The Letters Page: Episode 77
Let's talk about looooove.
Run Time: 1:19:00
A strange change in format today: after some mild preamble, we start of by getting into your questions, just before the 5 minute mark!
Then, we spend over a third of the episode on a single letter...
The questions cover the vast majority of the things we wanted to talk about today, so enjoy the process of us keeping up with you fine folks!
Spoilers: At around an hour and 9 minutes in, we talk about a Biomancer story. A bit of the recording was lost here, but the thing we talked about that didn't make it into the episode is that, after her death, the body of the woman we mention is enshrined in Biomancer's lair, and sometimes he makes fleshchildren to look like her, but he always destroys them because he cannot match her perfection. For all his "work toward perfection", he cannot match the perfection of his one true love. Also, he's super creepy. /spoilers
After that, our brief "overview" - which is more of a "let's fill in the couple things no one asked about" bit - starts about an hour in.
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- Captain Cosmic
- Princess Zyliene
- Ray Talbot
- Princess Beliana
- Argent Adept
- Mr. Fixer
- Greazer Clutch
- Aviva Natasha Aldred
- Lydia the Gorgon
- Citizens Blood, Sweat, and Tears
- Citizens Assault and Battery
- Fright Train
- Baron Blade
- Mark Benedetto
- Dana Bertrand
- Karen Gold
- Olivia Drake
- Iron Legacy
- Citizens Winter and Spring
- Madame Mittermeier
- La Capitan and her crew
- Citizen Dawn
- Sergeant Steel
- Citizens Hammer and Anvil
- The Dreamer
- Miss Information
- Vince Hargrave
- Emily Parsons
- Professor Pollution
- We heard at one point that Captain Cosmic dated a "space princess" - who was she, where was she from/which kind of alien was she, and did she have powers? Two things to talk about here - the Golden Age Captain Cosmic, Ray Talbot, was in a relationship with a space princess (Beliana of Tarvalis). Hugh gets his own story, though. He dated Princess Zyliene in a story appearing in Cosmic Tales in the '80s. He's fighting some bad guys and winds up fighting alongside this bad-ass alien warrior, sort of an aquatic/reptilian humanoid alien (a Jinelon from the planet Jinera) who also had a superpower (i.e. something beyond what her species would account for - it's a superpower when compared to her own people, not just from the human perspective) which made her a hero - she can turn intangible (handy not just for sneaking/infiltration, but she was adept at using this ability in combat to, say, avoid blows). She and CC made a good team. She stuck around - they want to say as a "support character", but there were enough story arcs centered on her that at times it almost could seem like CC was the supporting cast member - and a romantic relationship gets going. In terms of storytelling this is actually one of the stronger relationships in Sentinel Comics, but it can't last. Her mother, the Queen, dies and the princess has to take the throne, but she knows that the people won't accept her if she doesn't have a Jinelon spouse, so she has to marry one of her own people instead. Hugh gets that while they care about one another deeply, that she cares about her people more and accepts this and leaves.
- Who has a crush on Argent Adept? The short answer is "everyone" and it becomes something of a running gag in the Prime Wardens book where the heroes show up someplace to save the day and some of the locals will swoon over this aloof musician pretty-boy. There isn't a specific main character/hero that has a crush on him.
- We've been given limited information on Unity/Benchmark to this point (it seemed almost a footnote when mentioned), but was there ever any indications in the comics for Parse/Benchmark (who are mentioned as being close in a few places in the Parse episode)? It wasn't always going to be Unity/Benchmark - it was a footnote because that relationship only gets going right at the end of the Multiverse era and is mostly in the RPG time period. Unity has a "string of relationships" throughout the stories of Sentinel Comics to the point where it seems like she's got a new one every week (that's just who she is) and only gets together with relative newcomer Benchmark right as the Multiverse story winds up. Benchmark and Parse know each other and have RevoCorp backgrounds to connect them, but they're not each other's type.
- What's a cute Setback/Expatriette story? It's tricky to have a "cute" story with them due to the type of books they generally appear in (e.g. Dark Watch). There might be moments of levity here and there, but the books just tend towards the darker end of things. However, we've got a story from a one-shot: The Valentine's Day Special from February 2014. This tells 4 stories and is there to set some things up right before we head into ObvlivAeon. The first is Wraith/Bunker (their relationship had started by this point, but it's still a pretty new thing), next is Setback/Expat (more on which in a minute), then there's a 2-page spread of Ra and Fanatic acknowledging/not-acknowledging their feelings for one another ("being standoffish but like 'Hey, what's up?'" - see 15:39 or so for Adam's vocal delivery of this for the full effect), and the last story is Unity/Benchmark (which is new here). The Setback and Expat story hearkens back to their "type" of story - dark and they don't have time for romance - they're staked out on a building in Rook City where something's about to go down. NightMist, Harpy, and Mr. Fixer are elsewhere dealing with a different part of the problem, so it's just the two of them this time. As they're waiting for whatever it is to happen, Setback starts asking her questions (likes/dislikes kind of stuff). At first she wants him to be quiet so they're ready, but eventually starts answering and it kind of just winds up being a kind of date for them. The last panel of them shows them about to kiss. Then we cut back over to the rest of the team who are coming back after they finished up to see how the stakeout is going, which is poorly - the lovebirds missed whatever they were supposed to keep an eye on and the others have to take care of it. Harpy asks if they should tell Expat and Setback that there's stuff to do and Fixer responds, "Nah, just let 'em be." While Expat would never choose to take some downtime, he figures she's earned some.
- Was Ra/Fanatic always belligerent or volatile or did it have its tender moments too? The closest is when Ra gets really messed up by the Ennead and Fanatic is all about getting vengeance on them or whatever, but also makes sure that he's ok. Maybe early on in their relationship you see that they're caught off-guard by their feelings for one another.
- Any "main cast" characters in the list of those K.N.Y.F.E. has hooked up with? Some F.I.L.T.E.R. people, some bar randos, there have definitely been stories that open with her waking up and kicking somebody out of her bed in the morning, but there are a few that we'd recognize. To list them alphabetically so as to not give any indication of importance: Chrono-Ranger, Greazer, Haka, Stuntman, and Tempest.
- It was mentioned that Black Fist got around back in the day, anybody we'd recognize? Not really. Maybe a few cameos later on showing somebody as part of the police precinct or something, but those characters didn't really cross over into the more modern stories.
- We know that Aviva Natasha Aldred exists (but that's about all we know), but she shows up in the Naturalist's story; is there anything going on here? No, she's too young. She'll be more important in the Future, but not in the Multiverse era.
- Back in the NightMist's book episode we hear about Lydia the Gorgon, was there anything there before Lydia got fridged? No - Lydia was a very sultry sort of person and there was suggestive dialog, but NightMist would have none of that.
- In the Akash'Whatever episode, a response to the Naturalist/Akash'Thriya ship question it was mentioned that they could see a world with a "more human" Akash where it could happen - so what are the details on that? Does she have a different name? Is she still "magic"? Are they still together in these universes? These things come from some Disparation stories where we get Akash'Thriya and Naturalist showing up but different - she looks more like a Dryad [in Greek myth, Dryads are the goddesses of specific, individual oak trees but the term is often generalized to mean any kind of "tree spirit"] with a mouth and flesh that's more like skin (but she still has four eyes). He's human (fauna) and she's human-ish flora and they make a good team. She's still magic. They're still together in some universes.
- What members of the Ennead are "together" in their traditional mythological pairings? Well, none of them are related [lots of incest in the mythological versions], so there's that difference at least. When they get fleshed out in the "War of Heliopolis" story (the good "do over" version of the story), there's a lot of implications: calling each other "beloved" and a general heightened sense of sexuality. In later stories (like in the "rounding them up" stuff right before the OblivAeon blowout) we see that they're living together in kind of this big 9-person relationship.
- Which members of the Citizens of the Sun are romantically involved? There are a lot of relationships between the off-page ones. For Citizens that appear in the card game, Blood and Sweat are together with Tears as their "weird feral animal friend" and Assault and Battery are in a committed relationship.
- Fright Train/Ermine? They both appear in comics prior to their meeting. Then they show up in Vengeance on a team, but they're not a couple at that point. In the course of the stories after Vengeance there's kind of an off-again/on-again thing as they have their "crime duo" story (figuring that they work well together and if they aim lower and just rob banks or whatever they could probably be successful, as opposed to direct hero-centric Baron Blade plots that's just asking to get caught), and around the end of the Multiverse era it just becomes "on again".
- What do the people in the publishing meta-verse ship? Bunker/Wraith is the easy one, which had been there for decades in the fandom, although there was also a contingent that was upset with the relationship when it happened (maybe promoting something weird like "Wraith should be with Mark Benedetto"). Additional non-canon ships that were prominent with meta-verse fans (the first two are just nonsense, the third they can see where the fans would be coming from): Captain Cosmic/Argent Adept, Legacy/Absolute Zero, and NightMist/Mr. Fixer (specifically in the Dark Watch era - they're both cursed, he's been dead and then de-aged a bit and she's spent a long "time" out in the Realm of Discord and the Void and does she really even have an age?)
- The Argent Adept episode mentioned that back in the day comics heroes tended to have "token love interests" (with AA as an exception), so where are those love interests now? They'll talk about three of them (one we know about, one that we don't know but is unimportant, and one we don't know but is important). The first is Dana Bertrand. Tachyon didn't have that kind of "token love interest" in the early comics, but did have her roommate and best friend Dana, who was later turned into a love interest and then spouse. Then there's Absolute Zero's love interest in the '60s: Karen Gold. She was around for like 15 years. They had common interests and whatnot and did the "we can never touch" window thing. She definitely loved him for who he was and he was in the process of working through the mental trauma of his past and was losing his edge. Which is why the writers took it away from him. She broke up with him because she needed to be with somebody who she could actually touch and he understood. Then there's Bunker - his book started as a war book with him writing letters back to his sister. When he transitioned to superheroics, they added a character from those old war stories too, Olivia Drake. She was a nurse in the war stories (and they were friends, but not romantically involved) and some kind of non-military government liaison to the team in the hero stories (retconned into having been an officer previously [I note that military nurses are often commissioned as at least First Lieutenants if they've actually graduated from a nursing school]). When she first shows up in these latter stories it's as a love interest and they date for a while, but eventually their expectations of each other in this new context leads to some rifts and they break up (and it was kind of a bad breakup and so the fact that they're still working together is mined for more drama). She was introduced around 20 years before Anthony Drake was and it wasn't intended at the time of his creation that they were related, but eventually it was decided that they were cousins but don't know each other very well. By the end of the Multiverse era she and Tyler Vance are on good terms again and still work together. She'll have more to do in the future.
- Is Unity/Omnitron-X a thing (or the Golem Unity in the Iron Legacy timeline)? How does Parse feel about this? No, there are no relationships between Unity and Omnitron in the main or Iron Legacy timelines. Parse doesn't care.
- AZ/Citizen Winter? Nope. You're not the only one considering it, though.
- Has Baron Blade ever had a love interest? Yes, we've seen a few of them. There's an implied thing with Madame Mittermeier in the past. Sometimes he'll show up with someone on his arm. The Burying the Blade miniseries (12 issues, wrapping up the last year of the Multiverse) is kind of disjointed with a bunch of flashbacks to various times in Blade's history (the series is "lets tell the history of the Multiverse through the eyes of Baron Blade"). One of the stories told is that of the Shrieker and how she's kind of just forgotten by the Freedom Five. She eventually turns to Baron Blade, who is more than willing to help her get set back up. They have something of a "business transaction of a relationship" where he helps her with technology and Glamour stuff, but also a relationship. She eventually leaves given his Baron Blade-ness and he is fine with it as these things come and go, but there you have it - he had a relationship.
- What are some of the strangest couples you've seen fans squee over? That's pretty much this whole episode. However, they'll do a segment for Editor's Note #21 for this - so feel free to submit stuff tagged for that episode on what your favorite couple (canonical or not) from this episode is.
- Have any of the known villains hooked up with a hero (like K.N.Y.F.E.)? Good call, they already mentioned that K.N.Y.F.E. and Greazer had a fling. A notable one that doesn't happen is Captain Cosmic and Galactra - there's an attraction, but she's a villain and so it's just there as a temptation there, but ultimately not one that goes anywhere.
- Any shipping happening on La Capitan's ship? Chip and Mabel? The problem with the crew is that we don't get a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff with them. The good news is that there's nothing in the pages of Sentinel Comics to contradict any shipping you want to do, so ship away!
- Expat/Ambuscade in their interactions back when she was less heroic? Some flirting, but Ansel made his heel turn before anything could pan out.
- Are Blade and Citizen Dawn attracted to each other? This is a really bad idea on a lot of levels. While he could maybe find her attractive, he's not going to play second fiddle to anybody and from her perspective it's "always the Citizen Dawn show". Additionally, while he is powerful, he doesn't have innate powers which makes him lesser in her eyes (although they then spitball a bit around the idea that they did interact post-Vengeance when he would have had some powers...).
- AZ/Writhe? No.
- AA/CC? No.
- Benchmark/Parse? No.
- Arataki/Tempest? Not in the Multiverse timeline, beyond that is Future speculation.
- K.N.Y.F.E./Haka? Yes!
- K.N.Y.F.E./Tempest? Yes!
- K.N.Y.F.E./CC? No.
- K.N.Y.F.E./Sky-Scraper? No.
- K.N.Y.F.E./Sergeant Steel? No.
- Omnitron-X/Unity? No.
- Parse/Unity? No.
- Wraith/Legacy? No. [C'mon, man, he's married and the biggest boyscout around.]
- Ambuscade/Expat? No.
- Chairman/Baron Blade? No.
- Citizen Dawn/Baron Blade? No.
- Spring/Winter? No.
- Blood/Sweat/Tears? "Yes, plus a pet." [given the prior comment that it's Blood/Sweat with Tears being a feral third wheel]
- Hammer/Anvil? No! [said repeatedly by both with surprise tinged with disgust]
- Assault/Battery? Yes.
- Dreamer/Idealist? No.
- La Capitan/Chrono-Ranger? No.
- Miss Information/Baron Blade? No.
- Fright Train/Ermine? Yes.
- How much focus on the various relationships happen on-panel (as opposed to being relegated to the letters pages as background detail)? It happens a lot. It depends on the tone of the comic title in question, but we get not only the "day in the life" kind of stuff along with stuff like characters being worried about loved ones during a fight. Comics can get a bit soap-opera at times. One thing that "real" comics do more than Sentinel Comics is the "wedding issue" - about the only modern one is Tachyon's (Legacy had one too, but they were much less of a "thing" back in the day). "Comparatively, not a lot of heroes get married." "Yet."
- In the publication history we know that Sentinel Comics did other genres like horror or westerns, did they ever do romance comics? Any of those incorporated into the broader setting continuity later? Stylin' Shirley and her transition to the hero Fashion was an example of this.
- Any star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of the law (noting that Setback/Kismet happened prior to either's heroic/villainous careers)? Any attempts to convince each other to change sides? As mentioned, Captain Cosmic/Galactra (which kind of goes in either direction there). Baron Blade helping Shrieker become Glamour (she was already headed down that road, but he took her the rest of the way). Another that doesn't really wind up going anywhere is a short arc in the '80s in Mystery Comics where Wraith (in her normal life) runs into this guy Vince Hargrave that she hits it off with. Turns out that he's working for the Organization (like, one level below an Underboss). In a fight with some thugs, she takes them down but by the end her mask gets torn off. As she turns to face the last guy standing she sees that it's Vince, and he recognizes her as well. "This is awkward." They really dig each other and neither says anything to their respective "teams" and continue to see one another. He's not in a situation where he can really leave the Organization, though. Even with her help he'd have to leave everything about his life in Rook City behind and he just can't. Later, his crew gets in trouble with the Organization because it always seems like the Wraith knows what they're up to and he's killed (but he never gives up Wraith's identity).
- Hammer and Anvil are totally a couple, right? No! [repeat of earlier tone]
- Have there been any couples involving heroes that for one reason or another didn't work out? They mentioned a few flings, but here's one. Shortly after Sky-Scraper's introduction there's a bit of a thing between her and Captain Cosmic (because he is "sleeps with aliens guy"). Ultimately he spends too much time out in space and she spends her time on Earth and so it ends. Later on in the comics it's not like it's even really alluded to to the point that it takes new readers by surprise when they learn of it ("modern" SS is still young at heart while CC is a dour grown-up [I think the term "space dad" was used by another listener at some point]).
- What's your favorite couple? Fanatic/Ra - they both love their weird romance. They're both so heated and so angry all the time. Plus there's the opposing theological stuff.
- [Letter from Kris Barron - Baron Blade's pseudonym when he set up RevoCorp] Did Paul and Emily Parsons have much time for romance in their home life while he was the world's most prominent hero? Their courtship and married life was pretty stereotypical of the '50s and '60s, but in the '70s writers wanted to make things a bit edgier. In the late-'70s the writers introduced a hero named Firestarter. She's got fire powers and can fly around and she helps out the Freedom Five. She's also super hot and is really overtly flirty with Legacy and they play up the temptation aspect of his response to this. When he rebuffs her it's revealed that she's really a villain that's been setting up the things she helped the heroes defeat as part of a ploy to seduce him and get him into her lair. It was competently written, but the fans didn't like seeing Legacy in this temptation story and so it's mostly forgotten about and Firestarter kind of dropped off the radar. In the '80s we have something of an age-jump for the Parsons family. This is where Emily becomes a Senator, Felicia is an adolescent rather than a small child, and Legacy is more middle-aged super-dad and that sexuality aspect is kind of dropped from the character. Except for those who are super into the dad thing as a whole new world of shipping ("Legacy/Captain Cosmic" gets a chuckle from Adam).
- [Letter continues] Now that Heritage is in semi-retirement, would he and Emily have a more active dating life? If so, where and when is their next date and is it close to any geothermal fault lines, nuclear power plants, or other doomsday device-compatible power source? That's a very specific question involving many safety concerns. However, they are enjoying their empty nest and are even more of a political power couple now.
- How long was Fanatic and Ra's "romantagonistic" relationship a thing? It started in '95 in the Baptism by Fire series, which lead into the "War in Heliopolis" story. BBF was a duo book and the point was kind of this "we hate each other" Slap-Slap-Kiss thing. From then on it's kind of a smoldering heat thing.
- We know Haka has had relationships and even offspring during his centuries of travels; do we see any of his lovers or children in the pages of Sentinel Comics? We get flashbacks here and there, but we never meet any of those people except a story where he goes to visit this old man (like, in his 90s) who's suffering from dementia and doesn't recognize Haka who asks him to tell him his stories. Ultimately, Haka's there holding his hand when he dies and it's revealed that this is his son and that this is something that Haka does.
- We know of Radioactivist's origins [as a Unity stalker], do we know of any other spurned individuals? Anybody so want to be with Baron Blade that they tried to kill Legacy? Anybody mess with time to try to get with La Capitan? What's the worst thing somebody's done to impress their crush? Firestarter sort of fits here. Shrieker-to-Glamour with Blade's help kind of counts. The closest to this specific situation, however, involves the villain Mindwarp who can hypnotize and put somebody to sleep by meeting their gaze. He's infatuated with Citizen Dawn and had a whole plan to use his powers to find/subdue Expatriette. He's a total creep and stalks her, eventually succeeding in putting her to sleep and then takes her to Citizen Dawn. He makes his pitch to become Citizen Dream to rule at her side. This does not go well as he eventually makes a comment about them having powerful offspring, offsetting past failures. Dawn blasts him through the chest, killing him instantly. She then frees Expat so as to not give any credit to this loser.
- Given how old Biomancer is, what's his romantic life been like? We know about the first time he's tracked to his home and it turns out his whole family are fleshchildren. We're going creepier here, though. In his lair (wherever he is as he's had to move around a lot) he has a shrine to the woman he loved a long time ago, before he was "Biomancer". Her name was Phaedra [this was also the name of Theseus' wife in Greek myth]. He'd discovered a way to make himself immortal and offered her the chance to be so as well. She declined as he was super creepy even then. Additional info from the show notes that were lost in the recording: "After her death, the body of the woman we mention is enshrined in Biomancer's lair, and sometimes he makes fleshchildren to look like her, but he always destroys them because he cannot match her perfection. For all his "work toward perfection", he cannot match the perfection of his one true love. Also, he's super creepy."
"Overview" For Stuff Nobody Asked About
- Nina Arbor was Naturalist's former assistant who took over the running of his company once he became the Naturalist (and was instrumental to the process of turning the company in a "good" direction). When he is eventually ousted from the company, she's left behind and kind of works as a double agent (doing her job by day, but sneaking in to disrupt the "bad" stuff at night). Eventually, one of these sabotage jobs results in a large radiation backlash which twists her mind and body so that she has to wear this weird getup to survive. This is the origin of Professor Pollution. She and Naturalist were once a thing.
- They can't go through which relationships are present in both timelines as that would just take too long (we hear that Bunker/Wraith is still a thing in both, we know that most of the Unity/Benchmark thing is in the RPG timeline as it was only just starting in the Multiverse), but rest assured that relationships are still a thing.