Podcasts/Episode 213

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The Letters Page: Episode 213
Writers' Room: Justice Comics Vol. 2, Issue #5

Justice Comics Vol 2 005.png

Original Source

Primary Topic


A spooky tale?! From the Sentinels Universe?! NOT IN NOVEMBER?! Huge if true.

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:38:33

We hit the ground running at speeds unlike any we have ever reached! And yet, we STILL spend a chunk of time on the story and also read and answer a variety of letters!

If you're listening to this right when it comes out and you're a Letters Page Patreon subscriber, you can join us live for this month's Editor's Note RIGHT NOW! Come join in!

Also, join us next week for Episode #214: Writers' Room: Setback & Unity team-up! Get your questions in now!

Characters Mentioned



  • The September 2017 issue Justice Comics Vol. 2 #5 opens with Absolute Zero teaching a class at Freedom Academy (in his “teaching” cryo-suit). It’s his now-standard thing about the ethics involved in the hero gig; talking about villain motivations, heroes having to make judgement calls, etc. using concrete examples from past encounters. As he gets into it and becomes more animated he eventually pulls up short with a “Huh… that’s odd” and pushes a button on his suit. This causes the suit to briefly become electrified and we hear an “Ouch!” from the back of the class. Montage as the class continues/ends and as the students file out he asks “Mr. Diaz” to stay for a minute.
  • Turns out, Muerto had noticed as AZ got more animated that the suit actually impedes his motion a bit. On the topic of “making a judgement call” he thought that he could get in there and help by working with the suit. AZ responds that he should “never do that” - Muerto didn’t know, and sometimes the judgement call you make will be wrong, but don’t do that.
  • Muerto gets the message, but then asks how AZ was able to kick him out of the suit. AZ says that it’s due to an event from a long time ago that he’s not going to get into, but the short answer is that ever since then he’s had Dr. Stinson build a fail-safe way to “reboot” everything into his suits so that he can expel any outside influences.
  • From there, AZ heads to his teaching office to work on some stuff. Eventually something weird happens because a bunch of red lights go on all over the suit.
  • So… Christopher basically had inspiration strike during his drive to work before recording, so he basically had a story locked-and-loaded for Adam to add to/comment on/approve-or-not. His idea is that this Muerto/AZ team-up story would involve the first post-OblivAeon appearance of Schema and he has an endpoint in mind and then worked backwards to give this intro. What he has for the middle is basically just “Schema infects AZ’s suit, but nobody knows at first” as it looks like he’s just walking around doing Absolute Zero things. Muerto is the one who eventually thinks that something is up, but the discussion from earlier give him pause as to whether he should attempt to help. Eventually he goes into the suit again and the end involves Muerto and AZ fighting Schema basically just within the suit itself - AZ knows his suit and how it works, but can’t do anything while Schema’s in control, Muerto can haunt the suit but doesn’t know enough to counter Schema, and it’s only with AZ basically coaching Muerto on what to do that they succeed.
  • Adam’s first question is where we last saw Schema back in the Multiverse era - we know for a bunch of that time Schema had its own form. At some point in the 2010s there was a story where the “body” was destroyed and it was assumed that the code was as well and that it’d never be back. Obviously that wasn’t true, but they quickly got into OblivAeon-related crunch time and they couldn’t do anything else with it for a while, but here we are a few months after that wrapped up and now the Schema Process is back. It likely has a body hidden away somewhere too, but Christopher imagines the thing infiltrating not only AZ’s suit, but also various other systems around Freedom Academy (security system, maybe there’s a few Bunker suits around someplace, an R&D lab tucked away somewhere that’s actually where it’s building that new Schema body). That last bit is fun - that’s the actual goal and everything else it’s doing is just a distraction.
  • Maybe dial back how overt the “wrong” stuff is at first. Have some more subtle things happen before its apparent that something is going down. Maybe have a couple “little weird things” before the red lights on the AZ suit.
  • On that point, Adam suggests that as the students are filing out of the classroom one of the word bubbles of the other students’ chatter is something like “Huh… my key card isn’t working” that’s just thrown in among other stuff we’re not focusing on because of the AZ and Muerto conversation. Or maybe even less clear that the keycard not working is weird - maybe a complaint that “these things are always on the fritz” or similar. A general complaint about the foibles of technology.
  • Then we follow Muerto after the conversation and we see him on his way to his next class talking to, I dunno, Rockstar or Muse and some other “nameless” students. Rockstar mentions that maybe you suckers have to go to class, but she got an email saying that her class in the R&D lab got cancelled so she’s got a free block of time. She’s off to the music room to go practice some guitar poses.
  • There we go, two minor odd but not totally unprecedented occurrences leading up to the “no, something is actually wrong” bit with AZ’s suit lighting up. We could probably use one more “in-between” severity thing in the middle, there. Adam suggests maybe we see something in the security office or something where Heritage is talking about a variety of alarms tripping all over - a specific reason that the main story is just about these two heroes when they’re in a building full of them. That is, everybody else is also busy dealing with parts of what’s going on.
  • Christopher suggests that the Heritage scene even has a bit where the security system is showing various alerts all over, but when they radio down to somebody in the vicinity of one of the alarms, there’s nothing actually going on. Like, the video feed shows Thorathians invading in one spot and Magmen burrowing up in another and then, I dunno, alien spiders somewhere else, etc., but there’s nothing actually there in person. The security room person (maybe not actually Heritage, but just normal security staff) says that they’ll come down to check as well, but that’s when we find that the door is locked as the whole campus has gone into lockdown.
  • Cut back over to AZ - notice of the lockdown has gone out so he should probably go see if he can help sort things out. Hmm… why won’t his legs work. Oh, it’s the suit that’s just not responding properly. The takeover of the suit happens when he tries to leave his office during the lockdown rather than just randomly as he’s doing office stuff.
  • Meanwhile, Muerto was coming to office hours and he’s just arrived at Professor Frost’s door, which is locked. And nobody answers when he knocks. Should he just leave? Professor Frost is always on-time so should he check to see what’s going on? More good “judgement call” stuff. There might be more indications that something in the building has gone wrong to push him over the edge and he ghosts through the door.
  • This leads to the “inside the suit” confrontation that Christopher originally thought of as being the end of the issue, but turns out it isn’t. It’s just the first actual conflict with the villain. Something is obviously wrong with the suit lit up red and it’s nice that in the teaching suit you can see Ryan’s face more clearly. He’s yelling, but we can’t hear him through the face plate.
  • Christopher now has the idea that Muerto doesn’t immediately attempt to help by haunting the suit, but instead haunts the desk phone or something. He uses that to smack the fail-safe button on the suit that AZ used earlier to try to do this the “right” way, but it doesn’t work.
  • Hmm… maybe it’s better that we can hear AZ. He notices when “Diaz” comes through the door and has a brief conversation about hitting the button like we saw him do earlier. “Nonono, don’t haunt the suit, there’s plenty of things in here you can use.” Of course it doesn’t work, but AZ is still against Muerto haunting his suit, suggesting that he go get Dr. Stinson or something (“If she could be here she’d probably be here by now, she’s very fast. I think I am just going to have to haunt your suit”) and despite AZ’s protests to the contrary, that’s what he does.
  • It’s fun that for the rest of the Tron-esque action scene here we occasionally just cut back to what would look to an outside observer to just be AZ sitting in a chair speaking to nobody.
  • So, in Tron world we actually finally see Schema who monologues a bit. Additionally, it becomes clear that he’s been watching for a while. He knows who Muerto is and the fact that he can haunt electronics was an unknown variable in Schema’s plans since what Muerto does doesn’t fit into his understanding of how things work. Fortunately, now Muerto is in Schema’s realm (i.e. the Absolute Zero suit) where he’s in control and where he can kill Muerto. This doesn’t bother Muerto all that much, though. He’s “died before and it didn’t take!”
  • We get plucky, action hero, doing-cool-stuff Muerto alongside Absolute Zero who, rather than being the dour ethics professor, is in more of an “inspiring the team” Legacy role while he cheers on the kid. It’s a fun inversion of character for both of them.
  • AZ’s also fought Schema before and can offer concrete advice on tactics. Muerto is initially outmatched and AZ starts with suggestions on getting away/surviving, but things turn more towards offense as Muerto gets his bearings on what he needs to be doing.
  • Of course, Schema can hear both sides of their conversation and points out how futile their resistance is. AZ, of course, starts saying stuff to Muerto about how he should remember that sometimes you have to make a decision and that might mean sometimes you have to haunt the suit. Muerto is, understandably confused by AZ’s repeated calls to remember how he told him to haunt the suit. Okay, so just like I told you to sometimes haunt the suit, make a right up ahead. That’s when Muerto gets what’s going on. AZ gives Muerto directions of what he needs to do, intending for Muerto to do the opposite, and Schema falls for the trick.
  • They have some disagreement on this. We need to get out of the suit, but also making it “too easy” seems like a problem. They change it up so that the monologue Schema gives is more along the lines of now that Muerto is here, he can be kept here trivially and is no longer the wildcard that Schema worried about. So, with Muerto contained (because he was a problem to be solved) and Ryan Frost contained (for “because I hate you” Schema reasons) he can just set up an automated process to keep them here while his attention can be focused elsewhere to complete his new body and solidify his control of the campus. And it’s this automated process that they manage to outsmart using the reverse psychology trick, but if Schema’s full attention was on them he wouldn’t fall for it.
  • Oh, here we go. Back in the monologue, part of the reason Schema couldn’t deal with Muerto on his own/doesn’t understand him is because his “body” is just a hunk of junk. Muerto haunts electronics, but none of the junk in his body is actually functional so Schema doesn’t have any means of messing with it directly. So, after they get out of the locked-down suit, Muerto goes back to his body and just busts through the door the old fashioned way. He frees AZ from the suit and the plan is just to go all Termi-Nation and just ice himself up and hope to get things done before that becomes a problem, but that’s when Muerto uses his junk body to form around AZ as well to make a new “suit” of sorts. Importantly, it’s one that Schema can’t infect.
  • How did Schema prevent the fail-safe from working? Let’s say that this was a thing that was in place at least by that story that was Schema’s “death” and it was effective then. It’s still a component of the suit, though, and in the years that Schema’s been watching, planning, and waiting he’s figured out a way to tamper with it and stop it from working.
  • Oh! The thing that Schema had actually been waiting for was for AZ to use the fail-safe again. He had the plan all ready to go, but needed to see it in operation before he could learn to block it. AZ using it to force Muerto out at the beginning of the story is what set everything in motion. He’s got the plans on how to lock everything down and has all the files on everybody and so knows how to “deal with” everybody except for this dumb ghost and the person who knows it best.
  • How do they know to head down to R&D? They don’t, Schema busts out of there once his new body is ready. What does Schema actually want? To survive. Well, there are plenty of ways for “survival” to happen that don’t require making this big mess, so why go through the trouble? Oh, also he hates Ryan Frost more than anything. Okay, so what’s the world-state after this encounter? Schema is defeated, but escapes and so it now out there in the world again.
  • That leaves the question of how does Schema get forced out of the Freedom Academy systems? How’s this: he pulls out of the computers and whatnot when he has the new chassis up and running. He really wants to kill Ryan Frost, but as long as Muerto is running the “suit”, attacks can’t get through (Muerto can just reconfigure the bits to block whatever attacks he sends their way). Eventually, Muerto leaves the suit to go force Schema out of the Freedom Academy systems which also leaves Ryan more vulnerable. He could fight Muerto in the computers or he could fight AZ out in meatspace and he’d rather kill Ryan Frost and so cedes that field of battle to Muerto and fully occupies his new body. That’s the circumstances such that in the remaining fight Schema can be driven off without lasting problems at Freedom Academy.
  • This seems a bit too “much” for Muerto to be able to do on his own. Maybe it’s more like he manages to wrest control of one system that Schema wanted (or activates a self-destruct or similar) that just makes it not worth his effort to stick around and try to do both. Not so much a “self destruct” but another kind of fail safe to “turn off” the campus like an EMP or something coupled with some other process to destroy whatever survived that - there are any number of potential threats out there that could give a reason for the campus to be set up to destroy all of its tech. Anyway, the idea is that Muerto sets off the EMP and activates that subsidiary process. If Schema’s still here when that process ends, that’s it for him so he nopes right out of there and into his suit (which is shielded from the EMP, but so is a lot of the Freedom Academy gear, which is why the secondary process is there - anyway, once Schema’s gone Muerto stops everything else from being fried).
  • Additionally, once Schema’s out of the Freedom Academy systems he’s no longer containing the rest of the heroes. We don’t need to draw out a fight between him and AZ at this point because the other heroes start showing up and Schema’s no dummy and just leaves now that he’s got a functional body of his own. This solves all the immediate problems without resolving the ongoing “Schema is around again” part.


  • You’ve said that AZ’s suit contains a mixture of helium and hydrogen: I’ve got to agree with Paul that “that’s just a bomb” - is that canon? Has Tachyon learned nothing from the Hindenburg disaster? The helium/hydrogen mixture was what was used back in the early years, but by the Science & Progress one-shot at latest they had some new technobabble super-coolant.
  • If it is canon, was AZ’s suit ever used as a bomb (either by a villain or as a desperation move by the heroes)? Writers don’t see it as “something that can explode” unless that explosion is cold. The suit being used as a “cryo-bomb” is certainly possible as something they did (say, AZ running into a place, hitting some buttons on the suit, quickly getting out of it and running in a lot of pain to someplace cold enough for him, and the suit ices up a whole building or something).
  • Helium is a pretty expensive (and a limited) resource; have they tried using any cheaper/more common alternatives? Not cheaper, no. Whatever the new stuff is is meant to be more renewable than helium, though. [insert off-the-cuff rambling about a “crystalline gel” that works with the cold AZ “produces” and can be recycled] It’s incredibly expensive, but just the one time. Or maybe twice since they need enough to flush the suit periodically and filter it before reusing it, etc. This is the “blue, glowy gel” that we see in his suit’s hoses and tanks.
  • Is anyone trying to bring Thiago back to life and, if it were possible, would he go for it? That sounds like a villain plot and that he would have to turn it down (or plays along for long enough to betray the villain and, let’s say, free the rest of Daybreak that the villain had captured). Beyond that, after the plot is foiled and his friends talk about how he might have done it he responds along the lines of “that old life is over, you’ve got to move forward”.
  • What lessons do you think AZ and Muerto have to teach each other about overcoming grief and trauma? Do you think Diaz is doing a better job of it than Frost did in his early days? Yes, he’s doing much better than early Frost, but he’s also got a hell of a lot more support. AZ had to deal with that whole “you’re trapped in this one room forever unless you take this suit/do superhero stuff” coercion thing. Ryan had his whole life fall apart before he got frozen. Thiago had spent his whole life wanting to be a hero. He’s sad, but he is finally getting a chance to do the hero thing. Plus, the “always forward, y’know?” thing from the previous question. As for lessons, AZ has a lot of lessons to impart about understanding yourself and acceptance (of yourself or the world as it is, rather than as you would want it to be). What Muerto has to teach AZ, and this is a weird thing to say about Muerto but it’s true, is optimism. Realism is all well and good, but you’ve got to have some hope or you won’t think that you can make a difference and thinking that is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • If the two of them had to get some information out of a random Organization goon, which would be the good cop hero and which the bad hero? It makes sense to frame Muerto as the “bad” one because he’s a ghost, but “potentially having your hands frozen off” is also pretty scary. It’s funny to have Muerto come into the room being all “I’m a spooky ghost! oooOOOooo! But I’m also here to help you out here.” The goon recognizes that it’s a good cop/bad cop thing, but if the spooky ghost is the “good” one who’s the bad one? “Absolute Zero.” [points to AZ sitting in a chair over in the corner] “Oh no! I’ll tell you whatever you want to know!”
  • Can you think of any good ice puns (or barring that, bad ones) from this issue? Christopher starts with “the chill of the grave”, but Adam points out that the name of the issue is almost certainly “The Ghost in the Machine” which is agreed to instantly with the change from “in” to “and”, but that’s not an ice pun. “But it is a nice pun” and that’s what we get.
  • Can AZ get so cold he can freeze a ghost? No.
  • Let’s be clear here, nothing about AZ makes any sense (he shouldn’t be able to move, talk, recover from wounds, etc.); did the writers ever try to explain it? If so, what were some of those explanations (maybe wacky comics pseudoscience or some kind of metaphysical nonsense)? There have certainly been writers who claimed that the AZ suit was full of liquid hydrogen or other even less plausible explanations. Maybe somebody came along with something like “you were always meant to be cold and this just released it” as a metaphysical thing. They don’t think there’s an actual, conclusive answer but every decade or so some “clever” writer comes up with the answer and then within a few years some other writer writes a story that explicitly shows why that explanation is bad and you should feel bad, then the cycle continues. Nobody in-setting ever comments on the changes, though.
  • In the Patreon Discord server (insert obligatory plug for the Patreon) we were talking about how much AZ needs a hug and suggested that the following people might actually be able to provide one inside the cryo chamber; which of these could actually do so (and did they?): [Before they get into the list, they point out that Absolute Zero isn’t really a hugger in the first place. Christopher, for example, is happy to give a hug and gets the companionship elements, but does not get comfort by a hug. Adam’s kind of the same - hugs are celebratory rather than a thing to do when sad. If he’s down he doesn’t want to be touched. AZ might not exactly be a hug hater like some people are, but he’s kind of cold to them.]
    • Haka? (a long-standing friend of the Freedom Five, can physically withstand hardships, and is definitely a hugger)? Haka might be able to go into the cryo chamber (writers might vary on whether he could “constantly flex and relax his muscles” to keep his temperature up or whether he’d instantly freeze solid - he’d survive either way), but they don’t think he would intrude into that space. He’d definitely give him hugs while AZ’s in his suit. In those examples, the “flexing muscles” thing might be a way to keep warm in an otherwise cold place where everybody else is wearing cold-weather gear, but Adam’s of the opinion that the cryo chamber is too cold for basically anybody but Ryan (barring some specific exceptions: Aeon Girl likely could, Scholar could manage it, somebody with a specific heat/cold type of power might manage).
    • Captain Cosmic? (if he can survive in space at like 2.7 kelvin he can manage in the cryo chamber, right)? With the right construct shields up, he could probably go in, but they don’t see him doing so. Plus, if he’s got all these constructs up, how is that really much different from a hug with AZ in his suit. Anybody can go in there if they’re wearing an insulated suit of their own.
    • Dr. Medico? Being made of energy doesn’t make him immune from environmental hazards and they think that the extreme cold we’re discussing would hurt him. He’s not likely to become “frozen” like the Haka example, but it might really mess with his cohesion.
    • Aeon Girl? Theoretically possible, but not happening.
    • Unity (via a Hug Bot)? Well, yeah, she can make a robot to go in there, but then that’s not really the same y’know.
    • Dark Watch Mr. Fixer? (maybe could but won’t)? He’d get frozen. You’d have to pull him out and thaw him.
  • [After the above they consider what gestures other than a hug he would appreciate. Christopher spins a yarn about a time he and Tachyon are talking and she asks if he’d like a hug and he tells her he’s not a hugger. Then later, he’s “alone again” in his cryo chamber but she’s left a package. Inside is a message that talks about how she’s here if he needs her, but she also can not be here when he doesn’t and is signed simply “-Doc”. The present itself is a record of an artist they’d been discussing. He sees a lot of her given where the cryo chamber is, and she’s giving him some alone time. His “love language” is being listened to and understood.]
  • AZ was the designated Sad Boy™ for the Multiverse era, but how does the presence of Muerto change that position for him? Does more good stuff happen to AZ now, or at least is he in happier stories? AZ has gotten less sad over time throughout his publication history. Now, as a professor, we see him posing a lot of moral quandaries for the students. Not necessarily sad things, but given them things to think about that make them think more about things they may have happily ignored/glossed over without his prompting. That being said, AZ’s stories themselves are, if not “happier”, at least “less sad”. The way they think about his trajectory (and speaking in terms of a rough approximation), in the ’60s and ’70s he was “sad”, in the ’80s and ’90s he was “angry”, and ’00s and on are more philosophical.
  • Does pairing him up as a mentor with a techno-ghost mean that he’s getting some kinds of new upgrades to his suit? Is there a “ghost suit” for him now? There was for this story! Pairing up with the techno-ghost doesn’t necessarily imply that he gets new upgrades. That sort of “permanent” change is likely to be sourced from Tachyon rather than this sort of thing. If anything, today’s story starts to hint at this kind of “team-up” approach, but then AZ tells Muerto to not do it.
  • If AZ had taken the deal from Wager Master and no longer needed his suit, would that make him a Scion of Wager Master? Was this possibly explored in an issue of Disparation? Maybe. Some of OblivAeon’s Scions weren’t so much granted powers so much as just “accepted his imprint”, so it’s possible that whatever Wager Master did could count in this regard. How he did it likely would factor in. It’s also likely a trick in some way, which might complicate matters. They don’t think this was a Disparation story.
  • What would Ryan do if he was offered Christine back in such a way that they could still be together despite the cold? Would he accept such an offer? What would she think of it? Man… how questionable do we want to make this offer? Like, Zhu Long and Biomancer knock on the door he’s gonna just refuse outright. Having some scientist figure out a way to bring her back, but she’ll also be frozen like him so he has a companion is more interesting. Like, just taking a living person and putting them in Ryan’s situation is bad, but she’s already dead so is the choice of dead vs. alive again, but stuck in the cryo chamber one that he would make for her? Also, is this actually her? Maybe Free Radical offers to drop him back in his body before they had the fight where she stormed out and proceeded to get in a car accident - so we get an It’s a Wonderful Life situation where we then see what good is not being done because he’s not a hero. Or we do a kind of Groundhog Day thing where he stops that one car accident, but then the next day she’s hit by a car while crossing the street, after a few more years of grief and whatnot Free Radical shows up and lets him go back again to stop that from happening, etc. No matter what he does she still dies and he still has to go through a few years of sadness before getting a reset. Eventually AZ asks Free Radical if he’s just trying to prove a point, but he’s not - he’s just setting things up so that he sees something new because of his weird relationship to Time. AZ then just has him put things back the way they were originally. They could see something like this (if not this exact hypothetical) show up in a latter-era story in Disparation while the Inversiverse backup stories are going on. Maybe a story called “Days in the Lives” which was published in Disparation Vol. 2 #107 in July 2011, hypothetically.
  • Is Muerto typical for a ghost? No.
  • If no, in which ways is he different? He can haunt and control electronics. He doesn’t seem [sotto voce initially] to be fractured in his humanity over time. Most ghosts don’t happen due to a massive amount of OblivAeon energy while in a room full of magical/metaphysical artifacts. He’s preserved in a way that most ghosts aren’t (but is he “aging” or is he staying the same age? - they both think that he’s staying the same age and we’ll see what comes of that down the line).
  • Can he do things other ghosts can’t? Are there “standard” ghost things he can’t do? They kind of just talked about what he does that they can’t. However, to the extent that his “haunting electronics” is similar to poltergeist activity, his is more limited than a classic example of such things. Like, he couldn’t just knock a bottle off a shelf; he’d have to inhabit something electronic and then make it knock the bottle off the shelf. Christopher was about to say that he’s not as “scary” as normal ghosts, but then corrected himself in that he thinks that Muerto could be, but chooses not to be. He can move through walls as a ghost like you’d expect. If you were to walk through him you’d probably feel cold. Is he even a ghost? Yes, but he’s also something else entirely. Ghost+ if you were. He’s as much a ghost as Legacy is a human. There’s just something else going on too.
  • Did the first issue of Daybreak published in November reveal Muerto’s origin/true identity to the readers/his fellow heroes? With Muerto’s aesthetic connection to the Day of the Dead, did Daybreak traditionally save spooky stories until November instead of October? Well, as we all know November is the spooky month anyway so there you go on that (they’d have spooky stories in both months). As for origins… Adam initially thinks that it would have been covered in the interim period in the first quarter of 2017 - after OblivAeon, but before the line-wide relaunch. Christopher looks up some timeline stuff: the Daybreak heroes first appear in Legacy #1 (the Stolen Legacy story featured in an RPG adventure) and that doesn’t spend any time on character origins at all. It just drops you into a story involving 5 young heroes who are working with Young Legacy. Daybreak #1 came out a week later (May 3 and 10, 2017 respectively), but that involves the stuff like Headlong’s encounter with Myriad and the team forming in the first half, which chronologically would have been before Legacy #1, and then some more character stuff in the second half, but still not likely a lot of room for origin stories. Anyway, Adam still thinks that we need to see how we get from “Freedom Tower is destroyed” to “Thiago Diaz is a ghost” somewhere in that interim period, so they add it as a backup story in JC #741, February 2017.
  • How did readers react to Darkstrife and Painstake in the ’80s and ’90s? Was there a clamor for a limited series (or an actual ongoing title) for the pair? There was a wide set of reactions. Unfortunately, a fair amount of those reactions at first (and mostly at the fault of the writing) was apathy. For all of their gimmick fit right into the popular-in-the-’90s zone, they never really hit the heights of popularity that they likely could have. They likely got a limited series or two over the years, but never got popular enough for their own ongoing book and they can rightly be seen as having been “robbed” in that regard. They were solid C-listers who just never quite got past “cult favorite” status. They had their fans who were super into them, but if you weren’t in that camp you were more likely to actively dislike their whole thing rather than simply not care.
  • One assumes that Fanatic wouldn’t react positively to Painstake at all, but what would she think of Darkstrife? Were there any crossover stories with her that involved her struggling against her prejudices? Does she ever come to accept them, or do they just stay away from her? She doesn’t like either of them. Painstake is an actual demon. Darkstrife wants to be one, essentially is a Prince of Demons, and has the whole reek of Æternus about him. There definitely were crossover stories involving them, because of course there were, but they were relatively limited in number and scope. Later on in their stories, after the pair of them have made names for themselves as being notable foes of Æternus, Fanatic would soften on them a bit.
  • If Darkstrife were to die, would Painstake lose her access to the soul forever? Yes.
  • If Painstake were to die, would Darkstrife have to return to Æternus to have access to his power? Yes.
  • Do the glyphs in his skin represent a danger to his soul? Potentially, but they also protect him so it’s a wash. It’s spending a bit of Æternus power and Soul power to protect both things.
  • Does he have to get help from NightMist to not be overwhelmed? They’re sure that happened in some story at some point.
  • Oh come on now, they’re literal soulmates so surely that got brought up by some writer who shipped them, right? Or maybe they share a soulmate? Oh, that’s interesting. If we say that soulmates exist do we think that they’d share the same person… That’s a good one.
  • We’re going to see them in the inevitable Arcane Tales or Tome of the Bizarre DE set, right? We know that those are fan-favorite theories on DE expansion titles, but neither of those are going to be used.
  • How involved are the two of them in other books? We see them in Tome of the Bizarre where they fight Æternus, but how much are they involved in other Sentinel Comics plots? Do they interact with other heroes/villains? Do they have much in the way of supporting cast (beyond their adoptive/biological parents)? Do the two of them stick around or once TotB becomes the Naturalist’s book do they kind of just disappear? What about after OblivAeon (either in the Sentinel Comics Universe or Vertex)? Rather than answering these here, this all could get wrapped up into a Creative Process “More Darkstrife and Painstake details” or a Writers’ Room that would then require some of the same to be rounded out. They recognize that enough people are interested enough in these characters that they’re worth spending more time on. They see them as having more supporting cast. They can see crossovers (possibly even ones where they’re positioned as the foes for the other heroes given that they skirt closer to anti-hero than most of their characters - they’re the edgiest of the edgy and while they wind up as Heroes, they’re mainly fighting against something so dark that their “acceptable behavior” window has shifted relative to most other heroes). They imagine that they’re still around in the “present” of Sentinel Comics.
  • Given that Painstake was raised in Japan, is her “demon form” look one similar two what we’d normally expect from within the Æternus = Hell paradigm and so she looks like a standard “western” demon, or would her look take cues from Japanese myths like yōkai? She doesn’t have an incredibly consistent look in her demon form (or rather, she has a default look which is what comes out when she’s stressed or whatnot, but she isn’t limited to that look), but she definitely tends to look more like a few particular types of yōkai (varying by writer/artist, but also by the specific situation she’s in) rather than western demons.
  • So… I didn’t realize that “ice up the whole rat” was a phrase you guys invented and in the interest of broadening my English vocabulary I tried looking it up with no luck; can you guys give your best dictionary definitions? It largely involved overkill in various ways. Here’s a list of what they came up with that they think covers most cases.
    1. To completely solve a problem. “I had a bunch of stuff I needed to take care of, so I put in the time and iced up the whole rat.”
    2. To stall something for a long time. “I’ve got this thing that’s due tomorrow and I’ve just been icing up the whole rat on this project.”
    3. To completely cover in ice. “In order to boop Plague Rat’s snoot, Absolute Zero had to ice up the whole rat.”
    4. To create a large problem/challenge. “I really iced up the whole rat and now I have to take care of that whole situation.”
  • Is Devil Bunny a ruler of Æternus? Devil Bunny does not exist in the Sentinel Comics canon. Most things that are created by Greater Than Games have crossed over in one way or another, but not Devil Bunny. If he had crossed over, there’s a situation where he could have been just due to the fact that so many entities have claimed the position of “ruler of Æternus” over the years. What’s actually closer assuming a crossover between Devil Bunny and Sentinel Comics concepts would be the idea that Devil Bunny is just how Wager Master chooses to manifest in that reality.

Cover Discussion

  • So, we’ve already established “The Ghost and the Machine” is the title. We probably don’t want to give away Schema’s involvement, but maybe have Muerto in “scary ghost” form doing something with Absolute Zero’s suit (either the teaching suit he’s actually in or his standard one for brand reasons) - implying a fight? Maybe room to imply in the art that AZ is dead? Maybe zombie AZ with the haunted specter of Muerto? That’s probably enough for Adam to work with. Having AZ in the teaching suit would give more opportunity to show his face, but whatever Adam thinks works best.