The Letters Page: Episode 35
The Southwest Sentinels / Void Guard
Run Time: 198:12
This is our longest and strangest episode ever. By far. In a lot of ways. Our fault for doing an episode about four different characters covering two teams. Also, no interlude this Thursday - we packed everything into this one episode.
Knowing that this episode would go long, right off the bat, we ask Trevor to get aggressive with the edits. And yet, still, this episode is so many hours long. What happened? Oh geeze. We're sorry?
So, we mention in the first few minutes that last week we had a huge spike of new listeners on Wednesday. That Wednesday was our highest download day of all time. What?! Why? If you're a new listener who joined us last Wednesday, let us know where you came from, please! Tweet at us here, or e-mail us at email@example.com. Let us know what brought you to The Letters Page! We're excited to have all you fantastic listeners, old and new alike!
Then we start going blow by blow through the pages of the Southwest Sentinels comic books.
After the 27 minute mark (once we're into the second issue of Southwest Sentinels), we talk about a character named Night Snake. Here's the sketch (as promised around 28:30) of that character who never made it into the canon of Sentinels of the Multiverse, even though he was a part of Sentinel Comics.
And then, we're on to Southwest Sentinels #3!
At 45 minutes in, we do a bit of foreshadowing for the power origin description that we don't actually get to until the question section MUCH later. (Like, over an hour later.)
Just after 70 minutes in, we end the Southwest Sentinels book, do a bit of transition story, and then start up the Void Guard book. It's not enough that we're doing an episode about four different heroes, we're also talking about two different hero teams!
We finally begin the Q&A portion of the podcast after an hour and a half into the show. And we have a TON of great questions. Buckle up, everyone!
97 minutes in, we finally begin actually explaining the origins of the powers of Doctor Medico and Mainstay, and how that origin connects to what else is happening in the pages of Sentinel Comics. This is a big reveal that has additional ramifications as Sentinel Comics moves forward into the future.
Then, around the 110 minute mark, we dig into the real story behind The Idealist! Finally! In retrospect, it shouldn't have surprised us that this episode ended up over three hours long, given how much we're covering here, and how many big reveals there are. But still. Whoof!
So many questions about so many things!
Finally, after 190 minutes of episode, we get into the future section and talk a bit about what the futures could hold for Void Guard.
Whew! That was a long episode! Did you make it through the whole thing? We barely did!
Get your questions about La Capitan / La Comodora in now!
- Doctor Medico
- Caleb Greene
- Night Snake
- Crackjaw Crew
- Wager Master
- Judge Mental
- Absolute Zero
- Aeon Master
- Nixious the Chosen
- Prime Wardens
- Gregory Nolan
- Borr the Unstable
- Argent Adept
- Miss Information
- Baron Blade
- The Freedom Five
- The newest hero team to arrive on the scene in terms of publication history in the Multiverse era (Benchmark is the latest-arriving hero as a new character - some villains heel-face turns happen after they show up, but they're all established characters by that point). Their book starts in the early-'90s without any preamble or discernible connection to existing franchises.
- This is kind of an intentional step back from the overall setting's convoluted continuity - everything going on is interconnected and super important and the Southwest Sentinels was designed to be a self-contained book that also acted as a good entry point for new readers. Southwest Sentinels books are always double-sized issues, big stories without collections of editors' notes pointing people back to decades' worth of continuity. A lot of modern-era comics tend to have stories that consist of short arcs (6-issue arcs being the most common). SS stories are intentionally self-contained in one issue (or occasionally across two issues).
- Issue #1 starts in medias res with two new heroes, Dr. Medico and Mainstay, in battle with a bunch of thugs in a city before going into flashback to give their history (college roommates, odd couple pre-med student and football player, bodily transformations coincidentally fitting their interests, etc.).
- The main thing is that they stayed friends after college and would get together for drinks occasionally and to fight crime (low stakes, street-level stuff). Fun commentary about the joke that Nick thinks that Jackson's changed last name ("Bravo") is dumb and Jackson thinks that Nick's hero name ("Doctor Medico") is dumb - and that Adam really wanted to have the name on the card be "Doctor Medico M.D." for even more redundancy fun. This is all intentional to reinforce the light, fun nature of these characters and their stories. Even the powersets reinforce the lack of stakes - Mainstay is mostly invulnerable, but even if he manages to get hurt Medico can heal him and everybody is fine and nothing is ruined.
- Back to the story - they're hanging out one day and Nick just collapses in pain. There's something nearby that's diametrically opposed to the life energy that he's connected to. At Medico's direction, Mainstay finds the house it's coming from, kicks in the door, and discovers a woman with some infernal contraption that's got weird red lightning/energy going into a little girl. Mainstay breaks the machine and knocks the lady through a wall. The source of his distress gone, Medico recovers almost immediately, but now they need to deal with the fact that there's this unconscious girl here who needs help. They take her to the hospital where Medico works so he can take care of her. She eventually wakes up, but basically only remembers her name, Miranda Fischer. We then get a montage of scenes of her recovery (although not of her memories) and eventual adoption by Nick and his partner, Caleb. This has been covered super quick - like 10 pages of a 48-page comic. Miranda's a little behind in development due to having her memories blanked, but she makes surprising progress given that starting point.
- The next segment of the flashback concerns Nick, Miranda, and "Uncle Jackson" going to the Arizona Science Center for a fun day out. That is until La Capitan shows up and causes problems. She's not a new character, she'd appeared a number of times in other books like the Freedom Five, although this is an "earlier" version of her (which happens, because of the time travel). Her m.o. is to show up to steal the technology of the time period, but more on her next week. Mainstay and Medico start to intervene and her response is "You again?", because of course this isn't the first time she's encountered them (again, because of time travel). The fight largely goes nowhere until a giant blue telekinetic fist materializes out of nowhere and knocks La Capitan back through her time portal. This is the reveal that Miranda is a very powerful telekinetic manipulator.
- This is followed up by some pages devoted to showing their home life. We get some stuff involving Caleb as a character and showing that Jackson doesn't really have a family except for his connection to the others through his friendship with Nick. The two of them still fight crime, but now Miranda wants to come with ("But I did my homework!"). We get some vignettes with her sneaking out anyway and saving the day by surprise. Eventually she starts to get to come with them under the logic that at least that way they can look out for her. The first issue ends with her introduction as the Idealist (complete with a costume "because comic books") and the team now being the three of them.
- Issue #2 opens with some herpetologist, Dante Serpenta (and isn't that a hell of a name for a snake biologist?), who works at the zoo and seems to enjoy it. Then we move over to the Sentinels who are fighting crime and time is passing. Then back to Dante and it becomes obvious that there are some budget cuts and his snake house project has been eliminated entirely and he's now responsible for rehousing the snakes in other zoos to try to recoup the costs of acquiring them in the first place. He loved these snakes, though, and decides to keep them himself, loading them all up in his van to take home one night. Bad driving conditions (rain in Arizona, windows fogged up due to trying to keep the snakes warm, heavy traffic, loose snakes in the van get under the pedals, etc.) and you can see where this is going. He swerves off the road eventually, crashes into a ditch, and lots of snakes escape, but out of the wreck emerges Night Snake - another minor character that they had plans for and everything, but just couldn't fit him into the card game. The story from there is about him going back to the zoo and causing trouble (releasing animals and whatnot, taking hostages) and the Sentinels arriving on the scene to stop him. He's the first "supervillain" that they fought [I guess La Capitan doesn't count] and he winds up escaping by the end of the issue.
- Issue #3 introduces a scientist/inventor, Dr. Eugene Wilkenson, who's developing a means of wrapping shadow energy around an object, which would make it virtually invisible when in shadow, but he's having trouble securing funding. In desperation, he uses this cloaking device on himself. This turns out to not work the same when applied to a living being as with inanimate objects and it kind of melds with his skin (which is pretty horrifying). On the plus side, he's winds up with total molecular control of the cloak with his mind. He convinces himself that robbing a bank is justifiable given his need for funding (like, slipping in at night while nobody's around rather than a hold-up in daytime). He's not an expert in security systems, though, and he trips an alarm - alerting the Sentinels who happen to patrol the general area of the bank he chose. It's a cat and mouse thing where Eugene is just trying to escape rather than injuring the heroes. A notable feature of this fight: Eugene is sneaking up on Miranda, she hears a snap (he stepped on a twig? in a bank?) and turns around and sees him. Simultaneously in the pages of The Freedom Five there's a part where Tachyon happens to be crossing the country and sees this shadowy figure sneaking up on this young girl in a bank at night. She intervenes and sucker punches him before moving on. This is "kind of an ad" in the pages of the company's best selling book to draw attention to this new book that's largely unconnected from everything else. Even the setting is disconnected - most major Sentinel Comics stories are happening on the east coast, some stuff in San Alonso in the west, and some stories in the Midwest. The American Southwest is kind of overlooked until this book starts. This issue ends with the heroes, now having spotted Eugene, defeating him and sending him to jail (although the authorities couldn't find a way to disconnect the shadow cloak from him).
- Issue #4 is the Return of La Capitan! Some time later she reappears in Phoenix, specifically to fight the big guy, the glowing guy, and the girl who defeated her "a few days ago" (more time travel shenanigans). This is a more straightforward story (lacking the backstory setup for various characters that the first 3 issues had), but a complicated fight showcasing how the various Sentinels fought as a team and against a variety of foes given the diversity of La Capitan's crew. La Capitan and her crew are winning the fight up until the moment that somebody throws Mainstay through the wall of the local jail, freeing Eugene. He emerges as this ominous black figure and the heroes assume that this is where things go really south as now they've got to fight two villains, but Eugene chooses to help the heroes. The last third of the book is the fight with him included, complete with dialog from him explaining his situation (needed funds for his invention, didn't want to hurt anybody, etc.) and how he now wants to help. The heroes win, driving off the time-pirates, and Eugene joins the team as Writhe (after he finished out his sentence - which is shortened; he's been a model prisoner and since he's getting out to join a hero team it's seen as something like community service/probation - SS kind of glosses over the idea of vigilante laws that Mystery Comics and other Rook City stories might actually address). This winds up being the issue that people would talk about later - like it was still the case that you could pretty much jump in with whatever issue was new, but if you asked long-time readers for a suggestion for what to start with, this would be the one they'd suggest.
- From there, the stories tend to be freak-of-the-week kind of things, often embracing the Southwest as a theme. They also tend to have straightforward, old-school explanations (Nick Hernandez is training to be a doctor and just so happens to turn into healing energy, Dante Serpenta really likes snakes and turns into a snake man, etc.) which frees up a lot of time that might need to be spent elsewhere in less contrived situations - this is a good thing as they really lean into this as a conceit for the title (there's kind of a "Look, we all know how SS stories start, so just roll with it." kind of mentality about it). This is at odds with the rest of Sentinel Comics being a dense web of interconnected stories and limited series that almost requires that you read everything to keep up. Even when they eventually show up in big crossover events later on, these characters are always appearing in those other books rather than everything crashing into the events in the pages of their title - if any outside characters show up in a SS book, they have to include enough information so as to not require additional reading.
- Their involvement is only kind of tangential because the key concept of Vengeance is to connect everybody (all the villains fighting all the heroes), but they're inherently disconnected to the rest of the goings-on.
- The Crackjaw Crew, as mentioned in the Nemeses Interlude, were a band based in the southwest and Wager Master instigates a fight between them and the Southwest Sentinels after he gives them powers (they get a record contract if they win, they have to play a gig for WM if they lose) - the Sentinels win easily and the Crew winds up in this weird limbo for a month or something playing that one song that WG liked over and over and over. Once they get put back in reality, they've developed a hatred of the Sentinels and become recurring villains - blaming them for the experience they just had with Wager Master.
- The Southwest Sentinels do eventually show up in some other books during Vengeance - this is the first time that's really happened and is the reason that they're mostly associated with the Vengeance storyline even though they were around well before it.
Up to Fort Adamant
- Then they encounter Quetzalcoatl, some big lizard/snake man with feathers coming out of his arms and whatnot and a big glowing stone in his chest.
- One of Nick's friends in med school, Luiz Cook, had gone on to do medicine in Mexico. Dr. Cook sends a message to Nick that there's some problems down in the Oaxaca area and asks that he come help. Road trip! The team show up where Luiz should be, but they just find a ransacked building. The locals say that Luiz had gone off into the jungle some time ago and so they head out to find him. They eventually come across some kind of Mesoamerican temple and the aforementioned snake monster that attacks them. During the fight it starts talking somewhat and it's revealed that Quetzalcoatl is Dr. Cook, which prompts another flashback.
- We learn that he's been trying to help people in the area for a while and has been growing increasingly desperate due to the number of diseases present in the area that he just can't keep up with. He hears old stories about the priests of Quetzalcoatl who were able to cleanse their followers using their ceremonial ehecailacocozcatl (made from a cross section of a conch shell). He's a man of science and thinks that there's something to these stories that he should be able to replicate. He can't get anywhere using conch shells, so he starts expanding his experiments, eventually taking a large highly polished piece of red quartz and inscribing lots of wind motifs into it and attuning it to Quetzalcoatl (thinking that there's something that the old priests had done during their ceremonies that happened to coincide with something useful - he still didn't actually believe in Quetzalcoatl himself). As part of his researches he came across the temple with a stream running through its sacred chamber and begins performing his experiments there in hopes that there's something about the location that's significant. He was right in that his efforts result in him turning into this creature himself.
- The Sentinels try to save him/isolate him/do anything to try to help him, but it's difficult given his state as a giant rage monster and he's causing a significant amount of damage to the temple (to say nothing of Mainstay and Idealist's unsubtle fighting styles), which eventually collapses. The heroes manage to escape (Writhe being useful to provide some cover), but Quetzalcoatl is buried and presumed dead.
- Sales for the title have begun to flag a bit. The former strength of the book has kind of turned into a liability as everybody can kind of tell how the story is going to go. A shakeup is required - something that they can do that can retain the book as being it's stand-alone thing, but in a new venue. They're approached by General Armstrong to recruit them into the Ironclad Project.
- They're brought to Fort Adamant to train them up to be better heroes, a potential "All American Team". They're kind of naive about this whole plan, given that there's some shady stuff going on at Fort Adamant (although the readers can pick up on things much earlier than the characters - stuff that's visible off to the sides of comic panels that might make readers wonder what's going on there, etc.). They're initially sent on specific missions (there's this Re-Volt guy causing problems, go take care of him), they win (good job team), and then the Fort Adamant people show up to take custody of the villain (we're definitely going to send him to a maximum-security prison somewhere, don't worry about it) - this also might make the reader start to wonder what's happening to all of these villains. Re-Volt, Highbrow, Radioactivist, and Char all show up in this way.
- There's an issue where they return to Phoenix to see how things are going back home. They find that there's somebody new keeping everybody safe there - Judge Mental. Everybody loves this guy because he's keeping the law and everybody loves the law (it's kind of weird how excited everybody is about the law). Even people who you'd expect to have missed them seem to not be terribly excited about their return given how great things are. Slowly, there's some developing animosity between team members, which is weird since they've always gotten along so well. They all, individually, go talk to Judge Mental to confide in him rather than each other. To be clear, this is all due to Judge Mental and his powers of suggestion. He's got the whole city under his thrall and he recognizes the Sentinels as a possible threat to that and so is working to turn everybody away from one another and towards him. This "breakup" of the team dynamic is foreshadowing for a later story as they begin to work independently. Judge Mental winds up pushing them too far, they resist, and he gets angry, which makes them resist more, etc. In particular, he tries to turn Medico and Idealist against one another and Idealist's natural positivity (plus the "he's my dad" factor and other reinforcing emotions) causes the coercion to fail and the angrier Judge Mental gets the less control he has. They all snap out of it and defeat him, but the people of Phoenix know that there was somebody messing with their minds, but things were going well, and the Sentinels were their team and they left, and just all sorts of residual resentment hangs around.
- Then we get the Chokepoint event - she shows up at Fort Adamant and mops the floor with them. They're trying to make their escape and wander into some sub-levels of the fort that they were unaware of until the damage Chokepoint was causing opened some ways into them. One, formerly heavily-protected, room that's opened in this way has four glowing crystals in it. They're all drawn to these, not in a "predestined" kind of way like some heroes have been drawn to some artifacts, but just the sheer power emanating from these things is attractive even if they might be dangerous. As they're thinking about this Chokepoint finds them - lacking any further time to think, they each take one and promptly disappear. That's the last issue of the Southwest Sentinels.
- During the Termi-Nation event (with Bunker, Unity, and Absolute Zero), that largely happens in Fort Adamant, the Southwest Sentinels are strangely absent, even though it's happening in their home base (the general Termi-Nation discussion is in the Chokepoint episode, with a few minor notes in the Unity, AZ, and Bunker episodes as well).
- Months go by in the publishing world without the Southwest Sentinels being around and people kind of shrug. "Oh well. It was good while it lasted." It was a strong book (especially with how few issues there were - it was mentioned earlier that there were 36 issues), but that doesn't always prevent cancellations. The initial stuff was mostly one guy's ideas with a new creative team coming on board for the Fort Adamant era. But that brings us to another creative team coming on board for...
- The editorial staff had mandated that the writers do something new with these characters or the book was going to be cancelled. This is what prompted the events surrounding them and Chokepoint. We're going to give them a significant power boost and also put them in Space Adventures! This is what Void Guard is. Now, instead of having them explicitly disconnected from everything else, we're going to have them intrinsically involved in the big stories coming up (i.e. OblivAeon).
- It's still familiar to long-time SS readers. They're still double-sized issues, and they're largely self-contained (what with them being out in space). Although, the first issue does have them return to Earth. They travel by connecting their four shards which results in portals opening that they go through - they start the issue in space and somebody mentions that they've tried to get to Earth ever since they first disappeared from Fort Adamant, but they haven't been able to get to Earth and keep getting sidetracked by other problems that they have to hero their way out of. However, this time (about halfway through the first issue) it works and they get home. We're in the lead-up to OblivAeon by this point, though, and things are not going well since we're building towards the end of the universe.
- The next few issues have them going off into space again even though they're happy to be home since now they are burdened with the knowledge of what's going on out in the cosmos and they're the only ones set up to be able to handle it (something to do with the Void out in space, but more on that once we get into questions).
- The transition to Void Guard has also involved an opportunity for "time" to pass. Up to this point, they'd kind of fit into the standard model of "comic book time" and hadn't really aged at all - even Idealist only grew up slightly in the transition into Fort Adamant. This return after their initial disappearance was an opportunity to have allowed them to age a bit (they're in space and gravity does weird things to time, so even though they've only been gone for a few months they're a few years older). If you put the two teams next to one another you'd easily spot that they're the same characters, but there's definitely been some evolution here too.
- Space encounters include The Celestial Tribunal (seeing it from the Space! perspective rather than the Earth one), Chokepoint, Enclave of the Endlings, Bloodsworn Colosseum (which also included dealings with Lifeline in his episode), the Dok'Thorath civil war since Voss's disappearance.
- Finally, we have the Skinwalker Gloomweaver event back on Earth, which ended with Medico trapping Gloomweaver in his OblivAeon shard (as mentioned in the GW episode). Doctor Medico is now a harsher character. He's always had the ability to direct negative energy as well (typically turning more orange in color when he does so), but this is an expenditure of his energy to do so. Now, he gets violent and turns red and is all death energy - this is scary (to readers and the rest of the team). He regains control and turns back, but it's still concerning.
- Meanwhile, Mainstay becomes more distant (even more of a lone wolf than he had been - this is when the Road Warriors team-up happened).
- Idealist's mind is catching up with her body and is more like a teenager (and so has some issues revolving around relying on family already, so layer that on top of being part of a hero team that's showing some stress points...).
- Writhe is diving back into his "inventor" role, almost as a compulsion - since his intro story we haven't really seen Eugene operating as an inventor, but now he's pulling together some really inspired cosmic stuff, but in the process he's withdrawing more and more (into his workshop within shadow space while he's working). Observant readers would note that the designs he's coming up with include a lot of motifs that match other cosmic things we've been seeing for a while now - it's OblivAeon stuff, although nobody knows about OblivAeon at this point, but that's what everything is pointing to.
- The team is more powerful than they've ever been (they're four of the most powerful characters in the comics in general at this point), but they're also more and more at odds with one another. They've lost the close-knit team dynamic. The notable events in the pages of Void Guard itself (rather than the team showing up in other books) are:
- They return to Fort Adamant with the Prime Wardens in part of the initial big fight with Aeon Master.
- They also deal with Nixious the Chosen who "unlocks" the power of Medico's shard, releasing Gloomweaver into Doctor Medico (see VG Doctor Medico's foil incap). This isn't the case that GW is possessing Medico, more that it just drives him mad and turns him into the Malpractice version permanently. He fights Void Guard (and he's super powerful given that he's living
lifedeath energy) and he's only saved by La Comodora who's able to isolate his shard/form and do some controlled time shenanigans to roll back events to before Nixious did his thing to "unlock" the shard. She's the only character with that level of fine control with time stuff and she's only able to do it here during the OblivAeon event (everybody has to be OP in order to take on OblivAeon). She does caution that this is only a temporary fix and that something will need to be done for the long term if everybody survives the more immediate problems.
- Voidsoul (who's been around on card art for a long time) is another Scion - he's got kind of an "oozy" appearance, but not really liquid. He's kind of like a skeletal/webby shadow. During the fight between him and the Void Guard, we learn that he's made of the same stuff that Writhe's shadow cloak uses - that when Writhe uses his cloak to disappear somebody, he's sending them to Voidsoul. However, Voidsoul is jealous of Writhe given that he has a connection to OblivAeon that Voidsoul lacks (Writhe's OblivAeon shard, which as has been mentioned previously is an actual physical piece of OblivAeon himself). He tries to sever Writhe from his shadow cloak (which is agonizing since it's attached to his body now). The rest of the team's actions are sufficient to distract Voidsoul enough for Eugene to turn the tables - he absorbs Voidsoul into himself.
- How would you characterize the relationship between the members of the team? Family? Co-workers? Definitely "family", including Writhe who's like the "weird old uncle". There's kind of two definitions of "family" - your relatives and the family you make. They fit in more as the latter. It doesn't even take that long for Writhe to get incorporated given his start as a criminal.
- In a card game titled Sentinels of the Multiverse, about characters from Sentinel Comics, why is the team with "Sentinels" in the name this team out in Phoenix that's so disconnected from the major players? Comics publishing reason: it's tied to the "jumping on point" reasoning. Sentinel Comics had been around for 50-60 years at this point, but they wanted to have the team named after the company to be easy for anybody to pick up and read without needing the continuity knowledge. Game reason for why the deck is just "The Sentinels" instead of "The Southwest Sentinels" is just because there's a lot of game text that needs to fit on a card and adding the extra word just makes things too crowded.
- Writhe got his power from tinkering with his shadow invention, but where did the other members get their powers? We learn that Miranda's mother was a scientist, but how does she factor in? This is a fun question considering that of all the weird, unexplained stuff out there ("The Host" as related to Fanatic, what the Void is, etc.) nobody ever asked about Doctor Medico and Mainstay's powers at conventions or other venues where they could answer.
- Doctor Gregory Nolan is doing experiments in the area of Energy Production (better, safer methods of generating electricity). He's a contemporary of Eugene, although he got funding where Eugene didn't. He builds a generator that utilizes matter/antimatter annihilation, his small-scale model works and is so efficient that they get the go-ahead to build a full-scale one. His secret is his method of generating the antimatter to begin with [and here's where we're getting into problems of "free energy" if he can just generate antimatter whenever he wants]. When he finally turns on the machine, it outputs a wave of exotic pions - atomizing him entirely in an instant. Then the machine begins operating as expected.
- So, the deal with Nolan Generators is that every once in a while during their operation with antimatter, sometimes the particles they create are mesons - that instead of annihilating to generate power, they combine into a particle that's both matter and antimatter simultaneously (mesons, of which pions are an example, are composed of a quark-antiquark pair). They don't last long (tiny fractions of seconds), but occasionally they create "exotic mesons" which last longer (like maybe a few seconds) and are traveling at relativistic speeds and so manage to travel fairly far before decaying. Some of these, interact with the energy vortices around Ley Line connections. Some of those will result in a liquid compound being created called Isoflux Alpha. When a person is exposed to Isoflux Alpha, sometimes they'll gain powers (which is generally related to who they are and what their immediate environment is - sometimes reinforcing those traits). The amount you encounter largely just effects how quickly a reaction will occur rather than increasing odds that it will occur at all.
- Nick and Jackson just happened to have a run-in with some jerk jocks who push them down into some mud containing Isoflux Alpha - the med-student/nurturing Nick Hernandez becomes a being of pure healing energy and the football-playing Jackson Bognetti gets bigger and tougher than he already was, but the small amount of Isoflux Alpha present meant that the change happened over the course of months. Dante Serpenta, who loves snakes, crashes into a ditch full of the stuff and comes out of it as a giant snake-man immediately. Here's where we get a new setting term - people who change after exposure to Isoflux Alpha are called "Omegas" - Dr. Medico, Mainstay, Night Snake, Quetzalcoatl, and others are Omegas (although they mostly exist in relation to the SS book as it was a tool used by the writers to explain all of the monsters and whatnot - although the backstory involving the Nolan Generator and everything was revealed gradually).
- About the Nolan Generator - it was a thing that existed in the story for quite a while. The system creates antimatter, and that process is the secret one that Nolan didn't pass on to anybody, and so turning off the generator only stops the annihilation process. The antimatter will continue to accumulate and so, as a plot device, you can't turn off the generator given that having lots of antimatter around is a recipe for a huge explosion. As a result, it will also continue to generate Isoflux Alpha unbeknownst to anybody and therefore also continue to create Omegas.
Back to More Answers
- Idealist is not an Omega. The "publicly available" backstory is just that Mrs. Fischer built this device that was drawing death energy through her daughter, to try to use Miranda's powers to resurrect her husband who had died some months prior. This is not true. The truth is that Miranda is an artificially-created clone of Mrs. Fischer - Idealist's mind is a blank because she was grown in a tank and had no memories to lose. The machine was designed to allow the user to kill one person to revive a dead person - she just sidestepped part of the negative there by growing an artificial person as the "sacrifice". Mainstay interrupts her in the middle of this process, though, which funnels all of the death energy that had been built up and inverts it, causing the "spark of life" to enter the figure attached to it. Miranda was "born" in that instant (she "remembers" her name and can speak English, so along with her latent psychic powers something weird is going on).
- How does Medico's body work? It's made of living energy that's contained in a humanoid field (related to his identity) that's firm to the touch.
- Can he touch things physically? Yup. The field around his body interacts with objects like any of our bodies do [we can't pass our hands through other objects because of electromagnetic interactions between our bodies' atoms and those of other objects after all].
- Is he energy 24/7? Yes.
- Does he need to eat? No.
- Was the bit about him putting on shirts to annoy Gloomweaver just a joke? Yes (but it's not like Gloomweaver is "looking" out from the shard he's trapped in anyway).
- How indestructible is Mainstay? Very. He's bulletproof due to the tensile strength of his skin - might be more susceptible to, say, a knife, but even then it'd be like stabbing a tree - you could do it, but it's not going to do as much to it as it does normal flesh.
- He seemed to survive many Borr blasts, while Stuntman got terribly disfigured after one, but it looks like Omni-Blade was able to damage him, so what gives? First off, there's only one Borr "explosion" - he does some other blasts of energy, but the big explosion was just the one time. It still hurt him, but this is Void Guard Mainstay who's immensely more resilient than he was before. Stuntman also took the brunt of the blast as well and it's pretty miraculous that he didn't die. As for Omni-Blade, that was part of a long drawn out fight with multiple opponents and, sure, (pre-VG) Mainstay got roughed up as a consequence. It's also the case that Omni-Blade's er.. blades are super-science ones that are less than a micron thick and whatnot.
- Is Borr weaker than expected or Omni-Blade stronger? Eh... somewhere in between those. Kind of situational.
- Do Mainstay and Ansel Moreau team up again in the future? Not really.
- Road Warriors sounds pretty baller. [That's not a question.] It was.
- Was he naturally going bald or was it a result of the radiation? He was, but much like many men choose, he started shaving his head a a preemptive strike.
- Did Idealist's dads or "uncles" tell her about her past? What they know of it. She has more awareness (self-doubt about her own existence and whatnot) of it than they do. This is rough for a teenager to deal with.
- Does she go to a public school? Yeah until the move to Fort Adamant when she gets private tutors. Void Guard stuff in the Future section (most of what we get for them is so centered on OblivAeon that it's kind of ignored). Although taking up an OblivAeon shard kind of gives you a bunch of cosmic awareness that you have to deal with.
- Is she as smart as she should be for her age considering she was brain-wiped back to a toddler? Mistaken premise given our new knowledge of the situation, but she starts off behind, quickly catches up, and by the time they get to Void Guard she's ahead of the curve. The rate of advancement does slow down as time goes by and by the RPG she's more or less progressing at a "normal" rate.
- Does she take part in fights or is she just sending in a projection of herself (citing incap art and others)? She's really there. Good thought, though.
- Does she ever hang out with Vanessa Long? Visionary shows up for a bit early on to teach her things, but not a prolonged mentorship. She doesn't really interact with the Dreamer either.
- Is Writhe a portal to the Realm of Discord? No, more a "portal" to Voidsoul as mentioned.
- Did he ever get funding for additional projects? Not really. He did some minor tinkering while at Fort Adamant, but time there was more spent on the "hero training" thing. Later when he's messing with his OblivAeon shard he doesn't really need funding.
- It seems like he should be able to escape a jail cell easily, did he just stay out of guilt or what? Mostly guilt and responsibility - he didn't want the life of a criminal in the first place and recognizes the consequences of his actions.
- In the Naturalist episode it was mentioned that the Sentinels maintain secret identities - how does that work for Eugene and Nick? Writhe can keep to himself and hides (with the hat and whatnot) - even when he was arrested it's not like he identified himself by name. Medico is trickier - the people he works with at the hospital know who he is, but he's mostly kept out of sight, working as a surgeon who the patients don't see as their under general anesthetic. He's also only doing this for a few years before the head to Fort Adamant. The SS book also doesn't really dwell on their day-to-day lives - it's a valid question, but not one the writers bothered with since the book was about Superhero Adventure! This is definitely a more Silver Age style book of one-shots rather than decompressed daily life story.
- We know that Nick and Jackson go on a double date, who were their dates? Nick was dating Caleb. Jackson's date was a woman who wasn't really into him and has no greater importance to their stories.
- Timing question: by the Skinwalker Gloomweaver fight they would have been Void Guard, but the card art in the Sentinels deck from those events has their old appearances, is that a mistake or something the writers had to retcon later? It's a mistake in that the writers of the book that the event took place in [Tome of the Bizarre #34, True Believers!] knew that the Southwest Sentinels were taking part, but weren't aware of what was going on over in Void Guard and simply drew them wrong in that part of the story, but then get corrected and the characters appear as Void Guard later in the same story.
- How do they wind up in Rook City (dealing with the Contract, etc.)? They aren't in Rook City - the Organization was making a push into the southwest ("'Hey, it would be fun to have them deal with the Organization.' 'Okay, but you have to have the Organization go to them for some reason.'") So, the Contract is sent out there kind of as a punishment since he's failed so often to actually kill any heroes (given that he's in charge of the Organization's "murder division"). He heads down there and the Sentinels are consistently countering the moves he's making. We get to the climactic final confrontation and he's on the ropes, but (in a last-ditch effort to complete his contract) he's injected himself with a chemical that will activate when he loses consciousness - atomizing him and turning him into a cloud of poison gas. He monologues about this for a bit and Mainstay sends Medico and Idealist out to get everybody to safety. Mainstay and Writhe have already discussed that Writhe is kind of a portal to "nowhere", which could be useful (even though the Sentinels as a team tend to not kill their opponents). Mainstay throws the Contract through Writhe to protect everybody.
- What caught the military's attention to invite them to Fort Adamant? True answer: they saw some heroes they could manipulate. Reason they were given: they saw the good work they'd been doing in the area so why not come work with us and get even better?
- How long did it take for Mainstay to recover from being hit by Iron Legacy? He didn't - that killed him (alternate reality shenanigans - almost every hero in that timeline dies).
- How is Medico OK with doing damage to people given that he's a doctor? He tries to minimize what he does, but sometimes you have to make tough choices and he does some harm to prevent greater harm. Even within the medical field this is done - surgeons are cutting into people/cutting off parts of them in order to effect a greater benefit to them.
- Is there any limit to what Idealist can do with her mind? Her imagination, but the strength of her creations (not necessarily the size) is limited by her own power and her mastery of her abilities. These things are actually very transient for original-strength Idealist and she has to make a lot of them (they'll do a thing and then go away - and the "strength" backing them up is relatively fragile). VG Idealist's concepts are tougher and stick around longer - that's new and the fact that these things stick around with her barely having to think about them is weird (again, OblivAeon Shards are totally OP).
- Why did the writers add Writhe to the team? He was a writer's favorite - he was conceived to be this "villain of the week" kind of bad guy, but the writers decided that he was really neat and wanted to keep him around (plus his motivations as a "villain" were pretty weak so it was easy to make the transition). The team dynamic was also improved with his addition.
- Has Idealist's mother tried to contact her? We haven't seen Mrs. Fischer since her first appearance. If she's tried to get in contact, it's been such a paltry attempt that it didn't make its way into the pages of Sentinel Comics. "It seems unlikely that she's dead," but she's not an ongoing character.
- How much normal "body" stuff does Medico have to do (eat, sleep, breathe, etc.)? Doesn't need to eat, as mentioned previously. He does sleep and does breathe (tied to the eating thing - he's getting energy from whatever he's breathing in, which doesn't have to be the oxygen that normal people need).
- It's said that Mainstay taught guitar for a while - was he any good, did he ever jam with Argent Adept, what are his favorite artists/styles? "Mediocre-plus" at it - he's OK, good enough to teach amateurs. He likes classic rock, pretty much exactly the kind of stuff you'd expect him to like. He's barely interacted with AA, let alone played with him.
- Before he became Writhe, Eugene was an inventor - do he and Tachyon ever work together? The extent of their interaction is pretty much just her punching him in the bank. There is kind of a wrap-up discussion between the two teams after an event (which they'll get to later), but he and Tachyon wouldn't really get along. "She likes to talk about science in general and he made one thing that ruined his life."
- Did you really come up with the idea of/art for Doctor Medico off the top of your heads in response to a forum thread that asked "why no healers?" or was he already planned? This is referring to a thread from way back in November 2011. The initial response was that "healer" heroes aren't really a thing in superhero comics. Christopher did make him up as a joke, but then they ran with it. Not only are the Southwest Sentinels the newest heroes in-setting, but they were also some of the last heroes made up for the game as their genesis was in this thread. They'd talked about having a "team deck" prior, but hadn't fleshed out the idea until this point.
- In the bio it says Medico weighs 7 oz. - what causes the mass? His domino mask and other decoration aspects (he weighs more with the OblivAeon shard). Even when he's at home he puts on glasses to make it easier for people to identify where he's facing (his "eyes" do glow, and he can "see" with more than just the field of view they give him - he's weird - but it's still helpful for him to have some features on his body to help people tell what he's doing).
- How does Medico recover from his base-card's incapacitated side (which shows him as a pile of glowing ashes)? He just re-materializes later. It takes a while, though, as he as to absorb ambient energy to do so - if he's hurt enough to be in that state he's definitely going to be out of the current fight.
- What's happening to him on the Adamant variant (some kind of black hole)? That's in his mind. Miss Information has shown up (a more major villain than is usual in a SS issue) and is messing with the team's fears - his specifically revolving around his body being energy and the lack of connection to physical reality and the possibility of being lost in space.
- How about on the foil incap with Quetzalcoatl? That's a piece of lying cover art (Wraith and Argent Adept both have examples like that) - it's an interpretation/dramatization of the encounter with him, but it doesn't literally happen that way.
- Adamant Foil incap with Baron Blade? This is the (post-Vengeance, pre-VG) crossover event with the Freedom Five mentioned above - Medico was captured by Baron Blade who's studying him to make him an energy source/battery. Both teams show up (one to save Medico, one to stop Blade specifically). The Fort Adamant era was the lowest sales point for the Sentinels and another crossover with the FF couldn't hurt.
- Who's on the VG incap? Nixious, as mentioned previously.
- On the Malpractice incap it looks like Idealist is hitting him, does he go crazy because of Gloomweaver? Yes, as mentioned earlier. Idealist stuns him long enough for La Comodora to do her thing.
- Does Caleb get a similar level of backstory as Legacy and Tachyon's wives? Caleb doesn't get as much narrative attention (he's just not at the same level as those support characters who'd been around for decades like the others), so even later on when he does get a little attention, it's not to the extent that others have received. The way the book was written also just kind of didn't have a lot of room for side characters. Caleb Greene was in the double-date scene (he'd also been a student to be a psychiatrist and later works out of their home, but even that stuff is only mentioned after the fact), and just kind of shows up periodically establishing that events had happened (OK, double-date guy is now Medico's partner, then later is referred to as his husband - no fanfare at all for various milestones, it's all just little details thrown in periodically). So, he's been this unimportant supporting cast character to the point that when his family moves to Fort Adamant, he's still in Phoenix (we see phone calls occasionally and we see him during the Judge Mental trip back to Phoenix). This is probably the biggest failing of the SS comics in that he's nominally an important part of two of the team members' lives, but he's kind of ignored. In the Void Guard era this is still the case, but it's talked about - a writer sees that this character has been brushed under the rug and he's going to start reacting to that treatment (brought to a head when his husband and daughter disappear out into space for months at a time without warning). When they return the first time, he has a "we need to talk" moment with them about them taking him for granted. They agree with everything he says, but then also need to return to space for important Void reasons, and things still don't really change (up to the "present" in the comics publishing).
- Does being living energy cause problems for Medico at home? Can he dim his glow? Sure, you can kind of extrapolate what difficulties there would be, but you adapt (wearing a sleep mask, for example).
- Does exposure to Medico's energy cause any change to Caleb that might let him and Idealist avenge him in Tactics? That would be telling.
- Expatriette and Stuntman have extensive injuries/scars, has Medico offered to heal them? What are the limits to his healing abilities? He could probably, given a lot of time and focus, repair old injuries, but he's mostly just accelerating the body's own healing process and so old scars are hard to do anything with since they've already healed. If you've got open cuts, he can close them. Somebody took your arm off moments ago, he can reattach it, but it's all recent injuries.
- How durable is Mainstay (compared to, say, Legacy and Haka)? Original Mainstay is not nearly as strong or durable as either of them. He's probably slightly more durable (ignoring luck factors) as Setback as well as stronger. VG Mainstay, on the other hand, is on par with Legacy until Mainstay enters his stone form at which point he exceeds him. Haka's still got him beat for his own supernatural nonsense backstory reasons - see the big reveals on how his powers work in his episode.
- Does Idealist ever get her memories back (VG incap looks to show Faultless - does he restore her memory)? There's nothing to restore, as mentioned earlier. Faultless's interaction with her is to help her come to terms with "being a real person".
- What's going on with her Adamant incap art? The split-screen art with her and/or the city being her own projections is part of the Miss Information fight mentioned earlier.
- The foil Adamant incap involving an observation room? Miss Information defeated them and left them more or less helpless as they worked through the mind games. This allowed the Fort Adamant staff to do more shady stuff with them while they were in this unaware state. She was the first one to come back to herself while under observation and is shown realizing that something weird is going on there.
- Given Idealist's love of Super Sentai shows, does she bug Bunker about making her a suit or try to get Sky-Scraper to watch the show with her? She doesn't have a lot of interaction with Bunker, but she probably does think about him as getting to drive around in a mecha suit. She just makes her own, though. Sky-Scraper doesn't really get Earthling media, but she tries. She also runs in different circles, though.
- Is there some kind of rivalry between Idealist and Wager Master? WG winds up as something of a recurring villain in their stories because his "come in randomly, do a thing/create a situation that the heroes have to deal with, and leave" tendencies works well for their books. Of the members of the team, she's the "fun" one who frustrates him back because she's having fun with the situation that he's created for mischief.
- What goes on in Idealist and Wager Master's therapy session and is he taking new patients? "Tell me about your father." "Which one? The one with your job or the one with cosmic power?" It's just a lot of messing with her, but she's hard to mess with. He can distract her, but not totally break her down like he hoped. He's definitely taking new patients and is surprisingly affordable.
- Does Idealist ever "grow up" - what would she be like as an adult or moody, rebellious teen? We kind of see the latter in the Void Guard era. She's not an adult yet when the RPG starts. She definitely grows up and will continue to do so (unless they kill her off).
- Is Writhe always trapped in his caliginous form? Does he invent other stuff? Bet he wasn't happy about being punched by one of the greatest inventors of all time, right? Nobody's happy about being punched by Tachyon. He's constantly in his shadow form and he doesn't invent new stuff until he starts (we'll get to see it in his VG deck) - and what he makes is effective and terrifying. See the show notes for an image from when he's taking on the Slaughter-House Six by himself.
- "Darkly Dreaming" implies that Writhe kills Biomancer, did he? It doesn't kill him, but it's a terrible experience for him (more in Biomancer's episode).
- Where did the OblivAeon shards they get come from given they got them before OblivAeon himself shows up? We know of 6 OblivAeon shards on Earth - the story for how they got broken off of OblivAeon are for his episode. Of these four (all collected by the military as various times), one was the Arizona Meteor Crater, one brought back during Apollo 11 (or whatever the first moon landing in Sentinelverse was), the third was found under 200 feet of ice in Antarctica, and the last was found in the Ruins of Atlantis (some of the weirdness down there was due to its presence and its removal has destabilized the place somewhat).
- We know that AZ and Writhe are friends (see this from the ARG), how did that start? During the debrief after the Baron Blade crossover, Writhe and AZ were both bored (they're both kind of odd "heroes") and got into a side conversation. They're not close friends, but they're kindred spirits to this extent.
- Writhe's foil incap shows him in pirate gear, is he on La Capitan's crew? That's Miss Information again and his fear is that he betrays his friends. To round out the group, the incap art for Mainstay where he's chained to weights and is drowning was what she did to him.
- During the Gloomweaver episode we learn that Medico is slowly being corrupted by GW's presence in his OblivAeon shard, would destroying the shard help Medico/kill Gloomweaver? Destroying the shard is difficult, but would just release Gloomweaver. If you were to just remove the shard from Medico and not destroy it, that would work best as it's just a prison.
- What effect does OblivAeon coming to their reality have on their powers (increase, decrease, etc.)? Could he call the power back and turn them back into their normal form? His arrival doesn't change the powers of an OblivAeon shard as once they're separate from him they're their own thing. The biggest effect had on one of them is on Writhe as he starts to get whispers of OblivAeon [presumably through his connection to the Scion Voidsoul]. He's not going to "call the power back" since he doesn't care. Sure they're more powerful with them, but not strong enough to defeat him (and the amount of power he'd regain from doing so is almost insignificant to him as a percentage of his overall power).
- Does the defeat of OblivAeon change their powers in some way? No change to their powers, but it definitely has an effect on them. Can't go into it now.
- VG bio states that "They hold back the Void when no one else can," now that we know more about the Void and that it's a "place" so what does this mean? Is the Void expanding? Is OblivAeon connecting to the Void? What do they know about the Void that we and the other heroes don't know? Each reality has a Nexus of the Void. OblivAeon is pushing realities together (which, in turn pushes the Nexuses together). This is not good. Void Guard, once trapped in space, find that there are a lot of points where the Void is bleeding into real space, which is really really dangerous. There are whole planets being overridden by the Void energy out in space where this is happening. Dealing with this is the important job out in space that they have to perform (thus leaving Caleb behind again). Other heroes on Earth are trying to deal with/protect the Nexus here (they fail, darn that OblivAeon), but reality have to deal with multiple Nexuses is too much. That's why they are the Void Guard - they're trying to put the jelly back in the jar.
- Tactics - Gloomweaver devours Medico from the inside out as mentioned previously. Writhe has absorbed Voidsoul who winds up fully corrupting him (he's not "taken over" by Voidsoul, he's still Eugene, but he's a villain now). Mainstay and Idealist are still a duo, but they've lost hope and are fighting a losing battle.
- RPG - The team is aware that if they don't do something about their OblivAeon shards, that bad things will happen - they more than anybody understand this. Medico knows that he's got to do something about the Gloomweaver situation, but Writhe isn't aware that absorbing Voidsoul will have bad repercussions (he's kind of turning into a manic inventor guy). The whole team has to do something to overcome this darkness - can they do so without being destroyed themselves? Only you, the players, can find that out.