Monday, November 21, 2005

Online fandom

A few days ago, Jim Davis asked in one of the comments:


Michael, your "Legion of Super-Resources" page was one of the first Legion pages I came across when first online.

The very first, however, were the mailing list archives hosted by the same ISP that hosted your page, Idyll Mountain. This mailing list was once very active (dozens and sometimes hundreds of posts a day) and I often spent pleasant hours reading the archives.

Do you, or anyone else, happen to know what happened to these archives? Could they possibly be made available again in some form?

That got me thinking about how I found Legion fandom online when I first encountered the internets. It'll take me a little while to reminisce my way over there as I recount my journey through online fandom, but if you need a quick answer, it's "there doesn't appear to be, sorry." If you don't mind reading, you'll get the same answer in a few minutes.

I got my first computer in 1994 and after some experimenting in local BBSs, I joined Compuserve and found Doug Pratt's Comics and Animation Forum right as Zero Hour was wiping out the Legion. I had finally found some kindred spirits, people who I could talk to about my hobby who knew exactly what I was talking about and didn't look at me funny. Lots of fun people and big-name pros (Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Jeff Moy, Neil Gaiman, Tony Isabella, Bob Rozakis, Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt, etc.). I made some friends online there, including Johanna Draper, who helped me when I ventured out into the big bad unmoderated world of Usenet in late 1994.

Shortly after I found Usenet, the rec.arts.comics.* (RAC) hierarchy was undergoing a change. Because of so much traffic, it was splitting up into more groups, one of which was rec.arts.comics.dc.lsh. There was a whole newsgroup just devoted to the Legion! I recognized a lot of names there from Compuserve, and by the time the San Diego Comic Con rolled around in 1995 I had decided that I could go and hang out with people I had never met in person, because we all had things in common. My 1995 con report mentions Joanna Sandsmark, Trish Mulvihill, Elayne Weschler-Chaput (now Riggs), Heidi MacDonald, Sidne Ward, Kynn Bartlett, Vernon Harmon, Jim Drew, David Goldfarb, and Troy McNemar, among others.

Around that time, Johanna told me about a mailing list she was on, called Legion-L (later LSH-L), hosted on netcom.com. We all know about mailing lists now, but that was new to me at the time. Turns out that this was at least the second Legion mailing list, the first of which was called Omnicom, hosted by Vernon Harmon on his cmu.edu account. Omnicom was a cross between a traditional APA (Amateur Publishing Alliance) published on paper and an internet mailing list, in that Vernon would manually compile the electronic postings:

Omnicom is an electronic mailing list. A new issue is usually sent each week on Tuesday and is mailed in multiple parts. It costs nothing to participate in (except for costs (if any) that you incur on your end for receiving e-mail) and no subscriber is required to submit anything. I have archives of all previous mailings available, but they are not yet available via ftp or automated mailer -- I process requests by hand-- therefore, there may be a delay in having your requests for back issues processed....just keep bugging me about it.

For some reason, CMU hasn't deleted Vernon's 10-year-old "Welcome, Legion fans!" web page that shows what Legion stuff he put online, but it did delete the Omnicom archives (and his FAQ, timeline, who's who, and appearances list - everything but the Omnicom home page. Some items, like the FAQ and timeline, were picked up elsewhere). Unfortunately, in a later conversation with Vernon, he told me that he did not have a backup for the list archives. So, unless someone else happens to have email from the early 90's, we're out of luck.

Briefly (ha!), back to the 1995 San Diego con... I was with a group of Legion fans who had met online, and we attended the Legion Dinner, a tradition for several years in San Diego. This particular one was a gathering of Legion fans involved in the paper APAs, as well as from the growing online fandom. I noted in my con report that it appeared to have been the first combined APA/mailing list gathering.

At some point around 1994-1995, the LSH-L list started, with Don Hearth as list admin. For all I know, it might have had to do with Vernon graduating and having to move the list somewhere else, but I'm sure someone out there will know. My email archives show that in January 1996, the list moved to Kynn Bartlett's company's servers at Idyll Mountain Internet (idyllmtn.com). To show you how popular the mailing list was then, I found an email apparently from Kynn with the stats:

When I went to delete last months' worth of messages from LSH-L, I decided to see if it was true that the message count dramatically increased after the move to Idyll Mtn.

For the whole month, we had 1208 messages in 2539K. This comes out to 39 messages in 82K per day.

Between January 1 and January 24, we had 759 messages in 1592K. This comes out to nearly 32 messages in 66K per day.

Between January 25 (the day the "move" Admin notice came out) and January 31, we had 449 messages in 947K. This comes out to over 64 messages in 135K per day.

So yes, it's not your imagination, traffic doubled after we moved to .idllmtn.com.

By April, my archived emails say that we were getting over 100 messages a day. But then again, there were really only two places for Legion discussion back then, LSH-L and rec.arts.comics.dc.lsh. In February, I started keeping track of the various Legion web pages, which turned into the Legion of Super-Resources page. Sometime in early 1997 the list went to another idyllmtn.com server, mlists.com.

I think Johanna took over the LSH-L list after a while, and then after she bowed out others took it over. The archives for all of the mailing lists served by mlists.com were held there.

I seem to recall a split in the group, but whatever the reason, by summer 2000 there was a group at both mlists.com (LSH-L) and egroups.com (Legion-List), which were taken over by yahoogroups a few months later. With Yahoo Groups, it was trivially easy to set one up and maintain it, so we got several groups devoted to Legion-related pictures (photos, art, etc.) and others for discussion.

My archives of my own posts show that my traffic to LSH-L on mlists.com abruptly stopped in mid-2001, with only a handful for the rest of the year, while traffic to Legion-List continued unabated. I don't remember why.

So, that's the history of Legion mailing lists, from my perspective. Kynn's Idyll Mountain Internet shut down sometime earlier this year, and mlists.com is not recognized. The Internet Archive has mlists.com from 1997-2004, but sadly, none of the time points have any of the Legion archives.

Meanwhile, for a time DC had a site on AOL, with creator chats and message boards. When the contract expired, DC moved to its own site and started its own web-based message boards. But for me, I was getting too busy and never got into them (or their successors, such as LegionWorld and others listed at the right) and since rec.arts.comics.dc.lsh is a ghost town, I mainly keep up with the mailing lists and that's about it.

So if there's anything out there you think I should be aware of, let me know and I'll see that it gets posted here.

2 comments:

Kynn said...

Drop me some mail in a little bit (say, a few months), I may be able to dig up old Legion mailing list archives, if we can find a place to put them.

Terence Chua said...

Did anything come out of this? I'd love to read the old discussions - I remember I was quite active on some of them. E-mail me at terence dot chua at gmail dot com.