Friday, September 11, 2015

(Recommended Reads) 'Uncle Bush's Live Funeral' by Scott Seeke

On the publicity tour for the 2010 film Get Low, the first question from the audience was always "What's the true story that inspired this film?" After more than a decade of research, Get Low writer Scott Seeke answers that question with Uncle Bush's Live Funeral. This book tells the incredible true story of Felix "Bush" Breazeale, a feared hermit who attracted ten thousand strangers to the funeral he held while still alive in 1938. Seeke had begun researching Get Low as an outsider, a New Yorker married into a skeptical East Tennessee family. By the time Get Low arrived in theaters ten years later, he had earned their trust. They opened doors that allowed him to finally learn why Bush had his funeral while he was still alive, and why so many people came. He found the moving story of a man trapped by his culture and past, desperate to rewrite his life's story before it was too late. Uncle Bush's Live Funeral shows that any outcast can find acceptance, and any label can be overcome, all masterfully told by Get Low writer Scott Seeke.

Gwenpool? Gwenpool?? GWENPOOL????

Earlier this year, Bleeding Cool told you that “Gwenpool” based on a Secret Wars variant cover by Chris Bachalo was fast becoming a thing...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Binder of Shame The Second Edition #2 Crisis On Infinite Jerks

The Binder of Shame
The Second Edition
#2 Crisis On Infinite Jerks

It was shortly after the Collateral Darren's arrest for aggravated cheese theft and we were back in El Disgusto's basement, back to gaming. We rarely had fun but we still got together once or twice a week. Sometimes we played D&D, sometimes we merely argued all night about which edition to use. They tell you your twenties are supposed to be the best years of your life but somehow we’d failed our navigation rolls and lost our way. Can you imagine the frustration of not being able to have real or imaginary adventures? No wonder we were always one change alignment roll from a physical altercation.

And have you ever seen nerds fight? It’s only slightly sadder than what happens when doves cry…

Me: “Man you're cranky these days.”

El Disgusto: “My job has me pretty pissed off.”

Cheating Bastard: “Didn't they fire you for calling in sick for an entire week?”

El Disguso: “I had a note from my Mom.”

Cheating Bastard: “Didn't the note say that you had been playing 'Pool of Radiance'?”

El Disgusto: “And that's why I'm pissed off at Mom!”

Weasley Crusher: “Can we start the game soon? I always wanted to try the DC HEROES system.”

Cheating Bastard: “It has some original ideas that is for sure.”

The DC HEROES role playing game sure did have a lot of original and interesting ideas. This was a game that had to be able to a accommodate characters from Robin to Superman and not involve  higher mathematics or intense puppetry. Stats went from 1-100 and each stat was exponentially higher than the the last. An ordinary person was a strength 1 or 2, folks like Superman and his pals were in the 50’s. Another great part was that if you roll doubles you could roll again and add the results to the successes you’ve already achieved. Rolling doubles was a perfect way to explain how low strength, high concept characters like Egg Fu, the Ten Eyed Man and the Codpiece survived more than twenty minutes.

 It wasn't too bad a game overall and sure there were already a half dozen other games we could have used for comic book hijinks but there was just something about playing your favorite heroes in an officially licensed capacity that made it all the more fun. 

There's something weird about that isn't there?

Me: “Has everyone picked their characters? And remember this is street level heroes only.”

Cheating Bastard: “I still say the Specter is a street level, I mean his secret identity is a cop.”

Me: “No. A million skillion times no.”

Cheating Bastard: “Fine then, but I can play a World War II hero propelled through time to the modern age right?”

Weasley Crusher: “I am so excited about playing Batman!”

I am sure you already know who Batman is but I want you to understand that in the 90’s the caped crusader being popular was still a new thing. Weasley and I had been fans long before that, long before the Burton movie and Frank Miller’s growling take on the character.

So, at the risk of sounding hipster, we liked Batman before he was mainstream.

Blobert Smith: "And I shall be inhabiting the identity of the Creeper!”

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Creeper he was created by Steve Ditko, the man responsible for Spider-Man’s costume design and the artist behind the original classic run of the Amazing Spider-Man. Ditko created a lot of distinctive looking characters over the years and the Creeper was one of his most striking non-Objectivism inspired creations. Imagine if you would a yellow skinned man with curly green hair wearing nothing but knee high boots, green shorts and a red feather boa.

Like I said, striking.

El Disgusto: “And I’m playing Deathstroke so you all better watch out.”

Me: “Hey I am letting you play a villain. Cut the attitude.”

El Disgusto: “Deathstroke is a ninja and every ninja is a hero in a world gone lame.”

Weasley Crusher: “So you see him as a kind of anti-hero?”

El Disgusto: “Yes… no… maybe… stop confusing me!”

Deathstroke is another character that no average Joe would have recognized back in the ‘90s. Then he was just an antagonist for the George Perez era New Teen Titans. His name was Slade Wilson and he was as smart as he was deadly, he learned the secret identities of the new the Teen Titans (Including Robin!) and brought the team down from within.

After that it was only a matter of time before Deathstroke started showing up in other comic books, and videogames and cartoons until he finally reached mainstream via ‘the Arrow’ tv series.

Cheating Bastard: “And just to show that it isn’t the power level in the player character but the character on the player I am  going to play the Red Bee.”

Weasley Crusher: “Who?”

Ah the Red Bee, trust Cheating Bastard to try and screw with me by choosing an obscure character from the 1940's that only a geek like me would be familiar with. He was a superhero that fought crime with a combination of fisticuffs, gadgets and... trained bees. No seriously, he even had a favorite bee that lived in his belt buckle.

I'll pause while you let that sink in.

Me: "Fine, lets begin."

El Disgusto: "Remember Ab3, no matter what happens I attack first."

Me: "Let's see what happens first."

El Disguisto: "Pussy."

Me: “You know, we’re supposed to be friends. Maybe we should act it.”

Blobert Smith: "Not friends, gamers but that is a bond just as sacred for role players don't just exchange pleasantness, oh no. We exchange ideas and die rolls, we breed worlds of imagination and wonder, inseminating each others subconscious with the ropey seed of our dreams."

Weasley Crusher: "Oh why why why did I have clam chowder for lunch?"

Me: “Moving on… each of your characters are in Midway City for reasons that will soon become irrelevant-”

El Disgusto: “How do you know that? I might have been doing something awesome.”

Me: “For reasons that will soon become irrelevant-”

Cheating Bastard: “What is the pollen situation in Midway City?”

Me: “Reasons that will soon become irrelevant-”

Weasley Crusher: “Would I have taken the Bat-mobile, Bat-plane or Bat Jet Roller skates to get there?”

Me: “Soon become irrelevant-”

Blobert Smith: “What season it? I cannot portray my shirtless character’s quest for justice without first knowing how much body heat he is losing.”

Me: “Ir-Rel-Evant. Moving on… a few hours after sunset, a loud noise echoes through the city. The stars twist and re-align themselves in the sky, panic and confusion run riot as an alien wind flows through the streets.”

Weasley Crusher: “Sounds like Darksied is up to something.”

Me: “You don’t know that. No one knows what’s going on at all. It’s panic and confusion. A glowing light appears over the city park.”

Blobert Smith: “The Creeper kippers and prances towards what is no doubt the portal Darksied has used to snatch the city away to his own Hellish reality.”

Me: “Quit it you guys can’t know it’s him.”

El Distusto: “As soon as Deathstroke sees Darksield he’s gonna jump off the back of his motorcycle and kick him in the chin.”

Me: “For the love of God stop assuming it is Darkseid.”

Cheating Bastard: “Look Ab3, this is the DC Universe, if something weird and cosmic is happening it’s probably Darkseid, if something gross and disturbing is happening it’s probably the Joker.”

Me: “Oh yeah? Well maybe this time you’l be surprised. This is a totally new villain of my creation. I let my creativity run wild.”

I followed that statement by flipping through my notes and erasing a few things. Did they see the sweat beading up on my brow? Probably.

Me: “It doesn’t take long for your eclectic group of characters to reach the source of the disturbance.”

Helen Back: “Do I see the other heroes?”

El Disgusto: “Ahem. Deathstroke is a villain and a ninja, no one can see him.”

Blobert Smith: “Naturally the Creeper recognizes the others.  He says ‘Fancy meeting you here. ‘Who’s ready for a crossover?’

Weasley Crusher: “And he says it like that?”

Blobert Smith: “Indeed. Then he asks, ‘Where is the rest of the Justice League?’

Weasley Crusher: “I never imagined the Creeper would sound so much like Bea Arthur.”

Blobert Smith: “I think his costume simply screams Star Wars Holiday Special.

Weasley Crusher: “‘My character swings up to the rest of them and says ‘Hey everyone! What’s shakin?’

Me: “Weasley… I don’t think Batman would… Oh to Hell with it.”

I left no trope unturned in the creation of this game; menacing mooks, costumed crusaders, helpless hostages, distressed denizens and as much awe-inducing alliteration as I could manage.

Me: “And there is no time to rest because another wave of robot monsters is coming.”

Weasley Crusher: “Batman says ‘This is a fine how-do-you-do!’ and charges into battle.”

Me: “Batman doesn’t… oh never mind. Roll your dice.”

Weasley Crusher: “On no! I failed.”

Me: “Your error gives the robot monster a chance to draw a bead on you with his calcinator death ray.”

Blobert Smith: “And the Creeper pirouettes in to save the caped crusader.”

Me: “Let’s see if you can manage it.”

Blobert Smith: “Ah a perfect roll! Or as perfect as anything can be in this broken clockwork of a universe.”

Me: “And the Creeper pushes Batman to safety!”

Weasley Crusher: “Batman thanks the Creeper for being a friend.”

Blobert Smith: “The Creeper admits that they’ve traveled down the road and back again.”

Weasley Crusher: “Batman acknowledges that the Creeper’s heart is true that he’s a pal and a confidant.”

El Disgusto: “NOW CUT THAT OUT!”

Me: “And what is Deathstroke doing now?”

EL Disgusto: “Destroying more of these space helmet wearing gorillas. I’m getting pretty pissed off that I can’t hit something that bleeds. Why can’t these just be parademons from Apokolips?”

Me: “Because you guys are facing an all new threat.”

El Disgusto: “Suuuuuuuure we are.”

Cheating Bastard: “I guess I’ll just have to punch a few more of the gorilla suited bastards into orbit. I have really been lucky with rolling doubles tonight.”

Me: “Yeah, about that. We’re gonna have a long talk after this game is over. I still don’t think 10 sided dice should be shaped like that.”

Cheating Bastard: “They have 10 sides don’t they?”

Me: “Yes  but they also have a decidedly alien geometry to them.”

Cheating Bastard: “You noticed? They’re one of a kind, given to me by Sandy Petersen himself as thanks for agreeing not to send him or Chaosium Inc. any more letters ever again.”

El Disgusto: “Woah. That means he got paid for his writing! How does that make you feel Ab3?”

Me: “I think that would count more as a gift.”

El Disgusto: “At least his fandom didn’t kick him out over a letter writing campaign. Unlike you.”

Me: “It was not a letter writing campaign. I was just submitting articles. To the official newsletter.”

El Disgusto: “You were submitting fan fiction.”

Me: “That was no reason to show me the door.”

El Disgusto: “It was 80’s cop show crossover fan fiction. What was the story that pushed the editorial board of the KISS Army Newsletter over the edge?”

Me: “Sigh… ‘CHiPs Meets The Phantom Of The Park’.”

Weasley Crusher: “They kicked you out of the KISS Army for that?”

Me: “Yeah, their first dishonorable discharge that didn’t involve Gene Simmons and groupies.”

Blobert Smith: “If writing fanfic is stigmatized then only fanfic writers will have stigmata.”

After the rest of us finished scratching our heads over that the battle resumed. It didn’t take long for this somewhat fantastic four to destroy the last of the robot monsters and charge through the portal to the villain’s base.

Me: “You find yourselves in a wide, round, metallic room. A hologram of Midway City fills the center of the chamber and giant cameras are mounted on every wall.”

El Disgusto: “Every wall? You said the room was round that’s one wall.”

Me: “That’s… that’s because the walls are made of a special substance call Gofuckyourselfantium.”

Blobert Smith: “Ah but what is that substance made of?”

Me: “My barely suppressed rage.”

Blobert Smith: “Indeed.”

I suppose it had to be made of something.”

Me: “A massive figure steps out from the center of the hologram. Thickly muscled and barely be-necked, his eyes glow with powerful preternatural predatoriness.”

El Disgusto: “See? I told you.”

Weasley Crusher: “Who else could it be?”

Cheating Bastard: “The Red Bee says ‘We meet again Darksied- for the very first time’!”

Me: “The figure steps into view and you see that his skin is pale, his face angular, his eyes are piecing blue and his mullet is goddamn perfect. He says ‘Fools! You do not know me. You should be honored to be the first to glimpse the face of the Earth’s new master.’

Blobert Smith: “Who in the name of all that’s frosted is this miscreant?”

Me: “He says ‘Pathetic heroes, puny humans, insignificant belt buckle bees. These cameras are broadcasting on every channel on Earth, on every scree, Soon everyone will learn to fear the power of-’

Blobert Smith: “Of?”

Me: “‘…of…’

El Disgusto: “Of?”

Me: “‘…of…’

Cheating Bastard: “Of?”

Me: “‘…of… Mark… Side.’

Weasley Crusher: “Holy last minute substitution!”

What can I say? I should have stuck to my original plan to have the ruler of Apokolips as the bad guy but my pride got the better of me. The problem was I hadn’t been able to think of anything even remotely clever to replace the guy.

And so Mark Side was born- a man with the power of a god and the mullet of Richard Dean Anderson.

Blobert Smith: “Only the Creeper with his unique combination of body painting and post modern drag can save the day now! I attack!”

Me: “Roll those dice.”

Blobert Smith: “What a spectacular failure. A veritable ‘Pink Lady and Jeff’ of the dice rolling world.”

Me: “Mark Side counterattacks with his Alpha Rays and rolls doubles… then rolls doubles again. The atoms that make up the Creeper’s body explode at a million miles an hour.”

Blobert Smith: “Oh no! I am slain!”

Me: “Actually it was only bashing damage so he’ll get better.”

Blobert Smith: “Well thank goodness for that.”

El Disgusto: “Deathstroke turns to the cameras that are transmitting to all the Earth and says ‘Guess what everyone? Bruce Wayne is Batman!’

Weasley Crusher: “You what? You can’t- he doesn’t know that!”

El Disgusto: “Yes he does. Deathstroke knows Robin is Dick Grayson right? Then how could he not know who Batman is?”

Cheating Bastard: “It is right there in the subtext of New Teen Titans issue 39.”

Me: “You’ve crossed a line here El Disgusto.” 

El Disgusto: “I’m trying to distract the bad guy.”

Me: “Are you really gonna do this?”

El Disgusto: “Hell yes. Word to your ninja’s uncle.”

Weasley Crusher: “..but …but …but.”

Me: “I’m sorry Weasley… You are such a jerk El Disgusto.”

El Disgusto: “No. You’re the jerk for letting me play Deathstroke.”

Me: “No you’re the jerk for crapping on every game I try to run!”

EL Disgusto: “No you’re the jerk because you keep inviting me back!”

Me: “Yeah well you’re a double jerk.”

El Disgusto: “You’re a jerk times infinity!”

Blobert Smith: “And now I must wonder, if a title drops in the basement does it make a sound?”

Weasley Crusher: “Fine then! Batman attacks Deathstroke.”

El Disgusto: “Deathstroke says ‘Now we’ll finally find out who the real badass around here is.’

Weasley Crusher: “Fine then Batman growls ‘I’m gonna give you such a pinch!’

Me: “Sigh. Mark Side laughs at his appallingly swift victory. He vows to use what he has learned here to rule the world. Although I admit I’m not sure what it was.”

Cheating Bastard: “The Red Bee takes his favorite bee Michael from his belt buckle and tells him to attack.”

Me: “I don’t think anaphylactic shock can save you now.”

Cheating Bastard: “Let’s see. I roll for Michael’s attack. A hit! And it’s doubles! I get to re-roll! More doubles! I re-roll again. And again! And again…”

Me: “You’re rolling and picking up the dice too fast for me to see what’s happening.”

Cheating Bastard: “Don’t worry. I’m keeping track of the hits, I just need you to check and see if my bee knocks Mark Side through to the other side of Apokolips.”

Me: “This isn’t- Fine whatever. Let’s wrap this up so I can seal what’s left of my crushed soul into a mylar snug.”

And that’s how the game ended pretty much. My villain was defeated by a anthophila with a lot of heart and a seventy re-rolls. I scrapped the game from there but I wasn’t done yet. I still wanted to run a superhero game and I’d just bought the DC HEROES rules set. I told the gang that I’d be back next week with a new campaign idea and only oceanic themed superheroes would be allowed.

Aqua-man, Aqua-lad, Captain Horatio Strong and Neptune Perkins barely lasted five minutes against my newest villain- SharkSide.

(Recommended Reads) Arcane Solutions (Discord Jones Urban Fantasy Series Book 1) by Gayla Drummond

On New Year's Eve 2000, the stroke of midnight returned magic, both light and dark, to the world. Discordia Jones missed it. Struck down at that same instant like a cut-rate Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty mash up, she awakened three years later to a far stranger life, and saddled with psychic abilities. Working as a private investigator for Arcane Solutions only brings on more strangeness. At least there aren't talking mice...