Podcasts/Episode 251

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The Letters Page: Episode 251
Writers' Room: Justice Comics #58

Justice Comics Vol 1 058.png

Original Source

Primary Topic



Our earliest story ever! And it even has a backup story! Let's get golden!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:22:00

We do some banter, then tell some tales! We know a lot about this one, but there are still many details that can be discovered on the air, and we seek them out! Plus some unexpected twists!

A shorter question section than usual, but that's OK! It happens sometimes.

If you haven't seen the cover for this episode, I highly recommend checking it out! It's the earliest cover Adam has drawn, so far. The covers are always in the show notes, and some podcast apps show them, but others don't. But they're always visible at our website!

Characters Mentioned



  • So, the topic submitted and voted on for this week was “Heroic Proletariat” and there’s a few ways they could approach that. It could be a future, RPG-era thing as there’s some potential there. The main (canon timeline) thing they can do with that is the one actual Heroic Proletariat appearance, his first appearance during World War II. Now, there’s some nuance there that is gone into in the History of Sentinel Comics, but let’s summarize it.
    • There was a big push in the early-to-mid ’40s to positively portray Soviet characters in media because they were our allies in the war. There were actual incentives to do so and Sentinel Comics (or whatever the official company name was at the time… “Sentinel Publications” maybe? It’ll be in the book) signed on to do something.
  • Anyway, they’ve already got a bunch of this in their heads, but there’s some Writers’ Room creative space in the second half. This is going to be Justice Comics #58 from February 1945. In this story, Legacy (Paul Parsons VII - later “Greatest Legacy” but the original comics character) is sent on a mission to Germany where there’s a weapons facility hidden out in the forests that has been identified and located. Some terrible weapons program is based there - they don’t know what, but Legacy’s been tasked to go in behind enemy lines and find out/shut it down. Over the last several issues, he’s already been in Germany and on the trail of somebody called General Geist (spoilers, this is his first and last actual appearance) who is known as somebody who makes weapons on behalf of the Nazis.
  • So, Legacy’s in the forest, avoiding German patrols. Sure he could fight these jerks with his powers, but he’s trying to get in and out of the factory unobserved - preferably with minimal actual fighting. Then he runs into some other guy who’s also sneaking through the woods (in a bright red outfit - although Legacy’s tan/off-white one doesn’t give him any room to talk). They wind up fighting as they each think that the other is part of the opposition. Every time Legacy punches the guy another copy of him appears. It’s a brief fight, but it gets kind of out of hand rather quickly.
  • What makes them stop fighting? Christopher suggests that Legacy says something about how it doesn’t matter how many goons General Geist sends, yadda yadda. Adam points out that it’s unlikely that Legacy would mistake the guy with Soviet iconography plastered over his entire body for a Nazi. Going the other way might work. Legacy has a very Aryan look and his outfit lacks American iconography. So there we go, Proletariat is the one who says something about how the Nazis can’t stand against the might of the people (cue several new duplicates popping into existence) and that’s what prompts Legacy to speak up regarding the misunderstanding (including some complimentary dialogue about “Uncle Joe” Stalin that have aged like milk).
  • The plan is to sneak around until they can ambush a few guards and steal their uniforms. It’s still quite humorous as Proletariat still has his red mask on. Maybe they manage to befriend a guard dog as well to help the disguise.
  • Once they get inside there’s a surprise. Instead of the expected tanks and whatnot, they find tanks. You know, large containers of liquids. Glowing liquid in fact. Whatever is going on here involves taking German soldiers and dunking them in this liquid. There’s also large Tesla coils and whatnot - very strong mad-science vibes. Huh… but there are also lots of “ritualistic” things like big red candles and strange sigils carves into the tanks vats.
  • They continue to sneak around and get into an office to look at paperwork to see if that helps. Can Legacy read German? They decide not, but luckily his new friend Proletariat can read some of it. Just another advantage of working with these fantastic Soviets. While they’re trying to make sense of it they finally get spotted and challenged by somebody who’s actually supposed to be there and so get found out. A fight ensues. Because this is a Golden Age, pre-Comics Code story (and a war story at that), people die. After this, they go back to reading and what Proletariat can make out is something about soldiers who cannot be defeated - they will spend no time in the grave. It’s weird, and it almost just sounds like somewhat poetic propaganda about the superiority of German soldiers. That’s when the defeated German soldiers stand back up and continue fighting. This gives us some opportunity for some pretty gratuitous stuff, like a guy getting shot in the head or punched through his chest but they keep fighting.
  • Art-wise, Adam imagines that there’s an energy filling this area that’s coming from the tubes/vats. When these guys get severely injured, the artist indicates what’s going on by putting a color hold on the line work for that part of it. So, you’d draw the whole face of the guy, but then when it’s printed the destroyed parts get drawn with blue lines instead of black or something.
  • The move here is for our heroes to get overwhelmed by these jerks and then bound and brought before General Geist in person. “If you will not join us, you will still fight for us in death!” They move to throw the heroes into the vats, but Proletariat manages to get a hand out to bang against something to generate a duplicate and now there’s one of him that’s not tied up. He blows up a vat, etc. and the fight starts back up. Now it comes out that this was part of the plan. The heroes could have beaten up mooks all day, but they needed to draw out General Geist himself.
  • So, what’s actually motivating the dead soldiers? It’s probably not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. There’s got to be some kind of energy generator that’s actually keeping them going and let’s say it’s what the Tesla coils and whatnot are connected to. Some kind of Infernal Engine. The goo in the vats “binds” the person to the Engine and as long as it’s running, it’ll keep them up and moving.
  • The heroes destroy the Engine. There may have been some quick question of whether they could capture General Geist, but they only have time to do one thing and destroying the facility is the important one. They blow up the Engine and that has a chain reaction that blows up the vats and the affected soldiers as well. Basically the whole place goes up and it’s just assumed that General Geist was killed in the destruction. Hmm… Maybe Legacy points out that they should try to capture him because he could be of use, but Proletariat counters that the only good Nazi is a dead one and then blows the place up.
  • There’s likely some coda where Legacy and Proletariat talk “I didn’t trust you at first, but your priorities are in order…”, enemies of Nazis are friends of mine, etc.
  • Do we need more? They talk through roughly how many pages different parts would have taken, but then remember that there would have been a backup story in there too.
  • Looking up what else they know already about the goings-on here Christopher notes that this is also Proletariat’s last appearance as a hero as he wouldn’t show up again until Freedom Five #96 in April ’58 (that’s where we get his backstory - he’s Aleksandr Tsarev, cosmic radiation experiments, etc.).
  • Anyway, the backup story in this story is probably going to be a Henry Goodman Absolute Zero story (it’s a good place for one of those given that we’re coming up on his last appearance [hmm… that’d be odd if he was in the original Freedom Four/Five lineup that would go through July ’57 - maybe they just mean his last appearance not in that book]). Let’s go ahead and do this one too! A quick 8-pager where Absolute Zero is in his lab and fights somebody.
  • “Oh no, my good friend [Christopher scrambles for a name on the spot] Doctor Stevens has been turned into stone! This must be the work of Miss Medusa! I must bring her to justice; that’s the only way to save my friend.” He finds her, defeats her, and tries to get her to turn Doctor Stevens back before he hands her over to the police. “You fool!” The transformation is permanent and she claims he’ll never find the secret. But, with the power of Science he prevails and saves his friend himself. Christopher thinks he can do some trickery as well - Henry Goodman somehow tricks or otherwise prompts Miss Medusa into using her powers to turn something into stone while he can watch and, having seen it done, he’s able to figure out how to reverse it (this probably involves a formula that includes asbestos in some way, because of course it does back then given its widespread use as thermal insulation and thus features prominently in Absolute Zero stories). Like, after he hands her over to the cops a guard gets too close and she turns him to stone and that’s the observation AZ needed. We’re just going to gloss over how Henry Goodman convinced a guard to willingly get turned to stone with no guarantee that he could be turned back.
  • Note from the first part of the Questions section before they actually get to any questions: Come on, with a name like “General Geist” this guy is prime “resurrection Nazi” material for a later writer to use in like the ’80s or something. Like, making him literally a ghost or part ghost is an obvious move here. He died in a “ghost science explosion” so there’s plenty of comic book logic to explain his return.


  • I know that during the recent Editor’s Note it was confirmed that this would be a Golden Age story, but back in the OblivAeon story it was mentioned that Proletariat was helping as well - was his activity notable enough to get his own issue during that story or at least a major feature for part of an issue? He certainly doesn’t have an entire issue. The place they think this could likely fit in would be to pick an issue of one of the tie-in books during the event and showcase what a bunch of villains were doing while all of this was going on (Christopher thinks there’s space for that exact idea in Justice Comics - let’s take some classic JC villains and see what they’re doing to help). Let’s see - Citizen Dawn shows up to do her big thing in Freedom Five #800. The November JC issue could be about these villains and she could be suspiciously absent. That would be JC #738.
  • Per the Multiverse Recap, Proletariat debuts in February 1945, Justice Comics #58 [hey, that’s today’s issue!] and then reappears three years later in April ’48 in Freedom Four #87 [this can’t be right given that Freedom Four/Five wasn’t a thing in 1948 - this should be in April 1958 rather than ’48 and in Freedom Five #96] - was there any lead-up in [the intervening] years that he would reappear as a villain? Did he get any more appearances as a hero before becoming a villain? Neither - he shows up in the 1945 issue as a hero working alongside Legacy (and that’s because the company is getting a wartime financial incentive to showcase teamwork with the Soviets), then we don’t see him again at all until ’58 at which point he’s a Cold War villain.
  • How much was he around before he was frozen? What issue/date was he frozen if that was shown in the comics? He was a villain in the Silver Age for a while and then the writers just stopped using him and he’s not seen for a long time. It’s only when the Exordium writers wanted to use him that the “frozen in the past and discovered/thawed out by Baron Blade” explanation for his absence was invented for his appearance in the Vengeance story. It’s a “sliding timescale” patch - the Golden Age Proletariat can easily be the Silver Age one because a relatively short time has passed. If you’re suggesting that a World War II vet is still in great fighting shape in the ’90s you need an explanation (please ignore the fact that the heroes he’s fighting in the ’90s are the same ones he was fighting in the ’50s).
  • What prompted his return in comics? Do any readers even know who this guy is? The only readers who would remember him are ones who are into the history of the comics. He was a notable Silver Age villain, just not one that made it through the next few decades as we moved on from simple “Soviets bad!” villains. Like, things were still not good regarding the Soviets, but it was less Rocky and Bullwinkle about it. Exordium probably had a bunch of backup stories to remind people who all of these smaller villains were and so that could be a good spot to reprint his original appearance story.
  • After Vengeance what did Proletariat do until OblivAeon? I can’t really see him teaming up with other villains or anything, but does he do an “anti-hero” (or “anti-villain”) thing? He’s kind of an anti-villain, yeah. He’s still a villain, but a sympathetic one (“he’s a confused guy”). He’s a villain that we see fighting other villains occasionally. If you’re a true believer in a certain ideology that’s prevalent in your home country and then get dropped into a place that’s totally alien to that ideology, you’re probably in for a confusing time.
  • Has there been any attempt post-OblivAeon to turn him into a full-fledged hero? Sure, he’s in Perestroika, but at some point they break up, right? The first time we see him post-OblivAeon he’s in that confused, “searching” mode that he’d largely been in since Vengeance. As part of that, we see him try to disable a malfunctioning nuclear plant before things get really bad (but then Fanatic shows up, still grieving over Ra, and beats him up a bunch). We don’t see him after that until the Perestroika event where he’s very much a villain again as within that group he’s found something familiar again, which he’d been looking for since Vengeance. Does Perestroika break up? Are they ultimately defeated? We’re kind of in the middle of that era of storytelling right now. That could eventually change, but at that point we’re looking into the future. Something interesting that could be done there is to have him being in a situation where he’s been looking for something for 30 years or whatever, and now he’s finally found it, but is it really what he wants now that he has it? There’s some doubt in there - he’s not a mindless soldier for Mecha-Stalin like the other two are.
  • Does being re-exposed to the OblivAeon shard that gave him his powers change how his powers work? To recap: in that story there’s way too many copies of him. Way more than he generally makes because with each copy they individually get “dumber” because it’s one mind trying to manage all of them at once. At the shard itself, things have gotten so bad there’s a big “blorpy” mass of copies fused together. All of that is resolved. The question is are there any lasting effects? since we’d seen him do things that his powers typically don’t do. Adam’s opinion is that his powers could always do these things, he’s just had a mental block to prevent himself from getting too strung-out. Now that he knows that he can do these things he might be able to get past whatever limit he’d had on his clone numbers. Christopher extrapolates that to be that he might be able to (or at least thinks about the possibility that he can) do “weird” things when recombining copies. There’s some space here for him to have this terrible thing happen to him that slightly broadens his perspective on what his powers actually do rather than them actually changing his powers. He’s not likely very keen on doing any of those things, but he’s aware of them.
  • Was Proletariat ever used as a hero after Vengeance, even as a one-off thing? Disparation? As a full-on hero, no we don’t. We get some stories where he makes a heroic choice. Some where he does a thing that’s important/notable. We don’t get him as a story protagonist as a hero. The issue showing the villains’ activities during OblivAeon is probably the closest. He’s still more sympathetic than many villains - he’s not the kind of guy to have a villainous plot, but he’s also not going out to heroically save the day. He’s not even a jobber like the Hippo robbing banks. When he shows up it’s generally because he’s attached himself to somebody else who has a “cause” that he gets behind because he needs something to believe in.
  • Would Perestroika recruit the Bear at some point (the last we heard he was rotting in a jail cell since Pike had no further use for him)? Was he included in Rook City Renegades to remind us that he existed so we’d know who he was when he showed up in an RPG-era product or was it just a convenient “yeah, that could work” Critical Event idea? Hey, things can be done for multiple reasons. Two things. First, in order to join Perestroika he’d have to have something happen to him so that he’d be more than just a guy. Second, he’s not really the type to get out of a long stint in jail and think that his next move would be to join up with a group trying to reestablish the glory of the родина. He’d more likely set up his own criminal organization (or join up with the Organization again - what exactly happens likely depends on the specifics of his release from prison). Regarding his DE appearance, none of the CEs are just “eh, that’ll work”. They’re all meant to be notable stories for one reason or another and things that they want to be in the game but maybe don’t have enough to them to warrant getting their own deck.
  • Would Proletariat’s heroic period show up in Definitive Edition or will his deck stick just to his villainous outings? They can see an art from this issue showing up in his deck, but it’d be the “fighting Legacy” part of the story if so. The odds of a Heroic Proletariat deck showing up in Definitive Edition are so much lower than several other fan theories. It’d be fun to do mechanically, but they’d have to do a lot of stretching to make the story work. Like, if they ever did a Sentinels 2099 set or something set 5 or 10 years post-OblivAeon they could maybe justify it. An entirely Golden Age set could do it, but then you’re taking all of the art from that one issue.
  • A few years ago, protestors of the Snowstorm video game company used one of the characters from their shooter Supervise as the “face” of the protest - has Proletariat (or any other Sentinel Comics character) been used in such a way? That kind of thing couldn’t really happen until relatively recently with the way that internet culture gloms onto things. Maybe some protest of late-stage capitalism could use OblivAeon as a stand-in for that concept or something. Sentinel Characters being used in memes is rampant (say the whole Harambe thing that would use the Naturalist), but an organized use of a character in that way is less likely. They would kind of have to come up with a thing happening in the Metaverse that would get protestors riled up and then pick an appropriate character.
  • If Proletariat was a villain that embodied Capitalism instead of Communism, what would change about him? Rather than having all of the copies being exactly the same, there would be a “main” one that had lesser copies which he would exploit for his purposes. Or, to be less “what’s wrong about Capitalism?” about it, maybe it’s a thing where there’s a task where he makes a bunch of slightly different copies and whichever is the best at that task gets to become the “main” one that the others get absorbed into and that process repeats, just gradually improving things through competition. That doesn’t really work as a character, but that’s why Communism works so well for Proletariat.
  • What does it actually look like when Proletariat makes a copy? Like, does his body stretch and split like a cell undergoing mitosis? Energy just springs out of his body and materializes a clone? One of his EE cards makes the latter seem likely, but then the body horror from the RPG Starter Kit makes me think the former - does it just vary by era and artist (or medium)? You got there in the end. A lot of the time there’s just zhwoopy lines between the original and the copy. Others have him just pop into existence instantly without any effect at all (that’s the most common for cartoons). There’s also some artists who want to get really weird with it and show the clones pulling themselves out of the original (that’s more likely in a story written by a Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, or Neil Gaiman type of issue - those British writers who really wanted to get into the weeds). Like, somebody just really wants to spend a full page and a lot of panels showing the process in great detail - drawing out the moment to show what’s happening. His reintroduction in the ’90s is kind of the perfect time for this sort of thing. Probably a Frank Quitely thing. They would both hate that issue.
  • Is Anvyrre the Answer a little guy (both physically and metaphorically - I just think it’s funny to have this guy show up on the Enclave’s doorstep)? Hmm… Christopher imagines him as closer to 4 feet tall than he is to 8 feet [note that Tarogath is 8 feet tall]. Adam doesn’t want to commit to anything about his appearance until he’s actually drawing him.
  • In Editor’s Note 67 you mentioned that the Fey realm was overlaid on the Earth, but how far “out” does that go? Let’s say Infinitor were to enter the Fey realm, think to himself “Ugh… not my genre” and then flew directly up - would he be able to escape the Fey realm as he flies into space, or does that realm have its own “space”? This is a different situation than the Realm of Discord or the Grey - the Fey realm is not like those things. It is part of “this world” and does not extend infinitely in all directions. There isn’t a Thorathian Fey realm (or at least if there’s an analogous thing “attached to” Dok'Thorath it’s a different place). There are two likely results of the Infinitor situation. In one, he flies up into space and gets out. The other is that he flies up and just winds up “looping around” because the Fey realm has trapped him.
  • How about the other direction - if he can’t get out by going up, could he burrow down and wind up in Magmaria or something? They don’t think there’s a Fey realm Magmaria (although there are caves and such), but going deep underground in the Fey realm sounds like an awfully good way to get trapped there.
  • Could Infinitor “cosmic science” his way out of this problem using stuff he found in the Fey realm or does getting out of the Fey realm necessarily require some magic? Well, Infinitor isn’t really a “science” character to begin with, but setting that aside… The answer is probably “yes” if only because if somebody has written this story in the first place that’s how it goes. The general lore-rule of the Fey realm is that if they want to keep you there, you’re stuck. You have to make a deal or promise something. One does not simply walk into Mordor walk/fly/burrow out of the Fey realm.
  • Would you consider Tempest a transgender or gender-fluid character? No, because of the alien nature of the character. Maerynians simply do not conform to the human paradigm that you need to be in for those terms to be meaningful. The “transgender story” (to the extent that our hosts can speak to it at all) is one of change from what is expected. Tempest’s biology might go through a change at some point, but it’s an expected change that all Maerynians can expect to undergo. There’s nothing about Tempest’s experience of “Maerynian gender” that’s atypical. Likewise, Tempest is not a “gender-fluid character”, but it is the case that Maerynian gender identity/expression is naturally more fluid than is the case for humans. But even trying to compare things is difficult because while that fluidity is there, they’re also more monolithic than humans because it’s hard to even talk about what gender-fluid would even mean for a people for whom there aren’t different genders. *From the perspective of humans" Tempest might be considered to be more gender-fluid than humans are, but that’s us viewing everything through our perspective. While their reproductive cycle results in changes of state, for the Maerynians that’s only a matter of reproduction, not gender.
  • If yes to either option, did the writers in the Metaverse intend that to be the case? Would Tempest be offended if somebody started using feminine pronouns regarding them after learning that they laid eggs? It was not “yes” to either. They could see a thing happen where a writer decided to write Tempest as gender-fluid or whatnot and that this was received poorly by the audience and other creators. Tempest does not care which pronouns people use. That’s a human thing. The Maerynian language just has the one singular pronoun and is probably most analogous to the “singular they” in modern English usage. It’s going to be a mistranslation no matter how you slice it.
  • [I just would like to see a trans or gender-fluid hero in Sentinel Comics, even if it had to be an alien to get it.] What they could see is rather than having the Maerynian biology thing be a direct analogue to the trans/fluid story, what they could see is a more metaphorical story being told as Tempest navigates the interface between the Maerynian and Human worlds. They just think that any direct “this is a trans character” thing related to Tempest is going to be received poorly. The work isn’t done there and it would just be trying to apply a label to a character that hasn’t experienced that. It’s doing a disservice to the idea of doing a good version of the trans story.

Cover Discussion

  • So, we know when this cover is and Christopher’s glad that they established the backup story since there would be a snippet about that as well (“Absolute Zero in the clutches of Miss Medusa” or something). They weren’t playing the same kinds of cover “games” in the Golden Age as they do more modernly; we’d just get General Geist, Proletariat (“introducing the Soviet soldier, Proletariat!”), and Legacy on the cover. General Geist probably has a speech bubble talking about how Legacy will join his army dead or alive. Given how much writing is on this cover, Adam asks Christopher to just take some time to type it all up off the air rather than Adam writing it all down here while they’re recording.