META/LNH: Come back, giant robot...

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Wed Nov 23 21:56:48 PST 2005


   I know that the RACCies/ACCies nominations are
supposed to be made in private, and after December,
but I feel particularly strongly at this moment about
my nominee for the Johnny Sako "Come Back, Giant
Robot, Come Back" Loving Cup-- for the LNHer that is
most sorely missed.  So, I'm going to share.  Curl up
by the fire, children, and let ol' Tom Russell
   There are lots of LNH writers who are deeply
missed, and really, a case could be made for any one
of them: wReam, who gave us about half the Legion's
active roster, including the Ultimate Ninja; Hubert
Bartles, who gave us Panta; Steven Howard gave us Tsk
Force, Ben Rawluck the Teens in Trenchcoats and the
Net.Titans, Jen Whiston the Misfits.  And many, many
others who I leave out only in the interest of
   The thing that all these luminaries, including
those unnamed, have in common is that they deeply
enriched the fabric of the LNH universe.  Some were
there at the beginning and defined what is, for me,
the "classic" LNH story.  Some took things into bold,
new, and often dark directions, paving the way for
serious material that still fits comfortably under the
Legion's bumbershoot.  Others built on what had come
before and, carefully, tended to the continuing growth
and health of the LNH.  Fourteen years next May, and
still there are people caring about it.  It's because
of these people, and I miss them all.
   But right now, the LNH author that I'm missing the
most acutely, whose loss I personally feel the
deepest?  K. M. Wilcox.

   My favourite Wilcox series is AENEAS AND FERRIS,
which was written in 1993 and posted to
rec.arts.comics.misc and alt.comics.lnh.  Aeneas is
Aeneas Boddy, an immortal net.villain.  Ferris is
Ferris Jones-- Deductive Logic Man of the LNH.  The
basic premise of the series is that they share a
mansion in the suburbs of Net.ropolis.  Take a moment
to think about how weird this is: a net.villain and a
net.hero live together in a mansion.  If it's a weird
concept for the reader, it's not to the two men
themselves.  It's all perfectly natural.
   But then again, these are two very strange men. 
Aeneas has a severe sort of phobia/dislike of
cigarette smoke.  A pipe sends him into another room,
rocking back and forth, calming himself with taxonomy;
a rude man with a cigar inspires violence-- or, at
least, a dream of violence.  Ferris admits that he
never knew that the big yellow ball of gas the Earth
rotates around is called the sun: "It just never
seemed important."  Both men act more like children
than men, and they take a giddy, child-like delight in
each other's company.
   The charm of the series lies in this relationship,
and also in the way it is presented to the reader;
we're never reminded that their behaviour and living
arrangement is in the least bit strange.  Rather, it
feels like the characters are telling their story to
each other, and just using third person because it is
convenient to do so.
   A lot of information is withheld from the reader;
in fact, if you haven't read the SYSTEM CORRUPTERS
story in which Aeneas Boddy makes his first
appearance, you probably won't figure out that he is
immortal until issue three.  And his status as a
villain is only hinted at very obliquely in the first

   <<A few minutes later, Ferris returns.  "I invited
the Oris over for a small party next week."
   "What?  I thought we weren't going to have a
party," Aeneas protests.  "I told Trivia Master
earlier that you didn't want one."
   "Oh, it's just as well... The LNH together and in a
party mood is a very dangerous sight, especially if
someone discovers who you are," Ferris concedes.  "Oh,
did you get the computer files altered in case Trivia
Master checks?"
   "Yes.  Aeneas Boddy now attended the University of
Switzerland from 1985 to 1989 and has been conducting
research in Iowa since late 1991.">>

   Things aren't spelled out, but the series doesn't
feel like it's being cute, or playing games, or being
deliberately ambiguous.  The world of Aeneas and
Ferris is so insular that it only really includes
Aeneas and Ferris: and both of them all ready know who
Aeneas Boddy really is.
   In the second issue, at the dinner party alluded to
in the above quotation, the mysterious Mr. Smythe
makes an appearance.  Mr. Smythe is, in actuality,
Rushie Samaugh, a Salman Rushdie analogue.  This is
never spelt out explicitly, and it's not until after a
pair of would be assassins show up that one even
begins to make the connection.  The first time we meet
Samaugh is at the dinner party, and there is no plot
dump, no paragraph of exposition to let us know why
these men, called the Congress of Our World, want to
kill him.  In fact, Aeneas calls them
environmentalists.  So it might be that he's a Rush
Limbaugh parody, especially with a reference to the
radio in issue 8.  I'd like to think it's some kind of
perverse mixture of both.
   All this information is denied to the reader
because Aeneas and Ferris know it all ready.  They
know who Rushie is.  They take it for granted.  It's
not important; it's the sun.
   Usually, this kind of thing is irritating as hell. 
My first rule when I'm writing something is to try and
communicate to my readers as clearly and
straight-forwardly as possible.  I see no reason to
confuse them.  This kind of thing, which occurs again
and again in the series, should be incredibly
confusing and frustrating.  It should not work.  But
it does, and that's because, once again, it's
perfectly in-line with the characters.

   Another thing that works, but shouldn't?  The
montages.  In many issues, there is a sequence where
Aeneas puts on some music.  What music?  None is
specified.  And that's because the real music is in
the words, in the hypnotic and stark, repetitive
cadences of many, many short sentences.  Aeneas does
this.  Aeneas does that.  A chorus.  Aeneas does
another thing.  Ferris does something.  Another
chorus.  It builds and it builds, a heap of mysterious
and monotonous action.  Not really style, and it
doesn't seem to have substance, but it does.  Oh,
trust me, reader, it does!  These are magical,
transportive moments.  If they don't work for you, try
reading them aloud.  Don't read it like George
Guidall, but read it like the pope giving mass.  It's
not prose, it's not poetry, it's incantation; it's

   AENEAS AND FERRIS is the LNH's great love story. 
No, I'm not reading homosexual undercurrents in the
series.  It's a completely asexual love, like the bond
one has with a childhood chum.  It's as strong as the
one between Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, only they have a
huge mansion to live in and no Aunt Sallys.  Or
   In the fifth issue, Aeneas raises a race of highly
intelligent cockroaches.  He gives the excuse of
trying to take over a third-world country, but clearly
means it as a joke; Ferris screams and severs his
friend's arm with a bowler hat.  Aeneas ignores the
injury and instead picks up the hat, dropping it "a
safe distance from Ferris".  He doesn't really give a
reason for giving these cockroaches intelligence;
maybe he has a reason he doesn't understand, or
perhaps he just thought, hey, why don't I give
intellect to cockroaches?  He is oblivious of the
consequences of his actions: rogue cockroaches invade
the compound housing Ferris's fleas.  Only Rambug, a
one-roach army, can save the day.  (He ends up blowing
up the basement, killing all the other roaches except
Al and Peg Buggy.)

   It's with the fifth issue that the series really
shifts into overdrive.  I like the first four issues--
or "Book One" as the Trade Ether Back is called-- I
like them a lot.  They are subtle and strange and
lovely, and those that follow are less obscure in
style, more likely to include some unneeded
exposition.  But it would be boorish to trumpet the
first four at the expense of the rest of the series,
which is really quite funny, quite exhilerating.
   The cockroach story is madcap, and a crowd pleaser:
some of the pun names are absolutely delightful (I
especially like Peter Jenninsect).  Issue six
re-introduces Colleen, one of the attendees from the
dinner party, and establishes the first real hint of
actual romance.  What's extraordinary is that this
does not contradict or supplant the tone from the
previous issues.  In this very same issue, Aeneas
decides to cut his immortal body exactly in half to
see if both sides would regenerate.  Ferris, who seems
to have a better sense of cause and effect (he is,
after all, Deductive Logic Man) warns him that there
might be consequences.  Aeneas does it anyway,
spawning an evil half, Achilles.
   Achilles, of course, is the one that actively
romances Colleen; it is revealed that Aeneas is a
virgin, and while Achilles says he passed out after
one drink, it's hinted that he has consummated the
relationship with Colleen in a scene when he refers to
his better half as "Virgin Boy".  After Achilles has
robbed a jewelry store and seemingly threatened
Colleen, Aeneas lowers him into a vat of molten iron. 
Achilles had adult anger, has probably had sex, does
not have a sense of humour or fun: Achilles is
threatening to grow up, and Aeneas kills him for it. 
(Well... sort of.)

   And this story is not in the least bit contrived:
Aeneas Boddy *would* cut his body in half to try and
grow another Boddy, just out of curiosity, just
because the whim strikes.  Aeneas is a very compelling
character.  They both are.
   Kevin Wilcox's work on Ferris Jones is nothing
short of incredible.  Deductive Logic Man was created
by wReam, whose characters, while strong and often
very funny, were never exactly "well-rounded".  But
they didn't have to be.  All-Knowing Last-Chance
Whiner Destiny Woman, Cannon Fodder, Cheesecake Eater
Lad, Hamster Man, Special Bonding Boy: they're all gag
characters.  Now, don't get me wrong: I love wReam's
work, JUNGLE CHEESECAKE is a masterpiece, and, like it
or not, gag characters is what the LNH was all about,
at least at the beginning.  Most of the early gag
characters have gotten deeper treatment as time has
gone on.  And Deductive Logic Man was one of these.
   Wilcox took a gag character and made him more than
a gag.  He made him weird, and lovable, and intriguing
and interesting.  He made him one of the strongest
characters to ever come out of the LNH universe, and
certainly one of the strongest to come out of that
period.  And I would say that, reading it now, in
2005, I find that AENEAS AND FERRIS is still one of
the strongest series.

   Kevin Wilcox was more than just a good writer
though (is!  is more than just a good writer!  just
because he hasn't been seen in these parts for some
years doesn't mean the man is dead, this isn't a
eulogy!).  He was a kind and helpful human being.  He
helped me with some of my early, admittedly infantile
stories.  He explained some early LNH continuity for
me, as did Saxon Brenton and Kieran O'Callaghan.  He
introduced me to Dr. Who and various other pop culture
phenomenon from both sides of the Atlantic.
   He is a good writer, a damn decent human being, and
a man I still consider-- seven odd years since I last
heard from him-- a friend.
   I miss him dearly.

--Tom Russell

Start your day with Yahoo! - Make it your home page!

More information about the racc mailing list