The Letters Page: Episode 162
Writers' Room: The Savage Haka #177
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Run Time: 1:32:52
Adam is back! Or, rather he will be starting next month! Except next month's schedule will feel similar to the last couple months because of beginning of the year reasons and having a packed Editor's Note! But forget about all that: ADAM IS BACK! Sort of! Whatever! Get excited!
We are silly for about 7 minutes, and then we get into actually writersing this room, in which we continue to be silly. That said, given that this is a Haka story, who could have guessed that we'd start with an action-based story but then pull a switcheroo and make it about feelings and sadness? Would we do that? Who can say?
After much storying and telling and a little crossover of both of those words, we get to your questions at around the 41 minute mark.
At around an hour and 28 minutes, we talk very briefly about a cover. We know right away what it should be. Glimpse its glory above! Quite good.
Join us this Friday for our year-ending live recording!
- Mr. Fixer
- The Freedom Five
- Dark Watch
- Grand Warlord Voss
- Baron Blade
- Wager Master
- The Hippo
- Blood Countess Bathory
- La Comodora
- Arataki Wakarewarewa
- Absolute Zero
- The prompt this time is a Haka holiday story. They took the liberty of finding the placement for this issue and a vague plot ahead of time. This is the December 2002 issue of The Savage Haka #177. This is right on the heels of the Fall of the Prime Wardens story (which wrapped up in August) and so there’s some level of Haka wanting to be with his friends for the holidays, but they’re all mad at him over the whole lying to them and the lack of trust thing.
- As established, he’s been a world-traveler for a long time and likes being around people and celebrating. He’d show up someplace, would find that there was some holiday or event going on, and would be into it. 2002 seems like a good place to have this kind of story for him. They’ve already compiled a list of December holidays as potential ones for him to “visit”.
- They want to maintain a level of melancholy to the proceedings, too. He’s putting on a brave face, but will mention when something would have appealed to one of the other heroes, so we note that for all the fun he has in experiencing these things he’s still thinking about his friends who he can’t share it with. While he’s suffered a lot of loss over his incredibly long life and misses those people too, those people weren’t gone because of his actions/inaction, so this recent loss is harder in a lot of ways.
- This prompts Adam to consider that this issue isn’t him traveling, but is him reminiscing about past events instead. That’s good, but then we need an idea for what Haka is doing right now. A Mr. Fixer story could have the framing device of him being in the garage or his apartment above and there’s objects around that act as mementos. What’s the equivalent frame story here?
- One idea here is to just have him going about whatever non-hero downtime stuff he’d be up to (charity work at a soup kitchen, visiting a particular grave, etc.) and those activities prompt memories. They don’t need to figure those out first, but can pick holidays/stories and then reverse engineer the current situation to complement it.
- The story structure here should probably be chronological in terms of the modern story, so that’s how Christopher organized the list he put together, so let’s run down the list of options to see if there’s a through-line they can suss out.
- December 5 - Krampusnacht (traditionally the evening before the feast of St. Nicholas on the 6th). This one is a good opener because it’s a good excuse for a “monster” since Haka’s a guy who fights monsters and it allows the modern story be him fighting something rampaging through a mall or similar that makes it look like it’s going to be a fun “Haka fights monsters” book before the switcheroo to the heavy stuff. The flashback is him coming into some Alpine village decades ago and seeing this weird creature coming down the street. He comes in like “I will fight you!” before the townsfolk rush in to stop him, explaining that it’s just a guy in a costume and it’s a celebration. [beat panel] “I will celebrate!” Then a short montage of him participating in many Krampusnachts after that (often as the Krampus). The connection is that he’s fighting a creature at this time of year and it reminds him of the time when he almost tried to fight the Krampus and then became the Krampus. Additional detail: the modern creature is some kind of transformed Santa monster. No explanation given, just your standard evil mall Santa [or, as somebody in the art livestream where Adam did the cover put is, a Maul Santa].
- Next up is the Buddhist celebration of Bodhi Day on Dec. 8. In the spirit of showing readers that we’re really going anywhere with this “Holiday Special”, they opt for the latter. They like the idea of him helping some monks by carrying some big statue for them. We’re going from the really boisterous opening to this much more solemn event. This could be much earlier in Haka’s life story, though, and could be an important part of his finding inner peace. They want to emphasize that the person that Aata is now is a product of his journeys and all of the people he met along the way, not any one specific culture. Sure, he’s got his starting culture and that’s very important to who he is as well, but he’s a synthesis of all the rest of this stuff too. Modern touchstone: aftermath of the opening fight where he’s helping to clean up and reset all of the stuff that was messed up during the fight. They also like the idea that one of the Santa’s Helper elves suggests that Haka be Santa now (the prior one being the monster) but Haka just puts the Santa hat on this guy: “No. You should be Santa.” The connection here is that Haka puts the Santa chair back in place and gets asked to be Santa and after he puts the statue in place one of the monks asks him to lead a ritual. The monks insist when he initially declines as that was important to them, but he sees that having this guy be Santa is more important here. He’s letting somebody else take the position that will be giving joy.
- Next up is Hanukkah which, due to being on a lunar calendar, can move around from November through January [it looks like it ran from Nov. 29 through Dec. 7 in 2002, so out of order slightly here, but whatever]. Here we can really pull in the through-line about the Prime Wardens as Hanukkah is a time of remembrance and of thinking ahead to what comes next. They want to have this be a situation where somebody wants him to be involved with their Hanukkah observances and he’s honored to take part. Ok, he’s’ left the mall and goes home. He lights a candle to put in the window, just because it’s nice, but that triggers the memory of the past Hanukkah thing where he’s just with some family that’s invited him - the implication is that he helped out somehow (likely fighting another monster or something) and they invited him over. Not every one of these flashbacks get a lot of extra context. The conversation back then about remembering “the past and those who are no longer with us” then ties back to the present where he repeats that last bit. There’s no explicit connection to the Prime Wardens yet. They mentioned earlier that one thing could be him going to a graveyard and if they go with that the idea can be that he’s in mourning and is trying to figure out what it is that’s making him feel that way (hint: it’s the Prime Wardens).
- This graveyard scene could even be him visiting the specific people from the Hanukkah memory. The Krampusnacht event was long enough ago that the people involved there are all dead by now. The Bodhi Day thing is centuries ago. An idea for this one is that the memory had some grandparents, parents, and 3 kids and the youngest has a distinctive look (even if it’s just "black hair, light blue eyes) that’s shared by an old man who’s at the grave as well for his own remembrance - just enough for the reader to connect the two.
- The next one on Christopher’s list is Saturnalia [traditionally on December 17 of the Julian Calendar, later extended to a week-long festival], but he’s not sure he wants to include it here. Modern observances aren’t terribly common (at least non-ironically), plus he’s not sure the tone is appropriate for where they’ve gotten themselves in the story.
- How about Yaldā, a Persian winter solstice festival on the 21st (although possibly a day off of that depending on the year)? It’s about goodness/light’s triumph over evil/darkness. We can get some turnaround from the feeling of loss in the Hanukkah segment - sure there’s been loss, but we have also triumphed over loss. It’s also another event that’s off the general American radar so we’re again establishing the fact that Haka’s been all over the place. Maybe he stands vigil at the grave site all night and the rising sun in the morning reminds him of Yaldā where you are celebrating the dawn after the longest night. Who’s he with and when is it? We’re establishing that these are all somebody else’s celebrations. He’s there and is fully part of whatever he’s been invited to, but it’s all someone else’s thing where he’s a guest. Maybe this is more like the Krampus thing where it’s not about specific individuals, but just shows an involvement in a larger event that he just happens to be present for and the dawn is the thing that reminds him of it. Given his long life and all of the loss and darkness inherent to that, this sort of celebration of light and the good times is probably something he really needs in his life.
- They feel like rapid-firing some more - they want to keep showing how much he’s seen and been part of, but there’s limited page space. We just get juxtaposition panels with him doing a modern thing (soup kitchen work, handing out warm bread to people on the street, wrapping gifts, putting up decorations, etc.) with him in one of these past celebrations. Actually, let’s say that we see him putting up a variety of decorations in the same big hall at various points.
- What’s the Christmas thing? Let’s do a Christmas mass in England during WWII where the cathedral has visibly taken some damage in the Blitz. People are visibly scared, but we’re still here for this celebration. Modern day could be him finding homeless people and helping them get to shelters or giving them additional blankets or something to help comfort and shelter them.
- Other quick things could be Yule, a modern Kwanzaa thing (which might involve him actually seeing the same group of people in both the present and in the flashback), and Ōmisoka at the end of the year which leads into…
- New Years. So far all of the flashbacks have been him taking part in other peoples’ celebrations. The decorations we saw him putting up earlier were for his party. Let’s even say that the present Kwanzaa event is him handing out invitations to the people in the flashback, now 20 years older or whatever. This has become his deal - he throws a big end-of-the-year party. He’s baked like 40 cakes and invites all sorts of people. Sure, there’s people like the Kwanzaa family, but the Parsons family is there too. Expatriette and Setback. Probably some modern pop culture figures too, like whoever the US president is within the world of Sentinel Comics in 2002 and that famous CEO and philanthropist Maia Montgomery. We get a lot of heroes in and out of costume and is a real who’s who of Sentinel Comics.
- They think at this point that this is probably also, largely, a wordless issue. They don’t see it being improved in many ways by the addition of too much dialogue.
- Anyway, we get a portion of the party where Haka’s looking over some photos on the wall. Most of these are of people who have died and so cannot attend his party, but he still wants to remember them. Off to the side here, though, is a picture of him with the rest of the Prime Wardens. Actually, Adam wonders if there’s a way to be more subtle about their absence than just showing a photo of them. Maybe something like assigned place settings at the tables? We see a table with the Freedom Five and another with Dark Watch, but we see Haka sit at one by himself for a few moments. He then invites people to join him at the table. “Are you sure? It’s not somebody else’s seat?” and then he assures them it’s fine and we go from there. However, there are absences and he’s sad about it.
- How do we end it? Cut to the end of the party and he’s saying his goodbyes to the last people to leave. He turns back to the hall, looking at the various places within it, including at “the empty table”, then he turns out the lights.
- [Letter from the Omniclaus AI] What is the true meaning of Christmas? There are two. One is buy lots of presents and give them to everybody and have big celebrations/dinners with lots of friends and family that you spend a lot of time/energy/money on. The truer, deeper meaning of basically any celebration is “remembering others”. If everybody spent more time thinking about others instead of themselves the world would be a better place. Now, it’s hard to do that all the time, but holidays are a good way to keep in the habit. They recommend watching the movie Scrooged for the speech at the end.
- Is Haka religious? How has his long life affected his beliefs? Has his close association with Fanatic had any effect either? Christopher thinks that the cliched line that a lot of people use to describe themselves really does apply to Haka: he’s spiritual, not religious. He’s seen so many religions rise and fall in popularity and how major ones have changed over the decades, if not centuries, that he has come to the conclusion that they’re all social constructs, but that they’re all getting at the same innate spirituality that humans feel. He’s had more time and opportunity than most to observe people and figure out the commonalities and recognize that the differences are often manufactured ones that people create for bad reasons. Living in a superhero world is also weird given that he personally knows a god, so being an atheist kind of becomes harder, but “religion” runs into those same issues from the other direction.
- Which heroes have pretended to be Santa Claus for children (or their helper elves, or possibly even a rather gazelle-like reindeer)? Legacy, Scholar, Guise, Mainstay (not Writhe). Scholar likely does it pretty regularly, but since he’s not a major on-screen presence until his run in the Guise book we likely don’t see much of it. Adam’s amused by how unconvincing Legacy’s portrayal is in his imagination. Haka likely hasn’t, but the idea of Haka being dressed up as one of the elf helpers is hilarious. More likely is the older Father Christmas character than the modern “Santa Claus”.
- Any villains pretend to be Santa as part of their schemes? They’re not sure that any of them have (but joke about both Voss and Spite, the latter tricking children is just too dark). Christopher starts considering a Baron Blade thing where he’s got a sleigh pulled by robot reindeer and goes down chimneys to do bad stuff, but it’s a stretch. The one that actually probably happened as a Silver Age story with Wager Master.
- While last year you did a Writer’s Room for a Fanatic story that was modeled on A Christmas Carol, with a multimedia franchise as long-lived as Sentinel Comics, has there ever been a straight adaptation? Who would play the various roles? Suggestions: Tachyon as Scrooge (pushing herself and those around her too hard for material gain without considering the damage she’s doing in the process), Unity as Bob Cratchit (overworked but still fond of her boss), Mr. Chomps as Tiny Tim (in desperate need of a new part that Tachyon could easily afford, but won’t pay Unity enough to get it), Friction as
BobJacob Marley (former partner who went too far and now suffers the consequences), Matriarch as the Ghost of Christmas Past (showing how focusing too much on past failures and pains can hurt the future), Haka as the Ghost of Christmas Present [they break in to say this is obviously the right choice] (a lovable giant who’s learned fully to live in the now), Progeny as the Ghost of Christmas Future (a silent, looming specter promising an unmourned death if your ways are not changed). Granted, Naturalist might fit the classic Scrooge role better, but that would necessitate changing up the rest of the cast too and figured that this sort of project might require a higher-profile hero. They like this casting - the approach they’d want to take is a more tongue-in-cheek one similar to The Muppet Christmas Carol (“the best version of that story”) where many of the characters frequently acknowledge that they’re in a production of the story. They’re not quite breaking the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience, but there’s indications that they know they’re playing a part.
- [Letter directed at Adam from Ray Manta that runs from 56:29 through 58:18 and is a lot of fun wherein he describes a complicated plot centered around the fact that Adam is the father of all Nicks, one of the names for Santa is Saint Nick/Nicholas, and for some reason Tim Allen (star of the situation comedy Last Man Standing) put out an entire feature film centered on his murder and usurpation of the mantle of Santa for the obvious purpose of sneaking into everybody’s houses to use nanobots to fuse all children’s spines other than his own son’s, leaving him the last man standing and thus the only future option to become Santa Claus in the future. In a bid to annex the months of October, November, and December into Adam’s birth month. I’m onto you, Rebottaro.] This claim is disputed.
- You’ve said that Haka really enjoys combat, so who are some of his favorite villains to fight? He enjoys fighting the Hippo because the stakes are typically not very high (when he’s not endangering children), he’s a big guy so Haka can let loose a bit, but he can also try to appeal to him - he’s better than this. He likes fighting robots because he doesn’t have to concern himself with hurting his opponent. Same with monsters. Things that give him a challenge (both mental or physical), but he’s not going to pull a Goku and just let the bad guy “power up” just so they’re more of a challenge. As much as he likes fighting, though, most of his more cherished memories are about helping people or sharing a moment with them.
- In the Fall of the Prime Wardens story we found out that Haka’s secretly been working with some unexpected people (The Court of Blood, F.I.L.T.E.R., etc.) - how did the team ever forgive him for this? A big part of it is the setting-aside-of-differences necessary so that they could save Tempest. That was an overriding need to at least get them working together again. Another is that they all had issues one way or another - Haka isn’t unique in that regard. They could see doing a Writer’s Room or Creative Process that covers more of the Return of the Prime Wardens story if people are interested.
- With Haka making a deal with Blood Countess Bathory, how did they react to both being on team Preservation during Prime War? Was it awkward at all? The deal was very much a business arrangement rather than a partnership (Haka reluctantly making the deal for what he saw as the greater good, Blood Countess taking advantage of this big lug to the greatest extent that she could). That being said, the Blood Countess in Prime War isn’t the one from the main continuity (including the Vertex line after the split), so she wasn’t even the one to have made that deal. While this one still isn’t a “good guy” by any stretch, she and Haka get along much better.
- Why didn’t Haka “survive” the OblivAeon event? Part of it is the fact that you can’t really “defeat” Haka. His stories don’t all end the same, but there’s really only a small number of ways that they do. For lack of a better way of phrasing it, he was a bit “played out” as he’d been around for forever and had this problem with how his stories worked. Making the swap to Arataki has some of those same issues, but allows for major shakeups in other ways which wasn’t really possible with Aata (who also now has interesting new shakeups with his current situation outside of the main continuity). The stakes of OblivAeon also needed high stakes and some loss - and that loss shouldn’t just be a bunch of C-list heroes, so Haka was another that was chosen to not be around anymore after OblivAeon. The question of who would represent those losses was one that they’d discussed for years prior to actually getting to the OblivAeon content. Legacy was really close to getting killed, for example, but they decided it was more powerful for his story to be one where he survived but passed the title on in a way that it hadn’t been before [retirement rather than death]. Plus they wanted to make sure there was some more space between his story here and the Iron Legacy stuff. Of course, the answer to this like with most questions of “why did you do [x]?” is “because it was a more interesting story.” Post-OblivAeon, Dark Watch is still pretty recognizable, the Sentinels of Freedom are recognizable as an iteration on what the Freedom Five were about, and while the new Prime Wardens team still has stories that are of a similar type to the old team, the lineup is different enough that there are major differences in how they operate now.
- So, Haka’s been around long enough that his character growth all happened before the comics even began and, while I don’t know comics terribly well, but in other storytelling venues it seems to me that these characters tend to stick to the periphery, have their wisdom now count for much by having other characters not listen to them, or they wind up having major character flaws like everyone else, but none of these seem to apply to Haka, so is that partly why he was written out after OblivAeon? They’d say that all of those actually do apply to Haka. When he was introduced he was “big, strong, monster-fighter guy” and as his stories continued his backstory was fleshed out to add more humanity to him. Wisdom wasn’t one of his notable traits from the beginning. That was actually part of the point of the title of his book being The Savage Haka - the “savage” label was always misused. People would assume that he was savage, but actually there’s a lot more to him. His earlier title, Battle Unending, was all about him fighting things; fine, great. The Savage Haka was about him as a person and everything that comes along with it. That’s not to say that any of this was in particular why he was swapped out in OblivAeon, but as they mentioned in the prior question, a lot of this stuff had been explored already for him and so having a new Haka (one who is a bit more brash, but also more reasonable) shakes things up a bunch.
- We know that Haka’s long lifetime has led him to have trouble viewing the other heroes as responsible and with not seeing himself as the “adult” in the room - but what are his opinions on some of the few that might be at least somewhat close to being his peers here (in particular, his opinions on Scholar and Mr. Fixer - the latter possibly being colored by interactions with Black Fist back in the day)? Haka likely never met Black Fist. There is room for a story where Haka does his “I’ve been around for centuries” experience thing, but then Fixer retorts with acknowledgement that whatever he just said is good, but that for all of his life experiences, Haka has no idea what it’s like growing up as a Black kid in the city. Haka’s also a Person of Color, but this specific aspect of Slim’s life is one that just falls outside of Haka’s purview. Adam’s not convinced, but Christopher thinks that while Haka’s a perpetual outsider, he’s such an outsider that he falls outside of the entire dynamic of systemic oppression that Slim’s experiences would be pointing out here. Now, that being a character dynamic that exists, it’s still somewhat unlikely that this conversation would ever have had a reason to have occurred in the pages of Sentinel Comics - this specific exchange would require a level of talking down to Mr. Fixer to prompt that response such that Haka’s unlikely to have done it. Scholar’s also a tricky one. They’ve both been around for a long time and have both done a “walking the Earth” thing, but their story in the process is so radically different. Haka’s seen a lot of magical stuff, but he himself isn’t connected to any of it and being almost 100% connected to it is almost the point of Scholar’s story. That being said, Haka is not averse to learning and celebrates the opportunity to learn wisdom from others. Both Scholar and Mr. Fixer have different wisdom to share. Haka’s “parent” mentality is generally focused on the younger heroes and these two are some old dudes.
- [Birthday Request, the folk ballad “Oh My Darling, Clemantine”.]
- A joy in using Haka in SotM is to use Haka of Battle and Savage Mana to power up big finishing blows - how does this manifest in the comics? Typically that sort of thing will be shown as a “powering up” scene. He performs a haka or breaths in mana to draw strength - he’s the spiritual ideal of a Māori warrior, only blown up into an over-the-top comic book way where rather than being a simple focusing technique or something similar, they provide direct benefits.
- What was Haka’s single biggest hit in the OblivAeon fight? How about pre-OblivAeon? They don’t have, like, a “ranking” or a numerical value attached to this stuff. There was probably a big splash page of him really letting a Scion have it at one point. He’s a super-strong, punchy character who hits things really hard all the time. That’s his shtick. That being said, in the Metaverse there’s definitely some clickbait article that tries to list the 10 biggest Haka hits of all time that gets a lot of people arguing, but this sort of thing just exhausts Christopher and Adam so they don’t think about it too much.
- So you know if the lyrics heard in Jean-Marc’s Haka theme are in the Māori language and/or if there are translations? Is part of the song based on a real haka? Are the voices real Māori performers? The incorrect answer is that Jean-Marc flew to New Zealand and spent time getting to know some Māori people and getting steeped in the culture to find exactly the right haka and then had a chorus of them perform for the track. The actual answer is that they don’t know what went into him putting the song together - you’ll have to ask Jean-Marc. They gave him some pointers on what it should sound like, and he put something together that sounded great. He’s on Twitter so you can ask him [@JeanOfmArc](https://twitter.com/jeanofmarc?lang=en).
- What would happen if Haka was stabbed through the heart with a blade coated in the regression serum? He would “die”, then the knife woudl get pulled out and he’d eventually heal. Sure, the regression serum would take away his powers, but him being able to survive through anything isn’t one of his powers - it was something done to him by La Comodora. Like, it’d be a tense moment as he realizes that his powers are going away and would assume that this is it for him, but then he’d recover and could just pull the knife out and he’d bounce back.
- We know that the Metaverse has seen its share of television and film adaptations of Sentinel Comics characters, but what of Broadway stage shows or other theatrical productions? They think that there’s a licensed-for-kids that you can do, but also a bunch of unlicensed productions that get away with as parody or something. The characters are so ubiquitous in the metaverse that there’s probably a lot of ways this can go. Supers are hard to translate to the stage, as we’ve seen in real life, but they think that Wraith could work. Stage shows can do wire work that’s not too dissimilar to how her grappling hook works already and the Maia Montgomery/Wraith dual identity thing could be enough to base a story on. A Mr. Fixer juke-box musical could also work. An Absolute Zero ice show could also be fun.
- This is pretty easy. We do a “covers lie” thing that combines aspects of the first story beats: Krampus Haka fighting the Maul Santa.