Pitchmas 2019, Part 9: A-Force

This is going to be delicate, so just like Blade, it should be mostly in the hands of female creators (though I might be comfy co-writing).

Nico Minoru is running for her life. At first it seems like she’s just being pursued through the underbelly of a rainy LA, but subtly we come to understand that the buildings, the street- all of it is alive and attacking her. That’s because she isn’t in LA, but a complicated assassination tool called Murderworld. She gets fairly beat up as she flees, eventually using either magic or an assist from Molly (a super strong member of the Runaways) to escape. Nico finds Dagger (of Cloak & Dagger) in the hopes of plugging more directly into the rest of the superhero community. Cloak is skeptical; he knows a few homeless people, being in the LA area, who competed on the show and actually won, which gave them enough of a leg up to get apartments, and jobs, breaking the cycle of homelessness. Dagger’s more skeptical, or perhaps just more receptive to Nico, and has one person she can connect Nico to, a lawyer who offered to help her and Cloak if they ever found themselves in legal trouble.

Cloak zaps them to New York. He sets up a return time, to meet them, but otherwise exits (the cast is already ridiculous in size and scope, so paring back on side characters is a must). Depending on how much we want to keep building the idea that the men are skeptical while the women are cautious (yep, this is in part an allegory about believing women), we could have Matt Murdock meeting with She-Hulk when they show, perhaps dumped directly into She-Hulk’s office by a slightly annoyed Cloak. They hear Nico’s tale, how the other Runaways were investigating a series of disappearances, mostly among other runaways, surrounding the Murderworld game show, when they were scooped up, into what Nico believes was a lethal version of the show. Matt notes an elevated heartrate, which could indicate untruthfulness. She-Hulk is having none of it: “Or she’s distressed, Matt. That’s why lie detectors aren’t admissible in court- they only measure distress, not veracity.” “Objection noted,” he says, and packs up his gear. “I remain skeptical. But if anything turns up, don’t hesitate to call.” “He’s wrong,” Dagger says. “When I touch people, I can see their hopes. All she hopes is that we can save her friends in time.” She-Hulk agrees to help her, but wants to make some phone calls.

It’s evening when they’re picked up in a Quinnjet, flown by Scarlet Witch and Wasp; they were in town for a Dazzler show, anyway, and brought the singer along. They have a conversation, about failing to get some of the men to understand- how one of the most dangerous things about being a woman is not being believed even the first time you cry, ‘Wolf.’ “That’s why we have to stand together.” They fly to the new Asgard to talk with their queen and her champion, where they recruit Valkyrie and Thor. Finally, they land on the Avengers tower landing pad. Pepper has maintained Tony’s old office there, and bored and annoyed by mountains of paperwork, agrees instantly on an adventure (if we need a sprinkle of pathos, it can be as a way to feel closer to Tony); if our Iron Protégé is a lady (and has been introduced by this point), she can also come along.

With their new Avengers assembled, She-Hulk lays out their plan- essentially to present themselves as a team of candidates for a superhero version of the Murderworld show, boasting deadlier traps, and the ability to do away with the foam weaponry, with millions guaranteed to the charity of choice for the prevailing hero. They get a meeting with Mojo (here hiding behind some hologram tech to only look like a really gross, morbidly obese human), the star of the show and its executive producer. He’s intrigued by the proposal, but hints that the team needs some of that Wakandan magic, letting slip something along the lines of, “Our Wakandan special did over 1.3 billion-” before realizing he’s said too much (and yes, sly viewer, I am hinting that the MCU as we’ve watched it has been framed through Mojo’s lenses). Okoye, Shuri and Nakia meet them at a Starbucks in LA. They pass along Black Panther’s regards, but that he’s busy with the kingdom’s business, but was concerned enough to send his three most trusted agents in his stead. Mojo waddles in (he has a very distinctive walk- because he’s not strictly human), and says, “Now we got an ensemble!”

Quick action montage, as our heroes wreck up the Murderworld test course. Mojo is there to sing their praises in the grossest way possible. “Test audience scores are through the roof. I suggested an all Playmate version of our show where the only thing the contestants were allowed to wear was maple syrup- provided gratis in exchange for promotional consideration aboot our Canadian partners- and even that pales in comparison. The show didn’t happen, anyway; apparently obstacle course plus maple syrup is just a magnet for lawsuits. Who knew?” He leads them through some doors that give them all a strange feeling (that’s because they’re a portal leading to an off-world location). “If you sign on the dotted line, for the duration of taping of the inaugural season of Heroines of Murderworld, you’ll be staying on campus at our state of the art facilities. As you might guess, we’re hundreds of feet under LA, so your phones won’t work, but you’re welcome to use our communications array to send texts, calls, whatever to the rest of the world.” “And if I and my clients don’t wish to be sequestered?” She-Hulk asks. “I’ll show them the door. That, I’m afraid, is non-negotiable. See, here at Mojoworld Enterprises, we’re basically sharks. If we ain’t moving, by which I mean innovating, we’re dead in the water. NBC would literally kill everyone in this building for a pitch as strong as Heroines of Murderworld, and all respect due you ladies, loose lips have sunk more than one of my battleships. If we’re going to do this, we’re doing it right, and by right I mean my way.”

In our first quiet moment with the group, the Wakandans discuss how they’ve been through the bowels of the complex, and seen things that definitely hint at Mojo having dark secrets and a worrying agenda. She-Hulk asks Scarlet Witch if they can expect reinforcements. She tells her she made the call, but it all depends on how much unrest there’s been in the rest of the galaxy. Shortly, when She-Hulk returns to her quarters, she finds Mojo there, freshly showered, sitting on the edge of her bed wearing only a towel. He propositions her, and she refuses him point blank. But then his face turns sinister (probably more sinister than a human face can convey- and somewhere in this scene is where he loses the hologram). He says he wants to get down to brass tacks. “I’m not one of your Earth villians who gets himself a silly hat or a gaudy glove and turns megalomaniacal. I’m a businessman, an entrepreneur. I think if we just find the right ways to work together, everyone benefits.” He knows they have an ulterior motive, but he does, too. He has cameras everywhere, and has been capturing all of their seditious gossip, and their more private moments, too. “What I’m proposing is that we agree to keep each other’s secrets, and make the show we all agreed to. I’m proposing tonight as a little signing bonus.” She flings him out the window, into what she’s surprised to find is the vacuum of space. Even more surprising, under his towel Mojo was sporting a strange metal platform with little robotic spider legs- and the platform has enough of a rocket built in that he’s able to fly himself back into the room. We now see Mojo for the horrific creature that he is, all blotchy yellow skin with weird techno-organic grafts. He strikes a few buttons on a controller, and She-Hulk is teleported to the Murderworld stage. An instant later, the rest of her team are there, too.

Mojo explains that he’s going to hold them to their contracts, on pain of death, and that waiting at the end for them is a fate worse than death. I’m assuming a straight up obstacle course wouldn’t quite cut it, so I’d propose a bit of a twist, a who’s-who of supervillainesses incorporated into the obstacle course, so say Ghost has been kidnapped and forced to take on say Scarlet Witch as part of the course. Especially if we can staff it with anti-heroes/converts, it’s possible we could even have them join up with A-Force come the end. Possibilities: Minn-Erva, Proxima Midnight, Vanessa, Mystique, Medusa, Elektra, Psylocke, maybe even Hela, if that doesn’t make them too powerful. They’re all under the direction of Spiral, who should make for an interesting character, visually. Regardless, our heroes are losing, slowly worn down by the gauntlet, and hemmed in enough by Murderworld that they can’t get an advantage. Until the arrival of Captain Marvel and the Milano, piloted by Nebula, Gamorra and Mantis, who disrupt the world enough for A-Force to regroup and turn the tides.

They also bring knowledge our earth-based heroes weren’t privy to about Mojo. “He’s an interdimensional dictator, using reality TV to anesthetize the masses into ignoring the greed, corruption and incompetence of his regime.” That gives She-Hulk an idea, and she dispatches the Wakandans to find the control room while they deal with Mojo and Murderworld. Mojo’s control of Murderworld is fairly complete, so as A-Force defeats/turns the last of his villains, Mojo crafts a giant mech suit to protect himself.

Cut to the Wakandans, kicking the crap out of the control room technicians. One woman doesn’t put up a fight, but instead offers to help them. She’s been sick for ages over Mojo’s waste, fraud, and abuse, and has been trying to work up the nerve to deploy the graphics packages she made to show his viewers exactly what they’ve given up for his sick games.

We watch through Mojo’s cameras as A-Force dismantle Mojo’s robot. With each piece they tear off it, graphics flash describing things the Mojoworlders gave up in exchange for Mojo’s programming, like an end to hunger in exchange for a show about orcas genetically modified with fighting fish DNA to kill one another, or universal health care given up for the latest season’s budget for Muderworld, or an end to child labor given up to settle Mojo’s harassment suits. The cheers from the live audience change over the course of this, turning to boos. Eventually, She-Hulk rips him out of his mech, and holds him up for the audience. They give a thumbs down and she flings him at the arena below. The ‘fate worse than death’ is hiding in a cave just off the arena, and approaches slowly with thunderous steps. The big bad is Devil Dinosaur (a usually red tyrannosaurus) in a Venom symbiote. Mojo tries to scuttle away, but his legs were damaged by the fall, so he’s more or less crawling to get away. “I’m not moving. You can’t eat me if I’m not moving. We had a contract, you son of a-” the dino gobbles him up in one bite.

A-Force help all of the captured peoples return home; the bulk of this will fall to Captain Marvel and the Guardians, since most of them aren’t from Earth. Nico is reunited with her friends (shown only as hands through the bars, if we’re thinking of recasting from the TV show for a movie later and don’t want to commit now). She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Wasp & Rescue make a pact to come when the others call. End Credits Scene: We see Devil Dinosaur hacking, like he’s got a hairball. We should be worried Mojo is getting loose, about to break free and seek revenge for his humiliation. The dino coughs up Mojo’s legs, and they skid to just in front of the camera. Fade to black as the dino smacks his chops.

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