Freedom Force: Ending

ff-gearThe ending of Freedom Force takes place in the Timemaster’s realm, an Ethereal-Void-type place. I’ve described this sort of environment as “Ditkoesque” before, but the styling here is still more Kirby than Ditko. The action takes place on a series of platforms in the shape of enormous rotating clock-gears, each replicating a small section of an environment either encountered earlier or, in one case, merely hinted at. Each gear contains a portal to the next, but it only opens up when you’ve defeated all the enemies there. It’s all a grand recapitulation of the game as a whole, with reprises of all the bosses, like the final dungeon in a Zelda game. It’s not quite the same as the first encounters, though, because all you really have to do to defeat the bosses this time around is knock them off the gear, which can be done with knockback moves, or, more easily, with explosions. Mind you, the same explosions can knock your own guys off if you’re not careful, but that just means you have to learn your limits.

There’s a very nice feel of finality to this whole sequence. You know that it all ends here, or… it all ends. No need to worry about Prestige or experience points: you’re as advanced as you’re ever going to be, and you just have to hope that it’s advanced enough. The whole mission consists of twelve gears (including the larger one where the final boss fight takes place) spread out over four levels. The four heroes you pick at the beginning of the first of those four levels are the last heroes you’ll ever use, so the decision feels fairly momentous.

Ultimately, I think any team could finish the game, but certain powers definitely make it quicker and easier. The team I chose consisted of Minuteman, Bullet, El Diablo, and Eve, which turned out not to be an ideal combination, but it all worked out okay. I’ve described Minuteman and El Diablo before. Bullet is the team’s speedster, and an asset to any mission, partly for his mere ability to get places first and hit enemies two or three times before they can hit back, partly because he can gain the power to “Energize” other characters, making them regain energy more quickly than normal. He also by this point had a good charging knockback move for shoving enemies off gears. Eve is a mystically-aware primitive woman, heavily involved in the Pan arc, skilled at archery. I mainly included her because she had finally learned the Acid Arrow move, which seemed worth trying out, but in the end, she was more useful for a debuff that temporarily blinds opponents, making it much more difficult for them to hit with ranged attacks. El Diablo’s role in the party was creator of explosions and chief recipient of Bullet’s energizing. Minuteman just sort of ran around hitting minions — he was by far the least useful of the four, especially in the final boss fight, where he basically couldn’t get close enough to make an attack. I’d definitely swap him out for someone else if I had to play the whole thing through again, but since he was the very first of the heroes, it seemed fitting that he be on hand at the very end as well.

And that’s that. Just in time, too: I shortly depart for Seattle, to attend my second PAX this year (and in my entire life). Fortunately, the next game I have on my docket is one for the Gameboy Advance, suitable for play during transport, or while waiting on line, if the lines are anywhere near as insanely long as they were at PAX East. As usual, I’ll also be bringing first-generation Pokémon in a vain hope that someone reading this blog will be there and interested in doing trades.

Freedom Force: Bad Guys

Nearing the end of Freedom Force, I have a pretty clear idea now about the breadth and scope of it. It’s a bit unusual. Most superhero games, whether based on comics, based on movies based on comics, or just featuring original characters loosely inspired by comics, focus on a single hero (or at most a small group of related heroes), and on the situations and enemies natural to that hero. Superhero comics cover a range of scales from the mundane to the cosmic, but specific heroes tend to fall on a specific spot on that spectrum, some defending a single city against lawlessness, others safeguarding the entire planet against alien invasion, yet others dealing in the realm of gods and mythical figures. And so a game about a specific hero will tend to focus on what’s appropriate to that character, but, in so doing, lose a big part of the character of the comics. I’m talking about the weird juxtapositions resulting from crossovers and team books. 1The Scott Adams “Questprobe” adventures are a notable exception, being even more chock-full of weird juxtapositions and non-sequiturs than the comics themselves. Spider-Man has been to other planets. The mighty Thor takes time off from Asgard politics to pick on street gangs, sometimes as part of a team that also includes Captain America. The weirdest thing about comic book universe continuities isn’t just that they simultaneously contain cyborgs and sorcerers, gods and ghosts and gunslingers and space aliens and talking gorillas. It’s that they all know each other.

Freedom Force is a simulated shared continuity. It tries to vary the scale and scope as much as it can within the constraints of its mechanics (ie, no space battles), but it’s necessarily an abbreviated form, with only one or two major villains per niche. At the most ordinary level, you’ve got Pinstripe, a mobster mutated by Energy X but otherwise simply functioning as a mobster. An escaped lunatic calling himself Deja Vu is the closest thing to a silver-age Batman villain, giggling and talking in rhyme and making the team solve riddles. Turning things up a notch, we have an army of city-crushing giant robots courtesy of Mister Mechanical, a snubbed and resentful architect who really has it in for the buildings rather than their inhabitants. Behind them all stands the space-opera villain, Lord Dominion, conqueror of a thousand worlds, whose main motivation here is amusement: he could easily crush the Earth, but he’d rather watch the earthlings do the job for him. But even Lord Dominion is a pawn for the Time Master, whose goal is the destruction of time itself. And somehow the god Pan is involved too, to bring in the mythical element — I expect that will make more sense after I’ve cleared a couple more levels, but there have already been mutterings that interplanar travel and time travel are really the same thing. This isn’t a complete list of the villains in the game, but it’s pretty close.

The one sort of bad guy that the game is really missing is the individual bad guy, the one who doesn’t need henchmen to be a menace, like Bizarro or the Green Goblin. Everyone here has an army of some sort. Pinstripe has his goons, Deja Vu his evil duplicates, Pan his confusingly-named “Bacchites” (perhaps the god was recast during development?). Anyway, it’s true that some superheroes habitually fight large numbers of anonymous grunts — Batman and Captain America come to mind — but it’s not nearly as universal as you’d think from this game. But that’s not even a problem with this game in particular. Aside from one-on-one fighting games, most genres of game that reasonably accommodate superheroes have a basic structure that involves fighting a bunch of lesser enemies before you get to fight the boss, and sometimes it’s a real stretch to provide that. (I think of the various Spider-Man games in particular. Most Spider-Man villains do their villaining as solitary individuals.) At least Freedom Force gets to make up its villains from scratch, rather than shoehorn established characters into an inappropriate format.

1 The Scott Adams “Questprobe” adventures are a notable exception, being even more chock-full of weird juxtapositions and non-sequiturs than the comics themselves.

Freedom Force: UI

ff-actionmenuThe user interface in Freedom Force is generally a joy to use. It’s a really good example of a mature system, but with a few bits of experimental oddity. The maturity mainly has to do with streamlining commonly-executed actions and providing multiple ways of doing things — for example, that you can select characters by clicking on them, or by clicking on their portrait at the bottom of the screen, or by pressing the number keys corresponding to those portraits. Since I’m used to using the number keys to switch weapons in first-person shooters, I find this last approach easiest. This is why I know that you can also use the number keys in ways more commonly associated with the mouse, such as double-tapping (which centers the viewport on that character), or pressing in combination with the shift key (to select more than one character at once, just like selecting multiple items in a drop-down menu). Of course, when you select multiple characters, it’s most commonly because you want to select all of them, to send them to a particular point on the map. This is simplified to a single key-press, and furthermore, one that’s easily discoverable by accident. (It’s the 5 key, just one to the right of the last hero hotkey.)

The simplest actions within the world can be performed by left-clicking on stuff, thus telling your hero to perform whatever the obvious action is: picking it up, talking to it, or whatever the context demands. If the thing you click on is an enemy, the obvious action is performing your default attack, which you can change at will. If you want to do something else, you can bring up a menu by right-clicking, which automatically pauses the game. Now, there’s a little display area at the bottom of the screen where it gives you a little information about what the cursor is currently over (including a handy summary of what sorts of damage it’s vulnerable and resistant to — yes, even inanimate objects have resistances, which is why, for example, it’s easier to destroy a brick wall with an explosion than with a radiation beam. 1Some seemingly inanimate objects even have mental states. During a mission to destroy a supervillain’s massive ray gun installation, I managed to render it Stunned, complete with animation of stars circling where its head would be if it had a head. ). And this is important information, because sometimes you want to target specific parts of things — the alarm on a guardhouse, for example. But even with that to guide you, it’s easy to right-click on the wrong thing — probably because keeping an eye on that status bar involves looking at a different part of the screen than where the cursor is (a problem with status-bar-based UIs that I’ve noted before). So they made the right-click menu moveable: as long as you keep the right mouse button held down, you can scan around with it, watching the menu change as it goes. This is one of the experimental oddities I mentioned. It should be noted that the background color of the menu changes according to what sort of thing it’s on, making it very easy to stop moving the moment you drag over an enemy.

Hovering over an option in the action menu displays a great deal of information about it: the tooltip area at the bottom turns into a summary of the effects, and the display in the world gives such information as the line to the target (useful for finding out if ranged attacks are blocked), whether or not you’re in range (indicated by the color of aforementioned line), and, if applicable, the blast radius (rendered as a sphere). The action selection menu itself contains a bar chart showing how much Energy you’ll have left if you select the action. You can choose to perform actions you don’t actually have enough Energy for, but you risk winding up Stunned if you do, kind of like spellcasting in Angband. 2It strikes me only now as I write this that I have a couple of heroes that are capable of curing mental states such as Stunned. Perhaps there’s a viable strategem to be made of this, of overpowering all your attacks and letting the cleric take care of the consequences. This is reflected by making the Energy bar flash red — the redder, the riskier. Raising and lowering the charge on your attacks is accomplished by right-clicking on the power to bring up a sub-menu, a rare example of a right-click menu within a right-click menu, and another element that I’d call an experimental oddity. It works, though.

The system for controlling the camera is, in my opinion, the least successful part of the UI.
Using arrow keys or WASD to scroll the viewport is fine, as is zooming up and down with the mouse wheel. (There’s a way to do this with the keyboard as well, but I’ve forgotten it. The wheel is just more convenient.) But I never got the hang of rotating the camera view, which involves combinations of key presses and mouse movement. I generally leave the camera orientation alone, and it works just fine. It means I’m not always ideally situated to see what’s going in in narrow alleyways, but I can always get a good-enough view by zooming way in: once you’re close enough, walls are rendered semi-transparent.

ff-upgradesOutside of the missions, everything is a set of nested menus, with a very satisfying “clunk” sound accompanying every selection. I spend fairly large amount of time in these, specifically in the upgrade section. Whenever a hero levels up, they get 600 “Character Points” to spend on gaining new powers or upgrading existing ones, and it’s always an agonizing choice. (The worst of it is that some powers cost more than 600 CP, so you can only afford them if you forgo upgrading for a level.) This is also where you can get full information on each ability’s stats, available on a separate screen by clicking the “View” button. And here lies my one complaint about the UI. In order to decide whether to spend the points on upgrading an ability, I need to know how the upgrade will affect it. The only way to find this out is by going to the “View” screen, committing its contents to memory, backing out, upgrading it, and then going to the “View” screen again. It could be worse: at least you’re allowed to undo your purchases (until you commit them by leaving the upgrade menu entirely). But I can think of any number of CRPGs that handle this better, displaying the current and improved stats side-by-side, sometimes with highlight colors. I hope the sequel addresses this.

1 Some seemingly inanimate objects even have mental states. During a mission to destroy a supervillain’s massive ray gun installation, I managed to render it Stunned, complete with animation of stars circling where its head would be if it had a head.
2 It strikes me only now as I write this that I have a couple of heroes that are capable of curing mental states such as Stunned. Perhaps there’s a viable strategem to be made of this, of overpowering all your attacks and letting the cleric take care of the consequences.

Freedom Force: Legion

I’m well over halfway through Freedom Force now, and slightly into the bits I’ve never seen before. And at last, I remember the game’s greatest cruelty: the cruelty of choice.

Progressing through the game means gaining access to more and more heroes. Some of them are simply slotted into your roster automatically. Others are made available for hire, and must be purchased with Prestige points. But you can only take four of them into a mission — and sometimes not even that; sometimes a slot has to be kept clear for a new arrival. And when I say “mission”, understand that most missions consist of two or three levels, with no opportunity for swapping in different heroes between. Furthermore, you don’t get the full experience of playing with a particular hero from just taking it out on a single mission as soon as it joins the team. Every hero needs to level up in order to get their full set of powers. The game is considerate enough to level up heroes that are just cooling their heels back at base, but at a slower rate than the ones in the field. If you want a hero to reach its full potential, you have to neglect others.

Pokémon had a similar dynamic, but with one crucial difference: there, you could always go back to places you had already visited for the sake of leveling up the newcomers. In Freedom Force, there is a finite sequence of missions. A single play-through is simply not long enough to fully explore the potential of all the heroes, and the closer I get to the end, the more I become aware that my opportunities are dwindling, even as my choices grow. It’s like a metaphor for mortality. I suppose the real point is to encourage replay, but that’s not something I’m likely to do soon, enjoyable as the game is.

Freedom Force: Prestige and Perfection

I describe myself as a completist. This is a matter of habit, and the habit was formed when I was a child and didn’t have the disposable income to buy a new game whenever I wanted one. Scouring a game for every last crumb was a way of extending the experience. But while it extends, it also dilutes. I can’t deny that completist habits can interfere with the enjoyment of a game, dragging it out past the point where it has anything to teach you. But then, sometimes failing to go for 100% means you see only half the content. It all depends on the game — some are calibrated for completism, some are not.

If a game designer wants to encourage completism, it’s easy to do: just tell the players what they have and have not accomplished. Freedom Force does this at the end of every level. Every primary and secondary objective is listed — if you’ve completed the level, you have by definition executed all the primary objectives, but secondary objectives can wind up with a big X of incompletion next to them. Also, every type of enemy you encountered is listed, with the number defeated out of the number available to be defeated, like “Thug with bat: 11/12”. Any completist looking at that will want to hunt down the twelfth thug with bat. Which is a problem, because it’s not really worth it, in terms of entertainment or in terms of gameplay mechanics. The real point of this summary screen is not to encourage completism, but to tell you where your Prestige Points are coming from. Prestige is kind of like XP for the whole team, but its sole effect on gameplay is unlocking optional heroes, and the quantities of prestige needed for this are large enough that picking off a few more thugs won’t make a difference.

It seems like the designers of the game were aware of the problem, because there’s a pair of levels that are positively designed to break the completist mindset.

First, there’s “Prehistoric Panic”, a level in which a dinosaur-emitting portal opens up in the middle of the city. (It’s not yet clear why this happened. Presumably Energy X is involved somehow, because that’s the explanation for everything else in the game, but if I meet a scientist named Kirk I’m gong to hit him very hard.) There are a number of set encounters here, but there are also additional dinosaurs that simply come out of the portal over time. Allegedly in the original version you could exploit this to get as much Prestige as you wanted by just standing by the portal and trouncing the dinosaurs as they came through, although a later patch capped the prestige bonus at 20 of each type of creature. Either way, this is the first occasion where the number of enemies is not fixed. You’re required to defeat every dinosaur that appears, but regardless of how many that is, the Prestige report treats it like completion: “Raptors: 6/6” if that’s how many there were. Knowing that the maximum can vary makes it seem less important somehow.

This is immediately followed by a level involving giant ants destroying the city. Once again, the number is not fixed, and you can stand there and farm prestige if you really want to, but the goal is to destroy the holes they’re emerging from. In fact, the ants simply vanish when you destroy their holes, so you can complete the level without harming any ants at all. The key thing about this level is that it is impossible to completely avoid prestige penalties. That’s another thing reported between levels: collateral damage in the form of civilians harmed and buildings destroyed. Usually, it’s not hard to keep that section of the report clear, as small items like cars and lampposts aren’t counted. But here, even if you did everything perfectly, there will be buildings destroyed when the ants create holes directly under them.

The interesting thing is that this time around I knew what was coming, but still felt the need to try for perfection in the levels before these two. I suppose it’s due to the content. Up to this point, the level goals were generally to prevent chaos and destruction. For example, when a villain called Nuclear Winter (basically Mr. Freeze as a soviet agent) tries to detonate a stolen atom bomb, you have no choice but to prevent it from going off. But in these levels, preventing chaos is not an option. Chaos has already begun. You’re there to stop what has already started, and anything that delays you in this errand is a bad thing, even if it does net you a little more Prestige.

Freedom Force: Combat and Character

So, let’s talk mechanics. In any mission, you have up to four characters, controllable independently. Clicking on stuff lets you assign actions like moving, talking to NPCs, picking up and throwing environmental object such as crates and automobiles, and most importantly, attacking the various thugs, monsters, and supervillains that try to stop you. All actions are performed in real time, although you can pause the action at will — in fact, bringing up the action menu automatically pauses the game. The whole UI is very well-designed, but I’ll get into that more fully in another post.

Now, every hero has a distinct set of powers, which are mostly attacks of various sorts. There are melee attacks and ranged attacks, ones that simply do damage and ones that do elemental damage and ones that cause status effects — in short, your usual assortment for a modern CRPG. Since this is a game that takes place in a three-dimensional space, knockback from attacks can be a significant factor, especially when you’re fighting near a cliff or atop a tall building. In general, specific attacks can be made stronger over the course of the game as the characters level up.

Most powers use greater or lesser amounts of “energy” (which basically means mana). A hero’s energy naturally replenishes over time, quickly enough that you never have to wait long for it to fill up, but not quickly enough to keep you from frequently running out during fights. Making the most of your energy is thus a big part of the game’s tactics, and it always feels like a big win when you can take out enemies without using any energy at all (for example, by hurling boulders at them). You can actually choose to spend less energy than normal on a power, if you’re willing to accept weaker effects, and likewise you can spend more energy than normal for stronger effects — there are five settings, with the default in the middle four settings, two above and one below normal power, accessible through an additional right-click menu in the action menu. I find that I frequently overcharge my powers and almost never undercharge them. As in Pokémon, efficiency in this game means favoring the one-hit KO, and overcharging is key to that. Furthermore, some powers only really become useful when overcharged. For example, Minuteman has an attack that sweeps an arc, knocking back anyone it hits and doing a certain amount of damage, but not as much damage as his regular attack. At normal power, this is seldom worth it. But turn it up to max, and the knockback becomes strong enough to send normal humans sailing through the air like cannonballs, taking substantial amounts of falling damage when they hit the ground.

The thing that really impresses me is the degree to which the designers managed to come up with powers that complement the heroes’ personalities. For example, Minteman is courageous. We know this because he’s always charging into the middle of the fray and emerging victorious — and the reason he does this is that his powers are mostly short-range melee attacks and defenses that allow him to ignore the people shooting at him. His only ranged attack does a very small amount of damage, but it has a large chance of temporarily stunning its target and can ricochet to multiple foes if they’re close together. In other words, it’s basically an aid to those melee attacks, a way to make it easier to get within striking distance without getting shot. Similarly, El Diablo, the Human Torch imitation from the barrio, is impulsive, reckless even. His chief attack, a blast of flame, uses lots of energy and only affects one target at once, so it’s easy for him to run out of energy, especially if he’s fighting multiple enemies by himself — which tends to happen if you’re not careful, because his ability to fly lets him get ahead of the pack. To make things worse, he doesn’t regain energy as fast when he’s airborne. Using El Diablo effectively largely means reining him in, not letting him use his powers to their full extent lest he get himself in trouble. It takes a few failures to learn this, and it’s easy to attribute the player’s learning experience to the character.

Freedom Force as Early Marvel Pastiche

Freedom Force is definitely trying to evoke early Marvel. For one thing, most of the heroes are closely based on familiar Marvel heroes, in some combination of theme, powers, and/or personality. It’s loose reinterpretation, though, rather than strict adherence. We’ve got a Captain America-like super-patriot called the Minuteman, but instead of a soldier, he’s a former atomic scientist. We’ve got a flying fire-thrower like the Human Torch, and also like the Human Torch he’s hotheaded and impulsive, but here it’s because he’s a Latino stereotype (and, true to context, therefore a former gang member as well). I remember from my previous go-rounds that the player eventually picks up a Spider-Man-like wisecracking nerd who climbs walls, but here he’s themed around ants, and capable of spitting acid (a power that would probably be too grotesque in its effects to use in an actual silver-age comic, but the combat system here abstracts the melted flesh away.) And no one here has the same origin story as their Marvel counterpart, because they all basically have the same origin story, one involving canisters of Energy X that fell from an alien spacecraft.

It all reminds me a bit of Alan Moore’s 1963. This was likewise a fairly detailed variation on the theme of early Marvel (and, to a certain extent, silver-age DC), but with a greater emphasis on satire, on casting a spotlight on the illogical and exaggerating the already-exaggerated, carrying the pomposity and the bathos and the pointless alliteration to the point of complete ridiculousness. I draw a contrast here, but sometimes Freedom Force feels the same way. Sometimes there’s a fine line between homage and mockery.

It really comes down to this: When you want to imitate something respectfully, how do you handle its glaring flaws? Freedom Force aims to be a celebration of a style that was, when you come right down to it, pretty goofy. It wants to capture the open-mouthed childlike “Whoa, cool!” reaction, but that comes as a package deal with the flat and childish characters, the frankly stupid stories, the awkward and overenthusiastic narration. You can’t throw that stuff out, because if you do, it doesn’t seem like early Marvel any more. It becomes something else — not necessarily something better, but less evocative of that particular point in the medium’s history, with all its unpolished verve and energy. But if you include it on purpose, it becomes camp. And that’s not what they’re aiming at either.

If you ask me, Freedom Force errs on the side of camp. I remember that when I first started the game, Treyarch’s Spider-Man was still fresh in my mind. This had a strong sense of goofiness as well, but it somehow contrived to seem much more sincere about it, more like an actual Spider-Man comic. Freedom Force is handicapped by its wannabe status from the very start.

Freedom Force

Freedom Force is a game I’ve started several times over the past eight years, each time with the intention of seeing it through to the end. Somehow it’s never quite worked out. Something about its highly episodic structure makes it easy to abandon in the middle.

It’s a game about superheroes, which is something that actually used to be pretty rare. Sure, there have been superhero games for a long time — The Marvel “Questprobe” illustrated text adventures by Scott Adams 1That’s “Adventure International” Scott Adams, not Dilbert Scott Adams. and the Atari 2600 Superman come to mind as early examples — but they didn’t form a genre that you could rely on seeing every time you walked into Gamestop. Hollywood changed this: once superhero movies became staple summer blockbusters, superhero movie tie-in videogames became inevitable, and by now it’s a sufficiently established genre that companies are comfortable devoting major resources to superhero games that stand on their own — one of the best-regarded A-list titles of last year is a Batman game that isn’t linked to a movie at all. But this only started happening after the wave of movies inaugurated by 2000’s X-Men, and even then, it lagged behind the movie industry somewhat. Freedom Force, released in 2002, was something of an anomaly.

It’s also anomalous in other ways. For one thing, it takes the Astro City-like approach of making up its own roster of heroes and villains rather than licensing them. That’s actually not so weird under a broad understanding of the word “superhero”. Plenty of games have original super-powered protagonists — like Prototype and Crackdown, to name a couple of relatively recent examples from the Zero Punctuation archives. (Even the player character in venerable Doom is arguably superhuman, seeing how he can run at about 90 miles per hour while not only lugging a chain gun around but actually firing it.) But games not based on pre-existing heroes usually stray pretty far from what we usually understand to be the superhero genre in other media. (Even the licensed heroes sometimes have problems sticking to genre norms when they’re plunked into a game. Treyarch’s unjustly-neglected 2000 Spider-Man gave the player every incentive to throw policemen off of tall buildings.) Freedom Force, on the other hand, is not only about super-powered characters, it’s conspicuously superhero-styled. Or, to put a fine point on it, comic-book-styled. More specifically, the style of Marvel comics from the early 1960s. There’s a mention early on of someone working on the Mahattan project “twenty years ago”, which definitely fixes the setting between 1962 and 1965, but even without that detail, the game goes to great lengths to establish the style and zeitgeist of that era. I’ll have more to say about that later.

The final major strangeness that I’ll note before signing off is that it’s not an action game. It’s essentially a hybrid of RPG and squad-based tactical combat, with something like a streamlined Baldur’s Gate interface (complete with pressing the space bar to pause the action so you can give new orders to the entire team). I’ll probably have more to say about this later as well. It’s not the only non-action-oriented superhero game, of course — for starters, there’s the aforementioned Questprobe adventures. But those at least still provided the fundamental draw of the superhero game: the appeal of putting yourself in the superhero’s shoes, of having superhero experiences. Freedom Force actively interferes with identifying with the characters. It’s impossible to play without being constantly reminded that you’re acting on the gameworld from outside. For one thing, you have to play the whole team at once, juggling their actions. For another, the default (and most useful) perspective is highly elevated, looking down on your heroes like they’re toy soldiers, or possibly action figures. Which, I suppose, at least jibes with the affectations noted in the previous paragraph. This isn’t a real world that you can walk around in. It’s a brightly-colored, highly artificial comic-book world. It exists to be played with. The same is true of most games, but this one isn’t even dreaming of being anything other than what it is.

Well, except a Marvel product. It really, really wishes it were written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby.

1 That’s “Adventure International” Scott Adams, not Dilbert Scott Adams.