Thoughts on Booster Gold and Geoff Johns

Posted by Jer at 9:22 AM on Monday, August 11, 2008

So slugboy lent me the first new Booster Gold collection 52 Pickup over the weekend. I finished it up and have a few thoughts - with spoilers for those who haven't read it yet:

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As I mentioned to slugboy via e-mail, it started out pretty good. For a while, Johns tricked me into thinking that maybe the writer of "Stars and STRIPE" had returned to give us a nice, fun action-adventure time travel comic book - without his usual injection of "pointless angst" to mess with the fun. Booster flits around time righting things that others have set wrong - kind of a superhero "Quantum Leap" or maybe "Peabody and Sherman" given his team-up with Rip Hunter. And for the first part of the book things are actually great - Johns has Booster be both creative and relatively "grown-up" about his predicament as the guy who no one can know is really a hero.

And then Johns has Rip Hunter torture one of his enemies for information. There we go - that's the Geoff Johns I was expecting. Let's inject some pointless angst into this nice action-adventure comic, shall we?

After that, I started to lose interest in the story. I started looking at everything with a cynical eye, suspecting that every plot turn is just another way for Johns to set up his characters for failure. I have no faith that the "happy ending" at the end of the book is anything but Johns setting up a more extended version of the "lesson" that Rip Hunter taught Booster Gold about the impossibility of changing history. I'm also fairly certain that "Future Beetle" will turn out to be a villain who has manipulated Booster into setting up something bad that will enable the Future Beetle to take over the universe or something. And I haven't poked around the Internets for spoilers, so as far as I know this may already have happened in the monthly title.

So that's that - if slugboy snags the next collection from Half-Price Books I'll probably read it, but this didn't do anything to convince me that I needed to start picking up the monthly series myself. And it unfortunately reminded me of why I have a negative reaction whenever people start talking about Geoff Johns - he's a decent writer, but his incessant need to throw his characters into pointlessly angsty situations just drives me batty.

One final observation - the premise of the series has a definite piece of "fridge logic" that jumped out at me about a day after I finished the book. Booster has to be an ineffectual superhero because Rip tells him that if anyone knows that he's actually responsible for saving the world, his enemies will be able to hunt him down in the timestream and kill him as a baby to stop him. Fair enough. But then Booster continues to fight time-travelling baddies as Booster Gold. And he's effective at it. Which means that the guys who he most needs to fool into thinking he's an ineffectual doofus are the ones who know that it's just an act. It would have made more sense if Rip had had Booster use his doofus-hero identity as his "secret identity" and then use the persona of Supernova when he's battling baddies in the time stream. Not a huge deal, but it is a bit weird when you stop to think about it.

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Comics pros can do fanboy speculation too

Posted by Jer at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Well that was a long hiatus. I had intended to do more writing here, but life just kind of overtook things. I'm going to try to get into the habit of posting at least once a week, if only to save my poor friends from the deluge of e-mail about random thoughts that they've been getting from me lately...

Anyway, over here at MTV's splashpage, we see evidence that comic book creators are fanboys too. Various DC comics folks are asked to suggest villains for the next Batman movie. There are a few interesting ideas in there. If Tim Sale's art weren't already enough to get me to buy his books, this quote alone probably would be making me reconsider:

“[Catwoman]’s such a powerful and sexual and strong woman, and I like that. But god, I hope not as Frank Miller’s version of her as a prostitute. That’s the worst part of ‘Year One.’ That’s just Frank trying to be outrageous. It didn’t ring remotely true to me.”

Personally, I have a few ideas about who shouldn't be in the next movie, but they involve some spoilers for "The Dark Knight"...

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There seems to be a lot of support for Catwoman in the next movie. I'm not so sure that's a great idea. The Catwoman/Batman dynamic is at its core a love story. Introducing a new love interest so soon after the death of Rachel Dawes in "The Dark Knight" just doesn't seem right - to have him move on so soon would make the events of "The Dark Knight" seem kind of shallow.

What's more, the current Batman incarnation seems to almost be as much about Gotham as it is about Batman or his villains. Gotham is a major character here - moreso than in any of the previous films. Catwoman isn't the kind of villain that would really make an impact on Gotham, so either the focus would have to change away from Gotham to a much more personal story, or she'd have to be paired with another villain and we'd end up with two different stories working simultaneously. This could work and it could be wonderful. It could also fall flat on its face and become a confusing mess.

Logically, the end of "The Dark Knight" leaves a power vacuum in Gotham among the criminals. It would make sense if the next movie had someone moving in to fill that vacuum. Unfortunately, among the list of flashy Batman villains, few of them are actually credible mob bosses. They either need to be sane, or at least insane in a way that doesn't impair their ability to organize and control a mob racket. Penguin fits the bill, but he's a bit of a joke character. I could see it working pretty well, but you definitely have to write him differently than he has been written in the comics or the animated series. Scarface and the Ventriloquist would work quite nicely - he's not sane, but his particular insanity makes for a good mob boss. Again, though, you have to worry about threading that needle to make sure he doesn't come across as a joke.

I think Poison Ivy could work in this context fairly well - again, given a rewrite to make her fit the setting a bit better. You'd need to eliminate her superpowers and make her more of a poisoner than a supervillain, but it could work.

One character that I don't see mentioned much is Talia - the daughter of Ra's al Ghul. I think she could be a great character to bring in to close out a "trilogy". She's a great character, you can easily make the story not one of romance but of revenge, and you can continue the story of the redemption of Gotham with her pretty easily. You'd definitely want to include another character with her, but unlike with Catwoman it would be relatively easy to have just about anyone working as her underling (the way Scarecrow was working for Ra's in the first movie).

Overall, I think there's a lot of potential for this franchise right now. I'd just be very leery of them introducing Catwoman into the story at this point - no matter what the other fans are saying right now.

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RIP: Gary Gygax

Posted by Jer at 10:45 AM on Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Reports are trickling in through various fan sites and blogs that Gary Gygax passed away last night at the age of 69. I knew he'd been in bad health, but this still feels like it comes out of nowhere.

I never got to meet the man personally, but the game he created impacted my childhood and teenage years in so many ways that I can't even begin to imagine what I'd be like as a person without it. I was an extremely introverted kid, and I've never been the kind of person who makes friends easily. Playing Dungeons and Dragons actually helped me build those interpersonal skills that so many folks take for granted because, really, once you've had to play the role of an elven princess for a group of people you see every day, how much more embarrassment can life really hold for you?

And we're still playing the game he created all these years later (even if it has been updated and altered many times over the decades). And I know it's a game that I'll be playing even into my old age - I plan to be the guy at the Senior Center with the bag of dice and the Player's Handbook trying to get the other old coots to roll up some characters and do some dungeon crawlin'. So I feel like I owe Gary Gygax quite a bit, and I hope he rests in peace with the knowledge that he brought some joy into the world.

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Posted by Jer at 5:44 AM on Thursday, January 31, 2008

I've placed a few new links in the sidebar - mostly gaming related. I've been posting mostly about gaming here recently and I realized that a lot of the sites I visit semi-regularly aren't over on the sidebar. So there you go.

EDIT: I can't believe I forgot to add Jeff's Gameblog - the only link in the "Gaming" section that, you know, actually appears in my RSS feed. I plead "senior moment" on this one.

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Total. Nerd. Collision.

Posted by Jer at 7:21 PM on Monday, January 28, 2008

So I happened to be reading enWorld this evening - checking out the front page as I often do - and I saw some summaries of playtests for the new 4e D&D posted. One of these was from Ari Marmell - a freelance D&D writer whose opinion I've come to respect on enWorld, if not always agree with. He has some interesting things to say about the new edition speaking as a playtester and, if even half of his reports on the new edition hold true it sounds like it will be a great upgrade.

Then I saw the next playtest report. A guy named John Rogers who I've not seen around enWorld. I mean, the name John Rogers is familiar - writers of DC's "Blue Beetle" comic (possibly the best superhero book DC is publishing right now - or at the very least in the top 3), writer of television, and general observer of politics and popular culture over at his blog Kung-fu Monkey. But that's not...

Wait - it IS the same John Rogers?

And that's when my head exploded in a convergence of nerdity. A total nerdshift - a "nerdularity" if you will.

And if even half of Rogers's claims about the system are true then 4e just moved from a "curiosity that I'll need to check out" to a "must upgrade" for me:

Less prep time for the DM, with no loss of versatility in combat, and plenty of added value and unexpected strategies. Monster design is superior for what I need, which is versatility in the service of storytelling. Trap design in particular made me want to kiss Dave Noonan on the mouth. While roleplaying, we had more freedom, because when you actually need a roll in the roleplaying you're working off a cleaner system, rather than page-hunting for one of the independently designed subsystems.

That, combined with my recent perusal of the "Worlds and Monsters" Preview Book now has me officially excited for 4e. Which sucks. Because word just came out that Wizards is taking over Heroscape and will be releasing the highly anticipated next wave of figures in ... June. And since Wizards is targetting the small game stores they probably WILL hit the shelves in June too - unlike previous Waves which took a while to move from distribution to the shelves at Target.

Budgets suck. But I'm certainly not going to complain that a game company is selling "too much fun", so I'l just have to budget my fun in accordingly. At least this summer won't be boring.

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D&D Fourth Edition - Elves

Posted by Jer at 7:24 AM on Wednesday, January 02, 2008

So apparently during the Christmas holiday Wizards posted an article about the new 4e Elves over on their website. Since that link requires an account, here's a brief summary of what the new elves look like:

Elf - Racial Traits
Average Height: 5' 7"-6' 0"
Average Weight: 100-130 lb.
Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom
Size: Medium
Speed: 7 squares
Vision: Low-light

Languages: Common, Elven
Skill Bonuses: +2 Nature, +2 Perception

Elven Weapon Training: You gain proficiency with the longbow and the shortbow.
Wild Step: You ignore difficult terrain when you shift (even if you have a power that allows you to shift multiple squares).
Group Awareness: You grant non-elf allies within 5 squares a +1 racial bonus to Perception checks.
Elven Accuracy: You can use elven accuracy as an encounter power. Reroll an attack roll. Use the second roll, even if it's lower.

Wild Step, Group Awareness, and Elven Accuracy made me think "hey - they're making the game more like Heroscape." This impression is only enhanced by the Speed being given in "squares" instead of feet. Generally, I like the approach though it slides D&D one step closer towards being a "miniatures game with roleplaying" instead of a "roleplaying game with miniatures". As I've said before, I have no intention of jumping to 4e anytime soon, but these previews do pique my interest.

(Also I quite like the fact that they've eliminated racial penalties for attributes. As long as they balance things appropriately this is a good thing. I'm curious to see what kinds of perks the humans get since they don't generally get ability bonuses though.)

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Posted by Jer at 5:38 AM on Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dorian has posted something that screams awesomeness.

Go look.

This is nearly as fun as LOLTrek, and quite possibly more geeky...

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