From the metafictional past of Earth-20 comes...

TWENTY FISTED COMICS

#1: THE LAWLESS LEVELS! WRITTEN BY ANDREW PERRON

[ The cover shows a tall, radiant figure with a proud bearing. She wears with a golden tiara, a bright yellow cape clasped at the neck, a long-sleeved green top, a sky-blue chainmail skirt, and military-cuffed boots. A caption box says, "Introducing... LADY FAIRPLAY!" ]


GOLDEN AGE VERY-DISTURBED-SCARY-CREATURE MAN! Spiritualist Professor O. Iji Boarde was visited in his dreams by the goddess Persephone, who told him:

War is overflowing the halls of the dead! Hades cannot hold them!
Take this, the Mantle of Pluto, and fight to end war!

Now he fights adorned in monsters from the Golden Age of Greece!

LASS LADY, The First Hero! Mysterious champion of freedom, she wields the Liberty Rifle, which shoots not death, but Theta Radiation, dispelling dark, controlling thoughts! She knows that We Can Do It!

DOC NOSTALGIA! The Man of Alloy, rocketed from his home planet of Groupon to fight in the name of his race's past and our world's future!

And introducing LADY FAIRPLAY! At the request of the brilliant scientist Professor Amazo, Mary Lee, modest young school teacher, underwent an experiment which transformed her into a beautiful creature with unlimited energic powers! Now she assumes the role of Lady Fairplay, goddess of chastisement and dreaded foe of the underworld!

Today, the enigma men and women of the 20th century face – THE LAWLESS LEVELS!


Late at night, in the palatial mansion of noted occultist Orenthal Iji Boarde—

"What's this? Something's awakened me— out of a deep sleep— there is a great wrongness in the air!"

He steals to the secret room, behind the bust of Persephone!

"All fear is darkness— but darkness knows fear of GOLDEN AGE VERY-DISTURBED-SCARY-CREATURE MAN!"

GAVDSCM (as the busy people of our modern era, where Time is Money, call him) takes the stairs up to the roof, where the Very-Disturbed-Scary Aerogyro awaits – but halfway up, there is a terrifying transformation!

"What—!? This is no longer old-growth pine that surrounds me, but COLD STONE! And who is that up ahead...?"

"Golden Age Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Man!"

"Lass Lady!" said GAVDSCM, seeing the Understudy to the Statue of Liberty step from the flickering torchlit shadows. "What are you doing here?"

"The same thing as us, I wager!" The ruggedly masculine form of Doc Nostalgia turned the corner, along with a woman with a flaxen cape. "Waken in the night by foreboding, and when we went to face it—!"

"Lady Lass, Doc Nostalgia, and Golden Age Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Man!" said the mysterious woman. "Never did I expect to be part of such a collection of titans!"

"You have the advantage of us, my lady!" said GAVDSCM.

She curtsied regally. "Lady Fairplay, sir, late a defender of the midwest!"

"We may all be late," said Doc Nostalgia, "if this place has its way! Look – down the corridor!"

It came capering, a green-skinned thing, short, with a bulbous nose and protruding ears. It wore naught but tanned hides, but in its hand bore a wickedly sharp blade.

"What is that?" gasped Lady Fairplay.

"Fascinating," said GAVDSCM. "A goblin, or gob, as often encountered in Norse folklore!"

"Whatever it is, I'm going to take care of it right now!" Doc Nostalgia strode boldly forward, but Lass Lady put a hand on his arm.

"Let me take a crack!" she said, hefting the Liberty Rifle.

"Bah!" said Doc Nostalgia. "Your constant insistence on pacifism grates like a burr in my boot!" But he stepped back, not without a huff.

Lass Lady took careful aim. The gob was loping down the corridor, slavering thru a wide, toothy grin. She squeezed the trigger, and a beam of pure iridescence blazed across the gap!

The goblin fell back, dropping the blade. In a clear, human voice, he said, "Ohhhh... anyone get the number'a that truck?"

Lady Fairplay rushed over. "Your name— tell us your name!"

"Ugh! Marty Fairchild, atcha soivice. And— h–hey, what?! What happened'a me!?"

Golden Age Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Man stepped forward. "It seems the man's been transformed!"

Doc Nostalgia, green around the gills, shouted, "You have to do something!"

"Wait a moment, there's..." GAVDSCM drew a piece of paper from the false goblin's tattered garments. In a flash, the gob's form became a middle-aged man wearing long underwear!

Lass Lady helped Marty Fairchild to his feet. GAVDSCM stroked his chin beneath his curtain mask. "Goblin Foot Soldier... Alignment: Always Chaotic Evil... One attack per round, damage 1d6, slashing..." He shook his head. "I can't make heads or tails of it!"

Lady Fairplay peered. "'Per round' reminds one of sport, like boxing, or board games, like chess. And look – 'hit dice'. These are instructions for a game!"

"Dungeons and goblins?" Doc Nostalgia shook his head. "Some game!"

Lass Lady gasped. The others turned to see Marty Fairchild's form vanish into nothingness! Where he had been, copper coins clinked to the floor.

"Vanished!" said Lass Lady.

"But to where?" asked Lady Fairplay.

"Either safe in bed," said Doc Nostalgia, an ominous glint in his eye, "or—!"

A chill wind passed thru the dungeon. Golden Age Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Man shivered, then realized— "A draft! Perhaps, a way out!"

They spread out, looking for the source— "Here!" called Lass Lady. A stone was loose. With a mighty creak, the wall swung inward to reveal stone steps leading down.

The heroes fearlessly descended. "Another twisty little corridor, just like the last," muttered Doc Nostalgia.

"Spread out!" called Lass Lady. "There may yet be a way, either out – or towards our fiendish foe!"

GAVDSCM pulled out his Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Stick, carved into the likeness of Typhon, and tapped at the walls and floor. The stone was of no type he could identify, seductive glimmers sparkling within it. At one point, a floor tile dropped beneath his cane, and a great bladed pendulum scythed thru the space before him!

"Diabolical conjurings—!"

Then a shout and the clangour of battle came from whence he'd come! Golden Age Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Man rushed to help!

Doc Nostalgia had grappled a great, hairy, two-legged beast with the head and horns of a bull! Lady Fairplay was flanking it, aiming energic jabs at its kidneys, while Lass Lady was attempting to set up a shot that wouldn't hit her allies.

"Allow me!" GAVDSCM tossed a tiny glass vial, which broke on the beast's horns. A pool of inky shadow engulfed its head. "Now!"

Doc Nostalgia and Lady Fairplay fell back. The beast roared and thrashed about! Lass Lady fired, and the beast staggered. "Oh... what? Good heavens! What's happened to me?"

GAVDSCM hung back. Might he be prevented from disappearing, from being condemned to the awfully ambiguous fate of Marty Fairchild? But Lady Fairplay plucked the game rules from the shaggy coat. "Don't worry, sir, that was just a dream."

"Just a dream..." The old man in the evening gown vanished.

Doc Nostalgia rounded on her. "Do you know what you—"

"Yes, I do," she said, with a supercilious schoolmarm's demeanor settling over her. "These people have been presented as monsters for us to fight, not a papery puzzle. Whomever the master of this dungeon is, his objective is battle, and anything unuseful is no longer his concern."

"Meaning he's not done with us!" said Lass Lady.

And as those words were spoken, stone scraped 'gainst stone, and a new doorway opened next to them. The stairs led into darkness.

The four eyed the stairwell with trepidation.

"We're being herded," noted Golden Age Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Man. "Shall we follow the proffered path?"

Doc Nostalgia crossed his arms. "My judgment seems inadequate for these challenges!"

Lass Lady patted him on the shoulder. "Cheer up, chum! Your strong right arm hasn't failed us yet!"

Mollified, Doc Nostalgia walked down into an empty room, nothing in it but the torches on the walls. The others followed, GAVDSCM taking up the rear.

"Well, I honestly don't see the—" As soon as his boot touched the floor, it shook with a nauseating quiver and reared up around them.

"Jumping Jonah!" shouted Doc Nostalgia. "The room itself is swallowing us whole!"

Lass Lady fired pell-mell into the ground. "It's not working! This is no human transformed, but a SOULLESS THING!"

"Then we must treat it as a rabid animal – to be put down!" GAVDSCM grabbed a torch and tossed it to the undulating floor. A screech reverberated thru the stone.

"Hah! Finally!" Doc Nostalgia leapt into the air, coming down with all his strength on the thing – which burst apart, sending them tumbling into a hell of stone and flesh!

Lady Fairplay felt a moment of vertigo and lightness, then fell with a heavy shock thru her bones. She blacked out for a moment, then came to atop a pile of putrid flesh. Around her were the groans of fallen allies.

They were at the meeting of four corridors. Four empty corridors – or were they? No – because she could hear it – a hideous sucking – she could see it – translucent, mucoid flesh rolling, bones suspended, lolling grotesquely – crawling, grinding down – towards them – no escape – no escape!!

"NO!" shouted Lady Fairplay. "You have put us in your game – we have played it! We have been winning! But to have rocks fall and surround us with inescapable death—"

She pushed herself to her feet, arm hanging limply at her side. "That, sir, is the tantrum of an unsocialized infant! That, sir – is NOT PLAYING FAIR!"

A gust blew— a tornado blew—

And when the rush of air stilled, the dungeon was gone. Golden Age Very-Disturbed-Scary-Creature Man stood on his roof, in the clear, cold night.

The next day, Prof. Board gave his good friend Taylor Gable a call.

"...and I found myself in the building's hallway, in full costume," said the revival theater owner who was, in truth, the dauntless Doc Nostalgia.

"Curiouser still!" said Prof. Boarde. "One must wonder – is this mysterious master of games gone? Or will we see his like again?"

"Well, I know one thing – we've surely not seen the last of LADY FAIRPLAY!"


Author's Note: Woo! LNH20 Lives!

Lady Fairplay is, in fact, an actual Golden Age comics character, appearing in Bang-Up Comics #1-3, published by Progressive Publishers. She's fallen into the public domain, so I decided to pull that deliciously LNHy name and concept into a story.

"Enigma men" is a pre-Network term for net.heroes. It's based on "mystery men", of course, with an LNHy reference to computing – specifically, the Enigma code machine, a form of single-purpose analog computer.

GAVDSCM's personality went in a very different direction than I expected, but when the character tells you what they're thinking, all you can do is listen! Also, "O. Iji Boarde" is my attempt at matching the cheese factor of Arthur's secret ID for the original VDSCM, Dr. Freddy N. Slip, the World's Sanest Psychiatrist.

I'm fairly sure that no one has ever been able to find out who Lass Lady was in her civilian life, or even if she had one (thus giving her the distinction of having a mysterious past without being angsty).

And yes, the force behind this issue's events is linked to the origin of a certain charismatic LNHer...

Descriptions follow:

GOLDEN AGE VERY-DISTURBED-SCARY-CREATURE MAN: A thin, tall man of Eastern European descent. Wears a flowing black cape with light gray silhouettes of mythological monsters embroidered on it. Under this, a renaissance shirt and breeches, black buckled boots and gloves, and a curtain mask with Medusa's face on it. As Prof. Boarde, habitually wears natty suits and white gloves.

LASS LADY: Wears a white version of a Revolutionary-era minuteman's uniform, expertly tailored to fit, with red and blue pinstripes and a blue domino mask. She has freckles, blond hair, and a very curvy, zaftig form (modern media would call it "fat" if the public didn't still adore her).

DOC NOSTALGIA: A muscular, square-jawed man with hair of an odd blue-black hue. Wears a bright blue and black version of an American World War I Army uniform, with a black neckerchief and a blue ranger's hat, and a circle on the chest with the letters "DN" in it.

LADY FAIRPLAY: See cover, of course!

Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, took me forever to make the cover, but it was worth it.

< Tales of the LNH v20 #1 LNH20 The Great Catastrophe #4 >