Podcasts/Episode 202

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The Letters Page: Episode 202
Writers' Room: Freedom Five #508

Freedom Five 508.png

Original Source

Primary Topic

Intro

Are you ready for a wedding?!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:07:11

The long-awaited marriage of Meredith Stinson and Dana Bertrand! About time!

We also take some questions on the topic, as well as some letters that go a bit further afield. All good stuff, though! A fun episode, by our estimation.

Next week is this month's Editor's Note, which will be a Shipping follow-up! Get your questions in now!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Cover Note

  • Adam's original art for the cover is a wraparound thing showing more guests on the back cover. Our wiki templates are not set up for that so only the front cover is displayed here and in the general cover gallery, but a separate image of the full issue is available on the wiki for your wholesome fake comic cover needs.

Overview

  • We’re talking about Tachyon and Dana’s wedding. It happens in August 1992, Freedom Five #508. Other things are known: the wedding itself is only like the last 3rd of the book, the writer concocted some reason for them to be in space because gay marriage wasn’t legal yet (it’s international waters but even better!). So, they’re in space for some reason, the “adventure” happens, then the wedding while they’re still in space (Captain Cosmic officiates - because he’s a captain you see, that definitely counts right?).
  • So, where do they start? The “wedding” isn’t the conflict - maybe they’ve been trying to get married for a few issues and have been running into roadblocks, but the wedding happening here is more “well, while we’re up here let’s go ahead and use this loophole” situation.
  • What else has been going on? The Vengeance story just wrapped up a few months ago. We would have seen the plans for Freedom Tower at that time and then the first issue with the new HQ is in #510, so this is in a kind of interstitial space for the Freedom Five. The team is “homeless” and we’re getting a number of stories about the team’s families, so having Tachyon’s wedding here also fits for that reason. Christopher likes the inciting incident here being that either at the end of #507 (or the beginning of this one, but he prefers the end of the previous issue) Dana gets kidnapped into space and the Freedom Five go after her. You’ve got to contrive a reason for the whole team to be at the wedding.
  • The question then is “Who in space wants to kidnap a supermodel from Earth?” It could either be just generally an Earth model thing or it could be specifically targeted at Tachyon. Maybe there’s some alien who wants to disrupt the Freedom Five’s plans. They check out what the team is doing and it relates to this wedding thing. “Very well, we ruin their plans by kidnapping the bride! Well, one of the brides. We’ll take the slow one.”
  • Adam likes it being unrelated, though. Like, some alien has just been watching Earth activity and just decided that they wanted this pretty Dana Bertrand lady. Like, some alien monarch wants a queen and has chosen the most beautiful of Earth women for his bride!
  • Christopher offers a darker, less campy option. It’s a Gene-Doctor Kronz thing and he’s just still out there on some Thorathian ship and wants to use her for some gene-binding nonsense. It feels much more personal as an anti-Freedom Five move than just some random alien swinging by. Sure, Vengeance just ended but the biggest event not to long before that was the major Voss invasion so that’s not too out of left field. They could even include some kind of little side scene during Vengeance where Vyktor plants a tracking device/beacon or something so that later they can just teleport Dana away - it’s a plot hook that was set up ahead of time. Yeah, this is sounding pretty good so let’s use it.
  • Tamar is gone by this point, but Vyktor and Kronz are both in play and could have been the antagonists of the previous issue as well and it ends with them successfully kidnapping Dana. Maybe it works better with just Vyktor because he’s known to be operating on Earth. He basically just winds up sending her up to Kronz who’s got a space ship. Like, the heroes “defeat” him in #507, but “you think so, but I’ve completed my mission” as he pushes the button or whatever that teleports Dana away. Then #508 is just a Kronz villain piece.
  • Right, so Vyktor has some big plot, does a thing, the heroes stop him but he manages to plant a Quark Translocator Beacon onto Dana Bertrand (which was the actual plan from the beginning) and she gets teleported away. This way we also know more or less where she went. Today’s issue then starts off with the team knowing that they need to go into space to save her, but how do they get into space? Sounds like a job for Captain Cosmic! It’s a Freedom Five/Prime Wardens crossover where they fight Thorathians in space!
  • It’s also the ’90s so near the beginning we get a super-wordy “briefing” scene where the heroes explain what’s going on and that they’ve traced things and so know where to go. As they get to the “but how will we get to the orbital platform?” section, the Prime Wardens just walk in offering to help. Captain Cosmic has been there before, and his friend here knows how to get it; Argent Adept strums on his harp and now they’ve got a portal to just walk onto the thing. Cue up the fight music as we get a bunch of cool action scenes.
  • The first 2 pages or something are just exposition/setup, then we have this long middle-section that’s a fun fight with the two hero teams just wrecking shop against a space station full of Thorathians. After shockingly little work-shopping the idea they decide the “set-piece” of this fight is against a gene-bound monstrosity that’s obviously a combination of several recognizable types of gene-bound, but that functions like a “biological mech” that Kronz is “piloting” himself. They want to be clear that they don’t mean this to be a Biomancer-type gross-out amalgamation of flesh, but more like this is a “maneuver” that several distinct gene-bound are performing. “Gene-Bound Voltron.”
  • It’s a difficult fight where this thing is able to hold its own against the two hero teams, but Tachyon is eventually the one that zips around and finds a way to “disable” it, so that the various constituent gene-bound creatures become individuals again. The heroes are then able to defeat them, but Kronz teleports himself away.
  • So, before Captain Cosmic points out that he is a captain and we get on with the wedding stuff we kind of want it to be pretty right? What do the heroes do with all of the defeated enemies? Maybe Kronz’ Quark Drive thingy uses the biomass of the gene-bound to power it and so at least those defeated enemies just turn to ash or something. Additionally, the view should be spectacular. Christopher picked “orbital platform” intentionally - he was kind of imagining that this things was more or less flat with a transparent dome, so the view is incredible. Adam kind of wants it to be Meredith and Dana’s idea to get married here rather than Hugh just volunteering. Like, after things are cleaned up they comment about having looked for a place with a good view and it’s tough to beat this one. "Hey, you’re a captain right? Can you do this?" The first response they had was for CC to be a bit flustered at it, but it’s funnier if his response is more “wouldn’t be the first time.”
  • From here we get to the guest list. Argent Adept can open portals so more people can be there, but who else needs to be? You could have more heroes for a large group shot showcasing who’s in attendance, but in this era the important people are kind of already here. The only thing is that nobody’s really present for Dana. They establish that Argent Adept and Dana are friends outside of this heroics nonsense and so he’s the one who walks her down the aisle and whatnot. Absolute Zero is obviously the one to serve likewise for Tachyon. Hmm… the problem with this setup is that Anthony should really be doing the music… Wait! He doesn’t need his hands for that - so he can do both. We can also do Captain Cosmic/Argent Adept construct/magic handwaving to explain the wedding outfits.
  • Adam still has issues with lack of guests and the amount of handwaving in general. Here’s how this goes down. We do just kind of launch into Captain Cosmic officiating and whatnot. However, given the early ’90s placement here, we have that happen in captions while we get a montage of all of the other stuff happening. Guests, getting dressed, the whole nine, we just do it in this time-compressed way where the important words are happening at the time time as the non-verbal actions that led up to that point. Like, we start with the “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” over scenes of the people arriving. Stuff like that.
  • Christopher wants to talk about a thing he’s had rattling around his head since last night, though. He thinks that in previous issues dealing with wedding prep it’s kind of been talked about that Meredith is going to be put together and on top of things, but Dana’s going to be a mess of emotion. That’s the expectation - they’ve talked about it and are both prepared for that to be the case on the day. This means that when they’re actually in the ceremony Tachyon has a handkerchief on her person (part of the outfit, tucked up a sleeve, in a pocket for that purpose - something) so that she has one ready to give to Dana when it inevitably proves necessary. At the vows, Dana goes first because she knows that if Meredith goes first she’s not going to be able to hold it together. So, with that setup:
  • Part of what Dana says during her vows are about how people call Meredith all sorts of things. Hero. Genius. Doctor. To her [Dana], she’s none of those things. She’s just the woman she wants to spend the rest of her life with. It is at this point that Tachyon just loses it. Sobbing, using the handkerchief she had for Dana, unable to get through the vows she had written down because the ink is all splotchy now, etc. Tachyon was supposed to be the level-headed one that could keep things together and the roles have just wound up entirely reversed. Hers wind up being a simple “I just love you so much.” [Captain Cosmic: Is that it? Tachyon: That’s everything I have.]
  • So there we have it. I nice fun, action-packed, heart-warming win of an issue (which all of these heroes could really stand to have after Vengeance - sure the heroes “won”, but the FF lost their HQ and it was largely demonstrated that if the villains could ever just properly work together the heroes are in serious trouble).
  • At a meta-level the staff at Sentinel Comics had just had some big shakeups with some prominent writers/artists leaving and new ones coming in. This was probably partly a “let’s do something that’s been a long-time coming” story as much as anything. Not necessarily spur-of-the-moment, but an intentional “big thing”. Too bad it didn’t wind up in a more meaningful issue number than #508, but you can’t win them all.

Questions

  • How controversial was/what were the reactions to this issue due to the fact that gay marriage wasn’t legal yet? Was there backlash against there being such a prominent lesbian relationship in general? How big a deal was it to the LGBTQ+ community generally? How big a thing was it in the broader culture/media landscape outside of comics readership? This issue was quickly sold out. Even people who didn’t agree with the content could recognize that it would be a collectors item (we’re into the speculator boom at this point). There was some idea that this was “never gonna happen” and so the fact that it did caught many readers off guard. The New Yorker had a write-up about it as well as a lot of other media attention. It was a big deal as it was the first gay marriage in comics. Even readers who didn’t necessarily agree that gay marriage should be a thing recognized that Dana/Tachyon was an established thing that’s been around long enough to be justified on the page (if you were paying attention, the writing had been on the wall since the ’70s). Many thought it was just a sales stunt - and that’s a more common opinion for non-readers even if they agree with gay marriage - but it was a well-written issue.
  • How was the relationship retcon and latter wedding received internally at Sentinel Comics? Did anybody try to undo the retcon that established them as a couple rather than just roommates? Was there a plot that would have broken them up that got nixed by the editorial staff? Was there an editorial mandate that the relationship was “sacred” and any hardships could only be used as a means of actually strengthening their bond? They don’t think that anybody tried to break them up permanently, but short-term drama likely involved short-term breakups occasionally over the years. They weren’t “officially” a couple until October ’87 (FF #450). The writers/artists had been putting that on the page implicitly for over a decade by that point, but ’87 was when editorial finally let them have this one. This was much more a case of the creators waging a guerilla war on the editors for years rather than it being an editorial mandate in the other direction. There was also no mandate that this relationship be “sacred” - no relationship in comics is without drama. Even before October ’87 there were “break-ups” and “make ups” between them. However, this relationship was treated as kind of a “creators’ darling” that was fostered and tended by teams who then handed it off to the next batch of creators throughout this underground period.
  • In the time after the wedding has there ever been a writer who wanted to push a “divorce” arc or similar? They can maybe go so far as to see an arc where they’re separated for a while, but not as far as being divorced. You have to keep things interesting; every few years you probably get something that tests the relationship before settling back into the status quo.
  • When did Tachyon actually come out as a lesbian in Sentinel Comics (it seems rather momentous in itself)? What were the circumstances surrounding that? They hadn’t specifically thought about that outside of the aforementioned canonization of her relationship with Dana. Upon consideration now, they’re pretty sure that was the same incident. That probably didn’t make as big of a splash as the wedding as it would just have been detail slid into the background of normal issues rather than the issue being about that. That being said, FF #450 still winds up being a collectors’ issue due to this significance. There may have been a short filler, puff-piece of a mention on the news about it, but no major stories covering it. Maybe you get a little bit of coverage just because of the “outrage views” that you generate in talking about a gay superhero, even if the actual regular readers already knew about it.
  • Was Lillian Corvus invited to the wedding? No, she’s still in prison and the story is a “space thing” - it’s another case of “person who maybe should have been invited” but we don’t see her in the montage of arriving guests. They weren’t really revisiting her story for the better part of a decade yet. If this issue had been even 5 years later we might have seen her, but at this point she’s only an occasional story feature that basically just reminds readers that she exists. That’s why they had to redo the whole Matriarch story when they do - it had been long enough ago that nobody remembered it.
  • Regarding the wedding:
    • Who officiates? Captain Cosmic.
    • Who’s the maid of honor/best man? Ryan Frost and Anthony Drake stand with Meredith and Dana respectively.
    • What heroes were on the guest list? A bunch of them.
    • Who was specifically not invited? Nobody was really “not invited” because technically nobody was invited. There were no formal invitations - it was more of a general “Eh… Who can we get on short notice?”
    • What were their wedding colors? Space.
    • What was Tachyon’s bachelorette party like? Not bad, except the fact that it was happening because Dana got kidnapped. The “party” was her getting to do all of the lab readings and whiteboard work to figure out where Dana had been taken. She got to do a bunch of hero stuff and science stuff with a bunch of her hero friends and then more heroes showed up and they got to have a big fight with bad guys. Good times except for her feeling bad the whole time because it was Dana in danger. That all being said, they can imagine that Tachyon and Dana have a renewal thing once the real-world court case made gay marriage legal everywhere and they have a more “normal” setup with parties and whatnot. Baron Blade probably shows up with a gift. This feels like a commemorative special-event One-Shot. Today’s issue is probably a “better” issue in terms of just comics, though.
  • Does the fact that Tachyon has a tendency to show up as a villain in Disparation stories ever become something of an in-joke/running-gag in the Metaverse? Are there any problems with this trend re: LGBT+ characters-as-villains? Does this only actually happen infrequently and it’s just a quirk of the stories we’ve picked here in the podcast? More the last thing. If you’ve got a super smart, super fast scientist character, occasionally you’re going to wind up with “wouldn’t it be bad if this person was a mad scientist?” stories. That definitely happens, but it’s over-represented in our set of Writers’ Rooms. You could tell that kind of “wouldn’t it be bad if…” stories about any hero (and in fact the first one they told along those lines was Legacy which was much more impactful than the occasional one-off Disparation thing). That being said, a lot of Silver Age plots can be quite concerning if you think about them. How things wound up with the issue involving the Head Doctor was kind of dark. They also think that it’s an in-universe joke that she’s only about 2 steps removed from being a mad scientist. Like, this is something her friends joke about with her.
  • You’ve said on multiple occasions how close to being a Mad Scientist Tachyon is which implies a rather loose approach to safety, but in other places (e.g. the OblivAeon episodes) you say that she’s really boring in her approach to science/lab work which seemed in keeping with how you talked about her back in Episode 14; is this an evolution in how you thought about her as a character as you came to understand her, and inconsistency in character inherent in comics characters written by different people over half a century or more, or something I’m missing? Definitely an evolution of the character in how she was written. From the Silver Age through… maybe the ’90s she was very much a “do things fast and break things” approach to science. She’s not going to blow herself up in the process of doing science (even if in some cases the reason she doesn’t is plot armor). What changes is the fact that Unity becomes a character. Once Unity is around our perspective on Tachyon changes from “Tachyon vs. Science!” to “Tachyon as the boss”. Unity “does things that are science-related” in a very improvisational way, but Tachyon points out that there are procedures that you have to follow. Once she becomes that person in relation to the character of Unity she kind of becomes that in the eyes of the audience as well. She has always properly done the Scientific Method™, but by the turn of the millennium she’s much more “boring” in how she goes about it than she was in the ’60s and ’70s. It wasn’t even necessarily intentional, but you can only write Tachyon where Unity’s the audience surrogate character for so long before that just becomes how she is as a character. As a result, she moves from “almost a mad scientist” to “responsible boss/role-model”.
  • [No real question, just a set of observations about Tachyon: she’s well-respected for and listened-to about her scientific knowledge, she was actively recruited into a dream research gig with further educational opportunities out of college, she has superpowers with no real downside but which also allows her to get more Science! done than otherwise, she has a non-geeky good-looking best friend of the opposite gender who actually asks her about the science stuff she’s doing, and she has a literal supermodel as a wife. She’s basically living the stereotypical male geek fantasy life except for the fact that she’s a woman.] Yeah, that pretty much all tracks. Note, however, that her powers have a potential downside in that if she wasn’t “scientific” about her approach to her powers she could destroy herself very easily.
  • With what we were told in episode 199 about it being the last appearance of the Celestial Tribunal before showing up in the OblivAeon story as Sanction, where does that actually leave space for the whole Chokepoint-as-stowaway story we’d been given prior? The Chokepoint story is given in the brief backstory explanation of Sanction when it eventually shows up - it knows that Chokepoint got on board and ejected the AI core which OblivAeon found and did his thing to. The rest of the “ship” that was the Celestial Tribunal is probably still out there with Chokepoint doing something to it, but we don’t know what. The Guise story being its “last appearance” was more “the last story that was largely about it/it’s last judgement” - we do see it on the page as itself long enough for that backstory explanation after that, but it’s not really doing anything and so doesn’t really count.
  • Given that Guise was changed on a cellular level by his interaction with Wager Master-stuff, could he be considered a Scion of Wager Master? Absolutely, yes. They can’t believe it took somebody this long to ask. [Note, this was actually brought up as a hypothetical in Editor’s Note 46.]
  • Is it even something that’s talked about as more than a joke (either on the page or in the Metaverse)? Does it get any consideration in the post-Prime War Disparation books with the Chaos faction? Sort of. Scions aren’t really a major thing in the Disparation books you mention, but the fact that he is one is significant. If you don’t think that the kinds of stuff that Guise gets up to every day aren’t making the universe more like how Wager Master would want them to be, you haven’t been paying attention.
  • You said that nega-god Guise is not Singular, but is likely more powerful than a Singular Entity; this raises an important question: There’s more than one of him?!? Not being Singular doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more than one in the Multiverse. If you are Singular, then it’s impossible for more than one to exist (looking at you, Wager Master), but not being Singular doesn’t guarantee the opposite.
  • We know that Sentinel Comics did spy-genre comics early in its history (it’s where F.I.L.T.E.R. originated, after all); did Sentinel Comics publish Secret Lads comics back then - that seems perfect as a Golden Age thing, maybe that got brought back as a YA thing in modern times? The problem is that while, yes, it seems a good fit for Golden Age stuff, Secret Lads is too self-aware and tongue-in-cheek. It’d be a ’90s or mid-’00s thing that was told as if it were a recently discovered Golden Age thing. Maybe they shouldn’t do this thing - if they did it’d be yet another meta-layer of lies about comics. Sorry, though, there are no Secret Lads comics. Secret Lads was a YA book series in the mid-00s. If they ever do something with this ridiculous thing they came up with, it will not be Sentinel Comics related. You can say that it happens in the Metaverse, but that’s as close as it gets.

Cover Discussion

  • The question is “how much is the ‘wedding’ aspect advertised?” Do they just give it away on the cover that it’s the wedding issue? They think “yes” and in which case it’s just got the wedding right there. The next very important question that follows from that one is whether they’re both in dresses or if Tachyon is in a suit. Given the era, probably both dresses. The later “wedding special” one-shot probably has Tachyon in a sharp suit.
  • After a few false starts, Christopher lands on “The Wedding of the Lightyear” as the tagline (playing off of “the wedding of the year”).