Saturday, January 23, 2010

My new favorite old comic may be my next RPG campaign

Ok really the comic isn't necessarily old, but Femforce,  published by AC comics, is the longest running all female team comic, since 1985, that I know.
I use to pick this book up back when I was a kid, but as I got older, got a job, had a family and the cost of comics went up, it was one of the books that got cut from my monthly purchases. Other than the occasional issues I came across over the years, I haven't read the book regularly in well over a decade. I actually thought it was canceled long ago. Last year I noticed a current issue on the shelf of my comic shop and I asked the owner to pull me an issue and I'm glad I did.
Is Femforce a groundbreaking and thought provoking title? Honestly no, but it sure is enjoyable. Reading through an issue of Femforce reminds me why I started reading comics in the first place. The book is just fun and I don't mean that in the "ha ha ha" sense, I mean that when I'm done reading an issue I don't feel bogged down by heavy continuity or preachy stories. Granted there is continuity, but unlike some comics, that I will be X-tremely careful not to MENtion,  I don't feel completely lost when I pick up an issue whether it is current or from 5 years ago. I like the simple nature of the book.
Featuring what is referred to as "good girl" art, the all girl team is full of scantily clad, well developed babes, but they are not defined by their looks. The characters are competent and capable heroes. Their sexuality is not hidden, but it doesn't define the characters. They are not a bunch of sex starved, vixens. The sex in the book reminds me of something from the 50's. You know what's happening, but you don't see it.
     However the comic is a flip book with the comic Gargantarama on the flip side of the book. Gargantarama has a bit more sexual overtone than the FemForce feature. Women growing into giants tend to rip clothes, but there is no actual nudity that I've seen, just very little clothing. Of course I think that is the nature of the comics in Gargantarama, giant women are suppose to be sexy. I won't deny that this isn't my favorite part of the book, but some of the stories are kind of entertaining.
The tone of the book is light, meaning that they don't go around constantly killing villains or using curse words in every sentence, though there are a few mild ones at times. The stories occasionally contain political or social issues, but they don't beat you over the head with the messages. Over all the book is very much what I loved about 80's comic as a kid, but with current stories.
I recommend this to everyone who wants a comic that is just entertaining to read. Besides with the rise of retro-gaming I don't see why retro-comics can't gain in popularity. Some may argue that if I want retro-comics I should just go buy Gold or Silver age comics, but that's not the point. I want the feel of an older comic, but without having to drudge through a story that feels like it was written for a 5 year old.Many of those older books they feel like they were written by a 5 year old. Besides most are incredibly outdated. That's one of the reasons I like Femforce, the old feeling with new stories.
The books is mature enough for an adult but not so mature that you couldn't let your tween(10-12 yr old) read it. The writing in Femforce is "simple" meaning that the stories are not overly complex, they are basic superhero fare, but are not childishly simple. 
Since I've already mentioned, in a previous post, my new obsession with old school superhero rpgs, I don't think that it should be a surprise that I plan to run a Femforce campaign. I haven't decided if I will use Villains & Vigilantes, DC Heroes or even Marvel Superheroes. Personally I think V&V would be the better choice.
However, I have also recently been reading a lot of Truth and Justice and BASH!(you got this if you bought the Helping Hati megabundle at RPGNow). Both are simple little systems that could easily be used for my planned campaign, but honestly I'm more torn between using V&V or T&J than anything else. I'm sure there are people that would say I'd be better off using Savage Worlds Super Powers, Mutants & Masterminds or even Silver Age Sentinels for my FemForce game, but I don't think so.
First of all Savage Worlds just doesn't feel like a superhero game to me. Granted I am not that familiar with the game, having just bought it recently, but I don't think it suites my needs. Besides I don't have the Super Powers supplement anyway.
Mutants & Masterminds is the obvious best choice, as it is probably the best selling superhero rpgs out right now, but it doesn't have the simplicity I want for my game. The simplicity requirement is also what took Champions(Hero System), and Heroes Unlimted out of the running.  Silver Age Sentinels (d20 or tri-stat) would also be good choices, but still not as simple and fast as I want. Honestly the d20 version, while playable, is far inferior to M&M or the Tri-stat version of SAS. At least in my opinion.
So right now that is where my mind is regarding which system and why. When it comes to supers games I am completely enamored with V&V and T&J at the moment. Honestly, I'm usually the type to shy away from smaller press games, which I find tend to be amateurish at best, but Truth & Justice has been a pleasant surprise. From my reading it seems to be a damn good, yet simple system that captures the feel of a comic. But to me so does V&V.
My first dilemma is deciding whether I want to use V&V because it actually is a game from the time period I want to capture the feel of or because it is the best system for the campaign I want to run. My second dilemma, and the most minor, will be stating up all the FemForce characters I plan to use in my game. If anyone knows of a site with pre-gen stats for these characters in one of my preferred systems post a comment.
My third dilemma is going to be convincing my group, currently comprised of all males (ages 12-36) to play an all female team in a mature fashion. Ok maybe I'm setting my sites a little too high, as long as they will agree to at least play a female character I can work on the "mature" part as we go along and they get use to the idea.
Like I said this is where I am at the moment, in the early planning stages. I have the feel I want for my game, I'm going to try to expand my groups playing skills beyond all male macho stereotypes, and I have an idea of what direction I want for the campaign. Now is the hard part, deciding which system to use.
I'm going to spend the next few weeks rereading the two systems. I'll stat up a few FemForce characters, in each, go over combat rules and hopefully make a decision by the end of February. That's usually when our winter break ends and we start fitting in an occasional game until spring hits and we get back on schedule.
I'll keep you posted.

*Support the small press comic book publishers.*
The recent changes that Diamond Distribution has made are apparently having a sever impact on all comic publishers, but small press in particular. I'm not going to try and go into the details of the changes here, you can find tons of info and articles about it on the web. My point is that small publishers such as AC comics will probably be harder to find in your FLCGS. Readers are going to have a harder time finding their favorite small press books, unless they go directly to the publisher's website. Some may even disappear completely.
While I may not have always been a big supporter of small press rpg companies I am coming around, but I have always been a supporter of small press comics. I know that I have whined and complained about pdf versions of both rpgs and comics over the years, but I am looking at digital versions more and more these days. I hope that smaller companies, like AC Comics, are doing the same thing. I'd love to see the title continue and I will buy all the issues directly from the site or as pdfs if necessary.
I still prefer reading hard copies of my books and fortunately I have the capability to print them at this time. If I didn't my opinion would likely change again. Despite my dislike of digital versions, I have to admit that I never would have discovered some of my new favorite rpgs and comics if not for RPGNow and DriveThruComics. Plus I have to admit the cheaper price is a big motivational factor in my purchasing decisions and pdf/digital copies are usually much cheaper than their print counterparts.
The point to all my rambling is directed towards the comic book fans in the rpg community. You could do a lot worse than try a few extra small press books.
Femforce may not appeal to you, but there is also the Champions line or Flare from Heroic Publishing that are available in comics shops(for now), at the publishers website or at DriveThruComics. Champions is another comic with that retro feel that I read regularly. Heroic Publishing has several titles other than Champions and Flare (League of Champions, Anthem), but since I have yet to read them I can not give any details about those titles. Some of the other digital comic books I'm reading are The Uniques and issues of Crusade Comics' Shi that I either missed, never got around to, or lost track of over the years.
Help support the small press comics in the same way many gamers support the small press RPGs. If you are willing to buy a pdf RPG for $20, you can buy about 20 copies of some digital comics for the same money.

I've been communicating with Mr. Heike of AC Comics about the book and the impact the changes in Diamond policy will have. I've mentioned that I'd be willing to support Femforce by subscribing , but there is no subscription. I was told that if enough people would go to the site and contact them about opening up subscriptions to the public, they would be happy to create a subscription program. If not you should continue buying the book from their site or just pre-order at your local comic shop..

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paizo's Mutants & Megasale

I was checking out some stuff on Paizo's website when I noticed that they were offering some Mutants & Masterminds products for up to 50% off. The prices aren't quite as great as the RPGNow sale that ended recently, but there are still some damn good deals to be had.

My personal favorite is the Pocket Player's guide for $11.97. I'm very particular about keeping my books in good condition and unfortunately most of the people I have ever gamed with do not share this view. It seems especially true when they are handling my books. That is why I keep one of these on hand, so my main rule book doesn't get ruined. I only wish more publishers offered these cheaper, yet very useful pocket guides.

My other personal recommendations are the Golden Age sourcebook, The Book of Magic and Ultimate Power pocket guide. All of these are under $20 and the Ultimate Power pocket guide is as great to have around as the Pocket Player's guide.

The Green Ronin Mutants&Masterminds sale ends February  18, 2010  so check it out while the deals last.

Marvel's Dick Move

DCs recent Blackest Night colored ring promotion did exactly what it was meant to do. It boosted sales of the company's books, and in the process knocked some of Marvel's books from their normal place on the top of the sale's charts. Marvel apparently did not take it well.

 In retaliation, though they claim it is a good will gesture to retailers, Marvel has offered to give 1 copy of the Siege, Marvel's new event mini-series, issue #3 with the Deadpool variant cover to retailers for every 50 covers they send in from the Blackest Night tie-in books.  According to the articles I've seen on Newsarama, Comic Related, Cosmic Book News and CBR, as well as numerous message board postings, retailers have mixed feelings about this move.
Some retailers have posted that they agree with me, this is a dick move by the Mighty Marvel and have no intention of participating. Some say they simply don't have enough of the BN tie-ins to qualify, but would if they could. Others, who were stuck with too many Blackest Night tie-ins, are happy to rip those covers and receive their variant from Marvel. According to some of the retailers I've spoken with they would have to sell the Siege variant for $200 to break even.  To be honest I have not and do not intend to read Siege but all of the feedback that I've heard about Siege has been negative. What I don't understand is why would anyone want a $200 variant for a book that sucks according to many fans? I guess they wouldn't offer it if they didn't think someone was dumb enough to pay it.
Personally I think that this is not only a dick move by Marvel, but in very poor taste. I'm all for competition between the two companies, after all their goal is to sell the most books, plus the fans enjoy it. I just think that openly taking cheap shots at the other company is tacky. Some fans may favor one company over the other, but most of us enjoy characters from both and often include Marvel and DC comics/characters among our top 10 favorites. We tend to feel a connection to both companies and seeing one act "unsportsmanlike" kind of lessens our view of the offender.
Marvel seems to come off as a spoiled diva that can't take temporarily losing a couple of spots with grace. Seriously I love DC, but everyone knows Marvel is the bigger seller and will be again. Fans want the competition to continue between the two, but not in the same under handed mudslinging manner we tolerate from  politicians. Personally I want them to compete for our dollars by trying to tell the best stories possible. That way whoever ends up in the top spot, deserves the position.
I'm not big on variant covers and honestly don't give the value of my comics a great deal of thought. I buy them to read and if one day they put my grand kids or great-grand kids through college that's super. Until that day, and unless I get my hands on Action #1 or a similar rare book, I don't give a shit about 99% of the variants produced or the "value" of my comics. The true value of my comics is that I enjoy them. I'm not really a collector, I'm a fan who owns a lot of comics.
So as far as I am concerned, I'll keep my multi-colored rings (I'm only missing blue and red) and all the BN books I bought. You can take your variant and shove it.

*Here is where I interrupt this post to insert my own little side rant. I'm just on a roll and didn't feel like making a new post.*

Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I am a much bigger fan of DC comics than of Marvel. That being said I like Joe Q and think he has done some really great things at the big M. 10 years ago I may have read 1 maybe 2 Marvel books per month and now I regularly enjoy about 6. That may not seem like much, but considering my 20 DC books, and my couple of independent books per month, making room for 6 Marvel books in my budget is a big deal. Also note that I didn't just say I read the books, I said I enjoy the books, which is something I haven't been able to say about Marvel in a very long time.

Granted I think the current developments in Spiderman's comics is beyond ridiculous, though I do hear the stories are good, I just don't care. Marvel has frakked with everyone's favorite webslinger so much over the years (yes I was a Scarlet Spider fan and hold a grudge) I can't bring my self to read his book(s). However, Capt. America, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova and Moon Knight absolutely kick ass. Ms. Marvel, Iron Fist, Daredevil and New Avengers were on that list but lost their momentum, for me at least, so I dropped them.
I just hope that the idea and approval for Marvel's Siege variant offer was solely the responsibility of marketing or some other corporate department filled with suits that have nothing to do with creating comics. I also hope that Joe Q had nothing to do with this or I will lose a great deal of respect for the man. Given some of the stories I've heard about Didio, from fans and comics pros, I would expect something like this from him.
 Though to be honest I do not know that man, and while I do not agree with a great many of the editorial decisions at DC, I have had no direct contact with the man and can not personally speak about his character. I just hope that DC decides to take the high road and not stoop to Marvel's level.