Monday, July 6, 2015

Wonder Woman

No, not Carli Lloyd...though if you saw her one-woman showcase against Japan in the World Cup final yesterday, you'll understand why the title might easily apply.

[good links on Lloyd, American Hero, can be found here and here. She's the Miroslav Klose of women's soccer...just has a nose for the goal. Congrats to the US team, by the way]

No, just wanted to talk about the real Wonder Woman...the comic book more time.

As I mentioned previously, I spent a lot of my vacation time in the USA re-reading and scrutinizing (I won't say "analyzing" since in my mind that implies a more systematic approach) various superhero RPGs I've purchased over the years. The specific books in question included the following:

Capes, Cowls, and Villains Foul (by Barak Blackburn)
DC Adventures (yes, the Green Ronin one)
Heroes Unlimited (both Revised and 2E)
Marvel Superheroes (both versions of the Grubb classic)
Mutants and Masterminds (1E)
Supers! (by Simon Washbourne)
Wild Talents

[superhero games that I own but did not bother to read include Capes, Champions, Godlike, Guardians, Sketch!, Superworld, Villains & Vigilantes, With Great Power, and probably a couple-four others that I'm forgetting at the moment. I own a LOT of superhero RPGs]

These are not listed in any particular order besides alphabetical. If they were listed in order of importance or attention paid (or even chronological order of scrutinization) than Green Ronin's DC Adventures would be first on the list. That's because the superheroes of the DC universe have been getting a lot of love in my house lately.

One of the nice things about being back in the US of've got access to wonderful comic book stores. I've mentioned Batman '66 a couple times on this blog, as an incredibly cool and clever concept: a Batman comic that pays homage to the campy TV show of the 60s, fit for both child and adult consumption (not an easy thing to do, folks). Managed to pick up the second volume (trade paperback) of the series while in town, and it continues to contain excellent stories. The re-skinning of the buffoonish King Tut (was he ever an actual villain of the original comics?) as a dangerous, time-travelling mastermind is sheer genius...and the appearance of the Bat Anti-Croc spray (my son has always digged on the anti-animal sprays since watching the 1966 film) is hilarious "fan service."

Like Mary Poppins: "Practically perfect in every way."
But Batman '66 wasn't the real treasure we picked up. Perhaps due to the success of the Batman '66 series, DC has issued a Wonder Woman '77 one shot (it contains two separate stories, but there are no public plans to make it an ongoing series...or so I was told) that may be the coolest thing I've seen in print (right up there with Xenozoic Tales). Wonder Woman '77 tells WW stories based on the iconic Lynda Carter television series of the 1970s. It is beautifully drawn, skillfully capturing the likenesses of Carter and co-star Lyle Waggoner, even as it includes actual (comic book) super-villains from WW's rogues gallery like Silver Swan and Doctor Psycho. Like Batman '66 the comic does a good job of taking itself seriously, even as it's done in a light-hearted tone, attempting to end

" did nearly every [TV] episode, with Wonder Woman or Diana Prince smiling."
- Andy Mangels

I know, I know...this is not the Wonder Woman of the 21st century, the ass-kicking God of War with a sword that doesn't mind putting bad guys in the ground. This is the throwback Wonder Woman, the "Citizen of the World," Ambassador of Peace version. Frankly, it's damn refreshing...I'm just not a fan of the Wonder Warrior version currently on the shelves, in case that was unclear from my last post on the subject. Is it unrealistic that vigilante superheroes have a "code against killing?" Sure: just like utility belts with anti-shark spray or bulletproof bracelets are "unrealistic." Like D&D, it's not important to me that a bullywug shouldn't be interested in carrying off human women (because they're, like, frogs, dude)'s a damn escapist fantasy! How often do mind flayers need to eat a brain before they start feeling the pangs of there a "brain superstore" in the Underdark that they can frequent?

If you're going to buy-in to the madness then buy-in. Superheroes are unrealistic, better versions of ourselves (humans) that we can look up to and strive to emulate. Making Wonder Woman a badass killer is fucking stupid. If you want to make her less of an objectified pin-up girl, try giving her a costume that's not a bathing suit. Is she the only DC hero to continuously have bare shoulders since 1980?

On sale 7/22: Blood and Swimsuits!
But. I'm son has not been exposed to the "sword-and-axe" WW, and even so he readily acknowledges her as the most powerful member of the Justice League after Superman (and I'm fine with Supes being numero uno, seeing as how he was the first superhero - i.e. hero with superpowers - ever to see print).

[some four year olds are sponge-savants when it comes to dinosaurs; my boy can correctly categorize comic book characters as either Avengers or Justice League and name the power set and secret identities of most. This without entirely grokking the whole DC/Marvel thing and without being allowed to watch shows in the TV7 category]

That's without the warrior queen, god of war, bench press a jumbo jet power set, mind you.

See, besides comics like Batman '66 and Wonder Woman '77 (what's next, BTW? Superman '81?) you can still pick up illustrated books that feature comic book heroes written for kids. We got one where WW fights Cheetah (and her trained henchbeasts) in the old school fashion: Lasso of Truth, (mild) super strength, animal empathy/telepathy, smarts and fighting prowess. Combine that with some Batman "phonic books" (that include guest appearances from Supes and WW) make for good, heroic fun and DC has created a Big Fan in my little guy.

Anyway, while the Green Spectrum is still my main focus when analyzing superhero RPGs (from Green Arrow to the Green Goliath, AKA the Hulk...and including Green Lantern in between), I now find myself drawn towards modeling Wonder Woman in game. DC Adventures, of course, has a write-up of the Amazonian (pre-God o War even). but man-o-man that system is just too clunky/crunchy for my taste. I don't even know what I can compare it to, in terms of attempting to read it. It's like...I don't know. I didn't bother bringing it to Paraguay with me, so what does that tell you?

[by comparison, I did bring my copy of M&M, even though there's stuff I really hate about the basic system...mainly, the scaling of "power" with "level." I believe I've blogged about that in the past]

Heroes Unlimited fails the "Wonder Woman" test. HU isn't really designed for games with heroes as powerful as the Justice Leaguers anyway, but you can't even create a poor man's version using the system...the Immortal power type ("class") from Powers Unlimited 2 is a pretty poor fit, and there's nothing on the Aliens class that seems to synch up. Advanced Marvel isn't terribly helpful, though the Basic (original) version of MSH does pretty well for modeling WW (with basic powers like Unique Weapon, Unique Vehicle, and Animal Communication/Control. Heck, Steve Trevor even makes a handy Sidekick!), but it still has problems with a lot of other DC-types (Batman, Green Lantern, Flash...and, well, you can probably stop about there).

Surprisingly Robust
No, the gem that really stood out was actually a game that I'd set aside a while back: Supers! The Comic Book Role-Playing Game. Unlike Mary Poppins, Supers! is not "practically perfect in every way;" in fact it has a couple fairly serious mechanical flaws (in addition to making it tough to build a Hulk clone). However, it's a lot better than I good, in fact, that it meets nearly all my needs for the "generic-supers-system-I've-been-searching-for-this-last-quarter-century." Which is saying something.

Supers! is the other (superhero) RPG I brought with me to Paraguay.

So I am very happy and Wonder Woman is a big part of that. After all, if I wasn't trying to find a way to model her character in a way that wasn't D20 complicated (because I was appalled at her write-up in DC Adventures, which I was reviewing because of the attention paid to the character by my boy...he said today that Wonder Woman is his 2nd favorite character behind Batman, though that's a position that's likely to change on a weekly basis)...I wouldn't have bothered to check out Supers! which I'd previously written off as "nice, but a little lightweight." Hell, it can even make a good looking (i.e. "very playable") Aquaman character. Which is also saying something.

But I'll talk more about Supers! in another post (and I'll get back to KWN and the D&D cartoon..,yes, I have a lot of irons in the fire. See what happens when you don't have enough time to write?). I see Supers! also has a revised edition now...I might pick that up and see if corrects those aforementioned flaws (to sum up: composure attacks and ad/disad use in-play; most everything else is milk and honey).

Aaaand...that's enough. I will say that I had a chance to catch the four or five episodes of The Flash series (On Demand) while I was back in Seattle and I liked it. I especially dig the show's interpretation of the Barry Allen character and the way the writers have embraced super villains (the episode with Captain Cold was a distinct highlight). Also, I particularly like the choice of Iris West and her father Joe to be played by African-American actors Candice Patton and Jesse Martin. The show's not a faithful recreation of the Silver Age character (it's not set in the 50s-60s, for example), so there's no need to keep all the characters caucasian. Hell, one of these days people will figure out it's okay (and interesting) to have a black Bruce Wayne or a Filipino Peter Parker. More interesting than giving them swords, anyway.

[EDIT: at the time I wrote this, I was unaware of the Miles Morales character in the Marvel Ultimate imprint; however, my original point still stands: if you're rebooting a 50 year old comic character for a 21st century film, you're already stepping away from its Silver Age canon. I'd like to think the demographics of American superheroes could match the demographics of the U.S.]

Just saying.
; )


  1. Well, here's my take on a Wonder Woman homage ("Wondrous Lady") I did for a con game of HU. More of the more modern "Goddess of War" version.

    Also, if you have DC Adventures, you have Mutants and Masterminds 3e. The books/rules, etc are identical with these exceptions:

    1. Art is changed to DC characters.
    2. The chapters are the same (numbered & titled); examples are changed to DCU. For example, the character creation examples Rook & Princess are the same except their backstory is changed to the DCU in DCA.
    3. The addition of Chapters 10 ("The DC Universe" ) and 11 ("Heroes & Villains").

    I ~LOVED~ "Wonder Woman '77!" I was 5 when the series first aired. There were 3 shows I watched every week without fail: Wonder Woman, The Six Million Dollar M<an, and Star Trek (in syndication, daily).

  2. Oops, forgot the link to Wondrous Lady:

  3. Like almost everything from DC, I bailed on Wonder Woman with the New52 era. Pretty much for exactly the reasons you stated. You can tackle dark subjects without the hero being ultra-dark.

    The animated Wonder Woman movie is possibly my favorite DC animated film, in a close competition with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Green Lantern: First Flight.

    DC Universe is a fantastically cool superhero game, if you can get your head around it. I... almost can. I've run it, but one of my players was a longtime Mutants & Masterminds GM and he coached me on the rules. I still get lost sometimes, but it's the first game where I played a Green Lantern, it felt exactly right, and I didn't have to break the mechanics to do it. Normally it'd be over my line for crunch, but things like that have convinced me to persevere. Plus the books were done before the New52 so it's full of info on the DC universe that I actually loved.

    1. @ Fractal:

      I'm actually really starting to groove on the idea of the DC universe in a way I never thought I would (as a long time Marvel fan). I might address this in a later post.

  4. Well I am a long time DC fan and I did stick with them through the New 52. Though I do agree with most of the criticisms.
    Wonder Woman '77 was awesome!
    I also really like the DC Adventures game. So looking forward to seeing what you have to say.

  5. No love for Mayfair's DC Heroes (1st edition in particular)?

  6. FYI - there is a new Guardians superhero rpg coming out, which near as I can tell is nothing like the old one. It's a class & level, based on OD&D type system. The authors are David Pulver & Thomas Denmark. They've been putting out details here - - looks interesting.

    1. @ info:

      I'm aware (they're on my blog role), that's why I included the link...didn't want people thinking I was talking about their new game.

      The old Guardians is pretty terrible IMO. Some nice art, though.