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Saturday, June 29, 2019


Writer Mike Baron has been promoting a work on Indiegogo called Offworlder.  As I have so little money if you gave me 500 dollars I'd not have a penny since I owe people money, and I tend to dislike kickstarter and crowdfunding in general when I saw the art in passing, and I thought it looked good and wished them well. Then saw that it wasn't getting much traction, despite what looks to be a quality idea and stunning art to go along with what I am sure would be fine story by Mike Baron.  I could have said, well I won't get to read it anyway, and moved on, but I thought I'd try to do something for the Baronmeister and his friends.  Here then is the result of a chat with Michael Baron about Offworlder, now running on IndieGogo. 

(Click each pic to see in larger versions)

Tell me what is the initial premise of OFFWORLDER?

This is Ben Henderson's story, based on his Scots ancestor, James Gunn. Ben sent me a loose outline and I put it together.

Should I know who Ben Henderson is?

Ben is founder of Cautionary Comics.  He put out Ravage! with Chuck Dixon.  He prefers to remain in the background.

Who is your artist, what inspired your story and concept?

Jordi Armengol has a unique vision. Just look at his pages.

You offer to people in your promotion, you’ve never seen art like this, is he a confluence of great artists in his inspirations, or does he represent an unique voice in art?

This book would kill in black and white. His work here reminds me of Barry Smith hitting his stride on Conan.  Not that they're similar, but they have that same impact. You just look at it and say wow!

With art like Jordi's does it allow you to tell a story in a style that is new as well as just the look? Does he give you unique angles and new looks?

Well the script comes first. Then Jordi's interpretation, which enhances the story. 

Yes, I understand that, I’m saying, whenever comics had a new voice, whether Kirby, Rude, Gulacy or Steranko, Adams or Kane they gave you a visual that you'd never seen done before.

Oh, yes, Jordi's doing that.

To write a script with true sounding dialogue, does the writer, in this case YOU, have to research, or do you make it up based on what the audience might know, and go from there? Like a form of jazz.

I read Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra and it was a real eye opener re: the Egyptian part.  As for dialogue, I try to be original without being cute. 

Umm, dude, no one will mistake you for cute. Sorry man.

Too many writers recycle phrases. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"

I think you mean, coy glib, fancy without substance?

"Move it, people!"
"We have to talk."

"Let's get outta here"?

Yeah. Ready-made plug-in bits.

I have three rules. 1. Entertain. 2. Show, don't tell. 3. Be original.
Also, no mayonnaise.

With history as part of the subject, what level of knowledge do you need to make it work?

Just enough to fool the readers!

I have a couple of history degrees so I do have an opinion...

Ah, well I strive for accuracy.

So, you've familiarized yourself with the era? with books and stuff? or have you a background in history of the era?

No. The goal is to craft a compelling story, not to show off knowledge of history.  Only if it fits the story.  For example, I learned that the ancient Egyptian royalty were obsessed with cleanliness, which informed my portrayal of Sa'Ra.

OK but accuracy, where do you have that in you?  From viewing movies, or general knowledge, interest?

Never from movies! Those are secondary sources. Encyclopedia. History. The internet is the greatest tool for writers since the written word.

Does it help to have an interest in the area of writing, or, does being someone without any expertise have an advantage coming into a story, being that they don't have preconceived myths and fables or even boring facts to guide them?

I am fascinated with story. What it is. What makes it tick. I learned the hard way. I know what makes a good story.  The story rules. What is the story? That's the first lesson I teach. What's your story about? Grab me by the throat. 

So, you come into anything wanting just a story to release, not an exercise in how well it'll fit the world others might have knowledge about?

No. my goal is to grab the reader by the throat.

A writer of some popularity wrote a story in a city in a country where he had more than a dozen factual errors, and people I know from that place said it was so egregious they hated the work. I liked the work in question, how do you avoid things like that?

Rule number one: entertain. There are always nits to pick and people looking to assert their class and special knowledge. 

Not sure I agree, as they paid their money, they wanted to be entertained, and, as I said, I thought it was a good story. But this is an interview with you, the readers won't care if I agree.  So, getting back to the comic, OffWorlder, tell me more about the story? A Scotsman unleashed against a modern world, or does he kill aliens as they enter his world?

Seventh century Scotland. Henry Gunn leads his clan in a ferocious battle with Viking invaders. But with victory in sight, he is ripped from space and time by an alien race. The Ananaki seek a champion to stop another alien race from conquering all known space. Aided by the Egyptian goddess Sa’Ra, Gunn undergoes a hideous transformation, becoming something other than human, able to move through time and space at will, yet unable to save his wife and child. The fate of civilization rests on the shoulders of a troubled demi-god. In the tradition of The Stars My Destination and The Silver Surfer, Offworlder is a star-spanning science fiction saga that will keep you riveted from first page to last. "What is your story about?" Nazi biker zombies. Sometimes that's all you need.

As a person who writes comics that happen in a historic period, I find no one gives one shit about the world of ancient warriors based on facts. So I understand what you are saying. Plus, no historically accurate comic will feature aliens.

The goal is to create entertainment that sucks you in. Avoid any anachronisms that would jar the reader out of the story. Like a rap soundtrack to a historical movie. 

Well, there was a version of Romeo and Juliet that was done with Leo DeCaprio and Claire Danes and they used a modern soundtrack.  It was good, for what it was.

Haven't seen it. I've been meaning to watch Moulin Rouge.

If I can drop a name of a great Shakespeare film of a period, Richard III with the guy who played Gandalf and Magneto, holy shit that was fantastic.

My favorite version. 

I am not a fan of most Shakespeare because by the time I figure out what they are talking about they are four or five paragraphs away, but, if they make it work with great visuals and the dialogue is placed well, you can pick up clues from the context of the scene. Actually saying that I am not a fan of most Shakespeare isn't actually fair, I am not a fan of most presentations of his work.  What he did was obviously magnificent.

Chimes At Midnight
Mel Gibson's Hamlet

So are there any other comics that you'd offer would give a feel of the Offworlder, other than Silver Surfer or Stars my destination? Or in books, how about Poul Anderson's High Crusade?

Nah.  Been a long time. I strive for originality. I have confidence in my voice.
You should hear me sing "Tears Of A Clown."

I can almost certainly say I will prefer Smokey Robinson's but I grant you, I haven't heard you sing, just talk.

By the excellence of the art and Mike's writer way about him, I hope you might choose to fund this work.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Fantasy Fun

"Hey Alex, Thanks for the recommendation of Tunnels and Trolls.  I'll have to find it on Amazon.  I appreciate that even though you have your own preferences, you still feel the desire to share other less popular works.  With our society all about conformity, being an individual is rare."

I like more than I ever dislike items from popular culture chosen media, whether comics, books, film or games.  My desire to actually promote works I like rather than poop on anything I might not like led to people complaining that "a person can't like everything". And I agree, I don't love or like everything.  But my goal has always been promoting what I think is best. That is different than many reviewers, who usually seek to make their role as the gatekeeper of quality, hating the bad, loving the good, and being honest about it all.  I don't think of myself as like them.  We live brief lives, we should be focused on the good, it is rare to find great things, I don't think the other reviewers are bad, I am just not one of them.   Some reviewers are the carrot, others are the stick.

Today's post is a list of items you might pursue for fun.  Fun is good.  I think quality and popularity are really different, but, you should never stop reading, watching or playing something you like simply because others consider it bad.  We all have a great number of aspects of our taste and character, and these are unique to our person.  I knew there was a lot of music from the 60s and 70s that I didn't like, and then I learned about Motown.  I thought it was a moment sent from god, only to have an office mate in college say Motown is commercial shit. I get it.  We aren't the same.  So, don't like or dislike based upon reviewers, base it upon your own visceral response.

For me Tunnels and Trolls worked.  For other gamers I've found most have never played it, but beyond that, those who did couldn't wrap their brains around playing a system that they'd never played before.  I like it.  And while I said the goal of the makers seemed to be here it is, play it now!  I don't think it is without the setting's cultural development.  There is a distinct flavor of the setting.  I simply think that the ease of play is the aspect of it that deserves the most promotion.

Fun Movies:  While I have fantasy and adventure films on my own personal favorite list, I am looking to offer something here that is simply fun.  The violence is not overmuch, there is romance or hopeful love, and there are characters who inspire rather than succeed despite their flaws.  Krull was fun and offered a story that had a fun new weapon.  LadyHawke defined beauty in many ways, that Michelle Pfeifer, wowser.  And DragonSlayer was to me alone perhaps, a quality take on the tale of the young flawed hero upon an epic journey.

Mouse Guard has qualities of beautiful story telling and heroic stories.  It is a way to tell a story of a warrior, without the human characters to make it personal.  By watching these heroes of small stature act heroically and find victory or experience defeat there is a different sort of intimacy of the story telling. 

Mice Templar is less soft and beautiful, and more heroic and courageous than Mouse Guard.  I think though, Bryan Glass's writing, and the stylized art make it a better read.  I am not suggesting I think it is miles above Mouse Guard, just that, fun is the required element here, and this work succeeds wildly there.

I've no doubt surprised no one by including here, Alan Dean Fosters's works Shadowkeep and The Spellsinger.  He has a way with characters who are not brawny golden heroes, and often places into danger the common man or the anything but heroic man.  As such when the day is won, it feels so much better than the predictable, the muscular testicular powerful hero.  I recommend ADF's Spellsinger books for some fantasy that works as fantasy.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


"Hello Alex, You don't know me, but you actually sent me some books 17 years ago, and I read your column here.  You sent my unit in Afghanistan a couple dozen tpbs, when we were fighting the mother fucking Taliban.  I wanted to write to you then, but for the life of me I couldn't find the original letter that had your name on it. 

Then recently, I remembered you'd signed the story you did on the Sasquatch book, I looked you up and found you all the hell over the internet.  Your work on it was easily the best, but I liked most of the stories, even the silly or cheesy ones.  I guess anything is good when you sit in a tent or laying around on off duty, rereading the things reminding you of the good things you left back home.  I am a 60 year old man, retired US military, and yes, I still love comic books, and anything that reminds me of off duty times. You called some films comfort food in a recent interview, what a great concept, well comics and novels are my comfort food. 

I love comics, wonderin' if I am wrong here... is Tomb of Dracula the only well respected vampire comic?  I've read all of Anne Rice, and Bram Stoker as far as books go, but I love comics and love vampires, I am sure  there's more, only have so much money and only so much success trying to find them, of course you know what I mean, so much to buy, so little money to buy with.  Haven't ever been to a comic shop, I live in Montana, many miles from any town big enough to support one. I order comics off ebay, so I don't have a considerable knowledge of comics.  Ebay made comics finding much easier for me. Stationed in Alaska, there was barely a book store in the entire fucking place, let alone a comics store.  I find lots on ebay.  I don't own a computer, riding a bike or walking to the library (No, I am not the UNIBOMBER) daily to get my fifteen minutes on the library's internet and computer, I print off to later read your stuff, read the news sites daily, and do ebay. Thanks so much for what you did back then, thank you for what you do now.  I know its not a big thing, but I love vampires and really think I wasted my money buying Tomb of Dracula.  That shit sucked major ass.  When I read reviewers and fans saying how great is?  The books and the fan boy drool, what a clusterfuck.

Your friend
DG Bonner"

Thanks Mr Bonner.  Please forgive my edits of your email, I want people to see what you said, with the original terms, but some words were hard to make sense of.  But I appreciate your message very much.  Despite my not supporting the 2003 Iraq War I tried to make life better for troops in the field, they deserve support whether the war is one I agree with or not.  And I think the Afghan war, no matter how difficult a foe, and how hard it was for all of you folks fighting, it was a righteous war.  Or if those people who think I am a fascist think I am saying yay war is great, it was as righteous a war as there could be. Thank you for your service to this great country.

I tried to elicit some answers what others in the comics community might think of TOMB of DRACULA, creative and fandom, but apparently no one cared enough to respond.  So, this is an opinion, but, while I think Marv Wolfman is/was a fine writer, and Gene Colan was a spectacular and mood creating artist, the work didn't work for me.  It reminded me of House of Dracula with John Carradine as Dracula.  For me it was corny, barely tolerable shite, and didn't evoke fear.  Rather than a work that felt real, and threatening it felt like a mockery of truly frightening films of the same series (that is, the Universal Monsters).  I didn't like the look of it, I didn't think it felt like horror, it felt like a story describing horror, not the actual thing.  I am absolutely sure others would disagree with me.  It is a beloved comic, but, for someone used to modern movies and comics, it seemed dated, mild, and ineffective.

And this edition of my column will deal with offerings of the specific nature of subject matter you inquire about.  And yes, I do enjoy some vampire comics, most I think do not capture what the best of the legend or myth of the sort of character.  Prose novels, especially by Anne Rice take the space allowed in the luxury of words and time to invest in a scene, really explore vampires and the complex and layered dance of characters, predators and prey.  But the comics recommended here I think are good, very good or even excellent.  If you like horror in general there are more comics to suggest, but I'll limit the selection here to vampire stories in comics.

Starting with illustrated prose, Dracula by the great Bram Stoker, illustrated by two magnificently moody talented artists, Jae Lee, and Ben Templesmith.  I won't say which I like better, but, both are amazing, and worth every penny you might spend.

Steve Niles is a talented person, who has a somewhat polarizing affect on people.  Whether the work is good or not, that is.  I think his work is quite good, but whenever I wrote about him in the past I'd get hate mail and people accusing me of sucking his cock and balls.  His work, with aforementioned Ben Templesmith, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT had three huge reasons to love it.  He took the concept of sunless days during winter in the arctic and there, in the cold wastelands of Alaska, the Vampires came to feed.  Then, he wrote an awesomely effective love story of two of the people in the way of danger.  And finally his is a fast, merciless style that allows artists to tell the story in a quick effective, dark, and action packed fashion. 30 Days of Night, the first three volumes uppermost, were incredible and I loved them. Works in the series thereafter were less incredible, but, that is on me. I am aware that not everyone has the same taste, the turns and twists of the series went in directions that no longer moved me,  and I didn't care for the movies.  But 30 DAYS OF NIGHT is incredible, in concept, in writing, in art, and in physical product.  IDW who published it knew how to produce beautiful product.

Kind of like the moody art of Jae Lee and Ben Templesmith, Kent Williams paints beautiful, dark, emotive figures. In this work, BLOOD with J.M. DeMatteis, the vampires are not so much evil, as tormented, and eternal life for them means eternal suffering.  It is amazing, really, BLOOD looks at the power, the eternal life, the ability to control and harm others, and sees it as a curse. With the art, and deeper evocative story, there is a feeling of an unique spiritual journey.  As such, the vampire sees the world as fleeting, while he stands still.  He might love a thousand people, and see them all die, and lose them, over, and over again, and he doesn't die.  He is hated, but he was forced to live with this curse.  The more I remember reading this, the more I enjoy it.

During the days of 1970s when the comics code of content was relaxed, numerous companies were free to do work that was of the living dead, actual horror, and other aspects of content that were mostly off limits for a couple decades.  I, Vampire features a man who becomes a vampire and hates his curse, but the woman he has now cursed as well revels in it.  She gathers an army of the dead, and over time he has fought battles with her, and her horde.  Josh Fialkov took this amazing concept, and made it darker, and have more impact.  He is quite a talent.

Topps released a beautiful adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with Mike Mignola art.  Innovation received a ton of my money with its comic adaptation of Anne Rice's Vampire LeStat.  Oh I loved it.  I wasn't so much a fan of Batman and Dracula's story, but that art, holy shit, Kelley Jones just is perfect for it.

SEA OF RED has the concept and fruition that is the reason why I loved it.  With bone toned paper, and ink that was red, a vampire infects a ship of pirates, and they sail the seas.  Both heroism and horror make this story effective, and emotive.  The art is amazing, and the story and writing is tight, thoughtful, and, for some reason, I've bought and given out dozens of sets of it, and it moves me.  I am not, otherwise, a fan of pirates, so, it didn't work for me for that, and while I like vampires, I don't buy a lot of their comics.  This was a moment of excellence, and every participant, including the genius who decided to make it capture the concept of blood red ink on parchment, it was a genius work.  And sadly, I don't have copies to share any longer.  But I did my part, I promise.

And I include Necroscope because I am a fan of Brian Lumley.  However, I am far more a fan of Lumley's Cthulh u additions, and his vampires, more psychic than physical or supernatural, don't scare me nearly as much as they kind of disgust me.  However, I've read the books, and this is a good adaption of it.  I do quite like the art, and if you like Brian Lumley's work, you probably would also enjoy it.  It is a candidate to be captured in tradepaperback, but I suspect that is not in the cards.

Monday, June 24, 2019



As said, doing a list of works always forgets obvious and not obvious entries into the collection at hand.  The world of dark futures and dystopia these are worthy considerations.

Words and Art: Masamune Shirow
Publisher: Viz, Dark Horse

Body droids, Cloning, Body Enhancement, Human racism, Terrorism, and post Human society are the focus of Ghost in the Shell, and the title refers to the concept of being the human inside the cybernetic body, controlling it, but also having the distance from active physicality.  It is both sexual and dark, and fantastically thoughtful.

Words and Art: Frank Miller assists Lynn Varley
Publisher: DC

When the Dark Knight happened, comics were changed in many ways.  It is uncertain if he meant to, but when Frank Miller created the future tale of an old and cranky Batman, was he also creating the path by which present stories would aim.  That is, was it a tale independent of continuity, or was it a future that will happen, wrought, but not yet happening.  Some say it occurred to DC to make it the future, due to the popularity of it, but others suggest it was never meant to, and never would be.  I do not know.  As a work that is distinctly individual, and different from anything that preceded it, it should be taken in as a story, and whatever else that follows, not necessarily married to it.  The following sequels were less well received.  Part of it comes from the ever loose style of Frank's depictions.  But it all happens with the same writer and same artistic hand.

Words: Josh Fialkov

Art: Joe Infurnari
Publisher: ONI

Josh Fialkov is a mind that is filled with intricate pathways of story. In the beginning of the story a group of friends - Grady, Heidi, Natasha, Daniel, and Billy - are going to create a time capsule, deep in the woods.  They find an isolated and hidden bunker.  But, buried in that bunker, they find letters, written to each of them, from their future selves.  It seems the world is about to face an Armageddon level event.  Only, the problem is, the letters from the future suggest that these friends are going to cause the end, or near end, of humanity.  How do they deal with the level of confusion, fear, and impact of an extinction event caused by their actions.  Is the future wrought?  If not, can they change the future?  But, if it isn't wrought, how did the future selves send letters back?

Words: John Smith
Art: Jim Baike

Publisher: Fleetway/Quality

When New Statesmen came out I bought the first issue.  And from that initial start point I feared, just another Watchmen, and for more per issue than Watchmen.  However, that was an unfair judgment of the entire series.  Whatever similarities, that of super heroes as tools of the state, or makers of the power beneath the cloak of state. It was worth reading this story in how it told its own story, and how that story questioned the use of heroism, the use of heroes to sell popularity.  2047 AD isn't as far from now as it was in the beginning, but the corruption of power, genetic mutations, use of violence and sex to show the deepest levels of human savagery, this work was a slap to the head, with no happy endings, no use of tropes of the medium to save the reader.  Dark things were kept dark, heroes weren't heroes.  This was a good work that got better the older I got.

Words: Brian Wood
Art: Wood and Riccardo Burchielli
Publisher: DC

This work didn't linger with me, despite the early excellence of the series.  As such, I've forgot much of what I've read.  But this series is a look at a near future catastrophic second American Civil War, who would fight, the cultural divisions, and, in the DMZ everyone is a potential victim, potential hero, and there are almost no ways to be loyal in the traditional sense  of it.  I confess, it surely might have improved by the end.  I didn't read it that far.

Words: Pat Mills
Art: Kevin O'Neill

Publisher: Epic/Dark Horse

Just like New Statesmen, when I first read Marshal Law I thought it was similar to something else, in look, but also, and especially in tone to Dark Knight, only louder, and more broad in focus.  I did love the series, but I also didn't take it for what it was.  Now, I read it in the last two months, and I seriously enjoyed it, found it both intelligently delivered, and worth the time to reread.  It is broad in scope, it does wicked parody and social satire, but, it asks some really important questions.  What do we want in a hero, what is a hero, and do we hold some people to higher standards due to what they themselves aspire to be, and who is telling the truth?

Words: Antony Johnston

Art: Chris Mitten
Publisher: ONI

Almost biblical, Wasteland tells a story of an enormous and catastrophic event, with a desertification of the land, and a reimagination of the borders  of people, nations, ownership of anything, including land, and rights and concepts of civilized society.  People who are simply trying to survive rarely care about rights.  The people hunger for a better life, but the environment is completely unwelcoming to human existence.  And, additionally, not only are humans suffering due to the loss of normal temperate environments, they fight over the last glass of water, or kill over the last can of Alpo dog food, found buried in the collapsed grocery store under the mud and dust.  And in a series of stories, the people migrate to find, water and the oceans.  This work is brutal, but rather perfect.

EDEN, It's An Endless World 

Words and Art: Hiroki Endo
Publisher: Dark Horse

In the near future, humans are endangered. A pandemic of a virus called closure leads to the destruction of human life.  Some 85% remain alive, but far more are crippled, DNA damaged, and horrifyingly changed.  Human existence is failing.

Eden isn't just a dystopia, not just a story about humans fucking up. Throughout the work there are layers of myth, with religious symbolism, and it challenges the reader to ask, what is going on. Is this story a giant metaphor that readers can deduce?  Or, with the Gnostic past it suggests and explores, is the confluence of religious views, myth, is the story not about the deeper story either, but a religious story that takes you on a voyage, not to tell its own story, not to give you an epiphany, but a walk about where you experience things to think about what the author is trying to make you think?

Sunday, June 23, 2019


From a reader:  "Dear Mister Ness, I read your no capes article, and love comics and love superheroes, but was amazed by all the comics I never heard of before.   And when you did a follow up article with fantasy comics and lead characters who were female, well, I do like superheroes but outside of them I don't like fantasy, I like sci fi, with dark futures, or optimism.  Are there comics about the future or sci fi, and while I am a girl, (18) I don't need a female lead, just interested in stuff that I am interested in.  Also, I've read the whole blog, do you do everything yourself?  I saw quite a few entries by other people, but the last couple three years it seems to be just you and Mister Wilcken."

Thank you for reading this blog.  I will answer the last question first. Right now it is mostly me, with some valued, wonderful Kurt Wilcken entries as time permits.  He, in fact, kept this blog alive when cancer prevented me from doing much.  This blog was the inheritor from the site PopThought, which I began, and gathered a talented set of writers to contribute.  We were hacked by hackers from mainland China, and the data was so corrupted it was no longer viable or worth the time to keep running, due to loss of data, spoiled work, and lack of access during the hack event. It was heartbreaking.

When you say you love comics, I do too.  When you say you love superheroes, I am not so much there, as, they can be great, but I need a broad offering of stories, costumes and capes have only so much diversity of offerings.  But I might suggest that I like SciFi and Post Apocalyptic world comics more than anything.  But any time you create a list, you slap yourself on the forehead and say, shit, I forgot to include ...  So this piece will be an offering, but does not presume to be comprehensive.

(Presented in no order, and click on any image to enlargen it.)

Words:  Chuck Dixon
Art:     Judith Hunt
Publisher: Comico, Lodestone, First

The 23rd century is a collective disaster, with dystopic governance, genetic reawakening of dinosaurs and monsters, and corporate power that goes beyond nations, beyond populations, but are global or beyond.  Evangeline is a vigilante nun with a gun who serves a mentor, Cardinal Szn, who serves his greater master, the Roman Curia/Vatican.  Various different groups hold power, but nations seem to have been wiped out in the mass events that changed the present of our world, into one where bounty hunting, spreading religious zeal for corporate masters, and life in a degraded world is difficult for almost all, but the very powerful.

Original Story:  Joe Lansdale
Adaptation: Timothy Truman
Art:  Timothy Truman
Publisher:  Avatar Press

Bounty hunters and religious cults fill a desert and wasteland landscape.  A bacteria either creates new or reanimates the newly dead into zombies.  Wayne the Bounty hunter finds out that Cult leader Brother Lazarus has more than just words and followers.  It is almost impossible to escape but an alliance with Sister Worth leads to new revelations.


The world has suffered enormous disaster, and the rest of the civilized world has aimed its ire at the United States.  Canada and Mexico are enemies of the now divided US.  A former special forces member, Emanuel Santana, is known now as Scout.  He is Apache and travels the now dying US.  He ends up married, has two children, and they accompany him in the second book of the series, Scout War Shaman. Truman's ability to tell a vivid story is on display here, bringing violence, hope, love and pain all together to scramble the readers expectations.  This work is far more believable now, with the global issues at hand."In October 2016, Chris MacBride is set to adapt and direct for the big screen for Studio8. Truman will serve as a consultant through the development."

Words and Art:  Hayao Miyazaki  
Publisher: VIZ

A post nuclear apocalypse world features creatures both enormous and new to earth, an environment that seems to be changing, evolving like a living thing, and a princess of a kingdom that remains green and beautiful, despite the decay of all things.  War and peace are not great motivators, but survival is.  That is, the conflicts are about fighting over things that one side has and the other needs, leading to bitter conflicts, where remnant weapons and artifacts of the past provide secret sources of power.

Words and Art: Howard Chaykin
Publisher: First

AD 2031 America is now relocated upon Mars.  Humans on earth have created a dystopia, where there is amazing technology, but almost entirely vapid, empty society devoted to materialism where nothing moral or spiritual remains. The former America is governed by the Plex, which is a corporation, at the same time as a replacement for the what passed for cultural identity.  Reuben Flagg is a deputy officer of what passes for law in Chicago of 2031, and it is a place with crime, corporate power, and deep divisions over things that the future was supposed to be free of.

Words: Alan Moore
Art: Dave Gibbons
Publisher: DC Comics

Based upon the Charlton heroes from the 1960s, this series questions what would history be like if there had been beings of great power, vigilantism, and the use of crisis to cause human panic and resort to giving up of liberty in exchange for safety.

Words: Alan Moore
Art: David Lloyd
Publisher: Vertigo

This work features an United Kingdom that has suffered from a nuclear exchange in the past, a Guy Fawkes masked enemy of the corporate state, and a world where the public is manipulated by those seeking power by terror. V FOR VENDETTA offers the question, how do we choose our future, do we trust those who want power, and total power, or do we give up the monolithic structure of government, and take ownership of our own future.

Words: Leo Duranona
Art: Leo Duranona
Publisher: Dark Horse

A formerly great society has fallen, and the humans left behind the disaster fight over the remains, as if a race of scorpions, devious, disloyal, and pragmatic to the extent of being without any hope or future thought, save survival.  This is a science fiction world, but the devastation of the world can have happened upon any future earth, if the environment is destroyed. 

Words and Art: Various
Publisher: DC

The sole entry here of a positive future.  The Legion of Superheroes were motivated to create a club, so to speak, of powered teens, who gather to evoke the example of the great hero Superboy from the past.  The society is one where earth is controlled by benevolent police powers, and the troubles the Legion faces come from outside of their own world.  It is mythic, and not gritty, but for those who enjoy optimism in the possibilities of the future, it is refreshing.

Words: Chuck Dixon
Art: Jorge Zaffino
Publisher: Eclipse, IDW

Perhaps with roots rising from the 1970s concern for environment, to some extent, nuclear winter was presented as being as possible as a global warming devastated world.  Winter World does not really get at the nut of what exactly happened, or if it were human caused, or if it was naturally occurring.  All we do know is that humans eat anything, fuck anything, use slaves, and the good among the humans are those who do not make things worse, but survival has made all less able to be idealistic, and most simply resort to life = survival, anything else is waste.

Words and Art: Jack Kirby and others
Publisher: DC

Jack Kirby used the concept of Planet of the Apes and human de evolution, whether intentionally, or by evoking similar fears or ideas from similar sources of reference, and created a future event in the DC Comics world.  The Great Disaster, however ill defined by those who live generations since it happened, or for those who live in the near future of days before the Great Disaster, perceive that there used to be a great world, especially in the US, that was far less dangerous, far more idealistic.  Omac became a powerful DNA altered hero to fight the battles against the forces of chaos and corporate destruction of the state.  His grandson, living in the years post Great Disaster is a child born in Command Bunker D, or Kamandi, tries to survive, seeking other humans, but they've regressed into tribes of savages, with almost none having the capacity to think, or communicate with language. 

Words: John Wagner, Pat Mills and others

Art: Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Chris Weston,  and many others
Publisher: 2000AD

Judge Dredd is a simple concept, magnificently done.  The world has numerous issues, nuclear war among them.  The eastern seaboard of the US is one great megalopolis, and Judges like Judge Dredd have the training, power, and responsibility to manage the human disaster that is over population, chaos, crime, and hunger.  Due to the consequences of living in such an unforgiving place, Judges are prone to become more violent and less abiding or tolerant of law breakers, becoming killers, or they become part of the crime world, and sell their loyalties.  Dredd is untouchable, and never shows his face. He is the common man, the man we would hope to be, if given the violent world he is facing.

Words and Art: Masamune Shirow
Publisher: Dark Horse/Viz

Appleseed was my second Manga love.  I loved Lone Wolf and Cub, but, with Appleseed, whatever my preference for color comics, and western depictions of faces, (no manga or anime big eyes and hair), I was totally moved by the emotional power of it.  It follows the life and survival of ESWAT members Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires in cybernetic, idealistic city Olympus.  The world around it is in collapse, and the rebels, criminals, and simply the unfortunates try to enter Olympus, or to destroy it, and pose a threat.  The work takes a magnificently deeper look at wealth and technology and even clones posing a something to aspire to, but at the cost of the poor, the dna deevolved, and those who seek power, without sharing it.

Words:  Warren Ellis
Art: Darrick Robertson
Publisher: Vertigo

Transmetropolitan is a work that follows a journalist working his way though politics, religion, culture, in a future where computers, genetic alteration, and corruption have determined who gets to hold power.  He is a person who lives in the moment, he embraces much of the ugliness of post industrial, post modern society, and asks the question, just exactly why do we choose who leads us, why do we think popularity, however false, should be measured as a means to leadership.

Words and Art: Katsuhiro Otomo
Publisher: Epic, Kodansha, Dark Horse

Post Nuclear annihilation Tokyo is populated, in part, by street gangs, powered mutants, and normalcy is being able to eat, live, not be killed for trying simply to survive.  If one person became godlike in powers, would he use that to control and rule, or better others?


Words: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Pia Guerra
Publisher: Vertigo

Whether the virus that killed males and corrupting the DNA so that males no longer exist, but for one, was released purposely, or by natural de evolution, the world remaining places women in power, in every strata of society, and asks a question, are women morally better in leadership, what would they do if they were not as Simone deBeauvoir suggest, in the Second Sex, and were to be the ONLY sex.  Do the cultural forces that created old earth society replicate itself in whatever human society, male, female, or neither?  How would the existence of humans be measured if only one male remained to reproduce.  Would that one male even be worthy of being reproduced?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Which RPG is best for solitaire purposes

A person who writes emails is in the military sent me an email asking a bunch of questions.  Most of the questions were matters of taste rather than questions about factual differences.  The questions were all very interesting, but they were not all, of course, the same.  Comics, games and speculative fiction book are all wonderful topics. Which comics, games or books are better or worse, even when there are awards aiming readers to search and over time there develops a general consensus in any industry regarding the most innovative, the most ground breaking or interesting is a fair question, and has merit.

In the area of RPGs I have stunted growth.  I'd bought and played many systems, but, being in a field where reward is not great, even if you are well talented, I stopped buying new games or game supplements by around 1996.  Prior to that I'd traded for, bought, or borrowed most systems.  I had across the Role Playing Game world exposure or involvement.  I gleaned the aspects about each system that had positive or negative qualities.  I became conversant in the language of each game, and I had game play and knowledge of the settings. Ultimately I never really left AD&D/D&D, as I judged most games upon the things I liked about AD&D.

The question asked by the emailer asked "Which RPG game, as you know them, is best for playing alone."  The concept of Roleplaying Games is cooperative story telling, with rules to govern interaction and determine results of contested events.  So the idea of what is the best game to play alone when you are essentially supposed to have a group and they gather to create their own story, should be something quite impossible.

But it isn't.

I found the game magazine Sorcerer's Apprentice in my local game shop, but they didn't carry Tunnels&Trolls.  When I inquired after why, they said, SA (the magazine) was superb, and the game, was just 'eh'.  So I did buy the magazine if I had the funds.  And it was excellent, and the gaming portions and the game specific portions for T&T weren't intrusive.  Frankly, the way I applied the TSR magazine Dragon to my game, was similar.  I never liked pre-made modules or rules heavy settings, and I had no problem figuring out how to be a DM or gamemaster and create my own settings and scenarios.  I did look for T&T when I visited Minneapolis or LaCrosse Wisconsin, bigger than Marshfield Wisconsin...  And until I graduated college long years thereafter, I didn't see a copy of the game.  When wife and I moved to Casa Grande, AZ we discovered the things that were best in Arizona, Bookmans I discovered the mother lode of games.  Tunnels & Trolls was finally in my grubby hands.

And compared to D&D I knew it would work, but my friends who gamed weren't going to abandon D&D to learn a new system, hell, they didn't even want to read the rules or look at it.  I didn't think I was screwed however.  No, when I lived in Fargo, ND going to grad school when visiting a couple used game, comics, books stores, I found a rather steady appearance of used and inexpensive T&T solitaire modules.  I gathered a stockpile for future use.

No one wants to hear the drama of the first Christmas together after a long period apart with my wife, but let me say, I had the cats, I had a warm apartment, and my wife was visiting Canada and her family in Washington state for the duration of the holiday.  No, it isn't a happy memory.  But, I was finished with my grad school work, and had 3 weeks off before resuming courses.  I didn't get cable.  I didn't have a computer.  But I had dice, I had T&T, and I had a dozen solitaire modules to explore and play.  It was fun, it was simple to learn, and it was fast moving.  Deluxe Tunnels &Trolls is the newest edition, expanded, and more detailed of the game.  I have a copy, my son is going to take it with him when he goes away to college.  And I am sure, he'll be able to utilize the system for the many strengths it has.  The system works, and it has the advantage of being especially flexible. That comes from the core system of the game that focuses on what I have to call a pragmatic system.  It makes game play wicked fast, and it doesn't bother trying to create a flavor distinct from other fantasy worlds, but creates a setting that says look, here is the world, that's how it works, now lets play.  As such, it will work for any level of gamer, for group play, and I loved the crap out of it playing solo.