Pitchmas 2021, Part 4: Spider-Women: Edge of the Spider-Verse

I think we open on Miles Morales for a prologue. He’s listening to music, walking to school; he attends the same school as Peter Parker did. He walks by an alley, and we see, in shadow, a hulking figure. He’s bearded, and looks disheveled enough he passes as homeless, for the moment. Miles glances back at him, experiencing his very first Spider-Sense. He rubs his temple, and gets some painkiller out of his backpack, and continues walking. There’s another alley. This time, the figure is there before Miles, waiting. Just as Miles is about to cross the threshold of the alley, he’s snatched up by Ghost Spider, sometimes called Spider-Gwen or Spider-Woman. She swings him to a nearby rooftop. Miles is surprised, but trying to play it cool. “So you got the powers, and nobody thought to get you some webshooters, a costume, maybe a little self-defense training?” she asks him.

“I’ve been working on my costume,” Miles says a little sullenly. He might just pull out his sketchbook.

“Yeah, no offense intended, kid. Your Spider-Man should have handled this. Spider-Woman? Whatever it is you’ve got here.”

“Actually,” Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, in the red and yellow, lands beside her, “we though it best to leave Miles alone. Let him have a chance at a normal life. And we keep an eye on him.”

“Shoot, was it your day?” Julia Carpenter swing in, in the black and white Spider-Woman costume, landing besides Jess.

“I was in the neighborhood,” Jess says. “And the arrangement’s still new. Especially when I couldn’t raise Spider-Man…”

“He’s still missing?” Silk asks, landing beside Jess. “That’s worrying.”

“Is that everybody?” Ghost Spider asks.

“Unless Arachne’s cutting class again,” Julia says, and they wait a moment, before deciding she isn’t coming after all.

“Wonderful. This actually saves time. I’m Gwen Stacy. But not your Gwen Stacy.” She takes off her mask. Now, for my money, I’d say it’s worth springing for Emma Stone, and really, she deserves it after troopering through the two Amazing movies. “I’m here, from an alternate dimension, because anyone with Spider-related powers is being hunted, and across universes Miles is a pretty prime target. He rarely has the kind of experience under his belt that would let him survive the attack- and I’ve seen seasoned Peter Parkers fall to the Inheritors. Ones with symbiotes, ones in Iron Man armor. I cried the day they killed Spider-Thor, because, if even he was vulnerable…

“But we’re spiders. We live to fight another day. So first things first, anyone who you know or think has powers that fit, you should bring. Lady Spider’s developed, well, these things,” she rolls up her sleeve to reveal a big, chunky bit of steam punk wrist tech. “The inheritors are… bloodhounds. They can smell us. This messes with their ability to track us. Not terribly fashionable, but it goes better with my outfit than a big bloody hole through the chest.”

“No,” Spider-Woman says. “I’ll go with you. They take Mile someplace safe. If you seem on the level, we’ll meet back up. If you’re not, I’ve only put my head in the snare.”

“We don’t have time to pussy-foot around.”

“Lady, I don’t know you from Eve, and I get traps instead of breakfast every morning, so we’re doing it my way. But if you’re so concerned, give them your little cloaking doohickey.”

“It will only hide one of them.”

“Or only let your people track one of them. Volunteer?” Julia puts up her hand, and Ghost Spider tosses her the device. “You get any static, and you split off. Lead whoever it is away from Silk and Miles, then ditch the doodad.”

The others swing off, with Miles hanging off of Silk’s neck. Ghost Spider asks about her origins, that she’s very take-charge, military? “SHIELD, back in the day. I volunteered for an experiment. They told me it was a vitamin supplement; apparently it was the blood of some kid vigilante in New York.”

“Spider-Man?”

“That’s always been my guess. I thought, since the experiment was being run by my parents, I could trust them, but they also didn’t tell me they were secretly working for Hydra all along. Hydra used them; threatened to expose them as double-agents if I didn’t join them. Some of the time, I could not tell you where my true loyalties were. As a result, I was always playing everyone, and the only person whose side I knew I was on was my own. I got exceptionally good at reading liars, and if you lie to me, even once, I’ll snap your neck just like ‘my’ Gwen and drop you off a bridge.” (Note: So far as I know, MCU Gwen is alive and well…. But I love this line enough I’m leaving it in anyway, even if it would need to be changed- though I suppose it’s possible this Jess is from an alternate world).

Ghost Spider and Spider-Woman head back to the their base. Jess meets Lady Spider, a steam-punk Spider-Woman who is nearly as technophilic as Tony Stark. She gives Gwen another cloak; Spider-Woman declines the one offered to her, and wants more information.

Gwen tells her story. She was bit by the Spider, Peter continued working with Dr. Connors, in part trying to save her from DNA that he was worried would kill Gwen. An Inheritor shows, Morlun. Peter’s experiments have turned him into the Lizard, and he stands between Morlun and Gwen; Morlun goes through him. Morlun is making short work of Gwen when Lady Spider shows, giving Gwen a cloak that also acts as a transporter, and they’re able to escape.

Meanwhile, an inheritor attacks the three other Spider-People, knocking Miles off of Silk’s back. Julia swings away, trying to lead him off. We follow her, and a moment later hear “Julia,” forcefully in her mind. It startles her enough she bobbles her swing.

“Madame Web what-”

“There’s no time, child. You must return to Silk, or he’ll consume them both.”

“But-”

“No time!” Web says more forcefully, and Julia turns, and is surprised not to see Morlun chasing her.

“Where the hell?”

Morlun made a bee-line for Miles. Silk swing into him, and he backhands her into a dumpster, and lifts Miles up. “I do so love the flavor of young spiders,” Morlun says, “before their first swing under their own steam- like a veal calf.”  

Julia returns, surprising Morlun (who is largely blind to her presence unless she’s in his sight-line), swinging into him, smashing him painfully into a brick wall; the force spider-webs the wall. Julia helps Silk and Miles to their feet, and they square towards Morlun, who is already struggling to his feet. “We can take him together,” Julia says.

“No,” Madame Web says forcefully, her likeness flashing in the sky behind them, and they all react, all of them hearing her this time, “you cannot. Flee, or you will surely perish.”

Julia throws a glowing purple psychic net around Morlun, and Cindy sprays him with web fluid, then they run.

Back at the Lady Spider’s lair, Madame Web emerges. She is an older, white-haired woman, with a cloth across her eyes. She looks pretty much like Aunt May from the comics; I’d probably go so far as to make her an alternate dimension Aunt May, one where Peter gave her a transplant to save her after an attack, which attuned her to the web and the weaver. “What do you know of totems?” she asks.

Spider-Woman is defiant; she’s had a lifetime of people manipulating her, and scaring her, and she doesn’t move easily. “Wooden. Kind of creepy. Tend to congregate in poles.”

“Save your venom for our foes, Jessica,” Web says.

“Just who the hell are you?” Jess asks, taken aback by the reveal of her identity.

“Madame Web,” Julia says from the door.

“Julia,” Web’s tone softens. “I’m so heartened that you’re safe.”

“We’re hardly safe,” Silk says, winded. “That monster was hot on our trail.”

Web cocks her head. “He will not attack here- not yet. He will need time to heal his injuries- though that will provide but a moment’s reprieve.”

“Another lair bites the dust,” Gwen says. “I’ll start packing the essentials.”

“Wait,” Web interrupts. “Morlun knows where we are. But does that make this his trap, or ours?”

“Are they prepared for the fight that’s coming?” Lady Spider asks.

“They will have no choice but to…” Web stops, “wait. Where’s Mattie?”

“Mattie?” Miles asks.

“Mattie Franklin,” Web says. “Arachne.”

“Does everyone but me have a name and a costume?”

“Madame Web’s wearing more robes than a costume,” Julia offers.

“They’re comfy,” Web says. “You can’t expect a woman my age to flit about in drafty spandex.”

“Hey!” Jess snaps her finger, “what about Maddie?”

“Morlun knows of her. She’s in danger.”

We cut to a classroom. We’re going to hover over a young girl who’s about the right age, even though, subtly, there’s an empty seat.

Morlun smashes his way inside, caving in a window and the wall surrounding it. He picks up the teacher and screams, “Where is Franklin!” Timidly, a young boy’s hand goes up, shaking more the higher he raises it in the air. “Martha Franklin!” Morlun yells.

“Mattie’s home sick with a chest cold. She sounded awful in her message. I emailed her work so she could keep up.”

Morlun looks at him like he’s the true monster (because seriously, if we don’t lean into at least a little comedy, here, this Spider-Verse stuff can get real dark). “You sent work to a sick child?” Morlun disdainfully flings the teacher and we cut to the Spider-Women swinging through the city. They’re all wearing the cloaking devices.

“You’re sure we didn’t just voluntarily strap bombs to ourselves?” Jess asks.

“I don’t know what it does,” Julia says, “but it seemed to make it harder for Morlun to know I was there. And I trust Web.”

“I don’t. And I trust you less for keeping her from me.”

“She’s not picking up,” Cindy says. “Which could mean she’s in class. Or the bathroom. Or ditching. Or talking to a boy. Or patrolling.”

“I thought we were going to slip a tracker into her costume,” Julia says.

“We have. She keeps finding them, and taping them to pigeons.”

Gwen chortles, and they all land on a rooftop together, where they stare at her. “Okay, I get why right now it’s not that funny… but it is pretty funny.”  

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Jess says, punching a wall. “Our only advantage right now is that there are more of us than there are of him.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that movie,” Silk says. “As soon as we split up, the slutty one dies first- sorry, Jess.”

“Feels a little pot calling the kettle black,” Spider-Woman says.

“She’s not wrong,” Lady Spider communicates with them over their cloaking devices. “Franklin could be anywhere inside a triangle from her home, to her school, to your meeting place.” A hologram projects a map of part of the city, along with a triangle. “From there, I’ve mapped likely patrol routes, factoring in her height, vantage points, securing webbing anchors. If you split into two teams, you can maximize the chances of finding Mattie before Morlun, without spreading our forces so thin he can isolate and overwhelm us.”

“I’m going with Ghost Spider,” Spider-Woman says. “I still don’t trust these people. You two watch each other’s backs.”

Madame Web finally gets to have her Totem talk; depending on whether the telepathy FX are more jarring or the communicator ones, she’ll use the less obtrusive method of communication. “What do any of you know of totems?”

“Animals that are symbols of great power?” Julia offers.

“And responsibility?” Silk asks.

“Precisely. Totems are… animal heroes, similar in concept to the demigods of Greece. Have you ever wondered why so many of Spider-Man’s foes are animalistic? Rhino. Vulture. Lizard. Octopus. Rabbit. Armadillo. Gibbon. The Spider-Totem, which all of you are connected to, is the most important, because they are connected to the web between realities- the same web we traversed to your world, and the same web the inheritors use to stalk their prey.”

“And let me take a wild stab,” Jess says, “that Spider-Totems are their prey.”

“Indeed. Their name they chose because they view themselves as the Inheritors of all things, conquerors on a scale that would make Alexander look like Wilson Fisk and his petty empire. They consume all totems, but they hunt us for sport, because of a prophecy, that the spiders would be their undoing. 

“Great,” Jess responds. “So how do we stop them?”

“The prophecy… was incomplete. It speaks of a Scion, a Bride, and an Other. It would seem they hail from your world- which is why the Inheritors have, until now, refused to come here. They assumed that unless disturbed, your world would remain oblivious of the Web, until your Spider-Man stumbled across it.”

“You’re saying Spider-Man found it?” Jess said. “Did something happen to him?”

“I believe he crossed the Web into another world, at once garnering the Inheritor’s attention, and showing them that your world was less guarded than it had ever been- and might ever be again.”

“So you’re saying you didn’t bring Morlun down on us, you followed him here?”

“Yes,” Lady Spider cuts in. “My tech is crude, but it was able to detect Morlun’s arrival on your world. The prophecy has been the only thing holding the Inheritors back; it made the Inheritors cautious, deliberate. They’ve culled tens of thousands of Spider-Totems across realities; I shudder to imagine what they would do unhindered.”

We cut to a rooftop, hanging off from a slightly peculiar angle. Below, we see Mattie Franklin, Arachne, swing by. Three seconds later, Morlun bounds after her, closing the distance.

Subtly, there is a webbed foot in the foreground (I want this so subtle most people don’t see it on first viewing). We cut in close, Mattie swinging by, as she’s tackled mid-air by Morlun. She uses his momentum against him, rolling him over her body and flinging him into a wall as she lands gracefully on a fire escape.

Morlun leaps at her, faster than she expected, and they crash together down into a rooftop with him on top of her. The impact is brutal enough she coughs blood, which Morlun wipes from her lip and tastes. “The blood of young spiders is always so invigorating.” We start to hear a car alarm going off; it’s distant enough it sounds like it must be on the street, at first, but it’s getting louder, until an entire damn taxi cab bounces into Morlun, smashing him into a water tower. Spider-Girl lands gracefully behind it, and grabs up Mattie and swings off. This Spider-Girl, for the uninitiated, wears a costume very similar to Peter’s, but obviously, tailored to a lady. 

“Since when does Spider-Man have boobs?” Mattie asks.

“Since he got old and flabby. But I’m Spider-Girl- Mayday Parker. His daughter. From the future.”

“Cool.”

“Now Mattie, I’m going to throw you as hard as I can; Uncle Wolverine called it a fastball special.”

“Who?”

“You’ll love him when you meet him; everyone loves Logan, he’s an angry little teddy bear. But when I throw you? Swing away, okay? My friends will be here any minute, and we’ll take care of Morlun; we  know how to deal with him, and I don’t want you getting hurt.”

Spider-Girl throws her, before swinging back towards the roof where she left Morlun. “Where the?” her line is cut off as he attacks her from behind. He’s fast, brutal. She fights like a Spider-Person, but he’s personally killed hundreds of them. She’s outmatched, and the fight doesn’t last long. He pins her against a wall, his arm across her throat as he leans into her (personally, I’d remove the ‘psychic’ part of their vampirism and just make them drink blood, but whatever the mechanism, he’s leaning in for the kill, when he’s kicked from behind, and when his head hits the wall it’s webbed in place. Spider-Girl collapses to the ground. Morlun reaches up to tear through the webbing, only for that hand to get webbed to the back of his head, then the other when he reaches up to tear through that webbing.

“Not the sharpest tool in the belt, is he?” Arachne asks. Spider-Girl, wheezing, peels back her mask enough for blood to dribble out of her mouth. “Gross.” Arachne is shaken, but trying to keep up the Spider-patter, because it’s always worked for Peter, and she’s trying to be strong. “Your friends are right around the corner, May? Come on. We’re all heroes, here; don’t expect me not to recognize a heroic sacrifice when I see one.”

Morlun screams, tearing the chunk of wall he was webbed to away, shredding through the webbing in the process. “Two for the price of one? I’m starting to feel like a glutton.”

“Actually,” Ghost Spider lands beside Mattie, “her friends were right around the corner.”

Spider-Woman, Silk and Julia Carpenter all land with them, “And so were yours,” one of them says.

The Spider-Women wail on Morlun for a bit; it’s still a brutal fight, as he’s able to bloody most of them in the process, as Madame Web helps Spider-Girl slink away to safety. Morlun tries to flee, but is stopped by the arrival of Lady Spider. She prevents him from using his tech to call home, before stabbing him through each limb with her metal arms. He shoves himself towards her, willing to stab himself four times over so long as he can get close. She splays her metal arms, tearing his flesh (I imagine, for the desired rating, this will likely have to be done in silhouette, or perhaps just from reactions shots of whichever Spider person feels the most innocent).

“Damnit,” Gwen says, kicking an air conditioner.

“We needed him alive,” Lady Spider says.

“Why?” Jess asks. She’s not squeamish about a monster killing itself.

“Because the Inheritors have beaten death,” Web says. We cut to their spire on Loomworld, then inside, to row upon row of clones. Most are hidden by mist/fog, but we can make out the row of Morlun clones. “When they die, their consciousness is sent to their clone matrix; if you can capture one alive, you can remove them from the board. But if they die… they are reborn.” One of the clones opens his eyes, as his pod opens up.

“They’ll just keep coming, until we’re all dead,” Spider-Girl says, haunted by her near-death experience.

“Mayday!” Web scolds.

May shakes her head. “Sorry. Got my bell rung harder than it’s ever been.” Web touches her face gingerly.

“It’s understandable to be afraid; only a fool would not be. But we are Spiders, and not so easily cowed.”

Now… depending on runtime, you could end it there, as a lead-in for next year’s Spider-Verse. But I’m just going to assume we’re a little too light, and could use one final action set-piece. Plus, it’s more dramatic to have the Spider-Women, now much the worse for wear, have to take on a refreshed Inheritor- it ups the ante considerably.

I’d probably stick to Morlun’s perspective for this scene. He warps back into our world, and travels to their headquarters, able to smell them. From the neighboring rooftop, he’s able to see, in a red and blue vision that’s almost like thermal, nine red orbs, all connected by a web, and all looking like spiders as a consequence.

Morlun crashes in. He fights brutally, shooting for quick, maximum damage, mowing through the Spider-Women, who go down with just enough fight to be convincing… but only just (think Hulk vs. Thanos at the beginning of Infinity War). Morlun is heaving, but triumphant. But he pauses. He scans around the room. “I felt nine of you.” We can see that there are only eight down, including Madame Web. “But now I only see eight.”

“About that,” Miles says from Morlun’s back, suddenly appearing (Miles, for those of you who don’t know, can become invisible), wearing his black and red costume, and hitting Morlun with the full force of his venom blast in the head.

The Spider-Women start to get up, their worse injuries melting away, to reveal Julia and Madame Web had used their telepathy to convince Morlun he was doing more damage than he actually was. They beat on him, a stream of fists and kicks, more even than he can rally from, culminating in a stream of leaping punches that put him on the ropes, with every single one of them getting in at least one good lick, before Lady Spider says, “Legs.” Spider-Girl and Julia use webbing and psychic webs to bolt his feet to the floor. “Arms.” Two spider-people each grab one of his arms and restrain him, with Lady Spider levering her metal appendages to break Morlun’s arm.

“Tooth,” Web says.

Gwen reaches into his mouth and tears out of one his teeth, before dropping it; it cracks on the floor, spilling liquid out. “You’re not swallowing cyanide this time, asshole.” Even wounded, even with one arm broken, it takes all of them to wrestle him into a metal straight-jacket with a clamp over the mouth.

Once he’s sealed inside, Lady Spider yells, “Clear,” and they all step back. She hits a button on her gauntlet, and a jolt of electricity travels through Morlun. He tries to fall, but his legs are held in place, so he just kind of sags. Lady Spider hits another button, and we zoom in to the collar, where little needles jab into Morlun’s neck. His eyes roll up into his head and he goes limp, starting to fall forward. One of them webs his back, so he doesn’t fall forward; last thing they need is his leg breaking and slicing his femoral artery. They carry him into a modified metal shipping container. It has a drain, and a sprinkler system. Lady Spider hooks him to an umbilical tub. “The clamp will keep him fed, sedated and hydrated; the umbilical keeps it charged and supplied. If I have a free moment, maybe I’ll design similar to deal with his waste, but for now that’s why there’s a drain.”

“Gross,” Mattie says.

They have a pow-wow. Lady Spider tells them they’ve struck a blow, and a significant one; they’ve never taken an Inheritor alive before. But it’s also a minor victory, in a war they’ve been losing on every front- a war they’ve all just been recruited into.

“Um, excuse me?” a familiar voice says. We do a reverse shot, all of the Spider-Women clustered together since there’s nine of them to fit in one shot, and opposite them is Spider-Man, alone in the doorway, the same rough amount of space alotted to him in the shot as any one of them in the reverse (playing up how relatively alone he is in that moment). Attached to his finger is a sticky note (get it?) with the words, “Spider-Man, come quickly” on the front (there’s an address on the back but we don’t need to see that). “I think somebody was looking for me.”

Cut to credits.

Mid-credits scene: There’s a pounding on the door. A web-gloved hand opens it, and we see an older Dr. Strange is outside, winded. “I need to see Peter.” We keep old man Peter offscreen, mostly because Tom Holland is going to look weird in old man make-up. “I’ve checked it and rechecked it, and Peter, if your son stays here, with you, you die. Your wife dies. Your daughter dies. And he dies. Followed swiftly by every other Spider Totem in existence. Peter Parkers across the multi-verse, Gwen Stacies, MJs, Miles Moraleses, Miguel O’Hara’s, May Parkers.”

“Will I ever see my son again?” he asks from offscreen.

“That’s a difficult question to answer, Peter, because this threat is going to happen across all realities at once, all timelines. It is a crisis across infinity; I don’t know if any of us will live to see the end of it.”

End-credits scene: We see the spire on Loomworld again. This time we even throw in a title, “Loomworld, Earth 001.” It’s possible, at this point, that we won’t have cast the Inheritors. Any we have, can be in this scene, but we hear the patriarch, Solus, arguing with one of them about Morlun. Solus isn’t happy; Morlun went against him in going to the MCU, risked the entire family. But he also won’t stomach a Totem holding his kin hostage. Karn is an easy one to include, since all you need is to design the mask and shove an intern inside. We pan across a fancy board room table as the arguing commences, before we see a strange combination of Victorian era dress clothes, and an intimidating looking mask.

“Karn, I want you to track down your wayward brother for me, and kill every spider you find.” Karn seizes his trademark two-pronged fork (a bident?), and we cut.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 3: Spider-Man: Into the Venomverse

First things first, dealing with complaints: while this functions as a quasi-sequel to Spider-Man: No Way Home, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Sinister 7: Absolute Carnage… it’s not one. It’s the beginning of a new thing, what will likely be a pentalogy of interrelated movies (similar to what I’ve been doing on the DC side with the big Green Lantern event movies- which is also kind of a cheat).

During the end credits scene from Sinister Seven, Peter Parker gets some of the symbiote on him, and he and Brock get shunted back to Venom’s original Earth. They swing to the top of the building, and see that the city is mostly on fire. Peter’s symbiote slides away, and we see just how devastated he is by the destruction. But for the moment we linger on Eddie and Venom, who have a conversation; Venom is convinced they’re back on their original version of Earth; Eddie is skeptical, because this place is nuts, destroyed, and still smoldering. He hasn’t been gone long enough for this to be their world. Venom finally says something to the effect that, “I know it does not seem possible, Eddie, but this is the world from which we originated.” That thought steals Eddie’s breathe away, and we pull back, to see Peter staring out over the city.

That’s when he hears a familiar voice: MJ (yay, we get a Zendaya cameo! Of course, if she wants, we’ve got a symbiote with her name on it…). She’s soothing, giving him little tidbits of what happened, but telling him it’s okay, now that he’s here, now that he can save them, that they’ll need him to be strong- that she needs him to be strong- but that right now, more than anything, she needs him to hold her and tell her everything is going to be okay.

He reaches out to her, but hesitates, because his Peter tingle is going nuts. During that lull, she’s hit with a black shield. Now, I’m good whichever way we want to slice this; original Cap in a symbiote is cool, but so is Falcon Cap. Either way, Captain America in a symbiote hits “MJ” with his shield, which is also covered in symbiote goo. She falls, fast enough Spider-Man can’t try to shoot a web to save her, and impacts the ground. But the sound isn’t right. He’s been doing this long enough he’s heard people splat. This was almost like a stone dropping. The poisons are coated in a crystalline shell; when they’re unattached, they are spindly and skeletal (around human height and size or larger), but once they absorb a humanoid, they take on that person’s proportions (so a Rocket Raccoon Poison would be tiny, but a Hulk Poison would be huge).

Cap explains that it wasn’t really MJ at all, but one of the Poisons. “They do to the symbiotes what the symbiotes do to us, only it’s parasitic, invasive, and permanent. You touch a poison, and you become one of them- forever.”

“And what happens to the host?” Peter asks, his life sort of flashing before his eyes.

“They convert the host body, keeping any metahuman abilities it might have. Anything else is eaten up, used as fuel for the conversion process.”

“And the person’s just… gone?” Peter asks.

“You see flickers of them, but-”

“Was that really MJ?”

“No- or probably not. They’re telepathic. They can read what you want, what you need, and convince you that’s what they’re giving you. It’s convincing, because we all see it, whatever they’re projecting. It’s fooled everything we’ve thrown at it, magic, other telepaths.”

“I sensed it,” Peter says.

“Not enough you didn’t try to make out with it,” Venom says.

“But if he can hone that, it could be a game changer,” Cap says.

“Wait,” Venom puts up his clawed hand. “How do we know whether or not you are just a different poison, rescuing us from the first, because you wanted his meal?”

Cap smiles. “You don’t. But that caution will serve you well, here.” Cap leads them back to his safehouse. This world proves to have oddball versions of lots of Marvel’s existing characters, but also the Fox and Netflix and TV characters, you can also pull in alternate reality, What If characters, so if you wanted to have Haley Atwell do a live-action Captain Carter/Britain… you could. Characters could possibly be played by different actors to ease the budget, but I am all for us having a ridiculous cast, nigh unto an Avengers movie, and I feel like the box office of No Way Home justifies it. In the time Eddie was gone, Carnage’s babies have spread like a plague to most of the Earth’s metahumans. Most of the actors could probably be paid peanuts compared to their usual salary, because they’re doing voice gigs (they’ll be under symbiotes without their faces exposed, completely CG) and can bang out their role in an afternoon, with maybe a handful of them actually being face to face (likely the more main characters… it would likely be a fun excuse to get Hugh Jackman into a movie with Deadpool, if only for a few minutes).

Most of these would be expendable if the actor either doesn’t want to play ball, or wants too much (expendable in the we could do without, or kill them quickly to up the stakes). Since we’re drawing from the comic, the only two I think we need to have, hero-wise, are Dr. Strange and Deadpool; Strange would have his face covered, giving us as close to the design of the blue-faced strange costume as we’re likely to ever see. As far as what we’re adding, the pair I view as necessary are Michelle Williams She-Venom and Danom, Dr. Dan, both from the previous Venom movies. If we want we can leave them here at the end of it… I’m not terribly invested in the side characters from the Venom franchise, but it would be a good opportunity to tie off those stories.

She runs up to Eddie and throws her arms around him, and they have an emotional reunion. Danom follows her, and stands behind her, eventually introducing himself to Spider-Man as “Danom,” before the symbiote peels back and he calls himself “Dr. Dan,” and offers his hand for Spider-Man to shake, but Peter doesn’t take it, and a beat later he retracts it and says, “You’re right; I’ve really got to stop trying to touch people.”

“You’re trying to grope the kid now?” Eddie asks Dan.

“Man,” Peter says, “Spider-Man.”

“You’re trying to grope the man now?” Eddie asks again.

“Really not much better,” Peter mumbles.

Dan recognizes the name. “We had one of you. He did not last long. Hon? That Spider-Kid still with the poisons.”

Man,” Peter says feebly.

“Oh yeah. He’s creepy.”

“Hey,” Eddie interjects, “I think we all need to give Spider-Boy a little respect and call him by his proper name.”

Peter rubs his temple, then says, “I think I should go talk to Cap.”

But once Peter’s gone, the atmosphere changes, and Dan steps to Eddie. “You know what I like about this? You can’t just throw your weight around anymore.”

Eddie, who is much bigger, puffs out his chest, and pushes it into Dan. “Really?”

One of Dan’s tendrils grabs Eddie from behind the head and flings him across the room.

Looming over him, Dan demands, “Stop trying to bang my fiancé in front of me.”

“In front of you? I would never- this isn’t your way of not-so-subtly telling me about your kink, is it?”

“It does sound kinky,” Anne says.

“Don’t egg him on,” Dan complains.

“He does have a point, Eddie,” she agrees sternly. “It’s not cool trying to bang me in front of him. At least have the decency to do it behind his back.”

“That is not… damnit.” Dan, frustrated, stomps off.

She helps Eddie up with one hand, but holds him close. “Fun as it is to wind-up Dan, he’s right. I’ve moved on. I love you enough I want you to, too.”

“You love me?”

“The way you love a puppy who won’t stop shitting in your underwear drawer; you know it’s too stupid to understand why it isn’t housebroken enough to live indoors. And Eddie- I mean it. This needs to stop. We’re fighting for our survival here. I don’t have time to coddle you.”

We linger just long enough to see how much it hurts Eddie, before cutting away to Spider-Man, talking to Cap.

“We tried that,” Cap says. “The last you, in fact, our you- he had the same idea. It didn’t work. What we found out, subsequently, is that the symbiotes leave traces, antibodies, maybe they’re eggs. But there’s enough of the symbiotes left that even if you try to fight the poisons without, they can still take you over if they touch you- faster, it seemed, like the symbiote will fight the corruption, but without that barrier it barely touched Parker before…”

“Okay. So how long do they have to make contact?”

“It’s not instantaneous. You can get away with punching them. But if you try to grapple… that’s how we lost Hulk.”

“Okay, then what we need is weapons. Where’s your reality’s version of the Iron Man suit, Mjolnir,, the Infinity- wait, they have a Hulk?”

“We have a Hulk,” a Poison Loki says from the doorway. He was using his illusions to be a character we wanted to be able to use but whose actor said ‘Nah.’ An instant later, Poison Hulk smashes through the wall.

 Cap tells everyone to scatter and rendezvous at location 4. Cap fights Hulk long enough for everyone to escape; an angry Hulk beats him until he expires. Poison Loki chastises. “No! Hulk! Too much smashing!” Hulk calls him a “Puny God” and threatens to strike him, and Loki flinches.

Venom and Spider-Man leave together, along with Anne and Dan. They fight a Poison Sinister Six. Anne and Dan help at first, but they’re obviously novices, so it takes the two of them to take out Poison Kraven, leaving most of the fighting to Venom and Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is badly injured. He hallucinates Aunt Man, or Happy, or maybe Tony in his armor, and we see his hand outstretched, before cutting back to Venom beating Poison Doc Ock down with a piece of rebar. Venom calls for Spider-Man, and the camera turns to show Poison Spider-Man, who says, “Spider-Man’s not here anymore.” It comes down to Spider-Man vs. Venom, with Spider-Man winning handily, holding a limp Brock up and calling for a poison to convert him.

Reinforcements arrive, including Venompool. His bullets make quick work of the free poisons, but the converted are still up for a fight, until Antivenom arrives with Dr. Strange, the one from the Thunderbolts, with the red symbol. The remaining poisons, including Spider-Man, think he’s a black and red, and flee.

Venom asks Strange Venom to bring a Carnage here, but Strange is reluctant. The conversation is interrupted by Venompool. He fights with Strange, upset with their dwindling numbers, that their plan has been to run and hide, run and hide, each time losing more people. “That’s how we lost Cable. Domino. Firefist.” He snickers. “Okay, they didn’t all have great names, but they didn’t deserve to die because some feckless, unemployed surgeon confused himself for Captain America.”

“We recruited one of those, remember? It didn’t help.”

Venompool hits Strange. “I wasn’t done listing people I blame you for getting killed.”

“You’ve lost a lot,” Strange says, levitating off the ground, “so I’ll let you have that one.”

“Yukio. Negasonic. Vanessa. And now the kid’s gone, too. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m done waiting for Handsome Gandalf to get me killed.” He storms off.

The other Venoms are shocked, and one asks what they should do. Strange tries to play it cool, but he’s just as hurt, because Wade’s been his lieutenant from the beginning. “Wade does this every few people we lose. He’s been fighting this fight longer than anyone but me; the losses have been extra hard on him. But we need to meet up at location 4, and pick up any other survivors.“

Anne and Dan have a tense moment hiding out in a largely destroyed building; she feels like they abandoned Eddie. His reasoning is he’s a doctor; he couldn’t just let someone die because Eddie was too preoccupied putting a piece of rebar through someone’s head. This is the place, if we want a face heel turn for Dan, and for Anne to end up with Eddie, for that to happen; frankly, I prefer Dan for her, despite the format usually preferring the screw-up ex instead (almost always romanticizing unhealthy behavior in the name of a man reclaiming his “territory”).

They decide to stay at location 4, which turns out to be the Baxter Building, a copy of the home of the Fantastic Four (they built satellite buildings across the globe, so the Four had nearby operating bases to deal with crises, that otherwise function as tech magnet schools). Strange tells Venom they had to keep the location hints simple, so Wade could remember them; he was unstable before the symbiote, but the alien had made him even more volatile.

Just then we cut to Venompool, on the streets. He’s got his hands up, and is surrounded by poisons. “You know what they say? If you can’t beat them, join em. You guys get dental? With teeth like these, I could really use it.” One of the free Poison shambles towards him. The Poisons grab hold of Deadpool; most hold him down, but one or two of them are actually trying to sooth him. “Does it hurt? Should I have a safe word? I’ve always been fond of sarsaparilla. As a word, and a drink, and like that, I’m thirsty. I’d even choke down a YooHoo. Oh, who am I kidding, my safeword has always been ‘Goldilocks.’ I’d let that big, blond Asgardian hammer me til Sleipnir came-” as the Poison touches Deadpool, he screams, and we cut to black, maintaining the audio. “Kidding,” Deadpool says, “It tickles my taint.”

“No, you’re doing that,” one of the Poisons tells him.

“Spoilers,” Deadpool says.

We cut back to the safe house, where Venom again asks that Strange summon a Carnage. “You understand this isn’t like Magic: The Gathering, I can’t just pull a Carnage out of my deck.”

“Or ass. I’m not particular about which side. And you pulled all of us,” Eddie insists.

“No,” Strange replies, “I didn’t. Some of those here are from this Earth. The rest received symbiotes from this dimension, despite hailing from alternate ones. When the symbiotes began to lose, they called out, across realities, for their champions. The symbiotes themselves summoned most of you here.”

“So you can’t do it?”

“I didn’t say that. Most of my strength is reserved, for keeping us and the Poisons inside the mirror dimension; sorcerers usually only open one large enough to contain a fight- I captured the entire city. I’m not sure the Poisons have even noticed yet- because there’s a hypnotic charm near the boundaries- I learned that trick from Wanda. But I can try- though you realize there’s an even chance that Carnage simply decides to try to kill all of us, instead, right?”

“He wouldn’t be Carnage if he didn’t. I once heard Fury had a doomsday plan for Latveria, if Dr. Doom ever became to- drop Hulk at one end of the country and Punisher at the other. Carnage is similar, and if the Poisons really are afraid of him, that could give him the advantage we need.”

“Peel back your symbiote.” Brock hesitates, and Strange waves his hand, and the symbiote peels back, revealing Eddie’s chest. Strange draws a symbol on him. “You’ll be the anchor. If Carnage gets off the chain, I can banish him by banishing you.”

“Now when you say ‘banish..’”

“Portal with a sling ring. Or putting a hole through your chest large enough to disrupt the symbol.”

“I was afraid you meant that.”

Strange brings a Carnage, who reacts badly to Venom. “You ain’t my daddy. Look like him. Smell like him. Bet you even taste the part. But you ain’t him.” There’s a pause, before he says, “But you’ll do.” Carnage attacks all of them.

“Aw, mommy and daddy are fighting,” Poison Spider-Man taunts as he arrives. “I bet it’s not over which of their little bastards they love the most.” They cause a little damage, one of the Venoms falls, but Carnage is a game-changer. He’s able to slice through the Poisons like a hot knife through butter, and they’re actively afraid of him. Spider-Man manages to snag Strange and return to home base.

That’s where we learn that their leader is Poison Dr. Doom, and that Poison Deadpool earned his trust by telling them where to find Strange. For the moment his magical defenses keep the Poisons at bay; because I want something visually fun, the Poisons can approach, but once they get too close, they get zapped by orange electricity and flung violently backwards. It’s fatal to the unbonded ones, unpleasant to the big ones.

Finally, we cut back to Dan and Anne. She’s very worried about Eddie. “And I’m worried about my patient.” He softens, and puts his arm around her and kisses her head. He offers to let her rendezvous with the others, if she wants; as soon as his patient can move he’ll catch up. He wishes there were anything he could do to spare her from this horror- no one deserves this- not even Brock. As he’s reassuring her, we see a Poison creeping up the wall behind them, snapping its weird little mouth open as it prepares to lunge, before being webbed in place.

“You two might want to, uh, worry more about the horrible thing wanting to eat you both.” We see Dan’s patient. It’s Spider-Man, our Spider-Man. He’s bandaged, and clearly worse for wear, but alive, and not a Poison. Dan tells him he’s not well enough to move. “Yeah, well, it’s not safe to stay here, either.” The three of them swing off, even as their hideout is swarmed by unbound Poisons.

Back at the Baxter Building, the Venoms aren’t sure what to do next. Tragedy keeps walloping them, again, and again. There’s a leadership void, with most of them reluctant to follow Eddie, because, well, his reputation as a screw-up precedes him. They realize Strange is missing, that he was their target all along. They badly, desperately need a win, and it’s at that moment that Poison Deadpool is thrown into the room, all webbed up.

Spider-Man saunters in, flanked by Dan and Anne. Deadpool tries to speak, and Spider-Man fills his mouth with webbing; not just a single shot of it, but a prolonged spray, lasting several seconds. Deadpool spits it out.

“I’ve had dreams like that, only in the dreams I wasn’t wearing a mask so I could swallow. Wait, is the ‘kid’ old enough that my dreams like that aren’t going to get me sent to the dream hoosegow?”

Literally no one is paying attention to him, because they’re all so happy to see Spider-Man and the two Venoms. Eventually, Deadpool interrupts: “I truly hate to break up the love-fest- half the reason I did this was hoping to be thrown a triumphant hero’s orgy on my return-”

“That is not a thing,” one of them says.

“Hercules swears it’s a thing. Anyway. Like I tried telling these three, I surrendered. On purpose.”

“To the Poisons?” Anne asks.

“Both times. I got myself Poisoned, so I could come back here and give you the skinny on them.”

“That’s a stupid plan,” Brock says.

“Your plan was to use Hannibal Lector in a symbiote, and hope he killed more of theirs than ours? But my plan’s stupid.”

“Hey,” Spider-Man says, “it sounds like we’re on the same side, and that everybody’s plan was stupid.”

Venom growls, but Deadpool laughs, before launching into what he learned. “First, I know where they put their headquarters.” Because it’s San Francisco, it would probably be cool to have it on Alcatraz, but there’s plenty of other historical options. “Second, I know who’s pulling the strings.” We show Poison Doom on his throne. “Third, I like being tied up, and I can feel my mind ‘poisoning’ even as we speak, so that was, retroactively, probably a smart call, and not just because it provides plausible deniability about how much I enjoy being tied up.”

One of them who would have a reason to know, asks, if they have their own Doom, why they would need Strange. “Because Victor Von Doom is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. He’s a technologist almost as good as Tony Stark. He’s a scientist second only to Reed Richards. And a sorcerer just behind Strange. He is the world’s biggest second banana, which is why he’s such a jerk. But they’ve got scores of magic-types, just no one of Strange’s caliber. Or maybe it’s just that the barrier he erected prevents any of them from opening a gate out.”

“So your plan really was stupid,” Anne says. “You traded Strange for information that their plan required capturing Strange.”

“And, where and how to get him back out, plus, the location of Doom’s teleporter that they’ve been using to bring in more poisons. They don’t breed, at least not at the stage where they can take on a host. We break in, get Strange, destroy Doom and his teleporter. Once they can’t replenish their numbers, we can whittle them down.”

The Venoms leave the room to discuss the plan, leaving Carnage to watch Deadpool. They spar, a bit, Deadpool goading Carnage in close before revealing that he cut his way out of the webbing. He attacks Carnage and webs him up.

We cut to the other room, where they’re discussing. Through the doorway, we can see Deadpool putting Carnage over his shoulder like it’s a sack of toys and he’s a horrible Santa, and jumping out the window. “My Peter-Tingle, damnit, now May’s got me doing it- my Spider-Sense.” Peter says, pointing at the fleeing Deadpool; they run after him.

Deadpool drags Carnage into Doom’s throne room. At first Doom is congratulatory… until Carnage stirs. He blasts him with sonic waves from his gauntlets, which disrupts Carnage’s symbiote. It’s also loud enough Deadpool sneaks up to Doom and puts a sword through his chest. That gets the other Poisons rushing the throne room.

We cut to the Venom strike team, led by Venom and Spider-Man. They fight their way through a team of Poison Avengers; Anne and Danom stay behind with the other Venoms to fight them, while Venom and Spider-Man press on for Strange.

They fight their way to the holding cells, finding Strange held captive by other magic users that take turns probing his defenses for weaknesses. Occasionally he turns one of their attacks back on his attackers. When he creates that opening Spider-Man and Venom strike. The element of surprise is enough for them to create an opportunity, which Strange exploits to sling-ring them all onto a snowy mountaintop- you all know the one.

We cut back to the throne room, where Deadpool abandons Carnage to deal with the teleporter. Subtly, Doom is now missing, as Carnage cuts through increasingly more Poisons. Deadpool finds the teleporter as Doom tries to use it to escape… only to realize at the last moment that Deadpool has rolled active grenades in it with him. It explodes.

Things look dire for our Venoms. The Poison Avengers are winning, and free Poisons are gathering around the fight, lunging at Venoms at every opportunity. That’s when Strange, Venom and Spider-Man arrive, and are enough to turn the tide, chewing through the Poison Avengers.

We cut back to Carnage, who’s been overwhelmed. A veritable army of poisons are holding him down, suffering casualties even as they choke him under their sheer number. Deadpool arrives, shooting first the free Poisons, and then helping free Carnage. They slice and dice their way towards the others. Rocket Venom (or someone else with the right kind of experience) reveals he set a bomb on their generators, one that will blow the entire island. Strange teleports them away at the last moment.

Strange and Venom have a conversation. Venom thinks they’ve won, but Strange realizes that the Poisons were coming from somewhere, that they’ve beaten back the first wave, but there will likely be others… “This is no longer their fight. I will send you home- all of you. Those who are from this reality, may choose to stay, or I can send you to another reality as a refuge. But all of us staying here, we’re too appetizing a target.”

Strange says he’s going to send the Venoms home, that those who remain can handle sweeping up the remaining poisons. Dan and Anne decide to stay, it’s their home, and they want to stay and help rebuild it, so they can start the family they want. I think Strange tells Eddie that things got worse when he arrived, in particular with the Poisons being able to track them, because his suit is from the original line that sired all of the symbiotes remaining on Earth, so they were connected. Eddie opts to go, and we’ll spin it as a noble decision, not a pouty one, especially where Anne is concerned. “I want you to be happy, Anne, deep down, I do. But there will always be a part of me that’s sad that you can’t be happy with me, that I can’t be the one who makes you happy. And I want to be that better me, you know? But if I stay I don’t know that I can.”

“You’re already a better you,” she says, and kisses him.

“Look,” Dan says, “if you want, you can be the best man.”

It takes him a minute to understand what Dan means. “Really? That would mean the world.”

Eddie hugs Dan. “We were talking,” Anne said. “And you go through something like this, these people are closer to me than anyone I’ve ever known. They’re friends, family.”

So they do an impromptu little ceremony. Dr. Strange presides. Dan gets his hand a little too close to the book Strange is holding, and it tries to bite him. “It’s not a Bible; you probably don’t want to touch it.” Everybody forms either black or white formal wear out of their symbiotes; most keep their faces covered for largely budgetary reasons. We do enough of the ceremony to get to the speak now part, and Eddie raises his hand. Strange and Anne share a look, with him gesturing to his sling ring, essentially offering to teleport Eddie away, but she gives a subtle little head shake to warn him off.

We let the moment linger. “I just wanted to say, it’s not an objection, but I wanted to say that I love the hell out of both of you, and I’m just so touched that you let me be a part of your love, and your life. Sorry, probably not the right moment.”

Strange shrugs, and continues. “By the powers vested in me, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, by the Omnipotent Oshtur, by Agamotto’s light, by-” Peter gives Strange the cut it gesture, and he pivots, “I now pronounce you, husband and wife, and invite you to share your first wedded kiss.” It is a hell of a kiss, because the symbiotes are like Viagra. “I said kiss, not bliss; there are children present.”

Man, damnit,” Peter mutters, “I’m a Man.”

“Sure you are, buddy,” Eddie says to him.

We cut to after. Venom tries to convince Anne and Dan to come to the MCU. “It’s pretty much the same, only San Francisco didn’t get destroyed. New York, a little, but it’s mostly fine, now. But there, I’m not a signal flare for a band of interdimensional monsters to come and eat my loved ones.”

“Someone’s got to pick up the pieces,” Dan tells him.

“And it might sound silly, but I want my kids to grow up in the same San Francisco I did, not a facsimile.”

“No,” Eddie says, “I get it. If they were my kids, I’d want the same thing. I’m just- I’m gonna miss you.”

“We’ll miss you, too. Spider-Man?”

Peter’s so jazzed to have someone call him Spider-Man. “She called me Spider-Man!” he says under his breath.

“Take care of this big lug, okay?”

“Sure thing, miss, ma’am, uh…”

“It’s time,” Strange says. He sends Venom and Peter home. Peter discovers he has 178 missed calls.

“Sounds rough, kid,” Eddie says, and slaps him on the back, and turns to leave. “I probably still owe you one. Or maybe a couple, now. If you need me, you know where to find me.

Credits.

Mid-Credits scene: We show the exterior of Xandar, along with white text, “Xandar” followed shortly after by, “the Venomverse”. We cut inside the Nova citadel, where a similar teleporter to the one Doom tried to use sits. Doom teleports in, before he and the teleporter are caught in an explosion. Doom, smoking but still moving, holding the wound in his chest, slinks down the hall. In the central chamber sits a floating crystalline throne, which Doom kneels before. “My operation was lost. The sorcerer escaped.”

We pan across the throne room. We see Poison versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Shiar Imperial Guard, the Super Skrull, Warlock, Nova, Silver Surfer, with two large things in shadow floating in space beyond that could well be Poison Galactus and Poison Ego. Sitting in the throne is Poison Thanos, who tells Doom, “There are other sorcerers, and our numbers remain vast. And now we know there are countless other realities to conquer, and we will Poison them all.” He gives the same, creepy little smile he gave at the end of Avengers and we cut to black.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 2: Sinister Seven

Note: Part of the challenge of these pitches is that I’m making guesses based on the shifting landscape of Marvel’s universe; to accommodate this, I moved this pitch from last week to this one, figuring I could adjust as necessary over the week. Since my first Sinister Six pitch, we’ve had a Venom and a Spider-Man movie, and as a result some things I assumed were givens have now been altered; I haven’t seen No Way Home yet, and may not for some time, since my local drive-in is shuttered for the winter. The main difference is I assumed Carnage would still be around, and a threat, which Venom needed help with- and not you know, in a different reality. Now, I’d switch his character’s motivation towards fixing the Symbiote’s dietary restrictions in that first movie, but it otherwise plays pretty much the same. Now, on with our feature presentation.

The Pitch

We start on a rainy night. Venom swings through the streets like Spider-Man, the symbiote first humming a version of the Spider-Man cartoon theme, before it bursts out into a boisterous version of the chorus with his own lyrics:

Venom Suit, Venom Suit

Eats scum from their heads down to their boot (alternate line: Friend to chickens and a hoot,)

Alien goo and sexy too,

Lethally protects you and you!

Look out!

Here comes the Venom Suit!”

Venom lands on a rooftop, and Eddie’s face is revealed under the mask. “I don’t like your song,” Eddie says

“Why not?” the Suit asks.

“For one, it’s entirely about you. I’m not even in it.”

“You’re in it. Because you’re in me.”

“You make it sound like I’m you’re luggage.”

“That’s it exactly. You’re my carry-on.” Eddie’s annoyed, but doesn’t pursue it further. Lightning slashes the sky, and the suit winces. “I do not like the lightning, Eddie.”

“I know, buddy,” Eddie says, but he’s cut off by another flash of lightning, this one closer; the symbiote recoils from Eddie, nearly tearing clean off him.

“It weakens us,” Venom says, as another flash hits a transformer near to them. In the initial strike, we can almost make out the fact that the symbiote is trying to tear itself in half- we see two distinct symbiotes. When the transformer explodes, coating the rooftop with fire and sound, the symbiotes sheer. It’s a moment before the torn away symbiote’s shape becomes recognizable, but it is Carnage, reborn. His symbiote face peels back to reveal Cleatus Kassidy beneath it.

“Nice to see you, Eddie,” he says, “but I got to run.”

He leaps off the roof. Venom is there an instant later, but he can’t tell where Carnage ran. There are a handful of people on the street, any of whom he could be, and a manhole cover missing from the sewers. Eddie wants to pursue, but Venom is terrified. They gave killing Carnage their absolute best shot, and he shrugged it off like it was nothing. He prevents Eddie from pursuing long enough that Carnage has definitely gotten away. We do whatever opening credits we’re going to do, at a minimum, flashing the title with a bloody, “Absolute Carnage” splattered beneath the words “Sinister Seven” (and yes, we are taking inspiration from the Oceans flicks and adding a member of the crew and going up by one for the sequels).

We get a quick montage of Eddie doing research, because the Six have changed their hideout. Venom, desperate, returns to the Sinister Six headquarters, and demands Ock pay what he owes, namely, that the Six help defeat Carnage. But he’s followed by Carnage and his new crew including Shriek wearing a black and white symbiote of her own, which resembles her comics ensemble. That’s right: Carnage’s symbiote and Venom’s made babies (note: in this reality, Kassidy did get the death penalty, leaving his Shriek available, and consequently more feral). Ock and his team are still licking their wounds from their last whupping, and unprepared for the onslaught. Carnage captures Vulture and offers to spare his family if Vulture agrees to work for him- and threatens to recruit his daughter in his stead if he doesn’t. We also see them seize Jackal. The remaining members of the Six scatter, recognizing the fight as unwinnable (and villains being a superstitious and cowardly lot).

Venom doubles back, and follows Carnage. He’s also recruited the Hobgoblin, who also knows where Man-Spider and Lizard have been working together. I might give Shriek a backstory with Dr. Connors, that he experimented on her while she was in custody, trying to remove the herding/pack mentality from human beings (her abilities have been linked to the opposite, a panicked, every man for himself kind of instinct). She seeks revenge on him.

We cut to Connor’s lab. Peter unmasks, and offers his services as a lab assistant to Dr. Connors (personally, I’d bring back Dylan Baker, because he’s phenomenal, and can do that mentor thing no problem, but also can pivot to sinister in a way that would make him perfect for this role). See, Pete, because he’s been Spider-Manning, hasn’t really been able to hold down a job, so on paper he looks like the world’s biggest flake. Connors is patient with him, but says that even before he got the spider bite, he wasn’t much of an assistant; he spent his time there geeking out, and it got bad enough he had to hire an intern to pick up the slack, before Peter fully ghosted him to work for Octavius (who, faithful readers will remember, he ghosted for Tony Stark). That’s when we meet Connors’ new lab assistant, Miles Morales. He’s getting some college credit in exchange for the gig, and money for college… once he’s old enough to go. Pete thinks a moment, then offers that if he ever needs a second assistant, he’s one swing away. Connors stops him, and says that he’s still going to help him- him and his clone. We hear the sound of web-swinging, before a four-armed Spider-Man swings into the room. “I don’t know, I’m sort of getting used to the four arms,” he says. “Though I don’t miss the thousands of eyes. Or being hairy like a sasquatch.” Pete gets a call from Aunt May, and tells them he has to go, and swings out the window.

Miles confronts Connors about their mysterious donor- that it’s Spider-Man. Connors doesn’t confirm it, or deny it. Miles tells him that, ethically, they shouldn’t be keeping their experiments a secret. He says that until they have a breakthrough, there’s nothing to publish- nothing to share- and he wants to make sure it’s safe before exposing anyone else to the mutagenic compounds in Spider-Man’s blood. 

The window opens, and they turn back, expecting to find Peter. But it’s Carnage. Man-Spider attacks him, and Carnage makes quick work of him, dropping a writhing little ball of symbiote onto him that turns him into the Doppleganger. Carnage next attacks Connors, who starts to change into the Lizard. As his mouth snaps open, Carnage jams a symbiote inside, and holds him while it takes him over. In the commotion, Miles hides, but has a terrarium with a spider smashed over him in the commotion, and he’s bit by its former inhabitant. Venom, watching from a nearby rooftop, calls Ock.

Cut to Peter Parker’s rooftop. He’s marching, maskless, saying, “No no no no no no no.” We pan, and see that he’s reacting, badly, to Ock and Venom. “The last time you two were on this rooftop I was sucked into a black void before spending a week chained in a sadistic nightmare.”

Venom, not being a monster in this iteration, tries to apologize. Ock cuts him off. “You care for your clone, yes? And Dr. Connors?”

“Are you threatening them? What kind of a team-up is this?”

“They are already under threat, and not from me. Carnage has them. They are in the thrall of his sadistic symbiotes.”

“Are you saying they’re all sadistic or just his?”

“The red ones,” Venom’s symbiote says, “are mad. We have a saying amongst the Klyntar, that black and white are all right. Black and red, everyone’s dead.”

“Well thank God there’s a nursery rhyme,” Peter says, rubbing his eyes. “And they can be helped?”

“Symbiote and host can be separated. Must, in most cases, before the symbiote kills the host.”

“Oh. Good. What nightmare isn’t better without a ticking clock?” Peter asks. He shoves his mask back on. “I don’t see that I have a choice.”

“You could call your Avenger friends,” Ock taunts.

“You think he didn’t?” we hear a commanding voice from behind them. We see that Sam Wilson Captain America is landing on the rooftop.

This is your cavalry?” Ock complains.

“Short notice. Everyone else is dealing with a Kang situation,” Sam says (we can swap in whatever else might be a more appropriate reference).

“So that’s six, right?” Peter asked. “Contract fulfilled. We can stop recruiting and take the fight to Carnage? Or are you doing that thing from that old Ocean’s 11 series, where each time you have to add a character and a number to the movie.”

“There wasn’t a sequel to the ‘old’ Ocean’s 11,” Ock protested.

“Kid’s 6. Anything older than Blue’s Clues is prehistoric,” Venom said.

“Blue’s whose?” Peter asked, to which Ock chortled.

We cut to street level. Carnage’s symbiotes are chasing Cloak through the streets. He calls out for Tandy, before he hears her scream “Tyrone.” He follows the scream to the rooftops.

Carnage is there with his makeshift family. “You spoke to Brock for an article about homeless youth and underground drug experiments. Nobody cared. Color me shocked. But the experiments made you slippery, and your friend, well, she’s a beacon if I ever saw one. Her? I have no use for. I learned a long time ago that I do my best work in the dark. But you… we could have a lot of fun with you. But you’re slippery. So I was never going to be able to catch you on my own. I needed leverage.” Shriek produces Tandy, held inside her symbiote. “I have a soft spot for tragic love, so I’ll give you one chance to save ‘Tandy.’ You accept one of my symbiotes, and I let her go.” We show he’s got a finger crossed behind his back.

“I want to say goodbye.” Cloak floats near her, then engulfs both Shriek and Dagger in his cloak, before disappearing- but not before Carnage tags him with one of his symbiotes. Cloak lets Dagger out of his cloak somewhere else. They have a tearful goodbye, as Cloak tells her that he can feel the symbiote taking him over- that she needs to run- because when it does, it’s going to chase her. She doesn’t want to leave him. He tells her he isn’t- that she’s going to save him- she just has to pick her moment. He disappears, reappearing with Carnage. He lets Shriek loose. Then they all teleport to where he left Tandy. She’s gone.

The story follows a similar arc to the Maximum Carnage storyline from the books, Carnage’s team sewing panic in the streets, which Shriek is able to turn into unrest and rioting; she’s used Connor’s work and her new symbiote to create the opposite of what he was working on, a low-level sonic pulse that freaks people the hell out on an animal level; he’ll jibber about the reptile brain, mention those sonic pest repellers; it’s especially effective on the young, who have better hearing, and also fewer social ties, and because the first riot is mostly kids, that freaks out the older cohort. So by the time the heroes are organized, Carnage has built himself a bubble of innocent rioters to hide behind- they can’t take the fight to them until they clear out the civilians. 

But just like the original Maximum Carnage, it’s a combination of Captain America’s inspiration for them to be their best selves (I imagine mentioning the solidarity he saw in New York during the Chitari attack, Sam, not yet an Avenger, took volunteers from his group therapy to do disaster work), and a combination of Dagger’s light powers, that get the people enough in their right minds to disperse. I’m imagining an additional rub, that while he’s not officially, numerically part of the team (got to save something for the sequel) Morbius studies Shriek’s impact, and discovers there’s a biological component; yes, it is primarily a psychic plague, but it works symbiotically with a biological one, that lowers inhibitions while increasing adrenaline and rage- even if they can get the crowd to calm down, the moment someone stubs a toe it all goes to hell all over again, unless they can deal with the underlying, symbiote-based infection. I’d probably have him be attacked by a symbioted Jackal, who mocks his abilities, and he has to defeat, to be able to carry out his cure. So it’s the three of them in tandem that deal with Shriek’s influence.

Then the heroes take the fight to Carnage. We get a cool aerial Cap vs Vulture fight, a heartfelt Dagger vs. Cloak fight (him swallowing her up and her using her light from inside to reach him). Venom fights Carnage, while Spider-Man handles his Doppleganger. I guess Ock fights Lizard. Kraven and Scorpion fight Hobgoblin and Shriek. Dagger is able to clear the symbiotes off of people, everyone except Carnage. See, there isn’t anything underneath it- he’s just the symbiote, the face we’ve seen having been recreated by its shape-shifting. I think as the other symbiotes are removed, they return to Carnage; it makes him slightly more powerful, but also takes the hosts out of the fight. So in the end it’s everyone still standing versus Carnage. He ends up climbing to the top of a tower where, buffeted by attacks, he’s struck by lightning, and his charred body falls to the ground, shattering.

Mid-Credits Scene

Venom apologizes again to Spider-Man for dragging him into this. Peter, with a little reluctance, takes his hand and shakes it. We go in close, as the Venom symbiote reaches a tendril from Eddie’s hand onto the back of Spider-Man’s. It should read, in the moment, like the symbiote wanting to shake his hand, too, since he’s a real hero.

Ock is waiting in the wings, wanting a similar moment, and Peter notices. “You touch me, Otto, and I’ll tear off your arms. The, uh, metal ones, I mean.”

“You touch the kid again, and I’m tearing off all your limbs,” Venom adds. “Wait. Aw, crap.” Venom starts to do the thing he did at the end of Venom 2, and disappears; instinctively, the suit covers Spider-Man, too, to try to protect him, and inadvertently drags Peter with them, giving us, for the briefest moment, the MCU debut of symbiote Spider-Man.

Sam is on Otto in an instant, assuming he had something to do with the kid’s disappearance. Otto is just as flummoxed, and concerned, as he is. “I knew the boy before he grew into a Spider-Man; I briefly dated his aunt, and considered him a son. My concern for his welfare is equal to your own, and my befuddlement at his disappearance equal, too.”

Sam asks Connors, who is out of his depth on this one. Sam leaves, saying he needs to consult with some nerds.

End Credits

We cut to Carnage’s charred remains on the ground, and can see that the eyes are moving, if only just. He’s remembering the moment he was struck. We saw it as lightning, but really, it was a message, carried on electricity, across the stars. We zoom across galaxies, to the homeworld of the Klyntar, a writhing ball o symbiotes. We push through the goo, into a dark throne room, on which sits a gaunt, terrifying figure. We zoom in, pushing close, until we can just see one of his eyes beneath wispy white hair. He opens one blood-red eye, and we cut to black.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 1: Spider-Man 2099

First things first: I planned out this series of pitches before Marvel and Sony had started talking about doing a new MCU Spidey trilogy. This is important, because I am pitching a spidey-heavy slate in large part because I wanted to demonstrate that Spider-Man is better in the MCU, and vice versa. So if you were noticing an awful lot of Spiders flying your way, your Marvel no-prize isn’t in the mail.

We open on the Gallows family; this is the last time we’re going to see Jake Gallows happy. They’re leaving a show, when they’re accosted. Jake wants to fight back, but his wife tries to hold him back; she only succeeds in getting him shot. His Public Eye badge clatters to the ground, and the muggers freak out. They gun down the rest of the Gallows, before fleeing.

We cut to the inside of Alchemax. Miguel O’Hara gets waved through security, as he watches the head of Alchemax, Tyler Stone, talking to his son, Kron, who we recognize as the head mugger from the previous scene. Miguel doesn’t care about either of them. He’s got bigger fish to fry. Miguel heads up to his lab. Only Tyler stops the elevator, and slides in.

Tyler pressures him for progress. He’s oily, and is sure that they’re so close to a breakthrough. Miguel snaps at him. “A woman died.” The words reverberate. We’re in Miguel’s lab, as a woman named Angela Rose becomes sand. We continue to hear his words. “She disintegrated before my eyes, Tyler. The only thing we’re close to is a new, more efficient way to cremate people.”

Back in the elevator, Tyler says he noticed Miguel hasn’t touched his allotment of Rapture, and that a productive employee is a happy employee. For the first time we notice that Miguel is looking a little twitchy, a little sweaty, a little worse for wear. He tells Stone he doesn’t always use it; sometimes it makes it harder for him to concentrate or sleep. Stone stops the elevator a moment. “You remember why you helped me develop Rapture, Miguel?”

Miguel remembers Stone’s answer, even if he disagrees with him, philosophically, and parrots it back: they developed it because it acts as a stimulant, getting the best work out of employees on the clock, but also relaxes the employee off the clock, so they return the next day refreshed. The fact that it’s addictive and prohibitively expensive without it being subsidized by the company keeps employees loyal. Miguel tells him he’ll take his next dose soon.

In his lab, Miguel is confronted by two bots of his design, Electro and Mysterio, riffing on the classic Spider-Man villains. Electro was designed first, to handle electrical and magnetic lab tasks that could be dangerous; Mysterio does the same for chemicals, and as a consequence is essentially a mobile chemistry lab with an overdeveloped sense of the dramatic. Mysterio is playful, up to and including sewing himself a cape and making mist wherever he goes; Miguel teases him about it being to cover up his exhaust cloud.

Miguel also has a lab assistant, Aaron Delgato. He’ll mostly be a background presence, this go round, but he is essentially Tyler’s eyes and ears into Miguel’s work. Miguel is working with spider genetics, specifically working on a serum using their genetics as a curative to the addictive compounds in Rapture. Miguel is doing a head count as he slides into a lab coat. His spiders have been engineered to have numbers on their abdomens to make it easier to count them. He asks where one of the numbers is, I’ll say 15 (I believe it was Amazing Fantasy 15 Spider-Man debuted in, though please don’t take my nerd card away if I’m wrong, I use it to defend my honor- that’s right, duct-taped to my junk like a chastity belt, which has proved incredibly effective at keeping people from untaping my duct).

We cut to the inside collar of his lab coat, where the spider is. Miguel scratches at his neck, which compresses the spider, who reacts by biting. Miguel cries out, twisting out of his coat. The spider runs off, as he collapses.

We hear the beeping of a heart monitor in a fancy-looking hospital room. Miguel is across the way from the monitored man; his vitals are good, we overhear his doctor say, no need for the same kind of equipment as Mr. Gallows is hooked up. “Gallows?” the woman visiting Miguel asks, as we pan towards the TV, which is showing the trial of Kron Stone.

The prosecutor is wrapping up. “Even now, one of the brave officers from our Public Eye is fighting for his life, barely clinging to it while this scum has the audacity to smile and make jokes. If only his wife or children had been so lucky. You’ve seen the vids; his guilt isn’t even in question. The only decision you have to make is the kind of justice he’ll face.” The judge instructs the jury to register their verdicts, and an instant later tells them the verdict is in. He instructs the defendant to stand, but he refuses, so the judge has two bailiffs force him to his feet, then reads out the verdict: death. We start to hear the heart monitor again.

This time the mugger goes into his pocket, and retrieves a black card. The bailiff holds out a panel, which he swipes the card against; the card changes to a slightly lighter gray. The courtroom gasps, as his shackles deactivate and fall to the floor. A man narrates that because of his family’s wealth, being caught committing multiple murders on camera essentially amounts to only a credit downgrade, that he’ll only be able to crash his sports car every other day from now on.

We hear the heart monitor go into full alarm, as we pull back out, into the hospital room. We see now that the window is open, with the cord for the heart monitor trailing out, threatening to pull the monitor out of the window, before going slack. We pan over to see that Jake’s bed is now empty.

We pan back to the TV. We hear reporters mobbing the defendant, in particular the newscaster who narrated earlier. “What would you say to people who say that you got away with murder?”

The mugger mugs for the camera (see what I did there?) before saying, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine, kids!” before cackling. The camera pans to the interviewer. He’s John Eisenhart. “There you have it: an ending nearly as horrifying as the crime that preceded it.” While John is a little too slick, a little too massaged, we can see some genuine emotion bleeding out of him. We cut a little later, as he’s driving down the freeway, while his camera woman cycles through their footage, including that last line.

“I hate this job,” he says.

“The fame? The fortune.”

“That I’m not paid that well, or paid to punch little shits like that on camera.”

“That’s why we moonlight,” she tells him. “So we can get at the stories that really matter. You really think these guys are legit?”

“I think these guys are certifiable. If half what I’ve heard about the Knights of Banner can be believed, I think they’ve been soaking up too many gamma rays.” He laughs to himself, before turning stone-faced. “No, they’re zealots. They’re definitely legit. Maybe too legit.”

“To quit?”

“To not be dangerous. But danger’s sexy. Danger means eyeballs.”

If we can get them to sign on for broadcast rights. Otherwise you got to tell their story with sock puppets again.”

“I can be very persuasive. I got an exclusive quote from Kron Stone.”

“Yeah, because you elbowed that Jameson girl from the Bugle in the boob.”

“An ace news hound follows his instincts, and doesn’t have time for chivalry.”

“Yeah, you elbowed me in the boob, too, dude.”

“Sorry about that.”

“S’okay,” she says sulkily, before striking, elbowing him in the chest.

“Driving!” he says. She grabs and yanks the wheel, but the car doesn’t respond.

“Yeah, but the car won’t let you drive badly. So whatever.”

We get a relatively low-key tour of the compound for the Knights of Banner. They’re really more monks; yes, they’re experimenting with gamma radiation, half because they claim it has the potential to be a true, and cheap, power source, one not controlled by the MegaCorps… but also because it can make worthy men of mortal ones- their world needs more than these knights, it’s going to take sterner material to tame this future. He relates the history, how most of Marvel’s heroes fell defending mutants- the strongest defending the weak, how when they fell mutants became hunted, and even the mention of most of the heroes became against the law. The Thorites got around it by making Asgardian worship a major religion again. Most of the other heroes faded into obscurity. Their leader pleads with Eisenhart- that he gave him this tour not to whet his appetite, but to help him understand how vital their mission is- and also how vital it remain a secret until their work is completed.

But seeing their secrets he’s convinced there’s fame and money in the story. He tries to convince the guy, that with publicity would come funding, enough to get his reactor online, but he’s having none of it. John and his camera woman return to his car, and he tells her there’s a way around this, that he can call the authorities, then film the Knights under an emergency public interest license. She’s pissed, because his big break was exactly like that, and instead of right place at the wrong time, he created the storm that got people killed. “My footage got those people justice.”

“Your ego got those people killed. It doesn’t justify it, just because you got their killers a slap on the wrist to soothe your conscious.” She storms off, leaving the camera. He hesitates, before calling the Public Eye. But the cops don’t just roust them, or arrest the Knights- they slaughter them. John pleads with them to stop, stop the violence, stop the madness, even threatens to expose them. They tell him the cops learned from his last shenanigan, and cut his feed- he isn’t broadcasting. They smash his camera. Eisenhart ends up barricaded in with the other Knights in their gamma reactor. The Knights work to dismantle their reactor, both to do so safely and prevent a meltdown, and to prevent their tech from being seized by the MegaCorps and then patented. They give John their plans, and ask him to get them out. He laughs bitterly, because none of them are getting out. The head knight offers Eisenhart their crucible; every knight has taken it, and that is why every one of them is dying of radiation sickness, some more swiftly than others. They have been incrementally closing in on Banner’s original experiment.

“You want to kill me slow so the cops don’t kill me fast? What kind of sense does that make?”

“I want to transform you into something the cops cannot kill.” They argue for a bit. The head knight’s stance is basically, “I believe in destiny. I do not believe we would toil here, in secret, for decades, and only as we close on our quarry be shut out. I believe this is fate, John Eisenhart. I believe you are here to complete our work. Perhaps I’m a zealot; if I’m wrong, the Eye will murder you long before radiation poisoning can damage you. If I’m right… there are many people you will be able to save from them.”

John finally relents, because “Dead men don’t file stories,” and this one is big enough to be worth chasing, even at this cost. We cut to the outside of the reactor compound, as the cops blow it. Subtly, we’re watching through a news camera. The cops infiltrate the reactor. They’re surprised the Knights managed to render the reactor safe in the time they had. One of the Knights, badly burned, tells them it’s because the Knights respect gamma, and is shot for his troubles. The cops execute the remaining Knights, before finding John Eisenhart. His clothes have been destroyed, save for a pair of purple boxers that are shredded. The cop who found him is about to shoot him, when one of the other officers stops him, and points back at a camera being held by his returned camera woman.

“Who cares, we cut his feed?”

They’re live.” The executioner holsters his pistol, swears, and calls in an ambulance. John’s hand flutters, and we see the data chip that the Knights gave him. John Eisenhart ends up in the hospital room where Miguel is.

Jake Gallows calls a friend from the force, one who was fired for a lack of brutality. He has him bring him to Old York, formerly Hell’s Kitchen, where the pair discovered the Punisher’s old cache, including a diary. We hear narration, “You who find my war journal, I charge with carrying on my work.” We realize then it’s Gallows friend, quoting. He helps Gallows inside, and dresses his wounds. He’s torn stitches and is bleeding worse, now.

Miguel comes to sleeping on the ceiling. When he realizes that’s where he is, he falls painfully flat into the bed, just as the doctor comes in to check on him. “Feeling better, Mr. O’Hara?”

“Not really,” Miguel mutters into his pillow, having had the wind knocked out of him.

“It’s all relative, Miguel. You nearly died. Anywhere north of dead is better.” The doctor asks the nurse how long he’s been up. They tell him according to his EKG less than a minute ago. The doctor is curious what woke him up. Then they notice the noise coming from John. He’s breathing like a dragon. An angry one.

The doctor turns towards John to check him. John wakes, and attacks both the doctor and nurse, before lunging bestially, growing more hulking and monstrous with each moment, at Miguel. Miguel leaps over him once. Then twice. The third time Hulk 2099 manages to connect, knocking him out the window. Miguel falls. And falls. We think that’s the end of him, until he shoots webbing from his wrist, and swings to (relative safety). A homeless man tells him he can see his ass (because he’s still wearing a hospital gown), and he says he’ll have to figure something out.

Jake has been researching while injured. Kron has been gathering organs for his father because what Miguel never knew is that fresh human organs were necessary to ‘tame’ Rapture; without them it’s lethally toxic to humans. The synthetics and vat-grown just don’t cut it; only filtering it through human organs cuts the toxicity enough for it to be used in humans, and Kron’s gang have been providing these organs.

Alchemax also runs the Public Eye, and have been feeding their officers into setups like the one that killed the Gallows family- basically doing it to any officers not otherwise on the take or deep enough under their control. They were also instrumental in the fall of the Knights of Banner- giving John Eisenhart the tip that led him there, knowing that he’d used his trick of calling out the cops to get his story- and once John finds this out he’s on board taking on Alchemax. He has a fight with his partner, who doesn’t want to help him kill people, and also doesn’t think he’s up to the fight yet, and isn’t willing to help Jake kill himself.

Gallows dismantles Kron’s gang violently, using relatively low-tech from Punisher’s stores. However, Kron isn’t there. Jake finds out interrogating the last of his lieutenants (who is wearing the mech suit Jake will put a skull on to complete his look). The lieutenant tells Jake Alchemax is experimenting on Miguel and on John, trying to use them to create superhuman organs that can survive Rapture. “Who?” he asks, and the lieutenant points to a screen on the wall, Eisenhart and O’Hara on security cameras in the hospital room. The lieutenant pleads for his life, saying he has the exact same family as Jake did, that they won’t survive their crippling debt without him. Jake notices a girl, cowering in the corner. Her name is Polly, she’s a Venus 8 Gene Doll, illegal on-world; and they’re sentient, the feel pain, and fear- whether or not it’s against the law to beat on one, it’s wrong, the kind of wrong that needs correction, needs punishment. We pan back towards the TV as the Jake looms over the lieutenant; over his shoulder we see Polly, watching intently, studyiously.

Miguel has stolen a Day of the Dead costume that is 90% of the way to his final costume. Hulk is rampaging, and smashes out of the hospital. Spider-Man pursues, first trying to get him to stop, then trying to get him away from crowds. Then, he’s able to talk John down, realizing his rage is feeding the cycle of his Hulking. Jake appears, telling them he had a shot (from a ludicrously large future cannon), but worried they were going to need the big man, so he let it play out; he’s added the skull motif to his stolen armor. He says that their accidents weren’t accidents, but real-world human experimentation, and that to get the proof they’re going to need to go hard at Alchemax. Miguel insists they not kill anyone. Jake says he doesn’t have to, but Punisher’s going to do what he needs.

The trio attack Alchemax, and are confronted primarily by corrupt members of the Public Eye. Jake ‘kills’ Kron, calling him ‘sewage’ and dropping him into the sewer with the intention of letting all of his stab wounds become septic and kill him as slowly and painfully as possible. We’ll show him get attacked in the sewers by something dark and shadowy (it’s the Venom symbiote). The corrupt Public Eye deliberately weaken the building, threatening everyone working there (save the executives, who escaped already via helicopter), as well as anyone who will be in range of falling debris. The heroes have to abandon their assault, deciding to save innocent people rather than pursue their personal missions. Alchemax-owned news stations paint them as terrorists anyway, attributing the damage the corporation and its henchpeople caused to them. John tells Spider-Man that the Knights gave him the designs for a reactor; they believed an Alchemax scientist named O’Hara could be trusted with it. He’s not so sure anyone working inside that company should be trusted. Spider-Man takes off his mask, and introduces himself. 

Mid Credits Scene

Tyler Stone leads Aaron Delgato into a basement at Alchemax. Aaron is nervous, even chattering about how he half-expected Stone to put the Public Eye on him, or pin Miguel’s accident on him. Stone admits that would be fair, since Aaron was the cause of Miguel’s accident, but tells him he values loyalty over anything else, and believes it should be rewarded. That’s why he wants to introduce Aaron to his silent partner. When he and Miguel would get stuck, and Stone would whisper answers into Aaron’s ear, it was this genius who whispered them in Stone’s. Aaron’s surprised/confused when the room is filled with a vast tank of water. Inside, however, there’s a full complement of scientific equipment, including computers. That’s when we meet Dr. Octopus, an Atlantean/octopus hybrid (he created the hybrid process himself). He’s a genius. And terrifying.

End Credits Scene

Latveria

Very science fictiony space, lots of tech, machines going. There’s a cocoon not unlike the one used to creative Vision in one corner. A red light flashes green, before it opens, and a metal gauntlet matching Dr. Doom’s grabs the edge of the cocoon to life him out, obscured mostly by smoke/steam as he says, “Doom rises again.”

Pitchgiving 2021, part 13: Birds of Prey 3: Birds of a Feather

This follows directly after the Batwomen pitch, and while all my DCEU pitches are in continuity, it really builds off my Birds of Prey 2 pitch from last year.

The Birds of Prey (along with the balance of the Batwomen) have to team up with the Gotham City Sirens, because the male crime-lords in town partnered with Jason Woodrue to use Ivy’s pheromones against all the men in the city (I’m thinking at least Penguin, Two-Face and the Ventriloquist will be our fodder villains for this one). To complicate things, before the Sirens sit down with the Birds of Prey, Ivy made a desperate plea to Alec Holland to try and stop Woodrue… only for him to fall under the spell of her purloined pheromones. We probably start the story en media res, with Harley, Catwoman and Black Bat managing to break Ivy out of the clutches of Woodrue. This leads Woodrue to unleash his altered pheromone into the city, where all of the men turn incredibly hostile- basically normal men on the street attack them. The crime bosses use this chaos to their advantage; Batman is able to quarantine Gotham’s male heroes in the cave while he works on an antidote… all while being a pretty demented bastard all the same on their video link. This leaves things up to the ladies to fix. I think the way we first introduce this, is Harley is sneaking off from Ivy to meet with Jason Todd. Black Bat knows that, because she also knows the context: Harley feels terrible for her part in kidnapping and torturing him. She’s trying to make amends, and at the same time there’s really no one else who understands what she went through like Jason does. It starts as a two-person support group, but will grow from there.

Harley is nervous being in the back of a plane again. The last time she was in one, everybody died, and she’s having flashbacks. It’s mostly an excuse to show a montage of moments from the Suicide Squad (I figure if we build it into our mythos eventually people will watch it enough for it to become profitable- and it is a fun movie- which is why next year I’ll pitch a follow-up… but shhh). The montage ends with Flag, and we cut back to Harley in the back of the plane, a tear sliding down her cheek, “I miss Milton.”

Black Bat notices, and sits beside her in the plane, and takes her hand, “Harley, it’s going to be okay.”

“Is it?” she asks, trauma clearly having taken the wheel. “At any second Waller might kick in the door and decide to try to kill me again. And this plant dick took Ivy… I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to her.”

“I know,” Black Bat soothes, “we’re getting her back.”

“How’s our mental patient?” Catwoman asks, emerging from the cockpit.

“Still crazy after all these years,” Black Bat says. “But she’s good. Because she has to be.”

“She’s your responsibility. I’m getting Ivy out, because I don’t like owing favors. But the headcase is yours to babysit. If she goes to pieces, we may not have the space to put her back together.”

“I trust her. She’s just… her last time in a plane didn’t go so great.”

“We don’t have time for trauma. We need to jump in fifteen seconds.” Catwoman flings a parachute at Harley, and it flies past, before she raises her hand. Catwoman looks at Black Bat.

“She’s good,” Cassandra insists. “She’s rallying.”

Catwoman runs out of the plane and leaps gracefully past camera. Black Bat helps Harley into her parachute. “What if I can’t do this?” Harley asks.

“I’m pretty sure,” Black Bat glances at the cockpit, to see the stick is tied in place with a whip, “yeah, by engaging the autopilot Selena meant this stolen plane is going to crash as a distraction, so we don’t have much choice. Come on.” Black Bat takes her hand and pulls her to the door and jumps with her.

They’re buffeted by a bad wind, and separated, and Black Bat gets caught up in a tree as a patrol arrives. For a moment it looks bad. Then Harley pops up out of the grass and takes the patrol apart with swift, acrobatic efficiency. Catwoman’s already up in the tree and slices Black Bat out of her chute, and she falls with a somewhat comedic thud, before standing and brushing herself off.

“Jumping out of a perfectly functional plane is just crazy enough to be in my wheelhouse. What I meant was what if I’m not functional enough to save Ivy, to infiltrate this ‘compound,’ to be the kind of partner I’ve always wanted…”

“Harley,” Black Bat interrupts, “I love the brilliant, fucked up way your head works. But the reason I trust you, even now, with my life, is that when you follow your heart, I’ve never seen it steer you wrong. So when I say you can do this, I mean that you will, if you can just stay out of your own way. Okay?”

“Yeah,” Harley says.

“You two ever consider motivational speaking?” Catwoman asks, slinking down the tree. “Or getting your own Lifetime movie? Or maybe just starting a nationwide hug tour?”

“Ignore her,” Harley says, “she deflects genuine emotion because she’s worried if she doesn’t immediately bat it away people will understand how desperately she craves it, and to belong.”

Catwoman is not happy being analyzed; Black Bat puts up her hands. “You poked that bear.”

“Doing this for Ivy,” Catwoman says, annoyed. “Silver lining: maybe the two of you will get shot in the process.”

I’m assuming, since this is a big, ambitious swing already, that we should just montage them breaking in, taking out some guards, and rescuing Ivy, where we slow down again, because Harley wraps her arms around Ivy and kisses her. It needs to be a moment… but afterwards, it needs to not be a big deal, too (because I want them together, and happy, but if we make it too much of a thing then it’s like there’s something atypical about women finding love together… and there isn’t).

“What took you?” Ivy asks gently; she’s trying to keep it light, bantery, and not let on how scared she’s been, how much being used by Jason Woodrue has psychologically or physically taxed her, because she knows Harley has been merciless with herself, so she has to compensate by being kind.

“Traffic,” Harley says, half a laugh, half a sob.

“No crying,” Catwoman says, almost accusatory, but we can tell, too, it’s because it’s affecting her.

“In baseball?” Harley asks, raising her bat. The Sirens stomp together, as we do another quick montage (because we have so much story to get through on this one).

They get free, and we’re going to do a quick little flashback. Again, I don’t want to make a thing about them, like there’s anything odd about their pairing… but I like this moment. This is the moment it all comes out in the open.

“I didn’t look for you because you were probably the only person at Arkham who tried to understand me. I knew the tendency for a patient to put their doctor on a pedestal; I told myself you were doing a job, and doing it well, and that can be sexy, in its own right. I knew not to assume it meant anything, either about how I felt about you, or about how you felt about me.

“But then I saw you, with Cassie, and out in the world, as yourself, strong, confident, but with a heart so big and open that of course it flashed like a giant kick me sign to a monster like the Joker, but also… that showed just how warm, loving, and compassionate you were, how much you wanted for someone to love you like you love everyone. And that you could see people like us as… people. That’s a damning statement, to be sure, about our society, and the mental health profession, but you’ve always been a diamond,” she touches the diamond pattern on her right wrist, “and you’ve always deserved someone who saw that,” she kisses her.

Black Bat interrupts the story, and we reveal that Harley and Ivy are cuddling on a loveseat, while the other two are sitting in the same room. “I’m out. It’s like listening to 2 out of my 3 moms talk about making out. I’m out,” she reiterates as she leaves the room.

Catwoman sits quietly in her chair and stares.

“I had a cat like you,” Harley says. “Would just sit in the corner of my room and stair. Until I brought a guy home. Or a girl home. Or anyone else. And then, she’d lock eyes with me, and only then, she’d start to bathe.” Catwoman frowns, trying to figure out her meaning, before just leaving the room.

“I don’t mind an audience, but a part of me did want you just for myself.” I want her to have that, too, so we’re going to fade to black.

We fade back in the next morning. I don’t care who wants what, but I really want to emphasize the humanity in this moment, the normalcy; one of them is snoring buzzsaw loud, and the other has just left a puddle of drool on the other. And even this, I know, could be filmed with the male gaze in mind- but it shoudn’t. They should look like the room got hit with a hurricane, their hair should be mussed, as little makeup as possible (I mean, the characters are usually caked in it, so I’m genuinely not sure what’s supposed to be their skin and what’s makeup), but they are frumped to a degree that even Margot Robbie (and presumably Lake Bell, because that’s great casting I suggested in the last one) look like normal human beings. Black Bat knocks on the door, and comes in, keeping her arm over her eyes. “I really, really, hate to intrude on your love nest- like, I don’t know the words in English to express how much I don’t want to intrude,” (I like the idea of her spouting something in Mandarin or whatever to prove that the words exist, at least somewhere).

Harley wakes up, and feels self-conscious, picking up that Cass expects a sexed-up Adventureland, “Yep, the air is thick with the smells of sex and sensual oils and lubricants and just,” and tries to mop up the drool, wake up Ivy, all while making the both of them look a little more put together than they were (this should be silly and fun, not for gratification).

“Okay, whoa, already way more information than I would have ever wanted to know. But before I exit, you should know… it’s spreading. Ivy’s pheromones, Woodrue had enough of them that he’s blanketing the entire city. It isn’t just our neighborhood that’s a nightmare. It’s the entire city.”

“Let us get dressed.”

“Oh, God, no more,” Cassandra moans.

“We’ll be out in a minute.”

“Why didn’t you tell her the truth?” Ivy asks.

“What, that I took a beautiful woman to bed and then proceeded to drool all over her stomach? That I was snoring so loud it bugged me even in my own dreams. That despite my days being consumed with thoughts of sex and death the entire time you were missing, once you were back, all I could do was pass out next to you?”

Ivy, again, is gentle with her, recognizing Harley’s spiraling. “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again. I just needed you to hold me.”

“And I couldn’t even do that right.”

“The drooling wasn’t exactly what I expected. But I slept like a baby. I felt safe with you. It was exactly what I needed.”

“Yeah?” Harley asked.

“Being with someone isn’t just about rocking their world sexually. You also want to be comfortable just being with them. Feeling safe, and secure and, and loved.”

“Yeah,” Harley says, realizing how much she needed to hear that, and cuddling up against her. “I love you, Ivy.”

“I love you, too, Harls.”

Damnit. Okay. That’s on me. I promise I’m going to try and stop being so damned enamored of the two of them together that I can get back to pitching. I think the best way to get this story moving again is to take a peek at the other side of the aisle, namely the ‘good’ guys.

We watch Barbara walk by her suit in the Clocktower; she’s wearing clothes for a run. She tells Oracle that she needs to pick up an assignment from school, but then she’ll be back, and asks if Oracle needs anything. She asks for a Yoohoo (or other product placement to be paid for later).

There’s something on the air as she puts in her earbuds and puts on some music. We’re going to leave the music on for most of her run, at least until the insanity gets to be so much she silences it, and suddenly is forced to confront exactly how screwed up the few blocks she’s ran are. I figure this is one long take (but possibly with some hidden cuts, if need be). First she runs by a man who is clearly screaming at her, partially dodging to avoid specks of spittle flying through the air. Unfortunately, this is Gotham, so angry men yelling at random women on the street is a thing, and doesn’t phase her. At a hot dog cart, a man and a woman with a baby in a stroller seem to be altercating, when the man raises his hand. Barbara grabs the hook of his elbow and uses it to roll him over her back without stopping. She runs a little further, and a man takes a swing at her. She puts him down without any problem, only for another man to attack her. And a third. She puts them all down with ease, but we pull back, to reveal that this has all happened on the same block. Barbara turns down her music and calls Oracle. “Oracle, what the hell is going on?”

“You know that weird fog on the waterfront that turned any man who came into contact into a woman-hating troll? Yeah, well, it’s spread across the whole city. It’s chaos. Figured you knew.”

“I slept in. I’m going to head back to the Clocktower. Something tells me we’re going to need to handle this.”

We cut to Batgirl arriving. Oracle is clearly phased by what she tells Barbara. “So I called Batman, like you asked. He’s aware, by the way. Um… I’m struggling. I know this isn’t a typical workplace or… anything approaching a normal situation. I guess I just never imagined I’d ever hear Batman call me a c-word.”

“What?”

“And he called you, uh, B-girl.”

“Well, that is my-” she realizes Oracle means the other B-girl.

Oh. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

“It was more, comically surreal. But… he’s terrifying. Most of the time I don’t breathe when he calls. And I even noticed he noticed, and has tried to emote more, which should make me feel more comfortable, that he’s trying, but it’s like watching the Tin Man try to be more emotional by wearing Totos face. But it’s only right now, when I actually saw what he’s like when he’s threatening. And the idea that he could stay like this…”

“We’ll fix it.

“Almost makes me feel sorry for criminals. Not because of what he does do, but because… because of what he could do, what I now realize he might do. Gives me the feeling he is one day where they give him a shot of espresso instead of decaf from being Joker in a cowl.”

“Maybe that’s why he doesn’t drink caffeine at all- just doesn’t trust himself.”

“Really? Does he even sleep? And he still doesn’t touch caffeine? How does he stay up?”

“Obsession.”

“The Calvin Klein cologne? Does he chug it?”

“Will. Same way he’s still remaining functional, if a bit… jerkier than usual.”

“Feels like an understatement, but yeah, he’s still working, with all the other Robins, Nightwings, Red Hoods and whatevers in the cave with him. He’s isolated the compounds. Definitely bears some signatures worth being concerned over. Three names, at least trying to read between the lines; he was editorializing some, especially when it came to Ivy. But it was her pheromones. But they seemed altered, in a way that makes him suspect Swamp Thing and Jason Woodrue are involved.”

“That’s bad,” Batgirl reacts. “Really bad. Ivy on her own is trouble. Ivy and Woodrue are extinction level trouble. Swamp Thing would have been our go-to guy to help with it, but if he’s working with them, or they have him… call everybody.”

Everybody?”

“Let me rephrase. Everyone without a y chromosome. Anyone who can help, we need on standby, or here if they can swing it”

“What about Batwing?” Batgirl doesn’t follow. “They’re nonbinary.”

Barbara sighs. “I’ll text Batman. If this goes down to the chromosomal level, it might make sense to have Batwing sequester with the rest in the cave. But if not, it’s all hands on deck.”

We’re back in Ivy and Harley’s apartment. Ivy is wearing a shirt from Arkham (yeah, like she did in the first Arkham game), and is drinking coffee. “So… I’ve been talking to some of the houseplants.”

“You, too? They only seem to want to talk to me about celebrity butts. You?”

“That’s not them, hon, it’s a voice in your head. No, the plants tell me Alec was here.”

“Alec, Alec… why doesn’t that name ring a bell?”

“He was my ex. Is sort of dead. And a plant elemental.”

“You used to bang the plant guy?” Harley asks, amused, horrified, intrigued, confused. “I mean, there’s bumping uglies and then there’s bumping uglies.”

Harley.”

“I swear, I did not know, or I would have at least straightened up before he grew out of a few bags of fertilizer in the tub- we may have to replace the tub. He said it was the fastest way to get here from ‘the Swamp,’ which I really hadn’t expected to be all so literal. One of the bat people owed me a favor, got me his number, when you went missing. I thought plant guy, wearing a trench coat, he must be some kind of plant dick, and, not you know, your old plant d-”

“It was his friend who wore the trench coat. But it worked, I guess. You found me.”

“We did… just not at first. He led us into a trap. A trap for him, I think, or at least a trap for if he came looking for you.”

“Oh, no. A couple nights ago? When Woodrue’s experiments got a lot worse.”

“Yeah,” Harley says meekly. “But he did get us the lead that got you back.”

“For which I am grateful, but… do you understand what Alec Holland is?” Harley shrugs. “He is basically a plant god. Meaning, he could take my pheromones, and increase their potency. He could probably even reproduce them. That’s why Woodrue didn’t put up much of a fight when you came for me- because I was redundant-maybe even a distraction at that point. And now it’s a race against time, and we’re starting from behind.” She finishes her coffee and turns around. “How much pull do you have with these bat people?”

“Like I asked for a tour of the Batcave or for them to drive us around in the Batmobile while we made out in the back seat.”

“And they said ‘no?’”

“No back seat. The rest all depends. Are we asking to work with them, or trying to scam ‘em?”

“If you don’t at least leave the possibility of the latter open I’m never talking to either of you again,” Catwoman says, pouring herself a bowl of milk.

Ivy’s prepared. “I spoke with the city’s Economy Development Corporation, and they estimate there are half a million cats in Gotham City. I know cats are survivors and all, but what happens if jilted men decide to take their anger out on women’s cats, or worse, if my pheromones end up working just as well on male cats.”

Catwoman stops lapping at the bowl. “Can I at least steal something, when this is all over, so I don’t feel like a complete sap?”

“Sure,” they both say with a shrug.

The Birds of Prey/Batwomen assemble at the tower, with the promise that the rest of the women heroes are dealing with a bigger threat outside of Gotham, but will be there as soon as they can wrap it up. Then they get the call from the Sirens, all agreeing to work together.

Oracle has been able to put together the records from all of their Woodrue-related locations so far. And it seems he’s been using places, money and resources from three separate crime families. Analysis of recent police surveillance has proven that the three seem to be working together, and that they need to hit all three crime bosses at once, to mop up as much of their men and resources as possible. They split into three teams, with Ivy’s team going to where they think Swamp Thing is/Penguin, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey going after Woodrue/Two-Face, and Batwoman and the other Batwomen going after the location where the pheromones are all stored to destroy them/Ventriloquist (he’s squatting on old Joker territory; he lost clout after fallout from BoP2, especially with his willingness to sacrifice his henchmen for a joke, nobody really wanted to work for him)- that meant the Ventriloquist had a lot of territory with abandoned chemical storage/disposal, perfect for the pheromones they pumped out of Ivy.  

The Batwomen easily deal with the Ventriloquist, Scarface and his vanilla mooks. Then they realize there was a lot more pheromone than they realized- acres of it. Batwoman calls her father. The base is still observing chemical weapons protocols, so they’re fine, if somewhat understaffed. He agrees to help her bomb the pheromone storage (I think he loads a plane with explosives and arranges for Kate to steal it, having learned since the last movie how to fly a plane… ish- the main sticking point being her landings are still mostly crashes in the simulator).

Ivy leads the Sirens to rescue Alec. Penguin, slightly impacted by the pheromones (but having always been a dick) gets the snot kicked out of him, and realizing how ridiculously powerful Ivy is, decide not to screw with them and leave without much of a fight. The true brawl, though, is with the Swamp Thing himself. He’s still under the influence of Ivy’s pheromones, only a stronger, more robust variant he helped concoct. Thankfully, midway through the fight Ivy realizes that the Swamp Thing they’re fighting isn’t Alec at all, that he essentially grew himself a bodyguard, so while the others fight him off (badly), Ivy reasons with Alec, that he’s a good man, the man she admired, the one she fell for. She kisses him, and it brings him out of his stupor, and then some. The bodyguard keeps fighting, but some of the life has gone out of it; this is amplified by the fact that Harley, seeing the kiss, goes berserk, and will hit him in the twig and berries frequently with her big-ass mallet. Alec’s still a little influenced by the pheromones, and clingy; Ivy says she thought he got engaged, and he says that’s complicated. Ivy tells him things are a lot less complicated for her- that she found someone who makes her happy, and looks over at Harley, practically glowing. Ivy uses the Swamp Thing’s arm to pull Harley to her, and kisses her. Harley stammers that she thought… before Ivy tells her she thinks too much, and kisses her. “I do.” And they kiss again.

Finally, Two-Face’s place is where the real fight happens. One half of his mansion is overgrown. The Birds of Prey split up, Batgirl leading one segment into the overgrown side, since she’s got all the weedkilling toys, and Question leading the other up the pristine side. Question and Huntress make short work of Two-Face, before wondering where all his goons are. Both Harveys smile. Woodrue knocks Batgirl and Canary through a door, rolling into the room. Harvey tells them the reason he didn’t see a point in putting his men in harm’s way tonight was that it was going to be a bloodbath- that they were just waiting for all the guests to arrive.

At that moment, the Sirens and the Batwomen arrive. Two-Face brags to Woodrue that his timing is impeccable. As you can see, we’ve got a ridiculous cast of women here already… but things are about to go just completely nuts. I wasn’t screwing with you when I said that this was Endgame for DC’s women. Well, here it goes.

I think for the ending we bring in a big Big Bad; personally, I’d swing for the fences and have it be Granny Goodness with a team of male furies; Granny Goodness has basically been taken to task by Darkseid. He thinks her Furies need to open up to male members, that she’s been artificially holding her elite soldiers back. So she’s testing his hypothesis, by recruiting a team of men. She explains that there’s a part of her rooting for the women, because they’ll prove her right if they win, not that she could ever gloat to Darkseid. But she wants her ladies back; she was the one who gave Woodrue the necessary upgrade to be able to adapt Ivy’s pheromones.

At first, the combined Birds of Prey are outmatched. But then… those other heroines we teased earlier on, who would show as soon as they wrapped up the bigger threat… they arrive. This loops in all of the most powerful of DC’s women for a fireworks finish as they beat a team of men under Granny’s control, before all of the rest of the women show up. This list is in no way all-inclusive, and will likely swell. But it should give you an idea of who’s punching who.

Wonder Woman Lobo
Big Barda Scott Free
Supergirl Granny Goodness
Power Girl Superboy
Zatanna Jason Blood/The Demon
Ivy Jason Woodrue
Catwoman/Black Bat (snatches Granny’s control rod)
Harley Quinn (souped up) Joker, like from the first Arkham game (can really be Clayface, if that’s too silly)
Batgirl Nightwing
Mary Marvel Black Adam
Fire  
Ice  
Huntress  
Mera  
Jesse Quick  
Natasha Irons  
Artemis  

Wherever possible/necessary, we can replace the menfolk with their CGI counterparts (having the Demon in a fight wouldn’t necessarily require paying Jason Blood to show; I’m all for paying him to show, mind, but I know some actors really hate showing up to film what is essentially a cameo, and it’s possible the budget on this will also be insane, so building in places where we can cut costs might be helpful).

But the women are winning. Granny is conflicted; she’s winning the moral argument even as she loses the fight. But she also knows that Darkseid doesn’t brook failure… she sees an opportunity to slink away, taking Jason Woodrue with her.

And, personally, I’d bring in at least 3 men, here: Batman, Superman, and whatever other male Justice Leaguer would be most impactful (could be Aquaman, given current box office). We start with whichever of them has the most recognizable voice, calling from offscreen. Camera pans, and we see those three, and think this is round 2 and it’s about to get brutal…. Only the men aren’t attacking. Or cursing. Batman explains that he’s synthesized an antidote, that he’s got Flashes spreading across the city administering doses.

Harley asks Wonder Woman if this means she’s in the Avengers- “I mean the Justice League, clearly you weren’t my safety squad.” Wonder Woman pretends not to have heard, and walks away. Harley is, for a moment, disappointed. But Batgirl is behind her. She tells her some people might look at them as minor league, but if Harley, Ivy, or Catwoman want, they always have a place in the, and before she says Birds of Prey, we go to black, and smash in the Birds of Prey logo. We quickly do the cast credits, before cutting back, immediately to the same scene.

Catwoman runs up to Harley and Ivy. “That thing I needed to do, it’s done, and we should go. Now.” She turns, and we can see she has a utility belt slung over her shoulder. It literally doesn’t matter which of the Batmen she took it from, but it’s slightly funnier if it’s a Robin and he has to hold his pants up. Batman bellows after Selena, and we cut again to black.

More credits. Then we’re on Apokalips. Jason Woodrue has seen better days. Clearly, he’s been tortured for a while. Desaad is overseeing that, but Darkseid is working with Woodrue’s figures. Desaad is becoming more concerned, that he’s been working with Woodrue’s information tirelessly, without speaking. Desaad is trying to get an answer from him, if the Antilife Equation is complete, if he’ll be able to mold the minds of men to his will. He’s not going to reply, but I would like to have him turn to camera, similar to Thanos at the end of the very first Avengers, and smile. But while that CGI Thanos looked a little cartoony, this one should be horrifying- and his smile should be a thing of nightmares. That Darkseid is happy at all should be something we’re all worried about.

Note: That puts an end to Pitchgiving 2021. Because I’m at least as crazy as Harley, I’ll be rolling right into Pitchmas, with 12-ish MCU pitches, building off the last several years of pitches.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 12: Batwomen

Prologue

White text tells us this happened fifteen years ago.

Batwoman, recognizable because of her bright red hair, as a child, is sitting in the backseat of a car with her identical twin, Beth. Gabi Kane, their mother, is driving, dressed in military clothing. Side-pitch: since this is a women-focused story, but also just because it plays against type and I think it would add to the diversity of the DCmovieU, I’d suggest gender-swapping the parents. For the pitch I’ll assume we keep it as it has been, but I strongly feel that would be the better story.

“You need to tell them, Jacob,” Gabi insists to Kate’s father, who is in the passenger seat. “It’s the only way they can protect themselves.” He unbuckles his seatbelt, to lean back and talk to them. He hesitates, not knowing where to begin. Gabi intercedes. “Your father is doing important work. Bad people have been infiltrating the military, people who don’t think our country should be for all kinds of people, regardless of color, creed, or who they are.”

“Right,” Jacob takes over. “I’m heading up an investigation into those people. And because of the duty I’ve agreed to carry out, those bad people and their friends have been making threats. Against me, against your mother,” he has trouble forcing himself to say the next words, until Gabi takes his hand, “and against the two of you. And I didn’t, I haven’t known how to tell you. Because you’re too young to have to know how awful the world can be. But my first duty is to protect you, and the best way to do that is to tell you to be careful. These bad people can look just like you or me. They might come dressed in BDUs. They might talk the talk, they might even have a life of military service under their belt. But if you ever have a question, whether or not someone is safe, you ask me, you ask your mother, and we’ll tell you straight, even if the answer is we don’t know, and you need to be wary. Can I trust you girls to be on overwatch for me?”

The girls stiffen up, and tell them, “Yes, sir.” They barely get time to recognize his smile, because Gabi shoves him  back into his seat, and we now see a large dump truck barreling down on them before it hits. We see broken images, as Kate goes in and out of consciousness. Gunmen in black paramilitary gear violently open the car doors. One shoots Gabi Kane in the head as she resists (feebly, because she’s groggy from the airbag). On the other side, one of them tells Jacob he was told what would happen if he persisted, and Jacob is smacked in the face with the butt of a rifle. A bag is shoved over Kate’s head, and we cut to black, and modern day.  

It’s a dark, stormy night. Commissioner Gordon is speaking to the Mayor, trying to convince her that she’s going to be safe, that his men can handle, “a little weasel like Jervis Tetch.” He’s got half the S.W.A.T. team on the mansion grounds, anything short of Batman wouldn’t be able to- he stops, because two of the S.W.A.T. officers are suddenly there, deserting their posts on the perimeter. Gordon prepares to give them a dressing down, when he notices the vacant look in their eyes, and tells the Mayor to get behind him, as he pulls his gun.

We cut to the aftermath, as Batgirl and Batwoman patrol the scene, one-upping one another as they reconstruct the events from the evidence. There’s an added layer, as Batgirl is concerned about her missing father; the rivalry is mostly a distraction from that worry for her; for Batwoman, it’s very much that while she’s trained, and older, she’s also green, looking to prove herself. But we start at the point that Gordon put a bullet into the door frame. Batwoman insists he missed. Batgirl assumes, correctly, that the first was a warning shot, an attempt to roust them from their stupor. When it didn’t work, he gave each man a flesh wound. But there were more of them, other officers flooded into the room. Gordon put up a fight, trying to protect the Mayor long enough for her to get away, but that’s when Mad Hatter himself showed up (casting suggestion: Jack McBreyer, Kenneth from 30 Rock; watch him in the ’21 season of Nailed It, he’s a manic little chaos gremlin who would be perfect for the role and also kind of looks the part). Gordon was attacked by a new player, a woman, judging by the height difference, and the hole left in the drywall by her heel. Gordon was overwhelmed; blood on the scene is his type, but there’s not much of it- they were clearly trying to keep from hurting him there. He was carried off by two of the officers, along with the Mayor.

Batwoman is distracted, and she’s clearly thinking back to a different night, a different kidnapping. Text, fifteen years ago. We don’t see this flashback from Kate’s POV. Instead we’re focused on her father. He’s riding along with a police team, including Gordon, at that point a Sergeant. He’s wearing black, not his military uniform. Gordon notices Jacob is armed. “I was asked to let you ride along, but there is no way in hell I’m letting you inside with that firearm.”

“All respect due, Sergeant, if it were your little girl in there, would anything short of someone putting a bullet in you stop you?” We think it’s going to be a pissing contest, but Kane sees Gordon’s hand at his cuffs, and relents. “I’ll stay out of your way, scout’s honor. But the second I see my girls I’m getting between them and danger. I’m not failing them again.” It’s the pain in his voice that stops Gordon.

“That sidearm stays in its holster, unless and until it’s a matter of life and death. I don’t want them walking on a technicality.”

“I don’t want them walking, period- but it’s your rodeo.”

Gordon’s team kick in the doors. Kate is tied, blindfolded, propped against a wall. There’s another body, definitely dead, obscured by a hood but with a bloodied bullet hole in the head that everyone is going to assume is Beth. Gunfire erupts, with Kate caught in the middle of it, exposed out in the open. True to his word Jacob runs through the gunfire, and covers Kate with his body, taking a shot meant for her head in the meat of his arm.

Gordon hesitates for a moment, his team at a severe disadvantage with two civilians out in the open, before demanding the team deploy smoke and lay cover fire. It buys Jacob a window to lift Kate up. Her hood falls, and he begs her not to look as he runs back towards Gordon. We see one of the gunman has the police flanked, and is drawing on Gordon, when a shot rings out, and he drops. Gordon sees that Jacob is holding his daughter in one arm, and his sidearm in the other. Gordon tells Kane to get his daughter outside. For a moment, from Kate’s POV, we watch as she sees what she thinks is her sister’s body on the floor.

They return to the Clocktower, and consult with Batman over a video link. Also in the room with them are Black Bat, Oracle, Spoiler and Question (the Renee Montoya version from Birds of Prey). Batgirl thinks she’s in charge, having been at this longer and with less support. Batwoman, by dint of being former military and older, thinks she’s in charge. Spoiler’s just happy to be there- she’s only filled in for Robin a handful of times when they needed someone to double so Tim could be in the same place as Robin. Cassandra feels like she’s just thrilled to finally be on the team; she still loves Harley, but she’s crazy. A great friend, and if you can only have one person in your corner she would do literally insane things to protect you, but she’s not a role model, either. And Question is really just there because of Batwoman; they haven’t started dating, but each suspects the other is interested and they’re at that point of mutual interest.

Batman tells them they’re going to have to handle Jervis- that he and the other Batmen have been infected by the Fluoronic Man, that while he works on an antidote, he can’t trust any of them to leave the cave, so they’ll have to handle Mad Hatter. Oracle is able to hack the security cameras at the Mayor’s mansion, and from that they realize that ‘Alice’ is the one assisting the Mad Hatter. She looks, initially, like another of Mad Hatter’s automatons, until it comes to fighting Gordon- then she comes alive, and the results are brutal. They place a heart-shaped crown on the Mayor and on Gordon, before carrying them out.

Batwoman reasons that if they’re assembling the most powerful people in Gotham, there are some obvious next victims: Bruce Wayne might make the top 10, but next up is definitely going to be the Colonel in charge of the nearby military base. After forcefully making her case, Batwoman breaks away from the rest of them, to make a phone call, trying to raise her father. We start in on his phone, panning over his desk, including his name tag, including his rank. She whispers, “Pick up, dad.”

We cut to earlier, Kate, with her hair cut military-short, is wearing BDUs. She opens a door into a military office, a nice one, for the colonel in charge of her base. We flash white text that says “Ten years earlier” (though we’ll have to update that; the policy essentially changed in July 2011, on paper in September, so this needs to be set before that). She’s been summoned. Her father is sitting in the CO’s chair, and spins around. Kate says he’s not her CO. “Nope, kiddo. I’m here as a favor.” Kate assumes he means to the CO. “No. To you. Your CO isn’t supposed to ask. But the problem is, you aren’t leaving her room for plausible deniability that policy runs on.”

“It’s bad policy, dad.”

“No question. Impacts morale. Forces men and women of honor to live duplicitously. Creates fractured loyalty. But even a full-bird Colonel can’t change it- can’t even question it. I’m here, as  proud father, as a man who loves you more than any other ever will, asking, please, for your sake, to be discreet.”

“I can’t. Because my dad, and my mother, raised me better. To be proud. To be honest. And I can’t be both while following that policy. So maybe I can’t be here anymore.”

“I didn’t want it to go this way,” he says.

“But still, you knew it would.” She stands next to him, and puts her head on his shoulder. “Thanks for being here,” she says, as a tear rolls off her cheek and onto his collar. 

We pan across a similar office, to see some blood pooled on the corner of the desk. A hand grabs the blood, and a man pulls himself up. It’s the Colonel, wearing his military hat with a blank look on his face. He snaps to when Mad Hatter enters the room. Hatter snaps off a half-assed salute, and says he doesn’t stand on ceremony; he only cares that the military has access to the kinds of chemicals he needs. 

The Batwomen infiltrate the military base. Batgirl is a taskmaster, insisting that the military can’t know they’re there, that the bats essentially have a détente with the American government, including its shadier operators like Amanda Waller- and those shadier elements in particular are just looking for an excuse to put Gotham under martial law. Depending on where we are in the President Luthor storyline, we might well mention that part of why he got so much support from the military was his tendency to elevate them as the preferred alternative to superheroes. Batwoman bristles at a lot of this, instinctively feeling like she belongs on the other side of that line- even though she’s clearly on the vigilante side, now.

They manage to arrive at the worst possible moment, as the villains make off with a stolen plane, full of chemical weapons. The Batwomen end up stealing a plane of their own to hide their identities as the military swoop in. Batwoman is able to baffle them with bullshit over the radio- with just enough military and Colonel Kane knowledge to talk them out of shooting down the plane, calling it a military requisition, one tacitly approved by Colonel Kane himself, telling the officer to call him and ask- which he should be doing before shooting down a military plane as it stands. Kate insists Barbara land the bird, now, because it bought them seconds, not minutes, and the military will shoot them down.

They scatter, and meet back up at the Clocktower later. Oracle managed to trace the tracker on the other plane; eventually it lost its mind, after it was hacked, because the tracker started flying in the opposite direction mid-air. Batwoman argues it wasn’t hacked; simpler explanation is that it’s Gotham, where impossible things just require doing a favor for the wrong kind of man. Oracle agrees to chase the box with a drone, and we’ll eventually see she was right, that it was Man-Bat who carried the tracker out of the plane mid-air. But it was already beginning a descent for a landing at a small airport outside the city. The Batwomen depart to intercept.

I think they manage to rescue all of Hatter’s kidnapped victims, but Alice has already abandoned him, having gotten what she came for, including chemical weapons and a plane. To get any useful intel, they have to deprogram Mad Hatter; see, they captured him, but they didn’t just want his cooperation, they encouraged obsession, obedience- Alice wrapped him so thoroughly around his little finger that he thought he was the one in charge, not her. Batwoman and the Colonel do the deprogramming, this not being his first rodeo with this kind of thing- in fact, he suspects and his theory is proven out that these are the same people he’s been fighting his whole career. That was why he got stationed in Gotham all these years, and why he’s resisted promotion or anything else that might take him away from the epicenter of their activity. He tells them it was easier, during the War on Terror, because the Church of Crime were basically Fundamentalist Terrorist, if their only religious precept was to do crimes. He also admits to Kate that he’s been trying to figure out for years how to apologize to her- that they contacted him before she was outed. They were the ones putting pressure on the Department of Defense to discipline her- that he was the reason she was forced out.

But there’s more to it than that. We get a montage, Batgirl followed a hunch, or really, Oracle followed Man-Bat back to his belfry, which turned out to be a Church of Crime stronghold. Batgirl drops a big, illustrated Bible down on the table. Man-Bat, when she dosed him with Batman’s curative agent, was similarly brain-washed. We get a quickie action scene flashback, the other Batwomen kicking their way through some lower-level churchies, before they take on Man-Bat. In close-quarters he’s at a disadvantage, and can’t fly, and Black Bat is able to sneak up on him and dose him before he can escape. Batgirl relates that Lykos wasn’t making any kind of sense, but he was pretty sure Batwoman had been on their radar for a lot longer than any of them realized. Batgirl opens to a page painted with a rendering of Batwoman. It’s more gothic, more theatric, also old. Batgirl, at least preliminarily, has tested the pages, and the chemicals react like it was painted more than a hundred years ago- they’ve been waiting for her, and if half of what Lykos said is accurate, they got tired of waiting, and decided to create her, instead.

Alice runs the Church of Crime (but outsiders call it the Cult of Crime). She’s essentially David Koresh, if he wanted Waco, but also if he expected to win Waco. That’s why she’s been gathering her army of cops and military men, and has been training others using them to be even more badass.

The Colonel breaks in to discuss his findings, that the Church began with white supremacists and other far-right groups, because it was where vulnerable, disaffected men were congregating. It was looking for a certain kind of moral flexibility, and encouraged those men to become police, military, anyone who could be of influence in their coming campaign.

So the finale is going to be showstopping, the Batwomen having to infiltrate, all while keeping the Batman rule in effect (no killing), because at least half of the military/police at the compound were abducted into it. Once they’ve secured the facility, the Colonel rides in with the full army, and secures them, but Alice has already gone, taken the chemical weapons she stole up in the plane for the next part of her plan. See, fully 2/3 of her agents have been returned to their former lives, and re-embedded in the military and police. She plans to activate them when the fighting starts. That’s how she plans to win. But the opening salvo is unleashing chemical death on Gotham, killing millions and making sure that the forces of order show up in force. The Batwomen take a plane up, one that Barbara can fly, so it’s Kate and Alice and the other bats on the plane. Eventually, Oracle is able to get the plane to return ‘home’ automatically, so Barbara can join the fight.

But the part that’s really a kick in the berries is Alice herself. See, she locks her and Batwoman in the hold of the plane, where the chemical weapons are, while her hench-people fight the others. She reveals to Kate that yes, they created her. They knew that a Bat needs a tragedy, but even losing her mother, losing her sister, wasn’t enough. Kate was too resilient, took too well to military discipline. She needed to be a rogue operator- so she had to be cut lose. She tells her it took years, a hundred little stumbles, a phone call here, a temptation there, a roadblock there, all to keep Kate pliable, self-destructive, angry. If they’d only known that her father lied to her all these years, it might have been easier; they had laid out her quest so carefully, and yet, Jacob refused to start her on her journey. Her sister wasn’t dead. The girl was just some collateral damage. But they had her sister for fifteen years, a lifetime, really. For years they wondered why Kate didn’t come looking for her… it was only when Alice took the Colonel that she finally learned the truth- that Kate didn’t know. This entire time they’re fighting, Kate becoming more unhinged, more angry, more brutal, closer to using lethal force. “All this time, I’ve been trying to twist the knife, without realizing I’d missed the mark.”

Kate stumbles back, Alice’s knife sticking out of her chest. “I’d started to think there was something about me, that maybe you just didn’t care enough to rescue me. Sins of the father, huh?” It’s Batgirl who manages to get the compartment open. Alice is convinced she’s won, that their prophecies state that after she cuts out the Batwoman’s heart, she’s unstoppable. It doesn’t matter what they do next- she’s already won.

“How’s our girl?” Batgirl asks.

“Woman,” Batwoman croaks.

Black Bat, who after getting shot in BoP2 has taken first aid really seriously, is seeing to her. “Stable. Heart rate’s steady, and from the sonagram it looks like the knife missed the heart.”

“Seems like trying to force your prophecy backfired.” Batgirl tosses a pair of cuffs at her feet. “You stabbed my friend. You put those on, and I’ll try to remember which side of the line I’m on.”

Spoiler, who is, still, pretty much just happy to be included, “I’m just happy for a chance to kick you.”

“Two on one doesn’t seem all that ‘right side of the line to me,’ Alice says, drawing two ornate pistols from under a large skirt. Batarangs hit her hands before she can aim them, and she drops them.

“You can still choose the cuffs; they’ll just hurt more now,” Batgirl tells her. Alice chooses instead to hit the button opening the rear of the plane.

Batgirl glances at the poison, and the two lines trailed from it to the open door.. “It’s a gravity feed,” she says. Pilot tilts this plane even a few more degrees and we’re going to start spraying poison.”

“But I wanted to kick her,” Spoiler groans. She runs out of the room. We follow her, through the body, with lots of henchpeople, a few of whom stir and she kicks back down. Then she gets to the cockpit door, which she wires with plastique and blows. Then she puts the sharpened edge of a batarang into the pilot’s throat, and tells him to keep it steady, or he’s drinking what’s left of the poison. He tells her he’d rather die than betray his mistress. She says he says that, but if she has to slit his throat, she’s pretty sure even she can keep a plane steady. Only difference is he’d be dead and Batman would scowl at her, and probably never let her be a Robin again- which she’s not sure she’s got the legs for anyway, frankly.

In the rear, Black Bat is trying to hurry Barbara along, because a few hour class from the Red Cross really doesn’t cover nearly-stabbed hearts. Batgirl fights, but what she doesn’t realize, initially, is that Alice isn’t focused on her, or the poison, but on Kate. She tears the batarangs from her hands and flings them at Kate, sticking Black Bat to the wall with one. She proves to have one more knife, and manages to get the upper hand with Barbara, preparing to stab her and saying idly that perhaps it will make a woman out of her- hoping that maybe killing Batgirl will count towards the prophecy, instead. Kate shoves her, knocking her to the lip of the plane. Kate is immediately, with a knife still in her chest, trying to help her up. “Beth. Please. Take my hand. We can fix this. We can be a family again. We can be whole.”

“The only way I can be whole,” Alice says, letting go of the door and reaching for the knife even as Kate tries to take her hand. Alice twists the knife, and Kate drops her, and she falls towards the harbor below. The plane lurches, and we watch poison start down the tube, before the plane rights itself, and our characters rush to the cockpit. Spoiler is sitting in the pilot seat, with the old pilot sprawled.

“I’m not really sure I can keep us level without hitting a building, so…”

Black Bat arrives. “Yeah, I closed the back door so the poison wouldn’t, you know, kill everyone.” Batgirl takes over flying. The Colonel calls them over the radio, and Batwoman discusses returning the plane. The military police want to take the bats into custody. The Colonel insists that they were never there at all, that it would wound morale to have it exposed that they lost chemical weapons to one of Gotham’s garden-variety crazies. Batwoman is extra cold to the Colonel as she leaves.

Later, the Colonel shows at her cave. “Best divers at the base couldn’t find her.”

“You told me she was dead.” Kate says, opening her door. He doesn’t play coy.

“That’s what I thought, at the time. The girl they mutilated, at least with her head missing, was a ringer for Beth. They fudged the blood work; fudged the DNA, too. But somehow… I still knew. I stole a sample myself, and paid to have it tested blind, at an independent lab. I tried to tell you, a hundred different times. But you found a way to be happy. I couldn’t snatch that way from you again- I couldn’t drag you back down into the hell I was trapped in.”

“We could have been there together,” she says. “And I will be blisteringly furious with you, for longer than may seem fair. But we’ll get through this like a family, too.” They rest their heads against one another. “I miss them.”

“Me, too, kiddo.”

Credits

Mid-credits scene: The Colonel pulls away from Batwoman. “But, uh, this wasn’t a social call. That, gas… I know some of your people were exposed, whether or not Batman wanted me to. But it’s spreading. I don’t know if it’s just a change in the wind, or they’re pumping more of it out into the streets. Gordon’s been trying to keep his men out of it; he lost a couple teams before they figured out how noxious it is, that it can enter through skin, air, water. We were lucky, the other day it was raining it stopped shy of the East Side, or it would be in the drinking water by now. That luck won’t hold. We have to do something.”

End-credits scene: Barbara is listening to a voicemail from her dad. “This has been a long-time coming, Barbara. I’ve turned a blind eye, pretended I wasn’t a cop, or a father.  And don’t get me wrong, the city owes you and your friends a debt, a dozen times over… but we need to talk.” She hangs up the message as she enters the Clocktower. Oracle tells her the caller waited to speak to her directly.

I’m largely agnostic as to which Siren we get. Marketing would dictate we get whoever is most popular (likely Harley). Budget would likely dictate we use whoever’s cheapest, and I’d say pinch those pennies, because we’re going to need every single one of them for the next one, because it’s basically Endgame for the ladies of the DCU (and we really should spend accordingly). So our Siren (I’m just going to assume that it’s Ivy) tells Batgirl they screwed up. They thought they could stop the Fluoronic Man themselves. But now it’s clear he’s working at the behest (or at least to the benefit) of the city’s male crime lords, turning anyone who is exposed to Ivy’s altered pheromones into a violent misogynist.

Bonus: Birds of Prey 3: Birds of a Feather

The Birds of Prey (along with the balance of the Batwomen) have to team up with the Gotham City Sirens, because the male crime-lords in town partnered with Jason Woodrue to use Ivy’s pheromones against all the men in the city (I’m thinking at least Penguin, Two-Face and the Ventriloquist will be our fodder villains for this one). To complicate things, before the Sirens sit down with the Birds of Prey, Ivy made a desperate plea to Alec Holland to try and stop Woodrue… only for him to fall under the spell of her purloined pheromones. We probably start the story en media res, with Harley, Catwoman and Black Bat managing to break Ivy out of the clutches of Woodrue. This leads Woodrue to unleash his altered pheromone into the city, where all of the men turn incredibly hostile- basically normal men on the street attack them. The crime bosses use this chaos to their advantage; Batman is able to quarantine Gotham’s male heroes in the cave while he works on an antidote… all while being a pretty demented bastard all the same on their video link. This leaves things up to the ladies to fix. I think the way we first introduce this, is Harley is sneaking off from Ivy to meet with Jason Todd. Black Bat knows that, because she also knows the context: Harley feels terrible for her part in kidnapping and torturing him. She’s trying to make amends, and at the same time there’s really no one else who understands what she went through like Jason does. It starts as a two-person support group, but will grow from there.

Harley is nervous being in the back of a plane again. The last time she was in one, everybody died, and she’s having flashbacks. It’s mostly an excuse to show a montage of moments from the Suicide Squad (I figure if we build it into our mythos eventually people will watch it enough for it to become profitable- and it is a fun movie- which is why next year I’ll pitch a follow-up… but shhh). The montage ends with Flag, and we cut back to Harley in the back of the plane, a tear sliding down her cheek, “I miss Milton.”

Black Bat notices, and sits beside her in the plane, and takes her hand, “Harley, it’s going to be okay.”

“Is it?” she asks, trauma clearly having taken the wheel. “At any second Waller might kick in the door and decide to try to kill me again. And this plant dick took Ivy… I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to her.”

“I know,” Black Bat soothes, “we’re getting her back.”

“How’s our mental patient?” Catwoman asks, emerging from the cockpit.

“Still crazy after all these years,” Black Bat says. “But she’s good. Because she has to be.”

“She’s your responsibility. I’m getting Ivy out, because I don’t like owing favors. But the headcase is yours to babysit. If she goes to pieces, we may not have the space to put her back together.”

“I trust her. She’s just… her last time in a plane didn’t go so great.”

“We don’t have time for trauma. We need to jump in fifteen seconds.” Catwoman flings a parachute at Harley, and it flies past, before she raises her hand. Catwoman looks at Black Bat.

“She’s good,” Cassandra insists. “She’s rallying.”

Catwoman runs out of the plan and leaps gracefully into a leap past camera. Black Bat helps Harley into her parachute. “What if I can’t do this?” Harley asks.

“I’m pretty sure,” Black Bat glances at the cockpit, to see the stick is tied in place with a whip, “yeah, by engaging the autopilot Selena meant this stolen plane is going to crash as a distraction, so we don’t have much choice. Come on.” Black Bat takes her hand and pulls her to the door and jumps with her.

They’re buffeted by a bad wind, and separated, and Black Bat gets caught up in a tree as a patrol arrives. For a moment it looks bad. Then Harley pops up out of the grass and takes the patrol apart with swift, acrobatic efficiency. Catwoman’s already up in the tree and slices Black Bat out of her chute, and she falls with a somewhat comedic thud, before standing and brushing herself off.

“Jumping out of a perfectly functional plane is just crazy enough to be in my wheelhouse. What I meant was what if I’m not functional enough to save Ivy, to infiltrate this ‘compound,’ to be the kind of partner I’ve always wanted…”

“Harley,” Black Bat interrupts, “I love the brilliant, fucked up way your head works. But the reason I trust you, even now, with my life, is that when you follow your heart, I’ve never seen it steer you wrong. So when I say you can do this, I mean that you will, if you can just stay out of your own way. Okay?”

“Yeah,” Harley says.

“You two ever consider motivational speaking?” Catwoman asks, slinking down the tree. “Or getting your own Lifetime movie? Or maybe just starting a nationwide hug tour?”

“Ignore her,” Harley says, “she deflects genuine emotion because she’s worried if she doesn’t immediately bat it away people will understand how desperately she craves it, and to belong.”

Catwoman is not happy being analyzed; Black Bat puts up her hands. “You poked that bear.”

“Doing this for Ivy,” Catwoman says, annoyed. “Silver lining: maybe the two of you will get shot in the process.”

I’m assuming, since this is a big, ambitious swing already, that we should just montage them breaking in, taking out some guards, and rescuing Ivy, where we slow down again, because Harley wraps her arms around Ivy and kisses her. It needs to be a moment… but afterwards, it needs to not be a big deal, too (because I want them together, and happy, but if we make it too much of a thing then it’s like there’s something atypical about women finding love together… and there isn’t).

“What took you?” Ivy asks gently; she’s trying to keep it light, bantery, and not let on how scared she’s been, how much being used by Jason Woodrue has psychologically or physically taxed her, because she knows Harley has been merciless with herself, so she has to compensate by being kind.

“Traffic,” Harley says, half a laugh, half a sob.

“No crying,” Catwoman says, almost accusatory, but we can tell, too, it’s because it’s affecting her.

“In baseball?” Harley asks, raising her bat. The Sirens stomp together, as we do another quick montage (because we have so much story to get through on this one).

They get free, and we’re going to do a quick little flashback. Again, I don’t want to make a thing about them, like there’s anything odd about their pairing… but I like this moment. This is the moment it all comes out in the open.

“I didn’t look for you because you were probably the only person at Arkham who tried to understand me. I knew the tendency for a patient to put their doctor on a pedestal; I told myself you were doing a job, and doing it well, and that can be sexy, in its own right. I knew not to assume it meant anything, either about how I felt about you, or about how you felt about me.

“But then I saw you, with Cassie, and out in the world, as yourself, strong, confident, but with a heart so big and open that of course it flashed like a giant kick me sign to a monster like the Joker, but also… that showed just how warm, loving, and compassionate you were, how much you wanted for someone to love you like you love everyone. And that you could see people like us as… people. That’s a damning statement, to be sure, about our society, and the mental health profession, but you’ve always been a diamond,” she touches the diamond pattern on her right wrist, “and you’ve always deserved someone who saw that,” she kisses her.

Black Bat interrupts the story, and we reveal that Harley and Ivy are cuddling on a loveseat, while the other two are sitting in the same room. “I’m out. It’s like listening to 2 out of my 3 moms talk about making out. I’m out,” she reiterates as she leaves the room.

Catwoman sits quietly in her chair and stares.

“I had a cat like you,” Harley says. “Would just sit in the corner of my room and stair. Until I brought a guy home. Or a girl home. Or anyone else. And then, she’d lock eyes with me, and only then, she’d start to bathe.” Catwoman frowns, trying to  figure out her meaning, before just leaving the room.

“I don’t mind an audience, but a part of me did want you just for myself.” I want her to have that, too, so we’re going to fade to black.

We fade back in the next morning. I don’t care who wants what, but I really want to emphasize the humanity in this moment, the normalcy; one of them is snoring just buzzsaw loud, and the other has just left a puddle of drool on the other. And even this, I know, could be filmed with the male gaze in mind- but it shoudn’t. They should look like the room got hit with a hurricane, their hair should be mussed, as little makeup as possible (I mean, the characters are usually caked in it, so I’m genuinely not sure what’s supposed to be their skin and what’s makeup), but they are frumped to a degree that even Margot Robbie (and presumably Lake Bell, because that’s great casting) look like normal human beings. Black Bat knocks on the door, and comes in, keeping her arm over her eyes. “I really, really, hate to intrude on your love nest- like, I don’t know the words in English to express how much I don’t want to intrude,” (I like the idea of her spouting something in Mandarin or whatever to prove that the words exist, at least somewhere).

Harley wakes up, and feels self-conscious, picking up that Cass expects a sexed-up Adventureland, “Yep, the air is thick with the smells of sex and sensual oils and lubricants and just,” and tries to mop up the drool, wake up Ivy, all while making the both of them look a little more put together than they were (this should be silly and fun, not for gratification).

“Okay, whoa, already way more information than I would have ever wanted to know. But before I exit, you should know… it’s spreading. Ivy’s pheromones, Woodrue had enough of them that he’s blanketing the entire city. It isn’t just our neighborhood that’s a nightmare. It’s the entire city.”

“Let us get dressed.”

“Oh, God, no more,” Cassandra moans.

“We’ll be out in a minute.”

“Why didn’t you tell her the truth?” Ivy asks.

“What, that I took a beautiful woman to bed and then proceeded to drool all over her stomach? That I was snoring so loud it bugged me even in my own dreams. That despite my days being consumed with thoughts of sex and death the entire time you were missing, once you were back, all I could do was pass out next to you?”

Ivy, again, is gentle with her, recognizing Harley’s spiraling. “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again. I just needed you to hold me.”

“And I couldn’t even do that right.”

“The drooling wasn’t exactly what I expected. But I slept like a baby. I felt safe with you. It was exactly what I needed.”

“Yeah?” Harley asked.

“Being with someone isn’t just about rocking their world sexually. You also want to be comfortable just being with them. Feeling safe, and secure and, and loved.”

“Yeah,” Harley says, realizing how much she needed to hear that, and cuddling up against her. “I love you, Ivy.”

“I love you, too, Harls.”

Damnit. Okay. That’s on me. I promise I’m going to try and stop being so damned enamored of the two of them together that I can get back to pitching. I think the best way to get this story moving again is to take a peek at the other side of the aisle, namely the ‘good’ guys.

We watch Barbara walk by her suit in the Clocktower; she’s wearing clothes for a run. She tells Oracle that she needs to pick up an assignment from school, but then she’ll be back, and asks if Oracle needs anything. She asks for a Yoohoo (or other product placement to be paid for later).

There’s something on the air as she puts in her earbuds and puts on some music. We’re going to leave the music on for most of her run, at least until the insanity gets to be so much she silences it, and suddenly is faced to confront exactly how screwed up the few blocks she’s ran are. I figure this is one long take (but possibly with some hidden cuts, if need be). First she runs by a man who is clearly screaming at her, partially dodging to avoid specks of spittle flying through the air. Unfortunately, this is Gotham, so angry men yelling at random women on the street is a thing, and doesn’t phase her. At a hot dog cart, a man and a woman with a baby in a stroller seem to be altercating, when the man raises his hand. Barbara grabs the hook of his elbow and uses it to roll him over her back without stopping. She runs a little further, and a man takes a swing at her. She puts him down without any problem, only for another man to attack her. And a third. She puts them all down with ease, but we pull back, to reveal that this has all happened on the same block. Barbara turns down her music and calls Oracle. “Oracle, what the hell is going on?”

“You know that weird fog on the waterfront that turned any man who came into contact into a woman-hating troll? Yeah, well, it’s spread across the whole city. It’s chaos. Figured you knew.”

“I slept in. I’m going to head back to the Clocktower. Something tells me we’re going to need to handle this.”

We cut to Batgirl arriving. “So I called Batman, like you asked. He’s aware, by the way. Um… I’m struggling. I know this isn’t a typical workplace or… anything approaching a normal situation. I guess I just never imagined I’d ever hear Batman call me a c-word.”

“What?”

“And he called you, uh, B-girl.”

“Well, that is my-” she realizes Oracle means the other B-girl.

Oh. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

“It was more, comically surreal. But… he’s terrifying. Most of the time I don’t breathe when he calls. And I even noticed he noticed, and has tried to emote more, which should make me feel more comfortable, that he’s trying, but it’s like watching the Tin Man try to be more emotional by wearing Totos face. But it’s only right now, when I actually saw what he’s like when he’s threatening. And the idea that he could stay like this…”

“We’ll fix it.

“Almost makes me feel sorry for criminals. Not because of what he does do, but because… because of what he could do, what I now realize he might do. Gives me the feeling he is one day where they give him a shot of espresso instead of decaf from being Joker in a cowl.”

“Maybe that’s why he doesn’t drink caffeine at all- just doesn’t trust himself.”

“Really? Does he even sleep? And he still doesn’t touch caffeine? How does he stay up.”

“Obsession.”

“The Calvin Klein cologne? Does he chug it?”

“Will. Same way he’s still remaining functional, if a bit… jerkier than usual.”

“Feels like an understatement, but yeah, he’s still working, with all the other Robins, Nightwings, Red Hoods and whatevers in the cave with him. He’s isolated the compounds. Definitely bears some signatures worth being concerned over. Three names, at least trying to read between the lines; he was editorializing some, especially when it came to Ivy. But it was her pheromones. But they seemed altered, in a way that makes him suspect Swamp Thing and Jason Woodrue are involved.”

“That’s bad,” Batgirl reacts. “Really bad. Ivy on her own is trouble. Ivy and Woodrue are extinction level trouble. Swamp Thing would have been our go-to guy to help with it, but if he’s working with them, or they have him… call everybody.”

Everybody?”

“Let me rephrase. Everyone without a y chromosome. Anyone who can help, we need on standby, or here if they can swing it”

“What about Batwing?” Batgirl doesn’t follow. “They’re nonbinary.”

Barbara sighs. “I’ll text Batman. If this goes down to the chromosomal level, it might make sense to have Batwing sequester with the rest in the cave. But if not, it’s all hands on deck.”

We’re back in Ivy and Harley’s apartment. Ivy is wearing a shirt from Arkham (yeah, like she did in the first Arkham game), and is drinking coffee. “So… I’ve been talking to some of the houseplants.”

“You, too? They only seem to want to talk to me about celebrity butts. You?”

“That’s not them, hon, it’s a voice in your head. No, the plants tell me Alec was here.”

“Alec, Alec… why doesn’t that name ring a bell?”

“He was my ex. Is sort of dead. And a plant elemental.”

“You used to bang the plant guy?” Harley asks, amused, horrified, intrigued, confused. “I mean, there’s bumping uglies and then there’s bumping uglies.”

Harley.”

“I swear, I did not know, or I would have at least straightened up before he grew out of a few bags of fertilizer in the tub. He said it was the fastest way to get here from ‘the Swamp,’ which I really hadn’t expected to be all so literal. One of the bat people owed me a favor, got me his number, when you went missing. I thought plant guy, wearing a trench coat, he must be some kind of plant dick, and, not you know, your old plant d-”

“It was his friend who wore the trench coat. But it worked, I guess. You found me.”

“We did… just not at first. He led us into a trap. A trap for him, I think, or at least a trap for if he came looking for you.”

“Oh, no. A couple nights ago? When Woodrue’s experiments got a lot worse.”

“Yeah,” Harley says meekly. “But he did get us the lead that got you back.”

“For which I am grateful, but… do you understand what Alec Holland is?” Harley shrugs. “He is basically a plant god. Meaning, he could take my pheromones, and increase their potency. He could probably even reproduce them. That’s why Woodrue didn’t put up much of a fight when you came for me- because I was redundant. And now it’s a race against time, and we’re starting from behind.” She finishes her coffee and turns around. “How much pull do you have with these bat people?”

“Like I asked for a tour of the Batcave or for them to drive us around in the Batmobile while we made out in the back seat.”

“And they said ‘no?’”

“No back seat. The rest all depends. Are we asking to work with them, or trying to scam ‘em?”

“If you don’t at least leave the possibility of the latter open I’m never talking to either of you again,” Catwoman says, pouring herself a bowl of milk.

Ivy’s prepared. “I spoke with the city’s Economy Development Corporation, and they estimate there are half a million cats in Gotham City. I know cats are survivors and all, but what happens if jilted men decide to take their anger out on women’s cats, or worse, if my pheromones end up working just as well on male cats.”

Catwoman stops lapping at the bowl. “Can I at least steal something, when this is all over, so I don’t feel like a complete sap?”

“Sure,” they both say with a shrug.

Birds of Prey/Batwomen assemble at the tower, with the promise that the rest are dealing with a bigger threat outside of Gotham, but will be there as soon as they can wrap it up. Then they get the call from the Sirens, all agreeing to work together.

Oracle has been able to put together the records from all of their Woodrue-related locations so far. And it seems he’s been using places, money and resources from three separate crime families. Analysis of recent police surveillance has proven that the three seem to be working together, and that they need to hit all three crime bosses at once, to mop up as much of their men and resources as possible. They split into three teams, with Ivy’s team going to where they think Swamp Thing is/Penguin, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey going after Woodrue/Two-Face, and Batwoman and the other Batwomen going after the location where the pheromones are all stored to destroy them/Ventriloquist (he’s squatting on old Joker territory; he lost clout after fallout from BoP2, especially with his willingness to sacrifice his henchmen for a joke)- that meant the Ventriloquist had a lot of territory with abandoned chemical storage/disposal, perfect for the pheromones they pumped out of Ivy.  

The Batwomen easily deal with the Ventriloquist, Scarface and his vanilla mooks. Then they realize there was a lot more pheromone than they realized- acres of it. Batwoman calls her father. The base is still observing chemical weapons protocols, so they’re fine, if somewhat understaffed. He agrees to help her bomb the pheromone storage (I think he loads a plane with explosives and arranges for Kate to steal it, having learned since the last movie how to fly a plane… ish- the main sticking point being her landings are still mostly crashes in the simulator).

Ivy leads the Sirens to rescue Alec. Penguin, slightly impacted by the pheromones (but having always been a dick) gets the snot kicked out of him, and realizing how ridiculously powerful Ivy is, decide not to screw with them and leave without much of a fight. The true brawl, though, is with the Swamp Thing himself. He’s still under the influence of Ivy’s pheromones, only a stronger, more robust variant he helped concoct. Thankfully, midway through the fight Ivy realizes that the Swamp Thing they’re fighting isn’t Alec at all, that he essentially grew himself a bodyguard, so while the others fight him off (badly), Ivy reasons with Alec, that he’s a good man, the man she admired, the one she fell for. She kisses him, and it brings him out of his stupor, and then some. The bodyguard keeps fighting, but some of the life has gone out of it; this is amplified by the fact that Harley, seeing the kiss, goes berserk, and will hit him in the twig and berries frequently with her big-ass mallet. Alec’s still a little influenced by the pheromones, and clingy; Ivy says she thought he got engaged, and he says that’s complicated. Ivy tells him things are a lot less complicated for her- that she found someone who makes her happy, and looks over at Harley, practically glowing. Ivy uses the Swamp Thing’s arm to pull Harley to her, and kisses her. Harley stammers that she thought… before Ivy tells her she thinks too much, and kisses her. “I do.” And they kiss again.

Finally, Two-Face’s place is where the real fight happens. One half of his mansion is overgrown. The Birds of Prey split up, Batgirl leading one segment into the overgrown side, since she’s got all the weedkilling toys, and Question leading the other up the pristine side. Question and Huntress make short work of Two-Face, before wondering where all his goons are. Both Harveys smile. Woodrue knocks Batgirl and Canary through a door, rolling into the room. Harvey tells them the reason he didn’t see a point in putting his men in harm’s way tonight was that it was going to be a bloodbath- that they were just waiting for all the guests to arrive.

At that moment, the Sirens and the Batwomen arrive. Two-Face brags to Woodrue that his timing is impeccable. As you can see, we’ve got a ridiculous cast of women here already… but things are about to go just completely nuts. I wasn’t screwing with you when I said that this was Endgame for DC’s women. Well, here it goes.

I think for the ending we bring in a big Big Bad; personally, I’d swing for the fences and have it be Granny Goodness with a team of male furies; Granny Goodness has basically been taken to task by Darkseid. He thinks her Furies need to open up to male members, that she’s been artificially holding her elite soldiers back. So she’s testing his hypothesis, by recruiting a team of men. She explains that there’s a part of her rooting for the women, because they’ll prove her right if they win, not that she could ever gloat to Darkseid. But she wants her ladies back; she was the one who gave Woodrue the necessary upgrade to be able to adapt Ivy’s pheromones.

At first, the combined Birds of Prey are outmatched. But then… those other heroines we teased earlier on, who would show as soon as they wrapped up the bigger threat… they arrive. This loops in all of the most powerful of DC’s women for a fireworks finish as they beat a team of men under Granny’s control, before all of the rest of the women show up. This list is in no way all-inclusive, and will likely swell. But it should give you an idea of who’s punching who.

Wonder Woman Lobo
Big Barda Scott Free
Supergirl Granny Goodness
Power Girl Superboy
Zatanna Jason Blood/The Demon
Ivy Jason Woodrue
Catwoman/Black Bat (snatches Granny’s control rod)
Harley Quinn (souped up) Joker, like from the first Arkham game (can really be Clayface, if that’s too silly)
Batgirl Nightwing
Mary Marvel Black Adam
Fire  
Ice  
Huntress  
Mera  
Jesse Quick  
Natasha Irons  
Artemis  

Wherever possible/necessary, we can replace the menfolk with their CGI counterparts (having the Demon in a fight wouldn’t necessarily require paying Jason Blood to show; I’m all for paying him to show, mind, but I know some actors really hate showing up to film what is essentially a cameo, and it’s possible the budget on this will also be insane, so building in places where we can cut costs might be helpful).

But the women are winning. Granny is conflicted; she’s winning the moral argument even as she loses the fight. But she also knows that Darkseid doesn’t brook failure… she sees an opportunity to slink away, taking Jason Woodrue with her.

And, personally, I’d bring in at least 3 men, here: Batman, Superman, and whatever other male Justice Leaguer would be most impactful (could be Aquaman, given current box office). We start with whichever of them has the most recognizable voice, calling from offscreen. Camera pans, and we see those three, and think this is round 2 and it’s about to get brutal…. Only the men aren’t attacking. Or cursing. Batman explains that he’s synthesized an antidote, that he’s got Flashes spreading across the city administering doses.

Harley asks Wonder Woman if this means she’s in the Avengers- “I mean the Justice League, clearly you weren’t my safety squad.” Could be cute to have Ratcatcher 2 cameo, and Harley waves her off. Wonder Woman pretends not to have heard, and walks away. Harley is, for a moment, disappointed. But Batgirl is behind her. She tells her some people might look at them as minor league, but if Harley, Ivy, or Catwoman want, they always have a place in the, and before she says Birds of Prey, we go to black, and smash in the Birds of Prey logo. We quickly do the cast credits, before cutting back, immediately to the same scene.

Catwoman runs up to Harley and Ivy. “That thing I needed to do, it’s done, and we should go. Now.” She turns, and we can see she has a utility belt slung over her shoulder. It literally doesn’t matter which of the Batmen she took it from, but it’s slightly funnier if it’s a Robin and he has to hold his pants up. Batman bellows after Selena, and we cut again to black.

More credits. Then we’re on Apokalips. Jason Woodrue has seen better days. Clearly, he’s been tortured for a while. Desaad is overseeing that, but Darkseid is working with Woodrue’s figures. Desaad is becoming more concerned, that he’s been working with Woodrue’s information tirelessly, without speaking. Desaad is trying to get an answer from him, if the Antilife Equation is complete, if he’ll be able to mold the minds of men to his will. He’s not going to reply, but I would like to have him turn to camera, similar to Thanos at the end of the very first Avengers, and smile. But while that CGI Thanos looked a little cartoony, this one should be horrifying- and his smile should be a thing of nightmares. That Darkseid is happy at all should be something we’re all worried about.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 11: Outsiders: Hard-Traveling Heroes

The Outsiders are traveling in a Winnebago. Nightwing is grousing about how when Ollie offered to sponsor the team, this isn’t exactly what he envisioned. Ollie gives a variation of the Schindler speech, that he wishes he could spend extravagantly on the team, but he looks at the cost of retrofitting a spy plane, or even economy class plane tickets, and compares that to spending the money to vaccinate the poor in underdeveloped countries… he says it took him a long time to get his priorities straight, but he’s not about to go back to being profligate Ollie again, and ribs Nightwing that they could always ask for funding from his father, which gets Dick to stop smiling, for a moment.

It doesn’t last, as Dick’s good nature is one of his defining traits. He also takes a moment to rib Oliver about looking forward to seeing Black Canary again. Ollie admits she’s easy enough on the eyes, but we see how he really thinks of her, as we zoom into his eye, and see in soft focus, her punching bad guys and otherwise being effortlessly bad ass while beautiful. We zoom out, to see an oncoming semi, with Nightwing grabbing the wheel and swerving them out of the way. Dick offers to take a turn at the wheel, and Ollie and stands up, leaving the Winnebago coasting as Dick dives into the seat.

They arrive on the strip, and Dick asks where they’re staying. Oliver tells him to keep going. They drive past the strip. Past the casinos off the strip. They’re in a fleabag motel, with an overly boisterous neon sign declaring it the “Above Reproach Motel,” with “above” and “rep” entirely unlit. Black Lightning gets out and says that seems about right as they unpack. Arrow tells them that he rented out the entire hotel, so they have the run of the place- that Dick had emphasized to him that they needed space and privacy to plan out their caper.

“I also asked him to stop calling it a caper. But it’s been a long drive, everybody. I suggest you get some shut eye. We’ll have a briefing at 6:30.”

Huntress gives him crap about the late start. “I though all of you bat boys were up all night.”

“I probably will be. I was hoping you and I could get in some reconnaisance.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it?” At first it seems like witty reparte, but she’s actually asking (awkwardly and adorably).

“It’s been a while since anybody accused me of being a bat boy.”

“No one wears that much leather without being a bat boy.”

“I legitimately don’t know if we’re confused or flirting.”

“That’s where I live,” she says, and he stares at her a moment, before laughing.

“You had me going.” She’s confused by that. But she likes the attention, and that he’s confident enough to push past her awkwardness. Plus, she really likes patrolling.

“Wait,” she says. “Are we actually patrolling, or sneaking off to have sex… I just want to make sure I wear the right top.” He laughs, and they walk off screen.

We cut to Black Lightning, poking at Lo Mein noodles in a takeout container, sitting on the hotel couch, while talking on his cell. He zaps the TV to change channels. He’s talking to his significant other, concerned that the rest of the team are screwing off in Vegas, and he’s trying to decide between Lifetime movies. She tells him either he can zap his ass home, or they can watch a movie together. He tells her someone has to be an example to all these kids, show them how to act like a professional.

We cut to Canary and Arrow kissing, passionately, slamming against the inside of the door to her dressing room. “Not that I’m complaining, but what happened to waiting?” he asks.

“Oh, you’re still waiting,” she says, and pushes him against the door, “I just want your attention focused on what you’re waiting for.”

“Might have to change my name to Blue Arrow, you keep this up.”

“Ooh, Black Canary and Blue Arrow, I like that alliteration; and there’s the double-meaning of leaving the bad guys black and blue.”

“That is pretty good, but I’d have to sew a whole new set of tights.”

“I’m worth it.”

“Plus those Blue Beetles are very proprietary about their color- and quite litigious.”

“Tell me about it,” Ray Palmer appears, growing from a place sitting on Canary’s counter.

“Dad,” Canary says, snatching flowers from him and throwing them on the counter, “we talked about this: boundaries.”

“I didn’t mean to walk in on a Cinemax movie. I was trying to do one of my, ‘Hey, where did he come from?’ entrances.”

“Yeah, and when you pulled that on me, you got yourself a brand new set of tinitis. You’re just lucky he didn’t have his bow or he might have… bowed you.”

“Et tu, Canary?” Green Arrow asks.

“Et me,” she says. “But at least you learned to throw a proper punch, so there’s still hope for you.”

“Had a hell of a teacher.” She gives him a peck. “Who knows a thing or two about motivation.”

“You’re punishing me, aren’t you?” Ray asks.

“Pretending you’re not here- because you shouldn’t be,” she says.

“It’s about, your mother.”

“Crap,” Green Arrow says.

“I thought the trail went cold in Gotham,” Canary says, spinning to face him.

“It had. Or rather… it didn’t get cold, the GCPD kept it on ice all these years. And that’s why I could find… this.” He shows them an image on his phone of human tissue through a microscope, subtly including a footprint.

“What am I looking at?” Green Arrow asks.

“A slide from Canary’s autopsy. This is the aftermath of an aneurism. She was too good to just catch a bullet in some back alley. I never believed… she was dead before she was shot. This proves it.”

“How?” Arrow asks.

He pinches and zooms in on it, to more specifically focus on the footprint. “It’s a footprint. Given the size, and depth, it’s a woman’s size 6, she weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 125 lbs. Either she was the killer, or an eyewitness. Either way, the odds of someone standing in her brain at the same time of a spontaneous aneurism in a healthy, middle-aged woman… the odds are astronomical.”

“And what are the odds someone would kill my mother with shrinking tech, dad?”

“Not good,” he admits. “Shrinking tech is expensive to make, and mostly gets used by people on our side. I think I was the only one, at the time, operating it.”

“And who had access to your tech?” Arrow asks.

“Anyone with access to the JSA headquarters. Or a storehouse I kept in Jersey, in case that was ever compromised. I had some personal storage for a stretch in the seventies, too, in Gotham.”

“But you’re here,” Canary says, “because you’ve already run down those leads. So why are you here?”

“Because my tech runs on very specific isotopes. Specific, and rare. There aren’t a lot of places to buy them. And the people who supply them, there isn’t a one of them who doesn’t owe me a favor; I taught some of them, helped the rest, in costume or out. And there’s one in Vegas, who sold, just a day ago, to an older woman, fits the rough description, with some allowance for passage of time.”

“Older enough?” Canary asks.

“She thinks so- presuming she’s well preserved.”

“How big a favor did she owe you?” Arrow asks.

“Pretty big. She put a radioactive isotope impurity we can trace in the package.”

“I’m uncomfortable that this conversation began with a package and is ending with one.” Arrow says.

“You’re just sad that the package we’re talking about now isn’t yours,” Canary teases. “But we’ll come back to it,” she says, grabbing her jacket.

“Don’t you have a show?” Arrows asks, pointing to the star on her door.

“Not tonight. I only do an afternoon show today.”

They leave.

We do a little homage to the Batman origin, a wealthy looking couple, woman in furs and pearls, man in a nice suit, with their young son, cutting through an alley. A gunman steps out, threatening them. Nightwing drops down on him like a ton of bricks, the gun clattering noisily to the ground. Nightwing bows with a flourish, and assures the boy it’s all part of the show. A second gunman steps out from behind a dumpster. A bolt pins him to the brick wall, and Huntress lands, kicking him in the face; he remains pinned to the wall by the bolt.

They climb to a rooftop. Huntress looks like she’s pouting.

“You okay?”

“You’re asking me? You were the one who nearly got shot in the back.”

“I’ve learned that part of being a good partner is trusting people to have your back. I knew you’d be there for me.” She’s uncomfortable, physically if nothing else. “So I want you to know I’m here for you, starting with asking if you’re okay.”

“I’m okay,” she says, half-heartedly, and through it we see she’s disappointed.

So does Nightwing. “I know things didn’t happen with Mandragora like you wanted. But taking him in alive, there are a lot of families who are sleeping better tonight, maybe sleeping at all, because you did the right thing.”

“You kind of made me,” she says, her disappointment on the verge of pouting.

“Not what I meant. I know you were there, at the handoff, when the Sheriff’s Department gave him over to the Federal Marshals. You had a shot, and you were far enough away I wouldn’t have been able to stop you. Mandragora may not have killed my parents, but as someone who knows that loss as well as you do, and because the other families don’t know how hard doing the right thing was like I do, I wanted to say ,’Thank you.’”

“Oh,” she says.

“Not what you wanted to hear?” he asks.

“No, it’s not that, it’s… I think I might have worn the wrong top.”

“No,” Nightwing says, and he spins her, so she lands with her back against a wall as he leans into her and says, “You’re not.” But her instincts kick in, and she has her crossbow pressed into his throat. “Unless I’ve misread things.”

“No,” she says, and for a moment she’s embarassed, before rolling him, so he lands painfully on his back. She jumps onto his lap, and says, “I just like to be on top.”

We cut back to Arrow, Canary and Atom. They’re following Atom’s tracker, but it leads them to an arena. The bouncer is definitely powered (we could do a cameo from someone like Killer Croc; Clayface might be even more fun, since Canary could get suspicious and he could tell her to call his parole officer) or just have it be a generic mook who insists “No capes on the ticket. Bids only accepted through a proxy.”

Atom says, “Look, over there, it’s a distraction!” and for a moment they all look where he pointed, but not long enough for him to do anything. Then Arrow realizes that’s his cue, notches a napalm arrow, and sets fire to a car where Atom pointed. The bouncer’s annoyed, but tells them the street is outside his purview- and if they call the fire department he won’t even call the cops on them. Then he realizes Atom’s gone.

Arrow and Canary grab something to eat at a little cafe nearby. “My fries are cold,” Arrow says, “want to make out?”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Canary says, “but knew the moment I vocalized it,”

“Think that’s my cue,” Atom grows.

“I was beginning to think you paused in the middle of the heist to take an old man nap.”

“I could nap… but no. One, I found out that they pawned my gear. I couldn’t get close enough to check the control numbers. They bought the isotope because they had to prove it was authentic for it to go on the slab, which meant shrinking with it. Two, I talked to management. Roulette. She runs the gladiator games and the auction house. She’s usually pretty strictly all about discretion, but,”

We cut to her office, where Roulette is talking to Ray. “I’m a capitalist, first. And I recognize an opportunity when I see one.” She brings up several images of Arrow and Canary together, lingering touches, maybe pecks, typical tabloid fodder, on her row of monitors, even a live feed of them at the café across the street. “I have a reality show apartment I bought, wired up with cameras. Nothing hinky; not toilet or shower cameras.” The couple stay in the apartment one night, and she can sell the hell out of access to the house cams. “They don’t have to do anything but be themselves. They do that, and I’ll give you what you need to find your mystery woman.”

Ray doesn’t trust her, but Roulette made it clear that if they don’t play ball, she’ll sell the gear to an anonymous bidder, and pay the owner in untraceable crypto, and the trail dies there. Their only other option is to try to have Atom intercept the wire transfer and trace it; last time that happened he spent a week crawling through the bowels of a crypto farm in the Philipines- not exactly a ringing endorsement of that strategy.

Canary agrees. Arrow is reluctant (maybe because he was wealthy playboy enough to have been tabloid fodder before). Atom has an idea- he can shrink down and be their guardian angel. Arrow mentions that it’s probably too late, because the sun is coming up. Atom says the deal is for the next night. As they exit the cafe, they see digital billboards are already touting Green Arrow and Black Canary sharing a romantic evening in the Snoop House. “That’s not ominous at all,” Arrow says.

The next morning they’re all gathered for Nightwing’s briefing. He glances at the clock. “We waiting for something, boss?” Black Lightning asks.

“Yeah,” Green Arrow and Nightwing say at the same time, and Dick yields, letting Green Arrow continue. “We’re waiting for Dick to start.”

“We’re waiting for the other members of the team,” Nightwing says. “And I think that’s her.” He sees a woman’s silhouette emerging out of the sun, and as she gets closer we can see it’s Donna Troy. Her iconic star pattern costume doesn’t really sell her as being a Wonder Girl before Cassie Sandmark; it might make sense to go with something like the red jumpsuit; a good mid-point might be to mix that with the Jim Lee DCNu version with the dark pants (so it’s basically a jumpsuit version of Wonder Woman’s costume). Maybe you could go for a gold-accented variant to Wonder Woman’s, kind of like her usual costume intermingled with the golden hawk armor from 1984.

“Sorry I’m late,” she says. “I’ve been in a holding pattern for fifteen minutes. Wally made me promise I wouldn’t land without him; the other Flashes would never let him live it down if he was the last one to arrive.”

“Foolishly, I didn’t swear her to secrecy on that point,” Wally says, suddenly beside her.

“There’s doughnuts and coffee, and bagels and just a ten pound bag of sugar for Wally,” Nightwing says. Wally runs by the spread, and half of it disappears in a blur.

“Suddenly the spread makes sense,” Canary says.

Nightwing gives his briefing. It’s very low-tech, all things considered, as far as what Nightwing is presenting… we can cut away and montage the hell out of it like the whole thing was being done by Soderbergh (alternate pitch: GET SODERBERGH- how freaking cool would that be? I imagine he’d be curious about doing that thing he do but with a much crazier budget and FX).

Nightwing tells them that three casinos off the strip have been taken over by supervillains. Ostensibly, they’ve been hired to have their likeness exploited by the casinos, and to make celebrity appearances, on the floor and at their shows. But really, they’re holding the casinos hostage. At Joker’s Wild, the Joker has rigged the air vents with his Joker toxin- if the casino doesn’t keep giving him his cut, he’ll turn everyone inside (including the held-hostage family of the casino’s owner) into homicidal maniacs, most of whom won’t survive the transformation. At the Double Trouble, Two-Face has wired up every hotel room with explosives corresponding to red or black- and that if the hotel operators cross him he’ll spin his roulette wheel, and blow half the rooms- either red or black based on chance. At The Royal Flush, The Royal Flush Gang aren’t just taking a cut- they’re taking everything, pocketing even the paychecks of the employees, and forbidding anyone with any remaining cash from leaving- if you fail a credit check they’ll let you go, but otherwise no one leaves.

Finally, the problems started when a superpowered mobster named Blockbuster collected a casino in lieu of a debt. He’s been washing the supervillain underworld’s dirty cash through the casino since. He’s also the mastermind behind the takeover of neighboring casinos- he wants to buy them, outright, but first needs the current owners desperate- so he helped organize the attacks to both drive down the price and also take a cut to help him buy at the reduced price. This is because he wants to expand, beyond the relatively respectable among the villain set, to the real monsters, the terrorists, the sex traffickers, but for that he needs more casinos to be able to launder more money. Blockbuster’s casino is a tougher nut to crack, because it’s legit- but it’s also sitting on several times as much cash as it can legitimately claim, enough that it will be bankrupt if it has to make good on what it owes to the underworld figures if it disappears. 

The jobs are all complicated enough that they’re going to need all of them for each– and because if they tip off any one of the villains the others are likely to carry out their threats, they all have to happen concurrently, with all of them dropping in and out of each heist with the precision of a tightly-wound Swiss watch. Nightwing tells them he’s given Wally plans for each of the casino vaults, and has take-out from every delivering restaurant in a mile radius piling up at the reception desk to feed him while he constructs them to scale.

Wally disappears, then reappers, holding a hammer, and with some ketchup on his cheek. Donna tells him about the ketchup. “Oh, I’ve got ketchup everywhere. Moving at that speed, it’s like walking through a condiment tornado.” Nightwing tells them they have a few days, that Catwoman’s been doing some recon for him on the inside, and that’s as much time as they can safely delay before Joker’s likely to get bored and just start killing people to amuse himself.

Montage of them working through the heist stuff. Canary’s phone goes off. She’s got a show at Two-Face’s casino. Arrow goes with her, in civilian clothes. While there, they get a formal invite from Roulette, telling them a car will pick them up, in costume, after her show.

Two-Face is aggressive with Canary, and she flashes back to Black Mask from Birds of Prey, clearly still traumatized by their relationship. But Arrow is there, and comforts her enough that she puts on a brave face (pun!). Canary gets a musical number; Arrow watches Two-Face to see if there’s anything he can apply to their heist, later.

Arrow and Canary grab their ride and arrive at the Snoop House. She’s tired, and is looking forward to sleeping. “Sleeping?” Green Arrow asks, pretending he’s disappointed. She says she doesn’t trust this place enough to break wind in the bathroom, she’s not letting him as much as give her a courtly peck on the cheek. He agrees. But… there’s an expensive bottle of wine on the table. Arrow doesn’t trust it, but Canary uses a sonic cry to test the seal- the bottle is still sealed. Atom climbs through the cork, and tells Canary through an earpiece that he checked it on the atomic level- it’s clean, and it’s nowhere near enough alcohol to get three adults even tipsy- or two, yeah, he meant two, because he’s not here. Arrow is still uncertain, but Canary says she’s going to open it, and cries at the perfect pitch to pop the cork, then tells him either he’ll help her drink it or he won’t.

We cut to a bar, as the last of five bottles of beer are opened up. “This feels weird,” Wally says. “Doing this. When the last time we did this, we weren’t even old enough to do this. You know what I mean.” Donna relates that they were Teen Titans, then- or 3/5 of them were. Nightwing is apologetic to Black Lightning, for not inviting him to join the team. He tells them he’s older than them, he was like nineteen and a half by the time their team ‘debuted,’ that even if he’d wanted to join a team, he would have had only a few months before he was no longer a teen. Plus, he wasn’t much of a joiner, back then, so it’s cool.

“I was living in Italy with assassins,” Huntress adds. “Not, uh, really eligible.” Things are a little awkward, since the group haven’t been a group long, and even those that were haven’t seen each other in a while. So they decide to play some have you ever. Wally starts with he’s never made out with Nightwing, and Donna and Huntress drink. Huntress, either stewing or not quite getting the game, says she’s never made out with Donna. Wally and Nightwing drink, and they explain that the Teen Titans were basically one of those high school parties where everyone paired off and made out with everyone else- only kinkier because everyone was wearing masks, but still, pretty chaste, all things considered- since no one wanted to screw up the team by really pairing off. Which only makes things more awkward with Huntress.

Wally suggest they spin one “or several” of the bottles they’ve emptied, Black Lightning says he’s too old for “this shit,” and bounces. Nightwing realizes they all probably are, but it just means the rapport they build will be built of stronger stuff. He suggests they call it a night.

We cut to Arrow, still wearing his mask, rolling over in bed, curling into Canary. She’s wearing a wedding dress, which causes him to stir, and realize he’s wearing a tux. And they have matching wedding rings. Strewn across the very messy bed are rose petals and Polaroids of their drunken night of debauchery, including a stop off at an instant wedding chapel. Some of the Polaroids would seem to imply they’ve consummated their relationship. Arrow wakes Canary, frantic.

They freak out together, each blaming the other for things getting out of hand, as they spiral further out of hand, and they start pushing each other. Green Arrow tries to stop her early in, saying, “I don’t understand everything that’s going on here, Di, but I’m not going to raise a hand to the woman I love- I won’t be that guy.”

She has no such compunction, saying something like, ”I’m not going to let another man terrorize me ever again,” before belting him. She’s having trouble keeping him and Black Mask separate in her head. We cut to the gladiator arena, where a crapload of spectators, including some of the villains from this movie, bidding on the victor, as expensive looking fight graphics play on the Jumbotron: Green Arrow vs. Black Canary.

Canary throws him through a dresser, and out of it spill his bow and lots of green arrows. He spends a moment searching for something nonlethal, “My fortune for a taser arrow, or a knock-out gas arrow, or even a damned net,” she kicks him in the stomach. He finally picks up a regular arrow (they’re all regular arrows) and notches it. She punches the arrow in half, before punching him in the throat. “Thought you said I was getting better,” he strains.

“Better don’t mean good,” she says, knocking him out. She takes a few steps, realizing she doesn’t feel right. She tries raising her dad, saying they definitely were dosed with something- she’s not hungover, she knows what that feels like. He doesn’t respond, which confirms her concern.

The phone rings. It’s Roulette. Canary’s pissed off that Roulette dosed them and made them think they got married and had sex. She confronts her about putting steroids in the air, maybe something else, too. She cops to it, and tells Canary that Atom’s gear disappeared. But she’s pretty sure the owner took it back, and Ray into the bargain, and Roulette has another way she can find him- when he was in her office, Roulette placed a tracker on him. In her nightstand is the tracker.  

We cut to Atom. He comes to, tied to a chair. He tries to shrink, but his equipment won’t work. “Oh, Ray,” she says, “equipment not working? Funny, that was how I found out about you and Black Canary, back in the day. You were a naughty boy, then, Ray. Have you been naughty now?”

“You? What the hell’s going on?” Ray asks.

The next day, Canary and Arrow talk to Nightwing. He originally was confronting them about sneaking out- and how the team need them focused. Canary bursts like a dam, telling him that her father’s in town, helping look for her mother’s killer, but he’s been taken. Nightwing turns on a dime, no longer concerned about their heists; his family were killed, and clearly he was raised in a family that is motivated by hunting family-killers. He’s laser-focused on hunting the killer with her; it is the most like Batman we will ever see him, though he’s warmer, and more personally supportive at the same time, to the degree that Arrow is a little concerned about Nightwing horning in; no one else validates his insecurity (which only makes it funnier).

Nightwing goes to the others, and brings them up to speed, how this is about saving Canary’s father and avenging her mother. “Avenging?” Huntress asks, perking up. He reiterates they want nonlethal capture; Canary wants to know what happened with her mother, not a corpse. Huntress is hurt; not just disappointed, but hurt.

They cancel the day’s practice, in favor of riding out immediately. They roll up on the safehouse Atom’s being held in.

We cut inside. Atom’s still captive. His captor tries to give him something to eat, even as we see on security feeds that the Outsiders have arrived. Atom’s preoccupied with talking to his kidnapper. “Jean? Honey, what’s going on.” She’s standoffish, but gets close enough for him to grab her, only for him to gently take her hand. “Please,” he pleads, his voice rife with emotion, “Jean, talk to me.” We see Nightwing finish picking the lock on the front door even as Black Lightning electrocutes the cameras, shorting the feed.

She gasps. Wanting him to play cops and robbers with her was the only thing that was keeping her going. “Ray, I…” She crumbles.

She’ll narrate some of a flashback. Jean loved Ray Palmer from the moment they first met. She played hard to get, before letting him woo her; part of her was worried he’d be like other men who gave up after the conquest, and the rest because she was truly worried about how much she wanted him. And for a moment, it was magical, everything she’d imagined. And then Ray joined the Justice Society, and started working with Black Canary. She was beautiful, and fit, and always walking around in those fishnets and that tight, revealing little outfit. She couldn’t compete, especially not with the endorphins of fighting for their lives. And when half their team disappeared, she especially couldn’t compete with their shared grief. Ray left her a long time before he left her. And she never stopped wanting him back. She followed him, figuring out where he kept his surplus equipment. She snagged one of his older suits- not the oldest, which he kept for nostalgia, or the newest, which he was always tinkering on, but one of the surplus ones, one he might not be sure really was missing at all.

She tried to scare Canary off several times. She gave her a handful of close calls. She leaked her identity to the police, to the papers, even to villains. Finally, she thought, maybe she could make Canary forget Ray. She went inside her mind, and started screwing with linkages, and accidentally caused an aneurism. She called Canary an ambulance, but it was Gotham, in one of the neighborhoods where the cops can take hours to show, and where an ambulance won’t come without the cops. Long before anybody came, Canary was gone. Jean panicked, and to cover her tracks, she shot Canary in the head.

It screwed her up. She and Canary had been friendly. They were rivals, sure, she was even willing to hurt Canary to take her place at Ray’s side, but did not want to harm her, not seriously or permanently. She was a broken woman when Ray, hurting over what happened to Canary, reached out. She hadn’t wanted that, but in that moment they truly, desperately needed each other. Their love, their years together, were genuine and heartfelt, even though they were built on a despicable act.

As she finishes telling her story, we realize that Black Canary has been in the room basically since the story started. Jean throws herself at Canary’s feet, seeing how much she looks like her mother, and that blurring the lines enough for her that for an instant she thinks she’s Canary’s ghost, and not her daughter. She pleads with her to forgive her- that she wanted Canary to forget Ray- she didn’t want to hurt her. Canary asks Atom, who Nightwing has cut free, what’s going on. He’s a ghost, himself, telling her that he didn’t want to introduce her under these circumstances, but this is his wife, Jean Loring. They married a year after Canary died; he just lost the will to play superhero after that; even seeing his old costumes made him weep.

“All I wanted was to be the love of your life,” Jean whimpers, collapsing to the floor.

“Instead, you killed her,” Ray says, hollowed out. “This is all my fault.”

“No,” Canary says, hugging him, “it’s not.”

“This, uh, isn’t usually the way this goes,” Nightwing says. “There’s usually more punching.”

“Yeah,” Black Lightning says, “bet that hurts a lot less.”

“So what do we do with her?” Donna asks.

“I just looked it up,” Green Arrow says, “and statute of limitations on any kind of negligent homicide is long since past.”

“Dad?” Canary asks.

“She needs help,” Atom says. “I haven’t always been the best partner; God knows, I’ll always have to wonder if any of this would have happened if I were a better man, but I won’t abandon her again. I’m going to make sure she gets the help she needs.”

This is a perhaps overly somber moment, and we need to transition out of it, but not without letting the characters heal. I think Nightwing does a little wrap-up, back at the hotel. “I think today was a good reminder, for me. Sometimes, with the Titans, we could get wrapped up in the silly, fun aspects of being us. There were times I didn’t take it seriously enough, where I wasn’t able to stop and see the human cost underneath. I’m not saying,” (and here he does his Batman voice), “We should all be more like Batman. Because we shouldn’t. I’m not even sure he should be. We all have to learn to be the best Donna, the best Wally, the best Helena-“

“I prefer ‘Huntress.'”

“The best Huntress, then. Because we still have a job to do. There’s a lot of dirty money flowing through these casinos, funding a lot of the kinds of human misery we often don’t see up close like this. And more than ever, we need to shut it down, because we know how much it’s going to hurt people if we don’t.”

We cut to Arrow and Canary’s room. He’s holding her, when there’s a knock at the door. Atom comes in, and takes over, and father and daughter hold one another. Later, Arrow brings them coffee, where they sit looking out of the balcony. She’s holding her dad’s hand, and rests her head on Arrow’s shoulder as the sun begins to set.

Montage of more prepping for the heists. Included are little moments for each of them, like this one: “Are you sure you can make the shot?” Nightwing asks. We speed through the air as Arrow fires again. There are several arrows stuck to the middle ring of a target, but none in the center, which would allow the shot to slip through the slit between the barely opened faux vaultdoor.

We do the heist montages, with just enough moments spent with each villain and their pairings to feel like they’re not just generic villains from the Oceans movies. Nightwing and Huntress take on the Joker. This one will likely be the most fraught, because Joker’s figured them out, and re-masks them amongst his henchpeople, with masks he cut from the cloth napkins used in the restaurant inside the casino. Joker gets to monolog and threaten, wondering aloud which of the ways he could murder them would hurt Batman the most, intercut with the other heists. Eventually, Joker says he’s bored, and will just transform all of them into homicidal Jokers, and tries to blow the explosives. Nightwing leans into Huntress and tells her that’s why they stopped at the Wild their first night in town, that Joker was bound to do something like this. They fight their way out, leaving Joker knocked out. 

Two-Face likewise figures them out, because the Joker got a lot less morose a few days before. So he captures Green Arrow and tells him that he’s going to put his ideals on trial- that he can choose to be the new man he’s promised through his press agent, more focused on the group, or the selfish man who is going to save the woman he loves, and can walk out scott free. He’s about to answer when Wally, panting in the middle of the desert, standing on top of a large pile of explosives, calls over an earpiece to Arrow that he’s finished. Canary tells him if he doesn’t answer the question first she will collapse his lungs. He offers to let Two-Face shoot him; that losing her he would never be a whole man, but he couldn’t be either, if he let all those people die. He’d rather take a bullet himself. Two-Face flips his coin, tells him that wasn’t an option, but he’ll gladly shoot him and Canary both- that he’s always been a sucker for a tragic love story. That’s when Nightwing and Huntress arrive, and help finish off Two-Face.

The Royal Flush is the most bombastic of the three. When King tries to call the other casinos to tell them that they’ve been compromised, Donna tells him he can’t be weak in front of the other villains. Black Lightning appears, and tells her their communications are fried, and she tells King he can be as weak as he wants, then. Troy and Lightning have trouble with all five members… until the rest of the Outsiders arrive, and help them mop up. 

Finally, there’s the Blockbuster. This one is a lot more straightforward, since the heroes all have to show as civilians. They manage, with Green Arrow’s shot, to block the vault open with an arrow. Then they empty the vault. Blockbuster himself, not believing they could have thwarted his security or his plans, ends up in the empty vault. He tells his assistant to liquidate everything, and get him a charter to Santa Prisca. He needs to buy sanctuary with the King Snakes, because they never cleaned their money through the casino, and therefore are the only ones who might help hide him.

Pre-Credits scene: Arrow and Canary wake up in a hotel room.

“Oliver, why am I in a wedding dress?”

“Because it looked so elegant on you I insisted we take it.”

“And why am I wearing a ring that’s heavy enough I actually feel the weight of it?”

“Ring?” he sits up, bleary-eyed. “Oh,” he says, furrowing his brow, “I suspect because it’s the match to mine.”

“This can’t be legal.”

“I believe the important question is do you want it to be?”

“Not today.”‘

“Fair enough. Though I imagine we keep landing in this position because on some level it’s where we want to end up.”

“Also because you bought some ridiculously good champagne.”

“Ridiculously good champagne notwithstanding.”

“You asking, or telling?”

“You want me to ask, I’m going to need to borrow that rock,” he says, and gets down on one knee. She pulls him up to his feet and kisses him, and we cut away.

Green Arrow is discussing with Nightwing the possibility of hiring on a Green Lantern to up their game as they’re packing up their hotel rooms. He tells Ollie that great minds think alike as John Stewart lands. “I know just the guy,” he says, since then it’s a fun mislead.

Jason Todd calls Dick Grayson, wishing he’d had a crack at the Joker. “Wouldn’t that have been two-cracks? I hear you’re all about the art of the double-tap these days.”

“You can stick to playing touch football with these psychopaths, if you want, but I’ll tell you, brother from another mother, they aren’t playing the same game of patty-cake with you.”

“I’m not usually one to cast the first stone, but there’s plenty of people who’ve used the ‘P’ word to describe you.”

“Pussy.”

“No, the other one.”

“No, I was calling you one for pussy-footing around the word: psychopaths. That’s what they are. Deranged. Unstable. And yeah, I’m on a lot less even of a keel since their Clown Prince tortured me for months. I get about thirteen solid minutes of sleep between nightmares that the bastard still has me chained up in his basement. But we’re not talking about your garden variety mental health patients, here; these are people who revel in it. Who get off on the pain they cause. Believe me, no one looks forward to the day I can hang up my guns for good more than me.” He sighs. “Look, all I really want to know is whether or not you hit him extra hard for me.”

Dick hesitates a moment. “Always. And I know I give you crap. It’s not because I want to, or-“

“To prove you’re teacher’s pet?”

“We both know that’s Barbara.”

“I think you know Barbara a lot more thoroughly than I do.”

“Boundaries, man. And I want to know you’re okay. I can’t even imagine what you went through.”

“You? Probably not. But Dad? I was the one who had to talk him down. I didn’t need that, you know, but seeing it, it almost made the whole thing worth it. To know how much we matter to him, if only for a moment. That’s screwed up, isn’t it?”

“It is. Whole family’s screwed up like that. But you don’t dress like we do and have our kind of nightlife if you had a healthy childhood.”

“Barb kinda did.”

“Yeah…”

“And from the way you’ve talked about the circus it doesn’t sound like such a bad way to grow up… you know, until the tragedy.”

“Yeah. Tragedy does always kind of screw things up.”

“It’s weird, how many of us there are, now. I remember when it was just the three of us, and you and dad were barely talking…”

“It’s still weird to me to think of him as ‘dad.'”

“It helps being tortured by a maniac. Sort of peels away the emotional detachment. But my point was we were a weird little family. A dad. And an older brother slash dirty uncle who didn’t get along with him. And now there’s I’ve lost count how many Robins. Batwoman. At least one Batgirl, with a bunch of Birds of Prey hanging around her. And most of us join or even lead teams of our own.”

“Makes sense,” Dick said. “Just a bunch of orphans trying to figure out where we belong.”

“Yeah.” Jason pauses a beat. “You hit him really damn hard, right?”

“Thought I broke my jaw, his hand, or both, for a second there.”

“You think dad would ever forgive me, if I put a bullet in him?”

“I’ve known Bruce a really long time, and I don’t think it’s about what you’ve done, Jason. I think it’s about what you’re going to do. We all make mistakes, you know? But trying to be better than you were- I think that’s what matters most.”

“Doesn’t sound like a yes, though.”

“I don’t know, man. If I had to guess, if he felt like you couldn’t help it, like you had no choice, he’d forgive you. I think if you did it because you want to, on the hope he’d forgive you anyway… then I really don’t know. What he’s built, it’s bigger than any one of us. You killing someone you could take in, that might bring the whole thing crumbling down. And even then, I think he’d want to forgive you. But this thing he built, he built it so we didn’t have to be alone. You take that from him- from all of us, and I just don’t know, man.” We cut away.

I think at the end, Ollie decides to spend a little more on the team. This is revealed from him ‘souping up’ their Winnebago, which he demonstrate by blowing the horn, which now plays ‘La Cucaracha.’ The Outsiders give him crap for this, then he says that it also does this, and flicks a switch, and the exterior transforms into a sleek, green “Arrow car.” After a moment, the inside increases, morphing to show a state of the art mobile headquarters inside, as well. Ollie plays this off as having used the ill-gotten gains from the criminal’s portions of the heists… but Dick knows how much this kind of Batman-tech costs, and Ollie cops to using some of his fortune on it. Turns out, selectively leasing tech from Wayne Enterprises and Kord Industries, given what those companies do with their profits, is another way to do good with his fortune.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 10: Justice Society 2: Marvelous

We start slice of life. We follow Billy Batson on a typical day as a young orphan. At one point, he daydreams, as he touches an invitation, embossed, fancy, old-fashioned, from the Justice Society inviting Captain Marvel to attend. After school, he talks with whichever of the other orphans it makes sense to bring along, mostly because I love Adam Brody, I’d make it Freddy. They start, as kids, discussing the opportunity/responsibility of being called by the Justice Society, then walk past a tree, and out of the other side stroll their superhero counterparts, continuing the conversation seamlessly.

Billy’s reluctant, but Freddy is excited, that these are the big leagues, and this isn’t like Mary hanging out with those Justice Losers, the society have been around for ages- and the old Shazam was one of them, there’s a legacy here.

We cut to the Justice Society’s hall, now returned to its former glory. Shazam strolls in, and before any of them can say anything else asks why they called his predecessor the Big Red Cheese. One of the old-timers explains, “Chuck was a kid in a man’s body, just as naïve as you’d imagine that would be. Smart, you know, wisdom of Solomon and all, but without the life experience. He spent a good ten years emulating heroes from radio serials, catch-phrases and all, squinting so he’d look like the old Fleischer heroes. I remember one time he pulled Power Girl out of the way of a falling building and she kissed him, and he turned beet red for a week; he was as red as his suit.”

Shazam, growing concerned, asks about references to him in the past tense. “Like I said. Chuck was a kid. He spent years transformed, because that was what the world needed. Then we lost half our team, dumped into the modern era, we know now, but back then… we thought they were gone. It broke him. For the first time in years he changed back. And he was still just a kid, a kid who could not handle that kind of personal tragedy; I wouldn’t be playing straight with you if I said any of us handled it well. And half of it was that we needed him, sure, but the other was he was too damned scared to change back, to have to face that world as an innocent little kid. Anyways, he decided to grow up. He still helped us, time and again, when the needs got big enough. But he got married. Think he had a couple girls. Been a long time since he said the magic word, kid. I imagine that’s why the wizard chose himself another champion. And it’s been too long since the Justice Society had a Captain Marvel knocking around.”

Billy frowns. He doesn’t like that name. He prefers “Shazam.”

Which leads to murmuring. “Like the Shaquille O’Neal genie movie?” One asks, while another says, “That was Kazaam.” And another asks if it’s like the app for recognizing a song.

Mister Terrific butts in. We’ll use this as an excuse to introduce at least the characters he mentions, with a title in the bottom of the screen for them when he mentions them. “Give the kid a break. We can’t all be named after a roller coaster (Wildcat), a 1970s prog-rock band (Flash), European folklore (Sandman), a semi-precious stone (Obsidian), or another semi-precious stone (Jade), or a color and a semi-random light-emitting object (Green Lantern). Or taking a vague descriptor and a quaintly old-fashioned gendered label (Power Girl), I guess we could suggest he go by Lightning Lad.” Stargirl makes a disapproving face (and we get to label her, too).

“I do like the rhyme-scheme of Mister Terrific,” Shazam says, “even if it does make you sound like a pro wrestler.”

“Oh yeah!” Terrific bellows in his best Macho Man voice; if Slim Jim are willing to pony up for the product placement, it would go here. Shazam says they’re all a bunch of lunatics, aren’t they, to which Terrific, again in his best Macho Man, says, “Oh yeah!” One of the ones who would have been around in the 80s asks if he’s doing Kool Aid Man. One that wasn’t, says they aren’t familiar with that superhero.

Terrific and Stargirl (because I still like the idea of the pair of them as a couple- plus I like them passing the torch of the wide-eyed POV character on to Shazam for this one) give him the tour. Terrific tells them the Society is just that, a society, one meant to last generations, carrying on the group’s ideals and legacies. The Hawks, for example, aren’t the same as the ones who were part of the team with his predecessor; they’re a pair of star-crossed lovers who reincarnate, find one another, die tragically and heroically, then reincarnate all over again- like if Romeo and Juliet could fly and had a penchant for smashing monsters with magic hammers. How even though Atom’s retired, he and his daughter, the current Black Canary, are always willing to lend a hand should anyone need it. Shazam asks how often they end up needing to call in all the reserves (with a hint that he has a few he can call in- oh yeah, for 3 we’re definitely calling in all the Marvels, er, Shazams).

Hanging around is a character related to someone wearing a costume similar to the Al Pratt Atom/Damage. The idea, here, is that Ray Palmer was the 2nd Atom, after Al, learning from him first as a physics student, before taking after him as a hero. It was Ray who pioneered the Atom’s shrinking gimmick, though. After the disruption of the Justice Society, Ray would work with Pratt’s grandson, who became Atom Smasher, as well as his son, the original Damage, as a mentor. While Damage died in the line of duty, it was always believed he had a son, and that son eventually emerges, and is here, largely in the background as we start. He is named David Reid. He focuses his powers through a lance, but he’s also had military training, rising to the position of Lance Corporal. He’s also got a glowing eye and a robot arm; so I’m not hiding the pea, here, David Reid will eventually become Magog over the course of the next two movies, even if right now he largely hasn’t adopted the Egyptian theming quite as much (it’s a process, owing to his near-death that led to his cybernetics)

I think there are already factions forming. Terrific plays coy, because Stargirl is there… because she’s leaning towards the more extremist faction, while he feels more constrained because he’s one of the leaders, towards the more compassionate side. But the tensions are palpable, and when David asks her to spar, she gladly joins him for some pretty brutal combat, also freeing Terrific to be candid with Shazam.

“To be honest, I’m glad you’re here. The old Marvel, he, they talk about him like he was the best of us. Our moral compass, that ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ thing wasn’t just marketing copy, he knew the right thing to do, not just for him, but for all of us. He was Superman, before he ever came to the planet.”

“And why do you need that? Isn’t Superman enough?”

“Lot of these people remember a world without a Superman- and I’m not just talking that siesta he took. The big blue boyscout’s a fine example for younger, less jaded recruits, but the old timers, or the hard-cases? He’s too ideal. When you’ve got that much power, you can spare some to show mercy. When you’re just an old kickboxer past his prime,”

“I heard that,” Wildcat grumbles.

“The reason we need you more than ever, is we’ve taken a lot of hits lately. Guy out there with the robot arm? Lost it a week ago. We were lucky he’s on loan from the Army; they had an in with LexCorp. on some experimental bionics. Some of ours have fared a hell of a lot worse. Some among us, they’re starting to wonder if the best defense isn’t a good offense. Might work to a point in basketball, but you start applying that to vigilante work and you’re attacking citizens before they commit a crime, you’re shooting people because you think they’re guilty, not because you have no other choice.” Terrific is tense enough he unconsciously calls those little floating balls to him.

Shazam is amused. “Phantasm, right?” Billy asks.

Terrific is puzzled. “I’ve heard of a fan-gasm before…”

“I don’t believe I want to know the context of that.”

Suddenly the lights go out. Terrific says it’ll only be a moment before they turn over to the solar-back-ups. They get power for a moment before it blacks out again. Terrific says the back-up batteries should kick on in a moment. Red emergency lights come on, and warnings start going off, as the Hall of Justice’s residents start chattering excited. Green Lantern starts barking orders, getting them to assemble into their emergency teams.  Terrific pulls Shazam aside and asks how he is with radiation. He says he got a sunburn once putting out fires in Brazil. He assigns Shazam to go with Power Girl, who will take point. There’s something wrong with the city’s nuclear plant.

Next Terrific starts talking to Green Lantern. He tells him they lost solar because the entire city has been covered by a canopy of fast-growing trees, showing him video of his surveillance being overgrown from several points across the city. Blotting out the sun is causing panic, so their first order of business is to cut down the trees, or at least arrest their growth. Green Lantern admits that he can’t handle that, because his magic doesn’t work on wood. Terrific is flabbergasted. “So a child with a miniature baseball bat is your kryptonite?” Green Lantern explains he could still stop the child directly. “Okay, but if he were wearing armor he whittled with a tiny little child pocket knife, then you would be powerless to stop him?” Green Lantern tries to pantomime as he explains he could pick up two cars, and try to pick up the child with them, like chopsticks. Terrific interrupts, “But if I got you some real sawblades, you could put those in some lantern contraption to then indirectly effect the wood, right? Flash. Stop by a hardware store.”

“Done,” Jay Garrick says, as a stack of sawblades appear next to him.

Terrific assigns Jay to lead the rest of their forces on clean up, crowd control, etc., just making sure things don’t get worse, and that Terrific will be on overwatch, just as soon as Jay gets the trees cleared enough for him to actually see anything.

Power Girl manages to get the power plant shut down; to make it slightly more dramatic, she’s exposed to enough nuclear radiation she passes out (her Kryptonian physiology will eventually convert the radiation to energy, she’s just temporarily overwhelmed), and Shazam has to carry her out. Terrific tests him to see if it’s done any damage- which, it had, but not so much that he’s worried.

Green Lantern gets the trees trimmed back, only to discover that the wood from them is alive, and starts attacking the citizens (think the brooms in Fantasia). Green Lantern’s team is in danger of being overrun, until Jay’s team arrive, and they’re able to handle the fighting.

However, there seem to be positive impacts of the growth, too; a cancer ward in the local hospital is overgrown with a rare plant specimen originally from the depths of the Amazon (and thusfar undiscovered by man). It halts the spread of the patients’ cancer, even puts some of them into remission. I think there’s a lush field outside of the hospital, on which Woodrue has the grass selectively brown to write a note, explaining he is a plant elemental and wants to help, even if his powers are… difficult to acclimiate to.

Terrific asks Specter and Dr. Fate to consult. They confirm that Woodrue isn’t a god, nor is he a true plant elemental like the Swamp Thing. He’s kind of an artificial version. Where Swamp Thing taps into the Green, and is both empowered by and entrusted as an emissary for all plantlife, and by extension, essentially the entire planet, Woodrue has basically hacked into and corrupted this power. Terrific asks if they can get Swamp Thing to help. Fate says they’ve been trying, but Justice League Dark seem to be indisposed at the moment, the Swamp Thing included, but he’ll keep trying to raise him.

Terrific puts out an offer to Woodrue, to help him with his outreach, to help channel his knowledge and skill into solutions for the greater good. Woodrue rebuffs the offer. This proves a fracture point. Magog, Power Girl and Stargirl want to deal with Woodrue now, when he’s clearly learning the ropes of nearly infinite power- that a wait and see approach may well leave them all exposed to a power they can’t stop. Battle lines get drawn, but Terrific maneuvers for all of them to slow down- that he’s taking a trust but verify approach to Woodrue- basically assuming that he is up to something, but that they need to understand what, so they can know how to stop him without losing all the benefits he brings. It’s a speech from Shazam that gets them all to agree to give Terrific space to let his plan play out.

Solomon Grundy gets reanimated. This largely distracts the Society, while forcing them to work together to stop him. It looks like Terrific is being naïve, but he secretly consults with Fate to confirm that Grundy’s revival was down to Woodrue’s dark magics, and that he’s getting stronger- really, they both are- that Woodrue made this new Grundy even stronger. Fate and Terrific together prove Woodrue’s plot, that he tainted the drinking water with algae, itself a relatively benign thing. But everyone in the city drinking tap water, showering, etc., now has that algae growing invasively inside of them. His goal is to make them into an extension of the Green, a power source that can’t be removed by the plant realm, and also functions like taking the entire city hostage, to prevent heroes from interfering with him, too. By the end of the day, his spell will be complete, and irreversible.

Even as the citizens laud Woodrue for the benefits his plants have given the city, the Society is forced to wage a very public assault on his citadel. Some of the first people to have come into contact with Woodrue (in particular patients from the cancer ward) have basically become plant/human hybrids, and savagely attack the society, proving to have some light, Swamp Thing-esque abilities.

The Society fight their way to the heart of the citadel. I think the movie ends, basically, with Terrific executing Woodrue. At the time he tells Power Girl the line was always stopping Woodrue without killing him if possible, and he didn’t see any other possible way, so he did what he had to. He admits in a mid-credits scene to Courtney that he really can’t be sure it was the right call, or whether he did it to preserve the Justice Society. She says she’s not sure that would be such a bad thing- but he recognizes the truth- that if he’s forced to compromise himself to keep the Society whole, it’s already in peril. I imagine Woodrue’s ‘death’ is pretty cool, Terrific injecting him with slightly-larger than nano scale versions of his orbs, that shred him from the inside out.

“He isn’t dead,” we hear in Swamp Thing’s rasp even before we cut away from black to see him standing where Woodrue ‘died.’ “Woodrue has become like me, no longer a physicial being, but a consciousness. I am sustained by the Green, at the behest of the Parliament of Trees. Woodrue is a contagion, a pollution, stealing strength from the plants around him. He has redoubts, wherever there is an attack on the natural; oil spills, dumped chemicals, radioactive waste. There I cannot follow; there he is safe.” “Not from us,” Power Girl says. She’s standing in front of Magog and Stargirl. Her eyes glow red when she says, “You tell us where this infection is and we’ll burn it out.” We cut to black.

Princessless Pitch: The Pitch

In honor of National Princess Day, I’m crafting a pitch for a demo that doesn’t have their own princess (or several). The explainer post is over yonder: https://nicolaswilson.com/wpblog/blog/2021/11/18/princessless-pitch/

As a caveat, the lead is trans, but at the start of our story is still in the process of sorting themselves out, and at least still publicly identifying as he/him. While we, and somewhere deep down, the character, know better, it’s a tightrope, because I don’t want to, however inadvertently, misgender Taylor, so I have mostly been sticking with referring to the character strictly by name. This is still a first draft (might be second, by the time I post), but that’s the idea. Apologies, as well, for the shifting tense; for some reason my head really wanted it present, even while I fought to put it in past. Not sure why that was such a pain on this one.  

Princessless: The Pitch

Typical Disney animation opening, styled kind of like the stained glass intro to Beauty and the Beast, showing a magical fairy land, castles, all in hypersaturated, candy colors. “I’ve always been a fairy princess,” cut to the present day, where a shy, dorky, everybody knows they’re trans before they do kid wearing more pink that you’d typically expect of someone at least technically presenting as male, named Taylor, is fumbling awkwardly with their locker as a tide of students flows in and out around them, “just uh, not like you’d think.” Someone bumps them, and it’s unclear if it was intentional, but someone tells them to “Keep it moving, princess.” 

Taylor continues to narrate, as we see the same dorky kid’s eyes light up. The world falls away, as we zoom in as whatever they’d been feeling a moment before disappears. “Large swaths of my life were basically a fairytale.” We reverse, and see the handsome boy who caught Taylor’s eye, named Fenix, who is wearing a letterman’s jacket and is effortlessly cool as he walks towards Taylor. They kiss, and Fenix leads Taylor outside. I’m thinking Fenix should be Asian. “I found my charming prince, and he is every bit as gallant as I could hope.” Fenix opens a car door for Taylor. “Sure we can’t give you a ride somewhere?” 

“Can’t,” he says with a shrug. “Got practice.”

“Yep. I know. All those feet aren’t going to ball themselves.”

Fenix kisses Taylor goodbye. “I love how weird you are.” 

“I… I love you, too,” Taylor blurts out. We watch Fenix walk away, before the car starts to roll. 

“So,” Taylor’s dad said, Finnegan, buzzing a little bit from the driver’s seat, “first time you’ve said that?” Taylor’s dad is a big, burly man’s man, all flannel and beard, with very kind, twinkling eyes. Think a Santa origin where he’s a lumbersexual living in Portland, and I realize I’ve just accidentally cast Nick Offerman in the roll, and you should definitely offer it to him, man.

“First time for either of us,” Taylor buzzes back.

“I remember the first time I said it to your mother, just over there,” he points to a tree that they pass on the school grounds. He pauses at a stop sign, as a tear rolls down his cheek, his hand hesitating on the gearshift for a moment, until Taylor places a hand over his. 

“I miss mom, too,” Taylor says, and they hug over the gearshift. We cut to outside the car, as we see them hug through the rear windshield, as the car starts to roll. “Rolling rolling rolling,” Taylor says, before the break lights come on. 

“Sorry.” 

We cut a little further into their drive. 

“Dad, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

“Me, too. Did I ever tell you your mom wanted a daughter? I was nervous. I didn’t know how well my job was going to pay, but she told me she wanted a daughter, and it didn’t matter if it took a hundred tries, she meant to have one. Um, sorry, son; she loved you more than breathing. I’m not saying you weren’t what she wanted, at all.”

“No, I, I get it, dad,” Taylor says.

Finnegan knows he screwed up, but doesn’t know how to set it right. “You talk to your friends?”

“Their parents said so long as you’re supervising, and making sure we don’t get into any ‘monkeyshines’ they could stay the night.”

“Nope. No monkeyshines. And we’re picking up Zene on the way home?”

“Yeah, she’s all packed up. She should be ready.” 

We cut to later, Zene leading the way into Taylor’s room. I want Zene to spend part of the story in a wheelchair, but also be ambulatory. There’s plenty of people who use mobility aids part time, who might be able to get around short distances, but for longer ones need a walker or chair. Zene is from Africa (not just of African descent- since I am considering being from Africa as a separate demographic we’re trying to hit), born in Congo, raised by Muslim parents (not sure all of these will be salient story details, but they’re part of her). 

“You tell him?” Taylor doesn’t even get a chance to answer before she adds, “Chicken.”

“I’m not even sure which him you’re referring to,” Taylor responds.

“You tell either of them? Or are you a double-chicken?” 

“Like a chick-chicken?” They laugh for a moment, before Zene puts a hand on Taylor’s shoulder.

“You can’t cute your way out of this. You’ve got to be brave, and trust that they’ll be happy to know you better.”

“And if they aren’t?”

“They will be. They love you.”

“And if they don’t?” 

“Then I’ll just love you three times as much,” Zene says, and wraps her arms around Taylor. 

We’ll have a quick meal, then they pick up Fenix and go camping. Finnegan gets them all squared away. He and Taylor share a tent, the other two kids get their own separately. Finnegan gets a fire lit, and stands up, with a rumpled piece of paper. 

“Darra brought me here the first time we left town. It became our spot-” the kids all share some kind of unique ick face, “not like that. Just, we’d come here, and talk, and just listen. It didn’t surprise me that she wanted her ashes spread here. But she also asked that we come again, tonight. She never told me why, but she made me swear it, and put it in her will, too, that I bring our kids along. Bringing the two of you along was Taylor’s fare. But your mother asked me to say a Hebrew blessing. Always a sweet woman, she spelled it out for me phonetically, though the font leaves something to be desired.” He put on a pair of round spectacles. 

He still struggled, ultimately having Taylor read it, who finished by noting, “that doesn’t sound like Hebrew.” It isn’t. We watch as a spark from the fire leaps off, rising into the air, before opening a portal in the air, one that sucks them all in. 

They come to, moments later, on the floor of a cave. There’s a strange, ornate door carved into the rocks, that is not so subtly glowing white. A flying faery, about the size of a baby, buzzes about the room. Their name is Kailea. “You’re late,” they said, crossing their arms sternly. “Your mother could have brought you over any time the last year, but you waited for the last possible-” they pause, and soften, “the princess isn’t with you. My condolences. She was last here before my time, but, my father said she was… kind.”

“She was,” Finnegan said.

“But we haven’t time. The door becomes more porous with every moment. Princess, you must repeat after me.” Taylor exchanges a look with Finnegan, who shrugs. Taylor follows them in a recitation of a spell, sounding similar to the one that landed them there. 

This time, Taylor said, “There were definitely some Hebrew words in that.” 

“Somethings wrong,” Kailea said. They fly to bar the door, even as it cracks open. I have an interesting thought about the design of the villains: they are pure whiteness, think the inversion of the Nazghul as shadows from Lord of the Rings. When they slash, they tear the structure and color out of the world, replacing it with blank white (which they are also, themselves). One of them, looking like a stocky man in a hood with long talons shoves his way through the door right before Kailea manages to secure it. Finnegan pushes the children behind him, and picks up stick and swings it. The creature takes notice, and swipes at him, knocking all of them over and causing Finnegan’s knee to pop as they all fall in a pile. Suddenly, we hear Taylor whisper an incantation from offscreen, and the white creature turns his attention that direction, before popping like a bubble as he lunges. Kailea is flitting beside Taylor, then  flies back to the door, rereading the instructions carved into it. 

“Ah, I see,” Kailea said. “You’re going to have to quest, I’m afraid. The door’s instructions are quite explicit. Taylor is of the correct royal bloodline, but in this state, hardly a princess. But I know a practitioner who can help. It’s a journey, and one that must be undertaken with all haste. The machak were already able to leak into our world; and after that, I don’t think the door is truly barred anymore. But a word of warning.” Kailea flits to Finnegan; Zene and Fenix are using clothes from their bags and the stick to build a support for his leg. “Let the oaf’s lesson be your own: this is not your quest. This Kingdom is a land of fable and story. Princess Taylor is a part of and at least somewhat protected by that story; so long as you serve Taylor’s quest, you are, too. But step beyond your role, and you will be hurt, or worse.”

“I don’t think he liked being called an oaf,” Fenix remarks.

Kailea flits into his face. “Do not push me, oafling.” 

I think there’s a brief, whispered discussion, Fenix wants to go, Finnegan determined to leave him and Zene behind. Taylor interrupts, and tells them they’re staying together, that there’s some protection to being in a group. Kailea makes it clear that Taylor’s proclamation carries magical weight- that going against the decree could have dire consequences. Finnegan relents; he’s not trying to be controlling, he’s just trying to be an adult in a situation that is way beyond normal parenting. 

As they leave, Fenix asked if they’re off to see a wizard, should they follow a yellow brick road. No one bites, and he adds that he couldn’t have been the only one thinking it. Kailea accompanies them, and they travel until it’s dark, and they make camp. There’s some cute fish out of water things happening between Kailea and Finnegan, as the faery is fascinated by all of the modern camping gear that was sucked through the portal with them. Later, as Kailea is mooning over smores, Zene asked what their roles are, that they aren’t supposed to deviate from.

“Whatever Taylor needs. Protectors. Distractions. Decoys.” Zene’s a little freaked out by the description. 

“And what are the machak?” Fenix asked. 

“They want to live in a world without us. They want to erase us, and replace this with a world we never knew. Millenia ago our magic was enough to seal them away, in their own dimension, one where they could create without us. It could have been anything they wanted. But the point was never wanting a blank canvas for them; they wanted us gone. They’ve been trying to break free every since.”

A wolf howled in the distance, making most of them start. Fenix languidly poked at the fire. “Almost makes it feel normal,” he said, “that you’ve got wolves here.”

Kailea is overserious, “We do not have wolves here.”  

We intercut, as the horror spreads throughout their faces, with images of pure white wolves, almost glowing due to their lack of darkness or shadow, running through the forest towards them. 

Taylor asks if there’s any way they can cement their roles? Kailea explains that he knows enough spells to work the seals, and start a princess off on a quest where one’s needed, and they’re butting up against the edge of their knowledge. “But magic is about intention– giving shape and purpose to the formless through will.” Taylor tells Kailea to show them, and asks Zene if she’s kept up with her bowmanship. 

Zene gives a flip reply, “That’s like asking him if he’s stopped trying to get concussions.”

“Hey,” Fenix said, “I don’t have to try.” Him playing along doesn’t endear her any more to him. A bow appears in her lap, with a quiver slung across the back of her chair. She notches an arrow and lets fly, striking the first wolf, even as rogueish cloaks weave out of the air around her. The arrow seems to pierce through the wolf, pulling color back inside the wolf as it pops. She fires another arrow, and we cut back to Taylor and Kailea, chanting. Kailea leads, asking what Finnegan’s role is. “My knight protector,” the magic works faster this time, and Finnegan manages to bash a wolf back with a shield, even as his plate armor assembles around him. Kailea asks about Fenix, and Taylor said, “My prince.” 

Fenix is a little perturbed by the slightly courtly clothing that appears for him. “Feels a bit poncey.” Finnegan gives him a quizzical look. “What? I can say that.” At least, he feels that way until the a rapier appears on his belt, and he draws it. “Withdrawn.” He runs through a wolf as it lunges at him. Finnegan lunges past him, wielding a big axe, cleaving one of the wolves in half. “That the last of them?” Fenix asked. 

We hear a yelp, and turn, back towards Kailea. There’s a strange person in robes standing where Taylor had been, cloaked in shadow, holding a wizard’s staff that’s most of the way to a scepter, and had been slammed through the final wolf, as color seeps into its white body. We might not be able to get to the magical transformation any quicker, but this will let us get partway there; Taylor becomes a wizard, but it’s also kind of a midway point between wizard and princess, so the robes look like a dress with a hood, the staff looks more like a scepter, and the way the hood lays it looks like long hair and a crown.

Taylor tells them to break camp; the machak know where they are, and they likely aren’t sleeping again while it’s dark, anyway. They can rest at dawn, some distance from there. 

We do an establishing shot, to show they’ve stopped on the edge of tended fields, with better sight lights and vantages to watch for danger from. Later, they take turns at watch, Finnegan first. Fenix has to lean on him hard to get him to rest when his turn is up. “You’re the knight protector. You’ve got to be fresh tomorrow, because your role is keeping Taylor safe. And I think that’s both of our priorities.”

“And you’re not concerned about being a fresh prince?” Finnegan asked.

“I’m sure that’s a reference to something from before I was born, but I’m not screwing around. You’re Taylor’s shield. We all need you strong enough to lift it come the morning. I’m a prince. I think I just need to be able to kiss Taylor if there’s a sleeping spell or something.” 

“And star in Purple Rain,” Finnegan added. 

“Again, your cultural touchstones are as esoteric to me as Kailea’s.”

“You’re busting my chops to get me to go to bed.”

Not sure if it’s better to have Fenix whistle, hum or sing the chorus to “Electric Chair” by Prince, but it would definitely include the line, “Oh, if a man is considered guilty…”

We cut ahead, to Fenix getting sleepy. Zene takes over. “I figured if I let Taylor take watch after you, the both of you would stay up the whole time.”

“Probably smart,” Fenix said. 

“You remember our pact?”

“Think it might qualify more as a threat, but you said if I ever hurt Taylor, you’d cut my eyes out.”

“That’s the pact. But I’ve got a bow, now. So I think I’m amending it to shoot.” 

“I appreciate the forewarning. But you know if it’s in my power, I’d never let anything hurt Taylor- myself included.”

“I think people surprise you. So far, you’ve surprised both of us in good ways. You’re not the dumb, callous jock I took you for.”

“Am I blushing?”

“My point was, sometimes people surprise you, and when they do, sometimes you’ll surprise yourself with your reaction. Taylor deserves you- the best you. So long as you can be that, you and I are Kosher.”

“I agree. Taylor does. That’s why I’m choosing to see all of this as the misguided but sweet gesture I think you intend. I’ll get some rest, so I can be the best me tomorrow I can.”

The next day they embark. We probably do a montage of some typical fantasy problem solving, hopping across rocks in a bleak, bubbling swamp, that kind of thing. 

They arrive at a somewhat sinister looking cottage. The garden is twisted and grotesque, but still natural; the plants just grow in slightly menacing shapes and proportions.  

They open the door, and we see a plump, older witch in clothing that feels split somewhere between old world pagan and practical medieval. She’s a little intimidating as she runs about the room, casting frantically, oblivious to her guests’ arrival. 

“Grandma Hara?” Taylor asked, confused. Hara stops, dropping a vial that lets a skull-shaped purple plume loose. Finnegan steps forward, in part protectively, but also because he and Hara always had a good, supportive relationship. 

“You always had her eyes,” Finnegan said.

“And you always had her heart,” Hara said, and they embraced. 

“I miss her,” he said.

“Me, too.” Hara released him, and turned to Taylor. “And you, my dear, have shot up like a weed. And I see you’ve brought the guide. This is not, I gather, a social call.”

“The incantation failed,” Taylor said. 

“Of course,” Hara said, “it was looking for a princess. I knew there would be a problem; old spells weren’t woven with the same flexibility we come to take for granted… they’re like legalese, overly literal. I have just the spell prepared; I meant to meet you at the seal, but I lost track of time. Or perhaps I didn’t want to think about doing this without your mother. Everyone, I need a moment with Taylor. You’ll be safe outside, in the garden. Take what you like, but eat all you take; the garden is very particular about waste.”

Hara explains that intention is key in this spell. If Taylor is doing this to save those around them, to protect the kingdom from the machak, that’s enough. But it has to be what Taylor wants; in kind, the spell should be entirely reversible, provided, again, that’s what Taylor wants. Taylor asks for a moment, and walks in the garden with Fenix. Taylor is struggling, wanting to tell him everything, but also caught up in so much uncertainty and anxiety. Fenix turns to Taylor, and they kiss. “I just wanted to say how cool you’ve been,” Fenix said. “I have spent a lot of moments just quietly freaking out, and all of that without everything riding on my shoulders. And I’m not saying you can’t be freaking out internally, too, but you got us this far, you kept your head, and the reason I’m only freaking out on the inside is that I feel like you’re going to get us the rest of the way through, too. And it’s pretty damn cool that I’m going to be able to say my boyfriend saved the world.”

“I,” Taylor hesitated, “I think things are about to get weird, and before they did, I just needed a moment of normal, first.” Fenix rests his head on Taylor’s shoulder. 

We cut to Taylor returning to Hara’s spell room. Hara guides Taylor through- this magic is deep enough, invasive enough, that it’s dangerous to work it on someone else- that’s why Taylor’s intention was so important. Taylor’s peach/cream colored robes turn pink/purple, her hood becomes long hair with a crown atop it. Taylor admits she feels funny. Hara strokes her hair, and tells her she looks beautiful, but then, she always did. Then Hara begins to pack. Taylor asks what’s going on. Hara tells her that the rest of their journey could be quite perilous, and there are many unknowns approaching- and Hara would prefer to help her granddaughter see it through. I think, with the grandmother, at least, she immediately latches on to the idea that this is the real Taylor, who Taylor was always meant to be, that she sees what only Zene has been told to this point. It’s subtle, but it also acts as a clue for Finnegan and Fenix, who stop using male pronouns or anything of the sort (Fenix won’t call her his boyfriend anymore).

If we needed the extra action scene for length (or just because it’s fun), we can have Finnegan having picked one too many pomegranates, his eyes being just a little too big for his stomach. The garden attacks, and we get a big fight scene, as the three try to fight plants to no real effect. Hara comes out, and tries to tell the garden to behave. It doesn’t respond, so, reluctantly, she starts working on a fire spell to burn the garden out and replant. She’s about halfway through the spell when the garden stops, and we see Taylor finishing off the last of the pomegranate. Hara is thankful; she’s had to burn the garden down before because someone stepped on a tomato and couldn’t eat the whole thing, no matter how much mud they swallowed. 

Taylor’s mouth is still full of pomegranate seeds when she tells Finnegan, “These were always mom’s favorite.” 

“No,” he says, and tousled her hair, “you were. But they were a close second.” 

“How’s the dress fit?” Zene asked, circling her in her chair. 

“Like a glove. Like it was made for me.”

“Magical tailoring, dear,” Hara said, “it was made for you.” 

Fenix is really amused; it makes Taylor self-consciously ask what he’s smiling about. “For the first time since you put me in tights, I feel like someone else is sharing that pain. M’lady,” he says, and offers her his elbow. 

“M’lord,” Taylor responds, with a shallow, and awkward, curtsy, before threading her arm through his.

They camp partway to the door, again taking turns on watch. Despite the watch, they’re awoken by the earth shaking. It’s a stampede, white beasts of many different sizes and shapes, some bull, some buffalo, elk, moose. Fenix and Finnegan get the women up into the tree, where they can be relatively safe while carving a swath through the herding menagerie with arrows and magic, while they defend the tree’s base. This takes enough time they’ll have to stop once again the next night before they arrive. 

By now, Finnegan and Fenix are having some fun talking. The conversation turns to all of them being ready for things to go back to normal, and them assuming that Taylor most of all must want things to go back to normal; it’s playful, and what under other circumstances would be harmless banter, mostly about missing indoor plumbing and not having layer upon layer of uncomfortable clothes, or Finnegan discovering a whole new level of chafing possible under plate mail. 

But in this circumstance, this hits too close to home for Taylor. She looks frantically to Zene, whose heart is so full for her friend but knows this is not the right time or the right way to do this- but also that there’s no way to tell Taylor that won’t let the cat out of the bag, anyway. And Taylor just bursts. “I’m really not in any hurry to go back to normal,” she said. Then quieter, deflated, “Maybe this is normal for me,” before storming away. 

Finnegan and Fenix both stand at the same time, and their eyes meet. 

“Do I need to protect her?” Finnegan asked, and his hand went unconsciously to his shield. 

“Never from me,” Fenix said. He takes out his sword and hands it to Finnegan as a gesture of good faith, before running after Taylor.

She’s sitting at the edge of a slowly moving creek, looking down at her reflection. “Hey,” Fenix said.

“Hey,” she replied. She paused, trailing her hand delicately across the water. “So this is the part where you leave.” 

“Dude,” he said somberly, “bi.” Which she hears as, “Bye,” and for a moment her heart starts to break, just a little, but she tries to put on a brave face, anyway, because she’s a rock star, and because she loves him enough to let him go if that’s what he needs. “As in I am,” he clarified, “and as in I am completely, hopelessly in love with you, and thrilled that you can live as a more authentic you.” She falls into his arms. “If that means you, a princess in a dress, which you wear the hell out of, or you, as my prince, in a pair of matching tights. You are the only part that isn’t negotiable.”

They hear the snap of a twig. Finnegan followed, at some distance. “Sorry,” he said, “ I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“It’s okay,” Fenix said, “I’m not going anywhere. But I will give you two a moment.” As he’s leaving, he said, “Be gentle with her,” to Finnegan.

“I’ll try,” he said. “Your mother always wanted a girl,” Finnegan started. “I did, too. All that stuff that’s supposed to scare fathers, all the things I won’t know to share with them… I looked forward to learning. And we both loved you, as much as we’d have loved a daughter. We loved having a family. We loved starting it with you. And I feel like a fool that I didn’t see it, that I didn’t see you… but I do now, and I want you to know I love you even more the more of you I know.” She grabs onto him. “I know there’s a lot more to say, and in time, I hope you’ll feel supported enough to be able to say it. But for tonight, for now, you should come back to the fire.”

“One minute,” she said. “I’ll be right behind you.” Finnegan starts back, and she goes back to the creek, looking at her reflection. This is a big moment, her finally, truly, being and accepting herself as she is. She smiles at herself, before heading back to the others.      

The next morning, while taking the last watch, Hara uses an enchanted bird to recon ahead. It’s this way that she discovered that a large army of machak have surrounded the door. When she shares this information, Taylor instructs Kailea to rouse the other faeries, that they might have to fight. Hara’s bird finds something else- the door will not hold- they cannot wait for reinforcements, and have to go, now

Hara conjuries some impressive magic that provides a distraction for them to slip towards the door. Taylor’s defenders guard the door from outside the cave it’s in, while they prepare the spell. Taylor expresses hurt that she wasn’t able to renew the seal earlier because she wasn’t ‘really’ a girl before. As they’re preparing for the ritual, her grandmother takes a moment, and locates a single word on the inscription, the word for princess. She explains that the guide is too young to understand: the word he translated has often, colloquially, been translated in their tongue as ‘princess,’ but it has an older meaning, and a deeper one, “to be true, as oneself.”

Taylor asks then, why her grandmother couldn’t fix the seal herself. Hara explains, “I spent time as the Queen Mother before abdicating, preferring the quiet of my remote magic to rule. I never attempted it, because I was no longer a princess, nor even a queen. But even now, I suspect the instructions captured a dual meaning: authenticity, yes, but also the need for youth. Because as you grow, you compromise, giving little pieces of yourself away, until you’re left hiding away who you truly are from all that you’ve lost.”

Intercut with this is a great battle, Taylor’s friends and father doing what they can to safeguard the door, only to be nearly overrun, rescued eventually by the armies of the fae; they do not turn back the tide, but buy time. Personally, I’d throw in a dragon, one that Fenix and Finnegan board with a rope arrow from Zene, that they fight together. 

Ultimately, it is Hara and Taylor who manage to renew the seal, tearing all of the machak back into their white void.

They celebrate with the faeries, in a big feast. Taylor asks Hara why her- why did they need women from their bloodline. Hara tells her this old magic required very specific intention, the care of a woman who loved that world but was not of it, whose connection to her home allowed her to tap into a still larger repository of strength. She posits it might have been a safeguard, to ensure that the spell could not be used in anger, could not be used to oppress, but only to protect. Or perhaps it was all a mistake, their entire family bearing generational burdens for the mistake of one of their elders. She says their family have been coming here for a long time- long enough that elements of Hebrew made it into this culture’s magic.

We cut back to the same, crowded school hallway from the beginning (this will all echo the beginning). Taylor, in more modern attire, collects her books from her locker. The same person who knocked into Taylor in the beginning is about to do it again, only this time Fenix shoulder-checks them into the wall of lockers. He turns to the bruiser’s friend and says, “Keep it moving.” Then Fenix turned to Taylor, and offered his arm. “M’lady?”

“M’lord,” she said, and threaded her arm through his. He walked her out to her father’s car. Inside, we could see Hara in the front seat, and Zene waiting in the back. Taylor slipped into the back, and it started to rain, and Fenix shrugged and got in next to her. Taylor narrates, as she exchanges smiles and looks with her friends and family. “I was always a faery princess. It took me a while to understand that, and share it with all those I love.”

And we roll credits.

Princessless Pitch: The Intro

Tomorrow, 11/18, is National Princess Day, and so I’m embarking upon a Princessless Pitch.

No, it’s nothing to do with the comic book of the same name (haven’t read it, sorry). This is me trying to think up pitches for stories for Disney Princesses for demographics that have typically been left out of the usual Disney Princess game. Sure, with the Fox and Lucasfilm acquisitions, Disney Princesses now cover Alderanians and also Xenomorphs, but there are still a surprising amount of people left out. So first things first, I did some quick number crunching of people in the world without a princess, and what percent of global populations they made up. These numbers come from all over the damned place, and nothing about this process is likely to be all that scientific, anyway. I imagine next year I’ll put up a poll, asking people what they’d like to see, and if I missed anyone (which is the opposite of my intent).   

Islam 20.51%

Indian 17.5%

African 17.21%

Disabled 15%

Hindu 14.23%

Gay 10%

Latino 8.42%

Middle/South American Native 5.32%

Jewish 1.88%

Trans .355%

First things first, this isn’t purely about numbers; obviously the relative power/oppression factors into who gets priority- not to mention me needing to figure out a good idea to go along with it- which will likely include culture-specific research.

For reasons that frankly irk me, this holiday takes place smack dab in the middle of November, during NaNo and in the middle of my apparently annual Pitchgiving/Pitchmas cluster. Apparently this is just contentmageddon, and if you want to see a man do an entire year’s worth of writing over the course of a month or so, just waiting for the inevitable meltdown, well, I suppose you can do that. I’ll resume regular NaNo posting on Monday. 

As far as tomorrow, I’ll be posting the pitch itself… once I finish writing the blasted thing. But first I’ll do a quick run-down of the demographics the pitch is hopefully going to cover, here; and a note, that I’m only counting the demos of the princess herself, even if I hope the casts will be more representative overall. We’re not going to get this done in one movie- this is a project of years.

1. Trans

Like I said, this isn’t strictly a numbers thing. But what we have seen is a systemic, years-long crusade against trans rights, and even trans personhood, one that is steady in the US and seems to be accelerating in the UK. The most important idea behind this project is power to the powerless- at least in the area of demography. If I had more clout in other realms, I’d exercise it there, too- and I do think representation matters, both to the represented and to those who learn about the personhood of others through representation- which is why the forces of bigotry resist representation so strongly. Plus, it’s Transgender Awareness Week.

2. Jewish

The entire reason I’m breaking out these demographics is because of the asterisk involved with this one. The main character is Jewish. But, you might argue, with the addition of Princess Leia into the Disney family, isn’t she Jewish, too? Carrie Fischer definitely identified as Jewish later in life, so the actress certainly was. But we’re going by the stricter definition, here, that the character themselves needs to fill the demographic. This is the same reason that, while Princess Jasmine could be Muslim, she is never explicitly shown saying or doing anything that would make it clear this was the case, so she could also be from a pre-Islamic portion of the Ottoman Empire, or given the story’s traditions spanning from the Middle East to India, Hindu, some other faith, or even areligious. Note: I’m not telling Jewish girls they can’t consider Leia their princess, or anyone they can’t consider Jasmine to be theirs; what I am stating is that I don’t want a debate, I want everyone to have a princess of their own, one that no one can try to take away from them.

3. Queer/Gay

I would argue that the central romance is a queer one, and at least for portions, a gay one, as well. Given the ultimate outcome, it’s certainly possible to not see it as an authentically gay narrative, so I won’t, for my own tally, consider the box marked off, but it’s certainly in the mix, all the same.