Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #12

February, 1934
The Man Who Shook the Earth

Johnny regains his sight in the twelfth adventure of Doc and his friends. The surgery is performed by Doc Savage himself. Johnny is unwilling to get rid of his glasses with the magnifier, so he wears them on his head.

We also get a few more details about Ham's apartment at the Midas Club, a private club for the rich and powerful in New York. It is at the club's restaurant that we meet this issue's femme fatale, Tip Galligan. who believes that Doc has captured her brother. She holds a gun on them. "From the gun, Monk looked to the girl's clinging gown. The exotic golden garment exposed every ravishing curve."

As usual, Monk and Ham argue over the girl, who wants nothing to do with them. She is attracted to Doc, but he has sworn off women because of his world-traveling mission and the daily dangers he encounters. Women are one subject that even Doc would admit he knows nothing about.

This supersaga has Doc and his men travelling to South America to investigate unnatural earthquakes in Chile that are killing men involved in the Nitrate mining industry. I had read only a few chapters of the story prior to the recent tragic real-life quake in Chile.

The quakes are murdering the owners of the Nitrate mines and the people taking over are all new-comers to Chile, and all "from one particular country... which is considered a possible instigator of a future war," according to Renny. The villainous group is called, "The Little White Brothers" and their goal is to bring the war "to give us our rightful place in the world."

I found it interesting that the novel is clearly talking about Germany, but doesn't come out and say it. Not yet, anyway.

The leader of the Little White Brothers finally says, "I... will be elevated to dictator of my country when the great war comes. Perhaps I shall be dictator of all nations in the world. Mussolini -- Hitler -- they will be nothing as compared to me!"

This passage is the first account I have noted that brings to light the feelings that as early as 1933 those two dictators were considered a global threat. This was written a good five and a half years before Hitler invaded Poland starting WWII.

I found the earthquake causing machine to be the greatest villainous creation so far in the Doc Savage canon and was glad to see its implications recognized as being able to upset the balance of power in the world.

Fortunately for us, Doc Savage was there to stop the menace and keep the world from being at war for years to come.

I did find they plot to be confusing at times, so I am giving this adventure a 7.5 out of 10.

The pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the Bantam cover is by James Bama. The interior pulp illustrations are by Paul Orban. Thanks to Chris Kalb for posting these on his great Doc Savage site.

For this review I read my Bantam paperback first edition, December 1969.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Adventurers - Painted Figures

The Adventurers
AEG / Dust Games
Painted Figure Pack - $30

I think that The Adventurers is a very fun game. During production AEG made a choice to not paint the figures to keep the cost down. After all, there are 12 figures with this game and they did not want a fun, family oriented game to retail for $70.

But they did want to give players the option of paying extra to get the painted figures, so they have released on their website a pre-painted pack for $30. While that may seem high, 12 figures plus 2 walls and the bridge is actually a good price. If you get the combo pack with the full game and the pre-painted pack the price is $70.

Is it worth the price? Yes. Compared to other pre-painted figures these are reasonably priced. The following price comparison does not include tax or shipping for any of the selections. Just counting the figures you get 12 Adventurers figures for $30. That's $2.50 per figure. Heroscape is $2.15 per figure. AT-43 is $5 per figure. Tannhäuser is $13 (but you get a card and a bunch of tokens - still high.)

With the Adventurers pack you also get the walls, boulder, and bridge painted, but for me those aren't different enough to be worth inclusion. I think they could have skipped those parts and just made the figures five bucks cheaper and everyone would be happy.
I bought the pack and it was delivered promptly. I have played four times with the unpainted figures and really like the game. However, using the painted figures is even more fun. It is really easy to tell them apart and the colors help give the game more personality. I love them and my customs brain wants to make Tannhäuser characters out of them. They would also be great for any Pulp themed rpg or for Heroscape.

In my opinion, these are some of the best pre-painted figures on the market. The quality matches that of Tannhäuser and the best of AT-43.

Friday, March 12, 2010

AEG Gets 'Dust'ed - Minis game this Summer!

From AEG - As posted to Table Top Gaming News:

"AEG Gets 'Dust'
Miniatures Game
Published: 03/10/2010, Last Updated: 03/11/2010 05:22am

Alderac Entertainment Group will publish Dust: Tactics, a tactical-scale miniatures game, in conjunction with Dust Studios this summer. The game is set in a “what if” historical sci-fi world in which World War II did not end in the way we remember. Instead, new technologies recovered from an alien spaceship found by the Germans have created a very different and violent world. Mechanized walking armored vehicles interact with infantry carrying more recognizable historic weapons.

Dust Tactics uses 30mm scale miniatures with a WWII sci-fi feel. The first boxed set includes 30 miniatures, 4 mechs, and 2 heroes: enough to field both an American and a German force. A modular board allows for custom battlefields. The miniatures included will already be prepped, assembled, and base-coated (in US green and German gray), allowing them to be easily used out of the box. Or, players can take advantage of the pre-prepped minis to paint their own armies.

Future releases in the line will include forces for other nationalities, such as Soviet Russians and Imperial Japanese, as well as expanded weapons and strategic options, such as artillery and command squads.

A miniatures game based on the Dust world had previously been announced as a Fantasy Flight Games release in 2008 (see “Dust Tactics Miniature Game”). When Fantasy Flight ceased distribution of AT-43 in late 2008 (“Fantasy Flight Ends Rackham Distribution”), plans for the Dust miniatures game were cancelled. The AEG/Dust Studio version will feature a new ruleset different from the AT-43-based version originally announced by Fantasy Flight."

I am looking forward to seeing this game for a number of reasons. The figures look great. The Weird War background is awesome. I have wanted those tanks for years. I can't wait to get this into my hands and onto the game table.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pulp of the Week - First Wave #1

DC Comics
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Rags Morales
Color by Nei Ruffino
Cover by J.G. Jones

The first issue of six in the First Wave limited series which takes place in the so-called First Wave Universe is a $3.99 comic that has 30 pages of story and was released last week.

Here's the story breakdown:
Doc Savage and his five aids - 18 pages
The Spirit - 10 pages
Reporter's Observations - "Insight" - 2 pages
The Blackhawks - 2 panels

The story begins with Johnny in trouble in South America and Doc Savage returning to New York from Gotham City (see Batman/Doc Savage Special for details.) for Clark Savage Sr.'s  funeral. This is somehow tied in with John Sunlight, the Spirit, and the Blackhawks.

Normally, I wait for the trade paperback for miniseries, but for Doc Savage I made an exception. Upon reading issue 1, I am reminded why I don't buy single issues any more. So very little happens in an issue of a comic book any more. They are more like story boards for a movie than ever before. Comics from my youth, circa 1972, almost always contained a full story. They might continue, but rarely did not finish a story. This comic is a beginning of a graphic novel, no more. It is just 16% of a story that we are buying on time.

The art is OK, but we were kind of spoiled with Phil Noto's soft deco work in the Batman/Doc Savage Special. Rags Morales' art is OK, but the colorist isn't helping. For my taste there is excessive over use of photoshop highlights in the coloring. It puts a much more contemporary look in the book than it needs and everything kind of looks the same. Hopefully the color palate will improve and we will get to see the art a bit simpler.

There is plenty of good stuff in here. Renny is nicely cast as Doc's main confidant and Monk and Ham banter, but it isn't too silly. The scenes of Johnny in the jungle are good and have the best art. Johnny gets a big part in this issue and more pages than anyone else. He is in South America running away from something and searching for something else. All he finds is trouble. And Rima, the Jungle Girl.

But Long Tom doesn't have more than a line or two. Even in the pulps, he is the least heard from.

What are the big changes to Doc Savage? He has a cel phone. He uses computers. He is world famous and stalked by paparazzi. His father was even more famous. We get into his head a little, which the pulps never did.

What things are the same? As in "The Man of Bronze" (the first Doc Savage Pulp) Doc's father has been murdered before the story starts. Doc was away at the Fortress of Solitude.

I don't feel the changes made destroy the legacy of the Doc Savage pulps. Those are in the process of being printed for the third time. I don't think any other pulp can boast that. If you like your Doc Savage pure, stick with the beautiful reprints or the upcoming Will Murray pulp-style novel.

To me, Doc still feels like Doc. Maybe I am a bit more open to interpretations and adaptations than other fans, but I am fine with giving this new incarnation a chance and my money. And John Sunlight is the villain. The First Wave Universe shows promise, but we barely get a peek into it, this is just a tiny bite of story.

I cannot speak to the interpretation of the Spirit as I am unfamiliar with this character, but he is a bit of a wise-cracker and gets in a fight.

All in all, I give issue 1 of First Wave a 6 out of 10. Hopefully the series will improve, but at this point I would recommend just waiting for the trade paperback.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pulp of the Week - Ki-Gor, Jungle Lord

I have recently read four of the adventures of Ki-Gor, the white African jungle savage character presented in the pages of Jungle Stories Magazine from 1938 until 1954. I first read a 2 in 1 reprint from John Gunnison's Adventure reprint mag (actually the 39th and 40th Ki-Gor stories), and then read the first two issues as presented by Pulpville Press available in one reprint volume from their Lulu store. The 4 stories I read were all written by John Murray Reynolds, but after the first issue the publisher began using the house name John Peter Drummond.

The first two stories introduce Ki-Gor, the son of a missionary, who survived the Wunguba tribe attack that killed his father when he was a young boy and learned to survive in the wilds of the Congo with the help of his friend, Marmo, the elephant.

The first issue of Jungle Stories published at the end of 1938 contained the first story, Ki-Gor -- King of the Jungle, about an American aviatrix, Helene Vaughn, who is flying solo across the African Continent. Unfortunately, she has engine trouble and crashes her plane in the jungle. Ki-Gor rescues her and they slowly grow to trust one another. Despite not speaking English for 20 years, Ki-Gor remembers it quickly. After escaping from slavers (a recurring theme in this series) they grow closer.


The second novel, Ki-Gor and the Stolen Empire, follows the couple's growing relationship as they escape from slavers and discover the remains of a hidden ancient Egyptian City and the last of the line of survivors from ancient times. The lost city of Memphre has survived with the help of pygmies and an army of trained chimps.

In the nearly ten years of Jungle Stories that passed between issue 2 and issue 39 many things changed for Ki-Gor and Helene. They got married. Ki-Gor gained a best friend and blood brother named Tembu George, leader of the Masai people.

N'Geeso, the leader of the the pygmy tribe is also a very good friend of Ki-Gor and Helene and often keeps an eye on Helene. Tembu George and N'Geeso remind me of Monk and Ham from the Doc Savage novels, always bickering, but the best of friends.

The Ki-Gor story In the Summer 1948 issue of Jungle Stories happens to have two titles, one on the cover and one inside the magazine. Somehow Cromba Has a Thousand Spears became Zomba on the cover. There is no Zomba or Cromba in the story, anyway. There is, however, a former ship's captain that has gone insane and is seeking revenge. He attacks with an army of huge savage dogs.

The story opens with Ki-Gor finding a nude woman swimming in the pool near where he lives with Helene. She comes on pretty strong and Ki-Gor manages to extract himself from her charms. This scene demonstrates that at times the later Ki-Gor stories can edge toward the spicy side of the pulps. They are tame by today's literary standards, but compared to Doc Savage or the Green Lama, these jungle tales are sexed up a bit.


The next issue, Fall 1948 contained the story, The Golden Claws of Raa. This tale again returns to the slave theme with much excitement over capturing Helene and Ki-Gor. There is also a band of terrifying great apes that are vicious killers.

I would have to say that I enjoyed the first two novels the most, followed by The Golden Claws of Raa. All of these tales are full of captures and harrowing escapes, cruel villains and good friends.

The African characters are generally referred to by their name, their tribe, or for unnamed characters, as 'the black.' Ki-Gor is often called 'The White Lord of the Jungle.' That is certainly condescending, that the white intruder should rise up to be the hero and protector of the jungle, while the black natives depend on him. But, while Ki-Gor is the hero, I have to say that his friends are treated with respect and equality, something that didn't always happen in the 1940s. N'Geeso and Bantu George are fully fleshed out characters, not stereotypes.

As you can see, the covers tend to feature Helene as her image surely attracted the target demographic. Additionally, the editors have apparently instructed the artists to be sure she is in danger, or better yet in a bondage scenario.

Since I want to know how Ki-Gor met his friends and when and how Ki-Gor and Helene get married I know that these are pretty good stories with good characters. I want to know what happens to them. The stories seem to be in the public domain and there may be a few available as ebooks, but I don't have a reader so I haven't looked.

I would like to thank Peter Currane for his Ki-Gor bibliography and  Phil Stephensen-Payne and Galactic Central for the stellar Pulp Cover Gallery.

The Ki-Gor stories I read are pure adventure fiction, there are no supernatural powers or science fictional elements. If I find more Ki-Gor, I will read it.

Ki-Gor -- King of the Jungle 7.5 out of 10.
Ki-Gor -- And The Stolen Empire 7.5 out of 10.
Cromba Has a Thousand Spears 6 out of 10.
The Golden Claws of Raa 7 out of 10.