Fighting evil, so you don't have to.
Created by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, The Middleman is a series set in a world besieged by comic book evil. You know the kind; mustache twirling, giant improbable monster rampaging, everything is a ray gun evil. The only person fit to fight this menace is The Middleman, the dashing do-gooder of daring-do in the snazzy Eisenhower jacket. Along with his sidekick, art school graduate Wendy Watson, and Ida (a soulless android from outer space masquerading as a crotchety librarian), the day will be saved and villainy will get a stern talking too…or complete obliteration.
Originally intended to be a television show, Javier was unable to make a sell (mostly due to the expense of filming things like giant tentacle ass monsters). Following some advice from Paul Dini, Javier took his pilot script, nabbed artist Les McClaine, and turned it into a comic series through Viper Comics in 2005. Due to the comic’s underground success ABC Family eventually picked it up and a cable TV series was produced in 2008. The first and third episodes were adaptations of the comic’s first and second volumes respectively. The comic’s third volume was not adapted, but elements were lifted for the rest of the show’s run. Unfortunately, low ratings caused the original thirteen episode run to be reduced to twelve and the series was cancelled. The unproduced script for the final episode was then extended and made into a comic. Funny how things turn out.
Utilizing a vast array of equipment provided by O2STK such as; the BTS scanner, HEYDAR, BUMMER, and advanced martial arts training from Sensei Ping, leader of the Clan of The Pointed Stick, The Middleman and Wendy face down menaces like; trout craving zombies, vampire ventriloquist puppets, exiled extraterrestrial dictators posing as a boy band, a sports bar where the waitresses wear skimpy outfits, the machinations of FATBOY, and more!
The series is pure nerd joy. Like Community, references come fast and frequent, though mostly relegated to geek and art culture. The comic’s art is black and white and reminiscent of 50’s comic art. The TV show’s campy feel fits the material well, with the actors having a lot of fun with their often over the top dialogue. For an ABC family show there is a surprising amount of swearing, but each time it is bleeped out with a black censor bar over the actor’s mouth. Somehow this makes it even more funny, and leaving it that way on the DVDs was a smart move.
The Middleman: For a Navy Seal who was drummed out of the service for punching out his commanding officer, he is extremely polite and congenial. His character is a callback to classic American pulp heroes. Always there to defend the helpless and do the right thing, but never afraid to put up his dukes when the situation calls for it. Afterwards, he likes to relax with a nice tall glass of milk. His real name is a mystery. In the TV show he was played by Matt Kesslar.
Wendy Watson: A Middleman-in-training, she was recruited because the weirdness that the Middleman faces on a daily basis doesn't phase her. Full of snark and pep, Wendy just wanted a temp job that would pay the bills and give her time to work on her paintings. What she got was paramilitary training and the adventure of a lifetime. She is essentially the center piece of the series, as the audience experiences the world through her interactions with it. In the TV show she was played by Natalie Morales.
Ida: Ida does her job and doesn't take lip from anyone. On the other hand, she loves giving lip to everyone. She has been serving as receptionist, equipment manager, and ultimate weapon-laden battle droid for Middlemen going back thousands of years. She used to have the ability to change her personality and appearance until her circuits got stuck on dominating schoolmarm. In the TV show she was played by Mary Pat Gleason.
Lacy Thornfield III: Wendy’s roommate who specializes in “confrontational spoken-word performance art”. If there’s a protest against ecological defilement or to protect helpless animals you can bet she’ll be there. She and The Middleman share a mutual attraction but don’t act on it because Wendy doesn't want her two worlds mixing. In the TV show she was played by Brit Morgan.
Noser: Noser is Wendy and Lacy’s friend who also lives in their illegal sublet apartment building. He knows every song there is and often speaks in lyrics or allusions to lyrics. There is a secret about his past that he keeps to himself for fear of how others would react (different in both the comic and show). In the TV show he was played by Jake Smollett.
Manservant Neville: Pronounced “M’n-SER-vant” not “MAN-ser-vant”, he has the appearance of actor Mark Sheppard in the comics and is played by him on the show, making his visage one of the most consistent things about the series. In the comics he is the Tommy gun wielding, gorilla-suit-sans-mask wearing, second-in-command of F.A.T.B.O.Y.. This terrorist organization is a cross between G.I. Joe’s Cobra and James Bond’s SPECTRE, a long-time antagonist for The Middleman. In the TV series, Manservant is head of Fatboy Industries, and is more of a Lex Luthor by way of Steve Jobs.
- The Trade Paperback Imperative (2006)
Wendy is recruited and helps The Middleman fight a super-intelligent mafia movie obsessed gorilla.
- The Second Volume Inevitability (2006)
Sensi Ping is being hunted by an army of luchadors. They have declared a blood feud against him as they believe he killed their leader.
- The Third Volume Inescapability (2007)
The Middleman’s supposedly dead archenemy, Kanimang Kang, returns as the head of F.A.T.B.O.Y., and plans to once again take over the world. Even after helping defeating the deaf, mute, illiterate, ninja in kendo armor, and the man-eating shark with boxer arms, The Middleman still demands that Wendy stay out of it. But why?
This volume wasn't released as single issues, rather as a graphic novel. It includes an “alternate ending” for the series involving soviet biker bears as well as several shorts with different artists featuring Middlemen from the past.
- The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability (2008 )
One bound volume of everything that came before.
- The Middleman: The Complete Series (2009)
The DVD set.
Comes with some nice deleted scenes, commentary, gag reel, and a table read of the last episode.
- The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse (2009)
The expanded, and in color, adaptation of the unfinished script for the final episode of the TV series. Comes with a handy index at the end explaining all the references that are made. Script co-written by Javier and Hans Beimler. Art by Armando Mendoza, layouts by Les McClaine.
Javier has posted a couple crossover narratives on the series's web page, The Middleblog. Like this one with Doctor Who. And this one with classic Star Trek.