The History of Venture Comics!

Over on another forum, I started work on the publication history of a rival comics company. I hadn’t originally put it here, because I was a bit concerned about ongoing forum concerns about new material, but I think the new stuff is limited enough that it should be okay. (Mods, let me know if this is not the case.)

I’ll be updating twice daily until I catch up to the other forum, after which I’ll start updating five times a week alongside it.

Here is how the exercise plays out:

This game is going to be divided into two Major Phases, each of which is subdivided into Ages. The first phase is the Classic Phase, subdivided into the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Bronze Age. The second phase is the Modern Phase, subdivided into the Iron Age and the Diamond Age.

Each phase involves 40 heroes and 36 villains. Unlike previous runs, I’m not fully blocking myself out, because companies duplicate common archetypes. Instead, the following restrictions are in play:

  • If I hit any given heroic Background, Power Source, Archetype, or villainous Approach, Archetype, Upgrade or Mastery four times in a given phase, it is blocked out completely, and any result that gets it gets the next available one up instead.
  • I can’t have a heroic character duplicate a Background, Power Source, and Archetype combination that already exists in the current phase.
  • I can’t have two heroic characters share the same Background and Power Source, Background and Archetype, or Power Source and Archetype within an Age.
  • If a heroic character shares two of Background, Power Source, and Archetype with a character from a previous age, they must either be an updated version or a reboot of the previous age’s character. (I am allowed to update or reboot with fewer, but not required.)

Dice totals and Principles may not be quite how you expect them; I’m using a revised character creation process for heroes that I play with at my own tables. Since it’s a rival company, I figure they get rival character generation! :wink:

The ages of Venture Comics are as follows:

  • The Golden Age (1938 - 1957): Following the development of ten superheroes and nine of their villains.
  • The Silver Age (1957 - 1971): Following the development or reboots of twenty superheroes and eighteen of their villains.
  • The Bronze Age (1971 - 1986): Following the development of ten superheroes added to their Silver Age counterparts, and nine new villains.
  • The Iron Age (1986 - 2004): Following a company-wide relaunch of twenty superheroes and eighteen villains.
  • The Plutonium Age (2004-2014): A rather disastrous period of rapid reboots, relaunches, new #1 issues and bad decisions that will not be developed in full.
  • The Diamond Age (2014-2022): The slowly growing reboot of the line following a series of disasters between 2004 and 2014 that saw the company nearly fail entirely, which follows a new or revamped set of twenty superheroes and eighteen villains.

In each age, I’ll start with a quick post giving an overview of the situation for Venture Comics. Then I’ll create the heroes, developing them into teams and solo titles, create a set of villains for them, and then write out the comics that they appear in. Venture Comics is a small publisher, which usually only had a single-digit number of comics titles at a time, possibly growing in the Bronze Age before struggling in the 80s. I think this’ll be a fun way to build a setting that I can do other things in later. It is also going to be massive. I’ve already finished the Golden Age, so you’ll be getting that at high speed, and I’m early in the Silver Age as we type.

Venture Comics: The Golden Age

Founded in 1938, Venture Comics initially sought to bring the popular world of pulp magazines to comics. They opened with four titles. Campfire Terrors was a horror comic aimed at preteens and young teens, telling scary stories that weren’t too gruesome. Celestial Travels was a pulpy science fiction anthology in the style of Buck Rogers, with a major character lead and a variety of backup adventures. Cryptic Trails was a classic adventure pulp, frequently about hidden corners of the world and magical or impossible realms hidden just outside the world. And Company Town was a noir anthology about the city of Ferristown, a thinly-veiled Detroit analogue ruled over by a ruthless industrialist with mob ties fairly clearly modelled as a mixture of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

The twin pressures of the rise of superheroes and the breaking out of war created pressures on the company, and a fifth title, Covert Tactics, was released in February 1940, alongside the first superhero of the Venture Comics line…

to be revealed later today, when I have time to format it!

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For folks who haven’t seen this already, I heartily recommend following the thread. There’s some great content a-coming. Really interesting experiment in making one’s own fictional publishing company and navigating it through the various historical comic ages, and his characters are top notch.

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The Penitent

Real Name: Unknown, First Appearance: Campfire Terrors #12, February 1940
Background: Academic, Power Source: Mystical, Archetype: Close Quarters Combatant
Personality: Stalwart, Principles: Mastery, Veteran

Status Dice: Green d8, Yellow d8, Red d10. Health: 34 [Green 32-25, Yellow 24-12, Red 11-1]
Qualities: Self-Discipline d12, Close Combat d10, Magical Lore d8, Imposing d8, Mysterious Stranger d8
Powers: Awareness d10, Relics (Gadgets) d8, Presence d6, Infernal d6

Green Abilities:

  • The Old One-Two [A]: Attack one target using Close Combat. Attack a second target with your Min die.
  • Spellcaster [A]: Take any two basic actions using Magical Lore, each using your Min die.
  • Terrifying Presence [A]: Attack a minion using Imposing. Whatever that minion rolls as defense Attacks another target of your choice.
  • Principle of Mastery [A]: Overcome in a situation in which you use your powers in a new way and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.
  • Principle of the Veteran [A]: Overcome a tactical challenge using knowledge of a previous conflict and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • The Darkness Within [A]: Attack using Awareness. Ignore all penalties on this Attack, ignore any Defend actions, and it cannot be affected by reactions.
  • Dark Evocations [A]: Boost or Hinder using Infernal, and apply that mod to multiple nearby targets.
  • Runic Lore [A]: Overcome an environmental challenge using Awareness. Use your Max die. Either remove any penalty in the scene or Boost equal to your Mid die.

Red Abilities

  • Dangerous Artifacts [A]: Attack multiple targets using Relics, using your Max+Min dice. If you roll doubles, take a minor twist or damage equal to your Mid die.
  • Mystical Awareness (I): When taking any action using Magical Lore, you may reroll your Min die before determining effects.

Out

  • Defend an ally by rolling your single Awareness die.

Background

The Penitent was introduced as a mysterious masked figure in a tattered suit who intervened in a demon summoning to save its innocent victims, condemning the cultists themselves to the flames. His name was not revealed in the Golden Age, but his backstory was laid out as having been an academic who delved deep into forbidden texts in search of wisdom, only to come to the attention of a terrible force that offered him all the knowledge he craved in exchange for his soul. Regretting his decision, he sought to stop other demonic forces from intruding into the world.

The Penitent quickly became a popular character in the pages of Campfire Terrors, appearing as one of the main stories in roughly half of its issues during the Golden Age. He gradually picked up a supporting cast that included a plucky reporter threatened by the dark forces she frequently investigated and a newsboy who was targeted as a human sacrifice in an early story, then stuck around to help the Penitent find cases, but he mostly wandered from location to location fighting largely nameless cultists and demons or saving an innocent from using a magical relic they didn’t understand, occasionally showing up as a surprise in a story that was otherwise heading towards a bad end to save the day.

Behind the Scenes

I considered building into a Gadgeteer instead of a Close Quarters Combatant, and then I realized that this is the Golden Age and we want a character to be good at absolutely everything, so instead of a relic-based Doctor Strange we got some kind of magic brawler who I kind of love.

The Penitent is halfway between a superhero and a classic pulp hero, which seems fitting for the first big hero of the line. I was also kind of shocked that there is no major superhero by that name!

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I have a player with this ability that was pleasantly surprised to discover that you don’t actually have to have an environmental challenge in play to use it for the riders. There was a really problematic penalty in effect that no one had a good way to clear before it ruined a key hero turn, and then she looked at her character sheet again and twigged to the fact that the rider amounts to an automatic penalty removal where your dice don’t even matter. It’s no Purification but it sure can be a handy trick to have in your pocket even when there there aren’t e-challenges to deal with.

Always happy to see a player discover a new way to use an ability they’ve been treating as kind of situational.

1 Like

The Randomizers:
Background 7, 5, 9 [Options: Academic, Law Enforcement, Tragic, Adventurer, Interstellar, Created]
Power Source 2, 7, 5 [Options: Training, Mystical, Relic, Radiation, Artificial Being]
Archetype 4, 4, 5 [Options: Marksman, Blaster, Flyer, Elemental Manipulator, Minion-Maker]
Personality 9, 2, 10 [Options: Natural Leader, Inquisitive, Alluring, Stoic, Nurturing Jaded]

Skybreaker

Real Name: Lewis Lamont, First Appearance: Cryptic Trails #16, June 1940
Background: Adventurer, Power Source: Relic, Archetype: Marksman
Personality: Natural Leader, Principles: Justice, Veteran

Status Dice: Green d6, Yellow d8, Red d12, Health: 30 [Green 30-23, Yellow 22-12, Red 11-1]
Qualities: Banter d10, Ranged Combat d10, Alertness d8, Fitness d6, Wilderness Explorer d8
Powers: The Spear of Assal d10, Wind d8, Intuition d8, Teleportation d8, Presence d6

Green Abilities:

  • Call The Storm [A]: Boost yourself using Wind. That bonus is persistent and exclusive.
  • Strike True [A]: Attack using the Spear of Assal. Ignore all penalties on this Attack, ignore any Defend actions, and it cannot be affected by Reactions.
  • Feigned Ease [A]: Attack using Banter. Defend using your Min die.
  • Principle of Justice [A]: Overcome to stop an act of injustice in progress and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.
  • Principle of the Veteran [A]: Overcome a tactical challenge using knowledge of a previous conflict and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • Shining Spear [A]: Attack using Ranged Combat. Boost another hero using your Max die.
  • Man of the Woods [A]: Attack or Overcome using Alertness on an environmental target, using your Max+min dice. If you roll doubles, take a minor twist.
  • Gale Step [A]: Boost yourself using Teleportation. Use your Max die. Hinder a nearby opponent with your Min die.
  • Shield of Winds [R]: When another hero in the Yellow or Red zone would take damage, you may Defend them by rolling your single Wind die.

Red Abilities

  • The Final Cast [A]: Attack using the Spear of Assal and at least one bonus. Use your Max+Mid+Min dice. Destroy all of your bonuses, adding each of them to this Attack first, even if they are exclusive.
  • Windstorm [A]: Attack up to three targets, one of which must be you, using Wind. Assign your Min, Mid, and Max dice as you choose among those targets.

Out

  • Boost an ally by rolling your single Banter die.

With the success of the Penitent, the makers of Venture Comics turned their attention to Cryptic Trails , which was struggling to retain readers as the war ramped up. As it happened, one of the company’s lead writers was an Irish man who drew on his home’s folklore to create Skybreaker. Lewis Lamont was a rugged explorer who discovered a long-forgotten island in the Atlantic, on which was the glowing spear of the Celtic god Lugh. Wielding the spear gave Lewis the power to command the winds, which combined with unerring aim let him face off against the demonic Fomorians who were infiltrating the world to spread hatred and cruelty.

Penitent had been a success, but Skybreaker was a breakout hit - a quippy stone-jawed hero who combined wind magic with marksman tricks to always have a solution to every problem. Within a year, every issue of Cryptic Trails included him in either the lead or as a backup story, travelling around Europe and Africa and fighting against a mixture of Nazi occultists, Italian soldiers, and agents of the dreaded Fomorians and their mysterious leader.

Behind the Scenes

Marvel has Norse gods, DC uses the Greek, and Sentinel Comics prefers Egyptians, so I thought Venture would take a swing at poorly understood Celtic mythology! Relic and marksman made for a good spear-thrower, which also allows for neat wind powers.

Skybreaker as a hero is going to have more supervillain enemies than Penitent, because he’s got a built-in mythology, but the setup still allows for him to fight generic Nazis and random monsters a lot of the time, with occasional appearances by bigger bads.

One thing I’m noticing already is a pull to use very similar Principles; two out of two have the Principle of the Veteran as their Responsibility. Golden Age heroes are a bit… flat isn’t the right word, but they tend to lack the social connections that most Responsibility Principles embody. It feels like it’ll mostly be variations on Detective or Veteran for Responsibility, and variations on Liberty or Justice for Ideals. I’ll keep an eye on that moving forward to try to keep them from being too same-y.

2 Likes

True, but some of them are fanatical enough about secret identities to make Mask reasonable - it never gets to to the outright neurotic level we see in Silver Age Clark’s famed superdickery, but some characters (including indies) made it a big deal. Some gangbuster types could run Underworld instead of Detective. And there were some Sidekicks, some prototypical and often unpowered and uncostumed, others clear knockoffs of Robin.

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The Randomizers:
Background 1, 7, 1 [Options: Blank Slate, Criminal, Law Enforcement, Struggling, Dynasty]
Power Source 10, 2, 6 [Options: Training, Nature, Powered Suit, Tech Upgrades, Artificial Being, Cosmos]
Archetype 4, 6, 8 [Options: Marksman, Close Quarters, Flyer, Robot/Cyborg, Psychic, Minion Maker]
Personality 4, 3, 3 [Options: Impulsive, Mischievous, Distant, Stalwart, Analytical]

Flatfoot

Real Name: Johnny Law, First Appearance: Company Town #19, November 1940
Background: Law Enforcement, Power Source: Artificial Being, Archetype: Robot/Cyborg
Personality: Analytical, Principles: The Law (Honor), Indestructible

Status Dice: Green d10, Yellow d8, Red d8. Health: 30 [Green 30-23, Yellow 22-12, Red 11-1]
Qualities: Close Combat d10, Investigation d10, Criminal Underworld d10, Technology d8, The Artificial Man d8
Powers: Strength d10, Gadgets d10, Lightning Calculator d8, Presence d8, Vitality d6

Green Abilities:

  • Created Form (I): Reduce physical damage to yourself by 1 while you are in the Green zone, 2 while in the Yellow zone, and 3 while in the Red zone.
  • Vacuum Tubes [A]: Boost yourself using Lightning Calculator. That bonus is persistent and exclusive.
  • Hold The Line [A]: Boost yourself using Strength, and Defend with your Min die.
  • Principle of The Law [A]: Overcome a situation to uphold the law and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.
  • Principle of the Indestructible [A]: Overcome in a situation where you charge headlong into danger and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • Power Kick [A]: Attack using Strength with a bonus equal to the number of bonuses you currently have.
  • One-Robot Army [A]: Attack using Lightning Calculator against multiple targets, using your Min die against each.
  • Perfect Calculations [R]: After rolling during your turn, you may take 1 irreducible damage to reroll your entire die pool.

Red Abilities

  • Superhuman Surge [A]: Overcome using Strength in a situation that requires you to be more than humanly capable, like an extreme feat of strength or speed. Use your Max+Min dice. Boost all nearby allies with your Mid die.
  • Reliable Calculations (I): When taking any action using Lightning Calculator, you may reroll your Min die before determining effects.

Out

  • Remove a bonus or penalty of your choice.

By 1940, superheroes were in full swing, and every publishing company wanted in. Venture Comics had made a few attempts to introduce new heroes in Campfire Terrors and Cryptic Trails , without much success; Skybreaker and the Penitent were the only ones with a following. Venture Comics’ editor-in-chief decided to branch out, creating a new hero to stand against the forces of crime in the pages of Company Town . As it happened, one of Venture Comics’ new writers had done a few pulp magazine stories about robots, and pitched the idea of a mechanical police officer - the Incorruptible Flatfoot!

The creation of Flatfoot sparked a huge fight in Venture Comics. The main editor for Company Town hated the idea. He had reluctantly agreed to put a hero into the stories, but had envisioned a grim hero in the style of the Shadow or the Spider, not some flamboyant metal man. He argued that it would completely undermine the style of Company Town to have something like that tromping around. In the end, however, he was overruled, and Flatfoot appeared in October of 1940.

Flatfoot was an android crime-fighter created by a well-meaning scientist to be the first in a new line of police officers immune to corruption or leverage by the criminal element. Seeing the dangerous potential of the work, the shadowy master of Ferristown had the scientist killed, but was unable to stop Flatfoot from arresting the assassin. Now, the robot serves on the Ferristown Police Force, standing firm against the crime and corruption of the city due to his encyclopedic understanding of law and order - and his array of gadgets and attachments created by his technician, a young man who served as the student of Flatfoot’s creator.

The metal detective was initially a modest success, but his audience grew over the course of 1941, doing battle with mobsters, goons, corrupt politicians and occasionally mad scientists who would try to build robots of their own. In 1942, Nazi spies were added to his roster of villains, and while Company Town retained some stories of pure crime or hardboiled detecting, the overall tone of the book lightened due to Flatfoot’s presence.

Behind the Scenes

I was planning for my third hero to be a Cryptic Trails character, but Artificial Being jumped out at me, and after a few minutes of research into the state of science fiction robotics in 1940, I decided that Venture Comics can definitely get away with the setting’s first robot superhero. Heck, maybe it’s the presence of Flatfoot that delayed Sentinel Comics getting one for so long!

I know who I want next, but not what, so we’ll see what the dice give me as we head into 1941…

3 Likes

New characters taking over a book and radically altering its tone and even title as time passes is such a Golden Age thing. Just ask the Shield how he feels about that Archie Andrews punk and his crew of delinquents. :slight_smile:

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I’m quite enjoying these :slight_smile:

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The Randomizers:
Background 8, 2, 1 [Options: Blank Slate, Criminal, Performer, Struggling, Tragic, Unremarkable]
Power Source 4, 8, 5 [Options: Experimentation, Mystical, Powered Suit, Radiation, Artificial Being, Cursed]
Archetype 8, 3, 2 [Options: Shadow, Powerhouse, Blaster, Flyer, Robot/Cyborg, Sorcerer]
Personality 6, 9, 7 [Options: Distant, Stalwart, Inquisitive, Analytical, Jovial, Cheerful]

Madame Liberty

Real Name: Marianne Leblanc, First Appearance: Covert Tactics #18, July 1941
Background: Criminal, Power Source: Experimentation, Archetype: Shadow
Personality: Inquisitive, Principles: Mask, Tactician

Status Dice: Green d6, Yellow d8, Red d10. Health: 30 [Green 30-23, Yellow 22-12, Red 11-1]
Qualities: Persuasion d10, Finesse d10, Stealth d8, Close Combat d8, Slippery Spy d8
Powers: Shapeshifting d8, Intuition d8, Agility d8, Presence d8, Deduction d6

Green Abilities:

  • Slippery Character (I): At the start of your turn, remove a penalty on yourself.
  • Saboteur [A]: Attack using Shapeshifting. Remove one physical bonus or penalty, Hinder a target using your Min die, or maneuver to a new location in your environment.
  • Untouchable [R]: When you would be dealt damage, roll a d4 while in the Green zone, d6 while in the Yellow, or d8 while in Red. Reduce the damage you take by the value rolled. Attack another target with that roll.
  • Principle of the Mask [A]: Overcome using knowledge from your civilian life and use your Max die. You and each of your allies gain a hero point.
  • Principle of the Tactician [A]: Overcome when you can flashback to how you prepared for this exact situation. Use your Max die. You and each of your allies gain a hero point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • False Skin [A]: Boost yourself using Shapeshifting. Use your Max die. The bonus is persistent and exclusive.
  • Laying Groundwork [A]: Attack or Overcome using Finesse. Boost yourself using your Min die.
  • Distraction [R]: When a nearby hero in the Yellow or Red zone would take damage, Defend against that damage by rolling your single Presence die, then redirect any remaining damage to a nearby minion of your choice.

Red Abilities

  • Manipulated Backup [A]: Use Shapeshifting to create a number of d6 minions equal to your Mid die. Choose the one same basic action they each perform. They all act at the start of your turn.
  • One Last Trick [A]: Overcome using Finesse. Use your Mix+Min dice. Hinder all nearby opponents with your Mid die.

Out

  • Choose an ally. Until your next turn, that ally may reroll one of their dice by using a Reaction.

On Bastille Day (July 14th), 1941, Venture Comics took a big swing.

Marianne Leblanc was a petty con artist and pickpocket in occupied France. When she was caught stealing from a Nazi officer, she was arrested and secretly sent to be experimented on by Nazi mad scientists trying to create ‘perfected’ humans. Their experiments were both a massive failure and a huge success; instead of turning Marianne into their vision of a perfect woman, they gave her the ability to reshape her body, becoming anyone she chose. Using her newfound powers to escape, Marianne could have escaped anywhere and lived a life of luxury. Instead, she stayed in France, taking up the cause of resistance as Madame Liberty! Joined by French resistance fighters, she did battle with Nazis, helped civilians escape to safe nations, and fought with both guile and force to slow the Nazi powers and bring freedom to her homeland, while maintaining a cover identity that gathered information from occupying forces.

Madame Liberty was a risky move. A major superhero who wasn’t American, fighting an enemy that the United States technically was not at war with, debuting in the pages of a war comic as a guerrilla and spy, the editors of Venture Comics doubled down by giving her a criminal backstory rather than making her a stalwart hero. Their goal was to show that anyone, no matter their origin, could stand against the rising tide of fascism. This wasn’t entirely altruistic; the editors agreed that they weren’t going to create a wartime hero who could outdo the recently-introduced Legacy, and decided that their only hope was to go an entirely different route.

The risk paid off in a surge of sales for the struggling title. A part of that may have been the comic’s willingness to trend a bit salacious, with both Madame Liberty and her love interest, American spy Rick Wilson, frequently tied up and placed in various Nazi death-traps only to escape through their cunning and determination, or it might simply have been because people liked seeing someone get one over the Nazis through cunning, not just through punching. Soon, Madame Liberty had her own comic, with her appearances in Covert Tactics continuing in back stories to promote the comic’s primary war stories.

Behind the Scenes

I had been planning on having this hero be a French resistance fighter, but when I got the Criminal Background the rest of it basically exploded out fully formed. I particularly like her Red ability to summon a bunch of minions by having previously tricked some group of people into showing up later using her shapeshifting powers; I expect that happened in a number of issues. I toyed with calling her Madame Liberté and going all-in, but this is the 1940s. Even having her not be American is a bit of a stretch, albeit one I am comfortable with.

2 Likes

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Saboteur an amazing Green ability. Untouchable is top tier too, especially if you have good bonuses backing it up.

1 Like

Yeah, Shadow is a potent Archetype.

The Randomizers:
Background 7, 5, 9 [Options: Academic, Law Enforcement, Tragic, Adventurer, Interstellar, Created]
Power Source 6, 7, 6 [Options: Nature, Relic, Artificial Being, Cursed, Cosmos]
Archetype 7, 6, 4 [Options: Marksman, Close Quarters, Armored, Robot/Cyborg, Sorcerer, Transporter]
Personality 8, 3, 10 [Options: Impulsive, Fast Talking, Alluring, Stoic, Analytical, Apathetic]

The Steward

Real Name: Mali Xur (alias Max West), First Appearance: Cryptic Trails #31, Oct. 1941
Background: Interstellar, Power Source: Cursed, Archetype: Armored
Personality: Stoic, Principles: Future, Gearhead

Status Dice: Green d6, Yellow d8, Red d12. Health: 36 [Green 36-28, Yellow 27-14, Red 13-1]
Qualities: Science d12, Close Combat d6, Alertness d6, Undercover Alien d8
Powers: Strength d12, Cosmic d10, Vitality d8, Deduction d6, Size-Changing d6

Green Abilities:

  • Armored (I): Reduce any physical or energy damage you take by 1 while you are in the Green zone, 2 while in the Yellow zone, and 3 while in the Red zone.
  • Corrosive Power (I): Whenever you roll a die’s maximum value, treat that value as 1 higher. Whenever you roll a 1 on a die, treat that die as if it had rolled a 0.
  • Heave-Ho [A]: Attack using Strength. Attack a second target with your Min die.
  • Shield The Weak [A]: Attack using Strength. Defend another target with your Min die.
  • Cosmic Spike [A]: Attack using Cosmic. Ignore all penalties on this Attack, ignore any Defend actions, and it cannot be affected by Reactions.
  • Principle of the Future [A]: Overcome using your knowledge of possible futures and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.
  • Principle of the Gearhead [A]: Overcome a technological challenge and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • Cosmic Burst [A]: Boost all nearby allies using Cosmic. Use your Max+Mid dice. Hinder yourself with your Min die.
  • Cosmic Recovery [A]: Boost yourself using Vitality. Then, either remove a penalty on yourself or Recover using your Min die.

Red Abilities

  • One on One [R]: When you are Attacked and dealt damage, you may Attack the source of that damage by rolling your single Strength die, plus the amount of damage you take.
  • Scientific Solutions [A]: Overcome using Science. Use your Max+Min dice.

Out

  • Defend an ally by rolling your single Science die.

Over the course of 1941, the editors of Venture Comics attempted to introduce several new superheroes to the pages of Campfire Terrors or Cryptic Trails . None succeeded until a young writer pitched a story for Celestial Travels that caught the eye of Cryptic Trails’ lead editor. With a few alterations, the story was made appropriate for an Earth-focused adventure, and the Deputy was born!

Mali Xur was a scout for the Xur’Tani, an obliquely-described species of peaceful aliens who looked for societies in danger from other cosmic forces. Upon landing on Earth, Xur found that his ship was corroding from the planet’s atmosphere, and worse, that he had become infected by Earth organisms. The infection pushed his biology into overdrive, giving him incredible strength and command over cosmic forces, at the cost of shortening his lifespan from over a thousand years to under a century. Crushed by his death sentence, Xur nonetheless decided to stay on Earth and look over the fledgeling species, acting as their assistant to protect them from the many pitfalls that he knew could befall a civilization on the cusp of greatness and from the many predators that exist in the stars. Taking on the identity of a mild-mannered scientist, and using his technological knowledge to easily complete tasks while leaving himself time to fight crime, he became The Steward, assistant to all mankind!

The Steward was depicted as an extremely powerful character, mostly held back by his fear of tainting human society with undue interference. He tried to provide subtle guidance and quiet hope, but moved in against corrupt or cruel elements of humanity and alien forces alike, either with his tremendous strength or with his technological genius. And he was very popular with readers. The unusual step of having the Steward’s powers be a source of tragedy, forever cutting him off from his home, wasn’t heavily delved into, but it added a layer of pathos to the character that proved quite popular.

*Behind The Scenes

I have created anti-Superman.

When I got Interstellar as an option, I thought it was time for the Golden Age to get its first alien. When I hit Cursed right afterwards, I thought, “what curses an alien”, and suddenly the rest just developed. Earth is both a power source and a deadly poison to these people, which is why they don’t send more to get powers.

Mechanically, I’ve made a slightly odd choice by giving the Steward cross-matched d12s. He’s got a single extremely strong die in two traits that rarely cross over, each of which commonly matches with d6s (although his Science will sometimes match with his Cosmic d10.) This means that the Steward is never throwing massive pools, but is consistently throwing decent ones, and his massive Red die means that he is very powerful in the clutch, as well as having a truly ludicrous amount of health.

This picture is a bit more Silver Age than I would have preferred due to the level of detail, but Hero Forge only has so many options, and the difference between Golden Age and Silver Age Superman is the level of detail so I’m sticking with it.

2 Likes

The 12/6 and even 12/8 P/Q die combos are going to produce a lot of very weak Min dice, which come up a lot across your action and reaction abilities and are made even worse by Corrosive Power turning your ones to zeros. On the plus side, Cosmic Burst does benefit from the effect nicely. Definitely feels a bit like Golden Age Clark in that respect, where his outcomes and capabilities were often wildly erratic depending on the writer.

1 Like

Oh, thank you for catching that! Yes, I’m copying text and missed the delete.

The Min die issue is a problem in Green that i hadn’t fully considered. I may look over and see if one of those two abilities can be swapped for a Max die effect; I don’t recall if there are any applicable offhand.

1 Like

Edited my earlier reply to reflect your own.

FWIW, I don’t see anything in the way of G that uses Max (it’s one of the few drawbacks to Armored), but the other G die fixer for Cursed lets you reroll any ones that come up on your dice if you want, which would be pretty ideal for manipulating the Min die upward rather than it turning into a zero, while still letting you leave it at a one for Cosmic Burst’s self-hinder. You’d lose a little output off the Max results but you roll the top result on d10 and d12 far less often than the bottom result on a d6. Corrosive Power/Extremes is one of those abilities that I usually see used with either few Min die abilities or ones that tie the Min to self-harm/hinder effects rather than just eking out a bit more when you roll high.

So probably quite a bit better mechanically for this build, but Corrosive Power is a great ability name and the sheer unreliability of your Min dice as-is does feel like wonky Golden Age writing to me. :slight_smile:

Yeah, we’ll just call it wonky writing and move on!

The Randomizers:
Background 3, 2, 9 [Options: Criminal, Performer, Academic, Tragic, Dynasty, Adventurer]
Power Source 8, 10, 3 [Options: Genetic, Powered Suit, Tech Upgrades, Supernatural, Cursed, Unknown]
Archetype 7, 7, 2 [Options: Shadow, Armored, Elemental Manipulator, Minion-Maker, Gadgeteer]
Personality 8, 7, 4 [Options: Mischievous, Stalwart, Fast-Talking, Stoic, Nurturing, Jovial]

Kid Liberty

Real Name: Abe Duncan, First Appearance: Madame Liberty #1, January 1942
Background: Tragic, Power Source: Unknown, Archetype: Gadgeteer
Personality: Fast-Talking, Principles: Liberty, Vengeance (based on Rage)

Status Dice: Green d6, Yellow d8, Red d10. Health: 32 [Green 32-25, Yellow 24-12, Red 11-1]
Qualities: Investigation d10, Banter d8, Technology d8, Conviction d8, Criminal Underworld d6, Just A Kid d8
Powers: Presence d10, Awareness d10, Inventions d10, Animal Control d6, Agility d6

Green Abilities:

  • Distraction [A]: Hinder using Presence. Use your Max die, or use your Mid die and make it persistent and exclusive.
  • Backpack Of Stuff [A]: Boost using Inventions. Use your Max die, or use your Mid die and make it persistent and exclusive.
  • Principle of Liberty [A]: Overcome in a situation in which you are restricted or bound and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.
  • Principle of Vengeance [A]: Overcome in a situation where you can fight Nazis and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • Helping Hand [R]: One nearby ally may reroll their dice pool. You lose Health equal to the Min die of the new roll.
  • Team Mascot [A]: Boost all nearby allies using Presence using your Max+Mid dice. Hinder yourself with your Min die.
  • Jury-Rigged Weapons [A]: Attack using Inventions. Hit one target using your Min die, another target with your Mid die, and Boost using your Max die.

Red Abilities

  • Endangered [A]: Boost another hero using Awareness. If that hero has already acted for the turn, use your Max die, and that hero loses Health equal to your Min die. That hero acts next in the turn order.
  • Last-Minute Assist [A]: Hinder using Banter. Use your Max+Min dice. Boost yourself or an ally with your Mid die.

Out

  • Hinder a minion or lieutenant by rolling your single Investigation die, and increase that penalty by -1.

In January of 1942, Madame Liberty debuted her own comic series, freeing up extra space in Covert Tactics for more traditional war stories and freeing up her to have a larger supporting cast. Along with that supporting cast was a team of American commandos who came to France to help fight the Nazis, bringing support to her existing love interest - and also a new teen sidekick. Abe Duncan was a New York teenager whose family was killed by Nazi submarines crossing the Atlantic. He stowed away on a Navy ship, making his way to France to fight and kill as many Nazis as possible. After saving his life in the pages of Madame Liberty #1, Marianne adopted the boy, sensing that he would keep returning to the battlefield without her support.

Kid Liberty was a popular draw for young boys who imagined themselves as Madame Liberty’s faithful sidekick, saving the day with a well-timed invention or distraction. He was also a source of complications for the up-until-now highly prepared superhero, as his desire for revenge against the Nazis who killed his parents often caused him to jump the gun and rush into situations he wasn’t prepared for. Generally, Venture Comics was able to balance issues in which Kid Liberty saved the day with issues in which he needed to be rescued, keeping him a moderately popular hero instead of a millstone around Madame Liberty’s neck.

Quietly, Kid Liberty also served as an unspoken milestone for the company. The writer for Madame Liberty was himself a New Yorker, and he envisioned Abe as a multiracial child of white and black parents, another way in which he was opposed to the Nazi regime. Given general feelings about inter-racial marriages at the time, he wasn’t able to get this openly stated in the pages of the comics, but occasional hints were dropped, and the artist was encouraged to give Abe a darker skin tone than the French citizens he was surrounded by. Abe’s heritage was an open secret around the Venture Comics offices, one that was always denied in the press.

Behind the Scenes

So here’s something you won’t see much in Sentinel Comics - a teen sidekick!

Technically, Kid Liberty doesn’t have official powers at all, hence his ‘unknown’ Power Source. His inventions are just normal jury-rigged things that work suspiciously well, his personal charisma and awareness are narrative luck, and his animal control is just being good with animals. Between all the Boosts and Hinders, plus the ally-affecting reaction and Red power, this is about as sidekick as you can get in the main core.

Fun fact! Neither Unknown nor Gadgeteer allow for any Athletic powers, so a retcon allows Danny to have a small amount of physical power.

I went with a more focused “Principle of Vengeance”, in part because I didn’t want him to be an ‘angry black guy’ so much as a very focused kid looking for revenge, evoking Robin. I’m hoping to have an alternative style of sidekick down the road, but for now, I quite like Kid Liberty! Who knows how he’ll develop as the ages pass. This is also an attempt to quietly back-date a non-white character who can become a bigger deal down the road, once he’s allowed to actually reveal that.

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An aside to Wertham and other critics of sidekick characters:

Wartime comics were full of both regular sidekicks and “young commando” teams who were out fighting the enemy face to face the way young American readers couldn’t in real life, and their existence was largely unquestioned and uncriticized until well after the War. Their success as self-insert characters is hardly surprising given the number of kids whose fathers had been drafted, as well as those whose mothers were now doing home front work. Very disruptive time for US households. No matter how relatively “easy” the nation had it compared to almost anywhere else - barring, perhaps, South and Central America - the wartime kids were simultaneously pressured to be patriotic and hate the Axis at every turn while being denied much meaningful opportunity to demonstrate either quality. Resource drives and victory gardens don’t feel very heroic to a ten year old when Dad is fighting in Europe and Mom has to leave cold suppers to make her night shift at the factory.

These sort of characters only seem inexplicably ill-advised if you willfully ignore the period they were created in and the audience the were written for. Most of them faded away pretty quickly post-War, often along with the books they originated in. No war since then has spawned the kind of national pressures that led created them, making the WW2 sidekicks and informal child soldiers a unique bit of Golden Age weirdness.

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Keeping the catching-up train rolling, we come to:

The Randomizers:
Background 10, 1, 8 [Options: Blank Slate, Struggling, Tragic, Unremarkable, Dynasty, Exile]
Power Source 8, 4, 6 [Options: Experimentation, Nature, Powered Suit, Tech Upgrades, Artificial Being, Alien]
Archetype 5, 2, 6 [Options: Shadow, Blaster, Close Quarters, Armored, Flyer, Sorcerer]
Personality 6, 3, 5 [Options: Impulsive, Sarcastic, Distant, Fast-Talking, Inquisitive, Stoic]

Greenheart

Real Name: Valeria Tertia, First Appearance: Cryptic Trails #41, August 1942
Background: Exile, Power Source: Nature, Archetype: Armored
Personality: Sarcastic, Principles: Equality, Mastery

Status Dice: Green d8, Yellow d8, Red d10. Health: 32 [Green 32-25, Yellow 24-12, Red 11-1]
Qualities: Imposing d10, Close Combat d10, Fitness d8, Conviction d8, Survivalist d8
Powers: Strength d10, Plants d8, Animal Control d8, Presence d8

Green Abilities:

  • Hardy (I): Reduce any physical or energy damage you take by 1 while you are in the Green zone, 2 while in the Yellow zone, and 3 while in the Red zone.
  • Shrug It Off [A]: Attack using Strength. Recover Health equal to your Min die.
  • Terrifying Roar [A]: Attack using Imposing. Ignore all penalties on this Attack, ignore any Defend actions, and it cannot be affected by Reactions.
  • Verdant Shield [A]: Attack using Plants. Defend another target with your Min die.
  • Grasping Vines [A]: Hinder using Plants. Use your Max die. You may split that penalty across multiple nearby targets.
  • Principle of Equality [A]: Overcome to protect the rights of the underprivileged and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.
  • Principle of Mastery [A]: Overcome in a situation that uses your powers in a new way and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • Brutal Assault [A]: Attack using Strength. Use your Max+Min dice. Then gain a Boost using your Mid die. The target of the Attack gains a bonus of the same size.
  • Predator’s Strength [R]: When you defeat a minion, roll that minion’s die and Boost yourself using that roll to create a bonus for your next action.

Red Abilities

  • Return The Blow [R]: When you are Attacked and dealt damage, you may Attack the source of that damage by rolling your single Strength die, plus the amount of damage you take.
  • One-Woman Army (I): You have no limit on the number of Reactions you can take. Each time you use a Reaction after the first one each time, take 1 irreducible damage or take a minor twist.

Out

  • Hinder an opponent by rolling your single Quality die.

The next hero to gain a following for Venture Comics was unveiled in the pages of Cryptic Trails in 1942. Valeria Tertia was a scion of a Roman expedition to North America that discovered a mystical realm deep within the Appalachian mountains. There, the True Roman Empire endured, hiding from the world and scorning its new scientific and cultural developments. Only first-born sons of the leading families were allowed to take the Trials of Gaia, developing powers over nature which were used to protect and hide the Empire. Valeria was neither first-born, nor a son, nor a member of the leading families, but she secretly undertook the Trials anyway - and not only did she pass, she excelled, gaining mastery over plants and animals and incredible physical strength.

In response to this affront, Valeria was exiled from the Empire, sent out into the world. There, she found a society that was much like the one she had left behind, filled with inequality and injustice. But after she was taken in by a group of young women working at a local munitions factory, she resolved to protect her new home, taking up arms as the Mighty Greenheart!

Greenheart was a bit of a shift for Venture Comics, a particularly sardonic and slightly reluctant hero more likely to frighten criminals into fleeing than deliver a heroic speech. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) she resonated with many young men and women, becoming a staple of the line. She picked up a teen sidekick of her own, as this was becoming more common - a girl named Mandy Murphy who saw through her paper-thin disguise and offered to help her navigate the world, even claiming her as a cousin, and who fought crime as Greensleeves when Valeria couldn’t stop her. Greenheart also saw the first crossover in Venture Comics early in her run, when she and Skybreaker faced off against a Fomori-possessed Roman champion in Cryptic Trails #45 .

Behind the Scenes

Our first doubled trait! I’m trying not to double much in this age, since there are only ten heroes, but while I could have gone with Flyer it didn’t quite match the image that was building up in my mind.

Thematically, I have followed anti-Superman by creating anti-Wonder Woman; an exile from a mysterious Roman realm that is not feminist, coming to the world and discovering that it is also not feminist.

Mechanically, Greenheart is moderately good, but becomes a beast in Red, especially against minion-heavy scenes. Whenever anyone attacks her, she can take a damage for a massive counter-attack, and if they were a minion and the counter-attack beats it she can Boost, and then she can burn all her boosts on an Attack/Recovery combo if she’s still alive. I also like the idea of a defense-ignoring attack that is just “scare someone off”.

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Shrug It Off coupled with good bonus generation (either from yourself or ally support) is such a good Recovery combo. I’m always kind of surprised when it doesn’t show up on Armored archetype heroes, but you do need the bonuses for it to really pay off.

Principle of Mastery with such a diverse array of powers ought to be very easy to apply to challenges unless you’re somewhere with no biome at all - which usually involves hard vacuum.

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The Randomizers:
Background 4, 6, 4 [Options: Military, Upper Class, Struggling, Unremarkable, Interstellar]
Power Source 6, 1, 6 [Options: Accident, Nature, Relic, Artificial Being, Cosmos]
Archetype 8, 4, 4 [Options: Marksman, Flyer, Psychic, Minion-Maker]
Personality 7, 2, 8 [Options: Natural Leader, Stalwart, Fast-Talking, Inquisitive, Alluring, Jovial]

Cormorant

Real Name: Wayne Alton, First Appearance: Cryptic Trails #49, April 1943
Background: Upper Class, Power Source: Relic, Archetype: Flyer
Personality: Jovial, Principles: Sidekick, Compassion

Status Dice: Green d6, Yellow d8, Red d10. Health: 28 [Green 28-22, Yellow 21-11, Red 10-1]
Qualities: Persuasion d10, Close Combat d10, Fitness d8, Creativity d6, Child of Wealth d8
Powers: Radiant d10, Flight d10, Awareness d8, Water d8, Swimming d6

Green Abilities:

  • The Answerer (I): Whenever you Attack an enemy that has inflicted a penalty on you, treat that penalty as if it were a bonus for the purpose of that Attack.
  • Shining Strike [A]: Attack using Radiant. Defend against all Attacks against you using your Min die until your next turn.
  • Storm’s Evasion [R]: When you are Attacked while Flying, you may Defend yourself by rolling your single Flight die.
  • Principle of the Sidekick [A]: Overcome a challenge that has already flummoxed a more senior teammate and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.
  • Principle of Compassion [A]: Overcome to connect with an individual on a personal level and use your Max die. You and your allies gain a Hero Point.

Yellow Abilities:

  • Light of Judgement [A]: Attack using Radiant. Use your Min die. Take damage equal to your Mid die, and one nearby ally Recovers Health equal to your Max die.
  • Tidal Surge [A]: Boost yourself using Water. Use your Max die. Hinder a nearby opponent with your Min die.
  • Gifts of the Sea God [A]: Boost using Radiant. Apply that bonus to all hero Attack and Overcome actions until the start of your next turn.

Red Abilities

  • Moonlit Flight [A]: Boost yourself using Flight. Use your Max+Mid dice. Then, you may end up anywhere else in the scene, avoiding any dangers between your starting and ending locations.
  • Divine Aura (I): If you would take Radiant damage, ignore that damage and Recover that amount instead. Use the value of the damage to Boost yourself.

Out

  • Defend an ally by rolling your single Persuasion die.

By 1943, sidekicks were all the rage at Venture Comics. Flatfoot had picked up a teen engineer in place of his original assistant, the Steward and Greenheart each had plucky would-be reporters following them around, and of course Kid Liberty was a wild success. However, Skybreaker had failed to develop a proper sidekick. An early attempt, a young boy named Dickie Lewis who followed Skybreaker around, had only lasted three stories before vanishing, and the editors pressured the series writer to try again in advance of Issue #50.

Instead of creating yet another ordinary teenager with pluck and grit, the writers tried something different. Wayne Alton was the heir to the Alton family fortune, a lackadaisical teenager unconcerned with the perils of war - until his friends were tempted by a gentlemen’s club that turned out to be a Fomori front, corrupting the heirs of American industry towards fascism and the Nazi cause. Skybreaker investigated the club, and as he was attacked and in danger of being overwhelmed, Wayne grabbed the old sword the cult had been using as a focus for their magic and tried to help.

The sword turned out to be Fragarach, divine sword of the sea god Manannán mac Lir, and Wayne was empowered with the might of the sea and storm, becoming the superhero Cormorant! Helping Skybreaker, he swore to devote his wealth to fighting fascism, taking up his place as Skybreaker’s sidekick and financial supporter.

Cormorant was a different sort of sidekick, his powers directly tied into Skybreaker’s own mythos, nearly a hero in his own right already. He proved decently popular, expanding the roster of Skybreaker’s stories and providing an excuse for expanding the hero’s activities around the globe. Why exactly a sea god allowed his champion to sprout wings whenever he drew his sword was left to the imagination of the reader, but most assumed it had to do with ocean birds somehow.

Behind the Scenes

Theoretically, everyone has sidekicks, but most of those sidekicks aren’t also heroes! I wanted at least two sidekicks in the Golden Age, and was going to go with either Skybreaker or Greenheart for our second; getting Relic gave me the idea for a second god-weapon empowered hero in the same storyline.

And Upper Class means that we can give Principle of the Sidekick to one of our Golden Age heroes, so here it is!

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