The Letters Page: Episode 144
Writers' Room: Justice Comics, Vol. 1, Issue #527
It's time for another episode!
Run Time: 1:11:50
Ready to learn about a 90s event we've never talked about before? We had a lot of fun with this one - we hope you do, too!
After about 40 minutes of crafting and telling this story (in more parts than we intended), we get to your questions. And only a few minutes into the question section, I get to read a couple big reveals for upcoming stuff! Exciting times, these.
At just before the 1 hour and 3 minute mark, we do the "cover" section, which also breaks down the order of the parts of the Strike Force Invasion event.
We hope you can join us Friday for a live recording of Editor's Note #42!
- Prompt this time is a post-Bloodsworn, pre-OblivAeon Sky-Scraper story. A bit of a disclaimer/reminder that Hero in the Arena was a limited series that introduced her (and also Greazer, although he wasn't named at the time) that began in May '85, but only had 3 issues. It came back in April '13 with another three issues (involving Kaargra returning/capturing Sky-Scraper and there was another event to free her). Our story today can't really be after that part of the Bloodsworn Colosseum story because there's not much time between that and the whole Extremist Sky-Scraper/OblivAeon thing. That still leaves like '86 through '12 to work with as an available time-frame.
- The obvious title to use is Cosmic Tales. They don't want to do something like a Freedom Five story that she just happens to be around for (and it's also unlikely she's show up in something like Ra: God of the Sun or America's Finest Legacy). Mystery Comics, Tome of the Bizarre, or Rook City Renegades aren't really right - they see her more of a "Megalopolis and Space" hero. Justice Comics could work, as could Prime Wardens (maybe with her just teaming up with one member of the team - and not Tempest as they've already detailed a bunch of that stuff, so maybe this could be some story with her working with another member that leads into something involving her having a confrontation with Tempest the next issue).
- The Prime Wardens thing still has her dealing with some other heroes' thing instead of it being her story. Let's see, Justice Comics starts back up in '87, so it's available for most of the period we're talking about. Because AFL is still running at this time it is the primary Legacy title - JC still leans towards Legacy stuff, but is also kind of a "general heroics" book that a lot of people cross over into and so it might be the best place for a general "Sky-Scraper story" to happen. If that's where they're going to put it, it might even be good to have a short Sky-Scraper arc that happens in the late-'90s or early-'00s.
- More about Justice Comics, this kind of take-over by another hero seems like the sort of thing that could happen regularly. Like, it "defaults" to Legacy, but can still do this sort of thing once it comes back. As such, it's a good title for newcomers. If you're going to pick up a book to get a feel for what Sentinel Comics are like, it's probably going to be JC. Adam brings up a Stan Lee quote: "Every comic book is someone's first" and thinks that having Justice Comics be a title that is intentionally written with that in mind, even up through OblivAeon, is a neat idea.
- Looking at the spreadsheet, having this happen somewhere between '98 and '02 is a good span of time. If given the chance, why not party like it's 1999?
- OK, so with the idea of a short arc, maybe we have one issue with Legacy getting some help from Sky-Scraper, then an issue or two with her doing her thing, with Legacy coming back in at the end as an outro after she's saved the day? With that in mind, we're looking at March-May of '99, which would be issues #526-528. Which issue do they want to do (before knowing what the actual story is going to be like)? Probably the one focused solely on her, so issue #527. As for where Legacy goes, maybe after JC #526 his part of the story continues over in AFL #327 while Sky-Scraper takes care of business in JC on her own.
- Short discussion about covers - while they have done some Justice Comics covers in the past, most pre-date the timeline project and so can't be counted upon to be accurate. RPG covers are OK, but at the very least the trade dress for older ones is probably off [looking through things again, however, I only see a few JC covers from previous projects: #144 from April '52 that was put up for the Multiverse Recap episode and #102 from October '48 which was the first appearance of Paul VIII as Legacy has cropped up in a few places - this latter is one that was done prior to the timeline project and is marked as being July instead of October, but they both look like period-appropriate art/trade dress to me. Neither the ARG, the Sentinel Tactics scenario books, nor the Villain Challenge/Hero Achievement documents feature JC covers, so the only other one I think we've seen thus far is #740 from the RPG Starter Kit (January 2017, although the adventure booklet covers don't have dates).]
- Having some kind of space threat would make sense for why Legacy tags Sky-Scraper in. Maybe Tempest is busy or whatever - just some excuse to have her be the person around, maybe literally as when the fighting starts she just happens to already be there also fighting whatever it is.
- Spitballing the threat: the obvious option for her involvement would be some Bloodsworn gladiators on Earth for some reason, but they specifically don't want to do that. Adam posits some kind of "expansive space lichen", but they have done so many "space parasite" type stories. It could be some kind of robot that splits into two parts after the first encounter, necessitating that the heroes split up to handle it, but they just did "space robots" in the form of Sever and Schema. Why not have it be a Thorathian invasion/strike force? Like, not a huge invasion or something involving gene-bound, just enough coming in and in enough places that the heroes need to split up. They tend to shy away from big story beats in these episodes, but why not do a slightly bigger story this time.
- So, there's a bunch of Thorathians who are trying to figure out what happened to Voss. Like the invasion suffered a crushing defeat about 12 years ago in publishing time and about 10 years ago he cropped back up briefly before NightMist banished him. This team is here to follow up on what happened to him, since there are so many unanswered questions from their perspective, and also to enact vengeance upon the heroes of Earth who dared defy him. Actually, that's a fun angle - that it's a small strike force specifically going after heroes who were involved in the prior defeat rather than some info-gathering thing.
- That leaves the AFL issue as "We know Legacy was a thorn in the side of Grand Warlord Voss" and so they go after him in particular. The Justice Comics angle could be approaching Sky-Scraper in the capacity that she's a powered Thorathian, so why is she helping the Earthlings when she could have a high status back home?
- Anyway, we've arrived at a small-scale, but still notable Thorathian invasion event spanning several books in '99. Good times. Of course, where else might it wind up? AFL can be Legacy's part, JC for Sky-Scraper, but it seems like there should be at least some other crossover for this kind of thing. The major contenders would be Freedom Five, Prime Wardens, and Cosmic Tales.
- So, in the past our focus on Thorathians has been on the leadership for the most part, they like the idea of these guys being more spec-ops people. Maybe a mix of powered and non-powered (who were just really good at their jobs), maybe with call-signs we may have had pop up in those earlier stories. This also is a neat opportunity to keep Thorathians in readers' minds without Voss. And to show that they're "still bad" without him.
- OK, the timeline here. Part 1 is JC #526 in March '99 with Legacy and Sky-Scraper being the first heroes to become aware of the new invasion. They fight some of these jerks and then go their separate ways to deal with them, which then proliferates the story into other books. While the other issues of this even are likewise "big fight" stories, we already had Sky-Scraper involved in one of those and so her story in JC #527 can be different - maybe some of the strike force members were sent specifically not to fight her, but to try to recruit her (overlooking/expunging her past as a rebel). There could also be a "we have your parents" level of arm-twisting to try to get her agreement.
- Hmm... OK, so not both of these options as it's overkill, but maybe the person she's dealing with is either a childhood friend who's now working with the government or someone who used to be part of the rebellion with her that's changed sides. Somebody she knows is recruiting her. They like the latter option--somebody she knew who makes the pitch that things are different now.
- Break to name and whatnot: Jalton Kav'Lon (The Kav prefix indicates the 3rd child--these are uncommon in Thorathian society given the emphasis on two in the culture, having a 4th child or even just stopping at 1 is downright rare, 5 is right out). He's non-powered and is just a really capable commando type soldier who volunteered to be the one to approach Portia. It makes sense for his reveal to be the cliffhanger moment at the end of JC #526 - like there's some command ship that lands that she infiltrates while tiny. See sees/recognizes him and he knows she's there and has been expecting her. Or maybe "expecting" is the wrong way for this to play out to get across what they want to present for the reveal. He's been hoping that she'd show up and is excited to have found her. He seems genuinely happy.
- Then throughout #527 he still seems like this genuine guy who's making his pitch. Right up until she eventually turns down his offer. Then the mask comes off with him railing about being non-powered and 3rd-born and nothing in this society while she, powered and 1st born, had everything open to her. Sure, he had to compromise his ideals a bit, but at least now he has some level of prestige and a modicum of control. Him talking up how she could be set up as "nobility" or whatnot is also what reveals that he's really bought into the establishment/betrayed the ideals they fought for as rebels.
- So, the first third of this book is likely her listening to him and he's making a lot of good points. The second third is when she turns him down and they get into the whole argument about "being special", which includes her pointing out that she's not particularly special on Earth, but she's still trying to help here like she tried to help the people of Dok'Thorath before. The last act can be a fight--he's really competent and knows her better than most so it's a good fight.
- How to end it to lead into the third issue (of her part in the story)? Well, they could have him defeat her, but she needs some physical triumph to go with her moral victory earlier. So, he's got some good tricks up his sleeve, but she eventually overcomes them and is about to defeat him, but then more guys show up (including some other powered guys) as his backup. Then we can have more standard fare in the next issue that's just a good old-fashioned brawl. They can even have JC #528 positioned to be the finale of the whole thing and so Legacy and other involved heroes can show up for this fight.
- Jalton and some of the others probably escape in their ship at the end, though. We haven't seen the last of these jerks.
- We still need his code name and some specifics on what his deal is in terms of fighting so that he can get the upper hand (and also what Sky-Scraper does to turn the tables on him). He needs some means of preventing her size changes. Christopher starts off supposing some kind of patch he can slap on her or a net he can throw over her that prevents it, but Adam chimes in thinking that he'd like it better if it wasn't some piece of technology.
- This gets them thinking about how unassuming he is. Like, he's in something like an ambassador or military dress uniform and doesn't appear to have any weapons. When the fight starts the reader might suppose that he's going to go for some hidden gear somewhere, but no. He's just a really skilled hand-to-hand guy. If she starts to change size, he just steps in and does some pressure-point strikes to prevent it. This is neat, they haven't really had this sort of guy before. Mr. Fixer has done this before, because of course he has, but they haven't had somebody whose whole shtick is pressure-point martial arts to prevent power use.
- So, they've got this guy who knows all her tricks (spoiler: he only knows all her tricks from before she was sent to the Colosseum) and is a fast, jump-around kind of fighter. How does she get the upper hand? Well, a fun trope is that a bruiser type will deal with one of these guys by handcuffing them together so the other guy's mobility is hampered. Can she do something like that? Sure, let's say that the drop ship has manacles and whatnot on it. She had to do this sort of thing as a gladiator and came out on top. Let's see how he holds up.
- The code name they come up with for him is Censor (because he can cancel powers).
- They also need to discuss the ordering of all the issues of the event. This period of the '90s would definitely have the event branding and part number on the cover, so they'll talk about where this one falls in the cover section (if they don't plan out all the issues there, they'll likely do it off-air anyway just to know).
- Does Sky-Scraper ever run into Kaargra and/or the Bloodsworn entity again after her release from the Colosseum? There's the second half of Hero in the Arena for one, but there's also a few decades of publishing between her introduction and OblivAeon, so that's probably not their only meeting in that time. She and Kaargra will encounter one another again in the future, but they're not talking about the details of that yet.
- [Another birthday request: "Miami 2017" by Billy Joel]
- We have been told that Sky-Scraper and K.N.Y.F.E. wind up doing space adventures together post-OblivAeon; do we know what kinds of stories those are (planet of the week, space opera, etc.)? Both of those types of things happen. It's all in the RPG timeline, so off in the future. They start off with delivering Voss for judgement, but here's the brief for their title, StarCrossers: "Rainek Kel'Voss was left in a drained state after attempting to harness the power of OblivAeon and take control of reality. He was defeated by the heroes of Earth, but they let his final verdict go to the people he oppressed the most, his own. He must be returned to Dok'Thorath to stand trial for his crimes against the Thorathian people, as well as all other beings. The Thorathian freedom-fighter, Portia Kir'Pro, has taken responsibility for transporting him to his hearing and is accompanied by the human soldier Paige Huntley. This book follows the adventures of Rival (Paige Huntley) and Vantage (Portia Kir'Pro) as they traverse the galaxy aboard their stolen vessel that they've renamed the StarCross." We've been told that they had new names before, but this is the first time they've mentioned what they were. They're particularly proud of them - "Rival" gets to Paige's desire to fight and "Vantage" speaks to Portia's ability to always be able to get a vantage point to check out what's going on.
- Did they keep in touch with the heroes of Earth? As much as anyone in space does. Like, if you're back near Earth you stop off to say hello. That wouldn't happen until after they deliver Voss, though.
- Were there recurring space characters they run into? Definitely.
- What kind of ship did they have? The StarCross is, well, not a cargo vessel. It's relatively small, but feels spacious for three people (or 2 people and a prisoner). Like a personnel carrier that has some room for carrying stuff. Maybe "light cruiser"?
- I assume that K.N.Y.F.E. was her usual... "amorous" self and that at least some conflicts were resolved due to this, but how does Portia react to being in close-quarters with her? This is a main conceit of the book. Rival still has her "sleep with anything" attitude. Vantage, however, has also arrived at the realization that she's kind of into Rival [they have alluded to this before in Editor's Note 21 following the Shipping Episode], like a lot. Thus a meta reason for the book title. Unfortunately for all of those shippers out there who would like episodes about this stuff, since it's future RPG stuff, they're not going to do episodes set there yet.
- Could you tell us about a joyful moment in Sky-Scraper's life? She has a lot of those. Her stories tend to be upbeat and positive as she makes friends on and discovers new stuff about Earth. Her backstory is grim, but that's not the tone of her stories while on Earth. Something that might not be completely positive is when she discovered reality television and had somebody explain it to her. She loves TV in general (rather than having a favorite show in particular); it's just this little concentrated form of Earth culture.
- In the RevoCorp Presents Writer's Room you had it set up as 3/4 Benchmark's perspective on the story with the last 1/4 being the shady RevoCorp behind-the-scenes parts; is that the normal arrangement for this title (it could be a neat kind of The Twilight Zone thing where readers try to guess what the inevitable twist is going to be)? Was there a dividing page between the sections (that looked like a RevoCorp vault or a classified dossier or something)? Probably not something that codified. Some do things like this issue. Some jump back and forth more. Some are all one or the other. Part of the reason for this book's existence (along with needing a place to put Benchmark in general) is that RevoCorp was just up to so much stuff at this time that they needed someplace to talk about it so it wouldn't eat up room in other books.
- Was each issue about a separate RevoCorp plot or were they all building to one big, overarching thing? There are three different kinds of RevoCorp plots. There are the big overarching things that are leading to something unknown down the line. There are multi-issue, but still relatively contained plots that have a payoff at some point. Then there are the single-issue one-offs like the one in the issue they plotted out. Also, there's always room for stories where they make some kind of mistake and the "plot" is just cleaning up after themselves.
- Is RevoCorp set up on one big "campus" or does it have facilities spread out over several properties (possibly listed under shell corporations)? They have their main HQ in Rook City, but they've also got offices in Megalopolis (and, by extension, in a bunch of other cities). They also have a bunch of other labs or facilities spread out - many of which were originally other companies that RevoCorp just bought out at one point or another and just kept running at their old site without changing the signage.
- Do they have extensive lab facilities under buildings that you might not assume would have them (a practice used, notably, by the Parasol Corporation)? Yeah. I mean, underground facilities are obviously more secure than ground-level ones. What could go wrong?
- What kinds of... benefits are made available for RevoCorp's financial partners? Are there "genetic screenings" available for outside security forces? Would access to genetic libraries and other datasets be shared? How about access to/tours of various facilities? RevoCorp doesn't really have financial partners in that way. It's a publicly traded company and that's kind of the extent to which there are financial stakeholders--one doesn't just buy access to their (very heavily secured) research facilities/data. Of course, not everything is on the books either--you occasionally might get one task force working on something that runs into conflict with another task force because neither knew what the other was doing. Additionally, not everything in that high-security state is necessarily illegal either. They've probably got government contracts that are classified and so get locked down as well. They have their fingers in many pies.
- How successful have the recent RNA/DNA splicing trials been? What kind of market pressure will be necessary before they're marketed at a large scale? Will these remain in-house procedures for the company or would there be home kits made available to the DIY gene-splicing enthusiast? Would they market their various power suit technologies for civil defense/military use? RevoCorp does not sell their various materiel/genetic technologies. They sell the use of it, but not the underlying tech.
- [Letter from Sane Young Maurice] Should I be worried about all these other Maurices? Yes.
- Can you tell use about the rest of the Paradigms besides Unity and Benchmark? Parse is also there, but they're not talking about the other 2 members yet.
- One for the shippers out there: if Absolute Zero cannot interact with people at normal temperature ranges, does that mean that Degenerate is too hot to handle? Yes.
- Happy birth month, Adam! Why doesn't Christopher get one? Adam has a birth month because he was greedy and annexed it. Christopher has no need of such things. Heck, he cares more about the joint celebration of June 1 than he does about his actual birthday of June 2.
- Where do things go? Justice Comics #526 (March '99) is definitely part 1 of this story and they want things to wrap up in #528 as part 15. What books are involved here: JC, Cosmic Tales, Freedom Five, America's Finest Legacy, and Prime Wardens.
- Having Cosmic Tales be part 2 is good as it allows them to tell some backstory of what's going on. Freedom Five should probably be last in the first month's worth - Legacy's tied up elsewhere and as it's probably the most widely-read title in general, it would be a nice business move to have it be marketed as part 5 or whatever to make readers question what they're missing. Ok, so AFL as part 3 works which leaves PW as part 4.
- Making the next month's issues follow that order works, then have it the same at the end, only pushing JC to the end of the line for the finale. That makes Justice Comics #527 (this episode's issue) part 6 of the overall thing.
- Christopher's note on what this is was "Thorathian Strike Force Invasion" - they use that as a starting point and consider "Thorathian Strike Force" and "Strike Force" as potential event titles, but land on "Strike Force Invasion".
- Adam's idea for what is on the cover: a psych out that implies that Sky-Scraper joins up. Like, have Jalton there in his uniform/ambassador's outfit but then also have Portia in a similar outfit. Something like a propaganda poster featuring Sky-Scraper.