Friday, March 30, 2007

I looked up 'self pity' in the dictionary...

...and this is the picture I saw:

And then, underneath, I read this:

I finally finished A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, but my dog ate the manuscript and there was no copy, so I'm starting over.

What, you don't believe me?

Okay, okay. We don't have a dog at present, and A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is not done.

I'm still writing. Certain storylines are going well. Others, not so much, but that's what rewriting is for, yes?

I have to admit, these updates aren't working the way I hoped they would. I started them in the hopes that they would help stem the flood of emails asking about the next book. They haven't. I get just as many emails, only now they're asking about the next update. Yes, I know I said I'd have an update in "early January," and January came and went and there was no update. I can read a calendar too. The reason there was no update...

Well, the book's not done. And we've had home renovations. And the book's not done. And there's been work on other projects, on comics and The World of Ice & Fire and the games and the new Wild Cards book, Inside Straight. And there was football, and cons to attend, and a signing tour, and the holidays, and did I mention those home renovations?

The truth is, these updates do make me feel like a twelve-year old trying to explain to teacher why he isn't turning in his essay, and knowing she isn't going to buy the "dog ate my homework" ruse any more than you guys do.

The only update that I want to write is the one that says, "A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is done." That's the one you want, and that's the one that I want to write... but when the book isn't done, having to come online and say so every few months becomes a stressful and unpleasant task. I really do appreciate the fact that so many people are so eager to read the next installment in A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE and I wish I could get it to you right now, but you guys read a lot faster than I can write.

When A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is finished, I will post that news here. The moment I finish the book, I will log on and make the announcement. If this message is still here, that means the book is not done yet. Until such time as I can trumpet that news, however, this page will remain the same.

The next update will be the one that announces that the DANCE is done.

—George R.R. Martin, February 15, 2007

Thus, so. An Open Letter to George R.R. Martin, the "American Tolkien":

Dear Mr. Martin,

Before I get to how appalled, infuriated, and, frankly, nauseated, I am by this, your most recent public wallowing in unmerited, unbridled, unbecoming, unappetizing, and utterly absurd self pity, let me say this:

When you're writing an update as regards your progress towards completion of a book to several hundred thousand fans who have been eagerly, avidly waiting for that book for a period of years even longer than the period of years that has elapsed since you earnestly and solemnly promised them the book would be done by, and you open that near desperately anticipated update with the phrase "I finally finished A DANCE WITH DRAGONS", and then you go on to admit that you're actually lying, that makes you... hmmmm... what's the phrase?

Oh yeah. A fucking ASSHOLE.

It ain't funny. It ain't cool. It is, in fact, complete shitbag behavior. For doing this, let me say now -- you SUCK. If Roger Zelazney had ever been that big a fucking douchebag over one of his AMBER novels, well, then he would have proved himself a meritricious punk by doing so, and Mr. Martin, while you are a fine, fine writer, you are no Roger Zelazney, and, frankly, I cannot at this point think very highly of you as a human being, either.

That was some rank shit. Said once, and with utmost sincerity -- You finally finished A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, but then the dog ate the manuscript?

Kiss my ass, bitch.

Now, moving on the to bulk of your latest widdle foot stomping:

I am so, so sorry, Mr. Martin, that these updates haven't been working out the way you wanted them to. And I am deeply, deeply regretful that it is so cumbersome to you, so tedious, such a fucking chore, to have to deal with the expectations of hundreds of thousands of people who have provided you with so much of their money in the past and who eagerly, avidly look forward to the opportunity to do so in the future. And most of all, I am enormously apologetic and positively goddam fucking RUEful that you are such a lazyass undisciplined inept whineyboy needledicked nutless fucktard that you not only can't manage to complete a single goddam book within several years of your original deadline for said volume, but, you can't even manage to do a christly 438 word update on your progress towards the completion of said volume within the same 31 day period you had originally scheduled it for.

Honestly, Mr. Martin, I weep real tears for you when I read of your torment. There's home renovations, which we paid for with the money that we spent on your books, on the million dollar home that we bought for you with the money that we paid for your books. And there's football, that you watch on the big screen high density televisions that we bought for you with the money that we paid for your books. And there are comics, and roleplaying games, and a signing tour, and cons to attend, all of which you get to enjoy because of... wait... what was that thing again? Oh yes... the money that we paid for your books.

And the book isn't done. And the book isn't done. And the book isn't done. And we keep sending you emails about the book not being done. And it's horrible. Horrible. Horrible. Because these updates make you feel like a 12 year old trying to explain to teacher why he isn't turning in his essay, and that really IS horrible... a horribly false and self indulgent metaphor for the actual situation, which is, you have an audience of hundreds of thousands of avid readers, who support your extremely comfortable and luxurious lifestyle with their very hard earned money, and you have created something fabulous and wonderful and larger than life, and YOU ARE FUCKING IT UP. Because you're too goddam undisciplined and lazy and nutless to realize that, hey, when you're writing an epic fantasy series that threatens to grow large enough to jostle the very planet we all inhabit out of its orbit and send it careening into the photosphere of the sun, maybe you shouldn't fucking add another dozen new characters every time you manage to kick a new installment out, dumbass.

But, you know, I still had hope, Mr. Martin. Prior to reading your latest snivel-fest, I continued to cling to a tiny glimmer, the merest shimmering spark, of faith that you might be able to pull it off. That somehow, great fat Sam and his weird ancient cracked horn and that poor kid with the birthmarked face and the Woman In Red and Jon Snow and Danaerys Stormborn and Tyrion and Jamie and Lancel and Patchface and Nymeria and the stolen child of the King Beyond The Wall and all that other amazing incredible brilliant stuff you've woven into this immense enormous astounding tapestry of sheer raw unrelenting story might actually be going somewhere and might actually have had a chance of coming together into some conclusion that would be utterly satisfying and coherent and sensible and wonderful.

But now, having seen that you're a sniveling whiney pissy little bitch who honestly doesn't know just how absurd it is that you can actually have the life you have and still feel sorry for yourself... well... I've given up on you, sir.

That you can actually post to a website where you know your fans will read it the words "I finally finished A DANCE WITH DRAGONS" -- as a joke -- and then go on to jump up and down and shake your tiny fists and stomp your widdle feet and hold your breath 'til you turn blue because, you know, it's just so terrible that people actually expect you to keep the assurances you've made, over and over again...

Frankly, sir, you can take every published page of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, fold them until they are all sharp corners, and then vigorously ram them up your ass using the original cover art and any Valerian Steel prototypes as may be within arms reach as a tamping rod.

I know my feelings mean absolutely nothing to you, and you'll get along fine without the thirty or sixty or ninety bucks I would otherwise have spent on any books you managed to complete before you finally expired of sulkiness. Nonetheless, your addlepated, near-obscene public display of pique and petulance has so utterly alienated me that I will never spend a cent on anything you ever write again.

Should you manage to complete any further installments of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE before you collapse beneath the weight of your own grotesquely over-swollen ego, I will take the fucker out of the library. And when it starts to suck, and its suckiness begins to accelerate at a rate and a velocity unprecedented even by the geometrically progressive suckiness of the DUNE series, as it inevitably will because you simply don't have it in you to do anything except make this series suck and suck and suck and suck until it becomes universally known not as A Song Of Ice And Fire but rather as The Ballad of Stink And Suck, well, then I will log back onto the internet and sign on to this blog and laugh and laugh and laugh while pointing at you and your lame ass book and chortling "I told you so, I knew it would happen, I absolutely understood years and years ago that anybody who was that big a fucking suckass crybaby pussybitch could never under any circumstances make something with this grand and this brilliant and with this much potential work".

And you can't, and you won't, and I know this because if you could and you would, you would have done it already, and you certainly would never ever have written anything like what you wrote and posted on February 15, 2007, to the people whose money you have happily taken for the last several decades, yet to whom you seem to feel nothing whatsoever besides infantile resentment.

A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is a huge, HUGE project, and you are a tiny, tiny human being.

That's it. I'm done with you. Go watch some fucking football, or sign another contract, or do one of the many, many other things that are more important than working on the book you promised us many, many years ago.



Update: I originally wrote this thing when I was pretty angry, and as I long ago learned that anger rarely works when you're trying to communicate with someone, I came back in today to reread it to see if maybe I'd gone a little bit overboard and perhaps I should rewrite it from a calmer, more taciturn, more restrained perspective.

But I also reread the original 'update' from George R.R. Martin that had so infuriated me in the first place, and having done so, and then re-read what I wrote above, well, no. There is nothing I want to rewrite, nothing I want to retract, nothing I want to smooth or polish or replace with something perhaps more diplomatic and less confrontational. George R.R. Martin is an accomplished and wildly successful author, he has won awards, he can walk into any bookstore anywhere in America and, probably, Europe, and, perhaps, much of Asia, as well, and get his ass kissed by dozens if not hundreds of random strangers. He has lived a life and enjoyed a career and been gifted with a talent that millions could and doubtless do envy. And, leaving aside the profoundly disturbing cruelty of his opening sentence, still... I have never in my life seen a putative adult make such a public spectacle of himself throwing such a monumental, Brobdignagian fit of self pity.

Thus, so... my words stand unaltered.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

From beyond time and space

...or, at least, from friggin' Ireland, which is very nearly the same thing -- a package arrived today.

Within -- Booty! Plunder! Spoils! Swag! LOOT! Well, trade goods, at the very least... an offering from the East, winging in via International Express to win the heart of my very own Queen Hippolyta.

And a noble effort it is, too! Within said chest of treasures was to be found the agreed upon ransom, a vast wealth of Limited Edition, Prize Only, bronze ring HeroClix --

The Power Cosmic Dr. Doom (the Supernova ClixBrick mailaway LE)
Kraven the Spider (Sinister)
Dr. Hank Pym (Supernova)
Celestial Madonna (Supernova)
Nathaniel Richards (Supernova)
Vance Astrovik (Supernova)
Wonder Woman (Origin New Guy Night giveaway)
Genis Vell (Supernova)
Joe Ledger (Supernova)
Norrin Radd (Supernova)
Jennifer Walters, Esq. (Supernova)
One-Who-Knows (Supernova)
Henry Camp (Supernova)
Super-Nova (Supernova)

Naturally, the package didn't come in until too late on Saturday to mail out Queen Hippolyta in exchange, so that will have to go out on Monday.

In addition to that, my streak of getting no Uniques whatsoever from ORIGIN broke yesterday, when SuperFiancee bought me three boosters, and out of those boosters I pulled two Uniques, Negative Woman and Johnny Quick. In addition to those, I also pulled a Veteran Blackhawk to go with the rookie (Olaf, I think) from a few boosters back, and finished out my Triplicate Girl REV with a Rookie, and my Animal Man REV with an Experienced. I also picked up a Veteran Damage and a Veteran Mr. Miracle. These join other recent Vet acquisitions Supergirl and Mano.

Today was a busy day, but a good one. Early morning saw a 10 a.m. transfer of the SuperKids to their bio-dad for an overnight visit, after which we came back home, took a late morning shower, then went to a local deli we both like a lot to pick up some food for a brief picnic in the park. On returning home, we found the delivery slip for the package on the door, and got lucky when a very helpful mailman came by a few minutes later to deliver the regular mail. He offered to call the Express Mail delivery guy for us, who came back an hour or so later with my box. This caused us to miss a 1:15 showing of THE ASTRONAUT FARMER, something I want to see regardless of how many crappy reviews it gets. But there's always tomorrow. After getting the package, we did some spring cleaning (sweeping out the living room, sweeping off the front porch, hosing down the plastic porch furniture), worked on the card box for our wedding, which is coming out looking pretty good, actually, grilled some burgers, and ate out on our now much cleaner looking porch since the furniture had dried out in the sun.

Backtracking to Friday briefly, the big accomplishment of the day was getting our marriage license. (Ha! Now she CAN'T get away!) After that, since the littlest SuperKid was spending the early evening with her grandparents, we took the older two off to see THE HOST, which was actually pretty excellent. I won't peremptorily command anyone to go see it, as many other bloggers and reviewers seem to be doing, but I will say it's a well made monster movie, and I'm of the opinion it will become even better when some American studio inevitably remakes it and cuts out a lot of the unnecessary plot clutter and pointless sidetracking that seems to be de rigeur for Asian audiences.

And, really, that's about it at Castle Anthrax. Hope everyone out there is doing well, even if y'all are obviously too busy to comment on me or SuperFiancee's blog. ;)

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Here's most of a long post I've put on a couple of other boards, featuring some general feelings I have about what Marvel has done to their universe with the recent CIVIL WAR event. It won't get much (if any) more attention here than the other places I've posted it, but this blog is sort of my 'paper of record', and I think I make some excellent points in this post.

* * * *

As to CIVIL WAR and its fallout -- a key thing in keeping a superhero universe successful is to make it seem realistic and internally consistent, without actually making it realistic and internally consistent. The reality of a superhero universe, with all that advanced technology and all those paranormal individuals, would be very different from the world we all inhabit. But we don't want to see our heroes in a very different world from ours; we want to see our world, WITH SUPERHEROES. The fact is, if our world had superheroes, it would no longer be our world, it would be something we can't even imagine (although it would probably be something similar to what we see in Alan Moore's America's Best Comics titles).

Yet with CIVIL WAR, Marvel has taken their universe and actually made it 'realistic' by asking, and answering, the question -- should superheroes, and superhumans, for that matter, be subject to intense government supervision at all times? The actual answer is, of course, yes -- the idea of someone with Cyclops' powers walking around on a city street, with nothing between the people around him and a horrible massacre but a pair of Raybans, is ludicrous and horrifying. Even the Human Torch's powers badly, badly need some kind of oversight -- realistically, that boy should have inadvertently started thousands of fires over the course of his career.

The simple fact is, though, that this isn't any FUN. We just don't want this level of detail in our superhero fantasies, and we certainly don't want to fantasize about being a superhero who has to fill out insurance forms and get bonded and go before government oversight committees and maybe report once a month to some kind of state or Federal supervisor of superhuman activities. I mean, that's just b.s. The whole basis of the superhero fantasy is a POWER fantasy; we want to become someone else (hence the mask and the cool costume and the code name) and run around doing whatever we want, and feel like it's all justified because we're using our powers in the service of the common good.

I used to feel that both DC and Marvel had made grave and potentially fatal mistakes by turning their comic book universes into places that weren't any FUN any more, that none of their readers would ever want to live in or even visit, or, more specifically, that none of us would ever want to fantasy project ourselves into. But I seem to have misperceived the zeitgeist. While this has alienated ME from both universes, the overall audience today seems to like reading about universes they would not want to actually live in, like, I don't know, the WATCHMEN universe, or the SUPREME POWER universe, or, nowadays, the post CRISIS DCU, or the post CIVIL WAR Marvel U.

But for me, a great deal of the pleasure of reading about my favorite characters is gone, because I no longer have any desire to fantasize about being a superhero in those worlds and hanging out with those guys. It's two fold -- first, the worlds themselves are dismal, depressing places nowadays. Second, a lot of my favorite characters have turned into pricks. (The one that Marvel resolutely couldn't turn into a prick, Captain America, they decided to put a couple of bullets through instead.) I'm still reading DC because DC has good writers; I no longer read Marvel, because Marvel doesn't. (Not only that, but all the really popular writers at Marvel are British Invasion Alan Moore wannabes who can't freakin write, and nobody seems to care, either.)

But, as I say, I seem to be in a minority; there is definitely an audience out there for dystopian superhero universes. And if such universes are well written, I can even enjoy them, too. But first, such a universe would have to feature characters I am not emotionally invested in (like the current DCU) and second, it would have to be well written (again, see current DCU). If the universe features characters I love from childhood and they are being treated disrespectfully (see: Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Captain America) or simply turned into jerkwads (see: Iron Man), well, that's going to aggravate me, and when your 'best' writers are Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis, well... see ya. Wouldn't want to be ya.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Oh my god.

On December 2, I sent off the following email to WizKids --

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to express my intense disappointment with one particular aspect of your newest HeroClix expansion, SUPERNOVA.

I am one of your older customers. I am in my 40s (actually, I just turned 45 on Nov. 21) and I have been an avid superhero comics fan most of my life. I have played HeroClix since my brother bought me an Infinity Challenge starter set for Christmas back in 2003.

Like many clix fans, I've been filled with intense anticipation for Supernova due to the character selection, and the character I myself was looking forward to getting a new version of most was Thor. I've long felt that the Clobberin' Time dial seriously short changed the God of Thunder, and the sculpt was... well, it was lacking a certain sense of grandeur. So, having seen photos of what the new Thor was going to look like on your site, and having seen the dial layout, well, I've really been eager to get my hands on a new Thor.

A few weeks ago, I picked up my first small batch of Supernova boosters, tore into them, and was delighted to see I had gotten a Thor. I pulled him out of his wrappers avidly -- and felt crushing disappointment as I realized that the Thor figure had been packaged with a Vision dial.

Now, mind you, I'm also really looking forward to the new Vision; his new sculpt looks excellent and his dial is great, too. So, getting a Thor figure with no dial, and a Vision dial with no figure, really exasperated me.

Money is tight, of course, as it is for everyone -- I have three kids to provide for -- so that initial batch of boosters has been all I could afford to buy until today. Today, though, I treated myself to four more Supernova boosters. When I opened the first of those, I was again very pleased to see a Thor figure. I figured that the packaging error I'd encountered prior to this had to be a one in a million fluke and this time, THIS time, I'd have a Thor dial to go with the fig... but upon pulling the pieces out of the packing, I was amazed and appalled to find that, against all the odds, I once again had a Thor figure and a Vision dial.

So, I now have TWO Thor figures, with no Thor dials. And TWO Vision dials, with no Vision figures.


As a birthday present, my kids have ordered me a brick of Supernova (which has been delayed again and again in the mail, but that's no fault of yours, so don't worry about that). However, when and if it finally arrives, I cannot tell you how annoyed I will be if I open it and find any MORE Thor figures with Vision dials.

I would very much like to rectify this packaging error. What do you suggest?

A very frustrated customer,


Let me say right here how strange it is for me to suddenly confront the fact that I must have been buying Supernova boosters back before Christmas, 2006. It's just one of those odd juxtapositions of space/time events that seems deeply weird, when one is suddenly confronted with it.

Anyway. So I got standard boilerplate in response to this email, instructing me to mail the defective figures in for replacement, and I did that. And that was probably back in late December, early January.

Since then, SuperFiancee has asked me a couple of times "Hey, whatever happened with those replacement clix from WizKids?" And I would shrug and say "Never showed up... not yet, anyway." You're supposed to wait 4 to 6 weeks, but when that mark irretrievably passed in mid February, well, we've got three kids and an old car constantly on the verge of a total breakdown and crappy jobs and a wedding to plan, so it's not like I didn't have other stuff on my mind. So, while I didn't really forget about it, I kinda... forgot about it.

So then, yesterday, SF sends me an email saying that the kids were home from school and there was a package from WizKids for me. Now, by this time, I've gotten a brick of Supernova and several more boosters of Supernova and I've traded my zombie Captain America for a great many Supernova figs, so I not only have rookies of Thor and Vision, I also have Veterans of each and an Experienced Vision, as well. So, well, I shrug to myself again. I mean, it's nice that, yeah, after 10 or 12 weeks, they finally managed to ship me replacement rookie Thor and Vision figs, but, hey, it's not like they're crucial adds to my collection or anything at this point.

So when SF picks me up at work that night (I work in the kingdom of Far, Far Away, and my schedule keeps me at work until after buses stop running in the evening) she's brought the box, because she knows I had a crappy day and she thought it would cheer me up. Which is merely a fraction of the thoughtfulness and consideration that SuperFiancee displays constantly, and a miniscule fragment of the reason I am the luckiest man in the universe. But, I digress.

So I open the box idly while we're driving home, figuring at least I will verify that I got the rookie Thor and the rookie Vision as asked, and...

...underneath the packing material, I find this li'l fella...

For those not in the know (including all of you who really don't care), this is The Mighty Thor, a convention only exclusive figure, which means, you only get if you attend a convention, go to the WizKids booth, and buy $100 worth of product.

Or, apparently, if you send in a couple of Thor figs with Vision dials and ask for the correct figs and dials to be sent back.

While I have no real idea what lies behind this substitution, I'm certainly not kicking. I have badly wanted a Mighty Thor ever since WK announced the figure's existence, and I assumed I would never ever get one, because I don't go to cons and if I did, I wouldn't be spending $100 at anyone's booth, much less WK's.

I have to assume that, if WK is substituting The Mighty Thor for, you know, rookie Thor dials, then they must have badly underestimated how many Rookie Thor pieces they would need to keep around as replacement stock.

Why do I want the figure so bad? Well, did you look at his dial? I mean, I'd want him anyway because he's Thor and Thor is cool; in fact, Thor is so cool that even his crappy Ultimates version with the uru hammer the size of a Volkswagon is just a tiny little BIT cool, which is saying something, because not even Hank Pym (who is very VERY cool) is cool enough to make his Ultimates version anything but a chump.

But, seriously, did you take a look at his dial?

One KO slot. ELEVEN clicks of life. An Attack Value that starts at 12 (TWELVE!!! For a Seth designed dial, that's, like, "Here, here's the keys to my house, take everything you want, and my girlfriend is a real easy lay after the first two beers, too, so bring a sixer, I work from 8 to 8 every day and she's always home by 4 in the afternoon, dude"... I mean, Seth simply does not dish out 12 attacks, he must have been high on goofballs or something when he designed this dial) and never drops below the miserable crappy 9 that Seth nearly always inflicts on EVERY character, no matter how astonishingly godlike that character should actually be. A 10 movement with Running Shot, so he can move and make a missile attack in the same turn, a 16 Defense, which isn't so hot in and of itself, but with Impervious on it, well, that rocks out loud, and a 4 damage with Ranged Combat Expert. Now, I could quibble on that last -- I mean, if the new Icons Superman, and the new ORIGIN Supergirl, can deal out 5 damage straight up, without mods, then I'd think The Mighty Thor should get a 5 damage too, and then, sure, add +2 to that for a ranged attack with mighty Mjolnir, absolutely, that works for me.

But, I ain't gonna quibble. If Mighty Mjolnir only does 6 clicks of damage when Thor bounces it off someone's coconut at range, well, 'tis enough, 'twil serve.

Speaking of range -- while a 10 isn't a 12, or, perhaps, the truly mindbogglingly and fittingly godlike 14 I'd like to see on the Norse God of Thunder, still, it's nothing to sneer at. Coupled with the Running Shot and the formidable Attack Value (he hits 18 Defenses on a 6! A SIX, bitchez!!!) it makes The Mighty Thor into one lean mean wrecking machine.

And that Power Cosmic TA -- oh BABY. The Mighty Thor's stats cannot be countered by sneaky little Outwitting dickheads, and he does not take pushing damage, so he can take two actions in a row all damn day long without hurting himself. This -- THIS -- is THE MIGHTY THOR. Bow before him. Worship him. Or, y'know, just head for the hills.

Yeah, he's the only Thor that can't fly, but, well, Thor employs his hammer to fly, and if you're wondering what's keeping mighty Mjolnir busy, well, take a look at all that Ranged Combat Expert on Thor's damage slot. Mjolnir is a little too occupied breaking shit to act as a taxi for this fig, and that's all right with me.

Now, sure, at 286 points, he's one pricey frickin' piece of plastic to add to your team, more expensive even than the much vaunted LEGACY Ares. And, sure, I'd have liked an extra range target or two to really make the most of all that Energy Explosion halfway down his dial. But fuck it, every click he has Energy Explosion on he also has Flurry, letting him make two close combat attacks per turn for 3 damage each, with Attack Values of 11, 12, and 11. I mean, who's going to be throwing lightning around when you can pummel some adjacent dumbass for six clicks of damage in a turn, or two adjacent dumb asses for three each?

Add in the Thundering Blow Feat Card that comes only with this exclusive figure and you've got a powerful force for good or ill indeed, albeit one that weighs in at a hefty 306 points.

My only problem at this point is figuring out where to display him. I already have two different Thor figures (Clobberin' Time, Supernova) in my Avengers line up, so I'm thinking of starting a separate Thor and His Enemies section on another set of shelves...

Anyway. Fabulous surprise in the mail last night. Plus, an online magazine had a lot of advance information on the upcoming AVENGERS set... but I'll need a lot more time to adequately report on that, and Mike Norton will probably beat me to it, anyway.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Shot through the heart (and JMS is to blame)

Now slightly updated! (3/20/2007)

From Wikipedia:

The story begins on December 8, 1940. Dr. Abraham Erskine is killed by a German spy, along with MP Benjamin Parker, before the Super-Soldier Serum was to be used for Project: Rebirth.

Due to the assassination, Project: Rebirth is cancelled. The US government activates Project: Iron Man and asks Steve Rogers to participate in it. Steve accepts, and is permanently bonded to the Iron Man armor. Iron Man debuts during the Battle of Guadalcanal, going on to help win the Second World War.

Decades later, Peter Parker sneaks out of a field trip to a desert base and goes joyriding with friends in a stolen jeep. After the jeep breaks down, Peter goes off to find fuel, wandering into a test site just as a gamma bomb is detonated and recovers from the explosion in hospital. After returning home, Peter is confronted by the two friends, who accuse him of getting them into trouble. Peter becomes angry and turns into the Hulk, destroying property around him. The Hulk is confronted by the police. Aunt May recognises the Hulk as Peter and suffers a heart attack, which causes him to flee.

Peter later visits Aunt May in the hospital and says goodbye before running away, only to be confronted by Iron Man and several army troops. Peter turns into the Hulk and confronts Iron Man. After a long fight outside the hospital, the Hulk eventually kills Iron Man and flees in terror.

Meanwhile, Reed Richards, along with his co-pilots Ben Grimm, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm, launches into space in a rocket designed to collect cosmic rays. However, the rocket explodes before it can reach orbit due to sabotage, crashing back to Earth and killing Ben, Johnny and Sue. Afterwards, Reed is invited to join the spy organisation called S.H.I.E.L.D.

Years later, Bruce Banner is bitten by a radioactive spider collected from the gamma bomb test site and mutates into a half-man, half-spider creature. After going on the run for two years, Banner is captured and, after having his mutation brought under control, becomes a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.

That's the deal, and it's fine as far as it goes. And, I grant you, it isn't very realistic to expect it to go all that far, in a mere 5 issue miniseries. And yet, I get to the climactic fifth issue, and here are all these previously completely unmentioned superheroes and supervillains swarming out of the woodwork to fight Galactus, and Strazinsky gives us this clever little caption about how "Some lives were not touched at all" by, you know, the original stray bullet that created this entire alternate universe -- and sure, that's reasonable. It is.

Upon reading this, though, a huge part of me instantly screams -- "BULLSHIT!!!!"

If you're going to 'turn the Marvel Universe on its side', you have to do THE WHOLE MARVEL UNIVERSE. If one stray bullet is going to turn Steve Rogers into Iron Man, Peter Parker into the Hulk, Bruce Banner into Spider-Man and keep the Fantastic Four from ever existing... well... that's a lot of weight to pile onto one small piece of high velocity heavy metal, granted. But I say, KEEP PILING. I want to see this supposedly minor change eventually effect everything and everyone in the entire damn universe, or, at least, on the entire damn Marvel Earth.

Otherwise, it's very much like you're saying "Well, yeah, sure, Captain America and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, they're important. If you fuck with their origins, make a bunch of them not exist and seriously screw with the others, that's going to have an impact, yes. But... you know... not on everything. Especially not on, um, THE NEW X-MEN. Because they're too good to be in any way changed by something as trivial and stupid as Captain America and the Fantastic Four never existing and Peter Parker and Bruce Banner trading super-identities."

And, once again, my forebrain is up on its hindlegs chanting "bullSHIT bullSHIT bullSHIT". Because there is just no way I'm going to swallow that nonsense.

And, you know, my so-called mind, in its endlessly mysterious ways, kicks out alternate timelines the way horses shit on an uphill slope. So, here's MY rather more fully fleshed out timeline for Marvel's BULLET POINTS universe --

Inventor of super soldier serum killed days before Steve Rogers would have become Captain America, stray bullet cuts down MP Ben Parker as well -- Steve Rogers becomes first Iron Man -- after WWII, Peter Parker becomes the Hulk -- Reed Richards is sole survivor of rocket flight, becomes director of SHIELD -- Stephen Strange is never injured, works as surgeon for U.S. government

Strange is eventually assigned to Operation: FURY, a top secret project hidden in Canada where an immortal soldier from WWII has volunteered to have his bones fused with admantium

Professor Charles Xavier is led by his first, experimental Cerebro machine to New York City's bowery, where he discovers a homeless mutant who has winged feet, pointed ears, the ability to fly, bulletproof skin, and superhuman strength that is somehow tied to a dependency on immersion in water -- this mutant agrees to accept training and therapy from Xavier, in hopes of recovering his memory -- these two become a team, and their adventures soon lead them to the American Southwest, where they unearth the inert body of the world's first android, the ironically named Human Torch -- the Torch's revival causes the homeless mutant to remember that he is Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner -- the Torch, Namor, and Charles Xavier form a group called 'the New Invaders', whose specific purpose is to foil threats to world peace originating outside America's borders

A teenaged Sam Wilson pushes an old woman out of the path of a speeding truck and is blinded when a piece of radioactive waste from the truck strikes him across the eyes -- when his parents are later killed by crime related violence, Wilson will take on the guise of Daredevil and declare war on Harlem's underworld --

A young Scott Summers, having fallen under the criminal influence of the mutant Jack o'Diamonds, finds his mutant powers manifesting as he and his evil mentor are being attacked by a rival underworld gang, led by a man named "The Fixer". Summers and Jack O'Diamonds easily destroy their attackers using Summers' new, largely uncontrolled optic blasts. Now responsible for several mostly inadvertent murders, Summers becomes a hardened criminal --

With The Fixer's gang destroyed, "Battlin" Jack Murdock takes the heavyweight title of the world -- his son Matt Murdock goes on to excel in his studies and join the Air Force, where he eventually enters astronaut training with NASA – his superior sense of spatial relationships coupled with his own brash nature quickly earn him the nickname of "Hotshot" --

At Cape Canaveral , Lt. Carol Danvers has encountered and foiled several alien infiltration plots – when top secret long range sensors discover what seems to be an alien base on the moon, she volunteers for an exploratory expedition commanded by Colonel John Jameson, using a redesigned Richards rocket engine -- others in this expeditionary crew are Air Force pilot turned astronaut Matt Murdock and young math genius and Air Force Lt. Hank McCoy, who is secretly a mutant -- passing through cosmic radiation belts during the journey, all four are mutated (or further mutated), with Matt "Hotshot" Murdock gaining power over fire and the ability to transform into a walking humanoid fireball, McCoy transforming into a monstrous black furred superstrong Beast with incredible agility and regenerative powers, Lt. Danvers gaining the ability to manipulate an invisible particle field allowing various effects (including high velocity flight while encased in an indestructible, friction proof forcefield) and Col Jameson himself gaining the power to stretch his body to a near infinite degree – the expedition reaches the moon and discovers the "Blue Area" along with a Kree outpost there, which they manage to destroy – returning to Earth, they are hailed by the press as "the Fantastic Four" and led by John "Mr. Fantastic" Jameson, become the U.S. military's front line force against unEarthly threats

In the Soviet Union, Project: воин олова("Tin Soldier") has been ongoing since the mid 1940s, attempting to create a working duplicate of America's Iron Man armor – Dr. Erik Magnus is in charge. Magnus is using the project as cover for his private, covert activities searching out fellow mutants he can dominate/enslave and use to conquer the world. When Tin Soldier hits an snag, Magnus arranges to have visiting biophysicist Henry Pym and his East German wife Maria kidnapped so Pym can be forced to work on the project – Pym combines his own cybernetic and size control breakthroughs with Russian 'Tin Soldier' tech to create a prototype 'Soldier Ant' battlesuit that will only function in miniature size – he is killed attempting to break himself and his wife out – his wife, Maria Pym, dons the 'Soldier Ant' battlesuit and wreaks havoc on the Tin Soldier compound before escaping – back in the U.S., she vows to carry on her husband's work and to use his technology to fight crime and aid the oppressed as Soldier Ant –

Soldier Ant soon encounters Misty Knight while Misty is still going through the police academy – Misty asks Soldier Ant if she can become her partner; Soldier Ant uses Pym size change technology to create the superhero identity 'Giantess' for Misty – the two become a crime-fighting team

When Vernon van Dyne is murdered by an alien outlaw, his teenage daughter Janet becomes obsessed with avenging her father's murder. She devotes herself to a rigorous physical and mental training process and utilizing her newly inherited wealth as well as her father's self invented alien detection technology, she equips herself to hunt down her father's murderer and kill him. Having done so, she equips herself further with alien technology confiscated from her father's murderer, and vows to devote her life to avenging the innocent as The Punisher (a name she chooses from something her father's killer calls her as he is dying, referring to an alien legend)

When newly graduated medical students Don Blake and Jane Foster accidentally stumble on an alien invasion fleet hidden in Northern Europe, they flee into a cavern, where a cave-in kills Blake and breaks Foster's leg – she finds an old stick and upon accidentally striking it against a stone she is attempting to shift, she is transformed into a female version of Thor – she escapes the cavern, foils the aliens, and returns to the U.S. where she continues to occasionally battle evil as Thor –

Odin assigns Loki to test this new female 'Thor' -- Loki uses his powers to make a circus strongman named 'Crusher' Creel into The Absorbing Man – Creel runs amok at the circus – Jane Foster is watching, and turns into Thor to battle Creel – also in the audience are Maria Pym and Misty Knight, who become Soldier Ant and Giantess to aid Thor – working as performers in the circus are Clint Barton, along with Wanda and Pietro Magnus – all six working together are barely capable of defeating The Absorbing Man, and upon doing so, decide to form a permanent team called The Avengers

After Mordo proves incapable of protecting Earth's dimension from Dormammu, the Ancient One seeks a more effective disciple to eventually become Earth's sorcerer supreme – sensing enormous latent power to manipulate reality in a young American named Rick Jones, the Ancient One recruits Jones – eventually, Jones becomes a Master of the Mystic Arts and, on the death of the Ancient One years later at the hands of Shuma-Gorath, succeeds to the post of Sorcerer Supreme

When Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – Cyclops, Jack o'Diamonds, Mastermind, the Blob, and the Toad – attack Cape Canaveral, it is the Fantastic Four who drive them off

When Victor Von Doom nearly succeeds at hurling SHIELD headquarters into the sun, SHIELD Director Reed Richards works with Tony Stark to design a giant, flying 'helicarrier' to use as a mobile HQ for SHIELD from that point on – upon having his plan foiled by Richards and Stark, Doom kills Baron Strucker and replaces him with a lifelike robot duplicate, which Doom then uses to control HYDRA by proxy -- thus begins a decades long conflict between Doom/HYDRA and Richards/SHIELD

That should cover most of the early Silver Age, at least, and with that level of change to the MU (no Cap, a military FF, Tony Stark and Dr. Strange are civilians, Hank Pym and Don Blake dead, Reed Richards is running SHIELD, Nick Fury is basically Wolverine, Magneto is working for the Soviet Union when he isn't moonlighting as a world beater, Rick Jones as Sorcerer Supreme, Charles Xavier, Namor, and the original Human Torch adventuring together, etc, etc) it seems to me that virtually every other character and concept we know of in the Marvel Universe would have to also be distorted in some way by the effect of that original stray bullet.

I'd ask people to tell me what they think, but, well, this is one of those entries that nobody but me ever reads, so... y'know...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

(not so) Great Scott!

One of my very first 'favorite characters' was the Golden Age Green Lantern. Yeah, that's him over to the left. Funky, huh? I saw him for the first time ever in a 100 Page Super Spectacular that was mostly reprint material -- I couldn't tell you which one in particular, but I know it featured a story where the Golden Age GL had to take on the evil Sportsmaster, besting him at any number of sports-related athletic events without resorting to his magic power ring. Naturally, GL thrashed the baddie utterly, proving that even without his item of power, he was still a force to be reckoned with. Either that, or Sportsmaster was a doofus. Maybe both, come to think of it.

For some reason, the story made a deep impression on me -- probably because when I was a kid, the gaudier and more garishly polychromatic a superhero's costume was, the more I liked him or her. As you can see, the Golden Age Green Lantern may well be the all time champeen and universal record holder for Most Aesthetically Dreadful Superhero Outfit Ever, beating out even the Murphy Anderson designed costume for the adult Robin of Earth-2 (only ever seen in a single two page spread done for an early JLA/JSA team up back in the 60s) and the yellow/red monstrosity sported very briefly by Daredevil, for sheer vulgar tackiness.

I loved it. And, when I managed to read a few more reprinted adventures of the Golden Age Green Lantern, I loved the character, too. I mean, yeah, sure, the then-modern version of Green Lantern was cool enough with his test pilot job and his green and black skintights and his membership in an intergalactic, mostly alien police force. But this Golden Age guy was the bomb! He had that awesome purple cape and his costume looked like it was made out of real fabric and materials and his ring was magic instead of an artifact of alien super science and it seemed much cooler to me that where the current GL's power ring wouldn't work on yellow, the Golden Age Green Lantern's ring was powerless against wood.

I mean, this just seemed more workable, somehow. ANYthing could be yellow, after all; yellow wasn't a substance, it was a subjective condition of an object's appearance -- even as a ten year old, I used to wonder, are there alien Green Lanterns who don't see what we regard as visible light? Maybe bat-like Green Lanterns with a built in radar sense? And if so, wouldn't they be completely invincible, because nothing would ever be 'yellow' to them, and in fact, they wouldn't even know what 'yellow' was? But wood was an actual substance. If something was wood, well, it wasn't going to be anything else if you turned out the lights, or filtered the rays of the sun through a green power prism, or, y'know, closed your eyes.

Anyway, I really liked Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern. I thought he was super cool, along with that bizarre Hawkman guy, and the stuff we love when we're 10 years old is the stuff we will always love in some way. So, thirty years or so later, when I started collecting HeroClix figures, well, one of the first ones I went looking for was a Golden Age Green Lantern.

Alas, back when I started collecting HeroClix (Christmas of 2003, I believe) we didn't even have a Hal Jordan Green Lantern figure yet; the only Green Lantern that had come out in clix form at that time was John Stewart (most likely because he was pretty much the only black character in that entire first HeroClix expansion; DC's superhero line up being almost overwhelmingly Caucasian in appearance). We weren't to get a Hal Jordan GL until the UNLEASHED set came along, although, in the preceding LEGACY set, WizKids did, kind of, give us an Alan Scott figure -- this guy here:

Straight out of the odious but oh so popular KINGDOM COME graphic novel came this rather foolishly balding Alan Scott (foolishly balding because, you know, while Alan Scott in the Modern Day has to be something like 87 years old, he's also entirely composed of some mystic green energy in humanoid form, and his appearance is entirely a matter of his will, and I find it doubtful that any human male would ever 'will' himself to have the kind of receding hairline that Alex Ross depicted Alan having in KINGDOM COME). The green energy, medieval looking sword and armor made for a lovely looking HeroClix sculpt, and as for the longest time this was the only Alan Scott figure in existence, I wanted it badly. This yearning led to a great deal of frustration for me, since the Kingdom Come Green Lantern was then and still remains one of the most avidly sought after chase figures in HeroClix; a quick jog over to Ebay reveals that right now, he's going for around $50 a pop.

KC Green Lantern is, to my mind, not much of a Green Lantern, as defined by the dial you can see a graph of above. A few clicks of Running Shot on an acceptable but not outstanding movement made him a mobile piece, sure. A missile attack range of 10 helped his usefulness, and 2 targets is always good to see -- but for attack powers, all he has is Telekinesis, making his generally excellent attack values kind of a waste if you want to use that power, and absolutely making the extra range target all but useless. The defense is frankly fabulous, especially on that opening click, and Willpower makes him slightly more useful, as he can take actions two turns in a row without pushing himself off that sensational 20. And a 4 damage with RCE ain't nothin' to sneeze at, either -- that's 6 clicks of bone bruising admonition he could deliver, up to 15 squares away from whatever grid he might start the turn in.

Yet, still, for a character with a magic weapon that can create literally anything he can imagine out of mystic green energy, this was a startlingly limited interpretation -- he was, basically, an orbital laser cannon, or, if you will, a flying plasma bolt generator. And the lack of damage reducers made him a chancy investment of 225 points; yeah, it was going to be tough to hit him with that high defense, but everybody rolls boxcars sometimes, and if some lucky player managed to clip KC GL for 4 or 5 clicks of damage, he suddenly transformed into a 225 point turd. The last two clicks of Defend with the late dial spike in Defense Value could make for an interestingly useful if massively overpriced taxi as the game wound down... but, honestly, he just didn't impress me that much. A Green Lantern, after all, should be able to do so much more.

So it was that, when we first started seeing promotional material for the latest HeroClix expansion, ORIGIN, I was very pleased and excited to see that one of the characters prominently featured on the booster box art was the Golden Age Green Lantern. And, as more and more information was doled out in tiny, miserly dollops by WizKids' sadistically cruel and almost certainly bedwetting HeroClix Brand Manager, Mark Tuttle, one of the tidbits I received with great joy was that not only was there going to be a Golden Age Green Lantern figure, but that Alan Scott would be represented by a full REV -- Rookie, Experienced, Veteran versions -- in the set as well. Best of all, the Veteran Golden Age Green Lantern was going to be 214 points -- a mere 11 points less than what the KC Green Lantern had cost.

I had high hopes that this REV of Alan Scott, and especially the 214 point vet, would finally do the character justice.

I am, at this point, about a full brick (12 boosters) into the set, and, very oddly, I haven't pulled a single Unique yet -- other than Queen Hippolyta, which, I suppose, pretty much used up all my luck in that quarter for some time to come. I was pleased, a few boosters back, to pull out one of these little fellas --

That first one I pulled was just a rookie. Now, the rookie version of Alan Scott, Green Lantern is pretty cool -- for 85 points, you get all this Green Lanterny goodness --

This was the kind of dial I wanted to see on my Golden Age Green Lantern, baby. Solid opening stats and powers that I found very playable for the points -- a 10 movement with Running Shot making him highly mobile, a 10 Attack Value with Incapacitate making him very effective right from the start, a 17 Defense Value with Energy Shield/Deflection making him nearly as tough to hit from a distance as his Kingdom Come version, a solid 3 damage making him a likely candidate for a Stunning Blow feat card -- yeah, this was a rookie Alan Scott I could have some respect for. The JSA team ability meant I'd be able to share that high 17 defense with other JSAers, which was a nice little bonus. Yeah, the 8 range wasn't such a much, but still, he's a rookie. I had very high hopes that the decent stats boded VERY well for what I'd see on his Vet version.

So, just the other night SuperFiancee bought me a couple of boosters of ORIGIN. And I was VERY pleased to open one and see, tucked down towards the bottom, another Golden Age Green Lantern figure -- which, upon closer examination, proved to have a red ringed (Veteran) base. Yes! The 214 point Golden Age Green Lantern -- was MINE!!!

So I got him home and took a look at his base, clicking through all his slots. I'm sure I'd looked at his stats when WK first posted the full ORIGIN gallery a week or so back, but when you click through 123 figures at once, it's hard to really concentrate on one dial in specific. This time, looking at him in isolation, and knowing what the rookie had on his dial, well, I got a much better overall impression of his utility.

Here's what I saw:

The first thing that jumped out at me were his stats. In 75 years of fighting every sort of menace imaginable, Alan still hasn't gotten any faster, or any better at hitting something with his magic power beam. His range is greater -- at a 12, in fact, he's got one of the best ranges in the game -- but he still only has 1 range target, which makes his Incapacitate and Energy Explosion attack powers largely wastes of points. His Defense Value is one better, and his opening click of Barrier is always welcome under my particular House Rules, where the power is actually quite useful. Under WK's normal tournament rules, though, this opening click with no defense mods or damage reducers is basically an invitation to the opposition to bring the hammer down -- and do it for at least three clicks of damage, so as to knock Alan through his two clicks of Invulnerability and onto some Energy Shield/Deflection.

Now, an 18 Defense with a JSA team ability is something worth celebrating, as it's the first time the JSA has gotten a member with a really high defense to share amongst adjacent team members. Still, 214 points is a high price to pay for it. In fact, for a somewhat mobile long range Incapacitator who deals out pretty decent damage when he hits with an acceptable but not spectacular Attack Value -- well, 214 points is just a lot to pay, period.

The Vet GL becomes much more effective if you add Stunning Blow to him, so he can both add an extra action token AND deal 5 clicks of damage to any target he successfully hits from range. That jacks him up to 224 points for a flying pillbox, though... one who still can't hit for the kind of damage his KC doppelganger can deal out, and who will lose that high defense if he takes action two turns in a row. An Armor Piercing will make his weak-ass single target Energy Explosion a bit more effective, but that's simply adding more points to an already out of control, completely unbalanced build investment that will never pay any dividends.

A click of Leadership, one of Phasing, a few of Pulse Wave and Force Blast -- yeah, they make the figure more versatile, but none of this versatility really seems to justify the monumental price tag. I'd trade in all four powers for an extra range target and an opening slot with an 11 attack value. Change out the last slot of Willpower for the first slot of Barrier so Alan can blow shit up two turns in a row without losing his best stats or power combinations and you might just have a figure worth the hefty price tag.

As it is, though, when I play Green Lantern in a JSA team, I will most likely play the 85 point rookie. He's very nearly as useful as the monstrously overpriced Vet, and leaves a lot more room for extra Feats and additional teammates.

It also makes me sad that in an expansion that is truly notable for beautiful sculpts, WK decided to go with an obviously Golden Age, rather awkward and two dimensional looking Martin Nodell inspired figure for Alan Scott. But, hey, at least we have one now. That's something.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

99 severed heads roll by

So we went and saw 300 tonight. (A tip of the ancient katana to Tony Collett, who sent us free tickets for 300. I'm glad I saw it so I can have an informed opinion on it, but I sure wouldn't have wanted to pay actual money for the experience.)

I was composing my review in my head as I watched 300. Words like 'retarded', 'moronic', 'idiotic', and 'jesus, Leonidas, just kiss him already, would you?' kept recurring, much though I tried to rise above them . Yet, mostly, as the film continued to flicker across the screen before me, I found myself planning to emphasize just how bizarre I found it that conservatives could somehow manage to embrace this movie so enthusiastically, while clearly identifying themselves with Leonidas and his 300 doomed but supposedly noble warriors.

This baffled me as I watched the film, because, yeah, sure, okay, I got the whole "how can a king uphold the law when the law itself prevents him from defending his people" thing -- riiiiight, so Leonidas is supposed to be Bush, and this is a thinly veiled reference to the whole wiretapping thing; I understand, they're trying to say that Bush has to break the law to protect his people, yeah, I get it.

But then, how could conservatives (or anyone else, for that matter) possibly continue to think of Leonidas as a CGI buffed up stand in for Bush, when Leonidas turns around and actually leads his troops into combat, and Dubya is a guy who pulled strings to avoid combat, and who sneered "Bring it on!" into a TV camera within a heavily fortified cocoon of concrete, steel, and bulletproof glass and behind a wall of heavily armed Secret Service agents to an enemy that was on the other side of the planet at the time?

That just made no sense to me.

I understood that the diseased, leprous, scabby looking priesthood counseling peace (while all the time in the pay of The Enemy) was supposed to be the United Nations, especially the French. And yes, I follow that the effeminate, toga wearing Spartan elders wringing their hands and imploring Leonidas/Bush not to go to war in defiance of the oracle are supposed to be Congress... except that doesn't make any sense; Congress wrote Bush a blank check when he started the war in Iraq. So what the hell...?

And all the ways this didn't make sense kept piling up. I mean, Persia is invading Greece, right? And the 300 Spartans are defending their homelands from a massive military force, right? So, again, how is it that the Spartans are the U.S., and the Persians are... what... the hordes of islamofascism? The global caliphate? Al Qaeda?

Honestly, it was just stupid. Not that I expect conservatives to be particularly intelligent or reasonable about anything, but, still, this seemed even more senseless than most right wing bullshit. It was much, much dumber than the average wingnut spew... and, man, that takes some doing.

But then I got it. (Sometimes I'm a little slow.) It's not that Leonidas is Bush and the 300 noble Spartans defending the narrow pass are somehow the invading U.S. forces occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, and Persia represents the unrelenting monolithic hordes of global Islam. Because, really, that just won't work, and even conservatives can't be stupid enough to somehow believe that logic rings true.

No, actually, it's much simpler than that. Leonidas is supposed to be Bush, sure. But the 300 noble Spartans, fighting and dying to preserve their way of life from an overwhelmingly oppressive enemy, in the hopes that all their fellow Spartans would wake up to the threat in time to take up arms and repel the wicked hordes of rotten, sinful corruption? They aren't the U.S. forces occupying the Middle East. And Persia isn't the Islamofascists. Leonidas is meant to be Dubya, absolutely. But the 300 Spartans, those half naked, weapon wielding, totally ripped specimens of sheer raw testosterone in strappy sandals?

They're supposed to be... wingnuts!

Yep. The brave 300, sacrificing themselves heroically for the good of their culture, throwing their lives away to slow the relentless progress of an unstoppable, irrefutably evil and immoral enemy... these are supposed to be right wing nutjobs.

And Persia? Wicked Persia, decadent Persia, sinful, pagan, evil Persia, lost in the throes of its own moral corruption, with all its parties and slave girls kissing each other on the mouths and traitorous hunchbacks groping their way through orgiastic seas of sweaty, heaving, naked bosoms and perfectly manicured totally bald god-kings who wear rouge and eyeshadow and lipstick and who demand that everybody kneel before them?

That's the liberal menace, boys and girls. That's... us.

The conflict is clear, the lines are drawn, the gauntlet is thrown. The Spartans... steely eyed, mighty thewed, sweaty browed, smooth featured, clench buttocked, clean limbed and, you know, universally melanin impaired... that's Jonah Goldberg, Dan Riehl, Rush Limbaugh, Dafydd ab Hugh, Michael Medved, Mark Steyn, David Frum, Mike S. Adams, Rich Lowry, Ben Shapiro, Sean Hannity, Glenn Reynolds, etc ad nauseum.

The noble Spartan Queen, sneering to a dark skinned interloper that "only Spartan women can give birth to true men"? That's Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Peggy Noonan, Marie Jon', that she-troll from the Atlas Shrugged blog, and all those other noble conservative chickiepoos, all rolled into one.

And Persia? Rotten Persia, disgusting Persia, vile and hideous and blasphemous Persia, with its god-kings and its slave armies and its horrifyingly deformed hunchback traitors and its mincing, cowardly soldiery? Well, that would be, like, Ted Kennedy and the Clintons and Barack Obama and Michael Moore and, I guess, me.


I had no idea all us liberals owned so much jewelry, or that we were having so much fun all the time while wearing it.

I could get all petty in terms of some of the historical details of the film, I guess. I could ask exactly what material those shiny all-metal shields the Spartans lug around with them are made of, since Leonidas and his 300 lived and died in the Bronze Age, and nobody carried around a shield made entirely of metal in the Bronze Age, because such a shield would have weighed several hundred pounds and even a CGI enhanced Spartan would have had a hard time hauling something like that into combat strapped to one arm. I could wonder at exactly what kind of 'freedom' a culture in which it is unlawful to retreat or surrender is actually fighting for, or what kind of 'justice' is embodied in a culture that throws sickly babies off a cliff. I could even quibble that when Leonidas boasts that all Spartan males are warriors and none of them are blacksmiths or sculptors or potters like the fruity Arcadians, well, there sure seems to be someone back home in Sparta running the smithies and making the pots and sculpting the statues, and those guys look a great deal like the same sort of male Spartans Leonidas has in his 300.

And I could muse on the fact that Greek culture during the historical period of Leonidas and his 300 was predominantly homosexual; the men in ancient Greece (even the manly, manly Spartans) only had intercourse with women for purposes of procreation, and took their pleasures (often) with other men, and boys.

That last notation is probably unfair, though. I mean, conservatives certainly don't have to identify with that aspect of Leonidas' lifestyle if they don't want to. They can absolutely emphasize Leonidas' nobility, his bravery, his courage, and his idealism, if that's what they choose to do. Yet, still, any movie that features this many half naked, really good looking guys running around thrusting long shafts into each other over and over and over again, in which so many men spend so much time demanding that other men kneel before them, and in which so many truly butch guys dressed only in panties and leather straps manage to get so constantly and thoroughly spattered with the body fluids of other men... I don't know. I'm thinking that pointing out that the Greek culture which the Spartans were part of and which they were fighting, killing, and dying to defend was homosexual by choice is, well, appropriate, and merited.

As SuperFiancee said in the car on the ride home "That movie was WAY more gay than BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN". And she's entirely correct... even if it does make all the Fighting Keyboarders who are strutting around proudly identifying with Leonidas and his 300 a little bit nauseous.

Friday, March 09, 2007

On the road of experience

This week's been a little stressful for me. My job always pretty much lays on me like a boulder, and this week, they decided to schedule some mandatory Saturday overtime just to screw with my three day weekend, which wasn't helping me relax. Then there was Tuesday night's meeting with the McCloud's -- something SuperFiancee went to a lot of trouble to put together for me, but something I was dreading nonetheless, because, well, I simply couldn't imagine that Scott or Ivy would care much whether I showed up or not, and I hate the idea of people tolerating me out of courtesy when they'd rather they were anywhere else but in a room with me.

And then, at the end of this week, I was scheduled to go over to DMV and take the test for my permit, something I'd been studying the driver's manual for, on and off, for the last couple of months. And I was dreading that, too, mostly because I was deeply afraid of failing the test and disappointing SuperFiancee -- something I never like to do.

So, I was a little stressed this week. And when I'm stressed, I don't sleep well, and of course, fatigue doesn't do much to help with stress.

However, I pleaded with my boss for a special dispensation in regard to the Saturday training. I have some problems doing my job, and my supervisors understand that, but none of those problems involve actual job knowledge, which is what the Saturday overtime was all about -- retraining for people who didn't seem to really get a lot of basic stuff about the work at Craptastic City. I pointed out that this upcoming weekend was packed with already scheduled wedding stuff for me (and it is) and that they knew I was one of the most knowledgeable reps they had on the floor. My supervisor agreed, and allowed as to how I could take a skills assessment that was floating around and if I passed it, I didn't have to show up for the Saturday session. So I took it, and it was no joke, either -- a lot of complicated questions regarding tasks we mostly never have to do in my job, because we have a whole team of claims processors who do that stuff instead. But I got through it successfully, so that came off my shoulders. Which was and is a huge relief.

The meeting with the McClouds went well. I enjoyed myself, Scott and Ivy seemed to, and if on some deeply childish level I seem unable to ever fully expunge I'm still unconvinced they were really as pleased to see me as they acted, well, still, it went smoothly, I didn't embarrass my family or anyone else, and I'm very sure the McClouds really DID enjoy meeting SuperFiancee and the older two SuperKids. I mean, who wouldn't? And SF and the kids had a great time, and, honestly, that's always going to be the most important thing to me. So that was good, too.

And then, today, I cruised through the permit exam and am now the proud owner of a shiny new Kentucky learner's permit.

I may actually get a driver's license yet before I'm picking out my next incarnation. Probably just in time for all the oil to run out, knowing my luck.

And today, I got to take all my girls out to lunch -- we picked up some Panera, my treat, and then went over to a local park where we all had fun picnicking, wandering around on the hiking trails, and teaching SuperAdorable Kid how to skip stones on the surface of a local creek.

So it's been a good week, despite the bad news that Mike Norton won't be able to come to the wedding. We'd known it was a long shot, but we'd really been hoping. Ah, well.

I've picked up 7 boosters of ORIGIN to date. So far I've gotten a full REV of The Question, two rookie Phantom Ladies, a rookie and veteran Cyborg Superman, a rookie and veteran Animal Man, a rookie and experienced Steel, an experienced Triplicate Girl, a veteran Supergirl, a rookie and experienced Knockout, a rookie and experienced Booster Gold, a vet Halo, an experienced and vet Ray, a rookie Martian Manhunter, a rookie Shazam!, an experienced Catman, an experienced Copperhead, a rookie Wildcat, a veteran Wonder Girl, a veteran Shadow Thief, and a... wait for it... QUEEN HIPPOLYTA.

The last of which is already drawing some very nice trade offers on the WK boards.

I've also gotten something like six TRIAGE cards and a Legionnaire pog.

Sometime this weekend, SF and I have a lot of wedding related errands to run around doing, and we're hoping to use the tickets Tony Collett sent us for 300 (thanks, Tony!). And on the way to at least some of these things, Yr Humble Narrator may well be behind the wheel. So if you're driving around the River City area this weekend, be ready at all times to take evasive manuevers. You have been warned. ;)

Brokeback finest

So my buddy Bane must have been looking at Tony Collett's blog today. He dropped by unexpectedly this afternoon, and, well...

So, thanks a lot, Tony. Now I'm in this fucking wheelchair for at least the next year. But I shall console myself with the knowledge that you'll have to put up with that goddam French idiot in my costume at all our stupid little team ups until I get back on my feet again.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

He's dead, Jim

I am a lineman for the county
and I play with live wires
electrocuted on a rainy autumn day
I see Death over my shoulder
and I feel his cold touch
and the Wichita lineman has bitten the dust

Twisted lyric rewrite by the Late Great Jeff Webb, who went down to that long sleep from which there is no waking himself, lo these 14 years and almost two months ago.

What put me in mind of this was the news, forwarded to me early this morning by SuperFiancee, that, along with Glenn Campbell's Lineman For The County and the Late Great Jeff Webb, Captain America has also bitten the dust.

Oddly, the pic of 'Captain America' on that news story is not the real Captain America, but, rather, the faux Cap-creep who has been strutting around in a badly modified 'hyperrealistic' version of Cap's costume for the last several years over in the godawful, appalling and emotionally retarded Ultimates universe.

Like every other denizen of this noxious, twisted offshoot of the Marvel mainstream, the Ultimates Cap is a badly dysfunctional, barely sentient asswipe whose personality could only be improved, and IQ could only be increased, by firing a full 15 round clip of explosive rounds directly into his brainpan. I'd love to think that the Cap Marvel just killed is the Ultimates Cap; in fact, few things would bring a broader grin to my face at this particular moment.

But, alas, I'm sure it's just a sloppy graphics choice by an ignorant compiler. I have little doubt that if any Captain America is going to get the gaff from Marvel's current editorial staff, it will be the Cap who fought Nazis in WWII, who was frozen in an ice floe in 1945 and later thawed out by the Avengers in the fourth issue of that seminal superteam serial, who was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and whose adventuring arcs in the 1970s under Stainless Steve Englehart were perhaps the most brilliant exploration of superhero comics ever done by a mainstream comics publisher.

It's a sad, bad day for the Marvel Universe when the one true Captain America finally gets toe tagged. But in point of fact, it's also fitting. The Marvel Universe has been swirling around the drain for quite a long time now; with the events of the just concluded CIVIL WAR miniseries, pretty much the entire continuum has now been thoroughly flushed. Neither the Marvel Universe nor the DC Universe are fun sites for escapist fantasy any more; neither, at this point, is a place anyone sane would ever want to hang out in, even briefly, even only in their heads. DC, at least, still has some good writers; Marvel, on the other hand, seems to have put their entire line up into the hands of horrifyingly inept, creatively corrosive, blunderingly botulant Alan Moore wannabes like Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, and Brian Bendis.

(Botulant may not be an actual word. Life moves pretty fast; I type even faster.)

The Captain America I knew and loved, the Cap who led the Avengers for forty years, the Cap who was beautifully drawn for decades by the likes of Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, and John Byrne, the Cap who was never written well, not even once, after Steve Engelhart left Marvel except for that tragically brief period when Roger Stern took over the book in the early 80s -- that Cap, my Cap and perhaps, if you're a decent, right thinking American, your Cap as well -- that Captain America just got gunned down in cold blood by idiot editors unworthy to shine his shield or fold down the tops of his buccaneer boots for him.

The Living Legend of World War II -- lives no longer.

They say death isn't necessarily final in comic books. They say Cap might come back, just like Bucky did a few years ago. They say -- don't give up hope, True Believer.

I say, I gave up hope in the entire Marvel Universe a good long while back. I say, don't stop with Cap, put a bullet in every Marvel hero's head, turn the mainstream universe into a cosmos-wide open grave full of restless corpses, and devote all (non) creative efforts from this point forward to the 'orrible 'orrible ULTIMATES.

I say -- True Believer? Marvel Universe?

Contradiction in terms, baby. Contradiction in terms.

Entropy always increases, all good things come to an end, and now Steve Rogers, like Elvis before him, has left the building for good and all.

Closing time.

If you're a fan of the Silver Age Marvel Universe, well... you don't have to go home.

But you can't stay here.

History yet lives!

The Masters of Going Faster warped into River City at hyperspeed yesterday, to the delight of many, including Yr Humble Narrator. Dropping back into normal time for a few fleeting hours, Scott, Ivy, Sky and Winter McCloud dazzled a standing room only crowd of students, art lovers, comic book fans, and one old college buddy at Chao Auditorium on the River City University campus, and then dazzled a much smaller crowd of us at a nearby spaghetti restuarant afterwards, until I, being a no-fun, had to pack up the babies and grab my fiancee and get back home, because, you know, SOME of us aren't wildly successful auteurs and still have actual day jobs we have to go to. ::grin::

It was fabulous to see Scott and Ivy again, and their daughters are wildly impressive human beings. I actually find my daughters to be even more impressive human beings, but, well, one could argue paternal bias there. Whatever the case, everyone seems to have had a good time, and I have never been prouder of my girls than I was of them last night. I just wish The Baby could have been there, but she had fun playing ponies with the upstairs neighbor, so that's okay, too.

Now it's the next day, and the Flying McClouds have blasted off to bring enlightenment, delight and dizzying joy to yet another set of space/time coordinates on this poor benighted globe, and I am merely left with my memories of an excellent evening, if one that was, alas, cut tragically short by the demands of surly reality.

I was very pleased to be able to gift Scott with a customized Zot! HeroClix figure I've had for several years. He seemed to be honestly delighted by it, which honestly delighted me, as well. (See? I don't give people stuff because I'm a nice guy, as all you deluded fools foolishly believe. I do it for my own selfish pleasure. Nyaaah.) I like the fig and will miss having it, but, to be honest, I never get to play clix any more, and even if I did, I can't think of a theme team that Zot would easily fit onto, so I think the little fella has gone to a far far better place than any he has ever known. Scottspeed, Zachary Paleozogt! May your bootjets never rust, your robobutlers never bust, and your Jennies never fuss as you hurtle perpetually to some needy person's rescue.

For more and better textualizing on Our Dinner With The McClouds, check out SuperFiancee's irrefutably superior write up of the event. No, really, do it now. She's MUCH nicer than I am, anyway.

On another college related note, somebody named Mr. Boy takes time out from his busy evening masturbating to Hanson Brothers videos so that he can drop the following comment on my Martian Vision site:

"Mr. Boy" 1:34 am (11 hours ago)

One day, maybe not soon, but one day, you'll have sex with an actual, honest-to-goodness woman. Yes, it's true. And then, one would hope, you'll realize what a FUCKING LOSER YOU ARE! Holy shit! Get a life, will you!

And while you're at it, stop blaming Kurt Busiek for the sorry mess your own life is.

For the record, my life is very nearly perfect except for my day job, which sucks wild goose dick at an alarming intensity and velocity. I do not necessarily blame Kurt Busiek for the fact that I am currently working a day job which sucks wild goose dick at an alarming intensity and velocity, but sure as Jehovah made great big piles of steaming smelly pigshit, the odds would be much better of me finding a job I'd like better if Mr. Busiek hadn't told a whole bunch of malicious lies about me on this h'yar Interweb thingie a few years ago. Regardless of that, outside my day job my life is a delight beyond my poor powers of description to adequately delineate, and none of that is due to Mr. Busiek, but rather derives from the presence in my life of the fabulous SuperFiancee and the wondrous SuperKids, to whom all praise must and shall be ever rendered, world without end, amen, amen.

As to how much sex I've had with actual, honest to goodness women, well, most if not all of my ex girlfriends, as well as my current lovely paramour and light of my life, have email addresses and could probably supply references, but such things are almost certainly not for the eyes and/or ears of the obviously adolescent Mr. Boy. So I will leave him to his boy-band slash fic and it to him, while noting that one day, maybe not soon, but one day, I'll get a critical comment or email from an actual, honest to goodness grown up with an IQ above 90, and then, one would hope, I will realize that somebody out there with an intelligence greater than lettuce actually has something negative to say about me, and I'll have to sit down and give that some serious thought.

Until that time, though, all I can say is (a) when a thousand different fucktarded dumbasses are sending you anonymous hate spam on the Internet, you must be doing something right and (b) until and unless SuperFiancee wises up and kicks me to the curb, I can never be anything any sane person could possibly describe accurately as a 'loser'.

That is all. If you didn't already go there (fool!) then go now to SuperFiancee's blog and leave her plenty of nice comments, because, you know, she's the class in this act. Pretty much all of it, in fact. Fortunately, she not only has enough for both of us, but for an entire Scout Jamboree, to boot.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Digg on it awhile

So, I've posted a great many of my various essays to

So far, the best I have is 4 Diggs, on my essay about everything wrong with Battlestar Galactica.

On the other hand, this idiotic fucking thing is currently at the top of Digg's popularity pile, with 181 Diggs.

Somedays you can nearly taste the oil on the muzzle of the gun you're about to stick in your mouth.

I'd urge you all to go register at Digg and give my stuff many many diggs, but, honestly, I don't want to be that guy. Also, I have no idea how one would go about linking to my Digg stuff, or pulling it all up on their site. So never mind.

One thing posting stuff on Digg is doing is directing traffic to this site, and to my political site. Not much traffic, and nobody bothers to leave comments here, but, still, it's something.

Okay, that's all you get for now. But there should be another new post below, which potential bachelor party attendees should all read.

Have a great Friday, everyone!

Baby, it's a party as long as you're there

Okay. So, I'm supposed to be doing this bachelor party thing the night before my wedding to SuperFiancee. Best man Nate is organizing it. I really wanted to play some HeroClix, but Nate's running into some rough weather there with the other bachelor party invitees, who just "aren't HeroClix kinda people".

I was really at a loss as to what else we could do at a bachelor party for me. I don't drink, and I've long since gotten over any passing attachment I may have had for attention from surgically enhanced women who are being paid to be nice to me, or watching porn with anyone else in the room besides a chick I'm having sex with. So, what to do with myself and maybe half a dozen other guys, on the night before I get married? I've never been big on poker. I can't teach all these people to play Magic, and clearly they're a buncha stiffs anyway so most of them wouldn't enjoy it. I have a few other geek games like WIZ WAR and TITAN, but if they don't like clix, why would they like either of those? Plus, TITAN would take forever with that many people playing it.

So, I'd suggested he get everybody to chip in on a hotel room with a DVD player and we could watch movies. Boring as hell, I know, but honestly, I couldn't think of much else.

Then Nate came back with "What about that game you invented in Florida, back before you started playing HeroClix?"

That game I invented in Florida... What the hell was he talking about...?

Oh, yeah. KILLQUEST!

It's a blast from the past, baby! Oh YEAH! Goin' all the way back to the sizzlin' Summer of 2003 --


Back in college, the Late Great Jeff Webb and I created a game we called KILLQUEST. Basically, we took three empty pizza boxes and put a copy of a detailed dungeon map we’d made in each of them. Then, two players would set up five person teams of superheroes under certain broad guidelines, and those teams would enter the dungeon map from opposite sides. A referee would keep track of both teams’ movements on his master map (each player had 5 push pins labeled 1 through 5, the referee had ten push pins, one set blue, one set red, also labeled 1 through 5 each, and a list of which character on which team corresponded to each number), duplicating each set of moves each player made on his own master map and then examining it to see if there had been any encounters yet. When one character ran into another character on the map, the referee would announce it, pointing out on each player’s map where they saw the other character, and who each character saw.

This was one of the most fun aspects of the game, namely, finding out who was on the other team. The framework for setting up teams was very vague: we divided all supercharacters up into roughly six levels -- level 1, non-super powered characters (Batman, Captain America), level 2, characters with only one, not particularly powerful, ability (like nearly any member of the Legion of Superheroes, or Mr. Fantastic, or Hawkman, or Cyclops, or Green Arrow), level 3, characters with multiple super-powers that still weren’t overwhelmingly powerful (the Beast, say, or Spider-Man, although I always made Spider-Man a level 4 when I was referee, because of his goddam spider-sense, which is annoying, because the referee has to keep track of it), level 4, characters who were very very powerful but not quite top hole (the Thing, Hank Pym, the Wasp, Ultra Boy), level 5, characters who were pretty much just as powerful as we’d let anyone play in the game (Wonder Man, Thor, guys like that).

Then there was the sixth class, characters that you simply couldn’t play -- the Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, Iron Man (due to his diversity of technological gimmickry that no one could keep track of and that in the comics, he never uses to potential or he’d just be unstoppable), nearly any DC character at the time (this was in 1981, before Crisis cut most DC characters down to size; you just couldn’t let someone play Superman or Wonder Woman or the Martian Manhunter, they were orders of magnitude more powerful than a level 5 Marvel character).

Basically, within your five person team, you could have (if you wanted) 5 level 1 characters (no one ever did that, though) or up to 4 level 2s, or 3 level 3s, or 2 level 4s, or 1 level 5. Obviously, most people took 1 level 5, two level 4s, and then 2 level 3s, although sometimes for fun people did mix it up and take a level 2 or even level 1 character if they had a theme team going.

As I say, the most fun aspect of this primitive version of Killquest was discovering little by little who was on the opposing team. It was the sort of game where nearly anything could happen -- Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., could come around a corner in his skintight blue SHIELD battle-suit with a blaster-pistol in his hand, and find himself face to face with the Super-Skrull! (a favorite villain among Marvel geeks; he’s an alien invader who possesses all the powers of the original Fantastic Four, nobody you want to run into in a dark dungeon if you have no superpowers and your only advantages are James Bond-type training, a blaster, and a battlesuit full of useful spy type gimmicks that aren’t going to do much to prevent something with the strength of the Thing and the stretching powers of Mr. Fantastic and the flame powers of the Human Torch from simply grabbing you and ripping you to shreds while incinerating you at the same time).

This version of Killquest was a lot of fun for whoever was playing it, but had two overwhelming disadvantages -- first, it was ALWAYS a three person game, because you could only have 2 players and you NEEDED a referee to keep track of the different teams on their maps and describe encounters and make difficult judgment calls. And it is sometimes difficult to get three players to play anything in a gaming clique, you can generally always find at least one other person for a two person game, and you can often find four or more people who want to play something, but three people is an odd number that doesn’t come up much.

Second, and worse: being the referee blew. Nobody ever wanted to do it. Everyone wanted to play, but no one wanted to be the referee. There were two major factors why this was true:

All the referee did was, well, referee. It wasn’t like being a roleplaying game master, where you have NPCs to run and you’re telling a story and describing a whole world. Killquest took place in a simple map of indestructible hallways with very few features to them. There is no story or arc, simply ten people trying to kill each other. Being the referee was kind of boring; you didn’t get to play or do anything fun, you just kept track of the different moves and described encounters when they occurred.

Worse, however, was the fact that the game really had no rules structure. Any game without a rules structure is simply rife with potential for endless acrimonious arguments by its players, and the referee’s job, supposedly, was to settle these arguments by making final judgment calls one way or another. However, no one in my gaming clique from college had the kind of willpower or charisma or sheer force of personality necessary to simply make the other players back down -- none of us were ruthless enough to say “okay, I’ve made my ruling, you assholes forced me to be the referee, now I say Thor CAN’T call his hammer back to his hand if it’s on the other side of the dungeon from him, because the hallways are indestructible and the mystic signal can’t penetrate them”. Oh no. See, the guy running Thor will know damned well that if Thor can’t call his hammer back, he’d turn back into Dr. Don Blake in 60 seconds and Hyperion would squash him like a bug, and in our group, that meant endless and eternal bitching. Nobody was EVER willing to accept a call against their own interest, and without a set of rules to point to, a referee has a really hard time enforcing his own arbitrary whims. However, SOMEone has to make these decisions to keep the game moving.

So, as referee, you didn’t get to do anything fun, and worse, you got screamed at a lot by both players any time a controversy came up and you had to rule in some way that annoyed one of them. So, everyone wanted to play, but no one wanted to referee.

As a side note, all of that could have been settled simply by any one of us (we all refereed at one time or another, and we all D.M.ed our own superhero RPGs, too, in a similarly rule-free environment) just putting his foot down and saying “okay, I’m sick of this, from now on, if people give me shit about my judgment calls as referee, I’m just going to stop running the game and you can find something else to do”. But there was a vaguely uneasy and never articulated sort of social contract between all of us that I think we were all very hesitant to break; the notion that if one of us just decided he wasn’t going to run his RPG any more, or referee games any more, nobody else would, either, or he wouldn’t be allowed to play in other people’s games. No one wanted to test it, anyway. Which meant that, well, we all refereed, and we all played in each other’s games, and when someone made a referee judgment we didn’t like, we screamed bloody murder about it. It was a fractious time.

Regardless of the problems, Jeff and I always fondly remembered Killquest, and we both felt that at base, there was a core concept in there -- teams of interesting and detailed characters entering a limited environment to kill each other -- that no other game we’d seen had incorporated yet. Oh, some of the DOOM type games, where people could hunt each other through virtual reality mazes, came pretty close to our original vision of Killquest -- but still, the idea of teams, made up of legendary or famous characters that people would be interested in seeing pitted against other legendary or famous characters – hadn’t been used. And as far as I know, it still hasn’t been used.

Years later, living in New Jersey, Jeff sat down and re-configured Killquest to make it more of a conventional board game with a real rules structure. He created a set of very basic stats you could define characters by (I think he had STR, CON, DEX, and IQ) and a fairly elaborate list of weapons you could equip them with. He kept the two five-man team feature, but gave up on the refereed aspect that was so difficult, so we lost the whole “teams move around covertly until they run into each other” factor that had made the game so much fun. Instead, the characters simply entered on opposite sides of a limited arena, approached each other, and fought it out to the death.

Jeff’s rules were interesting, but had at least one crucial flaw in them (which I exploited to slaughter him in the second game we ever played; Jeff not being a good loser, that was the last game we ever played under those rules), and I thought his approach lost a lot of the fun of the original. However, Jeff also came up with half a dozen beautifully illustrated game arena boards, all of them different, with different features on them, and I wish to hell I still had those. But they seem to have vanished when Jeff committed suicide; I imagine he mailed them to someone (I wish he’d mailed them to me!) because Jeff’s friend Patsy couldn’t find them in his effects and Jeff didn’t mail them to either of us. (Patsy did send me Jeff’s TITAN game, though, which I still have and play occasionally when I can find other players.)

Anyway, while we were playing Wiz-War last week (which is an amusing little game, obviously largely derived from Magic: the Gathering, in which various wizards scramble around on this ever-shifting dungeon type board stealing each other’s treasures and hurling horrible magical spells at each other) it occurred to me that my Wiz-War boards would make an adequate arena for Killquest. So I spent some time this weekend creating my own set of rules, which you can find (badly formatted, which always happens with an HTML conversion, at least, to me) at the other end of that link.

The one crucial thing I want to incorporate into this version of Killquest, however, is that I want to encourage players to make individuals in their teams into pop culture characters -- either real people, or fictional characters, that will be interesting and recognizable to the other players, and that the players will enjoy seeing pitted against each other in battles to the death -- kind of like MTV’s Celebrity Death Match, except in Killquest, you might very well have five residents of Gilligan’s Island, armed to the teeth, striving mightily to blow away Matchbox 20, all of whom are carrying Uzis and wearing body armor. (Paul would enjoy blasting Matchbox 20 to shreds, since he loathes Rob Thomas.)

Okay. So, there's a link to the alpha version of KILLQUEST rules... well, it's not the alpha version, since I guess the college pizza box game would be the alpha, and Jeff's later version in New Jersey would be the beta. But it's my alpha version. Playtesting did cause me to make some changes, and I may have those around somewhere, but I don't know where right now. That link up there will give you an idea what the game is like, though.

A few other details -- each player was given 5 markers (I think we used poker chips with the numbers 1 through 5 daubed on them with white out, actually) to represent their team on the map. They wrote down who each team member was on a piece of paper. Players were not required to have 5 people on their team, and due to budget restrictions, few of us actually ever did field 5 man teams... but you'd put all 5 chips out on the board, and move each of them around on your turn, and an opponent wouldn't know until one of his pieces came within line of sight of yours who your chips represented, or even if there was really someone there. "Ghost" chips quickly became very useful as distractions.

KILLQUEST enjoyed a brief flurry of popularity while I was living with Paul... everyone in his gaming group tried it at one time or another. Then it got set aside for other games, and then Paul gave me HeroClix for Christmas that year, and clix became the default game for... well, for as long as I continued to hang out with those guys, which was maybe another three months.

In a great many ways, HeroClix is the ultimate version of KILLQUEST. With KILLQUEST, there is a lot of paper upkeep that has to be done before, during, and after the game. This was typical for this sort of game and I didn't think twice about it when I was designing the rules -- anyone who has ever built a battlecar for CAR WARS, or a fighting starship for STARFLEET BATTLES, knows what I'm talking about there. But once you've played HeroClix, it's tough to go back to a game where you have to set everything up on paper and keep running track of your hit points during a fight, because all that clutter is built right into the power dial of your HeroClix figures, and it frees you up to concentrate on the important stuff, like beating the living crap out of your opponent.

However, it appears that I have come to a very strange place in my life where very few of my friends, or, at least, the guys I sporadically hang out with, have much interest in comic book superheroes, and therefore, they are not responding well to an invitation to a game of clix. So... KILLQUEST. Anyone interested in setting up teams of heavily armed and armored pop culture characters and stalking each other through an alien dungeon with them? If so, and you're planning to be at the bachelor party, let Nate know.

I will need to do some work on the rules, and it's occurring to me that if WIZ WAR game components worked well for KILLQUEST in the past, then HeroClix maps and game components should be the bomb, and if there's an interest, I'll probably work on coming up with a good dungeon map for a KILLQUEST match.

If not, well, then, I won't.

One final note -- if you read this and are at all enthusiastic about the idea, don't post comments like "Ah ha ha HA, my Joliet Jake and his silent but heavily armed brother Elwood and their whacky band of blues musicians will DESTROY you!" One of the most enjoyable features of this game is picking out your own zany crew of pop culture characters to load up with weapons, and not knowing who the opposition is... until you come around that fateful corner in the Kill Zone and suddenly, Ross and Rachel from FRIENDS, each carrying a .38 revolver and a hand grenade, find themselves facing Dr. Peter Venckman in his Ghostbusters jumpsuit, holding a tommygun in his hands. So... no spoilers!

Did I say that was a final note? Well, I lied. Here's the REAL final note -- if people don't want to play HeroClix, or KILLQUEST, then all y'all no funs need to start bringin some suggestions of your own. Or it's gonna be movie night in a hotel room somewhere, or, I'm just going to cancel the fucking thing entirely, because apparently, I'm just so goddam ornery and boring all at once that it is impossible to come up with anything that I and half a dozen other guys might all want to do at the same time.