The Letters Page: Live From Gen Con!
We had a thrilling Gen Con! And now, you get to listen in on how at least a couple hours of that show went for us!
Run Time: 2:00:35
We had an exciting musical guest this year: Jean-Marc Giffin! He's the composer behind all of the music for the Sentinels of the Multiverse video game by Handelabra, and lots of other great music as well! If you're one of our Patreon supporters, there will be a post on the Patreon later today with the music files for Jean-Marc's versions of the Letters Page songs, along with the original files for those songs, as we've never released them before and thought that now might be a good time.
The bulk of this episode is Q&A, though we do have an Overview and Future section! You'll just have to listen in to find out what we talk about.
Speaking of our Patreon, we'll be doing a live episode on Thursday morning of this week for our Contributors, so if that's you, come hang out with us at 11 AM, Central! During that live recording, we'll announce what we're doing for next month's schedule, and that'll get posted here next week! Exciting times are upon us!
Looking forward to getting back into the regular Letters Page schedule with all of you!
- Young Legacy
- Captain Cosmic
- A Tree
- Stylin' Shirley/Fashion
- Fright Train
- Citizen Anvil
- The Vandals
- Zhu Long
- Argent Adept
- Black Fist
- Baron Blade
- La Capitan
- Ruby Roarke
- Pretty good introductory bits for the first 10 minutes or so involving Jean-Marc, Trevor, Paul, and the origins of Gen Con as a series of lies/cons told by one General William Cartwright ("Gen" for short), the major one being "You can make a lot of money in board games", and the fact that a lot of people present now have OblivAeon, just that it's at their homes sitting out in the rain and/or being used by a family of chipmunks as nesting material since they're here at Gen Con and unable to bring the delivery inside.
- By the time this airs, more shipping containers should have arrived with more OblivAeon to be shipped to the Kickstarter backers.
- The Mission cards as a concept evolved by Adam volunteering to quadruple his work (double the number of cards in the deck, making them double-sided) because they're just that cool. Much like the Villain decks are there to set up a scenario and then playing to see what the payoff is, each Mission is a self-contained little story about a setup and payoff that you can participate in.
- While the RPG book isn't out yet, they did release a new product in that line: an adventure titled Stolen Legacy featuring the team Daybreak. This was available in print form at the con, but should be available as a free download on the website at some point [It's available now here]. Adam is really proud of the last piece of art in the booklet - they think of it as the opposite of the art of Iron Legacy throwing the Legacy Ring into Felicia's grave on "Galvanized". It's also worth pointing out that the issue numbers for the SCRPG Starter Kit are all really high numbers (FF #801-803, JC #740, TotB vol. 4 #86, and PW vol. 2 #67), while this adventure is marketed as Legacy #1 (note the lack of a longer title like "America's Finest Legacy").
- They also had demos of Prime War available - here's where we actually get some new story detail.
- "After the destruction of the Mist Storm Universe ... [more on that in an upcoming episode] ... there's a bunch of Singular Entities kind of floating around out there in nothingness/Ur-Space/Beyond Time and Space, y'know, and they are kinda coming to blows, sort of, in their own Singular Entity way." They're arguing and trying to figure out who's going to be in charge of all of this. The way they decide to do so is to pull various heroes/villains/characters from a bunch of Disparate realities, making them their champions, and then pitting them against one another (sometimes granting them "boons" of some sort). So, Prime War won't necessarily be just letting you play the characters we already all know about, but versions of them from all sorts of different realities (but not the Sentinel Comics Universe for some reason). [We also get even more fictional middle names for Maggie at around the 21 minute mark along with more "goth miner" jokes involving pantomimes that lose something in the audio-only format].
- But wait, not all of the beings involved in this struggle are necessarily actual Singular Entities, but other powerful beings. So, the fight is actually between Prime Aspects (which seems to be the set of the Singular Entities and these other beings who are involved in Prime War specifically). Some of these beings will be familiar to us, others are new.
- 23:30 for the sing along (well to the extent possible given the remix of the Letters song - lots of frequent-writer shout-outs and a Guise cameo).
- Christopher's brother Anthony was there live last year and was supposed to come and do stuff again until about Wednesday the week prior to Gen Con, at which point he had to bow out. That's when they made the call to Jean-Marc to see if he could help out on short notice as a music guy. While he's definitely a music guy, he's more of a composer than a live-performer, so he agreed to "see what he could throw together", which is what we just heard.
- There's an explanation of an in-joke between Christopher and Dave Chalker involving "[x] is not like other [y], it has three jails" that starts at around 32 minutes in if it's ever relevant for somebody [it's hard to gauge what's going to become a running gag ahead of time].
- Was it hard to take something that you love and then have to make the decision to monetize it in some way (i.e. did taking something initially done just for the sheer joy of it, but then turning it into a job suck the joy out of it)? Yes and no. There are parts of the job that are definitely work that makes it less fun (say, Adam having to do all of the flyers and other promotional design in the early days). This was more the case in the beginning since as things have gone on they've been able to hire more people to do that part of it for them. However, as much as there is tedious "work" stuff that has to happen, they are still doing it as part of their jobs. It's for their project and they'd rather be making flyers for their own thing than for literally anything else. It didn't suck the joy out of it - to the contrary, because it's their actual job and not just something they do in their free time, they've been able to do so much more of it than they would have otherwise. Adam brings up what makes things tedious for him is just having to do repetitive things - like for the Handelabra video game where he does a piece of character art, then a "battle damaged" version, and then repeat. That gets a bit old on the days when he's doing it, but that's not taking away from the fact that he still gets to draw superheroes for a living, which is super rad.
- Do people have other friends outside of their superheroing, and if so do they give nicknames to each other? Almost every characters will have supporting cast members (and those that don't usually have a specific reason to not have them). They got into Young Legacy's cast a bit more than usual in her episode. These side characters can be family, friends, co-workers from day jobs and whatnot - they're not limited to only other heroes. Some notable examples of the ones without much in the way of regular supporting casts:
- Captain Cosmic doesn't really have much of a supporting cast due to just how much time he spends out in space instead of on Earth.
- Naturalist has a bunch of gloomy time when more out in nature than interacting with other people. He gets better after he spends a lot of time hanging out with a tree.
- Legacy doesn't have many non-hero friends, but he's got his family life as well as some government-related "work friends".
- Nicknames was an interesting part of the question, though. In the majority of cases, the "mundane" friends don't know about the heroes being heroes and there might be nicknames involved then. Of course, even when hero identities are known, shortened forms of hero names are common as well.
- How often do Singular Entities die? Is OblivAeon the first time that's happened? OblivAeon was the first time such an event was recorded in the pages of Sentinel Comics (although they can't rule out that there have been others in the past). They also allude to something that will come up in the Scions episode [which I assume to be them talking about how Faultless used to be a Singular Entity, so he's an example of one that, while not killed, was a Singular Entity that somehow stopped being one]. They also wind up having one of those "words are hard" moments surrounding the usage of the word "death" in terms of a Singular Entity.
- In the publishing meta-verse, do the animated shows/movies have a broad appeal (more so than in our universe)? For example, are they more regularly featured in awards shows? Yes, while there are ebbs and flows in what is popular like there is in our universe (for example, Adam states that he thinks that the Golden Age of animation was from the late-'90s through the early-'00s, but recognizes that people might disagree with him on that), the SC Animated Universe received a lot of attention and critical acclaim as legit television instead of being stuck on the sidelines like most animated media. Adam draws a comparison to how Japan has a cultural approach to animation that has a much higher esteem of animated shows/movies than the US does. Since it's their made-up universe, they can do what they want with it and so in the meta-verse the animated productions are highly thought of and definitely win awards.
- [Level Up Leo is there again - last year he had a darn good Spite costume and it sounds like he's gone Agent of Gloom this year (complete with a voodoo pin, a reference to the letter-writer shenanigans/plot that goes on in the background of these things) - I hope they put up costume contest photos somewhere soon] If Xtreme Captain Cosmic isn't the same as the Captain Cosmic from Lazer Ryderz, why does the former's incap art show him being attacked by Lazer Shark? So, Lazer Ryders is a cartoon from the same publishing meta-verse, but wasn't part of the Sentinel Comics Animated Universe. While the two Captains Cosmic are different characters, the LR series depicted a rather extreme setting and lazer sharks (plural - after a few false starts, like "a guitar riff" of lazer sharks, they land on "a shred" as the proper group noun of lazer sharks) were eventually featured in the Xtremeverse stories.
- [Question from the person who counted the number of uses of "blood" in the Court of Blood episode, 338 they think - I'm sorry I can't actually catch your name when you say it] As she was a notable absence in the Shipping episode, any pairings involving Harpy (in comics or by fans in the meta-verse)? Due to her arc, she wasn't really involved with anybody through the end of OblivAeon. She was a villain to begin with, then she kind of became supporting cast for NightMist and Dark Watch stories (and unless the relationship is with main-cast members, supporting cast characters rarely get relationship focus), and then she's finally a main cast member in the second volume of Dark Watch, but then it's OblivAeon and there's no time for such things. There are hints that there are personal lives in the background for these characters when they get their book again, but there's nothing shown. While there hasn't been space for ships in the past, going forward there would be more opportunities for such. Now in the meta-verse... obviously NightMist/Harpy is a thing (and there are others for most of the other younger heroes, but not as prominent in the fandom).
- We know about Stylin' Shirley and Jim Brooks' western comic pre-Chrono-Ranger, but what other non-superhero comics were there? Any characters from them in Prime War? The trick is that most comics that aren't superhero comics are older books from back when other genres were more popular than they are now. That being said, other titles include: Covered Wagon Comics [Jim's old book], It's A Lark Comics, Adventures of Vera, All-Preferred Comics, Fearless Comics, Frontier Tales, Eddie the Hippo: The Quarterly Book [about an anthropomorphic hippo cartoon character], Treasure Cave Comics, Criminal Element, and Shudder!. Some generic adventure books, comedy books, westerns, crime (All-Preferred is generally stuff like gumshoe detective stories), military (like The Indestructible Bunker was). Characters directly from these books aren't likely to show up in Prime War except for those who made a transition from these to the superhero books in the interim (like Bunker, Chrono-Ranger, and Fashion did).
- Freedom Five Annual #27 is listed on a bunch of cards (notably in Ermine, Fright Train, and Friction's decks) - is this the Vengeance: Returned event? Why is Friction involved so much given that it's hard to place her in the timeline so late given that we were told she died in Vengeance? FFA #27 is in March 2012 and Vengeance: Returned is a 6-issue arc that launched in July 2008 and is "a bait and switch. Readers were meant to think it was another Vengeance event like the Baron Blade's story from the early-'90s. However, all the villains were flesh-children; it's a Biomancer story." Friction was only "really messed up" in the original Vengeance story and it was in the later Vengeance Revisited story where they got the team back together that she was finally for sure dead. That was Friction's only appearance outside of the original Vengeance arc. [I got some verification/clarification on this from Christopher - FFA #27 has the story title/cover branding of "Vengeance Revisited" much like, say, PW #25 in the Hero Challenge PDF is "Breaking Point".]
- Given that the Celestial Tribunal is big enough to destroy planets it's pretty big; how wide is it? How much of it is empty space inside? It's all machinery/robots on the inside rather than empty space. The exterior is very thick, though, so that cuts down on the internal volume somewhat. It is not so wide that it would cut the planet in two, but they did have to answer this question so that Handelabra could design a loss screen (for the special loss condition for "Representative of Earth"). They estimate like 400 miles wide (but freely admit that this is probably inaccurate - they don't have the figure handy in front of them). They suggest that it might be mentioned in the write up within the video game, but it doesn't look like it is.
- Has anybody, canonically, wielded the CT like a sword (say, OblivAeon)? No, but... see the Scions episode.
- In the Sunrise episode we found out that Citizen Anvil had been a highwayman... how long has he actually been around? A couple hundred years. [There's a quick follow up on just how "immortal" he is, like just unaging, unkillable, or what, but the answer given is just "he's cursed" which I guess answers why he's immortal without actually getting at the mechanics of his immortality].
- Is there any source of superhero costumes besides the one mentioned way back in Setback's episode? Is that going to have a lot of mandated overtime once Freedom Plaza gets going? Freedom Plaza will have a larger setup for such things as it's also got to supply training gear for the new heroes. Freedom Tower does the stuff mentioned in that prior episode, but a lot of costuming in Sentinel Comics is simply unexplained. Sometimes there's a handwavy reference to somebody's scientist friend who helped design something or a retconny flashback to them making prototype costumes or whatever before the "real" one.
- Who are these other characters alongside Proletariat on this lanyard I got at the booth? That is the team Perestroika. Patreon patrons didn't vote for a Perestroika episode, but it could come up in the voting again (and they'll be talking about them by the end of the year regardless given that they're a villain team featured in the RPG core book and elsewhere). Only one of the characters is one that hasn't been named before [the one I can probably identify is the woman is probably the second Iron Curtain, mentioned in Young Legacy's episode].
- What is the relationships between humans and magic in a world where it's known that magic is real and that humans can use it, somewhat? Are governments/industry looking into how they could use it? Did the Golden Age writers just not think through the ramifications of magic being around and that lack of repercussions just got incorporated into the world-building as things went? That last bit is absolutely on-point for how things went down in the early days. By the '70s writers started to address it and the fact that magic is around is justification for some of the advances in technology between the real world and comics (not necessarily that the tech uses magic, but maybe it was used in the development process to figure out how to get things to work). Magic isn't something that just anybody could use, and it comes at a cost, but certainly more people and corporations are aware of it now that there's this giant magic tree in the middle of Megalopolis. Of course, the costs have never stopped companies like RevoCorp or miscreants like the Vandals from messing around with it. Heck, Young Legacy's day job post-OblivAeon is with a company trying to interface technology with the nature magic of Akash'Flora.
- Can "canned souls" be used as a power source - as an example [complicated scenario involving Oni masks from the Behind the Scenes episode, the "hero" proposed in it involving somebody who had the Onification process interrupted, and somebody like Zhu Long taking that person and removing the mask and further using it to mess with the person (killing them, putting the mask back on, etc.)] You can't really "remove" the mask - once it's on a person, it's both no longer a source of power in itself, but it's also now just a part of their body due to the transformation. It'd be like removing part of their skull. As for souls as a power source yeah it's a thing you can do but, while it's not quite Blood Magic, it'd be an evil thing to be doing if you're harvesting the living in some way.
- [This question was a bit hard for me to follow, sorry if I'm misunderstanding] Argent Adept can summon all of his instruments and use magic to play more than one at once, flavor-wise is this something like using a loop pedal to create layers of music over one another on one instrument? Yup, "magical loop pedal" can happen.
- How many of the heroes are willing to use lethal force (whether that's their go-to tactic or something they would only do if pushed into dire circumstances)? Conversely, are there villains who are particularly reticent to kill people? Very few heroes will go that far. Expatriette and Parse are counter-examples in that they were horrible murderers in their earlier appearances. Wraith is somebody who struggles with how to walk that line. The more mainstream a hero is in the comics, the less lethal their tactics get. It happens, but it is used very sparingly. It also depends on the era, though. Grandpa Legacy would have killed. Both Bunkers would have in their military stories. Then there was the meta-verse equivalent of the Comics Code which would have toned all of that down until the '70s when things would have started to break down a bit and more character deaths would happen (sidestepping the issue of how killing robots and aliens is different). Black Fist would have been killing enemy minions by the end of his story. As for villains, interestingly, one example of somebody reticent to kill is Baron Blade. I mean, sure, he'll kill everybody with one of his doomsday plots, and if there's a specific person in the way of his plans he'll kill that person, but he's not just going to off civilians just because. He's not a murderer, just a mass murderer Matriarch doesn't want to kill people (making them "pay" or "suffer" maybe, but not really killing them - although she does wind up with a sizable body count). Deadline is another of those "mass murderer" guys, and he's got this whole "don't want to, but it's for your own good" kind of excuse. OblivAeon doesn't want to kill anybody, just wants them to not exist anymore. Kismet's a good example - she's more careless than anything (somebody might die because of something she did, but she's not going to kill somebody). La Capitan just wants to steal stuff and can easily cause those situations like Kismet, however if you fight her she'll fight back and would kill you. Ermine is another thief and murder isn't her thing. Fright Train doesn't really go out of his way to kill people, but he would if necessary.
- How well-known in the general populace is the existence of Gloomweaver? Not very. The Cult of Gloom is a frequent opponent of heroes and the meta-verse knows about them, but within the comics setting, they're largely unknown as it's largely in their best interests to remain a secret.
- Is Gloomweaver a Prime Aspect? No.
- What's Guise's shipping situation? What is pretended to be the start of a series, but is really a one-shot is "Guise goes out on dates with everybody." He doesn't. He tries. He wants to. He doesn't.
- What are some things you've enjoyed in the creation of Sentinel Comics, but haven't been able to actually get into one of the games? They made a bunch of stories that just never got included in the games. The podcast has given them a lot of opportunities to get that stuff out there (like, the Scholar's backstory just isn't something that would have made it into any game, but they got to tell us all about it). Stuff like which heroes get/got power from OblivAeon shards or Isoflux Alpha were never going to get revealed because there's no way they were going to get all the way to the end of the Multiverse story, right? There is still stuff they've created that hasn't made it into anything yet, but they have plans for. They don't have the restraint to make stuff and not do something with it. "This is 100% fan service and the fans are us."
- [Stuntman cosplayer, complete with ridiculous French accent] On "Planquez-Vous!" Stuntman is having trouble getting Wraith to trust him, why wouldn't she trust such a handsome and famous movie star who does his own stunts? Has it just been too long since his last starring role and she doens't recognize him? Maybe, possibly it's because she knows who he is and doesn't trust him. It could be that he's tried to murder her before. Perhaps it was because he just burst into the room and started yelling at her in French and she's like "Who the hell are you?" Hard to say.
- Do you have voice actors in mind for the various animated series? They'd love to do an episode or extrasode on this. Adam has opinions on voice acting.
- 10000 HP? Are you crazy? What's the true meaning of Christmas? Yes and yes, but they believe in you! The true meaning of Christmas is only possible if there is another Christmas, so get out there and save the Multiverse!
- Are there any prominent video games in the meta-verse? There's never been a good Legacy game. There have been a bunch of FF and PW games. Various fighting games and, these days, mobile games. Much like in real life, superhero games have been around forever and run the gamut. If Adam's going to just invent his dream game to have existed it'd be a 6-player 2-d beat-em-up arcade game. You know the kind, where none of the character's powers are quite right.
- Who was Mrs. Guise and what happened to Guise to necessitate a "Gritty Reboot"? Guise gave himself the gritty reboot. There was never any character that could have been described as "Mrs. Guise", but he decided he needed one and so he made that headstone. It's an excuse for him to act all grim-dark.
- [Oh no, it's him...] I know everybody follows the news, things are messed up right? Everybody knows what I'm talking about; the big 20th Century Fox/Disney/Microsoft/Amazon acquisition of Champion Studios. So, now the live-action Sentinels Cinematic Universe is right around the corner, so the only question is who is going to play me? It should be a young, up-and-coming comedian. Adam's unequivocal answer is John Mulaney.
- We know about the Rook City Renegades baseball team, but what are the sports teams in Megalopolis? They have not named them, which is a big oversight on their part (especially considering they're working on a book that should have that kind of detail). So, they'll do one live. They want alliteration and Marauders is a good word, but the wrong feel. Suggestion from the crowd that is made canonical is the Minutemen, which is now the name of the baseball team.
- In Prime War, is that story like the last story in the Mist Storm comics or what? Can't answer now, that's part of the topic for the August 28 episode.
- Are there other "pulp" heroes like the radio Legacy? Yeah, the Lito Foodstuffs Action Hour had other Sentinel Comics heroes in it (not necessarily superheroes - All-Preferred Comics characters would show up, for example - having Ruby Reckless around was kind of a legitimizing character as she fit the milieu better).
- Do any of the Sentinel Comics use the trope of "half races" (like half-human and half something else) or are all different aliens their own thing? There's definitely human/alien and alien/alien hybrids (although mostly later on). The fact that humans were the only intelligent race on Earth is a limiting factor to some extent.
- Editor's Note #20 had kind of archetypal descriptions of the core-set villains (e.g. "Alien Warlord"), did any of the characters drift surprisingly far away from their original archetype? Unity's original concept (and the reason for her name) was somebody whose mind was broken across all of these robot pieces that worked together and that eventually (like, within a couple days) became just "she's a girl who makes robots with her mind". While the core set used them (Tachyon was always a "speedster") and maybe the first two expansions (Rook City was going to have a "martial artist" and "a gun-toting vigilante", Infernal Relics was going to have magic users so they came up with a few flavors of that), they try not to do that much anymore. They start with a story and then see what kinds of characters fit into it.
- You don't cache the topic voting submissions? Like, the voting options are only the ones that come in for that month? No, they do keep the old ones and there are a lot of repeats. There is some preference given to new ideas as they more represent what's on people's minds this month instead of back in April, but Christopher does keep all of them in a big list. If you want to see an old option again, submit it again as multiple recent submissions will bring them back up in "importance".
- On the half-race topic from earlier, Atlanteans were intelligent beings on Earth, right? Yes, but they were also just people (not like in Marvel or DC where Atlanteans were a different race).
- Are there cases over the course of the publication history of characters with similar names and power-sets? Not particularly, other than "legacy" names like Legacy or Captain Cosmic. There are some "imposter" characters (Mist Storm Universe has somebody posing as Anubis and there are things like a bank robber claiming to be the Wraith or whatever).
- What are some details about the Sentinel Comics publication company - are they publicly traded, have they come close to bankruptcy [as, say, Marvel did in the '90s], were there any buy-out attempts (successful or not)? They're publicly traded now, but weren't always. They've come close to bankruptcy a few times. Nobody's ever bought them out, but that's not to say that there haven't been shakeups at the upper management level (there will be detail on this kind of stuff in a book).
- Why is "The Matriarch" on the Horrid Skunk Ape card in The Final Wasteland? It's got to be a Disparation story given the lack of events there in the canon timeline.
- It's my birthday, can I get a song? [At around 1:51:26 everybody in the room sings a different song.]
- Between now and next year, OblivAeon should be out to everybody, this fall will have another one-shot RPG scenario about Dark Watch (around the time of PAX Unplugged), January will have the RPG Kickstarter, then in the spring/summer another adventure that's a prelude to the Sentinels of Freedom video game. There will also be other Prime War stuff in that time as they get it knocked into shape and more RPG streams.
- In the future of the recording but the past of the podcast going out, they finished up the first arc of their Twitch RPG game (recordings of all of the sessions can be seen here).