The Letters Page: Episode 50
An episode that towers head and shoulders above all others! Or does it stand as an ant among giants? Only you can tell!
Run Time: 1:20:17
We start off by confessing our sins and solving a notable problem... or at least hinting to that problem's solution. But that allows us to move forward with Portja Kip-Pro's story!
(Which we start by pointing out a problem raised by the Kaargra Warfang episode, and then solving it. We're problem solvers!)
But then we're back on track!
Stories include, Hero in the Arena, Under Cover, the Return of Vengeance, and so much more!
Then, we get into your question 33 minutes in. Lots of interesting info in the questions, today!
Next week is Greazer! Get your questions in now!
- The problem that caused the delay in the schedule: Grand Warlord Voss's first appearance is listed as Freedom Five #504 which can't possibly be right. A big part of Sky-Scraper's initial story is predicated on the readers having known about Thorathians as these evil alien conquerors for a long time with Voss himself being an early villain (as befits a core-set deck) who's around for a while before disappearing completely following Nightmist banishing him (as mentioned in her episode). If the stated first appearance is accurate, then he'd have only been around for a short time before disappearing.
- So, first things first, Voss's first appearance is much earlier than FF 504, but we'll get the actual number when we finally get to his episode. The important thing is that he's old enough that by the '70s Thorathians are a known quantity - they're basically space-Nazis and if one shows up you can safely assume they're the villains of the piece.
- This leads into Hero in the Arena where the reveal that this Thorathian character isn't evil was a twist. Here's a secondary problem in the stated timeline - they stated in the Kaargra episode that HitA was a post-Vengeance story, and it is, it just also has to have happened in the '80s or so. HitA is split into two blocks - issues #1-3 happen early with #4-6 happening much later.
- So, by the time of the 3-issue limited series Hero in the Arena in the '80s, Kaargra, the Bloodsworn Colosseum, and Thorathians are all familiar aspects of the comics. In addition to the Kaargra episode's detail, we learn now that the heroes see this Thorathian fighting in the arena and assume that she's evil because all Thorathians they've met so far have been, but as they get to know her in the side-story outside of the fights they realize she's not bad and is just trying to get out of the arena like they are. It's initially an uneasy alliance, but she helps the heroes and they help her in her challenge to Kaargra herself, which is ultimately successful and results in Sky-Scraper being freed from the Bloodsworn in issue #3. Kaargra doesn't feel like Sky-Scraper won because of the aid she received from the heroes, but the Bloodsworn entity is satisfied and allows her to go.
- So, now we have this friendly, rather cheerful Thorathian character. At this point (as her hero name implies) her power as shown is just to go from normal size to huge size. This is the point where we actually get her backstory as a freedom fighter back on Dok'Thorath and that there's actual dissent there in opposition to Voss's rule, adding some nuance to the Thorathian people. She has no interest in returning to Dok'Thorath given the situation there and how everybody she cared about has been killed (insert Guise "Gritty Reboot" audio here) so she becomes a hero of Earth.
- She goes toe-to-toe against Akash'Bhuta in one of the latter's early appearances [presumably Virtuoso of the Void #12 given "Colossal Left Hook"].
- She has important story stuff happen in the Dreamer event - probably the first such case where it wasn't already a "Sky-Scraper story" to begin with. As part of that, she gets turned into a tiny doll as sort of an ironic "Oh, you like being so big, huh? Let's see how you feel when everything is bigger than you" thing (original Tiny incapacitated art). This really messes her up and she has flashbacks to events on Dok'Thorath and times when she had shrunk before - this is the first indication that her power goes the other way too. She'd only ever used the shrinking ability to hide or escape from the Thorathian military and as a result it makes her feel weak and cowardly along with a measure of survivor's guilt as it let her get through events that her loved ones did not.
- Some time later, after the introduction of K.N.Y.F.E. but shortly before Vengeance, we get a limited series Under Cover where they team up to take on a F.I.L.T.E.R. base. Sky-Scraper is initially all gung-ho for the prospect of breaking in and punching stuff as she's really good at that while big. K.N.Y.F.E. mentions that it would be better if they could just sneak in and that being small would actually be more helpful. SS mentions that she can do that, but why would you want to? K.N.Y.F.E. (being the first person that SS really gets to respect and trust, apparently) convinces SS of the versatility of her power and how useful it is (complete with new combat moves they come up with together - like punching while growing to utilize the momentum of that growth). During this mission, she also acquires some nifty F.I.L.T.E.R. tech that she can use while she's small to good effect and comes to be a reliable part of her load-out. This is where we get to the Sky-Scraper that we know from the game - she can get big or small and has a bunch of little devices that she can stick on people for various effects. Anyway, the mission is a success and they blow up the F.I.L.T.E.R. base and get out with some new gear for Portja and intel for Paige.
- Next up is Vengeance and our first chance to really see her using her using everything we'd expect from her given the deck. Unfortunately, she's also one of the "casualties" of Vengeance as she's one of the heroes that's successfully taken down. At one point Baron Blade manages to get her stuck in huge mode and she gets chained up (her original huge card incapacitated art shows Baron Blade and Fright Train overseeing her burial, along with a third figure I can't make out).
- Following that she's involved in an encounter with the Ennead as discussed in that episode [Did they? I don't remember that and don't see it in my summary.], but it's a relatively minor appearance (as are several other events she shows up for in this period as she's not a central character and doesn't have her own book).
- She's a big part of the Return of Vengeance story (as related in the Biomancer episode) and is part of the team that takes down "Biomancer" himself in the resolution of that, which also involves freeing Tempest. That's interesting since she and the Tempersonation had gotten along fine, like any other two heroes would have. The real Tempest is not ok with her in the least - he's racist against Thorathians and hates her just because she's a Thorathian, which is kind of a really surprising character trait for him to exhibit considering how understanding he is about pretty much everything else. She eventually confronts him about this and he pulls up some holographic recordings of what happened to his people on Vognild Prime (see alt-art Normal incapacitated art) to which she has no response, so he basically does a mic drop and walks out. That's the last major interaction between them for a long time.
- Next up is Deadline, in which she's not terribly effective in combating Deadline himself. If she's huge, she's just a big target. If she's small, she is too easily washed/blown away by whatever environmental catastrophe is happening in the vicinity. As a result, she's much more helpful working in a disaster relief capacity (mostly in normal size). This is more important character stuff as initially she's only "at her best" while huge and punching stuff, then we get the arc that shows off her ability to use her tiny size, and now we finally get her doing important stuff to do while normal - to be a person rather than just a power set.
- Now we return to Hero in the Arena for issues #4-6 when Kaargra comes to reclaim the gladiator whom she feels escaped unfairly (although now without the backing of the Bloodsworn power to enforce it) and puts her in chains (see her original Normal and, presumably, alt-art Huge incapacitated art). This Kaargra arc is showing up across a few other books as well. While there's a big effort to rescue Sky-Scraper going on as well, Tempest is in there acting mostly to spite her by simply winning, and winning like nobody else has before, and becomes Champion (Kaargra offers him a position in the Colosseum, which he flatly refuses). The resolution of the HitA story is for Portja to challenge Kaargra to a one-on-one fight this time (SS staying forever if she loses, she and all her friends going free if she wins). A grudge match decades in the building (considering that the original HitA didn't have a satisfying confrontation just between the two of them), Sky-Scraper now has a lot more tricks up her sleeve than simply "be huge, punch stuff" and eventually wins. Tempest witnesses this whole thing, from the terms to SS declining to kill her defeated opponent, and the readers (but no other characters) are given an opportunity to see him taking all of this in and what kind of person SS has become.
- Next up, the Celestial Tribunal shows up and puts Portja on trial and brings in Tempest to testify against her. Tempest goes off on Thorathians and how terrible and evil they are and all the horrible things they've done on Vognild Prime and elsewhere. Then he goes on to talk about how Sky-Scraper is a hero and somebody he looks up to and that Thorathians are just people like humans or Maerynians and can have their good and bad individuals, but she is a good person.
- This brings us to the lead-up to OblivAeon. As part of that, a bunch of cosmic power crystal pylons show up around the world and cause lots of damage. Heroes try to destroy them and can't. People try to study them and the best they can come up with is that they're made of some kind of malevolent energy. Sky-Scraper goes to one and tries to wrestle one off its base while she's as big as she can get. She can't and so wants to try to push the limits of what she can do and so goes to the best person she can think of to help with that - Tachyon. However, this is late-in-the-Multiverse Tachyon who's become much more careful about limit-pushing and so declines to help because the risks are too great. "Only a madman would engage in such an activity." Luminary approaches her almost immediately with an offer to help her with her "madman" activities. He winds up giving her two wristbands, one that lets her go even smaller than usual (down to microscopic scale) and the other much larger (upwards of a literal skyscraper) [there are 32 floors of Freedom Tower visible on her Extremist Huge card when removing the Power text box in the video game - she's not quite as tall as the building, she appears to be about as tall as the 22nd visible floor but she's crouching a bit and we don't see the lowest floors or her feet, so that's the minimum.] She plays a big part in OblivAeon in her Extremist form, but that's a story for the OblivAeon episode.
- How does she handle living on Earth? Her dialog seems to be played for laughs, but she's got quite a tragic backstory, so what's a day-in-the-life like for her? Does she try to assimilate? What does she like/does anything remind her of home? "Played for laughs" is a bit strong, but she does tend to be lighthearted in general - the part that's humorous is mostly her speech pattern, which is weird, but we're only presented with moments in the characters' stories in the cards and, like Setback, the ratio of light-to-heavy moments is pretty strong (as opposed to, say, Mr. Fixer or K.N.Y.F.E.) they're not straight-up comedy stories like Guise has. If we're comparing to some hypothetical "normal" character, she's more lighthearted than that average, with Setback even more so, and then an "expansive gulf" before reaching Guise territory. Even Wager Master, who can make even a Mr. Fixer story "funny", will also have the capacity to make things super dark. As for day-in-the-life, we don't get a lot of that up front, she's just sort of around. The palling around with K.N.Y.F.E. is more on-the-move stuff. After Vengeance and the destruction of Freedom Five HQ we get the building of Freedom Tower (which is set up as a place for heroes to congregate as opposed to simply a base of operations for a single team), which is where she winds up living. For most heroes, she's really easy to get along with and she's just generally happy to be here. As for assimilating into Earth culture, she's settling into being somebody on Earth - eating the food, listening to the music, watching the movies (during which she asks a lot of questions). She wants to be part of her new home. She doesn't want to be reminded of home - she notices things occasionally that reminds her of "something" subconsciously that might speak to her of home, but if she's aware of the similarity she'll actively avoid it. She doesn't understand why people like war movies or documentaries, for one thing. Things she likes: movies in general, trying new things, art museums ("Oh, that's a cool 'art'." "That's the welcome sign."). Her introduction as an alien character was kind of a response to Tempest's whose introduction was very serious business and dealing with how different and scary this new world was, where she was able to be more lighthearted. She loves hamburgers, specifically the chain called Dad's that's pretty much everywhere; Dad's cheeseburger is just the best, without modification.
- What are the limits of her normal size-changing abilities? From an inch or so up to maybe 50 feet. Extremist can go from microscopic to hundreds of feet (mentioning approximately 30 stories given the card art relative to Freedom Tower).
- Can she change the size of things/people she's touching or are her clothes just special in some way? She can change the size of things she's in contact with. Thin clothing is relatively easy. Something she's holding in her hands is possible, but more difficult (this is how she gets links in place) and takes more energy. The more familiar she is with the object and what it does/how it works the easier it is for her, so she doesn't do it a lot. Changing another person is beyond her as it would take more power than she has available. That being said, there's a Disparation story involving Proportia, an alternate version of her who can change the size of people or things that she touches, but not herself.
- How does her biology adjust with her size-changing (citing variations in animal heart rates based on their size)? As mentioned in the Cosmic Settings episode, there are two kinds of Thorathians, the pinkish ones that have extra powers and the blue-gray ones that don't. It's a bit more complicated than that - when they're born, they're all kind of a milky, unpigmented grub-like color. Within a few years they get their pigment, but you can tell which kind they are before that because the pinkish ones like Portja or Voss have two hearts where the blueish ones like Vyktor only have one (although it's questionable if Vyktor even has that many). Besides having two hearts, they also have a dual nature of their powers (Portja can grow and shrink, Voss can create two types of energy, etc.) - as she grows and shrinks the hearts change their pace and rhythm accordingly to best suit her size requirements.
- What was her life like before joining the resistance? She was born to an unpowered couple, who tried to keep her away from the rebellion (which has been going on since before she was born, or even before "comics" were a thing if you backdate things) and from the military establishment. They were sympathetic to the rebellion, but weren't members. As she grew up and started getting out and experiencing things she had a run-in with some military people who treated her with some degree of deference due to her powered status (which she didn't really know meant anything as yet). The military people gave her the recruitment pitch and she, not knowing any better, agreed. The missions they were going on as "peacekeepers" involved fighting resistance members and refugees and it's quickly apparent that she's not working with good people and so leaves and returns to her family. The argument/discussion they had resulted in her convincing them that joining the resistance was the right thing to do, but this ultimately resulted in the death of her family. She didn't have a horrible life growing up, but things went downhill quickly once she became aware of the political situation at all and she dosn't have a lot of good memories of Dok'Thorath in general.
- What kind of accent does she have when speaking English? Adam: kind of a blend between Russian and a middle-eastern accent. Christopher: it's very clipped, she doesn't draw out sounds. Her 'r' has a slight trill.
- Neither the other Thorathians we see nor the other gladiators have her odd speech pattern, so why doesn't she have the fluency of these other characters when speaking English? Because she's actually trying to speak English as opposed to relying on the universal translators that most aliens have (or the comic-book convention of translating other languages into English for the readers' sake).
- Given how cool and badass she is, why does she seem to be relatively unimportant (only 2 nemeses, Kaargra and Tantrum, for example)? Is she just too recent of a character? Why are you so mean to her? When they created her she had a specific arc they envisioned that ended with her death during OblivAeon, but they came to like her and by the time they finished even creating her deck they decided to keep her around. She never had her own ongoing book and isn't part of any of the primary teams. She is involved in a lot of major events and gets the occasional story, but her use within the comics was generally to bring in an outsider's perspective on whatever events were going on (and, unfortunately, kind of as a powerful hero to get beat up to show how powerful the new foe was).
- Why no Title associated with her since, mechanically, she's very good at both earning cards from the Title deck and scoring favor points? She did gain a title that's unique to her - The Sky-Scraper was the title she earned in the Colosseum.
- For a fish-out-of-water she seems pretty cheerful, has she embraced terrestrial culture? Already mostly answered. She considers herself a "Hero of Earth" more than anywhere else.
- What's her favorite dessert [Omnitron PI posits that her favorite food is pistachio ice cream, but we've already been told that her favorite Earth food is Dad's cheeseburgers]? She likes sweet foods and confections, but she loves churros.
- Does she/Thorathians have spirituality/drink spirits? Dok'Thorath had a number of religions, but were eradicated by Voss before she was even born. There's probably enough archaeological stuff around that one could be reconstructed, but it's not as easy as finding a holy text in a library. Yes, they drink alcohol - unending war kind of leads to that.
- How does Tantrum become her nemesis given that Proportionist makes it seem like she's outclassed? It's kind of a fake-out situation - Tantrum's force-fields are going to protect her and the flick will probably hurt Sky-Scraper more than her in that situation. She's a neat early nemesis because her power kind of negates Sky-Scraper's initial power of getting big and punching. It's not until she starts learning to do the tiny sneaking and placing links that she's able to get around that.
- Does she have different sets of clothes prior to getting her Extremist outfit? She has clothes (this is just her normal adventuring outfit and she has multiples of it along with her other stuff). It's not like we see Legacy outside of his costume much either. It's designed to fit her snugly so that she has an easier time changing its size with her own. She likes a lot of Earth clothes as she tries to fit into Earth society - it's also handy that if a store doesn't have something she likes in her size she can just change to accommodate it (maintaining a size not normal for her, but still within the bounds of "normal" in general, takes some effort, but certainly no more than, say, wearing high heels for an evening).
- Who designed her Extremist costume? It was a joint effort between her and Luminary - she knows how her powers work and what would minimize the extra effort necessary and he needed it to have the metallic elements to conduct the energies from the wristbands to interface with her synapses properly.
- The Extremist bio says that she abandoned the "free Dok'Thorath" movement, why did she do so? This goes back to her original bio stating her affiliation with "Free Thorath" while her Extremist bio lists no affiliation. This comes down to the way she would have introduced herself as "I was a freedom fighter on Dok'Thorath and now am a gladiator in the Bloodsworn Colosseum" but by the Extremist time she would no longer do so as being a "hero for Earth" is more of her identity at this point. She still cares about Dok'Thorath, but it's not who she is now.
- Did she encounter Voss during his invasion and would she have been conflicted about it? No, they didn't overlap. She would not have been conflicted as she hates him (although she may have been intimidated and withdrawn as it was too much like what she saw back home).
- During Dreamer was she actually turned into a doll and was that before or after Projected Paralysis? She was shrunk down (based on Sky-Scraper's powers), but the doll thing was just in her head (because the Dreamer is psychic).
- Why is the Dreamer's deck one of the few appearances of Sky-Scraper in a villain deck? Because it's a notable story/character element for Sky-Scraper. It's also an image that came out before Sky-Scraper was even in the game and served as a teaser.
- In the Southwest Sentinels/Void Guard episode we learn that their title were largely a stand-alone property with minimal crossover, so why does she appear in issue #26 (cited on "Rebounding Debilitator")? That issue is 2 issues after they became the Adamant team and around that time is when they started getting more cameos from other heroes.
- How long can she maintain a size change? It's proportional; the larger deviation from her Normal size the shorter she can hold it. She can hold one of her pre-Extremist limits for around an hour whereas she could hold a "I've changed slightly to fit into this dress better" size casually for several hours.
- What are the consequences of pushing beyond her limits? At first it's all upside with no consequences, in the long run it makes her power unstable and there's a book where different parts of her are changing in different ways (see her Extremist Normal incapacitated art) which is disorienting and painful. One result in the Mist Storm Universe is that she can only maintain a size change for a very short amount of time. More in the Future.
- Any heroes besides K.N.Y.F.E. that she becomes really good friends with? Not really. They're really close. She's on good terms with just about everybody, but she doesn't open up to many.
- Did the Vengeful Five really try to bury her alive or is that just a cover? Both.
- Who hired Greazer Clutch to capture her (see his Living Paycheck card and her alt-art Tiny incapacitated art)? Kaargra, between the two Hero in the Arena arcs.
- What was stopping her from returning to Normal size and smashing the thing? It's a power-dampener. It's easier to transport her if you catch her when she's Tiny.
- How did she get out of the situation? Cosmic Concurrence is a once-in-a-while, larger format book setting things up in the cosmic scale which don't fit into any other books. In issue #18, Greazer sneaks onto Earth and captures her before leaving again, but winds up stuck on a planet (due to Sky-Scraper having tampered with his vehicle prior to her capture). He's sending out signals trying to get help and one of them is picked up by Jansa vi Dero. Parse (who, strangely, does a lot of space stuff - we'll get to that) gets contacted with the message that her friend has been captured, goes and frees Sky-Scraper, they beat up Greazer, and go home?
- How many questions did you get for Sky-Scrapper given how easy it is to make that typo? Several. It's not uncommon, even for people to think that it's the right name.
- Mist Storm Universe - she joins the Prime Wardens (which had been somewhat fractured during OblivAeon) but has reformed by now. Her powers are more volatile as mentioned, but still powerful.
- Sentinel Comics Universe - she and K.N.Y.F.E. (well, they're both under new hero names, but they'll get to that eventually) are palling around out in space, doing space adventures, but these are centered on this specific space threat they're dealing with named Malyce.