The Letters Page: Episode 126
Let's get EXTREME!
Run Time: 1:31:11
This one is about Citizen Dawn in the Extremeverse! We don't know where it's going when we start, but it ends up in a REALLY awesome place. Go figure. Like, how did we start with the seed of "Citizen Dawn" and get to that cover above? Only one way to find out!
We're throwing the horns for Trevor, who did a badass job editing this one. He always does great, but he brought the noise on this one. (In this case, "brought the noise" is a good thing.)
Thanks for listening, everyone!
- La Comodora
- Citizens Hammer and Anvil
- The Freedom Five
- Baron Blade
- Prime Wardens
- Dark Watch
- Pete Riske
- Absolute Zero
- Miss Information
- Zhu Long
- Oracle of Discord
- Grand Warlord Voss
- Argent Adept/Artist
- Iron Legacy
- Kaargra Warfang
- Captain Cosmic
- Green Grosser
- Maybe go refresh through the Extremeverse episode just to recalibrate your expectations for what’s about to go down.
- [Insert EXTREME heavy metal guitar licks and curse bleeping here. Trevor continues to just kill it when things are appropriate throughout the episode.]
- They knew that they wanted to do a Citizen Dawn story, and there had been 1) suggestions for just that, 2) suggestions to do a Citizen Dawn in the Extremeverse story, and 3) questions about what Extremeverse Dawn was like in general, so that’s what they’re doing today.
- Timeline-wise, that means we’re sometime after vol. 2 #35 Disparation [the setting getting introduced in #19 with #34 and #35 being the follow-ups - those stories being the subject of the Extremeverse episode proper] and before #123 where La Comodora takes over the title (and preferably before #117 which was the “joke” story involving what suburbia was like in the Extremeverse).
- So, Dawn has been really quiet in that span of time generally (this is during the Hammer and Anvil on missions era as far as Citizens of the Sun go), so maybe either the editors or a writer just wanted to do something with her somewhere else just because she was off the radar. Probably a writer, Disparation probably doesn’t have as much editorial oversight/mandates as the main line of books - just stuff like continuity editors or whatever to make sure things don’t go completely off the rails. It’s much easier to get a story green-lit for Disparation and as a result it tends to be more creator-driven.
- So, what may have been going on in around this time that might have inspired a writer to want to do a Citizen Dawn story? [They check the timeline off-the-air.] Unfortunately, that was not fruitful. The big Sunrise story was in 1999/2000, the Citizens Imperative one-shot was in ’04, and that’s basically it for Dawn for a long time. That’s the angle they’re going to lean into, then. Some writer wanted to do a Dawn story and the editorial mandate was that they couldn’t because Dawn needed to be quiet as they set up something down the line, but they could do a Disparation one and they chose an Extremeverse story.
- Dawn’s probably the protagonist of the story, but is anyone else involved (like any heroes)? What kind of story is it? Her “origin story” in this universe or something else? Just some story that then has some added wrinkle that makes it interesting? They like the origin story angle. They’ve had the normal Dawn’s story set for so long that they like the idea of doing a new one. Do they even want it to be clear from the outset that it is a Dawn story? Like, if it’s about Dawn Cohen it’s pretty obvious who it is, but it could be somebody else who just winds up taking the name “Citizen Dawn” by the end of the story that’s unrelated to the whole Citizens of the Sun thing.
- They like that latter idea - the new question then becomes whether this Dawn should be an existing character (which brings along preconceived notions that could be subverted or used in some way) or a new character. Before they can decide who would be appropriate, however, they need to figure out what kind of story it is/what kind of person they are. Is this Citizen Dawn a hero, villain, destroyer of worlds, or what? The line between hero and villain is a bit blurry in the Extremeverse in general - with the Freedom Five and Baron Blade being the clearest examples of each that we’ve seen thus far (the FF still filling the “protector” role for the convoy to the extent that the genre allows). The Prime Wardens are still mostly heroic, but in a very murdery anti-hero way. Dark Watch is dealing with Rook City and everyone in Rook City is compromised and nobody is good (except Pete Riske, and that’s because he’s a kid). There are still good guys and bad guys in the Extremeverse, it’s just the case that the good guys are strictly less “good” than is the usual in other realities. This person will probably wind up in that blurred middle ground.
- Maybe they should try working backwards from the end - why does this person choose the name Citizen Dawn at the end? Dawn Cohen had the easy explanation of it being her first name and just leaned into the symbolism (of course, for them creating her it worked the other way around - they have a few of those really Silver Age cases where the person’s name happens to be thematically appropriate like Ryan Frost). They need to think of a few things, actually - what’s the “Dawn” symbolism that would prompt it and why “Citizen” and not something like Emperor or other more autocratic title? They like the idea of it being a case where the person took over someplace, setting up a police state, and insisting (in a kind of Orwellian Newspeak way) that they’re all now just citizens - it would have been good for that to have been Mordengrad if they hadn’t already done that with how the Freedom Five story ended. Hmm… Maybe it’s more of a lawless, anarchic place (they cite “Wild West” as a template for the type of lawlessness, but not the theme) and they impose order.
- Ok, so that’s all well and good for a logical through-line for a story. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly Extreme. They need to think of what kind of XTREME ending for Citizen Dawn they want and work to that. They also need to consider what is different about this place - they’ve got the Wasteland and Mordengrad and they have the Dystopian City. That question inspires Christopher: Dawn and her followers are trying to colonize the Nexus of the Void. We’ve still got the “group on an island” bit, just a more extreme island than that paltry place with the dinosaurs and active volcano as it’s a place that by its very nature is trying to drive off human occupation. They will be citizens of this place. The XTREME twist - in order to accomplish this, Dawn has to embrace/become empowered by the Void and the Citizens bond with the elemental spirits. The means for them to become citizens of the place means also becoming its protectors - so they kind of wind up being heroes here.
- This gets some killer imagery going - Void!Dawn can have different parts of her shifting into elemental forms. The Citizens can be more or less normal until they become the avatars of their bonded spirits. Adam also likes the idea of kind of evoking some well-known fictional barbarians in some of the style for this.
- The focus should still be on Dawn, though, as she figures out the “becoming the Nexus of the Void” thing that then allows the others to join with the spirits. Maybe it’s better if she intends to come in as a conqueror as that’s a more metal motivation - the solution to the problem is what changes things to the citizen angle. Even better - the island is used as a prison/punishment. She did something or is important in some way and gets exiled to the island which is expected to kill her, but she figures out how to live and results in setting up the stuff they came up with earlier. Leaning into the barbarian thing, this could be in the past and when we later get to the “modern” Extremeverse, this is still what’s going on hundreds if not thousands of years later.
- Now that they finally have that sorted out, who should it be? Dawn Cohen doesn’t seem appropriate. An idea to mess with reader expectations a bit is to lean into the marooned on an island bit and play into the fact that a lot of La Capitan stuff has been going on. “Stow-away on a pirate ship” is not XTREME enough - maybe it’s more like a bunch of ships that have been tied together and sail around as something like a floating city and “Death Island” or whatever is what they do to prisoners.
- It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long time ago. The Road Rats have a kind of barbarian thing going and piracy is still a thing in the setting. The “barbarian aesthetic” of wood, bone, and stone could be how things wind up with her on the island regardless of the tech level in the outside world. The reason Christopher wants it a long time ago, however, is just because of the idea that we can jump forward to the present to showcase that they’re all still there after all that time. They actually like the idea of it “only” being around 200 years ago and having the city ship being a steampunk thing.
- Once again, they need to figure out who she is and what the crime was. Stow-aways just get pressed into service. Mutiny? Somebody who tries to take over the ship? That gets a nice level of “ambition” that a Citizen Dawn should have.
- What’s the selling point of the issue? Adam considers having “Citizen Dawn” on the cover, but Christopher likes it more just selling the idea that it’s an Extremeverse story - they’ve had a few of those already that were popular, so it should be a draw on its own. Maybe even specifically that it’s something from the past in that reality. Then the cool reveal at the end is that it’s a Citizen Dawn story.
- Ok, so getting into the steampunk thing, they really need to push that for XTREME purposes. Like a bunch of prosthetics and whatnot on the people on the ship. With the idea that later she’ll start taking on aspects of the island it could be neat for her to have missing parts that the island kind of “fills in” once she has its power. Of course, if she’s missing a limb, we kind of want to see her lose it for an Extremeverse story, right? So, she wouldn’t already have the prosthetic. They could have it be a face mask of some kind to throw in another red-herring by having people assume it’s Glamour or Miss Information or something.
- They can even get away with not naming this person - the other people on the ship just call her “mutineer” or “sea-rat” or whatever and once she’s on the island her internal monologue just uses personal pronouns. They want her to look most “Citizen Dawn” like at the end with the island attunement, so maybe give her brown hair until that point when she becomes blonde with the rainbow effects. Or maybe lean into the Glamour thing and give her red hair and the polished bronze faceplate thing to start.
- We start with just a few pages on the ship establishing the look of the place and that they’re going to do to her what they do to all mutineers, stranded on Death Island. They toss some ideas back and forth about what kind of insulting supply they leave her with (a small knife, a coconut and no means of cracking it open, etc.) and land on the idea - because steampunk - that they tie part of a large copper gear around her neck before throwing her overboard. If she’s not going to drown she’s got to swim for the island and not after the ship. This is neat because it’s a reminder of where she’s from and the fact that it’s half a gear makes it look like a rising sun as well.
- She gets to the island and at first she’s just surviving. Returning to the “ambitious” personality trait she thinks that once she figures out how to survive, that she’ll be able to figure out how to run the place. There aren’t other people, but there are creatures/elementals that she can fight. They keep having the “not particularly XTREME” problem - but this is the first time they’ve done a worldbuilding story in the setting rather than just dropping readers in medias res. They can probably pad this aspect out with brutal violence near the PG-13/R border and some swears.
- How’s this: the other Extremeverse stories started at the XTREME endpoint. This one, we’re showing the preliminary stuff that gets her to being Citizen Dawn and the Citizens of the Void, bonded with the elements etc. but have that only be the halfway or 2/3 mark of the book - then we get a more standard Extremeverse story in the modern day involving these crazy characters. We can have the first bit be about her showing up and bonding with the island, then jump forward a bit to having further people dropped off at “Death Island” and she greets them and making them run an XTREME gauntlet to prove themselves suitable for citizenship. She winds up with a dozen citizens or whatever. They can still have themed names, but not things like Hammer and Anvil, but more tied to their spirits - Citizens Frost and Flame. That kind of thing.
- Now they’ve got things set up and need the twist for whatever the modern story is going to be. Christopher’s initial thoughts, which he doesn’t actually want to do, are that the Nexus moves for some reason or something to do with the floating fortress. The first is a bit too much inside baseball and the latter seems more like something they’d want to have as a kind of resolution to things in the earlier parts of the story (something like eventually the ship comes to drop somebody off, but a Citizen who’s bonded to the coastal waters is waiting out in the surf and drags the entire thing onto shore, everyone is tested for Citizenship, and the ship is destroyed - resulting in a total of somewhere between 20 and 50 Citizens).
- So, story beats are either to have the island go somewhere or have something come to the island. They like the latter. It’s also worth noting that they have kind of set up a standard Conan villain (ancient sorceress on an island citadel). Who do you have show up to face that in the modern day? They don’t want it to be a standard Conan person - they think it’s more XTREME to have the bone and obsidian/primordial elemental thing up against more modern stuff. Expatriette would be a great way to go on this (she’s got lots of guns and explosives and we understand her already - it’s very little work having her come in loaded for bear), but they’ve already used her. Or have they - we know that Fleshmonger (this reality’s Biomancer) made the Road Rats, but we don’t know who’s responsible for the cloned biker gang of the Expatriettes. They think about Parse briefly, but she probably requires too much explanation for how they would want her to be here. They also don’t necessarily want a one vs. many thing.
- Ok, well, we’ve established that the Citizens are more on the heroic end here (living in harmony with the island that they’re protecting), so why not throw some faceless goons at the problem and have it be Zhu Long who’s trying to take over. He’s a dragon who turns into a larger mecha dragon, so that tracks with the futuristic tech adversary thing. All of the ninjas and whatnot could be cyborgs with laser swords and stuff. “Cyborg Ninjas vs. Elemental Pirates” is very mid-’00s. This has the benefit of being easy to understand: you see Zhu Long and you know he’s there for power. You just get it, no explanation needed.
- So the invasion can just be the future-tech ninjas at first and then eventually we see one go to kill himself and pull a mask off his belt (prompting readers to think of how Oni work here) and putting it on, only it’s a dragon mask and the guy turns into Zhu Long. Any disciple of Zhu Long can turn summon Zhu Long into their own flesh by doing this. He kills a bunch of Citizens until Dawn shows up, summons a bunch of the Void power and blasts him. It seems like he’s defeated, but then we get the mecha-dragon transformation that was mentioned back in the original Extremeverse episode (this issue being where that reveal was first made to the readers) and the issue ends with a big two-page spread showing Dawn (looking small, but powerful) facing off with this giant mecha-dragon.
- Prior to this we’d have several pages of Citizens taking on endless hordes of Zhu Long’s followers. Each Citizen can take on several of them at once, but there are just so many mecha-ninjas and cyborg-mages or whatever is going on. See, they got to the XTREME part eventually.
- They’re now thinking that it’s roughly split into thirds: the first is Dawn getting left on the island and her rise to power, the middle third is testing people to become Citizens, and the last is the fight against Zhu Long’s forces.
- Thinking of issue numbers again, they figure it should be a milestone issue like #50 or #100 so that they have an excuse to make it a huge thing. Throw in a reprint of the first three Extremeverse stories (the Prime Wardens one being a backup story originally [I don’t think that this was true as of what we were told in the original Extremeverse episode - but it’s not necessarily an unreasonable retcon], so between that and the two full-length ones we have roughly 50 pages of reprints, 30 pages for this story, and 20 pages of ads for a massive 100-page special issue). They originally thought #100 for this, but since they’re reprinting all of the Extremeverse stuff to that point, that would limit their ability to have more between #35 and #100 - so they go with issue #50, October 2006 for this instead.
- What was your favorite part of the Guise/Scholar story and why wasn’t Guise more awesome in it? They like the whole thing, but maybe the way they had Scholar show up to help Guise be less of a mess. The “Pirate World” plan was also pretty good. Guise isn’t more awesome because he’s just a mess at this point.
- Do we see the Oracle of Discord outside of Disparation? No.
- What other framing devices do we see in Disparation besides the Oracle? Frequently no framing device at all, they just jump right into the story. Generally they’d start with just some boilerplate introductory text about there being “many worlds” or whatever and the same reprinted image of the Oracle/Mirror thing, but especially once they got into volume 2 that’s more or less dropped and we just dive in. The other actual framing device is the La Comodora stuff. There’s definitely an issue where we see her interact with the Oracle at some point, though.
- Does Voss return to the Oracle at some point? No.
- How did Guise and Scholar get mixed up with La Capitan? That was answered in that episode.
- [Cult of Gloom letter:] Hold the phone, there’s and Oracle of what now? How did we not know about this? Does GloomWeaver know about it? Did he have to dethrone them when he took over the Realm of Discord? Does its visions of hopes turned to ash feed GW? The Oracle of Discord has always been there, we just didn’t know about it until later. GloomWeaver knows about it, but can’t find it (since he’s not desperate about anything). He also has no power over it. It’s in the RoD, but it’s not “owned” by it or whoever’s running the place (which frustrates him - he’d like to control it).
- Maybe instead of having him give up his memories of Dok'Thorath, maybe it should have been his memories of “his greatest conquest” - he assumed it was something like Tempest’s homeworld and it’s only at the last moment that he realizes that it’s his own homeworld? The problem here is that he didn’t give up his memories of Dok’Thorath, but of “home”. They chose that wording very deliberately They had Voss say “home”, then the Oracle asked “home?” and then he went on about Dok’Thorath. This implies that Voss thought that by “home” he meant Dok’Thorath - what he actually gives up is the knowledge of the concept of “home”. He no longer knows what having a home is like - he’s not “at home” anywhere and that’s part of why he joins up with OblivAeon. Maybe that will work and make him feel like he has a place again. “It’s like a cosmic Mark of Cain.”
- Why, in FF #88, specifically the “4th largest diamond” and not something less limiting (like the "blue jaguar diamond" or something) - having there be 3 diamonds bigger than it makes Glamour’s heist seem less glamorous? That’s kind of the point. They specifically wanted it to not be the largest diamond (and it would have had a specific name as these things do, they just didn’t make one up). The stakes here are weird because Glamour wants it for reasons other than it’s value as the largest diamond.
- How does Guise have favorite foods? Does he eat? Does he have a mouth/teeth? Does he just put food up to his face where his mouth should be and the food just… disappears? Does he even need to eat? What is Guise’s anatomy like? His “mask” is supposed to look like it’s clothing pulled over a face, but that’s just his face. He can open a mouth in it. He looks so weird with his mouth open. Adam: “He has half as many teeth as he should, just bigger.” Christopher likes the idea that he still goes through the effort of reaching up and grabbing his neck where a mask would end and pulling it up to reveal his mouth, but the “skin” underneath is still the same color as, once again, he’s not actually wearing a mask and it’s all just him. It’s also funny if the mouth is inconsistent - like he’s not sure how many teeth he’s supposed to have so sometimes there’s fewer and sometimes more than he should. The character of Guise, if in another genre than superheroes, is a horrifying creature. Real body horror stuff. He eats when it’s comically advantageous for him to do so. Seriously, though, within the fiction he does need sustenance.
- You mention in the Guise/Scholar episode that Guise turns himself into a giant water gun, but most of the art we see of him has him still in a humanoid shape rather than turning into objects (at least before merging with the Philosopher Stone) - he’s created extensions of himself (even in colors other than purple and yellow), but there’s still a “person” in there; could this water gun form be mistaken for a normal one (other than its size)? What are his limits on shape changing before the Philosophers Stone? You wouldn’t mistake it for a normal Super Soaker™ as it’d still have his head on top. Guise follows cartoon logic so don’t think about it too much. He can change shape, but he’s still primarily going to be Guise-colored, and he doesn’t take on the physical properties of whatever he’s looking like (a Super Soaker™ is easy as it’s essentially just a tube and reservoir), at least until he gets the Philosopher Stone when he can transmute his substance as well.
- It was mentioned that Guise has a cell phone that can Tweet into our universe - clearly this would be a Banana phone (rather than Apple). Sorry for a lack of questions.
- In the RPG Starter Kit, Arataki waste’s no time joining up with Argent Adept once she hears about him - does this imply that her Anthony Drake isn’t aromantic/asexual and that they’re in a relationship? Will there be some art showing that Prime Wardens team? We know that she and the Argent Artist aren’t in a romantic relationship (that Anthony Drake’s aromantic/asexual status is not addressed), but they are a close-knit team. Much more like family than “our” Prime Wardens are. There isn’t any art of her old team and probably won’t be any soon. It depends on whether they go to that world in a future project - it’s not currently on the to-do art list.
- Does that team having Sekhmet, daughter of Ra, give Fanatic any ideas about her relationship with Ra (and therefore could believe herself pregnant)? Theoretically possible, but not on any particular art list.
- On La Comodora’s card “Harnessed Anomaly” we see the last moments of the Iron Legacy timeline which shows Iron Legacy and Wraith facing off - while we know that Wraith has worn a Bunker-like suit before and isn’t a fan, shouldn’t she be wearing something that would help her survive trading blows with him? What was her secret plan for defeating him? No, she shouldn’t be wearing something like that. Getting hit is the end of the line no matter what she was wearing, so she’s better off staying mobile. In this reality she was doing the whole Chairman thing - this fight is happening once she’s all out of options and the chips are down. She is not ready for him, but she’s got to fight him anyway. That universe is only putting out bad things.
- In “The Prison of the Mind” why does La Comodora return to the “present” after seeing that the Hive-mind is responsible rather than fixing things in the past? The easy answer is that the comics writers wanted to tell this story and having things play out this way is how that story happens. The justification in-setting (and this is true for more than just this one story) is that when she’s arrived in this world she “drops anchor” in the present. She can then jaunt back and forth in time, but if she goes into the past and makes major changes, it would be difficult for her to get back to when she dropped anchor initially and back to her ship. This is safer for both her and for the timestream and the reality she’s working with.
- [Trevor’s work is particularly noteworthy starting here at around 1:14:15 with a letter from the XTREME Weasel that starts the section of questions about XTREME matters] Can you tell us more about XTREME Kaargra Warfang and the Bloodsworn Colosseum? They did talk about that a little in the “joke” issue and that’s pretty much what we see of it. The Extremeverse issues are these little slices of the setting to show what that particular group/person/place is like there. They don’t really revisit things. There’s not as much Extremeverse content as they wish there was. They’d put a cap of at most 20 issues touch on Extremeverse stuff.
- Prompted by the video game interaction between Xtreme Captain Cosmic and Heroic Infinitor, what is Infinitor like in the Extremeverse? Is there a specific story that involves them fighting back to back with blade and guns or is this interaction not-particularly canon? This interaction isn’t referencing a specific story that they’ve imagined as having happened, but there’s certainly room for such a thing to have happened. I mean, that’s the way this sort of story would go if it happened. We’re running up against the whole “does [x] story happen?” thing where they have thousands of issues’ worth of content to explore and this sounds like a perfectly good Writers Room submission if you’re more interested in that story than others.
- Which character is the most XTREME: gun-toting Captain Cosmic, Mad Max Freedom Five, Ambuscade, somebody else you haven’t mentioned? The Prime Wardens story is almost certainly the most XTREME [fitting given the Heavy Metal-inspired origins of that story disconnected from anything else]. They peaked early with the XTREME factor as subsequent entries went different directions (dystopian, neon city or post-apocalyptic dieselpunk or today’s “XTREME Pirates vs. Ninjas”). Of that initial story’s cast, Apostate probably wins for “most XTREME”. The entire universe is extrapolated out from the version of him that’s you’d paint on the side of a van.
- [Angry Taxpayer letter] How long would Helfyre last if they stumbled through a mist portal and wound up in the Extremeverse/how much would it crush them to realize just what level of poseurs they are? They would love it there for a hot second, and then realize just how much trouble they’re in. What you want is to get the XTREME Helfyre group to come into the normal universe (disclaimer: you don’t actually want this).
- Imagining XTREME Green Grosser just putting some exhaust pipes or whatever on an accordion just seems to make the point that if everything is XTREME, then nothing is. Just give it a rest. [Shots fired.] Why would GG have an accordion? XTREME Green Grosser has meat. It’s also green (implying that it’s rotting or something). They like to think that this episode shows that they can do XTREME in different ways (although Citizen Dawn in her Void form does still have spikes, but they’re bone spikes).
- Who wins a screaming contest (and how loud would it get) between XTREME Argent Adept, Shrieker, and Gruum? There is no XTREME Gruum as the first time an XTREME Tromtar screamed it obliterated their world. So, while an XTREME Gruum would probably technically be the loudest, [Christopher accidentally starts with saying how XTREME Shrieker would be because “Shrieker’s whole thing is just unhinging his jaw and letting forth the howl that rends the world”, but Adam jumps in to point out that this isn’t who is meant, but XTREME Screech. Shrieker wouldn’t be as bad.] So, Shrieker would be doing like heavy metal wails. Really high-pitched. We know that AA is doing metal stuff here. Maybe there’s just not any room for an XTREME Helfyre as they’d be pretty pedestrian by Extremeverse standards. Plus, “Helfyre” isn’t even a thing until after OblivAeon. So, for the question: Gruum would probably have been the loudest for the planet-obliterating reasons, but in a “screaming” contest it would probably be more Shrieker than AA as the latter “Yells”. Not sure if there’s an XTREME Shrieker around, though. Who knows?
- It should illustrate the new story rather than stuff from the reprint content. Adam kind of just wants to lean into the Heavy Metal pin-up cover aesthetic. They’re thinking about shortly after she gets to the island and has just killed an elemental and has its head on a spear or something. If Adam had more time he’d paint it as that’s what it would have been, really, as he’d want to evoke Frazetta’s Death Dealer or similar works. It’s got to include some trade-dress about “Tales from the Extremeverse” and the “100-page Monster” text (because monsters are metal).