LNH: 20th Anniversary Special, Part #1

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer2 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 28 15:22:16 PDT 2022

And on this LNH Day Eve here's the all the 20th Anniversary posts:


Last year during the Legion of Net.Heroes 19th Anniversary, I made a 
call for essays and writings from anyone who has ever read an LNH story. 
  And a year later these are the various writings I received (and if you 
didn't manage to make the deadline -- then please post your 20th 
Annivesary writing to RACC -- Thanks!).  They come from LNH Writers, old 
and new.  We have on one side of the spectrum a writer who participated 
in the first LNH cascade way back in 1992.  And we have another who 
wrote his first LNH story just last year.

So, open a can of Mr. Paprika Brand Champagne and grab a slice of 
cheesecake!  The LNH is 20 years old!


-- Arthur

       ****    L  N  H   2  0   Y  E  A  R  S    ****


               A Look Back at 20 Years of the
                   Legion of Net.Heroes

      I wasn't part of the first batch of LNHers, but I was part of the 
first group to take it seriously...and by that I mean the first group to 
see it as something that might be worth putting more than a few minutes' 
effort into, something that might last more than a few weeks.  Scav, 
Jameel, wReam and the dozen or so others who took another group's 
short-lived gag and turned it into something more enduring and more 
involved than most of the professional superhero universes.

      Of course, it helped that we did it solely for fun, so it didn't 
matter if we never made money.  As long as people were amusing 
themselves writing, it could keep going.

      Most of that first group has vanished utterly from Usenet as a 
whole, much less the LNH.  Oh, they're still around, I'm still in touch 
with a lot of them.  But we eventually did stop being amused by writing 
LNH stories, and moved on.  I occasionally toss a short piece into the 
mix here and there, but I'm not really that involved anymore, even in 
the LNH20 relaunch.  I'm still on RACC, at least, but when I sit down to 
write fiction it's more likely to be in my ASH universe, where I 
exercise ultimate control and can avoid some of the conflicts and 
complications that caused me to slowly lose interest in the LNH.

      But while it lasted, the LNH had a major effect on my life, an 
impact that continues even if I'm no longer that active in it.  To name 
the biggest, it was interaction with several fellow LNH writers that got 
me back into Transformers shortly before the line was revitalized...and 
400+ reviews later I'd have to say Transformers are a big part of my 
life.  And, of course, it was my writing for the LNH that led me (albeit 
indirectly) to create the ASH setting out of the pieces of old RPG 
campaigns.  On a smaller level, I've recreated some of my LNH characters 
in City of Heroes, with various levels of success (Per Annum languishes 
at level 14, while Acton Lord is a fully endgamed level 50+3 Incarnate, 
for instance).

      And who knows?  I've dipped my toe into the LNH20 revival, I might 
find myself getting more deeply involved at some point.  I've revisited 
the old Dvandom Force characters a few times since #100, albeit in odd 
sideways fashion, I could certainly do it again.

       ****    L  N  H   2  0   Y  E  A  R  S    ****


            The Legion of Net.Heroes and Me:
             A self-Indulgent Reminiscence

      Superhero comics are my earliest and most persistent hobby.

      Other hobbies have come and gone for me (model trains, raising 
budgerigars...), or came later (Dr Who, role playing games...) but 
approaching forty years later I still have a love for comics in general 
and for four colour superhero comics in particular.

      Now, I've told this next this anecdote before, but up until the 
mid-1980s a large number of the DC comic books available here in 
Australia were black and white reprint anthologies.  Typically they were 
a grab bag collection of not just different stories starring different 
characters, but also different stories from different genres 
(superheroes, war stories, westerns, horror, SF...).  For A-list 
characters like Batman, Wonder Woman or Superman there'd be anthologies 
that collected stories starring only them, but which nevertheless rarely 
had any narrative coherence.  They were vignettes.  Only towards the end 
of this period did we start seeing things like the ongoing, coherent, 
and clearly sequentially numbered reprints of _The Flash_ or the _New 
Teen Titans_.

      And why is this important?  Well, because of another little 
factoid.  There's a phenomenon among bibliophiles of dreaming while 
asleep of finding a rare book.  I do not say 'purported phenomenon', 
because I have experienced it.  A small handful of times I've had dreams 
like that.  Of finding some lost comic book.  Not colour comic books - 
whether some classic story that I missed because I grew up in the 
country and didn't have access to speciality comic stores, nor even some 
mint copy of an old and tattered favourite like the _X-Men/Teen Titans_ 
crossover.  I've dreamt of finding one of those cheaply printed black 
and white reprints.

      Actually, speaking of dreams, you know how they say that when 
you're dreaming of flying that's actually a metaphor for sex?  Yeah, 
well, maybe for normal people, but for me it's an indication that I read 
Too Many Darn Comics.  You see, I don't just have flying dreams. 
Although it's true that I've been having those the longest, and that 
even after all these decades my altitude control absolutely *sucks*. 
But eventually I started to simulate teleportation by turning invisible 
and intangible, and later still figured out how to do teleportation 
itself.  And then there's the energy blasts and matter manipulation 
and...  Oooo...

      I once read - I think it was in Harms and Gonce's _Necronomicon 
Files_ - a piece of occult advice that when faced by hostile psychic 
projection to simply destroy it with your willpower.  By imagining it 
being obliterated by being blown to bits or bursting into flames or 
otherwise dying in an emphatic manner.  Now, I have no idea why that 
titbit of information came back to me, but I discovered that it works 
for dealing with nightmares as well.  Quite a few times I've gained a 
measure of lucid dreaming control while having a nightmare, and I can 
assure you it's viscerally satisfying to just blow stuff up with energy 
blasts, or unleashing a volcano, or in one case telekinetically grabbing 
the Starship Enterprise out of orbit and using like a very large rock to 
smash things.  It adds a new dimension to the phrase 'rocks drop, 
everyone dies'.

      And if all of the preceding was not enough to convince you of my 
comic book nerd cred, then the only thing I have to offer is that I did, 
once, ride my bicycle in the rain to buy some comics.

      So then, on to the Legion of Net.Heroes...

      To the best that I recall I first encountered the Legion of 
Net.Heroes during Retcon Hour, back in 1994.  In other words, in the 
period when Legion was starting to follow in the example set by the 
Net.Trenchcoat Brigade and seriously dabble in Big Freaking Crossovers. 
  More specifically, I seem to recall reading Retcon Hour itself, but 
not the call to participate or any of the organising, suggesting that I 
started reading the Legion some time in the middle of that year.

      In any case, like many of the people who joined in the early to 
mid 1990s my internet access was gained while I was studying - in my 
case at the University of Canberra.  I remember walking around the 
sports grounds thinking about possible storylines for my first series, 
actually, miniseries, _Limp-Asparagus Lad_.

      Now, for anyone who may have arrived later and not be aware of 
this fact, I did not create the character of Limp-Asparagus Lad, the 
world's most boring mutant superhero.  He was created as an example of a 
character by wReam and Mystic Mongoose.  Since I'm largely an introvert 
and my idea of a relaxing Friday night is to stay at home with a good 
book, this character with the personality as exciting as a piece of limp 
asparagus appealed to me.  With wReam and Mystic Mongoose's permission I 
adopted him as my Writer Character.  This was also the start of my habit 
where - although I was perfectly capable of creating my own characters - 
I'd take other people's discards and use them.  Kid Not Appearing In Any 
Retcon Hour Story was next, and was really simply a joke: to prove that 
I could.  Then there were various stories starring classic LNH character 
who hadn't been used in a while or only in minor roles, such a Fuzzy. 
(By contrast my fondness for Occultism Kid is more likely an extension 
of my fondness for magic using characters.  Just as anybody in my role 
playing groups.)

      Later would be throwaway characters like Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats 
Lad or You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough Lad.  Characters where if you 
stopped and said to yourself, "Now hold on, what sort of powers do those 
code names imply?", then after a bit of thought you'd realise, "I can do 
something with these characters."  And then there would be the use in 
the High Concept Challenges of positively ancient and now obscure 
characters, like the NTBers Doubt or Mr Elmo, or even Suicide Squid. 
Eventually it got to the point where Arthur Spitzer created 
So-Lame-That-Even-Saxon-Brenton-Wouldn't-Use-Him-In-A-Story Lad. 
Although to be fair Arthur has used that joke on other RACC writers as well.

      But it all started with _Limp-Asparagus Lad_.  I still think of 
that as my flagship series, even though I haven't actually written or 
posted anything for it in years.  The problem, of course, is the synergy 
from the twin conditions of me being a slow-ish writer and of having 
allowed the series itself to grind to a halt under the weight of its own 
metatext.  Believe it or not, among the numerous dangling plot lines 
that have accumulated over the last one-and-a-large-bit decades, there 
is one overwhelmingly important story - involving Limp-Asparagus Lad, 
Senses Lass, and Exclamation!Master! - that I've been building towards. 
  (And, yes, I know that I really should get off my overweight backside 
and finish that off...)

      Actually, segueing from metatext, I suppose I should also note the 
use of metafiction parody in _Limp-Asparagus Lad_.  My early writing was 
almost all fourth-wall breaking metafictive parody.  And remember, this 
was roughly a decade before TV Tropes Wiki started up in 2004.  Of 
course, TV Tropes makes a great resource by way of examples I wasn't 
aware of, and in genres I'm not first hand familiar with.  This is 
because even today, while I sometimes give in to the urge to write some 
straight (super)human drama, I still write a lot of metafiction.  Not 
that that's a big surprise, given the environment of 
rec.arts.comics.creative.  Most participants have tried it at some time 
or other.  Indeed, it'll make it interesting to see whether the declared 
assumption that the majority of the characters is the new LNH-20 imprint 
are *not* fourth-wall aware will hold under these circumstances.  Time 
will tell, I guess.

      I've enjoyed writing pretty much all of the stuff I've posted. 
Well, that stands to reason, since this is a hobby rather than a chore, 
and if I wasn't enjoying myself I wouldn't have stuck around.  But that 
doesn't mean a lot of my work couldn't be revised and improved.  I tend 
to produce overly wordy stories.  One fairly basic piece of writing 
advice is to cut out the extraneous background information.  Anything 
not directly pertinent to characterisation or action should go.  It's 
sometimes referred to as 'Kill your literary babies.'  I'm dreadful at 
following that advice.  I'm actually better at working and reworking my 
sentences so that most of the information I want to include is included, 
either as the main point of the sentence or incidentally in the 
subclauses.  All of which has been described - correctly I think - as 
making for baroque sentences that are dense with descriptions.  And then 
there are the times when even that trickery won't work, and the result 
is an out-and-out infodump.  Maybe it's because I'm playing on some 
superhero trope or other and I don't trust myself to be subtle, and end 
up belabouring the point of the joke.  Nevertheless, I would hope that, 
like a lot of others who started their writing on alt.comics.lnh / 
rec.arts.comics.creative, that I've gotten better at presenting a story 
in an entertaining manner.

      So in the end I can simply summarise by saying that I've written a 
whole lot of text over the past two decades, mainly for the Legion of 
Net.Heroes (and its spin-offs), but also for non-Looniverse based 
imprints such as the Academy of Super Heroes and Eightfold, and at times 
in collaboration with a large proportion of the regular writers around 
here.  That's a lot of stories, including a lot of crossovers, and even 
more cross-fertilisation as ideas bounce around and one piece of 
inspiration triggers another, domino style.  Again I say, I've enjoyed 
myself.  And moreover, I expect to continue enjoying myself for a long 
while to come.

       ****    L  N  H   2  0   Y  E  A  R  S    ****


When asked, I like to tell people that I still lurk around on 
rec.arts.comics.creative, despite the fact that my last post was, oh, 
well over a decade ago. I also like to tell myself that one day I'll 
come back to "The Continuing Adventures of Brain Boy," or one of the 
other series I'd brainstormed but never actually gotten around to 
writing, even though the last time I posted something in-universe was, I 
believe, last century. Both of these claims are hazardously close to 
outright lies, of course. I've been smart enough to avoid putting a 
deadline on my triumphant (?) return to the LNHverse, so for the latter 
I suppose I can excuse myself on a technicality. But does checking in 
(via Google Groups, sadly) once every year or so even
qualify as lurking?

The sad truth of the matter is that if Rob Rogers hadn't managed to 
track down my email a couple of months back, I wouldn't even be aware of 
the 20th anniversary. In my defense, I did take the step of checking in 
on RACC myself. On the evening of April 26, just in time to see Arthur 
Spitzer's last-minute reminder about these essays. It was the first I'd 
heard about it, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let my 
procrastination cause me to miss another opportunity to show everyone 
that I'm not dead. So, with my apologies for any typos or grammatical 
errors (one hour isn't a whole lot of time to proofread), I figured I'd 
share how I got involved in the LNH, starting way back around the time 
of the 5th anniversary.

I was a fan, at the time and still today, of round-robin, 
shared-universe style storytelling. I had dabbled in the world of 
fanfiction, but I found the one-way nature of it discouraging: I wanted 
to be part of a larger whole, to at least feel that my contributions 
were being considered, if not always appreciated. I obviously didn't 
expect the writers of Doctor Who or the Legion of Super-Heroes to be 
aware of the scribblings of a mad teenager on the Internet, and I was 
acutely aware that, when I wrote fanfic, I was at best a squatter in 
someone else's continuity. The best I could hope for would be that the 
landlord didn't decide to sic the cops on me. I believe I first stumbled 
on the LNH while doing a Yahoo! search for Legion of Super-Heroes 
content and got a link to the good old eyrie.org page. I spent a good 
deal of time, and several hundred dollars worth of printer paper and 
toner, printing out various back issues from the archive. It wasn't long 
before I decided that I, too, wanted to be a part of the action.

The only problem was, I didn't know how best to get myself involved. The 
generally easy-going rules about respecting the turf of others seemed 
daunting to me at the time. So, well, I kind of cheated. I came up with 
Brain Boy with very little concept of how he slotted into the Looniverse 
itself, and worked in references to existing net.heroes and places 
later, as I gained a bit more confidence. Even now, in hindsight, I feel 
like my work never really fit in as much as I wanted it to. I enjoyed 
writing the series, and while I wouldn't exactly say I'm proud of it 
(the list of things I'd change if I had a chance to do it all over again 
is as long as my arm), I'm immensely gratified it was as well-received 
as it was.

I met a lot of really great writers during my brief stint as an LNH 
writer. And maybe I'll actually fulfill my promise to come back one day. 
Especially now that I've told everyone reading this about my promise, 
and I wouldn't just be lying to myself anymore.

       ****    L  N  H   2  0   Y  E  A  R  S    ****


Oh, all right.

I'm late to *this* party, but I can certainly respect any storyline that 
can keep going for twenty years.  Getting multiple people to keep it 
going is impressive too.

Happy LNH 20!

       ****    L  N  H   2  0   Y  E  A  R  S    ****


                A Declaration of War

The invasion of the Cosmic Goblins lasted about 9 years, and in the end, 
not a lot was left of Earth or humanity.

When the Goblins first appeared and started killing or "disappearing" 
people with no apparent pattern, they weren't taken very seriously. 
Random psychopaths in a sort of mutual-copycat relationship, was the 
official position. But even while the vast majority believed that, they 
kept getting more and more scary, as the number of victims grew and not 
a single Goblin could be captured.

And then... one was. Well, not captured, as such, but caught by the 
police. An enormous operation, with three SWAT teams and hundreds of 
uniformed officers, almost an army.

And of course, they were thoroughly massacred. That's when we realized 
we were at war. At war with... well, since they were obviously not plain 
humans, it wasn't too much of a stretch to believe they were exactly 
what they had for months claimed to be: an invasion force from... 
elsewhere. (To this day, we still don't know whether that means another 
planet, another universe, or another definition of existence.)

The good side of that, of course, is that having acknowledged the war, 
we launched our counter-attack. The bad side, as you probably know, is 
that the net effect of that was the almost complete neutering of our 
military forces during the course of the very bloody following year. 
Even a nuclear strike against their orbital base didn't seem to faze them.

Fortunately, before hopes were completely lost, a particularly 
enterprising scientist (and a dear personal friend of mine) discovered 
what they were vulnerable to. Regrettably, it was so bizarre, it took us 
months to prove it.

Our clue was in the first victims. Because the Goblins hadn't started by 
wiping out our strongest military or even our best fighters, nor had 
them taken out our political or economic leaders. They had, rather, 
targeted our most imaginative and creative writers.

And from the lessons of our very few, mostly pyrrhic victories, she 
worked out their weakness: they were vulnerable to myth.

As it turned out, that was in fact the whole reason they had attacked 
us; we were, in some metaphysical sense, in their strategic routes, and 
we had way too much myth for their liking.  They feared that we would 
eventually discover them on our own, and they would be helpless against 
our, er, imaginary onslaught.

Operating in our plane, some of the physical rules still applied; so in 
order to defeat them, an actual physical confrontation had to happen. 
But ultimately, what would define the outcome of this confrontation was 
what we termed the "imaginarium power" of each side; the degree to which 
it was connected to the imaginary of a supporting population, the size 
of that population, and the strength of that "myth" in the population's 

Once we finally proved that, the first attempt to use it was by 
identifying troops with historical figures or common archetypes, as well 
as popular culture icons such as John Rambo. The success of that 
approach was extremely limited, since most of the "supporting 
population" was fully aware of how artificial the identification was. 
They hungered for real heroes, but real adoration would only be 
forthcoming for those who produced real victories, not those their 
governments claimed "destined" to.

And then we built the Investron. Based on technology stolen from the 
Goblins by means of our few hard-won victories, it was a complex system 
(although to further excite the populations, we focused the coverage on 
one of the many devices that were part of the system, which they 
believed was *the* Investron) that could invest individuals with special 
abilities out of a body of stories.

The first attempt at using the Investron focused on finding the stories 
that were believed to be stronger in the people's minds. This resulted 
in an army of angels marching against the Goblins. But it turns out 
people have radically different ideas about what angels are like after 
all... so that didn't resonate quite well enough.

The next round of the political tug of war was won by the "realists", 
who wanted to focus on the most popular forms of fiction worldwide. So 
the next attack wave was empowered by romance, war stories, spy stories, 
and westerns. That worked about as well as you'd expect; while they 
arguably had enough imaginarium resonance to defeat the Goblins proper, 
they didn't have enough brute power to mow through the enemy's war 
machines and more mundane minions. There were no survivors.

Then we tried ancient mythology, supernatural horror, medieval chivalry, 
and sorcery. Those were more successful, but not decisively so; much 
like the angels, the imaginary behind mythology and sorcery was too 
fragmented to resonate, while the knights laked again the firepower, 
although they made great teams with the sorcerers.

When someone came up with the solution, it was initially meant as a 
joke, out of desperation after a very long and exhausting night. I would 
like, by the way, to take this opportunity to deny the rumors that it 
was suggested by me, before that causes anyone to believe I'm doing what 
I will now do out of regret or envy. I was there, but I wasn't the one 
who suggested super-heroes.

It was only a few hours before we began tests, and while we only got a 
very small number of successes -- apparently, we could only invest 
someone with a whole fictional universe or similar body of work, imbuing 
the recipient with the setting's general feel; and the process would 
only work if the person was already in some ways aligned to it to begin 
with, as we already knew; worse, as before, it remained impossible to 
imbue more than one person in the same way -- yet, those successes were 
very effective, and the tide finally began to turn. General Marvel, 
Warner Woman, Lord Kirby, and the others quickly began household names.

And yet, something was still missing. With the new super-heroes, we had 
only managed to stop the Goblins' steadfast advance, and win an 
effective stalemate that went on for years. We kept replacing any heroes 
that fell, and finding more obscure universes to invest, different 
enough for the process to work and yet resonant enough to produce any power.

Finally, the Goblins found and attacked our laboratory. The heroes came 
to our rescue, and the battle raged on outside for days, during which we 
desperately tried to do something, anything at all, to affect its outcome.

This time, I will admit, the winning idea was mine. I proposed to try 
investing something I had already considered before, but discarded as 
not sufficiently well-known. Because seeing the heroes fighting outside 
the window, in fact, both the heroes and the Goblins, right there up 
close, I realized the power hidden in those Usenet posts I had pored 
through. The so-called "Legion of
Net.Heroes" was more than the quirky, fun-spirited product of some 
amateurs in the late 20th and early 21st century; those writers had 
managed, somehow, to distill the purest, most essential nature of what 
super-heroism and the super-hero genre are in fact all about.

Therefore, it would follow that an investment of the LNH would produce 
the quintessential, archetypal super-hero.

The rest is history; whether you're reading this a few hours or many 
decades after I wrote it, I'm certain you know Ultimate Net.Lad and how 
he led the super-heroes in saving the species and casting the Cosmic 
Goblins forever out of our world.

But was that the end of the story?

Most people seem to think we survived through the war and are now on our 
way to some sort of golden age.

I know better.

Because the fallout of the war is -- now we live in a world with 
super-heroes. There's people there with extraordinary powers, and we're 
supposed to trust them to look after us.

How long until they start fighting each other, and putting us all in 
danger? And what about all the left-overs from earlier experiments -- 
the mythic creatures, the "neo-gods", the vampires and werewolves and 
horrors of the night, the sorcerers, and little green men, and bug-eyed 

Which is why I'm declaring my own war on them. With all the advanced 
technology I was able to salvage, I'm going to prevent them from making 
a mess out of this world, and hopefully wipe them out completely.

You can call me... Doctor Killfile.

       ****    L  N  H   2  0   Y  E  A  R  S    ****

End of Part I

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