Podcasts/Episode 247

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The Letters Page: Episode 247
Creative Process: Fashion Foes

Original Source

Primary Topic



Christopher's voice is compromized, but he's still gonna come up with bad guys!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:32:49

It's the first week of Adam's birth month, and we're happy to be here! We're off to the races with this one — been a long time coming, and we didn't really do any prep work (other than sneaky stuff last week... but you'll have to listen to find out what that means) so you're getting all this mostly uncut! From the Golden Age to very modern, indeed!

Also, there's a fun cameo in the letters section! Enjoy!

Join us next week for ANOTHER Creative Process, this one about Lifeline's supporting cast!

Characters Mentioned



  • So, they have one villain for Fashion at this point: Trickline the Despoiler, the leader of the Scravagers (with a reminder of how ridiculous these guys’ names are as basically any dumb thing you throw together in the moment works: Brickfist, Killostine, Skullker, etc.). Things they want:
    • At least one foe that’s a holdover from the original Stylin’ Shirley era that gets ported in (not necessarily as a foe back then). If you’re going to “resurrect” a character like this, you have to bring somebody along for the ride.
    • Somebody that’s more connected to what’s going on in Sentinel Comics. They probably weren’t ever connected to Shirley before this, but somebody that serves as a plot thing for her that actually connects her to the ongoing continuity rather than just being this new thing that’s dropped in.
    • Another general “space thing” that she dealt with during her time away from Earth who winds up being a problem here too.
  • Some of these could be the same character - those are just the three main “themes” to hit.
  • Speaking of themes, what are the themes of Fashion as a character: there’s the fashion stuff obviously, there’s the Bloodsworn Gladiator thing, and general space stuff disconnected to the Colosseum. They think that it’s safe to drop the gladiator angle for today. There’s only around 3 years of content to fill before OblivAeon and after that we already know there are a lot more former gladiators available to run into due to the Colosseum’s destruction.
  • Hmm… Slightly longer than 3 years. Sure, her modern story during the Multiverse Era is 2013-2016, but there’s still her time as Fashion in the ’50s! She first uses that moniker is Justice Comics #149 in September ’52 and is “lost in space” in Cosmic Tales vol. 1 #194 in February ’57, so there’s almost twice as much time back then as she gets after her return, so making up somebody for her Golden Age adventures makes sense.
  • That has its own complications. The conceit of the character after she returns to Earth is that she’s actually Stylin’ Shirley’s granddaughter, so having a modern villain who’s mad at her is a bit weird. Please ignore the Wraith-shaped hole in this logic - at least she wasn’t absent for a long period of time that “requires” explanation. Yes, logically the other characters were in-continuity with Fashion in the ’50s, but modern readers weren’t around for that and so we can suppose that Fashion was gone for a long time, even for these seemingly-ageless characters (of course, there were fewer “crossover” stories back then, it’s possible that only the Wraith would have ever had reason to interact with Fashion back then - maybe Legacy).
  • Anyway, the move here is to probably just retcon her ’50s adventures to be out-of-continuity with the other heroes to make the long absence in the Metaverse jibe with the explanation in-setting for her “needing” to be ’50s fashion icon Shirley Shane’s granddaughter. We just need some story thread from the old comics that comes back - it doesn’t have to be a major thing from back then.
  • Adam’s idea for that is to take a character from Stylin’ Shirley, the romance comic that already wasn’t in-continuity with the supers stuff, and turn that into a villain. A boyfriend, a rival model, another fashion designer who’s mad at Stylin’ Shirley for being designer and model, etc. That last one has possibilities - the plot could be that they sabotage some of Shirley’s outfits just before a fashion show and the outfit starts falling apart when she’s halfway down the runway and she has to think fast and pin it back together in a way that still “works”. Shirley having to improvise here can actually be the inspiration for the main gimmick of Fashion - modular/adaptable clothes. This works as a “villain” who has absolutely no reason to have appeared in any in-continuity supers comics in the intervening decades. Adam throws out “The Needler” and that works.
  • So, where to put them? Stylin’ Shirley was around for much longer than her time as Fashion in the supers books (January ’44 through issue #274 in October ’66). They wouldn’t be called “The Needler” in a Romance comic, but they could just be a regular, named antagonist character. Of course, none* of what happens in Stylin’ Shirley here is actually being used as setup for anything. It’s entirely on the modern comics to pull from this and make something appropriate for a supers comic and come up with explanations for how they’re connected.
  • Christopher thinks that this fashion show sabotage story should happen close to when Fashion first appears in ’52. We need enough lead time for the thing to happen in Stylin’ Shirley, audience reaction to be noted, and then the character as a hero being developed. Adam actually wants to push it a bit earlier so that this kind of thing happens several times, to the point that the Romance comics have gotten a bit formulaic regarding it. August ’50 it is, issue #80 of Stlyin’ Shirley.
  • They quickly workshop Carol Carabello (“Should she have an alliterative name?” “Absolutely, it’s a Romance comic; everybody has one”) as the name of the rival designer who first appears here. Not that she has a “final appearance” in that she’s “defeated” or something. She’s just around as an antagonistic character. There’s also not a huge amount of continuity in these. Maybe sometime in the late ’50s she and Shirley put on a show together and they get along. Then the next time she shows up she hates Shirley again. Whatever. Comics that long ago did not assume that readers were managing to read every issue.
  • Okay, for the modern reintroduction we need to know when Fashion returns to Earth. Shirley is back in comics as Fashion in Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #520 in June 2013 and we know she’s still in space at least in #528 (February 2014) and #531-533 (May-July 2014) since we have Writers’ Rooms about them. In September we get Justice Comics #712 which is a big Fashion does stuff on Earth story that’s the main “return to continuity” thing (sure, her space adventures were in-continuity, but they weren’t really connected to anything - sure, Greazer was there but he’s on the fringes of continuity as it is). That’s also the issue where her “alibi” as Stylin’ Shirley Shane’s granddaughter is established. While she does eventually get her fashion career up and running again, that’s not really explored until post-OblivAeon and she gets her own title. For now, she’s just doing hero stuff as Fashion.
  • So… they’re imagining her as having an ostentatious “I’m back and taking the fashion/design/superhero world by storm” kind of attitude. However, they had also been thinking, at least up through now, that she had a secret identity - nobody knows that Fashion is really Shirley Shane. Since we also haven’t yet seen her operating on Earth, it stands to reason that her hero costume once back has to conceal her identity. They joke a bit about domino masks and glasses perfectly concealing one’s identity, but having the mask itself be a small, modular tool makes sense for this character in particular. Like, it can change shape on her face or could have things like a heads-up display that she can turn on and off. One more little device to play with.
  • Okay, so is the modern person still Carol Carabello? Sure, but a different one. Adam points out that basically any time a Wonder Woman character needs to be brought into modern day they just do so, ignoring the old appearances entirely. The only people who would even recognize the name “Carol Carabello” are people who read old Romance comics from 50+ years ago. They don’t even bother saying that she’s a granddaughter or anything - it’s just a new character who just happens to have that name, completely ignoring the original. Christopher’s okay with this if we don’t give the original a last name. Just have her be Crafty Carol or something. Adam pushes back: since the Stylin’ Shirley books themselves were not in-continuity with the supers books [for example, the Stylin’ Shirley title continued for over 9 years after the hero called Fashion got lost in space] it does not matter that this name is reused like this. It’s weird, but this whole thing is weird. Alright, sold, but she’s also “Crafty Carol Carabello” to go up against “Stylin’ Shirley Shane”.
  • Alright, so the modern Carol can pretty much have the same motivation re: hating Shirley - resenting that she’s doing so well as a designer and model, only going about things in a supervillain way now. Is she still “Crafty Carol” and, if not why not? It’s a very dated name for a 2014, but we’re talking a D-list villain for a C-list (at best) hero. The hook here is that Carol has this resentment of Shirley, discovers that she’s also Fashion, but doesn’t want to just out her (because that’s not fun, but it also likely wouldn’t ruin Shirley’s fashion career, just complicate her Fashion career). They decide to drop Crafty Carol for this iteration because that was an enemy of Stylin’ Shirley, while this needs to be an enemy of Fashion.
  • They decide to put this story with Carol that gets into a bit more about Shirley’s position back on Earth in JC #716 in January 2015. A talking point here is that Fashion and Benchmark are opposites in terms of their meta-arcs in Sentinel Comics. Benchmark is introduced and pushed hard by the company. People come around eventually, but mostly after the guy whose pet project Benchmark was is no longer forcing him into everything. Fashion (whose modern introduction is after Benchmark’s) is brought back kind of on a whim as a throwback to a really old character and readers jumped on board immediately. Like, every Fashion story did really well and went into multiple printings and SC is struggling to keep up with just how much people apparently want to see her. They didn’t have this planned out ahead of time so there’s some gaps here and there in her appearances.
  • Christopher’s name for Carol is Threadbare (not Thread Bear as they joke about a bit). The through-line from the old Crafty Carol is there in the “taking things apart” sense. The name definitely suggests “I have powers”, so what can she do? Playing through the story: issue #716 introduces her as a fashion rival, but with a conversation implying that she and Shirley have had at least some history by this time so we hit the ground running there. The story involves Carol discovering Fashion’s secret identity, but in the process something goes wrong and whoops now she has powers.
  • Adam has a weird idea for this: whatever the source, her power involves her creating different effects by sewing patches onto herself. Like how Fashion’s clothes are modular/adaptable tech, these patches give a similar versatility. Christopher then asks for clarification: is she sewing them into her skin? That was Adam’s intent, yeah. That’s a little edgy for Fashion stories (although they do note that post her time in the Colosseum, she is a bit edgier), but the main reason against is that if she just sews them onto her clothes, she can also affect other people by sewing them onto their clothes. She’s a buffer/debuffer/controller type and the patches are a fun visual signal that can be used to clue readers in on why something’s happening even if the characters are unaware.
  • What’s the nature of her power? Magic seems weird for being a Fashion foe, but if they’re “tech” how do they affect people’s minds? Adam’s imagining that they patches actually spread little threads throughout the whole garment and some of them are just able to do mind-altering things. They also see them as still being “connected” to Threadbare and so she has a level of control through them - it takes effort on her part. They don’t imagine that she can keep hundreds of these things active all at once. Ultimately, they don’t need to nail down how this all works right now. She’s a minor villain for a relatively minor hero late in the Multiverse era and is probably more important in the Fashion book post-OblivAeon. They can leave some things vague for now and have things explained as things go on.
  • They still need a “big space thing” and they’re going to drop the facade a bit here rather than pretending that they haven’t already thought about this one. The alien artifact thing from the Citizen Dawn Event as detailed in the previous episode of the podcast first showed up in that 1987 Freedom Five arc and then later shows up again in Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #252-253 (February-March 1991). That’s a Captain Cosmic story where he finds himself on a planet because there’s some dangerous aura of power emanating from the planet. The entire place is a jungle planet and as he’s exploring it to find the source of the energy he keeps encountering/having to fight Citizens of the Sun.
  • It turns out that the alien device was sent out to find things that could be used as a line of defense for whatever project is going on. They’re not looking to go into the whole story today, but in the second issue things get more obviously weird when multiple copies of the same Citizens show up to fight Captain Cosmic at the same time. They’re all plant-based simulacra of the Citizens. The whole planet is a kind of living doomsday device, absorbing energy from its local star and surrounding area until it’s ready to “explode” (it would be unharmed, but it would destroy much of the local star system before then moving on to the next). Captain Cosmic manages to stop all of that from happening and “disarms” it so that it’s just some jungle planet. There’s an ethical question of whether it’s right for him to “kill” this thing since by stopping it from draining the star it will likely eventually die.
  • A later writer then takes that story and asks “but who was responsible for this thing existing?” The answer that they know already is “a Fashion foe”, but that’s all they have so far. A question to answer is whether this villain shows up in Sentinel Comics before the return of Fashion in 2013. Probably. Christopher places them in the summer of ’09 in a Cosmic Tales story that calls back to the earlier events. Then they show up again here and there for a few years (Captain Cosmic likely fights them, probably Tempest and others) until Fashion comes back around and they have an encounter and that brings some focus to where the character is used and they become a notable foe for her.
  • What does he want? They like the idea of “bioweapons in space” being his deal [apparently it’s already a “he” here] is interesting as it’s at least a little removed from “tech stuff in space” which is really common. Maybe he sees sentience as a problem and so he set up that explody planet thing to take solar systems out one by one. Hmm… what in particular is counter to Fashion? Maybe he feels that the only valid form of expression is that which is created by the natural world so her designing things is counter to his worldview. He’s got to have a spaceship that’s alive or made of coral or otherwise “natural”. The solar system he was trying to blow up in the Captain Cosmic story likely had some city-worlds, which he would hate. Maybe it’s also a resource hub with a bunch of mining rigs, so planets are either all city or they’re being stripped; either way they’re no longer themselves.
  • So… another eco-terrorist villain. The through-line for this guy (which we should have for all of her villains, really) is why Fashion is bad. In his case this could be that “things designed by sapient minds are gross/wrong/corruptions/etc. and the only true beauty comes from nature.” He’s got no problems with you if you’re off just living in harmony with nature. Heck, he’s probably pretty chill regarding Plavu’Col given the way the Maerynians work with “grown” materials. Oh, that prompts the question of whether he is a Maerynian, which they answer immediately “no.” They just needed to get that established and out of the way. He’s some new alien that we haven’t seen before (although he’s probably not an Endling). Christopher suggests Pristine as a name for him given his desire for untouched nature. It’s also fun to have a word like that applied to a villain - subverts some expectations given the usually-positive connotations. They put his first appearance in Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #471-473, May-July 2009.
  • Spitballing a bit more of Pristine’s backstory - probably from a planet/culture where the planet was already highly technological/mostly no longer “natural” and he was a terrorist there before leaving. They’re still there, but they really don’t think that this fits with an alien culture they’ve already established, so he’s going to have a new design - but this isn’t a Writers’ Room so no cover today anyway.
  • Where does he meet Fashion? Why not just have him be in her first story in CT #520? That simplifies things.


  • How does Fashion’s power set work? Where does a fashion designer-turned gladiator get the engineering know-how to build her own devices? She’s said to be adaptable, but is she building things mid-fight or just using things in novel ways? She doesn’t build things during the fight. She builds things in advance, but the trick is that she builds lots of modular things that can be combined to suit whatever the current problem is. The gimmick is “modular transforming outfits” - all of her outfits are tech-suites of options. Really it’s just one outfit that can change shape to suit her current needs (and change color, because of course it needs to do that too). Think: a super cool armored power suit, that just happens to take the form of fashionable clothes. It’s not “power suit” in the “hammering metal” kinds of ways, but like that paradigm is Super Engineering, this is Super Dress Technology. The early Fashion stuff wasn’t really working this way - back then it was more quick-changes to get into the right outfit for whatever it was she needed to do. It also helps that her current outfit is largely alien technology, she’s just very clever and really good at fashioning things into clothes. She recognized the potential there and made it work for her. Over time, as she’s found more tech that she’s continued to integrate into the outfit.
  • What is Fashion up to in the few years she’s around before OblivAeon? We haven’t heard much about her interacting with other heroes, but is that because it hasn’t come up in voting or because there’s not much there? There’s not much there. There’s a few stories with her and other characters from Sentinel Comics, but very rare. Prior to that the best you could even really get was side-character stuff with S’sdari the Bloody. After her 2013 reintroduction there are big major events that she shows up for (“Is she around for Progeny?” “No, I think she was probably busy.” [I note that the Progeny fight was from November ’13 through November ’14 and Fashion only returned to Earth in September ’14 - during the “first appearance” Progeny vs. Prime Wardens in Algeria part of the event that was out of sequence due to publication timeline problems - the big Rook City-to-Megalopolis fight had wrapped up entirely by the time Fashion was back on Earth]).
  • Has Fashion ever tangled with some of the more appearance-conscious villains (say upper-class people like Ermine or Valentine or just people concerned with their image like Ambuscade)? Ermine and Valentine as foes in the future make sense. There is another Wraith villain that they think really fits, but they decide to just sit on that for a while [then they laugh about making a big deal of this thing that isn’t a big deal].
  • How about Schema and Chokepoint who might not care what Fashion has to say about what they wear, but might be interested in turning her own outfit against her? Chokepoint is more likely than Schema, but with Fashion coming back from space and Chokepoint leaving to go to space that might have to be a later encounter. Schema is likely less interested in taking over her outfit. Christopher imagines a funny bit where it tries but then finds the place too confusing and so gives up. As for Chokepoint again, it’s worth pointing out that most of Fashion’s outfit isn’t metal. There are certainly metallic parts, but it’s not a metal garment. It’s still sci-fi space material, but it’s more like cloth than metal. She can, say, stiffen the material to provide some protection, but it’s not “armor” exactly.
  • Is she the one who gave Captain Cosmic, Proletariat, and Baron Blade their cool new jackets? No. They got their own tailors. [Jokes about it being one guy, the Jacketeer.]
  • What are her rates as a uniform consultant [this was a Cult of Gloom letter]? It depends on how the Cult of Gloom approached things. Like, if they managed to just pass themselves off as an organization in need of a new look, she might help. She charges top dollar, but she’s still a fashion designer. She hits the fashion industry like a ton of bricks with things ranging from timeless classics (because she is from the mid-20th Century) and things that are out of this world (because she was in space for a long time).
  • [Have to call out the nice attempt here where the letter writer mentioned offhandedly an announcement that Fashion would have a deck in the next expansion - they are quick to point out that Fashion will not have a deck in the next expansion. I feel like I’m almost contractually obligated to point out the exact wording of the denial here in that it doesn’t rule out getting a deck in some other expansion, just not the next one.]
  • If desperate, would Fashion make do with tech/outfits that were ugly? How much would that distract her? Would she try to keep out of sight until she could make it look better? Not really, because that’s not how she works. She’s not building/incorporating things into the outfit on the fly, she builds things in downtime and just reconfigures it on the fly. Even then, the outfits are largely pre-configured and the gear switches between those set points depending on what she needs it to do. They can imagine a situation where the outfit is damaged and she has to deal with a non-optimal function/look but when she gets any downtime to rest and a chance to repair the outfit, fixing the look would be part of those considerations.
  • Who wins in a fight between K.N.Y.F.E. and Fashion? Uh… K.N.Y.F.E.
  • Which is scarier, a K.N.Y.F.E. that’s influenced by Fashion or vice versa? Still K.N.Y.F.E. She’s scarier than Fashion. She’s scarier than some villains. Sure, modern Fashion has some harshness to her because of her time as a gladiator, but K.N.Y.F.E. isn’t scary because she’s harsh; she’s scary because she’s a murder machine and is having a good time. Now, later Fashion does have a bit of unpredictability to her that makes her something of a wildcard in a way that K.N.Y.F.E. is not - you know what you’re getting into with Paige. Sure, you could probably come up with a specific situation where Fashion would beat K.N.Y.F.E. but it’s not the usual outcome. K.N.Y.F.E. influenced by Fashion is just K.N.Y.F.E. in a sweet new outfit. Fashion influenced by K.N.Y.F.E. has probably picked up a few new fighting pointers.
  • This doesn’t really have a way to fit into the timeline, but could the early iteration of Fashion have a story positioning her as pro-Trans (like there’s some scene in the ’40s where Shirley is helping a man dress as a woman and this is repurposed 80 years later as her being pro-Trans as an aspect of her character)? They really doubt that at any point from the ’40s through the ’60s where Shirley helps dress a man as a woman. That seems incredibly unlikely and atonal for her book. It’s possible that there was stuff published in the Golden Age that, today, might get seen as in the category of “drag” but in a mainstream Romance comic… unlikely. If something like that had happened back then that modern readers latched onto as seeing her as an ally even back then, that’d be cool - they see what you’re saying, they just don’t think it’s something that would have happened. It’s way more likely for any of this that people project their own worldview onto any bit of available subtext rather than there being any kind of intention back then.
  • How do Fashion’s old nemeses react to her showing back up after decades, looking not a day older? They talked about the logistics a bit today. She is so disconnected from her previous time. Her time in space basically served to break her out of continuity. The solution they came up with for today’s creations was to just update Carol by having there just be a new Carol. That’s likely the cleanest way to do it. The other option is to just have somebody show up in a modern Fashion story who is really old who was young back then. The main problem is that Stylin’ Shirley didn’t have any supervillain foes and the enemies in the old Fashion stories were dime-a-dozen people - she didn’t have any major enemies that would carry over.
  • [In the Silver Gulch episode, the guys sang the name of the town to the tune of “Silver Bells” - Tim Jewett here has written a full version of it. Christopher nabs Trevor to sing it at around 1:15:15, but I’m not going to try to transcribe it.]
  • One type of comic you haven’t really touched on are gag comics (think Richie Rich or Casper the Friendly Ghost) - did Sentinel Comics have such things? Was there ever an attempt to translate characters from them over into the supers continuity like what happened with some Western, Horror, and Teen Romance genre characters? The necessary answer is no. They can see the opposite happening where in one of the gag comics a character becomes a superhero.
  • I love the idea of Cowboy Setback and Cowgirl Expatriette (please tell me they’ll be playable variants in a future box). Anyway - what happened when Pete first attempted to twirl a revolver (because of course he would try it - I imagine Amanda diving for cover because she knows her man)? Oh, that probably happened and he somehow manages to fire all six bullets in the process, sending them in random directions, ricocheting off of various things. It causes a mess, but it also happens to result in 1 thing being hit that wound up being a good thing.
  • How well did Amanda adapt to using such old-timey guns? She’s capable with them. She’s fired revolvers and she probably comments at some point about remembering trying out an antique like this (onlooker: “Antique, that’s a new, top-of-the-line model”). Her “superpower” in a narrative sense is “being good with guns”. Like, she’d pick it up, heft the weight, feel the action, etc. and have a pretty good handle on it. She would have no problems.
  • In the Silver Gulch episode you started off describing a Steampunk Omnitron, but then changed it to (and stuck with) the Dieselpunk description. This confused me since a Weird West setting is solidly in the Steampunk era whereas Dieselpunk is generally pegged to the World Wars era in the first half of the 20th Century - was this a mistake or were you intentionally positioning Omnitron here as being “future tech” that had the aesthetic of decades later than the story’s setting? Fair point. Most of what we see in Silver Gulch is straight Steampunk, but then we get things like Tyler Hayes’ minigun that’s just shooting lasers. Christopher starts to say that he thought that the Time-Lost Smoke Belcher was Dieselpunk, but Adam considers that a very Steampunk drawing. It’s belching smoke from the coal fires powering it. Upon hearing that, Christopher admits that Steampunk is then appropriate for how Omnitron should be categorized here too. Adam didn’t have a good handle on the difference at the time. Thank you for the clarification.
  • If the Final Wasteland was intended to be the “real” future, but Chrono-Ranger’s missions successfully cause enough changes such that there’s a timeline split, does all of the hero activity in Silver Gulch result in differences such that it stops being the “real” past? [initial sputtering] Man… the answer probably has to be “yes and no” with some of Silver Gulch’s incarnations still being the “real” past, but some of them not.
  • [User sent in some fan-art after hearing the Silver Gulch episode with apologies if they shouldn’t have for legal reasons.] They like seeing fan art. What’s problematic for them is fan game-design stuff or people sending in their original characters. Fan art of stuff they’ve already described/published is largely safe. Anyway, this is an edit of a Naturalist character card with “The Naturalist” replaced by “Cowboy Naturalist”. The power is “Reach for the Sky!” - Select [Horse icon]. Until the end of your next turn, draw!