Archive for June 2010

World’s Finest   2 comments

June was a big month for D.C. Comics. Two landmark issues came out–Batman number 700  and Superman number 700.  Neither Superman nor Batman are my favorite characters in the D.C. universe. I always liked Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow more.  But, I bought both books.


I hate to say it, but there really isn’t anything very memorable in Batman 700. There are stories of Batman past, present, and future. I think it’s a bad idea to create future continuity for superhero comics.  Dick Grayson is Batman now, but we all know that Bruce Wayne is coming back, though hell and the entire universe stand in his way. I am not privy to D.C.’s plans for its characters, but if Bruce Wayne comes back, I hope he retires. It is Dick Grayson’s turn to be Batman, and a one or two year run in the title really doesn’t do it for me.

I haven’t been following Superman very closely for the last couple of  years. I never follow him very closely. I find out what happened in graphic novels 2 to 5 years after the stories originally came out. I know that Superman has been living on New Krypton. I know he returns to Earth just in time to save Lois Lane from the Parasite. Lois and Clark together again–that gives me a warm feeling. It feels right. Joe Stracyzinski is a lucky guy to get to write that story.

But, you know, it’s just a return to the old status quo. The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in the D.C. universe.  I bought Batman and Superman 700 because they were milestones in the history of the characters. But they aren’t very big milestones. Two weeks after the event, I kinda wish I had my $10 back.


Posted June 28, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

A Green Book with Gold Stamping   1 comment

One of the good things about working for a library is that people donate their old book collections to the library all the time. 99 percent of such donations are considered junk by the librarians who evaluate them. For a book to join a library collection it must pass certain high standards.  For one thing, it has to be in excellent condition–like new, almost unread. Secondly, it has to be in the collection already. We don’t usually add things that we don’t have already–adding a duplicate title costs very little in processing costs.  Cataloging a new title means the book cost us about $20 just to put it in the collection.  Thirdly, it has to be in demand.  People are generous with their book donations–they generate thousands of items per library per year.  A few of them get into the collection in spite of all the obstacles.

The rest of them are given to the Friends of the Library who put them into a book sale near the front door.  The money the Friends raise from this neverending book sale helps the library purchase things for which we have no regular budget. 

Sometimes (very rarely and usually only when someone dies and their books all get donated to their library) we get truly excellent things that have no place in a modern public library collection.  These generally turn into wonderful bargains for the people who haunt library book sales. Those are the things I look for.

Three weeks ago, my library inherited this august and ancient tome. Actually, it’s not so ancient. It fooled me. I looked on what I thought was the back of the title page and it said: Copyright 1927 and 1940. Rats! I didn’t get the 1927 edition, but still, 1940 isn’t bad from the standpoint of 2010. Then when I got it home, I looked more carefully and found the page where it said: SEVENTEENTH PRINTING  MARCH 1971. Dang! The book is only 39 years old. Still, I think it is probably a good copy of what the original looked like back in 1927.

The library isn’t going to want such a book, but I’m very happy to give the Friends $1 for it. Now it’s mine. Let’s look at it more closely and see what the message of the stars is.


Message of the Stars


Max Heindel


Augusta Foss Heindel

The Rosicrucian Emblem of Esoteric Christianity








The Rosicrucian Fellowshp





L. N. Fowler & Co. Ltd. 29 Ludgate Hill

London, E.C. 4

Wow!  They just don’t make title pages like that any more.  And the book is also amazing. It’s 728 pages long, and then there is a 12 page catalog of other books that Heindel wrote. Did the American Rosicrucians really get their books printed for them in England? Apparently so. 

It turns out that Max Heindel is the guy who founded the secret society of Rosicrucians in the United States. He did this in 1909!  Like Mohammed and Joseph Smith, it seems that an angel, or at least a Higher Being, came to him and instructed him in what to do. You can read all about it here: He was born in 1865 and died in 1919. That’s very odd because the earliest edition of this book is 1927. It would seem that Augusta Foss Heindel is the true power behind these revelations.  In any case it would appear that the whole book is a message from beyond the grave. 

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was a young man, the Rosicrucians used to advertise for converts in the back pages of the science fiction magazines. Those ads promised you the secrets of the universe if you’d simply join their society. I answered one once, and got some introductory literature, but it all seemed just a little too flaky for me. I never followed up and became a full-fledged Rosicrucian. A typical ad to lure you into the organization might look like this:

Well, I never went down that path, and I’m not going down it now, but I may browse through this book. Modern books of astrology aren’t anywhere near this complete. 

Is Astrology a form of Magic? Some people would say it is. Others might claim it is a science. Certainly Heindel would have made that claim. He wrote another books called SIMPLIFIED SCIENTIFIC ASTROLOGY.

I have always thought of myself as something of a wizard. I have made a fairly detailed study of the western occult tradition–not enough to be called an Occultist–just an educated Layman.  I’m not a great wizard, no Gandalf nor Merlin nor even Harry Potter–just a hedge wizard, always a bit surprised when my own magic works. (Buy me a drink sometime, and ask me about the time I magically summoned a bus.) The world is full of strange books, and during my life, a few of those grimoires have found their way to me. How much more might I have found or learned if I had seriously pursued such matters! Yet, I am not one to deny the existence of Magic. It’s all around us–depending on how you define Magic, of course. Keep your eyes open and maybe some magic will come your way also.


Posted June 25, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Toy Story 3 was fun for me   Leave a comment

Toy Story 3 starts with a great action sequence–the Potato Heads are pulling a train robbery, and Sherrif Woody is trying to stop them.  I kind of liked the part where the train full of screaming Norphins goes off the blown-up bridge. Buz Lightyear shows unexpected power in catching it and rescuing Woody and the Norphins.

Andy's Toys Face a Challenge They Can't Win

Movies that remind me of my own mortality always make me sad. While everyone around me is cheering the happy ending of Toy Story 3–yes, it has one, no I won’t tell you what it is–I’m practically in tears with a big old lump in my throat.

Toys depend on their owners–nothing sadder than a toy that isn’t played with any more–at least that’s what the producers of Toy Story 3 would have us believe. Woody, Buzz, and all the rest of the toys in Toy Story 3 belonged to a kid named Andy. The kid and the toys had great adventures together like the one that opened the movie . . . . but that was years ago. Andy has grown up and doesn’t play with those old toys anymore. It looks like the trashcan, the Day Care Center, or the Attic for them.  Andy’s toys are not the kind of toys to take such a fate lying down.

They wind up at the Day Care Center, which looks like a veritable paradise for neglected toys. There are plenty of kids who want to play with toys there.  But it turns out to be The Other Place when the toys all get sent to the Toddler’s Room–a nonstop destruction derby.  Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! Run screaming–that’s what the little ones do, and you should, too.

There is a berry, berry, bad bear in this movie.  No Emperor Zerg, but a tyrant is still a tyrant.

Never trust a Chartreuse Teddy Bear.

The theme of Toy Story 3 is Abandonment. That’s a very sad topic indeed, no matter whether you are tha  Abandoner or the Abandoned.  Yet, the movie was a blast. Abandonment doesn’t usually have a happy ending in the real world, but for toys, at least, there may be a way out.


Posted June 23, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Update of sorts and a Zombie Apocalypse   1 comment

A Couple months ago I put up a list of all the things I was trying to read.  I thought I’d go back and tell you how I’m doing.

Number 1.  I finished this book last week. My actual favorite story was a novella called In-Between Heroes. It took up about 1/3 of the book, and was almost as long as Marl’s Tale. It’s a roleplaying adventure, but it ends with the resolution of one quest, and starts with the beginning of another. In that time between adventures, the characters manage to get three of their five members turned to stone, and thwart a demonic invasion of the world. The rogue learns some magic, an undying elf becomes an undead zombie, and a romance begins for two party  members. At times the story is kind of slow, but it really gives one more of the feeling of life in the fantasy world than the hectic pace of your standard dungeon crawl. The author, Jeff Freels, has a site here:  I encourage my readers to visit his site and buy this book.


Number 2.  Excellent graphic novel and fairy tale for young adults.



Number 3. I started reading this last week. It didn’t hold my attention, and has fallen down to the bottom of my reading list. On the other hand, my 19-year old son raced through it and apparently loved it.



Number 4. Boring!  I did about 50 pages and decided I don’t have to read this series by Cook.  Unlikeable characters in a pseudo-renaissance plot–never mind!


Number 5. Finished it.  Average kind of  Wild Cards anthology. A pretty good story–weakened by having too many authors writing too many different points of view.

Number 6.  I’m almost finished with it. I pick it up and do a chapter when there is nothing else to do. 

Number 7. Once again I picked up AN EMPIRE UNACQUAINTED WITH DEFEAT thinking that it would be more  fantasy fiction like his Black Company novels. It isn’t. It turns out that this is an anthology of some of Glen’s earlier fantasy short stories.  In those days he wrote like a combination of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. That is exactly the way I’d like to be able to write.  These stories are less grim and more amusing.  I’ve finished them all now, and though they were entertaining, I take back my high praise from the earlier review. The first story was the best of the lot, imho.  Some of the stories seemed rather pointless, and I don’t see how or why they garnered so much critical praise back in the 80s when he first released them.

Number 8.  It turned out that I had read this before. The further into it I got, the more I remembered it. The further into it I got, the more familiar it seemed, until I could start predicting what happened next. The Garrett novels are just as funny on re-reading, but I don’t really have time to read books twice.  There are so many other good things that I would be skipping to do so.

Villiany at its most incompetent--funny stuff.


Number 9.  At the beginning of June I took the family on a trip around northern Arizona–we do this every year, mostly I think for the incomparable luxury of sleeping on the beds at Little America. When we passed through Sedona, we looked for our favorite bookstore–the Golden Word. It is Sedona’s finest bookstore, and it specializes in the New Age/Occult sort of thing. There’s usually a tiny bit of sci-fi and fantasy. And all kinds of magical gear can be bought there–from crystal balls to incense to pewter wizards and dragons. Tis a very cool shop, and we like it a lot. It moved, and we almost couldn’t find it again. I bought just one book there this year.  It’s the scripts for the Black Adder comedy series–a BBC production of several years back. If you saw them on tv, you’ll realize what a treasure this is. If you didn’t you’ll probably think I’m raving mad.  These episodes should be sampled–one a week perhaps, instead of guzzled down from start to finish.  It’s 433 years of British cowardice and venality compiled into a single volume of scripts.  I didn’t know it existed, and thus it turned into a spectacular find for me. Now that you know it exists, it would be relatively easy to get  your own copy. 

I never read Pride and Prejudice before.

Number 10. I have actually gone through quite a few graphic novels since my earlier post about these books. I finished PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES tonight in a single sitting. Tis a fiendishly clever redo of Jane Austen’s novel, and comes across as a brilliant satire of the 18th century British aristocracy. Martial arts has been added to the mixture. My one comment is that the graphic novel seems to have been rushed into print. It’s all black and white, and in many places seems to be unfinished pencil work. In places the art is brilliant, but much of it looks like hurried sketches thrown together to keep the story moving.  I wonder why they published the book this way–it seems incomplete and only half done.  Oh well, I’m sure the same could be said of some of the stuff that I’ve done. There is only so much energy available for some projects, and when the energy is gone, the project is done, whether it meets some external critic’s criteria or not.  

 Talk about your stiff upper lips–the zombie apocalypse is just a damned inconvenience to British Society.


Posted June 23, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

The Greatest Comic Book Writer Ever   5 comments

I have been thinking about it lately, and I’d say the greatest comic book writer ever is Alan Moore, the British magician.  I rate him the best based on the stuff of his I’ve read, and the movies that have been made from his books.

Will Eisner, Jerry Siegel, Bob Kane, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, and Roy Thomas were or are truly great comic book creators. Their characters and some of their stories will last as long as comic book literature is remembered. In my humble opinion, Alan Moore is better.

Maybe he gets his strength/inspirtions from his hair.

That’s a picture of the young Alan Moore.  You can real all about him here: He got his start in British comics where he did such things as Dr. Who and . . .

He has worked for both Marvel and D.C. and doesn’t think either company treated him fairly or kept their end of the bargain.  Some of his best work includes: (probably not in this order)

about Jack the Ripper

The Joker finally makes Batman laugh.

I don't know what this is about. Must look into it.

Bad art turned me away from this without knowing what I was missing.

Promethea is my goddess.

In my humble opinion, the Promethea series was the best work Moore has ever done. Moore explains magic in these books and his psychedelic artist captures it all perfectly. I loved this so much that I actually went to Amazon and bought all the graphic novels.

They truly are extraordinary.

He's just Mr. Fantastic with muscles and weirder friends.

Brings out the rebel in all of us.

Deconstruct superheroes all you want, Alan, I still like them.

And this is what the very hairy Mr. Moore looked like in 2008.  I’m so jealous.  He kept his hair.

How could one man have done so much great stuff in his life? Maybe a better question is, how can the rest of us have done so little?


Posted June 19, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Skaar, Son of Hulk   2 comments

I think I am a case of arrested development. I never get enough Swords and Sorcery My incessant quest for strong heroes battling and triumphing over magical foes has brought me to:

Hulk smash! Wait, that's the son of the Hulk. Skaar, Son of Hulk, smash!

I almost bought this comic when I first saw it appear in the comics shop.  Browsing through it on the spot, I decided there just wasn’t enough real story in it to justify spending the money. Marvel has finally collected the first 6 issues into graphic novel format, and that gave me a chance to read them all at one time.  That’s a bit better. A story begins to emerge.

Skaar is the son of Hulk and Caiera the Oldstrong. Born in tragedy, the gigantic explosion that destroys the city where Hulk and Caiera ruled as king and queen, incubated in fire, and raised by ugly toothy bugs, Skaar seems to be a hero of the old school–all brawn and no brain.  The comic is one savage feat after another.

For the full story of Skaar, I refer the reader to the article in wikipedia which can be found here:,  What attracted me to the story in the first place was that it looks like a great example of Sword and Planet fiction, but all illustrated.  Sword and Planet, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is Swords and Sorcery set upon an alien world, usually with a bit of super science thrown in. The best-known example of Sword and Planet are the John Carter of Mars novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. 

Large green monsters are apparently a standard feature of Sword and Planet.

Sword and Planet is somewhat harder to find than Sword and Sorcery.  I happen to love this stuff, and I’m tempted to buy it whenever I see it.

 Authors who have written notable Sword and Planet tales include but are not limited to:

Edgar Rice Burroughs

 Otis Adbert Kline

 Ralph Milne Farley

 Jack Vance

 Gardner Fox

L. Sprague de Camp

Lin Carter

 Andre Norton

Leigh Brackett

John Norman

and even Robert E. Howard in his novel: Almuric.


But, let’s get back to Skaar. A standard part of such hero stories is man’s conquest of unbelieveable monsters. The planet Sakaar, from wich Skaar drives his name, has more than its share of such beasts–gigantic things that must have been great fun to draw, but one wonders how the ecology of a desert planet can support such creatures.

Wouldn't you like a big red dragon as a pet. Skaar just kills them.

The graphic novel includes the first 6 issues of Skaar (and a little something extra). The artists, Butch Guice and Paul Mounts, went crazy with their depiction of Planet Sakaar.  The comic isn’t all just a bunch of rectangular panels. It can explode into a 2-page panorama at any time. Not since the days of Jim Steranko has their been so much fun with panel design and layout.  Frankly, it’s gorgeous artwork.  The artists must have had a great time drawing this stuff. The swords and sorcery imagery is outstanding–there are pictures that look just like Conan, and others that look just like the Hulk. I had a great time looking at it.

I don’t have many kind words for the story, however. It cruises from one pointless brutality to another. Sakaar is a war planet to make Barsoom seem as tame as your own back yard.  One wonders how life, especially any kind of human life, can survive in a place that is just one massacre after another.

Still, I was happy enough with this tale of monsters, mortals, and scheming wizards until the Silver Surfer appeared at the end of issue 6.  Skaar has to be integrated into the Marvel universe. He’s destined to wind up on Earth–just what we need, another Hulk clone–NOT!

For gorgeous fantastic imagery, I give Skaar an A+. For storytelling, I give it a C-. If you like fantasy, you’d probably like Skaar. Just don’t think about the story much–that’s where I always go wrong.


Posted June 18, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

A Tale of Trolls   1 comment

I got a present in the mail yesterday.  Alf Seegert sent me a copy of his Bridge Troll board game, and I sent him a copy of Tunnels & Trolls 7.5.  Why this exchange of gifts? Is it National Troll Day or Month? Not that I know of . . . I wonder if there is a National Troll Day, perhaps in Denmark or Norway.  Hmmm!

I haven’t had a chance to play this game yet. I have heard and read good things about it.  I hope to have a chance to play it soon.

I have Google working for me. I’ve placed a number of alerts with them, and they tell me when such key phrases as Tunnels & Trolls, Ken St. Andre, and Trollhalla are mentioned anywhere. The first one is my game, published in various editions by Flying Buffalo, Inc. and FieryDragon, Inc.  The second is me. If someone is talking about me, I want to know about it. (That’s partly ego, and partly self-defense, and partly business promotion–I do sell things like my games and stories and am always looking for new ways or places to market them.)  The third one is the name of my club for Tunnels & Trolls players on the internet. You can find it here:  That is a pretty distinctive name. I searched the internet when I made it up, and the only other Trollhalla that I found was a guest cottage at a hotel in Europe somewhere.  I’ve been running Trollhalla since about 2002.  Imagine my surprise when I found this game already being advertised though it hasn’t been published yet.

I have to admit that my feelings were a bit hurt to see my fanclub name being appropriated for someone else’s game. I know I don’t own the concept of trolls, and I’m happy to see other gamers do things with it, but . . .

So, I made a bit of a humorous complaint about it on where I am known as Trollgodfather. (a joke perpetuated on me by Moonwolf95).

A few hours later I got a very nice email from Alf Seegert, the game’s designer. I explained my hurt, and offered a few other names for the game like: Trollholla, Trollhaula, and since they are trollish vikings, Trollhulla. (That’s a pun, Son) Nope. The game is already too far along in production to change the name.

It turns out that Alf was influenced by Tunnels and Trolls back in the 80s, but moved away from the game as he got older. I hear that a lot. But he remembered it fondly.

Through an exchange of emails, we quickly became friends. After all, we have a lot in common. We’re both game designers with a fondness for trolls. He offered to send me his game; I offered to send him mine. Voila! Game exchange! This is what I sent him.

I also talked Alf into joining Trollhalla, where he will be known as Grrralf. I have a lot of talented people in Trollhalla, and I’m very proud of that.  Working together, we make gaming better for everyone.

We also have a possible trollish alliance forming. There are several game companies that use the word Troll as part of  their company name or product.  I think it would be awesome if we all cross-promoted each other. I’m working on that part.

It just goes to show what can happen when there’s a bit of freindly communication. No lawyers need be involved, and it will turn out to be a win-win situation for all of us.

And that deseves a big TROLLISH GRIN!


Posted June 10, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Papparazzi Goes Wild at Phoenix Comicon   1 comment


The last week of May 2010 was a really good one for me. It was a vacation week from work.  I spent two days in the cool north country of Arizona around Flaggstaff. I loafed around the house. I got new books (which I will mention later), new bling (two bolo ties) and a new toy.  I spent Friday, Saturday night, and Sunday at the Phoenix Comicon, and that will be my topic. I took the video camera with me on Sunday, and went crazy taking pictures.

Lady Death poster. I believe artist Brian Pulido hung out here. Didn’t meet him.

I am really not a photographer.  I don’t care about things like lighting, focus, and composition. Generally, I try to get my image in the center of the picture. I will take motion shots, even if it means the picture blurs. Sunday, the last day of the con, I took pictures of everything I liked. Run around with me now at Phoenix Comicon.

The northernmost row of the Dealers Room was reserved for artists and small celebrities. Mostly they sat behind tables and gave autographs. Many of them were artists who drew sketches and sold them. A few were authors who sold their books. Some were both. I mostly ignored them. I consider myself one of them, but I had no intention of being trapped behind a table at Comicon. And nobody asked me to participate. Guess I’m not that famous after all.


Long shot of Felicia Day signing stuff at her table.

Felicia Day is an internet sensation and a rising star. She has done a 3-issue run of The Guild as a comic mini-series for Dark Horse Comics.  I bought it. For a pretty accurate look at online fantasy gaming today, one couldn’t do much better than to read her comic. There was a long, long line of people waiting to meet her. She was doing a good business in signed glossies. She’s young, beautiful, extremely talented, and seems like a really nice person. I have the utmost respect for Ms. Day, but my fanboy days for anyone are long behind me now.

Another paparazzi shot of Ms. Day.

I really had no reason to get close to Felicia Day. This is as close as I came, skulking around behind her table to try and get a good shot. At least, it’s candid. This is pretty much what being trapped behind a celebrity table looks and feels like. I hope she had a guide to Phoenix, and that someone took her out and showed her the sights and got her some food and some fun.

Wonder Woman.

The Con was full of people in costumes. It’s called Cosplay, and I should get into it, but I have no comic costumes, and haven’t ever been quite motivated enough to make or buy one. On the whole, cosplay is a game for much younger people than me. Still, I admire those people who did make the  effort to dress up, and many of the pictures that follow are of the best costumes that I saw.


Corencio and Harley looking for magic cards.

I didn’t go to Comicon by myself. I took my son Corencio (not his real name) and his friend Harley. These lads are champion Magic players and when they saw a booth selling cards they had to stop and look. They bought some cards. Harley is the one with the white t-shirt in the center of the picture. Corecio is right beside him in white baseball cap and backpack.

A Wall of Old Comics

 I had to stop and take a picture of a booth just selling comics. To me, this is what comic conventions are all about. Getting good stuff that you might have missed. I have too many comics in my life and my house already, but I still love them, and lust after them. I didn’t buy any this year. You can see that as either great self control, or a wonderful opportunity wasted.

Inscrutable spirit obscured by man in blue who stepped into the shot

I passed a very strange spirit in the crowded dealers room. He wore a gray robe, walked with a staff, had a forked white beard, and had an inscrutable expression. (Yes, it’s a mask). I don’t know if he was a kami, or an incarnation of Gandalf the Gray. I tried to take his picture, and complimented him on his look. He nodded graciously. I know that I would like anyone cool enough to wear this totally anonymous but distinctive costume, but I’ll probably never know who he, she, or it was.

Steven S. Crompton--a friend of mine

It was at this point in uploading all these pictures that I learned how to caption them. Heh. I learn as I go along. This is a shot of my good friend Steven Crompton. Steve is a talented artist, editor, and writer. He is a free spirit, and I admire him very much. Steve had a table of miscellaneous goodies to sell, many of them x-rated. I’ll admit it. I love comic book porn, but I really can’t bring it into my home.  I stood behind the table and talked to Steve, who I see way too seldom, for half an hour or more. I bought the City of the Gods chapbook from him–the only non-food item that I bought at the convention. It was the best part of the Con for me, even including the gaming which was excellent.

City of the Gods Chapbook.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!

Talk about your great costumes. The Shadow stopped by to talk with Steve and me.

The Shadow and Raven

If Raven is really the Shadow’s girlfriend, I have to say, he’s one lucky guy. They seemed to be together.

Zatanna enchanted me.

My most favorite costume of the entire Con was Zatanna. She was beautiful, vivacious, and funny.

A demoness drops by.

When Zatanna left, a demoness came by. Quite a coincidence really. This woman put a lot of thought and effort into her costume, and although she didn’t have Zatanna’s beauty, she had her own witty style. Evil for its own sake, anyone?

Michael Stackpole with award and patches.

Michael Stackpole is an award-winning author, and here he is with another one. Although he is most famous in the world for his Star Wars novels, I think his work as a gamer and a force in the creation of Tunnels and Trolls is more important.  Mike is in the forefront of authors moving into the future through e-books and self-publishing.

Speaking of Star Wars, there were Star Wars figures everywhere. Three different Star Wars fan groups were at the Con, and you couldn’t turn around without bumping into another Storm Trooper. But, I didn’t see any Wookies or Ewoks.

Luke and Leia without obstruction.

R2D2 was nearby.

R2 could really get around.

There were kids at the Con, not many, but some parents were brave enough to bring their toddlers with them. The best kid costume I saw was Captain America. When I asked permission to take his picture, he agreed. Look how well he crouches behind that shield.  Cap was in a stroller. I don’t know if the child had a disability, or if his father was simply being smart and keeping the kid from overtiring himself and getting lost, but in either case I envied the wheels. After hours of walking around taking pictures, my feet were getting really tired and sore. 

Captain America, what has the Red Skull done to you?

Batman by daylight.

Convention centers never have any reasonable food for sale. By early afternoon we were starving, and so headed out to find the downtown BurgerKing. I don’t know if they coordinated with the convention but the drink cups there featured Spider-Man.

The streets of downtown Phoenix  are mostly deserted on Sunday afternoons. It was kind of surreal to see costumed gamers traipsing all over the place–probably in search of food just like me. 

Miss Marvel on the streets of Phoenix.

 I met some of my friends at the Con. It was only natural that Corencio should also meet some of his. This girl had the biggest boomerang at the show.

Boomerang Girl, a friend of Corencio.

 We saw Jazz dancing it up at the Saturday night masquerade. We also saw Bumblebee. The Transformers roll amonst us.

Jazz posed but wouldn't transform for us.

 The star of Phoenix Comicon was the immortal Stan Lee, head of Marvel Comics, creator of the Fantastic Four. He flew in just for Sunday afternoon. I was briefly in the same room with him.  That’s him on the right at the table far far away.

Stan Lee is at that table in front of the room.

 Corencio, Harley, Paul Tanton and I sat and listened to Stan answering questions. He’s a great talker and pure fun to listen to.  When people asked him who would win in a showdown between DC and Marvel characters, he answered frankly, that it depended on whose writer was telling the story. If it was a DC writer, then DC would win. If it was a Marvel writer, then Marvel would win. Stan has a very realistic approach to comic book writing.

If you could see him in my pictures, Stan Lee would look like this:

Stanley Martin Lieber--better known as Stan Lee.

The Con organizers dragged Stan Lee off to his photo-ops and expensive autograph sessions all too soon. I did not try to follow him. Stan is great, and I could only hope I’m half the entertainer he is when I’m as old as he is.
The four of us went to the game room to see if we could play some Shadowfist before the day was over. Magic is an incredible card game. Shadowfist is, IMHO, better. Shadowfist was overshadowed by Magic in much the same way that Tunnels and Trolls was overshadowed by Dungeons and Dragons. The games have their similarities and differences. I simply know that if I have a chance to play either D & D or T & T, I’ll play T & T. If I have a chance to play either Magic or Shadowfist, I’ll play Shadowfist.

The dueling card game of Hong Kong action movies.

 We got to the game room–there was only one at Comicon–and it was pretty full, but my friend Jesse was sitting and guarding an empty table. I wheedled him into letting us use it for our game.  For a more complete review of that part of the afternoon, see my earlier blog about Cthulhu Dice.

Jesse, the best all-purpose Game Master in Phoenix.

Here are some close-ups of our players. I’m getting to the end of this blog, now, so I guess I can let you all see what we look like. 

Harley Kluttz, crazed gamer.

Paul Tanton, Shadowfist master of Phoenix.

Corencio St. Andre, Son of the Trollgod.

Ken St. Andre and hat.

 Yes, this goofy-looking guy is me. A week earlier I had a beard not much different from Jesse’s except that mine was whiter and a bit fuller. Three days after this picture even the mustache was gone. It was making my nose itch. You know if facial hair was just there, and didn’t irritate the skin below it, I’d stay bearded all the time, but sometimes the stuff just drives me crazy and has to go.

Daniel, a Shadowfist player.

Jesse shows off Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice.

 We played both games and had a great time with them both.  Thank you, Jesse, for GMing and demo-ing those games for us.  It was a blast.

Cthulhu Dice package and Harley's t-shirt.

 Just as we were almost ready to leave, a goddess appeared in our midst. I talked her into doing a few shimmies for us. Have I ever mentioned that I love and admire dancers also? Well, I do. In my next life, I’m going to be one.

A belly dancer in the game room. Be still, my beating heart!

 There was a Pokemon tournament going on in the game room that afternoon. I don’t know if this player won or not, but the effort really tired him out.

One tired Pokemon.

 My group had to get home, but the Steve Jackson gamers were going strong when we left.

Half of the Steve Jackson crew playing Revolution.

The other half of the Steve Jackson crew playing Revolution.

 On my way out I ran into Spider-Woman.  I wonder if her powers are beginning to fade again.

Spider-Woman, out of focus.

 Superhero or terrorist–I guess it all depends on your point of view.

V for Vendetta!

 It was after 5 p.m, but the day was still bright and hot. We rode into Phoenix on the light rail, and we rode out the same way. Lots of other people had the same idea. The City of Phoenix runs very short trains on Sundays, not ever thinking that a major convention is going on downtown and thousands of people are counting on the train for transportation. It was standing room only on the train. Poor planning, Phoenix. Bad! Bad!

Waiting for the train.

Light Rail driver. End of Con.

And that’s the end. Phoenix Comicon was an excellent Con. The price was a reasonable $35 for the whole Con even at the door. The facilities were adequate. It begins to remind me of San Diego Comicon back in the day when the San Diego Con only had a few thousand attendees and it was a reasonable thing to attend. I don’t know how many attended in Phoenix this year, but my guess is at least 5000 people crowded the halls of the Convention Center. There was so much to see and do that no one person could see even a tenth of it. Something for everyone, and that’s good.

What could improve the Con? Only thing I can think of is for it get more support from the actual comic companies. D.C. wasn’t there–although Mike Carlin took a booth and flew the flag. Thanks for the Sparta USA comic, Mike. Marvel wasn’t there, although many of their artists were.  Dark Horse wasn’t there. Top Cow wasn’t there. If the actual comic companies put in the kind of big time appearance that they do in San Diego, the Phoenix Con would explode onto the national stage with the best of them.


Posted June 6, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Cthulhu Dice   2 comments


(Oops! I have to edit this to see if I can get it included in an upcoming book about dice. I’m not changing anything except to ask you to take a look at this dice blog over here:

One of the two marvelous things that came to me last weekend at Phoenix Comicon was a Cthulhu die from Steve Jackson Games. I and my teenage attendants (Corencio and Harley) were headed for the door of the gaming room when Jesse, the Steve Jackson gamemaster for Phoenix, stopped me and handed me a brand new Cthulhu die still in the package. I didn’t ask for the die. He just said something like “Cthulhu just told me I have to give you this.” I said, “Wow! Thanks!”

How did this happen? A group of us came into the game room looking for a place to sit down and play some Shadowfist and found Jesse guarding an empty table. He was saving it for a game demo later in the afternoon. Well, I’m persuasive, and Jesse is a nice guy, and he let us use his table for a Shadowfist game which Harley won. He said the price was that we had to let him demo Steve Jackson’s Zombie Dice game, and we agreed. When Shadowfist was over we quickly played a couple of games of Zombie Dice (cardio, cardio, cardio!) Harley proved to be a champion zombie. Brains!

When Zombie Dice was finished I asked Jesse if he could demo Cthulhu dice for us–we still had some time before his scheduled board game. He agreed, and quickly passed out 3 sanity stones to each of us. There were 6 players which is about the perfect size for a game of Cthulhu dice, and in a minute or two we were all rolling tentacles and elder signs and losing our minds.  Fun! Not deep. Requires very little thought! But fun!

We played three games. I won the second one. Coincidentally, that was the only game I actually won all weekend.

The Cthulhu die is a 12-sider that comes in several colors–mine is a lovely green with sickly yellow symbols on it. The sides are blazoned with four tentacles, five yellow signs, one elder sign, one eye, and one Cthulhu symbol. The game consists of attack and response rolls on the Cthulhu die. Each player in turn chooses another player to attack, and that player may then roll the die in response.  I am not going to explain the whole game here. If you want to know how to play it, go here and let Steve Jackson explain it all to you:

If you are one of the people who thinks that dice are inherently cool, then you want this die. It costs $5 which is a lot for a single die, but not much for a complete game. Imho, it is worth it. At the risk of sounding like a cultist, the symbols are perfect and will resonate within your subconscious.  The die has a good heft to it, and it is just a pure sensual pleasure to roll it. If you never play the game at all, you still want one of these dice. It’s that cool.

As I was mentally composing this blog this morning, I got to thinking about what other games could be played with Cthulhu dice, and the one I thought of first was Cthulhu Poker. (Steve Jackson and Company are going to love this idea.) Each player needs 5 or 7 Cthulhu dice depending on whether you want to play a 5 dice or 7 dice variant of the game. The symbols are ranked from least powerful to most powerful: yellow sign, tentacle, elder sign, Cthulhu, Eye. The Eye is wild and can be used as a substitute for any of the other four symbols. Anyone who understands how Poker is played will immediately see where I am going with this.

I will only give rules for the five-card draw (or five dice-roll) variant of the game. First, each player antes–either sanity or money–it doesn’t really matter. (if you lose all your money, you tend to lose your mind anyway.)  Players should buy in with at least 10 units of whatever they’re betting, and more would be better.  Each player takes their five dice and rolls them on the table in front of them to see what five symbols will come up. The dice are arranged in front of each player, and the player with the high hand bets. Other players may call the bet, drop out, or raise the bet. Since everything is out in the open, you would only raise if you think you have a good chance to beat the initial roll on your second try. Once the betting is finished, players pick up any dice they wish to reroll and throw them down again. The dice results are compared and the person with the high score takes the pot.

Poker hands are called hands because the players hold the cards in their hands before laying them on the table. Hands doesn’t feel like the right terminology for a poker variant played with dice, although you can hold the dice in your hands. Five or more Cthulhu dice almost require a cup or a tube to roll them out of. Instead of hands, let’s use the word casts for our Cthulhu dice gambling.

Since there are at least five dice and only four symbols and a wild card, it is not possible to roll less than 2 pair. Possible casts are:

1. Two pair

2. Three of a kind

3. A straight (one of each symbol plus a kicker–the high kicker wins among straights.)

4. A full house. (3 of one symbol, 2 of another)

5. Four of a kind.

6. Five of a kind.

7. A Totality (exactly one of each of the five symbols, yellow sign, tentacle, elder sigh, Cthulhu, Eye) This corresponds to a straight flush in Poker.

Extra rules could be used in order to get in more betting. For example, after the second die roll, each player could be allowed to pick up one die for a third die roll after the betting is done.

Or you could play 5 dice and roll your own hands. This variant has each player roll one die at a time. Whatever you roll, you keep, but you bet after each round of rolling and build up the final Cast by making five rounds of die rolls.

I think I”d enjoy some Cthulhu Poker if I could find a few madmen or women willing to test their luck with me. Are you game?

(a winning cast–Cthulhus over tentacles)


Posted June 4, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized