The Letters Page: Episode 248
Creative Process: Lifeline Supporting Cast
Whoa, it's been a LONG time since we talked about Tarogath!
Run Time: 1:31:11
Adam's birth month continues with more creative processes! This episode involves as much recalling, restating, reframing, and re-explaining as it does creating, but sometimes that's what it's all about!
Join us next week for ANOTHER Creative Process, this one all about the foes of the mysterious Rambler! Because you demanded it! If you want to make demands, consider joining the Letters Page Patreon!
- The prompt is “Lifeline Supporting Cast” - it might be more accurate to call it “Tarogath Supporting Cast” given that they are likely to cover more of the character’s history than just the brief stint as Lifeline at the end of the Multiverse era. Let’s give a quick recap of his history:
- Jansa Vi Dero adn the Enclave of the Endlings shows up in the Silver Age. Some time in the ’90s we get the introduction of Tarogath as one of the Endlings - just a background alien in the Enclave. Then a writer picks him out as a character to have a name and lines of dialogue and everything. This continues as we get the occasional PoV from him and whatnot. He builds up to being what amounts to “supporting cast for Space Stories”.
- Adam’s question: What is his “role” in the Enclave that makes him interesting enough to be a character like this? What’s he doing? People go to the Enclave for reasons now and again. Maybe they need to talk to Jansa about something. The thing is, she’s often busy. Say, Captain Cosmic rolls up on the place asking for an audience with the Terminarch. Tarogath explains that she’s not in right now, but he’ll talk to you. Jansa is often “beyond our understanding” and it’s hard to talk with her about things. Tarogath isn’t any kind of official representative, but the heroes come to learn that they can get kind of the “everyman’s perspective” on Endling stuff from him.
- Additionally, Tarogath, like many other Endlings finds little satisfaction with their place in the Enclave. Tarogath sees things getting worse in the Universe around them and feels like he’s just doing nothing but watch things die and is unhappy with that inaction. This translates into his opinion of Jansa herself too - she’s preserving these people, but for what purpose? What’s the point if everything else dies? He becomes something of a philosophical character in all of this.
- So, he shows up in the ’90s and it’s not until 2010 that we get the Deadline story. Well, there’s actually a few years of Deadline stuff here and there, with the “big Deadline story” being a few months in the middle.
- Before getting to his supporting cast, it’s worth noting that he is part of a supporting cast of characters for a long time. He, Jansa, and other Endlings are all these side characters that basically come as a package. Immutus is in there, but Slamara in particular is the one who jumps to mind as being the most “supporting cast”-like for Tarogath. They’re narrative peers when introduced, but as Tarogath’s role in various stories grows, she’s likely the most prominent character that “comes along” as an Endling that winds up supporting his story along the way (especially in the Lifeline era, but now that they think about it, probably back into Deadline too). She’s the “angel on his shoulder” influence. Maybe we should figure out who in the Enclave is the one steering him in the wrong directions (Christopher jokingly suggests Gruum just yelling “DO BAD THINGS! BLOW STUFF UP!” etc.). They think through the “evil” Endlings (name-checking Korrupton and Frazzat) but they’re not really the manipulative sort (or the sort to give advice at all, really). Maybe Venox in a “he’s not just literally toxic” kind of way.
- Let’s just make a new Endling for this. Christopher’s idea is that the “giving advice steering Tarogath towards destruction” isn’t overt. It’s somebody with the bearing of the Scholar who’s just calm and giving reasonable advice about things. That’s also a nice juxtaposition with Slamara who’s kind of over-the-top about things and is very active/reactive. This person’s discussion with Tarogath about him seeing the end coming could even be the source of the name Deadline.
- Are they driving Tarogath in this direction because they believe in this “things are getting worse and we need to wake people up to this inevitability” idea or are they just out to see the world burn? Adam thinks the latter being the actual goal is fine, but never saying so - they’re just using Tarogath as their instrument in bringing it about through the other. Christopher is okay with making up a new person for this, but points out that this already kind of fits Phrentat (“Which one is that?” “The floaty head.”). He’s the one left after Voss turned the rest of his people into cyborg centipede brains. He can seem all wise and sad, but is in reality just furious about what happened to his people and is happy to see everybody else die too. They imagine that Phrentat has been around forever - likely since the Silver Age, but we don’t see this buried fury until Deadline times.
- Endling rundown.
- Slarmara is the closest thing Tarogath has to a friend and tries to calm him down post-OblivAeon (hmm… Does Aeon Girl count as supporting cast? No, he just leaves - he’s not her “dad” other than being the closest available option so while he doesn’t consider himself to be a father, she doesn’t have any other point of reference. He just had this power within him and needed to do something with it before it destroyed him, and she happened to be what that something was).
- Jansa vi Dero herself is notable supporting cast in both the Deadline and Lifeline stories in that she tried to get him to not do those things. That’s fun in that he was supporting cast for her appearances for like a decade before the situation starting to reverse a bit.
- Baahsto - as a tentacled goat-head with a jetpack, he’s one of the more out-there designs. Because he’s so weird looking, Christopher likes the idea of him being this loquacious, interesting character who speaks in a very “proper” sort of register. Give it a lot of personality. That could be a modern retcon with his late-Silver Age introduction being less conversant.
- Bloogo we know.
- Frazzat was from some warrior race. He’s “just fight everything all the time”. He’s not even really trying to communicate or accomplish anything with it; he’s just got zero chill. That’s why he looks like a piranha - he’s “feeding frenzy: the being.”
- Gruum we know as well. He feels well-meaning, but not very intelligent. A lot of these designs were probably originally from non-Superhero monster comics and it’s not until Tarogath starts getting characterization that really any of the others get it either.
- Immutus - does Immutus ever say anything? They don’t think so. He’s just this silent, watching presence.
- Korrupton is just a jerk. He’s not violent in the way Frazzat is, but is still predatory. Frazzat fights to fight, Korrupton fights to devour.
- Orbo is also here to devour, but at a larger scale. He’s also got this dread malevolence to him. He’s one of the few to have a quote from Jansa: “Orbo hungers… He cannot be trusted. I preserve him as I do all Endlings, but a time will come in which he will surely betray us.” There’s a real feeling that he’s just biding his time.
- Phrentat we already talked about.
- Szreem seems like a nice guy! They don’t know why, he just does. Christopher suggests that he can’t talk in the normal sense. Adam “yes, and”s this to have him communicate via flashes of light from his eye - not in a Morse Code kind of thing that you have to learn, just his eye flashes at you and for no discernible reason you understand him.
- Urdid we know has an amount of thoughtfulness to him. He’s Tarogath’s armorer. He’s another nice, friendly guy.
- Venox is tragic. He’s poisonous to everything around him, but he just wants to be friends. His home planet and people were the only things he could exist meaningfully with and they’re lost to him.
- So, they all kind of work as the supporting cast, but are there any “roles” that are missing that they could fill with a new member? Nah. At least not today. It’s entirely possible that the DE Enclave deck might wind up with more [not a lot of room - if those all still have individual cards and they don’t do something extreme like a side deck, that’s already 13 out of 15 cards spoken for], but it’s also entirely possible that they don’t change things up there. There certainly are more Endlings - these are just the named ones we know from the game.
- Moving on, they don’t think there’s any more supporting cast for Deadline as he’s totally off the deep end at that point. Are there any more during just Tarogath times? It’s hard because 1) he’s stuck in the Enclave and 2) he is supporting cast during that time. That leaves us with…
- Lifeline’s supporting cast. We know he interacts with Void Guard a bunch and has dealings with the Court of Blood (so one could say that Blood Countess Bathory is supporting cast for him). Is there maybe some human that he forms a bit of a bond with that gives him more empathy towards Earth? The answer should be “yes” but when is there time? The Cosmic Redemption one-shot is the first appearance as Lifeline - that’s in February 2015. Christopher pulls that up and… yeah, there is such a human. The Naturalist. He works extensively with both Naturalist and the Scholar (who’s doing the whole ley-line repair job thing that Lifeline can help with).
- Man, talking through all of this again it turns out that Tarogath has a lot of supporting cast characters in his story. The thing is that it’s mostly people we already know. He’s connected all over the place - what’s left for today is basically just figuring out where else we can add one and how they can “round him out” a bit more. A place to slot that is a space character who’s not part of the Enclave. Before or after Deadline? Let’s do after.
- Okay, so Deadline is defeated on Earth and he returns to the Enclave. He talks to some people there and starts watching the universe go by again. He determines that how he went about things was wrong, but the act of trying to help was right. Phrentat pushed him into the Deadline thing, Slamara talks to him about whatever’s going on and whether she agrees or not, Urdid is the “when you choose to do a thing, I will help get you what you need to do that thing” guy ([“and my axe”]https://imgur.com/gallery/vn7G0AJ) is the entire joke there). He knows that he needs to be doing something better, but doesn’t know what that is or how to go about it.
- Captain Cosmic really would slot right in here as somebody that comes to the Enclave and gives him ideas, but let’s have him leave the Enclave to try to figure things out and then meets whoever it is out there. This would be sometime between Deadline and Cosmic Redemption. There’s space for a 2-part Tarogath story in Cosmic Tales in mid-to-late 2014 that could set this up (right on the heels of the Crimes Against Fashion three-part story with Fashion and Greazer).
- We have Tarogath leave the Enclave. He’s done bad stuff for a good reason - the reason is still there, but what’s his purpose to be? Adam’s half-formed idea is to bring in a character who’s been around in the comics a long time - another Silver Age person maybe. An observer type who goes around space and records things/gives wisdom or something. Somebody to guide him. Christopher wants to go hard in the other direction and has a possible framework for this two-part story.
- Someone shows up at the Enclave with a plan to kill everyone and everything there. Due to Deadline stuff, other Jansa stuff, an Endling who blames Jansa for what happened to their people, whatever - they’ve got a bone to pick. Adam suggests rather than an Endling, somebody who views the Enclave as subverting the natural order. These species died off for reasons and keeping one of each around is an abomination. There’s a fight at first, in which Tarogath is a notable presence as he steps up to stop this, but they quickly realize that they’re in over their heads and can’t take on all of these powerful aliens at once. They grab Tarogath as a hostage and take off. They imagine that Tarogath is even individually more powerful than this person, but he’s got “a gun to his head” or whatever and/or just goes along with this in order to get them away from the Enclave before anybody gets hurt. It helps that he’s also feeling a bit adrift at the moment and wants to see where this goes.
- They don’t need to Writers’ Room this, but the crux of the story is Tarogath being the one to expound upon the importance of life and everything. Why the universe is worth saving. It’s by having to put things into words that he then says out loud that he figures out what it is that he should be doing.
- Do we want to do the thing where as a result of Tarogath’s intervention they go off to do the right thing (instead of the wrong thing for a misguidedly right reason) and die in the process? Man… it’s not bad for the narrative, but it kind of puts a damper on the idea of this person as “supporting cast”. Maybe we just push that part off to a later story to give them some more time to exist around Tarogath in the meantime. Anyway, this thing becomes a bit of a space road trip where the two of them go around to a bunch of planets. It’s an introspective, very cerebral thing as they check out what very different places have to offer in terms of appreciating life, etc.
- This sounds like a new character. Having somebody show up at the Enclave to blow it up seems weird if it’s also somebody who’s been around for forever. In thinking of names, Christopher thinks that they need to communicate a lot about this person very quickly (and cites Drax the Destroyer as the kind of thing he’s going for). After going around a few times, they get to “[x] the Answer” as the form to use as the story gimmick is figuring out what the right question is. Alliteration is good. After more playing around they arrive at Anvyrre the Answer (ann-veer) and their first appearance is in CT vol. 2 #534 (August 2014).
- They think that Anvyrre, possibly getting a different descriptor like “the Questor” or similar, can show up in later Tarogath stories too. He’s a very useful guy to have around as somebody to bounce philosophical questions off of. If he dies, it’s going to be after OblivAeon.
- So, they didn’t actually wind up creating a lot in this Creative Process, but they think that just defining a lot of it better was good. There’s just not a lot of room to create more things, but he has a lot of interactions with established characters given how long he’s around.
- Can you give us a rundown of his various “first appearances” now that you have a better handle on the actual publication timeline? First appearance as Lifeline is Cosmic Redemption in February 2015 as mentioned earlier. He next shows up at the very end of Deepest Space #1 the following month as gladiator “Tarogath the World-Ender”. As Deadline he first shows up in Cosmic Concurrence #13 in October 2010. His first appearance at all is in Cosmic Tales vol. 2 #319 in September 1996. At least, that’s when he’s first named. There are earlier appearances as a background character, but those are left (intentionally) unspecified.
- How long was he at the Enclave before he left as Deadline? His old bio says over 700 years.
- Are any of his supporting cast unaware of his time as Deadline? No. Maybe Anvyrre at least at first. Tarogath probably talks about it during their trip, though.
- Does the Void Guard count as supporting cast due to their involvement with him early in his “hero” phase? They count as supporting cast for him and vice versa, depending on the story focus.
- Post-OblivAeon, does he still work with Void Guard? Time will tell, but yes.
- Can we get more background on Slamara and why she cared enough about Tarogath to also leave the Enclave? Does he reciprocate any feelings? Time will tell on the feelings. She had been at the Enclave for less time than he had, but had probably appeared in comics before him. Most people don’t have a singular event happen where they now have feelings for somebody.
- Before OblivAeon, were most of the Enclave counted as “supporting cast”? Does Tarogath feel even more isolated now that the Enclave has left reality? Do any Endlings find their way back? The Enclave was supporting cast for him (and vice versa, and all of them support for whatever story was happening there). When the Enclave leaves, it took a major chunk of his supporting cast with it and he has to stay to fight for what’s right. Time will tell on “finding their way back”.
- Does he take on a new alias after OblivAeon? No, he’s still Lifeline. He had just become Lifeline.
- We know that in Universe 1, post-OblivAeon Captain Cosmic is lost somewhere out in space - does Lifeline find him? If so, what becomes of that? No, Lifeline is not the one who finds him. They might someday meet, though.
- What happened to that sweet, kickin’ scarf he had as Deadline? Adam just changed up the design. [Another comment regarding people who think that he wouldn’t look good in sunglasses being wrong sparks a bit of a discussion regarding what kind Christopher suggests this look from Auron from Final Fantasy X.]
- Was “Blood Countess has incredible control over him as a result of the bargain he made at the Court of Blood” a reason for him to leave Earth after OblivAeon? Yeah. Getting as far from her as possible seemed like a good idea (in addition to the other reasons he had to gtfo).
- Is he looking for some other powerful blood mage out in space who might be able to help him with his whole vampire problem? That’s not unreasonable. It’s hard to talk about the future, unfortunately, but you’re onto some elements of what’s going on that they want to explore.
- Did Slamara go with him? Yes. [More stuff about Aeon Girl prompts discussion that neither Tarogath nor Slamara are parental figures for her. Slamara has mentioned to him occasionally that maybe he should go back to see what all has happened to this being that he created and just left behind.]
- Did Tarogath lose Urdid’s axe during OblivAeon or does he still have it? He still has it (Christopher had started to say that it didn’t make it through the OblivAeon fight, but Adam’s tone on a “You don’t think he has it?” made him relent).
- What does someone like Tarogath (or, really, any other Endling) do with their time there? Is there some kind of entertainment set up, like plays from their home culture? Games? A toy at the end of a piece of string that they have Korrupton chase around? What would Tarogath have done with his eternity of free time if he hadn’t settled into his emo phase? [Running gag through this episode that I’m not going to go back and tag now that it’s become semi-relevant just for the joke:] Lots of tennis matches to watch, as mentioned. Adam’s thought is that when Jansa preserves a species she creates a habitat for the individual and in that she preserves as much of their home culture as she can. If you’re not a threat to the others you’re also free to come and go from your habitat at will and can go to the common areas as well as visit one another’s habitats. So, they have a lot of options for cultural enrichment from not only their own culture, but other Endling cultures, as well as whatever they can pick up from outside (they can probably watch Earth broadcasts if they want). Realistically, this is never really explored. Adam also brings up this very strange, but very sad study that was done on rats that were given everything they needed. He thinks that in a realistic scenario that kind of thing would wind up happening here too, but because it’s comics it’s never addressed outside of Tarogath looking outside and thinking that he needed to be doing something rather than just existing.
- You’ve said that Lifeline doesn’t apologize for what he did as Deadline, not because he isn’t sorry but because he thinks that he’s beyond forgiveness - if he were to encounter another reality’s version of himself who was basically identical, would he give them a stern talkin’ to? Would he forgive “himself”? If Tarogath met somebody else who had done something like what he did he would probably try to get them to forgive themselves/realize that they can be forgiven, but would also talk about needing to try to make amends. Lifeline is very driven by penance, but without a thorough introspection. Turns out that he, plus many other people in the comics and in real life could probably really benefit from some therapy.
- Who are the top three characters in Sentinel Comics that could, without superpowers, make Tarogath cry? Jansa is the first since it’s in his Lifeline bio that he weeps for Earth after he’s brought back to the Enclave. He’s surprisingly in touch with his emotions considering he doesn’t introspect his actions. His emotions get the better of him and that’s how he winds up doing what he does. Naturalist and Scholar probably round out the three.
- If you’re playing against the Ruler of Æternus in an Environment other than Æternus, what exactly is going on? If I play on Wagner Mars Base with K.N.Y.F.E., Expatriette, and Chrono-Ranger am I just playing Doom? Yes, absolutely. Anyway, this plays along with what they’ve said that Æternus attempts to make incursions into other realms, so when you’re playing elsewhere you’re just in the middle of one such attempt. That being said, it’s a fight designed to be scarier in Æternus (and it is).
- Are there events in the comics where Æternus tries to take over a corner of our reality and the heroes have to beat them out of it? Yes. Many.
- Is it more like the Organization and Rook City where, canonically, the heroes only fight them on their home turf, but people playing the card game are encouraged to fight them wherever because infinite Multiverse and all that? Here’s the thing; there are Organization plots in other locations (Megalopolis, in the southwest that the Sentinels deal with, in San Alonso, etc.). Now, there aren’t Organization stories on Mars or Insula Primalis. It’s not the case that there’s a canonical event for every villain in every environment, but you can come up with your own story reasons for them to be wherever you want to set a game, but if you can’t you can go ahead and default to the “alternate reality” explanation.
- In the Ruler of Æternus update we see a card “Regime Change” which seems to depict Abbados decapitating Lusithar based on the flavor text - is Lusithar no more by the time of the RPG? If so, has any other demon risen to take his place? Pfft… look at this guy who thinks that simple decapitation is enough to take Lusithar out. That’s cute. Really, though, the Princes are all getting killed all the time. It’s not like that’s a non-issue for them - they’ve got to spend some time reforming or whatever. They’re inexorably linked to Æternus and Æternus will bring them back. They’re part of the whole thing and their eternal existence is torment for themselves and everyone else. That’s part of the point.
- Back in the episode that created Darkstrife and Painstake it was said that demons go on quests to go create/gather torment - how does that work, exactly? Do they need to be the cause of the torment in order to send it back to Æternus or does being nearby unrelated torment do the trick? Does Æternus need different types of torment or is it satisfied with any kind of torment? Has it ever come across a form of torment it didn’t like? Adam’s perception is that Æternus is constantly passively collecting torment wherever and whenever it occurs. The demons just go out to create more to directly feed that, but their presence isn’t necessary for it to happen. Torment is good for Æternus. More torment is more better for Æternus. The existence of Æternus is torment and for the furthering of torment. You going out and tormenting somebody, with no demonic involvement at all, would feed Æternus.
- You framed Darkstrife’s creation as stating that “Darkstrife” was the original name given to him in Æternus and that Zane was a name he picked for himself later, but the Backerkit update called him Zane from the start, so was that a retcon or just a slight inaccuracy for the sake of clearer writing for non-listeners? Just a simplification. It was already a long post and was one in which they needed to communicate enough about these two characters in a way such that non-listeners could make sense of it. These are really high-level overviews of the characters. Even “real” comics sometimes play fast and loose with this kind of thing depending on what the needs of the current story is, so both the episode version and the Backerkit version are “correct” depending on perspective. Like, go find a trading card for a “real” comics character and read the bio on the back. It’s going to be simplified.
- Darkstrife’s Heartblade has both the Item and Relic keywords, implying that it’s not so central to his character as to always be assumed as present - where did he get it? Is it more of a conduit of power for him or just a general hack and slash implement? Does it have any particular/notable powers of its own? It’s got a fleshy look and I have a mental image of him drawing it from his own chest [there’s a good reason for that - that’s exactly how they described it in the episode], is it related to blood magic or even Biomancer? If not, would they have any particular affinity for it? It’s Æternal magic, not Blood Magic. He makes it out of himself. He doesn’t always have it; it’s a thing he learns to make with magic. The metal in it comes from the iron in his blood and the fleshy bits are of him. He takes the Heartblade out of himself and then puts it back when done. We rarely actually see him sheathe it properly, usually it winds up getting broken or he throws it or something, but it’s made out of him. It’s an Item because it’s a thing he doesn’t always have. It’s a Relic due to its magical nature.
- What does Painstake think of the weapon? How popular a cosplay option is it in the Metaverse? Oh, man, they can only hope about future Darkstrife and Painstake cosplayers.