The Letters Page: Episode 260
Creative Process: OblivAeon Refugees
Everybody's had the right to be free.
Run Time: 1:37:40
We talk about travel, climbing, movies, small furry creatures/people... and finally we stop stalling and tell the stories you voted on! We bring up some folks, talk about people you've heard about, and then make up a few more you've never heard of! Well, at least, not in this incarnation.
Join us next week for Editor's Note #71! And, if you're on the Letters Page Patreon, join us this Friday for the live recording thereof!
- “OblivAeon refugees” - we’re talking about people who came through Mist Gates to help fight OblivAeon and then, when the gates slammed shut, were trapped in Universe 1 instead of making it home (or at least not inside the sandwich bag). Arataki, the other Haka, is the most notable example (she’s one of the Primal Wardens who fought Citizen Storm). Probably followed by Hedgelord, Dirt Hightower (talking about it now, they think that the old Shear Force comics and whatnot were not officially set in the Extremeverse - like, the details we see of their world don’t match up, but once Hedgelord is introduced into the mainstream comics, it is at that point that a retcon occurs to place Shear Force as gardeners from the Extremeverse as far as the Sentinel Comics canon is concerned - this is quite possibly the result of some kind of rights dispute, like maybe the rights to Shear Force in general got sold to another company, but the creator of Dirt Hightower wanted him to stay with Sentinel Comics).
- Hmm… they don’t have an official name or number for Arataki’s home universe. Christopher has 4 in mind that have names but no numbers and a bunch that have numbers but no names (1, 87, and a bunch of 3-digit ones so they’ll say that they won’t make any of these need 4 or more digits just to keep things easier).
- It would be fun for Arataki’s home to be Universe 2 because it’s the only other one that was home to one of the Hakas.
- Extremeverse: 250 (Adam found something about Extreme Numbers that mentioned something about 10^250 as part of it).
- Omniverse: 101 (because binary)
- Null-space is 0 [Is this the same as Ur-Space or just the place where the Block exists?]
- Numbers that have been assigned at this point: 0, 1, 2, 87, 101, 128, 212, 250, 426, 476, 623, 666, 719, 883, 945, and 999 (the Inversiverse).
- As they go through today’s actual topic, they will nail down which universe they’re from as that helps fill things out. For an infinite Multiverse, 16 distinct universes is not a lot to have sorted out at this point (although they know they have more than that, just not that many written down in this spreadsheet already).
- Adam suggests right here up front that at least one of these refugees should be a villain, and a substantial one. They can also have some heroes and minor villains, but at least one major threat.
- Who else do we already have? Omni-Unity is here (and is an inadvertent villain from the Omniverse - like, she’s not going out to do villain things, it’s just incidental in that her way to solve whatever problem is to infect things with her programming and make them robots). She might even count as an anti-villain. That might be it for people they’ve said officially up to this point.
- How many of these refugees are there? Adam thinks there might be upwards of a hundred “normal people” who just found their way into Universe 1 while the gates were open. Maybe a few dozen (or even just a dozen) are notably-powered individuals that affect the plot of Sentinel Comics.
- Maybe we can do a supporting character, just one from an alternate universe. Like, some other reality’s Sara Scott. Another option is someone who gains powers in the process of coming through.
- Talking through dead characters they really like the just-thrown-out-there idea of Sara Scott. Like, maybe in her reality Maia died and Sara became the Wraith afterward. Oh, how about this: The Wraith sacrificed herself in the Spite incident in order to save Sara and Eduardo. Sara tries to pick up the pieces and become a replacement hero and Eduardo becomes her “guy in the chair”. She does an okay job of it - she doesn’t have the resources or training that Maia had. She just has the “I must do this thing” determination going for her. Since she’s not as effective, she never manages to strike fear into criminals the way that Maia did and so the reputation of the Wraith suffers over time.
- That’s the backstory. When she comes through the portal, she picks up mist powers. She was a mediocre The Wraith, but now she’s something else. We want to make sure that she’s not too similar to NightMist. They’re thinking that she’s NightMist minus Magic, but plus Control. Like, she is less “cursed” by the Mist thing and can 1) project mist intentionally and 2) turn herself into mist and fully back to human. Maybe there’s some limitation like she can only turn to mist for however long she can hold her breath. They name her Haze. Adam decrees that she has a purple costume (fitting due to being the Wraith for a time, but also for other reasons).
- They think she’s pretty positive for somebody who’s stranded outside of her home reality - she’s okay with not being Wraith anymore because 1) there still is one here, 2) she was never really that great at it, and 3) she is different now with the powers. As for home reality, they think that is could work that she’s from the same reality as Supply and Demand Benchmark, but decide on a new one. She could be from a Disparation issue that explored what the world would be like if the Wraith had died while fighting Spite. They assign her to universe 516.
- Man, this gives them the opportunity to have a really cool “reunion” scene where 516!Sara and 1!Maia meet. Wraith is having a real good time after OblivAeon. She’s in a solid relationship. Gets a do over with an old friend. I suppose her dad did die, but he went out a hero.
- Let’s move on to a minor villain. It could be somebody who was already a minor villain. Maybe it’s somebody who was unremarkable in their reality, but something about everyone there makes them unique here and so they “have powers” now. What’s a fun conceit for a reality where some down-on-their-luck boring nobody, who wasn’t even ambitious enough to turn to a life of crime, is noteworthy just as a result of being from there? Something that somebody who was so unremarkable for their whole lives could base their entire identity on now that it’s unique? It has to be something that everyone can have without “breaking” the world. It can’t be any kind of projectile weapon or psychic power (well, if everyone has psychic powers that probably just makes the social dynamics of that world very different from ours, but isn’t really what they’re going for).
- The joke example they’ve been throwing around is “rocket feet”. That isn’t necessarily what they want to do, but it’s the level of “flashy” thing that would get people’s attention, but it just meant that everybody in that reality could blast/fly everywhere they needed to go. It’s convenient, but doesn’t overly complicate things. They workshop some other things like “can control personal gravity” (which is just a less flashy version of flight) or “you know how we’re made of electricity?” (which is just Re-Volt) or some other “elemental” thing like that. Rocket Feet is the right level of silly for what Christopher’s imagining.
- As an example of imagining somebody from our universe going somewhere where nobody has bones and then deciding that they’re now Bone Man - that’s the level of mundanity we’re shooting for. Let’s do the opposite - instead of bone, everyone is made of “rubber”. Stretchy, bendy, bullets bounce off of him. He’s… The Rubber Bandit! We need a name for him - Christopher points out that the right move for him is to be something utterly mundane like Todd [blank]. Adam is absolutely fine with him being Todd Blanke. They number this one universe 387.
- Christopher wants to do another supporting cast person - not even necessarily with powers - before moving on to the for-real Villain. Oooo… What if a supporting cast person shows up from another reality and just kills their Universe 1 counterpart in order to take their place? Like, the Universe 1 version didn’t make all of the same mistakes and has a version of their life that, while not completely different life experiences, is just much better off in their current circumstances and this new one seizes an opportunity to slot themselves into that position rather than trying to make a new life for themself here.
- Hmm… We can make this less sinister. Maybe they show up in this reality and the Universe 1 counterpart is just already dead, but they’re the only ones who see it happen/know that it happened. They’ve got this secret that they’re attempting to keep going, but it’s partly out of not having to break it to everyone else in this person’s life that their loved one is dead. It’s a weird choice, but they’re trying to do the best thing under the circumstances.
- Who could it be? Adam: “Emily Parsons.” Nope! Nobody that impactful. An option in the other “not impactful enough” direction is Jason Wong in that this would be impactful for a single character - he just hasn’t interacted meaningfully with any of the rest of the extended cast. We want somebody who has a life. Jefferson Knight isn’t bad - it’s a government/managerial position that could be leveraged. They think they already killed him off, though…
- Oh! Janet Valenco - who worked with the Department of Exo-Earth Integration and was the “case worker” assigned to Sky-Scraper. Her job is helping aliens figure out “life on Earth” stuff and after OblivAeon the organization’s role expanded to include OblivAeon refugees. We know she has a hobby (she loves rodents and other small mammals) so let’s flesh her life out with a husband and kids, etc. A wrinkle they can throw in is that this new Janet fits in basically seamlessly in her new life, but she doesn’t have the same affection for animals (and the rats in her house or whatever don’t like her either).
- They consider having her be from Universe 2 and so unknowingly from the same reality as the new Haka, but decide against it. They want her to be from a reality that’s very similar to Universe 1 so that she can fit in easily and most of the ones they’ve established are pretty different. They just pick a new number and put her in Universe 46.
- Okay, on to the Big Villain. There are three angles they can take here. Someone who is a villain in their own world (major or minor) but who becomes a major villain here. Someone who was a hero in their own world but becomes a villain by coming here. Or something entirely new. Do we want to recognize anything about this entity?
- Maybe something with Idealist’s “mom” where she absorbed all of the other Southwest Sentinels? The problem with Idealist’s mom is that she’s a big ol’ pile of mysteries so trying to build another story off of her doesn’t lend itself to comparison which is part of the interesting thing about alt-reality versions of existing characters. Christopher doesn’t hate “all of the Southwest Sentinels powers in one person” as a villain concept and that could easily be a very messed up Dr. Medico (or Writhe, but he’s already got weird villain-ish stuff going on).
- Christopher’s idea here is that we have the Southwest Sentinels and they’re up against some big bad who’s out to destroy reality or something. Dr. Medico is the only one who can hold this off using his life-energy power set - the other Sentinels are there and know they can’t help, but let Medico draw on their life force to power himself up as he struggles with the badness. Things get out of his control and he winds up accidentally drawing all of their life force, killing them in the process of stopping the villain. He’s now also absorbed their powers as well, but he’s messed up and is a being of guilt and grief and rage. Let’s also say that stopping the villain caused and explosion that wound up killing a bunch of people. And let’s throw in the villain himself for good measure and so Dr. Medico has part of his powers too. Let’s say it was Quetzalcoatl.
- Now, this isn’t just going to be “evil Nick Hernandez” - this is going to be a composite being with elements from all 5 of the people involved. This isn’t quite a “standard” [big scare quotes here] plural situation where different full personalities take turns running things - we’ve got 5 fragmentary personalities trying to kludge together a mind and so different mixes present in different ways over time (and also times when none of them are “driving” and we’ve got a creature of ID kind of situation, which also ties in nicely with Idealist stuff).
- Can they just call him Omega? There are a lot of those already (including an energy being in DC) so maybe best to steer clear. Adam suggests Nadir. Christopher thinks that Dr. Nadir sounds good, but then it occurs to him that sometimes he’s Dr. Nadir. Other times Mr. Nadir, etc. There’s a bunch of different identities and it’s not as clean as “Dr. Nadir is Dr. Medico” or whatever.
- What does he want that makes him a Villain? We can straight up just have some expressions of Nadir cook up villainous plots. We don’t even need the other expressions to know about them. One might have some kind of Utopian ideal thing going on, another is a Nihilist, another just wants to amass wealth and power, one’s a hedonist, one that’s a weird amalgamation of Medico and Writhe wants to “fix everything”. You never know what you’re facing and it can change mid-encounter. It can be a lot of fun to have Nadir come to the heroes to warn them about a big plot that another version of himself is responsible for. They put him in Universe 804.
- It’s fun to think about how his powers manifest too, given the variety of permutations (Mainstay’s strength projected through Writhe’s shadows or Idealist’s projections, weird shadow energy clones of himself, any of the Sentinels combined with the already weird things Quetzalcoatl has going on, etc.). Plus he’s containing the “world destroying energy” nonsense that Quetzalcoatl was messing with, so you might have a situation where the heroes feel sympathy for him and try to help and they might even find a way that would separate the various pieces back out, but it would also release the world destruction thing. He can also be a useful plot device for other villains. A terribly destructive force without a consistent drive is something that you can get a lot of story miles out of.
- With how “popular” the Animalverse is (considering how often it shows up), did any of the characters from there wind up in Universe 1 after OblivAeon? If so, who? You’re right, it would be a mistake to not have somebody from there stuck here. They run through a bunch of the “existing” names that have been suggested over the course of the podcast, but decide to make a new one and that it should be a hero. Captain Cosmic as a starting point is good as the constructs are something you can have stick to the Animalverse theme, but the name is tricky to work with. Christopher gets very excited when Captain Clawsmic occurs to him - just figure out an animal with claws. They choose a European Lynx as the point of reference and as far as personality goes it’s just Hugh Lowsley, but an anthropomorphic lynx. He’s convenient in that they’re already doing weird stuff with Captain Cosmic post-OblivAeon so having this version around is handy but they also don’t have to showcase his exploits on Earth since he can just be off doing Space Adventure stuff most of the time. They briefly consider adding Captain Clawsmic to the Prime Wardens but decide against it.
- Did more than just people wind up trapped in the sandwich bag (that is, did we get portions of entire other dimensions or whatnot trapped too)? No. As much as it’s less interesting to give that answer, the mist gates open and people came through. They weren’t expansive enough that they would create a crossover region. Something like that could happen - it’s actually possible that there are still ongoing disruptions of one sort or another, but not the kind of regional crossover you’re suggesting. All sorts of things are going wrong with this reality due to being isolated as it is.
- Will you tie any of these characters to the Department of Exo-Earth Integration that you created in the Sky-Scraper Supporting Cast episode? They did, in a way probably more direct than you expected!
- How much of the world is aware of the fact that there are multiple versions of heroes/villains now? Or of the proof of other realities in general? We have a different Haka and Captain Clawsmic, but there aren’t a whole lot of “duplicates” like this running around. While the OblivAeon event is known by everyone, exactly what the details were beyond “giant villain attack, lots of people died, the heroes managed to defeat them, we’re all in disaster-relief mode now” aren’t exactly common knowledge. That includes the whole “alternate realities” aspect. Random people coming through weird mist portals doesn’t immediately make people assume they’re from other universes entirely.
- Have you come up with a specific term beyond “OblivAeon Refugees” yet? They don’t think they necessarily need a specific term for it. The main reason you’d need one is if you have a book that plans on using this status as a source of “freak of the week” villains or whatnot and they don’t plan on that being the case. The relatively small number of them is a limiting factor for how “important” they are for terminology like this.
- How common are OblivAeon refugees as incidental mentions/one-off characters? Is each one special and important, or do we get people like Bob Katz from the Animalverse who’s just your average
guycatperson? Most of the time when you see one pop up they’re special and important, but we occasionally get gag where you get something on the level of “just a rubber person” (if Todd Blanke hadn’t turned to a life of crime - they don’t think we have a second rubberverse person). There just aren’t all that many (current thinking is between 100 and 200 over the whole planet), but we do get both kinds of things. It’s not enough of a displaced population that “finding space for all of them” is a challenging problem. The culture clash is the bigger issue, but for a lot of them even that’s probably not a huge hurdle. They think that Captain Clawsmic has no trouble - he’s dealing with weird aliens enough as it is and even the people on Earth are still recognizable. Sure it’s weird that they’re all naked apes, but that’s the only difference.
- Has there been any major cultural or technological change in the setting due to things people knew of art/culture/technology from their home universe that was novel here? They don’t think so. There’s not a huge cultural impact from them. That’s not to say that there isn’t, like, an artist who makes a splash due to the differences. Those new things are too localized to have been felt as a huge shift overall, though.
- How many versions of my favorite character Sk8Blayd are in Universe 1 now? They have some bad news for you. They joke around with putting different numbers in there like Sk9-Blayde, but they don’t think there are any alt-reality versions of him. The episode a few weeks from now is probably the only Sk8Blayd episode they’ll do.
- What was the process for the Metaverse creators making these characters? Were there rules about which universes they were allowed to pull characters in from? Could they make up their own unique universes for this purpose? If so, did they have to consider that they were making up universes in the post-Multiverse era? A lot of what you heard today is how things went. They don’t think that the Metaverse process differed all that much from their own today. The only thing that’s probably Editorial is switching the Hakas. That was a big deal that everyone has to be on board with and know about. Haka, Hedgelord, Haze, and Omni-Unity existed prior to the OblivAeon crisis (they take the time to place the Haze story - and they realize that “Disparation where Spite kills Wraith” is already a story they have marked down - Disparation volume 1 #2). Captain Clawsmic is probably something we’ve at least seen in an Animalverse thing at some point (if not the main character). They think he’s less “space dad” than Hugh - there’s silliness due to being a cat, but he probably also jokes more. Nadir was made up for the post-OblivAeon era.
- We know about three Lords Wolfhunt, but what of the other members of the Wolfhunt family? What do they do? Surely they’re not doing shady business stuff so that just the current patriarch can hunt werewolves, right? Is Byron I’s wife still around? Any siblings? A lot of the family is just treated as laconic aristocracy, but we know that the whole family hunts wolves. There are a lot more werewolves than the ones we see, though (plus there are lots more werewolves than there are Wolfhunts). We don’t get much spotlight shone on the rest of the family until post-OblivAeon when we’re in a status quo where the current Lord Wolfhunt is having some identity crisis issues. Do we see him in opposition with the rest of the family? Fun stuff to consider there. Prior to OblivAeon, the most we see of the rest of the family was in the Byron II era where they play off of him given his complicated relationship with Alpha. Byron I’s wife was likely around for that era - if she’s still around, she’s some aged matriarch who’s still invested in the traditions.
- Is there an eldrich-verse where it seems like you can’t help but stumble across some group that worships GloomWeaver-esque Lovecraftian entities? There is a Hell-verse with all the demons and stuff. Adam thinks there’s room for something with a Victorian feel where you’d have a “The Doom that Came to Megalopolis” story with that kind of tone. What’s interesting about that sort of setting is the threat level being so much greater than the heroes so that it’s ultimately hopeless. They put this vaguely Lovecraftian/Victorian and slightly Steampunk reality as Universe 987.
- Would you care to elaborate on who Dollface is? An associate of Greazer Clutch after the Multiverse Era is over.
- How common is product placement in Sentinel Comics? Not very often. There’s El Todito, but actual product placement in a comic is pretty rare (that’s what all of the advertisement pages are for). What’s more likely would be things like an artist drawing a very specific Chevy into a panel because it’s their car.
- [I had an idea for a character called Advert who could summon things via product placement and wanted to see how viable an idea that is.] You can still do that, but you probably make up a bunch of in-universe brands. That’s a fun powerset.
- Which villain in the sandwich bag has personally betrayed the greatest number of other villains in Sentinel Comics history? Baron Blade is tempting, but “betrayal” had kind of a suggested power dynamic implicit and Baron Blade is more likely to just have people “working for him” and them failing him isn’t a betrayal. Straight up betrayal could be Apostate, but the answer is probably Biomancer.
- It’s been mentioned that Baron Blade has used small rockets to deliver messages - does XTREME Baron Blade bomb out entire areas to spell out messages? No, he writes them on the face of the moon for everyone to read. He’s also in charge of that settlement in the Mad Max-esque issue.
- Any Inversiverse characters whose popularity surpassed their main-reality counterpart? They don’t think so. The most popular Inversiverse character is probably Luminary and she has the unfortunate burden of being up against Baron Blade - the most iconic villain in Sentinel Comics. Flashbulb is cool, but Ermine is cooler (or at least more notable). It’s just that none of them have enough exposure. Action Hero Stuntman maybe but then Ambuscade just becomes Stuntman himself which makes it a wash. The Inversiverse is a fun place with a notable run, but by definition everything there is derivative.
- [Long preamble regarding things like “every game is canon” being a strength of the conceit of the card game, but how OblivAeon and the RPG requiring us to break that a bit when imagining how our games fit into canon. This leads into some theory crafting: We can have a Metaverse in which Sentinel Comics is a publishing company but is otherwise very similar to our own and in which the stories as laid out in the game products/podcast were published. We can also posit a different version of the Metaverse out there, only with changes like “Ra is still alive post-OblivAeon”. As such: enjoy playing your entirely-canonical home RPG session of Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game.] On the scale of “Gun Rat” to “Tireless Dynamo’s theories of the Multiverse”, how canonical/accurate am I? Man, remember that Tireless Dynamo letter? That was great. Anyway, this is very accurate, but possibly unintentionally so. Sure, the Metaverse and other Metaverses are such that yes, any game you play has the potential to be canonical in some reality out there. There is still a canonical set of stories that they are telling and through the Letters Page and the response they got they wound up having to be much more concrete about the details (and, to be clear, this has wound up being a very good thing for them), but part of that means that there are fewer gaps for fan canon. Another way to think about it is that the core book really does try to reinforce the idea that you are running the comics company. The GM and players are acting as a creative team at the table - they cannot possibly account for the canon of everybody’s home games, but the game rules themselves are telling you that you are the writer for the comics company. That plays into your position that everybody gets their on Metaverse variant.