Podcasts/Episode 89

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The Letters Page: Episode 89

Original Source

Primary Topic

Holiday Special

Intro

It's time for some terror!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:07:21

OK, we do start off pretty silly, but don't worry, we get to questions in the first few minutes, and then we are very serious and very scary.

No, that's not true, the first few minutes of questions are still silly. But then! A scary story! In fact, spoilers, if you don't like scary stories, you probably want to skip the tale from roughly the 7 minute mark to just before 38 minutes in.

And then, on to more questions and stories!

Near the end of the episode, we talk about the arts that Adam has been doing and posting on his Twitter this month. They're all here on the Sentinel Wiki!

This is the last episode of October, so we read ALL of the names for the last time! Also, restructuring of our Patreon is happening later today, so look forward to that!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Questions

  • [A letter from the Cult of Gloom is a fitting start:] Can you give us a horror tale from the pages of Sentinel Comics where the dark forces win? *cue crack of thunder and organ music sound effects*

Tome of the Bizarre #238, October 1978

  • A woman, Patricia Singer, bursts into NightMist’s office. She’s inherited a home from a great uncle that she didn’t know she even had. Her husband, Robert, had gone to the town of Sentiment, VA to check out the place/get an appraisal. He called her once he’d arrived to say that he’d found the place (on a hill on the edge of town) and that he’d be checking it out the next day. That’s the last she’s heard from him. She think’s something spooky is going on and has come to an expert to get help.
  • NightMist agrees to help and travels to the town, arriving there on a sunny day. The house is a rather dilapidated 3-story Victorian mansion, and is kind of creepy in its state of disuse. Entering, it’s got the expected grand foyer thing going, but with dust and cobwebs everywhere. She does see a few footsteps around the place, though, showing that somebody has been here recently. She also feels a darkness in the house, too. So, before she goes further she decides she needs to have a better handle on exactly what weirdness the house itself has going on and so casts a spell of vision to allow her to see what has transpired here.
  • A gimmick of this issue is that it’s light on dialog and heavy on the narration boxes and they’re laying on the ominous vibe really thick. Here the captions tell us that as she casts the spell to allow her to see the past, it works in the reverse as well. NightMist doesn’t know that, though.
  • She moves into the dining room and with her spell going she not only sees the dust-cover draped furniture but a dinner in progress, with the participants in Colonial-era dress and they look to be having a good time (the visions don’t include sound, so specific things being said aren’t known, but you can get the gist from the actions and people’s expressions). Odd that such cheerful spirits should be lingering in a dark place like this.
  • She then uses a servants’ entrance in the room (not particularly well-hidden in the wall paneling) to get to the kitchen. She sees a similar scene there of the servants preparing everything for the party in the next room. She sees some people bringing meat up out of the larder and so she takes a look in the present. There are still some rather large bones in there. She prods the pile with her toe and some fall over revealing a few human skulls. So, mystery solved for what the badness is, no need for further visions of people eating stuff so she dismisses the spell.
  • Next up is a big library complete with one of those rolling ladders for getting to the higher shelves. Everything’s dusty, but in pretty good shape here (nice red carpet, thick curtains covering the windows, etc.) and she starts browsing the shelves. She’s drawn to one in particular, so she picks it up. It’s on mechanics of some sort and as she continues to leaf through it she comes to a place where both pages are speckled with fine reddish-brownish dots. Then it appears that the book moves away from her. No, she’s still holding it, but she’s seeing an image of it being carried away by a figure in Edwardian clothes who’s pacing back and forth reading. Then the door to the room opens and another figure rushes into the room yelling at the first figure. He’s upset about something on the rolls of paper he’s rushed in with, spreading them out and gesticulating at them while continuing his tirade. The first is obviously trying to defuse the situation. He drops the book on a table (still open) and seems to succeed in calming the second man. At this he turns and says something with a smug look on his face at this point, which apparently was the wrong thing to do as the second man picks up a silver candlestick and bashes him over the head repeatedly, sending a fine spray of blood across the book.
  • NightMist is concerned that the visions haven’t stopped after she ended the spell. She wants some light so she casts a spell to open the curtains. In the light of day the room has a different cast to it - for one thing what she took to be a red-dyed carpet is a blood-stained one. In the better light it’s just a disheveled crime scene rather than a cozy library.
  • Ok, now there’s a sense of urgency. She doesn’t want to be here any longer than she has to, so she’s off to find Robert. Up the stairs she goes. There’s a bunch of bedrooms up here and everything’s got those dust covers on them. She comes to what looks like a child’s bedroom. There are a few oddities. First, it’s pristine - no dust or anything. Second, its full of dolls - shelves cover the walls and they along with the chairs and bed are full of fancy porcelain dolls with fancy clothes and real hair. They’re all facing the doorway. She finds herself getting lost in their eyes (which goes on for several panels) before she shakes it off and thinks that she doesn’t need to investigate that room and she closes the door. As she continues she sees out of a window that the moon is high in the night sky - she’s lost several hours and it’s now the middle of the night.
  • At the end of the hall is what’s clearly the door to the master bedroom. She opens the door and enters, finding the room well lit by electric lights and herself in different clothes, in a ’40s era evening gown with her hair up as if just returning from a party. She finds herself comfortable here, like this is where she should be, and she closes the door. Just after that it opens again and a well-dressed man enters. He greets her as Nancy and she calls him Jasper (unlike previous visions, this one includes her in the action and she can hear what’s said) - they obviously know one another and are preparing to become intimate when another man (Edward) bursts in furious and accusatory. As he advances and reaches to grab Nancy, NightMist finally starts to snap out of it (magical training is useful for something) and starts conjuring a spell to ward off the Edward spirit. As she does so, Jasper grabs her and says “No, you must die. We all have to die. That’s what happens.” We’re back in NightMist’s wheelhouse, though, so she manages to fight these ghosts off. We do see what had happened in the past, though. The real Nancy (who doesn’t look like NightMist, but wearing the clothes and everything) meets up with Jasper, her husband Edward comes in and knocks Jasper out, and as she starts pleading he knocks her onto the four-poster bed and uses one of the curtain cords to strangle her and then hangs Jasper from the room’s balcony.
  • The whole scene has played out in kind of sepia tones, but Edward has had a fire in his eyes. When he looks back at the room after killing Jasper the fire fades and he says “What have I done?” He looks around in a panic before heading into the adjoining bathroom and after a moment NightMist hears a gunshot as he kills himself.
  • Now that the whole scene has played out the room is back to shabby, dusty, moonlit status. She crosses over to the balcony and looks out/down and sure enough, there’s Robert Singer hanging from it dead.
  • So, she’s found Robert like she wanted, but not in the way she’d hoped. Now she’s still a bit freaked out as she’s in this house and despite all of her occult skills it managed to get into her head/take her over (if only briefly). It’s time to go. She goes back to the door to the hall, but it’s not the hall she remembers from before. It’s long with lots of doors on either side and at the end is a large black door. She doesn’t want anything to do with that door, but she also feels that this place wants her to open it. This hall is also at odds with the rest of the house. Sure everything’s been dusty and whatnot, but at least you could tell the original construction was fancy. This place is rickety, rotting, and nothing fits right. She opens the other doors as she walks down the hall [one assumes to try to find a way out that’s not the black door] - one just has a brick wall behind it, another has stairs that go down and then back up again and again uselessly, another opens into the dining hall but upside down (with the table on the ceiling from her perspective), another opens into some attic space full of dusty cobwebby toys with a wildly rocking rocking-horse in the center, another into some kind of apothecary lit with an eerie green light with unpleasant-looking items in jars, another has bare white walls and floor but the ceiling is dripping blood, another looks like it’s outside but is something like an enclosed kennel with snarling black dogs with red eyes. She slams that one shut, and now she’s at the black door. As she opens the door she’s pulled through and finds herself back at the head of the stairs in the foyer.
  • She starts running to the front door of the house to get out of here. It does that dream thing where things seem to stretch so that it seems like she’ll never make it, but she finally reaches out just about to take hold of the knob to open the door… when the floor collapses and she falls into a dark, unknown basement and passes out.
  • She wakes and indeterminate amount of time later to a room lit by green candles. It looks like one large stone chamber about the size of the house above it, with runes scrawled on the walls. There are several hooded figures standing in a circle, chanting. It’s another full-sensory vision - the captions tell us that the further something back is in time, the more obscured they are by the mists of time, and so this one is obviously fairly recent, like within the last decade. Guess who these jokers are? That’s right Gloom Cultists who are trying to contact/summon their master, using the history of evil in this place as a tool. As the ritual continues, green lines begin to spread across the floor, illuminating new figures around the cultists. Specters of colonial-era socialites with knives and forks and their servants with various kitchen implements, two Edwardian men - one with his skull bashed open and another holding a silver candlestick, a Nancy and Jasper with Edward advancing on them with a rope, some dolls, and then even more ghosts that NightMist hadn’t encountered before finding herself here: a tall shrieking figure in a soot-stained gown and veil, a drowned child still dripping wet, a large headless figure carrying a pitchfork, etc. The cultists didn’t expect nor even notice the ghosts at first, so it was quite a surprise when the ghosts proceed to tear them to pieces (off-panel, of course - we’re still in the Comics Code era).
  • The reader sees NightMist’s face in this eerie scene as she watches it. The captions continue about how this place is cursed and has been for a very long time. Then the view of NightMist changes drastically before pulling back to show her in her office. The captions have been her narrating the story to Patricia Singer after the fact. She continues that the Cult of Gloom tried to bring forth a great evil there, but found that the place already had a great evil in residence and jealous of its space. There’s not really any hope to make the place better. Patricia wants to know if she can get Robert’s body back and/or what to do with this house that she’s inherited. NightMist: “House? I burned the house.” and the view changes to the house enveloped in flame with NightMist in silhouette in front of it holding a torch.

Questions, continued

  • Cult of Gloom’s letter ends with it exploding into Adam’s favorite candy, Trevor’s favorite candy, and a rock for Christopher (and not even a good rock). This prompts a discussion about favorite candies: Adam likes [Crows](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crows_(candy)) but also regular [Dots](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dots_(candy)) and jellybeans - he likes the texture, but prefers the black licorice-flavored Crows (ironically, he dislikes black licorice itself because of the texture).
  • Which hero likes Halloween the most? Which villain? Who gives the most candy? Legacy gives the most candy and also stuff like the full candied apple with the nuts and everything. The Parsons family doesn’t mess around when it comes to holidays (although they’re into Halloween in the kitschy, family-friendly way - no jump scares or anything). Setback and Expatriette are home for Halloween and every time there’s a knock at the door Expat makes a move for her guns and Setback has to remind her that “It’s ok, it’s just kids.” She just can’t turn that part of her personality off. Harpy takes it way too seriously (as appropriate for her gothy roots, granted that this is really the only time of year that she embraces that). NightMist and Mr. Fixer have seen enough darkness to opt out of participation. The Southwest Sentinels are a “family” with a child and so get into it. Writhe kind of phones it in by shaping his shadow body into the shape of some black thing as his “costume”, but the others get into the spirit of things (and their book has a Halloween special every year [although I note that their Southwest Sentinels title only exists for a total of three Octobers]). Unity puts a lot of time and effort into her costume (and can create bots to accompany her if appropriate for the costume).
  • What Halloween specials got published? Did they ever bring back some of the old horror titles for October? Who was the recurring threat in these? Different books would have them year to year (with the caveat mentioned previously that Southwest Sentinels always did). Tome of the Bizarre is an obvious choice for where to have them. They would occasionally do a one-shot that brought back a pre-Comics Code title. GloomWeaver and the Cult of Gloom or Blood Countess Bathory were old standards for these things, but more often they’d just be one-off things. Ghosts, demons, werewolves, and vampires are all things that exist in this world, so the roster of available “generic” monsters was available.
  • Why didn’t Guise’s holiday special wind up with a Halloween-themed villain? There are plenty of holidays that got snubbed. Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Arbor Day (come on, just bring Akash'Bhuta in or something). Mostly, though, it was a matter of picking villains and then choosing holidays to match rather than the other way around. There’s also the joke of which holidays are waging war on Christmas. Like, Thanksgiving makes sense, but why Easter and the 4th of July?
  • [This letter ends with “Any questions?” which is the second time this episode that they’ve said that phrase in this particular, goofy voice. For the uninitiated, I point you to David S. Pumpkins.]
  • What is the hero you’re most afraid to run into in a dark ally [the letter writer had thought Dark Watch Mr. Fixer until seeing Void Guard Writhe]? Can Mr. Fixer show up as himself at Halloween parties? He doesn’t attend many Halloween parties, but I suppose he could. Why not? Anybody can do that, technically. It kind of makes you a stick in the mud. Writhe is the worst hero to run into - he’s just creepy. This is too easy, so they move on to who you would like to run into in a dark alley. The answer is Southwest Sentinels-era Dr. Medico because at least he’s a source of light, because, really, what person or thing would you want to run into in a dark alley?
  • What villain are you/the readers most afraid of (Spite? Voss?)? Those are good suggestions and you can go back and forth on the quality (hands-on serial killing) vs. quantity (planet enslaving/destroying warlord) as for why you’re scared of them. Like, the level of impact between “Voss is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people worldwide” and “Spite killed, by hand, Sara Scott and Eduardo López, two people you know and care about” is likely to edge towards the latter - the detachment you get from the scale and impersonal nature of the former makes it less impactful. Christopher and Adam think Spite is up there as he’s designed to be scary, as is GloomWeaver. Frankly, the Chairman/Organization have a lot going for them too in the pervasiveness of the evil they represent and the futility of fighting it. Iron Legacy as the representation of just how far a good person can fall.
  • [The next letter writer here plans on running an RPG game around GloomWeaver and has some questions to help towards that - he acknowledges that he’s free to ignore anything they say if he’s got something that will fit his game better (you better believe that Scholar is going to make appearances as a Obi-wan style ghost mentor)] Before even getting to the questions they stop to, once again, agree with this mentality wholeheartedly. Make your game the best game it can be. Don’t feel beholden to what they say just for the sake of staying within canon.
  • How well known is the existence of GloomWeaver for the general public? Does this change at all over the course of the story (like after he goes all Rotting God rampage)? “GloomWeaver” isn’t a name the general public knows. Even the “Cult of Gloom” is kind of at an urban legend level. Even the Rotting God was just him showing up and rampaging, it’s not like he was shouting about who he was or anything. He was just another “demon monster” kind of thing who the heroes defeated. “He’s a closely-guarded secret.”
  • How widespread is the Cult? There was mention of a run-in between cultists and Anubis, so is there a presence in Egypt? Does he have different names in different cultures? Worldwide membership - basically any significant population center will develop a local cult. He and the cult have different names in different cultures, but “gloom”, “despair”, or similar concepts are prevalent in all of them as is the idea of a fabric or weaving of same. The “Nightmare Walker” title is something that also crops up in the local language.
  • Does the law recognize the existence of magic? Like, could a shopkeeper selling cursed items that bring about harm to the purchaser be prosecuted? The law doesn’t really get into the existence of magic, but if you are selling things that bring harm to others and the link to you can be proven, then the nature of the harm is irrelevant. The type of curse involved can make a difference, though (like, it it a box that suddenly sprouts spikes that directly injure the person or does it just cause general misfortune that could be waved away as coincidence?). Less direct harm can be harder to “prove”.
  • We’ve been told that it took a very long time for GloomWeaver to gain dominion over the Realm of Discord (slowly taking territory from other beings like Ruin) - how long ago did he complete this takeover? They waffle a bit on this, they land on something like a few thousand years ago. Like, over 2000, but not something like 17000.
  • How powerful would a fully-summoned-into-reality GloomWeaver be? Like, are we talking a Progeny-style all-hands-on-deck fight that’s tough, but ultimately winnable, or more of a “rocks fall, everyone dies” situation? Comparisons are tough - Progeny is powerful, but is still a physical thing that you can punch. GW is kind of like Citizen Dawn, but also with NightMist’s powers. It’s super bad, like almost insurmountable. The whole point is that you are making sure to keep him out. The time that he managed to get through was by creating the Skinwalker loophole which limited him greatly, but was still terrible. Regular-style, the Cult has legitimately succeeded in getting him to cross over is not quite a “rocks fall” situation, but you need a hell of a lot of magical firepower to counter him. There’s like a 90% chance at that point that the world becomes a hellscape. He’s not as bad as OblivAeon, but you should still keep that from happening.
  • Are there any stories tied to Adam’s Sentinels of the Night Inktober drawings? He was just doing them for fun and wasn’t developing a story for them. They aren’t canon even at the level of Disparation - about the most you could say is that a Sentinel Comics artist did them for fun and posted them on social media (just like what Adam did). They could craft stories about them, but they’ve got other stories to tell already.