Old Ventures 2, Ch. 10

Ten, Washington, D.C.

Hugh hoped Jack wasn’t this stupid, but that was wishful thinking. He’d known Jack for sixty years, and he’d always been a stubborn jackass- especially when he thought he was right. And he always thought he was right.

He hoped he would be able to head Jack off at his cache here in D.C., a little storage shed where he kept guns, black clothes, everything you could need to break and enter. Or clandestinely kill someone. He missed him there. He would never forgive himself if he missed him here.

Hugh watched through telescopic lenses in his suit as Jack vaulted the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and sighed. He set off his counter-protocols, taking temporary control of the White House’s myriad security systems. This was going to cost him a dozen favors and likely millions of dollars, and that was if he and Jack managed to avoid living out the rest of their lives in a CIA black site.

He opened up a call that immediately rang through to the Secret Service. “That preparedness drill we talked about, it’s happening. Now,” he said. He didn’t wait for a confirmation, and disconnected the call.

He cut his suit’s engines, and turned so his body was a missile aimed at the White House lawn. The suit calculated the last possible moment to stop, and he pushed that by a third of a second, the g-forces nearly knocking him unconscious as he fired his engines in the direction of his fall, hovering above the White House lawn mere feet from Jack.

“Lovely night for a stroll,” Hugh said, his voice distorted somewhat by the suit.

“It’s winter in Washington,” Jack replied. “Witch teats are warmer.”

“Which teats?” Hugh asked with a smile on his lips, one Jack didn’t return.

“You here to help me, Hugh, or stop me?”

“That depends on what you’re here to do.”

“Same thing I always do, what’s right,” Jack said, and dropped his bag, and rolled a rope off his shoulder. He stretched his back, then twisted his neck from side to side.

“This is silly,” Hugh said. “Even in your prime, before your knees went out and when my suits were practically using steam power and analog controls, you couldn’t take me.”

“That’s silly,” Jack said, “because before this second, you were never defending tyranny.” Jack reeled, throwing a punch that was faster than Hugh expected- but not so fast the suit couldn’t dodge. But it was a feint, and Jack seized the back of his head, and rolled Hugh over his shoulder. Hugh was powerless to do anything but wait for gravity to bring him crashing back into the dirt.

“That was humbling,” Hugh said, pulling a clod of grass and soil off his face.

“Then this is going to be downright embarrassing,” Jack said, dropping flat onto the grass. Hugh had time enough to look down and see several explosives at his feet.

“Oh, mother-” the explosion threw him again into the air, only this time he landed on his head. Jack took a crowbar to one of the panels on Hugh’s back. Hugh could hear metal warping even as he tried to push himself up. But he was struggling, as the suit’s operating power dwindled. “Damnit, Jack,” Hugh said, his knees knocking as he fought to keep the suit standing. With a hiss the suit opened enough for him to look his friend in the face and say, “Listen to me.”

“Okay,” Jack said, “I’ll give you a moment. But if you’re just stalling me so you can reroute power, I’ll peel you out of that tin can and box your ears.”

“Noted,” Hugh said. “Rose know you’re here?”

“Low blow,” Jack said.

“That’s a ‘No,’” Hugh said. “Ask yourself how I knew you’d be here?”

“Your spying makes the NSA’s tech look like a baby monitor?”

“Ian told me. He was worried what you were going to do.”

“I wouldn’t expect him to understand. He was three when I liberated my first concentration camp.”

“And I was, what, fifteen? Sixteen? I missed most of what fascism was really about- some of that certainly because the parallels between fascism and corporatism muddied the waters for me at that age. But I knew we were fighting evil, Jack. I was helping design better bombers, more robust planes.”

“You leave the states during the war?”

“No,” Hugh admitted.

“You’ve seen that evil in what, books? Documentaries.”  

“Jack… I’ve known you long enough to know that I can’t think my way around you- and if I can’t, probably no one can. So I just want to ask you a question. What’s this about?”

“Evil, Hugh. This is… it’s fascism, taking its first steps in our country. This is every half-drunk conversation about killing Hitler before he could start his pogroms; we can smother this evil in its crib.”

“Okay, Jack,” Hugh said. “I’ve also known you long enough to trust your moral compass. So if you’re telling me that the right thing to do, right now, is to break into the White House and murder an elected President… I’m with you. We’ll fight our way in, and I’ll hold the old bigot down while you run him through with an American flag.”

Jack glared. “I’ve covered Joey’s medical expenses, and will, of course, in perpetuity. So, if this is about Joey, about protecting him and loving him- not the way he wants but the way you always knee-jerked- with violence… then you know this isn’t right. Not here, not now, and not like this. So what’s it going to be, Jack?”

“You’re a real prick,” Jack said, and picked up his bag from the grass.

“So I’ve been told,” Hugh said, moving his arms.

“Playing opossum?”

“Only the last sixteen seconds or so. Not sure what you did back there but I’m going to have to engineer a counter-measure.”

“You’re welcome to try. And you’re buying.”

“I don’t drink anymore.” “S’okay,” Jack said, “just means I have to drink twice as much to make sure you get your money’s worth.”

Pitchmas 2020, Part 4: The Replacement Four

The  Fantastic  Replacement Four

Set during the Blip. This pitch makes some guesses about when/where the Fantastic Four actually enter the story of the MCU- the timing of this series necessitates that they appear in the MCU pre-snap, and then all four of them get snapped, and have to deal with something else instead of Thanos’ return in Endgame. It also, at least at this moment, requires one mutant to have found his way into the MCU by that point.

We have the classic Fantastic Four in their uniforms. Sue is watching the destruction on television anxiously, trying to convince Reed that they should have answered Tony’s call- that the fate of half of all life may have been decided without them. Reed, barely looking up from his work, says that if he fails, the fate of all life might be at stake. He looks up, to see Sue dusted, and gets out a “Damn,” as his outstretched finger dusts, the effect traveling down his elongated arm as he’s dusted. Ben and Johnny enter, eating corn-dogs. Ben talking about how stretch wouldn’t use the emergency beacon if it wasn’t- he’s stopped when he dusts, and Johnny manages to call his name before dusting himself. We slowly zoom in on the beacon.

And zoom out on an identical beacon in a messy laboratory. It’s clear it was a mess even before, but someone has clearly been rampaging through it. We hear a raging growl, as a table is flipped past camera, and Bruce Banner stalks into frame. He’s upset, upset that the Hulk is still in hiding, upset that he failed to save everyone, upset that he was left behind when so many people better than him are gone. He’s angry, angrier than he’s ever been. But he can’t Hulk out, either, so it’s an impotent rage, and eventually he collapses to the floor, utterly defeated.

He finally notices the beacon, and when he touches it, we hear Reed’s voice (maybe see a hologram of him, too, if that’s not asking too much); it can also be a robot voice if we can’t get this much voice work out of Reed. “Bruce, we’ve never formally met, but I’ve admired your work and your mind for quite some time. If you’re hearing this, it means I can’t complete the work, and I need you to take it up. There aren’t many people on the planet who could even understand what I’m going to tell you, let alone be able to continue to adapt my designs for the task at hand. Tony’s never been much of a joiner, and if he got involved, I’d lay even odds he’d find a way to make the problem worse rather than better. And Hank is too old and stubborn. I’m sorry to lay this on you. But right now, you’re the smartest man who can actually make a difference, and the world- no, the universe, needs you. Right now.”

The task at hand is that the Negative Zone, long used as a prison by highly evolved societies across several dimensions, has found a weak spot. It was never guarded, exile being the idea, more than containment. They’ve been testing for weaknesses, probing it; Reed is certain within a matter of months they’ll break through unimpeded into their world. So yeah, the big concern here is preventing Annihilus from leading an army of several universes’ worst into NYC. Reed tells him he’s going to need partners- and not just his large partner, and has some suggestions. He calculates the odds of his first string of suggestions all surviving in the event that Thanos succeeds are slim, but he’s offered a handful of back-ups. His original suggestion is Spider-Man, a gifted technician in his own right, capable of acting as a suitable lab assistant, good for bouncing ideas off of, and less mentally rigid than his mentor, Stark. The image of Peter is blocked by a red “Blipped” across his face. Black Panther & Shuri are the next suggestions, both brilliant in their own fields and formidable combatants, also “Blipped.” Finally, the recording suggests Stephen Strange, a brilliant physician but also a mysticist- and magic is simply science that hasn’t been quantified, making him one of the world’s best resources on protoscience. Bruce, seeing the pattern, here, rubs his eyes under his glasses.

We dissolve to later in the night, as Reed describes the Ghost Rider. We continue the narration, as we cut to an action scene involving him fighting a demon in a biker bar in the guise of a human, handling the one pretty handily, only to turn, and the entire bar is full of possessed/werewolf/vampire/etc. bikers. Ghost Rider drags his quarry out of the bar, moving slower, clearly having been roughed up a bit. One of the bikers stumbles after him, collapsing in exhaustion. Ghost Rider’s quarry is pleading, that he didn’t believe, he thought it was all bullshit. Ghost Rider extinguishes his flame, and it’s Johnny Blaze, looking apologetic. He sighs, and explains that he can’t help him; he’s just the repo man. If he’s got a contractual dispute, he’ll have to take it up with management. A honky tonk cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” plays subtle from the bar jukebox inside, as a man in a crimson suit appears, and tells him he can take it from there, and disappears with the biker.

Back with Banner, the recording tells him Ghost Rider is a lower level magical practitioner, but might still hold the key to being able to lock away the Negative Zone inhabitants- since obviously the infernal realms are kept under lock and key, and as one of its primary guards- and one of a handful persuadable to assist humanity- he should still have some useful information.

Reed’s next suggestion is a man who’s been pulling the levers of various governments for more than a century undetected- he knows the ins and outs of special ops and the inner workings of secret government programs like the back of his hand. “If you tell me it’s Nick Fury I’m defenestrating you,” Bruce says, as, at the mention of the name, Fury’s pictured with the word “Blipped” appears onscreen. A picture of Patch pops up on the screen. That’s right, Wolverine has been on this Earth for a century, fighting in dozens of wars, working clandestinely for virtually every government at some point, all while maintaining his anonymity. Well… near-anonymity. Bruce peers at Wolverine, and flashes back to a fight they had in the Canadian wilderness, Wolverine slicing into him with his big old claws. “Huh,” Bruce says, continuing to stare.

What breaks him out of his reverie is the recording moving on to the next contestant… “And finally…” he sighs, “there is no finally. We’re past the dregs, here. There’s a lot of talented operators remaining, don’t get me wrong. But no one of them can fill the voids left by those who are gone, so if you’re this far down the list… I’d probably suggest that you just rotate people in as you need them. Mission-specific. I have some thoughts… but ultimately, this is going to be your team, and you need to be free to run it as you see fit.”

We cut to a bar in the Canadian frontier. Wolverine is wearing a cowboy hat, and says, “No,” before Banner can even sit down. He’s taken aback. “I remember the smell of you. And I remembered the look of you when you started traipsing around with the Avengers. I don’t want any Hulk Scout cookies, and I’m not much of a joiner.” Hulk explains the whole mess, that they were hand-picked by the greatest mind on the planet to face a life-on-all-worlds threat.

He replies, “From what I remember you’re a cockroach, so you might still manage to survive the onslaught, but the folks in this bar won’t, beer won’t, cigars won’t- what I can only assume is your body weight in mousse won’t.”

Wolverine kicks out his stool, and we think we’re going to have a fight. “You had me at beer. And maybe cigars. So I’ll let the mousse crack slide this one time, on account a not wanting to brawl in the middle of Clay’s place.”

We’re back at the nighttime bar scene with Ghost Rider, moments after Mephisto and the mark disappeared. The rest of the bikers empty out of the bar, and line up for round 2. “He’s gone,” Blaze says, reigniting his skull. “You can’t get him back by making me bloody you all again.”

Wolverine and Hulk arrive, Wolverine getting between Blaze and the crowd, as Banner gets close and explains that he needs him for a team. Blaze initially says no, until Banner asks, “You hunt souls, right? And what happens to that gig when all life as we know it in the universe is gone?”

“Mephisto probably starts making deals with whatever killed all life as we know it. But I take your point. I’m in, at least as far as my contract allows. Could… I get a little help here.”

“I’m not… currently Hulking…” Banner says sheepishly. “More of the brains than brawn, at the moment.”

“Remind me to kick the hell out of you,” Wolverine says, unsheathing his claws.

Banner considers a moment, before saying, “No.” Wolverine and Ghost Rider do most of the ass-kicking, but Banner tries. He even gets pretty mad when someone hits him from behind with a pool cue, and starts to green a little bit, before it putters out, and he yells, “Come on!”

After the fight, they all arrive at Four Freedoms Plaza. They’re snazzy digs, and they’re all suitably impressed. “I know I’m the product of the Canadian education system, so maybe there’s a metric conversion issue, here, but I only count 3. Sign on the door says 4.”

In the classic arc this is based on, Spider-Man is the last of the Replacement 4. Obviously, he’s been blipped… but, since I’ve suggested bringing in at least one Spidey clone before, I’m going to do so again now. If Sony are willing, I’d bring in Ben Reilly. I’d probably make it the one from my Sinister Six pitch last year, with the messed up face, explaining why he always keeps his spider-suit on (which is actually Peter’s first hooded suit, with maybe some minor tweaks). I don’t assume that’s a possibility, and certainly not for more than a handful of episodes at best, but failing that, I’d probably make it a rotating position. It’s hard to replace Spider-Man, frankly, but it might be more fun, anyway, as a special skills guest-spot that lets a different character shine based on what they need.

Probably the ones who best fill the Spider-Man role, if we were trying for a longer-term fill-in would be either:

  1. Deadpool, who wisecracks, has a similar costume, and ties to Wolverine.
  2. She-Hulk, who wisecracks, can heavy-hit when Hulk can’t and has ties to him and can navigate legalities for them.
  3. Daredevil, who has a similar street-level focus and kind of fits in the same milieu, plus can legalese, too.

Either way, I’d suggest roping in all 3 for at least a guest spot (imagine the fun you could have forcing Deadpool to do a Disney + episode while he kept trying to act up, only to find that his copious swearing is bleeped, his violence gets cut away from, and his repeated attempts to expose himself are black-barred). I’d probably then do Daredevil, maybe as a result of legal wrangling related to Deadpool’s behavior- only it’s too nuts around here and he can’t hack it with these lunatics. Then do a Punisher guest, because he fits in with the gritty anti-heroism of the team, only to be fired by Hulk as too bloodthirsty (“And that’s saying something, because I’m keeping the clawed lunatic in the rotation.”), finally settling on She-Hulk as kind of combining the best of all 3. Wolverine, skeptical, asks what she brings to the table the Punisher did. She puts on Ghost Rider’s jacket, that was hanging over a chair, and says she looks good in black. Ghost Rider says he has to give that to her.

Regardless of what you do with the fourth slot on the team, which could come down to contractual wrangling and schedules as much as anything (or Moon Knight might make for an interesting permanent addition, and God knows Oscar Isaacs makes anything better just by sauntering on set), I think it would have four seasons, roughly covering the four(ish) year gap.

Obviously, over the course of the show one of the bigger subplots would be Banner trying to fix his relationship with Hulk. I’d suggest bringing in Leonard Sampson from Incredible Hulk, because Ty Burrell is a lot of fun, and seeing Bruce deal with his anger issues but also all of the loss and anguish related to Thanos… it could actually make for some really compelling television. Over this time we’d get Gray Hulk/Mr. Fixit, because that’s too cool/weird an idea to leave on the table, before eventually ending up with him making peace with himself and getting Professor Hulk as we find him in Endgame.

Aside from that, I’d probably suggest having this team fill in the rest of the gap left by the original four, so doing a lot of the everyday heroics; that would, I think, help explain how we get to Endgame and Hulk is suddenly a beloved and well-liked hero- because he’s been filling in for beloved and well-liked heroes, and keeping his smashing to acceptable outlets. Maybe a part of that is becoming more publicly open about his struggles with mental health and loss- so that Professor Hulk isn’t just a personal triumph, but a symbolic defeat of depression and tragedy that a lot of those who remained could relate to.

Old Ventures 2, Ch. 9

Nine, above Germany, 4/10/45

Jack hated Fleming. He didn’t even have time to change out of that Nazi uniform, still stained with Mordecai’s blood. And he was right, the only way to catch the train was by plane, and that the only way to board from the plane was by parachute.

Jack hated parachuting, mostly because you were at best a sitting duck as you fell from the sky. Unless a bullet tore a big enough hole in your chute…

And none of that took into account the fact that the train was traveling faster than he could hope to fall, so they were going to have to make a guess about where the train would be, and he’d have to aim there. Off by a second one direction, and he was going to get hit by a train. A second in the other direction and he would miss entirely.

The plane wasn’t going to be able to follow for much longer, without being met by German planes or anti-air guns, so if he couldn’t land on the train, they were going to lose those prisoners, and it could be weeks or months before they found where they were taken.

“Go!” the pilot yelled, and Jack kicked out of the open door. The train was nearly a mile back, but rushing towards him quickly. Top speed for a train was around 120 miles per hour, roughly the same as a human’s terminal velocity. Jack streamlined his body, so he would drop faster. He needed to close the distance, or the train was going to pass him by.

He and the pilot had gone over the math several times. He needed to cut the distance quick, line himself up before and open chute at the last possible minute. Open too early, and he’d watch the train fly by a few feet below. Too late, and he’d smack into it and bounce off.

Jack used his arms to guide himself into a straight shot along the train’s tracks, then angled his body straight down. The train was behind him, but overtaking- he had to cut into its lead as much as he could. He forced himself to go limp as he pulled the string and the chute dug into his shoulders. He’d opened too soon, he could tell, from how much momentum he lost. It wasn’t even going to be close.

“We improvise, then,” he said, and used his knife to cut the chest strap from his chute. He had to cut one more arm loose before he could wriggle out of the other. He was still thirty feet up as the train started to pass beneath him. He let go, and fell.

The impact hurt his knees; it had been the better part of a decade since they hurt like that, but he couldn’t control his momentum, and rolled back towards the very last car, angling slightly towards the right. Jack rolled over the side of the train car. His fingers caught on the edge as he crested it, hanging almost limply from his arm.

Jack knew the radio would be located at the front of the train, so he couldn’t just make his way from back to front. He climbed back on top and started to run against the blistering winds towards the front of the train. As he leapt from the fourth onto the third car, a Nazi’s head poked up from the ladder. Jack clipped his head, and he fell, onto another Nazi standing below. Both men fell into the gap between cars and rolled beneath the train, the sounds of their deaths mostly muted by the scream of metal and the steam from the engine.

As Jack reached the engine car, he saw the conductor’s compartment. Unfortunately, the conductor saw him, and went right for the radio. Jack ran along the edge of the coal car and leapt at the doorway into the conductor’s compartment, swinging inside. He caught the conductor with a kick that sent the man hurtling through a large glass pane on the opposite side of the room and out of the train. “Come again?” a man asked in German over the radio.

“Nevermind,” Jack said. “There was a cow on the tracks, but it moved.” Jack set the radio down, only to be struck in the back with a shovel. Jack rolled out of the way as that same shovel struck the floor where his head had been. “Forgot about the fireman,” Jack said, and rolled into a crouch. He tackled the fireman before he could bring the shovel around again. Jack delivered several blows to the fireman’s solar plexus, and he collapsed to the floor, wheezing. “Now, how do I slow this thing down?”

The fireman put his thumb between his middle and index fingers and shook it defiantly at Jack. “Auf wiedersehen, then,” Jack said, and threw the fireman out the door, into the field they were passing. “Now, if I were a regulator…” Jack said, staring at the massive machinery of the steam engine. Jack found a valve and twisted it shut. He could feel the engine beginning to slow.

He pulled the pin attaching the engine to the rest of the train, and the engine began to rapidly pull away from the rest of the cars. Jack leapt over the gap, and pulled himself up along the edge of the coal car.

Jack looked overhead, and saw parachutes opening in the sky all around him, as Allied planes turned to return west. Jack sauntered over the top of the coal car, and dropped down.

Through a windowed door, Jack could see a Nazi officer holding a young woman at gunpoint. “Let us go, or we start shooting your beloved Juden,” the Nazi screamed at a sharp pitch. Jack nodded towards the field on either side, where squads of American soldiers were making their way through the tall grass towards the slowing train.

“Got a counter-offer. Surrender, and we won’t tie you down to the tracks before we put this train back in motion,” Jack said. “And that relatively quick, clean death, that’s presuming you don’t harm a hair on that pretty little lady’s head; you do that, and I let this train full of Juden decide what to do with you.”

The NCO beside him put a gun to the officer’s head. “Put it down, Hauptman, or I will shoot you myself.”

Pitchmas 2020, Part 3: Bloodstone

Note: While looking up Elsa, I discovered she was apparently going to get a show at one point. Which I obviously think is still a good idea. I’m not rehashing, though we’re drawing from the same relatively shallow pool of issues surrounding her.

To start, though, I’d bring in both an aging Ulysses as a background character, and her brother Cullen. It is, in some respects, Supernatural, but not candy-coating the pain and abuse involved in a monster-hunting father trying to pass the family business on to his children. Before the Marvel logo, we have a cold open on a dungeon. There’s a werewolf pup, cowering and whimpering in the corner. A child Elsa is pushed into the room, with the door abruptly shut behind her. She’s terrified, and startled as the door opens again, and a dull, silver spoon, probably a baby spoon at that, is thrust into her hand. We reverse, and see an aging man with a red stone jutting out of his chest. He smiles, but there’s something not quite right about it, before he says, “Make daddy proud,” and closes and locks the door. She turns back towards the werewolf pup. She tries to reason with him, tells him he’s just a little boy, just like she’s a little girl. There’s no reason for them to fight, or even be frightened of one another. They can be friends. She can help him, and he can help her. She reaches out with her non-spoon-filled hand towards him. The pup spins, snarling, before leaping at the camera and engulfing our view, the sounds of his viciousness drowned out by the young girl’s scream. We cut to a darkened stone staircase, lit only by flickering candlelight. We hear a kachunk, as the door’s lock is picked, and the girl emerges from the room, too dark to see what’s occurred. She walks up the steps, the now bloodied spoon hanging limply in her arm as she passes camera, and we fade to black, as the Marvel logo and music play.

Match cut to what we saw before the logo, adult Elsa climbing the steps to the mansion, blood dripping from the knife in her hand and the werewolf head in her other. She kicks in the front door, dropping head and knife on a silver platter that has a little handwritten note requesting you “Please restrict viscera to the platter,” in fancy script.

Elsa stalks through the home, past Adam (Frankenstein’s Monster) in a French maid uniform dusting in the front room. “Father’s got you doing the Time Warp again,” she mutters to herself. He spins, having a wonderful time of it. His frivolity bothers Elsa, and she scowls. “You don’t have to wear that to dust,” she says.

“Shut up, he likes it,” Cullen says, running past her. He’s younger by a few years, probably high school age, a little bit bratty.

“Oh, what I wouldn’t do to be an only child again,” she mutters, wandering into the study/library, walled with books, with a fireplace to one side and two wingback chairs at the center.

“You didn’t track blood inside, did you?” Ulysses asks from one of the chairs. “You know how Adam gets, when you drip blood on the wood floors.”

She sighs heavily, massaging her temple. “What I wouldn’t give to be an orphan,” she mutters.

“I heard that,” he says stiffly.

“You were meant to,” she says irritably.

“You’re far too old to be this petulant,” he says, going back to his paper. “The werewolf pack?”

“Removed. I took the alpha’s head to mount.”

“Oh, Adam will love that. He has been practicing on his sewing.”

“We hunt monsters, correct? I don’t understand why we keep one on staff.”

“Oh, it’s not his fault he’s an abomination; he’s more human than not.”

“Weren’t you the man who said creatures are either all human or not at all? Or is it just he’s the only maid you’ve found who will iron your underthings?”

“Adam was a treasured member of this household before his brain was spliced into that homunculus. Least I think he was; his brain was certainly taken by that nasty Frankenstein fellow.”

“My immortal soul for an aneurysm,” she mutters.

“Someone’s in a mood tonight,” he says, and folds his paper loudly. “Fine. What has your knickers twisted?”

“I’m meant to be at school.”

“You’re meant to be hunting. You’re a Bloodstone.”

“I said I’d help over the summer holiday. I didn’t tell you I’d take the entire bloody enterprise off your hands. And we’re still playing hide the sausage with whatever ghoul is daft enough to land in the papers.”

A sinister grin spreads over his lips. “You’re right,” he says. “Too right. Sit.” She does, and he regales her with a tale of a monster town, where every man, woman and child is evil, where they treat their tap water with human flesh. To protect it, they send out roving bands of monsters into the surrounding countries, never within a hundred kilometers of the town, to capture humans for meat, so disappearances are never linked back to them. I’ve spent my entire life hunting this town…” she’s unimpressed, having heard this fairy tale her entire life, “and I finally have a lead.” That makes her sit up.

He describes one such roving band, and as he does so we begin to see it, on a rain-slicked night, a wagon covered and hidden (maybe to make it more modern, it’s the kind of military truck with a cloth back), in a caravan, on an old dirt road. Cullen and Ulysses, from perches on either side of the road, fire, taking out the monsters on motorcycles riding in a support formation for the truck. Elsa leaps from her own motorbike and climbs the rear of the truck, steeling herself before peeling back the curtain, expecting butchered bodies to be used as food stacked to the ceiling, and instead finding huddled masses, including a woman holding a swaddled child. The child notices her, and it’s face contorts; it’s a banshee babe, and it’s mouth opens wide to scream, knocking Elsa off the back of the truck. She lands on the follow car, spider-webbing the windshield. Cullen, excitable and scared, shouts over the radio that he’s lost track of his sister. Ulysses watches as Elsa is crammed in the back of the truck, which drives off as he grunts, “Bugger.”

Cullen is freaking out, trying to get Ulysses to do something. Ulysses barks at him that he is doing something, he’s following them in their truck, and trying to think over his mewling. They follow the caravan all the way to a toll bridge. The guard lets the caravan through without incident, but raises the metal pole barrier for them. “Scheduled bridge lift,” he says, when they inquire. Ulysses says he doesn’t see a boat anywhere. “Along any minute,” he replies, not looking up from his dog-eared paperback. Ulysses sniffs, then says something in trollish, which gets the guard to cock his head menacingly. He starts growing, his skin greying as he expands out of his shirt. He’s a bridge troll. Maybe throw in a billy goats gruff quote.

Cut to a few minutes later, Ulysses kicks the dead troll’s body off the bridge and it splashes in the water below. They lower the barrier and cross the bridge. There’s any number of ways the caravan could have gone, and the rain has washed away all tracks.

We cut to an interior location. A groggy Elsa stirs. A sympathetic sounding woman tries to reassure her, that she took a nasty spill, but she’s been examined, and aside from a nasty concussion, the doctor doesn’t think she’ll suffer any longer term impacts. As her vision clears, she realizes her nurse is a monster. The man walking through the halls with a bouquet of dying daisies is also a monster. The doctor who walks in, she’s a monster. She’s in a monster hospital. We fade to black, and show the title card again, for the full title reveal, “Bloodstone, and the Legion of Monsters.”

But all, of course, is not as it may initially seem. The monsters are, largely, normal folk, just trying to get by with some truly unusual health challenges. She’s more disgusted to find that her family, her father in particular, is the thing that goes bump in their nights- the sound of the Bloodstone name makes a small child quake in fear.

She meets the denizens of this strange Monster Metropolis, including N’Kantu the Living Mummy, Werewolf by Night (and other werewolves), more Frankenstein monsters, vampires, succubi, aquatic creatures from dark bodies of water… pretty much any kind of monster you can imagine is represented here (you might be able to entice Guillermo Del Toro to work on this project, since it’s another bite at the apple he so relished working on in Hellboy 2). The deeper Elsa gets into this society and its problems, the more she questions her upbringing and what she’s been told.

At first she stays because she wants to understand how she could have been so wrong. Eventually, she opts to stay to undo some of the harm she’s done. But she’s also not a prisoner. She’s able to leave, and meet with her father, and tell him what’s happened, and what she’s learned. He reacts violently to the revelation, and assumes she’s been ensorcelled, hypnotized or worse. He vows to Cullen he’ll burn down the Monster Metropolis and tear her from its rotten corpse.

It might, if it can be figured out, be cool to have Blade show up for a cameo towards the end- contrast his kind of compassionate, thoughtful “cull the herd” hunting to Ulysses- that he’s naturally skeptical of the idea of a Monster Metropolis, but so long as they aren’t acting like a terrorist training ground he could give a crap. But what sets the season on the collision course it’s on is how Ulysses reacts. Elsa reacts to the pain of knowing she’s caused hurt and fear by saying, “I don’t want to do that anymore.” Her father reacts by saying, “No, I was right all along. Genocide is the better answer.” He wages a war against the Metropolis, against its food supply, and the surrounding human communities that have always given it aid and protection. At first Cullen is torn, between his loyalty to his father and to his sister, but eventually he leaves his father’s side. Ulysses shoots him, and Cullen is saved by monster doctors. The season comes to a head when Elsa is forced to fight her father. He tells her that so long as the Bloodstone is in his chest, so long as its mystic energies keep him alive, he will not rest until the Monster Metropolis is destroyed, and his children are restored to his side. She beats him, and tears the stone out of him.

“What have you done?” he asks, as without the Bloodstone he begins to wither away.

“What my father raised me to do. Killing monsters.”

The second season would be more a new show that Elsa graduates to, called NextWave, bringing on Monica Rambeau, Boom-Boom from New Mutants, Robot Man from… Fin Fang Foom’s butt (actually… that might be appropriate to the tone of Nextwave…). I’d probably throw in Namor, rather than the Captain, because you get similar attitude off him, similar powers, too, while having an actual character around. I like the idea of bringing back Agent Coulson, but as a clone of his original self, this time the deranged head of H.A.T.E., Dirk Anger. It’s possible he’d need a mountain of cocaine to get the character right… I say give it to him. Alternately, we might want to find an actor who can give that level of manic performance without the need for chemical alteration, just because I’d feel bad if we accidentally killed Clark Gregg.

Old Ventures 2, Ch. 8

Eight, Akron-Canton Airport

“I don’t know,” Jack said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

“I know,” Rose replied, patting his leg. “But Joey’s fine at home, for the moment. And I know it would do you good to get out of the house, to have an impact on the world, however small.”

“But protesting, at an airport?” Jack asked.

“You go where the injustice is,” she said, “and banning Muslims on the basis of their religion is wrong. This country was founded to be a safe haven, where people could have whatever religion they chose. Not merely as a Christian sanctuary.”

“I guess,” Jack said, slumping.

“Hey,” Rose kissed his cheek. “Trust me. Sometimes what you need is just to see the good you’re doing, know that you can make positive change happen, even if it’s small.”

“Okay,” Jack said. He still felt limp, like the best he could hope to accomplish was going through the motions enough to stay alive, but no more. But he’d trusted Rose, with his life, with his happiness, for nearly 70 years, and if she thought this might help, he wanted to try, or at least, he wanted to want to.

She opened her door first, since she was near the sidewalk, and he followed her out. She tipped their driver and waved goodbye.

Rose led him through the airport to a security checkpoint. It was the deepest you could go in the airport before needing to buy a ticket. A temporary chain link fence had been erected to house detainees from 7 Muslim countries.

A small boy had his fingers through the links in the fence, and it brought Jack back to Rowher, Arkansas. He knelt down, smiling at the shy boy.

“They have to be detained,” a gruff voice said from behind them, “until we can send them back. So please step,” Jack rose to his full height, puffing out his chest. He didn’t take up as much space as he did in his youth, but he still dwarfed the TSA agent. “Just, uh, make it quick.”

On any other day, Jack might have felt bad about intimidating a federal agent, but one look in that kid’s eyes told him it was just karma coming back around. “Thank you,” the boy’s father said.

“All I did was stand up,” Jack said, his voice hollow.

“Sometimes, that’s all that’s necessary.”

Jack’s jaw tightened. He could see in the boy’s mother’s eyes that she doubted it, the same as him. “Why would your country do this?” she asked, slapping the fence between them. “Aren’t you the land of the free? Don’t you pride yourselves on taking in the world’s wretched?”

“We do,” Jack said. “And my heart breaks for you. But this,” he slapped the fence, “is not America. This policy is being driven by one man, a bigot who never should have been even a stone’s throw away from that kind of power. I’m sorry, that we aren’t living up to our ideals. You’ve been brave, to make it this far. If there’s any justice at all you’ll find someplace to really be safe.”

“And maybe we can help you find that place,” Rose said. She handed the woman a business card. “One of our friends works with a refugee resettlement agency. Call that number, and tell Laney that Rose sent you. With everything going on, in Syria, sometimes waits can be long. But they’ll take care of you.”

“Thank you,” the woman said. “Come along, Ali.” The boy ran after her.

“Didn’t that feel good?” Rose asked.

“It felt awful,” Jack said. “It’s everything our country shouldn’t be.”

“Not that part… being able to tell her, honestly and truly, that our country is better than this, and that we’re going to fix it. Commiserating with someone else just as hurt by what’s happening.”

Jack sighed. “You helped her. I… just told her I didn’t want to be held responsible for what our country was doing to her.”

“That’s not…”

“How she took it? No,” Jack said, “but it was in there, anyway. And I am responsible. And you are, too. We all are.”

“We didn’t vote for this.”

“But we didn’t stop it, either.”

“Jack,” she soothed, “you couldn’t have. You tried, but… no man is an island. Not even you.”

“There were things I could have done.”

“You stubborn jackass,” she said, yelling despite the fact she was whispering, “lord knows you were capable of ending things with your hands- but you’re also too good a man to think what a man can do with his hands is what a man ought to.”

“So?” Jack asked. “Maybe this time I ought to have done something. Maybe…” Jack clenched his fist, “maybe I shouldn’t have let my pride get in the way of doing what I know in my soul is right.”

“You shouldn’t say things like that within earshot of a listening device,” Ian said, putting an arm around each of them. “Like that phone in your pocket- or are you just happy to see me?”

“Ian!” Rose said, and bear hugged him. “How are you?”

He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Still handsome, virile and charming, of course,” he said, “and I’d ask the same of you, but I’d expect the same in reply.”

“You’re the devil in the flesh,” she said, and kissed his cheek, “but you also may be just what the doctor prescribed. Your oldest friend is in some need.”

“Ah, well, I happen to have come with something for our needy friend. Come,” Ian beckoned with his hand. “Leave your wife to do good works. You and I have skullduggery to pursue.”

“You boys be good,” Rose said, squinting at them.

“Very rarely, but at least it’s a feast for the eyes to watch us depart.”

“You,” she said, and laughed, as Ian led Jack down a hall.

“I ever tell you you’ve got your father’s smile?” Jack asked, “even when you look like a cat with a mouthful of canaries. No- especially then.”

“You usually only mention it when you’ve been drinking. Though the way you often tell me I have my mother’s eyes makes me wonder if you ever had a thing or her, or perhaps a thing for me.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

“You certainly wouldn’t be the first ‘straight’ man to come onto me, Jack, and, outside your rigid little personal bubble, I think you’d find more people’s sexuality to be more… fluid than your own. I have it on some authority Rosie riveted more than her share of fillies.”

“I never know when you’re teasing me.”

“Hallmark of a good spy. As is teasing out information from informants.”

“Informants? Why does that word sound like a euphemism when you use it?”

“Because most words are,” he smiled. “Though in this particular case you might be correct, as these particular agents moonlight as escorts, or vice versa.”

“So you’re a pimp?”

“Only in the latter-day sense of the word. I don’t perform any services for escorts, neither protection nor muscle. But I do have friendships with women of all walks of life- some of those walks indeed happening upon the street. And it would, of course, be dishonest if I didn’t recognize the parallels between my own profession and theirs; many in my line seduce secrets from their marks, myself included. The main difference is of course the prize we seek. And I’ve always found myself more comfortable around those of ill repute- even when those of better welcome me with open arms. But… I fear this not a matter for jocularity.”

“You found something? About Joey’s insurance?”

“I did. A memo. Scrawled in the buffoon’s own ridiculous hand, personally cutting Joey’s benefits. As you feared. Remarkable, that we’re already to the knifing of one’s political enemies. Took Hitler much longer to get around to that.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, his fists balling again.

“I don’t think I like that look,” Ian said.

“I don’t either,” Jack said, “but I can only think of one remedy for that.”

Pitchmas 2020, Part 2: Marvel Team-Ups

That’s all the work I’m doing for this week. Bye.

No, I know that’s a cheap answer. So I’m going to outline the whole first season, to showcase the idea. It would be basically a marathon, where you start with one character and the person they team up with, that team-mate gets paired with someone else, that team-mate gets paired with someone else… until eventually you end up with the last character teaming up with the first to put the story to bed.

The roughest aspect, of course, is that it’s tough to know who would actually be game to do this kind of thing. As a one-off, maybe most of them, honestly, but I’ll stick to the middle-tier of characters/actors, those without their own solo-franchises, particularly; it also makes it more of a challenge.

1. Captain America (Falcon): Everybody thought Hydra was pretty much taken care of after the events of Age of Ultron. Even Cap stopped hunting them. But Bucky goes missing. Falcon America interrupts a white supremacist meeting, planning the kidnapping of a governor. At first they assume it’s this plot that’s gotten his attention, but he instead asks about Bucky. A gunshot rings out, and the man he was interrogating dies. “Hell.”

One of the men Falcon knocked down gets back up, winding a balaclava off his face. It’s Tim Roth! And he’s becoming green, transforming into Abomination (looking more frog-like, and more reminiscent to his comics design than the one from Incredible). “Oh f-” Sam manages to raise his wings and the shield, and it buys him just enough protection that he survives the punch that knocks him out of the building and into a tree. Sam struggles to his feet then tries to spread his wings, but they’re destroyed.

Zoom in on Captain Falcon, barely able to move, trying to hail help over the radio, as the Abomination moves closer. Cap is in and out, blacking out several times as Abomination moves closer. Abomination lifts him up, and things are looking bad. We start to hear a high-pitched whistle, and suddenly Abomination is flattened by a big green foot on his face. Sam falls to the ground, and is again, in and out as the fighting happens behind him. He’s helped off the ground, by a woman who, it turns out, is taller than he is, and he realizes she’s steadying him with 1 green hand: She-Hulk. She asks if he can stand; he says he can, and tries to, only to start to fall; she catches him, then steadies him against the tree, and tells him she should only be a moment.

She-Hulk and Hulk tag-team the Abomination; realizing he’s outgunned, he runs. They take Sam back to his headquarters, and explain they just happened to be in town. He asks if he can have some back-up, in case he needs the help; if they’re hiding a hulk, who knows what else they might have up their sleeve. Hulk has another obligation, but Jen offers to stick around. Sam passes back out.

She-Hulk is there, with Night Nurse (I’m happy to have the Netflix version back, but I’m also okay to recast- in fact, that might be my preference, because Rosario Dawson is too cool to use as just Night Nurse, if we can convince her to take on a meatier character). She’s been keeping tabs on Sam.

And She-Hulk has made progress, using the law to track the safehouse Sam busted into to the organization that was paying the rent through several shell corporations. She offers to go it alone, since Sam is still laid up. He refuses, and forces himself, albeit a bit wobbly, to his feet.

This facility is more modern and expensive, concrete bunkers and sci fi garbage. They fight their way inside. At one point, they’re separated, and one of the soldiers Sam dispatches stands back up, glowing, because he’s been injected with Extremis. “This dude’s glowing. I don’t think he’s supposed to be-” the Extremis soldier explodes.

Sam is in a coma at the end of the episode.

Which we fix in the opening scene of the second, as his eyes open. Yelena Bolova, the new Black Widow, is standing over Sam’s hospital bed. Given her mercenary history, we should wait a beat, let the audience think she’s there to finish the job, until we reveal she’s drinking a mug of cocoa. 

She-Hulk reached out to Sam’s and Steve’s contacts, and Yelena was the first to respond. She’s also got a PI investigating leads from the crater formerly known as the Hydra base they infiltrated. At that moment, Jessica Jones pops in to give her the lowdown (Kristen Ritter was great in the role, so I’m happy to keep her for the cameo; bonus points if she’s got Hellcat in tow).

Anyway, we continue in this fashion, characters handing off the baton when their partner is better qualified to carry on with someone new; it turns out, telling everyone that Cap got hurt brings basically the entire MCU running, so they have their pick of partners, hence the revolving door. The partners, generally, having some kind of fish-out-of-water/odd couple contrast. I’ll rundown the episode pairings, and generally what would make them fun to watch:

  1. Captain America (Falcon)/She-Hulk: This one is fun because She-Hulk is irreverent, and Sam is walking around with two sticks up his butt- the first because he was a military guy and always at least a little serious, and the second because he’s still settling in as Captain America, so he’s still trying to out-Cap Cap, and not let on how out of his depth he is on this one.
  2. She-Hulk/Black Widow: Yelena is the less cuddly version of Black Widow, so her partnered with She-Hulk, the cuddlier Hulk, is kind of like a bizarro version of the relationship of their related characters from Age of Ultron. She-Hulk is also very moral, in a very legalistic way, whereas Yelena is all about shades of gray, and doing whatever the hell works. She also feels like Natasha would want her to do whatever she could for Cap, so she’s extra driven, both to prove herself and to prove she can fill her sister’s shoes.
  3. Black Widow/Photon: Photon is a by-the-books, above-board military operator raised in a military family. Yelena is a sneak up and knife them in the middle of the night spy. One is reasonably sunny and superpowered, the other relies on guile and Russian severity to survive. Because they are the least well-equipped to handle it, experience-wise, I’d have them discover M.O.D.O.K., having corrupted one of the Hydra cells and using it to create his A.I.M. offshoot, and being utterly, utterly horrified. I’d still have him played by Patton Oswalt, because he’s kind of perfect, just mo-cap him into a CG monstrosity and let him run.
  4. Photon/Human Torch: Photon takes the information they get from M.O.D.O.K. and takes it to Four Freedoms Plaza, hoping her friend Reed Richards can help with things. But Reed and the rest of the FF have all gone off to save the world. Except for Johnny. He’s a goofball and a kid, and she has discipline coming out of her butt (which is a medical condition in nonmilitary families). Johnny stayed behind to do something kind of silly and frivolous, like watch the Oscars or the Superbowl or something. So when presented with an opportunity to superhero, instead, he abandons it (maybe also hitting on Photon, a little, because Johnny). They attempt to use Reed’s equipment to figure out the intel, only to make things worse, stranding Photon in the Negative Zone.
  5. Human Torch/Hawkeye (Kate): A panicked Johnny goes through his rolodex trying to find a young, unconnected hero to help him; he can’t risk going to any one of the brains, or things might get back to Reed, and he’ll never hear the end of it. Kate Bishop, making it clear it’s not the first time he’s called her and she’s not amused, responds when she finds out it’s an emergency. They provide an interesting contrast because he’s kind of goofy new money, instafamous but also a gullible doof, where she’s from older money, aloof, cool and collected. And also doesn’t have time for his boyish attempts at being suave. She doesn’t do tech things, but she knows someone in Brooklyn who might be able to help; he’s smart, but also, he’s young, and not connected to the other big heads- though he used to be Tony Stark’s protégé.
  6. Hawkeye/Ms. Marvel/*: This is the place where we’d have a Spidey cameo. I don’t know what the Marvel/Sony contracts are like; I suspect Marvel could force the issue since they own the TV rights, but might not be able to have Tom Holland in the suit (if this ever becomes viable- Spidey Team-Up is the obvious spin-off). But that would likely be the end of MCU Spidey being in movies. If an episode could be agreed upon, it would be a coup and a few. But assuming not, he isn’t home. Hawkeye says he’s probably swinging around someplace. They hear a car accident, and respond, to find Ms. Marvel jaws-of-lifing someone out of a mangled wreck. They’re about to assist when Johnny gets a call. Reed wants to know why the Negative Zone was opened, and more importantly, why Ms. Rambeau was stranded on the other side of it, and proceeds to lecture him about how that’s not an appropriate way to end a date. Johnny flies off to deal with it, but we stay with Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel. Next episode, they put their heads together, and figure out a way to use the M.O.D.O.K. intel, involving a cameo from America Chavez. This one is honestly less about contrast, more about starting to play around with pairings for either a Champions series or possible recruits for the Young Avengers, or maybe both. It’s also just a nice mission statement about the future of the MCU being light, breezy, feminine and diverse.
  7. Ms. Marvel/Moon Knight: The trio get in over their heads, though, and run afoul of the Moon Knight and his Moon Knighting. Hawkeye (and maybe America) draw away the pursuit, leaving Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel to take up the slack. This is an amazing pairing because he’s dark, gritty, and full of half-psychotic pathos, while she is the definition of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (okay, that would be Squirrel Girl… but wait for it…). I would even push him to be even more over the top, almost a parody of whatever his series ends up being- and I’d love to see Oscar Isaacs play truly over-the-top. Using his resources and gifts, they’re able to track M.O.D.O.K.’s intel to a new Hydra facility, this one housing a prisoner- or, rather, they’re housing a teleporter to a prison on the moon holding him. At the last second, Marc jettisons Ms. Marvel, thinking he’s saving her from a dead end and an ignominious death, only to discover the prisoner is Loki.
  8. Moon Knight/Loki: Loki and Marc are able to dispatch the death squad together; Loki, from the jump, tries to convince Moon Knight that he’s actually Khonshu, the one who gave him his powers, and he should definitely listen to him. Loki is still a little worse for wear- they were keeping him on a drip-feed of alcohol, since alcohol seems to impact Asgardians. Not only does that mean Loki spends most of the episode drunk, but he’s been suffering from alcohol poisoning for most of his capture so he isn’t at full power. Worse, Hydra turned off the teleporter, so they don’t have a way to get home. Still worse, the teleporter was also an umbilical cord, feeding the facility power and oxygen, without which they will die shortly. In a desperate attempt at rescue, they selectively set fire to certain portions of the base to spell out “Help.”
  9. Loki/Kingo: Help arrives, in the form of Eternal Kingo. He helps Moon Knight teleport back to Earth, but recognizes in Loki a larger threat. He’s also intrigued by the Hydra mystery he’s seen the human heroes contending with. I’ll be honest, this is entirely here because Kumail Nanjiani is a great comedian, and I suspect that will make his character a fun one to bounce off of. Loki, for his part, is stymied by a being just as far beyond humanity as he is. Kingo toys with him a little bit, before their ride arrives. Kingo called the Guardians, believing Thor was still with them. Instead, they’re picked up by half the usual crew; they were taking Howard the Duck to Earth and happened to be in the system, anyhow. So we get a cameo from Rocket & Groot (I’m assuming getting a full episode with them is too big an ask this season- or I would absolutely ask).
  10. Kingo/Howard the Duck: Howard, apparently, has come to the Earth because of a love of Raymond Chandler and all things noir. He wants to hang out a shingle and try living the life of a private eye. Rocket and Groot are sticking around because they have a bet as to how long (and if) he’ll last, and the duck’s agreed to pay them double for the return accommodations. So we get a lot of black and white scenes, with Seth Green narrating overly purple prose in a noir style about this oddball conspiracy involving floating head monsters, exploding soldiers, green abominations and murdered flying black men (Kingo interrupts to correct him, that Captain America is still alive). A dame comes in, maybe Madame Hydra or similar, a lead they can sink their teeth into, and they investigate. At the end of the episode, Kingo looks around the room, at the duck, the raccoon, the tree, and the chained Asgardian, asks, “What am I doing here?” and leaves. Basically walking past each other in the doorway, Squirrel Girl enters. Apparently her friend told her a mangled joke, “Why was the chicken a private eye? Because he was a duck.” She didn’t get it, and came up to understand it. I’d suggest keeping the cast of Milana Vayntrub- she’s adorable and funny (although Anna Kendrick is another strong choice).
  11. Howard the Duck/Squirrel Girl: This episode would likely draw from the fun Chip Zdarsky run on Howard the Duck. But it’s Squirrel Girl, mostly just being an eager beaver, trying to help him through his detective fantasy. He gives it up, however, when they’re met with a hail of Hydra bullets, and calls for his ride. Squirrel Girl pops her head inside, and she and Rocket have a moment, where they both say the other one looks “familiar,” before going their separate ways.
  12. Squirrel Girl/Punisher: Squirrel Girl hears the sound of more gunfire from where they left the Hydra agents a moment before. Punisher is there, standing on top of a pile of dead Hydra. He has it on good authority they’ve been paying local hoods to smuggle in science junk for their lasers- paying them in trade, meaning laser weapons are ending up on the street. His job’s hard enough without having to worry about laser-proofing his armor, so he’s there to cut them off at the source. She quips about there being a saying about cutting Hydra that she doesn’t finish. She’s perturbed by his use of force, and tries to convince him to use less lethal means. He’s confused by the request. She decides, over his protests, that she’s going to accompany him, to show him there are nonfatal ways to deal with villains. They have… mixed results, but they finally get the last piece of the puzzle, right before Frank shoots the Hydra agent who gave it to him. Squirrel Girl boxers his ears- yes, literally, before taking away all of his bullets. He tries re-arming with Hydra guns, only to find she’s disabled all of those, too. A pissed-off, but utterly disarmed Frank hails a cab (she also disabled his murder wagon, leaving a note saying he’ll have a long walk home to think about what she’s tried to teach him).   
  13. Punisher/Captain America: Punisher, with the crucial piece of intel, shows up at Captain America’s hospital room. Frank says he’s not Captain America. Sam asks if it’s a race thing. Frank says no, and he says that makes him feel better sarcastically. Frank tells him Cap was half the reason he signed up. Sam asks if he means to kill people. Frank says for the Army (they exchange a meaningful look, both men agreeing that does not). Frank says he fought in wars, then fought domestic crime. Cap was the ideal, scrubs like them aren’t fit to hold his shield, let alone wear it. Sam says he’s trying to be, that Cap wouldn’t have given him the shield if he didn’t want it held up- want his ideals held up. Frank doesn’t reply, but he hands over the intel. Sam feels like he has to respond, that he can’t lead from behind, that he’s tired of people putting him back in bed, even as he struggles to stand. Frank gets under his arm to help him. Together they fight their way into a Hydra research facility. They find Bucky; Hydra have been trying to break him down again. They unleash the newly brainwashed Bucky to attack them, and instead he squares with Sam and Frank. The scientists run. The guards run. All except one- who starts to unwind his balaclava. “Aw, crap,” Sam says, as Blonsky’s face starts to turn green as he unwraps it. Sam tosses Bucky the shield, and he uses his robot arm to help protect him from Abomination’s punch, a punch that still sends him flying through several walls, landing out on the city street. Abomination leaps through the hole Bucky tore, widening it, landing over the stunned Winter Soldier. It’s eerily quiet. Whichever cameoing/guest-starring character would make the biggest impact (for my money right now, probably Hulk) says, “We heard Cap could use a hand.” Camera pans up from the Winter Soldier at Abomination’s feet (and eclipsed by his shadow) to pan across all of the assembled guest stars, as Avengers music swells. I think we should be able to composite them from when they’re on set, and won’t need them all gathered at the same time- so this can be done on the TV budget (though I wouldn’t swear to it). Cut to the Raft, where a purpled Blonsky is tossed into a cell roughly. He’s got an IV in his arm, keeping him unconscious. We do a polite wrap-up, Bucky and Sam bonding. I’d contemplate having Punisher take a shot at Bucky, one blocked by Cap, and accepting that he’s not going to get another, and walking away. But reasonable folk could disagree with that idea.  

Old Ventures, Ch. 7

Seven, Philadelphia, 7/28/16

“I hate this,” Jack said sullenly, as Rose straightened his necktie.

“Think the last time you wore a tie might have been our wedding,” she said, blushing.

“Okay, gross,” Joey said, “because I’m pretty sure she was thinking it was your wedding night.” He turned so his back was towards her. “I never pegged you as afraid of a little public speaking,” he teased.

“It’s not that,” Jack muttered.

“It’s a little that, too, hon,” Rose said, pecking him on the cheek. “Or your stomach wouldn’t be complaining quite so loudly.”

“It’s politics,” Jack said. “I’ve been used by politics most of my adult life, but I-” he furrowed his brow, and couldn’t force the rest of the thought out.

“That’s what gives this weight,” Joey said, his expression turning serious. “You aren’t some failed soldier trying to turn their retirement into a career. You’re here because this circumstance is different, more important than any before. I respect that, and I think the American people will, too. Now get out there, before your introduction drags any more than it already has.”

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. “I’m happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage,” the man at the podium Jack couldn’ see because of the lights said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. “I’m not comfortable being here,” Jack said, “and I’m sure that shows.”

The audience chuckled nervously. “That’s okay. You’re laughing with me,” he paused, “I think.”

“But I’ve never been comfortable using my… celebrity, I guess, like this. I’ve marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I’ve never been apolitical… but I’ve always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I’ve done, and even today, that’s not my goal.

“But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was naïve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

“I didn’t decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he’s not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, or majority-white America, but that he’ll need to lead all of us. He’ll need to represent the will of all of us. He’ll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever elude him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn’t like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is: angry, scared and lashing out.

“And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.

“So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can’t erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I’ve seen it. And I pray I’ll live to see it again. Thank you.”

Jack was numb, and barely heard the roaring crowd, or their applause. He put up his hand, to wave as he left, but couldn’t help but feel that it was all too late.

Pitchmas 2020, Part 1: New Mutants

Next year, presuming I do this again, I’ll start earlier, so Pitchmas can at least start in the right year.

I like a challenge, so I’m biting off more than I can likely chew, here. It’s going to be 12 Marvel Series for Disney+. I’m going to give myself some leeway, I can spin a show out of the existing movies, shows, or one of last year’s pitches. What I can’t do is just say, Movie: The Series, or recreate a show that already existed on another platform (so no Daredevil, Defenders, etc.). Rules clear to everyone? I don’t care. Because they’re my rules, and if I decide I want to break them later, none of you can stop me. At least not without hacking my site and spoiling all the fun for everyone (Note: please don’t do that.)

Paradoxically, this might actually be a simpler assignment, since pitching a season of a TV show doesn’t actually mean plotting the whole monster out, necessarily, but instead involves a concept for the first few episodes.

New Mutants

Note: I have not seen the “New Mutants” movie, and this is not that, and not based on the same concept; I also really don’t expect that to remain cannon.

I want this to be where all of the “New Mutants” start out. So any time Marvel wants a fresh team of X-Men recruits, they logically come through here. Probably what this means is it starts off with a team composed of a B-list of legacy mutants- say the X-Factor squad of Polaris, Havok, characters like that, running the Xavier Institute’s educational wing while Scott and the original team (plus whoever else makes sense) run around saving the mutant race. Apparently the first decade of characters were thin, but I’d suggest bringing in Morph/Changeling, because he can be a lot of fun and the group could use a cut-up. Mimic’s both overpowered and kind of bland, but fun things can be done with him, if we’re clever. I’d fill out the rest of the team with whoever isn’t being used immediately in the X-Men movies from the Giant Size X-Men team, with an eye towards diversity as much as possible, so I’d snap up Thunderbird and Sunfire first, then Nightcrawler, Storm, Banshee… the teachers would sort of rotate in a Hogwarts sort of fashion, where a teacher would be teaching the students a specific lesson or ideal, then rotate out, so potentially there’s room for some of the marquee characters to do a special episode here and there, too.

The students would be the first round of New Mutants, those who eventually mostly went on to be X-Force, because this show could literally spin out a dozen X-Men teams over as many seasons. For the record that class was: Cannonball, Mirage, Magma, Karma, Sunspot, Magik, Cypher, & Wolfsbane. I’d probably throw in Kitty Pryde, too, because she’s too good a character to let slip through the cracks- which between her and his sister Magik probably means Colossus is a lock for a turn as a teacher; I’d especially like an episode post-Inferno where he teaches a painting class, trying to help them all through the nightmare they’ve been through- as the students go from hating the class to realizing they need to find their own outlets.  

Because I’m spinning this out of last year’s X-Men pitch, I’m assuming we go with some version of that origin- the mutants cross over from a similar universe, and are part of a refugee crisis. So the school also works as a refugee resettlement program, as well.

The first season, weirdly, would probably focus on as much bizarreness as possible, because by the end I’d do a version of Inferno as well as an origin for Warlock, which is probably where I’d start. It’s a starry night. Shooting stars flash overhead. Suddenly a ship, bright red from entry into the atmosphere, burns past camera. It’s followed by two sci-fi fighter jets emblazoned with the logo of SWORD. They fire on the ship, and believe they’ve destroyed it. We cut to the wreckage of the alien ship, in a wooded area, and see a techno-organic (think sentient, shape-shifting robot) hand move before we cut away.

Several students are sneaking out of the Xavier Institute to go to a club. Some of them are clearly more excited than others, others have been peer-pressured, you get the idea. As they hop the fence, one of them laments that they couldn’t invite Kitty. Another mentions that she’s too much of a teacher’s pet. One of them snickers, and says, “Kitty’s a pet.” We cut back to the Mansion, Kitty discovering their beds are empty.

We cut back out to the gate, as a car picks them up. As it’s driving away, Kitty phases inside, landing on someone’s lap. They don’t get far, before the car hits someone. The driver is freaked out, and tries to flee. The kids demand he let them out, and they go back to see what they hit.

It’s Warlock, a frightened little shape-shifting alien; think ET meets Transformers. He doesn’t speak any language they can decipher, but Kitty, the student who’s been there the longest, knows about a recruit with a talent for languages: Cypher. He’s able to communicate enough with Warlock to get the gist- he ran from a world where son is expected to kill his father (or vice versa); he wanted no part in the generational murder-spree. They agree to help him, or at least get him someplace safe, since he can’t go home again. The camera pans back up towards the stars.

Another ship flies past, burning red from the atmosphere. Another pair of SWORD jets chase this one, too. Only this jet transforms in mid-air, suddenly facing them with cannons nearly as big as it is, and fires two energy blasts, knocking the fighters out of the sky. The alien craft then goes back to flying, before landing at the edge of an airfield. Turns out, it’s a military airfield. An MP in a truck drives over to it, mumbling about jerks landing their drones on the base because they think it’s funny. The ship transforms into a humanoid like Warlock, but much more brutal and militant-looking, and larger. It shifts again, into a carbon copy of the MP. “What the hell?“ he asks, before the Magus (Warlock’s father), touches a finger to his head, loosing a blinding white light that blots out the screen. As the light fades, we see that the soldier has been reduced to a small pile of ashes that blows away in the wind.

The next morning, Cypher asks Warlock whether or not he can hide. The concept confuses him. “Blend in.” Warlock turns his head quizzically, before shifting into a facsimile of Doug, who jumps. “Um, not me,” he says. “Humans are unique. So you have to look… different.” Warlock’s POV, as he scans every person in the dormitory, glowing boxes over features, then we cut to stock news footage as he flips through the channels, web pages, all manner of information, speeding by at an accelerated rate until we see he’s become human. Back outside his POV, he’s become an attractive person of color. “Now we just have to come up with a name for you.”

Cut away while this dialog is going, and we see the pair of them in thermal vision; Warlock isn’t cold, but he doesn’t heat up the way a human does, either, and there’s some kind of a ping drawing attention to him (or her, casting depending). The visualization shifts to a normal camera from a drone flying overhead, except the drone pauses in midair, and transforms into the Magus, landing with an impact in the lawn. He looks up, and sees the power line for the school, and enters it in a quasi-liquid form.

We cut back inside the school, specifically inside the Danger Room. This is going to be a more classical approach to it, more a gymnasium, but with robots and buzz-saws on extending arms and lasers. Havok is giving them an introduction to the Danger Room, and explains it’s just a chance for them to show what they can do now. They should be careful, for themselves and their fellow students, because the safety protocols are set to new students, so the only potential harm will come from one another. Havok signals Multiple Man up in the control room to start, and he puts in his password and initiates the program. On the monitor on the console, we see a digitized version of Magus, before the console electrocutes Madrox- the attack having the effect of creating a duplicate of him that stands over the first version. He snaps his fingers to create a third, and they bicker over the proper aid response; one wants to rush in and check his vitals, while the other is concerned that if there’s an environmental hazard they could join him on the floor. “Stop being such a weenie; we literally have extra lives,” the one says, and drags the groaning original away from the console.

Cut to the inside of the Danger Room. The training session begins as normal. One by one, the students take turns walking through the room, displaying their powers and prowess. And then we get to Warlock. Havok’s confused because he doesn’t know them, but Cypher says that Warlock’s new. Before Havok can protest, the Danger Room become far, far angrier, attacking with lethal force. Havok gathers the kids behind him, and tells Kitty to stop the machine; she phases through the wall, runs through one of Multiple Man’s dupes running in the opposite direction. Warlock, with his shifting, holds his own for a bit as the Danger Room becomes infected with the Techno-Organic (or Transmode) virus that gives Warlock his shape-shifting, making it increasingly more dangerous. The New Mutants, as a team, are holding it off as best they can, but the zone they control is decreasing, the threats encroaching. Time is running out… and then the machines stop.

We cut to the control room, where Kitty is standing with her arm phased through the computer. Cut to later, panning over an army of Multiple Men who have taken apart the Danger Room computers. The original, still showing signs of injury from the electrocution, is talking to Havok. “I don’t know. We’re kind of in ‘Thousand Monkeys with a Keyboard’ territory. There’s enough of me to crawl through the code and recognize there’s things here there shouldn’t be. But I don’t speak nerd enough to know what. Until we can get Beast or Forge or another computer dork to look at it, all I can say is something that wasn’t supposed to happen did.”

“Self-help,” Warlock says, and touches the console. He flashes imagery, including the Magus’ face, and stumbles back, saying, “Magus.” Warlock tries to run. The New Mutants subdue him before he makes it over the fence. A panicking Warlock tries to explain that it isn’t safe for him to stay, that he’s putting them all in danger, that the Magus came for him. Kitty corrects him- that the Magus came for all of them, and there’s no way they’re letting him face that kind of threat alone. There’s a moment, where we don’t know if the rest will join Kitty’s sentiment, since up to this point they’ve been stand-offish with her; but this is the moment they really accept her, and that’s the note we end the first episode on.

I think from there the Magus uses the MP identity he absorbed to gather military power, essentially creating a conspiracy about a mutant insurrection that will need to be put down with military might, leading to the base he landed on invading the school. So this arc would take up the front half of the season, essentially being a movie paced out to be 4-5 episodes. Along the way, the teachers grow more suspicious about Warlock, and as some of them start to twig what he is, have mixed feelings about taking on a non-mutant refugee that puts mutants in harm’s way. Warlock ultimately wins them over by repeatedly putting himself in harm’s way for the students- he earns his place among them even to the most skeptical of eyes. Ends in a pretty spectacular New Mutants vs military scene; the military are taken apart with kid gloves, at which point the Magus reveals himself and attacks. At first the military are perplexed, not understanding what’s going on, before one of their commanders realizes they’ve been duped and join the fray on the side of the mutants (or, perhaps more simply, realizes this is an attack on US soil, and at least some of the students are American).   

The back half of the season would probably be a take on Inferno, so the first half we’d be seeding that Magik’s teleporting takes her through an infernal dimension, one where she feels safe, one where she feels like she can do anything. Originally, she thought the dimension was metaphorical- that it was the encapsulation of her inner demons. It’s only been working with Professor Xavier (who has training at least as a counselor, if not a full-on psychiatrist) that she discovered the truth- it’s a real place. The Magus hitches a ride with her at one point, probably taking the place of her phone or her music player. Once there, he foments a rebellion amongst the local populace as a way of attacking the team, to weaken them, to open up his path to Warlock.

Since this is a show, we’d probably opt for something lower-key than a demonic romp down Main Street. So I’d go for something subtler, even horror-focused. As the demons are able to sneak out with help from the Magus, until the school reaches a critical mass. Then it becomes psychological horror for our leads, as they’re all forced to deal with their own inner demons, fears, and regrets. What they realize, however, is that the stakes are very real- if the team can’t come together and save Magik, her Inferno is going to use her as a portal to open up in the middle of New York, and from there, likely destroy the world. Magik, at the conclusion, is able to teleport the Magus back to his homeworld; as part of his defeat, Warlock takes over his body and forces him to de-age back to a baby. He explains that doesn’t end his threat, but delays it until the Magus grows back into an adult.

Season 2 would bring in Rogue, presumably fresh from gaining an interesting power set/mental health problems off of Captain Marvel, and at least some new faces. I think, as the show went on, characters would change, grow, some would leave, some would graduate to other teams, decide their real passion was in activism away from the Institute, or become teachers in subsequent seasons. We’d also be filling out the rest of the X-Force roster with Rictor, Boom-Boom, maybe Warpath and Shatterstar. I think that season would also bring in Mystique, Emma Frost and the Hellions as a counter-weight, with the New Mutants mounting a rescue attempt to save what remained of the Hellions after a failed mission, leading directly into…

Season 3: Emma Frost and Banshee bring in a new class of recruits, Gen X! That means Jubilee, Skin, Synch, Husk, Chamber, M. I’d probably do a version of the Phalanx Covenant.

Season 4: Excalibur?

Old Ventures 2, Ch. 6

Six, Joe, Canton, Ohio

“I can’t,” Jack said. “Believe me, I’ve tried. But every time I thought of coming here, I… I couldn’t. Because I’d think about every time I wasn’t there, every time you needed me that…”

“Jack,” Joey said. “You’re here now. I don’t blame you, not for any part of it, not getting molested, not getting kicked out of the Army, not for getting sick. I lived my life as I chose to. Sure, there might have been times when I could have used your help, or different help than what you tried to give. But you’re a person, just like me, bouncing around and off of a tumult of events neither of us could hope to completely understand, let alone control. All we can do is cope. Sometimes, that means taking you as you are at that time, accepting you for how you can support me, not hating you for the ways you couldn’t.”

“I know,” Jack said, his voice frail. “And maybe if I’d only failed you…”

“What, mom? Or is this about the election? Because I got strong words for you if it’s that. You didn’t fail America, dad. America failed you. And not even the people, really. They rejected fascism by a pretty healthy margin. But a party hell-bent on control and not too fond of actual democracy enabled fascists to seize power, anyway. I mean, I take your point, in that way too many people gave a thumbs up to fascism, way too many eagerly greeted all of the nastiness. But you? This isn’t on you. Great a man as you can be, you can’t save people from themselves.

“But let me remind you how fucking good of a man you can be. Do you remember what you told me, when you saved me in Germany?” A wistful, almost impish smile crossed Jack’s lips, before fading just as quickly. “I know, that doesn’t narrow it down, smart ass, because you saved me at least a dozen times in Germany. But you know the time I mean.

“I was a dumb kid, and ran off to help you fight Nazis, not realizing… I actually believed your dopey, make-believe radio show kid sidekick could actually fight Nazis.” He laughed, and there was bitterness in it, but also real amusement. “And when one caught me… that rat bastard raped me. And that might have been my whole fate, just being abused, humiliated and tortured by the Nazis. But you stormed that camp, alone, and broke me out. But I was still a kid, what was I? Twelve?”

“You just turned thirteen,” Jack said.

“Right. But I was still waiting for my growth spurt. Anyway, it was all basically cops and robbers to me, to that point. I didn’t, I mean, I couldn’t fathom that kind of evil, the kind of monsters who would do that to a child, and then laugh about it. Something inside me had broken, and I was catatonic. Even after you rescued me… I felt like we’d never get way, that the Nazis would capture us both and then they’d do to both of us what they did to me and… that would have been worse. And I couldn’t move on my own, but there you were, risking life and limb, getting me food, medicine, a blanket; I can’t tell you how much the blanket meant to me. Food, water, you need those, can’t survive without them. But the blanket… you weren’t just trying to save me to soothe your conscience. You cared about me, you cared if I was shivering, and scared. I kept it. Through the war. Through a few points in my life when what I owned didn’t fill a backpack.

“Anyway, the thing you told me, and it stuck with me more than anything else, you said me that ‘Defying tyranny isn’t about punching Nazis. It’s about vigilance. It’s easy, to lace up your boots on the days when your buddies are all alive, when your people aren’t being rounded up. But those days when you’ve taken that punch, not the one that simply makes your head spin, but that makes your whole world feel like it’s teetering off its axis, when you’re bleeding and broken, those are the days when you need to get those boots on tight, figure out what the good fight is, and fight it. Sometimes you’re tired. Sometimes you’re hurt. Sometimes you’re so scared you can’t think straight. And there are days when the weight of even one more step feels like it could shatter you. So you take two. Because evil doesn’t take a day off. And neither can you.’”

“I said that?” Jack asked.


“Was I always full of so much hot air?”

“Since before I met you, yeah,” Joe said with a laugh.

“How-” The thought caught in his throat, “how’m I going to do this without you?”

“You’ll have to take three steps, dad,” he said, and squeezed Jack’s shoulder, “for the one I won’t be there to take.”

“And when I can’t go on?”

“That’s why you’ve got me, handsome,” Rose said from the doorway she was propped against, looking every bit like one of her pin-ups from the war. “To pick up the slack. Though God knows you haven’t left me much over the years to pick up.”

“No man can do it all alone,” Joe started again. “And it’s a fool who thinks otherwise.”

“And we’ve always loved you, foolish though you often are,” Rose teased him, crossing he room and laying her head on his other shoulder. “But it wouldn’t matter. Even if this were the 40s, and you were indefatigable, even in the face of nearly a century’s worth of horror. This is different. You’re up against an idea; a man- there’s no man alive and likely none who ever lived you couldn’t take. But an idea… tearing down an idea is the work of years. Maybe generations. Maybe we’re still fighting the ideas behind Nazism today- maybe this really is the same fight you’ve been engaged in since you were a kid.”

“What can I do?”

You can’t, Jack,” she said, an edge of frustration in her voice. “We’ve been telling you that your whole damned life. But we can. All of us. Together. We can turn back this tide like you helped turn back the Nazis. Like you helped fight off the Reds. You were big in those fights, disproportionately so. But you weren’t alone then, either. And you aren’t alone now. We can get through this. We won’t all live to see it through to the end. And for those of us who fall, you’ll pick up the standard and keep moving. Because I know you. And on days when I’m weak, honey,” Rose paused, softly touching his chest, “I know you’ll be there for me. So let us be here for you. So we can all be there for the people who need us now. And there’s going to be a lot of people who need us, now.”