LNH: Web of Mainstream Man # 1
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 21 23:41:55 PST 2006
WEB OF MAINSTREAM MAN # 1
"A Hero Needs A Weakness"
BY TOM RUSSELL
Mainstream Man makes his way down the hallway, a
stack of comic books in tow. On his way to the
lounge, he happens across one of his colleagues.
The LNHer That Anyone Can Edit waves, smiling
"Aren't you supposed to be a vending machine?"
inquires Mainstream Man. [*--See LEGION OF NET. HEROES
vol. 2, no. 11 for more details.]
WikiBoy's smile fades. "Nice seeing you, too." He
begins to walk away, brusquely.
"Wait!" says Mainstream Man. "I didn't mean it
WikiBoy stops and pivots, bringing himself face to
face with Mainstream Man. "How did you mean it,
"Well, it's just-- I just got used to you being a
vending machine, is all," begins Mainstream Man. "And
now, I got to get used to you not being a vending
WikiBoy blinks. "That doesn't make any sense."
Mainstream Man hugs his comics close to his body.
He does not return WikiBoy's gaze. "Sarcastic Lad is
a jerk, and he always will be. Master Blaster will
always hit on women and blow stuff up. Wolverine
always goes SNIKT and Nightcrawler always goes BAMF!
These are things I can depend on."
"Things that you're used to."
"Like me being a vending machine."
"Exactly," says Mainstream Man. "Sarcastic Lad:
jerk, Master Blaster: pig, WikiBoy: vending machine.
But now you changed. Next thing you know, Rebel Yell
will come back... the Republicans will stop screwing
up the country... the New Kids On The Block will make
WikiBoy sees that Mainstream Man is getting all
worked up, and cuts in, gently, calmly: "Personally?
That doesn't bother me. Well... okay. Maybe the
NKOTB thing. But change in general? No.
"My power is to have any aspect of myself altered
by any person. So the only constant in life, the only
thing I can depend on, is change. Well, that and
"You need a sunnier outlook," says Mainstream Man.
"You should be more happy-go-lucky."
Suddenly, WikiBoy smiles widely and begins to
tap-dance. "Is this any better?"
"More Astaire, less Kelly."
WikiBoy suddenly finds himself garbed in an elegant
suit with a top hat and tails. His dancing becomes
"That's much better," says Mainstream Man, now
continuing on his way.
WikiBoy dances and, with a twinkling smile, says:
"I hate my life."
Today is Wednesday, which means that Mainstream Man
sets his stack of comics on an end-table in the LNH HQ
lounge and sits in his Wednesday chair. He grabs the
first comic from his stack, and begins to read.
It's the latest issue of the New Adventists, the
first part of a twelve-part crossover pitting both the
New Adventists and the Young Adventists against the
classic Adventists foe, Logik, self-styled God of
The first page depicts the American Icon in the
kitchen, making coffee. His teammate, Sweet
Christmas!, enters with a Mr. Paprika in hand.
`You want some coffee?' offers American Icon.
`I don't drink coffee,' says Sweet Christmas!
`Because it's made out of a beans.'
`So, I ain't drinking no beans.'
`Would you drink green beans? Or baked beans?'
`I rest my case. I don't like drinking no beans.'
He takes a sip of his Mr. Paprika.
`But you're drinking a soda,' points out American
`I ain't drinking no soda. This is a pop.'
`That's the same thing,' says American Icon. `Both
words mean the same thing.'
`Both words might refer to the same thing,' says
Sweet Christmas! `But both don't mean the same thing.
"Man" and "guy" both refer to the same thing-- a
human male-- but they don't mean nearly the same
thing. Pop is a very masculine word. Soda's kind of
`Now, that's a man's pop. And:
`Now, that's a man's soda. You see the
`I guess,' concedes American Icon. `Soda, pop,
whichever it is-- it's still made with beans. Just
`You telling me this is made of beans?'
`Cola beans, yeah.'
Sweet Christmas! pours the rest of his Mr. Paprika
in the sink.
`You aren't going to finish your...?'
`I ain't drinking no beans.'
Mainstream Man flips ahead and discovers that this
scene continues for five additional pages. He sighs.
"What's the problem, me bucko?"
Mainstream Man looks up from his comic book to see
Sarcastic Lad entering the lounge with Pocket Man. He
explains his consternation with his comic book's
"Just think," says the caustic crusader. "Years
ago, you could read a comic and expect some semblance
of a plot. How wonderful to read twenty-two pages in
which absolutely nothing happens."
"You know," begins Pocket Man diplomatically,
"there are better comic books out there, MM. I have
some with me if you want to..." Pocket Man pulls out
some black-and-white autobiographical indulgences from
his many-pocketed suit.
"I'll have you know this very series won an
Eisner!" says Mainstream Man.
Pocket Man returns the comix to one of his pockets,
pulls some twenty-sided dice and a game-master's
screen from another, and turns his attention to
Sarcastic Lad. "Where's Elvis Man?"
"I dunno, Pok," says Sarcastic Lad. "I'm sure he
and Master Blaster will be strolling in any moment
"I told Ori I'd be home by eight..."
The voices trail off as Mainstream Man's focus
becomes more intent on the comic book in his hands.
The panels, the captions, the dialogue balloons, the
figures, the colours: they surround him like water,
cold, clear, loving...
Even the Ultimate Ninja himself has marveled at
and, yes, envied, Mainstream Man's monk-like
concentration in these moments. It is only broken,
albeit momentarily, when he has finished the New
Adventists and it is time to grab the next book in his
"... our village," Pocket Man's voice breaks in,
and with it, the rest of the world. By this time,
Elvis Man and Master Blaster have joined Pok and Sarc
for their weekly game.
"I say, let the disease kill them," says Sarcastic
"Sarc," says Pocket Man with a sigh. "You're doing
it again. Please. Play your character correctly."
"What's incorrect about it?" says Sarcastic Lad.
"I'm a ranger. I'm in tune with nature, right?"
"Right," concedes Pocket Man.
"So they cleared a bunch of land to make room for
the village, probably killed a lot of homeless
animals. I say, the village dies, the forest reclaims
the land, than harmony is restored. I'd say I'm
playing my character very well."
Pocket Man begins to say something, but it is lost
as Mainstream Man cracks open this month's issue of
Justice Mind-Wipers of America.
After he finishes his JMWA, Mainstream Man grabs
the next comic from his stack. Mainstream Man
freezes. There is something wrong with this cover.
The drawing style is very flat and geometric. There
are no capes, no tights, on any of the balding, pudgy
figures with the sad-sack expressions. They are
dwarfed over by simple sky-scrapers. The title of
this comic is Fuchsia Grab-bag Surprise.
With a sense of mounting dread, Mainstream Man's
eyes dart to the logo. It's not a Marvel Comic. Not
DC. Not Image. Not even Dark-horse.
Pretentious Cartoonist Collective.
With a shriek of terror, Mainstream Man tosses this
over-sized tome as far away from him as he can.
Pocket Man and the others turn and look at him, and
then at the comic.
"How..." Mainstream Man struggles for breath,
clutching at his hair, shaking. "How... I didn't...
that was in my stack!"
Pocket Man picks it up.
"Very curious," he says.
"It was in my stack," says Mainstream Man again.
"How did it get there?"
"You couldn't have bought it," says Pocket Man,
flipping it open. "Your power is to not buy it. So
it follows that someone planted it there. The
question is, who? And why?"
"These comics haven't been out of my sight," says
Mainstream Man. "Not since I picked them up at the
comic book store."
"Then that is where our inquiry shall begin," says
Pocket Man. "Let's hurry and get over there before
"And before you miss your curfew," says Sarc.
Master Blaster begins laughing. "You are whipped!"
He imitates the cracking of a whip with his mouth.
Pocket Man procures a device from his suit and
presses a large red button. Master Blaster disappears
in a flash of light.
Pocket Man pulls a bottle out of another pocket.
Inside is Master Blaster, reduced to six inches in
height. He bangs against the glass, but to no avail.
"Now, my friend," says Pocket Man, turning to
Mainstream Man. "Let's get cracking, shall we?"
"I..." Mainstream Man looks to his stack of comics.
"Today is Wednesday."
"And your shop will be closing soon, I suspect. So
let's get going, huh?"
"But... I haven't finished reading my comics," says
Mainstream Man. "Today is Wednesday, and I'm in my
Wednesday chair. I don't get out of my Wednesday
chair until I'm done reading my comics."
"If we wait until tomorrow, then the trail will get
cold," says Pocket Man. "Can't you finish reading
them after we're done?"
Mainstream Man looks at his knee-caps.
"All right," says Pocket Man. "Tomorrow, then."
It's around noon when Pocket Man and Mainstream Man
depart for the comic book store. Sarcastic Lad and
Elvis Man decide to tag along.
Mainstream Man didn't sleep well, which was
especially unnerving because his sleep regiment had
always been very strict, very regular. Even his
morning bowel movement was late. The world was coming
apart at its seams.
"For every mystery," reassures Pok, "there is an
"What about Quantum Entanglement?" quips Sarcastic
"Ignore him," says Pocket Man.
But Mainstream Man is not reassured. He crosses
his arms tight against his chest.
What about Quantum Entanglement?
THE COMIC BOOK STORE
"Excuse me," says Pocket Man, getting the attention
of the owner, "but we have a question."
"Yeah," says Elvis Man. "Where're all your records
"Actually," says Pocket Man, "we have a question
about a sales transaction that took place between
three-thirteen and three-nineteen yesterday afternoon.
"Specifically," continues Pocket Man, "this
magazine, sold to this customer." Pocket Man presents
the issue of Fuchsia Grab-bag Surprise and Mainstream
Man to the owner.
Sarcastic Lad pipes up, "How dare you sell such
filth to my son! What kind of sick mind draws this
kind of stuff, anyway? Aren't comics supposed to be
"Your friend's a wise-ass," says the owner.
"Yeah?" says Sarc. "My ass craps more wisdom daily
than your head does."
"That doesn't even make sense."
"Well, why don't you think on it, then?"
A pause. "I did. It..."
"Thought I smelt something burning."
"... it still doesn't make any sense. You think
you're real clever, don't you?"
"If we can get back to..." begins Pocket Man.
"You only amuse yourself," says the owner.
Sarc narrows his eyes, returning the owner's gaze.
"Yeah, well... I'm not even going to waste any more on
"That's because you're out of ammo."
"I keep looking at your ugly face? I'll never run
out of material."
"You're mixing metaphors."
"Then I guess you better call me the mix-master."
"No, I think I'll call you Maya Angelou."
"You trying to out-snark me?" says Sarc.
"Trying? No, my friend. I'm not trying."
"You want to take this outside?"
"Why? You want to tango?"
"Tango's not my style. You got some clogs?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm really into clog-dancing. I'm like
Michael Flattery. Lord of the dance. But..."
"But with clogs."
"Here, here's some clogs, then," says Pocket Man,
pulling two pairs out of his suit. "Now, can we
please get back to this...?"
"I came to pick up my comics yesterday," says
Mainstream Man. "And this title was there."
"You're part of our pull-list, right?" says the
"Yes, I am. Mainstream Man."
"Right, right. Let me check..."
Our heroes (and the intrepid owner) turn and look
at Elvis Man.
"Peanut butter, banana..."
"Did... did he just break my...? Oh, you are so
totally paying for this..."
"We have insurance," says Pocket Man, going to his
suit to procure the card. The Ultimate Ninja will not
"Mainstream Man, here we are," says the owner,
printing up a couple of pages from his computer.
"And... if you look at the bottom of the list...
there's Fuchsia Grab-bag."
"Did you say Fuchsia Grab-ass?" snickers Sarc.
"No," says the owner evenly. "I said Fuchsia
"This isn't possible," says Mainstream Man.
"There's no way I could have bought that comic."
"Oh, come on," says the owner. "It's not that bad.
A little self-indulgent, perhaps, a little
self-consciously artsy, but..."
"I mean, I'm physically incapable of buying an
"Not really," says Sarc. "We're just pretending so
he gets disability."
"Think on it."
A pause. "I did. I don't..."
"Exactly," says the owner.
"Looking at this list," says Pocket Man, "it
appears that it's in alphabetical order. Yet the
title in question occupies the bottom of the list."
He hands it to the owner, who stares at it. He
swallows and wets his mouth with the tip of his
"Don't have an answer to that one, do you?" says
"No, I don't," says the owner.
"You've still got me and little Tommy, together
we'll find a brand new mommy!"
Pocket Man and his crew turn to the source of the
voice and see Elvis Man, tears streaming down his
eyes, brandishing a gun. "Change the channel! This
one makes me cry!" It's a moment's distraction, but
that's all the owner needs. He makes a break for the
"Everybody duck!" says Sarc. He deftly flings a
clog through the air, striking the owner in the back
of the skull.
"Quack, quack," says the owner. He falls to the
ground with a thud.
The owner awakens, secured to the chair behind his
cash register with some extra-long USB cords Pocket
Man had found in his suit. "Tell us what you know,"
says Pocket Man.
"Two and two are four. Four and four are eight."
"I don't think you appreciate the seriousness of
your situation," says Pocket Man. "Now's not the time
to be fooling around."
"And I thought you tied me up because you were
getting in the mood."
"Damn, this guy is annoying," says Sarc. "Doesn't
he ever shut up?"
Pocket Man, Mainstream Man, and Elvis Man all
exchange glances before directing their gaze to
Sarcastic Lad. They try not to laugh.
Just then, a greasy-looking fan-boy comes into the
store. He looks around and turns to the owner. He
sees the net.heroes crowded around him. "Am I
"No," the net.heroes say, shrugging.
"What can I do for you?" says the owner. Pocket
Man pivots the chair so that he is facing the
"Where are all your action figures at?"
"We don't carry any action figures," says the
owner, testily. "We're a comic book store."
"Your statues, then?"
"We're a comic book store."
"Well, where are your collectible card games, your
dice, your role-playing books...?"
Suddenly, the fan-boy disappears. Pocket Man pulls
a bottle out of his suit.
"If you let me keep him," says the owner, "I'll
tell you want you want to know."
Pocket Man thinks for a moment. Eh, what's one
less kid playing Magic and hoarding action figures he
never plays with? "It's a deal," he says, placing the
bottle back in one of his pockets. "Assuming your
information is trust-worthy."
"It's true that you didn't buy this comic," says
the owner to Mainstream Man. "It was sitting in your
pull-box, but you weren't charged for it. I was asked
to plant a copy there."
"I don't know his name," says the owner. "But he
paid for it."
"Have you seen him before?"
"He comes in maybe once a month, sometimes twice.
Very casual, just gets one or two comics. Indie
stuff... or, borderline indie. You know, superhero
stuff, but small press. About thirty-five,
thirty-six, maybe. Black hair. Long nose. Other
than that, features are pretty normal, you know,
nothing stands out. Actually... looks... looks a bit
like you, now that I think about it."
"A bit like me?" says Mainstream Man.
"Yeah. Maybe he's your brother or something."
"No, I'm an only child," says Mainstream Man.
"He didn't seem sinister about it or anything."
"Then why did you bolt?" says Pocket Man.
"I love you, Amanda," says Elvis Man, cradling a
box of back issues and rocking back and forth. "I
love you. Get mad at me, Amanda! Get mad!"
"Answer me," says Pocket Man. "Why did you run?
Why did you add this title to his pull-list after the
fact? Who are you covering up for? And why?"
"Do these pants make me look fat?" demands
The owner sweats under the barrage of questions and
"Not the bottle trick again," says Mainstream Man.
"No, that wasn't me," says Pocket Man. "Look!"
He points to the chair the owner had been sitting
on. Its brown imitation leather seat is marked by a
hastily-drawn purple oval. Pocket Man touches the
circle with his fingers. He sniffs them.
TIME: A Mystery Need Clues
Mainstream Man was created by Marc A. Nicol. He's a
public domain character, but I'd like to reserve him
for the time being, if there are no objections...?
Pocket Man, Sarcastic Lad, and Elvis Man were created
by Gary St. Lawrence. All are not reserved.
Master Blaster was created by Martin Phipps, and was
restored to normal size once the joke had (quickly)
lost its novelty. He is not reserved.
WikiBoy was created by myself, and is currently
(C) COPYRIGHT 2006 TOM RUSSELL.
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