Monday, October 31, 2011

Holiday Snaps: Halloween Villains

As promised, here are costume pictures from this year's Halloween party. Or should I say partIES. There was a phenomenon at work this year that I call Schrodinger's Party, in which two crowds fail to mix properly. Simply put, there were the people who understood the costumes below, and then there were the people who didn't. Even when explained. The theme was Villains. I will only report on the geeky ones.

Star TrekHere's mine. True to mine own self, I went for something obscure, but easy to conjure up. I was Mirror Spock during the mirror events of City on the Edge of Forever, which I imagine would have happened to the Mirror crew too, and as in our universe, Edith Keeler must die. In this case, however, Mirror Spock was driving the truck.

Doctor Who
Isabelle score a lot of points by coming as a creepy Weeping Angel. Gah! Don't blink, guys.

Comics
My favorite comic book-related costume has to be Marty's as MODOK. Dude cut off his entire body just to make it work!
Ludger came as the Riddler chilling at a ski lodge. He's been playing a LOT of Arkham City lately. That's all I can hear coming from the downstairs appartment.
Renée went for Roxy, one of the evil exes from Scott Pilgrim. She went and won herself a prize for sexiest costume too (but the competition was fierce, as you'll see.)
And Julien came in a pretty cool homemade Shredder costume. Cleverly done when you look at it closely.

Gaming
Speaking of clever, St-Pierre came as the fabled grue from the old computer text game, Zork. As the Weeping Angel's boyfriend, they made a particularly terrifying duo in the dark.
Furn was there as Punch-Out's King Hippo, doing the complete opposite of last year's gorilla suited Robot Monster.

Movies and TV
So while the sexy votes ultimately came down in favor of Roxy, mine probably went to Nath and Josée as Kill Bill's Gogo and Elle, respectively. I mean, COME ON!
And here's Isabel's Carmen Sandiego, elusively slumming it in other people's pictures (here with evil goth doll Amelie). Never could capture Carmen alone in the frame.
At one point, I caught Statler and Waldorf on the balcony (where else?) as incarnated by Xavier and Fred. We did need someone to laugh at the *other* crowd.

So that was our Halloween, just a quantum step away from another one where they broke a kitchen table, the one that was crashed by three guys in morphsuits for all of 10 minutes, and where being a Villain apparently involved an "evil" make-up job and absolutely no concept. I'm sure they had fun, in their own way, but we can't know unless we open Schrodinger's Party and that would ruin the experiment.

Reign of the Supermen #376: Frankenstein's Superman

Source: Superman & Batman: Generations #2 (1999)
Type: Elseworlds/Red K TransformationHey! Have a happy Amalgoween everyone!

(See also the Superman Monster.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Week in Geek (24-30/10/11)

Buys

DVD buys this week include: How I Met Your Mother seasons 2 through 6 (see below), A Midwinter's Tale (also see below), The Last Starfighter, Ice Pirates, and Jean-Claude Van Damme four-pack that includes Hard Target, Lionheart, Sudden Death and The Quest for our upcoming Van Dammathon.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: I've often gone on record saying I was done with the traditional, multi-camera, laugh-tracked sitcom, but I do have exceptions in my DVD library, including Sports Night and Steven Moffat's Coupling. However, How I Met Your Mother was recently pushed on me, and surprise, surprise, it charmed the pants off me within only a couple of episodes. Sure, some of the actors had already generated some good will through other work (Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris mostly), but really, it's that it shared a number of traits with Coupling that really sold me. Like that show, there is a clever use of structure, as the character of older Ted tells the story to his kids, freezing the action here, inserting flashbacks there, even censoring himself at certain points. Any extreme absurdity can be covered by the idea that the narrator could be exaggerating for comic effect, and yet, the characters are made very real too, and there's real heart to their performances. No one plays a single note, and unlike other banter-happy sitcoms, the characters are actually allowed to laugh when someone cracks a joke. And in my old age, I've become a sucker for a truly romantic story, which the Ted-Robin story delivers in spades. Plus, an abnormally large number of Whedonistic guest-stars as NPH and Hannigan apparently slip their friends in. Sold and sold again. The extras are middling to very good. You've got commentaries on 6 of the 22 episodes (entertaining stuff with the cast and/or crew), a standard, but well-made making of feature, a blooper reel that's entirely too much about corpsing, and a couple of inconsequential musical montages.

Season 2 continues in the same vein, with a little more heartbreak, but again, some grand romantic gestures. The show now feels comfortable sending us into more and more flashbacks within the primary flashbacks, and already I'm trying to imagine a Omnibus edition of the show (when it eventually wraps) that takes us through the entire story in order. Coupling continues to come to mind, as scenes are hinted at, then later revealed, the same kind of narrative puzzles that made that show great. The characters get more depth and at this point, I couldn't even name a favorite. Strong cast, strong writing, I can definitely ignore the canned laughter. The Season 2 DVD does a little better than the first, with commentaries on 7 episodes, music videos for "Let's Go to the Mall" (the full version features a faux-Brian Mulroney!) and the theme tune (which is really the tail end of an entire song), a blooper reel that actually goes beyond corpsing, and three deleted scenes. The best bit, however, is the making of that uses the same kind of structural back-and-forthing the show does to take us through the process of creating the season finale.

Addicted! Season 3 was as strong as the first two, though my private joy of Whedonistic guest-stars is traded in for guests like Scrubs' Sarah "Second Becky" Chalke (hot), James Vanderbeek (not) and Britney Spears (nottttt), who nevertheless avail themselves well. We've seen break-ups in each season, but this one has the first bromance break-up. The continuing soap opera continues to progress well, and we get the first teasing about the Mother, but teasing is really all it is. The DVD extras are getting better, with commentary on 7 of the 20 episodes this time, 8 if you count the interminable, psychobitch musical commentary "Ted Mosby is a jerk" by... Britney?. There are also deleted scenes, the best (unrated) outtakes yet, a behind the scenes piece on one of the episodes, a short retrospective of past seasons, a featurette on favorite moments, Lily and Marshall's honeymoon videos, and two music videos - Robin Sparkles' Sandcastles in the Sand, and Marshall's You Just Got Slapped. Definitely fun to be had.

And now a triptych of quirky British films. While he was prepping his 1996 Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh made A Midwinter's Tale (AKA In the Bleak Widwinter), a film I've had on VHS for a while (and which I discuss periodically on Hyperion to a Satyr), but just now have converted to DVD. I don't know if it just wasn't available, or if I kept typing A Midwinter's Dream in the search bars (it's a Rheostatics song, a mistake I am likely to make). I watched it (for the umpteenth time) as soon as I got it. This low-budget comedy filmed in black and white features misfit actors trying to put on Hamlet for Christmas. The tone is not unlike something like Best in Show, with lots of quirky vignettes that will make anyone who knows any actors smile, but that also pulls at the heart strings and ultimately, delivers an excellent Hamlet montage. Surprising performances abound, and Michael Maloney shines especially. He's in a lot of Shakespeare movies, but usually playing a foolish douche (Laertes, Rosencrantz, Roderigo, the Dauphin). Here, he makes a good protagonist, filled with passion, and lights up the screen as Hamlet. We've also got Richard Briers, John Sessions, Joan Collins(!), and Nicholas Farrell (who is far more adept at comedy than I would have previously believed). I wish there were extras on the DVD, but alas.

If you thought How I Met Your Mother had a long title, what about The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Back Down a Mountain? This Hugh Grant vehicle has him play the title role (but not, in my opinion, the central role), a WWI-era surveyor who is tasked with measuring Wales' first mountain, which turns out to be 16 feet shy of being anything more than a hill. The Welsh village, led by a pub owner played by Colm Meany (great to see his name above a movie's title) rejects the idea and attempt to build an extra 20 feet before the surveyors (Grant and the criminally under-credited Ian McNeice) leave for their next assignment. So of course, they have to be delayed. What you get is a gentle comedy (not unlike, say, Waking Ned Devine) based, as it turns out, on true events. Writer-director Christopher Monger credits his father and grandfather for handing down the tale. Lovely, and while the perpetually confounded Hugh Grant gets his big romantic hero moment, etc., it's far more about the impious Meany coming together with the strict village pastor to mount a community project.

Speaking of Colm Meany, my next pick is The Damned United. What? A sports movie? Me?!? And a biographical one to boot? AND about British football? Between this and The King's Speech, director Tom Hooper seems to have a knack for taking real life stories that, as 2-line blurbs, seem slight and uninteresting, and turning them into captivating, rich and powerfully executed feature films. The Damned United is the story of maverick team manager (we'd say "coach") Brian Clough, well-known in Britain but a mystery to me, who took on a team he hated and failed where he had always succeeded before. Michael Sheen turns in a fun, layered performance, with strong support from Timothy Spall as his assistant manager and Meany as his legendary rival. The film's clever structure, taking us from "present day" 1974 to the past to see how the rivalry started, is a highlight, but spinning the story into what is essentially a professional love triangle means even this non-sports fan has something to latch onto and care about. You don't need to understand the nuances (or politics) of football to love the film, but what's there manages to register anyway (often through actual archival footage that reminds you this really happened). It's an excellent DVD package too, with a commentary track by Hooper, his producer and Sheen, some 40 minutes of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and somehow almost an hour's worth of featurettes on the production, the acting, Clough remembered by the players who knew him, and the way British football has chanced since the 70. Sadly, none of the real tv interviews could be included.

Chang Cheh's Five Shaolin Masters suffers from too slow a place initially (can't the characters speak... more... quickly...?), but manages to deliver some strong action scenes in the later half. After the burning of the Shaolin Temple, five disciples escape and seek the help of other Han rebels, while avoiding the traitor that sold them out to the Manchus. The long set-up introduces us to the five, as well as five evil masters which will have to be defeated. After the required training montage, it's 5 vs. 5 in the ultimate showdown. It's Chang Cheh, so yes, some brutal violence. Homoeroticism too? Well, not much, but there isn't a single female character in the film (not even sure there were any female extras). That's par for the course for director Chang's Shaw Brothers work, which at least benefited from lots of location work, innovative choreography by, among others, Lau-Kar Leung, a cameo by my man Gordon Liu, and a sympathetic performance by a hounddogged Fu Sheng.

Books: The 10th volume of Brian Wood's DMZ (called Collective Punishment) collects the five stand-alone tales from DMZ 55 to 59, all taking place during the heavy bombardment of Manhattan. Each is drawn by a different artist, and may use new and old characters alike. Matty only shows up in the last one. Though we're essentially taking a break from the main plot, that doesn't mean the larger cast doesn't take casualties. It does. And one is left with the feeling that the next chapter will take the DMZ into far starker territory. Up til now, we've recognized New York. Wood is opening himself up for different stories set in the city's ruins. Each tale is emotionally effective, with strong and at time even beautiful art by the likes of Andrea Mutti, Nathan Fox, Cliff Chiang, Danijel Zezelj and David Lapham. Almost makes me regret I'm waiting for the trade with DMZ, because I'd like to read the next chapter NOW.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.i. To Be or Not to Be - Slings & Arrows
III.i. To Be or Not to Be - Classics Illustrated

Reign of the Supermen #375: Superman of Earth-31

Source: The Dark Knight Returns (1986), The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001-2002), All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #3-5 (2007) and Countdown: Arena #1-4 (2007-2008)
Type: Alternate future upgrades to Alternate EarthIn The Dark Knight Returns, set 20 years into 1986's future, the Cold War rages on, gangs have taken over the cities, and superheroes are a dying breed. As we've seen DC 2006, we know it went another way, so the Dark Knight continuity was relegated to one of the 52 Earths. The Superman of that Earth, by the time he and Batman were in their 50s, had become a tool of the government, taking down Third World regimes and doing its dirty work even as he hypocritically advised Bruce Wayne to keep a low profile. Things come to a head, as things must, and the Soviets retaliate against the U.S. for Superman's actions, shooting a nuclear missile at the West. Superman diverts it to an uninhabited island, but he is nearly killed in the process.
Spoiler: He reaches the sun and is healed. Meanwhile, Batman has retaken Gotham's streets and made it the safest and most well-fed city in America. The U.S. is embarrassed and sends its super-lackey to bring the Batman in. Batman wins, of course, thanks to some armor and a kryptonite arrow shot into the battle by one Oliver Queen.
But as soon as he does, he has a heart attack and collapses. It's a hoax in an echo of the Silver Age tradition, as Batman restarts his heart inside his grave and Superman hears his heartbeat and gives the camera a wink.

The world is revisited in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and Superman and Batman butt heads again. His loved ones under threat by the despotic "president" Luthor, Superman tries to apprehend the Bat, but gets his ass kicked. Superman later agrees to lose a big public battle against a Brainiac monster to shake the people's faith in superheroes, which fails when Lara, his daughter by Wonder Woman, carefully hidden until this moment, defeats Brainiac.
Superman's loved ones are nevertheless atomized by the forces of evil, and he eventually decides that he is not one of us. The vacuum left by Luthor's defeat opens the door for the Super-family to perhaps take over. Haven't visited Earth-31 later than those events (that I know of), so who knows where that went. Its Superman did show up in Arena, but who cares. And as for his early career, you have to check out All-Star Batman and Robin (well, you don't HAVE to, but it's also been tagged as Earth-31).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cat of the Geek #134: Evil the Cat

Name: Evil
Stomping Grounds: Earthworm Jim video games and animated series
Side: Evil
Breed: Manifestation of evil
Cat Powers: Fireball gun. Must be killed 9 times. Disguises. Access to all things evil (ex.: pit traps, lawyers, elevator music).
Skills: Eat 4, Sleep 3, Mischief 10, Wit 8, Ruling Planet Heck 9
Cat Weaknesses: Minor setbacks (ex.: origami, the Department of Apocalyptic Affairs, the cartoon's budget running out). Henchrat, a minion that is more annoying than helpful.

Reign of the Supermen #374: Shrinking Superboy

Source: Superboy vol.1 #61 (1957)
Type: Transformation1950s comics often seemed like it was all about giant props, or perhaps, making the heroes tiny as they raced across giant typewriters. In "The Shrinking of Superboy", everything becomes a giant prop as the Boy of Steel starts to shrink!

It all begins when Professor Lang finds the space capsule from Doctor Who's "Fear Her". Behold:
Clark's microscopic vision sees little aliens inside, and these shoot a harmless beam at him. Later that day, Superboy realizes he's shorter than a life-size statue of himself! (Because 1950s, that's why.) Soon, he's the size of a midget, of a cat, and then of a toy. You know what else seems to have shrunk?
The Shakespearean canon. Damn you Roland Emerich! Anyway... Superboy is caught by Lana and has to make like he's a wind-up doll, and then fly home to give Clark Kent some cover. Lana can't see him because he's busy doing homework. Proof: You can hear the typewriter going up in his room. The real reason for this sequence is of course that all these stories MUST, by law, feature a giant typewriter.
Then there's a ridiculous sequence where Superboy hides from Lana in the middle of a dart board, and she decides to play a game and he has to deflect the darts with super-breath so that they don't shatter on his tiny body. Then he helps his Ma do some sewing. Then he stops a bullet from the gun of one of those Smallville hitmen. Punches a giant mosquito. And FINALLY, he's small enough to enter the alien spaceship. Twist: They don't want to fight him, they want his help. Seems like a meteor caused them to crash and they need super-powered repairs to get the rock out of their hull. This done, they fly off.
And Superboy keep the meteor as his smallest trophy yet, the size of a grain of sand. (Superman Museum officials in the 30th century tell me they hate this exhibit, which is both unpopular and hard to keep track of.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kung Fu Fridays in November

Tonight is the gut-ripping madness that is Five Shaolin Masters, but next month, what can my pack of Kung Fu-crazed friends in line to see when they crash my place on Friday nights? Click the poster above for a closer look, or read below.

Mulan - Disney comes to KFF?!? It's a nice change of pace, don't you think? And an opportunity to put the famous Chinese folk heroine on a KFF poster! Plus, come on, Ming Na! I've had a crush on that girl since The Single Guy. (Yeah, I remember that.)

Killer Clans - What kind of film do you show on the Armistice? Answer: Fist of Legend, with Donnie Yen martial artsing his way through WWI Europe. But we've already seen that, so it's gonna be a good old-fashion, gut-spurting, accidentally homoerotic, classic clan war movie.

True Legend - Yuen Woo-Ping's most recent epic, it features a revenge story between a drunk fighter and one armed with Five Venom Fists. You had me a hello, as they say. But check out the cast! Michelle Yeoh, Gordon Liu and... David Carradine?

Opium and the Kung Fu Master - Ti Lung stars as a martial artist wrecked by opium in director Tang Chia's final film. That's an intriguing hook right there, and the fact six martial arts directors are showcased also promises mucho action.

If you can't come over to watch the movies, see you each Sunday for capsule reviews!

Reign of the Supermen #373: Willigig

Source: Adventures of Superman Annual #8 (1996)
Type: Alternate futureThis is the story of how the legacies of two dead worlds saved a third...

Back in the Man of Steel mini-series, John Byrne wrote a scene in which Superman was visited by a hologram of Jor-El who infodumped all sorts of Kryptonian knowledge into his head. In the far future, when Earth is as dead as Krypton, the Coluan Xurl Dox, a student of Earth's heroic tradition, inaugurates a clod of dirt from that lost planet. While he explains its symbolic importance, the brutal Sarkons attack to get themselves some Coluan slaves. In the melee, one of the Sarkons' Curatti slaves (a slave race that lives on the Sarkon homeworld in chains after a failed attempted to invade that planet in the distant past) activates the Jor-El hologram by accident. Trippy!
Willigig is left with extensive knowledge of Kryptonian language, arts and sciences, and the peculiar delusion that he is the Last Son of Krypton. Keeping a secret identity as a simple slave, he builds himself or borrows a rocketpack and heat vision goggles and wages covert war on the Sarkons. Well, covert... They recognize him immediately, but that's not really important. Was is important is that with Dox's help, he learns that he's not really a Kryptonian, but also that the Curatti were never invaders. The Sarkons have co-opted their history to keep them subjugated. THEY'RE the aliens here. Willigig lights up the sky with the truth and in the best Superman fashion, gives up his life in the process. But it's worth it as his people rebel against the Sarkons and expel them from their planet. Curatti he may have been, but he will always be remembered by his people as Superman!
You know, Tom Peyer's story (as drawn by Derec Aucoin and Mike Collins) really gets to the heart of what Superman is all about. The best Dead Earth Annuals should be collected sometime. They make good reading.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Old 52: Vext

If you haven't read it, it's new to you. Every month I try to supplement the New 52 with a series from the Old 52. Series I've never read, but have always meant to.When it was new: Vext was a monthly series published by DC starting in 1999 by Keith Giffen, Mike McKone and Mark McKenna. It lasted only 6 issues.

Premise: Vext is the former God of Mishap and Misfortune, exiled to Earth for lack of worship. Hilarity (briefly) ensues.

A run of bad luck: Due to poor planning on my part, the first series I've talked is a very short one. Indeed, it could have been a mini-series. It's too bad it wasn't, because it ends entirely too abruptly, with recently introduced subplots left dangling. For example, three of the cast are villains Vext never even gets to meet, despite a 6-issue build-up of meanwhiles and elsewheres. The A-plots, however, are stand-alone tales that can still be enjoyed regardless.

Vext is, for all intents and purposes, a send-up of "superhero gods" like Thor, Hercules and the New Gods. The twist is that Vext doesn't become a superhero. He's just a regular and very unlucky guy trying to figure how mortals live. He's more a victim than a lord of his particular domain, and there's good comedy to be had from his hardships (I very much empathize with his bureaucracy problems, for example). The last couple of issues are the weakest, the bits about the God of Flatulence low-browing the proceedings to a place where, had I been reading at the time, I might have welcomed premature cancellation. Though I suspect DC didn't market it very well, I'm not sure how much longer Vext could have remained interesting unless the character had taken a more active role in the stories. It reads today like an amalgam of other Giffen series. It has the trademark banter of his Justice League, takes place in Delta City just like Heckler (another quickly canceled Giffen book), and makes use of varied narrative pieces (cut-out coupons, computer data, dictionary definitions, and changes in genre) not unlike his Legion or Doom Patrol.

In the final analysis, this is a series that had an intriguing premise and some promising subplots, so it was canceled before it's time. It's really too bad because it could be genuinely funny, and the God Police was about to slap Vext down hard (and his ex, Paramour, the Goddess of Bad Relationships was about to make contact with the villain of the piece, rogue archaeologist Aaron Caldwell). There might even have been the possibility of the Heckler putting in an appearance, who knows? I guess bad luck was written right into the concept. Not much Giffen could have done about it.

Trade in for one of the New52? Maybe if it wasn't so abortive.

Reign of the Supermen #372: Lisa Jennings

Source: Superman #703-714 (2010-2011)
Type: Alternate futureYour Superman Squad member of the week is Lisa Jennings, who started life in the Grounded storyline as a "mysterious woman" stalking Superman, then graduated to a villain and finally a proud member of the Superman Squad and Superman's guide in all things Squad-related during Grounded.

Origin? Sure. She was a school teacher and some of her students found a Kryptonian sunstone in a field and brought it to her. Superman walked by on his "sad Superman walk" right at that time and she was flooded with Kryptonian memories and powers. It also linked her to Superman's mind and she visited him nightly, filling his head with doubt and depression and causing havoc wherever Superman went. He eventually caught her and brought her to Limbo where they destroyed the sunstone and freed Lisa's mind from her induced madness. She kept the powers and became one of the first members of the new Supermen of America.

And the sunstone? Its shards were spread across time, creating, among other heroes, Super-Chief, of which we've spoken before.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Star Trek #1421: Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes Part 1

PUBLICATION: Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1, IDW Comics/DC Comics, October 2011

CREATORS: Chris Roberson (writer), Jeffrey and Philip Moy (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (during original 5-year mission) / In the Legionnaires' timeline, it seems to be just after The Great Darkness Saga (2982)

PLOT: In a divergent universe, the Imperial Planets are waging war against the shape-shifting Durlans. Simultaneously, Enterprise crew members are accidentally beamed down to that universe's dystopian Earth, and Legionnaires crash their time bubble on that same Earth.

CONTINUITY: The divergent universe features elements of both the Mirror and DC Universes, an Earth empire (with two swords across Earth instead of one) is called the Imperial Planets, shades of both the Terran Empire and the Legion's United Federation of Planets. The divergent universe has Durlans, a mirror Shadow Lass and a Captain Tomorrow that may well be Tommy Tomorrow (Tommy is Kamandi in an alternate future, so the character may synch up with the 23rd century). The Imperial Planets defeated the Dominion in the 23rd century. Ship designs seen at Imperial Earth include ones based on the Federation's, the Klingons' and the Vulcans'. The Earth itself looks like the Borg Earth seen in First Contact. Admiral Komac (This Side of Paradise, Amok Time) and Mr. Kyle appear. The Kobayashi Maru rates a mention (The Wrath of Khan). The Imperial Planets have a corrupted version of the famous Star Trek speech that ends with "boldly go where no man has gone before... and conquer!"

DIVERGENCES: None.

PANELS OF THE DAY - Spock and Brainiac 5, two guys on the same wavelength
REVIEW: I was really stoked about this project. Over the past year, Chris Roberson has been a rising star in comics, finishing up the horrible Grounded Superman storyline in an actually satisfying way, launching a cool Elric series, and continuing his excellent work on I, Zombie. I'm a big Legion fan and matching the heroes from the future with Star Trek is an excellent idea. Though the opening chapter is basically all set-up, Roberson scores his first points with his choice of teamed-up continuities. The Star Trek cast is from the Classic series, NOT the Abrams reboot, and the Legionnaires are from the classic 80s era before any of THEIR reboots took effect. Despite the 650 years between the two franchises, these share a similar aesthetic and philosophy. The two teams cross over thanks to a multi-dimensional snafu, with a universe mirroring BOTH their universes acting as a cool nexus. I mean, who doesn't love alternate universe stories? Roberson has a good understanding of all the characters he's writing, with small moments like Sulu being happy to see his home town of San Francisco, or Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl being kind of huggy. He also laces the comic with trivia (like the Tommy Tomorrow connection), but never in a way that will confuse readers. In fact, I think Legion fans who know nothing about Trek, or Trekkies with no knowledge of the LSH can definitely enjoy this. The art by the brothers Moy is fun and expressive with no reliance on stiff photo reference for the Trek sections. IDW and DC give you a number of choices for covers. There's the fairly standard Phil Jimenez group shot, a crazy awesome Keith Giffen action cover, and Gabriel Rodriguez' diptych above. The link he draws between Spock and Brainiac 5 is supported by the comic too, as the two characters make the same realization at the same time. Can't wait to see them actually pair up (and who else will, for that matter)!

Reign of the Supermen #371: The Oldest Superman in Metropolis

Source: Action Comics #251 (1959)
Type: TransformationYour mid-week Silver Age story wouldn't have happened had Clark "Superman" Kent been a little more humble. See, back in the spring of 1959, he interviewed the brilliant Professor Vance who claimed to have invented a super-vitamin and planned on conducting the first human trial on himself. When he turns his back, fearing for the scientist's safety, Clark scarfs the entire thing down. Hey, it can't possibly hurt him, right? Clark leaves and only then does Prof. Vance notice his guinea pigs got real old, real fast (were we then REALLY at the human trial phase?). Back at the Fortress, Superman analyzes his stomach contents and finds the vitamin has SIMILARITIES with Green Kryptonite. And that night, Clark turns into a wizened old man.
The next morning, he goes back to see Professor Vance who tells him he expected it and was about to call him and everything, honest! Turns out, the guinea pigs got better after 3 days (plot point: EXACTLY 72 hours after ingestion). So Clark is expected to make a complete recovery, and Perry puts him on easy assignments in the meantime (stories happening at the mall or a nursing home - NO, I'm NOT joking). The worst of it is, Clark's steadily losing his powers.
Even if he can disguise his age (which would be murder on his secret identity), how can he possibly do that charity thing where he gets shot out of a cannon in slightly less than 3 days? And for that matter, how will he perform his crimebusting duties as Superman? Superman robots? Sorry, they don't work because they don't recognize his cracked voice, as revealed in a sequence that also shows Opal City was around in the DCU long before 1994's Starman series!
Superman's solution is pretty ridiculous. After hitching rides on whales and submarines out to the modern pirate ship of Captain Cutlass, he uses his new look to pass himself off as the mythical Old Man of the Sea.
I guess sailors are a pretty cowardly lot. In the next emergency, he dresses as Santa Claus to defeat crooks in a toy store. And later, as Father Time to defeat the mastermind known only as the Clock.
That one's weird, because in the middle of the incident, a cat races a mouse up a clock, recreating the "hickory-dickory-dock" nursery rhyme and evidence against the Clock is revealed by a timepiece leading Superman to believe the real (and invisible) Father Time had a hand in it. Finally, it's time. Superman must climb into a cannon and be shot out of it. By this point, he's lost all his powers and only the Human Bomb's helmet is keeping his secret safe. And then the cannon mysteriously breaks down and it takes an hour to fix.
Yep, all is well with the world because the cannon was set to go off 71 hours after Clark Kent drank the vitamin serum. An extra hour makes 72, exactly 3 days, and that's how I expect all medicine all the time to work. It's all about the timing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 Timey-Whimey Films to Slide Your TARDIS Into

Consisting of five more ideas for Doctor Who role-playing games (or simple daydreaming) taking very simple inspiration from the world of cinema.

Last week, I dropped the TARDIS into five "sideways" stories to take the edge off the monotony of, you know, the past and the future (lame!), and I return to those kinds of stories this week with a promised chapter on timey-whimey scenario ideas. Now sure, I could have gone for time travel movies like 12 Monkeys or Primer or even Terminator 2, but maybe those were too obvious? Instead, I'm going with films that play with time in unusual ways. So what if most of them have some kind of narrative or fantastical rationale? Temporal anomalies of all kinds can McGuffin your players into the right circumstances.Groundhog Day. A classic timey-whimey movie and one of the first, Groundhog Day presents a world where time is limited to a single day, which repeats over and over again until the heroes "get it right". Whatever the reason for this recursive temporal bubble, the TARDIS crew could only escape it by fixing, well, how about EVERYTHING? RPG players are probably gamers too, and should have all the necessary tools to play the same "level" over again, getting all the details right so they can move on. And any massive screw-up will be reset so... have fun!
Sliding Doors. In this Gwyneth Paltrow romance set in London (we're halfway to Doctor Who already), a woman both gets on and misses a train. Somehow, both her stories continue from there and eventually cross paths. There's no reason for it in the movie, except that fate is trying to get Gwyneth with the right guy, but that shouldn't matter to brave TARDISeers. It's Schrödinger's train/lift/door and bam! Split time streams. The twist is that the players get to play both versions of their characters as they take two separate paths to adventure. The ultimate goal is to get to a single track, hopefully the best of the two, so don't make it easy on them. You might be tempted to pull a Girl Who Waited at the end and require a sacrifice. Dude, don't. It made me cry, that thing.
Memento. I try to throw in a challenge when I can. How about a story that proceeds IN REVERSE, like Memento? Doable? There's a 10th Doctor comic that features aliens living in reverse, and the Doctor must navigate the adventure as best he can with effect preceding cause. Or you can have the TARDIS keep materializing in the recent past. Then an hour before that. And an hour before that. Going back into an event, revealing more and more. Can the players (and frankly, the GM) improvise their way into a victory in reverse? For advanced players, surely, but could be one you'll talk about for a long time. Memento is key inspiration for something like this. Make sure to leave clues the players will then have to manufacture (or have to pay for with Story Points - "Did I leave myself a clue?").
Source Code. Here's one that's part time travel, part brain puzzle, part Schrödinger's cat. Have the TARDIS crew hooked up to the McGuffin in Source Code and they can enter a certain past event using someone else's body. Can they find out who caused the event so they can be apprehended? Or does going into the "source code" create a parallel universe where the event can be prevented? That's up to you, but either way, a fun recursive set-up that is all at once Groundhog Day, Quantum Leap and your favorite disaster movie.
Melinda and Melinda. Ok, here's an odd one, but bear with me. This Woody Allen movie features a couple of writers discussing the merits of tragedy and comedy. Starting from the same ingredients, they each tell (going back and forth) Melinda's story, one tragic, the other comic. It's a conceit that could be used in Doctor Who as well! Remove the raconteurs, and instead have the TARDIS keep shifting back and forth between two realities. Some of the same characters are in both, and both worlds need help. If you give each world its distinct feel (one a thriller, the other a romp, for example), and perhaps make the TARDIS wheeze periodically (jump aboard before you lose your ride!), you can switch between genres within the same story. Or will the players do the unthinkable, and 'port characters from one world onto the other so the guest-stars can help their other selves fix their problems? It's up to you, but parallel time streams can be a fun new wrinkle to your game.

So that's my lot for today. What about you? What timey-whimey movies would you send the TARDIS to?