The Letters Page: Episode 132
Run Time: 1:08:32
We're here in the future! And we're going to talk about the past! A not-too-distant but very different past!
We tell a tale out of the Inversiverse, and things get twisty! We finally start in with overviewing and storytelling around four and a half minutes in.
After all that noodling, we finally get to your questions at the 47 minute mark.
If you're on the Letters Page Patreon, join us this coming Friday for our anniversary live show! We didn't intend for it to be specifically an anniversary live show, but it turns out that we're doing that recording on the same date that we launched our first episode in 2017! So long ago! No one was alive then!
- Today’s topic is an Inversiverse writers room. They check into things a bit for options in that setting that they haven’t already talked about in-depth. They have pages of notes for things because they know that they had all of those Disparation backup stories to fill out. They thought about tackling a few of those at once, but decided against it. [They also get sidetracked for a bit due to the irony of the Legacy of Destruction ring with the inscription “No legacy but destruction.” being a legacy itself. As is the name “Paul Parsons” - they spitball some alternate spellings.]
- They decide to do Ra, but they also consider Citizen Dawn (a hero, running the Sanctuary of the Sun) but they just did the Extremeverse version of her. They decide that since Disparation vol. 2 #75 is when the backup stories became a regular feature, that issue #74 (October ’08) would make a good place to have a full Inversiverse issue.
- So, editorially in the meta-verse, they’ve already established what things like Megalopolis, the Rook Cities, Mordengrad, and the Founding/Fearsome Five are like - there’s already a decent chunk of known info about this setting. What would they want to flesh out a bit more? That’s when the Ra and Ennead idea came in as it’d be a bit further afield from the established stuff - you get more of a feel of what the place is like and sets up the backup story thing nicely. The backup stories will circle back to known characters (there’s definitely one about Flashbulb and Express, for example), but we get a lot of new stuff in them too like the Prime Wardens/Seraph/Hellion stuff.
- So, they’ve got 10 Egyptian gods in this story - that’s a lot. They know a little about how this will effect things down the line, but they’ll talk about that when they get to it. Where this is starting is this ancient evil in the form of Ra has shown up and the Ennead has arisen to stop him (maybe not all of them?).
- Ra is the ancient god of the sun. This book doesn’t delve into the who or why of him showing up (this isn’t Dr. Blake Washington Jr.) - he’s just there and demanding worship. Christopher’s got an idea for a bait and switch regarding that, though.
- While we know how the Egyptian stuff works in the canon setting (ancient destroyed dimension, relics give power, etc.) none of that applies in the Inversiverse. Looking to history - Ra was this important deity, but then the Ennead grew in popularity and supplanted his worship as the main thing for a while. Maybe here Ra was this ancient evil thing and the Ennead were created/tasked with protecting the world from him and they eventually sealed him away. Knowing that this might not last forever, they seal themselves away as well just in case he’s ever freed.
- That gives a reason for there not being all 9 members. Ra gets out and immediately just finds where they are and blasts the place in an attempt to take out as many of them as he can. So, how many and which ones die? Christopher likes the idea of them being at less than a majority remaining, so 5 die. Atum is an obvious candidate for death given his importance in the group and his association with fire. Ooo, how about the Ennead then replaces the dead ones with members of the Egyptian pantheon who aren’t members of the Ennead of Heliopolis. Get some new faces out there - they brainstorm some potential new members:
- So, if we’re going to have Sobek and Wadjet in the group, they should probably get rid of Geb to not overload with reptile-themed members. The same can go for Bastet and Tefnut. They want to keep Osiris, Isis, and Set as the ones with the best name recognition, so who’s the fourth? Nephthys, Nuit, or Shu? They go with the one with the most interesting name and look - Nephthys.
- The decide that something has to be in charge of waking them up and that Thoth can fill that role nicely. Ra wakes up and wrecks the place. Thoth comes along to wake up the protectors and finds that only four of them have survived and he takes on the task of finding replacements. He also serves as a kind of mentor as the guy who’s been observing this whole time.
- They need to take this into a “story” rather than just a list of events. We need a layperson who can give us our point of view - since they’re not doing relics, they like the idea of somebody who’s a descendant. This can be somebody that Thoth approaches first with the heads-up that “your a god” and brings them on-board as what kicks off the story. Bastet is the obvious one as the best known of the other options and is an easy fit as you make her a “cat person” (works at a shelter, takes in foster cats or something, just really good with them). Fun characterization option here: all of her friends already make fun of her for being such a cat person, they’re playing a prank on her or something, right?
- So, we have a prelude with Ra waking up, then we have this bit where Thoth meets up with this person and takes her to the Temple of the Ennead to show her what’s going on (5 destroyed sarcophagi, he’s going to now wake up the remaining 4).
- They discuss this person off the air and come back with their decisions: her name is Cleo Maron. Thoth shows up and addresses her by name and a long chain of “daughter of [x], daughter of [y]…” that eventually ends with “who was known in her day as Bastet.”
- They think they have enough building blocks to just do the thing.
Disparation vol. 2 #74
- We open with Dr. Blake Washington Jr. who is making his way through an ancient Egyptian temple. This is a panel-for-panel retelling of the original “Birth of Ra” story, just in the modern style. He arrives in the main chamber where there’s a big dome with a seal on it. He’s drawn to it, and as he touches it the seal starts to crack and then the dome explodes, throwing him back. Out of the wreckage floats this magnificent being wreathed in fire who proclaims that Ra has returned. He looks down at Dr. Blake Washington Jr. and then incinerates him with a gout of flame. He then flies up and bursts out of the top of the temple.
- Transition to Cleo Maron, going about her day (she’s going to be late for work because she took too long tending to her cats). She rushes around the corner of a building and runs into a large man - one who turns out to have a rather large bird head. This is where he addresses her as discussed earlier (they like a reaction shot - as he starts giving the “daughter of” list we go to a passer-by’s perspective who sees this weird looking thing talking, but the word balloon is filled with hieroglyphs to get across the point that he’s speaking ancient Egyptian and she understands him, then we come back to Cleo’s perspective just as he’s wrapping up the daugher-ofs because it’d be a pages of it if they didn’t skip some) along with her incredulous reaction (including “This is a nice costume.” with her flicking the tip of the beak with her finger). He doesn’t need her to believe him, only that she comes with him. He teleports them to the Egyptian desert near the exploded temple.
- This is when Thoth gives us the exposition about Ra and needing to get the Ennead band back together. She is still not into it, but he’s not sending her back, so she continues to follow and get exposited at.
- Thoth wakes up Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys who understand what must be up if they’re awake. Thoth has to give the bad news about the others, but that he has ideas on replacements. Osiris asks about this “child” who has been brought and knows nothing of immortality. Cleo fires back something regarding his friends who are “dead in a box”. Thoth has a plan for her. The gods argue. Set says she smells like a god (we need somebody to “legitimize” her even a little). The others argue that you can’t just go adding people to the Ennead - it was a fixed membership. Thoth counters that they need more people to defeat Ra, the Ennead as it existed is no more, so why not wake up some more of the slumberers? Ones who were meant for other things. Thoth himself must step out of his comfort zone of chronicler and will join them.
- They go to a different temple. As they travel Cleo sees something off to the side that might be a city or oasis. She is still really freaked out by all of this and is thinking of ways to escape. Eventually they get to what looks to be an expanse of empty sand, but Thoth calls on Isis and Nephthys to aid him and they do a spell that causes the temple to be revealed. As that’s going on, we see Cleo slip away in the background of a panel.
- Set is shocked that they’re waking people from the Temple of the World Scales. Everyone there already has a task assigned to them and were not to awake until the End. The counter to that argument is that if Ra isn’t dealt with, everyone here will wake up anyway as he ushers in the End Times. They enter and wake up Sobek and Wadjet. As that’s going on Ra crashes in through the roof, talking trash.
- Cut away to Cleo seeing fire crashing in through the temple and assuming this is a Bad Thing.
- Ra monologues for a bit, then they all fight. Ra is handling this 1-on-7 fight, though. He wins and goes on again about how as 9 they were able to best him through trickery, but as 7 they’re nothing. Then Cleo (established earlier as having a bit of a mouth on her) says “You’re terrible at counting.” She pounces on him from the doorway - she’s started to change, to take on some of the aspects of Bastet as she begins to believe all of this stuff. She’s able to jump around and has claws on her hands - she slashes at his face as she lands on him from behind, taking out one of his eyes in the process. She attacks with her other hand, but even through the pain he just grabs her by the scruff of the neck, throws her across the room, and blasts her with fire before giving one of your standard “You haven’t seen the last of me!” taunts and flying off.
- That was a pretty good fight just then. Thoth needed some time to wake the newbies up, so at first it was Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys holding Ra off until that could happen, then the others joined in.
- Thoth heals everybody, greeting Cleo now as Bastet. He also asks what she now holds. She’s still got the Eye of Ra - something far older even than Ra himself. He does his “awakening” shtick on it, at which point it glows and starts growing, extending into a person shape. At least a foot taller than any of the others stands Hathor, one of the original deities who saw the advent of Ra. She is the final member.
- The issue ends with a spread showing this new team.
- This starts the Inversiverse backup story trend in Disparation. The odd-numbered issues for a while after this will be about at least one of these 10 characters, fleshing out the characters, and furthering the plot of the Ennead vs. Ra story. If one were to imagine that the Inversiverse was the main comics continuity, this story would be a major crossover event.
- Wellspring, the Singular Entity of Progress, is responsible for the creation of the Legacy line, but in the Inversiverse the Legacy of Destruction line is actively fighting against progress; is some other Singular Entity behind the family’s powers in this universe, did Wellspring make a mistake, or is this still somehow furthering Wellspring’s desires somehow? The Inversiverse doesn’t really get into the whole Singular Entities thing. Sure they exist (and Wager Master is still around), but the conceit and storytelling purpose is to turn everything on its head. Pretty much all the other universes we see in Sentinel Comics are just there to tell the story that’s being told, so don’t worry about the implications of the Singular Entity stuff too much. That being said, the actual letters page of Disparation would probably get this sort of question - the answer would be that progress requires striving for something. Legacy of Destruction is a constant stumbling block that society has to overcome again and again, becoming stronger in the process. Additionally, “progress” isn’t a positive or negative concept, so a bad guy could be the tool of progress just as well as a hero could. It can be seen as an opposite of “preservation” in that it’s the opposite of “stagnation” and something that is perfectly preserved never changes.
- Is there an XTREME Inversiverse? What would XTREME-Inversiverse Guise be like? No, there is not a canonical combination of gimmick universes like that in the pages of Sentinel Comics. It’s a Multiverse, so if you want to have one for your home game, feel free.
- Can you tell us more about Citizen Dawn and the Sanctuary of the Sun? Who does she fight? What’s life like there? Is everyone there still a Citizen? Are Hammer and Anvil still her right-hand-men? Is this more of its own Writers Room thing? It could be a Writers Room thing, but it would be a quick thing in a backup story (maybe an arc of them). It definitely takes place before the Dark Watch story as they would want to establish Dawn before getting into her son Ambrose. They’ll do this one down the road.
- Christopher would love to have something with the One-Eyed God on it, but they can’t do it for this one and, because of the way things work from here on, that’s not likely to get onto a cover ever. Maybe there will be a story down the road where the backup story arc comes to a head and gets a full issue again. This will probably just be evil Ra. Maybe with the Ennead around him (in the background, only making 2 or 3 of them recognizable - something that indicates the Ennead are involved but something is wrong). Maybe more that we see the shattered sarcophagi around him. Or a bas relief with Thoth’s profile shadow falling on it.
- They’re overcomplicating this. Good comic-art depiction of an evil Ra makes the most sense. Gotta get some trade dress on there indicating that it’s the Inversiverse. “The Inversiverse in Flames” is good for that.