Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Mystery Men Comics #7 - pt. 1

And we return to Fox's second title and a feature that had started out as a small back-up strip and now is lead feature in Mystery Men Comics.

We start with a rare example of a bad guy (the Blue Beetle impersonator) using tear gas as a weapon.

Mike Mannigan is the perfect example of the copper -- a police officer so incompetent that he stumbles when there is nothing to trip on -- he's not even close to a crack in the sidewalk.

The Blue Beetle imposter could count as a doppelganger, as they are now defined in 2nd edition rules.

Although we've seen million-dollar crimes so far in the comics, $50,000 is still a large amount in 1940 and one mobsters are willing to kill over.

This is one of the earliest instances -- if not the earliest -- of cussing in a superhero story.
 I'm not sure if the Blue Beetle qualifies for the new Avenger class that is going in the AH&H Heroes Handbook, but I'm giving this ability to that class. The ability is to trigger morale saves without even being present, but via the presence of the avenger's "calling card."

Letting a bad guy get away so you can follow him back to his lair is already a cliche by this point.
I've never considered Blue Beetle to be much of a source for inspiration, but now I want a tall chest disguised as a bookcase just like that.

This may be the first and last time Blue Beetle ever carries "trick make-up" with him.
BB is teetering right on the edge of switching from the mysteryman class to the superhero class, but we're not quite there yet. BB can get two punch attacks if his opponents are unarmed, so he's not necessarily buffed with any superpowers here.

 An avenger can trigger so much fear as to cause damage.
Wing Turner takes on a "costumed" foe, though one just wearing short shorts and fake horns. The Devil goes for a bigger pay-off than BB's villains had. 
I've written plenty before about how vehicular combat needs to be based on complications rather than hit points. Hitting the fuel tank is a particularly good complication, one that cuts down how much longer the vehicle can move, while giving it a chance each turn of exploding.
Lava pit? How did he get a lava pit under his castle, when there's no sign of an active volcano anywhere in the vicinity of that castle? You just never know where lava will turn up in a comic book story.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Jumbo Comics #12 - pt. 4

We're still on Spencer Steel. That firefight in panels 6-7 is pretty crazy; does no one think about using cover?

Where was the secret door? Was it really necessary for Brudd to go out a secret door rather than a regular door?

Here's another example of throwing yourself into the way of a bullet.  I'm still leery about making this a game mechanic, as there's so much opportunity for meta-gamers to abuse. At most, I would give the original target a -2 AC bonus (as if having hard cover), and if within only 4 numbers of missing, it hits the new target.

That has to be the easiest trap ever. They're left alone in the basement where they can easily get to each other's tied hands? And there's a door out, but it's boarded up on this side with them?
There is no stat difference between a dog and a vicious dog, though one could say a vicious dog will never give you a positive or friendly encounter reaction result.

Yikes. More animals dying? I find it very unlikely that throwing it against a wall would kill a dog, though maybe it would knock him unconscious.

Where was the secret door? The bright yellow, boarded-up door?
It's a little surprising how seldom sewers are used as hideouts in these early stories. They're underground, maze-like in nature, and accessible from many manhole covers.
This is Inspector Dayton. We learn how poison can be administered on a knitting instrument that most non-knitters would not recognize as a sharp object.
Patch is a bottomless font of information. Just look at those sentences spill out of his mouth! Sure, Editor, you could tease out clues in small doses through the mouths of many non-Hero characters over the course of an entire play session, or you could just have Patch stroll in and provide a big info dump in their laps.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Jumbo Comics #12 - pt. 3

This is still Stuart Taylor (and Dr. Hayward), going up against the real Mephisto in 14th century England. We see Mephisto using a Wall of Flame and a Fireball, but it is unclear if he is an actual magic-user or just has magical abilities that duplicate these spells.

It's hard to say who Stuart is grappling in that final panel. Did he grapple Mephisto so hard that he knocked his robes off?
I had to read this page several times to try and figure out what's going on here. My explanation is a new spell: Cloud Elevator. It's a 3rd-level version of Levitate that can transport a certain number of people at a time up or down, but only outdoors, in an elevator made of clouds.

Look, the second hatchet this issue!
Our Heroes are knighted as their reward -- which should itself be worth an XP bonus -- in addition to whatever Mephisto was worth (several thousand, easy). Perhaps leveling is triggering their time jumps, ala Quantum Leap.
Good luck guessing where "North City" is! There was a revolution, everyone seems dressed vaguely Russian (these make me think this is St. Petersburg, seat of the Russian revolution), but there are also many Genghis Khan references and a character who is an obvious Hitler stand-in. So...St. Petersburg, Berlin, or Korakorum? You decide!

The dialog is very confusing between panels 5 and 6, as if there was a missing panel. Since these stories are reprinted from Wags magazine in the UK, it is possible that some panels were deleted.

Yum Ling is half-Mongolian, I'd wager.

Hideouts & Hoodlums players better not expect too many scenarios like this, where the country's leader offers to empty its coffers and run off with them.
Here's a map, though not a very revealing one. It's interesting how the treasury is in such an isolated, easily surrounded area; I wonder how often that really happens.

Rather than the literal daughter of Genghis Khan, Yum Ling is likely the direct descendant of Genghis Khan -- or else she's well over 700 years old.

Similarly, I wonder how often that really happens that fuses aren't stored in arsenals. The "stuff" that ZX-5 is going to start a fire with look an awful lot like a toaster and a coffeepot. This is a very unusual arsenal.

This story is Spencer Steel. "Goop" was slang for an ill-mannered, rude person.

The "bunch of" thugs seems to be three in number, but that's six Hit Dice combined; Spenser should be 3rd level by now, but his companion Joe McCarthy is likely 1st.

This is unlikely to be the famous Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, as in 1940 that Joe was just an unknown circuit court judge.

(Scans courtesy of the Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jumbo Comics #12 - pt. 2

We'll pick up soon after where we left off in Hawks of the Seas. To recap, Hawk and his small group of castle defenders are in a stand-off, holding onto only the armory/powder room, besieged by pirates who have taken the rest of the castle. Here we get a reverse exploration scenario -- instead of finding their way into the castle, they have to sneak around the castle from one room, gathering the food and supplies they'll need to hold out.

There's also a great example here of outside-the-box thinking when it comes to multi-level hideout exploration; you can always go outside and move from window to window (though you may leave yourself vulnerable to missile attacks!).

I would say that taking a gunshot wound, while swinging on a rope one-handed, would require a save vs. science to keep your hand on the rope. 

Normally, you don't have to worry in Hideouts & Hoodlums about bleeding out and losing more hit points over time, but the Editor can assign this to non-Heroes, as happens here to Tito.
Throwing a curtain on your opponent is certainly cinematic, but how effective is it as a combat tactic? It won't blind or ensnare your opponent for long, as it certainly can't take more than 1 30-second game turn to get a curtain off your head.

However, if you consider the opponent prone, because the opponent cannot see to defend himself, that could mean a +2 attack bonus for the curtain-thrower, on the following turn. If running away, like Hawk is, then the opponent would be getting a -4 penalty to hit for not being able to see (but +1 for attacking from behind), and that is assuming a successful skill check first to hear that Hawk is running and where.

Kudos to Hawk's player for not using player knowledge about what happened to Tito when he tried that same move.
You just don't see hatchets getting used much, exception by Asians and American Indians. How refreshing to see one in pirate hands (even if the scene is unusually violent for the refined Will Eisner).
The pirates have become drunken hoodlums in time for the big brawl, making them slightly tougher foes.

Move silently is an expert skill check, though as a half-pint Jeremy may have a "racial" bonus.

Shoulder paralysis is a complication not normally given to Heroes who have been stunned.

How typically random, like any game session -- the main bad guy goes down right away, and then it's his flunkies who wind up TPK'ing the party.

Hawks appears to be dead at the end of this installment. It will be interesting to see what happens next issue!

Wilton of the West finds a treasure map, purporting to show the way to an unlikely lost Aztec City as far north as Texas.
We have seen before hideouts that can only be entered via water, but not one that requires swimming such a long route underwater to get to, where the chance of drowning before you reach the Aztec city is a dangerous possibility.

As cool as it may be to have your Heroes encounter a step pyramid made entirely out of gold, it's really not a good idea to put that much wealth in front of them and make them greedy. Your entire scenario could become derailed by them trying to steal as many bricks from the pyramid as they can carry.
Getting kings to fail morale saves is highly profitable.

Natives act an awful lot like superstitious hoodlums sometimes. I'm starting to wonder again if I can even distinguish superstitious hoodlums as a separate mobstertype.
This is Stuart Taylor's feature, though he's nowhere to be seen here. Instead, we have Scarpo, an alchemist, Mephisto (the actual demon Mephisto), some unnamed 14th century queen (Queen Philippa?), and a lot of hideout dressing (for torture rooms).

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Jumbo Comics #12 - pt. 1

Small village? Riyadha is the capital city of Saudi Arabia and had a population of 40,000 circa 1940.

So, the plot is that this rich guy wants slaves, but there are none left to find in the Middle East, so his head slaver offers to get him some nice ones from the "heart of Africa." The problem here is that Sheena is well over 1,000 miles away. Greece and India are about as far away as Sheena is.
This page is all about the evidence that grappling rules apply to human vs. animal combat as well. It's definitely not about the fact that Sheena's just been bathing.
I've struggled with what to do with slavers, as a mobstertype. Apparently, slavers can make anyone compliant once they're in chains. Even Heroes? Anyone, even Heroes, captured by slavers must save vs. plot or do as they're told until freed. Shades of Gor!

The point of this page is to show how easy it is to get into a hideout, and how few guards a main bad guy needs when a Hero is going in solo.

It's always good tactics to have reinforcements show up when the battle is already engaged, in case the Heroes burnt all their their best attacks at the beginning.

When you draw out your hideout maps on graph paper with 10' to a square, you wind up with large dimensions like that last panel.
Is "scattering the guards" an attack form? Are they being scattered by the trample damage the horses are inflicting? Or are they failing their morale saves when they see the horses coming at them?

Map! It seems that Sheena's original village was in the very west edge of Kenya, or maybe Uganda. Not that it maters now that the village has been razed. You can see how choked up Sheena is over it.

This is Hawks of the Seas, getting ready to defend a castle. He doesn't have much of a defending force -- heck, he doesn't even have a very good map of the island to plan with either! If he has enough time, he should probably send someone to scout around and get a better sense of the terrain.

Loyalty isn't just important for Heroes' supporting cast; the employees of non-Hero characters will need to be checked during stressful times too. You never know when those barracks may turn empty.
We never get a good sense for just how many pirates are swarming around the castle, but if it's 25+ then I can see why Hawk and his pals are having trouble holding their own. The tactics of forming a living shield wall around the less capable fighters, and switching to melee weapons when they run out of ammo, are sound, though throwing rocks instead of switching to melee weapons, maybe not so good (unless he has a DEX bonus to hit, but not from STR!).

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Flash Comics #2 - pt. 2

Hawkman shows up third in this issue. New York City (I presume) is struck by a major earthquake (no other DC characters notice because there is no shared continuity yet). The cause is unusual; a mad scientist calling himself Alexander the Great has created a machine that increases an object's weight 1,000 times, and that is what caused the earthquake. It takes an hour to warm up the weight-increasing raygun before it can be fired.

In this story we learn that Carter and Shiera are engaged, and Carter has promised to give up adventuring when they marry (so, of course, they never do marry).

In a rare sign of heroes drinking, Carter is mixing a drink in a shaker. These are clearly adult heroes; not only does Carter end the adventure by offering Shiera a cocktail, but it's clear from Shiera's dialog that she just spend the night over at his place.

Dinner is served at 10, way later than any dinner I've ever eaten.

Shiera calls Carter's costume "robes."

Shiera gets them invited to dinner with Alexander by revealing Carter is Hawkman to him. Alexander, more like a Bond villain than a comic book villain, offers Hawkman $1 million to not interfere in his plans, and genially tells him he can visit anytime. Indeed, security is so light at Alex's mansion that Carter is able to sneak back in and test if the machine will work on ninth metal (Carter carries around a small sample).

We learn that ninth metal is not composed of atoms (but are not told what it is composed of. Solid energy?)

Hawkman arms himself with a trident and net, even though Shiera recommends a sword. The trident and net are also both made of ninth metal (not all his weapons are, apparently).

Showing off how well-read he is, Carter makes a reference to "fling the gage," a way to say "give an ultimatum" that comes from the poem "In the Vanguard" by Scottish poet Alexander Anderson.

Hawkman is still low level; he gets beat by a single mad scientist armed with only a pistol, and has to be saved by Shiera.

In one of the earliest examples of superheroes keeping trophy items, Hawkman keeps one of two weight-increasing machines left in Alex's mansion (after wrecking the other with an axe so no one else can have one).  

Next up is Johnny Thunderbolt, which has not yet been shortened to Johnny Thunder. Johnny "accidentally" casts Charm Person four times, on two police officers, a complete stranger, and a boxer, to get them to do what he says. When he finds a bully harassing a lady and makes him bounce across town into a hospital. It's more difficult to say what spell that would be. Telekinesis, possibly, or a new spell called ...Compel Movement? It would be a 2nd level spell that makes 1 target move in a certain direction for the duration. He also casts Fear, which makes four people run away from him.

The woman Johnny rescued immediately becomes his temporary supporting cast member, since she thinks he's cute.

The newspaper headlines make it clear that Johnny is in New York City.

Previously reprinted by Dell, Rod Rian of the Sky Police is in these early Flash Comics. This installment sets the time of the strip at 2500 AD. We also learn that telurium is a metal only found on the Moon, and that Earth has a world government that uses earthons instead of dollars as its currency. 10,000 MPH is a very fast speed to be approaching the Moon; most Moon landings arrive at around 5,000 MPH. The remainder of the pages are the same ones reprinted in Dell's The Comics #7, and feature the Mephisians.

The Demon Dummy continues the melodrama of Harry Dunstan, a ventriloquist whose sanity crumbles after losing the love of his life last installment.Talking to himself through his dummy, Harry convinces himself to become a destitute drunk and get himself arrested, so he can exact revenge while in jail. We also find out that "hooker" used to also mean a "good, stiff drink." 

In The Whip, Rod Gaynor buys the old villa that the original Whip was said to have owned 100 years ago. The place has a reputation for being haunted, supported by doors that swing open on their own (as the building shifts, perhaps). There is also a wandering encounter in the house, as Rod and his servant Wing meet the sheriff inside.

The Whip is opposed by The Association, a group of rural mobsters. They spend $10,000 to hire five assassins, who apparently work for $2,000 each.

Fighting the assassins, the Whip is able to entangle one of them with his whip and hurl the man against the wall hard enough to hurt him. That's tricky to emulate with game mechanics because the entangling attack and the hurling attack should be two separate attacks, giving his opponents twice as long to shoot him. As the Editor, I would consider how much damage the attack would likely do in total and, seeing how it would not be much, would condense it into a single punch attack (with the rest just flavor text).

The Whip entangles a second assassin with his whip, jumps out the window, and that pulls the assassin out the window with him. I would treat this as an opposed grappling attack, but with circumstances giving the Whip a +2 situational bonus.

(read at

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Flash Comics #2 - pt. 1

The cover may belong to Hawkman, but the first feature is still the Flash. The story begins on Broadway, during a show of the "Fancy Follies," referring to the Ziegfeld Follies. When the Flash shows up in the story he's just goofing off, showing off his speed by using Race the Car beside Joan's taxi. Joan, on other hand, has already been investigating this string of theater shootings and found their common denominator -- Lord Donelin of Ireland. The Flash upgrades his speed with the Invisibily Fast power so he can search the dressing rooms at the Follies, while Joan correctly goes after Donelin. Joan is either being played by the better player, or the Editor is using the supporting cast to do all of the Flash's work for him.

The Flash's powers seem to have long durations, but he rarely gets into combats and so his powers last in terms of exploration turns (10 minutes each).

Curiously, when Donelin's henchman Goll tries to sneak up on the Flash, Goll opens the door silently, but the Flash hears Goll breathing and foils his surprise anyway (though, really, doesn't it make more sense for Flash to have heard the door...?).

If you're wondering about these names, 1) Gardner Fox wrote this and Gardner often used obscure or made-up names (look at his own!), 2) Theo is likely short for Theodora, a real name (though an obscure one, the 628th most common baby name for girls in 1940), 3) yes, Goll is completely made up. Gardner may have been wanting something that read like "Gaul," or -- being as well-read as he was -- may have been thinking of Lord Dunsany's "gnolles."

When combat does start, Flash might have activated Race the Bullet, or Donelin might have simply missed his attack roll (it's hard to say, except when Flash starts doing fancy tricks like catching the bullets). What he learns is that someone is pulling Donelin's strings and has ordered more hits on showgirls, so he leaves without even tying them up first.

Back at the follies (for a guy with a girlfriend, Jay sure likes to come back to see the showgirls), Flash happens to spot a man in the audience pull a gun. It's possible that he just got lucky and won a surprise roll, but no speed-related powers help with surprise. Perhaps, since the audience member was in a dark theater (though it's not inked that way), Flash had to make a search for concealed check to spot the gunman. Speed-boosting powers can help give a speedster/superhero more search rolls.

A favorite tactic of the Flash is to strip his opponents to their civvies, the thinking being that even bad guys in the 1940s still had their modesty and dignity. Rather than over-complicate things, I would allow a simple hold to strip someone's shirt and pants off.

Flash encounters a trap; a wall panel that mechanically opens on its own, revealing a concealed crossbow that shoots into the room (1/2 HD attack, since it can't turn and aim).

Flash demonstrates that he can dodge five bullets fired from different directions practically simultaneously. The "Race the -" powers simulate this by buffing Armor Class (in theory, any Hero can do this, so long as the guns roll low enough to attack).

Duro is a made-up brand name for imported cigarettes.

This is what I wrote about this story back in The Trophy Case v. 1 #1:

"This story establishes that the Flash's girlfriend, Joan Williams, will remain an important character and at least as effective a partner in crime fighting as Lois Lane is for Superman. Here, Joan introduces the Flash to the showgirl in trouble, deduces the identity of the killer without Flash's help, finds out where the killer is hiding and even (intentionally or not is unclear) leaves a clue for Flash to find and follow her.

"Fox again experiments with other tropes that he will quickly abandon, this time the notion of the Flash leaving little lighting bolts as calling cards or even weapons.

"The best sight gags include the Flash both disarming and undressing an assassin in the theater and the woman in the theater who has to hold her dress down as Flash goes whizzing past. It is odd, though, how quickly this will become
an ongoing theme.

"No. of times unseen to date: 5
No. of bald bad guys to date: 2
No. of men undressed to date: 1"

Next up is Cliff Cornwall, Special Agent. That Gardner Fox wrote the story is evident in that Cliff's girlfriend is named "Lys" -- which has to be either wholly invented or a shortened version of Marlys (the 393rd most popular baby girl name in 1940).

The cliche of Heroes hearing plot hooks on the radio in the form of breaking news announcements is an old one, but here Cliff is flying over Montana (on his way back from last month's Alaskan adventure) when he overhears a radio auction of state secrets. Rather than land and try to figure out where the signal was broadcast from, he decides to fly to Panama because the state secrets come from there (which suggests to my mind that the bad guys would have already left Panama, but then I'm not a spy...). Cliff does not bother informing his superior officers in the FBI about this schedule change; he just does it.

We learn that Cliff is Special Agent G-30 and is high-ranking enough that he can walk in on any military base, announce himself, and demand an audience with their commanding officer. Cliff should still be 1st-level at this point.

The enemy country that is called Kovaria could be Germany, or more specifically the German State of Bavaria.

In Panama, Lys and Cliff separate and agree to meet at "Park Square." Using a generic name meant Gardner didn't have to do more research and find a similar location in Panama City.

In a hallway in Panama, Cliff runs into a femme fatale he's met before, Lolita Devere. He decides to trail her and see where she goes next, which turns out to be a shoemaker's shop (the shop has "SH" in the window, no doubt for "SHOES", instead of "ZA" for "ZAPATOS"). Rather than barge in and find out what she's doing in there, Cliff takes the time to go meet Lys, tell her what's going on, buy a cart full of fruit and a disguise for himself, and when he gets back to the shop just assumes Lolita is still in there (unless he paid a local to watch it for him behind the scenes?).

That night, Cliff leaves Lys trailing Lolita while he breaks into the shoemaker's shop. Just looking through loose paperwork in the shoemaker's shop, he stumbles across the names of the spies (Lolita and a Count Ruthnor) and an offer for $1 million for the Panama plans.

Count Ruthnor shows up, goes down in one punch from Cliff, and Cliff finds a list of code signals on his person. Solving the code (perhaps there was an answer key in those very useful papers he found), he knows that Lolita has orders to drug a U.S. lieutenant at the hotel where Lys has trailed her to. It turns out, they held the auction first but didn't have any plans until now when Lolita drugs the lieutenant and steals them from him. Although there was no mention of them in the papers, Lolita has two more spies working for her (or perhaps a different mobstertype).

(Flash feature read in Golden Age Flash Archives v. 1; the rest read at


Monday, January 14, 2019

Daring Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 3

Back to Mr. E. It's remarkable that comic book characters can land on top of car roofs and not go detected; that has got to be an expert skill check or a stunt.

In D&D-like fashion, the Vampire's underground hideout consists of crude tunnels with wooden doors built into them. It is illuminated by candles.

Mr. E is trapped by being tied to a chair. He must have used up all his stunts already today because he can't escape his bonds without wrecking the chair.

And last in this issue is The Laughing Mask, another mysteryman-led feature. Crooked politicians lead to the creation of this assistant district attorney-turned-vigilante. Interesting, Dennis Burton does most of his investigating as himself, even putting himself in danger without the mask by hopping onto the back of a car and riding along (which must have been easier to do on 1930s models) in his street clothes.

Dennis follows two saboteurs to a hideout, where a master criminal is discussing his master plan to a room full of five thugs, on the ground floor, with an open window -- practically begging to be overheard! The dressing in the room in the hideout includes a table, chairs, ashtrays, a big radio with a statuette on top of it, a floor lamp, and a lamp stand.

Dennis is quickly captured, but isn't searched before being tied up. He uses his skills (maybe a stunt?) to free himself from the rope (more easily than Mr. E in the previous story). The Laughing Mask uses a glowing mask dangling from the skylight to lure gunfire before shooting the bad guys. And he shoots to kill, leaving only one of the entire gang alive to testify. Later, when discussing the killings as Dennis Burton, he shows no remorse and says "he sure saved us a lot of trouble!" Definitely Chaotic.

He leaps to the ground "with great agility," perhaps being allowed to reduce his falling damage by burning a stunt (no more than half-off, I hope). He races with "the speed of the wind," which if taken literally is likely a superpower buffing his movement rate, but he also could be using a stunt to move faster than his normal speed.    

(Read at

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Daring Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 2

We resume with discussing Trojak the Tiger Man, though the page I'm reading now is about the unnamed woman who has turned good from Trojak's presence and has decided to leave her companions to make her way back through the jungle alone. En route, she encounters a random encounter, a lion. Trojak rescues her by grappling the lion to death. I've commented before on how murderous the early golden age heroes were, but it's also worth pointing out that morale checks never seem to come into play; fights are always to the death with animals.

Trojak learns English from the woman in about a week.

There is no game mechanic for Trojak's "strange premonition that something is wrong." Rather, in game play it is more likely a case of the Editor doing a little unsubtle prodding. "So, what do you now? Maybe head back to the village and check up on it...?"

Trojak's tactic of grappling the chieftain and holding him hostage is a sound one.

Instead of summoning animals himself, like by some special cry, Trojak tells his pet tiger to go get help. How the tiger communicated with the lions and elephants who show up with him is unclear.

K-4 and His Sky Devils is the aviation feature in this issue. It is a step above many other aviation features in naming the planes it depicts; we see British Hawkers and American Grummans. Not only that, but we even get K-4's number of kills in war -- 11 in WWI (where he rose to the rank of lieutenant), 33 in the Spanish Civil War, and "dozens" in the "China-Japan conflict." If we award him 100 XP per battle, and assume dozens = 36, that's 8,000 XP, which happens to be exactly enough to make K-4 a lieutenant by the XP chart for fighters.

In an unusual twist, K-4 is only using his plane for transportation for most of this story; as the bulk of it involves him going undercover, masquerading as a German SS officer. K-4 has to get to Kurtzburg, Germany, which is not a real place but probably represents Kutzberg, which is. When K-4 is ID'ed as a spy, he snatches up as many grenades as he can carry from an armory and blows up his way out of an enemy base. Interestingly, of all the strips, this is the one that most seems to have been prepared for serial publication in a newspaper and was reformatted to the comic book page (with frequent recap narrations intact).

Mr. E is a mysteryman. When a rich man with a threatening note tosses it in his fireplace, Mr. E has to win initiative to get to the note before it's consumed by the fire. Of course, being a mysteryman, and not in combat yet, Mr. E can burn a stunt to win initiative. The stakes are high; this is a rare adventure where the bad guys want $1 million.

Mr. E is run off the road on his way back from the old man's mansion and -- here's the really interesting part -- it's an arch-enemy, The Vampire. Apparently, his nemesis has just been trailing him in his own car, waiting for a chance to get even. They have enough of a history that Mr. E recognizes him by voice. The notion of starting your hero with a nemesis baked into your backstory is an intriguing one. Hypothetically, a human Hero could make his nemesis his free supporting cast member, so every time the Editor uses him, the Hero automatically gets an extra 100 XP.

(Comic read at

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Daring Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 1

It's been some time since we last checked in on the fledgling company of Timely Comics.

It starts with Zephyr Jones and His Rocket Ship, firmly in the science fiction genre. Zephyr and his friend Corky are heading to Mars in a privately built rocket ship. Zephyr is right about how far it is to Mars, but either his calculations for travel time are off or mine are, because at the 300,000 MPH speed he claims he's going I think it would take five days to reach Mars instead of one. That speed is, incidentally, eight times faster than the fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth up to the present day.

When the ship veers off course, it lands on a "lost planet" -- as if there could be an unnoticed planet between Earth and Mars. Actually, since the theory is floated later that this "planet" broke off of Earth ages ago, it's more factually a moon -- just one much smaller and in a far wider orbit. The moon is called Sunev (yes, Venus backwards, har har), and it not only has normal gravity and a breathable atmosphere, but it is inhabited by human-like aliens with feathery wings who call themselves the Birdmen and speak English. The birdmen live in a 19th century-like monarchy, but gunpowder was never discovered and the only science they are advanced in is chemistry. They have discovered an elixir that expands lifespan, so that the birdmen can live 300-400 years (there is no explanation given for how they have solved the overpopulation problem that would cause). There is a separate race/culture on the Sunev called (I'm not kidding either) the Parrotmen.  The Parrotmen are more muscular and brutish-looking, preferring to go shirtless in combat and fight with maces.

Zephyr and Corky, perhaps having not expected a safe journey into space, came armed with two automatic pistols and a Tommy gun, make short work of the parrotmen with their maces. After stopping the Parrotman uprising, Zephyr and Corky return to Earth before heading to Mars, which makes sense -- they would need all new calculations to change their trajectory from Senuv, and likely the Birdmen are not advanced enough mathematically to help them.

The Phantom Bullet, Scourge of the Underworld, is next.  Nearly washed-up and cynical newspaper reporter Allen Lewis works for the Daily Bulletin, a name just too generic to be able to trace to a particular real city.

Despite the fact that at least five people have examined a crime scene before him, Allen is the first person to find a bird feather clutched in the dead man's hand -- proof that it always pays to examine the scene of the crime for clues, no matter how much later. A police officer at the scene also gives him a freebie, telling him what might have been a randomly rolled rumor, that hand prints have been found at the scene of three crimes that seemed to belong to a seven-fingered person. 

Players often pay little or no attention to the private lives of their characters when not adventuring; seldom is that more on display than when Allen's player calls his boss an idiot and tells him to write the story himself, before running off to do hero work.

The first indication that Allen may be a mysteryman comes pages later, when Allen makes a spectacular -- though still far from superhuman -- leap between rooftops. But Allen is still 1st level -- indeed, still in his origin story -- and is handily beaten in his first turn of combat when ambushed by "birdmen" (see a theme developing between stories...?).

Amazingly, Allen still has his job the next day and gets assigned to talk to an inventor, who just randomly decides to hand off his "invention" to Allen -- a gun that shoots ice bullets. This is what Allen needs to complete his origin story; armed with the gun, wearing make-up on his face instead of a mask, and wearing a bright-colored shirt and red cape -- because, you know, he'll need to sneak around and stuff -- he sets out to stop more murders. Off-panel, the Phantom Bullet uses his skills to move silently and climb walls to get around the police cordoning off a threatened man's home.

This time Allen shoots and kills one of the bad guys when they show up again, but there is no sign that the man has feathers; he just seems to be an ordinary black man. We also learn the plot finally -- the bad guys are killing rich men who refuse to hand over $500,000 to help fund a new government. The other two make off with the money and Allen has to move on to the next would-be victim.

This time, the man doesn't refuse and the money is picked up by a bum Allen recognizes. Cornering the bum, Allen recovers the undelivered money and finds out where it was supposed to go, the address being a local cemetery. Now, it would be great if this was the bad guys' hideout -- a nice, atmospheric location. But the cemetery is empty. Allen goes back to the bum and re-examines the envelope with the address on it; the correct address is in invisible ink and the first address was a phony clue.

The real hideout is an African explorer's house, or more precisely the caverns under the house (the Phantom Bullet finds the caverns off-panel). *sigh* ... in a decidedly racist twist, the "bird men" turn out to be half-black men/half-ape mutants wearing feathered headdresses as if they were American Indians. This resembles the beast men race we talked about adding to Hideouts & Hoodlums a long time ago, but I think I would just stat them as ape men. There are not two more of them, but five more of them, and they're dumb enough that PB can trick them into following him back upstairs to a window and then all jumping out after him like lemmings. PB had swung himself up to the top of the window ledge, and then comes down to shoot the evil explorer, ending the story (and saving a kidnapped young woman who just happened to be in the caverns).
Next up is Trojak the Tiger Man, a Tarzan clone. Normally, Tarzan clones have to be raised by animals to speak to animals, but Trojak was raised by an African tribe of humans and just happens to know how to talk to animals anyway. He also gets a tiger for a starting companion. His tiger, Balu (showing this feature steals from The Jungle Book as well as Tarzan), is shot, but is only lightly injured by it.

Trojak himself is shown to be able to bend a gun barrel, which is either a really lucky roll for a non-superhero at wrecking things, or maybe Trojak is a multi-class fighter/superhero. Further, subtle evidence of Trojak being a superhero might be the strange case of the unnamed woman in the white hunting party Trojak encounters and follows. At first, the woman is fine with her companions and their quest for gold, but over the course of days of observing Trojak following them, she starts to show disgust with her fellow travelers and an admiration for Trojak that can only be explained as sexual attraction -- or maybe use of the power, Turn Good.

(read at

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Amazing Man Comics #9 - pt. 4

Picking up where we left off with Mighty Man, here we see the asssistant (the dog man...though I'm inclined to pass on statting a dog man mobstertype) attacking MM with a garrotte of chain. This would be one of those examples we were just talking about of an improvised weapon that would do half-damage -- and maybe one-third damage, if we were honestly taking into account a 5 1/2' tall dog man dangling from the neck of a 12' tall man (conveniently drawn much closer to the same size on this page).

Though I'm mainly including this because a garrotte of chain was an important weapon in a fanfiction piece I just recently wrote, which I thought was a pretty cool coincidence.
Now for our last feature, the Shark.  First we get an interesting cutaway that shows how a schooner could serve as a concealed submarine dock. And then we see the Shark's "super television set" acting like a Crystal Ball. Better than a crystal ball, because normally you need to know what you're looking for to use a crystal ball. The Shark must have asked it to show him where the subs were docking and it did it, solving the mystery for him. I really don't recommend giving out trophy items like this.
The Shark is using a Raise  power here, but which one? A submarine in 1940 could have weighed over 1,000 tons, but that's out of water. Underwater, it would still weigh at least 600 tons. That would require a 6th level Raise power -- and those don't even exist in Hideouts & Hoodlums (yet). This also means the Shark would need to be a 12th level superhero. At this point in his published career, the Shark hasn't earned enough XP to even be 2nd level yet, so that means 11 brevet ranks!
An example of wrecking in the battleship category, and of using powers and wrecking to provoke morale saves, which end in complete surrender and the two signed confessions (it is interesting how the Shark gets two copies, and we'll see why shortly).
Push Ocean Liner is a 5th level power, but one intended to require the superhero to be constantly pushing the ocean liner, not giving it just one good shove. This would be something the as-yet unnamed 6th level Raise power (Raise Submarine?) would allow, so the duration must still be going on it since his previous use (which makes sense, as he's been in no combat, so he's in exploration turns).
An unusual strategy of locking the mobsters in, rather than going in and getting them. Plus we get some more examples of wrecking things. Since the wrecking he's doing is disabling, but not sinking the schooner, I would use the robots category.
And here's the big reveal -- that second confession is left behind at the schooner, so the coast guard will find it when they come to rescue the spies on board. When I do run high-level games of H&H (it doesn't happen often, but our current campaign has 6th level Heroes, so it's coming...), I hope the players will just have fun messing with much weaker bad guys, like this, rather than expecting to be challenged all the time.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)