Saturday, July 15, 2023


Hey! Must be the money!

["Ride wit me" playing in the background as I start to type this post. Followed quickly by another incredibly insipid song, "Butterfly" by the stupid stupid band Crazy Town. Only difference...far as I can that Nelly was nominated for a Grammy for God-knows-what reason]

*sigh* Don't mind me. It's been a long day. And a long week. And a long month.

I decided, a few days ago, that it was time to introduce the kids to the various Batman movies. Of course, they know who Batman addition to numerous animated shows, Lego films, and comic books, they've seen many of the old Adam West sitcom episodes (and the 1966 movie starring the same actor). But for [reasons] we've just never gotten around to watching the later films, not the first series kicked off by Tim Burton in '89, nor the Chris Nolan series from the early 2000's, nor any of DC's rather sorry attempts to create something like the Marvel Cinematic 'verse.

Which, considering A) the kids have seen nearly every Marvel film ever made (multiple times), and B) have long proclaimed Batman as one of their favorite superheroes of all time...well, it felt like it was time to fire up Ye Old On-Demand streaming service and get to watching.

Now, a couple+ of preamble thoughts for folks.
  1. I've never been what you call a "big" Batman fan. Despite having owned and read comics and toys and (does anyone remember these?) colorforms of the Caped Crusader since I was a wee lad of 3 or so, he was never very high on my list. Captain America, the Hulk, and Spider-Man certainly outrank him. Within the DC universe he'd definitely come in somewhere below Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman (heck, I owned more Blue Devil comics as a teen than I ever owned of Batman titles). He was just never one of my favorites, okay?
  2. Having said that, I've seen many of the various Batman films over the years. Well, I watched the first Michael Keaton one, and I've seen all the Chris Nolan films (multiple times). And I have seen Batman vs. Superman and rather enjoyed it (right up until the ending with Wonder Woman and Doomsday making trashy fan-service appearances)...Affleck may be my favorite Bruce Wayne of all time. 
  3. As an adult I do enjoy a LOT about the Batman concept...though I probably still prefer Batgirl.
So, after running through the trailers for all the various Batman films, the kids decided that the first (1989) one with Jack Nicholson and Alec Baldwin's ex-wife (sorry...hold on. Kim Basinger. Jeez, my memory).  It was...pretty good. Some of it is really good. Not, unfortunately, most of the Keaton bits...he brings too much comedic sensibility to the role, something that doesn't fit very well with [my perception of] Batman. But I rather love all the other members of the cast, and their performances.

And here's the other thing I quite liked about the film: it wonderfully captures a near picture-perfect look at the starting career of a 1st level superhero in Heroes Unlimited. Of course, I'm talking an early edition of HU, not that bloated "2E" version. Burton's Batman could easily be a 1st level Hardware character from HU Revised (you need the Revised edition for its rules on building super-vehicles) splitting the character's budget between his car, flimsy "bat-jet," and computer-filled lair.

Grapple gun? Check.
Which I love (duh) as it gives me great ideas for the types of encounters, story, and staging one would do for such a character/game.

A day or two after this, we sat down to watch Batman Returns, the kids having thoroughly bought in to the project. Having never before seen the film, I was quite taken aback by how strange and surreal the thing is...far more of a Tim Burton film, I suppose, but quite dark and strange for a superhero film...especially a pop icon superhero like Batman. 

[and which led me to research the strange development history of every single Batman film. Fascinating, though quite a deep rabbit hole to tumble into]

Also it's a I fell asleep during the movie (a lot of long days lately, did I mention...?) and so will probably need to go back and re-watch the ending. But this film, too, struck me less as a coherent story, and more of a series of images, scenes, and situations designed to provoke emotional responses...which is fine (some films do that), but I guess it's not my preference.

However, Batman Returns still feels like someone's Heroes Unlimited game...probably more so, due to its overall weird disjointedness. Watching it felt like Burton was the young GM who, fresh off a successful romp in HU with his one buddy (Keaton, playing the bat-themed hardware character) brings in a second, NEW player (Michelle Pfeiffer) and tries to find a way to integrate her cat-themed anarchist into the ongoing campaign. It's still low-level, high-competence gameplay of the HU world vaporizing Thanos on the horizon, no Kryptonian mothership crashing into New York, just a weird penguin-themed villain teaming up with smash-able stooges with guns...with the usual, expected results.

Yeah, "expected." It's a tad strange to watch Batman casually murdering folks in these movies (as compared to the comic character or the later Nolan films), but casual murder of mooks and villains is par for the course in your average Heroes Unlimited game. Well, in my experience...probably there are GMs out there who have seen more Principled (in the HU alignment sense) behavior from their PCs. 

It's just tough when hand grenades retail for $60 a pop.

Anyway. The busy-ness continues (it's taken me some three days to find the time to write this up). Another multi-game soccer tournament going on this afternoon on the other side of Lake Washington. The stress of life events has been...getting to me, a bit, I guess. If the dog gets me up at 2am, I can find it difficult to get back to sleep, especially if I start to dwell on all the stuff I've got going on. Which sucks. I might have to get back on the regular coffee. Musings about Batman and (especially) Heroes Unlimited is a welcome distraction from everything.  Might have to get a game going, in the near future. Stuff like these old movies are fairly inspirational.

One last interesting (to me, anyway) thought. When the 1989 Batman (Burton) film premiered, I was 16 years old, and definitely NOT a Batman fan. I think I might have still been collecting Silver Surfer comics at the time(?)...a bit more "cosmic" in scope in terms of conflict. I had been exposed to the Heroes Unlimited game by this point (friends in high school), but they were running something far more high powered with the Revised rules in combo with Transdimensional TMNT. Those guys (they were all gaming with females ended at middle school and didn't start up again till university), were BIG into comic books in general and Batman in particular (I'm sure they saw all those movies, while I tapped out after the first). And, yet, they never ran anything "street level" in their games...instead they added as much "twink" as they could, even creating a list of "mega-powers" when HU's major powers weren't deemed beefy enough. Thinking back, it really makes me wonder what the appeal Palladium held for them, at all. Crunchy character building? Granular move-by-move combat? Bullet calibers and grenades?

Weird. They never did want to play Rifts and ridiculed that game soundly (unlike myself). 

All right. That's enough for now. Time to wake the family.


  1. There's good Batman movies and bad Batman movies, but for me the gold standard for the character will forever be Batman: The Animated Series (as well as the Justice League shows set in the same continuity). Kevin Conroy captured the character in a way no one else really has.

  2. We played a good bit of TMNT/Heroes Unlimited in College. We also pulled in the martial arts from Ninjas & Superspies

    1. I got the original TMNT in middle school (and my friend had BTS), but played the bulk of my Palladium in high school. My college years ('91-'95) was given over rather completely to White Wolf games of that era, with Rifts being a notable exception.

      There is a part of me that wants to relegate the joys of superhero gaming IN GENERAL to the days of adolescence (teenage years) as the bulk of ALL my supers playing (from MSH on) happened between the ages of 13-17. But then I read something like Aaron Allston's Strikeforce campaign (which he was running in his 20s) and I wonder if maybe I'm just "doing it wrong." Certainly, adults can enjoy the supers genre (as evidenced by box office receipts)...but translating the genre to (good) gaming has always been a bit of a sticky wicket.

  3. I played a lot of the original Marvel Comics games with friends and then, later in years, I ran M.C. for my son and his friends. A decade or so later, the games are still talked about. We typically ranged around Spiderman levels.