Thursday, December 18, 2014

Government Comics!

Here's one of more recent vintage than most of the ones I've presented here, and it was originally published in Europe!

Best of Cool Stuff Christmas Countdown, Day 18!

More goodies I've featured in the past that I'd love to own some day, if I had the money and space for them!
One of these days, I'll have to look into the Universal Horror Library to see what novels were published in that series!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sci-Fi Magazine Cover Gallery!

Time to present another parade of classic Sci-Fi Magazine covers! As I've mentioned before, these are all magazines that I've listed for sale on eBay, and while most of them are sold, there may be some of these still available -- check out my current listings!

Best of Cool Stuff Christmas Countdown, Day 17!

More powers I'd like to have today!

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Characters: Battlestar!

Battlestar, drawn by Mike Gustovich at that near-
legendary San Diego Comic-Con I attended way
too many years ago.
Before I get into this month's character focus, I've got a quick question for you guys: Are any of you reading these particular articles, and are you getting any enjoyment out of them? They are among the features that I never see any comments on, so I don't really have a way to gauge the popularity of them.

I probably came up with the idea for Battlestar in the late 1970s or early 1980s. His creation was motivated, honestly, by the fact that I felt my superheroes needed to have an armored character al la Iron Man, and this is what I came up with. As for his name, I was a fan of Battlestar Galactica, so that's where I appropriated his name from. You can imagine my dismay when, during the time that USAgent had taken over as Captain America, his partner was renamed Battlestar!

Anyway... here's his story. Matthew Bronson (Matt to his friends) was, to all appearances, an average high school student. He was decent at sports, but not good enough to qualify for the teams. His grades were decent, although his teachers always felt that he had a lot more potential than he was demonstrating.

Most of the reason for this was because of Matt's father, Professor Ira Bronson. Professor Bronson had the reputation for being a genius in the Seattle area, and the go-to guy for any business who had a tech problem they couldn't lick. Most of the Professor's inventiveness, however, wasn't publicly known.

When the Guardians of Justice formed, Professor Bronson was called in to provide all the tech that was provided (the people providing the money to fund the Guardians had hired Bronson to do work for them in the past, and knew if anyone could provide what was needed, he could). His computer system for Guardians headquarters was more than state-of-the-art, it was beyond that. And the communications system he developed made cell phones look like two tin cans and a string.

The problem with Professor Bronson's inventiveness was that most of what he invented tended to be ridiculously expensive to mass produce. Certainly, he could manage to produce one, or even possibly a dozen or so copies of something he'd invented, but so far as mass production? Forget it. There would have to be new technologies developed just to mass produce some of his inventions, and thousands of them over the years were kept in storage in the Bronson house (where Bronson did all his work) until the rest of the technological world could catch up with them enough to make them viable. Sometimes these prior inventions (that would often never go patented) would be duplicated by accident by someone else because Bronson wasn't able or interested in keeping up with outside tech enough to know if what he'd done before would work now.

Still, he had plenty of money available to invent to his heart's desire. Unfortunately, he was so obsessed with inventing that he didn't spend much time focusing on his marriage, which led to a divorce when their son, Matthew, was three. Matt and his mother moved to Los Angeles at the time to make a fresh start (with plenty of funds coming from Matt's father, thanks to a generous divorce settlement), and all seemed fine to Matt and his mom, until Matt started asking about his dad. He barely remembered him, but he still wanted to have a relationship with him, starting when he was about 14. It took a year or so to arrange it, but Matt moved back to Seattle to live with his father and establish that relationship, something that proved much harder to do than Matt hoped it would.

Still, some time with his dad was better than none at all, and Matt's mother seemed to enjoy the freedom of not having a teenager to keep track of, so things seemed to have worked out. Matt made some friends in his school, but he found himself wanting more out of life than school was offering him. His counselors at school felt that school wasn't really challenging him enough (his intelligence tests put him at the genius level, but as noted above, his grades were pretty much average). Matt found himself being bored, but one day, this would change.

Matt was 17. He'd received a pickup truck from his father for his birthday a few months ago to help him get around easier than he was able to with a bicycle (Pacific Northwest rains and all, you know). One day, he noticed his pickup was running low on oil, and when he asked his dad if they had some, he was told it was kept "in the garage."

The garage at the Bronson home was more like a warehouse. Every single invention of the Professor's that never went into production was in storage in "the garage," as well as all the usual stuff that a typical home would have to store in a garage (although it should be noted that the lawn mower was automated and would automatically emerge from the garage to cut and fertilize the grass, as well as using sensors to see if the lawn needed watering).

Unfortunately, it was all disorganized as hell. While searching for motor oil (which wasn't near the gas can, which wasn't near the fan belts, which wasn't near the extra bulbs for the headlights), Matt came across a large crate marked "Battlestar" in his father's distinctive handwriting. Matt had spent so long looking for the motor oil (thinking he would've been better off driving to an auto parts store and buying more instead of trying to find it at home) that his reason for leaving the house had passed. Since he knew his dad sometimes invented really cool stuff (years ago, when he first moved in with his dad, a holographic video game console was moved into his bedroom, something the Professor had put together some time before but never got around to doing anything else with it), so he decided to open the crate up.

Inside, packed away carefully, was a suit of red, white and blue armor with a thick manilla envelope placed on top of it. Looking at the envelope, Matt learned that the Battlestar armor was something his father had developed at the request of the Pentagon not too long ago, but the plans and specs that were submitted proved to be too expensive for them to proceed with (they were looking at proposals to provide better offensive and defensive capabilities for their soldiers... and weren't expecting a full-on suit of armor! They were more hoping for something like uniforms that could actually mimic their environment while providing some armor capabilities, and perhaps some kind of helmet or goggles that would automatically work with the sighting of a weapon. They had no idea that the Professor built the armor, and then created the specs and design to submit).

It gave Matt an idea. At first, he thought it would just be a kick to try on the armor and see what he could do with it, and then put it away, and nobody would be the wiser. So, he loaded the armor onto the truck and drove to a secluded area of the rather large lot the Bronson home was located on (it was a very large piece of land, intended to provide some seclusion).

Matt's first surprise when he put the armor on was how light it was. His second was when he donned the helmet and it asked for his name (in a female voice!). When he responded with his name (blurting it out without thinking), the helmet told him that the Battlestar suit was now calibrated for his use, and that a system reset would be required if a different user was to wear it. Matt asked who was talking to him, and the voice responded that "she" was ERICA, the Experimental Realtime Intelligent Computer Assistant, and that she was tied in to the onboard computerized systems on the Battlestar armor. What Matt didn't know was that ERICA was the computer being used by the Guardians in their headquarters.

Matt asked ERICA about how to use the armor, and she provided him with basic instruction, justifying it all by deciding that since Matt was the son of her creator, he must have been authorized to use the suit (plus, to be honest, she was bored with her duties for the Guardians, since they only used about 1% of her total capacity). With her help, Matt was able to learn how to fly with the armor's propulsion systems, as well as learning that the armor would amplify his strength, and that he had access to multiple sensor systems as well as some weapons systems. Trying to pick something up while wearing the armor proved difficult at first, as the "hands" of the suit were not gloves, but more of a waldo, with Matt's hands being safely protected inside the gauntlets. Matt persevered, and made the adjustment (it didn't hurt that ERICA adjusted the video feed to the helmet to compensate when he would reach for something). Matt thought that the armor was a lot of fun to goof off with, and was about ready to take it off and bringing it back to the garage when ERICA notified him that there was an emergency, and that there were no members of the Guardians available to deal with it in time.

Matt realized that she was suggesting that he take care of the emergency, and hesitantly agreed. Fortunately, the emergency he responded to wasn't involving super-villains, but was more of a "routine" armed robbery situation, although the criminals involved did have a fair amount of firepower. The Battlestar armor was able to handle the gunfire easily, and with ERICA's guidance, Matt was able to use the armor's offensive capabilities without being lethal.

Matt found, to his surprise, that he really enjoyed being a superhero! It was the first time ever that he felt he'd done something that really mattered, and decided that he was going to keep using the armor for as long as he could (he figured eventually his father would finally notice something in the media about him using the armor and forbid him from using it again, although since the Professor tended to ignore television, he'd have at least a few months to "get away with it," unless some automated system alerted his father).

As he operated more as Battlestar, Matt gained more confidence in the use of the armor. Not only that, but he found that in school, rather than having his studies slip because of his activities, his grades actually started rising (before, he hadn't been trying all that hard, but now he found himself caring more about everything he did).

The day came when Matt found himself needing to tell his father about his using the armor. It wasn't because repairs were needed to the armor, but rather because one of the weapons systems needed replenishment (the left gauntlet fired micro-missiles which contained a powerful anesthetic gas, and he had run out). He dreaded the confrontation and possible consequences, but to his amazement, his father actually approved of him being Battlestar! Far from being ignorant of his activities, the Professor had been monitoring his progress, ready to step in if he needed guidance, but Matt had done so well that he decided to wait until Matt came to him. At first, he was concerned for Matt's safety, but then figured that he'd built the best armor possible, so it was more a matter of his work being put to good use, and even more so, that Matt was developing a sense of responsibility.

It wasn't long after this that Matt met up with and subsequently joined the Guardians of Justice, who were initially unaware that Matt was still a minor at the time (there was no membership requirement to reveal one's secret identity to the other members of the team). Matt proved himself to be a valuable asset to the team, and when he did reveal his identity, he was accepted as an adult and peer.

The Battlestar armor was built using a variation on beryllium-aluminum alloy that was improved upon by the Professor, providing a lightweight yet durable protective armor. The entire surface of the armor is covered with an advanced solar cel system for keeping the armor's systems charged. The helmet uses a cybernetic interface to control all systems, although many can also be manually or verbally activated as a back-up. The helmet provides a head's up display (Matt doesn't actually see through the eyes, but instead gets a video display) with a variety of sensory systems that could augment the standard visuals. The video relay system also provides instant protection if Matt is attacked by a blinding light by shielding his eyes. The helmet not only provides physical protection, but also provides filters to protect Matt from gas attacks, as well as providing air when operating underwater or in space (he can last longer underwater, as the helmet can filter oxygen out of the water, like a fish's gills, whereas in space, he uses up the oxygen storage of the armor, and needs an add-on to operate for any extended period of time). The helmet also disguises Matt's voice, and can amplify his voice if needed.

The armor amplifies the strength of the user to the point where Matt can easily lift an SUV over his head and even throw it a good 20 yards or more. Jets in the boots and on the back of the armor provide Matt with the capability of flight at speeds of up to 90 miles an hour, and can also allow him to maintain stationary in the air.

Aside from his amplified strength, the Battlestar armor also has onboard weapons systems built into the gauntlets. The right gauntlet contains a pulse cannon, which can easily penetrate concrete walls up to three feet thick in one blast (thicker barriers require more continual fire) or disable a tank. The left gauntlet fires mini-missiles at a greater range than the pulse cannon. There are two kinds of mini-missiles: The one used most often contains a knockout gas that can affect normal humans within a 50 foot radius from detonation (greater in a contained area, the effect is lessened with wind), while the other kind carry an explosive charge equivalent to a hand grenade. The helmet provides targeting information for both gauntlets, and each system is activated via voice command. The star emblem on Matt's chest is actually a powerful spotlight, which he doesn't actually need thanks to the sensor package, but can provide some moral support to innocents, especially when doing a rescue operation.

Battlestar is in constant contact with ERICA when he is armored up, and she is able to provide him with realtime data to assist him in whatever situation he gets into. This data can include what the Guardians' files have on supervillains he encounters, detailed blueprints of buildings, and what he sometimes considers most helpful, GPS directions (it can be difficult to find your way somewhere from the sky when you're used to traveling on the streets). The armor can be piloted remotely by ERICA, so that in the event Matt needs the armor when he's away from home, she can fly it directly to him.

When Matt is operating as Battlestar, he sometimes tends to overplay the part of superhero, which some of his teammates find a little distracting, but the public seems to eat it up. In combat, he is very focused on protecting civilians and trying to keep property damage to a minimum. If he does cause damage in combat, he does his best to try to put it right again, even if he's not always up to the job.

At some point in his career, the Pentagon becomes aware that Matt is using the Battlestar armor which they commissioned the design of, and there will be an ongoing issue as to whether or not the armor would be considered the property of the US Government. This will, of course, be resolved in Matt's favor, since the design was commissioned as a proposal, and the actual contract stated that if the proposal wasn't accepted, the only limit was that the armor designs could not be sold to other military organizations, private or government. Seeing how effective the armor can be does get the Pentagon to reconsider the use of powered armor soldiers, although the designs tried out don't turn out to be quite as versatile.

Best of Cool Stuff Christmas Countdown, Day 15!

We're back to Megos I want today!
I really need to work on getting upgrades for some of these photos!