LNH/META: How to Write Mainstream Man

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Fri May 12 22:43:19 PDT 2006

by Marc A. Nicol, Jameel Al-Khafiz, Gary St. Lawrence,
Josh Geurink, Jeff Barnes, Hubert Bartles, Robert W.
Armstrong, Sean Christian Daughtery, Steven Howard,
Jamas Enright and Saxon Brenton


   Some characters have all the luck, being birthed by
an author who will shower them with love and
affection, slowly developing their personality over
time and throwing that personality into sharp relief
in moments shining with (to quote Michael Chabon)
epiphanic dew.  Others are abandoned by their authors,
either because those authors move on, or because they
never intended to invest time in the character in the
first place.
   Many of the characters created in the initial LNH
thread fall into the latter group.  And that's no
fault to their creators: how were they to know that
the glory that was to come?  Still, some of these
orphans have been marked by extraordinary luck. 
Sometimes, the right writer looking for the right
character comes across our orphan and adopts them,
developing them into a classic and beloved
   Other times, several writers are enamored of a
single character, and thus the portrait that emerges
from their combined efforts is rich and multivariate. 
But some of the old WCs/gag characters don't have this
luck.  They are ignored and unloved, and have been
waiting fourteen long years for someone to come by and
dust them off, make them sparkle.
   If I was a more egotistical author, I would love to
say that Mainstream Man was one of these, and that I
took it upon myself to make him shine.  And the
general consensus on Mainstream Man has been that he's
never really been developed, that he has no real
personality beyond his gag.  And this is simply
   Over the last fourteen years, a number of authors
have put their own unique stamp on Marc A. Nicol's
writer character, developing him in a number of
exciting ways.  Nothing I've written has really added
to that in any substantial way, and this compendium
endeavors to prove just that.
   These excerpts are by no means all-inclusive. 
Mainstream Man has had a few appearances similar to
the ones below, has been on hand to ask questions to
further a plot, and was part of the Public Domain
Caper.  These excerpts were chosen specifically to
illustrate various aspects of his personality, how
those developments were developed later on by other
authors, and how they were extrapolated from the post
that started it all.
   [My comments in brackets.]

MAY 5, 1992 (Marc A. Nicol)

   Hi!  I'm Mainstream Man, who, despite reading and
enjoying many a non-spandex title, seems physically
unable to buy an independent book...

[I'm the same way myself.  I like some indie stuff,
but I for one am afraid of being disappointed.  I
don't want to shell out three or four bucks and have
something that I don't enjoy.  At the same time, I
know for a fact that most superhero comics are going
to be disappointing to me.  So why do I buy
   I think it comes down to, with a superhero comic,
with the confines of that genre, I know what to
expect.  It might be disappointing, but it'll be
disappointing in a way that I'm familiar and to some
degree comfortable with.  With an indie comic: who
   Really, I think I'm afraid of change, and I tried
to incorporate that in my writing of Mainstream Man.]

COMICS CONNECTION # 1 (Jameel Al-Khafiz)

   "Mainstream Man!" Lost Cause Boy called out to the
nearest net.hero.  "Help me!  Grab my comics before
they're lost!"
   "I-I can't!" Mainstream Man answered.  "There's
independents in there!  Don't let them touch me!"

[Here Mainstream Man seems deathly afraid of
independent comics: a far cry from "reading and
enjoying many a non-spandex title".  This is a
reduction of the character's initial concept, and it
eliminates the tension of that concept.  Initially,
Mainstream Man likes indie comics but can't bring
himself to plop down the cash for one.  Still, this
reduction opens the door for further development along
these lines...]


... while Fanboy King hypnotized Marvel_Zombie Boy and
Mainstream Man with pretty holograms, shiny prisms,
and collector's edition cards.

[Here, Mainstream Man is characterized as not only
being afraid of indie comics, but also of being
enamored with the fanboy excesses of the nineties.  It
is the first introduction of Mainstream Man's popular
(and dubious) tastes, setting him up as a figure of


   While flying above Dick Giordano Avenue, [Pocket
Man] spotted Mainstream Man, one LNHer that hadn't
been seen in action for quite awhile.  Swooping down
to land next to the
buyer-of-anything-but-independents, Pocket Man asked
MM if he'd be willing to help find CluelessMaster.
   "Naaah," said Mainstream Man.  "What do I care
about that bum?  I've never seen him in anything by DC
or Marvel."

[The concept of Mainstream Man as Comics-Snob Boy in
reverse.  Saint develops Jameel's satirical take on MM
further here.  Now, not only is he afraid of indie
comics, but he's also disdainful of them, feeling

   "But," Pocket Man interjected, "he comes from a
direct rip-off of a long-established DC villain AND he
just murdered one of the Image Comics artists!"
   "Oh yeah?" the traditional comics marvel asked. 
"Which one?"
   "Uhh, it was that Fraud McLiefield kid," Pocket Man
explained.  "You know, the original Mr.
   "Oh yeah," Mainstream Man said.  "I hated that
kid's work.  All his characters looked like they had
Neuro-Fibromatosis in their legs!  But, a murder is a
murder and murder is a crime and I'm sworn to fight
crime.  So let's go get this CluelessMaster punk!"

[At this point in time, Mainstream Man has no use for
Image and it's substance-over-style approach, which
seems in some respects to be in opposition to his love
of holograms and their ilk.  I'd posit that Mainstream
Man is suffering from a severe case of brand loyalty:
later, he'll come to realize that Image is really no
different from Marvel and DC, and he'll accept Image
_and_ its bad art.] 

ALL THINGS DARK AND SCARY # 2.5 (Josh Geurink)

   "He asked you to get WHAT?!?" Deja Dude asked
   Mainstream Man just shrugged.  "He said a handful
of someone named Elvis Man's sequins.  I've never
heard of him before."  MSM picked up the latest issue
of JLA and started reading.  "You know, I REALLY don't
like the Flash's black costume..."


   "One thing still bothers me, though," Grammer Lad
stood up from the back of the room, near the
all-you-can-eat salad bar.  "If there is no Elvis Man,
then where did Mainstream Man get those sequins?"
   The mainstream avenger, never once looking up from
his comic, just shrugged again.  "Aw, I just grabbed a
handful of ice from the fridge.  Why, does it make a

[It's here that the idea originates that Mainstream
Man doesn't really pay attention to his surroundings
or care about what's going on.  He's completely
absorbed within the pages of his comic book.]

BLAZE OF GLORY (Jeff Barnes)

   "Look at this!" Mainstream Man shouted with glee
from one corner.  The LNH gathered around to discover
the entire run of Liefeld NEW MUTANTS.
   "Burn them," Comics-Snob Boy said disdainfully.
   "No, I found them!  They're MINE!!!"
   "You know the policy, MM," Ultimate Ninja said
patiently.  He referred to the so-called Obscure
Trivia Lad clause recently added to the LNH charter. 
After OTL's apparent death, the LNH had divided up his
possessions.  Upon his return, he had experienced
problems getting some of his things back (especially
his comics).
   Mainstream Man sighed.  "Yeah, I know.  We box his
stuff and put it in the sub-sub-sub basement."  He
slid issue 87 back into its mylar bag mournfully.

[Mournfully.  Tee-hee.]

TALES OF THE LNH # 294 (Hubert Bartles)

   Mainstream Man fell to his knees in front of the
tatters of BloodKitty # 1.  "AARRRRRGGHHHHH!" he cried
out, "That was the last M/NM copy of BK # 1 in
Net.ropolis!  And he ruined it!  He devalued it. 
It's..." He held up the tiny pieces and tried to fit
them together.  "It's fallen all the way to VG!  It's
worthless.  I'm ruined."
   "Is there anything we can do?" asked Organic Lass,
getting up and walking over to the luckless man who
could not buy a non-mainstream comic.
   "Where, oh where am I going to find another copy?"
Mainstream Man sobbed.
   "How about the 32nd Annual Net.ropolis Comics
Convention?  They'll be plenty of dealers there.  I'm
sure you can find another copy of BloodKitty at the
Image booth."
   "Really?" Mainstream Man said, hopefully.  "Even
Image is coming?"
   "I'm pretty sure.  Besides, you might get it signed
too.  I heard that Steed and Hyde are coming, along
with 501 and Todd, and all sorts of people."
   "Really?" Mainstream Man said in a doubtful voice. 
He wiped a tear from his eye.
   "You ARE hopeless," Organic Lass finally said,
walking back to her table.

[As we can see, by this point and time, Mainstream Man
is just as devoted to Image as he is to Marvel and DC.
 Hubert Bartles was a great synthesizer, and several
of the threads we've seen earlier are brought together
and developed further in TALES OF THE LNH.
   Mainstream Man's emotional investment in his comic
books, as seen in the above-quoted BLAZE OF GLORY
("mournfully"), turns into full-blown histrionics. 
The depiction of Mainstream Man as a standard issue
MYSTERY) is further developed as he adopts collector
jargon, worrying about the financial worth of his

U-FORCE ANNUAL (Mystic Mongoose)

   "Well, look who's here.  Captain Wannabe."
   D**n.  It's Mainstream Man.  What a *jerk*.  Sure,
he's nice when all the other LNHers are around.  But
he hates us extra-dimensional travelers for some
unknown reason.  Even Self-Righteous Preacher isn't
this bad, and S-RP knows I'm agnostic.  I'm *not*
going to enjoy this.
   "What do *you* want, Mainstream Man?"
   He glares at me.  "I'm here to watch the basketball
game, so shut the f*** up."  He grabbed the remote
control from my hand and changed the channel.
   "Hey!  I was watching that!" I grabbed the remote
back.  Not necessarily the smartest move I've ever
made, but I'm getting sick of being a punching bag. 
The words are coming out of my mouth now, after some
major tongue-loosening by my good friend, Mr.
   "Look, get out of my face."
   "Or what?" sneered the LNHer.  This cocky kid was
getting on my nerves realllly fast.  "You gonna hit me
or something?"
   "D*** straight I will!  I don't have to put up with
any crap from you, just because you have powers."
   "Go ahead then, buddy.  Take yer best shot."  He
stood there, smiling, eyes closed.  Boy, is this guy
asking for it.  I haul back my fist, hoping that I
hadn't seriously underestimated this guy.  But just
before I swing, I notice I still have a lump of
spinach stuck between my teeth.  The whole situation
strikes me as ludicrous-- here I am, about to punch a
guy with body armor and super-powers, who's probably
quite capable of wiping the floor with me, and I'm
worried over a lousy hunk of saliva-coated vegetable? 
Well, no hurry.  I swallow deeply, getting the spinach
down my throat... and then bring my fist ramming
forward into his jaw.
   He goes sprawling across the room, through the
wall... and the next wall... and the *next* wall,
where he finally lands in a heap.  I stand there
shocked-- then look at my arm.  Every single muscle
has doubled in size instantly.
   How did I *do* that?

   Obviously, this is a very different depiction of
Mainstream Man.  But, skipping a little further

   It turns out that the MM I walloped was an android.
 Search Lass found the real one locked up in the
Net.ropolis Mental Asylum, and he tells us how he got
captured and stashed away months ago by the
Brotherhood of Net.Villains.  This one seems like a
pretty nice guy, if a bit kooky.

[Well, that explains that.  But what about...]

   This still doesn't tell us *why* I gained
super-strength, *how* I did it, and *when* or *if* I
can do it again.  The big brains start coming up with
ideas.  We test them out, but all I'm ending up with
is a sore fist from pounding a Peril Room dupe of
Mainstream Man.

[The implication here is that the real Mainstream Man
has some sort of powers (if not, why would the
narrator pound on a Peril Room dupe of this particular
legionnaire?), powers which are never seen before or
since.  I'm actually going to address this point in
this summer's MAINSTREAM MAN ANNUAL, plug-plug.]

BRAIN BOY QUARTERLY # 1 (Sean Christian Daughtery)

   "Don't tell me what to do!" Mainstream Man snapped,
turning his back to Carnival Kid.  "I've been an
upstanding member of the Legion before you were even
out of school!"
   Peter gritted his teeth.  There was something about
Mainstream Man's demeanor that nearly made the young
hero want to throw himself off a cliff. 
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your view
of the value of human life, that opportunity did not
present itself in their current predicament.
   "I'm only trying to find a way out of here!" Peter
protested.  "Like you so kindly asked several minutes
ago."  He laid on the sarcasm as heavy as he could,
but the net.hero seemed not to notice.  Oh well...
   "Well, you're obviously not working hard enough
then," Mainstream Man snapped.  "Do you realize what
will happen if we're not out of here in time for me to
pick up this week's X-Men?  Hmm?"
   "No," Peter waved his hands in the air in defeat,
knocking his fist against the crumbling ceiling in the
darkness and showering them with debris.  "What will
   Mainstream Man opened and shut his mouth a few
times, like a beached fish, then turned away. 
"Recruits," he sighed angrily.

[Though toned down a bit, Sean's use of Mainstream Man
echoes Armstrong's in U-FORCE ANNUAL: angry, cocky,
bossy, mean to newbies, kind of bristly.  (So maybe
that android wasn't doing such a bad job impersonating
him after all.)  Mainstream Man is still more invested
in his comic books then he is in net.heroing or the
well-being of others.  He becomes slightly more
caring/efficient in Steven Howard's hands, as he is
developed along other lines:]

TSK FORCE # 1 (Steven Howard)

   "Hey, aren't we forgetting something?" Mainstream
Man asked.
   "We're all established characters."
   "And this is our first mission as a team."
   "Well, shouldn't the team include a character
nobody's ever seen before, who gets killed?"
   Irony Man shook his head.  "No," he said, in a low,
tight voice.  "That's just what they'd be expecting."

TSK FORCE # 6 (Howard)

   Mainstream Man pulled out a bullhorn and hailed the
stranger: "Attention, gigantic semi-naked person.  We
are Mainstream Man and Kid Unique from the Legion of
Net.Heroes.  Do you require assistance?"
   Kid Unique gave him a disbelieving look.
   "Hey, it's SOP [Standard Operating Procedure],"
Mainstream Man said.  "Whenever you meet a new
character in a non-combat situation, you're supposed
to identify yourself and offer assistance."

[In both these examples, Mainstream Man appears
well-versed in comics clichés, and expresses a desire
to see them followed.  In my WikiBoy story (LNH vol. 2
# 11), Mainstream Man turns WikiBoy into a cyborg and
clones him, and I was following Steven's example. 
But, before we move on, one more important piece of
Mainstream Man lore:]

   "Dude, we should call an ambulance," Kid Unique
said.  "We can't carry him like this all the way
uptown.  He's getting heavy.  I knew we should have
brought Bandwagon Chick."
   "The Mainstream Mobile isn't more than half a mile
from here," Mainstream Man reminded him.  Indeed, that
completely average-looking grey midsize sedan was
waiting only a few blocks away.

[The Mainstream Mobile.  Never seen before or since. 
At least, not yet...]

   "Oh come on!  The 'Mr. Paprika, now that's a man's
pop' has got to be the greatest LNH in-joke of all
time!" Mainstream Man exclaimed.
   "Maybe for the low-brow masses, Mainstream Man,"
argued Adamant Authority-on-Everything, "but for the
people who seek a richer, more intellectual experience
from their in-jokes, I'd say 'What would Gamer Boy
think?' is the one to beat.  It's not only an in-joke,
but also a profound philosophical question.  Let's
face it, Mainstream Man.  I'm right and you're wrong."
   "Hey," Mainstream Man said, noticing that
Cauliflower the Christmas Miracle Pooch had entered
the room.  "Let's get Cauliflower's opinion.
   "Hey, Cauliflower.  What is the best LNH in-joke of
all time?"
   Cauliflower thought about this for a bit and then
finally barked an answer.  "Woof.  Woof."
   "Wow," Adamant Authority-on-Everything said in awe.
 "That is a good point.  Why didn't I think of that?"
   "Well," said Mainstream Man, who was also stunned
by the brilliance of Cauliflower's argument.  "I guess
that settles once and for all what the greatest LNH
in-joke of all time is."

[This is actually a very clever and imaginative use of
Mainstream Man.  There's not a single mention of
comics, comics clichés, M/NM and VG.  Instead, Arthur
extrapolates from Mainstream Man's popular tastes in
comics that his tastes _beyond_ comics are popular
ones.  Adamant Authority-on-Everything makes a good
foil in this regard, and it's a fairly subtle little

WAR WITHOUT WORLDS # 1 (Jamas Enright & Saxon Brenton)

   "Fine.  Meantime, let's see if we can... push it
over or &*## it up or something." [Innovative Offense
Boy] rubbed his hands.  "Mainstream Man, give it a
   "What?  Me?  Why?  I'm only up to page 14 on the
latest Man of Steel."

[The idea that Mainstream Man is too absorbed in his
comics and, perhaps, too lazy to bother, is much more
overt here than in ALL THINGS DARK AND SCARY.  This
greatly influenced his actions (or inactions) in WEB

   So, in the end, what have we got?  If it takes a
village to develop a character, what did this village
end up with?
   Mainstream Man does not read independent comics,
and indeed fears them like the plague.  He hates them,
clinging to superhero comics and all the flash
surrounding them.  Though he's a real-life net.hero,
he'd much rather be reading about heroes than be one. 
He's lazy and perhaps his tastes are a sign of
intellectual laziness.  He is far too wrapped up in
his comics to be of much use to anyone, and it is
perhaps a bit unhealthy: which really makes him a
perfect, and classic LNH gag character.

   After I finish the WEB OF MAINSTREAM MAN series
with # 6, I'm going to be releasing Mainstream Man
back to the public domain.  I do have an ANNUAL
planned, and I call dibs on both it and the "powers/no
powers" plotline.


Tom Russell
Limited autographed dvds now on sale, directly from the filmmaker

"In the beginning, Milos seems to have no clue how to relate
 to anyone.  He is quizzical, leaving the viewer questioning
 and wondering..." 
  -- Ryan M. Niemiec, co-author of MOVIES AND MENTAL ILLNESS


"If a comic book, book, movie or novel is not somebody's fantasy 
then who wrote it and to whom does it appeal to?  In order for a 
shared universe to have a widespread appeal, it has to appeal on 
a primal level.  If somebody says superhero comics are just 'wish 
fulfillment' then he needs to explain what is entertainment that 
doesn't satisfy our wishes and what satisfaction at all you can get 
from it." -- Dr. Martin Phipps

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