The Letters Page: Episode 51
You didn't even know that you wanted an episode on an intergalactic bounty hunter, and yet, here we are!
Run Time: 1:23:43
In the first five minutes, we devolve into roleplaying as our own characters, so that sets the tone for this entire episode. You're welcome?
After that, we get to Hero in the Arena #1, the true first appearance of Greazer.
But the bulk of today's overview segment is the discussion of the book "Greazer", which we go over page-by-page of the first few issues. The secret history of Greazer Clutch!
45 minutes into the episode, we get to your questions!
During those questions, we realize that tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of The Letters Page! Hooray! Space Champagne for everyone!
Then, just after the one hour and 18 minute mark, we wrap up by talking about the future.
See you next time!
(Send us your questions about The Operative!)
- Initially seen as a knock-off merch vendor and ticket scalper at the Bloodsworn Colosseum, he was just a blue-skinned alien seen in passing in Hero in the Arena #1 that the "official" staff just referred to as a "grease-ball". Like, the t-shirts he's printed up are fully of misspellings and he's pawning off random junk as "authentic" artifacts from the Colosseum.
- He's just part of the scenery in the establishing scenes of HitA. Before this point the Colosseum has been presented as your "standard space colosseum" - there's a fight happening and a crowd watching and it's all very self-important and serious. Now, in this story in the '80s was where more spectacle comes in - the experience of attending the Colosseum became more than just watching the battle; it was about fanfare, the giant screens showing the action, the overpriced food you buy while watching, and the merch to take back home with you to prove to all of your friends that you were there, man. And with all of that, there's the people in the background who keep all of that running.
- This blue alien guy just keeps showing up in the background of all three issues of the comic and when he is given lines he uses this odd '50s-inspired lingo. Anyway, the readers really like this weirdo. He's fun. As a result, the writers decide that they need to do more stuff with him. He had just been wearing a white t-shirt and jeans with a puff of hair, but they decided to really lean into the rockabilly thing given the way he'd talked and so he winds up with a perfect pompadour after this, which is when...
- He gets an ongoing title, Greazer, which never really bothers going into his backstory, it just starts right away there at the Colosseum with him selling his stuff out of his space-van [and apparently one space dollar in the 1980s is worth about $20 US in 2018 if anybody cares to get into the interplanetary currency market]. While he's hawking his wares, he's run into by a shady-looking alien in a space-trenchcoat who's furtively trying to leave the colosseum with something bundled up. The collision knocks this guy down and when the very loud and rather large Greazer starts in on a pitch he panics and scurries away, leaving his bundle where it had rolled under Greazer's van. Greazer goes back to selling his merch and time passes, eventually the Colosseum becomes a beam of light and teleports away, the story having not even bothered going in as we focus on the guys out in the parking lot, which eventually empties to the point that it's just Greazer, counting his (disappointingly small amount of) space cash there in the lot with all of the trash left by the crowd. He laments that he's not made nearly enough, but one day... He gazes over to a picture of a fancy sports car of a spaceship that's tucked under the visor of his van.
- He then "gets to work" with a bucket. He's scanning the area where the Colosseum itself stood more than the "parking lot" - looking for anything that he might be able to convince somebody else to buy later. As he returns to the van, he sees something glint under the van - he finds a fist made of crystal. It looks a lot like one of the knock-off souvenirs that he sells - replicas of the Fist of Glory, an item that Kaargra holds aloft at the beginning of every Colosseum event that emits dazzling beams of light and produces a big fanfare that's audible throughout the Colosseum. He notices that it's a bit bigger than the ones he sells and holds it up, whereupon it goes into the whole lightshow and fanfare. He realizes that this is the real deal, but is at a loss as to what to do with it - he's clearly on Kaargra's vermin-beneath-my-notice list and so can't exactly imagine just walking up to her to give it back.
- He knows all sorts of space-pawn shops, though, and goes around to see what he can get for it. The pawn broker take a look at it, holds it up to see the lights and wall-shaking fanfare, and declare it a knock-off that he'll pay 20 space bucks for. Greazer gets indignant and rants a bit about how he's sure its the real thing as he's been traveling around with the Colosseum for a long time and is very familiar with it. The pawn broker is convinced, but is also now pretty sure that if this random guy has it, he must have stolen it. Cue the armed lackeys jumping out from the back of the store to capture Greazer. End of issue 1.
- The next issue picks up there with the broker threatening to call in the space-cops, and saying that he's going to keep the Fist to turn over for a reward. Greazer is a big dude, but so far is shown as being pretty craven and tries to make a deal. In exchange for not being turned over to the cops, he's got to get the Pink Lady for this guy. Apparently, that's some kind of robot (Greazer isn't familiar with it) in some space casino - you'll know it when you see it (bright pink, answers to "Pink Lady", etc.). He agrees and off he goes in his van to get this thing.
- Turns out the casino isn't a small joint like the broker implied, but is actually a galaxy-famous space station - The Roulette. Shaped like it's namesake, the "wheel" portion advances one step every few hours resulting in half of the sections being "active" at any one time with the inactive portions undergoing maintenance (they're red if active and black if not), allowing the place to operate continuously with minimal disruption. Once he's inside he spends several hours casing the joint while he looks for the Pink Lady (without luck), eventually just bluntly asking some aliens if there are any robots here. The only robots are, apparently, the maintenance units that are in the inactive sections, so you wouldn't see any in the active ones.
- Met with this seemingly dead-end, he decides that his best option to get the Fist back is to simply make enough money to buy the thing. And what's the best way to make money in a casino? That's right, slot machines! He sits down to play penny slots (and get free drinks while he's at it). As he's there doing that, the reader sees a pull-back and now the same scene of him at the slot machine shown on a surveillance monitor. A pink robot points at him and says "This one's about to pay out." End of issue #2.
- Flashback: we get information about a company that makes robots for statistical analysis (the highest-quality ones are used for navigating asteroid fields for mining purposes). They can't make perfect robots, but around 5% of them develop a spark of ingenuity to be able to perform these highly complex tasks (and are sold at a premium) while the other 95% or so get sold for lesser amounts for less dangerous jobs. The story follows one of these robots through the testing process, but it fails the "ingenuity" test and so is sold off to somebody who uses it just as a probability analyst and as a personal valet. He paints her bright pink and takes her to a casino to make some money (she warns him off since the probabilities are all set to favor the house - he's really short-sighted considering he's bought this robot to, essentially, help him cheat a casino which is typically frowned upon). For some reason, however, she's able to pick out a slot machine that after a few goes pays out the jackpot, so his crazy scheme worked. It's one of the biggest jackpots in the Roulette's history so they bring out the space-Champagne and make a big deal about it. Then the robot points out another machine and he wins another jackpot. The owner of the casino gets involved and make all buddy-buddy with the guy, they take the gambler in the back to get him his winnings, and then promptly kill him and take the robot. Nobody can tell why, but she can tell when the machines are going to pay out. They use her to watch for these, and when she picks one out they'll quickly put up an "out of order" sign until the next time the Roulette turns and they can get it to pay out and reset it during the maintenance period so they don't lose the money (although they'll let smaller jackpots hit occasionally to keep the saps interested and occasionally will use them as a retirement plan for their employees by having them win them).
- However, back to the main story she's just indicated Greazer. Her handlers make some comment like "the one the blue guy is playing?" and she corrects them that the blue guy himself is about to pay out big. They assume that this means she's malfunctioning somehow and take her away for maintenance and send some people over to Greazer to put up the out of order sign. Greazer has managed to win a voucher for a free night at the hotel there (which is kind of a racket in itself as it keeps people there longer).
- By watching things and talking to people he knows that there's a flurry of activity going on in the inactive portions of the casino and so he now plans to try to get in there to see if that's where he'll find the Pink Lady. He manages to sneak his way into an inactive section that night. The Pink Lady sees him from her control room, doesn't say anything, but leaves (people assume she's going to check on one of the machines, which is not uncommon). She wants to talk to Greazer, though. We find out here that Greazer has (since the pawn shop) acquired a ray gun and when she shows up in front of him he draws on her and says that she's coming with him. She's fine with this - she wants to be out in space (hopefully seeing asteroids). On their way out he grabs a bag of casino chips and they make their way (eventually) to the hangar with his van. Unfortunately, by then the security people have spotted them and are waiting. Greazer's gun, however, just makes a sad fizzling sound when he tries to use it - the Pink Lady takes it, turns off the safety and then shoots all of the guards (he didn't even know there was a safety). She gets shot up pretty bad in the process, though, and so Greazer has to drag her into the van and they take off.
- As they head off, she says that her systems are failing and that he should just drive so she can see space. He offers to fix her up since he's "pretty handy", but she warns him off because her reactor core could blow up if she's tampered with. He offers to spend his bag of casino chips to pay somebody to fix her, but she tells him that they only had value in the casino and that as they're individually numbered they're definitely worthless by now (and possibly traceable so he should probably ditch them ASAP). She's content to simply be out in space where she was meant to be and gives him an access chip to her earnings as a casino employee. Why does she trust him? Because she knew he was going to pay out big, and he did by getting her out of there. Then she dies (or whatever robots do).
- Greazer returns to the pawn shop with the nonfunctional robot. The broker complains about the state of it, but Greazer suggests he can just have it repaired. In the meantime the broker's been unable to find a buyer for the Fist and so, magnanimously, agrees to give it back in return. As Greazer's leaving the broker says "pleasure doing business with you" to which Greazer replies "No, pleasure doing business with you" at which point he presses a button on a device in his hand, which causes the whole shop to explode [presumably he'd rigged the Pink Lady's reactor on his way in]. Then he gets in his van and flies away. At the end of the issue he's shown returning the Fist to Kaargra and she mentions payment for it, which he accepts given that he's out of the t-shirt business now - and we see the hot-rod ship that he had a picture of at the beginning, which he's calling the Pink Lady. End of issue #3.
- Now he's just got this ongoing book that's really disconnected from everything else in Sentinel Comics and they've gone full-rockabilly with his aesthetics as he goes around bounty hunting in his souped-up spaceship. It's a really fun, campy, space-hi-jinx book where he's definitely an anti-villain. He's not a good guy and doesn't learn a valuable lesson, but he's also not out doing big "destroy the world!" plots or anything. He's just a shady space character that runs afoul of the heroes occasionally. He's treated as a likable character that does dumb things that gets him into trouble. This book runs for 5 or 6 years and over that time drifts from anti-villain to anti-hero as he becomes more relatable/personable - but that's not what the writers want him to be. He should be a ne'er-do-well, so to prevent this character derailment, the book gets cancelled.
- Greazer himself sticks around, though. He shows up in some Freedom Five stories and in a bunch of space-based stories. As mentioned before, he catches Sky-Scraper for Kaargra to instigate the second round of Hero in the Arena story and is after Captain Cosmic (which involves the rest of the Prime Wardens) for Rahazar. By this point he's one of the most feared bounty hunters in the galaxy. This is the Greazer we see in the SotM card game as he's come a long way from his introductory story.
- He's not really involved in the OblivAeon event as that's not his scene - he's the type to grab a drink somewhere to watch the end of the universe rather than get involved.
- In the Kaargra episode it was mentioned that he was initially designed to be a gladiator, but then got sidelined into selling t-shirts out of his space-van - was he just selling them to make the space-bucks to buy the Pink Lady? Short answer - yes, he was saving up to buy the cool car. He didn't do well in jobs working for other people and the merch vendor gig worked for him as he was his own boss - even the car was important primarily as it would represent this idea of autonomy.
- How/why is he an alien version of a stereotypical 1950's American greaser? Are all of his people like this or are there groups of other subcultures represented? Just the weirdest example of convergent evolution in the history of science? It's complicated. The second planet in the Suet cluster isn't, like, the home planet of these blue rockabilly aliens - the Suet cluster is home to thousands of different alien species, many of whom can interbreed. He was born there and just fell in with a group of rockabilly characters - and this was explained over time rather than all at once in his book. When he was created he was just this blue merch vendor that the writers gave this vaguely rockabilly dialect just to make this alien character talk differently and later they leaned into that hard as he became more of a fully-realized character. The whole Suet cluster is shown to be retro-futurist in a bunch of ways (ray guns, clean lines, rings around things - excited about space but clueless to what it would really be like, but with some darker stuff too). Kind of "a mix of Blade Runner and The Jetsons.
- [Another great Angry Taxpayer letter at around 51:45] Did he and Chrono-Ranger ever go after the same target? No, because Greazer's book is out in space and disconnected from everything and Jim is much more focused specifically on Earth (or Earth-adjacent like the Mars event). Additionally, Jim's story is much more tied into the main Multiverse arc whereas the closest Greazer gets to that is when he captures Sky-Scraper.
- Is "Greazer Clutch" his actual name? Yup, it's like he was born for this.
- Why bounty hunting? Does he enjoy it? Does he enjoy looking good while he's doing it? Is he just in it for the money or is he out to impress some particular lady? He does it because he discovered that he was good at it. Prior to this point he'd been pushed around a lot and this gives him the chance to do the pushing. He likes it and he likes driving his cool space-car around. He enjoys looking good, and while there have been a number of ladies there isn't one in particular. He enjoys having the money and lives well, but he's terrible at saving any of it - "he's living big paycheck to big paycheck".
- How much hairspray does he go through? What happens if Writhe hits his hair with Blackout? In the game, if Writhe hits the a target with Blackout then the target hits all non-heroes, so if he hits the hair then the hair hits everything. What's really being modeled in this case is the psychic pain that Greazer feels when his hair gets messed up lashing out to hurt everybody else too (rather than the hair "coming alive" to hit everybody). Greazer has no psychic or telekinetic powers, by the way, that's just how much he cares about his hair. He doesn't use any hairspay - he's using pomade, obviously.
- Happy podcast anniversary! What are you going to do once you run out of characters? Part of that's what's been going on the last few weeks - pushing the schedule back at the first of the year makes things line up well so that they'll get to OblivAeon at a good time to then move on to other stuff. This episode is a preview of that sort of content where they dig a bit deeper into individual stories (we got an in-depth accounting of, basically, three issues of a comic for the majority of the Overview after all) and they can do more of that. They want to do a lot of looking back on stories and looking forward to stories. The Environment episodes also let them give more detail on where these things are happening - it's not just to "spread things out" to pad for time. That said, they will have more to say on this sort of thing on Editor's Note entries.
- What's the currency of choice for Greazer? Does he take whatever the local currency is? What are the exchange rates like, say, between Thorathian pounds and Wager Master loons? They've been using "space dollars" - it definitely can't be "star bucks" for obvious reasons. The Suet cluster has a Credits system but there's a lot of slang terms thrown around for them. He does have to do exchanges between other currencies and credits when he heads back there (or trade in commodities). Pounds to loons is a 7:3 exchange rate.
- What other "get rich quick" schemes has he tried over the years? He's not really into "schemes" - he puts in a lot of work to earn what he does (from the little he earned from the t-shirts to the decent amounts he gets hunting bounties). His most successful thing prior to the Colosseum was forgery (fake IDs, false documents, etc.) - one character trait he has in spades is being meticulous; focusing and doing one thing over-the-top.
- Does he have any special powers or is it just due to his alien technology? He's a little bigger and stronger than average humans because of his alien biology, but it's not by a whole lot and other than that it's all down to his tech.
- How do his bounty-hunting abilities stack up against Ambuscade's hero-hunting abilities? That's not really a one-to-one match-up, but Greazer's certainly more successful in practice, but is less determined and focused than Ambuscade. Greazer's not above just giving up and leaving if a job turns out to be more difficult than he wants to deal with - he's good at cutting his losses.
- When was he introduced and how dated was his style? Late '80s, extremely dated.
- Does he go after specific targets or does he just capture whoever and then see who'll pay for them? He never really goes after somebody without a contract first. He's not the sort to engage in effort without knowing that there's a payday in it for him. We see other bounty hunters in the Greazer book (friends, rivals, etc.) and there's a kind of "official" bounty board system in place to get jobs.
- Does he hit on women of other species? Definitely.
- Is he actually attracted to them or does he do it to maintain his image? Both.
- How cool is he on the rankings of how cool every character is? Guise is at the top of the list (although he wrote himself in) - they're contractually obligated to keep the official list secret as otherwise since that would be playing favorites.
- We see him going after Sky-Scraper, Captain Cosmic, and Tempest; anybody else he's going after? Tempest wasn't a target, that was part of the story where he was after CC and the other Prime Wardens just got involved. There are others, but there's one notable story where he was hired by some Space Tyrant who is a collector of trinkets, baubles, and other powerful things from other worlds. He'd heard of Legacy of Earth who was supposed to be, like, the best and so he wanted him for the collection. Greazer thinks sure, this should be no problem as he's just some jerk in a cape. How hard could it be? The Freedom Five and Unity face off with him and he realizes real quick that he wants no part of this and just gives up - the heroes are like "That's it? You're just leaving?" "Yup!" spaceship taking off sound effect
- How does he get his gear - some specific person he has make them or does he just buy what he can get? Early on it's just whatever he can get, but over time in his own book he starts developing his personal "brand" and he's choosy about what he gets. That means he starts buying from a specific shop in his the Suet cluster - the Soup Kitchen (they'll soup anything up). The retro-futuristic rockabilly look is based on their work.
- What type of creature is his belt buckle supposed to represent? Its the skull of an alien whose skull looks like that.
- Where is the Suet cluster in relation to Earth? Very far away in a different galaxy.
- What's his success rate on catching bounties? Adam: 60% Christopher: More like 40% - he bails a lot. Clarification after these statements: he's known for reliability, but the stories we see are often as much hunting bounties as they are him trying to get out of whatever situation he's gotten himself into and so there's the disparity between what we see and what his reputation is based on overall. His book ended in the '90s, but by the time we see him more in the late phase of the character (and the era his deck is representing), that's the point where he has this great reputation and he's above that 60% mark, but we don't see the intervening jobs.
- Has he been stiffed on a payment and what's his response? He has been stiffed, his response is as petty a revenge as possible (space equivalent of slashing their tires in the parking lot on his way out kind of things). He's not going to kill somebody over this (the closest was that intro story with the pawn broker, but that was before a lot of his characterization had shaken out). He's also not going to take a job to kill somebody for money (it's not in his skill set), but he's willing to shoot people if necessary.
- Does he do anything in OblivAeon? No.
- Did the writers try to make him an anti-hero and/or did you think about making a hero deck for him? He had trended towards becoming an anti-hero as his book went on but the editorial mandate nipped that in the bud. That kind of mirrors the real-world view on him - they were mapping out what kind of stories he could have been involved in, but they wanted him to be a particular kind of character and had to course-correct. As they were developing the OvlivAeon set and the villains-to-hero decks they knew the specific ones that were definitely including, and Greazer was in the running for one of the other slots (like Ambuscade becoming Stuntman) and could have made it into the Mission deck, but he's just so disconnected from the general Multiverse events and his personality isn't really going to get him involved, he just didn't make the cut.
- Mist Storm Universe - These are the darker/grittier stories where people don't trust the heroes (and even the villains are more out to sow distrust in the populace than taking over). These are stories so intrinsically Earth-centric that he doesn't really make sense to make an appearance and so doesn't for a long time.
- Sentinel Comics Universe - He plays a sizable role in the Void Guard stuff out in space (there's a lot of that kind of thing between them and the Sky-Scraper/K.N.Y.F.E. stories and whatnot). Some returning space locations (and some new ones) for all sorts of stories. A new development here, though, is that Greazer is now accompanied by a girlfriend (who's kind of the boss of him), named Dollface. She's very driven and is calling the shots.