Podcasts/Episode 207

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The Letters Page: Episode 207
Creative Process: Sky-Scraper Foes

Original Source

Primary Topic

Intro

Who wouldn't like Sky-Scraper?! These people. That's who.

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:21:54

We start with a bit of banter, especially about Adam's frankly immature chickens.

We talk about a fair number of villains — some you know about, some you want to know more about, some you've never heard of!

Also, the Rook City Renegades Kickstarter is still going on for a couple more days! Don't miss it!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Overview

  • So, Sky-Scraper foes, but who is she? She starts being a bit more prominent in the ’90s [after debuting in the mid’80s], when she starts hanging out at Freedom Tower, but is still distinctly a side/supporting character despite getting a fair amount of supporting characters of her own.
  • Foes! The big one is, of course, Kaargra Warfang, but she’s got her own whole episode and is a nice traumatic start for our hero.
  • Greazer Clutch is another notable enemy in that he almost succeeds on collecting a bounty on her (by bringing her back to Kaargra). That’s not really a source of actual animosity between them - it’s just a job, man. Not that Sky-Scraper isn’t going to put up a fight, but she at least gets it.
    • That leads into a bit of an aside about how the Greazer story wound up leading to a fair bit of crossover with the Prime Wardens after they help her out, so she's already got some face-time with both them and the Freedom Five. This leads to some additional crossover with Parse and K.N.Y.F.E. in *Cosmic Tales* and *Cosmic Concurrence*. She doesn't really have much crossover with Dark Watch, though. Anyway...
  • Another foe we’ve heard about somewhat already is Censor who was featured in the Strike Force Invasion crossover in the late ’90s. He (and the rest of his team) do show up a few more times in the Multiverse Era (other than the Invasion story, they’re most notable for being one of the factions in the Dok'Thorath Civil War - although in the latter case, it’s more of a Prime Wardens thing than something Sky-Scraper was involved in).
  • Finally, we have Tantrum. They’ve been asked before if they could tell us more about her and they had to admit that they hadn’t really fleshed her out yet. That’s hardly fair, so let’s do that today. Her real name is Carla Bryant. She’s short (like between 3 and 4 feet tall) and is not happy about it. It’s not like she’s affected by dwarfism or anything - she just still has the body of a child. They’re thinking that her apparent age is somewhere around 9. Christopher initially says that she just never progressed past that point, but Adam thinks it’s more interesting if she did and then reverted somehow, so let’s run with that. She was in her 60s and volunteered for a de-aging process that worked just a little too well and this sounds exactly like the kind of thing that RevoCorp would be behind so it looks like we’re getting yet another RevoCorp Presents: A Villain!
  • So, we’ve got this lady who was kind of rough-and-tumble already, but is getting up in years a bit and so wants to get some pep back in her step and so signs up for some kind of de-aging medical trials. Spinning a backstory for her they think that she’s maybe somebody who works as a diner or something and isn’t terribly well-off for retirement. Maybe her kids are estranged and so she doesn’t have anybody to take care of her. She’s got two older brothers who both died of, well, not “old age” but complications that come along with getting older. Like maybe some illness that young people tend to survive just fine, but they got pneumonia and died and so she’s spooked by her own sense of mortality. She signs up for this clinical trial. They give her $1000 or something as compensation and the deal is that it’s not just supposed to make her look young, but feel young again too.
  • They do the thing and she feels 10 years younger. Great! The next morning she’s feeling even better. They told her that it would take a few days for the process to run its course, so this is still great. It’s all going according to plan so far. Every day she wakes up roughly a decade younger and she’s feeling great about life. Then she wakes up as a teenager again, complete with acne and going through puberty again. This is not great - time to head back to RevoCorp to see what can be done to stop this. Her ID obviously doesn’t look like her anymore so getting the front-office people to believe her is difficult. Eventually she just throws a temper tantrum (those teenage hormones are no joke) and pushes her way through to the back.
  • She gets back to the testing room. Let’s say that the original process exposed her to some radiation (but, y’know, the “good radiation”) that does the de-aging, but there’s also a chemical bath that you’re supposed to soak in for like 20 minutes just after the radiation treatment that’s supposed to isolate the radiation or something. She had thought “why would I want to stop the de-aging?” and skipped that step (maybe she slipped on a hazmat suit or something before getting in? whatever, the important thing is that she got greedy and somehow didn’t do the tub step properly). She’s convinced that getting back into that tub is what she needs to do to fix things now.
  • She dives into the tub just as the actual security people manage to get there. They shoot some kind of energy containment/restraints thing at her and it zaps her while she’s in the tub and that’s what locks her age in and gives her the other force field/energy powers. They lock her up in holding cells (what, not like they’re going to turn her over to the police) - something interesting happened to her so using the excuse of her volunteering for the clinical trial they pass her on to the Special Projects people. She looks 9 years old - not like she can go and get a job. She’s got some interesting powers, so… why not work for us? RevoCorp gives her the code name Tantrum and she’s not happy about it. She’s kind of an enforcer for RevoCorp and gets sent in to wreck stuff.
  • Aside about the Terrorform now that they can actually talk about it. It’s a somewhat different situation with it as its job is to go in and wreck stuff and the battle with the heroes causes problems that RevoCorp can then come in to “fix”. Tantrum is more finely targeted. She’s not wrecking whole national parks, but she might get sent in to bust up some lab that’s developing a treatment for a disease that RevoCorp is working on. The “little girl” shtick is intentional misdirection - she hates that part of the job, but it’s easier to avoid serious consequences in the instances where she’s caught if she pretends to actually be 9. She’s just so mad.
  • Her powers present as if she has super strength, but it’s just her utilizing her force-fields to fake it. From their description it also sounds like it’s a storage thing - like she’ll use a force-field to tank a punch from a strong hero or to block gunfire, but then she can use that absorbed energy to “punch” back (without actually making physical contact).
  • Why animosity with Sky-Scraper in particular? They created her to be a foil for the “get big, punch stuff” thing that Sky-Scraper does. You can punch her, but she’s just going to tank it. She’s also a “little girl” but Sky-Scraper could then become very little herself to try to sneak/link her way to victory. Plus the visual of Sky-Scraper being friendly towards this little girl and acting like you would towards a kid and then just getting punched across the room by her is funny.
  • The nemesis thing is likely just “frequency of interaction”. Like, RevoCorp is totally the type of organization to note when the Freedom Five are busy with some other big thing and then try to do their shady stuff while the heroes are distracted. Sky-Scraper just winds up being the hero who’s not off doing the big thing and so runs into Tantrum a bunch. She also winds up fighting the Terrorform so it’s possible that RevoCorp also starts just trying to get some Sky-Scraper DNA in the process of all of these things. May as well try if she’s going to interfere with their plans anyway.
  • When does she first show up? Probably early ’90s or very late ’80s. Likely the first villain Sky-Scraper deals with on her own. Probably best if, at least, she’s around before the whole Vengeance thing. Let’s say September 1990, Justice Comics #424. Adam points out that comics from that period were very dense reading so we could potentially just have that also include her backstory.
  • They are really glad to have fleshed out Tantrum. A bunch of the mini-Nemeses from the Vengeance box were made to just be visually interesting and the bare-bones of how their powers worked. They had then gone on to develop more about most of them, but Tantrum wasn’t one of those. If there are any more of those that they haven’t “done the work” for yet, let them know because the characters deserve it.
  • Let’s actually make a new character while we’re at it. We have her nemesis who had her captive for a long time, the bounty hunter her nemesis sent after her, an old friend who became an enemy, and a jobber. What other “category” of foe do we need? Somebody who has it out for Sky-Scraper personally? F.I.L.T.E.R. seems too easy. Maybe somebody she trounced in the Colosseum. Like, this was somebody who actually kind of liked being there but then got ejected after being defeated so soundly. Maybe there’s also a series of bad things that happened to them after leaving the Colosseum that have nothing to do with her, but wouldn’t have happened if they were still in the arena - just extra bitterness-fuel.
  • Okay, so how about the Colosseum has collected a bunch of gladiators and it’s time to clear out the chaff. They have some elimination matches and the losers all just get stranded on this planet where the Colosseum is at the time. It becomes something of a survival situation as they get picked off by dangerous wildlife one at a time, but because they’ve all got this “survival of the fittest” mentality from their time as gladiators they don’t cooperate at all. Eventually there’s just this one left who manages to figure out how to survive. Years later some aliens show up to do a survey/explore the planet or something and this person kills them and steals the ship to finally get away.
  • Placement: the latter Hero in the Arena story happens in 2013. They spend the time to go back over the whole “Tempest is beating just everybody and earns the”Champion" title. Sky-Scraper bests Kaargra, earning freedom for herself and her friends, but refuses to kill Kaargra. Tempest witnesses that exchange and starts reconsidering his opinions of Sky-Scraper" bit. Still not not racist against Thorathians, but something. Anyway, they could do the story about this other former gladiator in the run up to this. Or maybe they show up earlier, but then have a few appearances including one that leads into HitA. Maybe they’re the one who, after losing to Portja a few times, goes to Kaargra to report on where she is. Adam thinks that we probably don’t need to reconnect this person’s story to the Colosseum. It’s a starting point, but it doesn’t have to be that neat and connected.
  • Maybe come at it from the other angle. It’s somebody she beats in the first HitA arc in the ’80s as just a throw-away character that some writer then uses to have this arc in the ’00s or something. Some of the tension is that Sky-Scraper beating them was rather insignificant for her, but it was a life-changing event for them. And then, Sky-Scraper just leaves the Colosseum at the first opportunity anyway - she didn’t even want to be there. We can have a three issue arc that has the first issue, maybe issue and a half that just goes from their early fight up through the survival on the planet to modern-day thing.
  • If we want Cosmic Concurrence, that book doesn’t even start until 2008 which might be a bit late. Maybe that can be their main place to show up, but they predate it. There’s plenty of space in Cosmic Tales after the year-ish of the Fall of the Prime Wardens story. Let’s do #397-399 arc that leaves #400 open to be its own stand-alone story. That puts us in March-May 2003. Let’s call the story “Bloodfall”.
  • Adam’s thoughts for what the character looks like is that they started as a stereotypical “gladiator” (although with appropriate alien/space twists on the concept), but over the course of the survival section they get more scarred and scraggy looking. That’s cool, so what are the “alien” features? Non-human skin color is easy. Maybe something weird instead of hair - tendrils, or metal spikes, or rocks… Rocks sound fun. Maybe specifically crystal hair. Let’s do orange skin while we’re at it. That’s a sufficiently “background alien” look for the original “throw-away opponent” appearance to then bring back in a more modern style. Of course, all scarred and beat up. Like, they’ve got a beard made of crystal, but now it’s broken. Any place they’ve got scars the scar is crystalline. Okay, that’s a fun look for this guy.
  • Name? Well, he’s an alien so his “real” name is just going to be a collection of syllables so they’ll work that out later. They need a “villain name”. Honestly, his gladiator name is probably fine for that. Or maybe it’s something he took on himself after he was kicked out that refers to his “fallen” or “worthless” status now. Hmm… or maybe it’s better if he sees this as a resurgence - like “phoenix” is obviously not the right word, but the “from the ashes” kind of connotation.
  • [Break to deliberate off-the-air] The name that they arrive on is Shredd. He’s a shred of what he once was, but he will also shred you! His blood, hair, and nails are all made of crystal - even the fine hairs along his arm so that even brushing up against him is gonna mess you up. In the original HitA appearance he was a standard gladiator looking guy with a sword and shield or whatever but now he’s got a very primal look to him. More sinewy now as opposed to a more jacked look before. Think hunting panther rather than bodybuilder. Christopher wrote down a collection of weird syllables for his real name too: Glarfast Zott. He discards that name when he becomes Shredd, but we at least know what it was.
  • Shredd doesn’t really have “powers”. He’s an alien who is stronger/faster than humans, so there’s that along with the crystal hair thing. Mainly it’s just his fighting skills and the hunting/ruthless/survival thing and he will not be stopped until he has his revenge on Sky-Scraper.
  • What happens in that opening arc? The first half is his backstory up to when he gets a ship and comes to Earth. He studies her and learns all of her tricks (bigger and smaller, hmm?) and thinks he’s got her figured out and she doesn’t stand a chance. His problem is that she has a bunch of friends now. Since it’s in Cosmic Tales there’s probably some other non-Tempest space heroes that help her out like Captain Cosmic. Maybe she’s actually on Mars to check on some stuff (because it’s CT after all) and maybe Tachyon’s there too. Oh, here we go. They have some left-over Thorathian Quark-Drive Translocator tech and they wind up throwing him through a portal back onto some other desolate planet to be stranded on again.
  • Man, all of Sky-Scraper’s foes are so angry. Why? Because it’s a fun juxtaposition given her friendly demeanor. You have to be unreasonably angry to not like Sky-Scraper.

Questions

  • What’s the deal with Tantrum? You’ve said she’s an adult trapped in a child’s body, but how did that happen? Where did she get her force-field powers? They answered this in the Overview! They could have just not included this letter, but y’know what, it’s fair. They went far too long without actually defining this stuff and the question was justified.
  • Would Sky-Scraper be really into roller derby (I imagine the combination of competition and over-the-top theatrics would appeal to her - now I’m imaging an all-hero team with her and Expatriette co-captaining)? Christopher starts off with a “yeah” but Adam points out that she likely doesn’t like anything that reminds her too much of the Colosseum. That means that professional wrestling is of no interest to her and roller derby has some significant crossover elements. Christopher still thinks that there’s maybe an initial aversion but maybe she gets into it once she finds out that it’s all for fun and injuries are typically minor and unintended. Adam still disagrees and that anything like the competition and conflict of the arena puts her off. When she fights as a hero, it’s not because she likes it for itself but because it’s a duty. Christopher comes around to agreement on that characterization. K.N.Y.F.E. on the other hand would love it.
  • Do Thorathians have four toes? On each foot, yes.
  • How exactly are Fixed Points and Singular Entities related? How prolific are fixed points? Do we know of any others besides Madame Mittermeier making a carnival and Vanessa Long getting powers? They are very rare. Adam starts to posit something along the lines of “humanity/sentience evolving on Earth” just because we need a Vanessa Long to be around, but Christopher points out that they’ve said that something named something like Vanessa Long happens, not necessarily a human. It’s just that there’s some “Vanessa Long”-enough thing that gets some manifestation of psychic abilities across all realities. They can’t think of any others offhand - if they’ve forgotten any feel free to remind them.
  • How do Singular Entities interact with Fixed Points? Do they create them? Is the creation of Legacy a Fixed Point? No, the Legacy thing is not. They don’t often set out to make them, but if one of them got it into their head to do so at least some of them probably could. OblivAeon is the most likely to have created them in the pursuit of making realities similar to one another.
  • What happens when someone/something disrupts a Fixed Point (say, Vanessa Long is born in a reality and then moments later OblivAeon shows up and destroys the hospital, leaving no survivors)? In that scenario, that just means that that Vanessa Long isn’t the one in that reality that would get the powers. This is a confusing causality/predestination thing. Trying to get around this with time travel shenanigans will likely just cause a branch reality to happen and in that new branch some other Vanessa Long is the one that gets powers.
  • Can Fixed Points occur within Universe 1 while in the “sandwich bag”? If not, how long will it be before this becomes a problem? That’s a good question. If Fixed Points occur across all realities, but Universe 1 is no longer connected to the other realities, they likely don’t necessarily happen there now. Okay, so what if Universe 1 misses out on a Fixed Point and then the “sandwich bag” gets undone? Now we’ve got a situation where this thing that happened in all realities has now happened in all realities but one and this causes something that Christopher will refer to as “Reality Buffeting” where that one hold-out reality will start seeing incursions from other realities. That “sandwich bag” sure screwed everything up, didn’t it?
  • Which characters in Sentinel Comics (if any) are aware of Fixed Points? Who could detect them? La Comodora is probably aware of Fixed Points being a thing (and might hypothesize about any given thing that seems to be a common thread being one and she might dismiss a possible event if she just doesn’t see how it unexpectedly-manifests in a reality or two). Singular Entities can probably detect them.
  • One of the running jokes on the Letters Page Discord over the course of the RCR Kickstarter has been Plague Rat and the desire of people to boop his snoot - as unadvised as that is, which of the following could get away with it (meaning could do so without getting mauled or seriously infected)?
    • Haka: Would get mauled/infected. He’d get over it, but by the definition above he could not boop the snoot.
    • Scholar: He could, but would require some pre-boop prep work. Honestly, anybody could with sufficient prep work (just tranq him into the ground and you could do so). If you’re just dropped into a room with Plague Rat it’s a bit trickier. That being said, Scholar could still probably do so. Just transmute to energy or liquid immediately and then plan. Likely take a stone/metal form for the booping.
    • Dark Watch Mr. Fixer: Almost definitely. He still flows like water and so avoids getting mauled. He boops the snoot and then ninjas out. No problem.
    • Dark Watch NightMist: Probably. She can go mist-form to avoid the mauling, but needs to be corporeal enough to perform the boop and then mist again quick enough to avoid the chomp. She’s the least likely of the three they’ve said that could do it so far because of how fast that process needs to be considering the proximity of the snoot to the chompers. Wait…
    • Haka revisited: He can totally do it. It’s just a matter of fighting Plague Rat normally and getting it in a headlock. Then he boops and then just chucks the rat across the room or whatever. It’s not that it’s an automatic “yeah he could do it” - let’s say 50/50, but it’s not just a matter of walking up and performing the boop. There’s a fight first. Running through our list so far again: Haka and NightMist are “maybe” and Fixer and Scholar are “yes”.
    • Setback: Only accidentally. If he goes in attempting to boop the snoot it goes poorly every time, but he could be minding his own business walking down the street. He trips and falls through an open manhole cover. On the way down he reaches out to try to grab the ladder or something and boops the snoot as he falls past Plague Rat and therefore also out of mauling range. He never even knew he did it.
    • Tachyon: Trivially.
    • La Comodora: Maybe after a lot of prep work. Let’s say the category of “probably not, but not a hard ‘no’ either”.
    • Absolute Zero: Only one way, you ice up the whole rat. Sometimes you have to ice the whole rat. It’s a “maybe”.
    • Aeon Girl: No, by the definition we’re working with. Getting mauled/infected doesn’t actually cause her problems, but she couldn’t boop the snoot without getting mauled.
    • Akash'Thriya: Maybe. It’s harder for her to vine up the whole rat than it is for AZ to ice up the whole rat.
    • Guise: No. His attempt would likely involve just wrapping himself around the rat which goes poorly. Also: Plague Guise… ew.
    • Alpha: No, it’s just a bloody fight. She’s not on Haka’s combat-skills level and where he would need to fight defensively and wear PR out, she’s just going in full speed.
    • Dr. Medico: Yes, he’s got more fine control over how corporeal he is than NightMist and so can get in and out.
    • Writhe: Yes. Plague Rat finds itself in darkness. Gets booped. Lashes out at the darkness, which is no longer Writhe.
    • Mainstay: No.
    • Sky-Scraper: Maybe. It’s got to be a tiny form sneak boop, but PR might still smell her and she’d be perfect snack size.
  • How common is Legacy/Baron Blade shipping in the Multiverse? Are there realities where they are an item (or at least a slap/slap/kiss couple)? Have any such realities been depicted in the comics? How common are hero/villain romances in the Multiverse and beyond (besides Captain Cosmic/Galactra)? Legacy/Blade ships are incredibly common. In an infinite Multiverse there are certainly realities like that, but they don’t think that such realities have been shown in the comics. It’s really fan-baity and even then it’s something that likely wouldn’t have been a thing that could happen until OblivAeon or later (and at that point it’s basically just a case of a fanfiction person getting hired for real resulting in an Lunatics Running the Asylum situation). Hero/Villain romances are very uncommon. We’ve got CC/Galactra and Wraith/Valentine. K.N.Y.F.E. is pretty indiscriminate in partners, although are they “romances”? Legacy/Firestarter teased “romance”. There’s one in Vertex they’re not going into. They’re really just there to disrupt the status quo outside of the Captain Cosmic/Galactra thing which is the example of this dynamic in Sentinel Comics.
  • You mentioned recently that “atomizing” Blood Countess Bathory could probably kill her, but part of Baron Blade’s backstory involved him using a device to atomize a Soviet battalion - could Baron Blade kill Blood Countess? Sure. They think he could kill her. Probably not trivially (as he’d need to get the drop on her with the right stuff) and he also likely doesn’t care to.
  • You’ve said that the reason for xxtz’Hulissh/Hul rampaging in the RPG setting is mysterious; is it maybe rage at being locked in the “sandwich bag” where any possible reality branching is curtailed, making the universe more deterministic and “knowable”? It’s more just being upset at being stuck here.
  • What does Hul hope to gain by wreaking havoc? Does killing people result in what they knew becoming unknowable now that they’re not there to know it? No, Hul wants to devour knowledge. Imagine not just wanting to eat a hamburger, but to eat them so completely that there are no longer any possible hamburgers. To eat the concept of hamburgers.
  • If a character would deal Fixed damage but “cannot deal damage” that’s sufficient to stop the damage from occurring; if the target is “immune to damage” does that block it? Yes - if a target is immune to damage, not even Fixed damage gets through and if they can’t deal damage then they can’t deal Fixed damage either. Fixed damage cannot be increased, decreased, redirected, or type-changed, but immunity/unable to deal damage will block/prevent it.

Gen Con

  • GTG will be at Gen Con this year (assuming no huge re-flare-up of the pandemic) with a presence that will have a booth and everything. If you want to be a Citizen (i.e. the people who work at the booth and run demos and whatnot), let them know at contact [at] greaterthangames [dot] com. They will provide a convention badge and a shirts and stuff, you provide the labor (which you also get paid for).