Pitchgiving 2020 Part 3: Justice League International

I would probably go with something akin to the “Formerly Known” series for this, give it a comedic slant. Though first, to get us to an international feel, I’m probably going to have to make some changes so it isn’t so overwhelmingly white and America-centric. As an example Ted Kord would still be around, but we’d also bring in Jaime Reyes as his in the field protégé from Latin America due to his heart condition (think Pym from the Ant Man movies, only in his fifties and pudgy). We’d eventually bring in the heroic version of Dr. Light, from Japan. We’d bring in the new Atom, Ryan Choi, after Ray decides to stick to teaching. Ice would still be alive (and not evil- though we could use that storyline in a sequel if the mood strikes). I think we’d bring in Vixen, too. We also have Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Mary Marvel, Fire (from Brazil), and finally the Dibnys. I’d tweak Sue Dibny in particular to have been Ralph’s research partner in his experiments, gaining powers alongside him as the Elongated Woman, and being of Australian/Pacific Islander descent- I’d also endorse race-bending Ralph, too, for that matter (though I’d probably save her having powers for the climax or an end credits scene). That gets us our international team.

I seem to recall DC threatened several times to make a Booster Gold movie. That would either serve as a prequel, if that went well; this would be a reboot if it went poorly, or, probably more likely, would supplant it entirely (I refuse to believe anyone was serious about a Booster Gold movie- which does sound like some kind of medicated powder). But Booster is our viewpoint character. He drives the plot, which is essentially that he comes from the future, knows of a calamity that requires this team to exist to deal with it, and so once again assembles them. Some of them he leverages personal affection. Some of them he leverages knowledge of their not proud moments. Some he bribes with future knowledge/fortune. We should play all of it light and breezy, because ultimately he’s one of the good guys and we want this team to work together and succeed- though it is ripe for a late reveal that someone isn’t as on board as they’ve pretended and there’s a nugget of personal drama to be mined.

Prologue

We start in, zoomed, on a futuristic-looking chair with the Superman symbol engraved on it as the Superman theme music swells. The table is round, surrounded by more chairs, half occupied. We fade the music out, and fade quarreling in as we pan across Booster Gold, in a similar seat. Probably, because these characters are largely unfamiliar, we put either placards in front of them or white text overlaid at the bottom of the screen.

“Superman was a soft maybe,” Booster says, looking a little embarrassed.

Fire, seated next to him, raises an eyebrow skeptically.

We pan past an empty seat with Wonder Woman’s symbol on it, as Booster continues. “Ambassador Wonder Woman is in the building.” He adds, quieter, “She just isn’t answering my calls.”

Pan across Blue Beetle, in his classic Ted Kord incarnation/suit. Subtly, Jaime Reyes in his armored scarab suit stands behind him, looking kind of ominous. “Batman was never coming, though,” Ted says, as we pan over an empty chair with the bat symbol on it.

“No,” Booster admits. “But I thought the symbol would look cool on a chair.” During this exchange, we pan across the remaining members of the team: Captain Atom, Ice, Elongated Man (with a civilian-clothed Sue standing beside him).

“Oh, it does,” he agrees.

Elongated Man asks, “Did we ever hear back from that Big Red Cheese?” stretching into frame as we linger on Captain Marvel’s lightning bolt engraved on an empty chair and pointing to it.

The idea is simple. They were an attempt to build out an international, UN sanctioned Justice League. They ran a few missions globally, but, much like the ICC, never got American backing. Eventually, the US used its Security Council veto to neuter the team in its entirety, leading to it being disbanded. They’re viewed in the superhuman community as has-beens, but they only ever wanted to do good by their world. Might be fun to do a VH1 Behind the Music type intro for the team, pulling back to reveal once the characters are established that Booster is asleep in front of the TV. He’s visited by Old Booster. OB throws him around a little, explaining that the disaster he came back to prevent is still going to happen, and he can’t rest on his keister playing gigolo to the Desperate Housewives. “Gigoloing is harder work than it looks,” he retorts. OB tells him it isn’t funny. That if he doesn’t get his act together, everyone he’s ever cared about is going to die, and that includes his team.

We cut to Blue Beetle’s workshop. Ted Kord is wearing a blue jump suit reminiscent of his costume, working on his beetle ship (the Bug) while talking. “I promised myself after we disbanded that I was done wearing shape-wear, BG.”

“You know I hate when you call me that.”

“But I can tell by the way you use your walk-”

“Don’t start.”

“You’re a woman’s man, no time for talk.”

“I’m asking nicely.” He stops, and they stare at each other a moment, before in unison breaking into the shrill chorus, “Staying aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.” “I hate you.”

“You love me.”

“But I need you.”

“You need me? Our friendship always had a tinge of codependence about it, but need-“

“I need Blue Beetle. The… catastrophe I came back to stop, it’s still coming.”

“You sure? I thought we prevented it just by forming the JLI in the first place- a deterrent.”

“So did I. Until… another me came back. Apparently we need to roll up our ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner and get back to work.”

“You said you need Blue Beetle. You don’t need me- at least not in the field. But you remember Scarab?”

“Your sidekick?”

“I think we both preferred assistant. He was in all of the press material anyway, so we weren’t a wall of white saviors. He’s been helping me refine my tech. And he doesn’t even have a heart condition.”

CUT To a Brazilian market. Booster is struggling under the weight of a comical amount of bags and boxes. Fire and Ice are leaving him largely in their dust as he tries his sales pitch. Finally, the tilting tower of commercial decadence topples, and a demure Ice says she can’t torture him any more. They were in from the moment he called. Fire pouts; she had a whole gauntlet of a day planned for him. But she perks up when Ice reminds her they get to be superheroes again.

Now Booster’s in a classroom. “I was always a background player. I may have designed the shrinking tech- hell, I got it through the first few years of field testing, and so far no cancers- but at heart, I’m an educator. I don’t like punching. Which isn’t to say I agree with an anti-violent premise- some problems, like fascism, have to be countered through violent resistance. But I can do the most good, and have the largest impact by far, from behind a lectern. Besides, spandex are a young man’s sport- and not just because I don’t have the glutes to fill them out anymore. Ryan? You can stop eavesdropping- because he’s really here to ask you the question.” Ryan Choi, the new Atom, grows out of a petri dish.

“I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was testing the modifications to the equipment. It wasn’t my fault you happened to be having a conversation nearby. And yes. You’ve got yourself an Atom.”

“Another 28 octillion of those and you’ve got yourself a team,” Ray says. Pause a beat, and both Atoms burst out laughing, as Booster stares in dumbfounded silence.

Booster grimaces, and we cut away to the sky midline as he says, “That’s one Atom down, one big, shiny, self-important Atom to go.” A US fighter jet flies by, an instant later pursued by a chromatic silver man with an atom on his chest. He catches up to the jet, knocks on the cockpit, and waves goodbye. The pilot inside calls over the radio that he’s confirmed killed, that Captain Atom is 3-0, and thank God he’s on their side. Over the radio comes the message that there’s an unknown flying object in their theater of operations, and requests they scout it. We cut to Captain Atom, answering through a headset, that he’s on it. He bursts ahead, leaving several fighter jets in his wake. He blows past Booster, flying in the opposite direction, then calls over the radio that it’s a known unknown, and they can stand down- that he’ll handle it.

They land together, Booster’s flight a lot more tentative and awkward, compared to the Captain’s. Captain Atom is overly straight-laced, still very much ingrained in the military culture and mode of conduct. He tells Booster he could have been shot down, that it’s restricted air space. Booster tells him they’re getting the band back together. Captain Atom explains that he’s not a free agent- he’s still a commissioned officer, and can’t go anywhere without dispensation from the military brass- which he isn’t going to get without someone more connected than Booster Gold asking. Booster doesn’t take that answer well- Captain Atom’s by far their strongest member, and the team is in serious trouble without him. Captain Atom tells him that he’s heard about someone else- someone who might be able to close that gap, says that he’s in Fawcett City, but he doesn’t know his identity.

The Elongated Man is doing a bit. He’s narrating himself as a hard-boiled, Chandleresque Detective in a seedy looking office late at night. Then Sue walks in, done up in something slinky, playing the femme fatale. Booster walks in, and EM continues narrating, with Booster becoming increasingly confused, until, “Clearly I’ve interrupted kinky date night- or at least bored and goofing around night. But we need you.”

“You mean him,” Sue says, crossing her arms.

“Everybody knows you’re the brains of this operation, Sue,” Booster tells her. “Without you, Ralph is brainless.”

“Hey,” he protests.

”I’m not sure that reply pleads your case all that well, dear,” Sue says.

Booster asks if they’re into anything heavy. Ralph starts to narrate a very noir sounding story, which Sue undercuts, admitting there’s a couple infidelity gigs, and a stolen bike, one with sentimental value- nothing they can’t give to someone else in a pinch. He says he needs their help tracking down a superhuman in Fawcett City. She asks if it’s a one-time gig, or if there’s a place on the team for them- he says there couldn’t be a team without her. And he adds that if he didn’t invite Ralph, then he’d be the team Butt Monkey- better if they split that role. “Because your butt can only stand so much monkeying?” Ralph asks. They refuse to acknowledge.

We cut to the sidewalk outside the Marvel household. The Dibnys explain how they tracked him down, first getting the neighborhood after Marvel did an appearance with Superman at a local school. From there it was just canvassing enough neighbors to find out that Marvels flying in and out of the residence is a largely open secret. Booster knocks on the door. Billy answers, and Booster tells him that they need Marvel for a new Justice League team; he tells Booster he is Captain Marvel. Booster is skeptical “I was led to believe he was taller. Wider. More formidable. Otnay an ipsqueakpay.”

“Wow,” Billy says. “You’re a jackass.” Sue agrees. “And I can tell you, as someone who’s at least met Captain Marvel, he’d have absolutely no interest in… whatever it is you’re doing.”

“But we’re talking fate of the world kind of stakes.”

“Nope.” Billy closes the door.

“Who was that?” Mary asks him.

“Someone looking to exploit Captain Marvel.”

“Exploit? It sounded like they needed help.”

“Yeah. Them. The Justice League. The Suicide Squad. The, what was it, Justice Society? I’ve lost track of all the people who’ve tried to recruit one or all of us. And we’re kids. I can barely pass algebra. Oh, crap. I have algebra homework.” He runs up the stairs. Mary glances furtively at the door.

Booster and the Dibny’s are still standing on the porch. Sue asks what the plan is, and Booser claims to be formulating a plan very slowly, making it obvious even to non-detectives that he’s stalling. Ralph says he should have brought a book of crosswords. Maybe some needploint. Sue teases him that he sounds like someone’s great aunt. There’s the sound of distant thunder, and the door opens, revealing Mary Marvel. “So, you said you needed some help.”

Mary and Booster are flying. “I’ve never been to Africa,” she says.

“It’s more modern than you’d think from movies and TV. I mean, the whole world is one stone tool’s throw away from cave people compared to my time, but it’s not like the continent is permanently stuck in the 16th century. Western media has some serious colonialist issues to unpack.”  

“I see what you mean,” Mary says as they descend on Ghana’s capital city of Accra. “This could be anywhere.”

“Accra’s a modern city, with 5 million people. Though there’s one in particular we’re looking for-there.” Booster points them towards the port, where there’s an explosion. “The Dibny’s were able to find out about a drug shipment coming through the port- the kind of shipment likely to attract her attention.” We cut over to Vixen. A rhino of light overlays her before she charges a car shielding gunmen firing at her, and knocks it over. She tramples on the men then, knocking the fight right out of them. One of them manages to crawl to the gun she knocked away from him, and rolls to aim it at her. Booster’s forcefield deflects the shot, and Mary punches him, knocking him out. Vixen thanks him for the assist, and calls him, “Buster.” It is what she will always call him. He says they need her- and just as importantly, wants the team to continue to reflect the vision of a world united against all threats.

“What kind of threats are we talking?” she asks, obviously interested.

If we can borrow Luther, he’s on an expedition into the heart of the Congo. They unearth a black diamond, which Luther is very careful not to touch without some heavy duty sci fi gloves. One of the workers, however, is not, and reaches out to it, perhaps called to it. Luther tries to stop her, but when she makes contact with it she’s transformed- and just as quickly, transported. I think ‘Eclipso’ is two characters, the worker who touched the black diamond, but also a more comic-booky looking version (an elf by way of the 80s He Man cartoon) she speaks to him in her mirror, which can magically show her things. She uses this to discuss finding a champion to test her power; she says she needs someone strong, but with a soul filled with rage and a desire for vengeance vulnerable to her manipulation. The mirror first shows Superman and Wonder Woman. “Plenty of power, but neither of them are angry enough- we’d have to work to build up their frustrations. And who has the time?” The mirror flicks instead to Batman. “Ooh. Never seen a soul crying for so much vengeance, but what’s this? He’s human. Call me when he finds a Green Lantern ring.” The mirror flicks past several metahumans (just use some b-roll from the various franchises), before settling on Captain Atom. “Hmm. Now this I can work with.”

We cut to the barracks at Captain Atom’s base. He’s talking with a fellow captain, an attractive young woman who is clearly interested. He slams his locker shut. “Everything okay?” she asks.

“I’m just frustrated. Booster showing up… I wanted to go with him. There’s good I could be doing, instead of playing tag with obsolete fighter jets.” She balks at that description. “Hey, I came up as a fighter pilot. I wish it weren’t true. But manned planes were already on their way out, even before the next real threats became Superman class aliens and metahumans. I jumped at the chance to serve on that UN team, even if half the reason they let me join up was to report back on it. And I wish I could have joined back up again- so some good could come out of this.” He’s gesturing at his silver containment suit.

She strokes his chest. “Doesn’t seem all bad to me. You’re fast. Strong. Can fly without a plane. You have abs I could grate cheese on, and I’m not sure you have to do sit ups to maintain them. Half of your brothers and sisters in the Air Force would kill to switch places with you- and the other half would kill to make time with you.”

“I’m not even sure if I could, since the accident,” he says, pushing her away. “No offense. You’re- well, obviously you’re gorgeous, and smart, and you’ve even been really sweet to me. But I’m upset- I’m just not in the mood to even try, right-” his eyes narrow as he stares. “Can you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

He traces a high-pitched hum into a half-open locker. There’s an earie purple glow emanating from inside. “Strange energy,” he mutters, almost to himself, reaching towards it. We see his face, as his eyes go wide, and his face is half-covered by a purple-hued circle. Cut to the sky above the military base, as a large explosion blows a hole in the facility. Subtly, Captain Atom flies through the hole and away.

Montage, of the various phones of the JLI members going off. The last we see is Mary’s, and it’s picked up by Rosa Vasquez, who says, “You know the house rules. No calls after 9 PM. I’m taking this.”

“If this is a drill, I will burn you alive,” Fire says sleepily into her phone. We pan to see she isn’t alone- Ice is with her.

“Sorry, ladies,” Booster says. “Something’s happened to Captain Atom.” We flash back, with ten minutes ago on the bottom of the screen. Amanda Waller walks into Booster’s place, tells him the President asked her to have the Suicide Squad take CA out. She owes them one from their JLI days, so she’s bought them a couple hours to sort it out before she has to sanction a kill order. Ray Palmer informs them from a screen that at the current rate of destruction, CA will destroy 70% of the city in the next two hours- to say nothing about the potential for destruction if his nuclear containment suit is breached.

They attack him at first willy nilly, with all of them fairly easily beaten back by the superior Captain Atom. The two remote elder heroes, Palmer and Kord, suggest combining their assault, having Elongated Man tie Captain Atom up while the rest keep him occupied on the ground. That works, to a point, getting CA reeling. But it isn’t quite enough. He’s still standing. Booster makes an impassioned plea for him to help them, to fight against the control, as the timer on his watch goes off. That if he doesn’t, Wallers thugs will find a way to kill him. They hear distant thunder, and Mary comes crashing out of the sky, landing on CA. She’s a force of nature, and her presence, and the fact that she’s able to single-handedly knock him on his back foot, rallies them to her side. Working together, they’re able to subdue him. Waller shows, calling it in, with her authorization, stating that Task Force X is recalled, that the situation is in hand. If Margot Robbie’s available, she tells a disappointed Harley Quinn, wielding the world’s largest, most ludicrous sniper rifle, to stand down (we can really use whichever squad member makes sense). Booster uses his forcefield to pick up the black diamond and put it in a briefcase, which Waller takes. He objects, and Harley aims the gun at him. Waller tells him either she can still owe him one, or they can be even and she’ll take it anyway. He shrugs, and lets her leave with it.

JLI have a party, celebrating living to fight another day. They’re running low on chips, and Booster volunteers to get more from the back room. He’s confronted there by OB. “Yeah, yeah, yuck it up, moron.”

“You know I’m you, right? You’re calling yourself a moron.”

“I was a moron. I got over it. I’m still not so certain you will. And yeah, you survived your first test. But that wasn’t the fight for all the marbles, kid. That was just the warm-up act. And I wouldn’t get too cozied up to the idea that Eclipso’s gone for good. You ain’t seen the last of her, not by a long shot.” 

Credits. Cut to black. Close on a candle as it’s lit. “Burning the midnight oil again, Dr. Hoshi?” We pull back, to see Dr. Arthur Lumen entering their lab with two coffees, one with a red X on it. “Is that why they call you Dr. Light?” He’s speaking to Kimiyo Hoshi, who goes back to examining a flattened cloth.

She sighs patiently. “You never get tired of that joke, do you, Arthur?” He seems to be in good spirits, and gives her the red X coffee, but says the one thing he is tired of is waiting. They’ve been on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that could revolutionize communications technology, with implications for space travel, flight, maybe even combat. “If it works,” she says.

“You’re brilliant,” he says, staring at her a little too greedily in the candlelight. “Of course it will work.” She absent-mindedly sets her coffee on the edge of a console, and it teeters before spilling out on the floor. Arthur is noticeably let down by that, but tries to tell her it’s okay. “Ready to run another test?” She bites her lip. She’s been up all night tweaking the photovoltaics. She puts on one of the gloves, and stands on the opposite side of a large room. He fires a big industrial laser at her- which she catches. She’s joyful. He stares at her greedily, his eyes hungrier and hungrier as we zoom in, before cutting back to credits.  

Inside baseball, because it’s an important clarification: I would not white-wash Arthur’s history as a rapist. But I also don’t intend to let him succeed on film. In the sequel, I’d probably have him fail in the big spectacular fight against the JLI, in part as the real Doctor Light (Hoshi) intervenes, then he runs away, intending to assault Sue as he did in the comics… only to be blindsided by her having the stretchy abilities I discussed earlier. I’d probably even soft-sell the nature of the assault; even if this series got an R rating there would be younger people who saw it regardless, but especially since I’d expect a PG-13 I’d probably want it subtle how he planned to take that revenge. Also, DC, why the hell are two of your most prominent Teen Titans villains rapists? That’s kind of messed up.

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