The Letters Page: Episode 134
A familiar team, yet one that never was!
Run Time: 1:06:35
We do another early Disparation story! These are always fun.
Just a note on Letters Page timeline: we're pretty much back on our regular schedule but the episode numbering is one behind since we interjected with last week's non-standard episode. As a result, the first episode for March will be what was going to be the last February episode. We'll still have voting and Editor's Notes as usual, and we're still a week ahead on recording time, just in case Adam has to pull away for a week for baby reasons, which is not entirely unlikely. We shall see!
Catch you next time!
- So, what kinds of things are in/should be set up in volume 1 of Disparation? They already know what happens in issues #1-3, 5, 24, and 25. That little gap of the missing #4 is a really tempting spot to fill out. Issue #1 was the story where Voss conquered Earth, #2 was one where Spite killed Wraith (so it’s not only one where Spite won, but it’s a world that developed without Wraith from then on), #3 was about an evil Visionary and was eventually established as being Dark Visionary’s backstory, #5 was the first appearance of what would become the Inversiverse (with Luminary and the Legacy of Destruction, etc.).
- With those already set up, they want to avoid stories that just explore what happens if a villain had won or if a hero was a villain instead. Maybe something where somebody who normally doesn’t have powers does (or vice versa). If they want to mess with the world-building aspect a bit you have to consider that Prime Wardens are a relatively new development and Dark Watch doesn’t exist yet. That basically leaves the Freedom Five in terms of teams to play around with.
- Maybe swap somebody out. Can’t really do so without Legacy because it’s more or less his team - “What’s the Freedom Five like without Legacy?” is pretty much “What’s the world like without Legacy?” That could be interesting to explore later. No Wraith? Could work, she’s the least public member with her secret identity and all. Tachyon? She kind of sets the tone for the team and so might be a good option - Absolute Zero doesn’t really work without her there to have set him up with the equipment he needs to survive and even Wraith and Bunker make use of the advanced gadgets she can put together (this is a large part of why Prime Wardens became a thing - the Freedom Five are a very heavily science/technology team between this stuff and even Unity later on and PW being more “magic” was a change of pace).
- So if we’re considering that Legacy wants to put a team together, but we’re specifically saying that Tachyon isn’t an option, how can that shake out? He can still go recruit Wraith and Bunker as usual, but then Tachyon’s “too busy” with her science stuff. Hmm… maybe better that in this timeline, Dr. Meredith Stinson has still been this ancillary character for Legacy stories, but when he puts the team together he doesn’t even ask her. Instead, Legacy approaches this Argent Adept guy (because we’re ignoring the canonical timeline and can say that he was around when the team was forming). The team now is a bit more well-rounded as they’ve got some magical weirdness to balance out the tech-heavy stuff from Wraith and Bunker.
- Their first big encounter could still be Matriarch. They don’t have their ace in the hole AZ because Tachyon’s not developing his cryo suit and whatnot, but they do have somebody on hand that can deal with the magical nonsense that’s running out of control. Once that’s sorted out, Matriarch actually gets recruited (AA being able to tell that this wasn’t really under her control) with an offer of training from AA.
- We’re looking at a series of vignettes, then, showing the team in various points in history. Formation, major encounter that bumps them up to 5 members, and maybe a few more showcasing how they operate and how the magic users’ presence affects the tech-based people over time. Bunker’s upgrades becoming more mystical in nature over time (like, he’s got runes scored into the suit that he can activate to accomplish the “modularity” that the normal suit has), maybe Wraith actually becoming more wraith-like as she has her teammates put enchantments on her to make her shadowy or something (she still doesn’t have powers, but getting “buffed” by the team or using enchanted gear instead of tech-based stuff starts to blur the line).
- The undercurrent here could be that Tachyon feels left out - she’s got superspeed (although maybe she keeps that a secret here) and they come to her with science questions, but they don’t actually recruit her? They even brought her screw-up cousin on-board!?! She’s still working on helping out this guy with a problem related to cold stuff. Maybe some other person who’s really into science and understands her frustration with Legacy gets in contact with her to team up. So we’re gearing up for a good magic vs. science thing. They’d like to bring a few more people on board here, but unfortunately Unity doesn’t exist in January ’88. This “science team” could even be where the germ of the idea that became Vengeance comes from. Disparation was good for that - trying out an idea and seeing if it had the legs necessary to warrant inclusion in the main continuity in some form. Even beyond that, the OblivAeon event served as a really good way to get Disparation content that people wanted to use over into the main-line comics; you could always just say that they came in through a mist gate and got stuck here when they closed.
- If we’re trying to figure out who to include on the team, let’s look at the existing foils for the heroes. Baron Blade and Legacy is obvious. Is Tachyon the foil for Matriarch because of the familial/existing nemesis connection? Her status as the 5th member might make for a better counter to AZ (plus “lots of birds” vs. “lots of ice” as a gimmick). Nah, power suits makes him a good counter to Bunker. Tachyon could also work for Argent Adept as he kind of took “her” spot on the team and is the main magic person as opposed to her science stuff. Really, Tachyon and AZ can shuffle around a bit, so let’s explore what else to include on the team and the other stuff can shake out later. Who would be good for Wraith? Spite doesn’t feel right for this (unless you do a cyborg Spite or something - maybe something to keep in their back-pocket for later).
- A cyborg in general could be good as a foil for Bunker. Sure, he’s got the suit and it’s tech/magic stuff, but what makes him a hero is the person inside. A cyborg could get at that cyberpunk idea that the more parts you replace, the more your humanity suffers. The idea that they could posit that “Omnitron” didn’t happen in this universe, but that technology got used in making a cyborg instead has some potential. Who, though? Parse seems almost too obvious, but that might not be a bad thing here where there’s not a lot of room to explain things. She’s in her murderous vigilante stage in the mainline comics at this point, so why not? This works well, too - Omnitron still happened, but rather than Cosmic Omnitron just upgrading her mind as it activated, we have it actually merge with her as part of that process.
- As this discussion has gone on, Christopher thinks that having specific foils for each member isn’t necessarily required. The strong magic/science theming is enough (Legacy is more the touchy-feely Inspiring Leader guy whose powers aren’t exactly scientific in nature anyway, so that works and Wraith and Bunker have been pushed in the magic direction over time here). As we’re also using this as a kinda-sorta template for Vengeance, we can do what happened to Proletariat here. Some outsider shows up and gets the sales pitch of what needs to be done from the villain - in this case Tempest.
- We then get the big setpiece fight between the Freedom Five and the Progress Five? Techno Five? Man, The Pentagrams would be good for a team of five magic users. Somebody use that somewhere. They go off-the-air for a bit to spitball names. They come up with Delta V [the V works for the Five idea, but ∆v is the way to note a change in velocity in physics/engineering terms and is frequently used in descriptions of spacecraft maneuvers so we have a nice science connection too].
- Do they even want to have the fight? This is mostly a world-building exercise - the setup of the villain team in opposition to the heroes and the imminent fight could be sufficient as an end-point. Maybe at least a short conflict with the villains retreating - this isn’t over, but the issue is.
- What does the Freedom Five headquarters look like here? This would have been in the era of the old HQ building in the main comics, but they want something that evokes the magic theme more. Something that looks more like an old temple or something ancient and they call it the Sanctum of Freedom. That’s where the villains attack. The dialogue is important here as it’s where the villains explain the stuff that we know just from the discussion above. We may have seen Blade and Tachyon in a background or something, but maybe not a lot of explicit detail. They like this as being the villains thinking that this is a old ways vs. progress fight, but the heroes see it as simply competing versions of progress.
- One last thing to consider: who is being shown this by the Oracle of Discord? We’re only in issue #4, so that framing device is probably still there (it hasn’t been relegated to the background yet). They throw out a few options (Tachyon seeing an even more cohesive Freedom Five, Parse not being just a killer), but Matriarch wanting to be part of something positive/bigger could work. Christopher considers having Tachyon killing her in the story she’s shown, but they decide against it. This is just world-building and scene-setting - consequences would come later. The epilogue could be her wanting something else for where she wound up and that being up to her to handle in her own world - something picked up later in the Dark Watch era.
- What is the Inversiverse version of Christopher and Adam? They’d probably qualify as Singular Entities within the context of Sentinel Comics (as they can see into all of the realities while being unchanged), so there’s not likely a change to them here. [This sort of thing has something of a precedent in the form of Marvel’s One-Above-All which has at least on some occasions resembled comics creators like Jack Kirby.]
- Does the Animal-verse has humans filling the role that animals would in most other realities - like are there little domesticated humans in characters’ houses or dangerous wild humans out in the world? They don’t think so. Are there “normal” animals too then? Yeah. The way they think about it is that the anthropomorphic animals that we usually think about for the Animal-verse are probably all one species that just has many different expressions in appearance and the other animals are just normal animals.
- Does Inversiverse Guise teleport through and destroy realities? How about Inversiverse La Comodora? Guise is trapped in black holes at the moment. Inversiverse La Capitan is just one of the numerous ones that La Comodora has to deal with. There isn’t an inverted La Comodora.
- [The guys have a brief aside regarding mummy voices and living concrete.]
- Looking into the Egyptian mythology connected to the Inversiverse versions, I see that Hathor is the mother of Ra - in the comic you had Thoth mention that the Eye of Ra was older than Ra himself; is this Hathor actually Ra’s mother in this context? Was she sealed in the eye and had Ra needed to remove his own eye before using that one as a replacement? Hathor was the progenitor/creator of Ra, but “mother” would be more in the same kind of way that we say “mother earth”. Many of the gods came from Hathor. Ra, in his seeking for power, removed his own eye, captured her using magic, and used that as a replacement eye. That kind of stuff that would have been revealed in the backup story stuff could possibly see more attention later.
- If the Inversiverse gods aren’t relic-empowered like in the main continuity, where do they come from? Will Bastet show up in the RPG? It’s never explained in the Inversiverse story where the gods came from. Even Universe 1’s versions of them only got explained really late in the Multiverse era. Presumably, the same kind of “refugees from another realm” explanation holds true for them as well (although working out slightly differently in execution), but it’s not established in Disparation. It’s not likely that Cleo Meron would show up in the RPG as things are now, but time will tell.
- The name “Inversiverse” is relatively recent - as in, we called it the Inverted Universe or Reversiverse before it actually started being called Inversiverse here in our reality as people wrote in questions regarding it; how does the history of the Inversiverse and its name shake out in the Metaverse? Was it also a fan name that just got picked up as an official one later? In that original issue #5 appearance it didn’t have a name as they weren’t in the habit of naming various realities yet. However, the letters page had a variety of things people called it (including the things you mention) as it was a neat thing that was popular with the fans. Eventually they ran a fan poll to choose an official version just to get everybody on the same page. Then, when it became a main feature in volume 2, the name showed up in the comic itself with the trade dress and whatnot. That poll probably happened sometime in the mid-to-late ’90s just based on the publication dates of the relevant issues.
- [Cult of Gloom question starts at around 49:07] If you’re going with a bad sun god (and messing around with the Ennead membership anyway), why not just travel up around the Mediterranean a bit and pick the Sumerian Nergal as then you could get some associations with pestilence and destruction instead of the goody-goody associations with agriculture and whatnot (along with his association with Ereshkigal, goddess of the underworld, for some of that sweet shipping money)? Well, they stayed within the Egyptian pantheon for new Ennead members. Sumerian mythology is pretty metal, though. They were starting with “evil Ra” and just went from there - they’re intentionally not keeping 100% accurate to myths because we’re assuming that the myths are long games of telephone anyway and don’t reflect the “real” events and so they’re using the myths as inspiration for stories they make up, but aren’t beholden to them. You can imagine a version of Ra who’s this burning, hate-filled guy rather than the agricultural benevolent guy. Plus that’s kind of the point of the Inversiverse.
- [The next letter is from the Inversiverse version of Crazy Old Maurice, Middle-aged Dealing-with-some-issues-but-working-through-them-with-loving-support Maurice] Let’s take stock of our Universe Inventory: Sentinel Comics Universe (aka Universe 1 where the main continuity happens), the Inversiverse [Universe 999], the publishing Metaverse [no number given its relation to the comics - they almost said Universe 0, but that’s probably Ur-Space, maybe Universe ∞ would be better], our own reality [Universe $]. [Christopher notes that he actually has 10 universes on the spreadsheet alone.] - do we have something like the Inverted Metaverse where Sentinel Comics is selling Inversiverse stories as the main continuity that occasionally crosses over to Universe 1 in Disparation? Adam says no, Christopher says yes. How about Inverted Universe $ [Universe £?] where Christopher does the art and Adam the writing or one where superhero card games really took off in the 1940s and have gone through various Ages that you now make comics based on those games because it’s too hard to make money with the games these days? I’m glad you’re working through your issues, Maurice, and I hope that this is a helpful part of your therapy. Keep going with this. Like, what happens if we throw Paul or Trevor into this shuffle? They do think that you can make money with comics. Heck, they didn’t even set out to make money with the game they were making up that eventually became SotM - they were just trying to make a game that made them feel the way that comics did. Step 0 of that process was to figure out what they were basing it on, and the story of their original characters snowballed from there.
- Just need a sweet, sweet team shot of this different Freedom Five. More hand-forged looking Bunker, wraith-like Wraith, superhero team member Argent Adept, and heroic Matriarch (not Harpy, not Pinion, Matriarch), a version of the Legacy outfit that fits this magic team. Late-’80s style. [This also devolves into talking about the ’90s cover that Adam finally got to do last time and how old they are now. As are we all, guys. As are we all.]