The Letters Page: Episode 48
Let's talk about all manner of places in the Sentinel Comics galaxy!
Run Time: 1:45:33
In today's episode, we cover a few notable Cosmic Settings:
- Wagner Mars Base
- Celestial Tribunal
- The Enclave of the Endlings
With only going over four environments in this episode, we have enough time to really get into each of them. We go through them in the above order, answering your great questions on each setting as we cover that environment.
The cosmic place we talk about the least this week is the Bloodsworn Colosseum, which is the topic of next week's episode! Send in your questions now!
A note before they begin: Bloodsworn Colosseum is a location that could qualify as a cosmic setting, however it moves around and shows up within other environments which makes it weird but it also is going to play a big part in next week's Kaargra Warfang episode, so they're just including it there.
Pretty much what you'd expect: it's a research facility on Mars doing the kinds of stuff you'd expect to be done in that location.
- What's this place like when superhero battles aren't happening here? Is it a military installation or more of a NASA thing? It's a privately-funded research facility, but it will work with pretty much anybody who wants to come to do science stuff (and can get there). They can contract with governments to, say, allow personnel to stay there if there's need for them to be present for other reasons. It's not there to be profitable, but there are significant operating costs, so such contracts are helpful to keep it running.
- Does the public know about it? If so, how does the media handle the coverage? Everybody knows about it, and it was a big deal when it was first created, but by now it's just sort of there in the background - there was a big hullabaloo at first like with the first Apollo landing, but by now it's more like the ISS just being up there trucking along, no big deal, with the occasional news story if something interesting is discovered.
- What's the normal crew size? Something like 2000 people normally, but people come and go and it's not really at-capacity - evacuations are necessary occasionally (see those aforementioned superhero battles) and it can operate with a staff of a few hundred people, but at that point with everything mostly shut down it drifts into "creepy abandoned space station" territory.
- What's the proper pronunciation (the German one or the Anglicized one)? Why (was there an in-universe reason or just creator's preference)? The German one. In-universe, it's funded by the billionaire Jane Wagner (the Wagner family has been rich for a long time and has been interested in scientific endeavors and jumped at the opportunity to be involved in this project, but got naming rights in return for the funds) and that's how the family name is still pronounced. Christopher and Adam named it after their long-time friend and Greater Than Games' shipping manager, Jodie Wagner (whose name is pronounced the English way), and just thought it was a cool name.
- What's one good thing that's come out of the base for the average Joe taxpayer [letter assumes that it's taxpayer-funded]? First off, it's a beachhead to the outer solar system and beyond - some infrastructure to help make further exploration easier. The terraforming efforts there can also possibly lead to more livable space being available to future generations. Some advances made in the trips to Mars were later adapted into making deep-sea exploration more effective here on Earth (finding the Ruins of Atlantis, for example). Oh, what about stuff that helps that average guy right now? Home air filters (like in your HVAC/furnace system) are much better and only need to be swapped out every few decades instead of every 6-12 months (filter technology had to step it up to handle the pervasive red dust on Mars). The wi-fi isn't any better, though.
- What's the point of a Mars base given that we see intergalactic travel to places that are habitable already? This kind of space travel isn't available to everybody - only a few heroes have access to these things (either the tech or whatever power they have for whatever reasons) and even then not all the places they go are habitable without further precautions. Regardless, it's still better to have the terraforming projects on another planet right next door than rely on places so far away without more reliable/stable transport options. The benefits of having a Mars base in the world of Sentinel Comics is pretty similar to those in the real world and if you don't think there are any benefits it's not like they're going to convince you here.
- What kind of research are they doing on Mars? Some of this is already touched on, but the broad strokes are "What would a civilization on another planet look like?" and "What do we need to develop to make it possible for people to live on other planets?" There's a lot of smaller projects too, but now we're running up against the limits of the creators' knowledge of what that would need to be.
- How do they get more people to agree to go considering the occasional battles that happen there? Well, it's the only Mars base and there are funds available to fix whatever gets broken (and it's not like these battles are common - just a few notable events).
- The flavor-text on "Meteor Storm" makes it sound like they can cause serious problems there, did the designers not take them into account when building it? Normally, the storms are things that need to be accounted for and have the maintenance crews ready for when they happen (and there are force fields that mitigate a lot of the problems - although larger ones can still be problematic), but normal operating procedures tend to be disrupted by supervillain attacks. [Adam says that Mars doesn't have an atmosphere to burn up meteors like what usually happens on Earth; Mars has one, but only at about 0.6% of Earth's mean sea-level pressure - enough to allow us to need heat shields during approach and we can use parachutes to help brake, but low enough that people couldn't survive long on the surface without protection as the vapor pressure is so low that the liquids of your body exposed to the surface would boil away - tears, sweat, the moisture inside your lungs that facilitate gas transfer with your blood.]
- What kinds of things do the "Villainous Weaponry" cards represent? People in the setting know that aliens are out there and can be a threat and so it was known that crew members might have to fight off invaders. There are "weapon depots" in certain parts of the base. While there are some more security-minded crew members, everybody goes through at least some basics with the weapons (think more along the lines of getting a gun license than boot camp). The weapons are predominately energy weapons (non-lethal magnetic things, pulse weapons) - basically nothing that will cause a hull breach and nothing that will set the atmosphere on fire.
- The K.N.Y.F.E. episode mentioned that the self-destruct went off during OblivAeon; was it rebuilt later? It varies by which Future Universe we're discussing. Mist Storm: Sentinel Tactics has a map for this and it's much smaller than it once had been - it's intended to be more of a crew-size of only about 20 or so at a time; the funding was scaled back after all the problems. Sentinel Comics Universe: it's getting rebuilt and at around the same scale, but there are more partners with stake-holders in Megalopolis to expand the mission and improve aspects of it (like communication) - more to come on this.
Christopher mentions at the top of the episode that it's in a different galaxy - it's the home planet of Sky-Scraper and Grand Warlord Voss and is involved in a pretty major civil war. "Dok'Thorath" is the name of the planet as well as the capital city.
- Where is it, as in, does it orbit a star we'd recognize? It's a binary star system and it's too distant to be visible from Earth, but the names of the suns are Beras (the larger one) and Bornas (the smaller one).
- How old is the city and was it purposefully designed to be the capital or did it just grow organically like most old cities? It was built to be the capital, but a very long time ago and has been intentionally kept as the capital even as the civilization grew.
- How much more advanced is it than a modern city on Earth? Dok'Thorath:21st Century London::21st Century London:America's Old West or pre-industrial revolution city - like, they have teleporters and other tech that we don't have, but another "industrial revolution" into the next tech tier up would get us there.
- What's up with the atmosphere? The air there just interacts with the light from the twin suns to create that color.
- Thorathians seem to understand our concept of "bravery", but how about other emotions? Would the Myer-Briggs test be applicable? Yes, they have a similar psychology to humans (they're a really early comic book alien race, so they wind up being more like humans than later groups where the writers might start playing around with that kind of thing more). The culture is different, but you might be able to draw parallels to human history that had this kind of conqueror figure - Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, Xerxes, etc. Myers-Briggs would probably be as useful for a Thorathian as it is for a human.
- How widespread is the know-how and use of things like quantum teleporters and faster than light travel within the society? Not every Thorathian is a scientific genius light-years ahead of human understanding, but there's a general background knowledge - like you know how a cell phone works in general, but that doesn't mean you could build one.
- How structured is the society? Do the skin colors represent a caste system? The skin colors we see (and the variation we see within them) don't factor into a class system exactly - the blue-gray ones are the "normal" ones and the red-pink ones are the mutants who have some sort of extra power. The latter are uncommon, but not so super-rare so that you don't see them and they're not persecuted for it - to a certain extent they're envied as they have these extra abilities that give them a leg up. It's more of a recessive gene - anybody's got the potential to be a carrier for it. The society is structured and militaristic overall, but now there's this big civil war going on which disrupts that status quo and some micro-cultures are kind of developing within it.
- Given the different sizes relative to one another that we see on the cards, is one sun larger than the other, does one eclipse the other occasionally, and might this just be artistic error in being consistent? As was mentioned, they are different sizes. The apparent colors of each of them as seen from the surface changes over the course of the day (like how we perceive our sun as reddish-orange when near the horizon but yellow-white when it's high in the sky) and that makes whether "the blue one" is bigger or smaller inconsistent as which one is the blue one changes over the course of the day. They can eclipse each other and is a notable event. That all being said, this was all a retcon in-comics to explain why the art was inconsistent (Adam meant for it to fluctuate when he was doing things here in our reality, though).
- With Voss gone, who's in charge? That's the problem - Voss was in charge of everything, but under him there were the military people and the government people. Now there's infighting within each group and against the other - but they all agree that the common people can't be allowed to run things themselves. The infighting is the only reason that the resistance fighters even have a shot - resistances cropped up all the time when Voss was around and he simply crushed them. If the government/military groups could agree on somebody to follow, they'd be able to do likewise.
- Prior to Voss, was there a civil war or was it more peaceful? Well, it was kind of peaceful. As stated, it was a totalitarian state that managed to crush any insurrection quickly, so there wasn't a lot of fighting...
- Do the Thorathians have their own superheroes or just Sky-Scraper? No, because that would imply that their society encouraged exceptionalism in any way. Even the people who have powers have their place that they're assigned in the machine - that might let them climb the ladder somewhat, but it's still structured. Sky-Scraper was a resistance person and, as a powered person, she used those powers for the resistance, so that kind of makes such people a superhero, I guess, but it's different. There's also a lower percentage of powered people in the resistance in the first place since the system is set up to benefit them.
- Is there a functional purpose to the bony protrusions? They're useful for scratching itches or as weapons. You can use them to help carry stuff as they're additional leverage points to secure things.
- How long has the civil war been going on? It's been going on for at least a few years, but the seeds for it had been sown a long time ago - the disappearance of Voss was the critical event that kicked things off. Both sides use extreme measures and the capital is in pretty bad shape because of it.
- In the Captain Cosmic episode, we find that the Prime Wardens set up shop here for a while, what did they do to assist the people and how effective were they? Did things get worse after they left? They helped the resistance, but for the most part they're helping out the refugees or other non-combatants caught in the crossfire of the larger-scale war. Even when working with the resistance, it was in situations where doing so was directly involved in protecting these other groups. There were even cases where resistance members were going to take steps that would wind up targeting these people and the PWs would step in to stop them as well - the difference being that they were in a position to talk to them as opposed to how they had to interact with the military. As for how things wind up after the Prime Wardens leave, we don't really know. We only get a few further events that happen there (like Scholar and Guise's events) and that gives us a limited view of what else is going on as they're happening away from the civil war area.
- Were the heroes present when the rebel base was hit by a space laser? They were around, which is why we see it happen in the story, but while this was a major setback for the rebels, this was only a base, not the only base.
- Did OblivAeon destroy Dok'Thorath? OblivAeon damaged the planet, but this was only a minor thing as the "main event" was on Earth - it was mostly shown as just an indication that OblivAeon is happening everywhere.
- Does the civil war end in the Multiverse timeline, or does it continue into Mist Storm or the Sentinel Comics Universe? It's all unknown for now - they have plans for Dok'Thorath, but they don't want to talk about them at this time.
It's kind of a mobile space station/very large ship - how big can a vehicle get before it can count as a "location" in itself? - full of judgemental robots.
- When was its first appearance? In the '80s in a Captain Cosmic book, after some preliminary foreshadowing.
- Who built it and why? It was created by a race of aliens (whose name and place is lost to history - the story we have is rumor and supposition passed down after the fact) who were interested in finding the best way to determine/administer justice considering all of the conflict they had. Being a highly technical people, they decided to make a machine that could do so. The machine gets up and running, taking the form of a spaceship shaped like a sword. In time it makes a judgement about the race that created it as a whole; judging them unworthy of continued existence. The "sword" sheathes itself in the planet, destroying it and the race who had created it.
- What was the resolution of "Called to Judgement"? Can't say now as it's a culmination of a specific story and the context is necessary. Ask again for the Tempest episode.
- Unlike most environment cards, the Trials have no direction for whom to place them next to other than a lack of another Trial (that is, no "with the highest/lowest HP" clause) and have no means to remove them other than out-of-Environment actions or the target leaving play (they don't have a fixed duration nor do they have some condition to meet like discarding cards); is this intentional to model the fact that the trials are arbitrary, unfair kangaroo courts where the only way out is execution? Absolutely.
- In the Captain Cosmic episode, it was mentioned that he had a Space Court adventure; who wins in the legal battle, Space Court Planet or the Celestial Tribunal? There was an early, not-terribly-well-written Captain Cosmic story where he encountered a planet currently under judgement of the Celestial Tribunal. Nobody on the planet would stand forth as a representative for the defense of the planet as a whole, so CC does so. It comes out that the planet is fairly peaceful, idyllic almost. The trick is that the people lack the concept of Judgement (not to the point where they can't make a "judgement call" but in sort of this grander scale) - they lack the concept of Justice as they lack the concept of Injustice that must be corrected. Ultimately, the Celestial Tribunal essentially has a mistrial/hung-jury as it is unable to render a verdict (note that this is different from finding them Not Guilty) - and so it leaves. Unfortunately, the interference of the Tribunal and CC here has, on its own, sown the seeds of these concepts into the culture and it's implied that this will be the downfall of the idyllic civilization down the road. It's sort of a Twilight Zone-ish morality play on the concept of non-interference.
- We see a bunch of "killer A.I." themes in Sentinel Comics with the Tribunal and Omnitron (with CON as an exception), could the Tribunal be brought around to good? The Tribunal is a specific set of programming more than a full-blown A.I. so there's less chance for it to "evolve" past that programming on its own. OblivAeon sees something here to work with, however.
- Between other events mentioned (Chokepoint relative to the creation of Omnitron-U, Harpy being present with the rest of Dark Watch so after Progeny, etc.) it looks like there's some discrepancies going on; when does the Celestial Tribunal show up relative to other events? There isn't a singular "Celestial Tribunal Event" as that would have made it into a villain deck instead of an environment - it shows up at various points in different books without rendering a final verdict. There's always something like a stay of execution or a technicality that prevents a verdict from being reached with the implication that it will return to finish the job. So, there were opportunities for it to show up during both the Omnitron-X and Omnitron-U eras and so on that explain the various timeline snarls that the artwork would imply if it was a singular event. It started out as just this occasional thing that would show up in Captain Cosmic stories, but the writers eventually decided it would be neat to have it come to Earth for various heroes to have to deal with too.
- In the Chokepoint Episode we are told that she had stowed away on it while it was near Earth and eventually took over, but then we hear that OblivAeon turned the Tribunal into the scion Sanction - does that mean that it was some kind of alternate version of the Tribunal or did Chokepoint wind up trapped in this scion? OblivAeon didn't turn the whole thing into Sanction, it mostly just grabbed the judgement programming stuff and some of the various robot stuff to form into this transforming scion thing. The broken husk of the Celestial Tribunal is still out there with Chokepoint at its heart, along with a lot of broken robots. This ties into the question above about the A.I. becoming "good" - it's maybe possible that there could have been a future where that happened, but it was not given the chance here as OblivAeon had removed that portion of it in order to make Sanction.
- How much interaction has the Tribunal had with Jansa vi Dero and the Enclave? Does Jansa collect members of the races judged by the Tribunal to become Endlings? Do Celestial Executioners ever try to break into the Enclave to wipe out members of races so judged? Jansa can hide the Enclave trivially and the Tribunal cannot visit it. She's also saved many Endlings from such civilizations, one notable example being Immutus, the last Fortrian. The Fortrians were a race of bio-organic metal, they move and communicate very slowly and live for thousands of years before not so much dying as shutting down. When the Tribunal brought one of them on board to judge their actions, there weren't any actions to judge. This is not enough to escape the Tribunal, however, as it was seen as having a lack of actions to validate their existence.
Where Jansa vi Dero has collected the last survivors of dying (sapient) species. There's some good discussion at around 1:10:40 from Adam about how his ability to mimic the work of Jack Kirby stacks up against the original - Kirby able to knock out something like 16 pages of comic art in a day while each card (essentially one panel of a comic) in this style takes him something like 6 hours.
- Is Jansa vi Dero the alternate universe child of Beyoncé and Robert De Niro? [Adam's De Niro Impression] I dunno. Whadda you think? [/Adam's De Niro Impression]
- How do the Endlings live forever? Will Lifeline die of old age if he stays out of the Enclave for long enough? Will the hundreds of years he spent there catch up to him? Jansa has put up a "preservation field" around the Enclave - it's a technology rather than "magic" or some kind of special food or treatment. Lifeline (or any Endling who left) would start aging normally again, but it's not like the time they already spent in stasis "catches up" to them or anything. Anybody who enters the Enclave stops aging while they're there.
- Given the aesthetic tone of the Enclave deck rooted in the '70s [actually more like the '60s], but we have Lifeline and other indications that the Enclave remains important to the "present" of Sentinel Comics, why is it the only deck to retain a retro look? Why no Golden Age Megalopolis? It doesn't age. It was first introduced in the '60s, but whenever the Enclave was featured in a story over the decades, it was always an intentional stylistic choice to retain that original art style. Not to say that the quality of the art doesn't get updated for the times, but the overall style (up to and including the way that characters look when they are there - not that their costumes change, but the style in which they're drawn) is consistent. Things are just weird there.
- The [video game music for the Enclave](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeHr6HjhS2Y) has frequent exclamations of "The Enclave of the Endlings"; who's in charge of the P.A. system there? Why so boastful about the location? How narcissistic must they be to need to announce what and where they are so often? Haha, very funny. It's evoking the style of any number of 1960s cartoons rather than representing something that's actually happening in comics - there is no such P.A. system there where they do this.
- Jansa is the last Varusiod - that name's familiar, what else were they known for? They're known for building large things for cosmic purposes and were responsible for the Null-Space Observatory that would eventually become known as the Block [see episode 22].
- We were told that there was only one Varusiod left and they built large structures for specific purposes, that makes the last on Jansa, right? Yup. It's worth pointing out that she's named as a Varusiod in the deck bio (rather than being labeled as such on her card).
- What's the status of the Enclave in Galactic Strike Force given that we've been told that they're set in the same universe? GSF is in the same (or at least a very similar) universe, but it's set hundreds of thousands of years later. It was designed to take elements from their existing creation to build on, having similar stories happen in some far-flung space future, but it was never meant to really have any narrative connective tissue between the events in Sentinels products and the GSF property. Vognild Prime being in both was more of an Easter Egg than anything, although the Enclave is certainly the kind of space thing that could show up in a GSF property, but unlikely since the thematic elements don't really fit.
- How long did it take to pick the names for the various Endlings? Not so long as you'd think as they used the tried-and-true Stan Lee method of making a sound. It was fun, but was probably the easiest time they had of picking names for things and maybe took an afternoon (including character designs, names, and their races).
- Have any Endlings died while at the Enclave? Not from "natural causes", but some have been killed.
- Have any escaped to pursue their own goals besides Deadline/Lifeline? They're free to leave whenever, but none do.
- Why is Venox the only Endling we see from a race subjugated by Grand Warlord Voss? He's not! The Gene-Bound Psy-Weavers are derived from Piunites like Phrentat. Beyond that, there are a lot of Endlings that we don't see, so there are plenty of victims of Voss or the Celestial Tribunal here.
- Why did you kill off Bloogo? Without sacrifice there's no meaning. Plus they like hurting you.
- What's Gruum's story [citing that their playgroup has a lot of fun with him - up to and including making a playmat of him]? He's a guy in the background of a panel somewhere who yells "Gruum!" - they do a bit of demonstrating what he sounds like at around 1:24:17. The Tromtars were a peaceful race of people to yelled all the time because they don't have ears and are therefore deaf - they communicate via the vibrations in the air [I mean, technically we only hear because we're perceiving the vibrations in the air, but I take them to mean that they can only perceive loud, lower-frequency sounds like how Quasimodo could only "hear" the large bells that he rang by feeling them in his body].
- Most cards that make everybody play extra cards have something to do with time manipulation, so what's Slamara doing? She is a character who gives advice/help to people - she has a limited precognition and the extra card plays are modeling advice based on that knowledge. It's not always beneficial as we get into questions about self-fulfilling prophecies or butterfly effects.
- Why is Orbo such a jerk? He is pretty mean, he wants to eat everything. Satellans are kind of parasitic living planet things. Orbo will do anything that will give him more to devour for energy. He's a jerk and nobody should trust him.
- Is Omnitron an Endling? If there were no more computers maybe. Is Omnitron a "species"? There is a possible future where Omnitron results in a "race" of Omnitrons and if they were to be wiped out Jansa might step in, but the present Omnitron probably wouldn't register as something to be saved. Jansa isn't necessarily looking for features of what humans would qualify as "life", but she does care about the Endlings representing the last of a species/culture and Omnitron simply doesn't meet that requirement since, despite many drones and whatnot, they're all slaved to the one consciousness that is Omnitron - there isn't a culture of unique individuals.
- Is there some minimum requirement/importance for a race to be considered to have an Endling? You need to be sapient/sentient/self-aware. Jansa doesn't have an "importance" criteria, but likewise she doesn't have a perfect track record of saving somebody from all races that are facing extinction. There's some disagreement on at what point she notices too - Adam making the case for her only really getting involved when a whole planet would end rather than Christopher's supposition that if there were two sapient species on a planet and one simply wiped out the other that she'd grab that last member of the losing people. They seem to come down on the latter case being one that she's less likely to notice in the first place, but that she'd still grab that last member of the losing race in the case that she did.
- How big is the Enclave? Huge. It helps that it doesn't need to keep up an ecosystem (and Jansa can kind of expand it at need as it has some extra-dimensional qualities). It's based on a bigger planet than Earth [see the environment description: "[Jansa] has built an enclave above the arid wreck of her homeworld"] and Orbo is in orbit around it (he's about the size of our moon) but is still "within" the Enclave.
- How different do the Endlings have to be; would a human, elf, dwarf, and halfling count as separate species? Yeah, they'd probably count as different (depending on the source material you're drawing from - if they're all descended from a common ancestor probably not, but that's a less common situation if you're talking about these - Sentinel Comics doesn't have the latter 3 races so it's hard to say definitively).
- If Jansa has the abilities to see an extinction event coming and save a member indefinitely, why not save more individuals (say enough to exceed the minimum viable population necessary to repopulate)? She has the capacity to do this, but that's not her focus - she's more of a museum curator than a nature conservationist. "Keep an example so they're not forgotten" is the main goal. Getting involved was Deadline/Lifeline's thing and Jansa only really interacted with the OblivAeon stuff at all as a result of Parse's conversation with her. She's a very neutral character. She's not a hero doing this to save people, she's a non-interventionist to the extent that it's not her place to interfere with the extinction event, but she wants to at least preserve its memory.
- If Jansa watches for dwindling civilizations and takes a member to preserve, what happens if the civilization recovers after she's chosen an Endling? That kind of recovery never happens. She only takes somebody when it's no longer possible to continue - it might limp along longer than she expected, but they're always already past the point of no return. Even in Cosmic Contest she was only making her selection, but she wouldn't have taken somebody at that time.
- Has any Endling refused membership? Can they leave if they wish? What's her pitch to prospective citizens? First, they're free to leave but they generally don't as they know that there's nothing out there for them but eventual death - their people are gone. Jansa would prefer for them to stay, and her pitch is largely the same as how she gets them to stay; simply pointing out the fact that their civilization is gone and there's nothing more to be had by them if they weren't to be in the Enclave. Nobody's really given the chance to refuse as she typically transports them to the Enclave to make the pitch in the first place. The one exception is the Eternal Haka who was allowed to stay on Earth.
- There's only one Block, but are there two Enclaves after OblivAeon (one where Lifeline returned and one where he didn't)? If so, do they ever run into each other out there in non-reality? Do they have different versions of Endlings? All realities' Enclaves have the ability to leave reality, but this kind of gets into the question of what being "outside reality" actually entails. Being outside reality is a lot more like "nothing" than being in real space, but it's not nothing because you're there in it. It's kind of an "ur-space" that has the potential to be space/something but it's not yet. It's kind of the "home plane" of Singular Entities (like OblivAeon or Wager Master) - who are, necessarily, multi-dimensional entities. This kind of infinite ur-space is where Jansa moves the Enclave to. Normal 3+time dimensional beings can't really move around there without Jansa's technology and it's not like the Enclave is "moving" around in this thing to "bump into" others - the infinite nature of it makes the chances of encountering other things there in the first place vanishingly small. Jansa is not a Singular Entity, she's just got advanced enough tech to take advantage of this "place".