The Letters Page: Episode 31
Time travel and psychic shenanigans! The many forms of Vanessa Long!
Run Time: 105:49
We deal with multiple realities - and multiple Vanessa Longs (Vanessas Long?) in the first ten minutes, so buckle up!
Brief show notes today, because: Gen Con!
So, we promised a link to the Lazer Ryders Soundtrack in the show notes. Here it is on Spotify. It's also available on Bandcamp. Not sure if there's a better place to get it, but those are both pretty legit! Also, for a sample, check out the song Trevor chose for our episode-ending music.
The questions segment has a bunch of nonsense about Biomancer's creations, the Cult of Gloom, and even the kingdom of Cooltopia? I don't know what's happening with our own podcast these days.
In the future section, we have two spoiler sections. The last bit of the Sentinel Tactics future is spoilers (from 95:30 to 96:35), and the entire Sentinel Comics RPG timeline segment is also spoilers. (from 97:09 to 99:20).
As mentioned, we're already at Gen Con! If you'll be at Gen Con on Saturday, come crash our Letters Page Live recording panel on Saturday!
Also, because we're in Indianapolis and away from our office all this week, we've already recorded the RevoCorp/Benchmark episode! It's too late for your questions! While we're gone, if you want to ask questions for upcoming episodes, I'll leave you with this hint: we have just begun to cover the Prime Wardens and their nemeses...
- A psychic from The Future! (or an alternate reality or whatever - the distant year of 2018) - telekinetic, telepathy, some precognition as she sees glimpses of the future/alternate realities, some minor reality/mind manipulation abilities. Generally a "Swiss Army Knife mind-power character" - a generalist rather than a specialist as a result of her training.
- In her home timeline (not the canon timeline), there was a "second Cold War" involving the US and the Far East (North Korea won so there's just Korea and China is also expanding its sphere of influence). President Hargett authorized Project Cocoon which involves a bunch of experiments on humans still in utero in the hope of creating a group of super soldiers. This had some successful results, but kind of resulted in the downfall of the US anyway since these super-powered people were, y'know, hard to control. Vanessa Long was not one of the troublemakers, though, and was a good soldier. A lot of the other heroes you'd expect to be around have died (Legacy's still around, but is having a rough time of it since most of his friends have died and he's more likely to injure opponents as he's less concerned with "doing the right thing" and is largely what Legacy would be like without hope - he's not Iron Legacy-level yet, but Visionary would later recall that the Legacy she remembered "was a much... angrier man.").
- Vanessa feels this "tug" telling her that if she goes back in time, prevents Project Cocoon, and saves herself she can "fix" this situation. This doesn't exactly work given the difficulty in true time travel and so winds up in the "past", but of a different reality (the canon timeline). And so here she is - arriving on the scene as a fully trained, pretty bad-ass psychic soldier. What she didn't know, however, was that she'd picked something up along the way. Another reality's Vanessa Long (who was evil/destructive/chaotic) was killed by that reality's heroes at the same "time" as Visionary's trip between realities and this Vanessa's psyche latched onto the heroic one rather than passing on into the afterlife or whatever. This other version of her is now a voice in the back of her mind wanting to get out and take over. She now knows that it's there, but needs to exert some significant measure of her power keeping it locked up.
- She sets off to go save her unborn self and quickly figures out that she's not actually in her own past due to differences (no second Cold War, etc.). In her search for Vanessa Long, though, she discovers that it's instead of a sanctioned government project it's a private sector (and obviously super secret) one (this is a general difference - it's obviously a "better" world on the surface, but there's a lot of conspiracy-type stuff going on that she has to learn to navigate/investigate). She finds Vanessa once she's around a year old - her parents had been told that she died at birth, but she breaks into the Cocoon facility and has an encounter with Major Flay (one of the Project's early successes - he has tendrils that he can extend from his arms and electrocute people with). He's a true believer and fights her when she shows up to disrupt the project. She's mostly defensive in physical fights, so this is a bit rough for her but she eventually wins (despite having to hold her mental hitchhiker in check the whole time).
- She frees the infant Vanessa, destroys all Project records of her to prevent them coming after her, and returns her to her parents. Hooray! Everything is saved forever! That job done, she needs to find her place in this new world. The conspiracy investigation thing becomes her shtick in her solo book Mind Over Matter - when there's big stuff going on in the world of Sentinel Comics, she's usually on the periphery looking into these hidden aspects rather than in the "main action". She's also not one to shy away from killing (not to say that she's a straight-up "murder hero", but she's more likely to put a recurring problem down).
- Next major thing is when the young Vanessa is 6 years old and falls into a coma. Visionary feels the psychic echoes of what's going on and so is the first to know that something's up. While in the coma Vanessa is having nightmares, those nightmares are also being manifested in reality and are wrecking up the place. To most people these projections look real and are treated as such - heroes will fight them thinking they're demons or aliens or whatever, but once they're defeated they just dissipate, which is odd. It's a long time in the comics before what these things are is actually discovered, but their appearances do accelerate over time. Visionary's eventually the one to pin-point where things are coming from and the heroes go in to try to take care of it (as the actual Dreamer event). Visionary spends most of the time in "psychic therapy" trying to get at the root problem and wake her up while the other heroes are fighting off the projections around her. This is ultimately successful, but Visionary realizes that the powers would have manifested anyway; that rescuing Vanessa from Project Cocoon didn't stop it.
- Something new that I don't recall the guys actually addressing before (I can imagine that I've simply overlooked it, though) - there was something of a giant over-arching thing that happened that they call the Multiverse Event that the game is actually based on and it kind of kicked off with the Visionary's initial arrival in the canon timeline. Alternate Realities and Time Travel weren't really things that happened before this point and it's not revealed that the Timelines had been Shattered by OblivAeon until much later. That's not to say that there weren't attempts to figure out what was going on with all of this prior to that reveal - one of the discoveries in that process was the idea of Fixed Points and that "young Vanessa Long develops psychic powers" is a commonality between realities regardless of whether there's a Project Cocoon in that reality. OblivAeon is forcing as many realities' Fixed Points to overlap as much as possible since once they overlap enough he can collapse them (thus destroying them).
- Next up, Gloomweaver fight while she's working alongside the Prime Wardens. The Cult was succeeding, Gloomweaver was manifesting, and Visionary took a big magic-backlash-type hit. She is forced to put up a really powerful Telekinetic Cocoon and she hides out on the bottom of the ocean a while while she's regenerating. At the same time she's dealing with her own powers fighting her due to that backlash effect and so things just are generally terrible. Meanwhile, Gloomweaver is successfully summoned by the Cult and is manifested fully in the world. About this time the cocoon shatters and she arrives back where Gloomy was and casually banishes him again. Sure, she looks and acts a bit different now, but this was a tough fight and everybody saw her take that hit, so the other heroes (and the readers!) are able to rationalize away the changes. She's now Dark Visionary - the psychic hitchhiker she picked up managed to take over while she was at her weakest in the cocoon - nobody knows that this is actually a different person. She's this way for a long time - even until after the Progeny fight.
- Her ongoing book is cancelled at this point and she'll just show up for guest spots occasionally - popping up, doing something harsh/brutal, and going on again. Nobody really likes having her around anymore and she's constantly doing creepy small mind-reading stuff that's borderline (or overtly) invasive.
- Vengeance! Baron Blade was aware of Project Cocoon (and vice versa) and contracted out Major Flay to capture Visionary to take back to the Project. During the big fight with everybody, Flay finds her and calls her out. She just tears him to pieces, which is a bit of a shock to everybody.
- Tachyon is studying time travel, they know that Visionary's messed with it and she agrees to help in the study. The various scientists detect that there's not just something up with time travel, but that she's got some weird extra brain patterns in there or something. Whoops, can't have that cat out of the bag and so she just kills the scientists too by erasing their minds (she erases Tachyon's memory of these events while she's out it). Visionary opens a portal to The Block and then falls to the ground as if she's been knocked out. The rest of the Freedom Five show up and find the dead scientists and that Tachyon can't remember what happened. Visionary "wakes up" and suggests that since there's this portal open to the Block that F.I.L.T.E.R. must have had something to do with it. This succeeded in instigating a big fight between the Freedom Five and F.I.L.T.E.R. in the Block - this is part of what let Kismet escape, it sets F.I.L.T.E.R. on course to be going after powered people instead of focusing on aliens, and makes them rather blasé about that particular reality being on its way to being destroyed later on (ignoring that it's all realities). So, it's Dark Visionary's fault that F.I.L.T.E.R. becomes bad guys.
- Now we've got some fun dramatic irony going on since the readers know that she's evil but the other characters have to find out later. There's still a lot of theories running around, though: did she just snap, did the dark passenger take over and the good Visionary is now "dead" (this was the most prevalent theory out there), have their positions just reversed and the good one is still in there somewhere?
- Heroes do catch on and confront her. One notable example is one involving Dark Watch where Nightmist is trying to magic her way in there to figure out what's going on. Then Citizens Hammer and Anvil show up in the middle of that fight and offer Visionary a position as a Citizen (they'd been sent out to find Project Cocoon subjects). So now there's a three-way fight between Dark Watch, Dark Visionary, and the two Citizens. Most of Dark Watch is knocked out, Expatriette manages to take down Anvil while Hammer is busy fighting Vis. This latter is resolved when Visionary enters his mind, goes from there into the Void pulling his mind through with her to fight there (see Hammer's VotM incap side). There he sees the good Visionary trapped there too - the first time the readers see that she's still there and fighting the Dark version. While DV is busy with Hammer, the good one lets out a psychic scream that cracks the crystal prison she's trapped in (weakening it, but not freeing her). DV has had enough of this and incaps Hammer casually (without doing any lasting damage to him) because the fight was too much of a distraction.
- Argent Adept was also able to hear the scream since they were in the Void at the time, though, and so now the other heroes are aware that the good Visionary is still there somewhere. They can't act on this immediately, however, because this is when Jansa vi Dero starts up the Cosmic Contest, pitting all of the heroes against one another in weird otherworldly scenarios (there will be an episode about that specifically). For our purposes here, though, AA takes advantage of a fight with Visionary to 1. free the good version and 2. banish Dark Visionary to the outer edges of the Void (whatever it means for it to have "edges"). Our good old Vanessa Long is back, but now without the psychic baggage that she's had to deal with since her arrival (Visionary Unleashed variant).
- OblivAeon grabs Dark Visionary out in the Void and offers her a job. She's powered up, given a form to work with, and is now the Scion Dark Mind - just really obviously Dark Visionary at her worst.
- How does she show up in AA's "Rhapsody of Vigor" card (citing FFA #10) when her first appearance is listed as FFA #16? This is another error in the bio - her first appearance is in Freedom Five #422 followed by a limited series New Memories that went into her backstory.
- About when did the Dreamer event happen? Nightmare World happened pre-Vengeance. The apparitions start showing up well before that, but the Dreamer storyline was used to tie up loose ends.
- Does Nightmare World tie into the art on "Fixed Point"? Not really - the Dreamer event was the reveal about what was happening regarding the projections, but Fixed Point is tied to a Time Cataclysm story when the heroes find out a lot about timelines/realities and fixed points in general. The Time Cataclysm is represented as an Environment, but it's really more of an event that leads to weirdness being kind of generally present until OblivAeon.
- Where did she get the stuffed ape and what's the deal with the ape in FFA #4? They're the same ape even though they look different. One looks big because the Dreamer made him big. The Ape was a recurring villain from way back that was later revealed to be one of the more persistent projections. In the Silver Age stories it was just like "there's this ape that keeps showing up with a magic glowing crystal and we have to get it away from it" because, sure enough, if they took the crystal away it would disappear. This was kind of her "main" projection and it's just patterned on this stuffed toy she got from her parents - an ape with a green plastic gem in its chest (there's a whole line of these animal+colored gem toys). Every projection is based on something she's familiar with.
- How much does the ruptured blood vessel mentioned in her bio hold her back? Is that why she can't time travel again? It's not just the ruptured blood vessel, but fighting Dark Visionary that's holding her back (or Dark Visionary fighting her later on). We don't really see her at full power in the card game. Time travel was difficult enough the first time, however, that doing so again would probably kill her.
- Citizen Dawn seems interested in Visionary - we know that Visionary defeated her at one point, but was that a lucky shot or what? Why does she send Hammer and Anvil after her? It definitely helped that Visionary was taking her on in the middle of a large-scale fight and it wasn't one-on-one. Visionary is categorically more powerful than Dawn, but is operating with restrictions (mentioned previously) and so taking a big shot like this is dangerous for her. Visionary is probably their most powerful character if she wasn't being hobbled by circumstance. Hammer and Anvil were sent because they're her go-to henchmen and, if Visionary won't join the Citizens, she's not too put out if they were to kill her.
- Who is Major Flay and what's their connection? Mentioned previously, he was in Project Cocoon and then she killed him.
- What consequences/complications were there from Dark Visionary finally being banished from her mind? This wound up being a major set-piece of the Cosmic Conflict event. Argent Adept has to make personal sacrifices to accomplish it (and obviously Dark Mind wouldn't be a Scion without this event). There will be more on this stuff with regards to Visionary in the Future section.
- What kind of music does she like? Favorite artist/album? How does is feel to time travel? Time travel feels moist - like sitting in a sauna - with 17 hangovers. "The act of time travel is not fun." She gets super into modern music of our time that wouldn't have happened in her reality due to different cultural influences. More experimental stuff than pop, though. Plug for the Visionary song on the Lazer Ryderz soundtrack.
- What are the capabilities/limitations of her powers, she seems really overpowered? As mentioned, she's one of the most powerful humans in the setting (except for the actively dying thing - the self damage on stuff like "Brain Burn" is showing how exerting herself is bad). She's playing a large balancing act.
- How does she control matter itself (like in "Twist the Ether")? It's part of her telekinetic or reality-altering powers.
- What's it like when she's controlling your mind? She could black your mind out and puppet the body, but generally the victim is completely aware of what's going on and can fight it since that's easier.
- How did Project Cocoon function? Did all the subjects know one another (did she know Truth and Dare)? Could they go outside? In her timeline, Project Cocoon kids were mostly kept together, but could frequently be isolated from one another. There were versions of Truth and Dare there, but they were different. This was a pretty large organization. They could go outside, but that became much less frequent as things fell apart.
- Why did she only run into one other version of herself - are there other versions of her out there with like 20 copies in her head? It was exceptionally odd that it happened at all - it just so happened that the Dark version was killed at the same "time" that she was reality hopping already and could take advantage of it. Even with the Multiverse there's not going to be a 20-mind version.
- When is the card art showing Dark Visionary vs. Visionary (example: we know that "Suggestion" shows Dark Visionary messing with Bugbear, but the clothes still look like the normal version)? A lot of stuff is Dark Visionary popping out from being controlled briefly until Vanessa can get her under control again. Clarification on costume: the normal blue outfit is cloth, the black Dark outfit is latex (not leather). Even if Dark Visionary can exert control briefly before taking over, there is also a time after she's taken over that she still appears in the original outfit.
- After the Voss battle she sees a bunch of visions of alternate futures ("Precognition") does this happen after every victory? It's not tied to victories, she's constantly having to deal with these visions of the future (thus her hero name).
- Does she have any advice for getting rid of evil copies of yourself? She's not a good person to ask as her plan to deal with it kind of failed spectacularly. Argent Adept would be a better person to get advice from.
- Her nemesis is the Dreamer, but that's a one-time event, right? The Dreamer event is a one-off, but it's the culmination of a long string of Projection encounters.
- Who does she fight in her normal solo book? The Chinese government? The Chinese government doesn't know anything about her that would make them care given that she's from an alternate reality. There's mostly stuff covered in the overview section - Project Cocoon, Bugbear, stuff happening on the fringes of other books' stories, etc.
- Does Citizen Dawn hate Expatriette or Visionary more? Expat - that's a personal failing. Visionary just happens to be somebody who got the upper hand on her once.
- If Dark Vis was able to banish Gloomweaver so easily, why isn't that level of power represented in the card game? For one thing, she's generally hiding her power. For another, that was a burst of power as she gained control before she started actively suppressing Visionary and concentrating on not dying.
- Could Visionary develop the same Projection powers that the Dreamer has? Maybe (see the "Decoy Projection" as an example of something like that), but it's mostly a primary power of the canon reality's Vanessa Long rather than the telekinesis/telepathy/prophetic visions thing that Visionary has going on. More on Dreamer/Vanessa in the Future section.
- Where does the Dreamer get the Nightmare energy for her projections (and is there a way for the Cult of Gloom to get their hands on some)? They kind of already have access to it since Gloomweaver, the Nightmare Walker, already draws power from nightmares. This same kind of power is what fueled the Dreamer's power to manifest her dreams.
- She comes from a future that's farther down the line than OblivAeon, but after OblivAeon time travel is shut down; does this mean that there are realities where OblivAeon didn't attack and is therefore not de-shattered afterwards? No reality is destined to have OblivAeon happen sometime in the future. Until he decides enough is enough and attacks every reality. The times of realities don't neatly line up - it's not necessarily the case that Visionary actually moved "back in time" but could easily be just that she moved laterally into a reality that happened to be running several years behind her own. Time is weird/non-linear anyway and that's before the whole Shattering thing.
- If she's from another reality, why didn't she get sent back there after OblivAeon like the heroes that came through Nightmist's gate? Who said that the alternate-reality heroes went back to their own realities?
- Why did the Dreamer have such strong nightmares? What's the new awareness of the world mentioned in her bio? It's connected to OblivAeon - the young Vanessa has these psychic powers and when the timelines shatter it affects her.
- Is there a reason her dress changes on her flip side art? It's there to represent how casually her power can change physical reality. The progression of the "fight" is Sleeping -> Waking up (which is her flip side and is the most dangerous time) -> Awake (victory). The heroes have to get her through the waking up phase. It's like the old wives tale about how you're not supposed to wake up a sleepwalker.
- What's the importance of the Teddy-Ape since it shows up so much? It's her favorite toy. All of her projections are derived from things she's seen or are afraid of in life.
- Her "Decoy Projection" card is a Distortion and therefore half of the Realm of Discord's cards destroy it, what's the in-story reason? Her powers don't work as well there due to the general weirdness there that interferes with her projections.
- "Psychic Maelstrom" and several other cards show her with malevolent grin or otherwise looking/acting pretty shady, is that to foreshadow Dark Visionary, is she already Dark Visionary, or is she normally a little bit of an anti-hero? It's either after Dark Vis takes over or, if earlier, moments when she's able to assert a little control briefly.
- Is the crystal in the toy orangutan an OblivAeon shard? No.
- Are the Dreamer's projections foreshadowing things to come (Dark Hero for Iron Legacy, etc.)? Nope, they're all stuff from her life and her psyche. The Grotesque Arachnoid is because she's afraid of spiders. Dark Hero is her fear that these superheroes out there in the world could turn bad and come for her. The tooth fairy is her interpretation of what her parents told her about a tiny fairy that comes for your teeth. The Whipacorn is because unicorns are too good to be true - there's no way they're not up to something. The Treacherous Ape is treacherous because the toy is her most trusted friend, but what if it turned on her? The Toy Master's flavor text about it being the thing that Visionary wanted to avoid is because in Project Cocoon a lot of the tests they put her through involved toys - the primary trainer guy in that process, and the memory of him, is what the Dreamer is pulling on to create this twisted version.
- Are there other Visionaries who have traveled between realities? Nope (or at least not ones that we see - infinite realities and all of that).
- Does her gaining powers as a Fixed Point mean that she'll eventually be more powerful than, say, OblivAeon? No - it's not like there's one Vanessa Long and that powers up as each reality gets to the Fixed Point - it's just that each reality has a unique iteration of her, but all of them will gain powers.
- Why is she bald? Project Cocoon - the Dreamer has hair because she was rescued from it.
- Is there something hidden in Visionary that Cocoon did that will come back later? There's no latent programming or anything that would come back later.
- What do each of the Dreamer's projections represent? Most were already covered. Illusory Demon is a manifestation of her general fear of the dark/evil - standard "monster under the bed" kind of thing. They're all based on her experiences.
- Any other notable successes from Project Cocoon besides Visionary, Truth, and Dare? Major Flay, young Vanessa Long kind of, not much else in terms of characters we've seen. She probably came across more of them in her adventures, but the success rate was lower in the canon reality than in her own (lack of funding/official status). More in the Future section, though. Speaking of which...
- Tactics - She's suffering some severe negative side-effects from containing/expelling Dark Visionary and then great expenditures of power in the OblivAeon event. She's functionally inanimate at this point, but nobody knows that because she uses her telekinetic abilities to still move herself around. The art has her manipulating a Rubik's Cube as a point of focus to keep her mind from wandering. Spoilers! Eventually (as in, the future of the future setting that is Tactics), she dies. Something like issue 30 of the relaunched Prime Wardens book. It's not due to any villain injuring her, she just can't hack it anymore - after a battle she collapses and is rushed to a hospital where she dies. The Dreamer isn't even that notable here - she's a bit of a side character, but doesn't really do much.
- RPG - Spoilers for the whole thing! Here she's an active member of the Prime Wardens. She didn't suffer as much from exerting herself in this timeline. Her power is a bit reduced here relative to the Tactics version, but at least she's not dying. The young Vanessa is also around a bunch here as a member of Daybreak operating under the hero name of Muse (whose powers also have manifested differently - hers are much more focused on Projections and on seeing what's in people's minds and realizing them - manifesting your greatest aspirations or fears as appropriate).