The Letters Page: Episode 192
Writer's Room: Daybreak #6
The newest, youngest, RPGest team! And a spooooky adventure!
Run Time: 1:36:31
Gotta say, we had a lot of fun delving into a lighter fare (but still spooky and frankly pretty dark) story with our Daybreak friends! But yeah, we managed to make it weird, even still.
This Friday is an Editor's Note! Join us live if you're part of the Letters Page Patreon! We hope to "see" you all there for a Very Halloween Editor's Note!
- Welcome to our first Writers’ Room episode set post-OblivAeon. Today’s story will be about the team of teenage heroes known as Daybreak. The RPG core book includes their character sheets and features an adventure, “Battle of the Bands”, which models issue #4 of their title. Additionally, two of the conventions one-shot adventures feature the team. Legacy #1, titled “Stolen Legacy”, involves them as does the “Urban Infestation” issue from Daybreak #7. Today’s story will be from Daybreak #6 from October 2017 - they can know this immediately this week because the prompt is “Daybreak Halloween Special” and so putting it in the very first October that the title exists seems appropriate given that they wanted to still have Aeon Girl be very naive regarding “human things”.
- Comics Industry Practices and Their Annoyance with Them: in the modern era of comics publishing, the major publishers all work under the assumption that their normal monthly floppy comic books are going to be republished as a trade paperback eventually. This leads to a lot of six-issue arcs where a story is told over the course of those six issues rather than any individual book being one you can pick up and be a complete story in itself (a practice called Decompressed Storytelling). They don’t feel that the value for money is particularly worth it to go into a comic shop and buy an issue for $5 given that you’ll need to spend $30 total to get the whole story - especially when you can wait and get the trade later for like $20. They recognize that they’re grumpy old men in this regard.
- Why is this relevant? Well, up through the end of the Multiverse Era and the OblivAeon story they make the history of Sentinel Comics hew fairly closely to the history of comic books as a medium. As such, in the modern, pre-OblivAeon period of SC publishing things are also “written for the trade” (see last week’s episode regarding Harpy and Alpha where they built out a six-issue arc for this very reason). However, OblivAeon was meant to be a major breaking point. They do not feel constrained to make RPG-era stories or the business practices of Sentinel Comics as a publisher “historically accurate” in the way that all of the SotM content was meant to be.
- Exceptions: one major break point between the Metaverse and real life that led to this point is the fact that, about a decade ago, there wasn’t a major live-action film franchise that changed the landscape of pop-culture and its relationship with superheroes in general (that is, there wasn’t an Iron Man equivalent film to launch an MCU-like thing). Instead, at that time we see the beginnings of the long-running and very popular Sentinel Comics Animated Universe on television and movie screens.
- Another difference is that Sentinel Comics hasn’t, in recent decades, been focusing on Event-driven storytelling - jumping from one major crossover event to another several times a year. That practice means that a fan can’t just read the title about their hero/team of choice - they’ve constantly got to buy issues of all of these other titles in order to get the whole story. While cool stories can come out of that, they don’t particularly like that either given that it’s purely marketing-driven, is hostile to the customer, and results in a lack of variety of kinds of stories being told (if every few issues you’re pulling multiple books into a single event, that event is all that you’re going to be seeing for a few months at least). So, Sentinel Comics doesn’t really do that either. They think that this was probably a result from Metaverse writers feeling really constrained by the types of stories they were required to tell and forming something like a “comics writers union” and working with management to come to an agreement on how things were going to work rather than the talent just leaving for their own imprints or crowdfunding or similar.
- That second one is important for today’s story because it’s why here, in issue #6 of a new title about new characters, they’re able to do a self-contained story about Halloween rather than it having to be the climax of a story that’s been building since issue #1. That’s not to say that things are quite so episodic as they were way back in the early days of comics, just that the storytelling isn’t as decompressed and “written for the trades” anymore.
- Okay, so getting to the actual story. We open with the team in a school lecture, passing notes back and forth with one another (which gives us some insight into their different characters through the way they write, both in terms of handwriting and the content - there’s some discussion on whether kids these days still pass notes vs. texting, but they come down on the side of notes for our purposes here). They’re talking about “what we’re doing this weekend” which has Aeon Girl excited - what’s this weekend (I mean, all weekends and the new stuff they bring are exciting, but why are you guys excited?). She’s told that it’s Halloween and her response of “What’s Halloween?” gets intercepted by the teacher (Aeon Girl is just the least subtle in terms of note passing - they just kind of float to the other person, glowing). The teacher reacts in the stereotypical angry “Passing notes in class?” way until they read it, at which point it becomes “You don’t know what Halloween is?” at which point the whole class devolves into a discussion about Halloween (for a few panels).
- After class, the team starts talking with her more in-depth about costumes and trick or treating. This involves the logistics of actually doing this since they’re all too old for it (Muse, at around 13 or 14 is maybe at the cusp and could still get away with it). Headlong admits that he thinks Halloween is pretty cool, but Rockstar thinks it’s dumb (“You always look like you’re on the way to a Halloween party!” “It’s not a costume, it’s an outfit. It’s making a fashion statement; entirely different!”). In any event, they think that with a young-looking Aeon Girl and if they are “good kids” instead of getting pegged as troublemakers they can probably get away with doing this even as old as they are. Luckily, Aeon Girl can make herself look like she’s 6 and the rest of them can just be taking her around as “older siblings” or similar. Come to think of it, Muerto can probably pass as well as he could just inhabit something smaller than his usual collection of junk (“This is definitely a small child in an Absolute Zero costume, not an empty costume being puppeted around”). At some point somebody has the idea that Muse could just make the people at the houses see them as small children. Muse shuts that idea down real fast (“Stop encouraging me to use my powers in a bad way”). It’s funny that everybody else is irresponsible with regards to Muse’s powers except her.
- That’s the plan. Muerto and Aeon Girl as little kids. Muse as kind of pushing it, but probably okay. Rockstar and Headlong as the older, responsible kids who are taking the little ones around for the evening. Next year we’ll do a proper “teen Halloween” experience with a party or something, but this year Aeon Girl gets to trick or treat.
- We cut straight to the trick or treating rather than a getting-ready montage or something. However, we need to break here to actually work out what the costumes are as that is very important.
- Adam is confident that he has one locked and loaded: Muerto is a ghost. Like, you’re stereotypical “two holes cut in a bedsheet” ghost that’s just been thrown over his usual “floating metal” thing.
- Christopher considers that given Headlong usually already has the elbow/knee pads look going he could be doing a Mad Max style post-apocalypse thing. Just “punk up” his usual outfit. Adam counters with the idea of leaning into the color of his costume instead and go with Michael Jackson from the Thriller video.
- Given how much Rockstar pushed back on the whole costume vs. fashion thing earlier, it’s funny for her to have a really elaborate one, but one that’s also really basic, like Elsa from Frozen. Hmm… y’know, given that it’s 2017 and she can make “ice” crystals and has the right hair color, that’s probably the best possible option for her.
- Muse… Headlong can pull off the red Michael Jackson look, Rockstar overdoes it because she always overdoes it, and Muerto’s is a great joke. Muse is coming at this from “an attempt was made” teenage angle. It’s not ironic or non-participatory in the “tee shirt that says ‘this is my costume’ on it” way, but not necessarily well-done. Something really low-effort and easy like witch, vampire, pirate, or just regular clothes with dog ears and face paint. There we go. Black pants and tee shirt, cat ears headband, and face makeup of the “three lines on each cheek for whiskers, dot on nose” variety. Minimal effort. It’s possible the shirt isn’t even plain black and is really like a band shirt that she already owned.
- Speaking of pirate, that’s what Aeon Girl does. Plastic hook and sword. Like, she could just turn her hand into a hook, but no. She gets a store-bought plastic “pirate costume” accessory set, shape-changes her hand away, and then sticks the hook on the end of her arm. She gets, just, all the pirate stuff: eyepatch, parrot on one shoulder, monkey on the other. Even a small “treasure chest” to put candy in instead of a bag or bucket. They briefly consider Muerto being the treasure chest, but decide the ghost gag is just too good to abandon now. She even talks in the stereotypical “pirate accent” the whole time.
- Okay, so now we know what they’re all dressed as, back to the story. We get some vignettes of them going door to door - some people comment on how nice it is for the “older kids” to take the little ones around to trick or treat. Between houses Rockstar stays in character in the “come along, children” kind of way with some muttered complaints from the ones posing as said children. There are discussions about how some houses get reputations for having “the good candy” while others are the “boxes of raisins” or “toothbrushes” people. Debunking the “candy with needles in them” or similar myths. Telling scary stories. Trying to jump-scare one another. Good times.
- They approach a new neighborhood and as they enter and look down the first street, it’s eerie. The artist for this issue drew a house on either side of the street and then essentially just copy/pasted them down the line (shrinking it as they go for perspective), just identical the whole way (same cars parked in the same spot in each driveway, all the shrubs and mailboxes are the same, etc.). It’s weird, but they shrug it off as “suburbs with cookie-cutter houses”. Muse makes a “glitch in the Matrix” joke, but nobody gets it (“it’s a classic movie thing, just forget it”) [The Matrix would have come out 18 and a half years prior to this issue for context - these kids are all younger than that movie, despite some of them being characters in comics well before that point - notably the young Vanessa Long who makes the joke.] The houses have their lights on, so let’s go.
- The first house’s residents are very “perfect suburbia” Stepford Wives kinds of people. You get the standard “and who are you supposed to be?” thing from the people and they offer your standard “generic fun-size chocolate bars” in an orange bucket treats. A completely generic Halloween interaction. Then they go to the next house and it’s exactly the same. Even the comic panel showing it is identical except for our heroes’ faces that now show some confusion/concern. The same at the third house, without any changes from the peoples’ dialog even when the “kids” ask them what’s going on. They start getting a bit freaked out after the first repetition, but by the time they’re between the 4th and 5th houses they’re straight up planning “this is bad, if this next house is the same again we’ve got to do something”. They also notice that they’re the only kids on the street and it’s eerily quiet (no animals or other “outside noises” that you’d expect).
- Of course, the 5th house is the same and our heroes are immediately noping right out of this. The question is what they do. Do they run away or do they run into the house? It’s gotta be the latter - “these kids aren’t runners” and they’re the types to get themselves in over their heads. They might at least step back to huddle up and plan a bit first, though.
- Whoops - something they meant to say earlier as it was part of their planning discussion: during the discussion of activities after class, but before the smash-cut to trick or treating, they ask Legacy if she wants to come along. She doesn’t. It’s kid stuff and she has multiple serious adult jobs saving the world in one way or another. Just have fun with a night off, team. Nothing bad can happen. That’s relevant because: This is something bad that has happened. They’re heroes and need to save the day, but they also need to be able to prove to Legacy that something was up. Just leaving and reporting that “everything was the same” can get brushed off as “Yeah, that’s the suburbs for you.”
- So, the plan. They could have Muerto ghost into the basement to see if the real people are tied up or something. Muse reads the duplicate peoples’ minds. Or tries to - they’re blank slates. There’s enough there to answer the door and say the script and that’s it.
- What’s the actual plot here? How about something about DNA harvesting. The script at each house includes something like “You kids look like you’ve been at this for a while. Do you want to come in for a cup of hot chocolate?” Kids go in, get something done to them for reasons. Given that these older kids know that “you don’t go into strangers houses” is bad, they also figure that since this is obviously something bad going on, the bad stuff has to be inside the houses, giving more reasons to actually head in.
- Muerto going in first is still the play here. We probably see him get trapped in some way when he tries to ghost in (although we don’t see what traps him). Muse reports that she’s lost contact with him, they check their phones as he tends to text when necessary, but nothing. Enough is enough, they head to the front door again to ask about their friend. They interrupt the script to ask what they’ve done to him - “I don’t know about your friend. You’ve been the only kids all night. Would you like to come in for a cup of hot chocolate?” Rockstar’s had enough of this and responds with “How about a hot cup of punch in the face!” (yes, this is a terrible quip - the group gives her some grief about it later) and slugs the “mom” who gets knocked on her back and lays there, still with that Stepford-smile on her face. The “dad” then repeats the hot chocolate offer. At that moment, all of the doors of the rest of the houses open simultaneously. The kids are more than happy to come in at that moment.
- Now that they’re inside, the line of sight from the front door back to the kitchen is well lit, but nothing else is. Anything else is dark. The team is going to split up at this point. Headlong keeps going to the kitchen as he’s the “talking to people” guy. So, that’s him planned for, Muerto is MIA, they think that Muse and Aeon Girl stick together in a search for Muerto (and therefore the basement) and Rockstar heads upstairs. Our view follows her at first. The stairs aren’t lit and when she gets to the top there are two closed doors and an open one into a pink, princess-themed bedroom. Just, the super stereotypical “little girl” bedroom. Rockstar thinks this is the last place she wants to go, but the closed doors are locked. She could bust through those, and the pink room is obviously a trap, but here we go. She can handle it. As soon as she’s in the room we get another “oh no!” reaction, the lights go out and the door slams shut. From there we move on to…
- Muse and Aeon Girl try a number of doors on the main floor and things are just off. Like, they find a coat closet with 6 identical fur coats. Nobody wears fur coats anymore. A bathroom is sparkling clean and non-functional in a “this house has been on the market for a long time and they’ve stoppered the sink and sealed the toilet shut to keep it clean for showings” kind of way. They find a den/library kind of room with a desk with the stereotypical “desk stuff” (stapler, etc.) that Muse looks at while Aeon Girl checks out the bookshelves. The latter at least seems relatively “normal” in that it’s a variety of books rather than being copy/paste of the same thing over and over. She goes to pull one book off and, of course, that’s the switch to do the thing where the shelves swing around, taking her behind them. Meanwhile Muse is still working on the locked desk drawers, but let her know if you find anything interesting. Where did you go?
- Then we cut back to Headlong, where we get more information on what’s going on and where the story changes from “mystery” to “conflict”. Headlong’s asking probing questions like “How long have you lived here?” (which gets something like “All my life!” in response). He turns around to offer the hot chocolate with a “Drink up!” Headlong backs up saying that he’s not interested, but backs into the “mom” who’s back on her feet (although her head is still at an unnatural angle). She grabs his face with a “You have to drink your hot chocolate. It’s Halloween after all.” Headlong having the powers he does manages to slip out of her grasp easily, but now we have a mini chase scene as they’re trying to grab him again. He’s not fighting them, just trying to keep away from them. At some point they’ve got him cornered in some room, but he manages to kick the cup of hot chocolate and it splashes on the mom’s face, melting the flesh away, revealing the weird metal/ceramic/bone/wood skeleton underneath as she defaults back to the “Happy Halloween! And who are you supposed to be?” part of the script as she starts to “glitch”. The dad comments on him “spilling his hot chocolate” and leaves to get more.
- Headlong takes this opportunity to try to get away and runs into Rockstar in the hall. “Where have you been?” “Trapped upstairs, but I got out. No time to explain we need to find the others.” Every door they open during the search leads to a room with mom and dad figures in them who launch into the script. Doors slam, they run to the next room, repeat until they get to stairs leading down into darkness. They head down just as the doors in the hall swing open with lines from the script coming from each of the rooms.
- They try to wedge the door shut behind them with a broom or something as they head down. They head through the dark room with cobwebs and whatnot and find Aeon Girl huddled up on herself muttering about getting lost in the dark and not being able to find her way out as it’s all the same everywhere. That’s because they find that the basements of all of these identical houses lead down here. Some of the doors down here are like “shop” doors rather than house doors like upstairs. When they open one they see the silhouettes of the mom and dad and start to freak out, but the figures don’t move. The things are being built down here and these weren’t done yet.
- Planning: when/how do they find Muse and Muerto? They each have an idea for one of them that they were saving, but in short Muerto is in a ghost trap (but we don’t get to him until the final confrontation), Muse was the first to really be clued into the problematic house when Aeon Girl disappeared and when they find her she’s in mystery-solving mode. Anyway, we’re pushing things in terms of page count as it is, so let’s speed things up. Lights start coming on basically leading them to where they need to go, which is a big underground lab. Let’s say we skip the “shop rooms” and this is where the couples are being built. Muerto’s trapped in something that looks kind of like a lava lamp.
- Okay, so we know who the villain is in this story, but is this one of those stories where the villain doesn’t actually make an appearance? He’s set things in motion and whatnot, but the heroes don’t run into him. Sure, let’s go with that.
- Besides Muerto we have a bunch of cages holding frightened children of various ages wearing costumes. There are also a lot of the “parents” walking around (still with the script going) while taking various samples from the kids (blood, snips of hair, etc.). This is where we can have a fight scene. The actions the automatons take don’t need to conform to the ruse upstairs and they can have blades extend from their arms or something (although with the same creepy script going). Now, these three heroes each have no problems taking down one of these things. What is a problem is the fact that there seem to be endless numbers of them as they continue to come in from elsewhere in the complex.
- That’s when Muse comes in. The first thing she does is free Muerto. The two of them free the children. The plan? Tonight we take “all of the candy” - they all pick up buckets or whatever else they can find and start collecting up all of the sample cases and everything that the “parents” have been taking. The goal is to take everything and get out while the bad guys are busy fighting Headlong, Rockstar, and Aeon Girl.
- How do they end the fight? Muerto! The thing he saw when he came down was the machine that the “parents” are coming from. He tries to take it over, but it backlashes into him. It overloads and malfunctions - a gross thing made of like a dozen of the “parents” all blorped together comes through (“Happy Halloween! And what are you supposed to be?” but with weird misshapen word balloons). Now they’ve got to deal with a “monster” but at least the machine broke in the process of making this thing.
- It’s really big. It backhands Rockstar across the room or something and stands up, breaking through the ceiling (which is the floor of the house above) so we see this gross monster bursting up into the idyllic neighborhood. Kids in costumes running away to pile up the samples somewhere so the heroes can destroy all of it. Big setpiece fight where Daybreak defeats the homunculus. No, the hoMOMculus! The Homomculus Patriarch!
- So, while this is obvious to us that this is a Biomancer story, he’s not really public knowledge and so likely goes unnamed in this issue. This nicely sets up the Conspiracy of Clones story over in Tome of the Bizarre next month, though. We’re gonna go ahead and say that this facility in this neighborhood is where all of the duplicates in that story were coming from and so, if you played and have any luck foiling the villainous plot in that story, it’s because Daybreak broke their production capacity in this one. Not that Daybreak has any idea.
- Anyway, the good line to end this part of the story on is Aeon Girl asking “Is every Halloween like this? I don’t know if I like it. It’s a weird holiday.” Then we get a few codas. First, they return to the dorms, open the door and are greeted with “Happy Halloween! And who are you supposed to be?” It’s Legacy, with a bowl of candy. Daybreak shuts that right down. They don’t want to hear any more of that tonight, thanks. We’re good. Finally, Rockstar gets back to her room, still wearing what’s left of her Elsa dress. She looks around in the hall, enters her room and locks the door. She reaches into her floofy dress and pulls out the pink princess outfit that she took from the house and puts into her closet.
- What costumes did they wear (if by some chance you didn’t specify earlier)? How adorable was Aeon Girl’s costume? They did talk about it. Aeon Girl’s was pretty adorable, but also a bit over-the-top and she was a bit insufferable with the pirate speak that she kept up throughout the rest of the story, scared in the dark, fights, and all.
- What costumes did the Sentinels of Freedom (and let’s say Heritage and Unity as well) wear? We don’t see anybody else in Halloween costumes. This issue was a teen book and they had an excuse, but it didn’t happen in any of the other stories this month. On that note, however, have we seen heroes in Halloween costumes in the past? Like a Halloween party at Freedom Tower? Even better, the heroes have to go save the day somewhere that a party is happening, but the party attendees are in costume as heroes which leads to plenty of confusion. They just don’t think that “heroes dressing up for Halloween” is something that we really see outside of teen-centric books (although there was a brief mention in the abandoned “party at Freedom Tower” idea of Bunker pulling off a really good Baron Blade costume which is a fun visual).
- What does Ansel G. Moreau think of people dressing up as him (either as himself, Ambuscade, or Stuntman)? He loves it, provided that you do a good job. Like, he’s into a well done Night Hunter costume. He also gets a kick out of Ambuscade costumes.
- Just how angry to all the people wearing Legacy costumes make Baron Blade? Less anger and more disgust and pity. This is what you choose to emulate?
- Which heroes would hand out “fun size” candy despite the fact that they’re less fun than the full size versions? Who would give out king-size stuff? Adam, who wants to be known as a “good house” for trick or treating, will be handing out the standard sized candy for Halloween. This is expensive and is something you have to budget for. They just moved and have, since buying the stuff, found out that they’re likely to get more trick or treaters than they originally expected and likely won’t be doing this next year. He can’t even imagine giving out king-size candy. Wraith has the budget for it, but they can’t imagine her handing out candy. She gets somebody to hand out candy at her house, but she’s out patrolling. Setback and Expatriette give out full-size at their apartment (which… apartment trick or treating is a different thing, but for the building kids I guess) because Setback wants to be “the good house” and Expat is making up for not getting to do this sort of thing when she was a kid. The apartment thing likely restricts the potential numbers of kids as well, so it’s not going to break the bank. Absolute Zero doesn’t engage with this at all. Tachyon and Dana give out fun-size, but allow kids to take more than one. Tachyon’s justification is that you can eat them faster and if you have multiples it still winds up being the same amount of candy.
- A question this prompts from them is “Who gives out band-aids/apples/etc.?” Y’know, the “responsible”, missing the point of the experience people. Naturalist? They joke that Mr. Fixer gives out Apples and DW Fixer gives out brass knuckles. Nobody trick or treats at NightMist’s house. Well, somebody finding the place to trick or treat could make for a good story. Apples… Legacy is going to go the very-traditional route and gets the “Halloween mix” bag of assorted candy to hand out. Maybe that’s why they’re heroes. None of them are the type to give apples. Oh, here we go. K.N.Y.F.E. has a bucket of apples. Not as a mean thing or a “healthy” thing - she’s just got some really good apples and thinks they’re a good treat. She’s also got mini-bottles of Scotch for the parents. Guise gives out those prank cans of beans or nuts or whatever with the spring-loaded “snake” in them. Sky-Scraper gives out gives out those party noise-makers with the unrolling paper tube. Those are for holidays, right?
- Do you have any particular Halloween costumes that were memorable? Which Sentinel Comics character would you have wanted to dress up as when you were young? Adam would have wanted to have been Guise, maybe one of the “edgelord” tough characters, or a villain. Christopher definitely would have done Chrono-Ranger (he was a cowboy at one point so that seems like a no-brainer). One of Adam’s memorable ones was a turtle costume that had an inflatable shell which he turned into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume by adding some things. Christopher had a self-made costume that was made from a cardboard box that was big enough for him to fit inside with holes cut out for his arms. He painstakingly painted it to look like a book. He then wore green pants, turtleneck, gloves, and face paint. He was a bookworm. Beyond that one, he had a pretty good Zorro costume one year.
- Does Setback still trick or treat? No.
- Every good Halloween story has the curmudgeon who doesn’t want to participate, so who was it in Daybreak? Which is the one who really gets into it? Rockstar is the curmudgeon. She’s just too cool for school. She gets over it. Muerto is also, in his own way, but just does the “I’ll throw on a sheet” and gets on with it. Aeon Girl probably qualifies as the one who most gets into it. Headlong is the most outwardly into it in that he knows how fun it is and doesn’t let “growing up” get in the way. A big part of the Headlong/Rockstar dynamic is that he is willing to be earnest about the things that he’s into and she puts on this front of only caring about rock and is super serious about it.
- When did you first conceptualize Daybreak as characters? They were made for the RPG. Well, “Daybreak” was. Aeon Girl was originally intended to be part of the Sentinel Tactics line and got moved over to the RPG. They wanted a teen team and started making up stories like they had for SotM back in the day. Some of those stories had connections to what came before [see: Muse and Muerto being characters that had appeared in SotM and Aeon Girl’s backstory involves Lifeline/OblivAeon] but we can let some of them be their own thing and go from there. They saw this as a blueprint for how people could go about making their own characters - people who are invested in the setting already can see some ways to make new characters connect back to things they already know about.
- How does your “few toppings” design philosophy apply to characters created so late in the timeline? Like, “guy with ‘cold guns’” for the original Absolute Zero is much easier to digest than Aeon Girl’s “artificial being created by a hero from the absorbed life force of an evil cosmic entity bent on the destruction of the multiverse” - how to you balance topping-heavy characters to be digestible “one slice at a time”? The trick is starting simple, build up a series of those simple things, and then tell broad strokes. You don’t need to get into the nitty gritty. You don’t need to explain all about Lifeline and OblivAeon to describe Aeon Girl, just say that she’s energy left over from a cosmic entity that’s been given independent, sentient form. That’s all you really need. Talking about how she’s a newly-created being and is still trying to figure things out is more important than her exact origins.
- I’ve been avoiding RPG-related episodes of the podcast to avoid spoilers, but as somebody who’s recently picked up the book and has technical questions, which of these episodes should I skip to avoid story spoilers? Extrasode 5 (livestream post-mortem), 118 (about the RPG in general), 174 (xxtz’Hulissh), Bullpen 4, and Bullpen 5? They think that you’re probably okay listening to any of those. Nothing in the xxtz’Hulissh one is something you wouldn’t get from the book and if there are significant spoilers they tend to give a warning ahead of time and then use your judgement as you listen. The livestream episode might be better to listen to after you actually watch the livestreams, though. The Bullpens are largely reactionary to what questions people ask so you get context as you go for those. Episode 118 was mostly about the RPG as a product in general and they think it’s probably pretty safe, but it’s pretty wide-ranging in topics.
- How popular are Daybreak as a comic and as characters in the Metaverse considering that they’re new and haven’t really had time to get much pop-culture exposure yet? Do people reject them as they feel that Sentinel Comics is trying to “push” them too hard right from the jump? Is it considered a “kid’s book”? They’re fairly popular because 1) they’re handled well and 2) while they’re a new book, so is everything else being published at that time. It’s almost refreshing. It is aimed at a teen/young adult audience, but that also happens to be the largest marketing segment in publishing generally. This is specifically designed to show up in Scholastic and book fairs. There is a degree of “automatic popularity” that comes to things in that market.
- Back on the “how much of a ‘person’ is a flesh child?” question and in response to Adam’s position that they aren’t because they’re “just following instructions from Biomancer”: let’s say Barry is a flesh child who works as like an accountant or something at Freedom Tower. Then, the tower is attacked like it frequently is and it’s assumed that Barry is killed, but he actually survives. Biomancer wrote that plan off when the attack happened and forgets about Barry, who goes on to get another job. It’s very unlikely that Biomancer ever runs into Barry or becomes aware of him enough to want to “flip the switch” to carry out Biomancer’s orders rather than just following the “be a person” infiltration program during his time working as an accountant at some other company like Shmal-Mart or whatever. Regarding the “just following instructions” criteria, would Barry be a “person” then? Adam still leans towards “not a person” but Christopher digs him a little regarding Barry having to “make decisions” that aren’t part of the plan Biomancer set him on. He then give him an out by going on to the next letter…
- The conflict as stated is the position of a flesh child to not be a “person” so that destroying them in a fight isn’t a moral hazard, but at the same time they’re described as having the ability to act and think like a normal person when they’re in their infiltration mode (they need to be able to make their own decisions over the long term to deal with complex situations that Biomancer couldn’t have specifically planned for). Could it be the case that “short term” duplicates that only need to be in place for a few days or something aren’t people, but that the really long-term sleeper agents like Tempersonation are? It doesn’t seem out of character for Biomancer to create beings with personhood but still treat them as disposable tools. Could he even not even consider this point and any “sapience” that he cobbles together is more an accident than intentional on his part? Adam thinks that he actually agrees with this letter in that there are variations in the level of “is a person” between different flesh children. He asks a question in return, though: in the above letter about Barry, if Biomancer were to run into this guy at Shmal-Mart and flip his evil switch, would he cease to be a person? Christopher thinks yes - the moment Biomancer takes control and the being just becomes a puppet, it’s destroying the independent “person” that was there previously. Biomancer is both making conscious beings and destroying those beings all the time. He’s a very bad guy. There are a non-zero number of Biomancer clones out there that don’t know that they’re not Biomancer.
- The personhood discussion brought to mind the concept of a philosophical zombie (or p-zombie) - a being that is physically indistinguishable from a human, but which has no conscious experience or sentience. Such a being would cry out in pain if stuck with a pin, tell it good news and it will smile, but it doesn’t actually feel the pain or happiness - it lacks internal experience at all. Are Biomancer clones p-zombies? Some of them. That’s kind of how Adam thought about them before. The ones in today’s story would definitely be, but the long-term ones probably aren’t.
- When Biomancer hid the Clone-Ranger the timeline was obviously still heading towards the Final Wasteland as its future, but after OblivAeon it isn’t any more - does Biomancer know that? If so, would he wake up the Clone-Ranger since that plan is now moot, leaving two of them active? Here’s the thing about Biomancer. He’s the kind of guy who starts a lot of plans, puts a lot of balls into motion, then eventually forgets/loses track of/loses interest in a lot of them along the way. The plan for the Clone-Ranger was for him to activate it and then almost immediately have that plan come to fruition because of time travel. He wrote it off at that time and he’s not likely to remember it and reconsider what use it might be now. In fact, even if he did, he might just think “well, that’s gonna be somebody’s problem eventually” and continue to ignore it. If something unintended happens down the line, he can still do the “all according to plan” thing. Like 90% of Biomancer is “I did a thing, some things happened as a result, then I pretend that was my plan all along.”
- Trade dress is all ready to go given that they have it from the two RPG adventures they’ve put out already. It’s funny to them that when they started working on RPG stuff the time that those comics would come out were in the future, but we’re well past them now. There’s no way for them to keep parity with where we are right now without doing an intentional time-jump in which comics they are talking about for RPG stuff. There’s still plenty of Vertex stuff that we haven’t caught up to yet, though!
- Anyway, the cover art seems pretty straightforward. The heroes in their costumes trick or treating at one of those identical houses with the very Stepford people with the “Happy Halloween!” speech balloon. Or, if not that specifically, the focus of the cover is “Daybreak in their costumes”, not any of the twists of the story in particular. Adam will play around with the composition to see if including the “parents” and their speech balloon works or not.