The Letters Page: Episode 138
Hello, friends! Or foes?! Who can tell?!?!
Run Time: 1:12:49
So, this episode is the hero/villain team-up episode. We didn't NOT succeed at that... but you'll have to listen to find out what happens. It's certainly an attempt at the given topic!
We make up for it by talking about a bunch more comics than just one, if that's any consolation to you.
This Friday, March 20th, is our LIVE Editor's Note recording! If you're on the Letters Page Patreon, please come join in at 11 AM, Central! We'll be in the Discord as well to take your questions. And, if you're a Contributor on the Patreon, the voting is up now for next month's episodes! Go vote! Voting is important!
- The prompt this week is “Hero/Villain Team-up” - they have done basically no preparation for this recording so they’re going to get into things and then will pause to go pull up appropriate questions from the backlog since they only had a single letter specifically for this episode.
- They start out going through a list of people they don’t feel like talking about today as they’ve have episodes involving them recently: the Freedom Five, Baron Blade, Chrono-Ranger, Parse, Ra… Naturalist is fair game. While they did do his supporting cast episode recently, they don’t think that should be held against him in terms of making up a story. They haven’t done stuff with the Prime Wardens recently - and even further back would be the Southwest Sentinels/Void Guard and Dark Watch. Maybe an Expatriette/Setback story? Something with one of the more ancillary characters like Visionary or K.N.Y.F.E. (aside: Christopher just got done writing up some stuff on the Wagner Mars Base for the RPG core book and so had to talk about her involvement in the destruction of the original base).
- Adam’s leaning towards Dark Watch. In particular he thinks that Expatriette is an interesting choice to team up with a villain. They could go back to her original “hero hunting” period, but that’s something of a cop-out as she’s not really a hero at that time. More interesting, maybe, would be a story in the ’00s sometime where she has to team up with somebody who she used to work with in that ’80s period - like they run into each other and the person calls in a favor that Expat owes. The story could involve each of them trying to get the other to “come over” to the other side. Also, the rest of the team doesn’t/can’t know why she’s helping this villain and are worried about this situation.
- Even better - she agrees to help out her old associate, but she also puts on another costume so that people don’t know that Expatriette is helping this person, then the rest of Dark Watch winds up fighting this duo. At this point they decide that this has to be a longer story and they’ll just Writers Room one issue of it, but there’s an ongoing plot thread of this duo doing stuff where neither the other heroes nor the readers know that Expatriette is part of it (although the readers should find out first) and the fight with Dark Watch is a big set-piece late in the arc.
- So, they make this alternate identity for Expat, have her conspicuously absent from the action for a while but Pete covers for her (not because he knows what’s going on, but because he trusts her implicitly). Eventually he fights this person one-on-one and realizes that it’s really Expat (like, she gets the drop on him but doesn’t take the shot - instead just knocking him down and escaping).
- They pause to look at the timeline and see what’s going on. This would be a six-issue arc in the ’00s. They land on Dark Watch vol. 1 #118-123 (April-September 2009).
- The episode prompt kind of implies teaming a hero up with a known villain, but they don’t think that’s what happens here due to how they’ve structured this story so far. Somebody that she worked with back in the ’80s is probably not one of the regulars. Like, it could be Ambuscade, but somebody she’s “working with” in the ’80s would be on the whole “killing people with powers” shtick. I mean, Parse or Heartbreaker could fit conceptually, but don’t for other reasons (Heartbreaker wasn’t Heartbreaker until the ’90s, for example).
- So, it’s got to be a non-powered or powers-easily-hidden type of villain (like, Parse technically has powers, but they’re not at all obvious) in order for Expatriette to work with them back in the day. They like the idea that they hid their powers originally, but now their powers are out of control for some reason and they need help breaking into a lab or whatever to steal the stuff to fix them. Maybe a cyborg as that kind of “power” wouldn’t set Expat off as much as a more traditional set of superpowers. Maybe they were only slightly a cyborg back then and now they’re much more kitted out. Maybe Fort Adamant or Project Cocoon is involved in messing with them in the meantime and in the end the only way for Expatriette to “help” them is to kill them.
- They play around with the idea that the story now (not the case in the ’80s) is that the reason this person had a robotic part was because of some sort of disease that’s continued to progress, resulting in more and more parts being replaced. Maybe the robotic parts themselves are the problem and they’re slowly being assimilated by more and more robotics. That last bit’s kind of tricky to do without just being the techno-organic virus. They want to avoid giving any level of agency to the robot parts themselves, though. Maybe the parts just fail eventually and the person has to go back to get them fixed, which means replacing even more of themselves every time or something.
- Here we go - originally it was just a cybernetic eye or whatever, but at the end of the original ’80s story Expat “killed” them for whatever reason. In the modern story, they show up and the deal is that they need to keep fueling all of these cybernetic parts with some rare isotope in order to not die. Expat owes them due to the whole “you killed me” thing - they’re not so much doing crime stuff anymore, but they need her help breaking into a place to steal the stuff. How about instead of just needing the standard fuel isotope thing it’s that the existing power source is this unreliable/unstable thing, but if they break into RevoCorp or wherever they can get a better power source that won’t need as much upkeep. Just one last job before they go clean. They go in, do the job, they need to put this person in stasis to install the thing, and Expat just doesn’t install it. She doesn’t have a good feeling about this and just leaves them in stasis. That’s kind of dark, but it’s a Dark Watch story and it’s Expat making the tough call that the person won’t really go legit afterwards. Once the person’s shut down she lets them down and tells them that she’s not giving them this thing.
- They need to build this new person and what Expatriette’s new identity is. They have the beginning and end of the story arc already mapped out. The middle is her actually helping this person and them having some run-ins with Dark Watch. Expat’s not there and Pete insists that she has a good excuse in the first encounter and the second one is when the cat’s out of the bag. Which issue do they do? Not #123 -that’s the basic “they succeed in getting the thing and Expat doesn’t give it to them” thing they’ve already covered. They’re probably going to want to do the issue where the rest of Dark Watch learns that it’s Expat they’re fighting. Let’s break for some sketching stuff out:
- Issue #118 is the appearance of this villain duo that Dark Watch fights without Expat who shows up at the end with a “What’d I miss?”. Issue #120 is the team trying to figure out who these people are (like, NightMist and Harpy, who’s supporting cast at this stage, have a run-in with them and then convene with the rest of the team with the info - stuff like that). Maybe Setback doesn’t have a solo encounter with them until #122 that they’re actually planning on telling today. Oh, ok, so #119 can be that the individual encounters they just mentioned and the readers learn that it’s really Expat at the very end - then #120 can be the events of the previous two books from her perspective (along with the flashbacks/prior events explaining who this other person is and how Expat prepares to be this other persona and whatnot). That leaves #121 as another big Dark Watch thing with the duo setting up #122 as the one where she and Pete have their revelatory encounter. Oh, even better could have #121 be Dark Watch including Expat run into this solo villain, but then Amanda changes costume at some point to join the fight on the other side - like she gets knocked off a building into a trash bin at some point and uses that as an excuse to change. Issue #122 is the reveal to Pete, #123 is her finishing the job, but betraying the person and at the end she goes back to her team and they’re now mistrustful, which is nice long-term drama. It would also be neat if she actually uses this persona here and there in the future as needed.
- Ok, let’s move on to this cyborg character. The off-the-air conversation on the name happened virtually instantly - Adam likes the name “Dead-eye” but there’s already a bunch of those, most of whom are cyborgs too. You know what’s available, though? Redeye, so that’s the name. They also decided that she’s a woman. They also think she needs a real name as she’s probably just going to call Expat “Amanda”. They land on Echo Wong. She’s got a cybernetic eye. That eye is red. Thus Redeye. Back in the day she and Expatriette hunted powered people together. She was recurring cast for Expat’s stories rather than having stories of her own. She was somebody who kind of took Expat under her wing when she first showed up on the scene and they did a bunch of stuff together over a year or two, but Expatriette comes to view her methods as too extreme as she doesn’t take care to avoid civilian casualties. Things come to a head during a job where Redeye is going to get a bunch of people killed and so Expat arranges things so that Echo gets blown up. Probably more along the lines of allowing this to happen through inaction rather than actively doing so. At the end of issue #123 part of the speech can be that Expat isn’t just letting something happen this time, she’s actively choosing to take Redeye out of play by leaving her in stasis.
- They like the idea that Redeye was actually a character in the ’80s and not a retcon character for this story. This leaves the clues there such that when this robotic lady with a red eye shows up, the readers who are really up on their character history could guess who it is and make the call that her accomplice was Expat.
- Adam had some ideas for the look of Expat’s alter-ego. It has a full mask so that you can’t see her features or the fact that she has an eyepatch. Additionally, it’s got a long ponytail coming from the back to give the impression of the character having long hair of a different color, further distancing the look from Expatriette. They decide on a non-standard hair color of green. They run through some options for detail for how she sees out of this thing and they land on something like a Geordi La Forge visor, maybe a bit thinner than his. The outfit is probably a full-body thing as well, concealing skin color as another point of deniability. We’re “post-jacket” in ’09, but maybe she’s got a gear harness over things. A lot of the look here will depend on the character shtick. Additionally, they’d talked about her fighting style off-air a bit and they’re thinking knife-and-pistol close combat.
- They go off-the-air and come up with her whole deal. Her name is Eclipse (see, this identity is eclipsing her old one, but it’s a passing thing). In addition to the knife and pistol she also uses smoke bombs and flash bangs (dark and light, get it?). The visor thing they came up with can also help her deal with those two effects. The look of her outfit will have to be something Adam does as he’s developing the cover. The hair color might change depending on the suit design (like, maybe a third of it is white and the rest is black or something).
- Running through the timeline again: #118-119 is setup with the reader reveal that Eclipse is really Expatriette at the end, #120 is the flashbacks and story from Expat’s side, #121 is the fight with everybody where Expat changes into her other outfit midway and ends on the cliffhanger where she’s going to face off with Setback - she’s trying to get away from him, he manages to corner her and says something like “Let’s do this,” just as the comic ends. That fight happens in #122 (with the fact that this means Redeye is facing Mr. Fixer and NightMist solo and therefore should be completely screwed is left unacknowledged).
- What’s the scene? They think through some building options, like maybe in a big church or on a rooftop or something. A rooftop gives an option for her to knock him into an air duct or something as the excuse to run away. It’s also probably a night scene - moonlit. We can have her aiming at him while he’s in the duct, he notices something about her stance, and then she bolts. He yells for her to wait.
- Time passes off-panel and he meets back up with the rest of the team where he reports that he thinks that Eclipse is Amanda.
- Adam is unsure on the readers knowing this already being the stronger story point. There’s no need for this to be the case, so they shuffle the issues. What they had been calling #120 with the flashbacks and whatnot could now be #122 with the two fight issues getting knocked down a number, making this climactic face-off between Eclipse and Setback into #121 instead.
- Back to the issue at hand: The team isn’t so sure of Setback’s assertion given that 1) he vouched for her initial excuse and 2) she was involved in the fight back in issue #120. He thinks something’s up - she had him dead-to-rights and didn’t take the shot. We catch back up with Redeye and Eclipse who are breaking into RevoCorp when the rest of Dark Watch shows up and we get half of a fight. Issue #122 is then the flashback issue and then #123 starts up with the rest of the fight and Expatriette saying something like “You’re right, you found me. I’ve got a lot to answer for, but you can’t stop me right now. I have to do this.” The team responds with some comment about of course they can stop her. “Well, not really.” and she pushes a button that triggers something that knocks them all out or collapses a section of the street that drops them into the sewer or something. This is Expatriette we’re talking about - she’s set up a contingency for this (“of all the people in Sentinel Comics, Expatriette is most likely to be the person that has plans to take out every single person she’s ever met.” - Christopher). From there she does the job, but then leaves Redeye in stasis. Upon returning to the team they no longer trust her.
- So, this issue in particular is the rooftop fight, Setback returning to the team (where they don’t believe him - their counterarguments are meant to convince the reader while they’re convincing Setback), they get an alert outside of RevoCorp due to the villains breaking in and fighting the automated defenses. The team shows up and fights them. At some point Mr. Fixer is fighting Eclipse, he takes the knife through his forearm in order to get in reach to grab her hair. That’s when he pulls off her mask and we learn that it’s really Expatriette and the issue ends (which segues into the flashback issue).
- How does Expat feel about her purple hair coming from her superpowered heritage? Does she resent it/try to dye it? Does it cause problems for her as it’s a distinguishing characteristic (or does it add to her reputation)? She may have dyed it when younger, although when she first showed up in comics it was a useful distinguishing characteristic for the readers. She can be resentful of it, but she can also own it as part of what sets her apart. It likely is part of her reputation as well that people in the know would recognize. It’s not like she can’t put on a hat or something to obscure it when necessary. They also like the idea that she might actually tell people that she dyes it purple as a way to distance herself from her mother (who has colors in her hair). Like, she doesn’t take the time required to actually dye her hair, but she might keep a bottle of purple dye in her bathroom as a red herring (even though Setback, who knows that it’s her real hair color, is the only person likely to ever see it).
- So, the name Amanda means “worthy of being loved” which seems a bit pointed considering her relationship with her mother - was this intentional on a meta level when you/the writers/Dawn herself were choosing the name? Yes - it was addressed in-comic with Dawn assuming her daughter would have great power and therefore, in Dawn’s eyes, would be worthy of being loved. That kind of comes full-circle as she was the first character that they put in a relationship (well, with another superpowered person - the first that they wrote to be in a relationship at all was Tachyon and/or Legacy whose spouses came into existence in the process of writing their backstories for the original game).
- [Now the sole hero/villain team-up letter] The villains you’ve invented have such strong personalities it seems hard to think of team-ups that would actually work beyond those already existing in the canon (including special circumstances like Vengeance) [They interrupt here to point out that they had similar difficulties - most of their heroes and villains wouldn’t team up except in special circumstances, most of which they’ve already talked about like Stuntman and Mainstay, Akash’Thriya and Naturalist, or the OblivAeon event as a whole. They might revisit this episode concept to try to think of an example that’s less of a “cheat” than the way they went today. Something where they still think of one another as hero and villain, but they’re forced to work together.], how likely would the following match-ups be to work?
- Baron Blade and the Hippo - Hippo wants powers to take on Haka and Baron Blade could use some test subjects? Yeah, Blade would do tests on the Hippo, but he’s also more likely to hire the Hippo through a proxy. Or maybe not, maybe if Blade became aware of the Hippo (they posit here that he probably doesn’t considering the scales they operate on respectively) he’d offer all sorts of hippo-suit-related experiments.
- Baron Blade and Ambuscade for similar reasons? More likely than dealing with the Hippo. He might hire this guy. Ambuscade is more of a precision instrument than Hippo is. Hippo’s more like something you throw out there to act as a distraction while you do the real plan. Ambuscade can be sent to do an actual task.
- Ambuscade and the Chairman, maybe after the umpteenth time the Operative failed to kill Mr. Fixer? To be fair, they did kill Mr. Fixer. They don’t think that Chairman really goes outside the Organization. However, if the Operative is on a mission (for one of her masters) and runs into Ambuscade who has a similar objective they could team up. He probably flirts with her a lot. Part of what’s so frustrating about the Chairman is that he sits atop this pyramid of power such that even “failures” don’t really effect him. He still, ultimately, gets what he wants and is fine.
- Revenant and Sergeant Steel? Steel, working for F.I.L.T.E.R., isn’t likely to work with a private citizen/company. It might work on another of those “similar missions and they just meet up” things. It might also happen in a post-government F.I.L.T.E.R. time. It’s not terribly interesting as they’re both tech/weapon characters and team-ups between characters with different gimmicks are more interesting.
- Hermetic and Apostate? Yeah, that could happen. It’s way more likely that it’s a case of Apostate manipulating Hermetic than a meeting of equals, though. There’s virtually nobody that Apostate wouldn’t manipulate. Christopher could possibly see an Apostate/GloomWeaver “team up” that’s less of a team up so much as it’s the pair of them trying to manipulate each other in an escalating series of tasks to further each other’s goals.
- So which cover to actually do? Issue #118 could be Redeye and Eclipse, #119 something indicating Dark Watch investigating, #120 the big fight cover, #121 is Eclipse vs. Setback, #122 is a throwback cover to look like Expatriette and Redeye in the style of an ’80s cover, and #123 would be the only cover to show that Eclipse is Expatriette. Yeah, #121 is probably the best option as it has the “Eclipse Unmasked” tagline. Action shot of Eclipse and Setback fighting, maybe with a rooftop backdrop if necessary.