Blue Light Productions presents

Limp-Asparagus Lad #14
Run! Flee! From the Fearsome Force of... Mutant Angst!
Written by Saxon Brenton

Cover shows Retcon Lad backed up against a wall with a horrified
expression on his face. Along the bottom of the cover, in dribbly
letters meant to give the impression of slimy ickiness, is the blurb:
'Mutant Angst!'.

[Continuity Note: This story arc occurs almost immediately after
_Dvandom Force Annual_ #1 - Footnote Girl]

  Terri let herself into the apartment that Joe and Joshua shared.
  Before Joe had joined the Legion of Net.Heroes as Retcon Lad, she
had once asked Joshua why he didn't take a room at the LNHQ, which he
was certainly entitled to. He had demurred, saying that he simply
wasn't a social enough person to stay in what was, effectively, a
dorm. And besides, he had no particular desire to take up residence
in any of the 'mutant guest quarters' that Self-Righteous Preacher
had arranged for in the basement.
  She found Joe sitting at the table, staring out the window. Various
bits and pieces of paper with information on Dave Thomas Deluxe
University - where he would be starting his Freshman year come
September - lay scattered about. He looked morose.
  "What's wrong with you," she asked.
  "Oh, I dunno. I'm still feeling pretty bummed out from Sig.Lad's
funeral yesterday."
  She looked at him with more than a bit of exasperation. "Joe, we
had a guest appearance in _Dvandom Force Annual_ #1, and you got to
express your concerns and get a bit of character development in. Now
you should put it behind you." Then a horrible thought occurred to
her. "You're not suffering from... Mutant Angst, are you?"
  "Geez, I hope not! But..."
  That 'but' was a big one, since if anybody in the Legion was likely
to fall prey to Mutant Angst it was he. The fact that Joe was
Joshua's cousin, and that Joshua - as Limp-Asparagus Lad, the Man of
Dull - was immune to Angst, caused people to assume that Joe was
similarly immune. All too often they overlooked that fact that, as
Retcon Lad, he had originally retconned himself into the Looniverse
from rec.arts.comics.xbooks as a result of a chronic bout of Angst,
and that like almost all inhabitants of the X-titles he probably
still had Nicieza's Sledgehammer of Angst(tm) hanging over him like
some blunt version of the Sword of Damocles. The thought that he
might be doomed to forever brood about the great power of his
retconning abilities (which demanded to be used with great
responsibility lest their absolute power corrupt absolutely), and all
for the benefit of a world that feared and hated him... Well, let's
just say it wasn't a very pleasant prospect.
  "Oh God I hope not," Joe moaned again. "I mean, for all I know it's
bloody contagious. I'm pretty sure Josh'd be immune, but what about
the rest of you? I mean, can you imagine Kid Not Appearing on a full
blown Mutant Angst downer? I've been there once before; trust me
Terri, you don't want this."
  "Well, just calm down. I think the Writer's got different ideas for
Kid's origin, if you know what I mean," replied Terri, "so any Angst
he get's'll be the non-Mutant kind and only come in standard size
doses. And as for me, actually, I have no idea whether I'm a mutant
or not." She turned to the Writer. "Hey! Have you gotten around to
figuring out what my origin is yet?"
  "I thought you already had an origin," said Joe. "As Kid Not
Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story's alt.version."
  "No, no, no. That's a meta-continuity origin," explained Terri.
"That'll work fine for describing how characters relate to each other
outside of the framework of the Looniverse's continuity. But you'd
need something different if you're working the fictional framework.
Like, there are still a number of people who can't fourth wall..."
  "Such as?"
  "Well, lessee. Mongoose still hasn't loosened up much on what
U-Force are allowed to know, and I think Stirge is still keeping
Errand Boy in the dark about being fictional."
  [_U-Force_ #5 and _Legion Files_ #2; _Errand Boy_ #7 - Footnote
  "Anyway, I need my own origin." She turned back to the Writer. "Or
are you going to keep that a secret for dramatic tension purposes?"
  Uh, no. I just haven't figured out the full details yet. I do know
that you're not a mutant. I think you got your powers from being
bitten by a radioactive x-books fan.
  Joe started to snigger, his funk dispelled for the moment. Terri
stared in what could have been shock, outrage, or just plain
bamboozlement. The she made the observation, "You've been reading
too much _Guitar Man_, haven't you?"
  "You can never read too much _Guitar Man_!," called Guitar Man from
whatever storyline he was currently involved in.
  "Yeah, right, whatever, GM," she called back. "And stop giggling,
you!" she told Joe severely.
  "Next best thing to being a mutant..." he managed to say before she
hit him.
  "I think maybe you should save that particular origin for the
return of X-Men Danglers Lass," she suggested across the fourth wall.
  Have you got better idea?
  "As a matter of fact, I do. Get back to me later; we'll talk."
  "Later?" Joe asked, rubbing his ribs.
  She threw him a decisive look. "Yeah, later. My origin can wait.
I'm getting _you_ to LNHQ for a checkup."
  Joe cringed. That could only mean one thing. Well, possibly more
than one, but he had a sinking feeling which one it would be. "Will
this really be necessary?"
  "You're sure we couldn't, you know, just get Kid Kirby or someone
to whip up some technical-looking doohickie to take care of it?"
  His face fell. "It's just that Special Bonding Boy's just so...
nice. Saccharine even. Uhg! I don't think I could cope with being
psychoanalysed by him."
  "That's the Angst talking," she countered. "The tendency to keep
your problems to yourself and brood over them, letting them fester."
  "I guess so..."
  "So stop trying to think of excuses and come on."
  "Bet you want to lock me in the Peril Room an' have Self-Righteous
Preacher torture me with cheesecake deprivation too," he muttered.
  "And stop making references to _LNH Triple Play_ #5. I love you
for yourself, not for how much of a beefcake you are. Which is lucky
for you 'cause unlike Contraption Man you don't look so hot in your

  Legion of Net.Heroes HQ:
  "Sit down and make yourself comfortable," Special Bonding Boy said
pleasantly. "Would you like something to drink? Orange juice, perhaps?"
  "Um, well. Coffee if you have it, thanks," RLad replied. The other
nodded, got up and put the kettle on.
  Retcon Lad shifted his weight uncomfortably, then ventured, "You
know, I was kind of expecting you to put me on the couch, or
  Special Bonding Boy nodded. "Yes. Most people do. And if it would
make you feel more comfortable, then you can use it. But really,
helping people is usually easiest if they're relaxed and at ease. And
sometimes having them lie down on a couch makes people feel a little
too much like they're in a cliche; they start to feel silly and tense
up. I can sense that you're a bit dubious about seeing me, so I
thought perhaps it would be best if we just had an informal chat."
Then he smiled with a touch of whimsy. "Actually, that's also what
the drinks are for."
  Retcon Lad noticed that SBBoy was only making one cup. "You're not
having any?"
  His host smiled. "Just O.J. for me. I never drink coffee, and only
keep the stuff to be social. That's why it's instant," he explained
  "Oh. Right, well. I suppose it'd be too much to hope that you could
just read what the problem is so we could get this over with?"
  "I'm afraid not," SBBoy replied, handing RLad a steaming cup. "I'm
an empath, not a full telepath."
  "And the Legion doesn't have any proper telepaths," RLad
acknowledged ruefully. "I almost wish I had Limp-Asparagus Lad's
immunity to Angst."
  Special Bonding Boy smiled. "If wishes were horses. Really though,
you shouldn't be hoping to be anyone other than yourself. Anyway,
there are rarely any quick solutions these days. Not for personal
problems, at any rate. The growing 'realism' in comic books may let
the world suffer all sorts of bizarre menaces - fights between
superbeings, alien invasions, supernatural apocalypses - that can all
be resolved within a single story arc, or at most during a summer
crossover Event, and afterwards it's as though nothing had ever
happened. But since the start of the Marvel Age there's been an
increasingly fashionable trend for personal problems to be drawn out
over longer periods; supposedly it's character building.
  "Then again, there's been a more recent reaction against that sort
of introspection, and as a result these days there's also the growing
popularity of butt kicking characters who solve their problems by
shooting them. Related to the genre of Vietnam revisionism, I
suspect," he sighed sadly.
  "You sound like you don't approve," RLad observed.
  "Approval or disapproval isn't germane to the question. I don't
like to see anyone in pain, and not simply because I can feel it
myself. I will grudgingly concede the validity of angst as a
character building tool. However, the so-called butt kickers are
merely the most extreme example - those who superficially seem to be
beyond angst and emotional pain, but who in fact are driven by it -
even defined by it. They keep their pain bottled up inside and refuse
to acknowledge or deal with it, letting it build up until it
explodes. Then it becomes their driving force, then their motivation,
and finally their whole raison d'etre - eating them like a cancer as
it goes. By that time they have nothing but their pain and rage; it's
all that's left of them. Take away their hate and need to inflict
pain onto others for revenge, and there's nothing there, just hollow
shells of people who were once happy and vibrant and alive..." He
trailed off sadly. Then he gave Retcon Lad a grave look. "I hope that
I can keep you from starting down that path."
  Retcon Lad suppressed a shudder, and said a fervent, "Me too."
  Special Bonding Boy smiled again. "So, what's bothering you?"
  Retcon Lad opened his mouth to speak, then gave an embarrassed
smirk as he realised how neatly he'd been manoeuvred. He slumped back
into a relaxed position. "I've been worrying about if my powers
could've - could still be - used to bring back Sig.Lad," he began.
  "Not unnaturally, I suppose."
  "Yeah, well. It's just that it all seems so stupid, that's all.
I've got the reasons clear in my head why I shouldn't go around
meddling with things. Have had for some time. But, I just can't help
but feel... you know, that I'm missing something vital, and there
really is an overwhelming reason to get involved. And that one day
I'll find it, and realise I could have - should have - helped, but
did nothing, and let all sorts of suffering happen needlessly."
  "So you think it's a matter of your judgement?"
  "I guess so. I keep wondering how Retcon Man deals with it. Heck,
even Retcon Boy for that matter."
  [This story is set before _R.E.J.E.C.T.S._ #1, and hence no
reference is made to Retcon Roy - Footnote Girl]
  "A little introspection helps keep you on your toes," SBBoy agreed.
"However, like everything it should be tempered with moderation. You
shouldn't let self-examination grow into self-doubt." He paused.
"There is, however, something else..."
  "Is there something I'm overlooking?"
  Special Bonding Boy shook his head. "It's not that. I sense... some
other factor involved. It's tied up with your emotions, but it stands
slightly apart."
  "What, external? Mind control? Something like that?"
  "I don't know. Let's go own to the labs to see whoever's on shift
  Bemused, RLad followed SBBoy down to the LNHQ's labs. Dr. Stomper
was on duty, and after an explanation rigged RLad  up to an
improbably complicated piece of headgear - all wires and doo-dads.
The Doctor plugged it into the computer and turned it on. Lights
flashed, screens gave readouts, and the machine that went 'ping' did
so. The results were astonishingly quick in coming.
 "Hmm. There _is_ something here. An energy matrix of
extradimensional nature residing in the cortex."
  "There's an ED energy link?"
  "No, I said an energy matrix. There's a difference, albeit subtly
so. There's no link, and it's not draining energy from elsewhere.
It's inherent within you. Wait a moment while I try to confirm a
match," the Explainer Supreme said, throwing a few switches.
  Retcon Lad glanced over at Special Bonding Boy, who merely sat as
serene as ever.
  "Ah yes," said Dr. Stomper at last. "Angst."
  "We _knew_ that," complained RLad.
  "No, we suspected it," he corrected, then continued, "Artefact
class, Marvel derived... Niciezan."
  "The matrix matches the pattern of Angst energy put out by
Nicieza's Sledgehammer of Angst(tm). Curious."
  "But how can I retain Angst energy from the Hammer of Angst(tm)?
I'm not a native of the Marvel Universe anymore - even the fanfiction
one I originally came from," RLad protested.
  [_Limp-Asparagus Lad_ #5 - Footnote Girl]
  "That's what's curious," the Doctor acknowledged. "Let me think."
His brow furrowed, and for a moment the only sound in the lab was an
occasional sporadic 'ping', although RLad could have sworn he heard a
faint chord of Think Music.
  "It's most likely a leftover of some type," the Doctor said at
last. "We know that your retconning powers cause the most recent
addition to history to take precedence. I would hypothesise, however,
that a previous history is not necessarily fully erased unless there
is a specific piece of new history to replace it."
  "You're saying that because I'm a mutant in both histories, I still
retain a residue of Niciezan Angst."
  "Yes, although it may be a little more involved than that. Since
you're a mutant in both histories, _and_ there was no reason for you
not to retain a matrix of Angst energy normally found only in
X-titles, you retain it. I suspect that circumstances are helped by
the Looniverse being a parody of other comic book universes. That
means that Niciezan Angst energy isn't specifically excluded from
this continuity."
  "Oh great. So, is there some way it can be blocked, or anything?"
  "Possibly, but that may not be wise. As I said, it isn't an energy
link, but rather a residue energy matrix. It's a part of you; part of
your personality parameters. Trying to block it would be more or less
equivalent to having a lobotomy."
  "I warned you that there were rarely easy solutions," Special
Bonding boy reminded him mildly.
  "Yeah, yeah. I remember."
  "At least we know what forms your angsting may take," SBBoy said
optimistically. "Actually dealing with it will still be your task
  "That's a big task."
  "But not impossible. After all, not all of the X-titles characters
have a heavy Angst quota. Nightcrawler comes to mind as a fairly
obvious example."
  "All you have to do is remember to stick to the High Density Angst
and avoid the Low Density Angst," said Dr. Stomper.
  "Say what?"
  "Avoid Low Density Angst. That's the light, frothy stuff that comes
across as pointless brooding. It takes up a lot of on-panel time, and
produces huge expositionary word and thought balloons as characters
try to articulate their feelings, but it never gets resolved and
eventually turns readers off as they start to recognise it for what
it is: incessant whining. High Density Angst, on the other hand, is
usually - but not always - more concise and actually leads to greater
character development. Here," he added, getting up and taking a slim
monograph off one of the bookshelves. "Read this. It'll explain the
differences between HDA and LDA, and should help you work with
Special Bonding Boy to reduce your Angst levels."
  Retcon Lad inspected the volume. On the cover was emblazoned:
'ANGST: An Amazing Medical Discovery'. Inside on the title page he
read, 'ANGST: IT'S NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL', and 'copyright 1995 by Dave
Van Domelen'. He skimmed through the introduction, noting in passing
that it had been funded by the DvandOmega-Hardy Foundation. "Okay,
thanks," he said, closing it for future reading.
  [The full text of the Angst Guide is available in the archives -
Footnote Girl]

  Later, Joe went for a jog around the park. He felt he needed to get
away from the paperwork at home.
  Special Bonding Boy seemed to have the right idea. The problem was
how to differentiate between healthy introspection and debilitating
self-doubt. He made the mental equivalent of a sigh. Probably it came
with experience.
  That was the problem with life in general: it didn't come with an
owner's manual that gave instructions. And even if it did, it
probably wouldn't have been clear-cut and easy to understand. More
likely it'd read like a VCR programming manual. Written in Japanese.
  As he circled the park, there came the distant sound of a fight.
Glancing around, he spotted what seemed to be a running battle
between costumed heroes and some supervillain or other. They were a
few blocks away, so it was hard to tell exactly who was involved, but
the general pyrotechnics and property damage made it clear what was
going on in general terms.
  Then a generic force blast hit the building above him, and a huge
piece of facade fell off. Joe went " eep " and leapt for safety.
Unfortunately it was a very large piece of facade, and the last thing
that he remembered - briefly - before he lost consciousness was the
pain of impact.

Characters Credits:
  Special Bonding Boy created by wReam (Ray Bingham), and also thanks
for feedback on SBBoy's characterisation
  Dr. Stomper is Public Domain
  Joe (Retcon Lad) and Terri (Fourth Wall Lass) created by Saxon

All characters copyright and tm their owners and/or creators
Add Notes:
  While Retcon Roy should be familiar to LNH readers (he's one of the
R.E.J.E.C.T.S.), Retcon Man and Retcon Boy may (or may not) be more
obscure. Retcon Man is listed as an NWC of Mike Roe in the Roster,
although I'm not sure if he's had an actual appearance yet. Retcon
Boy is not actually a Looniverse native, but rather is one of the Rio
Grande Avengers in the Storm Saga on rec.arts.comics.creative.

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