Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zaza the Mystic

I'm closing out A to Z April with a character who I love the idea of, but whose series left a lot to be desired in its execution.

Zaza the Mystic graced the pages of two issues of her self-titled series, starring in six short stories between them. She was a type of character who is the villain in hundreds of pulp fiction and comic book stories--a gypsy con artist tricking people into believing she has the ability to foretell the future. Zaza, however, uses her  highly honed powers of observation, deductive reasoning skills, and talents in delivering cold readings in pursuit of stopping crime rather than committing it. Together with her police detective boyfriend, she stops jewel heists, stock swindles, murders, and more.

The image that introduced Zaza the Mystic. Artist Unknown
The series was written by the great Jerry Seigel and illustrated by a rotating roster of interchangeable artists with bland, mid-1950s romance comics art style. It's a shame publisher Charlton didn't have more unique talent on the strip, as I think the concept deserved a far better presentation than it got.

I also wish the strip had a bit more of an edge to it. However, in 1954, Zaza the Mystic #10 and #11 were among the first publications to sport the Comics Code Authority logo, so you can bet every eggshell was left intact as these stories unfolded. Zaza was a completely "domesticated" gypsy, living in a completely white world where even the bad guys had good manners. As much as I like the concept of the character, I couldn't help but think of Dick Briefer's fantastic Bronze Terror strip (the best of which I compiled in Real American #1). Here was a character who was a modern-day Native American, whose ethnicity was part of who the character was and how the stories unfolded. Racism and bigotry came up several times in the course of the Bronze Terror series... because, well, racists exist and they made great villains even in the 1940s. But, with the self-censorship brought on by the Comics Code. even if Siegel had considered including bigotry against Zaza because of her heritage, it probably wouldn't have passed muster. (And what about the lesson it would teach kids--reminding them that the blondhaired, blue-eyed police officer was dating outside his race?)

We planning to put out a collection of the four best Zaza stories, along with the usual game material in support of it. When exactly we'll do that remains to be seen... there are soooo many great characters that we think need to be brought to the public again, and that we want to play with and create new material for--however meager some of our creations end up being. We hope some of you will want to get to know.these characters and that you'll choose to pick up some of our comics/rpg hybrid e-books.

And with that plug and bit of hopeful thinking. A to Z April comes to a close. I hope some of you out there had as much fun with as I did.

See you in a funny pages!

(PS: Due to foolishness on my part.. R (Rex the Seeing Eye Dog) and W (White Princess of the Jungle) well through the cracks. Look fo rthem soon!)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Yankee Girl

Among the obscure superheroes that came out of Harry "A" Chesler's production studios perhaps Yankee Girl is the most obscure--but also among the most well-known. She had two appearances, none of which were in titles Chesler himself was involved with publishing and one of these sat undistributed in a warehouse from around 1947 until 1964. However, she was revived by AC Comics in the 1990s, and she was most recently seen in a 2012 graphic novel titled Stars and Stripes Forever. I don't know anything about the AC version, other than they seem to have explained where her magic powers came from.

Yankee Girl takes flight. Artist ID uncertain, but maybe Ralph Mayo
Yankee Girl is secretly socialite Lauren Mason, who, when she utters "three magic words" of Yankee Doodle Dandy, is transformed into a flying, super-strong defender of truth and justice. The source of the magic she draws upon, and the extend of her powers are unknown, but it is established that she is not invulnerable, as she knocked unconscious by bad guys in her first appearance. Or maybe she is invulnerable in some cases, as she seems sturdier (perhaps even bullet proof) in her second appearance.

Yankee Girl first took flight in Dynamic Comics #23 (from Superior), with her second adventure showing up in Danger #16 from I.W. Publishing where she was featured on an excellent cover by Ross Andru and Mike Espostio.

The writer and artist on the Yankee Girl stories is (are?) unknown. Ralph Mayo is credited as the writer and aritst on both her appearances by some sources, but I think someone else whas doing the inking when I compare the on Yankee Girl to his many Judy of the Jungle stories, especially the ones we're including in Judy of the Jungle: Warriors of the Laughing Hyena..

Our discovery of Yankee Girl was the final piece we needed to firm up our plans for volume of Complete Golden Age Oddballs to coincide with the Fourth of July this year. She'll be joined by Major Victory, and we'll be revealing the REAL source of her magic (at least in the NUELOW Heroes and Villains universe.)

And, just for fun, here's a totally off-the-cuff Talent Tree for use with the OGL d20 Modern superpowers system featured introduced on this blog, and expanded upon in Madden's Boys and the Complete Golden Age Oddballs series. This hasn't been play-tested and it amounts to little more than me typing thoughts as they occur. If someone DOES have an opinion on this talent tree and its playability (or lack thereof), please speak up; That's what we have a comments section for! (The rest of the post is Open Game Content and may be reproduced in accordance with this license.)

You have transformative powers!
   Prerequisite: Any one Minor Power Feat.
   Simple Transformation: When you utter a magic phrase, your clothes become your superhero costume. The transformation lasts until you say the magic word again.
   Minor Transformation: Same as above, but you gain +1 increase to two stats of your choice (determined when this talent is chosen).
   Prerequisite: Simple Transformation
   Major Transformation: Same as above, except you gain an additional +1 increase to your chosen stats, as well as two Minor Power feats (determined when this talent is chosen).
   Prerequisite: Minor Transformation.
  Total Transformation: Same as above, but all attributes are increased by +2, you gain 2 bonus talents, and two bonus feats, Minor Power feats or any others available in the campaign).

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for X of the Underground

"X of the Underground" was a short-lived series that ran in Military Comics 8 - 13 from Golden Age giant Quality Comics. Edited by Will Eisner and created by Vern Henkel (who wrote and illustrated the first 3 episodes), the series was about a mysterious femme fatale who roamed Nazi occupied Europe, building a network of women underground resistance fighters and helping Allied agents when she could. She frequently operated in disguise, often cross-dressing as a German military officer to accomplish her mission.

X swings into action. Art by Lee Ames.
The "X of the Underground" series consists of fast-paced war-time espionage stories, with X inspiring the oppressed to fight back and engineering poetic (or just plain lethal) justice for loathsome Nazis. She also spends her time dodging an American war correspondent who has identified her and who wants to write her story, help in her efforts, and probably get her naked in a hayloft somewhere. The series is of high quality throughout, with the best episodes being drawn by the aforementioned Henkel, and by Lee Ames and Bob Hebberd. We will be publishing five or six of the "X of the Underground" stories in an upcoming book... we just need to decide on the presentation.

In our minds here at NUELOW Games, X is the same person as Lady Satan, even if X may be a little less coldblooded. We imagine that after she became too well-known around Paris, she gave up the red mask and cloak, honed her disguise skills, and widened her activity base. The "X of the Underground" serve as a nice bridge between the Lady Satan stories in this book, and the Lady Satan fiction and comic story we published here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vapo-Man!

Another weird creation from the comic book production studios run by Harry "A" Chesler was Vapo-Man! He by-product of a lab accident caused by enemies spies, he had the ability to turn into a gas, become large or tiny, fly, disintegrate matter (living or otherwise), and probably anything else the writers might have dreamed up. He spent the first three published stories running around in his skivvies, but by his fourth appearance, he was given a proper superhero costume.

Vapo-Man appeared in Liberty Scouts #2 and #3, and here he battled a corrupt official, the "Director of Defence" and the enemy spy ring he secretly headed up. At the end of each story, he promised that he would be taking ot the Director next issue.. but he never did.

Or maybe he dispatched the Director and his spies between issues, because when Vapo-Man next coalesced in Man of War #1, he was fighting Nazis and the Director and his agents were nowhere to be found. With Man of War #2, Vapo-Man, freshly outfitted with one of the goofiest looking outfits any superhero ever dared to wear in public, fought his last. With the cancellation of his second home, he was never seen again.

All four Vapo-Man stores were drawn by Sam Gilman, an artist who appears to have worked only briefly in comics, with only a dozen or so stories to his credit, all in magazines from Centaur Publishing during 1940 and 1941. Given the disconnect between the Vapo-Man storyline in Liberty Scouts and Man of War, I can only assume that he didn't write the stories... although that could be a bad assumption, as continuity was not a priority during the Golden Age, and Chesler's crews seemed to ignore such niceties more often than many others.

Vapo-Man is a great example of the no-holds-barred weirdness and casual violence of early Golden Age stories. He may have been an attempt to capture the success of Centaur's more successful hero Mighty Man, as the two characters share some powers in common, but that was not to be. Readers may also feel that he reminds them of Plastic Man, but the two characters debuted the same month, so any similarity there is probably just coincidental.

Vapo-Man is one of the characters we hope to include in a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for the Unholy 3

The Unholy 3 are such an obscure set of characters that no one has even bothered given them a write-up at Public Domain Superheroes... or anywhere else really. Except in NUELOW Games publications.

Meet the Unholy 3. Art by Bill Madden
The Unholy 3 are a trio of con artists who have turned their skills from fleecing the innocent to grifting grifters, and making sure they end up behind bars. Flash provided the brawn (and a sexy distraction for the lady targets), Pearl provided the brains (and a sexy distraction for the male target), and Dale provided the sarcastic barbs (and to dress up like a baby when the need arose). They were featured in two stories that were originally published in Punch Comics #1 and #2 and later reprinted in Major Victory #1 and #2. The series was a product of Harry "A" Chesler's comic book production studios, which supplied content not only for his own titles (such as Punch Comics) but for virtually every other comics publisher operating between 1938 and 1942.

The writer on "The Unholy 3" will probably forever remain unknown, but the artist was NUELOW Games' favorite Bill Madden. He appears to only have drawn a handful of stories, most of them for Chesler during 1941 and 1942. It's possible that he continued as a cartoonist, or penciler elsewhere and we just haven't come across his work yet. We hope to re-present all of his published work in our titles, eventually, as we think it's a shame he does not get more recognition than he does. (We've already published the Unholy 3 stories in The Unholy 3 and OGL Trickery, all three Mother Hubbard stories in the title of that same name, all his Dynamic Boy and Yankee Boy stories in Madden's Boys,and stories that he only penciled in Al Plastino Early Work: 1940 - 1941 and The Werewolf Hunter #1. There are a few more stray items--like the story we featured in Carnival--that we are still looking for ways to present, but by we will get there eventually.

Meanwhile, I'm going to renew my request that if anyone knows something about artist Bill Madden (aka William J. Madden), please get in touch. I would love to be able to write something a little more detailed about him and his career.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

T is for T.N.T.

When the United States government was recruiting scientists to work on the Manhattan Project, they overlooked one of the most brilliant nuclear scientists to ever live. Not only did Treve N. Thorndyke manage to split the atom in his personal workshop (while avoiding killing himself in the process), he also managed to invent an "atom gun" that was far more surgical in its killing capacity than any other atomic weapon devised by humanity. Thankfully, Thornedyke chose to use his invention for good rather than evil, putting on a mask and cape and joining the superhero set as T.N.T.

T.N.T. made his one-and-lonly appearance in the pages of Amazing Man Comics #21. Published by Centaur with a cover date of March 1941, this series was the most successful of all the titles featuring creations from the studios run by Harry "A" Chesler, and it was a treasure trove of exciting and bizarre comic book heroes--the strangest of which being Mighty Man, who is best described as a cross between Paul Bunyan, Hercules, and Plastic Man. (I'm going to be putting a book or two together of Mighty Man's weirdest adventures at some point.)

T.N.T. is one of artist Dan Gormley's first published professional works; Chesler and his editors had a great eye for talented artists and they gave many industry giants their first paying comics gigs... including Joe Kubert, who swept up around the studio as a young boy while getting pointers from the artists as they labored over their drawingboards. By mid-1941, Gormley was a staff artist at Dell/Western, and he would eventually become one of the premiere illustrators of children's comics.

As for T.N.T., although his one appearance ends with a great set-up for future adventures--he's wanted by both the law AND the underworld--he was never heard from again. We will rectify that ever-so-slightly, as he is slated to join the Science Sleuths line-up of characters. Look for him in Issue #6 in a couple of months, where he'll be featured in an all-new roleplaying game adventure!

Monday, April 21, 2014

S is for the Sword

By 1941, it was obvious to all comics publishers that masks and capes is what the readers wanted. A flood of costumed superheroes swept onto the newsstands/ Even some established characters took to wearing costumes, such as Quality's crusading crime-beat reporter Chic Carter.

In Smash Comics #24, Carter was framed for murder, so he adopted a costumed identity to clear his name. When his series moved to Quality Comics' new title Police Comics (which featured such soon-to-be legendary characters as Plastic Man) he continued to operate as the Sword.

Carter's masked mystery man phase was very short-lived, however. By Police Comics #5, Carter hung up his cape for good, making the Sword's career a total of four adventures before Carter went back to his standard issue blue suit and fedora. The real-world reason was that series writer/artist Vern Henkel had no interest in superheroes. The in-world reason for Carter giving up the mask is probably found in the last panel of the story from Police Comics #3:

That smart cookie is Gay Nolan, Carter's co-worker and girlfriend. In that panel, she proved herself to be smarter than 98% of all comic book characters.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Marking 4/20: Chic Carter Takes Down the Marijuana Ring

Two-fisted, pistol-packing investigative reporter Chic Carter set out to protect America's youth from the Devil Weed in issue #8 of Smash Comics, originally published in 1940. Read this story carefully, take it to heart! Click on the individual pages for larger, more legible versions.

You can carry Chic's crusade for truth and justice in ROLF!: The Rollplaying Game of Big Dumb Fighters by using these pre-generated characters:

Brawn 20, Body 14 (Includes +1 Hat Bonus), Brains 5
   Traits: Honorable, Short-tempered
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Dodge, Murderous Mitts,  Seduce, Walk and Chew Gum
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fedora (Hat, +1 to Body ATT when worn). Nice Suit (Clothes). .45 Colt Automatic (Small Ranged Weapon, deals 2 points that ignore Armor).

MARY NEEL (Female)
Brawn 14, Body 12, Brains 4
   Traits: Improv Master, Left-handed
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Disarm, Dodge, Strategic Bleeding
  Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fashionable Dress (Clothes).

Brawn 11, Body 10, Brains 3
   Traits: Coldblooded, Improv Master
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Dodge. Knock Out
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Pistol (Small Ranged Weapon, deals 2 points of damage that ignore armor) OR Tommy Gun (Large Ranged Weapon, deals 4 points of damage that ignore armor).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quicken

There is only one character I could find that fits the theme of this series whose name starts with "Q" -- and that would be the Queen of Evil. Using her would not only be more than just a little bit of a cheat, since her actual name is Nagana. There's also the added problem that I already wrote about her in the next material included in John Kerry vs. the Queen of Evil,

So, instead, I'm going to add another talent tree to the OGL d20 System that was introduced on this very blog, and the basics of which was published in their entirety in Madden's Boys.

   Prerequisite: Any one Minor Power feat
   Fast Acting: You gain a +2 bonus to all initiative rolls.
   Fast Moving: You gain a +2 bonus to all Sleight of Hand checks, as well as a +2 bonus to Defense Rating if not caught flat-footed.
   Prerequisite: Fast Acting
   Fast Working: You can complete any skill that normally takes more than one round in half the time without suffering any penalties.

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Penny Parker

Penny Parker is a child of wealth and privilege whom readers are introduced to when she rebels against her parents insistence that she honor the traditions of her social class by taking part in a debutante ball. The sixteen year-old girl gives in, but decides to show everyone up by bringing her rough-edged boxing instructor to the ball as her escort. In the process, she ends up stopping a jewel heist. Fueled by her success as a detective, and rebellious teenage impulses, Penny sets herself up in her own detective agency and starts solving crime among the upper classes.

Penny Parker and her First World Problems.

"Penny Parker" was a series aimed squarely at girl comics readers, and it is an example of strips that were more common than people assume. I find Penny particularly interesting, because she reminds me of another of my long-time favorite forgotten girl detectives--Violet Strange. Like Penny, Violet was a young woman who rebelled against her social status by solving crimes... but, unlike Penny, Violet hid her activities from her parents by operating secretly through a detective agency.

Penny appeared in issues 13 - 15 of MLJ's Blue Ribbon Comics, all published in 1941, solving mysteries and catching killers and stopping crimes at genteel parties and country clubs. Her creators remain lost to history, although some sources credit Irv Novick with the art on the series. I don't see his hand, though, and I think the attribution is based on an incorrect assumption about the signature "Irving" on the episodes.

Penny Parker will co-star with Kismet (the first Muslim superhero) in the next issue of NUELOW Games' Complete Golden Age Oddballs.

In the meantime, here's Penny ala ROLF!:

Brawn 17, Body 15, Brains 8
   Traits: Nimble
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic attack, Castrate, Debate Philosophy, Dodge, Knock Out, Murderous Mitts, Strike Pose, Walk and Chew Gum
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fashionable Dress (Clothes) OR Boxing Togs (Clothes, barely covers nakedness).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for the Owl

The Owl is second creation of cartoonish Martin Filchock to be featured on this trip through the alphabet by way of obscure Golden Age comic book characters, with the previous one being Electric Ray.

The world gets its first look at the Owl! From Funny Pages #1 (vol. 4)
The Owl is a young librarian named Jack who uses the hi-tech  flying suit to take revenge against the crimnals who crippled his father. The suit gives him the ability to fly "faster than an airship" and to communicate with his father via radio.

Like all of Flichock's creations, there is a quirky feel of off-centeredness--while reading, one is never quite sure if the story is to be taken seriously or is a clever bit of comedy.His most successful and longest-lived Golden Age superhero strip was Cenatur's Mighty Man (lasting from issues 5 - 25 of Amazing Man) which most was an obvious comedic take on superheroes Filchock was a celebrated cartoonist and yhumorist, who continued working and publishing right up until his death in 2012, so maybe he couldn't stop kidding around even when drawing and writing superheroes.

The Owl's solitary flight will be presented in a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Numa

While that may be Tarzan-ese for "Lion," the Numa being referred to here is perhaps the most obscure and short-lived Golden Age of Comics character that will be touched upon in this series of posts.

Numa to the rescue. Art by A.C. Hollingsworth
Numa was a busty, scantily clad jungle girl who used her vine-swinging talents and Judo mastery to right wrongs in the Congo. In her single two-page adventure, she rescued another white jungle-dwelling girl from being sacrificed to dark gods while exposing a pair of blasphemous thieves. Her story was published under the heading "Jungle Fables" in Rulah Jungle Goddess #18 from Fox Features Syndicate. Like Numa, that was the only time a Jungle Fable appeared in any Fox title, and I don't think the editors at Fox knew the meaning of the word "fable."

We are currently planning on including Numa's adventure in the soon-to-be-released Judy of the Jungle: Warriors of the Laughing Hyena. Numa's adventure was illustrated by A.C. Hollingsworth, one of the earliest African American artists to work for mainstream comic book packagers and publishers. Hollingsworth later went onto become a civil rights activist. (NUELOW Games as previously featured his work on the Purple Tigress, another strip from Fox Features Syndicate that we included in the first issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs. (And if we end up not including her in the Judy of the Jungle book, Numa will show up with other Oddballs in a future issue of that series.)

Just for fun, here's Numa in the ROLF! game system.

NUMA (Female)
Brawn 18, Body 18, Brains 5
Traits: Busty, Martial Artist, Nimble
Combat Maneuvers: Backflip, Murderous Mitts, Signature Move, Strike Pose
Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fur Bikini (Clothes, barely covers nakedness). Large Knife (Melee Weapon OR One-shot Ranged Weapon. Deals 2 points of damage.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Major Victory

Major Victory was one of several patriotic superheroes to emerge from the studio and comic book packaging operation of Harry "A" Chesler, during a time when Phil Sturm was the lead editor. We here at NUELOW Games think of the Chesler output from 1940 through late 1941/early 1942 as the Golden Age for his Golden Age of Comics activity, and Major Victory is among the last of the characters from that period that we will be bringing to modern readers in one of our titles.

Drawn by Charles Sultan, and written by an unknown writer, Major Victory was featured in the first three issues of Dynamic Comics, along with other great Chesler superheroes, such as the original Dynamic Boy and Dynamic Man, and Lady Satan in her spy-killing incarnation. He was one of several patriotic superheroes created by the studio, a soldier who was returned to life by Father Patriot as the embodiment of the American fighting spirit after dying in an attempt to stop a terrorist attack on an American military base.

The splash page from the second Major Victory story.
Art by Charles Sultan
Like the best of Chesler's output, the Major Victory stories featured solid artwork, fast-paced stories that were more than a little macabre, and a whole lot of fun. Sadly, like all of Chesler's greatest creations, the Major's career was also very short. There were the three stories published in Dynamic Comics 1-3 during 1941, which were then reprinted in Major Victory Comics 1-3 in 1942. Curiously, the Major's shirt and pants were colored yellow in the reprints, breaking the red-white-and-blue motif of his costume. Why this bizarre decision was made one can't even being to guess at.

Exactly where Major Victory will appear in the line-up of NUELOW Games publications remains to be decided, but he is certainly a candidate for an issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Little Giant

In 1940, Professor Rednow injected Rusty, a scrawny orphaned waif, with a serum that gave him superhuman strength and endurance. Since the boy didn't die from being an unwitting human test subject to a bit of mad science, Rednow adopted the kid, further outfitted him with a high-tech outfit that let him ignore gravity to leap long distances in a single bound. He took to punching criminals and rescuing girls in distress for two issues of "O.K. Comics" before fading into oblivion. (My guess as to his final fate? Rednow decided to subject Rusty to another mad science experiment... one that didn't end quite so successfully. I think in the annals of coldblooded scientists, Rednow has got to be one of the coldest.)

Rusty becomes the Little Giant,
through the wonders of child endangerment
By the way, does Little Giant's origin sound familiar to you--a weakling who gains superhuman strength and endurance after being injected with a vial full of weird science? To me, it sounds just like Captain America's origin story. I wonder what the Fanboy Brigade would make of the fact that the first issue of O.K. Comics was on newsstands some nine months before Captain America made his debut?

(It actually sounds like any number of superhero origins from that period, to be honest. Super-serums or lightning bolts seem to be the most common sources of superhuman powers in the early 1940s.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

K is for Kismet

Kismet, the Man of Fate, is, as far as I can tell, the first Muslim superhero. It's too bad he didn't catch on and become an international phenomenon. If he had, maybe the public face of Islam wouldn't be frothing-in-the-beard murderers. Kismet may fight evil, but violence is a last resort and he never harms innocent people. In fact, Kismet even tries to avoid harming the guilty, instead often letting their own actions lead to their doom. While fighting the evil of the Nazis, Kismet tries to be an examplar of someone who follows the "religion of peace"

"Kismet,Man of Fate" was a feature in all four issues of Bomber Comics--a slightly unfortunate title in retrospect, given the "Lions of Islam" that have emerged in the real world in recent decade--a title that came and went with its publisher, Eliot, in 1944. Other than being able to be a force for righteousness and freedom in the name of Allah, Kismet seemed to have an ability to predict what he enemies were going to do, with an ability to dodge their attacks as they are being launched, or to engineer events so his foes take each other out. He also rocks the shirtless-with-a-cape look like no one else. And he even looks good in a fez.

Kismet is the lead feature in the next issue of  Complete Golden Age Oddballs. Look for this space for an announcement of the publication date. Meanwhile, here's an add-on to NUELOW's superpower system for OGL d20 that reprents Kismet's uncanny ability to predict where fate will strike next.

You have the ability to see a fraction of a second into the future.
   Benefit: You gain a permanent +2 adjustment to all initiative rolls.

You are able to sense what the immediate future will bring, and act accordingly. You don't always know exactly what is about to happen, but you know you have to act.
   Prerequisite: Any one Power Feat.
  Enhanced Foresight: You gain a +2 bonus to all to all initiative rolls, as well as a +1 bonus to your Defense Rating while awake or conscious.
   Improved Foresight: You gain a +1 bonus to all initiative rolls, as well as a +2 bonus to your Defense Rating while awake or conscious. You also gain a +2 bonus to all attack rolls.
   Prerequisite: Enhanced Foresight
   In Control: Once per game session, you can re-roll any single initiative roll, attack roll, or skill check. You may choose between the original or re-rolled results.
   Pre-requisite: Enhanced Foresight
   Master of Destiny: As In Control, but you my re-roll once per encounter.
   Prerequisite: In Control

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Jeep and Peep

If you were around and reading comics in 1945, you may have come across Jeep Comics on the newsstands. But if you blinked, you would have missed the series... along with the publishers that released them (R.B. Leffingwell & Company and Spotlight Comics).

The stars of the three published issues of Jeep Comics were Jeep and Peep, a pair of crime-fighters and explorers of the unknown and mysterious who traveled about in a flying, jet-powered Jeep. Jeep, so nick-named because he loved Jeeps so much that he let the Army give him one instead of his discharge pay, wore a red cape everywhere he went, while teen-aged Peep dressed normally... although he probably wore powered sugar everywhere, as one story dealt with how he was getting too fat and out of shape to fight crime.

Yes... "Jeep and Peep" was a series ahead of its time. I have no doubt it would be very, VERY popular today in some circles, because it carries messages about childhood obesity and the importance of exercising, as well as of energy and natural conservation. Jeep's flying Jeep is powered by an amazing, fuel efficient jet engine he has created... it only takes two drops of lighter fluid for Jeep and Peep to fly a distance of a hundred miles or more.

I'm not sure what's going here, except that Jeep and Peep are driving on air!

Any book we release collecting the "Jeep and Peep" series will be a cherished item by anyone who wants to stop global warming, or who believed in Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. In fact, I will probably send comp copies to environmental groups around the globe; maybe I can get it made required reading!

At any rate, "Jeep and Peep" are perfect candidates for the Complete Golden Age Oddballs series... and I suspect that you'll be able to see all the flying Jeep action collected for the first time in place sooner rather than later!

And just because I'll be writing these stats eventually anyway, here are Jeep and Peep ala ROLF!

JEEP (Male)
Brawn 18, Body 15, Brains 7
  Traits: Driver, Inventor, Honorable
  Battle Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Dodge, Double-Strike, Murderous Mitts, Strike Pose
  Important Things Worn/Wielded: Super-Cape (Armor, absorbs up to 2 points of damage).

PEEP (Male)
Brawn 13, Body 9, Brains 5
  Traits: Comic Relief, Driver, Improv Master
  Battle Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Deflect, Disarm, Walking Disaster Area
  Important Things Worn/Wielded: Cheeseburger (Small One-shot Ranged Weapon, or tasty snack. Deals 1 point of damage).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Invisibility

A while back, we introduced a new super power system for use with OGL Modern and other d20 System RPGs. It uses the feats and talent trees system rather than layering another set of mechanics or adding more classes to an already complex system.

Since I couldn't find an obscure superhero that I felt like adding to the NUELOW Games stable, I am instead adding the Invisibility Talent Tree to the d20 Supers system. (You can see the foundation of the system by clicking here.)

This is a bit off-the-cuff, so it will probably be revised before it finds its way into an actual product. If you want to offer input, it will be considered and appreciated.

You have an unnaturally developed ability to move stealthly.
   Benefit: You gain a +4 bonus to Move Silently skill checks.

You can become hard to see or totally invisible at will. The invisibility can be activated by a thought, and remains in effect until he wills himself visible again, or loses consciousness. The characters clothes and carried objects become invisible as well.
   Prerequisite: At least one Minor Power Feat.
   Shadowy: By taking a standard attack action, you turn partially invisible. You gain a +2 bonus to all Hide checks. This bonus increases to +6 if you are in a dark area or it is night.
   Invisible: By taking a standard attack attack action, you turn invisible. All attacks made against you suffer a -6 penalty. You can still be seen by creatures that can see invisible objects, and you can be sensed by equipment that detects body heat or movement. Likewise, if you step in a puddle, are submerged in water, stand in heavy rain, or if someone fills the air with dust or flour that clings to you, you essentially become visible
   Prerequisite: Shadowy
   Insubstantial: As Invisible, except the character becomes vapourous and become immune to damage from all damage sources except those that compress or displace air, such as extreme heat and cold. The character suffers normal damage from such attacks.
   Prerequisite: Invisible

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

'Science Sleuths #5' now available!

The fifth issue of Science Sleuths is now on sale at DriveThruComics, DriveThruRPG, and RPGNow. It features stories starring Jill Trent and Rocketman, but you can also get to know the King of Darkness in two stories that are being collected in one place for the first time ever. As a special treat, this issue also features write-ups of Jill Trent and the King of Darkness in the Heroes and Hoodlums RPG system... a game specifically designed for playing Golden Age comic book characters.

Click here to see previews of Science Sleuths #5, or to buy and download your own copy.

H is for the Hand

Some comic book heroes are left on the ash-heap of discarded pop culture for good reason. One of these is the mysterious, supernatural crime-fighting entity known only as the Hand. Where he (it?) came by that name is obvious.

Talk to the Hand. Art  and Writing by Bill Flinton & Bill O'Connor
I love the Golden Age of Comics, because the "rules" of what made for good story telling in the medium were still being established. All sorts of fun and crazy stories were being thrown out there for public approval, and many of the flash-in-the-pans that only appeared a few times were crazier and more fun than most/

And then there are ones like the Hand. What's more amazing than someone thinking this was a good idea is that the Hand appeared twice during 1941, in issues 12 and 13 of Harvey's Speed Comics. The same team of Bill Flinton and Bill O'Connor delivered both of the Hand's crime-smashing adventures, so they probably came up with the strip... and maybe they had pictures of the editor's mother performing unnatural acts on a water buffalo.

I suppose the Hand is remarkable because it is such a strange notion for a comic book hero. L.L. Hundal, the main editor here at NUELOW Games earmarked the two Hand stories for a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs. I think she may have to get around me first, but if enough of you out there wants to give her a hand by showing support for her idea that the Hand needs to be added to the line-up or NUELOW Heroes & Villains, I may have to give in. You won't even need to acquire pictures of my mother performing unnatural acts with a water buffalo. It doesn't take much to get me to agree to something... if people want to see the Hand, I'll give them the Hand.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Golden Lad & Golden Girl

Teenager Tommy Preston was helping out in his grandfather's antique shop when he found the Heart of Gold, an artifact holding the power of "the blood of a thousand martyred Aztecs." It gives him the ability to turn into Golden Lad at will while granting him super strength, the ability to fly, and x-ray vision.

Golden Boy, as drawn by creator Mort Meskin

Golden Boy was the lead feature in the series that bore his name. It debuted in 1945, and it lasted for five issues. The final issue, like so many comics magazines during the Golden Age, showed no sign that cancellation was impending. In fact, it added a major new element to the Golden Lad Universe--Peggy Shane, a love interest/stalker for Tommy who becomes Golden Girl after she triggers the same magical transformation in herself by holding a chip off the Heart of Gold.

Golden Girl transforms for the first time. Artist & Writer Unknown.

Despite the promises of more adventures of both Golden Boy, Golden Girl, and even the all-new superhero team of Shaman & Flame, Golden Boy #5 marked the end of the road not only for the series and the characters within its pages, but for publisher Spark as well. Spark opened its doors as the comic book market was going through a major contraction, and the outfit simply didn't have the market presence to survive. It's a shame, because Spark was a company that was founded by and with some heavy-duty talent, with Mort Meskin and Mac Raboy being foremost among them.

Golden Lad and Golden Girl will be receiving their own book as part of NUELOW Games' line-up of rpg/comics hybrid books. Shaman & Flame are slated to appear in a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs. (Golden Lad and Golden Girl will also be given stats in both the ROLF! and OGL Modern game systems.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Front Page Peggy

Front Page Peggy is to reporters what Jill Trent is to entrepreneur inventors... in the sense that she's a successful woman in a male dominated field who can beat the living hell out of any bad guy who crosses her path. She headlined four stories (in Startling Comics #41 - 43 and The Fighting Yank #27, all during 1946) where she was seen chasing down stories and knocking out villains with a dedication that puts her male counterparts to shame. (Even when she is assigned a social page article, Peggy sniffs out a far more important story.)

The first look at Front Page Peggy. Art by Al Camy
Peggy is an example of the crusading/adventuring journalist that was a popular figure in movies, pulp fiction, comics during the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps the best-known example of this character type is found in His Girl Friday starring Cary Grant and Roselind Russell.

The first two "Front Page Peggy" adventures were drawn by Al Camy, the primary artist on "Jill Trent, Science Sleuth." We will be including those in issues of Newshounds, our planned series collecting Golden Age comics featuring two-fisted reporters. (For a look at Al Camy's Jill Trent, check out any issue of Science Sleuths.)

Here's "Front Page" Peggy ala ROLF!:

aka Front Page Peggy
Brawn 22, Body 18, Brains 7
   Traits: Improv Master, Nimble
   Battle Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Debate Philosophy, Dodge, Disarm, Knock Out, Murderous Mitts, Seduce
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fashionable, yet practical, hat and dress (clothes). Purse (Small Melee Weapon, deals 1 point of damage).

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Electric Ray

Electric Ray had his one and only appearance in 1942, in the 26th and final issue of Centaur Publishing's Amazing Man series. Ray is working in a plant manufacturing things vital to the U.S. war effort when it becomes a target of saboteurs. While he is conducting his own investigation into the matter, he is set upon by enemy agents who throw him from the factory's roof onto a dynamo, which overloads with a spectacularly. The blast of electricity leaves Ray's body permanently charged with a lethal amount of electricity, which he can release through touching his bare skin to conductive material or other human beings.

Electric Ray is one of those characters that mostly likely couldn't exist today in the innocent form he does here. Instead of being a cheerful adventure story (with a fairly high body count, as no bad guy walks away from their encounter with Ray), I think it would swiftly turn into a Twilight Zone-esque horror story and Ray would soon be on the path to being a villain or a monster. For example, what will happen between Ray and his wife the first time they get intimate after Ray has gained the ability to light up the room in more than just metaphorical ways? And while this panel was probably intended as humorous back in the day, it seems like the sort of sentiment that would always have gotten Ray put on any number of watch lists:

Electric Ray's single appearance will be included in a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs, along with some original writing that incorporates him into the NUELOW Games Heroes & Villains line-up. (And, while not much thought has been put into it yet, I suspect Ray will end up as one of the darker characters.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for the Duke of Darkness

The Duke of Darkness saw print three times during 1945, in three different one-shot comics from Holyoak/Gerona -- Triple Threat Comics (which featured five different characters, oddly enough), K.O. Comics, and Top Spot Comics. He used to be  a cop killed in the line of duty, but who is actually happy to be an earthbound spirit as it frees him up to do a different kind of crime-fighting. How did he come by the name the Duke of Darkness? That's a question that's as mysterious as the "physics" that disembodied spirits operate under in the world of this series. In the Duke of Darkness series, ghosts can become visible at will, but they can also become fully solid. In fact, they can become so solid that they can be knocked unconscious, which happens to the Duke and leads him to be sent to jail. A running gag in the series is that he's sneaking in and out of his cell to fight crime while serving his sentence.

The Duke of Darkness, created by Sam Cooper and John Giunta

The second Duke of Darkness is story is by far the most interesting one, both due to it being the most unusual and weird but also from a historical perspetive. Readers familiar with this blog and the Shades of Gray blog, or of the Science Sleuths series have read about the possible connection between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's creation Spider-Man and the obscure heroine Spider Queen. Well, in the second of the Duke's adventures, he fights a nightmare spirit that's pretty much identical to the Dr. Strange villain Nightmare created by Lee & Ditko. It seems someone on that partnership may have been mining 20 year old comic books for ideas to plunder whole-cloth....

We were considering making the Duke of Darkness the star of a future installment of Complete Golden Age Oddballs, but our sources might be too degraded to make a decent-looking book. We'll see what we can make happen, though.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for the Corsair Queen

The Corsair Queen and her ship Destroyer prowled the waters of the Caribbean in issues 25,26, and 27 of Buccaneers from Quality Comics. Her true name was Lila Evans, and she was the daughter of the governor of Cartago. When her father was murdered in a pirate raid, Lila took to the high seas in search of revenge and adventure. While posing as a pirate, she became the scourge of all injustice.

Corsair Queen is an example of how it was far more common-place for major publishers to have regular series that weren't superhero-centric. We will be presenting the two best of her adventures later this year in our Speak Like a Pirate Day Special in September. That product will also feature a ROLF! Battle Scenario that pits her against the very first woman to take up the mantle of the Black Cat. (By then, we may even include some rules for Lester Smith's CORE RPG. Time will tell!)

In the meantime, here she is ala ROLF!: The Rollplaying Game of Big Dumb Fighters.

Lila Evans, the Corsair Queen (Female)
Brain 20, Body 17, Brains 7
Traits: Busty, Nimble, Honorable
   Battle Manuevers: Backflip, Basic Attack, Castrate, Disarm, Disembowel, Double Strike, Seduce, Strike Pose
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Flintlock Pistol (Small Ranged Weapon, deals 2 points of damage. Ignores armor. Cutlass (Medium Melee Weapon, deals 3 points of damage).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Beau Brummell

NUELOW Games is taking part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge by shining a little bit of a spotlight on an obscure Golden Age comic book character that is slated to appear in one of our future products.

B is for Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell was a dapper millionaire and amateur detective who first appeared in the pages of Triple Threat Comics #1. In that story, he stopped a disgruntled department store employee from endangering one of his investments. In his second appearance (in Atomic Bomb Comics #1), he finds himself the only person who can save the careers of several kidnapped singers. Brummell never breaks a sweat while taking on crazed thugs, and he defeats them with an arsenal of novelty items that would make The Prankster jealous. At the end of each of this two appearances, an attractive woman throws herself at him, but Beau Brummell is a gentleman who travels alone, and his closing line in each tale involves him offering to arrange a cab to take her home.

As with so many minor (and a few major) Golden Age comics characters, the identities of Beau Brummell's creators is lost to history. The artist on the second story is generally assumed to be Nina Albright, but the other talents are even unguessed at. We're happy to adopt this orphan, however. We haven't quite decided where we're going to reprint his two appearances, but if he doesn't end up in an issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs, he'll be the star of this year's Christmas in July ROLF! special.

And speaking of ROLF!, here's Beau Brummel in that game system....

Beau Brummell (Male)
Brawn 16, Body 18 (includes +1 Hat Bonus), Brains 6
   Traits: Coldhearted, Comic Relief, Improv Master
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Debate Philosophy, Dodge, Double Strike, Strike Pose, Withering Insult
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Top Hat (+1 to Body when worn), Evening Wear and Cape (Armor/Cloches, absorbs 1 point of damage). Walking Stick (Medium Melee Weapon, deals 2 points of damage). 2 Gag Items (One-shot Small Ranged Weapons that deal 1 point of damage).

Beau Brummell and lady friends. Art by Nina Albright

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for Atomic Thunderbolt

I'm going to be spending the A to Z Challenge writing role-playing game material for comic book characters published between 1939 and 1954 who only appeared in 1 - 6 stories and then slipped into oblivion. In some cases, I will throw in a game tidbit or two, or I will beg L.L. Hundal to step up the plate and lend a hand. (Anyone out there can play along, too, if you want to add something to an entry. That's what the comments section is for.)

By the time i'm done, a couple dozen more heroes will have been added to the NUELOW Games line-up, and you will have received previews of the content for upcoming issues of Complete Golden Age Oddballs and other of our comics/rpg hybrid books.

And here's today's hero:

A is for Atomic Thunderbolt
Comics writers (and readers) for the past 20-30 years have liked to congratulate themselves on how mature and edgy their comics are these days. They like to describe the comics of previous decades as kiddy stuff. Well, the truth of the matter is that there were mature themes in comics from the earliest days.

Take for example Atomic Thunderbolt. Here's title the star of which came into existence because a mad scientist, frightened by the destructive power of the atom bomb, had devised a method to transform humanity into creatures who could survive atomic blasts and radiation. Willy Burns, a WW2 vet suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and severe depression, volunteers to be the scientist's test subject, because he feles he has nothing left to contribute to the world. It perhaps goes without saying, but the scientist's experiment goes horribly wrong, causing a massive explosion that kills him, destroys his laboratory and all his inventions... but leaves a transformed Willy as the only thing standing in the wreckage. Willy vows to use his newly gained powers for good, to fulfill the scientist's dream of a better tomorrow for humanity. (Those "newly gained powers" included the ability to fly, to create explosions with his bare hands, and to generate waves of force at will.)

Atomic Thunderbolt, drawn by Mort Lawrence
In the space of less than a dozen pages, the debut story of Atomic Thunderbolt tackled the long-term damaging effects war can have on those who wave it, the threat that atomic weapons posed (and still pose) to life on Earth, and even the dangers of scientists who feel their ends justify their means--the to Willy apparently benevolent scientist was willing to force someone to be his test subject if he hadn't happened upon Willy. Even more, the story makes it clear that he was one of the minds behind the invention of the atom bomb. I think this maturity level of the ideas in this story measure up to anything that we saw in the 1980s and 1990s when it was hip to blather on about how "grown up" comics were. And the anonymous writer of Atomic Thunderbolt told his story without needing to resort to profanity.

Aside from his origin story, Atomic Thunderbolt appeared in one more adventure. In it, he crossed paths with Rigor & Mortis, a pair of screwball immortal alchemists whose sorcery might be as dangerous as atomic weapons if they weren't so inept. The adventure with Rigor & Mortis was the second story in Atomic Thunderbolt #1, as in 1946 it was still typical for a comics magazine to contain numerous short stories in various genres and featuring different characters.

While each of the four stories included in Atomic Thunderbolt #1 ended with a plug for issue #2, no such issue ever saw print. In fact, this was the one and only comic book to ever be published by the Regor Company. Atomic Thunderbolt never flew again... until now! He will return in a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs along with Rigor & Mortis and an all-new ROLF! battle scenario!

Coming to a bookstore near you -- "Ginger & Snap"!

It began as a joke when someone hinted that if 1940s gender-swapping twins "Ginger and Snap" were created today, the series would have a totally different tone and thrust. We found the joke so amusing that we even worked up a mock ad for the "modern" title Ginger & Snap.

Guess what? What started as a joke will be reality by this time next year! A deal has been signed between NUELOW Games and Catalan Communications to create an all-new 64-page graphic novel featuring a more mature/adult take on Ginger and Snap's gender-bending exploits. It will be illustrated by Milo Manara (of "Click" and "The Great Adventure"  fame) and co-scripted by NUELOW's Steve Miller and L.L. Hundal. The graphic njovel will also feature a 16-page d20 OGL supplement that will make Feats of an Adult Nature look like a Kindergarten ABC primer.

Our little comics projects are bringing us success beyond imagination... and we didn't even have to do a Kickstarter to make it happen!