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So back in 1986, I knew this guy who was BIG into comics. He introduced me to independent comics, which I barely knew existed (stuff like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the hilarious Dr. Radium), but he also turned me on to two other very influential comics: Watchmen, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Batman was pretty amazing. It started off as your typical "imaginary story," with a fifty year old Batman, and from there, deconstructed the entire IDEA of Batman, turned it on its head. Very good stuff! Watchmen was even more amazing, starting with its artistic choices (the cover image was invariably the first AND last panel of the actual story) and following through with its bizarre, noirish deconstruction of everything superheroes stood for. Only one hero had powers, and he seemed like an example of why a society (and government) would never be able to tolerate a genuine superhuman. All the OTHER heroes? Only one is genuinely motivated by the idea of truth, justice, and righteousness; the others fight crime for a variety of reasons judging from sadism, sexual sadism, commercialism, fameseeking, cosplay... and sheer hatred. Author Alan Moore made a creepy point: in a real world, people who dress up in costumes to fight crime are going to be a rather ... odd bunch of people. Most of them won't be very nice. "Wow," I thot to myself. "This is the first comic I think I have ever read that really qualifies as literature." And then I got on with the rest of my life. Fastforward four years, and another friend of mine has got a job at a comic shop. The night Superman died, he asked me if I could come help out, in exchange for store credit; the Death Of Superman had made the news, and everyone was gonna buy fifty copies and save them for ten years, and then retire on the profits from the resale. Superman dies tonight! "You are large and bearded," he said. "Could you put on that jacket that makes you look like a biker, and come play security, just in case? We're not expecting trouble, but..." And so myself and several other thuglike presences formed a human barrier while the owner and my pal unbundled the comics and put them out for sale. Two copies to a customer. There was grumbling, but no trouble. And I spent a lot of time looking over various comic books with which I was unfamiliar. Apparently, super heroes carried guns, now. Guns, bigger than my torso. The artwork seemed sketchier than I remembered. And pouches; apparently capes were out, but ammo belts with many, MANY pouches were now mandatory. Whatever these heroes were using to fight crime, apparently, they needed a LOT of it, in single-serving sizes, even the ones who didn't carry guns. Since I wasn't a regular consumer of comics, I had missed the Dawning Of The Age Of Grimdark, aka the Dark Age Of Comics. In hindsight, the reason was obvious. The Dark Knight Returns had been grim and gritty, with dialogue like "There are seven working defenses from this position. Three of them disarm. Three of them kill. The other one... HURTS!" And a Batman who was filled with anger and rage and not QUITE willing to kill the Joker, but fully prepared to put him in traction, break legs and bones, and do whatever it took to restore order. And in the same story, Batman gains a mob of teenage imitators, who go so far as to maim a store clerk that they think "didn't put up enough of a fight" against a robber. The Russians launch a nuke, which blacks out Gotham and nearly kills Superman, who stops it from wiping out the city. Grimdark, indeed. Watchmen is similarly dark and violent; hell, the story BEGINS with someone throwing one of our heroes out a window, and ends with a slew of murders and a near apocalypse. And these were the two most influential comics to come out of the eighties. It's no surprise that the trend after that was "Grim and gritty, to the point where there's not much difference between the good guys and the bad, as long as there's plenty of blood and gore and guts and veins in m'teeth, sarge, I wanna KILL... KILL... KILL..." And so all this leads up to a few years later when superheroes carry gigantic guns that look like Star Trek vacuum cleaners, many ammo pouches, have superhero names like Deathkillblood, and Superman is dead. Not long after, there was a market correction. Market saturation and waning interest on the part of the fans led to a shock in the comic book market. People quit buying. Some publishers went out of business. A LOT of comics went unsold. And on eBay, you can still buy a black bagged "Death Of Superman" comic for only slightly more than cover price, more than 25 years later. Two comics, made by very talented people, who had a reason to deconstruct, and an actual story to tell, had revitalized... and then gradually derailed... the entire comics industry. Which got me to thinking about the movies. I saw the movie version of Watchmen. It was among the first of the current wave of superhero movies, if I recall. And it was among the first to get that grim, gritty, grimdark feel. I walked out thinking, "Well, that Zach Snyder guy got the overall LOOK right, but somehow, I think he missed what the author was trying to SAY." And while the Marvel movies drew audiences and made big big box office, whoever was in charge at Time Warner said, "Hey, this Zach Snyder guy seems to 'get' superheroes. Let's put him in charge of all OUR superhero movies, so we, too, can draw audiences and make big box office." And Man Of Steel was... well, it wasn't a Superman movie, despite the presence of a guy dressed in a rather dark colored Superman suit. And Batman Vs. Superman just freakin' creeped me out. These were not superheroes; these were simply people strong and ruthless enough to force their will on others, and the little people should damn well stay out of their way if they know what's good for them. I haven't seen Justice League yet, but I had come to a decision: the characters on all the CW superhero TV shows were far closer to the comics I grew up with than the violent, ruthless, arrogant man-gods of these dark, unpleasant movies. Watchmen was the finest comic event in years... but it shook comics, and ultimately, its imitators badly damaged the entire industry. And crazily enough, the movie based on it had the same effect on the comic book movies made by the same company. Alan Moore went on record as saying he felt that DC/Time/Warner had ripped him off, and that he would never work for them again, after Watchmen. Wonder if he's realized that his revenge was practically built into the process?
Some thoughts: 1. Lex Luthor, archenemy of Superman, spent the first 50 years of his existence as a mad scientist. Only after the first great DC Reboot, the Crisis on Infinite Earths, was Luthor retconned into an evil megalomaniac businessman. The new Supergirl TV series has set up another character, Maxwell Lord, in pretty much the exact same role. I find it disturbing that we pit our fictional heroes against egotistical self absorbed businessmen, while in the real world, a hell of a lot of us seem prepared to vote one into national office. 2. Since Superman's inception in 1938, he has featured in the mass media, first with a radio show, and later, several different TV shows. In those shows, sometimes, Kryptonite is used as a plot device to explain why evil businessmen or ordinary bank robbers could pose a threat to a guy who can juggle Buicks. However, in the comics and the media, kryptonite didn't appear in every single episode. Superman was allowed to juggle Buicks, so to speak, most of the time; it's why we tuned in, after all. However, in most episodes of the new Supergirl TV series, kryptonite is seen nearly every episode, usually weaponized in the form of handcuffs or darts intended to subdue or kill Kryptonians, engineered by the government. In most of these episodes, they are used by the government agents against Supergirl, for one reason or another. I find this irritating. There are two Kryptonians in the whole universe that are on our side, and once a week, we slap one of them around with Kryptonite? Is this a good idea? Or can we just not stand to have a strong female protagonist in the TV series? Does Superman have to put up with this nonsense? Or am I just talkin' thru my hat or what?
"So, you wanna be a superhero? Well, let me tell you something, kid, superheroes are a dying breed here. The Mastermind sees to that. Someone has to stop him, and even our best and brightest have died trying. What, you think you can succeed where the rest have failed? You've got guts, kid, I'll give you that. I'd hate to see 'em splattered all over the street." That was a week ago, and he's dead now. He was the last. There is no one else, it is all up to you now. You're all this city has left, and you're nothing more than a half-trained bunch of rookies. You don't even know how to work, let alone work together. But the city needs you. Will you be the answer to its prayers? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Big Darn Heroes is a campaign based on TSR's Marvel Superheroes (now out of print). It's going to be a little more cinematic, and a little less reliant on die rolling. It is intended for 4-6 players. Here's how it's going to work (and you're going to need percentile dice for this bit): Step 1: Choose an Archetype (yes, there can more than one character with any given Archetype, and yes I am letting you choose). The available Archetypes (with examples) are: Alien (Beta-Ray Bill, Silver Surfer), Altered Human (Captain America, Spider Man), High-Tech (Black Panther, Iron Man), Mutant (Cyclops, Wolverine), and Robot (Adam Warlock, Vision). Step 2: Generate attributes. The basic attributes are FASERIP, for those familiar with the system. Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche. Secondary attributes are Health, Karma, Resources, and Popularity. Step 3: Generate special abilities. The special abilities are Powers, Talents, and Contacts. Step 4: Fill in the blanks. Name, background, etc. Details are good. A 15-page thesis is not. Become familiar with the system, as the (little bit of) die rolling will be consistent with the game. On that note...THE HONOR SYSTEM APPLIES any time I ask a player to make a die roll (which should be few and far between). Please be patient with me, this is my first play-by-post gamemastering attempt. I will post pretty regularly, and will let you know in advance when I won't be able to post for extended periods. Feel free to PM me with any questions or concerns. Player limit has been reached. If you are still interested, feel free to PM me and I'll put you in the queue. If you're in the queue, don't run off, I'll have jobs for you. (Plus you'll need to know when a character is irrevocably removed from the game, so you can jump in.) Current Players: Auberon (Aegis [Ethan]) Unit04 (Type Zero) Aard_Rinn (Salamander [Lee Waits]) Ludo (Mace Ember) Dilvish the Deliverer (Cambion) Qwyksilver (Ghost) SparksMurphey (Slingshot) NightyKnight (The Surgeon) Current Queue: The Setting: The Rules of Posting: The Characters: Aegis TYPE ZERO Salamander Mace Ember Dark Magik Cambion Ghost Slingshot The Surgeon
Just got back from it a little while ago. Really liked it. The shrinking/regrowing while fighting made the action a little hard to make out at times. While not Marvels best outing by far, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable movie. (And let's be honest, that bar is set pretty dang high at this point.) What did everybody else think?