Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #21

Issue #21 of Imagine (December 1984) is another themed issue, this time devoted to superheroes. The cover illustration by Steven Kyte depicts Captain Arrow, a character with whom I am unfamiliar, which means he's either a lesser British superhero or original to Imagine. If anyone reading this can provide some insight into the matter, I'd appreciate it. Regardless, it's a fun cover piece and very much in the style of art I remember from the days when I actually read comic books. 

The issue kicks off with "To Save the World," an overview of superheroes and superhero roleplaying by Nige Squires. Taking the form of a compendious history of the genre, Squires uses that history to illustrate how to create adventures and characters for a RPG campaign. It's an interesting approach and enjoyable to read, especially when you consider the time it was written. The comics world was still vaguely intelligible to an outsider in 1985, though mega-crossover events like Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths were just starting become an unavoidable trend. In any case, I liked the article and think it succeeded in what it set out to do.

Paul Cockburn provides us with "Kiss of Death," a mammoth 12-page adventure for Marvel Super Heroes that includes several detachable pages of battle maps and stand-up figures, as well as stats for Captain Britain (by Pete Tamlyn). Martin Lock writes "Harrier Comics," which is both a discussion of comics publishing in the UK as well as an advertisement for the titular comic company (of which Lock was founder). Again, my lack of knowledge of the British comics scene, aside from 2000AD, limits my perspective and I'd be happy to learn more from readers who know more. Game reviews continue the comics theme, with reviews of Marvel Super Heroes, several Champions supplements, and TOON. There are also reviews of Justice Inc., The Adventures of Indiana Jones (which the reviewer felt was a good idea badly executed) and Psi World, among others. I was struck by just how many products were discussed – more than fourteen in all – and wondered if I'd ever seen so many reviews in a single issue of any gaming magazine before.

Roger Musson pens two articles in this issue. The first is his regular "Stirge Corner" column, which continues to tackle alignment. This time, though, it's Neutrality that catches his attention. Like the others in the series, it's a solid article with some genuine insight. His conclusion, which serves as the conclusion to the whole series, is worth reproducing here:

Altogether, the morals of the average adventurer are somewhat open to suspicion. Of the players I have seen, few have demonstrated a true alignment in any positive sense. The rest have concerned themselves almost exclusively with staying alive, gathering treasure, and gaining experience levels. 

Musson's other piece, "The Curse of the Purple Potion," is a pun-filled story of the sort I adored when I was in high school but that now seems far less funny.

Chris Felton's Pellinore article, "The Arena," presents the City League's gladiatorial and chariot racing arena, along with maps and NPCs associated with it. There's also a simple set of rules to adjudicate chariot racing that includes a hex map of the race track and counters to represent the chariots. John McKeown's "Monsters, Magic & Menageries" is a very unusual article. It covers the process of breeding – and cross-breeding – monsters, a topic I don't believe I've ever seen in a RPG article before. I can't see using it in any games I'd run, but I'm always intrigued by unusual options like this nonetheless.

"For Whom the Bell Jingles" is a "not terribly serious" AD&D adventure by P. Howard, G. Baker, and L. King. The adventure takes place at Christmas and involves the characters rescuing Santa Claus from a demon called Nurk. I'm not a fan of such scenarios, but I know many people like them. Colin Greenland's "Fantasy Media" reviews several movies, including Red Dawn (which he, quite reasonably, pans) and Ghostbusters (which he likes). He also reviews the second Thieves' World novel, Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn and treats it favorably, despite disliking the stories by Philip Jose Farmer and A.E. van Vogt, whom he calls "two burnt-out stars if ever there were." Mike Lewis, in his "Soapbox," compares RPG rulesets to computer hardware and software, a somewhat odd analogy but one that probably seemed very relevant at the time, as affordable personal computers were just starting to appear. Finally, "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Phalanx" comics return and I continue not to care.

Issue #21 is fine but, for me anyway, not as enjoyable as issue #20. That's not slight against Imagine itself but more of a testament to my own relative lack of interest in superheroes compared to other subjects. I hope that next issue will be more to my liking.


  1. I'm not aware of Captain Arrow as a pre-existing character so I would guess he was invented for the magazine.

    Harrier Comics, to my knowledge, was less focussed on superheroes and was more interested fantasy and science fiction comics, so it's a bit of a surprise to see it featured in a magazine with a superhero on the cover.

    That said, Harrier's Redfox comic started out as a partial parody of fantasy role-playing games, so there is an indirect link there.

    1. Think you're right about Captain Arrow being a one-off for this issue. Must say that costume design is a daring one - every arrow appears to point you to his crotch. :)

      Harrier's a little obscure even for me, and my comic geekery was at its peak in the 80s when they were extant. I remember them mostly for Bacchus, or Deadface, or whatever you want to call him - followed that story over to Dark Horse when Harrier collapsed. Definitely not primarily a printer of "cape" books, though, more odd indie scifi/fantasy/action books.

  2. what is the arrow pointing to?

  3. Huh. I've never been a fan of Farmer and often wondered why he was so cherished by some...perhaps I've only ever read his post-"burnt out star" stuff as I discovered him *after* I started reading Thieves World.

  4. I have to admit that I enjoy Framer's World of Tiers and Riverworld series of novels.