The Letters Page: Episode 38
Like last week, another character with wings and a sword! Unlike last week, this one's a villain!
Run Time: 108:51
Much like the Fanatic episode, we recommend not listening to more than the first 5 minutes of this episode if knowing the truth of Fanatic and Apostate would ruin the characters for you. We do brief overview type stuff before getting into the dark truths of Apostate, but after that, all bets are off. Next week, we'll get away from all this stuff and dig into a character who has had his hands in more of the Multiverse than you might assume!
Around 9 minutes in, we accidentally do a preview of what the episode on Biomancer will sound like. I'm so sorry.
Just after the 24 minute mark, we learn that Adam doesn't care for Christopher's singing. Jerk.
49 minutes in, we get to your questions!
A bit after the 90 minute mark, Christopher attempts to craft an analogy using gelatin. It goes poorly. Everyone ends up the worse for it.
Lots of great info in this episode - we hope it further explains what's going on with Apostate, Fanatic, and [redacted].
Join us next week for The Scholar! Get your questions in now!
- Apostate's sword Condemnation is an even more obnoxiously big weapon than Fanatic's Absolution, but he has no trouble wielding it lightly.
- As mentioned last time, the Host is a spirit realm inhabited with beings personifying various ideals and emotions. Fanatic is an embodiment of the spirit of Judgement while Apostate is one of Deception (and took on this form explicitly as a response to Fanatic's existence).
- This spirit of Deception is responsible for a number of things we know about: he's the one that helped the Idolater capture the spirit of Faith that he used to extend his own life and he brokered the deal between the Seer and the spirit of Domination. Then Fanatic shows up and undoes the work that the spirit had been doing. This annoys him, but he sees that since she doesn't actually know what she is that she's a ripe target for some quality deception herself.
- So, the spirit comes to earth and finds a body to inhabit. This differs from Fanatic's situation: her spirit of Judgement had been inhabiting a living body at the time of its death and simply took over operations at that time, this spirit of Deception tracks down a corpse to animate and it's more like a puppet. He also does a similar reshaping of the body to fit his purpose, but it's an intentional crafting (into his "fallen Angel" archetype) rather than a subconscious process like with her. Then he goes off to find her and presents himself as the angel Bezaliel, denying her beliefs about herself, and generally messes with her.
- He's not giving her the Truth at this point (about The Host) - at this stage he's telling her that he's an angel, but that he killed God a long time ago and that the remaining angels have to create more of their kind on their own and that she is specifically one of his creations (this whole denial of God is also the origin of the name Apostate as well). This goes over about as well as you'd expect and she doesn't believe him for a second ("Of course a fallen angel would try to tempt me!"). They fight. Eventually, she channels her faith (actually a lot of her personal spirit energy) into her sword and slashes him up the side. This hurts him more than it should (previous wounds didn't, plus the body isn't actually him and so there should be a disconnect), which disorients him enough that she's able to destroy him shortly afterwards.
- Upon that bodily destruction, he wakes up back in another body. This was not the plan as he'd figured that he'd just wind up going back to the Host realm. His new form is now sporting a big scar on the side where Fanatic had sliced him. He wants out, so he just destroys that body, and a few more bodies, but he keeps waking up in new ones. It seems like something Fanatic did with that powered-up attack wound up shackling him not only to the mortal plane but to mortal forms as well; injuring not just the body he was in, but his spirit form as well and now he's stuck with it.
- Up to this point, he'd come to earth to just mess with Fanatic a bit. Now that she'd trapped him here in this garbage realm, he's really going to go after her (he thinks it's possible that if he breaks her faith that it will break his connection to the world and let him go home) and also try to get some personal power too ("better to rule in hell...").
- The plan for getting power is to create a bunch of these Relics. He takes these objects that people have some important connection to, and then corrupts them, twisting them to his own purpose. He's on the same kind of power level as Fanatic, but with the knowledge backing up that power - he knows what he's capable of and what his limits are. In his estimation, he should be able to bring the world to its knees. His strategy is still focused on Fanatic, however, and he's going after things that will affect her the most. So, he shows up in the Vatican.
- He's gone "full-on edgelord" with the fallen angel motif (fire everywhere, defacing the statuary there, the screaming faces on his sword, summoning demons from cracks in the earth, etc.). Fanatic shows up again and this is when he gives her the Truth about the Host - about how she's just a spirit of Judgement that's been trapped in a body by some weird accident and that he's stuck here too. He does tell her that he's a spirit of Righteousness here to correct her (it's kind of out of character for a spirit of Deception to own up to that reality), but the story does have a ring of truth to it and falls farther afield from what she'd expect a villain to say (his initial gambit was essentially her "ideal villain" scenario) that she does start to question herself. Between the doubt and Apostate's attacks, she's forced to retreat.
- Now, this is a major event, so there are other heroes present to keep things going in her absence (Setback and Naturalist are mentioned specifically, so I assume this is where the art on "Karmic Retribution" and "Primal Charge" are occurring). Not to say that they stymie him completely - he's leaning hard on the fallen angel thing and is straight up murdering the faithful/righteous. They contain him, but can't defeat him.
- That is, until a few days later when Fanatic returns in her Redeemer look. She's found strength in her faith and dispatches him in short order, completely destroying his current form. There's some clean-up to do with the Relics and taking out the demons, and things can't go back to exactly how they were, but Fanatic has saved the day.
- The readers are treated to an epilogue scene - Apostate wakes up in the morgue in the Block (which is weird considering that the Block isn't part of normal reality). She hit him so hard that she knocked him out of reality, although he's still stuck in a body. Apostate kills the first guard to notice him, changes his own form to look like him and takes his clothes and equipment (including a passkey), and simply walks off into the Block like he should be there. This is the last we see of Apostate for years.
- The next time we see him, it's still in the Block during the lead-in to the Vengeance event (the prison riot that breaks a bunch of people out). Apostate sees this as his opportunity to get back to the world. He reveals himself in his full angelic glory, whips the riot into an even bigger frenzy, and manages to escape during the general hubbub. Readers' reactions were that Apostate was going to be a major part of Vengeance too, this is going to be crazy - nope, he just disappears again and doesn't take part in the Vengeance event really at all. It was just a convenient time to reintroduce him and get him back into the world.
- He starts showing up occasionally, luring Fanatic off in various directions, always with a different story of what she is (they're both aliens and he's here to take her back to their homeworld, she's actually a harbinger of the End Times and everything she's been doing that she thinks is helpful is just furthering the approaching end of the world, "You're in a coma and your family misses you, Helena. Please wake up. We love you.", etc.). She's increasingly indignant about his lies as things go on. The readers are never told what the actual truth is, though. There's a bit of weight given to the first two stories given the amount of work evident in the writing, but never enough to resolve reader debates on the topic.
- Pulling back a bit more, even the writers (and Adam and Christopher) didn't come up with the Host explanation first - she was the result of wanting this Angel character to go out and have awesomely metal fights and it was only later that they decided that they needed an actual, y'know, backstory to explain her. C&A did manage to come up with all of this stuff before the base set of SotM came out, even if they never planned on actually telling us about it. Once the idea of the Host was established, it was used to build out some, but not all, of her villains (the Idolater and the Seer, but not vampires). Apostate was introduced largely as a means of actually revealing this stuff to the audience without totally ruining the mystery (that is, he talked about the concepts involved, but can you trust anything he says?).
- The truth was eventually revealed - the story takes place in the pages of Arcane Tales and on the small Caribbean nation of Tepeaquilla led by the dictatorial Presidente Gustavo Garasa. The long-time "democratically elected" leader has been building a stockpile of nuclear weapons and otherwise acting belligerently and getting up to shady things lately. The Scholar is living on his boat in the Florida area and decides to head on down to see what's going on. During his travels through the island and talking to people, he encounters one Javier Ramírez. Javier is an advisor to the presidente and the Scholar can tell right away that he's not what he appears and asks to speak with him privately. Javier tries to bluff his way out of things, but that doesn't put the Scholar off, and so he reveals himself to be Apostate. He's got Garasa wrapped around his finger and he plans on burning down the world with the nukes and ruling over the ashes. Scholar wants to just have a beer with him to talk things over, Apostate wants to fight, nope, let's just have that beer. Scholar just has no interest in fighting him - recognizing that he's somehow trapped in this mortal form despite not being an actual mortal. He doesn't know the full story, but he sees that something is wrong. Astute readers, on the other hand, could piece together that what the Scholar is saying backs up the Host story specifically.
- Scholar offers to do what he can to deshackle the Spirit from the body, and hopefully allow it to go home (Scholar doesn't know about what that is and can't just send him there, but this is worth a shot). They try it and, sure enough, Apostate's spirit is freed from the body which goes back to being just a dead body. The spirit flies off and the Scholar goes about doing what he can to resolve the political situation there.
- Apostate still can't get back to the Host realm, but now at least he's got an interim period of freedom as a spirit when between bodies. As that spirit form he's rather limited. He can observe the world and choose the body he's going to inhabit next, but he has no means of acting - he can't move objects, he can't whisper in people's ears, etc.
- Next, we see him in Fanatic's book. She receives a letter written in blood on a page torn from a bible that he wrote to lure her to a graveyard. She arrives and everything is quiet at first. Then Apostate emerges from a mausoleum and calms her initial rush to attack with an offer of the Truth. Sure, he'd been messing with her, but he'd hoped that she'd eventually remember their parents, who were heroes. He wants to join forces and fight evil together. She'd been walking towards him this whole time and when she gets to him she just starts with the chopping, killing that form. Then immediately a rumble comes from within the earth as a body claws its way to the surface. Once it emerges it becomes Apostate, who just continues his monologue as if nothing happened. Rinse and repeat a few times, until he eventually summons his own sword and begins fighting back, but she keeps "killing" him and he keeps just popping back up. He'll even bring up a big blast of his energy (represented by the glowing blue scars as he's powering up) for big attacks as he burns out bodies. He's done this before, but now he's doing it over and over since he's got plenty of bodies to hop into. This is a similar attack to what Fanatic had done at the end of their first encounter when she empowered her sword. He's still keeping up the monologue this whole time. Ultimately, Fanatic takes a minute to focus, says a prayer, and drives her sword into the earth to make the graveyard "Consecrated Ground", preventing Apostate from being able to possess any further bodies there. What's actually happened is that she's sealed the bodies there so that no Host entities can enter them.
- We then don't see Apostate until right before OblivAeon, around the same time as the Skinwalker Gloomweaver story, just in other books. He pops up in lots of places (Megalopolis, San Alonso, Mordengrad, etc.) makes a standard "rule the earth" claim, and attacks, but nothing the heroes throw at him can hurt him. There will be a fight for a while, then he'll eventually throw his sword into some other realm before he does his blue glow explosions to reform elsewhere. Several teams fight him at various points, and one of them is Dark Watch. Nightmist recognizes which realm he's chucking Condemnation into - that somehow Apostate has tied himself to the Realm of Discord. Prior to this plot, Apostate had poured his own spirit energy into his Relics, tying himself to them, and then hidden them in the Realm of Discord. As long as he's got Condemnation with him and his power is linked through it to the other Relics that are elsewhere, he's invincible (which is why he has to banish the sword before exploding). Nightmist figures out how this works and they set to severing his connection to these things. Simply disarming him doesn't work as he can just summon the sword back to himself. Nightmist's plan, therefore, is to have other heroes stall him while she opens a portal and Harpy goes through (as described in the latter's episode). She's successful, and the heroes move in to attack. Apostate throws his sword away to banish it, but it just falls to the ground - he can no longer banish it to the RoD and this is the first time he's shown fear. His relics now have his spirit energy, and he's no longer connected to the relics. He still had some within Condemnation itself, but the heroes break that, destroying him (ostensibly for good - but more in the Future).
- Does he create the relics, did he find them, or was he given them? He makes them, but he kind of makes a point of using items that would make a bigger point to, say, Fanatic. Why just pick any old statue to make into a relic when he could instead make one out of a statue from the Vatican? That'll really get her goat.
- Does he work alongside the demons or control them (or do they control him!?!?)? "They are servants of Apostate." He controls them.
- What's the deal with Condemnation (sentient, how literal is the quote from Fanatic #25, what's going on with the orb within it)? The blade is not sentient, it's all drama from him. He's certainly killed people with it, and definitely killed at least 1000 people, but it's unlikely that he's killed that many with the sword (not that he's really the type to count, either). The faces on it aren't the souls of the people he's killed trying to get out or anything (although that's the appearance he's going for). The hook and orb are just there to make it look savage/magical. All of the stories about all of the relics are just his dramatic spin on things.
- Is the name "Apostate" just something edgy he took on to sell his status as a "fallen angel"? Yes, it's all about branding.
- If he's possessing a corpse to mess with Fanatic, why not choose an appearance that's less likely to immediately put her back up? He chose this look in their first encounter for that specific lie, and after that it's just maintaining the brand.
- His minions are labeled as "demons" and Gloomweaver is referred to as a "demon god", what does that actually mean here? They are perceived to be "demonic" by people, so that's what they're called.
- Is there a spirit of Sadness in the Host and how might the Cult of Gloom work with it? There is certainly a spirit of Sadness, but there's not a reliable way of bring Host entities here other than just the normal experience of strong feelings (or, say, when Apostate's spirit came here on purpose).
- Nightmist had a vision of countless worlds dying due to a winged figure, which resulted in her fighting Fanatic early on - why didn't she realize what was up once Apostate showed up? It also sounds like Apostate's main motivation is just messing with Fanatic, so why all the world-destroying? Did the lie just get out of hand, or did he come to enjoy it? From Fanatic's perspective he is always just out to mess with her, but after his initial defeat and since he's trapped on earth he's out to wreck up the joint and rule the rubble. The far-reaching results of what he could do through his deception is the end of civilization which is what Nightmist was seeing.
- Given that what happened to Fanatic was an accident, how did Apostate able to do it intentionally? Any other members of the Host out there doing similar things? Doing the kind of thing that Apostate does (grabbing a corpse and reanimating it) is something that spirits have done in the past - it's really rare, but it's happened (think about any folklore about a deceased relative coming back to speak to somebody). There are just specific unique circumstances around Fanatic's creation and then how he gets stuck here.
- How does blinding herself help Fanatic deal with Apostate given that the issue is the lies he's telling? It's symbolic. She can still "see" with other senses, allowing her to fight by faith.
- Are there other Host spirits that try to stop him? Is the Host really a villainous entity or just a source of extreme emotions/feelings? No other Host entities get involved in this event - they're not meddlers (heroic or villainous). They're just emotion spirits that move around and don't have a specific goal or aim - it's only their connection to human bodies that imparts such things to them.
- How was Gloomweaver involved in the Harpy's actions in the RoD? What's the timeline of events here as it sounds like this should be after the Skinwalker fight? The two events were largely happening concurrently in multiple books. OblivAeon is about to happen and is on a schedule - everybody has an editorial mandate to tie up the existing stories before X date. The explanation is that the events with Harpy are during the initial parts of the Skinwalker event, and most of Gloomweaver's self is still in his seat of power in the Realm of Discord and that's what she's interacting with. When the Rotting God portion of the Skinwalker event kicks in, this status changes and that's all of him as he has to go all-in on that gambit. If you're reading comics in publication order, you'll be confused. If you read them in chronological order, you'll be confused. There's just too many things going on at the same time, which is kind of the point of doing the OblivAeon reset in the first place.
- How does Apostate get the demons? They're people that he's corrupted. Just like he's able to corrupt items to make his relics, he can (at the expense of a lot more energy) corrupt people to make them his demons. It's a gradual process involving his deceptions over time.
- Who is the corpse that the spirit of Deception possessed (did nobody recognize him)? The body is just the raw materials, he changed how it looked to match the effect he wanted it to have on Fanatic rather than finding a person who already looked like that.
- How did the absence of the spirit of Judgement affect the Host? Are there multiple spirits of Judgement, did a new one show up to take its place, or is there no longer one available at all? There isn't just a single spirit (or even strongly-defined finite number of spirits) of Judgement (or any other concept). The whole idea of there being a "number" of spirits is kind of nebulous. There is a number of them "necessary" to the task, but it's otherwise ambiguous.
- If Fanatic died, what would happen to the spirit of Judgement (back to the Host realm, would it remember everything about what it is)? Is Apostate trapped in the body he's occupying and/or could Fanatic's spirit just choose to leave her body? Presumably, if Fanatic's form was destroyed and the spirit found it's way back to the Host it would just become a spirit of Judgement again. As Fanatic, it's both more and less than a spirit (it's less powerful, but it's got opinions and desires now). It's unlikely that it could return to the Host unless the Fanatic part of it (and we're talking more than just the physical body here) were to die. "I think Fanatic can die" in that there is a non-physical component to the being of "Fanatic" that is separate from the initial spirit of Judgement - people are their physical bodies as well as a non-physical part (the soul, the mind, cognition, however you want to think of it). Apostate is clearly a body and this spirit of Deception as separate elements, Fanatic's non-physical part is Judgement plus the extra part of her humanity. Because of this non-Host component, she could not reanimate another body to just "be" Fanatic again as Apostate does and while she has it she wouldn't be able to return to the Host as Judgement. The guys haven't defined an afterlife for the setting that would give other concrete options for what might happen to her if her body was killed - that's left up to the audience.
- How powerful would Judgement be if it realized what it truly was? About as powerful as Apostate - not necessarily more powerful than Fanatic herself is already, but probably more effective.
- What does the Host get out of people's emotions? Is there some kind of hierarchy or pantheon of spirits? They don't "feed" off emotions and they don't have plots and schemes. They manipulate emotions to some extent by pushing it to extremes, to riot that emotion. They don't have agency beyond that. "Apostate becomes a villain because of his outside sources. It's not a villainous thing." [I'm not sure exactly what Adam means by this] There isn't a pantheon or hierarchy of spirits.
- How often do spirits do full-scale possessing of people like with what happened with Fanatic? It doesn't happen. Spirits of the Host don't "possess" people, really. They are usually just occupying a part of the person's consciousness. There are those historical events where a body might be used to pass on a message to somebody, but the closest thing to actual "possession" that happens is when Apostate turns people into "demons".
- Fanatic exists because the young girl died why Judgement was occupying her body, why was Judgement in that 6 year-old's body right then? The "judgement" involved at the moment was tied to an indecision that the girl had been facing about running into the street for whatever reason [Christopher's example is running to get a ball, but I can't tell if that's meant to be the canonical event], and Judgement was her making the decision.
- Extreme emotions in the moments of death (fear, rage, grief, etc.) doesn't seem like that rare of an occurrence, so why does it have such an extreme effect in Fanatic's case? Certain emotions are more common in those circumstances and so would know what to do when the body died. Additionally, her final emotions (fear at the oncoming bus) were strong and so at odds with Judgement that it confused matters further. It was just an odd situation all around and it's even possible that if the situation were to be replicated that it wouldn't have the same results.
- What happened to the spirit of Faith that the Idolater's relic imprisoned after she defeated him? She doesn't know about the Host or that specific spirit or anything. She knows that he's been using this cross/stick to siphon off people's faith, though, and she tossed it into the burning church. If that had broken it, that would have been sufficient to free the spirit. However, the metal part of the cross wasn't damaged enough and he still has it, including the trapped spirit, when we see him later.
- It's been mentioned (see Mr. Fixer as an example) that raising people from the dead is always a bad experience, so is that the case with Fanatic or Apostate given that they're spirits inhabiting reanimated corpses? These aren't cases of raising the dead like it is for other characters - the personalities inhabiting the bodies aren't the original ones that have been returned from death. It's more of a transfer of ownership than a resurrection.
- How easy would it be for somebody else to imprison a member of the Host like the Idolater did? How might, say, Biomancer do something similar? You can't on your own - Apostate helped him. Idolater knew what he was trying to do (that is, the end effect), but he's not aware of the Host or that he has an imprisoned spirit. Biomancer isn't even aware that the Host exists. OblivAeon knows but doesn't care. Gloomweaver probably doesn't (since his concerns are elsewhere). Akash'Bhuta might have been around long enough to have noticed that something was going on, but isn't the type to have been paying close enough attention to have done so. Wager Master knows and thinks its funny and might use it at some point.
- Are Ra, Anubis, and the Ennead's progenitor entities members of the Host that got stuck here all those centuries ago? That's a really cool theory, but no. They considered having more of their origins tied together, but ultimately rejected it.
- How do Host entities interact with one another while part of the Host? What would Judgement and Deception think of one another before the former became Helena/Fanatic? It's kind of ethereal as they're not terribly sentient, although there is some intentionality behind their actions. There's some more discussion here about the nature of the Host and the "individual" spirits - like, there's this amorphous quantity of Judgement in the Host, but when one spirit goes out into the world to inhabit somebody, it's not like there's one spirit's worth less Judgement in the Host until they return. It's all kind of metaphysical and sounds a lot like adding or subtracting from infinity, but they mentioned earlier that there isn't an infinite number of spirits in the Host... There are rules for how this nebulous thing behaves, but it's not like we humans can necessarily understand all of those rules.
- Is there are some references to a certain band's songs in Apostate's and Fanatic's decks, is Apostate a metalhead? No, but the writer who created him is (as are Christopher and Adam).
- Did the Fanatic storyline that shall not be named involve Apostate? No, it was kind of a Fanatic-pilgrimage story and Apostate's deal is kind of only using religion as his set-dressing and so he'd be out of place in a story more about the religious journey of the character.
- Prelude to a question about how the podcast makes the writer enjoy SotM even more now that they know about the character backstory. This is one of the primary reasons why they are doing the podcast and are glad to hear it.
- We know that there are morality-flipped versions of Fanatic and Apostate (Hellion and Seraph), it's possible to see how Judgement could turn into a bad thing, but how do we get a heroic Deception? These are different spirits. Their stories are fairly similar to the canon reality (but also not really laid out here in detail given that they're just introduced very late for this specific purpose), but in this case Order was what resulted in Seraph's creation and Chaos came later to be Hellion to counter him.
- What is the name of Seraph's sword? Seraph's is Preservation and Hellion's is Aberration.
- The last thing we know about him was that he'd tied his power to these relics that were then broken, but this still doesn't free him from the world.
- Tactics - His spirit force was so depleted that he needed to find another anchor since he's now too weak to inhabit bodies like he used to. Conveniently, there's all these really strong power batteries around now. He ties himself to a 6-foot-long OblivAeon shard. This becomes a sword and from this he then generates his new deception, the body of Apostate. His bodily appearance is kind of messed up, and almost chitinous in places, but he's also holding this great big sword made out of an OblivAeon shard. The humanoid form is a lie - only the sword is "him" now.
- RPG - nobody's seen him since the fight as mentioned previously. He'll be around, but far enough down the line of planned stuff that any details are spoilers beyond what they want to go into at this point.