Podcasts/Episode 155

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The Letters Page: Episode 155
Creative Process: Ra Villains

Original Source

Primary Topic

Ra

Intro

A bunch of new foes, coming at you RA and unfiltered!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:47:15

Adam is back this week, so let's make some Sentinel Comics content!

We do some chats and some goofs, tell you about Adam's new drawing tablet, talk about the state of existence and how overwhelming the world is... and then finally get into actually doing our job here at around 9 minutes in.

We make a few fun foes, each with their own ups and downs. You haven't seen the last of any of these jerks!

At around 52 minutes in, we get to your questions, answering questions about Ra, some of his foes, his boat, and also Legacy, and also also The Argent Adept Soothsayer Carmichael.

Thanks for listening! As always, if you have any questions for us, submit them here!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Overview

  • Christopher was thinking about how Ra’s already got a pretty decent stable of enemies/adversaries already. The pile of general monsters back in the Golden Age, Calypso as a “giant water spirit/creature/person/thing” right after his retooling [in the second volume of Arcane Tales in the mid-60s], then dealing with Anubis and Marty Adams’ curse, the Ennead, Ammit, and whatever stuff he winds up dealing with when he teams up with Fanatic. Looking at it, he’s already got a better-developed roster of foes than some of their characters as things stand right now.
  • Gaps to fill: at least one notable Golden Age monster thing (ways to be notable would either to be a recurring threat, which wasn’t common in the Golden Age, or to be something that came back/got re-imagined in more modern stories), and something from that middle-period in the late ’60s and ’70s where they are rebranding him as a more traditional hero (that is, giving him supervillain threats rather than monster threats).
  • On the “monster” topic, Adam asks if they’ve done anything with the concept of the Phoenix. They’ve mentioned some vague stuff regarding them in the past [[[Podcasts/Episode I-38|Editor’s Note 38]] and Episode 152 in particular, but while they had some basic ideas they threw out at those points, they specifically weren’t doing a creative process treatment of the concept at those points]. So, Adam’s idea here is if the Phoenix is more malevolent than typically portrayed; generally the theme is of death/rebirth/renewal, but what if there’s something darker going on? Like, it’s got “fire” themes, but how about “bad” fire.
  • This is a good candidate for doing both of the options for how a Golden Age foe could be notable: the Phoenix is already associated with rebirth, so having it show up multiple times is on-brand, but then modern writers could still do some more interesting things with it and flesh out the mythology - like why is there only one (a detail established in that Editor’s Note)?
  • A detail that they come up with pretty much immediately: the Phoenix is a person (or at least, it does that modern fantasy-dragon thing where it can take on a human form). This is neat as it gives an opportunity for the human persona to butt heads with Blake Washington Jr. and then eventually we get to the fight where both take on their fiery alter egos to fight. Riffing on the rebirth thing, the idea is that when it is reborn it starts off nice, but the longer it lives the more it devolves into madness and evil. That’s interesting, but also might make for a more interesting story if it only has the one Golden Age appearance.
  • So, Golden Age story: there’s this ancient being that’s been walking the Earth for a long time and comes into contact with Ra, an ancient being that’s been walking the Earth (since for the Golden Age stories, Blake Washington was basically an asterisk attached to his origin story and the comics were just him being Ra all the time). Christopher has to rein in his impulses to make the Phoenix Cain or something, but having him be around “to see the dawn of Man” and whatnot is a good angle. They wind up fighting, and this person is a match for Ra. Eventually Ra does get the upper hand and burns the guy, only to have this reveal it’s big fire bird form. We get an even cooler fight, with Ra eventually winning. This probably just involves using more fire and overloading the thing, burning it out and leaving its ashes behind him in victory. Beat panel on the ashes after he leaves with some sparklies happening because Ra’s apparently the only being in the universe who doesn’t know what the Phoenix is best known for. However, the writers at the time never picked up that thread again either and so it never comes up again until the more recent revival (whenever they decide that’s going to be).
  • Further details: they think that the Phoenix isn’t a general shapeshifter - it has its natural fire bird form and a human form, but every rebirth it’s a different person (so somebody innocuous showing up in the story can seem normal until we get a last-page glowing fire eye from them or something). Christopher also likes the idea that the primary motivation of the Phoenix is based around the knowledge of the fact that they’ll go bad eventually. They spend their time trying to fix stuff they did last time around and/or mitigate the damage that they know they’ll eventually do as they inevitably become the villain of their own story.
  • They think they form the human body themselves rather than possessing an existing person. But it’s going to be semi-random in how they wind up looking. What sort of “mythology” can they tack onto the body stuff? How about when it burns, the ashes get scattered by the wind and some of it has the “spark” of what the Phoenix is - wherever that bit of ash winds up keys the appearance of the new Phoenix’s body on the next person to walk by it. Not exactly copying the person, but just enough for the person to (presumably) blend in with the locals - although they come up with a potential story where the key person was somehow atypical for the area and now they have to deal with that (although that’s not actually likely to have come up given that this is a recurring villain rather than a protagonist).
  • At this time Christopher decides that he’s more in favor of the new Phoenix being a blank slate - they’re a generally good person with amnesia who just tries to go about a life after coming into existence. They have a name and appearance that’s generated by sampling the people around them when they formed, but they don’t know they’re supernatural. The knowledge that they’re the Phoenix coincides with them regaining all of the memories from previous versions and the decent into madness they mentioned before. This would replace the idea that their good phase motivation is reparation/mitigation for the bad phase. The angle can kind of become one of supernatural investigation - if our hero has discovered the next person they think is the Phoenix, the name of the game becomes making sure that this person never discovers that they are. This wouldn’t work as a Fanatic villain as she’d just smite them.
  • Adam’s thoughts on bringing it back: the ‘80s sound good. It’s probably already evil again when it reappears and we can get some good ol’ ’80s nihilism. “Why do you care about these people who are below us? You can just burn them all.” Then in the early ’90s we can do a “reborn” story that actually gets into the “good” phase of its existence. This latter story is probably the only one where the human name actually matters and they should invent today.
  • Placement: we know Ra first shows up in July ’54 [Arcane Tales vol. 1 #83] and the Golden Age ends as Freedom Five #88 is published in August ’57, so we’ve got about 3 years to play with. In June ’55 [AT vol. 1 #94] Ra winds up on a Lost World-inspired island, which is later established as being Insula Primalis. This should be before that, so let’s call it February ’55 and AT vol. 1 #90 as the original Phoenix story.
  • They land on the “Return of the Phoenix” story as the big Ra: God of the Sun #200 issue in December ’89 and likely spills over for another issue or two after that. That’s a little later than Christopher had initially intended, but it’s a good opportunity for the round-number issue number thing. This story can include some detail like Ra noting that he looks different and the Phoenix giving the explanation that it looks different with every rebirth (because nobody actually remembers what he looked like in the Golden Age at this point, but they get the worldbuilding work done in dialog here). Even better, they just flat out reprint the original Phoenix story in the back of this issue to get everybody up to speed. They also want the previous story to have been a knock-down/drag-out fight that caused a lot of collateral damage and was dangerous for Ra. This time he’s going to need to change his approach as his earlier tactic of “draw on the power of the sun and burn it all down” is just too dangerous for everyone else as he now actively tries to avoid tactics that would, say, burn down the entire city they’re in. So he’s got to be a bit more clever about it and/or draw the fight out into a less populated area before going all out.
  • They also want the “Phoenix Reborn” story to come in before Vengeance, or even Exordium, so ’90 or ’91. They put it in Ra #220 in August ’91 [the same month that Exordium starts]. This time they throw in the curve ball that the Phoenix is a woman, so while the last two we’ve seen have been different enough, this really nails down the fact that they can be very different people across lives. After the previous fight, he also probably hooked up with Argent Adept or NightMist or somebody to try to work out a way to deal with the inevitable return of this thing. The resulting ward eventually pings him with the location of the new Phoenix, but when he investigates he just finds this lady working at a soup kitchen. Prime opportunity for some classic ’90s prejudice commentary - he assumes that the Phoenix is being harbored here and one of these disreputable people patronizing the place is the Phoenix, only later discovering that it’s the nice lady working the food line. It’s when he confronts her that we get the bit about the knowledge of being the Phoenix is what makes them break, so now it’s his fault.
  • They really dig what they’ve come up for here. This gives a nice bit of setting mechanics that can be “experimented” on every time Ra encounters the thing. Sometime in the years leading up to OblivAeon there’s probably a collected trade of all the Phoenix stories. It’s years between appearances, and likely different creative teams every time, but it works because the Phoenix itself can be so different in every iteration. It’s hard to get wrong and so it might even be a “safe” character for a relatively green creative team to use. Some stories might be better than others, but they all still work regardless.
  • They also imagine a later story where somehow the person learns of the Phoenix, and that they’re that thing, but somehow don’t have the crashing knowledge/madness thing happen immediately. We can have a new story type where the person becomes something of a time bomb problem and Ra has to help them try to manage things. The person considers suicide if they’re just going to go mad and destroy anything good they’ve done, but Ra convinces them otherwise - that doesn’t solve anything (because Phoenix), but this is the time to do what good you can. Christopher now definitely wants this to be part of it and is the story that immediately precedes that collected trade. Sometime in either the late ’00s or early ’10s - enough time for there to have been a few of those other stories in the intervening time. For placement they actually back things up to August ’04 because they want this to happen in the Ra book rather than the new Arcane Tales - they put it in #376. A lot of the Phoenix stories likely had issue names playing on life, death, rebirth stuff (“Returned”, “Reborn”, “Revived”, etc.) and this one is “Phoenix Redeemed” even if it’s not a final redemption.
  • That’s an interesting question - is there ever a happy ending for this thing? Not yet at least. This might be an ongoing plot thread for Ra - a quest to try to find a way to end the cycle. Do we learn where this thing came from? Like, is it a primordial, mythological being or is it more like a person way back when who was cursed? They land on the former - it’s a Phoenix that just takes on a human form. All of the research stuff is prime Blake Washington material as well.
  • Christopher suddenly realizes that in one of the stories the Phoenix is a child, and that’s just sad. Likely not the last version, though. “Evil child” is too obvious a gimmick to pass up. Then maybe the next one is the “Redeemed” story and it’s somebody presenting as early-20s finding their way in the world.
  • It’s such a great Ra character as it’s only a Ra character. We’ve got themes of immortality via consecutive versions of yourself, archaeology, mythology, finding who you are/the duality of your powered and unpowered form, fire.
  • Unfortunately, they’ve also done all the things from Christopher’s vague thoughts of “gaps” to fill with this one concept, so what else are they going to do today?
  • They can go back to the “rawr, big smashy monster” thing as the Phoenix wound up being less that than they had planned. One thought is that the “desert colossus” they’ve shown [I assume the thing on the Ennead card “The Desert’s Wrath”] could be it. Adam’s initial idea is that you have some artifact that you put in the ground and say the magic words and it creates the big monster statue thing. It’s interesting as it’s built out of whatever is around in the environment, so making them in different places gives a good opportunity for different appearances. Christopher’s tweak is that rather than specifically being to create the big rampaging monster it’s more of a “genie” like effect where the user creates it and gives it a command, but it always interprets it/carries it out in a destructive manner. It’s a good “mindless” monster that we can just have some fun with the fight.
  • Ra actually wasn’t around for much of the Golden Age, but this feels more like a Silver Age thing anyway (which is also where most of the “Ra vs. Monster-of-the-week” stuff happened anyway - while looking at the spreadsheet Christopher notes that Insula Primalis gets named in ’63). Given that the “Death of Ra” story was in ’64, so let’s put this in ’61 or ’62.
  • Anyway, naming and whatnot. Adam brings up the fun detail that if it’s first appearance was in a desert and it was made of sand, Ra could just turn it to glass and then shatter it, but if the next appearance was in a city it would be made out of concrete and would be more difficult to deal with. They go with “The Colossus of Giza” and the first appearance is in February ’62 in AT vol. 1 #174.
  • There we go, not a lot else to do for it as it’s more a tool used by other people than a “character” in its own right. It even fits in with the Ennead stuff - in addition to the nine of them, they bring out one of these things and, unlike most people who make use of this thing, they actually know what they’re doing with it. They could even have a story in the ’80s or something where Ra succeeds in destroying the crystal or whatever that is the artifact that creates them, but then Isis just makes a new one (or six) when the Ennead story happens. More fun options are somebody being clever and making it form such that there’s a spot for a person to get in and “drive” the thing, so it has more agency for that fight, or somebody embedding the crystal in their own body before awakening the thing (which doesn’t work how the person or heroes expected, they just succeed in killing themselves in the process and then the thing just falls to the ground and works normally - it doesn’t turn the person into the Colossus or anything). That latter one doesn’t really sound like a Ra story, though - that’s more in line with being a Guise or Setback story.
  • One last niche to fill out - they need a jobber. Some recurring supervillain for Ra’s rogues gallery who’s existence is just to be the occasional punching bag and sent to jail so Ra feels more like a superhero. Honestly, if they hadn’t already created her, this is where Calypso would go [fitting for the mini-nemeses cards in SotM]. The type of character that’s generally not much of a threat, but given specific shenanigans can surprise you occasionally.
  • Ok, so what’s the person’s source of power? “Sources of power” are a regular feature and are important theme for Ra stories. They don’t want another Egypt-themed thing. Maybe something tech-based since so much of Ra’s stuff is focused on the magic and mythology stuff. Like, think Ghostbusters only instead of catching ghosts, the tech is based around absorbing magic from an area that the villain could then use - not as magic, just as an energy source to run his technology. They could also go with something as simple as a grave robber who breaks into these archaeological sites just to sell the stuff later. That first one sounds more fun - he doesn’t even need to think that technology is better, just that magic isn’t of much use to him since he can’t personally use it directly, so using it to charge up his batteries is the next best thing.
  • The name they go with for this guy is Kleptek (aka Jason Whitlock). Probably a late ’80s or early ’90s guy. They like the idea of an “electro-whip” - but at first it’s just a whip that he’ll get wrapped around your arm or something, big deal. Then he turns it on and drains the magic out of you. First appearance in Ra #181 from May ’88. They’re imagining a ridiculous period-appropriate look with spikes and other extraneous metal bits. Some kind of XTREME mask going on. Pouches. Too many blades on a sword if he has one. Full-head helmet, but with a long ponytail coming out of the back. The whole bit. You know the type.

Questions

  • First letter of the day is in the form of a gameshow: Canon or Not? [Complete with theme music]
    • Ra likes cats? Not canon. While Egyptians likes cats, that fell under the domain of Bastet. Ra is a jealous god, so none of those other poseurs’ shticks allowed.
    • Ra often encounters his enemies both as Ra and as Dr. Blake Washington Jr. and has had to find ways to deal with them as each? Canon.
    • Ra and Dr. Washington have been split into separate bodies in the past and had to find a way to join back up somehow? Canon. It may not have “really” happened in that it was a trick of some sort, but that kind of story has to have happened at some point.
    • Ra has come into conflict with a giant snake called Apophis or Apep? Not canon. At least not yet in the history of Sentinel Comics.
    • After her introduction and their initial conflict, writers started playing up a Batman/Catwoman relationship between Ra and Calypso? Not canon.
    • Ra has fought a being of living fire and is very confused and angry when his one trick doesn’t work on it? Canon. This sort of thing happens all the time. The Phoenix, Magmarians, etc. His solution is, typically, even more fire. “He’s the prototypical ‘fight fire with fire’ character.” There’s probably at least one story where this doesn’t work, as you suggest.
    • Ra has encountered mythological characters from non-Egyptian sources, such as Greek? Canon.
    • However, Ra hasn’t encountered Norse being specifically, for reasons? Not canon. Sentinel Comics doesn’t react to the presence of Marvel Comics in the Metaverse. Christopher and Adam do, but Sentinel Comics as the fictional entity doesn’t. How this shakes out is that any Norse characters that appear in Sentinel Comics wind up not being popular and don’t show up much. It’s hard to imagine a universe where they don’t find a way for Ra to fight a Frost Giant at some point.
    • Ammit has long-term plans beyond simply being the new guardian of the gates to the underworld? Canon. Moving on…
    • There are relics for other, as yet unseen, Egyptian gods out there? Canon. whistles innocently
    • Ra treats the Hippo with the wariness that actual hippos deserve? Not canon. The first time they meet he has this initial reaction, but very quickly realizes that Eddie’s just some dummy in a suit. Ra and Haka both have this sort of “you should be a lot scarier than you are” reactions to his name.
    • Given his affinity for fire, Ra dislikes cold environments and his enemies have tried to use that against him? Canon in that he dislikes the cold and his enemies have tried to use that against him. It doesn’t actually cause problems for him, though, and so such attempts don’t do much.
    • Set is the coolest member of the Ennead? Not canon. They both like Osiris, but they also independently both think Nephthys is the coolest and there’s some potential for some really neat stories for her.
  • Is it the case that most of Ra’s enemies are “monster of the week (month? however often comics come out)” types given that blazing tornadoes of living fire sounds like a difficult tool to use for non-lethal takedowns and the Ennead are too dangerous to be frequent opponents? First off - most comic books come out once a month, but the publishers stagger releases so that you’ll still have new comics coming out on any given week, just different titles week to week. This also holds true for Sentinel Comics. Early on it’s definitely “monster of the week”, but that changes later as it starts involving him interacting with the world more. There’s a fair amount of abstraction that goes into his fire as well (similar to how the Human Torch gets used in Marvel) - you can throw fire at somebody and it’s just “ouch, fire!” with generic damage rather than third degree burns and skin grafts.
  • Where is Ra most active as a hero (Megalopolis, Egypt, more of a walk-the-Earth thing, etc.)? More the last one. He might show up in Megalopolis or Egypt occasionally, but Dr. Blake Washington Jr. is often in far-flung parts of the world on digs, and thus so is Ra. The character had its origins in an Allan Quatermain pulpy adventure guy. Indiana Jones was a throwback to exactly that sort of character as well - notably, Dr. Blake Washington Jr. is much less of a “professor” and more of an in-the-field guy than Dr. Jones is, which is saying something. So, Blake Washington would be out having adventures on his own, and then he’d need Ra to come out to deal with something.
  • Has Ra ever needed to determine the fate of the world using ancient Egyptian magic in the form of a children’s card game? No.
  • Has there been a major foe for Ra who’s been notably absent from Sentinel Comics (e.g. Apep/Apophis - is there a connection between that serpent and the one slumbering in the Nexus of the Void)? There isn’t a connection between the Nexus serpent and the Egyptian one. As mentioned earlier, “there hasn’t been a story involving Apep/Apophis in the history of Sentinel Comics and I’m sure it will never come up.” [There’s a fun bit here about the snake being dejected at Ra being dead without having had the chance to eat him. He still eats the solar barge, but is in a mood about it.]
  • Has there been a villain who was a Futurist with a conflict stemming from the modern prospects of the new world vs. the ancient methods of the old one - if not, can you improvise one now? If there was one, was there a story where they didn’t know that Dr. Blake Washington Jr. was himself a modern man and created a trap designed to trick some ignorant primitive? Kleptek is close enough to that. They like the story potential for Kleptek assuming that Ra doesn’t know anything about the modern world.
  • [Writer tries to get “A Very Merry Unbirthday” added for their unbirthday. No. They’re not opening that door. Birthday requests only.]
  • Does he often fight monsters/entities from Egyptian myths? Yes.
  • How about other mythologies like Greek, Babylonian, or Persian? Yup.
  • Other gods (even if they turn out to be frauds in some way)? Definitely.
  • Has anyone tried to get revenge on him for stuff he did in his villainous “angry, burning guy” phase? For sure.
  • How much does his research/archaeological life factor into his stories? A fair amount. The early Golden/Silver Age stuff was likely 90% Ra and 10% Blake Washington Jr. It’s after the “Death of Ra” story and then bringing him back that they balance things out more between the two personas. Sure, some writers might focus more on one or the other, but it averages out to probably more like 60/40. That also gives more opportunity for human supporting cast members as Ra isn’t very good at interpersonal relations/communication.
  • He once claimed Insula Primalis as his home base; are there particular Citizens he’s had to deal with? Mainly Citizen Dawn herself. That’s come up several times.
  • [Going back to speak a bit about the various types of opponents above:] Myths are the source for many of his foes. Especially in that early phase, but it still comes up later too (even tech-based opponents would often wind up using themes/names from mythology - it’s just too good a resource for naming/costuming). A lot of “pretender god” things (with the Ennead being the most important story in that category). The Vertex setting had some random guy calling himself Anubis without any connection to the actual Anubis.
  • There’s a story in myth about Isis creating a snake out of Ra’s drool that goes on to poison Ra and he only gets the antidote in exchange for his true name - any connection there to Ammit’s consuming his soul/name? While a bunch of Ra’s story [reiterated in the lead-up of the letter, like making a deal with Anubis and the Ennead rising to power, etc.] was intentionally mapped directly to the actual history of who was worshiped when and the stories told in the myths, there wasn’t an intentional connection between this Isis/snake thing and what they had happen with Ammit later. They do think that there’s a general through-line of gods trying to trick Ra into various things. He’s the strongest, chief god and his downfall is, ultimately, his own pride. They built the story of their version of Ra in much the same way that they go about building villain stories due to the excessive pride thing, so having the villains take advantage of that in the way that normally heroes take advantage of villains’ pride is great.
  • We know about Ra/Fanatic, but was there ever a woman who tried to romance Dr. Blake Washington Jr.? Was there an attempt to introduce one and/or redesign her after a certain popular video game franchise got going? Yeah, there’s probably something in there. Somebody discovering his identity and then trying to seduce Blake Washington with the aim of eventually getting their hands on the Staff of Ra and stealing it sounds like a likely story to have happened. There’s likely a supporting cast love interest at some point (but we’re not in that Creative Process episode at the moment). They don’t know that there would be something as obvious as a Lara Croft expy just because Tomb Raider was popular - note that all of the Ennead members fall into the “rival archaeologist” category already, so having a flirty archaeologist introduced and then later revealed to have been one of the mortal forms of an Ennead member is right there as an option.
  • On “Scorched Earth”, where are they? This is a fight between Ra and Anubis - the forces they’re bringing to bear on one another is meant to be shown to be destroying the very earth upon which they stand. It wouldn’t look that much different from hell given what’s being thrown around there, but they’re still just somewhere on Earth.
  • Who’s the unfortunate schmuck on “Flame Spike”? On the First Edition version it was something with an ibis head, but in the Enhanced Edition it’s meant to be Set. That’s not to say that Ra hasn’t fought some ibis-headed creature (he definitely has), but they didn’t have a particular character for it.
  • How did “Lucky” Paul Parsons II die? How long did he live (considering that you’ve said that Paul VIII is the oldest that a Legacy has ever lived to be)? As a refresher - Paul Parsons II was “Lucky” because he didn’t fight in a war (Joseph being in the American Revolution, and his son Paul in the War of 1812, but there wasn’t a war for Paul Jr. to have been in). That doesn’t mean that his life was free of conflict and he died while saving people from some terrible fate (“bears with guns” is what’s landed on here).
  • What would happen if both Paul and Felicia were to die before Felicia had a child? Would the line of Legacies just end, or would it continue in a branch of the Parsons family (like one of Felicia’s cousins)? Would Wellspring intervene? The Legacy line would end. That’s part of the point of the Iron Legacy story. The first child of each powered-Parsons has to have a child of their own or the line is over.
  • In the Deadline/Lifeline episode you mentioned that the Sentinels world becomes the Galactic Strike Force world, just with lots of intervening time; if that’s the case, what does the Legacy line look like by then? This is something they’d talked about a bunch back in the day, but can’t really get into for spoilery reasons. They will say that the Legacy line still exists, but it’s been… “diluted”. It’s related to the reason that the humans in the game are Metahumans.
  • If the Legacy line were to eventually develop some kind of permanently-incorporeal form, would they still be able to produce an heir? Does Wellspring’s effect necessitate that an heir is always born? As they just said, Wellspring’s setup doesn’t necessitate that an heir be born as things can end. That being said “permanently incorporeal” would be a strange evolution of the Legacy line - “you can’t stand in the way of danger if you can’t stand in the way of anything.” It’s very unlikely that this would happen. That being said, Christopher could see a Disparation scenario written after the whole Wellspring explanation is revealed where a future Legacy adopts a kid and that kid develops the powers. Like, it’s not necessarily a flesh-and-blood offspring, but it’s also not something addressed in the main continuity and it’s up to the individual reader how much credence to give that explanation given the title it takes place in.
  • The show notes from the Legacy Supporting Cast episode shows some art of him grilling some burgers; what kind of cheese is that? What’s his favorite type of cheese for a burger? Cheddar for both. That’s the standard - he can do other fancier things (e.g. bacon and Swiss as a combo), but if he’s just putting cheese on a burger patty, it’s cheddar by default. You might think American (because Legacy), but while that’s not out of the question, it’s also not the standard.
  • Is anyone in the Freedom Five lactose intolerant? Well, Absolute Zero’s rather “food intolerant”. It’s not really something that is likely to come up in comics. Christopher starts suggesting that maybe it comes up that Wraith is (like in an offhanded thing in a slice-of-life story at some point), but only for one writer’s run and nobody else cares about that detail as those accumulated details are hard to keep track of. Adam cuts him off, though, and says that no heroes are stated to be such except Guise. He’s lactose intolerant and a villain has definitely used that against him (spraying him with milk from a hose or something). He then plays along, bloating up (like a balloon, which he does on his own as he hasn’t actually ingested any of the milk).
  • Do we ever get comics told from the perspective of one of the “civilian” supporting cast members? There is, but they haven’t really talked about it before on the podcast. They’ll talk about it later. [They do mention Michelle Hausmann in particular here and that it’s around OblivAeon time.]
  • You described Soothsayer Carmichael as the “magic equivalent of a doomsday prepper”, how does he actually go about looking for/identifying the next big thing to be worried about? Does he have some kind of scrying device/crystal ball/etc.? His approach to this stuff is “whatever works works” - he’s not picky in terms of how to approach things. What’s important is getting results. That being said, he’s not going to go off the deep end of Blood Magic where he’s sacrificing people or anything. He’s not the type to use magic maliciously. What this means is that he’s not going to shy away from any predictive methods open to him - throwing bones, reading tea leaves, crystal balls, whatever works.
  • You also said that he studied magic instead of stumbling into it like Argent Adept and NightMist did; why and how did he start his magical education (if that’s something that’s not being kept secret by the writers)? His past is pretty mysterious. There might be the occasional name-drop of somebody he studied under (who may or may not be a “real” sorcerer) here and there, but he’s not the main character of a book. His backstory only gets touched upon in passing and piecemeal as much as it’s relevant to the story at hand. He’s also not totally a reliable narrator of his own life as he doesn’t really view telling other people about himself to be a good idea. We don’t get the impression that he’s got some dark secret or anything, just that he doesn’t see a need to volunteer information about himself.
  • Does he offer information to people besides Argent Adept (like, would he find Ra to tell him about stuff dealing with the Egyptian stuff)? How involved is he with the magical community in general? He’s specifically a supporting character for AA, so that’s where he shows up. As for the “magical community”, if such a thing can be considered to exist (which is not terribly likely anyway), he’s probably more involved with it than AA himself is. Crossing over with Ra seems a bit out there. Crossing over with NightMist is more likely. They like the idea of a story where AA and NightMist are working together and they’re both talking about him, but don’t realize it at first as they each describe him in radically different ways. NightMist knows him as this really helpful guy who’s got a lot of books - she talks with him all the time. Argent Adept deals with this really annoying guy who’s always on his case about magic stuff. Then they realize they’re both talking about the same guy.
  • What is Soothsayer Carmichael up to now that Argent Adept is actually looking for/training new Virtuosos? This is a Future question about the RPG and they’re not telling at this time.
  • What does he look like? Unassuming without any obviously identifying physical features. Short, but kind of messy black hair. He looks kind of frazzled all the time. Not particularly tall, short, fat, handsome, ugly, etc. Wears rumpled clothes. Contact lenses because glasses are too much hassle to deal with falling off or whatever.
  • We’re told that Soothsayer Carmichael is somewhat envious of Argent Adept’s power and knows exactly what he would do with it; it’s also a common trope for that sort of setup to result in the person getting what they wanted and then being really good at it, until things go horribly wrong due to something they missed - do we ever get such a story with Soothsayer Carmichael? He has a significant amount of power, just not Virtuoso-level depth and breadth of power over magics and the Void, etc. They could see a story where he doesn’t so much get AA’s power, but through some circumstance finds himself as a guardian of the Void in some capacity and decides he’s going to take care of it himself rather than calling on Argent Adept. Then it goes like you suggest where he does a good job at it until something he overlooked gets out of control. Now the minor Void problem is a major Void problem and AA has to get involved. He’s not happy that AA had to help him, though.
  • [Sorry-Not-Sorry letter] What did the Argent Adept get for destroying Voss’ ship? A “No Bell” prize.