Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Torchwood: "Dead Man Walking" (S2, E7)

"I'm using the glove--I'm bringing Owen back!"

Dead Man Walking

Season Two, Episode Seven ("Still in shock, Torchwood faces a force from the darkness when Jack takes matters into his own hands.")


* How the premise tied into the last line of the first episode of the series.

* The scene with Jack and Owen in the jail cell--Owen vomiting up the beer elicited belly laughs, but there's also some poignant moments between the two.


* The cheesy attack by the animated glove. Silly and slap-sticky.

* "Death" as a villain--needs more background/explanation since the show purports to avoid supernatural phenomenon.


* Who the heck that mysterious girl is who told Jack about the second gauntlet, how she knew where it could be found, and whether we're supposed to think she has "magical" abilities.

* Who decided to let the glove hang out on a table in the abandoned church to begin with.

* How exactly Martha was healed from the rapid aging attack.


* A brief scene of Owen being followed by Weevils.


* Interviews with cast and crew about Owen's (un)death.

* Filming the jail scene

* Filming the attack with the glove (with the usual "guy in a green suit being edited out" that everyone in production seems to think viewers will find so amazing)

* How the show's special effects company managed to make it look like there were a lot of Weevils when there were only five actual Weevil heads available to be worn by extras.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Boomer is Here!!

Our bouncing baby boy arrived Friday morning, weighing in at a startling nine pounds and three ounces! Here are some pics from his first day . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Castle Ravenloft Adventure # 8: "Horror of the Howling Hag"

This adventure has a very different tile set up than previous missions. Only the corners and the center of a 5x5 tile grid are visible at the beginning, and the goal is to find a path from the corners to the center square in order to defeat the Howling Hag and disrupt her ritual. The adventure also uses the monster tokens, which means that tiles which would normally include a single monster could include anything from 0 to 2 monsters or the Hag herself.

The Wife and I got extraordinarily lucky in this adventure on our first try. We drew a normally bad Encounter card that requires the placement of a new tile on any unexplored edge and for the active hero to be transported there, with the other heroes having the option of jumping there as well. For us, this was awesome, as we were able to use the new tile as a bridge between the outer rim of the grid and the center square, and then have all four of our heroes move there instantly. From there, we were able to hang out on the center square until all the time tokens were gone while simultaneously beating the crap out of the Howling Hag. We finished with probably our most successful result ever: all heroes alive, and we didn't even need to use a healing surge.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Castle Ravenloft Adventure # 7: "Adventure: Impossible"

The writers of the Castle Ravenloft Adventure Book do a nice job of coming up with interesting twists for each mission. The premise behind the seventh mission, "Adventure: Impossible," is that the town of Barovia is under attack by Strahd's allies. Strahd has cast a dark spell, however, to keep the pesky adventurers from entering the castle together--which means the heroes have to enter one at a time with the goal of defeating at least three of the game's six villains (chosen randomly, and secretly). Even the order in which the heroes enter is determined randomly, and that, combined with the absence of healing surges, makes for an interesting and potentially challenging scenario. Having one hero follow another in sequence raises a couple of rules question that the adventure book doesn't address: (1) Normally monsters are controlled only by the hero that discovered them--do the monsters continue operating after that hero has died? and (2) Do the heroes inherit experience points and treasure from one another? We went ahead and said "yes" to both questions in an attempt to keep things balanced.

For heroes, we rolled (in order): Ranger, Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, and Wizard. The Ranger did pretty well and uncovered the first villain--the Zombie Dragon. This was a problem, as the Zombie Dragon has a ton of hit points and our Ranger just didn't have enough firepower to kill it. He got it down to about half hit points before being felled, and then the Fighter stepped in. We used his Daily power to do 4 hit points of damage, and that with a couple of other attacks was enough. After that, it got easier, as we turned over the Young Vampire and the Flesh Golem, each of whom's biggest threat is making it back to the Start tile and automatically dealing 1 hit point a round. We ran through the Fighter and Rogue, but the Cleric was able to finish off the last villain pretty easily (and our Wizard never even got on the board). Some of the reason for victory in this one may have been a combination of our interpretation of the rules (we accumulated a lot of treasure) and sheer luck (we turned over a lot of Encounters and didn't suffer as much as we expected).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Buffy Comic Project: "The Blood of Carthage" (Part 2)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 22

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Christopher Golden (writer), Cliff Richards (penciller), Joe Pimental (inker)

Setting: Season Four

T.V. Character Appearances: Spike, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Anya

Major Original Characters: Xerxes the Blind (demon), Mad Jack (demon; flashback only), Tergazzi (demon informant), Lucy Hanover (Slayer; as ghost only), Vraka (demon lord)

Summary: Spike plans to visit the demon arms dealer Jax, but when he arrives, Jax has been murdered by Xerxes the Blind (who promptly escapes). Meanwhile, Buffy, Xander, and Willow attend a charity carnival at UC Sunnydale. Buffy explains that she's feeling conflicted about whether there's any point in her going to college, Willow relates a tale from childhood in which she and Xander narrowly avoided being attacked by Mad Jack, and Giles arrives with the news that Brad Caulfield has been found murdered. While investigating, the Scoobies destroy a pack of vampires and hear ominous references to "Ky-Laag." They hurry to meet Anya at the Bronze, only to find that she's under attack by Xerxes the Blind. Xerxes escapes again, but Giles comes through in the research department: Xerxes works for a powerful demon named Vraka, who heads a demon cult called the Blood of Carthage. A quick seance with the ghost of Lucy Hanover reveals that "Ky-Laag" is the name of a demon of "enormous infernal power" who sleeps below Sunnydale--and is stirring!

Review: As the summary indicates, a lot happens this issue to forward the plot. Gone are the days of fight scenes that went on for pages and pages and in their place are investigation, exposition, and characterization. Anya is well-handed, with some laugh-out-loud dialogue, though more could be done with Giles. The dialogue remains strong, but the arrival of Vraka on the last page is underwhelming, as he looks like a pretty generic demon (and he wears a cape!). Once again, love the flashback scenes to young Willow and Xander.


* The ghost of Lucy Hanover has appeared in several of the Buffy novels as a sort of guide to the deceased. It wasn't until recently I learned that the first mention of her was in one of the very first televised promos for the Buffy t.v. show.

* Not really sure here why Xerxes has killed Jax or why he later attacks Anya. Visually the demon is interesting, but since he can't talk he doesn't have much of a personality . . .

* Anya, trying to decide how to punish Xander for being late: "Popular culture suggests the withholding of sex as punishment. But that just doesn't make sense. I would then also be punished."

Next Issue

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jhaeman's Library # 4

The cover to issue # 4 of Jhaeman's Detritus was the first to feature "Mystery Mouse" instead of the previous, jokier mascot, Winthrop Worthington III. Having seen this and many more pieces of his work, I remain convinced that the artist could have broken into the pro comics biz if he had wished.
In addition to reviews of Nth Man and Hero Hotline, this issue feature the first half of "Criminal Defence", my first and (so far) only comic book script. At the time, Marvel had a contest open to the general public and I decided to take a shot. Here's the summary of my idea:

"Often in the Marvel Universe, we see super-villains captured by heroes and then later we see the same villains escape from prison so the cycle can begin again. Criminal Defence explores a missing part of the cycle--the trial take takes place after arrest and before conviction. Francis Poliare, the first issue's protagonist, is a middle-aged, balding man stuck in a rut and tired of being a defence lawyer. Along with his assistant, the unflappable Jizana Merelle, and his investigator, Jacob Sterns, Poliare is assigned an unenviable task: providing legal representation to New York's super-villains. The first issue's story revolves around Poliare's defence of the Hydro-Man--who swears he was framed--and how the case impacts the attorney's life."

Writing the script was a good experience--a lot more fun than writing a novel, and an eye-opening experience into some of the challenges comic book writers face: what to tell through dialogue and what to tell through captions, how to meld dialogue and art (or at least the necessarily rough instructions the script gives to the artist), how many panels should go on each page, how to make sure the story stays in continuity with the characters' previous appearances (since I included an established villain), and so forth. I was pretty proud of how it turned out--witty, original, well-paced if I dare say so myself. I didn't win the contest, of course--I don't think I even received a form letter reply--but I was happy to have tried. I'd like to put it up here one of these days, but I don't have an electronic version and typing it in would take a while . . .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jhaeman's Library # 3

Another fun cover, this one "Dedicated to Unappreciated Podiatrists Everywhere!" The hardest part of every cover for me (since I had absolutely nothing to do with the actual drawing of it) was coming up with a different tagline to go under the logo for every issue.

Issue # 3 of Jhaeman's Library featured reviews of obscure comics The Shroud and Skull & Bones, the usual reprint of one of my old Daily Nebraskan columns, and an original SF short story, "For Sale: Discount Liberty at Bargain Prices." This last bit was my first (and only) attempt to write short fiction for publication, and I received a very nice and (perfectly justified) rejection letter from the magazine I sent it to. The premise of the story is a world where the exercise of every civil liberty--including freedom of speech and more--costs a set amount of credits. Five minutes of conversation with a friend? Twenty credits. A chance to chastise the leader of the government face to face? 500 credits a minute. And so forth. Although I still think an interesting story could be built around the idea, the glib & facile story I came up with--about a computer hacker who embezzles hundreds of thousands of credits just so she can berate the Prime Consul and kick him in the gonads--was probably not it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Boomer's Room

After much hard work, Boomer's nursery is finally complete--and a good thing too, as he's due to arrive in this part of the multiverse any day now! Here are a couple of pics:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Torchwood Magazine # 25

Here it is, the big final issue of Torchwood Magazine. Will it be reincarnated if The New World hits big in the States?

Here's what the double-covered twenty-fifth issue had to offer:

* Good interviews with John Barrowman and Eve Myles about receiving the news that the show would continue as a BBC/Starz co-production.

* A short story by James Moran titled "Unplugged", designed to give Toshiko a chance to shine by forcing her into a situation which she has to be more than the Hub's resident computer expert.

* "Requiem", a short story by Trevor Baxendale, about a figure from Jack's past haunting the Hub--not particularly good and awkwardly fitted with a post-Hub framing sequence.

* A comic strip ("Overture") set entirely in 1941 Cardiff with Jack as the only cast member featured. The standard alien infiltration plot has a bit of a twist at the end, but I'm not sure it makes sense and I'm pretty sure the loose end it leaves will never be tied off.

* A brief guide to the comic strips appearing in past issues of the magazine and specially commissioned for websites. Understandably uncritical, or else almost every summary would read: "Shite, Shite, Shite."

* A ten-page episode review and production diary for Season Two's A Day in the Death. Most of this is pretty boring, but I have to admit it's amazingly detailed (even includes a freakin' list of every single extra--"Supporting Artist"--that appeared in the episode).

* A final short story titled "We All Go Through." This is one of those stories that wants to be clever by telling segments out of order, but the conceit really turns out to just be annoying and unnecessary. The core plot, about a man who somehow has the power to open the Rift and believes he is a messianic figure, is relatively interesting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Artemis Fowl & 100 Cupboards [Book Reviews]

I finally have almost everything unpacked now, but I had fun this past week reading some Young Adult books that weren't officially in my queue. First up was Artemis Fowl, the story of a twelve-year old criminal mastermind out to regain his family's fortune by stealing gold from the faerie kingdom. It was clever and original with surprisingly exciting action scenes and some good twists--good enough I went out and bought the next two in the series. Next up was 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. I'm a sucker for stories involving everyday people stumbling upon portals to different dimensions, and this series promises 100 of them, as each cupboard in a mysterious house leads somewhere different. This book had engaging characters and an intriguing backstory, and went in some unexpected directions, so I'll definitely pick up more. I especially had fun keeping track of which cupboards have been opened via the cryptic map at the beginning of the book. Both books serve as good reminders that just because novels are advertised for kids doesn't mean adults can't find them entertaining.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jhaeman's Library # 2

It's the little details that make these covers even cooler--in this one, W.W. III's toe poking out of a hole in his sock makes me laugh.

Jhaeman's Library # 2 contained columns on Silverblade and The Generic Comic, along with a series of brief reviews: the Daredevil movie (liked); The Two Towers (not as much as FotR); DC Heroclix (cool looking but boring game); Birds of Prey the T.V. show (had potential, but turned out mediocre). I also included some "Random Comics Musings", such as the following:

"I'm a big believer in continuity. I'm spent a lot of time trying to figure out why, and the best I can come up with is that it has something to do with making the stories meaningful to me. That is, if what happens in issue # 159 has no impact or influence on what happens in issue # 160, who cares what happened in # 159? Now granted, I can read dozens of novels, knowing that what happens in one has no impact on what happens in others, but when you have continuing series with continuing characters, losing sight of continuity is like watching a football game where you know the scoreboard goes back to zero-zero at halftime--it makes the first half of the game seem like a moot point. That being said, I'm not insane about it. I expect characters to remember and act consistently with previous events. I expect dead characters to be dead unless a reason is given otherwise, and so forth. However, I don't get all huffy if Stingray has a red glove on page 13 on a dark orange glove on page 14--if it has no impact on either the characters or the story, then it probably doesn't matter too much."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jhaeman's Library # 1

I have a small stack of stuff to blog about, but said stack is still in one of the many unpacked boxes out in the garage. Instead, I thought I'd put up a picture of the cover to Jhaeman's Library # 1 (and probably the covers of succeeding issues over the next few weeks). Apart from being the name of my old Geocities website, Jhaeman's Library was my bi-monthly entry in a long-running comics & SF anthology zine named Legends (for all I know, Legends could still be going strong). Most of the substantive content I included in each entry has already been put up on the blog, but here and there is some new stuff I'll reprint. Honestly though, the best part of each issue of Jhaeman's Library were the awesome covers drawn by my then-partner Daniel Justice. Enjoy!

This issue included a chapter from Hell Frozen Over (my Buffy novel that maybe someday I'll get around to putting up here) along with columns on comics Jemm, Son of Saturn and Francis, Brother of the Universe. A new bit I kinda liked was my true-story introduction to the first issue:

"A Story: A long time ago, in a place far, far away (Lincoln, Nebraska) there was a girl. I was not attracted to her in any way, yet, as always, was interested in establishing my hipness. I found out she self-published her own 'zine.' A few weeks later, I attempted to interest her in conversation by asking her what sort of 'zine' she put out, pronouncing the word so that it rhymed with 'pine' or 'wine.' She snapped back at me that it's pronounced 'zeen' and gave me a look of utter disgust. Thus, this is not a 'zine.' Except when it is."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Clone Wars Campaign: Rycar Ryjerd, Swashbuckling Pirate

Rycar Ryjerd was a fun NPC I described at character creation as "the 20-something foppish son of a rich and wealthy Senator who owns a restaurant/resort complex on Alderaan." The name "Rycar Ryjerd" actually came from an NPC in one of WoTC's web scenarios, and only later did I learn that the character is in the background of the famous cantina scene in A New Hope. In my campaign, he was a young, swashbuckling pirate who first appeared as one of the parties vying against Daal, Jedi Knight Lee, and Cradossk for ownership of 8P-MD-4's head. Rycar suffered a gory impale from Lee's lightsaber for his troubles, and reappeared in the campaign sometime later as pilot of the Sun Runner following Twitch's off-screen death. The character didn't get a lot of face time during the actual sessions, though I liked his character development during some of the short fiction pieces which portrayed him as a fun-loving guy trying to find his way among the crew in the shadow of legendary pilots like Twitch and Daal--how could he ever hope to live up to their example? Rycar met his end during the final session, dying in the battle between Jocasta and Creen.

All in all, a fun character whose presence in the campaign probably didn't live up to its potential.

Rycar Ryjerd

Male Human Scout 5/Noble 4/ Ace Pilot 2

Reflex +17, Fortitude +13, Will +13

Hit Points: 66 (Threshold: 23)

Languages: Basic, Bocchi, Huttese, Bothan

Skills: Deception + 13, Gather Info +13, Pilot +12

Feats/Talents: Quick Draw, Vehicular Evasion, Hyperdriven

Attacks: Vibroblade +9, d. 2d6+5, Hold-out Blaster +9, d. 3d4+6

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To Your Scattered Bodies Go [Book Review]

I'm pretty diligent about always having a book with me, but sometimes it's kinda fun to be forced to scrounge around someone else's shelves to find something to read. Since all of my books are still in a dozen scattered boxes, I browsed my father-in-law's bookcase and picked out To Your Scattered Bodies Go, an early 1970s SF novel by Philip José Farmer. I really liked Farmer's The Dungeon books (even though he mostly served only as editor), so I thought it'd be worth trying out another. I didn't realize until I got partway through that this was the start of the famous RiverWorld series, in which every single human being who ever died on Earth finds him- or herself resurrected on a mysterious alien planet alongside a seemingly infinitely-long river. The main character in this first book is Richard Burton (the explorer, not the actor!), a man whose real-life exploits seem more fantastical than fiction. Although Farmer is a little weak at believable characterization and dialogue, the book has a fascinating premise--who builtRiverWorld, how did they bring the dead back to life, and why? One of the odder parts of the book is that Farmer doesn't mind skipping years in the course of a single sentence, which can be a little jarring. All in all though, an interesting start to the series--and an intriguing endnote stating that the next book will follow the adventures of the resurrected Mark Twain.