Friday, August 27, 2010


I, like many Gen-Xers and subsequent generations, grew up on Scooby-Doo. When I was a kid, I would watch it all the time. As I grew up, my love for the show turned into the kind of ironic love that hipsters had for it- you'd watch it because as an adult, you realize it was kinda stupid.

I especially loved episodes with guest stars- Don Knotts, Sandy Duncan, and Jonathan Winters are all favorites.

I bring this up because this summer, Cartoon Network (or CN, feh!) debuted Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. It's GENIUS. It's got the same kind of attitude that the first live action movie had. More to the point, it has much stronger writing than any previous incarnation (except for the movie). There's continuity between episodes (including an overarcing metaplot), call backs to previous Scooby series, and romantic subplots. Daphne's trying to woo Fred, not to mention the Velma-Shaggy-Scooby love triangle. There are also some celebrity voices, including Gary Cole, Patrick Warburton, and Lewis Black.

Sadly, Scooby-Dum has yet to make an appearance.

Not only is this show great, but apparently they'll continue the old Scooby tradition of guest stars and crossovers. Allegedly, WB animation is in the works to have Mystery Inc team up with this guy...


That's right. In an instance of corporate synergy done right, the new Scooby cartoon will have a crossover with Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This is brilliant; I mentioned I loved the guest appearances, but THE best were the ones with Batman and Robin. Said cartoons brought us the greatest sentence ever uttered by the Dark Knight until Frank Miller's "I'm the Goddamn Batman" line. To wit-

"Look at that adorable chipmunk, Robin!"

Upon hearing this news, I was filled with nerdish glee. Here is my reaction, captured for posterity...

New episodes air Mondays at 7pm on Cartoon Network; several of the episodes are On Demand, if you have that and aren't living in a cave.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"To Read Makes Our Speaking English Good"

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love it's spin-off series Angel. In fact, I'm favorably disposed towards anything Joss Whedon does (though I skipped Dollhouse).

BtVS still counts as one of my favorite franchises. I've got quite a few of the DVDs, I've bought several of the tie-in novels (I especially recommend the Tales of the Slayers series) and a few of the comics (though I dropped Season 8 fairly quickly in).

I've also purchase Eden Studios Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. Originally released in 2002 (if memory serves), this game and it's various sourcebooks (and it's sister game, the Angel RPG) really capture the flavor of the show and setting.

The system uses a modified version of Eden's Unisystem, referred to as the Cinematic Unisystem. The game offers a lot of options; using the original corebook (which covers up to Season 5; the Revised Corebook, which you see a link for, covers up to the end of the series), you can make Slayers, vampires, robots, witches, and more. It also allows for Xanders and Dawns to stand alongside superpowered Buffys and Spikes and hold their own.

Actual gameplay is incredibly stream-lined; most things are resolved with a D10 roll added to the score of attributes or skills. And that's for the players- GM's have things even more simplified as the NPCs have pre-rolled stats; a flat number (I want to say six) is added to the existing scores so the GM can prep ahead of time.

The sourcebooks add quite a bit too. The Slayer's Handbook is a grab bag of options (making the title a misnomer, as there's not a lot of specific Slayer info); Monster Smackdown adds a whole lot of NPCs with a few options for monstrous characters; The Magic Box expands the rules for magic and adds a few other paranormal options; and there's a few other features in Eden Studios Presents, a magazine for all Unisystem lines.

The Angel RPG is similar, though it has a bit of a different focus. There are more supernatural options, plus vehicle rules (as they're always driving in Angel), and rules for groups and factions.

Sadly, Eden lost the license before they could finish the line. Fortunately, I was a play-tester, so I got to read the early drafts for these books. Unfortunately (for you) I am still bound by the non-disclosure agreement, something I take very seriously, so I can't divulge how awesome these would've been, though my crack legal staff tells me I can say "very awesome".

Neither of these came out, unlike Ryan Seacrest.

Along with Welcome to Sunnydale (which was a guide to Chattanooga, I believe), and the Investigator's Casebook (which was going to deal with police, crime, and low-key supernatural occurences, like that episode of Angel that had drug-dealing demons), there was going to be an Initiative sourcebook (some fans HATE the Initiative, but soldiers going full auto on vampires always tickled my fancy), a Watcher sourcebook, a monster book for Angel (which would've had even MORE crazy options for supernatural PCs), and a Wolfram & Hart sourcebook, which never even got to the writing stage.

It's a shame the license ran out, by the games hold up pretty well, and allow you to create your own stories, as their are stats for both the actual cast and original characters. You could even rewrite a season that your felt wasn't as good as they others, though none come to mind. *COUGH*Season 6*COUGH*.

The BtVS is simple, fast, imaginative, and fun, and I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gotta love the internet....

Apparently, there was a brief dust-up today about an Authority movie. Fans immediately started conjecturing and complaining and hoping.

Well, it turns out, at present, that there isn't an Authority movie.

On the one hand, an Authority movie, done properly, would be really cool. On the other hand, Watchmen was done properly, at least in my opinion, and people still bitched. An Authority movie would be much, much more problematice than Watchmen.

For starters, the first story arc starts of in media res. Hollywood LOVES rehashing origins for comic book characters, which is hard to do with the Authority.

Then, you have Apollo and the Midnighter. As two of the most prominent and popular characters, they would be a natural focus for marketing and merchandising. Unfortunately, they're gay. Now, America has come a long way, but I don't believe we've come far enough that Hollywood is willing to have gay characters as action heroes in a big budget blockbuster.

And then, of course, there's the villains. Evil superpowerd Asians, dimensional-traversing alien rapists, and God... Yeah, I'm guessing they'd drop all that for a more traditional, bland villain.

Honestly, I think it's for the best that there won't be a movie anytime soon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Death-Defying 'Devil TPB- A review!

Another 4-issue miniseries, Death-Defying 'Devil, much like the Black Terror arc, helps to bridge the gap between Chapters 1 & 2 of Project Superpowers. The star for this story is the Golden Age Daredevil, who might have the best "look" of any of the characters of PSP.

In Chapter 1, the 'Devil, rendered mute by his time in the Urn, reappears in Paris. There, he befriends a French counter-terrorism agent, Justine Boulet. Together, the two begin to investigate the Claw, an international terrorist organization that just so happens to share the name of one of the 'Devil's greatest villains.

The DDD mini-series continues their quest. Joined by Silver Streak and the Ghost, two heroes with their own history with the Claw, the heroes attempt to foil a plot to destroy Hong Kong. Complicating matters is the appearance of the Deadly Dreaded Dragon, a mysterious figure claiming that the 'Devil is a fraud!

The art is WONDERFUL. Edgar Salazar does a phenomenal job with this title, so much so that I'm tempted to say he's the best artist associated with Project Superpowers thus far.

As for the story, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's action packed, and sets up a good deal of mystery later down the line. On the other hand, the story falls into the same trap that most of the Meet the Bad Guys miniseries did; the story has two antagonists, and neither are dealt with in a decisive fashion. The whole thing just screams "Stay Tuned!".

While I really, really like this, it's not nearly as stand-alone as Black Terror or Masquerade. If you're already reading P:SP, it's a great book; if not, then don't start here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Masquerade TPB- A review!

This book collects the 4-issue Masquerade mini-series. This book is a bit different than some of the other Project Superpowers offerings for a few reasons.

First, it's set almost entirely in the past. The story follows Miss Masque's adventures in the late '40s and early '50s. Specifically, it revolves around the one case she was never able to solve. That leads into the other differentiating aspect- it's a very personal story with personal stakes. It doesn't engage the ongoing metaplot of the Project Superpowers. That perhaps makes this the best place for readers new to the PSP setting to jump into the action.

Carlos Paul, the artist for Chapter One, returns for this story, and I must say there's a marked improvement. Not that he was bad before, but there's a good deal more consistency in the art. This is possibly due to the smaller scale of the story; Paul doesn't have to worry about large battle scales and can focus on the details.

The main attraction, though, is the star, Miss Masque. This is a very character driven piece, and Phil Hester and Alex Ross deftly showcase the strengths of her character. As a character who is both (initially) non-powered and female, the story showcases the condescension she's often subjected to by her peers and how she overcomes it.

Masquerade is a story that combines emotion and action in healthy amounts, making this a fine offering from Dynamite Entertainment.

Black Terror Volume 1 TPB- A review!

Black Terror, Volume 1 collects the first four issues of the first (and thus far only) ongoing series set within the Project Superpowers Universe. The Black Terror was a fairly popular Golden Age character and, as such, is a natural focus for the PSP brand.

The story picks up right where Chapter 1 left off. The forces of the U.S. government send their superhuman goons, the Crusaders, to apprehend the newly emergent Superpowers. During the scuffle, BT learns that there are heroes being held underneath Washington, D.C.; believing his sidekick Tim the Kid Terror is among those being held, the Terror heads straight to the White House to hold the Commander-in-Chief, President West, accountable for what has transpired so far.

What follows is straight up super-action at it's finest. There are some brilliant gags to be found; for example, the Black Terror is super-strong and nigh-invulnerable, but he can't fly, but that doesn't stop him from becoming airborne, and how he does it is a work of genius.

This arc also introduces several more characters to the PSP universe. In addition to the captured heroes, we see the formation of the Super-Patriots, five Americana-themed heroes who, upon their release from the urn, pledge themselves to the Presidency, as well as the Inheritors, the PSP equivalent to the Teen Titans.

The art is by Mike Lilly, who turns in a superb job. The action scenes pop, and he's got a pretty good handle on facial expressions.

The story, by Ross and Kruegger, is similarly good. First off, it gives the reader more insight into who the Black Terror is. Making his "quest" about saving his sidekick adds a needed personal stake into the story.

Like PSP Chapter 1, this arc is rather political, but not quite as obviously. The Superpowers and the Super-Patriots both end up with members on their team that don't necessarily agree with the party line. The message here is that a dissenting voice is needed in any philosophy to foster healthy debate and policy. Likewise, the "bad guys" of the piece actually make compelling arguments for what they're doing. Sometimes, an argument about a topic isn't quite as simple as "right versus wrong".

Most importantly, the story starts and ends with the idea of checks and balances. Initially, the Superpowers promise to be an additional check on the established government, but end with the acknowledgment that for all their power they might need checks on themselves as well. This a powerful message that can (and SHOULD) carry over into our real world. Granted, we don't have superheroes in reality, but there are forces that exert a good deal of influence on many aspects of society. Perhaps if we had some more checks and balances on, and I'm just spitballing here, say mass media or big business, we might have avoided some of the problems facing America today.

While BT Volume 1 does serve as a bridge between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of Project Superpowers, it does serve as a complete and satisfying story in its own right.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Project Superpowers Chapter 1 Review!

As I mentioned previously, Chapter 1 of Project Superpowers is an 8-issue miniseries. Since you all saw the link I provided for issue #0, I'll skip that and talk about the rest of the series.

The story follows the Fighting Yank and the Green Lama as they attempt to rescue their fellow heroes from Pandora's Urn and strike back at the corrupting forces in modern society. It's fairly straight-forward, with action and intrigue galore.

Now, some folks have argued that one of the faults of PSP is that there are too many characters, and yes, there are quite a few. However, comics have done stories like that for YEARS (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Secret Wars, etc.). Really, there are only about 5 or 6 main characters who drive the story forward in Chapter One- the Yank, the Lama, Black Terror, Samson, the Scarab, and Dynamic Man.

While the remarkable Steven Sadowski did the art for #0 (and did a fine job), the rest is done by Carlos Paul. Paul is a relative newcomer, and it shows, as his art for this project is a bit inconsistent at times. Mostly, it's very good, but at certain points (especially large battle scenes), he starts skimping on the detail.

The story, written by Ross and frequent collaborator Jim Kruegger, was written in the waning days of the Bush administration, and it shows. One of the key plot points is that the U.S. is deployed in the "Middle East" waging a war about oil. Similarly, when the heroes reappear, they are labeled "terrorists" as they might upset the long-range policy goals set in place by the powers-that-be. Now, some folks may get upset about this, to which I say- Get over it. The "Evil Government Conspiracy" plot has been a staple for decades now, regardless of what party is in control; Ross and Kruegger just use modern analogs to make it more accessible for modern readers.

Another interesting aspect is how strongly the issue of faith comes into play. In most superhero comics, the issue of religion is usually glossed over (have often have you seen Superman go to church?). In PSP, however, it is an integral part of many of the characters backgrounds. The Green Lama is Buddhist, the Flame is Christian, and Samson is (presumably) Jewish. All three characters mention their religious beliefs as key elements for why they do what they do. It's something that's I find remarkable and quite refreshing.

Now, you'll notice their are two different trade paperback editions. The cheaper one is a softcover; the pricier one is hardcover, and includes a LOT of bonus material- the Fighting Yank's War Journals, character sketches by Ross, etc.

Overall, it's a good story, and one I recommend; the only problem is that the ending, while not a cliffhanger, does feel more like a "Stay Tuned For More" than an actual, decivise conclusion. Granted, Ross and company planned it as several insallments, but in this age of continuous crossovers, one yearns for a story that's complete unto itself.

Still, I like what they've done. They've taken old characters and made them seem fresh and exciting again. It's good stuff.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Project Superpowers Overview

I've talked about Alex Ross' Project Superpowers quite a bit, but I don't believe I've ever really discussed what it's all about.

For starters, those of you who haven't read any of it should start with Chapter 1, an 8-issue series numbered from #0-#7 (comics, everybody!). Now, I know how you folks like free stuff, and it just so happens that issue #0 is still online, right here! Read it, if you're so inclined, and then come back. I'll wait.

So, anyway, Alex Ross has gone and made a new superhero universe, using Golden Age characters that have lapsed into the public domain.

As those who read issue #0 are aware (and you should be; that's why I posted the link), the Fighting Yank trapped his fellow heroes in Pandora's Urn. Without any heroes around, the bad guys went wild, using political, economic, and social clout to slowly take the reins of society. Some sixty years later, the Yank realizes his mistake and releases his comrades, who now have to survive in this new world.

Since Pandora's Urn is magic, that gives Ross and his collaborators a little bit of leeway. First, the heroes don't reappear all at once. They show up randomly at various points around the globe. Even though it's a very different approach, it reminds me of Season 1 of Heroes- who's going to show up, what can they do, etc.

Similarly, the Urn serves as a handy deus ex machina to change a character's powers. Partly, the creators do this because there were many, many Golden Age characters that didn't have powers at all, and partly this is because of copyright and trademark issues. Regardless, it makes for a nice, uniform hook to the cosmology of the setting.

One more thing: Project Superpowers gets VERY political at times. How this comes into the story I'll discuss in the various reviews.

Overall, Alex Ross and company have come up with a unique setting and have breathed new life into some classic characters.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Project Superpowers Translated, the Conclusion!

Crusader: Master Archie has dedicated his life to science and to explore the possibility ... when he went to my bank, I've never been on the river after the war. I do not believe that the "crusaders" unknown status, the first nuclear-powered hero Archie, but the lack of power is limited to the United States, initial activities.

Beetle: The new champion of the scene, it seems that the basis for the Middle East. These "exit" from the banks, anyway? If expectations and plans ...

Savoie: Then, the police and villages of Central America, Niketeli fight against crime, a new level of registered trademarks, and created a series of installations • machinery and vehicles. Obviously, the output of these instruments may not be necessary, and the cloud amount increased. Only time will tell ... Of course, when we eagle owl girl?

Member: Tony Trent stayed in the preparation of reports and mask to fight crime, support for terror, liars and thieves, very quiet. Now, back to the disk, you can suffer the fate of Tony, we can not hide it any, you belong, where Tony lived a normal life seems to be a part of them till the end ... live in fear.

Waterpower: Rob Blake is the owner of the land, in fact, when you think about it. To monitor and maintain life on this planet, Bob had to return to the era's most powerful new ally ...

Final: If three, agility and strength, 3 to stop it? Three different people in one place all the bodies, but did not leave a color splash ... how to change three throwers only one is true?

Force F: Some people think it is a myth, but life is really a beast, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who bravely for their country to take in the Second World War battle. Now, the same forces were taken as well as non-life and disease, can not send soldiers were killed, Zhan cover ah and non-current, rather than scientific solution to replace the war to end war.

NOT the F-Troop that's featured in Project: Superpowers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Project Superpowers Translated, Part 2!

Samson: We are all old and strong... I am the Nagasaki atomic bomb were killed in the Crossfire. However, in the Bible, it seems that his name Samson kill, even harder than men. Now, obviously, do not break the bank, but just to know. I know I will need more power than ever.

Samson killed steel samples*

Mask: I never knew Diana Adams, formerly known as the scourge of low background, active in the fashion world after the war, adventure and crime. It may even inspire you really call me a river, I do not know all the promises he is still a mystery and seems to have changed a lot...

Play to win Miss Congeniality will receive prizes and products, flowers and the fight against terrorism, the black struggle.*

Pyroman: Martin is still a friend ... After years of war, so I seized 49 tanks. I do not know how you feel, we are friends. He is in his possession until his death, and for producing electricity and heat, strong animals. As the energy and power, according to Bank of ... ah, it has to be seen.

Pyroman files and applications outbreak of the atomic bomb.*

Call: Jialipulei Preston Dalai Lama once again the spirit of green living people to discuss the humanitarian situation. Tibet was occupied by Harry's your body, and the power outage, and uses the same flame. Now he is looking at Linda, his former assistant, who is a symbol of flames of fire. I hope that the tragic outcome of the investigation, is not happy ...

Some people try to save the builder call.*

Police Company: I do not believe it, even when followed for a long time, but, after long efforts against fascism, Jack, service, open arms, light metals dynamic database and police-way streets and residential areas to provide our company. "They serve and protect" - but actually this service?

Arrow: Sometimes, the old way better, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Ralph proves his bow technology is unparalleled, and can give the same speed and the Nazi machine guns, but very in-depth special mission in Berlin is easy. I remember my hands and fingers are ready to install... high degree of double.

Material forces boys shake hands in time to stop the killing?*

*Translation- Samson slays the Iron Monster
*Translation- Miss Masque wins a beauty pageant and is awarded a trophy and flowers by the Fighting Yank and the Black Terror.
*Translation- Pyroman bursts through a newspaper while carrying an atomic bomb.
*Translation- The Flame attempts to rescue some people at a construction site.
*Translation- Swinging the body of one of the ghouls, the Arrow went into action in time to halt the ticking death!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Project Superpowers... TRANSLATED!!! (Part One)

Hey, all. I was planning to do a whole bunch of Project Superpowers entries next week, so I thought I'd do a few previews this weekend. Using the Bad Translator, I thought I'd translate the Fighting Yank's war journals. Included in each hero's (translated) name is a link to their entry on the Project Superpowers Wiki, so you can know who I'm talking about (spoiler warnings for those who haven't read it yet).

CD-Fight: It is a long time since I've seen the picture. You see, playing the windows! Now the picture now seems very simple, it must reflect the strength of our power play is encouraged, the Liberal Party! There is only one old friend, long-term loss of painful memories.

Green Lama: Jethro "Jet" Dumont, an old friend and training partner, in the form of philosophical questions and human diseases. Yes, we had a great battle between good and evil. In Buddhism, said he is always strange, but in those days, a soldier might hope. Now, after all these years, I returned to face more of the weapons, the death rate in China is not good.

Spirit of America: In fact unknown until now my world is the opposite of instant messaging. The flag of death to life characters, who in this issue reflect costs. This is my destiny and control the disk? Finally, in the American spirit? If so, his grandfather, the original Hank struggle? I need to find eternal rest?

Terrorism Black: We are more than brothers, Benton, Bob, myself and another terrorism "blacklist" The meeting was difficult and painful. Always strong and brave during the bank, which will strengthen and seal the last traces of fear, and increase their anger. This is my truth, I have no doubt they will.

The Death of the Devil: Burt Hill have a secret ally of his time back with more confidence in the bank. In the great war, the most important day, it has the ability to re-crazy reason, even today, more and more secrets. I did not know what is wisdom ....

Dynamic wife and family dynamics: He concluded that idiot and human survival, and family structure and dynamic, constantly changing recalled power. As a family business in a dynamic and dynamic power and wealth of the world, more than anyone can imagine. I think I know it's ringtone, but we do not know ... any ideas ...

Starro Lives!!!

I love On Demand. I honestly don't know how Cable TV survived without this wonderful feature. In addition to free movies, there's a veritable host of other free programming. While surfing the On Demand menu, I noticed they had several episodes of Batman Beyond, Thundercats (HOOO!!!), and other great stuff. I checked out the Batman: The Brave and the Bold section to see something I hadn't expected- "The Seige of Starro! Part 1", an episode which technically hasn't even aired in the U.S. yet (though it's on iTunes, apparently). This is an awesome episode. Without giving away too many spoilers, nearly all the heroes on Earth have been mind-controlled by Starro, leaving Batman to lead a rag-tag team of Booster Gold, Captain Marvel, Firestorm, and B'wana Beast against the alien conqueror and its herald, the Faceless Hunter. It's a great episode; of course, most of the episodes for Season Two thus far have been awesome, but they really stepped it up for this episode. And it's only part one!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Saddle Up!

These past few weeks, I've been rereading some of my sourcebooks for the Deadlands RPG. It started with Deadlands: The Weird West, and branched out into miniature games, collectible card games, disk-type games (not quite pogs, but you get the idea) and two spin-off settings- Deadlands: Hell on Earth (a post-apocalyptic setting) and Deadlands: Lost Colony (a space opera/ western mix). In the past few years, Peginc has rebranded Deadlands to fit into their Savage Worlds game rules. I haven't read much of those yet, as the Classic rules still hold a special place in my heart. I'd like to use this blog entry to talk a little about this fun, clever game.

Now, I can hear some of you already. "Matt," you say, "this is a comics blog! We've tolerated posts about rpgs before, but that's only because the rpg in question was ABOUT comics. We're drawing the line here and putting our foot down! How can you justify a post about this Western rpg when there's no link to comics?" I'm very glad that I imagined you asking that.

That's right! Peginc, in conjunction with Image comics, put out a comic one time! Ha-ha! (Curiously enough, though it is a comic, and was published by Image comics, it's not on the Grand Comic Database.) Anyway, Deadlands meets this blog's comics requirements. They're requirements that I established anyway, and I suppose seeing as how this is my blog I can do whatever the hell I want regardless, it's a moot point in the long run.

I bought the Deadlands Players' Guide and Marhsal's Handbook way back in the fall of 2000. As I opened the Players' Guide, I saw that the book had a promising start; the foreward was written by Bruce Campbell. Yes, THAT Bruce Campbell.


First, let me talk about the system the game uses. I'll limit myself to the Deadlands Classic system. I mention this caveat because there a quite a few rules variations. In addition to being able to play it with the Savage Worlds system, as noted above, Peginc also put out a D20 version that's roughly compatible with D&D 3rd Edition. There was also a GURPS Deadlands published by Steve Jackson Games, and there were also rules conversions for World of Darkness, Call of Cthulu, and Unisystem's All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Phew! That's a lot!

Anyway, Deadlands Classic can seem daunting at first glance. Instead of the standard 6 or so abilities that most games has, like Strength and Wisdom and Charisma, Deadlands has TEN. Character creation involves drawing cards to determine what these abilities are. That's right, cards.

In addition to needing quite a few dice, you'll need at least two decks of playing cards and some poker chips or something that you can pretend are poker chips. While this does hlep to maintain the western flavor, it's also a lot more stuff than your average rpg requires.

Checks are made by rolling however many die of a certain type determined by your abilities and taking the highest roll among the dice. The poker chips in this game serve much the same way as Hero Points or Drama Points do in other systems- they can be used to improve rolls, eliminate damage, or activate special abilities if your character has one. They can also be traded in for XP. You just have to survive long enough to spend 'em.

Deadlands might possibly have the most involved damage system of any game EVER. In addition to the standard ways of dying (being shot, stabbed, mauled by a monster, etc.), you can bleed to death, drown, get blowed up; there are even rules for dying of a heart attack. Deadlands has a much higher mortality rate for characters than your average game.

All in all, it's pretty involved. The good news is that you can start out with the very basics and slowly add in the more complicated stuff as you and the players get more comfortable with it.
Now, to talk about the good stuff- the setting. Deadlands has a pretty cool one with lots of options for characters. Before I get specific, allow me to describe the game's general influences.

Historical Fiction- Deadlands takes much of its cues from history. While they fudge things a bit here and there (as there weren't zombies in the Old West, for starters), they do a lot of research. Many historical figures makes appearances as NPCs to either aid or oppose the PCs (or "posse" as the game calls them); included in the game are guys like Santa Anna, Allan Pinkerton, Doc Holliday, and Brigham Young, for starters.

Spaghetti Western- While influenced by Westerns in all pop culture to a degree, the creators even acknowledge in the books that their primary inspiration are the films of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.

Horror- Another part of this game is to try and unnerve the players. Not an easy task, as when you get a bunch of people doing their worst western accents, things get a little silly. Still, if you can work it, it's a wonderful thing. One time, after a particularly vivid description of a zombie, I ask a player what his characters does. His response was to make a look of genuine disgust and say "Ugh. I throw up." Awesome! Not scared, per se, but I'll take it.

And now, for the nuts and bolts of the setting. Some highlights....

  1. The year is sometime in the late 1870's. The first books started at 1876, Reloaded is up to 1879.

  2. Something changed in the world on July 3, 1863. There are folks who say the dead rose up at Gettysburg.

  3. The Civil War has been going on for over 17 years. (Later books have established a cease-fire being established in '78 or '79). As a result, there are 6 sovereign powers within the continental (former) U.S., including the Union, the Confederacy and the independent State of Deseret (Utah). Also of note, slavery was abolished in both the Union and Confederacy.

  4. An earthquake rocked California in '68, causing the westernmost part to drop into the sea. The former west coast ends at little past Sacramento. Beyond that, the former coastline is made up of islands and mesas referred to as the Great Maze. The quake was devastating, but revealed a new superfuel called ghost rock, which burns 10 times hotter and longer than coal. Ghost rock has allowed for numerous innovations in technology, included steam-powered wagons and autogyros.

  5. While some folks claim that supernatural events occur with startling regularity, both the Union and the Confederacy deny this. Both countries maintain organizations that allegedy investigate then cover-up brushes with the paranormal- the Agency in the North, and the Texas Rangers in the South.

  6. As yet, there is no continental railroad linking the east coast to the west. Six railroads in both countries are duking it out to see who reaches the ghost rock-rich Great Maze first, thereby winning an exclusive ten-year contract with their respective government. The fighting between rail barons and their enforcers has become known as the Great Rail Wars.

There's a bit more, but those are the high points. Aside from the typical Western archetypes your character can play as (gunslinger, cowboy, soiled dove, prospector, etc.), there are a number of arcane backgrounds available to players. Here's what's available.

Hucksters- These folks are Weird Western wizards, casting spells by beating demons in a battle of wits that takes the form of a card game. The effectiveness of the spell is determined by drawing a poker hand. Similarly, there's an offshoot called shootists, who's magic affects their gunslinging ability.
Mad Scientists- As mentioned before, science and technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. At the forefront of this advancement are mad scientists, so named because some of their inventions defy logic and because some develop eccentricities.
Blessed- Those with faith in the Lord (however you define it) are able to produce miracles! While many of these are subtle abilities for healing or defense, a Blessed is a powerful foe against the Weirdness that pervades the West.
Shamans- The Indians have always claimed to be able to talk to spirits; following 1863, the spirits have been talking back! Shamans can work powerful medicine, so much so that Indians have been able to retake tribal lands. They've established the Sioux Nations in the North, and the Coyote Confederation in the South.
Enlightened- With the influx of Chinese immigrants in the west, martial artists have been seen around the Great Maze and points beyond. Some of these martial artists are capable of superhuman feats of physical ability!
Voodooists- While dime novels are rife with stories of black magic-using Voodoo priests, there are many "conjure doctors" who call on benevolent loa to work good mojo.

As I said, there's a lot more, as Peginc published a LOT of books; at one point Deadlands was the fourth best-selling rpg. It's a fun, wild ride with a style all its own.


Monday, August 9, 2010


So, I found this on another blog, and I'd thought I'd share.

The Blackstar Warrior (I really wish I was tech-savvy enough to post youtube videos directly in my blog).

You back from watching that? Pretty slick, huh? It further proves my theory that Lando was the hero of the original trilogy. In Return of the Jedi, Luke was getting bitch-slapped by the Emperor, and Han and Leia and Chewie were playing grabass on Endor. Meanwhile, who was blowing up the Death Star single-handedly and looking like the smoothest pimp in the galaxy while doing it? This guy right here....

Aw, yeah....

Anyway, the actor playing Lando in that youtube video appears to be one Leonard Roberts, who's geek-actor cred is fairly well established, with appearances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, and Heroes. His work on the latter was particularly good; in Season One, his character of DL was one of the most intriguing and well-developed characters, so naturally he was killed off fairly quickly in Season 2. Apparently, the producers needed more screen time for Claire to mope, Mohinder to act like the world's stupidest scientist, and Peter to act vapid and confused.

Anyway, if THIS were a real movie, I'd see it theaters. TWICE.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My favorite price is FREE!

As I've mentioned before, Mutants & Masterminds has been hard at work on a DC RPG. The PDF of the main DC corebook is  available on their website, and the print version is on it's way.

I  mention this because M&M has put out another FREE preview. This one is a two-player, superhero on supervillain brawl, with two DC characters all statted up for use. It's available right here. Check it out!

Comics versus Pundits- Who Will Win?

Comics can do many things. They can bring us tales of adventure that excite the imagination. They can provide us with morality tales, illustrating (quite literally) the foibles and follies of human nature. They can even show us that every single woman in the history of mankind was/is/will-be a prostitute with a heart of gold (thank, Frank Miller!). But, can comics prove that someone is more full of crap than a clogged up septic system? Yes!

Apparently, Glenn Beck has written a book, The Overton Window. Judging from the early reviews, Beck has done for political thrillers what Stephanie Myers has done for vampire novels. Yes, I realize that some people will read that statement and say, "Ooh! That must mean it's good!" I'll leave you to make your own decision on that matter.

The Overton Window is described by Beck himself as " 'faction' -- completely fictional books with plots rooted in fact." The novel revolves around Noah Gardner, a John Everyman type character (provided that every man holds the same values Beck does) who discovers an insidious plot to rob America of it's civil liberties. What's worse is that this plot is masterminded by Noah's own father! Gasp!

To use the Washington Post's description, Arthur Gardner is " a public relations genius who devised the Pet Rock fad, turned Mao and Che into counterculture fashion statements, created faux ailments such as restless leg syndrome for the drug industry and lifted several presidents to the White House regardless of party affiliation."

Arthur Gardner, The Overton Window's chillingly nuanced (and factual!) antagonist.

Truly, Arthur has an evil plot worthy of Dr. Doom himself. Yet little does the Author of The Overton Window realize that he's given his book an Achille's Heel that will allow me to topple his house of cards like a ton of bricks will simultaneously using more mixed metaphors than a barrel of monkeys that are rocking the boat.

Everything seems incredibly factual. However, Glenn Beck didn't take into account that I have read DC's Big Book of the 70's, from their Paradox Press imprint. In said book, there's a section on pet rocks. The creator was not Arthur Gardner, as Beck would have us believe, but one Gary Dahl!

I have hereby proven that Beck's "faction" is nothing of the sort! And without even reading his book, no less!If Beck can't even managed to double-check something as trivial and insignificant as the inventor of the pet rock, how can he be trusted to be accurate (or truthful) about his larger allegations? The calm, rational answer is- HE CAN'T! Whether by accident or design, Beck spews forth a torrent of misinformation like a garbage disposal in reverse!

Now, I'm sure some of you think this is over the top. "But wait," you say, "Beck merely modified some facts to make his story work." Think about that- he changes facts so that they ultimately work for the vision he's trying to sell.

Using the latest in blog technology, I can capture Glenn Beck's reaction to my searing expose in REAL TIME. Here it is!

The score? Comics-1. Glenn Beck-0!

Now, I have exposed his novel as wrong. From what little I've read, the prose is ham-fisted, too, and by that I mean he no doubt used his fists to shovel large portions of ham down his gullet in between paragraphs. He has nothing left to console himself except for his $32 million a year career and his legions of misguided fans. I hope that's enough for him.