Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wendy Davis

Okay, as you all know, I'm from Texas, a fact that I'm almost continually ashamed of. Over the last couple of weeks, Rick Perry has been pushing through a virulent anti-abortion bill in a special session of the TX State legislature. The other day, the bill passed the Texas House of Representatives, and today, it went before the TX Senate.

Senator Wendy Davis, pictured right, started a filibuster at 11 am yesterday, and continued well into the night, speaking nonstop on how idiotic this bill is, how much it hurts Texas women, and how necessary abortion often is. The whole thing has been streamed on several webcams, and other sites have extensively reported on the procedural shenanigans the Republican senators have used to shut down Davis' filibuster. Now, nobody's really sure what the end result of all this is. The bill, entitled SB5, went up for a vote shortly before midnight today, after Republican senators held a party-line vote to state that Sen. Davis went off topic. She, by the way, was talking about a previous year's anti-abortion bill, which I think is more than  a little on-topic when considering this years anti-abortion bill. The crowd at the Capitol went batshit insane,and the vote was held up until well after midnight, after the special session had officially ended. The Repubs went ahead and voted in SB5, of course, and even changed the Senate's minutes to reflect the vote too place on 6-25, when the initial report had the vote taking place at 6-26, and thus, being completely invalid.

Now our Lt. Governor, David Dewhurst, claims the vote is valid and the bill passed. He's a Republican and lies like a fucking rug though, and is not to be trusted. Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's senior TX spokeswoman says the bill is dead, but she's pro-choice and therefore optimistic and hopeful and there for is not to be trusted, at least on this issue, because optimistic and hopeful liberals always tend to underestimate how fucking EVIL Texas conservatives can be. Seriously, this whole filibuster has been like a master class in Texas politics. Texas conservatives are insanely competent at using procedural rules to disenfranchise and screw over liberal voters, politicos and activists. "Redistricting" is a term that has a special meaning in Texas, and the rest of America just got a live look at how our Repubs like to operate. Changing the time stamp on the official minutes sounds right up there alley.

Now, every media outlet I've read has a different take on what actually happened. Some are saying SB5 passed, others are saying it didn't pass. Okay, wait, I just saw another tweet saying that Dewhurst has conceded SB5 is dead. So who the fuck knows at this point?

Anyway, upshot of all this is: Davis kicks ass, there are a few good people in Texas, and they were all crammed into the Capitol rotunda, screaming tonight. Now, I figure that sooner or later, Gov. Perry will call another special session to pass SB5 or a variant of it, and we'll have to go through all this again, but I've got one small hope. Texas' Republican politicians have just had to sit through 12-13 hours of nonstop testimony about what it means to be pro-choice. And they couldn't just tune it out, no, they had to listen to Davis' every word, waiting for a chance to pounce on her for straying off topic. They had to listen. For 13 hours, they had to fucking listen to her, and to us.

Thirteen hours of talk. Do you think maybe, just maybe, one of them learned something?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Black Tokyo: ON SALE NOW AT RPGNOW.....

Black Tokyo Unlimited Edition just went on sale at, sometime late last night while I was at work. The PDF is currently on sale for $14.99, and a Print on Demand version will be available within a couple of days.Go buy it, I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel Thoughts

I just returned from seeing Man of Steel, and damn, if DC doesn’t finally have a movie as good as The Dark Knight. I won’t say MoS is better than the Dark Knight, because the Dark Knight didn’t have all the irritating Christian symbolism (more on that in a second) and it had Heath Ledger, but the two movies are equally good.

I’d been avoiding spoilers as much as possible for MoS, and I wanted to go into the movie cold. First, I was very impressed that the movie dedicated a good chunk of screen time to actually showing Krypton. Like Vulcan and Earth in the first JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, movie Krypton was a place we’d heard about, but never really got a chance to walk around in, and the opening scene more than took care of that. Krypton was beautiful and weird. I’m seeing two main influences on movie Krypton: the first is the Halo game franchise. Halo’s design has really influenced a lot of sci-fi, because a whole generation of artists and special effects crew grew up with that vision of the future.

Much of Krypton’s tech reminded me of the Covenant’s, especially the ships and energy rifles. I also noticed that most of the Kryptonian tech looked vaguely organic and subtly sexualized, lots of vaginal and phallic motifs, which makes sense given the culture has abandoned sexual reproduction in favor of kelp forest fetus farms. Plus, I fucking loved the liquid metal tech, especially the hovering phone droids.  

Michael Turner had a short run on the Superman comic, illustrating Godfall and reintroducing Supergirl in a great story; during Godfall, Superman was trapped in a kind of VR simulation of Krypton, which resembled the world here. The dragonfly-like assault ships and the four winged dragon weren’t specifically from that arc, but they were very Turner-like in design. I think the art department read Godfall and went on to poach other Mike Turner comics, like Fathom and Soul Fire for ideas. Good call on their part, because Krypton was absolutely gorgeous. The Matrix fetus-farm/kelp forest was amazing, and I loved Jor-El’s pet dragon (did he call that thing Argo? I couldn’t hear clearly.) When the DVD comes out, there better be a goddamned deleted scene where he pets the dying dragon and tells it ‘good boy’ though, because that scene needed to be in the movie.

The whole movie felt very faithful to the comics while not being constrained by them. I loved the fact that Lois Lane not only knows his secret identity, from practically the first moment they meet, she is an active participant in keeping Superman’s ID secret. The movie went out of their way to make Lois as sarcastic and slightly vulgar as she is in the comics, but showed off her intelligence (she figured out Clark’s identity and origin in what, a 2-3 week montage sequence?) but showed that she was honorable enough to keep that secret a secret. For the first time, I felt Lois as a character was worthy of Superman’s love, a feeling I’ve never really gotten from the comic book Lois.

The movie takes great pains to establish that humanity is worth saving. Man of Steel is a disaster movie in a sense, but it takes great pains to show that the humans around Superman are trying to help one another and are heroic in their own right. The fishing trawler captain responding to the SOS from the oil rig, Jonathan Kent’s death, Perry trying to help Jenny, “Guardian’s” heroic sacrifice, the soldiers and cops and civilians throughout the movie all trying to help. Good storytelling detail- the civilians in the X-Men and Avengers movies are either panicky sheep or outright bigots, and the civies in the DCU seem a little more likable.

I’m amazed by the quality of the guest stars this movie fielded. I knew Russell Crow was Jor-El, but I missed that Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were Clark’s parents. Fucking Field of Dreams was in this movie. I also kept expecting Christopher Meloni’s character to forcibly sodamize somebody, just he is so strongly associated with the character of Keller from Oz in my mind. Also, he didn’t wear the incredibly stupid blue and gold costume, but Meloni was the fucking Guardian. Of all the DCU properties to appear in a multimillion dollar movie, they included the Guardian. His call sign was Guardian, and he was a soldier who died heroically saving Metropolis, so Guardian it is. I was actually very pleased to see that.

And even though they got Laurence Fishburne in this movie, Perry White still remains the gruff newspaper editor that is no where near as interesting as J. Jonah Jameson. Fishburne did what he could, but I don’t think he really had much to work with. Also, I recognize the balding reporter, Lombard, from somewhere, but damn if I can ID the actor. I’m curious- I’d heard they flipped Jimmy Olsen’s gender and made her Jenny, but seriously, there’s nothing on screen to indicate that Jenny is anything other than some random NPC named Jenny. Will they develop her more in the sequel?  

There were plenty of Easter eggs, of course. Jor-El’s cool liquid metal hologram displayed Krytponian statues very similar to the enormous chrome statues of his parents that decorated Superman’s Fortress of Solitude pre-Crisis, and other elements of the chrome hologram were lifted directly from panels in Lenil Yu’s awesome Birthright miniseries. In addition to Guardian, lots of other military call signs recalled various DC properties, but I’m not sure if that’s intentional or merely coincidental. The only direct Lexcorp Easter egg I noticed was the tanker truck thrown at Superman by Zod during the climactic battle, but there may have been stuff I missed. And in the credits, I noticed a character named Dev-Em- a minor Kyrptonian from the Legion era, but damn if I could identify him on screen.

Now for the part I didn’t like. The Christian symbolism. I’d gone into the movie expecting more overt symbolism, especially given the news that Warner Brothers was starting a whisper campaign among Evangelical clergy to put the word out that MoS was, if not an explicitly Christian film, a Christian-friendly one, but the elements in the movie were far more superficial. Basically, Superman starts his heroic career at 33 and flies in a cruciform pattern a few times, and Jor-El, in voice over narration keeps talking about how he sent his Son to save mankind.

However, Superman is ethical without being religious, which is about as it should be. I did however, question the wisdom of Superman confiding in a priest (who used to be the school bully who beat up little Clark back in the day). That scene added nothing, and though we as the audience were supposed to believe that Clark’s refusal to hit back helped the priest to find God, given what I know of rural Kansas politics and theology, I find myself wandering what this priest-character does the other 364 days out of the year when he’s not (badly) advising Clark Kent. Is this guy still a bully, only instead of bullying teen-Kent, does he bully women out front of the only abortion clinic within 75 miles of Smallville?

Also, did anybody else get the vibe that Jonathan Kent might have been an atheist? It was very subtle, but when Pete Ross’s dipshit mom started blathering on about Clark miraculously saving everybody, using evangelical memes and word choices, did you notice Jonathan sorta rolling his eyes. I get the feeling that he really held Mrs. Ross in contempt, but was only being polite to her because rural Kansas social mores demanded him to be, and Jonathan didn’t seem emotionally strong enough to actively fight to change an unjust culture- witness his advice to his son. Still, it was kind of subversive, you’ve got Clark who was raised by an atheist? Or at least non-believer, and he’s flying in the sun, saving the planet, and Pete Ross, raised by an evangelical house-mouse is a small town schlub managing an IHOP. To what degree did the two men’s religious upbringing, or lack of the same, define their futures?

Still, Pete Ross was likable- his arc was minor, he went from bullying Clark, to offering comfort secretly, even if like Jonathan he lacked the balls to directly stand against an unjust society. Though Pete Ross’ heroism was understated, and weak, there was still a little heroism there; he kept Clark’s secret and was better for knowing him.

Anyway, that’s all opinion and prejudice, and I’m probably projecting some of my own subtext onto the movie.

One thing I wonder about is the role of the American military in superhero movies like this. In the Bay Transformers films, in Avengers, in Iron Man, in the horrible Battleship, ect, you’ve got ordinary American forces up against full on MDC Rifts-style monsters, and while the military is portrayed as heroic, decisive and honorable, the soldiers get slaughtered by the HUNDREDS.

Years back, when I wrote D20 Decade: the 1980s, I noted that a shopping mall gets annihilated in tons of movies, Day of the Dead and The Blues Brothers being two of the best known examples. It was like movie makers realized that though malls offered convenience, there were killing something vital of the old America, and took great pleasure in destroying one. We need the mall, but we also sorta hate it because we intuitively understand the consequence of its presence, so let’s have some catharsis by blowing one up on screen. Is the modern, post 911 military the same thing. We need these guys, but after Abu Garib, and PRISIM and all the other bullshit, we kinda hate them too. So we put soldiers in our big budget summer block busters just so they can die like heroes, but most importantly, so they can just DIE. (And by the way, though I’ve definitely got some opinions about that whole PRISIM clusterfuck, I’m sure as shit not talking about it on line. Those who know what I did in the Navy can guess why.)

Anyway, something to think about. Faint reservations aside, I'll definitely be buying this one when it comes out on DVD. 

Blessed Be,

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Corpse Princess

Last weekend, I picked up some anime. The Hastings in my town carries several Funimation anime series in their 'SAVE' format- green boxed DVD sets of an entire season of a random anime series for about 20 bucks. I picked up two: the most recent revamp of Guyver, and Corpse Princess. Guyver is a retelling of the anime I watched back in the 1990s- slightly better art, slightly modified story, but about what I expected. Corpse Princess on the other hand- wow, this anime is amazing. Seriously, it's basically Black Tokyo the anime.

I hadn't seen this series until a few days ago, and I'm amazed at how strongly it resembles Black Tokyo, arrived at completely independently. Basically, I think Corpse Princess' animators and writers were drawing on similar myths, attempting to do similar things, and were inspired by the same anime I was when I was writing Black Tokyo.

The basic princess is Makina, the character pictured above, is the titular 'corpse princess' a kind of undead girl who is tasked by a secretive sect of Buddhist monks with slaughtering other, more predatory undead. Undead of Makina's type are referred to as shikabane hime 'corpse princess', and are basically adorable undead schoolgirls/WMDs. Undead in this series are created when a person dies with unfulfilled desires, or intense regrets, very similar to the unsent in Final Fantasy X; the heroic shikabane hime are created by a ritual that bonds one of these undead to a Buddhist monk. Storywise, this set up binds a stronger male protagonist/mentor to a smaller, cute female servant- there's a strong romantic subplot, mixed with the sidekick/master relationship. I'm reminded of Al Tonelico, and Gunslinger Girl while watching this, but also the relationship between Batman and Robin in The Dark Knight Returns. Something interesting, is though the male monk characters are in a paternal role, they are actually less powerful than their bonded women- the series' titular corpse princesses are superhuman undead, each wielding unique weapons, from paired Mac10s to a giant temple bell wielded as a massive warhammer. By contrast the monks are merely human, and these male characters are cast in the traditionally feminine roles of mentor, cheerleader and emotional/psychic support. It's a cool dichotomy. The monk can also share energy with his bonded corpse princess, allowing her to regenerate and do interesting power stunts.

The shikabane hime are almost identical to my conception of the Goryohime as they appear in Black Tokyo, though the corpse princesses are created by angst rather than hedonistic lust. Basically, the Corpse Princess set-up can easily be poached for a Black Tokyo campaign model- Goryohime warriors and the monks that love them. Some of the monsters and powers are also easily importable to Black Tokyo, as is the concept of a male hero bonded to a female companion, empowering and empowered by her. One of the main villains is a corrupt monk with centipedes for arms- a concept virtually identical to my Omukame advanced class, and drawn from the link between centipedes and death/impurity in Japanese folklore. Another interesting parallel between Black Tokyo and Corpse Princess comes to the fore in episodes 19-20, which have some really bizarre breathplay/suffocation themes. Anyway, it's been a fun ride, and I'll probably finish up the season tomorrow morning sometime.

Blessed Be,

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Black Tokyo Unlimited: FINISHED!

Two nights ago I finished Black Tokyo Unlimited and sent it to Mark for final edits and uploading to RPGnow. He'll put together the front and back covers for the print edition and have it out soon, unless there are any major problems that need a re-editing. I don't think there will be, but you never know.

So Black Tokyo Unlimited is finally finished. I've been working on it intensely for several months now, and I'm excited to have it out. I know BTU will be a huge seller, and get some critical attention for me, though I doubt this 2nd edition will be as viscerally shocking as the first release of the world. It's definitely the largest and most complex book I've worked on since 2011's Otherverse America Unlimited Edition, and I was a bit nervous laying out what will be my first independent print on demand book I've had a few other print on demand books: Against the Darkness by Tabletop Games, Dangers & Discoveries and Trade Routes by LPJ Designs, and even a couple of true ISBN-based print releases: The Mother Of All Treasure Tables by Necromancer Games and the Koboldnomicon by Dog Soul Publishing, but this the first print book I've done myself, and that's an emotional milestone for me.

The book is fucking huge. The onscreen edition is 264 pages (261 pages of content, minus the front cover, credits page and OGL listing), and the POD version is about 40 pages shorter, though includes all the same content. The page count difference is due to the wider margins on the POD version, though I did use slightly smaller art in the POD version than I did in the on-screen version. I'll considering changing my default margins on future PDF releases too, in the interest of brevity, because the wider margins don't seem to impact readability or layout attractiveness too much.

What's going on now? Well, I've been recuperating basically. Just sitting around watching anime, relaxing for a couple of nights now. A fan of mine contacted me with some questions about Sentai Sequel and I put out a corrected version of the file with some needed eratta. Mark will be putting the updated file on RPGnow in a couple days. Just a note to all my readers, if you come across a game play error in any of my files, or something that's just not clear, please, send me an email at

I'll do my best to clarify and get out a corrected or eratta-ed version of the PDF. I won't release updated versions for minor typos, misspellings, duplicated words, but will do so to correct problems that make gameplay more difficult.

Tonight I'll be starting on a freelance project for Louis referencing the Ultimate Campaign by Paizo Publishing. While working on that I'm doing a Mutant sourcebook for Psi-Watch with John Picot, and I've already sent an Expanded Occupations: Children of Gaea sourcebook to Mark, that provides new options for a Sentai campaign. EO: Children of Gaea uses existing art from other projects only, but looks great and is a pretty fun, Capt. Planet inspired sourcebook.

After that, who knows. I will probably do some more Psi-Watch stuff, and some follow up Black Tokyo content, but I don't have anything planned at this point. Sooner or later, I'll get started on a Boston citybook for Otherverse America, and as soon as I get the last art I need, I'll put up Closed: Monsters of the Army of God, a huge threat roster for O.A. If you've got any projects you want to see me tackle, include your suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Blessed Be,

Friday, June 7, 2013

New Toy: Transformers Prime Wheeljack

Well, I bought a new toy on Wednesday. I was at Big Lots to pick up some new bowls, and found TF Prime: Wheeljack on sale for about eight bucks.I see it, and my first reaction is "oh, fuck yes." I'd seen this toy online and it looked great, and now having had a chance to play with it a little I'm even more impressed.

There's something wonderfully tactile about Transformers toys- figuring out how to transform the thing, finding all the little secrets and moving parts never gets old. This is a good one- Wheeljack is amazingly posable, with as much articulation as most of the Marvel 3.75 inch figures, and he stands about five inches tall at the head, though the decorative prongs on the back add a bout another half inch worth of height.

The Transformers Prime character designs are great- for the most part, the designs are instantly recognizable upgrades of the traditional G1 looks. This toy is instantly recognizable as not only Prime Wheeljack, but G1 Wheeljack, and even bears a decent resemblance to the Autobot's current chassis in the IDW "Robots in Disguise" series.

The twin swords are cool, and given their extreme curvature and thickness they seem more like twin scimitars than katana, though I wish 'Jack had been equipped with some kind of energy weapon. The character is the Autobot's armorer, and I would of enjoyed seeing him backed with some huge-ass sci-fi gun.

Speaking of his role as an armorer, I really find myself enjoying the sculpt of the toy's hands. The hands are non articulated, and posed in the standard c-shape to allow Wheeljack to hold his blades. However, the sculptor added some nice detail on the joints and knuckles. Wheeljack's hands look dexterous and intelligent- I can believe these hands capable of building the Dinobots or assembling a laser blaster. Its an odd thing to focus on, but the simple details etched into the hands really please me.

Anyway, TF Prime Wheeljack is a kickass toy, and the next time I'm there I want to see if I can pick up the Ratchet.

Blessed Be (and Till All Are One),

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Black Tokyo Unlimited Is Almost Finished

BTU is nearing completion. I'm laying out the monster chapter now, the last section of the manuscript, and I'm done with about 60% of the critters. The monster section has a little less art than I would like, but is still going to look pretty good, but the art density is 1 piece every 4-5 pages, rather than every 2-3 pages, as in the rest of the book. I'll finish the layout after I get back from work this morning and than create a rough PDF, so I can go page by page on a final editing pass.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Black Tokyo: About 1/3 Done

I'm about a third of the way through the layout process for Black Tokyo Unlimited. Right now, I have finished layout on the introduction, GM's advice section, atlas/adventure site listing, and just this morning, I finished layout on the Hentai Hero basic class, as well as the new class archetypes and the two Advanced Classes I retained from Black Tokyo II, mostly intact. Right now, I'm about a third of the way through. Next up, I need to layout the sections dealing with feats and starting talents. After that, I get to work on the magic item chapter, which is a HUGE section of the manuscript. Finally, I'll lay out Black Tokyo's monster manual.

I should be done by next week sometime. After that, I'm going to do a quick freelance project for Louis, and then get right back into my own projects.