The Letters Page: Episode 91
A group of characters you know as heroes but in this other reality are far from it!
Run Time: 1:22:51
After some brief goofs, we give a brief overview of the Inversiverse and what we're talking about specifically today. Then, we get right to your questions at only 6 minutes into the episode!
Around the 14 minute mark, at the end of the first question, we get a request for pictures of each member of Perestroika for the upcoming episode. I put them on the Patreon, but available to not just Patreon supporters, but everyone! Check them out here.
The second question takes us on a journey through the story of Seraph, who ends up being way cooler than anyone expected. Why are your expectations of us so low? Give us some credit here, folks!
Whew! That's a lot of story telling! More questions give away even more, which is what we're here to do.
If you have any questions for the Perestroika episode, get them in now, as we're recording that on this Friday! And the voting for the December episodes is already happening on the Letters Page Patreon!
- Prime Wardens
- The Freedom Five
- The Citizens of the Sun
- Citizen Dawn
- For Profit
- The Idolater/Father Humphries
- Tempest/Reaper Dall'Ton
- Kaargra Warfang
- Argent Adept/Silver Sorcerer
- Captain Cosmic/Null
- The Court of Blood
- The Hippo
- Grand Warlord/Philosopher Voss
- We're returning to the Inversiverse [home of the variant, heroic, female version of Luminary and her nemesis the Legacy of Destruction]. People asked all of the right questions, so we're going directly to Questions.
- Is there even an inverted version of the Prime Wardens team (having an evil version of the Freedom Five makes sense, but the PW members always seemed to be powerful heroes that just happened to get together rather than having “being on a team” as a defining trait)? Very good. The first thing to get out of the way here is that there is no Inversiverse version of the Prime Wardens team, we're just going to be looking at the inverted versions of each member (well, mostly - as has been mentioned previously, there was no appearance of Haka in this universe). Villain teams are weird to begin with - it's usually part of some specific villain's plot to have put together a team rather than the members banding together due to some shared philosophy/goal. The Citizens of the Sun would kind of counter this idea, except that there's Dawn there as a figurehead/rallying point (like, on the surface level they look like an egalitarian society/cult where everybody is equal as a Citizen - but nobody's fooled for a second into thinking that Dawn isn't the leader and does whatever she wants). The members of the For Profit group could also count, but the first thing that happens in that story is them killing on of their own members, so it's tenuous.
- How much more story did you have to invent just for this episode (the Inversiverse seeming to be a fan-favorite among Letters Page listeners to an outsized degree relative to how many pages it likely received in Sentinel Comics, especially compared to the history of the main setting)? A mix. Some of what they come up with is just during episode prep, but there's a fair amount that they have discussed between the two of them prior to that. That's in large part why this podcast exists in the first place - it's a place for them to share all of the stories involving these fictional comics properties that they've been making up on their own for years now. While the Inversiverse doesn't have the depth of history that the main continuity had, it does have probably a few years' worth of publications (after the first few stories set there it became a backup feature in Disparation from issue #75 through #122, so from November '08 through October '12, although with reduced page counts as it wasn't the sole story in any given issue) and it's also drawing directly from the main history. You can get a lot of mileage out of “here is [this character], only bad” without further explanation. Virtually nobody reads Disparation who isn't already familiar with the main comics universe.
- Can we get pictures of the Perestroika members ahead of time like we did for Daybreak since we know almost nothing about them in order to ask questions? Sure, here's stuff about them on the Patreon (link should be visible to everyone, not just patrons). They'll try to be better about getting this kind of thing out there for unknown-to-listeners stuff in the future.
- It seems unlikely that Hellion and Seraph are embodiments of the Host spirits of Judgement and Deceit like Fanatic and Apostate, so what exactly are they? Are the circumstances of their origins similar to their main universe counterparts?
- Ok, so in the Apostate episode they talked about the encounter he had with Fanatic where he had all of these relics and revealed the truth to her about the Host and both that episode and the Fanatic episode talked about the Host as if that was an integral part of both characters' origins from the beginning. However, that's just the way the guys discussed it from a “here is the canonical explanation at the present time” sort of storytelling perspective rather than the more messy reality. The Host stuff was a later explanation/retcon introduced in '04 during that confrontation with Apostate (Mystery Comics #366-371), long after Fanatic and Apostate had first appeared in comics [both debuted in the '70s]. As part of this, they also retconned characters from Fanatic's history like the Idolater to also be involved with Host stuff. However, the Host explanation was also controversial within the readership with some accepting it and others insisting that Fanatic really was an angel [I mean, Apostate's not exactly the most trustworthy source of info to begin with]. So, while Hellion and Seraph were introduced well after the Host explanation was given (first appearing in Disparation vol. 2 #80 [April '09]) their origin wasn't in terms of that. This was still fairly early in the back-pages-of-Disparation era of these things and was the first appearance of any of the inverted PW members.
- So, we get started by meeting Hellion, a person who's been irrevocably possessed by this demonic essence. It's straight up said that we're dealing with demons from hell here as opposed to using the Host explanation. She's kidnapped a bunch of orphans from a church (run by one Father Humphries, the inverted Idolater [although the spelling I got from Christopher for the Nemesis Interlude notes was Humphrey,]). The priest prays for aid, but none is forthcoming. Because he's desperate he decides to try something unorthodox - the church has a legend about a statue on its grounds, that if you take a pilgrimage (it's not that far away, so it's more symbolic than anything to take a specific path to it) to it, it will heed the call of a truly pious person and become a defender once a century. Everybody assumes that the stories about this thing are allegorical or something, but he figures its worth a shot. He feels like it's probably a wrong thing to do (he doesn't want to be thought an idolater), but what choice does he have? He gets there and asks it for aid. Cracks appear in the statue and the stone exterior falls away to reveal this angelic figure with armor, a big sword, and glowing white wings. It says that it will defend the defenseless for three years and a day before flying off, much to Father Humphries' consternation as he hadn't really had a chance to talk about the specifics of his situation.
- So, now we have Seraph go off to fight Hellion. She's trying to turn the children into demonic creatures, they have a big awesome sword fight, he defeats her and saves the children but she gets away. He returns with the children to the church. So that's mission accomplished, but now he's still got three years to help out before going back into stasis. This sets up the framing device for the remaining 3 characters to talk about today - Seraph is the hero in each of their stories.
- [I have moved this question up one in the order because the stories are told in this order in the comics] Does the Inverted version of Tempest involve inverting the roles of Maerynians and Thorathians as well? Is M'kk Dall'ton a conqueror who winds up stranded on Earth and just goes about causing as much weather-based mayhem as possible? Is there a peace-keeping armada out there looking for him?
- Here we're in Disparation vol. 2 #82: The story opens with Seraph flying towards some other airborne combatants surrounded by a storm out over the ocean. One is recognizably Maerynian (presumably Tempest or whatever he's called here) wearing a sleek black long-coat kind of outfit and the other is a blue-gray skinned Thorathian who's lightly armored and wielding a pair of short swords (he's also got some kind of anti-gravity gear that lets him fly/hover). The Maerynian calls some lightning that strikes his hand, forming into a big scythe of electricity that he uses to cut down the Thorathian who then plummets towards the ground. Seraph changes course to catch him before landing on a nearby island. The Maerynian ignores them and flies off, increasing the intensity of the storm as he goes.
- Seraph uses some radiant energy to heal the Thorathian and bring him back around. He could feel the malevolent intent of the other and asks what's going on. He was trained to be a hero in the Bloodsworn Colosseum - one of the finest academies in the cosmos under the leadership of Kaargra Warfang, the Bloodsworn Commander. One “graduates” by fighting your way up the ranks. This guy was the top of his class, defeating everyone, so he was called the Victor and then set off to be a hero out among the stars. During that time he encountered this terrible group of people from what was once called Vognild Prime. The Maerynians who lived there had to fight back against some invaders, but this one group of Maerynians thought that they could do better anyway and so sold out their own people. They killed off the rest of the Maerynians and sold their planet off to the invaders. These traitors (there were about a dozen initially) were known as the Reapers, although they went their separate ways and rarely meet up with one another now. Their general m.o. is to find a planet, kill off the sapient inhabitants (leaving the ecosystem intact) and then sell the place off - buyers range from a civilization who's looking for a new colony site/mining colony/prison planet to one rich jerk who wants a planet to himself. Victor has been fighting these guys for a while and has taken down a few of them, but this one, Reaper Dall'ton, is the most powerful one he's ever come across.
- The two of them go back to fight the Reaper together. He sees them coming and arms himself with two smaller lightning sickles. Another awesome fight. Reaper Dall'ton is creating this massive storm to use to wipe out the population on nearby landmasses, so he's got a lot of weather stuff ready to tap into in addition to the cool hand weapons he's created and he's fighting this guy with some fancy tech and some short swords and Seraph with his armor, big sword, and white wings. At one point we have Seraph block one sickle strike just to have Reaper release the power in the other one to essentially throw a lightning bolt at him. Seraph is wearing a lot of metal armor, which means this doesn't go well for him. However, before this the two-on-one aspect of the fight managed to weaken Reaper to the point that Victor is able to defeat him. However, Victor is a hero's hero and won't just kill a defeated opponent, so he goes into a speech about turning aside from his evil ways and how he should turn himself in. While this monologue is going on, Reaper is building up a ball of lightning to blast him with. That is, right up until Seraph drives his sword through Reaper's chest from behind, killing him. Victor is aghast at this as heroes shouldn't kill, but Seraph thinks that's all well and good for Victor - laudable even, keep doing that - but he only has three years and a day to help this world, so if that means that he has to take more badness on his own shoulders in order to help more people, so be it. He's not here to make friends.
- What kind of music would an inverted Argent Adept use to channel the Void and what purpose would a Virtuoso in this universe even have? Does he fight a benevolent titan of natural order? Is he plotting to inflict the worst humanity has to offer on the Void itself?
- This one is from Disparation vol. 2 #84 [August '09]. Seraph is floating around high in the sky (the previous story established that he has an ability to meditate up in the upper atmosphere and sense where evil is occurring that he needs to intervene). This time he senses the earth itself as needing his help and communes with the mind of this being, Akash'Terra, and flies down to where it's under attack by this mage, the Silver Sorcerer - the Violater of the Void, who steals magic power from the Void and is now trying to steal Earth-magic from Mother Earth herself. When Seraph shows up, Anthony just sees him as another interesting source of magic for him to steal. From the previous Seraph stories we would expect that he's gearing up to have a super cool fight scene, but that's not what happens here. Instead the Silver Sorcerer just wrests the divine power from Seraph, leaving him as just a guy in armor with an unwieldy sword. His “divine burden” has been lifted.
- Here we get a flashback montage of this guy centuries ago who had everything of importance to him (family, etc.) taken from him and whose strength and faith have been tested many times over. Even after all of this, he's still got his faith (explicit comparison to the Biblical story of Job here), and would like to have a chance to defend people, but doesn't really want to be part of the world any more. So, the powers that be take him up on this offer and that's when the whole statue that can come to life once a century thing comes into play.
- Back to the present, part of the deal with the deal he had made was that he didn't remember who he was or any of the pain that went along with that when he was Seraph. Now, it's all coming back and he's got to deal with that. The Silver Sorcerer just blasts him with some magic, which throws him back against a wall, and he's considered dealt with. The SS just leaves at that point. Seraph is powerless and down, Akash'Terra is reduced to barely a wisp of a spirit. Akash manages to rouse him and gives him a pep-talk - she's seen him operating as a defender over the centuries and knows that he's no stranger to housing a foreign spirit and so (with his permission) she inhabits him which grants him power again. So, overlaid on the existing look with the armor and whatnot he gets this earth-motif and stone skin. For the brief time that this team-up happens he's now the Primal Warden [the guys seem absurdly pleased with themselves about that one].
- Here is where we get that expected cool battle. The Silver Sorcerer has stolen power from a variety of sources and puts it into the instruments that he has floating around him, playing this discordant music which is what channels the various powers into him. So, mage vs. armored earth-avatar guy. Eventually the Primal Warden gets the idea to start smashing the instruments. He's having a hard time of it for a while until he smashes the instrument that contained Akash'Terra's power, which results in him getting a huge power boost as it becomes available to him instead. Eventually he gets to the one with his own power and now he's got the divine aspect in there too (shortly after that Akash withdraws to let him end things on his own terms as Seraph). Eventually he breaks the instrument that tied SS to the Void and the Void is pissed, the backlash creates some kind of shadow tentacle/clawed arm that drags him into the Void. Akash'Terra takes her leave, but not before thanking Seraph for being a defender of people and of the earth.
- Characterization note that they bring up here - Seraph talks in a super-antiquated manner (lots of “thee”, “thou”, “forsooth”, etc. being thrown around).
- So, for the actual question: the music is discordant, but it's also a manifestation of the way that he steals various power sources and he's warping rather than channeling of the Void in particular. He's not a “Virtuoso” so that doesn't really enter into it. He's kind of fighting a titan like that, but not how you were probably thinking. His connection to the Void is mostly just him grabbing hold and pulling it into the world to use for his own purposes rather than some specific plot regarding it.
- For Captain Cosmic, was the source of his powers still OblivAeon? Did he get the short end of the stick rather than Nigel? Was he driven mad by the whispers of the Shard, or just a generally bad person who now just has more power to abuse? Or maybe due to the limited number of OblivAeon Shards, was there some other power source/person used to fill this slot like a certain size-changing Thorathian?
- We're in Disparation vol. 2 #86 (notice the every-other-issue trend?) following Hugh and Nigel Lowsley, inventors who have discovered a method by which they could harness dark matter into a form of renewable energy (Hugh being the astrophysicist/theory guy and Nigel working more on the mechanical engineering/building stuff end). Or, at least they've worked out the math behind it and have built their device. They're both very excited about this, but they're only now getting ready to test their hypothesis, but if they're right and it works this could be a method to generate basically infinite, clean energy for the whole world once enough generators are built. They turn the device on and it starts drawing in dark matter, but too much too quickly. As Hugh rushes over to the machine to turn it off it explodes, taking out the whole building and injuring both of them (in addition to cuts and bruises Nigel breaks an arm and Hugh gets a concussion, but all things considered it could have been worse).
- After they recover, they are resolved into figuring this out. As they go on with their studies, Hugh starts to lose himself in a kind of nihilism as he considers the nothingness between the stars, how that nothingness is the natural state of being, etc. Nigel is worried about this turn in his brother's personality as he himself has continued to be grounded in the needs of the people here on Earth regarding the energy they're trying to harness. And then they both develop superpowers due to their interactions with dark matter. Nigel can draw in darkness from his surroundings to create constructs of absolute light/the absence of darkness. Hugh feels the darkness around him and, unconsciously, draws it to himself. He's enveloped in darkness before shooting off out into space.
- Montage of Nigel becoming a hero (Materio) while also working on his energy project, looking for his brother, and meeting other heroes and whom he helps with his light constructs. This all gets us up to speed on him before we get to the return of his brother out of the cosmos, clad in black (or more specifically, he's just constantly shrouded in darkness that forms tendrils that writhe around him - not to be confused with that Writhe) and calling himself Null, having fully embraced that cosmic nihilism reminiscent (to us) of OblivAeon.
- Victor returns to Earth to help fight this dangerous madman who's already responsible for the destruction of entire solar systems. So while Materio realizes who Null really is and they get into this “I have to save you” “Saving anything is useless” conversation we have this non-powered, but extremely accomplished combatant joining the fight. That's where we are when Seraph comes in, having sensed the darkness here. It's a rough fight. Victor gets slashed across the face by an attack from Null that is more like rifts in space than physical cuts. Seraph gets entangled in the tendrils of madness around Null - Seraph is all light and the tendrils feed on it and starts to corrupting him, slowly draining him and turning his wings black. He also starts acting in a “darker” manner until Victor snaps him out of it, hearkening back to their discussion on heroism at the end of the Reaper fight, that he should stay true to his ideals.
- As this progresses, though, it's clear that this is the most dire threat we've seen Seraph face. Eventually, however, Akash'Terra manifests to help fight. She tells Seraph that this darkness is too pervasive to simply fight off. She can take care of it, but it will leave the Earth defenseless for a time, so be prepared. She then absorbs all of the darkness from Hugh into herself. The power had used Hugh up, so at this point he's basically left as a tattered husk, alive and comatose but even after he wakes back up he's insane and fixated on this nothingness. Akash'Terra, tainted by the dark matter, retreats and goes into hibernation but this leaves a place on the world that's a roiling mass of darkness. It's dangerous and unclear if this is just a ticking time-bomb now. There's a lot of loss going on in the aftermath here: Nigel's lost his brother to madness, Victor's got these weird scars of nothingness on his face, and Seraph has been tainted by darkness (although it serves as a reminder for him that he's a warrior for the light).
- Does Hellion have any relationship with the inverted Ra? There's not much different about Ra between here and the main timeline. He's still Ra, God of the Sun, only here instead of being a hero who tries to only burn the bad guys and avoid collateral damage he's more about being worshiped as the god that he is and burning anybody who gets in his way. He and Hellion don't cross paths often, but when they do things flare up quickly. They also don't have whatever inhibitions might get in the way for the canonical iterations of the characters.
- What's happened to inverse Haka? Back in episode 69 (the first episode focused on the Inversiverse) they talked about how in the initial run of these things none of the writers had any good ideas for what to do with an “evil Haka” story, they had some plans for this first run of PW characters but the editors eventually decided to nix it as it just didn't feel right. They started teasing it towards the end of the Inversiverse feature in Disparation, but that's also the time that the OblivAeon decisions were made and so we get the “only two Hakas” mandate.
- Does Hellion have a particular enmity for Inverse Court of Blood (being a monastery of benevolent Blood Mages that operate kind of like a hospital)? Hellion would like to corrupt them into her brand of demon blood mages [the guys go out of their way to avoid calling them Vampires, but Vampires], but they're more of an environmental thing where other heroes would be defending them rather than the Court members themselves being involved in the fight.
- [The preceding letter (i.e. the last three questions) were written in-character for a kind of hive-mind of insects, full of nice buggy puns. The guys make a point here at the end to say that this could qualify as something that Myriad, the Daybreak villain featured in the RPG scenario set to debut at PAX Unplugged shortly after this episode was recorded, could have written. Neat coincidence in the timing.]
- [The next letter is from Swords, which prompts other nonsense from the guys, but also brings up a pretty cool session from the RPG livestreams.]
- Does inverted Tempest have an equivalent to his Atlantean sword? If so, what benefit does he derive from it? No, but he makes weapons out of lightning bolts (which “our” Tempest also does, but this one makes Reaper-appropriate weapons).
- Can we get more details on Hellion's and Seraph's swords? Hellions is called Aberration and Seraph's is Preservation, but they don't have the same Host connotations/baggage that Absolution and Condemnation have, but are conduits for their wielders demonic/angelic powers.
- Is heroic Voss still a weapon hoarder? No, but more on Voss in a bit here. It's not really fair to characterize the normal Voss as a “hoarder”, but more of a “collector”.
- Is Thorathian culture different in the Inversiverse? In what ways? A lot of Thorathians (and other space-faring races) wind up going to the Bloodsworn Colosseum like Victor did. Adam draws a comparison between Dok'Thorath and a utopian version of feudal Japan - a culture of peaceful warriors. It's about order and keeping the peace, knowledge and learning for its own sake, etc. The blue and pink Thorathians are still things, but there isn't a caste system based on it. If somebody is an accomplished warrior it's largely for the same reason as somebody would go into martial arts now - it's as much about the personal discipline as anything. Victor had to go elsewhere (the Colosseum) to learn to be a fighter for the purposes of actually fighting.
- Did inversiVoss have as much of an impact on the militarization of Dok'Thorath as the standard Voss? No, because Voss didn't militarize his planet in the Inversiverse. He's a great thinker among his people in the areas of nonviolence, almost Buddhist in his approach. His followers refer to him as Grand Philosopher Voss. He didn't seek to lead anything, but had a great impact on his planet just through his writings. Additionally, his older brother [presumably Joruun Kir-Voss] is still alive and serves in the Thorathian Senate.
- The preamble here assumes that Voss is a hero - he kind of is, but not in the “goes out and fights crime” sense, but the “I affect the world by my ideals” way.
- What is Sky-Scraper up to in this universe? Is she still connected to the Bloodsworn in some way? She's involved with the Bloodsworn in that a bunch of them try to stop her. She's something of a terrorist leader on Dok'Thorath (some may even call her an extremist), rebelling against the peaceful turn the society has taken. A lot of Thorathians, Bloodsworn, and others wind up fighting her.
- Is the inverted Hippo as cool as XTREME Hippo? Sadly, probably not. The Extremeverse is about as cool as you can get and Inversiverse Hippo is just a street level hero - like an extremely local to his neighborhood kind of guy. There aren't really any notable stories about him, he just shows up on the edges of other stories occasionally.
- Balarian is really creepy in the main universe, what are they like here? The same only the smile is genuine and they do nice things for people.
- Why did the writers replace Proletariat and Friction with Peacemaker and Blank? It was important to not just have the team be a one-to-one replacement as that's too easy. The Freedom Five is super-iconic and so that makes sense, but for the inverted version of the Vengeance team you need to mix things up and subvert some expectations - and that holds both in the publishing meta-verse and in the Adam and Christopher making stuff up sense.
- Some end-of-show follow-up: they hope that everybody loves Seraph as much as they do now. He started off as a character (from what sounds like a Villains RPG they played in) named Dark Seraph - this is also the origin of Revenant. While Revenant stayed pretty close to that original (only not as good at things and not potentially maybe a good person), while Dark Seraph got stripped down to the base archetype and became Apostate it is fun to revisit the old character in terms of flipping him to a hero.