The Letters Page: Episode 19
The Freedom Five
Run Time: 68:52
We talk about every published incarnation of the Freedom Five and the Freedom Four, and often go down rabbit trails of nonsense, philosophy, or sometimes outright lies. Enjoy!
The Q&A section in this episode is particularly robust, as well!
IMPORTANT! Starting exactly at 58 minutes and 10 seconds into the episode, we start talking about major story spoilers! If you don't want story spoilers for the Sentinel Comics RPG timeline as they're things you'll get to play through, please skip from 58:10 to 63:40.
As we mentioned last week, we still have the demographic survey going, so if you haven't gotten a chance to answer it yet, please do! Help us grow the Letters Page!
On Thursday, there will be a Dark Watch Interlude! Also, next week, we're recording both the Chokepoint episode AND the K.N.Y.F.E. episode, as Christopher will be in the UK from the end of May through the first week of June. So, get your Chokepoint and K.N.Y.F.E. questions in now!
- First incarnation of the Freedom Four was back near the beginning of comics "Silver Age" (which would put it somewhere in the vicinity of 1956) - Legacy, Wraith, the original Absolute Zero (Henry Goodman), and the Shrieker.
- Legacy is pretty similar then to now - kind of a "timeless" character. As is the Wraith (she's maybe somewhat softened over time, likely a result of just getting to know her as a person over the years rather than a corporate decision to try to do so). Absolute Zero, as mentioned previously, was there to try to boost his popularity, which didn't work. The Shrieker had been around a while at this point, but she was also there largely as an attempt to promote her.
- Nobody was really hyped about this team, but it wasn't enough to get the book cancelled right away. They added another character (so we have the team transitioning from Freedom Four to Freedom Five in both incarnations). They added a stoic, nomadic muscle guy who had premiered in Arcane Tales (which featured a lot of one-off stories - not even really a superhero book) where he would fight monsters. This would be The Savage Haka: Monster Fighter! At the time, his characterization was pretty thin, basically "huge mountain of a man who fights big scary monsters". This is not sufficient to save the title, though, and The Freedom Five is cancelled.
- The Shrieker (who doesn't appear in any of our real-world Sentinel Comics products) is Aislin Allen who could shriek (thus the name) very loudly - at first, basically, just "yelling really loudly" to hurt bad guys' ears, but progressing to such standard fare as breaking glass. They developed this, eventually, into her being able to modulate victims' inner ears to mess with their balance or as a mild form of hypnosis. She still never really connected to an audience, though.
- Legacy and the Wraith pretty much just go back to what they'd been prior to the team, as does Haka, but with the caveat that now he's been established as being part of the superhero stories generally. Legacy and Wraith continue to have more crossovers than had been the case beforehand and the groundwork has been laid for Haka to appear in other hero books occasionally. After the FF book is cancelled, both Shrieker and AZ just kind of disappear, although Aislin does make a reappearance later as the 4th Glamour (more on the history of the Glamour name in an upcoming Interlude on the Slaughter-House Six, just after the Ambuscade episode).
- With the publication of the Freedom Four Annual #1, they also bring back the Freedom Four title itself - the only real reference to the existence of the previous incarnation of the team, however, is that the latter title maintained consecutive numbering and picked up where the old one left off. [This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to get for my timeline project!] So, now we have Legacy and Wraith being joined by two new heroes, the current Bunker (there had been a Golden Age Bunker after all, but this isn't really Tyler's first appearance since he'd been in his own title already, but largely independent of the superhero stories) and Tachyon (who also had been a long-running supporting character). FFA #2 introduces Ryan Frost and he joins the team to make it the Freedom Five again in that issue. Both books stay "Freedom Five" books from then on with one exception in each book.
- Jumping ahead to OblivAeon since much of the other events that happen have already been discussed in the individual member episodes: OblivAeon was an editorial push by management to simplify the setting and narrow the focus of the books into a manageable form. The OblivAeon event acts as a "soft reboot" to accomplish this. There were two factions, however, when it came to how things should progress afterwards. These become what we have been calling the Tactics Timeline and RPG Timeline (not the "official" names within the meta-setting of Sentinel Comics publishing, but they work for our purposes here).
- During OblivAeon, the Freedom Five as the flagship team of the setting, was ultimately somewhat sidelined - again by editorial mandate. The FF were the most popular heroes, largely in terms of exposure. This was an opportunity to highlight all of their other characters, though. The build-up to the OblivAeon events involved the FF heavily to make sure that the readership was well aware that something major was going to go down soon (interacting with Scions, all of the ARG stuff they're involved in, etc.) - then OblivAeon shows up in Megalopolis and destroys Freedom Tower, with the team inside. Legacy and Tachyon are now injured, Bunker's suits have been destroyed, AZ's gear is messed up, and the Wraith is trying to keep the team together. So, while the Freedom Five book continues throughout the OblivAeon event, it's mostly about other characters, only checking in with the titular team occasionally to see what their status is. By the end of things, though, the team is back up and running with their new costumes (pretty much just for this fight) and lead the "final charge", as it were, to defeat OblivAeon.
- Did the numbering of issues reset? At no point did the FF title get renumbered.
- Were the FFA books actually annual? They were in sort of a "at most once a year" kind of state - they're more of a "here's a special issue" for an event rather than being published regularly every 12 months.
- Is there typically a resolution of a story in the Annuals or were they used to introduce new stories that would then be resolved later? Kind of both. Some were complete "one-shot" style stories, others were the culmination of events that had been going on in the main books, and yet others launched these events that would then continue in others. The FFA books were also generally crossover stories - only really #1, #2, and #12 were just the team.
- Are there any FF issues that don't actually feature the FF? Yes, but they're very rare. Some of the OblivAeon stuff as mentioned above, there's the one Freedom Six issue during the Iron Legacy story.
- Which hero besides the FF and Unity made the most appearances in the FF book - why did they not become a member? Haka and Tempest are around a lot (that's why they're in the BBQ picture), but they go on to make their own team. They often acted as a point-of-contact for other stuff happening out in the world when they'd cross over to the FF stuff.
- What does the FF think about Guise? They try not to.
- Who's the most persistent villain? Baron Blade.
- Who had the most success in beating the FF? Baron Blade.
- Which villain was the least successful in defeating them? Baron Blade. He's just hugely important to the setting and to the FF team specifically and even to the Multiverse setting itself, if you look at his arc.
- During the Mad-Bomber Blade event, what were the FF up to leading up to him storming in with his death ray? As was mentioned in the Baron Blade episode, when he set his bombs all over town and called them out, they weren't there. The FF was on Mars fighting aliens at the time (this is a pretty early FF story) and so other heroes fight him. The FF returns right at the end of the plot and that's when the death ray incident happens.
- Which members have the hardest time seeing eye-to-eye? Legacy and AZ - they're kind of on opposite ends of fortunate happenstance. They all get along well and by the midpoint of the overall arc they're all friends, but Legacy's cheerful outlook is contrasted with AZ's pessimism.
- How does the team handle the fact that only the Wraith really has a secret identity? Most stories they're involved in aren't really ones that secret identities would really factor into (although she does still try to keep her identity secret from the team for a few issues at the beginning). Wraith's solo stories involve the secret identity factor quite a bit, though.
- What is the reaction of the rest of the team to Wraith and Bunker's relationship? "It's about time." Everybody else pretty much knew what was going on well before Bunker and Wraith did - even Unity twigging that something was up between them when she joined. [This sounds kind of at odds to the description of there not being a lot of will-they-won't-they prior back in the Wraith Episode - I guess it's possible that everybody else being aware that this was gonna happen could actually be a pretty short interval, though.]
- When Freedom Five Annual switched back to Freedom Four for one issue, what was the cause (Wraith being thought to have died? c.f. her incap art)? First, she wasn't thought dead (comic covers lie a lot) - it was indicative of her thinking about her life and possibly giving up heroics. The Freedom Four Annual #7 issue is a flashback issue while Tachyon and AZ are talking about the old-time Freedom Four vs. Baron Blade (setting up some more of his specific backstory).
- Have there been "temporary" members of the team, say while another member is out of commission for some reason? None of the teams have had "short-term" members. There are plenty of cameos and team-ups, but it's not like there's people rotating on and off some kind of official roster.
- The Freedom Five are government-sponsored, does this put limits on who or where they can fight/help? Yes. Initially there were very little restrictions as it was pretty hand-wavey (we have funding, don't ask questions), it wasn't until the writers started paying more attention to the implications of government involvement that it started to matter. The Termi-Nation event (more in Chokepoint's episode next week) starts to getting into the stresses inherent in the government telling the heroes what to do.
- The old FFHQ building shows up in Friction's deck (FFA #27) but Ermine shows up at the Freedom Tower reception desk citing that same issue; we've been told that FT became the HQ after the old building was destroyed during the Vengeance event, but when/why/etc. was FT built? They don't. FFA #27 involves Freedom Tower and the Tomb of Anubis. FFHQ was destroyed at the beginning of the Vengeance event and by the end the FF are set up in Freedom Tower. The art from Ermine's card ("Long Con") is actually from a later event when she and Fright Train break in (mentioned last week) - art and quotes don't have to actually correspond to one another.
- Did the FF recruit their lawyer, Ms. Hawke, for The Trial of Baron Blade event or another time? Is she close to the team? What major plots has she been involved in? She shows up at FFHQ following the trial event to offer her services. She doesn't really get along with them (she thinks the whole heroing thing is silly), but her job is to keep them out of trouble legally, and she's good at it, not to be their friend. She has her own office, but when Freedom Tower is being built, it's kind of with an eye to all of the support staff they've accrued over time. The logic is kind of wonky (FFHQ was pretty much just them, but after it gets blown up and when they open Freedom Tower a lot more people work in the building). Now they've got their lawyer, a janitorial staff (Larry Hillburn!), some maintenance personnel for all of the gadgets involved with the team, researchers/technicians working with Tachyon, the people who work on costumes, etc. Most of the staff gets evacuated before OblivAeon destroys the place, but that means the team is still there when it happens.
- If the Wraith sold off all her stuff to "buy out" the team's government obligations (Tactics timeline), how does the team pay for things after? She didn't spend all of the money and they continue to use the remainder. Tachyon has some patents that bring in some income as she's no longer part of the old lab and is operating independently now.
- In the Unity episode we find out that she was originally on a cartoon adaptation, how closely did it stick to the comics? Did they have to tone down violence/did characters like Nightmist or Expatriette show up? Any hints about Tachyon's relationship with her wife? It got changed a lot - violence was toned down a lot, no relationship stuff. There would be cameo episodes for other characters, but still just not representative of the comics at all.
- Are there details about the Sentinel Comics staff? Writers, artists, etc.? Yes, the guys have put some thought into this kind of stuff - more on this at a later date [they say by the end of the year we'll be able to see this ourselves - I'm guessing something to do with the RPG materials]
- As hinted above, the editorial push for the OblivAeon "reset" of the setting had two factions on where things should go from there. One wanted to focus on the Freedom Five, the other was to focus on the other heroes they'd been promoting over the event. The latter won out, at least at first, but the other still got a say eventually.
- Tactics - the one focusing on the Freedom Five and their struggle with the government. In the long-term arc of the setting, Tachyon will continue to push herself too hard given her injuries during the Progeny and OblivAeon fights. Further, Glamour is a character that always tries to get the drop on Tachyon and it never goes well for her (even the Shrieker - Tachyon is faster than the speed of sound for example), but Tachyon is eventually killed by the Glamour from this timeline - Miss Information. Unity then becomes a full member of the team.
- RPG - the one focusing on the stable of other heroes. Spoilers for RPG content coming out later this year. The RPG starter kit is the last Freedom Five story and the dissolution of the team. Unity has already left the team (but is visiting in the story). As part of the adventure, Legacy makes some decisions about himself and hangs up the cape - feeling that he can do more good by helping all these new heroes rather than going out to punch stuff himself - and Felicia takes up the mantle as Legacy (in the RPG book, the Legacy character page is her rather than her father) and will be working with a team of five all-new heroes, Daybreak. Paul is now part of the Sentinels of Freedom (the old FF team acting as mentors for new heroes, etc.) and takes the new name of Heritage.