Monday, December 31, 2018

Fantastic Comics #3 - pt. 4

It looks like I'm easily going to finish discussing Fantastic Comics #3 before the year ends, as I have only the Sub Saunders installment left to discuss.

Yesterday I had misinterpreted what was hanging from the mermen's faces because of the quality of these scans. Yeah, it would have been interesting if they were tentacles, but they just have beards of boring ol' hair, as you can clearly see in panel 4.

Speaking of clearly seeing, Poseida can be forgiven for getting a little excited when he sees Peg, as that is one skin-tight diving suit! Interestingly, only Saunders is wearing a skirt for modesty.

Poseida is wearing a chainmail gorget around his neck. It would offer no Armor Class improvement, but must be a fashion statement.

Sub is offered (ahem) a subload of treasure in exchange for just one member of his supporting cast. Now, a metagamer might look at this and think how Peg is "only" worth 100 XP per session she tags along on, while the treasure is worth enough XP to level up immediately. But Sub's player isn't a metagamer and he says no.

Now, working under the assumption that Peg is a SCM and Sub is being played does the Editor decide Peg's reaction? A reaction roll vs. Poseida, with a substantial penalty for him offering Sub half the fortune instead of her? A loyalty check for Sub? A 50-50 coin flip? (All of which would be legitimate choices for the Editor)

"Release the spider!" has got to be an unnerving thing to hear when you're about to fight something in an arena...
For a spider, that looks awful crab-like. Giant crab spider? It might also be the largest giant spider we've seen so far in a comic book.

I can't imagine what all that glassware has to do with the radio equipment. Likely this is just visual shorthand for looking hi-tech.

The frog men already have an entry in the Mobster Manual (now, obviously, pushed back to 2019), but I may have to up the number encountered. They also seem to be really Lawful or really coordinated, with their ability to form up into ranks underwater so neatly.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Fantastic Comics #3 - pt. 4

As 2018 winds down, we find ourselves still in February 1940 and this month's Captain Kidd story. Here we see the need for a voodoo doll spell in Hideouts & Hoodlums (though Supplement III had introduced the voodoo doll as a magic item, a perhaps equally satisfying solution).

Here we have our first hideout that is all in one tree, and I dare say I've never seen a rope ladder quite like that before (the rope makes up only the rungs, connected to the inside of the tree).

When has Kidd seen black magic before? It seems a stretch that he so quickly identifies the glass as Negus' wand (even I missed that, treating it as a new magic item just yesterday).
Negus' last spell is Smoke Image, one of the new 3rd level spells that debuted in the 2nd edition basic book. It's not clear what his intent with it is other than to try and scare off Kidd, but that's not easy to do when Kidd's plane is packing bombs -- bombs are one of the big equalizers for the fighter class.
Again I find myself sharing Professor Fiend, a joke feature with sometimes valuable lessons learned. Here, I was amused by the notion that Fiend might accidentally fall into a mirror, but floored by the idea that he could escape by scratching off the quicksilver backing, so that it would no longer be a mirror. And then bursting out the back, which was made of a separate material, was thinking outside the box, if you will, as well.

And now we get to Stardust, where Stardust is -- no, that's not a VR headset, but a crime-detecting ray view plate. At a range of millions of miles, it can detect when large scale crimes are about to take place on Earth.

Everyone always thought Thanos was a Darkseid rip-off, but it turns out that his "there are too many people" schtick came from The Demon here.

Space is big. Just the Moon is over 2 million miles away, so technically Stardust could be as close as the Moon.

"Undersea pressure-disturber" sounds like the kind of understated name a scientist would actually give a tidal wave generator. It's unclear if the undersea pressure-disturber also creates heat waves through vibration, or the Demon is describing two mad science inventions to his pal Max. 
If you can look away from Stardust callously crushing the Demon's chest with one hand, take note of the first two panels and Stardust's arrival. Is he the glowing energy star transformed into physical matter? Or is the glowing energy star a flavor text manifestation of his power, and what he's really done is Teleport through Focus, with his focus being the shadow on the wall? I'm asking because I seriously can't tell. Either way, it's a high-level power.
Anti-gravity will become a power, and reverse ray practically is already (Turn Gun on Bad Guy, but this would be a somewhat broader application than originally intended).

Sky Writing may need to become a power; it can't just be hand-waved as flavor text if the communication is important to the scenario. It would be 1st-level, though -- easily Stardust's simplest power to date.

And, lastly, we're going to jump into Sub Saunders. Sub's enemy, King Poseida, is using a hydro-vision like a television. A hydro-vision, I'm guessing, projects onto a wall of water?

Those are some crazy-looking mermen. Are those tentacles hanging from their chins?

That's one big giant octopus! Maybe 9 HD?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Fantastic Comics #3 - pt. 3

We return to Golden Knight as he's rushing indoors to face an ogre, the final guardian before the Holy Grail - er, "Golden Chalice." Kara the Merlin-Wannabe gets the Chalice, but it seems like Sir Richard has the better end of this deal, getting paid with a magic cloak that protects him from all harm (permanent Invulnerability power? That sure beats a Ring of Protection +5).
Now I'm going to jump ahead into Yank Wilson's story. "Alien dive," referring to foreigners, is here synonymous with "underworld dive."

When you're in an underworld dive, and you overhear anything, no matter how innocent sounding, it just has to be a big clue to something.

It's unclear how many thugs are present, but it appears that Yank and X-16 are "greatly outnumbered" by only three of them.
Swimming while handcuffed is something you can become an expert in, apparently (so, it's an expert skill check).
I thought this was clever strategy: make a lot of noise about searching the villain's room, and then be waiting around back to see who sneaks out, and trying to get what safely away. Could be an easy way to pick up trophy items!
 Liquid dissolvent -- something that needs to be added to the starting equipment list?
Space Smith vs. the Leopard Women of Venus. Actually, they may be kidnapped Earth women and not indigenous to Venus at all. And the only thing "leopardy" about them are the spots on their uniforms. Their Belts of Transmitting keep them safe in the vacuum of space. The rifles mounted on their hats are concussive ray rifles, with zero kickback that would knock their hats off, apparently.

Most interesting are the giant saurians -- giant lizard-like creatures 10' long with long claws, short tails, the ability to fly through the vacuum without Belts of Transmitting, and a movement rate that must be at least 23,300 (escape velocity from Venus). 
Giant saurians can be found in groups of up to 10 in their cave lairs on Venus. They must be stupid and easily confused, since they allow a fog cloud to foil them when they can easily move faster than than the fog. 
As weak and ineffectual as these Venusian robots are, I might stat them as the tin robots from 1st edition. The narrator makes a point of calling them clumsy, but if the Belt of Transmitting lets them fly even a fraction of a giant saurian's speed, then the robots are lucky to even get an attack on them as they whiz past (it would seem that robots cannot wear Belts of Transmitting, only living beings).
This is Captain Kidd, and it's hard to tell what spells this witch doctor is casting. When he just got done casting on Kidd's porters seemed to have been a Death spell. What he casts on Bennet seems to be a Command spell (I never would have thought of "choke" to be such an effective use of it though!).

The Magic Glass seems to allow magic-users to cast a spell of higher level than they could normally cast, since the Death spell is usually beyond most casters.

But this is all speculative until we read the rest of the story -- next time!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Fantastic Comics #3 - pt. 2

Moving on from Samson, this is Flick Falcon's feature.

"I must do it, Flick."

"Now, hold on, Adele," Flick should say. "We're 12 times the size of these jokers; we don't have to go along with any crazy scheme they come up with!"

As outlandish as it is to build a scenario around putting your supporting cast members in danger, Flick goes along with it.
That dress is the real reason Flick went along with this crazy scheme.

The carnicantileia is definitely going in the Mobster Manual. It appears to be a snake with a crocodile head.
Make that a giant snake with a crocodile head! That sucker must be 30' long, and possibly able to swallow humans whole.
This is Golden Knight, a feature that here decides that historical accuracy is boring and turns into a mix of Arthurian Grail myth and John Carter of Mars.

Kara the Magician, who has a girl name and poses suggestively towards Sir Richard in a short skirt, teleports him to an alien world to recover the Golden Chalice, that sounds remarkably like the Holy Grail. For just agreeing to go, he already gets a magic ring, but not what most players would consider a very powerful one. The Ring of Light sheds illumination like a lantern and can be used once per exploration turn to blind an opponent (saving throw allowed).

It's nice of the inhabitants of this other world to write in English (though, since magic is involved, perhaps it's just magically translated for Sir Richard).

It's also interesting that, aside from this fortress, there are no signs of intelligent life on this other world. The intelligent life must have been killed off (there are a lot of skeletons around).
Although not called such, this is the first hydra in comic books. It shows that hydras can start with as little as 3 heads, and that all but the main head grow back (I guess there's a random chance of lucking on the main head).

We've seen a lot of octopi in comics so far, but this is the first that has used its ink cloud offensively before entering combat.

Swimming in the magic pool triples one's strength. Tripling a Strength score doesn't work mechanically in Hideouts & Hoodlums; it makes more sense to have the pool magically bestow the Get Tougher power for an unknown duration.

Man, Sir Richard is really hungry! His first time seeing a giant bird, and his first thought is to eat it!
Now, I got excited when I saw those "birds" in panels 5-6 -- in silhouette they look like stirges!
Actually, they turn out to be "wild poison bats" (which I'll also be adding to the Mobster Manual). I'll be giving them 1 HD, poisonous bites, and horn damage. They also seem to be particularly vulnerable to fire and heat, since they just fly over the lava and die (+1 damage per die from heat or fire?).

That magical pool must have turned Sir Richard into a full-fledged superhero, as here he wrecks the wall to create his own secret door!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Fantastic Comics #3 - pt. 1

We're back to Fox's Samson, and in this installment the raygun in that little plane can cancel the gravity on something weighing up to 160 tons. Compared to that, Samson breaking the lock off a door with his bare hand doesn't seem quite so impressive (a 1st level superhero could do that!).
Any of the defensive buffing powers could be in play here in panel 1.

I've written before about how darkness seems to be the best protection against superheroes, and for now I have no intention of introducing a power that would allow superheroes to see in the dark.

There is no game mechanic for superheroes accidentally wrecking things. More likely, though, the player chose to wreck the door, and then pretended it was an accident for his Hero.

Samson either uses a Leap power or he's an alien with natural leaping skills. How Jean gets on the ship if Samson doesn't leap with her is unclear.

Samson's booming voice has a peculiar effect, either producing a slew of positive encounter reactions all at once, or perhaps he's activated a power which does that (Commanding Voice? Mighty Shout?).   

Panel 4 gives the power Hold Breath a fairly specific duration. If time is measured in exploration turns, then this works out with the duration I gave the power already.

As for what he's using once he's's clearly a reversed application of Raise Ocean Liner (or Push Ocean Liner, as it was called in 1st edition, but should be changed so all the Raise powers start the same).

Now, this is why I described the ray as gravity canceling instead of magnetic. And, apparently, it can only lock onto one object at a time, so as soon as it locks onto Jean, it can't affect the ship anymore (had Samson realized this, he could have floated up there in her stead and wrecked the plane, instead of holding the ship down.
In evidence is the power Race the Plane.

It's hard to imagine how that secret hangar remains secret...

Samson uses the power Wall Climbing, and then wrecking things to pry open the giant secret door. Steel walls are wrecked as if tanks, while doors are wrecked as the simplest category; I would compromise halfway and treat this as the robot category.

Samson seems to be using Imperviousness against the bullets, though catching bullets is usually a sign of using the Race the Bullet power.
I don't have much to point out about this page, except that Samson looks somewhat hilariously like a surfer in panel 2.

Having supporting cast around can be handy when you need someone to call the police for you.
Samson is clearly making his saving throw vs. science to counter the raygun's effects on him.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Whiz Comics #2 - pt. 4

This is still Lance O'Casey's strip, though there's no sign of him on this page. I share it here, not because being dangled over a tiger cage is so original a trap, but for the unusual addition of having the prisoners placed on swings over the cage. There would be a chance, then, that they could swing themselves out far enough that they could drop outside the cage, though there would be a danger of falling wrong (with a failed save vs. science) and still landing inside the cage, plus there's still falling damage and the chance of being shot even if they do land right.
Somehow the tigers managed to break out of their cage, which you'd think has always held them successfully before. It is worth noting that an unintelligent animal, entering a melee, will not automatically attack the Hero, but would pick a random target.

That is one fantastically capable monkey. I have an entry for monkeys in the Mobster Manual already; I should add that supporting cast monkeys can do anything a person can do.
The last feature to debut here is Dan Dare, of the detective genre. It's hard to take "Seals of Doom" seriously as a story title when you find out, a page later, that it refers to the animal seals.

That said, it's interesting to see a story set in Florida, indeed the first I can recall. Sea Castle is not a real town, that I can tell, though it seems to be a common name for businesses in Florida.
$5,000 seems to be a very generous sum for detective work in 1940. That Dan so cavalierly promises to return it if he fails suggests that he's pretty well set for money already (or just highly confident!).
Note how easy this investigation is for Dan. The chief of police not only coaches this man, a complete stranger, on every detail of the case, but then simply hands him the murder weapon to examine. When actual (ahem) legwork is required, he simply calls up his friend Carol and asks her to do it all, not even bothering to find out where Pete is for her first. The first case could be explained by a great encounter reaction roll, while the second case might warrant a loyalty check from Carol in the near future.

Speaking of legs...that panel 6 had to have been pretty scandalous for a kid's book in 1940.
Player tip: when someone suspicious tells you not to go swimming somewhere, you should bring nothing but a little red bathing suit and go swimming there.

This is not the first time we've seen an underwater entrance to a hideout.
Whoa, what's going on here? Bending bars, swimming three miles, and then climbing a sheer wall while soaking wet is starting to make Dan look like he's a superhero instead of a fighter. One or even two instances could be explained away by really good rolls, but all three of these on the same page really make it looks like he's activating powers.

Superhero or not, Carol has got to be questioning her loyalty to Dan right about now.
This is the first time I've ever seen the term "community chest" used outside of the board game Monopoly.

It's also worth considering, for home campaigns, if you want to send them instructions to pursue scenarios via telegram, rather than wait for them to pick up on plot threads on their own.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Whiz Comics #2 - pt. 3

The debut of Spy Smasher's gyrosub, a combination airplane/autogyro/speedboat/submarine, which makes it a very handy and versatile trophy transport item.

This is a rare Virginia-based adventure.

In the Golden Age, it is not unusual for the Heroes to be more technologically advanced than the villains.

Explosions have much bigger blast radii than most D&D spells; in 2nd edition, I increased the blast radii of multiple trophy weapons to better reflect reality.

I've  never been in a dirigible and any effort I would have made at mapping the interior of one would have been informed only by the Rocketeer movie. So it's handy to see a panel like this last one.
Spy Smasher fails his save vs. plot and wastes time on the underlings while the Mask gets away.

A smart villain has an escape vehicle attached to his main vehicle. A smart hero looks for that vehicle before confronting the villain.

It's also worth noting that, once the main villain escapes, the story just skips over the anticlimactic stuff about subduing the crew, and Editors can feel free to do the same.
This is Scoop Smith, of the journalist genre. Here he shows some decent investigator skills, checking the list of former employees to see if any of them might fit the M.O. of "Doctor Death."
Scoop and Blimp (sidekicks get terrible nicknames) rather easily fall for the ol' trap door under the chair trick. We also have another example of the term "dungeon" being used for a villain's hideout.

The fall stuns Scoop and Blimp because they were reduced to zero hit points, but made their saves vs. plot to only be stunned.

The life machine looks rather unimaginatively like a movie camera.

The cup of cyanide pills rigged to drop into the sulfuric acid is an excellent trap for science-based hideouts.

Note how Dr. Death can easily tell the hero from the sidekick and doesn't bother monologing in front of the sidekick (and how the sidekick saves the hero by just happening to find a wrench in his cell!).
The first example of Raise Dead being used in comics, and only on two unnamed henchmen at that!
And now Lance O'Casey debuts, representing the South Seas adventure sub-genre.

Lance is a fighter, but we see even fighters can perform first aid.

Lance is also really good at tracking, being able to recognize a specific person by a single footprint (expert skill check).

Barracudas do not get nearly as much ink as sharks and octopi in comic books, so it's nice that they get mentioned here.

A cutthroat native might be statted as a bloodthirsty hoodlum instead of a simple native.

Again, the sidekick saves the hero, this time because the monkey was able to spot the trap that Lance missed (kind of embarrassing when a monkey beats you at skill checks).

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)