Tuesday, December 23, 2014

For your Christmas: Aquaman

I'll have you know, I am not an Aquaman fan. 

The only Aquaman comic books that I ever read were the 12 cent ones from the Silver Age during Summers in Texas during the 70s. Later I'd watch Super Friends on German TV. Aquaman rode a whale and had fish telepathy, though I knew whales were not fish. The show was meant for kids after all. He wasn't boring though, Black Manta rocked as well. I saw him again in the early Aughts, he was like a gay pirate with a hook hand (...a beard, and a kid...), and trying to invoke some sort of LotR vibe ranting and raving about Atlantis over and over again. Now in the Jump (the teens of the big 2-1), writers at both DC and WB movie makers seem a little at a loss as how to make him interesting. I suspect they're trying to get him to be the Scorpion King. 

What's Aquaman got already?

Aquaman is a good place to start some science exposition, not just social science, in the middle of comic books. I suppose one of the reasons the king of Atlantis doesn't get much readership is because the folks that spend a lot of time around or in water don't have much time to read comic books. Couldn't one or a couple all these college educated comic writers read a SCUBA magazine or weather alarmist's blog for a week or two. Arthur Curry can be a PHD Marine Biologist, a former Navy Seal that worked as an underwater welder for B.P., before he matures/reawakens into Orin Atlan-Son. Want to talk about, say, Global Warming or just basic facts about drinkable water, got a better platform? Aquatic industries can be explored and kids a little younger than those still awake for National Geographic specials can get a little two panel primer.

Let's not forget the Atlanteans. According to Plato, they predate Hellenic cultures by a couple millennia. These old souls can be said to pre-date the Amazons.These beings don't have to be demigods like Princess Dianna, but have a rich history and mystical ties to the most obscure Greek myths, as well as other early civilizations. 

New Twists.

Looking at Dwayne McDuffy's story for the animated JLA series "backward homage" to Marvel's Defenders, even the most casual fan could be pulled in using unique memes for our times. This tale wove Solomon Grundy, Dr. Fate, and the gay pirate Aquaman into a mishmash re-telling of the first time Dr. Strange, the Submariner, and the Hulk saved the world against not-so-disguised Lovecraftian creatures. Tell me a decent comic scripter couldn't take Aesop's Fables to get Aquaman and the Black Manta punching it out in LA's harbor while Zantana and Constantine battle were-sharks prowling the city as a straight up tribute to SNL's "Land Shark" skits.

One should not stop there. Atlantis and Atlanteans do not have to be crafted from the same yarn as Superman's City in a Bottle. Mix in some New Age axioms and go trippy. They could be more akin to a few hundred humans reincarnated from ancient times. These amphibious folks wouldn't have any idea that they were so until they were "awakened."Would Aquaman's telepathy vary from aquatic species to species? Just think about the possibilities. Take bit from a novel from Brin's Uplift series and work in some aquatic mammal characters, with an evil military for a high tech plot. How many earth-like worlds would have hydro-dwelling sentient species, that the 17 (or was it 2,134) Green Lanterns from Earth these days can use a bit of help with?

Shilling science, again.

Back on the science horse again, it was a given when I was growing up that 8th grade Science textbooks could solve any problem ever encountered. Maybe that was naive, but my math skills as a "C" student in 10th grade are light-years ahead of most of the kids I meet these days. Outside of End-of-the-Multiverse 52 plots every year, these days, the "science" characters at DC haven't had any sort of context for their unique scientific characters to talk to one another. 

While Aquaman isn't the only, nor maybe the best, he'd be a great place to start. Sure there's Firestorm, the Flash, the Atom, and maybe, Captain Atom, but the hydrosphere is a lot easier to get into on the page with say the Metal Men. There'd be a nice time travel take with Aquaman dealing with the Atomic Knights and their buddy Hercules (see the science and mythic work together there?). 

Why would I care?

I see what they, the movie makers, are doing here. I remember one day posting a picture from the 60s where a bunch of water-skiers were dressed up as members of the Justice League of America. I posted, "Zach Snyder needed a way to work Aquaman into the Batman V. Superman film." This is indeed coming to fruition. Perhaps this could be a starting point.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why I hate Seth Rogan

Every since I first saw this guy around 1999, I there was something that really bugged me about this guy. The "comedies" he was involved with always struck me with how little performance skill or professionalism were involved. The more the budget to it, the worse the navel gazing by the writers. Everything this man has ever been in, directed, produced, or even thought about doing would be best presented as a 10 minute short after 11pm on a Sunday night on a cable channel for wholly entertainment-deprived. He might be very talented, but I've never noticed him to feel the need to try and be anything else but himself. Good trait as a funny friend, not as a comedian.

I almost cried after I excitedly clicked on a trailer for The Green Hornet and found that he'd somehow gotten himself into the lead role. Yeah, because when I, a fan of the Green Hornet, think of Britt Reid, I picture of pudgy, red-headed dorks who are supposed to be decent comic writers. That was the type of actor that was cast for the TV series right?

I can forgive Michael Keaton as Batman. I can try to like Alec Baldwin in the role of the Shadow. They were hot stuff when the movie execs wanted to do schmaltzy takes on those franchises. But what exactly qualified Rogen for his "superhero crime fighter" movie? Apparently they needed a pudgy, red-headed dork who had lots of money backing him already. Well they got the spoiled millionaire, just without the looks and presence, and plenty of box office floppiness.

The movies he's been involved in since are all fomrulated to show that they aren't comedies. After the ten minutes of a skit with a punchline, they are pedantic scriptwriting with cliche female casting to very weak male leads. In fact the weakness, as in the shallowness and placidity, in the main characters seems to be his artistic statement.

Now I should be siding with Seth Rogen in the current First Amendment crisis of North Korea claiming to have hacked the movie, The Interview, and then threatening violence against movie theater that releases it. I don't. Why because, all I hear is how Sony is dealing with it. To be fair to Sony, it's a corporation, it is not about anything but making a butt-load of money. But where is the writer/director/star of the movie? He's not throwing down any money into having a movie premier at a local theater to stand up to "the terrorists," he's probably getting stoned and being an emotional bother to everyone nearby.

Seth Rogen and North Korea were made for each other. By the way, I still don't believe North Korea "techies" hacked Sony pictures.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Red and Pleasant Land reviewed

Last Thursday morning while I was at my PC, I kept getting little notifications in the lower right corner of my screen. The first was that "_A Red and Pleasant Land_ is available in (whatever "cloud" thingy we use)."  Then about five minutes later, it was removed. A few minutes later it appeared again just to disappear again a few more minutes later. Finally I shot a message to Peryton to find out what the heck was she doing. She didn't know I was awake and wasn't sure if I wanted to read Zak S.'s campaign setting A Red and Pleasant Land-- for some reason a simple text message wouldn't have worked. As I am game for anything off-kilter (that means fantastic and weird) a C.S. Lewis allusion and an RPG book sounded just fine. Thus it appeared again. The overall experience was like a like a very, very slow-motion Blue Light Special at Kmart.

I continued on my merry way writing about zombies, mapping Cleveland for a game scenario, and trying to research the number of police shootings of unarmed people for the past five years. There was more than a little beer involved, so this process was taking a while. Around 10pm that night, Peryton walked up from behind to say "You've been mentioned in the 'Special Thanks' section of Red' Land." More than a bit surprised, I stopped what I was doing to look at my Kindle, and wallah "Tom K" was being thanked by Zak S, amid roughly two score of others. My surprise isn't so much at that a superstar in Indy gaming would notice the time I mentioned him, it's the fact that anybody thanks anybody anymore in this "hobby" that isn't falling out of his, or her, bed, err sandbox or giving him money this day and age. Good to see. 

So I spent this last weekend reading the product during the slower parts of my work shifts.

Always an "Alice" to me.

The Part You're Actually Looking For

Sure, we all know that Alice went down the rabbit hole, but how often do we decide to do the same ourselves and game there? In this little ditty, the creator of Vornheim crafts an homage to the works of Lewis Carroll, and other fantasists of the same ilk. He also gives it Adventure Gaming nuggets of context and creatures.

A Red and Pleasant Land is the latest game supplement by Zak S for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Games. It is available in PDF and print, about $15 for the PDF and $35 for print version. With more than 175 pages of content (closer to 200 pages) including illustrations and maps by the author and Jez Gordon. In this work, the reader is invited into the Place of Unreason.

When I say "crafted" I mean crafted. Now as a guy that crafts my own game items, I have to say that this product is definitely wrought together by a creator that has a vision in mind as to the treasure that the audience is going to receive. From the cover to the "psychotropic*" maps at the end of the work, the overall effort is a complete experience for the artistic eye. While being economical in energy, the author himself paints his illustrations in an unapologetic fashion that can be quite alluring at times. The graphics and "maps" that tie the project's themes into its whole bring together the wide range of options and ideas arrayed.

 The literary styling and rules matrix is where the energy is spent. Zak S does a fine job of capturing the atmosphere of the writings of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. There is plenty of red meat for the gamer that doesn't care about reading and all that, what with vampire courts and fiefdoms, with new critters to encounter! I believe it's D20 driven. There is also a card play aspect, as in regular playing cards, with PC and NPC interaction based off of the suits that I, myself, find more than a bit alluring. I need to look a bit deeper into the text and see if there is something there that I do all the time with playing cards in RPG sessions. If this last inkling is indeed occurring, that is an added plus to the game.

 The author, Zak S, just in case you've forgotten, is somewhat self-aware of the role we game authors (not designers!) play in the industry, has a section called "How To Use This Book." In this section he has four options. I paraphrase them here: 1.) Use It As It Was Written. 2.) Use The Parts You Like, Wherever You Like. 3.) Sigh and Put It Down. 4.) Dump It into very instinct-driven animals.  To turn things on their head, as the author likes to; it's not often I, in the role of product reviewer, get so much help from the reviewed as to a rating system. 

My choice is to use this product where I think it fits into my game sessions. I also have started recommending its usage to family and friends. I mentioned to Peryton, already a fan of Zak S, "I'd use this in my Qalidar campaign.", two days later she announced to me, "Hey I think I'll do Red'Land as a scenario at BASHCon." There actually is no mind control there, she, the author of Qalidar, read the book days before I did-- I just wanted to show blocs of folks will like it.

Using my own personal rating system, I'll rate this a King Kong on a scale of Smurf to Godzilla. The lacking part is a color cover. The art work on the cover should've set the standards for the inside while a professional cover would've increased the viewing potential.

Still a good work. A nice literally homage, done with gamer-mindedness in mind.