She Can Fly: Quick Halloween Costumes

CRAP! Halloween is tomorrow? If you need a costume, and need one fast, here are five fun (nerdy) costume ideas that you can create in 30 minutes or less:

Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson:

Sure, you’ve seen Lois and Clark, but have you seen Peter and MJ? Instead of buying a full Spidey bodysuit, try getting a Spider-Man t-shirt and wearing it under a dress shirt with slacks and a jacket. Don’t forget your camera and Daily Bugle press pass! MJ is even simpler; a black tank top, olive green slacks, a red wig and you’ve got her most iconic appearance. Take it a step further by making yourself a speech bubble out of cardboard and write “Face it, Tiger, you hit the jackpot!” on it. Attach it to your back with a wire hanger.

Power Puffgirls:

Got two friends willing to do a last minute group costume? Go to a local store and buy three dresses or t-shirts in pink, blue, and green. Add a black sash (use a scarf, belt, or cut up a spare t-shirt) and you’re set! Just remember, Bubbles has pigtails, Blossom has a ponytail, and Buttercup wears her hair short and down.

Hipster Superhero/Princess/Prince:

Instead of buying a costume from the store and adding some thick glasses, go into your closet and pull out stuff that looks character appropriate. I did hipster Power Girl for Boston Comic Con with a white keyhole dress, red jean jacket, and blue shoes I already owned. It’s just as easy. Get inspiration from tumblr and pair with a pithy sign.

Plain Clothes Character:

Own a Smashing Pumkins shirt? You could be Scott Pilgrim! Got a green jacket, orange shirt, and combat boots? Go for Daria! There’s a huge variety of awesome geeky characters that wear clothing you probably already own. You can pull from TV (30 Rock, Parks and Rec, the Mindy Project, Brooklyn 9-9), cartoons (Bob’s Burgers, King of the Hill, Bevis and Butthead, Arthur), comics (Danger Girl, Superhero Girl, Sex Criminals, the Wicked and the Divine), and more!

Cartoon Animal:

Get a shirt and pants of the same color and a little face paint or makeup, and you’re set to be Luna from Sailor Moon, Bugs Bunny, Pikachu, Tom and Jerry, or Felix the Cat! The key to this is trying to match the character’s fur color with your clothes. Animal ears definitely help, and you can make those easily by taping construction paper to a headband.

BONUS! Stan Lee:

Who doesn’t want to be the most iconic face in comics? I had a friend who did this one year for Halloween, and it gets marks for being the weirdest, geekiest costume I’ve ever seen. Get some white hair spray and a big white mustache. Pair with big tinted glasses and a tan ensemble including a windbreaker, and you’re set!

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She Can Fly: Marvel Movie Phase 3

At their event this week, Marvel announced their upcoming movies, mimicking DC Entertainment’s 6 year plan, by listing their planned films in a big press event. Fans went wild, and much speculation was quelled as upcoming titles include Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel.

Captain America: Civil War raised a lot of eyebrows. Rumors had spread that the third film featuring Cap was going to be subtitled “Serpent Society,” a reference to some of the character’s snake-themed foes. Beyond that bait and switch, Civil War is a comic event that divided fans, much like it divided characters in the Marvel Universe. Some claim it is a perfect piece of work, and deny any problematic aspects, others say it’s the worst event ever created by Marvel (but let’s be honest, when you compare it to Fear Itself or Original Sin, it comes off looking pretty good). Still others argue that many of the key players within Civil War (New Warriors, Carol Danvers, Luke Cage, Black Bolt) have yet to be introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or their movie rights are not actually owned by Disney (Spider-Man, Beast, Reed Richards). The fan division, and the likely upset over Steve and Tony fighting, bodes well for the movie in a sense, as it will draw more attention from fans and media.

While Captain Marvel is going to be released a year after DC and Sony’s female led flicks (with Sony still holding their cards to their chest in terms of character), Black Panther will be released three years before DC’s 2020 Cyborg film, a smart move on Marvel’s behalf. Black Panther is a major player within the comic universe version of Civil War, and Marvel Entertainment has confirmed that the King of Wakanda, played by Chadwick Boseman, will play a major role in the film of the same title before getting his own solo in November of 2017.

Captain Marvel was confirmed as Carol Danvers, but Marvel remained tightlipped about the movie, saying that an actress would not be selected until a writer and director had been decided on. Many fans hope that the film will feature some of Carol’s female friends, including Monica Rambeau, Wendy Kawasaki (her assistant in the Kelly Sue Decconik run), and a potential crossover with the Netflix series of Jessica Jones.

News that wasn’t announced at the event was Benedict Cumberbatch’s rumored casting as Dr. Strange. President Kevin Feige was quoted as saying “if it were confirmed, we would have announced it today.” In all likelihood, it will be confirmed. According to the news that broke Tuesday, Cumberbatch was in the middle of contract negotiations with Marvel, with the latter likely trying to secure a contract with him in order to announce it at Tuesday’s event. Cumberbatch, much like Civil War, has been a divisive and hotly discussed choice.

Other movies include the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, which promised potential appearances from Howard the Duck, the Collector, and Cosmo, but no mention female characters, the Inhumans, Marvel’s response to not owning the movie rights to the X-Men, and the third Avengers movie, Infinity, which will follow in the vein of the Hobbit and be a two parter. One movie conspicuously missing was a Black Widow solo. Feige addressed the lack of a solo movie, saying “it’s about bringing new characters to the screen. Black Widow couldn’t be more important as an Avenger herself. Her part in Age of Ultron is very, very big and further develops and further enhances her character.” Feige continued by stating they had “big plans” for her in the Avengers saga, and that she was a “lynchpin” character to the series.

Personally, the MCU iteration of Black Widow is not one that excites me to the point of wanting a solo film (though, if she got one, I would take it, as we always need more female-led movies in general). However, many critics argue that the success of Lucy (the Scarlet Johansson starring female-led action film which had unfortunate implications regarding gender and race) shows that Johansson is absolutely capable of being the titular character in a superhero action flick.

Both DC and Marvel have revealed their movie cards for the next half decade, but one has to wonder how many of these films we will actually see come to fruition.

Game the Game: Horror Gaming

The set-up: Characters are in a house, there is a axe-wielding psychopath on the looking to chop them all up. The characters hear a noise on the other side of the door.

Traditional RPG style of play:

Players draw their weapons, assume a defensive stance, cast buff spells, check their HP, etc.

Is this fun? Sure, it can be.

Is it scary?

I would argue no.

Sending an unbeatable foe against the PCs in a game where success or failure is very granular is easy to do. The party is 5th level, put them up against a 10th level threat. A 12the level threat.

Sure, that can be done.

But is it scary? Is it balanced? Is it fun?

As a GM if I want to stack the deck in my favor and “win” that is always easy to do.

But, horror gaming, gaming that can legitimately scare your players and their characters demands a different style of play.

As a GM, I can admit my shortcomings. Bringing a sense of doom to the table might not be one of them. This is not to say that I have not had success, but it can be difficult. There has to be buy-in from the players and GM, everyone has to commit to the conceits of horror gaming.

On those special occasions when I want to run a very special horror game, I tend to cheat.

I fall back on rules systems that force the players to be scared.

New-fangled RPG style of play:

Dread is an RPG that strips away pretty much everything that other RPGs have: stats, skills, etc, they do not matter. What matters in Dread is building tension, and that sense of impending death with any action.

How does it do it?

Jenga.

Build a Jenga block, any time a character is doing something potentially dangerous, the player must draw a Jenga block.

I ran a session of this, and added an on-the-fly house rule. When moments were building to a head, when time was of the essence, I instituted speed Jenga.

“Ok, you want to make it down to the docks in time to catch up to the ferry? I need 4 successful draws in one minute. Go!”

Jenga demands quiet.

It demands concentration.

And it brings with it a sense of… wait for it…. Dread.

Perfect.

Players might want to try and find an old AK-47 in Old Man Johnston’s house. Fine, let them. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t increase their odds of survival.

Jared Sorenson’s Squeam does things a bit differently, the setup of Squeam is designed to emulate a horror film.

The coolest part of it is that, when the characters hear that noise on the other side of the door, one of them may very well open it.

Why?

Because that character failed their Curious roll.

And if that isn’t just like a horror movie, I don’t know what is.

Yes, it takes autonomy and free-will away from the players, but the end result is that it forces the players and their characters to do the things that make horror films fun!

I have run this several times for very-special episodes of my long-running campaign, and it is a blast. Darken the room, light a candle or two, appreciate the silence and darkness, and have a ton of jump-scare fun.

I tend to use a variant of the Scooby Doo rules set, and I could see the Cthulhu variant also being fun.

There are of course plenty of other games designed to scare, Spectrum Games (for whom I work) has Slasher Flick and Macabre Tales, the latter designed for 1-1 Lovecraftian play, the former designed for troupe style Slasher Flick play, and of course there is the grand-daddy of them all, Call of Cthulhu.

There are GMs out there who can make any system scary. My hat is off to them.

Me? I cheat.

I pick a game that has been designed to make the experience scary.

Game the Game: Building a Better Dungeon, Part 0: Foreword-A Competitive Exercise in Game Design

So, one of the folks in my gaming circle was one of the setting finalists in the Wizards of the Coast setting competition from years ago.

I will admit, he joined my gaming circle after he was a finalist, but that is the way of things. He was looking for a gaming circle, and my gaming group was looking for a member, so, we made Chuck Woolery proud.

End back-story

So, Scott and I were discussing D&D, not just 5e, but all editions of D&D.

I will tangent again. I was recently visiting my friend Chris, whose 9th grade age son (what is that 13? 14? Is he driving yet? Old enough to get married?) is getting into gaming, I was thrilled to see a 1st Edition PHB and DMG on his bedroom floor, but Chris said that his son was playing some sort of custom, streamlined, bastardized version, that his son’s friend had taught him.

This started me thinking. Thinking about D&D. Thinking about how for so many people D&D was something they discovered when they were that age, maybe a tad younger, maybe a tad older.

But then, the “game designer” in me asked this scholarly question “What is stopping this upstanding young man from playing the game with the Rules As Written (RAW)?”

And then I thought: Imagine If: there was a version of D&D simple enough for a bunch of young men to play, but robust enough that older folks could play as well, enjoying some creative freedom, without feeling like they are playing the “kiddie” version of the game.

And, this brings me back to Scott. He and I were discussing this. He has certain opinions about what he wants out of a fantasy game, and I have certain ideas as well. Some may be the same, some may be different.

And, Scott, suggested, instead of a collaboration (because as much as Scott is a super smart, awesome guy, our design philosophies are a bit different), that we each design what we think could go into this ideal version of XXXXX D&D.

So, this is the start of it, we are hoping to be done by the end of November.

As this is my first entry, I will start off brainstorming:

In 1st Edition (and 2nd to somewhat, though kits complicated things), it is my argument that at the end of a day of adventuring, when the party is hanging out by the fire, the Ranger is off playing in the woods, the Paladin is praying, and the Fighter is sharpening his sword. My first challenge is to make being a Fighter cool again, but simple. Scott and I both agree that the 4e fighter was a ton of fun to play, due to the many options available, beyond “I roll to hit” each and /every/ round. So, I think I will attempt to tackle this first, and it is my hope that this will help many of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Some other design considerations:

Unified XP: This started with 3e, and one could make the argument in 1st and 2nd this is also what separated the Fighter from the Ranger and Paladin. I would not disagree, but when everyone was the same level, or close, the two classes should feel different, flavor-wise, and mechanically. But, having just one table for XP that all classes use is something I want to keep.

gtgUltimate01Multi-classing: To someone who played D&D from 1st Edition on, who fondly recalls (and still has) a copy of the Rogues Gallery (favorite character: Lassiviren the Dark), multi-classing is something that needs to be included, I want something nice and simple and elegant and not subject to… abuse. There, I said it.

Spells: Scott wants to attempt to rewrite the spells. I don’t think I have the right kind of creative energy to do that. I could try. I would posit that Magic Missile and Fireball and other iconic spells are intrinsic and should be part of D&D.

Mechanics: there will need to be a d20.

Inspirations (aka Thievery roll): I am going to look at Castles and Crusades as well as 13th Age, as well as D&D and lots of other games, drawing upon what they do well, what could do better, and possibly what their intent is.

Why D&D? It is a common language that most RPG nerds speak. We can share stories, praise what we like, and bitch about what don’t we like(4e made Scott cringe as a DM, I really liked a lot of it, but will admit it had some flaws). It is the game every other game must acknowledge. My friend’s son isn’t interested in Dungeon World, or something akin. He wants to play D&D. He doesn’t want to be the kid with the Atari: Jaguar, he just wants a Nintendo like every other kid.

I am not expecting to create something that will necessarily be publishable, but who knows-I want to try and see what I can come up with. This is my challenge to myself.

I would love to be able to hand Chris’ son a set of rules that worked with his 1st Edition books and amplified his fun, I’d love to hand a similar set of rules to a 5e player, and have them say “hey, that’s really cool!”

So, in a way, I am reinventing the wheel.

What can I break, what can I rebuild, and how can I do it so that D&D is still D&D?

This is my personal challenge.

I am excited to see what Scott comes up with, I am excited to be part of his process and have him be part of mine. I will surely comment on his posts, and hope he will do the same.

Let the games (design) begin!

She Can Fly: Image Panel @ NYCC

The Image (I is for Immersive) panel featured Kelly Sue Deconnick, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, Kyle Higgins, Jason Latour, Brendon Montclair, Tim Seeley, and Jamie Mckelvie

image03Kyle Higgins’ big announcement of the day was that C.O.W.L. was getting its own album. Kyle used to be a jazz trumpeter, which contributes to the stylistic tone of the album. Each track corresponds to a different character, with the album releasing just before the first trade paperback (which comes out October 28). C.O.W.L. will also have a 60’s inspired one shot releasing soon, which is inspired entirely by comics of the era, with everything from art style to color choice, and will act as a stylized backstory for the characters. “We wanted to print it on the older paper…but the crappier the paper quality, the more expensive it is, apparently.”

Ben Acker and Black will be taking the stage show/radio show, Thrilling Adventure Hour, even further in the multi-media verse by releasing two comics based on characters from the podcast. They wanted to “add a visual element” to the show, and “provide a lot of ways” to consume their content. Kelly Sue Deconnick commented that Ben&Ben are “Wednesday Nerds.” The TAH comics will be all new stories within the “selective” canon of the world.

Jamie Mckelvie talked about the importance of real-life fashion in his process. “The real elements need to feel real,” from the way characters dress, to the settings they find themselves in. Each character in the Wicked and the Divine has their own personal fashion, and they are all “saying something” with how they dress and style themselves.

image02The rest of the panel talked about settings, and how to make titles immersive. On Revival, Tim Seeley said “it’s the real world of my home town.” Conversely, Kelly Sue Deconnick said she initially wanted Pretty Deadly to be a straight western, but “we lost that aspect pretty quickly….it’s a story told by a dead bunny to a butterfly!” She continued by saying the story exists in “mythspace,” and that the second arc will use imagery from World War I, implying a progression of time without it feeling like it’s in the “real world.”

Like Revival, which only has one element of the bizarre, Rocket Girl and Southern Bastards are more grounded in “a” reality. “A lot falls on the artists,” said Rocket Girl creator, Brendon. Set in an alternate 80’s, the comic is a “memory of what the time was.” Southern Bastards creator, Kyle Higgins, said “authenticity is an illusion. You’re basing something on a memory of a place. The story has to fulfill its own needs” first and foremost.

One fan asked the panel about world building versus actually writing out a plot, and the difficulties of not getting mired in creating a world. Kelly Sue said you need a deadline to inspire and create a plot and ultimately finish it. “Once you actually have to make a story, that’s when you see all the errors and flaws. It’s painful, but necessary to make a book.” Tim agreed, “some of the best world building comes out of plot,” and that getting stuck in a world without a story ends up being more harmful than helpful.

Mark Waid was quoted as saying once you start going, “your self conscious will connect the dots, creating world building on its own.” Kelly Sue disagreed slightly with the statement, “things happen like Lost. You have to know where you’re going. Writing is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole journey that way.”

One panelist offered that writing should be like “knowing the punchline to a joke, but discovering the details on the way.” “The Aristocrats,” offered Kelly Sue.

Image01Brendon offered a tip to new writers; “I try to get the whole story on the first page…as a new writer, you have to hit the ground running…Once you start it, whether or not you like it, a story has its own momentum.” In terms of new writers using stereotypes, “on some level, stereotypes exist for a reason. It’s fun to peel back the layers and find something more.”

Kelly Sue touched on the controversy that surrounded the first issue of Pretty Deadly, and how it’s a hard-to-parse comic; “If you’ve read Pretty Deadly, you know….I don’t care if you’re lost!…It’s a book that’s not going to hold your hand and it’s not for everyone…but that’s something I really enjoy as a reader.” The whole panel agreed that they write (and draw) what they like to see in comics.

She Can Fly: NYCC Women In Comics

Women in comics. It’s a hot topic, and one that I blog about weekly. From feminism to how characters are dressed to intersectional representation, women in comics matter. As I said in an earlier post, New York Comic Con 2014 has a lot of panels about that very topic (as well as racial diversity in comics, sexuality and gender in comics, and, generally, content emphasizing that #representationmatters—a hashtag favorite of mine while at cons).

That’s why I was so excited to attend my first panel of the day on Friday, “Marry, Do, Kill?: What Will it Take to Shatter Female Stereotypes in Comics?” The panel was held in one of the smaller rooms at the convention, but was packed full. Focusing a critical eye on female stereotypes in comics and pop media (because “stereotypes are lazy writing”), the panel included Dennis Celaro, Claire Connelly, Jennie Wood, Erica Schultz, Shaun Noel, and Ellie Pyle initially (although a few more panelists–Enrica Jang, Andy Schmidt, AK Lovelace–trickled in throughout the hour).

The first topic discussed—and one that was revisited throughout the panel—was the physical presentation of women in comics. Artist Dennis Celaro had a lot to say on the topic. “Is busty aspirational? No body type should be aspirational…our society values physical beauty far more than it should.” He continued, talking about his artistic aspirations, “I never wanted to be a ‘big tit’ artist. When I was drawing X-Factor, I made a choice to…make each character physically different…I got so much shit [for that decision]…Siren’s boobs are too big, this character’s boobs are too small, she’s not pretty enough…”

Erica Schultz agreed that comics create an unrealistic expectation of beauty, even within media itself , sharing a story of some banner art she had at a convention, where a 20-something man commented of the character on the banner: “god, she’s fat.” Dennis agreed that comics are mired in an illusion of what is beauty; “women who are just drawn like the airbrushed Marlyn Monroe…eyes, lips, and nostrils, thay have no character.” What might be “physically beautiful” is ultimately uninteresting to draw, look at, or use in comic art.

The panelists commented on their childhood experiences with comics. One stated “I grew up liking comics just as they were…but when you become a writer, you recognize tropes and clichés,” and begin to see them as boring. And though there was some question if we are telling creators to “teach to the test” (the Bechdel test, that is), there was agreement that “if you’re not interested in the diversity of people, you’re really limited yourself” as a writer and an artist. Ellie Pyle commented further, “there is no one specific way to create a ‘strong, female charater.’ Personality is as different as body types.”

Another writer touched on the topic of clichés, “if you call something a trope, that just means it was written poorly once,” and that is all the more reason to take that trope and write it well. The panel agreed upon the power of media. “It’s never ‘just’ a comic book…everything has an effect.

Shaun Noel and City of Walls artist, AK Lovelace, touched on the power of images: they had a convention banner featuring their lead character, Ariana, a black woman, in a warrior pose. The amount of positive feedback they got about the image was astounding. “We’re interested in normalcy. Our character is a little girl in a messed up city. We aren’t starting with an agenda,” but that’s port of the reason why their comic resonates. Dennis also touched on the power of comic are, “I don’t think art leads, it’s a reflection. The reason art is controversial is because it shows something that we don’t like in society.”

“The audience is diversifying, so the content is following suit. The market, the thirst for it, is there.” At the same time, “there’s a problem at a macro level with lack of representation. There’s a market not being served…but you can’t tell an artist what to make.” The entire panel agreed that “no matter what you’re writing….make the women human. That’s what makes them unique, makes them resonate.” Some writers will pat themselves on the back and say “oh, I wrote a strong female character—but they wrote a male character, just with breasts” and that’s very frustrating.”

Everybody agreed it was best to avoid comments on articles or content emphasizing the importance of diversity in terms of gender, race, and sexuality. “My mantra is ‘don’t read the comments.’”

The panel touched on indie versus mainstream: “Marvel and DC is a weak prism” to view comics through. Indie comics offer a “broader sense of the genre,” and allow artists to move away from the idea of an in-house style. It allows “you [to] find the right artist” for what is being written.

Talk turned to fridging women, with one panelist saying “if you’re going to fridge a woman, make sure we know her name, why it’s important this is happening.” Ellie responded, “if she has a name, and it’s part of her story, it’s not fridging. Killing a female character isn’t always fridging, and treating it as such negates the importance of what fridging actually is.”

In the last minute of the panel, I asked about making covers more positive and approachable for women, citing the Milo Manara controversy. AK commented that he thought the entire outrage was stupid, and Dennis agreed, saying he thought the cover was artistically bad for Manara, but “the ultimate power is ‘buy it’ or ‘don’t buy it.’…We can’t threaten someone’s livelihood if it threatens their career.” Art has to take risks to find success.

Another huge part of women in comics is fandom. NYCC 2014 had a few panels from the Mary Sue which touched on female fandom, but it was Vulture that had an entire panel devoted to the Carol Corps and the effect of female fandom on the industry. The panel was small, just Kelly Sue Deconnick, Gail Simone, and Sana Amanat, but they are some of the most qualified people to be on a panel about the spread of female-friendly fandom.

The first question asked was if there’s been a recent explosion of female fandom, or if people are just starting to pay attention to it now. Gail noted that convention attendance has dramatically changed (making bathroom lines much longer for women), and that, when she got started, many women were actually leaving the industry because it was such a bad atmosphere for them. She predicted that we will see an influx of female creators with the increase of positive views on women in fandom.

Kelly Sue reminded everyone that girls have always read comics, and emphasized that “equality is not a loss.” Today, women find their way into comics through cartoons and films, and the internet gives them a forum to openly speak and create. However, comics themselves are less ubiquitous, and readers have to seek out comic stores and specialty shop, which is a big barrier to readership, especially female readership. “The smart stores are going to find a way to support and grow new readership…also, comics are cool again!”

But it’s not just fandom that’s changed. The industry itself is transforming, “our content has changed. We’re telling a different type of story, and our characters are more realistic and relate-able on a greater scale.”

On the topic of Red Sonja, Gail commented “there’s a big difference in a character being written to look at, and a character being written to be a character.” While she has removed a few of the ickier parts of red Sonja’s character history, it’s also about spinning clichés around, and making the character “bloody and sexy and smelly, but fun.”

Ms. Marvel is one of the top selling books for Marvel, and the first issue has just gone into its 6th printing—something that’s usually unheard of, even for the most popular comics—but the moderator wondered if its success can be emulated. Sana says yes, “it can. It’s not just a gimmick. We’ve tapped into something that people wanted for a long time…and it worked out.” (A fan later commented that she loved character like Carol and Kamala, because they’re “a superhero first and a woman second.”)

Both Gail and Kelly Sue are extremely active on social media, and that’s a boon for them and women in fandom. Interactive with fans on Twitter and Tumblr is “a pleasure,” says Gail. “You guys are my comics community.” In general, female fandom is “very interactive” and supporting. Fans send gifts, engage in discussion, and sincerely want to interact.

When asked what fans can do to support women in comics, Kelly Sue replied in her trademark frankness “fuck shit up. Speak up, stand up for what is important for you. Make comics.” The whole panel emphasized that women shouldn’t fall into the trap of being pitted against one another. “’Would Carol or Wonder Woman win?’ They’re both good guys, they wouldn’t fight each other, dumbass!”

One fan asks about the difficulties for women of color in the industry. Sana answers “it’s tough…Ms. Marvel is the anthem against hate.” It’s hard when the media doesn’t show you, “when your version of beauty is not what you see in the mirror.” Ultimately, it’s about intersectionality: “feminism is about fairness. Championing only one aspect of it doesn’t make sense, that’s not fairness.”

Kelly Sue emphasized the importance of calling people out on fandom gatekeeping. “Nobody gets to decide what you can like.” (If they still try to, she suggests you ask them what Carol Danver’s birthday is—May 26th, fyi.)

Gail states she likes “sexy comics. But when you take that choice away, it becomes ugly…showing off sexuality can be empowering, but you also know when it’s being exploited.” The entire panel emphasizes their interest in moving away from the clichés of comics past.

“’Write what you know’ is a fallacy and it’s lazy,” said Kelly Sue when one male fan asked about writing female characters. “Don’t limit yourself. Nobody said ‘Brian Michael Bendis is neither a spider nor a woman’ when he wrote Jessica Drew.”

Back Issue Bin: X-Men/Teen Titans

Back Issue Bin: Marvel and DC Present The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans, 1982 (W- Chris Claremont, A- Walt Simonson)

imageThe year was 1982. The hottest title at Marvel was Uncanny X-Men, which had been drawn by John Byrne and written by Chris Claremont. Byrne had left in 1981, succeeded by Dave Cockrum. The hottest title at DC was The New Teen Titans, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez.

The Titans were dealing with all sorts of teenage angst as well as supervillainous threats, while the X-Men had that whole Phoenix thing to deal with. Both titles were capturing the imagination, emptying the pockets, and competing for the attentions of comicbook loving fans everywhere!

So, when these two teams teamed-up for the 4th intercompany crossover it was big news! It would be akin to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones holding a concert together and backing each other up. Or, so as to not date myself, it would be like Jay-Z marrying Beyonce.

The artists for this epic crossover was Walt Simonson had done some work for both companies but was not yet the legend he is today, his Thor run was still a year away.

But, Claremont was the regular X-Men writer. Would it have been awesome to see Perez or Byrne or Cockrum do the book? Yes, but then, that also would have given an advantage to one company over another. As much as I love Byrne’s Marvel output, I would have loved to have seen Perez tackle this book!

Kitty Pryde had only been introduced two years prior, and although she isn’t necessarily a key player here, her character is still defined by being young and swooning over boys and crushing on Piotr. Fortunately, there is nothing as bizarre or creepy as in her Micronauts crossover.

Before I touch on the content, the first thing I noticed was the Marvel house ad on the inside cover .

The image of Kitty is tiny, and truly, I have no idea what “Marvel Comics is Power” means. DC’s house ad at the back of the book makes far more sense “DC Is On the Move!”

Onto the content. If I were to ask you, for either universe to name two teams who would be likely to have to deal with Darkseid and the New Gods, would either team immediately come to mind? Would either team come to mind after listing 10 other teams? Twenty other teams? I would bet the answer would be no.

However, that is the focus of this issue.

And, Claremont makes it work.

I have no idea about the inner workings of either editorial staff, but I might speculate that both companies offered up pitches for a story, and that Claremont’s won.

It involves the Phoenix force, a force so universally deadly and powerful that Starfire knows of and is terrified by it.

This gimmick to tie the two teams together worked very well. Claremont did his homework!

As with all Back Issue Bins, I do not want to give too much away, but if you can find this oversized issue, pick it up!

Game The Game: Gaming Holy Grails-The Spy Game

A myface friend of mine was mulling over the spy genre, he wanted to run a game, maybe he would design a game. This myface thread had many comments. I chimed in. “What are you trying to emulate: Bond; Tinker, Tailor; M:I; Bourne?” He asked for clarity. “Do you want a game where being a spy at HQ is as exciting as being an agent in the field?”

This was a very exciting idea. A game that could capture the drama of wearing a trenchcoat and having a drop go bad, a game that didn’t rely of shooting stuff. A game where being smart would be an asset as well. I liked the direction my line of questioning was going. Unfortunately, his response was “nah, not really.”

And this got me writing. I have a first draft started of my gaming Holy Grails, games I want to exist, but do not yet. So, instead of that being one long article with many games, I will start by focusing on one game and one genre at a time.

Today, the Spy Genre.

I want a game that captures the flavor of all of those movies, that can be played Bond style, maybe with one player and a GM, or Bourne style, one player and GM, but very different flavor, or M:I style, with each character having a cool specialty, or even Tinker, Tailor style, a cerebral game.

Games I have tried:

Wilderness of Mirrors– a very fun game, but in play had some points where it bogged down. A brilliant idea though. Minimalist and very heavy on narration.

Leverage– some amazing ideas here, but requires a lot from the players, the one game I ran the players really struggled, and we all agreed it was an amazing idea but didn’t quite play the way we wanted it to. Also, doesn’t support solo play or changes in tone or drama.

Spycraft 1.0– a d20 based game, lots of neat flavor, characters don’t get enough feats to be cool even at high levels, thus creating frustration.

Spycraft 2.0– a brilliant computer game design that requires a GM to track numerous damage types and all sorts of other stuff I don’t have time for. Again, lots of great flavor.

So, what should a spy game be able to do: the mechanics can support group or solo play. The mechanics allow for tension, for drama, for danger that isn’t found on the wrong end of a gun or knife. The mechanics should be the same, for an exciting race on scooters through the crowded streets of an exotic European city, to a shootout on an airfield, or an agent at HQ deciphering coded messages and attempting to out-maneuver an opponent in the game of chess that is espionage.

In response to this myface conversation, I stumbled across World of Secrets. I want to check it out. Maybe I can cross one Quixotic quest off my to-do list.