The Letters Page: Episode 32
Revo-Corp and "Friends"
Corporate shenanigans! Ready to meet the CEO and more? It's time to talk about Revo-Corp!
Run Time: 90:18
We dig pretty deep into untold tales and history to reveal the Revo-Corp story. This is all stuff that happens on the sidelines (for the most part) of the Multiverse, but we'll cover how it ends up impacting the world of Sentinel Comics.
The Q&A section features people questioning our lies. It's good to see that we're getting that message through.
Also, last week's question in the Spoilers section was from Matchstickman. Sorry for making that clear in that episode! We hope that Matchstickman can forgive us. And also forgive us for what Adam does in this episode.
Sorry for the brief show notes today - we just got back from Gen Con yesterday and are still recovering.
Speaking of Gen Con, next Tuesday's episode will be the recording of the First Annual Gen Con Live! The Thursday after that, we'll release a "Gen Con Retrospective" interlude. And then back to the regularly scheduled hero and villain episodes next month, starting with Haka!
- As stated in the Baron Blade episode, Revo-Corp was started as just a cover for his activities (and is "Pro Cover" backwards). He founded it as a US-based company to facilitate activities there (and transfer of materials to and from the US/Mordengrad through a "legitimate" front). He even made up a pseudonym when creating it - Kris Barron - one so clever that nobody could ever guess who it really was.
- Even after the Mad Bomber fiasco and his arrest he promotes somebody named Mark Benedetto to run the place. Mark was a CEO some computer company in the '80s (competing with such giants as Commodore and Tandy). After a TV news interview segment he had a "live mic" situation where he went on a expletive-laden tirade about the computer industry in general as well as his company in particular and the board of directors fired him.
- Mark's still got money, though, and needs to find a safe investment that can sustain him while he waits for this hit to his reputation to blow over. He winds up investing everything in this "sure thing" called Betamax (it's obviously the better technology compared to the competing VHS standard).
- When that backfired he's now unemployable and destitute. He takes an entry-level position with this place called Revo-Corp that isn't too picky with its hiring practices. Since he really does know technology and has legitimate business experience he manages to move up in the company pretty quickly. This gets him on the radar of management and gets tagged to take over as CEO once Kris Barron becomes indisposed. He learns what's really going on fairly quickly, but decides it's just an interesting challenge and focuses a lot of his energy on the public face of the company - authorizing new R&D projects and other things that actually make Revo-Corp a profitable company and a household name rather than just a front for Blade's nefarious schemes.
- Not to say that he's not getting into some shady stuff. A push into pharmaceuticals ties into some of the events detailed in the Plague Rat episode. He's helping arm some low-level villains (supplies or outright augmentation - the latter teasing an upcoming episode). He's just doing a really good job managing the public perception of the company and hiding the bad stuff.
- Years pass and he's back on top, leading a successful company after starting from the bottom. You'd think he'd learned something or grown as a person as well. Nope - he thinks the world owes him something. Computers are huge and he was obviously a big part of that back in the '80s. Video tape technology is only as good as it is due to his investment in Betamax (sure it lost the format war, but it still pushed VHS to be better as a result). Why, without him, modern civilization wouldn't be where it is! It's time to Treat Yo Self, so he puts together a suit of powered armor from the company's tech and uses it to rob banks under the name Revenant. By sheer coincidence, he keeps running into this same hero again and again - Setback. Wins and losses on both sides, but he always at the least manages to escape.
- This brings us up to Vengeance. Baron Blade leverages the Revo-Corp assets to augment, equip, or otherwise beef up all of the villains he's bringing together. This requires that Mark put in a lot more effort to keep all of this off the public radar and also uses up a lot of resources that he would have liked to have used elsewhere and he's annoyed with what he sees as a lack of proper priorities - Blade could have all of the money but no, he has to go and start this war with a bunch of heroes. As Revenant he does fight Setback some, but he's really involved more on the back-end Revo-Corp stuff.
- After Vengeance, Blade is pretty much out of resources. He'd put everything into this push, but since he wanted there to be no paper trail back to him as Kris Barron he hadn't actually been pulling money from Revo-Corp personally. Mark (who makes bank as CEO of a successful company and robs banks as Revenant) offers to just buy Revo-Corp from him, which Blade accepts (headline "Benedetto Buys Business from Baron Blade for Big Bucks").
- Now that he's really in charge, he finally gets the keys to all of the compartmentalized projects that Revo-Corp had been up to that he previously hadn't known about. This included the files regarding one Pete Riske, who he now recognizes as this hero who's tried to stop him so often. He comes to the conclusion that Setback must be specifically coming after him, which implies that he knows about his connection to Revo-Corp and his identity (nope, it really has been a series of crazy coincidences that Setback showed up in time to fight Revenant during his bank robberies). This isn't particularly useful information to have, but he at least has it now.
- He also learns about more of the overseas holdings, including Revo-Corp Oceania and the incident that led to a former employee becoming the hero Parse. He decides that since there seems to be a trend of company actions resulting in there being heroes out there that he has to deal with that the best course of action is to create a hero in-house. Somebody associated with the company who can keep things in-line, protect its interests (and hopefully also be a public relations success as well).
- So, fairly late in the Multiverse era the company reveals their new project - the Benchmark Program. BenchmarkTM "The New Standard"TM
- Benchmark is the last permanent (i.e. not a "Be the Gate" alternate reality) hero to arrive in the pages of Sentinel Comics [presumably before OblivAeon and the start of the RPG events where new heroes are introduced]. Randall Butler was a tough, athletic, smart, handsome man who had great potential, but had the flaw of being kind of aimless in life. Noted by the guys as being on high school sports teams, the chess club, the boxing club, etc. and was popular and he thought a lot of himself given the reactions he got from others - "arrogance" isn't the right word, but he had so little understanding of how the world really works that he got the idea that just his presence would make things better. This trend continued through college where he also picked up acting (which continued to feed his ego in that he was giving people somebody to look up to or just making their day better).
- That's not to say that he was a bad guy; he genuinely helped people out (volunteer firefighter) and he's not doing things for the fame or his own self image - he just thinks that his self image is enough to help people by itself. If he sounds like a jackass, that does kind of apply looking at it in the abstract, but he doesn't think of himself as selfish and he's also genuinely likable.
- His agent eventually gives him a call about this "hero" opportunity through this BenchmarkTM program. He thinks that he can finally, genuinely use all of his natural qualities to help out.
- The readership is immune to his in-setting charisma, though, and his appearances elicit groans of "Oh, this guy again" eyeroll He's just a little too much of a Mary Sue.
- His first appearance is during Termi-Nation where he saves Bunker from Chokepoint - this no-name guy who just shows up and saves one of the most important/competent heroes in Sentinel Comics and is immediately insufferable.
- He "saves" Tachyon during a Progeny fight.
- He takes on the Slaughter-House Six by himself.
- As his story progresses in Revo-Corp Presents and his guest appearances in other books, the question becomes "What's the point of this character?" Readers know that Revo-Corp is up to shady stuff, but this guy seems to be genuinely on the up and up (even if we all hate him). Is he just really good at hiding a bad side or what?
- He does catch on to Revo-Corp's bad side eventually, but kind of too late and even then the people he approaches brush him off with "that's some rogue division" or "of course we have a weapons development program given the nature of the company" and so on. Then OblivAeon happens.
- He's fighting Scions alongside other heroes (who have come to be allies, but not really friends because even they are annoyed by him - except Setback, Setback likes him). Specifically, he's working with Setback and Parse (the heroes who, coincidentally, have ties to Revo-Corp) when some hidden subroutine in the suit's programming takes over and attacks them - leaving Randall as a passenger unable to prevent this. They're both incapacitated and just before the suit is able to execute them, Randall is able to figure out a way to prevent it - suit functions that aren't specifically overridden for these hidden programs and actions that aren't technically against orders allow him just enough freedom of action to stop it. That is, if he's pretending to "help" the suit, he can trick it into letting him disrupt things (and he's good at chess and can play the long game here). What he eventually manages to do is "accidentally" run it through some walls or "unsuccessfully" dodge some attacks from the Scions they should be dealing with to the point where the suit is broken. It's still got several operating components, but the systems aren't talking to one another to the point that they're able to work as a cohesive unit.
- Revenant shows up - he had been monitoring the situation and was the one who triggered the secret programming when he saw that Setback and Parse were both present. This was to be the culmination of his plot against these heroes. However, now that Randall is back in control of his (more advanced, but severely damaged) suit he's able to fight Revenant and protect the other heroes. This is the final reveal of who's behind the Revenant mask, ending his story in the Multiverse era. Benchmark goes back to the fight against OblivAeon, but it's changed his outlook on being a hero and endears him to the readers once they see that he's been duped this whole time and the bluster was his corporate "brand", not his own personality. He's not perfect and he continues to grow, even into the post-OblivAeon era.
- Where was Revenant born and what's his heritage? Italian-American born in New York City.
- What does he look like under the armor? Thin face. Slicked back hair starting to go a little gray. "Typical '80s businessman."
- What did he do before becoming CEO of Revo-Corp? Covered in Overview.
- Did he meet Baron Blade between the Terralunar and Mad Bomber plots? He was hired before Mad Bomber, was promoted to CEO after that, but they didn't actually meet until the run-up to Vengeance.
- If so, what did he think of the disheveled hobo Blade? Not applicable.
- Did they get along or did Blade manipulate him into being this "fake" CEO? No real manipulation going on, Mark just takes the opportunity to actually run things and does a good job of it.
- Why did he pick the name "Revenant"? It's a word meaning something that's returned from death (a spirit/ghost or a reanimated corpse) and this is figurative of his return as a business powerhouse.
- Is he still CEO in Tactics/RPG? Neither.
- In the Plague Rat episode, it was stated that Revo-Corp distributed the plague cure free as a PR move, but this seems unlikely given their status as a front for a mad scientist - what's the real reason? They did distribute the cure for free, but they were also the cause of a lot of the problem in the first place and it gave them a lot of data on the citizens of Megalopolis that they could use in the future. Between that data mining opportunity and the actual goodwill engendered by the act (and the research involved in working on Plague Rat in the first place) they definitely got something out of the deal.
- Does Revo-Corp hire individuals who already have powers? What are starting wages like? They have no interest in hiring powered people (in the sense of hiring people for the purpose of using their powers - if there's somebody they hire for an office job that happens to have powers unrelated to that then whatever), but they're interested in selling stuff to powered people. Competitive starting wages - low level technicians might start at around $40k these days, but there's plenty of room to move up. It's a big corporation that employs thousands, so it kind of depends what your qualifications are and what kind of job you're doing.
- How has Revo-Corp managed to stay in business over the years without being shut down (human testing, using Plague Rat as a bloodhound, Revenant causing problems in power armor, etc.)? Revo-Corp spends a lot of their time doing PR - making sure that their public appearance doesn't really correspond to their corporate actions. Most of their shady stuff is covered up or otherwise not public knowledge in the first place and Revenant isn't publicly tied to the company at all. Readers know that it's bad news, but nobody in the setting of Sentinel Comics know it.
- Are there any non-Setback heroes with Revo-Corp-affiliated nemeses (and is Re-Volt tied to Revo-Corp)? Benchmark's card seems to imply he and Parse have history, so is she involved in Revo-Corp stories? Was the antagonism with Legacy part of the company's goals or was that all Blade? Re-Volt isn't tied to Revo-Corp - he's benefited from their services, but he wasn't part of the company. Revo-Corp supplies a lot of villains, but isn't itself involved in villainy until the whole Benchmark fiasco. Parse's involvement is due to the Benchmark story told in the overview - there really aren't any "Revo-Corp stories" until then, they're just a player in other stories. Legacy wasn't a concern to the company.
- On "Wrong Place and Time" is either Revenant or Setback getting a message from Baron Blade? The art on the card shows a missile that had been fired at Setback hitting Revenant instead - the question being a reference to Blade sending messages by small rockets in the Vengeance episode. This card shows a much larger missile than the little 8-inch things used for letters. That means that this must have been a care package that he sent for the two of them to share, obviously.
- Are the Revenant and Benchmark suits later developments based on Baron Blade's power suit? Yes.
- What are the differences between the Revenant and Benchmark suits? Benchmark is more advanced, but it's also meant to be for combat specifically. Revenant's suit is meant to break into and get out of banks quickly while robbing them and is faster, but has less offensive capabilities.
- Since Benchmark leaves Revo-Corp (or at least seems to disobey them) how does he get control of it and maintain it afterwards? He wrecks it to get control and there really isn't much "after" until the Future section, so more on that later.
- Before becoming Benchmark, did Randall have any interactions with the other heroes? No.
- Why did he volunteer to be Benchmark? Pretty well covered above - he kind of already thought of himself as a hero and so jumped at the opportunity.
- What did he think the purpose of the program was and what was the true intention? He was told that he would be a hero and help people - that Revo-Corp was producing a hero as a product. The real purpose was to infiltrate the heroes and destroy them from within.
- Besides the Plague Rat cure, what other PR stunts has Revo-Corp done? Benchmark himself. He captures Plague Rat and otherwise cleans up their messes. They're involved with prostheses and pharmaceuticals and so help people using those means. Scholarships to engineering schools and whatnot - they're technically doing a lot of good, but they generally have their own reasons for it.
- Did Benchmark encounter Plague Rat and was he aware that Revo-Corp was using him as a bloodhound? Yes (see above) and no, Benchmark really didn't know much of anything shady that was going on.
- Was there anyone else Revo-Corp put in power suits? Not really other than testing various components. They sold a lot of parts to people (Ray Manta's suit is lots of their tech, although he actually constructed it himself).
- How much input did Blade have in the power suits and did he take advantage of any of that tech as Luminary? No and no. They were based on his original power suit, but that's kind of the extent of it. Luminary's gear is pretty much self-developed in Mordengrad following the Revo-Corp buyout.
- For "Supply and Demand" Benchmark, what happens after OblivAeon? He's from an alternate universe and post-OblivAeon he's theoretically back there still fighting villains.
- Who was the angel investor in S&D Benchmark's world? It's not a specific person, just a bunch of rich people who invested in it.
- Who are the villains on S&D's incap? Baron Blade, Fright Train, Highbrow, and Operative, but as it's an alternate universe they might have different code names.
- What's the nature of Benchmark's suit? The Kickstarter write-up mentions that he's got implants in his body and whatnot, so can he take the suit off or does it retract? How much does it weigh? The suit can definitely be taken off, he just has implanted circuitry that allows him to interface with it more effectively. He can use the implants to do things like summon the suit from a drop pod and it's how he controls the suit automatically with his brain. The suit probably weighs a few hundred pounds, but that's not too bad considering it's distributed over the whole body of a guy who's in excellent shape (and given that the suit does a lot of self-supporting stuff when it's powered on). There are additional components that can easily put it over a ton if he's got everything equipped at once (there's a missile pod and armored plating for example).
- What's represented by him "talking" to the suit? He controls it with his mind, there's not a conscious AI he has to talk to but it's set up to allow him to do things as naturally as you use your own body.
- Is Benchmark actually heroic or is he aligned with Revo-Corp's profit-first corporate outlook? First, Revo-Corp isn't necessarily "profit-first" as they are more focused on sustainability - able to think about the long-term rather than making the quick buck right now. Benchmark thinks that he's very heroic in his outlook, but as kind of discussed earlier, he isn't really at first because he doesn't really get what that means. He grows into it, though.
- How would one go about getting the technology that created Benchmark (grafted onto the body or what) and does it grant other benefits (life extension, negate need for sleep, etc.)? Have a giant company focused on R&D with a lot of funding available in a number of related fields to get to that point. It doesn't prevent sleep, the need to eat, or extend life. The only parts grafted onto him are the control interface for the suit (like, if the suit were a computer, the only parts grafted onto him would be the keyboard and mouse). The grafting process was necessary to get the level of control necessary - attempts to use things like switches in the gloves or other non-invasive means were insufficient. He probably has a higher-than-usual caloric intake to deal with the extra energy expenditure tied into everything.
- The S&D card art has a statue shown in the background, is it one of Benchmark, an Aeon Man, or what? It's a Benchmark statue in Megalopolis at the Revo-Corp facility at the center of town. This is in place of where, in other realities, a Legacy statue would be. There was no Legacy in this reality because there were no other heroes in this reality. There are regular civilians, there are villains, and there's Benchmark - the only hero standing up to the villains. Revo-Corp's whole thing in this reality is supplying Benchmark in his fight (who's much more experienced here than in the canon setting).
- Preface: After the Revenant encounter during the OblivAeon fight (which Benchmark continues to participate in even after his suit is all beat up) Revenant is unmasked in both realities and in both this results in a lot of negative publicity for Revo-Corp, stock values take a nose-dive, etc.
- Tactics Spoilers - Revo-Corp: The Board of Directors are floundering and trying to keep the company afloat over the last five years. Eventually, shortly before the beginning of the setting events, the company is bought by Harold Fineman - a kindly, unassuming, businessman with an intensely earnest smile. Almost a Stepford Wives kind of smile. Who is really running the company, however, is Revenant. We haven't seen Mark Benedetto for a long time, but during OblivAeon the Thorathian Vyktor gets badly injured and stranded on Earth. He gets the suit and at this point it's the only thing keeping him alive. He gets up to some of his old torture and gene-manipulation tactics and Harold is just a human puppet that he's reprogrammed. His goal here is to amass power in the form of OblivAeon Shards - shown in the comic booklet that comes with Tactics. Benchmark: He hangs up the suit. The Tactics setting has the public much more wary of heroes and this negative opinion (plus the lack of a corporate support structure for the suit) makes him just quit. He goes back to acting, working with charities and whatnot.
- RPG Spoilers - Revo-Corp and Benchmark: Revo-Corp is pretty quickly bought out by Conteh Energy - under the leadership of Aviva Natasha Aldred as mentioned in the Naturalist episode. It's still operated as Revo-Corp in the US, though. Under her leadership the company turns over a new leaf. She establishes a new team, the Paradigms, led by Benchmark and Unity who was recruited by Revo-Corp shortly after OblivAeon. She had felt that she'd gone as far as she could under the Freedom Five and they part ways with no hard feelings. The RPG even starts off with her coming back to Megalopolis to work with them to help in the recovery efforts after OblivAeon while Benchmark is doing similar things in Rook City. As was mentioned in the Unity episode, she and Benchmark are also a couple at this point. Revenant: Mark Benedetto is still around but is hanging out in the background. He knows that he's done as a public figure at this point and is now just arming smaller villains and leading small groups of them. We've not seen the last of him.