LNH: LNH 20th Anniversary Special, Part #2

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Arthur Spitzer

Apr 28, 2022, 6:32:03 PMApr 28

Part II

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


Wheeeeeee. @-@ Here ya go:


To tell the story of myself and the LNH, it's necessary to start the
story of myself and the superhero genre. Let us pull back the curtain
of time...

My infatuation with the most awesome of all storytelling models began at
a young age. I grew up on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, on Captain
Planet, on BraveStarr and on Power Rangers. It took me a bit, though,
to get into comics - moving into a neighborhood where the local
mini-mart had a spinner rack was a godsend - and a bit longer to put the
two together.

The thing that moved me from Archie and Harvey to Spider-Man and the New
Warriors was the Marvel Universe Series III collector cards. Seeing
them at school lead me to beg my parents into visiting whatever outlets
carried them, which lead me to seek out the characters in other media.
(The X-Men animated series helped; I was a bit young to really get into
the tone of Batman: TAS.)

So I got into comics right at the crest of the Dark Age. There's a
lesson there about the importance of having widely-available entry-level
products, but let's keep going. I was mostly a Marvel zombie, though I
did get the Death of Superman TPB for Christmas. The crossovers, the
shock storylines, the holofoil gimmicks, none of them dampened my
enthusiasm; the thing that finally did was moving cross-country, away
from that handy spinner rack and from any real source of comics.

It was only about a year after that that my parents split up. But when
I went to visit my dad a couple of summers later, I discovered that he
had something amazing and new - an honest-to-goodness Internet
connection. I don't remember which of those old search engines I made
my first query on - Lycos? Yahoo? AltaVista? - but I quickly got around
to typing in "Mystery Science Theater 3000". This lead me to the Blue
Light Productions page (still around at
http://www.eyrie.org/~thad/blip/blip.html), where I found a .gif with
three unfamiliar letters on it: LNH.

This, then, was my introduction not just to our fair shared universe,
but to Usenet and comics fandom beyond the letters page. I eagerly ate
up everything on the BLiP site, and sought out alt.comics.lnh and RACC.
I was temporarily stymied by the end of that summer, but when I came
back, I was so inspired that I wrote a preview with not one but two WCs,
and when I got my own computer (sure, it was theoretically shared
between my siblings, but I knew what was what), it seemed like I had
stepped right into position as a new LNHer!

Yeah, not quite. A problem cropped up that would beguile and bedevil me
from there on out: a notable difficulty in carrying projects beyond the
initial surge of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I tore through the Eyrie
archive, grabbing enormous chunks of story and stuffing them into my
brain. I stretched out, visiting Dave's site and getting into ASH,
finding the Roster and the author's pages, untangling crossovers, and
plotting the day that my characters would burst onto the scene.

But, eventually, my interest waned. Never completely, but every so
often, there'd be an interruption - a broken keyboard, a break in
service, a malfunctioning hard drive - that would keep me from RACC for
a while, and catching up waited until I was in the proper mood. Nor did
it help that I had fallen into an "anime and manga uber alles" stage.
For a time, my fervor for American superheroes took a rest.

But other things were going on in my life, and in late 2002, through
various tribulations largely of my own making, I found myself with an
Internet connection, a mess of frustrated productive impulses, and an
excess of free time. Surfing the Internet, I found myself on a rather
peculiar corner of the World Wide Web: Unca Cheeks' Silver Age Comics
Site. ( http://www.reocities.com/cheeksilver/ )

This man's burning passion for all things ridiculous in sequential art
reignited my love of superheroes - incidentally transferring my primary
preference to the DCU - and I decided to stop by RACC, see if the old
place was still kicking. Turns out it was, undergoing a period of
flourishing after the Age of the Apathy Beast, and in a fit of
creativity, I took all the Japanese influences I'd accumulated and spun
them together with the classic LNH intro story and an updated version of
what a character based on my personality traits would be, and out came
Digital JUMP! #1!

The response was encouraging, and I immediately dashed out #2, and soon
after #3 - and ran right into the same problem all over again.
Procrastination and distraction began to take over. I managed to stay
active in RACC, at least, and a year later (a significant chunk of which
was spent on a framing device that I never got to work and eventually
tossed out entirely), pushed out #4.

Not that I was otherwise inactive in the LNH. I started up on my habit
of providing feedback to all sorts of stories, I contributed to the
ill-starred Bride of C'thulhu cascade, and in 2005, successfully kicked
off a cascade of my own: Just Imagine Saxon Brenton's RACCies!

But I wouldn't be around to see it end. I had gotten a sudden idea for
a Digital JUMP! story, bringing back my WCs of yore, and decided to skip
forward, writing #11 - and sealing my fate. The Curse of the Skipped
Issue took hold, and I faded out once more.

There were RL circumstances associated with it - the rigors of college
and suchlike - but I think the real problem was guilt. Or, rather, a
combination deal where I couldn't face my unfinished stories, so I left
them behind and started new ones, but accumulated more guilt with each
writing project I tried and abandoned. And I tried - O! how I tried;
both my hard drive and the Internet became clearinghouses for attempts
at storytelling. I never got anything consistent going, and there's one
thing I haven't mentioned that played into the reason why: feedback.

The most important resource to any writer - heck, to any creative
person, and especially when they're developing - is feedback. And in
leaving RACC, in letting my inability to confront the unfinished drive
me away, I cut myself off from it.

Somewhere in there, I hit ultimate unproductivity. I reached rock
bottom and, to rip off a far better writer, I bounced. Fed up with
myself, I tossed all the guilt I had for not finishing things out the
back door, buckled down, and focused on my studies and my goals - and
while I was doing so, just happened to find an awesome, loving, stable

Coming out the other end, I found myself in a new city, as a bona fide
adult, with a real (though temporary) job... that just happened to be
hella boring. So, five years after I'd departed RACC's pastures, I was
finally ready to face it again. And with my newfound ability to just
keep working on something, even if my attention got pulled away for a
while, and damn the guilt, I plunged in - and the rest, good readers, is

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


For a long time -- much longer than I am prepared to
admit -- I believed I could become a super-hero.

This was not as ludicrous as it might seem.

After all, I was lucky enough to live in a small town that had its
very own nuclear power plant. I also knew that before I was born, my
father had been exposed to all sorts of dangerous -- and, hopefully,
mutagenic -- chemicals during the Vietnam War.

I believed it was only a matter of time before my nascent
super-powers manifested themselves, and I could get down to the serious
business of fighting crime.

As late as my college years -- by which time I really ought to have
known better -- I'd hang around my roommate's biology lab on stormy
nights, hoping that an errant bolt of lightning might strike the racks
of chemicals and change my life forever. At the time, it didn't seem
any crazier than buying a lottery ticket.

It wasn't the powers themselves that I craved. Don't get me wrong
-- I'd love the chance to fly, or throw lightning bolts, or move at
superhuman speed. What I really wanted, however, was not the powers
themselves but what I thought they could give me: confirmation that,
despite all available evidence to the contrary, I was somebody special.

Because that's what I loved about comic books. They gave me a
world in which that nerdy-looking guy on the subway -- the one with the
messed-up hair and rumpled suit, whose glasses are crooked and whose
aftershave is a little too strong -- might be Superman. Or Spider-Man.
Or the Hulk. Anybody you met might have a hero, a monster, or both
lurking inside of them.

The heroes I read about in comic books seemed to have the same
problems I did: trouble relating to other people, trouble getting a
date, trouble finding time to do all of the things they wanted to do
with their lives. What made them different was that, from time to time,
those heroes had the opportunity -- and the courage -- to let their
secret selves shine, to go out in their underwear and show the world
what amazing people they really were.

At some point I realized that I would never be a part of this
world. Whatever hidden powers a lifetime of radiation and environmental
toxins bestowed upon me had decided to stay hidden. I was never going
to be a super-hero, so I decided to do the next best thing.

I became a writer.

Writing gave me the opportunity to exercise the kind of control
over a fictional world that I'd always wanted to have in the real one.
I could, like Woody Allen, make myself the hero of every story. I could
give my characters the ability to work through situations I'd
experienced and enjoy the kinds of happy endings I'd felt I'd deserved.

(This could sometimes backfire. I once wrote a story in which the
main character is so upset that his roommate has begun dating the girl
he likes that he decides to kill his roommate. My own roommate -- who
was, in fact, dating the girl on whom we both had a crush -- found the
story, and was disturbed by how many of its details seemed familiar...)

I took writing very, very seriously. I attended a college, Kenyon,
that also takes writing seriously (one of my coffee mugs says "We did
poetry at Kenyon, the way that at Ohio State, they do football.")

My writers' workshops were full of very, very serious would-be
writers like myself, who wrote about bad childhoods, broken
relationships and terse, highly symbolic episodes that I did not
understand at the time, but later learned were meant to be homages to
Hemingway, Nabokov or Raymond Carver.

I was well on my way to becoming a serious writer.

And then something funny happened.

I discovered the Internet.

Not in the same way that Al Gore did, of course. The information
superhighway arrived at Kenyon College, as most things did, about two
semesters after it showed up at every other university. There was no
World Wide Web in those days, of course, just e-mail, FTP, Gopher and
something called "newsgroups," which seemed to be bulletin boards where
people with very strong opinions spent a great deal of time telling
everyone else why they were wrong.

It didn't take me long to realize that in the Internet I'd finally
found the place I'd read about in comic books: a place where seemingly
ordinary people could lead double lives as the heroes, or the monsters,
or (in the case of one of my male friends), the attractive and
flirtatious women they had always wanted to be.

It made sense then, that there would be a place -- alt.comics.lnh,
the home of the Legion of Net.Heroes -- for people like me, who had
dreamed of becoming super-heroes, or at least writing about them.

What surprised me was how good the writing was.

Comics were supposed to be a second-rate genre (this was the time
at which the world's best-selling comic book began with the lines "His
name -- Spider-Man! His powers -- Extraordinary! His webline --
ADVANTAGEOUS!"). And yet here were writers like Dave Van Domelen, Ken
Schmidt and Jeff McCoskey, telling stories that were funny, well-crafted
and engaging about real people who just happened to be super-heroes.

I was also surprised by how much broader and deeper the world of
the Legion of Net.Heroes was than the world of mainstream comics that
had given birth to it.

The super-heroes of DC and Marvel Comics were, in the 1990s, mostly
young white men who lived in the United States. By contrast, the men and
women who posted on alt.comics.lnh came from Canada and Australia and
New Zealand, from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, and
with a range of influences that rarely appeared in comics of the day --
pulp novels and manga, old cartoons and classic TV shows, comedy
routines and music (there were at least two series featuring characters
inspired by the band They Might Be Giants), all of which found their way
into their stories.

The thing that amazed me the most, however, was how friendly a
place the LNH was. I'd come to expect writers' groups to be catty --
and a writers' group on the Internet, where one rarely has to encounter
the object of one's scorn face-to-face, to be ten times cattier.

Yet the harshest criticism I'd seen leveled on alt.comics.lnh was
something along the lines of "that character's actions seem inconsistent
with how he/she has been portrayed in the past." Everyone on the
newsgroup seemed supportive of one another, and no one seemed to take
themselves too seriously.

It was, as a certain credit card company says in its commercials,
everywhere I wanted to be.

So I wrote my first story for the LNH. I created a character who
was, like me, someone who had desperately wanted to become a super-hero,
someone who had, in fact, gone so far as to subject himself to prolonged
exposure to radiation in order to gain super-powers, and who had, as a
result, gained the ability to glow in the dark and be detected at great
distances with a Geiger counter. I called him Easily-Discovered Man.

And because I had recently read _Don Quixote_, I felt that my hero
needed a sidekick, someone who would act as the voice of reason and a
point-of-view character for my audience. If Easily-Discovered Man was
earnest and heroic to the point of obsession, his sidekick would be
practical and a bit sneaky, someone who viewed the whole idea of being a
super-hero as more than a little ridiculous. I called him
Easily-Discovered Man Lite.

To say that I had no idea what I was getting into when I posted
that first story was something of an understatement. The Legion of
Net.Heroes was more than just a writers' group, more than just a place
online to read and discuss stories. It was a shared universe, where
characters and actions in one story influenced events in another, and
where an eclectic group of authors collaborated and competed and created
a world together.

When it worked -- when it really worked -- writing for the LNH was
like what I imagine it would be to play in the world's greatest jazz combo.

I'd toss out a riff -- a story, a chapter of an ongoing cascade, a
response to someone else's post -- and the next author would respond
with something even more brilliant and hilarious (or, in the case of
Arthur Spitzer, completely surreal) and the whole thing would roll on,
each of us constantly forced to reach down into that creative part of
him or herself, each of us constantly raising our game to match the
talent of the people surrounding us.

That experience changed the way I write -- and by extension,
changed me, too.

I'd begun writing as a means of wish fulfillment, as a way to make
myself feel special. But when you write in a shared universe, the story
can't always be about you. The more I participated in the world of the
Legion of Net.Heroes, the less I cared about being the star of the show
-- and the more I simply wanted to tell the very best stories that I could.

I started out wanting to be a super-hero when I grew up. I ended
up growing up by becoming a super-hero. And for that, I have the
authors, the readers, the monsters and the heroes of the Legion of
Net.Heroes to thank.

Long live the Legion.

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


Ah, the Legion of Net.Heroes -- how do I love thee? Let me count the
....um *Ahem*...

You know I was thinking just the other day about how I no longer seem to
care about what's happening in DC and Marvel comics. I still have some
interest in those characters although it is mostly for the various
Superhero movies that come out. But as for the comics unless it's some
writer that I like, a Grant Morrison for instance, I just don't seem to
care. Even if I could read them for free -- I probably wouldn't. And
yet it has been 18 or so years since I've been a part of the LNH and I
still care. Why do I like the LNH more that Marvel or DC?

That's an interesting question. It could be that my view of the Big Two
has become very tarnished. The characters in these work-for-hire
companies seem more like devices to sell various superhero crap. And
the people who created these cash cows don't seem to be getting any of
the pie (or if they do it's a very, very tiny slice). I guess what I'm
saying is that the LNH never screwed over Jack Kirby, or Siegel &
Shuster -- or anyone else and so it doesn't have that bitter taste that
reading a Marvel or DC comic has. And it's kind of funny when you think
about how the LNH would probably have a better chance of getting Alan
Moore to write for it than DC or Marvel now days (still -- he probably
doesn't work for free).

Still, there are plenty of other shared universes (like Superguy) that
haven't screwed over Kirby and I'm not writing an essay about them. So
what else? I wouldn't have fell in love with the LNH if all of the
stories were mediocre. No, there has been a lot of great writing over
the years by tons of great writers (you know who you are -- I won't
embarrass you by pointing you out :)). And also tons of great
characters, tons of great concepts -- that make the LNH more that just a
parody of superhero comics. And we still have some great writers still
putting out great stuff as I write this down. So, that's probably a big
reason -- but not the reason.

I mean other RACC shared universes have had some (and still have some)
good writing. The Omega Universe probably had a greater percentage of
quality writing than the LNH (although my top ten list of greatest RACC
stories would probably have a lot more LNH stories than Omega -- also
LNH characters are way cooler than Omega characters). But I don't have
the same feelings for Omega that I have for the LNH -- and that's
probably because I was never a part of Omega beyond reading it. But I
was a part and still am a part of the LNH and I have written tons of
stories for it over the past 18 years. So is that why I love the LNH --
because I've been a part of it? Is it basically narcissism? Yeah,
probably -- but really how can you not love something more if you put
your blood and sweat into it than if you don't?

So, that's why I dig the LNH. And it's 20 years old, and it's kind of
amazing that it has lasted that long -- and it's amazing that there are
still plenty of people willing to write LNH stories for free. And 20
years is really a long time when you think about it. There are people
who were born after the LNH came into existence that are now old enough
to vote. Think of all of the animals and plants that will never live to
20. All of the TV series and comic book series that never made it to
20. Hell, a lot of comic book companies never made it to 20 years
(Interesting fact -- Image Comics and The LNH started about the same
time -- Image is a little older, but they both started in 1992).

Can it last another 20 years? Who knows. I suppose if Superguy is 3
years ahead of the LNH in Writer's Apathy -- then maybe we'll be seeing
tumbleweeds blowing around on RACC in 2015. But I wouldn't bet against
the LNH -- it's lasted this long -- it's possible it will bury us all
and just keep on going. And going. And going.

And I'll be there -- if not writing then lurking -- and waiting for that
three month lull when I can post the last LNH story and then watch as a
bunch of other writers jump in and the LNH comes back to life again --
just refusing to die. And laughing at my last LNH story attempt.

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


So, twenty years ago today,
I taught you guys how to play.
And because I've never gone away,
I wrote an anniversary essay.

Twenty years.

That doesn't sound right.

Are you sure? Shouldn't I have a jetpack or be typing with my thoughts
or something by now?

Really? Twenty years? Well, if you say so, I'll go with it.

So, you may ask yourself, "Self, who is this person talking to me on my
computer screen and why I am reading his words?"

Well, to the second question, I can only guess. Boredom, perhaps. Or
maybe you're so caught up in the twenty year (seriously?) celebration,
you’ll read anything.

As for who I am, well, suffice to say, without me, you wouldn't be
reading this.

(Well, obviously, as I have to be here to type it, but stick with me for
a bit of a trip to where Memory Lane intersects with Ego Drive.)

I am a founder of the Legion of Net.Heroes. Not THE founder, mind you,
but I was one of the originals to join in the fun in the spring of 1992.
When it was really just the folks on what was then rec.arts.comics (no
bloody ".misc", ."xbooks", or ".creative", just RAC, the way G-d and Tom
Galloway intended it!) started making up silly LSH inspired names and
gave themselves "powers" based on their posting idiosyncrasies. But
that's not the real reason you're reading this.

No, the real reason you're reading this… my real "claim to fame" is that
I'm the Revivalist of the LNH.

Back then, in the pre-graphic and sound and LOLCat ridden days of the
Internet, before the World Wide Web was a catch phrase for any business
student, once spring turned to summer, and college students left their
computer labs for the offline world of Mom and summer jobs, traffic on
Usenet would die down and things would be relatively silent for a few
months until the fall semester kicked things back up. And that's really
what this 20 year anniversary is about: Me returning to school in the
fall of 1992 and posting "Hey, what happened to the LNH?"

Now, if I hadn’t posted, undoubtedly someone else would have. If Neil
Armstrong hadn’t been the first to step on the moon, there’d be more
schools named after Michael Collins. But twenty (hmmm) years ago, I made
the post.

And from there came the flood of stories, the flame wars, the RAC*
split, the MUSHes, the wikis, the fights, the friends, the fans....

Ah, the fans. I like to say I was a net.celebrity back when it meant
something. Unfortunately, it didn't mean money and endorsements and
pseudofame that can lead somewhere like it does today, but at least at
the time, through just the power of writing, you could garner that most
precious of commodity, "fans".

I remember a pal from high school telling me how his friends at college
thought it was so cool that he knew me in real life. I remember joining
a World of Darkness MUSH and while asking some questions to an admin,
introduced myself, and he knew me from the LNH and instantly made me a
full power player, which a friend of mine at school had been trying to
get for weeks (and boy did that piss him off :-)). I remember sending a
birthday card to another LNHer and she telling me that her friends
thought it was awesome she'd gotten a card from me. I said to her that
she was as important as I was in the LNH, but she replied that to her
real life friends, she wasn't me.

Even now, thinking of those things brings a smile to my face. I don't
think people, especially professional writer types, really appreciate at
the base level what it means to have fans.... I've had folks who've been
excited to get an email from me, as I have from people I'm a fan of.
It's flattering and humbling all at once.

I'd like to think that, at least for a time, I deserved the adulation. I
tried to make the LNH a place anyone was welcome; where anyone could
come and be creative to the best, if not better, of their abilities.

Another LNHer once told me that before finding the LNH he hadn't ever
really been creative. It had opened a whole new area of his life to explore.

In my darker moments, it's memories like those that make me think what
me and a bunch of folks did twenty (sigh) years ago in a small corner of
the Internet might have been worth doing.

Some might say I was the leader back then. It may come as a surprise; I
wasn't actually one of them. I was recognized as such by our opponents
in the Great RAC Flame War, for being someone reasonable to talk with,
rather than our more.... enthusiastic members. To bring some order to
the chaos, I formed the dramatic sounding Council of Elders, made up of
other founders and the more active of new members, again, not so much to
lead, but to organize, to be a guidepost in the new creative wilderness
of net.fiction.

I walked the Long Road. I created many of the terms used in the LNH. I
helped the Electrocutioner find his Song (and have the trading cards to
prove it!). My declarations were officially official. I designed the
logo. And I wrote the only Legion of Net.Heroes story possessed by Neil

So who am I and why are you reading? You're reading because twenty years
ago, I helped create "the most fun you can have with your .net on." As
for "who am I?" I am Todd Kogutt: SCAVENGER, and you are most definitely

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

Well, that's it (except for those stragglers who are posting their
essays right as you read these words)! Thanks to those who sent me some
essays (or stories)! And thanks to you people out there reading these
words (we do this all for you)! See you five years from now for the
25th Anniversary (Well, hopefully we'll see you sooner than that)!

Arthur "One more year till drinking age..." Spitzer

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