El Sijo's Blog

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Iron Man: Rise of Technovore

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A few years ago, Marvel produced several Anime-style movies probably in hopes of helping sell their characters in Japan. Iron Man: Rise of Technovore was done in 2013 by Sony’s Madhouse studio, and could be described as “Iron Man vs Akira” -the latter being a reference to the movie that helped introduce Anime to the Western world. (Note: I saw the film in Japanese with subtitles, I don’t know if other versions are available.)

In IM:RoT, a new character named Ezekiel, who can manipulate “technovores” -a kind of artificial microbes- attempts to hijack a satellite created by Tony Stark for anti-terrorist purposes, and use it for his own, mysterious agenda.

I found several parallels to Akira (though that might just be me, or coincidences). Akira is about some teenagers from a dystopic future who are experimented on by the military and turned into monsters with great powers who then tear the city apart. Ezekiel is also (apparently) the result of experiments who gained powers and had an apocalyptic agenda. Unlike Akira though, he’s not motivated by anger but by cold, detached logic. In fact it’s Iron Man who has the Akira role as he seeks revenge for the apparent death of a friend. Ironically Stark calls Ezekiel “a brat” but Pepper Potts points out to Tony he has been acting like a child himself.

Another Akira parallel is that, while set in the present, it had some dark moments. Ezekiel’s first attack killed 300 people; War Machine (apparently) dies; SHIELD spends most of the movie trying to arrest Iron Man (admittedly he went off to deal with the problem on his own); we see terrorist activity involving The Punisher; Ezekiel compares the human race to ants; Ezekiel monsters out; and the world almost ends. There are also moments of curious contrast to those, like Ezekiel’s all-white sanctuary and Pepper resting in Tony’s Mansion.

Overall, I find the movie very uneven. Many characters are just “off” especially Tony who goes as far as working with The Punisher -a known killer- to reach his goals, or Nick Fury who should have known better than to send his agents after Iron Man; there are several plot holes, like the fact that Tony *just happens to have* what is needed to defeat the Technovores without even knowing it; and questions are left unanswered (like, who or what was Sasha?)

On the positive side, the movie looks good; there’s a great attention to detail, especially in the scenes involving Ezekiel. And the action scenes, all of them, do not disappoint.

If you are a fan of Iron Man (and Anime) you will probably enjoy this movie. Just don’t expect it to make much sense.


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Diversity and Superheroes

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Diversity is a hot topic these days; minorities want more representation, and the world of entertainment has tried to provide it. Now that superheroes have become a fad, it is only logical they follow suit. But the way it’s being done, honestly, baffles me. For the most part, instead of giving more exposure to characters of diverse genders, ethnicities or religions that they already own, they are changing existing characters to fit those roles!

For example, Thor was replaced by a woman (and not by Lady Sif or the Valkyrie, long-time supporting characters of his, as you’d expect) who just called herself “Thor”; Jimmy Olsen was hinted as being a Transvestite- never mind that all the times he had dressed as a woman were as disguises (and those stories were intended to be humorous) and later reinvented as a Black Man on the Supergirl TV show! Batwoman was reintroduced as a Lesbian, never mind that the original version was most definitely straight (why not give the identity to Det. Montoya, an existing lesbian character instead?) and there was a controversy over whether Daniel Rand (Iron Fist) should be made Asian for the live action TV show, simply because some people think the “White Guy who masters Kung Fu” stereotype is offensive. Honestly, this feels like tokenism to me: “why use the actual minority characters when you can change more popular ones to fill in for them?” Besides, you know that, in most cases, these characters will return to their original status. Does anyone believe The Falcon will remain as Captain America?

Admittedly, Non-WASP characters are few and rarely as well known as most major Comic Book characters. But if no push is done, their situation will never improve. After all, there were times no one had heard of Superman or Spider-Man! I’m pretty sure if they wanted, DC and Marvel (and their parent companies) could find ways to make them popular. Make them members of famous teams, then give them their own spin off series, movies or shows. Most people agree Marvel screwed up in not giving Black Widow her own movie by now, despite being one of the most popular characters in the Avengers movies, for example. Sure they might fail, but if they never try, how will they know?

Also, if they feel they don’t have diverse characters who are strong enough to support their own series, or fear the ones they have are too stereotypical (which admittedly was a problem with many) then create new ones! The new Miss Marvel, a Pakistani-American teenage girl, has been very popular in the comics, and I bet she would transition very well to TV.

All I’m saying is, if the big companies really want to gain the support of minorities, they need to give more than a token effort. One of those “obscure” heroes might very well be the next Big Thing.


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Why I hate Flashpoint

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I might seem to be in a bad mood lately. In my last blog entry, I picked on a little girls’ cartoon (Little Charmers) and now I’m outright saying I hate a comic book story. But at least in this case, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Flashpoint is a major story plot affecting the DC comics superhero, The Flash. It is better known as ‘‘The Reverse-Flash killed Barry Allen’s mother” plot; you may have seen it as part of the (current) version of that character’s TV show. In it, The Flash learns it was his foe who went back in time and killed his mother. So naturally, he too goes back in time and stops him. And, somehow, this ends up screwing up history. Not just his personal history- ALL heroes’ origins! Instead of Bruce Wayne’s parents dying, HE dies, and his father becomes Batman- and his mother, THE JOKER! Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s peoples fight a war that ends up sinking Europe, etc. In the end, Allen realizes he must stop himself from saving his mother so everything can go back to normal. And it does- kinda; there were differences, which is how DC explained its “New 52” reboot. (Though recently they are claiming there was another cause.) Flashpoint got adapted into an animated movie, and was a mayor plot point for the first season of The Flash, and (spoilers) the finale of the second season has brought it back AGAIN.

Let’s look at the things that are wrong with it:

-The story tries to set itself up as a ‘noble sacrifice’: Allen must allow his mother to die to save the world. Except a) she only died because a time-traveling villain killed her, it isn’t as if Allen had prevented her preordained death and b) The story doesn’t make sense!! At most, saving his mother might have prevented him from becoming the Flash (tough I don’t see how) but it definitely wouldn’t have affected the lives of everybody else on Earth unless they are saying that ANY change in history would be this chaotic (ala The Butterfly Effect) and that has never been the case before in DC (in fact it pretty much makes time travel useless.)

-The story is basically writer Geoff Johns stroking his own ego. You see, Johns is also one of the three people Warner Brothers put in charge of DC comics years ago. His obsession with The Flash is well known. In Flashpoint, he introduced an (unnecessary) tragic element into Allen’s past, and attempts to pass it off as something epic that eventually had universal consequences. And he got accolades -the most obvious of which are the multiple adaptations of the idea- for it! The fact he is effectively The Boss and What He Says Goes seems to escape many people.

-The story partially seems inspired by a previous Flash storyarc from the 1980s in which Reverse-Flash also murdered someone close to Allen- in this case it was his wife, Iris. It was one of the first major “dark”, post-Silver Age stories (for DC) as it led to Allen killing the culprit and then standing trial over it. Ultimately it turned out she wasn’t dead after all (time travel was involved) so it had a happy ending, unlike Johns’ imitation.

Flashpoint is ultimately, a poorly-written, over-hyped storyline that Just. Won’t. Go. Away. While not my most hated comics story (not even my most hated DC story) I certainly cannot recommend it to fans of good superhero stories.


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My Hero Academia: Superheroes from Japan!

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Japanese Animated series starring superheroes are a rarity (American-style ones, anyway) and good ones, even more so; I think the last one I enjoyed was Tiger and Bunny. But My Hero Academia has impressed me so far. What I like about it is that it *gets* what heroes are about, in a way even many American comics, shows and movies don’t.

The story takes place on an Earth where, a few decades ago, humans with superpowers (called “Quirks”) started being born. By now, 80% of the population has powers! But not all quirks are equal; while some people do become superheroes (or villains) most just carry on with their lives.

The main character, Izuku Midoriya, never manifested a quirk. This ruined his dream of being a hero like his idol, the World’s Greatest Hero, Sup- err, I mean, All Might! However, he still insisted in applying to the Hero Academia, even tough he was ridiculed by it. But one day, he found himself trying to save a classmate from a villain -never mind that it was the same kid who had bullied him all his life; he just had to do something! His courage inspired All-Might (who secretly cannot use his powers for long anymore due to an injury) to recover and save the boy. Impressed, the hero revealed to Izuku that his quirk was actually passed on to him, and in turn he had chosen Izuku to be his successor!!

Now equipped with a copy of All Might’s power (tough one that hurts him since he’s only started to learn to control it) Izuku has entered the Hero Academia, and although it will take at least three years of training, he will one day be the Greatest Hero of All!

Other characters include:

Katsuki: Izuku’s rival, who has bullied him since they were kids and hates him more than ever now that he has mysteriously gained a quirk. However it seems that he is slowly heading for some redemption. Has the power to create explosions.

Ochako: A nice girl with anti-gravity powers who befriends Izuku at the Academy. May be his love interest.

Tenya: A super-speedster who was suspicious of Izuku at first, but then realizes he’s a true hero. A by-the-rules-all-the-time type.

Eraserhead: the homeroom teacher. Has the ability to cancel other people’s quirks with his stare AND uses “living cloth” strips to entangle people. Sounds like a cynical ass but deep down he may mean well.

There’s many more, but these are the main ones in the early episodes (I’m only up to #9 or so) so I’ll leave it there, besides I want to leave it to the reader to check the show and discover them on his or her own. (You can watch it in places such as Crunchyroll.) There’s also the manga it is based on, of course.

Recommended for: Fans of American Superheroes, Anime, True Heroism, and Good Characterization.


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My Fifty Years as a Fan

50

As I post this, I’m now 50 years old. Mine has been mainly an uneventful life; yet I feel very grateful for my existence. I have friends, I have family, I have my health- and I have Fiction. As far as I can remember, Fiction in one form or another has formed part of my life, helping me escape the dullness of my reality. So today I want to take the chance to celebrate it. (Warning: this is going to be long. 😛 )

It all began for me in the 60’s as for most people: with TV cartoons. In particular, there was one about a little turtle (sorry, can’t remember the title) who wanted to fly. After many attempts, it succeeded in the end… because it got KILLED and became an angel! O_O What?? I know, it was a joke, I get that now but boy was I PISSED as a Kid! And I actually did something about it, too: I took a book that (conveniently) had printing only on one side of the pages, and used it to draw my own version of the story in which the turtle fulfills its wish without dying. Yep, that was my first fanfic! Oh, and I was in the story, too- making it a self-insert as well! How appropriate. XD

Next came comic books. In Spanish, at first. There were two types: translations of American companies such as DC or Gold Key (no Marvels- probably due to some copyright or distribution issues) as well as original ones made in Mexico featuring characters such as Kaliman or Fantomas. Comics in English started being sold here in the late 70’s; I was floored by my discovery of the Marvel Universe (I already knew Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The Avengers from the cartoons, but had no idea there were so many more!) From then on I actually would spend my lunch money once a week on comics. 😛 I ended up becoming known as the local “comic book kid” and my collection, by the time I stopped, had soared to about 700. I still have it btw.

In the 70’s I also discovered Anime. Well actually I had seen “cartoons” such as Speed Racer before, I just didn’t realize they were from Japan- much less the potential in them! That changed with the Giant Robot show Mazinger Z in 1972. While barely known in the US, in Hispanic America it became very popular, to the point people still remember it today. It became my favorite anime then and while I have seen better ones since, I still have a lot of appreciation for it.

I met some fellow geeks in high school- wow, I wasn’t the only one?- who introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons and therefore to the concept of role-playing. We didn’t get to play much, but I found the whole idea that you could mathematically describe even magic mind-blowing; I began collecting rpg books for its own sake.

In the 80’s, something unexpected occurred: one of my hobbies led me to a profound revelation. I used to read Fantasy novels- not many, but I was a fan of Piers Anthony, especially his Incarnations of Immortality series. In them, concepts such as Death or Nature were physically embodied by humans as if they were jobs that had to be passed on. The bad guy was The Devil, who was supposed to not be an Incarnation at first. But in the last two novels, it was revealed that not only was the Devil a human too, but so was God, and the Devil had been trying to undo the injustices caused by the current, uncaring Divine Officeholder all along! I was raised Catholic and I got very nervous as I realized where the novels were heading; I even considered dropping them. But after some thinking, I realized that was silly. What kind of faith you have if you allow something made for entertainment challenge it? Even more: I realized that I had never actually thought about religion. Like most people, I just accepted what those who raised me taught me to believe. But people are free willed, and we should decide by ourselves what we believe in.

In 1996, I played my first RPG video game- Super Mario: Legend of the Seven Stars. OK I mostly bought it because it was a Mario game, but I so greatly enjoyed the experience that buying the guide/then the RPG/then playing for hours till I found everything became a habit for years. Too bad they don’t make game guides anymore (online walkthroughs aren’t quite the same.)

The coming of the new millennium… was not a nice time to me. Because of the recession, I lost many of my resources- Blockbuster Video, my local movie theater, local bookstores- all gone. Worst of all were the comics. The things DC and Marvel did to characters I had followed for years left me aghast. DC started it with the “Secret Identity” event where the rape AND murder of Elongated Man’s wife was a major plot point; and Marvel’s lowest point came with the “One More Day” story where Spider-Man makes a deal with Mephisto (aka as Satan) to save his aunt’s life, erasing his marriage from history in exchange! By the time DC decided to revise its history *yet again* with 2005’s “Flashpoint” event, I threw up my hands and gave up on comics altogether. Not on the characters- I still follow Marvel and DC in movies, cartoons etc; just not in the comics. I keep hoping some day things will improve… but from I’ve heard, that’s not the case, yet. Oh sure, there are exceptions, I hear good things about comics like Batgirl or Miss Marvel. But not enough.

Things improved with one thing, tough: the Internet. It put me both in contact with old friends (such as Liz, a lady from the States I had befriended via an animation newsletter in the 80’s) and an the RPGClassics Agora, a website where I posted my first online stories and spent a lot of time chatting with people of similar interests. However problems both personal and with my computer led me to reduce my activities for a while.

Finally, last year, something happened. After being paid to do a video on my computer, I found the experience so enjoyable I started my own Youtube channel. That felt so fulfilling I started this Blog as well- another experience that’s been greatly rewarding. 🙂 And recently, I started my own webcomic- that one has been harder to pull off, but I still enjoy it. (You can see it here, if you want: http://raitokomikku.thecomicseries.com/comics/1/ ) Oh btw, I also made a special video to celebrate some of the events mentioned above. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L9a0FV8OoA&feature=youtu.be

So what’s next? Well, who knows? That’s half the fun- taking things in as they come, enjoying what you can, learning from what you can’t. I guess that’s the lesson I learned after 50 years of life, and now share with you all.

Before I finish, I want to send a message to some very special groups of people: To TV Tropes.com, especially to my fellow players in the Justice Avengers Forum Game; and also to the Basic Action Super Heroes RPG Facebook group, where I hang out and post ideas often. Thanks to all of you for your support in recent times. May we have fun together for many years more! 🙂

 


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Magical Girls in Basic Action Super Heroes!

“Magical Girls” have long been a staple in Japanese Animation. However they have also become popular around the world, and have influenced shows such as Star vs The Forces of Evil, Steven Universe and Winx. They are certainly worthy of being included in a BASH campaign, either as a NPC or even the focus of an Anime themed game.

MAGICAL GIRL

magicalgirl by Sonia Leong18 Pts (8 Stats, 10 Powers)

The typical Magical Girl is a teenage girl who has been granted superhuman powers by someone or something to fight a specific evil, usually a group of magical villains and their minion monsters. Often a whole team of Magical Girls fight together.

Brawn 1 Agility 2 Mind 1

Powers:

Special Attack (+3 with Mind Damage) [Close Range] <Casting> 3 pts

Martial Arts 1 (Defensive and Reckless styles) 1 pt

Weapon Technique (+1 to Hit with one weapon) 1 pt

Super Jump 1 (1 pt)

Restore 4 (4 pts)

Variations on a Theme:

-The Cute Witch is not a superhero; rather, she’s a student of magic, possibly in a school of magic or a Fantasy World. Substitute all Powers for X Mastery (Magic) with the Casting Limitation (and possibly a Gadget such as a Magic Wand) and Flight with the Limitation: Gadget (Broom, Easily Taken).

-The Magical Idol is either a Pop Idol who is secretly a Magical Girl, or a Magical Girl who uses her Powers to perform. Add Illusion 2 (Sight & Sound, for her shows.)

-Some Magical Girls are actually Princesses of a  magical realm. She could be a Cute Witch as well.

-The Dark Magical Girl is any of the above types, except she’s a Villain, often the Arch Enemy of the other types.

Recommended Advantages & Disadvantages:

Instant Change is required. Very common are Appeal and Sidekick/Pet (usually a talking animal). Mentor and Grimoire for the Witch. Celebrity for the Idol. Royalty for the Princess. Devoted Henchmen for the Dark Magical Girl.

Typical Disadvantages include Age (Youth), Normal and Rogue’s Gallery. If The Witch or The Princess are foreign to modern Earth, they should have Outsider. The Princess might also have to deal with rivals or usurpers (a Revolting Development) and the Dark Magical Girl might actually be the Alter Ego of an otherwise innocent girl.

Recommended Skills: Athletics/Acrobatics for the Magical Girl. Cute Witches get Occultism. Magical Idols get Perform (Singing and Dance, usually). Magic Princesses usually study Social Sciences/Law or History (of their Kingdoms). Dark Magical Girls get Deception/Any.


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Graboids in Basic Action Super Heroes!

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The Graboids from the Tremors! movies are considered classic among modern monsters. Here I present them in BASH terms.

Background: The origin of the creatures nicknamed “Graboids” is still unknown. A fossil found dates them back to at least the Devonian period, but it is not known how they survived until the present or why they reappeared now.

The ‘Graboids’ are born from eggs and have three stages of life. The first is a giant sandworm; the second is a bipedal form called ‘Screamers’ and the third is a flying form nicknamed ‘Ass-Blasters’ because they use a type of jet propulsion from their tails. They also have ‘queens’ that watch over their nests.

The Graboids first appeared in modern times in an American Western town called Perfection during the 19th century. However their existence didn’t become public knowledge until they attacked the town again a few years ago. It was then they were named by locals.

The government declared a specific one, called El Blanco (Spanish for ‘The White One’) to be under protection for being sterile, but allowed the hunting of others. Since then the creatures have also surfaced in Mexico and South Africa.

A graboid -to say nothing of several- would be a good challenge for a Street Level Hero campaign. They might also fit in a Sci-Fi or even a Fantasy campaign.

Only the first stage is described here. I might do the rest later.

Graboid

Brawn 3 Agility 1 Mind 1 (10 pts)

Hits 100

Powers

Armor 1 (hide) 1 pt

Burrowing 2 – 2 pts

Extra Limbs (tentacles) 1 pt

Size 3 <Reduced X: only 30′ long, -1 pt> 2 pts

Super Sense (senses vibrations) 1 pt.

Advantages

Non-Sentient

Disadvantages

Obtrusive (powerful stench)

Physically Challenged (blind)

Susceptibility (to loud noises)

Unskilled

Skills

Outdoor/Survival

Stats: 10 + Powers: 7 = 17 points