Friday, 12 February 2016

The Glass Dungeon

The Glass Dungeon is a huge plug of clear volcanic glass sitting in the corpse of an eroded mountain like a gem set in an old corroded ring.

If you can imagine a lump of igneous rock from the heart of an ancient volcano, then the volcano gradually eroding over time, leaving the much-tougher stone standing almost proud with only a small slope of soil and scree around it.

This would be a lot like the stone which Edinburgh castle rests on.


Then imagine that, instead of hard igneous rock, the stone is volcanic glass. This would be like a mountain or hill of glass sitting on the surface of the earth, its sides and top washed clear, with buttresses of soil and stone running up its sides to about half way, or two thirds of the way up.

The glass isn't completely, perfectly clear, but you can see the colour of the sky through it and light catches and rebounds it inside like a prism. The sunrise turns it gold at dawn, the last red light of sunset stains the whole thing crimson while the sky is nearly dark. The full moon gives it a silver glow. Lightning makes it flash.

Let’s say this is near the north pole, or this is a world with a highly active magnetic field so the glass mountain would reflect the aurora borealis. The light of the aurora moves around inside it.

In the night, even when its overcast, you can see dull red glows moving about inside, reflecting and refracting from the glass walls. This is because the glass is riddled with tunnels and rooms.

The only way into these tunnels is from the top. You have to climb the glass mountain. There are steps carved spiralling round the sides. Once you are up there you can gain entry and walk down the glass steps into the glass tunnels.

It's difficult to be exact about what rooms and corridors are where when they are distant as the glass warps things and a corridor is just an empty transparent space in a transparent block, but you can see all of the immediate corridors and rooms.

You can look down through all the levels of the dungeon and see every solid thing. When there is daylight, aurora light, strong moonlight or lightning then you can see all the way down. When it’s dark, any living thing that needs light to see lights lamps and you can see all these little pools of light moving around in the rooms and corridors.

There is a spring of water running up through cracks in the glass, coming out the top as a fountain and then running back down through channels. This provides sustenance and takes away waste, but it also means that some things that look like walls are actually stable, continual falls of water, you might think you are looking at someone through a wall of glass until they suddenly jump through it.

The sound of the rushing water runs through the whole complex, making it difficult to hear people calling out or moving around.

You can see a huge room full of treasure, you can see all the furniture, all the doors, and you can see all the living things. There's a bunch of Knights in shining armour who are hard to spot because their metal reflects the light so much. A bunch of Orcs carrying flaming torches which stain the ceilings with soot. A bunch of quite-attractive nuns and some tall figures who are almost invisible because they are draped in shimmering crystal veils.

And right at the bottom you can see the Crystal Dragon who's dungeon this is, curled in a glass cavern by a clear, flat pool of mercury which acts as a huge mirror. The mercury re-reflects everything again from below, increasing the lighting effect.

And all of these groups can see each other and can see you. You can see them seeing you and see them seeing each other.

The curious and interesting thing about the idea of a Glass Dungeon is that it destroys or inverts exploration and replaces it with observation and interpretation. The idea here is something like a huge game of Pac-Man.

You can already see pretty much everything (you think) in the dungeon. Once you get used to the distortions it’s hard to get lost. You know where everything *is*, you just don't know what it *means*.

Whereas, in a normal dungeon, you explore and explore and explore just to put together scraps of knowledge and situational awareness and usually, when you encounter something, they are paratactic encounters, happening one after another like a string of pearls, generally separate, and if the dungeon reacts to you as a gestalt, it does so slowly and often ineffectively, in the glass dungeon you get a deep strategic overview of what’s going on, maybe before you even go inside.

It's very hard for anything to sneak up on you, or for you to sneak up on anything else, so your decisions are more like the player of a strategy board game than like a normal dungeoneer. You move to maximise advantage, to force other factions to reveal their nature and intentions and to make sure when an encounter takes place it happens on your own terms.

This is why I kept the number of factions and encounters minimal, the DM has to keep track of *all* of them *at the same time* and each time the PC's do something the rest will respond in their own unique way.

The only way to play this one out would be to have the map right there, and tokens for the moving elements and to update them each exploration term or whenever the PC's made a move.

Because of this as well, the glass dungeon should be a relatively *small* dungeon. It’s good to have multiple interconnecting levels as this adds strategic depth but if you have a shitload of rooms then the DM is going to go nuts.

It also helps if you can fit everything on the same page. THIS map by Dyson Logos might be a good possibility.

(Edit - it was THIS one by Christian Kessler that I was thinking of.)

And it helps if things aren't what they seem, so there are layers of revelation that you can't expose just by looking at something.

So my idea for factions would be like this;

Orcs - These are frightened Doppelgangers who have assumed Orc form as those are the scariest things they can think of.

Knights - These are Orcs who have clad themselves in bright, shining armour which they polish constantly. They have done this as the reflective qualities of the armour combined with the bright, refractive light of the dungeon, means that if they are still, they are very hard to see. Almost invisible.

Veiled Figures - These are Gnolls who have made curtains and cloaks of shimmering crystal and fragments of glass for a similar reason to the Orcs. They can be seen easily only when they are still, when they move, the shifting light of the glittering reflective shrouds makes them virtually invisible.

Nuns - Labradorite Were-Wolves (which Cedric just invented and you should go and look through that link because it’s a great image (EDIT ok Cedric just took that post down for unknown reasons sooo.. just imagine the really cool idea he had(EDIT AGAIN they are back! He is a complicated guy so look while you can)))) and their change is triggered by the Aurora when it shines through the glass.

The treasure room is a hive of mimics.

The Crystal Dragon rests on the remains of a defeated Crystal army, stacked like a mountain in its pool of mercury. If you defeat it and go full-Aspergers on the crystal pile you might be able to re-assemble a crystal golem of your own, but you will need every piece and it might have some crazy old primordial-war programming of its own.

As well as that you can throw in treasures from Chris's excellent post HERE  The singing crystal spear, crystal gnome, giant crystal skull, crystal helm and crystal cage are favourites.

The Crystal Dragon is protected by an army of crystal golems, like the terracotta army, but, of course, you can't really see while they are still as they are transparent. When they break they go off like a prismatic ray grenade. Maybe it keeps them under the surface of the river that runs through its lair in a clear, cold stream, they would be almost impossible to detect under the shimmering surface, then they surge upward on command, their shapes highlighted by the water running down their sides.

The Dopple/Orcs are trying to escape the Dungeon or reach the ‘Nuns’ but are avoiding everything else out of fear, whilst acting as if they might be incredibly dangerous.

The Orcs/Knights are trying to reach the DoppelOrcs so they can team up and then rob the Dragon.

The Gnoll/Veils are trying to kill the DoppelOrcs because they think they are the real Orcs and are considering hunting the ‘Nuns’ while avoiding the ‘Knights’, whom they fear.

The Labradorite Were-Wolf/Hot Nuns are trying to reach the 'Knights' to persuade them to help but are acting scared of the 'Orcs'. (In reality, they could probably kill the fuck out of any of these factions but want to preserve the secret of their true nature so they can use it to get close to the Crystal dragon and assassinate it, then steal the pieces of the Crystal army and re-assemble them for some nefarious purpose. They will be exposed when the next aurora shines, but this will also heal them of any damage and give them regeneration while it is active, making them even more dangerous.)

The Crystal Dragon is watching all this with the greatest possible amusement. As well as its army of Crystal Golems it has Glass Golem assassins waiting for anyone who proves to be a danger. These are almost completely invisible in the Dungeon, shaped like spooky cloaked elves with jagged glass assassin knives. They are full of nerve gas so even if one is smashed it kills anything nearby.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Clickers Individuals

Nature is an overwhelming force and the Zone is a cathedral of that power. Human life is small and everyone can feel it here. The trees, the wall of sound, the desperation and the everpresent risk of death all speak to the irrelevance of human life, and sometimes, when people crack, that feeling gets inside and fills them up.

Clickers Individuals haven't just gone native, they've gone Individual. They live up in the Cloudgrave trees with hives of secret bees, eating blue honey and talking to the air. The honey gives them visions, the worms they keep give them visions, being up in the trees all the time gives them visions and huffing ground crystal and low grade resin from the plant also gives them visions.

They have a lot of visions. It helps to make up for the hunger. It also gives them a startling savagery in combat. Most of them believe they are invincible and a few don't even realise they are people at all. When they come down climbing from their hidden homes they come for rope and human flesh.

Mainly rope, its more useful and you can't really cook flesh up in the trees. But Clickers Individuals will straight up eat a guy, they are famous for it. "Clickers hungry!" they say, if they say anything at all. They tend not to use their words. No-one knows who Clicker is or can remember meeting them but when Clickers Individuals come for you that's who they say they are taking you to.


What Are They Like When You See Them?

The Individuals obsessively take on the identities of Zonal animals, wearing their skins and body parts, moving like them, eating like them and thinking like them. Many of them are so crazy that they actually believe they *are* these creatures.

In most groups there is enough ambient sanity to stop them doing anything _too_ insane but at the DM's discretion, if a group of Clickers Individuals fails a morale roll then, instead of running away, they may do something ruinously self-destructive that only that animal would do. I.e. try to fly or curl up in a shell.

How Do They Get About The Zone?

 They either attack and kill the bridge guards or cross the canyons by moving across the Cloudgrave canopy far above the ground.

Kinds Of Individual

 (Many kinds of Individual are described as 'men', they are in fact made up of all genders, except Slumberman who is always male and Honeywoman, who is always female.)


Basic Individuals


If Day - Hooky-Men
Ragged cloaks of Hook Bird feathers, masks like beaks and sharpened sticks like primitive Bakh Nagh. They attack from the lower canopy, clambering through the branches and leaping upon their target at the last moment, screaming. Like Hook Birds, they go after those who have already been injured or who are separated from the group.


If Night - Moony-Men
Stitched up skins of moon moles spread between the limbs. Some have their lips cut off, exposing their front teeth. They climb the trees and leap down, gliding invisibly but uttering the Moon Mole cry. ('Gliding' is pushing it, they fall at an angle.) They always stay together in a group, biting and clawing in a frenzy.

- Morale = group size


In the Upper Canopy - Stilty-Men
Stilt Sloth skins, walking on wooden stilts strapped on to their limbs. Passing across the fronds much like the Sloth, using the higher canopy as a kind of highway. Slow, indifferent, almost bored. Stilty-Men advance and strike downward with their stilts.
- Move at 1/2 speed
- Always lose initiative.
- Morale 11
- If a Silty-Man suffers impact of any kind a puff of light but poisonous hair explodes in a 3ft radius. Anyone caught suffers 1 hp damage to the lungs, they cough and weep blood for a full minute and make take no other action.



Special Individuals

 The Individuals also have smaller number of specialist members who may appear if large groups are encountered.

SpiderKids
Children squatting down on hands and feet, softly crawling closer, disguised as any fucking thing you can imagine. Maybe that Rhododendron bush isn't really a bush. Maybe that log isnt really a log. Leaping for the face with daggers of sharpened bone.

- 1 HD 3 hp
- Stealth 5 in 6.
- Suprise attack +4 to hit damage x2.


Humble-Men
Big, calm, sheathed in bark-armour from a Cloudgrave tree, all wearing helmets of Humbler Snail shell. Wielding whips made from rope, snail radula and chips of stone and glass. They come forward calmly, relentlessly advancing.

- 2 Hit Dice 18 hp
- Armour as chain & shield.
- Whips - attack at 6 feet, entangle random limb on a hit, STR or DEX test to escape or auto damage.


Rat-Panther-Men
Stealthy, ruthless treetop assassins cloaked in ragged Rat-Panther skins like hobo ninjas, wearing their skulls as masks. Rat-Panther-Men leap, grapple, dig in their bone knives and keep digging. Its a matter of pride and self-identity for them that they never let go.

- 2 Hit Dice, 16 hp.
- Speed x 2 standard.
- Stealth 5 in 6.
- Surprise attack +4.
- If they score a hit, Rat-Panther-men drive their knives in further every turn, grappling and doing damage every round.


Wormlings
Plump, slow, secretive children. They rarely attack or advance but are often left at the rear to guard something important or prevent flanking attacks. Each one carries a familiar Zonal worm which they caress, if endangered they fire the worm at the face of the closest person and squirm into a hiding spot.

- Worm attack. Anyone receiving a facefull of goo must roll d4+d8+d8 on the Tree Dreams table (page xx).


Individual Individuals


Slumberman!
Slumberman is the mightiest of Clickers Individuals and their leader in war. (It’s not clear whether Slumberman is fully aware of this.) He once defeated a Slumber Monkey in hand-to-hand combat and still wears its blue skin and its skull as a hat. Slumberman advances bravely, focusing on the most powerful and masculine enemy fighters and tends to give away surprise attacks by making pseudo Slumber Monkey displays. (Slumberman can be distracted by threats to Slumber Monkey eggs.)

7 Hit Dice 40 hp, +7 AB, huge Cloudgrave club d8+3 damage , STR 18.


Clicker
The prophet and de-facto leader of the Individuals is a mysterious and terrifying figure. Eyes rolling, jaws clacking, mouth foaming, limbs jerking, they stumble forward like broken puppet. Clicker is in the final stages of Dementia-Wasp poisoning. Their insides have literally begun to ferment, filling the air with a sweet, yeasty scent and with  cloud of Dementia Wasps which follow them about, waiting for them to die. (The Individuals keep Clicker in a rarely-visited tree and avoid them in combat.) Clicker is utterly, utterly, utterly insane and barely connected to reality. The Individuals will honestly try to follow their commands but it’s never really clear what their commands are or if they are even giving them so, in effect, a kind of rough democracy prevails where various arguments are put forth as to what Clicker is saying and the most popular or compelling is assumed to be the truth.

- Followed by a cloud of 3d4 Dementia Wasps

Honeywoman
Honeywoman is the only high-status member of Clickers Individuals that, in any way, has a vague idea of what is going on. She is an ancient crone, caked with the hexagonal blue wax casts of a Tree Bee hive. Literally built into the hive and waxed into the top of the tree, she lives a somewhat restrained life. Individuals bring her food and water and take away her waste when they come to ask for advice. One of the few magic-users in the Zone, Honeywoman knows the following spells and can cast them, at will, as a Lvl 5 Magic-User;

Detect magic, Identify, Locate Plants, Locate Object, E.S.P, Suggest

She can also place her mind into the hive of Tree Bees which live upon her body. If the bees do not work constantly to find food then they will starve to death so she will never possess them for more than an hour a day.


Can You Communicate And Deal?

It helps a lot to be seriously fucked in the head. Unless the person speaking to them is suffering from some kind of actual madness, clickers individuals won’t even recognise them. But if they are genuinely nuts, or at least, drugged out of their minds, then reaction dice may be rolled. This might lead to a parlay in some circumstances.

Honeywoman is capable of communicating with non-drugged, non-crazy people.

Names

D6
First Phoneme
Second Phoneme
1
Xi'
Nuknul
2
Jo'
Wnanale
3
Ki'
Naavul
4
Br'
Tvnuu
5
Oo'
Muknu
6
Zo'
Knkul


What Are Their Treetop Lairs Like?

Grim, and generally not great places to hang out. The Individuals move constantly and their sleeping places are guarded by Humbler Snails and semi-tame Hook Birds when they are not present.


What Do They Want, If Anything?

They like violence, eating people and drugs. There is a vague cultural sense that they should be ruling the Zone but nobody really has the mental technology to turn this into a fully formed thought.


Encountering The Individuals

Clickers Individuals have the following stat lines;

Armour none, Move standard', 1 Hit Dice, 8hp, 1d4 damage, Morale 9.
Climb 6 in 6, Stealth 2 in 6

Any specific differences are given in the entry for that kind of Individual.

Simple Encounter - roll 4d4 Basic Individuals and have them attack.

Complex Encounter - roll a d100 and add the total HD of the PC party, read across on the chart below.

(The numbers given are included so that it’s easy to generate a specific encounter without rolling more dice. If you want to, feel free to generate random numbers of Individuals by rolling 2, 3, 4 or 5 d6's and d4's)

D100+ party HD
Infiltrators
Main Force
Reserves
Rear-guard
1-20

4 Basic Individuals


21-30
2 Spiderkids
5 Basic Individuals


31-40

7 Basic Individuals
2 Humble Men

41-50
2 Rat-Panther-Men
8 Basic Individuals


51-60
2 Spiderkids
9 Basic Individuals
2 Humble Men

61-70
2 Spiderkids & 2 Rat-Panther-Men
11 Basic Individuals


71-80
2 Spiderkids & 2 Rat-Panther-Men
12 Basic Individuals
4 Humble Men

81-90
3 Spiderkids & 3 Rat-Panther-Men
13 Basic Individuals
4 Humble Men
2 Wormlings
90-99
RAIDING PARTY
6 Spiderkids & 4 Rat-Panther-Men
20 Basic Individuals
6 Humble Men lead by Slumberman!
4 Wormlings
100
TOTAL WAR

12 Spiderkids & 8 Rat-Panther-Men
50 Basic Individuals
12 Humble Men lead by Slumberman!
6 Wormlings. Clicker is also here, urging on the war party, or possibly trying to make them stop. He's doing something or other.



The Individuals thus generated are doing whatever it makes sense for a group of that size to be doing in the current context. If a strong party of PC's encounters a small weak group then they may have come across a scouting or thieving party, the PC's have the advantage. If a weak group of PC's encounters a gigantic war party, they are probably not the intended targets and may well have time to get out of the way.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Lets Read And Condense: The Unearthed Arcana Barbarian.

So, I'm playing a Barbarian in Zak's AD&D game and its laid out in such a way, with such bizarre accumulation of interrelating rules and effects that to pretend to be a barbarian you actually need to have the mind of an insurance actuary, which Gygax was, so there you go.

...

Tracking, like a Ranger, except not indoors. Ok, flip to the ranger section. Its got special conditions, ok, write those down.

Identifying plants and animals  like a 3rd level Druid, flip to the Druid spells , NOPE, its not in there, try the class itself.

Ok simple, I can identify 'types' automatically. That's a little vague, I know Zaks gonna say 'yes, you identify that this is a fish' but whatever.

Predicting weather, I do this like a third level druid as well, ok, flip to druid section. Nope, its a spell, ok flip to spell section. Spell is level-relevant, ok write down rules for doing spell at lvl 3.

Climbing, like a thief, cool, except better, cool, except only in natural environments. Ok, makes sense. Except unfamiliar natural environments, you just climb like a thief again... Ok. Except you can learn to climb like a thief on anything with 'practice'.... Ok, so barbarians have two different climb abilities depending on the familiarity or unfamiliarity of the environment and might be able to use one of them in built environments depending on how much practice they've had, but the amount of practice required is not stated.

And exactly what you roll while you are 'practicing' isn't stated either.

They also have two different stealth values..

(EDIT: I got this wrong, there is only one climb value, but two separate stealth values.)

When exactly does my 'familiar' environment of hillbilly-esque backwoods fade into an 'unfamiliar environment of fake east asia? I mean like, what latitude?

Well it's a cube so never mind.

Saves, like a fighter. Cool. Except with bonuses. Nice. Except the bonus for paralysation and death magic is different to the one for poison, so that's two columns now. And all the bonuses are flat except the one for spells so that advances in a completely different way.

I can leap ten feet. Cool. With a running start I can leap 15+d6 feel... Ok I suppose? That's completely disconnected from the stats I would expect to use for leaping but. I can leap three feet in the air, that's.. slightly better than a normal human most of the time I suppose?, with a running start I can leap 4+d4 feet in the air..

But half the value of the d4. So four to six feet, that's not bad.

“Springing under similar conditions gives an upward distance of 4-7 feet, depending on the surface used as a step to gain height and spring.”

Ok, whats a 'spring'?  It must be somewhere right? Right?

No.

Ok, well I can still leap and a spring probably wasn't that good anyway.

A bonus to AC. Cool. "2 steps for every point of dexterity over 14. But only if armour not of the bulky, or fairly bulky type." Ok, whats 'fairly bulky'? I mean plate is definitely bulky and leather isn't, what about hide? Chain? Does this affect my stealth thing like it might with a thief? Probably, but it doesn't say anywhere..

I CAN SUMMON A HORDE!

Of 275 people. Well that's not bad.

"the leader of the horde will gain two aides"

Wait, what, What kind of barbarian has aides? "I am Garm, of the Wastes and leader of the Horde of Doom, and this is my aide Grarg, and my secondary aid Marg."

"each aide will have two assistants of one half the aide’s level"

".. and here are Garg's aides, Borlax and Gorlax, and Marg's aides, Vertox and Vortox."

Wow, Barbarians come to the table like the lawyers in a Simpsons Episode.

And of course, Barbarians hate magic.

Xp for destroying magic items is pretty kewl. Do other PC's share in that though? That's slightly weird. Handy if you can't carry something big back to a city though, just have Garm chuck the magic mirror off a precipice and bang, Xp for all.

I can't even associate with Magic-Users. It's like I got a Barbarian ASBO. Ok, I'll just avoid talking to the party Magic-User until level, what is that, level 6? So just 80,001 xp to go then and I can speak to them 'when necessary'. We'll just happen to be going in the same direction, on the same ship, and entering the same dungeons at the same time. How long till we can just hang out?

Level 8, 275,001 xp. "May associate with Magic-Users, occasionally".

But wait, to make up for it they can smell magic, that's pretty cool. Except its not really smelling it but whatever, Detect Illusion is pretty good. And they can smell other magic too..

Which advances in a completely different way to the detect illusion thing, so thats a new column. But they can smell wizards too right?

Nope. Not magic people, just spells and objects. I hate Magic Users, but I really have to catch them actually doing magic to be sure they are one, or dicking around with robes and crystal balls or whatever.

But that could be a wierd priest..

......

Through the fruits of my genius and mild aspergers, I have put together the following thing that has all the AD&D Unearthed Arcana barbarian rules, and all the rules that apply to those rules, and all the rules that apply to those rules, and attempted to condense them into a single document that doesn't drive you totally fucking nuts.

It's in landscape format because the basic levelling table has 12 columns,

That's not including the Saves table. Or the Leaping sub-table.

So if anyone really wanted to play the Barbarian from Unearthed Arcana and didn't want to do an insane load of paperwork, (a narrow group I'm sure), then click on the image below;

Think this is from Diablo 3, not sure who the artist is.

EDIT: The Document is now a much more attractive one that Jacob Hurst put together. He has used his design skills to put the whole thing on four pages, but, by the ancient compact of design made with the dark gods so long ago, any space freed by intelligent arrangement must then be spend on pictures of naked people and groovy trade dress.


Saturday, 30 January 2016

Spacehawk! 3 - The Case of the Missing Tires

(There are no images for this final post becasue no one scans or uploads later Spacehawk pages. Which kind of tells its own story.)

Hitler brings patterns to the Spacehawk world.

It's not really Hitler, its a satirical, silly Hitler/Mussolini knockoff called 'Moosler'. Moosler orders his submarines to attack US shipping. Spacehawk executes the classic ironic punishment of throwing Moosler into the middle of one of his own tank battles. Running back and forth between the opposing sides, Moosler proves himself to be a ridiculous coward. Spacehawk pulls him out of the battle and Moosler retracts his order out of fear.

And Moosler is wearing a pattern.

Or, not quite a pattern, he's wearing a weird cloth with a checkwork of crosses on it (the full-on swastika never appears in Spacehawk, maybe due to some war-era rule, and the name of Germany is never mentioned. Even when flights of high-tech rocketships burst into the sky, they have either some vague crosslike symbol, or nothing at all.)

Everyone in the Spacehawk universe to date has worn only mono-coloured clothes. Some, like Spacehawk himself have had two colours, or sometimes three colours, but always single, unshaded, un-patterned blocks. The only pink, or north-euro flesh-coloured people have been Spacehawk, his old friend Galar and Hala, Queen of the Noomites, and in most cases the aliens themselves are a strong colour, often green, sometimes tan, orange or yellow.

So the clothes and the aliens skin all fit in with the arrangement of colour and form in the Spacehawk world. Simple, strong, uni-coloured, counterpoised, no mixing, detailing only through black line.

Now Hitler brings a fucking pattern.

The next issue is even worse, the head of a secret enemy airfield posing as a woodsman actually wears a bright, multi-coloured fully-patterned shirt!

This is like the imposition of an alien reality into the fiercely ordered aesthetic unity of Wolvertons creation.

Everything is built on the idea of tight, strong, primary colours mosaicked in strong bold forms and counterpoised to produce that overwhelming stained-glass effect.

If you change the tools, if you change the kinds of colour arrangement that are possible in Spacehawks world, you change everything. It’s like a leaf landing on a chess board. The lines of this flannel-shirted fake lumberjack are the herald of death for the power and uniqueness of the dream.


.......



The Moosler story encapsulates a pair of problems that work together and will gradually chew away at the Spacehawk universe for the remainder of its run, the moral and the visual.

The big, big problem for any Superhero story during WWII is that its World War Two. It's the most serious thing to ever happen. So what, exactly, is Spacehawk, or Superman, doing in that reality?

This is an in-fiction problem of making sense of it, and a moral problem of simple powerful dreams interacting with a harrowing truth which impinges itself more and more onto the minds and lives of the creators.


THE IN-FICTION PROBLEM

Captain America is going to be OK, he's made to be just like a soldier, only *more*, so you can have him fighting on the front lines with the boys in green or have him pulling 'secret missions' where he does something incredible. He can skate back and forth across the margins of reality, battling the Red Skull on a flying wing one issue and helping Easy Company storm a machine gun nest the next.

But Spacehawk is a super-strong, psychic, possibly-thousand-year-old alien scientific genius with a flame gun, an atom gun, an anti-gravity belt, a gang of psychically-controlled robot duplicates of himself and a super-fast space rocket that fires lightning. In His second appearance he uplifted an entire alien race over the space of half a page, he can transplant brains. What is he up to here? How has he not won already? He beats Martian Hitlers in the space of one story.

At first, Wolverton adopts the classic method. He creates a 'higher' reality where the impossible hero can fight an equally-imbued enemy. So the Americans have Spacehawk? The Japanese have an entire fake asteroid which they intend to use to bombard the U.S! The Germans have a flying wing which fires gigantic razor disks into New York! They have an impenetrable Undersea Tank on the ocean floor! They have a fleet of rocket planes faster than any known!

But, over time, something strange happens. The power, immensity and weirdness of the axis wonderwaffen keeps reducing. Like a waterfall or collapsing static, it fades closer and closer to reality. They never replace or increase their super-weapons and the new ones they invent are always just a little bit more possible.

At the same time, Spacehawk grows less powerful, less incredible, less imaginary. He uses his incredible Rocketship less and less. Wolverton seems embarrassed by it, and with its childishly simple lines and bright green and yellow colouring, it does look silly. It never did before, in the depths of imaginary space, amidst the bold curves and bright colours of Wolvertons embroidered void, but now, compared to real bombers and real battleships and real rockets that really kill human beings, it looks more and more like a toy.

So, eventually, Spacehawk goes to the President (the White House dome is coloured bright red) and volunteers his scientific skills to aid in the creation of a new super-bomber. He builds this in a quotidian factory and is spied on by some quotidian saboteurs. In the end the saboteurs steal a new super-tank and Spacehawk duels them in his super plane. The plane wins and this is what Spacehawk flies about in from this point on. The rocketship and its blast cannon are not mentioned again.

The plane however, is still bright blue-and-yellow. Not everything is gone.


THE MORAL PROBLEM

The moral problem is that, in real life, real soldiers and real civilians and real cities and real cultures are really dying and Wolveton, and everyone else, can see this in the papers and  on the newsreel every week.

You can beat up fake Hitler in the comic as much as you want but when you put the comic down, real Hitler is still there and you satirising him looks less funny, more pathetic.

You can have Evil Germans fire gigantic razor disks into New York, and have Spacehawk stop them. But when the reader closes the page, real London is still really burning on the cinema screen.

The gap between the heroic dream and the fraught reality rob the dream of power every time they are contrasted in the mind. So the dream has to change. Wolverton has to try, gradually, to introduce Spacehawk to reality. Even if editorial weren't demanding it, even if the audience didn't want it, Wolverton would probably have to do it, he sees soldiers and sailors on the streets every day. How many people does he know in the military? How many people does he know connected to armaments factories and military technology? How many people does he know who are in danger? How many people does he know that have died?

So Spacehawk spends more and more time close to, and interacting with, 'real' soldiers, 'real' sailors' and 'real' airmen, and when he interacts with them, Woverton has to try to get them, and their technology, and their uniforms, and what they do 'right', and if not accurate, at least not absurd.

A few episodes into the war years, Spacehawk is seen in a suit, with a hat. He's been eating in a restaurant in New York.

The suit is a perfect Spacehawk-green and soon he takes off on his gravity belt to battle evil, astonishing the crowd, but a line has been crossed.


....


The moral problem and the visual problem feed off each other.

In some ways Wolverton actually becomes a 'better' artist during the final two thirds of Spacehawk. His ability to depict real technology and real people increases. He learns new artistic techniques. He can do shade and mass much more subtlety, he masters real fashions, real waves, real sunsets, real clouds. He even learns darkness. He does it to get better as an artist and he probably does it out of respect to the people involved.

And it slowly kills the comic.

It's not fierce. It’s not strong. It’s not strange. It’s not intense.

It’s not NEW. Wolverton can no longer invent worlds, toy-box cities on the horizon, no new alien races, no strange _things_ filling the foreground. He tried to make up with it with plants and flowers, it’s not the same. He can no longer create, he must replicate.

It's just a war comic, and though not bad, it’s probably not even amongst the best war comics.

The colour-logic and form-logic and invention-logic of Spacehawk fall apart.

You can't have insane bright primary blocks the way you used to and they can't be bound by the same strange but complete imaginary forms. Wolverton pumps those bright signifiers back in wherever he can find an excuse, but it’s not enough. You can't have a half-bright, half-imagined world. The aesthetic is too tight and too strong. The sky turns blue, actual pale, sky-blue blue, the colour of a real sky, and it never should. The battleships are grey.

GREY! In a Spacehawk comic!

BROWN!!

The Nazis try to help by painting entire bomber divisions red, but it’s not enough.

Spacehawk gets his own Supervillain, Dr Gore. A human as smart and scientifically able as Spacehawk, but dedicated only to evil. Though in the story Dr Gore is a Thorn In The Side of Spacehawk, aesthetically he is there to rescue him. The Doctor only wears an entirely-blue costume, he creates insane super-technology which demands insane super-heroism to defeat. Eventually he has to be banished to Mars.

Mars! The only real callback in the entire series and it happens in the middle of the War years. This is the only reference to outer space in those years. Will we see Mars again, and the cruel Valley of the Insects?

No. Gore escapes back to earth and Spacehawk chases him through a brownish valley until he jumps into a river.

Though drenched in bonkers transformed-orientalism, Spacehawk couldn't be racist in space, there was simply no-one there to be racist to. It the vulture-men are evil, cringing, crooked and sly and wear all the trappings of a Fagan-like intelligent 'Lesser Race' then that’s just what Vulture Men are like. There will be a new alien species along in a minute and they will be entirely different. None of the aliens or monsters seem like vectors for feelings about any real races at all. Tyrants and cowards are bad because they are bad. That's Spacehawk.

By the time it reaches earth Spacehawk is definitely racist, specifically towards the Japanese in all their yellow-skinned, slant-eyed, buck-toothed glory.

I don't really feel any offence reading these stories, it seems about exactly as racist as the mid-range of the background culture and pretty typical considering the two groups are locked in a high-casualty civilian-burning industrialised global megaconflict. But there it is.



DEEP, BLACK WATER

Spacehawk dies by degrees, the death is longer than the life and it comes to a terrible finale in the two last adventures.

In his penultimate issue, Spacehawk chases tire thieves.

This almost makes sense. Rubber is an industrially vital material in the war economy and probably the government has had a word.

It's still, in every respect, the most shameful, quotidian, low-level mediocre thing that Spacehawk has ever done.

The Woman returns, finally, at the end she comes back like Morgana La Fey arriving on the ship to take away Arthur to the other kingdom. This time she's a lost movie star. Spacehawk tries to play a trick on her to teach her a lesson _about rubber_ and through a relentlessly unfunny series of misunderstandings and mistakes they both end up on top of a water tower after being chased by the police.

Not only are there no strong colours, it's gloomy, its dark. Spacehawk makes mistakes. Everything happens in the mid-range.  Everything happens on the streets of a normal American city.  No-one believes Spacehawk is who he says he is. Where the first episode had every character shouting Spacehawks name as if his identity came before him like a burning halo; "YOU'RE SPACEHAWK", "SPACEHAWK.. HERE?", now even tire thieves and police officers can't believe its him, even when he's right in front of them, "YOU - SPACEHAWK? HA! MASQUERADING AS SOME ONE ELSE WILL ONLY GET YOU A FEW MORE MONTHS IN THE JUG, BUG C'MON!", "MY! MY! LOOK WHO'S IN THE NEXT CELL! THE MAN WHO TAKES TIRES AND BLAMES IT ON SPACEHAWK!"

The demi god who began as an implacable emission of otherness, whose every act was an impossibility, who could literally scare the guns out of a bad guys hand, the guy whose method of escaping a jail cell was simply to throw himself through the wall, is now reduced to near-pratfalls.

Trapped together on the water tower, Spacehawk and the Woman seem almost like survivors of a painful divorce looking back over a difficult relationship. There is a kind of despairing camaraderie.

And then the final episode.

Spacehawk battles enemy agents who have created a fake rock on the coast and filled it with a refuelling station for hidden submarines.

We started, if you remember, in a cave in space, and we end in another cave. The first glittered with pigment like a cluster of dropped jewels, every fold of rock was a distinct form with a carefully-applied individual colour like inset gems. We were in an almost shadowless world. This cave, the last, is truly dark. Wolverton has finally mastered shading, he can cloak his figure in a veil of shadows like he never could before. Light gleams on dark water for the first time.

Spacehawk blows everything up and captures two thugs, maybe the same pair of Bad Men who open and close so many Spacehawk adventures, this time in human form.

"PERHAPS WE SHOULDN'T HAVE JOINED THE NAZI CAUSE KRUEGER!"

"YES - I'M AFRAID WE MADE A GRAVE ERROR!"

Spacehawk flies into the darkness with his cargo of villains, heading for America.

He will never arrive.

..........


COULD IT ALL HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT SOMEHOW?

I can't stop thinking; what it World War Two had never happened? Yes, millions of people would still be alive, but, more importantly, Spacehawk might still be good.

What if Wolverton had just carried on? It seemed like he was growing at an incredible pace just before Spacehawk was pinned to earth like a technicolour angel, to fade and die. What would SH have looked like after only another year? What would Wolverton have invented and how would the character have grown? Wolvertons way of thinking was unlike most other artists of the time. He wasn't trying to be what I would call a good 'pictorial' artist, one who's work was like book illustrations, he was a little bit like the future underground scene, that's why they like him, but he was working in a popular audience-facing medium. He was building a world like the Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon stories, but not the same kind of world, not a neatly unified one. he combined a certain kind of silliness, or aliveness or directness with a more traditional form. And he was inventing. Inventing inventing inventing. If he'd just kept going in his own direction, would there be a different strand in American Comics? Kirby-esque, Eisner-esque, Wolvertonian?

Friday, 29 January 2016

Spacehawk 2 - The Many-Coloured God!

(Before we begin, I should state that everything I'm talking about takes place during the 'Golden Age' of Spacehawk, the first 9 or 10 issues. The later issues will be discussed in 'The Case of the Missing Tires'.)

....................

Colour is the king comic this serves. More than that, it's Wolvertons right hand, as if colour itself were behind him as he drew, coiling in the air, reaching down to touch his pen.

Behind the artist stands a hierarchy of drives and desires, abilities and skills. Like a court of  competing lords, each generating and solving particular kinds of problem in particular ways. My best guess at Wolvertons court of art is this; 

On the left;
On the right;
Queen Invention
Heroism, Otherness
Empathy, Technology,
An arguably-sketchy (depending on what he used it for) Orientalism, and Patriotism.
King Colour
Form, Energy, Expression
Bold Line, Kinesis/Hapsis
Depth
Shadow


When any problem comes up, when any opportunity presents itself, when any question is asked, the prime and first answer is always a duel, or conversation, between colour and invention.

Can I invent something? Can I show it with colour?



HOW DOES COLOUR WORK IN SPACEHAWK

There are rules for the way that colour is used. They are simple and strong and probably the most important rules in the comic. They are the comics Constitution.

- Singular. No mixing, shading, feathering or any change within a colour block. The depth or shape of objects is never given with colour, only with line.

- Bound. It must be entirely bound by distinct, strong lines. No flowing of one colour into another, or of one shape into another.

- Primary. Any colour used should be as close the the strongest primaries as possible. Other, less distinct shades should only be used in special circumstances or when the primaries have already been used up.

- Opposed. No colour should be seen against itself. That is, no red against red, blue on blue etc. Colours should be counterpoised so that seeing them against each other produces the strongest possible visual signal.

You can see this re-colouring gets it really wrong.

  
HOW DOES FORM WORK IN SPACEHAWK

- Simple objects. Objects tend not to have much detail, instead they have other objects. A wall, for instance, tends not to have panelling, instead it has a vent, machine or mysterious flange.

- Distinct objects. Each object is entirely itself and separate from its environment. What this means is that when you look at almost anything in Spacehawk, you can imagine picking it up, detaching it from its context and carrying it away.

- Everything is an object. Guns and people and space ships are objects, but so is everything non-material. Outer space is an object, it's like a thick blanket of wavy lines. Energy is an object, its a sharp jagged spray locked into the page. The movement of rockets is a white pennant that follows them about like a flag.

- Shape defined by line and nothing else. Each object is usually its own colour. If it has depth, for instance, the curve of a bulkhead or the folds in a jumpsuit, it will be given by short, strong lines or by minimal crosshatching.

                - Subheading, RIVETS. If the shape or curve of any made thing in the story can be defined by rivets, then it will be.

- Haptic. Things are depicted more how they feel than how they would look. 'Fluid' objects like clothes or alien flesh are like clay, or play-dough. Solid 'technological' objects are like smooth, hard, shiny plastic. There are no fine folds or delicate things.

                - Subheading, Faces. All the alien faces look like they could be shaped out of clay. At one point, Spacehawk literally shapes himself an alien face out of a kind of clay. Alien faces should be massively over-expressive in the way that children’s drawings are. Big eyes, big mouth, big nose, big teeth.



                - Subheading, Technology. This might be partially because it’s from the early 40's and real life control systems are not yet highly complex, but in SH any technology, whatever it does, can be activated and very subtly controlled by manipulating a few very simple objects in a mysterious way. Turning a dial or wheel will usually do it. Either it’s a performed physical movement or its triggered by brain waves.



THE STAINED GLASS EFFECT

The combination of the boldest possible colour groups, distinctly separated and counterpoised, separated by strong distinct lines with minimal in-block additions or detailing, and the overwhelming simplicity of each individual object, creates what I call 'Spacehawk Stained-Glass'.

Spacehawk is so bright that if you wake up in the dark you don't need to turn on a light, just open the book. It glows.







HOW DOES INVENTION WORK IN SPACEHAWK

- NEVER REPEAT, NEVER! NEEEEVEEEEEERRRR! SH and his gear have to remain roughly the same (though they do evolve a bit), otherwise, EVERYTHING should be different from story to story. Never repeat an alien race, never repeat an alien world, never repeat a monster, never repeat a tree - even in the same panel, all trees are unique, never repeat a natural object between stories, never repeat any non-SH technology, never go back anywhere. Always new. Always always always.

- Always invent. If Wolverton can invent something, he must invent something. If he hasn't created anything original on a page then there is something wrong.

- If can be alien, must be. Nothing can be any more familiar than it has to be for people to understand what it is. Its the alien version of a thing, or a new thing. Nothing is from the familiar, experiental world. There should be almost nothing in the comic that you could find in a normal home or on a normal street.

- Always increase, never return. Places, objects, ideas, relationships should always be created new and whole and returned to or reverenced again as little as possible. The world of Spacehawk, both the physical and social world, is expanding endlessly, much faster than Spacehawk can experience it.

- THINGS. If in doubt, draw more things. There are THINGS everywhere. What the fuck is this thing, no idea. What the fuck is that thing, no idea. Nodules, eruptions, objects, THINGS.

Nothing in Spacehawk can be the bad version of what it is because it is the only version of what it is. The only Hornosaur, the only Neptunian Crime Lord, the only Creeping White Death.

  
 HOW DOES STORYTELLING WORK IN SPACEHAWK

- Multiple channels, same message. If two or three different streams of information are being used, say an in-panel caption, a speech bubble and a shown action, all channels must be used to intensify the same message. They don't ironise, break apart or comment on each other. They all say the same thing in a chorus. When Spacehawk hits someone, the hit has no other meaning than the one shown. Caption - "SPACEHAWK LANDS A MIGHTY BLOW". Speech Bubble - "TAKE A NIGHT CAP MY FACIST FRIEND!"

- Emotion. Emotions are always pure and overwhelming, experienced one after another. No-one has more than one emotion in their heads at any one time

- Colour serves reality last. If the background to a talking head is one plain field of clour with no lines, then the colour depends more on the emotional signal of the panel and the general colour composition of the page than it does on any expression of 'real life'.

Anything can change its colour if it needs to, especially backgrounds, especially in the early stories

Same with the sky, it can be whatever colour it needs to be from moment to moment.

- The page is a microcosm. Every page should have a microcosm of the scale of action for the whole story. It should have at least one ultra close-up panel highlighting a particular action and at least one ultra-epic panel of something incredible and widescreen happening (worlds collide, rockets fall from the sky, dinosaurs stampede).

NEVER spend a page at the same scale of action.

- use the paint box. Try to get all the primary colours into a panel, if you can't get them all into one panel, get them into one page.

- Impossible Hero. Everything that everybody says and everything that everybody does exists to confirm the impossible and exceptional nature of Spacehawk


INTENSITY

Wolverton works under powerful constraints. Sometimes constraints of choice, sometimes of material, like printing technology, sometimes of culture, many sci fi things haven’t been invented yet.

The tools he uses are the simplest and most direct. The world he creates is the largest, wildest, least familiar one he can envisage. It is the vast range and depth of things to be imagined and the extraordinarily small but powerful range of available techniques that produces INTENSITY.

His ambition and desire is continually overleaping his ability. The inner vision (nearly) outstrips the hand. The true hero is always 'becoming' and the true heroic story is also always becoming.

Mature artists doing things they know well can often produce very good works but its rare for them to have the feverish life inside them of artists with powerful imagination with  pushing against what they can do.


Intensity in Spacehawk is imagination pushing against ability with the force of a Rocket Blast! 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Spacehawk 1 - The Arc of the Hawk

Ask my now why something is a monster and you'd get a lecture, and it would take a while to wind its way.

Ask me when I'm twelve and you'll get an explanation. (It's becasue Morgoth was banished by Iluvatar or because Orks are a semi-fungal life form bred for war.)

Ask me when I'm five and I'll say that's what it is. A monster is a monster. It requires no referents.

Spacehawk is like that. It is what it is because that's what it is.

.....

WHAT IS SPACEHAWK

Spacehawk is a comic created by Basil Wolverton which ran for thirty issues from 1940 to 1942 in the pages of Target Comics. About ten of those issues are genuinely good and provide the aesthetic and creative heart of the series, almost everything I talk about here comes from those first ten issues. Beyond the point, the creative power of Spacehawk slowly dies.

The reason we are talking about it is becasue it is very beautiful and very strange.


.....


THE ARC OF THE HAWK

What is Spacehawk? Where does he come from? I'll let the comic tell it;

"WITH THE COMING OF INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL, THE LEGIONS OF THE LAW FIND IT IMPOSSIBLE TO COPE WITH THE PIRATES, KILLERS, AND OTHER CRIMINALS LURKING IN SPACE... THEN, APPARENTLY OUT OF NOWHERE COMES THE SUPERHUMAN ENEMY OF CRIME, THE MYSTERIOUS SPACEHAWK!
THEREAFTER, BANDITS OF THE VOID BEGIN TO DISAPPEAR, FOR THEY SOON LEARN TO FEAR THE AMAZING POWERS OF THE SPACEHAWK WHO ALWAYS STRIKES WITHOUT WARNING
FOR EXAMPLE, HERE IS THE CASE OF GORVAK, NOTORIOUS MARTIAN SPACE PIRATE WHO BOASTS HE IS TOO CLEVER TO BE CAUGHT BY THE SPACEHAWK...



In the first two pages of Spacehawk we have two its its most powerful recurring elements;

The Bad Monster Men, these have every negative quality, they are cruel even to each other. Despite being innovative and crafty, they are always cowards. They are planning a crime.

And the Woman.



There are three or four female appearances over the history of Spacehawk, yet, in some way, they are always the same spirit, the same anima. The Woman is there at the creation of Spacehawk, she appears before he does, she will be there at every major shift in character, and she will be there at the end.

(We are also in a cave, with a space ship, the Chthonic and the celestial meet at the point of creations. We will end there too.)



These basic elements call out for the creation or the existence of Spacehawk, and so he appears.



Spacehawk is a masked figure in yellow and green. (We know this is a primal hero comic as the fundamental arrangement of heroes wearing red, white and blue and villains wearing green, purple and yellow, has not yet been discovered. Here at the dawn of things the colour signifiers have not yet been set.) He wears a bulky green jumpsuit/uniform. His helmet, his gloves and the handle of his gun are yellow. Some of these will change colours a little in the first stories, possibly due to printing errors, but more likely  becasue, at least to begin with, things in the Spacehawk universe can change colour whenever they need to. (See 'The many-Coloured God!')

Spacehawk here is his most primal, alien and inhuman self. We don't even know if he *is* human. Like the most masculine of male heroes, he is utterly alone. He has no friends, he has no home, he has no social context. He doesn't even speak. On his first appearance, Spacehawk lets his opponent see him full on. (He will always do this.) The evil martian Gorvak looks up, sees Spacehawk, says "THE SPACEHAWK!" and is so frightened that he spontaniously drops his gun.

A signifigant percentage of Spacehawks opponents will drop their gun simply from the shock of beholding him. Some of the rest will have to have their gun swatted out of their hands. Only a few will keep hold of their weapon and these will be the most potent enemies.

Spacehawk rescues the Woman, whose first words are "YOU - YOU'RE THE SPACEHAWK!" (Spacehawk is told who he is twice. He needs to be brought fully into existance by the story.) He quickly sends the Woman to safety then goes after Gorvak.

On his way he interacts with a strange bat creature who offers to help.

"YOU LOOK FOR PIRATE SHIP? YOU FIND HIM 'ROUND BEND. ALL TIME HE COME HIDE HERE, KILL MY PEOPLE! WE HELP YOU GET HIM, MAYBE, HUH?"

"THANKS! I DON'T BELIEVE I'LL NEED ANY HELP, BUT IF I DO, I'LL SHOUT!"

This is important because it tells us;

A - All kinds of things in this story look freaky and monstrous, but not all are evil.
B - Spacehawk is not a threat to someone just becasue they look wierd.
C - Spacehawk works alone.
D - He's kind of a dick about it.

In their ship the Martians describe their criminal plan. Spacehawk appears, he and Gorvak draw and fire their Atom Guns at the same time. The energy beams meet in mid-air. Gorvak drops his gun and calls for help. The other martians hear that Spacehawk is on the ship and spontaneously run away out of fear.

Spacehawk breaks both his and Gorvaks weapons in his hands, tearing them physically apart.

"AS FOR GIVING YOU A CHANCE - WELL, I'LL BREAK BOTH OUR ATOM GUNS, AND MY FLAME GUN. THAT WILL PUT US ON AN EVEN FOOTING!"

He then wrestles Gorvak. Spacehawk seems to lose and Gorvak ties him up to be eaten by the Creeping Death.

Spacehawk then spontaneously breaks his bonds.

"I'VE LET YOU HAVE ENOUGH FUN. NOW YOU ARE GOING TO DIE BY YOUR OWN INFERNAL DEVICE."

He easily throws Gorvak into the room and tears out metal to bar the door. Gorvak is eaten. Spacehawk goes back to his ship and uses it to throw the martian ship into the sun.

"WELL, THERE'S ANOTHER JOB DONE!"

........

From this point on Spacehawk becomes more and more human with each story. He becomes more emotionally complex, more social, more creative  more inventive with a greater range of interests and a greater capacity to care. Watching SH grow is almost exactly like watching a child grow up.


#2 Spacehawk and the Lost Tribe of Mercury

H helps some Mercurians protect their platinum from evil robbers. One kills the other out of greed and, after appearing suddenly in the depths of an alien ocean..

"YOU - *YOU'RE NOT REAL*! HOW CAN YOU BREATHE*? HOW CAN YOU STAND THE PRESSURE?

SH ejects the second robber up through the ocean into space where he explodes. (The catastrophic joining of air and sky is another common motif in Spacehawk.)

Instead of just leaving, SH uses his incredible science to evolve the water-dwelling Mercurians (at their request) into hardy air-breathers and helps them use thier platinum to build their city of Draxia.



#3 Spacehawk and the Perilous Planetoid Trap

SH rescues the same nameless woman from issue one. She asks him to unmask.



Although he says he has never been unmasked before, once he takes off his mask to kiss the Woman, he never puts it back on again. Spacehawk has a human face from this point on.



#4 Spacehawk and the Vulture Men from the Void

SH allies with a tribe of Moon People, this is the first time he has fought along anyone else or even involved anyone else in his plans. He defeats some Vulture Men who are bombing earth with terrifying corrosive gas.

This is the first time we have heard of Earth or seen it in the series. And in the last panel he says this:

"THAT WAS AN UNPLEASANT JOB, BUT THAT'S WHAT I'M HERE FOR!

His first expression sadness or regret.



#5 Spacehawk and Mayhem at the Martian Election

SH disguises himself as a Martian and stops an evil Martian from destroying his own planet with a gravity device after losing an election.


Again we see the rising water motif as the planets come close to collision.



#6 'Spacehawk and the Pirate City on Uranus' 

This is the best and most joyfully insane SH story. SH follows a plutonian police ship to the pirate city of Gark on Uranus.



The Police are captured and thrown to wild monsters outside the city. SH arrives, too late, only brave captain Dakk is alive and badly injured.

Captain Dakk asks Spacehawk to implant his brain into the body of a giant beast so he can avenge his men, even Spacehawk thinks this is kinda tripped out, but he does it. SH returns to the city, is captured, tortured, and saved by a charge of quasi-dinosaurs lead by the police captains brain in the body of a  gigantic 'Hornousaur' the evil leader tries to escape and the hornousaur spikes his craft out of the sky with its horn and the evil leader Jubun leaps out before it goes down.

Jubin - SPACEHAWK! HOW DID YOU - ? LOOK OUT! THAT MONSTER WILL KILL US!

SH - NEVER FEAR! THIS BEAST IS AN OLD FRIEND OF MINE!

Jubun is thrown to jungle creatures and eaten off-screen.

SH - THANKS FOR GETTING ME OUT OF A TOUGH SPOT, OLD FELLOW, AND CONGRATULATIONS ON THE THOROUGH JOB YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS DID! NOW I MUST BE ON MY WAY! PERHAPS I'LL SEE YOU AGAIN IN THE NEXT FEW HUNDRED YEARS YOU HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO AS A HEALTHY YOUNG HORNOUSAUR!

this is the first time SH 'teams up' with another named character and the first time he shows any indications of individual friendship.

Another important factor in this story is that SH's shapeless yellow mittens have transformed into gloves.Wolverton has learned how to draw hands, but more important is that SH can now touch and be touched as a human being. His acquisition of human features goes along with his increasing human interests and like the forgotten mask, the hands stay human.



#7 Spacehawk and the Pirate from His Past

Hunting on Saturn, SH finds Galar, an 'old friend', another pink-skinned humanoid person who looks to be either human, or whatever the fuck species Spacehawk is. Apart from the nameless woman and the victims of the vulture men, this is the first other human-looking person we have seen in the series.

Galar has taken to crime out of boredom. SH fights Galar on the hull of a space ship, forcing him to stop his crimes, then he then redeems his friend by bringing him along on his adventure mission. The two defeat some pirates.

Galar - SO LONG SPACEHAWK, AND THANKS FOR PUTTING ME RIGHT! HOPE I SEE YOU AGAIN BEFORE ANOTHER SIX HUNDERED YEARS PASS!

Alone in his ship, SH feels what seems to be a moment of lonlieness.

I SHOULD HAVE PREVAILED UPON GALAR TO COME WITH ME! HE WOULD HAVE ENJOYED IT!

SH travels back to Saturn, but who should he unexpecandly run into but Galar!

Galar - I HAD TO COME BACK HERE AND GET A SUPPLY OF MEAT TO DO ME THRU MY LONG TRIP SPACEHAWK! THERE'S NO PLACE IN THIS GALAXY WHERE THERE'S SUCH HUNTING AS THERE IS HERE!

SH - RIGHT YOU ARE GALAR! AND WE'RE DOING OUR HUNTING TOGETHER!

The story ends with Galar and SH hunting together, SH's now fully-fingered human hand on the shoulder of his friend.

Now Spacehawk has not just a friend, but an 'old friend, a social context and a particular place that he is from. This is also the first time that someone can do something 'bad' in Spacehawk but be redeemd to the side of 'good'.



#8 Spacehawk and the Treachery of Smebar

The Woman returns, now she is 'Haba, Queen of the Noomites', a groovy blonde with bow lips, curled hair and a conical madonna-basque. Her evil chief guard Smebar wants to marry her and persuade her to world conquest. the queen is kind of into the idea of world conquest, but not marrying this dork, she wants Spacehawk.

So now we have a high status female character who is kind of potentially evil, kind of cool and instead of being rescued by Spacehawk, is actively hunting him.

Eventually the Queen tempts Spacehawk by commanding her armies to pretend-fight each other.

Queen Haba - SPACEHAWK, YOU KNOW I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU! MY WHOLE KINGDOM IS YOURS IF YOU WILL MARRY ME! TOGETHER THEN WE CAN CONQUOR AND RULE THIS PLANET!

SH - THATS A WONDERFUL COMPLEMENT TO ME HABA! BUT SUCH A THING IS IMPOSSIBLE! I'LL HAVE NO PART IN OVERPOWERING PEACEFUL NATIONS!

SH - HISTORY SHOULD TEACH YOU THAT WARLIKE GREEDY RULERS ALWAYS COME TO BAD ENDS! CONSIDER THE MARTIANS - HOW THEY BROUGHT DESTRUCTION ON THEMSELVES WHEN THEY FOUGHT TO OVERCOME THE SATURNIANS! AND WATCH WHAT HAPPENS TO THE  NATIONS THAT WISH TO DOMINATE EARTH TODAY!

Queen Haba - YOU DON'T NEED TO PREACH TO ME! GET OUT BEFORE I HAVE YOU THROWN OUT!

Monsters are fought, maidens are rescued, evil is defeated and Queen Haba is redeemed. SH leaves with the tantelising possibility of seeing her again and an actual grown up relationship with someone equal to himself.



#9 Spacehawk and the Master Plan of Droon

An evil scientist tricks Queen Haba into promising him what he wants if he can bring Space Hawk. He lures SH by torturing his own servant and broadcasting the pain to SH's senstive pshychic mind. Revealed, Queen Haba slaps the shit out of him, SH knocks him out and he is eventually killed by his own tortured thrall.

This is a sad story, from this point on, by orders of the editor, Space Hawk will be defending America specifically and directly. He will no longer be in space. Although his adventures will be more grown up he will do no more growing up. The surge of emotional, moral and creative development that began with 'Spacehawk and the Creeping Death from Neptune' is over.

I MUST GO NOW HABA. UNCLE SAM NEEDS ME - MORE THAN YOU. BUT I'LL COME BACK TO SEE YOU SOON!

He doesnt, Spacehawk never comes back. Like some young men sent off to war, Spacehawks's emotional development stops here. This is the most complex relationship he will ever have. Haba, Queen of the Noomites is still waiting somewhere out there in technicoloour space.

All that can wait till my final post, 'The Long, Slow Death of Space Hawk'.  Hold on comics fans becasue...

Next Post 
in
False Machine
Basil Wolverton 
burns through 
reality itself!
!n..