Frank Miller's iconic cover for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1
People remember the Eighties for Miami Vice pastel colours, Madonna in her "giant hair bow" incarnation, and Michael Jackson in a red leather suit dancing with a horde of zombies. Ronnie Reagan was the President of the United States, smiling that harmless smile that said nothing bad could possibly happen on his watch (and if it did, well, he didn't recall it). It was a decade of silly pop energy and shoulder pads.
But around the mid-point of the 1980s, there was a darkness gathering in the comic book world.
Every once in a while I read a game book that straight-up makes me happy. Every page is a delight, filled with ideas and energy and the kind of heedless pleasures that drew me to gaming in the first place, those many years ago. Let me tell you about a game book like that called MASTERS OF UMDAAR.
I've written before about the provocative nature of Vincent Baker's great roleplaying game, which recently ran a successful Kickstarter to fund a second edition and return to print. It's the kind of game that was designed to shake people up, change the way they do and think about things inside the parochial little world of roleplaying. As a long time GM, the way the game framed the role of the "MC" initially scared the living shit out of me. Or, more accurately, made me deny its usefulness, then angry, then depressed (because it felt like an attack on GMs), then eventually a cautious return to grapple with its ideas and eventually accept them. The five stages of APOCALYPSE WORLD.