Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Check out these debonaire fellows.

Remember these guys?  Back in the 80's Marvel Comics decided that Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America needed a makeover.  In the world of comics there's an old editorial maxim that "every comic is somebody's first".  Any GameBlog readers start reading comics with one of these versions of the heroes?  Were you confused or annoyed when the dudes above were reverted back to their previous design?  I'm curious.

Some people are taking the recent elevation of Mike Mearls to head of D&D Research & Development and this EN World "acceptance speech" of his as a signal of 5E getting under way.  I'm not sure that's really the case and I see no point in arguing the possibility one way or another.  5E will come when it comes, no matter what the entrails say prior to the event.  I just want to take a moment to respond to the hope, already expressed by a few, that 5E will step back from the more recent editions and go back the The Way Things Used To Be.  I'm not one of those people.  I'm not particularly keen on the idea of a self-consciously Old School new edition of D&D.  My favorite edition has already had its turn in the sun.  Maybe each new generation of D&D players deserve a version of the game that speaks to them.  WotC shouldn't turn its back on the current player base to satisfy the needs of the old fart brigade, even if we really do outnumber the 4e kids 16 to 1.

Really, all I want out of Wizards at this point is for them to get their heads out of their asses sufficiently to resume PDF sales and/or offer their back catalog as print-on-demand titles and/or produce a 'classic' retro boxed set. Marvel and DC have realized there's money to be made in old material, as the pile of Marvel Essentials on the shelf behind me attests.  Are RPG fans really that much stupider than comic fans, that we wouldn't be able to navigate between the D&D equivalent of Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man?  I don't think so.  We all pretty much made it out of the 'AD&D vs. Basic/Expert' era intact. +10 nerd points for the first guy to mention that the Hulk was grey in his first few appearances and the green version is actually the update.


  1. It's rumoured Marvel changed all the look of all their characters in the 80's (under their lawyers advice) to avoid paying any royalties to the original creators (Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc). "Look he doesn't look anything like the guy you invented".

  2. I can't speak as to the Iron Man or Thor pictured (never read their comics growing up), but:

    The Spider-Man pictured led (eventually) to one of his most popular villains (Venom). It's disputed how much of that was planned by Marvel in advance and how much was to distance themselves from anything Todd McFarlane had a hand in (or so I'm told by a friend or two who are huge comic book geeks).

    Hulk has been through enough variation that the Marvel Universe RPG book has ten different Hulks in its Guide to Hulk and the Avengers.

    That's not Captain America in the front, though. That's USAgent.


  3. Anonymous7:17 PM

    I'd be 100% happy if WotC would release ALL of its out-of-print products both as PDFs and on lulu. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to buy a brand-new print copy of Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardy (or whatever) for about $15?

  4. I started reading Iron Man regularly in the Silver Centurion days (I think my first issue was Stane in the Iron Monger, and if a baby vs. a Repulsor ray isn't the perfect jumping on point, I don't know what is.), and read on through the Armor Wars.

    I didn't read much Cap around then, until getting some of the Scourge issues in a bag of comics at a Ben Franklin.

  5. Hmm...I started reading Marvel PRIOR to the costume changes, then stopped reading 'em around the same time they changed, occasionally revisiting them AFTER they changed back.

    There's an interesting parallel to be drawn between that and my D&D play I guess...I'm not going to adapt to the "new style" nut will wait till WotC "reverts" (if ever).

  6. Comics are the best example of how a long running story line will end up destroying any meaning it originally had.

    Love the idea of superheroes, but can't bear to read them anymore.

  7. @gleichman

    totally disagree. comics are picaresques. Dark Knight returns came out 40 years after the first batman story and it rules.


    I liked the grey hulk. But at the time i would;ve liked the greenhulk if the same aritsts were drawing him. it's about the talent not the tools.

    I can understand missing gygax and trampier, but missing "rod,staves, and wands" saves is, to me, just nostalgia.

  8. Of course, the Hulk was originally grey, so this was a return to his roots rather than a new look, as such. So the lawsuit theory doesn't hold much water for me.

    I started reading Marvel comics just before this period, so while I didn't start with Spidey's black costume, I have always had a fondness for it. None of the changes annoyed me at the time, as they're all pretty solid designs, and the Spider-Man black costume is a great piece of design. The only exception is Thor, as the design is far too busy, and takes away much of what made the original so evocative, even if the original didn't look particularly Norse.

    @Gamethyme, if we're going to be strictly accurate, that's not Thor either, but rather the character who would later become Thunderstrike.

  9. Jeff, you present a view that I would call "enlightened retro-stupid". I totally agree with you and wish more people around shared your approach.

  10. kelvin: Highlight the hidden white text at the bottom of the post to claim your prize!

  11. Alternate character interpretations? Yeah, fine. Bigger fins and more chrome keep it fresh for the market.

    But we all know *real* Hulk is green and wears purple pants, and that *real* Cappy wears red, white and blue. ;)

  12. Anonymous7:45 AM

    My first thought seeing the picture was "hey, cool alternate Avengers!". They're all there, with Spidey alternating for Ant-man & Wasp.

    I've been a Marvelite for over 40 years. The changes weren't too upsetting to me. They were introduced farely well. Okay, Spider-Man's was a bit abrupt: Plop! Here's a ball of goo...whoops! Now it's a costume! And I've never fathomed why it really had to look like the new Spider-Woman's costume.

    Most are still around, sort of. US Agent (or did they lose him again?), Hulk is now available in happy Red Hulk, Iron Man armours are always updating - the silver centurion was abit dashing...and even the ol' Green Goblin, Norman Osbourne, has sported a variation of his power armour.

    Everything old becomes new again, eventually. Things need to be shaken abit so they don't become static. If they work well, they become part of the evolution. If they don't, they get scrapped, and it's back to the original!

    So it goes...


  13. I started reading right after some of them had reverted back. I still remember reading comics with red-and-silver Iron Man, and armored Thor.

    I loved the scarred, bearded, armored, doubly cursed (brittle-boned and immortal) Thor -- who goes down into Niflheim and demands mortality back from Hel, lest his feats be devoid of heroic meaning.

    I was 12.

    Truly epic stuff.

  14. Gamethyme: That costume was first used by Steve Rogers when he stopped being Captain America for a while and just went by "The Captain". I'm pretty sure that was aroound issue 330 or so. The name of the arc was "Cap No More".

  15. @Jeff, good point, plus I think it's also worthy to note Marvel likely didn't care if it was Steve Rogers or another dude wearing the stars and stripes. Cap by any other name was still Cap in their eyes (at that time).

  16. Wow, I really didn't know there was a competition hidden in there! I shall take my geek points with pride!

    Iglesias, that's from Walt Simonson's run on the title, which is definitive, if you ask me. It's rare that a later writer or artist outdoes Kirby, but Simonson did it there.

    The silver Iron Man armour recently made a comeback in Iron Man 2, which was a nice geek-pleasing moment for me.

  17. Funny timing...

    It was actually a love of comics that got me into RPGs back in 1977 and when I discovered Superhero RPGs it was yet another reason (in addition to not being much of a fantasy fan) for me to drop D&D as my game of choice.

    One of my favorite Supers games (if not THE favorite) is Mutants & Masterminds, which just recently announced it is coming out with a 3rd edition.

    Now truth is, I don't really need a 3rd Edition of M&M. Second works just fine. Also, the makers of M&M are coming out with a DC Comics RPG with the same rules set.

    So I ask you...like a method actor...what's my motivation? Why should I buy M&M 3 when I don't really need it and I'm already going to purchase DC Adventures?

    Sometimes I get the reasons for new additions. Sometimes I'm even glad they're done. Many times though, I just want you to generate good product and come out with stuff I like and need for the game you have.

    I still love M&M but seriously, two editions already in 8 years and STILL no Space Heroes/Cosmic book?! That better be supplement/sourcebook #1 for Third or I'll stick with what I've got.

    Semi-rant over.

  18. Anonymous8:56 AM

    @BarkingAlien: "Because it's there..."

    Or, to carry the theme of your query, there's a new director on the set. Same movie, different angle.

    Myself, I began with Villains & Vigilantes and then got hooked on TSR's Marvel Super Heroes. I loved it, FASERIP and all. Converted DC Heroes & other comics to it I just wouldn't invest in another system. But, that's how the companies feel they need to work. More, more, and even new more with added moreness! Okay, maybe it's not always more, and you still wait for other supplements...

    If I had a crew for a supers game, I would try M&M. It sounds good from what I've heard. As for a DC version, there might be a little something of worth in all their rehashed goodness.

    We're gamers. We collect & game. It's what we do...


  19. For me the red Mentzer box was the first D&D, and a great many gamers of that time (even players of competing or more successful games, like Das Schwarze Auge in Germany) thought that Mentzer was the Original D&D.

    I never found a White Box and discovered it only in its recreation as Swords & Wizardry. And in my case, I was not confused by the older design - in fact, it has become my favourite edition of D&D.

    I knew most of the Marvel characters before but it was the new costume era in which I started to read Marvel in earnest. I liked Spideys black costume, but I also liked that he evetually got his iconic outfit back - it just felt right.

    The one character I knew next to nothing about was Thor. But when I saw those amazing ads for Thor #337 (Beta Ray Bill smashing the old, stony logo), drawn by the artist that I adored for his take on Alien, I was hooked.
    And even though I wasn't familiar with Thor's continuity I felt sorry for the old fans that they lost Dr. Blake as Thor's mortal identity. This, to me, felt more significant than Beta Ray Bill's parody, or the armored Thor later in the arc.

  20. Even if you started reading those comics at that time, it seems like all those characters were well enough known in pop culture that you’d know this was a recent twist.

    Of course, I really have a hard time enjoying these “franchise” characters. I like reading the originals, but whenever I read the new stuff I think these guys should have retired by now or at least some of them should have aged a bit. The way they all exist in the same “universe” doesn’t really appeal to me either. Super-heroes work best for me when they’re nigh unique in their world.

    Anyhoo...Wizards of the Coast. You know, I don’t really care anymore. They are completely irrelevant to me. (And, I think, my group as well.) While we still occasionally talk about giving 4e another try, no one is really in a rush to do so. With the retro-clones, I no longer really care that the old stuff is no longer available as PDFs. I’ve completely given up on Wizards ever producing anything that will really grow the hobby. Even if they came out with a seriously old school 5e...shrug. It’s too late.

  21. Comics were for dorks and kids. At age 14 or so I was far too mature and cool for them. I played RPGs like adults did. :)

    I see 4ed as a step back. Closer to roots of D&D than say 2ed through 3.5. In that it's moving back to more of "game" like (basic) D&D and the original fantasy supplement for chain-mail miniatures were.

    I hold onto the slim hope that instead of 5ed they'll do the Gamma-World, the intro retro red-box, other specialized versions of 4ed. Slowly evolve the rules.

    Rather than re-release of old TSR products I'd much prefer the retro clones continue to dominate that market segment. They are truly better than originals.