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The Letters Page: Editor's Note 18
A birthday Editor's Note for Adam!
Schedule for June!
- Tuesday, June 5th: Superpower Sources
- Tuesday, June 12th: Xtreme-Verse!
- Thursday, June 14th: Extrasode - Story Meets Mechanics
- Tuesday, June 19th: Young Legacy
- Tuesday, June 26th: Daybreak
- Thursday, June 28th: Editor's Note #19
And here's the calendar of when we're recording episodes, and when those episodes will be released!
Topics covered in this Editor's Note:
- NightMist's Book of Monsters
- NightMist's House
- Dark Watch
- The Harpy
- Zhu Long
- Types of Magic
- Zhu Long's followers
- Cultural Appropriation
- Alternate Realities
- Disparation Freedom Five
- Non-Absolute Zero Ryan Frost
- Outside Time/Space
- Other Disparation stories
- Inverse Universe
- Podcast listening habits
- Singular entities
- Magmarian crystals
- And more!
Thanks for listening!
- Dark Watch
- Dr. Frankenstein
- Absolute Zero
- Zhu Long
- Citizen Dawn
- Citizens Blood, Sweat, and Tears
- Mr. Fixer
- Ashen Heir
- The Freedom Five
- La Comodora
- Plague Man
- Arataki Wakawarewa
- Emily Parsons
- Wager Master
- Void Guard
- Captain Cosmic
- Tuesday, June 5th: Superpower Sources (recorded already)
- Tuesday, June 12th: Extrasode - Story Meets Mechanics (recording June 8)
- Thursday, June 14th: Xtreme-Verse! (recording June 7)
- Tuesday, June 19th: Young Legacy (recording June 8)
- Tuesday, June 26th: Daybreak (recording June 22 - we should be given more info in GTG communications prior to this so we know enough to ask questions)
- Thursday, June 28th: Editor's Note #19 (recording June 22)
- It was mentioned in Episode 65 that NightMist has several monsters sealed away in her home, but if Dark Watch ever did much there that means that Setback was around them - did he accidentally free some that the team then had to deal with? She'd be concerned about letting Setback into the house. She's kind of "baby-proofed" the house - she's warded the front sitting room from probability (and other things) so that there's a "safe" space for people to be in the house that won't interfere with the other stuff in the house. That being said, there is a story where he's there and she has to leave, but then he hears a thump from upstairs followed by more noise and he, recognizing that he's not supposed to go farther in than this one room, goes to investigate. He runs up and deals with whatever monster was up there, but releases others in the process. It's a big mess.
- Does the Diamond Book of Monsters cover cryptids? Would Harpy let other people read/study the book [post-OblivAeon]? It definitely covers cryptids (well, ones that don't actually exist wouldn't be in it). Harpy would let people study it if she trusts them or somebody she trusts vouches for them. She's not going to lend it out like a library book, though.
- Given that we've been told of the Sentinel Comics versions of Frankenstein and Dracula, do our well-read heroes like Absolute Zero and Tachyon point out their inaccuracies to the novels? Did Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley actually write the books in the comics? This is a bit of a plot point - the books do exist as do the cultural knowledge that the books' existence imparts. This means that when people first encounter vampires, they try the stuff they know about vampires to fight them, which doesn't work (there's something to a wooden stake to the heart, but it's not complete enough info). Frankenstein is not his "monster" but he's also sufficiently far-removed from the man he once was as to be a "new" thing at this point. As a point of comparison to Biomancer, Biomancer is integrating new matter into his own body with alchemy and whatnot and is fairly seamless whereas Frankenstein is using a more crude scientific technique and so has the stitches and whatnot you'd expect.
- How does Harpy maintain the monsters in the Sentinel Comics Universe and what is done about the escaped ones in the Mist Storm Universe? Was the destruction of NightMist/Harpy's house a contributing factor to the Final Wasteland? Unrelated to the Final Wasteland - the cryptids hiding successfully involved in that story is what was the diverging point there. The RPG stuff will have to wait. For Mist Storm, a lot of the things were destroyed as any survivors would have to be strong enough to not die in the process of their prisons being destroyed, but there are more bad things in the world now than there would have been.
- What's the exact address and layout of the house? Nice try, Cult of Gloom. You aren't getting it that easily.
- Harpy's kind of getting pushed into the deep end here, being more susceptible to temptation while lacking NightMist's depth of knowledge, did NightMist leave behind some kind of magical servant to help out with keeping everything penned up? She's definitely in over her head here. As much as NightMist did to train up Harpy, she wasn't explicitly training a replacement, just another powerful magic-using ally, and so hadn't really set up anything like that to help. It's a bad situation (although Harpy is still powerful and fairly accomplished, just not NightMist's level), but the alternative was to not be the gate and allow the multiverse to be destroyed.
- Episode 68 introduced the concept of Oni within Sentinel Comics - involving binding a ghost to a mask that was first discovered in a failed attempt at a resurrection ritual; does Zhu Long collect these sorts of things to then seed out into the world as "traps" for up-and-coming magicians? Clearing up a misconception that may have prompted this question: as part of the way that episode worked they suggested and abandoned a lot of concepts, one of which was that Zhu Long would create a mask and then leave it around somewhere for others to find [the idea initially being that the mask had to be used in ignorance of what it was for/you couldn't give it away to somebody], but where they landed was that he could give them to people with the intention of using them to become Oni and so that "trap" aspect of it was dropped. He's not the only person who knows how to make them (he teaches minions to do so for him) and he's not even the one who invented it (although he'd be quick to off the person who he learned it from to hoard the knowledge for himself). He's also not the type to leave "broken magic" around for others to try to use either. He's interested in stability, not sowing chaos.
- It's hard to categorize things from what we've been told, but is Necromancy a form of Natural Magic or can multiple (all?) types of magic get those effects in different ways? It depends on how you define "Necromancy" - if it's just "raising/animating the dead" then there are a few ways to go about it (it'd be Blood Magic as much as it is Natural Magic, but Gloomweaver can do it with Discordian/Voodoo Magic, Dawn manages it somewhat with her power but managed through the stuff that Blood, Sweat, and Tears had set up). An issue here is that Christopher and Adam are both D&D people and so naturally talk and think about magic in terms of "schools", whereas magic in Sentinel Comics isn't really set up that way. There's two ways of thinking about these things, what you do (what D&D schools of magic are concerned with) and how you do it. "Necromancy" (broadly speaking - magic dealing with the dead) is often related to the "what you do" part with the "how you do it" coming down to the different sources of magic they talk about (Blood Magic would generate Necromantic effects in a different way than Void Magic would). Blood Magic is probably the closest type of magic to Necromancy in that it's already related to life and death, but Gloomweaver's use of Discordian Magic is right up there. More about this in the Power Sources episode.
- Would Haka die if he put on an Oni mask? Nothing would happen. Part of what activates the mask is that you have to have ill-intent, which Haka lacks. Let's say hypothetically that we're in a weird universe where all of Haka's friends have been killed and he's furious at the guy in front of him what done it, and he's got this mask. So, what we've got here is Haka permanently fused to the mask, his body is constantly trying to kill him, but he's surviving because Haka, and he's always in the Oni rage state which goes on and on forever as the body tries to destroy itself. That's awful. Don't do that thing.
- How pliantly loyal are Zhu Long's minions? Are they all willing to Oni up and die on command or do only the most zealous get the honor of a mask? To get at the first part there - yes, most are definitely willing to die at his command. Now, he doesn't just give out Oni masks to everybody as they are a finite resource and there are some minions whose final acts could be more useful not as Oni (say, a mage of some sort who could be spending those moments on their most dangerous spells). The kind of training his recruits undergo leads to this kind of thing - you're broken down to your core and then built back up as the most useful tool of Zhu Long you can be.
- This prompts a story that Christopher thought up recently; something that would only take up a few pages at the end of a comic leading into a later Zhu Long story. There's a man in a cell hearing a voice go on and on about how the speaker has killed the man's family and friends and other awful things, how the man's life is terrible because of him. Now he's going to go and do more terrible things to this man. Meanwhile the man is becoming more distraught and eventually snaps, running up to grab the bars and call out at the speaker that he hates him and will kill him. At this point Zhu Long enters the frame for the first time saying "Good" before putting an Oni mask on the man. The view pans back to show that there are a large number of cells, each with an Oni in it.
- How do you avoid cultural appropriation in your work? Stepping back a bit, there is the aspect of their work that they recognize that this sort of thing happened in the past (like Zhu Long definitely being a character drawn from the "Yellow Peril" era of things and Mr. Fixer's origins as "Black Fist", a blaxsploitation character). They are aware of these things and try to be better while still fitting the historical trends (Black Fist being a really early black comic book superhero [Justice Comics #129 is in January '51 in the current understanding of the publication timeline, so a little early for "blaxploitation", but this might get adjusted], to say nothing of the WWII-era Bunker [video game bio lists his first appearance as JC #14, June of '41]). It's not that they are setting up Sentinel Comics as being better than their contemporaries (they state that Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball [in '47] was an inciting incident for the creation of a black hero) and a lot of the early dialog written for these characters would have been stereotypical and uncomfortable in a modern context, although things would get better in time. What they think they are doing to help avoid "cultural appropriation" is that they aren't taking something from a culture wholesale; they take a thing and then tell a story with it. It's like what they do with Dracula or Frankenstein, using a "known" thing as a jumping off point. Additionally, if they're not going to get stuck in the reactionary space of "only write things from your own culture" (which would get boring fast) that means that they have to do this right, and that means putting in the work to get it right. Look at Haka. They wanted to include a Maori character, but that means that they had to actually do the work to learn about Maori culture and make him a well-rounded character. "The Savage Haka", if taken literally, would be the stereotype of a tribal warrior character, but they've turned it on its head in that he's anything but savage. This is part of why they eventually cut off the behind the scenes episode after a certain point - while they had some knowledge of Oni in general and did a quick Wikipedia check for some detail, they want to spend more time doing the legwork and that's boring radio. What they already have interest/knowledge of informs some decisions as well - they include the Egyptian mythology and Maori stuff in part because they had pre-existing interests in them and so there was less legwork necessary to get things in order (Egyptian myth is also handy in that what records we have regarding it is actually really vague [and/or contradictory], which makes it easier to put your own spin on it).
- Did NightMist ever capture/obtain an Oni mask? There's not a specific story that hinges on her getting one. She's definitely tried to dispel/remove one from a rampaging Oni (unsuccessfully). The use of Oni in the story was to be a monster, not a MacGuffin. More in the Future, but not from NighMist.
- Would Zhu Long, if out of all other options (all of his contingencies foiled in some way), would he use a mask? He would never do that. His "self" and internal power is the most important thing to him and using an Oni mask would erase that. He'd rather be defeated (although that's hard to imagine, he generally has the option to become a dragon and just leave).
- What if a Proletariat clone put one on? The clone would burn out really quick and it wouldn't have any affect on the others. If Proletariat tried to absorb the clone after it put on the mask it wouldn't work - the clone is no longer Proletariat.
- How are the Ashen Heir's Freedom Five still the "Freedom Five" lacking the All-American, Legacy-led nature of the original? To set the baseline: the main Freedom Five have the name because of the connection to Legacy and the era when they started [#1 in May of '50] they wanted the name to be very buzzwordy on that All-American theme. In this Disparation story [January '93], this team had to do so much more to "earn" the name. Each of them, individually, has wrestled for their own freedom - Plaything from her past as the Dreamer, Infinitor from the madness (and later the whole ape thing), AH as the spirit trapped in the pipes, Unity gaining sapience, etc.
- The Disparation Freedom Five episode mentioned in passing that there's no Absolute Zero and Ryan Frost is still a janitor in a cryogenics lab somewhere; isn't there some reality out there where he gets a happy story and is happily married and employed for Tolling Tone or whatever? In the Disparation story we never actually see what Ryan Frost is up to and they were speaking off-the-cuff - there is no canonical place for Ryan in the setting so the posited "happy ending" given is just as likely/canonical as the janitor one. Real talk about Ryan Frost here for a minute, though. By the time of the accident he was an older janitor who had dreamed of being a writer when he was a younger man - when the accident happened he was already at his lowest point after life repeatedly beat him down and he had given up on his dreams. The whole cryo accident actually gives him a second shot at doing something with his life. He's still pretty low at first as a hero, but by mid-period Absolute Zero he's actually got a purpose, has friends, and is doing better (and late-term AZ is actually in a pretty good place).
- Why, on the "¿Quando? ¡Ahora!" art are the Freedom Five looking fearful while Dark Watch is determined? The situation is that they're being pulled from their realities and dropped into this weird situation. Dark Watch takes this as something they've got to buckle down and deal with while the Freedom Five is more likely to proceed with caution first and this initial "get it done" vs. "assess the situation" difference is what you're noticing.
- If there's no air Outside Time and Space, how to people talk? A bunch of the characters we see there are Singular Entities and they can do whatever they want. And your first question is "how to people talk?" and not "why do people not immediately die?" - if people can survive there, it's a smaller mental hurdle to accept that they can talk too. Also, if there's no time, then there's no time in which you can suffocate either. Look, there are simply a lot of "rules" for reality that don't really apply there.
- We know that La Comodora can sail between realities (or between times in a reality) while Outside Time and Space, does that mean that all realities' "Outsides" are connected? She's "traveling the time stream" which is a different thing - while she can duck Outside occasionally, that's not her standard procedure. The "place" that is Outside Time is an infinite field of nothingness in which all times and places hang [we're introduced to the phrase "Ur-space" in the Cosmic Settings and Time-Travel Settings episodes], OblivAeon's plan is to "smush" all of these realities closer together within "Outside Time" so that they overlap and annihilate each other.
- We know that Vanessa Long gaining powers is a Fixed Point in all realities - does that hold true in the pun-based universes (like the Animal and Plant universes)? Yes.
- Why would the Caturalist ever take on the naked-ape form if it's so useless? Well, opposable thumbs are useful - sure there are other primates, but they're not necessarily as dexterous. Then again, this is a pretty anthropomorphized setting and a lot of the characters already have thumbs... So, I guess what we're getting at is that the reason he'd take the naked-ape form is for comics meta-reasons in that the readers are all humans and this is funny.
- Plague Man sounds like he's a pretty poor disease vector given how ill-suited the human mouth is for biting, right? You've seen zombie movies, right? Sure, they might not be the best-suited mouths, but they still chomp just fine.
- Why "Plague Man" in the first place? Those meta-reasons again.
- [Comment about appreciating "Asquash'Bhuta" in favor of the easier joke of "Akash'Fruita"] Well, "fruit" is an entire category and the puns have to be more specific that than. I mean, come on, that'd be like having "Animal Man" in the Animal-verse.
- Following an earlier question about whether the Plant-verse Akash'Bhuta equivalent would be made of meat, is there a Meat-universe [letter includes a series of glorious meat-based pun characters from 57:04 through 57:45 includes some great ones, I'm a fan of Gyromnitron and Absolutefisk Zero]? Yes, sure, why not. Let this be the first and last time we speak of it.
- Is there any character that's introduced in Disparation who then becomes a regular in the main timeline (and not an alternate version of the person, like the literal character from Disparation crosses over)? Haka. Arataki Wakawarewa starts in a Disparation book and crosses over to become the Haka appearing in the Sentinel Comics Universe following OblivAeon. She's not the only one, but that's all they're telling us for now.
- Is there any way we could get a list of what Disparation stories there were, or are they going to just be this infinite collection that they can just draw from as needed when they make something up? Well, they can come up with infinite stories to tell, but there's also just a lot of issues they can pick from (and a good number of those issues had two stories in them given the Inverted Universe era) [25 issues in the initial run, ~172 of the second run if it continued with monthly publication through FF #800]. While they know what issue numbers exist for Sentinel Comics, and they know what goes on in a lot of them, there are still plenty for which they have no specified content. A lot of episode prep winds up being figuring out exactly where various story points fit in the overall publication history and having "blank" spots in the listing makes that easier.
- What does Inverted Universe Emily Parsons do for a living? A lobbyist [possibly for a cigarette company - this was the initial joke, but "lobbyist" was the only part that was repeated/settled on].
- [Listener responding to an old prompt - this person uses a podcast app that downloads episodes automatically and adds them to a playlist. When one podcast episode ends, it just plays the next one and so they don't actually see the titles before listening, so there are at least some people out there who listen this way. The person also speaks positively of Disparation and behind-the-scenes episodes and so the guys go on how much they like them too for a bit.]
- Are Singular Entities always embodiments of specific concepts or ideas (OblivAeon for Entropy, Wager Master for Chaos or something, Galactra's patron for Passion, etc.)? How would this be different from the Host? How do they come to be? That last question doesn't make sense - they don't have a point of "origin", they just exist. There are no new Singular Entities that get created. You can create a Prime Aspect [see the final question for what we get to know at this point]. Members of the host are "spirits" of the thing in question. Singular Entities are very focused, but they're more interested in the concept. Wager Master isn't chaos, he's just really into it (but even then he has rules that he sets and then abides by). Singular Entities are the closest thing shown within the setting to gods (not in the sense of Creator gods of whatever mythology/belief system, but they're nigh-omnipotent beings, some of whom are omnipresent or omniscient as well - there's very little that's true about all of them). They're really not that important of an aspect of Sentinel Comics - you can ignore them as a category entirely and still understand the stories just fine.
- How should we tag questions in the submission form for concepts that aren't specific people or places (e.g. how should one tag questions on werewolves)? For that example, you could just put "werewolves" or, if it was in response to there being an upcoming episode on monsters or something, you could tag it as being for that episode. Tagging things with episode names is always good. Things like "Disparation" or "Alternate Realities" (or specific ones like the Inverted Universe) are fair game. If all else fails, there's still "Other" which Christopher sorts through occasionally.
- In the Magmaria card "Fiery Crystallization" is the damage coming from the Equipment crystallizing in itself or is it coming from Magmarians who are trying to take the new Magma Crystals from the heroes? The first one - the equipment reacting to the atmosphere in Magmaria and growing the crystals is what's happening, not belligerent Magmarians.
- Will there be a Disparation source book for the RPG? They want to make one, yes, but there are other books that they need to get to first as a higher-priority for the line.
- Are OblivAeon shard-granted powers related to the personality of the person (like with Isoflux Alpha creating Omegas)? They will amplify things that are already there (see Void Guard who had their powers cranked to 11), but they can also bring in unrelated stuff (see Captain Cosmic and Infinitor who had no powers ahead of time). The rules pertaining to OblivAeon shards are about as obtuse as anything else related to Singular Entities. There will be more about both OblivAeon shards and Isoflux Alpha in the power sources episode next week.
- What's a Prime Aspect? It's a thing that has to do with the game and story of Prime War. Don't bother to submit questions about that - they will talk about it when it's time to do so, but not before. It shouldn't actually be all that long before they get to it.