Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fantastic Comics #2 - pt. 4

Welcome back! We're still on January 1940 and this is still Space Smith. Unlike many features, "Space" doesn't seem to be his nickname -- it's his actual first name!

The science is wacky here -- especially weird, being a Fletcher Hanks story. The effect of "long range power lights" is not altogether clear, but they seem to be holding Space's ship in place.

The same applies to "radio-phonic detectors." It's not just a radio, but some sort of eavesdropping device for listening across the vacuum of space. And how did the ogres hear Space's radio call? Do they have some sort of "radio-phonic detector" too?

And then there's "anti-Earth demolishing rays." How exactly are they anti-Earth? Would they not work against other planets?

Ray-resistant shielding is new. If your campaign has too many rayguns floating around in it, your players will want ray-resistors too.

Ramming with spaceships seems fraught with peril, but ogre's must be very confident in their own shielding. Vehicular ramming damage is something that can be found in the 2nd edition basic book's trophy-transportation section, and even for airborne flying objects the ramming damage can be extremely high. I can't imagine how much damage to assign to ramming with a spaceship.

Are the ogres flying without any aid? The demolisher guns can be fired by ogre-sized opponents as if handguns, and superheroes should be able to do the same regardless of size.

Quick-shrinker bombs can take a 10' tall ogre and reduce them to...not sure, but probably under 3' tall, or at least 70% shrinkage, with a corresponding loss in strength (and, I would presume, carrying capacity, and damage). Of course, I'm assuming Martian ogres are 10' tall; given how stocky they look, perhaps they are shorter.

This is the next story, Captain Kidd, and the real mystery here is, where is Morgia Island? This page says it is in the tropics, and the legend of bamboo torture comes from Asia. But where would you find an island in that area? The South China Sea? Well, maybe; there are over 250 islands there, but none of them are known for having gold...

What interests me far more is the design of that temple. Windowless, accessible only by a front door that is only accessible by going underwater, and vaguely shaped like a cubist elephant -- brilliant stuff!

I'm not sure how the hat keeps the gun dry, but maybe we do need a mechanic to see if guns still work once they're wet. 2 in 6 chance of not firing? Anything to discourage players from overly relying on firearms!

I like the idea of a large statue that works like a slot machine; tug the arm and out pops a whiskey bottle from where his kidney should be!

I like the detail of the grenades mounted on the wall -- thank goodness the natives never mistook them for torches!  It would also be a nice encounter for Heroes to walk into an occupied room, see grenades on the wall, and then whoever wins initiative has a chance to grab the grenades first.

Those gold ingots look pretty heavy, and gold was worth $34.50 an ounce back then. that's why you don't want your front door underwater. Actually, I think the real lesson here is to always have a secret escape route from your temple.

Not sure how Kidd knows the bad guy was called "The Voice," since only the narrator called him that up to this point. Maybe one of the natives told him.

This is from a short humor strip called Professor Fiend. People are out to get the Professor for inventing a raygun that fires (*ahem*) permanent waves and curls people's hair.

Shrinking in order to hide is actually a good tactic, if you have the magic or the science for it. A "normal" potion of shrinking (as found in the H&H basic book's trophy section) stops at shrinking you down to about 6" tall. Here, the Professor shrinks to one-quarter of an inch tall, pauses, and keeps shrinking to the size of an atom (not unlike some future superheroes!).

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Fantastic Comics #2 - pt. 3

This is Richard of Warwick, possibly intended to be the real-life Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, but here is called The Golden Knight. It's telling that the Muslim knights are taking him prisoner, treating him well, and still all he wants to do is kill them all.

Ironically, one of the reasons I made Hideouts & Hoodlums is because I wanted to get away from RPGs where the main goal is always to kill your adversaries. Oh well...

If Richard was a Mysteryman this would be easy -- spend a stunt, instant arrow split!  But The Golden Knight is obviously a fighter archetype, which means we are bound by the attack roll mechanic fighters have to follow.

Now, for hitting a bulls-eye, we could probably assign Armor Class values to the target based on the average probable chance of hitting the bulls-eye. Unfortunately, it's not easy finding an absolute average for that -- just too many variables. I've seen numbers for the probability of hitting a bulls-eye range everywhere from 1% to 36%. So let's go with the average of that and say 18.5%, and maybe we'll even round up to an even 20%.  The AC that has an equivalent value for level 1 fighters is AC 2. Let's assume that is at short range.

How to account for splitting the arrow, as opposed to the second arrow just bouncing off? Let's assume the difficulty is just 5% worse for that, and drop the target's AC to 1. If someone then came along after Richard and wanted to split his arrow, they would have to hit AC 0.

Oh, and that feast? All I see is a bowl of fruit, so I don't think it's the "feast" that Richard finds so splendorous...

Despite a fair amount of historical bigotry, I can't help but like this feature. A major part of that is this girl, Lady Elissa. By coincidence, Ehlissa is a major character in my own webcomic, and I once ran a 10-year D&D campaign in the Land of Ahlissa (South Province).

This first panel is a little confusing. The "one blow" that "felled" that man did not knock him unconscious, because he's still talking. Was he knocked prone by the blow (which means we need a knock down rule for H&H?)? Was the "blow" a grappling attack?

Later, it looks like Richard killed the two guards. Is he making a cruel joke about them being "quiet for a long, long time"? Are they dead? Remember, at the normal mood setting for H&H campaigns, it is almost impossible for a Hero to accidentally kill someone, so these guards are unconscious -- unless the mood of the scenario is set to very dark.

This is Yank Wilson, Super Spy Q-4. The spy was an unpopular Hero class in 1st edition H&H and is unlikely to return in 2nd edition.

Besides the unusually distinctive artwork ( says it's by Jack Parr, but I wonder if he was only inking Fine or Eisner?), I like this page for the unusually specific planning of the bad guys. We know they need 50 spies to work the plan. We know they need 100 tons of super-explosive -- which is scary, because this is what exploding 100 tons of TNT looks like. We know they plan to use "misleading and subversive propaganda to shatter public morale," 56 years before Fox News. And it's interesting how Count Lustig Von Blackgard either slips up, or mistakenly thinks the U.S. has a secret police as his own country does.

Now, despite all that elaborate planning, Count Von Blackgard went and spelled "sabotage" backwards as the name of his dummy company. Now, I am torn about this because, while it makes the villain seem like an idiot if the players figure it out too quickly, it also seems like the sort of puzzle that players will likely be able to solve on their own, and little is more frustrating for players than puzzles they cannot figure out.

I'm curious what "devious legal channels" it took to rent the office next to Egatobas', but I can imagine they had to use some sort of subterfuge to get the previous tenants to leave quickly and quietly.

Hmm, drugging bad guys with narcotics? A very rare, but not unprecedented move for a Hero in the Golden Age. At least it's just a sleeping drug; I would have to draw the line and forbid Heroes from using lethal drugs.

At this point in the scenario, Yank has little to do but coordinate. As players, it would be more fun for the players to control squads of the G-Men attacking the saboteurs at the docks. Given their love of bombs, I wonder if it would make more sense to stat the saboteurs as anarchists, rather than spies. To date, I have not seen anything distinctive about saboteurs to build their own mobster type/archetype around.

Fletcher Hanks' Space Smith faces Martian ogres, which I'm guessing are like normal fantasy ogres, except their number of appearing can be over 100, and they have their own spaceships.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Fantastic Comics #2 - pt. 2

Here's the Raise Bridge power being demonstrated. Thanks Samson!

That is a strange-looking armored car. Armored cars have been a trophy item since Book II: Mobsters & Trophies. It's kind of odd that Dragor shows up just then, so close to where the fighting was, but it's awful handy for the plot.

This is Stardust's story, though he's not in it yet. This is a pretty major plot, with maybe the first Presidential kidnapping in a comic book. The fake bomber started out as a seaplane.

Weirdly, Japs come from Capania instead of Japan.

It's not clear what these black-light bombs are, since they appear to be releasing smokescreens instead of darkness.

Stardust uses Teleport without, apparently, even being anywhere near the scene (though maybe he is, but just invisible. Who knows with Stardust!).

The bad guy's name is actually Rip-the-Blood. Rip has a machine that somehow detects Stardust's approach because of his ...speed? So it's like a Radar gun for Stardust.

It's hard to figure out how this windtrap works, exactly. The whirlwind effect seems like it would hold someone there, like a Hold Person effect.

The high-power fusing ray uses the wrecking things mechanic.

The boomerang ray is the 4th level power Turn Gun on Bad Guy.

We don't really get to see what the blood-drying needle bombs do, but they do make people "helpless."

Then we get a Fly power, or maybe a spell, coupled with the spell Invisibility (it's definitely not the power Invisibly Fast, as Rip is still visible).

I would allow the munitions factories to be wrecked as battleships. We don't know if Stardust crashes into them or wrecks them at range, though Rip's ignorance seems to imply they were wrecked at range.

Mass Teleport, that can affect up to 10 people at once? And makes stops along the way? That's got to be a 9th level spell. I wonder, though, if maybe a lot of Stardust's tricks are illusions and he just likes messing with people before he throws them off cliffs?

It's interesting to me that, to emulate some golden age stories, Hideouts & Hoodlums has to be modified to be more like Dungeons & Dragons. Chainmail armor is considered trophy armor in H&H, but would be purchasable starting equipment for The Golden Knight.

Traveling is going to be much more challenging in The Golden Knight's time as well, which is what makes it especially odd that The Golden Knight seems to have landed in Cairo, to head cross-country towards Israel, whereas most of crusaders followed the Balkan route around the Mediterranean.

It's unclear how many knights Richard brought with him, but only four are ever pictured with him. That means the Saracen force they encounter is at least 50 men strong. Without magic support, that seems like suicidal odds, unless some of the Western knights are very high in level.

That the battle ended with the deaths of all the Western knights but Richard suggests fanatical morale on the part of his followers. There must have been quite a few morale saves before it was over.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Fantastic Comics #2 - pt. 1

I like the early, pre-Davey Samson stories, and this one is no exception. Here we see Samson dealing with Hitler, here called Dragor. I'm not a fan of concealing real places and people with fictional counterparts, but Dragor is a pretty good villain name.

It's possible that I like this story just for the giant flame tanks. Sure, flame tanks would be impractical as all get-out, but there's no way an army could face those and not be terrified. The range seems pretty good on those things for flame throwers, but it's hard to judge just how far by that panel.

This last panel anticipates the attack on London by six months, the attack on Paris by four months, and the attack on Copenhagen by three months.

What? Those flame tanks looked gigantic just a page ago. Now, as soon as Sampson gets up close, they are barely bigger than he is. It must be some perspective trick to how they are designed?

Since the flame gun's flame seems to be an area of effect, it should not just miss Sampson like that (if he saves vs. science, he would take half damage). He must be buffing himself defensively with a power like Imperviousness.

Lifting a small tank is possible with the Raise Trolley Car power, which buffs his encumbrance limit.  Mopping up the soldiers by hand could be an example of Multi-Attack but, really, if he's operating as a 6th level superhero (which would take 5 brevet ranks this early in his publication history), then handling some 1st level fighters should not be a problem for him, even un-buffed offensively.

The colorist got plenty creative here; personally, I think such an important tank would have been more likely camouflaged.

Making 10-12' leaps just while covering horizontal distance does not seem to warrant using a power and could easily just be flavor text.

It is very unclear how the gas gets from this central tank out to the field, especially since there are no hoses or pipes leading from it. I guess this was more of a refueling station?

Unless the gas inside that tank is helium, it likely far exceeds the 720 lb. limit of the power Extend Missile Range III. This feat could be duplicated by combining any of the Raise buffing powers with the power Wreck at Range.

How does Sampson get to the roof without revealing himself to the people inside? Here is where leaping as a game mechanic comes into play instead of just flavor text. Since he's only leaping 30', this could be Leap I or even just the leaping ability of aliens. Since this version of Samson (see my Samson entry in Supplement IV, where I explain there were actually three different Samsons in the same series) has no origin story, he might as well be statted as an alien.

Since a bridge is a structural feature, it gets wrecked like a car.

This turbine was on my mind when I made generators a category for wrecking.

This page is a little odd; Dragor raced out of the room not that long ago, but Samson has no idea where he went? Evasion must be pretty easy, or tracking must be hard. Here, Sampson forces morale saves until someone tells him where Dragor is.

No players like mazes and they are awful hard to navigate while in-character. Wrecking things is an easy way to circumnavigate that problem.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Top-Notch Comics #2 - pt. 4

Scott Rand encounters yet a different race of Martians (Purple Martians?).

This story is by Otto and Jack Binder, who would go on to make a lot of comic books throughout the Golden Age, but you would hardly know it by this early story. Regardless, the Binders have an unusual definition of "hand-to-hand fight" when one side is using a big gun.

Initially, this was just a guy from Viking times who's name just happened to be Thor. Sometimes it seems like the Binders are treating him like the real Thor, but then other times they do things like having Thor fight with an ax.

This is Keith Kornell, West Pointer, being hazed. The last panel  illustrates that grappling damage can be transferred into distance pushed/tossed.

It's interesting that West Point soldiers have access to a new type of military rifle. The M1 Carbine was approved for military use in October 1941. Could these have been the M1 Carbine prototypes being used in 1940?

The last page is from Jack Cole's Manhunters. Flooding a hoodlum out of a hiding place seems like a smart tactic.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Top-Notch Comics #2 - pt. 3

This is Stacey Knight M.D. still, even though it looks like a more nautical-themed hero's adventure. Here, we see hoodlums in 1940 are still torn between traditional sailboats and modern patrol boats.

Brass knuckles are a popular weapon for heroes in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but there is little evidence of them being used in comics. Here is a rare instance of a mobster using them.

Stacey must have surprisingly narrow hips to squeeze through a porthole. I'd give him a save vs. science or he'd do 1 point of damage to himself and get stuck.

Splash pages were rare things in 1940. The feature is Air Patrol and the narration makes it clear that this was a random encounter with at least 3 aviators. It's also clear that these are Nazi planes by the swastikas, an image most comics shied away from still this early in 1940.

I'm struck, on this page, by how hard it is for people to hit their targets with missiles. The anti-aircraft gun is a powerful weapon, but fired by 1st level fighters, only has a 50/50 chance of hitting (less, if the modifiers for hitting moving targets at great speed, found in 1st edition, are used). The depth charges, against a stationary submarine, should have been an easy hit, but then the same modifiers could apply to dropping from above. Area of effect damage does not seem to impact vehicles, only direct hits.

I offer this page as evidence that skills, like identifying counterfeit money, need to get better as heroes gain experience, like Experience Points.

Not a bad strategy, pretending to be a delivery boy so Swift can listen outside the door of the hideout. Bad guys often happen to be saying something important just when Heroes might be listening.

Joe's not very smart. Tony just told him that there's a cop in the pit, but Tony doesn't seem at all suspicious when he sees Don Carlos below. We've long seen that disguises work really well in comic books, but even here I might give the thug a +1, or even a +2, as a common sense modifier to his save vs. plot to see through this deception.

Here's a nice dystopian future for those who like such things: a New York in the year 2000 where rocket cars race along really high overpasses without guardrails. I think they've solved overcrowding in this future!

Hmm. Now, they just left 1940 because taxis were too dangerous, but they are happy to fight to the death against overwhelming numbers of Martian invaders.

And the Earth forces are so desperate for fighters that they're willing to take in a man dressed like a Viking. This actually reminds me of so many RPG campaigns where the DM/GM/Referee/Editor had a fixed story line and tried to shoehorn all the player characters into it, even though some of the players insisted on making gonzo characters that don't fit into that story line.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)