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First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 22:07
Official Critical Role stories crafted in collaboration with series creators MILWAUKIE, Ore., (August 30, 2023)—Learn more about beloved characters from Critical Role and Amazon Studios’ The Legend of Vox Machina animated series in the newest…
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First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 22:04
Check out designs and teaser images spotlighting Mia, a new character debuting in Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti’s G.O.D.S. this October!   New York, NY— August 30, 2023 — At…
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First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:45
Following a Surprise Appearance from SPAWN to End the Last Arc, Creators Announces Higher Stakes and Additional Apperances From Savage Dragon, Blacula and More! PORTLAND, OR – The Eisner Award nominated Killadelphia from…
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First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 18:42
Check out the October collection of Marvel’s Stormbreakers Variant Covers that bring the Marvel Zombies to life!   New York, NY— August 30, 2023 — This October, the undead overtake…
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First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 16:37
The Next Series in the Energon Universe Launches This October LOS ANGELES 08/30/2023 — Today Skybound, in collaboration with leading toy and game company Hasbro, revealed an impressive lineup of…
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First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 16:34
Check out a new trio of variant covers for MOON KNIGHT #28, #29, and #30, part of Jed MacKay and Alessandro Cappuccio’s Death of Moon Knight storyline.   New York,…
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First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 14:58
6-Time World Champion to Appear on SmackDown for Seven Consecutive Weeks Following Return on September 1 Cena and Make-A-Wish to Host Children and Their Families at Every SmackDown During His…
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Skybound Entertainment Announces The Walking Dead: Betrayal to Begin Early Access on September 14 

First Comics News - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 14:48
Steam Free Weekend Available from September 14 to 18 AUGUST 30, 2023 – LOS ANGELES, CA – Skybound Entertainment, the creator-led, multi-platform entertainment company, today announced The Walking Dead™: Betrayal is set to…
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Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1982 (week 1)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 11:00
I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of September 2, 1982. 

Wonder Woman #298: Frank Miller cover on this issue. Mishkin and Colan/McLaughlin continue the Aegeus story. Wonder Woman consults the Magic Sphere on Paradise Island and learns Bellerophon's history. On Themyscria, the island which the Amazons abandoned for their new home centuries ago in this Earth-One continuity, Bellerophon tries to get the location of Paradise Island out of Steve Trevor because he wants to get ahold the Amazon's healing Purple Ray. Aegeus tries torturing Trevor, but Steve escapes into the temple of Athena. There he and terrorist Sofia see a vision of Athena, who tries to persuade Sofia to turn against Aegeus. Steve grabs Athena's scepter, which he saw destroy one terrorist, and hides it under his jacket. Unfortunately, he's recaptured by Aegeus who knocks an approaching Wonder Woman out of the sky with a thunderbolt.
In the Huntress backup, the would-be superhero Blackwing is captured by the gang running the protection racket and they take him to their boss with Huntress following behind. The boss is called Boa, and he's got a big, pet constrictor--though Staton doesn't appear to have used photo reference in drawing the snake. Huntress busts in and takes out the gang, but Boa sicks his snake on her and the gang leaves while she struggles in the animal's deadly grip.

Arak Son of Thunder #16: Thomas and Gonzales/Alcala bring Arak to Byzantium as he continue his search for Valda. They are in from trouble from the beginning as he has to save Satyricus from an angry mob after he accidentally destroys an icon. Luckily, the duo are aided by General Cometas who they met last issue. he gets them in the see the young Emperor Constantine VI who is being presented with potential wives when Valda catches his eye.
A fight breaks out and Arak intercedes to help her. He's ordered to swim across a pool to prove the turh of his words. In the water, a monster comes out of a mosaic and attacks him--or seems to, as no one else can see it. Despite successfully completing the challenge, Arak and Valda have upset the emperor's and he orders their deaths.
In the backup, Valda and Malagigi attend of fair in Paris. While Malagigi meets with the local Count, Valda explores the market. She encounters a pickpocket dwarf named Brunello who sells her a baby elephant. As she leads the elephant through the streets, Valda is attacked by saracens who claim that the elephant is stolen and think she's the culprit. Valda holds her own against their superior numbers until Malagigi arrives and use his magic to end the fight. The saracens taken possession of the elephant, while Valda and Malagigi are glad to let them have it.

Blackhawk #253: Evanier and Spiegle put the spotlight on one of The Blackhawks in this story. The team (minus Hendrickson) is summoned to a meeting with command to discuss Hendrickson's future with the team. The eldest Blackhawk's mental state is called into question after it is discovered that he is writing letters to his wife--who was killed a year before. Blackhawk promises to speak with him.
When the team returns to Blackhawk Island where Hendrickson was left on duty, they find that he is gone. Putting together clues, they realize that he has located a secret Nazi air base by measuring the fuel load of downed aircraft. And they thought he was crazy for always siphoning the fuel!
The Blackhawks follow to the location specified and find and destroy the air base, but Hendrickson is shot down. A German pilot finds his crashed plane, but Hendrickson outdraws his opponent with pistols. Hendrickson reveals that he has always known that his wife was dead. He simply wrote the letters to her because he was lonely and felt ignored by his teammates. 
DC Comics Presents #52: Kupperberg and Giffen introduce Ambush Bug. He's the villain here and a good bit different from the character he will become. The story guest stars the New Doom Patrol (a team Superman doesn't even know exists until this story). A being of black energy is wrecking Metropolis and Superman's attempts to stop it are complicated by the teleporting agent of chaos, Ambush Bug. The Doom Patrol tries to lend a hand and let him know that the being is actually an out of a control Negative Woman, but Ambush Bug's machinations makes Supes distrust them. Superman's character is different in Kupperberg's story than what we are used to seeing: he's testier, quicker to act, and more fallible than the usual portrayal. It makes him a better mark for Ambush Bug's shenanigans.

Fury of Firestorm #7: Conway and Broderick/Rodriquez introduce the Québécoise, terrorist super-villain Plastique. She's spurred to action after Firestorm thwarted the impact of the attack by her fellow terrorist Andre by absorbing the energy. She happens to choose the offices of the New York News Express, it happens to be a day where Ronnie has come with the intention of telling his reporter father that he is Firestorm. Being held hostage by Plastique with the Express staff, Ronnie can't change to Firestorm without revealing who he is to everyone! Stein comes to his rescue by sneaking past the police into the building and shutting off the power, so they can become Firestorm unseen. After rescuing the hostages, Firestorm dissipates Plastique's costume, so the bombs drop to the floor before she can detonate them.

Justice League #209: The final chapter of Crisis on Earth-Prime. Don Heck is the artist here, with Conway scripting, per usual. The All-Stars, JLA, and JSA meet with FDR to recap the success of their teams. There is still some work to be done, though. Power Girl, Firestorm, and Steel are in Geneva, Switzerland, looking for more missiles. They find them along with Johnny Quick. The missiles get launched, but the heroes take them down in mid-air. 
After meeting with Professor Zee and cluing him into his megalomaniacal assistant, he gives Green Lantern, Firebrand and Zatanna his prototype time machine, which they use to travel to 1962 on Earth-Prime. There they're ready to take action when the Crime Syndicate arrives on the scene in a Time Vortex. The heroes surprise the villains and defeat them. The Soviet missiles aren't stolen, and Earth-Prime's history proceeds as it should.
On Earth-Two 1942, the heroes take the fight to Per Degaton's base and capture him and his men. Huntress takes care of Own-Man who had been in hiding, gloating over the others' defeat. History is restored, so that no one even remembers this Crisis having occurred. All and all, a nice arc, though perhaps a little longer than it needed to be.

Adventure Comics #494: The only new story here is The Challengers of the Unknown by Rozakis and Tuska/Mushynsky. Picking up where last issue left off, the Challs to be compare notes and decide some gangsters mad at Rocky for ruining their attempts to fix a match where the ones that sabotaged their plane. They pay them a visit, but they turn out not to be the culprits, so the mystery remains.

Remastering Pages

The Splintered Realm - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 13:46

As I go through the process of re-mastering the pages, I have the benefit of three things:

1) I know where the story is going! I've already got the whole thing done, so when I make edits, I know how these are going to affect other things. One of the biggest edits is that I'm changing the setting from the back yard to the larger area around Warwick Pond. This is necessitating some edits, and will require a little bit of re-drawing later on, but it's a relatively small edit that (to me) has significant implications. It makes the world of the ants, and the forces they are dealing with, much larger. It doesn't change the story per se, but it changes the context of the story.

2) I'm just a better writer than I was 30 years ago. I would HOPE so. It means that I can layer in more subtle things that help frame the ants, their worldview, and some of the larger themes more consistently. 

3) The font I'm using is how I wish my lettering looked. The lettering, to me, has always been the weak point in my comics, and being able to use a font cleans the pages us SO much. 

Also, time and space has given me an appreciation for my work as an artist. It's a good comic. I'm proud of it. I'm going to be very happy to have a definitive edition that is clean and tightened up that I can add to my shelf and share with people. 

The Cleric and the Rituals of Faith

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 11:00

Over the weekend, I read this interesting blog series about how polytheism worked in the real world. Check it out. 

Anyway, it got me thinking about how D&D/rpg polytheism might be made more realistic without changing it much. Granted, it's a bit of an uphill battle since rpg polytheism of the D&D variety is very unrealistic in a lot of ways, but I'm going to focus here on one thing and that's Devereaux's central point in the early articles: religion is mainly about ritual not metaphysics.

This is actually pretty good for the D&D cleric, because they are largely soft on metaphysics and philosophy (short a lot of worldbuilding) but out-of-the-box do a lot of things like spells and special abilities that could be glossed (and roleplayed) as rituals. It's sort of transactional, even mechanistic from a modern lens, which is good for D&D because that's what clerical magic is. 

So, clerics are the most religious (in what Devereaux relates is the Roman sense) because they have the most effective deity-related rituals (spells) and they are the most diligent in their performance (it's their job). The use of the cleric to the adventuring party is this very religiousness: their ritual performances always get results. 

I think it would take relatively little roleplaying in this direction and reframing of these abilities in a more religious ritual context to make it feel a lot less merely mechanistic and a lot more flavorfully mechanistic.

Phil File Card

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 08/27/2023 - 18:46

I'm playing with the file card design. I worked out a file card for Phil as of the beginning of the Army Ants comics (I cheated a little and gave him a 1-point discount since the gear he has adds up to 16 Clout but he only has 15). This is, of course, for Army Ants '81 the RPG, which is a companion for Army Ants '81 the comic, which is a re-master of my original comics from the 1990s... which takes place in 1981. Because it does.  

Army Ants '81 Now Available

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 08/26/2023 - 03:47

So much for THIS stealth operation.

It was a simple enough mission. Sneak up on the termite compound. Take some notes. Get out. You weren’t geared up for a full frontal assault.

But then Gonzo thought the tower guard spotted him. And Burner got an itchy trigger finger. And, before you knew it, the compound was a smoldering ruin, and you’d used up all of your grenades. 

The Colonel was going to go ballistic. You would be lucky to have latrine duty for the next fortnight. You’d barely broken in your sergeant patch, and you had visions of it being ripped from your uniform in a barrage of obscenities.

… But maybe it didn’t have to happen that way. Because maybe THIS didn’t happen that way. 

What if you had done your recon, but realized that the termites had a bomb - no, a MISSILE. They had a missile that was going to destroy the Hill. Your only choice was to throw caution to the wind, to respond to the new intelligence, and risk your life for Queen and Hill.

You gathered your patrol together and explained the plan. If they could stick to this one, maybe things wouldn’t turn out so badly after all…


Army Ants ‘81 is the RPG I wish my friends and I had when I was in eighth grade. Because that would have been SWEET.

Editing Odds and Ends

The Splintered Realm - Fri, 08/25/2023 - 12:05

As I complete edit number 372 or something of the Army Ants '81 rules (they are only ten pages, so I've spent much more time editing and refining than I did writing the original set of rules), I find little things I'm still considering tweaking. Here are some things:

I think I'm going to have aid kits and first aid work the opposite of damage; aid kits are DT 1 to apply, and restore 2 base Grit, but you get to carry over extra successes on your Mind check to the result (as well as the medic skill) to improve the outcome. This makes Mind more valuable (which is good, because it's still the third wheel of the traits, and this boosts it a little), and helps to offset some of the scaling of Grit I've done - a level 6 ant (so fairly high level) with Body 3 and toughness 2 (a likely build for a heavy weapons or recon specialist) has Grit 34. A decent medic (Mind 3, first aid skill 1) with an aid kit who rolls 3 successes with the aid kit restores 2 (the overage beyond the DT) +2 (aid kit) +1 (medic skill) = 5 Grit. If he rolls 1 success, he restores 3 Grit, and if he rolls something crazy like 5 successes, he restores 7 Grit. None of this breaks the game (even remotely), but it accounts for the higher trait and the investment in medic skill. I have to re-write the medic skill so that it doesn't grant bonus points restored... because I would double-dip, getting the bonus to the dice pool that then carries over to the points restored. Heck, I might even go ahead and have aid kits restore 3 base Grit! If you're going to spend an action to use an aid kit, you should get some return on your investment. I also keep thinking about levels 1-2... if I'm spending a few valuable Clout to get an aid kit, I better get some bang for that buck.

On the other side, I have grenades. I keep trying to balance grenades so that they are effective and useful, but also not too deadly. I keep thinking about the poor level 2 ant with Body 1 and no Toughness; he only has Grit 6. If a grenade deals more than 6 damage, it can one-shot a level 2 ant. Then it hit me. So? I'm conceptualizing this as an 'old school RPG'. Well, magic users in B/X could be level 5 with 10 hit points. If they get hit with a 5D6 fireball, they could die whether or not they make the saving throw if I happen to roll 20+ on the damage. Too bad, so sad. Grenades are deadly. As the MM, if you are allowing level 1-2 enemies to walk around with lots of grenades, then you're going to have lots of dead ants. I liked how my play test yesterday had tension about the presence of grenades; however, a little bit of that tension was about my own thoughts of grenades, and not necessarily their mechanical applications in this game right now; if a grenade had bounced into the foxhole, there is a decent chance its overall effects on the game would have been minimal. That should not be the case; a grenade ends up in your foxhole, and the snot is about to hit the fan. I think going to damage 10 on a grenade is not out of the question. I'm going to toy with that a bit.

Finally, (if you've read this far - I wonder how many people make it all the way through my long, rambling posts...) I have noticed a philosophical shift in my thinking about creative 'stuff'. As I get ready for this school year, I'm well aware that I'm on the back end of my career. This is the last go round for me on Romeo and Juliet, so I want to do the best job I can with it. I'm taking my time to get it right. I sort of feel that way with my Army Ants game. I cannot see me making Army Ants games in my 60s... but I couldn't see me making them in my 50s when I was 20, so what do I know? Anyway, I'm enjoying the process of getting this right, and I'm appreciating the reality that it could be for the last time.

Army Ants Playtest #... 4? 5? Not sure anymore.

The Splintered Realm - Fri, 08/25/2023 - 00:53
Let’s try a different sort of play test with the variations I’ve made to the rules, and see how they hold up. I’m going to make two ants who are sitting in a foxhole with sandbags, defending a pathway up to a key location during a battle.
What battle? What location? Why?


Anyway, my two ants will be a Heavy Weapons gunner dude and his best friend, a covert ops specialist with some medical training. That should be fun. I’m going to make them only level 2, and they are holding the pathway from three waves of attacks in a minute. The first wave will arrive in round 1. The second wave in round 4. The third wave in round 8. Good stuff.

Wave 1 will have 5 ticks. One of them has a stun grenade. They are all on foot.

Wave 2 will have 7 ticks. One of them has a gas grenade and another has a fragmentation grenade. They are all on foot.

Wave 3 will have 3 ticks in a jeep with a machine gun mounted on top. The jeep gives them all Cover +1. The jeep carries a bomb, so needs to be disabled before it makes it beyond the sandbag too far. I’ll figure out what that means exactly when I get there.

In rolling them up, I love the way that rank works… while the law of averages will favor smarter characters with leadership over time, a good roll (or bad one) can change a lot… as is the case here. There is no WAY that the heavy weapons ant should be higher rank than the covert ops ant, but that’s the military for you… Blitz rolled a 6 followed by a 5 on his first roll, so came out of Boot Camp with the Lance Corporal insignia. Poor Specs barely got confirmed for Private First Class (one success total in two tries), even after all the paperwork he’s done for the Major! Life just isn’t fair… 

Blitz, Raucous Ant Heavy Weapons 2 (A3 Lance Corporal; Grit 12; Clout 30) 

Body 3 | Mind 1 | Reflex 2

Heavy Weapons 1; Toughness 1

AM-60 (damage 4); 3 grenades; 3 aid kits

Specs, Studious Ant Covert Operative 2 (A2 Private First Class; Grit 6; Clout 25)

Body 1 | Mind 3 | Reflex 2

Medic 1; Small Arms 1

AM-16 (damage 3); 4 aid kits; walkie-talkie

The sandbagged foxhole provides +1 to Reflex for cover, and also increases the DT of grenades by +1, since it has netting over it to cause grenades to bounce away.

For each wave, they must make a Mind check (DT 2) to see the enemies at 13 cm. Otherwise, they become aware of them at the 10-cm mark. The foliage is pretty thick on the road.

Round 1

They both fail the first check, and are surprised when a group of 5 ticks appears on the road, coming around the bend. The ticks go first. Two are going to stand back and open fire, while three run forward. One of the forward ticks carries the grenade. The boys are shooting at the runners. The first shooter gets… 6 successes. On 2D. He rolled double sixes, followed by another six and a 3. He’s firing at Blitz. 3 of these go to damage, so he deals a total of 5 hits, leaving Blitz at 7. Ouch! With his second shot, he gets 2 successes, which ping off of Blitz’s machine gun. The second fires at Specs, but his one success lodges in the sandbags. His second shot misses entirely.

On his turn, Blitz fires at the first of the running ticks. He gets 3 successes, so 2 carry over to damage; he deals 6 damage, which is enough to drop the first one. He gets 2 successes on the second, which deals a total of 5 damage. That one is still up with 1 Grit remaining. Specs tries to use his AM-16 to finish the injured one, and gets 2 successes, which deals 4 damage and finishes it. He uses his other action to patch Blitz’s wound, and rolls only 1 success - which is barely enough. He restores 3 Grit to Blitz, who is now at 10. There is a 4 in 6 chance that one of the runners was carrying the grenade; he was. The grenade now lies on the ground near the feet of the one runner who still survived. He ran 6 cm, so is now 4 cm away from the foxhole. His BODY 2 allows him to throw it that far, so that’s going to be his play.

Round 2

The ticks in the rear are taking a strategic advance; they can move 1 cm and attack in an action; they would have done that last round as well… so they have moved 2 cm and will move 2 more as they are firing. They are both focusing on Blitz. The first attacks and gets 3 successes and 1 success. The three hits for standard damage (2), and Blitz is at 8 Grit. The second gets 2 successes with each attack, but needs 3 to hit them behind the sandbags. They are now 6 cm from the sandbags. The one 4 cm from the sandbags uses 1 action to pick up the grenade, and another to throw it; he needs 2 successes to land it in the foxhole, and gets 0. The grenade hits the net, bouncing away and exploding next to the sandbags, which absorb the full brunt of the attack. 

Blitz opens upon the closest one, getting 2 successes (so dealing damage 5), and then 3 successes (so damage 6). He kills the nearest tick, and two remain. Specs tries to shoot one of those, getting 2 and 2 successes, for a total of 8 damage, killing him.

Round 3

The tick doesn’t have many options, so he drops to one knee and takes aim at Blitz’s head, firing one shot at +1 He misses with only 1 success, as his bullet sinks into the sandback a tenth of a millimeter below Blitz’s head (I’d say this is a game of inches, but it’s not THAT big - that sounds like a marketing idea). Blitz returns fire, getting 5 successes, and dropping the tick like so much wet laundry. Or so many potatoes. Or like a tick you just filled with machine-gun ammunition. Mostly that last one.

Specs wants to try and apply some medical help to Blitz, who is at 8 Grit out of his starting 12. Two kits will get him back to full, and (they don’t know this), but they have less than half a round. Specs can try to apply one aid kit; he rolls 4 successes, so easily swaps out the bandage for a new one and gets Blitz back up to 11. Ticks appear on the path. Only Blitz gets to try and notice, since Specs is busy. He gets a 6 followed by a 2, so that’s enough. He taps Specs on the shoulder, nods towards the path, and gets back to his position. Specs gets his AM-16 ready.

Side note: This is very cinematic. I’m really appreciating how the action flows here. Part of it is just how I’ve structured this encounter, but the mechanics are allowing me to do this fluidly. 

Round 5

They let the ticks get to 10 cm and open fire, winning initiative automatically.  Blitz gets 4 successes on the first attack, dealing 7 damage and killing one. He misses the second one entirely. Specs hits one for 4, and again for 4 more, dropping it. Five ticks remain. 

They do the whole strategic advance thing. One of the dead ticks had the gas grenade, but the one still up has the fragmentation grenade. Four of them provide cover fire as the grenadier runs up to throw his grenade. They do a lot of missing. One gets 3 successes against Blitz, which deals 2 damage, leaving him at 9. They hit the sandbags a lot. Funny thought: I just realized that a sandbag might have only 10 to 20 grains of sand in each one. Heh. The grenadier will throw next round… if he’s still alive.

Round 6

Blitz is going to try and prevent that. He does. He has 4 successes for 7 damage, cutting the grenadier down; it is possible he’s already pulled the pin (he has), and now I decide if it bounces to harm one of the others; it is very unlikely, but 1 in 6 shot. Nope. It rolls off the road and explodes. Blitz tries to kill a second, rolling 0 successes. Ugh. Specs fires at another one, hitting with 2 successes and dealing 5 damage, leaving it at 1. He fires again and finishes it off with 2 more successes. Three of them remain.

These all focus on Blitz, trying to take out that machine gun as they continue their strategic advance. They need 3 successes to hit; they get (2 attacks each, so six total attacks): 3, 0, 2, 2, 1, and 1 successes. Only the 3 gets to Blitz, tagging his shoulder and dealing 2 damage, leaving him at 7. He’s still above 50% of his starting Grit, so no penalty.

Round 7

They all hear something coming up the path. It will appear next round… but it’s going fast.

Blitz opens up on one of the three remaining ticks, getting 3 successes, which is just enough to kill it. He gets 2 successes on another, which deals 5 damage and leaves it with 1 Grit remaining. Specs uses an aid kit quickly to patch Blitz up a little bit and restores 3 Grit. Blitz is back to 10. Specs now takes a shot with his final action, barely hitting, but doing enough to finish it off. One tick remains… for the moment.

Round 8

That tick stands and lines up to take a shot, as a jeep filled with more ticks runs him over as it barrels through. 

The boys have one round to do something. I’m giving the jeep initiative; the driver keeps driving, while the machine gunner opens fire, and the passenger lobs a grenade towards the foxhole. The gunner gets 2 successes, which sticks a lot of lead in the sandbags. The grenade thrower misses entirely, his grenade going off the netting and into the brush on the far side. The driver drives.

Blitz tries to throw a grenade into the jeep; this is going to be tough, so I’ll say DT 3 because of how fast the jeep is moving, and the relatively small target area (far less than a cm square to line up). He gets 3 successes! (5 and a 6 on the dice). Dang. I’m going to go with his stun grenade, because that has the best odds of doing something good. 

The machine gunner gets 0 successes; it is possible that he falls off the jeep. Nope. He’s in a harness, so he slumps against the gun post.

The passenger gets three successes. Impressive. He’s stunned for 1 round…

The driver gets 2 successes, so is out for 12 seconds… that is definitely long enough for the jeep to crash. It does, and each has to roll Body to soak 6 impact damage from the crash. The gunner soaks 3, the passenger soaks 1, and the driver rolls a botch and is impaled and dies. The boys open fire on the jeep until it explodes… it is possible that they are in the blast radius of the bomb that was on the jeep when it goes off. They are. Specs can try a Mind roll DT 2 to see the bomb casing and realize what it is just before it goes off…  he gets 5 successes! Finally! Being smart helps. He grabs Blitz and pushes him down in the foxhole just as the jeep erupts in a huge blast that shreds several of their sandbags.


Wow. I made a few changes to Grit, soaking, and damage, and it sped things up SO much. I really, really liked the tempo of that fight.

I like grenades. I like that you have to get close to use them, but when you do they can be pretty effective.

Changing the dynamics from attacking to defending changed the combat a lot, and made for more interesting strategic choices on the parts of the ants. That was nifty. 

Big picture: changing the scope of the setting from only Ants vs. Wasps to ‘whole area is in chaos and everyone is fighting everyone all the time’ gives a lot more story opportunities. If it’s not the wasps, it’s a group of mad tick terrorists trying to lay waste to the Ant army in the name of anarchy. Good stuff. 

Aid kits are applied really, really fast. While it is logical that you’d have to use a full round to apply an aid kit, mechanically you aren’t going to give up two actions to apply an aid kit, so they would never get used. Because they can be applied in one action, it makes sense to give up an attack to get back the health, especially on the part of supporting characters. I like that the game sort of encourages a player to take the ‘cleric’ role; you can still be a good fighter and effective in combat (Specs is not bad), but you also serve a vital role as support and healing. Specs restored a total of 9 Grit during the fight, which is right around the full Grit of a typical ant at this level. That’s a significant contribution. Because of his healing, Blitz never dropped below 50% and never took a penalty to attacks. This is strategic stuff that the game sort of naturally supports that makes for genuine tactical decisions; you want to heal your allies while they are still above 50% so they never take penalties, or if they are taking penalties, you want to get them back above 50% asap. I like it.

For what it's worth, I also like these two characters. They lived, so that's good. Maybe a two-ant team would be the best way to run a solo game, so I have more options and versatility, but not an entire group to juggle on my own. Hmmmm....

Ants - Diving Deeper into BODY implications

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 08/24/2023 - 19:46
As I've started to tinker with BODY, I'm seeing the metaphorical spider web (extended pun intended - actually worked hard to shoehorn that in) of how BODY influences other things hardwired into the system. However, I'm seeing that now as a flaw of my original design which requires a more surgical approach to remove.
I had set things up that AOE attacks had a fundamentally different mechanical resolution than direct attacks on an individual. If an ant shoots a bee, he rolls an attack against the bee's REFLEX; if he gets a number of successes equal to or better than the bee's REFLEX score, he hits; any points beyond are added to damage. If you hit by +2, you deal +2 damage. Easy peasy.
Conversely, AOE attacks almost automatically hit (you only need to succeed with against a DT 1), and then all creatures in the area are affected; you aren't trying to hit any one creature, you're just aiming for a generalized location, and then letting things play out. This makes a lot of sense; a grenade deals 4 damage, and I'm just trying to mitigate the damage I suffer from that.
The problem was that AOE attacks almost always hit... whereas other attacks don't. I'm torn. I mean, it makes sense to me that you only need one success to throw a grenade... but I'm not sure if I like it. 
Let's delve a little deeper... if a grenade requires 1 success to hit the 1-centimeter square you are aiming for, you have (If I did this math right):a 3 in 6 chance with Reflex 1 (50%)A 30 in 36 chance with Reflex 2 (83%).A 189 in 216 chance with Reflex 3 (88%)
This... isn't as bad as I thought. Even with Reflex 3, you are missing with your grenade 12% of the time. I don't hate that. The roll still matters. Yes, you can have thrown weapons 3 and reflex 3, but seriously... at that point, you are investing a LOT into being able to hit with grenades, and you get a limited supply of them, so go for it!
I just need to tweak other attacks a little bit... for example, both flame throwers and artillery can be a default DT 2. This means that you line up the artillery or flame thrower to hit where you want them to hit. I think that these are a little clumsy and hard to manage, so you'd be off with them a little bit more. 2 is pretty typical for an enemy's dodge, so we'll just go with that. If I get my 2 successes, I lined this thing up the way I wanted. I could go with one success on these as well, but then it's really easy to be a flame thrower operator (although it has very short range, and only works once per round, so it's not the awesome killer you might think it is). Artillery also is self-limiting; you can only afford so many shells. You aren't walking around firing your bazooka every round; you are preparing it before combat, firing it once or twice, and then doing other stuff.
Okay. Default DT 1 it is. This is simpler to remember, and makes more sense. The only drawback is that you have little incentive to invest in the artillery skill; this is a valuable skill point that, if you have Mind 2 or 3, I cannot see anyone wasting. I suppose I can insert more sophisticated artillery later (rockets and missiles and the like) that require more successes, but for now this works well enough. I can take the artillery skill out entirely for now, since I don't know that anyone needs it much anyway. However, the other attack abilities have a skill, so I guess I'll keep it.

More Play Testing of Ant Stuff

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 08/24/2023 - 18:07

Playtest time! I’ve decided to make three experienced ants (put them at level 3) and see how they do with a challenging mission…

Gus - Fun-loving Ant Infantry 3 

A3 Lance Corporal; Grit 10; Clout 40

Body 2 | Mind 2 | Reflex 2

Medic 1; Small Arms 1; Transport 1

AM-16 (Ct. 12; dmg. 4) 5 Aid Kits (10); 6 grenades (18)

Mort - Serious Ant Recon 3 

A4 Corporal; Grit 12; Clout 45

Body 3 | Mind 2 | Reflex 1

Heavy Weapons 1; Hunting 1; Stealth 1

AM-3Z (dmg. 6; Ct. 30); Camouflage Fatigues (6); 3 grenades (9)

Rocko - Reckless Ant Heavy Weapons 3 

A3 Lance Corporal; Grit 14; Clout 40  

Body 3 | Mind 1 | Reflex 2

Heavy Weapons 2; Toughness 1

AM-3Z (dmg 6; Ct. 30); Camouflage Fatigues (6); 2 Aid Kits (4)

Let’s Play!

My ants are on a mission to sneak up on a hidden bee facility where they are manufacturing a prototype helicopter. They are to sneak in, steal the helicopter, and escape with it. The facility has 12 bees and a hornet (as the overseer). The roof requires 3 rounds to retract once the button is hit to open it. There is an anti-aircraft gun positioned on the roof (dmg. 10). Once an alarm is raised, another helicopter will arrive in 1 minute to engage. 

The ants try to sneak up towards the back of the facility, moving through thick grass. Gus rolls 2 dice, Mort rolls 3, and Rocko rolls 3. The watchman has Mind 1, so they each need only 1 success. Gus gets 2, Mort gets 3, and Rocko gets 4. They are super sneaky, getting to the back wall of the complex. The back door is locked, and the windows appear to be sealed shut. None of them has security, but they can try to pick the lock anyway; this is a straight up Mind roll, but with DT 4 (so good luck, boys). Um. Okay. Mort gets double 6s (4 successes), with no extra successes on the second roll, but he didn’t need them. Wow. Okay. He gets the door open.

There are a few bees milling about. They can try to sneak to the helicopter, but odds are not good. They need 4 successes to cross without being detected… they decide to create a distraction… and maybe take out a few bees in the process. The idea is to throw a grenade to the far end of the area, draw attention, and use that to sprint to the helicopter. If all goes well, the stealth check will be vs. DT 2. They are no longer outside, so nobody gets a bonus from camouflage fatigues; all are rolling 2D to use stealth. Rocko will throw a stun grenade that he gets from Gus. Gus will prepare to sneak towards the helicopter, and Mort will sneak towards the button to open the roof.

Not loving this plan. But whatever.

It goes sideways quickly. Rocko failed his check to throw the grenade; it bounces back towards the helicopter and goes off next to it. One bee is nearby, and gets caught in the blast. He fails his BODY check, and is stunned for 4 rounds. All of the other bees and the wasp are suddenly at attention. The ants seek cover. It’s initiative.

The ants win with double 6s. Nice. Gus runs to the chopper, and Mort runs to the button. Rocko will lay down support fire. Mort is successful (no check required), and the roof begins to open. It will be open in three rounds. It is possible that the helicopter is open. Nope. Door is closed. It is likely that the door is unlocked; Nope. The helicopter doors are locked. Well darn. Rocko fires at one bee; only 2 successes on 5 dice is a little disappointing, but it’s still a hit for 6 damage, which deals 4 to the bee, leaving it at 4. He fires again, this time getting 6 successes, which is 10 damage and shreds the first bee. One is dead and one is stunned.

The bees go. Three will attack each ant. Then I’ll decide on the hornet…

One hits Gus for 3; his Body soaks 2, so he suffers 1 damage. The second misses, and the third hits him for 3, so he suffers 1 more damage, down to 8.

Mort gets peppered; he’s hit three times, for 3, 4, and 6 points respectively. His Body 3 soaks a good chunk of this, but he suffers 1 and 3, down to 8.

Rocko is hit twice, but his Body absorbs all of it. 

The hornet is smart (gets 2 successes on his MIND roll) and knows they are trying to steal the helicopter. He flies to Gus to stop him. He orders the bees to focus on the other two. 

Round 2

Gus tries to pick the lock with his first action (which is going to be very, very difficult). 1 success. Nope. He takes his rifle and tries to break the lock open. I’m going to argue this is part of his small arms training (use the butt of the weapon as a hammer), and he rolls 3 dice… and gets no successes. Yeah. He needs the key. Which is around the neck of the Hornet…

Mort and Rocko decide that he’s the biggest threat, and both fire at him as he flies (they won’t be able to once he’s in melee with Gus).

Mort opens fire, getting 3 and 2 successes. He hits once for 6 damage; the hornet soaks 3, so suffers 3 and is at 17. The 2 misses.

Rocko also fires, getting 3 and 8 successes. He hits twice; once for 6 and once for 11!. The hornet soaks 3 from each, so suffers 3 and 8… the hornet is down to 6 Grit remaining. Wow. That helps a lot.

4 Bees attack Mort. They get 0/2/1/2 successes. This is hits for 4, 3, and 4. Mort’s Body soaks 3 from each, so he suffers 2 and is at Grit 6 remaining. He’s hurt, suffering a 1 die penalty.

4 Bees attack Rocko. They get 1/3/1/4 successes. These are hits for 4 and 5 hits; his Body soaks 3 from each, so he suffers 3 damage total, leaving him at Grit 11.

The Hornet attacks twice as it lands in front of Gus. It gets 5 successes on its first shot, and 5 on its second; each attack deals 10 hits; Gus’ Body soaks 2 from each, so he suffers 16 damage! Wow. Gus is very dead. The hornet is going to try to get inside the copter before it is killed. It is using Gus’ body as cover (+1) as it tries to get the lock open.

Mort unloads on the hornet, but only gets 2 and 3 successes; he misses both times (but peppers Gus’ body a little bid for good measure).

Rocko does the same. He gets 1 and 2 successes. Well fudge. He misses twice.

The hornet gets into the helicopter, slams the door, and fires up the engines. That’s not good.

4 bees attack each ant.

Against Mort, they get 0/3/2/4 successes and 3/1/1/4 successes. I have been forgetting to let the bees attack twice each round. Uh oh. This is hits for (after accounting for his BODY soaking 3) 2, 1, 3, 2, and 2 damage. He suffers a total of 10 and is at -4, and is dead. Drat.


Against Rocko, they get 3, 1, 1, 2 and then 2, 4, 4 and 1. Five of these hit, for a total of 1, 2, and 2 damage (Body soaks quite a bit). He suffers 5 damage, and is down to 6. He’s now suffering a penalty of +1 to DTs because he’s hurt. 

The roof is open (thanks to the ants), and the hornet is about to escape. Rocko has one round to try and do something about it. He checks MIND (DT 4 because of his penalty) to come up with something clever, but he gets 1 success. That’s a hard nope.

The only thing he can do is try to shoot down the helicopter, which is very, very unlikely in one round, but what the heck. The hornet is piloting, so it’s his REFLEX as the defense (+1 because Rocko is hurt); Rocko fires twice, getting 4 and 5 successes. He hits twice, once for 6 and once for 7 damage. The helicopter has armor of 4 and GRIT of 15… he deals 5 hits, which definitely punches some holes in the side of the helicopter, but it’s not enough to stop it. The hornet lifts off, ordering the incoming combat helicopter to destroy the building; it has served its purpose.

Rocko steps out into the middle of the room, emptying his belt at the bees who swarm at him as rockets set the entire building ablaze.


Well, that was… interesting. It ended up feeling like the first ten minutes of an action movie, setting up the big bad (the hornet) and probably killing the older brother of the real star of the movie. Like, it was Rocko’s younger brother who was supposed to be on the mission, but Rocko stepped in at the last minute and took his place… so now he has guilt, and needs revenge, and all of it. Anyhow…

The game is deadly, which is should be because A) It’s about Army Ants and B) it’s an old-school game. A total party kill should not be that exceptional.

They would have died quicker if I remembered that the bees get two actions per round. I was only giving them one per round for a little while there.

In retrospect, this mission was a little overly-hard for them. If they had pulled off the stealth pieces of it, they might have been okay, but in a straight up firefight, they had very little chance. I figured that the presence of the helicopter, and the possibility that they could commandeer it quickly, was playing in my imagination as the balance. If they get control of the helicopter quickly and can get someone in the pilot’s seat, this whole thing changes dramatically. A failed grenade toss and the 1 in 6 chance it was locked that happened to end up with a 1 did them in.

I like the game a lot, and I like the balance of the characters. If you want to deal a lot of damage and be tough, be heavy weapons. You are hard to kill, and you dish out lots of damage. However, the other two characters had a little bit more flexibility in what they could do outside of combat, so that seems to mitigate things quite a bit. 

I didn’t get a chance to check the rules for applying aid kits in a fight (because things were very chaotic), but I do think that these are going to be valuable; changing bugs back from hurt to not hurt (for example) can be a significant event. For Gus to give up actions to apply aid kits makes sense; he’s dealing the lowest damage, so putting him in a support role as infantry is workable. I don’t know if restoring 2 hits is enough for an aid kit; I think I’m going to bump this up to 4, which Medic +1 would put at 4. That’s a bit more reasonable to me. I might even want to have medic grant more; for example, maybe have each rank of medic grant +2 to GRIT restored (so Medic +3 makes an aid kit restore 10 Grit - that is not that outrageous considering the amount of damage they were taking). 

I've found that I'm escalating things as I go to try to offset other things... I increased weapon damage to bypass BODY better, then increased GRIT to offset the increase in damage... now I'm increasing first aid to account for the great Grit and damage that are going on.
None of this is BAD, but it's a slow, steady escalation of numbers in what was smaller a week ago. BODY is the culprit. It's a bit overpowered as a stat (I assumed REFLEX would be, but it's BODY). BODY double dips on your health; you reduce damage because of BODY, but you also have greater GRIT because of BODY. If I take BODY out of the equation for soaking most damage, I can scale the numbers way back to where they were... Reflex can prevent you from being hit (or minimize damage when you are), but then your BODY increases the total amount of damage you can sustain. I'd keep BODY checks in the game for areas of effect (you still soak grenade damage with BODY, for example).
If I go back to GRIT being BODY + Level, a level 1 ant has 2 to 4 GRIT... if a weapon deals 2, that can kill a bug. However, if I roll 4 successes against a REFLEX of 1, I'm dealing a base 3 damage, and adding that to a weapon 2 deals 5 damage... which is a LOT. I need GRIT to stay a bit higher, and (BODY + Level) x2 is not bad. Scale back weapon damage by 2, and that will account for the average BODY 2 soak. I think that balances enough.
I'm going to take a break and do a little more play testing. The good news is that I am in no particular rush to release the game, and I want it to be very, very solid before I do.

Inching Closer to Publication - Ants

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 08/24/2023 - 13:02
The core rules are in final edits (I think), and I'm finding nifty little things in the rules that can impact play in cool ways. For instance, Leadership allows you to grant a bonus to another ant who can hear you, once per minute. For my solo game, I like the idea of this - I might end up using it. He's linked up with a ladybug mission coordinator who sits behind a computer in a bunker somewhere, using sophisticated ladybug tracking technology to monitor his activities - this emulates some of the action from movies like Mission Impossible ("you have two bogies ahead to your right - 2 cm"). This would give a bonus to one roll against those two foes, as directions are wired in. 
The rule is written (and conceived) as a battlefield leader - Sarge makes the team better by his presence, because he's able to grant bonuses to other ants based on his commands. It's a simple, clean, useful way to include a leadership mechanism in the game and 'reward' someone for being a good leader. However, for a solo game especially, it has the application listed above. The GM could always do this as well, having an external mission facilitator who they play, and who is able to do stuff like that (although it ends up being a little too Deus Ex Machina for my tastes, but whatever).

Into the Arena

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 08/24/2023 - 11:50

 Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last Sunday with the party still trying to find the power core within the crashed spacecraft. It turns out there weren't any more major threats after the undead spacemen--just a will o' wisp and some poltergeist, so it's mostly down to doing a thorough search. The party finds the core, but they are (quite reasonably) afraid of some sort of malign energy or radiation off it, so they choose to handle it with mage hands. They carry it back to the Church of Clockwork without (apparent) incident. 

Viola thanks them for their help, but now she has another mission for them. She needs them to Bellona, the Battle Princess of Sang, out of the arena of Junk City. She's fallen under the control of the Loom--the mad and bad duplicate of the mind of Mirabilis Lum. She leaves it to the party to determine how they do it, but she assures them it's necessary.

The next day, the party disguises themselves and heads over to the arena to check things out. Waylon disguises himself as a theatrical gladiatorial combat promoter from Yanth Country and Erekose pretends to be a fighter. They talked to the trollish emcee of the arena, but things go badly when Dagmar gets insulted and snaps back at the caustic creature. 

They do get to check out the games, though, and they see the fierce, silver-masked, woman warrior, who they are sure is Bellona.

Wednesday Comics: DC, November 1982 (week 4)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 08/23/2023 - 11:00
I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we look at the comics hitting the newsstand on August 26, 1982.

Action Comics #537: This is the second cover in a row where Superman is trussed up in some way on the cover. Do Buckler and Giordano think this is Golden Age Wonder Woman or something? Seriously though I wonder if these covers, like the depowering of Superman that has taken place in Wolfman's ongoing storytelling are a means to up the perception of peril to incease reader interest? Anyway, Superman tries to go back into the past to resolve his problem, but Satanis stops him cold. Meanwhile (well, shown to us at the same time) in the past, Syrene plans to filter the Runestone of Merlin's magical energy through the other Superman's invulnerable body and into her. This will probably kill him, but that's not her problem. 
In the present, this new loser called Jackhammer has an armored suit with jackhammer projects on his fists, and he plans to make a name for himself by killing Supes. Jackhammer draws Superman's attention by wrecking a train track. When Superman shows, up he gets the first punch and staggers him, so Superman is barely able to stop the train with his Superman breath, then passes out with exhaustion. Jackhammer gloats realizing he can actually be the man to kill Superman.
In the Aquaman backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, Aquaman is convinced this woman who looks like Mera but claims to be Lt. Miriam Bridgeman actually is Mera, and he won't let it go. He lays a kiss on her and is further convinced though she still isn't sure. I guess she liked it enough to allow him to hook her up to electrodes and some sort of EEG, because that's what happens. The results of that are weird, but still don't prove her identity, so as a final test, Aquaman has her change into a bikini and jump into the ocean with him to see if she can breathe under water. Luckily, she doesn't drown, but instead finds out that she can breathe water and has telepathic powers, though she still does not remember her Mera identity. When she tries summoning fish, she and Aquaman are mobbed by dolphins, and she panics and encases Aquaman in hard water.

Arion Lord of Atlantis #1: Graduating into its on series by Kupperberg and Duursema. On the dead moon Anuleous, Arion has been ensnared by his "mother," a cosmic energy being responsible for his creation. The mage's former master Caculha comes to his aid to win his freedom. Back on Earth, Lady Chian and Wyynde face off against Garn Daanuth who has taken possession of Arion's mortal body. When Wyynde cuts Arion's body, the evil mage abandons abandons it and flees.
The forces of Chaos and Order are again observing and bickering, but this time their altercation leads to Arion being freed from his mother's control. He turns his magic on her, and with the help of Caculha, he is then reunited with his physical form which has been wounded by Wyynde. In anger his mother strikes down Caculha. Angered at his master's apparent death, Arion unleashes his full power against his mother, dispersing her energy across the surface of the moon. Caculha as it turns out isn't dead ,though. Arion brings him back to Atlantis where King D'Tilluh is preparing for a civil war.

All-Star Squadron #15: The next instalment of Crisis on Earth-Prime. We get a couple of sort of humorous scenes of Per Degaton doing some super-villain scenery-chewing with the more realistic reaction of his henchmen, but most of the issue is given to the heroes dividing up in small groups for tasks in classic crossover fashion. Their jobs are complicated by the re-appearance of the Crime Syndicate. Doctor Fate, Robotman, and Superman fly into orbit, intercept Degaton's space satellite, and start demolishing it, but a kryptonite boobytrap takes out Superman, and then are ambushed by Ultraman. Aquaman, Liberty Belle, and Starman head to the Pacific to investigate radiation detected on a small island and encounter a Japanese military outpost and Superwoman. Hunting for hidden missiles in the Midwest, Hawkman, Huntress, and Johnny Quick are attacked by Power Ring. 
The heroes prevail, of course, but Degaton has one more insane plan up his sleeve--one that will allow him to conquer the Earth or leave no Earths left!

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #9: Scott Shaw and "co-plotter" Thomas continue the Time-Keeper storyline. The villainous Bear takes a liking to Alley-Kat-Abra, which gives her the chance to play for time (heh) while the other members are cast into various eras. This also gives Thomas, I presume, the chance to bring back old DC funny animal characters. Pig Iron and Captain Carrot encounter Nero Fox in ancient world. Rubberduck and Yankee Poodle meet the Three Mouseketeers, and Fastback encounters his uncle in his heroic guise as the Terrific Whatzit in World War II. In the end, Kat-Abra destroys the Keeper's hourglasses and frees her friends.
In the backup, Alley Kat-Abra goes solo against the Debbil-Dawg, a chihuahua painter, Salvador Doggi, who needs a portal out of a Ditko-esque dimension and back into the mundane world so that he can use his reality-warping power to remake it to his artistic whim. 
Detective Comics #520: Batman and his allies continue their fight to bring the current, corrupt mayor and police commissioner down. The Dark Knight appears to help Floyd "Deadshot" Lawton escape from prison and a corrupt warden in exchange for Lawton giving up Thorne as the mastermind of the attempt to kill Bruce Wayne a couple of issues ago, but he actually tricks Lawton and keeps him in custody in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Thorne is being haunted (again) by the ghost of Hugo Strange, or so it would seem, and he enlists Dr. Thirteen's help to get to the bottom of it. Thirteen (shaken by his memory loss from Wayne Manor in issue 509) goes on an investigation--and seems to be confronted by Strange's ghost himself! This is a good issue from Conway and Newton and a great Aparo cover.
There's a Catwoman backup by Rozakis and Kane. In Metropolis, Catwoman runs into an old member of her gang and worries he's slipped back into criminal ways. She follows him as Catwoman and learns that he appears to be involved in a robbery. She captures his apparent accomplice, but discovers her friend had actually set up a sting. With everything cleared up, the two decide to go out for a coffee.

New Adventures of Superboy #35:  Rozakis and Schaffenberger continue Superboy's tangle with Yellow Peri, who really isn't a villain but makes some questionable choices. In fact, I had wondered if the twist was going to be that her animate teddy bear friend/advisor, Gadzook, was malign and leading her astray, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Anyway, Superboy finally succeeds in returning her to normal, with no memory of her magic powers, by throwing her book of magic into outer space.
In the Dial H backup, the mysterious Master sends his agent, the Marauder, to break Naiad out of jail, forcing Chris and Vicki must dial up new heroes to fight them, naturally. Two identities for each this story: Gossamer and the Fan for Vicki, and Earthman and Any-body for Chris.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Annual #1: This is an adaptation of the Wes Craven film from earlier in the same year by Bruce Jones, Mark Texeira and Tony DeZuniga. 

Weird War Tales #117: The two features here are Creature Commandos and G.I. Robot, but only the Commandos get title billing where the J.A.K.E.-2 is an "extra." The first story has art by Carillo which is making me miss Spiegle. Anyway, the Commandos are getting some R&R (I guess) in Paris, but face prejudice for their appearance from the citizenry and their own military. Shrieve asks for and gets an alternate posting, but no one wants his old job. The Commandos head out for Lourdes hoping to be cured of their condition by a divine miracle. Shrieve, meanwhile, finds his new administrative duties don't have the same excitement, so he retakes the job with the Commandos, and rushes to join them as they've managed to run into Nazis along the way. They are freaks, he tells them, but they are his freaks. So he's still a jerk.
G.I. Robot is still hanging out in the South Pacific with his dog, CAPD. When protecting a reporter from a group of Japanese soldiers CAPD reveals there's a robotic kitten inside him in a hidden compartment. The military function of that cat escapes me, but its existence allows for JAKE, CAPD, and the cat to pose for a "family" picture. I can't say this story doesn't have a sort of kitschy charm, but Kanigher phone this one in, clearly. While I doubt that it would have been more commercially successful, in a way this book as currently constituted seems to beg for the more bombastic Marvel approach to war stories. The Creature Commandos, in particular, really seem to play with classic Marvel themes.

World's Finest Comics #285: Nice cover on this issue by Miller and Giordano. In this first full-length story for the title, by Burkett and Buckler/La Rosa, Superman is flying Batman back to Gotham when they spot a man being attacked by a tiger man. The heroes engage, and more animal humanoids appear. Superman is whisked away by a strange, black cloud leaving Batman to do battle alone. He wins the day but collapses from exhaustion and injury afterwards. This opening leads to the two being embroiled in a magical plot, one related to their old foe Dr. Zodiac and some mystical coins, but with Batman as a target. The story is continued next issue. 
What's more interesting than the story, perhaps (though it isn't bad), is the shift in characterization of Batman and Superman. They are still buddies as per the standard of this era, but their friendship seems more than just a surface camaraderie. Batman, particularly, is vulnerable in a way that seems shocking in this post-Dark Knight Returns world. He asks Superman to stay and have coffee to soothe his mind. Superman relates stories of his childhood in Smallville and Bruce actually likes hearing them. I can't fully say it's better as it's alien to the portrayal of these characters over most of my lifetime, but I'm also reluctant to say you can't take the characters in this more humanized direction. 


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