Podcasts/Episode 193

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The Letters Page: Episode 193
Disparation Vol. 2 #63

Disparation Vol 2 063.png

Original Source

Primary Topic

Mr. Fixer

Intro

Oh no, Mr. Fixer! What now?!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:28:21

We start with barely a concept on this one and just build as we go. Pretty pleased with how it went, but I don't think we'd have called how it turned out from the beginning!

We have some Mr. Fixer questions today, as well as a few letters about various Discord/Disparation stuff. Thought provoking stuff! We do our best to provide satisfactory answers. Do we succeed? You tell me!

Join us next week for a Mr. Jitters story! Make a run for the border!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Overview

  • This week’s prompt is “Oni Mr. Fixer”. Sometimes they get a prompt from the listeners where they can just look at the spreadsheet, find an appropriate story that they already know exists, and just flesh that out. This is not one of those weeks. Despite joking a while back that a listener comment about this story would make a good Disparation story, and them being confident that of course this sort of thing happened, they never actually worked out what that story would be, so here we are.
  • Where can it go? It’s going to be in volume 2 of Disparation, and likely (but not necessarily) before the Inversiverse back-up stories (which became a regular feature in the title in November 2008 in issue #75). The important bit is that Mr. Fixer is already dead and walking around again in his Dark Watch iteration. It’s also likely after the Master Dragon One-Shot issue in 2005 that brought forward a lot of Zhu Long stuff (this is where we see the Operative working for him for the first time, for example) [this is something I don’t actually have a firm date for yet - just vaguely between early 2005 and early 2006 was the best I could say before this point]. Today’s issue can be an editorial reaction to the popularity of those concepts. Let’s just have another spooky month and do October 2007, that would be #62.
  • We’re working with the assumption that the editorial staff just comes into the writers’ room and says “Mr. Fixer as an Oni” and the writers now have to figure out what that means (much like what’s happened to Christopher and Adam today). Maybe it’s just a world where we see Zhu Long come to his disciple Harry Walker and puts a mask on him? Adam disagrees - how about a world much like the “main” one, but for some reason we see Mr. Fixer put the mask on himself knowing full well what it is and what it does. Coming up with what that reason is can be interesting. What would push him to do so?
  • Christopher throws some ideas out there for consideration: Dark Watch vs. Zhu Long and the Operative - something that’s an intentional “flashback” to the Chairman and Operative vs. Mr. Fixer fight and this time we have the rest of the team killed except for Fixer. Oh, and he gets his humanity back. Like, the plan is that NightMist has figured out a way to use Zhu Long’s vats and whatnot to bring him back for real. They break in, do that, he’s himself again and very happy to be back compared to his existence before they fixed him, but then the fight breaks out and he loses the rest of the team. As a last ditch “If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me” move he puts on the mask and proceeds to wipe out everything in the temple.
    • Like, just brutally (and therefore probably at least semi-off-panel) killing the Operative. Like he tackles her and then we just see his shadow just pounding his fists into the “ground”. Or as a callback to his own death, we see a silhouette of him punching through her chest and ripping her heart out. Just gruesome stuff.
  • From there… so he tears through the rest of Zhu Long’s servants, but when Fixer gets to ZL himself we have the problem that Oni belong to him. Then we have this terrifying Oni/Fixer working for ZL until he manages to get enough of his mind together to fight the control and then they take each other out. Adam’s idea is more along the lines of him killing ZL in that initial rampage (he fights off control while ZL monologues to him about being under his control and just snaps his neck; Zhu Long eyes widen in surprise as Fixer grabs him, but he’s dead before he can turn into a dragon).
  • So, that’s like the first 6 pages of this issue. Just a page of the DW plan, then several pages of violence. We get this nice fake-out of the story being “Dark Watch gets Mr. Fixer back” when it goes off the rails real quick. Maybe somebody dies in the first assault and the once-again-living Mr. Fixer gets seriously injured so that he can’t prevent the Operative from taking down the rest of the team. Oh, something better: NightMist puts up some kind of magical shield around the vat or whatever that Fixer needs to use to get better, but then the attack happens while he’s still inside of it and so has to watch as the rest of the team gets taken out while he’s in the process of regaining his humanity. NightMist’s the last one to die and he’s “freed” when she does so - surrounded and outnumbered, he picks up a mask from a fallen minion.
  • After a bit more murder we get Zhu Long’s monologue mentioned earlier. It’s got to include a bit about how Fixer’s got hours or, with his considerable strength, maybe days before he burns out. We just need to get at least that much exposition before ZL’s death so that then Oni Fixer can then climb up some stone steps to a dais on which sits a lacquered wooden chair/throne that he can sit in and look out into the middle distance over the bodies of dead assassins, ninjas, Operative, Zhu Long, and Dark Watch. That’s on the left page. The right page facing it is all black with a small caption: 50 years later. We’re about a third of the way through the book.
  • The idea here is that he just sits there, not burning out, but also inactive this whole time. He knows that anything he does will be more violence and there’s enough of him left in there to try to find a semblance of peace by simply doing nothing. The remaining story here is to figure out who it is that finds the Temple and disturbs this thing. Maybe somebody shows up in a village at the bottom of the mountain who hears tales about how the Dragon lives up there, but it’s been quiet for a few generations now. Nobody wants to do anything to anger it/change the current status quo so nobody goes up there. Options: the investigators are just normal explorers or even heroes just doing their thing or they’re villains who know about Zhu Long and the fact that he’s been quiet so long is concerning, so let’s go see what he’s up to. The latter choice here is promising in that further rampages when Oni Fixer is disturbed is fun.
  • Who should it be? How about an older (well, he’s almost 2 centuries old now but still doesn’t look remotely close to that old) Graham Pike? He’s still well enough that he can carry his own pack up the mountain. He’s got some helpers carrying gear, and they’ve got one of those ropes connecting them all that mountain climbers use, but as an avalanche starts to carry off some of the people behind him he just cuts the rope and goes on by himself. He’s reached the limits of his ability to stave off age using his current methods, so might as well see what he can steal from Zhu Long’s base now.
  • In thinking about what’s going on with Fixer here they decide that they need to lean into the “actively resisting the Oni magic” so that he’s not just a mindless rage monster. Pike approaches the temple which is obviously “abandoned” to look at, but the doors are still in good repair as the place seems to be closed up rather well. He pushes open the doors and finds the darkened interior arranged somewhat like a Zen garden, only the components to it are made out of the skeletons of the people that Oni Fixer killed (“a Zen cemetery”). He’s put his efforts into making this place tranquil as he resists the Oni influence. Chairman Pike doesn’t know this, though, and just finds it very creepy.
  • From there, Pike could just kick over some arrangement of bones and that noise draws Fixer’s attention. A fight would be fun, and the limits of what Pike’s done to extend his life could include robot parts, weird genetic experiments that gave him extra limbs, alien augmentations, etc. As the fight gets going we see that under his bulky mountain climbing gear he’s weird and so could make for an interesting fight with Oni Fixer, but we’d need to get across that Fixer’s also fighting for control so he doesn’t lose himself.
  • Adam kind of wants an excuse to have Fixer be in a city for part of this. Okay, so we have Pike actually have contingencies for this sort of thing. He’s looking for immortality and was coming at this Zhu Long thing from a number of angles. His plan had been to cage Zhu Long and bring him back to his lab in Rook City, but he also knew about Oni as one possible way to approach the problem - at least as something worth looking into. If you’re still here after all this time and haven’t aged in the meantime, you’ll do. He uses whatever nonsense tech and augmentations he’s done to himself and the plans for how to handle Zhu Long to win the fight and captures Fixer. Then, in his hubris, he decides that he’s got that problem sorted out and so has no qualms bringing him back to Rook City.
  • So, the last third of the book opens with Fixer in a very high security lockup (tough looking security guys at the door, then bars you have to get through, then some kind of energy force-field containment thing, then a salt circle, etc.). He’s not restrained personally, though. In the center of all of this he’s just sitting in a lotus position with the same thousand-yard stare as he had on the throne earlier. Nobody is fooled about how dangerous he is, though. A bomb doesn’t look like much before it goes off.
  • We’re going to send in some researcher to get a blood sample. Some poor guy who drew the short straw who goes in all nervous and everybody expects is not going to survive this. He gets right up to Fixer without him moving. Then gets the needle up to his skin without him moving. He tries to put the needle in and… it breaks. Mr. Fixer never makes a move throughout any of this, but the guy then just backs out nervously. Everybody is well aware of the danger presence here. Maybe we get some inner-monologue of this scientist, but just the process of going through the security should showcase the threat that everybody assumes is present.
  • What gets him out? It would be fun if it was something innocuous like a moth getting in the room or something. Basically, it’s not that he’s an inert lump, he’s simply waiting. Christopher suggests that maybe he’s focusing and building the energy within him - we’ve seen the characteristic “Oni burn” as they burn out and maybe he can direct that outwards to “burn” the floor beneath him to escape. Adam thinks it would be better for him to notice one tiny flaw in the security around him - something that nobody else would be able to capitalize on. Mostly because it’s more fun to see him smash all of this stuff we’ve set up. Like, the salt ring probably doesn’t actually do anything and it was thrown in as an “eh, why not try it too?” precaution, but if a moth flew in and flapped its wings near it to disturb the circle. That kind of small detail thing.
  • Maybe we see him regarding an ant crawl across his hand. Then down to the floor. Then across to the wall and into a hairline crack. He looks there, then up at the wall [they continually use “look” here regarding what he’s doing - whether the Oni thing restored his vision or they just mean that he faces the thing that has his attention, I don’t know. Probably the latter]. Then he stands up abruptly (security goes nuts) and crosses to the crack where the ant got out. He strikes the wall and then we get exterior panels that show the whole place breaking apart. The idea is that with all of this security set up and precautions, this ant still found its way in/out. That’s the weak point he’ll exploit.
  • Oh, better than just cracking the building in half, when he punches the wall we see the crack extend down through the building, but rather than a big dramatic “the building’s coming apart” result, it just continues down until it gets to a generator, which breaks down when the crack gets to it. This causes the force-field to go out. Beat panel as the security forces train their guns on him as he still faces the wall. Then he turns to face them and they open fire. From there we get a montage of violence.
  • As part of that we can have the security guys outside of the “outer” door of this whole setup (it’s a big heavy thing, like a bank vault) who can hear the noise of what’s happening inside as they look at the door. Christopher wants Fixer to just break through the wall next to the door as a surprise; Adam wants the whole door to just get knocked down onto them. Let’s do both! Let’s say the “breaks through the wall” thing instead happens up at Pike’s office.
  • Pike says something like “you haven’t learned” as he starts getting all weird again and continues to monologue as Fixer just marches across the room, throws the desk aside, and tackles Pike through the wall. As they fall (70 stories or something ridiculous like that) they look like a comet with all of the weird energies that Pike’s bringing to bear on him. After they crash to the ground there’s a lot of smoke and we see Fixer walking away. The details of the fight aren’t important outside of the fact that Fixer walks away and Pike doesn’t. Maybe they fall into the Industrial Complex or something so we have an excuse for a nice big explosion when they land as well.
  • This feels like a complete story, but it’s also really open ended (there’s a world with this Oni Mr. Fixer in it, fighting himself). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be nice to have a bit of punctuation to it. How about: as the figure emerges from the green smoke and walks towards the “camera” we start to pull back. As we do so we get some narration in caption boxes that give some final context. This is from the Oracle of Discord - a rarely-used device in this era, but one that’s still around. They could be saying something about how this is something that even they could not predict and that this world should be watched so that the danger it poses doesn’t cause problems elsewhere. Makes it less open-ended in a “I wonder what happens next” way and more “this is a think that exists and could be a problem” one. The Oracle of Discord being concerned is something to take note of.
  • They like that they kept it pretty Mr. Fixer-centric - it’s got Zhu Long, Operative, and Chairman. It’s in the Temple of Zhu Long, Rook City, and somewhat in Pike Industrial Complex. That’s pretty cool. It’s also neat that they’ve introduced this idea that the Oracle occasionally finds things that are so bad they need to keep tabs on them. That’s fun worldbuilding. They don’t necessarily think that there are additional stories building on this one directly, but it’s still part of the illusion of being comics writers to include stuff like this. You want to leave some dangling threads here and there without plans to use them so that you or some later writer has material to work with.
  • It’s fun to think about who prompted this story. Like, they could have a postscript where NightMist goes to the Oracle looking for ways to “fix” Mr. Fixer and they lie to her about it being possible. Certainly nothing of the kind has been seen by them before. That’s not what happens, but it’s funny. That prompts an idea of "the Oracle of Discord doesn’t lie, except this *one time…" They don’t think this is that story, but that’s another useful idea to hang onto for another time.
  • While this wound up being a kind of intense and potentially scary story, it might not necessarily be something that you’d ask for in a “spooky month” issue, as it turns out. Maybe just not have it be in October? How about we just bump it to November, issue #63? Sounds good.

Questions

  • We’ve been given a wide variety of the humanity of Dark Watch Mr. Fixer over the course of various stories told that involved him, so what’s his deal? How much of the old Harold Walker is in there? Can he hold a conversation? Is he a standoffish grumpy person or a barely-restrained rabid animal? He can talk “normally” but “conversation” is difficult because he’s curt and standoffish. He’s frank to the point of rudeness. He understands what’s happening around him and he can (barely) be trusted to control himself. It does not take much to set him off, though. Well, the provocation to get him to “lose it” (not that he goes into a total uncontrollable rampage mode, but tipping over from angry at the world to punching things and then continuing to punch things) is likely going to be hostility. Like, if he were the type to stub his toe on a coffee table, he’d likely punch/break the coffee table but then move on with whatever he was doing. Is he a grumpy person or rabid animal? Kind of both, depending on the writer and depending on the situation he’s in. Some, but not a lot of the old Harold Walker shows through. The patient and wise mentor is barely there, to the point where it’s notable when he drops some useful comment. He still has his memory, but it’s filtered through a veil of rage and pain and so is hard to get glimpses of the old him. He’s spending so much of his existence not being that rabid animal and that generally manifests as him just being cold and quiet.
  • If his teammates weren’t around to help him, could he act “human” enough to participate in society? Is he still “more human” than Bugbear, a werewolf, or Infinitor? If not, are his teammates putting innocent people in danger by keeping him around? Without the teammates he’d likely be really isolated, like a hermit, because he’s aware that he’s a danger to people and doesn’t want to be. So, they’re probably putting innocent people in danger by having him around, but so are costumed heroes generally just by fighting crime in public. In his pre-Mr. Fixer days, he was always kind of a fixture in his community, even when he wasn’t actively fighting criminals. That aspect is lost in the Dark Watch era - as far as “the community” is aware, the person that was Slim Walker is dead and he mostly just hangs out at Diamond Manor and spends his time trying to meditate. Like, he succeeds in meditating, but it takes him some effort to get to the right head-space. He’s around as human as Bugbear - it can go either way depending on which aspect you’re looking at. Bugbear is more intentionally mean/malicious. It very much depends on the werewolf for that comparison. Infinitor is more addled and less controlled, but he’s not angry. He lacks the decades of self-discipline to draw on that Fixer had, but he’s more scared than angry at what’s happened to him. DW Fixer’s rage is the rage of the undead: he was at peace and was forcefully deprived of that peace. He should be done, and is forced to not be. Even as Mantra, he’s “fixed” and things are a lot better, but he has lost the peace he had and knows that he won’t have it again. While DW Fixer’s story is about being angry and lashing out due to lacking that peace, Mantra’s is about trying to find it. They think that he’s still self-aware enough to know that he’s using “helping people” as an outlet for the rage he feels.
  • I recently came across the name Xuanzang as the name of the monk who’s story inspired (and who appears as the main character) in Journey to the West - is Mr. Fixer’s original master Shuen Zhang intended to be the same guy? Do other characters from Journey to the West appear in Sentinel Comics? They chose the name intentionally - he’s supposed to fill this wise teacher guy and then go away. Like they’ve done with a lot of other things/names it’s meant to be a “this is the real guy, but you may have heard stories told of him over the centuries” kind of thing. None of the other characters show up and no direct connection between this guy and that story is drawn, but “if you know, you know” [this is somewhat at odds with what they’ve said in the past (see episode 54) - the point, I think, is mainly that while the guy we see in Sentinel Comics was meant to be that guy/was intentionally drawing a connection to that guy, the events of Journey to the West aren’t necessarily canonical to Sentinel Comics]. He was brought in as a later backstory character to just be the introduction of Harry Walker to martial arts (a retcon - by the time we get told this story Black Fist had been around for decades as a boxer; some time in the mid-to-late ’80s some writer throws in a bit where he uses a straight boxing move on a guy and makes a comment about people forgetting that he’s a boxer too as a little wink to the audience).
  • What is XTREME Mr. Fixer like? There are definite XTREME niches for Black Fist and DW Mr. Fixer to fill, but how do you get from the former to the latter through the more Zen interim state? We actually already saw XTREME Fixer in the Ambuscade on the run with young Setback story and he’s a scary bad guy. Not to say that there couldn’t be another representation of the character in there somewhere as a hero. That being said, while the Extremeverse is there running parallel to the main continuity, you can’t really think of it in terms of “this is what it was like in the ’80s” vs “in the ’90s” or whatever. The Extremeverse is and you shouldn’t try to map character progression onto it in the same way (so, going from Black Fist to Mr. Fixer to DW Mr. Fixer as a sequence of events isn’t necessarily something to try to do). Alternate realities in general are tricky in that way. Some universes you’re looking at basically the same story up until the critical point where they diverge, but “gimmick universes” like the Extremeverse or Inversiverse are always just kind of going to be snapshots into that universe as a product of whenever that story is being told. Like, take the current comics continuity and “put an XTREME filter on it” rather than looking at a “sequence of events to logically arrive at this point from a shared past”.
  • You’ve said that the Oracle of Discord plays along with the gimmick of the universe they’re in - given that they appear pretty close to True Neutral, would they be pretty similar to their usual self in the Inversiverse? What’s their relationship like with GloomWeaver there? The Inversiverse Oracle is the same other than their color scheme being inverted (like a film negative) from their usual look. They don’t really interact with GloomWeaver in either universe.
  • You mentioned precognition as powers for an RPG hero Oracle, but if they’re generally showing what happens in other realities does that have a bearing on the reality they’re in where that thing didn’t happen? It would kind of work this way: they see possibilities (and given an infinite Multiverse, if something can happen it does happen) and while that’s helpful for finding something out in the Multiverse, nothing says it can’t be applied to the current universe as well.
  • What’s the relationship between the “pool” they look into and the figures around it? Is it part of them? Just a tool? Do they need it to do their thing, or is it just the medium they’re using to present what’s in their minds to whoever has sought them out to ask questions? The humanoid figures in robes, the pool, and the dais on which it sits are all collectively the Oracle of Discord. The “people” are the Oracle and the pool is part of it. It’s hard to describe - like, to say the figures and the pool aren’t all the same “entity” isn’t right, but it’s not exactly wrong either. The pool is there for people to look at what’s being shown (both in-setting and the comics reader) but is also how they’re looking. Like… Your eyes are what you look at to see things, but people can still get information from looking at your eyes.
  • Is there room for a Writers’ Room story involving the Oracle taking action against OblivAeon? No. There isn’t a comic involving them taking action. There might be a story where they show somebody something that’s leading up to OblivAeon, but it’s not for “we must prepare them to fight this thing” reasons. They don’t have agency to the point where they would think “OblivAeon is coming and we have to do something about it.”
  • Is the Oracle of Discord in Universe 1 able to “see” outside of the “sandwich bag”? Can others see in? Could this be a way to get around the seal and reconnect the main continuity to the Multiverse? The ones outside cannot see in. For the one in Universe 1, the pool is dark. There could be a story there where somebody goes to the Oracle, but can get nothing useful from it because they can’t see anything beyond this reality.
  • If the Universe 1 Oracle is cut off, how do they feel about it? Do they reach out to other beings who would notice this difference like Wager Master or Guise to commiserate? Their purpose is to look out - if they can’t they’re not going to try to talk to other beings. They’re essentially stuck just staring into the pool, waiting for something to happen.
  • Has the Oracle ever been attacked? They don’t think so. You couldn’t find them with an intent to attack. You could probably get a case where somebody finds it, doesn’t like what they’re told/shown and flip out and attack them at that point. They likely find themselves falling into the pool, landing somewhere else where they’re not lost. They like the idea of a story of somebody or a group who has a plan to go to the Oracle to attack them/take their power/etc. and just being lost in the Realm of Discord, trying to find the Oracle forever.
  • Now that the Timelines are no longer Shattered and inter-reality travel back to its “very difficult” state, could the Oracle be an easier means of getting between realities? Man, you guys are really looking for some way to get out of the sandwich bag aren’t you… You’ve got this whole reality to explore and you’re just looking for a way out of it.
  • Were there any instances of a story where the events shown to a character by the Oracle winds up happening as shown to that version of the character afterwards (perhaps those events are fated for every version of that character)? That was sort of the intention behind the recent Naturalist episode where trying to prevent a bad future winds up creating a villain who could cause such a future, but it’s not exactly what you’re describing here. There aren’t any stories that line up precisely with your question - the Necrosis one is probably the closest.
  • It sounded like Michael Conteh went to the Oracle of Discord in his dreams - if that’s a valid means of doing so, how frequent is it? How often are characters visiting the Oracle in comics we see dreaming themselves there? Most people have had at least one dream that brings them close to the veil between normal reality and the Realm of Discord. How often does it happen? Quite rarely. Is it normal? No - it’s neither “typical” nor “impossibly rare”. The RoD is conceived of as a Lovecraftian realm between dream and reality. There are certainly denizens of the RoD that recognize Dreamers - some are helpful and will try to shepherd those people along in their dream journeys, but others enjoy “messing with” such people. Like, if you’re ever having something that seems like a relatively normal dream and then some big scary thing happens out of nowhere? That’s probably an RoD being doing so.
  • If you’re there in a dream, you’ve still got to “pay” the Oracle, right? What did the Naturalist pay? Christopher was wondering when somebody would ask that question given that they intentionally skipped over that part in the episode. Yes, you still have to pay. Off-the-air they had discussed it a bit without really nailing down the specifics. They think that Naturalist gave up was “a bit of his vision and understanding of the situation”. Like, by showing him the thing they were also taking his ability to effectively change/prevent it, if that makes sense. He can’t take a big-picture approach. In the comics the payments aren’t typically discussed in depth either - it’s usually handwaved because the Oracle is just a plot device and is there to tell a story. However, they can also just be another plot idea on the shelf somewhere for a later writer to use: so-and-so went to the Oracle at some point; what did that cost them?
  • Between Haka, the Scholar, and Mr. Fixer who would you choose to be your life coach? Adam chooses the Scholar - he’s got some anger issues and Scholar would be a calming influence. Christopher points out that pre-DW Mr. Fixer could also work in that regard, but he still thinks that Scholar is a better fit for Adam. All three of them could help him deal with that, but Fixer’s involves self-discipline and martial arts training and Haka’s would involve getting out to see more of the world and neither of those approaches are good fits for Adam. Scholar’s more likely/able to provide suggestions for what to do within the limitations of his existing life. Christopher thinks Haka for himself. He thought that Fixer might work too, but then considered that he’s already had some experience with the types of things that Fixer would likely focus on and so further attempts to use those methods have baggage for him. Haka just has so much more experience in every thing that Christopher cares about (with the likely exceptions of game design and musical theater). He’d be looking for a life coach who has enough experience to clearly know better than him, but can also specifically relate to the things that he cares about. That’s true for all of them, most likely, but Haka is the best one-to-one fit for him.

Cover Discussion

  • Christopher doesn’t really want to show Oni Mr. Fixer on the cover. It robs the first third of the story of much impact if the reader goes in knowing that this is what’s going to happen. Adam doesn’t disagree, but what do you put on there instead? Maybe a “shattered” collage of various possible Mr. Fixer’s and ask a question of “given a chance at redemption, which path does he take?” and there can be an Oni option in there somewhere. Adam suggests something kind of like the old La Capitan flip-side art where she’s got multiple versions of herself overlaid on one figure. “Can Mr. Fixer be Redeemed?” and show various options.