Pitchgiving 2020, Part 6: Justice Society of America

Justice Society- period piece, set in the seventies; could be fun to Earth 2 it up a bit; I think at the end of the first movie they end up getting fish out of watered modern day like Captain America. The Justice Society had it’s heyday in the late 50s/early 60s, and now they’re feeling out of touch with the newer folks. To sort of nod to the history pre-retcon, Wildcat is going to take on a slightly more Batman role, a Captain Marvel (not Billy Batson- his predecessor in the role- and way cheesier and much closer to classic Captain Marvel) plays Superman, and Powergirl will mostly fill Wonder Woman’s boots, since the chronology is that she spent the intervening years “alone.”

We open on a dark, stormy night. Jason Woodrue and his hulking assistant Cyrus are traipsing through the swamp. Woodrue explains that he’s been studying the local flora for years and that the location seems to have once been the location of what some cultures call a Lazarus Pit, but it was overtaken by the swamp, and he’s found a combination of new flora and fauna in the immediate location second perhaps only to the cornucopia found in the rainforests. He says that especially during electrical storms, the swamp displays some fascinating properties that he’s eager to test firsthand. Suddenly, a rope falls around Cyrus’ neck and he’s pulled off his feet. Cut to close up on dead Cyrus later, as the rope’s cut and his corpse drops into the swamp. Woodrue, pleased with himself, says, “I’ll be back every morning to take tissue samples. I suspect this is going to be a very profitable partnership.” Lightning strikes, and with the flash, we cut to day.

We see the Justice Society’s Hall (I’d probably pattern it off the Hall of Justice, because I’m a geek). We hear audio overlayed as the Society gripe like your parents do, not understanding today’s kids, or their music, and their anti-war stances. They’re not even sure if the world they’re fighting for is in any real appreciable way their world. The younger crop: Mister Terrific, Power Girl, Atom & Canary. I’m swapping in the Ray Palmer Atom as the replacement for the previous one, because he got shunted out of JLI, so I’d give him a chance to shine, here. I’d pick a very young actor, because only half the society are getting time displaced, so he needs to survive into the present day in some fighting form. He and Black Canary are barely old enough to vote young. Subtly, I want to develop a background romance between Black Canary and Atom- with the implication that he’s modern Black Canary’s father (cause that could set up some cool interaction later). Mister Terrific is likewise a legacy of Terry Sloane. They, Stargirl and Power Girl represent the next generation of heroes, learning at the feet of the older ones. During the conversation, someone mentions the irony of Sandman continuing to complain about having bad dreams.

Stargirl is our POV character. She’s escorted by her uncle, Jack Knight, into JSA headquarters. He’s older, his age showing, and he tells them he’s come to a decision, that he’s stepping down as Starman, and he’s been grooming his niece Courtney as his successor. “Star… Girl?” Sandman asks.

Power Girl adjusts her gloves, annoyed. “We are not having this conversation again,” she says.

“Not objecting,” he puts up his hands, “just trying to figure out the naming scheme.” He moves his jaw like it’s sore, saying more quietly, “Learned my lesson on that one.”

“I didn’t even need Kryptonian super hearing to catch that,” she says, then smiles, their tension melting away; clearly they’ve had some contention but they’re now friendly.

Knight says that he’ll still be around, making sure that Courtney learns how to deal with the other codgers, as well as help her learn the ropes. “And of course, I wanted to see the lovebirds off.” Hawkman and Hawkwoman have just been married, and are planning on going off on their honeymoon. They mention they plan to be back, but that it doesn’t always happen like they plan. Life is short- especially for them, and sometimes it can be hard when they find one another to pull themselves away. They fly off.

I’m leaning towards Green Lantern taking a leadership role, but any of the old guard could, really. He says that while they’ve got everyone gathered, is there anything the others need to be made aware of. Canary and Atom eye each other conspiratorially, with a pinch of flirtation to it. But it’s Doctor Fate who speaks up. “There’s been a disturbance in the forest.” He, Spectre and Captain Marvel discuss the fact that they’ve been able to feel dark energies in the forest outside of town. Spectre clarifies that it’s coming from the swamp at the heart of the forest, where a murdered soul cries out for vengeance. The three make plans to investigate it, and Power Girl offers her services, too, since she brings a host of super senses.

After the meeting adjourns, Wildcat asks Mister Terrific why he didn’t speak up. He says he still feels like the new guy- admitting Courtney’s the newer girl- and it’s hard to trust his instincts. And really, it’s the theft of a handful of electronic components. Sure the MO is the same, but there are only a handful of people in the world smart enough to do anything with those components, and until he can figure it out- and rule out it being some kid building the world’s most sophisticated radio, he doesn’t want to embarrass himself. I think I’d probably set up a flirtation between Courtney and Mister Terrific, too; really, this being set in the 70s I can’t help but want to poke the race-mixing bear as much as possible; I’d probably go with the newer, gay incarnation of GL, too (bonus points if DC will let us make one of the other older JSAers his boyfriend). Wildcat tells the pair of them to work together- but warns them she’s a probationary member- they’re just observing to report things back to the full JSA.

We cut to the early morning hours at the swamp. Birds chirp, and Woodrue is in a great mood. He’s using trees to navigate to the precise spot he left Cyrus, only the body’s gone. He’s confused, at first. “Too big to be picked apart by scavengers,” he mutters. Then he’s picked up by a massive hand.

The hulking beast that had been Cyrus Gold recites the rhyme, “Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday…” and snaps Woodrue literally in half, dropping him in the very swamp he was left. Then he starts marching towards the city, reciting the rest of the rhyme as he walks. And as he goes, rain starts to fall, and by the time he reaches the edge of the forest, and the end of the rhyme, the sky is blotted with black clouds.

We cut back to Woodrue, still lying in the muck. Depending on how graphic we want to be, you can show that he is literally lying in two halves, “I feel… marvelous,” Woodrue says with a smile on his face.                                                                                             

So the seeming A story is the investigation of the swamp, leading to a big superhero brawl against Grundy. The B story that’s really the A story in disguise is investigating some tech thefts, eventually leading to the revelation of T.O. Morrow as the villain. To thwart him Mister Terrific steals the last rare component he needs to protect it at the Hall of Justice. Morrow attacks while half of the JSA are fighting Grundy. Morrow’s built a clunky, Iron Man Mk 1 esque Red Tornado to protect him, but the half of the JSA going against him (GL, Wildcat, Sandman, Hourman, Flash, Stargirl and Mister Terrific) find out too late that the robot was incidental to the plan. Stargirl disables the Red Tornado prototype, and says, “You can’t beat us.”

Morrow smiles, and says, “You’re right. I can’t beat you today. But I am going to beat you tomorrow.” They’re engulfed in a beam of light, and disappear. Morrow leaves his broken robot there. Power Girl, in the aftermath of the fight with Grundy, turns, hearing trouble at the Hall, and tells the others, before flying off. She finds what seems to be the charred remains of her friends. Cut to later. Power Girl and Marvel fly in. The others are discussing it, and they don’t understand it, but they can’t find a trace of Morrow. The former Mr. Terrific manages to get Morrow’s robot working enough to project what it saw- the projection appearing to show the deaths of their colleagues, disappearing in a flash of light.

“I need some solitude,” Power Girl says, and flies off. One by one, the other members of the JSA leave, Spectre to seek vengeance for their friends, Marvel because there has to be a cat up a tree somewhere. Dr. Fate disappears to his tower. Canary says she needs a drink, but Ray feels like he has to stay. “Someone should watch the monitors,” he says, and she leaves. Wonder Woman cameo: in honor of her being in the JSA, she shows, making a show of giving in. “I always told you to call me, and I feel I’ve been responsive in a crisis, but I think I made a decision. I think I’m tired of… being alone. So if the offer still stands…”

Atom peels off his mask. “Princess, you picked a real lousy time to change your mind. There is no more Justice Society.” We cut away before it becomes apparent whether he’s awash in grief or actively blaming her, to black.

We flash text that says “fifty years later.”  

The Hall has seen better days. It’s boarded up, covered in cobwebs and dust. Suddenly, the missing JSA members appear in a flash of light, the same age as when they disappeared. “For the record, I did not like whatever the hell that was,” Sandman complains. “Now where the hell are we?”

“This… looks like the Hall of Justice,” Stargirl says.

Terrific peers through the boards covering a broken window. “Uh, I think the question might be when the hell are we,” he says. Before we do anything else, the new, improved Red Tornado smashes in the wall and starts tossing them around. The speed and fury of the assault means he’s winning, even against a Green Lantern and a Flash. Morrow is there, gloating that with technology from this era it’s a simple thing to build an android up to the task of dismantling what remains of their Justice Society. Things look dire for them, in fact, until Power Girl lands, knocking the android into the far wall. “I told you I heard them,” Power Girl says.

The Ray Palmer Atom, quite old and past his prime, now, grows from where she dropped him on Morrow’s shoulder and knocks the mad scientist out with a punch. The JSA seems poised to destroy the Red Tornado when Dr. Fate reappears, and pacifies the robot instead, shutting it down magically. He and Mister Terrific are immediately on the same page- that Morrow’s villainy can become a boon to humanity if they can reprogram it for good. Palmer asks if the same is possible with Morrow, and Hourman says that people are a lot tougher to debug.

Cut to later, the heroes are straightening up while catching up with what they missed. Older Atom does most of the talking; Power Girl is stoic, but there’s going to come a moment when the damn bursts and she finally tells them she felt responsible for losing them, for them disappearing. Sandman tries to tell her it wasn’t her fault. “When you can do almost anything, everything feels like your fault,” she says. “I missed you all, so much. I can’t tell you how hard things have been without you.”

“Did you know Captain Marvel was a kid?” She tells them. “Well, eventually, he grew up, and… didn’t want to be a super hero anymore. The world just got to be… too much for him. I really never thought I’d identify so much with the Big Red Cheese.”

While straightening Canary’s chair, Courtney’s eyes flick to Atom, and he admits that, “Canary died in Gotham. Maybe if I hadn’t been so caught up in my work… she didn’t want me around. And she wasn’t wrong when she told me that I wasn’t there, even when I was. If I had been… I never could find her killer.”

Green Lantern gives a mini speech to soothe them both. “We all know the risks, when we lace up our boots. And we all know the pledge we make in doing so- to fight for each other with every atom in our beings, to lift our friends when they fall, to find them when they’re lost. You kept the home fires burning while we were gone; that was all we could ask, but I know you did more. And you don’t have to carry these weights for us anymore, we’re here to help you bear them. So please, let us.”

One last scene to put a bow on things. Courtney is staring at a phone, with her uncle’s obituary on it, sitting outside the Hall of Justice. Mister Terrific sits down next to her. “I’m 18, but also like 60; I’m the oldest teenager in the world.”

“And I am the oldest 19-year old on record. At least until your birthday,” he replies. “So we go get some coffee, and try to figure out our place in this world.”

“I’d like that,” she says. And we roll credits. Mid-credits scene: same as the last shot we had of Jason Woodrue. His body has largely been claimed by the swamp- or really, subtly, his body has become the swamp. He is a creature of mud and muck and plantlife in the shape of a man, still in the position we left him. We zoom, closer and closer until we’re on his closed eye, which opens, the green of its iris is moss. We cut quickly to black as we hear his line again, this time distorted and inhuman, “I feel… marvelous.” End credits scene: Montoya leads Canary (modern) into a diner and sits down. Canary pauses, noticing the table isn’t empty. “Who’s this?” she asks skeptically. Montoya explains it’s her biological father, and she’s brought them together because she’s been digging since Canary challenged her in Birds of Prey, and she thinks she’s found a solid lead on her mother’s killer. “I assume since you’re sitting across from him like nothing’s wrong it isn’t him.” Montoya tells him no, but that she was pretty sure they’re going to need the backup.

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