LNH: Easily-Discovered Man # 50 (1/2)

EDMLite robrogers72 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 23 11:04:14 PDT 2009

    Doused with microwave radiation, Theodore Wong gained the
ability to glow and be detected at great distances by anyone
with a Geiger counter.  Together with his sidekick Lite, his
intern Cynical Lass, and fellow hero Substitute Lad, Wong wages
a constant battle against the forces of corruption, chaos and
common sense as the fabulous EASILY-DISCOVERED MAN.
    The following takes place during between issues #11 and #10
(yes, the series uses reverse chronology) of "Beige Countdown."

-----Previously on "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man"----

     After promising to hunt down the killer of their greatest
enemy, the Waffle Queen, Easily-Discovered Man and Easily-
Discovered Man Lite visit the lair of her henchwoman, the
living bottle of syrup known as Mrs. Butterworth -- only to
find that someone has murdered Mrs. Butterworth as well.

     Before they can continue their search, however, our heroes
find themselves pressed into service during the "Infinite
Leadership Crisis," during which nearly every member of the
Legion of Net.Heroes acts as leader for a day before
disappearing at midnight.

     While Easily-Discovered Man, Cynical Lass and Substitute
Lad all serve with distinction, Easily-Discovered Man Lite
spends much of the crisis playing practical jokes on other
members and passing his own turn in the leader's chair to
Easily-Discovered Man -- decisions that will prove to have
serious consequences for the sidekick.

     Yet even the end of the leadership crisis offers no
respite for the intrepid quartet, as LNH leader Ultimate Ninja
is charged with murder, throwing the Legion into chaos; the
nation's President, Hexadecimal Luthor, creates a technology
that allows anyone to develop super-powers; and a mysterious
new super-villain vows to destroy the LNH, and one member in

    Before allowing that particular vendetta to proceed,
however, the author would like to provide his readers with a
behind-the-scenes look at the production of the longest-running
series on rec.arts.comics.creative, now fifteen years old...


     "What manner of porn would you like to include in our
fiftieth episode?" Easily-Discovered Man asked, catching me
in the hallway just as I was about to leave for the weekend.
"Our publisher would like to know."

     "You can't possibly have just said what I heard you say,"
I said, letting my fishing pole, my blueberry cinnamon crumble
iced coffee and my jaw drop to the floor.  "We have a

     "Certainly we have a publisher," Easily-Discovered Man
said, ushering me into the conference room.  "Whom do you think
signs our checks?  Or edits out all the imprecations you seem to
delight in uttering during the course of our adventures?  Or
painstakingly crafts our long-term story arcs?"

     "For some reason, I thought the writer did that," I said.
"I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's the 'write' in the title."

     "Your mistake is understandable," Easily-Discovered Man
said.  "In the past, yes, tales of costumed characters -- I
hesitate to call us heroes -- who had foresworn the easy comfort
of an everyday life in order to challenge the forces of
darkness to never-ending single combat would be chronicled
by a series of writers and illustrators."
     "And I suppose you're going to tell me that sort of thing
is considered terribly 20th-century these days."

     "Quite so," Easily-Discovered Man said.  "The problem with
writers, you see, is that they like to tell stories."

     "As the hamster said to the lemming, Prof, I'm not sure
I'm following you," I said.

     "Stories," said Easily-Discovered Man, "by their nature,
have a beginning, middle and end.  Things happen; characters
change, the whole majestic pageant of life and love and loss
and death arrives in acts upon the stage.  And that very change
is anathema to a publisher, for whom a comic book super-hero is
not a character to be developed, but a property to be

     "But characters change all the time," I said.  "Superman
got married.  The Flash became two or three different people.
Iron Man turned into an a**hole."

     "Verily," Easily-Discovered Man said.  "And therein lies
the problem of allowing multiple writers to craft the
storylines affecting the many characters within a fictional
universe: the increasing likelihood that at some point, one
or more of those characters will experience growth and
development.  A more elegant, more efficient solution is for
the publisher to create one storyline for the universe that
involves all of the characters tangentially without affecting
any of them directly, thus assuring that none of them will ever

     "But this is comics we're talking about, not politics," I
said.  "People actually pay attention to what's going on.
Wouldn't somebody notice?"

     "And that is where the 'porn' I mentioned previously comes
in," Easily-Discovered Man said.  "I do not, of course,
refer literally to pornography -- in most cases.  Rather, I
call upon anything added to a story for the sole purpose of
preventing the reader from realizing that nothing is actually
taking place.  With 'continuity porn,' for instance, we recycle
old plotlines and conceptions of character in a manner
calculated to simultaneously anger long-time fans and confuse
new ones."

     "The problem there," said Cynical Lass, catching the last
part of the Prof's explanation as she entered the room, "is
that a series needs to have continuity before you can fetishize

     "Indeed," Easily-Discovered Man said, pulling out a chair
at the conference table for Cynical Lass.  "Another option is
'romance porn,' in which the reader becomes so interested in the
angst-ridden attractions between the main characters that he or
she never notices those characters rarely do anything but pine
after each other and agonize about what their place in the
world should be."

     "It's quite popular in Japanese manga," Cynical Lass said.
"Particularly when there's a suggestion that the two male leads
secretly desire each other with a passion that can never be

     "Oh hell no," I said, as Cynical Lass began giggling.
"That is NOT happening here.  Although now I think I finally
understand what happened to _Smallville_."

     "That brings us to porn, plain and simple," Easily-
Discovered Man said.  "E'en the semblance of a story is not
required to sell an issue whose most attractive cast member
appears on the cover in scant clothing and a seductive pose."

     "Why are the two of you looking at me like that?" Cynical
Lass said.  "I'm not posing for Ed Benes again.  He makes my
butt look fat."

     "Arch your back when you say that," I said.  "Look, Prof,
there has to be another option."

     "Are you really Easily-Discovered Man Lite?" Cynical Lass
asked.  "For a moment there, you sounded like someone with a
shred of artistic integrity."

     "I'm someone who likes getting paid," I said, "and any
book that revolves around sex, romance or consistent
storytelling is not likely to have me in it.  Isn't there
anything else we can do?"

     Easily-Discovered Man stroked his beard, his masked brow
furrowed in concentration.  "Well, that is... of course it
would be quite difficult... but certainly it would be possible
...but no... that is, in dire straits, we could always pull a
Morrison," he said.

     "And that means what, exactly?" Cynical Lass asked.

     "It means, my dear child, that we go forward telling an
actual story -- complete with character changes, beginnings and
endings and all the rest -- but we do it in a manner that is so
outré, so eclectic, that those few readers who are capable of
comprehending what in the world is going on will assume that we
cannot possibly be serious, thus allowing the publisher and any
future writers to ignore our work with impunity."

     "It's brilliant.  It's subversive.  And it requires very
little work on my part," I said.  "What could possibly go

     "Have you even read _Final Crisis?_" Cynical Lass asked.
"Do you have any idea how many longstanding characters die
in the first issue alone?"

     "Really?  Let me see that," I said, snatching the issue
out of Cynical Lass' hands.  "Hold on, Prof.  I'm not sure I'm
ready to cash it in as a metaphor for the death of the Silver
Age or the need to adopt metatextual understanding or WHAT THE

     "I am afraid you are too late, my young companion," said
the Prof, who had already dressed himself in the costume of the
Easily-Discovered Man of Zurr-En-Arrgh.  "For we have already
begun to present episode #50 of 'The Adventures of Easily-
Discovered Man,' 'Easily-Discovered Man No More.'  No sidekicks
or special guest villains were harmed in the making of this

    The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man #50
            "Easily-Discovered Man No More"
      Plot:                                     Script:
      Rob Rogers                                Rob Rogers

     I like fighting super-villains.  It's not because I'm a
masochist, or because I have a really good health insurance
policy (I don't) or because I think it will help me score
points with women (it does, sometimes, but I've found I don't
particularly enjoy hanging around with the kind of women who
enjoy watching men in tights pummel each other).

     It's because when I'm fighting a super-villain I get to
say the kind of things I'm never allowed to say in school, or
with my friends, or if I'm ever invited to be a guest on "Larry
King."  I could never tell my friends Aurora Jones or Cynical
Lass, for example, that the purple spandex top they were wearing
made them look as though someone had tried to throttle an
eggplant.  But I could -- and did -- say that to Dessica,
because as a super-villain she was planning to hit me anyway,
and I figured this way we could both feel better about it.

     Besides, I had to say something.  Dessica had surprised
the Prof when he, Substitute Lad and I had been working to
rebuild Suddenly-Exploding Boy Memorial Grove, which had been
smashed to bits along with half of the Net.ropolis waterfront
during a battle between the Legion of Net.Heroes and pretty
much every super-villain I'd ever heard of [in LNH Comics
Presents #501 -- Footnote Girl].

     The playground had never been particularly popular before
it had been destroyed (for some reason, parents seemed reluctant
to let their children run free at a place named after a self-
detonating super-hero) but it became even less so after the
battle, when large jagged splinters, shredded tires and bits of
glowing radioactive goo had left it deserted except for a small
group of lawyers, who hung around waiting for someone to injure

     The Prof -- Easily-Discovered Man -- had been pruning back
a particularly nasty-looking branch from an oak tree when a
girl about my age wearing a purple tank top, spandex shorts, a
pair of rollerblades and a look on her face that suggested the
Prof had just cut her off in traffic for the second time came
hurtling toward him out of nowhere.

     I shouted out something offensive about her outfit, causing
her to turn slightly, so that her outstretched arms missed the
Prof and hit the oak.  The tree made a noise like a wet fart,
dropped all its leaves and withered away to a shriveled husk
faster than the NBC network had over the past year.

     "She must have the power to drain away all of the water
from anything she touches!" shouted Substitute Lad, who had
chosen to duplicate the powers of Sister State-the-Obvious that
afternoon, for reasons known only to him.

     "Then she must seek to quench such an insatiable -- and
inhuman -- thirst elsewhere!  For none shall extinguish the
fount of justice that flows up from the mighty heart of Easily-
Discovered Man!" declared the Prof, who cast aside his pruning
shears and work gloves (both of which might actually have been
useful in a fight) and pulled on his bright orange gauntlets.

     "Perfect," said Dessica, who despite what I had said, was
actually kind of cute if you're into the whole roller derby
thing (and I was).  She rolled around the dehydrated tree to
take a second swipe at the Prof, missing only because I grabbed
the edge of his cape and yanked him out of her way.

     "No, this really is perfect," said Dessica, rolling to a
stop and adjusting her elbow pads.  "Try to make our fight look
as real as possible so people will believe it when I become the
new Waffle Queen."

     "You want to become the new Waffle Queen?" Substitute Lad
asked.  It was actually one of the less annoying things he'd
said for the last hour or so; since he'd started duplicating
Sister State-the-Obvious' powers, he'd mostly walked around
declaring thing like "All that broken glass can't be good for
the kids" and "Sweaty, sweaty, sweaty," which was at least as
disturbing as it was informative.

     "An atavistic aspiration, indeed, my astringent
antagoness!" Easily-Discovered Man said, wrenching his cape from
my grasp, his voice building in volume with every word.  "Our
late arch-nemesis scarcely is inter'rd, and yet thou wouldst
endeavor to replace her while bearing none of her dignity, her
ingenuity or her grace?"

     "Not to mention that you actually have super-powers," I
said, trying and failing to trip Dessica with a rake.  "Why
would anyone who could flash-freeze-dry folks feel like giving
that up for a life of dressing up like a waffle?"

     "Please," said Dessica (I'm assuming her name was Dessica,
since that's what was written across her chest; it might have
been the name of her roller derby team).  "You obviously don't
know the first thing about women."

     "He sure doesn't," Substitute Lad said.  "Not a damn
thing.  That lump of radioactive goo over there knows more
about women than he does."

     "No woman on earth wants to be known for having the
uncanny ability to retain vast quantities of water," Dessica
said, grabbing the chain from a half-finished swing set and
twirling it around in a manner that might have been sexy had
she not then launched it at my head.  "It sure as hell wasn't
what I signed on for when I volunteered for one of Hex Luthor's
Freedom Chips!"

     Hex Luthor -- the most recent super-villain to have become
President of the Loonited States -- had begun marketing
something called a Freedom Chip, an electronic brain implant
that gave anyone who had one access to their very own super
power.  As with alcohol, however, Freedom Chips sometimes had
the side effect of showing people a side to themselves they
didn't particularly like.

     "That's your problem right there," I said.  "Believe me,
if I wanted the government to fill up my head with a bunch of
useless, potentially dangerous crap, I'd be sitting in class
right now."

     "And it doesn't explain why you'd want to be the new Waffle
Queen," said Substitute Lad, who was trying to find a way to
use the pile of radioactive goo (the same pile that presumably
knew more about women than I did) as a weapon without actually
having to pick it up.

     "Or why thou wouldst choose to attack us -- we valiant
three, who never have done you an injury -- whilst we are
engaged in an activity for the betterment of humanity?" Easily-
Discovered Man asked, doing his best to twirl a hoe above his
head like a bo staff.

     "Look," said Dessica, snapping her gum, "I don't know what
kind of a deal the Waffle Queen had with you three.  But it's
obvious after fighting you for five minutes that there's no way
any of you could have gone up against a criminal mastermind
like her for years unless you'd come to some kind of...
agreement.  I want the same deal."

     "Are you implying that the mighty Easily-Discovered Man
lacks the wherewithal to defeat his most persistent foe, and
must therefore have relied on some manner of unsportsmanlike
..." the Prof began, before hitting himself with the spinning

     "I'm not a bad girl," Dessica said, skating in wide
circles around the three of us.  "I don't really want to enter
into a life of crime.  It's just that thanks to my new
condition, I've got medical bills up the wazoo that my
insurance won't pay for.  I can't get a job in this economy,
and the Legion of Net.Heroes won't even take my application
just because I accidentally withered some stupid fichus tree."

     "Not the fichus tree in the lobby!" I gasped.  "I always
loved that tree!"

     "It's true," Substitute Lad said.  "He did.  In ways no
man should ever love a tree."

     "So here's the deal," Dessica said, touching one finger to
a sunflower and watching it fizzle out like a spent balloon.
"I'll be your new arch-bad-whatever you call it.  We'll have a
few public fights -- maybe I'll even let you slap me around a
little," she said, looking at me as she said it.  "You guys
get to look like heroes, and every now and then you'll get a
bill from Blue Cross, and you'll pay it, and everyone will be
happy.  What d'you say?"

     Because Easily-Discovered Man made a point out of putting
his hands on his waist, puffing out his chest and waiting until
his cape was blowing in the right direction, all of us knew
what he was going to say.  Being Easily-Discovered Man, however,
he said it anyway.

     "Not while a single drop of heroic blood flows in these
veins!" he shouted, shaking an orange fist at Dessica.

     "Like they used to say at Burger King, have it your way,"
Dessica said, dashing toward the Prof at an alarming clip.

     "Hey Dess, what's with the rollergirl thing, anyway?" I
asked, trying to draw her attention toward me and hoping like
hell that Substitute Lad would manage to follow my lead without
shouting to the whole world what he was doing, like some kind of
walking, talking version of Twitter.  "Shouldn't you be dressed
up like a giant straw, or a mosquito?  Or is this your way of
saying that roller derby really sucks?"

     "Derby was my LIFE!" Dessica snapped, turning away from
the Prof and rocketing toward me as I made a run for the teeter-
totter.  "I didn't even know what my powers would do when I
signed up for that last match!  It's not my FAULT that those
girls on the other team got turned into raisins!"

     So determined was Dessica to dry me out that she didn't
notice Substitute Lad diving in front of her until the last
moment (which was all the more impressive because, as
predicted, he was announcing what he was doing).  She screamed,
tripped, and sprawled across the lower seat of the teeter-

     You can guess what happened next.  I leaped onto the other
seat, launching Dessica over the fence at the edge of the
playground (we hadn't finished fixing the teeter-totter yet, so
it was really more like a catapult than was probably safe for
young children) and into the swimming pool on the other side.

     There was a splash, followed by an enormous sucking sound,
followed by a single, long, painful scream.

     By the time the Prof, Substitute Lad and myself reached the
fence, we saw a bloated and unhappy Dessica sitting at the
bottom of an empty pool, unable to escape and rapidly absorbing
her own tears.

     I won't repeat what Substitute Lad said at that point.  It
was no worse than anything I'd said earlier, but it was
unnecessary, and watching her flailing around in what looked
like a great big cement grave, I actually felt sorry for her.

     "Do you believe this guy?" Substitute Lad said, elbowing
me in the ribs as we walked back towards Legion of Net.Heroes
headquarters.  "He actually feels sorry for her."

     "Are you going to keep doing that all afternoon?" I asked.

     "I'm not sure," Substitute Lad said.  "I honestly can't
tell whether I'm still duplicating Sister State-the-Obvious'
power or if I've just decided I like pointing out things that
are obvious."

     "Every television news anchor worth the name had to begin
somewhere," said the Prof, cheerfully clapping Substitute Lad
on the shoulder.

     "And besides," I said, as we approached Four-Color Plaza,
"shouldn't we have grilled Dessica before giving her up to the
police?  After all that talk about wanting to be the new Waffle
Queen, I'm beginning to wonder if she knew anything about what
happened to the old one."

     Easily-Discovered Man and Substitute Lad exchanged

     "You didn't tell him," Substitute Lad said.

     "I had planned to do so, in time," the Prof stammered,
"yet circumstances intervened.  Given the situation, I am sure
you would agree that it would be better to prepare..."

     Substitute Lad turned to me.  "After you disappeared
during the crisis, Net.ropolis P.D. identified a suspect in
the Waffle Queen case."

     Easily-Discovered Man put a hand on my shoulder.  "I am
afraid, Lite, that they have charged your friend Aurora Jones
with murder most foul."

     I looked from one masked face to another, too stunned to

     "But... that's impossible," I said.

     "I was as surprised as you are," Substitute Lad said.
"First time in recorded history that a law enforcement agency
with dozens of trained investigators managed to solve a violent
crime before a group of masked vigilantes.  Needless to say,
this doesn't look good for our reputation."

     The three of us stood at the edge of the plaza near the
entrance to Legion headquarters.  In the last few weeks, the
revolving doors leading into the lobby had been replaced by
a series of checkpoints and metal detectors.  A small staff of
security guards now asked questions and waved mechanical wands
at the long line of people, many of whom had been implanted
with Freedom Chips, who waited to enter the building.

     "Look," I said.  "I know that Aurora wasn't exactly
thrilled about the way the Waffle Queen outed her to her
school" [way back in Easily-Discovered Man #38 -- Footnote
Girl].  "And I know that she has something of a temper," I
added, remembering the way she'd used her glass-animating
powers to throttle me the last time I'd seen her.  "But

     "Most foul," Easily-Discovered Man added.

     "...I just can't believe she'd do anything like that," I
said.  "And besides, it doesn't explain what happened to Mrs.
Butterworth.  Aurora had no reason to kill her."

     "The notion that the two killings were connected was our
conjecture; we have no evidence to support the claim," Easily-
Discovered Man said.  "What we know is that the mirrors in Mrs.
Schlubb's -- the Waffle Queen's -- dining room were streaked
with her skin and blood in a pattern that made no sense until
Detective Crumple theorized that the mirrors themselves had
come to life in order to attack her."

     "And we know how much Mrs. Butterworth cared about the
Waffle Queen," Substitute Lad said.  "If Butterworth saw what
happened and went after Aurora, it would have been easy for
someone with the Screen Saver's powers to kill her by forcing
all of the syrup out of her body.

     "Believe me," Substitute Lad added, his face unreadable
beneath the hard molded plastic of his mask.  "I've spent a lot
of time studying how everyone's powers work."

     "I need to get out of here," I said, stepping out of the
security line.  "I need to talk to Aurora.  Where are they
holding her?"

     "The police lost track of her during all that craziness
with the Evilverse," Substitute Lad said.  "Of course, if you
have any ideas about where she might have gone, I'm sure the
police would love to hear about it."

     "Easily-Discovered Man Lite has enough to worry about at
the moment without sticking his nose into police business,
said a short, red-faced and thoroughly self-satisfied young
man in a blue business suit with an "LNH" pin at the lapel.

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