Silver Age, and Playing It Straight: Absolute Power in Comics and Games

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Silver Age, and Playing It Straight: Absolute Power in Comics and Games

Post by Superfanboy »

When superheroes were being created the writers threw out techno babble and concepts, and made them stick. The way to make this more acceptable to modern audiences has been to update the techno babble: Superman was more evolved, then on a huge planet, then powered by the yellow sun, then he got tactile telekinesis; powers described as Atomic are now quantum - but the science hasn't gotten any better, they've just updated the buzz words.

What I like to do with many settings is what you see in some Alan Moore, Grant Morrison or Kingdom Come: instead of trying to rewrite the hastily constructed techno babble and plot elements it takes them absolutely seriously, it takes the Comic universe at face value on its own terms, so instead of trying to create some BS explanations for Superman's power that sounds like real science (but isn't) we just accept that Ultra-Solar Rays are real and our version of light is not behind Superman's powers, and we try to follow the reasoning of it.

Some of the comics that relaunched Jack Kirby characters were similar. This is basically a form of deconstruction - taking what was intended as mythological symbols and macguffin word salad for children's stories full of just so coincidences of powers, etc. - and treat it almost like a religious scripture, which cannot be wrong and reality must be made to fit it. This is somewhat different from how it was actually done in the Silver Age, where little thought was often given and ret cons were not a problem for many editors. They didn't really take this stuff seriously, it was contrived for literary effect. And it's different from how comics do it today, which is to say they ape pop science fantasy and try to fit old pop scifantasy into the mould.

I don't know if I'm explaining this well, which is why I am asking if there's a term for this sort of thing. I have an entire headcanon of Superman built from bits of the entire catalogue, where I basically try to make as rational a version as I can of the Silver Age. Books like Supreme (Moore version) and some DC throwback issuesl, as well as reading most of the Superman Silver Age appearances - have really contributed to an entire alternate Canon of DC I have, and I've done the same with Thor and other characters. Frankly, my version is much better than theirs.

I would like to play a game set in the Silver Age but played completely straight, as though these threats to the universe are real and, yes, Superman has infinite willpower (Protected Immunity Will Effects?) I'm not sure how to handle that much power, and randomness, and take it seriously without losing coherence but I'd love to try.

Although this applies just a much to Batman or many other genres of older fiction, I've always liked the high quality, high powered characters the most. I've read most appearances of Superman, Dr. Doom, Apocalypse, Thanos, Solar: Man of the Atom, lots of Superman expy characters like Mr. Majestic and Miracle Man, and a lot of Captain Shazam, Silver Surfer, Solar (Valiant), Captain Atom. These sorts of characters got so crazy in the Silver Age that even I am tempted to creatively interpret certain issues to avoid making it too ridiculous. I think more mechanical constraint is needed in a game, compared to a story, and the GM has to come up with a lot more creative ways to mess with the player characters. Players are much smarter about using all those Super abilities than comic book characters. On the idea of taking comics literally, this justifies contrivance of a reason why Superman occasionally doesn't notice things, in order to explain why that happens.

So you have to say okay, he's got the intelligence of 4 Lex Luthers (pace the Mayfair game at least) and he can see particles in other galaxies, so rather than making it about limited ranks it's more about focus: he's effectively using remote viewing all the time, and there is a potentially unlimited amount of stuff to watch. Then you can say maybe circumstances affected it: people might be able to move in ways less likely to attract his conscious attention, or in ways that won't stick out in his perfect memory later. The task is very similar with our pal Hal Jordan, or Thor, or plenty of villains...

My favorite explanation for Superman's strength is that he's just infinitely strong because of his super body and the solar energy (which activates but doesn't power him), and this has to do with a whole extracted mythos of Krypton, exotic matter and dead gods. I throw Wold Newton into it as well - Superman is kin to Conan, which is why they look like they might be related.

In an original setting or universe you're not going to be bothered to comb through back issues for Complications and Flaws, but I really do enjoy Silver Age themed stuff, like ASTRO City or Kingdom Come, and I'd like to invoke that myself. It's so impossible to make Supers fit real science that I prefer to just create alternate science. If I am going to use real science I'd prefer to just use real science and not terms of art
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