Comics #46 - pt. 3

We return to Shark Egan. This is far from the first or the last time we'll see a Hero in a diving suit and, while it doesn't inspire me to race out and craft a pearl-diving scenario, I'm struck by the interesting detail that you can hear the compressors from other divers, making it difficult to gain surprise under these conditions. Maybe everyone's chance for surprise would drop to 1 in 6?

Also, having a mix of lined and line-less diving suits in an underwater combat certainly gives one side a strong advantage over the other.

Okay, old guy....It's hard to take potassium seriously as a rare and valuable element, considering I can go to the pharmacy and pick up potassium pills super-cheap. Was potassium somehow rarer in the past? So far, I can't find any sources that back up why this geezer is so excited to find potassium (unless he just forgot his pills at home...).

The moss in the waterfall, resembling a hangman's noose, is a really nice story touch, and example of outdoor dressing.

The other thing here I would want to address is that Tommy and his pal have climbed 1,000'. How many skill checks would that take (I think it's safe to say, from the 2nd edition skill rules, that this would be basic skill checks, since they have the advantage of climbing with equipment)? The rules are, I think rightly, silent on how far one can climb per check, because there are just too many variables to take into account, like the steepness of the slope, the roughness of the mountainside (does it have good handholds?), whether they have to navigate around overhangs, etc. And then there is personal bias; I personally consider mountain climbing to be really dangerous, so I would think requiring a skill check every 10-60' is not unreasonable.

Then there is the issue of how far to have them fall if they failed. The mountain is not one sheer drop to the bottom; they are likely to land on the mountainside further down below them. If they fell from 500', let's say, I would probably roll percentile dice 5 times, giving a range of 5-500' they fell (which, yes, would likely leave them unconscious unless they were super-lucky).

We haven't seen a goat on this blog in ages! This is a mountain goat, though, which I would probably stat with 1+1 Hit Dice.

"So what? If we miss Jupiter we just sail on past it forever until we die? Is it too late to get off this ship?"

Actually, Jane keeps her skepticism about Tornado's INT score to herself and we're treated to some sketchy science about re-entry (though they did get right that you would need parachutes to break your fall).

I wonder how this mistook another planet for Jupiter. Were they not checking their trajectory en route?

The 1930s was right around the time when scientists started to figure out that Jupiter was not going to look like this.

"By Jupiter! It's Jupiter!" is a great line.

The alien insect looks like a giant wasp with a disturbingly cat-like face. Very rare for Golden Age comics, the insect survives a gunshot and needs more attacks. I would probably have to assign this at least 2 Hit Dice. Giant wasps were statted in 1st edition (Book II, Mobsters and Trophies), but I only gave them 1+1 HD then.

Giant ants have been passed over in H&H so far, though the alien Bandar (statted in an early Trophy Case issue) were certainly ant-like. This page shows us 6' long ants -- which probably have 4 Hit Dice -- and come here in a group of at least 12.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Popular Comics #46 - pt. 2

We return to the Hurricane Kids just in time for a surprising (for them) discovery. Cavemen, on a time-lost island with dinosaurs? I'd be more surprised by how they apparently have access to really good razors or waxing.

I'm amused by that "The high priest, no doubt" from the narrator, based on no evidence other than his white beard.

I do have plans on adding a high priest mobster type in the upcoming Mobster Manual. I'll have to amend the caveman entry to say that there is a chance of a high priest being among them.

This is curious to me...I can't think of any car chase scenes I've ever seen where innocent bystanders decide to chase a driver down. If I ever revisit my chase rules, maybe I'll have to add something about a chance per turn of new participants entering the chase.

A rare use of shotguns by robbers (may need to update their entry to reflect a chance of being armed with them).

These guys are just robbing out of hostility! And always committing their crimes at noon, in the same city? They're just begging to get caught. Makes it easy for the Heroes, though!

This is The Mystery of Mr. Wong Featuring Boris Karloff. The Detective class I debuted in The Trophy Case is still the last un-playtested Hero class, but that doesn't mean I can't make some use of it for non-Heroes, and will probably include details from it in a detective write-up in the Mobster Manual. And maybe it should include a chance to recognize poisons on sight?

Or should this be a skill available to Heroes? If so, it would definitely be an expert skill.

$100 may not seem like much to today's players, but then players seldom need much encouragement to get their Heroes into fights.

More interesting is the idea of a villain taking a dive initially against the Heroes, so he can come back and publicly thrash them later.

Lastly, I don't think we should equate boxing rounds with combat turns. At a guess, I'd say a boxing round should be 5-7 combat turns in length.

This is Masked Pilot. There's a mystery as to why the Black Phantom thinks he's fighting in a war, but what really interests me here are the signs at the gas station -- "6 gallons for $1" and "credit cards honored," showing how experimental credit cards still were in 1939.

The Black Phantom fights with the strength of 10 men and...sounds suspiciously like a superhero buffed with the Get Tough power. Could this be one of the earliest true supervillains in comics?

This is from Shark Egan. In 2nd edition, I gave just example values for treasure items, like gemstones and pearls and left it to the Editor to assign numbers. Had I given a range for determining random values, I would have needed to use a very generous exploding die mechanic (like 1-4 x $10, with every roll of 2-4 triggering another roll) to let pearl values get all the way up to $500,000.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Popular Comics #46 - pt. 1

We rejoin Toby here, and Toby and Oomog are not having fun on a tropical aisle. The appearance of the natives is clearly being played for laughs, but the fact that they're willing to drug their visitors with fruit that makes you doze off to sleep (unless you make a save vs. poison) makes exploring this island a dangerous adventure.

This is all world-building for Martan the Marvel Man. The year is 5000 on the planet Antaclea -- but that's by their calendar, not ours. The people of Antaclea look like Earthlings, but it seems like that's just a coincidence, given the extreme distance between worlds. Antaclea is more advanced than Earth and looks down on Earth, but at least Earth isn't bad like Mars -- those nasty Martians were at war with Antaclea in 3900 AD and wiped out 90% of the Antacleans. Only now has Antaclea rebuilt and is a restored utopia. Antaclea isn't unprotected any longer; those electric guns can wreck like an 11th level superhero with a range of the 40,000 miles, and I presume the flame rayguns are for shorter range, in case some gets past the electrical barrage. The problem with a "utopia" founded on guns, though...guns have a nasty habit of going off accidentally, and I bet a lot of people have been incinerated by planetary defenses just for not displaying their IPASS badges fast enough.

If the Martians did that to Antaclea, in a completely different
solar system, I do wonder how Earth endured. Perhaps Earth was seen as too primitive to bother with?

I'm already having problems with this story philosophically, but now the science starts getting super-shaky too. Antaclea has no oceans? Antaclea is 45 times the size of Earth? Jupiter is only 11 times the size of Earth, which makes Antaclea impossibly large for a non-gaseous planet. And what are "light miles" If the author means miles traveled at the speed of light, then Antaclea is closer than the moon and travel to Earth is near-instantaneous. If he means light years, then Antaclea is almost as far as the Andromeda Galaxy.

Economics-wise, we see that technology seems available to everyone, with interplanetary spacecraft being as common as cars.
There comes a point where the flavor text is so beyond simply wrecking something that you must be dealing with disintegration (save or be destroyed). In 1st edition, item saving throws were still a thing. In 2nd edition, if I really wanted to avoid using the wrecking things mechanic, I might let the pilot roll.

But what's all this nonsense, Martan? Are you saying that Earth would have a stronger gravity, despite being 1/45th Antaclea's size? Are you pulling Vana's leg?

Ah, the ultra-rare jungle-dwelling lions....I'm starting to wonder if this is some alternate Earth...

I like how their rayguns can be set to specific points of damage, with "x003" apparently being the setting for 1 point of damage. The question is, how high do those settings go? And is x999 really 333 points of damage?

At a higher setting, the raygun can even create fire -- a Wall of Fire, to be exact.

Evidence that the "number of appearing" for natives needs to be set pretty high.

This might look like a continuation of the same story, since this is by the same art team, but this is the Hurricane Kids. Here, we see how adventurous going fishing is off a time-lost prehistoric island and that they have to shoot at sharks (they must think they have a lot of bullets to spare) to protect their lunch.

I like the detail of the mud flow from the river, and how the inland river is concealed; the kids have to use their skills (i.e., concealed door check) to spot the river ingress.

That last panel gives us an understandably poor sense of scale, since a 20-ton sauropod tended to be 50' long, tip to tail, and would be hard to squeeze in a panel with the kids' boat.

Like I found with statting other dinosaurs, animals weighing in the range of tons don't stat easily when size and mass figure into Hit Dice. I would have to give this mommy 9 20-sided Hit Dice, which means those kids had better get out of there fast!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)