Friday, October 13, 2017

This Day in Anthro History: Lieutenant M'Ress and the Caitians

Happy Friday the 13th!  Time for another installment of "This Day in Anthro History"...perhaps not completely holiday-appropriate, but at least it involves a cat...!

On October 13, 1973, the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Survivor" aired for the first time, introducing the world to Lieutenant M'ress and the cat-like alien species known as Caitians.  After all, every self-respecting SF or fantasy universe needs at least one group of cat people, am I right?

Pic from her Memory Alpha entry...

Caitians would later be documented in live action Trek (like the admiral below who appeared in The Voyage Home) and, somewhat unfortunately, seem to have been ported into the new movies' timeline as catgirls with a more human appearance.

See Unnamed Caitians at Memory Alpha...

And while they might be the best-known of the bunch (maybe...), Caitians certainly aren't the only cats to have graced the Trek (and associated) universes over the years.  You can read a little more on this here...

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Thanks for stopping by!  Now, everybody head on over to Halls of the Nephilim and check out what +Justin Isaac has cooked up for release on this Friday the 13th...!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

This Day in Anthro History: Song of the South's 1980 re-release

This is the first in what I'd like to become a series of posts touching on some of the landmarks in the history of animals that walk and talk like humans.  We'll see how it goes.

On October 10, 1980, Disney re-released the movie Song of the South to theaters.  This is the film that transformed the anthro legends known as Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Bear, and Br'er Fox from folktale figures of the American South to cartoon characters able to hold their own alongside the likes of Mickey and Donald in kids' stuffed animal collections.

If you want, you can buy this cel over here...!

It was also, as far as I can recall and piece together, the first movie I ever saw in a theater.  As a kid born in the late '70s in a pretty small south Georgia town...well, this makes sense.  And while I first saw it during the fourth of five re-releases, there probably aren't a ton of Americans much younger than me who have ever seen the film in any sort of legitimate capacity, as Disney hasn't shown it in an official manner in the United States in decades...for, while the film is known for its excellent mixing of live action and animated footage and for the iconic song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," it's also pretty well known for being too racist for Disney to embrace.

Well...embrace fully, that is.  Honestly, Song of the South is sort of a case study in how we Americans have no effing clue how we're supposed to approach our complicated racial history.  Which is how we have stuff like this movie serving as the inspiration for a popular attraction at both of Disney's big American parks, yet we can't watch the whole thing outside of bootlegs and pieced-together segments on YouTube.

It's been a while since I've seen the whole thing, so I won't attempt to give my own critique of the film's message other than to say that, yes, it's problematic.  This article from ScreenCrush has a pretty good discussion of it.  A summary:  It could have been worse, considering that it was first released way back in 1946, but if you encounter someone who says there isn't a problem with it, they should probably think a little more.

Those anthropomorphic animals sure are fun, though.

Here's a TV trailer for the 1980 re-release (one that certainly gives an idea of the controversy that could result from a full movie of this stuff):


EDIT:  Oh!  I should note that over at Song of the South.net - a website that certainly seems like its creators would know their stuff when it comes to the film - lists October 8 as the date of the 1980 re-release.  However, Wikipedia (yeah, I know) goes with the 10th, and it WAS a Friday, so I'm gonna call it close enough...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

So...She-Ra's been to Blackmoor...?

I guess this has been discussed to some small degree within online RPG circles, but I was unaware of it and think it's worth noting again.  Apparently Blackmoor is a location on She-Ra's world of Etheria.  Just listen to Bow in this clip...



It even plays an important role in this episode ('The Red Knight').

Now, I know the name "Blackmoor" has a sort of general fantasy feel, such that it could have been arrived at independently by the writers on Princess of Power, but the science fantasy pieces of Dave Arneson's classic setting really do make it a perfect bit of D&D lore to be "honored" in such a way.

I think that's pretty darn cool.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Big ups to my buddy JR!

I really should have posted about this earlier, but I suppose I'm better late than never on it!  My friend and sometime collaborator JR Mounts...writer, artist, and musician extraordinaire, and as I believe I've mentioned on here before, one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet...has been nominated for a Dragon Award for his semiautobiocomic Stuck in My Head.  This is the second year that these will be given out at Dragon Con, the absolute giant of the local convention scene, and I think it is absolutely awesome to see such a labor of love by an indie artist like JR alongside names like Clive Barker, Jim Butcher, and Phil and Kaja Foglio!


If you're so inclined, I don't think it's even too late to register and vote in this and all the other categories...!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Batman vs. Puppies

Not a straight-up fight, cuz we know who would win that one.  (Sorry, pups.)  BUT...a little over a week ago, I got a message from Rika over at DiscoverGeek.com pointing out that my readers and I might enjoy the map they put together on tendencies within states to Google up the Caped Crusader or...well, puppies.

Now, I know I am but a pawn in the Game of Clicks that is internet commerce, but if someone is willing to both (A) do some research on two of the main reasons life is worth living, and (B) point it out to me in such a way that implies I have a significant readership (I'm talking numbers here, people...I appreciate EVERYONE who's willing to take a moment to look at my random thoughts on here!)...well, then I sure as heck am gonna plug it on Monstrous Matters...!

So if you're so inclined...go check it out over at DiscoverGeek...and I'm definitely interested if anyone has an interpretation they'd like to share!


via DiscoverGeek

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Geeky SKAturday: Some covers I can appreciate

Attention span willing, I'd like to continue this little series I started way back when hitting on the crossover between two of the main obsessions of my life: geekdom and ska!  In the first edition, I talked about Flash actor and vocalist extraordinaire Alex Desert.  Today, I'm just gonna dump some cool geeky ska covers.

As a commenter says for one of these videos:  "If a song exists, there's a Ska cover of it.  Absolutely no exceptions."  Naturally, a lot of these covers make the geek in all of us smile.  I think the first one I remember from my own ska odyssey was this number from the band Melting Pot, whose influences are probably so diverse that calling them a ska band doesn't really do them justice...


While released five years earlier, I wouldn't hear this next one until a while after that awesome take on the Tetris theme, when I was finally introduced to the Scofflaws, a pretty important NYC band.  This cover might be my favorite of the era, and this band is certainly up there on the list of those I regret never having seen live.  I'm not sure this song totally qualifies as ska (the drums give it more of a polka feel!), but the the band was part of the scene's core at the time, so it really has to be included:


I also have to include one of the first, and many would say the greatest, ska bands ever, the Skatalites, who performed their fair share of influential covers.  Here they are on the James Bond theme, interesting not only for the killer musicianship, but for how its very existence is intertwined with the popularity of the Bond image in 60s Jamaican rude boy culture.


Of course, the Skatalites' most famous movie theme cover, while not quite as geeky but definitely quite awesome, is almost certainly this one:


And while I'm on the Guns of Navarone, I'll include what might be my favorite version, by the Specials.  It's the fantastic trombone work by Rico Rodriguez, with the cry of "Mr. Rico, no!" that makes me love this one...


Man...I'm realizing that if I keep working on this post in such a stream-of-consciousness style, it's gonna go on forever.  And it really could...a little trip around YouTube reveals that there are tons of ska covers I've never even heard that would probably fit this little blog feature.  So maybe I'll have to return to it at some point.  I'll just leave with this fun number by the band Sylvester Skallone...


Ah, one final note and a fun fact:  I was unfortunately unable to find the ska version of the Gremlins theme that I used to get to hear from the Del Rays, an awesome group that hailed from my home state of Georgia.  I'll have to keep looking for that one, and if anyone has it or knows where to find it, please let me know!  The fun fact:  Del Rays saxophonist Steven Cummings went on to become a darn good comic artist and do especially well for himself with the Image series Wayward...!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Magic-Users in Light City

One thing I can do...and am doing (some, at least)...in the absence of productivity on new Light City content is to assess what's already there.  I like the idea of the new, superheroic classes' matching up reasonably well power-wise with the basic Swords & Wizardry Light classes...and with that, the thought that the original four classes could fit into a Light City game without much issue.  So...how well-grounded is the idea of playing with supers using SWL rules without access to a unified document that brings the ideas together?

If you shake off the idea of a medieval fantasy world and set your sights more on four-color urban fantasy...say something in the style of Justice League Dark...I think the SWL rules would actually work pretty nicely.  Besides the fact that there are a ton of superheroes and related characters that would be just fine as Fighters and Thieves...I haven't really kept up with the show, but from the bits I've seen, it looks like just about every DC character that shows up on Arrow would work here...you could do a lot worse than a Magic-User or some sort of Cleric variant to play heroes like John Constantine or Zatanna.  I mean, Vancian magic can be problematic for "accurate" portrayals...but comic book magic is often pretty hand-wavey, anyway.

In this vein, a public domain character that I've taken a liking to is John Force, Magic Agent.  Combining early-60s Cold War spy thrills with supernatural themes, Force protected the land of the free as an agent for the American Security Group.  You can check his bio out here on the Public Domain Super Heroes wiki, and read his public domain adventures right here.

If you're wondering...yes, he did come before Nick Fury...!

Obviously, they don't call him the Magic Agent for nothing.  John Force has a magical coin with four columns on it corresponding to four different (although arguably not all that different) supernatural abilities...


When it came time to work his magic, he'd touch the appropriate column and cast his spell:


Honestly, this is pretty perfect for a D&D-style magic system, in my opinion.  While it doesn't correspond perfectly, the compartmentalization of magical abilities matches up nicely.  It may even be possible to pick out a spell for each column...

Now, there are a couple of combat-related issues that could come up in using SWL classes in a modern supers context.  The first is that, as you know if you've ever read...oh, just about any comic book ever...pretty much every hero can throw a solid punch.  The Magic Agent is no different:


While the Brawler is certainly designed to be the class that excels at such fisticuffs, I don't see any reason why Light City in general couldn't use some form of the Swords & Wizardry Complete rules on unarmed combat...say, perhaps, that any character with class levels (as I'm thinking of a majority of people as 0-level humans...) can deal a point of damage with a punch.  (And let the appropriate class[es] modify that damage...?)

And then there's the matter of firearms.  John Force is a secret agent.  Of course he uses 'em...


When it comes to weapon proficiencies, I appreciate the old school simplicity of characters that either can or can't use a certain weapon...and this works well in a world built around the game.  I have no issue with wizards who don't wield swords because...well, because they just don't, okay...?!

Arguably just as simple, though...and probably more practical in many games...is a simple house rule that anyone can try using any weapon (within reason with regard to complexity) but take a penalty if they aren't proficient with it.  And I may not be guessing at an ideal sweet spot here, but -5 to hit seems reasonable to me at the moment, so that's what I'm going to try.  We'll see how it goes...

Oh!  And one final thing on the Magic Agent here...he might be more suitable at a higher level, but until Swords & Wizardry Continual Light rolls out to take the four basic classes up to 7th, I'll probably avoid any assumptions about what we're going to see at higher levels (or expanded versions of these lower levels).  So, he's strictly SWL for now...!

John Force, Magic Agent

Level 3 Magic-User
First appearance:  Magic Agent #1 (1962)

STR 10     DEX 15     CON 13     INT 14     WIS 12     CHA 8
2 HD (9 HP)     Saving Throw 12
AC 8[11]

Attack:  Dagger, +0 to hit, 1d6-1 ldamage; Unarmed Strike, +0 to hit, 1 damage; Pistol, -4 to hit, 1d6 damage.
Spells Known:  Level 1 - Charm Person, Detect Magic, Sleep; Level 2 - Invisibility