The Letters Page: Episode 142
Let's envision some friends!
Run Time: 1:19:11
We're both settling into this new way of life more and are feeling way better, thanks for asking! As a result, we've got a real downer of a supporting cast episode, just so you know.
We spend barely over one minute with banter and intro and just get right into it! And we create some stuff of various levels of good and bad feeling.
Around 37 minutes in, we get to your questions! And what a delightful parcel of questions they are. Good stuff explored in the question section today.
Join us next time, as we kick off Adam's birth month!
- The Freedom Five
- Juan Verde
- Ray Manta
- Hannah Hall
- Absolute Zero
- The Dreamer/Muse
- Dark Mind
- Mr. Fixer
- Baron Blade
- Young Legacy
- Argent Adept
- Captain Cosmic
- So, Visionary supporting cast… She’s a weird character given that she doesn’t really know how to operate in a normal society. She’s got her origin book New Memories and then gets her ongoing solo book Mind Over Matter that runs for 5 years. Any real supporting cast would probably come in the latter - New Memories is just her origin and her coming in to do a task which she completes. Any friends or family she had were left in her home reality and the other heroes here aren’t sure whether they should even trust her or not (they should, but only for a little while as it turns out - Dark Visionary comes out a little over a year into the run of Mind Over Matter).
- Now, Dark Visionary wasn’t running the show all the time. Sometimes she was herself in that time period, but she didn’t always know what she had done while the Dark version was in charge. It’s a bit Jekyll and Hyde for a while in that way, but had they nailed down the issue after which is was always DV? In looking at things, Christopher notes that the incident where Tachyon was looking into time travel where DV kills all the scientists and frames F.I.L.T.E.R. is kind of what sets F.I.L.T.E.R. on the path to being baddies (attack by Freedom Five in response to the scientist’s death, Kismet escapes, etc.). or, well, being more villainous than they already were with the whole capture/cage sapient beings just for having powers deal. That was issue #42. So, MOM #1-13 is “Here is Visionary”, #14-41 is the Jekyll and Hyde era where not even the readers know what’s going on with her “sometimes evil” stuff, and #42-60 is when the cat is out of the bag from the readers’ perspective but nobody else knows that she’s Evil and it’s in this phase of the book that the good Visionary is locked up in her mind (we get her perspective occasionally, giving the readers somebody to root for). They do like the idea of a “cliffhanger” of sorts with her book ending with the implication that Visionary is just evil now and she continues to show up in other titles as a villain. So from ’92 until Cosmic Contest in ’15 we have enough time pass that there’s a whole generation of readers who would only know her as a villain.
- So, given that she’s not exactly the type of villain to make “friends”, that leaves supporting cast options from the beginning of MOM through issue #41.
- Even while DV is running things she’s not really a “supervillain” in that she doesn’t have any major plots or external goals. What she wants is complete control and, while from the outside it looks like she’s in control of the body, internally she knows that she’s only barely strong enough to keep the other Visionary locked up. She’s more just a “bad person” who sometimes shows up doing bad stuff and sometimes shows up doing helpful stuff. She kind of toes the line between villain and anti-hero. Although, even normal Visionary kind of hits that mark too; she’s a soldier from a world on fire who’s come here to fix things. She’s not exactly wearing kid gloves here.
- So, during those 3+ years of her book where we might have supporting cast, she would be on the edges of big events happening elsewhere (possibly with cameo appearances in the relevant books). In her own book, she’s investigating conspiracy theory type stuff - weird things that are going on but nobody knows about it (rather than the Tome of the Bizarre kind of weird stuff). Like, the underbelly of things that world governments are getting up to. The Fort Adamant plot would have fit right into her book if it wasn’t decades too late. Project Cocoon is one of those things that seemingly ties into a ton of stuff, but only if you’re reading Mind Over Matter since that’s the only book that really talks about it - it colors your perceptions of things in other books if you’re reading MOM, but those details aren’t necessary to know to enjoy those other books. So, given that her supporting cast can’t be “friends and family”, her supporting cast is going to be weird contacts that she has regarding all of the stuff she’s investigating.
- Adam likes the idea that there’s an issue where she tries to have some kind of “normal” life where they can show that she’s 1) bad at it and 2) bad for other people when she tries. Christopher thinks that there’s definitely stories where she tries to do normal stuff, but it’s a disaster and after those few issues the people involved don’t show up again - there’s no real supporting cast generated by such stories. Maybe there can be a longer thread of such things as background over many issues rather than being the main story for one issue. There’s an idea there for her to try to have some kind of romantic relationship - sure, she’s a soldier, but this world is much calmer than her own and there’s no reason for her not to seek an opportunity where she can get one.
- So, her attempt at normal is she goes to this cafe every day. There’s this guy there who serves her coffee. She thinks that “this is a person in my life” as he’s a recurring figure with whom she consistently has positive interactions. Of course, from his perspective she’s just one of any number of regular customers. Eventually she notices him with his wife or girlfriend who’s been there the whole time. Christopher: “Depending on how terrible we want to be, it could be a thing that happens when she’s flipping back and forth in Dark Visionary mode.” Adam: “I think that’s definitely when this happens.” Ok, so Visionary sees him with his significant other and is fine with it. Later when Dark Visionary wakes up, she’s furious and does something real bad.
- This kind of gets to the idea that Visionary has a secret identity - that she puts on regular people clothes and a wig when not doing hero things. There’s no reason for her to not still go by “Vanessa Long”, though.
- They also discuss how, even though she didn’t have time for such things in her reality and wouldn’t have been explored during what we see of her reality earlier on, romance/“dating” in her world would have been much less time-consuming. People would come together, get on with things, then get back to the war, so our society’s meandering approach to such things would seem quaint/old-fashioned/archaic.
- So, that’s enough for cafe guy. There’s a one-sided thing where she thinks there’s something there, and readers are meant to see it that way too until later when we maybe see things from his perspective or whatever and we realize that it was all in her head. She’s not a stalker or a creep about it (well, until DV takes action at the end, maybe), but she just had an incorrect reading of how they related to one another.
- Their thinking on how things shake out is that Visionary just has an “Oh!” moment of realization, but accepts it and just goes on with her day. That night DV, in full superhero look just shows up in the guy’s house to kill the girlfriend so that they can be together (which won’t be weird, she can just mess with his mind so that she means everything to him that the other woman did). Regular Vanessa probably breaks through at some point here to stop the bad stuff from actually happening, but this kind of ruins her whole “cafe guy” experience. Good story - Visionary wins a Pyrrhic victory over Dark Visionary, but there’s still the inner argument since “You want cafe guy. I can give you cafe guy. What’s the problem?” is on the table and we get into the ethics of a mind-control character.
- They decide the cafe guy’s name started as a joke. When “cafe guy” first showed up, his name tag said Juan V. because the writers were just making a coffee joke. When he stuck around as a character for long enough, they decided that he couldn’t really be named Juan Valdez, so he’s Juan Verde instead.
- They’ve decided that another known member of her supporting cast is Raymond Mantay. Conspiracy-theorist engineer at RevoCorp fits right into her story. The RevoCorp bit isn’t that important - mainly he’s just somebody who’s got an ear to the ground for all of the conspiracy stuff you could want to know about. Of course, if we’re being generous about 10% of anything he’s going on about is likely to be true.
- He probably finds her, initially. Like, he did a yarn-and-corkboard setup to figure out where this mysterious person he was tracking was likely to show up and went to see what was up. She’s not behind the weirdness he was noticing, but she’s investigating it like he was and he lets her know all of the “truth” that he’s aware of. This is actually his first appearance - he doesn’t become “Ray Manta” until later on. He’s not exactly an “ally”, but he’s a recurring contact in her conspiracy-investigation stories and falls into the background once the Dark Visionary stuff really settles in (although her being on a power trip probably gives him some ideas regarding getting powers of his own).
- They would like for her to have something approaching a “friend”. Is there room for a “guy in the chair” or a reporter contact or something who’d be a recurring character that would actually support her. Probably not a “guy in the chair” type as the powerful psychic character probably doesn’t need one for information as much and in the late ’80s and early ’90s the Internet isn’t as widely used and Raymond is likely her contact for something that needs to be accessed via technology.
- A reporter has potential. Maybe somebody she can feed information to. Like, after Raymond gives her his firehose of information she sorts out what’s worthwhile to follow up, then determines which things are necessary for the public to know about so she starts telling this person as an anonymous source. Eventually, they get fed up with the anonymous part and need more information on their source. Good opportunity for Vanessa to show up in a trench coat, hat pulled down low, and a different wig for their meetings.
- This gives her a point of human connection and they get to be something like friends over time. Somebody who can actually show some personal concern for her during the Dark Visionary phase. Unfortunately, this also probably means that Dark Visionary eventually kills them. That’s probably in flashback. We’d have normal Visionary just going about things, eventually needing to get in touch with the reporter who isn’t responding. This worries her and she investigates, only to discover that Dark Visionary killed them a while ago.
- Who is the reporter? They think probably somebody who does the investigative journalism for a major news station, but not the on-air talent. At least, not the main host/news-reader type. They envision Visionary walking by a TV store with a bank of TVs on in the window (which you don’t see much these days, but was a thing) and seeing the reporter blowing some story wide open and realizing that that is the type of contact she needs in this strange new world. She needs some way of taking down Project Cocoon other than just telling everybody about it directly, so having some investigative journalist who she can feed incriminating info about the politicians and whomever is running it so that it gets taken down indirectly can be handy.
- Name: Hannah Hall. They decide that her death is something right near the end of Mind Over Matter and is something that contributes to the weakening of Visionary to the point that Dark Visionary can take over “permanently”.
- Man, they knew that this wasn’t going to be a happy episode, but Adam feels worse for Visionary now than he ever does for Absolute Zero. At least he has friends and an overall upward trajectory over the course of the comics. Maybe they need to do some nice stuff for Visionary going forward.
- In the second issue of the Starter Kit the heroes have to save people in the Long household, but it didn’t go into detail on Vanessa’s family so I had to wing it - who are the canonical members of her family, though? First off, in that adventure you’re in what used to be the Long household. They no longer live there. The Dreamer/Muse has parents and no siblings. Her parents have kind of disowned/have been made to psychically forget her - they really didn’t deal with the whole “our daughter is a monster” thing. Muse doesn’t really have a family at this point, although she has friends in Daybreak that are on their way to being a surrogate family. She’s doing much better in that department than the other Vanessa Long.
- Since “Vanessa Long gets powers” is a Fixed Point across realities, how is who is Vanessa Long determined (since across realities it seems unlikely that there’s a genetically identical Vanessa in every one)? The closest thing is a “metaphysical concept of identity” - sure, while there is a Vanessa Long in every reality, in some of them she’s going to be an animal or robot, or not even named “Vanessa Long” but they have a government ID that, if you squint at it, can be decoded as being close enough to that name. The Fixed Point is that there is a powerful psychic being that, in some way, happens to be identifiable as something similar to “Vanessa Long”. There’s a fair amount of comic book logic involved here and it’s going to be messy.
- If some mad scientist at F.I.L.T.E.R. were to become aware of the Fixed Point, then go around to realities harvesting individual organs from not-yet-empowered Vanessas to Frankenstein together a composite being, would she count as “Vanessa Long” enough to eventually develop powers? They could go either way. If the answer is “no” it’s because whichever reality that they made this Vanessa in already has a different Vanessa that’s wound up in the Fixed Point. If the answer is “yes” then it’s because that reality didn’t have its own Vanessa already, but this monstrosity is the one that fills the slot instead.
- How evil was Dark Visionary, exactly? To head off any Princess Cool questions, anybody she’d be interested in forming a power couple with? The only person you might make a case for her caring about is the Dreamer. She certainly doesn’t want to harm the child and you might get the impression that she has a soft spot for her. Of course, we later see during a Visionary/Dark Visionary struggle that it’s only because she sees the young Vanessa as a potential body to take over if necessary (given that the body she’s in got pretty banged up in the reality-hop that got her here). She’s very evil. There isn’t somebody specifically in mind for the “power couple” thing, but she’s also not too picky. Any such person would be means to an end, though.
- How scary would Muse have turned out if Dark Vision had taken her under her wing? Well, the end-goal there would just be grooming her to be a suitable vessel for her to take over.
- How long was she a Scion for OblivAeon? Did she get along with her fellows? Did Voidsoul think she was too similar to his own shtick? She became a Scion right in the lead-up to the OblivAeon story and so was only around as Dark Mind for that last year of comics, really. She was only even available for the position following Cosmic Contest [May 2015 where the main OblivAeon story itself was over the course of 2016]. We don’t see a lot of Scion-on-Scion content as they’re mostly around being the villains in the stories we see from the heroes’ perspectives. They’re all lieutenants for the big guy, but they don’t really work together so much.
- Have you considered a team-up between Mr. Fixer, Fanatic, and Visionary as a group of heroes who are all, in some way, zombies inhabited by their own ghost? Man, those are characters who would be hard to team up. There are probably stories where the three of them are all present, but not something that specifically teams them up as a trio. I mean, Fanatic and Visionary are both on the new iteration of Prime Wardens, but by then Mr. Fixer isn’t the zombie thing anymore.
- [Princess Cool letter despite the attempt by the earlier letter] So, you’re not going to go through yet another supporting cast episode without there being a love interest, right? Well, they did it, but in the worst way possible. Sorry. At least in the Naturalist episode they gave us a past love interest and then set up a current cast member that they knew we would latch onto as a will-they/won’t-they thing regardless. That being said, they don’t think that Visionary’s story is one to be alone, but she needed to get to where she is now for that to have a shot at working, so maybe something in the future.
- Adam, why are villains so often associated with the color green? Between Dark Visionary and GloomWeaver (and just about every Disney villain) it seems like green is over-represented on Team Evil - is it just because it pops alongside dark purple and black? He doesn’t know the deep answer to why that’s the case, but that sickly lime green is just villain coding at this point. There are psychological associations that colors have with us and green is often associated with envy and avarice, both of which apply to Dark Visionary (and, again, Disney villains - Maleficent in particular is right along the same color scheme) and Adam thinks its this more than any particular color-theory reason that it’s coded as villain colors.
- In the Writers Room for Disparation vol. 1 #4, you didn’t really talk about Wraith’s gadgets other than that they were magical, can you say more? They’d be recognizable as the same sorts of things she has in the main reality, just accomplishing the goals with magic instead of technology (instead of a grappling hook, she tosses out a beacon of some sort that teleports her to the new location; some kind of scrying device instead of infrared eyepiece; bag of holding instead of utility belt; etc.).
- While the heroes were very driven in that story, the villains didn’t seem particularly villainous, can we expect any of those characters showing up in Prime War? Well, villains don’t tend to seem particularly bad until they do the bad thing. Baron Blade as an inventor and ruler of a country isn’t inherently villainous - then he tries to pull the moon into the earth. What will happen with any Disparation character will largely depend on other things going forward. They will say that the only ones who are off the table are ones that they say have ceased to exist/been killed/etc.
- In that Disparation story and how Legacy is more inclined to magic, would that change how he goes about raising his daughter to heroism? Would it affect her world-view? Did any other heroes get the v-neck treatment? Well, since it was a single issue it really wouldn’t have come up, but certainly his approach to raising her would likely be much more akin to instructing a magical pupil than the “standard” reality’s approach. The choice for giving him a v-neck was partly to make it feel dated, but also to evoke a more mystical feel.
- On the Team Magic vs. Team Science thing: Legacy and Blade being at odds seems almost like a Fixed Point if both of them exist in the same reality, so that’s easy, Argent Adept and Tachyon are the technicians of their teams that keep things running, Matriarch and Absolute Zero are victims of their respective side’s power source but AA teaches Matriarch how to handle the power on her own while Tachyon saving AZ still leaves him dependent on others for any kind of freedom of movement (building/maintaining the suit), Bunker’s strength is still the man inside the suit and he leaves it while Omni-Parse is fully integrated with her equivalent, but I’m going to disagree on Tempest as a choice to offset Wraith and instead propose Expatriette: she’d be an interesting foil for the Wraith as another non-powered person who likely sees Wraith as a “collaborator” while Wraith would see her as a fanatic who’s allowing herself to fall under Blade’s control and could be “saved” - thoughts? That’s really interesting, you nailed a lot of that. However, they disagree on Expatriette. In this era of comics, Expat and Parse aren’t really all that different. In order to make Expatriette fit on this team you’d have to make her more technology-centric to the point where she stops being all that distinct from Omni-Parse anyway. They could see a way to make that work, and they could maybe see alternatives to Temptest, but they don’t really think that Expat is a strong contender. Fun idea, though.
- What might make Amanda switch from Expatriette to Eclipse? Why two identities? How long was “Eclipse” around? Does she ever use Eclipse again going forward? They’re not going to say anything about whether Eclipse returns in the future, but that persona only existed for this one story. It’s something that she did so that she could work with Redeye without alienating her team.
- So, guessing that Eclipse got her special gear (black-out bombs, etc.) from the same place she gets her special ammo as Expatriette, does she start using those sorts of things as Expatriette afterwards? Expat has a ton of different types of ammo, to the point where she has ammo to do whatever the writers need for her to do (or fail to do until she comes back later with some new type of ammo that now does that thing). If a writer wanted her to have black-out ammo, that’s on the table. The ones in her deck are the most common/iconic.
- How was Mr. Fixer fooled by something as simple as a costume change? Wouldn’t NightMist or Harpy have magical means of detecting Expat’s presence? How did she successfully conceal her identity? You’re right, those characters would all have the ability to see through a disguise. NightMist and Harpy don’t necessarily have a “tracking” system up and running that would just tell them that it was Expat, but if they thought to rig up something to magically tell if they knew the person behind the mask, that would probably work. The trick is that Expatriette, of basically the entire cast of characters in Sentinel Comics, is the most plan-making character. She knows this about her teammates and would account for the need to move, talk, act, and whatever else she would need to do differently to throw them off the scent. Like, even up to the point of being aware that Mr. Fixer would know what her resting heard rate is, because she’s seen him identify people that way, and would take steps to change that up. It’s also important to keep in mind that “Eclipse” only existed for 3 or 4 issues of the comic before her identity was outed - it’s not like this held up for a long stretch of time anyway. While he might have been a little suspicious, the “evidence” provided to the contrary was enough to delay the discovery at least as long as it did.
- [Letter from Sorry Not Sorry] Was Redeye up all night to get some, up all night for good fun, up all night to get lucky, up all night to steal the radioactive isotope that continues her existence, or up all night for all of the above? They’re big fans of Daft Punk and they listened to that album a lot when it came out. Alive, Random Access Memories, and the Tron Soundtrack are all great albums.
- Did anybody else pick up the Eclipse name later on (considering the tendency in comics for any moniker that gets created to continue to be used by somebody)? That has not happened by the end of the Multiverse era.
- So, what are Expat’s plans for taking down all of the other heroes? That’s at least an entire episode of its own, if not a few. She would have had most of these plans from before she was even a hero and most of them are just kept in her brain as opposed to being stored in a computer somewhere that a villain could steal them.
- We’ve seen a few alt-reality Expatriettes where she teams up with assassins or other villains for money or to clear some other kind of debt, does this happen in the Multiverse era in the main comics? Yeah, that sort of thing definitely happened. The Redeye incident is kind of that sort of thing.
- In the Omnitron IV deck we see Ermine working her way through some laser grids - why was she there/what was she doing? She was there to steal some Omnitron stuff for another villain.
- In the Wraith’s Rogues Gallery episode, we hear about the Hangman and how no other villains want to work with him; have any villains teamed up with Wraith to stop him? She wouldn’t team up with a villain to do so. She has plenty of other people that she can team up with if necessary. Beyond that, Hangman stories tend to not have a lot of other characters involved. There could be a situation where Wraith was fighting Hangman and another villain happened to come across the fight and would also jump in to fight Hangman. There would probably be an uneasy truce during that fight to make sure Hangman is defeated, but Wraith would also try to apprehend the other villain as soon as that was done. “She has no professional courtesy for evildoers.”
- In the Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #181-182 episode we had Captain Cosmic and Galactra “teaming up” to free some planet - do we see them teaming up on other occasions against some larger threat? Definitely. All the time. Their dynamic is a major will they/won’t they, on again/off again, is she really bad this time/can I “save” her from herself? sort of thing. She’s definitely bad, but the writers play up this aspect of their relationship all the time.
- You’ve said that Tachyon is the closest a hero comes to going full-on mad scientist (except possibly Writhe); have there been times when she’s had to work with a full-blown mad scientist villain? Did the villain try to tempt her to their way of thinking (cutting corners for efficiency over ethics, etc.)? That’s kind of the point of that Disparation story where she works with Baron Blade. In the canon reality there’s the time she spent working with Luminary leading up to the OblivAeon fight, which would have included their discussions on the various merits of their different approaches. Then there’s the Inversiverse where she’s that mad scientist types. There’s not a lot of room for “tempting Tachyon to use science for evil” because it’s kind of her whole character role to “use science for good”. The danger she has is that she’s a futurist with long-term vision. She might be tempted to make evil choice X now because she can extrapolate to great positive benefits Y and Z down the line as a result.