Some might say that the world is a chessboard, to which I respond by quoting the sage advice of prog-rock group, Yes:  “Don’t surround yourself with yourself!  Move on back a square!”

I don’t really know what it means, but that’s cool, ’cause the news is captured for my queen to use.  (Doot doot doot doot doot doot doot da-doot!)  Welcome to Ten Things!

Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with ‘An Amateur Comics Historian’, and futuristic bemulleted X-Man Lucas Bishop, Presents:

TEN SUPER CHESS-PIECES!

10) TREE KNIGHT

Tree-Knight

Like so many of Nelson Jent’s H-Dial heroes, The Tree Knight is super-weird, but really charismatic.  In the context of chess, the Knight (usually represented by a horse’s head to imply a cavalry knight on horseback) is one of the oldest pieces still in use in the game.  Like Nelson’s hero form, a Knight is unusual among its ilk, moving in an ‘L’ shape (either two forward and one lateral, or one forward and two lateral) and can actually move over other pieces in its charge…

9) THE ROOK

Rook

Restin Dane isn’t your usual super-type.  Hailing from the pages of Warren Comics, he is a two-fisted, time-traveling adventure hero (save for a run in a winged crow-suit in the grim-and-gritty 1990s) and tends to get involved in more pulp-influenced adventure.  As for his chess namesake, Rooks (sometimes called castles, though that may get you laughed at as a hick) are more versatile/powerful than knights, able to move any number of unoccupied spaces in a straight line.

Rooks also have a special ability called “castling” wherein, under certain conditions, they can take the place of their own King, moving the King to a safer position on the board.

8) KATE BISHOP

Hawkeye-II

Taking on the role of Hawkeye when original marksman Clint Barton had temporarily joined the bleedin’ choir invisible, Katie quickly became a favorite hero of mine, eventually getting Barton’s blessing to continue using the Hawkeye alias in her own heroic adventures.  Bishops, like Rooks, have no restrictions on number of spaces they move, but must always travel diagonally on the board.  Like Knights and Rooks, each player will start with two Bishops at the beginning of a standard game of chess…

7) COMET QUEEN

Comet-Queen

Grava hails from the space colony of Extal, whose culture has absorbed a patois dialect that seems based on 80s ‘Valley Girl’ speech patterns.  She served as a Substitute Legionnaire before graduating to full Legion Of Super-Heroes membership in recent years.  Her chess counterpart, the Queen, is the most powerful piece on the chessboard, able to move any number of squares in any direction to defend her King.  A common tactic in chess is ‘The Queen’s Sacrifice’, where a player gives up the power of the Queen for positional or material gain (i.e., to keep other pieces in play or remove the other players Queen from play.)

6) CHEMICAL KING

Chemical-King

Often times, I won’t go to the same well twice, but the Legion is as almost as rife with Kings and Queens as it is Lads and Lasses.  Witness Condo Arlik of Phlon, whose ability to change and speed up chemical reactions made him something of a mystery for readers, writers and other Legionnaires.  Condo lost his life in the line of duty, which in chess terms would mean the end of the game, as the capture of the player’s King ends the game.  Kings are very weak pieces in the early stages of a chess game, becoming more useful as the number of pieces on the board decreases…

5) S-PAWN

Spawn

What?  You think coming up with this stuff is easy?  250 lists into this thing, you’re lucky I’m even still coherent, Mister and/or Ms. Judgy-Person!

4) EMPRESS

Empress

Anita Fite’s hero name is chosen from her childhood nickname; with her powers of teleportation and mystical vodou abilities, she served as a member of Young Justice.  (She was also skilled in fighting with her sword baton.)  As far as the game of chess is concerned, here’s where we start hitting the deep cuts.  An Empress (also known as a Chancellor and several other names) is a variant piece used in unorthodox games, sometimes known as “Fairy Chess.”  An Empress is functionally a hybrid of Rook and Knight, with the ability to move as either piece on the board, making her almost as powerful as the Queen in play.

3) NIGHT RIDER

Night-Rider

Carter Slade, whose cowboy alter ego is also known as Ghost Rider or Phantom Rider, is based on an earlier cowboy hero who looked nearly identical.  His time as Night Rider ended due to the names unfortunate connotation to members of the Ku Klux Klan, but he is still occasionally seen under other names as an actual ghost in the Marvel U.  In fairy chess, a Nightrider (also called Knightmare or Unicorn) can move the same number squares as a Knight, but in one direction.  The Nightrider is usually only used in chess problems or strategy puzzles…

2) GRASSHOPPER

Grasshopper

Vicki Grant, along with Chris King, picked up the mantel of the Hero Dial after Robby Reed’ accidentally split himself into hero and villain forms.  Grasshopper, with her super-leaping abilities, was one of Vicki’s first alter-egos.  In fairy chess, the Grasshopper is much like a Queen, in that it can move in any direction, but a Grasshopper must leap over another piece or it cannot move.  It is one of the most common modern variant pieces seen in chess problems, thanks in large part to its versatility…

1) ZEBRA BATMAN

Zebra-Batman

During the Silver Age of Comics, Batman wasn’t a grim avenger of the knight, but a more traditional square-jawed hero who worked with the police and got into all sorts of science-fictiony wackiness.  One of his many transformations was Zebra Batman, who will certainly end up appearing in a Retro Review sooner or later.  His chess counterpart, the Zebra, is likewise a Knight, but stretched, rather than Dark.  Moving in the traditional “L” shaped knight pattern, it can go a total of five squares rather than the Knight’s three.  A Zebra’s additional range is sometimes discounted in fairy chess, due to the restrictions of the 8×8 chessboard limiting its potential movements…

Feel free to follow along @MightyKingCobra for more Ten Things madness on Twitter (or check out the full archive here!)  As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, especially given what a semantic stretch Spawn actually is…

Either way, the comments section is Below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering!


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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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2 Comments

  1. May 4, 2016 at 10:43 am — Reply

    I absolutely adore Comet Queen. I demand Legion brought back and putting her in that book.

  2. May 4, 2016 at 11:59 am — Reply

    I was going to call you out on some pieces there Matthew, but then I Googled what fairy chess was. I’d never heard of it before and now I’m intrigued.
    Anyways, youd did a good job with that list. I’m forgiving the Spawn thing because it made me laugh (AND roll my eyes, but I’ll ignore that part)

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