DC Cinematic Universe Reboot Pitch: Superman

So, I assumed that Warners wasn’t going to throw out the baby with the bath water… which turned out to be foolish on my part- but I also think it’s the right call. And since the DC Cinematic Universe is getting a reboot, I’m going to pitch my own reboot slate.

And… I’m this late in updating because I haven’t been able to stop writing these since I started. It looks like I’m writing full pitches for these things. Apparently I pitch for a living now.

Superman

It all starts with Superman- as it should.

I’d start him at a crossroads, in college at Kansas State. His parents always wanted him to be able to have a quiet, private life. That’s why they’ve always asked him to help in quiet ways. They know their boy too well to think he wouldn’t help at all- but he needs to be careful, so he can have a normal life. To that end they’ve wanted him taking agricultural studies, along with mechanical engineering courses that would help him maintain the equipment on the family’s farm- it’s easier for him to remain anonymous living in Smallville.

But he’s always been drawn to the world. This gets supersized as he moves from Kansas State’s distance learning program to their Manhattan, KS main campus, in a suburb of Metropolis. He’s dating Lana Lang, but she’s still living in Smallville, attending a fashion school online, and their relationship is stretched paper thin.

He rooms with Pete Ross, who he hasn’t seen since High School, but they’re friends. Pete’s something of a big man on campus, and shows Clark the ropes. Clark needs electives even if he stays with his parents’ plans for him, and selects a journalism class; he talks it over with Pete, and justifies it as a lark. Pete sees through him, but also knows that expanding his horizons will be good for him.

He’s also got another friend from Smallville, Lex Luthor. Lex is actually hurt that Clark decided to room with Pete; he’s always been jealous of their easy friendship. Lex struggles to be kind, really, to be human; he’s typically the smartest man in the room, and was raised to believe that the smartest man should be the one everyone else is listening to. He’s wealthy, and flashy, and whip-smart, he’s liked, and respected, but not loved.

On his first day in his journalism class, students pair off to interview each other. Clark gets paired with Lois Lane. She feels she’s slumming it at Kansas State, but when her father transferred to the nearby military base, it seemed the only way to stay close to her family. She starts calling Clark “Smallville” almost immediately. Clark is smitten, and his hopes crash as she’s greeted by Lex, who introduces her as his girlfriend. “Whoa,” she slows him. “I’m still feeling that out.”

Pete chastises him for forgetting about Lana. He checks his watch, and has to run, literally jogging off campus, and once he’s out of sight, running at superspeed back to Smallville, where Lana’s waiting at a diner. He arrives just as their food arrives- she ordered for him, his favorites, and he’s distracted enough not to recognize that she’s upset. Finally she blurts out that the distance isn’t working, and he’s her best friend and she doesn’t want to lose that, but-

He stops her, and takes her hand. “You couldn’t.” This is really the first moment we really see Superman in Clark. He’s gentle with her, kind, hopeful. Then he cocks his ear, and she asks if he has to go. “For a second.” He’s a blur, but back basically before we can blink. She tells him it’s a shame he never goes slow enough for anyone to see that suit- it’s some of her best work. She asks him what it was this time. “Semi’s breaks went out on the highway.” She asks if he could hear that. “I can hear radio waves.”

“You never stop amazing me.” She kisses him. “What is wrong with me, letting a guy like you go?”

“Nothing at all. I’m just not what you need right now. And I’ll always be here for you.” He’s a blur again.

“Except when you’re not?” she asked. It’s mostly flirty, but there’s an edge of sadness to it.

“Hey,” he says, and puts an arm around her, and she curls into his shoulder. “I’ll always come running if you need me.”

“You better. I’ll kick your ass if you stop being my friend.”

We cut back to the campus. Lex is excited to be spending time with Clark, and also excited to be able to show off both what he knows and what his family’s money has bought for the school. He’s leading him through a new advanced robotics lab. “Then why is it part of the health sciences wing?” Clark asks.

“Showing those second-day ace reporting bonafides?” Lex teases him. He pulls back a curtain, to reveal a man, Corben, in a hospital bed. Clark’s empathy goes into overdrive, and he’s not sure he should be seeing this. Lex ignores him, tells him they’ve paid the man for this privilege, and then some. He’s terminal, cancer is killing his body. But using an exotic mineral as a power source, they’ve built him a robot body. The metal skeleton is suddenly behind him, and pinches Clark’s shoulder as the lead container in the chest rotates, exposing the kryptonite at its core. Clark passes out. He comes to a moment later. Lex was concerned, but plays it off teasing Clark for having swooned at the surprise, saying that kryptonite is only very lightly radioactive.

Lex tells him the skeleton they’ve nicknamed “Metallo,” because it’s made of metal, and they… may have been doing 2am Jello shots while brain-storming. But the robot, aside from its power source, isn’t all that impressive; it’s stronger than most of the competitor bots, but it’s iterative. The revolutionary science is the interface with Corben’s brain. The machines he’s hooked to are currently downloading his brain… but it’s a lengthy process. There’s concern Corben won’t survive long enough for them to complete the transfer.

To that end, the university has agreed to an earlier-than-planned test-flight of Lex’s new experimental passenger jet. It made it all the way to Stockholm to pick up the world’s foremost ontological surgeon, and is bringing him back as they speak. And in a bid to impress his ‘girlfriend,’ Lois took a seat aboard the maiden flight, in the hopes she might actually let them be official. Lex gestures to a board full of complicated aeronautic formulas. Clark frowns. “Shouldn’t this be inverted?” Clark asks. Lex stares a moment, dumbfounded. Clark’s right, and a roomful of graduate students either missed that, or were too timid to correct Lex’s mistake. “It, uh, reminded me of a question from my trig, class. I got a C- in that one.”

The horror of it dawns on Lex; that mistake means the jet is about to have a catastrophic failure, and if it left on time, it will happen any moment. He excuses himself to make a call.

Inside the cockpit, we hear the pilot’s mayday as Lex tries to break through to warn them about the error- but the damage has already occurred. Clark, wearing his Superman suit, manages to right the plane. Since both its wings are damaged, he has to fly it in, allowing Lois to take a picture of him- a picture she crops to remove his face- but she sees him clearly.

The next day, Lex is furious. Rather than talk about the experimental jet he successfully flew, or the cutting-edge surgical and scientific breakthroughs he made possible, the campus is abuzz about a Superman who saved Lois- and her story on the school’s blog is the reason why.

Clark has breakfast with Lex and Lois. She’s increasingly cold to Lex, in part because he’s throwing something of a tantrum. He worked for nearly a year, and in an instant was upstaged by some fluke of nature. Lois, meanwhile, is asking genuine questions of Clark this time, wanting to know about ‘ma and pa’ and even Smallville. Clark keeps trying to deflect to Lex, who knows his parents, and came from Smallville, but Lex is obsessed, and Lois isn’t interested in either his obsession or his perspective.

Eventually, Lois breaks things completely off with Lex, and starts pursuing Clark aggressively. It comes to a head when she confronts him. “I will sleep with you, right now, if you admit you’re the Superman.” Clark’s eyebrows go up.

“That must prove it, right? Because what kind of man could resist that offer? We must not be the same person.”

“Flattery, Mr. Kent? Or are you just trying to get to me another way?”

He stops for a moment, before becoming more serious. “I don’t want to play games with this,” he admits. “You’re beautiful, intelligent, and… kind in a way you usually hide from most people. I would love to have a relationship with you, Lois, but not one based on the factors of my birth. If that’s the only reason you’re intrigued-”

Of course it’s not, Smallville,” she taunts. “But I can understand the pattern, so let me address that. I… spent time with Lex because of his potential; he could be a great man. Not because of his wealth, or his family’s connections, but because he has such capacity for compassion and kindness and good. But he was what my mom described my father as when she met him, a lowly private in the Army- he was a project. You’re the kind of man Lex could be, if he’s lucky, if he’s works at it. Lex was someone I could make into my equal. You’re… already pretty close.” She hangs off him, playful, but alluring.

“That you’ve got a secret does make you extra intriguing,” she adds. “That you’re humble about your potential to the point of absurdity… I want to know everything about you.”

“But can I trust you?”

“Ouch.”

“How can I know I’m not just another story to you, or that you won’t get bored and decide to write the story later on. Put another way, would you trust you?”

“Point. And no… but I think you know better than me. I think you trust better than me.”

He bites his lip, a cat with a mouth full of canary. “I can also hear your heartbeat.”

“I’m trying to decide whether that’s romantic or creepy.”

“It’s just a tell. Not the only one, but the most simple, obvious one. But I can pretty much known when someone’s being deceitful. And you’re not.”

“Then say it, and you can have me; Lane’s don’t Welch.”

He leans in close, and whispers, sensually, “No.” Her shoulders slump. She’s disappointed, and not just because she wants to hear him say it. “If you and I are going to have a relationship, it will be based on trust, and affection. Not bargains.”

She kisses him, passionately, halfway expecting that to change his mind, and a tiny bit hurt when it doesn’t, but she plays it off. “I’m holding you to that.”

We cut to later, Clark eating with Pete. “You’re a stronger man than me,” Pete says.

“Only barely. The way she smells.”

“Oh, I know. It fills the room after she leaves.”

“I don’t just mean her perfume. Her shampoo, deoderant, and the way they mix with the scent of her skin oils and sweat…”

“Okay, you are dangerously pent-up. Like, I’m worried you’re going to kill me in my sleep with a ballistic wet dream.”

“It’s… taken care of.” Pete… wants details, but Clark waves him off because he has a call. It’s Lex, asking to meet him later. He does. Lex has been drinking a little. “Should I be trying to catch up?” Lex shrugs.

“I hate you, a little, for how effortlessly better than me you are. You caught my mistake with the plane- and you’ve been too polite to mention it, even to me. It took me three months to convince Lois to get lunch with me- as friends- and in three weeks… she’s never looked at me the way she looks at you. No one has ever looked at me the way they do at you.”

“Lex… people aren’t an equation you can solve. You can’t input time, or even the right gestures, and output success. People feel, and they need. Be there for their needs, and their feelings, and people will see you the way I do- they’ll look at you the way I do.”

He hugs Lex, and Lex wants to hate it… but he doesn’t. “I hate you a little more for this, and because you know how much I needed it. How do you always know?”

Clark pats him on the back, and releases him. “It’s not so hard. People tell you what they need. You just have to listen enough to hear it.”

“You’re my best friend. You… don’t have to reciprocate it. I know I’m not yours.”

Clark shrugs. “I remember coming home crying the first month of school. Lana told me Chloe was her best friend. And you know what my dad said?”

“No idea. My father would have backhanded me and told me to toughen up. I don’t know what human fathers do or say.”

“That sucks, Lex. But my dad, he hugged me, and said, ‘Don’t worry about who your best friend is, or if you’re someone else’s best friend. Just concentrate on being the best friend you can be, and all your friends will be lucky to have you.’”

“That’s corny as hell, even for a Kansas farm boy.”

“Some of the truest things in life are, Lex. We all make our own families. You’ll find yours. I’m sure of it. And they’ll be lucky to have you.”

We cut forward. There’s a tornado. It knocks out power to the school. Lex is there, because they anticipated this, and even assembled some local press to try and make a meal of it. “It’s okay,” he says calmingly. “We knew this was a possibility. That’s why we’ve got the generators online.” Their backups come on, and the lights come back on. “Fingers crossed there isn’t a surge-” The power goes out, and Lex and the other students work to try and keep Corben stable. One of them is on the line with the power company. A student tells him they’ve got about an hour of juice on the batteries. The pour company say it’ll take at least 90 minutes. Lex knows that five minutes after life support fails Corben will be braindead. “Start the transfer into Metallo. We’ll increase the read speed.” A student argues that they won’t get reliable data. Lex grabs them. “In an hour John Corben is going to die. I can’t prevent that. But I can try to save as much of his mind as we can.”

Lex looks over his shoulder, at an empty chair with a handwritten card on it for Clark. Lois is sitting next to it, and notices, goes to comfort Lex. “I’m sure he’ll make it.” Lex acts like he doesn’t care. “I’m sure he’s safe.” Lex makes a joke about Clark getting made President of the tornado if he got caught up in it.

We cut to the tornado. Superman is pulling things out of it, cars, fence slats, cows, a drunk out of a port-a-potty, “I think I had more to drink than I thought… really need a shower.”

We cut back to Lex in his lab. One student is talking about the progression of the transfer, into the high 90s, while another complains that the data they’re getting is corrupted. Around 98%, the power dies a final time. They light flashlights. Lex spurs them to keep moving- they planned for this, and they know just how traumatic it will be if Corben wakes up in a metal skeleton. They’ve got synthetic skin, molded to look like Corben pre-cancer. They finish after about an hour, and one of the guests ask if they’ll wake him up. Lex says that he is awake, but that his operating system is defragmenting his mind, a process Corben will likely experience as dreaming, since that’s the human equivalent.

Corben’s eyes open, vaguely glowing green. “It doesn’t hurt,” he says. “In fact… I don’t feel anything.”

“No,” Lex says. “We’re looking into touch-sensitivity, but that advancement’s several generations away. We talked about that.” Corben is confused. His mind doesn’t work the way he thinks it should. He feels hungry… but is told he can’t eat. His ex-wife attended the procedure, but he’s distressed he can’t smell, can’t feel the warmth of her hand. She’s also stand-offish; they’re friendly, but he doesn’t seem to remember she’s his ex. Everything feels alienating. He claims to need air, and accidentally tears a door off its hinges on his way outside. “He actually doesn’t,” Lex says to the reporters, “but it is quite an adjustment. If you’ll excuse me.”

Corben is having a full-fledged freakout when Lex gets outside. He doesn’t understand, doesn’t remember what he agreed to, and how much Lex might have been coloring outside the lines. Lex is trying to play to the crowd, how much this advancement could mean to all sorts of people, but Corben is becoming increasingly unstable and violent, eventually smashing a car so it folds like a hard-shell taco and flinging it into the air, where it’s caught by Superman.

They engage, fighting, as Lex tries to get to the failsafe and shut Metallo down. Lex accidentally manages to open the kryptonite compartment, and Superman falls to his knees. Lex realizes that it’s having an outsized impact on him, and grabs a fire extinguisher and smashes it into Metallo’s chest, sending flecks of the rock scattering- but the extinguisher blocks the rock enough for Superman to rally, holding Metallo while Lex shuts him down. The pair collapse into the mud. “This doesn’t mean I hate you any less,” Lex says, but helps Superman up off the ground.

“You’ll come around,” Superman says, but the way he says it, it’s full of warmth and cheer- he’s not full of himself, he’s just full of hope, for both of them, and their friendship.

Clark and Lois sit down to talk. She reveals that she sticky-fingered all the phones and cameras during the chaos, but that he’s at a crossroads. He can’t be Superman and fly under the radar- if he’s going to keep saving people, someone is going to get pictures to the press. She doesn’t think he can stop- he wouldn’t be who she thinks he is if he could. But she tells him, he also can’t do the most good if he goes back to Smallville- and for what it’s worth, she read the article he wrote about Corben for their class- he’s a talented writer. She’d publish it on the school blog in a heartbeat.

“How do I disappoint my parents?” Clark asks.

“If you want to do it like me? Do it with gusto. And some light shoplifting. But Clark… no parent who could have raised you into the man you are could be disappointed you turned out this way. You have to know that.”

“You’re probably right. I’m selling my folks short.”

“Folks, Smallville?”

“You can take the boy out of the country, but you’ll never get all of the country out of the man.”

“How? How can you say things like that without making me want to hit you?”

“I think it’s the way I look without a shirt on.”

“That helps. But… it’s here,” she touches his chest, and unbuttons his shirt, revealing the “S” shield of his suit.

We fade, but we’ll fade back in, a month later, on a similar shot of the “S” shield, but this time it’s on the front page of the Daily Planet, under the heading, “Man of Steel Sits Down for First Interview” with Lois Lane’s byline. Clark sets the paper down.

“I’m really proud of you,” he says.

“Of me? It’s your story. You could have told it, probably better than me.” She ponders a moment. “Well, you couldn’t; it’s not who you are. It’s not about the prestige for you, or the career. But this could could have been your byline. Maybe it should have.”

“No. Because I wouldn’t have known the right questions to ask. I know who I am, but that doesn’t mean I know what other need to know. That was all you. You deserve this.”

“I used to dream about seeing my name on the cover of the Planet; they offered to hire me, even without graduating.”

“Oh,” Clark’s surprised by that. “What’d you say?” He’s bracing, because he thinks he knows where this conversation goes.

“It’s my dream job.” There’s a sadness in her voice, enough we start to worry Clark’s right. “That’s why I need to be able to do it right. If they want me because I’m right for the job, they’ll want me in a year, when I’ve got my degree. Besides. I couldn’t leave you alone here. They’d eat you alive, Smallville.”

“My hero,” he says, and kisses her, and this time we really do fade to black.

DC Ten Year Plan

Introduction

For those of you who may not have heard, James Gunn and Peter Safran, new heads of DC’s movieverse, are putting together a ten year plan. So I thought I’d pitch my own.

Assumptions

1. We’re playing it where it lies. That means no rewriting 2023’s The Flash to get rid of Ezra Miller, or assuming he’ll be killed in the final five minutes (he might be… but that’s a much easier thing to fix in my pitch than the reverse).

2. Budget is now one of the names of the game. So we’re a lot less likely to see the kinds of big-budget ensembles I prefer for my comic movies, (as you can tell from my other pitches). But I still expect team-ups and duos to be the norm.

3. Covid makes some movie failures an open question. WW2 could have been a winner at the box office, even if it wasn’t a great movie. For that reason I expect sequels to be greenlit that wouldn’t otherwise (you wouldn’t normally do a Suicide Squad 3 after that kind of a box office drop… but the pandemic creates this odd uncertainty- so I expect sequels to happen if only to keep the talent happy).

4. We’re assuming none of these balls get dropped, which is a big assumption. No one expected Black Adam to thud quite as hard as it did; it was supposed to build out the Justice Society, but it won’t get a sequel, and I suspect the Society won’t get a spin-off, either, at least not in its current state.

5. I’m assuming 3 movies per year. I know next year will have 4, but I think that’s entirely because DC blinked and moved Aquaman off of Avatar 2’s weekend- no reason to give up $100+ million just to play chicken with Disney- maybe a lot more, if Avatar is well-received and Aquaman isn’t. I expect 3 movies is the max DC will try to do on average; anything else risks glutting the market and stretching their producers too thin. It’s possible that changes; if they can consistently produce 3 per year without major duds, they might step up to 4… but I suspect savvy executives would recognize Marvel’s quality has slipped somewhat due to Feige being stretched thin, and try to avoid that.

6. I’m assuming we stop at trilogies. Marvel are experimenting with Thor 4 and Cap 4, but that happened later; for now we’re assuming after trilogies that things evolve.

7. You could read the statement about not having 4 Batmen as meaning literally that… but I think it points to a collapse of the multiverse- a Crisis on Infinite Earths as dictated by corporate fiat. Which we can work with.

TWIST

Given that reports have put Wonder Woman 3 as getting the ax, Momoa being out as Aquaman and Gunn rebooting Superman without Cavill… it looks like they’re aiming for more of a tabula rasa than I initially assumed. Because my procrastination is an onion of infinite leaf, I will still pitch my original version, and then also pitch a wide open, blue sky version after that. Honestly, I think a clean slate is the way to go… but I’m frankly a little shocked Warner/Discovery are moving ahead with it.

2024

I figure this is kind of a rebuilding year. So I’m only pitching one project, the only one I think has a chance of getting greenlit and made in time to come out in the same year as Joker 2.

Wonder Woman 3: War of the Realms

I’ve seen the reporting. I don’t believe the sequel is dead; the first one made $800 million, and the sequel suffered because of the pandemic. So it’s getting a sequel, and it’s one of very few projects that might make a 2024 deadline at this point.. To me the main question is whether or not Patty Jenkins will be involved. The next is whether or not they want to recast Gal Gadot- which is far riskier (most people don’t know Jenkins, but they know the actress in the role).

I think 1984 got made largely because after the first one blew up, Jenkins had too much clout. They thought the Wondertrain could never be derailed, so they might as well keep milking prequels, and if it ever did, you could just start making modern sequels. I think it’s time to pull that rip-cord.

This one takes place in the aftermath of Justice League. Wonder Woman has come full-circle, rejoining the world as well as now essentially leading the League. So it’s going to involve at least a little of her role as part of the world. I’d lean into it, make her ambassador from both Themyscira and also from the Hall of Justice- so she represents her people and the Justice League to the United Nations. That also neatly sets up an arc for her, in that there’s bound to be tension between the League and her nation.

The other big narrative thread we have lingering is Steve. She needs to get over Steve. Personally, I prefer the Frozen route; she’s the world’s premier superheroine, so it’s not great if her movies are all about the boy she likes (and we can’t even lean into her sex-positivity of the first film because she’s been portrayed at this point as being an emotional shut-in after Steve’s death). So I’d introduce Artemis. I’d make her literally Diana’s little sister, bratty, brash, spoiled and snotty, in all the ways a second child to the perfect first can be. She’s also incredibly hurt that Diana abandoned her, and the Amazons.

Perhaps that’s why, when there’s a minor territorial scuffle with Atlantis, Artemis fans its flames into outright war. Now, obviously, this sequel would be more financially viable if you get Momoa as Aquaman. But you could also do Mera, running Atlantis in his stead while he attends to League business, perhaps settling up a cool, strange superheroine cat fight. Or you could have it be Orm, Black Manta, the bench of, “briefly took over Atlantis to cause trouble” villains is reasonably deep (this pun is intentional).

Regardless, it becomes clear to everyone, the Amazons and the world, that she can’t both be their ambassador for peace and a part of the world’s unofficial superhero justice department. She has to choose. I’d have her speak to Athena (because again, the Gods are real in her world), and the Goddess of wisdom says that she can be a true and faithful sister to her people- or she can embrace the world as her people, and be faithful to them, and leave rule and representation of the Amazons to those without a foot in both worlds.

So she helps put an end to the conflict, first, then resigns as the Amazonian ambassador, because she can’t be both a peacekeeper and a peacemaker- and her heart and her skills are more in the one than the other. And at the same time she reconnects with her love for her sister- with her love for all of her sisters- and realizes that at some point Steve became a symbol for the loss of all of them, as well.

2025

The Batman 2: Hush

I’m assuming Matt Reeves maintains largely full control, but I can’t pass up a chance to pitch some Batman, and it’s taking up space in my schedule, anyway, so loosely tracking the comic story, in the same way that The Batman loosely tracked a few different stories; Joker is treated like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs in the original story. We could go a step further, keeping him in shadow for most of the runtime. That would allow us to, if Joker 2 makes anywhere near what the first did, have a cameo from Phoenix, canonizing his Joker as the post-Flashpoint Joker (or at least one of them). Because we’d need Dick around, and because I think the idea of Robert Pattinson trying to foster a child would be funny, one of the segments of the story involves the death of the Graysons and Bruce taking Dick in- then immediately realizing he’s an emotionally stunted adolescent, and in no way ready for a kid.

The Suicide Squads

Sequel box office is usually a referendum on audience enjoyment of the previous film; it can be helped by marketing, but only so much. People were intrigued by Squad 1, then let down, so they were less keen to be bit a second time- even by a superior product. But this superior product was also the baby of the new boss of DC, or at least one of them, so I expect it to get a third entry.

I assume James Gunn would be writing and likely directing this one himself. As the name implies, it’s Squad 1 vs. Squad 2. Amanda Waller re-recruits her first squad to go after her rogue squad, headlined by Redemption Tour Will Smith. She wants them dead or back on her leash, and their leverage destroyed. How can you not salivate at the idea of Deadshot vs. Bloodsport, King Shark vs. Killer Croc, Harley and her Spear vs. Kitana and her Kitana? It might even be fun to do Ratcatcher 2 vs. Enchantress.

Given the casualties 1 suffered, we could either add characters. My preference would be to recruit Clayface, but a brainwashed Clayface who believes he’s Steve Trevor, and that he’s been serving as a deep cover black operative since his ‘death,’ with the aim of eventually putting him and Wonder Woman together for some emotional fireworks. Or you cold just have Peacemaker show up and join their squad. Either way, 2 is outmatched and things look dire… until Harley cashes in a favor from the Birds of Prey! Waller is lead away in cuffs (handed off to General Wade Eiling), and Task Force X is officially disbanded, with both squads freed.

Of course… that just means Waller and her special project go deeper underground… but that’s a concern for another day.

Green Lantern Corps.

Not to be confused with my more pie in the sky version I pitched before, this would be smaller.

Given that Ryan Reynolds was essentially doing a variation on Guy Gardner’s personality, and I’m assuming we’re going to be doing this as small-scale as you can do something like this, we have two human main characters, and they’ll be John Stewart and Kyle Rayner. John’s been around the block, and Kyle’s the rookie.

We play the GL Corps. almost like a police department, that kind of bureaucracy, codes of conduct, etc. Assuming we want to make this as cost-effective as possible, we can do it almost like Men in Black, that there’s essentially a sector house stationed on Earth, that they work out of. The front office is staffed by humans, or at least shapeshifters and humanoids. As they get deeper in, their coworkers get weirder. Then John leads him into an interrogation room.

Stewart tells him they’re at war. One of their own, Sinestro, has been recruiting. Their rings run on willpower. Sinstro’s runs on fear. His theory, the same of many petty dictators, is that fear is more powerful than will. And Kyle’s there because, right now, they’re losing that war, and doesn’t want to talk about what happened to Hal. He asks Kyle to tell him how they got there.

Kyle was a graphic designer. Mostly freelance. Hard to keep a single gig going in this economy. Between gigs he liked to station himself at a coffee shop and sketch, to keep his design skills limber.

A Sinestro member crashes through the shop. Kyle’s slashed with a piece of broken glass. The Sinestro is blasted by green light, and we see that he landed on a Green Lantern. It holds out its ring to Kyle, and tells him to take it- take it and run.

We see Kyle running down the street as yellow energy flies past him. Someone vulnerable is frozen in his path, a child, maybe a stroller or an elder person. Kyle turns, the ring clutched in his hand, and holds up his arms and closes his eyes- he can’t let someone else get hurt because of him.

We’re back in the interrogation. “For the record, that blast would have incinerated both of you. For the same record- I’ve never seen a civilian activate a ring, let alone one they were only holding.” We’re back. Kyle opens his eyes, and sees the green bubble he created. The Sinestro starts to punch it, and the bubble cracks. Kyle tries to reinforce it with his mind, a flurry of motion as he imagines intricate defenses, but they’re too weak to hold the creature back, it’s going to break through.

A green burst of energy knocks him down and back, and Stewart lands in front of Kyle. In the interrogation room, Stewart asks for the ring, and says they can’t be taken. Kyle says it was given to him. “Be that as it may, the odds of you getting it to work again are astronomical, and even if you do, you won’t have a way to recharge it. Unless I swear you in.”

They talk about what joining the Lanterns means, and eventually has him repeat the oath after him, then has him slide on the ring, and he transforms into a Green Lantern.

We meet Sinestro. We’re going to do something different, here. The Sinestros are mostly working on Earth. They’ve taken over a Central American cartel- converting some of them with rings, killing others. They did this for access to their chemical processing and networks. And the reason is that they’ve partnered with a human with expertise in creating fear chemically, Dr. Jonathan Crane, and they intend to use his chemicals to amplify their strength a hundred fold and crush the Green Lanterns, first on Earth, but eventually on Oa.

So you can do a lower key, earth-based crime story with the Lanterns for a lower budget, but with the promise of potential space-based chicanery to come- but depending on box office you can keep the action mostly Earth-based- so it doesn’t have to be a Star Wars to justify sequels.

2026

Flash 2/Earth 2

I’m assuming that with as risk-averse as WB-Discovery has been, they don’t want to keep Ezra Miller around. In light of that, I expect they’ll recast- maybe a cameo of Ezra, but replace him, maybe with Wally from a different universe, the future, whatever.

So at the end of Flashpoint (I’m assuming they keep him through that- if only because they want him around, at least theoretically, for press), Barry emerges on Earth 2. At first he doesn’t understand it- he’s never emerged in the wrong universe before. We play up the similarities between this world and the Snyderverse, hinting hard in promo material that Flash will actually be returning to Snyder’s DCEU.

I’d honestly keep that going as long as possible. Flash is captured by people who look a lot like his Justice League… only they aren’t. And they’ve also captured another Flash, a Wally West. He came with his Barry here, summoned by some kind of mad science that pulls those in touch with the Speed Force there. Because this Earth is dying. It’s a wrong Earth. They want to use the Flashes to escape it before it’s destroyed.

The two Flashes are able to escape together. They have a conversation at superspeed, Wally at first thrilled to see Barry, before the realization hits him- he isn’t his Barry, which means his Barry really is dead. The Crime Syndicate are just behind them. Barry realizes they can’t both get away- and sacrifices himself so Wally can make it out- because I’m a sucker for the classics, I’d have his death happen like it did in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Suddenly Wally is our lead.

He’s found by Lex Luthor- this planet’s greatest hero. They team up with a heroic version of the Joker, called the Jester, to destroy the stolen LexTech that is drawing Flashes. While the Syndicate were distracted looking for their own way out, Lex evacuated the rest of the Earth- but he and Jester stayed behind to make sure the Syndicate didn’t follow- or escape to some other unsuspecting Earth.

The pair fall fighting the Crime Syndicate, and Flash both manages to destroy the Flash lure, and escape back to Barry’s original timeline. If we can wangle the cameos, Flash goes to the Justice League. Most of them just assume he’s Barry. But Batman sees through him. He waits until the others have given them distance. “You aren’t Barry. Just who the hell are you?”

Aquaman 3: Return of the King

I’ll assume James Wan (or at least his bank account) are pissed at the cancellation of The Trench. But that was a silly idea- an unbranded Aquaman spin-off designed around… Black Manta? But there’s no reason the concept, and the production design has to go to waste. I’m assuming from the synopsis that it’s Black Manta Aquaman will be teaming with in 2, otherwise he would be the main villain here. If he’s in 2, then we’ll swap in Charybdis… and we’re going to do a lot of foreshadowing about severed hands- but we’re probably not going to chop off his hand… no matter how big of a fan of the Evil Dead movies I am (though if we do, we aren’t giving him a hook- we’ll give him a turbine hand). But if we do do Charybdis… I’d have him claim to be the rightful king of the seven seas, with the Trench’s legions at his back to enforce the claim.

This would be, overall, a much darker story. The creatures of the Trench have been riled by a new leader, promising that their old foes, the Atlanteans, the Amazons and the Lost Kingdomians can no longer hold back their strength. And… they win, around the halfway mark. The terrible creatures of the Trench overrun Atlantis, which is forced to evacuate, half of their forces going to Paradise Island, the other to the Lost Kingdom. I’m just… going to assume that Arthur’s arc is accepting his role and responsibility as Atlantis’ ruler, which means Atlantis falls in part when Arthur refuses to lead, expecting the generals and army to handle things. He fights with them, even at the head- but he is not their figurehead.

I’ll assume including Aquaman, or at minimum Aquaman elements, in Wonder Woman 3, will have both cemented a connection between the two places, and helped juice box office. So I’d say the reverse would work here, and also, Wondy sort of owes Arthur a return of the favor. The Amazons sustain casualties as part of the evacuation, leading Diana to lead the Amazon forces. She’s a natural at it, something that awes Arthur (it’s one thing to command seven heroes, another to command an army and a nation without breaking stride). She gives him the tough love pep talk he needs, inspiring him to be the leader Atlantis needs. As part of that he pleads to let the Atlanteans take the first line- they were beaten back, but not broken. They need to reclaim their dignity nearly as much as they need to reclaim their home. The Amazon generals are reluctant; if their front line doesn’t hold their defenses overall weaken- the Atlanteans could lead to the fall of the Amazons if they can’t hold long enough. Arthur is adamant they’ll hold. He gives his warriors a Braveheart speech, and they drive the Trench warriors back into the sea.

They continue the fighting all the way back to Atlantis, and retake the city. Atlantis’ generals argue for driving them back into the trench, then mining the cliffs; that will close the passage, and collapse the trench, killing most of them, and sealing the rest away. But Aquaman, during the evacuation, saw some of Atlantis’ worse-off, those left behind by previous regimes, and sees the parallels. At first he resists, and the generals press harder, assuming, from his inexperience, that he can be cowed, until finally he bellows, “No. They are angry because we have, again and again, made them lesser. We are not their betters- we are their brothers. I am not the king of the beautiful parts of the ocean, I am king of the seas, and they are my people, too.” So Arthur sues for peace, and with a little humility, is able to end the conflict without bloodshed, reuniting the two kingdoms under his rule.

Shazam vs Black Adam

Yes, this essentially functions as Shazam 3 and Black Adam 2, and is probably the smart bet whether or not Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel. Black Adam is one of his big antagonists; one of the other two is a telepathic caterpillar… so I’m going with the one played by the Rock (although I now desperately want Vin Diesel to voice Mr. Mind at some point).

Now… I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Black Adam yet. I don’t know whether or not he retakes his country in that film or not… but that’s a minor detail, because that’s how this movie begins. He remakes the ancient city-state of Kahndaq. This bugs the crap out of Shazam, because people assume it’s him, because they both have a lightning bolt chest. I just imagine Zachary Levi, exasperated, telling an old woman he saved from being hit by a truck and is now beating him mercilessly with her purse pointing to a TV in a shop window bearing news footage of Black Adam rampaging, telling her, as she hits him, “I look nothing like the guy. I have hair. And a cape!” She starts swinging underhand, and while the swing goes off screen, we can tell she’s whacking him in the crotch. “Stop that,” he says, catching the purse.

Shazam convenes the rest of the Marvel family. They discuss; most of them argue for cooler heads; but Billy’s really struggling, here. He wanted to be like Superman, but he’s becoming, “Thanks for saving me, I guess, but screw you, man!” So Billy goes off on his own to fight Black Adam… and has his clock pretty thoroughly cleaned.

I imagine there’s a lot of comedy to be had, excitable Zach Levi trying to convince Black Adam that his relatively naïve and idealistic morality is superior… and Black Adam just really not having any patience for this child in a man’s body.

The Marvels arrive to rescue Billy, and they start to have a big superhero fight… before Billy realizes the damage they’re doing, and all to salve his ego. He realizes what’s really important- the little people, the ones who can’t stop tank shells. Billy convinces the Marvels to stop fighting.

Just then, the warlords Black Adam took Kahndaq back from, counter-attack, seeing the Marvels’ intervention as an exploitable crisis. And they’ve upped their game, getting some magically infused tank shells that actually do hurt him. Billy recognizes that the warlords are the worse of the two evils, so they team up with Black Adam.

At the end, the Marvels tell Adam to leave Kahndaq alone. “No.” He tells them the only way they can pry his home from him is with a war that will level the country- and he knows they wouldn’t do that.

Billy’s angry, but recognizes Adam has a point. “Today, you’re the lesser of the evils. The day that changes, I’m dragging you out of here myself.”

Now… if Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel, you might be able to get money enough for a Justice Society cameo. Say the tanks, given that they’re specifically designed with Shazams in mind, could be a problem for all of our heroes… until the Justice Society show up to help out. This could foster good will with the Marvels, and pave the way for Shazam to continue as a part of the Justice Society.

2027

Justice League: Dark

Okay… this one is wild, even for me. It starts as we’d expect, Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, and Tim Hunter, dealing with a magical threat. Because I’m trying to save Justice League movies the way Marvel does for Avengers events, and Wonder Woman’s series ended at 3… she ends up here, to add some star power to the line-up. The magical threat ends up shunting them off into a different DC Universe- essentially a thinly veiled Snyderverse. Something is deeply wrong with a world where Batman is gunning people down on the streets from the safety of his own personal tank. Flash (paralleling Ezra Miller’s real-life problems) is having mental crises faster than anyone can think up solutions. Superman, after the death of Lois Lane, is going full-on fascist. So the characters are caught in this dark, increasingly dystopian world, and have to figure out if they can save it, and if they can’t, whether or not they can at least escape it. Depending on how it plays, this could lay the groundwork for Injustice Lords or the Injustice universe. This exists both because the concept has been a high priority for adaptation, and because elements within WB/Discovery really want to bring back the Snyderverse in some capacity, and presents an opportunity to have your cake and eat it, too. When they finally escape, the end up in the Batcave.

The 3 Jokers

Okay… assuming everything is going to plan, we need to square why we have 2 Jokers running around, and also multiple Harleys. So here’s how we do it, by roughly adapting the 3 Jokers story. Phoenix has a run-in; depending on whether or not a Batman shows up in Joker 2, it can just be with police or a rival mob. Harley saves him, narrowly. She’s concerned for his safety. So they hatch a plan to create more Jokers. He starts experimenting with psychoactive drugs on people they kidnap.

One will, eventually, be the gangster version from Suicide Squad.

This also involves Batman, who at the end of the story captures the Joker, and puts him in Arkham- where he is in Hush.

Personally, I’d also make the original Joker the only one aware of the shifting timelines, first after Flashpoint, then after Wally takes Barry’s place (time rewrites, so that Wally was always their Flash- Batman seems to be the only one who remembered Barry).

Blue Beetle 2: Justice for All

Similar, but distinct from my Justice League: International pitch.

Assuming Blue Beetle does well, it will likely in part be attributed to it catering to the Latino audience in the way that Black Panther’s success was partly attributed to the underserved Black audience (and given the success of Coco is likely a savvy move). So the next logical step is to put him on the International Justice League. Wonder Woman resigning her post as dual Amazon ambassador and Justice League ambassador leaves the UN feeling vulnerable. She’s still their liaison, but in effect it has made the League more independent. So they request the right to build their own League, an international one that can cater to the world’s needs, not just whatever the gods among them deign to intervene in. Some of this is prompted by Russia fielding their own hero team, the Rocket Reds, think a team of Russian Iron Men, and China their own. The world is getting nervous.

Given Blue Beetle has already had one success, and he’s both an American with Latin American roots, he’s viewed as an ideal candidate to lead the team. We want to be as international as possible, so I’d bring in Fire from Brazil, Ice from Iceland, Vixen from somewhere in Africa, Dr. Light (Dr. Hoshi version) from Japan.

I’m thinking a goodly portion of the story is assembling the team, finding and convincing them to work together. Then a crisis occurs, as the Chinese superteam and Russian one combine forces to take over Mongolia, with the stated aim of dividing the country between them. Just as the JLI are about to go fight the good fight, their new handler, Max Lord, pulls Beetle aside. They’ve been waiting for this eventuality. They had warning. From a visitor claiming to be from the future.

He’s been kept in a bunker, a UN safe house that’s essentially its own little Gitmo in New York. Beetle goes to the heart of it, and meets Booster Gold. He told them three things would happen, and two have come to pass. The third is the combining of the Russian and Chinese teams. He’s told them that without him, the conflict will escalate to a full-scale nuclear war. As part of his intake, Max asked Booster why a man from the future would let them catch him. “You’ll let me out. When you need to.”

So the JLI fight the combined forces. They’re tough, but the JLI prove tougher… except Booster stops them. He knows the Russians and Chinese can’t lose face like this- if they can’t compete in the next arms race, they’ll rattle their sabers in the old one… but their fear will lead to launches, and nuclear devastation. But the real truth is they aren’t the aggressors here. Someone is pulling their strings.

There are a lot of directions you can go from here. Any number of telepaths, mind controllers, etc. Whoever it is, I’d make their plan a part of the Anti-Monitor’s plan, meant to soften the Earth up so it provides less resistance- in the same way he guided Sinestro to Earth to weaken the GLs, and eventually Oa. Despero might be the best option, because he can both control some of the characters, but also provide a good boss fight at the end.

Booster’s future tech is able to detect the hidden adversary, and he attacks them, freeing the 3 super teams to fight together and end the conflict.

2028

The Batman 3: Knightfall

I’m pitching this one as much because I get the sense that Reeves just kind of wants to play with all the toys, and this would let him put his imprint on whoever was left. Bane cracks Arkham wide open. This sets up a gauntlet for Batman, who has to capture as many of the inmates before they hurt innocent people as he can. All the while, Bane keeps taking shots at him, to weaken him more and more. But unlike prior, crappier adaptations… Batman doesn’t get his back broken. You could do that in the comics and spend a year on that storyline. But for a film, even a 3 hour one, that makes for a lousy story. So instead… Batman figures out Bane’s plan. It takes a toll on him, true. But he prepares for the moment Bane’s going to attack him, and puts Dick Grayson in the costume; he’s been champing at the bit the entire movie, wanting to help while Batman held him off. It’s for this moment. Bane trashes Dick. He’s brutal, and with the venom Dick can’t win. Bane hoists him over his head, and we hear the sound of a bataring whip through the air. It doesn’t stop Bane from smashing his knee into Dick’s back, but it does cut him off from his venom supply. The real Batman emerges from the shadows, and beats Bane, who slices open his veins to jam the venom line directly into his arm. This fight’s harder, but Bane gets tripped up by Dick from the floor, and Batman knocks him out. Batman asks Dick if he’s all right. “First thing they teach you in the circus is how to fall…ow…”

Green Lantern Corps: Parallax

The Green Lanterns managed to beat Sinestro. As he’s being transported to a launch facility for escort back to Oa, his convoy is attacked. It’s part of a series of raids and attacks the Lanterns are dealing with from a terrorist group calling themselves Parallax. They’ve been targeting Green Lantern support staff and allies, those without rings themselves, bombing their cars, their homes. Energy signatures at the crime scenes indicate presence of both Sinestro and Green Lantern rings- leading to paranoia about who among them have turned, causing Kyle and John to not be able to trust anyone.

What takes them longer to understand is that the terrorists are also targeting remainders of Sinestro’s cartel. This is somewhat hidden, because they take their rings after death, a missing finger being the only indication there was ever a ring there to begin with.

The leader of this ring-powered terrorist organization turns out to be none other than Hal Jordan. He blames both the Green Lantern Corps. and the Sinestros for the destruction of his home town of Coast City. He’s holding Sinestro prisoner, and using his ring as part of the attacks as he makes Sinestro watch his empire crumble.

Kyle and John find and free Sinestro, but are caught by Hal. They prove incapable of defeating him, until Sinestro puts his hand on Stewart’s, adding his will to John’s ring. Together, the three are able to forcibly extract Parallax, the fear entity, from Jordan, and he’s horrified about what he did under its influence.

Sinestro testifies in Jordan’s defense, telling them that under the Parallax entities’ control there’s very little a host can do to resist, that while he certainly aided the entity willingly, Jordan did not.

Batgirl and Supergirl: World’s Finest

We’re at the point where extrapolating from what is to what could be gets… interesting. Because I’m trying to pull together what nearly got made as a gauge of corporate interest… despite management changes wildly altering that interest several times over.

But presumably, there’s confidence in some kind of a Batgirl project. We’re also, if we’re building towards a Crisis, going to need a Supergirl. So I figure combine the two. Give it to whoever the current equivalent to Juno-era Diablo Cody is, maybe Emerald Fennel.

Kara Zor-El arrives on Earth. Jor-El sent his brother on the colony an identical ship to launch Kara, and he did so. But her ship was damaged enroute, and had to use orbital sling-shotting to arrive at Earth. Because she spent more time at near-light speeds, she incurred more time dilation, and Clark’s older cousin is now his younger cousin.

What neither of them know, however, is that the Kandor colony didn’t suffer Krypton’s fate. They were bottled at the last minute by Brainiac… but he considers the city incomplete, given that one survivor managed to escape. He tracks her to Earth, intent on shrinking her down as part of his collection.

Meanwhile, Batman tasks Batgirl with being Supergirl’s handler. He figures she’s good at blending, but can also protect her in a pinch. This leads Batgirl to training Supergirl to fight; she’s only absorbed a small amount of solar radiation, so she’s a lot more vulnerable right now than she will be.

I’m assuming it would kill the budget to actually show the Justice League, but we could have a news broadcast showing that the League, including the entire Hall of Justice, has been frozen in a solid block of ice. The ice seems to be mildly radioactive, so attempts to break free would spread radioactive dust across the city- Batman confirms to Batgirl via radio that the isotope is Kryptonite, that someone knew about the League and how they would be vulnerable. Batgirl doesn’t think it’s a coincidence this is happening right after the arrival of Supergirl.

Their paranoia proves correct, when both girls are kidnapped and brought aboard Brainiac’s ship. He largely ignores Barbara, thinking her to be a human, and of absolutely no consequence, casually threatening her before ignoring her completely to monologue at Kara. Batgirl manages to break the encryption on Brainiac’s computers, waging technologic war on him as he tries to fight Supergirl. It’s a tough fight, since she’s still mostly relying on the self-defense Barbara taught her. Eventually they force Brainiac to flee, and get into an escape pod back to Earth.

2029

The 3 Flashes

Wally keeps getting shunted to alternate worlds. Whatever the Crime Syndicate did, it continues to pull him from reality to reality. He meets another Flash, an older one, named Jay Garrick. Garrick postulates that, as Hawking theorized, there’s a cosmic editor, putting things back to where they were, fixing impossible paradoxes- that the multiverse is trying to send him home.

Both Flashes get pulled to another dark timeline. During their down time, Wally reflects on his Barry, and how he was the better hero, and he would be able to save them. Jay tells him that he was one of the first heroes on his world- he didn’t have anyone to look up to- he had to be the hero he wished he could look up to- and just as crucially, learn to forgive himself when he fell short of that ideal.

They’re met by one of the Monitors. He explains that his people are ethe editors Hawking theorized- that when a tear in reality threatens all existence, they fix it.

This dark reality, however, is actually the future, or at least a possible one, run by Eobard Thawn, the Reverse Flash. His connection to the Speed Force is artificial. He created it with technology, forcing himself into it. He can only maintain that by draining the life of other Flashes, recreating tech created by Lex Luthor to do so. So presuming that Reverse Flash is the antagonist of the first Flash movie, this serves as his origin.

So we get a pretty wild superspeed fight, during which Zoom absorbs enough of the Speed Force to have a legit connection, leading to him going back in time to attack Wally (accidentally attacking Barry, due to the continuity bending that attack created).

The Monitor appears at the end, sheepish over having used them. Reality is safe, for the moment… but they’re also a step closer to a Crisis point. Because the existence of Monitors means the existence of Anti-Monitors, anti-matter, opposing forces from the dark multiverse. They feed on matter, converting entire realities into energy- and one has set his sights on their Earth.

Justice League: Dark Multiverse

Justice League Dark thought they were home- thought they finally found their own universe. We start in the Batcave, where the last film ended. Batman tells them that he’s glad to see them, he could use their help. Joker’s won. He united all of Gotham’s villains under his banner, killed half the police and forced the remainder to disband. With the help of a mysterious, ragged stranger, he erected a magical barrier that’s keeping Gotham separate from the other heroes. Worse, he systematically killed all of Batman’s allies, all his Robins, Batgirls… he’s the last one left. Now he’s executing parents. Every hour, on the hour, he’s killing parents in crime alley, orphaning their children. He says the only way he’ll stop is if Batman kills him. He’s been up for days, at this point, trying to figure out a way to beat Joker. He’s a shell of a man, but he’s terrified that if he kills Joker, he’ll never stop. He knows Joker’s a singular threat, but how do you justify drawing that line? He already crippled Joker… but he still won’t stop.

Wonder Woman offers to do it. He reveals that he knows Joker has a failsafe, that he’s secreted a more virulent version of his toxin in his body that will transform whoever kills him into him. Batman is just a man- he can be beaten- but a Joker with the power of Wonder Woman might not be.

Batman’s plan is to wage an all-out assault on Joker’s compound, hopefully long enough to distract the ragged man and let them remove his magical bubble. They barrier is pouring from a giant bat totem, and is protected by dragons with the Joker’s face. They fight their way to the barrier, as Batman fights his way to the Joker. Batman tries all kinds of things, but he just can’t outmaneuver the Joker. Turns out the Joker isn’t even there, he’s doing all of this by remote. But there is a teleporter, that takes Batman to him. They’re locked in a cage, with a minute to go before the next parents die. They’re related to some member of the Batcast, and the resemblance shakes him. He tries to find a way out of the cage, some way that he can escape after he kills the Joker, biding time, hoping the Dark League can manage to bring down the barrier in time to let the League rescue the family. They only need a second, a fraction of a second, for Flash or Superman to arrive. We watch the clock as he tries desperately to escape, with seconds left. We cut back to the Dark League, destroying the barrier. They realize the ragged figure is behind them, and in a haunting voice he tells them, “Too late,” before disappearing.

We cut back to the cage with Batman and the Joker in it. We can see that the timer stopped, and the family is still alive. We pull back, to see the cage is filled with gas, and the Joker, his neck snapped, hangs limply from Batman’s hands.

An instant later, Superman is there, about to punch a hole in the cage. “Don’t,” Batman says. “Can’t risk you getting exposed to this gas.”

Now… dependent on budget, I’d have the full League and Dark League with him in the cave, still sealed inside the cage, running diagnostics on him. He seems to be fine, and convinces them that he feels fine, and that if they’re going to counteract the poison he needs to be out there, with his equipment. It’s Superman who makes the call, because he’ll always trust Batman. The second he’s out, Batman activates the Babel protocol, countermeasures for the entire League as he systematically murders his way through them. He hadn’t planned on the Dark League being there, and being magic, they survive him a little longer- long enough to open a portal away. But he hitches a ride, coming through with them back into their universe (though that fact will only be revealed in the end credits).

Lobo

The Main Man takes a contract in a hive of scum and villainy. Seems that someone’s special captive got loose. She’s armed, extremely dangerous, and hiding out on Earth. During their first fight, she kicks his butt. Badly. Embarassingly so, to the degree the he never even manages to peel her out of a cloak. The last thing he sees is red glowing eyes.

In their second fight, he bushwhacks her, having finally read the brief provided by his employer. This time he brought kryptonite to the party. For a moment we’ll assume he’s after Supergirl… and you’d be half right- he’s caught Power Girl. Now… to try not to give you a nosebleed, but also tie her into the multiversal shenanigans we’re building up… she is originally from an alternate Earth. However, when her rocket managed to shatter through to a different universe, the Monitors rewrote her history, to be a clone of Kara created by her parents in the bottle city of Kandor to replace the daughter they lost. During the fight in World’s Finest, a little of Earth’s radiation managed to break through into the bottle city, giving Kara enough power to escape, vowing to marshal forces to free them all.

Lobo returns to Brainiac with his prize. Brainiac notices something amiss, and accuses Lobo of playing a fast one. Her signature is wrong… but she is genetically the Kara he was seeking. He deems it worthy of further study, then turns his attentions to Lobo.

See, Lobo is the last Czarnian, a worthy addition to Brainiac’s collection. He captures him, and houses him in a place he doubts very much Lobo will want to escape from.

It is a civilization consisting entirely of prostitution, gambling, liquor and cigar production. Lobo’s eyes light up, and we fade to black. We put up white text. “Fifty black-outs later…” Lobo is drinking alone. An alien prostitute makes a pass, but he’s melancholy. It’s a world catered entirely to his whims… except for his lust for violence and conflict. He’s getting restless. Even tiny, Lobo is able to crack his bottle. But once free, he realizes that without being able to fly, he’s not going to be able to make himself big. On the one hand, that means he can get hammered for pennies. On the other, it means only insect hookers for the rest of his days. He decides to bust out Power Girl. They make an uneasy alliance. She grows him first. He considers reneging, until she starts smacking him around as a superstrong fly- which should be very comical to watch. Finally he grows her. Lobo takes the shrink ray and the bottle he was trapped in. Kara takes the bottle city of Kandor.

I’m assuming Kara had been searching for Ray Palmer, the Atom, to help her try to regrow her city. He tells them that the cities have been shrunk too long; Brainiac’s tech can be reversed over a short period, but after that regrowing becomes impossible. But he promises to keep searching for a cure.

2030

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths

The World Forger has been a busy little bee, creating a nigh-infinite multiverse. Feeling slighted that less attention seems to be paid to his dark, anti-matter universes, the Anti-Monitor devises a plan to consume the positive multiverse’s energy and usurp the World Forger, creating only dark universes.

With each destroyed universe, the Anti-Monitor becomes stronger, leaving the heroes with a single possible path to win: merging the multiverse into a single reality. They manage it, and then beat back the Anti-Monitor. Supergirl and Jay Garrick die in the offing.

Brianiac reports on the failure of the Anti-Monitor. Darkseid smiles. Brainiac doesn’t understand. “We exist beyond any universe While the wall between his realm and the universe remains intact, there is now a crack, through which we may directly influence events. Desaad proclaims, “Darkseid is coming. Darkseid is.”

Beyond

I mapped out three phases, the first ending in the Crisis, the second in defeating Darkseid, and the third ending in a fight with the Dark Knights.

Supergirl would have survived, encased in Kryptonian crystal and eventually revived by the Legion of Superheroes. The New Gods would have lost to Apokalips, as would the Greek Gods, before Darkseid laid siege to Earth

Batman would have paid Lobo to form the Outsiders into a nonlethal black ops team from remnants of Task Force X, who would eventually rebel against him, not realizing his plan was to convince them to use nonlethal means, not keeping them as Waller had.

Next

I’m going to work on my own DCNu movie universe, mostly because I’m jealous Gunn and Safran got that much leeway. Could take me a couple of weeks, but check back soon.

MCU ’22 Pitch 12: Warlock & The Infinity Watch

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch follows on directly from Nova 2, which is a direct sequel to my Nova 1 pitch.

Warlock & The Infinity Watch: Taking place after Guardians 3. I’m assuming, for the moment, they won’t be decimated, and will co-anchor this movie with Warlock and Captain Marvel; even if they take casualties, whoever survives can be in this.

We start on Vormir. Red Skull is devastated. We think he’s talking to the embodiment of death. He’s upset that Steve Rogers is gone- he’ll never be able to kill him. That he could have been content to be a specter, so long as the possibility that he could one day torment Rogers existed. But now… he has to just let his hate die. And what is the Red Skull without his hate? The soul stone falls into his hand. He wasn’t speaking to death at all, but a Kang variant, who may need a universe with infinite stones, but doesn’t mind him using one in the interim (really, he’s expecting Red Skull to soften the universe up for him).

Adam Warlock, and I’m making educated guesses, here, but he’s largely a good guy. He shows up on Earth, shortly after the events of WandaVision. We see her studying the Darkhold, but when there’s a knock on the door, she comes to it in a wool shirt with a mug of cocoa. She doesn’t know Warlock, but his golden skin is striking. “Wanda Maximoff. I am known as Adam Warlock.”

“Oh, um… I don’t really train people in the mystic arts. But I probably have the number for Dr. Strange, if you’d like to come in.” (Yes, this scene is set before the events of Dr. Strange 2)

“I’m not here for that. I’m here with this.” He holds out one of the infinity stones, and she reaches for it. “Aren’t you concerned it could harm you?” He’s somewhat taken aback by her haste to seize its power. “Or that its great power might corrupt you?”

“It doesn’t seem to have harmed you, and my powers came from one of the stones. I always assumed I was immune to them.” Adam reads her aura.

“There is a darkness in you, Wanda Maximoff. You cannot aid in my quest, and I would beg you, to abandon your own, for it will rend your soul in half.”

“Could I use it?” She asks. “I see you, now. I know what you are. And I could no more take the stone from you than survive ripping loose the energy of the sun. But if I could hold it, for a moment. I could bring them back. I could give my boys life again, and make Vision… make my family whole again.”

“I’m sorry, Wanda. You are not whole, and while that remains true, you will be unfit to wield an infinite stone- and unfit to reclaim your family.”

“You bastard!” she unleashes a blast, but Warlock is already gone, flying at speed away from the Earth.

He makes it as far as the atmosphere before Captain Marvel collides with him, hitting him so hard he impacts on the surface of the Moon. They fight, briefly, before Warlock puts up his hands, realizing she isn’t a threat. “I mean you no harm, and, I believe, you mean but to protect your homeworld. There is no reason for violence between us.”

He explains that his cosmic senses allowed him to notice the reintroduction of the stones by Kang, and he means to protect them. However, he has a darkness in himself, one that cannot be tamed, and certainly cannot be trusted with the stones. So he needs others to safeguard them in his stead. She seems worthy, if she would stand by him. She accepts, if only so he’s not carrying two stones alone anymore.

She also mentions knowing a crew that might be able to help- people who have stood for the galaxy when others did not. “I would be eager to meet such heroes,” Warlock says.

“I… wouldn’t call them heroes, exactly…”

Needle drop, in a colorful corner of space. Drax and Groot are staring out the window at space. I’m going to assume by this point Groot is back to an adult floral colossus. “I do not understand, tree,” Drax says dryly.

“I am Groot.”

“I have never heard the contradiction of sentient life more poetically expressed.”

“He got that from a fortune cookie,” Rocket says, shoving between them.

“There were cookies?” Drax asks, walking towards the cabin.

“There were,” Nebula says, and pops the last one into her mouth whole.

“You’re eating the fortune,” Peter says.

“Why is there paper in my cookie?” she asks, pulling it out of her mouth.

“Mine wasn’t worth anything; let alone a fortune,” Rocket says. “Just some human gibbering.”

“The fortune’s, it’s a saying, something philosophical, or portentous,” Peter says.

“I saved you one,” Gamorra says, tossing it to Drax. He catches it, and crushes the cookie in his hand. He removes the paper, then crudely mashes the dust into his face.

“Thank you, assassin.” His fortune, which he drops but which we linger on, says, “Your daughter is alive.”

Drax takes one of the containers of food, and begins to shovel into his mouth with chop sticks. Suddenly the ship lurches.

“We hit something?” Gamorra asks.

“Hit, no,” Rocket says. “But if you want I can gun the engines.” Rocket points where Captain Marvel and Warlock are floating just on the other side of the ship’s windshield.

They walk through the forcefield in the rear of the ship. Warlock is less impressed, since he’s met the Guardians before, and expected… more. They get to talking, and it turns out they’re all headed to Knowhere. The Guardians are uneasy about assembling the stones. Isn’t that just making the job easier for the next Thanos? On the other hand, if the Infinity Watch train in the use of the stones, and coordinate, it’s likely the next Thanos wouldn’t be able to take them at all.

They fly to Knowhere, or what’s left of it after Thanos’ fight with the Collector. Oddly, the stone is back with his collection.

Next they travel on their ship to the wreckage of the realm of Asgard. I honestly kind of like the idea that the battle between Hela and Surtur continues in the background- a permanent Ragnarok on an increasingly small chunk of rock (alternately, as in my unrelated Thor 5 pitch, Hela could go to Hel and take over).

They find Beta Ray Bill, who found one of the remaining weapons from Odin’s vault (essentially the prototype for Mjolnir), which granted him Thor-like power, along with an infinite stone (unless of course either Hemsworth or Portman Thor want to guest- contacted by the Guardians- and then we’ll bring in Bill for the sequel/credits).

They go to Xandar. One of the stones is there. Red Skull finds the second stone, and begins to wreak havoc, using the two stones he possesses to transform the locals into his minions. As set up in the credits scene from Nova 2, The Nova Corps, led by Richard Rider and his brother Sam, are looking for the stone, too, leading a Nova contingent. They hold Skull off long enough for Warlock and the Guardians to arrive. He can hold back any one of them, even using the stones, hitting Peter Quill so hard he drops the stone he was holding, which is picked up by Richard Rider. The heroes without stones hold back the possessed Xandarians, while the four watchpersons, Warlock, Captain Marvel, Beta Ray Bill, and Nova, attack him as a team, essentially hitting him one after another in a round. Finally, they join hands, channeling the stones together, to stop Skull; during this, subtly, Magus tries to assert control of Warlock. Skull uses his teleporting stone to open a portal, and gets knocked into it, losing his stones.

We do an epilogue aboard the Milano, the heroes deciding to form the Infinity Watch, to take the stones to the opposite ends of the Universe.

Mid Credits Scene: Gamora and Peter are in an elevator. “I’m just saying, the last time we gave up an infinity stone, I lost you,” he says. “I don’t think I could survive that again.”

“It took a Thanos to kill me the first time- and he’s gone. And she died because the two of you trusted the Xandarians. I’m not just giving this stone to the most advanced power in the universe, but to its greatest warrior.” The elevator opens. We pan across the majestic Shiar throne room, before settling on Gladiator. Back to credits.

End Credits Scene: “I’ve already given up one infinity stone.” Strange says. We’re in his Sanctum Sanctorum.

“That’s why I trust you.” It’s Warlock, handing him one of the stones. “Because I don’t want you to keep it. If my other self…”

“Your other self?”

“The Magus. He knows what I do. He tried to assert control when we were fighting Red Skull. If he knows where the stone is, he’ll take it, first thing. And the Magus with two stones… he’d be harder to stop than Red Skull. Perhaps unstoppable.”

Strange takes the stone. “Have you thought about stepping down? Giving away both stones?”

“It’s my burden. At least for now. Unless you’re offering to take it on?”

Strange touches his third eye. “I’m not sure I’m the right man for the job. I’ve seen who Stephen Strange becomes with too much power. But I can make some inquiries.”

Jurassic Park Franchise Challenge

Note: I haven’t seen the latest Jurassic World sequel. I haven’t heard great things. So I truly don’t know if Colin Trevorrow saying Jurassic Park was unfranchiseable is a mea culpa about how bad his sequel came out, or if he means that he spun gold out of chaff.

The first question you have ask is “What is this franchise?” The simple answer, as with most Crichton and even most Sci Fi of a certain vintage, is that technology is scary and we aren’t thinking it through and it’s going to devour us all.

So the first sequel is pretty obvious. Hammond is forced out of the dinosaur business by the courts, the insurance companies and his investors. They’ve lost faith, so he has to sell, though he retains a seat on the board, as well as remaining the friendly face for the public, and InGen retains some stake, but far from a controlling one. The mysterious Dodgson organizes a buy out of the Jurassic Park IP and research, in part by being willing to share the genetic data with medical companies to pursue pharma research. With the purchase, Dodgson discovers the second island, Isla Sorna, the research and production island. The new investors realize they can get a much faster turn-around on their investment by retrofitting Isla Sorna, rather than focus on rebuilding Isla Nublar. They believe the first park fell due to industrial sabotage, and so beef up security, hiring an army of questionable mercenaries to lock down the island and prevent another debacle. Hammond protests. There’s no way to retrofit the kinds of safeguards the first Jurassic Park had; a new park needs stronger safety mechanisms, not weaker ones. The board basically says this is a proof of concept, that if they can run the park for a few years while they rebuild Isla Nublar, they can be profitable within 3 years, instead of year 8. The board vote to let shareholders decide, and they approve the plan, because shareholders don’t share liability, all they care about is profit and stock valuation.

For a while, it works. The retrofitting goes on without a hitch. Dodgson uses deniable assets; contractors from poor neighboring countries, mostly solo workers. Deaths are mostly covered up by the mercenaries, so the official figures look much rosier for the board and stockholders. They train up staff, and finally have their test run, an Investor Day for board members, VIPs, and shareholders.

Of course, the problem with have a mercenary security team is you’ve already established what they are- the only question is whether or not you’re the highest bidder. The mercenaries break the park, stranding the VIPs in with all of the dinosaurs. I think for now, they open the doors between cages, essentially penning the VIPs in.

Meanwhile, Hammond skipped the opening; he didn’t know there would be sabotage, but he did expect things would go badly. He also lured our heroes from the first movie. They know they’re meeting a VIP for dinner to accept a large grant for their research- large enough to get them to fly short notice to the Caribbean, but were lied to about the identity of the VIP. Ian, Alan, and Ellie are surprised to see one another. After the events of the first movie, things between Ellie and Alan are strained; they haven’t broken up, per se, but when opportunities for digs in separate locations happened, they leapt at them, and have been seeing each other less and less. Ian’s skeptical, even pissed. Hammond assures them the offer is real- for brunching with him, they’ll receive the money promised. Ian accuses him of having something else up his sleeve, and Hammond says he hopes more than anyone that they can share a quiet, uneventful brunch. Hammond receives a call, and requests the checks. “You’re not even going to feed us, John?” The staff bring out doggy bags. Hammond tells them he’ll give them each ten times what he promised to get into a helicopter and hear him out, that if they refuse, the helicopter will deliver him and return them to the airport. Ellie is the one intrigued, and the other two follow her.

Hammond offers each of them five million dollar grants. He explains that the board are trapped with dinosaurs, that they are the only people who could possibly get them out of the park and end this madness for good- that in particular he needs them to secure the board members who voted against reopening so haphazardly. That’s enough for Ian. He’s had nightmares since the T-Rex attack. This might be the only way to face his fears- or at least prevent their fruition- of a world overrun by dinosaurs. Ellie hesitates; she knows Alan will go if she does, and despite their problems, she doesn’t want to risk him. That’s when Hammond drops the bomb: his children are on the board. They were part of the hostile takeover. And they brought his grandchildren to the opening.

That seals it. Hammond tells them that they’re only part of the plan. He never completely trusted the mercs; they were always too beholden to Dodgson, and just as importantly, their security was opaque; he didn’t have access to their background checks or anything of the sort. So he quietly partnered with the Costa Rican Civil Guard. Basically, he’s been assembling a force of recently retired guardsmen who can call on the resources of the Civil Guard for logistics and weapons. He has his own army, essentially, who will fight to take back the island. They should be able to draw away the mercenaries, and should even work to distract most of the predators away from their mission.

But the mercenary’s mission is actually two-fold. Stealing research and information is one prong; the other is crippling Jurassic Park. That means aiming for maximum bloodshed, it means ensuring that the board in particular are slaughtered. Which means that rather than just penning in the VIPs with the dinosaurs, at a certain point they just open up all the doors, and all hell breaks loose.

I think Hammond had a man inside the security team. But it’s a lone gun, essentially waging geurilla warfare to sabotage the mercs and whittle them down. Yes, we’re essentially doing Die Hard in Jurassic Park as a B plot. She’s the reason the mercenaries only damage the park, instead of completely destroying it. I imagine she’d also provide a love interest for Ian.

Our heroes wend their way through dinos to save the kids and the other VIPs, as Hammond’s army retake the island, and the Civil Guard shoot down the mercenary’s helicopter, ending their theft of data. Unfortunately, the board members who wanted the slower, safer path forward die in greater numbers than the more reckless ones, so plans move full steam ahead.

JP3: The mercenary leader survives the downing of his helicopter. He sold what little honor he had, and is now completely burned even in gun-for-hire circles. And he blames Hammond, as well as the shadowy figure who clearly sent him in without enough intel who he assumes is Dodgson. He sees the opening of Jurassic Park (still the lousy sequel park) as Dodgson rolling with the punches. So he does a reverse Die Hard, one determined, skilled foe trying to weaponize the park and its animals on the park’s first day open to the public.

Ian, Alan and Ellie are all here as the twice-over saviors of Jurassic Park. They’re now essentially spokespeople. Alan is uncomfortable, because he feels they’ve been bought, that by being paid off and especially paid in stock, their judgment is compromised. Ellie counters that by working within the system they’ve successfully advocated for revisions; that while the park opened without the beefed up safety, it’s been guaranteed to them, in writing, and their recommendations will be a part of the fully re-envisioned park.

So they work to keep as many people safe as our security hero from the last movie goes after the merc to finish the job.

JP4: Dodgson wasn’t the merc’s backer, and they finally emerge, who we’ll call Mersk. The conglomerate that bought JP after 1 is struggling. Cost from lawsuits from all of the wrongful deaths keep mounting, and the promises the 3 heroes extract for safety are leading to even greater cost overruns for construction. Their accelerated timeline for profit is gone; they’ll be lucky to turn a profit with both parks open within fifteen years. Against that backdrop, another company mounts a hostile takeover. The guard unionize, and are convinced to walk out when their contract demands aren’t met- a tactic that was organized by the same diamond-mine inheriting plutocrat behind the hostile takeover. He basically walks through their automated security- his company designed a lot of it, often through shells and cutouts, and where they didn’t, he purchased schematics or otherwise engaged in espionage. So he basically strolls into the heart of their R&D, steals one of the drives backing up their data and a set of embryos. A few of the security staff refused to leave the park completely unprotected, and catch him- he has a doomsday device, essentially letting him control the park’s security with his phone, and he opens all the dino doors.

Our heroes are in the park doing more promo work. They get caught up in the shenanigans. They can either save people or go after the Bond villain. It probably doesn’t matter how you split the characters up. It ends when the villain uses a drone to fly the drive and embryos off the island. He’s confident he’s above the law. He moved all of his holdings to countries that don’t cooperate with extradition and international seizure- and if they shoot him his satellites will capture it, and their lives will be over. They walk away. The security woman says it’ll take care of itself. She couldn’t shoot him- but that didn’t make her obligated to tell him about the raptor at his 4 o’clock. He’s eaten.

JP5: We start on an underground research facility, think the one from the first Resident Evil. The place has already been through hell, windows smashed, blood, bodies. Maybe we intercut security footage of a dinosaur attacking scientists. The gist is that this is where the villain from the last one sent the embryos. His scientists weren’t nearly as cautious as they should have been, and so the dinosaurs have gotten loose.

Lex went undercover into the facility, hoping to find a way to shut it down before something like this happened- either through legal or other means. She’s trapped herself inside the facility’s panic room. But it has limited supplies, including batteries that will drain and open all the electronic locks. So our heroes, with her brother, mount a rescue. In case regular dinos are boring, they’ve been taking a far more aggressive approach than Hammond, adding different DNA pretty willy nilly and trying to force faster development, leading to some pretty crazy mutations. We can add a mutated form of ‘dino-rabies’ and do some light zombie work, if we want. If we absolutely need a park in these next two, then a B plot can involve working on methods of dealing with the dinos/plague using scientists at one of the two parks.

JP6: They get Lex out, only to find that the dinosaurs have taken over the entire city above the facility, finally fulfilling the promise of the series (seriously, they hint in the first book that the dinos escaped the island). So our heroes have to escape the city overrun with dinos. I imagine there are some shenanigans with car chases through a mostly deserted city, in part because there’s a ticking clock. The U.S. Army (that’s right, this is taking place on US soil) is poised to nuke the city because of the threat dinosaurs pose to the ecological balance. We’re not just talking the threat poised to humans; they’d crowd out hundreds of species, leading to mass extinctions, which would disrupt food chains humans depend on and lead to a dustbowl and massive starvation. Hammond is able to stall them initially, by pointing out the chemical dependence his scientists bred into the dinos should limit their potential spread. If we need to sweeten the pot, dino genes have become a trendy ingredient inside of all kinds of things, not just pharmaceuticals but beauty and hygiene products. There’s a concern that the those who have used these products could be far more susceptible to this ‘dino-rabies,’ with some government scientists suspicious that exposure can make spread through the air possible. They test a dinosaur killed at the perimeter the Army is maintaining around the city, and find that these bootleg dinos don’t have the chemical dependence that would limit their spread. So the nuking plan is back on. Ultimately the heroes escape, leading a cache of survivors out with them.

JP7: Hammond is dragged before Congress. They want to hold him and the company liable for the loss of an American city. He and his lawyers are able to successfully argue that their tech was stolen, that they alerted the authorities, and that they failed to follow up, leading to a terrorist assault with weaponized variants of their products. Finally out from under a cloud, the new and improved Isla Nublar park is finally allowed to open. The Congressman who lost face at the hearings, who orchestrated blaming JP because the Bond villain’s company is one of his biggest donors, and because some of the alternate energy pioneered for the parks (the islands use turbines churned by the tide, or maybe heat from underwater vents) threaten his coal producing donors, too, isn’t done with Hammond yet. He orchestrates an invasive series of inspections from the UN Environment Programme, stemming initially from accusations their alternate energy scheme threatens endangered wildlife, but expanding to the point where a joint UN/Congress task force arrives for inspection, giving the congressman an opportunity to sabotage the operating park. Someone remarks that Jurassic Park is like NASCAR; people come in part hoping to see somebody die. Our heroes were there to gin up good will by leading the tour. They’re attacked by the Congressman as shills, because they own stock in the company, and are being paid to be there. One of them hits back that he’s a shill for big oil and gas companies, that he’s being paid to be here in part by right-wing groups that undercut the very laws and agencies he’s trying to use to harm a potential competitor of his donors. His sabotage is rather ingenious, because it utilizes little-understood weaknesses in the park’s design itself- essentially the kind of thing that would have failed over time anyway without maintenance that had never been even considered, let alone scheduled, giving him complete deniability. In fact, within the story, only WE will even know he did something. So yes, another crisis. Dinos eat people. The heroes have to save the Congressman as part of getting free, and because we’ll keep him around as a foil.

JP8: The Congressman launches a Presidential bid, and claims that the dinosaur attack was an assassination attempt, and spins tales of his own bravery in saving people from the dinosaur attack that was meant to end his public advocacy. He promises as one of the planks of his platform, investigations and sanctions to cripple the park and the companies that own it. Knowing that there are witnesses, and likely footage that would disprove his lies, he accuses the park of operating a propaganda factory, pumping out deepfakes of its enemies, blackmailing everyone who stands against them, and disappearing those who can’t be intimidated. “But I can’t be intimidated, I can’t be blackmailed, and I can’t be bought.”

A right-wing militia, taking its cues from his demagoguery, sneak weapons into the park. They inadvertently set dinos free while demanding access to the nonexistent propaganda factory, trying to wipe any manufactured evidence. But this point our heroes know their way around this park. It takes some doing, but they manage to pen in the militia with the dinos, and retake the park. But here’s where the story finally comes full circle.

Our heroes are alone in the control room. They see video from across the park of carnage, including their cardboard standee in the lobby covered in blood. Dodgson pleads with them; he says they can cash out; he’s already found a buyer, someone who will give them a premium on their stocks, who can clean house and start fresh. It’s Ellie who coldly asks him about the safety enhancements that were the reason they’ve agreed to work with the park all these years. She reminds him they have access to all of their schematics from the control room- that he would be a fool to lie to them. He comes clean. Their demands couldn’t be profitable. The maintenance required, the amount of time the dinos would have to be off-exhibit, he could never figure out how to make the numbers work, and while he impressed their concerns on his buyer, they couldn’t make those numbers work, either. “Again and again, it’s profits over people.”

Our heroes solemnly corrupt all of the Jurassic Park server data, and sabotage the controls so that the dinosaur enclosures will no longer be operable, meaning they’ll function as pens, but can’t be used in a functional park anymore.

The sole exception is the video server. That they upload to the cloud. We cut to the news, filled with horrific, graphic scenes of deaths at Jurassic Park, and the news that it is closing indefinitely, and editorial comments that it’s not likely to ever reopen. “But the park wasn’t the only thing that’s all wet,” the anchor transitions. Part of the upload included the crooked Congressman from the previous film, including trying to feed a child to a raptor to escape, and then later him pissing himself and being saved by that same child making noise to intimidate a different dino away. They also finally see his subtle act of sabotage, and the internet starts cutting together videos compiling all of the deaths that he caused in the park.

Our heroes retire. I’m saying the four main leads, maybe the two kids, now adults, from the first one, are on a beach. Some of them are troubled, about their complicity. That they made people feel safe- even when they couldn’t make them safe. Others argue they tried to make them safer, and saved plenty of people others endangered. One of the kids tells them that ultimately they did the right thing, and shut the park down for good. Ian points out how truly heroic that was- his stock had been worth millions of dollars- not grant money, but money that was his. One of them mocks him about how many completely black outfits he could buy with that kind of money. One of the others points out they got out with enough- that they could live on a beach like this for the rest of their lives, if they wanted. We pull back, flying over the water until our heroes are a speck on the beach before the camera dives under the water. A shark swims by the camera, and we think the message is that there are still plenty of prehistoric predators out there, but the shark is swallowed whole by a large aquatic dino, and we cut to credits.

MCU ’22 Pitch 11: Nova 2

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to my Nova 1 pitch.

A very stubbly Richard flies, narrating a recap, “The Nova Corps., its ships, my armor, even its satellites like the Kiln, are powered by the Nova Force. I’ve never understood the physics of it- the science officer explained it lost me as quantum entanglement- but the man battery is on Xandar. It was built originally to power the fleet, and later, Nova Corps. armor. But with the destruction of the fleet fighting Ronan, and later the decimation of the armor Corps. fighting Thanos, the remaining Novas were supercharged. There weren’t many of us left, but we were stronger individually than ever before, and after the snap- there was no stopping us.” Quick flashback of Richard and Sam stopping in space, as Sam dusts in front of a terrified Richard. “But when I watched my little brother turn to dust, I snapped, too.”

Quick montage, Richard destroying the few remaining of Thanos’ forces, stopping when his helmet notifies him of the Infinity Gauntlet’s energy signature- and he blasts off. Richard lands hard, prepared to fight and likely die trying to tear the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos… only to find the Mad Titan’s head laying next to his body on the floor. He lets out a primal scream as we zoom out, off-world, out of the solar system- out of systems into blackness.

We cut to Rich, in an alien bar, with his head on the bar. The bartender puts down a drink in front of him, and floating in the drink we see the words, “5 beers later.” As the beer disappears from the glass, so too does the word beer, and we can see “years” now through the empty glass. The alien who snarfled up the beer gets ushered out for stealing drinks again, while Rich, without lifting his head, orders another one. Another Nova arrives, and tells the bartender he’s had enough. This is Rhomann Dey’s widow, Karman-Kan, and she helps Richard off his stool, then lets him lean on her on the way out. She carries him home. She lives with him, though they’re not together, with her daughter; it’s a sense of obligation, for his work saving them, for his work saving the Corps., and a recognition of his trauma, including their shared loss of Rhomann. I’m not at all against her becoming a love interest, going forward, but right now Richard is utterly broken. Not merely traumatized, but so far from human that if she wasn’t keeping him alive, essentially as the sole way to keep some small part of her husband alive, he would wither and die. Her daughter is pretty brutal towards him, in the way only a mean tween (or maybe teen) girl can be; she didn’t see Rhomann’s affection for Richard because she was so young, or understand what he represents to her mother, and just sees him as this black hole of work and affection, and would rather see her mom move on and be happy. In part, I think Richard represents the part of her mother that doesn’t want to move on, because they both feel like moving on would be betraying the memory of those they’ve lost.

I’m not sure where this information goes, but it turns out the Nova suits were built harnessing the power of the infinity stone on Xandar. They built the suits to use genetic locks, so that enemies couldn’t use the tech against them. They keep the suits tied to families, so Rich’s helmet could only be given to someone genetically related to him (though how close a match necessary remains to be seen). After the loss of the power stone, they can no longer create more suits (or maybe not at the speed and volume). Karman-Kan actually wears Rhomann’s suit; they used their daughter’s genetics as the template, so it would accept either parent- this is also how Sam can make use of Richard’s helmet.

Mostly the corps keeps Rich around as a mascot; the timely repair of the battery in Nova 1 allowed the Corps to survive. Occasionally he dries up enough to go on missions. But he’s reckless, bordering on suicidal; it means he’s been a hero a few times even after Xandar, but only because Karman-Kan has hidden his screw ups from their superiors.

I think… after a brutal dressing down from Karman-Kan, that he finally admits to her that he’s not a drunk. He doesn’t drink. But if he hangs out in bars, people stopped ragging on him to get over it, to move on. They finally let him just be crippled by depression- not because he wants to be- but because it’s all he can do. Because if he tried to do anything else, he’d fly himself into the nearest sun. But he hasn’t even been able to fly to Earth to tell his mom what happened to Sam. That is what’s really kept him alive- because until he knows she knows, he can’t just… that he can’t face her and tell her Sam is gone is the only reason he isn’t, too.

They embrace, and she breaks down, too, but she smiles- not because she’s happy they’re sad, but because finally they aren’t alone in their grief. She convinces him that he needs closure, that she’ll be with him, every step of the way, but that he needs to let his family know what happened to Sam- and she’ll be there to help him through, whatever the fallout. The pair fly to Earth, and land at his family’s home. Rich still has his key, and opens the front door, only to find a different family living in the home. They speak excitedly at him in Spanish, at least until another member of the family starts speaking excitedly in a different language- they’re a family of refugees displaced from different parts of the world. (and Rich is trying to speak English- all while the helmet tries to translate everyone’s speech, so there’s six overlapping voices). It’s when Richard tears off his helmet that he feels a hand on his shoulder, and recognizes a voice that says, “He says they’ve been here five years, after the family that lived here disappeared.” His mouth drops open as he turns, and we see Sam, confused. “What’s going on?” Sam asks. “And why do you look and smell terrible. And who is the hot blue lady?”

Richard apologizes for him, and tells Karman-Kan he doesn’t know whether Kylorian puberty is anything like human puberty, but they’re just lucky he hasn’t drooled on her yet. She reacts largely with confusion, but also a little concern, and stammers something about if drooling is a sign of arousal in his species they have important boundaries to discuss. Just then, Sam’s mother with their little sister Ubers in front of the house, which we can see because the front door is still open. She tells them that they were at the police station filing a missing persons report about Sam, when suddenly the station was a zoo, with twice as many people inside, and half the officers were telling everyone else they disappeared five years ago. Their driver said the same thing and she just wants to know: has it really been five years? Sam wants to know the same thing. And at that climactic moment, the refugee family begin chattering excitedly again, and Richard suggests they go somewhere to grab something to eat. I think we go to Dairy Queen, the same one Richard worked at, though it’s since been rebuilt and remodeled- just the surrounding area should be the same.

To save some time and space, Sam’s mother basically nutshells it for us, “So if I understand right, the Avengers failed to stop an alien jerk from wiping out half of all life, then after five years managed to put things back together again- and you two work for an intergalactic alien police force that also failed to stop the alien jerk.”

Rich tells her she’s taking it all really well. “Yeah, way to go, mom,” Sam adds. She tells them she’s basically screaming internally because she’s pretty sure either she’s lost her mind or the world has and either way she’s not really equipped to handle what’s happening, and adding to it by yelling at her boys, now knowing that she narrowly avoided losing them, would be too much to stand.

Sam asks Rich why he feels different. “Puberty,” Rich says. Then Karman-Kan tells him it’s been a rough five years for the Nova Corps. With the destruction Thanos wrought, there have been no shortage of willing recruits, but with the chaos it also unleashed, the Corps’s numbers have continued to dwindle. That even presuming half the disappeared Novas returned, they’re each among the most powerful Novas to have ever lived- they’ve lost so many. Rich heads off to the bathroom, and Sam follows.

We linger, a moment, on the awkwardness of the mom and Karman-Kan. Mrs. Alexander asks how long she’s been seeing Rich, to which Karman-Kan replies, “I’ve been seeing him since he arrived on Xandar, some eight orbital rotations of your planet around your star.” Mrs. Alexander is… alarmed at that, and asks how that’s been going. “He is interesting to look at, I suppose.” She asks if the two of them have been physical, to which a confused Karman-Kan replies that they’ve come into contact. Mrs. Alexander says she supposes that means her species must have compatible genitals. “Not genital contact,” Karman-Kan gasps, before mumbling that she is “retreating to a waste-elimination chamber.” She pauses a moment, at the bathroom doors, looking at the symbol of a man on the one door, and a symbol of a woman on the other, hesitating, before going into the opposite one Rich and Sam used.

We cut back to the Nova battery on Xandar. It pulses, and the lights inside the room dim, when in walks Nova Prime. She asks one of the scientists about the readings she requested. He tells her that their figures are promising, that energy can’t be created or destroyed. When he leaves, the energy forms into the shape of a man, specifically, Saal, and she calls him by that name, and tells him they’re trying to figure out what happened to him. The prototype armor he was wearing seemed to trap his template in the World Mind connected to the Nova Force.

We hear battle chatter overlapping for an instant before we cut to what is basically the Nova D-Day. Novas are pouring onto a planet, and just as quickly being slaughtered. Depending which big bad you want to set up for Nova 3, it could be an incursion of a small section of the annihilation wave from the Negative Zone, or Phalanx, or something else, even. Subtly, with each Nova that falls, the energy field surrounding those that remain becomes a little more bright.

We cut back to the Nova battery on Xandar, where Nova scientists are monitoring it. Prime asks about the incursion, and her latest Denarian tells her it’s going about as expected- but that with each Nova who falls, their remaining forces receive a greater share of the Nova Force- which ensures that their troop strength remains about the same- it’s just that the enemy forces seem endless- an unending wave of destruction. There’s a surge of power, and the lights dim. The new Denarian checks his figures, and goes pale. Something has drained an inordinate amount of the Nova Force. Their troops are falling exponentially faster- and with each that falls the anomaly is swallowing up the new share- leaving the remaining force underpowered. Prime orders an all points- they need all of Nova’s forces to converge on the battle.

Inside the men’s room, Richard is splashing water on his face. Sam can tell he’s having a hard time, and pats his back, and tries to tell him it’s okay. That he’s been under a lot of pressure.

“I didn’t buckle under the pressure of a galaxy on my shoulders, or even a world. I couldn’t handle the pressure of my little brother on my shoulders. I crumpled under it.”

Sam is thoughtful, for a moment, before comically slapping him. Then he sticks his tongue out so close to Richard’s face that it nearly touches him and then raspberries him. “Gah,” Rich exclaims, wiping spittle from his face, and asks, “How did you get through my shield?”

“Family always does,” Sam says. “They’re the ones who can hurt you worst. And the ones who help you heal. And the ones whose loss you feel the most. I never got to tell you how scared I was, when I heard your distress call. I thought that was the last time I’d hear your voice. I was terrified, but I had to try to help you. And I knew you’d been okay when you sent the message… but for all I knew I was never coming back. But also,”

Sam slaps him again. “Dad left when I was still in diapers. I barely remember him, but I always had you. And I remember having a really hard time, I felt like I couldn’t get through… anything. You told me, ‘When you can’t get through the next hour, the next minute, get through the next breath. And then the next. And the next. Sometimes the world can just be so much… but if you can break it down to however much you can handle, you can make it through the next breath. And then the next. Until you’ve got improbable minutes. Impossible hours. Unfathomable days. An inconceivable lifetime.’”

“You know, you turned out all right. Almost makes me feel bad about telling mom to put you up for adoption.”

“You mean that about Kaelynn.”

“No. Her, I liked. Mostly. She was cute. You had a head like a sat-on potato.”

Sam shrugs. “Just means I know you love me for me.” They hug. A kid walks into the bathroom, then ducks halfway out, and we hear him complain that there are men hugging in the bathroom again. “We should maybe stop, or at least hug someplace less weird.”

Back on Xandar, the scientist from before interrupts, to tell Prime he checked on the anomaly, and it’s gone. The Denarian is confused, and the scientist affirms that Denarian Saal’s template is no longer housed within the World Mind.

Sam and Richard return to the table. “Your girlfriend seems… nice,” their mother says.

“Girl friend?” Sam asks. “I’ve missed a lot.”

“She’s not my, she was my partner’s partner,” Rich says.

“Aren’t you your partner’s partner?” Sam asks.

“I’m not doing a Who’s on First,” Rich complains. “His wife, I guess. They had a kid. Because of that, she kept me alive.”

“Alive?”

Rich takes her hand. “Losing Sam… it broke me, mom. I felt like… like he was the one person in the whole Universe I needed to protect most, and I failed. I couldn’t face you. I couldn’t face anything. She’s the only reason I’m still here.”

“She must be very special,” their mother says.

“She is, I,” Karman-Kan’s hand lights on his shoulder, and he looks up at her.

“We should go.” She’s all business.

“Wait,” he says. “I need to say this. You saved me. I know you did it for Rhomann, but…”

“Not just for Rhomann. You two saved my daughter. And me. You’re family.” It’s a moment… but right now we only get a moment of it, because she says, “But we need to go.”

“No. I’m tired of running from this- all of this. I need-” the all points finally reaches Rich’s helmet, then Sam’s. “Oh. We need to go.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Sam’s mom says as they get up to leave.

“Thank you. Rhomann was special; I’ve tried to carry on his spark.”

“Why did you get the alert so much sooner than us?” Sam asks.

“Technically, I outrank both of you.”

The three of them fly across the galaxy. We intercut with the battle, that continues to go poorly. Karman-Kan has them hold off, waiting in atmosphere. “You outrank me?” Rich asks.

“You spent five years pretending to be a drunk. And Rhomann’s helmet gave me an in to promotion. But more importantly, you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

“Nothing. I haven’t felt a surge since just before the distress call. Before that, every single Nova that fell returned their portion of the Nova Force to the rest of us. I’ve seen a dozen of us fall since we arrived, and our power levels remained static. It’s,” she stops, as she’s hit from space by a being made of pure energy.

He’s Nova Omega, and resembles someone wearing Nova power armor. The general idea that I’m leaning towards is that Saal has become the Nova Omega, that his prototype managed to fuse him with the Nova Force- it’s also an excuse to bring back Peter Serafinowicz- he’s got a great voice for this kind of CGI character.

Saal continues to attack the three of them. He thinks they’re the reason the Nova Force is ebbing, not realizing that he is the one absorbing all of the excess Nova Force from his fallen comrades. The three Novas manage to hold off Saal long enough to get him to understand that he’s the anomaly- that as their friends below die, he’s getting stronger, that he’s the one stealing the lifeblood from the Corps. “I have to stop this.”

Saal flies into the battle, directly into the heart of the enemy. “What are you waiting for?” Karman-Kan asks, and flies after him. They follow her.

Nova Omega is essentially the Nova Force incarnate, and single-handedly turns the tide. But even as he’s winning, he sees that the Corps is losing, that it’s going to be a Pyrrhic victory, that the casualties they suffer will render the Novas useless to protect the galaxy. Nova Omega decides to detonate himself- that doing so can temporarily seal the rift into the Negative Zone (or destroy some other McGuffin). The Novas protect him while he does so. When he goes, the remaining Novas are hypercharged, and mop up the remaining enemies with ease.

We wrap with a scene back on Xandar. Prime is basically holding a vigil for those lost, giving a speech both meant to honor the fallen, including Saal, while boosting morale and also making sure they’re aware of the continuing gravity of the threat. It’s a hard balance. We’re really lucky to have Glenn Close to strike it.

The last bits of the speech we pull back, and see Rich, Sam and Karman-Kan in the rear. Rich’s hand accidentally brushes Karman-Kan, and she reacts, first with confusion, but then, realizing their five year journey together, with warmth, and takes his hand. At first he’s confused, but then he’s touched. He and Sam make eye contact, Sam infinitely amused with Rich holding a girl’s hand, and Sam puts out his fist; with some hesitance, Rich bumps back. We’ll cut to credits (this moment can happen in the middle of Prime’s speech, with the audio overlayed).

Mid credits scene: Sam and Rich are on Xandar, talking to Nova Prime as an alarm goes off. “The Nova Force has been more stable since Saal’s death.”

“Then what’s the alarm-” Sam starts, before another round of it blaring shuts him up.

“Since Thanos destroyed the six infinity stones the World Mind has been scanning the known Universe for power sources that could create similar levels of devastation. It started this morning, with a single signature, on Vormir, but it’s multiplied. It’s found six so far, one here on Xandar. We want the two of you to lead the retrieval team on-world, while we scramble Novas to check out the other signatures.” This is going to lead directly into Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

End credits scene: There’s a very subtle beeping. “You hear that?” Sam’s mom asks Kaelynn, who crinkles her nose. She follows the noise, into Sam’s room. At the bottom of his hamper (she spends a lot of time being weirded out by his old dirty clothes as she digs, “Ew ew ew,” she finds a Nova helmet. “What the hell?” she picks it up, and the helmet comes to life and begins to glow. “Oh.”

MCU ’22 Pitch 10: Blade 2: Moonshine

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to my Blade 1 pitch.

Usual caveat applies to diverse movies: it should be written/directed by people from that community, so Black writers, directors, and professionals of every stripe available, to get a more authentic vision.

We open on a hunt. Blade is stalking his way through a farmhouse. He finds a splash of blood on the wall. He pours a little colloidal silver on the blood, and it reacts, making him think that it belongs to vampires. Blade smiles a fangy grin. He continues to stalk through the home, coming to the rear. In the back yard, he can see a gathering of men, but not quite what’s happening. Men in white robes are gathered in a circle, and we hear their leader speaking as Blade pushes the sliding door open. These aren’t technically Klan robes; they’re more knock-off Khonshu robes, but there’s enough similarities it will read.“We call upon Lord Khonshu, and seek his favor, his blessing, and his avatar. And we offer up this sacrifice.” Hanging off a tall wooden cross is a beaten black man.

Blade charges, attacking. It’s subtle, to start, but only his silver weapons are effective; they’re shrugging off his other attacks. The leader, Dr. Druid, removes his hood. “Brothers, kill the interloper.” The others remove their hoods, and begin to transform into werewolves. Blade is in trouble; he’s surrounded by werewolves, stronger, faster, more pack-minded than vampires. He’s slashed across the chest, buffeted by blows. An engine roars, and a white motorcycle flies over stalks of corn, knocking one of the wolves back and skidding to a stop behind Blade. “The avatar!” Druid proclaims, as Moon Knight extends a hand to Blade.

“Come on!” he yells. He grabs Blade’s hand, and pulls him after the bike as he roars off, Blade contorting as they go to slide behind him on the bike. Blade’s hurt pretty bad, fighting to stay upright on the bike, before passing out and falling. I kind of like the idea that he impacts wetly on the concrete, with a blood splatter spelling on the screen, “Blade 2: Moonshine.”

Blade wakes up in a small home, lots of hard wood, fairly rustic. “I assumed you wouldn’t want to be taken to a hospital,” Moon Knight says.

“First place the wolves would have checked.” Moon Knight gives him a stiff cup of black coffee. “That was amateur hour.”

“You were expecting vampires?”

“Their blood reacted to silver. Didn’t expect a pack of angry wolves. You Khonshu? Or at least his avatar.” He shakes his head. “Sacrifice not up to snuff?”

“Khonshu’s an asshole, but he’s a judgmental asshole. He doesn’t like live sacrifice- neither do I.”

We hear Layla over a radio. “Sierra to Kilo.”

Moon Knight keys his handset. “Go for Kilo.”

“You two stirred up a hornet’s nest. They’re still hiving. Their Golf is still breathing, at least. How’s Bravo?”

“Recovered.”

“I heal fast,” Blade says.

“What do you hear?” Moon Knight asks.

“Paranoia and confusion,” Layla says. “They can’t decide if you showed up to rescue Bravo or protect them from him.”

“Call the play.”

“I’m staying here, make sure Golf is safe. If they move on him, I can swoop in.”

“Keep us posted. We’ll come running.”

“Why don’t we hit them now?” Blade asks as he puts the radio down.

“Because the ones you saw are the alpha pack- leaders from packs across the valley. One howl, and there’d be a hundred of wolves descending on that yard. Two, and it would be a thousand. This is more than a you, me, and Red Scarab problem.”

“I might have a favor I can call in.” Blade texts with Luke. He’s busy, working on a Heroes for Hire gig. But Sam Wilson’s down in Louisiana, just a hop and a skip from him. He’ll put in a call. “How would you feel about an Avenger?”

“A Thor or a Hulk could even the playing field.”

“I don’t have a chit that big to cash in. But Captain America’s kicking around.”

“The one with the wings?” he asks skeptically.

“I heard that,” Layla says, walking in and getting into the fridge. “You want anything, True Blood?” she asks Blade.

“Their guest?” Moon Knight asks.

“Back in his cage. And the moon is back behind cloud cover for the rest of the night. They won’t try again until tomorrow.”

“That gives us time to prepare.”

We cut to the morning. Sam has his wings briefcase, and knocks on the front door of a small home. “It’s probably crap,” he says into his phone, talking to his sister. “The last time Luke gave me an address, it was a prank. Wish we didn’t have the same people in Harlem. Least this time he paid for first class.” Blade answers the door. “I’ll have to call you back.”

Cut to later, inside, where they’ve clearly been talking. “So it’s a bunch of werewolves?” Sam asks.

“Redneck werewolves,” Moon Knight says.

“I’m… out,” Sam says.

“What?” Blade asks.

“I may not like redneck werewolves, but, hostage aside, I’m not on board stabbing and killing hundreds of people.”

“They aren’t just minding their own business, here,” Moon Knight insists. “They’ve tainted the moonshine they sell under the table. It’s how they spread lycanthropy. It will also spread the old fashioned way. Think a pandemic spread by biting- and the virus makes people very bitey. Worse, it spreads a lot faster if the initial population is multiplied a few times.”

Sam sighs. “I’m back in. At least for getting the hostage free and sabotaging their moonshine production. But we pull back on loss of life. Steve wouldn’t want me getting blood all over his shield.”

“Maybe white wasn’t the best color for your suit,” Blade mocks him.

The next night, they assault the compound, hoping to rescue the hostage before the full-on assault. They succeed, but Sam gets snatched in the bargain. The old sacrifice was Moon Knight’s inside man, before he was discovered. You could make him Werewolf by Night (who will be debuting in a Halloween MCU special on Disney+, apparently), or someone else.

From him we learn plot details, and it might make sense to spill some of the beans from him here, now. Dr. Druid hopes that he can kill Moon Knight and replace him as Khonshu’s avatar, in the somewhat misguided belief it would let him control the wolves directly (he’s largely been getting by with lycanthrope supremacist soundbites, but they’ve resisted anything beyond their own agenda).

They all sustained pretty horrific injuries in the raid; they all have healing factors so we might as well get our money’s worth, plus it gives us an excuse to wait until the next night for their assault. The others go to bed, and Moon Knight has a conversation with Khonshu. Khonshu is livid that he’s loafing. He says that they have to wait until morning, to recuperate- that if they go back tonight one, maybe all of them, will be killed. Khonshu says he’d resurrect him; he’s not worried about himself, but they only have the one shot- if they screw it up, it will take too much time for them to regroup, heal and mount another operation- by then Druid will be too strong (I want it in this scene to feel like Khonshu’s affections are perhaps waning, that he’s contemplating Druid’s offer). Subtly, Khonshu disappears into the empty door past Layla’s (there are four bedrooms total).

Layla has Tawaret in her room. Because it’s funny, the hippo goddess is sitting in a twin bed, kicking her legs behind her like a tweenage girl. “I never understood the Twilight thing, but Blade… him I could see choosing over Taylor Lautner.”

“I’m a married woman. And vampires, even ones who can walk in the daylight, creep me out.”

“You’re only married to 1/3 of Marc. That means you’re 2/3 single.”

“I don’t think it works that way; I especially don’t think Marc thinks it works that way. Now shoo. I’m supposed to be sleeping. And healing.” The hippo leaves, in the direction of the room where Khonshu disappeared.

Inside Blade’s room, we see him tending to his wounds. Since it’s his movie, he gets the coolest injuries, including having to remove a werewolf claw, essentially a small knife, out of his leg. He’s also talking on the phone with Misty (because it would be weird if he were on the phone with his mommy and we’re running out of supporting cast). “Good old boy werewolves?” she asks, in her weary way.

“These definitely mean harm.”

“You quoting Dukes of Hazard?”

“I wasn’t there for the General Lee. But before someone explained ‘white-washing’ to me, or what that flag on their car meant, it was hard to beat the driving.”

“Look, I appreciate 3 AM calls as much as the next girl, but you’re in a different time zone, so it’s 4 here, and you’re in a different time zone, so we can’t even make the fun kind of 3 AM mistake. So why’d you ring?”

“It’s getting to me. Vampires spread as an afterthought, and even when they form alliances, it’s about power. This goes the other way. These good old boys… they’re willing to become monsters. They hate so much they’d give up being men to keep the world from moving on without them.”

“They’ve always been monsters; that’s why they don’t hesitate. And I don’t know I see all that much difference. Both vampires and these werewolves are willing to do horrible things to keep what they think is theirs- and what big eyes they’ve got. They think they should control you for your skin, me for my gender. They have monstrous ends; of course they’ll use monstrous means.”

“Thanks,” Blade says. “I needed to hear that.”

“So it’s easier to kill them?”

Blade sort of chuckles. “Been spending too much time with Captain America. Almost starting to feel respectable.” She laughs with him.

They go in stealthy, dispatching a few wolves on the way in. They find Sam. He isn’t responsive- though he’s still in costume. They manage to carry him outside, but they’re ambushed by Druid and a gaggle of wolves. They’re worried; there are more than the previous night, when they got the hell kicked out of them and lost Sam. That’s when Druid starts chanting.

Sam falls to the ground, and starts puking. One of the avatars reacts to the putrid smell. “God. What is that?”

Blade, whose nose is more sensitive, snarls, and says, “Moonshine.” Sam howls as he starts to transform into Capwolf! (For the uninitiated, that is a Captain America werewolf!) Knight wants to kill him before he can fully transform- that their odds are already long, and fighting a flying Capwolf would overwhelm them; Blade intervenes. “We kill him to make things easier on us, how are we any better than them?”

“I don’t care if we’re better than them, especially if ‘better’ means ‘dead.’”

“Marc,” Moon Knight’s Steven Grant persona says. “We can’t kill Captain America.” Annoyed, Moon Knight looks to Layla, who kind of shrugs.

“I think he’s right,” she says. “And it probably makes it worse; the white Captain America lasted eighty years. He’s had it like eighty weeks.”

“Actually,” Steven again, “there was a Black Captain America. Fought in the Korean War. Fascinating story.”

“Steven, what did I say about spending time on the dark web?”

“That it’s only for purchasing illegal weaponry and peculiar pornography.”

“And not to believe anything you read there.”

“Peculiar?” Layla asks.

“Jake’s into some… things.”

“Calling them ‘things’ only makes me more intrigued,” Jake says.

Moon Knight relents. “I hope I don’t live to regret this.”

“Well I hope we live,” Layla teases.

As soon as he’s turned, Sam attacks Moon Knight, because Druid, who is controlling him, wants to prove he’s the better avatar. At first Blade and Layla fight the wolves, until Layla realizes she’s got a tactical advantage with the wings, and starts doing fly-bys.

Sam abandons Moon Knight at Druid’s direction, and takes off after Layla. Aerial fight! (I didn’t even plan this one, we just got lucky that the Moon Knight series created a winged heroine!). Sam, as both the more experienced flier and as the main martial threat, eventually wins; I’m going to say he manages to knock her into a tree, taking her out of the fight for some time.

Because Blade’s making a beeline through wolves for Druid, Sam attacks him next. Blade does his best not to injure him, even as Capwolf slashes at him with his claws. Blade does nick him a couple times, but he’s intentionally not doing too much harm. Eventually, they’re wrestling for control of Blade’s sword. Blade is either going to have to run Sam through or lose. So he tries a different approach, and pleads with him, “You know how much it means for you to be in that suit? Don’t make me cut you out of it.”

Capwolf grabs Blade’s blade by the blade, and his skin sizzles. For a moment Blade is horrified Sam’s going to break it then gut him. Then Capwolf speaks, haltingly. “Silver- pain- cuts through, helps me concentrate.” Blade hands him a silver throwing knife, and Sam holds it by the blade, and squares to Druid. Blade and Sam fight Druid hand to hand; I’m going to say, to make the fight interesting, he’s been getting high on his own supply, so at a crucial moment he can wolf out, so he’s a werewolf mage fighting the pair of them. Because it’s his movie- and because he’s more willing to kill-Blade delivers the killing blow.

With Druid gone and Capwolf on their side, they turn the tide. The next-most senior alpha takes over, and howls loudly, calling wolves from miles away. Fighting gets dire, until Steven Grant takes over. He mentions watching a documentary about wolves, that while wolves in captivity tend to have an alpha, in the wild packs are families. In the wild, someone who kills their alpha is a threat- they’ve proven they aren’t pack material. “If someone moves into your neighborhood and kills the head of your HSA, you aren’t likely to bring them biscuits.”

“So Sam takes one of them to a cotillion?” Layla offers. “Just pick the prettiest werewolf.”

“I’m pretty sure they’re all boys, from what I see bouncing,” Moon Knight says.

That could work, too,” she says/

Blade smells at the air. His specialty might be vampires, but he knows enough about werewolves to identify the alpha. He points him out, and Sam fights him. The others have to buy him space at first, but it quickly becomes clear that the other wolves aren’t trying to hurt them- they want to watch the fight.

Sam bests the alpha, but because he lets him live, the others submit to him. Capwolf tells them to abandon their plan- to wolf for themselves. “And stop being racist!” he roars directly into camera.

We cut back to their staging cabin. Moon Knight and Layla are loading their car. “You sure you don’t want to come with us?” Layla asks.

“New York this time of year is cold and wet,” Moon Knight says. “That seems like it would be your kind of thing.”

“I’ll need to stop in on some family, but otherwise… I don’t know where I’m headed. Haven’t figured it out.”

“Well, lock up when you go. And if you drink all the beer, buy more beer.”

“Yeah,” Layla says. “You wouldn’t like him when he’s thirsty.”

“And a mellow red wouldn’t go amiss,” Moon Knight says, in Steven’s voice. “Or an aged scotch,” Jake Lockley’s voice this time.

They get in the car, and as they drive off we pan around to see Sam, still a wolf, leaning his head out the window, his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he sniffs excitedly at the air.

Blade enters the cabin sometime later. He’s got a lot of liquor, as requested by Moon Knight’s various personalities. “Wonder if each one of him has a different liver,” he wonders idly. He hears a phone start to ring. I think it’s the silly propaganda song from Captain America: The First Avenger.

Blade walks over to find Sam’s phone on the floor where he dropped it, nearly out of battery. We can see from the caller ID that it’s Sam’s sister. “Hello?” he asks.

“I was looking for Sam.”

“He’s at the doctor.” He realizes what that could imply, in Sam’s line of work. “Should be routine.”

“Yeah. Well… something strange is happening here. Kind of strange he might need his suit for.” We pull back, to see a single zombie, tied up with ropes by her sons. It groans, and we cut to Blade riding his motorcycle south. He’s joined by another cyclist, who nods at him, before his skull catches fire, and we go back to credits (personally, I’d bring back Nicolas Cage… unless Marvel has bigger plans for him in the MCU).

Mid Credits scene: Okay, I’m just swinging for the fences at this point. We show the front door of Bloodstone Manor from the inside. There’s a thunderous, booming knock.

We cut to the porch, where Brother Voodoo just knocked. From behind him he hears a posh British woman, her voice full of threat. “Not entirely sure your sort are welcome here. Sorcerers. The family’s been hunting monsters since before there were Americas. Some might wonder if you’d throw in with that lot.”

“Elsa,” he says, “charming as ever.”

“Jericho. Never where you’re wanted to be.”

“And where’s that?”

“Some bloody place else, I’d imagine, because you aren’t welcome here.”

“I’m starting to wonder if I should be taking this personally.”

“You personally ruin my day every time you darken my doorstep. Come over once for tea or a chin wag, maybe then I’ll consider us mates.”

Voodoo opens up a portal; he can use a sling ring, or we can do something else entirely. “Elsa, get your gun. There’s monsters in need of slaying.”

She lays a somewhat comically large gun across her shoulder, and follows him into the portal. “Well, you know how much of a slut I am for saving humanity from the things that go bump in the night.” The portal closes behind her.

End credits scene: We’re in Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. “This is going to hurt,” Dr. Strange says. Sam screams, as he de-wolfs.

“Ow,” he says, still curled into a small, pained ball on the floor.

“People never listen when I tell them something is going to hurt.”

“Is he going to be okay?” Bucky asks, as Sam continues to moan on the ground.

“What do I look like, a doctor?” Strange deadpans, and we cut to black.

Movie Pitch: Indiana Jones 6

This involves a bit of guesswork, since Indy 5 won’t be out for a while.

Indy arrives in Vietnam. To better establish the time and place, he has to sneak past the US forces there during the war. They’re largely demoralized, because the end of the war is nigh, and they’re not winning it. He manages to cross over into Vietcong territory, and is able to rent a room for the night.

In a call-back to the assassination attempt in Temple of Doom, Indy is attacked in bed. But 40 years have passed; and he doesn’t even stir as the assassin creeps in. We milk a little comedy out of it as Indy loudly saws logs as the assassin prepares to deliver a killing blow. He’s attacked instead by Short Round (Wan Li), the now adult (and incredibly bad-ass) Ke Huy Quan, who, no, really, is a stunt coordinator and an expert in Taekwondo (and very excellent in Everything Everywhere All At Once). Indy’s startled by the fight; Harrison Ford does a good befuddled face, and we could use one of those as he’s at first confused, then puts out a leg to trip the bad guy to help Short Round win.

“You sleep a lot sounder than you used to,” Short Round says, giving Indy a hand up.

“I got old, kid.”

This Indy is retired. He’s getting the band back together (basically calling back in any surviving cast for a Legasequel) to try and rescue his dumbass son. His son has become a tomb raider; he thinks he’s carrying on his father’s legacy, but he’s actually at this point the black sheep (which only makes him feel more like the Indy to his dad’s Henry Jones).

Indy’s in Vietnam because that’s where Mutt is. Some like-minded tomb raiders are using the fighting as cover to raid archeological sites- specifically, the Hanoi citadel destroyed by the French, and incorporating sections as old as 1400 years. In case any of this sounds familiar, I am indeed suggesting they’re raiding one of the citadels eventually officially excavated by the Vietnamese government in 2003. After a disagreement, Mutt’s being held captive, possibly for ransom though the note’s unclear on that point.

Depending on how we’re doing for time, and how many veterans are returning, we might have to montage it, but Indy and Short Round gather/rescue all of their players, and help smuggle them to Hanoi. I’m assuming their cover is that they’re there as Russians, potentially there to provide aid and assistance. We could get some really poignant moments out of this; Short Round’s actor is Vietnamese American, so the destruction would likely hit close to home for him.

Indy and company fight their way inside the camp purportedly holding Mutt captive… only for Mutt to stumble out of his tent, clearly free and also confused. That’s when our real villain reveals himself. He’s Mutt’s quasi-mentor in this endeavor, and because he’d be a great and fun choice, and because he’s expressed conceptual interest, I’m just going to assume he’s being played by Mark Hamill, and we’ll call his character that. He sent the letter to Indy, because his son just isn’t the genuine article. He’s been losing men daily, some to gunfire, some to greed as they run off with whatever they think they can sell, but this expedition is costing him, and either Mutt isn’t up to the task, or his heart just isn’t in it, so he figured bringing in dad would either provide a better archeologist, or better motivation. They’re all taken hostage.

It seems Mark Hamill has been bribing the local VC who largely run Hanoi; they’ve been watching Indy since his arrival. Indy bargains with Mark- let his friends go, and he’ll help them finish excavating the Citadel. Mark gives us a fiendish smile, and says that he could always just keep all of them- in case he needed motivation down the line.

A portion of it would likely be almost a prison movie, with our heroes in captivity, working to discover a path through the collapsing citadel or other means for an escape, all while Indy snaps at Mutt for getting them all into this predicament. Mutt eventually explains he’s already found a way down, but needed to be able to get all of them away from their captors. So part of it is a chase through a collapsing, booby-trapped citadel ruin.

Eventually, they all arrive at a chamber just outside the one where Mutt has promised a treasure worth more than anything. Mark and his goons show, but he’s lost enough of them during the chase, that when Mutt suggests they split whatever’s there, instead, partners, like they were always supposed to be, Mark accepts, but reiterates a threat (though it’s our first time hearing it), that if Mutt disappoints him, he’ll shoot him. It’s a combination of Mutt, Indy and Short Round who are able to get the puzzle open, letting them into the room.

We’re going to invent some mythology, because, well, there’s no actual magic in the world, so duh. The history is that the Nguyen Dynasty moved the capitol from Hanoi. It maintained the name “Long” but purportedly this no longer referred to the Imperial dragon (as it was no longer the Imperial seat), but instead to longevity and prosperity. But the rumor was there was actually a second Nguyen ruler; the two brothers reunified Vietnam together, but then couldn’t decide who would rule. They left it to their soldiers, who sided with the historical ruler. However, the other brother refused to yield his claim, and fortified Hanoi as his capitol.

The historical ruler tried to take the citadel by force. Several times the citadel was captured, all inside slaughtered. Assassins a dozen times over swore to delivering fatal blows to the brother, only for him to be alive and defiant the next day. The legend says that while he held one of the last phoenix feathers, no blow, no matter how ruinous, could be fatal. Rumors are one of the other feathers found its way into the hands of Rasputin, that it wasn’t until the Neva River finally tore it from his grip and he drowned. Eventually, the historical ruler recruited a girl who his brother had loved from afar their entire lives; she stole the feather, and all of his brother’s wounds returned, killing him instantly. The girl had not known that stealing the feather would harm him- his brother had convinced her it was a game between them- and it burned in her fingers, catching her dress alight and disfiguring her.

The legend went that she slunk to the catacombs beneath the citadel, where she cared for the last breeding pair of phoenixes in the world and mourned the fallen Nguyen, who she, too, had loved. Supposedly, she and the remainder of the dead Nguyen’s household remained, spawning generations that kept the birds and their progeny alive.  

I like the idea that this is the reason Mutt’s been such a mutt- that he was seeking the phoenixes purported to have existed within the citadel. It was so risky he had to work with scum and thieves, because they were the only ones greedy enough to try for this score in the middle of a literal warzone.

The reason is the drink from the Grail is clearly failing his father; immortality might have come from repeatedly drinking from it, but the sip Indy took only made him look pretty good for his age, and Mutt’s not ready to lose Indy (I think we can all relate).

And that’s why it’s such a blow when they finally breach the interior chamber of the citadel. Because all they find is death- but recent death. The stories were true, that a dedicated group had managed to keep these magical, mythical creatures alive for hundreds of years, only for imperialism and war to murder them (personally I’d go with shelling from the Vietnam war killing them, but the French colonial invasion could work, too). It’s a heart-wrenching blow, especially to Mutt.

And that’s when our villain shoots Mutt in the back. “I told you what would happen if you failed,” Mark Hamill says, and grabs the field med kit Sallah brought, rushing for the door and knocking the supports loose, leading to a collapse that will trap the rest of them inside. Indy and Short Round manage to roll through just before the collapse, Short Round losing his hat. Indy tells Sallah to move the rocks. They’ll be back with help.

Mark’s got a martial artist sidekick who he sends to slow them down. Short Round fights him while Indy chases Mark. We’ll cut back and forth between the two fights, but I expect this one to be the impressive one; the other fight is going to be two grampas wrestling (and there’s only so much you can hide that with stunt doubles and quick cuts). If we want to amp it up, the other fighter grabbed a handful of phoenix down from a smashed egg, so he takes a repeatedly licking until Short Round manages to knock him off the citadel, and he drops the down as he falls.

Mark climbs higher, up the parts of the citadel that still climb into the sky. A portion has a very shaky stone bridge to a nearby structure, and Mark runs along it, stopping to cause a partial collapse to prevent Indy from pursuing. Indy swings with the whip in front of Mark, knocking him over, causing him to cling to some of the remaining stones, as he howls, “That’s impossible.”

“I know,” Indy says, because I can’t resist dueling Star Wars references. “Now give me the bag.” Mark dangles it precariously over the edge. “My son dies, and you do,” he says, his hand hovering over the gun in his belt. Mark tosses him the kit. He throws it across the gap to Short Round. I think more of the rock bridge collapses, and Mark starts to fall, to be caught by Indy, who pulls him up. Personally, I’d keep Mark around, treat this kind of like the Fast franchise, and have the more interesting bad guys stay and be frenemies, but if you want to go for maximum villain, this would be the moment he tries to press the advantage to stab Indy, and that makes Indy drop him.

Indy swings back across the gap, and arrives as Short Round is bandaging Mutt. “He’ll live,” he says.

Indy helps Mutt up off the ground. “You’re a lousy archeologist. But I never wanted you to follow in my footsteps. I just want a chance to know my son.” He supports Mutt as he hobbles out of the room, before he stops, and sets his hat on Short Round’s head, and says, “You did good today, kid.” Because seriously, Short Round is a million percent the better inheritor of his legacy. What Mutt needs isn’t a hat, it’s time with his father.

But I do have one, final trick up my sleeve for this franchise:

At the end of the credits, we plant our flag, with, “Short Round will return in Indiana Jones’ Legacy.”

For this series follow-up series we’d pay Harrison Ford to record as much voice over as we could, involving his letters, journals, instructions for Short Round to get/use/destroy/whatever fantastical mystical objects. Indiana Jones couldn’t be everywhere, and perhaps just as importantly, understood he wouldn’t live long enough to see some of the sites that technology would eventually make available. So the framing device is Harrison Ford setting the characters on wild scavenger hunts essentially letting Harrison Ford continue to play Indiana Jones without breaking a leg again. And if either he doesn’t want to do them anymore, or if he can’t, then Short Round can read them, or we can have someone else do it as part of the plot, but it gives us an in to keeping the character involved. I’d also suggest we keep the series roughly 50 years in the past, so as Short Round ages out of the role, we pick up one of his kids, or one of the kids he ends up adventuring with (as one does).

MCU Sequel Pitch: Thor 5: Hel and Back

This is a pitch for a direct sequel to Thor: Love and Thunder, in part to fix what didn’t quite work in that movie, in part just positing where the story goes from here. It isn’t connected to or assumed to be in continuity with my pitch for the Incredible Hercules (or my other Marvel pitches more generally). Many of the characters are the same, and I’d certainly pitch trying to bring in characterization along those lines, because Hercules can be a really fun, somewhat ridiculous character in his own right, if he doesn’t get pigeon-holed into a villain role, and has historically been one of the Avengers.

This will, obviously, have spoilers for the latest Thor movie. Watch that first, if you’re worried about that.

*             *             *

We open cold, on Valkyrie and Jane in bed together. “That was… unexpected,” Jane says. “I came here looking for magic, but…”

“Not to be full of myself, but that felt magical to me,” Valkyrie replies, and Jane blushes.

“No, I’m… I’m sick. Dying. Even now, I can feel it…” Valkyrie pulls Jane to her, and holds her, stroking her shoulder. A tear slides down Valkyrie’s cheek; she’s not ready for another tragic romance. We zoom into the tear, then out of another sliding down her cheek.

We’re modern-day, now. Valkyrie is sitting in an Asgardian pub, and wipes the tear away before polishing off her beer. She stands up, wobbles, and falls over. Her assistant helps her up, and helps carry her out. Now, personally, I would place Lady Sif as the assistant… but she could be an entirely new character if we want. Either way, my intention is to set her up as a potential love interest for Valkyrie. We cut to the Marvel logo.

The next morning, in Valkyrie’s office. She pours a bottle of beer into a mug to drink. Her assistant is looking at her, and she shrugs. “Hair of the dog.”

The assistant kicks a bottle on the floor, one of many. “Pretty sure you’ve polished off the whole litter at this point- enough to make a whole coat.” Because I’m a Disney nerd as well as a Marvel one, I’d have there be, in total, 99 bottles, one for each Dalmatian puppy.

“Who,” Valkyrie tries to get up to make her point, but sways, falling back into her chair. “Who do you think you are? Questioning your sovereign?”

“Asgard is a people- and my concern is for them- not for the ass on the throne.” Valkyrie knows that she’s calling her an ass, not just referring to her ass, and tries to get up to throw her weight around, but again falls, this time knocking her wheeled chair spinning out from behind her desk as she falls to the floor.

Excitedly a guard runs into the room. “Highness!” They exclaim, before realizing Valkyrie isn’t behind her desk. “Highness?” Valkyrie holds up a finger above the desk, as if telling them she needs a moment. There’s scuffling, awkward scuffling as she tries to get up without using that hand, clearly struggling, before the assistant steps in.

“Tell me,” she says. “We’ll get it sorted.” They say it’s an Olympian, making trouble along Asgard’s border. The guard leaves.

“I’m on it,” Valkyrie says, trying to get up, but not quite able. “In a minute.”

“I’ve got it,” her assistant says, and calls Thor.

Thor arrives at the border with his young Thor Girl, to find Asgardians beaten and wounded, and trolls rampaging. The pair makes quick work of the trolls. There’s a tear in the fabric of reality, smashed there by Hercules’ mallet, which trolls continue to push through. There are 3 basic solutions: if we want, we can have Dr. Strange or America Chavez show up to fix the tear; it can heal on its own once there are no longer trolls holding it open, or Thor can use Stormbreaker to seal the rift (essentially the reverse of the Bifrost).

One of the guards gives Thor a scroll from Hercules, challenging him at a time and place. He largely shrugs- unconcerned over a pissed off Olympian. Right now he has more concern over Valkyrie. He drops Thor Girl off with Valkyrie’s assistant, before taking Valkyrie out for brunch.

Valkyrie stares into her beer, and we zoom into it, and out of a different beer Jane, now the Mighty Thor, is pouring for her. Jane hands it to her, and she’s about to drink it, before stopping, and setting it down. “You’re amazing,” Valkyrie says. “Beautiful, but so strong. I could love you so easily… but I couldn’t stand to lose you.” She strokes Jane’s cheek.

“It’s okay,” Jane gingerly kisses her forehead, “I think what I need right now is a friend.” Valkyrie takes Jane’s hand as we zoom back into and out of the beer. Valkyrie is still staring, until Thor snaps her out of it. I think everyone has taken to calling her “Val” because she hasn’t told them her real name- she’s still that closed off.

Valkyrie, clearly still deep in her feelings, tries to pivot to something lighter, breezier. “So how has fatherhood treated the Lord of Thunder?”

His eyes narrow, but he recognizes the “Lord” part as her teasing him about their meeting on Sakaar. “Oh… it’s given me a new appreciation for what Loki and I put our parents through, but also, for why they put up with the pair of us.” Now I want this to be an important moment for Thor. I think we’ve pushed him too far into an arrogant, oblivious direction… so it’s something of a correction. “But I didn’t ask you here to talk about me or my daughter. I wanted to speak, about this morning.”

“Have you never arrived to battle hungover? Or still drunk? I could have handled it.” She’s trying to convince herself far more than Thor.

“I’m not here to lecture. I’m here because I owe you an apology. After we lost in Wakanda, I couldn’t take care of Asgard. I couldn’t take care of myself. You held our people together when no one else could have…”

We linger a moment, as one possibility dawns on her. “You can’t fire me,” she says… but she almost wants him to, so she can get back to drinking her pain away.

“No. I wouldn’t dream of it. But I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you while you were here for Asgard. I’m sorry I didn’t see how much you were hurting. I know what it is to crumble under too much weight.” He puts a hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to bear it alone.” She starts to lift her glass, before setting it down and pushing it away. It’s slow, but she folds into him.

“I miss Jane,” Valkyrie says.

“Me, too,” he says, and pats her shoulder. I imagine we use some of The Eagles Hotel California as we transition.

We zoom again into the beer, but this time when we zoom out, we’re in an entirely different place, filled with bright light and white halls. We’re in Valhalla. Jane takes a drink from her beer, but it’s daintier. “Seem to have lost some of your appetite,” Heimdall teases her.

“The longer I’m here, the less in touch with the Thor I was I become.”

“I wondered if paradise was losing its luster.”

Is this paradise? The food’s good, the company better. But it’s just a place. Like staying in a nice hotel-but one you can never leave.”

“And what if I said you could?”

“Is the alternative entropy, or nonexistence?”

“That is the subject of some debate, seeing as it’s all entirely theoretical.”

Her scientific curiosity is piqued, and she’s becoming more animated. “So there’s a door, and no one knows what’s on the other side of it.”

“So far as we know, no one’s ever gone through. There is some concern that it’s a one way trip- if we leave, we can’t come back. And where do dead heroes go if Valhalla is closed to them?” He lets the question linger. “And some,” we pan over some heroes who are having a gay old time, likely the Warriors 3, “have simply fought as long as they want, and are happy for the rest. But I’m not done; I have a son to raise. And I’m getting the sense you’ve more adventures left in you.”

“What do you need from me?” she asks.

We cut back to Asgard. Personally, I’d like to have this fight in and around the statue of Jane as Mighty Thor in Asgard, but you could set it in the same place as Thor fought trolls earlier. Valkyrie’s assistant, who I’m just going to call Sif on the assumption we’re using her for it, is there, with Thor Girl. “Should we have brought a child to a fight?” Sif asks.

“We were no older than her when we started fighting frost giants,” Thor says.

“And you’ve never recovered from all the blows to the head,” Sif quips.

“Besides, she has the most capable minder in Asgard. Not a woman alive I’d trust more with her safety.”

We cut to Valhalla, and the woman no longer living he’d trust more. Jane and Heimdall have assembled a team for a breakout, including the Enchantress… and an unknown Asgardian lass who we will eventually come to know by the name Angela. The Warriors 3 distract some Valkyries who are watching a door with ornate runes carved into it. Now, my preference would be for us to pay Rene Russo to come back as Frigga, and have her use rune magic to open the door, acting as the final member of their little escape attempt (maybe hidden until the last second under a hooded cloak). But if we’re using this to bring along Enchantress, she could work, or literally grab someone and say they, too, know rune magic. They open the door, and it’s blackness beyond. Jane hesitates, as much because it’s empty as because it’s clear Frigga isn’t coming with them. But eventually she tells Jane to go- to give Thor her love.

Back in Asgard, other Asgardians gather. It’s… not that odd for gods from other pantheons to challenge an Asgardian, Thor in particular. They had largely sporting relations between them. There’s even concessions, one beer-slinger stopping to offer Valkyrie her usual mead. She opens her mouth, reaching, before looking to Thor. He gives her a gentle, encouraging look, and she says, “None for me, today.” He’s confused, but moves along. Thor gives her a smile, and she’s… a little awkward. Mostly because she’s not really tried coping sober and it’s harder than it looks.

Hercules arrives. He uses his mallet similarly to how America Chavez from Doctor Strange 2 uses her fists, punching holes in reality. He swaggers through one, onto the battlefield. “Asgardian,” he points his mallet at Thor, “you have stolen from Olympus, and tarnished the name of Zeus. I would have you answer this disrespect.”

Thor sighs. “I’d honestly rather not.” Hercules is just… baffled. “I have a daughter.” He points to Thor Girl on the sidelines. “And while I believe in teaching her that some trials must be met with martial force, that is an option of final resort, not first. Real heroes use their words.”

“Confounding Asgardian!” Hercules bellows, charging and swinging his mallet.

Where things get spicy is, like last time, Hercules’ entrance tore a hole the trolls can get through. At first, Asgardian guards and Thor Girl mop them up, but not only do smaller trolls stream out at a faster pace, but their big bruiser, Ulik, shoves through. That’s when Valkyrie enters the fray. “I haven’t fought sober since I lost…” she pauses, and more quietly adds, “my heart.”

“It’s easier to hit an opponent when you’re not seeing double,” Thor says, grappling Hercules. Throughout the fight, Thor rallies her with encouraging words, and in the process wins over Hercules, who recognizes in him the heart of a wise and noble warrior, to the point of ending hostilities.

Hercules glowers. “I know Zeus to be vainglorious. I’ll not bloody a noble soul to salve his wounded pride. I yield- though I do not surrender.” Hercules joins them in turning their attentions to Ulik. He takes a licking, and it requires all of them wailing on him to drive him back through the portal.

But this time the portal doesn’t close, not until dead Loki claws his way out of it (looking earily like he did after his death at Thanos’ hands). He’s escaped the underworld to tell Thor that Jane is there- but that things don’t look good for her. Hades is aware of her, and closing in. If he wants to save her, he needs to do it, now. As he finishes delivering the message, a hand large enough grab him in its fist pulls Loki back into the underworld, and the portal shuts behind him.

“I’ve had many a glorious adventure in the underworld,” Hercules brags. “I feel in your debt, for the trouble caused. If it would restore my honor, I would gladly escort you through Hades’ halls. It’s been too long since I kicked him in his rancid toga.”

“So we’re going to Hel?” Valkyrie asks.

“The underworld, but yes,” Hercules says.

“And you’re bringing the child, aren’t you?” Sif asks.

“I was smaller than her, the first time I went to Hades,” Hercules brags.

“Frigga help us, now there’s two of them,” Valkyrie says. Hercules smashes a new portal. “I’m a queen,” she says. “I’m not walking.” It’s playful, not us turning her posh.

We cut back to Jane and Heimdall. I’m imagining sort of a barren forest, jagged, deformed, dried out trees scraping at the blackened sky (there are stars to light it, but they are more distant and their light weaker than the stars we know). Their band is quiet, because they know they’re in hostile territory, even if they don’t know it’s technically the Olympian underworld. They’re set upon by shades (we could, if we have money to burn, use CGI for dead villains in this fight- ones who could reasonably be in Hades). Angela is surprisingly adept at fighting. But for all their skill and vigor, it’s clear they’re being overwhelmed. Then we hear music start up, and Heimdall looks to the horizon. “What in Odin’s name is that?” Heimdall asks, squinting with his magic eyes.

“That’s our ride,” Jane says with a wide smile. We cut to the portal Hercules smashed, and the goats pulling the ship scream, for a moment in time with the singer screaming in a song before the music turns up (I’m specifically thinking the scream from AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, which might be worth bringing back, but it’s hardly the only song with that kind of scream in it). The ship flies through the air, and the heroes knock back skeletal pegasi as they fly, before the heroes all jump down to Jane’s group.

Valkyrie is surprised Thor jumped with them. “I thought you were staying to land the ship,” she says. In the background, we see the ship crash, and hear the goats scream (just their usual scream, not implying any actual harm comes to them). Thor winces. “I’m sure it’s fine.”

The heroes all band together fighting shades. At one point, Thor Girl is knocked back, landing somewhere behind Jane, with Mjolnir landing at Jane’s feet. Jane picks up the hammer, and transforms into the Mighty Thor, knocking back the shade that had knocked down Thor Girl. By then, Thor Girl has recovered, and Jane tries to hand her the hammer back. Thor Girl holds out her hand to take it, but the hammer essentially splits; Jane’s is hollow, the center portion forming Thor Girl’s smaller (but proportional) Mjolnir. And not a minute too soon, as Hades arrives. I’d go big, burning blue guy in a toga. He should resemble the Disney version enough that Thor Girl will throw one of his catch phrases at him as she attacks him first (also, how damn adorable would that be, the littlest Thor flying right at the big bad through the rest of the fighting?). I’m thinking something like, “Let’s get ready to rumble” or even “Hades, Lord of the dead, hi, how ya doing?” before smacking him right in the face with her hammer. I might even go so far as to have the kid take the name ‘Meg’ from the movie’s heroine (Waititi does seem to dislike naming characters…).

As the others beat back shades, the three Thors beat on Hades. Hades pulls a deal out of his toga: that he’ll let Thor take Jane, or he can have his brother, Loki, holding the Loki shade in the palm of his hand. Thor just isn’t playing that game. “I’ll get Jane safely away from you, but I’m coming back for my brother,” he says, pointing Stormbreaker at him. Hades is worried, since that makes it a lot more likely he loses all the marbles, and so orders all his forces to attack. I’m going to say the Loki shade stabs Hades and escapes to fight with them, before he steps between Thor and a fatal stabbing from behind by Hades. The Loki shade disappears into a dust of stars (as Frigga did in Dark World and Odin in Ragnarok), and Heimdall smiles, because he knows exactly where Loki’s gone. During the fighting Valkyrie is a beast; she’s gotten really good with Thunderbolt, but during a pause, Angela gasps. “Runa?”

Valkyrie’s confused. “Nobody’s called me that since,” as she turns, she’s mobbed by Angela, who absolutely smothers her in kisses. “But you’re…” We probably hear it in her voice, but we flash for a moment to the absolutely gorgeous slow-motion moments from Ragnarok, and see Angela taking a stabbing that was headed for our Valkyrie, whose name we’re only just finding out is Runa.

“I’m here,” Angela assures her. “Death herself couldn’t keep me from you- not for long.”

Moved by all of their reunions, Hercules offers to keep Hades busy while the rest of them escape, seemingly sacrificing himself. Heimdall leads them out of the underworld, Stormbreaker proving able to cleave them a path away when they reach the right spot.

We’re likely going to need more of an epilogue than these stories tend to get, because we’re tying up a lot of loose threads. Angela is there, as Valkyrie pours the booze down the drain in their new place. It’s a meaningful moment for Runa, but Angela… Angela just can’t keep her eyes off her. She goes to her, and they kiss. This is a kiss three movies in the making. It better be a showstopper.

We go to Heimdall’s home. I’m assuming his wife survived, and he reunites with her, and with his brave son from Love and Thunder. It might pay instead to set this scene somewhere public, so Heimdall’s son could run off to play with Korg’s kid, and Heimdall could smile at Korg and his partner.

We cut to the Thor family. I’d put them in the odd little pod from the end of Love and Thunder. Thor tells Jane, half-joking. “We have a daughter,” introducing her to Love.

“We?” she deadpans.

“You know how when two people adopt a kitten together. Just because one of them goes to Valhalla for a few years before returning to life, it doesn’t mean they don’t have any responsibility for the kitten.”

Years?” she asks.

“It’s been several.”

She totters under the wight of the idea. “It felt like days…”

“It felt like decades…” he says, and brushes her hair back.

“I missed you,” she says, curling into him.

“I missed you, too.”

“So I guess it’s my turn to change out the litter box.”

Thor Girl stomps angrily. “You told me I had to go to the toilet!” she says angrily.

“I’m not having this argument again,” Thor says. “When you’re outdoors, if you want to use the sand, fine. But I refuse to have a bucket of sand for a toilet indoors. Never again.” Jane gives him a confused look. “I had an odd childhood, growing up with Loki.”

We fade to black. “The Thors will return in Thor: Ride of the Valkyries” then go to credits.

Mid-credits scene

Hades falls, limp, to the ground. “Already down?” Hercules mocks, a little winded, but otherwise jolly. “Last time, I swear you lasted at least twice as long. I actually feel a little guilty, like maybe I should have held back, if just to protect your ego.” Hercules shrugs, then uses his mallet to smack another hole in reality to leave.

But we linger on Hades in the foreground. He stirs, starting to rise as we pull back, muttering about Hercules, when he is stabbed through the back with a black sword.

“No, don’t get up, I’ll seat myself.” We match cut, Hades’ head in a similar position in frame, as we pull back, to reveal Hela seated on the throne in the underworld. “Better to rule here,” she says to the head like she’s talking to Yorick’s skull, “but I don’t have to tell you.” She unceremoniously chucks the skull offscreen, and we cut back to more credits.

More credits, then an end credits scene

Loki arrives at Valhalla. He’s met by his mother, who embraces him. “My son,” she says. “I’m so proud to embrace you here. I knew I would, in time…”

If we have Frigga, I’d end it there, because that’s a really sweet conclusion to his arc.

But if not, I’d have him greeted by the Warriors 3. They lead him inside the hall, and relate that there’s a possible way out, if a dangerous one. Loki claps one of them on the back and says he’d like to hear more, but first he’s going to sit down and have a well-earned drink. Alternate line that’s probably too far, but would likely be worth the price of admission just to see Tom Hiddleston say it: “First I’m going to drink enough ale to seduce a horse,” because referencing Loki giving birth to an 8-legged horse is absolutely the second best note to end on.

MCU ’22 Pitch 9: Incredible Hercules

The Deal: I write pitches set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also sometimes other things. This pitch isn’t a direct sequel, but follows the end of Thunderbolts 2, a sequel to Thunderbolts 1.

The Pitch: Okay, I know I said I wanted to introduce Amadeus Cho in my pitch for Iron Man 4, and I’m assuming we did. But I feel like I didn’t do it justice, and I’d need to introduce him here, anyway, to the wider audience. So I’m doing something I haven’t before, and I’m adding an additional scene to Iron Man 4, really to flesh out things I didn’t describe in detail (if you want to see where this fits with that pitch, go here):

I’m imagining Pepper giving a press conference to announce this initiative, saying she doesn’t want to live in a world without an Iron Man, so she intends to find the next one. Reporters start asking questions, starting with dumb ones like whether or not she’s sold the show to HBO. Finally, one asks how you can replace the smartest man on Earth. That’s when Amadeus Cho stands up and says, “Sixth. I’m Amadeus Cho, the Seventh. Seventh smartest human on Earth, just ahead of Vision, not the seventh Amadeus Cho in an unbroken line of self-importance. I believe Ms. Potts is currently number 6, though I don’t expect that to last. ” Pepper, intrigued, pulls him aside. He tells her, “You won’t choose me; there’s too much of Tony in me, and if you’re building a new Iron Person from scratch, why would you start off with the same hubris and relative character defects? But you’ve a better chance of success if I work with you. It’s taken me years to develop my models- it was helpful, the five years half the population was missing; not a lot happened, so I had a nice, solid chunk of time to refine my models.

I’m imagining now that Cho would be riding shotgun with Pepper as we set up Riri Williams for her own TV show, called Ironheart. Anywyay, onto this pitch:

We open on a television screen, 2008. On the screen is news footage, taken from the Incredible Hulk. We see a young Asian boy riveted to the screen, as Hulk smashes. His mom comes in, surprised he’s awake, before realizing he’s crying, and holds him. She pats his back and says she knows the Hulk is scary. Casting would be tough, because you need a kid who is the definition of precocious. The kid is defiant, and says “I’m sad. Dr. Banner is trapped inside the Hulk. He just wants to be left alone so he can fix things. Why they won’t they leave him alone?” He grabs onto his mother’s shoulder, and we can cut away.

I’m assuming this takes place after the Replacement 4’s series, and Hulk is relatively well liked, and relatively in control of himself. This sets off Ross, who has spent years plotting his revenge against the Hulk, working to assemble his Thunderbolts as an anti-Hulk squad. So he does the unthinkable: he gives Hulk the same treatment as the Abomination- by shooting him with the gamma bullet at the end of the Thunderbolts 2 credits. Not only does this bring out an old Hulk, but a feral one. Bruce has just enough of a hand on the wheel to try and steer him away from population centers and run, but he can’t de-Hulk- there’s nothing he can do to calm down (if we want to really drive this wedge home, Hulk runs to Natasha’s grave, tries to meditate there while playing the recorded message from the Quinnjet). It fails, and he tears the tree there out and throws it towards the horizon.

When we meet Amadeus Cho, at first, he seems like ADHD personified. But what we come to realize is that he’s an evolution; most human beings follow a single thought at a time, start to finish; they might get distracted and do something else in the middle, and then resume the first line of thought (we saw Tony do this a lot while inventing), but Amadeus has the first truly multi-threaded brain in our species, capable of following complex and parallel thought processes. He sounds like a crazy person because we can’t follow him, and because human language really can’t express multiple ideas at the same time (about the only media that can is comics and maybe video, and even then, you can really only express a very simple pictorial idea and a more complicated textual one- there are definite limits; note to directors: illustrating his thought processes with a comic page with multiple colored text boxes appearing on screen in parallel with lines forming around them even as he, in the center, moves around, might be a good idea).

Amadeus Cho watches footage of a more feral looking Hulk rampaging as the military attacks. Cho is eating a Ho-Ho at a food counter. Cho, irritated, asks if they can turn that Fox News crap off, to which the cook snaps, “No outside food.”

He shoves the entire thing in his mouth, then says, through a very full mouth, “See, no Ho-Ho.” He chews then swallows and adds, “And it’s certainly not outside anymore.” The cook says that he’s lucky he’s a good customer. “Good customer? I’m single-handedly putting your daughters through med school and braces.” The cook wrinkles his nose and tells him it only covers state school. “Well, bring back the cookie dough pie and we’ll talk Ivy League.” Amadeus is handed his food, and on his way out the cook says that he always knew Hulk was no hero- he’s a menace.

Cho wolfs down the food as he’s walking, walking faster and wolfing faster as he goes. Suddenly, we’re in his home, at his computer talking to his bratty little sister. He walks her through his snooping, that he found on the dark web posts from IPs that correspond to Ross’s office, enquiring about equipment related to the 2008 Hulk Incident, as well as the disposition of a black site prisoner called Sterns. He says the evidence seems to support the idea that Ross has done something to the Hulk. She yawns, and he launches into the next part of his plan.

She mocks him, for writing to superheroes like a baby. He tells her they aren’t fan letters, he’s staging a rescue. He wants to save the Hulk, and he needs muscle. He tells her he deduced the secret identities of half the heroes in New York, and sent them messages to their home addresses. They’ll have to respond. She tells him she thinks that’s just stalking, and super creepy if he did it to any of the heroines, to which he’s dumbstruck and says, “Uhhhh…”

Cut to a family style restaurant (think a T.G.I. Friday’s), with a banner over a section near the door declaring it reserved for “Friends of Hulk,” meeting at 4. Amadeus is alone in the section, with appetizers spread out, and a cake with a Hulk face applique on it. He checks the time, it’s almost 6. “Well, it looks like it’s just you and me, Hulk-cake,” he sighs, before collapsing face-first into the cake. Someone walks in and Cho sits upright, the Hulk applique and some frosting sticking to his face like a mask. He wears the applique for a moment before tearing it off, and introducing himself to Hercules. Now, before the latest Thor featured a cameo, I offered my suggestion for Hercules: Joe Manganiello. One, he’s one of the few actors built right for the role. Two, he’s one of the few actors who I think could pull off that combination of fun, fierce and fantastical that you need for the character (he needs to, in the same scene, be both the most and least human of the Olympians).

Cut to later, Hercules and Cho have demolished the spread, and Hercules has drunk his weight in beer. Hercules slaps him on the back and tells him for a mortal he can eat with true Olympians. Cho tells him that he burns a lot of calories being the 7th smartest man on the planet. He thanks Hercules for coming. He thought there’d be a better reception, that Hulk would have more friends. Hercules says that Banner has many, the Hulk but a lucky few. He launches into a fantastic tale (he’s a little inebriated at this point) of the Hulk aiding him in the defense of Olympus, against, “Was it trolls? Frost giants? Gorgons? Hell, all of them!” Amadeus watches as he weaves the myth in real-time. Hercules should feel larger than life, but also like a blow-hard, like we can’t know if he’s half the hero he thinks he is. Amadeus assumes he came only for the free food, but at the end of the night, Herc insists they carry out a plan, that “the Hulk is a true friend, and so, too, is Hercules.” Cho asks for pies to go, and clarifies he means whole pies, not slices, that he’ll need the calories to figure out where the Hulk is, and where Ross will be, to figure out where best to intervene.

We cut to Hulk, mid-rampage, fighting the military. He’s winning; even whatever anti-Hulk tech they’d prepped is just no match for what Ross has wrought. We get the biggest guest-star we can, Sentry would probably be best, but a Thor could work in a pinch. They subdue Hulk enough to try and calm him down. It fails. Then they get the snot kicked out of them. That’s when Ross approaches with the military, prepared to use a modified gamma bomb designed to overwhelm the Hulk’s cells while just burning away any other organics caught in the blast- including the small hamlet inside the radius.

That’s when Hercules shows up, causing a distraction, during which Amadeus Cho manages to get Bruce Banner, who finally de-Hulks after all the exertion, finally able to wrest control. He tells Amadeus they have to figure out a way to kill him. Amadeus tells him no, they’re going to find a way to save him. Bruce, groggy, asks Cho if he knows how to fly a helicopter, who says it seems straightforward enough.

Hercules and Cho meet back up. Banner gets back on his meds, which do help even him out, and he’s able to think calmly enough now to understand what’s been done to him, and he thinks he understands a way to undo it. But there’s a problem. There are radioactive isotopes Ross added to him when he dosed him. That was how they tracked him. The other problem is that the equipment he needs is ultra high end, not available commercially or even for sale in some instances. So he’s going to have to steal it. And it will be clear really quickly even to Ross and his team of dunces what he’s doing and where he’ll have to go next. That predictability means his mission is already doomed.

Herc and Amadeus have a better idea. Bruce will leach the isotopes and enough of the extraneous gamma radiation to be able to control himself. Ross shot him with a concentrated gamma bullet, one designed to fragment on penetration; day 1 it might have been solid enough to remove surgically, but it’s been broken down into pellets. It would take a surgical team a week to get them all out- only they’d be rapidly metabolizing during that frame, so they’d get halfway through before they’d be gone. So even if he’s dumping radiation, it will continue to ramp- so they still need a longer-term cure. But they can take the heavier tracking isotopes, and enough of the excess radiation to be able to throw Ross off the scent.

As they’re leading Ross on a goose chase, Herc asks why Amadeus is such a fan of the Hulk. “Bruce might not be as smart as me, but compare him to flighty intellectuals like Tony Stark and even to an extent Hank Pym, guys who just couldn’t stay in one lane and truly innovate- Bruce has done more for physics than either man in any other field- an Einstein level paradigm shifter. I haven’t found my gamma radiation, yet, but Bruce the intellectual is my hero, and Hulk the tragic inversion is sort of what all geniuses fear- that our work will be turned monstrous, used for purposes we never foresaw and couldn’t protect against, that we’ll hurt people, despite our good intentions. That Bruce is trapped within that roiling chaos machine just adds to the pathos.

“I’ve read literally everything he’s ever written, every paper published, every interview, and I even hacked the DoD just to get at his personal correspondence, letters, emails, voice mails, even a very lovely, sentimental Valentine he gave to his first grade teacher. She was a fox, so I totally understand what eight year old Bruce was thinking. I did a lot of this when I was little. I don’t know. I guess I’ve always felt like a Hulk inside, and a Bruce outside.”

We do a lot of montaging, and it becomes clear Ross is closing in on Bruce, so Cho and Herc put in a desperate, last-ditch trap, as likely to get them caught and arrested. The plan essentially hinges on Bruce regaining control and being able to save the day.

I think the climax comes to a head when Ross is about to bomb them. Hercules is pretty sure he can survive, and wants to eat the gamma vial. Amadeus is skeptical. “No offense, dude, but if you’re wrong, I’m not sure anyone could stop a rampaging Hulkules. But if I can’t handle it, I know you can stop me.” Hercules doesn’t feel comfortable letting a mortal take that risk, and grabs Cho by the jacket- but he’s already riggled out of it, leaving Hercules with nothing but a fistful of cloth. By the time he realizes he’s been duped, Amadeus has injected himself with it.

“I think Bruce knew it might come to this. I think that’s why he put it in a vial with a needle. In case we needed it.” He doubles over in agony. “Oh crap, that feels like heart-burn through my veins. I don’t think I’ve ever felt every vein and artery in my body all at once. Even for me that’s a lot of information to process.” Cho falls to the floor, and at first Herc protects him with his body, taking several falling rocks that could have hurt him, before Cho turns into the Totally Awesome Hulk.

Ross drops a few bombs, but ultimately, the thing they drop is the Red Hulk. This obviously takes place after Thunderbolts 1, just because it’s a mystery there, and here, two steps inside their cave, Cho figures out it’s Ross (because he’s a genius). They fight Ross to a standstill, at which point he tells them that in the military what you learn is if at first you don’t succeed, “Keep dropping bombs.” They realize he was talking into a radio. Bombing commences. But one very specific bomb is the one that truly means trouble: it’s the Abomination. Ross and the Abomination are more than they can handle, but Amadeus keeps them occupied in part by keeping Ross talking. “You created me, dickhead. And did that to yourself. You’ve created at least two more Hulks. You are walking hubris… with a really impressive moustache. I’m a little jealous of it, even though, moustache-envy aside, I’m totally awesome. So that’s three gamma bombs you’ve dropped on the world- no, four, I almost forgot about your daughter.” Ross punches him, and snarls that he’ll keep her name off his lips. “All in an attempt to compensate for the first you let off the chain. Oh, yeah, I know it was you who screwed up the test that irradiated Banner. What is this, twenty years you’ve been trying to cover up your own mistakes. That has to be some kind of record. Like an incompetent one, obviously.”

Banner arrives, again in charge as professor Hulk. He and Amadeus are able to rope-a-dope Ross and Abomination long enough for Hercules to pull a Sampson and knock the mountain down on them- holding the entrance to their cave long enough for the two Hulks to get free before letting the rest of it fall. I think Banner names them both honorary Hulks. Hercules considers it, and wonders “If I have to be green- because I’m open to it,” he says, holding one of them under each arm. We roll credits.

Mid-Credits: We visit Ross. I’m going to say he is, in addition to his Thunderbolts team, running the Raft prison as his own little personal Guantanamo. The base is on high alert, because there’s been an escape, specifically out of the green wing (this news agitates Ross especially- it’s where the gamma-powered creeps go). “Blonsky’s gone,” the guard leading the way says. There’s a big, Abomination-sized hole in the rear of his cell.

“Obviously,” Ross says, nonplussed.

“He took someone with him.” He tore through an empty cell into another, to pluck out its inhabitant.

“Sterns,” Ross says, and we zoom in on his eye as it turns red.

More credits. End-credits scene: “And you can fix me?” Abomination asks; it’s almost tragic, the pain in his voice.

“I said perfect,” the other man says. “Do you recognize this Emil?” he asks, twirling a glowing green bullet in his palm.

“From the size and shape, I’d say it’s a .50 caliber Raufoss, though it appears to have been altered.”

We pull back, enough to see green lips part from teeth in a distressing smile. “Very good. Ross used a similar bullet on Banner. My design, of course. Ross always lacked vision.”

“And who’s it for?”

“I blame two men equally for my sorry state- men who, ironically, must survive longer to conclude my research. Did you know you can tear a dozen pieces off a fly before it expires from the stress? I wonder if its replicable across species…” we pull back, and see the Leader in all his now-green glory.

MCU ’22 Pitch 8: Thunderbolts 2

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to Thunderbolts 1.

The Pitch: Okay, the ten-ton red elephant in the room: William Hurt passed away. That means a new Ross, or replacing him in the plot. You could get some of the same mileage with Leonard Sampson, especially as the jealous ex trying to get Betty back… but I’d prefer a recast, personally. And don’t forget the mustache.

“You owe me,” Ross says from offscreen, as Yelena retrieves gear from a locker.

“Fignya,” Yelena says.

“Your sister owed me, and her corpse is apparently on another planet in the past. So you owe me.”

“Do you even believe that?”

He pauses. “I’ll pay you.”

That was never in doubt. But I am super hero, now. I do not do dirty work.”

“Nothing dirty. Maybe clean-up. But I’d never ask you to put a bullet in anyone who didn’t deserve it.”

“I am Avenger.”

“Young,” he adds with a cough, and she glares, but doesn’t skip a beat.

“Jealous, with your ‘red Avengers.’ I will not put bullet anywhere they would disapprove.”

“I’ll make sure you have deniability.”

“Fine.”

“And we’ve got a dress code.” He’s holding up a red wig.

“Nyet,” she says angrily, reacting to the implication she has to be her sister to be effective.

“Red or black. Pick your poison.”

We cut to later, Ross entering a room with the other Thunderbolts. “Lady and Gentleman, allow me to introduce you to the Black Widow.” Yelena has dyed her hair black.

“I thought you died,” Deadpool starts. “And were taller. And a redhead. And older. And more…” he starts pantomiming busoms.

“I thought you were mute,” she says, and at first he’s taken aback, thinking she’s referencing X-Men Origins, a movie only he remembers, and his eyes go wide as we push in on them, then we pull abruptly back, and see she’s stuck a knife in his throat. “Oh, I was thinking of you now.”

“As you can see, she likes to make an impression,” Ross says.

“That’s why I wear a red suit,” Deadpool says hoarsely, after pulling her knife out.

“You’re coughing blood on me,” Punisher says coolly.

“Sorry,” he groans.

“It’s… ironic you’re acting like children,” Ross says, “because this mission is personal to me. It’s my daughter. Betty. She’s gone missing.”

“She’s with the Hulk,” Deadpool says, leaning back in his chair with a big bucket of popcorn in his lap, throwing a few kernels back; he has his mask rolled up enough to accommodate this. “I’ve seen this movie before. And read the book. She’s got the hots for the Hulk. The pair of them sneak off to the nearest closet for seven minutes of green heaven, and you waste a ridiculous amount of tax-payer dollars being the world’s creepiest overprotective father.”

Punisher eyes the popcorn, considering taking a handful. “I wouldn’t,” Ross warns. “There’s a hole in the bottom.”

“I buttered it myself,” Deadpool says. “Wink.”

“Widow, would you mute him again?” Ross asks.

“I mute when I deem it necessary,” she replies.

“Great. I’ve hired another insubordinate.”

“Takes one to know one, Old Spice,” Deadpool says. “Unless you’re going to tell me the U.S. Army is sanctioning this little op.”

“They are… but they don’t have all the details, or I wouldn’t be on it. My daughter has been irradiated, and is now rampaging on her own.” Ross puts up a slide. It’s Red She-Hulk, having largely torn through her clothes and essentially naked.

“No one told me we got the R rating. Those are red boobies.” The slide isn’t in focused until Deadpool points like in the Dicaprio Aviator meme, obscuring for the audience anything salacious.

“I’ll have you chemically castrated if you can’t reel it in, Wilson.”

Deadpool zips up, gasps, and adds in a high voice, “Little pinch.” Yelena offers him her knife to fix his problem. “Nope, best option is to reverse the tracks.” We hear zipping and a tear. “Oh, sweet Polar Express.”

“I’m choosing to ignore him, I’d suggest the rest of you do the same,” Ross continues. “So far as we’ve been able to ascertain, Betty has not been in contact with Banner. But we do believe she’s been receiving help. Money. Identification. Transportation. She’s been able to stay under the radar in a way that leads us to believe that someone is helping her stay hidden. We’ve been watching Banner. I don’t even think he knows Betty’s gone missing.”

“What’s the play?” Antivenom asks.

“We’re going to split into teams. If she’s being helped, we might be able to track that connection, and use it to find her. That’s subtler work. Natchios, Belova, Castle, you’re on that.” He points next to Deadpool and Antivenom. “You two can take what she’s dishing out; you’re with me.”

“And we’re going to throw three darts at a map and see if we get lucky?” Deadpool asks.

“She’s still my daughter. She’s going to end up someplace she feels safe- but also, some place she thinks I won’t be able to find her. I’ve got three potential locations, one for each of us. Either of you make contact, and you’re to observe only. Sheriff and a couple of his deputies bumped into her; all they found was pink mist. I think you can survive contact- but I wouldn’t test the theory.”

We linger on Yelena, and match cut to her at the Young Avengers’ HQ. Bruce gets pulled up as a hologram on a phone call, and recognizes Hulkling. “I thought we figured out I’m not your father,” Bruce says.

“Nope. Sorry. Nothing like that. We got a, tip. Ross is trying to hire himself a Black Widow.”

“Ross. Oh, kid, just walk away. I spent half of my life working on a gamma bomb- and it’s still only the second most dangerous thing I’ve ever been near. Ross is number one with a bullet.”

“Bullets do not frighten me,” Yelena says.

“Oh, you’re Nat’s sister. She was… I miss the hell out of her.”

“Me, too,” she says.

“But seriously. Whatever Ross is up to, you don’t want any part of it. He’s unstable. Dangerous. And think about who’s saying that.”

“Is worse than you think,” Yelena says. “He’s more dangerous. Because his daughter is missing. And she is red Hulk now.”

“Betty? Damnit… that explains her call. Where’d you hear this?”

“Orientation. When Ross hired me.”

“Ah. Makes sense. And you’re doubling for our side.”

“Or tripling for his,” she says with a knowing smile.

“I see the resemblance. Nat had a smile just like that. She was trouble, too. Look, I got to make a call. Where can I meet you?”

“I’ll text a location.”

We cut to a courtroom, where an aging judge mutters, “This is highly unusual.”

She-Hulk paces. “I understand, your honor. But this is about Spider-Man’s good name.”

“Then he can show in my court and clear it himself.”

“And we would love for the opportunity. But as you can see, the courtroom is filled with U.S. Marshals. They’re here with orders to arrest my client if he shows.”

“Is this true?” the judge asks. One of the Marshals confirms it. “Fine. Then I’ll grant your request for your client not to be compelled to appear. Now, Mr.” the judge turns to the plaintiff, who is now sitting on the stand, beside the judge. “Frogman. You claim to… is that my ring?” The judge looks at their finger, and sees a tanline; the Frogman is wearing their missing ring. The judge whacks the Frogman on the hand with their gavel and takes their ring back. “Case dismissed.”

She-Hulk barely notices. She’s looking at her phone, which says that Bruce is calling.

We cut to Jen and Bruce driving in a convertible. “So… Betty, huh?” she asks.

“Don’t start, with that look.”

“I just… she’s the one who made you go smash in your pants,” she stops and makes a face, “made your heart go smash?”

“We’ve got a lot of history.”

“Of smashing?”

“We were colleagues.”

“Of smashing?” He’s silent a moment. “Trying to think of a response that doesn’t become dirty if you add ‘of smashing’ to it?”

“We were close…”

“To smashing?”

“I asked her to marry me, before all this.”

“Oh…” she says, and for a moment we think she’s pivoting to serious, “so you definitely smashed then.”

“How are you more of a teenage boy than I ever was?”

“Low T?”She-Hulk slides the car to a stop. “We’re here.”

“Oh, good, I thought you were just trying to kill an entire family of possums at once.”

Yelena has set up a tiny version of Ross’ brief, with maps. On walking in, Bruce immediately says, “She isn’t any of those places. If she’s hiding from Ross, and your intel says she is, she wouldn’t go to locations he would even know about.”

“That doesn’t narrow it down,” Yelena says. Jen flips through a dossier and starts taking pictures and texting.

Bruce produces a piece of tech. “It measures gamma radiation. I built it to track down the Red Hulk. It worked on him,” he points it at Yelena and it doesn’t make noise, but it reacts when he aims it at himself, and then at Jen. “Works on us. Stands to reason it could find Betty.”

“What can I do?”

“Stay with Ross’ team. Whoever is helping may have given her a way to shield herself from the scanner, and if possible, we want to avoid a direct confrontation with Red Hulk.”

She-Hulk puts down her phone. “I’ve got Jess and Trish working it on the ground. They’ll follow the electronic trail.”

“We’ll follow you back to Virginia.”

We cut to a small, crappy motel at night. Elektra is there, and hands Frank and Yelena room keys.

“I don’t trust her,” Punisher says as Elektra slips into his hotel room.

“I don’t trust,” she responds, pressing against him.

“We’ve got a mission.”

“And I have my own objectives.” She kisses him. Frank tries to resist… but it’s Elektra, could you?

Yelena waits until later that night before sneaking out. From a car, we watch her slink to a motorcycle parked on the opposite end of the building. Yelena goes to the school from the Incredible Hulk, the same building where Sterns took Bruce. She discovers Betty hunched over a computer, accessing Sterns’ files.

Yelena creeps expertly, but Betty picks up the keyboard and smashes it in half as she transforms. We see Betty’s clothes shredding as she rises. Quick-cuts, as Betty charges through a shelf of books, seizing Yelena and shoving her through a wall. A moment later, we see Red She-Hulk smash through a window, landing in the foreground. She’s wearing Yelena’s catsuit, which doesn’t fit her great, to the point it won’t zip up all the way…

We cut to the motel Bruce and Betty stayed in during Incredible Hulk. We pan through the lobby, into a back room with monitors. I’m going to say we go seedy with it, and the rooms are all wired up, too. Antivenom finishes reviewing footage, before calling Ross. “She hasn’t been here. But I will leave a local creep for the authorities, so it wasn’t a total wash.” We pan back, to see that the hotel manager is webbed to the wall.

I’m assuming we’re going more for comedy in this scene than anything exploitative; we can keep Yelena mostly off-screen or hidden behind things. But Yelena comes to, to discover her catsuit was taken. “I bet this never happened to Natasha.” She finds a janitor’s uniform, but it is ten sizes too big. So she turns to the school’s mascot costume, which just happens to be a Black Widow spider. As she’s leaving the school, she runs into Deadpool.

“Love the new costume,” he says.

“What are you doing here?”

“My story sense was tingling…. You and Elektra are, shall we say, redundant?”

“Right. Because two girls on one team is too many.”

“Because you’re both bad-ass but human women with flexible moral compasses- with black hair. So… one of you is not what she seems. And aside from seeming to have spent the night in Frank’s hotel room- and who would say no to that– she’s where she’s supposed to be.”

“What do you want?”

“Like money? Just because I’m a mercenary you think I’m for sale?” She gives him a cock-eyed look, because she’s done her share of merc work. “I’m… actually here because I want to help. See… I think Ross shot his daughter up with Hulk juice.” Her nose crinkles. “Not that way; apparently we didn’t get the ‘R’ rating, and she’s his daughter. But I have… ethical issues about human experimentation. So maybe Ross shouldn’t be the one to find Betty- even if I’m pretty sure she could use some help. Though, honestly, you, in that?” He gestures to her mascot suit. “Payment enough.”

Jen calls her PIs on the phone. If it’s too expensive, you can always just show her end of the conversation. But I’ll assume we’ll get the both of them on a party line with some split screen. “Your hunch was right. Our operative literally ran into her at Culver University- right before Betty ran her through a wall. We think the scanner will be able to pick up her trail, but if she’s as strong as I am, she could be across the country by now- you might have to be ready to pick up the trail somewhere else.”

Yelena tries to sneak into her hotel room still wearing the mascot costume, only for Punisher to sneak up on her. “That a part of your plan, or just your night life?”

“You’re one to talk; you reek of Natchios’ perfume.”

He smiles, slightly. “Nice bluff.”

“Not bluff. I’m down-wind.” She slips inside her room. Deadpool is sneaking into the rear window, catches his boot, and falls flat on his face.

“Nice distraction,” he says, raising a thumb enthusiastically from the floor. “What next?”

“I need a shower. I smell like the floor of a men’s locker room.”

“Sounds fun. I like to be big spoon.”

“I do not need doof-a.”

“Aw, was that your first joke? The Punisher would be so proud.” He plops down on the foot of the bed.

Yelena closes the door behind her, and we linger on Deadpoool. “Ignore the furry strip show happening on the other side of that door…Blind Al doing naked calisthenics. Weasel and Weasel from Suicide Squad performing analingus in a plastic child pool filled with chocolate pudding. Ooh, I might have to keep that one…”

She-Hulk pulls up to Leonard Sampson’s home from Incredible Hulk. “I should have known…” Bruce says from the passenger seat.

Sampson opens the door. “Bruce,” he says tensely, before sliding into therapist mode. “We haven’t spoken since you were a fugitive.”

“I remember. You were sleeping with my fiance.”

“Ex-fiance. And as much as I love our little tet a tets, I’ve got an online session in a few minutes.”

“Where’s Betty, Leonard?”

“Don’t you remember, Bruce? She left me for you.”

“You’re being evasive, Dr. Sampson.” Sampson’s eyes are glowing green.

“Uh, Bruce,” She-Hulk says, because the gamma sensor is going berserk pointed at Leonard.

“It’s okay. Let them in.” Inside, Betty is wearing one of Sampson’s button-up shirts. “Bruce…” she runs to him and embraces him.

“I was so worried.”

“I knew you’d come.”

“What happened?”

“My dad. In a screwed up attempt to keep me safe. Turned me into a Red Hulk.”

“That’s… exactly the kind of crap he’d pull.”

“And there’s a problem. She isn’t me.”

“I know what you mean.”

“No. You don’t. She isn’t me, and she’s trying to take over permanently. She isn’t content simply to smash. She wants to be in control- all of the time.”

We cut to a dark basement room. A red-skinned man with a massive head is thrown into a chair. He’s bleeding, and skittish. He’s the Red Leader. Ross skulks around the room as we pull back, revealing it was Punisher who caught him. “Sterns,” Ross growls.

“Didn’t know we were supposed to be exclusive,” Leader says. “After all, you’ve been creating Red Hulks without me.”

“What in hell are we looking at?” Yelena asks.

“Sterns?”

“I would have presumed it obvious… but I am intellectually superior, so perhaps that’s the reason why. Where gamma irradiation has, in the case of our dear General and Dr. Banner, created muscled Hulks, In the case of the female of the species, it’s crafted outgoing, charismatic specimens, that balance intellect and strength. And in my case, I got brains for days.”

“On purpose?”

“Truth told, I was attempting to isolate the characteristics of the female Hulks, striving for a better balance. But this seems to be an even better outcome than I hoped for.”

“Then why have you helped my daughter evade me?” Ross seethes.

“Figured that out? I wasn’t done. My research is still in its pupal stage. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that thwarting you also made it all the more entertaining.”

“Playtime’s over, Sterns. You can tell me where my daughter is, or I can pop that overripe grape of a head of yours.” We see Ross’s shadow eclipse an increasingly frightened Leader’s face as he hulks out, before we cut away.

Bruce and Jen are talking to Betty and Sampson over tea. Suddenly the gamma scanner goes off, despite it not facing any of them. “I didn’t touch it,” Jen says, startled.

“No,” Bruce says. “They’re here. We have to get Betty away.”

Sampson tosses Bruce keys. “Take my bike. It’s out back. We’ll hold them off.”

“Uh, we will?” Jen asks. “I guess we will.” They sneak out the back. “Um, are we going to survive this?”

“You’re about as strong as Betty. And I,” he unbuttons his shirt to reveal some kind of uniform as his hair turns green, “can hold my own.” He gets long, green hair, and a little more muscular.

“So… you become a glam rocker?” Just then, Antivenom collides with him, but Sampson catches him, and throws him through his front window. “So you just rock, then?”

A grenade lands in the middle of the room, and She-Hulk drops down on it, absorbing most of its force. Punisher, on the porch, loads another grenade into an under-barrel launcher, before having to duck a thrown coffee table. “That was irritating,” Antivenom says, brushing himself off.

“I know this could impact unit cohesion and everything,” Deadpool says, “but, and I mean this in all sincerity, maybe we shouldn’t help the madman who conducted unethical medical experiments on his own daughter.”

“Can’t believe I’m saying this,” Punisher slings his rifle, “but Wilson’s got a point.”

“I’m giving the general the benefit of the doubt,” Antivenom says, squaring to Deadpool. Deadpool vs Antivenom fight!

I’m assuming at some point they’re wrestling, and Deadpool tries to get Frank to tag in. “Frank, little help?”

Punisher shrugs. “You convinced me not to help. I’m not ready to throw in against Ross.”

Elektra is about to deploy sais dipped in neurotoxin against She-Hulk from behind, when she’s attacked by Black Widow. “Nyet,” she says, knocking one of them out of Elektra’s hand. “Go!” Widow says to them. “Ross is in pursuit!”

They get in She-Hulk’s convertible. Antivenom has enough of an upper hand fighting Deadpool to tear Sampson out of the car as they drive away.

We cut to Banner and Betty driving away on a motorcycle. Ross is in a helicopter following, and starts to unbutton his shirt as he turns red. Ross drops in their path, smashing their bike. Banner hulks, and for a moment we get Red vs Green Hulks, before Betty transforms. Red She-Hulk aligns with Ross- because she wants to be free, and Banner is likely to help Betty be rid of her. They smack Bruce down, before She-Hulk drives her car into one of them. This fight is closer to even, but Bruce is still hurt from being tag-teamed earlier, and eventually the Red pair win. Betty is about to run, but is caught jumping by Ross, who smashes her into a rock, before shooting her with a tranq that puts her down. Banner stirs enough to try to pursue, only to get smacked back several times by Ross, eventually dehulking again.

Antivenom and Elektra are nursing their wounds on Sampson’s porch. The rest of them are sharing tea as Bruce and Jen arrive. “Ross got Betty.”

“We should head back to base,” Punisher says. “We’ll make sure he does the right thing.”

“We’ll come with you.”

Frank bristles. “I may not owe Ross allegiance, but that’s not the same as leading the rest of you back to him. At least not yet. I’m giving him a chance, first, to make it right. After that, you can spit-roast the old bastard for all I care.”

“Ooh,” Deadpool says.

“Not like that.”

“Nuts.”

“That work for you?” Frank asks Elektra and Antivenom. They’re annoyed at having been beaten, but all told they’ve been treated pretty well, for prisoners. Punisher gives Sampson an address. “Wait there. If I’m not satisfied with Ross, I’ll tell you where to find him. And keep your Widow.”

“Works for me,” Yelena says.

“That mean I’m not getting kicked out of the tree fort?” Deadpool asks.

“I know what happened to you. That’s why I didn’t shoot you for following your conscience. Just know, you do that again, I know how much punishment you can take with your healing factor.”

“A threatening pun? Ooh, punish me, Daddy Frank.”

We cut back to the Thunderbolts HQ. Betty is tied to a chair in the center of the tent; subtly, there’s a hexagon on the floor in oil. Once all the Thunderbolts are inside, Red Hulk tears the tent away, and his flame lights the oil, revealing a pentagram on the ground. Ghostrider is there, his skull flaming red. “Now, Rider,” Ross says, and he screams out an incantation.

Suddenly, they’re in Hell.

“There aren’t many humans foolish enough to summon me,” says a deep voice belonging to a man in red sitting on a throne. I’d suggest Henry Golding; seriously, watch Persuasion and tell me he couldn’t talk just about anyone into selling their soul. That’s your Mephisto.

“Yeah. Spooky-scary,” Red Hulk growls. “I want my daughter back.”

“Your soul’s already mine, Ross, and soon, but I think you’ve brought enough tender with which to bargain.”

“What?” Frank asks. “No!” Suddenly they’re back at their base. They’re all human again, and Frank shakes Ross. “What did you do?”

“He sold our souls,” Ghostrider says. “Don’t know if it would hold up- but I can tell you arbitration in Hell is just as awful as it sounds.”

Frank calls Sampson and tries to give him the coordinates. “Frank? You’ve been missing for a week. The Hulks went home. The Widow’s in New York. Is Betty okay?”

The camera pans down on Betty, still tied to a chair, looking unconscious. As we zoom in, her eye opens, and her pupil turns red.

Credits. Beginning-credits scene. Back in Hell. Mephisto is back on his throne. A demon scurries up to him. “My lord, the battle fares poorly.”

“Can we win?” Mephisto asks.

“I do not believe we will survive the night.”

Mephisto opens up his palm. In it are red and black orbs, corresponding to the souls of the Thunderbolts. “I’d hoped to hold these chips for longer. A pity to have to cash them in so soon… but better to rule in Hell, eh?”

“I wouldn’t know,” his minion says, as we return to credits.

Mid-credits scene. “I wasn’t here,” Frank says to Yelena.

“Neither was I,” she says. They both leave the hotel from Incredible Hulk. We linger on a door, before cutting inside.

“I thought I lost you,” Bruce says.

“I thought you lost me, too,” Betty says, and embraces him. They kiss, passionately, before Betty stops. “Oh, are we safe?”

“I spent the five years of the blip learning tantra. Like Sting.”

“Woof.” We cut outside of the hotel room, pulling back, as the music cue from Young Frankenstein, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, plays. We return to credits as that music plays.

End credits scene. Bruce, in the hotel robe, sneaks out for ice. He stops, realizing there’s someone behind him. “What’s the phrase?” Ross asks. “If you can’t beat ‘em…”

“Join ‘em?” Bruce asks.

“Not the way I’ve heard it,” Ross says, and fires a gun into him. And that’s how we end, Bruce Banner bucking backwards as a glowing green bullet pierces his chest.

And for anyone wondering just what the hell the #SecretSexMustache hashtag was, it’s a line from Thunderbolts 1.