Podcasts/Episode 228

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The Letters Page: Episode 228
Writers' Room: Tome of the Bizarre Vol. 1 #23

Tome of the Bizarre Vol 1 023.png

Original Source

Primary Topic

    Intro

    A blast from the past!

    Show Notes:

    Run Time: 1:15:38

    Adam and I have been looking forward to this story for a long time! Do we have a plan? Heck, no! But we have what we think is a cool hook. Can we deliver? You decide!

    Oh, this is the crowdfunding campaign that we talked about at the top of the show. It's going pretty dang well!

    We have fun with the story, and then we get into questions. Not a lot for this episode, unsurprisingly, but a bunch for the Greazer and Fashion episode, unsurprisingly!

    Thanks for listening!

    Characters Mentioned

    Summary

    Overview

    • So, the original topic that was submitted/voted on for today was “the story Christopher and Adam mentioned during Editor’s Note 49” (aka “the story they keep mentioning that they want to tell”). It’s been up for voting several times under different prompts. Now they’re in a bit of a “dog that caught the car” situation as while they have a basic idea and think it’s a good one, they haven’t actually talked about the details. Where to start?
    • Well, Christopher’s pretty certain that this is a story from somewhere in the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s (probably “late ’70s” as a general vibe) in Tome of the Bizarre. The question Adam has is “Who does it feature?” - if it doesn’t include somebody from the “main cast” of Sentinel Comics, it should go way earlier. Like, without having a main cast member, this kind of has to be pre-Silver Age. They know that the story doesn’t really have to interface with the “lore” of the rest of what’s going on in Sentinel Comics as it is - but do they want it to and put NightMist in it or something?
    • [Spoilers if you’ve somehow gotten this far in the summary before looking at the cover image - don’t click the links if you care about the reveal since they’re being cagey about it.] The book that the story is based on was published in 1902 and had a notable film adaptation in ’39 [that would be the first American version - there were several European adaptations prior to that], so the story in general would be known by the ’50s or ’60s.
    • It’s worth noting that TotB volume 1 would have been a pure horror anthology series (in the true comics sense where there’s multiple unrelated stories in each issue) so they need to at least come up with what the other stories would be titled to put on the cover. Arcane Tales is also an anthology book at this point, but this does feel more like a “horror story” than a “magic story” (although leaning into horror itself by this point - it’s nice to put things in Arcane Tales when they can because they so rarely get to for some reason - glares in the direction of Ra). What issue… not in #15 [first appearance of the Wolf-Woman]. Let’s say issue #23 in June of 1951. Deciding on a Golden Age horror title placement is a load off their minds since they don’t have to even attempt to weave it into continuity. They’ll probably come back to this after telling the story to see if they can find any relevant ways to tie it into continuity, but knowing that they don’t have to makes things easier.
    • Short discussion over how long the stories in this thing would be: these comics were generally roughly 50 pages, but the stories in them weren’t necessarily the same length. You’d get times where you had four 12-ish page stories, or somebody would have made one that was only a tight 3 pages and so you could run it in a book with a longer-than-average story.
    • Brainstorming additional story titles to go on the cover: “The Genie Who Lies!”, some kind of curse (“The man with a strength of six men” or “cursed with strength” - how about “What Terrible Strength”?), and something like “Midnight… Again?!” or “Midnight Walks”. What makes more questions than those? “The Thing What Comes at Midnight” but we don’t want the “archaic ‘what’” twice on the cover. “The Midnight Village”, “The Midnight Factory”… Oh! “The Midnight Machine”. There we go - three stories you’ll never hear. That just leaves the main story that we care about today…
    • Dr. James Mortimer is telling his friend Sherlock Holmes about a beast that stalks the moor around where he lives that has killed many people in the Baskerville family. That’s right, we’re doing “The Hound of the Baskervilles” only this one is “The Were-hound of the Baskervilles”! Holmes dismisses the idea of demonic hounds or curses. We’ve also got Dr. Watson in here, still, so he keeps the role of the “everyman” point of view character for the audience which lets Holmes be a bit weirder. Holmes and Watson arrive at Baskerville Hall. Watson receives an anonymous letter warning them to stay away from the moor, which Holmes dismisses as superstitions.
    • A change Adam proposes here: in the original story the first “victim” died of a heart attack, but in today’s story they should actually be mauled by an animal. In the original, Sir Charles Baskerville died with his face locked into a mask of horror and there were large paw prints found near his body - the idea being that even seeing this thing was enough to inspire terror. In the comic we get more direct confirmation that there really is some kind of creature afoot.
    • More on the style of the story - much like in the originals, we’re dealing with things from Watson’s point of view, so the narration/caption boxes are presented as his inner monologue.
    • Holmes and Watson are given a guest room in Baskerville Hall. At one point Watson is getting ready for bed (in an era-appropriate nightshirt or whatnot) when Holmes comes tromping in. It’s quite late, so Watson asks where he’s been and is worried about him having been out on the moor given the warning they received. Holmes simply believes that such a warning is a clue that it’s precisely where they should be looking and they’ll get a fresh start in the morning.
    • The next day, they get out there. It’s a foggy and a bit muddy out there. Watson eventually stumbles over the body of Dr. Mortimer from the beginning of the story. He’s also been mauled like Charles Baskerville was. Watson makes the observation that the body’s at least been out here all night.
    • Do we need to really flesh out the cast in this version? Probably not - there are servants and neighbors and you probably need at least Jack Stapleton (who’s interested in meeting the famous Sherlock Holmes) and Henry Baskerville (who is very skeptical regarding the legend and is poised to gain ownership of the hall as the other heirs die). That’s probably a good point - we get various theories about what’s going on from these side characters, but they keep dying and Henry, who’s got a lot to gain from all of this, is acting rather suspiciously. Holmes is set on the “hound” as the problem, but Watson takes it upon himself to follow Henry out onto the moor one night. Turns out there are some old tombs out on the estate grounds that are being excavated and Henry is going out to plant evidence implicating the other heirs ahead of him in line to inherit. While Watson’s watching him, this giant wolf creature attacks Henry, tearing him limb from limb.
    • Watson flees, understandably, and gets back to the house. He immediately pulls out some old books that were talking about the tombs that were being excavated. We get a “research montage” as Watson puts together what’s going on. He has it! That’s when Holmes emerges from the shadows asking what his friend has found. It’s a werewolf! Surely you already expected that - what else have you determined. The only thing that makes sense is that the werewolf is you, Holmes!
    • The way the book does this is to have the reveal split across a page turn. We end one page with the something like “the identity can only be…” and the accusation is on the next page where we get a big splash page showing Holmes having turned into the wolf creature ready to attack him. It’s a horror story, so that’s were we end.
    • The thing they had written on a white board something like 4 or 5 years ago was simply “werewolf Sherlock Holmes”. That’s what this whole thing was building to and the reason this story existed.
    • Now, having gotten through it, do we want to revisit this within continuity in later decades? It definitely sounds like something that could have come up in one of Alpha’s books. Maybe she runs into some old, really smart werewolf at one point that talks about being the person that Sherlock Holmes was based on and he helps her investigate something. One of Holmes’ trademarks was just how amazingly observant he was - having werewolf senses kind of helps there. We can even throw in some mannerisms, like an “Elementary, my dear Tabitha” somewhere. He’d met Arthur Conan Doyle back in the day. He can be supporting cast for Alpha for a while until he gets killed by Apex or Hexterminator. We say that he’s just living off by himself in a cabin in the English countryside, picking off the occasional sheep, but otherwise just keeping to himself. It’s tragic when he dies. They name him Harlock Holm - archaic, but plausible names that are close enough to have served as inspiration for “Sherlock Holmes”.

    Questions

    • What do the shippers think of werewolf Haka? That’s a ’90s story (’95 for a “face-off” and ’96 for an incident where he’s “full wolf”). They don’t know that there would have really been “shipping” around that in that era. Even if there would have been, “werewolf Haka” is more monstrous than sexy.
    • We know that Absolute Zero causes shenanigans with vampirism, but does Haka mess with the “standard” werewolf thing due to his immortal nature? They don’t think he does anything differently from normal werewolves other than “get better” from it which normal werewolves don’t. They don’t think that Haka sires any other werewolves in the meantime (or if he does, he has to kill them later).
    • What about Scholar? [There’s more to this question, but they’re unsure what is meant.] Scholar could probably prevent himself from turning into a werewolf. If he was bit he could probably isolate the curse and get rid of it before it took hold - maybe by transmuting himself to silver.
    • Could he transmute a werewolf back into a human? They don’t think so - the werewolf stuff isn’t analogous to transmutation of elements. Transformation is a different thing from transmutation.
    • [Something about Sky-Scraper making different sized wolves that they’re unsure what is meant.] Werewolf Sky-Scraper is pretty terrifying between being able to bite you when she’s tiny and hard to see coming but then also being able to be this enormous wolf monster. If you’re talking about her siring more werewolves, the size-changing thing isn’t transferable and they’d just be regular-sized werewolves. Other non-werewolf powers aren’t transferable (unless the specific story needs them to be, obviously).
    • [Comment about werewolf Proletariat.] Now there we go, that’s gonna be a problem for everybody. He’s Wolf Storm.
    • [Letter concludes with the suggestion of somebody being bitten by werewolves Scholar, Sky-Scraper, and Proletariat in just the right order/manner to make a person who can turn themselves into a bunch of tiny silver werewolves that Expatriette could then shoot at people.] That’s wild, but the whole thing presupposes that powers you had before becoming a werewolf would be passed on like the general werewolf curse, which isn’t really the case.
    • If werewolves cannot cross-breed with humans, do they count as a separate species and so would Jansa vi Dero collect one as an Endling if Earth was going to be destroyed? The trick is that they’re strictly a sub-set of humanity. They can’t interbreed with humans, but then again they can’t breed at all. They’re reliant on a human existing first that then gets turned into a werewolf. They’re different enough to make this a weird edge case, but they don’t think that they’re far enough removed from “human” for Jansa to count them separately. It’s closer to having a disease than being a different species. They can see a story written where Jansa would take a werewolf, but the point of the story is to turn the whole Enclave into werewolves or something.
    • [This letter has been from Gruum] If Gruum were to be bitten, would he turn into a Tromtar-wolf or a Were-tar? The “were” in “werewolf” is the word element that means “man” [it’s from Old English and other related languages]. Therefore “Tromtar-wolf” or similar is more proper.
    • So, we know that you’re not in the business of selling t-shirts, but I can’t get the idea out of my head for one that says “Space-zombies stole my car” with the appropriate page from Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #531. That being said, in the Metaverse was this a popular meme/shirt? Does Greazer Clutch sell knock-off versions of this shirt out of his car? They can see it being a meme, but it happened too late in the comics timeline for it to become a thing referenced in the comics.
    • How did the Riven come about? Was it something they inadvertently did to themselves or was it a weapon used against them? They did it to themselves, but obviously not on purpose. They were trying to do some “infinite energy” technological hack, which became a problem when they died and the tech kept their bodies going.
    • Was this the only time the Riven show up in the comics? If not, do they show up before or after OblivAeon? They said in the episode was that they were a one-off. Certainly there weren’t more stories with them before OblivAeon, but they can imagine a later story that revisits them in some way (maybe somebody finds the wreckage and tries it again).
    • What are the XTREME Riven like? Heavy metal instead of regular metal. The actual answer is that they never showed up in Extremeverse stories, but the intellectual exercise of thinking about it… Very spiky. Think Cable’s arm in the mid-’90s. Maybe the base species is crazy too - like in addition to being metal and dead they’re also each like a little volcano. Or they’ve got a lot of chrome look to the metal and they can transform into vehicles too. Flame-belching zombie transformers. There we go.
    • We know that Fashion was a teen in her original comic and is still in her 20s or thereabouts due to time dilation while flying through space - the Wraith was in college when she debuted and is now still in her late 20s (as of OblivAeon); is this ever called out in the comics? Even if not overtly, but just a joke from the writers? They’re sure that most of the time Wraith’s age is just handwaved away. Occasionally you get a writer who’s trying to be clever in finding a way that she got “de-aged” or something, but hardly nobody ever cares about such attempts to explain it. From the late ’00s on, many (if not most) of the characters start aging “normally”, but it doesn’t really happen until then and given the short time that’s passed since then it’s not always obvious.
    • Do Greazer and Fashion smooch? I’m not answering this one, but will move on to the next one.
    • So, Greazer and Fashion, stranded on a strange, dangerous planet together and forced to work together… Christopher himself said that “they make a good team”… Surely there is some romantic thing there, either in the comics or among the shipping fandom, right? Did the two of them ever encounter one another again in subsequent comics stories? Will they in the RPG era? Do they admit what there is between them? Does Greazer act friendly, but Fashion pretends that she’s never seen this guy before when they’re around other heroes? They don’t think that Greazer and Fashion smooch in the Multiverse era and they don’t think that Greazer is her type. By the time of “modern”, post-Colosseum Fashion she’s got this serious edge to her (although is still largely a fun character). That seriousness means that when Greazer’s being his goofy self she’s not into it. They can work together great and he might be into this pretty lady, but she is not interested. Greazer’s like that with everybody anyway. So, the answer is “no” officially, but that’s never stopped anybody.
    • Is Card Shark the same alien species as Kaargra Warfang? They could be. Adam hadn’t drawn Card Shark yet and they can say there’s some serious sexual dimorphism that results in the males being significantly “sharkier” than the females. Kaargra was designed to evoke sharks and it’s a nifty worldbuilding thing to say that they are, so why not? Good job establishing some canon details there, Amelia. The women are tall and muscular, but look like “ladies with vaguely shark-ish features” and the men are short squat tubes that are more like “sharks that are kind of mannish”. Like the stereotypical Mafia guy who’s as wide as he is tall, but with a shark head.
    • Why does Card Shark use Earth card suits (of French origin) for his deck of cards? Does he visit Earth? Did some space-faring human give him a souvenir? Just an extraordinary coincidence? Is there an entire upcoming story based around the origin of Card Shark’s deck? Probably the same reasons that The Roulette resembles an Earth roulette wheel. All of these various gambling apparatus (including dice and whatnot) are actually alien in origin. Earth had no games.
    • Does he also give out loans at predatory interest rates? No, that’s his cousin Loan Shark.
    • In the inevitable Card Shark deck, will he have a nemesis icon for Fashion, Greazer, or both? What kind of mechanic would represent his ability to trap people in cards? Who can say, time will tell. [Insert more Yu-Gi-Oh! references regarding trap cards, the shadow realm, etc.]
    • When will we get to see art of him? Not never.

    Cover Discussion

    • So, this should look like a Holmes and Watson thing, but with a full moon and a werewolf silhouette. Adam has an idea where Holmes has a magnifying glass out following some clues and you see the shadow of a werewolf being cast on the wall next to him.
    • Adam also needs to know what little pictures to put in the little bubbles for the backup stories.
      • The genie one could be an evil-looking genie or a suspicious looking bottle/lamp.
      • The Curse, What Terrible Strength? Maybe a circus strongman, bulging with muscle but with a face contorted in pain? There’s not a lot of room to work with. Maybe a flexing arm with a twisted face on the biceps.
      • The Midnight Machine could have an assembly line with people working on it, but we have the space issue again. Maybe just some industrial machine thing with a big closed eye on it. Adam has an idea for that.
    • There’s a brief discussion on whether to be “were-wolf” or “were-hound” in the title - they decide that this could be a very early use of this kind of “were-[x]” compounding for things other than werewolf. Christopher also says that we’re flying in the face of the Comics Code, but Adam correctly mentions that this is pre-CCA [1951 where the CCA wasn’t established until ’54]. They like the idea that there’s some kerfuffle about the beloved character of Sherlock Holmes being degraded in this way by making him a werewolf. They might pass that detail on to Derek for the History book.