The Letters Page: Episode 78
We made a radio play! It turned out pretty dang awesome!
Run Time: 1:07:57
Just listen to the episode! It's got a lot going on.
All of the voices in the radio play are either Adam or Christopher, other than Ruby, who was voiced by the talented and most excellent Heather Reusz!
Around the 40 minute mark, we get to your questions!
This Thursday is this month's Editor's Note! Next week is Gen Con! We're excited to see you - and record an episode with you - there!
- The character of Legacy debuted in the comics in May 1940, the radio show followed a few years later in April '43. It was a recurring segment of the Lito Foodstuffs Action Hour which would have a number of stories in it (romance, westerns, etc.). [They make a joke here referring to the fact that the original promo card for Rook City Wraith misspelled "Sleuth" as "Sleulth".]
The Adventures of Legacy "The Toxic Terror"
- Some ne'er-do-wells are breaking into a warehouse down by the docks, stealing some experimental chemicals (apparently ones volatile enough that they could cause an explosion if mishandled). There's a "boss" (Dr. Dour according to one of his subordinates) giving some orders to his minions before he slinks away. As they're loading the last crates, there's a whooshing sound that they figure is just the wind. However, "Those winds you hear are the winds of Justice! And they fly swiftly today!" Legacy has arrived to stop the robbery.
- There's a brief fight and Legacy questions one hoodlum after throwing the other in the river, but he's not talking. Then the police arrive ("Looks like instead of going in the drink, you're going to the clink."). Legacy has a brief discussion with police chief Charlie Callahan (complete with Irish accent), including that he has to get going to meet a certain lady in order to ask some tough questions. This prompts Callahan to ask if Legacy is finally proposing to Miss Rourke, and Legacy confirms the who, but not the why.
- Scene transition to a downtown office, the Rourke Detective Agency. Ruby Rourke is informing a sobbing client that his wife hasn't been visiting the library on her lunch breaks. After that client leaves, Legacy arrives. Ruby offers him a drink, which he declines ("Nothing for me, Ruby. I'm thirsty for information, not for water."). Legacy describes the crime he just prevented down at the warehouse (dangerous chemicals, etc.) and Ruby suggests that if somebody is stealing truckloads of chemicals, they'd need to be storing them somewhere - maybe that abandoned chemical plant on the edge of town. She wants to go with him as his partner, but Legacy reminds her that the last time she came along she wound up on the wrong end of a gun (she's earned the nickname "Ruby Reckless") and that they're not partners. She thinks it's no big deal, but he wants her to stay here and keep an eye on the situation in the city.
- Legacy flies to the plant and sees signs of recent activity (tire tracks and whatnot). The door is locked, but that doesn't keep him from breaking it down ("Hello, just a courtesy call from your local Legacy!"). While there's been recent activity, it looks like the place has been cleaned out recently. He sees a light on near the back and investigates. This room has been cleaned out as well except for a single crate that his keen eyesight allows him to see that it's been nailed shut again just recently. He opens it up to reveal a bomb, at which point Dr. Devlyn Dour's voice comes out over the plant's PA system to taunt him. It's a trap! All the doors and windows are blocked by steel plates. One last taunt from Dour before the bomb goes off and we go to a commercial break.
- This episode is brought to you by Morton & Jepsum's All-Purpose Medicinal Healing Elephant Balm. Apparently good for dry skin, hair, nails, or eyes; as something to help you get to sleep at night or to wake up in the morning; and getting rid of dark under-eye circles or bad breath. Just ask Fanny the Elephant how well it works [insert elephant trumpet here]. Available at your local five-and-dime.
- Dr. Dour is broadcasting his claim over the city from his Blockade Blimp along with his demands to be met within 3 hours to prevent him from raining his toxic tinctures down on the populace:
- That he be given $500,000 in gold coins as compensation for society making him an outcast.
- That Chief Callahan turns himself over as a prisoner due to his role in locking up Dour's associates.
- That he be given the key to the city as a token to recognize his position as the ruler.
- Back at the Rourke office, Ruby and Charlie discuss what response to make to the demands. Callahan is resigned to turn himself in, hoping that by doing so he can get Dour to reduce the monetary demand or at least buy everybody more time. Ruby offers him a drink before he faces his fate, and they toast to the city, but she's slipped him a Mickey and he's knocked out cold. She couldn't let him make that sacrifice. While he's incapacitated she gets her friend Mr. Jacobs to fly her up to the blimp in his crop-duster. She's deposited safely on board and sneaks down the side of the balloon and into the cabin.
- She sneaks through the vent system and peeks down through gratings along the way, eventually coming across the demented doctor injecting one of his minions with one of his tinctures, mutating him into a hulking brute ("FEEL ANGRY! FEEL HUNGRY!"). The plan is to disperse the tinctures over the city, turning the population into mindless slaves (controlled via radio) - willing subjects like this guy retain something of their minds through the process. The demands were a ruse - he was going to disperse his tinctures regardless. He had hoped that Callahan would have come willingly to be used as a legitimizing element to his rule as part of his augmented army. Right as Dour's wrapping up his monologue the vent collapses, depositing Ruby in the room with them at which point she's captured. Dour leers at her a bit, but no time for that - time to get to the control room.
- Here there's an ominous-looking lever set into the floor, the manual control to release the tinctures that overrides the timing mechanism. Seeing the success of his test subjects and impatient to get on with things, Dour throws the switch. And we go to another commercial for...
- This portion of the program is brought to you by Lito's Foodstuffs. We hear from Todd Lito himself, a soft-spoken man talking about his new product, Todd Lito's Pressed Corn Snack Biscuits, available at your local corner store. They are awfully crunchy.
- The lever didn't do anything. As Dour wonders why Legacy flies in with the twisted remains of the valve coupler that it would have activated. From the interaction between Ruby and Legacy, Dour determines that she's important to him. He has all of his monstrous minions attack while he drags Ruby along with him out of the cabin, out onto a catwalk above the mixing vats of the tinctures. She's rather feisty, however, and in the struggle on the catwalk the doctor himself is the one who goes over the edge for a long fall.
- Legacy makes short work of the mooks and comes to Ruby's aid. She thought he had died in the lab explosion, but "It will take more than some bomb to defeat Legacy." Legacy wants to get her out of there, but she knows about the time release, so they have to take care of that first. It looks like the controls are down near the mixing vats so he goes down to take a look while Ruby stays up by the cabin (the narration also calls him a "caped hero" at around 27:19). As he approaches the controls, however, the big vat next to it tips over, narrowly dodged by the hero and revealing the 12-feet-tall mutated form of Dr. Dour, terribly transformed by his own toxic tinctures.
- A blow from the monster knocks Legacy through the wall of the blimp and Dour then leaps up to the catwalk where Ruby is. He captures her and taunts her with the fact that she'll get to watch the city tear itself apart before he kills her and begins a climb to the top of the blimp (now beginning to list somewhat due to the structural damage it's been taking).
- Of course, being knocked out into the air isn't a problem for the flying hero who confronts the doctor again. They fight (some good cheesy Legacy lines in there), but Legacy is unable to defeat the monster and winds up grappled, but he at least manages to get Ruby free in the process. She goes off to the control room to prevent the blimp from crashing into the city. Legacy gets free from the hold, but the villain starts just tearing up the blimp to crash it with them all on it. Legacy uses ropes that have become loose from the blimp during the fight to wrap up the doctor's limbs, immobilizing him and preventing him from causing any more damage.
- Meanwhile, Ruby's in trouble. The blimp is falling rapidly and it's all she can do to keep it under control at all - the best she can do is hold the wheel just so in order to ensure it crashes into the ocean instead of the city. Legacy arrives and solves the problem by bending the wheel in such a way that it can't move, allowing them to abandon ship without the course changing. The day is saved!
- Back in the Rourke office, Callahan wakes up and she owns up to stopping him from turning himself in and Legacy agrees with her having done so. In a turn from his statements earlier, Legacy calls her partner. They're now going to work together. The End
Post show wrap-up
- They did this just as part of their normal recording session and their voices are strained a bit now. They had to do multiple takes of some lines (mostly ones where they couldn't' help but laugh). They also didn't have a Ruby actress in the room and just took it in turns to do her lines (and Adam's characterization for her [sample at 35:34] is rather hilarious and not at all like the actress that did the actual lines for the radio show we just listened to). Trevor for MVP for the whole thing, though.
- They had fun doing this. They wouldn't want to both have to do multiple voices for a single show again, though.
- This was weird and wrong in some ways, though. The "Adventures of Legacy" show is non-canonical (or, rather, it's canonical in the same way that other Disparation stories are as happening somewhere in the Multiverse - the nice hand-wavy explanation for any media versions outside of the main comics line) and so differs in several ways from the comics. They mentioned that he had a cape, which was a fun costume element that was also incorporated into early TV or other media iterations, but that only entered comics later with Paul VIII. Ruby Rourke aka Ruby Reckless was a minor (but beloved by the audience) side character until this episode at which point she becomes something like a sidekick, somebody clever and willing to be sneaky which Legacy wasn't at all - but she wasn't Legacy's love interest in the comics; Legacy's wife's name was Joyce. Note from the future: in episode 153 they give her name as Nancy rather than Joyce and in a discussion with Christopher I'm told that the more recent name is the correct one as it was what would have been checked against the "lore bible" used for the History of Sentinel Comics book. Another major change in the storytelling, however, is that bad guys die all the time in the radio show (say, by being tied to a blimp full of dangerous chemicals that crashes into the ocean) and so there are a lot of throw-away villains-of-the-week.
- How often did Sentinel Comics use the gag where the hero bonks two criminals' heads together to knock both out at once? A lot (especially in older comics), but the question sheds light on the fact that they never actually depicted this on a card.
- Did Greatest Legacy fight major recurring villains or generally one-off foes that would coincidentally wind up dead by the end of the issue? Well, for a good chunk of the original Legacy's run (i.e. during the war) he was fighting Nazis. Beyond that, there's a mix. Sometimes he was fighting just normal criminals, but some villains were in there. They tended to not be quite so one-off as the radio ones, but there were still some "coincidental" deaths (stuff like Legacy having to hold up a bridge or something and so couldn't prevent the death from some environmental hazard).
- What war-time rationing back home would make Legacy saddest and which type of military rations were his favorite? Well, given the somewhat propagandizing nature of wartime comics, Legacy wasn't sad about the rations back home - he was proud of the sacrificing the people were making on the home front to ensure victory abroad (also, Buy War Bonds!). His favorite were the D Ration - military chocolate bars were totally a thing.
- How does Legacy ask out his best gal to the upcoming sock-hop? This is slightly anachronistic as that's a little later on and something that the newer-hipper Legacy would be doing. Grandpa Legacy was not hip (and met Joyce at the USO). His son was written to be more day-to-day relatable as opposed to the All American Man's Man, doing what he needs to do for his country. The more "fun" characterization given to, say, the radio show's version of Legacy was something imported into the comics when the Paul VIII reboot happened.
- When products did Legacy get used to promote? Well, there were two advertisements in the show (the second being a continuity nod to something mentioned a few times in earlier episodes: Todd Lito's Pressed Corn Snack Cakes being a reference to Todito's, "They're the crunchiest!").
- Was the fact that Vernon Carter, the original Bunker, was African American have an impact in or out of the comics on what types of stories were told with him (considering the military wasn't integrated and race-relations in general were the way they were at the time)? What was the audience reaction to him? There were comics lines that were written for and marketed to the African American community specifically and Carter's book was one of them. It might help this character not having as much of a backlash as he wasn't a "superhero" but a soldier - although some subtle commentary on race relations "back home" was present. He didn't have the suit in his first appearance and wasn't even "Bunker" at the time, that name was applied to him retroactively when the Tyler Vance character was getting going (the "first" Bunker mechanism was more of a tank, but after it became the traditional suit somebody remembered the suit that Carter had and added that retconned that in) and a fair amount of Carter in the suit were flashbacks.
- Is Justice Comics #1 from May 1940 the beginning of the Golden Age in the publishing meta-verse (as opposed to a particular June '38 comic in our reality)? Yes. There are comic books that were published prior to that, but not superhero stories.
- What happened to Vernon Carter, Henry Goodman, and Ray Talbot? The recent Cosmic Tales episode goes over what happens to Ray Talbot. Henry Goodman retired when Paul Parsons VII was killed by Baron Blade (if even Legacy was losing his step and got taken down, he should probably step away from things before it caught up to him too) - he'd still how up occasionally as a background or supporting cast cameo as an old man [the original DC Sandman, Wesley Dodds, got this treatment as a real-world analogue I'm familiar with]. Given declining sales for his book, they had Vernon Carter lead his platoon into a blaze of glory last stand in one of Hitler's bases, saving the day at the cost of their own lives (although they don't die on-page).
- What marked the end of the Golden Age and how did they transition? The end of the Golden Age is kind of a fade out over time as they phase in Paul Parsons VIII as the new Legacy and introduce the Freedom Four/Five title [in our reality, the decline of superhero comics in the '50s corresponding with the rise of horror and crime comics prior to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority gives a kind of nebulous interim period preceding the start of the Silver Age]. The Silver Age is marked by the soft reboot of the Freedom Four title with the "modern" lineup of Legacy, Wraith, Tachyon, and Bunker in August '57 - this marks a transition not just in terms of the team composition, but in that the books in general more often deal with heroes fighting villains as opposed to just like some monster or something.
- Any particular reasons to reuse the Absolute Zero and Captain Cosmic names with entirely unrelated heroes? Well, they're not "entirely unrelated" in that Absolute Zero is "a guy using cold powers" and Captain Cosmic is "Earth man out in space" in either iteration and they were good names for which people had positive connotations (they also note here that the Ryan Frost AZ was rather dark for a character introduced so close to the start of the Silver Age).
- Any chance of a radio serial becoming a regular thing, say if people volunteered to be voice talent? It would be fun, but there are a lot of things they could do that would be a lot of fun that they don't have the time for. They'd be more likely to actually produce comics in some way than they are to produce a radio show. Who knows what the future holds, though? Maybe it'll happen in some way.
- They'd really like to be able to do a Golden Age source book for the RPG (but there are a bunch of other books that would take priority) and, because of the Disparation stuff involved, it's possible for Golden Age characters to show up in Prime War eventually. They'd like to be able to flesh stuff like the world of the radio serial out more. Every time they make something, the process of making that thing results in half a dozen other things they could do with it.