I find myself particularly lucky this May because I
get to celebrate two anniversaries: the LNH's tenth
and my fifth. Yes, I came across
rec.arts.comics.creative, and the Legion of the Net.
Heroes, when people were making a quiet sort of
ballyhoo about the LNH's fifth year in existence.
I remember the first two things I read, and it was
those two things that made me want to write for the
LNH (though I'm sure the authors would be less than
proud to find their names mentioned here--no one wants
to be responsible for unleashing Tom on an
unsuspecting Looniverse, even indirectly). I read one
of Hubert Bartles's TALES OF THE LNH, in which Panta
runs into some trouble with Self-Righteous Preacher,
and an issue of DVANDOM FORCE by Dave Van Domelon,
which was somewhere around the tail-end of the Century
I can't quite say that these were my two influences
when I began my "career" with the LNH, but it was
these two stories--the comedy and silliness of TALES OF
THE LNH and the beauty and drama in DVANDOM
FORCE--which convinced me that here was a place for me
to learn and grow.
About two months later, I retracted that statement,
being that I was spending just as much time whining
about how no one paid attention to my stuff and how
everyone was ganging up on me and blah, blah, blah.
What I didn't realize then and I do realize now was
that this was precisely the ideal environment for me
to grow; not just as a writer, but as a person.
When I first came to the Internet and, shortly
afterwards, RACC, I had a number of problems. One was
the fact that I was an AOL and so I suffered from AOL
User syndrome (you know, being generally annoying and
stupid). Another problem, I was beginning to combat
what has become a long-running war with a particularly
nasty mental illness. I'm not telling you this for
reasons of sympathy, but by way of explanation: I made
very little sense because what I have makes it very
difficult for one to concentrate on much of anything.
And because I made very little sense, people
criticized me. Which brings me to the worse problem I
had when I started writing for the LNH:
I didn't receive criticism very well.
I've been fond of saying that without some sort of
criticism I won't know what I'm doing right and wrong
and so I can't improve and I do mean that, very
sincerely. Nothing makes my day like receiving a
comment or review. But, being that I was a stupid
child, I took criticism as attacks.
And, thinking I was attacked, I struck back.
In hindsight, I probably would have made a lot less
enemies if I had learned how to use smileys. You
know, the colon-parentheses combination or one of its
many variants that indicates the user is being
sarcastic. I'd say a good 95 percent of what I said,
especially in those early days and especially in what
became flame wars, should have had a smiley after it.
If I had made that extra effort to notify fellow
RACCers that I was just trying to kid around, things
would have turned out better.
Of course, if I had just stopped being childish that
would have headed all these problems off at the pass,
Though it took a very long time (okay, a very, very,
very long time) I finally began to wise up and these
days I've earned the respect (well, maybe respect's
too strong a word) of those people whose enmity I
earned in my newbie years. Those people who I was
particularly combative with have received private,
e-mail apologies for my rude and obnoxious behavior.
Everyone else who was inconvenienced by my idiocy, I
apologize here and now.
There. Now that that's settled, I can reminisce a
bit about the growth of Tom the writer. I feel I had
to get the growth of Tom the person from idiot newbie
to human being out of the way so that I wouldn't have
to keep referring to it during the Tom the writer
portion of this little bit of RACC nostalgia.
MANGA GIRL AND THE FOUR MONTHS OF CRAP [MAY 97-AUG 97]
I didn't read for a month before posting as suggested
in the FAQ and I didn't look at the archives until I
figured out what this whole zipping thing was. I
think if I had did a little reading, I would be a bit
more knowledgeable about all things LNH. Well, I
didn't, and the piss-poor MANGA GIRL # 1 was the
From the first truly bad and poorly executed joke
(Manga Girl telling the reader to "look up, stupid" to
indicate that the reader should scroll up to the title
to find out what her name is) to pop culture
references (New Coke), it set the tone for most of the
shit I churned out in my first four months.
I can do nothing more than apologize for the
forty-plus posts I plagued the group with from May to
August of 1997.
There is no excuse for it, but some rationale. I was
a fanboy when I started, spending what little money I
had on a comic book collection that neared 4,000 when
I stopped collection in 2000. (I had begun it in
December of '96.) I read mainstream comic books, the
tight-and-cape clad adventures published by Marvel. I
was dazzled by the medium and I thought that these
stories--leading into cross-overs, cryptic dialogue,
love-triangles that are never resolved, soap opera
plotlines, everyone returning from the dead, ten-page
fight scenes, four part stories that could easily have
been told in one part, sub-plots up the wazoo--I
thought that these were the greatest things ever
written. I mean, they had to be good, right? They
were published, and no one would publish stories if
they weren't well-written.
And so I thought that these shitty clichés were
evidence of great writing and I tried to emulate that.
I turned out issue after issue because I wanted to
have a lot of history so that when I did my Really
Good Stuff, I could pull out an old subplot or a
formerly-dead lover and so on. I was trying to set up
a safety net upon which to build my Really Good Stuff.
That Really Good Stuff was Teenfactor, or it was
supposed to be.
TEENFACTOR AND AFTERWORDS [SEPT 97- AUG 01]
My longest running series, and the most popular one I
did, begun in September of 1997 and ran until the
summer of 2000. It ran from issue 1 to 130; there
were five issues, part of abandoned crossovers, that
were never written. There were, however, two issues
each marked 126 and 127; I started a storyline,
abandoned it, retconned it, and started over from 126.
There were also two annuals. So I can safely say
that there were roughly 130 issues of TEENFACTOR.
This is not including its two predecessors,
MALINGERER LAD AND TEENFACTOR (1-20) and FROST AND
TEENFACTOR (1-8). Those would be filed under the four
months of crap section.
TEENFACTOR, which was begun as a sort of
parody/cross-breeding of GENERATION X and X-FACTOR
(Marvel Fanboy, remember?) evolved more than any other
thing I've written. It changed and grew, sometimes
slowly, sometimes deliberately, over the course of
time. Like its teenage protagonists, it was trapped
between the juvenile and the adult. By the end, it
was very mature. But at the beginning...
The first issue of TEENFACTOR is silly and juvenile,
as are most of the earlier issues. There was no real
plot, just characters sort of hanging out and one
character, the inimitable Useless Powers Lad, dropping
in unexpected like.
Useless Powers Lad and Areo Lass (yes, I know, Areo
should be spelt Aero) are perhaps the best evidence of
Teenfactor's evolution. UPL was me. A writer
character. Some of the strange things he did,
including "funny" accents and antics, were things that
I did. As I became a more serious person, so did UPL.
Carolyn Forge has all ways been an ideal and never a
person. She was the embodiment of what I considered
to be a perfect girl. And as my idea of perfection
changed, so did she.
Not that I'm saying my idea of the perfect girl is a
I got some flack for that, believe it or not. Some
lurkers (two of `em, in fact) thought that I was
promote teenage sexual activity with TEENFACTOR # 17,
that I was glorifying it. I was not doing any such
thing. What happened in (or rather, after) that issue
had nothing to do with the fact that both UPL and Areo
Lass were teenagers. They were people in love who
would never see each other again, or thought they
wouldn't. And so they consummated their undying
I thought it was sweet.
A lurker thought it was "immoral."
Which reminds me of one of the most embarrassing
flubs in TEENFACTOR history.
In TEENFACTOR # 30, "Carolyn's Secret", one of my
best pieces at the time, Carolyn, who is pregnant,
drives down to Washington DC to tell her mother. Her
mother, a devout right-to-lifer, afraid of what people
will say, tells Carolyn that she is to get an
abortion, even if it is immoral.
The flub there is two-fold:
First, I neglected to mention her mother's status as
a right-to-lifer. In proofreading it right before
sending it, I decided that the beginning of the scene,
where Mrs. Forge yells at an abortion clinic on the
screen, was going on too long. The second part of the
flub was that instead of "immoral", it read "illegal."
Apparently in the Looniverse the Roe v. Wade case
That was a mistake that could have easily been caught
if I had re-read and re-re-read my story before
posting it. But, as I'm sure many of the readers
gathered, I wrote while on-line for the first forty or
so issues of TEENFACTOR. Being an idiot newbie/AOL
user, I had yet to be introduced to the miracle of cut
If I had, I would have written my things and
spell-checked and proofread them before posting. But
no. I was an idiot.
And I know that my spelling turned off a lot of
readers. In fact, there are some people to this day
that still don't read a thing I post because of the
spelling errors of the early days.
Yet another example of a newbie mistake.
The spell-checker finally arrived when I posted
TEENFACTOR # 50, which was a pretty standard
action/comedy story. But it was in the issue
following it, # 51, that I had another moment of which
I am proud.
Though the writing is sloppy by my standards today
and it is horribly sentimental, when I posted the
story of Carolyn, Rick, and their friend Libby, I had
a tear in my eye. Partially, it was because I had
done a good job and I knew it.
Partially, it was because the story was true. There
really was a Libby, and she was my best friend until
her death when she and I were both twelve. She was a
mute and she did have a brain tumor and the last time
I spoke to her, we got into an argument. The next day
she passed away.
This was the first time I remember realizing that
character really was more important than plot, and
that being able to cause an emotion (sadness,
sympathy, anger) in a reader was more important than
making them laugh. This was the first time I truly
remember trying to shake myself from the Marvelism
that so tainted my earlier work.
Now that I think about it, the seeds for this were
sown when someone (and I want to say it was Eagle but
I'm not a hundred percent sure) said that character
was more important than plot. Of course it is. Why
hadn't I thought of that before? It was in some
thread involving a Super Otter or something, and I
offered some idiot advice (from Tom? What a surprise)
to the writer that he should make it a series of
miniseries on an epic scale.
Miniseries. That reminds me.
To date, I have only finished one miniseries, and
that was GOLDEN MAN AND SMART ALEC. It wasn't very
good at all, needless to say, but it stands out
against the twelve or so miniseries I've started as
the one I finished. (There was an epic GOLDEN MAN
story called LIFE AND DEATH that we'll pretend never
happened, but I skipped an issue or two for reasons I
still can't quite fathom.) This has left a pretty bad
stigma about miniseries and that's why (as I'll
discuss later) I did what I did with the Maggie
Bernard story in JOURNEY INTO IRRELEVANCY. I guess
the reason why I never finished a miniseries was that
I had trouble concentrating on more than one thing at
Which reminds me. Four paragraphs ago I was talking
about emotion and TEENFACTOR # 51. Jesus. I can
never stay on-topic for very long.
Which hurt my writing. Often I'd start a story and
introduce a bizarre plot twist or sub-plot for no
reason that I usually ignored in the long run. I
could never stay with the original idea or outline. I
think it's good that one should be able to experiment,
but when you start a story working towards a
particular end and it gets harder and harder to
achieve that end, it comes across as overly-convoluted
and needlessly complex.
Which explains many, many TEENFACTOR stories in a
Perhaps the longest "storyline" (and I use the term
loosely) was the Boss Supreme storyline that ran from
# 70 or so to 96. It resembled in many respects the
old Eric the Red storyline from the X-Men books.
Still, there are some moments in it of which I am
proud. I still remember vividly the scene in the Red
Castle episode where Electra tries to seduce Terrence;
I still remember poignantly the torment that the
former was going through when she tried to seduce the
latter again in Jesse Wiley's favourite, "Electra's
Paradise". The death of Farmer Jimmy, Terrence's
murder of Jennifer Frost (a moment that Ted Brock
singled out as "One hell of an ending"), the "power of
hate" scene in # 96... though it was a little rough
around the edges, this is still my favourite stretch
in the series, the one where I was the most confident
in my abilities as a raconteur.
It was after then that I begun to run out of steam,
wrapping it up with the five-issue storyline, "The
End". In the first issue, I blew up Teenfactor HQ,
killing practically everybody in it. The other four
issues saw a wrapping up of all the subplots I could
grab ahold of (or at least those subplots in which the
people involved were still alive) and a gathering of
all surviving former members as they went to get the
woman responsible, one Janis Kult.
It ended, sentimentally, with the carrying over the
threshold of Carolyn by Terrence... the long-awaited
marriage had happened, sadly, off-screen. With that,
I bid good-bye to my perfect woman and what had become
a shade of my old self, and, for quite some time, I
adopted the age-old practice of dropping off the face
of the net.
There were a few false starts of a New Era of Tom
Russell, Jnr., among them the amusing first (and only)
issue of Onion Lad. Dane Martin, Onion Lad's
co-creator, was supposed to write the second one. And
he says he will... any day now... or should I say year?
More recently, however, I did take another stab at a
continuing series. You may have heard of it. It's
JOURNEY INTO IRRELEVANCY [SEPT 01-APR 02]
Jesse Willey hated this series.
I mean, hated it.
This is some hard-core hating being directed at this
here series. Why?
Because, it was silly and juvenile. It did anything
for a joke, including killing main/supporting
characters off (Scary Ghost Lass in # 1, Sister
State-the-Obvious [who returned] in #3, Fuzzboy and
Renee [who was really Rachel, who came back] in # 7,
Michette's husband in # 8, Lil' Buddy in # 9, Manga
Girl and Rachel [who was really Renee] and MacGuffin
and Dr. Willy [who also returned] in # 13, Lunchbox
Lass [who came back] in # 18, did I miss anybody?) and
having two issues (# 17-18) take place on what Martin
Phipps termed a "ka-ka island".
It was very seldom that any drama was seriously
attempted. It possessed the pacing and logic of a Jay
Ward cartoon and showed a healthy disrespect for
anything resembling taste. It was goofy and silly and
broke the fourth wall at every possible occasion. It
had no redeeming artistic qualities and most of the
jokes were lame puns or obscure pop culture
But damn, did I love writing it.
With the idea in my head that anything can be funny
and that pointing out themes and technique during the
course of a story would not only defeat the purpose of
the theme/technique in question but make it laughable,
I set out to write this series as a way to balance
myself whilst writing the angst-ridden PEARLY WHITE
PEARLY WHITE was a hunk of crap. It was depressing,
violent, dark, nihilistic, and I'm sorry that my name
is attached to it. PEARLY WHITE really has no
redeeming qualities. At least JOURNEY INTO
IRRELEVANCY is pleasant (most of the time).
JOURNEY INTO IRRELEVANCY was getting back to my
roots. The purpose of the series was to prove that
the old-time LNH gag-fest was still alive and well
during a time when someone pronounced the Legion of
the Net. Heroes dead. Is it art? Not really. But it
was a fun ride and if you came to the series wanting
nothing but that, that's what you got.
If you came wanting another TEENFACTOR, you got
sorely disappointed. I think that's what happened
with the Beatles: great music from Harrison, the Wings
(okay, not GREAT music) and the Plastic Ono Band (...)
was dismissed because everyone wanted more Beatles.
Then again, the Plastic Ono Band and the Wings did
bring pop music down to new levels of suckitude, with
the exception of gems like LIVE AND LET DIE and
WORKING CLASS HERO.
Still, there are some dramatic moments in JOURNEY
INTO IRRELEVANCY of which I am proud. The scene in
the church in # 12, the back-up story in # 8, the
battle in # 19. Though I think my favourite bit from
the whole series was the back-up story running from #
14-23, "Yeaworth Lass."
When I began writing the Yeaworth Lass story, as one
chunky story in my notebook, it occurred to me that
maybe it should be a miniseries. In fact, every word
cried out, we should be part of a miniseries, not a
back-up. I think that, yes, it would make a better
miniseries than a back-up because as two-to-three page
installments it seems inordinately slow. Not that I
think that's it's boring, it's just that you don't get
to the cool hook that would have ended the first issue
until the fourth installment. I just couldn't bring
myself to do it because of the belief that if I do a
miniseries, I'll never finish it. And the Yeaworth
Lass story was one I really wanted to finish, I really
wanted to tell. I'm quite proud of it.
It's very seldom that fat girls get to be the lead in
a capes-and-tights story. And though that back-up
wasn't quite a capes-and-tights story, I still thought
it was cool that a heavyset person could be the lead
character. I thought it was a bit of coolness on my
part and I think I did a good job showing her
self-esteem problem. And her final failed suicide
attempt towards the beginning I found particularly
ironic and cruel and funny.
The Maggie Bernard story also saw the introduction of
the newest writer character, Tyler Bridge. Tyler
Bridge IS Tom Russell, the only two differences being
the name and the fact that Tyler is consistently witty
and funny as opposed to being sometimes funny and, if
he's lucky, witty. Most of his ideas about beauty and
people are my ideas and I think I did a good job
giving a strong impression of my own sort of quirky
personality. He's definitely different than Terrence
Coffee. That's growth, people. And (this being the
whole point of the essay) that's the thing I have to
thank RACC for the most.
I'm a different person than I was five years ago, and
if it wasn't for the LNH, that change, why it might
have happened, wouldn't have been kick-started. It
would have taken a much longer time. And I know that
my prose and pacing would be sorely underdeveloped if
it wasn't for my work here over the last five years.
Yes, I'm obligated to apologize for years of idiocy;
but I'm just as obligated (and much happier with this
obligation) to thank you all for making Tom Russell a
better person and a slightly better writer.
Here's to the next five years for me and the next ten
for the LNH!
Tom Russell, Jnr.
The author of NET.HEROES ON PARADE
Do You Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Health - your guide to health and wellness
> About two months later, I retracted that statement,
> being that I was spending just as much time whining
> about how no one paid attention to my stuff and how
I felt the same way just last year when I did Cute Anna: Crypt Looter:
I thought it was really funny stuff but I wasn't getting any feedback
which meant either 1) people weren't reading it, 2) people didn't like
it but didn't want to hurt my feelings by saying so or 3) people
assumed that I was just writing for my own entertainment and didn't
really want feedback.
> everyone was ganging up on me and blah, blah, blah.
This "ganging up" does happen in usenet, especially during flamewars:
it's the "oh no, my friend is getting flamed so I'll flame the other
guy and it doesn't even matter who started it or who is right or
wrong" mentality. I wasn't on usenet for most of 1997-1998 but it
does seem to me that you got flamed for doing things that others
(wReam and myself for example) had already done in the past, namely
use other people's characters without permission. Not that we never
got flamed for it: would you believe that Scavenger once told me that
I couldn't use Doctor Stomper because the character was based on the
real life net personality T. M. Neeck and I wasn't "doing him right"?!
The irony was that the LNH started out ten years ago with only
"Writer Characters" which got used without permission to the point
that Jef declared them Public Domain": these characters became the
core LNH characters that (almost) everyone used with most writers
blissfully unaware that these "Non-Writer Characters" were actually
WCs and tghat we had simply forgotten who was who. It's only now
through the magic of googlegroups that we can see that Cheesecake
Eater Lad and Parking Karma Kid were actually WCs and not just
characters created by wReam.> Because, it was silly and juvenile. It
> for a joke, including killing main/supporting
> characters off (Scary Ghost Lass in # 1, Sister
> State-the-Obvious [who returned] in #3, Fuzzboy and
> Renee [who was really Rachel, who came back] in # 7,
> Michette's husband in # 8, Lil' Buddy in # 9, Manga
> Girl and Rachel [who was really Renee] and MacGuffin
> and Dr. Willy [who also returned] in # 13, Lunchbox
> Lass [who came back] in # 18, did I miss anybody?)
Sleeps-with-anyone-alive Lass, Dr. Romero and a receptionist/temp were
eaten by zombies. Cannon Fodder also died at least twice.
> It was very seldom that any drama was seriously
> attempted. It possessed the pacing and logic of a Jay
> Ward cartoon and showed a healthy disrespect for
> anything resembling taste. It was goofy and silly and
> broke the fourth wall at every possible occasion. It
> had no redeeming artistic qualities and most of the
> jokes were lame puns or obscure pop culture
Actually, issues 3, 5 an d 6 were good: they were funny because they
were serious like a Police Squad story. I happen to feel that neither
comedy nor drama shouldbe "in your face": the former becomes drivel
while the latter becomes melodrama. I happen to think Net.Heroes #1
was too melodramati, perhaps because you were trying so hard to be
serious. In issues 26, yler, Arlie and Speed all provided comic
relief that prevented any descent into melodrama.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that nobody can do good
drama without being able to do comedy and vice versa: indeed there's a
fine line, I feel, between good comedy and good drama; it's just a
question of adjusting the tone of the dialogue and the narration. I
mean, would it be so hard to play JiI #1-6 completely straight and
make Net.Heroes #1-6 and out-in-out comedy? Not at all because Tom
put the same amount of effort into each of those arcs and it shows.
(Meanwhile, Tome obviously had other things on his mind while hewrote
JiI #'s 7-10. :))
Geez. The sad part (to me, at least) is that I've been around for so long
that I didn't even realize that there were people who didn't realize that
those were real Writer Characters. I think I'm getting old...
-Obscure Trivia Lad, doesn't even know if he's a Writer Character or
Non-Writer Character anymore (not that he's ever done much writing, mind
Brian Perler bpe...@sprynet.com
"I wanna decide who lives and who dies!"
-Crow T. Robot, "MST3000: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"
>I can't quite say that these were my two influences
>when I began my "career" with the LNH, but it was
>these two stories--the comedy and silliness of TALES OF
>THE LNH and the beauty and drama in DVANDOM
>FORCE--which convinced me that here was a place for me
>to learn and grow.
I started with my own series Cybernet. (I have the notes for one
last Cybernet story, which I may or may not write. On the one the
plot goes against every thing else the series said.)
>That Really Good Stuff was Teenfactor, or it was
>supposed to be.
No, the really good stuff was supposed to be Cybernet after #7,
Necessary Evils and Action League: New Brunswick. No, wait, it was
supposed to be Boy Redundant Lad-- wait that was supposed to be MY good
TEENFACTOR AND AFTERWORDS [SEPT 97- AUG 01]
>Carolyn Forge has all ways been an ideal and never a
>person. She was the embodiment of what I considered
>to be a perfect girl.
She's also the type of girl who I have a love/hate relationship
with. It's why I chose her to be Rick Henkerton's friend. (Though
it was ORIGINALLY to be `some guy she knew' and not really that close.
Though Rick considered HER one of his best friends.) The rest was
retconned in during Teenfactor #51--.
>Though the writing is sloppy by my standards today
>and it is horribly sentimental, when I posted the
>story of Carolyn, Rick, and their friend Libby, I had
>a tear in my eye. Partially, it was because I had
>done a good job and I knew it.
>Partially, it was because the story was true. There
>really was a Libby, and she was my best friend until
>her death when she and I were both twelve. She was a
>mute and she did have a brain tumor and the last time
>I spoke to her, we got into an argument. The next day
>she passed away.
Looking back, I think the ONE line of dialogue I had a hand
shouldn't have been there. (The flagpole bit.) I was trying to
introduced a bit light hearted moment where there probably shouldn't
have been there. Anyone one disappointed with that scene, that was
more ME than Tom.
> Perhaps the longest "storyline" (and I use the term
>loosely) was the Boss Supreme storyline that ran from
># 70 or so to 96.
Again, my fault. You had plans on using Brain-O, but I got to Sean
Daugherty with my idea before hand. (About four months ahead
actually.) Then I begged and pleaded for you not to kill Sky. (And
that pitch for The Team really helped.)
>It was after then that I begun to run out of steam,
>wrapping it up with the five-issue storyline, "The
Oddly enough, we both released our kill off the team lineup stories
around the same time. I'd been plotting a major team
slaughter/disaster/city destruction storyline for quite awhile.
(Since about as far back as the start of the series itself. Of course
The Team was floating around with a slightly different lineup in mind
since after the first Action League arch, but I digress.) It just
happened to tie-in rather well
>JOURNEY INTO IRRELEVANCY [SEPT 01-APR 02]
> Jesse Willey hated this series.
Indeed I did.
>I mean, hated it.
Even more than I hate video games getting turned into movies.
> This is some hard-core hating being directed at this
>here series. Why?
Because it was silly and ju- .
>Because, it was silly and juvenile.
oh, that was a rhetorical question
>PEARLY WHITE was a hunk of crap.
WAS being the operative term. I liked the basic concepts. You just
weren't the best choice for writers. See, you have lines you won't
allow your characters to cross. I have no qualms about such things. I
think the Ominous arch proved that. In fact, I started work on issue
#5 this morning. Change of pace for the character.
>It was depressing,violent, dark, nihilistic, and I'm sorry that my
>name is attached to it. PEARLY WHITE really has no
I liked it. No pretense of deeper meaning. Sometimes mindlessness
is a good thing. It is why I watch The 70's Show when my brain
doesn't want to work.