The Letters Page: Episode 6
Run Time: 84:16
We were really tempted to post this show a day late, just because of who this episode is about... but we didn't want to let our listeners down!
If you haven't listened to the Expatriette episode yet, we suggest you do so before the Q&A portion of this episode - lots of connected stuff.
We mention that the building he went to for medical testing was a RevoCorp building. More on RevoCorp in the Baron Blade episode!
Not a lot of notes today! This episode is pretty self contained.
See you next week for Setback's old flame and nemesis, Kismet!
- From Springfield, MO. Raised by single-mom Patricia, older sister Sarah, dog Abbie (golden retriever) - I'm guessing on name spellings. Unremarkable childhood.
- When he was a high school sophomore, starts dating a new student a year ahead of him transferred in from Arizona, Gabrielle Adhin (Kismet!). Later that year her family is moving again and he takes it surprisingly well (just kind of assuming that they're breaking up, not trying to do the long-distance thing), which makes her mad at how blasé he is about it. From his perspective, it's just how "relentlessly optimistic" he is about things - he figures that everything will turn out great for everybody, so why try to sugarcoat the goodbye. She "curses" him, in a typical high-school way, not knowing that it'll actually be effective, with "the misfortune of the coyote" a specific old saying in her family. He thinks of Wile E. Coyote-style, "oh, he can just bounce back from getting an anvil dropped on him, so that's cool" shenanigans, which frustrates her more as he's not getting the implication, so she continues with "When anvils are falling, Pete, I wish you the best of luck." She's not aware of the power of her words, but because of his interjection the whole curse is that he will have the worst luck until when things are at their roughest, at which point he will have the best luck.
- He doesn't really know what's happening with this "curse" that was said by some girl he dated for 8 months in high school. There's no Uncle Ben "With great power..." memory of the curse happening that shapes his life. His natural optimism about everything kind of prevents him from really noticing that anything's going on.
- Gets a full ride to his college of choice, during final prep (choosing class schedule) he called up the school and found that they had no record of him or this scholarship anywhere in the system (due to a spectacular computer glitch) and nobody really remembers how conversations with him went because there are so many students and the computer is supposed to keep track of this stuff.
- Just decides to stay in town and get a job/apartment. While waiting tables he once brings the mayor's wife the wrong plate, setting off her terrible nut allergy. She survives, but Pete got fired.
- Shortly after that, one of the old cooks calls him up to ask him to help cook at the new pizza place he's opening. So, hey, having a job just fall into your lap is nice. One of the assistant managers was embezzling money, though, but shifts blame to Pete when the owners figure out that money is going missing.
- He gets a job at a copy shop. He's there for a few weeks, having a good time. One busy afternoon, he sees a guy at the back of the line with a lot of files and whatnot who's obviously impatient. He finishes helping a few other customers, but then notices that the impatient guy has left, but had dropped some files. Pete picks them up, and tries to find the man outside real quick, but can't. Takes the files inside and opens a few to see if there's a way to identify the man from them (policy would be to put them in lost-and-found or on the manager's desk, but he's trying really hard to help). The pages are marked F.I.L.T.E.R. at the top and are redacted heavily - not knowing what that means he winds up just putting them on the managers desk. When he goes back to work the next morning, the whole shop has been demolished, company out of business, etc.
- Then starts dealing blackjack at a casino. Then another. And another. They consistently lose money when he's dealing, but they can't see how he's "cheating" for the players' benefit.
- He's then waiting to hear about more job interviews when he sees a flyer looking for participants for medical testing. They provide food and he stays there for the duration, so it'll cut down on bills. It's a Revo-Corp building, he does in and does the paperwork, and is eventually goes into a room with a guy in a lab coat and speaks with a thick Latvian accent who seems very angry that Pete's there. Somebody shows Pete into the room he's supposed to be in across the hall.
- While he's wired up in a tube of goo, he overhears people talking over an intercom that's been left on by accident about how the other test subjects are all sick, but he feels great. Sure his hair fell out, but he's put on 20 pounds of muscle. At this point he's been there for about a week and a half and expects to be leaving soon for those job interviews but the staff member he's talking to tells him at this point that because of his results, they're keeping him there. They won't let him leave, but offer to double the rate of pay for the study. He's starting to think there's something shady going on, though.
- One day, he notices that his door is unlocked, which is weird. Nobody is in the hall, so he just keep meandering around, still not seeing anybody. Eventually just walks out the front door, having not run into anybody on his way out, but is still just in a hospital gown.
- He finds his apartment has burned down - he had a candle that he'd blown out before heading to the testing facility, but this one had a production error where the wick was the kind used in prank birthday candles that can't be blown out. While he's looking for his prized bottle-cap collection he's ambushed by the Blade Battalion and that guy with the lab coat and goggles. That's when the Freedom Five shows up to fight Baron Blade, while Pete has a Jackie Chan-esque tussle with the Blade Battalion members and saves the Wraith from Blade's death ray in the process.
- Pete wakes up in Freedom Tower (I'm guessing this was a misstatement as the original HQ wouldn't have been blown up yet), meets everybody, an off-hand comment from Tachyon is the source of him using "Setback" as a name. This post-high school stuff is all just origin story - Mystery Comics #212 (if Christopher remembers the issue right). Becomes intern/sidekick/mentee for the Freedom Five - their first trainee - for a while.
- What was the plan for Setback prior to Kismet (referring to the fact that Kismet was a from the Create a Villain contest - this question asked by her creator)? Christopher and Adam have a whole stable of unused characters, stemming from RPG games they've played or comics that Adam made over the last 2 decades. Setback was one of these. They assigned Kismet to him as nemesis for thematic reasons but their plan was that no matter who won the contest they had characters available to match up with them. First few expansions had lots of character cameos from later releases who they didn't necessarily think they'd wind up getting to make - even getting to Shattered Timelines was surprising.
- Where did the idea for him come from? Based on a real friend of theirs named Pete - lots of bad breaks but things works out in the end, staying optimistic throughout.
- Did he debut in comics as Blade's test-subject or had he been around for a while? That first comic shows his life with all the bad breaks leading up to his being a test subject, as mentioned earlier. Flashback to high school explaining the luck once Kismet shows up. The invented comics-industry reason is that he was originally written to just be this extremely unlucky guy (not even part of his "power set", just as the chain of events that led him to be in this situation) and the curse thing was a retcon by later writers.
- He seems like his his comic would be pretty wacky, but he's connected to Expatriette who is not - does his tone shift depending on which title he's appearing in? They don't consider him to be a comedy character - not wacky like Guise's would be. Slapstick things happen, but they're not the focus as he takes his role as a hero seriously. That being said, there is likely to be differences depending on the title (he'd still be lighthearted in a Dark Watch issue, but not as much as he would be in Freedom Five). In the grittier titles he's a "source of light in darkness" - he's not comic relief, but he's the lightest aspect of the book.
- Why did the serum work on him? The luck. No other reason. Too early in the testing process to expect it to do anything.
- What was the extent of what the serum did for him? Hard to measure. As a rule of thumb, think "half as [strong/fast/tough/whatever]" as Legacy. That's still really impressive. Initially they thought of having a fluctuating strength component, but they decided the luck thing was more interesting and so they dropped it.
- Why doesn't he need frequent injections of the serum like Blade does? Because it worked. Blade's version is a work-around/hack to get something out of it.
- Does his bad luck ever get him down or frustrate him? For most of his arc, he doesn't really recognize that he's got this weird luck thing. He's very laid back and optimistic. Not to say that he doesn't get sad when something bad happens, but he doesn't blame some external "luck" thing, it's just life.
- On his original incap art, he's thrown away his costume. What's the story there? Pretty early in his story (Freedom Five trainee phase). During a fight, he takes a hit that sends him across the room and into the janitor, Larry Hillburn, an older man who gets badly injured. Setback sees this as his fault, and decides that him being around and affecting other people instead of just himself is a problem and so quits. A few months later, Miss Information has trapped the Freedom Five in their HQ, but Larry slips out unnoticed and goes to Pete's apartment to ask him to help. Pete's very apologetic about what happened, but Larry explains that he doesn't blame him and thought that he had helped. Larry had saved the costume from the dumpster too, although it still smells bad. He goes to fight Miss Information and almost immediately falls into a trap, although one set for Tyler Vance that he's able to break. This causes an explosion, which releases the other heroes who then save the day.
- Where did he get the suit? Designed for him specifically? How often does he need a new one? Freedom Five have an in-house costume fabrication thing. Tachyon would be involved in the science of them, but not the fashion - his is essentially just spandex and so she'd have little influence in his (costume stuff to be discussed later - reference to RPG info, I'm assuming as player character info on how "costumes" make sense in-setting).
- Is the person in the Revenant armor somebody who knew Pete? Revenant is the CEO of Revo-Corp. He knows who Pete is and the whole incident with the serum, but Pete unlikely to recognize him out of comic. More about him in the Revo-Corp podcast (so get your Revo-Questions in!). He'd have been recognized by comic readers when unmasked, but he's nobody else that we've seen in the SotM game.
- Is there a point where other characters notice his luck as a superpower? Great question: brings up lots of story stuff:
- First character to notice his luck is Zhu Long. After recovering the revived Mister Fixer, the Dark Watch team argue on whether they should return to the Temple to see if there's something that can be done to restore him to his old non-bitter self. Setback decides to just go on his own and just walks right into the place, fights some ninjas, stumbles into a vat of poison and knocks himself out. Zhu Long is a master of a lot of ancient evil magic and can see the "general aura of unluck that's pervasive" as well as the "spikes of extremely good luck" and manipulates him. He uses a kind of mind control to order Setback around and also manipulates the luck stuff so that the bad luck is always facing out and the good luck inwards - making Setback very dangerous. He's more or less a match for the remaining 3 members of Dark Watch on his own while in this state, but Mister Fixer is able to stymie him long enough for Nightmist to be able to undo the magic that Zhu Long had done.
- That means that Nightmist is now also aware of it and offers later to manipulate the luck aura for him too, but he's still not sold on the fact that this is a real thing anyway and so declines to have anybody messing with him magically.
- Does Pete have any feeling/idea of when his luck is about to change? Kind of. He probably could key into it if his general outlook on life would allow him to do so. His general optimism kind of blinds him to the fact that something good is about to happen since he pretty much always expects good things to happen.
- Any reasons for nemesis status with Kismet beyond the "luck" theme? The dating thing from high school to start, but there are parallel backstory reasons following that to explain it too. More next week (Christopher has to check himself from launching right into it anyway).
- How often do his fights with villains end in a draw? Never. He probably loses more than other heroes, though.
- How does Pete's family feel about him (comparisons with the Parson and Cohen families)? He's told his mom and sister and they're proud of him. He kind of turned into a screw-up halfway through high school, but he's doing good stuff now. Always tries to make it home for holidays [insert series of unfortunate events].
- 5 questions narrowed down from like 20 they received.
- How did they get together considering their disparate backgrounds/outlooks on life? As per the Expatriette episode, she accidentally got hit by a shock round. He was kind of in Freedom Five-sidekick mode at the time. While she's in town they got to know each other, but she was still dealing with her own stuff. He wore her down eventually with his humanity. He thought she was really cool, on top of things, and found her fascinating. They're a "working" couple - he likes helping people and she likes working. He was a big influence on her in terms of "helping people by shooting".
- What's she see in him; he doesn't seem like her type? He's "not her type" in that he's not like her, and that's what makes him her type. She probably didn't have a type before. She admires his optimism while she had been more of a nihilist/fatalist prior to meeting him. The relationship brings both of them closer to "center". They're a fantastic influence on each other.
- What kind of living situation? They both have their own places - he has a nice apartment, she has a survival bunker safehouse (or a series of them). That's true for the card game - Tactics they're always on the move (together) and RPG they're living together and are even more of a team.
- How much does his luck impact his romantic life with her? Dating more challenging/interesting. They got off on a good start. She's aware of what happens around him. She's very rational and knows it's not something he can control.
- What's a typical date night like? They don't really date like most people. They go out on patrol and that's kind of their "dates". There aren't many trips to fancy restaurants. Setback instigates them occasionally, but then Ambuscade happens to be there or something. They've probably had a single-digit number of dates with minimal bad things happening.
- Tactics: he and Expatriette do their duo-book "Lucky Shot" before the "Broken City" Dark Watch stuff gets going. Gets more serious once they get involved with Exemplar and the Spite clones and whatnot.
- RPG: they also do a duo thing, but Dark Watch is larger. Mister Fixer is kind of the "sensei" of the whole thing. Harpy is the eye-in-the-sky. Setback and Expatriette are the boots on the ground. They've worked together long enough that Expatriette actually has a good feel about how his luck is going to go and can use it to their advantage.