Friday, November 30, 2018

Target Comics #1 - pt. 2

Now, let's jump ahead to the next feature, Lucky Byrd, Flying Cadet. Although it looks like someone different inked over him, this is our old friend Harry Francis Campbell, from Dean Denton and John Law. Like his predecessors, Lucky wins the day with his scientific know-how, and here he explains to us how he figured out how a bomb set off by altitude could work.

Next up in this all-star line-up of artists is Joe Simon (minus Jack Kirby), drawing T-Men. T-Men, as the first page (not seen here) explained to us, are like G-Men, but they work for the Treasury Department. 

Here, a disguised T-Man is captured and is put into a deathtrap -- or rather, a deathtrap is sat in his lap. A black soldier spider isn't a real thing -- thank goodness, because that thing is huge! Well, using large/huge/giant terminology, this could be our first example of a large spider. Its bite is implied to be quite lethal.

It's unclear if the hoodlum falls because he's dead or just because he's been shot. Under normal circumstances, you don't have to worry about falling down after taking damage in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but common sense can overrule that for situations like this, when you happen to be leaning over a trapdoor at the time.

A rare example of a bullet wrecking things. I've never been happy with how to handle this, but perhaps the bullet can just be treated as flavor text, now that non-superheroes can all wreck things.

And we get an example of a secret door and a hideout connected to sewers.
This true crime genre feature is called City Editor, with the hook being that journalists are investigating instead of the police. Though, really, this kid winds up doing most of the detective work. And just for a plate of beans and some coffee too! Half-pints are easily bribed. They also can have surprising skills, like photographic memories and the ability to draw photo-realistic.

This feature is really different. Calling 2R is a twisted boys town with super science weapons doled out to the kids.

This first weapon is a raygun that can make you blind and stunned for 24 hours (though I would allow saving throws for both effects and have the duration be a range of hours, like 3-24). 

A vest that projects force blasts, or the Blast I power, seems awfully potent to turn on another half-pint with 1-3 hit points.
Three of the bad guys here are gangsters, accompanied by the spy in the green coat.

The electrical force wall seems to act as more than a Wall of Force spell; it does some damage (1-3 or a full die?) against anyone touching it, but apparently does more damage if you're touching metal and not grounded, and stalls electronics that touch the wall.

The airbug is an interesting design. I doubt it would fly, yet it almost seems feasible.
The Captain tries to sneak up on the spy, but the surprise check the Editor rolled said he failed. He might still have gotten lucky and gone first by winning the initiative on turn 1 of combat, but was not so lucky and apparently only had 6 or less hit points.

Speck was only stunned on a previous page, and that's not applesauce on his head. This strip is really violent, by the way.
At the end of this page is a very rare indication in a comic book that skills have to be learned, as most of the time anyone seems to have a chance to try anything.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Target Comics #1 - pt. 1

Here we are, starting out on a new comic book series again. This uncredited artwork is obviously Bill Everett, who we've already seen at Centaur and Timely.

Wenton, Arizona isn't a real place -- but Wenden, Arizona is.
Cowboys in comic books are really acrobatic. I mean, jumping up, grabbing the rafters, swinging yourself up -- while wearing spurred boots and heavy chaps, no less -- and then kicking the door open in mid-swing to boot? That's one, possibly two stunts right there.

If I don't introduce a Cowboy class in 2nd edition Hideouts & Hoodlums -- and I'm leaning towards not -- it will be because most cowboys are Mysterymen.

Further, that's an interesting tidbit at the end about what you can tell from how a cowboy leaves his reins.
I can't help it; I am so amused by the over-the-top misogyny of this first panel. I also can't decide if he's that hard to please, or if she's admitting to herself that her coffee just isn't that good.

As bad as that is, the racist dialog in the second tier is even worse and only excusable because it's coming out of a bad guy's mouth.

Lastly -- the real reason I shared this page -- is the interesting effect of being hit in the face by a hot coffeepot. Not only does it seem to do significant damage (perhaps treating it as a regular club and not an improvised weapon), but the heat seems to do residual damage on the following turn.
Bill studied his cowboy tropes for this story; here we see Vault into Saddle, which I believe was one of my original stunts for the Cowboy class (back when stunts worked more like powers and spells).

Bill's idea of "point-blank" range looks a little long to me, as I'd guess that' least 80' between them?

Shooting at someone behind you, when you can't turn to face them, should probably be at some sort of penalty, and maybe as much as -2.

And we have precedent here for grappling attacks from on horseback.
Along with Bill Everett is that other Timely Comics stalwart, Carl Burgos, here offering us his third android superhero, Manowar. This page covers his origin, with the big difference being that, while the Human Torch came from the present and Iron Skull is from the future, Manowar comes to us from the past.

His electric eyes (that sounds like a song title...) can wreck things, and it looks like he could wreck through a brick wall, which is the Cars category. That means Manowar has to be at least 2nd level (an android great man), with 1 brevet rank since he's just started gaining XP.

Manowar, at least at this point, doesn't seem to have any defensive-buffing powers engaged, so the machine gun is just missing him.
Here's what appears to be a clear example of a single, normal strength head blow downing a superhuman (and an android to boot; does he have an off switch on the back of his head, maybe?). Or is it? Perhaps the machine gun was "hitting" him, abstractly, reducing his hit points until this moment when he finally went down to 0.

"Bolita" is obviously Bolivia.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Speed Comics #5 - pt. 4

I have just a few leftovers to discuss from this issue, starting with this page of Texas Tyler. Two things: one, kicking over the table is good strategy because, if it hits it could be a disarming attack, and even if it misses it will still serve as soft cover. Two, until the henchmen reveal themselves, Tyler doesn't have to worry about anyone else and can beat on Croker with a chair to his heart's content. After the henchmen reveal themselves, then Tyler has to save vs. plot to keep dealing with Croker, and otherwise has to deal with the henchmen first.
These filler pages are handy for statting air transportation in the game, particularly the cruising speeds listed here.
And lastly, this is Spike Marlin, holed up in the armory of a bunch of gunrunners. The "high-powered" rifle is likely a Gun +1 or a rifle doing trophy weapon damage (1-8 or better). The way he's picking them off like rabbits makes me think the gun is +1, for the attack bonus.

Trophy weapons are supposed to be rare, so that Spike picked the one Gun +1 in the entire armory just by chance seems unlikely. However, the Editor could have given him a 1 in 6 chance of grabbing the right one by random, like finding a secret door, or could have allowed him a skill check to evaluated each rifle until he got to a better-than-average one.

Throwing oil into an enclosed room with Heroes is sound strategy; Spike would take 1-8 points of damage per turn spent in the room until leaving.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Speed Comics #5 - pt. 3

And we're back with Crash, Cork, and the Baron in their Ceylon adventure. I was very pleased to look up arrack and find out that's a real thing, but it's only an Indian liquor. So, he wasn't actually "doped" so much as they just got him drunk.

Covering him with leeches was an unusual deathtrap.
I'm not sure how this would work, game mechanics-wise. Nooses are a simple entangling attack, but how to handle pulling them up into the trees? A second save vs. science to avoid (the first save would be vs. the ensnaring)? A skill check does not make much sense here; it's almost necessary to introduce ability score checks so the Heroes could make Strength checks for this.
This is Ted Parrish, the Man of 1,000 Faces. Thankfully, we don't have to discuss disguise again this time; I'm sharing this page because of the unusual entangling attack. It looks like he's attacking two people at once with the bed sheet, but in the next panel it is clear that the two men are tied up in separate bed sheets; Ted must have thrown one over one mobster's head and then a second sheet over the other on the following turn (since he has surprise for the first attack, the second could have occurred at the beginning of the first regular combat turn).

Since bed sheets are not made for ensnaring attacks, I might give the mobsters a +1 bonus to save vs. being ensnared.
Now we'll jump ahead into Biff Bannon of the U.S. Marines. Biff has an unique challenge to start this scenario, as I can't think of any comic book before or since where the Hero had to park a battleship. Looks like a failed expert skill check, but here the Editor allowed something good to come of the failed roll; Biff crashes into the underground lair of saboteurs (just feet away from hitting all their dynamite too -- lucky he only missed his roll by 1!).
All of Biff's mini-adventures in this installment are random/wandering events. Here, a subway driver has fallen unconscious behind the wheel and Biff has to jump onto a careening subway train. Jumping is a skill check when you have to jump higher or farther than normal, but to jump "on target" like that, you need to make an attack roll instead.

The following newspaper headlines make it clear these mini-adventures are taking place in New York City.

I'm just going to share this one page of Smoke Carter as we race through this issue, and for just two things. One, this long-winded confession is emulated by only one game mechanic, the unconditional surrender of mobsters who fail morale saves. And two, "Flames like the stamp that seals his doom" is so melodramatic that Stan Lee should have used it as the title in a Marvel Comics story.

Now we'll jump to Landor, Maker of Monsters, who creates a 20' giant mole in this story.

It makes no sense at all that a) Landor has his pet mole start digging from so far away instead of driving it closer, and b) that Landor left no guards behind to protect his castle, even though he knows Tony Terrence knows where the castle is. Further, I am skeptical of gunshots causing a cave-in so quickly, but maybe it could it's a good way to make guns less of an option in an underground hideout.

Now this is Texas Tyler, and this page demonstrates how easy it is to get information out of drunken hoodlums (I'll have to add a note to their stat entry).

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Speed Comics #5 - pt. 2

The pay-off: first superhero vs. dinosaurs adventure!

Right away, we've got a duck-billed dinosaur, some kind of hadrosaur, and...although it looks more like a fat sloth, I think that's supposed to be an ankylosaurus? And, ooo, that pterodactyl drawing looks so terrifying, I think I'll have to use it in the Mobster Manual!

Hmm, saber-tooth tigers coexisting with dinosaurs? Well, okay, it is a lost world, not a time travel adventure, so we can overlook it.

The huge boulder, at that size, must weigh over 1,000 lbs., which makes what he does with it next difficult to describe...

How much damage should the huge boulder do? A rock that heavy cannot be thrown with even the Extend Missile Range III power alone. But if it was combined with Raise Car, could damage be increased? It must be possible, if it can crush a saber-tooth tiger in one hit. But how much? Extend Missile Range III does 3d6 damage and is a third level power. If we stacked it with a first-level Raise power, that could up damage to 4d6, while the power Raise Elephant would then stack it up to 5d6. The rules, as I wrote them, don't specify any of this, but it seems like a simple extrapolation.

I'm not happy with the tiger getting killed.

Pterodactyls are nowhere near this big; it is a pteranodon instead. I'll have to include a note in its stats that it can lift up man-sized prey it catches in its claw attack.

Shock, stop murdering endangered animals! I'm starting to think grappling attacks need to be able to do lethal damage; not that I think necks can really twist like that.

Piloting a dead pteranodon can't be easy, maybe a skill check to maneuver it in the right direction, and then an attack roll to reach the sauropod with it.
This page seems all kinds of unlikely, but maybe appropriate for a campaign as light in tone as Shock's adventures are (minus the racism and rampant animal murdering).

So how do you handle taming a bucking dinosaur? I think it would be, for each successful expert skill check, you get a chance at a friendly encounter reaction roll. If the result is hostile, or the skill check fails, you have to save vs. science or be bucked off for 2-8 points of damage. Once you get a friendly reaction result, the dinosaur lets you ride it.
Cavemen! It's interesting that the cavemen are not so primitive that they can't learn English or build ladders.
To fill you in from the small gap, Shock has challenged the caveman witch doctor to a contest of powers, in exchange for their hostage. But what is the witch doctor? Hypnotism, we have established, is an expert skill in 2nd edition, but it works against one target, not four at once. A Sleep spell would work, which means the witch doctor is an actual Magic-User.

Raise Car should be powerful enough to uproot a tree. A generous Editor might allow wrecking things to do this too.
H&H doesn't have any fire-starting powers yet for Superheroes, but fire-starting is an advanced skill and, once started, he could make it spread quickly with the Control Fire power.
Again, evidence of a Raise power being stacked with an Extend Missile Range power.
And we'll just skip ahead real quick into our next feature, Crash, Cork, and the Baron. They are marooned in the colony of Ceylon, nowadays known as Sri Lanka. In typically racist fashion, the natives run around in loin clothes and use primitive spears.

But that's not why I'm showing this to you. I'm showing it to you for that crazy panel of Cork (I think that's Cork) grappling two opponents at once while still kicking a third. This keeps coming up because, to truly emulate these comic books, combat can't be limited to one attack per turn, but for fair game balance, it really has to have one attack per turn be the norm (there are already exceptions, but we don't have to get into those).

Or does it? I've long resisted adding critical hits for natural 20's into H&H...but what if a natural 20 gave you an extra attack? And you could keep getting attacks for every natural 20 you rolled? In theory, a string of lucky rolls could then account for every panel where we see stuff like this happening. Something to think about.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Speed Comics #5 - pt. 1

Made it to February 1940!'s taken me a long time to get through these last few months.

Today we return to Crestwood, which will soon be absorbed by Harvey, and -- holy cow, it's a stegosaurus! Normally, comic book covers back then were more exciting than the actual contents, but I have a good feeling about this one...

Sorry, got distracted. Now, back to the contents!

We start with Shock Gibson doing good deeds. Technically, the first one is a plot hook, not a good deed, so he doesn't get 100 xp just for going to South America. Rescuing the "native" (blacks in South America...?) is definitely a good deed.

Yes, he can deliver a disarming attack even in unarmed combat.

I think someone forgot to tell the artist this was South America.

Here we see a spear, cutlass, and a whip brought into combat, and the whip shown as the most effective. It also seems to function as a missile weapon, attacking before the "natives" can reach melee range.

It's interesting how Heroes have no trouble picking up and using weapons, but they rarely keep them. I wonder if that needs to be a rule, or an optional rule, that a Hero has to save vs. plot to keep any item that doesn't fit the theme of his hero identity.

Knives break on impact against the Super-Tough Skin power; the electrical field is just flavor text.

The attacker fails a morale save and surrenders. Other than having to follow-through on his surrender, he is under no compulsion to do anything else, like not be a racist scumbag any time in the future.

The writer and artist continue to dig themselves into a deeper hole, as the rescued "native" is now named Bombi, which doesn't sound remotely Hispanic.

At least they got animals right, as jaguars and constrictor snakes can both be found in South America (and have both been statted for Hideouts & Hoodlums already). It would certainly make sense to put them on a wandering encounter chart for South American jungles.

I'm not sure cracking a snake like a whip would do it enough damage to kill it, but what I'm really unsure about is how to apply a game mechanic to this. Is this just a grappling attack with a little extra flare added to it? And I'm really not comfortable with allowing grappling to do lethal damage; it should always lead to unconsciousness, I feel.

I had to look this up, but head hunters are/were a thing in South America, and in fact this probably narrows down where the story takes place to Ecuador.

It's hard to say what's the most unrealistic thing in this story, but a contender would have to be the arrow piercing his helmet, and still being in good enough shape that it can be pulled out and reused. Technically, there is no rule in H&H for ammunition recovery, but common sense should prevail here.

The Extend Missile Range power can allow Shock to throw an arrow with the force of a bow. We could, in theory, say that anyone could throw an arrow as an improvised weapon, which only do half-damage (1-3).

Again, the fauna is accurate, as electric eels can be found in South America.

Wha--? Electric eels can drain superpowers? It's hard to even wrap one's brain around the attempt at physics here, but he would have been better off just saying the water diffused his powers.

I have race-based limitations in 2nd edition, but not class-based ones, so it's hard to explain what's happening here in H&H terms. Maybe it's simply Editor's fiat. Maybe we should really treat this as a power-draining eel and stat it!

Super-Tough Skin has the knife-breaking thing baked in because it's already becoming a superhero cliche, but sword-breaking is something else that I can't really explain with the rules yet. Maybe the Editor is treating this as an extension of the knife rule, with a 50/50 chance of it applying to swords too (being, essentially, long knives). Maybe this is just an example of wrecking things, but should Shock still be allowed to wreck while tied up? Perhaps the Editor can allow some leeway here, based on the flavor text the player uses to explain how his wrecking things power works.

Rope making is a skill that Shock would have to make a skill check for. I would think it's fairly easy work, just time-consuming, so it would require 1 basic skill check per turn. The leap is clearly one of the Leap powers.

It's weird, though, how Shock's hand sparks as he's holding the rope. Is he trying to electrify Bombi while he's climbing...?

And -- at long last -- the payoff! Shock and Bombi finally see dinosaurs!  But that's where we leave off on today, leaving the best parts of the story for tomorrow.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Friday, November 16, 2018

War Comics #1 - pt. 3

The artist on Danny Dash was Erwin Hess; I've never seen that name before, but I'm impressed by his atmospheric work here. And that castle would feel right at home in a D&D game!
Burnt or torn maps are great because you can leave just as much information on them as you want your players to have. In this case, the map is so partial that it could be a map or it could be some sort of runes. Keep your players guessing for hours!
Interesting twist! After establishing a lot of realism, the story veers into Don Dixon territory with a secret race of gray men attacking. Like with Don Dixon, I don't intend to stat hidden races separately if they don't do anything special.
Here we have a scientist who gets to start off with a trophy item...or do we? Because I could also stat Peace Raider as a superhero, and voracetite is just flavor text for his wrecking ability.

Or is Peace Raider a mysteryman? He seems awful sure of his knowledge of wind velocities and currents, considering that he only has a 2 in 6 chance at best according to the skill system in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but could have (a limited number of) automatic successes as a mysteryman.

Remember, if you do have small trophy items that you need to keep concealed, shaving cream bottles are good hiding places -- and prison guards will just let you have them!

If you have Lawful Alignment, you can still bust out of jail, so long as you leave a note explaining why for your jailers.

This adventure could have ended on this page if Peace Raider had landed on those spikes. Rather than just hand-wave this, I would want the player to save vs. science to avoid hitting the top of the wall. Swinging into the spikes would do at least 1-4 points of damage.

The wall must not be very tall, as that does not look like a jumping pose that would end in a safe landing. Maybe his pals have a trampoline in front of them beneath the panel?

It also seems a bit suspicious that his pals just happen to be standing outside that wall of the prison at the exact moment he escapes. That's more than a wandering encounter; that was a freebie from the Editor.
So, Peace Raider has all the resources of Doc Savage now. You'd think he could have afforded good lawyers before this all started!

Stories like this are why I had to include the exploding die mechanic in H&H, just for starting money. You're probably never going to generate a character who starts as rich as this, but at least now it's possible.

Like the filler on planes in my pt. 1 post, this filler page has some interesting and potentially useful sub info.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)