In thinking of a theme for this weeks article on Music and Gaming, it occurred to me. There is a topic that has gotten a lot of coverage in pop music over recent years, that is also a topic that segues into gaming quite nicely.
And that topic is Superman. The Man of Steel.
I won't go into the slobbering depths of fanboy delight that I personally get from reading Superman (and related) stories, but I will point out that the man has Staying Power as a character. I know, a lot of folks who aren't fans think that a Superman story is, well, boring. I mean - really, he can do it all, right? Well, the stories are good, and have stood the test of time, precisely because he can't do everything - and more importantly, he is surrounded by a cast of very, very interesting supporting characters.
But Superman, while being (arguably) the first super powered hero (although some of the mysterious and super-perfect pulp characters that preceded Superman and the meteoric rise of comic book heroes were very, very close to being super powered themselves) is today only a part of a much larger pantheon of super heroes in the line of ongoing titles from DC (Detective Comics, or at least it was once upon a time).
Those heroes, and the universe in which they dwell (and enjoy adventurous stories, in both print and film) has been the subject of a couple of gaming efforts, but currently the two main ones are a DC Heroes clix figures (not my cup of tea) and the DC Adventures role playing game.
But, for music, back to Superman. Here are a few songs from recent years, concerning the Man of Steel.
First up, is Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down. I like this song, the pace, and the music. The lyrics are pretty good, and for the sake of this article, it is certainly inspired by the Big Red Cape, and of course, his green nemesis.
Next up is Superman by Goldfinger. I'm not sure, but this may be the only Ska song about a superhero. Long time readers of Gaming with Chuck may realize that we have a fondness here for Ska, especially Madness. This is a pretty good song, and again - it passes the Son of Krypton test.
Okay, so the Ska song is out of the way. The next title has got to be Superman's Song from Crash Test Dummies. I loved these guys from when they first came out, and probably in no small way because of this song.
The Crash Test Dummies song is good (pretty solid) but it is also high on my list because it is one of the few pop culture references (outside of comic books or animated movies, etc, based on comic books) that mentions the Super Man villain, Solomon Grundy. I like Solomon Grundy, as a villain. A lot. There was a two part story from the really well done DC super hero series, Justice League, that featured Solomon Grundy teaming up with some heroes (Dr. Fate, Hawkgirl, and Aquaman) to take on an extra dimensional being.
The episode was called The Terror Beyond and is excellent on about a hundred different levels, not least of which, because it is strongly based on one of the few Marvel super hero groups I really liked, the Defenders - but with the Marvel characters replaced by DC counterparts. Solomon Grundy was a stand in for the Hulk, but brought more interest to the story because Grundy is a bona fide villain, as well as being a misunderstood monster much like the Hulk. In the episode, Grundy dies, and is concerned about whether he will NOW find his soul (the reward he wanted for teaming up with the heroes was to finally get a soul). Here is the clip - note, if you aren't a super hero fan, this will be EXTREMELY campy.
Okay, put away the kleenex, you KNOW that Solomon Grundy will be back. The next song comes from an album that was one of my absolute favorites back when I was in college (just a few years before the first Crash Test Dummies album came out). That album was Life's Rich Pageant, by REM, and the song (of course) is Superman.
Finally, the last song about Clark Kent, err, Superman is this old gem from the Kinks - Superman. Nice song... ("I'd like to fly but I can't even swim...")
I love super hero role playing games. I like running the games. I like making up super heroes and villains. I like postulating what effects super powers will have on physics, and then translating that effect into game terms. I love super hero role playing games. However, I must admit that while I am Heavily influenced by the DC universe, I never played the older DC Heroes role playing game. It was from Mayfair and had about a zillion products. I read some (and even used them in my own superhero game of choice - which is Champions from Hero Games), but never ran or played the game.
The new one is from Green Ronin publishing, and is based on the Mutants and Masterminds game engine. Not a bad choice - it is pretty easy to understand, easy to play, and is strongly rooted in the D20 gaming perspective that has dominated the gaming scene since AD&D 3rd Edition was first published (and continues under the Pathfinder umbrella).
Currently the products available are the DC Adventures Hero Book (the basic rule book). At $26 (more or less) from Amazon, this is a nice deal for a role playing game. It is based on 3rd Edition Mutants and Masterminds, and other than having a slight reputation for being densely packed with info (that's a bad thing?) and the info being hard to find (that IS a bad thing), it appears as if this book is very well received. The other two publications currently in print are Heroes and Villains, volumes 1 and 2. These are an exhaustive list of DC characters from across the decades, written up in gaming terms. Very nice, even if you don't play DC Adventures.