Thursday, September 25, 2014

Villains Victorious going on hiatus

Blog's real-world author here.

A few months ago, I committed to doing one post per day, every day, no excuses. I'd write something and publish it, and my goal was to have an interesting thing to say every day. With a few days' worth of exceptions, I did that.

There's only so much you can say about supervillainy, and I've said most of what I wanted to say. I know of maybe half a dozen people who've actually regularly read it, and I want to thank you guys for doing so. I didn't expect it to grow, though that would have been nice, but I also didn't expect to continue it forever. So after 3094 views and 114 posts, this blog is going on hiatus. The content is CC-BY licensed - anyone who wants to use anything I've written here, for any purpose, can do so as long as they credit the blog.

I like having a daily writing assignment. I may do another one soon, but one that meshes well with what I'm doing right now in my spare time (a space opera RPG, Final Fantasy XIV). If you follow astralfrontier on Tumblr or Twitter, or +Bill Garrett on Google Plus, you'll see any such posts I decide to write. Until then, thanks for reading. It was fun!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mr. Big critiques Pyrepower's plan

By request, I am going to seriously address the recent posts from Pyrepower about hero capture. Disregarding her highly questionable motives for engaging in such activities, let's review the important points that the caper highlights:

  1. Knowledge. Her target was analyzed for weaknesses (like breathing) and those weaknesses were exploited.
  2. Motivation. In "Full Metal Jacket", Gunnery Sergeant Hartman points out what "one motivated Marine and his rifle can do". The trap was laid and sprung with precision.
  3. Completeness. From baiting the trap in multiple ways, to springing it, to following up, every phase of the plan was accounted for.
That said: yes, the plan was amateurish overall. But you know what? She baited the hook for two amateur heroes. She's playing at the level she's at, and knows her limits.

That was the good news. Here's some further commentary.

Fire vs. speedsters. Hurricane Hal did a very nice guest spot awhile back, and talked about the slipstream that speedsters can manipulate. Being able to ignite your whole body on fire, especially in an enclosed space, is a great counter not just against being attacked, but against someone who breathes. If necessary, Pyrepower could quickly overwhelm any oxygen-dependent speedster. But she should absolutely know beforehand if her opponent needs to breathe.

That said, you can still pit your control over fire against their control over the slipstream. If you win, they're going to painfully burn their hands if they attack you. This is a risky thing to gamble on, and you shouldn't count on it as Plan A. In this case, she didn't, but she might have.

The necessity of a custom pit trap. Digging a new trap was probably a waste of time, if a suitable candidate location could have been found. Maybe one was searched for, maybe not. Maybe digging it was just an exercise in power control. But being able to control the location of your caper - and just as importantly preventing a search of "likely locations" by the authorities - is itself a smart move.

The expendability of lairs. Pyrepower's personal lair should now be considered compromised, and I hope she fully realizes that. Any hero she takes there should be assumed to be wearing a transmitter, recorder, or similar equipment. Even if they're unconscious, or there's radio jamming in place, the technology exists to narrow down the location enough that a determined search could find it within a day or so.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Managing your media presence

There's a saying, "all publicity is good publicity". This is true in business, when the goal is to drive brand awareness and hence sales. It's true for celebrities, because ultimately the celebrity's product is himself and the media in which he or she appears. But villains aren't really selling anything. Instead, they're protecting a valuable asset - their reputation - from attack. Managing your media presence, then, is a unique challenge for the villain.

Not all villains will need to worry about this. Starting villains should focus on getting established - several solid capers, a known name, integration into the larger super community. Veteran villains have already firmly fixed their own narrative in the minds of the public. It's the mid-level villain - the one who can make the front page reliably, but can't control what they print yet - that has the most to worry about.

Let's start with the fundamentals of media management. Media is a plural (the singular is "medium"), and refers to tools used to store and forward information. Most of the time when people say "media" or "the media", they mean journalism, aka news media. This includes newspapers, magazines, journals, TV, radio, and the Web. "Media management" is the ability for the villain to influence what other people say about him or her via any of these channels, and/or to have influence when speaking directly through them.

I talked more about building relationships with the media earlier, so for many centralized forms of media (TV, radio, print), you should refer to that guide for how to proceed. Much of the media today is built around the concept of "access" - a journalist's ability to get privileged information from a special source - and if you are big enough, you can try and bargain access in exchange for reporting things you want reported. It's a delicate balancing act and takes time and practice to get good at doing, so I suggest working your local channels first. Only move to the national media outlets once you feel confident in your technique.

That leaves managing the "new media", of which "social media" is a subset. This is basically the Web - YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and probably a bunch of others I either have forgotten about or never heard of. There's two ways to proceed here: get the ear of influential new media personalities, and manage your own social media presence.

Like traditional reporters, "access" still matters to bloggers and vloggers and whateveroggers tomorrow holds in store. Thanks to a perceived rivalry with old media, one thing many bloggers prize is better and faster access to a source than the "dinosaurs" in print and television can muster. They're the guys with the camera at the crime scene, metaphorically speaking. This is the theory behind websites like Brickwatch, which collect and collate information about super-battles in near-realtime.

If you are interested in building relations with such people, you'll want to pick a few personalities to interact with, then read their sites. Get a sense of what interests them - every blogger started with an itch they wanted to scratch, and many are idiosyncratic in what they'll cover. Find out what you want to say that works with their angle, then get in touch with them.

Alternately, you can go directly to Twitter, YouTube, and so forth. It's not as easy as getting your own account and just posting your crimes, though. There's several reasons why you should work with an intermediary or assistant.

  1. Terms of service. All modern electronic services have rules about what content they'll let people post. For example, YouTube's section 6E ("Your Content and Conduct") forbids content that's "contrary to applicable local, national, and international laws and regulations". In general, villains posting their own stuff get flagged and banned. However, the government has pushed back against this several times, by requesting that such services retain the content. Their argument is that useful intelligence about villains' activities can be gleaned from what they post. Of course they're notoriously vague about how, when, or if this really happens, but hey, it opens the door to doing so.
  2. Security. If you ask Comcast to run DSL to your lair and then post from there, expect the Feds to come knocking. By having someone else post your content, or by doing so from innocuous locations (Starbucks free wifi, for example), you avoid being traced back. Learning all the rules of securely posting content comes at the cost of your other villainous skills, though - it's usually better to leave this sort of thing to someone who knows what they're doing and is sympathetic to your cause (or who stays bought).
  3. Domain expertise. I don't know a thing about search engine optimization, aside from what it is. I have no idea what cross-posting tools are the best, or which support Google Plus vs. Tumblr. And I don't know these things because I'm too busy being a kick-ass villain. Leave the specialty tasks to specialists.
Many villains work with someone (or pose as someone) who claims to be "documenting <villain name>'s nefarious activities for the authorities". This excuse is paper-thin but it's enough to keep videos from being auto-flagged. In general it will not hold up in court (and yes this has been tested).

Finding a new-media biographer isn't easy. This is generally the sort of task you can put onto a villainous apprentice, if you have one - and provided she isn't grounded. Never let such people into your lair, or give them details about your plans ahead of time - after all, they might be planted. But should an opportunity arise, feel free to take advantage of it, if you can do so cautiously.

So what do you do with all this? In short, you protect your good name. If you see crimes attributed to you that aren't yours, sad to say but you need to tell people that. Accused of murdering innocent children, and it wasn't you? Set the record straight. Reporter said you "bumbled through the crime"? If you didn't, tell them why they saw what they saw - or demand that they get a more reliable source. Like I've said before, the most convincing explanations are those with plausible details, and you can get into (safe to reveal) specifics of your crimes in ways nobody else can. Use this inside information to prove your identity, then use that credibility you acquire to say what you need to say.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Things apprentices are no longer allowed to do

Mr. Big here. I'm back and things are settled.

This list is, of course, entirely hypothetical. Were any of my apprentices to do these things, dire results would be in store for them. Hypothetically.
  1. Apprentices are not to kidnap superheroes without their mentor's permission.
  2. No diet soda spills on my DVD cases.
  3. Apprentices shall not make personal use of the expensive knockout gas being used for another caper.
  4. No prisoners shall be made to wear costumes which make them sexually uncomfortable.
  5. Prisoners shall not be forced to take part in any re-enactment of a children's cartoon.
  6. Villains do not publish "Chained Heroes" calendars featuring heroes in any state of undress, and prisoners shall not be told they must pose for such things.
  7. Prisoners shall not be forced to watch romantic comedies or "chick flicks" for more than 4 hours, even with "close supervision".
  8. Apprentices shall not take selfies with prisoners in the background.
  9. Selfies with superhero prisoners in the background are not "photobombs".
  10. Apprentices shall not videotape "dance-offs" with prisoners.
  11. Prisoners shall not be coerced into participating in "dance-offs" using threats of a hostage's safety.
  12. Posted videos including anything on this list or other similar nonsense shall not go onto the villain's primary YouTube channel, and belong on their own channel or as a private video.
  13. Comments shall always be disabled for all YouTube videos posted by villains or their apprentices.
  14. Apprentices are not allowed to use tears to garner sympathy from their mentors.
  15. Apprentices do not have the last word on what is or is not fair. The world isn't fair.
The normal guide will resume shortly.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guide update from Pyrepower: how to successfully use misdirection when capturing heroes

HEE HEE HEE you haters.

As an addendum to yesterday's guide for capturing hunky speedster boys, I want to talk about misdirection. Stage magicians use misdirection all the time. Mr. Big says politicians do too. So why can't I?

First, let's say that ENTIRELY HYPOTHETICALLY you plan to capture some superheroes, and you put your entire plan up on a forum that you know heroes have been reading. Heroes like Kid Cumulus, who wrote in and tipped off the boss.

Second, let's say that the hostage scenario is pretty obvious. I mean, come on, Mr. Big had me watch a series of Republic serials and basically said "don't be that stupid".

Third, let's say that you assume the hero will try to escape the trap when you aren't looking. So what do you do? You have to be there the whole time.

So I went through Mr. Big's movie collection. He has like a billion DVDs or something. And I happened to notice "Saw". Spoilers, people: the killer is in the room the whole time.

So let's say, again hypothetically, that I am the hostage at the bottom of the pit. Sure enough, he's immediately wary. That's when the charges I set at the top of the pit go off, and he's blown in. I could tell him there's a real hostage, and I have photos and his driver's license and everything to prove it. But I know from experience that he needs to breathe and I don't, so instead of that nonsense, I flooded the pit with gas. Down he goes, trussed up he gets (remember, I am pretending to be tied up, so there's all this chain laying around), and I measure out an injection of anesthetic like the boss taught me. No sense taking chances.

Next stop: the lair! Well, a lair anyway, not the boss's lair. What do you think I am, stupid?


Friday, September 19, 2014

Guide update from Pyrepower: how to capture superheroes!

Hee hee hee.

Pyrepower here! Mr. Big is still away. So I'm writing the guide still!

Today is our ENTIRELY HYPOTHETICAL methods for capturing two hunky superhero boys: The Philly Fleetfoot and Rail Runner. By sheer coincidence both are speedsters, so we will be using the same tactics against both.

First, we consider weaknesses. What are they observed to be weak against? Well, neither can get out of a really deep pit, so we have something. We need a pit! What do we have for powers? Well let's say fire manipulation. Rock would be really tough to get out of, and the melting point of most silicates is about 1200 degrees Celsius. Super awesome trivia note! The Space Shuttle's tiles can absorb about this much heat without burning your hand.

Next, test that you can produce that much heat by obtaining a sample of rock and burning it with your powers. If this test fails, think of a new plan.

Let's assume your test is successful. Bring along a stopwatch so you can tell how long it takes to slag the sample. Divide that time by the volume of the sample, then multiply by the volume of the pit you want to dig. Assume 20' by 20' by 30' deep.

Next, you need a spot where you can dig this pit uninterrupted. Check a map of your area and find some good ambush points. Like an abandoned subway tunnel. Your digging puts out an awful lot of heat and light.

You want a hostage. Obtain one, tie him up, then put them at the bottom of the pit. They must be tied up securely so they can't escape. Put a rope ladder at the top of the pit. When your hero shows up, they'll see the ladder and go "cool, a ladder" and try to unfurl it to the bottom. They'll see that the hostage is tied up, and figure out that they have to go down and help him out. So your rope ladder should be set up to give way the second they get down there. For example, radio-controlled explosive bolts in the rock.

At this point, you should have your very own superhero. Now you need to make an appearance. Tell them that if they untie the hostage, you'll lower a rope and pull him up as long as the hero stays in the hole. Escort the hostage out (blindfolded so he can't lead the cops back to you). That gives the hero some time to start feeling depressed and stuff, so when you show up he'll be more willing to go along with whatever, y'know, you happen to think up next.

I think it'll work!

Hee hee hee.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Guide update from Pyrepower: Sexy Superheroes

Hi everyone! Pyrepower here. Mr. Big had an emergency, so I'm taking over the guide!


My first topic: Why are superhero guys so smoking hot?

Have you seen some of these men? You could grate lettuce on their abs.

Okay, seriously. Mr. Big told me to educate myself, so I did. Here's why that is.

Symmetry is part of attractiveness. We like symmetrical faces, I don't know why so don't ask. Anyway, symmetry is a sign of health and supers are super-healthy because of our mutation. Our little mito-guys fight off disease ever since we were born. So just being disease-free and healthy raises attractiveness.

The body stores fat as an energy reserve. Super bodies usually have what the boss called "supplemental or alternative metabolisms". Well, with all that extra energy, we don't need fat, which is awesome. I can just eat all day and it goes right to my chest instead of my butt. We have this mind-bogglingly low BMI number as a result. So that gives us this incredible muscular definition.

Aging. Nope, don't need it! I'm going to look this good for decades. Let some of those stuck-up cheerleaders think about that while they're going under the knife. Youthful appearance is a big part of attractiveness.

When you have all these men running around looking like catalog models, of course all the women do too. Plus we're a really insular peer group because we have so much in common, and so little with mundanes. I don't know why I'd ever look at a mundane guy again.

The downside is that we don't have any really "distinguished older guys". Like George Clooney. He is so hot, but he's like over 40. Anyone that old-looking who's a super has probably been around since like 1920, and that's sort of creepy.

This is not to say that I'm going to go jump any superhero who comes along, or supervillain for that matter. I just like looking at y'all, it doesn't mean anything.

Anyway, I also want to say there's something about heroes in particular. Villains, even Mr. Big, are sort of greedy and distant and stuff. Some of them are pretty violent. Others are just creepy. Heroes just are like big teddy bears though. They're all "you won't get away with this!" and "It's not too late, you can repent" and stuff. It's adorable. I do sometimes wish I could capture a couple heroes and just keep them around for a few days, then release them.

Mr. Big will be back soon! Until then, keep on villainizing!