The Letters Page: Editor's Note 54
It's almost May! But first: the rest of April!
Run Time: 1:19:21
Another fun show with a bunch of great comments and questions from our live chat!
Here's the upcoming schedule:
Tuesday, May 3rd: Episode #211: Creative Process: Mechanics of Definitive Edition Tuesday, May 10th: Episode #212: Writers' Room: Harpy, Young Legacy, Unity team-up Tuesday, May 17th: Episode #213: Writers' Room: Absolute Zero and Muerto team-up Tuesday, May 24th: Editor’s Note #55 (recorded Tuesday, May 17th, at Noon, Central) Tuesday, May 31st: Episode #214: Writers' Room: Setback & Unity team-up Join us in May for many team-ups in celebration of Adam's birthmonth!
Next week, we're doing a Neighborhood Watch episode! Get your questions in now!
- Dr. Medico
- Grace Charles
- Citizen Dawn
- Wager Master
- Plague Rat
- La Capitan
- Free Radical
- Baron Blade
- Grand Warlord Voss
- The Chairman
- Let’s talk about the Nolan Generator, aka “Chekhov’s Antimatter Factory” - suppose that the Nolan Generator stops functioning and the technicians don’t know how to fix it, but know that it will start kicking out antimatter shortly and need to find some means of dealing with that. What are the pros/cons of the following options for how to “deal with” it (and let’s assume we’re in the RPG era in Universe 1)?
- Move the Nolan Generator to the Realm of Discord: That sounds like a profoundly bad idea. Now you’ve got this thing spewing out antimatter in the Realm of Discord. Does antimatter even have the same effect there (i.e. is the Realm of Discord made of matter)? They don’t think it does, but they also don’t think it doesn’t. That sounds like a bet-hedging answer, but it’s not. Sure, you’ll get a lot of antimatter annihilation stuff happening, but you’ll also get things where antimatter collides with a thing and it instead duplicates the thing or mutates the thing. You’re dealing with a realm that’s “made of magic” in a lot of ways and is full of nonsense. Also, if this is post-OblivAeon, that means that GloomWeaver is currently busy being trapped inside of Dr. Medico’s OblivAeon Shard and in his absence there’s a war going on over control of the RoD [I want to say between Spite and The Master?]. The Nolan Generator shows up in the place and immediately becomes a resource to be fought over. Additionally, giving either of those factions control over an antimatter “gun” they can point at the real world is a very bad idea.
- Move it to the Void: That’s definitely better than the RoD. This might just be fine. We might never hear anything about it again if you move it there. Having a thing start to produce antimatter in the Void might not actually even be a problem for anything there. There’s already some antimatter in the Void as it stands.
- Have Grace Charles freeze it in a time bubble: That’s not really a “solution” as much as it’s just a means of stalling for time. It’s a fine stop-gap [and saying this causes them both to chuckle], but it’s not a reliable solution.
- Fling it into Writhe: That might just ultimately destroy Writhe and not solve anything. Assuming that it “works” in the first place, and he can contain it, that likely means he’ll just put it in his “lab” that he keeps in there, so now you’ve given this antimatter device to a barely-not-villainous mad scientist. The timing here is also weird since they haven’t actually told us much about what Writhe (or any of the Void Guard) is like after OblivAeon.
- Have Muerto haunt it and try to figure out how it works: This is a fun one. There are some morality questions in play with Grace given that you’re having her put herself in danger and it’s also trapping her in the time bubble with it. Muerto has the morality question if you’re making him do it, but if you asked him or if he was just there and saw the problem happening, he’d just do this. That’s a good story. He actually has a pretty decent shot at getting it back online before the antimatter-making bit becomes a problem.
- Give it to Wager Master on the assumption that he’d think it would be boring if everything got destroyed and so he’d turn it into a banana or something: Wager Master is also the kind of person who would take it and put it in his “home” to show off to guests. And over here I have my antimatter fountain - it makes a good fondue. Here, dip some fruit in it. So good and no calories! Of course, he’s also more likely to just use it to do something weird like hollow out the Earth. The chances of him doing something bad/fun with it far outweigh the chances he does something good/safe/boring.
- Throw it into the mouth of xxtz’Hulissh: well, by the “mouth” you mean the face hole that is a portal to Hul. This is not a good thing. As bad an idea of sending the generator to the Realm of Discord, at least that’s a place where we know or at least can kind of extrapolate what would happen. Sending such a source of power to Hul has unknowable results, but at least you’re likely to get even worse things spewing forth from xxtz’Hulissh’s “mouth”. Don’t do that.
- If GloomWeaver managed to get to Earth and killed all the heroes, would he keep human technology or get rid of it? Adam thinks that a world with GloomWeaver in charge looks a lot like the world of Conan the Barbarian. Christopher suggests that GloomWeaver’s responsible for all kinds of human technology; pop-up ads, social media, the concept of “liking” people’s content on the internet, the internet in general, NFTs, etc. [Chat suggests “old art never going away” to twist the knife a bit on Adam.] Anyway, it’s not so much that GloomWeaver would “get rid of” technology, but the loss of technology would happen on its own as the world is consumed by madness and despair until it’s the Conan-like setting.
- What are Citizen Dawn's recruitment policies when it comes to aliens with powers? How about robots (and would Omnitron II get some credit from her considering its Cosmic powers in particular)? She doesn’t care about robots - they’re just tools. Aliens with powers are worthy. Maybe at first when she becomes aware of aliens she doesn’t care as she is all about humans, but then she finds out that there are actually aliens with powers and then she can care because there’s once again a distinction that sets them apart. There’s a necessary adjustment to her worldview to include aliens.
- How is Wraith’s Flashbang Projector (quote from Bunker: “I used similar technology in the army for infiltration and extractions. Worse, but similar,”) any better/different from a regular flashbang grenade? Can she recover it to reuse it? Is it somehow “more stunning” than a regular grenade? Possibly doing less permanent damage to the target? Why did some writer feel that the flashbang grenade had to be improved in the first place - why does Wraith feel there’s a need to invent a fancy upgrade to a thing she throws away at regular intervals? The card destroys itself upon use so it is meant to represent a device that’s consumed in the process of using it. It’s meant to be more “targeted” than a regular grenade would be. The real point to consider here is what you brought up last: Wraith’s whole gimmick is to have fancy upgrades of normal things. Why have Razor Ordnance when she could just have a gun? Like, she’s not using guns because they’re not bespoke enough. You don’t get to take a moral high ground regarding “not using guns” if you’re then just turning around to launch spinning blades at people’s faces instead. The flashbang projector is just a fancy comic book tech version of a thing that exists and that’s kind of what Bunker’s pointing out in the quote. She can probably also adjust how much flash and bang the thing produces.
- Can you think of complicated story reasons for why the Flashbang Projector can put, say, one of Akash'Bhuta’s limbs back on top of the deck? Absolutely. You’ve got some kind of writhing tree limb thing that’s wrapping up a hero and Wraith throws this thing at it. The blast it produces (even though the limb doesn’t have eyes or ears) is enough to drive the thing back momentarily. Or you adjust it to put out less light, but more heat or something to dry out the plantlife. Or you’re throwing it in Akash’Bhuta’s face and it’s enough to momentarily distract her from animating the landscape.
- In one of the card previews from Rook City Renegades we saw an art of a Plague Rat-infected Tempest; is that Tempest the Tempersonation copy? Yes, given the year that issue would have been from , but of course it’s before the retcon that actually established that it was a duplicate.
- Can flesh children get Plague Rat’s infection? Yes.
- What would happen in that instance? Pretty much the same thing that happens to a normal person unless Biomancer specifically puts a stop to it. He could do his gross flesh control stuff to remove the infection pretty trivially. In that story it’s entirely possible that Tempest just got better on his own and at the time it’s chalked up as an alien thing, but the Biomancer explanation can come in later.
- Which trade dress is your favorite? Adam really likes the ’70s one with the bar across the top and sometimes the character portrait in the top corner, also the late-’90s. Christopher really likes a specific example that’s tied to a Terrorform-related issue, but that’s just the particular treatment from that example rather than being his favorite trade dress generally (which he doesn’t really have - maybe Ra: God of the Sun).
- Were the supernatural power source and form changer archetypes unintentional influences on the Æturnus heroes? Not intentionally - they came up with the character stories first before thinking about any other aspect so any influence there was subconscious.
- Can Fake Rat (the Biomancer copy) infect people like Plague Rat? Biomancer would give his copy an infectious plague-like thing, but without a sample of the actual Plague Rat’s plague he couldn’t duplicate it exactly (although he could if he has such a sample).
- Are there such a thing as negative Fixed Points, i.e, things that while technically possible are ordained to never happen in a universe, such as the existence of a NightMist after she becomes a gate? They don’t think these are things. It’s hard to point to a time when a thing didn’t happen and saying “there are no universes where [x] happens” doesn’t sound right. Like, there might be things that can fit into that [x], but these aren’t Fixed Point-like things because a Fixed Point represents a rule that you can point to where it’s happened. An [x] that never occurs isn’t a Cosmic Rule like Fixed Points are.
- If OblivAeon destroys a universe where a Fixed Point has not happened yet, such as the Visionary gaining powers, does this effect other universes? No. A Fixed Point will happen in every universe, but if there’s no universe there anymore that’s not a contradiction.
- Fixed Points are, in some sense, something that has happened in every reality. We know that time travel is only possible due to these Fixed Points, or at least, specifically La Capitan’s time travel is. We also know that the Time Cataclysm was more or less caused by OblivAeon. Are Fixed Points a setup, by OblivAeon, to destroy all timelines? In other words, if there are too many fixed points, will ALL realities collapse into a multi-versal singularity, destroying everything? La Capitan’s time travel isn’t only possible because of them - they’re just useful in how she navigates. They’re like real mariners using the stars as navigational aids. Their existence isn’t what makes her time travel literally possible, but they are a big reason that her time travel is viable. Like, you could go out on the ocean in a boat without any gear or knowledge of how to navigate and theoretically get somewhere, but they wouldn’t recommend that you try. For the OblivAeon bit, at least not intentionally - OblivAeon isn’t going around making Fixed Points to make this happen. Fixed Points are just things that are cosmically True. Sure, if there were just a ton of Fixed Points out there things might become too similar and collapse, but nobody can just make Fixed Points.
- Would a Virtuoso be able to use a random instrument to channel their power, or does it have to be one specifically connected to a Virtuoso? Like, could AA just pick up a random accordion and be able to use it as a focus for magic, or would he be out of luck since there’s no innate void connection to this specific instrument? Yes, a Virtuoso could pick up any instrument and use it to channel power. The specific Virtuoso instruments are better. There are definitely stories where for whatever contrived reason Argent Adept doesn’t have his instruments and so he hastily grabs some spoons from a restaurant or something. His voice also counts without that being a specific “Virtuoso Instrument”.
- Which deck in RCR would you say has changed the most from their EE version? Adam’s first impulse is Expatriette, but Christopher disagrees. While she changed mechanically, the Play Guns, Play Ammo, Use Ammo When Shooting Guns thing is still there, just implemented better. Bunker’s Ordnance mechanics represent a far greater departure from how his deck operates than Expatriette’s does. Christopher thinks that Harpy changed way more given that she doesn’t have the tokens anymore and balancing the Avian and Arcane aspects of her powers is all about balancing cards in play now - rather than a sliding scale between one or the other she can be brimming with potential in both areas as long as she can manage to juggle them (although that probably winds up in disaster for everyone at the table, especially her). Or Alpha changed the most from “not existing” to “existing”.
- And which was the hardest to get the character feel right? Probably Harpy or Alpha. To put an order from easiest to hardest (not that any of them were necessarily “easy”) is probably Setback, Mr. Fixer, NightMist, Expatriette, Harpy, Alpha.
- What is Tempest’s physiology like? Is his skin leathery? Slippery like a fish? Are his head tentacles prehensile? Does he have any organs that humans don’t have? His skin is more eel-like than anything else. The head tentacles can move, but aren’t prehensile. Think a cat’s tail rather than a monkey’s. He’s got lots of organs that humans don’t (and is missing ones we do). No spleen. Just a tiny liver-equivalent (although much more efficient). Extra-large lungs, but they also work differently since he can do the whole “breathing water” thing. Most of his body is essentially lung.
- When the Time Cataclysm happened in comics were there any cutaways to Free Radical exulting over what was close to happening? The Time Cataclysm is less a single thing that happened and more just a bunch of times and things crashing into one another. Some Time Cataclysm stories are Free Radical stories. Others aren’t. The Shattering of the Timelines happened about a decade of publication time prior to Free Radical’s introduction but there are a number of Time Cataclysm-esque events here and there over the years. Timelines going wrong like that are things that Free Radical enjoys, though.
- In the Visionary’s Home Universe episode it seems like you missed an opportunity: who better to contact when you need to create some big, dangerous, ill-conceived machine than Baron Blade!? They agree that yes, her home timeline is one that’s full of bad ideas. That one might be a bit too on-the-nose. One can imagine another very similar timeline where they did so and the resulting machine was so dangerous to the users that Visionary didn’t survive the process.
- [Letter starts at around 48:45 and strap yourselves in for this one for the next 9ish minutes.] What does Dark Visionary do in the main timeline that labels her as a “Villain” (other than steal the “good” Visionary’s body)? She stops GloomWeaver from entering the world, so that’s a good thing isn’t it? What’s so bad about her? Hold up. Did you miss the Science & Progress story where she erased some of Tachyon’s memories after killing a bunch of scientists? She is very abusive in terms of using her powers. Listen to the Visionary Supporting Cast episode for some more examples of power abuse. Adam’s mentioned before and will again now that his wife has commented that Visionary has “a villain power set”. It’s super hard to not abuse mind powers like this. Visionary does a pretty good job of not abusing them, but Dark Visionary doesn’t bother with trying.
- Is it considered an “evil” use of her power for her to do any of the following without the consent of the individual:
- Adding guilt to a person who litters to get them to stop littering: Evil.
- Altering a drug addict’s mind to cure their addiction: Christopher wants to make an argument for it being not evil if all that’s done is tweak the brain chemistry to get rid of the physical addiction, Adam’s more of an absolutist on this kind of thing and lack of consent makes this kind of thing evil. This is a tough one.
- Alter a hitman’s mind to make him gain empathy and turn himself in to the police: Evil. You can do evil things with good outcomes.
- Burn all of the bad out of Graham Pike’s mind to have him give all of the evidence of his crimes to the state, destroying the Organization: Evil, see above. This is Dark Visionary as a character. A bunch of what she does has good outcomes, but it’s through doing bad stuff like this to make it happen.
- Completely remove Voss’ mind during the invasion, replacing it with the mind of a benevolent ruler who then makes amends to the galaxy as a whole: So, we’re killing “Voss” and replacing his mind with somebody else’s, nominally killing them as well? Like, Expatriette is a pretty straightforward “I shoot people with guns” character who does good things, but we can all recognize that killing people is bad.
- When the Freedom Five discover what you’ve been up to and attack, you change their minds so that they agree with what you’ve done: Super evil. All of these are evil unless we construct a very narrow and specific case for the drug addiction one where they’re so drug-addled that they can’t give consent and doing so will save their life. Like, in that situation Adam would likely do it, but doesn’t feel that that absolves the act from being problematic at best. Like, it’s the equivalent of shoving somebody out of the way of a speeding car given that shoving somebody around is typically something you don’t do.
- In episode 133 you talked about “tagging” topics for letters and I have tended to just label mine as “miscellaneous” and sending them in as large blocks of questions as I assumed that eventually you’d run out of things to talk about - well, silly me for assuming that as you just keep going; do you ever imagine you’ll get to the point where you’re no longer answering questions about Sentinel Comics? When you don’t get questions about a product, do you take that as an indication that that story/product will fall flat? If they ever stop getting questions about Sentinel Comics, that will be the end of the podcast because The Letters Page is specifically about that universe/product line. If they don’t get questions about a given topic they do feel like it’s fallen flat to some degree, but it could also just be that they’ve explained it really well. They also tend to be talking about a product that they’ve been working on/recently released or revealed - the thing they build hype for gets hype. There have been a few cases where they’ve suggested “maybe you should ask about [x]” which then gets submitted for a topic, then voted for because they talked about it, and then people get jazzed about the thing that they said people should be jazzed about, they just didn’t know about it yet. Everybody tags things differently so just do your best. It helps some, but Christopher’s still going through them and sorting as best he can.
- In episode 134, Christopher briefly talked about “living concrete” and a story where later aliens discovered an Earth without humans (who died off from something else, not the concrete); is that story still on the table? That was a sci-fi story that Christopher came up with about living concrete, it wasn’t necessarily a specifically Sentinel Comics story.
- In episode 141 you mentioned keeping a log of all the birthday songs to layer over one another once you were back, how is that going? You can go listen to that, you’ll get to it eventually.
- After the pandemic are you predicting a rise or a fall in sales? Would you guys want to take a break from podcasting after the pandemic to stretch your legs/do stuff for a bit? They’ve been getting out and doing stuff a bit more recently, even if we’re not really in “post-pandemic” times quite yet. That doesn’t prevent them from podcasting. Sales are really weird. If they could predict sales they would be doing something else. They make the things they want to make and see how they go. If people buy a thing, they do more of that thing. The market didn’t change all that much during the pandemic and they don’t think it will really change after. What changed was supply, not demand. Demand seemed to go up a bit and isn’t really showing signs of going back down, but supply plummeted and has not really recovered. It used to cost them around $5000 to import a cargo container of product, now it’s in the $20,000-30,000 range. An industry friend was talking to Christopher recently about how a printer they were using for the books he was making ran out of paper and so couldn’t print his books. Adam mentions that there’s a similar issue affecting comics creators (and especially indie comics).
- How long ago had you decided that Alpha and Apex were going to get their own decks? Was this something that came up around the time of the Werewolf episode? Or maybe a plan as far back as when you decided DE was going to be more than just a visual update? That last one - Alpha and Apex existed well before the Werewolf Stories episode. When they did the Dark Watch Foes episode and they “came up with” this Apex guy, that was just showmanship as they’d decided it was a good time to reveal his existence. Alpha predates Apex, even if Apex got a mention on the air first.
- [Chat, going back to the Dark Visionary topic above:] But what if Dark Visionary just gave Voss a body swap with a benevolent ruler? With the consent of the benevolent ruler, but not Voss ’s consent; Voss is still alive, and maybe with good behavior he can have his body back - prison, but with a person’s body? You’re still arguing something that’s a “good” outcome but is still an evil act initially.
- Do Darkstrife & Painstake ever get a solo book in the Multiverse era, or are they relegated to Tome of the Bizarre/Arcane Tales/Mystery Comics? They likely didn’t get a solo book or we would have “seen” that pop up before now. They’re notable characters without being A-listers. Maybe they got a limited series at some point.
- [Also on the Dark Visionary bit:] If you burned out all the evil in Chairman’s mind, how much mind is even left? Not much. You’d have to replace certain pathways with other things and you’re not going to need to remove things like “enjoys hamburgers” or “buys cheap suits”, but you’re going to be removing pretty much all of his drives.
- Wait, does Free Radical think he is actually free in the Block (he is no longer tied down by time, after all)? He doesn’t think that he’s free. He is free. He’s also a prisoner/in the middle of a fight with the Freedom Five/not in the middle of a fight with the Freedom Five.
- Is it more ethical for Dr. Medico to purge somebody of drugs to remove a physical dependency? Probably. You get into the weeds here in terms of giving medical assistance to a person if they can’t consent. That’s a tricky area, but less tricky than trying to justify altering somebody’s mind. Like, they think that the current policy is, if there is a person who is unconscious (and therefore unable to consent) but needs an immediate surgery to survive you do the surgery. The mind adjustment stuff is changing who they are as a person in ways that medical assistance isn’t.
- Who has the higher body count, Dark Visionary or Expatriette? They both think Expatriette, but maybe not by a lot. Expatriette had several years of activity where she was straight up killing criminals and superpowered people. A lot of Dark Visionary’s victims aren’t killed.
- Does Free Radical have notable appearances other than the origin story and then later appearances in the Block? There are multiple Block riots and prison breaks and so he gets out occasionally for other appearances, but most of his time after his introductory story is just in the Block.
- Are there any appearances of Sk8-Blayde in the Rook City Renegades art? Any plans for at least one appearance in future boxes? There is one Sk8-Blayde appearance in there, yeah.
- Does GTG have any “celebrations” at different points of the production process (i.e. when the files are sent to print, once the production sample comes back, once the product arrives at the warehouse, etc.)? Not really. They are busy with whatever the next thing is. The closest thing are micro-celebrations: around the end of Kickstarters, when the design/development process is done, when Adam’s done with the art. Sending things off to the printer can kind of be one, but that’s just the beginning of the process of sending a bunch of stuff back and forth to get things right. Probably the biggest “Yeah!” moment is when the shipments actually arrive at GTG, but then things get very busy as they unload, sort, package, and ship back out. It’s not time to party. There might be a “get pizza for the entire warehouse” event once a big ship-out is done. They have real “eating shawarma” energy.