Podcasts/Episode 250

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The Letters Page: Episode 250
Writers' Room: Justice Comics #571-573

Justice Comics Vol 1 572.png

Original Source

Primary Topic



THREE issues today? Yes! But only one cover. You'll have to listen to the cover section to find out why!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:21:01

Happy Birthday tomorrow, Adam! And we hope that everyone enjoys International Same Age Day this Thursday!

This episode went by quickly, mostly because we had a lot of the pieces already, and the stuff we didn't have was just all kinds of fun. Adam helps Christopher get through his impending mental breakdown. We'll see how much longer he has in him before he's overtaken by the Void itself!

We also answer a bunch of questions, as is our wont. And we talk about a cover! Really, we talk about three, but that's giving away too much.

Characters Mentioned



  • Scavenger Unity! It’s a thing that happened, but not a big major thing. It was a three-issue story in the early ’00s that’s largely disconnected from other events in the comics. Why make it a variant? Because it’s fun! It was also something interesting to do with Unity that did a bunch to get her over with readers. It also had a new writer/artist pair that was doing something interesting that people liked. This has definitely becomes a DLC costume for Unity in every subsequent Sentinel Comics video game in the Metaverse.
  • Now, because it’s such a frequently-referenced story for her, there’s probably some other in-continuity references to it as well. Like, somebody did something with “her time as Scavenger Unity” (like somebody puts her in a similar costume for some reason) in the late ’00s or early ’10s. Plus this is the origin of the T. Rex bot and so the one she builds during OblivAeon is technically a call-back. They haven’t done Extremeverse Unity yet, so maybe that look is also a call-back (although way more over-the-top).
  • Anyway - this was a story that took place in Justice Comics #571-573 (December 2002-February 2003). This is one of those “inventory stories” that they mention occasionally - something that’s done ahead of time and not really connected to the ongoing issue-to-issue continuity and so can just be dropped in wherever there’s a publishing schedule gap. Hmm… Maybe it’s not technically an inventory story, but at the least it’s “our normal writer/artist team hasn’t been able to keep up with the schedule, so we need something to put in here” and they swap in another team.
  • Adam’s just going to do one cover, but they’re going to walk through the whole story (not that they have all of the details worked out already).
  • We open the first issue with her waking up in some desert wasteland unaware of where she is or how she got there. She wanders around (not knowing that she’s in the Final Wasteland). Eventually (because it’s the Final Wasteland) she is attacked by monsters. Aw, beans! There’s nothing for her to make robots out of, so she has to just run away. Eventually she finds some ruins that are basically a junkyard so she can make some bots to fight back. Near the end of the issue she recognizes some of the ruins and it’s obvious that she’s in the far future. That’s probably going to be Freedom Tower - granted there’s a lot of “destroyed Freedom Tower” things, but it’s the most convenient shorthand. Like, her running monologue has been that she needs to get back to/get a warning to Freedom Tower about the monsters or whatever, then she runs across the ruins.
  • Adam thinks that we need to have more going on here in the first issue. So, she’s running around trying to find any scraps of usable materials she can to throw together some slapdash robots to try to fight off the monsters. She either ekes out a win or just manages to escape, but then something big shows up. Ideas for what that could be? A yeti or something? The Mongolian Death Worm is the biggest one they have, but that might be too big for what they’re going for. We need something that will prompt the T. Rex bot in the next issue. Maybe something “dinosaur-ish” to give her the idea.
  • How about a mutated sewer gator? Some giant thing with like 8 legs or something. The Octogator - done! It’s a kind of burrowing creature and it bursting out of the ground is the cliffhanger to the first issue. They move the Freedom Tower reveal to about the 1/3 mark as she’s first getting a handle on the situation.
  • The second issue has her trying to deal with this giant monster. She attempt to just get some altitude by climbing up into the Freedom Tower ruins, but the Octogator can also leap up out of the ground. It jumps up onto the side of the building and starts climbing. She has to flee through the building that’s little more than a framework at this point. As she’s going, she’s parkouring her way through the ruins, incidentally knocking a bunch of the metal panels of the side of the building loose as she’s going. Eventually she makes it to ground level, where wouldn’t you know it, there’s now a bunch of big hunks of metal laying around.
  • Adam prefers the idea that she’s starting to build this thing as she’s going. As she runs through the building and/or knocks stuff loose, she starts building a mass of stuff that’s following her as she goes. It’s only once she hits the ground that it starts fully taking shape. Imagine her diving out of the building in a roll, taking a cool pose, and then this things starts “unfolding” behind her into the T. Rex bot.
  • The bot roars at the Octogator, it roars back, and they fight and it’s awesome. Probably two 2-page spreads of the fight. This was quite likely the first thing drawn for this whole 3-issue story.
  • Okay, so something we need to figure out that’s already been established is how she loses control of the bot. Adam has a thought: this could be a time where a writer tries to answer the question of “why do we never see Unity build things much larger than a person?” You’d think that it would be useful, so why doesn’t she? The idea is that the more power she puts into building these things, the “smarter” they are. Bee bots and Platform bots are pretty dumb. The person-sized ones like the Freedom Five bots have a bit more autonomy/intelligence. Making something this big means that she can’t easily control it. It’s not necessarily spelled out in this story, but either a popular fan theory and/or a later writer points to this story as showing the reason behind her not making big things.
  • Maybe the idea is that she is the largest reservoir of the power she uses to make things. If she has to use so much of it to make one big thing, then that is now the biggest reservoir of her power and, whoops, now it’s in charge. That makes the OblivAeon-era T. Rex bot more notable in that she’s able to control it. She has to spend a lot more time constructing the thing like it was an actual robot rather than just using her power to hold everything together like usual. She’s really only using her powers to run a small component of it that then is responsible for controlling the whole bot.
  • They then spitball the critter’s name a bit. They’d been calling it the Octogator, but Christopher also suggests Croctodile (still retaining the “octo” part, but then it just sounds too much like just “crocodile”). They then start to say that this is all academic since it’s not like it’s named on the page. Christopher then has the idea that this whole conversation basically happens with just Unity trying out different names for this thing over the course of the story and arguing with herself over which sounds best.
  • Anyway, the bot either kills the Octogator or at least chomps it well enough that it runs/burrows away. She’s excited but that’s when the bot does the ominous turn to look at her. “Aw, beans!” and then she has to run away again. It chases her, she’s caught and as she’s cowering in terror as the jaws close in… But they don’t reach her. She looks up to see a massive figure holding the jaws open. The figure is this Atlas-like figure, holding up the weight of the world. The face looking down at her, however, is just so happy to see her. Haka!
  • The third issue starts with Scavenger Unity and Eternal Haka teaming up against the T. Rex bot. “Isn’t this one of yours?” “Yeah, but I tend to have a rule about how big I make them and I didn’t follow that rule this time and this is what happens.”
  • So, that fight is the first third or so of the issue. The last third is her getting home. The middle is one of the reasons why this story is well-regarded. It’s just a long dialogue sequence between the two heroes. Sure, they’re probably doing stuff around Haka’s library, but it’s a lot of Real Talk™ between the two of them. She asks what happened and how things got this way, but he’s honest about not knowing. At least what he’s been able to piece together, however, is that this is only a possible future (although maybe the worst one). He could try telling her something that might avert this future, but for all he knows telling her that might be what ultimately causes it, so he opts for the not-telling-her-about-the-future option.
  • Unity was introduced around 13 years ago. This might be the first time that the readers are given an opportunity to see what she really thinks about the Freedom Five. Part of the discussion with Haka here is about her as the “joke”, the sidekick. She goes along with it, but she’s getting to the point that she’s “over it”. She doesn’t care anymore. She’s still happy to be part of the team and is respected by/works well with everybody individually, but as soon as there’s something that involves The Team… she’s just the kid sister again. She kind of wants to just do her own thing (setting up a status quo change that won’t be capitalized on for another 13 years). Readers basically felt that she had to feel this way for a while now, but this was the first time any of it got voiced on the page.
  • The last bit to figure out is how did she get there and how does she get back? They go to the library and drink some tea and she gets to wear a big fluffy robe (probably made from some big fluffy cryptid) as they try to figure stuff out during this discussion. We eventually follow them as they head back out into the desert. Haka noticed an anomaly on the edge of “town” about a week prior and had been keeping tabs on it (considering it could be somebody trying to grab monsters from this time or send something else through). What he does know is that when he tried to go through it he got flung about a hundred miles and it took a while to walk back (which is why he missed her arrival). He hopes that since she came through the first time she’ll be allowed to pass back through. If so, that might also “resolve” whatever’s going on and will close it.
  • Do they want there to be more to it once she’s on the other side? Like, stopping whoever has created this portal, yadda yadda? The other option is for this to just be something that’s never actually explained in the comics, allowing it to be this nice little self-contained story.
  • In discussing some other details about how she got here they considered a thing where they look up info in the library and find that Devra Caspit had disappeared on such-and-such a date, which they decided against as they don’t want to necessarily establish that she was this Haka’s Unity. They do consider a cheeky thing at the end where Haka returns to the library and looks something up that says that Unity is set to lead the Freedom Squadron or something. It’s not as simple as her joining the Freedom Six - she might be doing her own thing.
  • Anyway, the actual part where she goes through the portal is left unexplored. They just have a little discussion leading up to it about how when she goes through she might have to stop a mad scientist or save the world (“Maybe both!” “Yeah, maybe both!”). Maybe there was a reason she needed to be here, maybe it was just a big coincidence. Leaving things unresolved/unexplained may be a bit sloppy in terms of plot, but it’s not bad storytelling for the story being told.


  • Is the T. Rex on Scavenger Unity incap the Omnitron-Rex from the Animal-verse? A bot made out of the Terrorform? Nope, just a T. Rex bot she made to fight a giant monster.
  • How prominent is Unity in Freedom Five stories? What’s the editorial rationale for never promoting her to full member? She is the “forever sidekick”. She’s going to have the occasional story - often something like “the team is busy with [x], so she has to take care of something while they’re not around/save the team”. Other times she causes some kind of big mess and the team has to clean it up. She’s “always around” but not really in major stories. Sometimes she’s just shown as being in the background. She was a popular character in the show and that carried over into the comics, so often they’ll give her a spotlight just as a way to generate interest.
  • Are there any Unity stories that don’t involve the Freedom Five at all? They just did one! There are probably more Unity-focus stories that don’t involve them directly than that do - because if we’re focusing on the sidekick it’s likely because the team is indisposed in one way or another. Other times she’ll appear in other books entirely (like today’s story). There’s one where she teams up with Guise against Ambuscade, and what a goofy story that is.
  • Why are the Freedom Five so terrible to Unity - she’s obviously a hero, so why don’t they let her join the club? She’s part of the club. She gets to stay at Freedom Tower, she gets to do Freedom Five stuff. She’s a valuable member of the Freedom Five (sotto voce support team). They treat her this way because she’s, by comparison, very young and inexperienced and they want her to be safe. “But you constantly put yourselves into danger.” “You’re a kid.” The answer really is just that she’s a child and from children’s points of view, a lot of adult behavior is “terrible”. She’s “ambiguous teenage” for the entirety of the Multiverse Era. Her first appearance probably reads as somewhere between 15 and 17 and by OblivAeon she’s probably 17-19. In RPG era she’s in her early 20s and is an adult (both technically and in her behavior). It may not come across for us here in the real world, but in the comics she really was written to “sound” like a teenager. She’s a smart and capable teenager, but she also gets herself into teenager problems a lot.
  • Why don’t the main teams in Sentinel Comics change up their rosters much over the decades? They just have it as the case that in Sentinel Comics the official team rosters just don’t change. They often wind up with extensive supporting casts, but the teams are set. They’re all more like the Fantastic Four (granted, even they have lineup changes, but ultimately they tend to revert to the original members) than the Avengers. In the end, though, the reason for this is the fact that these are card game characters and they wanted the teams to be playable in the game, which means limited rosters. Like, Alpha kind of winds up as a de facto member of Dark Watch for a while there, but DW and PW don’t have “team logos” and so there’s not a specific DW Alpha costume that would be branded that way. Unity, Sky-Scraper, and Omnitron-X are all in that same kind of position regarding the Freedom Five. They’re not members of the team, despite being closely associated with them at one point or another. Unity’s there because she’s Dr. Meredith Stinson’s intern, not Tachyon’s Sidekick™. Now, after the card game we get into the RPG era and things like the Sentinels of Freedom and the expanded “community” Dark Watch do have a more rotating membership. Now, that’s down to the game reasons of them encouraging players to create their own heroes to have join these teams, but at least now the game reasons are encouraging the different team rosters. [Apparently, joining the teams would have you be a member of the “the Sentinels”, “the Wardens”, or “the Watch”.] If they were to ever make another set of comics, this would likely be a major distinguishing characteristic between that company and Sentinel Comics.
  • In a few timelines we see that Unity and Mr. Fixer become friends - how does that happen considering where the two of them tend to spend their time (a lab in Megalopolis vs. an auto-shop in Rook City)? How do they meet? Does he operate as a mentor to her? They meet during some random hero team-up that happens. There’s some mechanical problem and he starts to work on it and she just fixes it with her brain. He sees what she does but asks if she knows why it works. She doesn’t and he explains what the parts actually do and how things need to be for it to continue to work after they leave. At first he’s annoyed but realizes that she’s interested in machines and he can help her learn. She is initially put off by him being grumpy at her, but he can explain how these machines work. They connect over the machine stuff and that respect is retained even when he’s in grumpy-zombie Dark Watch mode. That being said, there’s not really a whole lot between them in the main continuity. There’s a few early interactions shortly after she’s introduced and that is then extrapolated into the Iron Legacy timeline. Christopher could see doing a short arc where DW Mr. Fixer and she have a story, maybe during the gap between Dark Watch volumes.
  • How well do Unity, Fixer, and Argent Adept get along? This is referring to the creation of CON. Hmm… They think that Unity and Fixer are actual friends, it just comes up rarely. Argent Adept gets along with either of the others well enough, but isn’t their friend. There’s just not a lot of crossover there.
  • In her DE deck we see Unity hastily modify Benchmark’s suit; does that interaction lead her to do different things with her powers? Does she do that kind of thing to Bunker or Absolute Zero’s suits? It’s worth noting that while the vast majority of the time she uses her metal-manipulation power to build mechanical golems, her ability to just move metal around is general enough that she can just use it to do more mundanely mechanical things. She definitely has done this sort of thing to both AZ and Bunker (the EE version of the card had AZ on it - granted, not everything that was depicted on an EE card is still canonical, but that’s one that was). The change to Benchmark was mainly an excuse to show the two of them together. That’s something they do when they first sit down to work on a deck and pick which scenes to show. They figure out who each character should interact with somewhere in there. They really wanted to set some precedent for her and Benchmark to be at least “chummy”.
  • You’ve said in the past that Omni-Unity was built by an alt-reality Omnitron (one that created a “child” that was made with the Omnitron programming but was disconnected from the main Omnitron stuff so that it could create its own experiences); where does the “Unity” part enter into things? Did that Omnitron assimilate Unity and put part of/a replica of her consciousness into this humanoid robot body? Was it just inspired by the main-continuity Unity after it came through the mist gate? Some crazy coincidence? So, they’re going to read a few more letters before answering.
  • Is Omni-Unity from the world where Unity made a chess bot that lost to Omnitron and that led to that Omnitron taking over the universe (as detailed in the Wager Master episode)? See the next question.
  • In the Wager Master episode you talked about a bet made that Unity couldn’t make an AI that could beat Omnitron at chess, which she lost. The penalty was that Omnitron got to assimilate her creation, which led to it eventually taking over the universe. So, this is the Omniverse, right? There isn’t a second “Omnitron took over everything” universe out there you didn’t tell us about? If so, is that assimilated AI the reason that Omni-Unity has that identity? Good job, listeners. You pieced things together between the three of you! Wager Master is responsible for the Omniverse in that Wager Master made that bet with Unity. She built a brilliant AI, but Omnitron just happened to outplay it in the game. That significantly increased Omnitron’s abilities and that led to the Omniverse. Everything gets assimilated and eventually Omnitron makes that “child” for itself. When it does so, it bases it upon the most autonomous “mind” that it had interfaced with, which was Unity’s chess bot. And, as has been pretty well established, Unity’s bots are really just Unity herself. She builds these things and gives them a “spark” from herself to animate them. She’s not constantly actively “puppeteering” them, but she’s not not controlling them. She didn’t lose control of it like with the big T. Rex bot, but when Omnitron assimilated it, it still has part of Unity’s mind in it and that’s the seed of the Omni-Unity.
  • Was the alien artifact from the Citizen Dawn event a one-off thing or a regular part of Pristine’s arsenal? How does he go about making his bio-devices if he’s opposed to things designed by minds rather than “naturally occurring” things? Every bioweapon/biotechnology thing he does is kind of an experiment, so the exact thing that happened in the Citizen Dawn event might be just that one time, but then he sees what happened with it and then builds off of that experience for the next time he needs to do something along those lines. His ultimate goal is that state where only natural biotech stuff is what’s out there, but he’s a realist and recognizes that getting to that desired end state will require him to use technology that’s not of the desired type. As he goes on he’s able to replace that with biotech, but it’s a process. Depending on when in comics we see him he’s likely replaced more and more metal things with biotech components in his ship and gear, etc. The “tech” components seen on the Citizen Dawn event are an example of this - stuff that he hadn’t figured out how to replace yet.
  • Pristine’s not flying around in a Satellan since Orbo is the last one, but is Pristine’s ship another alien of some kind? They think of it as more plant than animal, but not necessarily like Earth plants. Maybe actually more like a fungus than anything. It’s also not a natural species - it’s some new type of organism that he’s basically created for the purpose of being a spaceship. Sure, there was some starting thing, but it’s been thoroughly engineered by him to be what it is now.
  • Does the fact that the ship’s alive cause problems? Need to stop and eat or expel waste? I’m imagining that it’s something like a dog - not terribly intelligent, but loyal to him; how’s that sound? It doesn’t behave like an animal. Like they said, they view it as more plant or fungus-like in makeup. It has biological needs, but not analogous to an animal. He is constantly working with it to make it more self-sustaining. It might “fight” him a bit in terms of avoiding routes he otherwise would want it to take for whatever reason, but he’s going to go along with that rather than force it to go where he wants. He’s also not a “chase” villain, so going along with the ship’s needs is not really going to cause direct problems in that way.
  • Does he resent the fact that he’s had to bioengineer this thing to fly around in rather than using something already suited for it? Would he use a Satellan to get around if he could find one? Does he know about Orbo? He wouldn’t want to force a thinking being to work for him. If a Satellan wanted to join up with him to do the whole bioengineering thing he’s be on-board with that. There’s a fair amount of cognitive dissonance going on here. He’s not trying to go “back to nature”, he’s just trying to get rid of all of this technology garbage and replace it with new self-sustaining, organic alternatives. He sees himself as a visionary pushing things forward, not back, but he’s very ends-justify-the-means regarding how he gets there.
  • Fashion totally fought Mr. Hideous, right? Yes.
  • How does Sentinel Comics deal with the ever-expanding length of time that Paul Parsons VIII has been Legacy due to the well-established, very specific timeline of his ancestors that ends with his father fighting in World War II? Do they push Paul VII’s death later and later after the war? Has anybody ever just tried to sneakily slot another Legacy in the middle there, only to be fought back by fans/editors? It’s just kind of never addressed. It might get brought up that Legacy’s father fought in “the war” without getting more specific, but even that doesn’t get brought up very often. It is messy. He’s around from “shortly after the war” through the end of 2016 when he hands it off to his daughter. He ages 10 years very rapidly in the ’50s, then another 3-4 years between then and the end of the multiverse, then another 15 basically instantly as he transitions to Heritage. From his introduction as Legacy (JC #102) through his time as Heritage he probably ages around 30 years, which isn’t bad for comic book time (it’s roughly half-speed, and notably faster than the general “100 issues is a year” benchmark), but the uneven nature of that change is what’s weird.

Cover Discussion

  • For the first cover you don’t want to give things away, so it’d just be Unity in the ruins. The third cover is probably her and Haka vs. the robot. The middle one is the Dinosaur vs. the Octogator. Christopher pushes back a bit since her building the T. Rex bot is a reveal and maybe we just have the Octogator chasing her, but Adam counters that Dinobot vs. Kaiju is the selling point of the book. The surprise is that the bot turns on her. So there we go, Justice Comics #572, January 2003 - T. Rex Bot vs. 8-legged Alligator.