The Letters Page: Episode 34
Run Time: 123:04
Shockingly, this is the longest episode we've ever done! Man, that Ansel G. Moreau really loves to steal the scene.
We apologize right off the bat for the quality and quantity of bad French accents in today's episode. We're so, so sorry.
After the Ambuscade story stuff in the first 25 minutes, we get into a fun Mainstay and Ansel story that both Adam and Christopher end up having too much fun with on the air. It takes almost as much time as everything else that leads up to just that one story.
40 minutes in, we get into spoilers for OblivAeon territory, but we're just spilling the beans now! Have we spoiled that info before? We don't know... but we're doing it anyway! This episode is full of ups and downs.
Then, we get right into your questions! Of which there are many!
In the Q&A portion, we talk a lot more about Ansel G. Moreau's film career, his connection to Revo-Corp, and indulge in a decent amount of listener-meta-silliness. All told, a fine time.
When we get into the future section, we spill some spoilers, but don't really tag them. Just putting the future story stuff right out there! If you want to avoid RPG spoilers, maybe skip from 117:45 to 119:35.
See you in a couple days for the Slaughter-House Six interlude!
- First appears in the '80s as a French action movie star - flashy fighting style (gunfights, spin kicks, etc.), pretty face, mediocre acting, does his own stunts. He gets bored of acting, though, and picks up the hobby of big game hunting. The very organized nature of these things (legal big game hunting is largely a function of African nations' conservation organizations, but this brings with it a lot of red tape and structure to the proceedings) makes even this boring for him in short order - there's little actual "hunting" involved. In another classic example of villains making poor life choices, Ansel decides that the most dangerous game would be one of these superheroes. He winds up approaching this shady genetics company to try to get some enhancements for himself. The package they offer him includes boosts to strength, speed, and maybe something else. Who knows? It's probably fine. They also throw in some Stim Patches for free.
- He wakes up following the procedure and can already feel the difference. He gets up and goes into the bathroom and, to his horror, sees that his face has been terribly scarred, ruining his movie career. This was a long joke they guys played on we, the players, given that it wasn't until VotM that we see that the "horrible scarring" is really just a small cut on his cheek. Nevertheless, he refused to have it "fixed" by plastic surgery as it would no longer be his "real" face. He's kind of insufferable.
- <possibly non-canon>He has to go by "Ansel G. Moreau" because the Screen Actors Guild already had an "Ansel Moreau" as a member</possibly non-canon>
- He stops acting, drops off the public radar, gets a mask, and leans hard into the "hunting superhero" hobby. He settles on one hero in particular as the most fitting opponent, Haka. Unfortunately for Ansel, he's picked one who's functionally immortal and is kind of hard to hunt effectively - he's a big guy and isn't terribly hard to find/stalk, but is almost impossible to actually take down. "Ambuscade" becomes a recurring villain in Haka stories - popular quickly because he's got a cool look and has a lot of guns, explosions, and a pretty sweet cloaking device. Additionally, he makes a good foil for Haka given that so many of his attacks have the potential for collateral damage, i.e. stuff for Haka to have to deal with to protect others. The random effect that the genetic manipulation gave him is what's represented by the "Charged Attacks" and Trap cards in his solo deck - he can "charge" objects to cause them to explode.
- Personality notes: Ambuscade is one of their biggest "jerk" characters. He's self-centered and is a "bad guy" (I mean, he's hunting heroes for sport and doesn't particularly care if he winds up killing others in the crossfire), but he's not out to, say, destroy or enslave the world. He's not an "Evil Mastermind", just in pretty much all incarnations he's a "Self-Centered Jerk".
- His ongoing, but only occasional book is The Deadliest Game, which tends to just be about whatever he's up to at the time. Frequently that's involving Haka, but there's a notable story with Ra or a period where he's in Megalopolis working for other villains (he needs the cash to maintain his high standard of living since he can't act anymore). He goes up against the Wraith which is a fun match-up given the brains vs. unsubtle explosions dynamic as their approach to things. He's a good villain to throw into a story when you need a little breathing room/filler between other big stories. That is, until his appearance in...
- Freedom Five Annual #11 (mentioned previously in the Unity Episode), which involves Ambuscade hunting Haka in Megalopolis (he's at the zoo, just enjoying his day). Tachyon (and the rest of the Freedom Five) eventually come to help him out. This is a notable Ambuscade story in that, while he does his standard ineffectual stuff when trying to take down Haka, he's also brought backup - this is the first appearance of the Slaughter-House Six (a team of 5 other minor villains who join him, some of whom are new for this story). They are minor villains, though, and although they initially get the upper hand on Haka, they're not really equipped to deal with him plus the Freedom Five. The FF quickly mop the floor with these guys (Ambuscade escapes using his cloaking device and goes back to his old mercenary, filler-villain role), but it's still a notable issue due to their introduction and the Unity stuff.
- The Slaughter-House Six become a recurring team for a long time after this. There is a major post-Vengeance story that's kind of the first time they operate as competent villains and Ambuscade has a different role this time, but more on them in the upcoming Interlude.
- The next notable Ambuscade story (in the Freedom Five book) is one taking place on Mars. He takes over the Wagner Mars Base, takes a bunch of hostages, sets a bunch of traps, and whatnot. In particular, this is him vs. Tachyon who has kind of become an emergent secondary nemesis for him just because she's so capable of dismantling whatever scheme he's got cooked up. He forces the director of the base to call Tachyon to get her to come work on something - it's a little fishy, but she takes the Megalopolis-to-Mars teleporter to get there because it's science and she likes science. It becomes a kind of cat-and-mouse conflict with her managing to sneak around, but he's set things up to account for her speed this time (traps that require her to slow down to avoid for example) - one major one results in her managing to get the hostages out, but still causes extensive damage to part of the base and triggers a Marsquake. This strands Ambuscade in a precarious situation - Tachyon offers to help, but he refuses. She escapes, having saving all the hostages, but he's assumed to have died given the destabilized base and his explosions. "Ambuscade" isn't seen again in the Multiverse era.
- However, just as things look hopeless for him a portal opens and a cowboy walks through (we're now in an issue of Chrono-Ranger's book). As described in the Chrono-Ranger episode, Jim puts Ambuscade in a stasis field and goes off to save the base. His bounty is to kill Ambuscade, but he refuses to do so - having a heart-to-heart with him about not killing him and the apparent timeline ramifications of his actions before going back through his time portal. Ansel finds an escape shuttle, heads back to Earth, and hangs up the "Ambsucade" persona.
- Much later, we see Ansel very drunk in a bar in the American southwest, in fact in an issue of The Southwest Sentinels. Mainstay walks in an recognizes Ansel G. Moreau and excitedly goes over to him. Ansel sees this obvious superhero approaching and assumes that this is going to be a big fight and is resigned to it. To his surprise, it's just that Mainstay is a big fan and is gushing about all of his action movies, martial arts exploits, etc. Ansel winds up spilling the beans about what he's been up to since then as Ambuscade. It's obvious that there's actual regret and contrition in this admission, though - that he was this really cool movie guy who did a lot of other neat stuff, and then he went and did all of this terrible villainous stuff for years.
- This conversation and pep-talk with Mainstay results in a one-shot comic Road Warriors.
- Mainstay and Ansel G. Moreau start it in a bar fight against everybody else, ending with the two of them winning and heading off together (ostensibly to find another bar), Mainstay on his bike and Ansel in a sweet car belonging to some punk kid he took the keys from after the fight. It turns out that the punk kid, Chapo Marquez, is the son of Vicente Marquez - the ruthless head of the local drug cartel. When he hears what happened he sends all of his goons after them. Cue a series of car chases and a sort of siege involving Mainstay and Ansel trapped in an otherwise empty bar they've barricaded themselves in. Knowing that the bad guys can get help and they can't, they sneak out to take the fight to them. They ambush some patrolling goons, learn who and where the boss is, and take off.
- Vicente invites them in once they arrive, but the conversation quickly turns into a Bond-Villain monologue about how now he can't allow them to live, etc. Lots of guns get pulled and a gunfight-in-a-mansion scene happens. Mainstay is essentially immune to bullets, so he's fine but Ansel is doing a lot of ducking behind cover, taking guns off of the various goons and doing the action-hero thing. Vicente calls in a big attack helicopter (that he has for some reason), firing missiles into the building without regard for the goons while he sneaks off himself. Mainstay winds up catching a missile and sends it back at the helicopter resulting in a giant action-movie explosion as it crashes on Vicente. Mainstay protects Ansel from the resulting building collapse and they walk out of the rubble together, complete with movie-hero aesthetically pleasing wounds. As they walk off together Mainstay asks him what he's going to do now and Ansel says that he'll probably go back to movies.
- Which he does, he goes back to the movie studio and wants to continue his acting career if they can just do something to cover up his horrible scar (and they want to just run with it because he's an action hero and it's a pretty good scar for that sort of role). He reprises a role he had played a few times in the '80s, The Hunter, (The Hunter, The Hunter: Unloaded, The Hunter: Reloaded, and Return of the Hunter which ended on a cliffhanger). He'd resisted doing a fifth movie in the series for years before, but he agrees to do another for his return to acting, Final Hunt (with the inevitable hype machine for his return getting yet more sequels, Final Hunt 2 and Final Hunt 3, lined up even before it's released).
- And then OblivAeon happens, which results in the destruction of Champion Studios. Final Hunt had wrapped and had been screened by a few people internally, but before it's actually released OblivAeon destroys the entire city of San Alonso, and so the movie is lost forever and Ansel doesn't get his movie career back. This prompts him to want revenge, and so he becomes the hero Stuntman to join the fight against OblivAeon.
- French or English pronunciation of "Ambuscade" (given that he's French)? Since Adam and Christopher don't speak French, and he's a character in English-language comics, they and most of the characters in the comics/games pronounce it the English way. He would appreciate people using the French pronunciation, though.
- His solo deck is fairly easy to overcome and his VotM version makes him seem almost comical (citing the cardboard cut-out decoy), is he meant to be kind of a joke to the readers? How do the heroes think of him (considering that he's competent enough in at least one timeline - Iron Legacy - to be a serious threat)? If you've been paying attention, you notice that he never actually succeeds in killing anybody until the cartel fight. He's not a murderer, and although his presence always comes with the threat of collateral damage, the heroes always succeed in saving everybody. He probably has the lowest death toll of any of the villains. So, while he's a serious threat story-internally, he's still this over-the-top kind of tongue-in-cheek character (as opposed to overtly silly like Wager Master or the Hippo). Even the cardboard cut-out was more of a taunt to the heroes than something actually meant to fool them.
- Ambuscade seems like a game character designed specifically to counter hero tools that players could rely on too much (Sonic Mine to counter, say, Tempest's area damage and all of the reshuffling/extra card plays to counter Wraith or Visionary's deck-stacking abilities) - was this an intentional design choice and/or was it a consequence of who he happened to be fighting at the time (Wraith and Visionary being the characters quoted on the trap cards)? This is kind of getting to the point that Ambuscade shouldn't be a threat to a team of heroes. He's got some minor energy manipulation and a bunch of guns and that's pretty much it. However, he is actively working to attack heroes weaknesses. The guys design everything through the lens of theme and so they weren't designing him to get players to not use certain mechanics, the theme of his having a plan makes sense for his deck to require players to think more judiciously around how/when they use those mechanics.
- Is he a martial artist (and which kind)? Military training? What all can he do with his energy manipulation powers? He's mostly a guns & explosions kind of guy, but he does know some Savate, Taekwondo, Karate, and Krav Maga but he learned them as prep for his movie career. He did some competing in Savate, but mostly it's just to help make him look cool on screen. His villain deck is mostly focused on ambushes, but we do get to see some Savate stuff in his Stuntman deck. He has an aptitude for this stuff, though, so he picks them up quickly, although he's definitely not a "master" of any of them. He's better with guns than he is with martial arts (although, still not a supreme marksman).
- How did a French guy (and such an aggressively French guy) become such an international movie star? Hard work, determination, amazing physique, and a pretty face. He started out working as a stunt guy after he realized he wouldn't make it as a master martial artist and, given his good looks and charisma, he got "discovered" while on-set.
- Do any of the Slaughter-House Six members (or other various contacts, or contractors in Tactics) know who he is/ask for autographs? In Tactics Ansel G. Moreau is presumed dead, for one thing (following the destruction of Champion Studios). Glamour knows, but doesn't care (except in a "maybe use it against him later" way). He's one of the few characters to successfully maintain their secret identity.
- What are some highs and lows from his acting career? He disappeared at the peak of his career, but that career had been short up to that point. The Hunter series were popular, as were some other projects he'd done, but he hadn't really had a chance to really have any real stinkers on his resume to that point.
- Has Ansel won any awards for his acting/stunt work? Is he a cultural icon like Arnold Schwarzenegger in our world? Were there any stunts he refused to do? Has he considered moving into dramas rather than action movies? Does he have a strong French accent or can he do a passable, say, American one? He's never won awards (stuntman awards are too recent of a thing). He did one Rom Com (but one that still included guns and explosions as sort of a mixed genre thing). He's not a great actor. He does have a French accent and doesn't even try to do an American one (there's always some hand-wavy explanation for why he's got this French accent). He is a well-known action star/cultural icon and is even a big deal in France as somebody who became such a big deal.
- Are there documentaries/biopics about former and active heroes? Does he feature in any of these? Those kinds of films exist. He may have been involved in an early project doing stunts, but nothing featuring him. These kinds of things would definitely be ones he'd watch to try to get insight into heroes he was going to fight.
- What are his most famous movies? His masterpiece? His worst one that he'd rather forget? Most famous are The Hunter series. His best, as in his best performance, was a western called Unsung that involved very little dialog from him, but a lot of subtle acting regardless. The best by box-office take was The Hunter: Reloaded (the third one in the series). The one he'd rather forget was an appearance on a soap opera, Forbidden Fruit, where he played "Claudio", a "Latin Lover" type (despite the French accent). He was in something like 8 episodes.
- How egocentric is Ambuscade? Like, would he sabotage something a Slaughter-House Six member was doing if it looked likely to upstage him? He's very egocentric, but he's not likely to jeopardize a mission just because of it. He's not going to stick his neck out, though. His one mission with the Slaughter-House Six was one that he abandoned when things turned against the team.
- Have the unfortunate implications of him being a white man hunting two minorities (Haka and the Naturalist) for sport dawned on him? Nope. He's not that introspective. The "hunting people" aspect kind of overshadows the racial element in the "badness" scale.
- How famous is he and are his movies really any good (France isn't known for action movies)? He's very famous and some of his movies are good as discussed earlier. He's not in French movies as he moved to the US for his acting career as they were the ones doing the kinds of movies he wanted to be in.
- Did he get superpowers before or after Expatriette turned good? Was she familiar with his acting career? Did he have to spend a good chunk of their first encounter convincing her of how famous he is? He was in disguise (as an American cop in Rook City, with a French accent) when they met, so it's not like he wanted her to know who he was. He hadn't gotten powers yet (but would shortly afterwards). It's not like they had a big confrontation either, they happened to be around doing their own things at the time and he just wound up as a side character in her story.
- We see the variant of Stuntman in a bamboo prison on his incapacitated side, is that from a movie or did he actually spent time in such a prison? That is an alternate-reality Ansel Moreau, and that scene was from a movie, but that Ansel Moreau is also legitimately a hero (and the sizable scar on his face is one he got while being a hero, and that he embraced in his acting career).
- Why was he so heartbroken over one small scar? Did anybody make fun of him throwing his career away over such a minor thing? He's very vain. People constantly make fun of him/get exasperated by him making a big deal about it.
- We know that Expat's card "Quick Draw" features Ansel Moreau (also discussed a few questions back), it looks like he's also on the foil Rook City Wraith card's incapacitated side, is that him too? How did he fool both heroes and the police force? He does his own makeup for these things, but he didn't need to fool the cops given how fractured/corrupt the Rook City PD is. He uses the disguise to fool the heroes and it's useful for him gathering information (until he's found out), but it's not even really the case that he needs to really do much to fool them as they're not relying on him for "cop stuff" that he would need to fake. It's a low impact/cost disguise that's just for information gathering.
- We heard that Expatriette met him early in her career - why would an actor need to take such jobs, did he ever get in trouble while doing so, did she recognize him, did he make any enemies (maybe ones that stuck around into RPG/Tactics era), did he go by "Stuntman" in this period, did anybody recognize him while he did these things? Did Expatriette know that Ambuscade was this guy she'd met previously? A lot of that had already been mentioned. He didn't go by his real name or either "super" name for these things. He went by the assumed name of "John Hunt" (actually the "lost" name for his character in The Hunter series, this was actually going to be revealed in Final Hunt but oh well). He didn't make any real enemies in this period as it's only really of interest in that he encountered Expat.
- Which shady company gave him his powers? What are the extent of those energy-based powers? When did he acquire the powers and how long did they last (citing Tactics bio that stated that they eventually faded)? Revo-Corp. He can touch a thing and charge it with energy so that it will explode. He can also charge through his gun to make its shots more powerful. He could theoretically charge his fist for an explosive punch, but that's likely to harm him too, so he doesn't do that. He can't project energy outward. The power fades around the time of the Mars event - by the Road Warriors issue they're gone and so Stuntman lacks them completely.
- His bio says he has brown hair, but the art often makes him look blond - does he dye it? For his "John Hunt" disguise, he's dyed it. Stuntman art has him with dark or sandy blond/light brown hair.
- Given his vain reaction to the small scar on his face, why doesn't he care about the mole by his left eye? That's a beauty mark, obviously. It's perfectly placed for the aesthetics of his face, unlike that horrible disfiguring scar.
- When does he step into the role of Stuntman? During OblivAeon after the destruction of Champion Studios.
- On Borr the Unstable's Scion card, we have Mainstay yelling a warning to Ansel - have the heroes been won over by Stuntman's actions or just Mainstay? Why? Most heroes didn't know that Stuntman (who is seen to be helping against both Borr and Nixious the Chosen, although he doesn't really interact with many heroes) was Ambuscade. We already heard why Mainstay is ok with him, though.
- Given his "hunting" rationale, couldn't it be considered a "win" if any of the heroes he was fighting was incapacitated (rather than the whole team in terms of SotM gameplay)? He wasn't collecting trophies and it's not like he's just looking to defeat any hero - he has a specific target that he's trying to hunt (and look good doing it).
- Does he hunt villains too (like Bugbear)? Heroes are mostly victorious in Sentinel Comics, so they're seen as greater prey than villains.
- Prime Wardens Haka's incap art shows Ambuscade holding him to a wall with some pink glowing contraption, what's going on and how did Ambuscade get some of Unity's gear? First, metal + pink glowing things does not equal Unity. It's just a harness that he's acquired to restrain Haka. It works for a while.
- Where does he get his gear/how does he arm himself without getting put on an FBI watch list or something? He's going through Revo-Corp and so is mostly reliant on their ability to deflect attention (well, he handles some stuff himself, but that's mostly mundane stuff - the fancy gear all comes through them). Since his identity remains (mostly) a secret and he's put all that behind him by the time Revo-Corp's reputation gets totally blown it never comes up as a problem.
- How does Stuntman's load-out differ from Ambuscade's? It's pretty different. Stuntman is more about grabbing what's at hand and using it for a while as opposed to Ambuscade's "Too Many Guns" kind of arsenal. That kind of action-hero "grab a gun, fire until it's empty, toss it aside, and move on" mentality is really what they were going for. It's "an action movie in a deck".
- Did he try to sue or attack the company that scarred him and ruined his acting career? No, he signed too many things absolving them and muzzling him before the procedure. It's also their shady branch and he gets all of his gear from them.
- Is the bionic-looking arm part of the enhancements he got? No, it's just a piece of gear. It does augment his strength and whatnot (it's based on the same tech as the Revenant and Benchmark suits). In Tactics he's had additional stuff incorporated into the arm to the point where things are actually grafted into his own arm. In the RPG timeline he's got nothing from Revo-Corp left.
- When he becomes Stuntman what happens to his energy manipulation powers? The last we see of them are in the Mars event with Tachyon, but even then they're fizzling. He tries to use it a few times in Road Warriors but nothing happens. By the time he's Stuntman he knows they're gone and doesn't even try anymore.
- Does he prefer to take on his prey without collateral damage/civilian casualties? He never intentionally targets innocent people without knowing that the hero will save them. He'll use them as tools, but he expects the heroes to be heroes. His collateral damage is more of an instigating tactic - forcing a response from the opposition. As stated, he's got a really low body count as a villain.
- What's his middle name? Is "Ansel G. Moreau" a stage name or his real name? It's his real name (which he continues to use professionally) and his middle name is Goddard.
- Does Haka ever critique Ambuscade's attempts to hunt him (assuming that Haka is the type to see it as fun)? Is Ambuscade annoyed by his nonchalance? The first few times Haka may have been blasé about it, but by the time that Ambuscade is having to do that whole "threatening innocents" thing Haka can't be nonchalant about it and it's most definitely not fun. If they were doing a one-on-one thing in a jungle that might be fun, but not what Ambuscade is actually doing.
- Given that he has a solo deck, a team deck, and a hero deck it seems like he's got a lot of importance in the game (only Baron Blade and Omnitron have as many decks), is that outsized to his actual importance in the Sentinel Comics stories? He's not as important as Baron Blade or Omnitron to the Multiverse, but he's got a lot of good story connections. He's solidly a "side character" but he's easily one of the most important side characters. Possibly most importantly, he's a fan favorite which gets you a long way in comics. People love this guy and his books always sell well. That's why he shows up as a hero at the end of the Multiverse story - he's the most popular villain that they can justify making the switch. The Villains of the Multiverse deck is... something different.
- He seems out of place among the villains-turned-heroes group in OblivAeon - a genius inventor, a veteran of a 100 million-year war, a time traveler who's been up and down the timestream, and a French guy with a lot of guns - what was his contribution to the fight? Without Stuntman being involved, Nixious would have been a much more terrible threat. Stuntman gets him with a flamethrower to take him down. He and Mainstay are also important to taking down Borr, but he pays for it.
- If he healed up to the point where he felt comfortable without his mask as Stuntman, why put the mask back on afterwards (say, in Tactics)? He hadn't "healed up" - the tiny 2-inch scar was the entirety of his disfigurement. He also still hid it beneath a bandage so as to not subject everybody to the sight of it. He needs the mask again because of the way the Borr fight ended - see the Stuntman foil card incapacitated art. Borr explodes; it's what he does. Stuntman and Mainstay make sure that everybody else is safe, but while Mainstay is tough and manages to still be mostly OK afterwards, Stuntman isn't so lucky considering he's mostly just a guy with guns. In Tactics he's back in the mask since he refuses to let anybody see him now.
- In the alternate Stuntman's universe his scars never stopped his acting career, was the decision to quit acting his or was is outside of his control? The scars weren't from the same source (heroics rather than some shady genetic procedure) and he never stopped acting - he continued through his heroing career.
- Are the birds on the "Charged Attacks" cards related to the Matriarch? Was this a particular event? They're just birds. It's just art from a story where he's shooting at heroes while in a city.
- Does he have issues with endangering children (citing that Haka's got a balloon in some art)? He's not going to go out of his way to take a children's hospital hostage, but it's not like he's going out of his way to avoid children either. Again, he's also always expecting the heroes to manage to save whatever civilians are around (which is how he's so successful in getting away after a fight - the heroes are distracted).
- Why the back and forth from actor to villain to actor to hero to villain? [not actually answered as I think it got lost in the rest of the RP in the letter - however, it's largely addressed elsewhere in the podcast]
- Tactics - The lessons he learned that led to him becoming Stuntman didn't stick as now he really is horribly disfigured and he thinks that this is all he has now, taking odd jobs in his old mercenary ways. He starts grafting more stuff into himself, taking on more straightforward assassination gigs, etc. He's even working for Revo-Corp collecting OblivAeon shards. He's not even being paid for this latter job in money, but in new ways to push his own limits (and thus he's simultaneously blowing through his savings and is basically penniless by the time of the Tactics story). Whenever he gets the funds he puts it right back into enhancement or reconstructive treatments. He's pretty well messed up at this point.
- RPG - He does take the lessons to heart, but he's still really bummed out (extrapolate how he felt about the little scar to the current state of him). He can't ignore the trouble of those around him, though, and winds up in Rook City - embracing the role of "The Hunter" from back in the day he kind of becomes something like a private eye. He sets up an investigation office (with the name "A. Moreau" on the door) where people can come to get help. If people come to him with problems that he can't solve in his role as an investigator or who can't pay him, he has to turn them away. Coincidentally, a lot of those problems he has to turn away wind up being solved anyway by a mysterious figure known as "The Night Hunter".