The Letters Page: Episode 33
Our big friendly fighting friend... it's Haka!
Run Time: 102:01
We get right into it on this one, as we've got a lot to talk about. Within the first few minutes, we're already into the backstory of Aata Wakawarewa!
As a result of us digging right in, we manage to get through the Haka overview, from backstory to OblivAeon, in 25 minutes! On to your questions!
We had a lot of fun in the Questions section, because we got so many great questions! Haka has a lot of great stories, and we're happy to recount them.
Shortly after the 75 minute mark, we have our first call out of the episode to any of the strange meta-question nonsense things that goes on in these episodes. And shortly after that, we dive right into the nonsense.
After that dip into silliness, things start getting a bit more serious, and the questions and answers after the 80 minute mark start a turn for the worse.
Around 88 minutes in, we read a question that leads to the answer of "how the heck is Haka doing what he does?" We go into the complete answer here, but we intentionally leave out who is behind all this. We will reveal who that is... soon.
At the 95:30 mark, we begin a Spoilers section! Don't listen if you don't want spoilers for the end/branching point of the Haka stories! You can safely begin listening again at 98:45.
Next week, we'll be releasing both an episode AND an interlude! The episode is all about Ansel G. Moreau, AKA Ambuscade AKA Stuntman, and the interlude will be about the Slaughter-House Six! We're recording that episode and interlude on Friday, so make sure you get your questions in by the end of day this coming Thursday, September 7th.
- Haka first appears in Arcane Tales in the mid-to-late '60s. This was a newer book at the time; and an anthology title that was typically split between some weird Twilight Zone-esque story and a more traditional one (frequently monster-of-the-week kind of things - Ra showed up in this one a bunch too). This places it in the same general category of book as Tome of the Bizarre, but they were distinct.
- The writers were excited to use him as he was a good vehicle for big fights but also a kind of "walking the earth" nomad stories (blowing into a town, getting some static from the locals due to his appearance - a giant of a man from a foreign culture/ethnicity who's still dressing like he has for hundreds of years - but then solving whatever problem they were having). Even through his strangeness, his humanity and compassion are his greatest assets. They really milk the "noble savage" trope in these early days, but he gets a lot of actual character development over the years.
- He's around for a while before readers are told his backstory (still in Arcane Tales*) - he was Aata Wakawarewa, the chief of a tribe of Maori people in New Zealand. He became something of a legend among many tribes on the islands as kind of the Maori ideal. Until, as described in his bio, one day he woke up with his Tā Moko missing. His tribe saw this as meaning that he'd angered the gods and they turned against him. His right hand man, Ruru, challenged and defeated him in his shocked state, dragging him into the desert and slitting his throat. The next morning he returned, not dead as he should have been, to challenge Ruru in return (whom he soundly defeats this time with some newfound strength, although he doesn't kill him). His people don't accept him as their chief again, however, seeing him as some kind of monster and driving him off (he allows himself to be driven off rather than fight them).
- This starts his "walking the earth" stage of his life. He takes on the name of "Haka" instead - naming himself for the ritualized war cry/dance of the Maori people. He fights all sorts of things, seemingly cannot die, and seeks to protect people in general since he can't protect his own people in particular.
- This kind of monster-of-the-week (-month?) stories are a runaway hit for him and it's only around a year before he gets picked to take a spot in the Freedom Four (now Five) team-up book. It wasn't a great fit (given the other problems with the book), but it still ran for a few years [this contradicts the time-frame specified in the Freedom Five episode for how long the first iteration ran, but it's not terribly important]. The readers liked the nomadic nature of his adventures and having him stationed in Megalopolis long-term didn't really work. After the FF book ends he goes back to his previous kind of adventures in the pages of Arcane Tales again (a title that continues publication right up through OblivAeon).
- He's a fan favorite, but the big stories were rarely about him. He shows up for occasional cross-overs, which are generally well-received, and he will certainly show up for the big stories, but he's always kind of the guy the writers know that they can bring in when the chips are down. Savvy readers would come into a crossover story on the lookout for how Haka was going to be involved. For example, during the Omnitron fight there's one city that's pretty much just overrun by drones. Haka goes in and basically solos that whole situation ("Rampage") while the rest of the heroes are taking care of Omnitron itself (even in such a story where the action on the page is just him smashing all the things, they'd still use it as an opportunity for him to have introspective character stuff about heroism going on - he genuinely enjoys combat, but he likes it more if it has a purpose). Similarly in the Voss fight he's fighting a lot of gene-bound minions - he's not the main character of these events, but the heroes would be in trouble without his presence.
- He fights the Hippo a lot, but it's never a really dangerous fight for him - the Hippo is just kind of "that guy who fights Haka" occasionally. Ambuscade has a few stories where he's trying to kill him as the "ultimate prey", but more on that stuff next week.
- Then he joins the Prime Wardens following FFA #10 where, in Akash'Bhuta, he's got a villain he can really let loose on. He's sort of got a "tanky" role on the team, doing a lot of interposing himself between a teammate and a threat to take a hit for them (well, that's kind of his whole shtick in general, for teammates or bystanders, really).
- In Vengeance, he's a known issue for the villains (and writers!) that they need to keep him out of the general fight if the plan is going to have a chance. So, they enlist the Hippo, Haka's most... persistent foes, to just keep him busy. Baron Blade directs him to the school in Colorado that Haka substitute teaches at currently. The plan isn't to so much fight him to win, but to set up a kind of hostage situation where if Haka just comes in punching the kids will get hurt. If the Hippo can stick to the script, he should have the upper hand and be able to play the defensive game until the Vengeance plot succeeds, at which point Blade can send in the cavalry to get him out of there, thus "defeating" Haka. Plus, Blade will pay him a bunch of money. This leads to an interesting issue where Haka can't punch the problem since Hippo's got a school bus full of kids that he's carrying around and Haka has to outsmart/goad him into a mistake (which basically comes down to him taunting the Hippo to eventually put down the bus and fight him - Hippo's not too bright, so this isn't a huge hurdle to clear). One punch later, Blade's plan is ruined - Hippo gets thrown in jail real quick and Haka books it over to the main Vengeance fights that Hippo had spilled the beans on during their verbal sparring. This probably results in Haka learning about/getting to the main fight earlier than he may have if Hippo hadn't been involved at all - he fights his way through waves of Proletariats and eventually takes down Fright Train (one of the major threats at this stage - Baron Blade being stuck in the Realm of Discord with Legacy by this time).
- Between then and OblivAeon he's still around, the new Prime Wardens book starts up, he's in the Bloodsworn Colosseum for a while (more in the Kaargra Warfang episode - they teased a bit involving Tachyon and Tempest before, but most of the stuff that happens there really should be in her story), he's involved in the initial Progeny fight alongside the other Prime Wardens, but that's a weird fight for him since punching it doesn't seem to actually help. Being "not strong enough" for a challenge is seriously weird for him - and for the team, frankly. Argent Adept has the whole Void power mastery thing, Haka and Fanatic are both bruiser powerhouses, Tempest can control the weather and is a brilliant tactician, and Captain Cosmic who (while probably the weakest member) still harnesses cosmic energy to create things with his mind. This is not a "weak" team, but they can't stop Progeny - it's not necessarily the case that he defeats them either, they're just incapable of stopping it.
- In OblivAeon, the writers don't play the game of keeping him held back somehow, instead choosing to show how great the stakes are by just throwing him into the heart of things right away. While the other Prime Wardens are fighting the Scion, Aeon Master, he's just tearing through waves and waves of Aeon Men, but they're functionally infinite numbers of them (compared with Omnitron drones, Proletariat clones, or Voss's gene-bound minions). It becomes clear that this strategy isn't going to work and that he's kind of being wasted in this role. This is when we start seeing heroes undertake "side quests" to try to get new resources to help in the fight (we've gotten several of these stories already). Haka helps gather up a lot of scrap for Unity to use for a big project. Then, when Nightmist starts opening all of the portals to other dimensions, he falls back on his "walking the earth" roots and ventures out into these other realities to recruit heroes to come help.
- "Dominion" mentions the "land of his people", where is that? New Zealand.
- Is his favorite food a burger? He loves them, but probably not his favorite. He likes things with a variety of complex tastes. "His favorite food is something that he hasn't tried before."
- Are his weapons ancient and/or mystical? No. He's had his Mere for a long time, but it's not magical or anything.
- Is he easily outwitted? No - he's very smart in general (although not super intelligent like Tachyon; he's more very quick on the uptake) and while fighting in particular you're not likely to trick him as that's him in his element. He's also been around for long enough that he's very wise (maybe the wisest of their characters).
- He seems to enjoy life, but does he get lonely/tired of life? He definitely gets lonely, but he's never tired of life. He genuinely loves his own life and he loves hearing about others' lives. He's most lonely in terms of his path in life - he knows he'll outlive most (all?) of the people he meets, but over the years he's come to terms with this. He values life more than most, if not all (it's hard to put him above Legacy), given this appreciation for the preciousness of life.
- What are the traditions of his people that he carries? A lot of them. The Tā Moko on his face for one. The haka that he performs. His standard outfit. He sees his past as important and he's not giving it up or leaving it behind. They mention that Wikipedia is a good primer for Maori culture if you want to look into it more.
- In your best Maori voice, can you perform all of the chants on his cards? No. Not even going to try because they couldn't do them justice. You can look up examples of people performing haka now [lots more than just the ones I linked up above before we got to this point in the podcast].
- Roughly how old is he at the time of the card game? In the 600 range.
- Did he have interactions with any forerunners of modern characters (e.g. previous Paul Parsons or Virtuosos of the Void)? None of the Virtuosos interacted with him (timeline would have allowed it, but it's a big world). He fought in both World Wars, but he didn't meet Paul VI or VII even though he was involved in some of the same battles. He didn't fight in an army of any particular country in these wars, but he saw a threat that warranted his attention and took part.
- Why did the writers choose a Maori warrior as the background for a hero rather than some other culture (and does he maintain traditions of his people even though they kicked him out)? Yes on the last, as mentioned previously. The writers created him for a lot of the same reasons that Christopher and Adam did - they wanted some great big mountain of a warrior to fight stuff and they came across Maori culture in their background research and liked it. It was also something non-ubiquitous in the US culture at the time so it gave them creative space to develop the character. This is similar to using Egyptian myth in creating Ra.
- Does Haka carry much pounamu - his mere is green, so is it made of it? Does he have other things in the traditional motifs like fish hooks? The mere is this kind of jade. In Prime War they've shown him wearing a medallion that he's had, but they haven't shown him wearing before. He's definitely got a fish hook and other pieces, but he doesn't wear them prominently much at this point because they're so old and he doesn't want to lose them.
- In the first edition card art for "Elbow Smash" he's destroying a tank; whose is it and is this part of a bigger fight? This is something from the old Freedom Five days and he's fighting against an early Baron Blade remote-control device.
- In which fights does he have the most and least fun? He enjoys challenging single combat the most - something that pushes his limits but doesn't involve worrying about other people around them. There was a fight with the Radioactivist that was just the two of them that stands out. Akash'Bhuta is also a good one since he can just let loose on her. He doesn't like the horde fights or ones involving civilians. The "Rampage" fight shows him as angry since there are so many people to worry about.
- Has he ever returned to his home since being exiled? He's returned to the site of his ancestral home, but nothing's there. He hadn't returned during the lifetimes of anybody who would have actually recognized him. Good opportunities for some introspective issues, though.
- Haka smash? No, Haka not smash. Haka speaks very good, unaccented English (or choose a language as he speaks dozens fluently) he's been around a long time and is very intelligent. This interpretation of the character is expected, but it's incorrect.
- Why is he so adorable? It's hard to answer - why do you find him so adorable? You could also find him fearsome, or hilarious, or any number of things.
- Are the haka text on the cards based on real haka (citing a similarity to "Haka of Battle" to one performed by the All Blacks rugby team [again, I linked to them already above])? What do they mean? Does he perform other magical haka to give him power beyond the ones we see in the game? First, they aren't magical - he performs them to boost himself up, but that's an internal process, not one granted to him by the haka. It's a method of focusing himself (and also intimidate opponents). All of the ones he performs are real haka having to do with being a Maori warrior, winning in battle, etc.
- After his tā moko fade the first time, does he have to reapply them repeatedly as they fade again? He had to do them again once, but it was quite an undertaking (given his more robust physique at this point). He had to use snake venom (as mentioned on the flavor text of the card) to essentially "kill" a portion of his skin and then apply the pigment before it could regenerate.
- What does "Savage Mana" represent (and why Toxic damage)? This is part of the Maori concept of mana] involving defeating foes to obtain some of their power. This ties into the source of his power (that they have skipped intentionally to this point, but will get to later). When he takes the life of something, there's a bit of void (not Void) that's left and that he can draw in and store and eventually unleash on a foe as a debilitating attack. He typically uses this attack in the form of a shout or battle cry, but it's not the force of the sound itself that's doing the damage (thus not Sonic as the type), but it's this accumulated "death energy" that he's releasing, which is where the Toxic part comes in. He doesn't even really do this intentionally as he's just interpreting it as this mana concept given his cultural background.
- What was his involvement in the Matriarch event? He was teaching near Rook City at the time (that she used to attend and is lashing out at) when a bunch of birds show up threatening the people in the area. Like in the Omnitron fight, he doesn't fight the Matriarch directly, but boy does he kill a lot of birds in order to protect the students.
- As an immortal, how does he deal with love and loss? He does have several loves over the course of his life, but he goes into it now with the knowledge that he'll outlive them. While he was chief of his tribe he had been focused on combat and leadership and didn't allow himself a wife and so has no family from his tribe. Some of the relationships he's had over the centuries last a few years up through the other person's lifetime. Sometimes they die of old age, others it's war or sickness. He values the moment, however many of them they get together. Lovers, friends, students, fellow heroes, he outlives them and attends their funerals - he rarely speaks during them, but he'll stay afterwards until everyone leaves and sings a song for them. Continuing to experience everything connecting him to other people, including the inevitability of death and loss, is what helps him maintain his humanity.
- Rugby or cricket? Obviously rugby. He enjoys watching cricket, but playing rugby.
- Does he have children/descendants? Yes. No terribly recent children as he hasn't taken the time to connect with somebody in more modern times. He has other descendants that he's aware of and he's contacted them, but doesn't always tell them what his connection to them is. He wants to know about them without just making them a footnote to his story.
- Have Haka and K.N.Y.F.E. ever attended a party and gotten into a bar brawl? They are good friends and he likes hanging out with her. He can't really get drunk anymore, though, given his powers but he humors her by keeping pace with her drinking. He likes her stories and energy. He finds a lot of her behavior self-destructive (and just generally destructive). That actually explains some of why he hangs out with her - to keep her from wrecking up the place (too much) or, if she's just got to punch somebody, maybe try to aim her at the biggest scumbag there so at least it's somebody who deserves it, and also making sure she gets home/tucks her in with some water and aspirin handy. He might be the character they've created who they'd most like to just hang out with for a weekend - he's just a great guy.
- Has he changed world history as we would know it by heading off something major? Not really - he was involved in the world wars, but he's focused on the low-level stuff (on individuals rather than big picture). He's certainly changed stuff by being around to help people who may have otherwise died (anecdote about him working on sailing ships and, say, holding a mast together after a storm until they could make port), but it's not like he's prevented a plague or something that would have major ripple effects.
- How does his age/wisdom impact his relationships with other heroes? Does he take a mentor role at all? He "mentors" pretty much everybody, honestly - they even mentioned this a bit all the way back in the Legacy episode that Legacy looked up to him. He's probably the Sentinel Comics "moral ideal" character. It's not like a formal mentoring relationship, though, as he's more likely to go help teach students in some underfunded school somewhere (although, he wouldn't shy away from an opportunity if it came up).
- How does he see his teaching career? A side-gig or is it part of his overall outlook? He probably sees himself as a teacher even when he's not in a classroom. He's got knowledge that he can pass on and he feels it's a responsibility to do so.
- What's his favorite subject to teach? Literature? "Literature" is tricky since he honestly hasn't had a lot of time to read in his travels/adventures. He likes teaching history and languages, general "social studies" kind of things. Literature doesn't really factor in until later, which they'll get to.
- How do his students address him? He generally prefers just Aata.
- Does he visit kids in hospitals and does he talk other heroes into going? He's not the type to wrangle others into charity work. If some kid tells him that they'd really love to meet Tachyon or something he'll say that he'll do his best to make it happen, but he's not going to force or guilt anybody into going. He might talk other heroes into going with him as a means to cheer them up about something, but phrasing it as a request to help him out. He's very insightful.
- It's been mentioned that he'll bake small pies to bring with him to win the kids over so that they're not scared of him due to his size - what kind of pie? Is it his favorite kind or does he make a variety? He likes to bring an assortment since you don't know what people will like. He likes fruit pies, but he'll bring other kinds too.
- Does he work with older kids too? Yeah. He subs for kids from the whole K-12 spectrum. He also works with delinquents too, trying to turn things around for them.
- Did he bring dessert to the cookout from the picture we see a lot? Does he "backseat" cook while Legacy's manning the grill? What's his favorite food (or does he always like something new)? He definitely brought dessert (and probably sides/vegetables). He'd offer suggestions when necessary/asked, but he's not a backseat chef. "It is never 'The Haka Show'."
- Tastes in music (mention that he likes musicals and ABBA - so does he prefer lighter/happier music)? He's got an eclectic taste given how long he's been around. Generally, he likes upbeat songs or songs that tell stories (like folk songs). He likes stuff his students made (maybe after they've grown up). He's got a soft spot for Gilbert and Sullivan stuff.
- Does Haka like rugby? The All Blacks in particular? Does he poke fun at the Wallabies (Australia's national team) when Parse is around? Yes, definitely, and definitely. He's good at poking fun at the Wallabies without making anybody feel bad. In sports rivalries there's a certain level of poking fun that's still good-natured and he's very good at finding that line. It also helps that Parse doesn't really care about the sports.
- Is there anything he's done in the past that was acceptable at the time that he regrets now? It's certainly happened, but they didn't really have specific examples in mind. The way he cut himself off from certain aspects of life while he was chief might qualify. There's also likely sorrow considering the people he's killed given his current outlook on the value of life.
- Why only a substitute teacher? Do heroics interrupt his work in the classroom (like, does Fanatic ever burst into the classroom to get his help)? Does he ever scare the kids given his size and tattoos? By the nature of his existence, he's nomadic and so doesn't stay in a place for long enough to have a steady job. Also his presence also invites danger (see the Vengeance or various Ambuscade plots). Heroics interrupt a few notable times, but he takes effort to minimize them (although the Fanatic thing definitely happened). He's certainly intimidated kids. There are a lot of kids who love big strong people that they can climb all over [as a big guy who has been around friends' children, I can vouch for that], but of course there have been kids scared of him. He's good at being disarming, though (plus the whole pie thing mentioned earlier).
- Podcast meta weirdness: The Animal Universe equivalent suggested by a listener is the quokka, a marsupial from southwestern Australia. Haka's not Australian, and they're the far side of it from New Zealand, but it's probably the closest in location/name that we're likely to get, so Christopher and Adam give him credit for this one.
- How long has he been teaching? How did he get into it? What administrator sees somebody as big as Haka and thinks "This guy is perfect to be teaching small children"? He's got a pretty substantial record of it by this point. He was probably just around somewhere at one point that needed a teacher and he volunteered if they needed somebody, found that he loved it, and just continued when he could. His appearance only puts people off thinking he's a good fit until they talk to him for any length of time.
- Has he had any other occupations? Work on sailing vessels as alluded to earlier. As a dock worker in Singapore (a good crossroads for meeting people from all over the world). He's never really been in charge of anything since he was chief as he's always moving on.
- Here's an aside here about how, since the beginning of their work creating these characters, Haka has had the descriptor of "Savage" attached to him. This is an intentionally ironic misnomer as he's literally the least savage character they have. It's indicative of the first reaction that many people have upon seeing him for the first time, though. After you talk to him, you realize that "The Enlightened Haka" might be a better title.
- Given the Eternal Haka card art, he seems to enjoy books; what other books does he enjoy or has he recommended to his fellow heroes? Has he done any promotional work to encourage young readers? He's not really a reader up through the end of the card game era as he's just too busy. The Final Wasteland version of Haka is mostly due to the fact that he's been alone for so long that all he has are the books and the time to read them. So many of them are by or about people that he knew. He likes just about everything, but the guys pick out poetry in particular ("condensed humanity") and he's not so much reading to learn, but to recall and preserve. Putting Haka alone in the Final Wasteland is probably one of the meanest things the guys did to a character.
- What happened to Eternal Haka? Does he go back in time or just fight with heroes to wind up in the Final Wasteland? Is he involved in the OblivAeon arc? He fights along heroes in the Final Wasteland and he does manage to come back to get involved in the OblivAeon event, but he goes back. He's a different guy anyway - not just because of how most time-travel/multiverse stuff works in this setting, but because he's spent so many centuries alone that he's just different from the Haka we know.
- Is Eternal Haka an Endling or would the Terminarch pick somebody else given his weirdness? He is, by definition as the Last Human, an Endling. Jansa vi Dero would have approached him to make the offer, but he turned her down to stay and retain his connection to humanity. If he was capable of knowing all outcomes of his decisions, he'd likely come to regret this choice because if he'd gone he at least would have other beings to interact with.
- Does he actually die and come back from death? Haka is unkillable - he has never actually fully died.
- How do his powers/resurrection work? Does he die and slowly regenerate over days or is it more immediate? Are there limits (would decapitation or vaporization kill him for good or would he just appear again later)? Does his strength increase each time he's defeated? So, there will be some "how" and "why" of some of this in a later episode, but here's the "what". As a result of OblivAeon, there's an entity that sees that a champion is necessary, somebody who can go toe-to-toe with these threats. "Our" Haka and an alternate reality version of Haka are bound together across space-time at the cost of all other versions of him. There are a lot of alternate versions of this person, but after this event there are only two who each have the strength, vitality, life, etc. of all of the rest. This is what gives him his heroic attributes, but the other one he's still linked to is why he's unkillable - as long as one is alive the other cannot die (taking both out simultaneously is the only way to get rid of him - generally not a worry since they're in different universes). Then OblivAeon starts blurring those lines and they both wind up in the same battles. They don't know how any of this works (but somebody does - more later in that person's story). You could not decapitate him or vaporize him as his link to the other would prevent his death. Iron Legacy just had to encase him in a block of something durable and drop him into the ocean to keep him out of his way, but that didn't kill him. His strength isn't going up based on deaths, it's just going up over time as he absorbs more life energy from the other realities' versions of him. Eternal Haka has been around so long that he can't even really be knocked out anymore (his incap art doesn't show him beaten physically, just by circumstance). The "only 2 versions of him" thing is weird as it happens over time - they talk about these different versions of him, but we see them before they get erased by these time shenanigans, and then more realities branch off due to events as normal, but eventually those versions' Hakas will get erased too.
- Who is Arataki Wakawarewa? That's Haka.
- Tactics - There is no Haka in this world (because of the whole "only 2 Hakas" thing), but the one that we know and love from everything up to this point does show up here in Prime War. Spoiler that I guessed before they got to the RPG stuff! Remember when "our" Haka went through some portals in OblivAeon to recruit help? Looks like he gets stuck in the darkest timeline when the portals close.
- RPG - RPG Spoilers regarding Arataki Wakawarewa and the RPG Starter Kit Scenarios She is a Mission reward in OblivAeon to bring her into the fight. After that 'our' Haka is locked in the Tactics-verse. Arataki is locked out of her reality and is in the RPG as the resident Haka now. In the Starter Kit adventures the players encounter her, and might have to fight her to help Tempest - in her reality he was a villain. You might convince her to join the new Prime Wardens. She is the "other" Haka who doesn't get erased and is linked to "our" Haka.