The Letters Page: Episode 95
Happy Holidays from Sentinel Comics to all!
Run Time: 41:13
We have a bunch of great questions today, so after only a few minutes of holiday lies, we get into those questions! And within those questions, we tell a few holiday tales. Enjoy!
(Also, many thanks to Matthew Bender for his delightful dramatic reading! You'll know it when you hear it.)
At the end of the episode, we finally reveal the schedule for January of 2019!
- Tuesday, January 1st: No episode!
- Tuesday, January 8th: Episode #96 - A Motley Crew: La Capitán’s Time-Displaced Teammates
- Tuesday, January 15th: Episode #97 - Story Arc: Baptism by Fire/War of Heliopolis/Horus of Two Horizons
- Tuesday, January 22nd: Editor's Note #26
- Tuesday, January 29th: Episode #98 - Post-OblivAeon OblivAeon Environments
- How does the Parsons family celebrate Christmas? Pretty much from the Silver Age on the family has Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning stuff just for them. In the evening on Christmas they have a big Christmas dinner for all their friends (initially pretty much just the Freedom Five, but expanding to include more people over the years - "interns and sidekicks" are mentioned, as are "anybody you'd invite to a barbecue"). Eventually this becomes a "hotbed for hi-jinx" as some villain shows up to cause trouble but get invited to join in instead, or a villain will show up and you think it's going to be that, but they brought the cranberry sauce and are invited guests. We get a lot of slice-of-life stuff, but also some different kinds of conflicts that are disconnected from whatever ongoing plots are happening but still allow for some character work. These issues happen most years with the implication that the dinner happens every year regardless of whether or not it was depicted in a book. Of course, then there's the "Felicia at college" era - her sophomore year she decides to stay on-campus over Christmas to hang out with friends and whatnot. She's starting to establish her own traditions and "family". This is tough for her parents, but that means that we get AFL #516 (December 2014) has an early Antimox story (possibly before we know that he's behind a lot of events) where there's some giant snowman monster attacking Fairville that she has to deal with. She winds up having to swoop in to save Jason Wong (her "will they or won't they" friend) before she's done with her costume change and he recognizes her. This is a somewhat big reveal for her story, but he moves into something like a dispatcher role for her (or tries to be [I'm getting a vibe from their explanation "guy in the chair").
- You've talked about an Absolute Zero holiday story involving Fright Train [it was the Hippo, for the record, and was the Animated Series' Christmas Episode], but what other winter holiday stories has our resident ice man been involved in? Does his downer demeanor play into things? Sure, here's another story from December 2004 - FF #656:
- The story is one involving La Capitan and the vast majority of the text of the issue was in the form of narration boxes (or, well, less "boxes" and more something resembling fancy paper/parchment with fancy handwritten text - the text being the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"). They do a line-by-line breakdown of the poem juxtaposed with thematically-appropriate art panels (e.g. "'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" shown with Freedom Tower at night with everything shut down and quiet because nobody's awake and doing stuff). I'm not going to follow along in the summary and will just be recording interesting details, but it's a fun gimmick. The dramatic reading starts off at 12:34 or so (with the establishing shot description starting at 12:20) and they wrap up this section at 23:45 for anybody who wants to jump to that section to listen.
- One fun description is the heroes stockings. Legacy's has the lantern insignia on it, but also a blue cape, Bunker's has an armored motif, etc. The FF are all represented like that with fancy stockings, but then there's a pink sock with "Unity" written in SharpieTM thumb-tacked to the wall next to them.
- Absolute Zero is the only one still awake. Hanging out in his cryo-chamber and listening to a record. Just chilling. Then an alarm goes off. AZ checks the security monitors and eventually spots La Paradoja Magnifica flying above the tower. La Capitan and some (eight, to go with the reindeer in the poem) crew members start their assault, leaping/swinging down to the tower and breaking in/infiltrating while AZ watches.
- Eventually the crew members make it into the team's common room with the decorations/stockings shown earlier. We then get a few pages of all of them looking at the decorations and talking to each other about holidays and whatnot (the dialog isn't present, we just see them in conversation while the description of St. Nicholas in the poem is going on). La Capitan is still all business, though, and is getting impatient with her crew's distraction.
- By now, AZ has suited up and has sneaked up to the room. He's concerned that he'll not be able to take them all on by himself, but the crew haven't noticed him yet. But La Capitan has. There's a tense moment of uncertainty before she gives him a big exaggerated wink.
- La Capitan goes over to the stockings and does her "grabbing items from other times through small time portals" thing to gift: an old tattered, but folded flag for Legacy, an early version of a microscope for Tachyon, the original manuscript of A Study in Scarlet (the very first Sherlock Holmes story) for Wraith, some kind of ancient military medal for Bunker, and a gift card for Unity. We see her put *something* in AZ's, but we don't know what it was yet.
- She them calls the crew to attention and portals them out again. AZ enters the room to look what's in his stocking. It's a small box and a note. The box contains the ring he was going to give to his fiancee before she died but which he had pawned in the interim before the cryo-accident (we get a flashback panel to communicate this). The note says the last night of the poem which the captions have also reached: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."
- If you think it's out of character for La Capitan to be giving them stuff instead of stealing things, remember that she's stealing these gifts from somebody who probably still wanted them.
- What's Christmas like in Mordengrad? Officially, there are 2 holidays in Mordengrad: Independence Day and Ivan Ramonat's birthday (both generally wind up being week-long celebrations rather than a single day's observance). That being said, there are more that are celebrated by the people of Mordengrad - they just aren't state holidays that result in days off work or something. There's a Lunar Festival in the spring (a long-time Mordengrad thing), for example. One other tradition for many of the people that Baron Blade is aware of, but doesn't bother stamping out, is Christmas. It's a much more old-school tradition there, not at all the highly commercialized version we often see in the West these days. Mordengrad is one of the places that has Krampus traditions and these play a big role in people's observance of the holiday.
- Are Jewish observances like Hanukkah, Shabbat, or Yom Kippur depicted in holiday specials? How about other holidays in general? Yeah, Hanukkah gets mentioned: both Wraith and Unity are Jewish and the holiday decorations in Freedom Tower would include a menorah (as has been stated before, Wraith is largely non-practicing, just the big holidays really, but Unity is active in her faith). Lots of other faiths and holidays are covered by varied characters. One notable example is shown in Prime Wardens vol. 1 #48 in December '89:
- The issue opens with the members of the team talking about holidays. At this stage, Argent Adept has an crappy apartment in California and the team will meet there occasionally. Tempest mentions that his doesn't really have religions and so lacks direct analogs of our holidays - they just recognize the Maera as the life force that flows through and connects all living things (which makes the rest of the team bring up that this sounds an awful lot like a religion).
- Anyway, every solar cycle [which I take to mean a year on Vognild Prime] they have the Val'Maera when they go under water where there's a lot of aquatic life and during this time they light their homes with bioluminescence. They think about the connection of all life, say some important words, eat both plant and animal-based foods to remember that their life is dependent on other life. This sounds an awful like a holiday. No, it's a time of remembrance and something you have to do, but we can't do it here and we'll never have it again. At the end of this all the Maerynians go into the ocean and connect their bio-electric impulses to connect to each other and to all life in the ocean, in an approximation of the Maera itself, which you will never experience. Tempest is getting real defensive about all of this and kind of snippy about the situation.
- Then an alien monster creature escapes from F.I.L.T.E.R. and the team goes to fight it (complete with bystanders being scared of that alien over there, but also of Tempest). The fight is incidental to the story, though, and it's wrapped up quickly - it just serves to further deepens Tempest's feeling of isolation.
- In the epilogue, we return to AA's apartment (some unspecified amount of time later, but not immediately following that fight). It's been decorated with green streamers (so simulate algae/seaweed) with the other Prime Wardens explaining their contributions: Haka found plastic fish and poked Christmas lights into them to simulate bioluminescence, Fanatic brought smoked salmon and lettuce for the traditional foods, AA explained the streamers and whatnot. Tempest is mostly just shaking his head at this nonsense. Captain Cosmic then wants them to all hold hands (Tempest is really skeptical but is still going along with it) to connect with one another and then makes "lightning" constructs to simulate the final stage of the celebration. Tempest is still just looking down, for several panels, before responding. The room is all wrong and we're in air instead of water. We're supposed to eat the fish while they're alive. Everything is wrong. But it's perfect. Thank you.