Friday, March 30, 2012

Generating Villainy

If you take a look at my Vindicators web site you will see there are a lot of characters.  You might wonder where all those characters came from.  A majority of them I came up with myself, but I do not want anyone to think I have this unlimited font of creative energy pouring out of my head.  I have short cuts, methods, tricks that allow me to produce so many characters.  And today I am going to share them with you.  In this I am going to mostly focus on super villain teams as the PCs seldom fight solo.

Find a theme.  Many super villain and hero groups are based on a theme.  DC Comics’ Royal Flush Gang (recently featured in the DC animated movie Justice League:Doom) is a great example.  Finding a theme to base your villains around it a terrific short cut and I have done this a few times.  For example, I created a group called Heavy Metal and named each of the villains after heavy metal songs like War Pig, Ace of Spades, Turbo Lover (a speedster), Unholy, Neon Knight.  The problem was the team’s longevity was called into question as many of the songs chosen were old.  I am not a big modern heavy metal fan and I found most of the modern song titles I came across did not work out so well.  It was the same problem Image Comics had in creating a character named Grunge; after a certain point the name alone makes him sound old and dated even though he is supposed to be in his twenties.  Heavy Metal worked when I was running a Champions game way back when, not so much for my PBEM.  The solution was to make them old villains, literally.  For example, Neon Knight became an aging ex-con who wrote a book.  The rest were dealt with in one way or another and were retired to history but did have the benefit of adding some history to the game.  Ace of Spades is the only one around and due to my friend Rafe’s efforts he now has a tremendous back story.  It seems being a vampire makes him both literally and figuratively hard to kill.  So even though the team did not have legs, they served a purpose (Which is another excellent lesson to learn: never throw anything out when it comes to gaming.  You never know when it might come in handy later.).

Games are a good source for a theme but finding the right game can be difficult.  Chess pieces have been used as have playing cards.  What is left, a group of Jenga themed minions?  For me I picked Pool.  Fifteen balls, sixteen if you include the cue ball.  That is a pretty nasty team, they can overwhelm a group of heroes based on sheer numbers alone.  And what powers do you give them?  For me I decided each one would wield a different weapon based on classic super powers; flame thrower, laser, gravity generator, kinetic force generator, etc.  Eight Ball employed a mind control helmet.  And what to call them?  I decided on The Hustlers, in part because I love that Paul Newman film and because it was the only pool term that came to mind that could cover the team as a whole.  So The Hustlers became a good source of cheap muscle being outfitted by a mysterious benefactor with weapons that would self destruct if tampered with.

And why limit yourself to established games?  Why not create your own.  Instead of using Clue, create Suspicion, an obvious Clue knockoff.  You can have fun with names like Lady Cerulean, Major Munsell and Doctor Folly (And yes, that is the name of an actual color).

The Zodiac.  This is an easy one and I have created two super villain groups based on this, a classic team from the past and a current team.  The great thing about this is when one guy dies, the rest of the group can recruit another.  I remember way back when I ran a Champions game one of the main bad guy teams was called Zodiac (Hero Games produced an outstanding supplement).  When Leo was accidentally killed by one of the players I had him replaced by a mind controlled Lionheart (Kate Bush, coincidentally, is a Leo.  I could not have planned that better myself. ).  And using a Zodiac theme is always interesting when you throw in things like fate, and astrology.
The Minotaur is a cyborg.  Doug Shuler, you are a genius!
The nice thing too about using the Zodiac is it is not limited to the super hero genre.  The zodiac can be used in fantasy, urban fantasy or gritty crime dramas for criminal organizations.  And how about Chinese years and their related animals?  What if there was a group that was chosen by the year they were born and they possess some sort of personality trait or power related to the animal sign they were born under?  I did not create a group like that, it just came to me while I was writing this.  They too can apply to other genres.

Color.  I have created two groups with a color theme, The Sisterhood.  That might sound silly, but with names like White Noise and Black Light (And no, Black Light herself was not afro American as you often see in comice, i.e. Black Lightning, Black Goliath, etc.  However, Hard Winter’s Black Ice was and he was not at all happy about the name.) you can see the possibilities.  Tangerine Dream, Orange Crush, Electric Blue, Sea Green. Some were better than others.  I had more fun with the second team in large part because I had to become truly creative with names.  I found out Caput Mortem is actually a color, and the perfect name for a necromancer.  Feldgrau is a German dominatrix, Atomic Tangerine a nuclear powerhouse, etc.

What else?  How about anatomy?  I took four elements from the human body-muscle, nerve, bone and blood-and made a villainous quartet.  There was a brick, a mentalist, a guy in armor (Veshuthru, Prince of Bone, Lord of Marrow.  I loved that guy.), and a vampire.  I could have taken it further but Selene, Sorceress of Spleen seemed to be stretching things a bit.  Oooh, a new one came to me while I was writing this: Alarash, Scion of Skin!  He skins his victims and when he wears their hides he can adopt their appearance as well as their powers!  Damn, I wish I came up with that character earlier.  Well, the word “scion” means the younger member of a family so perhaps I can team him up with a new generation.   That might be a bad idea as for eyes I might make a hair guy and call him Monarch of Mustaches or something. 

Monarch of Mustaches.  Baron of Beards.  Hmmm…

As you can see, a theme can sometimes get a little ridiculous.  There was this dark, horrible period in Green Lantern’s run when he was fighting a group of construction themed bad guys called The Demolition Team.  That was just…It was just a bad, bad time and if there was ever a reason for the editors to want to turn Hal Jordan into Parallax you can just look at lame story lines like that one and it all makes sense.  So a theme can be fun, just don’t let it get out of hand.

Find common ground: An offshoot of the theme is creating a group which has something in common.  Groups like Heavy Metal are comprised of characters with different backgrounds; the only thing they have in common are the names they choose to call themselves.  The Royal Flush Gang?  They picked a name and from there their look and equipment adhered to the. But if you look at groups like Marvel’s Brotherhood of Mutants then you see a different sort of team; that of characters with a common origin in that they are mutants.  DC’s Hyperclan?  They are white Martians.  A good villain group could be comprised of bad guys with a shared past or something that sets them apart from others and hence makes them find value in working together, something like that was a thing they did not choose to have or be.  The necromantic Graves Clan is a good example of this.  While not all of them are related by blood they are by family association and similar powers/abilities.

Speaking of families, one of my favorite groups was The Company of Wolves, four brothers who were werewolves with super powers. In my campaign world people with supernatural abilities cannot have powers from other origins; when they are turned they lose their powers.  So the Hobbes brothers were unique.  I had never gotten around to it but I had planned on creating an Irish criminal family who had a blood feud with the Hobbes, but one of the themes I was going to use for names was, ah, colors.  And I had already created The Sisterhood by that time so using color names like Saffron and Lincoln just seemed, well, lame.  I might come back to the Irish family idea, though.  Banan is a boy's name meaning white, Bran is black.  Those are good names for twins.  Oran is pale green.  Donia is a girl's name meaning dark skinned.

I love the internet.

The Circle of Sorcery and Insaniacs are two (well, three if you count classic Circle of Sorcery) are all characters with magical powers and through that might share common goals (i.e. pursuit of knowledge, power, etc.).   When I ran a Champions campaign (and this is a bit hazy) I either came up with the idea myself or one of the Hero Games writers suggested it but a good super villain group was comprised of all the alien bad guys provided in their various supplements.  In the pages of Avengers Ultron formed a super villain team consisting of the many robots, androids, and artificial life forms floating around the Marvel universe at that time.  The name of the group?  Heavy Metal.

So a common background can go a long way towards developing not only a team theme, but possible motivations as well.

Find inspiration in pictures.  Over the past twelve years I have amassed a tremendous amount of images from the internet (I have a feeling if SOPA gets passed I am going to be in serious trouble. ) and sometimes when I am looking for inspiration I look at some of these pictures and say “Hey, you look like you would make a great bad guy.” You might think “Tom, that sounds like plagiarism or something akin to it”.  And perhaps it is.  And if I were getting paid the big bucks to run a game (And if there is some way to make money running The Vindicators please let me know, I’m all ears.) then I would feel guilty about it.  But my primary purpose in doing that is to entertain my players.  And if I see a picture and think this guy with a halfway decent back story and maybe a little tweaking to his look would make an ideal guy to fight Wolf, then I am going to do that.  I made an extra-dimensional hit squad from a collection of pictures, tossed them together for a quick and fun fight.

All these ideas are great for generating quick villains and even a little bit of back story, but what about depth?  Depth is largely over rated.  If I had the time or inclination I could write five thousand word back stories for every super villain on my site, but what would be the point?  Do we really need to know who the Hobbes brothers' parents were?  Outside of The Circle of Sorcery's Il Spino Rosa being a former Olympic fencer embittered by her magic tattoo do we need to have much more of a back story?  Sure, it might come up if the heroes are attempting to track her down and then you can generate some information, but until then do not sweat it.  I think perhaps part of the reason there are so many canon based games out there is GMs are terrified of the prospect of creating an analog to Lucius Malfoy or the like.  Guess what, people.  JK Rowling got paid lots and lots of money to write those books and generate all that background.  You are running a free game.  Provide the minimum up front, supply greater detail later.  Why else should you not worry about extensive back story outside of the aforementioned not being paid part?

Imagine this.  You have created Thorvir, Lord of Chaoslia.  You have lovingly detailed his family tree, created a back story for his four wives, have figured out the potential political machinations going on between his three sons and h-

And then Ghorr, Elf Slayer, makes a called shot and decapitates him.

I am not saying you should scrimp on details, only you should not obsess over them.  Did we really need to know Darth Vader's mother's name?  Of course not.  The Emperor was a perfectly good villain and beyond knowing he started off as a Senator named Palpantine nothing much needed to be known about him; his past is shrouded in mystery.  And yeah, a quest to uncover some dark portion of that past would make for a great campaign.  But otherwise if the players do not need to know it, do not write it.  If a player wants to know something like a character's family tree ask them why they want it.  If they cannot give a good game related reason then do not provide it.  Tell them they have the tree and no, nothing in it seems suspicious (unless you fully intend for there to be something suspicious in it.  Just because you having written down every little detail doesn't mean you can't be collecting possible plot hooks.  And the great thing about plot hooks is many can be recycled if a character is killed.  Remember: never throw anything out.).  If they get all pissy remind them you have a life and you aren't being paid to amuse them.  If that doesn't work point out what I mentioned before; that what is the point of creating a family tree if at least one of the players is planning on whacking the guy anyway just to put a monkey wrench in your plans?  Believe me, one of the players is thinking of it.

So to sum up; find inspiration in themes, associations and pictures.  When creating character produce some basic information to give the illusion of depth, but do not knock yourself out creating extensive an unnecessary back story.  Remember that you are running a game because it is supposed to be fun for you as well as your players.  Do not make it feel like work.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Song of The Week

My taste in music is pretty varied but if I had to be pinned down I would say I am a classic rock kind of guy.  Van Halen, Queen, Styx, The Beatles(!), AC/DC, Foreigner, Rush, J-Geils Band KISS, and The Police are all bands whose music I love.  And yet despite that very few of them have been represented on Song of The Week.  The reason for that is when I decided to do SOTW I wanted to have one song per band, at least in the period of a year.  And how do I choose which Beatles song?  That is a pretty tall order.

So when choosing songs from these acts I think what I would like to do is choose songs which do not receive much, if any, airplay.  When I chose J Geil's Come Back (Baby), for example, that song gets hardly any airplay on classic rock stations here in the metro Detroit area; if anyone plays J Geils it is usually a song from Freeze Frame or from their first live album (although lately Love Stinks has been playing a lot).  Good stuff to be sure, but it would be nice to hear One Last Kiss to change things up.

The first Queen album I purchased was their greatest hits, the next one was The Works.  I think The Works is one of Queen's best albums with hits like The Hammer To Fall, Radio Ga Ga and Is This The World We Created.  This Song, Machines, was probably my second favorite song on the album and never got airplay, at least, not around here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Song of the week

Animotion, Obsession.  Hearing this song reminds me of how awesome the eighties could be.  Younger people could mock our fashion sense all they like but we had fun, good pop music and great Star Wars movies.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Creating GMPCs

Lately I have seen a great many PBEMs that lack, well, creativity.  There are the numerous X-Men games out there and most of them encourage people playing canon characters, and more recently an Avengers game was advertised that will start on 5/5/2012, the day after the motion picture gets released.  Again, it is a canon character game.

Canon characters are fine for some but I find role playing one is not much fun.  You are constricted by what other people have written and sometimes bound by what is still going on in comics and movies.  And I think GMs who want canon characters can arguably be called lazy because they want to use established relationships between characters rather than going out of their way to form new ones (i.e. Cyclops/Emma Frost, Storm/Black Panther, Rogue/Gambit, etc.) as well as use pre generated villains and villainous organizations.  The X-Men games, for example, almost always have the Federal government and society itself as the bad guy.  And often "moderators" will have players run both the bad mutants and the good mutants, relieving them of a large part of the duties of actually creating plots.


Really, is it so hard to come up with your own character?  I never thought so.  Perhaps it is just easy for me.  So I thought for this week's article I would write about the creative process I go through to construct a GMPC.  In a later post I will go further into how I come up with other NPCs, primarily super villains and super villain groups.

As I said in an earlier post, a GMPC should played for more than simply a desire on a GM’s part to be more involved in the game.  A GMPC should provide the PCs with some sort of useful ability, power or skill that the team lacks.  For some of the older players out there back when table top was the way to go often a GM might role play a cleric in a Dungeons & Dragons game to provide healing, undead turning, etc.  This is a classic example of the GM providing a party with a useful NPC to insure their survival (Because really no player should ever feel compelled to run a character they do not want to.)  Two examples of this in my game are Doc Atomica, who is a geneticist and now possesses a background in hard sciences, and Valiant, who is a gadgeteer and whose powers provided a quick an easy means of transport for non fliers.  My game is currently going through a major shake up and I am strongly considering retiring one of these characters, but if I do so I must be careful and replace them with someone the players will like and who will also be useful to them.

So I went through my collection of images I have collected over the years from the internet…

No, I am not talking about porn.

…and I come across this piece of Tomb Raider concept art:

And right away I am thinking about characters with the ability to make duplicates of themselves.  There is Marvel’s Jamie Madrox and DC’s Multiplex.  And then there is The Collective Man who I thought was pretty cool when I read Contest of Champions back in the day (Not crazy about the power upgrades, though.  That is how they ruined Captain Britain and Luke Cage, IMO).  Okay, I am thinking to myself, this could be cool.  Only…it feels a little flat, like I am just taking an established fictional character and switching genders.  And if I went the route of seven sisters forming into one character that would mean I have to make seven personalities and role play them all.  What a pain in the ass that would be!

But this picture, it still inspires me.  What if the character possesses more than simply turning into multiple bodies?  What if she can control her mass, grow and shrink and become intangible as well?  That would make her sufficiently different from the DC and Marvel characters.  Only the problem there is there is already a PC out there named Extreme, who can grow and shrink.  And while Extreme is retired (and heck, I can’t even remember who played her.) it again feels like I am borrowing from someone else too closely related to my game.

Okay, so no shrinking and growing and desolidification.  What then?  Ah ha!  Years ago, before I realized how badly X-Men PBEMs sucked, I role played a teenage boy who created “imaginary friends” psychic constructs with their own personalities (There are X-Men games out there where you can play original characters.  They suck no less than other X-Men games.)  And later I played a character called The Grenadier, an Army trained vigilante with a psychic female alter ego who went around in the guise of his partner.  Why not dust that concept off?

I am bouncing the idea off of Dave Zyn, I ask him if the idea sounds familiar.  He points out The New Mutant’s Legion and that reminds me of the Doom Patrol’s Crazy Jane (One of my favorite characters, btw.  Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run is one of the absolutely weirdest things I have ever read, but it was highly entertaining.  The Doom Patrol was supposed to be weird and for the longest time comic book writers had penned very basic super hero stories that could have fit in almost any other team boo.  Morrison changed that.).  Both characters possessed multiple personalities, each one having their own power.  But the difference between them and my characters is mine can manifest in the real world apart from the core personality so I am not too bothered.  To my knowledge this is unique…

Oh.  Wait.  The Marvel Comics character Sentry’s arch nemesis, The Void  is really his evil alter ego (I hate this character, by the way.  I am so very glad they killed him and I am hoping they never, ever bring him back.  Lots of tangents in this post, I know.).  Same goes for Adam Warlock and TheMagus.  And Professor X manifested an evil psychic twin on at least two separate occasions...

Screw it.  At this point I am so psyched to follow this creative train of thought I am willing to overlook similarities.  Besides, these psychic manifestations are not going to be bad guys.

Well, not bad guys yet.  Never say never.

But heck, seven characters!  That is still a lot.  That would be the primary personality and six alternates, and each one needs to somehow be unique.  So I drop two..
Four psychic alternate personalities I can do.  I think back to the purpose of this GMPC, how she should fill the team’s needs…

Not those needs.  Jeez, what a bunch of pervs.

…should have powers and skills they are lacking.  So one alter has telepathic powers, another is a researcher, a third can heal and the fourth is the principle’s protector.  Personalities?  The first is an extrovert with impulse control problems, the other coldly intellectual, the third emotionally sensitive and caring and the fourth a borderline sociopath.  Great!  Now, what does she do for a living?  How about a paranormal private eye?  Give her a name, a back story, and we have…

Molly McLoughlin, Private Psi.

I’m cooking now.  I give her a best friend and after watching a Nostalgia Critic video I am thinking this is what the pair do in their spare time.  Molly has an office underneath a comic book store.  Now all I have to do is make a logo...

...and we are all set!

Only…I was having Sunday dinner with my parents and brothers and something about the character was starting to bother me a bit.  There was something…familiar about her.  A primary personality, four aspects of the prime given form.  A disturbing thought came to mind, and driving on the way from the restaurant I ask my brother Jon if he remembered a series called Herman’s Head?

“Sure,” he said.

“What were the four personalities?” I asked.

And Jon rattles them off, “Lust, Sensitivity, Intellect and Anxiety.”

Holy shit, I thought.  I just  copied Herman’s Head.  Sociopathic behavior could arguably be anxiety turned up to eleven.

It was at that point that I came to a realization; there is nothing truly new under the sun.  Anything someone might come up with likely in some way, shape or form has been done by someone else, most likely Stan Lee.  The key is how you put your own spin on things, how you drop different elements into a literary blender, try to add your own spice, and see what you come up with. 

So Molly has some things in common with other comic book characters, what makes her unique is she is a private eye and-

Wait.  Isn’t the comic book X-Factor about Jamie Madrox’s mutant team working as private investigators taking on unusual jobs?

God damn it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Song of The Week

Shinedown, Bully.  Not much else to say, just like the song, don't know much about the band.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Another giant dies

French artist Moebius has died, you can read more about it here.  I admired the man for his unique and captivating art and is ability to conquer any genre he set his talents to.  Below are just a couple of examples of his work I found on the internet:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Avengers Prime

Since coming up with new subjects to talk about regarding gaming is getting a bit harder (And if you have an idea for an article, please pass it along.  Dave Zyn has given me an outstanding entry for Study In Evil, for example.) I am going to be writing about different things that interest me.  For example, I will be trying my hand at humor some time down the road and will be doing a review of a Star Trek The Animated Series episode.

Brian Michael Bendis.  You either love his work or hate it.  For me I had only read a couple pieces of his work: Powers, Who Killed Retro Girl, and a variety of Ultimate Spider Man trade paperbacks.  Powers was a decent read but it was not enough to really grab my interest (It is not as if I am against the concept of a police procedural in a super heroic universe: I loved Brubaker and Rucka's Gotham Central.) and Ultimate Spider Man?  Well, I like my Spider Man grown up and married to hot red heads and Joe Quesada decided the only Spider Men we get are teenagers and men who act like teenagers.

And yes, sometimes it does bother me that I am no longer the target demographic.

Bendis has been writing Avengers for some years now and I decided from day one I was not going to read it after I checked out his first issue.  The first page of dialogue just seemed...Well, Bendis has his own writing style and part of it involves characters sitting around and talking about unimportant things so they seem more like normal people.  And it gets old really, really fast.  And after a while everyone sounds the same.  Add to that the fact that Spider Man and Wolverine were joining The Avengers and that just smacked of crass commercialism, of throwing characters onto the team for the sole purpose of increasing sales rather than it making any sense.

After reading Avengers Prime I think I made the right choice.

Please allow me to provide a bit of back story before I begin.  About six years ago Marvel's big Summer Event comic was Civil War.  For some months prior there had been a sub plot mentioned in some comics about Congress passing the Superhuman Registration Act, a law that would require anyone with super powers to register them and be placed under some form of control of the Federal Government.  In Civil War the act was finally passed after a super villain named Nitro used his powers and blew up a school, murdering numerous children.  What resulted was a schism forming in the super heroic community with Iron Man leading the heroes who registered, Captain America heading up the faction that refused.

The story was a clusterfuck.

Hack writer Mark Millar does not know how to write Tony Stark and Reed Richards.  He does not know how to write Captain America.  His attempts to generate tension between the factions was ham-fisted and made no sense.  What is Captain America's plan after his side goes underground?  What is their goal?  Why don't the heroes on the pro registration side have any problem with fighting side by side with super villains forcibly recruited into becoming foot soldiers?  If I were The Wasp I think I would have some issue teaming up with mass murdering hit man Bullseye.  Why doesn't Captain America point this out with one of his famous speeches before the final fight?  Why doesn't he point out that it was not his side that killed someone with a murdering clone of their dead friend?

Oh.  Right.  Millar wrote Civil War.  That explains everything.

Tony Stark was transformed by hack writer Mark Millar into a fascist bastard.  He helped create an extradimensional prison where unregistered heroes were held without any due process (Reed Richards was also in on this.  Reed Richards was also written poorly.  It being Mark Millar, this is a given.).  Stark and Hank Pym cloned Thor (thought dead at the time) from a lock of his hair (Provided by Stark, who held on to it all this time.) and even after the abomination ran amok and killed Giant Man used him again; Clor, as he was called by the internet community tried it's best to kill Black Panther and Storm before being destroyed by Hercules.

Over the next few years Iron Man was written differently by different writers.  By some he seemed to be a man attempting to do his best in the face of a host of difficult decisions as head of SHIELD.  By others he was a complete jerk who seemed to be having too much fun with all the power at his disposal. For example, he was having She Hulk handle Hulk villains while her cousin was "missing".  The reason Hulk was missing?  Stark and others had sent him into space (The Illuminati.  Brought to you by that other master of retconning, Brian Michael Bendis).  Stark was sleeping with She Hulk at this time while he was lying to her.  When she discovered the truth and confronted him, Stark de-powered her with nanites he had injected into her and left her powerless in the middle nowhere.

What a guy.

Eventually damage control had to be done.  The Iron Man movie had come out and the hero had to be made to look heroic once more.  So Stark's memory was erased from a certain point on (The Extremis storyline.  I will be addressing that at a later time.) so all those horrible things he had done?  He could look on it with horror.  Stark had lost his company, his armor, his position as head of SHIELD.  He was a fugitive.  We were supposed to now feel sorry for him.  When Siege came out Iron Man, a resurrected Captain America (Oh yeah, Captain America died, but he got better.  Comics.) and Thor now all had to team up to take down Norman Osborn.  After Siege was done the trio were left with a lot of baggage to deal with.

Hence, Avengers Prime.

The plot of the limited series involved Thor, Captain America and Iron Man (wearing an older, suit of armor that was much cooler than his hooker boots Extremis look) being swept up into one of the Nine Realms and dealing with the consequences of Asgard itself being located on Earth.  Things had become dark and chaotic, with Hel, the Norse god of death holds the Twilight Sword which affords her a tremendous amount of power.  The trio are separated, have their own adventures, re-unite, take on Hel and save the day.  Somewhere along the way they resolve their differences and hug it out.

And really, it does not work.

Let me say the big positive is Alan Davis' stunning art.  The man is a tremendously talented artist and he makes the comic feel epic even in the face of Bendis' annoying dialogue.  But Davis' art is not enough to change the fact that this story is supposed to be about these three men resolving their issues (really I think it is about Thor and Cap dealing with the fact that the man they called a friend for years is an asshole) and they really do not do that.  The comic starts off with Stark and Rogers arguing but it just sounds forced, as if Bendis had this great Avengers story in mind and was told to somehow wedge the conflict in somehow.  And the part about Thor being upset with Stark for cloning him and making everyone think the guy who killed Bill Foster was him?  Never really addressed.  Oh it was addressed in another comic and Thor just smiled and said it was okay, which kind of flies in the face of the rage he expressed in his own comics just a couple years earlier.

Now, one could argue that Thor is a forgiving sort of guy, that he realizes with Tony memory wipe that he deserves some sort of break.  But the memory wipe is never addressed in this comic!  One would have to have read the Iron Man series and probably Siege in order to get that!  Bendis does not even attempt any sort of exposition at all, he just assumes that if you are reading this that you have been buying some fifty dollars worth of comics.  I fail to see why just a touch of expository dialogue could not have been used to explain why Thor might be upset with Stark.  Reading the back cover of the trade paperback, "squabbling over old wounds" is mentioned.  What old wounds?  I only know about it because I have access to Scans Daily and Might God King.  Hell with Marvel if they think I am actually going to pay money on their crap.

Clor killed Bill Foster.  Wearing Thor's face.  I think Thor might still be bitter about that, considering that even if Stark no longer remembers making Clor he still collected a lock of Thor's hair years earlier!  But that story was written five years ago, that is forever in comics.  You aren't supposed to dwell on details that far back.

And yet, you are.  The whole point of why Rogers and Stark are supposed to be upset with one another ties way back to Civil War, where Rogers became a fugitive, Stark a government stooge using super villains as foot soldiers and denying their friends basic civil rights and ultimately getting Rogers killed.  And even if he cannot remember those events one would assume he is still the same sort of man who would commit those same sorts of actions.  And that is what Avengers Prime should have been about.  It should have been about Rogers and Thor coming to realize the man they thought was a friend was not the man they thought he was.

There is a scene in the book where the the trio are sitting around a fire, a quiet moment between battles.  And does anyone bring up the issues that have come between them?  No.  Instead they talk about who might have slept with Patsy Walker, Hellcat.  And I have no idea why Bendis does this.  It is not like the guy is unable to write serious dialogue.  Powers was a very serious comic, so was Alias.  Bendis can set aside the funny and get very dark when he wants to.  So why not devote a couple pages to three friends finally coming to terms with the reason why they are so angry?  Have Stark own up to the fact that he is a control freak who made many mistakes.  Have him point out Rogers' inane response to the Registration Act and his culpability in Foster's death.  Hell, have him damn well apologize to Thor right then and there!  This is what this comic is supposed to be about.

All right, yes, I can see how Real Man might have problems coming out and saying things like "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you".  Men do not discuss emotions the way women do.  And yes, the trio are stuck on another world with an impending battle.  That being said, if they have time to talk about what chicks they have banged I think they might have enough time to resolve the issues that led to Captain America getting killed!

After a few battles Captain America and Thor decide hey, Tony is an okay guy after all.  The trio hug it out like men and walk away with grins on their faces.  Everything is Just Fine.

To borrow a quote from Linkara, This Comic Sucks (I would have provided a picture by way of reference but according to his theme song the man has a magic gun.  I do not want to make him mad at me.)  The art is spectacular but Bendis fails to write a compelling story.  Instead he falls back on his funny dialogue schtick, creates a needless love interest for Rogers, and delivers a simplistic resolution to five years of conflict between the three heroes.  If your library has the trade I would recommend you checking it out and reading it for yourself.  Well, less reading and more admiring Davis' art.  But please do not waste your money.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Song of The Week

Florence And The Machine, Shake It Out.  I had the option to show the official music video, but the purpose here is to showcase the music and not the visuals so I thought the Youtube video showing the lyrics was the better way to go.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie, RIP

I am a little behind the curve in finding out, but concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, has died, he was 82 years old.  More details can be found here at his official web site. If you wish to see larger samples of his art you can go here.

I cannot stress enough how important this man's contribution to science fiction was.  He helped to shape the look of Star Wars, and with his art he helped George Lucas sell the film to 20th Century Fox.  I feel he inspired many artists that followed in his wake who work in film, television, comic books and video games.  Science fiction fans owe the man a great deal and I greatly appreciate his magnificent artistic talent and efforts on all our behalves.  I offer my sincerest condolences to his family.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Justice League: Doom

So I purchased this yesterday:

The late Dwayne McDuffie wrote both this (I believe this is his last work) as well as Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths:

So Doom feels very much like a sequel.  And that is not necessarily a bad thing.  Overall the film was good although I did feel there were a couple minor plot holes (I suppose the reason one character is left in the middle of the street is paramedics were afraid to move them.  And there are a couple other issues regarding time which I don't want to go into here for fear of spoiling things.).  Overall it is a fun adventure made more so by the fact that this time veteran DC animated movie/tv voice actors like Tim Daly (Superman), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Carl Lumbly, and Michael Rosenbaum (Flash) as well as Nathan Fillian (Green Lantern, who also worked on Green Lantern, Emerald Knights) returned to reprise their roles so in one manner it is superior to the earlier film.  Having Farscape's Claudia Black voicing The Cheetah was just a bonus for me.

But as good as the film is I think Crisis was a better story overall.  Also, I felt the inclusion of Cyborg in the story was a cheap way to promote the current Justice League comic, where Cyborg is now a founding member.  I have nothing against Cyborg, but it is going to take quite a while for me to ever get used to him as a Justice Leaguer.  I am not sure if that had been his intent; McDuffie died a year before this film's release, were the editors at DC planning on Cyborg becoming a member of the Justice League that far back?  Or is it even possible McDuffie's script inspired editors to make that decision when they rebooted the DCU six months ago?  Who knows?

Anyway, I did not feel cheated out of my $13.50 and I recommend Doom for your collection.

Finally, in case you missed it, a related video: