Podcasts/Episode 243

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The Letters Page: Episode 243
Writers' Room: Tome of the Bizarre Vol. 2 #214

Tome of the Bizarre Vol 2 214.png

Original Source

Primary Topic



We finally get to talk about [redacted]!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:25:00

We've been just vibrating with excitement to finally talk about the subject of this episode... and you're just going to have to listen to find out!

We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to fielding your many questions about this newly revealed very old character!

Near the end of the episode, Adam plugs a comic he's into, which I wrote about in one of the Disparation BackerKit updates last week! Read about Principles, and then check out Impossible Jones!

See you next time!

Characters Mentioned



  • In the Golden Age of comics, in 1948 a brand new book debuted: Tome of the Bizarre. Horror comics were a big thing in the latter parts of the Golden Age (which is a major part of what eventually led to the Comics Code Authority being established, but that’s not for several years yet), but it took Sentinel Comics a while longer to get into that game. Horror anthologies were the big genre, so you’d have issues comprised of several shorter stories. The “gimmick” for Sentinel was that they’d have a character who served as a frame-story narrator [and this was a thing - you may have heard of the Cryptkeeper for the real-life Tales from the Crypt comics and TV shows]. TotB’s narrator was this weird “spirit of the tales” kind of guy. Not really a classic ghost, but he’s been around a long time and haunts this ancient library full of dusty old tomes and the premise is that he’s taking individual books down from the shelves to tell you the story within. His name is Grimm. Given that this is pre-CCA, the stories here are actually pretty graphic.
  • October ’48 was quite the time for Sentinel Comics. Not only is it when the first issue of TotB comes out, but it’s also the month that Paul Parsons VIII takes over the role of Legacy in Justice Comics (along with the first appearances of Iron Curtain and Emily Evans), the Wraith (and the name of Rook City) is introduced in Mystery Comics, and Haka first appears over in Arcane Tales.
  • Grimm hangs around throughout the first volume of TotB. That only wound up being 26 issues, but this is one of the few [known] instances of schedule slip in Sentinel Comics were an ostensibly monthly title had a really erratic release schedule so it did wind up being around for 3 years rather than just over 2. When TotB volume 2 starts up in January ’59 (introducing Biomancer), Grimm is nowhere to be seen. He’s more or less forgotten in terms of active readership.
  • Heis remembered as this really iconic Golden Age fixture - a relic of the pre-Code days. He was not only creepy looking (he looked quite corpse-like, so at least undead-adjacent), but had a tendency to call out the reader directly. All of these horrible things wouldn’t be happening if you just stopped turning the page. The story wouldn’t be playing out if you could just put the book down, but you just have to see what happens, don’t you?
  • Then in April ’67 we reach TotB volume 2 #100 which introduces Grimm, Teller of Tales. He’s a “storyteller villain” who forces heroes into different roles in a story that he’s telling. It’s not a fourth wall-breaking thing where he’s addressing the audience; it’s all within the fiction of the comics story itself. He’s not a narrator, just a villain whose shtick is stories. It’s still not entirely clear what he is. He still looks like an old man who might be dead, but sometimes he’s a “ghost”, but other times he’s taking on the guise of a character in the stories himself.
    • They backtrack a bit here - he would also do this back in volume 1 where a character in a story would be revealed at the end to have actually been Grimm himself, like the murder victim in a story would be him, so he can blame the reader for killing him by reading the story. He’s very much an unreliable narrator (because the writers weren’t actually trying to build up coherent lore here, just writing whatever they thought would get the reaction they wanted), but is also very sinister as he seems to take real glee in the horror of it all.
  • So then Grimm is just around. He’s not a frequent character, but shows up here and there until a two-part story in October and November ’76. He’s almost exclusively a TotB guy, but he does show up in the occasional Arcane Tales book and pops up in The Savage Haka, Alpha, Virtuoso of the Void, Dark Watch, and Ra: God of the Sun too at various points later on. Anyway, in issues #214-5 in volume 2 of TotB we have a fairly big crossover thing for him - two consecutive issues with continuity was still pretty rare in the mid-70s. This was the specific “Teller of Tales” story where he’s “telling” fairy tales and forcing heroes into the roles.
  • Anyway, he’s just this weird character that pops up now and again. Once Naturalist takes over volume 3 of Tome of the Bizarre in the ’90s we see him even less since “his” book is being headlined by a specific other character. That is, until the new volume of TotB starts up in 2009. The first issue of volume 4 is… a Horror anthology book with multiple stories and Grimm as the narrator. “Hello readers of Sentinel Comics.” He’s back and talks about how this has been his book all along. He’s weaved himself into the stories a bit more than usual over the recent decades, seeing what these other so-called storytellers can do, but he’s taking control again.
  • Now we see him operating in both modes. He’s the narrator again, but while he would show up in the stories in volume 1, now it’s very clear that he’s the one steering things. Heroes are forced into roles, betray one another, etc. and the readers know that Grimm is behind it all, but they have no means of knowing. Not every story is explicitly him messing around, but that’s the overall arc of what’s going on in volume 4.
  • Examples of stuff going on in this era: there’s a Green Knight story, Sky-Scraper as a witch, the Fey-Court “Winter’s Engagement” story happens in here. Grimm largely stays out of that one, but is still narrating it and might push on things in minor ways here and there (and he likely drops into iambic pentameter to play along), the Drought story mentioned in the recent Naturalist/Akash’Thriya foes episode was in here.
  • This leads up to 2014 and an event that was around issues #60-61. This is where he’s reached the culmination of everything he’s been building towards and we get the reveal of a bunch of betrayals and whatnot. However, the end of the story is over in Arcane Tales volume 2 #600 in December 2014 which is where Grimm is destroyed (and could never ever return - something like “a spirit of story” is really easy to kill after all, they can’t emphasize enough how easy destroying such a thing is; you just burn the bones and pour rock salt around the site or something, ain’t nothing coming back from that) - it’s actually kind of a plot point that he had to be taken out of “his” book in order to defeat him.
  • So, now that they’ve told us all of that, it’s time to actually do a Writers’ Room. They don’t think that any of the volume 4 stuff is appropriate. It’s all very involved and interconnected with other stuff. It’s the culmination of a bunch of setup and so doesn’t give a good idea of what he was like as just a villain. They shouldn’t jump to the finale without showing us any of the context preceding it. Similarly, volume 1 is inappropriate given that he’s not really a character in those. Volumes 2 and 3 are both options (up until Naturalist), but 2 is likely better just given how crowded 3 is already.
  • Christopher thinks that either his “first appearance” as a villain in volume 2 #100 or the Teller of Tales story in #214-215 are the real options here. The latter (with all of the heroes as fairy tale characters) is probably the more developed story they have for him, so let’s go with that.
  • Okay, so they have general bullet points for this story, but will be fleshing it out as they go. Issue #214 (October 1976) starts with heroes in fairy tales - just drop a familiar character into a role and go with it. They’re all pretty abbreviated, a half page to a page apiece as they run through things and we get 3 or 4 pages in all of this. As things go on, the heroes start reacting like they understand that something weird is happening and then actively rebelling against the roles.
  • Adam suggests at this point that we have that go on for much longer. It’s a two-part story and the story density per page in the ’70s was higher. We can do a few pages of each of these characters - just dropped in medias res to show “we’re telling a story with this character in a fairy tale”. There is narration in caption boxes and whatnot, but it’s not clear that it’s Grimm (probably revealed at the end of #214 with him being the visible antagonist is #215).
  • How about the heroes are playing along normally with their own stories and it’s only when they run into somebody else’s that things “break”. We have a Little Red Riding Hood and a Rapunzel and Hansel & Gretel doing their things, but having them meet ruins the “fiction” of their individual stories and things break down and they’re able to start working against the situations they’ve found themselves in.
  • Having Rapunzel named, they like the idea of having NightMist portray her so we have the long trailing hair be made of mist. Let’s see who we actually have available in the mid ’70s. The Freedom Five are all established. The Prime Wardens (although not as the Prime Wardens yet) are as well, although it might be a little early to use Fanatic much. Dark Watch really only has NightMist (Mr. Fixer is technically around, but as Black Fist).
  • They like NightMist as Rapunzel, so let’s lock that in. If we do a Red Riding Hood thing having Haka be the woodsman is fun. We could put, I dunno, Tachyon in as Red Riding Hood. The important thing there is that the Big Bad Wolf is just a big bad wolf, but is later revealed to be Grimm. In Rapunzel, the witch is revealed to be Grimm. [There’s an aside here to look up the “original” Brothers Grimm ahem version, mainly to see if “Mother Gothel” was a Disney invention - it isn’t, the term is used in the Grimm telling of the story, but Göthel is an archaic German word for something like “midwife, wet nurse, foster mother” rather than being a proper name itself.]
  • They don’t need to really populate the stories with heroes in every role; there can be a number of “civilian” cast members. Tachyon as Red Riding Hood isn’t bad, though, because she’s got to be careful while she walks through the woods, which she does rather than speeding through it in a moment.
  • That’s two proper “fairy tales”, how about some more “folklore” types of things. King Arthur or Daniel Boone or something. Robin Hood is good, so let’s do that. The Merry Men has a bunch of roles people can play. The core “Robin Hood” elements are “ranged combat” and “sneaking around/being clever” and this just screams the Wraith. She’s not the charismatic, lovable rogue type but we don’t have to have these fit exactly. Plus having her initially playing against type is funny.
  • Anyway, we have that in medias res nature of these stories let us skip a bunch of the tellings. We can have Robin Hood sneaking through the forest as she’s coming up to ambush Prince John’s carriage or whatever and she comes across this tower with misty hair trailing from a high window. Then a woodsman runs into the scene asking if she’d seen a wolf run through here - a big, bad one (classic monster-hunter Haka behavior). It’s also funny for huge Haka to be carrying a woodsman’s axe that’s comically undersized for him.
  • Then Robin Hood recognizes this giant as “Haka”. She can’t remember why she knows that’s his name. He doesn’t think it is, he’s The Woodsman. Wait, that can’t be right… Things break down from there and the two of them start to put things together. Rapunzel hears the commotion and has the two of them come up to her tower. NightMist being who she is identifies that they’re under the effects of some terrible spell. Being the captive of a witch for so long must be giving her some insight into matters.
  • Then the witch arrives, kicks Robin Hood and The Woodsman out, and locks Rapunzel in a golden cage. Meanwhile a giant wolf bursts out of the forest to chase off The Woodsman and some of Prince John’s men show up to capture Robin Hood. What’s going on here is that Grimm has noticed that things are going off the rails and is trying to split them up again to get things back on track. This doesn’t work - the heroes work together and Grimm winds up having to reveal himself. Hmm… It’s actually more fun if Grimm’s able to “fix” things, but in doing so has to reveal himself to the readers, but not the heroes. Man, if it was a volume 4 thing we could even have him directly address the readers about his problem and asking them to buy issue #215 so that he can fix things.
  • The heroes subvert the plan by Rapunzel just turning to mist and flying out of the tower, she helps break Robin Hood out of the cage that John’s men had put her in, and they team up with The Woodsman to defeat the wolf. It’s at that point that the wolf is revealed to have been Grimm and he breaks character as he gets away from the heroes. He’s still got his hooks in them as they still think of themselves as the roles he’s given them. The three heroes still working together. They want to go find their friends who are also under this spell and try to find a way to break it.
  • They know that issue #215 introduces a few more heroes and has Grimm’s “plan” to fix the story to be a Jack in the Beanstalk thing. Eventually he’s revealed as “himself” - as a specific bad guy who can be fought and the heroes eventually defeat him. Part of what’s shown over these two issues is that the roles that Grimm shoves people into actually conveys power as well. If Haka is The Woodsman, he has skills related to that role that he might not otherwise have. Wraith becomes as adept at sneaking in the woods as she normally is in urban environments and other trappings of Robin Hood. NightMist’s tears gain healing properties, etc. The specific story gimmick here is that by playing along with the roles they’ve been forced into, they gain the skills/powers necessary to defeat Grimm.
  • Okay, so we start #215 narrated by Grimm because that’s fun. His plan here is to set the heroes against one another - specifically in the form of Fairy Fanatic who he sets up to be the “enemy” of the story. Adam brings up that in the ’70s, the American cultural association of “fairies” was positive. Think Tinker Bell from the Peter Pan stuff. Okay, fine, so Fairy Fanatic is an ally - Christopher just wanted a hero to be forced into the villain role. Adam doesn’t think we even need that - we can just have some scenes of the three heroes from last time finding and rescuing more heroes from their various stories and then we have the big set piece fight where they go up the beanstalk and fight Giant Grimm. Eventually Haka cuts the beanstalk which is the death of the giant and so they defeat Grimm. NightMist uses her Rapunzel tears to help heal any of the heroes who were still fighting on the beanstalk when they realized what it was they had to do.
  • So, other heroes. Fairy Fanatic is fun, and Adam had mentioned Tinker Bell, do we want to just lean into that specific story for her? Sounds good. Tinker Bell has been captured by Captain Hook and the heroes rescue her. She’s tiny but uses a human-size dagger that acts as an enormous sword for her. What else? Little Mermaid could work… Oh, how about the Wizard of Oz? We probably want to do either the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman (because for copyright reasons we probably need to adhere more to the original book than to the decades-more-recent film), or Cowardly Lion - and Bunker as the Tin Woodman seems kind of perfect. Absolute Zero as the Tin Man or Argent Adept as the Scarecrow are also not bad - they consider filling all three of those positions, but decide it’s simpler given the room they have to work with to just stick to the “one hero per story” shtick.
  • From there they go up the beanstalk to fight the giant, eventually cutting down the beanstalk to defeat him. He crashes to the ground, which sends up smoke everywhere and when it clears the heroes are themselves again.


  • The name “Horror Host” sounds just campy enough to be a cheesy Silver Age story where a hero (say Fanatic) has to fight a terrifying monster only defeating it by facing their fears; is the Horror Host actually a Host spirit? There’s a fundamental misunderstanding here; they used the phrase “horror host” to refer to a character who was the host of horror comics, it’s not the character’s name. They can definitely see Grimm saying “I am your host of horror tales” at some point. Is Grimm a Host spirit, though? Certainly not in his initial appearances, but how about later once the Host is established as being a thing that exists? Still no. He’s something else entirely. They don’t think he’s a Singular Entity either. He’s inexorably tied to Stories, but his origins are shrouded in mystery and he’s told many versions of his origins himself over the years.
  • Assuming this is a new character, how does it fit into the Fanatic/Apostate stuff? It seems like “Horror” is a bigger deal than “Deception”, so would it fit into the comics? They’ve really led you astray on this Host thing. Sorry.
  • Are they a shapeshifter? Yes!
  • Also: a Spite vs. Rambler issue? Did the Bloodsworn Colosseum put you up to this? No, but the listeners did.
  • Does Rambler have to deal with the Agent of Gloom version of Spite given their shared connection to GloomWeaver? Yeah, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. The story resulted in Agent of Gloom Spite rather than having Rambler fight him.
  • Who, if anyone can interact with the horror host? Guise seems likely if he ever actually interacted with them, but maybe Parse? By the time that Guise and Parse are around, Grimm is already a character within the pages of Sentinel Comics continuity. It makes a certain amount of sense for a Golden Age story to have Grimm telling a story about some monster and eventually the monster grabs and eats Grimm himself (who shows up again on the last page of the issue asking if you were worried about him). Some characters in the Golden Age likely interact with him occasionally, but part of the issue with Golden Age horror stories are that these are unnamed characters who die by the end of the story.
  • In the Sky-Scraper episode you said that she learned the value of her small form when she helped K.N.Y.F.E. infiltrate F.I.L.T.E.R. - but that was also where a lot of her tech/links came from; now that we know this story involved that “space bank” or whatever, did the F.I.L.T.E.R. break-ins happen later? If so, can we get a clarification of when that was? Yes. The F.I.L.T.E.R. stuff happens a few times. The later one is during OblivAeon and they break in because K.N.Y.F.E. knows that this inter-reality organization would have a lot of information on this, but this is a reprisal of a popular early story. In 2004 we had the story with them in space that the recent episode was about and it was well-received enough that they teamed up again in early 2007. Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #444-446 has the two of them infiltrate F.I.L.T.E.R. and K.N.Y.F.E. erases her old records and whatnot.
  • Are Drillbit and Qubit known as the Bitter Sisters? Of course they are. That’s obviously what they’re called by everyone.
  • [I can’t believe that you named a character Qubit who can (functionally) detach her forearms, well done.] Yes… the reference to cubits was totally intentional…
  • Given that you recently revealed that Parse’s methods of space travel include hitchhiking I have to ask: does Parse know where her towel is? Yeah, figuratively she knows where her towel is.
  • When does Portja find out that Paige is married? She finds out during StarCrossers. [Insert more joking about “Everyone had Fey-Husbands, right? It’s not like they’re binding or mean anything.”]
  • [Question starts with the premise that the MacGuffin that K.N.Y.F.E. and Sky-Scraper were going after was because having two of them in the same place in their respective realities would cause a Fixed Point.] Wait a minute, they don’t think they said “fixed point” in there and if they did it was a slip of the tongue. This wasn’t a point where something was happening in all realities, just that these two realities happened to be doing a thing that was causing crossover to occur. They were looking to fix this point in space, but either they misspoke, you misheard, or some combination of the two. Sorry.
  • [You’ve also said that OblivAeon created Fixed Points to make realities similar enough to combine and destroy each other.] The Fixed Points are used by him to further his “make universes similar” plans, but while he might create a small number, he’s not responsible for many, let alone all of them. They’re very useful for him since they’re things he can use as guideposts while he’s setting things up, but he’s not going around making a bunch.
  • Does this mean that the tears between realities were caused by OblivAeon inasmuch as they were a response/reaction to his Fixed Points? No, for the misunderstanding reasons above. Or, at least this specific example isn’t known to be related to anything OblivAeon’s been doing. It’s far enough removed from when OblivAeon was decided to be a thing that existed that the writers couldn’t have had it in mind and it’s simply never actually explored as to why this happened. There was a bad thing, the heroes fixed the bad thing, and now there isn’t that bad thing to worry about anymore - it’s just not an important event in the grand scheme of things.
  • Was the crossover due to “realities overlapping” because of the Fixed Points being so similar? There’s some legs to this theory, but it’s not really addressed.
  • So, in the beginning of the Sky-Scraper/K.N.Y.F.E. episode you mentioned a new character: “a rat with a gun”; does this become a Where’s Waldo-esque recurring art element at Freedom Tower? Do they wield a rat-sized gun? Are there any stories documenting their exploits? Does it have a name/fan-nickname in the Metaverse? This is not an actual character in Sentinel Comics - that detail was a lie thrown into the description of the scene for comedic effect. Adam will give you this: there is one issue where there there is a rat crawling on a regular, human-sized gun where you can imagine that it’s about to pick the gun up. Let’s say an issue of Rook City Renegades in 1995; the January issue, so #137. Furthermore, let’s say that this one appearance caught the imagination of the Metaverse readership just as the one-off comment in the podcast episode did here. What actually happened was that some criminal got shot and fell into the sewer where this rat crawled over him and the gun. Congratulations on manifesting a thing into the world of Sentinel Comics. The Metaverse fans also probably do a tongue-in-cheek “Why won’t they give Gun Rat his own comic?” thing. Any time there’s a rat or a gun in the background of a panel somebody points it out. There’s a ton of fan art and Tumblr fan comics.
  • There are two major villains whose major shtick is to get heroes to agree to deals that are bad for them (Wager Master and the Fey-Court); has Captain Cosmic ever gotten into a legal drama-style conflict with either of them in which he wins by carefully going over the terms of the agreements and finding a loophole? Captain Cosmic and Wager Master definitely.
  • [ChatGPT thing based on the previous question that gets into a Captain Cosmic/Fey-Court legal conflict from 1:10:20 through 1:13:20] That’s a legitimate Silver Age story. The problem with ChatGPT here is that it doesn’t “do any of the work”, it’s just stating generalities/the high-level shape of a story. We don’t know what Hugh’s argument was, just that he made one that resulted in him winning. It’s a solid outline for a story. ChatGPT is a tool to help you get over your writer’s block, but it won’t write the story for you.

Cover Discussion

  • They talked more in-depth about #214 today, so that’s the one to do the cover for. It’s also more of a tease, but it also means we don’t have Grimm on it. We get to establish our three main heroes as the draw for the issue, though. Rapunzel NightMist, Woodsman Haka, and Robin Hood Wraith. The latter two are just stumbling upon the tower. Very clear that this is a fairy tale thing. What color is Robin Hood’s outfit? Wraith in green or Robin Hood in Wraith colors? The latter. Do we have NightMist’s face visible up in the tower or just have her “hair” coming down from the window? Just the hair.
  • We’re in 1976, so Christopher gets some words! He’s fine with “giving away” that it’s a Grimm thing, but not by name. Maybe something like “Trapped by the Teller of Tales” or something. Adam eggs him on by suggesting more alliteration which gets us to “Trapped by the Twisted Torments of the Teller of Tales.”