Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
Home Of Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Superheroes, Swords, Sorcery, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness
Saturday, 31 July 2010
But I've still managed to cut down the number of hours a day I spend on here and am getting on with my various other projects.
The Tuesday Knights haven't been able to meet much this summer for various personal reasons, but that has given myself, Steve and Pete some time to mull over the welcomed rerelease of Villains & Vigilantes by Monkey House Games - hopefully with the aim of actually (at some time) getting a new campaign up-and-running.
Of course, first, we need to wrap up Pete's Top Secret SI campaign - which has at least a couple more assignments to run.
However, what has been a pleasant surprise, here at HeroPress HQ, is the number of new sign-ups for the superteam in the last few weeks.
Without further ado, I welcome:
* Pun of Halls of the Nephilim (a great gaming blog)
* Madeleine of The Number 42 (a sci-fi/fantasy writer's quest for the answers to life, the universe and everything...)
* Matt of The Land Of Nod (an amazing old school gaming blog)
Monkey House co-founder Jack Herman explains on the company forums: "It means other publishers can submit ideas to us and if approved they can release their own material for the Villains and Vigilantes 2.1 game system!
"V&V players have been waiting a long time to see new material for the game in print. Here at Monkey House, Jeff [Dee] and I are making with the words and drawings like crazy and we’ll have an announcement about that pretty soon.
"But in the meantime, we wanted to make our system available for use by other publishers, so they could put out even more material for Villains and Vigilantes players.
"Check it out under the 'licensing tab' if you want the specifics.
"Jeff and I are committed to not only relaunching Villains and Vigilantes but also to ushering in a full blown V&V renaissance; a Villains and Vigilantes millennium!"
Friday, 30 July 2010
"After two years of hard work, Hydra Miniatures is pleased to announce the completion of the War Rocket rulebook, just in time for Gen Con Indy. This last month was a flurry of activity, as the Hydra team put the finishing touches on editing, illustrating and designing this stunning book. We are very proud of our final product, and we are exited to share the action-packed cover by talented Spanish illustrator Diego Gisbert Llorens. This high-quality rulebook is 78 pages in length and will retail for $25."You can buy the War Rocket rules, latest rocket miniatures and possibly a few other surprises from Hydra Miniatures at booth 1424. This marks the first convention that the Hydra design team has attended since the company’s creation in 2007.
"In addition, War Rocket creator John Douma will be running five sold-out War Rocket gaming sessions in the Miniatures’ Hall. Be sure to stop by see one of the games in action.
"We’re eagerly anticipating the official War Rocket launch at Gen Con. We expect to have War Rocket rulebook and the latest rocket models uploaded to our online store shortly after our return from Gen Con.
"If you’re a Hydra fan and plan to be at Gen Con, stop by and say hi. We’d love to meet you in person."
Thursday, 29 July 2010
This new arrival on Batman's home turf is seeking to bring order to the city by taking control of the drug trade, much to Batman's chagrin. He also turns out to be incredibly well-trained and pretty much a match for the Caped Crusader... but what's The Red Hood's ultimate game plan?
Given that his identity is now common knowledge among readers of the Bat titles, little effort is made to conceal its "mystery" in this latest animation from the DC Universe, instead concentrating on the battle of wits between Batman and his former protegee (Supernatural's Jensen Ackles).
Bruce Greenwood delivers an excellent growl as the voice of Batman, but some of the supporting actors are rather a let down. John DiMaggio's Joker is particularly bland, presenting one of DC's major league villains as just another cookie-cutter psychopath, totally lacking the character's trademark panache. But is the actor to blame or the source material?
The legend that is Neil Patrick Harris is similarly unremarkable as Nightwing aka Dick Grayson, the original Robin, and the storyline itself is almost instantly forgettable. Having never read the original Judd Winick comics this was based on, I don't know if the fault lies there or with Winick's movie script.
This is a shame because the animation is up to the usual high standards of this studio and Under The Red Hood features a number of stunning chase sequences which stand out as the best moments of the 75-minute movie.
As with the far superior Crisis On Two Earths, the Under The Red Hood DVD includes a supporting animation, spotlighting a 'lesser-known' character; this time it's a 12-minute Jonah Hex Western tale penned by Joe Lansdale and with Thomas Jane voicing Hex.
A nice, compact, low-key, little yarn, this is an object lesson in how to bring the scar-faced bounty hunter to life and just helps to emphasise what a misstep the live-action cinematic version was with its attempts to 'jazz up' the character with superpowers and horse-mounted gatling guns.
When Strikes The Warlord: The original pulp fiction writers - Lester Dent et al - wrote breathless tales of mystery men adventures for quick consumption and instant gratification, Van Allen Plexico has updated that format for the 21st Century with his Sentinels series of pulp novels.
When Strikes The Warlord is the first, of seven book so far, of the series and introduces us to the main protagonists for the initial three-book story arc.
College student Lyn Li discovers she has special powers and is promptly recruited by a small band of superheroes and drawn into an inter-dimensional conflict with the would-be multiverse conqueror Warlord.
There is no overarching backstory about how superhumans came into being, they just are and the story hits the ground running and never really lets up - with a succession of zippy superhero-on-supervillain fight sequences which move the plot along effortlessly.
When Strikes The Warlord has a strong, mainstream comic book vibe about it and every so often Van will sneak in a piece of prose which will make you think: "Wow, that's exactly the right way to describe that!" A faster reader than me could probably whip through this book in about a day - as befits a piece of punchy pulp fiction.
The Runaways: I discovered the music of The Runaways in the early '80s I guess, but I never knew until I saw this film just how young they were at the height of their success. Floria Sigismondi's adaptation of former lead singer Cherie Currie's autobiography is a bitty, Picaresque journey through the life of the troubled band that forces you - like one long montage sequence - to piece together the finer points of the narrative by reading between the scenes.
The Runaways certainly gives an impression of what the band were like, but never really probes too deeply beneath the surface.
The story focuses around the relationship between Cherie (Dakota Fanning) and guitarist Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart). Both young actresses are incredible, fully occupying their characters, but for those of us who only know Kristen Stewart from Twilight, she's a revelation here - proving that she has far more strings to her bow than simply Bella.
As the first major all-girl rock band, The Runaways had a lot of issues to contend with - not least their sleazy manager Kim Fowley (a skincrawlingly unnerving performance from Michael Shannon) - as well as clashing egos within the group and problems with substance abuse, but much of this is skated over for the sake of keeping the narrative going.
There are certainly parallels with the current media 'darling' Lindsay Lohan - a teen star lacking strong, positive parental guidance being offered everything (both good and bad) on a plate and inevitably giving into the worst excesses of humanity - but while The Runaways opens up these topics, it's left to the viewer to fill in the rest, depending on their own prejudices and passions.
Playing for approximately 107 minutes, The Runaways is a good start, but there is so much more that could be said about this revolutionary band.
Excelsior! The Amazing Life Of Stan Lee: If you're reading HeroPress then the chances are you know who Smilin' Stan Lee is and are also aware of his particular writing style.
This semi-autobiography (Stan shares writing credit with George Mair, and they take it in turns to trade anecdotes) is dominated by the voice of the man who made Marvel comics and helped create some of the world's most iconic superheroes (Captain America, Spider-Man, The X-Men, the Hulk, Thor etc).
His chatty style of writing certainly gives an insight into his optimistic - even naive - personality, but can, on occasion, wander off-topic (for instance, there's half-a-chapter devoted to basically listing his friends - most unconnected with the world of comics - and their 'lovely' wives, none of whom have any baring on his tale).
Obviously, this was always going to be just one man's version of events, but it still makes for fascinating, eye-opening and engaging reading. Learning the thought processes that went into creating characters that are as popular today as they were in the '60s, as well as Stan's hopes and dreams to turn Marvel into "the next Disney" (this was written before the Disney buy-out), his ideas on interacting with the fans and promoting his comics - all of which were trailblazers in their day.
Excelsior! is a very self-deprecating book, as Stan is always sending himself up and pointing out his missed opportunities, but you can't help but wonder how much of this is an act - the man must have an incredible business brain given where he has gotten today, as well as a fascinating imagination.
The book stands as a fine introduction to "what goes on behind the scenes" in the world of comic book creation, as well as a revelation - if somewhat rose-tinted - about the rise of a man once described as the modern-day successor to Homer (the Greek dude, not the cartoon character!)
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
The latest music video from geek goddess Felicia Day and The Guild could become the unofficial theme tune of The Tuesday Knights (even though we're tabletop gamer geeks and not online nerds)!
Hot babes, samurai, katanas, dragons, alien planets, airships, machine guns, wuxia-inspired combat... if Zack 'Watchmen' Snyder's Sucker Punch is even half as good as I think this trailer makes it out to be it could be in the running to be my all-time favourite film (for the curious that title currently belongs to Fight Club, with the aforementioned Watchmen running a close second).
Thanks, as is often the case, to Quiet Earth for the heads-up.
Monday, 26 July 2010
No Ordinary Family - a great cast, what could go wrong? Looking forward to seeing this (and The Cape) eventually on British TV.
Let's hope Heroes hasn't killed television programme maker's enthusiasm for comic book and superhero-themed shows.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
The cover of the comic is signed by author Jonathan Ross and artist Tommy Lee Edwards, and I'm offering free postage to North America as well as my usual free postage in the UK, in an effort to drum up as big a sum as possible for this brilliant charity.
Help For Heroes offers support to our injured servicemen and women of the Armed Forces and I can't think of a more appropriate, or worthy, cause for a blog called HeroPress to support.
This year Help for Heroes is aiming to raise £20 million for a network of seven recovery centres where those injured can start new lives retraining for new jobs in the forces or civilian life.
The auction runs until next Sunday evening and I'd ask you to bid high and bid often!
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Friday, 23 July 2010
The nine-page guidelines are very comprehensive, but contain a lot of useful information; even if you're not thinking of writing an adventure for submission, this booklet basically contains Jack Herman's suggested approach to writing superhero game adventures, which I would think every gamesmaster should at least read once.
Villains & Vigilantes co-creator Jeff Dee has said he is working on submission guidelines for artists which will be posted up on the site in due course.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
It is, of course, also my one chance-a-year to drive around all day on a mobility scooter (I certainly wouldn't last a fraction of the time without it - there's a lot of ground to cover!).
You can see me, pictured right, in my full War & Peace get-up, sporting the cap and Hawaiian shirt I picked up a couple of years ago.
The Hop Farm seems to have had a makeover since we were last there and the show itself was better set out than in previous years; it was also noticeably busier than it has been for a while as well.
As usual we began with the sprawling, army surplus, rummage sale, touring the usual collection of random pieces of scrap metal up to fine quality Japanese katanas.
There were even a couple of stands selling police uniforms and riot gear, which somehow seemed wrong, but the main emphasis - as always - was on Second World War equipment and memorabilia.
I'd been after a flying hat, but the few I saw far exceeded my budget and so I actually only spent a fiver the whole day - on a replica Luftwaffe 'soldier book' (a notebook for recording a pilot's details, where he was stationed etc).
Unusual highlights for us this year included a replica Spitfire - powered by a genuine old Merlin engine - that people could pay to sit in and fire up the engine for a couple of minutes. It was quite costly, so we didn't indulge, but also noisily spectacular; my short movie clip below doesn't really do the volume justice. Rachel compared it to a Formula One engine.
Another stand-out was the performance by The Jive Aces - see the small clip below. Rachel and I were enraptured not only by the music, but by the brilliant impromptu dancing by the audience, many in authentic 1940s costume. Rachel has subsequently ordered their CD via their website.
'Living History' is a large part of the show as well and while we only scratched the surface, it was quite reassuring to see less emphasis on the Nazis - although they were still present - and more on the Allies and other modern periods of warfare. I was rather taken with the Vietnam set-ups and the 7th Air Cav display (no Ride Of The Valkyries blaring out of speakers or actual helicopter gunships though!).
The 'Nam display even had some hippie anti-war protester re-enactors which I thought was a nice touch.
At one point it rained quite heavily; luckily for us we were already in the 'modeling tent' - but that suddenly became very popular and crowded when the heavens opened. Besides the expected great models, there is usually at least wargame display in the tent and this year was no different - with a particularly appealing 1/32nd scale WWII skirmish game taking place.
I didn't take many pictures this year, but I think I took some good ones - please check them out over here on a public Facebook page.
First off the block was Citizen Report, by David Woodrum (who was responsible for the excellent freebie 'location/mini-adventures' that have been on the FGU site for a while), which is described as: "A tool box for gamemasters. Sections on corporations, organizations, six complete themed street gangs, gang weapons, useful citizens for any campaign, bystanders, police and security personnel, and vehicles. All are options and some will fit any GM's tastes."
Appearing very much in the style of David's "mini-adventures", Citizen Report seems to be a grab bag of goodies - focusing on the non-powered side of a superheroic environment.
FGU's second new offering, which popped up this week, was a low-level adventure entitled Enter The Gene Pool, by James Satter (his debut as an adventure writer).
The pitch for the adventure, aimed at first and second level characters, is: "a super-scientist, a formula to induce mutations and super powers, a villain team using kidnapping to obtain resources for experiments and build 'street-cred' add up to a challenge for the heroes - can they stop The Gene Pool?"
From an interesting and well thought-out set-up, this adventure certainly has potential.
While the Monkey House products have a very modern, slick layout to them, FGU's have retained the distinctive '80s look of the original Villains & Vigilantes modules we grew up with.
At the moment Citizen Report and Enter The Gene Pool are only available in PDF form through FGU's archaic website .
Each is priced at a reasonable $4, but invariably this comes to less than the site's minimum order threshold of $10 and necessitates purchasing duplicates of one or the other. The site says you will only be charged once and there are people on the V&V mailing list who swear that, as strange as this system is, it does work and you won't get charged more than once per PDF. I'll have to wait and see my next credit card bill to confirm that this is the case.
The editorial introduction to Enter The Gene Pool, penned by publisher Scott B Bizar, rather intriguingly says: "Enter the Gene Pool is the first of the new series of V&V adventures from FGU.
"It is initially offered as a PDF and will be combined with others to form an adventure book in a thicker format than the original V&V adventure books.
"The new format is called 'a GIANT' and will include at least three of the traditional books bound together in a longer perfect-bound book format. GIANT No. 1 will include Enter the Gene Pool and the recently released Citizen Report, plus at least one other adventure book."
I don't know what's going on between Monkey House and FGU - as both sides are being very professional and quite rightly keeping their dealings out of the public eye - but it's definitely a great time to be a fan of Villains & Vigilantes again.
UPDATE (July 23, 9.30am): Both Citizen Report and Enter The Gene Pool are now available from DriveThruRPG.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Having agreed on his statistics (which also involved a slight tweak to the stats for the rest of the team which will need to be factored in when I eventually produce some finalised character sheets), Pete then rolled on Tim Hartin's wondrous
This immediately gave Pete's a character a magical bent and he eventually rolled up, and settled on, the following magical/psionic powers: Psionics & Willpower as innate magical abilities and size change and astral projection as magical items (or a single item).
He would also need to take a weakness (Reduced Charisma) if he kept all those powers and for a while 'astral projection' was in the balance. At the moment, I think he is considering keeping the astral projection and taking the hit on Charisma, but we'll have to wait and see.
There was another power rolled, an item I think (was it 'telepathy'?) that Pete didn't feel fitted with his initial idea.
The size change was permanent, so I've allowed Pete some flexibility on this. Initially he was quite set on having a giant, especially when we found - via the Interweb - a strong tradition amongst Native Americans in the belief that a race of giants lived on the Earth before man (please forgive me if I've garbled this myth).
Both the 'psionics' and 'willpower' abilities are quite open for creativity and as Pete doesn't like to rush into things he has taken his nascent character away for further thought, consideration and research.
Although our campaign will be set in the United States, the 'Archaeological Origin' opens up the entire world as a possible site for his origin story to unfold and his powers to take shape.
Our primary sources of research at the table - outside of the Internet on my iPod Touch - were my old editions of The Monster Manual and Deities & Demigods for Dungeons And Dragons.
Possibilities that were also considered - outside of the traditional giants (hill, storm, stone, cloud etc) from the Monster Manual - included a character themed around the 'ogre mage', while Deities & Demigods gave us lots of mythological grist for the mill, but nothing that really sparked Pete's enthusiasm.
However, as he departed, Pete's final thoughts on the character seemed to be leaning towards a permanently small character rather than a giant, so I'm looking forward to hearing what he finally settles on... and how this all ties together with his origin story and magical devices.
Whatever he decides, I can already see several very obvious plot threads that this character will be able to bring to the campaign - especially if he retains the mythological background.
So far then, we've got half a character for Pete and characters for Steve (Redstorm), Rachel (Rockette) and myself (The Whisper). This will certainly speed things up when it eventually becomes time for the rest of the Tuesday Knights to create characters, as well as giving them an idea of what our version of The Avengers/Justice League is shaping up like.
And yes, we will need a name for the group at some stage...
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
And to finish a wonderful zombie-fueled music video for Internet Killed The Video Star by The Limousines - which is not connected with The Walking Dead in any way...
Both titles are available now from Lulu.
Intercrime: Hostile Takeover is the introductory adventure for Villains & Vigilantes 2.1, where players encounter the criminal organization from the classic V&V Universe.
It is written and illustrated by Jeff Dee and adapted for Villains & Vigilantes 2.1 by Jack Herman.
Jack said: “The last new published V&V adventure that you could actually hold in your hands was all the way back in 1987. V&V players have been waiting a long time for this. Now the drought is over, thanks to Monkey House Games!”
Jeff added: “Ever since Jack and I resumed control of our property, this is what we’ve promised players - getting new Villains and Vigilantes material in print through Monkey House Games. And we’ve done it! But we’re just getting started. Keep watching our website. Our next product announcements are coming soon…”
Villains & Vigilantes 2.1 has been on RPGNow’s Hottest Items List from the day it was released, where it has held the number one position for three weeks, and Intercrime: Hostile Takeover continues to place in the top ten.
Visit the Monkey House Games Store at Lulu to purchase book editions of V&V 2.1 material: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/monkeyhousegames or visit the Monkey House Games Store at RPGnow to purchase downloadable V&V 2.1 material: http://www.rpgnow.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=3246
Monday, 19 July 2010
Tiny, Princess, Keyop, Mark and Jason get a 21st Century make-over in this teaser trailer for a new Gatchaman anime movie supposedly coming out next year.
Battle Of The Planets (aka Gatchaman) was a massive part of my childhood - before I knew anything about anime etc or even understood that this was an American re-edited version of a Japanese cartoon.
The studio working on the movie has this to say, on its website: "Imagi Studios' Gatchaman will be a cool superhero movie, set against the backdrop of an alien threat of world domination and the epic battle this ignites. To be brought to the big screen in spectacular stereoscopic 3D, this CG-animated motion picture will deliver a feast for the eyes in exceptional weaponry, distinctive strike vehicles and light-speed action sequences, all played against a dazzling futuristic visualization.
"Featuring stealthy ninja-style shadow fighting to grand-scale clashes, this fast-paced sci-fi action-thriller focuses on a lone-wolf maverick youth who, together with a team of teenage superheroes, finds his destiny in defending Earth against the dark forces of Galactor.
"Gatchaman is based on the hit 1970s Japanese television series from Tatsunoko Production, known in the West as G-Force or Battle of the Planets. It is presently in pre- production."
However, Imagi Studios appears to have had a lot of financial issues in the last year or so and there is a great deal of online confusion as to whether they are still in operation and still proceeding with this movie.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed - but not holding my breath!
Sunday, 18 July 2010
However, the first full issue of this storyline - 701 - far exceeded my expectations: in the wrong direction.
It's a long time - if ever - since I have been simultaneously so angry and bored with a comic, especially one that I usually enjoy so much.
As of the end of 700, Superman has decided to "walk across America" for some spurious 'finding himself' reason or something.
In earlier, simpler times - the Golden/Silver/Bronze ages of comics - this daft story would have been wrapped up in a single issue, Supes would have met some kid or a hobo, learned an important lesson or whatever and we could have gone back the next issue to fighting Braniac, Lex Luthor, Doomsday or whoever.
Now - in this age of padding - this painfully paper thin (and basically pointless) story is being dragged out over a year's worth of issues!
I just can't see what DC is hoping to get out of this.
For one thing, Superman is an iconic character. In fact, he is probably the most famous superhero in the world and almost certainly a "gateway drug" for getting little kids into reading comics.
I know pundits have recently been mocking titles like The Rise Of Arsenal as "the worst comic ever written", but, let's be honest, no one who doesn't already read comics is going to be picking up The Rise Of Arsenal anyway, but Superman 701 could have been some small child's first ever comic book... and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn he'd read through it and gone "what the f---", thrown it away and never read a comic again.
Highlights of this issue include Superman helping someone fix his car and tidying up a storeroom in a diner.
He also spends six pages listening to a suicidal woman bitch and moan about how sucky her life is and why she wants to jump off a tower block (to be honest, I kinda glazed over here and was flicking ahead to see if anything interesting was going to happen. SPOILER ALERT: it doesn't!).
However, a few pages earlier, Supes had been setting light to the secret stashes of some stereotypical local drug dealers - without any consideration to the potential fire hazard he was causing. How come he didn't stop and talk to them for five or six pages and ask them 'why they got into drug dealing?' and then try to deal with the issues of social inequality that breed these situations?
And anyway, isn't dealing with local drug dealers and getting cats out of trees (he doesn't actually do that in this issue, but I'm predicting a big 'cat up tree' development further down the road) a bit below Superman's pay grade?
There are plenty of street level heroes with a social conscience in the DC Universe (from Batman to the Green Arrow) to deal with this kind of story. If DC wants to make Superman seem more 'real' and relevant then (as amusingly illustrated in the Superdouche video) why doesn't he track down Osama Bin Laden, cap the BP oil spill, solve global warming, bring an end to the war in Afghanistan, halt the genocide in Darfur, tackle the drug trade at its roots etc?
But that's not what Superman does!
The woman who slapped him across the face in issue 700 and got on his case because he didn't save her husband from some terminal disease or some gibberish, clearly had never read an issue of a Superman comic... when has he ever done what she was going on about?
Superman fights giant mind-controlling starfish from outer space, robots with Kryptonite hearts, trans-dimensional imps and other wonderfully OTT villains that only he can.
That's why he's Superman... not this is arrogant dick that JMS has turned him into, spouting Thoreau at some poor bloke who quite rightly asked why the Man of Steel was going for a walk instead of saving the world.
If DC wants a Superman who is more in touch with humanity then that's what his long-suffering wife and his friends at the Daily Planet are for. That's what his whole Clark Kent persona is for.
The best part of issue 700 was Clark's reunion with Lois, that was all we needed to show the character had a human side and understood human emotions and personal interaction.
Superman/Clark has been away from Lois - his touchstone to humanity - for a year while he was away on New Krypton, but instead of trying to save his marriage and his career (as a normal 'human' would) he opts for walking the Earth like Kwai Chang Caine.
While I don't want to rant on for too long about this comic, let's also take a moment to consider its treatment of journalists.
Given that Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent, is supposedly a great journalist and he's married to the DC Universe's most famous journalist, Lois Lane, his belief that the mob of reporters following him on his journey "will soon lose interest" is incredibly naive.
And his bumbling efforts to get Lois to tell Perry White that Clark is covering the walk (even though he wasn't assigned that job by his editor) is pathetic and simply shows JMS' lack of care for the Clark Kent side of Superman.
This is Superman - the big celebrity on the planet - walking across America; he would be mobbed by press and hounded by camera crews every inch of the way. Every person he spoke to would be interviewed by countless hacks; every diner he stopped at, every shop he looked in the window of, ever town he passed through would be analysed to death.
Then there would be the newspaper stories about the town's he missed out - why was he snubbing these?
There would be the endless debate - on TV, online and in print - about his whole raison d'etre.
To say journalists are going to lose interest is ridiculous and to have journalists in the story actually saying: "You can't make a story about a guy walking down the street" not only kind of misses the point that the 'guy' is Superman but also, rather worryingly for the verisimilitude of such a public story show's a total lack of understanding of the modern media by JMS.
And someone would eventually notice that Clark was never there - and yet was somehow filing stories!
I going to give this storyline another issue, but if it's more of the same I'll be dropping this title without a second thought and waiting for either the return of 'proper' Superman stories or DC to realise they've made a BIG mistake and bring this experiment to an abrupt halt.