The Letters Page: Editor's Note 64
What hath we wrought?!
Run Time: 1:44:57
This is one of the longer Editor's Notes we've done! We just were in a strange mood, so we kinda just kept going! I drew a dragon. Adam helped.
Here are the upcoming episodes!
- Tuesday, March 7th: Episode #241: Creative Process: The Naturalist & Akash’Thriya Foes
- Tuesday, March 14th: Episode #242: Writers' Room: Rambler vs. Spite
- Tuesday, March 21st: Editor’s Note #65
- Tuesday, March 28th: Episode #243: Writers' Room: Sentinel Comics Horror Host for Tome of the Bizarre
We talk about OblivAeon, food, AI, and more!
Join us next week for Episode #240: Writers' Room: The K.N.Y.F.E./Sky-Scraper arc in Cosmic Tales that's happening simultaneously with the Scholar/Count Barzakh story!
- When the Freedom Five find an OblivAeon shard and bring it back to Freedom Tower, why is Tachyon the one who decides to touch the darn thing? Why is it the scientist who picks up the obviously dangerous and powerful object? They should definitely know better, but the idea here is that it becomes an irresistible compulsion. They bring it back and her plan is just to study/analyze it, but eventually, much like how Blake Washington Jr. was drawn to the Staff of Ra, the shard just begs to be taken up.
- Two members of Void Guard wind up having their shards turned against them (OblivAeon just uses Writhe’s shard to directly take control of him and Nixious the Chosen “wakes up” GloomWeaver within Dr. Medico’s); after those incidents are resolved, do any of them consider that maybe they shouldn’t be using these things? These events take place after Faultless offers to remove Idealist’s connection to hers, which she turned down; does she regret that decision? It definitely occurs to them that maybe they’re bad news, but there’s not a lot of time to worry about it at the moment. We might get something like a look of dread on one of their faces when their ally turns on them as they consider the implications (and whether it could happen to them as well). If it was the Silver Age you’d likely get a paragraph of their thoughts regarding it, but not here.
- It seems like Singular Entities are more likely to mess with mortals than they are to mess with other Singular Entities, but it seemed like they were about to take on Voss after he took OblivAeon’s power… [cut in here before the question] That all tracks - if you had godlike powers would you risk messing with other people with godlike powers or the people lacking them? Regarding Voss, he’s just a mortal who’s managed to grab a significant portion of the power of a Singular Entity, but he’s still a mortal who is new to all of this and doesn’t really know what to do with that power yet.
- [Continuing, to actually get to the question:] Which of these are more or less likely situations that would actually prompt a Singular Entity to act directly against another?
- A universe is on course to lack a given Entity’s concept? The direct action in this kind of case would more likely be Wellspring’s approach with Legacy. Little nudges more than direct confrontation. Maybe if a universe entirely lacked their concept they couldn’t even go there… or how prevalent their concept is affects how much power they can exert there. Like, the Fervor may not even be able to get into a reality that’s been taken over by the Grey.
- The Sliver of Creation entering Ur-Space? That’s fine.
- A mortal slanders one Singular Entity while talking to another? They wouldn’t care.
- Two Singular Entities start fighting after the Oblivion/Archaeon fight? That fight and what happened is itself enough of a deterrent that more fights like that don’t happen. If another fight broke out, they could see others stepping in.
- Someone discovers how to perform Ancient Magic (like the Atlanteans)? That might just “reawaken” certain things for Talontus. It’s a bigger deal for mortals than for Singular Entities that aren’t directly involved with magic.
- Why did Faultless restore Mr. Fixer to life; he was “at peace” after the Operative killed him, so why not “restore” him to that state rather than bringing him back to life? Faultless was “fixing” what was wrong with Dark Watch, so why not restore Expatriette’s eye? Faultless has 2 options: “kill” him or return him to the state where he’s all put back together. While laying him to rest would be a “good” thing, so is the other and that’s actually more useful in the current situation. It’s also not just fixing what’s wrong with the individuals, but fixing what’s wrong with Dark Watch, and the thing that would most help fix the team is giving them a less grumpy Mr. Fixer.
- [Follow-up to a discussion a few episodes ago regarding which heroes would have been involved in Scouting: As middle-class boys with an interest in the outdoors, the Lowsley brothers would almost certainly have been involved in the English version of Scouts. I’m making a guess as to their socioeconomic background as the realities of the costs associated with becoming a barrister in the UK means that very few people from working-class families become them.] That sounds good to them.
- In what issue did the Werewolf Haka story begin, and in what issue did it end? It was a year-long story, beginning in Tome of the Bizarre vol. 3 #91 (October 1995, coinciding and crossing over with Prime Wardens vol. 1 #118) and getting resolved in PW #130 (October ’96).
- What percent of the time is Ray Manta actually right? How often is he believed? Was he right more often as part of Visionary’s supporting cast, before he feel into bad company and started dressing as sea life? Christopher says basically never and Adam says a surprising amount. Christopher says maybe 10% of the time, but there are big ones where he was right (Adam: “About the robots”). He believes that all robots are bad and out to kill humans, and while that’s going overboard a bit, it’s not outlandishly wrong. Given this world, most of the robots have that happen. There’s one friendly robot from the future. Adam says he’s right 30% of the time, which gets some pushback from Christopher - the issue is that while he’s “right” in some of the stories they’ve specifically told, he believes all sorts of bonkers stuff that get hinted at but then just dropped. You need him to be the boy that cried wolf. Anyway, he’s believed approximately 0% of the time. In the Visionary era he may have been a bit better. His whole problem is that he starts off with something true that he’s observed [fine, good], extrapolates a basic framework [okay, with you so far], and comes to a bonkers conclusion [you lost me]. He notices things and has a promising “you’re onto something there”, but goes off the rails. As Visionary supporting cast he’s mostly just in the first two modes rather than getting into his own conclusions.
- [This prompts a discussion on what counts as a robot:] Colloquially a lot of things get called robots, but the Terrorform is a mech and is more of a vehicle. Are Unity’s golems robots? Are flesh children? Adam thinks not. His position is that they’re constructed things that have programming controlled by a computer. He doesn’t think that you can make a magic robot. You can make autonomous things, but if it’s magical instead of technological it’s not a robot.
- Rambler seems like the kind of person to be doing things when big stuff is going down. OblivAeon is a big stuff that went down. What was Rambler up to during the OA event? That’s a good question, but they probably can’t get into it for this episode. It warrants them sitting down to have a conversation they haven’t had yet. He was certainly up to something.
- Now that Harpy and Apostate have a canonical relationship, is there any point that Harpy/Pinion/Lillian interacts with Seraph? Kind of what could have been with a better version of her ex? They don’t think so. That specific Inversiverse story is pretty self-contained. If she did, she wouldn’t be as attracted to him.
- Has there been any temptation to revisit older character-based episodes based on changes/additions from the podcast/DE? They’ve talked about it. They don’t think so. Rather than doing a classic style episode, they cover that kind of thing in longer form in the process of doing Writers’ Room and Creative Process episodes. They’d rather build a compendium of stories than try to pin everything down at once.
- If there was a silly/comedy villain team book what villains would you pick to star? In the chat, Christopher had joked “Cueball and only Cueball”, but the real answer is likely that they’d make up a new cast specifically for it. The villains in the Guise book could mostly work, but for this specific setup you might just grab one or two and then make up the rest of the lineup. What you don’t want to do is take a normally serious character and put them in a comedy book, destroying their characterization in the process.
- We’ve seen very few dragons in Sentinel Comics. As far as I can recall it’s just Zhu Long and the Laser Dragon from the RPG. Do dragons show up elsewhere in Sentinel Comics, or is that a Creative Process I should submit? Rather than a Creative Process about dragons, they’d prefer to do a Writers’ Room for “a story with a dragon” unrelated to the ones you’ve mentioned. There have to have been a bunch of dragons over the years.
- If you were told to remove one hero from the OblivAeon event to hinder the heroic success, who would you remove to cause the most damage? The obvious answer is Legacy since of course he’s pivotal to so much of it, but y’know what? Akash'Thriya. With no giant tree in Megalopolis they might still beat OblivAeon, but then Voss wins. Who do you remove so that OblivAeon wins? Luminary, at several points. Tachyon. Everyone plays their part. It’s hard to quantify “the most damage” when losing just means “everything ceases to exist”.
- It’s been a bit since I listened to the relevant Create-a-Thing Live, but the Revokers seem to have some similarities to Order of the Simple Machines goons. Is this meant to imply connection of some sort, perhaps the order being partially comprised of former Revokers or using their tech? Did you decide to take the order in a different direction and rework the concept for the Revokers? Is this merely a case of villainous convergent evolution? Convergent evolution. The Order of the Simple Machine would be as much against RevoCorp as they are against anything else.
- Does Sentinel Comics ever have stories that occur in China? Any heroes specifically there? And which specific heroes would be most likely to have an arc there? Yes for stories. Probably for heroes from there, but they’d have to build that out more. When the characters were introduced likely has a big impact on what kind of characters they are. For a specific story: you could probably throw the Prime Wardens into a story there easily. Alternatively, you could have some archaeological thing going on and have Ra there.
- You said that you don’t see yourselves getting around to more Animated Universe episodes due to how busy you are with other things [interjection: and since they take forever]; given the number of characters created/revealed since the old Voice Casting episode, could we have some thoughts on who would voice the newer characters? Let’s see. You’d do Alpha and Apex’s pack… man, that’d take forever on its own. Y’know what, the last time they got a lot of help from Taffyman. Ask Taffy for his choices and you’ll probably be on the right track. Chat mentioned Grey Delisle as Alpha, but they think that she’s already been cast as something; this process would likely require revisiting the whole list (and in which case Grey Delisle would probably be a better Painstake) - this might just be a better fan activity than an official one. For one, Christopher just isn’t good at this activity and won’t have many ideas. Adam will have some, but Christopher just for the most part doesn’t know the names of voice actors (although he appreciates the work they do).
- There was a time in the real world where if you were to put a gorilla on the cover of your comic it would sell better (to the point where multiple comic companies put an internal limit on how many issues per month could do so); were there any gorilla villains in Sentinel Comics? What set them apart from their contemporaries? Do any of them still get used or are they just a relic of times past? They have talked about that a lot since they are aware of the historical trend. They’re not really sure how they want to approach it yet. They should have more gorilla appearances than they do, but adding them now feels like they’re just being shoehorned in. They feel like there is one somewhere, but they’ll have to see how things shake out later.
- Would you let an AI text generator “help” create a Disparation world where you then set a Writers’ Room episode and/or let some AI image generator “help” with the art? Adam thinks that people catastrophize AI art generation - it can’t generate anything new. No matter what prompt you give it, the tools are still spitting out a result that’s derivative of other things that it’s been trained on. Artists still have a monopoly on “new art” and he doesn’t think that this will change in our lifetimes. That being said, it is a tool and people who leave such tools out of their toolbox limit themselves. He thinks there are uses for them in terms of iteration and composition, but it’s not going to “kill” artists. Even now, the novelty of them has waned and you don’t see people posting pictures made by these things as much as you did just a few weeks ago. As for the meat of the actual question: no. If they were to do this kind of thing, they’re much more likely to use the Patreon Discord community as the “generator” Mad Libs™ style. Christopher has seen an example where somebody used ChatGPT or similar to generate a press release that then just had minor tweaks because the person didn’t feel like writing one. That kind of formulaic, almost boilerplate kind of “[x product] is being announced by [y company]” thing is a good use of that tool. They still wouldn’t use it for any creative endeavor.
- [The bit from the 52 minute mark through 58:45 is a series of ChatGPT-generated things elaborating on Sentinel Comics characters after being given a 1 sentence prompt. It’s a fun bit, but other than transcribing the text it’s not really something suitable for these summaries. If there are notes that are meaningful, I’ll provide them below.]
- NightMist’s said that she was “impulsive” - while that kind of thing might happen in solo stories where it’s occasionally necessary for the “enemy” to be herself to get the plot moving, for the most part, and especially in team stories, she’s really not.
- Captain Cosmic’s is the only one that approaches the level of “go ahead and copy that into his rulebook bio” for being not totally off-base while also getting into him more than just “generic hero stuff”.
- How niche can Singular Entities get (things like chaos and order, progress and preservation are pretty broad, but some like “unknowable” feel narrower and some theoretical examples like “spicy food” are even narrower)? They’re unaware of one existing for “Spicy Food” (although it was used jokingly in the earlier discussion of them). They think that stories have used some extremely specific/niche concepts that a writer wanted to use for something. The main ones that get used more often tend to be the broader concepts, though.
- With Quetzalcoatl it was specifically stated that there isn’t really an Aztec realm in the way there was an Egyptian realm, but there is still some kind of weird realm. In Sentinel Comics there is a blurry line between myth and reality, and it gets blurrier over time with additions like werewolves, the Fey-Court, and entities like Grimm. Is it fair to say that each mythological pantheon could be traced back to a human interacting with a specific realm? Or is it more true that various Supers of all origins throughout history have inspired myths in different ways? The latter is more true.
- What is the weirdest wager that Wager Master has ever done and what were its ramifications? Probably something that happened in the Guise book. Maybe while they were roommates. It’s fun to imagine that there’s some seemingly-meaningless wager made at one point with universe-shaking ramifications. That could be a fun story.
- Follow up on the gorilla question: was there a character Wolverine and Deadpool who the editors pushed into the most books possible to drive sales? Other than Benchmark? That person is the Wraith. Benchmark isn’t there to drive sales.
- Awhile back we learned that Naturalist unintentionally was involved in creating Necrosis, and that Terrorform was based on Akash’Mecha, so is the team up of Naturalist and Akash’Thriya just stories of them undoing their involvement in environmental wrongs? If so, how many other villains have they accidentally created? You might be pleased to know that in a few weeks they’re going to be talking about this very thing. It feels like the answer to your question is “not ten, not zero.”
- Assuming you are henching part time to make ends meet which villains would be your first choice, who is a hard nope, and who is the “I have cancer and need a lot of money quickly” choice? If you’re doing it part time, Baron Blade is a pretty hard “no.” First choice might be Glamour. You get a cool outfit and she’s doing the types of heists where the stakes are more “go to jail/get beat up” rather than “die” and with her illusions you’ve got a pretty decent shot at getting away. Often the goal is money to begin with, so you get your cut as well if that’s the goal. Otherwise, the standard “need money quick” option is to go to the Organization. You’ll get the money, but there will be long-lasting consequences. Another option for being a minion where you can get in and then get back out is GloomWeaver - as long as you’re not remarkable (in either direction - too competent or too terrible) so as to avoid notice you’ve got a shot at leaving without getting sacrificed. How “disposable” the villain sees their minions as is an important consideration. Dudes should probably steer clear of Blood Countess Bathory. Zhu Long is another one that might seem tempting, but you should stay away from (although his servants are less “minions” and more “you’ve trained your entire life to be a ninja”). Another in kind of that latter category is the Fey-Court (Christopher would make a Fey deal, Adam would not).
- What exactly do the Void Guard do? Specifically, what is their method for guarding the multiverse against the Void? Do they contain it somehow? Fight Void infected monsters? They don’t do a lot of it between their creation and the end of the multiverse given how quickly OblivAeon happened after they started up. The name probably first got applied in reference to “the void of space” rather than the Void in particular, which was only added to their remit later on. How that works now is that while out in space they encounter “Void leaks”. Such a thing happening on Earth would be really bad. Like, “Game Over” bad. They run into them out in space, though and have to clean up the resulting mess. What you suggest (containment, fighting Void-infected things, etc.) is on point.
- If the Fey-Court exists in Sentinels, does Merlin? Similarly, do Incubus/Succubus exist in Sentinels comics? Created by Apostate? Æternus? Somewhere else? Incubi/Succubi likely exist as just types of Æternus Demons. Maybe some as Apostate things - his are likely mostly based on Æternus stuff to begin with and it’s older than he is (well, not the name Æternus, which was like 6 years after Apostate first showed up, but the various “Hell” things that got rolled into the new concept are older, going back to at least the ’40s). There’s probably some story that presents “the real Merlin” at some point, or if not at least you get some relic that’s said to be his.
- Could Schema take over a flesh child, or is too much of the programming in the flesh? Too much of the programming is in the flesh.
- What do you think is a good one-off episode of the podcast for the purposes of showing a new potential listener what they’re like? This came up for them somewhat recently when Paul asked them for a recommendation for somebody he’d encountered who was really into DE SotM and piecing together the stories from the flavortext, but was unaware of the podcast. It’s a tricky one. Starting at the beginning is tricky as an on-boarding process as a lot of the first years’ content is “wrong” due to the timeline not being nailed down yet. The Multiverse Recap is important info to have communicated at some point, but it’s not the most engaging to listen to. They’d actually recommend choosing a Writers’ Room that’s tailored to the tastes of the person you’re looking to introduce. One specific choice as a blanket recommendation is “Fashion and Greazer vs. Space Zombies” - if they like that one, they get what Sentinel Comics and the Letters Page are doing. You don’t need to know much about those characters ahead of time that isn’t also discussed in that episode. Similarly, the K.N.Y.F.E. Headhunter issue. Starting at where the Writers’ Rooms become a thing generally is also safe, just since they think that any changes that have come up since then have been in-continuity retcons rather than stuff they say just turning out to be wrong for timeline reasons. [Chat brings up the Adhesivist episode, the Expatriette episode, the Animated Universe episodes, the Wedding of the Lightyear, and the fact that there was a relatively recent Reddit thread on this topic. One suggestion they really agree with here is Freedom Four #88 as a very basic story to introduce people with.]
- Do you have any plans to make a specific “jumping on point” episode? They think that most episodes are “beginner friendly” in that just about anything they do will require some “jumping into the deep end” aspects just due to the metafictional layer on top of everything. That’s fine, you just might need to help somebody along at first if you’re trying to introduce a friend. Something Christopher will do when approaching a new podcast is to listen to the most recent episode to see if it is of interest and will then start at the beginning and, if it’s not quite the same, go along with the journey that it took to get there. Christopher also quotes this comment from user Atariese in the thread linked above in full.
- Should we send in questions to the Letters Page that we don’t think have been answered, but probably have been? Should we look through the episode summaries on the wiki prior to sending questions to avoid repeating them? That is not expected homework. Send your questions in; one of three things will happen: they will answer it on the air, they’ll acknowledge that they talked about something in the past but only obliquely or otherwise briefly and so will expand upon it now, or they’ll say that they’ve talked about it before and will either just repeat the answer or point you to where they talked about it (or will just delete the question).
- How related to Sentinel Comics should questions be (from obviously-on-topic like asking about a specific Sentinels character, tangentially related like asking meta questions about the podcast itself, or barely- or not-related like what you thought of a recent superhero movie or what your favorite ice cream is)? The first two categories are great, the last is more the realm of the live chat for the Patreon Discord (the exception here is that if you’ve got a barely-related question that is prompted as an aside from otherwise on-topic questions, that’s fine).
- Should I worry about sending in a question that has too many swear words or that has a risk of offending you or some listeners? How about questions that are unlikely to get answers like “who are the members of the Paradigms?” or stuff about that Bunker not-a-villain guy you started making up? Swears either get bleeped or just omitted when read. They try to keep things mostly PG rated. If there’s a risk of offending people they probably just won’t read it (depending on the type of offense - they make judgement calls all the time). As for “questions that won’t get answered”, Christopher has a file of such things that go back all the way to 2017 that haven’t been answered yet, but are still being held onto until their time comes. Like, maybe don’t send a letter that you know won’t get answered (hold off until the topic at hand makes it more of a possibility), but if you’re just not sure go ahead.
- Do any of these [the last three bullet point] questions change if the context is on the Patreon Discord during live recordings? Should potentially controversial questions be sent through the form rather than through the chat? Yes on that last one just so that they can make the determination privately and ahead of time rather than “springing it on them” live.
- Are there any other qualifiers or recommendations you would like for potential question-askers to know? Like, Adam’s recommendations for art programs or his opinions on AI? Does Christopher prefer fewer questions per letter and just sending more letters or vice versa? Adam: Clip Studio and they talked about AI just today! Christopher: he actually likes the variety of some letters being long and involved while others are short and to the point and yet others are just weird and do their own things. The variety is good. One suggestion is to avoid sending in fan fiction; as in, don’t just theory craft out a whole long story or whatnot and then at the end just ask what they think of it. Plus, they’re a legal nightmare since if you’re presenting your own character and/or story, even if you add a “you can use this if you want”, they really can’t use any of it. It’s the same reason they don’t engage with fan decks for the game at all. Please make their lives easier by just not sending them such things in the first place.
- When Arataki takes over the Haka book in the RPG Era, does she get her own title a la Aata’s The Savage Haka to differentiate the two or is she simply “Haka”? She is known simply as Haka and her book is also just Haka (it’s technically the second volume where The Savage Haka was volume 1).
- Has anyone ever challenged Wager Master to a wager where he loses if he can’t resist making a wager for x amount of time? He’d be unlikely to agree to such a wager. Would that itself count as a wager and so he immediately fails? He’s either not going to fall for that or he’d acknowledge that you’ve got his number with that one. He’s onto your tricks.
- As we all know, Wager Master is a singular entity, and we also know that Guise can see into all realities including this one. You said in the Wager Master (or Guise, I can’t remember) episode that Wager Master could not look into this reality… why? Why is Guise able to but Singular Entities cannot? Are we in a sandwich bag? They don’t think that anybody can see into all realities other than Christopher and Adam. Guise has seen into a lot of realities, but they don’t think he can see into all of them. Sure, Guise “sees into our reality” in that he breaks the fourth wall to address the reader/player, but the in-universe explanation for that is that he’s delusional. He happens to be deluded in such a way that it “makes sense” to the reader/player, but it’s still delusion. The answer is “it’s fiction” which they know feels like a cop out.
- What frequency of updates are you going with for Disparation? Closer to RCR or Nature Incarnate? Due to the fact that there are so many decks in the expansion, the updates will have to be every weekday.
- Is the Nexus of the Void something like a pressure-release valve for the Void? Is it a place where a “Void leak on Earth” is more likely or less likely to happen if a villain were to try to create one? Exactly, the Nexus is the place where the Void is supposed to come through, but then stay localized. Villains messing with the Nexus is likely to result in bad stuff happening.
- Terrorform has a reality cutting version?! Did you just want to put a bunch of cool mech stuff into Sentinels lore, be honest? Yes. All of Sentinels Lore is “we wanted to put this thing here.” Well, that’s not true. Some of it is that they have to put things in for verisimilitude. This one was a want.
- Would you be willing to do another Editor’s Note DE rules segment at some point in the near future, or is it too close to RCR’s release? It’s actually on the “secret” schedule that it will be what they do for next month’s because of the ongoing crowdfunding campaign [and as it turned out, they had to split it for time - March is the general/core box episode, April’s will be RCR-specific].
- When did the Scavenger Unity story begin and end? Justice Comics #571-573. December 2002-February 2003.
- What’s your favorite ice cream? Adam’s guideline for sweets in general: the more stuff you throw in there the better. His favorite cookie is an oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips and raisins and butterscotch chips and pretzels. The same goes for ice cream; off-the-shelf options are things like Rocky Road or various Ben & Jerry’s flavors. If he’s picking ice cream at, say, Cold Stone Creamery he’ll get their apple pie thing, but he’ll change the ice cream flavor to coffee and will add pretzels. Christopher likes lemon sorbet. His favorite ice cream is “not ice cream”. If he has to get ice cream, maybe pistachio?
- [As a final aside, somebody in chat asks what what they think of Ted Drewes, a St. Louis custard place.] Christopher loses a bunch of St. Louis cred in that he doesn’t like a lot of “St. Louis food”: Ted Drewes, Emo’s Pizza, gooey butter cake is an abomination (“Put a flavor in there besides ‘butter’”), toasted ravioli is only “fine”, etc. This starts a larger conversation about how your city doesn’t need it’s own special thing. Don’t make something weird just to have a local style. They think that because Kansas City has a lock on barbecue (Christopher “the best barbecue; fight me”) for historical reasons, St. Louis being so close feels pressure to form its own “food identity”. Just stop it. You don’t have to do this.
- That being said, St. Louis has some phenomenal food. It’s just normal food done well. Just go to a restaurant in St. Louis that isn’t trying to “do a special St. Louis thing” and you’ll have a good time. Their favorite pizza place is in St. Louis (La Pizza), but they just make regular pizza, not “St. Louis pizza”. Some magazine rated St. Louis as something like the 4th best city for food and local people try to say it’s because of the “special” stuff, but it’s not. It’s that there are a lot of excellent restaurants that happen to be in St. Louis.