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    A talent agency originating out of LA, briefly described in Freak Legion, they specialize in preying on the needy, specifically young wannabe stars desperate to make it and old has-beens desperate to stay in the lime light. Like all talent agencies, their product is people, and in the World of Darkness, this can easily take on a very dark tone. Besides the mundane activities of funneling would be actors and actresses into the sleazier sides of the industry (including prostitution, snuff films and worse), they can also be sold to vampires, cannibals, cults, malevolent fey, and other predators. (The pilot episode of the series Angel gives an example of this.) And, of course, they can end up as test subjects for various fomori-creation experiments, including being forced into Project: Odyssey if they happen to show some signs of latent psychic ability.

    Two books on the history of talent agencies in the US: Frank Rose's The Agency: Frank Morris and The Hidden History of Show Business, about the rise and fall of the old school Morris Agency, and James Andrew Miller's Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency, about the company which has represented many of the biggest names in show business for the past several decades.

    Fiction-wise, Melody Godfred's The Agency: Hollywood Talent, CIA Managed is about a talent agency used as a front by the CIA for propaganda and related operations. It's the sort of thing a RAW (or, say, a Technocracy run counterpart) could also be involved in. I've been told that Jordan Okun's LA Fadeaway is a good look at the business and how low people are willing to go to succeed in it, but I've not had the chance to read it.

    In the world of film and television, Jerry Maguire (1996) is a pretty good film (about the sports side of the talent agency business) in its own right, and offers a good example of compare and contrast of the sort of people who would work for RAW and who wouldn't. Also, the character of Ari Gold from Entourage (2004 - 2011) can be good inspiration for the company.

    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)



      This is going to be a big one, seeing as how "publishing" covers so territory. So I'm starting with some generalities and then moving into the specifics of newspapers, books, and so forth.

      To start with, I will admit that I've always found the company's name an odd one. I'm not sure why a publishing business would decide to name itself after an infamous volcano. I can kind of see it from a snarky humor standpoint, with the idea of them "spewing" published material all over the place.

      For a general history of publishing overall, William J. Bernstein's Masters of the Word: How Media Shaped History is a good book, starting with the invention of writing and going all the way to the modern internet and it's impact on the industry. Also of interest is Paul Star's The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications, talking about the role of politics in the development of America's newspapers, radio and other media, both in the need to get their message out but also how government policies influenced how these industries grew. (During WWI, the US Navy wanted a total government monopoly over radio technology and use of the air waves; thankfully this never came about.) One thing I learned while researching Vesuvius is that most newspaper syndicates also own a number of radio and tv stations. So this is another realm where there's probably a lot of synergy between them and other companies such as OMNI. This in addition to the already obvious synergy of Vesuvius's output using massive amounts of Good House paper, selling ad space to other PENTEX subsidiaries for discounts, and printing material for other companies (such as Black Dog's game sourcebooks, for example).

      One of their biggest contributions to making the world suck is direct mail/junk mail, helping to continuously flood snail-mail boxes with ad circulars, coupons, and countless other bits of paper. Weirdly, I can't really find much of anything talking about the subject in the realm of books or documentaries. (There are, however, some theories that the postal services in the US, UK and other places don't do anything to reign in the vast levels of junk mail waste because they profit off of the bulk mail fees they collect for sending it out. This is just another one of those areas in which PENTEX is able to corrupt existing institutions without even having to own them.)

      On a more supernatural level, Clive Barker's Mister B. Gone is about angels and demons fighting over what will be done with the newly invented printing press, as well as a demon being being trapped inside of a book. This makes an interesting idea of Wyrm spirits being bound into printed material, the sort of thing that probably used to be relatively rare until PENTEX resources figured out how to do in on a mass scale. A first season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer also dealt with this idea, as well as the possibility of it being uploaded into the internet. It's the sort of thing Vesuvius could experiment with for any of their printed material.

      Next, newspapers.

      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)



        The history of newspapers is about as old as the printing press, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going to be focusing mainly on the newspaper industry in the US. One of the biggest revolutions in the 19th century was the development of steam powered printing presses, and with the ability to make cheeper product, the so-called Penny Press. These cheep one-cent papers (compared with the usual six-cent upper class ones) were aimed at the urban working class with simpler language, sports news and (usually sensationalist) "human interest" stories. They largely created the template for what would become the modern 20th century newspaper. Several individuals helped shape the development of the penny press. One was Horace Greeley, perhaps one of the most influential newspaper editors of the 19th century. There have been a number of books written about the man, with Horace Greeley: The Life and Legacy from the Charles River Editors group a really good one. (CRE has put out a lot of books on a wide range of historical subjects, almost all of them available in ebook form as far as I know.) Robert C. Williams's Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom is also a fairly comprehensive biography of the man. Also of note are James Gordon Bennett, who helped establish newspapers independent from local political party machines. Dwight Teeter's The Devil and His Due talks about the man and the development of the penny press as a forerunner to modern newspapers. Then there is Benjamin Day, the man often credited with the invention of sensationalism in American newspapers. Weirdly, I can't find any books about the man. (I could easily see Vesuvius, if it goes back that far, actively trying to suppress any common public knowledge of a founder who would be seen in a poor light by modern audiences - someone who continuously championed slavery, Indian removal, labor suppression, anti-semitism, and so on, for example.) Curiously, his son is the inventor of the Ben-Day dots printing process.

        Almost a natural outgrowth of the penny press and its sensationalism was the turn of the century development of Muckraking and Yellow Journalism. Muckraking involved journalists and writers digging up and publicizing scandals, usually involving corruption, abuse and social ills. Nellie Bly's Ten Days in a Mad-House is a good example of the genre. It was also adapted into a 2015 independent film. (Incidentally, Bly is a really fascinating individual in her own right, not just for her reporting, but also as an inventor and industrialist, as well as subject of a board game.) Bly worked for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. While he's known today more for the literary prizes named after him, Pulitzer was a major publisher of yellow journalism - press heavily involved in scandal-mongering, jingoism and questionable ethics. James McGrath Morris's Pulitzer: A Life in Politics Print and Power is a good biography of the man. This yellow journalism was driven in large part by his rivalry with William Randolph Hearst.

        Hearst Communications is the current form of the Hearst family publishing empire. This empire was started by George Hearst, who made his fortune in gold mining. He appears in season three of the tv series Deadwood (2004-2006) as a villain so bad he turns the previous show villains into antiheroes. It's one of those characters that makes you immediately say "PENTEX!" His son, William Randolph, took over the family owned San Fransisco Daily Examiner. From this, he would acquire or start numerous other papers (including the New York Journal) and magazines (including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping). Then came radio stations and his own movie studio, Cosmopolitan Pictures (working with MGM). David Nasaw's The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst is a good biography of the man. Also of interest is William R. Hearst Jr.'s memoir The Hearsts: Father and Son and Judith Robinson's The Hearsts: An American Dynasty. Hearst is also the inspiration behind Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941). RKO 281 (1999) is a really interesting film about the making of Citizen Kane, and includes some great bits on the lengths Hearst went to to try and derail the movie. Also of potential interest is George Hearst's wife/William Randolph Hearst's mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, one of the most powerful and influential women in California during her life. Alexandra M. Nickliss has written a recent biography of her(Phoebe Apperson Hearst: A Life in Power and Politics), which I've not read but have heard is good.

        Two tangents about the Hearsts. One is Patty Hearst, the infamous 1974 kidnapping victim and her involvement with the radical Symbonese Liberation Army. Jeffery Toobin's American Heiress is a good account of the very weird events and the sensational trial. It was such a part of late-Baby Boomer/early Gen-X culture that it's been constantly referenced and parodied. (My personal favorite is a second season episode of The Venture Brothers, ¡Viva los Muertos!, where she is part of a Scooby Doo parody along with Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, and Valerie Solanas.) The other is the Hearst Castle, the massive property in San Simeon, California. Hearst called the place "The Enchanted Hill". It makes interesting inspiration for some sort of huge stronghold of the Wyrm, perhaps having been built to harness some sort of lost Croatan caern or resting place of one of the colossal Wyrm spirits bound by the Three Brothers back before the coming of the Europeans. Maybe an earthquake related one.

        New from Nov 6th: In the late 19th and early 20th century came the rise of the newspaper syndicates - single companies which owned multiple papers across several cities. Hearst and his company were one of the first major ones. Other moguls included E.W. Scripps, founder of United Press International wire service as well as his own media company (which today is mostly involved in radio and television) and William Alexander Scott, founder of Southern Newspaper Syndicate based in Atlanta. Scott was African-American and his papers helped play a role in the development of the Civil Rights movement in the Southeast. Thomas Aiello's The Grapevine of the Black South is an interesting history of the syndicate. Modern newspaper syndicates include Southern Newspapers Inc, the Sun-Times Media Group, Tribune Publishing, the Seattle Times Company, the McClatchy Company (which recently bought out Knight-Ridder), the Gannett Company (who publish USA Today), Advanced Publications, and the massive Gatehouse Media (who publish 144 daily papers and nearly 700 community publications.

        The TV show Modern Marvels did do an episode on newspapers, and like most of their stuff, you can probably find a copy on YouTube. The James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) involves a crazed media mogul trying to engineer a war between the UK and China in order to sell newspapers, and is clearly inspired by Hearst and the Spanish American War.

        The press has had a number of scandals and other instances of questionable ethics over the years. Walter Duranty was the New York Times correspondent in Moscow during Stalin's reign and helped cover up the regime's numerous crimes including the deliberate mass starvation in the Ukraine. SJ Taylor's Stalin's Apologist covers this. More common is journalists making things up. Janet Cooke's 1981 story about a fictional 8 year old heroin addict, Stephen Glass's 1990s filing of stories about places he'd never even visited (subject of the 2003 film Shattered Glass), Jayson Blair's plagiarism and fabrications, and Ruth Shalit's plagiarism are just some examples. In the World of Darkness, especially at PENTEX owned papers and magazines, this sort fo thing is probably even more common and even subtly encouraged for new employees.

        The other big development in the post WW2 era was the rise of supermarket tabloids. The most famous of these is the National Enquirer, which switched to it's current format of sensationalistic tabloid gossip in 1953. It is the subject of a 2014 documentary Enquiring Minds. Others include The Star and the infamous Weekly World News (which generally just made stuff up for surreal entertainment value, although in the World of Darkness, half of their material could very well be true in some way or another. Their recurring character of Bat-Boy was one of the famous NPCs in the original Nosferatu clan-book.) The World of Darkness has - or at least had (the modern market hasn't been very kind to a lot of the older tabloids, with glossy gossip magazines taking much of their place) - it's own tabloid, The Midnight Star, which is detailed among the minor organizations in the back of the Orpheus scorebook. (It's named after the Weird Al Yankovich song of the same name.) Back in the day, there was a fictional trilogy from Mark Sumner called News from the Edge, about a tabloid reported investigating possible supernatural stories such as vampires in Vermont and a Minnesota lake monster. I've only read the vampire one, but it was amusingly entertaining.

        On that subject, Stephen King's short story "The Night Flier" is about a tabloid reporter chasing a possible airplane flying serial killer only to find out that the truth is worse than he imagined. The 1997 film adaption is also pretty good. Which brings me to the idea of the investigative reporter as witch-hunter. It's a thing I've always been disappointed wasn't a bigger deal in the old World of Darkness. Some good inspiration for this sort of thing, in addition to The Night Flier, are State of Play (2009) and the 2003 BBC series it was based on, Zodiac (2007), The Pelican Brief (1993) and the John Grisham book it's based on, The Ring (2002), Street Smart (1987), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009/2011) and it's book, The Odessa File (1974), the 1970s tv series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (I am apparently one of the few people who kind of liked the 2005 revamp.) and Gregory McDonald's Fletch novels and the two 1980s films based on them. (The second one, Fletch Lives, has a plot that works beautifully for a Werewolf game.)

        Added Nov 12: The British press operates slightly differently than it's American cousin. One is that they tend to have a larger circulation, as Britain seems to have more of a newspaper reading culture than America does. Part of this may have to do with the fact that most British papers don't feign impartiality and are pretty up front about their political biases. They also tend to be far more open to stories that would be considered sensational or salacious, similar to the more tabloid style papers in the US. The other major difference is the existence of the D-Notice system, where the government can request the media not cover certain stories for national security reasons. These notices aren't really enforceable (officially, at least), but tend to be complied with. However, it's been pointed out that, in the era of digital media and the internet, it's impossible to really suppress a story. However, from a WoD perspective, any group with proper government connections - vampires, PENTEX, etc. - could use them to quash press coverage of stories that threaten their interests or might expose their underhanded activities.

        Bob Clarke's From Grub Street to Fleet Street is a good history of the British press from it's origins up to 1900. There's also Kevin Williams's Read All About It: A History of the British Newspaper, a college text book.
        Nicholas Wilkinson's Secrecy in the Media is a history of the D-Notice, but is excessively expensive, even in e-book form.

        Next, magazines.
        Last edited by No One of Consequence; 11-12-2018, 08:08 PM.

        What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
        Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)



          This'll be a little shorter than the last post. Magazine publishing largely started as an outgrowth of newspaper publishing, really taking off in the mid 19th century. Bookwise, most histories of the industry are college textbooks. David Sumner and Shirrrel Rhoades's Magazines: The Complete Guide to the Industry, Charles P. Daly, Patrick Henry and Ellen Ryder's The Magazine Publishing Industry, Noberto Angeletti and Alberto Oliva's Magazines That Made History, and David Sumner's The Magazine Century: American Magazines Since 1900 all give an overview of the industry and it's history. Also Howard Cox and Simon Wowatt's Revolutions From Grub Street: A History of Magazine Publishing in Britain.

          Some of the more interesting stories from the industry involve specific magazines. Joe Hagan's Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine is good history of the magazine and how it developed during it's hey day. The film Almost Famous (2000) is a fictionalized account of Cameron Crowe's work for Rolling Stone Magazine. In a completely different side of the music magazine business, there's Ann Moses's autobiography Meow! My Groovy Life with Tiger Beat's Teen Idols, about her career as a reporter for the famous teenage magazine.

          Women's magazines seem to be a much more popular topic for both books and films. After writing her book 1962 Sex and the Single Girl, Helen Gurley Brown became one of the most (in)famous women in America, and soon became the chief editor of Hearts's Cosmopolitan magazine. She turned the failing "family" magazine around and turned it into the current form it's known for. Jennifer Scanlan's Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown and Girri Hirshey's Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown are both good bios of the woman. There's also Tina Brown's The Vanity Fair Diaries about her work there. Movie-wise, there is 13 Going on 30 (2004), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), and the documentary The September Issue (2007).

          Tangentially to this is Noliwe M. Rook's Ladies' Pages: African American Women's Magazines and the Culture That Made Them. (I'm somewhat disappointed at my current inability to find any books about the history of magazines like Jet or Ebony.)

          The 60s and 70s also saw the birth of MS magazine, the first major "mainstream" feminist publication. Amy Erdman Farell's Yours In Sisterhood: MS Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism is a good look at the magazine's founding and early years.

          The flip side of this is the birth of so-called "men's magazines" with Hugh Hefner and Playboy Magazine. Stephen Watts's Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream and Elizabeth Fraterrigo's Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in America are good biographies. Playboy was built on the idea of selling young impressionable men on the idea of a lifestyle of owning the "right" clothes, listening to the "right" music, reading the "right" books and so forth to be young, fashionable and, most importantly, desirable to women. (Magazines like Maxim kind of took over this role in the late 90s, taking advantage of the increased disposable income of teens and their lack of actual nudity to hook customers earlier.) The other big name in that world was Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse magazine. I've yet to watch the documentary Filthy Gorgeous (2013) about the man. Guccione's company also published OMNI, one of the better sci-fi magazines back in the 80s. And finally, there is major sleaze Larry Flynt, creator of Hustler magazine. The film The People vs Larry Flint (1996) is based on the landmark supreme court case, but generally white washes what a terrible person the man is and was. An article from the Weekly Standard magazine from the same time gives a less sanitized history of the man.

          I will mention the film Dragnet (1987), which involves a sleazy magazine publisher clearly based on the above three men, with a series of magazines with names like Bait and Field & Cream. These titles always gave me the impression of, in the WoD, a publisher who's centerfolds end up as literal trophies on his wall (kind of like Sin City). The film involves a conspiracy between the porn king and a big name televangelist, as well as one of my favorite cults ever, PAGAN (People Against Goodness and Normalcy).

          The number and type of magazines published in the US and around the world are seemingly endless. Cars, boats, trains, news, politics, sports, women, fashion, computers, electronics, nature, teens, kids, health and fitness, science, engineering, and on and on. PENTEX probably publishes all of these types, each subtly pushing agendas of social division, excessive consumerism, selfishness, greed, and reckless behavior.

          What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
          Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


          • VESUVIUS INCORPORATED Pt 4: Books

            Probably what most people think of when you mention a publishing company. While various publishers date back to the 19th century or earlier, a lot of the major ones today only date back to the 80s or 90s as a result of corporate mergers, buy outs and the like. Going by size/sales, the largest English language ones are Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of CBS), Hachette, Macmillan (part of the larger Holtzbrink Publishing Group), Scholastic, Disney Publishing Worldwide, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Workman, and Sterling. Most of these companies have multiple divisions and imprints, some more specialized than others. Penguin Random House, for example, has several dozen, including Doubleday, Viking, Firebird, Del Ray, and Little Golden Books, just to name a few. Vesuvius likely follows a similar pattern, which means you can make up multiple sub-company imprints to parody/indict anyone you wish.

            As far as history and current state of the industry goes, Richard Guthrie's Publishing is good, but as a college textbook is very pricy even in ebook form. Jason Epstein's Book Publishing: Past Present and Future is much more affordable. Britanie Wilson and Jeremey Lucyk's A Very Brief History of the Book Publishing Industry is a small ebook, but a good overview. Regarding publishing company shenanigans, there is Timothy Aldred's The Dark Side of the Publishing Industry, about his daughter's lawsuit against Penguin over issues of racial discrimination (mostly involving the idea that the work of black authors would only appeal to or be marketed towards black audiences). The book is a bit disorganized, but does raise certain issues worth considering. In the area of historical interest, there is Eugene Exman's The House of Harper: The Making of a Modern Publisher, which traces the history of the company from the 1820s to modern day. (It was originally written in 1967, but an updated edition was published in 2010.) More recently is John Thompson's Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty First Century, looking at the current state of the industry and how it's changed over the past few decades.

            Book publishing shows up in fiction, though not as often in supernatural genre fiction. Martha Grimes's Foul Matter is a rather snarky take on the subject. Steve Martini's The List is one of those legal thriller/suspense novels involving writers, a publishing house and conspiratorial killers. Chris Povone's The Accident is another thriller, involving an anonymously written tell all expose that powerful people want buried. Ben Bova's Cyberbooks was written in 1990, so is a little dated (especially tech wise), but does give a nice dark look at the publishing industry. More on the dramatic side is Cynthia Sweeney's The Nest, about four siblings all involved one way or another in the publishing world and waiting to collect on their inheritance. Also, historically, Anne Bernays's The Man on the Third Floor, a gay romance set against the back drop of the 1950s New York publishing world.

            It's not uncommon for fiction writers to use authors as their main protagonists. Stephen King, for example, was for a long stretch, almost guarantied to have a writer as his main character in his books and stories. I think Desperation was the first one where I saw reviews pointing this out, but others include Salem's Lot, The Shining, The Dark Half, IT, Misery, Lisa's Story and Bag of Bones. Also short stories and novellas such as Word Processor of the Gods, 1408, The Road Virus Heads North, and Secret Window Secret Garden. Of these, I remember Bag of Bones being the one that went into the most details about aspects of publishing. All of these are pretty good, and most have decent (if not excellent in some cases) movie adaptions. Dean Koontz also does this on occasion. Mr. Murder is a kind of odd book, involving a writer who finds himself being stalked by his own clone who was created to be an assassin. It's kind of an insane idea, but one I think can work in Werewolf, with PENTEX having developed some sort of method of making fomori clones, and using it to make celebrity lookalikes (from anyone represented by RAW, above) as assassins. Because, honestly, who is going to believe you if you say Beyonce or Ryan Reynolds is trying to murder you? Also his novel Relentless, in which a writer is being hunted by a psychotic book critic who is apparently part of a conspiratorial group devoted to destroying any sort of art that doesn't fit their weird and creepy agenda. Again, this is the sort of thing that might actually exist in the World of Darkness. PENTEX, for example, trying to dispose of or discredit anyone whose work might possibly challenge their long term plans for humanity and the planet.

            Moviewise, there is 2008 film The Agent, which is British and one I'm having a hard time finding copies of. Easier to find is Wolf (1994), which is more of a werewolf movie, but the main characters do work at a book publishing company so you get to see a little of what goes on there. Also In the Mouth of Madness (1994), the final part of John Carpenter's "end of the world trilogy", involving an insurance investigator trying to track down a missing horror author (clearly based on HP Lovecraft by way of Stephen King) whose work has a habit of driving readers insane. This is something I expect more than a few Vesuvius published books actually do to readers. I'll also mention Fatal Attraction (1987), as Glenn Close's character is an editor for a publishing company, and can show what kind of people Vesuvius probably hires.

            Given the number of popular or trendy books and book series out that that are ripe for Werewolf/PENTEX style parody, I'll offer up YouTube reviewer The Dom's bit about how screwed up 50 Shades of Grey is.

            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


            • Aside: As I wait for my post about books to be approved (I included a link to the YouTube book/movie review site Lost in Adaption, and it was part of his review of 50 Shades of Grey and I mentioned him by name, so that's probably what's holding things up), I'll mention I'm now working on the comic book post, which will require hunting down various old web sites, assorted YouTube videos and the like, so it'll probably take at least a week.

              What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
              Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


              • VESUVIUS INCORPERATED Pt 5: Comic Books

                While comic publishing used to be something of an independent thing back in the day, it's now part of massive corporate empires. Marvel Comics is owned by Disney (and before that by ToyBiz toy company and New World Pictures), and DC Comics has been a part of Warner Brothers since 1969. The other major companies over the past decade or two have been Image Comics, IDW, and Dark Horse, who are independent (though IDW spends most of it's time doing licensed fan fiction for Hasbro toy lines and other intellectual property).

                While comics and comic strips had existed since the Victorian Period, the comic book as we think of it didn't come along until 1934. The superhero genre, which has dominated American comics is usually traced to the debut of Superman in 1938. (Most of the really early comic heroes derived inspiration from earlier Pulp Era heroes such as Hugo Danner, The Shadow, or Mandrake the Magician; Japan's Ogon Bat character from 1931 may actually be the first comic book superhero.) This set off a massive boom in comic book sales that would last until the end of WW2. At this point, comics were still selling, but readers were more interested in non-superhero genres, especially crime, horror and satire. When the public turned against comic books in the early 1950s, it was largely because of the violence and gore in crime and horror comics, with alleged encouragement of "sexual deviancy" - ie, homosexuality - being only a small part of it. The comics industry instituted the Comics Code Authority on their own, largely under the direction of the people at MLJ (the makers of Archie), which wiped out a number of their competitors. Ironically, the Comics Code is what allowed the superhero genre to return in the Silver Age, as they were one of the few genre's left to really work with.

                During the 1960s, an underground comic market developed as a part of the counterculture, featuring comics involving a drug use, sex, and other "unwholesome" activities. Robert Crumb is probably the single most famous creator from this subculture. These books were especially popular in the UK, and had an influence on a lot of the "British Invasion" authors of the 1980s like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison.

                The major development in the 1970s was that of the Direct Market, in which companies would distribute their books directly to specialty stories instead of only to the newsstands and grocery stores (yes, for those of you under the age of 40, that is where most of us had to go for out comic books unless we were lucky enough to live in a place populous enough to super a comic book store). A big impact of this change was that it allowed smaller publishers to get their books out in the public eye, resulting in a lot of independently produced work. This is how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got it's start. Because direct market distribution didn't allow allow for credited returns (the way old style distribution did), even Marvel and DC were more willing to take chances on new books that wouldn't sell at a newsstand but would garner enough direct market orders to make a profit.

                In 1989, the Batman movie game out, launching a year of Batmania and creating a massive speculator boom in comics. Because people realized that things like the first appearance of Superman or Batman was now actually worth money to serious collectors, they'd start buying up anything that might possibly become valuable in the future. (This was completely ridiculous, as it's pretty impossible to predict which character or story might someday be of interest to future collectors - no one at the time honestly expected Wolverine to be anything more than a one-and-done throw away character when he appeared in an issue of the Hulk - and the reason a lot of Golden Age books are valuable is because they are extremely rare, most having been destroyed in WW2 paper drives or 1950s comic burnings.) Marvel and DC both jumped on this band wagon, and Image Comics was founded by big name artists wanting to cash in on their current popularity with the speculators. This didn't exactly end well, with the bubble bursting and taking a lot of comic book stores with it. (Some would recover thanks to the CCG boom/bubble causes by Magic the Gathering.)

                The massive success of comic book movies over the past 20 years is a mixed blessing. While many characters are more popular than ever, there is an argument that these companies now exist simply to farm ideas for their corporate overlords to exploit for new film plots and toy lines. (This is actually what happened to Marvel when they were purchased by Toy Biz in the 1990s, with the company dictating that Marvel produce more things they could turn into action figures, especially for Spider Man and the X-Men.)

                Book wise, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a really good book, talking about history, technique, culture and other aspects of the medium.

                I've never read Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, but if you're curious, there it is. A very excellent book about the anti-comics backlash of the 1950s is David Hadju's The 10-cent Plague: The Great Comic Scare and How it Changed America.

                Marvel Comics has been the subject of a number of books. Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is one of the better ones. Dan Raviv's Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled Over the Marvel Comics Empire and Both Lost looks at how Marvel ended up in bankruptcy in the 1990s. The late Stan Lee, who was the face of Marvel for much of the 60s, 70s and 80s, is the subject of a recent biography by Bob Batchelor (Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel). Lee's also written two autobiographies/memoirs over the past several years, Excelsior! and Amazing Fantastic Incredible. Tangentially related to Marvel is Padrag O'Mealoid (there's a bunch of accent marks on his name I'm unable to reproduce)'s Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman (and Miracleman), a British character originally "based on" the 1940s Captain Marvel (aka SHAZAM) that has gone through a very tangled ownership legal battle for several decades.

                Oddly, it's harder to find histories of DC comics. Most are published by DC themselves (something I'm always annoyed by, as such things push the current status quo while ignoring a lot of the more fascinating aspects of the past). An exception is Paul Levitz's 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Another is about an instance in DC's history, the so-called "Implosion" of 1978. Keith Dallas and John Wells's Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978 talks about this strange and infamous event with numerous interviews of people involved in DC at the time.

                The long running rivalry between Marvel and DC is chronicled in Reed Tucker's Slugfest: The 50 Year Battle Between Marvel and DC.

                George Khoury's Image Comics: The Road to Independence is a look at how the company started and it's history up until the mid-2000s.

                For those who are die-hard enthusiasts about comic book history, I recommend the American Comic Book Chronicles series, a set of hardcover books covering each decade from the 1940s to the 1990s. There's also a number of companion guides to various defunct publishers. The Quality Comics Companion and The MLJ Companion are two I own.

                PART 2: A book I'm sort of kicking myself for forgetting is Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, about a pair of cousins who get involved in the early comic business. It's a really great book and an interesting look at the time period. One of the characters they create, The Escapist, has been subject of a number of comic book specials as well. And somewhat related is Simcha Weinstein's Up Up and Oy Vey, a look at a lot of the early Jewish creators of the comic book industry and how their experience as Jews influenced their work. Arie Kaplan's From Krakow to Krypton covers similar territory.

                A rather obscure book, if you can find it, is called Generation Ecch by Jason Cohen and Michael Krugman, with comics and illistrations by Evan Dorkin. A snarky commentary on all things Generation X written in the mid 90s, it includes a chapter about comic books. The chapter opening strip by Dorkin has long been one of my favorite commentaries on the industry, especially it's efforts to be more "mature" (usually by including gratuitous violence and nudity). If you have an interest in what sort of world the original World of Darkness came out of, it's worth seeking out.

                In the realm of film, Chasing Amy (1997) is a pretty good romantic comedy revolving around people involved in the indie comic scene of the time. Comic Book Villains (2002) is a black comedy about the more predatory habits of some comic store owners and speculators. Comic Book: The Movie (2004) is a rather odd mockumentary about comic book fandom and aspects of the industry. More tangentially is The Hand (1981) in which a comic book artist loses his hand in an accident, only for it to come to murderous life. (This sort of thing probably happens in the World of Darkness more often than one would expect.)

                A lot of early adapters of the internet were comic fans, so it's no surprise that comics were the subject of a lot of websites. Fansites devoted to various characters or companies were common, as were review sites. Slightly less common were serious essays about the medium, its history and what it did. My all time personal favorite was, which sadly closed down in 2006. Thankfully, it is still accessible via the Internet Wayback Machine. The essay on judging the merit of political comics is the sort of thing I wish more modern creators would take into consideration about their work. I'll also note the Women in Refrigerators website, about the mistreatment of female characters in comics. One of the more (almost ludicrously so) in depth looks at Marvel comics in the 1990s is The Life of Riley, a 36 - yes, 36 - part series about the Spider-Man clone saga from that period. One of the interesting things about it is just how much Marvel's marketing department was the driving force behind a storyline that ended up being three times longer than originally intended simply because they wanted to milk it for as long as possible.

                As a continuation of this trend of comic fans using the internet, YouTube has a large number of channels about comics books, ranging from reviews to historical retrospectives to commentary and parody. SYFY WIRE's channel has a multipart documentary on the history of Image Comics. Linkara's Atop the Fourth Wall channel does reviews, usually of bad books. Of interest for the purposes of PENTEX are his reviews of some of Frank Miller's later work, especially his Holy Terror book, as I think it's probably a good template for the sort of thing PENTEX comics are like. Comics Explained does a decent job of giving summaries of various characters and storylines. Pretty much anything you are interested in about comics, you can probably find someone talking about it on YouTube.

                Regarding what kind of comics PENTEX makes, my thought is that their company has always reflected the worst aspects of their era. In the Golden Age, especially during the Wartime period, they take the unfortunate casual racism, be it Japanese as subhumans or African Americans as comedic buffoons, to especially obnoxious levels. In the 40s and 50s, it's crime and horror comics that glorify criminal violence and brutal slaughter of innocents without the moral comeuppance of things like Tales from the Crypt. The Silver Age is probably harder to pin down. On the one hand, you have the sort of bland square jawed white male science heroes who are probably pushing Science! and Progress! at the expense of nature. There's also a fair criticism that a lot of Marvel's early work was fairly sexist - not misogynist, there's a difference between the two - in the way it treated a lot of it's female characters. Mainly in the line of "be quiet, the men are talking" type things. (I even found this annoying when I was a kid in the 80s, but I think this was because I got my start reading stuff like GIJoe and X-Men where female characters were pretty front and center.) 1970s attempts at diversity were probably kind of painful and cheesy. (I'm reminded of a comment from one writer that, while as a kid he was glad to see black superheroes, he couldn't understand why Luke Cage talked like JJ from the tv show Good Times.) The 80s and 90s would probably be marked by a massive upswing in violence, casual murder, psychotic villains, female characters being traumatized in various ways, and a lot of marketing driven creative decisions such as gimmick covers, crossover events, alternate costumes to push action figures, and the like. I'm not sure how they'd be now. Clearly they'd exist primarily to farm ideas for OMNI tv shows and films, Avalon toys, and so forth. I sort of suspect there might be some idea of trying to divide readers along racial, ethnic, religious, gender, sexuality, etc. lines (and even further by degrees of intersectionality) in a sort of "us vs. them" mentality as opposed to common humanity. But that's just me. There are probably several directions such a thing could go in.

                PENTEX comic fans probably have certain similarities to the gaming fans seen in the Black Dog chapter of Subsidiaries. However, they're also likely to develop "superpowers" or at least very dark twisted takes on them. (If you've ever seen the 2001 film Earth vs The Spider, it's a direct take on Spider-Man done as horror instead of heroism. Also, a Marvel miniseries by Warren Ellis called Ruins, in which the early Marvel Universe goes wrong, including The Hulk as a giant mass of cancerous tumors.) I'm sure there are a number of tainted comic books out there that drive readers insane or turn them into monsters.

                "Working a dreadful reverse alchemy, Marcus Langston let our world slide from a Golden Age to a Silver Age and finally to a Dark Age. Now, 'heroes' motivated only by money or psychopathology stalked a paranoid, apocalyptic landscape of post-nuclear mutants and bazooka-wielding cyborgs."
                Alan Moore, Youngblood: Judgment Day

                Last edited by No One of Consequence; 12-14-2018, 11:15 PM.

                What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                • Something I'd forgotten with the part on books is Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks from Hell, a wonderfully in depth look at the world of paperback horror fiction from the 1970s and 80s. This was back in the day when almost every bookstore had a section devoted specifically to horror fiction, and a lot of it was wonderfully weird and sometimes freakish. Besides showcasing a forgotten part of fiction history, it also has a lot of potential ideas for WoD games.

                  Next will likely be heavy machinery, coffee and advertising in some order.

                  What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                  Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                  • This is great stuff.

                    Have you thought about selling it as a compilation of resources for Werewolf on the Storytellers' Vault?

                    "I am a prophet. I bring chaos and unrest to the foolish and wicked. I am no fit prince for Cainites, and I am no fit shepherd for the souls of men."


                    • Something like that would require a massive amount of editing and clean up. If anything, I'd be more likely to do a new subsidiary or three (Titan Construction, Logan Meat Packing Company, Aeronautic Engineering Systems Industrial Research) or an alternate take on the RPG industry in the WoD (with Battle Systems Design's Warlocks & Wyrms fantasy RPG and Black Dog as a front for a wraith skin riding cult).

                      Meanwhile, please enjoy the YouTube channel Company Man, which does videos giving the brief history of various companies. The one on Proctor & Gamble is especially good for those interested in Young and Smith.

                      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)



                        Environmental impact has always been a sizable part of Werewolf, both as a traditional environmentalist take and (to a lesser degree) in how the logistics of modern industrial society and the improved lifestyles of human beings present a threat the Garou way of life and the territory they control. The farming, logging, mining and other industries necessary to keep humans fed, clothed, sheltered and entertained have this bad habit of intruding into Garou (and Fera) caerns and other places of import. And something all of these industries have in common is the use of heavy equipment vehicles. I highly recommend giving the Wikipedia article I linked to a once over, because it lists the wide range of machines this covers, including bulldozers, excavators, and dump trucks as just the tip of the iceberg. It's a big industry, with the US's Caterpillar being the biggest manufacturer of these machines, with about $28 billion in sales every year. A PENTEX company making heavy equipment would be in a position to supply multiple other subsidiaries - especially Harold & Harold Mining, Good House's logging concerns, Ardus, Endron, and any construction companies or agribusiness. Such a company doesn't even have to get up to any additional shenanigans; just supplying the hardware to other operators is enough.

                        Annoyingly, I'm currently unable to find any stats for bulldozers and other heavy equipment in the World of Darkness books I've gone through. (You'd think they'd be in Rage Across the Amazon, but no.) The closest I can offer is the brief bit about them in the vehicle chapter from nWoD/CoD's World of Darkness: Armory. BTW, they do manufacture armored military bulldozers, and it's not all that difficult, relatively speaking, to put weapons on them, such as a squad automatic weapon/machine gun. PENTEX might go whole hog with a model sporting .30 cals and a balefire flame thrower. If you're running a game set in the Amazon or Africa, it's certainly the sort of thing you could throw at a player character pack.

                        There's also the option of having your heavy equipment be spiritually possessed.Theodore Sturgeon's Killdozer! is a 1940s sci fi story about construction workers building an airstrip on a Pacific island only to have their bulldozer be taken over by a malevolent ancient energy being. It was adapted into a 1974 made for TV movie, which itself got a Marvel Comics adaption. (You can find a review of said comic on Linkara's Atop the Fourth Wall channel on YouTube.) Stephen King's short story "Trucks" is in a similar vein, and was adapted into the 1986 film Maximum Overdrive. While that movie is bad but entertainingly cheesy, the same can not be said for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011). It is possibly one of the worst superhero films I've ever seen, and I mention it here for only one reason, and that is that it includes a scene in which Johnny Blaze turns the Bagger 288, one of the largest excavators on earth, into a hellfire possessed monstrosity.

                        The Bagger, along with several of its sister machines, have held records for their size. HP Lovecraft used to use the word "cyclopian" to describe certain pieces of inhuman architecture - that of the lost city of R'lyeh, for example - that were of a scale which dwarfed the human viewer, reinforcing how small humans were in the scope of the Mythos. It's a word that fits with the bigger pieces of machinery. I've seen a few of them in person during my life, and standing next to a dump truck whose tires are the size of a house is a very weird experience.

                        And a book or three: Frank Raczon and Keith Haddock's Caterpillar: Modern Earthmoving Marvels is an interesting look at the history of the company and several of their products, including a lot of photos. Haddock has also written The Earthmover Encyclopedia, a history and documentation of heavy equipment in general. Neil Dahlstrom and Jeremy Dahlstrom's The John Deere Story is a pretty good biography of the guy who developed the self scouring plow and founded the massive agricultural equipment company.
                        Last edited by No One of Consequence; 12-21-2018, 06:02 PM.

                        What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                        Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                        • Originally posted by Anatole View Post
                          This is great stuff.

                          Have you thought about selling it as a compilation of resources for Werewolf on the Storytellers' Vault?
                          I would second this idea.

                          Freelance Writer and Storyteller's Vault contributor. Find my work here:


                          • COFFEE

                            Coffee is a huge business. It is the second most traded commodity on earth, with only oil beating it out. Odds are very good that PENTEX has a coffee business, not just for the money, but also for potential advancement of their destructive agenda. I've touched on 3rd world agribusiness earlier in the thread, mostly dealing with fruit. Coffee has a lot of commonality with those businesses, but has largely grown into it's own thing, similarly to the way beer and wine have outgrown regular food farming. Two of the biggest issues about coffee farming are the clearing of land and the use of water. Both of these are the sort of environmental issues that impact the Garou and have a strong place in Werewolf. This is especially true in Brazil, which makes it another avenue to explore if you're running a Rage Across the Amazon campaign. You can also use it for games set in, say, Hawaii or Indonesia.

                            An interesting aside, from a World of Darkness perspective, is that the Oromo people of Ethiopia, where coffee first originated, had a tradition of planting a coffee bush on the graves of powerful sorcerers. Allegedly, the first coffee bush sprang up from tears God (or one of the gods) shed for a famous sorcerer when he died.

                            Modern Marvels has an episode devoted to the coffee industry, which is worth watching to get a good introduction and basic overview. In terms of books, there's a number of them. H.E. Jacob's Coffee: The Epic of a Commodity was written in the 1930s and is one of the earliest of the non-fiction aimed at casual readers books that are ubiquitous the past few decades. It's still an interesting read, both for the subject and as a window into that decade through the eyes of a German Jew. More modern is Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage and the Industry, a collection of essays on a wide range of topics. Another is Mark Pendergrast's Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World. Anthony Wild's The Devil's Cup is an entertaining travelogue of the world of coffee, while Jeff Kohlner's Where the Wild Coffee Grows is a look at both the origins of coffee and certain environmental threats to the industry.

                            Photographer Steve McCurry's book From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail is an interesting look at the world of coffee growth and production, and of the people who make it possible.

                            The biggest development in the industry over the past few decades is the Fair Trade movement, of which coffee has been a cornerstone. A few books have been written on the subject, including Daniel Jaffee's Brewing Justice, Dean Cycon's Javatrekker, and Mark Pendergrast's Beyond Fair Trade. Benoit Daviron and Stefano Ponte's The Coffee Paradox: Global Markets, Commodity Trade and the Elusive Promise of Development and Kieth Brown's Buying into Fair Trade: Culture Morality and Consumption are more about the economic and sociological aspects of Fair Trade, including attitudes and activities of First World consumers.

                            Another interesting aside is that among the groups Cycon visits in Javatrekker is the Kogi people of the Columbian mountains. The Kogi also refer to themselves as Kagaba, which literally means "jaguar" in their language. This pretty much screams long standing Balam Kinfolk. They are the subject of a 1998 documentary From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brother's Warning, which is kind of hard to find, but an interesting watch if you are interested in indigenous South American culture and/or spiritualism.

                            The coffee house has been a part of Middle Eastern, North African and Turkish culture for centuries, and inevitably found its way into Europe. For the past 20+ years, The modern face of the coffee house has been Starbucks. This is another of those companies that don't seem to get much attention in the world of books. Two-time company CEO Howard Schultz's books Pour Your Heart Into It and Onward aren't exactly exposes of the company's potential faults. On the other hand, Bryant Simon's Everything but the Coffee: Learning About America from Starbucks is a must read if you want to develop your own PENTEX counterpart to the company.

                            Tangently, the second season South Park episode "Gnomes" looks at Starbucks (or "Harbucks" as their company is called). The Saints Row video game series had it's own Starbucks parody called "Apollos", a reference to the two lead characters from the original Battlestar Galactica. The Flash tv series also has JJ Jitters.

                            I'm working on a tea epilogue to go with this, as well as advertising (which'll probably take a minute), the dairy industry, and Slaughterhouse Video.

                            Christmas Eve addition: A bit for Mage folks. When coffee first made its way into Arabia, it was frequently cultivated by Sufi dervishes. They used both brewed coffee and a variant called Qishr in their religious rituals. So, something to keep in mind if you happen to be doing anything with the Cult of Ecstasy, Ahl I Batin or others in Arabia during the late Dark Ages or Sorcerers Crusade period.
                            Last edited by No One of Consequence; 12-24-2018, 06:27 PM.

                            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                            • TEA

                              Tea is one of the most consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. It originated in China and became widely popular there about a thousand years ago. (Something to keep in mind if you want to run a Dark Ages Beast Courts chronicle.) Portuguese traders brought it back to Europe in the 16th century, and by a hundred years later, it was an entrenched part of British culture.

                              One of the biggest tea manufactures/brands is Lipton, which has been part of Unilever since 1972. Their ready to drink/bottled tea is distributed in cooperation with PepsiCo. Lipton has generally had a pretty good environmental track record. However, they've also had some reoccurring issues with product recalls in China, usually involving alleged presence of toxins. The original founder of Lipton's, Thomas Lipton, was one of in many ways one of the first celebrity CEOs. Michael D'Antonio's A Full Cup: Sir Thomas Lipton's Extraordinary Life is a good biography of the man (and his obsession with trying to win the America's Cup), which can serve as inspiration for developing your own company founders and CEOs.

                              There are a lot of books about tea. John Griffiths's Tea: A History of the Drink that Changed the World is a good one. Erling How and Victor Mair's The True History of Tea is pretty completist, including a lot of information from historical Asian sources. Laura Martin has written at least two books on the subject, Tea: The Drink that Changed the World, and A History of Tea: The Life and Times of the World's Favorite Beverage. Mary Lou Heiss and Robert Heiss's The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide is primarily a guide to different types of tea and how to prepare them, but also goes into a lot of the history and its place in various societies. Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson's A Social History of Tea: Tea's Influence on Commerce Culture and Community is a look at the beverage's place in British and American history and society.

                              The development of the British tea industry is a curious one, especially the 19th century shift of tea production from China to India. Part of this involved having to smuggle tea bushes, as accounted in Sarah Rose's For All the Tea in China. Erika Rappaport's A Thirst For Empire looks at how the development of the global tea industry mirrored and helped drive the development of the British Empire. (Tangentially related is Lizzie Collingham's A Taste for Empire, which looks at food in the same manner.) Also interesting is Vicky Straker's Afternoon Tea: A History and Guide to the Great Edwardian Tradition, which looks at how the afternoon tea ritual developed and its importance to upper society, especially among women. It's good for those that want to run a Victorian Era game, be it Werewolf, Vampire or other. (Also good for modern day Vampire and Changeling social rituals, I find.)

                              Related to this, I also recommend James Benn's Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History. It's a good resource for the Beast Courts in so far as how the ones in China might approach tea and its surrounding rituals and mythology as part of their rites and ceremonies. Likewise Kakuzo Okakura's The Book of Tea, a classic introduction to the art of Chado.

                              In terms of the modern tea industry, especially in India, Jeff Koehler's Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World's Greatest Tea is a good overview of the entire thing, especially the workers who underpin the whole thing. Sarah Beskey's The Darjeeling Distinction is a look at the Fair Trade movement and it's impact on tea workers in Assam. There's also a recent documentary, Bitter Cup: The Dark Side of the Tea Industry, which I think is available in full on YouTube.

                              Next will probably be Slaughterhouse Video (probably expanded a little to talk about direct to video and old grind house stuff in general) next week.

                              What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                              Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                              • Have you covered Pentex and any possible dealings with professional sports, yet?

                                "Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger."