Sunday, March 31, 2019

Miracle Comics #1 - pt. 3

Although the science was a little whacked in Sky Wizard, I still enjoyed the lead feature in this issue. But the rest of it...the rest of it is a train wreck, the kind of train wreck that's hard to look away from. So naturally I'm going to wind up posting most of it!

What? The narrator is helping Dash Dixon? Okay, maybe that's not as weird as it seems -- in game terms, it would be like the referee is coaching the player on what to do, which happens a lot, particularly when you're trying to teach a new player the game.

This is the first we're learning of Dash's bellhop uniform being metal. That means the pockets on his coat have hinges? This too is not too unusual, if the "metal suit" is just flavor text for Dash activating his Nigh-Invulnerable Skin power.

No, what really bugs me is that last panel. Why are they laughing and smiling about how they don't often use their biggest size of coffins? Are they kidding around about executing children? What kind of sick country is this?
Really? Wooden wheels? How medieval does this artist think Europe is?

80' is really high for a castle curtain wall, but Dash has to give it his "all", when just a few pages earlier he was able to jump up to a flying plane?

I actually like the last two panels. They not only give a good sense of motion between, but locking the mob inside the first room is a sound tactic.
"Stop! Metal Bellhop Diaper Man is on your heels!"

"When I count three, run for the orangu!"

Not only does that sound like a messed-up game plan ("Let's run towards the big ferocious animal we want to kill him!"), but why call it an orangutan if you don't even have room to put the whole word in your word balloon? Just call it an ape (and, frankly, it barely even looks like a gorilla, let alone an orangutan)!

No one is forcing you to kill the dumb animal, Dash! Don't do it!

Of course he kills it. Sigh.
The false chimney that serves as a secret roof entrance, now that intrigues me. But wouldn't it have made more sense to drop the poisonous gas into the false chimney, where there would be no room to escape it?

When did the doctor give him "anti-gas capsules?" Is this flavor text to go along with him making his saving throw vs. poison?

On a similar note, does Dash really have "high-explosive capsules," or is that just flavor text for how his wrecking things works?
This is the next feature, The Scorpion. Ooo, sounds like we're going to get a dose of pulp noir, right? No...the Scorpion is the curly-haired guy who gets captured on page 2 by gangsters. Gangsters who know exactly where he lives, and write him threatening notes, written the same way they talk..
The gangsters wanted to bring the Scorpion and his butler along so they could witness them stealing an armored car, before trying to kill them. When the Scorpion wouldn't even have known about their plans had they not brought them.

So, the plan was to roll the car down a steep hill so that the Scorpion and Judd would crash and die at the bottom, but the car veers off the wrong side of the hill and goes into a pond. Rather than letting the car take the force of the impact with the water, they decide to jump out and take their chances with landing in the water on their own, along with the risk of the car landing on them when they all hit the water. And then somehow the car bursts into flames -- on contact with the water. Uh-huh. It's so hard to even wrap my head around this so I can assign game mechanics to it.

Or -- is the Scorpion secretly a genius? Has he outwitted the deathtrap by changing the conditions of it, so that it is not a deathtrap anymore, but merely a trap, and hence doesn't cause lethal damage (at least in H&H terms)?  Yes, that must be it.

...Nope, don't look at me. I cannot explain away that goofy first panel. I guess they're meant to be jumping over the police officers' heads? But even with a running start, how are they clearing six feet -- vertically? Or do they have a levitate spell we weren't told about?

Stealing police motorbikes is handy because you never know what you'll find on them. In this case, it was a pouch full of tear gas bombs. I suppose I will have to work out how many tear gas bombs can fit in a pouch now. A quick Google search tells me that military pouches would not have more than 2-3 grenades in it, so that seems logical.

And lastly, this is Blanda the Jungle Queen. It says a lot about your expectations when "bland" is right there in the title.

The map is not a good trace, but I suspect that coastline is from the Gabon territory of French Equatorial Africa.

(Scans from Comic Book Plus.)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Miracle Comics #1 - pt. 2

Your scream will be the signal? If I was K-7's supporting cast, that would not inspire confidence in me! (-1 penalty to loyalty checks?)
The question here is, is the villainous Czermin such a gentleman that he rushes to a lady's aid, or does he come rushing to see how high up Yvonne's hose goes? It's chancy, expecting your bad guy to do the right thing; I would ask for a save vs. plot to make sure that ruse worked.
Good thing Yvonne rolled to "hit" that hay cart, or her falling damage would have been 4-24 points and surely knocked her out cold.
This is a curious kind of scenario that you don't see often in comics, where the bad guys defeat themselves and it doesn't really matter if any good guys were there at all. I would not recommend using this often in a Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign.
This is Dash Dixon who, in return for helping a scientist, gets shot up full of drugs and then -- "Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you what I was doing to your body, Dash!" "Don't worry about it, Doc. As long as I don't get cancer from it, it's all good, right?"

Luckily, what happens is that Dash gets to become a superhero. And then he jumps up and hits the ceiling...which is weird because his strength has only tripled. Was he trying to leap 3' in the air for some reason, and then went 9?

A super man? That's a convenient choice of words. No, a super man is the level title for a high-level superhero; Dash is only a 1st level good man right now.

I also can't shake the feeling that Dash is dressed as a bellhop with a diaper over his uniform...
Panel 2 puzzles me, as I can't find any references online to air taxis before the 2000's. How common, then, was this term in 1940?

How high is that plane Dash jumps to? The lowest safe altitude for a plane is generally 500' (higher in heavily populated areas, or if the terrain is higher). Unless that plane is about to land -- and it does appear by its speed lines that it is descending -- then Dash jumps 62.5 times the current world high jump record, which is pretty high for someone who had their strength tripled. This is easily within the range of the Leap I power, though.
What game mechanic would a Hero use to keep from being crushed to death by the tremendous pressure of a plane wheel retracting? I would say hit points would be the main mechanic -- the wheel does crushing damage like being caught in a trap -- maybe 2-12 points of damage (or higher, for a larger plane). You can save vs. science to slip through and dodge the wheel, or activate a Raise power and negate the damage (because you can "lift" the wheel away from you automatically).

I'm having trouble even guessing which real life country the Republic of Scalene is based on. It kind of rhymes with Spain.

I like the secret exit from the basement, hidden inside a large cask -- though the steps in front of it might serve as a giveaway.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Miracle Comics #1 - pt. 1

Sky Wizard! I was pretty impressed with this guy when I read all his published stories to research his write-up in Supplement IV: Captains, Magicians, and Incredible Men. Will he hold up to a re-read?

In 2019, it takes approximately 24 hours to fly from Texas to China (depending on where in China you're going), which means the stratosphere plane is three times as fast as a modern commercial jet.
I appreciate the names in Sky Wizard -- Captain Dare is a good enough name to have his own feature, but he's just supporting cast here. And I like how the guy with the monocle isn't called "The Monocle" or "Baron Fritz" or something so obvious, but is called Hawk Armand, which you would never expect.

Being "Pathan" means that Kee-Shan is one of the Pashtun people who settled in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Kee-Shan seems an unlikely Pakistani name, but I love how he looks tailor made to be played by John Rhys-Davies in a Sky Wizard movie.
The paralyzer gun looks suspiciously like the toy raygun that is advertised for sale elsewhere in this comic book. The difference between the first setting, that paralyzes, and the second setting, that kills instantly, seems pretty grim. I hope Sky Wizard never sets his gun to the wrong setting by mistake!
Oh, Sky Wizard, the crazy things that come out of your mouth when you've been inhaling chemical fumes! By even the most generous estimates ants do not have 6,000 times the relative strength of a man. More perplexing is the notion of an "ant virus" -- what is that? An illness that only ants can get? A germ that makes you more ant-like?
The land speed record at this time was
369.7 mph, a record set in August 1939. But that would be on a straight line -- Sky Wizard's supercharger can go 175 MPH on country roads with bends and corners, something I wouldn't want to try in even a modern day car. 

Whether or not SW can make it to save the kids in time seems like a math puzzle worthy of Jim McClain's Solution Squad.  He has six minutes left to get there. His supercharger can go 175 MPH, which is 2.9 Miles Per Minute and some change. It's 10 miles to Lone Pine, so it should only take him approximately 3.4 minutes to get there. This is close to SW's dialogue in panel 4; perhaps he just rounds up to four minutes. 

The trick then is to find the fiends once he reaches Lone Pine. Clearly they aren't standing in the middle of the main road through town, for he has to spend two minutes searching the woods outside of town (I'm assuming Lone Pine is a town and not an actual lone pine tree!), which is less than a full exploration turn in Hideouts & Hoodlums game mechanics. 

This brings me to two questions that I can't fully answer. One, why does Hawk set such a difficult deadline for SW to save the children by? Two, how does SW find them in the woods so quickly? I actually have a guess at the second answer -- the Editor may have allowed SW to spot their car from the road, which told him that they were nearby. 

Here we find out that the duration of the Q-beam is 1 hour (though a save vs. science to resist should still apply!).
Although rubberium is a goofy name, metal rubber has been a real thing since 2004; it is a conductive plastic polymer with metal ions and is used today in aerospace/defense, as well as other applications.   
Sky Wizard must not plan to stop at 50,000 feet, as the ceiling record for planes was 56,000 feet (set by the Italians in 1938). Now, this is spectacularly high for a blimp -- the record for a blimp is still a modest 16,000 feet, and that was set in 2016!
That same blimp, the Airlander 10, was a record-breaking size for a blimp -- 302' long, and filled with 1.3 million cubic feet of helium. This blimp is said to be acres in size, though it fair to say that dialogue was intended to come out of one of the kids' mouths, and was a gross exaggeration. 

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Feature Comics #29 - pt. 2

I sure hope those cows are okay!

Rance Keane goes over the evidence and finds the hard-to-miss one -- the railroad spike has been removed -- and one that feels a bit like overreach -- because he only finds the print from a right shoe, he presumes that there was only a right shoe. Odd that he isn't suspicious about not seeing the marks from a cane or crutch at the scene. Did he think the saboteur just hopped around?
Rance not only thinks he has the right to go snooping under the beds of people he suspects, but if he finds two matching shoes he thinks he has irrefutable evidence. This reminds me of a school of thought when it comes to game refereeing which advocates having no planned solution to a problem, but just go along with whatever solution the players come up with.
A rare instance of a hatchet being used as a missile weapon, and of a male supporting cast member fainting (failed morale save, not a failed loyalty save).

This is Captain Fortune climbing around, finding that even on cliffs there can be encounter areas. The skeleton with the warning pinned to it is great hideout dressing.
Slim and Tubby encounter bad guys with an unusual strategy -- they lose on purpose, to make the good guys look bad. In certain circumstances (like this boxing ring) it could work.
And we'll wrap up with Spin Shaw, who's in an aerial dogfight with unidentified, but possibly Japanese, planes. The fighting maneuver most used in this fight appears to be a wingover, though it is never named by the narrator. I just found this Wikipedia entry, which I will definitely have to incorporate in the Heroes Handbook.
Forcing a pilot to crash is, interestingly, not listed among the basic fighting maneuvers I linked to above.
I'm not sure a parachute would just pop open and spread out like fact, I'm inclined to doubt it (save vs. science to make it happen?). I'm also not sure how swinging overhead keeps Spin from getting shot at; more likely he just won initiative that turn.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Feature Comics #29 - pt. 1

Despite having been a lab assistant until recently, Darrel Dane already has a reputation as a private eye. Becoming a private eye is a handy way to get plot hook characters to walk in on you...but shouldn't Darrel have been suspicious that the threatening note was in easily identifiable cursive?

Suave thieves should probably be statted as slick hoodlums.
I'm curious about this, and wonder how typical it would be for a museum to employ five or more security guards for the same shift. It's also worth noting that none of the security guards wear uniforms.

It may also be worth noting this is the first mention of 18th century Spanish painter Francisco Goya in a comic book.
I don't have anything game mechanics-related to say about this page; I just think the set-up of this scene is hilarious. Ugly piece!

I'm including this page of Dixie Dugan for the unusual use of the word "punk," here used as an adjective and simply meaning "bad."

Sir Malcolm Campbell was real and worthy of being a supporting cast member in a Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign someday. You can read more about him here.
The Clock should be suspicious that the gangsters in the car had taken the time to ditch their identifying papers, but left a letter addressed to "The Reaper" in the car with them. Actually, maybe he is suspicious, because he takes the time to question Holt in the hospital about The Reaper, despite the fact that we learn on the next page that The Clock already knows exactly which local crime boss is known as The Reaper.

Lena Pry makes a surprise return to the blog. Here, Jane Arden's hillbilly counterpart encounters the IRS, and we learn that farm relief has a very old history in this country. I can almost envision a campaign of super-powered IRS agents, having to tour the country handing out checks...

I haven't included an Off the Record in some time. I shared this one, not only because I thought these two gags were funny, but the woman in the dentist's chair with Spike seems like she would be a good character to run into in someone's game. Spike would always be around, growling and threatening the Heroes.

Should half-pints need to save vs. plot to attack anyone with glasses?

Reynolds of the Mounted offers a surprisingly practical explanation for how Reynolds wasn't fooled by the fake clue left for him, but then includes shakier material like a peace pipe that can double as a blowgun, and a hollow wooden pipe being strong enough to be used as a club without breaking.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Wonderworld Comics #10 - pt. 4

Hey, welcome back! There's just a few pages leftover in this issue I wanted to address, this first one being from the Spark Stevens story. Spark always has the weakest artwork in the early Wonderworld issues, but you can see how rushed this three-panel page was. Still, it is a good example of when you can bluff your way into a morale check for the bad guys.
This is a pretty important milestone issue, as it takes the War in Europe, that until now has been largely couched in terms of analogies and fictitious stand-ins, is finally being accurately represented as a German invasion of Poland -- which had happened just a few months earlier. Ripped from the headlines!  
This is the first time -- possibly the last time, as far as I know -- that Polish is ever spoken in an American comic book. "Dzien dobre" means "Good day."

Despite the fact that I generally favor realism in my Hideouts & Hoodlums campaigns, I still subscribe to the comic book convention of having everyone you encounter able to speak English. I do know of one H&H Editor (hi Darren!) who is more of a stickler, wants more realism, and tracks what languages the Heroes know, based on their backstories more than their Intelligence scores.

While everyone else had to rush their jobs for this issue, K-51 has more than one 12-panel page! Here we see one of the deadliest of complications during an aerial dogfight, the shooting of the gas tank, which makes the plane explode in ...well, I'm not sure how many turns to make it take. Maybe just require a save vs. science to get out of the plane before it goes kablooey.

(Although suggests that Bob Powell may have wrote this story, the timeliness and anti-Nazi stance seems very Will Eisner to me.)

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Wonderworld Comics #10 - pt. 3

Bob Powell really seemed to enjoy working on Dr. Fung, as he put his best early work into this feature.

Here we get to see a rare cutaway view map in a comic book panel, showing an underground tunnel complex. Note the tunnels at different levels, as evidenced in the last panel, where you have the dry level up above, and a water-lined tunnel at the lower level.
Hideouts & Hoodlums has lots of stats for giant fish in it already, but maybe there's room for one more. I'm not an expert on fish identification and the narration doesn't help. Is that a giant carp?
Dan's pretty funny.

I'm not sure how Dr. Fung knows the guard has the keys on him. Just a good guess? An expert skill check to notice things?

Dan is a 3rd-level fighter (sergeant) by now, which is how he's able to plow through sentries so fast with just his bare hands. He uses his surprise attack disarming the sentry. It appears that Dan can punch at the same time as being grappled, instead of grappling back, going against the grappling rules I wrote for 2nd edition. Stop that, Dan!
Sort of like the keys earlier, it seems like a big leap to say that a volcanic eruption is about to happen just because a subterranean river is getting warmer.

Powell must have become too busy in mid-feature, as we went abruptly from seven high-quality panels a page to this three-panel rush job. I can see what he was trying to do in the second panel, with the scientific accoutrements in the extreme foreground and the figures in the extreme background, but it also makes it look like the Chess Man is inside a giant glass sphere. Which is not a bad defense, if you know your opponents are coming in unarmed. Interestingly, Dan never bothered taking the sentry's rifle (or shirt).
I've seen lots of disarming attacks in comic books so far, but snapping a sweaty handkerchief in someone's face has got to be the most improbable yet. Maybe Karno has a flashback to being snapped with towels in gym class and freezes up. And then his guard is so shocked at Dr. Fung's sheer audacity that he does nothing to stop him. And then the other three guards are so shocked that the first guard was shocked that they don't bother attacking as Dan lunges at them (initiative rules are very loose in these situations for a reason).
Munson Paddock continues to set new artistic ground, this issue with his Tex Maxon feature. Note the creative way he illustrates a roundhouse kick in panel 2, a method that I've never seen duplicated since. And I love that insult in panel 4 -- "You insinuatin' snake!"

We've seen lots of examples of people recovering quickly from being temporarily stunned in comics -- so much so that I had to relent and put stunning rules in 2nd edition -- but this could be the fastest recovery in panel 2, as the outlaws revive while the fight is still going on and get back into it.
It's rare to see a comic book character stick around while the stolen loot is being identified, but the sheriff gives us a good excuse for why when he claims his own share "fer doin' th' work" -- which seems a likely excuse players would come up with.

This is Spark Stevens and, I'm curious, how Spark knows that those are secret Navy plans. I mean, maybe it's something super obvious and they say "TOP SECRET" across the top of them. He seems very sure of their authenticity at just a glance (skill check?).
It's interesting how they loosen the hinges first, to give them a bonus modifier to their open doors check. I wonder what they used on the screws, though -- their fingernails?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)