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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Take On the New Spider-Man

Hey people. I just read Ultimate Spider-Man #1 & #2, the reboot with Miles Morales as the wall-crawler.

Wow. Just... wow.

I've fallen in love with Spider-Man again! And Marvel has proven to me they can actually write good stories and good characters again. Now when I dis Marvel I will have to throw a caveat in there and mention this series (at least the first two issues). If they keep up the good work, hey, I may not even dis Marvel anymore.

Thank you, Marvel. Thanks for giving Spider-Man back to this old cynic. He was once my favorite super hero. And he may be yet again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Oh, don't mind me, I'm just laying here..."

I was walking back from 7-Eleven about an hour ago when I saw a man lying on the ground near the road. Curled up under a small tree. 40s, Ute, possibly homeless. He wasn't able to sit up or respond coherently to the questions I asked him. He didn't smell like alcohol, but the back of his head revealed surgical staples. So, recent head trauma. I called 911, gave the dispatcher info on what was up and where to find us, and kept the man company until the medics arrived.

Now, the point isn't what a great wonderful caring person I am. I can be pretty heartless and hard at times. The point is, there were numerous people driving and walking past him. Why didn't any of them call 911? Or hell, why couldn't they just stop and ask the man if he were okay? Why was I the first to try and help the man it when I certainly wasn't the first to notice it? I'm honestly pretty pissed off about it right now. Just a little effort on someone else's part could have gotten him help sooner.

In all his babbling, I was able to make out a little of what he said. Part of it was, "I love you, man." Whether or not it was just the man talking out of his head, or he understood I was trying to help him, I'll accept it either way. For what it's worth I love him too, that stranger.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Man, Djinn & Dragon -- an RPG in 500 Words or Less!


This creation was inspired by this contest, where the writer challenged us to create a complete roleplaying game (rules, setting and all) in under 500 words. We were to use two dice not added together, include a token, and have a countdown mechanic. Well, I hit two of those, and got in just under the word count.

I may expand on this later, but not much -- I like the bare bones feel of it. Until then, feel free to run with this and have fun!



You have left the realm of spirits and the confines of lamps to live on earth. But now dragons have invaded Arabia! As a Djinn, you and your kind are the only ones that can protect humanity and the sacred deserts of your homeland.

To play you need paper, pencils, a white d6, a red d6, a Wish Token (a blue glass bead), and an adventurous soul. There should be one Sultan (game master) and at least one player.

Create Your Djinn
You have 12 points to spread between your elements (minimum of 1, maximum of 5 in any element).
Fire: Anger, strength, determination.
Sand: Quickness, cunning, adaptability.
Stone: Resolve, hardiness, stamina.
Glass: Perspective, reflection, proficiency.
Wish: The magical power to make your will manifest. Only Djinni have Wish.

Game Mechanics
You have two dice: A white skill die and a red conflict die.
Skill Test: Most purely personal tasks involve a skill test: Lifting an item, hitting a target, solving a puzzle. Roll skill under your element to succeed, or “hit.”
Conflict Test: When facing an opponent or contest – wrestling, racing, riddling – roll the skill under your element and the conflict above your opponent's element. You must hit on both dice to score a hit.
Experience: You gain one point to add to an element at the end of each story.

Conflict Resolution
These rules apply to combats, debate, or any sort of conflict. Describe conflicts in creative and fun ways.
* Roll skill and add Glass. Characters act in order of high results to low. Each character acts once.
* When your turn comes up, make a conflict test: Roll skill under your Fire and conflict above opponent's Sand to affect him.
* If you hit, roll conflict above foe's Stone; a hit means foe takes a Hit, failure means no effect. Three Hits means foe is out of the conflict.

Wishes
Once per story, a Djinn can claim the Wish Token and make one wish, either for himself or another. Wishes are open-ended and minor effects that can do anything within the Sultan's discretion. A selfless wish that benefits another (“Blessings upon you.”) requires just a Wish skill test. For a selfish or harmful wish (“Curses upon you!”), roll skill under your Wish and conflict over your Wish! Your “bad wish” is granted with only one hit, but in a back-handed way; two hits mean the wish is granted as desired.

Man
Who you protect, and your allies. Create as Djinn, but with 9 points; they may not have Wish. Two Hits take them out of a conflict.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Part Time Gods: A Game Review

When I read gaming books, I typically do a quick go-through first, reading the highlights and getting a general feel for the game's themes, direction and and concepts. Then, if it's interesting enough, I'll go through and read the game again in-depth, looking at details such as systems and setting details. This is how I approached the new game Part Time Gods by Eloy Lasanta.

And let me start off by saying I'm very impressed with PTG. I think it's a good sign when ideas for campaigns and material start coming to me while I'm reading, and that's what happened before I even finished reading through PTG the first time. There have been some games out there that were quite good, and were fun to read, but I walked away asking myself, "So... what do I do with this?" Gaming books can be well-written, but if I can't imagine actually playing it, or if I have to struggle to think of concepts for the game, that's a problem. One that I don't have for PTG.

The Premise: You were once a human being before receiving the Spark, the divine catalyst that transforms you from mortal into deity. Now as a god you're blessed (and also burdened) with the powers and responsibilities of a god. You possess a Dominion that describes your divine portfolio, what precisely you are a god of: The goddess of rain, the god of wolves, the god of honor, etc. Gods also possess powers called Entitlements, which may or may not relate to the god's bailiwick and are more generic than Dominion powers.

Theme: The central conflict in the game is the conflict between the person you were and the god you've become. Do you deny your divinity and try to live as a person? Or do you forsake your humanity in the pursuit of divine identity? Gods typically fall somewhere between these two extremes, with each individual god finding her "fit." The game is good at emphasizing this conflict in both the flavor text and the rules without pushing it too heavily.

Setting: The game is immediately accessible. This is an advantage of modern "realistic" games, where it's not necessary to learn and entirely new setting, even if the game puts a spin on what we accept as reality. So PTG has that going for it, letting us jump into the game's retelling of history through the lens of the gods. The writer offers a compelling origin story for the gods of myth and legend, which glosses over many of the mythologies themselves while still accounting for the gods themselves. While there's a lot of gold to mine in the individual faiths, this is probably the best (and safest) approach for an open setting like PTG. When you're dealing with competing creation myths for multiple cultures it can get confusing. Not that there's not potential in exploring that sort of thing, but PTG isn't that sort of game. The goal of the game is not to bog you down in details or pull you into existential questions about which religion is right and to what degree, but to establish the setting so you can start playing and tell your own myths. (And you can explore religion and related issues on your own accord, if you wish, as I'd be wont to do.)

Modern gods are organized into Theologies and pantheons. Theology is a broad overview of your beliefs and approach to divinity -- your "splat," in gamer parlance.

Theologies: The Theologies are:
  • Ascendants: Gods who look to become as powerful as the old gods. 
  • Cult of the Saints: Gods who believe themselves to be messengers from Heaven - they hear voices.
  • Drifting Kingdoms: Nomadic gods who build powerful domains, simply to leave them behind to build the next.
  • Masks of Jana: Gods who hide the existence of magic from the world, hoping not to lose themselves in the process.
  • Order of Meskhenet: Gods who look to the past for their power and survive through aristocratic-type families.
  • Phoenix Society: Gods who guide humanity to greatness through direct and intimate interaction.
  • Puck-Eaters: Gods who learn to draw power from chaos and ingesting the flesh of another.
  • Warlock’s Fate: Gods who seek the answers to the universe, but rely too heavily on their Relics.
I'd be hesitant to call the Theologies the weak point of the game, as that would suggest the writer did a poor job on them, and that's not what I'm trying to say. But I will say certain Theologies are the part of the game that I get the least. Some were quite well-done, and make sense to me; I can see how to fit a character into those Theologies easily. Others... eh, not so much. I feel a game's primary splats should be broad rather than narrow. You can get more specific with smaller and less central groups, but the main groups should be inclusive and be able to accommodate a wide variety of character concepts, while still having flavor and uniqueness.

And some Theologies are like this. But for other Theologies it's hard for me to create characters concepts for, or to understand the motivation of a god to join them. I think the Drifting Kingdoms is the one I get the least. I'm challenged to think of any god that it might fit the Theology, save Siddhartha (the Buddha) if you want to count him as a god -- an expression of the dangers of attachment and the desire to explore and learn. I don't get Wanderers' motivation to invest all this time and energy into establishing a territory, and then just leaving it. I can see a Theology based on imbuing places, sure, one focused on territory the same way the Warlock's Fate is focused on relics. It's the Wanderers' rootlessness I don't get. I mean, I can see an odd pantheon or two formed from Drifting Kingdoms gods doing this, seeking a new interpretation of their Theology's purpose... but an entire theology based on this idea? It doesn't gel for me.

The visceral Puck-Eaters are interesting, but they're another example of a conceptually narrow Theology when a general approach might have worked better. They're cannibalistic gods that devour people and Outsiders (divine monsters) for power. Which I think is a cool idea, if unsettling, recalling the heart-eating dark gods of Aztec myth. But I'd have preferred a more general "thieves of divinity" concept, which includes cannibals but could support similar characters that weren't. For example, a god that withers its foes as he steals their life force, or a "naughty vampire god" that drains power through blood, or a trickster ala Anansi the Spider that steals powers from his victims. I'd also have made gods vulnerable to these thieves' attentions as well, so that there's a certain element of danger and risk with associating with them. As it was, I feel in the stereotypes the other Theologies weren't quite horrified enough at the concept of Puck-Eaters, a little too accepting of their grotesque practices. Inclusion is good and all, and we don't want them to be so hated that they can't be viable characters in mixed pantheons... but cannibals that target human beings and Outsiders for power should be a nauseating concept for gods to that still are very human, and even to those that aren't.

With these exceptions, the Theologies are well done. My favorite is probably the Masks of Jana. They preserve the proper order of things and protect people from knowledge of the divine, yet at the same time they must gain worshipers; it's an interesting dichotomy. I might like to have seen a seeker or unaligned Theology as well, for gods that don't have the answers or a specific agenda but that are trying to understand the universe and where they fit in. Even if something so disorganized and without a unifying ethos couldn't really qualify as as a Theology, I'd have liked to see the idea of unaligned gods explored, as certainly some wouldn't want to join one.

That smaller and lesser-known Theologies exist was mentioned. This is something I'm very interested in exploring.

Pantheons: While theologies are broad groups with global presences, pantheons are local. These are alliances of gods that hold and maintain territory. Pantheons aren't necessarily Theology-specific, and in fact most pantheons seem to support a variety of them. It's analogous to the adventuring party. However, what's interesting about pantheons is they're more than just alliances of convenience or people that just hang out together. There's spiritual weight to pantheons, and pacts are formed.

I'll take a moment to describe a god's territory, as it's relevant to this issue. A god's territory begins taking on qualities and characteristics reflecting that deity; while the change is nothing drastic, it is noticeable, especially to other gods. And it seems largely out of the control of the god, instead being a natural consequence of the god dwelling there. A god of death's territory would have a slightly higher death rate than average, and perhaps the mood of that area is more somber; meanwhile a goddess of liquor (an actual signature character for the game!) would infuse her neighborhood with feelings of revelry, stupor and drunken brawls. The demesne of a god of crows would support a high population of corvids, and so on.

For pantheons, what you end up with is a mix of divine themes based on the gods that occupy the area. So for a territory defended by the above three gods, you'd have a party neighborhood that sees a higher incidence of death from drunk driving and sclerosis of the liver, with a morbid tendency for crows to gather. You have to take the good with the bad, here, and there's a sacred bond between the gods and the areas in which they live and with one other as they form the pantheon. Gods don't even have to like each other or hang out during off hours, but once the pantheon is formally founded their fates are all thrown in together and they have to cooperate.

I like this approach a lot. It gives a strong justification for gods to gather and work together, even if they don't have much in common. There's a lot of story potential with this sort of thing as well, as gods try to balance and manage the influence they have on their territories.

Mechanics: So far PTG's system is my favorite one out of the Third Eye Games lineup, and that's saying something. It runs with DGS Lite, a less rules-intensive version of the Dynamic Gaming System. It's very similar, though with some of the crunch taken out. While basic DGS is a great system, I tend to prefer simpler rules and less math, and DGS Lite fits that bill.

Easily my favorite part of the system is the rules for divine powers. Your Dominions determine in a broad sense what you can influence or control, while your Manifestations are specialized skills that describe how. A goddess of rain with the Beckon Manifestation can conjure rain from the sky, while she could manipulate how the rain falls and pools with Puppetry, or even see what's happening in a distant area where it's raining with Oracle. Meanwhile, a god of dogs with the same Manifestations could summon a canine companion to his side with Beckon, direct her actions with Puppetry, or use Oracle to see through the dog's eyes and detect where she is. And a fear god with those Manifestations fear-god could conjure fear from nothingness, influence how a fear manifests, or sense who is feeling fear in his vicinity. The possibilities are endless, especially when you consider how open-ended Dominions are, and it rewards player creativity. Yes, this means the Game Master has to make a lot on on-the-spot adjudications on what's allowed and how powers might work, but that's a feature to me and not a flaw. This is one of the best "magic systems" I've seen and I look forward to exploring it in-game.

Antagonists: One of my favorite parts of the book is the Antagonists chapter, which details the Outsiders -- entities invested with divine power that are not gods, sometimes enemies of them and other times allies. Rather than being a mini Monster Manual with dry stats, the chapter details how the Outsiders might exist on modern earth, along with their behaviors and motivations. This is a lot harder to do in realistic settings than in fantastical ones, but I think the author did a good job here. A lot of the "classic" mythical entities are covered, like Elves and Minotaurs and Unicorns, but a decent number of lesser-known entities from non-Western mythoi are detailed: The ghoulish Japanese Jikininki, the child-eating Manananggal from the Philippines, and the Tengu (one of my favorites).

Art: Art tends to be a secondary concern for me, it doesn't make or break a game -- I focus on thecontent underneath the dressing. But the artwork in the book is very good, so those of you that like visuals won't be disappointed. The art in the book trends toward the realistic rather than the epic, presenting the characters as people rather than toga-clad deities riding lightning bolts while smiting legions of demons. Not that there isn't art with epic overtones in the book -- such as the front cover -- but most of it gives us glimpses of the gods how they'd be in a modern setting. Which I think is a good thing, as it helps ground the game and give it context.

Also touched on (heh) are the Touched, people invested with divine power that aren't gods, but that can present strong opposition or serve as capable allies. Champions fulfill the archetype of divine heroes like Perseus, while Seers and Hags serve similar roles in the PTG setting as they did in Greek myth. No, Touched are not full gods and they lack Dominions and Entitlements, but this doesn't make them weak. To give you an idea, some are known as God-Killers, and they are called that for a reason...

Other Things: The sample/signature characters in the book are interesting, and not as stereotypical or strictly archetypal as you might expect. In other words, the writer didn't confuse Dominion with character concept, and didn't write the characters around the sort of powers they had. Each character has a backstory and a life as a person before the Spark, which is richly detailed. They give you a solid idea of how a character might be put together and how they can be roleplayed. The Storytelling chapter is also quite good, and offers useful advice even for those of us used to running games.

The editing could have been better, with a few word transpositions and extra apostrophes. (Funny enough, my name is in the editing credits. So this means I wasn't doing my job.) But the writing is solid and easy to understand. I can't think of any instances where a description was unclear or so vague I couldn't understand what the author was getting at.

The "feel" of the game is very, very good. The game doesn't take itself too seriously. Yes, there's serious subject matter in the book, such as cannibalism and addiction. But the tone imparts levity more than gravity, and isn't not bogged down in seriousness and melodrama. The book is easy to read as a consequence, and gives you the idea the game would be very fun to play.

In Closing: Part-Time Gods is a damn fine game, and one of my favorite games to date. Like I mentioned before, the ball was already rolling for campaign ideas, settings, characters, alternate Theologies and antagonists. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd easily give the game a 9.

(I want to go ahead and point out the author is a friend of mine. I was a PTG Kickstarter backer and I did a little editing work for the book. And I'm interested in doing some publishable work for this game in the future. But I wasn't part of the game's creative process, so all the things in the book are Eloy's ideas and not mine. I'm objective and critical enough that I'm willing to point out issues I had with the game -- and I did. I don't want anyone to worry there is a conflict of interest at work here, but I wanted to point out the relationship in the interest of fair disclosure.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Home

Some fools fight for wealth and glory. These things come and go, and what is valued today will be forgotten tomorrow. Others fight for ideals, and they too are fools... though perhaps of a higher order than those motivated by mere greed. Your ideals and values will change with time, and the less you accomplish in your misguided youth the less you must undo later as a wiser man. Your nation is a foolish thing to fight for, as it will survive you and will not note your passing or sacrifices. Your village may celebrate your name and feed your pride, but it too will persist when you do not, and your name will not be sung long before another comes along and takes your place as “hero.” Your ancestors and orisha reward dutiful service, but they have many other lackeys serving them, and ultimately they shall do just fine without you.

Looking for purpose? Then look at your mother and father; they are whom to which you are most indebted, above kings and divinities. Look at your siblings, cousins and your other family; these are the people that will support you when no others will. Look into the eyes of your children and your wife; there you will find your your greatest strength and purpose. And look at the life you make for your family; there you will find your legacy and true destiny. Your family will appreciate and support you in ways that causes, that other people, that powers from on high never shall. Pursue other things by all means, and go forth and adventure. But do not forget what is truly important in this world. Do not forget the home and family you leave, and to which you must eventually return.

Take the word of a bitter old fool, who once placed his faith in lesser things and now sits alone, in a dwelling empty of home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How Hyena Stole Lion's Spots

Hyena saw Leopard out hunting one day, but almost didn't see him. This is because Leopard had just gotten hunting spots and he blended in with the bushes around him.

Hyena called out. “Say! That is certainly new, Leopard. Where did you get such spots?”

Leopard said, “Bah! Go away, annoying Hyena. You are no friend to me. Why should I tell you?”

But Hyena was persistent, and she kept asking Leopard where to get spots, and he knew he could not hunt until she went away. “Fine!" Leopard said, "I got my hunting spots from Creator, who is giving them to all the cats. I got the biggest and best hunting spots, for I was first in line. Now go away.”

And Hyena did go away, but was jealous. Why did Creator favor the cats with such fine hunting spots? Was Hyena not a hunter too? So she set out to visit Creator and ask for her own spots. On the way she saw Cheetah returning to the plains, herself sporting brand new hunting spots.

“Say! Those sure are nice spots,” said Hyena. “I would like to have some of my own!”

Cheetah said as she walked by, “I am sorry for you, but there is only one set of spots left and those are for Lion. He is last so he will get the smallest spots.”

Small spots or no, Hyena was determined to have them. Then Hyena had an idea. She went to Creator's hut and hid in the bushes outside. 
 
“Who is out there?” asked Creator.

“It is me, Lion. I am here for my hunting spots,” said Hyena.

“You do not sound like Lion,” Creator said.

“My voice is so tired from roaring,” Hyena said.

“Then why do you not come out where I can see you?” asked Creator.

“I am hiding from Rhinoceros, whom I insulted earlier,” said Hyena.

“Then here are your spots.” Creator came out and sprinkled a pot of black night behind the bushes and onto Hyena, then went back into the hut. Hyena slunk off, laughing to herself, adorned with hunting spots and having played a great prank. She passed Lion on the way back. Hyena said nothing when Lion greeted her and commented on her spots, knowing that Lion would be sore with her very soon and wanting to get as far away as she could.

Lion soon arrived at Creator's hut. “Who is out there?” asked Creator.

“It is me, Lion. I am here for my spots,” said Lion.

“I just gave the last set of spots to you. Were you not just here?” Creator asked. Then Lion realized Hyena's trick and roared in anger.

Then Creator said, “All I have left is this lordly mane I was going to give to Hyena.”

“Lordly mane?” Lion asked.

“Yes. When Hyena wears this mane, she will have majesty in the eyes of Man. Further, she will not have to hunt, but instead shall have food brought to her by her mate."

Lion said, “Well, I shall take the mane if you do not mind, so I will not feel I have walked here in vain.” So Creator gave Lion the mane he meant for Hyena, and henceforth Lioness has had to wait on Lion and bring him food. Hyena saw Lion's mane and was jealous, knowing that her trickery had made her a better hunter, but had cost her both a lifestyle of relaxation and Man's respect.

That is where the enmity between Hyena, Lion and Lioness started.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Uncle Auggie's Story Time: the Lesson of Tolerance

Hey there, kiddies, I'm Franco Giovanni, but you can call me "Mister Frankie." (And make sure you get the "mister" bit, okay?) The story for tonight is another one about Uncle Auggie called "The Lesson of Tolerance."

Sit down already, kids. Ya bother me.

Well, as you well know, Uncle Auggie (Augustus Giovanni if you wanna be formal about it) is a friendly, jolly guy; a people person that's not really a person, if you get my drift. He cares about folks, God love 'im, and he teaches others lessons to get them back on the right track. But they're always better for it, and they end up loving Uncle Auggie as much as we do.

Case in point: There was once a very snobby Toreador, Antonia, who thought she was better than everyone else, and she was a total bitch to everybody. Pretty much like everyone from that waste of a clan. She was very rude, and hurt people's feelings. Another mean rude person (and I mean "person" loosely) was this Lupine named Big-Sharp-Teeth that ran around and ate all types of people -- but he especially loved killing "people" like us. Now this wasn't very nice either.

But Uncle Auggie is like Santa; he knows who's naughty and who's nice... and he knows who ain't listening, so pay fucking attention! Anyways, he found out about Antonia and Big-Sharp-Teeth, and Uncle Auggie decided to teach them to be friendly to other folks.

So Uncle Auggie tricked Antonia by inviting her to a social function. He invited Big-Sharp-Teeth too, but the damned wolfie ate the messenger and couldn't read the note anyways. (This is why dogs chase mailmen these days, you see? The war between canines and message-bearers started there.) Anyways, back on topic, so Uncle Auggie had to go and drag Big-Sharp-Teeth back himself -- and you know that silly werewolf tried to eat Uncle Auggie! But Uncle Auggie is quick and strong, and he bound that critter up quick.

When Antonia and Big-Sharp-Teeth were both in front of him, Uncle Auggie said, "Now you both of you have been really rude to people. So I'm going to teach you a lesson!"

And then Uncle Auggie called on the magic that he learned from the friendly ghosts! (You didn't know he had magic? Oh boy, does he ever!) He switched the spirits and minds of the two troublemakers, putting Antonia's mind into Big-Sharp-Teeth's body, and what passed for the werewolf's mind into Antonia's body. Then Uncle Auggie launches them right out of his cottage with a mighty throw, so they can go and learn their lessons.

Now Antonia, inside the big smelly, hairy werewolf body, tried to get back into her estate. The ghoul doormen didn't recognize her, but she managed to eat both of 'em and get inside. A Toreador party was going on, and she tried to hob-nob and talk and pose and plot. But no one would talk to her hairy, smelly ass. So she burst into tears and ran back into the woods.

Meanwhile, the Lupine inside Antonia's body was having no luck hunting. Big-Sharp-Teeth was fast enough to run down deer, but he didn't have the claws and muscles to bring 'em down. He met his werewolf pack, and said, "Hi! It am me, Big-Sharp-Teeth! We hunt two-legs and leeches together! Wait... why you growl at me like that...?" Wow, that Lupine sure was surprised! He barely got away -- thank goodness Antonia's body could run so fast.

Uncle Auggie met Antonia and Big-Sharp-Teeth in the woods, both pissed to the gills and about to kill each other. But Uncle Auggie sat on a stump, and he says to them, "Come, sit on my lap." And they obeyed Uncle Auggie, because, well, no one disobeys him, capice? And he put his fatherly arms around their shoulders and asked, "Well, what have we learned today?"

Antonia (in Big-Sharp-Teeth's body): "I guess I learned that it's not nice to snub other people."

"Big-Sharp-Teeth (in Antonia's body): "Um... me learn it not good to eat those different than you."

Uncle Auggie was so proud, he cried tears of joy! He switched their souls back the way they were supposed to be, and they carried the lesson they learned with them the rest of their lives.

And if you know what's good for ya, ya little bastards, you'll be good too. You don't want Uncle Auggie to rip your souls out o' your little bodies and switch 'em around, do ya? No, I didn't think so.

So until the next Story Time, this is Mister Frankie signing off! Next time: Uncle Auggie and the Angry Ghost. Whoo-boy, that promises to be a scaaaaaary tale!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Dickwolf Debacle


Penny Arcade is a site that features (among other things) a web comic. They're hit and miss in the funny department, in my opinion, but it's generally mildly amusing and has a lot of geek "in-jokes," many of which even I don't get. Well, last year they made a strip called The Sixth Slave that treats rape in an offhanded manner -- seen above -- and even made t-shirts about it. And there's been a whole lot of controversy about it since, since a lot of people (rightly) don't think rape is that funny.

This issue has hit home for me for reasons I'll explain, so I thought I'd post my perspective on it. For those that don't like disturbing content, you have an opportunity to not read this and go do something else. Read at your own risk.

What follows might be total overshare, but here goes. I feel this is necessary so I can explain where I'm coming from on the issue. I had unpleasant contact with men twice as a child. And at 19 I was cornered in the shower room of a mental institution once (where I checked myself in for what I thought was "depression" but was probably late onset teenage angst). One guy played lookout, while the other guy played the role of "dickwolf." It tore me up pretty bad for a while, emotionally and mentally and even physically. For about a year or so after I was scared of other men and didn't want to be alone with them. I'm a lot better now. I still don't like thinking about it, and sometimes I'll flash back to the event but that's rare. But rape scenes in movies disturbs me greatly, and I once flipped right the fuck out while watching a scene from A Time To Kill (the one with the two cave apes attacking the girl). Which greatly disturbed my wife at the time, lemme tell you.

Anyway, sorry for the trip down memory lane. Not making this all about me or crying for attention, just framing my perspective on this matter. My past experiences have helped shape how I perceive the issue of sexual assault now. Not so much so I can claim to speak with authority, but so I don't come across as some random schmuck that hasn't put thought into the issue.

And my thought on rape is this: I hate rape and the people that practice it. I think the crime should be punishable by death. Period. Rapists can't be rehabilitated and don't deserve it anyway.

That said, the comic doesn't disturb me; I feel bad for that guy, but that's all. I mean, it doesn't celebrate rape or anything. I didn't even focus on the "rape joke" when I first read it last year. I got what that strip was about: the absurd logic that drives video games. Had the slave said "We're beaten into unconsciousness by dickwolves every night," it would have saved a whole lot of controversy and still would have been funny. And yeah, I'm saying it's funny: not for the rape reference, but for the larger joke the strip makes.

I guess I'm inured to the subject to an extent though. Part of it are the constant buggery references thrown around by a lot of men I've hung out with or worked with. I couldn't function around a lot of those guys if I was that upset by the issue, or couldn't roll with the tastelessness or kid back. (You women probably have no idea just how common rape humor is among men. It can get pretty bad.) Hell, humor even helps me -- I've made jokes about what happened to me, whined about how the guy didn't even buy me flowers and all. That disarms the assault, reduces the power it has over on me, and it has helped me heal in a weird way. I don't make light of others' experiences, mind you, just my own. (Well, mine and that of some child molester getting what he gave now that he's locked up. I can't be asked to feel bad for subhumanity, after all.)

I'm not saying people are wrong to be offended by this, or they're overreacting or anything. Not at all. People deal with this issue in their own ways, and everyone has a right to feel how they feel on the issue. But I've dealt with sexual assault on a personal level, and even as emotionally volatile as I can be at times, somehow I'm able to not freak out when the subject comes up -- whether it's a news report, tasteless joke, fictional account or whatever.

Anyway. My two cents. Again, sorry if anything in that disturbs or offends any of you. That's not my intent.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Marvel Comics Rant (Triggered By Nothing In Particular)


I think reached my breaking point with Marvel about fifteen to twenty years ago. (Movies aside, many of which I like. I'm talking about the comics themselves.) I was an avid and exclusive Marvel Comics collector for years... then I just stopped. It was a matter of finances, as well getting fed up with all the bloat. But had the comic habit been worth it to me I'd have found a way to keep buying.

When I try to think of specific reasons I just said "Screw it," one thing that comes to mind is Wolverine
Burnout. For a while Wolverine, despite appearing in his own titles and the multitude of X-Men titles they had going at the time, somehow made time to make guest appearances in every other issue of every other comic Marvel put out. I exaggerate, yes, but only slightly. I burnt out on the heavily cliched gruff antihero, and because there was no way I could seek refuge from the Marvel's bottom ho while still reading Marvel comics, I think I simply chose to stop reading. (And what's sad, from what I can tell with my furtive flirtations with Marvel comics in the comics stores or from my friends' collections, I don't think they ever stopped doing that.)

I'd bitch about X-Men in general, except I never bought into their hype. The comics, anyway. Conceptually, they were cool. But the comics I read were largely jumbled messes, and you had to be familiar with their backstory (convoluted even by Marvel standards) and the double handful of tie-in series they had going to follow what was going on.


Of course there was all the silly stuff they did to Spider-Man, my fave; another thing that made me throw my hands up and made me want to be done with it all. Of course, I see Marvel's logic in this. (Because when you have a good thing, a character beloved by millions, why not go the George Lucas route and fuck it? Fuck it 'til it cries, fuck it 'til the voiced outrage of a world of Spidey fanboys shakes the heavens, keep fucking it 'til it's dead, bring it back with defibrillator paddles and then fuck it some more, fuck it until you have to register on every sex crimes database in the Western Hemisphere... but you still get to fuck it because it's your bitch, right?) Marvel whored Spider-Man out as much as they did Wolverine, and they still do. "Wait, sales of The Toad flagging? And we've used Wolverine in the last two issues? Hmmm... Let's throw in Spidey!" I think Peter was on his third or so existential "But I don't wanna be Spider-Man waaaah!" 
crisis when I just stopped caring if he did.


Maybe I shouldn't have though, since Marvel has cleaned up its act and haven't done bad by their flagship hero since then. (Well, except for making Peter Parker a clone of the real Spider-Man... except oh wait he's not a clone the original is actually the clone we were just kidding LOLs! Or the approximate twenty-three goddamned iterations of Venom, each more fucked up than the last, making the original Black Costume the AIDS of the Marvel Universe that just keeps infecting people at an exponential rate until the world is nothing but psychopathic symbiotes. And then Peter revealing his secret identity on national TV. And then trading his wife Mary Jane to Mephisto for Aunt May or maybe stimulus money, or some bullshit like that. Other than just that, they've done right by Spidey.)

I'm not bitter or anything. Really, I'm not. I've moved on with DC. We're happy so far, but nothing serious, I see other comics and it's all good. I wish the whor-- er, I wish Marvel all the best.
But hey, at least Marvel has made some good movies lately. Right?