In 2008, ABC Family Channel debuted a show called The Middleman (based on the Viper Comic written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach with art by Les McClaine). The Middleman is not really a person, but rather a job title that has been handed down from Middleman to Middleman for centuries. "Fighting evil so you don't have to," the Middlemen work for the "Organization Too Secret To Know" (O2STK), who provides each middleman his assignments and super-cool gadgets through a robot named Ida (Mary Pat Gleason). The show introduces the current incarnation Middleman, a square-jawed, milk-drinking, crime-fighting, clean-mouthed, butt-kicking hero played by Matt Keeslar. In the pilot, the Middleman hires Wendy Watson, played by Natalie Morales, an artist by passion and a temp-worker by necessity, as his sidekick and Middleman in training. In many ways, she is the total opposite of the straight laced Middleman. The series focuses on Wendy as she tries to balance her normal life of boyfriends, mothers, and roommates with her more surreal adventures with the Middleman. In the first season alone, Wendy faced monsters, aliens, mad scientists, zombie fish, demons, vampire ventriloquist dummies, malevolent boy bands and evil sorority girls. The show was a sci-fi geek's dream and was a pop culture palooza. For example, every episode used the Wilhelm scream in some way (The DVD features a compilation of these as a bonus feature), and the phrase "It's sheer elegance in its simplicity," whenever a villain's plan is discovered. A character named Nozer (Jake Smollett) is frequently seen sparring song lyrics with Wendy. Finally, each episode had a pop culture theme. A partial list includes:
A complete list of pop culture references could be found at the Middleblog.
- Episode two ("The Accidental Occidental Conception") featured the names of characters in Frank Herbert's Dune;
- Episode four, ("The Manicoid Teleportation Conundrum") had names from the Back to the Future series.
- Episode five ("The Flying Fish Zombification ") contained numerous references to the band The Zombies;
- Episode eight ("The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation") referenced Ghostbusters
- Episode eleven ("The Clotharian Contamination Protocol") featured references to Die Hard, the classic Doctor Who characters and a "pan-galactic gargleblaster", a drink from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the same episode, the alien message sent to Earth was written in Aurebesh, the Star Wars alphabet
- The Season Finale ("The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome") was a tribute to the Mirror Mirror Universe in Star Trek (with all the men sporting Spock beards) and parodied Escape from New York.
In short, Middleman was a weekly one hour nerdgasm. Sadly, the Middleman only lasted 12 episodes, despite positive critical reviews, before it was abruptly cancelled, leaving several dangling plot threads and mysteries unresolved (such as the Middleman's background and real name and the ultimate plan of villain Manservant Neville (Mark Sheppard). Fear not dear fans, the Middleman and Wendy have returned to complete their epic saga--this time, in comic form. I was able to pick up The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse from Viper Comics while at the SDCC. The plot of the book picks up right where the show ended. Wendy's boyfriend, Tyler Ford (played by Brendon Hines in the show), is working as the assistant to the villainous Manservent Neville (pronounced "M'nser-vant"), who is spying on the Middle Organization. The Middleman still pines for Wendy's roommate Lacey (played by Brit Morgan) but puts duty first. By the end of this issue, we learn Manservant's plan, discover the Middleman's true name, the identity of his true love, and see Wendy in a Slave Girl Leia costume. The issue is written with the same wonderful dialogue and pop culture reference that made the show great (the references are even referenced in an index). In fact, the original cast of the show reunited for a table-read of the issue. Clips are available on Youtube.com. But, it is much better to read the book than watch the grainy film. Viper should seriously consider releasing a CD or download of the reading for Middleman completionists.
The Middle Man: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse is available on the Vipers comics website www.vipercomics.com and you should pick it up (along with the DVD collection of the show, which features great extras like the complete webisodes and the PSAs done to promote the show.)
Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Armando Mendoza have produced such a quality project book that it will be only a matter of time until they assume enough power to take over the world in no time. "It's sheer elegance in its simplicity."
The Middle Man: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse
Writer: Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Art: Armando Mendoza