The Letters Page:
It's International, Intergalactic, Mega-Meta-Multiversal Same-Age-Day!
Run Time: 1:26:56
What a strange and different episode we're having today! Do we have a plan? Only slightly!
We spend some retrospective time, and then move on to a variety of letters of many different sorts!
Join us next time for Episode #178 - Creative Process: Sky-Scraper Supporting Cast! Get your questions in now!
- On this most auspicious Same Age Day (which happens to be the letter writer’s actual birthday) have birthday songs returned from the hiatus (if so, the request is Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years”)? Unfortunately no. At the end of 2020 they did a thing with all of the banked song requests and then retired the bit. However, when you listen to the cacophony, just imagine that there’s some Steely Dan in there. It’s pretty much impossible to say that it’s not in there by listening to it.
- Are there any notable “birthday issues” in the comics (say, Unity or Wraith’s bat mitzvahs)? There have certainly been birthdays that happen on the page. We meet Unity and Wraith well after they would have had their bat mitzvah though. Felicia would have “milestone” things like that around stuff like high school graduation rather than a specific birthday party. It’s not like there’s an internal calendar at Sentinel Comics that spells out when everybody’s canonical birthdays are. Birthdays that happen in the comics are set dressing for other stuff rather than being the point of the issue. Baron Blade’s Birthday likely is an official Mordengradian holiday. Like, we know that he kind of turns a blind eye to the “unofficial” holidays that the people continue to celebrate, but they like the idea that he tries to make his birthday a thing.
Catching Up on Very Old Questions
- Is it better or worse that the Master has claimed GloomWeaver’s throne? They don’t think it’s really better or worse, just different. They have a bunch of plans for Scarred Master/GW/Realm of Discord stuff in the RPG in a couple of years. The Master has actually brought a certain amount of Order to the RoD - GloomWeaver was content to just let it be its normal nonsense chaos, knowing that any of that which made its way into the normal world would likely cause some gloom. Somebody taming it… That can’t be good.
- While the Blake Washington Ra and Thiago Ra look different from one another, they look much more similar than the original Anubis and the Martin Adams version - why is that? First and foremost, it comes down to the fact that the old Anubis was the original, not a human avatar. The original Ra would have looked equally as different (likely with a falcon head or something). The expression of the “deity” in question is informed somewhat by the personality of the various “hosts” - Marty is a researcher and one who seeks knowledge - those aspects of the Anubis characterization are played up a bit more due to those existing character traits.
- Can you tell us more about the Nordidian Sulph-Axe and why Urdid gave it to Lifeline? Right as Lifeline was getting to leave the Enclave of the Endlings for good (as Jansa was about to take the place out of time and space), Urdid noted that Lifeline was doing something good and that he’d grown since the last time he went out. As this was the last chance to do something before leaving reality for good, Urdid gave him the axe as a tool to help him. Further details about Nordidians: their language sounds like two scrub brushes rubbing against one another (y’know, because of the hair - this might be a joke) and they were master smiths, so getting one of their weapons is notable.
- Did Greazer just name his ship the Pink Lady in honor of the robot or is some part of her (programming, the chassis, etc.) incorporated into the ship? A physical piece of her certainly is in/on the ship somewhere. We know that not enough of the robot’s programming was left for her to be recovered as a personality, but they think that maybe some of the odds-calculating stuff might have been recovered and can be used to help plot navigation routes. Like, it’s not the main operating system of the ship, but there’s a specific program he can run that uses her to plot a tricky course (or if it has melded with the OS, it’s still just doing this sort of function). She’s “dead”, but that doesn’t stop him from talking at her.
- You’ve said that Tachyon is aware that her powers let her do things that should be impossible, and that’s a major reason why she does so much experimentation on her own speed abilities - are those investigations into her own powers what prompt most of the scientific breakthroughs of Eaken-Rubendaall Labs? Probably not most, but a lot. She’s doing a lot of experiments on herself and anything she can learn from that means that she’s come to a new understanding of how the laws of physics work, which in turn results in new applications based on that new knowledge. There’s exciting stuff to be found at the edges of what is known, and the mere fact of her powers let her blow right past what was “known” to that point - our understanding of physics had to be incomplete in some way just due to the fact that she could do something. This is exciting for her. [I note that one handy benchmark for what to look for in a good scientific hypothesis is whether there are means by which it could be tested and shown to be wrong - Tachyon’s speed is such that much of what we knew of, say, Relativity can be contradicted by her just doing a thing herself (say, having mass and accelerating to, or past, the speed of light).]
- Given that Tachyon doesn’t/can’t understand “magic”, do magic-using characters ever needle her about what she doesn’t know about her own powers too? No, not “needling” at least. There’s probably discussion, and that might spur her into even more discovery into how things work. Magic is explicitly stuff that breaks how the “laws of nature” operate - she recognizes that it’s real, but that doesn’t mean she can’t try to wrap her head around what the parameters of magic are.
- Does anybody use the fact that she doesn’t understand her own powers to try to get under her skin (say Miss Information trying to undermine her confidence)? No. It wouldn’t work, due to her excitement around her powers representing an avenue for discovery.
- Is there any story where the Freedom Five, say, go out into space where she finds out that her powers make sense, just not according to the rules that humans have worked out so far? It’s never “solved”. She has a better understanding of things like particle physics and whatnot than any real person would, but that’s about the expected situation for comic book super science anyway.
- In the Wraith episode, there was a mention of all of the Freedom Five getting Bunker-esque space suits; can you tell us more about that story? That sounds like a Writers’ Room episode!
- Has Tachyon ever dressed up as Sonic the Hedgehog for Halloween? No… but now they’re thinking about which video game characters everybody would dress up as. Maybe something for Inktober this year if Adam’s not crunched between DE and RPG arting. We’ll see. It should be less crunchy than the latter half of last year was.
Stuff We Got Wrong About Fairville/Wright University
- There will be follow-up for the Young Legacy Foes episode later, they did want to get this one out now: it’s an email they got from Eric, one of the two writers they brought on for the Urban Settings RPG book and also somebody who had been given a bunch of inside-info for that purpose. While there’s a fair amount of stuff in the episode for him to give the side-eye, one thing in particular that deserves to be pointed out now is that they’ve already worked out a fair amount of lore for Wright University, including a fight song and mascot, the Valiant Threshers. Other minor things stated in the episode:
- Adam said that it was in Fairville, Illinois, when it’s in Indiana. This was simply a misstatement on Adam’s part [and one that I silently omitted in my write-up].
- Regarding the size of Fairville, they said it was “a few million people” which is way too big. Fairville itself is in the 10s of thousands range with the whole metro area being maybe 100k total. This is the second time they made this mistake as even in the original Young Legacy episode they mentioned the population in the millions.
- Several of your statements regarding Wright make is sound more like a high school than a university (auto shop teacher, guidance councilor, principal, etc.). Adam protests that the college he attended had an auto shop program - Christopher points out that there are major differences between a community college like that and a “small, liberal arts college” which Wright is supposed to be. Christopher has a solution to the problem. Antimox doesn’t limit himself to people at Wright University, but instead messes people all over town, and that can include, say, a high school or community college that’s also in Fairville. Spreading things out makes it not seem so focused on the place where he works incognito. So, some stuff can still be in the college, just maybe with different terminology (deans instead of principals, academic advisor instead of guidance councilor, etc.), but not everything is contained there. This also prompts the biggest change to what they said last week. The student “team” of villains (A/V, Mathlete, Leather-fist, and Franklin the Ground Squirrel) are now high school students and Franklin was that school’s mascot rather than Wright University - this lets the Urban Settings writers’ work stand. We lose the personal connection between the four of them (and Road Rage the former auto shop teacher) and Felicia, but they can still be threats she deals with and there can still be yet other villains that she does know from college.
- So, apologies for having messed up in a similar way to the hero/villain team-up episode where they made some good stuff, but kind of botched the execution of the topic itself. They’ve still got some good stuff out of this, and Doctor Toxica and Antimox are still around at Wright as they discussed. As a bonus, here is the school fight song alluded to above:
- Thresh on, Valiant Threshers!
Thresh on through night and day!
Thresh on, faithful workers,
and never lose your way!
Though man and field defy you,
though endless are the hours.
Thresh on, Valiant Threshers!
Victory is yours!
- The agricultural history of the area resulted in the mascot being the Threshers. The lesson here is that they should make sure to consult the information they have available before making up new stuff. They’re so used to being the people who are making up setting details that they’ve gotten into trouble like this before with Darren regarding the History of Sentinel Comics book.
- Given the myth of how werewolves got started, is it possible that Alpha’s mother was a witch? It’s possible, but not terribly likely. We don’t see much about her mom outside of the occasional flashback and/or the Alpha: The Lost Years book. From the latter we knew that she was raised by a single mother and, while still young but not a toddler or anything that little, she was kidnapped by werewolves and when she woke up with them she was now a werewolf. Later it was revealed/retconned that she had been a werewolf the whole time, but her mom knew about that and had tried to hide her/keep her nature a secret. Adam: “We don’t know much more about Alpha’s mother.” Christopher: questioning “hmm” sound “Sentinel Comics has not told us much more about her mother.”
- Who produced Wolf-Tek and how did Alpha get it? Did any other werewolves have access to it? Is it seen as somehow illegal or have other negative connotations necessitating getting it on the black market? It wasn’t illegal, but was very experimental and highly guarded. During the (very short) run of Alpha 2000 she was the only werewolf to have it, but some does get stolen and a reverse-engineering/black market thing does get going. In the first issue of A2K she’s approached by some guys in suits who are representatives from the private investor firm Lexington Wolfe who want to give her this Wolf-Tek that they’ve developed. They’re familiar with her exploits as a hero and would like her to use these prototypes. She’s wary, but gives it a try, and has positive experiences with it. Five issues later she finds out that Ms. Lexington and Mr. Wolfe are two people (who, despite the last names, look similar enough they could be sister and brother - long, slicked back black hair with a white streak down the middle and very sharp features). They are all business and secretive, but also very helpful and on her side. You get the idea that you’re not supposed to be suspicious of them, but then they still do stuff that seems like they’re hiding something. Like, the plan was for some reveal that they were also responsible for some bad thing or another was planned for issue #100 or something, but since the book only made it to #9 that doesn’t ever come close to paying off because after June 2001 none of this stuff every comes up again.
- Was Apex still using some Wolf-Tek in the Dark Watch crossover? Does Alpha continue to use it? No and no. As stated above, after A2K ends in June 2001 none of this stuff comes up again. Maybe an artist sneaks a piece of it into the background detail occasionally (like, the eyepiece/mask she wore hanging on a wall or something).
- Did Alpha ever join/form a pack of her own after taking the name from the first Alpha? No, the Alpha: The Lost Years story was partly a specific explanation for why she doesn’t work with other werewolves. Well, they say “no” but she does try some tactics other than “lone wolf” in some later stories in the ’00s or ’10s. Sorry for being vague.
- Is a natural-born werewolf naturally stronger or just better able to control their abilities? The “strength” that comes from being a werewolf is kind of hard to use. The more you let yourself go and embrace the wolf the stronger you get, but you also become less able to make rational choices so what good is it? They think that rather than simply thinking in terms of “strength” but maybe the overall package of “good in a fight” the finer control of their various wolf aspects would make a natural werewolf better than a normal one. Strength is part of that, but being able to juggle all of the different edges that come with being a werewolf to optimize your performance is the key.
- [Letter closes out with a hope that we can get Writers’ Room episodes for all 9 issues of A2K] Look, here’s the deal with that book. Christopher and Adam created that with the express purpose of it being a bad comic. That having been said, it’s also something that they both would have bought every issue when they were teenagers. This was all Rule of Cool stuff, which is all well and good, but it was without focus, which is a major problem unless you’re in the Extremeverse.
- What do Alpha and Apex look like and how are they distinguished from one another and all of the other werewolves? Werewolves generally come in a variety of fur colors, so they’re not necessarily just indistinguishable from one another in a group (although, if there is just a general pack of them where the colorist isn’t bothering with making them distinguished then they’ll likely just all be brown - Apex will stand out as almost black). Tabitha Taft has light blonde hair and when she turns into a wolf that translates into being kind of a light or reddish brown. She generally retains clothes until/unless she needs to go full-on, completely wolfed-out. Apex has some tattered/minimal clothes (he’s “not an animal”). He rejects humanity, but he’s got to have something on for comics decency reasons. Apex is the biggest werewolf we see. Alpha is tricky. Werewolves are bigger than regular people, but due to her fine control she doesn’t often go all in on the transformation. As such, she’s often shown as smaller than most of the other werewolves (which Adam points out is kind of what you want from a comics art perspective for your hero), but can wind up bigger than a lot of them on those occasions when she needs to go all-out. That is, most werewolves jump straight to that full-transformation whereas she does not and so winds up smaller than them for a lot of the time.
- Does her fine control of transformation leave her with an odd patchwork of traits (like Hunted Naturalist) or does bringing online, say, her better scent detection have more subtle/non-obvious physical transformation? She wouldn’t wind up with, say, just one hairy arm. She has a gradient between “human” and “full wolf”, but it’s gonna make sense. Like, her eyes or hands or teeth will change or she gets a more hunched posture as she goes.
- How capable is she in human form (weapon proficiency, magic abilities, etc.)? Alpha 2000 is the only time we see her using “gear”. She relies on her wolf abilities and doesn’t have specialized skills outside of those.
- Does Hunter Fulepet ever hunt werewolves or does he stick to vampires? He sticks to vampires.
- How knowledgeable about werewolves is Alpha? Does she have more specialized knowledge than, say, NightMist or Argent Adept or even Soothsayer Carmichael? She knows a lot about them, but she’d have different knowledge than the others. She’d be the expert on the behavioral/cultural stuff that’s useful in practical ways. NightMist would know the backstory/myths about them. Soothsayer Carmichael would know how the magic of werewolves works. Argent Adept is aware of werewolves.
- Does Tammy Taft refer to herself as “Alpha” or is it just the title of her books? How about Apex or other heroes? If she does use “Alpha” herself, does that imply that she’s a leader, say of a pack of wolves? “Tammy” Taft is just Tammy Taft as that’s the name she used back in the Wolf-Woman era. Later, when the writers decided that they had this adult woman character with a job and everything they decided to have her go by Tabitha (where “Tammy” is a legitimate nickname [like how Peggy is a nickname for Margaret]). By that part of her story she also goes by Alpha herself, yes, as that’s her hero alias given that her human guise is a secret identity. The reason she goes by Alpha isn’t explored/explained until the backstory miniseries. Other werewolves know about Alpha, but not about Tabitha Taft. Apex knows her identity, but most do not. He keeps his mouth shut as he is very protective of his position and knowing stuff that others don’t is part of his leverage to maintain his spot on top.
- Does she have a love interest named Beta that everybody makes fun of? Is he the scientist that makes the Wolf-Tek stuff - that’s about right for the level of bad ’90s comic you’re going for? No. None of that. They could see there being a little robot/hover drone thing the Wolf-Tek people give her that’s called Beta, maybe.
- Does she ever use her silver bracers for anything besides restraining herself during the full moon? [They spend time here arguing the vocabulary to describe what they are - manacles/bindings win out. They don’t actually answer the question, but I take that to imply that no, she doesn’t use them for anything except restraining herself.]
- Is most of her time spent specifically hunting werewolves, or does she do other monster-hunting activities? They wouldn’t say that most of her time is spend hunting werewolves. That kind of story winds up being a lot of her notable stories, but she does a lot of general crime-fighting. Some of that might qualify as “monster hunting” as well. There’s also a fair amount of “villains hunting her”.
- Does she have any opinions on Mr. Fixer’s change after his resurrection by Zhu Long? Did she even know him before Dark Watch formed? She knew him before and is concerned about how mean and detached he is. The first time she sees him afterwards she probably comments or thinks to herself that he “smells like death”.
- Does she have many dealings with established characters other than NightMist? Yeah, a lot. She’s a normal hero who crosses over with others like you’d expect.
- When do we get to see what Alpha looks like? The likely first time will be if/when there’s a Writers’ Room about her as we get a cover. If not that, we’ll get something eventually. Adam does have some drawings done of her, but they can’t show us those yet.
- Does Alpha have any kind of wolf instincts that she has to fight, even while in human form? What kinds of inner conflicts does she have to deal with? In stressful or dangerous situations she has to struggle to not just go full wolf. Given her position as a hero, that kind of situation crops up a lot and she’s trying to not reveal that she’s a wolf person in her normal life.
- Did her wolf form ever make a cameo appearance in Freedom Pets? No.
- Who’s a good girl? Come on, man. She’s a lupine hero, not a canine hero. Be respectful. Werewolves find that super racist.
- Does she have a family that we see? The only family we know about was her mother who raised her until she got kidnapped (at which point we don’t see her again [and the implication in Christopher’s tone here is that she might have been killed, but I can’t tell if that’s the intent]), the father (whom she did not know was her actual biological father at the time when she killed him), and Apex who will refer to himself as her “grandfather” in kind of a mocking way given that he was the one who turned her father into a werewolf. Usually the only time that werewolves will think of the people they’ve turned as their “children” will be those cases where they kidnap and turn a baby that they then raise.
- Any enemies that other heroes wind up dealing with when she doesn’t have an active solo book? Does she have any notable cameos/guest spots in other books that got readers intrigued? Her foes are mostly either werewolf stuff, general “monsters”, or already-established villains (say, Ambuscade). Villains that are unique to her tend to be werewolves, but werewolves as a concept aren’t just tied to her story and so show up in unrelated-to-her stories too. The major crossover things where there are arcs involving them was during a time when she had a book as well.
- I know that an Alpha deck in Definitive Edition is probably too big a favor to ask, but can we at least get an art cameo? You’ve asked a lot of favors, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. [Note: there’s a wolf growl sound effect in the background here, so take that as you will.]
- Why did the original natural werewolf (between the witch and the man she cursed to be a wolf) work and why can’t Apex find a nice witch to settle down with to do likewise? First off, that origin story involving the witch may not be literal truth - that’s just the story that’s told of their origins. The broader answer is that humans and werewolves are simply not compatible organisms and cannot interbreed. The fact that Alpha is a product of such a union is weird and should not have worked. It’s a mystery.
- Couldn’t Apex sell his soul to Ammit or make a deal with the Court of Blood or something to make more werewolves in the way that original one was made? His deal with the Court of Blood is specifically trying to figure out how make more werewolves in something like this manner - making a self-sustaining werewolf populace through magic and/or technology without depending on a human population is the goal. Regarding Ammit, it’s not like he can just wander into an Egyptian temple to make a deal with Ammit, even if he knew it was an option.
- Did Extremeverse Alpha ever show up in comics? Yeah, that probably happens. She’s probably got guns so she can shoot silver bullets. Oh… Or guns that shoot silver lasers, yeah, that’s the ticket. Crossed on her back she’s got a sword and an axe. The latter is silver, the sword is some black nonsense fantasy metal. Wolf-Tek to the extreme as well. A truck full of rocket launchers, but the rockets all have silver wolf-faces on them and they howl when fired.
- In previous episodes where you were reading off the titles extant at the time of OblivAeon, you had to stop yourself before you said one of them; was that title Alpha: The Wolf-Woman? Yes.
- What exactly is Wolf-Tek? Does it just enhance her natural wolf abilities, or does it give her new abilities? We know there is an arm-mounted “wolf-cannon” that lets her shoot metal “claws”, possibly also being retractable so that she can use them as grappling hooks. That whole arm has stuff on it, including a pauldron. She’s got a one-eye visor that enhances her sight. She’s got boots with, like, hydraulics or something. They’re mainly weapons and physical augmentations.
- Has she turned anyone into a werewolf? She has not turned anybody permanently. There are stories where she’s lost control or something and winds up infecting somebody, but they’re able to reverse it before its permanent. It’s always a threat and there are stories where that comes up.
- Is Alpha: The Wolf-Woman the book you’ve almost spoiled a few times? Yes.
- In the American Folklore episode you stated that Davy Crockett is a bear that turns into a man and at one point in the werewolf episode you mentioned that Apex is a werebear; is Apex really the entity otherwise known as Davy Crockett? No. Apex is not a werebear, he’s just so big that you might mistake him for a bear.
One Last One
- [From Powerhound2000: No long list of questions, just happy birth month to Adam the day you recorded this, happy Same Age Day the day it is released, and happy birthday to Christopher the day after that.] Thanks. They do like the long lists of questions, though. You’re thorough.