The Letters Page: Episode 184
Writers' Room: Disparation Vol. 2 #150
La Comodora and Chrono-Ranger visit the Extremeverse! Or is it the Xtremeverse?
Run Time: 1:36:42
Adam's got house problems, but that's not going to stop us from getting EXTREME! But first! Some spelling disputes.
Then, we tell a whole set of stories! More than we expected! We bounce between a few different issues. All over the top. We hope you enjoy them.
And then the questions ALSO get XTREME! Trevor does a great job with the episode, as usual.
Join us next week for a Creative Process episode about Expatriette Foes! However, we're recording that episode the same day this episode comes out, in the evening, so if you don't have letters in within the first few hours after this episode is posted, then instead get us letters about the next episode after that: Writers' Room: NightMist & Soothsayer Carmichael Team-Up! Woo!
- This week we’re dealing with the Extremeverse, but also the specific era of Disparation Volume 2 where La Comodora was the lead character with the book following her adventures between the various realities/timelines she visited rather than the more disconnected anthology series it had been previously.
- Before we get started, however, time to discuss something important: branding! The two of them have spelled the name of this reality both Extremeverse and Xtremeverse in various places over time - which is it? Kind of both. This is something that Sentinel Comics itself has not been terribly consistent about. The original was likely Xtremeverse but eventually some writer was telling a story there but thought that spelling the name that way was dumb and very, very ’90s and so added the leading E, but then another writer reverted it because “that was what was cool about it”, so there’s dueling factions even within the writing staff over the years. Anyway, moving on to the story.
- They’ve already done some work that’s relevant here in that they have a fair amount of La Comodora’s story that’s told in Disparation mapped out. As such, they know that there’s a 6-issue arc with her in the Extremeverse that goes from #150 through #155 [Feb-June 2015]. Now, knowing La Comodora, it’s possible that the story might jump in and out of that reality as she does stuff, but it focuses on action happening in the Extremeverse and she specifically needs something from there.
- Stuff they need to determine, however, are when this happens (not in the meta publishing sense, but in terms of the fact that our main character is a time traveler), what’s been going on with La Comodora generally in this period, whether Chrono-Ranger is involved, etc. Given the stories that involve Jim that happen on either side of this one it’s very likely that he’s involved here too. With that in mind, and knowing that the “main” plot of the two of them working together involves dealing with alternate versions of La Capitan - are they going after the Extremeverse La Capitan? Does it start there and become something else?
- Let’s just say that Jim is around unless something else comes up as they go that prevents it. We could start this off as the two of them finding and dealing with XTREME La Capitan and then going to drop her off back “home” (although they don’t always necessarily bother returning them to their original timeline) and then something else crops up that they have to deal with that takes up the rest of the arc. Adam asks how long the book has been about their duo story, and it’s been since issue #123, so just over 2 years’ worth of publishing (they also continue to do this job through #164 [that’s April 2016, during the OblivAeon event]). Adam just wanted to make sure that the gimmick hasn’t gotten old by now, but Christopher points out that while “dealing with La Capitan” is a perennial story hook, it’s often also just how a story starts before becoming something else.
- Adam has an idea that XTREME La Capitan can still be the main villain of the arc. It might be fun to have her intentionally return “home” because she’s already familiar with it and so it’s not only just easier for her to hide there, but she also expects it to be more of a challenge for anybody looking to make trouble for her. Christopher likes the idea of her getting cornered and pulling the ol’ “I know something you don’t know” - “Hey everybody! Free fight over here!” She knows that she can cause a general fracas to break out at the drop of a hat and weaponizes it. Hmm… unfortunately, while fights happen a lot in the Extremeverse, that sounds more like something that would work in something like a “Bloodsworn-verse”. Maybe that’s a trick that XTREME La Capitan pulls at some point during the arc, but not in today’s issue as the prompt is specifically La Comodora in the Extremeverse. Maybe that’s something she pulls in the 5th issue of the arc that stymies her pursuers before they rally and defeat her in the 6th issue.
- Now that that’s settled, we have two kind of obvious options. A prior issue that deals with what La Comodora and Chrono-Ranger are doing in the Extremeverse or this last issue that wraps up the arc. The latter seems like the less interesting option as it’s just going to be “She escapes back to the Extremeverse. The heroes follow and defeat her. They pick up some stuff from the Extremeverse and lock her up in one of the ‘rowboats’ discussed in episode 107”. They think that they want to deal more with whatever the two of them are after in the Extremeverse other than La Capitan, which prompts the somewhat silly question of “What’s different about the Extremeverse?” They need to figure out what it is that they can get here that they can’t get elsewhere (that might pay off later on a further La Capitan mission, maybe during OblivAeon, but something useful that they get here).
- The idea they come up with is a metaplot thing where the ship itself is starting to suffer from Chronal Rot. She’s been at this a long time and La Paradoja Magnifica is just showing her age. This happens eventually, but the good news is that there are essentially infinite copies of the ship for them to harvest parts from. What would be nice, however, would be to get some material from a particularly hardy version of the ship and, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a universe out there that’s bound to have been the source of just such a ship. This can also be the reason the ship has so many weapons and whatnot during OblivAeon - it got some firepower upgrades here too. Adam suggests also having the increased portal control be from here, but Christopher thinks that’s better being from yet another source. Like, the ship is tough and has so many guns because it got upgrades from the Extremeverse, but it got improved portal tech from some advanced science universe. This particular version of the ship is so formidable because she’s been pirating parts, but from other versions of the ship itself.
- For the timing, they take the parts they want and scuttle the rest of the XTREME ship in #153, but at the end of that issue La Capitan uses an emergency “lifeboat” escape pod to jump to the Bloodsworn-verse. Then we have #154 there as discussed. Now, with the basic plot of three issues of this six issue arc figured out in broad strokes, they’re not going to Writers’ Room any of them. They want to tell a story that’s more specifically focused on the Extremeverse itself, so let’s just do #150.
- The issue starts with Jim skidding around a corner of the ship as he comes to find Maria. He’s seen a lot of strange stuff in his life and there’s something wrong with the ship. It’s Chronal Rot and they’ve got to do something about it. They’ve replaced bits and pieces of the ship in the past, but this time the hull itself is what’s rotting and it’s too much to just replace parts piecemeal anymore. They’re hauling the “rowboats” as well and just doing way more than this ship was ever intended to do (La Comodora: “I’ll have you know, this ship was never intended to do any of this”). That’s when she comes up with the solution to find a version of the ship that’s withstood not only the test of time, but also survived an environment that’s done its best to tear it apart by more mundane means. Something that’s just tougher than your average time-ship. She knows just the place. Turn the page for a nice view of the Extremeverse as they take it in. Jim asks “And it’s like that all the time?”
- They don’t think that this is a straightforward “arrive in the target reality, find the thing, leave” kind of job. Normally they could track down La Capitan by looking for a “chronal signature” or something, but the Extremeverse has so much nonsense going on in general that it also includes a lot of time-related nonsense. It would be fun for them to get themselves in some kind of jam and the cliffhanger ending is La Capitan showing up and letting them know that she could be convinced to help. That could set up the next few issues with XTREME La Capitan being presented as a potential good guy until the reveal that, no, she’s just doing an opportunistic pirate thing.
- Adam has an idea that she’s actually kind of turned her ship into something resembling an island. She can just open portals to other places and take things from there without having to sail the ship there. This place is great; why leave? Also, given the over-the-top nature of literally everything in this universe, she doesn’t have to “hide” so much as other versions tend to need to do. People see “(time-)pirate queen” and just think it’s great and “normal” - lots of people have done stints on her crew.
- So, who’s the antagonist of this first issue that she saves our heroes from? Something that gives them a chronal energy signature for them to follow, they get into hot water, then La Capitan shows up with her too-many-guns ship to save the day with an “¡Amigos!” A few other Extremeverse hazards for them to deal with along the way are called for as well - 3 “encounters” with the XTREME nonsense seems right, so two things along the way plus the bad thing they get saved from.
- They do some off-the-air work to come up with some stuff. They decide the who, but the descriptions of what they’re like are still done on-air.
- Tracking a chronal signature takes Jim and Maria into this dark and neon city (featured in the “Dark Watch” Extremeverse story - there are several call-backs to previous Extremeverse stories to remind readers of where they are here). They get ambushed by this huge, terrifying monster of a man. He’s not wearing a physical mask, but his face is covered in blood that serves a similar purpose. He’s got white hair. It’s Spite. In proper Extremeverse fashion he’s a cyborg and his arms can expand out to be made of lots of tentacles/tendrils which end with needles that he uses to attach to his victims and “drink in their essence” and/or inject them with drugs. Or maybe he’s got that going on with one arm and the other is like a “laser blade” [Lazer Blayde?] - or his individual finger nails on that side are these things. Yeah, that’s the ticket. [Look, just check out the cover Adam did to see what they’re talking about here.] And he has rocket feet as well. Basically, the gist is that things you’d think of “normal” Spite doing because he’s on super drugs is modeled here with cybernetics [Christopher’s unhinged “Remember, get your augments at Pike Labs!” endorsement at around 35:08 is quite the thing].
- Anyway, after a few panels showing off this monstrosity in all his glory, Chrono-Ranger just sighs before shooting him in the head. This doesn’t actually slow him down, unfortunately. They fight him a bit, but wind up having to simply retreat after knocking enough parts off of him to slow him down.
- Next up, they’re flying (think “rowboat” but instead of oars it’s wings) over a dry wasteland as they continue to follow the chronal signature. There’s some vehicular combat/explosions below. Jim’s curious, but La Comodora suggests he not ask questions. That’s not their problem. As they go, the ground goes from a light sand color to a black, blighted look. They approach and rise into some mountains. The vegetation here is carnivorous (obviously so, what with the teeth and all). They begin to hear the sounds of screams and violence from ahead. For the first time in this journey we start to see bodies of “water” - not so much water, though, as flowing blood from all of the carnage ahead.
- Of course, the destination here is a giant Gothic edifice (“so many flying buttresses”) with blood flowing off of it in various places. Jim voices his assumption that this is this reality’s version of the Court of Blood. La Comodora confirms that this is the Cathedral of Blood and we’re currently in what’s known as the Bloodlands. They land and they talk a bit about how if the Vampires are messing with Time stuff “that would be bad” - not that anything at all happening here is good necessarily. They find that the chronal energy is coming from somebody else, however.
- The scene they come across here is XTREME Chrono-Ranger fighting all of the XTREME vampires. What’s this Jim like? A bit bigger and maybe his mechanical arm turns into big guns or something. Hmm… or maybe we play into the fact that his archetype is “cowboy” and instead of going “bigger” make him a more black-hat, dark rider guy. He’s not evil necessarily, but he’s all in black with and a bandanna over his face (with half of his face the exposed “Terminator face” with the implication being that more of his face is missing beneath the bandanna - like maybe half of his body is metal, although we don’t really see more than the arm and face).
- Adam suggests the idea of giving this guy some of the tricks that are later things that Time-Slinger does, like time bubbles and whatnot. Christopher runs with that idea, but more XTREME. He’ll throw a time bubble around, say, an attacking vampire and pulls all the time out of it. It speeds him up, but also ages everything within the bubble to the extent that they decay, so he’s leaving little patches of entropy and waste around him as he fights. He can also shoot through these bubbles and hit stuff on the other side to greater effect as the bullet picks up some of this effect.
- XTREME vampires are all humanoid beings with the addition of giant bat wings. They’ve got the long clawed hands, bat ears, and mouthful of giant sharp teeth setup. They’re more likely to bite your arm clean off than they are to do the “gingerly bite the victim on the neck” thing. Let’s say they have a piercing, damaging shriek as well.
- Cool. That sets the stage, but before our heroes can actually do anything other than take in the scene, Blood Countess Bathory, the Scarred Mother, shows up. She’s more humanoid than the others - she lacks the wings, but she’s got this “cape” of tattered, animated ribbons trailing behind her. XTREME Jim shoots her, but the bullet seems to just pass through the space she occupies without interacting with her body in any way. She approaches him with a comment on him taking out too many of her people and then transforms into the giant bat creature that was featured in the very first Heavy Metal-inspired Extremeverse issue with the Prime Wardens. One thing that happened in that issue was her wings being torn off and her bat form in this issue just has the tattered remnants of them. These “ribbons” of sinew and whatnot still let her beat at the air to fly. She dives out of the air at Chrono-Ranger and just devours him. That’s when she notices the heroes rushing in to help.
- They’re kind of stuck now. This would be a good time to use their various time-nonsense abilities to just get out of there, but Blood Countess uses the power she just got from XTREME Chrono-Ranger to put a “lock” on the area so they can’t use those tricks to get out. Things are dire for the heroes as they fight these vampires, but that’s when the XTREME Paradoja Magnifica flies in with its spikes and guns and everything. The ship fires it’s anchor (essentially a big metal spike) through Blood Countess, pinning her to a wall. Ah, here we go. That’s the entrance. This spike on a chain fires through a big stained-glass window to pin Blood Countess, then the chain starts being reeled in, but instead of pulling the “anchor” up, it pulls the ship through the wall of the cathedral. [Not sure if this is intended to be the canonical dialogue from XTREME La Capitan but it was entertaining: "Hey, mother*#$@ers! Bit off more than you could chew. I saw the chronal signatures going on here and I thought ‘This had to be a party!’"]
- So, what’s an XTREME pirate look like? Definitely a giant hook for one hand, right? Christopher’s idea here is that here we have a person who is aware of how ridiculous her world is and doesn’t take herself as seriously as the rest of the Extremeverse does. All La Capitans are a little detached from their home reality. She’s still super XTREME, but they can play her up for a bit more comedy than usual. This can partly be in service of getting the readers to like her over the next few issues. She loves this place. The Extremeverse is a party and she is “party-mode” La Capitan. She’s got a Flavor Flav-style giant clock slung around her neck. Big ol’ pirate hat with a skull-and-crossbones drawn on it and a giant feather. She’s found a giant, intelligent bird of prey from somewhere (likely somewhere in the Extremeverse, but that’s not important) and has painted it to look like a parrot - it’s flying around the battle here tearing vampires apart. She calls it Polly. [More ridiculous stuff about Polly that I’m not entirely sure if it’s serious: the heroes question that it’s “Polly the Parrot” and it turns to them and says “Caw. Yeah, you gonna do something about it.” Or, after it flies around a bit fighting vampires it eventually gets hurt and comes to land on the ship’s deck. Then pulls out a Tommy gun to wipe out a bunch of them.] The whole deal here is that XTREME La Capitan is leaning into the joke that is the Extremeverse. It’s ridiculous, it’s over-the-top to the extent that it’s funny and she is here for this. This sets her up to just be a fun and funny character in general and so the “Free fight over here” gambit in the Bloodsworn-verse is also on-brand.
- It’s a shame that this issue wouldn’t be a good place to have her so we can’t see her, but the rest of this arc likely does some great stuff on the covers. Like, having them be send-ups of specific famous covers from the past of Sentinel Comics. Say, a cover from the ’80s featuring Expatriette holding a gun and looking bad-ass where say #152 or something from this issue recreates it, only with Polly instead of Expat [so I guess the Polly-with-a-Thompson joke is really something they want to have happened].
- We heard about a previous visit to the Extremeverse when La Comodora finally dealt with Inversiverse Guise - did she enlist the aid of any Extremeverse denizens in that fight? Did she pose as the XTREME version of herself? Was she XTREME enough to succeed? They imagine that Inversiverse Guise tears his way into the Extremeverse and starts causing problems which inevitably results in a fight that involves a bunch of XTREME characters because what’s the point of taking a story there without showing off a bunch of people. Then Chrono-Ranger and La Comodora arrive to find this fight already in progress and they join in. She wouldn’t disguise herself as another version of herself because there’s no benefit to be had by doing so. Dark God Guise defeats everybody because he’s that powerful, but then La Comodora manages to bait him into pursuing her, which leads to that reality that’s chock full of black holes where she trapped him. Adam suggests a teaser type of thing at the end of that issue that suggests that XTREME Guise is around. Like a vague figure and a oddly-colored text bubble saying something like “Things are about to get silly.”
- What was the Shrieker like in the Extremeverse? Was she even ever a hero? Did she just blend into the general population given the standard mode of communication involves screaming? Was she so put out at not being a hero that she turned to villainy as the XTREME Glamour (it seems like having a shtick involving so many mirrors would be hard to pull off with so many explosions around)? If there was ever an XTREME Shrieker, it’s never explained and so all we might have seen would have been Glamour. XTREME Glamour, being somebody who’s basically built around “special effects” gets along just fine in the Extremeverse which is practically built on the stuff. She’s less into mirrors here than pyrotechnics and laser light shows. “She’s a walking Pink Floyd concert, basically.” Or maybe that mixed with a walking GWAR concert.
- What’s XTREME Gruum like - happy that there’s so much more screaming happening, or broody because all of his friends are dead? Why not both!
- You’ve previously mentioned that the XTREME version of Mittermeier’s carnival was an XTREME festival planet - which planet would it be on? Due to the necessity of being able to move around and be sufficiently scary, is it actually on XTREME Orbo? They don’t mind that idea. You could do monster truck jumps over Orbo’s mouth. Of course there are monster trucks. They probably hand you keys to your own truck when you arrive. That sounds XTREME enough for the MMFFCC, but is that XTREME enough for Orbo? Christopher’s dumb idea, which means it’s probably right, is that sure - the carnival is on Orbo and they move around together with some kind of, I dunno, profit-sharing arrangement (or they keep Orbo fed or something), but in order for Orbo to be properly XTREME, this version has a planetary ring system - made of pouches.
- You mentioned previously that La Comodora came here late in the Multiverse-era to get something for the OblivAeon fight; while I’m sure that you’ve outlined what that was above, was this trip to get something and editorial mandate, or just something a writer had come up with that then got leaned into for the OblivAeon event? They kind of explained it in that there was an ongoing plot thread that the ship needed replacement parts occasionally and this was just a particularly dire example of that. It turns out that they weren’t getting it for the OblivAeon event, but just that the stuff they got here anyway just so happened to be very useful in that event.
- Were there any Extremeverse villains that were explicitly off-limits to writers or otherwise deemed “extreme enough” without getting special treatment here (say, GloomWeaver)? GloomWeaver could be way more XTREME. He’s only got one pouch, for example. They don’t think anyone was off-limits. They just did Spite, which was about as extreme as you can get. They’ve done a story involving Setback. They mentioned Guise. Wager Master could still work. They started this whole thing with an awesome Apostate story. It’s certainly the case that not every character has been featured, but that’s more of a time and opportunity thing than it is a mandate from the editors. There’s probably not an Extremeverse appearance of Sk8-Blayde. Well, unless there specifically is one. He’s not going to show up as a minor cameo - if they use him it’s because somebody wants to intentionally have him around. They still don’t think that happened because most times when that could have happened, it would be more interesting to use some other character.
- Given that La Comodora’s reaction to showing up here was “Oh boy, this place” due to how exhausting ’90s comics were, is there anywhere she finds more exhausting? She dislikes the Mustache-verse (where everybody is exactly the same, just with mustaches). An aside here about Mustache-verse or Extremeverse OblivAeon (which don’t exist because he’s a Singular Entity and of them only Wager Master “plays along” with each universe’s gimmick) prompts the question of what XTREME Progeny is like - covered in spikes and constantly roaring out electric guitar riffs. La Comodora has seen it all - she can still be surprised by things, but the Extremeverse is just “Okay, this is going to be a lot and you’ll probably need a nap after we’re done here.” Another aside: neither Christopher nor Adam find ’90s comics “exhausting” they love that stuff (and have been having a blast when coming up with details for this episode). They recognize that not every story needs to be like that though: there’s room for both Megadeth and Decemberists albums in the world.
- Yet another aside - if you’re not familiar with the Decemberists, that’s fine, but they name check Hazards of Love as their favorite album of theirs - if you’re going to listen to that album, make a point to make an activity of it. Listen to the whole album from front to back in a setting where “listening to this album” is the activity you’re doing rather than just having it on as background for something else. Christopher also relates the time he went to a concert during the Hazards of Love tour where they just played the entire thing with no breaks or crowd interaction or anything. Then the curtains close, the lead singer comes out to do the “Hello [city], it’s great to be here” etc. stuff, “Just give us 15 and we’ll be back to play some of our favorite songs.” After the 15 minute intermission the band comes back out and does a further 2-hour concert in a more normal mode. Probably the single best concert he’d been to.
- In Disparation, were there any stories that looked like they were meant to be the future of the main timeline (in the style of Batman Beyond or Spider-man 2099)? They’ve talked a bunch of times about a Future Sentinels book and there’s stuff like that here and there, but certainly there’s at least one Disparation issue that’s along those lines. Likely a volume 1 issue that then was the basis of further things like a limited series at some point.
- How old is La Capitan/Comodora in her various appearances? Does she know how old she is? Is her lifespan that of a normal human, or has sailing the seas of Time altered her (for better or for worse)? The main versions of her we see are the “young” iteration (from Villains of the Multiverse), her “normal” one (from her solo-villain deck), and La Comodora. They’re early 20s, late 30s/early 40s, and 80? (she’s meant to be quite old but also in quite impressive shape for being that old or at least present as being more like 60 than her real age). The trick is that none of those really accurately represents the number of years that she has existed to that point in subjective time - if you lined up her experienced time in a row it’d probably be a few hundred years. Being outside of time and moving back and forth across time has just done weird things to how she ages. But, yeah, she has a rough 20/40/60 split in how old she appears to be while having experienced a nebulous “few hundred years”.
- We’ve been told that CON presents as a female personality and would use she/her pronouns, but what about CHE (the Chronoist’s version of the Concordant Harmonic Entity)? Anything you want to share about who created CHE? Christopher imagined CHE as being more of an “it” and being more along the lines of a “1980s television robot personality” (which Adam points out would present as male), but we see so little of CHE that it’s not likely to really come up much. CON presents as female because Unity programmed her to be a she - it’s not a matter of the robot’s partner gendering the robot. Christopher just sees CHE as being more “I am a robot and I do robot things” than CON is. Adam argues that even if CHE is Speak ’n Spell-like enough to not really have a gender on its own, Chronoist would probably refer to it as “he” regardless as he would anthropomorphize it. Christopher is fine with that interpretation - especially considering the very limited number of appearances of the character in the first place.
- What Chiquito the one who stole the Concordant Helm and brought it on board? No, the Concordant Helm is just the way that [that version of] CON interfaces with the upgraded ship.
- Did the helm come from CHE or some other Chrono-Ranger/CON duo? The upgraded tech on La Comodora’s version of La Paradoja Magnifica were stolen from other versions of the ship from different eras. Chiquito is more of a petty thief and isn’t even really around by the La Comodora stuff.
- Are there any plans to use Ice Bear in further stories? There wouldn’t have been any further appearances in the Multiverse Era. That version of the Freedom Four was pretty solidly a one-off. They might show up in a group shot during the big OblivAeon fight. There are no plans to use them in the RPG era of the main timeline either. It’s not impossible for them to show up again somewhere eventually, but it’s not super-likely either. They’re glad that you like the character, though.
- You mentioned a Kaiju/Sentai universe - which hero is the commander? Who’s the “guy in the chair” type? Is Legacy the team leader (wearing red)? Can we suggest it as a Writers’ Room? It’s definitely on the table as a Writers’ Room topic, but it’s going to be a while since they just did a few Disparation issues and they don’t want to overdo those.
- I think it’s hilarious that you decided that there was a French-speaking character in the Freedom Four 1776 issue and immediately went to “Ambuscade” as the point of connection - in my headcanon he’s definitely Ansel’s ancestor. That’s all well and good, they can’t stop you from headcanoning, but 1) this guy didn’t exist in the universe Ambuscade is from and 2) if he had descendants they’d probably be in the US or Canada, not France where Ansel is from.
- Did you consider having Haka on the 1776 team (given that he would have been alive at the time and it could have been a nod to him being in the original Freedom Five lineup - it could even have been framed as "Haka remembering his first team-up")? They wouldn’t have wanted to frame it as Haka’s first team-up because it’s happening in a different universe (see: how Legacy works being radically different). This issue was also late enough in the publication timeline that they weren’t doing alt-reality Hakas anymore. Additionally, they wanted the roster to be different from existing Freedom Four/Five things.
- There’s a lot of stuff going on here. The cover needs to convey “Chrono-Ranger and La Comodora visit the Extremeverse” and you could get away with either putting Blood Countess/vampires on there, or just Spite. One of the heroes could be captured by Spite with the other looking on in horror. They probably don’t want to do “needle horror” on the cover, though, so maybe not quite that far. Playing up the laser fingers and rocket boots with a neon-city background is fun, though.
- For additional trade dress, this era can get away with having “Return to Extremeverse: Part 1” on there as well. Also, this is a pretty long story as they told it, so having issue #150 getting to be a double sized issue is probably warranted.