Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #22


I have been making an effort to keep these Doc Savage reviews mostly spoiler free, however, this particular story demands to have the details discussed, so if you have not read "The Annihilist" and are planning to ever do so - DON'T READ the part of this article AFTER THE JUMP -  go read this supersaga because it deals directly with issues at the core of Doc Savage, those of the mysterious place in upstate New York, Doc's 'college.'

This adventure has Doc, his cousin Pat, Monk, Ham and Renny appearing. Long Tom is in Chicago and Johnny is filling in for the Natural Science chair at a famous university - one that is unnamed.

One of the issues discussed is that it would be very bad for Doc to have the existence of the college revealed. What he is doing is illegal and possibly immoral, but Doc feels that it is worth it to put men back on the street, not cost the state money, their past beyond their memory, and with skills to make an honest living.

I don't think I read this book back in the day, but I purchased the Bantam #31, December 1968 first edition (cover price .50) for $2.50 at some point in my youth. The pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the paperback is a brilliant piece by James Bama. I give "The Annihilist" a 9 out of 10 - mainly for the insight into Doc's college, but also for some great action sequences and story points.

Read Spoilers and more after the jump.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - The Bat Man Pt 1

It's Batman week on your favorite Tannhäuser blogs. Miah and I are both doing our takes on the Dark Knight Detective. Miah did some beautiful work on the Bruce Wayne card and tokens shown here, but he wanted to go a different direction with the character, so he's making his own. Why two versions? Why not?

Seriously, there have been many versions of Batman. My interpretation is based on the idea that The Bat Man does not kill. That is what separates him from the evil in the world. The Bat Man's  Special Object Token is Code Against Killing.

I chose this figure of Batman because it is period looking and he is just plain bad-ass. There are many Batman Heroclix figures, so there may be one that you like better. This is the Batman Dark Knight #223 Unique Le WWLA Con Exclusive Heroclix. Troll and Toad via Amazon has it for less than 4 bucks shipped. He was rebased.
I think Miah's will be more... lethal. Look for it here.


That's it for today. The Full-Page Character sheet will come next week with the descriptions of all the tokens.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Indiana Jones Complete

Normally, I like to use prepainted minis for my custom characters, but sometimes I make exceptions. Doc Savage, for instance. And today's subject, Indiana Jones. What needs to be said about the most popular pulp and movie serial based character for today's audiences. If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones. Or so the trailer for Temple of Doom said.

Unfortunately, there are no Indiana Jones Heroclix. Thankfully Reaper Miniatures makes a line of figures called, Chronoscope. One of the first figures in that line was Jack Harrison. He comes with multiple arms and heads and fills the bill.

However, Jack/Indy must be painted. This would take a normal minis painter 3 or 4 sessions to finish. Me, over 2 years. There was a long break in there, though. I have made two of them; one with the whip and one with a machete. 

I will probably base one for Tannhäuser and one for Heroscape. These are almost done, they just need a few finishing touches and their bases fixed up.

Indiana Jones Tannhäuser Character Sheet
Indiana Jones Tannhäuser Reference Page
Indiana Jones Tannhäuser Tokens

I think Miah did a great job on the graphics for this set. Visit his blog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #21

The Sea Magician - November 1934

Well, in the last installment, William Harper Littlejohn - Johnny - was off stage in England and that is where this adventure begins. Johnny takes some time out from his lecture series to investigate a murder said to be caused by King John's ghost.

Well, as we can all imagine, it is not a ghost at all and there is another nefarious scheme afoot. Doc Savage, Monk, and Ham arrive on a steamer (why they didn't take a superfast plane I don't know) and the mystery expands to an island off the coast of England that is a soverign nation. A scientist has figured out a method of extracting gold from sea water and is raising money to further the project.

There is also a girl - the inventor's daughter - that is beautiful and strangely gets herself in trouble. Johnny gets in trouble, too. Oh, and people complain about taxes. 

There is a nice bit where one of the crooks describes seeing an old friend that had tangled with Doc and that he was now "as honest as they come." I guess that friend visited one of Doc's crime colleges.

Chris Kalb's 86th Floor website also has some of the other features from the pulp magazines. Here are a few letters to the editors from this issue.

DENVER GREEN, West Virginia.       I have read your magazine from Volume 1, Number 1, the very first issue, and I think that it is the very best magazine on the market to-day regardless of price or size. It combines clean, wholesome literature with the zip and tang of action and adventure. It's hard to express the kind of satisfaction I feel when I settle into a chair and open the latest issue of your magazine. It's sort of a floating-on-air feeling. I don't have to tell the salesman at our nearest bookstore what magazine I want when I walk in. All I do is whistle and he hands me the newest Doc Savage. I've converted several of my friends to your magazine, too.      I enclose my membership blank, please enroll me as a member of your club. I am hoping it will turn out up to my expectations. Yours is the only magazine club I ever joined. On the whole, your magazine is the best magazine in the good old U. S. A.

MISS E. GIBBONS, MISS M. SCOTLAND, Canada.      May two girls tell you how much they enjoy your magazine and hope to enjoy the Doc Savage Club if you will let us? The stories about Doc are very educational as well as interesting, so we wish you plenty of luck, and hope you continue the good work.

HECTOR R. ANTON, California.      I am sending in my application in order to join your club. I have been reading your magazine, and think it is one of the best in the market. I am only a boy of fourteen but, nevertheless, I want to join your club because I feel that now is the time to build up my ideals. If every young boy or girl joined and followed Doc Savage's creed, I think there would be less of the crime committed by minors and young men and women. I hope my application will be accepted. I am eagerly awaiting my membership card and pin.   

I read my Bantam paperback #44 1st Edition, January 1970 for this review. I'll give The Sea Magician a 7 out of 10. The action is pretty good and it is nice to not have Habeas Corpus around this time. 

The Pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer, the interior illustrations (also from the 86th Floor site) are by Paul Orban. The Bantam cover is by James Bama.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Robin Hood: King of Sherwood

Robin Hood: King of Sherwood
by I. A. Watson
From Airship 27 Productions, Published by Cornerstone Books

So you think you know the story - the bandit king that steals from the rich and gives to the poor - but do you really? What do you really know?

Why did Robin i' th' Hood take up arms against the King?
Where did he come from?
How did he become the King of Sherwood?

Who is Maid Marion?
What drove her to join Robin?

I. A. Watson answers these questions and many others in his "Bold Retelling of a Classic Adventure." (That's what it says on the cover, and it's true.) Watson researched the countryside where the tale takes place as well as the history of the legend.

Watson picked through the literary history and blended the best parts into an exciting, surprising (really!), and romantic tale. The characters you know are all there: Robin, Marion, Little John, Will Scarlet, The Sheriff of Nottingham, and Friar Tuck along with several you don't. He also puts the story into historic context so that the reader understands why Robin had to be.

Under King John (while his brother Richard the Lionhearted was off fighting the crusades) an oppressive serfdom got even worse. John put the screws on the landowners who in turn clamped down on the peasants. The people were taxed into poverty and despair. The people needed a champion and due to a series of circumstances, Robin answered the call.

How Watson ties all the characters together and ends up with the ending we expect is nothing short of astonishing, but at the same time it all feels so right that I don't know why we haven't seen or read this Robin Hood before. The book is utterly charming and nicely graced with a beautiful Mike Manley cover. This Hood is more than worth a read. I give Robin Hood: King of Sherwood a 9 out of 10.

Fortunately, Watson is planning further books in the series. I look forward to them.

I had the opportunity to interview I. A. Watson and ask about the story and his interest in the Robin Hood legend.

Savage Tales: Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and what your reading and pop culture history is?

IW: When I was around seven, growing up in England, going on a family holiday, I bought a second-hand hardbound comics annual called “The Fantastic Four”. It reprinted Lee and Kirby’s FF #84-87. This story blew my mind.

Not only was this the first superhero story I’d ever read apart from Super-Goof, it also featured the coolest villain in the history of cool villains. Victor von Doom ruled a whole country! His own people both loved and feared him! He had a terrible secret in his ruined face, and when he wasn’t villaining he played haunting beautiful music alone in his gothic but high-tech palace! And stunningly, he always kept his word, so that even his enemies the FF trusted him when he gave it, and he let the good guys go at the end because they’d helped him.

I realised then and there what my own future inevitably had to be. I would grow up to be Doctor Doom.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - ... It Pours

I really think Miah has outdone himself here. The graphics are by Miah and me, the rules are by Miah and me, but except for a few comments and bits of graphics, the character card is all Miah. I'm really happy with how Doc is shaping up. He will get more tokens as his comrades in arms shape up. That may be awhile. 

Doc started off as two HeroClix figures - head and torso from Doc Samson and the legs from the lowly Criminal. I cut them both clean at the base, filed down Doc Samson's hair and carved around his waist to narrow it. Then I primered Samson's bright red jacket and painted Doc's skin. 
Then I took some lead foil from a wine bottle and ripped it into tiny strips for Doc's ripped shirt. I glued these on and primered them and then painted them and the shirt dark brown. I also painted the pants.           
 Here is Doc Savage today. This is over 2 years from the start - I guess I need to finish! All he needs is some highlights and a matte finish. Then I can rebase him. There are figure painting services if you don't want to paint him yourself.
Next up is a certain College Professor I started on at the same time as Doc. In the meantime Reaper minis have released this adventurer figure named, Chronoscope 50122 P. B. Pugh, Pulp Hero... He would make a good Doc Savage. Pulp Figures makes a nice set of adventurers, too, but their figures are a bit small, and Doc is supposed to be approaching 7 feet tall...

Tannhäuser Tuesday - When It Rains...

This weeks Tannhäuser announcement from FFG is welcome news to all present and future players...

Fantasy Flight announces Tannhäuser Game Play Aid

Further evidence arrived today of Fantasy Flight Games' continued support of the Tannhauser game system came today with the announcement of the Tannhäuser Equipment Cards, a set of over 200 cards that will relieve players of flipping through pages of rulebooks and the various expansion booklets for the rules for a particular gun or item. The initial Equipment Cards set will include cards for everything printed to date and for the Hoss and Oksana expansions that have not been released yet. This includes all crate and Bonus Tokens printed so far. The card set will retail for $14.95. I call that a bargain.

Future expansions will include both tokens and cards. The Equipment cards are a table friendly 1 5/8" x 2 1/2" size (FFG's Mini American) that should be easy to read and not crowd the table too much. Your rulebook should be referred to 1000 times less often once these cards are in hand.

FFG's Upcoming page shows the cards as being "on the boat" - meaning they should be in stores in four to six weeks - well before Hoss and Oksana arrive (they are still listed as "at the factory.")

I was scooped on this story by Miah, but in my defense I was posting Tannhäuser stuff...

This news takes precedence over your regularly scheduled Doc Savage Character Card, Sheet, and Tokens. Those are coming later today, and maybe even an in progress figure picture...

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Hoax Unleashed

Hoax released last week and here she is...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pulp of the Week - The Windup Girl

Pulp of the Week

The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published by Night Shade Books

The Windup Girl is the Hugo and Nebula award winning first novel (well, published anyway - Bacigalupi has said that he wrote many books before this one) that takes place in a post-climate change Bangkok, Thailand. The story sprawls out like the slums of the city that is protected from the rising ocean by sea walls and the Environment Ministry.

Gene-hacking companies had a war that killed off many plant species, but the Thai royalty protected their seed stocks for many years, relying on the White Shirt enforcers of the Environment Ministry. Gene-hacked mutations and diseases have ravaged the world's food supplies - and the calorie companies (corporate giants of the agri-business) that battle over the food stocks have been banned from Thailand. 

Paolo Bacigalupi
Bacigalupi's book has a sprawling cast whose relationships slowly intertwine. The opening was slow going for me due to all the characters and especially all the Thai terms and names that took some time to sort out, but after I got through the first third the story really moved ahead and drove to an exciting and surprising conclusion. I really like the book. There is politics and intrigue and action and heroism. There is depth and intrigue and a smattering of explicit sex.

The principal players are the mysterious American factory manager Anderson Lake, his chief assistant, a barely tolerated 'yellow card' Chinese man named Hock Seng, the former Muay Thai Champion turned White Shirt Hero Captain Jaidee Rojjanasukchai, and Emiko - the Windup Girl herself. Windups are genetically engineered humans that have advantages and disadvantages over regular humans, but are without legal rights. She was created to serve, but she finds herself wanting more.

How a Windup ended up in the Thai Kingdom is part of the mystery, but Emiko lives in fear of the White Shirts and her current owner pays bribes to keep the Environment Ministry away.

The politics of Bacigalupi's post climate change and genetic engineering future are fascinating. Energy is provided by kink springs - tightly coiled springs wound up by genetically engineered elephants called Megadonts, clean Methane, and a lot of human power. The competition caused numerous wars and corporate conflict with the Thai Kingdom ending up a bastion of safety due to the Environment Ministry's unflagging war on genetic mutations and artificial constructs.

This is a great book and I couldn't be happier that an honest to God SF book has had as much success as this one has. It is SF in all the best ways. Social SF, hard tech SF, and a little bit of adventure.

Raphael Lacoste's art - click for much larger size

I thought The Windup Girl was great and well deserving of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Thank you Night Shade Books for printing this audacious novel and for choosing the brilliant cover by Raphael Lacoste. Night Shade is offering a wide range of SF and Fantasy. Hopefully The Windup Girl's success will push the mainstream publishers a fraction back toward SF.

I read my trade paperback copy for this review and I give The Windup Girl a 9 out of 10.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tannhäuser Friday - FFG Teases Us

Today, FFG posted a recap of what they have released for Tannhäuser in the past few months and ended it with this teaser:

"With a new year comes new possibilities, and with an immersive game like Tannhäuser, you can expect many exciting things to appear over the course of 2011. Stay alert, because the war is far from over..."

I'm looking forward to seeing what they have come up with and if they will release the other products that TOY had in development...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - News and BPRD Field Agent Two

HOT NEWS - New official Fantasy Flight Releases keep on coming. The new releases - Wolf reissued and the Hoax single figure pack should be in stores NOW. I will do a news report next week if I can get my hands on those figure. The Daedalus Map pack should be for sale by next week, and the Asteros the Minotaur figure pack is listed as being on the truck - so that should be in stores within a few weeks.

Daedalus Rules Online Now!

The Daedalus rules have been (partially) posted byFFG - here are a few highlights...

Finally, the last two TOY designed pieces that we know of, Hoss Harbinger and Oksana are at the Factory now. Let's get back to our regularly scheduled feature...

Field Agent Two of the B.P.R.D.

Arkham Horror Investigator Mike McGlen

A fierce battle between the BPRD Field Agents, the Matriarchy, the Union and the Reich

I feel U-Chronic!

Thanks again to Miah for the tokens. Unless I hear howls of protest this will be the last character sheet on this particular template. I will be switching to the single page one developed with/by Miah for future characters.