In 1985 Mayfair Games unveiled the DC Heroes Role Playing Game. Given how comic fandom and gaming fandom tend to cross paths from time to time this seemed like a good idea. Marvel had put out a system through TSR a year before, which seemed to be fairly well received. DC Heroes had it’s share of players but from what I understand it wasn’t as good. I am not a gamer myself and have only played one or two RPGs in my lifetime so I am taking the word of friends of mine who either played or looked at Mayfair’s system and from what they tell me the structure of the game left a lot to be desired, particularly the way the stats and the gadget rules were laid out. However those that played the system told me that once you got around that a fun time could be had by all.
A few years ago thanks to a good friend and some luck I managed to get my hands on both the original 1985 First Edition of the game (to go with a bunch of sourcebooks another friend gave me) and the 1989 Second Edition. Now despite having no real desire to start a campaign or the patience to teach myself the system I was excited to get both of them. They’re neat to look at and neat to own. I’ll get into the two Superman Sourcebook that Mayfair published in future posts but for today I thought it would be fun to go through both of the Editions that I own and see what Superman type stuff they contain.
First up is the original box art from the first edition. You can really tell that this edition was released in the mid-eighties. The New Teen Titans are heavily featured right down to the “FEATURING THE NEW TEEN TITANS” logo. The New Teen Titans was DC’s hottest book at the time and had a pretty big fan base, so it makes sense that they would be prominently displayed. Then there’s John Stewart serving as Green Lantern on this cover. Around the mid-eighties Hal had given up being GL, so it’s kind of interesting that they would use John on this particular licensed product since other merchandise, like the Super Powers action figure line, had Hal and seemed only mildly interested in what was going on in the comics. Finally, you had the mid-eighties Brainiac ship in the background. I have such a nostalgic love for that design and yes I know that has a lot to do with the fact that I was into the Super Powers action figures while growing up.
It would have been really awesome if they had made a skull ship toy. Apparently plans were drawn up for one as can be see HERE but, alas, it was not to be.
(In the interest of full disclosure I did not scan this cover image. I snagged it from another site and now can’t remember exactly where I got it from, but the box was too big for my scanner.)
You have to love the tag line for this edition. “Be Part of the Legend”. That’s almost as good as the Super Powers tag line, “Who wins? Who loses? You decide!” but doesn’t quite get there.
Inside Superman gets some decent attention. He and the old school, eighties power armor Lex Luthor (another design I will forever dig on because of it’s association the Super Powers line) are featured on the cover of the Gamemaster’s Manual.
He also gets the right hand side of the Game Master’s screen.
Now that is classic, eighties Superman right there.
To go along with the game (and I guess to make playing certain characters easier) Mayfair also included cards that had a picture of the character and their stats. The Superman related cards were:
Superman (of course)
They also had smaller, stand ups type cards as well.
The second edition of DC Heroeshad a sleeker look to it. Gone was the George Perez group shot and in was a simple Superman/Batman shot. The Superman image looks to be the one from the Gamemaster’s Screen. Again, this isn’t my scan of the front of the box.
There were far less graphics on the various books inside the box and it seemed as if Mayfair was going for a sleeker feel to the system. This edition also had the then up-to-date histories of the characters from the DCU. I kind of feel bad for Mayfair when it came to the original system. They had to put together all of that background material and right when they release the game DC goes and pulls a Crisis on Infinite Earths on them.
Or maybe they couldn’t afford the rights to the graphics. It’s fifty-fifty either way, really.
What this addition did have was trading cards…sort of. Instead of the boxy kind of cards from the previous editions they went with a simpler character image on one side, stats on the back approach. It was an interesting set, mainly because it included cards for characters from the Watchmen, which were kind of neat.
The Superman related cards were:
And Mr. Mxyzptlk
I am kind of curious as to why they included Mr. Mxyzptlk. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that at the time Superman did not have any visually appealing villains. I mean they had to include Lex Luthor. That was kind of a given, but the rest of the Man of Steel’s rogues up to that point weren’t the most impressive in the looks department. Still, you have to give the Mayfair people props for including the imp from the Fifth Dimension. Sure he got some face time on the Super Friends and Super Powers animated series but other than that he was pretty obscure.
In the next “thrilling” installment: the first Superman Sourcebook.
More to follow…