Legion of Net.Heroes

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LNH logo designed by Wil Alambre, with the help of Typo Lad.

The Legion of Net.Heroes, or LNH, is the oldest (and perhaps the first) Usenet-based shared universe still in existence, and the name of the premiere "net.hero" team in that universe. Birthed from a rec.arts.comics cascade thread in April 1992 [1], it began as parody of the Legion of Super-Heroes (LSH), and other comic book superheroes. It featured characters like Cheesecake-Eater Lad (based on Matter-Eater Lad) and Super Apathy Lad defending the “Looniverse” from the likes of Lagneto ("Lag" spliced with "Magneto") and Doctor Killfile. Over time, it has evolved to include comedy, serious drama, character pieces and melodrama. With 181 stories posted in 2007, it is still active.

History[edit]

In the beginning[edit]

On April 27, 1992, rec.arts.comics member Bill Sherman, commenting on the correct spelling of the name Winsor McCay, declared himself "Spelling Boy" of the LSH. Two days later, Dan'l Danehy Oakes suggested that long-time posters form a Legion of Net. Heroes. He declared himself California Kid, "whose power is to read comix weeks after everyone else has discussed 'em..."

The thread took off, spawning 115 (mostly) on-topic replies and a large and diverse pool of "net.heroes". On May 5, Steve Librande, no doubt growing tired of the thread, declared himself "the ingenious Doctor Killfile" ,[1] threatening to "release the awesome force of my patented Kill-O-Ray, destroying all posts about you blithering Net.Heroes!!"

Benjamin Pierce, in the net.persona of Marvel_Zombie Lad, rallied his fellow "net.heroes" to fight back.[2] It was at this point that forty-four different authors began working on the first actual LNH story, later called The Cosmic Plot Device Caper. At that time, Usenet users were primarily college students, and when summer vacation came, interest in the LNH waned.

Come the fall, interest was stirred up again, primarily because of Todd "Scavenger" Kogutt. [2] New LNH stories and new authors debuted on rec.arts.comics.misc (rec.arts.comics had become defunct in late 1992). Some authors created continuing "series", with issue numbers and serialised stories; the first of these was Kyle Lucke's Quest for Cheeze, soon followed by Ray "wReam" Bingham's Ultimate Ninja.

The newsgroup shuffle[edit]

Many posters on rec.arts.comics.misc were annoyed by the LNH stories in what was primarily a discussion newsgroup. [3]

The LNH moved to their very own newsgroup, alt.comics.lnh, before finding their permanent home on rec.arts.comics.creative. RACC also hosts a number of other original fiction shared universes, such as ASH, OMEGA and 8FOLD. Occasionally RACC receives cross-posts from Superguy. It is moderated by Russ "Eagle" Allbery, who also maintains the eyrie ftp archives.

The Looniverse[edit]

The world of the LNH, known as the Looniverse, is an alternate universe much like our own, but with the presence of net.heroes, net.ahumans, and net.villains.

One notable difference, besides the presence of superpowers, is that the vast majority of LNH characters are aware of the fourth wall: they know that they are fictional characters in fictional stories, and often will comment on bad characterizations and ludicrous plot-twists, sometimes talking directly to the audience or their author. Sometimes, the plot-twists themselves come out of fourth-wall breaking. For example, in Gary St. Lawrence's story, The Case of the Clueless Mystery, the characters discover how to defeat the villain by consulting the script. Metafictional concepts such as Comedy and Drama are treated like real cosmic forces.[4]

The Looniverse is also notable for its ability to simultaneously contain mutually exclusive ideas. In the work of Hubert Bartels, for example, mainstream comic books are treated something akin to movies: heroes audition for the likes of Rob Liefeld and Marv Wolfman and model for the penciller. Other authors treat the work of Marvel and DC as comic books that are products of their writer's imagination. Still others use parody titles to represent mainstream comics, i.e., Justice Mind-Wipers of America instead of Justice League of America, New Adventists instead of New Avengers.

Some characters operate in a world of realistic physics; others operate by the laws of Cartoon physics. For some characters, time unfolds akin to real-world time; for others, all their lives have taken place in "the last ten years". Yet these characters can often meet and team-up in the same time-frame.

Humour[edit]

The humour of the LNH has broadened considerably from its joke-name beginnings, and now includes broad parody, subtle satire, and character humour. However, there are some major trends that have remained a constant thread throughout its lifetime.

The two prime targets of LNH parody are superheroes, and the Internet. In fact, net terminology and conventions extends even to the naming of characters and places: for example, Lurking Girl and Lurker Lad derive their invisibility powers from "lurkers", newsgroup readers who do not actively take part in the discussion, but rather, "lurk". Many of the cities in the Looniverse have net-based names: Net.ropolis and Sig.ago, for example.[5]

Fictional history[edit]

Since the day Dr. Killfile attacked the LNH, a number of LNH Writers have filled in the gaps within the Looniverse's back history. Retcons, however, often make the task of history scribing very difficult in an ever changing Looniverse. The more popular ideas tend to remain and the other ones tend to disappear.

Backstory[edit]

Back during the 19th century, Net.ropolis was known as Babbagetown. Little is known of how far the origins of this city go back. The history of the LNHQ is also rather murky. What is known though is that the current LNHQ used to be the Net.ropolis Hotel Grand. [6][7]

Sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, a hero by the name of Boy Lad formed the Legion of Net. Heroes. During this time, he was the only member (Boy Lad Jr., his sidekick, wasn't allowed to join, due to the "no sidekicks are allowed to join" rule). No one knows what ultimately happened to him although someone who claimed to be him made an appearance in the Omaha Project series.

After Boy Lad disappeared, the Agents of P.U.L.P, Classic Squad, and Society of Wireless Heroes (A British based super group) took over the hero game in the 1940s and 1950s. Some members of the Classic Squad would eventually become part of the current LNH incarnation like Old Comics Man, Golden Man, and Kid Yesterdaze.

During the 1960s, the Net.astic Nine[8] and the Challengers of the Abominable helped protect Net.ropolis and the Looniverse from destructive forces. The LNHer Sig.Lad was formerly a member of the Net.astic Nine. At the end of the 60's, a demon going by the name of Anti-Christ Lad controlled all of Net.ropolis including the LNH that was operating during this time period: The Legion of Net. Hippies. Self-Righteous Preacher, after joining with the Legion of Net.Hippies helped free the LNH from Anti-Christ Lad's control and sent him back to hell. A few Legion of Net. Hippies like Nudist Man, Super Apathy Lad, and Procrastination Boy remained with the current Legion.[9]

In the 1980s, The Legion of New-Wave Heroes arrived on the scene and quickly disappeared.

As to when the current incarnation of the LNH got its start is a subject of some debate. It could have begun a few days or a few years before the Cosmic Plot Device Caper depending on which stories one reads.[10]

The LNH begins[edit]

After the Cosmic Plot Device Caper, came the 2½ Month Gap, a mysterious period of which little is known. During this time period, Rebel Yell became leader of the LNH and Y-Plex Burp replaced Lurking Girl with an evil clone called Lurking Lass. After that a number of crises took shape. During a time called Beige Noon, two god like beings called Dekay and Diskolor attempted to drain the color from the Looniverse and turn it into a wasteland. This was followed by the RMGrouping of rec.arts.comics, which caused the entire LNH to be scattered across the Net. In 501 Blues: The Long Road to Nowhere, Rebel Yell tried to find all of the lost legionaries and succeeded in finding Lurking Girl.

This was followed by Cry.Sig, a parody of Crisis on Infinite Earths, where the Crossover Queen caused tons of havoc (including destroying Canada with a reality ray). Cry.Sig gave LNH Writers an excuse for rampant retconning of continuity. Dial-D-for-Dvandom became the Dvandom Stranger and Pre-Cry.Sig Occultism Kid became the August One, mentor to the Post-Cry.Sig Occultism Kid.

Post-Cry. Sig[edit]

The Ultimate Ninja joined with the LNH after Cry. Sig. Somewhere along the line the leadership of the LNH became a triumvirate with Rebel Yell, Continuity Champ, and the Ultimate Ninja each taking a share of LNH power.

In the Integrity Quest, written by Doug P. Wojtowicz, Stephane Savoie, and Hubert Bartels, the characters Lost Cause Boy, Kid Anarky, and Panta the cat-girl were introduced; in the tenth installment, Wojtowicz referred to a penile erection as a "woody": this caused a minor controversy dubbed "The Woody Scandal", and resulted in the ostracization of Wojtowicz. Other stories of this era also skirted the line of good taste: Gary St. Lawrence's stories Pigs in Space and Passionfishing, however, produced a much less volatile reaction. These three stories challenged the notions of what was acceptable content in LNH stories and led to the development of a "mature audiences" label, Acraphobe.

In 1993, Rebel Yell, due to events depicted in the Lurk of Faith, took a leave of absence from the LNH (never returning), leaving the Ultimate Ninja in complete control. Myk-El was revealed to be a traitor and killed by the Ultimate Ninja. The Secret Dvanders dug up Myk-El's grave, not convinced that he was indeed a traitor in Constellation #27, which set up the beginning for Retcon Hour.

Retcon Hour, a parody of Zero Hour, was the biggest planned crossover the LNH has ever had. At least fourteen writers took part in it, it touched both the PULP and NTB imprints, and also was linked with the Omaha Project series. During the chaos involved with transferring the Looniverse from alt.comics.lnh to rec.arts.comics.creative, two Time Crappers (post and pre-Cry. Sig), and wReamicus Maximus (wielding the all-powerful Ring of Retcon) washed the Looniverse over with a number of retcons in order to take control of it. Contraption Man was revealed to be the traitor he had been sent to stop. The resurrected and vindicated Myk-El became the consort of the RACCelestial Madonna. After the dust settled a few heroes, like Sig. Lad, left for a new life. And some new heroes, like the Legion of Occult Heroes, joined the LNH.

A brain dead Dr. Killfile was totally obliterated in Looniverse Adrift and the supervillain Tsar Chasm appeared to die too. Pocket Man married Organic Lass in the first LNH wedding.

Post-retcon hour[edit]

In 1995 in Dvandom Force #48, Sig. Lad was killed by Squidman (formerly the LNHer called Squid Boy) to prevent a dystopian future where he would have killed the entire LNH.

In 1997 Tsar Chasm returned from the dead and it was revealed that he was posing as the LNHer Kid G. In 1998, Dr. Killfile also returned with no explanation of how he had cheated death in the pages of Teenfactor.

In 1999 in Tales of the LNH #370, Panta was retconned out of existence, sacrificing herself to save the Looniverse from the Collector.

In 2000, Hexadecimal Luthor became President of the Loonited States. [11] In 2004, he was re-elected. [12]

In March 2001, the city of Sig.ago was completely destroyed (it would eventually be restored). [13]

In July 2001, a number of LNHers were married including Deja Dude, Master Blaster and Sister State the Obvious, Innovative Offense Boy and Ordinary Lady, and Cheesecake Eater Lad and aLLiterative Lass [14]. Since then a few of them have become parents.

In the 2006 Mid-Term Election, Haiku Gorilla won a seat as Senator for the "floating" city of Net.ropolis. [15]

In 2007, the Ultimate Ninja decided to take a vacation which kicked off Infinite Leadership Crisis, a storyline in LNH Comics Presents written by nine writers. Every day in April, a different member of the LNH became leader and disappeared. There were 465 days in this Infinite April. The conclusion led to the Beige Countdown series, which counted down to the 2008 event Beige Midnight parodying the concept of never ending comic book events.

The legion[edit]

The headquarters of the LNH (called LNHHQ or LNHQ) is based in Net.ropolis and houses literally hundreds of members. The ever-expanding and out-of-control roster is one of the key conceits of the Legion. The team does lend itself nicely to several less unwieldy sub-groups.

The LNH are, for the most part, a privately funded but government-sanctioned team, responding to crises both cosmic and mundane; one sub-group, the TSK Force, is chosen to deal with minor annoyances.

Legionnaires (also known as LNHers or LNH'rs) are given free room and board at LNHQ, plus a small allowance for purchases. How one gains membership into the LNH depends on the author writing the story: many stories feature characters rejected by the Legion who go off to form their own teams; other stories, featuring much less powerful characters, find those characters accepted instantly.

LNHQ[edit]

Like physics and aging in the Looniverse as a whole, the features of LNHQ are mutable depending on who is writing the story. A general-use floor-plan is available, and there are a number of features that are generally consistent from interpretation to interpretation:

LNHQ as a building has many unusual properties. For example, its rooms expand to fit the number of people within the room, making for a building that is much larger inside than it appears outside (something akin to a TARDIS.) It possesses a nearly infinite number of sub-basements (each level identified by an additional "sub", as in, sub-sub-sub-sub-basement) which are host to a number of ghosts, supernatural creatures, kiwis, and a species of incredibly stupid bird known as the Oozelfinch.

Not only does LNHQ provide living space for its hundreds of members, but it also contains a multitude of ways for them to pass their downtime. The Peril Room is a training room akin to those used by many hero teams, fraught with boobytraps and holographic opponents. One of the unique features of the Peril Room is that, Bugtown-like, one cannot sustain lasting injury within; many stories pit a would-be legionnaire against the Ultimate Ninja in mortal combat: if they last more than a minute before he slices them in twain, then they are granted membership.

The LNH also has a more general-use holodeck and swimming pool. The Hall of Lost Heroes contains memorials to those who have fallen in battle. The Ultimate Ninja apparently has his own personal garden for meditation and tea, where he also grows his own supply of Ninja bush.

It has been hinted in some stories that LNHQ is itself sentient.[16]

WCs and NWCs[edit]

The original LNH characters have been designated as writer characters, or WCs. This is because these characters were intended largely as extensions of their authors' personalities; for example, Brian Perler says that he can easily remember useless information, but cannot retain useful facts: thus, he is Obscure Trivia Lad.

As the stories became more sophisticated, a number of non-writer characters, or NWCs, were created. Many LNH authors still have a character that serves as an author surrogate, but by-and-large the distinction between WCs and NWCs has blurred.

Some characters are owned by their creators or other writers; others are free for use by any writer.

The cast[edit]

Because the LNH is so large, to list all of its members in this article would be nearly impossible. What follows are a half-dozen characters whose names and concepts are the most essentially LNH-like.

  • Ultimate Ninja: the leader of the LNH, he possesses any ability that is construed as being oriental in nature. He is a master martial artist, a stern but effective leader, and uses maple seeds (or "Ninja Bush") to propel himself into a deadly rage. Part of the tension in the character is that, at any moment, at the drop of a hat, he could kill the entire Legion.
  • Cannon Fodder: possessing the ability to be killed, only to appear again in the next issue; no matter where he is killed, he always regenerates within the Peril Room.
  • Catalyst Lass: one of the Ninja's most trusted deputies, Cat possesses the ability to convince others to share her interests (thus being the catalyst for new hobbies and opinions). How she does this, and her general personality, is a point of contention: some authors write her as being very domineering, others as very sexy (or, for that matter, ditzy and frivolous), while some try to integrate all these various ideas.
  • Kid Recap: possessing the uncanny ability to recap what happened in previous stories.
  • Master Blaster: a chauvinist pig who uses "Mack Daddy Vibes" to seduce unsuspecting women. He is often seen using a large gun and spouting ridiculous opinions. His sexism has mellowed somewhat since his marriage to Sister State-the-Obvious, who—obviously—has the ability to state that which is obvious.
  • CAPTAIN CAPITALIZE: he speaks only in capital letters; this is a reference to bad netiquette.
  • Kid Kirby: a cosmic being with many untold cosmic powers and infallible wisdom, including the ability to be the tallest person in the room. These are derived from the Power Kirby. He also has an army of Kirbybots who often take his place in stories.

With the exception of Kid Kirby, all these characters occupy the large pool of characters who can be used freely by any writer, a possible reason for their popularity and the universe's general longevity.

Evolution[edit]

The LNH is not only a parody universe: over the last fourteen years, it has been expanded upon to include a number of stories, characters, tones, and spin-offs.

Series[edit]

Among the most acclaimed of the LNH canon are:

  • Aeneas and Ferris: K. M. Wilcox's elegiac and mysterious series chronicles the strange friendship of housemates Aeneas Boddy (an immortal net.villain) and Ferris "Deductive Logic Man" Jones (a member of the LNH).
  • Alt. Riders: Jamas Enright's straight superhero adventure series follows a team under the leadership of the mysterious and ruthless Agent. The Alt. Riders seek to assess and, if necessary, intercept, possible dangers to the Looniverse before they become a problem.
Dvandom Force, as drawn by the author, Dave Van Domelen.
  • Dvandom Force: Dave Van Domelen's series is a mixture of high drama, political intrigue, and anime-based parody. Probably one of the most admired series on RACC, it ended its run with issue # 100.
  • Easily-Discovered Man: Rob Rogers's series follows the green glowing radioactive net.hero, Professor Theodore Wong, who has the ability to be easily discovered. The series, narrated by his sidekick, Easily-Discovered Man Lite, is goofy but more character and situation-based than parody.
  • Limp-Asparagus Lad: Saxon Brenton's series starring the man with the powers and personality of limp asparagus. Like Martin Phipps in LNH, Brenton often addresses meta-fictional themes in this chronically late series.
  • LNH: One of the flagship titles of the LNH, it is one of the sillier series. Writer Martin Phipps often uses this series (and his other stories) to explore metafictional conceits, such as the relationship between an author and his fiction. The series was relaunched in 2005 as Legion of Net.Heroes Vol. 2, written by multiple authors.
  • LNH Triple Play: Joltin' Jeff McCoskey wrote this series, featuring "three-way team-ups" between superheroes. The comedy in the series was often gentle and character-based; it is also notable for giving deeper characterizations to one-note characters, such as Self-Righteous Preacher.
  • Misfits: Jennifer Whiston's dark, turbulent and emotional melodrama charts the supernatural adventures of Brittany, Payton, and Savannah: the Misfits.
  • Saviors of the Net: One of the most successful examples of a cascade story—a sort of round-robin style of fiction writing, only without any pre-planning or set order for authors to write in—this parody of Morrison's JLA and Busiek's Thunderbolts introduces a rival group of heroes who create a god-like being called The Mechanical Author in order to bring about a painless, utopian society. The Author took control of the Looniverse for a couple of years, although the LNH was completely unaware of this until the end of another cascade, Mutton Mania.
  • Tales of the LNH: Hubert Bartel's Panta walked a delicate line between extremes of sexiness, innocence, and violence, making her an extremely popular character, even after Bartels erased her from existence.
  • Writer's Block Woman (and Mouse): Jessica Ihimaera-Smiler's comedy series follows overly enthusiastic net.heroine Writer's Block Woman and her wise-cracking daughter-cum-sidekick, Mouse.

Spin-off imprints[edit]

  • The Net. Trenchcoat Brigrade: The NTB was the first and probably the most significant of all the LNH spin-offs. Like the LNH it sprang to life from a cascade [17]. The NTB consists of a bunch of trenchcoat wearing, chain-smoking bastards that are constantly manipulating people.
  • The PULP Imprint: Jeff McCoskey created the PULP Imprint to tell Pulp Fiction type tales set in the LNH's past. Agents of the Pulp is the flagship title of the imprint. It eventually expanded into telling stories beyond the scope of the LNH Imprint.
  • The LNH-Men Universe: Jeff McCoskey wrote an acclaimed series called The Golden LNH-Men which put a revamped version of the LNH into a dark grim and gritty Watchmen like Universe. Peter "Tick" Milan and Matthew "Badger" Rossi wrote a sequel to it called LNH-Men: The Silver Age.
  • League of Heroes: This was an imprint created by Ben Rawluk to tell stories set in an alternate universe called Earth B. This universe has been destroyed.
  • The Order of St. Doomas: This is a group of vigilantes that roams the Net hunting down sphammers. After rec.arts.comics.creative became moderated this imprint pretty much died down.
  • The RACCCafe: Not really a spin-off, but an out-of-continuity café where LNHers hang out along with other characters from the variety of RACC Imprints. It tends to be dominated by LNH characters though.
  • The LNH2 Imprint: An imprint created by Martin Phipps set in a possible LNH future.
  • The LNHY Imprint: An imprint created by Arthur Spitzer involving stories set in the Looniverse Y universe. Unlike the Classic Looniverse, each writer in this universe is allowed to have only one character in the LNH.
  • The LNH20 Imprint An imprint created by several LNH Writers to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the LNH.

Significance and legacy[edit]

With well over a thousand stories posted by over a hundred authors, the LNH is the predominant Usenet-based shared writing universe, and the most active of all the rec.arts.comics.creative universes. In May 1994, the estimated readership of alt.comics.lnh was 45,000. [18] The LNH has had writers from places as diverse as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the Philippines, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand write for it. It is an "open universe"—— meaning that anyone can join, providing they abide by basic netiquette and respect the intellectual property of others [19]—— and this openness is probably a key part of its continued life.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steve Librande (Wed, 6 May 1992 16:32:35 GMT). "NET: Brotherhood of Evil.Net.Villians". Newsgrouprec.arts.comics. Usenet: 1992May6.163235.7110@news.media.mit.edu.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Craig Thomas Judd (Fri, 8 May 92 00:19:01 GMT). "LNH Chapter I". Newsgrouprec.arts.comics. Usenet: 1992May8.001901.11375@cam.compserv.utas.edu.au.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

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