Author Archives: AFDStudios

Rewatching the Marvel Movies

I've been on a kick for the last few days of re-watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in chronological order, as opposed to release order. And I. Am. LOVING IT!

Seriously, I haven't been this geeked up in a long, long time. I think I went through a period of super-hero fatigue towards the end of the last Marvel Phase -- just too many movies in a row, leading to a "resolve your problems by punching them" fatigue. But I signed up for Disney+ and thought this might be a fun way to experience the films now that the first decade is complete.

I hadn't seen "Captain Marvel" before. When it came out, I was turned off by negative reviews and, frankly, the burning mohawk.

But I watched it after "Captain America: First Avenger" and it held up really well! I thought it was basically the same movie as the first Cap installment, and I got a lot of pleasure out of seeing a young Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, particularly with the perspective of knowing what would eventually befall them.

In fact, that nostalgia, that foreknowledge of what was yet to come, has informed a lot of my enjoyment of the films so far. It adds an element of timelessness that was missing on the first go-around for those films I'd seen before.

I just finished "Iron Man 2" and so far, they're all still excellent movies that hold up well, even 10+ years later. Without getting too far into the weeds, here's how I'd rank them so far:

  1. Iron Man: An exceptional super-hero movie, head and shoulders above the rest. Pitch-perfect on every note, successful at everything it attempted. It's clear with the perspective of a decade of experience that this was indeed the affirmation Marvel needed that They. Could. Do. This.
  2. Incredible Hulk: Norton's performance is great and the overall production excellent. I found myself wondering how I'd react to the Ruffalo takeover, but setting that aside, the movie just hums. I remember being blown away by the "Origin story recapped in the opening credits" approach when I first saw it and that is very much reinforced on a later viewing. Non-stop awesome action and story from the get-go, an assertive and confident refutation of the turgid, overly-in-their-heads Ang Lee approach. This is Marvel Studios saying "This is what we're about and what we're about is unapologetic super-hero AWESOMENESS!"
  3. Captain America: First Avenger: I just love Steve Rogers. His spirit, his can-do American underdog-ism, everything about him. The movie dragged a little in the second act but I think maybe knowing how Cap 2 and 3 turn out influenced me to bump this one a little higher than I might have otherwise. Hugo Weaving is great, as always.
  4. Captain Marvel: As I said, I was disincentivized from seeing this the first time due to negative reviews from friends and the Internet. Also the aforementioned flaming space-mohawk. But I really enjoyed it! Brie Larson's performance was sometimes strangely disaffected, but I think that must have been at directorial instruction -- "Super-heroes are very serious, don't take this lightly." I think ultimately what bumped this down slightly below Cap's intro is that with Cap, we have a character who becomes more of what he already is when the movie starts, whereas Marvel is discovering who she was all along. It's also harder to do a movie where the main character is fighting against institutional oppression rather than, say, a guy with a big red skull for a face. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable and well-done movie.
  5. Iron Man 2: Fun, but ultimately it felt a little soulless. I think mostly it suffers from being a sequel -- it's hard to match the interest and drama from an origin movie. Though as we'll see from Ragnarok, not an impossible challenge! Still, just a little too much CGI slugfesty for me to match the appeal of the other offerings.

Next up is "Thor" and I have to say, I haven't been this excited to watch a movie I've already seen once in ... well, maybe ever. I liked the film quite a bit on first release and now, knowing what is to come for the character and the franchise, I look forward to experiencing it again.

Flash Support is Ending but HeroMachine Is NOT!

Hi folks! It's been a while since I posted anything, but since hardly a day goes by without someone asking me what the future of HeroMachine is given that support for Flash (the software HeroMachine is built with) will be ending in 2020, I thought I should give you an update.

This year I have been working with Ben, the developer who helped with the site migration a number of years ago, on a non-Flash version of HeroMachine 3 built with Javascript and PHP instead of Flash. Once complete, this version should work on all devices and browsers without needing Flash at all, including (in theory) iOS so you can Machine on the go.

We have a ways to go yet, but Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I hope to have something to show you all next month.

As for what will happen with older HeroMachine versions, I honestly don't have an answer yet. I don't plan on making a non-Flash version of those, though my hope is that someone will have a "non official" Flash player plugin available at some point that you can use in a browser so they'll just keep working. We'll see.

Thanks for sticking with me and best of luck in all your creative endeavors!

3D Items For Cosplay

The reason I started HeroMachine so many years ago was because I knew most people were bursting with creativity, but they just lacked the physical skill of actually drawing what their imaginations were inventing. A quick browse through the forums shows I was right -- you all do amazing work and I am continuously staggered by your work.

I recently found a guy online who brings that same philosophy to cosplaying. Nikko Industries provides downloadable files you can 3D-print to make creating awesome cosplays much faster and more accessible to those who -- like me! -- have vivid imaginations but lack the physical crafting skills to bring what I imagine to life.

I had a lot of fun taking a crack at trying to replicate one of his 3D items in HeroMachine 3:

Helmet in HM3 next to an actual 3D printed helmet

I think I got pretty close!

If you've ever wanted to get into cosplay but were intimidated by all the crafting involved, and you have a 3D printer, check out his stuff! He's a really cool guy and his files are fantastic.

HeroMachine 2 Download Problems

I've had some reports of folks who have downloaded HeroMachine 2 not getting the full list of component sets beyond Standard.

I just spent the last hour or so trying out various things and I was able to replicate the issue on my Mac. It looks like the core problem is that browsers now have to be explicitly told that it's ok to trust Flash content that loads from your local hard drive. Otherwise it won't allow the browser to read the components.txt file that has the list of all the other, non-Standard components in it.

It's a bit of a hassle to fix, but I was able to get it working. Here's how.

First, I wasn't able to get Chrome to work properly, which is a bummer because that's my main browser of choice. However, I was ultimately able to get both Firefox and Safari to load all the sets normally.

For both Safari and Firefox, the first step is to get your browser to trust the local folder where you've stored heromachine.html and heromachine.swf. Directions for doing that are at this link but I'll paste them here for convenience:

For Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, Opera and Safari:

On the affected system, go to the Flash Player Settings Manager:

  • Mac: System Preferences > Flash Player
  •  Windows: Control Panel > Flash Player
  • Select the Advanced tab
  • In the Developer Tools section, click the Trusted Location Settings button
  • Click the "Add..." button and add relevant files and folders to the list

You can either manually navigate to the folder and control-click the htm, swf, and txt files, or you can copy the URL your local HeroMachine is in from your browser window. Like in my case, it was file:///Users/jhebert/Downloads/hmach25/. Paste that into the text box that appears when you click the "Add..." button in the instructions above.

Once that's done, in theory you should be able to close and reopen your browser and the list should be complete. In my case, I wasn't able to see any Flash content because I hadn't yet installed the Flash Player plugin for either Safari or Firefox, but once I went to and installed it, I was up and working in Safari.

Firefox, however, threw one more hurdle at me. By default it now requires all Flash content to load from a site that starts with http: or https:, which means that local content (which loads from file://) won't work. To fix that, I found this article -- -- which said to do this:

There is a new security setting in Firefox 55 that supersedes everything else. Only SWF files retrieved on http:// or https:// addresses are played (not file://, ftp://, etc.). If you want to revert to the previous behavior:

(1) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button promising to be careful.

(2) In the search box above the list, type or paste plug*ht and pause while the list is filtered

(3) Double-click the plugins.http_https_only preference to switch the value from true to false 

Once I did that it all worked like it is supposed to.

I know this is all a big hassle and I wish there were some other way around it. But browsers have been getting more and more aggressive with how they handle Flash content, so there are ever more hoops to jump through. Hopefully this helps someone down the line, though.

Basketball Mascots as Super-Heroes

Hi all, Jeff here! It's been a while since I posted anything, and yet here I come with a sports post of all things. Without further ado, here goes!

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Why is Lex Luthor Superman’s Antithesis?

While discussing the "Wonder Woman" movie this weekend (it's awesome, go see it if you haven't already!), I started thinking about how DC organizes its heroes and villains into duos of opposites.

So Batman, the champion of justice, is opposed by The Joker, the champion of random meaninglessness. There can be no justice in a world where fate is usurped by chaos.

Wonder Woman, the champion of peace and all that is noble in humanity, is opposed by Ares, the god of war who believes all humans are evil and worthless.

Which brings me to Superman, and for the life of me I can't quite put my finger on why Lex Luthor is his opposite.

So I'm asking you -- what's your best explanation for why Lex is Superman's antithesis?

The King’s Throne

What you see here is the place where virtually the entire Marvel Universe sprang forth from the brush and mind of Jack "King" Kirby:

I love this photo, and I want to tell you why.

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Meta: Site issues

Hey all, just a quick note to say I've been having some issues with the server all morning, having to reboot it every so often. It looks like maybe there was a malicious file added to an old directory; I've removed it with a security plugin and hopefully set things so it doesn't happen again but I'm keeping an eye on it.

Apologies for any downtime we've had and thanks as always for being a part of the community!

Like finals week, it’s yet more testing

In the course of this testing I'm realizing how long it's been since I drew anything. Good lord.


Just testing stuff

This is a test! This is only a test! In the event of an actual post, you would see something like content, or an image. Like this: