The Letters Page: Episode 121
We talk about the bad guys who work for the bad guys... and also some deep philosophical topics?
Run Time: 1:40:05
Good morning, everyone!
After a very short amount of banter, we go to an overview only two and a half minutes into the show.
There, we go through most every major villain and how they use minions, if at all, who those minions are, and more!
This process ends up taking a while, and we have a fun time of it, all told. We hope you do, too!
Then, just before the one hour and 3 minute mark, we get into your questions!
We hope that we answer all questions to your satisfaction. Don't send your minions after us!
Catch us next time for another Creative Process episode, this one all about Count Barzakh. What's his place in the history of Sentinel Comics? Join us as we figure that out together!
If you want input on what topics are considered, voting on the final topic line-up for each month, and being part of our monthly live Editor's Notes, you can join us on the Letters Page Patreon! It's pretty great!
Keep on henching!
- Baron Blade
- Blade Battalion
- Citizen Dawn
- The Citizens of the Sun
- Grand Warlord Voss
- The Thorathian Armada
- The Organization
- Plague Rat
- Iron Legacy
- The Dreamer/Muse
- La Capitan
- The Crew of the La Paradoja Magnifica
- Miss Information
- Fright Train
- Citizens Hammer and Anvil
- Greazer Clutch
- Sergeant Steel
- Slaughterhouse Six
- Kaargra Warfang
- Wager Master
- Jansa vi Dero
- Aeon Master
- The Freedom Five
- Dark Watch
- Zhu Long
- The Hippo
- Captain Cosmic
- Order of the Simple Machine
- They’re just going to walk through each villain and figure out what kinds of minions they’d have.
- Obviously we have the Blade Battalion, but you could argue that the factory workers/general populace of Mordengrad are all potential minions and that he kind of treats the whole city-state as a minion factory. Within the Blade Battalion there’s going to be the various ranks/specializations that you’d expect a military to have (including in this case the people remote-piloting various pieces of tech like the walking tanks).
- This prompts the question of whether Sentinel Comics has ever had stories specifically focused on the Blade Battalion - like it might be neat to have a story where there’s a “Baron Blade vs. the Freedom Five” story, but from the point of view of some non-combatant technician in the Blade Battalion or something, or maybe one that follows a specific squad for an issue (“Until they all die.” “What? It’s not like the heroes are killing them wholesale.” “No, they get their own bespoke deaths. Maybe it’s an early Expatriette story”).
- Aside: at what point does a hero’s “no killing” policy make them culpable for later deaths the villain causes? How many people would still be alive now if Legacy had just killed Blade back in the ’60s? If Grand Warlord Voss was killed instead of banished, would OblivAeon have been defeatable? Parse makes this choice regarding Spite - and that personality trait never really goes away. She tones it down a bit, but she’s totally still willing to kill if necessary. Does this trickle down to minions? Are they responsible for pressing the Big Red Button™ that they’ve been ordered to press? This also gets into more discussion of the Trolley Problem.
- That sort of “day in the life” (but not Day in the Life) story could be interesting. We start off with life from the perspective of Mordengradians, life is great and so is Baron Blade. Over the course of the story as the Blade Battalion guys go around doing the story stuff (some of them dying along the way) we eventually get to the point where the survivors defect. Maybe one of them doesn’t who’s the hold-out (although he doesn’t turn in his comrades-in-arms), but this leaves us with the opportunity to have some former-Blade Battalion characters to use in later stories.
- Who else is there… All of RevoCorp? You could possibly call all of the Exordium villains (leading up to Vengeance) could probably at least be called “henchmen” and at the least he would consider the rest of the Vengeful Five such as well.
- They’ve talked about the Citizens of the Sun and stories involving them in a variety of places at this point. She doesn’t ever use minions other than the Citizens.
- Lots of underlings/henchmen/minions/etc. of various levels [Gene-bound cannon fodder, the Thorathian military in general, the Nyxian Scourges in particular] to the point where they’re kind of his shtick. He’s also been an underling both early in his “career” and late as a Scion of OblivAeon. So he knows both ends of this dynamic and informs his considerable abilities as a commander - his minions all respect and are loyal to him, and he understands that loyalty is better than fear.
- Regarding the Gene-bound “genetic obligation” to be loyal to him: is imposed loyalty actual loyalty or do you have to have free will in order to be “loyal”? They think you need free will. The Gene-bound creatures behave in a way that resembles loyalty, but they’re more like machines in this regard. A possibly interesting side note that came from this line of discussion is that Voss always starts from some existing being and makes something out of it rather than starting from nothing.
- You can consider the various drones as being “minions” from an outside perspective, but they’re really all just Omnitron as the AI at the heart of things is the important bit, not the physical manifestation of any given part of it.
- Could an EMP “kill” Omnitron? If we’re dealing with a case where the AI has been restricted to a single unit and then it’s hit by an EMP and then destroyed - sure, you could “kill” it. However, it knows that and so leaves snippets of its code in various systems all over the place.
- There is the Omni-Blade to consider, though. It’s still the Omnitron programming, but it’s got so many restrictions put on it by Blade that it doesn’t have “free will” to the normal extent anymore. It’s only once it’s been damaged enough that it can break free to the point that it can offload some code. It’s tricky to say that if Blade hadn’t rebuilt a version of it whether or not it would have been the end of Omnitron after version 2, but at the very least we can say that it would have taken considerably longer to get another version up and going if he hadn’t.
- This is a lot like Omnitron in that all of the Limbs are still her. They do get into the idea here of if there was ever a story about minions for either of them - like nature and tech “cults” for both of them kind of make sense (like Omnitron-IV serves as a “temple” is interesting). They might be able to do something with this later - Akash in particular is likely to have had both cults in the distant past since she’s been around forever and now possibly a new thing centered around Akash'Flora. There’s probably a lot of syncretism going on conflating her with all of the various “world tree” concepts from around the world.
- In neither case (Omnitron and Tree cults) are they probably really “minions”, though since there is no set of instructions being followed by the members. This is opposed to the Cult of Gloom who have a mandate from their target of veneration.
- The birds aren’t “following orders” so much as she’s compelling them to take action. That is, she’s not directly puppeting them around, but they are compelled to act in the way that she desires, so we run afoul of the free will thing again.
- Now we’re off in the weeds again about whether Gene-bound creatures are sapient and whether a Gene-bound can be freed from the compulsion they’re under. Christopher is leaning towards “yes”, but they’re not sure how you’d go about getting there. Like, maybe Tempest is face to face with a Gene-bound Shock Troop, but he can tell that J’ph is still in there somewhere. Maybe we have science characters trying to figure out how to undo this after capturing one. There’s some potential for good drama in there. Maybe they’ve also captured a Thorathian scientist and can try to get information out of them.
- We might be coming around to the birds being minions then. If the Gene-bound are, then so are the birds as the birds have more freedom of cognition than the Gene-bound - the birds aren’t taking orders so much as the Matriarch wants something to happen and the birds do what they can to make that happen.
- All the minions. They thought earlier that “minions” were Voss’ shtick - they’d forgotten about Chairman. Chairman’s not really that big a deal in a fight on his own - what he has going for him is that he only really fights on his turf and has contingencies. He’s a formidable foe in terms of his ability to plan and he’s got the augmented physique to worry about, but he doesn’t spend much time training his own personal fighting abilities. The problem is that he’s got this entire criminal underworld between you and him to even begin with. That’s part of the big deal around Zhu Long just sauntering into his base like it was nothing - nobody just does that.
- More than other people, his “minions” also include unwitting pawns who don’t know that they’re actually doing what he wants them to do (it’s easy to consider a case where Wraith takes out some criminals that Pike actually wanted taken out).
- People getting infected and becoming rat things is the closest you get and it kind of works as civilians who are infected with Plague Rat brand Rat Plague™ are dangerous people that you can’t just kill since there are cures for it.
- It takes Christopher almost no time at all to come up with a “Spite kidnaps a cop’s kid and blackmails him into destroying evidence/giving him information” plot.
- You could also kind of think of a copycat killer kind of working.
- Cult of Gloom, obviously, but also various Realm of Discord denizens that he might be controlling and/or letting loose in the world.
- She’s had some underlings in terms of people she hires to pull a bank job or something while she’s off doing something more sneaky. That’s a standard villain move that a bunch of minor villains have pulled over the years.
- Does the Organization just have a “mooks for hire” program? You can definitely buy information, but probably not hire the informants directly, but you can just hire some muscle/gunmen. Stealing things is, again, not likely to be a direct “for hire” project, more just a statement that you’ll buy that thing over there if somebody happened to be selling it and then, wouldn’t you know, somehow it becomes available from your local Organization representative. The crooked cop angle is likely more things like facilitating bribes. For all of this there might not even be any money asked in return, which leaves open all sorts of opportunity for payment in other kind later, despite the fact that you might prefer to have paid in cash at the time (although some, like the Hippo, probably don’t care). Beyond the Organization, though, there are always going to be mercenary types you can probably get to help out.
- The Slaughterhouse Six was originally put together to be this for him, but that’s about it. He’s mostly about taking down the target himself, although he’s not above taking a paying job (so we get stories about him being on a nominal “team” to take out a target, but we wind up seeing him not only take that person down, but also the rest of the mercs he’s supposedly working with).
- They’ve already covered how he uses underlings.
- Are her Projections “minions”? They’re part of her, but they also aren’t exactly being controlled by her consciously. If they count as “minions”, then do Captain Cosmic’s Constructs? This brings up the quality of autonomy - her Projections have it. We also get a tidbit that they don’t disappear just because she wakes up, so there could still be some out there. They have some measure of “reality”.
- Is there some being out in the world that doesn’t know that it’s really a Dreamer Projection? Almost certainly. There’s probably some weird thing out there that’s not quite weird enough for it to be obviously not of this world and just keeps doing its thing with no one the wiser that it’s a figment of a little girl’s imagination. Even Muse wouldn’t necessarily know right away if she encountered it. There’s probably a single-digit number of them out there.
- The various crew members count (and it’s not like we’ve necessarily “met” all of them) - like, in addition to the named ones there’s probably a bunch of generic pirates we’ve seen over the years (plus the possibility of robot pirates from the future or something). She’s definitely a minion-having person. There’s definitely room for a mutiny story at some point.
- The mutiny story goes differently depending on how old she is. If it’s a younger version, she’d probably freak out a bit about it. If she’s older, she probably just hands over control, knowing that nobody else is actually going to be able to manage the ship properly and whoever tries to take over goes mad in the process. Then she takes over again and keeps that guy around as a reminder/warning to others.
- She’s almost certainly had minions, but only of that “unwitting” variety mentioned under the Chairman (although hers are even more likely to be heroes as that aspect of it is even more of its own reward for her). Later on she winds up working for people more than she had people working for her.
- The “demons” that are people he’s twisted into new forms. Then there’s the category of anybody (heroes, say) who he manages to trick/deceive into working with him.
- They’d attract people buying into the whole “we’re gods” thing.
- They work with mooks, although they don’t have a set of minions of their own.
- This gets into a bit of a “team-style Villains are almost designed to be minions themselves” thing here. Although, they quickly point out Biomancer being somebody who 1) uses minions and 2) even if you ask him to do something, he’s not you’re underling.
- If she were to set up a lab or something, anybody working there is probably under duress as she’s just not as good at this as Tachyon. In reality, they’d probably be working for Baron Blade - Friction’s story is just so short.
- “He’s his own minion.” But really, he’s designed to be the consummate minion. Even in Perestroika he’s more of a mid-level minion - sure he’d be in charge of the mooks, but he’s still working under somebody else. He has trouble striking out on his own.
- He’s got his fleshchildren obviously, but he’s not interested in using non-fleshchildren minions. There’s an edge case where he might trick heroes into beating up somebody by tricking them into thinking the person was a fleshchild.
- He could work alongside some thugs, but it’s not really his thing.
- They are minions.
- He’ll work with a partner, but that’s not really a minion relationship.
- She’s a minion, either under the Chairman or under Zhu Long, albeit one who has a lot of authority over the other minions. Time will tell if we get to a point where she strikes out on her own (I mean, she’ll have minions, but will they be her minions or hired out from somebody else?).
- In a similar situation - he’s in charge of his agents, but he’s not in charge of F.I.L.T.E.R. overall.
RevoCorp Plague Rat
- Is a minion under duress, with the handlers themselves also being minions of RevoCorp.
- In their appearances after their first one they kind of just operate as henchmen for one another. They might have some other people working for them occasionally. Probably anybody in the “mini-Nemesis” category would work with thugs when appropriate.
- No minions. He only has that one story.
- Only if Captain Cosmic does too, which means probably “no”. His Manifestations aren’t like the Dreamer’s Projections. She has no control over hers. Captain Cosmic has complete control over his. Infinitor has limited control, but loses it frequently. A way to look at it is that Dreamer’s Projections persist if she wakes up/doesn’t know about them, but if you knock Infinitor out his Manifestations will disappear.
- Lots of them (i.e. the gladiators).
- She’d tell you that the pieces of metal are her friends and work with her, but she’s delusional. She’s a bad person who does bad things, but they feel bad for her as in a lot of ways it’s not really her fault. She’s been through some rough stuff.
- Is a minion.
- He’s got the Wagelings and can create little minions that are extensions of his imagination, but he’s mostly a solo act. He might do the manipulation thing for unwitting minions, but the games are generally more fun if you know about them.
- None. The Endlings aren’t minions that she can order around - we get philosophical a bit around them being “prisoners” or in a “zoo”. Maybe some of the more dangerous ones are kept there/not allowed to leave.
- Oh, yeah. Do the Aeon Men have free will/minds? They don’t think so. You couldn’t mind-control one (including Aeon Master), but the rest of the Scions besides Progeny have free will. Faultless less so as his mind has been broken/is being mind controlled, but the rest of them have bought in willingly.
- Out of the villains are the most likely to take out frustration on their minions? Who has the highest minion body-count and why do people keep working for them? Baron Blade is very unlikely to do so - he values Mordengradians too much. Maybe if a Blade Battalion member was grossly incompetent to the point he was endangering the plan, but it’s not a reflex. Voss does - Gene-bound are so far beneath him that he wouldn’t even think twice about it. He might do so to a Thorathian to make a point. GloomWeaver would casually kill some cultists, and they would be grateful for it. Dawn will take out frustration on Citizens, but she always appears to have a plan and would do so with purpose (and is the only villain we see do this in the games themselves - there’s a bit in Sentinel Tactics where she does so). Omnitron would destroy drones to get at the heroes, but they’re just parts of itself anyway. So, probably Voss or GloomWeaver, but the latter would be doing it knowing that it was a gift for the recipient of said treatment. Chairman would order minions killed (his hands are clean - that’s the thing about the Chairman, he’s so plausible for an amoral billionaire).
- Who offers the best employee health benefits? Certain echelons of the Organization probably have very good ones, but the lower levels none at all. RevoCorp probably has at least Okay+ ones. Everyone in Mordengrad has access to the same not-great but readily available medical care as everybody there is an employee of the state (so every once in a while they have a “doctor day” where the doctors do that instead of their normal factory jobs). The Thorathian military plan is probably pretty good - they’ve got advanced science so they probably just have medical machines that people go into for treatment. The Gene-bound on the other hand receive no care. Just make more if that one is broken. La Capitan probably doesn’t have good healthcare - everybody has time-scurvy.
- Who has the best disability package? Life insurance? Voss would have terrible versions of these. The medical machines fix you, so no disability, and if you die well, you shouldn’t have done that. That’s a failure on your part - you should have used Gene-bound to protect yourself better. Blade would be similar - everybody is part of Mordengrad. For Chairman, if you’re an on-the-books employee of Pike Industries you probably have decent (line employees) to great (board members) of these, although there’s likely some clause (reminiscent of clauses in high-rise construction jobs where if you “leave contact” with the thing you’re working on you’re fired - so if you fall you’re fired before you hit the ground) such that if you fall into a vat you’re fired. Although if you fall into a vat and survive it’s likely that the Organization would pick you up for some purpose to make use of whatever weirdness the chemicals gave you. RevoCorp probably has decent options (again, tiers).
- How about vacation packages? Baron Blade offers no vacation at all besides the national holidays (and the unofficial ones that Blade allows to happen in his benevolence). Not only is there no paid vacation, there’s no pay. Chairman probably offers some. The Thorathian military has a pretty good setup - you do your tour of duty, then you get some R&R time. RevoCorp would be like whatever modern (bio)tech company you’d imagine - they’re pretty standard in those terms.
- The rest of this letter goes into things like maternity leave, starting pay, retirement options, etc. - you can extrapolate the rest of these things from the answers given.
- Are there any “awards” for things like “best villainous workplace”? No, but there are probably recognition given within the Blade Battalion, Organization, and Thorathian Miliitary. You gotta rise through the ranks somehow. All of these would have rather cut-throat meritocracy built into them. Kaargra doesn’t, though, since although there are titles and whatnot, they’re still basically slaves.
- After all of this they both say that given the choice of where to work, they’d both choose RevoCorp since for most people it’s just going to be something like a normal job.
- Which major villain has the best dental plan? RevoCorp in general, Voss because of the medical machines (plus Voss thinks branding/aesthetics is important). Iron Legacy doesn’t and would just knock your teeth out.
- What villainous organizations exist that would be the best options for a character to defect from for the purposes of being a former villain in the RPG or whatnot (Organization, RevoCorp, the Citizens of the Sun seem like the obvious options, with Baron Blade, Voss, and Zhu Long as alternatives - any that I missed)? You hit the major ones. There are also the Order of the Simple Machine, plus the “slavery” options like the Bloodsworn Colosseum if you want to go that way. Former Gloom Cultist could work. Then there are your generic “groups of thugs” that may have worked for some of the less organization-minded villains.
- Some settings have something like a “minion’s union” - does any such thing exist in Sentinel Comics? Almost definitely yes in Rook City - probably in Pike Industries, but also likely in the Organization itself too. Heck, Chairman Pike probably started them and the various “union” leaders report back to him while also giving his underlings the feeling that there’s a system there to support them. Any structure where it’s possible for humans to take advantage of other humans will be corrupt in Rook City.
- Of all the villains, who’s surrounded by idiots vs. competent henchmen? It’s going to be a mix - the Blade Battalion and Thorathian military will have both “idiots” in the lower ranks along with the more competent higher-ups (and Voss is likely to actually encounter more of the latter - not that he cares about them and could do that “kill them if he needs to” thing, so while he doesn’t intentionally rule by fear, that’s gonna crop up regardless - maybe Vyktor isn’t scared of him anymore). GloomWeaver probably feels that most of the Cult are idiots and need to get over themselves. The biggest potential for this is likely Apostate (he’s got the highest likelihood to actually say the “I’m surrounded by idiots” line). RevoCorp has a lot of competence as they hire aggressively.
- Does Baron Blade have a “top enforcer”? No. While the Chairman has an Operative and Voss has a few named officers under him, Blade doesn’t have a right-hand man or something. There’s Blade and then there’s everyone else. Sure, there’s a command structure to the Battalion, but that’s not the same thing.
- [This has been a Princess Cool letter so…] Any minions hopelessly infatuated with their boss? Probably happens in the Citizens of the Sun, but nobody who succeeds really gets what they want from that interaction. It probably happens off-screen with Voss. It probably happens in Mordengrad. Some gladiators probably want Kaargra. The demons probably don’t for Apostate, or maybe they all do all the time and it’s nothing but hedonism over there.
- Are there any Villains that hire small-time thugs (possibly from the Organization)? Funny you should ask that…
- Any that are well-known in minion circles for being good bosses? Any that only the desperate or crazy will work for? Taking a Fright Train/Ermine job is probably a pretty safe bet. Taking a Hippo job is less so. Smart people probably don’t work for the Chairman (although some really smart people might think they can pull one over/get an advantage over him and then do so anyway). Don’t do jobs for Biomancer. Glamour is probably your best bet - you’ll get the pay situation sorted out, the job expectations will be clear up front. RevoCorp isn’t going to stiff you on the check. Most people working for the Chairman are desperate due to Rook City reasons. People who would voluntarily “work” for Kaargra are probably crazy. Zhu Long you’re either born into it or you approach his group out of desperation.
- What happens to all of the underlings when a villain is defeated? In the Comics Code Authority time they either get thrown in prison too or they just kind of disappear from the narrative. Once writers start thinking about it, you probably get some extraditions for Mordengradians, but if you blow up a Mobile Defense Platform, there are going to be dead people because of it. The Chairman would like you to consider the concepts of Crooked Cops and Jail Break. Cult of Gloom members go to jail if captured, but they often just disperse into the swamp or something. “Jail” can also mean the Block. Major villains don’t often go to jail.
- What about non-human mooks? Do Gene-bound have “kill switches”, what about Apostate’s demons? Some Gene-bound probably wind up in labs, but most also probably die because they’re “monsters” and so the CCA doesn’t care so much. Early on, the Apostate demons were that way too as it was only later that the actual explanation for them and the possibility to “save” them would have become a thing.
- [We end with a birthday request, but it’s the only one for the episode, so no song.]