Friday, May 17, 2013

COMICS: A snapshot of my pull list...

With SpringCon comic convention in Saint Paul this weekend, I thought I'd spill what comics I'm reading in print these days, here's a list of my regular titles:

Dark Horse

Star Wars - Brian Wood's story takes place after New Hope and Empire as Vader hunts down Skywalker to redeem himself for the Death Star's destruction, Leia struggles with losing Alderaan and finding a new home for the rebels


Sword of Sorcery (just ended with issue #8) - Great series that lives up to it's namesake, stars Amethyst and her diverse Gemworld kingdom; post-apocalyptic Beowulf mini-series is pretty good too

Prophet (Vertigo label) - Really out-there sci-fi that's truly imaginative, unrelenting and also unsettling at times

Lot's of ideas to plunder for games...


Flash Gordon - Classic Flash in the 1930s with a hefty coat of the 1980 film's flamboyance


Godzilla: Half Century War - Tracking the big guy through the jungles of South East Asia. Art by James Stoke is...I don't even...just look (you need to right-click these to really appreciate):

The High Ways - John Byrne hard sci-fi adventure about a cargo crew. I'm amazed at how hefty these issues are--lots of story packed in!

Mars Attacks - After being repelled by Earthlings 40 years ago, the Martians are back. ACK! ACK!


The Activity - Excellent, modern-day, action comic about an black ops military unit, illustrated by our own local-boy-done-good, Mitch Gerads


Hawkeye - Seriously one of the best-written comics right now. Fantastic art as well.

FF - Second string Fantastic Four babysits the planet while Reed, Ben, Sue and Johnny leave for a quick "four minute" trip. Lots of charm and just plain fun--love the Mike Allred artwork!

Fearless Defenders - Good start with great character writing for Marvel's first, official all-female super team. Wonderfully inventive covers too!


And anything with a cover by Francesco Francavilla...


Trade paperbacks
I love single issue comics, there's just nothing like holding one in your hands--and I especially like supporting writers/artists who's work I enjoy during the run--but it does get expensive. Plus, friends want to borrow, and I'm sorry, but I'm NOT giving out my single issues! So trades are a great alternative...
  • Adventure Time (Boom Studios) Too hard to find all the singles, but I'll pick up the trade
  • Avengers Asssemble (Marvel) I have most of these, but stopped until the trade comes out
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel) - I'm a sucker for talking racoons so I've got the first single, but I'll wait for the trade
  • Jupiter's Legacy (Image) - Mark Millar and Frank Quitely team up to write about second gen supers living in their parent's shadow, have the first single and now waiting for trade
  • Nova (Marvel) - Looks like good fun with a GotG tie-in, but again, waiting on the trade
  • Hawkeye (Marvel) Have first vol. will likely pick up a few more singles
  • Mars Attacks (IDW) Have first vol., just dropped single issues to order vol. 2
  • Prophet (Image) I've recently been unable to get the last 3 issues due to shortages so I'll now have to switch to trades
  • Saga (Image) Have first vol., I'm waiting on vol. 2, only first single collected
  • Warlord of Mars (Dynamite) I have up through the first two dozen or so issues, just dropped to switch to trades
  • Young Avengers (Marvel) - A new Avengers team for modern times, great stuff, but again--it's almost always sold out, so gotta get the trade
And this doesn't even count the other anthologies, graphic novels, and an omnibus or two that I've got on my wish list! I'll do a web comic list in an upcoming post.

So what are you reading in print these days?

To do this weekend: SpringCon!

The first of the Twin Cities' seasonal comic conventions is this weekend at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. I'll be there to meet up with friends and--of course--score some comics and maybe even some commission art. Here's the creator/writer/artist list. If you're in town, hope you can make it!

SpringCon Comic Convention
Saturday, May 18 & Sunday, May 19

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Aliens for X-plorers: Meduzhans

An adult Meduzhan (medua)

Meduzhans hail from the core of the known galaxy and are an ancient race. They evolved eons ago from the airborne oceans of a long gone gas giant world near the galactic core. Their longevity has bred in them resentment and a bitter hatred of most other sentient races. Because they've grown to endure the physical demands of the vacuum of space, they deliberatly overbreed and use offspring to form "clouds" inside which other members can travel--as a spacefaring vessel. This has allowed them to spread to many sectors of known-space.

Physical Characteristics
Meduzhans have no need for atmospheric support and can thrive in the void of space as easily as they can underwater or in a pressured environment. It's not understood how they deal with these extremes. Meduzhans live a multi-cycle lifespan which includes several stages, of which only three are known:

Larval meduzhans forming a cloud

Larvae - These seedling creatures are about the size of a grape and travel in great clouds in interstellar space. They are translucent white to a slight pink in color. They appear to prefer space or worlds without atmosphere, but they've been found on more terrestrial planets. Bizarely, they seem to be able to hover, though their small size makes them prone to climates with high winds. Larvae can only communicate with their own species in this stage. They act in hivemind and at the command of their elders (when present) but they are curious about their environment--even appearing innocent to unfamiliar beings.

A cloud of larvae are capable of forming large spacefaring shells for their older siblings. Only the larvae are capable of interstellar travel via folding space. Older specimens lose this ability for some reason when they mature other talents.

Young adult medua

Medua - This mobile, adult stage looks to humans as a giant, dome-shaped jellyfish, complete with nematocyst (tentacles), save for a great black-on-black eye at the center. Medua appear most graceful--gentle even--and seem to float in slow motion in mid-air in atmosphere (sans the difficulty of their younger siblings). Medua take on a variety of tints to their mostly translucent bodies (silver, purplish, sickly green or yellow are among the most common).

Average size is approximately 4 meters in diameter, but older forms have been known to get as large as 20-25. There have been sightings of what may constitute "ancient" specimens topping out at 40 meters (note: these behemouths have only been seen in space, and even so--fleeting glimpses). Medua communicate telepathically (see below) with any sentient race. To humans and most humanoids, they have harsh mental "voices" that can cause migraines if dialog goes on for too long.

Some varieties grow long tails, which seem to indicate some sort of elite psionic warrior class.

Approximation of the "dominu" form
Dominu - About 1 in every 1,000 meduzhans are genetically predisposed to reach this later stage of development. Observational evidence seems to indicate that this form is reserved for the higher echelons of Meduzhan society (nobels and the like). Dominu are tall tower-like versions of their younger selves, with their medua forms resembling their "head" and two series of stalk-like trunks stacked on upon another. A second, longer series of nematocysts extends from the joining of these two trunks (at the midpoint). They have not feet, but tails that barely caress the ground when in motion.

Dominu have learned to cultivate their personas and their mental "voices" are actualy very pleasant, almost "velvet" in disposition to most humanoid races. It's likely that they practiced this talent to aid in their Machivellian schemes.

Dominu retain all of the special abilities of their medua counterparts (those of 4 meter diameter).

Special Abilities

Paralysis: Larval meduzhans have only one special ability, much like our earthly jellies in that they possess nematocyst tentacles for stinging and capturing prey. Their stingers are most lethal while juvenile, rendering enemies' muscles useless (Save vs. Paralysis). Once larvae reach maturation stage they are able to call up their secondary ability...

Psionics: Meduzhans begin manifesting a range of psionic abilites--which activates their hidden bioluminescence--as yound adults (around 1 meter in diameter) and can develop these well into adulthood. Abilities seem to shift in their maturation, a proces that's not well understood. (e.g., telekinesis shows up late and tops out early.) Though we're not sure how old (in human years) they are when their powers develop, Earth spies have created the following chart to assist wary travelers and soldiers alike (m = meters):
  • 1m diameter - telepathy,  touch only | Will Domination via touch (Presence [PRE] Save) attempted on all they encounter | Mind Blast, touch only (renders 1d6 PRE damage
  • 4m diameter - telepathy, range: 3.5m | telekinesis, range: 5m | Will Domination, range: see telepathy | Mind Blast, range: 15m, damage is level x d6 | Mental Illusions, level x d6 rounds 
  • 10m diameter - telepathy, range: 25m | telekinesis, range 100m | other abilities same as 4m
  • 50m diameter - telepathy, range: 1 lightyear | telekinesis 1 light year | Psionic monster at this point - see forthcoming entry for K Class Meduzhans
Will Domination: Meduzhans are all about controling their prey. Once a victim has been captured by their tentacles, they will seek to impose their will on it through mind control. This, in effect, renders them their prey into physical puppets. Victims most roll a Save vs. PRE to avoid being dominated.

Once captured, victims become the "body" to a floating medua "head". Meduzhans are notoriously fiendish manipulators--convincing enemies with hallucinations and a masterful understanding of the fears and psychological weaknesses of many sentient races.

A victim who is released (or freed) from the control of a meduzhan will need to roll a Save vs. Poison to survive the neurotoxins that remain in their system and avoid having hit points reduced by half. The victim tends to go into shock after being de-toxed, so medical facilities are often required for full recovery. Purplish sting marks from a meduzhan domination attacks will mark the victim for life, without cosmetic surgery to hide the scars. Meduzhans who encounter a past victim with have a +2 chance to re-dominate thorugh intimidation by guilt-shaming the victim for being "weak".

Other psionic abilites may also develop.

The aliens have an angelic like quality that often disarms the sensibilities of their foes. Their gentle beauty and grace is a monstrous facade. They are unkind, cruel overlords that perceive nearly every sentient species as subordinate and therefore fit only to be dominated. Meduzhans rule by a high council of elders ascend through assassination and a corrupt political hegemony. They often disagree, save for one task, which is to maintain--at all costs--their queen Opolyotta, who is considered the sole progenitor of the species. Her whereabouts, appearance, and basically anything about her are kept secret. It is known however that she has no direct influence on the council, but only seems to "grace" their decisions through "prayer".

Vocational Aptitude
Most meduzhans are private and/or independent agents who prefer to rule subordinate species single-handedly. In occasions of war, they are called to a meeting place somewhere in space and may form a cloud of adult meduzhans who then willingly sacrifice their bodies to form giant battleships. Only nobels are allowed to crew these vessels which are among the most formidable weapons in the known spaceways.

Mostly though, medua-stage individuals will find themselves either seeking to create their own personal empire or building a private fortune as a dishonest merchant. In these cases they may be masquerading as another species via psionic puppetry or even mental illusions (the more powerful telepaths can manage this). They consider themselves overlords who rule the weak by divine right.

Meduzhans are much stronger, more agile, and hardier than they appear, but have no need for coverings, and they abhor physical weapons. They often inject themselves with all manner of chemical or genetic enhancement, it's thought this boosts their abilities or give them new ones. These pollutants could affect their appearance (color, gelatinousness, etc.) as well.

Note: This entry assumes familiarity with X-plorers ruleset, but could easily be converted to your game of choice.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Space Opera movie cheese

Looks like one of my favorite cheesy sci-fi flicks of the 70s is coming to the Trylon Microcinema (the tiny local theater in Minneapolis that I love!). Starcrash (1978) starring the incomparable Caroline Munro and The Hoff will be screened next Wednesday!

I already own the flick on DVD, but seeing it with like-minded geeks on a big screen will be a hoot. For those unaware, the film was an Italian production, shot in English on a shoestring budget--one of many space flicks rushed into production after the runaway success of a much more successful space fantasy.

I'm not certain which of it's failings won my love--a nearly incomprehensible plot, perplexing and hilariously overdubbed dialogue, and a fair amount of Harryhausen-esque (but not as good) special effects--but it hits on all cylinders of wackiness.

On a related note, I picked up a copy of Message From Space from Shout Factory (another Star Wars riff in '78, this time from the Land of the Rising Sun). That film is equally ridiculous, in many of the same ways, but with better art direction and the spaceship designs had more whiz-bang. This new version also has some (modest) behind-the-scenes extras that didn't appear on the old import version.

The old version was tragically mislocated in our move last year--foul play IS suspected. When the new version arrived on our doorstep a few weeks ago, I cracked it open while the wife was out, and had a blast watching Sonny Chiba take on Kabuki Vader and his mother who looks like she might have inspired that space witch from Voltron. It is not to be missed!

Curating a Sci-Crapfest!
One of my dreams (sadly) is to see a celebration of these cheesy classics. I'd long pined for the Trylon to do a series on second-string Star Wars (treating them as a genre unto themselves). It'd also be a good excuse to get a few local artists I know to do up some new posters for each film. Had I had the chance to curate (ahem) a film series, here are my official selections:
  • Starcrash - Post-screening discussion: careers of Munro, The Hoff, Roger Corman and Harryhausen's influence over off-brand sci-fi, international SW knock-offs are first to arrive.
  • Message From Space - Post-screening discussion: careers of Vic Morrow and Sonny Chiba, reciprocal Japanese/American sci-fi influences and overlap.
  • Battle Beyond the Stars - Post-screening discussion: John Boy and Hannibal in Space! Robert Vaughn replays himself? Final discussion on Japanese/American sci-fi culture feedback loop continues.
  • Ice Pirates - Post-screening discussion: career of Robert Urich, why the film is so underrated as satire of genre, that funky time travel scene at the end.
While they didn't quite get that full concept, I still get to see some beloved space cheese light up the screen. Can't complain about that!

Starcrash at the Trylon
7:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 22

 On Amazon:
Bonus: Did you know that Wikipedia has a page just for space pirates?

Friday, May 10, 2013

This is your chance to KILL ALL MONSTERS!

Imagine the Earth is ripped asunder by giant monsters and mankind has gone into hiding. They've conquered us...but in time, we fight back using giant robots! You may be thinking this sounds like that awesome looking movie trailer for Pacific Rim--but I'm actually talking about KILL ALL MONSTERS! A web comic by my pal Michael May (writer) and Jason Copeland (illustrator). KAM has been around a while (I've written about KAM previously). Now Michael and Jason are wrapping up a Kickstarter campaign to bring the (first volume) electronic version into your hands via dead tree!

Here's a synopsis:
Kill All Monsters is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the giant monsters have already won. Civilization has largely been destroyed and humanity has been driven underground to survive as best they can. Rising from the ashes of this defeat however is a trio of giant robots, piloted by a diverse group of soldiers dedicated to killing the monsters. ALL of them.

In Volume 1: Ruins of Paris, the Kill Team travels to Europe for the first time to investigate rumors of another group of monster fighters. What they find are more giants than they've ever faced before and a devastating secret that will affect the entire war.
It couldn't be better timed now that we've all got rock'em sock'em kaiju action on our minds. There's less than a day left, so I wouldn't wait if you want to get your hands on a copy of the book or some awesome swag. $5 gets you a PDF, $20 and you'll also get the print edition. The first episode has the good guys destroying defending Paris!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon THE MOVIE

The Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon video game knows what I love: 80s cheese? CHECK! Awesome synthesizer music by Power Glove? CHECK! Ridiculous dialogue? CHECK!

And now they've gone and made a faux trailer for an FC3BD movie (NSFW w/o headphones):


Here's the trailer for the game staring Michael Biehn (yes, that guy!) which is also NSFW:

And posters, which I am dying to annoy my wife with by plastering all over the outside of our home:

And the awesome Power Glove soundtrack that threw me into an 80s tailspin from which I've yet to recover:


More art from Signal Noise and a big fat wet thank you to Superpunch for introducing me to my next obsession.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rest in Peace: Ray Harryhausen

I've covered Mr. Harryhausen's work before. To say that he made an impression on my life and my view of science fiction and fantasy would be an understatement of the highest order. Nothing in Jason and the Argonauts felt unreal to me when I first viewed it (around 9 years old or so). It was like being struck by lightning. It stoked the embers of my (now) lifelong fascination with mythology.

I was thinking of having a little Harryhausen film fest at home in the very near future. And then I realized, to do justice to his real legacy--inspiring other filmmakers to realize their visions--I should include a few selections by his cinematic descendants as well. That list would be long indeed.

So long Ray, and thanks for all the monsters.

Via SlashFilm
Also, NPR