Thursday, February 19, 2015

My time as a comic book superhero

For at least a little while there, I lived in a comic book.

My friend Dorkland runs a blog centered around tabletop role play gaming (RPG). Yes, things like Dungeons & Dragons. To the uninitiated, that's the only game of the sort. While it is indeed the biggest and perhaps the most popular, it's far from the only one. There are a multitude of games in a multitude of genres, including science fiction and superheroes.

My most treasured times playing such games fall in that latter category in undergrad. Recently, Dorkland uploaded a blog post on those days as he was involved in them both as player and referee. His post has prompted me to reflect on that effulgent era.

I took to the game quickly, given that the majority of my formative years were spent reading both Marvel and DC Comics, not to mention that DC's "Death in the Family" publicity stunt managed to suck me back into the art form just as I started college. Combine that with the pre-requisite early geek years of playing D&D and I already had at least my feet wet in the RPG pool. So when my good friends asked me to play, I embraced it without looking back.

We were a team of superheroes set in the universe of Marvel Comics. We called ourselves "Murphy's Law" after the axiom of "Whatever can go wrong, will." Seemed to fit us in many ways. In our eyes we were on par with the mighty Avengers. In reality, we were more like the Giffen/DeMatteis run on Justice League America.

Here is the roster as I remember it:

Real American: He was the requisite "strong guy." Super-strength and utter invulnerability. He was ultra-conservative, based I am told in part on the character of Golden Boy from the Wildcards series of novels. Funny thing about that? Armando played the character and he is far from a conservative. For him, it was just fun to play someone the total opposite of his real life personality.

Vixen: She was a cyborg from the future. I think. She didn't show up in too many of the comic book issues (meaning game sessions) that I appeared in, so I didn't really get to know the character that well. She was played by Dorkland (I think) and she married Real American.

Ace: She was a young, mutant girl. Her only real power was the ability to fly. Dorkland played her as well.

Anarchy: Played by Ahab Pope, this guy was a punk in a bowler hat. He could also summon and project illusions from his own mind that were worse than any acid trip could manage.

Cicero: He was a former mercenary turned cyborg who looked and talked exactly like the actor Michael Ironsides. Bernard played him and gave the character a great deal of depth and history, not to mention an extensive rogue's we will soon see.

Chelnov: This guy was the brainchild of Dr. Rich. Chelnov was a Russian exposed to extreme radiation (perhaps at Chernobyl, I don't remember.) This gave him the ability to run at extreme speeds. He could also throw radioactive boomerangs. Personality-wise, Chelnov was probably the closest to his real-life counterpart of all of us. There was also a pinch of Guy Gardener tossed in there, too.
If I'm incorrect on any of this, I will no doubt get a pedantic response.

Grey Mist: That was me. It was a character I inherited from another player who had transferred off campus but I'd to think I made Grey Mist my own. The character was an outgrowth of the Suicide Squad comic book, a thief and assassin from the Kali Cult that Ravan belonged to in that series. I took him more in the direction of a Storm Shadow homage ninja.

Along with that I added a secret identity, that of a global financier modeled somewhat on Richard Gere circa Pretty Woman. That last bit may be due to the fact we played the game in Armando's dorm room most of the time. He had a poster for said movie up on his wall.

As you might expect, our team of superheroes had many landscape-leveling fights with bad guys. These included a terrorist group known as Jihad (another spinoff from Suicide Squad) and our arch-nemesis, an omni-powerful plant being known as The Kale Man. Yeah he doesn't sound very threatening, but when Bernard rolled him up as one of Cicero's rogues gallery, the dice had other ideas. It sucked.

So did the ninja eggplant. But I digress...

Yes, there were many battles. But amid the mound of empty Coke cans and the swearing at my bad dice rolls, a few pretty incredible things happened.

We created characters with fully-formed personalities and breathed real life into them. They became extensions of ourselves, even if they were our diametric opposites as in the case of Real American. We became attached to them. I remember Armando being incensed when Bernard allowed his character Cicero to die so that he might play a new (and far less appeal IMHO) character. We felt as if we'd lost a friend.

Our adventures were legendary, even if only in our own minds. We still refer to happenings in those games as if they were real events we were a part of. In an existential sense, they were real.

More than anything, lifelong friendships were formed. Not bad for a game with dice.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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