Friday, April 27, 2018

Planet Comics #1 - pt. 6

Part 6? Man, I can't believe I've spent two and a half weeks dissecting this pretty awful comic book. Can't...stop...myself!

"Torches", eh? This is the first evidence we've seen all issue that this, like all the other early Fiction House issues, was made up of reprinted material from the UK.

I get that Quorak's deathtraps involve paralysis rayguns (Hideouts & Hoodlums has always had those), but what is that handheld weapon doing to them that is "putting them in his power"?  They aren't being paralyzed because they are walking. Charm Person? A hi-tech Wand of Charming?

And now that I think about it, is he using paralysis on them? Because they're floating in mid-air, it seems much more complicated, like some sort of stasis beam. And yet, since the main effect is paralysis, perhaps the floating part would only be flavor text...

Except that, by tipping them upside down, Quorak can apparently kill them with "pressure of blood to the head" damage. So that means stasis rayguns has to become a thing now. that seems suspicious...if being in stasis makes Lt. Gary Blake float upside down, then why doesn't his pocket ray-torch float with him? It seems like the player asked for it to happen and the Editor gave him a save vs. plot, hopefully with a big penalty attached.

I'm not sure why a heat ray would stun instead of damage. It might be worth considering to make a stun ray for H&H, though, maybe modeled on the Power Word: Stun spell.

And, because I couldn't end this series of posts without one more instance of crazy-fake science -- here we have Pluto, pulled out of orbit, and then, somehow, just seems to slip back into orbit again on its own without any help. That seems really unlikely.  It takes Pluto 248 Earth-years to orbit the sun, so assuming Pluto wouldn't just spin off deeper into space, it might take 100-500 years for Pluto to regain the equilibrium of its orbit again? That's a long time for guys with no shirts (see part 5) to wait!

Hooray!  New issue next time!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Planet Comics #1 - pt. 5

If you've been following along, I think you've guessed that I didn't really enjoy this issue -- but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of source material here to talk about. So we have to dive in one final time for...

Sea spiders.  Yes, they look like green crabs, and the idea of spinning webs underwater seems farcical, but there is a real world analog here, the diving bell spider.

Perhaps more important is the question, is this really an underwater adventure? It's very hard to tell from the art if Buzz Crandall's adventure is meant to be underwater or not.

This room is clearly dry, or a gas gun would have no effect.

It's an odd bit of hideout design that the control room for the torture chamber are on top of a high wall overlooking the chamber. More interesting is that the "shark-men" are not interested in medieval torture, but use hi-tech methods like freezing gas.

I kind of like the look of this one; it reminds me of a Marvel story circa 1960 (which is a good thing, in my book).  I like how the author predicted that humans would have spread from Earth to the "outer edge of the universe" by the year 2000. Now that is optimism!

I wonder who Quorak is talking to/looking at?

Okay, there's some science-y nonsense about "lodium" being a naturally magnetic element that powers a raygun able to cross the entire universe, but what interests me here is that the most important planet in the universe isn't Earth, but Pluto!

So what's so special about Pluto in the year 2000? The colonists on Pluto have clearly mastered climate control, because they've changed the planetoid from 387 degrees F to temperate enough that all the men go shirtless there. 
This starts out as another unexpectedly nice touch, having the action on Earth start in India, rather than the U.S. Then it takes a peculiar turn by having the men in the Indian observatory be white. Is this a nod to globalism, or just a racist thing? You decide!

Also, look at that magnification! That is also a more powerful telescope than any we had in the real 2000.

Ooo, more future predictions that nationalists would not like. This 2000 has one world government already!  Also interesting is how it is based in Switzerland, giving this future still more Euro-centrism. 

These were called "sky dreadnaughts" on the previous page, which is a cool name for a fighting transport ship, so it's a shame that these wound up looking like such "traditional" rocket ships. 

Lt. Blake is either delusional, tripping on acid, or these sky dreadnaughts can go Warp 60. It takes light about an hour to travel from Mars to Saturn. 

Also bear in mind that it's been minutes, maybe even an hour, since Pluto was attacked -- not one of the inhabitants has bothered to put on a sweater or even a shirt in all that time. Maybe, despite how important this planet is, they don't own any.

I'm beginning to doubt that Quorak is really on the other side of the universe.

One bit of real science here -- a magnetic ray would likely disrupt electrical equipment on a space ship, like an EMP.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Planet Comics #1 - pt. 4

So much to talk about Planet Comics! I really think someone could run a great, if campy, sci fi campaign using Hideouts & Hoodlums, and I hope someone does someday and tells me about it.

A couple of things about this page: one, making heroes wait for a reward at the end of the adventure not only gives them more XP, but it motivates the players to play out the return trip home, rather than just wind up a scenario right after the battles are over.

And another thing -- one of many that bugged me about this story -- who is that woman? She's been standing around Zan the entire story, and even in jail she's forced to keep the same gown on, but she never says a word. What's her story?

Ah, Spurt Hammond, the most awkward comic book character name of all time!  Spoilers abound here, as we learn that Spurt is going to run afoul of Amazons on the Moon (so, Lunerzons). This is sometime in the future after Mars has been colonized, so in the Amazon entry in the AH&H Mobster Manual, I'll just add a mention about them having a moon colony in the future.

Now this is kind of a cool cultural tidbit -- despite being armed with scimitars, the Lunerzons only beat Spurt into submission with their fists. This could be a code of honor like is found in the Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter books, where no one on Mars attacks with a weapon better than their opponent is using.

Those are some funky-looking plants for making explosives.

Speaking of funky-looking, the droopy-nosed Mooniacs are said to be "powerful," which should translate into at least 5 Hit Dice. But how powerful? Hopefully we'll see clues soon.

All we learn here is that the "dullwitted" Mooniacs are still smart enough to use tools (or at least can throw weapons), and that they can walk on two or four legs like a bear.

I guess mooniacs aren't so powerful after all, as Spurt can not only defeat them with his bare fists, but he beats a bunch of them. Oddly, despite the fact that I can clearly see four mooniacs in that lower left hand corner, they only attack him one at a time (maybe they are dullwitted after all).

Spurt clearly has no code of honor, threatening women with a gun that refused, twice, to use weapons on him.

Oh come on!  I guess the Amazons are attracted to douche-nozzles with no code of honor. I can honestly say I've never read a Golden Age story until now where I wanted the hero to get beat up by a moon monster.

I can tell getting through Planet Comics is going to be tough; here's another interchangeable space hero. Maybe this story will have more to offer us, though, as we already get the concept of plastic armor (AC 6 maybe?) and a mention of Neptunian Shark-Men.

Okaayy...I don't know what those shark-men are supposed to look like, but it sure isn't sharks.

Despite the fact that Buzz seems to be a fighter, Buzz appears to be using the Sleeping Nerve Pinch power of a superhero on the control room shark-man.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Planet Comics #1 - pt. 3

Captain Cole can't hear transmissions from Earth because he's got a giant door handle stuck over his ear. No, I'm kidding -- I can tell that's meant to be a futuristic wireless telephone receiver. It must have been a concept that seemed obvious from day 1 of the telephone, but took a long time for anyone to figure out how to make one work.

Again, the numbers are really wonky on this story. 300 miles per minute may seem super-fast -- and is for Earth travel -- but would take 6 months to reach Mars at that speed, and this story is suggesting they have traveled to a distant solar system in hours.

"We must be nearing a minor sun! Quick, let's get into heavy, fireproof suits!"

"But, Captain, we're flying near it, not into it! Won't we be hotter in asbestos suits? Maybe we should don our refrigerated suits instead?"

"Nice call, Ensign!" Cole says, sounding just like Zapp Brannigan in my head now.

We've seen sci fi zombies in comics already, but the layout on this page is pretty trippy and I thought was worth sharing.

A sulferic vaporizer sounds like something you plug in at night to help with a stuffy nose. It's hard to say what a sulfuric vaporize would do, other than shoot out poisonous gas, so I'm not sure why Cole has to release a valve rather than just pull a trigger. Because Cole and his men are wearing environmentally-sealed suits, they are immune to the saving throw vs. poison Zan was forced to make.

You have to look closely at that first panel to notice that Cole has a raygun that can wreck things.

That's a very strange prison for the men waiting to be turned into robot-zombies, as it looks like it would be easy for them to just slip under that bar and escape. There must be something more to it than that, like maybe the bar emits a paralysis field around them.

That's a pretty slick tactic to use against mindless attackers.

Now this is where the science really gets wonky. Apparently, just removing three vitamins from human bodies turns them into mindless robot-zombies, and injecting the vitamins back instantly revives them.

That might be the most impressive "number appearing" example yet in a comic book; there appears to be hundreds of robot-zombies marching on the fortress.

"Televeye" is the latest futuristic renaming of a simple television set in comics.

"Impregnable" is an odd word for an opponent. Are the robot-zombies so hard to beat, individually, or because there are so many of them?

And where did Cole find the controlling device? Wouldn't that have been an important part of the story to tell?

Bad guys often fail their morale saves after taking damage.

Now, this big twisty thing is likely meant to be a staircase, but I think it's much more fun to think of this as a slide that leads down deeper into the hideout.

In case you're curious, I checked and dynogetic gas is not a real thing. Perhaps it is an unique compound specific to the underground air on Volcus and, when the air pressure on it drops quickly, it creates wrecking-capable explosions.

Actually, this would be good for a trap...

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Planet Comics #1 - pt. 2

Here's something you didn't know would happen! Early in the 21st century -- like maybe 2018 -- interplanetary travel will become so commonplace that a single family might take their cruiseship out for a joyride to Uranus.

Now this is where things get interesting. The boy is a lone survivor in a savage land...adopted by a saber-tooth tiger. Could this have been the inspiration for the Silver Age Ka-Zar?

Luckily, Jupiter is not a gas giant at all, but a very Earth-like environment except for the gravity.

Auro appears to be using the powers Raise Car (to uproot a tree) and Wall-Crawling (to climb that sheer mountain).

Auro appears to be using the power Multi-Attack here. I have no doubt anymore that he would be statted as an alien superhero (alien because this isn't his home world and he has strange powers here).

These natives are ape men in all but name, no doubt the only line this sci fi Tarzan clone won't cross.

This page interests me for two reasons. One, how did Martha fix her plane? In the page I didn't bother sharing, her plane was hit by a raygun and fell into Jupiter's atmosphere because of some unspecified complication the raygun caused. So what could she have fixed from the inside? And should pilots always have a chance to fix a complication when their vehicle takes damage? This actually came up in my home campaign last session; the mad scientist's autogyro was shot down with a machine gun, but I gave the scientist a skill check to get it back in the air.

And then the other thing is the weakness in this plan. The "pretend to be captured" plan is an old cliche, but how can the King of Neptune be dense enough to think he has ape men from Jupiter working for him?

The Red Comet is billed as a mystery man and, I am hoping, we will soon see evidence that he belongs to the mysteryman Hero class.

Spider-people "return", though they look a lot different than they did in the Basil Wolverton story in Amazing Mystery Funnies. Their webs are somehow so powerful that rayguns cannot blast through them.

Okay, The Red Comet is decidedly not a mysteryman; he's superhero all the way! Here he wrecks things on the steel nets and covers 50 miles in seconds. That second feat has to be the Race the Plane power, as there's no way size alone would give him the ability to move that fast. In fact, though he may well be using an "infra-atomic space adjuster" as a trophy item that lets him Enlarge like the magic-user spell, the enlargement would not be responsible for any of the things he pulls off here, and might just be flavor text.

That Red Comet is back down to normal size again suggests to me that Enlargement must have a duration. Or maybe it's a giant spider-man? I'm not sure at this point.

There is no result on the grappling table for "tied up like a pretzel," though I kind of wish there was now.

His shrinking ability seems much less impressive than his growing ability, as shrinking ability usually is. Diminution seems to only grant him a better chance of surprise, while Enlargement lets him...well, let's say squashing hundreds of spider-men takes a considerable number of combat turns, even buffed with both Multi-Attack and Flurry of Blows.

This page interests me for two reasons. One, Red Comet finds it easier to bust through 20' of solid rock (using his wrecking things ability, or maybe the power Dig) than it is to bust through 20' of spider-man web. The web gun, then, in addition to being a powerful entangling weapon, seems to also be able to generate walls equal to a Wall of Force spell.

The other thing is Red Comet's "Robin Hood"-ness, which I guess places him in the Chaotic Alignment category.

This is Captain Nelson Cole of the Solar Force, and this building is amazingly unharmed after rockets are shot out into space from the side of it.

150,000 miles from Earth is closer than the Moon. The enemy is really close!

Magnetic rayguns can sort of act like tractor beams, I guess.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Planet Comics #1 - pt. 1

Fiction House debuted three new titles this month of January 1940, and Planet Comics was the third of them.  Here is Flint Baker, by Dick Briefer.  Flint is a scientist who has created a rocketship capable of reaching Mars, something that did not happen in real life until 1964, and never with a manned craft yet.

I include this page because, by counting the portholes, we may be able to estimate the length of this Mars rocket. If each porthole represents a 10' wide room, and the portholes cover just under half the length of the ship, then I'd guess that is 220' in total length, or if I initially misjudged the perspective and that is more like the top one-third of the ship, then we're looking at 300' in total length.

Eight miles per second may seem fast, but it is just 20% over escape velocity and that would take 136 days to reach Mars. Since the story tells us they reach Mars in just a few weeks, it seems the ship picked up considerable speed en route.

The ship swerves? Is it on autopilot?

Flint, product of his times that he is, is immediately placated by a little "accidental" chest rubbing. Oh, Flint!

Flint must be listening to these stories and thinking, "Okay, that sounds plausible...that sounds plausible...what the--?" Note the range on that hypnotism; while hypnotism is now treated as a skill anyone can try in second edition Hideouts & Hoodlums, it is meant for short range. Nothing short of a Charm Person spell works that well in H&H.

I just have to say here, the suspense might be thrown off by the frantic pace of this story, but this suspenseful plot development is genius. What a hook!

This is clearly a rocket car. I'm not sure how Flint knew Mars' terrain would be flat enough to warrant a rocket car instead of, oh, an all-terrain vehicle. Note how Martian rocket cars are even faster than Flint's rocket car.

Perspective makes the Martian city look gigantic, though counting windows, the tallest building may be no more than 19 stories tall.

Everyone who's read John Carter knows that a Martian dog is a calot, but this creature resembles more closely an Asian fu lion. It looks big, but it's hard to say how big it is. I'm guessing it would have at least 3 Hit Dice.

Speaking of John Carter, this goofy-looking dark side Martian looks like it could have came from one of Edgar Rice Burrough's later books. Dark side Martians possess advanced technology, which is pretty remarkable considering they have neither hands nor arms.

They do have prehensile tails, which I guess they use to grasp the controls in their planes. At first they look pretty puny, as if they would only have 1 Hit Dice. But they are also capable of fantastic leaps. If they are truly leaping over the buildings in the city, then they can leap 100-200'. That makes me think they are a lot tougher than they look, maybe 3-4 Hit Dice.

Here, Sarko has the upper hand after a grappling exchange with Flint (indeed, choke hold is one of the results on the grappling results table). On the following turn, Sarko's intention is to switch to shooting at point blank range, and if he won initiative he would have enjoyed a +2 bonus to hit because Flint was still prone. Instead, he loses initiative and gets shot in the back. Good thing Harry didn't miss Sarko, as he would have had to roll again to see if he hit Flint!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Fight Comics #1 - pt. 3

I somehow skipped this page of Kayo Kirby last time, even though there's something rather interesting here. In the consummables subsection of the trophy section, there should be an entry for adrenalin, with the benefit being that it gives you 1-6 bonus hit points temporarily.

This is the unfortunately named Kinks Mason. Kinks is a test diver, wearing a new kind of diving helmet, when he gets caught in an apparently supernatural undertow that pulls him deep underwater (supernatural because, just panels earlier, he announced he was only two fathoms, or 12', deep).

Here we find it's pulled him into a lost world setting that's a bit unusual, being in an enormous air-filled grotto deep underwater. The barrier of sunken ships blocking the entrance serve as a nice transition between worlds.

A carnivoplant looks a lot like the creeper vines I introduced in first edition.  This is a large, maybe even a huge creeper vine and with 5 vines I would give it 1-3 attacks per turn.

The phosphomites are tougher to stat. They look like giant sea urchins, so they probably do sea urchin-y type stuff in battle. They appear to be helping Kinks, but maybe they are just a wandering encounter that turned up in the middle of combat and attacked a random party.

The goor are definitely non-humans, though I don't see any particular way to stat them except maybe as orc substitutes. It's interesting that the first of the Gor novels, Tarnsman of Gor, is 26 years away at this point.

By virtue of having rescued a princess (I guess) of the Procono people, Kinks is suddenly an admiral leading their navy. The navy rid on the back of giant "tauserus", which look vaguely like large Plesiosaurs, and are big enough to have tank turret-like structures mounted on their backs (though it's not clear how they keep from falling off...unless the tanks are somehow grafted to their skin...?). Anyway, that's a pretty powerful navy for a 1st-level fighter to be leading!

Note the map showing, roughly, the layout of this hidden realm.

Granted, Kinks did put himself at considerable risk in that scenario, so giving him the chance to leave with all the gold he can carry may seem like an okay reward. Gold was worth $34 per ounce in 1940, so if he left with 50 lbs, that would be over $27,000 -- way more than he needs to level up. So, it's really up to the Editor if he wants Kinks' player to have that much this soon...

This is Big Red McLane, and I love how all he has to do to get a job in 1940 is to put up his dukes. I think that's how we know Mr. Farlow is a plot hook character instead of a random character who would have rolled on the encounter reaction chart for this job interview. "Oh, no experience? (*rolls*) Don't call us, Mr. McLane, we'll call you."

Here I'm stuck wondering a couple of things. Is cutting down a tree so that it falls on someone an attack, or a trap? Does the lumberjack roll to hit (attack), or does Big Red roll a saving throw (trap)? And either way, how much damage should a tree falling on you do? If falling does 1-6 damage per 10', is it safe to assume that a 60' tall tree should do 6-36 points of damage?

Big Red is certainly a capable fighter. He appears to be making two attacks simultaneously each time, which is odd. In the first battle, when everyone is fighting unarmed, then Big Red is entitled to two attacks, but I don't think my rules let him split them between targets like that. And in the second battle, when people are using improvised weapons, that should slow the combat down to 1 attack per turn (oh...unless improvised weapons should not count against that -- I like this idea, because it allows barroom brawls with the occasional chairs and bottles to proceed at the same pace).

Note that Big Red can hit hard enough to knock his opponents prone. The punching rules don't account for that yet (unless these gangsters just happened to have 3 hit points or less), and it's something I'll have to work on (maybe for a future supplement, unless I accumulate enough material to need an Advanced Hideouts & Hoodlums Editor's Guide someday).

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)