The Letters Page: Episode 145
One issue? In this economy? Nah, let's do a bunch of issues!
Run Time: 1:30:52
For whatever reason, we felt like being overachievers today. Enjoy more than one issue! Also, we get to talk not just action, but also intrigue... and politics! Maerynian politics, that is.
We get to your questions just after the 45 minute mark. Questions today brought to you by Zap Dragon, who I just recently found out is also Ehkrickor! Spoilers, I guess.
This is the last episode that will be released in Adam's birth month this year! However, the next episode we record will be recorded still in his birth month, so the celebration isn't quite over yet!
Looking forward to next time, in which we create more issues!
- Today’s prompt is a story involving Leviathan. The idea they came up with ahead of time is to do Leviathan’s first major story (which isn’t to say his first appearance, either as Leviathan or as Z’vr Kamm’tor prior to the Voss invasion - he was a colleague that Tempest had thought “dead” to Voss’ gene-binding process after his own escape from the Thorathian invasion of Vognild Prime). It’s possible that previous issues to whatever they get up to today could have the occasional page/panel with Leviathan talking to other Maerynians; doing some recruitment so that his big story doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere.
- So, Leviathan’s big “we can just kill all humans and take over this world” plot is probably a multi-issue thing (and so we’re likely to get something similar to past episodes where they plot out the whole thing in broad strokes, but then do one a cover and full treatment for one issue). How many? Six? In the 2010s they’re likely writing for the eventual collected trades, so having it be big enough for one on its own is likely.
- Ok, with that in mind, the broad strokes. This is a Cosmic Tales thing. While Prime Wardens would do stories that focus on a single member, it would generally only do so for single issues before switching back to the group or at least to another member and this is going to be the Tempest show for a whole arc, which they decide is CT vol. 2 #507-512 (May through October 2012).
- Hmm… thinking about it, Christopher kind of thinks that having Leviathan campaigning in the background prior to this undercuts it and maybe it’s better if he shows up out of nowhere in the first issue with a bunch of followers and we get flashbacks along the way. Like, the fact that he’s Z’vr Kamm’tor doesn’t even need to be known to Tempest until several issues in. He chose “Leviathan” to be scary to humans, so at what point in this story does the “killing all humans” stuff actually happen? If they do his campaigning/radicalizing stuff in flashback, they could come right out the gate with that in the first issue (throwing typhoons at some coastline somewhere).
- Ok, so #507 starts off with some freak weather patterns that obviously originate at Plavu’Col causing a lot of trouble for a bunch of coastal cities, the people there going “Hey, maybe this Plavu’Col place is bad”, and Leviathan returning to push this “humans are out to get us” narrative that he was aiming for by instigating the attacks. This issue is about the gearing-up of humanity to go take care of this problem and the Maerynians responding by getting the Storm Speakers together to create the storm shield. They probably need a specific human “villain” who’s the war hawk about this whole thing, but if they’re not doing the Writer’s Room treatment of this early issue they don’t need to name him and whatnot today (although keeping such a character’s existence in mind for other stories is good). Leviathan walking in through the storm to start his “Told you so” speech ends the issue.
- The next issue comes in with more of Leviathan’s mission statement, taking over the planet and whatnot. Part of that is about how great Vognild Prime was and we get some flashbacks of him there before the invasion. Part of his deal is how hes’ the most Maerynian of anybody, so they like the idea that he’s not on full display so everyone sees how messed up he is. Maybe something kind of like a Phantom of the Opera mask or bandages to hide his messed up face (blaming it on an attack by humans) and a big cloak or something and he hunches down (evoking sort of a beaten-down wanderer look) to hide all of the weird coral growths he has. The red lightning is also not a constant thing. What about the trident - does it have some sort of power or is it just a weapon? They think for now that it’s just a weapon, but it’s something that he might be able to “summon” to him, so he likely doesn’t have it here. The “attacked by humans” angle is important - everyone would understand his appearance if he just said that Voss did it, but that angle doesn’t rile everybody up against the humans, which is his goal (not to say that “Maerynians have been mistreated by humans” is untrue, but he’s trying to get the response worked up to “so we should kill everyone and take over”). In any event, the council of elders aren’t buying what he’s selling (at least not openly, a couple might privately), but he does get some younger Maerynians (in particular ones that don’t remember Vognild Prime) to pay attention to him.
- Tempest hasn’t been here for any of this. He eventually shows up and now finds the big storm wall and an incipient militarization of the populace. Nobody likes humans, but now there’s this serious contingent of the population pushing for wiping them out rather than just leaving them alone/keeping them out while we stay here in our refuge.
- They moderate Leviathan’s position a little here. It’s not so much “kill all humans” as presenting an argument that they should be equals. The Maerynians, after all, mostly want the oceans, which the humans are barely even using. We’re in charge of the water now, and a little bit of land, but you can have the rest of it. Just recognize our rights. Of course, that’s just the sales pitch to the rest of the Maerynians, Leviathan’s real end goal is the genocide thing (or even more, he cares about his own power, so wiping out humans and any Maerynians who don’t bow to his wishes).
- This leads to a good end for #508. So, we get his politicking and some wavering on the council of elders. Then we get a bit of a discussion between him and one of the dissidents at the end where he starts really going off the deep end on his actual plans of world domination. The dissident tries to put the brakes on that, “That’s going to far.” Leviathan is sorry he feels that way, he summons the trident and kills this guy. The end-of-issue splash page is the first time we see what Leviathan actually looks like.
- And now they realize that they’re basically doing “mini-Writer’s Room” treatment for every issue, so they may as well continue with that. This era is kind of hard to really pick out one issue’s story without actually seeing what led to it anyway given how decompressed the storytelling is (not a lot happens per issue).
- Christopher’s thinking #509 has Tempest’s return and he’s exiled by the end. They’re thinking that maybe 30% of the island is really gung-ho about this whole thing, but the rest are either scared of that portion of the populace or are just willing to passively let them do their thing. Any resistance is too small to matter. By the time Tempest arrives it’s been at least several days since the ball got rolling and some elders have been imprisoned or even killed, leaving the only free ones left either outright on Leviathan’s side or sufficiently cowed to not oppose him setting himself up as a kind of warlord.
- Tempest arrives and there’s an attempt to capture him, so there’s some excitement as he fights his way free and escapes. Leviathan spins this as Tempest being exiled - he’s far too human, what with all of the time he spends on the outside with them, and so he’ll share their fate. That “fate” is left ambiguous, but it’s another step on the path to the “kill them all” thing. They don’t think the two of them have faced off yet, but Tempest learns that this movement (which they name the True Tide) is being led by his old friend whom he thought was dead.
- For #510, Tempest wants to figure out how this has happened. He doesn’t have access to the Thorathian records, so he goes to the Freedom Five to see if Tachyon can help. She’s got something she can look into, but she needs somebody who actually knows Thorathian military protocols, so Tempest has to get help from Sky-Scraper. Together they get the gene-binding records that go into how Z’vr gets all of the implants and also the drive for conquest. This prompts the question of why the Freedom Five and Sky-Scraper aren’t helping out for the rest of the story - they do. This issue ends with Megalopolis (and other cities) under attack.
- That means that #511 probably has a lot of cameos from other heroes as this fight goes down all over the place as these big battles are the bulk of the issue. It’s weird that a story this big wouldn’t cross over into other titles, but they probably just have little nods to the event in the other books. We’ll see in a bit how busy September 2012 already is to see if the True Tide event would cross over. Anyway, we also get cut-aways to Tempest sneaking back into Plavu’Col since the True Tide jerks are all elsewhere, so now he can get a better idea of what’s been going on here.
- So, we see the heroes defending cities and saving people, but the tide turns in the finale of #512 when Tempest leads the rest of the Maerynians against the True Tide. The message to humanity being that, just like them, some of us are good and some are bad. This doesn’t solve the problem. Tensions will continue to be high for years (I mean, things already had been tense and now, just as the Maerynians finally got a place of their own, things get even worse), but at least it heads off the immediate conflict that Leviathan was pushing for. Anyway, the main showcase for this issue is the throwdown between Tempest and Leviathan.
- They don’t think that this is the storyline where Leviathan impales Tempest, though. That’s for later. This one just results in Leviathan being driven off with tempers running high as Human/Maerynian relations get a significant setback, but at least not in an active war. Tempest also successfully defuses the True Tide movement by presenting his evidence that Voss is behind why Leviathan is the way he is (some small number of True Tiders probably still go off with Leviathan anyway, though).
- Stuff they need to talk about: any particularly interesting story beats in #512 for the fight between Tempest and Leviathan, how much the events of #511 bleed over into other titles.
- They think that FF and PW are likely, but also sufficient titles for stuff to cross over into for the September issues. Oh, also The Guise Book, because why not? So that’s Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #511, Freedom Five #749, Prime Wardens vol. 2 #15, and The Guise Book #9. They play around with having the individual Prime Warden members with their own books at the time, as well as Ra have crossovers as well, but decide against it.
- Tempest and Leviathan has some good “how could you become this?” stuff from Tempest (well, he knows the process by which Voss’s forces did this to him, but more of a “you’re not my friend anymore” kind of feeling behind it). This also prompts the idea that Z’vr was a scientist who, in particular, studied the destruction of populations, and so where he’s ended up has even more pathos to it. Of course, Leviathan doesn’t care about what Z’vr was before. He’s just this beast from the deeps now. They think that the trident is also just his accessory at this point, but doesn’t get much in the way of explanation, which likely prompts some reader letters and later stories provide more detail on it. They also like the idea that Leviathan’s riding on a great white shark at some point, so Tempest starts riding an orca, so we get some brutal apex predator action too.
- Side discussion prompted by the fish/mammal fight. While Maerynian biology is obviously so different from terrestrial life so as to make comparisons almost meaningless, Maerynians are probably “closer” to amphibians than mammals. They live part of their life in water and part on land. They’re vertebrates with four limbs. They decide here that they’re ectothermic (“cold-blooded” - the Elemental Subwave Inducer might provide some body-temp regulation - they didn’t actually have plans for what that machine was for in-setting when they were designing the card for its mechanical role in the game). Things fall apart in the checklist of what amphibians are when we get to the reproductive process.
- So, there we go. A 6-issue Writer’s Room. You’re welcome. If this had been a story in the ’60s it probably would have been 2 issues (maybe even 1), but the tradeoff for the era is less depth of narrative for higher action density.
- What’s with the coral on Leviathan? Is is some kind of armor? A side-effect from gene-binding? What about the more standard looking armor; is it some kind of high-tech stuff given the glowing lines? The coral is a result of the gene-binding process. Christopher’s take is that he was messed up after the gene-binding and the coral took hold while it was convalescing - it’s live coral that’s grown into him somewhat and is helping to stabilize him. Christopher also starts off thinking that the armor is something that’s made for him on Plavu’Col after he starts to take over, but Adam objects as it’s unlike anything else we see the Maerynians make, so maybe it’s something that’s Thorathian in origin (or at least something that he was put into during the gene-binding). He probably wasn’t wearing it when he first showed up in the cloak and bandages, but might have been for the big finale battle. Having it be Thorathian is another part of the “betrayal” angle of his character.
- Where did he get the trident - it doesn’t seem like other stuff we’ve seen Maerynians using, but it’s hard to imagine him using something made by humans? They actually hadn’t given it much of a history or nailed down if it actually has any power of its own to this point. They could see it being Atlantean in origin, another relic that was lost from the Ruins due to damage the place has taken over the millennia and he’s called to its power or something. That gives another nice piece of symmetry to Tempest and can act as a similar focus for Leviathan as Tempest’s sword is.
- Why is his lightning red? Failed gene-binding messed up his connection to the atmosphere that lets him do it.
- Is Leviathan fertile after the failed gene-binding? Would any of the next generation of Maerynians possibly carry some of his genes? Well, he still has genes and so the Maerynian reproductive process could certainly result in him passing them on. Leviathan wouldn’t be able to bear eggs himself, though.
- How responsible for the “militant” nature of the Maerynians we see (Squall Guards, Storm Speakers, etc.) given that it seemed like Vognild Prime didn’t have a standing military is Leviathan? Any of the leadership actually sympathetic to Leviathan’s point of view? They talked about some of that this episode. The Squall Guards and Storm Speakers kind of start up in the second issue of the story they talked about this episode.
- Who was Leviathan prior to his gene-binding? Was he another ambassador like Tempest was? Was he captured on Vognild Prime or was he maybe in charge of another escape vessel that wasn’t as lucky as Tempest’s? Any way to undo what was done to him? Z’vr Kamm’tor was a scientist who studies endangered/extinct species/populations. When their planet fell, Tempest was convinced that his friend had died (or at least been re-written out of existence by the gene-binding process). When he sees Leviathan he thinks at first that maybe his friend is still alive, but quickly realizes that no, there’s nothing of Z’vr left in there but his memories. There’s not really a way to help/fix him.
- Is Z’vr unique? How did he get out before the gene-binding was complete and what does an incomplete process actually do for him? Any other gene-binding failures out there? Could magic be employed to help him in some way? Even if there were other partially gene-bound Maerynians (which they don’t think there were), they’d likely have wound up different from Leviathan, so he’s unique that way. He was in the process of being gene-bound during the Thorathian invasion event and the ship he was on got damaged. They could even see him lightning-ing his way through the rest of the ship he was on in order to escape. Eventually he gets into Earth’s oceans and recuperates for a long time (when the coral attaches and whatnot). He probably doesn’t get any sort of boost to his weather powers from the process or anything, he’s just more willing than most (say, Tempest) to use it indiscriminately. It’s possible that there are other failed gene-bound out there in the universe somewhere, even if they’re not necessarily Maerynians. Who knows what magic could do? Maybe? At this point he’s a distinctly different enough person that if you’re trying to bring back Z’vr you’re essentially “killing” Leviathan. It’s kind of a trap to think of him as somebody who could be fixed. They think that Tempest’s view is likely accurate and that Z’vr is “dead” already.
- Why is Leviathan such a jerk? What does he even want (given that he does damage to Maerynians too)? They think that they’ve done a pretty good job answering this earlier in this episode. He’s an “at any cost” kind of extremist. Any Maerynians who aren’t with him are against him, so he doesn’t mind hurting them. What he really wants is power and control for himself and likely doesn’t have any medium-to-long-term goals of what to do with power were he to acquire it.
- In Tachyon’s original incap art we were initially told that she was fighting Leviathan and one of his cultists, but later we were told it was Thermos and Cold Shoulder; was there ever a story where Tachyon and Leviathan encountered one another? They were just wrong in that original case where they said the incap art was Leviathan, sorry. They encounter each other indirectly in today’s story.
- Was Leviathan’s “cult” other Maerynians or maybe humans who worshiped him as a sort of weather god? The True Tide are more of a cult of personality than a religious cult. They could see some room for a later story with humans worshiping some weather god, but a problem with the idea is that humans generally know about Maerynians and what they can do. Another problem is that he wouldn’t want humans worshiping him in the first place, but maybe he goes to another planet first and sets up there.
- While Leviathan never really “teamed up” with other Villains and so wouldn’t have made a good choice for a VotM/Vengeance-style deck, if you were to make one, would it be a reflection of Tempest’s like Friction for Tachyon’s? What kind of incap ability would he have had? What kinds of mini-nemeses or other targets would the deck have had? They workshopped it as a reflection of Tempest’s deck, yeah. It also would have had some of the True Tide guys in there. They could even see it working as a solo-villain deck, but his story isn’t recurring as a big team-of-heroes crossover which is the usual benchmark for story reasons (one-off events like the Dreamer notwithstanding).
- How often does he actually show up? Did he ever encounter the Tempersonation? Was he considered for Cosmic Contest? No encounter with Tempersonation as he doesn’t show up until after the real Tempest is back. He appears most frequently in Tempest’s stories and occasionally in Prime Wardens stories, but he’s by no means a “frequent” villain overall. He shows up a few times, but when he does he hits hard. He’s not really enough of a representative of Earth to have qualified for Cosmic Contest.
- Is there a version of Leviathan that would have opposed Citizen Storm? Would he have worked with Arataki’s Primal Wardens? Christopher starts off on the wrong track here, thinking this was an Inversiverse question (there was a version of Leviathan there who was a Reaper but learned the ways of peace from Grand Philosopher Voss). There isn’t room for a Leviathan in Citizen Storm’s story - it’s already a story about a militant Maerynian and he wasn’t part of the Primal Wardens. We also just don’t spend a lot of time with that reality.
- What are Maerynian death rites like? Seeing their connection to the aquatic ecosystem and the life-force things they probably want their dead to go back into the ecosystem. They likely weigh a body and drop it into a deep part of the ocean that they don’t live in to be “consumed by the sea”.
- How much room does Tempest need to actually do “weather powers”? Does he need access to the open sky, or could he whip up some rain indoors? Is it dependent on how much water vapor is in the air? It’s less “open sky” and more “atmospheric conditions”. He does need there to be moisture in the air to do anything with it, but he’s going to have more luck in a sauna than in some random room. He can’t do something with nothing, but he can make pretty good use of whatever’s available.
- How much of the “fall of Prime Wardens” stuff was explained to the real Tempest once they rescued him? There was probably some moments in the Return story where they told him about their failings and how they’re trying to do better. There might even be some moments about how the rest of the team doesn’t need to bring it up since they got past it, but others would then point out that “being honest with one another” is part of the whole deal and so they need to tell him about it anyway.
- What’s with the spots on Tempest’s shoulders that only show up on three cards (foil front and back and foil Freedom Six front)? It’s an intentional inconsistency to show that different colorists do different stuff with him. Canonically he has this mottled appearance with the spots, but it’s not something that every artist is going to bother with (and especially in older time periods, before modern coloring techniques).
- What’s Glamour up to in the “magic Freedom Five” world of Disparation #4 (episode 134)? We don’t know because she’s not involved in the one story that’s set there. If they were to invent stuff about her now… she probably wouldn’t be Aislin Allen as the Freedom Four/Five have a different backstory here. Or maybe it is Aislin, but she’s got magic illusion powers or she’s still got her full Shrieker powers instead of being weakened. We just don’t know anything for sure.
- In the RevoCorp Presents episode, you mentioned Benchmark foiled the Slaughterhouse Six while they attempted to steal the 4th largest diamond in the world (because Glamour wanted it back), but this Glamour wasn’t the same one involved in that earlier theft, so why would the new one want it? That’s a good catch, but they don’t walk it back. Aislin just knows that Marjorie wanted it for her illusion stuff and so wants it back to see what she can do with it. It’s a little bit branding, it’s a little bit “keeping it in the family”, and a little bit taking inspiration from her predecessor.
- Is there a story where one of Ray Manta’s conspiracies turn out to be right? This is a thing that’s explored in Visionary’s Mind Over Matter book where he was a supporting cast member. A lot of what he says is nonsense, but she still gets some useful info from him. He was also right about “robots coming to kill us all” and “robots coming from the future”, but he’s wrong about “robots coming from the future to kill us all” regarding all of the Omnitron stuff.
- You’ve said before that Ray Manta’s genius is closely intertwined with his madness (the ability to see connections and whatnot is a boon as an engineer, but he’s picking up false positives that cause his conspiracy theories), but have there been any stories that deal with his mental illness seriously rather than for comedy? Is there any legitimate help for him that wouldn’t also impact his ability to do his job well? Does he refuse help/think that anybody trying to get him help is part of some plot? There’s definitley stuff that goes into the “medication he refuses to take that would help him, but also make him worse at his job” thing. They don’t have a distinct diagnosis for him, his comment about medication is likely just in passing. He would refuse help because he doesn’t need help; everybody else needs help, man. This comes up in Slaughterhouse Six stories where the team just puts up with him, but it also would have been there in the Visionary stories. He has an awareness that he’s strung-out/not really operating correctly, but he sees the alternative to not really operating at all. He’d rather see everything than nothing. There probably isn’t a story that’s about this, but it’s a common subtext for stories involving him and it’s not played for comedy as much as you’d think. The manta ray costume he wears is more comical than his mental issues are ever presented to be.
- So, they did a 6-issue story, which cover do they want to do? #512 for the Tempest vs. Leviathan fight is the obvious choice. Adam suggests the shark-riding thing where it’s biting Tempest could be cool, but Christopher thinks that reads as more dorky than cool (like the idea of riding a shark is inherently more cool than seeing it is). Maybe just them locked in battle in the midst of a whirlpool or something. Trident clashing with sword. Surrounded by lightning. That sort of thing.
- Adam’s sad about the shark - he was envisioning Tempest laying crosswise in the image with the shark coming right for you. They might have a splash page for that in the issue with the orca coming in from off-panel to save the day.