El Sijo's Blog

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If superheroes were real

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  You know the scenario: a normal person is hit by radiation, or a chemical, etc. and somehow gains superpowers from it. Immediately, he or she swears to use the powers to fight crime (or commit them) and makes a secret identity complete with costume and code-name.

But is that how things would really  go?

This is actually a question that has been asked for decades now, thought it is only in relatively recent times, with all the superhero adaptations to more ‘realistic’ media like movies or TV, that it has become truly popular. Mainly you see it in the way superpowers are downplayed and costumes made to look more like current fashions.

Today, we’ll apply some “real world” logic to the scenario above, and see what we come up with.

First, let set some parameters:

-We’re not going to worry how superpowers could possibly exist (not in this article anyway.) We’ll be focusing on the social effects of superpowers.

-We’ll assume that powers are a rare thing- say, about one person in a million gets them. That seems to be the default in most settings- large cities have several “supers” but most other places have only a few.

-All kind of powers exist, from extremely dangerous ones to seemingly useless ones. Who gets what seems to be a random thing too.

Ok, now let’s ask some questions:

Would there be superheroes? Of course there would be. Many modern works like to cynically claim that people with powers would never be unselfish, but I don’t agree, at least not completely. There are heroes in real life: policemen, firefighters, rescue operatives, medics, etc. Lives are saved all the time and not just for money, it takes real courage to so. Superpowers (some of them, anyway) would make their jobs even easier: invulnerability to get into dangerous areas, supersenses to find victims or criminals, healing to cure anyone who’s been hurt, etc. In fact large cities might even have super-SWAT teams.

RESCUE-HEROES

Would there be super-villains? Sadly, yes, and in greater numbers than heroes, as in the comics. As the saying goes, “Power corrupts” so if having something as mundane as a gun can drive a criminal crazy, imagine what wielding the powers of bazookas would get them to do! Which is why super-crime handling units would be necessary.

Not all crimes would need to be violent, thought. Many powers can be easily abused: mind control, mind-reading, shape-shifting (to impersonate people), electronic control over computers, etc. These would also be harder to trace (and prove) making them all the more alluring.

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There would also, however, be a third group, which I call “super-neutrals”: people who use their powers for profit in perfectly legal ways. After all, that’s what most of us do: use our natural skills and talents to make a living. And there would be many, many ways to use powers legally. In my opinion, this would be the largest kind of “supers”.

They would fall into two categories: those who use their powers for work, and those who use it for entertainment. Things like super-strength or super-speed have obvious uses: one person could do the work of dozens. (Although that could bring its own problems, with unions protesting that supers take away jobs from “normals” not unlike the anti-machinery protests of the 19th century.)

UBC Super Ads.indd

Super-entertainers would be similar except they would use their powers for either live performances (like creating their own fireworks) or providing special effects for movies or television (which would save producers a lot of money.) Invulnerable stuntmen would also be in high demand.

Human_Torch___Fire_Ball_by_Italiux

One area were Supers would definitely not be allowed in would be sports. After all, the point is fair competition, and even the most unseeming power could be used to cheat (for example, imagine a telepath who wins a race by reading the minds of the other runners so as to plan when to slow down and when to sprint.) Of course Supers could be paired off against each other, though given how random their effects and levels tend to be that might not be practical (except maybe in ‘Reality Shows’.)

There’s also scientific research: imagine how much easier exploring the mysteries of Earth, or even the stars, could be with the help of people with the right powers: flying into orbit, diving into the depths of the ocean, examining the Earth with X-ray vision, etc. In fact, you can guaranteed that the Supers themselves would be extensively studied to find out how they “tick”.  This could be controversial, but I believe it would inevitably happen somewhere. And those discoveries could lead to anything from wonderful cures to terrible new weapons.

What about secret identities?  Some would exist, but not many. Most people have no reason to hide who they are, unless they are doing something illegal. And we have already established that most supers would use their powers openly. Besides, keeping your identity a secret is very difficult these days,  what with all the investigation techniques that exist today. Though certain abilities –like shape shifting or invisibility- might help.

Also most people would not wear costumes except in the case that their powers made normal clothing impractical: a flaming super might need a fireproof suit, a very large one could use spandex, etc. And of course, those working in Show Business would be the ones with the really flashy outfits (think Super Lady Gaga!)

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In conclusion: a realistic world with superpowers in it would be more like an enhanced version of our own then the bombastic one we see in the comics. Though there would still be important differences, especially (eventually) in the areas of science.

(all art Co. their current owners)

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Steven Universe: more than your average kid’s cartoon

 

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Animated Fantasy Shows are a dime a dozen these days. But while there have been a few noteworthy ones, most fall into the “throw in something funny that will keep the kids entertained for half an hour” category.

  But from time to time, along comes a show that captures either the attention of a larger than expected audience, or one outside its expected demographics. This is the case with Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe.

  The basic premise is this: The Crystal Gems, a team of alien female warriors, live on Earth (for reasons that won’t be revealed until later.) One of them, before the start of the series, fell in love with a human and conceived a child named Steven (Universe is his father’s last name. Seriously.) However, for some reason she must cease to exist upon his birth, leaving him her gemstone (and powers) in his belly-button. Steven is then raised by the other Gems. This leads to hijinks as the pre-teen Steven tries to master his powers or disobeys orders and plays with stuff he’s been forbidden to. Oh and monsters attack all the time, for unknown reasons.

  There are two factors which I feel make Steven Universe stand out. The first is the amount (and variety) of female characters, to the point they almost steal the spotlight from Steven. There’s the Crystal Gems, each with her own body shape and personality (Garnet, the muscular, serious one; Amethyst, the goofy, plump one; and Pearl, the snooty, skinny one.) Even Steven’s “girlfriend” Connie (who looks Hindi to me, but don’t take my word for it) is a nerd with apparently radical social outlooks (for a teenage girl.) Most shows have females who are there to look pretty (in the standard, curvaceous way) or plain, and in any case don’t do or say much. That isn’t the case here, to my delight. They are all attractive, each in her own way. The reason for this may be because the show was developed by artist Rebecca Sugar, but there are several male storyboarders in the staff as well.

  The other appealing factor is the worldbuilding. We get clues from the start that something important is going on behind the scenes. We barely get any information to start with. Like: what, exactly, are the Gems? (We don’t find out they’re aliens until later.) Why are they on Earth? Where are those monsters coming from? Why do they turn into gemstones when killed? Why did Rose “die?” Etc. As we get the answers, we discover there’s a huge setting created for the show beyond that of Steven’s hometown, and it makes us eager to find out more about it. (The only problem, in my opinion, is the pacing. For some reason –perhaps due to the number of episodes the show was granted early on- the writers took their sweet time with those clues and answers. Thankfully in recent episodes the story seems to have picked up speed, with major revelations and events taking place.)

  Overall, Steven Universe is a show both appropriate for small children to watch, as it is entertaining for older audiences especially science/fantasy or Anime fans, and I recommend it. Just remember that the early episodes may feel different from later ones.


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Designing your own Pokémon Card

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Note: this is a reposting of an old article of mine from a previous Blog. Some of the rules below might be outdated.

(For details on the Pokemon Card Game’s rules, see their booklet or go to their website.)

Your Pokemon starts with the Default Stats. To customize it, choose any number of Improvements listed below. However, every Improvement requires that you also pick a Limitation from the list below as well. You can also do it the other way around eg. choose the Limitations first and then use them to “buy” the Improvements. You MUST use up all your limits before you are finished, though.

Note: there are too many possible effects for Attacks and Powers for me to list them all here. I’ll give some examples but you should check an online list for more.

DEFAULT STATS:

Stage: Basic

Hit Points: 50

Type: choose one type: Colorless, Fighting, Fire, Grass, Lightning, Psychic, Water, Darkness, or Metal. This determines which type of element your Pokemon’s attacks are (not the Energy Cards they have attached.)

Attacks: 2 Attacks. You make up their names. Each requires one Energy Card (of any type) to be equipped on the Pokemon before they can be used, and each does 10 HP (hit points) of damage. Note: No matter how many attacks a Pokemon has, it can only attack once each turn (though you can use a Poke-Power AND an attack on the same turn.)

Retreat Cost: one Energy Card.

IMPROVEMENTS: For each Improvement you choose, you must also select a Limitation (or more, see their descriptions.)

Stage: Baby– The special rules for Baby Pokemon apply to this card. You must indicate which Basic Pokemon it evolves into (can be one made up by you.) (You cannot have more than one Stage.)

Special Name: Choose one. Cards and effects that apply to that kind of Pokemon now apply to this card. Examples include: “Dark (name of the Pokemon)”, “Light (name of the Pokemon)”, and “(name of a trainer)’s (name of the Pokemon)”.

Higher Hit Points: Every 10 HP more that you give the Pokemon will require one limitation. Maximum 200 HP.

Second Type: Your Pokemon is two rather than one type. This means every Attack the Pokemon has counts as being of both types. Requires two limits. Can only be applied once.

Poke-Power: This replaces one of your attacks. This can be anything you choose. You must declare when it is in effect (or not) during your own turn. This power stops working if the Pokemon is affected by a Special Condition. For every effect the Power has, you must choose one limit. Examples include: causing any of the Special Conditions (see under Special Effects.)

If you are not sure you can come up with a power that’s not unfair to play, copy an existing one from an actual card. You can rename it, however. You can have only one Poke-power or Poke-Body.

Poke-Body: this is the same as a Poke-Power, except it is in effect at all times, you cannot choose to turn it off, nor does it stop under Special Conditions. For every effect it has, you must choose one limit.

If you are not sure you can come up with a poke-body that’s not unfair to play, copy an existing one from an actual card. You can rename it, however. You can have only one Poke-Body or Poke-Power. Examples include: being immune to a Special Condition.

Extra Attack: For one limitation, you can add another basic attack (10 Damage, costs one card.)

Lesser Energy Cost: One of your attacks requires one less Energy Card (of any type) to be equipped before it can be used. Can be assigned any number of times (for one limit each.) The cost CAN be zero.

Higher Damage: The attack does 10 more damage for every limit given. You can also assign this to a Poke-Power to have it do damage.

Special Effects: There are several, but the most typical are:

-The Special Conditions:

*Sleep-

*Poison

*Paralysis

*Burn

*Confusion

Another example is “the opponent’s Pokemon cannot attack next turn” and “damage is multiplied by (something, such as the number of cards attached to the Pokemon.)”

You may copy an effect from an existing card. Each effect costs one Limit.

Resistance: The Pokemon takes 30 less damage from one type of element, of your choice.

Reduced Retreat Cost: One less card for every limitation. Minimum zero.

LIMITATIONS:

Pokemon EX: When this Pokemon is knocked out, the opponent claims two prizes instead of one. This pays for five improvements rather than one (four for Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokemon).

Stage 1: This card can only be played on top of a Basic Pokemon card (chosen now) that’s already in play. All damage markers the other card had are retained. Counts as two limits.

Stage 2: Same as as above, but the card must be placed on a Stage 1 Pokemon. Counts as five limits.

Less HP: For every 10 HP less your Pokemon has than it should, you gain one Improvement. Minimum HP must be 10.

One Less Attack: Your card has only one Attack. I you take it twice (for two limits) your Pokemon cannot attack, only use a Poke-Power or retreat.

Higher Energy Cost: One of your attacks requires one more Energy Card (of any type) to be equipped before it can be used. Can be assigned any number of times (for one Improvement each.) Can also be assigned to Poke-Powers or Poke-Bodies (which normally do not need energy cards to be used.)

Specific Energy Card: One of the Energy Cards required by an Attack must be of an specific element. Can be taken once for every energy card required, giving one Improvement for each. Can also be assigned to Poke-Powers (if they have an Energy Cost.)

Special Requirement: You must fulfill a specific requirement during the game before an attack’s damage (or effect) or a poke-power can be used. A typical example is “Flip A Coin: If tails, nothing happens.”

Less Damage: The attack does 10 less points of damage for every Improvement. Minimum zero.

Weakness: The Pokemon takes twice the damage from attacks of a specific element (choose which now.)

Increased Retreat Cost: One more Energy card. Can be taken multiple times.

EXAMPLE: BICEPHADRAKE

Bicephadrake is a dragon Pokemon with two heads that I invented. The right side of its body (including its right head) is red, and is fire-type; while the left side (Including its left head) is white and Water-type (well, Ice type actually, but since that does not exist in the card game, let’s make it Water instead.) The red head can breathe fire, and the white one can spit freezing-cold water.

I start with the default stats: Basic Stage, 50 HP, two attacks, retreats for one card. I decide that its type is Fire and that its attacks are named Fiery Breath and Freezing Breath.

Now I choose the Improvements: I want the first attack to cause Burns, and the second to cause Paralysis (it freezes the opponent.) I also give it Resistance to Fire. So far, I need three Limitations.

I also invent the Poke-Power: Turning Sideways. Once per turn, Bicephadrake can (by turning its other side to its opponents) effectively change its Type to Water, and its Resistance from Fire to Water. These are two separate effects, so the power requires three limits.

I need to choose six limits now. I begin by giving the Poke-Power Special Requirements: if Bicephadrake is a Fire type, then it gains a weakness to water, and if it’s a Water type, a weakness to Fire. That’s two Limits down.

I still need four more. I decide that the Fiery Breath requires a Fire Energy Card, and Freezing Breath a Water Card. We’re down to two.

Finally, I decide to give the attacks Special Conditions: Fiery Breath can only be used when Bicephadrake is a Fire Type, and Freezing Breath when it is a Water type.

The final Card would look like this:

Bicephadrake

Basic Pokemon

HP 50

Type: Fire

[Picture of Bicephadrake]

Poke-Power: Turning Sideways– Once per turn, Bicephadrake can become a Water-Type Pokemon. When it does, its Resistance changes from Fire to Water, and its Weakness from Water to Fire. This lasts until the Power is used again.

Fiery Breath: One Fire Card. Causes a Burn. Can only be used when Bicephadrake is a Fire Type. 10 Damage.

Freezing Breath: One Water Card. Causes Paralysis. Can only be used when Bicephadrake is a Water type. 10 Damage.

Resistance: Fire

Weakness: Water

Retreat Cost: One


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Getting into the (Writing) Saddle again

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I like to write. I have done it all my life. Seriously, some of my earliest memories are of what amounts to writing Warner Brothers cartoons fanfiction. I was like 6 or 7.

And yet, I’m not a professional writer. Semi-professional, at best. I may not have published anything but I was paid to help lots of people with their projects.

And yes, I wrote fanfiction. I consider that valid, OK?  (Too bad most of them are gone now.)

Then, a few years ago, something odd happened: I couldn’t write anymore. For unknown reasons, either I couldn’t come up with ideas, or I couldn’t finish what I started. Was that what they call Writer’s Block? I don’t know.

I missed writing. A lot. I got a real joy from the whole process, from conception to reading the finished product. I didn’t care if anybody else ever read it; it was ‘’my’’ story, and I created it!

So, how come I’m writing a Blog now? Well, precisely to get me back into the Writing Groove! As the image above says, I realized that the best way to do it *was* to write. ANYTHING. As long as I committed Pen to Paper (err, Keyboard to Screen?) I would get inspiration again, sooner or later. I hope. I feel better already.

Of course, the fact I just Downloaded Windows Essentials and it included a Blog-making option (unknown to me) had something to do with it as well.

In any case. Here’s to many more, hopefully interesting posts. May you enjoy them as well. And if not- hey, at least I got to write them! Smile


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It’s been 30 Years since Crisis on Infinite Earths

It's been 30 years since Crisis on Infinite Earths

In 1985, DC comics did what no one else had done before: completely overhaul their fictional universe, actually destroying it in a 12-issue part limited comic book series -in itself a relatively new concept at the time, preceded only by Marvel’s Secret Wars- in an epic story that involved several parallel universes, as well as killed many characters, notably The Flash and Supergirl. And even though almost every one of them was eventually brought back in the post-Crisis universe, those deaths had -and still have- a surprising emotional impact for comic book characters.

I don’t know if DC is currently planning any celebration of this anniversary. They do have a couple of event comics going on -Convergence and Multiversity- and have announced a new slew of comics for August, but this might not count since they have rebooted their universe about 3 times since the first Crisis anyway. Ironically, Marvel’s new Secret Wars event seems closer in spirit to the original Crisis.

As a comics fan, Crisis was both a thrill and scary to me at the time. Sure, we were going to get a new universe without decades of tangled continuity to follow, but would it be as good as the original? And even if I knew that all those deaths were temporary, they had never been so painful before. It REALLY felt like the End of an Era- and it was.

Personally, I felt such a major reboot was unnecessary. Most of DC’s parallel universes were hardly ever referenced, and continuity snags can be explained away with good writing- but just sweeping things away and starting over is apparently too tempting, given they did it *again and again*. Similarly, Marvel needs a retcon even less, so I wonder the reason for it. Maybe the rumor they just want to make their universe more like in the movies is true.

Regardless of whether DC celebrates it or not, Crisis on Infinite Earths remains a milestone in comics history, and I recommend it to fans of classic superheroes.