Comics

AICN COMICS Q&@: superhero takes a look at the classic RPG VILLAINS AND VIGILANTES and chats with creators Jack Herman and Jeff Dee about the past, present, & future of gaming!

Published at: Jan. 18, 2011, 10:12 a.m. CST by ambush bug

 

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AICN COMICS: Q&@ is our new semi-weekly interview column where some of your favorite @$$Holes interview comic bookdom’s biggest, brightest, newest, and oldest stars. Enjoy this latest in-depth interview filled with @$$y goodness and be sure to look for more AICN COMICS as we gaze into the future of comics every week with AICN COMICS: SPINNER RACK PREVIEWS every Monday and then join the rest of your favorite @$$Holes for their opinions on the weekly pull every Wednesday with AICN COMICS REVIEWS!
Q’s by superhero!

@’s by VILLAINS & VIGILANTES’
Jack Herman and Jeff Dee!

Hello out there in comic land! It is I, superhero, with an interview with the creators of the Villains and Vigilates roleplaying game. What’s Villains and Vigilantes? Well, my friends V & V (as it is affectionately called in some circles) was one of the first, if not the first, superhero tabletop roleplaying game!

While Dungeons and Dragons was the big momma of all role playing games, Villains and Vigilantes was one of the first RPGs which let us comic geeks imagine that we were fighting the good fight with our own superheroes. I spent many an afternoon and weekend playing V & V with my friends as a teen and, I must admit, had my own little group running up until a couple of years ago. For me, V & V was an integral part of my youth and I cannot express how much it invigorated my imagination as a youngster and took me on adventures even the best comic books could never live up to. The best place to check out info about Villains and Vigilantes would be to go to The Villains and Vigilantes Emporium. It’s chock full of old school Villains and Vigilantes goodness!

I was more than thrilled to find out that the creators of Villains and Vigilantes, Jack Herman and Jeff Dee, had regained the publishing rights to their creation and were releasing a new edition of their terrific game. That’s right, if you haven’t heard, Mr. Herman and Mr. Dee have released a new edition of the classic roleplaying game and are releasing new adventures for it as I type this!

I approached the dynamic duo and asked them for an interview, and here are their responses to my questions. Enjoy!

superhero: So let’s talk about comics first…how did you get into comic books?

JACK HERMAN (JH): I think I first discovered comics through a couple of old shopping bags I found in the basement of my grandparents' house. They were mostly all late-50s/early-60s DC superheroes. Hundreds of them. This was around the time of those Filmation cartoons and the Batman TV show. I was the one kid in America who was actually worried Batman wouldn't get out of the death trap! My first impression of the Marvel characters came from Ralph Bakshi’s Spider-Man, and those cut-and-paste Marvel Super Heroes cartoons. I had the words to all their catchy jingles memorized.

JEFF DEE (JD): I broke my arm during a family trip when I was about 12 or 13 years old. So my mom took me to a corner drugstore to get me stuff to read while I recovered, and I picked up a few comics and paperbacks. One of the comics was a classic Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams issue of Batman featuring Ra’s al Ghul. I’d been aware of comics before then, but that comic got me hooked. One of the paperbacks was “Carson of Venus” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which also had a big impact on me.

superhero: Do you have any professional comic experience? I think I remember reading that Mr. Herman was a comic book writer at some point.

JD: After high school I went to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts. From there I took a job in the art department of TSR Hobbies, doing art for D&D and their other games. I did eventually wind up doing some comics work, including drawing and inking some Robotech stuff for Comico and inking THE BADGER from First Comics. And then there was that V&V mini-series Jack and I did with Eclipse…

JH: Back in 1983, Jeff and I were originally set to create the back-up feature for Bill Willingham’s ELEMENTALS series from Texas Comics. That was going to be based on my first original V&V character, a superhero-versus-supernatural-horror sort of thing. But sadly Texas Comics imploded. Willingham took ELEMENTALS to one of the great long-lost indie comics publishers of the 1980s, Comico. It helped put their company on the map. Anyway, Bill started looking for some Elementals-based back up stories. I submitted one, it ultimately got turned into a full-length issue, and he liked it enough he tossed me the gig of writing scripts for the regular book. So, here's this guy who is now rightfully recognized as one of the best comics writers in America, and I was writing scripts for him! For a while I also scripted a couple of Comico's ROBOTECH titles, which was like getting paid to watch cartoons. Finally, a job I was qualified for! That led me to hooking up with Neil Vokes and Rich Rankin and I scripted their EAGLE series which enjoyed a pretty good run. Throw in the V&V comic and that's my comic book career highlight reel.

superhero: OK…so how did you find your way into role playing games? Was it Dungeons and Dragons or something else that got you hooked? What was the beginning of discovering this hobby for you?

JD: I grew up in a family that did a fair amount of board gaming, and with three boys and a dad who was a history buff quite a bit of that involved Avalon Hill military board games. My eldest brother got into tabletop miniatures through his friends at high school, and he told me all about it when his gaming group picked up the 1st edition of D&D. It sounded like the most amazing thing ever, and I begged him to take me to the next session. He did, against his better judgment I think since I was just a snot-nosed little kid. And wouldn’t you know it – they didn’t play D&D that night. They played Chainmail, the medieval fantasy miniatures game from which much of D&D had been derived. They let me run a little infantry unit commanded by a knight. I promptly got all of my soldiers killed, and spent the rest of the evening running my knight all over the battlefield, role-playing my little heart out.

JH: Jeff was the one who introduced me to role-playing games back in high school. I remember thinking, about a half an hour into the first time I played an RPG- Empire of the Petal Throne- that I was experiencing something really... important. Well, important to me, at least, or something really unique. In my impressionable adolescent days I remember having these long conversations with people about how role-playing games would ultimately replace, oh, theatre, psychotherapy, religion, that sort of stuff [shakes head slowly in embarrassment]. So, yeah you could say I was hooked! I quickly ran out and got the complete set of the original D&D books and was surprised to discover my old junior high pal Tracy Lesch had done some of the illustrations. Seeing that was one of those revelations--understood intellectually of course, but never truly assimilated--that these kinds of things don't just fall out of the sky from another planet. People actually make this stuff!

superhero: At what point did you decide that you were going to create your own game? Was Villains and Vigilantes the first attempt or was it one of many other attempts? Who was the one who said, “Wait…let’s do one about superheroes!”?

JH: We knew that there wasn't a genre out there you couldn't successfully emulate with a well-made role-playing game. We watched from the fanboy bleachers as one by one genre types were gobbled up: Traveller for space-based science fiction, Boot Hill for Westerns, En Garde for the swashbucklers...but we didn't make a superhero RPG out of any desire to get published. It was really just the game we wanted to play, so we did it ourselves.

JD: I’d toyed with RPG design a bit before V&V. One early idea was a game inspired by Land of the Giants where mouse-aliens had shrunk everyone on Earth to the size of action figures. Another was a science fiction game with random alien generation – an element that survived to some degree in V&V’s random power tables. I remember that the idea for V&V first came up during an argument Jack and I had, over whether Spider-Man or the Human Torch was more powerful. We decided to game it out, and to do that we needed to write some rules. For that first battle we only needed descriptions of powers for those two characters, and we swiped the combat mechanics from Empire of the Petal Throne. I honestly can’t recall which of us ran which character, or who won. But that battle became our ‘proof of concept’, which brought it home to us that a superhero RPG was something that could actually really work.

superhero: Can you talk about the early development of V & V? How did you pull it together?

JH: We had endless discussions of how superpowers actually worked and how they should be portrayed on the basic game mechanics level. We had to approach everything you've ever seen in any superhero comic--or could ever imagine seeing--from the point of view that it all made sense and that it all followed a central set of rules. It was a really interesting long-term free-form logical exercise.

JD: Yeah. Then each of us wrote different parts of the book, and we brought those parts together into the final document.

superhero: How did the play testing go?

JD: Playtesting consisted of running the game for our friends, who became our regular gaming group. There was a short initial campaign very early on, which we scrapped after a few sessions. I can’t quite remember why, maybe it was because there were a lot of rules changes early on? Then we switched to the Protectors campaign, which Jack and I took turns GMing (though it became mostly Jack’s when I went away to art school). That campaign went on for a long time, and formed the basic of what is now the ‘official’ V&V Universe.

JH: Nowadays everyone knows what an RPG is. Most people have at least been exposed to the concepts and terminology through video games. Back then, for me at least, the biggest part of rounding up new players to run V&V was simply explaining what an RPG was and how it actually worked.

You know, one of the things about V&V that I think was sometimes misunderstood is that we recommend that you play yourself with super-powers. Now some very literal minded gamers really disliked that idea, thinking that it all boiled down to how much you can bench press or what your GPA was. We never really worried too much about that stuff. Your character was always intended to be sort of an alternate Earth version of you, anyway. We just wanted to make V&V the best superhero genre simulation we could, and there wasn't a way to simulate the network of personal relationships and real world responsibilities that your average superhero character might have in game terms that didn't just strike us as arbitrary or phony. But when you put it all in the context of your own real life... it just clicked like a missing puzzle piece.

Anyway, we brought a lot of people into our group that had never played an RPG, or maybe had tried one once but never got into it. Then they started playing their V&V character, and all of a sudden there were certain things I began seeing over and over again.

The combination of new rules-new you-new world seemed to overwhelm a lot of newbie players. But when you said: Your character is you with super powers; the world is the same world you know except that some people have super-powers, and here's how that works...the learning curve for a role-playing game nearly evaporated. So we were definitely onto something...

superhero: Did you ever try and approach Marvel or DC Comics to develop a game with them or was it always something you wanted to develop independently?

JH: We were just two high school kids from Illinois. To me, Marvel and DC seemed about as reachable to me as Narnia or Oz.

superhero: What about all that crazy math and all those charts?

JD: We basically made up whatever rules, math, and charts seemed to be needed as we went. If any of that seems clunky nowadays, well, remember what RPGs were like back then, and that Jack and I were only 17 when we wrote the first edition of V&V. Besides, it all works. Which is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, of course.

I once got a letter from a fan who told me that the V&V carrying capacity formula got him interested in mathematics, which ultimately led him into a career in science. I’m really quite proud of that.

superhero: OK…so you develop the game and get around to publishing it and get it out there on the market. How successful was it initially?

JH: We didn't publish it ourselves originally. Jeff and I went up to Gen Con in 1978. We were just two kids with a school notebook full of hand-written pages that was the manuscript to our rules. We showed it to Scott Bizar, the publisher of a New York-based company called Fantasy Games Unlimited Inc, and long story short they published it. No one ever showed me any sales figures for other games, but I believe it was FGU's best seller from the time it first came out. What I heard over the years about V&V was that it enabled a lot of comic book fans to discover role-playing games. To me, that means it was a success.

JD: I remember that we decided to approach FGU because they’d just published ‘Bunnies & Burrows’ – a role-playing game about intelligent rabbits, based on Watership Down. We were like, ‘any company that isn’t afraid of that idea won’t be afraid to publish a superhero RPG’. And we were right.

superhero: How did it compete vs. other super RPGs that were coming out at the same time?

JD: Originally, V&V’s only competitor was Superhero 2044 from Gamescience, which was widely considered an incomplete game. Champions came out afterward, and that was the first real competition.

JH: V&V’s problems were never due to lack of support. We were always very grateful for our solid base of loyal and enthusiastic players. But over time our competition got pretty tough, and they had some big advantages. Some had access to using Marvel or DC characters. Champions had an entire company built around it geared specifically toward advancing that one game. But Jeff and I always saw the other games that came after ours as a validation of what we had done.

superhero: Can you talk about developing the early adventures?

JH: We were fortunate to get some very talented individuals to work on a lot of those adventures. On the art side there was Willingham, Matt Wagner, Jill Thompson, Mark Nelson, Bill Reinhold, original Marvel bullpen member Don Heck and, of course, Pat Zircher who is now a go-to art guy at Marvel himself. Many of our adventure writers went on to become a presence in paper games and interactive entertainment, as well. Now that V&V has returned, several of them have since contacted us and sent us submissions for new adventures.

superhero: What was the procedure for deciding which adventures would make the cut?

JD: During the time when Jack and I were in charge of editing the V&V adventures, I don’t think we rejected a single submission outright. Some of them needed more work than others, but none of them were unworthy.

superhero: Which ones are your favorites? Do you have any favorite characters from the various modules?

JH: I can’t really pick one favorite. Some were definitely better than others, but every one of them had at least one really cool thing about them that made them worth playing. Looking back at them now, they all have different tones, which I consider a good thing. Even coming out in the dawn of the “grim-and-gritty superhero” era, they never took themselves too seriously or lost their sense of fun.

superhero: Can you talk about some of your own personal characters in the game?

JH: After a while, I pretty much GMed every session I played in.

JD: We should probably explain that since we originally traded off running our group’s campaign, and since we were playing ‘ourselves’, we wound up having to deal with the fact that our own characters were still around when we GM’d – so our characters ‘played’ in our own games. Which is relatively unusual.

JH: I sort of moved my character into the background and morphed him into more of a crazy comic relief element. I think when you GM you kind of have an obligation to let your players take center stage. But recently I have started playing my old original character again, the one Jeff and I were originally going to use for that ELEMENTALS back up feature. Who knows where he’ll appear now. It seems we have some unfinished business together, him and me.

JD: The character Jack’s talking about is Stormbringer, and I’m betting he doesn’t want to name him because that name has been used elsewhere. So he probably wants to re-name him. But he’s mentioned in the 2nd Edition V&V rulebook, so there. Stormbringer controls the weather, and wields a sword. My main character in the Protectors campaign has always been Gauntlet. He started out as a ‘test pilot’ for a super suit, but he actually lost his original suit early on and had to create an entire new set of powers using the V&V invention rules. He has rocket gloves for both offense and flight, a protective suit with life support, targeting system goggles, and electrified metal gloves.

superhero: Do you have any fond memories of role playing sessions you can share?

JD: Jack is a tremendous GM; I always liked the games he ran more than my own. I fondly remember an epic series of adventures where we Protectors had to split up and scour the Earth for parts of some mystical doomsday artifact that the cosmically powerful bad guy was after. Like morons, each time we found a piece we tossed it into the vault in Protectors Headquarters, and then ran off to find the next part. And so, of course, the villain showed up just as we were about to collect the last piece, beat us up, and took it. But we were like, “no biggie, he can’t do anything with just that piece, and we have all of the others back at HQ”. Until we realized that our vault was no match for him, either. So we raced back there, just in time to catch him in our vault, having just finished assembling the device. And then – while he gave his “I am so gonna destroy the world now” speech, Horus – the Egyptian god and a former member of the Protectors (his player had moved away, so Jack had his character attain full godhood and move to the Egyptian gods’ realm) shows up. And there’s this titanic battle for the fate of the world, inside our vault. It was awesome. Did we win? Of course! The world’s still here, isn’t it?

superhero: Talk about the development of the Villains and Vigilantes comic book.

JH: The VILLAINS AND VIGILANTES comic book was a four issue mini-series Jeff and I did that was published by Eclipse Comics in 1987. It was based on the adventure “Crisis at the Crusader Citadel”. Crisis was the original introductory adventure for the 2nd edition rules which came out in 1982. That means we had pre- and post- Crisis continuity even before DC Comics did! It featured the first appearance of Shatterman and Condor, a couple of our favorite characters. The series may appear again in some form or another, possibly sometime next year.

superhero: OK…so at what point did it begin to go off the rails? I’m not sure about the specifics, but I remember reading about some legal issues regarding who owned Villains and Vigilantes?

JD: We started to become unhappy in the late 1980’s when FGU stopped advertising V&V, taking it to conventions, or even soliciting distributors. When it became clear that this situation wasn’t going to change, we started looking for ways to get our game back. But for years, it looked hopeless. The contract seemed to give Scott Bizar enough loopholes so that he could keep it in force perpetually with little effort, and attempts to purchase the publishing rights from him were met by outrageously high price tags.

As it turned out, there are a few problems with our old contract which we were unaware of until recently.

Our contract was with Fantasy Games Unlimited, Incorporated – which, we recently discovered, was “dissolved by proclamation” by the state of NY in 1991 for failure to pay state taxes. It no longer exists. And the contract clearly stated that if FGU Inc ever ceased to exist, then the publication rights reverted back to us.

But Scott never told us that FGU Inc was gone. He just kept calling himself “Fantasy Games Unlimited”, as if nothing had happened. Maybe he was afraid we would take our game and walk, or maybe he didn’t want to risk having to renegotiate the deal.

Furthermore, the only contract we ever signed with FGU Inc was for the original 1979 edition of V&V. Scott told us we didn’t need a new contract for the second edition in 1982 because it had the same title and authors. But that’s just not true. The second Edition is a separate work, and therefore legally required its own contract. So it turns out that FGU Inc never actually had the right to publish the V&V second edition in the first place.

So basically, Scott Bizar has been pretending that the corporation we had a contract with still exists, which it doesn’t, and that the contract we had with that defunct corporation covered the 1982 edition of V&V, which it didn’t.

When these facts came to light, we immediately moved to assert our legal claim to the publishing rights to our game.

superhero: Was there some kind of showdown between you and the publisher of V & V?

JH: No showdown, really. In June of 2010, we sent Scott Bizar a cease-and-desist letter which informed him that the old contract with FGU Inc was no longer valid, and that all agreements between us had been terminated. Then we released Villains and Vigilantes ourselves through the company we had created, Monkey House Games. It has been very warmly received beyond all our expectations.

superhero: How did you regain the rights to publish a new edition of Villains and Vigilantes?

JH: Back in March Jeff and I starting talking with Brent Rose, who is now our legal representative. He looked over our agreement, did some detective work and we discovered that FGU Inc was gone and that Scott Bizar had no contractual rights to publish our game. The rights belonged to us. In April Jeff and I had formed Monkey House Games. In May we had a whirlwind production schedule. By the end of June, we had Villains and Vigilantes rightfully back in print.

superhero: Why did it take so long for you guys to revisit your creation?

JH: Well, I think you can see by that timetable we brought it back as fast as possible once we found out that we could! At various times, every few years there was always some game or comic company or another, from start-ups to big guns, that were all very interested in helping us revive Villains and Vigilantes. Several times this led to discussions with Scott Bizar, directly or indirectly, who basically demanded ridiculously inflated sums of money in order to “compensate” him for relinquishing his “rights” to our game. I don’t know, maybe he was just intent on scaring off any third party before they got close enough to see how illegitimate his position was or something. People always ask us why nothing for V&V ever came out again. Well, that’s why. It was something that has been hanging over us as a constant source of frustration and disappointment for more than twenty years. Believe me nobody is happier about seeing V&V back than we are.

superhero: What is new about your latest edition of Villains and Vigilantes? How does the system differ from the last edition all those years ago?

JH: Our latest edition of Villains and Vigilantes is called V&V 2.1. My original idea was to the call it either the “Hostage Rescue Edition” or the “Amazing Deathtrap Escape Edition.” But we call it 2.1 to indicate that it was essentially a reprint of the second edition with a few minor tweaks. We fixed some typos, clarified a couple of gray areas, and added some new rules that we had been using in our sessions over the years.

superhero: Is it a point based system? Why should old fans pick up this newest edition? Is it, for lack of a better term, “backwards compatible” with all of the old adventures?

JH: Villains and Vigilantes is still the game you remember, so go ahead and dig out your old adventures or character sheets. Monkey House Games also publishes a separate point-based superhero RPG designed by Jeff called Living Legends that operates in the V&V Universe. So if that is more your taste we have you covered there. But even if you still have your old rulebook, V&V 2.1 is worth the purchase for Jeff’s amazing new artwork filled with dozens of characters from throughout the long history of Villains and Vigilantes.

We’ve released more new material for V&V, too. The first new adventure was “Intercrime: Hostile Takeover”. We have a cool free adventure available online called “Oil Pressure”. Our latest one is “In Broad Daylight” which is kind of the big Jack and Jeff “reunion album”. Our next new release will be in January, 2011.

superhero: Mr. Dee, your art was a big reason I got into Villains and Vigilantes. I absolutely loved your art when I was a teenager. Can you talk about how your art style has developed over the years? It’s very different now than it was back in the day.

JD: I really don’t know what to say about that. I have always drawn in exactly the style that seemed natural to me at the time. Mostly I just think my anatomy has improved over the years. I have had, broadly, two different inking styles – one relying heavily on brushwork, the other relying more on technical pen. I guess a lot of my stuff for V&V was done with a brush, whereas most of my stuff at TSR was done with tech pens. There’s no particular reason for that, it’s just one of those things. Go figure!

superhero: So part of your big news is that you’ve gotten the rights to re-publish Bill Willingham’s (yes, that Bill Willingham) classic Death Duel With The Destroyers and Island of Doctor Apocalypse adventures. How did this come about? I was under the impression he was embarrassed by this part of his career? I got him to sign my original editions of these at Comic-Con one year and he seemed mortified by them. What changed?

JH: No artist is happy when looking back on work he did nearly 30 years ago! But to answer the question, we were as surprised as you are. After Monkey House Games launched, someone tweeted Willingham about the return of V&V. He just popped up on the forum of our webpage one day. About a week later he emailed me a brand new V&V adventure he that he wrote...yeah. It gets better…he is also drawing the art for it! Pretty soon he was announcing on his Clockwork Storybook blog that he was bringing authorized versions of his old adventures back into print through Monkey House Games. It was great to learn that V&V still meant so much to him.

We will be reprinting his old adventures with the original art--which still looks pretty good, by the way--but in full color. The adventures will also feature the full stats and character backgrounds for the Centurions, the superhero team that appears in the comic pages.

superhero: It seems as if Fantasy Games Unlimited is still publishing new adventures for V&V as well as still selling all the old rulebooks, adventures and supplements. How does this conflict with your plans for your version of V & V?

JH: One of the first things we did when we created Monkey House Games was to come up with a licensing program whereby any game company who wanted to could publish V&V material. Our requirements are minimal. It doesn’t cost anything. You can find the specifics on our website. We felt that this was something we owed to V&V players for their loyalty and patience. After twenty years of drought, we didn’t want our company to be a bottleneck that prevented any new V&V material from coming out.

We also created our licensing program specifically to give Scott Bizar a chance for continued legitimate participation with V&V. We certainly didn’t have to do that, but our players still feel a strong nostalgia for the material published back when FGU Inc still existed. It would have been a sensible, amicable solution for him, for us and for the players, if he had simply agreed to comply. Unfortunately, Scott chose to snub our offer. Even after all that’s happened, he still refuses to play fair with us. So now he is essentially an unauthorized publisher of unlicensed material.

For about four months now, Scott Bizar has refused our request for a meeting. The terms of the old contract call for arbitration to settle any dispute. Jeff and I have now demanded our right to arbitration. That should settle the matter once and for all. Now that we know the facts we intend to see this thing through all the way. We eagerly look forward to the future.

superhero: The big superhero RPG monolith these days is Green Ronin with their Mutants and Masterminds game (which I have never actually played); how does your new V & V differ from Mutants and Masterminds and other current super RPGs?

JD: Geez. Folks tell me that there are similarities between M&M and V&V, but I’ve never really looked. Which is fine, because as a designer I really don’t think it’s my place to publicly comment on competing games. That’s a job for reviewers.

superhero: How do you see yourself competing with Green Ronin, HERO games, etc?

JH: You know, I was never a big believer in the Zero-Sum Game philosophy. A lot of those guys have been very generous in acknowledging our influence and we’re proud to have maybe inspired them a bit. Now Icons has exploded onto the scene along with a bunch of other systems, Green Ronin is rocking the DC Universe, I even dug the recent Lucha Libre Hero book. Superhero RPGs are probably bigger now than ever. Personally, I think it’s a great time for us to return to the scene we helped start. A rising tide lifts all boats.

superhero: Do you think there’s still a place for tabletop Role Playing? A lot of people think it’s a dead hobby…what makes you think there’s still some life in it?

JH: I think it is too unique and cool to ever really die. I don’t think anything will ever really replicate or replace the tabletop gaming experience.

JD: What tabletop gaming really needs right now is a really solid, really accessible introductory role-playing game. The trend lately has been for older, simpler games to become increasingly complex – and then to transform into monstrous boxed sets full of plastic minis, special dice, pre-printed maps and cards selling for upwards of 50 bucks. That is no way to bring in new players. There’s a further problem in that the ‘older, simpler’ games also tended to be unplayable by anyone who didn’t already understand the hobby. There needs to be a simple tabletop RPG that can be played successfully as written by kids who aren’t used to ‘winging it’, for under 15 bucks, preferably tied into some big trendy license so kids will be interested. I’m certainly not saying that V&V is it, because it’s not. But I think somebody needs to do this.

superhero: So where can people go to buy this latest edition of Villains and Vigilantes?

JH: You can find our game in .pdf format at the Monkey House Games Store at rpgnow.com and its affiliates. You can get the print edition from the Monkey House Games store at Lulu.com. For further info you can go to monkeyhousegames.com or villainsandvigilantes.com. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter @OfficialVandV.

Thanks for checking us out, AICN!!!

superhero: So there you have it, do-gooders! Get on over to monkeyhousegames.com and get yourselves a copy of the brand new Villains and Vigilantes!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jack Herman and Jeff Dee not only for the interview opportunity but for creating V & V in the first place! I owe them both a debt of gratitude I can never repay and I hope that this newest edition of V & V is more successful than anyone could ever imagine! Good luck!

Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

Readers Talkback

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  • Jan. 18, 2011, 10:51 a.m. CST

    Champions was better!!!

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    The quintessential Supers RPG.

  • Jan. 18, 2011, 1:12 p.m. CST

    Great news

    by ESCgoat

    I was an avid player of V&V in my early teens. It served as a template of design for many of my characters. Death Duel with the Destroyers was the pinnacle of adventures for me, and it was cool to see Willingham use them in the Elementals. It's great to hear it is back into print and by the original creators.

  • Jan. 18, 2011, 1:42 p.m. CST

    Holy Nostalga Batman

    by Quackfu

    I can't even count the hours friends and I mucked about with ths game. I still have all the books on a shelf. Glad to hear the creators are going about business again. Wish I had the time to put a game together.

  • Jan. 18, 2011, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Jeff Dee is a Gentleman..

    by micturatingbenjamin

    And a scholar! He mentioned ICONS. :D I did the art for that one!

  • Jan. 18, 2011, 3:23 p.m. CST

    Had all of these as a kid

    by Laserhead

    And I didn't even play RPGs. I just liked all the cool character designs and bios.

  • Jan. 18, 2011, 4:12 p.m. CST

    MonkeyHouseGames Down!

    by Perry

    I think this article broke the Monkey House Games site! Heh-heh! Great news on the game though! Love it!

  • Jan. 18, 2011, 7:51 p.m. CST

    by Doug Taylor

    You sure about your dates there, geektard? V&V first came out in 1979, so that means Superhero 2044 (a date which is fast approaching, I might add) came out in 1973? Holy timewarp, Batman! That means it came out before even the first edition of D&D!?! FWIW, the truth is that Superhero 2044 came out in 1977, just two years before V&V. And V&V is still WAY better than Champions, too. ;p

  • Jan. 19, 2011, 3:15 p.m. CST

    Superhero 2044

    by Doug Taylor

    You're right, though, it did (come out before V&V). It's worth noting that the two games were/are nothing alike, though, so it's not like one influenced the other (it's likely the creators for both were working on them at the same time, realizing there were no superhero games at the time). I remember seeing Superhero 2044 back in those days, and it looked very poorly done (with bad art). Part of what drew me and my friends to V&V (over Champions) was the fantastic art by the likes of Jeff Dee and Bill Willingham.

  • Jan. 20, 2011, 2:41 p.m. CST

    There's a glut of Super Hero RPGs these days

    by THAT_SAID_THE_CHOPPAH

    This won't do squat in the market. Bring back Tunnels and Trolls!

  • Jan. 21, 2011, 5:08 p.m. CST

    Hey Choppah

    by micturatingbenjamin

    Actually, As a 'new' supers game illustrator, I have to say that sales for the game I worked on have been solid in both print and pdf. DC Adventures has had a high-profile run, and Mutants and Masterminds 3e is gaining ground as well. Not to mention VnV, which is one of my favorites as well, which re-launched around the same time as ICONS and just before the DC Heroes relaunch, has been doing well! Glut? I'd say there's a lot of different flavors of game out there, from the highly granular/technical (Champions) to the old school/pick-up style (ICONS) and everywhere in between, Villains and Vigilantes. Just saying, just because you can get a lot of different kinds of product, doesn't mean that there isn't a market for it.

  • Feb. 7, 2011, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Reporting here seems biased?

    by Jim

    Hey, how about someone from here send an email to FGU and ask for an interview? Letting these guys speak their point of view is cool and all, but anyone with half a brain who has been following this story knows that Jeff and Jack weren't anywhere close to honest about what's been going on. AICN, how 'bout it????

  • April 1, 2011, 3:58 p.m. CST

    Empyrical=Troll

    by OldSkullGamer

    Congrats for escaping the ghost town of games. Would that any number of out of print classics could do the same. Who's up for some FASA Star Trek?

  • In 2010, a link was posted on the Wikipedia page for Fantasy Games Unlimited, which showed the state of New York had dissolved Fantasy Games Unlimited, Inc. in 1991. (For reference, this link can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/9vor4g2) The information it presents is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate and undisputed. But if the presence of that link inaccurately suggested that the corporation was dissolved due to failure to pay taxes- as opposed to being dissolved for ceasing to pay state incorporation fees, then we sincerely and regretfully apologize for and hereby retract any and all statements on our part which might have given that impression. Also in regards to the Fantasy Games Unlimited Wikipedia page, there have been other comments (which have since been removed) which stated, in effect, that the Scott Bizar DBA Fantasy Games Unlimited has taken “unjustified positions” and “improperly threatens legal action” and “has a bad reputation for holding publishing works in limbo”. We had no involvement in the posting of such comments, nor did we direct anyone to make them on our behalf, and have no knowledge of or suspicion as to who made them. Therefore, we take this opportunity to publicly declare that we do not support these statements, we have no knowledge as to the specific situations those statements were referencing, and that we will have no further public comment in regard to them. Additionally, we have made statements to the effect that Scott Bizar DBA Fantasy Games Unlimited does not have the right to publish our game Revised Villains and Vigilantes. It is certainly our belief that this is true in light of advice of legal counsel and the accumulation of a significant body of evidence. However, this is a matter that has yet to be legally determined, and which will be determined through the legal action which we have undertaken. If we have given the impression our belief represented settled legal fact, we sincerely and regretfully apologize and hereby retract any and all statements we have made which may have given that impression. Furthermore, we sincerely and regretfully apologize for and hereby retract any statement that we have made which may have been interpreted as negative commentary upon the character, reputation, honesty, integrity or virtue of Scott Bizar DBA Fantasy Games Unlimited. In discussing this issue we have attempted to distinguish between the two separate legal entities that are Fantasy Games Unlimited Inc. of the State of New York (for the sake of clarity, this is the legal entity which was formed on July 1, 1975 and dissolved by proclamation on September 25, 1991) and Scott Bizar DBA Fantasy Games Unlimited, which is still conducting business. While doing so, we may have given the impression that Scott Bizar did not have the right to do business under the name Fantasy Games Unlimited. It is our belief that, even though the corporation that is Fantasy Games Unlimited Inc. of the State of New York no longer exists, Scott Bizar does have the right to use that name for his current business. We therefore sincerely and regretfully apologize for and hereby retract any and all statements we have made that may have seemed to imply otherwise. Finally, in the discussion of our ongoing dispute with Scott Bizar DBA Fantasy Games Unlimited, we may have made comments that could be interpreted as inappropriately negative assessments of his dealings with writers and artists, or the quality of his products. Again, we sincerely and regretfully apologize for and hereby retract any and all statements we may have previously made that might have given this impression.