The Supergeek Chronicles

Mike Christensen. Podcaster. Freelance writer. Professional geek.

Happy Friday, from Hawkeye!

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From “Hawkeye” (Vol. 4) Issue #3, by Matt Fraction and David Aja.

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Why I Game - Tips for the Newbie Dungeon Master

This year is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. So, in celebration of that, and in light of the fact that D&D is releasing a new edition this summer, I’m posting some stories I have of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.

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This month, Wizards of the Coast has begun rolling out the products for the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. As I discussed last week, some of you may now be putting together gaming groups of new players, while others may take on the responsibility of running a game for the first time. While there is not a lot of 5th Edition content for Dungeon Masters yet, in regards to monsters and adventure creation, there is a pre-generated adventure in the Starter Set, which you can either run, or poach for other elements.

With that in mind, I wanted to present those new DMs with a few pieces of advice.

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Because Comics Podcast on the Front Page of the iTunes Store!

The podcast I do with Jay Jones, Because Comics, just hit the front page of the iTunes Store last night!

It’s incredibly exciting to see the podcast up there, next to names like Nerdist, Kevin Smith, IGN and the official Marvel podcast, among others! So if you’re on your way down to San Diego Comic Con, and looking for something to listen to, I definitely suggest you check out the Because Comics Podcast - and please leave us a review, and help more people find the show!

See more from me SupergeekMike.com, and more podcasts and content at PartialArc.com

You can find more podcasts and other content at PartialArc.com, and you can follow us on Twitter at @because_comics

The podcast I do with Jay Jones, Because Comics, just hit the front page of the iTunes Store last night!

The Avengers Initiative Progress Report - Marvel’s TV Efforts

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Next week, Marvel Studios will release its 10th feature film in the Avengers film franchise - James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. In light of that, I’m doing a series of articles here where I take a look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe - the One-Shots, TV series, and the films themselves - and breaking down what’s worked and what hasn’t.

Last week, I reviewed the One-Shot short films included on the Marvel Blu-Ray releases. This week, we’re discussing Marvel’s attempts to branch out to television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as with the upcoming Agent Carter and the Netflix Defenders shows.

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Happy Friday, from Iron Man!

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From “The Invincible Iron Man” Issue #160, by Denny O’Neil & Marie Severin (drawing as Steve Ditko).

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Why I Game - Dungeons and Dragons: A Primer for Beginners

This year is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. So, in celebration of that, and in light of the fact that D&D is releasing a new edition this year, I’m posting some stories I have of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.

(Via Wizards of the Coast)

On Tuesday, Wizards of the Coast kicked off their months-long roll-out of Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition with the release of the Starter Set. Now that it’s out, I’m sure there will be lots of people looking to put together a game for the first time. I’ve written previously about how to recruit players, but what if you just want to send somebody a link and give them everything they need to know about the game in one fell swoop? Wouldn’t that be easier?

Fortunately, when I first started recruiting players in Los Angeles, that’s exactly what I did - I would talk to somebody about the game and my experiences with it, and then if they expressed any interest I would send an email all about the game and how it worked in broad strokes. What follows is an expanded version of that original email - meant to target new players. If you have anybody you’d like to recruit to D&D, feel free to just copy-paste the text in this link (or just forward the link) and drop it into an email:

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The Avengers Initiative Progress Report - Reviewing the Marvel Studios One-Shots So Far

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In just over 2 weeks, Marvel Studios will release its 10th feature film in the Avengers film franchise - James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. With that in mind, over the next few weeks I’m going to be taking a look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe - the One-Shots, TV series, and the films themselves - and breaking down what’s worked and what hasn’t.

Back when Captain America 2 came out, I ranked each of the films by which was my favorite (and after Guardians comes out in 2 weeks, I’ll repost the list with that film included). Today, I wanted to start off this series with a look at something that has been very hit-and-miss so far: The Marvel Studios One-Shots.

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For those unfamiliar, the One-Shots are short films that started appearing on the Marvel blu-ray releases as far back as Thor. They usually feature a side character from one of the films, and offer some sort of fun little story. Or at least, that’s usually the intention.

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So Who Exactly Are the Guardians of the Galaxy?

Glad you asked.

In 2004, Marvel was in the midst of a giant crossover event titled Civil War, and while everyone was distracted with that, a handful of restless creators began to carve out their own corner of the comic publisher’s universe. “A lot of these characters were sort of laying around,” says one former member of the editorial team involved in their resuscitation. “We thought, ‘No one really seems to have a great deal of affection for them, so maybe we can push the Marvel science-fiction universe a little further.’” Whereas a story that involved A-listers like Wolverine or Spider-Man required bureaucratic hurdles, Groot and Rocket Raccoon guaranteed creative leeway. Their efforts culminated a couple of years later, when the characters landed their own big crossover event, called “Annihilation.” It was a breakout hit, and by 2008, the team was formally gathered as the Guardians of the Galaxy. (Even that name was something of a leftover, having once belonged to an earlier abandoned group.)

Keith Giffen, who co-created Rocket Raccoon in the seventies and then helped reintroduce him in the aughts, says the tone of the comic is a natural match for Hollywood. “It’s the lighthearted, fun, quip-filled, bouncy stuff that fits in pretty well with all the stuff they’re already doing, and going out into space will be a nice change of setting.” And although it would seem a safer bet for Marvel to exploit slightly more established characters—Doctor Strange, say, or Black Panther, or even Iron Fist—the lack of expectation that liberated the creators of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book may be a similar boon for the filmmakers. “Everyone has a firm idea of who and what Spider-Man is,” says the ex-staffer. “If you stray too far from that, people will say, ‘That’s not the Spider-Man that I know,’ and they’re disappointed. Whereas if you throw a bunch of characters like Drax on a movie screen, there are relatively few people who have some idea in their head.”

And it’s easy to see why. Simply put, these characters are weird. Here’s a quick Guardians guide.

Groot
In the late fifties, Marvel Comics had fallen on hard times and laid off nearly its entire staff. In the months before 1961’s The Fantastic Four marked the rebirth of the Marvel superhero, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby turned out a parade of bizarre aliens and monsters that menaced American cities, with names like Monstrom, Krang, and Droom. And then there was Groot, the Monarch of Planet X, a walking and talking tree that consumed fences, cabinets, and barrels. Or, as one member of the panicking populace exclaimed, “A creature of wood, who feeds on wood!” He was primed to become the overlord of all the timber in the galaxy, had a shrewd scientist not thought to breed termites and let them loose on the barky beast. Over the next 45 years, Groot appeared exactly twice.

Drax the Destroyer
After the evil alien Thanos — a.k.a. “The Mad Titan,” a death-obsessed, craggy-faced bruiser from one of Saturn’s moons — thought that pipe-smoking, saxophone-playing real-estate agent Arthur Douglas had blown his cover, he aimed a death blast at Douglas’s car, killing him and his wife. Shortly thereafter, Thanos’s estranged father merged Douglas’s spirit with a bunch of earthen rubble to create the green, caped, and very powerful Drax the Destroyer, whose all-consuming mission was to destroy Thanos. Writer-artist Jim Starlin introduced Drax in the pages of Iron Man in 1973; within a month, Stan Lee had him removed from the title. In 1982, Marvel’s editor-in-chief Jim Shooter wrote an issue of The Avengers in which Drax was killed. He remained dead for the rest of the decade, until Starlin revived him in the early nineties. Giffen, who dusted Drax off again in 2004, says that although he increased the character’s intelligence, he remains “too macho for the room,” noting, “I just turned him from a green imbecile into a green douchebag.”

Gamora
After Jim Starlin was booted from his Iron Man gig, he continued to chronicle the dastardly actions of Thanos in both Captain Marvel and Warlock. By this time, Starlin was having problems with editorial constrictions, and the 1975story in which the alien assassin Gamora debuted was, in part, a metaphor about Marvel Comics as a purveyor of conveyer-belt junk. Green-skinned and decked out in a fishnet unitard cut down to the navel, Gamora wielded a dagger and called herself “the Deadliest Woman in the Whole Galaxy,” but when she tried to slay her adoptive father Thanos, he killed her instead. She was out of the picture for nearly a decade and a half, until — as he had done for Drax — Starlin raised her from the dead.

Star-Lord
Test pilot Hal Jordan became the Green Lantern when a dying alien bestowed a powerful ring upon him. Astronaut Peter Quill, on the other hand, achieved the Star-Lord power a little more dishonestly — by taking out his compatriots with a rifle, hijacking a rocketship, and flying off to visit the godlike Master of the Sun. Steve Englehart, who created the character in 1976, intended to write a series of adventures for the hero — a love story on Venus, for instance, and a war story on Mercury. “I deliberately made him a complete asshole,” Englehart says, “with the idea that I was going to write twelve stories about him as he worked his way through the galaxy, and by the end of it he would have become this great hero.” But Englehart, citing editorial interference, quit Marvel Comics soon after the first issue was published. X-Men writer Chris Claremont experimented with a less prickly version of the character before abandoning it completely in 1981, and 23 years passed before he was revived again. However, the character’s very name still carries the seeds of Englehart’s sharp humor. “Peter Quill — Peter as a reference to a dick, and Quill as a reference to a dick,” he explains. “I wanted him to be completely unlikable.”

Rocket Racoon
Originally named Rocky Raccoon, this gun-toting alien from “somewhere near the black holes of Sirius Major” debuted in a 1976 short story by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen in the back of Marvel Preview, a black-and-white magazine-size comic. The legal department was skittish about the prospects of a character named after a Beatles song, so five years later, when he finally returned for a guest appearance in The Incredible Hulk, he was given the sobriquet Rocket Raccoon. Writer Bill Mantlo received considerable amounts of hate mail for that issue (“Are you all regressing to your childhoods?” wrote five enraged University of Maine students), but in the wake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phenomenon in 1984, a four-issue Rocket Raccoon miniseries was green-lit. It was hardly a best seller; the character popped up exactly four times over the next two decades.

This appeared in different form on New York magazine’s Vulture blog in 2012. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is on sale now.

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