The Letters Page: Episode 66
We're back to the very beginning! Revisiting the Legacy story from our very first episode.
(This art is the pencils Adam did in 2010 for Legacy which were then scanned in and inked and colored to make Legacy's first character card art! Adam will probably hate that I used this art, but it's good to see your roots.)
Run Time: 1:28:45
We start off by talking about the weirdness that is this coming Thursday's Extrasode.
Then, just before 6 minutes in, we finally get into the history of Sentinel Comics portion of the episode that takes up the bulk of the overview.
After all that, around 36 minutes in, we get to your questions!
Right off the bat, 40 minutes in, we get a question about where the heck do Legacy's powers come from. AND WE ANSWER IT. FULLY AND HONESTLY. SURPRISE.
At the hour and 21 minutes mark, we get to the future section.
This was a fun one for us to return to. Thanks for listening!
- Fyodor Ramonat
- Baron Blade
- Iron Curtain
- Henry Goodman, Ryan Frost
- Pauline Felicia Parsons/Young Legacy/Beacon
- Emily Parsons
- Grand Warlord Voss
- Dr. Medico
- Citizen Dawn
- Citizen Pain
- Wager Master
- Iron Legacy
- In December 1939 World War II starts [point of comparison: here in our world, the war is generally considered to start in September of that year when Germany invaded Poland - with even earlier dates possible depending on if what's going on over in Asia "counts" as WWII or as its own thing up until a certain point] and comic books are already in existence (including the company that will be Sentinel Comics). The US isn't involved in the war at first, but some people already wonder why we aren't, including some comic book publishers. The idea these people come up with is to make up a superhero character who can be a soldier (and obviously one who'd be as American as possible), but one who can really make a difference.
- This is what results in the character of Legacy, first appearing in Justice Comics #1 in May of 1940. Legacy is out there in Europe and fighting Nazis. This is a good year and a half before the US actually enters the war at the end of 1941.
- For the first batch of issues there's not really an idea of super-villains, mostly just enemy soldiers. They want to introduce antagonists that represent actual threats and are more interesting (otherwise why isn't our American hero just winning the war on his own). We get a handful of mad scientist types who are developing stuff for the Nazis (augmented soldiers, etc.), but they're mostly on-offs who don't appear again. We do eventually get Fyodor Ramonat, a weapons developer making death machines for the Nazis (war Zeppelins and walking tanks, for starters). [Retcon from Episode 3 where Fyodor was introduced as working for the Soviets in the Cold War, although the implications in the Shattered Timelines Kickstarter materials for America's Greatest Legacy does imply that Fyodor's work was during WWII]
- In Justice Comics #40 [August '43 if we assume uninterrupted monthly publication], we get one of the few face-to-face confrontations between Legacy and Fyodor in this weapons plant. This is the story mentioned in previous episodes that resulted in the facility blowing up and Fyodor's death.
- This sets up the first appearance of Baron Blade in JC #61 [May '45 with the same assumptions] who's back to avenge his father's death (although the first few appearances of this character it's not immediately apparent that he's the son of Fyodor Ramonat). We're getting to the end of the real war here, and you'd think that Legacy would get to stop fighting and come home, but now he's got this guy to deal with - somebody who's got his own troops and death machines unrelated to the German Wehrmacht.
- In this era we've just got this flying, super-strength guy without much in the way of explanation. As was somewhat common in old comics he'd occasionally be given some new ability to get out of whatever situation he was in with the justification being given later - like, they had him survive getting hit by some big single attack with some throw-away speech given afterwards ("Good thing I have that thing that lets me prevent one big attack" or something) where he's also shown trying to not get shot. It's not until issue #66 [October '45] that they finally bother going into his backstory of why he's the way he is (see Episode 1 and the story of Joseph Parsons and his descendants).
- Then in issue #77 [September '46] we finally get to see his son, Paul Parsons VIII - it had been mentioned previously that Legacy had a wife and child back home, but we hadn't seen them on-panel up to this point. Here, Paul the younger is, basically, just used as a plot device - he's been kidnapped by some criminals and Legacy has to get him back (this is still in the era where each issue is self-contained and they have to come up with plots that can be resolved right away - there aren't multi-issue arcs yet). As Legacy breaks down the door to the bad-guy hideout, ready to save his son, we instead see this teenager (with obvious resemblance to the hero) who's tied up the gang and is holding them all over his head - "Look, dad, I got them!" So the first time we see Paul VIII is the same day his powers manifested.
- In JC #101 [September '48] we have the "Death of Legacy" story (also mentioned in prior episodes [although Episode 3 did mention that Baron Blade showing up to kill Legacy was his first appearance, so this might be another retcon for that episode]). Baron Blade had been a thorn in Legacy's side more than his father had been (personal involvement vs. just being the source of advanced troops/weapons) - of the last ~40 issues, Blade has probably been involved in something like 25 of them.
- October '48 is an important month: it has JC #102 [which means the previous assumptions of publication dates are all probably correct] and the introduction of "our" Legacy taking up the name and the first appearance of the villain Iron Curtain. It also has Arcane Tales #14 and the first appearance of Haka, and Mystery Comics #27 and the first appearance of The Wraith. This represents a turning point in the direction the publishing company is going.
- May 1950 sees the launch of a new book, The Freedom Four (although at first it just consists of four unrelated solo stories about Legacy, Wraith, Shrieker, and the original Absolute Zero, Henry Goodman - the "team" aspect didn't come in until issue #24 [April '52]).
- The first issue with the Freedom Five title is #60 [April '55] when they introduce Haka as part of the team. Then two months later we get JC #182 [June '55 fits with prior timeline] and the first appearance of Pauline Felicia Parsons - in the intervening years Paul VIII has met Emily, married her, and now we have the birth of their child and a big deal is made about it eventually being the next Legacy - and it's a girl!
- August '57 sees the FF title [issue #88] revert to being the "Freedom Four" and the lineup that we all know and love with Tachyon (her first appearance as Tachyon) and Bunker is established with Freedom Four Annual #1 the same month. One year later [August '58] we have FFA #2, the introduction of Ryan Frost as Absolute Zero, and issue #100 of the once-again Freedom Five title. [This establishes a Letters Page retcon that the Freedom Four/Five title didn't cease publication between team lineups, unless there are some two-issue months thrown in there somewhere.]
- From here we're going to focus more on Legacy stuff than Freedom Five stuff, though - while Legacy is there and is part of the team, the FF stories are rarely Legacy stories in particular - that's mostly over in Justice Comics. Legacy even frequently gets beat up in FF stories to establish the threat.
- December '71 we get JC #380, but the cancellation of the title due to the heated legal battle with a publisher called Justice Comics [this story previously told in the Grand Warlord Voss episode]. These were all originally regional comics publishers and Sentinel Comics and Justice Comics weren't in the same markets so the fact that SC had a book titled Justice Comics hadn't been a problem until recently. So, while JC was a big title, the fact that Freedom Five was becoming more important made cancelling JC an option - along with their clever master plan. The next month America's Finest Legacy launches with issue #1 and the same creative team as JC and it just picks up where the old title left off.
- Then we get to AFL #180-182 are the big Voss story [AFL #180 coincides with FF #440 in December '86]. In the intervening years we had some Baron Blade stories, Omnitron, other Voss stuff, some introspective stories ("Does the world still need a Legacy?" and whatnot), but Legacy himself is largely immutable in character, but also notably ages faster than the other characters - when he starts in JC #102 he's college-age, but here in the '80s his daughter is now in her early teens and Legacy has aged up to match (Wraith, as a point of comparison, never really ages at all) - it's all slower than "real time", but still noticeable. Anyway, here in AFL #180 we have another "Death of Legacy", but as noted in the Voss episode it's a fake-out and they have Felicia step in during the next issue as Young Legacy while he's out of commission (we've seen her get her powers and whatnot prior, but this is her first time in-costume to fight crime).
- February '87 the reintroduction of Justice Comics with its issue #381 - Sentinel Comics resolved the legal issue by finally just buying Justice Comics. JC #381 has Legacy coming out of his coma and rejoining the fight. That same month we have AFL #182, a collectors item in that we get to see both Paul and Felicia working together in costume.
- The '90s have the Iron Legacy story as well as Vengeance - both are important Legacy stories, but both already have their own episodes, so check them out.
- Things continue with the FF book, which is kind of central to everything, but also with the two Legacy-centric titles - they keep AFL and JC going all this time, but they typically use them for different things. JC is more him dealing with a lot of disparate threats, where AFL is more focused on him doing family or America stuff (and is also somewhat removed from continuity in that they might have him, say, go off-world for a story where that isn't happening to him in the concurrent books - AFL kind of works as a stand-alone title that you can read on its own whereas if you're reading JC you probably need to be reading other titles too in order to keep up with what's going on in crossovers).
- In 2013 we get AFL #498 [so June] which wraps up a story of "The Return of Iron Curtain" - he's a bitter old former-Soviet soldier who no longer has anything to fight for. The final resolution is Iron Curtain just kind of wandering off. The issue isn't so much about Legacy as it's about Iron Curtain coming to terms with the world has changed in the intervening half-century.
- The next month, issue #499 isn't America's Finest Legacy - they title this one America's Greatest Legacy as a story about Paul VII (the first time this phrase is used - while both characters were just "Legacy" fans had to distinguish them in some way with the eventual consensus simply being "Legacy" and "the older Legacy" up until AFL got started to give the current one a specific moniker and then this issue to provide one for his father). This is a flashback with a framing device of Paul VIII telling his daughter the story. He's now survived to an older age than his ancestors tended to (given their dangerous lifestyles) and he's talking about how the Legacy name gets "passed down" but there's no real reason for that to wait until he's dead - why can't there be two Legacies?
- Issue #500 starts the title America's Newest Legacy and to the end of the Multiverse is Felicia's book with Paul still doing stuff over in JC. This leads to a bit of confusion for the next few years as there are two heroes using the name "Legacy", but OblivAeon happens relatively soon after this and so it's not a problem for long (in the Sentinel Comics Universe Paul "retires" and she's the only Legacy and in the Mist Storm Universe she starts using the name Beacon to end the confusion). In any event, when readers say "Legacy" they generally mean Paul and the colloquial term "Young Legacy" comes into use (despite the "Newest Legacy" part of the comic title).
- In any event, the last issue of Justice Comics winds up being #739 with ANL going up to #540 [both December '16, the same month as FF #800 - I note that the SC RPG Starter Kit does have JC #740 as one of the adventures along with FF #801-803, but these are post-OblivAeon wrap-up stories and then transition to the new titles].
- Was there something like a power one more generation back of "first child will survive until adolescence" given colonial-era life expectancy/child mortality? Joseph Parsons was an only child as far as we know and there's nothing in Sentinel Comics discussing if he had older siblings that died. Remember that this is comic book storytelling from the mid-'40s when we learn about the family line for the first time and it's aimed at children - they're not going to go into that aspect of life as it really was. Sure, there are retrospective issues here and there that might go into more detail than the initial issue did (like, the whole Joseph Parsons/Paul Revere thing would have been in a couple of pages in the initial telling), not just of Joseph, but others in the family over the generations, but this kind of realities of childbirth and infant mortality aren't exactly what superhero comics are there to talk about. They definitively say that Joseph Parsons was the first member of the family with powers - full stop.
- It's interesting that we have detailed backstories/origins of Haka, Fanatic, Dr. Medico, Mainstay, or Choke, but what's the deal with Legacy? How did the Parsons family get their powers and why only the first child of each first child? Given that Citizen Dawn's attempt to pass on powers with Citizen Pain that failed (Expatriette has no powers) how much of a "sure thing" is the Legacy line? Any other families like this out there? They didn't go into this earlier because they hadn't given us context yet (plus they didn't think we would want the level of detail that we do). This gets us to another Singular Entity, these things that exist kind of outside the Multiverse - other examples being OblivAeon, Wager Master, the being that empowered Galactra, and the one that became the Scion Faultless, although Faultless isn't one. The one responsible here is called Wellspring - the embodiment of Progress or Advancement. Some writer late in the game took the idea of Singular Entities and decided to use them to explain Legacy. So, the deal is that at the beginning of WWII America wasn't involved, but a lot of people wondered why they weren't. Wellspring saw this as well, and (mirroring the original writers in the '40s) reached back in time to kick start this lineage that would result in there being this hero who would participate in this great struggle. They get questions about "why don't other Singular Entities do anything to stop OblivAeon - well, here's an example of something being done, who's to say more aren't doing things?
- Do the characters in the comics know why his symbol is a lantern? Is it seen more as just a symbol of hope than as having any relation to the Paul Revere story? Both - the Legacy line is very well-known as a fact of American history and he's as much of a pop-culture figure in the publishing meta-verse as he is noteworthy in the comics setting, but you might still get people who didn't know it was related to the Paul Revere thing. It's kind of like a trivia question, but in the easy rounds. Every reader knows it, most non-readers know it, and similarly most heroes in-setting know it.
- Why was the lantern chosen for the original character design? Was the Paul Revere stuff already planned by the writers even before it was told on-page? Stepping out one more layer - C&A wrote up the character history before even doing Legacy's character design. They knew this guy needed to have a chest icon that would be immediately recognizable and the backstory came quickly and naturally and so that logo fit. The intention in the publication universe is similar - they fleshed out the story more in JC #66, but the writers knew the grounding in American history from the start.
- Does the family own a dog or cat? They definitely have a dog (both C&A independently think of Golden Retriever and therefore this is now canon). Adam then comes up with the name "Spangle" which is so terrible that Christopher declares that canon as well.
- What kind of rogues gallery does Legacy have besides Baron Blade? Paul VII was primarily fighting Nazis and then after the war he's pretty much fighting Baron Blade's minions and then dies. Paul VIII fights Communists or aliens (like everyone else was in that era) and deals with natural disasters as he's well-suited for helping out there. His solo books often have to deal with opponents who are mistaken in some way (Baron Blade continuing his father's war for no reason but revenge, Iron Curtain coming back well after Communism stopped being this whole global conflict thing, etc.), he's got some solo Wager Master stories. It's kind of funny - the Freedom Five stories generally have Legacy around to do the punching, but his solo stories frequently have him solving problems in other ways because "Legacy punches until he wins" stories get boring. They frequently come down to explorations of the "American ideal" and where that stands in relation to, say, the law or morality - his stories are about getting to the heart of the problem to solve them in other ways (as opposed to the Iron Legacy method of "punch until everyone else is dead", which is efficient if nothing else).
- Is Young Legacy a cheerleader (citing the costume)? Did she have much of a love life? Not a cheerleader, but they can see where the question comes from - the skirt isn't the pleated style that you'd normally associate with cheerleaders. She's "America's Sweetheart" and the outfit is sort of trying to fit that idea. While the public has known her as "Legacy's daughter" her whole life, they did a pretty good job of keeping their private lives private. She's had a love life, for two really good storytelling reasons in the comics. First, before she was a hero in her own right, Legacy having to deal with his daughter starting to go on dates is hilarious (while he's not the type to try to intimidate her boyfriend, he'd still want to meet him as he'd want to meet all of her friends, and he's this huge guy with superpowers and so can't help but be intimidating). After she gets her own title and is transitioning from high school to college, juggling that with crime fighting, having her having to deal with her friendships and dating life is another layer of problems to take care of - this balancing act is largely what her book is about. She's got a sizable supporting cast of friends and a few boyfriends (but none of these latter are serious enough to transition through to the Future).
- Is the Parsons family friends with the whole Montgomery family or just the Wraith? Legacy and the Wraith are friends, but it's weird because they started out as roughly the same age, but by late in the story he's aged up considerably and she hasn't - Felicia is closer to Wraith's age than Legacy is by the end. The Montgomery family and the Parsons family aren't really friends, though. It's not like Maia Montgomery is coming to visit (although they know who the Wraith is) as that would be conspicuous (and it's not like the Wraith's parents know her identity).
- Did Legacy ever have other aspirations in life? Did he plan on using his history degree somehow? He has always wanted to be a person who could be a teacher/mentor, and he's managed to do a lot of that as a hero, but more on this in the Future section.
- We know that previous Pauls Parsons had siblings, did any of them do anything notable? Did any of their firstborn children get powers? Does Legacy keep in touch with his distant cousins? No other family members got powers, just the line we know of. The extended Parsons family is in touch but not super close - Legacy's family is a very public one made of a US Senator and two crime-fighters; that's plenty of full-time jobs to go around so it's not like they have a lot of free time. Paul VII had a younger brother who also went to war and died saving his entire platoon, so he's somewhat notable as a non-super hero.
- What prompted the move to Chicago? No real reason given, it's just a thing that happened in the character history. They didn't go into that fine of detail on it.
- What would Paul VI's "America's [adjective] Legacy" name have been? He didn't have a specific one - the only reason we have the others is because there were comics titled that. While there were certainly one-shots about the first Legacy, this sort of naming convention didn't get applied to him.
- Any major crossover conflicts that Legacy wasn't a part of? Why not? There are crossovers all the time that doesn't include everybody just because things are spread out. He's involved in most, though, and the most notable non-involvement is for the Termi-Nation event, which isn't even that "big" of an event. When Bunker, AZ, and Unity answer the distress call from Fort Adamant there's a caption box pointing readers to JC #707 for what Legacy's up to. He's gotten a call from Wagner Mars Base about this big crystal they've found and need help analyzing, so he, Tachyon, and Wraith are there (this is also shortly after Progeny and they're still recovering).
- How opposed was Legacy to accepting Luminary's help and what convinced Legacy to trust him? Very and nothing, respectively. He did not want to work with Luminary and never trusted him. By the end of OblivAeon he does make some concessions and his opinion changes a little.
- When Baron Blade was locked up after the Mad Bomber event, did Legacy visit him and try to come to terms? Sure, several times. Legacy is the guy who tries to get to the root of the problem and this sort of thing fits right in there.
- What does Legacy think of Guise impersonating him and signing autographs? Amused. It's not a good impersonation and nobody would be fooled by it, so there's limited damage that can be done just from the impersonation. Almost everybody is more annoyed with Guise over this impersonation than Legacy is.
- On the Mars Base we see Legacy punching meteors (on "Meteor Storm"), but it looks like he's outside the base without a space suit? How is he surviving out in the [near] vacuum of Mars' surface/space? He's "nigh-invulnerable" and can hold his breath. He can't spend a lot of time out there (like, he couldn't fly from the Moon to the Earth), but short stints are fine - definitely minutes, not half an hour.
- Was there any moment that's considered his "most heroic" or when his status as the default leader was earned? The short answer is "all the time". In just about every major crossover there will be something he does that's a big Legacy moment that would remind everybody why he's the man. Sometimes somebody will question his leadership status (AZ questioned him a lot early on and Expat had some authority issues at first too), but he's consistently inspiring. He's been at it a long time, but he's also got this aura of "his family has been doing this forever" going on. They bring up the moment in the first animated movie the moment when his rallying cry is able to get through to everyone - it's not something from the comics, but is exemplary of his status in the world.
- In flashback stories to Paul VII, does he ever express opinions or whatever that were acceptable at the time that wouldn't be today? How did he feel about McCarthyism or Japanese-American internment camps? In terms of flashback issues, they weren't told to explore issues like this but to show you this great hero of the past. In the actual Golden Age stories, we don't see the internment camps because he's already off at war and McCarthyism doesn't happen until after he's dead (JC #101 was September '48 and the McCarthy hearings started in '54). The most uncomfortable aspects of his stories would have been the contemporary depictions of German and Japanese soldiers, which would have been similar to the ones in the real world. Paul VIII was fighting Communists, but he trusts his fellow Americans (and he might have to defend his fellow citizens against a Senator who's a legally distinct character from Joseph McCarthy - in general creative professionals were against McCarthyism).
- Has Paul VIII had any moments that might indicate that he's almost going Iron - like Baron Blade does something horrible and Legacy's eyes narrow and the readers think "Oh, $#!%, he's gonna kill him"? Nothing that close, but after the first Iron Legacy event and Vengeance we get some scary moments, including one there with Baron Blade in the Positive Energy Field - they use that as a way to specifically show this story where they're both really going at it, but then have to step back and start talking.
- Is Felicia something of a celebrity and do her classmates pester her to introduce them to her dad or is her identity a secret? People know who she is and she is somewhat of a celebrity - her dealing with that is part of the point America's Newest Legacy. More on this kind of thing in the Future.
- What are some things that have been merchandised using the Legacy "brand" over the years? Adam has a Legacy action figure that a friend made for him, a Legacy ring tee that they used to sell (and a JC #102 cover shirt), and a hoodie. There's also an America's Greatest Legacy helmet/goggles that a cosplayer gave them [if it's one of the guys in this picture it's from 2014]. Certainly these sorts of things in addition to your standard things like lunchboxes and whatnot would have been available. Oh, and capes and you know that the cape would have the lantern on it despite the fact that no Legacy's cape in the comics has had the lantern on it. Kids onesies with detachable capes. Breakfast cereal when the movie came out. A wide variety of apps and mobile games. A line of chewable vitamins for kids.
- Have any far-future descendants of Legacy been shown (in a Disparation story or otherwise)? If so, what kinds of powers did they have? They got a lot of questions about alternate Legacies (from different countries or if he was cloned, etc.) and this was a general one. It's fun to consider this sort of thing and there are certainly Disparation stories along those lines. The "far future" stuff - they've discussed the far distant future, but there's limited stuff to discuss here. They have plans for it. They have some lore in Galactic Strike Force that may have mentioned the Parsons family and humans being sturdier, but that may have been lost over time. If they didn't have plans for the future then it wouldn't matter.
- Mist Storm Universe: he's getting a little grayer and is still Legacy. His daughter tries to clear up the confusion that having two Legacies causes by striking out on her own as Beacon.
- Sentinel Comics Universe: Felicia is now Legacy. Paul "retired" from the name and now uses the name Heritage. The Freedom Five made a kind of transition - they're not the Sentinels of Freedom and while they still are a super team, they don't have him as such a central leader figure and are more focused on training up new heroes. Heritage is very much in the teaching/mentor role and works as something like a UN delegate and/or working with G.L.O.B.A.L. as something of a "superhero ambassador" to governments on behalf of superheroes.
- There's a lot of Future (and past) stuff about Felicia, but in the interest of keeping this episode to a reasonable length they want to keep the majority of her stuff in a separate episode, so Patrons keep that in mind as voting goes on.