Friday, May 4, 2012

X-ed Out

Last time I focused on ideas for (primarily) canon game concepts that could be alternatives for X-Men, most notably games involving schools and teen heroes.  Today I would like to talk about alternative super hero teams that contain the same sort of angst X-Men lovers seem to enjoy.  The first one is the most obvious:

Doom Patrol

The Doom Patrol was originally published around the same time as Marvel's X-Men and shared some similarities: group of freaks led by a wheelchair bound genius.  Of course, there were many differences. The X-Men had a common origin (mutations) while each member of the DP had a different bizarre origin.  Over the decades the series has seen dramatic changes in it's line up and creative direction with varying levels of critical and commercial success, the greatest being Grant Morrison's thoroughly bizarre and excellent run during the eighties.

The team is full of angst ridden men, women and other beings that are outcasts and are at home only within the team itself.  Yet even there oft times the team members seldom get along.

Not only is there a large line up to choose from, from the different eras, but The Doom Patrol provides players with an opportunity to play original characters as well.

The Avengers

Earth's Mightiest Heroes have their own motion picture now and it is obvious from the trailers that these guys do not always get along.  This is very true as in the comics quite often there are conflicts within the ranks regarding romance, social issues and the simple fact some of these people are hard to get along with.  Numerous Avengers have their own personal issues, from Iron Man's alcoholism to The Hulk's tendency to go berserk, to The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's mutant origins, the Vision's existence as an inhuman android, etc.

And there is nothing preventing a GM/moderator from allowing original characters into the ranks of the Avengers, either.

The Outsiders

Back during the eighties writer Mike W. Barr and artist Jim Aparo came up with a bold comic where Batman quit the Justice League and formed his own group of super misfits. Batman and The Oustiders was a team that had adventures and missions The Justice League normally would not be involved in.  It is a team concept that has, like Doom Patrol, seen different incarnations and levels of success.

GMs can have Batman as a leader giving the team assignments, or the team could be one of those incarnations not involving The Dark Knight at all.  And, again, there is plenty of room for original characters.

Suicide Squad

Imagine you are a super villain doing a prison stretch, and a large black woman named Amanda Waller has offered you a chance to shave some time off your sentence.  The catch?  To earn it you have to go on a top secret mission that will likely get you killed.  Welcome to the Suicide Squad.

I can't say enough how awesome John Ostrander's original run on this series was.  Full of dysfunctional characters, Suicide Squad had as many failures as they did successes, which made perfect sense when you send a bunch of amoral bastards led by an emotionally scarred Colonel Rick Flagg into the field.  This series is unique in that not only could you play original characters as well as canons, but some players might have fun running different canon characters on different missions, especially if they have no problem seeing their canons die horribly in the field. This series had a pretty high body count.

Oh, and the current DC series?  Crap.  Amanda Waller did not need to be made skinny.  Part of what made her unique was the fact she did not look like a Playboy model like 99% of all the women in comics today.  Waller was awesomely unique, damn it!

Pam Grier as Waller. Smallville got something right.

Secret Six

Secret Six  was a comic that shares some similarities with Suicide Squad in that the principle characters are villains.  Every bit as dysfunctional as the 'Squad, the each member of the Secret Six carry their own dark past and barely co-exist with their fellow criminals.  What is nice about the series is how you have people who in some cases are insane or irredeemably evil, but you also have others who are looking for some sort of redemption or even a place to belong.

And again, with the team's rotating line up there is room for original characters.

The Defenders

Marvel's "non team", The Defenders consists of heroes that normally do not work well with others for one reason or another.  Many members are Marvel's B and C listers and outcasts as well as strange characters who just do not seem to fit anywhere else.

Judging from some of the past members The Defenders is an ideal group for players to run original characters.  Yes, I am going to bring that up often.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents

The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is about a team of heroes working for the United Nations, they are equipped with equipment that is inherently flawed.  Two of the items will ultimately kill the wearers.

Now darn it, is there anything more angst-producing than that?

The Liberty Project

The Liberty Project was a comic about a collection of super villains given a choice by the Federal government to acts as super heroes in exchange for an early parole. One of Kurt Busiek's earliest works, it was published during what I consider comic's "golden age" when 1st Comics, Eclipse, Comico, and Dark Horse Comics, among others, were all in existence, providing outlets for projects The Big Two would not have considered, or a place where writers and artists could own their creations.

No doubt there are several teams I have missed, but I think these examples as well as the ones I proposed last week reveal how many different options there are to the slew of dull and repetitive X-Men games players are exposed to on a regular basis.  If you are a GM/moderator, please look at these options and if you are thinking about running an X-Men game, please think again, reconsider.

Next week I will be directing my attention on another property, one that is almost as popular as the X-Men franchise.  Next week, it is the Potterverse's turn...

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