When James Gunn and Peter Safran took over the DC cinematic universe and decided to reboot it rather than continue the Snyderverse, I decided they shouldn’t get to have all the fun. What follows is my slate of DC Reboot Pitches, beginning with the hero who started it all:
This is the third in a series of pitches for the rebooted DC Movies. I have thoughts about how to retool Aquaman to draw out the elements of him that are unique, and build out his own niche within the broader DC landscape, none of which include turning him into the most obnoxious dude in your frat (and you know from obnoxious- you were in a frat [I kid- many of my best friends are obnoxious]). But I’ll refer you to that explainer post for info on the whys and wherefores, and try to stick to narrative here.
We start on a beach by a lighthouse, an idyllic couple stroll as their child, three years old, frolics in the surf. Adult Arthur narrates, telling us he always took after his mother. They explore the coast, looking at crabs and creatures. She makes sure he’s gentle with the creatures, despite his youth. Arthur’s narration tells us he always felt a kinship to the oceanlife.
His father… saw in it a different kind of life. We see him fishing, the crazy, dangerous, storm-riddled fishing they make reality TV out of. But we cut back to the beach. Young Arthur is smiling, but his expression changes as the surf runs red. Sea creatures float to the surface, dead. At first, Arthur’s father doesn’t know what to make of it, but his mother does- it’s a message, written in blood, to her. If she doesn’t come home, and now, the bloodshed will never end. She walks into the ocean, and disappears, as Arthur’s father holds the boy back, knowing he can’t understand what he’s seeing.
Later, he takes the boy fishing, trying to teach him his trade. But Arthur is horrified, certain he can feel the pain and terror of the fish. His father is understanding, but it opens a rift between them. Arthur loves his father… but he can never look at him the same way. Still, he tries to raise the boy as best he can, spinning wild-sounding yarns of Atlantis. His parents ignite in him twin obsessions: ocean life and archaeology. The day Arthur goes off to school, his father waves goodbye, and walks into the ocean, the same as his wife had.
Arthur graduates with a doctorate in both obsessions he inherited from his folks. But the more he studies, the more he learns, the more he begins to believe that his father knew more about Atlantis than his tall tales would imply. He manages to trace some artifacts to dig sites, with still further clues. A jealous colleague publicizes that Arthur is hunting Atlantis, that he’s a fantasist, wasting the school’s money and threatening its good name. His funding dries up, just as he reaches the most expensive portion of his research: underwater excavation. Reluctantly, he finds an outside sponsor in Hyde and Seek, a family salvage company with a reputation for acquiring rare antiquities for the highest bidder.
The Hydes have been developing proprietary diving tech, exoskeleton diving suits that are both stronger and lighter than the kinds of wearable submarines usually used at depth. They’re basically Iron Man suits built around diving. These are 90% of the way to Black Manta’s eventually power armor suit, with the main exception being there are lights that shine from the eyes, but they don’t shoot energy- yet. There are only two of them, so Arthur is going into the water with the Hyde patriarch.
Their underwater drone finds a site right where Arthur expected, and the Hydes broach divvying up the spoils. Arthur tells the Hydes legitimate museums and collections will pay a finder’s fee- that they can have all of that- he’s here for the discovery. The Hydes pretend to accept, but once in the water the elder Hyde sabotages Arthur’s gear, so that his oxygen will deplete too quickly, and his gauge won’t read properly. Arthur is entranced by the find, seeing not just proof of Atlantis but proof that this is just a way station outside the greater city- that he’s nearly at the answers he’s spent his entire life seeking. Hyde, both impatient and concerned every second risks their find, severs Arthur’s oxygen line, and his suit begins to fill with water.
Arthur convulses, ‘drowning,’ before his eyes shoot open. He takes off his helmet, and touches the place on his neck where his gills are pulling in water to ‘breathe.’ Arthur swims after Hyde, cutting the distance with great speed, and sabotages the elder Hyde’s tank the same way Hyde sabotaged his, causing him to drop a container of treasure. He swims down for it, even as Arthur reaches out to him with his mind. “Leave it. Your oxygen is running out.”
“Screw you,” Hyde thinks, “I’m not leaving empty-handed.” Then he realizes he didn’t ‘hear’ it with his ears, but in his head. “How am I hearing your thoughts?”
Sea life swim past them, each with its own unique voice. “You hear him the way he hears us- all creatures, above and below, evolved from the oceans- and the oceans recognize their champion.”
Hyde still refuses, and picks up the chest. But he’s slowing, and we start to hear the slowed thumping of his heart. He gets about halfway back, before passing out. Arthur swims to him, lifting him to safety aboard the vessel, but Hyde is having a heart attack. His son attempts CPR, but to no avail. “What did you do?” he asks Arthur, but Arthur isn’t equipped to handle this moment; he tried, damnit, and being confronted with his failure so immediately is more than he can bear, and he returns to the water. To the autistic son, it looks like a cold-blooded murder- one that will fuel his rage, aided by the one red gem that his father managed to hold onto from the treasure hoard that will hypercharge Black Manta’s diving suit.
Arthur’s upset. He sits in the ruins, halfway hoping to drown. “I shouldn’t have touched his tank,” he lectures himself. “I was so angry.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” a Prickleback tells Arthur. “My neighbor, a usually gentle hermit crab, got surprised by a passing school of clown fish, and pinched me, and I got so upset I ate him. It’s the natural order of things; you shouldn’t anger someone big enough to eat you.”
“I… didn’t eat him,” Arthur says.
“Not in the sense of consumption, no. But you struck back.”
“Don’t listen to him,” a different hermit crab says. “According to him it’s perfectly all right to vent your frustration at anyone weaker. Not that I think you blaming yourself makes sense. Seems it was pure hubris that killed the diver.”
“I’m having a nervous breakdown, aren’t I?” Arthur thinks.
“Let’s examine that, shall we?” an octopus asks, floating in front of him. “While certainly this is a unique blend of circumstances, is it more likely you’re hallucinating, or that your perceptions are, indeed, authentic. Wait… you didn’t eat one of the purple cucumbers, did you? Those can cause hallucinations.”
“Only in cephalopods, you eight-legged snob,” the cucumber barks back.
“But the most important question, Arthur, is what do you want?” the octopus asks. “You can swim back to the land, avoid the water and sealife at all costs. Whether or not this is an hallucination, you can convince yourself of that. But is that what you really want?”
“I want to know the truth. About my mother. About my father. About Atlantis.”
“That’s a good lad. Come with me.” They proceed back to the chamber where Hyde tried to murder Arthur. The symbols on the wall, only a handful Arthur was able to translate with years of study, begin to be legible to him, with glowing English letters hovering over their Atlantean equivalents.
“This language is ancient. It’s a part of the sea, and all the life that dwells within it. You could see it, just a little, even on land, just as you could feel who you were, even on land. But here, under the sea, you’re connecting with parts of yourself you never knew were there.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I’ve lived here most of my life, hearing whispers from the other creatures about Atlantis, its history, its myths, and its champions. For every age, there has been one- every age but this one. Because you were lost, marooned on the desert surface. Until now. And I know you the way every creature in this ocean does. You are a part of us, of everything. You’re finally home.” As he says that, they crest the hill, and the magnificent city of Atlantis sprawls beyond them.
Arthur causes something of a commotion, because the ocean life are following him. And the Atlanteans can feel it, too. This isn’t just some random stumbling upon their home, they feel the same pull as the rest of the sealife towards Arthur, even if it’s more distant. And he, in turn, follows what he feels coming off of them, that he’s needed, in the city center.
Inside, Ocean Master is orating. He views the presence of the Hyde and Seek ship so close to their capital as the last straw. Man has been polluting the oceans, damaging the climate in such a way that temperatures are becoming far more volatile, and now they are seeking Atlantis herself. The time has come to reveal themselves, and strike. Half of those present rise and cheer. The rest are silent. But one of them in particular recognizes the stranger who swam in, and abandons her seat at the head of the opposition. She is Atlanna, Arthur’s mother. She embraces him, and feels in him something she knows the ocean has been lacking. She turns towards the Ocean Master, and gives a masterful oration of her own, lamenting that the time for action is here, getting some of the pro-war Senators on board, before the turn, where she says that they’re better than humans, more civilized. She suggests they send her son as envoy, to announce to the world that the oceans are inhabited, and deserve a place at the table; she tells them he is the oceans’ champion. Orm argues against it, but there just isn’t support for a first strike when the opposition leader is offering her son to sue for peace.
They hold a celebration of Arthur’s return- the once prince of Atlantis is home. Atlanna tells him she returned to try to save the kingdom, and for a time, succeeded. However, when Arthur’s father came to her, Orm threatened to have him exposed and killed; she gave up her kingdom to save him and avoid civil war. She tells Arthur not to trust Orm. She takes him to see his father, who is kept in a reasonably well-appointed cell- and we understand why when Atlanna joins him inside. He’s a prisoner, and she lives inside the cell with him. “I’d complain, but the food’s not half bad, and it’s got one hell of a view,” his father says, staring adoringly at Atlanna.
Arthur insists he’s not a politician, which is why she sends Mera, her right hand. The pair set off the next morning, planning to go to the United Nations and officially declare Atlantis a nation, and begin the likely arduous process of figuring out Atlantean territory on the world stage. They’re attacked en route by assassins, who torpedo their craft. With the help of a pod of whales, Arthur is able to destroy their ship, as well, though they manage to take Mera hostage, and keep her alive in the hopes of drawing him out.
Arthur is able to make it to a largely deserted island, where he’s able to use his understanding of historical warfare to craft some low-tech booby traps, and take out the assassins. Mera proves capable of freeing herself, and had actually remained a prisoner longer to continue to probe her captors for information, hoping for proof as to who is behind the attack.
Orm, meanwhile, is back in the Senate chamber where he presents ‘evidence’ that their diplomatic mission was attacked, that even attempts to hail the attackers and explain their peaceful mission didn’t dissuade their violence- because humans are just that bloodthirsty. Even some in Mera’s camp are willing to attack the surface, given that story- even if she refuses to believe her son is dead, or literally anything coming from Orm’s mouth.
Arthur and Mera arrive just as Ocean Master is about to lead the Atlanteans to battle. He’s still naive enough to figure that they can just pop up, and accuse Orm, and that will be that. She understands there’s a momentum to these things- too many people have hung their hats on the idea of war for it to just stop in its tracks. “We can’t stand by and watch innocent people die.”
“War is almost entirely innocent people dying,” she says solemnly.
“No. I mean I’m going to fight. If Atlantis needs to hit someone- I’ll give them someone else to hit.”
Arthur swims, alone, into the middle of Ocean Master’s march. He tells them all, telepathically, what happened. Orm speaks through his telepathy to them, too, denying his involvement. Arthur admits that his father is a human, and he was indeed raised among them. He knows the great and terrible things people do. But he is also Atlantean, and has seen one of them lie, and betray his oath, to secure more power. People, whether on the surface or in the ocean, aren’t good or bad because of where they live, or who their parents were, but because of who they are. He’s spent his whole life wanting to find Atlantis- he’d rather die than let Ocean Master risk either of his homes like this.
Ocean Master attacks, and reluctantly, so do some of the soldiers. But suddenly Arthur is joined by all kinds of ocean life. They’ve been rallied by the octopus; Arthur was risking himself, but the animals know that he is their hero, too, and what happens if there’s a war with the surface. “Protect the champion!” the octopus cries.
It’s a line, I think, to walk, because the Atlanteans are using weapons of war, but the animals don’t actually want to do anything but stem the loss of life, so you’d probably have kind of goofy attacks like dolphins teaming up to knock the ‘wind’ out of a soldier, then one of them swims off with their weapon. Ocean Master’s sea horse bucks him off, and I like the idea that something lands on Ocean Master’s helmet, and spends a lot of time there, both making him an ineffectual leader, and also ends up squirting some eggs on him.
I think the fighting ends when Atlanna arrives, and tells them to heed the wisdom of the ocean, and remember they are a part of it, “and not the ocean’s masters.” I think the fighting largely has ceased, by that point, anyway, since the soldiers are more annoyed and bemused by the animals. Arthur tells Ocean Master he has a little egg on his face, as he turns to swim angrily off.
Back in their congress, Ocean Master pushes for Arthur’s execution, as an enemy of the state, or at least, his expulsion. Mera leads Arthur’s father there, where he heckles Orm, as having had his son clean his clock the once already- then says it’s no way to talk to the rightful king of Atlantis. Orm stammers out that Atlanna renounced her crown. Arthur hears a voice he doesn’t recognize, but it’s old, and learned. “That’s not how I recall it.” Arthur is the only one who can understand the old squid, who has been with Mera always, as her attendant. But he is able, by concentrating, of projecting the squid’s recollections into the Senator’s minds.
The squid provides the ink Mera uses for all of her official duties, including, as Arthur’s father points out, their marriage certificate. Further, he was there the night Orm threatened the both of them, to expose their marriage, her ‘divided loyalties,’ that he could use resentment of the surface world to ignite a civil war, one that, win or lose, would deeply wound Atlantis. Her only choice was to abdicate, and he would promise no harm would come to them.
Everyone’s shocked, but Mera recognizes Arthur is going to kill Orm, and demands that the guards arrest Orm for treason. Atlanna raises a hand to calm the furor, after that, and assures them that whatever form of government Atlantis chooses, it will not rely on the divine right of kings and queens, nor on might making right.
Behind closed doors, she tells Arthur he could be king. He says he doesn’t want it. “The first mark of a good executive is not wanting the power,” she says gingerly, but she also tells him what he wants may not matter. She says ultimately Atlantis will choose its destiny- that their role is to shepherd it, whether from its battlements or seated on its throne. His father claps him on the back, and says he did exactly that for Atlantis, and the world, and they are both so very proud of the man he’s become.
In an end-credits scene, we see a team of marines take control of the Hyde and Seek vessel. General Wade Eiling and Amanda Waller are having a heated exchange. Eiling says the ship broke several treaties and maritime laws- he wants to play it heavy. Waller sees something in the boy’s eyes- sadness, but also rage. She plays a hunch, and they go inside to talk to the younger Hyde, cuffed in an interrogation room. “Arthur Curry stole your father from you. How’d you like a chance to gut him like a carp?” His eyes shoot up at Waller, full of anger, and we cut to black.
Unsuck Heroes is a series about making characters who suck not suck, as explained here:
I’ve always liked the Martian Manhunter. Superman is what happens with an extrovert starting over blissfully unaware he’s the last of his kind; Manhunter is an introvert who witnessed his people’s last gasp and knows what he lost. He’s an empath whose whole existence has been a trauma, but he’s still trying to make the world better… even as he struggles to truly be a part of it. But I’m also not making the argument that he doesn’t suck. He does, most of the time, despite all of this potential.
1) Calling him the ‘Martian Manhunter’ makes as much sense as calling Superman the ‘Kryptonian Plumber.’ Sure, he’s probably fixed a toilet or two in his day, but that’s… really not what he does. So we fix that by making John… a manhunter by trade. At one point, the Oan Manhunters reached as far as Mars. While the Manhunters were marginally in charge of the sector, the Oans had discovered they lacked social graces, and sometimes partnering with locals meant that they could more easily handle cases requiring nuance and tact. Depending on the timeline, John can either be one of these who partnered with the Manhunters, or just someone brought up in the same traditions- that all sort of hinges on how old you want your Green Lantern Corps. to be. John was on one of these manhunting missions off-world, on Earth, actually, when the Martian cataclysm occurred. He returned, to try to help, but was powerless to stop it, and forced to watch his family’s demise. He tracked the origins of the cataclysm back to Earth, where an unethical scientist accidentally created the psychic virus that killed every other Martian. John wonders if he’s immune, which brings the horrifying realization that he might have been the carrier that transmitted the virus home.
2) Because he’s a second-stringer, he’s always being sidelined for Superman. But some of this inevitably comes from the fact that he’s been a second-stringer, and therefore never got his own rogues, which leads to a spiral- no archnemesis of note means no starring role and down and down we go. This is helped by the backstory in 1. That unethical scientist is a Luthor type. But unlike Lex, having his own resources to fall back on, he’s a con man- smart enough to fleece people to fund his research, and then disappear before the check comes due. This also makes it necessary for John to hunt for him- especially since his first invention upon meeting John was a helmet that shields him from John’s telepathy.
3) Fire bad. Okay… this one’s going to be a bumpy ride. Because the thing is, the one thing guaranteed to be at literally every superhero fight, is fire. He might as well be vulnerable to oxygen. But… I have a solve- courtesy of Batman. Wayne was working on new heat-absorbing panels for a next-gen shuttle; they’re meant to function like scale armor, or a phalanx’s shields, interlocking in such a way to minimize heat leakage between them. John essentially carries some of these in his body at all times, and can assemble them in such a way that he can make himself somewhat fireproof; he can’t phase them, and holding them in place would essentially require all his shapeshifting concentration, so they would greatly reduce his ability to move or pass through matter, but it means that he can at least withstand some fire temporarily. It’s not a complete fix… but honestly, I wouldn’t want one. John’s already the Superman problem times 20- he has a superpower for literally every situation and only the one, largely silly vulnerability. We have to give the villains at least a little bit of a chance.
4) Personality-wise, though… John sucks. This is honestly probably where he sucks the absolute most. Because his entire character is essentially locked in as a perpetual outsider. It’s lazy, and worse, nonsensical. He’s a telepath, skilled at manhunting, which involves at least some ability to blend into a native population. Sure, at some core level, he’d struggle as one of the last Martians. But he can read minds, he’s empathic even when he’s being portrayed as cold. I think this calls for a whole arc, frankly. John starts pissed at being alone, the last of his kind. He hunts down the scientist responsible for his specie’s near-extinction… but along the way realizes how many people are just as vulnerable and deserving of care and protection as his family. John goes from wanting to burn the world and the entire species responsible for his loss, to wanting to hold the scientist responsible according to the Earth’s laws, while working to help humanity embrace its better nature, and his own.
Since the DCEU is rebooting, I’m pitching my own reboot here. I’ll likely continue on with my older pitches, too, but given that the Snyderverse is as dead as Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent (um, spoilers, I guess, if you somehow missed the first movie in the Snyderverse, but also still care about details from a 10 year old movie), my focus will likely shift to these. To differentiate continuities, the new ones will be given a DCNu tag.
I think I’m going to continue to ladle out details of my overarching plans, but I’m scheduling things to take advantage of the fact that we have a lot of well-known, even successful franchises and also a lot of question marks. By padding the more questionable stories between more known quantities, you aren’t going to accidentally derail the entire project if say Martian Manhunter doesn’t catch on with the public- because it might not, for the same reason that projects like “Black Adam” or even “Blue Beetle” might not.
This will draw on the write-up I did for John as an Unsuck Hero, but will hew more towards narrative.
We start on Mars. The man who will eventually be called the Martian Manhunter is just called John. He’s preparing to leave again, and his wife is uneasy. For years he’s been on the trail of a White Martian terrorist responsible for igniting a civil war between Green and White Martians that’s still raging. John hopes that by bringing the terrorist to justice, the war can finally end, and their family can be finally safe. His wife shifts, her skin turning White. She’s afraid, afraid his efforts could see them targeted, afraid of being exposed as a White Martian, afraid for their son and daughter. John shifts into his uniform; it’s not quite the one we know, and is somewhere between that and the Oan Manhunters.
In this continuity, the Oan Manhunters spread as far as Mars. However, they were ill-equipped to deal with a civilization that had no spoken language or even body language, relying entirely on telepathy, and so recruited locals to interface with the population, which eventually became a Martian Manhunter Corps., essentially their police force. The Oan machines have since been recalled, but the Manhunter Corps. continues in the same tradition, even keeping the name for its protectors.
John’s wife is an extra skilled telepath; the Manhunters usually employ them for long-range recon, but because she’s a White Martian she couldn’t pass their security checks, so she scans for John under the table. She’s the one who found the terrorist, hiding on Earth.
Manhunter pilots a ship from Mars. He talks to his superior in the Manhunters, who tells him he’s going out on a limb, because there haven’t been any unauthorized launches since the terrorist was last seen on Mars. John feels confident, which leads to the superior probing for information on his CI, but John plays coy, saying only that he trusts the informant with his life- and the superior warns that he could be- John wouldn’t be the first Manhunter caught in a separatist trap, tortured for intel then set on fire.
John lands, and scans the local population for information on what they look like, eventually settling on a detective, blue trench coat with an exceedingly high collar and a hat (I think his eventual uniform will incorporate elements of this disguise and his Manhunter uniform; you could even give him a red vest and a red belt). The people in his immediate area are predominantly watching a detective movie on the TV, the lead played by the actor playing John, so when he makes himself look human, he resembles that actor (I’d probably have the TV version wearing some prosthetics, just so it’s not too 1:1, otherwise he’d be in disguise as relatively well-known actor- someone likely to draw attention).
We’re going to do a riff on a noir story, here. There’s a femme fatale waiting in his office, and she pounces on him, kissing him passionately. He pulls her away. “Shiera, I said this can’t happen.” She corrects him, that he said it can’t happen again. “I know what I said,” he says coldly. She softens, asks if things are okay at home. He remains cold, because he’s angry at himself, and snaps at her that he didn’t go back home for gossip, he went to find a lead- and he did. She asks if she should get her wings, or even call in her people.
He tells her this is his fight- that if his intel is good, he’ll call for backup- that it’s too dangerous a fight for her- or really anyone who isn’t Martian.
John can’t just scan for his target; the separatists have developed a method of hiding from telepathy, something that is strictly illegal in their society. But his wife’s scan puts him on the trail, and he’ll have to track him the old fashioned way. He finds an apartment the White Martian had been using, which gets him known associates, leading eventually to the discovery of the terrorist himself- unfortunately he ‘feels’ John at that moment, and runs, so John pursues him on foot for a fun little chase through the rain, before their confrontation.
Their fight appears to be a massive shapeshifting battle, until the terrorist realizes the entire thing is happening in their minds, that John is trying to limit the fallout and exposure to the native Terrans. The terrorist tries to lash out in the real world, but splitting his concentration just makes him vulnerable in his own mind, and John’s able to subdue him.
John stops back at his office to say goodbye, to Shiera, to Earth, to this whole assignment. Shiera doesn’t want him to stay gone, and tries to justify their affair, largely to herself; deployed so far from home, she has an agreement with Katar. John says he doesn’t have that kind of relationship, nor is Mars as distant as her home world; he understands how all of this is different for her, but he’s betrayed the woman he loves. Shiera is smart, though; she tells him some part of him felt betrayed by his wife. If it wasn’t for her White Martian heritage, for her ties to the terrorist he’s been hunting- his eyes flash red and she doesn’t finish.
On his ship, the terrorist teases John. I think I’d make them both rivals for John’s wife’s affections- that before she married John, she was in a relationship with the terrorist, finally leaving when his extremism and the danger that placed them in became clear. He reads John’s guilt over the affair, something John takes as a threat to tell her. “John, she has one of the strongest minds I’ve ever encountered. She already knows. She’s just waiting for you to be honest with her. She deserves at least that.” John says he doesn’t think he should be taking relationship advice from a terrorist. “Remember, I know her at least as well as you do.” John delivers him to a cell.
John confronts his wife with the truth of his affair. She’s… very understanding, all things considered. She knows their life together was never easy, but as the civil war mounted, she became consumed with her fear. She knew hiding her put a strain on him, but she could barely contain her own fears over their children. She left him alone in their relationship, just as surely as he left her on his missions. It’s not a justification, but she is keenly aware of their circumstances.
On Mars a psychic disease quickly becomes a pandemic. The infection pattern first makes the Manhunters believe it’s a deliberate attack, until they isolate it down to psychic contact with John’s prisoner- but given the nearly constant contact of Martian telepathy, universal spread occurs quickly. Most horrifically, the disease burns out the Martian host- literally using the Martian’s powers to set fire to the body, utilizing the species long-standing fear of their vulnerability to fire as the catalyst, taking over control of their shapeshifting to move their cells together to set them alight.
John’s wife starts to smoke first, but their son is behind her only a moment. John holds them, and their daughter, and as they burst into flames, he screams out.
We cut to later, John walking onto the planet’s surface. Every building has fire and smoke rising out of it. He flies to his headquarters, smashing through the walls and into the cell of the terrorist. At first the terrorist is confused, then reads it on John’s face, and says he would never do anything to harm John’s wife. Then he makes the mistake of asking John what he did. John flips out, and punches him a few miles, catching him even before he can impact the surface and tackling him into a mountain. The terrorist is grief-stricken in his own way, and as John hits him tells him how he got to Earth, that he was pulled there by a scientist, the same scientist who created their telepathic blocks, who was working with them on a weapon to kill Green Martians. He’s horrified at the realization that he was that weapon- that his hubris was used to infect his own people, too.
The only Martian population untouched by the plague are the separatists living underground in hiding- the terrorist’s people. John tells the White Martian that suspended animation is the only plausible cure- that he knows they have the tech, and the separatist agrees to safeguard his people while John deals with the double-crossing scientist.
John goes to Earth, to hunt down the man he now believes responsible. First he stops back at his office, and talks to Shiera. This is where we reveal that his daughter survived- though technically, while he raised her, she’s biologically the separatist’s spawn. He tells Shiera to protect Megan with her life, and she agrees to. After he leaves, Megan asks if she’s going to die like her mother and brother. Shiera tells her that according to her scans, both she and John have a subtle mutation- one she learned from him, that made them impervious to the psychic virus- but that they’re carriers, that the disease could mutate itself and attack them anew at any moment.
John tracks down our mad scientist. I know in my previous write-up I suggested creating someone new, but I may have a more elegant solution, here: the mad scientist is Vandal Savage. At first he tried to partner with the White Martian separatist, thinking he could use them as his own army of supermen, but it quickly became obvious that the White Martians viewed the Greens as their inferiors- that if they ever came to Earth it would be as conquerors. So he decided to wipe the Martians off the board completely, aware that he had an easy scapegoat in the separatist, and very little likelihood of blowback.
We cut back, to the White Martian using the machinery to put the rest of the White Martians into suspended animation remotely. He hallucinates John’s wife. She tells him to go into suspended animation. He’s worried that he might accidentally infect the other White Martians. She starts to burn in front of him; he tries to apologize. She tells him it doesn’t matter; she’s dead, he’s just trying to assuage his own guilt. “You don’t need to,” she says. “You didn’t do this.” He says he knows who did. We see a Martian ship launch, and cut back to John and Vandal.
They have a quick dust-up, but the nature of the fight changes when Vandal discovers John was exposed and survived, as Vandal’s curiosity leads him to ask questions even as he’s using a combination of science and magic to keep John (barely) at bay- and John realizes Vandal might be able to cure Megan, so she isn’t a ticking time bomb, and he starts counter-interrogating to that effect, and it starts to look like they might be able to come to some kind of agreement- until the White Martian bursts through the wall, his fury dwarfing John’s. A desperate three way fight ensues, John and Vandal barely able to hold back the White Martian’s assault. He’s hurt and confused by John’s intervention, cursing the fact that he’s the other last Martian projecting his guilt onto John for failing to save the woman they both loved.
“We are not the last,” John says, and telepathically connects the Separatist to Megan, and the antagonist drops to his knees, whispering his daughter’s name. “He lives, so she can.”
So now the White Martian is going to play bad cop with Savage. “You heard the Manhunter. You’re going to develop a cure, and give us two doses, which we’ll administer at random, so if your cure doesn’t work, or harms us, there will be one of us left to end you. And if it’s me, I’m killing everyone sharing even a single strand of your DNA- your line burned off the face of the planet. And the ones who knew you, remembered you fondly, they’ll die screaming.”
“I’m not sure it would be any great loss. Most of my children weren’t worth the hour it took to make them.”
“Not even Cassandra or Scandal? To say nothing of the fact that, by your own estimates, a full ten percent of the population bear some small part of you.”
“Okay,” John says, “I think he gets the idea.”
“So you’re the good cop, then?” Savage asks.
John spins on him, predatory and alien. “I am a father. You killed one of my children, and the mother to both. And the authority that might have checked my anger died when you killed my world.”
“So you’re both terrorists, now?” Savage asks with a smile. “No judgment. I’ve been on the weaker end of a conflict; you use the tools you have at your disposal. Your proposal is acceptable. And…. for whatever it is worth, I, too, have been on the losing side of genocide. I am truly sorry to have given you that pain.”
After they leave, John tells the White Martian Megan isn’t getting either dose- they’re going to synthesize it and test it on the White Martians in suspended animation. The Separatist bristles, at first; but John points out two things: one, they’re not using their daughter as a guinea pig, and two, the White Martian survivors survived only because they were terrorists hiding out. He offers it as their penance- that as far as he’s concerned they’re still at war, and the war ends once the White Martians ensure it is safe for them to be released from their suspended animation.
“The other option,” John says, “is that the war continues. That you and I fight, here and now, and if I win, I’ll put you into suspension with the others, and I’ll ensure you never wake up.”
“My mind is open. Tell me I’m lying.”
“You would.” He stops. “You’re right. Not about all of it. With Savage we have to be strategic… and I couldn’t be the reason Megan lost her father, too.”
John flies back to Megan and Shiera. “I need to tell you something, something your mother and I hoped to tell you together one day. About your father.”
“I’ll… make tea,” Shiera says, as an excuse to leave.
“The only thing I’ve ever needed to know about my father was that you loved me.” She grabs onto him. “You kicked his ass, right?”
“I did. But things have changed. You and I are the last Green Martians, and the only White Martians who survived were terrorists. I’m sorry. I hoped to give you a better, safer world.”
“It’s okay,” she says. “It just means I get to help you make it, instead,” and shifts into a female version of his costume.