Posted in: Comic Books, Role Playing Games

#RPGaDay2021 Day 22: Substitute

Day 22: Substitute

Today’s sole suggestion is “Substitute”. When I was assembling my idea spreadsheet I decided that I wanted to go in a different direction for this blog entry. While most blog posts have been about science fiction or fantasy games, this entry will be about superheroes. Specifically the Legion of Substitute Heroes.

Cover image to DC Comics Presents issue 59.

Back in the 80’s my family use to take trips to see relatives in other states. One year my parents presented us with a stack of comic books to keep us occupied on the drive. One of the comics was my first introduction to my favorite superhero, “Firestorm, The Nuclear Man”. I claimed this comic as my own. One of the other comics was DC Comics Presents number 59. I’m certain my parents picked this one just because we knew who Superman was. When my siblings didn’t claim their own comics after the trip was over, I took it and added it to the collection I was starting. I still have this issue just a few feet away from where I’m typing this blog post now.

What intrigued me about this issue was not only the bad guy, a weird character named “Ambush Bug”, but the group that teams up with Superman to fight off Ambush Bug. They were a team of super powered individuals that applied for membership in The Legion of Superheroes, but were rejected as full members because their powers were not quite up to snuff. The team included.

Antenna Lad: His powers allowed him to detect signals anywhere on the planet.

Chlorophyll Kid: He can make plants grow and has limited control over them.

Color Kid: Using his power allows him to change the color of anything.

Double-Header: A alien being with two heads, each with their own mind.

Fire Lad: A hero that breathes fire.

Infectious Lass: She can infect other people with one of a thousand diseases.

Polar Boy: He can lower the temperature around himself or other objects and shoot blasts of cold.

Porcupine Pete: A hero with the ability to shoot sharp quills.

Stone Boy: An alien who can turn his body into stone.

This is a band of misfits that would later remind me of the heroes we see in the 1999 movie Mystery Men. A group pof heroes with not quite powerful powers. I’ve talked about playing a DC Comics RPG previously. In that game we were all superheroes with kick-butt powers. If I were to play a new comic based game, I’d want to play something along the lines of the League of Substitute Heroes or Mystery Men.

Final Thoughts:

Only one suggestion for today. But one I was able to come up with a post for when I was planning ahead in July.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Comic Books, Role Playing Games

Blast from the past: My book of characters

Book of Characters

So I’m continuing to go through old boxes trying to get stuff sorted. This will allow me to decide what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of. In one box I found an old three-ringed binder full of various character sheets from different role-playing games. Several of them were in plastic sleeves while others were just loose. Some of these I fondly remember. Others I was quite surprised to see. I don’t recall playing Pendragon or Star Ace, but here are the character sheets with my hand writing on them.

So I’ve spent some time scanning the character sheets so I can post them here. If I can recall the stories behind the characters or some of the adventures they participated in, I’ll post them with the images. Some of the sheets had hand written notes on the back or on other scraps of paper that brought back memories.

The character I’m going to post today is from the DC Heroes RPG. I was playing a character called Sonic. He had the ability to focus and bend sound waves. This was the perfect game to play in the gaming area at Comics Utah. One of the players, and a friend, was a graphic designer so he spent the time and effort to draw up our characters and place them on special character sheets for us. I thought he did a very good job with mine.

DC Heroes RPG character Sonic
Posted in: Collecting, Comic Books, My Creations, Role Playing Games, Star Trek

Organizing the collection: Marking storage boxes

So one of my goals in the new house is to get everything out of the “temporary” cardboard boxes and sorted into permanent storage, on display or purged. I’ve got a lot of comics, blueprints, magazines, books and other resource materials that I’ve been trying to find places for. I want to store them safely, but keep them where I can access them when needed. For way too long I had stuff packed up in a “temporary” box stored in a location where I could not get it easily. Sure I had my collection listed in Google Docs so I could access it from my phone (this life hack has prevented me from buying stuff I find on sale when I already own a copy) but if I can’t use or enjoy it, why keep it? My latest trick has been this.

Storage envelope on a comic long box
Storage envelope on a comic long box

One of the things that has bugged me about the comic long boxes (available from your local favorite comic shop) is not knowing which box contained which comics. While I was looking at the stack of long boxes it hit me. I should find some transparent envelopes that I can slip an index card or two inside that contains a list of the contents. I did a quick search on Amazon and discovered the YESSART 5×7 Small Plastic Envelopes. They were big enough to hold the index cards and transparent enough that I could find the box I was looking for at a quick glance. The envelope flap is sealed with Velcro to keep the index cards inside. The above photo shows how they could fit on the side of a comic long box, the photo below shows how it would fit on a magazine short box.

Storage envelope in use on a magazine short box.
Storage envelope in use on a magazine short box.

I found a box of 1/2 inch Glue Dots that allowed me to secure the envelopes to the storage box. These dots are double sided and would stick to both the cardboard and the plastic. I decided to use four dots in each corner in order to make sure that the envelope stayed on securely. This way if I decided to re-use the box for a different collection, all I had to do was switch out the index cards.

The bad thing about going through the collection to get it documented and organized is coming across things I haven’t seen in a few years. Some of the Homebrewed Starship game stats that I’ve posted before have come from some of these blueprints that I’ve been collecting over the years. As I was going through them, I had to take a look at a few of them in detail again because of my love of Treknology and schematics. A few of them tripped ideas on how I could homebrew them for different systems. In a way that is one of the many reasons I am trying to get everything organized so I can let my creativity fly and put it on display on this site.

I love it when the creative energy starts flowing.

Posted in: Comic Books, Cosplay, Dungeons and Dragons, Fan Club, Movies, Rant, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Sports, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate

A rant on True Fans and Gatekeeping

So I got involved in a discussion on a Stargate fandom page online. The topic was the much debated Stargate Universe series. Some people stated that they liked it, others (including myself) stated that we didn’t like it. The conversation was going pretty well until someone posted the following “You are not a true fan of Stargate unless you’ve watched all of Stargate Universe.” Now this was a statement that I really had to respond to as I’ve heard this “True Fan” comment before and it bugs me a lot. Rant Mode On: I think this meme said it best.

True fan meme

As most of you know (or have probably guessed), I’m a fan of a large number of science fiction and fantasy franchises. And there are some shows that I have not found entertaining. I could never get into the Buffy and Angel series no matter how hard I tried. It seemed like every time I sat down to give The X-Files a chance while it was first airing, it turned out to be the episode of the season with the most blood. There are other series, movies, comics and books that I just couldn’t get into. Some I will talk about in future blog posts.

Even in my favorite franchises, there are stinkers. I’ve only seen the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise once. And I only plan to watch it once again (to mine it for quotes and trivia questions) before I avoid it at all costs afterwards. If someone would have had the misfortune of having that episode be their first introduction to the Star Trek universe, I could understand why they may not like Enterprise or even Star Trek itself. They get to decide what they are fans of, not me nor anyone else.

Using the term “True Fan” is a form of Gatekeeping. Gatekeeping, in the fandom/hobby sense, is allowing only those the “true fans” deem worthy to join them in the fandom. They may use this to keep fans of a certain series in a franchise out of their club/social media group/etc. (i.e. “You can’t be a true Star Trek fan if you like Star Trek: Discovery), or they may use this to keep certain players out of their games (i.e. “You can’t play in our Battletech game with papers figures, you have to only play with painted figs). A note on this last one. A sanctioned tournament for a miniature or card game requiring certain items to use in the tournament is a method of marketing and sales, not gatekeeping. And one I see in cosplay groups is, your cosplay isn’t worthy of inclusion. Really? With how much time, energy and effort goes into cosplay you are going to get upset because it’s not “screen accurate”? Someone who puts their heart into their fandom doesn’t deserve to get it crushed.

Gatekeeping by “true fans” makes the base of participants smaller and could kill our fandoms. You never know what was someone’s introduction to the fandom or hobby. While I was manning the USS Ticonderoga recruiting booth during the opening weekend of Star Trek: Into Darkness, a new fan came up to me and stated that the previous Star Trek film had inspired him so much that he went and watched all of the original Star Trek television series. He was now a fan of the franchise itself and was checking out the other shows. Had he been talking to a “true fan”, he could have been discouraged by the belittlement and not checked out the rest of the universe that awaited him.

It’s not just geeky movies and hobbies that his plagued by this. I’ve seen this same “true fan” mentality in sports fandom. “You can’t be a true fan of the (insert team name here) unless you can name a player from their 2009 championship run.” As our Dwight meme says above: “False!”

Now when someone asks a question like “Is the new Superman & Lois television series any good?” I usually respond somewhere along the line of “I’ve enjoyed it.” If I found that I haven’t been a fan of a series, I state that it is something I haven’t enjoyed. If someone says they enjoyed a series that I have not, then I’m glad. Not everyone has to enjoy what I enjoy. I request the same respect in return. The “I’ve enjoyed it” answer is also how I avoid the bait posts where someone is trying to start an opportunity to troll fans of a series.

So to recap, if you were to say to me “I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the anime Cowboy Bebop and enjoyed it, am I a fan?” my answer would be yes. If you asked if you wanted to cosplay as a gender-bended Robin Hood and his band of thieves in the Sherwood Forest, would I consider you a fan? My answer would still be yes. “I really like Real Salt Lake because they are a local team.” I’d say welcome to the fandom. Would I shun you if you only wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition? No, I would not and I even might ask if there is an opening in your game. You get to decide if you are a fan of something, not these “true fans.” Enjoy what you want to enjoy and don’t let anyone tear you down for it.

Now to get back to the Stargate Universe discussion. I really enjoyed the original Stargate movie ever since I first saw it on opening weekend. It took me a while to get a chance to sit down and watch Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, but I enjoyed them both to the point where I call myself a fan. Because I had enjoyed both of these series so much, I took the opportunity to get season one, disk one DVD of Stargate Universe from Netflix (this should tell you how long ago this was) and my wife and I watched the first five episodes. There was one good episode in that first set (it was about time travel). I liked the nerdy kid who’s name I can’t remember. I really wanted to follow Samantha Carter in command of the USS Hamond and see her adventures. And I thought the concept of being trapped on a living spaceship not under your control sounded interesting. But I found the writing in SGU horrendous. The acting really wasn’t up to snuff despite some good names on the acting list. The use of the tech to switch bodies to go back to Earth and spy on your ex-wife was dumb. It was dark, dreary and depressing and was practically a soap opera. Talking into the floating camera things was too much like how reality TV show contestants would react to a camera between dramatic takes (a major turn off). And the scene where some woman is talking to her floating camera making a message for her husband, and then forgets to turn it off while she cheats on him with another member of the crew really made me roll my eyes. I think I realized this show wasn’t for me when the lead scientist and the lead military guy was fighting in the fifth episode and I turned to my wife and said “I don’t even care who wins this fight.”

Now if you are a fan of Stargate Universe. Good for you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Some of the SGU fans in the discussion stated that it got better in season two and encouraged me to sit down and give the series another try. I could see myself doing this once I’ve gotten all of my other catch-up and new watching completed. I’m really enjoying Superman & Lois and I watch it every week. WandaVision was another series I had to keep up on. I need to finish my first watch through of Farscape (yea I missed it when it first aired) and someday I’ll watch all of the episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. There are a ton of shows in my streaming lists and interests that I want to watch. And that doesn’t even count the number of books and comics I want to read or games I want to play. Bottom line is that SGU is really down on the priority list. So yes I’d give it another try if my list has been completed, but that will not be for a very very long time.

I think I’ve said enough to end this rant. If you are still reading, thank you. Just remember, you decide what you are a fan of, not other people and not those who gatekeep with the term “true fans”.

Tally Ho

Posted in: Comic Books, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars

The Good, The Bad and The Internet

Clickbait vs Easter Eggs

So there have been two trends that I’ve noticed on the internet. Yea, these may have been around for a while but I want to talk about them for a second. The evil of click-bait sites and videos and the good of easter egg and behind the scenes videos.

There have been a lot of sites and videos with “Trusted Sources” spreading rumors about some of our favorite franchises and shows. What bugs me is the way they try to sell themselves. Usually with a headline that screams click-bait. These type of sensationalized headlines are a form of social engineering. They want you to react to the video/article and the only way you can do that is by clicking on the link to their site. “Has {insert showrunner name here} been fired at {studio name here}?”, “{Famous person} ruined our favorite franchise, here is the proof.” or “{Famous person} reacts to my video/post/website/outlandish claim.” See how they can practically recycle the headline just by switching out a few details and boom, another click-bait headline. Some of these videos and sites can get to be quite toxic.

Another trend has not been quite as negative, but still very click-baitish. Streaming services have been a gold mine for fans of various franchises. The studios are trying to attract subscribers by taking chances on shows that may not make it onto the over-the-air or cable channels. This has brought us more shows in the Star Trek (I’m looking forward to the Pike series, Strange New Worlds) and Star Wars universe (love The Mandalorian). There is an upcoming series for Battlestar Galactica and it looks like I’m finally going to be able to see Moon Knight on the screen. While this is good, it also gives rise to rumor websites with headlines like “{Character name} series confirmed.” At the rate they are pumping out these “articles” you would think that we would soon see a series focused on Captain John Harriman (would the XO be Commander Ferris Bueller?) for Paramount+ and Disney+ releasing The Star Wars Muppets (actually I’d watch a SW Muppet series, but don’t quote me as a source). These rumors are not as outlandish as the “{show name} canceled immediately due to plummeting ratings.” headlines and I think that’s what makes it a little bit dangerous. Some actors want to return to the roles that made them famous. Others never want to return to the franchises if they don’t have to. But there is a little bit of a toe-hold that these “news sites” to say that a new series is coming soon and you better read about it here. When you listen to these sites, they use the weasel words that you commonly see on those Ancient Alien shows. “Could this be true? It’s possible.” Ugh that bugs me more than it should.

Why are these sites and videos posting these dubious claims? In one word, money. The more clicks a site/video has, the more eyeballs see them. The more eyeballs they get, the more they can sell themselves to advertisers. Technically nothing is stopping them from being the Weekly World News of the internet. So like spam and robo-calls, they continue to be a scourge on the internet.

What can you do about them? Well learn to spot click-bait headlines. If it sounds like it was posted to get an emotion, be suspicious. Look at the source. Most social media posts will give you the domain the article/video is coming from. If it’s not from a source with a good history (for most entertainment news that’s usually Variety, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, one of the mainstream media companies, etc.) or from the studio itself, then be suspicious. However be careful, there are still rumor news sources that are on TV or in print. If you are suspicious about a headline, then remember that Google is your friend. If a rumor is close to being true, multiple sites will post about it. With the rumor websites there may only be one or two sites posting about the topic. If your Spidey-Senses are going off, don’t click on the link or video. By clicking on them, you are giving them what they really want.

Now, in my humble opinion, there is a really good trend going on right now with some online videos. The “Easter Egg” videos that point out some of the things in the background. Some are very spotable, some are very hidden (hence the name Easter Eggs). There are some video makers that will freeze-frame certain scenes and translate from the alien languages (if translations exists) to dig up hidden details. I am a big fan of Star Trek and Star Wars so I’ve noticed a lot of these Easter Eggs in Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks and The Mandalorian. So for me the fun was seeing if I had missed anything and if I had spotted stuff the video makers themselves had missed.

Another good thing about these videos are for the series I’ve been enjoying, but I don’t know much about the source material. The latest example has been WandaVision. While I know Marvel’s Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man, other-mainstreams, etc. I only know very little of the other superheroes that Marvel has in their catalog. I’m more of a DC man myself, but I don’t turn my nose up at the Marvel non-mutant titles (don’t ask me about the mutants now, that will be saved for another blog post). After encouragement from friends, I checked out WandaVision. I found that I enjoyed the writing, the acting and the special effects. But I felt like I was missing something that came from a deep source. So I turned to the same Easter Egg video makers that I had enjoyed before and they expanded my understanding of the WandaVision storyline. In the last episode of WandaVision there was a “big reveal” from a bad guy (no spoilers so don’t worry). I felt that this reveal wouldn’t have made a big impact if I hadn’t watched the Easter Egg videos telling me who these characters were. Thus I was “in on the story” when it happened.

While I’m encouraging you to avoid the click-bait sites, I would also encourage you to check out the effort that goes into the Easter Egg videos. Let me know what you think of these videos that have been released.

Tally Ho

Clickbait