Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Superhero Appendix N

Barking Alien and WQRobb have had some good ideas over the last week so I thought I would jump in to with my own "Appendix N" for superhero gaming. BA's details:

I challenge you, the Superhero RPG GM, and/or player, to list between 5 and 10 Superhero comic books, and 5 to 10 Superhero live action or animated shows or films, that typify your style of Superhero RPG campaign.

Alright. I will preface this by saying that while I haven't run a continuous, sustained supers game in quite a while our ICONS games are all set in the same continuity, our Marvel games were a single "campaign", and my ready to launch M&M campaign will be that elusive ongoing game at some point. For any of these, here is my list of inspirations:

Comic Books
(the purest source)

  • 70's - 80's Avengers books - these were a big deal to me, my preferred big team book.
  • 80's West Coast Avengers - A spin-off that I sometimes liked better than the original.
  • 70's-80's Iron Man - the core of my superhero interests. This is where I verge on being that hipster guy, as I was reading Iron Man when other people though it sucked. It did sometimes, but a lot of the time it didn't. IM #100-#300 is "my time".
  • Marvel Two-In-One (more 70's-80's) - I liked this as it featured The Thing - everybody knew him , he had a Saturday Morning Cartoon - and someone else you might not know if you were new to comics as I was back then. Lots of "lesser lights" wandered through this book.
  •  Astro City - came along later than the rest of these but I really liked the way it came across. 
  • Secret Wars - it's a strange thing looking back but this was the first of the big event books and we were in a frenzy to find out what was going on and pick up all of the books - it was just a huge thing at the time and that kind of energy and excitement and "what's going to happen next" is something I'd like to try and capture a small part of in a game.

Movies & TV
(the more common source these days)
  •  Justice League (animated, both original and Unlimited) - I still think this is the single best superhero show yet made, and it's my go-to reference when someone wants to understand how a super team campaign would work.
  • Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes (animated) - A real shame it only had two seasons but it too is a great look at a superhero team and what they do.
  • Superman:The Animated Series - Most think Batman is the better show and I love it too but for this purpose Superman has more of the four-color fun feeling that I am looking for.
  • Batman (1989) - The Tim Burton Batman was darker, true, but it was the first superhero movie that wasn't trying to look realistic - it looked like a comic book. Atmosphere counts for a lot. 
  • Batman (66 live action series) - Bright, bold, fun. Exactly what I want in a game. When all of the big villains team up that's not just another episode - it's a movie!
  • The Incredibles - My favorite Pixar movie and another model for the feel I look for in a superhero game. Bright, action-packed, a little serious and a lot of fun.
  • Avengers (The big Marvel movie) - more team time, with fun, disagreements, action, just about every element I could ask for and done well.
  • Iron Man (the first Marvel movie) - again, a nice mix of seriousness and fun with an interesting character
  • Captain America (the first Marvel movie) - a great example of a different type of character and a different type of story but a solid example of what I aim for.
  • X-Men 2 - great character development, elements of past and present cross-connecting, and another great team movie.

I'll give City of Heroes a separate place of honor as it showed me a whole new way of presenting superheroes in a game format that just worked and was a lot of fun.

I'd say the biggest thing missing here is all of the dark stuff especially 90's+ Iron Age type stuff. There is some good material out there but it's not the game I want to run. I also tend to gloss over the more intensely real-world angles like you see in Civil War. Silver to Bronze Age, from the naive super-science solutions to every problem and the numerous ape-villains to the early appearances of the grittier heroes, that's my target. There's a lot of black and a lot of white and not much gray.  Death is not a common or usual outcome. If your concept is a drawing of a costume you thought would be cool then that's certainly just as valid a place to begin as anything else. We'll likely add more depth but we'll have some fun getting there. My ICONS games in particular I think of as akin to the animated shows like Justice League and I have more on that here

There are so many I'm leaving out but I think this is a pretty good sampling of my influences. Who's next?

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