Friday, October 12, 2012

Sci-Fi Gaming Resources


I'm making this post mainly so I, myself, can find these resources more quickly when I need them.

Maybe someone else could use this information.

Traveller
Traveller at Mongoose Publishing
MGT-Aids · Fan Aids for Mongoose Pub's Traveller
Mongoose Traveller resources at RPGNow
Spica Publishing Resources for Traveller at RPGNow
All Traveller resources at RPGNow
Mongoose's Signs & Portents Magazine at RPGNow
Freelance Traveller
Into the Deep
The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society
Far Future Enterprises -has a nice guide to Understanding Traveller
Spica Publishing
SFRPG Message Board
Random Traveller System Generator
Traveller: Heaven & Earth -great world building software
Guide to Traveller UPP (Universal Planetary Profile)
Travelling Alone -nice optional solo Traveller flowchart

Other
Shadowrun resources at RPGNow
Sci-Fi resources at RPGNow
Alternity resources
Star Smuggler resources
Star Frontiersman
DC Heroes - Blood of Heroes - M.E.G.S. Yahoo group
Doctor Who Solitaire Story Game
ClassicMarvelForever.com
Seventh Sanctum -lots of random generators

Mythic/Solo Play
Mythic
Mythic Fan Club/Resources
Solo Nexus
Shaun's Solo Traveller

Monday, October 08, 2012

DC & Marvel: Beyond the Comics and Back Again



DC and Marvel have a long history of not only being the two biggest comic publishers but also being the two biggest competitors in comic history. Some will go so far as even saying their fans are even so polarized. There's the DC Fanatics and the Marvel Zombies that will stand by their chosen universe no matter what.

But let's also add in there that DC is owned by Warner Brothers and in recent history Marvel was bought by Disney. Two other powerhouse companies that have a history of competing against each other.

Warner Brothers and Disney both have strong animation franchises. Bugs Bunny and his friends in Camp Warner and Mickey Mouse and his pals in Camp Disney. It's a long-standing feud that has lasted for decades.

One would have to wonder why these two big corporations would even bother with super-hero comics. Well, aside from two important factors: they sell and they can be mined for ideas for movies and cartoons.

Which brings us to our little comparison.

First up: Animation.

DC Comics are known almost as well for their cartoons as they are their comics. They have Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, Batman: Brave and the Bold, Young Justice and Green Lantern on tv and several made-for-dvd releases. Not to mention the stuff from the '60s through the '80s, namely Super Friends. The first three I mentioned went even so far as to build a coherent animated universe between the shows, rivaling even that of DC Comics, themselves. Their biggest draw is that most (if not all) the shows I mentioned are aimed at a wide audience. Even Brave & Bold, which has a simpler animation style has little bits of adult humor hidden in it.

Marvel, on the other hand, has focused more on the younger crowd with their Super Squad show, Ultimate Spider-Man and Iron Man. I think the last show they had that was aimed for a more wider audience was X-Men: Evolution. I remember in the '90s how Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men (both on Fox Kids at the time) pioneered the current acceptance of super-hero comics as a source material for animation.


In the animation department, though, I have to say the winner is DC Comics. They seem to have not only higher production value in their cartoons but they also appear to be doing a better job reaching more viewers by not targeting one specific age group.

Our next comparison is in movies. This may be a no-brainer to some.

DC Comics has had two Batman franchises so far, with a third one possibly on the way. The first series of films ran from 1989's Batman to 1997's Batman and Robin. The second started with 2005's Batman Begins and ended with 2012's Dark Knight Rises. Meanwhile, DC's previous success in the movie department, Superman (from 1978's Superman to 1987's Superman: Quest for Peace) got revisited in 2006 with Superman Returns. Then, of course, there was Green Lantern...

And that's pretty much it. Unless you count Jonah Hex. Or Constantine. Yeah... I didn't think so.

While there is similarity in a lot of Warner Brothers films and DC Comics (namely Harry Potter/Books of Magic and Matrix/Invisibles), when it comes down to actual DC Comics properties used, that's pretty much it. There are rumors of a Justice League movie being worked on and that would expand their horizons enormously but a new Batman or Superman film would be more likely given their track record.


Marvel, however, has exploded on the movie scene. With not only two main franchises of their own (X-Men and Spider-Man) but the first ever 'Mega-Franchise', deemed the 'Marvel Cinematic Universe'. Much like what DC's animated universe accomplished for them, Marvel has created a world in these films that rivals that of their own comics. Beginning with 2008's Iron Man and continuing through Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Captain America (2011), Thor (2011), and Avengers (2012), this multi-movie series is set to continue even further with Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers 2 on the horizon.

There have even been other Marvel-based movies in the form of Daredevil, Elektra, Blade, Fantastic Four and another Hulk film (unrelated to the Avengers version). But Marvel seems to have really hit it out of the park with the Avengers line of films. Again, this is due to the high quality of production and the wide audience appeal.


So, in the movie department, Marvel wins hands hands down. Granted, DC could do better. They have great production in the Batman movies but they seem to be stuck recycling the same franchise over and over.

In video games, it's almost as much of a landslide but in the opposite direction.

DC Comics has really revolutionized what a super-hero video game can be with Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Those games not only offer a challenging and entertaining gaming experience but are also a wonder to look at. They're absolutely stunning.
Add in their DC Universe Online game and you have a winning hand.

Marvel has had a few games out but most of these were based on movies, with the exception of X-Men Legends and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. These last two were essentially the same gaming system and while both had sequels, Marvel seems to have let them fade into the distance.


The winner here is DC Comics. If not for the sheer quality of the Arkham games, I would say it was a tie but they've really reaised the benchmark with their games.

What of live-action television..?

DC currently holds that with Smallville being the high-mark for them. Lois & Clark was another good run. Unfortunately, Flash and Birds of Prey didn't fare so well. They have a new series, Arrow (featuring Green Arrow), starting now and response so far has been lukewarm.

Marvel..? They had Mutant X. A show that, despite trying, flopped mostly because it had virtually nothing to do with the source material.


This could all change when the new S.H.I.E.L.D. series begins. Overseen by Joss Whedon and set in the same universe as the Avengers films (Avengers, itself, directed by Whedon) it already has two good things going for it.

For now, though, it appears DC owns television. But just slightly.

So where does that put us?
Animation/Cartoons: DC Comics
Movies: Marvel
Video Games: DC Comics
Live-Action TV: DC Comics

While it looks like DC Comics is the winner here, I think it's gearing up to be more of a tie. DC clearly owns Animation and Marvel, without a doubt, owns Movies. DC's reign on Video Games is due solely to the Arkham franchise and Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. could easily oust Smallville if they bring all their cards to the table.


DC could make more of an effort in their movies by expanding beyond their two big heroes, Batman and Superman. Ironically, a Joss Whedon Wonder Woman was talked about before they scrapped the idea and Joss went to do Marvel's Avengers.

Marvel, also, could step it up in their animation department by making shows that are aimed at a wider audience. If they were to bring what they've done with the movies to their cartoons they could give DC a run for its money. But that doesn't seem likely as they are more focused on the movies at the time being.

The interesting thing about all of this is that for all their successes in these areas, their comics have become more of a shadow of what they could be. DC's animation and video games have started to outshine the comics they were based on and Marvel's movies have reached (and maintained) a bigger audience than their comics currently have. And yet, neither of them have utilized what they've done beyond comics in the comics, themselves. Matter of fact, fans of the games, shows and movies are at a loss when they attempt to find the familiar characters in comic form. The comic versions (especially in DC) are so different that new readers coming from these other avenues of experience are either confused or simply turned off.

DC has, however, made an attempt at giving those fans something to read. There's the Arkham Unhinged series for the game fans, Smallville Season 11 for the show fans and the Young Justice comic for the cartoon fans. Only time will tell if these lines expand more or if DC is merely tossing fans a bone, though, just to draw them into the world of comics.


Marvel's answer was Avengers Assemble. This title uses the same characters that appear in the movie but it's still set in their main comic universe. A universe vaguely similar to the one in the movies but with many more heroes, mutants and slightly different origins.

In this respect, DC and Marvel have found themselves in the same predicament. The licensed versions of their original characters and universes have started to eclipse the source material to the point that the originals may become less important. While a modest success on the comic front, DC's rebooting with New52 didn't help much either in that regard as it removed the source material even further away from the more familiar licensed versions.

What will be interesting to see is if, when the 'Avengers Mega Movie Franchise' does finally end, Marvel continues those adventures in comic form. That, I think, would be a winner. Especially if they were to reboot the Marvel line to be more consistent with the films.
The origins/first issues could be the films (which would get more exposure) and the first regular comic could reference it and move on from there. I know I would get it.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

New Crusaders: More Info


In a recent interview with Newsarama, Archie President Mike Pellerito had this to say about the NEW CRUSADERS series:

Archie is often equated with "all ages" comics, but Pellerito said these comics are not aimed at kids. Instead, it's got an older feel to it — without being dark or gritty. "We want this to reach the biggest audience possible," Pellerito said. "The Avengersmovie got it right. I went to see the movie twice, and it was successful as it was because it went out to everybody.

"New Crusaders is like that. I wouldn't necessarily put it in front of an Archie reader," he said, "but I wouldn't be horrified if an Archie reader read it, the way I might if they picked up one of those modern Marvel or DC books that kind of scare me, that I don't want to leave out with my kids around the house. Some of the stuff other companies do is great, but the thinking around Avengers was perfect. Big, bright, amazing colors, superheroes you want to root for, a couple of jerks, a couple of supervillains, a couple people die along the way, and I think we struck that right balance here with New Crusaders."


Later in the interview:

While it does revive the original stories, Pellerito said it does not "reboot" anything. "The one thing that bugs me about comic book reboots, and I hate to pick on other companies, but you know, you dedicate so much time, and you read these comic books for a year or five years or 20 years, and all of the sudden, all the time you've invested and all the things you've memorized are now useless," he said. "And that just drives me nuts.

To read the rest of the interview go here.

Also, check out another Newsarama feature, "Continuity Not a Dirty Word" to see how exactly Archie/Red Circle plans to continue the legacy of the original Crusaders.



BTW- the two variant covers you see here are by Rich Buckler (#4) and Francesco Francavilla (#5).

Rich was one of the main artists on the Archie/Red Circle titles in the '80s and it's great to see him draw the new breed.

Francesco is a very talented artist who made a name for himself doing retro-style covers for several of Dynamite Comics titles as well as a long stint on Zorro with Matt Wagner. Currently, Francesco is doing his own thing with a character called Black Beetle over at Dark Horse Comics. He can also be found over at Pulp Sunday, his art blog devoted to pulp fiction and mystery men.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Look Everyone! Comics!


There's a slight move towards making comics fun again. But you really won't be seeing it from the Big 2. At least not yet... Not until they realize what's going on.

Despite me dropping virtually everything from DC post-New52 (I did decide to stick with EARTH-2 and WORLDS' FINEST, however. Both are excellent books.), I have managed to find a couple non-New52 titles worth reading. Surprisingly, one IS from DC Comics. The other is a relaunch of a franchise that DC had their hands on but never really sought to utilize it to its full potential since they already had their own Universe to market and sell.

The first is YOUNG JUSTICE. Almost everyone is familiar with the show. It's one of the best superhero cartoons in recent years. I personally think this series ranks second only to the classic Batman: Animated Series.

DC Comics has been putting out a comic to support the show for almost two years now and although it's lumped in with their DC Kids line it's really all-ages material. All-ages as in "appropriate for adults", too.

All-ages is a tricky thing. Most everything that's labeled "All-ages" really isn't. Once someone picks up one of a majority of titles labeled as such they quickly discover that "All-ages" means "just for kids". But that really does a disservice to books like YOUNG JUSTICE, which can be enjoyed by kids AND adults.

Back in the old day readers started to feel they needed more Mature comics. With Mature themes, nudity, sex, strong language, graphic violence, etc. And they found it in titles specifically aimed at Mature Readers. However, slowly, that mentality creeped into the mainstream comics. I remember when Marvel launched their MAX line to compete with DC's Vertigo and just threw everything in the books that they thought would make them Mature. Except, of course, a story. Suddenly you had four-letter words flying left and right and graphic violence being done just for the sake of it. Forget story. No one bought comics for that anymore.

Which brings us to now. Most mainstream DC and Marvel comics are not appropriate for all ages. And the few titles they publish with an "All-ages" label is really "kids-only".

You can blame BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, WATCHMEN, THE ULTIMATES or the Saw films but it really boils down to the Big 2 trying to market to the same group of fans they had in the '80s. Fans that are now older. So they pepper their comics with decapitations, t&a and more "ahem" serious language. All in an effort to be taken more seriously. And it really just comes off absurd.

They really should be more focused on trying to attract a younger audience while still writing stories that would appeal to the older fans. Without insulting the intelligence of either crowd. Otherwise, the vast kingdoms they've built will die off when those older fans do, too.

DC and Marvel CAN do it. They succeed immensely in that respect with their animated shows (DC) and movies (Marvel). They just don't bring that same approach to their comics.


YOUNG JUSTICE is DC's current bastion of hope. It's their connection to bring in those new readers. Any fan of the show would love the comic because (most importantly) it's written by one of the show's producers, Greg Weisman. Because of that, it keeps the same feel and characterization that viewers are familiar with. Add in the stellar art that's much more sophisticated than what one find in any of those "kids-only" comics and you have a winning combination.

Honestly, I've found more entertainment in the YOUNG JUSTICE show and comic than I have in mainstream comics in years. I highly recommend that folks try it out. And don't let the "but it's based on a cartoon" mentality set in before giving it a shot. You may just be surprised.

Oh, I mentioned two, didn't I? Well... the other title is not from DC or Marvel. It's not even from Image or Dark Horse.
It's from Archie.
I can hear you now. See... there's that preconceived thought coming in.


Archie Comics relaunched their Mighty Crusaders franchise this year as a digital-only comic, called NEW CRUSADERS. This title picks up years after the last MIGHTY CRUSADERS comics Archie published back in the '80s, ignoring everything that DC did with the characters since then. (Note: I did like the Impact line when DC used the characters in the '90s but since they weren't DC's "babies" they weren't held in any importance by them.)

NEW CRUSADERS, the digital-only series actually became so popular that readers demanded a print comic. Now the "digital-only" title has become a "digital-first" one with the print edition collecting the stories for everyone to enjoy.

There's a bit of similarity between YOUNG JUSTICE and NEW CRUSADERS. You have the obvious: the younger group of heroes and the anime-influenced art. But you also have adventure and excitement that seems to have been all but forgotten in the mainstream books.

Anyone that's tired of dark and gritty comics and are looking for comics that are fun and adventuresome but not kiddy fluff material should really check them out.
NEW CRUSADERS #1 is out now and YOUNG JUSTICE is up to #20.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Super-Hero Role-playing: DC Heroes Revisited

 I went ahead and re-purchased the 1st Edition of Mayfair Game DC Heroes role-playing game on ebay recently and the copy I bought didn't have the cards or counters with it. It also didn't have the Gamemaster Manual but I still had my old beat-up copy.

 So, I set out to make my own personal cards for the game. I didn't like the big bulky size of the original cards anyway. 2nd Edition had cards but they just looked so plain on white backgrounds and I wanted to have the primary stats on the front like they were in 1st Edition.

 These were the characters that made it. Note that I'm not including the stats. They can be found in the original books or you can find updated stats for several characters at Writeups.org.

Gallery of Heroes:



Gallery of Villains:
The third villain there is actually a re-colored Riddler that I'm using for Bookworm ('60s Batman TV villain). Dracula is the Marvel version with stats used from Writeups.org. False Face is a re-colored and edited Johnny Sorrow. And the re-colored Zatanna I'm using for Zelda the Great (another Batman TV villain).