Monthly Archives: August 2011

Power User Profile: Anarchangel

I've always liked long-time poster Anarchangel's stuff, and now I'm glad to get the chance to know him better. So do you, you lucky duck! I always wondered where the handle came from, and now I know. Though I have to confess, I thought maybe it was a play on "Anarchy" too. Oh well, wrong again!

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present Anarchangel!
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With a name like that, I’d go with “Mary” too.

(From "Fantastic Comics" number 23, 1941.)

Open Critique Day #25

That's right, kids, it's time for another Open Critique Day!

If you have a HeroMachine illustration or another piece of artwork you've done that you'd like some help with, post a link to it in comments along with your thoughts on it -- what you think is working, what you're struggling with, etc. I will post my critique of the piece, hopefully giving some tips on how to improve it.

Of course everyone is welcome to post their critiques as well, keeping in mind the following rules:

  • Make sure your criticism is constructive. Just saying "This sucks" is both rude and unhelpful without giving specific reasons why you think it sucks and, ideally, some advice on how to make it better.
  • Each person should only post one illustration for critique to make sure everyone who wants feedback has a chance.
  • I will not critique characters entered in any currently running contest, as that doesn't seem fair to the other entrants. You can still post it if you like for the other visitors to critique, but I will not do so.

That's it! Hopefully we can get some good interaction going here and help everyone (me included!) learn a little bit today.

(Image ©

Is there really a GOOD place to be banged by a chimp?

(From "Fantastic Comics" number 23, 1941.)

The pulse-pounding thrill of bureaucracy

When last we left our little Lone Wolf, he was deciding on where to go in the exciting town of Port Bax. You might think, having struggled so long to get here, we'd be in for some neat town with tons of adventure. After all, our first adventure in a town was fairly exciting, with skullduggery amongst pirates and houses of ill repute.

Apparently, though, Port Bax is like the Scranton of this fantasy world, a place where very little happens except meaningless paper work. For instance, our last thrilling choice was whether or not to go to City Hall. I know when I was a kid, I'd lay awake for hours dreaming of the chance to go to someplace as mystical and exciting as City Hall, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that childhood fantasy.

Seriously? This is an actual decision point, whether or not to ask a clerk for directions? My god, why not have pages dedicated to whether or not to blink, or to step out with the left or right foot first? I fondly recall reading "Lord of the Rings", when we were treated to three hundred pages of Frodo having to file some forms in Hobbiton relating to his purchase of Bag End.

Look, it's bad enough that in my actual, real, non-book-length, I-don't-get-to-choose-my-own-adventure life, I have to go to the DMV and waste an entire morning. I don't want to have to deal with this crap in my adventure gaming. If you're in the middle of an exciting RPG and suddenly you find yourself having to navigate multiple layers of bureaucracy, then something has gone seriously awry with your RPG. No one wants to roleplay Bob, the Second Assistant Filing Clerk at City Hall as he trundles his way through various permit applications.

I went ahead and figured out the fastest way through the red tape in front of us here, and it takes five steps, five decision points, five written-out pages, just to get to our consulate so we can continue the actual story. That's insane. Far be it from me to question the plotting expertise of Mr. Joe Dever, but folks, this is "stab yourself in the eyeballs" level of ridiculosity here.

So I'm going to save you the tedium of slogging through five pages of turgid prose that has no other purpose than to inflame your blood with the illicit and pulse-pounding thrill of bureaucracy, and instead will skip ahead to the good part. You can thank me later.

Finally, a good meal and some healing! It took five pages of bureaucratic red tape for this?! Why not just send us here directly upon reaching Port Bax? Aaaarggh!

Anyway, I got a "7" on the random chart, so it's off to page 254 we go.

Hey, what do you know, swords and enemies and choices that might actually matter! Suddenly, in the midst of IRS Form 1056-EZ we found ourselves a fantasy adventure, boys and girls!

Since we don't have Sixth Sense ("We see dead Giaks and run away from them!"), we either fight or flee. So what'll it be?

Dan’s journey of self-exploration takes a disturbing turn

(From "Fantastic Comics" number 23, 1941.)

HM3: Female Briefs

In a totally unplanned bit of synchronicity, I've just posted the Legwear-Female-Briefs set to HeroMachine 3. This is just a straight item-for-item conversion of the male items, so no big whoop. Only nine items, and most of them are copies from the Pants-Standard set, but at least they fit.

Let me be briefs

Several new photos have been sneaked out of the new Superman "Man of Steel" set, this time featuring full frontal Superman:

I say it every time, but it's hard to judge a motion picture super hero costume from stills, or even fan videos. You have to see it in motion, with full effects treatment, in the context of a story to know if it "works" or not. Having said that, I am very dubious about the choices made here, specifically about removing the red trunks.

I know the arguments against them, made most prominently by Dan DiDio, Co-Publisher of DC Comics, that modern audiences simply cannot accept the sight of an actual man running around in his underwear. If that's your position, that's fine -- I don't necessarily agree, but I can understand it.

However, just removing the trunks without paying attention to the impact that has on the overall design is, in my opinion, a serious mistake. And lazy. That visual band of red with the yellow belt serves to separate the uniform into a shirt and pants. Simply removing them, as it appears has been done in the movie costume, means you end up with a grown man running around in a onesie instead of his underwear. I'm not sure that's necessarily an upgrade.

You need either some kind of a visual break there like a belt (that's not the same color as the top and pants!), or you need to design the tunic and pants in such a way that they're clearly separate elements. You can do it with piping, or seams (the modern equivalent of the Nineties pouches), or you can make them subtly different colors (i.e. different blue tones), but you need something to make it clear that we're not looking at a one-piece leotard. Because outside of the Bolshoi or an NHL game, men in one-piece leotards look ridiculous.

Friend of HeroMachine John Hartwell had another excellent point as well arising (if you will) from these shots:

It's like a naked blue buff man in a cape. Are the Village People in town?

And I'm sorry - but the tight "onesie" look (well said) only draws attention to his groinal area when the light catches it the wrong way, as you can see in the shot where he's facing the camera. There's this expanse of blue, then, hell-oooo! It's a super-crotch! It's just...disturbing.

Now, I don't necessarily have anything against seeing the outline of a guy's junk. Goodness knows, I have junk myself and I'm happy for it. But in terms of costume design, if you don't have anything else going on in that region then the junkage becomes the focus, rather than the costume.

Fundamentally, that's my problem with this. It's not that the trunks are gone, it's that the trunks were removed and seemingly no thought was given to how that impacts the overall design.

I poked around online and found some suggested "no trunks" alternatives that I thought solved the problem in a much better way, and which in my opinion would look better "live" than what I see in the stills above. Thoughts?

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Who says comics aren’t philosophical?

(From "Fantastic Comics" number 23, 1941.)

HM3: Female Pants

I've just updated HeroMachine 3 -- at long last -- with newly converted female items. "Legwear-Female-Pants" is now live and available for your feminine clothing needs. If you don't see it, you may need to clear your browser's cache and try again.