The Letters Page: Episode 151
Let's go to SPAAAAACE!
Run Time: 1:17:13
We start off by some questionable poll campaigning. If you're on the Letters Page Patreon, let us try to convince you that the Legacy Supporting Cast episode needs more votes than all other episodes! Why? For reasons we'll reveal this Friday!
Then, at around 5 minutes in, we actually start in on the overview.
We do some storytelling, including digging into a limited series we've only ever talked about once before, back in the olden days.
We craft a story with a bunch of new names and events and bugs and a new metal? And a spaceship?! Lots going on here.
Finally, we get to your questions at around the 40 minute mark.
If you're on the Letters Page Patreon, join us this Friday for a live Editor's Note recording! We hope to see you then!
- We’re doing a story today about K.N.Y.F.E. in the “Headhunter” period where she’s chasing Progeny’s head through space. The Headhunter limited series of 6 issues ran from April through September 2014. That’s not the limit of her adventures in space, though. She continues to feature in Cosmic Tales (like how she met Radge, mentioned last week as first appearing in the November issue). They only even really mentioned the Headhunter series (as opposed to the general period of K.N.Y.F.E.’s story) back in episode 21, so if they’re doing a story from that time may as well actually do an issue of that title.
- They don’t think doing issues #1 or #6 would be appropriate for this. The first issue is a lot of setup involving what she’s doing and how she starts off tracking the head, loses the reading, and so has to start her search in a less direct method (following a path of destruction rather than the head itself). She never actually catches up to it during this limited series. There’s some resolution to stuff that happens during the series, but not the end-goal itself.
- They’ve said that Progeny would go to a planet and absorb the natural energy of that planet and its sun. So how about K.N.Y.F.E. finds a planet that’s been “poisoned” somehow by this process - like, it doesn’t do enough to fully reform but does enough to “refuel” and then take off again. Then K.N.Y.F.E. comes across the planet and has to deal with the problem. This foreshadows when she finally catches up to Progeny in a later Cosmic Tales issue and learns more about how it reforms.
- So that gives us some story beats: issue #1 is when she loses it, #2 is her searching (probably coming across a wrecked spaceship fleet, showing that it’s passed this way), #3 can be her actually dealing with something she’s found (like this planet that’s been partially drained) and so she knows it was here and she just missed it, but now she’s got to stop to handle things. That puts today’s issue in June 2014.
- The idea is that she’s tracking the head using methods more like an old-time hunter - following “tracks” and whatnot rather than following a distinct signal of some sort. It blasted through these ships which puts it on this trajectory and so she goes that way. Maybe the reactors of the ships means that there’s some radiation “trail” for her to follow for the time being. After saying it a few times “Poisoned Planet” sounds good as the issue title or cover trade dress or something.
- It’s an inhabited planet with people on it, some of whom have died. Some of it’s the radiation that Progeny picked up from the ships; some of it is the result of the “draining” done before it left again. K.N.Y.F.E. shows up and learns about what’s going on while trying to pick up the trail again.
- Christopher comes up with a twist. She finds the crater where Progeny landed and burrowed in and figures she’s almost got it. She asks around about how old the crater is to verify and it’s been weeks. Turns out that time is weird here, so just by landing she’s lost the trail again because it leaves Progeny more time to escape out there. He also wants something positive to come from her time here, though, so at first it’s super frustrating but by the end of this she figures out that due to something about the planet that Progeny would have absorbed will by necessity mean that she can get a lock on it again.
- Adam’s tweak is that there was some mineral in the planet that Progeny came into contact with and had a bad reaction to - so Progeny had to leave in a hurry, but the reaction also release the toxin that’s poisoning the planet. We could also have the planet be this desolate, arid place but that’s recent - before Progeny it was a lush oasis of a place, but it absorbed all the good stuff, released the poison and left. The time dilation effect gives enough time for the full change between then and when K.N.Y.F.E. arrives. She can also pick up a sample of the mineral here as something she knows can hurt Progeny.
- We see her steal her initial ship in Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #530 in April 2014. This was something she stole from a F.I.L.T.E.R. facility and was just whatever she could get at the time. After she got out into space she does an inventory and finds that it doesn’t have great telemetry and no long-range weapons. What it does have is a mining drill, so that proves useful here. She sets it up to collect a bunch of the mineral while she’s talking to people and doing her other hero stuff so that the time “lost” while on the planet will still have been well-spent due to her stock of the stuff that she hopes to weaponize somehow. Possible future issue hooks: finding somebody to make the weapons/getting some guns for the ship into which she can load special ammo made from the stuff.
- So, while the ship’s mining things, she’s probably going to be trying to find a way to get rid of the poison, right? Maybe extracting the mineral is itself part of that - like, Progeny acted as a catalyst for a reaction that’s ongoing, so more and more toxic gas is being released even now, so if she can get a bunch of it out of there the reaction will stop.
- Also, given K.N.Y.F.E.’s skill set, what she’s probably doing with the people is setting them up for survival. She can’t give them their lush planet back, she can’t bring back their dead loved ones, but what she can do is teach them how to survive in hardship conditions. At the very least we get that as a montage. We don’t want her coming in and fixing everything, but she helps where she can.
- On that “skill set” topic, we need something for her to fight/directly counter rather than just helping the people/scientists who will do the work of actually solving the poison problem. How about we take the “the last thing to survive a disaster on Earth would be the cockroaches” meme and apply it to this planet. “We don’t have enough giant space bugs,” so let’s have the local equivalent get mutated by the whole poison thing and so we’ve got a bunch of giant space bugs for K.N.Y.F.E. to fight. Like, we get a bunch of person-sized ones and then maybe a really big monstrosity for the “queen” or whatever. They’re imagining these were dog-sized scavengers that were a beneficial part of the planet’s ecology until the poison thing happened and they have flourished on that stuff, but have also become more aggressive predators and have set up a kind of “nest” near the mineral deposit that K.N.Y.F.E. is trying to access.
- Most of the issue will therefore be dedicated to her going into the hive, fighting bugs, and killing the queen. They decide the mining operation can actually happen really quick rather than being something she sets up while she does other stuff - she’s got to get this done first. The process of getting to the planet, getting the lowdown on the time dilation and other environmental situations, showing how to “rough it”, and then learning about the bugs being the new apex predators that make “roughing it” even more treacherous, can be a fairly quick process in the first several pages before getting down to the adventure portion. She gets thanked not for fixing things, but for giving them a better shot at making it and possibly fixing things themselves.
- That’s basically the story. They mostly need to just nail down names for things: her ship, the planet, the people, the bugs, the mineral, and probably at least one person that she’s talking to (maybe two - her “first contact” person who can kind of be her guide and maybe a scientist she talks to later).
- The issue begins with K.N.Y.F.E. flying through space in her Svarga class mining vessel designation TR-1340, but which she has named Yocker (“a large, but still ‘throwable’ stone” which she thinks is how this thing handles). She’s following the radiation trail left by Progeny after it blasted through a fleet of ships that she came across in the previous issue.
- She follows the trail to this arid, rugged planet and finds a large crater that’s obviously where Progeny had landed/crashed. When she leaves the the Yocker she encounters a group of reptilian humanoids with prehensile tails. They try to communicate in simple terms (pointing and whatnot) while the F.I.L.T.E.R. translator device gets up to speed enough to work on their language. Once that gets going she learns the planet is Noraton, they’re the Trallens, and the one she’s talking to is named Faermel who is worried that she’s going to cause more problems like the last thing that showed up.
- She’s just chasing the thing trying to kill it. Well you’re too late, it’s been here and gone weeks ago. So that’s where she learns about the time dilation thing. Luckily, she also learns that it’d still be trailing the poison it created when it came into contact with the Ferrite in the planet’s crust. She talks to a scientist named Kebrik who explains how the interaction with Progeny has converted it into Ferrite-Toximion and turned their lush oasis of a planet into the wasteland you see now. At least the Ferrite also repelled Progeny before it could do any more damage, but it was still pretty bad. Basically the only thing left to eat are the invernids, but they’d just as soon eat you so good luck there. Or rather, the invernids were these smallish scavenger bugs, but they’ve mutated into the skelter and are now large carnivorous predators whose queen/nest is at the crater. Oh, and a bunch attack at that moment.
- They fight them off, she gives a few pointers in how they can fight back and whatnot (hey, those strong prehensile tails could be pretty useful in a fight, for example). The best way to deal with the skelter being the most dangerous thing on the planet is to become the most dangerous thing on the planet. You’ve lived pretty cushy lives up to now, but it’s time to get with the times.
- After that rousing pep-talk, she strides into the nest. There’s a bunch of different types of these things (think ant or bee colonies with different roles). She’s cutting a path to the mineral as she knows that it’s both the stuff that’s mutating the invernids and what she needs to fight Progeny later, so she needs to make a space big enough for the Yocker to get through to it. She can’t take all of it since it’s all over the planet, but she can get out the big deposit that’s right here and exposed to the surface at least. She also isn’t going to remember that daft name they’ve given it, so she’ll just call it Blightsilver.
- So, she fights a bunch of bugs, kills the queen, mines the Blightsilver and takes off. The ship’s external storage containers have enough shielding to keep it from really affecting her, plus humans are apparently different enough from Progeny and the Trallens that it’s not as bad for her in the first place.
- She ends this issue much farther behind Progeny, but instead of following a real weak trail she now has a much clearer one to follow and has acquired a bunch of stuff she can weaponize against it.
- Adam has a thought on the ship - it doesn’t have “empty” cargo containers that it carries around with it, but has some extra “plates” along the sides of the ship that can be extended and folded into a container under the ship at need. In fact, rather than the Svarga class ship being a mining vessel, let’s call it a “harvester/hauler” instead.
- Comics with single overarching goals can be a little stale (“yeah, yeah, we know she’s not going to [do the thing] before the end”), so were there many stories of Headhunter with side-plots? Yeah, while these issues are about her chasing the head to deal with it, the individual issues are her dealing with the stuff that comes up along the way. That being said, the process is one of her becoming more prepared for dealing with it and being in space in the first place - she wasn’t a space-based hero prior to this (individual stories in space, sure, but not a “flying through space doing stuff on my own” thing). The arc of Headhunter was about character growth and her transition from “Rogue Agent” to “Space Hero”, just in the process of hunting the head. It’s only a 6-issue limited series after all, not an ongoing series that could get stale like that. We also get some good OblivAeon foreshadowing in there in the form of the details on how Progeny operates.
- [Letter written in a fake Scottish accent, so Adam reads it in one - starts at approximately 43:20] To evaluate if Paige is sufficiently Scottish: how likely is she to do the following?
- Say [and I’m not going to attempt to recreate the accent here] “Can your mommy sew? Tell her to stitch this?” before headbutting somebody? That sounds like something she’d say in a fight.
- Drink Irn-Bru? She drinks considerable amounts of it, especially when she gets back from space as she missed it.
- Deep-fry random food just to see if she can? She’s not likely to be doing the frying herself, but she’ll try the results.
- Indiscriminately refer to people as “Jimmy”? Sure. Everyone’s a Jimmy.
- Curse the English? Of course, but I think you meant to say “Curse the enemy?”
- Be very particular about how you spell whisky? It shouldn’t have an E in it.
- Could you do a poll of the fandom to decide once and for all if the flying head is dumb or awesome? Back when they first described that happening, they mentioned that anybody who thought it was cool should do some fan art showing that it was cool, but nobody ever did said fan art. So I think you have your answer there.
- You’ve said that another part of this was F.I.L.T.E.R. coming after her; what makes her so important to justify a strike team? The F.I.L.T.E.R. stuff was mainly in her initial appearances in Out of Time and other subsequent stories between here and there. They do eventually try to come after her because she stole the ship, but that’s a minor part of this story. [My take on this is that we should remember that episode 21 was well before they actually did the timeline project, so things appear to have gotten shuffled around. From episode 81 we know that Sergeant Steel being sent after her began in the F.I.L.T.E.R. limited series in 2001.] As for why they want her back - she has a lot of F.I.L.T.E.R.’s secrets and technology and represents a sizable investment for them. That’s on top of her just being “someone with powers” which would make her a prime target for them in the first place. As an organization, F.I.L.T.E.R. isn’t too keen on people betraying them either, so she should be made an example.
- We find out eventually that they already have a bunch of other Paige Huntlys, plus the Universe 1 version of her [important to note that this one isn’t a member of F.I.L.T.E.R.], so what were they trying to figure out while they had her captured and stuck in the tube (on her Rogue Agent variant incap art)? They’re basically just keeping her on ice until they can figure out what to do with her, how to disable her powers, how to extract the information of what she knows and what she’s told to whom, and if there’s a way to “reprogram” her to get her on their side again as they’ve spent a lot of effort in the attempt to make her as dangerous and lethal as they possibly can; you don’t want to just leave someone like that sitting around your base somewhere. Trying to regain control of this weapon is part of what leads to their eventual undoing. Some of the StarCrossers story involves her having some PTSD from stuff like being in the tube.
- Is this storyline the time when she runs into and hooks up with Greazer? Was he working for F.I.L.T.E.R. to capture her, or was he off on another bounty mission that just happened to coincide with what she was doing at the time? That’s something back in Greazer’s book. He’s hired to capture her and it’s sort of a question in the book of “who hired Greazer?” but of course it turned out to be F.I.L.T.E.R., which is weird because he’s an alien.
- Aside: they think it’s pretty funny that the characterization they’ve developed for Greazer is that he’s really good at bounty hunting, but not very good at turning in those bounties.
- It was also mentioned that she encountered Nixious the Chosen, does she run into other Scions? Ones we knew about from the OblivAeon set or other ones like Sever? She runs into some in the period after the Headhunter limited series - it ends in September 2014 and the ramp up to OblivAeon starts pretty soon after that, so the Nixious encounter (the most notable, but not only) Scion encounter would be in that period.
- Had Progeny been left alone, how powerful would it have been when it returned? Was there a Disparation story where that was explored? No on the Disparation story - we’re into the La Comodora or completely related to OblivAeon period of the title by the time it would have been a sensible story. It would have been stronger if it hadn’t had to constantly expend the energy it had been trying to gather due to her pursuit, so good job Paige.
- [A letter from “a couple’s councilor” that Adam does in a German accent at 53:09] Is the head flying off into space dumb or cool? Please explain to one another using “I feel” statements why you have the opinion you do. Look, everybody. They’ve explained before that the resolution they’ve come to is that Adam believes that Christopher believes that it’s dumb and Christopher believes that Adam believes that it’s awesome. They recognize the other’s viewpoint while also believing that their own is correct and that’s fine. They’ve come to terms with this. Why can’t you? This is a life lesson - you can acknowledge and affirm somebody’s opinion that differs from your own and just let it be at that. [As Aristotle said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”]
- Why not keep Gary Warner as a WWII vet so as to allow for a possible connection to Vernon Carter? That’s actually a good reason to not have him be from WWII. For the mentor role he had you kind of want him to be in “the previous war” for the connection to your main character and the sliding timescale in comics makes everything weird.
- The “badass grandpa” trope is a lot of fun (say hello to the Scholar and Mr. Fixer), so do we ever see Gary have to throw down with some young punks or otherwise have to take physical action? They wouldn’t be surprised if there was some incident where some punk is making trouble in the bar and Gary uses his crutch to push on the guy’s shoulder to upset his balance and send him to the floor before delivering a warning along the lines of “you picked the wrong bar to start trouble, but you’re lucky that I’m the least likely person to break every bone in your body before throwing you out”. Something along those lines in terms of “minor altercations” - he’s done with the more physical stuff.
- You said that Gary was in the Navy during the Korean War and that he lost his leg to frostbite, but unless he was a naval airman that seems unlikely given that most sailors are on their ships - did you maybe mean that he was a Marine? They meant what they said. They had pulled up statistics on veterans of the Korean war and Gary’s story is an amalgamation of various stories that they found, including the “sailor who lost his leg to frostbite” detail. They don’t always do enough research, but they’ve tried to always do their homework on this sort of thing for Sentinel Comics (exceptions for math and science as you want those to be Comic Book math and science).
- You’ve established that the Thorathian focus on duality means that homosexual/transsexual/non-binary status is looked down on [brief interjection that they are so focused on duality that these things are so out of the norm that they don’t even have a concept of being “out” - to the point that the standard mindset isn’t that such things are immoral or unnatural, but that such things don’t really exist in the first place], are Thorathians inherently intolerant Maerynians because they’re a mono-gendered species? They’re intolerant of them to the point of the whole genocide thing just because they’re not Thorathians, but yeah, they’d consider a mono-gendered species to be inferior on that basis as well.
- Do they look down on Earth for only having one moon? They recognize that not every planet can be as perfect as Dok’Thorath, which has the objectively correct number of moons as it is objectively the best in terms of whatever quality you would care to name.
- How do they feel about that one species of barnacle or shrimp or whatever that has something like 32 different sexes? They’d find that to be ridiculous, but if it’s really 32 they’d find “some bullshit reason” that it works because it’s a power of 2. Or they might exterminate it. When you have a culture of people who are exclusionist to this extent they’re going to either ignore the existence of stuff that doesn’t fit their worldview or they force things to fit into their worldview.
- Is their numerical system base-2 instead of our base-10? sigh* It’s probably presented as base 10 for storytelling/comic book reasons, but it’s probably not something that’s really explored in the comics.
- Does their system of governance use two branches? Or is it one branch with some religious authority representing the other half of the pair? If there is a religious authority, what kind of religion is it? They’ve mentioned before that there are ancient, lost religions for the Thorathian people that pre-date the current regime. There’s no space for religion in the current society. The government is made of the legislature and the military - that’s your pair.
- How deep does this binary obsession go? As deep as you can imagine with the caveat that the comics don’t really go into things at an encyclopedic level. Basically, any time after the duality obsession was established (in like the ’60s or something) that a writer needed to create a new detail about the Thorathian culture they leaned into the duality thing hard. It’s not so bad that you’d have to have 2 eggs for breakfast even if you only were hungry enough for one, but it’s baked into the culture in terms of their system of morality, cultural mores, etc. rather than being at a personal-level OCD about it.
- How does Legacy punch so hard (in a mass, velocity, etc. physics sense)? He punches so hard “because he has super strength”. If you want to try to quantify it, it’s probably more in terms of “increasing the velocity of his punch” along with concentrating all that force into the relatively small area of his fist instead of “increasing mass somehow”, but how do most super strong heroes do so? That’s just part of the super strength package.
- Does Sky-Scraper’s mass change when she changes size? If so, where does that mass come from/go during the changes? Her mass increases and decreases when she grows and shrinks, respectively. How does that work? A) Thorathians B) Superpowers.
- How is she so strong when she’s big - if you scaled up an ant to human size it wouldn’t remain as strong proportional to its size due to the square/cube law? Same “superpowers/super strength” reasons.
- They briefly discussed a tagline on the cover that involved “poisoned planet” earlier, but put off a full discussion for here. How about “Imperiled on the Poisoned Planet”? That’s pretty solid, done.
- Art is gonna be her fighting some bugs, obviously. You need to see some of the planet’s surface to show how awful it is now. Might not be able to see any Blightsilver, but we could see the crater with some radiation/glow coming from it. If we’re outside the hive maybe the ship can be in the background or something (if Adam feels like drawing the ship).