The Letters Page: First Annual Letters Page Live, from Gen Con 50
Want to hear what happened at Gen Con 2017? Here's your chance!
We had a blast at our first live episode of The Letters Page! We couldn't have asked for a better audience. So many fun things! Also, if you'd rather see what happened in this Letters Page Live episode, check out this video!
Besides the entire gang of Adam, Christopher, Trevor, and even Paul, we also were graced by the presence of Christopher's brother Anthony, who wrote and performed the "Christopher and Adam reading letters to you" song. Anthony added a lot to this live episode.
Now, on to the few actual show notes for this episode!
Run Time: 118:33
First thing first! As Trevor mentions in the intro to the episode, there are a lot of spoilers. We're not going to tag them all individually. Just know that wading into this episode means getting into SPOILERS territory!
Next, you'll notice that Christopher's voice sounds more awful than usual. He used it up by the end of the first day of Gen Con. What you hear is all he has left. But he still somehow made it through the entire two hour episode, more or less.
About four minutes in, Christopher lays some ground rules. These apply to all Letters Page questions ever, actually!
- We don't have favorite heroes or villains. Stop asking.
- Try to avoid bringing up other properties. We're here to talk about the world of Sentinel Comics. Not other comic book characters.
- No swearing, please. At least, do your best.
These rules all apply to us as well, and we do our best to not break them.
I'm going to put notes here whenever Anthony plays a song, in case you want to navigate straight to the music bits. The first one starts at 8:12.
After that, Christopher, Adam, and Anthony talk about the "history" of the song. Mostly because we were all so blown away by everyone at the panel singing along. Even the high parts.
And then we actually start getting into questions, reading a couple of questions that we printed out in advance for the panel, just to get things rolling.
Another musical interlude! This one starts at 18:10.
And then we got into questions from people at the panel. The line of people asking questions was... notably long.
The second person in the line was dressed as Spite. Which was very creepy! But then he turned out to be LevelUpLeo! (We've been pronouncing his last name wrong this whole time! Now we know better.)
We recorded this episode on Saturday afternoon. That morning, we'd held a costume contest, so there were lots of folks at this panel in brilliant and creative costumes straight out of the pages of Sentinel Comics. It was wonderful.
Another song from Anthony at 44:41. Followed by Anthony's story of what inspired that song.
Then, we go back to reading a few of the letters that we printed out in advance, just to break things up a bit!
And then we sort of spill a pile of beans about OblivAeon story stuff that we've apparently never talked about publicly before? So, that's good. Enjoy!
Another Anthony song at 58:12.
This leads into more questions from the audience. Lots more great questions!
Oh, also some more huge spoiler reveals. A notably one right after the 70 minute mark. Probably not a big deal. *innocent whistle*
95 minutes into the episode, Guise makes his appearance. He's exhausting.
As a result of that, starting around the 97 minute mark, Christopher loses it and reveals the secret behind where all of Sentinel Comics comes from. It's not pretty.
Then! A bit after 99 minutes in, Christopher and Adam disagree on the air! Don't worry - they work it out.
One of our favorite things that happened in this panel is that we drop a spoiler for our future plans at 109:50ish, but no one really seemed to pick up on it. Wonder what we meant by that... Probably nothing important! Right?
The final musical interlude from Anthony occurs at 112:30, though this is not the final song of the episode!
After that, just a bit of closing words. We're entirely overwhelmed by how great our listeners are, and how wonderful the Sentinel Comics community is. Seriously, you people are amazing.
We close the episode with another "Christopher and Adam" singalong.
Goodnight and good luck.
- Doc Tusser
- Argent Adept
- The Seer
- Citizen Dawn
- Grand Warlord Voss
- The Freedom Five
- Prime Wardens
- Dr. Medico
- La Comodora
- Boris "The Bear" Sokolov
- Aeon Men
- Captain Cosmic
- Miss Information
- Plague Rat
- Zhu Long
- Mr. Fixer
- A lot of episodes mention "writers" and "readers" as well as the heroes - are there two levels of universes invented by GTG (one where the comics exist and one where the heroes exist)? There are often references to stuff happening in like the '70s, so are there older minds involved in the creation of these things? Adam and Christopher made it all up - there aren't any older creators involved in the history of Sentinel Comics. There are two distinct universes that the two of them invented - the universe in which Sentinel Comics was a publisher ("a needless layer" "and yet here we are"), and the one within the comics involving the heroes. In the "publisher" universe, events in the world impacted the kinds of stories they'd tell in their comics, and that world is very similar to our own (only with Sentinel Comics being the major comics publishing company), but their comics also had an impact on that world. They introduced the hero name "Tachyon" before the theoretical particles by that name were proposed and so in the publisher universe the scientist named the particles after a comic character [I'm not actually sure of that - they said that the relaunch of the FF comics, which would include "Tachyon", was in the '70s but the paper that introduced the term was published in July 1967].
- Do Guise's 4th-wall-breaking abilities reach only into the comics publishing universe or all the way into ours [the Guise cosplayer was actually Jeremy from Handelabra - he's normally Baron Blade in one form or another, but he managed to technically qualify here by using "Uh, Yeah, I'm That Guy!" on Luminary as he had goggles and this weird energy thing? There are no walls that Guise does not break (this is a off-the-cuff "yeah, why not" kind of moment, so more on this kind of thing in the Guise episode).
- If Ra and the other Egyptian characters aren't "gods", then what's the nature of "divinity" in the Sentinels universe? Does Fanatic's power come from God? First off, the Fanatic stuff needs to wait for the Fanatic episode (other than "she's not a god, she's an angel"). There are definitely cosmic entities with "godlike" power (OblivAeon, whatever Faultless used to be, etc.), but "divinity"... Maybe go and talk to a college theology department? They also give shoutouts to the Philosophy Bro blog and that person's book Descartes' Meditations, Bro.
- If OblivAeon has near godlike power, are there other beings of comparable power opposing him? There isn't a direct opposition, but there are other beings of similar power level.
- What are some notable mini-nemesis-swapping fights during Vengeance (citing Doc Tusser fighting the Naturalist as inspiration for the question)? Argent Adept vs. Revenant. Ruin. The Seer, but more on him in the Fanatic episode. It's kind of the nature of the Vengeance event for these brawls to wind up with lots of little encounters with the "wrong" people fighting, but these aren't really the big fights.
- Is there a piece of currently-published art that depicts events from a story that you haven't been able to tell that you want to tell? The only ones that haven't been told yet are things that will be told in the appropriate episodes. There might be pieces that show to people fighting, but there's no story there other than that they fought.
- Does Idealist ever get her memory back? That's a question for the Southwest Sentinels/Void Guard episodes.
- Does somebody on the editorial staff just really hate psychics? Part of that is that psychic characters are very powerful and so there tends to be character background stuff introduced to give them major downsides as well (they're also really rare for similar reasons). Psychic powers are kind of an invasive and weird thing and so thematically go well with trauma.
- Did all Ahpans (before they died off) communicate by just saying their names like Bloogo? They actually communicate psychically, so he's saying "Bloogo" but he's actually "saying" more stuff mind-to-mind.
- If Mordengrad is in Lithuania, then why is the national anthem in Latvian? The "native" language of Mordengrad is, for complicated historical/Ramonat family reasons, kind of a weird amalgamation of the two languages.
- Does Citizen Dawn have some kind of apartment on Insula Primalis? Where do the Citizens live? The Citadel of the Sun is a fortified place where they live - more like military quarters.
- On "power levels", it was mentioned that the Void is an incredibly powerful source of power - where does that stack up against people like Citizen Dawn (who has been mentioned as a powerful character)? Void power is strange because you can't just tap into the Void - Virtuosos have to have other stuff going on that not everybody can do and if you're able to tap into it you're not likely to be able to pull a lot of it. It's also very unpredictable for non-Virtuosos. So, somebody who manages to get a connection to it can wind up much more or much less powerful than Dawn just from that randomness. The important thing to remember about Dawn, however, is that it's not just her power set that makes her powerful - she has a level of mastery over her power and intentionality in its use that lets her punch above her weight class. She's also just very ambitious and driven. She'd be scary without her powers.
- In the Akash'Bhuta episode it was mentioned that the Nexus of the Void was protected by a bunch of nature spirits - GTG recently released the game Spirit Island which is an island protected by a bunch of nature spirits; is Spirit Island related to the Nexus of the Void (in the canon Sentinels reality or another in the multiverse)? "The Nexus of the Void is the island known as Spirit Island." Wait until you see the Nexus deck to compare. They realized that they could probably get a lot of mileage out of making the connection overt when they were marketing Spirit Island, but they really wanted it to be able to succeed on its own merits (and boy has it!) and so kept the IP separate.
- Will we see Akash'Bhuta (or the original spirit version of her) in Spirit Island? No comment (although Christopher did provide a red herring of "what makes you think you haven't?" but immediately pointed out that we haven't).
- In Tactics, Ambuscade is back to being a villain, but in the RPG is he doing that too or is he a hero or acting again or what? Good question with an exciting answer, but it's got to wait for his episode (coming up soon!).
- In the K.N.Y.F.E. episode we learned that she's not the canon timeline's native Paige Huntly, so what's this universe's version up to? She didn't do anything notable during the Multiverse-era, but they need to wait for some game releases before they want to talk about super-spoilery stuff involving her in later times.
- Tantrum doesn't like being treated like a kid, but "Tantrum" isn't a name you'd give yourself if that's the case, so who named her that? It's not a name that's really used in-setting other than just as an insult due to her behavior. It's kind of like "Fanatic" in that way with the exception that "Fanatic" was eventually embraced - readers would refer to her as Tantrum, but the heroes wouldn't say stuff like "Look out! It's Tantrum!" or similar.
- How do the Citizens recruit new members? There's no formalized process and it's not easy to get in touch. There are people who happened to be present during events involving them and volunteered, there are cases where they are actively recruited, there are people who manage to travel to Insula Primalis to volunteer (which could easily result in Dawn just killing them if they annoyed her - remember that this is kind of how the Citizens started with people seeking her out as she hid away there). There aren't really any conscripts in the Citizens as she wants loyalty.
- Who's named for real people? Anthony Drake for Christopher's brother. Paul Parsons for Adam's brother. Aldred Industries is tied to Paul Bender's family and Maya Montgomery for his wife. Pete Riske, Eaken-Rubendaal Laboratories, President Hargett, Grand Warlord Voss, and Tyler Vance are named for friends. Vanessa Long is named for Adam's wife. In general, there's no connection between the real person and the in-game person or entity (Anthony's music and Pete being exceptions). There are more examples that are being withheld for privacy reasons.
- After OblivAeon there is no Multiverse, but we still have the Tactics and RPG timelines - are there only the two timelines now or did OblivAeon collapse everything down to one and then they started branching off again as new decisions are made? Will branching decisions result in a new Multiverse eventually? There is technically still a Multiverse, but without OblivAeon's involvement travel between them is impossible and each timeline is effectively the "only" reality for the purposes of stories within that reality. The question asked about collapsing everything down to one reality - that's interesting to bring up because it's specifically what he's trying to do. If he can make realities similar enough to one another they collapse and cease to exist, but there's this one specific universe that just won't cooperate with his meddling and so he has to get more personally involved in its destruction so that he can get on with the rest of them. Cosmic Omnitron and Iron Legacy were specific examples of his meddling to try to get this universe to become more like other ones so he could implode it, but the heroes kept winning.
- What are the best-selling/highest reviewed stories? The Freedom Five books are the best selling titles with Mystery Comics right behind - basically anything that we get pull quotes from on the cards are the "major" titles (we get confirmation that Prime Wardens goes for a while before stopping and then the new volume relaunch is more popular). Reader response could effect which books were the "big" books, though - as pointed out in the Nightmist episode she was kind of a side-character until a group of hot-shot writers made her more interesting and so as readership picked up editorial decisions would gravitate that way. Big crossover events like Vengeance and OblivAeon were the biggest selling story arcs, but there were still one-off issues that did really well. [There's an extended aside about Comics as "Art" at around the 52-minute mark]
- Is there a/how faithful is the Sentinels Cinematic Universe? Yes, but it's different than our ones. There were some early movies with big-name actors, but nothing that really caught on. They started doing full-length animated theatrical movies with solid voice acting and animation which were exceedingly faithful. These branched out into a number of animated TV shows that would then lead back to big event movies periodically.
- What were the infamously bad stories? The first version of the Ennead story mentioned in their episode was one of these before later writers made it better. There was also a Fanatic story that people pretend never happened - some writer got it in their head that it would be interesting to have her try a little of every religion - it's not only antithetical to the character, but it's also all written by somebody who thinks that they can do a reasonable job at this by just doing some quick research on, say, Buddhism and that's enough to make it work. It winds up seriously problematic/racist really quickly. That writer got fired real quick and never worked in the legit comics industry again.
- In the Bunker episode, it's mentioned that Tyler's favorite sandwich is the meatball sub, what other preferences or dietary restrictions do characters have (like, how does Dr. Medico eat)? Uh... they'll have to discuss a lot of this to get back to us because, surprise, while they have thought of a lot of minutia regarding these things, food allergies and whatnot aren't on that list. Some probably keep kosher. Dr. Medico info will probably have to relate to what being made of energy means and would be in their episode. Guise probably avoids fresh produce. It's a good/annoying question, but they might have to get to it during an interlude.
- What's the splitting point/what allows the difference in decision between the heroes helping/not helping Chrono-Ranger during the destruction of Rook City that leads to the Tactics/RPG split? First off, decisions being made is a valid way to branch off new realities, but this is a particularly special case. OblivAeon is using a lot of energy in one go - against a person from the past - with a connection to an AI from the future - with an arm that's been augmented by La Comodora. This confluence of spacetime weirdness is what causes the actual split - the hero decisions to help or not is technically just after that. Rook City still has a lot of damage in the RPG timeline, but because of the big rewind after Chrono-Ranger is helped it's just a lot less bad in that timeline than in Tactics.
- Are there notable heroes/teams that pop up in Sentinel Comics that we don't see in SotM? Like how there are low-level bad guys that show up on the margins (like the original Operative, the Bear), we've by no means seen all heroes. We've seen all of them who really matter for the story that they wanted to tell (kind of tying back into the "best-selling stories" question earlier) and this covers the characters that have a notable fan base (which covers the headliners, but also the second and even some third-tier heroes).
- Are there any "unknown" heroes you'd like to talk about? Not really. Sure they could do so, but there's just not a whole lot of interesting stuff there. Some of these might show up later, though. It's also worth pointing out that the RPG leaves a lot of creative space available to everybody - if you want to create some forgotten hero from the Silver Age or something that just didn't make it into the SotM story, that's completely fine as a character concept; you're not restricted to "new" heroes. It was actually an important design point that it would be possible to reverse-engineer the canonical heroes using the same system that players use to make their own characters and that the new heroes could stand beside heroes like Haka, Legacy, or Tachyon. Christopher mentions that he's had somebody come up to him to surreptitiously ask whether Ra was really dead and if he would show up in the RPG - he's dead and gone as far as the published RPG materials are concerned, but you should totally be able to recreate him if you want him to show up at your gaming table.
- This led to a discussion of something important mentioned in the Deadline episode RPG section. When physical pieces of OblivAeon are broken off, we get OblivAeon Shards. When OblivAeon energy is removed from him, we get Aeon Men. A member of Daybreak is the 'person' created by Lifeline after he absorbed all the energy when OblivAeon blasted him - Aeon Girl. She's exceedingly powerful, but is kind of a blank slate and is still learning what she can do and who she is.
- We know the Aeon Men are products of OblivAeon, but we've seen them on card art from the beginning - what did people think these guys were before the OblivAeon reveal? First, them showing up in the early card art isn't indicative of when they show up in the timeline. They do pre-date OblivAeon's appearance by quite a bit (as do OblivAeon Shards), but not as much as "appearing in the core set" would lead you to believe. They set up the payoff of everything without the expectation that they'd ever actually get to reveal what all of these things were (initially, Shattered Timelines was the expansion that they thought was optimistic, but that they really hoped to get to). Anyway, at first the Aeon Men were just these orange space invader type guys who dissipate into energy when defeated and it was just kind of a mystery what they really were.
- There's an aside here about how much they love our weird fandom meta-community and the Cult of Gloom/Biomancer/PrincessCool stuff going on in the questions, pointing out for the record that none of this is scripted on their end. This is related to the meta-plot of the Letters Page podcast itself; these summaries haven't been relaying it.
- Who is Madame Mittermeier and how does she run the carnival? More answers in the Slaughterhouse Six episode due to the connection to Glamour.
- Argent Adept has a lot to do, does he take a break to sleep? Where does he do that; the Void? Freedom Tower? Lots of heroes will stay at Freedom Tower occasionally - it's a really big place and has good medical facilities, etc. He doesn't sleep in the Void as it's very dangerous. Other than Nightmist, AA is the character most capable of dealing with being in the Void but he rarely physically goes there. The comics show him sleeping in some mystical forests or other places of power often and we do see some card art involving that (the background on his base character card) and he can sometimes just meditate to stave off the need for sleep when he needs to.
- Visionary has Projections [well the Dreamer does, Visionary has a Distortion], Captain Cosmic has Constructs, Infinitor has Manifestations, and Idealist has Concepts - how are these related/different? Visionary and Idealist are most similar. Visionary's stuff is more liked "shaped telekinesis" and is informed by her telepathy to make you believe it's there whereas CC and Infinitor are making actual physical things out of energy. When CC makes an energy sword it's a sword that you can pick up and use independently from his active intention (other than just keeping the energy expenditure going) - their powers are more like Unity's in a way. Idealist is making something with her mind and it's just physical enough to do what it needs to do but she's actively maintaining it and moving it with her mind (with hints for her Void Guard deck that it's dangerous for her to have a lot of Concepts active at once). It's also worth noting that CC/Infinitor's stuff is made out of light and energy where the other stuff is all psychic.
- Lazer Ryderz has Captain Cosmic and Visionary cameos - how canon is that within the publishing universe? It was a licensed crossover. Lazer Ryderz was a Saturday morning cartoon in the universe of Sentinel Comics publishing and aired on the same network as Sentinels cartoons. So, there we have it, LR is canonical in the publishing universe and Spirit Island is canonical within the comics universe. SotM is also connected to Galactic Strike Force (see a hint there in the last question of the Deadline episode).
- What prompted Miss Information's reality warping powers (innate to her own body, imparted by chemicals, related to the reality jumping event that made her go bad)? The chemicals have power things that happen as a catalyst (like with Plague Rat) that can unlock things that could happen. Her body had no powers. Her mind (in either reality) had no powers. However, you take a mind and shove it into an alternate reality version of herself across universes, something weird is going to happen (not like Dark Visionary, but just in general) that then kind of hangs out until the chemical bath triggers it. More in her episode.
- Given the time necessary for all of the plots leading up to OblivAeon it seems like it would take a superhuman ability to keep secrets to have not spoiled what was going on - do superpowers exist in the publishing universe? No. It's also misleading to think that all of the writers were keeping secrets. Different writers over the years just wrote stories and later writers just picked up where they left off and this eventually turned into the OblivAeon story. The Aeon Men didn't show up to tease OblivAeon's existence, they were just some weird space invader guys until the later writers/editors decided to take these weird orange guys and give them larger significance as they were doing the OblivAeon story. There were certainly some story secrets being kept by the editorial staff, but the writers of individual comics wouldn't necessarily be privy to the background that they were working towards.
- Guise's question: "Long time listener, first time confronting the creator of my creators. So, I was walking around the Geneva Conventions earlier and I heard somebody say something. 'That looks like a pink version of that guy who breaks the fourth wall,' y'know, let's call him Expired Puddle, and so obviously I knew that this was not the case. If anything he was inspired by me, but I think you know that that's not even really the real connection here and I think everybody here knows where I'm going with this. What is my favorite color? Did you think of it, did you think of it, or did the people you think of think of it?" He likes fuchsia (or at least he's come to love it), but it's not his favorite. He also likes violet, periwinkle, black & blue (in certain contexts), and a bit of red or green. Y'know the colors of the rainbow. However, his favorite color is yellow. They didn't decide that, they got it from the minds of the writers. Even they didn't make it up, though, they just knew that it was his favorite. Time to end the farce, Christopher and Adam didn't make any of this up, they have the superpower to look into that reality and observe what's going on there (this is not canonical).
- Was the OblivAeon event just an excuse for a gritty reboot or are there even Tactics comics? Are there other timelines' comics? There are a lot of timelines after OblivAeon, but there's only a few with comics told (the ones we know about). What we call the RPG timeline was the immediate post-OblivAeon relaunch of the comics setting as they rebranded things and tried to make things a good jumping-on point for new readers. Some books maintain numbering across the post-Multiverse relaunch, but Freedom Five ends with The Sentinels of Freedom as a new title that takes its place. Tactics was another relaunch years later as a response to the overly-positive RPG setting that a bunch of young-gun writers do who started with the premise of "what if things went even worse during OblivAeon?" and then ran with it.
- Are there any mini-nemeses that are important/powerful enough to have been their own deck but weren't for whatever reason? Zhu Long. He's powerful enough, but not important enough. The main decks tended to be tied to important stories (several mini-nemeses are more "powerful" than Miss Information, for example) and Zhu Long was a side character occasionally and a repeating environment. He doesn't have a specific plan in the Multiverse story where he's out to do a thing and the heroes have to stop him. The one story involving him was the Dark Watch Mr. Fixer story, but that wasn't an all-hands-on-deck story.
- In the publishing universe are there other comics companies? Yes.
- Are any Sentinel Comics characters ripoffs of other publishers' books? Of course (and vice versa). They're the most popular company, but they're not the first and there's plenty of "borrowing" going on everywhere between everybody.
- Is it possible for characters to stay in universes that weren't their original one or are they rubberbanded back to their universe? If you happen to be in another reality at the instant when OblivAeon is defeated and all of the gates are closed forever, you're stuck. "It sure would be a shame if that were to happen to somebody that you all love."
- There are a lot of podcasts that follow RPG campaigns, would GTG think about producing one or endorsing one (like, if PrincessCool, Cult of Gloom, and Omnitron Pi got together to play or something)? If they got together to do an RPG podcast they'd talk about it so much. They aren't going to do an RPG podcast (no time), but genuinely would be glad if fans do such things and let them know - they'll talk them up/endorse/whatever. Also, while a live-play podcast is not likely to happen, a twitch stream could happen (they "probably haven't been working on that for a while").
- Does Sentinels of Earth Prime have any impact on the Sentinel Comics story? No, it's completely unattached to the Sentinels Comics canon, it's part of Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds game setting.
- In Zhu Long's deck the True Form only has 10 HP and so is somewhat less of a threat than, say, Anubis - how does that fit with him being so "powerful" as mentioned earlier? Anubis is also terrifying and powerful and when people run into him in the Tomb he's a problem (what with the whole judgement thing). When people go to the Temple of Zhu Long, he might show up and mess with people a bit before getting bored and moving on. His 10 HP don't represent him being "defeated" or "slain" it's more of a "you guys are more trouble than it's worth" and he just leaves.