Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Appendix N for Superheroes: Bionic Six

I thought I'd explain some of my choices for my entries into my "Appendix N for Superhero RPG's," starting with one of my most obscure choices, the brief TV series Bionic Six.

From Wikipedia:
In the near future (some unspecified decades after 1999), Professor Dr. Amadeus Sharp Ph.D., head of the Special Projects Labs (SPL), creates a new form of technology to augment humans through bionics. His first subject was Jack Bennett, a test pilot who secretly acted as Sharp's field agent, Bionic-1. On a family ski vacation in the Himalayas, an alien spacecraft triggers an avalanche that buries the entire family, exposing them to the unusual radiation of a mysterious buried object. Jack frees himself but discovers his family in a comatose state. Theorizing that Jack's bionics protected him from the radiation, Professor Sharp implants bionic technology in the others, awakening them. Afterward, the family operates incognito as a publicly lauded team of adventuring superheroes, the Bionic Six.
The primary antagonist of the series is a mad scientist known as Doctor Scarab, along with his gang of henchmen – Glove, Madam-O, Chopper, Mechanic, and Klunk – accompanied by Scarab's legion of drone robots called Cyphrons. Ironically, Scarab is Professor Sharp's brother. Obsessed with obtaining immortality and ruling the world, Scarab believes that the key to both goals lies in the secret bionic technology invented by his brother, ever plotting to possess it
 The Bionic Six are Jack Bennett, "Bionic One," his wife Helen "Mother One," their two biological children Eric "Sport One" and Meg "Rock One," their adopted son J.D. "IQ," and their foster son Bunjiro "Karate One."  All of them seem to possess a certain baseline of superheroic abilities (strength, reflexes, and durability) with their own area of specialty.  Bionic One had optic blasts, Mother One had ESP, Sport One could reflect missile attacks with his bat, Rock One had sonic blasts and super speed, IQ was particularly strong, and Karate One had enhanced reflexes and fighting ability.

They did the whole ring-to-bracelet thing when they changed into costumes.

The Bennetts were sort of saccharine-sweet when it came to their personalities, possess an almost Brady Bunch-like quality of sibling squabbles, etc.  As such, they tended to be boring.  The plots almost always seemed to hang off the villains: Doctor Scarab and his cronies.  Frank Welker's talents, best known as Freddy and Scooby from Scooby Doo, can't be underestimated here (he did no less than three of the villains in the show), although Jim MacGeorge doing a a George C. Scott impersonation for Doctor Scarab was also a great touch.  While the Bionic Six always got along, the villains hated each other and were perpetually scheming to get the upper hand.  As such, they remain more memorable and interesting then the eponymous heroes.

The only downside to these guys is their lamentable names, which are vaguely reminiscent of what players name their PC's. 
Which brings me to an interesting thought about superhero RPG's: unlike its source material, very little "screen time" is spent on the villains in a superhero campaign.  While comic books frequently have the "Meanwhile, at Doctor Death's secret lair..." moments, villains usually only come into the scene with their plots fully hatched (or hatching) and little opportunity for inter-villain byplay.

But I think great superhero stories rely not just on great heroes, but possibly more on great villains.  Trying to find ways to make sure that villains get their moment, whether than is by "monologing" or getting in a few hard hits beforehand, would be critical in a genre where villains need to be more than just the BBEG at the end of the dungeon.

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