Podcasts/Episode 115

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The Letters Page: Episode 115

Original Source

Primary Topic

Wraith

Intro

Let's get villainous!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 59:09

After some mild goofs, we get into your questions, and you ask all the right things! Listen to learn more about so many villains we've never spoken about before, plus a decent handful that you're already familiar with!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Disclaimer

  • This is not a definitive list of all Wraith villains. They’re leaving to door open for more to be created at some point. It’s supposed to be a list of a “substantial” number of them, though and are ones that typically were important for a specific story at some point.

Questions

  • Given Wraith’s long history as Rook City’s hero (predating Dark Watch’s heroes by many decades), she’s got a similarly long list of major villains: Chairman, Maniac Jack/Jack Donovan/Spite, Ermine, Equity is on Rook City Wraith’s incapacitated side for some reason(?), but who’s the yellow figure in that art? That’s Mayor Overbrook. The Equity connection is that he’s something of a corporate hitman - he doesn’t have it in for Wraith in particular, but he shows up often enough just in the course of his job.
  • As the second-oldest Sentinel hero (aside here as they point out that she’s not [Wraith first showed up in MC #27 in October ’48, so a few Legacies, Scholar, Vernon Carter “Bunker”, pre-time-travel Jim Brooks, a young Faye Diamond, Henry Goodman Absolute Zero, and Ray Talbot Captain Cosmic all predate her]), are there other notable villains she’s gone up against (like Plague Rat, some rival gangs to the Organization, did she go to the Wretched Hive often for information)? Sure, she’s dealt with Plague Rat as he’s a good “monster” for Rook City (although he’s not something she fights one-on-one - she’s got to outsmart him or drive him off in some way). It would be a bad idea to go to the Wretched Hive as she’d have to fight everybody at once and that’s not her style - the bar does have something of a sanctuary/neutral ground vibe to it. The bad guys go there to have a drink and play pool and maybe do some planning, but crime stuff doesn’t go on there in particular and villains that don’t get along don’t fight each other. The police avoid it, even the Organization avoids it. She does stake out the place sometimes, though, but there is one story involving it. After Spite kills her friends, she’s got a lot of impotent rage going - she doesn’t know where Spite is or how to find him and she needs to take this out on somebody. She kicks the door in and picks all the fights. This doesn’t go particularly well for her and she gets kicked out pretty readily (she’s good but not that good) - there’s even some “professional courtesy” going on here. Word had gotten around about Spite killing these people right in front of her (although they didn’t know they were her friends) and they had an idea on why she was there. They weren’t necessarily gentle in her removal from the premises, but they did just beat her up and throw her out rather than more permanent results. A “rival” gang would be the late-comers of The Order of the Simple Machine [see the second Create a Thing episode], but one of the only other groups that would have the requisite power to face off with the Organization would be Zhu Long’s followers (it happened a bunch, but that was more of a ’90s and ’00s thing - there were the occasional ninjas around before that, but no major clashes between the groups or anything).
  • What are some of the dumbest Wraith villains she’s dealt with in her long publication history? There’s a guy who was injected with jellyfish DNA - The Jellyfish. He’s got stretchy arms and if he grabs you he can shock you (and not like high-voltages here, it’s just painful and could paralyze you for a minute or two). Another is Doctor Rubber, who seems to be made of “rubber” so that Wraith’s knives and whatnot just bounce off of him, and he makes other things rubber so they bounce. Finally, Saw Man - he’s a construction-worker-themed thuggish bank-robber type with saw blades attached to his forearms (like, as part of his outfit - he doesn’t have saw blades permanently part of his arms or anything) - so, imagine Wraith tied up on a plank over a drop while Saw Man saws through it or something.
  • The Wraith episode mentioned that a bunch of her early college adventures involved evil Communist scientists and whatnot, did any of them gets brought back by later writers on with more to them (or as part of Baron Blade’s or Perestroika’s groups)? No, they were these one-note characters without much to them and they weren’t re-envisioned later. Communism was a fad for villain backstories for a while.
  • Has she ever clashed with Revenant at the same time that Montgomery Industries were clashing with RevoCorp, like there’s a hostile takeover attempt and she’s lost the backing of the board due to her missing meetings or whatnot due to her heroics? Kind of the opposite - it was more like the two companies were making deals and so in the morning Maia would be shaking the hand of Mark Benedetto and that night the Wraith would be fighting Revenant. The friction between her and her company’s management due to her dual responsibilities is something that gets played up frequently, though.
  • Any notable clashes between her and the Operative other than the Mayor Overbrook incident? Notable, no, but they did fight a bunch here and there. The major Organization plots (and the personal stakes involving the Operative in particular) are more about Mr. Fixer than Wraith after all.
  • The Sentinel Comics: The Untold Story videos [from the time of the RPG Kickstarter] mention a few Wraith nemeses, Mr. Hideous and Skeleton Key - what were their shticks? How important were they to Wraith’s story? They’re from her Golden Age stories (probably from her first year of publication). Mr. Hideous was a guy in a spooky ghost mask who used poisonous gas to confront people with their greatest fears, etc. He got revamped quite a bit in the ’80s as a victim of his own crimes - overexposure to his own gas left him horribly scarred, so he stopped wearing the mask (his own face being pretty bad on its own now) and and started wearing tacky suits. His gimmick went from being “I will terrify you” to “I will show you how terrible I am”. Skeleton Key was a master burglar who could get into or out of anywhere. He had kind of a Day of the Dead motif. He showed up a bunch, but was never major. He was fun though because sure, she catches him and he gets locked up, but he always escapes (and might break others out in the process - to the point where he got verbed into being an excuse for how the writers could get some other character back into the mix; “Just Skeleton Key him”).
  • Is the villain with the Russian accent in the live action show (see a clip in the Untold Story videos already mentioned) a pre-existing character from the comics or one invented for the show? He was original to the show and was named Comrade Cockroach. He was only in the show and was as campy and ridiculous as that clip shows.
  • Who’s the go-to, PG or otherwise family friendly Wraith villain (since Spite, while memorable, is super dark and hard to tone down)? Ermine is probably the easy answer as she’s definitely the most prominent (she gets a deck in the game after all). Mr. Hideous and Skeleton Key as well to some extent (although the former is willing to go super dark too). There are also several villains of the “match wits with her” variety that they want to mention that typically got re-imagined into whatever other media featured Wraith:
    • Labyrinth, a maze-based villain who uses abandoned warehouses or whatever to build elaborate mazes to trap people (it’s really unclear in early appearances what he’s trying to get out of trapping people, but eventually he gets fleshed out to have a motive to trap people for their crimes or some other injustice they’ve committed - often that’s something of a red herring that he then uses to blackmail them, or he just bases the theme of the maze around them or something - he’s had a lot of iterations over the decades).
    • Crossword, Michael Crosse, he would write crossword puzzles and send them into newspapers anonymously. He’d also do crimes and it turned out that the puzzles were clues (the nature of the crime and where he would do it or whatever), so there were stories with the Wraith rushing to finish a puzzle so that she could intercept his next crime. Sometimes there would be more “puzzles” out in the world too (in the windows of a building or whatever).
    • Last, we have the Entertainer, Billy Barnum, distant relative to P. T. Barnum (although not part of the family that actually has the circus business - he didn’t take it well when he got rebuffed from being involved/taking over). He’d take over TV broadcasts and run something of a “show” - his first was when he released all the zoo animals into the city. Another was a radio show where he kidnaps somebody and “interviews” them and wraith has to try to work out where they are from what’s said. He’s got a good gimmick since his m.o. can change with the times (he’s probably live-streaming stuff now).
  • [Princess Cool first asks for a ranked list of her villains in terms of silliness - they decline to provide one, but suggest that we rank them ourselves once the episode is over.]
  • Any villainous couples? Does Wraith get involved with any villains? Later on there’s the standard Ermine/Fright Train thing and that’s really the only major one. Other relationships probably happen, but they’re not important to any of their stories. Wraith does get involved with Roman Valentino, Valentine, this handsome, charismatic Lothario with some emotional manipulation powers (he can inflame something that’s already there - so his charisma can get you to like and trust him really quickly). Once he realizes that he has this power he starts abusing it - like walking into a jewelry store and just getting the staff to let him walk off with pieces because it just looks so good on him. As part of this he’s a frequent Wraith opponent where she gets this “I’m in love with him, but I must stop him, but I’m in love with him” dynamic going where she can’t trust her own feelings. In the ’90s there’s a story where he declares his love for her and she doesn’t trust him or believe him, but he really has fallen for her. He eventually just lets her capture him and it becomes sort of a tragic thing as he can probably have anybody he wants in the world except for the one he wants.
  • What is easily the most outside-genre villain the Wraith has fought? That’s hard because she’s got just so many valid genres to go with (woman fighting a man, non-powered person fighting a powered person, smart person fighting another smart person, human fighting a monster, etc.). Maybe any time she’s fighting aliens, but that pretty much only happens during Freedom Five stories where it’s no longer outside the genre. Sorry.
  • Are there any serious rivalries between Wraith’s villains? Most don’t want to work with one another (mastermind villains with a gimmick want their gimmick to be front-and-center), but there’s a certain professional courtesy to not step on each others’ toes either. Mayor Overbrook doesn’t want other criminals around as they just get in the way of his own schemes. Pretty much everything has to get cleared by the Organization/Chairman. There is this one guy, though, who everybody hates and who hates everybody. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Wraith is apparently doing crimes (being too vicious/brutal and breaking bones or cutting people up in the course of her vigilante behavior). She knows that it’s not her doing this, so there’s somebody out there pretending to be her and she needs to figure it out. The eventual reveal is this guy named Jeremy Brown who has determined that there can’t just be one “Wraith” - there has to be a bunch of them, so why not be one too? He adopts something like her look that is enough like her outfit to pass for what people know as her look. She confronts him and his disproportionate response and he’s somewhat disappointed to learn that it’s just her, and he thinks she doesn’t go far enough (leaving criminals capable of becoming repeat criminals). She defeats him, clears her name, and he gets sent to prison. When he eventually gets out (hardened from the experience) he determines to clean things up his way and takes up the name (with matching appearance) of Hangman and continues to patrol in a Wraith-like way, but now leaving criminals strung up along the way (most of the time killing them before hanging them). He’s a recurring villain and most of her other villains would grit their teeth and work with her to stop him. They’d rather be caught by Wraith, scratch that, they’d rather be caught by ’80s-era Expatriette than him.
  • Do any of them see the errors of their ways and make something of themselves (at least until the next writer comes along and undoes their character development)? Every once in a while the Entertainer will try to do something besides crime, but “shock value is what gets views”. Most times when we see a villain say something about turning over a new leaf they either don’t mean it or it doesn’t last. About the best examples of this sort of thing happening are Expatriette and Parse, honestly. There’s sort of a theme with all of these people that they’re stuck and can’t get themselves out of this rut.
  • [First birthday notice - request is “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.]
  • So, Fright Train and Bunker don’t get along, Ermine and Wraith don’t get along, FT/Ermine and Wraith/Bunker are now all paired up - were there any stories that draw parallels (possibly ironically) between the two couples? Not really - the Wraith/Bunker relationship is too new. If they had gotten together back in the ’70s or something it’s likely to have happened at some point, but for now it’s something that will have to wait for the Future.
  • Was she active in dealing with The Bear (i.e. the original Operative)? Any other assassins besides Equity or Heartbreaker? Yeah, the Bear showed up a bunch in the era where he was around. She had to deal with Ambuscade, Re-Volt, Ray Manta, and Desert Eagle. Char was a minor villain for her who was more about general chaos than having a specific plot - useful for arsonist stories. Heartbreaker is rough for her since Tony Taurus was an associate (and has the perspective of having seen “both sides” of the situation and has chosen this one).
  • Any other villain team-ups within her stories? Sure, it’s a fun thing to do as comic creators (that’s kind of the whole point behind Villains of the Multiverse). While the three “mastermind” guys mentioned above might night team up with each other, they’ll work with other minor villains (like the Hippo - dressed up like a minotaur in the center of a maze, which is just hilarious to picture).
  • Which of her villains make it into the Sentinel Comics Universe or Mist Storm timelines? A lot of them, but we’ll see more of that when we actually see more of those universes.
  • Back in the Wraith episode we learn that Eduardo López is a paralegal who worked on a lot of Organization stuff and would leak info to the Wraith, but that he didn’t know Maia was the Wraith (when she discovered he was dating her friend Sara, she asked how they knew each other); this presents a few options - that Eduardo really knew her identity, that he was just sort of blabbing legal stuff to his friends (and therefore probably shouldn’t be a paralegal), or that he knew Maia and the Wraith independently, so which is it? Something else? Eduardo knows “the Wraith” and gives her the inside info he knows. He also knows Maia Montgomery as she’s an important person in town who shows up for legal stuff occasionally where they’ve interacted. There is no reasonable way that he doesn’t have strong suspicions that they’re the same person. Any intelligent person who interacts with both of them could make that leap - but hardly anybody actually interacts with the Wraith. So, we have this kind of nod and wink situation where we can be pretty sure that Eduardo knows, but it’s never actually stated in the comics that he does and it’s never really addressed before his untimely demise.

Overview? (stuff not prompted by letters at least)

  • The first villain she ever faced was Gray Fox, a masked villain who sent messages as clues to the police before committing robberies and then more messages afterwards to gloat. Maia puts the clues together and catches him in the act at a bank, then there’s a chase through the sewers and she catches him. He’s recurring, but not terribly important outside of the trivia that he was the first villain she faced off with.
  • The other notable thing they mentioned was back in the Development Hell episode when they mentioned that for a few months Wraith had powers. She was doing something at RevoCorp and a containment field failed and released a ghost that bonded with her (that was the testing they were doing anyway - finding ways to bind ghosts to people). What happened here isn’t really obvious at first, but for a while after this she has terrible nightmares. Eventually, she’s in a situation with a criminal where she’s exhausted and whatnot and she is going to die, but instead turns into smoke and disappears through shadow. The ghost is giving her powers, but when she gets checked out by Tachyon she finds out that the reason she’s so tired is because her blood is drying up. Tachyon whips up a device to remove and trap the ghost and everything is great and back to normal with Wraith not having powers.
  • A while later, when Baron Blade destroys the Freedom Five HQ, this ghost is freed. It then goes about trying to get back to the Wraith by jumping from host to host (you can tell by the rash of people showing up in the hospital after a fugue when they can’t remember what happened to them over the last day or so and with their blood dried up). The heroes start chasing down this ghost they call Bloodless - it’s more straight-up possessing people now (when it was with the Wraith it was more just in the back of her mind giving her nightmares) and speaking through them, wanting to get back to “it’s body” which is Wraith. To save the person it was currently attached to she agrees. When it reattaches to Wraith, Tachyon shows up with the gizmo again to trap it, but Bloodless is ready for this and has found a way to get around what they did last time, but Tachyon has accounted for this eventuality and look who she’s brought along, but NightMist, who then binds it into a vial of blood from some ancient creature that she had handy. So, now that’s another artifact that’s safely put away in her attic and which could never be a problem ever again.
  • [The Stinger at the end of the episode has both of them singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy”]