The Letters Page: Episode 264
Writers' Room: Savage Haka #100
We came here to talk about wolves and travel the world, and we're all out of travel time! Awwwooooo!
Run Time: 1:22:29
Our THIRD episode recorded in 2 days, and yet, we pull it off majestically! At least, WE think we're majestic. Don't burst our bubble.
This is a very 90s story, and as such, it has a very 90s cover, complete with ridiculous hologram! Look at the great work Adam did crafting a hologram to make this cover look terrible! I mean awesome!
Now that schedule things are back to normal, we've got an Editor's Note coming up VERY SOON! In fact, that's next week's episode! And, if you're on the Letters Page Patreon, you can watch it live this coming Friday! Heck, if you're a Contributor to said Patreon, you can join in the chat and be part of the episode! Exciting! Check out the Letters Page Patreon, and keep on saving the Multiverse! (You can save the Multiverse whether you're a part of the Patreon or not, though, to be clear.)
- Christopher’s initial idea for today was Tome of the Bizarre vol. 3 #91 (October ’95). That’s the story where Apex and his pack capture Haka and Alpha to make them fight which results in Alpha infecting Haka with the werewolf curse. The whole point of which is so that Apex can point out to Alpha that she’s not the mightiest werewolf - Haka obviously is. Now, she didn’t care about being the mightiest - that’s Apex’s hangup, not hers, but she still feels broken up about a bunch of this.
- His next thought was Prime Wardens vol. 1 #129-130 (September-October ’96) where Haka really loses control. He did a really good job over the last year of comics of keeping things under control, but in these two issues he kind of loses it for a while. Ultimately Fanatic uses her powers (via her prayers) to remove his curse. This is one of the textbook examples that people point to regarding the whole “Fanatic can do anything” thing.
- However, Adam thought that those are stories they already know and can give quick summaries of what happens in those (as they just did). Today let’s do something from the middle of the arc. Close to the end of it, really, but still something with Haka as the werewolf for the whole thing rather than the process of becoming one or getting cured. In discussing options before recording they think they’ve worked up something that has potential to be really cool. They’re going to do The Savage Haka #100 from July ’96 in which he fights Ambuscade.
- We open with Ambuscade running through the jungle. And he looks scared. Now, he’s still the world-famous movie star who does his own stunts, Ansel G. Moreau, so he’s doing some pretty cool… well, they wouldn’t call it parkour in the mid ’90s, but he’s using his acrobatic skills to traverse the environment (and the narration is giving us some nice ’90s purple prose detailing how skilled he is, but also that tonight “he is prey!”).
- From there you turn the page to hit a big splash/title page - it’s an overhead view where you can see the path that Ambuscade has taken through the jungle, but we can also see some monstrosity tearing its way through the jungle in pursuit. This is all under the issue title: Night Hunter.
- Werewolf Haka is hunting Ambuscade. We go several pages before we even get a good look at him. We get shadowy silhouettes, distance shots of trees being thrown aside, maybe a closeup of, say, his nose to give an indication that whatever this figure is is tracking him by scent. Ambuscade ducks behind a big rock, thinking that maybe he’s got a minute to rest, but then the rock explodes from his pursuer hitting it.
- Eventually he makes it into a clearing with the moon visible overhead. We see the massive, lupine silhouette of werewolf Haka. The biggest of wolves. Ambuscade shoots all the bullets at this thing, which does nothing to slow his foe as he stalks forward through the hail of bullets. Ambuscade changes target to a dead tree off to the side that’s barely still standing and he manages to shoot it so that it falls on Haka. Now, that doesn’t slow him down much, but it’s enough to let Ambuscade make another escape.
- From there we get things more from Haka’s perspective as he tracks his prey. We even get some panels from “senses vision” showing how Haka can follow a scent trail or marking out footprints in higher detail. While we’re following Haka we get no narration, as opposed to the running commentary/inner monologue we got with Ansel.
- He follows to a dense group of trees. It’s obvious that this is it - it’s all over now. Haka leaps into the trees, bursting them asunder as he goes only to grab… a tree stump that had Ambuscade’s jacket on it. As he hits that, a pit trap (in reality just a sinkhole or something that Ambuscade found rather than something he dug himself) opens under him and he falls in. Ambuscade appears at the top of the pit talking about how while this wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind for this evening, “ze hunter ’as become ze hunted” and then he rushes off into the woods again as Haka starts brute-force climbing up out of the hole.
- They discuss briefly putting the sinkhole later, but decide to leave it. This is the point in the story where Ambuscade is basically saying “Fine. This is what we’re doing, I guess, but I’m changing what that is. If I’m not simply escaping, I’ll make it a fight instead.”
- We follow Ansel again from here. We see him having to move quickly, but he’s also setting snares and making spike traps as he goes. Christopher suggests one bit where he’s bent a small tree over to use as a spring-action for a trap, but Haka shows up before he finishes it and he just cuts the rope to send himself flying to get away. Adam suggests a tweak where he’s set this up as a specific thing - gives him more agency in that he sets a trip-line or whatever so that Haka’s approach is what sends him airborne so that he lands on Haka’s back, stabbing him with a knife and then retreating as he laments not having any silver on him.
- After that we’re back to chasing Ambuscade through the woods. All this time we’ve been having off-panel indications that the various traps have been going off and the various howls and crashes that accompany Haka’s pursuit, but our inner monologue here is recognizing that Haka has more stamina and for all of the “slowing him down” eventually he’ll catch up. These last few panels have lacked the other sound effects, though - and Ambuscade realizes that just before Haka bursts out of the undergrowth in front of him.
- Ambuscade manages to get his metal arm shield out in time to block Haka’s claws, but that device is just shredded in the process. The fight is a showcase of Ansel’s acrobatics as he’s doing everything he can to flip and duck or whatever to keep away from Haka’s teeth and claws. He still catches a few slashes here and there. Ansel pulls a few pistols at one point and after emptying it into Haka he throws the empty gun at his face - he’s using anything he can at this point. This is a game of “don’t get hit” but eventually he dodges to the side and Haka manages to grab his ankle. As he hits the ground, facing up he wheezes out an “ah, perfect” and hits a button, which activates a net trap that catches Haka and lifts him into the air. This is a device he had rather than something cobbled together out of vines - it’s not silver but it’s made out of some high-tensile-strength cable and is probably electrified or something.
- “Oh, you almost ’ad me, mon ami.” brushes himself off “Ow, well, maybe you ’ad me a bit.” Then we see the first glimmers of the sunrise. Ambuscade talks a bit about how they’ve fought many times and will likely fight again in the future, but this “wasn’t you”. Haka fell for every trick and trap he set. Who is this mindless beast? It isn’t his old foe. “Until you fix this, I am done,” and he walks away into the sunrise. Haka reverts to non-werewolf form and has a “I guess I need help” moment.
- This plays into Haka’s character flaws. Haka does not ask for help. He’s the one who helps other people. Maybe we don’t have him actually do the “guess I need help” thing explicitly. After the sun comes up we go to Haka in human form and he presses his face down into the net and with tears running down. We see that he is processing the realization that he’s hit rock bottom. He is a problem. We have 2 months yet before the end of the arc.
- How much control does Haka have while in werewolf form? Does his vitality grant him more control, or does Alpha have to help him learn to control the wolf within? Haka has very little control while in the werewolf form, but he has a lot of control regarding not getting into that form in the first place (initially at least). Haka does a good job holding the wolf at bay, right up until he can’t anymore. Alpha would have offered to help teach him this stuff right away, but “Haka not asking for help” gets in the way. If the story had lasted longer than the year it did we probably would have had to have had an “Alpha teaches him how to wolf properly” thing, but instead we just get him lose control and then Fanatic fixes him. Of course, this raises the question of whether Fanatic could just do the same thing for other werewolves… but we’re just going to ignore that implication.
- On the Werewolf Haka variant’s incapacitated side we see a much more lupine Haka than on the active side - is this his form shortly after he was turned, or a later loss of control? The latter. That’s an art from PW #129 mentioned at the top of the episode.
- Does Haka fight alongside any heroes besides Alpha in this period? If so, is he any faster/stronger than usual or just more prone to rampaging? If not, do any other heroes know about the curse? Well, he’s a full-fledged member of the Prime Wardens the whole time and they have an ongoing book. He has a year of the team knowing - there’s the War of Heliopolis Ennead event that happens during this time and the Prime Wardens are involved in that. Most of the time he’s not much different from his usual self because he’s very good at keeping a lid on it, but that only lasts so long. He is more prone to rampaging, but also just more prone to lashing out generally. This whole story is basically a response to the perception that “Haka isn’t edgy enough”. He’s always had his cheerful attitude and even the ’80s couldn’t put an edge on him. This was an attempt to do something to make him “cool” again, but after a year they undid it and even went so far as to double down on his previous characterization - the whole “substitute kindergarten teacher who bakes tarts for his students” thing wasn’t really there until the ’00s and was added to accentuate his warm and cuddly character.
- The variant’s power has him either drawing cards or summoning a Haka card - does he still perform his hakas during this time or are the cards summoned by the power a stand-in for something else? He wouldn’t be performing hakas while in werewolf form, but this is the way they’re representing “wanting to be the strongest werewolf” within his deck - if he’s not the highest HP hero target, he does a haka to power up.
- Apex’s Event is listed as being in 2010 and the story write-up mentions that his pack has grown by incorporating other packs - what was his pack like prior to this? Are the named werewolves that have cards in his deck the leaders of those other packs? The other named wolves were other pack leaders. Prior to this point whenever Apex was around his pack were generic, nameless werewolves. This is why the “highest HP” mechanic is there - they initially bow to Apex, but are always ready to take over if he’s showing weakness.
- What do the other wolves think of Magistra Damaris? Do they ever get fed up with her and try to do something drastic? Do they even know that she’s there, always watching things for Blood Countess? Is there much interaction between her and wolves other than Apex? They know she’s around - she’s a very active member of leadership. She’s Apex’s left hand (slash leash). The situation is one where Apex is presenting her as helpful - sure werewolves and vampires haven’t gotten along in the past, but he’s trying to change that. Look at all of this useful blood magic she gives them access to! What they don’t know is just to what extent she has power over Apex (and that she’s there to direct the wolves under the guise of just being there to help them). If any of them tried to take her down, that probably wouldn’t end well for them - she’s much more dangerous than she appears to be.
- Do Chel and Damaris ever swap notes about magic? Do we ever see progress made on Apex’s goal of creating natural-born werewolves? Was that a new story element only added in 2010? They talk about magic, but they’re very different magic users. They’re not friends (Damaris isn’t particularly friendly with any of the wolves - she’s a business associate). The “make a natural werewolf” project was a new thing in that 2010 story, but we don’t see any progress made on that afterwards.
- Does Haka becoming a werewolf change the pack dynamics at all considering just how powerful Haka is? Does this predate the natural werewolf story? Yes it predates that story but can be seen as part of an overall “Apex doing stuff” arc. Haka’s existence as a werewolf doesn’t change any pack dynamics since Haka isn’t interested in and doesn’t join any packs. He continues leading his Haka life, which ultimately causes problems for non-werewolves to have to deal with.
- Does this story change Haka’s relationship with Alpha or the usual Rook City/Dark Watch suspects? There is a handful of crossovers between Haka’s book and Alpha’s book early on in this period but then they go their separate ways. This is a negative thing for their relationship - what with her infecting him with a curse and all (and even though he gets over it eventually, she has issues with the fact that she infected somebody and he’s a reminder of her failure).
- Apex seems to have high ambitions (overthrowing humanity to put werewolves on top), but he seems to be solidly mid-tier - a personal threat to the heroes, but outclassed by villains such as Baron Blade or Citizen Dawn who could just blast him into smithereens one way or another; is he biting off more than he can chew? That’s a very good read of him. He has lofty goals, but he’s not particularly smart. He’s not an idiot by any means, but it’s not like he’s some genius who has an actual workable plan for world domination. The problem is that whether or not he’s actually capable of world domination, his attempts will wind up hurting a lot of people, so he has to be opposed by the heroes.
- Was “turning Haka into a werewolf” a plan that blew up in his face rather spectacularly? Not really. After Haka’s infected, Apex basically just gloats over Alpha - pointing out that she’s not better than any other werewolf. Then he leaves. That’s the extent to which Apex is involved in this whole thing.
- Recalling the Shipping Episode’s mention that Haka and K.N.Y.F.E. had an intimate encounter, does Haka have any kind of romantic relationship with Alpha? No. He’s not her type (see: Byron Wolfhunt II). She’s not really his type either - he goes for more assertive women. It’s not that she’s not assertive, but she has to be very reserved for obvious reasons and has a lot of barely contained anxiety.
- So, a year-long arc seems like plenty of time for Ambuscade to hear about it and take a shot at hunting his favorite prey again - does he? Ambuscade doesn’t start a hunt. The Savage Haka doesn’t really ever address how the reverse got started in this issue either, though. We just start in medias res and you’re on-board for this fun hundredth issue or not.
- Can the werewolf curse be resisted by a person’s willpower or fought of like a virus? More like the latter, but it’s kind of a combination. It’s a weird mystical thing. You’d think that if anybody’s “immune system” was going to fight it off it’d be Haka, but we can imagine that he’s tired and weakened from the extended battle that was involved in the first place.
- Are the werewolves in the Extremeverse branded as warwolves? Man, with a name like that let’s not waste it on an Extremeverse story. That would probably be the story name rather than what things are called in the comics, though.
- How would Apex react to Plague Rat? Would he recognize him as a fellow were-creature or is there wolf/rat speciesism at play? What would Plague Rat’s bite do to a werewolf? Could Apex boop the snoot? Apex is big, tough, and resistant enough that he could boop the snoot. He’d get clawed/chewed up in the process, but they don’t imaging that either of the competing animal “infections” here would affect the other (unless that’s the point of the story). Rat plague could probably slow Apex down for a while, similar to a person getting a severe cold or something, but he’d get better. A writer could use that as an excuse for Apex to be weaker for a given story’s fight.
- What are werewolf “powers” in Sentinel Comics? Strength, speed, enhanced senses? Regeneration? Anything that’s uncommon in most of the common “werewolf lore” packages? They do have regeneration - not like “cut off a limb and it will regrow”, but just general “fast healing”. Cutting off an arm would result in the stump healing over, but that would happen over the course of a day if not mere hours. A flesh wound would heal in minutes (or seconds if Haka because he’s doubling up on the wound-recovery powers). You can definitely injure a werewolf to the point of incapacitation - they just won’t stay down as long as a normal person would. It’s a pretty standard werewolf package, all things considered.
- What’s the deal with Gumbo? Who/what was he before he got the werewolf bite and clearly went in a weird direction with it? Is he the most likely member of the pack to “see the light” and help the heroes? If not, why? They’re going to go ahead and read the next letter before getting into it.
- Is Gumbo a werehyena? Are there other werecreatures other than wolves? Why does he have what looks to be a chain and collar on? As stated earlier, the named werewolf characters in the deck were all pack leaders before joining with Apex. Each pack had its own identity prior to that. Gumbo isn’t meant to be a werehyena, he’s a werewolf that just so happens to have some hyena-like characteristics. Adam’s intention with the chain and whatnot is that he was a prisoner at some point. He is an unpredictable character - he’s psychotic to the point that he’s dangerous to everybody. He’s not the most likely to join up with heroes - and if he were to join up with heroes for some reason they should not trust him. He and his pack are the wild ones even among werewolves who are “all wild animals”. They’re not sure how much of it is him actually being like a hyena and how much of it is him happening to look kind of like one and playing into it (or even if he’s making himself look more like one by cutting/dying his fur).
- How many werewolves have been depicted in a single scene/page of Sentinel Comics? Would the maximum value have happened during ObliAeon? There’s probably some big werewolf fight during the Alpha/Dark Watch crossover story where we potentially had hundreds of werewolves on the page. Probably a splash page somewhere.
- How many werewolves, by percentage, follow Apex? How many roam the wilderness, avoiding people? Christopher suggests twenty-ish percent. Adam points out the complicating factor that Apex is specifically and intentionally growing his pack both by absorbing other packs but also by infecting new people. They agree on roughly 40 percent as being part of Apex’s extended pack.
- How numerous/common are werewolves in Universe 1? Not common. They discuss it a bit and don’t come to a firm agreement. Adam thinks there’s somewhere on the order of a thousand in the world where Christopher suggests closer to ten thousand (which also possibly explains the discrepancy in what percentage of the total work with Apex). In any event, there is no definitive answer in the comics.
- Is silver a “known” weakness for werewolves in the folklore surrounding them in Universe 1? If the Wolfhunt family knows about the silver vulnerability, would the Chairman also know about it? “Everybody” knows that werewolves are weak to silver. Adam is annoyed by media set in the modern day where the characters in that setting aren’t already familiar with this kind of thing. Like, the creator of The Walking Dead had to specifically posit that in the world of that story there had never been any zombie fiction. They both think that’s kind of an awkward patch over the “problem” - you can still have a zombie outbreak be a problem if people know what zombies are and how you have to deal with them.
- We “know” that werewolves have a magical origin in Sentinel Comics - do we have any stories of other magical creatures like them that were the result of magical/alchemical/etc. experiments gone terribly wrong? Probably. There could be other were-creatures out there, but they’re not nearly as common as wolves which (as stated earlier) are already an extremely low population as it is. An accomplished magic user who wanted to could do this sort of thing - it’s possible, but not necessarily extant in the world.
- In episode 187 you mentioned that Dark Watch #135 was where Alpha was revealed to be a natural werewolf, this didn’t hit me until I was sorting through my Rook City Renegades cards and noticed the issue for Alpha’s “The Wolf Within” and that it’s part of the “Throne to the Wolves” Event, which was also a crossover to her own title - why not have this major character reveal/retcon in that character’s own book? Was there a consequential moment in the following Alpha: The Wolf Woman issue that needed its own room and so they got this done beforehand? In this specific era the two titles are very much intertwined so having a major Alpha thing in the DW book isn’t too out of left field. Additionally, Adam thinks this may be a scheduling issue with when the books come out in any given month. Regardless, the Alpha issue following the reveal is definitely dealing with the fallout of the revelation and it’s not like the revelation isn’t repeated in Alpha’s book - you get the whole thing in both issues, it’s just that DW came out first.
- Has Alpha ever been into space? Do all moons affect werewolves or is it specifically Earth’s moon? Would a planet with more moons give her additional scheduling woes? If she was on the moon would she just be a wolf all the time? They kind of imagine that it’s not just the moonlight, but something about the sunlight reflected by the moon and passing through Earth’s atmosphere all having a part in it. They don’t think it’s ever addressed re: what would happen on, say, Dok'Thorath. They don’t think Alpha’s been to the moon, but they can imagine Alpha 2000 getting into space at least briefly.
- The full moon causes them to transform and have control problems, but they can still change without moonlight directly (say, still being able to transform while indoors or otherwise while the moon isn’t visible), but it also seems like a “moonless night” can prevent the change - in any event, it seems pretty clear that the connection to the moon is more mystical than anything, so how does being in space change things up? Would actually being on the moon turbocharge the wolfiness? Does being far out into interstellar space prevent any transformation? Are they always connected to the Earth’s moon or just the nearest one? If on a different planet, would multiple moons complicate it? Does the size of the moon matter? If you could infect an alien, would their change be linked to the Earth’s moon or their home planet’s? Would other realms that are still “magical” in nature (like Æternus or the Realm of Discord) have different reactions to how lycanthropy works? It’s always going to depend on the story. Adam thinks that due to Alpha 2000 we probably establish that werewolves can still transform while in space. They’re even fine specifying that Alpha 2000 #4 is the Alpha in Space issue. Christopher suggests that being outside of Earth’s atmosphere breaks the link between the moon’s cycle and your wolf response. They’ve established that a full moon forces the change and a moonless night can prevent it entirely but other than that you can change at will (possibly with some variance in strength that’s also tied to the cycle in some way). Being off Earth, you have access to the full power of your wolf abilities all the time. The moon is actually serving as a limiting factor. If on a planet with multiple moons you’re likely going to feel additional burdens - you’re going to have even less control and the power swings will be harder to predict.
- In the RPG era we hear about a F.I.L.T.E.R.-run prison on the moon called Tranquility - what would happen if a werewolf villain was sent there? They think they’ve already answered that at this point. The prison inhibitor devices are all that would be restricting their werewolf powers.
- What would happen if a brilliant inventor were to teleport a huge chunk of the moon to Earth and there were werewolves nearby? While a large chunk from a person’s perspective, the amount of the moon transported during OblivAeon was such a small portion of the moon’s overall mass that it wouldn’t appreciably change its power over werewolves generally. Any werewolves nearby at the moment would be momentarily less-shackled by the moon/atmosphere system due to the proximity to moon stuff.
- Has our favorite lunatic Baron Blade ever teamed up with werewolves? How about conflicts between him and werewolves due to their varied lunar associations? Unfortunately, they’re going to just say no to all of this. It’s a fun idea, but one that’s probably relegated to fanfiction. In said fanfiction, the move is obviously to make Baron Blade a werewolf too.
- You established that Legacy becoming a vampire and then “siring” a new vampire by biting them, etc. would not pass on Legacy powers to said new vampire because while the terminology used is borrowed from familial relationships, it’s not really a parent/child relationship; however, you’ve referred to Apex as being Alpha’s grandfather given that he “sired” Alpha’s father, so would a werewolf Legacy be able to pass on the Legacy line through this kind of werewolf “parenting”? This is analogous to the vampire use of the term - it’s still not strictly speaking a familial relationship. If RPG Felicia became a werewolf and then bit somebody who became a werewolf, that second person wouldn’t acquire the Legacy powers unless she also adopted them/considered them to be her child. It depends on how she treats the situation rather than it being an automatic thing.
- Man, this opens a can of worms. If a Legacy were to have sired a child without knowing about it, would that kid get the powers anyway? They think not. What about if the kid is then introduced to their father later on? If he brought them into the family at that point, sure. But! What if that Legacy had in the interim had another kid who is younger than the secret lad, but who has already developed the powers? Christopher says that he’d be fine with both of the kids having the powers, potentially. (With the standard “what the story requires” disclaimer - these kinds of questions are always going to be in this wiggly, uncertain space.)
- If this does work, would America’s Hairiest Legacy get a new power or does “is a werewolf” count as that generation’s new Legacy power? The werewolf curse wouldn’t count as the new power - the new power could manifest as something related to their werewolf powers (say, finer control or something), but it may be unrelated just as easily. Like, if a Legacy had a child with an alien where their whole race had “rocket fists”, that child also having “rocket fists” wouldn’t count as the new Legacy power.
- It’s werewolf Haka, issue #100, and in 1996 - this is definitely a gimmick cover. Christopher suggested a lenticular thing such that Adam has to make a 6-image GIF. They consider what kinds of foil or spot-printing options would have been around at the time. They already did a glow-in-the-dark cover [that would be NightMist #100 from the “Diamonds are Forever” Event.]
- They spend some time creating just spectacular radio as they send existing gimmick covers back and forth. Eventually landing on the hologram card that takes up a chunk of the cover space with a big block of dumb text underneath. The real-world inspiration here all had wraparound covers like he did for Freedom Five #508, but he’s just going to do the front.
- Anyway, the image is just going to be werewolf Haka fighting Ambuscade. It’s still the ’90s so it’s kind of extreme.