DC Cinematic Universe Reboot Pitch: Superman

So, I assumed that Warners wasn’t going to throw out the baby with the bath water… which turned out to be foolish on my part- but I also think it’s the right call. And since the DC Cinematic Universe is getting a reboot, I’m going to pitch my own reboot slate.

And… I’m this late in updating because I haven’t been able to stop writing these since I started. It looks like I’m writing full pitches for these things. Apparently I pitch for a living now.

Superman

It all starts with Superman- as it should.

I’d start him at a crossroads, in college at Kansas State. His parents always wanted him to be able to have a quiet, private life. That’s why they’ve always asked him to help in quiet ways. They know their boy too well to think he wouldn’t help at all- but he needs to be careful, so he can have a normal life. To that end they’ve wanted him taking agricultural studies, along with mechanical engineering courses that would help him maintain the equipment on the family’s farm- it’s easier for him to remain anonymous living in Smallville.

But he’s always been drawn to the world. This gets supersized as he moves from Kansas State’s distance learning program to their Manhattan, KS main campus, in a suburb of Metropolis. He’s dating Lana Lang, but she’s still living in Smallville, attending a fashion school online, and their relationship is stretched paper thin.

He rooms with Pete Ross, who he hasn’t seen since High School, but they’re friends. Pete’s something of a big man on campus, and shows Clark the ropes. Clark needs electives even if he stays with his parents’ plans for him, and selects a journalism class; he talks it over with Pete, and justifies it as a lark. Pete sees through him, but also knows that expanding his horizons will be good for him.

He’s also got another friend from Smallville, Lex Luthor. Lex is actually hurt that Clark decided to room with Pete; he’s always been jealous of their easy friendship. Lex struggles to be kind, really, to be human; he’s typically the smartest man in the room, and was raised to believe that the smartest man should be the one everyone else is listening to. He’s wealthy, and flashy, and whip-smart, he’s liked, and respected, but not loved.

On his first day in his journalism class, students pair off to interview each other. Clark gets paired with Lois Lane. She feels she’s slumming it at Kansas State, but when her father transferred to the nearby military base, it seemed the only way to stay close to her family. She starts calling Clark “Smallville” almost immediately. Clark is smitten, and his hopes crash as she’s greeted by Lex, who introduces her as his girlfriend. “Whoa,” she slows him. “I’m still feeling that out.”

Pete chastises him for forgetting about Lana. He checks his watch, and has to run, literally jogging off campus, and once he’s out of sight, running at superspeed back to Smallville, where Lana’s waiting at a diner. He arrives just as their food arrives- she ordered for him, his favorites, and he’s distracted enough not to recognize that she’s upset. Finally she blurts out that the distance isn’t working, and he’s her best friend and she doesn’t want to lose that, but-

He stops her, and takes her hand. “You couldn’t.” This is really the first moment we really see Superman in Clark. He’s gentle with her, kind, hopeful. Then he cocks his ear, and she asks if he has to go. “For a second.” He’s a blur, but back basically before we can blink. She tells him it’s a shame he never goes slow enough for anyone to see that suit- it’s some of her best work. She asks him what it was this time. “Semi’s breaks went out on the highway.” She asks if he could hear that. “I can hear radio waves.”

“You never stop amazing me.” She kisses him. “What is wrong with me, letting a guy like you go?”

“Nothing at all. I’m just not what you need right now. And I’ll always be here for you.” He’s a blur again.

“Except when you’re not?” she asked. It’s mostly flirty, but there’s an edge of sadness to it.

“Hey,” he says, and puts an arm around her, and she curls into his shoulder. “I’ll always come running if you need me.”

“You better. I’ll kick your ass if you stop being my friend.”

We cut back to the campus. Lex is excited to be spending time with Clark, and also excited to be able to show off both what he knows and what his family’s money has bought for the school. He’s leading him through a new advanced robotics lab. “Then why is it part of the health sciences wing?” Clark asks.

“Showing those second-day ace reporting bonafides?” Lex teases him. He pulls back a curtain, to reveal a man, Corben, in a hospital bed. Clark’s empathy goes into overdrive, and he’s not sure he should be seeing this. Lex ignores him, tells him they’ve paid the man for this privilege, and then some. He’s terminal, cancer is killing his body. But using an exotic mineral as a power source, they’ve built him a robot body. The metal skeleton is suddenly behind him, and pinches Clark’s shoulder as the lead container in the chest rotates, exposing the kryptonite at its core. Clark passes out. He comes to a moment later. Lex was concerned, but plays it off teasing Clark for having swooned at the surprise, saying that kryptonite is only very lightly radioactive.

Lex tells him the skeleton they’ve nicknamed “Metallo,” because it’s made of metal, and they… may have been doing 2am Jello shots while brain-storming. But the robot, aside from its power source, isn’t all that impressive; it’s stronger than most of the competitor bots, but it’s iterative. The revolutionary science is the interface with Corben’s brain. The machines he’s hooked to are currently downloading his brain… but it’s a lengthy process. There’s concern Corben won’t survive long enough for them to complete the transfer.

To that end, the university has agreed to an earlier-than-planned test-flight of Lex’s new experimental passenger jet. It made it all the way to Stockholm to pick up the world’s foremost ontological surgeon, and is bringing him back as they speak. And in a bid to impress his ‘girlfriend,’ Lois took a seat aboard the maiden flight, in the hopes she might actually let them be official. Lex gestures to a board full of complicated aeronautic formulas. Clark frowns. “Shouldn’t this be inverted?” Clark asks. Lex stares a moment, dumbfounded. Clark’s right, and a roomful of graduate students either missed that, or were too timid to correct Lex’s mistake. “It, uh, reminded me of a question from my trig, class. I got a C- in that one.”

The horror of it dawns on Lex; that mistake means the jet is about to have a catastrophic failure, and if it left on time, it will happen any moment. He excuses himself to make a call.

Inside the cockpit, we hear the pilot’s mayday as Lex tries to break through to warn them about the error- but the damage has already occurred. Clark, wearing his Superman suit, manages to right the plane. Since both its wings are damaged, he has to fly it in, allowing Lois to take a picture of him- a picture she crops to remove his face- but she sees him clearly.

The next day, Lex is furious. Rather than talk about the experimental jet he successfully flew, or the cutting-edge surgical and scientific breakthroughs he made possible, the campus is abuzz about a Superman who saved Lois- and her story on the school’s blog is the reason why.

Clark has breakfast with Lex and Lois. She’s increasingly cold to Lex, in part because he’s throwing something of a tantrum. He worked for nearly a year, and in an instant was upstaged by some fluke of nature. Lois, meanwhile, is asking genuine questions of Clark this time, wanting to know about ‘ma and pa’ and even Smallville. Clark keeps trying to deflect to Lex, who knows his parents, and came from Smallville, but Lex is obsessed, and Lois isn’t interested in either his obsession or his perspective.

Eventually, Lois breaks things completely off with Lex, and starts pursuing Clark aggressively. It comes to a head when she confronts him. “I will sleep with you, right now, if you admit you’re the Superman.” Clark’s eyebrows go up.

“That must prove it, right? Because what kind of man could resist that offer? We must not be the same person.”

“Flattery, Mr. Kent? Or are you just trying to get to me another way?”

He stops for a moment, before becoming more serious. “I don’t want to play games with this,” he admits. “You’re beautiful, intelligent, and… kind in a way you usually hide from most people. I would love to have a relationship with you, Lois, but not one based on the factors of my birth. If that’s the only reason you’re intrigued-”

Of course it’s not, Smallville,” she taunts. “But I can understand the pattern, so let me address that. I… spent time with Lex because of his potential; he could be a great man. Not because of his wealth, or his family’s connections, but because he has such capacity for compassion and kindness and good. But he was what my mom described my father as when she met him, a lowly private in the Army- he was a project. You’re the kind of man Lex could be, if he’s lucky, if he’s works at it. Lex was someone I could make into my equal. You’re… already pretty close.” She hangs off him, playful, but alluring.

“That you’ve got a secret does make you extra intriguing,” she adds. “That you’re humble about your potential to the point of absurdity… I want to know everything about you.”

“But can I trust you?”

“Ouch.”

“How can I know I’m not just another story to you, or that you won’t get bored and decide to write the story later on. Put another way, would you trust you?”

“Point. And no… but I think you know better than me. I think you trust better than me.”

He bites his lip, a cat with a mouth full of canary. “I can also hear your heartbeat.”

“I’m trying to decide whether that’s romantic or creepy.”

“It’s just a tell. Not the only one, but the most simple, obvious one. But I can pretty much known when someone’s being deceitful. And you’re not.”

“Then say it, and you can have me; Lane’s don’t Welch.”

He leans in close, and whispers, sensually, “No.” Her shoulders slump. She’s disappointed, and not just because she wants to hear him say it. “If you and I are going to have a relationship, it will be based on trust, and affection. Not bargains.”

She kisses him, passionately, halfway expecting that to change his mind, and a tiny bit hurt when it doesn’t, but she plays it off. “I’m holding you to that.”

We cut to later, Clark eating with Pete. “You’re a stronger man than me,” Pete says.

“Only barely. The way she smells.”

“Oh, I know. It fills the room after she leaves.”

“I don’t just mean her perfume. Her shampoo, deoderant, and the way they mix with the scent of her skin oils and sweat…”

“Okay, you are dangerously pent-up. Like, I’m worried you’re going to kill me in my sleep with a ballistic wet dream.”

“It’s… taken care of.” Pete… wants details, but Clark waves him off because he has a call. It’s Lex, asking to meet him later. He does. Lex has been drinking a little. “Should I be trying to catch up?” Lex shrugs.

“I hate you, a little, for how effortlessly better than me you are. You caught my mistake with the plane- and you’ve been too polite to mention it, even to me. It took me three months to convince Lois to get lunch with me- as friends- and in three weeks… she’s never looked at me the way she looks at you. No one has ever looked at me the way they do at you.”

“Lex… people aren’t an equation you can solve. You can’t input time, or even the right gestures, and output success. People feel, and they need. Be there for their needs, and their feelings, and people will see you the way I do- they’ll look at you the way I do.”

He hugs Lex, and Lex wants to hate it… but he doesn’t. “I hate you a little more for this, and because you know how much I needed it. How do you always know?”

Clark pats him on the back, and releases him. “It’s not so hard. People tell you what they need. You just have to listen enough to hear it.”

“You’re my best friend. You… don’t have to reciprocate it. I know I’m not yours.”

Clark shrugs. “I remember coming home crying the first month of school. Lana told me Chloe was her best friend. And you know what my dad said?”

“No idea. My father would have backhanded me and told me to toughen up. I don’t know what human fathers do or say.”

“That sucks, Lex. But my dad, he hugged me, and said, ‘Don’t worry about who your best friend is, or if you’re someone else’s best friend. Just concentrate on being the best friend you can be, and all your friends will be lucky to have you.’”

“That’s corny as hell, even for a Kansas farm boy.”

“Some of the truest things in life are, Lex. We all make our own families. You’ll find yours. I’m sure of it. And they’ll be lucky to have you.”

We cut forward. There’s a tornado. It knocks out power to the school. Lex is there, because they anticipated this, and even assembled some local press to try and make a meal of it. “It’s okay,” he says calmingly. “We knew this was a possibility. That’s why we’ve got the generators online.” Their backups come on, and the lights come back on. “Fingers crossed there isn’t a surge-” The power goes out, and Lex and the other students work to try and keep Corben stable. One of them is on the line with the power company. A student tells him they’ve got about an hour of juice on the batteries. The pour company say it’ll take at least 90 minutes. Lex knows that five minutes after life support fails Corben will be braindead. “Start the transfer into Metallo. We’ll increase the read speed.” A student argues that they won’t get reliable data. Lex grabs them. “In an hour John Corben is going to die. I can’t prevent that. But I can try to save as much of his mind as we can.”

Lex looks over his shoulder, at an empty chair with a handwritten card on it for Clark. Lois is sitting next to it, and notices, goes to comfort Lex. “I’m sure he’ll make it.” Lex acts like he doesn’t care. “I’m sure he’s safe.” Lex makes a joke about Clark getting made President of the tornado if he got caught up in it.

We cut to the tornado. Superman is pulling things out of it, cars, fence slats, cows, a drunk out of a port-a-potty, “I think I had more to drink than I thought… really need a shower.”

We cut back to Lex in his lab. One student is talking about the progression of the transfer, into the high 90s, while another complains that the data they’re getting is corrupted. Around 98%, the power dies a final time. They light flashlights. Lex spurs them to keep moving- they planned for this, and they know just how traumatic it will be if Corben wakes up in a metal skeleton. They’ve got synthetic skin, molded to look like Corben pre-cancer. They finish after about an hour, and one of the guests ask if they’ll wake him up. Lex says that he is awake, but that his operating system is defragmenting his mind, a process Corben will likely experience as dreaming, since that’s the human equivalent.

Corben’s eyes open, vaguely glowing green. “It doesn’t hurt,” he says. “In fact… I don’t feel anything.”

“No,” Lex says. “We’re looking into touch-sensitivity, but that advancement’s several generations away. We talked about that.” Corben is confused. His mind doesn’t work the way he thinks it should. He feels hungry… but is told he can’t eat. His ex-wife attended the procedure, but he’s distressed he can’t smell, can’t feel the warmth of her hand. She’s also stand-offish; they’re friendly, but he doesn’t seem to remember she’s his ex. Everything feels alienating. He claims to need air, and accidentally tears a door off its hinges on his way outside. “He actually doesn’t,” Lex says to the reporters, “but it is quite an adjustment. If you’ll excuse me.”

Corben is having a full-fledged freakout when Lex gets outside. He doesn’t understand, doesn’t remember what he agreed to, and how much Lex might have been coloring outside the lines. Lex is trying to play to the crowd, how much this advancement could mean to all sorts of people, but Corben is becoming increasingly unstable and violent, eventually smashing a car so it folds like a hard-shell taco and flinging it into the air, where it’s caught by Superman.

They engage, fighting, as Lex tries to get to the failsafe and shut Metallo down. Lex accidentally manages to open the kryptonite compartment, and Superman falls to his knees. Lex realizes that it’s having an outsized impact on him, and grabs a fire extinguisher and smashes it into Metallo’s chest, sending flecks of the rock scattering- but the extinguisher blocks the rock enough for Superman to rally, holding Metallo while Lex shuts him down. The pair collapse into the mud. “This doesn’t mean I hate you any less,” Lex says, but helps Superman up off the ground.

“You’ll come around,” Superman says, but the way he says it, it’s full of warmth and cheer- he’s not full of himself, he’s just full of hope, for both of them, and their friendship.

Clark and Lois sit down to talk. She reveals that she sticky-fingered all the phones and cameras during the chaos, but that he’s at a crossroads. He can’t be Superman and fly under the radar- if he’s going to keep saving people, someone is going to get pictures to the press. She doesn’t think he can stop- he wouldn’t be who she thinks he is if he could. But she tells him, he also can’t do the most good if he goes back to Smallville- and for what it’s worth, she read the article he wrote about Corben for their class- he’s a talented writer. She’d publish it on the school blog in a heartbeat.

“How do I disappoint my parents?” Clark asks.

“If you want to do it like me? Do it with gusto. And some light shoplifting. But Clark… no parent who could have raised you into the man you are could be disappointed you turned out this way. You have to know that.”

“You’re probably right. I’m selling my folks short.”

“Folks, Smallville?”

“You can take the boy out of the country, but you’ll never get all of the country out of the man.”

“How? How can you say things like that without making me want to hit you?”

“I think it’s the way I look without a shirt on.”

“That helps. But… it’s here,” she touches his chest, and unbuttons his shirt, revealing the “S” shield of his suit.

We fade, but we’ll fade back in, a month later, on a similar shot of the “S” shield, but this time it’s on the front page of the Daily Planet, under the heading, “Man of Steel Sits Down for First Interview” with Lois Lane’s byline. Clark sets the paper down.

“I’m really proud of you,” he says.

“Of me? It’s your story. You could have told it, probably better than me.” She ponders a moment. “Well, you couldn’t; it’s not who you are. It’s not about the prestige for you, or the career. But this could could have been your byline. Maybe it should have.”

“No. Because I wouldn’t have known the right questions to ask. I know who I am, but that doesn’t mean I know what other need to know. That was all you. You deserve this.”

“I used to dream about seeing my name on the cover of the Planet; they offered to hire me, even without graduating.”

“Oh,” Clark’s surprised by that. “What’d you say?” He’s bracing, because he thinks he knows where this conversation goes.

“It’s my dream job.” There’s a sadness in her voice, enough we start to worry Clark’s right. “That’s why I need to be able to do it right. If they want me because I’m right for the job, they’ll want me in a year, when I’ve got my degree. Besides. I couldn’t leave you alone here. They’d eat you alive, Smallville.”

“My hero,” he says, and kisses her, and this time we really do fade to black.

DC Ten Year Plan

Introduction

For those of you who may not have heard, James Gunn and Peter Safran, new heads of DC’s movieverse, are putting together a ten year plan. So I thought I’d pitch my own.

Assumptions

1. We’re playing it where it lies. That means no rewriting 2023’s The Flash to get rid of Ezra Miller, or assuming he’ll be killed in the final five minutes (he might be… but that’s a much easier thing to fix in my pitch than the reverse).

2. Budget is now one of the names of the game. So we’re a lot less likely to see the kinds of big-budget ensembles I prefer for my comic movies, (as you can tell from my other pitches). But I still expect team-ups and duos to be the norm.

3. Covid makes some movie failures an open question. WW2 could have been a winner at the box office, even if it wasn’t a great movie. For that reason I expect sequels to be greenlit that wouldn’t otherwise (you wouldn’t normally do a Suicide Squad 3 after that kind of a box office drop… but the pandemic creates this odd uncertainty- so I expect sequels to happen if only to keep the talent happy).

4. We’re assuming none of these balls get dropped, which is a big assumption. No one expected Black Adam to thud quite as hard as it did; it was supposed to build out the Justice Society, but it won’t get a sequel, and I suspect the Society won’t get a spin-off, either, at least not in its current state.

5. I’m assuming 3 movies per year. I know next year will have 4, but I think that’s entirely because DC blinked and moved Aquaman off of Avatar 2’s weekend- no reason to give up $100+ million just to play chicken with Disney- maybe a lot more, if Avatar is well-received and Aquaman isn’t. I expect 3 movies is the max DC will try to do on average; anything else risks glutting the market and stretching their producers too thin. It’s possible that changes; if they can consistently produce 3 per year without major duds, they might step up to 4… but I suspect savvy executives would recognize Marvel’s quality has slipped somewhat due to Feige being stretched thin, and try to avoid that.

6. I’m assuming we stop at trilogies. Marvel are experimenting with Thor 4 and Cap 4, but that happened later; for now we’re assuming after trilogies that things evolve.

7. You could read the statement about not having 4 Batmen as meaning literally that… but I think it points to a collapse of the multiverse- a Crisis on Infinite Earths as dictated by corporate fiat. Which we can work with.

TWIST

Given that reports have put Wonder Woman 3 as getting the ax, Momoa being out as Aquaman and Gunn rebooting Superman without Cavill… it looks like they’re aiming for more of a tabula rasa than I initially assumed. Because my procrastination is an onion of infinite leaf, I will still pitch my original version, and then also pitch a wide open, blue sky version after that. Honestly, I think a clean slate is the way to go… but I’m frankly a little shocked Warner/Discovery are moving ahead with it.

2024

I figure this is kind of a rebuilding year. So I’m only pitching one project, the only one I think has a chance of getting greenlit and made in time to come out in the same year as Joker 2.

Wonder Woman 3: War of the Realms

I’ve seen the reporting. I don’t believe the sequel is dead; the first one made $800 million, and the sequel suffered because of the pandemic. So it’s getting a sequel, and it’s one of very few projects that might make a 2024 deadline at this point.. To me the main question is whether or not Patty Jenkins will be involved. The next is whether or not they want to recast Gal Gadot- which is far riskier (most people don’t know Jenkins, but they know the actress in the role).

I think 1984 got made largely because after the first one blew up, Jenkins had too much clout. They thought the Wondertrain could never be derailed, so they might as well keep milking prequels, and if it ever did, you could just start making modern sequels. I think it’s time to pull that rip-cord.

This one takes place in the aftermath of Justice League. Wonder Woman has come full-circle, rejoining the world as well as now essentially leading the League. So it’s going to involve at least a little of her role as part of the world. I’d lean into it, make her ambassador from both Themyscira and also from the Hall of Justice- so she represents her people and the Justice League to the United Nations. That also neatly sets up an arc for her, in that there’s bound to be tension between the League and her nation.

The other big narrative thread we have lingering is Steve. She needs to get over Steve. Personally, I prefer the Frozen route; she’s the world’s premier superheroine, so it’s not great if her movies are all about the boy she likes (and we can’t even lean into her sex-positivity of the first film because she’s been portrayed at this point as being an emotional shut-in after Steve’s death). So I’d introduce Artemis. I’d make her literally Diana’s little sister, bratty, brash, spoiled and snotty, in all the ways a second child to the perfect first can be. She’s also incredibly hurt that Diana abandoned her, and the Amazons.

Perhaps that’s why, when there’s a minor territorial scuffle with Atlantis, Artemis fans its flames into outright war. Now, obviously, this sequel would be more financially viable if you get Momoa as Aquaman. But you could also do Mera, running Atlantis in his stead while he attends to League business, perhaps settling up a cool, strange superheroine cat fight. Or you could have it be Orm, Black Manta, the bench of, “briefly took over Atlantis to cause trouble” villains is reasonably deep (this pun is intentional).

Regardless, it becomes clear to everyone, the Amazons and the world, that she can’t both be their ambassador for peace and a part of the world’s unofficial superhero justice department. She has to choose. I’d have her speak to Athena (because again, the Gods are real in her world), and the Goddess of wisdom says that she can be a true and faithful sister to her people- or she can embrace the world as her people, and be faithful to them, and leave rule and representation of the Amazons to those without a foot in both worlds.

So she helps put an end to the conflict, first, then resigns as the Amazonian ambassador, because she can’t be both a peacekeeper and a peacemaker- and her heart and her skills are more in the one than the other. And at the same time she reconnects with her love for her sister- with her love for all of her sisters- and realizes that at some point Steve became a symbol for the loss of all of them, as well.

2025

The Batman 2: Hush

I’m assuming Matt Reeves maintains largely full control, but I can’t pass up a chance to pitch some Batman, and it’s taking up space in my schedule, anyway, so loosely tracking the comic story, in the same way that The Batman loosely tracked a few different stories; Joker is treated like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs in the original story. We could go a step further, keeping him in shadow for most of the runtime. That would allow us to, if Joker 2 makes anywhere near what the first did, have a cameo from Phoenix, canonizing his Joker as the post-Flashpoint Joker (or at least one of them). Because we’d need Dick around, and because I think the idea of Robert Pattinson trying to foster a child would be funny, one of the segments of the story involves the death of the Graysons and Bruce taking Dick in- then immediately realizing he’s an emotionally stunted adolescent, and in no way ready for a kid.

The Suicide Squads

Sequel box office is usually a referendum on audience enjoyment of the previous film; it can be helped by marketing, but only so much. People were intrigued by Squad 1, then let down, so they were less keen to be bit a second time- even by a superior product. But this superior product was also the baby of the new boss of DC, or at least one of them, so I expect it to get a third entry.

I assume James Gunn would be writing and likely directing this one himself. As the name implies, it’s Squad 1 vs. Squad 2. Amanda Waller re-recruits her first squad to go after her rogue squad, headlined by Redemption Tour Will Smith. She wants them dead or back on her leash, and their leverage destroyed. How can you not salivate at the idea of Deadshot vs. Bloodsport, King Shark vs. Killer Croc, Harley and her Spear vs. Kitana and her Kitana? It might even be fun to do Ratcatcher 2 vs. Enchantress.

Given the casualties 1 suffered, we could either add characters. My preference would be to recruit Clayface, but a brainwashed Clayface who believes he’s Steve Trevor, and that he’s been serving as a deep cover black operative since his ‘death,’ with the aim of eventually putting him and Wonder Woman together for some emotional fireworks. Or you cold just have Peacemaker show up and join their squad. Either way, 2 is outmatched and things look dire… until Harley cashes in a favor from the Birds of Prey! Waller is lead away in cuffs (handed off to General Wade Eiling), and Task Force X is officially disbanded, with both squads freed.

Of course… that just means Waller and her special project go deeper underground… but that’s a concern for another day.

Green Lantern Corps.

Not to be confused with my more pie in the sky version I pitched before, this would be smaller.

Given that Ryan Reynolds was essentially doing a variation on Guy Gardner’s personality, and I’m assuming we’re going to be doing this as small-scale as you can do something like this, we have two human main characters, and they’ll be John Stewart and Kyle Rayner. John’s been around the block, and Kyle’s the rookie.

We play the GL Corps. almost like a police department, that kind of bureaucracy, codes of conduct, etc. Assuming we want to make this as cost-effective as possible, we can do it almost like Men in Black, that there’s essentially a sector house stationed on Earth, that they work out of. The front office is staffed by humans, or at least shapeshifters and humanoids. As they get deeper in, their coworkers get weirder. Then John leads him into an interrogation room.

Stewart tells him they’re at war. One of their own, Sinestro, has been recruiting. Their rings run on willpower. Sinstro’s runs on fear. His theory, the same of many petty dictators, is that fear is more powerful than will. And Kyle’s there because, right now, they’re losing that war, and doesn’t want to talk about what happened to Hal. He asks Kyle to tell him how they got there.

Kyle was a graphic designer. Mostly freelance. Hard to keep a single gig going in this economy. Between gigs he liked to station himself at a coffee shop and sketch, to keep his design skills limber.

A Sinestro member crashes through the shop. Kyle’s slashed with a piece of broken glass. The Sinestro is blasted by green light, and we see that he landed on a Green Lantern. It holds out its ring to Kyle, and tells him to take it- take it and run.

We see Kyle running down the street as yellow energy flies past him. Someone vulnerable is frozen in his path, a child, maybe a stroller or an elder person. Kyle turns, the ring clutched in his hand, and holds up his arms and closes his eyes- he can’t let someone else get hurt because of him.

We’re back in the interrogation. “For the record, that blast would have incinerated both of you. For the same record- I’ve never seen a civilian activate a ring, let alone one they were only holding.” We’re back. Kyle opens his eyes, and sees the green bubble he created. The Sinestro starts to punch it, and the bubble cracks. Kyle tries to reinforce it with his mind, a flurry of motion as he imagines intricate defenses, but they’re too weak to hold the creature back, it’s going to break through.

A green burst of energy knocks him down and back, and Stewart lands in front of Kyle. In the interrogation room, Stewart asks for the ring, and says they can’t be taken. Kyle says it was given to him. “Be that as it may, the odds of you getting it to work again are astronomical, and even if you do, you won’t have a way to recharge it. Unless I swear you in.”

They talk about what joining the Lanterns means, and eventually has him repeat the oath after him, then has him slide on the ring, and he transforms into a Green Lantern.

We meet Sinestro. We’re going to do something different, here. The Sinestros are mostly working on Earth. They’ve taken over a Central American cartel- converting some of them with rings, killing others. They did this for access to their chemical processing and networks. And the reason is that they’ve partnered with a human with expertise in creating fear chemically, Dr. Jonathan Crane, and they intend to use his chemicals to amplify their strength a hundred fold and crush the Green Lanterns, first on Earth, but eventually on Oa.

So you can do a lower key, earth-based crime story with the Lanterns for a lower budget, but with the promise of potential space-based chicanery to come- but depending on box office you can keep the action mostly Earth-based- so it doesn’t have to be a Star Wars to justify sequels.

2026

Flash 2/Earth 2

I’m assuming that with as risk-averse as WB-Discovery has been, they don’t want to keep Ezra Miller around. In light of that, I expect they’ll recast- maybe a cameo of Ezra, but replace him, maybe with Wally from a different universe, the future, whatever.

So at the end of Flashpoint (I’m assuming they keep him through that- if only because they want him around, at least theoretically, for press), Barry emerges on Earth 2. At first he doesn’t understand it- he’s never emerged in the wrong universe before. We play up the similarities between this world and the Snyderverse, hinting hard in promo material that Flash will actually be returning to Snyder’s DCEU.

I’d honestly keep that going as long as possible. Flash is captured by people who look a lot like his Justice League… only they aren’t. And they’ve also captured another Flash, a Wally West. He came with his Barry here, summoned by some kind of mad science that pulls those in touch with the Speed Force there. Because this Earth is dying. It’s a wrong Earth. They want to use the Flashes to escape it before it’s destroyed.

The two Flashes are able to escape together. They have a conversation at superspeed, Wally at first thrilled to see Barry, before the realization hits him- he isn’t his Barry, which means his Barry really is dead. The Crime Syndicate are just behind them. Barry realizes they can’t both get away- and sacrifices himself so Wally can make it out- because I’m a sucker for the classics, I’d have his death happen like it did in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Suddenly Wally is our lead.

He’s found by Lex Luthor- this planet’s greatest hero. They team up with a heroic version of the Joker, called the Jester, to destroy the stolen LexTech that is drawing Flashes. While the Syndicate were distracted looking for their own way out, Lex evacuated the rest of the Earth- but he and Jester stayed behind to make sure the Syndicate didn’t follow- or escape to some other unsuspecting Earth.

The pair fall fighting the Crime Syndicate, and Flash both manages to destroy the Flash lure, and escape back to Barry’s original timeline. If we can wangle the cameos, Flash goes to the Justice League. Most of them just assume he’s Barry. But Batman sees through him. He waits until the others have given them distance. “You aren’t Barry. Just who the hell are you?”

Aquaman 3: Return of the King

I’ll assume James Wan (or at least his bank account) are pissed at the cancellation of The Trench. But that was a silly idea- an unbranded Aquaman spin-off designed around… Black Manta? But there’s no reason the concept, and the production design has to go to waste. I’m assuming from the synopsis that it’s Black Manta Aquaman will be teaming with in 2, otherwise he would be the main villain here. If he’s in 2, then we’ll swap in Charybdis… and we’re going to do a lot of foreshadowing about severed hands- but we’re probably not going to chop off his hand… no matter how big of a fan of the Evil Dead movies I am (though if we do, we aren’t giving him a hook- we’ll give him a turbine hand). But if we do do Charybdis… I’d have him claim to be the rightful king of the seven seas, with the Trench’s legions at his back to enforce the claim.

This would be, overall, a much darker story. The creatures of the Trench have been riled by a new leader, promising that their old foes, the Atlanteans, the Amazons and the Lost Kingdomians can no longer hold back their strength. And… they win, around the halfway mark. The terrible creatures of the Trench overrun Atlantis, which is forced to evacuate, half of their forces going to Paradise Island, the other to the Lost Kingdom. I’m just… going to assume that Arthur’s arc is accepting his role and responsibility as Atlantis’ ruler, which means Atlantis falls in part when Arthur refuses to lead, expecting the generals and army to handle things. He fights with them, even at the head- but he is not their figurehead.

I’ll assume including Aquaman, or at minimum Aquaman elements, in Wonder Woman 3, will have both cemented a connection between the two places, and helped juice box office. So I’d say the reverse would work here, and also, Wondy sort of owes Arthur a return of the favor. The Amazons sustain casualties as part of the evacuation, leading Diana to lead the Amazon forces. She’s a natural at it, something that awes Arthur (it’s one thing to command seven heroes, another to command an army and a nation without breaking stride). She gives him the tough love pep talk he needs, inspiring him to be the leader Atlantis needs. As part of that he pleads to let the Atlanteans take the first line- they were beaten back, but not broken. They need to reclaim their dignity nearly as much as they need to reclaim their home. The Amazon generals are reluctant; if their front line doesn’t hold their defenses overall weaken- the Atlanteans could lead to the fall of the Amazons if they can’t hold long enough. Arthur is adamant they’ll hold. He gives his warriors a Braveheart speech, and they drive the Trench warriors back into the sea.

They continue the fighting all the way back to Atlantis, and retake the city. Atlantis’ generals argue for driving them back into the trench, then mining the cliffs; that will close the passage, and collapse the trench, killing most of them, and sealing the rest away. But Aquaman, during the evacuation, saw some of Atlantis’ worse-off, those left behind by previous regimes, and sees the parallels. At first he resists, and the generals press harder, assuming, from his inexperience, that he can be cowed, until finally he bellows, “No. They are angry because we have, again and again, made them lesser. We are not their betters- we are their brothers. I am not the king of the beautiful parts of the ocean, I am king of the seas, and they are my people, too.” So Arthur sues for peace, and with a little humility, is able to end the conflict without bloodshed, reuniting the two kingdoms under his rule.

Shazam vs Black Adam

Yes, this essentially functions as Shazam 3 and Black Adam 2, and is probably the smart bet whether or not Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel. Black Adam is one of his big antagonists; one of the other two is a telepathic caterpillar… so I’m going with the one played by the Rock (although I now desperately want Vin Diesel to voice Mr. Mind at some point).

Now… I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Black Adam yet. I don’t know whether or not he retakes his country in that film or not… but that’s a minor detail, because that’s how this movie begins. He remakes the ancient city-state of Kahndaq. This bugs the crap out of Shazam, because people assume it’s him, because they both have a lightning bolt chest. I just imagine Zachary Levi, exasperated, telling an old woman he saved from being hit by a truck and is now beating him mercilessly with her purse pointing to a TV in a shop window bearing news footage of Black Adam rampaging, telling her, as she hits him, “I look nothing like the guy. I have hair. And a cape!” She starts swinging underhand, and while the swing goes off screen, we can tell she’s whacking him in the crotch. “Stop that,” he says, catching the purse.

Shazam convenes the rest of the Marvel family. They discuss; most of them argue for cooler heads; but Billy’s really struggling, here. He wanted to be like Superman, but he’s becoming, “Thanks for saving me, I guess, but screw you, man!” So Billy goes off on his own to fight Black Adam… and has his clock pretty thoroughly cleaned.

I imagine there’s a lot of comedy to be had, excitable Zach Levi trying to convince Black Adam that his relatively naïve and idealistic morality is superior… and Black Adam just really not having any patience for this child in a man’s body.

The Marvels arrive to rescue Billy, and they start to have a big superhero fight… before Billy realizes the damage they’re doing, and all to salve his ego. He realizes what’s really important- the little people, the ones who can’t stop tank shells. Billy convinces the Marvels to stop fighting.

Just then, the warlords Black Adam took Kahndaq back from, counter-attack, seeing the Marvels’ intervention as an exploitable crisis. And they’ve upped their game, getting some magically infused tank shells that actually do hurt him. Billy recognizes that the warlords are the worse of the two evils, so they team up with Black Adam.

At the end, the Marvels tell Adam to leave Kahndaq alone. “No.” He tells them the only way they can pry his home from him is with a war that will level the country- and he knows they wouldn’t do that.

Billy’s angry, but recognizes Adam has a point. “Today, you’re the lesser of the evils. The day that changes, I’m dragging you out of here myself.”

Now… if Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel, you might be able to get money enough for a Justice Society cameo. Say the tanks, given that they’re specifically designed with Shazams in mind, could be a problem for all of our heroes… until the Justice Society show up to help out. This could foster good will with the Marvels, and pave the way for Shazam to continue as a part of the Justice Society.

2027

Justice League: Dark

Okay… this one is wild, even for me. It starts as we’d expect, Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, and Tim Hunter, dealing with a magical threat. Because I’m trying to save Justice League movies the way Marvel does for Avengers events, and Wonder Woman’s series ended at 3… she ends up here, to add some star power to the line-up. The magical threat ends up shunting them off into a different DC Universe- essentially a thinly veiled Snyderverse. Something is deeply wrong with a world where Batman is gunning people down on the streets from the safety of his own personal tank. Flash (paralleling Ezra Miller’s real-life problems) is having mental crises faster than anyone can think up solutions. Superman, after the death of Lois Lane, is going full-on fascist. So the characters are caught in this dark, increasingly dystopian world, and have to figure out if they can save it, and if they can’t, whether or not they can at least escape it. Depending on how it plays, this could lay the groundwork for Injustice Lords or the Injustice universe. This exists both because the concept has been a high priority for adaptation, and because elements within WB/Discovery really want to bring back the Snyderverse in some capacity, and presents an opportunity to have your cake and eat it, too. When they finally escape, the end up in the Batcave.

The 3 Jokers

Okay… assuming everything is going to plan, we need to square why we have 2 Jokers running around, and also multiple Harleys. So here’s how we do it, by roughly adapting the 3 Jokers story. Phoenix has a run-in; depending on whether or not a Batman shows up in Joker 2, it can just be with police or a rival mob. Harley saves him, narrowly. She’s concerned for his safety. So they hatch a plan to create more Jokers. He starts experimenting with psychoactive drugs on people they kidnap.

One will, eventually, be the gangster version from Suicide Squad.

This also involves Batman, who at the end of the story captures the Joker, and puts him in Arkham- where he is in Hush.

Personally, I’d also make the original Joker the only one aware of the shifting timelines, first after Flashpoint, then after Wally takes Barry’s place (time rewrites, so that Wally was always their Flash- Batman seems to be the only one who remembered Barry).

Blue Beetle 2: Justice for All

Similar, but distinct from my Justice League: International pitch.

Assuming Blue Beetle does well, it will likely in part be attributed to it catering to the Latino audience in the way that Black Panther’s success was partly attributed to the underserved Black audience (and given the success of Coco is likely a savvy move). So the next logical step is to put him on the International Justice League. Wonder Woman resigning her post as dual Amazon ambassador and Justice League ambassador leaves the UN feeling vulnerable. She’s still their liaison, but in effect it has made the League more independent. So they request the right to build their own League, an international one that can cater to the world’s needs, not just whatever the gods among them deign to intervene in. Some of this is prompted by Russia fielding their own hero team, the Rocket Reds, think a team of Russian Iron Men, and China their own. The world is getting nervous.

Given Blue Beetle has already had one success, and he’s both an American with Latin American roots, he’s viewed as an ideal candidate to lead the team. We want to be as international as possible, so I’d bring in Fire from Brazil, Ice from Iceland, Vixen from somewhere in Africa, Dr. Light (Dr. Hoshi version) from Japan.

I’m thinking a goodly portion of the story is assembling the team, finding and convincing them to work together. Then a crisis occurs, as the Chinese superteam and Russian one combine forces to take over Mongolia, with the stated aim of dividing the country between them. Just as the JLI are about to go fight the good fight, their new handler, Max Lord, pulls Beetle aside. They’ve been waiting for this eventuality. They had warning. From a visitor claiming to be from the future.

He’s been kept in a bunker, a UN safe house that’s essentially its own little Gitmo in New York. Beetle goes to the heart of it, and meets Booster Gold. He told them three things would happen, and two have come to pass. The third is the combining of the Russian and Chinese teams. He’s told them that without him, the conflict will escalate to a full-scale nuclear war. As part of his intake, Max asked Booster why a man from the future would let them catch him. “You’ll let me out. When you need to.”

So the JLI fight the combined forces. They’re tough, but the JLI prove tougher… except Booster stops them. He knows the Russians and Chinese can’t lose face like this- if they can’t compete in the next arms race, they’ll rattle their sabers in the old one… but their fear will lead to launches, and nuclear devastation. But the real truth is they aren’t the aggressors here. Someone is pulling their strings.

There are a lot of directions you can go from here. Any number of telepaths, mind controllers, etc. Whoever it is, I’d make their plan a part of the Anti-Monitor’s plan, meant to soften the Earth up so it provides less resistance- in the same way he guided Sinestro to Earth to weaken the GLs, and eventually Oa. Despero might be the best option, because he can both control some of the characters, but also provide a good boss fight at the end.

Booster’s future tech is able to detect the hidden adversary, and he attacks them, freeing the 3 super teams to fight together and end the conflict.

2028

The Batman 3: Knightfall

I’m pitching this one as much because I get the sense that Reeves just kind of wants to play with all the toys, and this would let him put his imprint on whoever was left. Bane cracks Arkham wide open. This sets up a gauntlet for Batman, who has to capture as many of the inmates before they hurt innocent people as he can. All the while, Bane keeps taking shots at him, to weaken him more and more. But unlike prior, crappier adaptations… Batman doesn’t get his back broken. You could do that in the comics and spend a year on that storyline. But for a film, even a 3 hour one, that makes for a lousy story. So instead… Batman figures out Bane’s plan. It takes a toll on him, true. But he prepares for the moment Bane’s going to attack him, and puts Dick Grayson in the costume; he’s been champing at the bit the entire movie, wanting to help while Batman held him off. It’s for this moment. Bane trashes Dick. He’s brutal, and with the venom Dick can’t win. Bane hoists him over his head, and we hear the sound of a bataring whip through the air. It doesn’t stop Bane from smashing his knee into Dick’s back, but it does cut him off from his venom supply. The real Batman emerges from the shadows, and beats Bane, who slices open his veins to jam the venom line directly into his arm. This fight’s harder, but Bane gets tripped up by Dick from the floor, and Batman knocks him out. Batman asks Dick if he’s all right. “First thing they teach you in the circus is how to fall…ow…”

Green Lantern Corps: Parallax

The Green Lanterns managed to beat Sinestro. As he’s being transported to a launch facility for escort back to Oa, his convoy is attacked. It’s part of a series of raids and attacks the Lanterns are dealing with from a terrorist group calling themselves Parallax. They’ve been targeting Green Lantern support staff and allies, those without rings themselves, bombing their cars, their homes. Energy signatures at the crime scenes indicate presence of both Sinestro and Green Lantern rings- leading to paranoia about who among them have turned, causing Kyle and John to not be able to trust anyone.

What takes them longer to understand is that the terrorists are also targeting remainders of Sinestro’s cartel. This is somewhat hidden, because they take their rings after death, a missing finger being the only indication there was ever a ring there to begin with.

The leader of this ring-powered terrorist organization turns out to be none other than Hal Jordan. He blames both the Green Lantern Corps. and the Sinestros for the destruction of his home town of Coast City. He’s holding Sinestro prisoner, and using his ring as part of the attacks as he makes Sinestro watch his empire crumble.

Kyle and John find and free Sinestro, but are caught by Hal. They prove incapable of defeating him, until Sinestro puts his hand on Stewart’s, adding his will to John’s ring. Together, the three are able to forcibly extract Parallax, the fear entity, from Jordan, and he’s horrified about what he did under its influence.

Sinestro testifies in Jordan’s defense, telling them that under the Parallax entities’ control there’s very little a host can do to resist, that while he certainly aided the entity willingly, Jordan did not.

Batgirl and Supergirl: World’s Finest

We’re at the point where extrapolating from what is to what could be gets… interesting. Because I’m trying to pull together what nearly got made as a gauge of corporate interest… despite management changes wildly altering that interest several times over.

But presumably, there’s confidence in some kind of a Batgirl project. We’re also, if we’re building towards a Crisis, going to need a Supergirl. So I figure combine the two. Give it to whoever the current equivalent to Juno-era Diablo Cody is, maybe Emerald Fennel.

Kara Zor-El arrives on Earth. Jor-El sent his brother on the colony an identical ship to launch Kara, and he did so. But her ship was damaged enroute, and had to use orbital sling-shotting to arrive at Earth. Because she spent more time at near-light speeds, she incurred more time dilation, and Clark’s older cousin is now his younger cousin.

What neither of them know, however, is that the Kandor colony didn’t suffer Krypton’s fate. They were bottled at the last minute by Brainiac… but he considers the city incomplete, given that one survivor managed to escape. He tracks her to Earth, intent on shrinking her down as part of his collection.

Meanwhile, Batman tasks Batgirl with being Supergirl’s handler. He figures she’s good at blending, but can also protect her in a pinch. This leads Batgirl to training Supergirl to fight; she’s only absorbed a small amount of solar radiation, so she’s a lot more vulnerable right now than she will be.

I’m assuming it would kill the budget to actually show the Justice League, but we could have a news broadcast showing that the League, including the entire Hall of Justice, has been frozen in a solid block of ice. The ice seems to be mildly radioactive, so attempts to break free would spread radioactive dust across the city- Batman confirms to Batgirl via radio that the isotope is Kryptonite, that someone knew about the League and how they would be vulnerable. Batgirl doesn’t think it’s a coincidence this is happening right after the arrival of Supergirl.

Their paranoia proves correct, when both girls are kidnapped and brought aboard Brainiac’s ship. He largely ignores Barbara, thinking her to be a human, and of absolutely no consequence, casually threatening her before ignoring her completely to monologue at Kara. Batgirl manages to break the encryption on Brainiac’s computers, waging technologic war on him as he tries to fight Supergirl. It’s a tough fight, since she’s still mostly relying on the self-defense Barbara taught her. Eventually they force Brainiac to flee, and get into an escape pod back to Earth.

2029

The 3 Flashes

Wally keeps getting shunted to alternate worlds. Whatever the Crime Syndicate did, it continues to pull him from reality to reality. He meets another Flash, an older one, named Jay Garrick. Garrick postulates that, as Hawking theorized, there’s a cosmic editor, putting things back to where they were, fixing impossible paradoxes- that the multiverse is trying to send him home.

Both Flashes get pulled to another dark timeline. During their down time, Wally reflects on his Barry, and how he was the better hero, and he would be able to save them. Jay tells him that he was one of the first heroes on his world- he didn’t have anyone to look up to- he had to be the hero he wished he could look up to- and just as crucially, learn to forgive himself when he fell short of that ideal.

They’re met by one of the Monitors. He explains that his people are ethe editors Hawking theorized- that when a tear in reality threatens all existence, they fix it.

This dark reality, however, is actually the future, or at least a possible one, run by Eobard Thawn, the Reverse Flash. His connection to the Speed Force is artificial. He created it with technology, forcing himself into it. He can only maintain that by draining the life of other Flashes, recreating tech created by Lex Luthor to do so. So presuming that Reverse Flash is the antagonist of the first Flash movie, this serves as his origin.

So we get a pretty wild superspeed fight, during which Zoom absorbs enough of the Speed Force to have a legit connection, leading to him going back in time to attack Wally (accidentally attacking Barry, due to the continuity bending that attack created).

The Monitor appears at the end, sheepish over having used them. Reality is safe, for the moment… but they’re also a step closer to a Crisis point. Because the existence of Monitors means the existence of Anti-Monitors, anti-matter, opposing forces from the dark multiverse. They feed on matter, converting entire realities into energy- and one has set his sights on their Earth.

Justice League: Dark Multiverse

Justice League Dark thought they were home- thought they finally found their own universe. We start in the Batcave, where the last film ended. Batman tells them that he’s glad to see them, he could use their help. Joker’s won. He united all of Gotham’s villains under his banner, killed half the police and forced the remainder to disband. With the help of a mysterious, ragged stranger, he erected a magical barrier that’s keeping Gotham separate from the other heroes. Worse, he systematically killed all of Batman’s allies, all his Robins, Batgirls… he’s the last one left. Now he’s executing parents. Every hour, on the hour, he’s killing parents in crime alley, orphaning their children. He says the only way he’ll stop is if Batman kills him. He’s been up for days, at this point, trying to figure out a way to beat Joker. He’s a shell of a man, but he’s terrified that if he kills Joker, he’ll never stop. He knows Joker’s a singular threat, but how do you justify drawing that line? He already crippled Joker… but he still won’t stop.

Wonder Woman offers to do it. He reveals that he knows Joker has a failsafe, that he’s secreted a more virulent version of his toxin in his body that will transform whoever kills him into him. Batman is just a man- he can be beaten- but a Joker with the power of Wonder Woman might not be.

Batman’s plan is to wage an all-out assault on Joker’s compound, hopefully long enough to distract the ragged man and let them remove his magical bubble. They barrier is pouring from a giant bat totem, and is protected by dragons with the Joker’s face. They fight their way to the barrier, as Batman fights his way to the Joker. Batman tries all kinds of things, but he just can’t outmaneuver the Joker. Turns out the Joker isn’t even there, he’s doing all of this by remote. But there is a teleporter, that takes Batman to him. They’re locked in a cage, with a minute to go before the next parents die. They’re related to some member of the Batcast, and the resemblance shakes him. He tries to find a way out of the cage, some way that he can escape after he kills the Joker, biding time, hoping the Dark League can manage to bring down the barrier in time to let the League rescue the family. They only need a second, a fraction of a second, for Flash or Superman to arrive. We watch the clock as he tries desperately to escape, with seconds left. We cut back to the Dark League, destroying the barrier. They realize the ragged figure is behind them, and in a haunting voice he tells them, “Too late,” before disappearing.

We cut back to the cage with Batman and the Joker in it. We can see that the timer stopped, and the family is still alive. We pull back, to see the cage is filled with gas, and the Joker, his neck snapped, hangs limply from Batman’s hands.

An instant later, Superman is there, about to punch a hole in the cage. “Don’t,” Batman says. “Can’t risk you getting exposed to this gas.”

Now… dependent on budget, I’d have the full League and Dark League with him in the cave, still sealed inside the cage, running diagnostics on him. He seems to be fine, and convinces them that he feels fine, and that if they’re going to counteract the poison he needs to be out there, with his equipment. It’s Superman who makes the call, because he’ll always trust Batman. The second he’s out, Batman activates the Babel protocol, countermeasures for the entire League as he systematically murders his way through them. He hadn’t planned on the Dark League being there, and being magic, they survive him a little longer- long enough to open a portal away. But he hitches a ride, coming through with them back into their universe (though that fact will only be revealed in the end credits).

Lobo

The Main Man takes a contract in a hive of scum and villainy. Seems that someone’s special captive got loose. She’s armed, extremely dangerous, and hiding out on Earth. During their first fight, she kicks his butt. Badly. Embarassingly so, to the degree the he never even manages to peel her out of a cloak. The last thing he sees is red glowing eyes.

In their second fight, he bushwhacks her, having finally read the brief provided by his employer. This time he brought kryptonite to the party. For a moment we’ll assume he’s after Supergirl… and you’d be half right- he’s caught Power Girl. Now… to try not to give you a nosebleed, but also tie her into the multiversal shenanigans we’re building up… she is originally from an alternate Earth. However, when her rocket managed to shatter through to a different universe, the Monitors rewrote her history, to be a clone of Kara created by her parents in the bottle city of Kandor to replace the daughter they lost. During the fight in World’s Finest, a little of Earth’s radiation managed to break through into the bottle city, giving Kara enough power to escape, vowing to marshal forces to free them all.

Lobo returns to Brainiac with his prize. Brainiac notices something amiss, and accuses Lobo of playing a fast one. Her signature is wrong… but she is genetically the Kara he was seeking. He deems it worthy of further study, then turns his attentions to Lobo.

See, Lobo is the last Czarnian, a worthy addition to Brainiac’s collection. He captures him, and houses him in a place he doubts very much Lobo will want to escape from.

It is a civilization consisting entirely of prostitution, gambling, liquor and cigar production. Lobo’s eyes light up, and we fade to black. We put up white text. “Fifty black-outs later…” Lobo is drinking alone. An alien prostitute makes a pass, but he’s melancholy. It’s a world catered entirely to his whims… except for his lust for violence and conflict. He’s getting restless. Even tiny, Lobo is able to crack his bottle. But once free, he realizes that without being able to fly, he’s not going to be able to make himself big. On the one hand, that means he can get hammered for pennies. On the other, it means only insect hookers for the rest of his days. He decides to bust out Power Girl. They make an uneasy alliance. She grows him first. He considers reneging, until she starts smacking him around as a superstrong fly- which should be very comical to watch. Finally he grows her. Lobo takes the shrink ray and the bottle he was trapped in. Kara takes the bottle city of Kandor.

I’m assuming Kara had been searching for Ray Palmer, the Atom, to help her try to regrow her city. He tells them that the cities have been shrunk too long; Brainiac’s tech can be reversed over a short period, but after that regrowing becomes impossible. But he promises to keep searching for a cure.

2030

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths

The World Forger has been a busy little bee, creating a nigh-infinite multiverse. Feeling slighted that less attention seems to be paid to his dark, anti-matter universes, the Anti-Monitor devises a plan to consume the positive multiverse’s energy and usurp the World Forger, creating only dark universes.

With each destroyed universe, the Anti-Monitor becomes stronger, leaving the heroes with a single possible path to win: merging the multiverse into a single reality. They manage it, and then beat back the Anti-Monitor. Supergirl and Jay Garrick die in the offing.

Brianiac reports on the failure of the Anti-Monitor. Darkseid smiles. Brainiac doesn’t understand. “We exist beyond any universe While the wall between his realm and the universe remains intact, there is now a crack, through which we may directly influence events. Desaad proclaims, “Darkseid is coming. Darkseid is.”

Beyond

I mapped out three phases, the first ending in the Crisis, the second in defeating Darkseid, and the third ending in a fight with the Dark Knights.

Supergirl would have survived, encased in Kryptonian crystal and eventually revived by the Legion of Superheroes. The New Gods would have lost to Apokalips, as would the Greek Gods, before Darkseid laid siege to Earth

Batman would have paid Lobo to form the Outsiders into a nonlethal black ops team from remnants of Task Force X, who would eventually rebel against him, not realizing his plan was to convince them to use nonlethal means, not keeping them as Waller had.

Next

I’m going to work on my own DCNu movie universe, mostly because I’m jealous Gunn and Safran got that much leeway. Could take me a couple of weeks, but check back soon.

DCEU ’22 Pitches 1: Milestones 2: Bound by Blood

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the DC or Marvel cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to Milestones 1.

The Windup: Wait, I haven’t even finished up with ‘21’s Marvel pitches, so why am I posting the first of this year’s DC pitches? Procrastination? Time travel? Nope. It’s Juneteenth. Last Juneteenth, the first where it was officially a federal holiday, saw the posting of Milestones 1, following Milestone’s (the 90s own voices Black imprint) premier superhero trio, essentially their Superman, Iron Man and Spider-Man. Well, this here’s a sequel to that one, introducing Milestone’s take on the X-Men, as well as continuing the story of Icon, Hardware and Static. I’ve tried to modernize some elements, but as with last year, my pitch notwithstanding, this kind of project would need to be written and directed by Black professionals. As such, I’ve taken a relatively light hand, because I know enough to know that I don’t always know what I don’t know, you know? My goal here is to highlight the potential of a Black franchise, not whitesplain the work of Black artists or Elvisize it.

The rest of the DC pitches for ’22 will have to wait; I’ve got more to finish from the MCU ’21 pitches, so it will be a bit before more of these DC pitches happen (tentatively scheduled for mid-August) . If you want notifications of pitches, you can always follow me on the bird app.

The Pitch:

Night, at Alva Technologies. For a moment it’s a peaceful corporate campus. It’s subtle, but Rocket zooms into a window on one of the upper floors during this establishing shot.

We cut to the inside of the facility, into Curtis’ laboratory, and see his Hardware exosuit. Curtis and his most recent handler/assistant, Tiff, hear a boom from nearby. “What was that?” she asks, flat-footed.

Curtis dives for the assistant, pushing her out of the way as the metal door flies off its hinges where they had just been. We hear gunfire, as Icon walks into the room. Alva’s security, using high-tech assault weapons, are firing on him, hanging off him, desperately trying anything to even slow him down, and failing. He throws the one holding onto him into another shooting at him, as bullets ricochet near Curtis and the assistant. When the assistant tries to speak, Curtis covers her mouth. You can go one of two ways with the assistant; she can be Curtis’ protege that turns against him in her own suit of armor, Technique, or you can have him be the white supremacist patsy Curtis frames for joy-riding in the Hardware armor- I’m going to assume we do the former, because I want to play with all the action figures.

Icon looks up into the security camera pointed down at him. “You didn’t think that just because you stole Metcalf’s tech and expertise I’d let you keep them, did you?” Icon asks, before blasting the Hardware armor. If we’re looking for an opening credits montage, molten metal dripping off the armor could work. Icon turns his energy blasts next to the camera, before flying through the wall.

Cut to later, after Alva and more security arrive. He’s mid-lecture.

“You have close to a billion dollars worth of tech at your fingertips in this room, Curtis, and the second most impressive mind I’ve ever seen at work.”

“Yeah, the same tech your security used and he shrugged off- or that he melted without even having to try hard.”

Alva sighs. “Enough posturing, Curtis. Neither of us believe that armor was still nonfunctional, and we’ve both seen footage of someone wearing it out on the streets of our fair city. What I think happened, is you decide to steal my technology, and sell it to Arnus Freeman, only you tried to hardball him, and instead, well, you’ve cost me enough for a lifetime, I should think. You’re fired, with cause, so expect no severance, and if I can tie you to this catastrophe, you will be held liable to the fullest extent of the law, both criminal and civil. My lawyers will feast on whatever remains hanging off your bones.”

“Sir,” the assistant says, turning a screen towards Alva, “you should probably see this.” We see files rapidly changing in a server log, too quick to really understand.

“I’m too to important to guess at the significance of this.”

“Well, I believe it started with this.” She calls up security footage of Rocket accessing servers in their server room, attaching a drive of some sort. “It’s a worm. It crawled through our servers, and deleted everything Curtis Metcalf has ever touched. So far as I can see, that includes any consulting he did on other projects he wasn’t technically on. And… it happened just as the nightly back-up occurred; the worm was transferred to our offsite back-ups as well. It’s all gone.”

“You’re both fired,” Alva sneers. “And it might be prudent of you to flee the city, or possibly the state, in the event I’m feeling vengeful later.”

Alva’s security escort both of them out of the building at gunpoint. The assistant is hostile, clearly blaming him. “Tiff, I’m sorry,” she storms off.

Curtis walks past his company car, that security have already booted. “Company car,” one of them says to him, and he keeps walking with his box of goods.

We cut to deeper in the city. Curtis passes an alley, and is grabbed and pulled inside. “You didn’t think you’d evade me that easily, did you?” It’s Icon, but aside from projecting menace, he’s paused.

“Were we followed?” Curtis asks over an earpiece.

We cut to the sky above them, where Rocket is surveilling from just beneath cloud cover. “Clear skies,” she says over their radios, then dives, landing at the entrance to the alleyway, seemlessly moving from flight to walking. “No drones, no cars, no foot pursuit. You were right- Alva got so pissed he acted without thinking.”

Curtis touches a brick in the wall, and it scans his fingerprints. The bricks start to slide away, creating a doorway, that they all go inside. This is a hole new lab, better than the one at Alva, outfitted by Arnus, and supplying him with myriad alien tech, as well. At the center of the room is the real suit of Hardware armor, newly upgraded, augmented and visually redesigned both to sell a whole new series of action figures and to hide the stolen tech from Alva (and his lawyers).

“Think he bought it?” Icon asks.

“Not sure it matters,” Curtis says. “This tech is 9 generations from the suit he knew about. Even if they can reconstruct the data- which I doubt- they don’t have anyone left on their payroll smart enough to tie it to their tech. Tiff might have been able to, but he canned her with me.”

“You think we should bring her in on this?” Rocket asks, because she’s emotionally the most intuitive of the trio.

“Thought about it. But there’s no safe way out if we do. She says no, she’s a liability to us- it’s coercive even to ask. She says yes, and she could have Alva chasing her for payback the rest of her days. I’ll email her in a couple days, offer to get her a letter of recommendation.”

“I could offer her a job,” Arnus says.

“Same problem. We let her be with us, no matter how clever you are about hiding her in some shell company, and Alva will come after her. She’s smart, she’ll bounce back.”

We cut to the alley. She’s listening on a bug she planted in Curtis’ things. She hits the brick wall, we think out of frustration. But then she plugs a wire from a gauntlet into the hole she made, and hacks his transformer wall. “Screw that,” she says testily. “Who do you think you are freezing me out like this?”

“I think that settles your moral conundrum,” Rocket says, bemused.

“Tiff, why don’t you come inside?” Curtis asks. She does, and the door closes behind her. “Tiff, this is Arnus and Rocket. I think maybe we should talk.”

Static gets his own action scene, since he’s the more popular character of the group. He’s flying along on a manhole cover, chasing down a couple of member’s of Francis’ gang. I’m thinking they’ve stolen a backpack with a laptop in it from a fellow classmate on the way to school, and are trying to run away with it. Static swoops in among traffic, to much honking. He’s got his finished costume, now, and is clearly more steady flying. He zaps one on the butt, making him bonk his head on a street sign, then yanks a stop sign off its post, slides it under the running thug then pulls it out from under him to get a nice, satisfying, Home Alone style fall. Static is standing there triumphant holding out the girl’s backpack when off-screen we hear the sound of breaks squealing, a crash, and horns honking, and he realizes he hasn’t put the stop sign back. He winces, pantomimes “Sorry” and floats the sign back in place.

Static slides into his seat by the classroom door as the bell rings; he was in enough of a hurry he neglected to remove his mask. Rick is seated next to him, trying to get his attention whispering, “Dude” and miming removing the mask. He takes a moment to understand, and tears it off just as the teacher turns and notices him (just missing the mask).

At lunch, Rick tells Virgil he’d really like a chance to talk, that if he’s got a moment after lunch… but Virgil already promised he’d meet with the friendly gang leader to talk about Francis. He’s the same friendly-ish character from the last movie, only now he’s resembling, more and more, the Blood Syndicate’s Tech (sometimes called Tech-9 in the comics, but we don’t want to open up a trademark dispute- we’d lose- and Tech is a better overall name, anyway). He’s appreciative of what Virgil did for their sister (in the communal, not familial, sense), retrieving the girl’s bag during our chase scene, and once again offers Virgil the opportunity to join. But Virgil is savvy enough to know better, and declines. That hurts Tech’s pride, a little, because he’d prefer to have asked Virgil for help as a peer- but now finds himself coming hat in hand.

A quick aside, on Tech’s entourage. Masquerade is a shape-shifter; assigned male at birth, she’s been female since Freshman year, but once she got her powers, was able to look how she always felt. She’s got it bad for Tech, and he’s mostly playing like he doesn’t see it. Also with them are Fade, who is gay, but closeted, and might be the last person to know that he’s in love with Wise Son. They’re all a little skeptical of Static; Tech views him as a partner, even if he won’t join up, same as the ministers he distributes food through (his gang is modeled very much more on the Black Panthers- a civic-minded organization); some of that is Masquerade’s influence; she’s always been the angel on his shoulder.

One of their members was hit especially hard by her transformation. She was always autistic, but had been at least somewhat towards the Asperger’s end of the spectrum, but the mutagen interacted poorly with her condition, and she’s been really struggling since. Tech befriended her when they were kids. Because of her conditions she was teased, bullied for being “thick as a brick.” Boys stopped teasing her when she got older (and prettier); they didn’t understand that calling her “Brickhouse” would call back to their cruelty, and ensure she’d never want anything to do with them. Tech’s looked out for her his entire life- though this has its flaws- he steered her towards the same gang he was in for protection.

But since the accident she’s been different, more volatile, more susceptible to anxiety and triggers. She’s been staying with him as he tries to care for her, but he’s always viewed her as a sister, while for her he’s always been her knight in shining armor. Not wholly understanding the situation, she made a pass at him; even if he were interested, at that moment, when she’s most vulnerable, and most dependent on him for her survival, would not be the right time to consummate it. Tech blames himself when the combination of the anxiety and rejection makes her leave. But it gets worse. Ever since her mutation, Francis has been sniffing around, trying to recruit her for his gang. It’s predatory, and creepy.

Static is, of course, immediately sympathetic, and wants to help. This might be a good moment to clarify our status quo. Clearly, Hardware and Icon are working together. But Static is still an independent operator. Part of the reason Tech approaches him is hoping to call in the big guns; Static tells him what they did- that he’s a kid, and this is a war– they’re not going to encourage him to fight in it until he’s grown enough to make that call for himself. Tech’s disappointed, but still happy for the help, since Static can fly, and is quasi-friendly with the cops in a way that Tech and his syndicate aren’t. On that note… we probably shouldn’t call his gang “Blood Syndicate;” I think you could get away with tying a gang to a real-world one in a 90s comic, but in a 2020s movie, I don’t think that’ll fly. On the other hand, my subtitle for the movie is clearly a reference… so I’m conflicted, obviously.

But Static is clever, and asks if she’s got a phone. Tech says she never goes anywhere without it- it’s got this cat game she’s addicted to. He has Tech call it, and can feel the signal pinging off of cell towers. Problem is, he can also feel Francis and several of his other gang members closing in through their phones. Tech wants to fight; Static says there’s no time- which is likely also true, but he mostly didn’t want to get in the middle of yet another gang war. Static tells him to keep up, then flies off.

We cut back to Curtis’ lab. He and Tiff are working together. “I’m telling you, this is a bad idea,” Rocket says to Icon.

“Why’s that?” he asks.

“She’s still pissed. She’s not going to be able to just stow it.”

We cut to Tiff and Curtis, laboring over his redesign. “So what’s the plan?” she asks.

“I’m still not happy with the handling. Struts shimmy any time I pass the sound barrier, and it feels like I’m going to lose an arm.”

“I mean with us,” she touches his arm meaningfully, just long enough for us to start to wonder if we’ve missed something between them before she laughs. “And Alva.”

“Oh. I suppose you deserve the truth. He’s… involved in all kinds of shady things.”

“Really? The wealthy old white man’s up to no good?”

“More even than you’d guess. He supplied the mutagen the cops deployed last year. And he controls at least one of the gangs that started the brawl in the first place.”

“He turned a neighborhood into a petri dish. That’s dark, even for me.”

“So, mostly, we’re trying to counter his next moves. Trying to get ahead of him.”

“Since all of this has stayed out of the news, I assume he sues, threatens, or,” she drags her hand across her throat, “anyone who could point a finger.” They spend a moment silent. “That’s not going to work with the cops.”

“Oh?”

“My dad was a beat cop. Most days, they act like any other gang, scrap for turf, beat on anyone who doesn’t give them their proper respect. One way they’re different, is they won’t turn tail. I’m not talking about bravery; there are plenty of cowards in blue. But most gangs, you shine a light on them long enough, and they go to ground- they have to. But the cops… their pride won’t let them. Their whole mythology is about how much we need them. Mutated cops are going to be a problem- their pride won’t let them go quietly.”

“Then we need to fix this armor, so we can be part of the solution.”

Static runs into some trouble when he finds Brickhouse. Francis kind of freaks her out (he was one of her bullies growing up), so she’s kind of trying to hide from him in a warehouse when Static arrives. But she doesn’t know him, either- nor trust him. Tech realized that, and tries to call her. Now… I would pay Disney to use enough bars for an A Whole New World ringtone- though frankly I imagine they’d probably let you use it just for the cross-promotion if you said pretty please, but Tech’s ringtone is the song from Aladdin. She tries to answer, but she’s freaked out, and freaked out plus super strength and rock-hard fingers equals smashed phone. But again, Static is clever. He grabs an old throw rug and tosses it on his manhole cover so it looks like a flying carpet, and offers to help her get back to safety with Tech. Static is charming, but in a sweet, innocent sort of way, when he offers her his hand and quotes, “I can show you the world.”

“Shining?” she asks, taking his hand tentatively. “Shimmering?”

He helps her somewhat awkwardly onto the manhole cover, which was not designed for two people, as he says, “Splendid.” They fly off, over Francis and his goons. A few blocks away, they hear a car honking frantically below, and land. Tech and his crew, along with Rick, get out.

“He with you?” Fade asks of Rick. “He said he was, and tagged along.”

“Dude, you followed me. I’m the one with the find my friend app.”

But then Tech notices Brickhouse, wobbling on the manhole cover, not quite sure how to gracefully get off. He gives her a hand down. “Marta, I was so worried.” She wraps her arms around him, then recoils, feeling self-conscious that he doesn’t share her affection. “Hey,” he puts his arms around her, “I spent my whole life looking out for you. I don’t want to stop being here for you.” She latches back on again. “Why don’t you hop inside the car, huh? We’ll get you home. I’ll make you some cocoa.”

Tech helps her in, and the car sags noticeably, before he turns to the two of them. “I owe you, both of you. And I know this is a lousy way to start repaying you, but car’s full up.”

“We’ll manage,” Static says. Tech and crew ride off. Static walks with Rick.

“You sure you don’t want to take me on a magic carpet ride?” Rick teases.

“Figured we could use the walk. So what’d you want to tell me?”

“I didn’t know how to say it earlier, you know, in mixed company, but your fly has been down. All day. From the moment you left your house, to when you left me to stop a robbery. I’m pretty sure you exposed some pipe, while you were flying on your somewhat ironically named manhole cover.”

“I’d know. You get quite a breeze flying. So… what is it really?”

“Seeing the two of them… they’ve been friends as long as we have. I don’t know if that’s sweet or demented. It seems like there have been times in my life when your mom was more my mom than my mom was.”

“I didn’t hit my head, if that’s where you’re going with all of this…”

“I think I want you to remember the history, because… I’m worried it won’t be enough. That… what I’m going to say to you, you’re going to be different with me. And that is the last thing I want. You know?”

“I… don’t.”

“Of course not. That is practically the opposite of context. Okay. Um… I’m not looking for anything to change. Between us. About us. I just… there’s something I need you to know. About me. Because it hurts feeling like there are parts of me I don’t share with you.”

“I already know you watch My Little Pony. Like, way more than any human being should.”

“It’s a great show. And that is actually almost a mislead, because it is a super-straight fandom. Oh. Crap. That was… not how I meant to broach that.”

“That is legitimately hilarious.”

“Not the reaction I was hoping for…”

“No, I mean, I’ve heard you rehearsing pieces of your speech for weeks. You’ve obsessed over getting it across perfectly, and then… just blurt it out. It’s very you. That is hilarious. You coming out? Is cool. It’s brave. I’ve been rooting for you. Because I never want to be someone you have to hide from. Not even My Little Pony.”

“You need to watch it.”

“I need churros. I maybe should watch it. But I’m glad you told me.”

“Me, too. But it was hard. You’ve always been cool with every other gay person in school.” Static gives him a confused look. He becomes more confused with every new person mentioned. “Like Ms. Ellen, the Librarian. Pete on our soccer team. Pete’s boyfriend. Your gaydar may be completely broken.”

“Maybe I don’t see orientation.”

“At this point I’m not convinced you see, period. How many fingers am I holding up?” It’s three.

“Two more than I’m about to,” he says (this is all playful, if that didn’t read).

“Regardless, I knew you weren’t, yourself.” Again, Static is confused. “I have seen you literally fall over when a cute girl bares the tiniest amount of cleavage.”

“Bi is a thing.”

“Dude, the day you stare as hard at any guy as you did at Brickhouse, I will hand-sew you your own bi flag.”

“You sew?”

“Because sewing’s gay?”

“Is it?”

“I… don’t know. And of course I do. Who do you think fixed that awful sewing job on your costume?”

“My mom?”

“And you think she just fixed your costume and let you continue your life as a teenaged vigilante without a word?”

“Until this moment, I think I did.”

“Then thank God for both of us you reacted sweetly; I honestly don’t know how you’d survive without me.”

We cut to a news broadcast. “Violence erupted today at the downtown police precinct. An internal affairs investigation into the day shift found several officers had broke in, working in concert with one of the city’s main gangs. They have since seized control of the precinct, leading to a siege.” Footage of cops outside the building from different angles.

Rocket shows them a social media video on her phone. It’s Oro, a policewoman acting as a spokesperson for the cops holed up inside. “They’re trying to silence us. We were set up. The weapons Alva gave us changed us. They told us we could keep their secret, and work for him, or they’d get rid of us. But some of us can’t just keep going. A third of our guys can’t work, period. They took Gina off a respirator this morning. Alan will never walk again. This is about more than those of us still fit to serve, it’s-” the feed disconnects abruptly.

“We’re out of time,” Icon says.

Curtis kicks up his welding mask. “I need two minutes. I’m no good to you if the armor won’t stop a spitball.”

“Fine. We need to talk strategy, anyway.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. I think you need to stay out of sight.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because the cops can get their head around a man in a metal suit. It’s maybe stolen military tech. Maybe just a clever entrepreneur. But you? A bulletproof Black man who can fly, throw a building? Racist cops won’t sleep again.”

“Sounds all right to me…”

“That’s because your bulletproof.” Curtis finishes, and steps into the armor, which closes around him. “Cops are so much worse when they’re scared; we don’t want to make them feel cornered- at least not until we’re ready to move on the ones who are dirty. But I can draw fire without freaking them out too much.”

“While I get the mutated ones out. Any ideas?” He lifts his arm, and a projection from his gauntlet shows the sewers flow right next to the building’s basement. “Clever.”

We cut to the cop shop. Hardware lands in front of the line of cops hiding behind cars. He broadcasts through external speakers, “I’m going to handle this situation. Disperse, so we can avoid violence.”

The cops, predictably, overreact, and open fire. Hardware is careful not to cause more damage than necessary, mostly taking and breaking police firearms. To that end I’d put a powerful electromagnet on his back, one that rips the guns out of the hands of the cops nearest him.

Icon flies through the sewers, going on foot when his GPS says he’s close. He finds a S.W.A.T. team manned by mutated cops who played ball, setting breaching charges. “I’d ask you to desist and let me peaceably through… but I’d rather put you in the sewage where you belong.” Icon tears through them in the confined space. It should be a pretty wild action scene. We can intercut between Hardware on the street and Icon beneath it. After Icon finishes dealing with the S.W.A.T. team, he walks through the wall. Cops open fire on him.

We cut to the police line outside. “That came from inside. Did our team breach?” They try to reach S.W.A.T. on the radio, but can’t reach them, so decide to breach. They ignore Hardware (though one does try to pry his shotgun off Hardware’s magnet, Sword in the Stone style, before giving up), and instead break down the door, only to find the precinct empty. Stacked in front of the hole in the wall is the unconscious S.W.A.T. team, preventing a timely pursuit.

Icon leads the mutated cops, including Oro, away. “I appreciate the assist, and everything,” she says, “but where does this leave us? They weren’t negotiating; they didn’t even try. They were going to execute us.” They exit the sewers, to find Hardware.

“I had a thought about that on the flight over, and called some friends.” Static lands beside him, and a moment later, Tech arrives in his car, and the rest of his crew arrive in other cars.

We’re now at a warehouse where Tech and his gang hang out. Tech agrees to help smuggle most of the cops away, that the other cops will keep trying to kill them if they stay. He offers to protect anyone who does stay, that they could use strength, since Francis has been jostling for control.

Fade arrives, tells them that Francis is doing a charm offensive. Only it’s more offensive than it sounds- he’s been straight-up threatening people who don’t join, but the get-together in the park is the carrot. Oro recognizes him- he threatened her, too- and realizes that Francis is working with Alva and the cops. They realize they have to show up in force, fight if necessary, but show them that it’s safe to say no to Francis, or he’ll gather enough metahumans to be unstoppable.

At first blush, it looks like public outreach, snacks, games. But there’s an undercurrent of fear and intimidation; the stick is the threat of Francis turning his wrath on those who don’t sign on. Tech and his crew arrive, and tell Francis it’s not okay to threaten people. Francis claims that Tech’s the real aggressor, and attacks.

Initially Hardware, Icon and the mutated cops (I’d throw in both Donner and Blitzen, too, since they’re locals, even if we may not be able to give them better screen time until 3) are able to stem the loss of life/bloodletting, but it’s also clear they can’t hold Francis back forever. Tech is preparing to fight- to make it bloody. That’s when Masquerade intervenes. She tells him that he’s more than he thinks he is- that he knows what they need, even if he hasn’t let himself see it. They don’t need guns- there are more than enough of those on the street. But he can do so much more than he realizes- he can make so much more than guns. He teams with Static to instead create a microphone, and gives a rousing speech into the park’s speakers. Some stay with Francis, but most walk away; a few stay and fight. Eventually, the good guys win.

Epilogues: Masquerade spells out for Tech her feelings- shifting to who the boy he used to know, then back into herself, sad that he can’t love her for who she is, because he’s hung up on who she was. He tells her it’s not that. She’s beautiful, and she’s always been one of his best friends- so much so he wondered growing up if he liked men. But when she came out, he realized he always knew, and loved her for who she’d been even before then- and if that makes him bi? So what. But… he’s been trying to wave her off because of Brickhouse. She loves him, and she’s fragile. And he loves her like a sister, and always will, but can’t hurt her… only Brickhouse overhears this, and confronts them. “Don’t.” She takes his hand. “I love you. Enough to want you happy. Even if it can’t be with me.” She gives Tech’s hand to Masquerade.

I’m not deep into Milestone lore, to know if Static has a better love interest, but personally, I’d likely set up Brickhouse with Static in the sequel. To start in that direction, after Tech and Masquerade walk off to talk, she sees Static being sweet and heroic and community-spirited (so many of the things that attracted her to Tech to begin with), helping to make a young girl frightened by all the violence smile and feel safe again. He notices her looking at him, and smiles, giving a dorky little wave. She waves back.

Rocket talks to Icon, milling about the edge of the park. She chides him, because this is exactly the kind of thing she wanted, and exactly the kind of thing he’d removed himself from by being above it. “You’ve missed out on a lot of this. But what matters is you’re here, now. You helped create this. You helped people who couldn’t help themselves- couldn’t protect themselves from Francis. You made an impact.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene: Hardware and Tiff are working on a new piece of tech. “I want to do more- I can do so much more.” It sounds like they’re having a fight. “I’m wasted as a glorified lab assistant.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” he says, and hands her a breastplate for a new suit of armor, one fit to her dimensions. She holds it up, and we zoom in on it to go to more credits.

End credits scene: We follow Alva into a secretive base, some kind of high tech/elevator Hallway. I’m assuming we won’t have the entire Shadow Cabinet cast- though we can have Donner and Blitzen here, if we’ve had them kicking around for 2 movies. I would like to cast Dharma for this scene, as he’s the one Alva’s meeting. Dharma greets him as an old friend, before asking what brings him to the Shadowspire.

Alva smiles. We know it’s a wicked sort of smile, but others, Dharma included, need to be able to see him as friendly. “Same reason I always visit. I want to help you save the world.”

We pull back, and can see Alva’s wearing some kind of high-tech equipment under his clothes; it can be a bracelet or something subtle, but the idea, I think, is that Alva’s found a way to disrupt Dharma’s ability to see the future and past of any object he touches. He’s going to use this to turn the Shadow Cabinet against the other heroes. Next Juneteenth is going to be fun.

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.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 9: Elseworlds

I view these as largely low-budget films done with largely practical, period effects suitable to the type of movie they’re aping (excepting, of course, where modern tech can make something safer and/or cheaper). Doing them this way, you could probably continue the Elseworlds franchise indefinitely, like James Bond, and I have literally a dozen synopses already. I may pitch only the sequels that make sense for a trilogy, but I might also do all 12. Kind of depends on how I’m feeling.

The franchise would nominally star the Martian Manhunter, though he would mostly only appear in the beginning and end, maybe here or there once in a while, and even then largely CGed, so even he could largely be recast movie to movie. Because the series involves altered timelines it would also permit the leads to be recast between pictures, too, which would both help keep budgets down and also guarantee that just because someone makes sense as cyberpunk Batman, that doesn’t mean we have to sit through his groan-inducing medieval Batman and also opens opportunities for race, gender and other diversity-bending.

For those of you unaware, the last remaining Martian, John Jones, can shape-shift, read minds, is as strong as Superman, can control his density, become invisible. He could single-handedly take down the rest of the Justice League… provided no one accidentally caused a spark. Yeah, his weakness is to fire… which is a pretty ridiculous weakness to still have modern day (probably trumped only by Green Lantern’s weakness to yellow; side note, I want to give that weakness to JSA GL, and then have the Trickster have a flash mob pelt him with bananas- because it’s funny).

This movie starts during a fight with the immortal Vandal Savage. Probably to keep the budget down, we could just imply the rest of the Justice League are there, have Batman’s cape billow in from off-screen, show some heat vision blasting in, Wonder Woman’s lasso whipping a guy across the room. That kind of thing. John grabs Savage just as he’s trying to use a device to send him to a different time to escape them (I’d probably set it up through some narration as Batman deducing that Savage had been engineering evil throughout the millennia- that that was the reason Batman was after the image of Wonder Woman, too, looking for proof of Savage’s influence- including collaborating with Hitler (he helped Nazism get off the ground). John grabs him, but they’re separated by the machine, and flung into the past. Or a past, really, since the machine had really only be calibrated to work with Savage’s DNA, and was thrown for a loop by the addition of John.

We comedically dump John through a portal into pastoral England. The trauma of the machine reassembling John from atoms knocks him out every time. This time, it happens to be in the presence of the Green Hood (Green Arrow by way of Robin Hood). John comes to in Sherwood Forest. John has spent years honing his abilities, and to prevent detection amongst humans, has trained his body to revert to a human form when he is unconscious. This John just happens to be rather large, a veritable giant of a man. Hood says that there are men who would burn him for a witch for that, which likely means he’s arrived at an opportune moment.

We cut to court, where Lord Lexington (a bald Luthor in a suit of plate mail painted in the colors of his battle suit, so purple and green), as the Sheriff of Nottingham, presides. Savage is there, in the background, working as Nottingham’s advisor. One of the other nobles expresses confusion, why this one is different. They’ve been holding ‘King’ Arthur for a fortnight, but this Themysciran ambassador arrived in town only yesterday. They don’t understand why Lex is in such a hurry to burn her at the stake. Lex says that Arthur’s claims are worth investigating. If he is indeed a king, even one in exile, his execution could bring them into conflict with the kingdom of Atlantis, and there are only rumors a peasant woman saw him trying to commune with fish. He might just be one more in-bred noble.

Whereas no one’s heard of Themyscira, the ‘ambassador’ flew in view of several members of the city guard, and who on earth has ever heard of a woman ambassador. He pounds the table, and demands that she and the other witch must both be burnt at the stake before they are able to ensorcel them all (the Sheriff has declared all metahumans witches and enemies of the realm). At that moment, the younger, handsome noble to one side of Luthor collapses forward, knocking over his wine onto Luthor’s lap, apparently having fallen asleep at the meeting. He stirs, muttering about not likely missing anything important. 

“Not at all, Wayne, by all means, sleep the day away,” an irritated Lex grumbles. It’s subtle, but Wayne pockets a key.

We cut to later that day, as John and Hood sneak into the castle. The square is filled with people, there to watch as an executioner in gray plate armor reminiscent of Firefly lights a torch, preparing to set the pyres two women are tied to alight.

“Fire is… bad,” John says.

“Yes, my simple friend,” Hood says, and claps him on the back. “That is why we must rescue these fair damsels from it, and preserve England from the stain of having murdered an ambassador in the process. I just have to figure out how…”

We cut back to the women. One is Lady Diana, the ambassador in question. Her garb is strange, with a Greek, togic influence, and some variation on the red, blue and gold color scheme. The other is the witch Zatanna, smartly dressed as a courtesan reminiscent of the purple and white costume with the cape she wore in the comics; she has a rag tied across her mouth preventing her from speaking. Diana snaps her bonds, and then tears the gag from Zatanna. Immediately the witch begins to chant, bidding the flame to jump from the torch onto Firefly.

We cut back to John and Hood, with John asking. “Part of your plan?”

Hood rises, drawing his bow, and firing into Firefly, who ignores the fire engulfing his armor and lifts an executioner’s ax above his head. “Ours is apparently a supporting role in this play.” Hood fires, managing to strike Firefly in the joints of his armor, causing him to fall. John flings a stone torn from the castle wall into another guard that was sneaking towards Zatanna as she removed her bonds. Zatanna and Diana fly over the castle wall. John leaps over it, not wanting to draw more attention to himself than necessary. “Little help?” Hood calls to the escaping women, and an exasperated Zatanna mutters something that lifts him after them by his shorts (it is a flying wedgie) and he exclaims, “Ah, my pantaloons!”

We cut to the dungeons, panning past two cells that had held Diana and Zatanna but are not open, stopping on one occupied by a crowned nobleman with an orange and green color scheme to his attire. In the immediate foreground, a black-gloved hand inserts a key- the same stolen from the Sheriff earlier. Arthur sits up, and turns towards his rescuer. It’s Lord Wayne. “You may find this peculiar, but a school of fish passed a message by code to me this morning, by a method I learned in my travels through Arabia. The message stated that there would be a distraction at this hour, affording you an opportunity to bloodlessly escape.” Wayne unfurls a green cloak with an Arabic influence to it, perhaps even letters around the hood in Cyrillic reciting a period/culture-appropriate variation of the Green Lantern oath. “If anyone questions, you are my Moorish servant, mute to the English tongue, and ill-tempered from a bout of disease his physicians are nearly certain isn’t leprosy.”

Arthur smiles, telling him that, “Lord Wayne, the rumors did not do you justice.”

Wayne is impatient. “Come. My carriage awaits.” We cut to the exterior, as they rush into the carriage. It is, for all intents and purposes, the Batmobile as a carriage, black, gothic, and bat-winged. It is driven by Wayne’s squire, Gareth.

Hood and John arrive back at his place in Sherwood. There’s an awkward moment, as, seeing there’s only the one bed, the assumption Hood has brought them back to be, er, bedded, is obvious. Until a woman in a black cloak with blond hair arrives, laying down her lute (she is, roughly, a bard). “I ride to the next town, and you can’t help yourself but bring home other women.”

“They were going to be burned at the stake by Nottingham,” Hood complains.

Diana intervenes. “I assure you, madame, that we have no designs on your gentleman’s attentions.” This Wonder Woman is openly sapphic- and only has eyes for Zatanna. Even though they only just met.

Canary reacts with frustration, that Nottingham is increasing his aggression, that they need to do something, and quickly. It is then that a Moor, dressed in the same robe that Arthur was given in the previous scene, enters into the already crowded hut. “I’m here to extend an invitation from a gentleman who is very much of the same sentiment.” They react with fear; they believed themselves secreted away in the forest, but he found them. While his presence is intriguing, they fear he’s leading them into a trap. He is the Green Lamp, even if he does not introduce himself as such.

“From what I saw this afternoon, I don’t imagine there’s a martial force, including the Sheriff’s, that could stand against those in this room. However, to take on Nottingham in a fair conflict would see him threaten the peasantry- he holds the entire citizenry hostage to his ambitions. If, like my ‘master’, you would not only see Nottingham removed, but removed with as little damage to those least prepared to weather his wrath, I would bid you follow me. I assure you my master’s secrets are equal, at least, to your own, and when all is revealed you will be equally at one another’s mercy.” They’re conflicted. It’s John who reads the Moor; when he does, the lamp he clutches to his chest glows with green flame, and he tells John he knows he’s trying to read him, and he’ll permit it, and the flame extinguishes. John tells them he recognizes his master (he doesn’t tell them that he’s Batman, or this world’s Batman), but he says that he trusts him with his life. That he will go, and if the others would stay they can stay. But he knows the man by reputation, and they will need his mettle before the end. This cascades, with Hood not being comfortable letting his simple friend take the risk alone, Canary resolving to keep her own simple ‘friend’ safe, Zatanna casting some bones to verify that she should trust them, and Diana following her.

As they leave the hut, there’s a gust of wind, and a man in red robes and chain mail with a rapier stands in front of them. “Sorry I’m late,” Flash says with a grin.

“I heard no horses,” Hood says.

“I walked,” he beams.

“How?” Canary asks. “It’s a day’s ride. And you said you had business to attend to before you could follow me.”

“I did. I’m quite swift.”

“Very well. This is Sir Jareth, a swordsman said to be the equal of a thousand men.”

“A mercenary?” Hood asks, indignant. He liked having the most swash in his buckle and is hurt Canary brought home someone else.

“No, sir,” Jareth says. “I heft my sword when justice demands it of me.”

“Sir Jareth,” Green Lamp says, putting out his hand, “You’ve spared me a ride. It’s a pleasure, your reputation as a man of honor precedes you, despite your speed.” Jareth shakes his hand. This is actually a pretty big moment, as a nobleman taking a Moor’s hand as an equal is a pretty big deal- but we don’t make a big deal out of it, because that’s not the kind of guy Jareth is.

“Well met, sir.”

“Ah, yes, if you’ll permit me,” the Green Lamp holds his lamp out, and forms a glowing coach with horses out of the ground. The door pops open.

“What witchcraft is this?” Hood asks, walking around the coach and kicking one of its wheels to see that it’s solid.

“You quarrel with witchcraft?” Zatanna asks, with an edge of menace to it.

“Quarrel? No. Trust entirely with my person, not entirely.”

“You’re more than welcome to ride with us, Sir Jareth. No need to run alongside us,” the Green Lamp offers.

“I suppose I could do for the company.” They all get inside, with GL sitting outside to drive, to keep up appearance. The glow dissipates, to draw less attention as they begin.

“I do have one last stop to make. It’s along the way. I’m afraid he insisted I permit him to provide one last service before I collected him.” The pull up to a small parish.

“Ah, a church, if anyone has sins to confess, or needs to use the Lady’s facilities,” Hood says.

A friar exits the parish. His robes are overlarge and ill-fitting, very plain, very bare; he lives as a pauper, because he puts every penny he scrapes together to help the poor. We likely get flashes of what he wears beneath it, chainmail colored like his classic suit, with the red and yellow symbol on his chest. It arrived with him from the far-flung land of his parents birth, and is the only clothing in existence strong enough to withstand the same damage as him. He addresses the Green Lamp as “Alihan,” and shakes his hand warmly, and objects when he stands on ceremony to refer to him as Friar Kent, and insists that he call him Clark. Hood asks after it, and the friar tells him that the name means “Hand of God,” and that they get along very well, because he lives up to it.

They ride off, as the world becomes dark. They see the castle, roughly in the shape of the top half of the bat symbol as it cuts across the moon. Hood recognizes it. “This is Wayne Manor. My family visited once, when I was a child. Young Bruce was churlish and stuffy, even for a nobleman’s son- even for a physician’s son.”

“And he would know from stuffy,” Canary adds. Lamp drives their coach beyond the manor, into a series of caves. Depending on budget, it can be quite a harrowing ride over caverns and jumps, or it can simply be through a waterfall. 

Lamp opens the coach door for them, and tells them, “Welcome to Lord Wayne’s world.” Referencing a Mike Meyer’s movie isn’t the only reason I’m writing this pitch. It’s just a perk. The cave is wonderous, filled with falling water and lit by torches. It takes the breath away. Wayne, in his Dark Knight plate armor, descends a spiral staircase carved into the rock. He bids them join him at a rounded table with a bat symbol (and also the Wayne family’s crest) carved into it.

Wayne relates that he has a spy on the inside of Lexington’s circle, a courtesan named Lady Kyle, who has been watching Luthor. She informs him that Lexington moves against Arthur and Diana are part of a larger thirst for power, that Nottingham plans to seize nearby lands for his own, under the pretext that he will protect them. If he can grab up enough new land before King Richard’s return, from the crusades, the gentry will be forced to decide if they would accept a smaller slice of a lesser pie, or to serve under Lexington.

Lady Diana interrupts, to explain what her ambassadorial mission was- to pass a message, and express condolences: that Lexington’s man within Richard’s circle, the Yellow Knight, had succeeded in killing Richard, and laying blame for it at the feet of the Amazons. She came with proof of his ill-deeds, but it was seized along with her- and not through martial means. She believes Lexington is involved with sorcery. Flash relates that the business he concluded before arriving likely relates- that he scuttled a group of sellswords hired by Eobard Thawn, at what he now believes was Lexington’s bidding, to attack the township, in order to press them to request the protection of Nottingham.

Wayne tells them Lexington is setting about creating reasons to expand their territory, first within and then beyond England, that his game is already afoot, and they have only one chance to depose him. They talk about who should replace Lexington. Some think it should be Wayne, and while he believes himself a capable commander in the field, he is not a ruler. Arthur, however, is. King Arthur is of course reluctant, because he’s already lost one kingdom. Eventually it’s Wayne who interrupts them to say, “We storm a castle held by superior forces, with sorcery and corruption at their command. Those of us who survive can bicker over who must take the reigns after.” They agree to table the question of who will sit the throne until such time as it is won, and agree to depose Lexington.

Most of them pile back into Lamp’s coach, which expands to accommodate them- including Lamp himself, as Wayne’s squire takes the reigns. Wayne himself climbs atop a black steed (named Ace) with black armor of its own, resembling his, including its own billowing cape. “I believe the party is on, Lord Wayne,” Wayne’s squire says.

“The party is on, Squire Gareth.” Shut up. Don’t judge me.

They ride to the square where Diana and Zatanna were nearly burned earlier in the day. On the scaffolding, Lady Kyle is bound at the wrists, hanging from the ropes. The Squire leaps from his seat, and starts towards her. Wayne stops him. “Wait,” he says, then “Hood, if you’d be so kind as to free her.” Clear of the coach, he looses an arrow, that slices through her bonds, and she lands gracefully. At the same moment, Sir Slade, in his trademark orange and black armor, fires an arrow at Wayne, who deflects it with his cloak (I’m going to say its slats of armor, and so can be used somewhat like a shield).

Other members of Lexington’s council emerge, now revealing their gimmicks that identify them as analogs to supervillains: Deathstroke, Zoom, Sinestro, Circe, Cheetah and Harley Quinn. Also there is Black Manta, who was not part of the council, but is in this incarnation, an Atlantean assassin, garbed mostly in black, tasked by Arthur’s brother to kill him and end the threat to his rule. Cheetah, while dressed in cheetah-skin robes (I might consider making her of African descent, and patterning the cheetah skins to traditional garb from the region, both to explain how it’s there and increase the diversity a bit) is actually a werewolf (werecat, if we really must). Lexington’s jester is, for all intents and purposes, a bawdy-joke-telling Harley Quinn. If it doesn’t overstuff things, she’s got her own agenda, to avenge the death of Lexington’s previous jester, her Joker, who Lex just couldn’t find the humor in- which is why she face turns towards the end. The heroes and villains face off.

Superman Lexington
Flash Eobard Thawn
Green Lantern The Yellow Knight
Wonder Woman Lady Circe
Batman Sir Slade
Aquaman Black Manta
Martian Manhunter Savage
Green Arrow Deadshot
Black Canary Harley Quinn
Lady Kyle Lady Minerva

About the midway point, we reveal that Thawn is from the future, and brought back advanced tech with him, which Lex took to like a fish to water (“Arthur knows precisely what I mean about that”) giving the villains an even further advantage. But the heroes persevere, overcoming even these long odds, only for Lex to hit them with a blast of arcane energy, maybe stating that magic and science are separated only by one’s own rational understanding, that the idea of a separate “witchcraft” is therefore the province of small minds. Now, if you want to keep it to the relatively cheaper model I described, Lex just gets slightly powered up by magic before being defeated with an assist from Harley. But if you want some bombast, Lexington demonstrates the ability to resurrect Solomon Grundy to fight them. John catches Savage trying to sneak away, and they’re both sucked into another portal.

It’s Arthur who lands the final blow on his assassin, who makes one final attempt as Lexington is defeated. Arthur, pleased with himself asks, “So, King Wayne, what will your first decree be,” realizing as he turns that the rest of them are already kneeling before him, Wayne included.

Wayne smiles beneath his helmet. “I believe you’ve misspoken, sire, for as you can plainly see, your subjects humbly await your command.”

“Oh, bother,” Arthur says, and we roll credits. We only do the main cast, before we do a mid-credits scene:

The League of Justice sits around the round table in the Batcave. Lord Wayne addresses them. “I’ve asked you to come here to answer a question, one I cannot answer for all of you. We united, to provide justice within Nottingham, to right that single wrong. But were we a League of Justice once, or are we a League of Justice for all?” They all stand together, as the music stirs.

One does not. It’s Arthur, and as he rises, he explains why, that while he has reluctantly accepted a crown in England, he refuses one here.

That suits Wayne just fine, who continues. ”One among us has had his kingdom stolen, usurped by a brother who believes right can be usurped by a will to power. I ask you not to stand for a divine right to rule, but on the cause Atlantis is a kingdom on the brink, because this usurper has proved unfit to wield the power he has stolen. I have it on authority that this self-proclaimed Master of the Ocean would rather sink Atlantis than relinquish his grasp.” On the one hand, maybe it’s cruel to set up a sequel we won’t actually make… on the other, you could totally make those sequels.

Mid-credits Scene

It’s quiet, as we pan through Lexington’s dungeon, past the cells that housed Diana, Arthur and Zatanna. Only this time we pan down, through the floor, into an underground workshop; it is one-half Dr. Frankenstein, one-half necromancer’s laboratory. But we stop on an iron-gated doorway with metal barbs carved into the bars.

We hear quiet, anxious laughter, and the single tinkle of the last remaining bell on a jester’s collar. Then a voice, first timid, asking, “Lex?” Peppered laughter, now louder, more assertive. “Oh Lexy-pooh? Sheriff of Rottingham?” An unhinged, gleeful, aggressive, angry fit of uncontrollable laughter bursts forward, until a man with white skin, wearing a green and purple jester’s costume, lunges into the door, the barbs cutting into his hands, but not making him grip the door any less firmly. “While the sheriff’s away, the jester will play,” he says, and whistles a version of the animated Joker theme song as he traces a rune onto the lock, which opens it with a sizzle. The door swings open as he walks out, continuing to whistle. This Joker is both the result of Lex’s occult and chemical experimentation, and also his apprentice (not that Lex intended to teach those kinds of secrets to such a madman- but he could see enough from his cell to become truly deadly).

End Credits Scene It’s a dark and stormy night on the seas during the golden age of piracy, a family (boy, mother and father) acrobatically jump amongst the rigging, so acrobatic and graceful you forget for a moment it isn’t a performance. The rigging Richard is on breaks, and he grabs another piece, which breaks. Mary swings to save him and for an instant they share a smile, before that rope, too, breaks. Their son, young Dick, swings on another rope to save them, but he’s too late- and while his rope, too, breaks, it breaks at the end of his arc, and he’s able to land on some rigging opposite, and climbs down to where his parents fell. The men gather around as the boy weeps beside his dead parents. We hear murmurs from them not to wake the Captain. We see a wooden door swing open, and hear a shudder go through the crowd as offscreen the Captain says, “He’s up.” All we see of him is a black boot coming to rest just behind a boy, next to a rat that is subtly green and whose eyes glow red. The Captain’s black glove lights on the boy’s shoulder where he weeps. We pan up but also out, climbing the mast as we show more of the ship. In a flash of lightning we see a black pirate’s flag, but the skull is incorporated into a bat symbol.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 8: The New Gods

I think we start with Granny Goodness. I’ve already said it really should be Kathy Bates playing her, because that would be perfect. But imagine her sitting down with some children, telling them a bedtime story in one of her orphanages, and it starting like any normal bedtime story, but slowly layering in horrors the like of which would give the Brothers Grimm nightmares. She tells the story of two warring peoples, the gods of New Genesis and Apokalips, and how their war scarred the cosmos, destroying planets, entire solar systems, until a fragile peace was declared, commenced with the exchange of two heirs to either ruling family- Scott Free, and Darkseid’s son, Orion. Once this fairy tale becomes too scary, we cut away from the dungeonous orphanage, to a balcony atop one of the spires of New Genesis.

We see some of the cruelty of New Genesis, as children mock Orion for being the son of the Devi; his temper flares, even if he keeps it under wraps until after the children leave. That’s when he’s found by the Highfather. Orion asks if his dad really is the Devil. “Darkseid isn’t the Devil, but yes, you are his heir.” Orion, clearly hurting, asks if his father loved him, how could he give him away. “Our children are our hope and prayer for a better tomorrow. But a prayer muttered alone will not build a better world; the best thing a parent can do for their children is also the hardest: letting them soar on the open wind.”

The story follows three children. Orion, raised in relative luxury on New Genesis. Scott, languishing in Granny’s orphanage. And Barda… okay, so Barda is also raised at Granny’s orphanage, but for the sake of contrast, I’m going to have her be, essentially, one of the popular kids, Granny’s favorite, groomed for a special place. Scott is her lowliest charge, essentially singled out by Darkseid and Granny to be ground into nothing- but not through violence, through his own insignificance- they put him into what is, essentially, parademon basic training, which, like all life on Apokalips but the most privileged, is to have all life, all hope, all will, pressed out of you. Barda and Scott aren’t really aware of each other. They tangentially run into each other; Barda is responsible for thwarting one of his escape attempts by chucking a weapon at his back as he flees. But increasingly the orphanage becomes bifurcated, with Scott’s section becoming more dungeonous, filled with traps and torture equipment, but also increasingly more dreary and cold. And increasingly, Scott becomes the face of the rebellious movement against Granny. He escapes, causes havoc, maybe does a little organizing, before getting put away again. Orion finds acceptance, at least temporarily, by helping save some children on New Genesis. All while Barda becomes more and more engrained in the upper echelons. But I think, at least at the beginning, we’re going to have three narrations, but also, that they’re going to kind of be the same, at least in their goals.

We start with Scott, because he’s the face of this thing, both its most fun and interesting character, but also its most tragic (at least in the beginning). “From the time I was a child, all I wanted to do was escape this hell.” I think we show a classroom, and for a moment it could be any science fiction story starting in an advanced school, albeit cold and alien-looking. Young Scott Free, as his adult self narrates, is answering a very simple, one-question test. Granny reads it aloud, to prevent there from being any question what the question is: As a citizen of Apokalips, I live only for… which Scott has answered, in an exotic kind of crayon, in a child’s unsteady hand, he’s written the word “escape.”

Granny’s shadow eclipses his paper, and Scott, a little intimidated, looks up at her. “Oh, Scott,” she begins, and for a moment we’re lulled into the possibility that she’s going to be kind, and gently correct him, that despite her space-fascist outfit and cape, there’s a glint of softness in her eyes, but we show her reeling back with her weapon as she says, “you really never learn.” I imagine violence against a child will be too much to depict in too great a detail, but we can have him off-screen, receiving the attack, as energy flashes light Granny’s face. Still on her face, but she’s now angry. She blasts with her weapon, as a slightly older Scott dodges overhead on his signature discs, the blast weakening the one window in the classroom enough that, as we cut outside to see the crack form, Scott flies out the window. “Thankfully, I always had a talent for escape.” In the next moment, Scott, a little beaten up, is thrust back into his seat in front of Granny. “Unfortunately for me, on Apokalips there really isn’t anywhere to escape to.”

We cut back to the previous scene. Adult Barda narrates: “From the time I was a child, all I wanted was to escape this life.” Granny finishes her attack on Scott and spins on her heels, lurking over Barda, who is sitting with her hands neatly folded. On her page, in surprisingly clean and crisp letters, she’s written the correct answer: Darkseid. Granny practically glows (at least insofar as she’s capable).

“Very good, Barda. Young Mr. Free could learn much from you- if he weren’t such a dunce. I think it’s time we sent you to the advanced course.” Barda is shown to be special. She was Granny’s favorite, shown as a child to have an exceptional talent for combat, even besting a parademon before puberty, and clearly enjoying the warrior’s life. She’s shown the closest thing Granny shows to affection (it is fleeting and superficial, but in an entire world that is basically a high-tech concentration camp, it’s a tiny flash of humanity). Granny pins a cape to a still quite young Barda, a signal of her rank. Below is a procession of dregs, in dirty, blackened rags, marching but with no fanfare at all, from their barracks to the factories. “It’s better to rule in hell, than to live among its offal.” We see Scott escape below, flying on his discs, this time narrowly avoiding large blocks that shift to try to contain his escape. Barda raises her weapon (similar to Granny’s; in fact, she’s starting to look like a young Granny) and fires, knocking Scott from the sky. He crashes on the shifting block, and is snatched by parademons. “Unfortunately, sometimes rulers have to be cruel to be kind.”

Now we show New Genesis again. A young Orion is held down by kids his own age, who smear handfuls of paint along his face to make him more closely resemble Darkseid, as they taunt him that he should be back on Apokalips with his own kind. Orion punches one of them, bloodying his knuckles, and the children flee. We cut to him, looking in the mirror at the greasy paint smeared into his hair and across his face, interrupted by streaky tears running down his face. An older Orion narrates as we also intercut his bloodied hands as he looks at his reflection in the mirror, seeing overlaid his father’s face, “From the time I was a child, all I wanted was to escape this devil,” (part of that, is wanting to escape his own rage, which he recognizes is the first step to his truly becoming Darkseid’s heir).

Izaya helps the boy wash his face, and comforts him. “Your rage is understandable, Orion,” the Highfather says. “Only children can be so cruel- and those who never outgrow a child’s outlook. They hate what they fear, and fear what they don’t understand. But what I know, my son, is that you are not the devil they see, nor are you the monster you fear. You are merely a boy, bravely hopeful that he can be better than his forebears. And you can.”

Orion, simply crushed under the weight of all of this, holds up his hand, still bloodied. “I struck one of them.”

Highfather is patient. “You did. But remember the time before? You struck several. And before that, you struck all of them, several repeatedly. And today, you did so with great reluctance. I know that our Eden is held as idyllic, our ways peaceful. They are neither. We are the counter to Apokalips. While the day may seem overly kind beside the dark, it is only through persevering over the night that we maintain life in the universe, growth. Without the day’s light, nothing could sustain life.” Orion asks about mushrooms, and Highfather smiles. “Mushrooms are merely a different kind of life, persevering even through the dark; they are a testament to the strength and will of life…”

We follow inside Granny’s orphanage as the Highfather’s words seep in, “but they are not enough to sustain it.” Scott anticipates returning to his classroom again, but a thin man in robes stops him. “Darkseid grows impatient with your lack of progress; Granny’s compassion has spoiled you, child, but I will not spare the rod.” The robed figure clings to his staff eagerly. Scott becomes more and more concerned as he is led into increasingly more dungeonous territory. A parademon brings a prisoner to the robed figure. The prisoner addresses him as “DeSaad,” and begs him for mercy, that he wasn’t trying to escape. DeSaad says he was hoping for a chance to test the enhancements to his rod. It bathes the man in fire, and he collapses to the ground, mewling. DeSaad is very proud of his handywork. “It takes an artists eye to get the balance right. Too much heat, and you’ll cook the meat and kill the body; too much force and you peel away the flesh, and they die. No, the key is just enough of both to make the pain exquisitely unbearable. He’ll beg to die, when he regains his strength, but in time he will heal, and we can start the progress over again.”

“You’re a monster,” Scott says.

“Unlucky for you, the real monster’s taken a personal interest in you, now. Normally, I like watching the systemic demolition of hope from a young man’s eyes. But the sheer hate he holds for you- if you want to jump, I’ll let you. I promise you, it’s the last kindness you’ll ever know.” Scott follows his gaze down into a chasm, its black depths punctuated by pools of molten rock at the bottom. During their gazing, the other prisoner manages to roll himself over the edge. He crumples as he lands, before the boiling rock envelopes him. But it doesn’t swallow. It just roils around him as he wriggles in agony. 

DeSaad is just tickled pink by this; it might be too much to have him howl in delight. “Takes a genius, to devise a trap like this one, and so few Apokaliptians are up to appreciating it. The fall is calculated, to the millimeter, to smash the bones, but not to kill. And the boiling rock, it’s not so hot to kill- just to sear- and to cauterize any wounds he sustained.” Water is poured down into the chasm. “We keep them moist, so they don’t dry out. They’d starve, before succumbing, but we pluck them out before it happens. Sometimes we set their bones, only to throw them back in. Sometimes we let all their burns heal. I’m a technologist by trade, but my passion is the science of suffering. You and I, Scott, you’re going to be my masterpiece of pain. And if you’re lucky, I’ll make some stumble and end you, because if I don’t, Darkseid’s wroth will render my research quaint. To him, I am not even an apprentice; he is the true master of agony.”

We cut to Darkseid, sitting in a throne over a gladiatorial pit. Goddfrey introduces the combatants: Lashina and Barda will fight two captured New Genesis weaponsmiths. Goddfrey tells them they have a chance to prove their worth by using their designed weapons to defeat Darkseid’s Furies… unless they’ve been sandbagging. At first the weapons don’t work (that’s the reason they’re in this pickle to begin with), but they manage to stay alive long enough to fix them, and turn them on the Furies. But Lashina and Barda have only been toying with them. Even with their fancy New God tech, the two Furies easily disarm them. Darkseid holds up his hand and both promise to live for Darkseid. He puts his thumb down, and Lashina executes them both as Barda watches, bidding they die for Darkseid.

On New Genesis, Orion is dressed in sentinel garb (his usual costume), essentially a peacekeeping force. However, one of his fellow soldiers mocks him as “the Little Dictator.” Orion tries to hold his temper, until the guy shoves him out of line, which turns his drill instructor’s attentions to him. Orion attacks. We cut to later, as Highfather arrives as Orion is being dressed down by the officer, who questions both his loyalty and bravery, attacking a fellow sentinel. Highfather chastises the instructor, saying his son is every bit as loyal as any of New Genesis’ citizens, and twice as brave, perhaps too brave, to where he’d fight his own for his honor. Highfather stares down the one who started it, saying Orion has a temper, but he’s no provocateur. Orion intercedes, and says to leave it- that he doesn’t want his father- either of them- to lord his position over someone, and storms off. After a moment, Highfather smiles, and follows.

Back on Apokalips, in a tight corridor, a child holds its parents’ hand, clinging desparately. A parademon strikes the parent, and the hand goes limp, even as the child clings more tightly, and  Scott Free, flying on his discs, bursts in, light streaming, now in his full Mr. Miracle garb. He stops the parademon assault, and whisks parent and child away. I’m assuming this is still a young Scott, so built like Spider-Man moreso than an adult. He sets the parent and child down safely, but they’re angry at exposing them to potentially more danger; they’re being kind of a jerk, but I want it to be reasonable, too, that we understand that they are simply reacting to Apokalips, where fighting back is far more dangerous than being crushed slowly to death- especially in the lessons it teaches an already frightened child (side note: their crime was trying to keep and raise their child- all children are supposed to be surrendered to Granny’s orphanages, so they really are a revolutionary in the making). Scott offers them an entertainment, a temporary escape from the violence and danger of Apokaliptian life, pulling back a curtain, inviting them, as a sign proclaims, to see Mr. Miracle’s escape. Oberon works as the hype man, as Scott performs death-defying feats. It’s a small, underground audience (Apokalips really doesn’t have space for theater- that’s also why his garb is so unusual; the world is mostly black and gray, the sole exception being officers in Darkseid’s army, for whom color is a sign of rank). After the show, Scott convinces parent and child to stick around. Then he convinces Oberon to help him smuggle them out, to the resistance. Oberon’s reluctant; the kid said the last time was the last time, that if they keep taking risks they get caught, and if they get caught the resistance gets exposed. Scott reluctantly agrees, that of course Oberon’s right, they can’t be careless, he just needs Oberon to do one thing and he’ll go along: he has to tell the kid they can’t help.

And Oberon tries, gets down on the kid’s level, and can see they’re just scared. Oberon melts, “Aw, kid, I’m no good at giving bad news.” He stands up, huffily. “Fine, fine, we’ll take em. You know the kid’s got that same dangerous glint in their eyes.” Scott asks if it’s charm. “Worse. Hope. We give too many of these people hope, and we’re just setting them up for this world to crush em even worse.”

Scott has a genuine offection for Oberon, and tells him he appreciates how he “keeps him grounded.” Oberon, seeing the kid from a distance, says Scott keeps him doing the right thing, despite himself.

We cut to New Genesis, basically modern day. He flies through the air in what is essentially an airborne segue. Orion’s wearing a helmet, and through that he’s radioed. “Orion, we have an airborne radar contact, trajectory would suggest an Apokaliptian origin. Flight pattern suggests a parademon, though whether its a scout or one of them escaped the pens we don’t know.” Orion says he’ll check it out. It’s a parademon, all right, and gives him a run for his money (I’m going to say we should upgrade parademons from the ones Steppenwolf brought to Earth in Justice League; since he was on the outs, his army consisted of the crummiest of the parademons- they should be more formidable than his were then, at least in general.

Orion talks to himself a bit, so we understand he’s following the typical protocol, that they usually just fire warning shots to chase the parademons back home. But this one is persistent, refusing; it wants something. Orion’s given the order to shoot it down to prevent it from completing whatever its mission is. He does, but it barrels down onto one of the trams (think a monorail, but the track is a pair of flimsy golden pipes- really elegant looking but the parademon smashes through it. And that juncture point is for a school- and Orion can see that there is basically a bus full of school children barreling towards the end of the line without an end point. Orion lands roughly to beat the kids to the end of the line and hold up the broken rail so the bus comes to a relatively smooth stop.

One of the teachers runs to the bus, but is surprised to see Orion. She’s somewhat shamed by her behavior as a kid, but also recognizes she’s beautiful and has a wellspring of confidence from that. “I used to pick on you,” she says, “when we were kids.” Orion, barely able to meet her gaze, tells her he remembers. She tells him she was wrong- they all were. She’s felt awful about it- but never enough to contact him- “I had no right to force an apology on you to salve my guilt. But I see it on your face, even now, how I hurt you. I had no right to do that, either. I’m sorry.” He asks if she teaches. She does, but also, her daughter was on that bus, she tells him, as her little girl gets clear and runs to her. She says she doesn’t know, after losing her child’s father last year, how she could have withstood losing her, too. “There are no words to express my sorrow for the pain I caused you, and an equal degree for the sorrow you spared me today.” She tells him he’s a better citizen of New Genesis than most of them could ever hope to be. She smiles at him and leaves.

“So why do I feel so angry?” Orion asks, as he limps his flying frame away. Izaya is talking to him through his helmet. He tells him that the wounds she caused him run deep, that she exposed a nerve, and while over the long term her words might touch him, even sooth him, in that moment, all they can do is deepen his hurts. Orion asks if those wounds ever heal, if he’ll ever feel like he’s earned his place on New Genesis. Highfather assures him he has, a hundred fold; he is, in the humble opinion of his father, one of their finest citizens. But he is also his father’s son, a creature of deep longing.

“But where Darkseid needs to control, all thought, all will, all life, you, Orion, need to belong, to feel loved and needed and cared for. The people of New Genesis have not always lived up to our ideals and provided for that need.”

Orion tells him he thinks he’s right- that, like his father, he needs too much. Izaya tells him that wasn’t the lesson he wanted him to take from what he said, and Orion tells him that doesn’t make it any less true. He says that his has not always been the easiest life, but he remembers his earliest days on Apokalips, that his worst day on New Genesis paled to his best moment on Apokalips, and even there he had been the favored son of its despot. He worries over Scott, the son the Highfather traded for him.  

The resistance leader, Himon, thanks Scott for turning in another refugee. Their campaign is going well, all things considered, and it’s only with the help of those like him that they’re able to continue to work to free even some of Apokalips from the tyrant’s grasp.

“Why him?” Barda asks, looking at a hologram of Mr. Miracle. We’re now in Granny Goodness’ war room, where she tasks her furies on their most secretive missions.

“Why him?” Granny asks. “Because Scott Free is the lowliest of the low. He has always been a worm, but the worst kind- the kind who refuses to be trod under foot.” She explains that Goddfrey’s spies have found dozens of resistance agents who could be used to destroy their movement. But it needs to be Scott. When we break his rebel friends, when the last dying ember of hope is stamped out, Scott Free needs to know that it was his failure that led to so much loss, and pain. “Why him? Because he has always refused to live for Darkseid, and I want his breaking to be the triumph they recall for millenia after me.”

“But why me?” Barda asks, suddenly anxious.

As Granny narrates, the hologram shifts, showing Barda at various points in her rise. “Because you, Barda, are my finest success. A brutal warrior, a brilliant student, the ruthless leader of my Furies. If anyone can remove the black stain of Scott Free’s smile from my record, it’s you, dear. Break him for me, Big Barda, and your reward will stir envy in your peers the like of which you’ve never seen.”

We cut to a transport. Barda seems anxious. Some of that is she’s dressed in the same rags as the rest of the underclass. Some of it is, it’s really her first experience among them. She’s been told, from childhood, that they are deserving of their status, they are dregs for a reason, capable only of corruption if not for the careful guidance of Darkseid, who yolks their unruly, wanton cruelty to provide some measure of prosperity. At first she feels naked without her armor or her weapon- after all, her entire life she’s been told how desperate the dregs are, clawing at their betters for any purchase to pull themselves up- or pull their betters down. But these people aren’t her enemy; they aren’t even capable of presenting a threat, they’re so beaten down and broken. One of the workers stumbles, and a parademon spins on him with a cat o’ nine tails like weapon. Barda catches his elbow. That gets her more attention from other guards, and eventually she’s beating the hell out of a handful of parademons on her own, caught up in the moment. The laborer she saved helps her escape, bidding her slide into a low-lying window.

Barda is surprised at herself. She wants to be upset- she could well have ruined her subterfuge, but the thrill of battle has her blood up. The laborer is terrified, of and for her, but reason they owe her help, since they’ll be looking for her. They can get her to the resistance. “To fight?” Barda asks, still exhilirated by the fight. They tell her it’s to flee- that they’re the only way she can get out of the city alive. The laborer leads them through some underground tunnels, which eventually open up into a gray market. The laborer explains to Barda where she needs to go, when a parademon notices them. She tells the laborer to run, that she’ll lead it off. She runs a squadron of them a merry chase, before being bottled in an alley. She’s about to fight, when Mr. Miracle descends from the sky on his flying discs. He’s almost as formidable as she is (though now she’s playing damsel a bit- helping when his back is turned so as not to arouse suspicion). Barda flips the rescue, preventing Scott from being shot in the back by a parademon. He whisks her away, and takes her to the rebellion’s secret base.

She meets our important players for this portion of the movie, who want to funnel Barda out of town. But she wants to stay and fight. Scott intercedes, telling them she saved his life, and seems more than capable of handling herself. Himon doesn’t like it, but one of their number got swept up by a patrol, so they’re short a hand; he warns her it’ll be sink or swim, “But if you do need a hand, I have been known to function as a floatation device,” Scott says. The leader plays the heavy, each time trying to convince her that they will cut her loose if she threatens any of their safety, or their mission, each time undercut by Scott. Scott is defiant, chivalrous and charming; despite herself, Barda begins to warm to him.

The mission is breaking into one of Darkseid’s research pens. Darkseid’s search for the Anti-Life equation is one half a spiritual quest, one half super unethical research. The fruits of his labors so far are the parademons, essentially mindless, feral husks that were once living people just like those on New Genesis.

The plan had not been for Barda to rough up a dozen parademons, so Granny, concerned, sends the other furies to arrest the rebel leaders. They snatch Barda in the night, give Barda her uniform, and tell her arrests happen at dawn. Barda can’t sleep. Eventually she bursts in on Scott, who tries to play it cool, at first not getting that this isn’t a booty call. She warns Scott, tells him to save himself- that they can’t save the resistance, but he doesn’t deserve whatever Darkseid has planned for him.

Scott tells her that he trusts her with his life, his happiness, his hope, that “none of it is worth saving from Darkseid if we think it’s so fragile we can never share it,” and he kisses her, and for a moment she’s lost in the kiss, in for once feeling something good and vital and life-affirming, but the crushing reality of Apokalips comes rushing back to her and she pulls away from him. She tells him, angrily, she already tried to save him, by warning him off; he answers with a smile, and tells her, “I know. Now I’m trying to save you.”

Barda comes with the other Furies, conflicted as all get out. But when Lashina sets upon Scott, she isn’t conflicted, and she doesn’t hesitate. She blasts Lashina, and she, Scott, and Oberon, flee. Only this time, they’ve got a Motherbox, so they can make it off world, arriving on New Genesis.

They tell Highfather what happened, Scott relating the degradation he suffered in the name of peace. Highfather weeps, “Would that I could have taken your place, son, I would have; would that I could take your sorrows as mine to erase them from your soul.”

Orion, hearing all this, is pissed. He’s worked so hard to be accepted, so hard to be loved, so hard to feel he deserves to be Highfather’s son, only for Darkseid’s castoff to waltz in and be granted the title merely for being born. “Son?” He roars. “You call this wretched beast son.”

“I do, son; I have learned great affection for beasts, no matter their wretchedness,” he says, and tenderly strokes Orion’s cheek. But Highfather’s (and Avia’s) love is no match for Orion’s pain, and he continues advancing, his steps heavy with anger. But just as tragedy seems fit to strike, Scott scoops Orion up, joy in his voice as he exclaims that he has a brother. Scott hugs him fiercely; he knew, in his heart, on Apokalips that he had parents, but for the first time, in this space, with all of those he loves, does he feel like he truly has a family. And, despite himself, so, too, does Orion, caught up (as much as the curmudgeonly New God can be) in Scott’s joy, admiting with some strain, and indeed surprise that he has a brother.

The fragile peace is ended, however, by Scott’s successful escape, giving Darkseid the pretext he required to reignite the war.

Only Darkseid has been busy. During the war that split Genesis, their original planet, in half, New Genesis was technologically superior. Think Russia during World War II, Darkseid’s gains in territory came at the cost of immense expenditures of life; it was possible that Darkseid would lose his first war because their technology was so inferior, but not guaranteed. Highfather so feared Darkseid might triumph that he agreed to unleash the unmitigated power of the Source, cracking the planet in two (why yes, clever reader, this is a metaphor for atomic warfare). Apokalips, including the industrial heart of Darkseid’s territory, which soon spread over his entire planet, and New Genesis, Highfather’s idyllic homeworld, including the floating metropolis, New Eden.

Their gravity remains intertwined, as the two spheres rotate around one another. It was thought that Highfather could end the threat of Apokalips by once again harnessing the power of the Source, but at the cost of a terrible genocide; it was to prevent such a senseless loss of life that Highfather accepted the trading of their heirs. Darkseid agreed, because it bought him time to rebuild, to regrow his armies, and to use the technologists stolen from Highfather (and thought lost in the cracking of the planet) to close the technology gap almost entirely.

Apokalips’ first assault is on the Source itself, capturing the weapon Highfather used to split the planet, and had used to enforce the peace with Apokalips. They cause a huge amount of damage, making it clear that Darkseid’s forces are now far more deadly than in their last war. Highfather holds a war council, splitting his forces to cover certain strategic areas, the most important being New Eden. Scott offers to return to Apokalips, but both Highfather and Orion refuse to let him- he was merely the pretext, a story that let Apokalips pretend to have won their earlier conflict, but also a seed for the next. Even if he did go back, Darkseid could see to it that no one believed that he did. Highfather places Orion, his most trusted lieutenant, in charge of a contingent with Mr. Miracle and Barda to retake the weapon’ without it, Apokalips will be unstoppable.

They’re able to insert Orion inside, but find too late it was a honey-pot, that the surrounding hills are choked with parademons. Miracle and Barda lead the forces fighting to buy Orion time, the idea being that if they can fire the weapon on Apokalips, the mere demonstration that it’s back in New Genesis’ control should be enough to force a ceasefire. And while they fight a battle they know they will lose to buy Orion time, Orion finds that the weapon has already been disassembled. He tries for a moment to fix it, before realizing it isn’t just that they disabled it- they were altering the weapon, so it could be fired into the heart of New Genesis itself. Orion calls up the security satellites, to watch as Scott and Barda are being overwhelmed. He calls his Highfather, who is bloodied, but still fighting, even if it’s clear he won’t be fighting for much longer.

“Father,” Orion says, “I’m sorry for what I must do.” Then we watch as Orion broadcasts a message across New Genesis and Apokalips, both. “I, Orion, son of Darkseid, hold the beating heart of New Genesis’ greatest weapon in my hands. For Darkseid, for Apokalips, I close my fist.” Orion turns his floating conveyence on the weapon, and fires.

Outside, the spire housing the weapon combusts impressively. Scott screams for Orion, even as Barda points to his shape flying from the tower, that he’s alive. They both pause, as they hear Orion broadcast across all channels. “I have struck a blow to our hated enemies. Apokalips, it has been too long since I stood in the halls of my father. I’m coming home, triumphant.”

The parademons stop fighting, and watch as he flies towards Apokalips. After a moment of eerie silence, they follow suit, abandoning their conquest and flying after Orion. I imagine I should seed it so that Orion was part of an Apokaliptian stab in the back myth, that he was stolen by the treacherous Highfather in a raid, a raid in which he callously left his own son behind. Darkseid saw to the wayward child as he did all Apokaliptians, caring for them by tempering them in the fires of his industrial furnace. The return of Orion is thus complicated. On the surface, Apokalips rejoices at the victorious return of its lost prince, as well as the crippling of New Genesis’ great weapon.

New Genesis is somber. With Orion gone, their forces are weaker than ever. And while Highfather publically puts a brave face on it- that Orion surrendered to end the assualt- he recognizes that it’s a blow to morale, regardless. He feels the sting of the loss of a child, but also, some small part of him nags that his son rejected years of teachings to return to his ‘real’ father.

Scott isnt ready to give up on his brother just yet. He talks with Barda, telling her he has to to go. He doesn’t know if he can escape Apokalips a second time, but he has to try. He asks her to watch over his father, and Oberon, if anything happens to him. She tells him she can’t, to which he brokenly says, “Oh,” taking it to mean that now that she’s free of Apokalips, she wants to be free of him, as well, and we linger on that moment, Scott’s heart breaking even as he prepares to face his likely demise. She tells him the reason she can’t watch them is she’ll be with him, in their home in New Eden, or in DeSaad’s dungeon on Apokalips- wherever he is is where she’ll be.

I think that’s where we go to credits. Yeah, we’re not even pretending there won’t be a sequel. Darkseid IS DC’s big bad. It’s worth at least a couple of movies, maybe three, to set him up- and I think you can make some damn fine movies out of these.

Mid-credits scene: Darkseid is pissed. Orion is chained to a pillar, clearly having been beaten, bloodied, bruised, but also angry, and for the first time he feels like he’s got a worthy recipient for his anger.

Darkseid slaps him, the blow enough to bloody even the mighty Orion further. But Darkseid’s anger is cold. “You revoked my pretext for war; I’ll invent another.” DeSaad hands him a rag to wipe away the blood from his fist. “You’ve bought them hours. Perhaps days.”

“”Is that all you have to say to me, ‘father?’ I’m your heir,” Orion cries out. “You’re an heir to an immortal, a surplus in a world that can only ever know hunger; you are useless to me. DeSaad? Break the welp. If any pieces of value remain when you’ve finished, bring them to me. If not, dispose of them in the furnace.”

Pitchgiving 2021, part 7: Justice League Dark 2: Newcastle

I’m not sure how much of Newcastle to show at the beginning. Probably best to just get the basics across, since I’m assuming we’re still shooting for a PG-13, even if a hard one. So we see flashes, enough to maybe know Constantine organized an exorcism of a small girl, that it went awry and Constantine’s friends died. We cut from the horror, and it’s a bright, normal day. Constantine relaxes back into a chair, setting his lighter on a coffee table in front of him.

We start in on the slice of life, show Tim being a normal human boy. Only the shadows are showing an interest in him again. It starts subtle, at school, all the shadows tilting towards him as if the sun’s light is coming from a dozen different directions at once.

Close in, as we watch someone open a hand-written note addressed to “Fate.” Before he can read it, his phone rings, and he sets the note down in the foreground. We watch as the text, which had read, “Panel on reversed incantations was moved on me at the last minute. Could you take my spot watching Tim tomorrow morning? Should give you plenty of time to make your panel later in the day. Let me know, Z,” change, the words “tomorrow morning” glowing, before reforming as, “3 days from now”. On the phone is Zatanna, and he tells her that he only just opened it. He picks up the message, as he explains that mail to the Tower is always spotty, especially with the state of the post office. He tells her of course he’ll cover her- he had hoped to be able to see her panel, because she always puts on such a show, but he can always astral project there and leave enough of himself behind to cover Hunter.

Now we’re back with John as he meets with some black-market magicians. They’re skeptical, because it wasn’t too long ago he was breaking up their smuggling efforts. He tells them this time he just wants to pass a message- that if they play ball he’ll even play nice next time their paths cross, let them off with a slap on the wrist. He’s trying to pass a message to the Cult of the Cold Flame. They’ve been infiltrated, and as much as they might be enemies, having a literal demon in their inner circle is bad for everyone’s business.

On the convention floor, a confused Zatanna bumps into Dr. Fate (or Occult if we’re concerned with burning through his contract appearances) at the convention.

Conspicuously, during the meeting, Constantine’s lighter, which he set on the table, opens, and lights itself with a blue flame. “Bollocks,” Constantine says, and excuses himself.

Zatanna calls John, to tell him about the potential foul-up. She doesn’t think he flaked, she thinks they’ve been had. She starts casting about for someone who can teleport- John’s got a subtler idea.

Constantine makes a phone call, to someone in a smart suit. We’re going to play coy, for a moment, lingering below his face, because who it is going to be a reveal. The Cult of the Cold Flame are making another play for Tim. The person on the other end just so happens to be in London, dealing with an issue with a subsidiary. Constantine asks him to pull Tim out, and that’s when we finally reveal who he’s talking to: Bruce Wayne.

Alfred walks up to Bruce, in full tourist mode, happy to be home, but also happy to go on holiday. He sees the steel in Bruce’s eyes, and we watch as his happiness deflates. He tells him he’ll cancel his appointments. “No need to cancel. Lucius can still take the meetings, and I can conference in. Bring the car around. I need to change.” He tugs on his tie, and we cut to the car. Alfred hits a button and the plates change. Batman tells him to get out, and go on his holiday. Because Alfred deserves nice things, once in a while.

We cut back to Tim. The shadows are getting more aggressive, but he still doesn’t seem to have noticed. We watch, as a tide of shadow is about to crash down on Tim, only for what is essentially a flash-bang to go off, burning away the shadows. Batman tells Tim they need to go, he should grab anything he needs, and they need to be gone in thirty seconds. Tim grabs his backpack, and they walk downstairs. Batman is confronted by Tim’s father, who demands to know where he’s taking his son dressed like the weird fella from Pulp Fiction. “Ving Rames?” Batman asks. Tim tells his father to sleep, then snaps his fingers, and he collapses back in his recliner. Before exiting, Tim asks if he’s going to get to ride in the Batmobile?

“Better,” Batman says, looking up at the sky as they exit his apartment. It’s empty. “Sorry, it’s hard to time an intercontinental flight in your head.” He points to the sky, where a Batplane is hovering like a Harrier jet, and grabs a grapnel from his belt. He lifts Tim up in one arm and grapnels them up with the other.

We get a flashback, this time more than just flashes, from 10 years earlier, Constantine attempting an exorcism. Half his crew die in the attempt, the rest will include the artist from last movie, as well as some fodder for this one.

Back in the present, John’s consulting with a psychic from Newcastle. The psychic knows Nergal’s around, but is terrified of getting back on the demon’s radar. John threatens to bring Nergal there, to summon him, if he won’t help. Reluctantly, the psychic agrees to try and figure out which of the council of the Cold Flame is currently being possessed.

Batman and Tim go on the run, with Tim proving he’s picked up a few tricks along the way. It’s a fun and games, relatively light B story to Constantine’s much darker A plot. The Cult prove to be much more resourceful than Batman is used to. It requires all of his wits and some of Tim’s magic to keep them on the run.

But this story is as much about counter-moves as it is about moves, and while Constantine is hunting Nergal, Nergal is hunting Constantine. He kills some of Constantine’s friends from Newcastle before arriving on the Swamp Thing’s doorstep. “You serve the green just as I serve the black. To say you’re out of your league isn’t right; we aren’t even playing the same sport. Example: you’re playing flag football, with symbolic little moral victories- while I prefer full contact.” Nergal shoves Holland’s astral form outside of his body, and leaps into the Swamp Thing. Inside, Nergal is standing in a dense, lush forest. “Well, shit,” he says, and leaps out, only to find his old host looking green-tinged. He shoves Holland out of that body, too, only to find it, too, has a forest inside it now. “You prick,” Nergal yells, trying to shove Holland out of the Swamp Thing again- only this time astral plant tendrils grab his spirit and hold it in. “Clever prick,” Nergal says, a grudging respect in his voice. “I see why Constantine chose you. A friend I can’t easily snuff out. Hmm… This is going to be a lot more fun than I thought. So enjoy your symbolic little moral victory, plant-thing.” Swamp Thing tries to get the word out, but finds that Nergal cut his phone line, so he’s going to have to grow a new body elsewhere to transfer his consciousness- costing him time.

During the interim, Nergal attacks Zatanna, getting so far as to infiltrate her mind, only to discover her father taught her well, that she’s basically built an inception honey-trap in her mind, that as the details differ, they tell her what’s going on, that it’s an attempt to influence her to soften her up for demonic possession- only she’s got some spells- old spells, cast by her father- that she calls upon to violently eject him. She’s horrified, though, because she couldn’t duplicate the spells on her own; she’s basically shot her wad, and if Nergal comes back, she won’t be able to stop him. She gets on the phone with John, demands to know what he did when he snuck off in Berlin- not what he told her, but what he did; he tells her he bought an artifact from a friend, there. She asks with what, because he was practically homeless, then; she paid for their dinner, their hotel, plane tickets, even his cigarettes. He doesn’t want to say, that given the state he left her in, it might be possible to interpret the coin he used as ‘a mite dodgy.’ She’s disgusted, and convinced that she’s back in the real world- that it isn’t another intrusion by Nergal. She tells him Nergal attacked her, exhausting her countermeasures, and she needs to run. There’s pounding at the door, before it’s smashed to splinters. Nergal, in a new host, tells her he was halfway to Charing Cross when he wondered if maybe she’d expended her defenses, and he might just be able to stroll right on into her pretty little body. Her window’s open, and she’s gone, her landline still hanging off the receiver, with John calling after her.

Nergal picks it up, and tells him, “I’m coming for you, Johnny, and I’m going through every friend you’ve got in the world to get to you. It’s your last chance to say goodbye to any who really matter to you- not that either of us are sentimental enough to believe anyone does.” Nergal hangs up.

“Bollocks,” John says. He dials up Oracle on his phone.

This is, to be clear, the post-Batgirl in a chair Oracle I have proposed. She demands to know how he got that number. He tells her the man in the pointy-eared gimp-suit gave it to him. “You must be Constantine.”

He tells her he furnished a list of contact info for every single magic user in their universe, and he needs to put out an all points, with whatever logistical assistance she can render. He says, “Bruce- I’m not calling him bloody ‘Bat’man-”

“Bruce?” Oracle asks. “He never told me his name.  

Constantine sighs, and realizes aloud, “He’s going to punch me for that. He insisted I also furnish a list of ‘vulnerabilities,’ in case I was ever compromised- the folk who are in the crosshairs. I need them moved to safety, by anyone with so much as a card up their sleeve.”

Constantine is contacted by the Cult. I’d probably have their emissary be Mr. E, who isn’t on good terms with Constantine after trying to kill Tim. He insists they exclude one member of the council, that he not even know what’s going on, or they’re all as good as dead. E knows more than he says, being in the same business as Constantine. It might be fun to draft him into the Council, that his prospects being limited, he decided on a path to try and reform the Cult from the inside, rather than bash his brains out on the outer walls, unable to effect any change whatsoever.

Meanwhile, Tim and Batman are on a globe-trotting adventure. The Cult is closing in, having learned enough about him to be watching even the clandestine resources he uses as Batman. So they’re in Vegas, literally gambling on the idea that Tim’s magic can get them some untraceable cash to buy them a little bit more time and space. I imagine part of this b plot is Constantine insisting Batman can’t call on his super friends, that the Cult might be able to hijack anyone he might go to, that were he to go to Superman, he might be handing the Cult their own Kryptonian superweapon.  

Constantine ends up meeting the Cult of the Cold Flame’s leadership to broker a deal for him to remove Nergal. They ask Constantine what’s to keep them from killing him right then and there. He tells them it’s the usual; he’ll kill at least half of them, just for making the attempt, and the other half is a coin toss- and he wouldn’t have handed them the coin if it coming up against him wouldn’t work out for the better. “I’m worth taking any one or two of you off the board. A coin that I get the lot of you and walk free seems a gamble worth considering, if you’re me. Push me, and half of you are guaranteed corpses; the rest are the ones relying on a coin. Heads I win, tails the rest of the multiverse does. But I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like my odds.”

Nergal attacks Jason Blood at his home, only to find the corpse he possessed housed Dead Man, who slaps him around for a moment, before vacating- telling him this was a set-up. Blood proves more than capable, first sealing him, then exorcising him- but it doesn’t work. See, despite what Nergal said, he didn’t drag the Newcastle girl’s soul to hell. Instead, he’s kept her here, for years. She’s his tether, so long as he’s bound to her, he’s bound to this plane. Blood then summons Etrigan, stating he’ll shred Nergal’s soul, instead, and the bloodied tatters can remain for all he cares. Etrigan and Nergal fight for a moment within the corpse, a cool CGI feast before Nergal flees.

Blood calls John, to tell him they have a problem. John’s already aware of it- he snuck a scrying spell into Blood’s place the last time he was invited over for drinks. He already has a man on it, one of the best problem solvers in the business- “even if his fashion sense is a wee bit batty.”

So while the magic folk snatch Constantine’s friends and family and spirit them to Fate’s tower, the attack squad of Justice League Dark (including Tim) mass at Blood’s to return to the Citadel of the Cold Flame, while Batman tracks down the girl Nergal has hidden away. Batman does, tracking money Nergal’s various hosts have drawn on electronically, finding his shell holdings, finding storage locations and warehouses. Oracle still thinks it’s going to be the cold storage outside of London. Batman knows Nergal’s type- he wants it to hurt more, wants it personal- he wants her to have been under John’s nose the entire time- or rather, in the shadow of Ravenscar. When Batman finds her, he calls Fate to come and remove Nergal’s taint- freeing her from being his tether. Nergal feels it at the second attempted exorcism. Fate teleports Batman to where the others are.

Nergal pulls his trump card- Tim, who he got to through his Yo-Yo. Only this time, Nergal’s pulled more than he bargains for. Tim grabs him by the throat, and it burns him. Nergal eyes Constantine. “This boy could end everything, Constantine. You’re madder than I realized.” Nergal knows he’s in trouble, and flails. “I could drag the boy’s soul with me, straight down to Hell.”

“Now that’s against the rules, mate,” Constantine says.

“Who the Hell cares? I’m a demon.”

“Heaven cares, my son, or at least this bloke does.”

Specter is suddenly behind him. “You would threaten an innocent, a nearly pure boy, before the hand of the Presence,” Specter bellows, equally incensed that Nergal would have the gall to do it in front of him as he is that he’d do it at all. Specter basically punches into Nergal and rips out a bloodied chunk of his soul, shredding it enough with this one gesture that it kills him.

Specter and Constantine have a little staring contest; the Specter knows Constantine used him to take out Nergal, and is angry about it. “I am not your attack dog, Constantine,” Specter growls.

“If you’re trying to put the fear of God into me, you think you can succeed where a thousand nuns with a thousand rulers failed?”

“Some things about that night we spent in Berlin are falling into place,” Zatanna says.

“I won’t ask,” Batman agrees.

Constantine smooths Specter’s robe. “Not my dog, no,” he says. “But sometimes it pays to have one around, regardless of who’s on the other end of the leash.”

“There will come a day, John Constantine, where I will stand in judgement of you. And on that day, your soul will burn, for the lives you’ve taken, the friends you’ve sacrificed, the carnage left in your wake, and the spheres shall be wealthier for your loss.”

“If you persist in domming me, we’ll have to put you in his gimp suit and fetch you a whip, mate.”

“You are a creature no less vile than that,” Specter nods towards Nergal’s remains, “and when next we meet, you should expect no better treatment.” Specter disappears.

For a moment things seem okay, almost celebratory. Then Batman steps to Constantin. “I have a question, one I wasn’t about to stop to ask while the boy’s safety was in my hands. Why didn’t I remove him into the care of one of your magical friends?”

John admits that might have solved things, but that in his circles people tend to get possessed as often as people in his business change which Underoos they’re wearing outside their pants, that the other part of why Constantine had Batman and Tim on the run was to preserve his reputation. By keeping Tim out of pocket for a week while he played chess with a demon and the Cult, Constantine’s legend only grows. At first Batman bristles, until Constantine tells him, “The good a man can do with a scary reputation far outstrips the cost of building that mythology, wouldn’t you agree?”

For a moment Batman seems pacified, before he says that he heard from Oracle, and belts John in the stomach, doubling him over. “Yep, I deserved that.” Batman isn’t done. He threatens to burn Constantine’s life to the ground if he endangers his family ever again.

“Probably could. And you’re a good enough man, I’d probably let you.” That stops his wrath for a moment. “We go to war, only one man walks away. If it’s me, we lose all the good you’d do. We lose me, and the world is just down one bastard. Hardly a comparison, really. And into the bargain we’d lose that wicked fashion sense of yours.”

Batman leaves in a bit of a huff. Zatanna helps John up. “You’re not wrong about him,” she tells John. “He is the better man.”

“I know,” John says, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t hurt by it. John coughs up some blood, and makes a joke about Batman’s punches.

“I don’t think that’s from a punch, John.” Zatanna says, before he passes out.

We cut to a hospital room, with John in a gown, hearing bad news from a doctor with scans of cancerous lungs on the wall. He puts a cigarette in his mouth and takes out his lighter, and we fade the sound back up, and hear the doctor say, “You can’t smoke that in here. And in your condition, you shouldn’t smoke it anywhere.” John lights his lighter anyway, but Zatanna uses magic to crumple the pack. Constantine blows out his lighter, and we cut to black.