MythSpoken Spoiler Special-Captain America II: The Winter Soldier

Who is the Winter Soldier?  The MythSpoken team tackles this mystery and others as they discuss the latest Marvel Cinematic release, Captain America II: The Winter Soldier.

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Game the Game: “Hi, my name is Barak, and I am closet player/ director”

“I have always considered RPG Design to be a conversation, where someone does something, then someone else takes those ideas and develops them further, and then someone ELSE takes them further still.” Jeff Grubb*, via Facebook

Somewhere, out there, in multiple places, there are categories of players. Folks refer to these categorizations: “I am a ____ with some aspects of ____,” as if these were psychological tests. In my travels, I have not come across GM categorizations that are as widely used and accepted.

Wah wah wah… No, this isn’t an article complaining about how difficult the life of the GM is, and how they put in so much work, although those things are all true.

How the GM spends an inordinate amount of time away from the game thinking about the game: plotting, scheming, statting… No, this is not one of those articles.

I got into the business of GMing long ago because I was a frustrated player. At heart, I am a player. I want to roll dice, tell cool stories, outwit the GM (that dude’s a jerk!), save the princess, rule the kingdom, and look cool doing it.

I could go into a long-winded explanation about all sorts of stuff. But, instead, I have so many other things to say, that will seem to not make sense.

Tangent 1 (if you will accept that the above material was at all related, if you do not accept that, then likely this is tangent number 3? 4?): Sometimes, I think of a list, something potentially worthy of sharing on my Friendster page. Something to directly share with select folks who will appreciate my list and have lists of their own to contribute.

Best Pizza in NYC- Susan.

Favorite Superhero Costumes- Mike, Ellie.

Most Overlooked, Oscar™ Worthy Performances- Jen F, Susan, Jeremy.

So, when I work on these lists, I start jotting stuff down on a post-it or index card. My desk is covered with them.

So, this list I was thinking of, is applicable here (just stay with me):

My Favorite Scenes in Movies. Scenes that gave me the chills, scenes that stuck with me. Lines I remember. Emotional moments.

Boogie Nights- The scene in the pickup truck. The music, the stuff happening with Roller Girl. I was asked recently what my single favorite movie is. This was my answer. This scene, every time.

The Road- Guy Pearce at the end. I thought about this movie and this scene in particular for months. I still do.

The Third Wheel- Yes, this is a not-very-good movie, and I can’t explain why, but the scene between Phil and Matt Damon’s, there is something about it.

Cars- When Lightning McQueen helps The King finish the race, I cry every time.

The Prestige- Borden’s promise to his daughter as he is about to be hanged.

Fred Claus- “There’s no naughty kids, Nick.”

When I run games, I like to have moments that resonate. I like to have Big Reveals.  I fancy myself a director in this regard.

Consider me Orson Welles or Warren Beatty, I would like to direct myself to Oscar glory!

But, most games don’t let the GM actively play, aside from controlling all the NPCs.

We started playing Monsterhearts at Modern Myths. We played one session for the MythSpoken podcast. The players wanted to play more, as did I. We played a second time, and will be playing again.

One of my frustrations is that I want to play! The Skins are cool. As a GM I am getting used to rolling no dice. Ever. Instead driving the plot by having bad things happen.

But, I will be honest, and for those wondering what the quote at the beginning has to do with anything, I am running the game the way I want.

The setup of how to create threats for the game, and all that never really clicked with me.

I /love/ the game design. But I am ignoring this. My NPCs have skins. They can do cool things. I want to use some of the skins. Screw it. RPG Design is a conversation. Joe Mcdaldno made an awesome game. My players all are eager to play, even though ¾ of theme initially did not want to play! The end of the second session has The Chosen in jail for the murder of the jerky son of a senator, who had attacked the Queen who is the Chosen’s enemy yet who he is attracted to and there are a whole bunch of other plot threads out there that I don’t want to share here, because sharing them would tip my hat to my players. It is a horror game.

My strategy as a GM is always to ask myself how can I make things worse, what is the worst thing I can do to my players. Additionally, I want my games to have moments (see my film list above). Granted, I cannot force a player to say “There are no naughty kids.” Can I have an NPC say it? Will it resonate? I try and integrate scenes and scenarios that will be memorable. The Chosen in the Monsterhearts game, it never crossed my mind he would end up in jail, but it ended up that way, because, well, it was the worst thing. Initially, I was just playing off the idea that although this character, the Queen, Paige, had been chosen by the player of the Chosen to be the  “someone who knows that you’re the Chosen one, and wants you dead. The MC gives them a name and two Strings on you.” But the player was also playing up the fact that his character was attracted to her. So, I thought, how fun would it be if she showed up, asking for his help, and maybe some comforting. I liked the idea of a love/ hate relationship taken to an extreme, of a conflicting agenda.

So, she has a Skin. She is the Queen. Am I treating her like a stolen car? No. I am treating her like a car I spent a lot of money on. She is my dream car. I don’t want anything to happen to her. And what about Jonas, the QB? He has a Skin too, though I can’t tell you what it is. He might be more like a stolen car, because, well, he’s kind of that way. I like flipping through the Skins behind my GM screen, playing off what is there to help me ramp things up!

I am also working towards some stuff. Big stuff. Dark stuff. I am planting bread crumbs, I hope it all comes together beautifully.

Other folks would scold me for the way I have interpreted the running of the Monsterhearts, but everyone at the table is having fun. Isn’t that what it is all about?

 *Jeff Grubb designed and wrote a bunch of cool stuff, but is probably best known for the Classic Marvel Role Playing Game.

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MythSpoken Gaming Special: Monsterhearts

The MythSpoken crew sits down this week and tries out Monsterhearts, the game that lets you tell stories about sexy monsters, teenage angst, personal horror, and secret love triangles. 

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MythSpoken #39: The “Dead means Dead, unless you’re from Riverdale” Episode

The MythSpoken Crew is back and this week talk about Afterlife with Archie, Death in Comics, and the representation of female action heroes in advertising.

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Show Notes

Death & Return of Superman (Fan film by Max Landis)

Wonder Woman #323

Superman #331

Lanky Brunette with a Wicket Jaw

Marvel Promo Posters 

Filo Greek Taverna

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Book of the Dead 2004 

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MythSpoken: Race In Gaming Special

Modern Myths caters to a broad swath of the Nerdo-American community, from kids who love My Little Pony to D&D, from Transformers to Settlers Of Catan, from Batman to Magic The Gathering.  What they all have in common is imagination, which is a universal human quality.  In this special podcast, staffer Michael Dow and some of his gamer friends talk about some of the barriers nerds of color encounter when they join the fun.

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Heroine Addict: the Clothes make the Hero

Modern comic books have a problem: most artists just don’t know how to dress characters. Outside of spandex and capes, when characters are shown in street wear, there’s a sudden lack of creativity. Men wear t-shirt and jeans, with the occasional button-down shirt thrown on top.

0511-nightwing1-1

You can always rely on Nightwing to make the best fashion choices.

Women get even623748-a2 worse wear: some combination of crop tops, shirt skirts, and tight jeans seems to prevail.

Comics are monthly (and weekly) content, constantly changing and adapting to fit with a modern tone, but for some reason that tone doesn’t include how the characters dress. Even worse is when every single female character has the same dress code: crop tops and skirts. Almost like a uniform outside of costume, female characters in civilian guise often dress in the exact same style.

0006t16dThis would be fine if it made sense with the characters, but it frankly does not. Birds of Prey is a treasure trove of examples of all sorts of artists dressing a very diverse trio the same way: Helena Bertinelli was a school teacher, Black Canary was a take-charge martial artist, and Oracle was a tactician who didn’t suffer fools, yet they all dressed alike, and incredible “sexy” (especially for Ted Kord’s funeral, pencils by Paulo Siqueira).

Even when artists doBoP vol 1 no 88 differentiate character’s outfits based on their personalities, there is a tendency for their clothing to trend towards looks that are hard to pull off in reality.  All of these artists are incredibly talented, but they seem to lack a sense of what a character’s style would look like.

Other artists avoid showing heroes in street clothes all together. But often, the most compelling superhero stories come from stories where the heroes aren’t wearing capes, but are being humans.

tumblr_m51t1h37oW1qg1iejo1_500Take Brave and the Bold #33: the story follows Wonder Woman, Zatanna, and Batgirl without their costumes, as they have a girls night out. The fun, and somewhat emotional, tale is complimented by critical darling Cliff Chiang’s artwork and, beyond that, his sense of fashion. Chiang dresses each of the women in a modern, chic look that compliments their personality and character history (Diana wears a Grecian-inspired number, Zatanna has a showy black dress, and Babs wears a youthful pink dress–this issue being a  final celebration in old DC continuity, set right before the Killing Joke).

Amanda amanda-conner-supergirl-ish12Conner, too, embraces fashion complimenting a female character. Still dressed to look “sexy,” Kara’s outfit in Supergirl #12 embraces her attitude, but also plays a bit of a role reversal, featuring civilians dressed up to look like superheroes. Embracing the medium with gentle mockery, Conner makes issue visually fun. Each page brings new clothing and style for each character, whether they are a featured player or a bit character.

worlds-finest-new-52-3-powergirl-huntressSuperhero comics are always trying to stay up-to-date with new storylines and reinvented characters, but the thing that really needs to be updated in comics are superhero street clothes. Drop the tank tops and belly shirts, and add some style and flair (as long as it makes sense for the character).

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MythSpoken #38: The “Can We Try That Again” Episode

The MythSpoken Crew is back! This week we speculate on the Big Two. DC is releasing 3 weekly series this year, is this the future of comics? Will the New52 end with issues #52? Marvel Now is All New Marvel Now! What does this mean for the old Marvel Now?

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Show Notes

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MythSpoken Interview Special: Anne Thalheimer

Michael Dow sits down with Indie comic creator Anne Thalheimer to discuss her new graphic novel, What You Don’t Get. What You Don’t Get is an autobiographical look at life, death, and cats. 

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Deep Cuts: Blazing Combat

Blazing Combat (by Archie Goodwin, Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, Alex Toth, Wally Wood, and more.) collects the entire four issue run of a then-controversial war comic that debuted in 1965.  There are twenty-nine short stories set in wars throughout history, though most feature American troops in battle from the Revolution to Viet Nam.  All the stories were written by Archie Goodwin, and all the art was drawn a slew of legendary cartoonists, including Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, Alex Toth, Wally Wood, and John Severin.

Some of these stories may seem somewhat stilted or dated by current standards—audiences are more tolerant of brutality and gore (not to mention swearing) than they were 50 years ago—but at the beating heart of all of them lies a timeless empathy for people enduring the misery of war, a virtue which led to Blazing Combat’s cancellation after only four issues.  Apparently, Goodwin’s willingness to cast our then-escalating war in Viet Nam in a less-than-heroic light, particularly with the story “Landscape”, which cataloged the increasing miseries of a peasant farmer stuck in the middle as American and Viet Cong forces fight over his village, led to the magazine’s banishment from newsstands.

It’s a great pity, because Goodwin was a master of short-story writing.  None of these pieces run more than eight pages, and many of them are deeply moving vignettes about the ways war can make us suffer.  The pen and ink art not only evokes newsreel footage and battle photography from the 19th and 20th centuries, it also creates a muted emotional tone akin to film noir.

You should buy this book if: you enjoy ‘grittier’ superhero stories like the Punisher, survival horror stories like Walking Dead, or slice of life comics by cartoonists like Chester Brown or Seth. This is also a must-have for devotees of great cartoonists like Toth, Wood, and Frazetta, and it would make a fine gift to people who don’t think of themselves as comics fans, but who enjoy war stories or military history.  It’s also likely to pass muster with parents concerned about exposing their children to violent art.

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Heroine Addict: The Foundation of Feminism

It seems like we’re upon a renaissance era for women in comics. There’s a massive number of ongoing female led titles for every genre and taste: Gail Simone’s Red Sonja for fantasy lovers, Coffin Hill for magic enthusiasts,  Rachel Rising for horror fanatics, superhero teams like Birds of Prey and X-Men to stand up to the Avengers and Justice League, and, of course, a bevy of superhero solo titles, like Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk.

Ladytastic-MarvelWhile 2014 is a slowly becoming glorious time for women in comics, and current titles feature strong, determined, smart, diverse, and feminist female characters, it’s important not to forget the characters, and the comic books, who helped pave the way for the success of modern, female-led comics.

74179-1062-73722-1-patsy-walker_superWonder Woman is the perennial winner of longest-running female solo title, with both her first and second series, and is one of the most iconic figures in the feminist movement, but it’s teen queen characters like Betty, Veronica, and Millie the Model who sell just as well and subtly spread feminist concepts. Even one of Marvel’s oldest characters, Patsy Walker (aka Hellcat) found her roots, surprisingly, in teen romance comics, where she eventually became a “career-gal” and then a superhero. Romance stories were some of the best selling comic books in the 1940s and 50s, with a primary audience of young women.

It was Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, with a whopping 137 consecutive issues, that really seemed to turn the tide for feminist characters in comics. Spanning almost 2 decades, many stories resorted to characterizing Lois as an annoying busybody who just wanted to be Mrs. Superman, but, in the early 70s, the character evolved. After becoming involved in the civil rights movement and superpleasurewomen’s lib, Lois’ comic, under the hands of editor Dorothy Woolfolk, took an entirely new direction in 1972: Lois was done with Superman. Instead of Superman being irritated by Lois’ knack for getting into trouble, Lois was irritated with Supes’ penchant for being overprotective and patronizing. But Lois’s new leaf was dampened by a column in the back of the issues, by a mysterious columnist, dubbed “Alexander the Great,” that was full of “satiric” anti-feminist rhetoric like:

She’s always been such an obnoxious dame – is it possible for anyone – superhuman or not – to deal with such a personality? I don’t think so.

And:

If I were you, I’d get together with Superman and form Men’s Liberation… to free us from those nutty Women’s libbers.

Only 2 short years later, the comic ended and was rolled into the new Superman Family title, where Lois returned to being Superman’s girlfriend, but there was a sense that feminism in comics  was feasible.

Because of this, some femalesexist-myth characters created during the 70s faced an odd duplicity. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, Power Girl was presented as a first wave feminist character in her initial appearances, struggling to be regarded as “just as good as the men, if not better,” rather than just some “dame.” Her costume embraced her femininity, but was also created specifically by and for the male gaze. Many feminist female characters faced, and still face, this disconnect between their back-breaking poses and their written attitudes.

2009-03-13_133332_5Later, in the 80s, John Byrne took over the character of She-Hulk, and instead of a savage woman-of-rage or a sheepish mouse, Jennifer Walters transformed into a sassy, take-charge lawyer who was not only in control of her super powers, but also her super-sexuality. Sensation She-Hulk represented a small shift in how the feminism was perceived, much in line with the second wave of feminism. Though still subject to, and created by, the male gaze, there was no sense of implied shame (like the Star-Spangled Kid telling Peej to cover up her hole with a logo). She-Hulk was big, green, and sometimes naked, and embraced it with pride.

Characters likepower_girl_and_she_hulk_by_protokitty-d4r37eh Shulky and PG have evolved throughout the years, and have been lucky to have great creative teams supporting their feminist images. Dan Slott’s complete collection of She-Hulk Volume 1 was just released, and while She-Hulk is just as strong as sassy as in the Byrne run, she also has to learn humility, which helps the character, in a way, progress towards the third wave of feminism. Somewhat conversely, the Conner/Palmiotti/Grey complete collection of Power Girl, which was also just released, harkens back to Byrne era Shulky, with Power Girl embracing who she is without shame. Both titles represent the feminist progression of two, bringing them into the modern era, while embracing what it means to be a super-woman.

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