The Letters Page: Episode 7
Time for some tricks - we're gonna talk about Kismet!
Run Time: 75:06
In the intro, Christopher mentions the shirt he's wearing. Because he's a fun guy.
We talk about The Block - an extradimensional prison detached from time and space - a few times in this episode. It's pictured behind Kismet there in the cover image for this episode.
As mentioned, Kismet exists because of a winning entry to our 2012 Create A Villain Contest! Well done, Alex.
- Descended from the Arikara people of what's now North Dakota. Her family had moved south, though and settled in Oklahoma. They stayed there until the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and kind of just became nomadic after that. They had success as farmers prior to the large-scale devastation of the Dust Bowl, but they managed to get by just fine moving from city to city, wherever they could get work. Gabrielle was born when they happened to be in Arizona.
- This was a larger family than just Gabrielle's parents. This was a group of a few dozen people in multiple RVs by this point, but they all managed to keep together, pooled resources, and got by. They didn't have extra resources, but generally they wound up with what they needed.
- The Talisman has been with the family since they left the Dakotas.
- She came to resent the family's way of life - she'd see other kids in school with luxuries that she would never have. She rebelled: shoplifting, taking money from the family communal money jar.
- She was always the kid with the dusty, hand-me-down clothes and since the family never stayed anywhere very long she had trouble making friends. Then they move to Springfield, MO and she meets this guy named Pete and they start dating. He liked her free-spirit attitude and the fact that she'd traveled a lot and seen lots of different places (this appealed to his isolated, Midwestern sensibilities).
- The relationship is good for her and makes her a better person. She now has one of those things she's always wanted and so stops the other rebellious things (stealing, etc.). This is the one thing in her life she has going for her, though, and so it kind of becomes her whole identity (standard teenage "I've found my soul-mate" stuff that her family recognizes as such when it's time to move on).
- Because of how invested she had become in this part of her life, she really didn't take Pete's casual "Oh, things will work out and we'll find other people" attitude towards the impending separation well. She does the whole unintentional curse thing mentioned last time.
- This ability to "curse" him isn't a common trait for the family. She's inherited the general trait of good fortune, but she's got it amplified and controllable/direct-able in a new way, although she is, at this stage, unaware of this.
- The family winds up in south Texas, but she's miserable and runs away after a few weeks. She takes the funds in the family money-jar and the cigar box that contains the Talisman with her.
- The Talisman was not regularly handled - like the family would tell the story periodically and it would be brought out, but not passed around or anything and she hadn't personally touched it before. The almost ritualistic nature of how the family discussed it has implanted in her head the idea that it should be the source of some of the family's fortune, and so her own power is attached to it. It provides a focus for her specific abilities because she expects it to be so. It's like Dumbo's feather in that way. She never becomes aware of the fact that the Talisman doesn't have any actual power of its own, it's all her projecting her own beliefs upon it. Given the focus, she's able to see the interconnection of causality in the world around her and how she can affect things.
- She wants to be done with hitchhiking. She wants a cool car so much she can almost see it. Then she does; a red '68 Charger with the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition. Nobody's in sight, "must be abandoned", and she gets in and takes off. Freedom. Until the cops pull her over.
- She assumes it's just because of the speeding (and there was soooo much speeding, you looked at the car right?) and that she'll be able to get out of it (you know, because she can see the strings of reality). The cop orders her out of the car and onto the ground, though, with gun drawn. She complies because she's not quite ready to test to see if she can luck her way out of a gunshot. Turns out the car had already been stolen before she got to it and was tied to a robbery/double homicide. The cop ran the plates during the stop and found all this. After Gabrielle's safely in the backseat of the cruiser it's discovered that there were two bodies in the trunk of the Charger.
- They book her, she's a minor (17), and it's quickly determined that while she stole this stolen car she didn't have anything to do with the rest. They want her to pay a fine and call her parents to come get her. She pretends to call and bluffs that they're on the way. She uses her power to have the cuffs and back door to the station unlock and for the officers present to ignore her while they focus on the murder case, and she just walks out.
- She goes to find a hotel room for the night. Doesn't have a credit card and the police still have her ID. The clerk lets her pay cash at well above the normal room rate. Her money is now all gone too (weird?). She makes an excuse to leave briefly to get it, walks to a nearby gas station and "lucks" some guy's wallet out of his pocket. She uses the money in there to buy a scratch-and-win lotto ticket, which wins $500. She gets the payout from the gas station and is on her way back to the hotel. She gets mugged as she leaves the place (he saw her win) and she hands over the cash. She figures she'll be able to win again, but now she really hates this guy and he's now the focus of all of her frustration to this long, bad day. She does her power thing and he's promptly hit by a car. Seeing what she just did, she decides to just get away from the scene.
- Aside to talk about how her power actually works instead of just her perception of it. Probability/reality is "self correcting". If things get pushed one way, it'll make an effort to bounce back the other way (like a vibrating guitar string). This means that when she uses her power to do something favorable for herself, it will mean something bad happening to her as a result afterwards. Eventually she notices that if she uses her power to affect someone else, she can then leave before the "correction" happens - she can cause an opponent to have something bad happen (benefiting her in that instant), but then be gone before the corresponding good thing happens. She starts robbing places/stealing stuff, but not out to hurt anybody. She justifies this by convincing herself that since the "correction" will happen, that after she leaves something good will happen to the person she's jinxed.
- Eventually, she decides to "luck" her way into an armored car ("whoops, wheel fell off"), but the Southwest Sentinels arrive on the scene. They see her as a Villain; she thinks that she's just a person and that these guys are really weird. She's able to use her abilities to fend them off somewhat, but they're Crime Fighters and she's just a kid (19 or 20 by this point) who doesn't really know what she's doing. She gets jailed, but isn't in very long (she hadn't been tied to anything previously and this was just her trying to take money from a wrecked armored car - just taking advantage of the situation, not causing it).
- She did make a name for herself on the inside, though, as well as some contacts. Teams up with some minor players (eventual members of the Slaughter-House Six, Rook City contacts in the Wretched Hive, etc.) and is more of an intentional "criminal" outlook now. Just looking for that One Big Score so she can get out.
- Highbrow wants her in on a casino heist and she goes in with the Hippo (she's the luck, he's the muscle). Once the job gets underway and it's obvious that the place is getting robbed, Setback (who just happened to be there out of costume) is going to stop them. Setback is about as strong as the Hippo despite the latter's larger bulk, and between this little guy able to go toe-to-toe with him (and him losing ground due to tripping over stuff) the Hippo abandons the job and runs out. Highbrow sees this going south quickly and also leaves. Kismet confronts Setback, distracting him long enough for the others to escape. Neither recognizes the other at first, but you "can only banter with someone you've dated so long" before you recognize them (the "conversation" when they figure this out is pretty good - 37:16 or so). The fight ends, eventually, when a chandelier falls on her.
- Now she's got a rap sheet and it's apparent that she has some sort of power. So she's quickly transferred to the Block, where she remains for the better part of a year while people try to figure out how her power works. Then she manages to engineer a prison riot/breakout by cancelling the Block's ability to nullify the prisoner's powers. This becomes a cross-book "event" in the comics with heroes coming in to help contain things. In the ensuing chaos, she slips away clean into the Ruins of Atlantis (given the Block's inter-dimensional transportation technology). This is one of the first big times we see her in comics. It's not a "Kismet event" in the comic as she'd only really shown up in a Setback comic a while back to help explain his powers.
- After some time, a bunch of "water-themed" weird things start happening in lots of cities. The heroes are able to deduce from the rather obvious hints that something is up in Atlantis. Kismet has tapped into the systems there to help her (the side-effects being the weirdness in other cities) and this is the first real "Heroes vs. Kismet" story. This is the fight that playing against Kismet in SotM is modeling and it's not so much the heroes "fighting" her as having to deal with all of the backlash effects that happen around her. The heroes win, back to the Block for her.
- Time in the Block is wonky, she's in there longer than time passes on the outside. Eventually she somehow convinces everybody that she's a good candidate for parole.
- Now she's really committing to the whole super villain thing and is going for her big zany plot. Off to Madame Mittermeier's Fantastical Festival of Conundrums & Curiosities where she plans on getting revenge with some help from some of her other contacts - capturing heroes, putting them on display like a sideshow freak, taking what they love from them. First up, she and Glamour capture the Naturalist, which gets other heroes' attention. Heroes win, back to the Block - where she remains right up until OblivAeon.
- She's not a particularly dangerous villain, so she's generally somebody that can be simply captured and jailed when she's defeated. There's no need to go more harsh with the punishment. Even in the Atlantis event the larger danger wasn't part of her plan, just a side-effect.
- Why is she a criminal given what we know of her power (game bio/what we see in the cards) - why not just win the lottery etc.? The backlash effect mentioned - if she uses her power to win the lottery directly, something bad will happen to negate it.
- Setback/Kismet dichotomy seems to be a passive/active one - Pete accepts things as they happen, Gabrielle cheating fate when she can get away with it, is that accurate for their rivalry? Kind of. They don't really have a rivalry. They've crossed paths a few times and he just sees her as somebody from his past, while she hates him. It's kind of a confirmation bias thing for her - he's only really done 2 things to her, but she feels that he ruined her life.
- What's the deal with the shark? [this is a pretty funny question at around 51:00] Shark is coming up through the floor in Atlantis. Ra had Kismet cornered and dead-to-rights, but then the shark bursts in to distract him. We find out that Ra, Visionary, and Haka (and others) were there to fight her. Guise just happened to be in the Ruins of Atlantis doing some geocaching and needed a way to get back up to the surface, so he rides the shark back up.
- How do you get rid of Jinxes? Does she know about the curse on Setback? Could she remove it? Jinxes largely wear off automatically (and have good things happen to them in the meantime), although some heroes could do something about it themselves (e.g. Visionary). The curse is something else and is much more powerful and permanently a part of him. She's not aware of that, though. She might be able to do so, but only if she put enough power and effort into it as her teenage angst did to create it. She'd probably want to if she knew about it, if only to keep it from thwarting her later but also to study it to see how she could use it.
- What does the Scholar think of her? He's tricky as an omnipresent figure who shows up to help lots of people, but then just goes away again. He's part of so many character's stories, while always pretty much being the same. Other characters grow or change over the years, but he's always himself. He doesn't really have any interactions with Kismet, though, in the primary continuity. He probably would put a lot of effort into changing her if he met her, though. Stay tuned for the Scholar episode in a long time.
- She can see threads of fate and causality - does she see OblivAeon coming? More power talk: yeah she feel the strands of fate and can push on them, but it's not really "seeing" the future of reality. It's more of a feeling that "if I push here, something good will happen" more than seeing the nature of what the good thing would be. Since she's not really seeing the future, she has no way of seeing OblivAeon coming. She has some inklings of something bad approaching, but not what it is.
- Unstable Kismet seems to have ties to Madame Mittermeier's Fantastical Festival of Conundrums & Curiosities, does that imply relationship with Glamour and Cueball? Yes, they're people she's worked with before and called up for her "hero side-show" plot. There's also been a Baron Blade event that happened there and some Argent Adept stuff, but Kismet is the "main" event for the location.
- What's the deal with her tattoo? Started out relatively small on her shoulder- got it the first time she used her power and didn't see the repercussion. She adds to it on similar occasions, memorializing major events (for her, we don't see all of them in the comics) where she used her power without experiencing the backlash.
- Which other villains has she interacted with the most? Has Dawn tried to recruit her? Most is probably members of the Slaughter-House Six (separately before they teamed up). Dawn wouldn't have bothered - too much liability being around her.
- Has she tried dating since she and Pete broke up? Yeah, it's been years. On-again, off-again thing with Re-Volt. Nothing notable story-wise.
- Curse repeatable? Already covered, she doesn't have enough knowledge about how her power works to repeat it as well as the need for some big upwelling of power/emotion to get it going in the first place.
- Did she do anything interesting during OblivAeon? Very much so. In the Block when it starts, sees stuff is going down (and the Block is in a precarious situation in the first place given the crashing realities). She escapes into the "card game timeline" and she seals the portal to the Block behind her - more in the Future section.
- "Unstable" variant named for her power or her personality? Yes. Power backlashes are unpredictable and personality has never really been particularly stable, but a lot of time in the Block hasn't helped. She never really got out of the teenage temper tantrum level of growing up.
- Repercussions of her being a fan-created character on the setting? They liked the probability shifting aspect - they hadn't really planned to have somebody filling that role. Setback was waiting in the wings already and it made sense to combine their stories. They shied away from "probability" powers due to the nature of a card game, but they liked how Alex approached it/worded how her effects played out, needing to be "outwardly focused".
- Tactics - hasn't shown up. There might be a Gabrielle Adhin but we don't know, if she exists, if she has powers, but there hasn't been a "Kismet" here.
- RPG - When Glamour reforms the Slaughterhouse Six, Ambuscade is out and Kismet is in. Other members too, but get to that later.