X-Men, Part 4: Issues #24-39: The Middle Years of the Original Team

Saturday, January 18th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Screenshot_20191214-151002_Marvel Unlimited

While travelling in November, I loaded a bunch of X-Men comics onto my phone for the airports. I haven’t stopped reading and I started blogging about my reread. I’ve made the reread slightly more complete by adding in stories that were written later but fit into the canon. I’ve talked about:

  • Part I: X-Men #1 (Nov, 1963) to X-Men #20 (May, 1966)
  • Part II: Early X-Men guest appearances (1964-1965), X-Men #21-23 (1966), and X-Men: First Class Volume I (2006)
  • Part III: X-Men: First Class, Volume II (2007)

In this post, I’m covering my thoughts on X-Men #24-39, with cover dates 1966-1967 which cover, most significantly, the introduction of Banshee and the multi-part Factor Three story. I mention the dates though because for the older issues I often spool up music from the corresponding year to play in the background for flavour. If you’re reading along at home via Marvel Unlimited or trades or Masterworks, give it a try. It’s weird way to situate yourself in the historical era.

It’s also important to situate ourselves in the comics era. During this period, Roy Thomas was getting his feet under him, with maybe as many hits as misses? Elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, Kirby and Lee were introducing the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and the Black Panther. On TV, the Adam West Batman series was premiering, as was the animated Spider-Man series, the first Fantastic Four animated series, as well as Marvel’s old Thor, Captain America and Iron Man cartoons which were half animated, half motion comic. It was a heady time to love superheroes, although I missed it by 15 years.

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An Apology to Jaym Gates

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 | Posted by Rich Horton

Mike Resnick obit

Mike Resnick, March 5, 1942 — January 9, 2020

After Mike Resnick’s death, some people, Jaym Gates in particular, posted some of their thoughts about his career, most particularly his SFWA Bulletin piece in which he made some sexist remarks about historical women editors. I’m not the right person to dig into detail about that, but it represented part of a historical attitude that, even when held with superficially positive intentions (praise of said editor’s actual editing work, for example), clearly sent a message that for women in the field, one’s appearance can affect one’s reception. And that’s just wrong. No argument. (There is much more to unpack on that subject, and I’m not the person to do it. See Jaym’s post, or see some of the articles posted back then (2013).)

But I confess I was a bit bothered that this discussion happened immediately on Resnick’s death. I am culturally conditioned to follow the ancient Latin maxim “De mortuis nil nisi bonum” (say nothing but good of the dead). I mentioned my feelings on another person’s FB page. And I got some pushback.

I thought some good points were made by those who responded to me … One is that people who have been truly hurt by someone else have an understandably complicated reaction to news of that person’s death. At the very least, even if one disagrees with that person’s reaction, one ought to have sympathy, to try to understand why they felt they had to say what they said. Another point is that if the full story of a man’s life, his contributions, is to be offered, when will it be seen except when he’s in the news? Many of us have made posts celebrating the good Mike Resnick did — and make no doubt of it, he did much good for the field. But I acknowledge that he also caused harm — and those who have been harmed deserve a voice, too. A third point is that the voices of people traditionally marginalized — as women have been in our society and in our field — sometimes don’t get heard, or weren’t heard when it really mattered. (The Isaac Asimov stories should make that clear.) If it takes a little rudeness to make sure those voices are heard, that’s a price we ought to be prepared to accept.

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Exploring Character in Starfinder

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

StarfinderCharacterOperationsOne great feature of the class designs in the Starfinder Core Rulebook is that each class has a variety of choices, allowing for distinct builds that can suit a variety of play styles. You can build a Mechanic or Technomancer that is either a weak combat-avoiding technician or a combat-ready armored cyber-warrior, for example. This initial diversity has allowed for many permutations on the basic character options, so right out of the gate there’s little chance of players feeling like they’ve explored everything their characters can do. Over its first couple of years, the expansions have focused on new playable races (across three Alien Archive volumes!) and equipment (in an entire Armory volume), but there have been fewer additional options by comparison to modify the core characters.

The release of Starfinder‘s most recent rules supplement, the Character Operations Manual (Paizo, Amazon), definitely helps remedy that situation. Like Pathfinder‘s Advanced Player’s Guide, this is really the volume that establishes the ability to deeply customize characters … a hallmark of what made the Pathfinder RPG distinctive. In addition to three completely new classes, the Character Operations Manual presents more Themes, alternate racial traits for core races and Pathfinder legacy races, Archetypes that provide alternate class features, feats, equipment (including shields), spells, new starship combat rules, and an entirely new downtime system mechanic.

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Pop Dungeon: A Star Wars Pops Game

Monday, January 13th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

SWPop_OneEDITEDMy son’s birthday is December 22nd. We’ve made sure that Sean, who just turned twelve, gets two events, and two sets of presents: we don’t combine it with Christmas. So, he’s pretty much buried in new ‘stuff’ for a week. This year, the day before his birthday, I took him and a friend to see The Rise of Skywalker. And that set him off on a Star Wars Pops buying-binge. He had a half dozen within a week. It quickly went up to eight, where it’s in a holding pattern.

Sean decided he wanted to be a Dungeon Master, and he created a new game to pay with me: Pop Dungeon. He pulled an oversized red die we had from some toy bin somewhere (it’s not from any game), and as a backup, he set aside two regular six-sided dice, though we rarely use those.

Grabbing a mish-mash of items from around his room, including a rope, a big AT-AT, some plastic apples, a Transformer, a tank, a baseball cap, and more and he placed them all around his room. Then he put six of the Pops  on his school desk, and proceeded to Dungeon Master me through a Pop Dungeon adventure!

Each Turn gives me two options: “Fight or run away.” “Search, or heal.” “Try to fix the jeep, or walk.”

I roll the ridiculously bouncy, giant red die. A 1 is catastrophic. 2 is pretty bad. 3 is not too bad. 4 means I accomplished what I picked to do. 5 or 6 means I succeeded with some type of bonus effect. It is RIDICULOUS how many times I roll a 1. I’m going to record it for one session some time, because it is waaaaaaaaay beyond statistically improbable!

There are a lot of Turns. And he gets to roll the die for his guys after two of my Turns. Even if I string together a couple successes in a row, a 1 or 2 (or a couple of them) knocks the party for a loop. The first couple sessions went an hour-plus, so I had to shorten them up.

Sometimes, the party members are killed and some aspect of the force reanimates them and they are on his team. I think in one adventure, Captain Phasma was killed from my party, then I had to kill her twice more when she was brought back on the other team. Though, Sean’s been thrashing me so soundly, he hasn’t had to do that lately.

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X-Men, Part 3: X-Men: First Class, Volume II and First Class Finals

Saturday, January 11th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

xmfc 11

I am continuing my perhaps Quixotic reread of The X-Men. I started in 1963 and am working my way up to the present, and I’m including not just the main series, but some significant cross-overs and the series that retcon some good stories.

My first blog post covered X-Men #1-20. My second post covered X-Men 21-23, some early cross-overs, and the 2006 series X-Men: First Class. For this one, I read X-Men: First Class, Vol II, #1-16, which continued Jeff Parker’s excellent story of the original five X-Men, with art by Eric Nguyen, Roger Cruz, Nick Dragotta and others.

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A (Black) Gat in The Hand: Bill Crider Reviews ‘The Brass Cupcake’

Monday, December 30th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Crider_BillEDITEDYou’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

If you asked me to name the nicest person I’ve encountered since becoming a writer/blogger/whatever I am, I’d immediately fire back, “Bill Crider.” I have yet to come across one person who had anything bad to say about Bill. He was always friendly, and generous with his knowledge and advice. Bill was an excellent writer of mysteries and westerns, best known for his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series.

His ‘Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine’ was a fun blog, full of all kinds of short posts about books, music, advertisements, history – pop culture stuff. I’m pretty sure that Bill would have liked A (Black) Gat in the Hand. And I think he would have contributed an essay. So, for the final entry in round two, I’m reposting Bill’s review of John D. MacDonld’s The Brass Cupcake. Swing by his blog and read some great stuff!

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Back to the Books for the Theater of the Mind

Friday, December 20th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Johnny Dollar tradeI came to Old Time Radio late in life. My parents were born in 1940 and 1942, respectively. They remembered radio shows from their childhood, but the advent of television made more of an impact on them. During my teen years, one of our local UHF stations briefly picked up reruns of the jazz noir detective series Peter Gunn (1958-1961) in the mid-1980s and I was instantly hooked. A set of Peter Gunn episodes on VHS followed in 1989 from Rhino Records. Before long, I was hunting for Henry Kane’s well-written paperback tie-in and the goofy Dell Comic (where Pete tracks down villains trafficking in counterfeit collectible postage stamps). 2002 would bring the first DVD sets of Peter Gunn. By the time the entire series was on DVD, so was its companion series, Mr. Lucky (1959-1960); and then I discovered the imitation series, Johnny Staccato (1959-1960) which successfully blended concepts from both series before adding a healthy dose of angst-ridden method acting to the mix.

I couldn’t stop there of course, not with gray market sets of Peter Gunn‘s progenitor, Richard Diamond (1957-1960) and Mr. Lucky‘s successor, Dante (1960-1961) circulating among collectors. Eventually, I discovered a terrific, but nearly forgotten television adventure series, Hong Kong (1960-1961) and reached back to find Dante had actually preceded Mr. Lucky via an earlier series, Dante’s Inferno (1956). Having reached the end of the line for the uniquely sophisticated and stylish Golden Age of Television detective and adventure series that appealed most to me, I decided to venture into the largely unknown waters of Old Time Radio.

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Before Roomba

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

1899 En L'an 2000 floor sweeper

Launcher of a million cat videos, the Roomba automatic vacuum cleaner was a success from its release in 2002. The catchy name helped, and the even catchier company name, iRobot, solidified the the concept and category of the machine in the public’s mind. The firm was founded in 1990 by three, definitionally nerdy, MIT roboticists, Colin Angle, Helen Greiner and Rodney Brooks. Undoubtedly familiar with Isaac Asimov’s famed collection of robot stories – and probably frequent visitors to the MIT Science Fiction Society’s library in the student center, the world’s largest public open-shelf collection of science fiction – they plucked the name away from thousands of possible competitors, almost guaranteeing success. Admittedly, they wasted a decade on military robots, although the DoD might disagree with the verb, but their cute crawling bug now defines the category.

Although the Roomba is synonymous with “vacuuming robot,” like Apple’s iPad and iPhone, it wasn’t the first of its kind. Who anticipated it? Everybody, in fact and fiction. I’m not even going to mention images of robots pushing old-fashioned vacuum cleaners, but stick to purely automatic machines, anticipated in 1899 by the En L’an 2000 series by French artist Jean Marc Côté.

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Christmas Gifts for the Creatives in Your Life

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

wallpaperplay com 1

I don’t think it could have escaped anyone’s notice that Christmas is just about a week away. Is anyone prepared? I know I’m not (Don’t panic, Sonia.  Don’t panic). Many of you might have a creative in your life that you’re struggling really hard to come up with meaningful gifts for. I get it. It’s really tricky. I figured I would put together a small list of gift ideas that perhaps you can draw inspiration from while shopping for the difficult creative in your life.

Disclaimer: Creatives aren’t a monolith with the same tastes and preferences. This list may or may not work for you or your favorite creative. Also, as I’m a writer, I tend to gravitate towards gifts that would suit writers, but many of these would work for an awful lot of creatives.

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Rogue Blades author: Robert E. Howard Changed My Life and Continues to Inspire Me

Friday, December 13th, 2019 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Howard changed my lifeRecently publisher Rogue Blades Foundation announced the release next year of the title Robert E. Howard Changed My Life. Award-winning author Adrian Cole will appear in that book. Below he offers some of his memories of discovering Howard and how such affected his writing career.

Having been a big fan of Robert E. Howard’s work since I first discovered it back in the 1970s (when like many others I got hold of those wonderful Lancer paperback editions of King Kull and then Conan), I was very easily persuaded to join the contributors to the Rogue Blades Foundation project, Robert E. Howard Changed My Life.

Okay, as a title, that’s a quite dramatic statement, but in all honesty it’s certainly true in my case. At the time I first read REH I hadn’t much of an idea about what I wanted to do with my life as far as a “career” went, although I’d already started to write, my initial work inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tolkien and others. Writing was far more interesting to me than any day job could ever have been and REH added an ingredient to the heady cocktail that ensured my determination and zest to channel my creative energy didn’t fade. Inspiration added to imagination, the ultimate mix. At the time REH was enjoying not only a revival, but an explosion of interest that eventually went world wide, and I found myself swept along by it at a critical time in my own development as a writer. I knew that, whatever else happened to me, good times and bad, REH would go on being an inspiration to me for the rest of my days.

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