The Letters Page: Episode 13
Magicks from another realm! An ancient evil entity! What more could you ask for?
Run Time: 89:06
Just as a heads up, Adam gets real demanding in this episode.
About fifteen minutes into the episode, we try to figure out what a group of Nazi Ghosts would be called. A haunt? A heil? Help us out!
Trevor does a great job with the sound effects at 54:30ish. Thank you, Trevor.
- Tome of the Bizarre, part of the "Horror Comics" trends that rose and fell in popularity relative to Superheroes in the days preceding the Comics Code Authority crackdown on the genre in the 1950s. In these early days there were many issues about the "Cult of Gloom", but that didn't mean anything, it was just the group that was involved in these comics; GloomWeaver was never named. Horror comics often straight up had the bad things "win" (because it's supposed to be scary - these cultists could be coming for you, dear reader!). After the CCA made Horror, as a genre, a forbidden area, the cultists started showing up in the hero books as mooks. Lots of appearances in the more street-level comics (Wraith or Black Fist solo books).
- As we get into the modern era of comics, things get changed up. FFA #6 and the first appearance of Nightmist was also the first appearance/mention of GloomWeaver as the object of the Cult's worship. The plot involved the Cult driving citizens of Megalopolis mad (which caused problems generally - people attacking each other, etc.) which also meant that their dreams/nightmares would be fueling GloomWeaver's summoning into the world from the Realm of Discord. That first story involved the heroes intervening while GloomWeaver is in the process of manifesting in the world and preventing it from happening fully. This is not the canonical "card game event".
- His next appearance is a limited series, The Fabric of Despair. The story involves new leadership of the Cult, Cult Leader Massey (see flavor text on "Grimoire of Curses" and "Vast Following"), who whips them into shape, getting a specific plan involving three relics to summon GloomWeaver rather than previous random acts working in that direction piecemeal. Other "named" cultists are brought back from early appearances of the Cult in hero comics, or even from back in the pre-CCA days (the Acolyte, Deathrattle - a Black Fist villain - etc.), lots of fun back-catalog characters for long-time readers. Then we get a flashback...
- Thousands of years ago, some necromancer is doing his thing, communicating with entities beyond his realm. He performs some ritual to gain more power for himself, and succeeds in that goal, but it winds up killing him and sending his spirit into another realm as well (the Realm of Discord). He proceeds to defeat other entities that already reside there, consuming their power, and eventually sets itself up as ruler as GloomWeaver. Nobody remembers this necromancer or his name - even GloomWeaver doesn't (certainly knows intellectually that he was once a mortal, but so far removed from his current existence that it's lost to time).
- Over human history, GloomWeaver is able to impart some of its power into items back in the normal world and some of these are what become the three relics that the Cult wants to bring together for the summoning ritual. These take a long time to create - once they've been imbued they have to absorb the suffering of the people around them in order to "charge up". Massey's idea is to bring these relics together and by having them all in one spot, it'll be enough power to rend the veil and allow GloomWeaver through.
- Fabric of Despair leads up to events in Nightmist's book which has been operating concurrently with her doing her own thing. They show up with no fanfare (so if you were just reading Nightmist there wasn't a build-up to the plot) with this plan to summon GloomWeaver, and they succeed. Heroes mentioned as being involved in the fight: Nightmist, Argent Adept, Tempest, and Dark Visionary (who shows up after the fight's been going - she's only recently become "Dark"). Once Visionary shows up it's rather anticlimactic - she casually banishes him back to the Realm of Discord. This is meant to be the canonical card game fight with him considering the plot with the relics.
- Next major event isn't even involving GloomWeaver directly: During Vengeance, another Realm of Discord entity is brought forth. Ruin was one of those beings that GloomWeaver had defeated during the process of becoming ruler there, but is now just a lackey. GloomWeaver sends him in, basically, as a proxy to get in on the fun the other villains were having and to beat up Nightmist.
- Stuff about Ruin: was originally an entity of the Void and gets power from there. Was a small fish in the Void, but a big fish in the RoD until GloomWeaver took over. Ruin gets sidetracked in the real world, though. He was sent after Nightmist, but runs into Argent Adept (you know, the "Virtuoso of the Void") and goes after him instead. Defeating AA and taking his power would give him a shot at taking down GloomWeaver back in the RoD later. More in the Argent Adept episode, but short version is that AA has no trouble obliterating Ruin entirely.
- Next up is a Dark Watch story that (Dark Watch Annual #2), once again, doesn't directly involve him. GloomWeaver exerts power on DW and causes infighting between them. On a meta level, this is due to the writers needing a way to get through/explain the tensions involved in the team as it had been existing since most of them aren't really the "talk things out" types.
- One big event left: Skinwalker. Seeds of this were set up in Tome of the Bizarre (rebooted with new numbering in the superhero era, mostly dealing with magical stuff - Nightmist, GloomWeaver, Argent Adept, Court of Blood, etc.) and the culmination of the Spite event (more in his episode). GloomWeaver is able to interact with the spirits of particularly disturbed individuals when they die, and Spite is particularly angry (rage being his primary personality trait). GloomWeaver latches onto him and offers him a deal; cease to exist or get put back into a body to keep killing people (some madman on the loose killing people being a good cause of more nightmares after all).
- This will take a while (years in his dead, decaying body in a casket) - once back in a body he's got to charge up before being able to reanimate - but once Spite gets going, he'll also be imbuing his victims with even more of GloomWeaver's power and eventually this will reach a sufficient level to allow him to cross over again. If Spite doesn't kill enough to do this, then GloomWeaver will just consume him instead (so win-win for GloomWeaver).
- Once enough power has been gathered, Spite Agent of Gloom emerges. This doesn't really work out for Spite as the heroes notice pretty much immediately and fight him before he can kill anybody. This doesn't really surprise GloomWeaver and the "Spite loses and GloomWeaver uses that body to come through" was Plan A all along. After the heroes defeat him (like, over-the-top smack-down), cultists recover the body to do their ritual. The mechanics of the deal here is that Spite's "essence" had been attached to this body and the ritual allows GloomWeaver to switch places between his own essence and Spite's.
- Skinwalker GloomWeaver isn't fully powered up right away as now he's tied to this physical body instead of the more nebulous form from the RoD, but he's getting a good rampage on - defeating a few different groups of heroes along the way [I'm imagining something like the various heroes getting swatted by Doomsday - writers establishing how powerful he is before the important fight they actually care about]. Lifeline plus most of Dark Watch (Harpy and Nightmist are busy elsewhere) is the definitive fight that takes place in a graveyard. Lifeline is a blood mage and so this doesn't go well for GloomWeaver at all, being a creature of blood magic. Lifeline destroys the body with little trouble. However, there's still plenty of power involved in there that's now freed up. GloomWeaver uses that power to occupy all of the corpses in the graveyard and bursts up as a giant "rotting god". More heroes show up, everybody's taking chunks out of the body, but Gloomy can just grab more bodies, eat them, and regenerate. This is a really gross fight that crosses over into several issues.
- Doctor Medico, post Void Guard upgrade, spends the fight absorbing the power animating GloomWeaver into his OblivAeon Shard, eventually taking in all of GloomWeaver's essence, imprisoning him - he's no longer an actor capable of influencing events.
- This is the last major thing to happen before the OblivAeon event, which starts pretty much immediately (Progeny had happened over a year ago and other groundwork had been laid, but the next published issues after this fight were the OblivAeon events proper).
- Talking about Richard Launius:
- Co-designer of the Arkham Horror board game (both the original Chaosium version and the Fantasy Flight Games remake) and of Fate of the Elder Gods by Greater Than Games. He had made some fan decks of Nightmist and Realm of Discord that got reimagined/redesigned when made official decks, but GloomWeaver began as the villain Key Master (made of bones, gates to other realities, etc.) but for story reasons they needed to change stuff up.
- During the ARG leading up to the OblivAeon reveal we learn that the appearance of Spite Agent of Gloom was during a run of Dark Watch issues that cover the OblivAeon events - so, what were Spite and GloomWeaver's roles during the OblivAeon events? The issues of comics that are shown in the ARG are not the OblivAeon event proper, but are lead up to it. DW 13-18 are not during the OblivAeon event, so DW 17 being the appearance of Agent of Gloom is still in that run-up phase.
- Were villains other than Spite working with GloomWeaver, in particular, is the obelisk in the Skinwalker card art the same as Apostate's "Runes of Malediction"? Any further tie-ins to other major events in the comics (like OblivAeon)? No, GloomWeaver just used Spite and doesn't really make friends to the point of working with others (other than his cultists, who hardly count). Obelisk is just an obelisk. Repercussions: it was a major event that brought in a bunch of people, introduced Lifeline as a hero, lasting importance on Dr. Medico. Good way to prep for OblivAeon without being directly related to OblivAeon.
- Was GloomWeaver banished or destroyed? If banished, does whatever's left of Nightmist keep him from returning or would another hero or team need to step up. If destroyed, is that related to why Nightmist chose to become the gate? Neither, he's imprisoned in Dr. Medico's OblivAeon Shard. "That's probably not concerning and shouldn't be a problem for anyone." - Christopher
- Did GloomWeaver try to contact Spite after his Skinwalker plot failed? No, since there's no more GloomWeaver free in the Realm of Discord to contact anybody. More in Future section here and in Spite's episode.
- What's up with Ophidia and the "familiar" keyword, since there's no mechanics supporting that keyword? Ophidia was the necromancer's familiar before he did the ritual to become GloomWeaver. Part of that ritual was that he had to be killed by his familiar, but even in the RoD he has his connection to Ophidia. That connection is what allows him to still influence things in the real world, even after Ophidia dies (and becomes a "ghost snake"). So, as an example, while Spite was stuck in his dead body for years, Ophidia is the entity in there with him feeding him GloomWeaver's power.
- Which hero is canonically the first to fight GloomWeaver and his cult? Cult first fought by Black Fist and Wraith - probably Wraith first. First to fight GloomWeaver and the cult were the Freedom Five plus Nightmist (who they brought in for that purpose).
- Is the Master related to all of this GloomWeaver stuff? Yes. The Master, Nightmist's trainer, is Xian Niu [spelling confirmed], a Cultist of GloomWeaver - he's around for a long time before readers find this out. He helped Massey acquire the relics, but still secretive - he's an agent for them, but keeps hands-off enough to remain apart from them. The ritual gone-wrong that gave Nightmist her power was noticed by GloomWeaver and he sent his top agent to deal with that and so the Master trains her up to increase her power, but he's also been siphoning off her power the whole time - the goal being to use that power all at once to overwrite reality with the Realm of Discord - not just letting him "break through" but making them the same place, which would essentially make him unbeatable. During the Skinwalker event, Nightmist and Harpy were off getting ready to do the Gate ritual she finds and taps into a big source of power she finds, the Master's "capacitor" that he'd been charging this whole time - she's able to tap into and use it so easily because it was already hers. She does this at a moment when he was working on the capacitor and he gets really messed up by the resulting magical explosion.
- What does Zhu Long know about GloomWeaver (and vice versa)? They know about each other, but neither really has anything that the other wants. They both kind of have cults, but aren't rivals.
- Who is Cult Leader Massey? He was a sorcerer, doing his own thing, but who then discovers this source of power but sees the high turn-over rate (ritual suicides and whatnot). He reorganizes things to make them run more efficiently (and to not be a sacrifice himself) with the expectation that GloomWeaver will give him power once he's brought through. This doesn't quite work out as the first thing that GloomWeaver does upon manifesting is to consume Massey's soul as a last bit of power gain as he comes through.
- What happens to the various cultists in the decks: dead, imprisoned, elsewhere? Mostly dead. The Cult doesn't leave many alternatives.
- GloomWeaver is a major nemesis for Nightmist, is she a major one for him? Have there been others through the ages? She's a thorn in his side, and she's been his primary barrier to entry lately, but there have been others in the past (hinted at last week). He's a slow, patient player. Things have been starting to coalesce over the last few centuries, she just happens to be the most capable to oppose him right now.
- Are GloomWeaver/Cult stories the general content of Tome of the Bizarre and how long has it been around? Reiterating the history given piecemeal above: Horror comic in the '40s and '50s before getting shut down by the CCA rules - it was mostly sorcerers and cultists doing "shocking" stuff. Then a second run in the modern age, the one generally cited in SotM content. It's a superhero book, but an anthology one that doesn't follow a specific hero, it just has mostly magic-related stuff going on.
- How did Joe Diamond run afoul of GloomWeaver? Joe had been a prior "thorn in GloomWeaver's side" much like his granddaughter would be later, foiling plots to bring him over. GloomWeaver eventually manages to trick him into performing a ritual nominally to lock GloomWeaver out forever, but really designed to recreate the necromancer's original one - pulling Joe into the Realm of Discord. The reason we generally see him with the glowing orb that is Joe's essence is because much of when we see him is specifically when he's opposing Nightmist and he brings it out to taunt her - it's not particularly important to him.
- Why does he hold onto Joe in the first place? He's a magically-powerful soul and it's better to let it accrue more power over time and slowly drain it. Also works as a possible bargaining chip with other magicians later. He's also just a jerk.
- How big is GloomWeaver, can he change size/appearance? In the Realm of Discord he can pretty much be whatever he wants (and has changed his "normal" appearance over the centuries. The Skinwalker form is about 8 feet tall, the Rotting God is about 30 feet tall. He has much less control in the real world, he can change size a little, but needs matter to do so.
- Why does he have a reptilian tail as Skinwalker, he doesn't in his old form? Every version of him has a big weird alligator tail.
- When Nightmist banishes foes, can GloomWeaver interact with them? She's not banishing things to the Realm of Discord or to the Void. She's banishing them outside of time and space; they are nowhere and nowhen.
- Did GloomWeaver have a hand in other big comic events? Every villain deck is a "major event". Gloomweaver's are his "first appearance" in FFA #6 (introduced him and Nightmist, reorganized the cult's status as a thing in the comics by giving it a focus), the big fight that came out of Fabric of Despair which represents his deck and normal character cards, and Skinwalker represented by the corresponding promo.
- With the Multiverse ended and realities blocked off from one another, does that mean that he can't cause problems anymore? He's not limited by the closing of realities as much as he is by being imprisoned currently. The deeper question here, though, is that the Realm of Discord isn't a different "reality" in the way implied by the "multiverse". It's a different dimension/realm/whatever of the same universe as the card-game-timeline (each reality has its own version of it).
- Can the Realm of Discord be accessed easily? How close is it to the Void or the place where Nightmist became a magical creature? The Realm of Discord is the "ethereal realm", sometimes you go there when you dream, etc. The "good for doing magic" places mentioned in the Nightmist episode (swamps, old cathedrals, abandoned insane asylums, etc.) are good places to cross over as the veil is thinner in such places. It's not particularly easy to get there, but certainly possible. Nightmist got her powers from the Void - they're the same place. The Void is its own thing and isn't really related to the RoD.
- "The Pouch of Bones" has flavor text attributed to Tony Taurus, who eventually becomes Heartbreaker - did GloomWeaver influence him into becoming a villain? Tony was driven to snap by many events. The encounter with GloomWeaver did not help, but there was no intention there.
- Whose bones are in the Pouch of Bones, why does GloomWeaver carry it, what do they do? His bones (the necromancer). They're preserved by the ritual that created him in the first place, protected by Ophidia. The Pouch was used specifically in the Skinwalker ritual to give him a new physical form - the first mortal form he had for tens of thousands of years. It's a necromantic relic - it doesn't really do anything itself, but it makes necromantic stuff happening near it more likely to work.
- Hint up front that the Rook City destruction/non-destruction splitting point between the two timelines is going to be covered in the Chrono-Ranger episode (probably another hint about who that prior nemesis had been that was mentioned earlier). Because Gloomweaver's imprisonment happened before the split, he's still trapped in both realities, but there are differences that happen after.
- Tactics - Dr. Medico is slowly being twisted by 1) having an OblivAeon shard in the first place, 2) an interaction with a Scion that they'll get to, and 3) the fact that he's got a demon trapped in his source of power (which is embedded in his body). This is also indicated by his promo/variant Void Guard card, Malpractice. This increasing darkness eventually leads to GloomWeaver breaking free, killing Doctor Medico but now we have GloomWeaver, in a body of living energy, powered by an OblivAeon shard - "he's kind of a scary deal". He's less powerful than he would be in the Realm of Discord, but still not good news. He wants to get back to the RoD again, now, his seat of power, but he cannot. Xian Niu, the Master, has taken advantage of the power vacuum there in the years GloomWeaver's been trapped and has taken over.
- RPG - GloomWeaver is exorcised from Doctor Medico early on in the RPG timeline (broken free of the Shard with Xian Niu's help) and is free in the world.