The Deal: this is the eighth in a series of pitches for the rebooted DC Movies. I’m leaning on AI art to mock-up these pitches, because it adds some truly glorious chaos into the mix. The usual caveats apply: a story about Black characters should be written and directed by Black creators; skill and empathy can only get you so far when trying to talk about experiences you haven’t had.
All due respect to Ray Fischer, he’s too old. Cyborg is a Teen Titan, or at least should be plausibly able to play 19 by the time that first Titans movie comes out, which I suspect will essentially be the Cyborg sequel.
Because we’re mostly avoiding origins, this will mostly not be one. But we are going to have some flashbacks, because I do want his past to influence this story- and because Cyborg is the rare hero whose origin isn’t well-trod in the public consciousness.
Cyborg narrates. “I was a guinea pig.” We start on a literal guinea pig in a cage in a classroom. The cage is sitting on an overburdened bookshelf, already tilting from the weight. Above it is a light, barely suspended by a set of fraying wires. We pull back, and see a young Black child staring sadly at it, almost communing with it. “My parents experimented on me, giving me a genius intellect. Too bad they didn’t test it on themselves, or they might have been smart enough to see where all of this was going lead.”
Victor flicks his pen, and it bounces off the wall, hitting the lamp, bouncing off the opened window and knocking off a plastic sprinkler head, causing a field filled with birds to get sprayed, making them all fly into the air, hundreds at once, pulling the kids of out of their seats, and the teacher out of hers to deal with them. The lamp falls, and the force is enough to overcome the bookshelf’s remaining strength, causing it to collapse, sliding the cage into the wall, where one of its glass walls shatters, allowing the guinea pig its freedom. The teacher glances back, but Victor is nowhere near any of the chaos on the other side of the room; she goes back to trying to get the rest of the children to calm down. But there’s one other student who didn’t get excited about the birds, and that’s because he saw what Victor did, and is giving him a thumbs up from the other side of the room. This is young Ron Evers.
“They weren’t satisfied stopping at the human limits of intelligence.” Young Victor is strapped into what’s basically a dentist chair as his parents, in surgical gear, install computer components into Victor’s head, now. “It started out simple; my motherboard, RAM and processors needed power, and coolant. There was a hard limit to the storage capacity of a human brain, so they installed 500 terabytes of flash memory into my back. But with the added weight, I couldn’t stand up straight, and modeling showed I’d need a metal rod in my back by 20- or an upgraded spine.
“I hated that they gave me enhanced hearing; with human ears I might not have heard every horrible thing they said, to each other, or about me. But I heard everything the night my mother died. Mom was drunk; she’s been drinking a lot, lately.
“I never should have let you do that to our son,” Elinore cries.
“Let me?” Silas is angry, but a lot of it is at himself. They both have seen what their quest has done to their son, and neither know how to make it right, or process what they’ve done. “You were driving me.”
“We were driving each other, Silas. Farther than we ever should have gone. And I’m going to take him away from you. This has to stop.”
“You’ll take him? You’re a lush- one who gets so stupid when she’s drunk she doesn’t know not to drive. You honestly think any sane judge would give you custody of our son?”
“I think anyone who spent five minutes talking to you wouldn’t give you custody of anyone.”
“I’ll ruin you before I let you take him. Don’t forget- you were the authorizing physician for every procedure. You signed off on everything we did. Makes you at least as responsible as I am.”
“We’d both lose him.”
“Maybe we should,” he says, but it’s more out of cruelty than a moment of clarity.
She takes one last pull from a bottle, and storms out. Silas is upset, but doesn’t follow, until he hears her car start in the driveway, and tries to run after her. But Victor is two steps in front of him, in part because he is now more machine than man. “Mom!” he yells as she peels away. He tries running after her, but his metal skeleton wasn’t really designed for that kind of speed.
Silas catches up to him in his own car, and has Victor get in the car. Victor’s cold to him. “You didn’t have to talk to her like that,” he sulks.
Silas tries to explain that parents fight, that they both only want what’s best for him, and sometimes they don’t agree what that would be. But the important thing is making sure his mother doesn’t get herself into more trouble- or hurt. Just then, her taillights, which they’d been following, disappear.
She ran off the road. It needn’t be a terribly violent wreck, but she won’t survive it. She says goodbye to both of them tearfully, and it’s clear Victor will continue to blame his father for this night.
A week later, it’s raining. Victor, in a hood, is living on the street. “Victor, come home,” he hears his father’s voice in his ear. “Your mother wouldn’t want this.”
“And she’d want you hacking into my auditory processor like some manipulative Jiminy Cricket?”
“Please, Victor,” his dad’s breaking; he doesn’t want to have to bury his wife alone. “Help me say goodbye.” But Victor’s angry, some of it likely displacement from years of their experiments, but some of it justified, too.
“How about you do the world a favor, and jump in the hole with her?”
“Victor, I,” we see, “Message terminated” on Silas’ screen, and we linger with him as he whimpers. “I’m sorry. So sorry. For everything. Oh God…” his head falls onto his keyboard as the fact that he’s lost both his wife and his son overwhelms him.
Then we’re back with Victor, in the rain. It’s kind of miserable. It’s a weird angle, somewhat distant; it won’t be immediately obvious, but Victor’s being watched through a scope. “Hey,” someone says from the dark, and Victor moves. “Tough break- I heard, about your mom.”
“You remember.” It’s his old friend, Ron Evers. He’s now running with a teenaged gang, and they’ve got a place up the street. Mostly they use it to hang, or occasionally, to store stuff they’re trying to hide or sell. But it’s dry, and has a TV, and, most importantly to Victor, wi-fi. See, Victor’s outgrown his implanted storage capacity, and has been remotely storing parts of his mind. It means when he’s connected to the internet he’s even smarter- and when he’s not, he feels the loss of that information, and that capacity, like he’s missing a part of himself. It also gives him access to do a lot of cool stuff; just as a note, I want to limit Cyborg to what’s actually possible- that means if it’s hooked to the internet, he can access it. If not, he can’t (so only access to government files available through say Interpol’s sharing network, but not things that wouldn’t be on a server). As Victor leaves with Ron, we cut back to the scope view, and see it lower, and the man holding the gun taking his finger off the trigger.
“Getting soft in your old age?” Ravager taunts Deathstroke over an earpiece. He chides her. She’s observing to learn, and one thing she needs to learn is discipline, and patience. Ron Evers, one of Victor Stone’s few known associates, is a local gang leader, one who the police keep tabs on. If he goes missing, the police will look into it, inviting more scrutiny than their employer wants on this job. He wants Stone to simply vanish- so that his father can believe that he used his implants to drop off the grid. It’s the only way to guarantee there won’t be a trail leading back to him.
The next day, Cyborg is woken as Ron and several other gang members arrive at their stash house with rival gang members in pursuit. Cyborg takes them down, in scenes that should feel vaguely RoboCop-esque. Ron tries to recruit him into the gang, but Cyborg refuses; he’ll stop bloodshed, but he’s not going to help them do anything illegal- including babysit whatever they stole. Ron wants him to stay, both genuinely, and because he has a plan, and agrees to move the stolen merchandise elsewhere.
That night, Cyborg is attacked by members of the rival gang again. He takes them apart, and is interrogating one, and finds Ron told them the stuff was there, that Victor took it from them and it was ripe for taking back. Just then, Cyborg is attacked from behind by Deathstroke, who uses an electrical device to short Cyborg out.
Cyborg restarts in safe mode, and an access panel for external memory opens up, and Slade jams in a thumb drive, which Cyborg boots from. Victor wakes in Deathstroke’s garage. Deathstroke tells him his parents were gifted surgeons and chemists, but some of the tech had to be made custom by experts- and his employer purchased plans from those. He’s now booted into debug mode, which should prevent Victor from being able to use any of his extra resources- leaving him with only his human components. Deathstroke gives him an option- if he agrees to assist his employer of his own free will, he’ll be compensated for his time until such time as they can reverse engineer his upgrades and how they interface with his organics.
Deathstroke takes a sample of Victor’s cerebral spinal fluid with a sci-fi needle, and when it turns blue, injects it into his own spinal cord. This was part of his compensation- upgrading his own mind the same way Vic’s is- at least the chemical portion- Slade isn’t comfortable with the idea of putting a bunch of metal crap inside himself- it would become an exploitable weakness.
Victor asks what the alternative is. Deathstroke tells him door number 2 is he cuts his implants out of him. His benefactor believes there may be organic portions that are integral to the system, that it would ultimately be faster to learn from the functional system as a whole- but isn’t willing to lose out on this kind of an advancement just because they can’t come to an agreement.
This pisses Victor off- he’s not willing to work with someone so barbaric. He stands up, snapping the restraint, and removing the thumb drive, clearly in control of all his faculties. He’s also connected up to the internet, and pulls up files on Deathstroke, a mercenary nicknamed ‘the Terminator’ because for years he specialized in ‘termination’ contracts- little more than assassinations. He’s worked, officially and unofficially, for a dozen world governments, though those files are all compartmentalized and kept far the hell away from an internet connection- but there’s enough publicly known to paint pretty nasty portrait of Deathstroke.
Deathstroke is smart, and planned a half-dozen ways to take Victor down. Unfortunately for him, Cyborg has been upgrading himself without his parents knowing- so Deathstroke’s intel is largely out of date. Quickly Deathstroke realizes he’s outmatched, especially with the upgrade only beginning to rewire his brain, and burns his safehouse literally, taking a go-bag that, and as he lifts it it pulls the pin on a series of white phosphorous grenades that set the entire place on fire, escaping.
Cyborg helps people on the nearby floors out of the burning building; a firefighter gives him one of their coats so he can sneak away as they cops arrive. Cyborg is walking back through the rainy streets when his ears, scanning passively for keywords like ‘cyborg’ pick up chatter from the rival gang. They know Deathstroke took him, so they’re planning on hitting Ron’s new safehouse while it’s vulnerable. Cyborg goes to help, but also feels manipulated by Ron. He stops the rival gang, but just as he’s about to pivot to deal with Ron, he’s attacked by Deathstroke again. This time Deathstroke isn’t using nonlethal weapons, having decided Vic’s going to force him to kill him anyway. Deathstroke tries to use Ron as a bargaining chip, but Cyborg lures him away, in part by calling the police to ensure Ron’s been caught with the stolen goods.
Cyborg takes on Deathstroke, who is getting smarter and more dangerous with every passing moment. Eventually, Cyborg jury-rigs some tech into a sonic cannon; given the amount of explosives and detonations Deathstroke has been involved with, he surmises he likely suffers from tinnitus, making the attack extra effective against Deathstroke. It’s effective enough Deathstroke retreats.
Cyborg drops in on the rival gang, to make sure they aren’t going to retaliate against Ron in prison. They appreciate him taking Ron off the street, but he still stole from them. They tell Cyborg it’s a two-fold problem: this rival gang is modeled on the Black Panthers, and they do a lot of community outreach, so the loss of that money hurts those who can least absorb it. Worse, Ron attacking them makes them look vulnerable, and will lead others to do the same.
Cyborg asks about the value of what was lost, then drops him a Venmo for three times that. The gang leader is concerned the money’s going to lead to federal scrutiny when some bank reports the money missing.
“I took one dollar from every person who used a racial slur on social media in the last minute.”
“We cool, then.”
Victor is about to leave, but turns. “A penny of that goes to guns or drugs, and I’ll make sure you get a cot a cell or two down from Ron.” The other man shrugs, and explains he sees them like the government; they’re basically an army and a safety net rolled into one. Drugs or more guns than it takes to keep the peace would make his neighborhood worse, not better- and that’s not what he’s about.
Victor returns home. His dad hugs him, but he’s still not ready to warm to him. “I understand,” Silas tells him. “I know how much I blame me. I can hardly imagine how much you do. I can’t undo any of it, and I know I’ll never make it right. But I can try to make it better than it is. If you’ll let me.”
“I can try,” Victor responds.
They attend Elinore’s funeral. It’s raining again. Silas tries to take Victor’s hand, and at first he pulls away, and Silas stops. But then, after a moment, Victor takes Silas’ hand, and squeezes, and we roll credits.
In an end credits scene with Deathstroke, we find that his employer is Lionel Luthor, who praises the Stones’s work as revolutionary. They refused to sell it, even in part. Luthor had hoped Elinore’s car accident would soften them up- but he would never have sanctioned her death, comparing it to burning da Vinci at the stake to get him to sell a painting. “I told you cutting somebody’s breaks is an inexact science,” Deathstroke says. “You choose between plausible deniability or predictability.”
“I didn’t call you to hear excuses,” Lionel calls him off; he’s seen news copter footage of Deathstroke trying to shoot Victor in the face, that they can’t take Stone’s opus through force, and instead need to try more finesse.
In one final credits scene, Victor finds a piece of tech in his home because it turns on. At first, it displays a holographic bat symbol, then we see Batman talking. “These aren’t the circumstances I was hoping to contact you in. In fact, I was hoping I’d never need to. I was content to confine my activities to Gotham, and leave you to your own. That option’s off the table.”
“What the hell?” Victor asks.
“Divided, we’re easy prey. Together… we might stand a chance.”
We cut to black, and white text appears, one line at a time:
We start in a poorly-lit bar. “Look, we’ve all had our asses handed to us by the scarlet speedster,” the speaker turns, and we see it’s Captain Boomerang. He’s speaking to four other Rogues.
“What I don’t get is why, if it’s your plan, it isn’t your team,” Heat-Wave says.
“I have an in, that’s all. Doesn’t change I’m not the leadership type.”
“Maybe calling yourself a ‘Captain’ is giving off confusing signals,” Heat-Wave says.
“Besides, we’ve got a fully capable leader-type right here,” Boomerang claps Captain Cold on the back, “and a bloody Captain to boot.”
“I still think I should lead,” Weather Wizard pouts sullenly.
“Mate,” Boomerang soothes, “Heat-Wave’s dating Golden Glider, and she’s Cold’s blooming sister. Right now, it’s a family team; I’m fun uncle Boomerang. A man smart as you claim ought to see the smart play is figuring out how you fit into this dynamic- not how they can fit around you, yeah?” Weather Wizard tries on a smile. “There’s a smile; careful, widen that any further, I might think you want me to make you me auntie.”
We cut to later, in the same bar. Boomerang is the only one of them left, and he’s drinking with Rick Flag. “That was defter handling than I’d have given you credit for,” Flag says, “enough to make me think this batshit plan of yours has more than a snowball’s chance in hell.”
“It’ll take a sight more than flattery and stale beer to get into my knickers, Captain.”
Flag slides a dossier across the table. “And you can keep the contents of your stale knickers to yourself.”
“It was the beer I said was stale-” he stops himself, “you’re flirting with me. Careful your lips don’t write checks your mouth won’t cash.” Flag glares, because that is not the idiom. He gets up to leave, and Boomerang grabs his wrist, insisting the Rogues don’t kill.
“That’s fine. This is a proof of concept. No one’s asking you to put a bullet in the Flash. You just got to put him down.”
“Right. And the unspoken bit isn’t that you’ll have a sniper ready the moment he’s moving slow enough to snipe? Because the Rogues may not kill- but that doesn’t mean they won’t kill me if I make them murderers.”
“My superiors wouldn’t go to this much trouble just to kill him- there are easier ways to do that.”
“I get a little excited and a little afraid when you say things like that.”
Flag starts to leave, but over his shoulder says, “That’s proof you’re not as stupid as you look, sound, act and dress.” Boomerang lets fly with a boomerang, slicing Flag’s shoulder holster strap right beside his neck so it falls off him; at the same time, Flag draws, spins and fires.
“Missed me,” Boomerang says, triumphantly, as Flag gathers the shredded remains of his holster.
“Did I?” Flag asks, as Boomerang becomes aware of a glug-glug noise. Boomerang moves his jacket, and sees the hole Flag blasted in his flask.
“Aw. My mom got me that flask last Christmas. Sewed the little boomerangs on herself.”
We’re going to montage the origin, mostly because I like the idea of Flash giving us a one-minute origin story only slightly sped-up, almost like a ‘last time on’ flash-back. “Okay, I know you’re really excited to get into the story, so we’ll do this really quick. I’m Barry Allen, crime scene tech and physicist- because physcisting doesn’t really pay the bills- and I kind of accidentally managed to breach the space-time barrier and end up infused with the Speed Force, which turned me into the fastest man alive, as in, can move at basically the speed of light. That gave me the time to do all of the things I’d always dreamed of, like learning how to sew my own costume and stop most crime in the city before anybody gets hurt. Also car accidents and a lot of other things. And no matter what Superman says, I always beat him in our races- except that one time he planned the route over every mountain range- I had to run several thousand more miles than he had to fly, how is that fair?”
Flash comes to a stop in the center of the frame, and peels off his mask. Iris enters, and kisses him. We have some lingering narration. “Oh, and this is Iris West. She’s amazing.” And we also meet Wally, a couple of years younger than them. “And that’s Wally. He’s… annoying, in the way all little brothers are.” I… like the idea of having Wally be a huge dork, as in when he knows Barry is coming over, he puts on his plastic-masked Batman costume, similar to what Hank wore in Venture Brothers.
“That was so cool,” Wally says, making a fwoosh sound as he runs back inside. Barry asks if he’s late, and she tells him he’s always right on time.
“No, really.” She admits he’s a few minutes late- but at this point they always assume he will be. He follows her inside, and continues his narrating. “The Wests kind of became my home away from home. After mom died… dad and I fell apart. We couldn’t save each other, but this family saved me.”
“What have we said?” Mrs. West chastises Barry.
He looks down, runs out of the room, and back in in civilian clothes. “No costumes at the dinner table,” he says dutifully. Wally clears his throat with a loud “Ahem.” “Except for Batman,” Barry adds, “because no one knows his secret identity.”
“You really don’t?” Mrs. West asks. “I thought you all knew each other.” It’s… clear she’s got a thing for tall, dark and mysterious men.
“Smells great,” Barry says.
“He’d have to, right?” she asks Iris, before realizing he meant the food, and pivoting sheepishly. “I made extra. I know how many calories you burn.” She butters a roll, before asking. “And how’s that father of yours?”
Barry takes a deep breath, before saying, “Drunk,” then running offscreen and back. “Yep. Still drunk. Passed out in his underwear. Wait.” He disappears again, and returns. “My underwear. I’ll just burn them.”
“I wish there was something we could do,” she says.
“Nadine…” Mr. West says.
“There really isn’t anything else to be done. They’ll never smell right again.”
“Ira…” she says in a similar tone, but it’s plain from her face she’s teasing him.
“It was a tragedy,” he says. “I don’t think I’d do any better, if anything happened to you,” he puts his hand over hers and the Wests share a tender moment, before he turns his attention back to Barry. “But I’ll stop in. See if I can’t get him to come out. Make a family day trip out of it.”
“You’re welcome to try,” Barry says. “Nothing I’ve done has worked. But half the time he tears up the moment he sees me, because I remind him of mom.”
“Batman demands peas,” Wally says darkly, slamming his fist on the table. Barry picks up a single pea from the central bowl, and flicks it at Wally, who blocks it with his spoon and exclaims, “Bat pea repellent.”
“If only his sheets had that,” Iris mutters.
Barry starts flicking faster, and Wally covers himself with a plastic cape, “Pea-proof cape,” as peas bounce off of it. Subtly, Barry is zipping to Wally after each, and catching them before they hit the ground.
“Boys,” Mrs. West says, “what have I said about starting food fights at the table?”
“Oh, no,” Mr. West says, hunkering lower.
“Give me a heads up so I can arm myself,” she says, grabbing the bowl of mashed potatoes. Chaos ensues. I kind of like the idea of doing similar to the Quicksilver FX scene from Days of Future Past, only it’s Barry saving as much of the food during the fight as he can while still allowing there to be a cathartic food fight.
We cut to the aftermath. “Barry, dear, did you manage to save enough for dinner, or should we order pizza?” A moment later and the food is miraculously replaced.
“Clearly, we’re wearing most of the mashed potatoes, and a handful of peas landed in Wally’s lap. I wasn’t touching those.”
Wally leaps onto the chair, and declares they should, “Eat my green pea-ness,” as he pelvic thrusts, sending a shower of green peas over the table- which Barry catches in a different bowl, which he sets on the ground for the dog.
“Yeah, no one should eat those,” Mr. West says.
Later that night, Barry arrives home. He’s try to be quiet as he goes inside. His dad is asleep on the couch, wearing underwear just a little too small for him and no pants, snoring drunkenly. Barry sighs, and goes to his room, and we linger there a moment. Barry brings out an Afghan, and covers his father with it. He stirs. “Nora?” he asks in the dim light.
“No, dad… mom’s… not coming home.”
“Oh. Right,” we hear his sadness in his voice as he rolls over. “Could use a drink.”
“No, dad,” Barry tucks the blanket around him. “Just go back to sleep.” Barry goes into his room and gets into bed, when his phone rings. They ask for him by last name, and if he’s awake. “Couldn’t sleep,” he says. They tell him they need him at a new crime scene.
We watch a sped-up version of the crime scene investigation, but it’s inverted; everyone in the background moves around fast, while Barry is very deliberate in his movements, and he narrates. “I think what I like most about crime scene investigation is I have to slow down. It’s meditative. Because moving at the speeds I normally do would disturb the evidence; the Speed Force curbs a lot of the impact of moving at superspeed- or people would hate me for all of the sonic booms as I crossed the sound barrier- but you can’t displace that much air that quickly without causing changes to airflow, displacing small piles of… whatever this is.” Barry is taking a sample of some grains of what look like sand.
Barry takes his samples back to the lab, and runs some experiments, before typing up a report on a mechanical typewriter (because a computer wouldn’t be able to handle him typing at that speed- and even then he pauses every page or so to use a bellows to cool the metal). He faxes that over to the detective, and heads home.
Barry’s dad isn’t on the couch anymore, but left a note on the Afghan, “Gone for beer.” “Great,” Barry sighs, “another bender. Guess I’ll see you in a week, pop.”
Barry is getting ready to try and take a nap when the doorbell rings. He winces and zips to it. “Hey, Jay. What’s up?” It’s his physicist mentor, Jay Garrick.
“I had a thought…” Jay says.
“At your age? Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Yuck it up, junior. You’ll have gray hair before you know it.”
“Your dangerous thought?”
“I think we’re close to a break-through.”
“Yeah. I remember our last break-through- it broke me through the rear wall of our lab. I still see stars when I cough.”
“Little cartoon five-pointers? Celebrities? Or just flashes of light.”
“You’re none of the kinds of doctor who could help, regardless.”
“No, but talking to any one of those might do you wonders. Seriously. My treat.”
“I’m fine, Jay. Sprained my shoulder, and it stopped hurting before my head hit the pillow that night. So this break-through…”
“I think I know where you went awry- similar to when I had my uh… blow up.”
“That’s a very low-key way of saying you personally burnt down an entire wing of the university labs.”
“Yeah, that’s why I’m ‘Uncle’ Jay, and not Professor Garrick. Though honestly, with all of the progress we’ve made since, I’m amazed I survived. My, uh, issue, was a couple of orders of magnitude bigger. And I think… maybe I finally cracked it.”
“Can it wait? I haven’t actually slept, yet.”
“And I’m not sure he’s about to,” Iris teases, pushing past Jay.
Jay puts up his hands. “I know when I’m beat; I can’t compete with that offer.”
“You sure? Maybe I prefer to be the little spoon,” Barry teases.
“You do?” she asks, her voice quivering.
“I prefer to spoon you,” he says, and pecks her on the cheek.
“I’m too old, and it’s too early for this kind of affection,” Jay says to himself, closing the door behind him.
Barry stumbles, and Iris supports him. “You okay?”
“I wasn’t exaggerating. Didn’t sleep a wink.”
“Can’t you just power through?”
“What do you think I already do? Even taking micronaps during the day, a regular day for me is like you being up for a month.”
“That sounds awful,” she says, leaning into him. “Maybe I can massage some of that tension away.”
“That’s how exhausted I am. I know you’re flirting. Look, if my body responds, you’re welcome to make use of me.” She turns to close his bedroom door as he stumbles inside, “But I might…” and as she turns she finds him already completely passed out. She starts to wriggle his pants off, and he stirs. “Hmm?”
“You told me never to let you sleep in the costume. Nobody wants a hero to show up smelling like, and I quote, ‘sleep toots.’ I hate you for making me say, ‘sleep toots.’”
She curls up under his arm to nap. “You love my sleep toots.”
“The toots I don’t mind, I just don’t like the name.”
“Okay,” he says dreamily, and passes back out.
Barry wakes to his phone ringing. “Take the pants,” he says, “you be Flash today.”
“If I only took the pants I’d be a different kind of Flash,” Iris says. “And crime doesn’t call your phone.”
“Oh, right. While I answer this, see about getting me a crime phone. Red, that lights up. Ask Batman where he got his.” He picks up his phone. They ask for him by name, and he spends a moment staring at his wrist before saying, “I’m not wearing a watch.”
“I know. I haven’t slept, either. No rest for the wicked means no rest for those trying to catch them.”
“Yep. I told the Captain you’re as good as two techs, might as well pay you like it.”
“Damnit. I wanted to sleep. Had a whole speech. Threw in some creative swear words, to sell it.”
“I know. And I went and purchased your pride. If you’re not okay to drive I can send a car.”
“I’ll figure it out.”
Iris drops him off. “You need to take the box,” she says, pointing to a box for a dozen donuts.
“Or you’ll eat them all?”
“I know you already ate the rest. It’s why I’m driving with a bear claw in my hand.”
“Sorry,” Barry says sheepishly.
“It’s okay. I only wanted the one.” She pulls him close with her non-bear-claw hand, “but you are going to have to help me sweat it off later.” She kisses him, and lets him go.
“It’s a date.”
“It’s a date if you take me to dinner and a movie first,” she teases him. She’s mostly in good humor about it, but there’s still some part of her that would like him all to herself, at least every once in a while.
This time around, we do a quick montage, of Barry studying the scene. He pockets some of the evidence. He processes some of it in the public lab, then takes the rest to the crappy lab he and Jay rent together. Jay’s surprised to see him. “I figured I wouldn’t see you today, that you’d be sleeping, then, uh, not sleeping, then sleeping some more.”
“Just needed to borrow some of the equipment.”
“Yeah. City only has so many centrifuges.”
He’s clearly looking at something on a slide. “That’s not a centrifuge…” Jay grumbles.
Barry’s moving a little too fast, a little too excited. “You’re right,” he tells Jay. “Wanted to double-check that I had labeled the slides correctly before the spin.” He throws a handful of vials into the centrifuge. “Hmm…” He turns to leave.
“Uh, shouldn’t you be taking the ‘evidence?’ You know, chain of custody, and all that?”
“Uh, right.” Barry shakes his head. “I should have mainlined a cappuccino before I came here; I’d forget my feet if they weren’t attached.” He haphazardly gathers his supplies, and as he turns to go, Jay stops him with a hand on his shoulder.
“Look, just, know if you find yourself in any kind of trouble, you can call me. I can help. I know- a has-been physicist with a bad back… but sometimes just having someone to bounce things off.”
“Sure, Jay. I appreciate it. And when I have a moment, we’ll push on your breakthrough, okay?”
Barry goes out to his car, and throws the evidence in the trunk, then parks a few blocks away, takes out his costume and speeds off. While running, he calls Iris. She’s between classes at the community college. “Were we doing lunch?” he asks.
“I know we talked about it yesterday, but you’ve been ping-ponging since last night so I assumed not. Why?”
“That case you dropped me off, was related to the one from last night, and between the deposits I found at each I think I know where they are now.”
“Cold’s cold gun, it doesn’t just freeze, but leaves a distinct chemical signature in its wake. There were also scorches that tested positive for the accelerant that Heat-Wave uses. So at least two of the Rogues were working together- I think they were trying to cover their tracks.”
“And yet you found them.”
“Well, maybe. And I don’t know yet whether or not they want to be found. It could be a trap.”
It is a trap, which he figures out fairly quickly, finding a bomb welded to a metal post… it’s only then he realizes that the warehouse is used in part for overflow for several local pet adoption agencies, and there are dozens of animals in cages. “Oh, come on,” he says. He starts springing animals from cages and running them outside, as the timer ticks down its last few seconds, and says, “If none of you puke on me, I promise I’ll help you find good homes,” the words happening in the moments he pauses enough to open new cages.
Flash and the last turtle are inches away from the flames as they grow from the bomb. Flash is winded, and realizes he’s definitely been puked on. “Okay, new deal: if none of you tell anyone how much you puked on me, I won’t kick any of you into the ocean.”
“Does that deal go for us? Because I imagine that’s a promise I can’t keep,” Boomerang say.
“Oh,” Flash says, “the boomerang guy. I wondered why the shrapnel was all in the shape of little boomerangs. I appreciate your commitment to the gimmick.” Golden Glider slices him as she skates by. I’m going with the classic version, who was an ice skater, who had skates that basically used the same tech as her brother’s cold gun to create ice everywhere she skated. To make her a little more formidable, the streamers of her costume use similar, but basically have razor edges that are also at freezing temperatures- it’s one of those that cuts Barry.
Barry turns towards her, at once confused and uncertain how to pivot, before saying, “I’m not comfortable hitting a woman.”
That angers her, and she balls her fist, about to throw a punch, “That’s not mutual,” except her laces are tied together, and she trips onto her knee. “Ow. I scraped my knee, you wang.”
“I do feel bad about that.” He sets her on a park bench, and in a flash cleans and bandages the wound. “Less so about this,” he keeps ‘bandaging,’ until she’s a duct-tape mummy tied to the bench.
“Have you out in a tick, love,” Boomerang says, as the first of his boomerangs slices the piece of tape holding her upright.
She slowly tips, wiggling to try to right herself as she grunts, “No, no, no,” before thudding face first down onto the bench, “damnit.” The rest of Boomerang’s boomerangs fall harmlessly to the ground beside her, having been plucked out of the air by Flash.
He appears next to Boomerang, holding one up. “Fascinating construction. Lightweight alloy shaped to remain aerodynamically neutral, but with enough mass to be capable of a fair distance of flight. Sharp, too.”
One hits him in the back of the head and Boomerang is ready for a follow-up punch, catching Flash as he lurches forward. “Okay,” Flash says, picking himself up off the ground, “I did not see that one coming- which I guess is the strength of a boomerang.”
Boomerang looses a flurry of boomerangs, but Flash is nowhere near as they fly- and yet keeps closing the distance, eventually revealing that he’s got a big tree branch he’s been using to collect the boomerangs as they stick in it. “Weren’t you in the military? Hold on.” He’s gone a second, then back. “Nope, not that kind of Captain. Still. A bunch of those boomerangs were aimed at kids, moms, a blue jay, even your own partner.”
“They were all aimed at you.”
“You need to think about the possibility you can miss; you need to think about what’s behind your target.”
“First smart thing you’ve done… I was going to say today, but you chose that gimmick, that name, and that outfit. This is quite the rare win for you, so I won’t make you watch my victory Flash dance.” (I understand, with that sentence, the immensity of the Chekov gun I have loaded- Flash must do a Flash dance over the credits). With Flash’s back turned, Boomerang goes for his last holdout boomerang, which looked like a belt-buckle. He reels back to throw it, only for it to be replaced by a banana, which boomerangs, hitting him in the face. Flash sighs, “Your streak continues.”
Flash drags Boomerang a little too quickly to the bench beside Glider, and zip-ties him to it. The speed has him dizzy, and he reels, before starting to heave. “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the turbulence, but there are complimentary air or other sickness bags attached to your front compartment.” Flash tapes a brown paper bag to Boomerang. “Now we know you stopped having a choice of flying Air Flash the second you decided to be a criminal, but we’re glad you won’t have another chance for a while.”
While I haven’t mentioned it until now, every time Barry checks his phone, he has several emoji-choked texts from Wally. Wally is very excited that his sister is dating a superhero. Except this time, his phone is oddly quiet, quiet enough Barry calls Iris. “Everything okay over there? Wally hasn’t blown up my phone since lunchtime.”
“Huh?” Iris says. “He’s not home yet. And neither’s mom. I don’t think he had a game today. Dad?”
“No. They had their last game a few weeks ago. And track won’t start for another week.”
“Then where’s mom?” she asks as Barry walks through the door in his civilian clothes.
“No idea. She should have been home hours ago. And Wally should have been home on the bus. I’ll call her. You try your brother. Usually she’ll text if she’s giving him a ride or running an errand, but… I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Want me to pick you up something to eat?” Barry asks.
“Hmm….” Mr. West says, “with your mom not home, there’s nothing stopping us from getting extra spicy Mongolian…”
“Except that she will eventually come home, and you’re terrified of the woman,” Iris replies.
“I’m not ‘terrified.’ I’m appropriately respectful. Half extra-spicy, half mild.”
Barry calls in the order; subtly, he is speaking Mongolian. “You remember where she said she’d stick the next pepper she found in her ‘mild’ Mongolian, right?”
“Actually, she was never very clear. It’s the not knowing that keeps me up at night.”
“Order’s in,” Barry says. “They said it’ll be ready in fifteen minutes.”
“So you’ll leave in fourteen?”
“Mongolia’s 6500 miles away, at a comfortable jogging speed, it’s about six seconds.”
“I’ll heat the oven,” Iris says.
Boomerang is alone in a dark holding cell. Flag saunters in. “Where’s Glider?” Boomerang asks.
“Yeah, they don’t book the men and the women together, for obvious reasons. Your plan seems to be all hitch.”
“A little snag- a contingency we planned for. Guy’s everywhere. The odds any one, two or four of us would get pinched were pretty high. Cold’ll come through.”
“Yeah, for his sister. You want to bet your liberty he’s coming for you?”
“I put a lot more than that on the line, here,” Boomerang says.
“Despite your obvious shortcomings- which are numerous- you’ve shown initiative. That goes a long way with me. I’m willing to bring you onto the Varsity squad. Or, you can keep playing JV ball here.”
“There isn’t a Varsity squad yet; right now this is the only game in town. I put this team together because I think they have what it takes.”
“Well, you ever get tired of life in that supervillain Guantanamo, you give me a ring- assuming you can find a way to do that from in there.” Just then, the wall behind Boomerang freezes, and Glider kicks it in. They’re not quite fast enough to vacate before the cops swarm in. Flag clothes-lines the first officer, keeping him from putting a bullet in Boomerang, then disarms the second, ejects the magazine and the chambered round before dropping the gun while showing the rest of the cops his government ID. “I wasn’t here,” he says, and walks out.
“Who was that?” Glider asks as she helps Boomerang out through the rubble.
“Spook. Trying to recruit me. Told him to sit on me boomerang and spin.”
“You kiss your mother with that mouth?” Flash asks, socking him in the jaw as he speeds by. “What would Ma Boomerang say?”
Boomerang is pissed, and gets up, rage in his eyes. “She’d call you a” we don’t hear the words, as Flash zips off.
“Huh,” Glider says. “I guess his weakness is Australian profanity.”
“No,” Cold says, pointing to the background as another explosion rocks the city. “He was responding to our distraction.”
“And you couldn’t have timed that so I didn’t get walloped in the jaw?”
“And spare you a wallaby wallopin’?” Heat-Wave jeers.
“I’m prepared, not psychic,” Cold says.
Bullets from the cops whiz by Boomerang’s head. “You didn’t prepare me a boomerang resupply, did you?”
“Glider,” Cold says.
Glider opens a case filled with his signature Boomerangs, and his eyes light up. “I could kiss you,” Boomerang says.
“Not it,” Cold and Glider say at the same time. We show the cops again, this time falling in droves as boomerangs jab into them. “You didn’t kill anybody, did you?”
Boomerang kisses one of his boomerangs. “Didn’t need to.”
“Rogues, let’s go.” I’m assuming that they drive some kind of armored vehicle, like a Humvee, using similar tech on the wheels as Glider’s skates.
We cut back to Flash. He narrates, as he gathers bombs from all over the warehouse district. “The Rogues don’t kill- they’re very proud of that- at least, not directly. The first bomb was only meant to get my attention- someone had cleared the area just before- but the rest, I suspect if someone did get killed, the Rogues would say I killed them. Negligence. Which… feels flimsy, but it beats dealing with Batman’s rogues.”
Back with the Rogues. Boomerang looks out of the back of their getaway vehicle, and sees the ice marks the tires leave- they’re leaving a trail. “I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth…”
“And yet I sense a big Australian ‘but’ coming,” Cold says from behind the wheel.
“Were leaving a frozen trail even a Flash could follow.” As if to prove his point, Flash shows up, on their tail. Cold hits a button on the steering wheel, and a cold gun built into the 0 on his custom “0-KELVIN” license plate blasts the road, turning it into a sheet of ice. Flash is moving too fast to stop, and skids on the ice, smashing into a “Stop” sign. To add insult to injury, Cold blasts him out the window, freezing him in a block of ice. Flash vibrates out of it, and puts a chunk of the ice to his head.
“That was humbling,” he says, and runs after the truck, but they’re gone.
We’re back with the Rogues. “Ah,” Boomerang says “We were the secondary distraction.”
“Weather Wizard’s a prima donna. He was definitely going to vamp while he grabbed the girl. Whole plan falls apart if Flash figures it out before all the pieces are in place. And now there’s just one more.” He pulls to a stop, and we recognize the exterior of Jay’s lab.
Watching on security cameras, Waller is pensive. “I don’t like it,” she says. “The intel gives them his friends and family. Anyone with half a brain could figure out his identity from that…” She smiles. “You don’t think they have the brains, do you? Just like you think the Rogues are a waste of time.”
She’s talking to Rick Flag. “You don’t try to turn lapdogs into attack dogs. A villain that won’t kill doesn’t serve as much of a deterrent.” He hesitates. “But what if they do manage to kill Allen?”
“Then they earn a shot at the big leagues. This job is never about being right or wrong, it’s about learning to use your failures and your successes to your future advantage.”
“And the civilian casualties?”
“There are always civilian casualties in war, Captain. But we’re not risking anyone we can’t afford to lose.”
Back with Flash, he gets a panicked call from Iris’ father, Ira. “Bastard took her.” He’s bleeding from the lip.
“Who?” Barry asks into the phone, but he beats the audio to the West home. Ira managed to capture video on his phone, he and Iris trying to fight back against Weather Wizard. Weather Wizard used lightning to carve a taunt into Iris’ wall, along with the address.
“I’m coming with you,” Ira says.
“You can’t keep up,” Flash says. “I’d just be bringing them another hostage. That might even be what they’re counting on- a hostage I’d feel extra responsible for putting in harm’s way. I’ll put you someplace safe- and I’ll bring your family back.”
“Barry, they don’t get to walk away from this.”
“I’m not killing anyone.”
“I said walk,” he says grimly.
“I’ll get them home safely,” he pats Ira on the shoulder. “Now close your eyes, exhale, and try not to think of food.”
“That’s going to be hard,” Ira says, “when it smells so…” he realizes he’s in Mongolia, at the restaurant they order take out from.
One of the servers puts down a plate in front of him. “The red man said you wanted extra spicy.”
We’re back with the Rogues. “We sure have an awful lot of Wests,” Glider says. “Your G-man say why?”
“I told him to piss off,” Boomerang lies.
“Yeah. You have a secret informant and a government stalker? You’re just not that interesting.”
Boomerang sighs. “Intel is need-to-know. All I know, is this group would hit him where he lives, soften him up, yeah? They fit a profile.”
“And we aren’t going to kill them?” she asks, louder, to her brother.
“We won’t,” Cold says. “Excellent timing, as always,” he says, as Flash enters. “But this place is a death trap. Designed to slow you down, force you to make mistakes. If you do, innocent bystanders pay the price.” He reveals the others, tied, chained, whatever, to various high-tech torture devices. “Or… you kneel at my feet, take off the mask, and I cold-cock you with my gun. I’ve done the math. Even at your speed, you can’t save everyone- you’d need to be moving nearly three times the speed of light. I’ll give you a moment, if you want to double-check my figures.” As Cold monologues, we see Flash zip to the missing family members, including his father and Jay, and then pausing to indeed double-check Cold’s math. But when it comes to Jay, he winks- and not at human speed, but at Barry’s speed. Barry double-takes, and Jay vibrates free of his restraints, and they run outside to have a few nanosecond pow-wow.
Barry is stand-offish; whatever Jay has to say, he’s feeling betrayed and overwhelmed. “Here’s the thing, kiddo,” Jay starts.
“We don’t have time.”
“We do. You and I think, talk and move thousands of times faster than everyone else. We could have a day’s long argument and still have time to fix this.”
“What did you do?”
“You’re a brilliant physicist, better than I ever was, even in my prime. I literally stumbled into the Speed Force- I mean it, tripped on my damn laces and went head-over-tea-kettle. Working with you, I thought… I thought about all of the ways we could harness this speed- all of the ways we could use it to make people’s lives better. Crops that grow faster. Surgeries that are over in a blink and heal in seconds. Medicines moving so fast disease don’t have a chance to take root. And I thought… I thought I could protect you, make sure you didn’t make the same mistakes I did. And… you didn’t. You found your own damn way in. I took one night off to take Joan to a show, and… you made the breakthrough I never could. I was a fool. And I should have told you everything from the start. And I should have told you the day we started, and every day since. You deserved the truth.”
“You’re right. I did. It wouldn’t have changed anything. I still would have worked with you. But when it happened, I wouldn’t have had to feel alone.”
“Damn. I’m sorry I let you down.”
“Good. Because you’re about to get a chance to make it up to me. Time really is a problem here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean even at our speed, we can’t save the other four- not without slowing down- not without making ourselves vulnerable.”
“If somebody’s got to take the hit-”
“That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying, is that we have to do the experiment again- one last time. We give one of them speed- three of us can fix this where two can’t.”
“Your dad, Iris’ mom, they’re too old. I got electrocuted, once, nearly stopped my heart. My accident was just like that- felt like I was in cardiac arrest. I was young, when I had my accident.. The codgers may not survive it.”
“So Wally and Iris are our only shots. I know she’d risk herself for her brother; and he’d die for her. I can’t… I can’t stand the thought of anything happening to either one of them. There’s no way I could choose.”
“Okay. So don’t play God.” Jay takes out a coin from his pocket. “Heads it’s Wally, tails, Iris.” He won’t wait for it to come back down, but catches it at the top of its arc and flips it into his palm. It comes up heads.
They rescue Wally first, then pull him into the Speed Force. While Jay sets up the experiment in the background, Barry explains what’s about to happen- that if he wants, they could try and pull in Iris, instead. But Wally wants to be a superhero- he loves the Flash, so the idea of being able to help, even just this once, he leaps at the chance, even knowing there’s a risk.
“Is it going to hurt?” Wally asks, and Barry winces. But his real question is, “Will it leave a scar? My dad says chicks dig scars.”
“Don’t call them ‘chicks.’ They hate that more than they like scars.”
“But if it’s that important, we’ll make sure you get a scar,” Jay says.
“Don’t help,” Barry says.
“We ready?” Barry nods, and so does Wally. Wally is engulfed in light and electricity. During the experiment, Barry runs out, and returns with an inverted version of his uniform, yellow instead of read, with a red lightning bolt insignia, for Wally. The light and electricity fade, and Wally is left smoking for a moment, before his eyes come open, and he zips immediately into the suit.
“Fits better than my batsuit,” he says.
“You get them and you get out,” Barry says. “The Rogues might be a few bananas short of a bunch, but they’re still dangerous, and I’ve dealt with them before.”
Barry charges at Cold, and a series of charges detonate as his approach, blowing him off his feet.
“You really don’t understand, do you?” Cold asks, standing above him. “I figured you’d save them. That was always part of my plan. The Rogues don’t kill people. But you don’t count.” He lowers his cold gun, and is about to fire. Jay knocks the gun up, so it discharges into the ceiling, while Wally smacks Cold in the stomach.
“Kid,” Jay says, “remember what I said about pulling your punches.”
“I was. I tried.”
Cold coughs up blood.
“There’s more than one?” Cold exclaims. “No wonder we couldn’t beat them!”
“The only thing you could beat is, uh,” Wally starts, hitting Cold again.
“A one-legged man-” Jay hits Cold.
“No,” Wally says, shaking his head after hitting Cold.
“A duckling,” Jay hits Cold.
Wally shakes his head approvingly, then adds, “in an ugly contest,” as he lands one last punch. Then he winces. “Especially until the swelling goes down.”
“At least he can put some cold on it,” Barry says, throwing an arm around each of them. “Thanks. For having my back.”
“Any time, kiddo,” Jay says. “Now, like a family.” The three Flashes square to the Rogues, whose plans fall apart at superspeed.
Barry wraps Glider’s streamers around a pipe, then guides her into a collision with Heatwave. Wally catches several boomerangs before sending them back on a collision course with Boomerang from the other direction. Jay spends a moment geeking out over the Weather Wizard’s tech, before turning it against him.
We cut to Boomerang, behind bars. “So,” Flag says, gloating. “Fifteen to life, or take what’s behind door ‘X’?”
Boomerang spits blood. “Suppose it’s time I stepped up to the bigs, then.”
Credits, and then, the Flash Dance.
More credits, then a mid-credits scene.
“Your task force not going well, Amanda?” General Wade Eiling gloats from behind his desk in a government office. “You’d still be happier working in that carnival freakshow in Gotham?”
“I argued for a handpicked team, but failing that, I could build something out of Gotham. Wetworks requires moral flexibility. You can train any man to kill, but you can’t make any man a killer.”
“I’m not talking about soldiers. Flag was a lousy soldier. But he does the job- whatever the job.” She snaps her fingers, and Flag brings in Harley’s hyenas, who growl and posture, making Eiling lurch back in his chair. He hands Waller the leash. “They only eat fish dosed in that Joker toxin.” She pets one of them. “I can leash a rabid beast, Wade, to get it to do what I need.”
“I take your point, Amanda; my report will reflect your objections, and I’ll back your next phase- provided you get those things away from me. And Amanda, next time, no theatrics. Or I put a bullet in each of your pets, and maybe you, too.”
“Wade, if I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were flirting.”
They share a smile.
More credits, and then one final scene. Barry, Jay and Barry’s dad are at the Wests, having a meal. Mrs. West pulls Barry to the side. “You… haven’t seen Ira, have you?” she asks, trying to hide her concern from the rest of them. He holds up his finger, that he’ll need one minute.
Ira is still in the Mongolian restaurant. He’s groaning, absolutely stuffed. “At first it was so good. And then… I kept eating, because I was worried… I think I’m more Mongolian food than man, now. Everyone okay?”
“Yep. And I have experience with this,” Barry says. “I’ll get you a cab, to a hotel. I can bring the missus to you. Cause if I move you… well, you’ll empty the contents of most of your GI tract all over both of us, and you’ll never really get the smell out of your clothes, or your nostrils.”
“Your experience? Your dad?”
“I’d rather not talk about it. But I’m not making that mistake again. Just, take it easy. No sudden movements.”
He heaves. “Don’t mention movements.” He heaves again, and we cut to black.
We hear Flash say, “Oh, God, I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.”
The Deal: this is the sixth in a series of pitches for the rebooted DC Movies. I’m using AI art to mock-up these pitches, because it really adds to the madness, and especially for this pitch, we need all the madness we can get.
Batman is maybe the toughest nut to crack, because there have been so many Batman movies, and we’re going to stay away from origins for the most part. And that’s why we’re going to follow the Deadpool route, and make this a Valentine’s date movie.
We start in Arkham. I think the Arkham games found a good compromise, between the spooky, gothic architecture and the fact that there’s still plenty of real-world hospital infrastructure in place, too, so think a spooky castle retrofitted with bland tile and easy to clean hospital walls. We follow Dr. Quinzel, her hair already in twin tails, wearing a red and black corset beneath her buttoned up lab coat, humming the Joker’s theme song from the Batman Animated Series, because he’s too good a character not to have his own iconic theme.
She enters a secured room. She’s firm but kind as she hands over the plant. She put her job on the line vouching for Ivy- but if she attempts to use the plant to break out they’ll use the defoliant sprinklers. Ivy ignores the threat- which is old hat at this point. She’s transfixed with the plant; she’s basically a mother reunited with her child. Both glow under the grow light- which Ivy also credits Harley for. She thanks Harley, for being the one doctor in here who isn’t just putting her under the microscope, but who listens. In exchange she offers her own advice: “The clown isn’t good enough for you. He chews people up and spits them out, not to prove any kind of point, but because he thinks it’s funny. You’re as special as this blossom,” she gently strokes the plant’s petals, “and you shouldn’t settle for anyone who can’t see that.”
We cut to the DC title sequence.
We’re in the Gotham subway system at night. A gang, calling themselves the “Mutants,” dressed in that strange 80s punk aesthetic from the Dark Knight Returns, menace first a black street musician named Milan, and then a woman waiting for the last train of the night. One of them pulls out a switchblade, and is about to mug her, when Batman swoops in and starts fighting them. The street musician starts playing Wesley Willis’ “I Whupped Batman’s Ass,” but as the fight goes on, he changes it to, “Batman Kicked My Ass” (which would be a slight variation on Willis’ “Birdman Kicked My Ass.” As he’s about to leave, Batman retrieves a green batarang from his belt, and throws it into the musician’s open case; the musician unfolds it, to find it’s an origami $100 bill. He looks up to thank Batman, but he’s gone.
Batman slides into his car, and roars off. Alfred calls over a built-in radio. “Commissioner Gordon has requested your presence. A break-in at WayneTech. Security footage shows the clown in the anaesthesia lab. They’re reporting a casualty.” The Batmobile’s engine growls as he increases speed.
We start in on a Wayne security guard with a rictus grin, with the name plate Owens. Batman is studying him, while an EMT assures him they used the anti-toxin Batman distributed to the city’s ambulance companies- but it hasn’t had an effect. “He’s using a new formula.” Batman has a booster in his utility belt. The smile softens somewhat. “He may experience facial paralysis. He’ll need to consult a plastic surgeon; there may be tissue damage.” Batman hands him the card of a good one, that Wayne’s insurance will cover. The EMT promises to tell him.
Batman walks to the lab where the majority of the damage was done. Commissioner Gordon is overseeing the case; he personally oversees any case involving the Joker. Gordon doesn’t know what Joker was after. “An experimental tranquilizer,” Batman says. “Gotham has a high proportion of meta humans and mutations. Typical tranquilizers don’t work on all of them, or even the same way. I consulted, and shared some tissue samples. Every other work station is smashed. But he was careful with this one. He knew what he wanted, and that it was fragile. If he has that, he’ll be able to reproduce it. He’s a chemical savant- that’s why we have such trouble keeping up with his Joker toxins.” Gordon goes to ask him a question, but he’s gone.
Batman swings down to his Batmobile. The lights come on as he approahes, and we’ll think he just has it remote controlled, until it peels away. He grapnels onto the top of the car. It’s not responding to the controls in his gauntlet. The driver swerves, nearly knocking him off. He manages to get the edge of a batarang jammed into the sliding top, and uses his cape to direct a gas grenade’s contents inside the car. The car crashes somewhat languidly into a light pole. Batman wrenches the roof open, to find an early teen asleep at the wheel.
The teen wakes in the batcave. It’s mostly dark, lit only by the instrument panel in the Batmobile. “Jason Todd, in and out of foster homes and orphanages since you could crawl,” Batman’s voice booms, coming from everywhere at once, augmented by the cave’s sound system. “I won’t bore you with your history, all the reasons you spent time in juvey, but your record indicates you’re on track for life in prison by your twenty-third birthday.” Suddenly Batman is behind him, and tears him out of the car with one hand. “So why did you steal my car?”
At first Jason is defiant. He’s been living on the streets, fending off all kinds of predators, for most of his young life. Batman tries to intimidate him, but Jason pivots, and says, “You’re not going to beat on me. In a way, that makes this cave safer than most of the foster homes I’ve been in.” Batman tells him he’s put 37 juveniles in the hospital. “Yeah, in self-defense, or protecting other people. And I tried to take your car because while I can’t steal a home, I can live in a car, and that seems like a pretty safe one to live in.” Batman comments that he managed not to damage the security measures getting inside. “Of course not. Wouldn’t be very safe anymore if I did.” Jason sees his opening. “You were faster, this time. Usually, crime scene investigation involving the Joker, and someone he poisoned, I should have had another 48 seconds.”
“You’ve been tailing me.” Jason’s stomach growls. “You’re hungry.”
As if on cue, Alfred arrives, with a sandwich, cut in half. His eyebrow raises. “Taking in strays again?”
“Kid needs a place to stay, and we do have extra rooms,” Batman says.
“Very good, sir,” Alfred offers the sandwiches first to Jason, who hesitates for only a moment before tearing into one.
We cut to Harley is sneaking in very Scooby Doo fashion into an overgrown plant sanctuary on the outskirts of town with a bottle of ether and a rag. She’s caught, almost immediately, and held by plant vines. “Heya, Red,” she says. Ivy tells Harley she’s immune to poisons- ether included, and Harley says “Oops, I forgot,” and drops both. Ivy’s skeptical- Harley didn’t forget- this is something else.
Harley exuberantly tells her she was going to kidnap her to create a rose garden that grows in a bat symbol- a bat symbol Joker could destroy that would then replenish itself, so he could destroy it all over again. Harley tells Ivy she wants the roses to have blackberry genes, so whatever Mister J throws at them, they’ll spring back. “Oh, Harley,” Ivy says, recognizing that the resilience she’s seeking in the plants is what she’s needed to survive him, and that her gift idea is to find something else to absorb his abuse.
She tricks Harley, telling her they’ll need some supplies. Instead they go shopping. They run into Bruce Wayne, and Ivy uses her pheremones to kidnap him and bring him along on their spree to pay for everything. Harley is focused on things to please Joker, but Ivy keeps steering her towards things that make her feel good, too- emphasizing that Joker should want to make her happy, too, that what makes her happy should make him happy.
Alfred, who witnesses the kidnapping, calls Batgirl. She calls Dick Grayson. At first he’s excited to hear from her. “I know you and Bruce aren’t on the best of terms, right now…” she says, and his face falls, “but someone kidnapped him, off the street. I could use the back-up.” He shows up not in his Robin gear, but as Nightwing. She comments that it looks good- and that he couldn’t dress like a Lost Boy his whole life.
Alfred keeps tabs on Bruce and his kidnappers, so it doesn’t take long for them to catch up. Batgirl and Nightwing have a will-they-won’t-they kind of romance; Batgirl has something of a crush on Bruce, but it’s a schoolgirl and her professor thing, and he views her as a surrogate daughter. They manage to free Bruce. Harley and Ivy get away, and Bruce is convinced their plans don’t have anything to do with the Joker’s.
On the police scanner, they hear about two crimes, a break-in at the bat research center, and one at Arkham. Batman takes the bat center, because he’s still a little worse for wear after being poisoned by Ivy, while the other two take Arkham.
One of the scientists working at the bat research center, Dr. Karl Lykos, has been taken. No ransom yet. An overweight detective, Harvey Bullock, is working the scene, sweating profusely. At one point he decides to sit in a chair, not noticing the whoopie cushion on it. Batman does, and tackles him out of the way, as it explodes violently.
At Arkham, Batgirl delivers an anti-toxin to an orderly named Westen. He’s able to wheeze out that Joker spent several minutes agitated, talking to Freeze, before leaving emtpy-handed. Freeze coldly refuses to speak to them. They’re skeptical, but call Batman. He thinks the victims’ names are a clue- that either Joker is hiding out at Low Pharmaceuticals, or the defunct owl sanctuary. Batman is closer to the owl sancutary, and they’ll take Low. Barbara lingers behind, feeling there’s more investigative work to be done.
Ivy creates the box garden Harley asked for, and grows a bat symbol out of it, offering to help her deliver it to the Joker. But she hesitates, then offers her thoughts, because she’d rather not give something beautiful to a man who doesn’t appreciate it, and will ultimately destroy it. This time, Ivy cups Harley’s cheek, to guide her gaze to meet hers, so Harley can’t ignore that Ivy is talking about her. “Because I’d rather this go to someone who appreciates its beauty.” Ivy waves her hand, and the blossoms change, instead becoming Harley’s black and red diamond pattern. Ivy kisses Harley, and it’s at first a beautiful moment… but then Harley pulls back. She’s still with Joker, still feels like she can’t do this, and leaves.
Batman arrives at the owl sanctuary. There are rose petals cut into the shape of bat symbols adorning the walkway. The large, open room is initially dark, until Joker is lit with a spotlight. Joker’s dressed sharply, think the date night version of what he usually wears, hair slicked back. One side of his head is conspicuously bandaged in what feels like both an homage to Two-Face and Hush. Joker gives a speech about their relationship, how important they are to one another, how he is the ying to Batman’s yoni.
The entire thing should read in Joker’s mind as affectionate bordering on romantic, and to the rest of the world as incredibly creepy. He reveals his grand gesture, Man-Bat, suspended by chains with his wings spread and lit with spotlights to resemble the Bat Signal. His chest has been cut open, the tissue pinned back to form a wet, pink heart in the center. It should be gruesome for a moment, until Batman says, “That isn’t Lykos.” He doesn’t wait for confirmation, but wings a batarang at the ‘Man-Bat’s’ wing, which tears away in a strange, wet clump.
Now we’re with Nightwing. He’s discovered a sonic emitter, and disables it. He’s not sure he understands it. It was broadcasting at a frequency that only dogs could hear, and not loud enough to cause any real damage. He’s attacked by Man-Bat, who was drawn by the signal.
We’re back at Arkham with Batgirl. She’s stopped at Clayface’s cell, noticing that the window looks different than the others. She opens his cell, but he ignores her. She reaches for him, and her hand sinks into his chest. It’s hollow. She pulls back her hand as Clayface attacks; she leaps out of the way, and closes the cell back up. She left an explosive inside Clayface, and detonates it, splattering him across the walls of his cell. Clayface’s window melts; it was made of clay, too, covering the hole through which the rest of him escaped. Barbara calls to the others that Clayface is loose.
We’re back with Batman, as ‘Man-Bat’ reverts to clay and falls from the ceiling, engulfing Batman. As he fruitlessly struggles, Joker admits that he must not have given Lykos enough tranquilizer earlier, so he escaped, and Joker had to improvise. Clayface was going to be a chocolate fountain immortalizing Batman pushing him into a vat of acid that attacked him once he got close. He also wanted an ice sculpture that would shatter into ice shrapnel, but Freeze refused to exchange it for his freedom, and didn’t even budge when Joker threatened Nora.
And that is when Harley enters. She’s furious, realizing she has been trying to build out a romantic Valentine’s Day for Joker, and he wasn’t even giving her a second thought, because he was busy obsessing over Batman. It’s Harley who kicks Joker’s ass while Batman fends off Clayface.
Nightwing throws a batarang on a line around Man-Bat, then gets dragged along into the air, literally only able to hold on for dear life. It’s not until Batgirl arrives that they can manage to wrangle the beast enough to give it the serum that counters his transformation. They manage to catch all three of them with ropes, and end up dangling precariously upside-down a moment, during which they share a brief little upside-down kiss. Nightwing is somewhat anxious, realizing he hopes that was romantic, and not him making their working relationship uncomfortable. “I’m pretty sure I got saliva up my nose,” she says, “and I’m just praying it was yours or mine, and not his.” Man-Bat is drooling profusely hanging above them; Batgirl realizes now she’s making it awkward, and gives him a second peck. “But totally worth it. We should just get down before things gets a lot slimier.”
Harley returns to Ivy. Ivy’s apologetic. She shouldn’t have kissed her like that. Harley’s apologetic, too. She’s been in an abusive relationship so long she couldn’t recognize real affection when it was staring lovingly into her eyes. But she taps the breaks. Because with the Joker’s spell over her broken, she recognizes she doesn’t want a rebound fling. She needs to figure out who Harleen Quinnzel is without Joker, before she can try to figure out who she should be in a healthy relationship. She’s very clear. “This is not a soft ‘No,’ Ivy. When I’m ready, if you want the first dance, I’ll save it for you. And if you find another dance partner before then, I truly hope they sweep you off your feet, because you deserve that.” They embrace.
We cut to Dick and Bruce riding silently home in the Batmobile. “So,” Dick says with a smile, “I imagine that wasn’t the Valentine’s Day you expected.”
“I had hoped to take Vesper to dinner. Tell Joker you have plans, and he laughs.”
“And you’re sure you haven’t done anything to encourage his twisted affections?”
“He’s a stalker, more dangerous for his self-importance. Nothing more.” For a moment they’re quiet, but Batman notices something in Dick. He’s happier than usual, even for him. “What about you?”
Dick can’t help but grin. “It was not what I was expecting, and yet.. one of the better Valentine’s I can remember.” Dick’s smile fades as they’re greeted in the batcave by Jason Todd in a Robin costume. “Bruce, this is a terrible idea.”
“I know,” he says. “That’s why you should train him. Because you survived me, and Gotham. You understand my faults in a way I’m too close to see. And you understand better than anyone what it takes to be Robin.”
“And if I’m certain there shouldn’t be one?”
“That’s between you and the kid. I might agree with you- there’s a reason I haven’t tried to replace you.. But convincing him is the rub.”
“You’re a real prick, you know that?” Dick asks, but he’s smiling.
“So you’ve told me,” Bruce says, grim, but behind it, he’s happier than he’s been in quite some time, and finally feels like his little family is whole again. Credits.
The Deal: this is the fifth in a series of pitches for the rebooted DC Movies. I’m using AI art to mock-up these pitches, which has proven to be more amusing than accurate.
We open on an experimental craft at an air show. The announcer tells us it’s Ferris’ newest innovation, flown by Coast City’s own Martin Jordan. His young son, Hal and his wife are there, saying goodbye and wishing him luck. She’s worried, and her fear is making Hal anxious, so Martin gives Hal his leather bomber jacket, then kisses his wife. He gives the audience a wave and then climbs into the plane.
The craft screams overhead. We’re making something of a play for that Top Gun audience, so we get some nifty flying shots before the engine blows. Jordan and Ferris communicate over the radio. Ferris wants him to bring the plane down safely, because of the investment it represents. Jordan tells him the plane’s coming down hard- and if he brings it down in front of the stands a lot of people are going to get hurt. We pan down, and see that he’s already tried to eject- and it’s malfunctioned- he’s made the decision to sacrifice himself to save other people.
We watch young Hal and Carol, transfixed, afraid, as they watch the craft descend. Carol grabs Hal’s hand tight, and we cut to the modern day.
Hal is a freelance astronaut, for all intents and purposes. He works for a Space-X competitor (technically sub-contracted through Ferris Air), run by Hector Hammond. Hammond is renowned (but also considered a kook) for his intensive personality testing in who he hires. That’s because his psionic abilities put him in touch, essentially subconsciously, with the emotional spectrum, and he can feel its power even if he hasn’t figured out how to use it.
That’s the reason in his employ Hammond has John Stewart working as an aeronautical engineer, Kyle Raynor working as a graphic designer, and even Guy Gardner as his chief of security, and William Hand as his chief technician, responsible for most of the builds. He puts the Ferris Air staff through the same process, which is why he works so closely with both Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan.
Gardner needs a little extra love just because his character usually… sucks. But he doesn’t have to. See, he was beaten by his alcoholic father as a kid, and as a result hated him, and hated booze. Seeking to help kids who were struggling through similar circumstances, he put himself through school, getting dual degrees in education and social work. And he was good at it. He was empathetic, and kind. But he was still angry. One kid reminded him too much of himself, and he was shaken; that might have been the end of it, but the kid’s father found out he was talking to the school’s counselor, and burst in. Guy didn’t see him there- he only saw his own father, only saw himself cowering, and beat the living hell out of him. He likely would have ended up in prison, except the ‘arresting’ officer was his brother. Guy had been an MP in the military; that paid for his schooling. His scores were off the chart, to the degree that police forces tried to recruit him when his time in the service was up. But he didn’t like that being an MP brought out his aggressive side, so he pursued education. His father, now a captain with the Boston Police Department, is able to broker a trade: Guy works with the Boston PD for a few years, they make the charges go away; this is viable because under questioning the father confesses to child abuse, and can’t remember whether he or Guy took the first swing. Guy is a pretty good cop, but it gives him the same opportunity for violence, also giving him a template for bravado covering up his pain. He’s recruited by Hammond, who gives him a dual role, working with his human resources in a hands-on capacity, but also running his security. In most instances, Guy is insulated from the day to day, but Hammond insists on Guy also being his personal security, too, often tasked with playing the heavy, bringing him directly into conflict with Hal, who has a history of belting authority figures.
Jordan and Stewart become fast friends. They’re both military men, ones who on balance enjoyed it. They become drinking bodies and confidantes. I’d model their relationship somewhat off of Tony and Rhodey.
They tolerate the dreamer who designs most of the graphics and handles the social media for Hammond, Kyle Raynor. He looks up to them; he’s kind of the Jimmy Olsen to Hal’s Superman.
And then there’s Carol. Hal’s always had an eye for Carol… and she’s never given him the time of day. The reason is the Ferris family views Martin’s death as their fault; Carol can’t see Hal, even now, and not see that little boy her family destroyed. This led them to be protective of Hal. They hired him when no one else would- after he washed out of the Air Force after hitting his superior officer. Hal always had trouble with authority, and that’s continued with the Ferrises. Hammond is pursuing Carol, but she’s reluctant, since at this point her company is reliant on his for its survival, so a relationship would put her in an uncomfortable position.
We establish all these relationships early, because once the plot starts moving, it’s going to be pretty nonstop. But it’s during one of these nights at the bar that John finally levels with Hal. Hal sees Carol as a cold ball-buster, and it’s clear from their conversation that some of what he feels about her is residual resentment over her family’s culpability in his father’s death. John’s getting more annoyed the more Hal complains, before finally slamming down his beer. “She fought like hell for you.” At first Hal’s confused. “After you washed out, the reason no one would touch you is insuring a wash-out is expensive. You’re a literal liability. But she fought for you. Fought Hammond, fought the board- raised enough of a stink that I heard it all the way in engineering. And you know why? Because she knows there’s more to you than your record. She knows why you decked that general- why you gave her and her father so much shit. She knows your story- your real story- not the one in your file, but the man you are between those lines.”
Kyle looks up from his doodling long enough to confirm he heard about her advocating in the marketing department, too. John hammers him a little more, about not knowing what all happened between them, but that he knows she was a kid when Hal’s father died- she isn’t who he’s pissed at.And that her father pulled strings for him, too; Hal’s scores were passable but not transcendent, so part of the reason Hal got to be a pilot was because of Ferris’ intervention.
We cut to Abin Sur. He has a prisoner in his ship, one taunting him for not trusting his ring, needing the ship, that his fear makes him weak, that his terror at the coming Blackest Night will be his downfall. To demonstrate this, Atrocitus uses his red power ring to tear his way out of Sur’s energy prison and attack him as he’s flying.
Hal is sitting in the cockpit of a new fighter. He has a picture of his father taped to the instruments, and while waiting for a clear runway, talks to it. “I think John’s right. I think… I think I put a lot of blame on a lot of people over the years, because I couldn’t understand why you left us- and I couldn’t be mad at you for being gone. I made things harder on people who didn’t deserve it. That’s not the kind of man I want to be, pop.” He gets told over the radio that the runway is clear, and they’re go for the test-flight.
Essentially, now that there’s a space force, there’s a need for a space fighter. Jordan gets it to break atmosphere, the purpose of the test, but then sees the alien craft hit the atmosphere at the wrong angle, taking heat damage as a result. He radios in that he’s in pursuit of a crashing craft. Hammond tells him to leave it- he’s completed his task, and every second more risks everything. Hal knows whoever is piloting that craft is going to need assistance, and their only hope is getting help there as soon as possible- requiring accurate coordinates of the crash site, though he’s largely unable to articulate this past his anti-authority knee jerk. Carol is in the room with Hammond, and tries to explain that’s who Hal is. Hammond dismisses her as having a soft spot for Jordan. She’s still in denial, but Hammond sees that Jordan stands in the way of the future he wants with Carol. He asks her to leave, to let him talk to Jordan alone.
Sur and Atrocitus fight but it’s clear that Sur has already lost, and isn’t even able to protect himself as the ship crashes. Atrocitus wonders if he’ll be able to take Sur’s ring once he’s dead; Sur whispers something to his ring, and it flies off his finger as they crash.
Hammond tries one last time to convince Hal to come back, telling him he’s risking the entire project. When Jordan refuses, he hits a button beneath his desk, and Jordan’s engine explodes, sabotaging his ejector and landing gear as well. Hammond taunts Jordan with the reality of the situation- he can let the plane fly level, and hit Coast City, or he can ditch in the desert like his father. Hal points the jet at the desert, before catching his father’s photo out of the corner of his eye, and realizing he’s about to die like him. “I get it. You didn’t hesitate to do the right thing.” Something green flies into the cockpit, and onto Hal’s finger. “Hal Jordan, you have the ability to overcome great fear,” the ring tells him, and a green energy sheath enfolds him as the ship hits the sand.
Jordan opens his eyes a moment later, floating towards Sur’s wreckage. Sur is dying. Sur touches the ring, and calls to Sinestro to help capture his prisoner and stop the Blackest Night. A surge of energy engulfs Jordan as the signal is sent interstellar, and Jordan passes out. He wakes to find Sinestro there. Sinestro explains that the strain of that kind of communication can take a lot out of a Green Lantern- especially a fresh recruit. Sinestro offers to train him while they search for Atrocitus. Hal bristles at being under this new authority, but also kind of gets caught up in all of it, too.
Atrocitus is mostly laying low. He knows the Earth is not without its own heroes, and hopes to locate his quarry without drawing attention, because while being the leader of a Corps., he hasn’t figured out how to recruit new members, so it’s just him, for now. It doesn’t take much; his ring is able to connect to the internet, and finds William Hand quickly.
Sinestro and Hal camp in the desert, where Sinestro preaches a parallel lesson, that to effectively combat an enemy, one must understand them. He gives Hal access to Atrocitus’ files in the Corps., usually blocked off without special permissions. Hal is horrified that the Guardians raised his sector, but Sinestro is cold about it- saying that they were a threat to all the sectors, and while the Manhunters were overzealous, hence their replacement by sentients- the war they fought was just.
The next day, Atrocitus attacks Hammond’s building; Hand’s employment there is public record, but his home address is not. That brings him into direct conflict with Guy Gardner. Atrocitus chews through the security staff, but his ring recognizes in Guy a potential recruit, and splits, one of the rings recruiting Guy. Guy, essentially in a fugue state of rage, leads Atrocitus directly to Hand, who was walking Carol and Hammond through a new innovation.
At that moment, Sinestro and Hal arrive. Hal wants to confront Hammond for trying to murder him, but goes to aid Sinestro, instead. Together they might be able to take Atrocitus, but the addition of Guy makes it too much. Hal peels off Guy, and then connects to all of his public records. We watch as pages flip past, as the ring scans information into Hal’s mind. “Wait,” Hal says to his ring. “It’s too much. It’s his whole life, but it’s also… the least important parts of his life. He isn’t… he’s more than that man on paper.”
To make it more dynamic for the audience we cut to a series of vignettes. We see Guy as a child with his father in a polceman’s uniform in his captain’s office. Guy has a black eye and a bleeding lip. “Rolly, you’re a great cop, but you got too much anger in you. You can’t take it home and take it out on your kids. This is the last time I look the other way. Understand?”
We cut to later, Guy, now an adult, a little ruffled, talking to a different cop. “Guy, you want to hit people, say the word; I can make this go away, and put you in a uniform. You’re my brother, and I love you, but a school counselor can’t go belting parents.”
“He was dad.”
“I know. I’ve seen the referrals to child protective services. He’s a real piece of work.”
“No. I didn’t see him. I saw dad. I was fighting back against our dad, the way we couldn’t when he’d hit us.”
“Christ. I know how he was, okay? And I know you took as many beatings for me as you could. But you gotta do something about this rage. Sometimes the only thing I can do is give it to the right people.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“Look, I spoke to dad. He pulled strings. Charges dropped… but you got to come work with us.”
“Then lock me up.”
“Look. Dad still sucks. Still tries to make me think we made up all those times he beat on us. But this is it, your best bet. No school will touch you, now. But you do your time as a uniform, and maybe one will take you on as a resource officer, and you can go back to helping kids.”
Later, the both of them, a little older.
“I did my time,” Guy says angrily.
“You’re breaking dad’s heart.”
“I don’t believe he has one to break. And I’m done hurting people. I found a job that will let me connect, and not with my fist.” He grabs his brother’s shoulder. “Don’t be dad. Get out of this job while you still got enough of a soul to be something else.”
Back in the modern moment, Hal puts his hand on Guy’s shoulder. Guy punches him, and punches him between every line. “You don’t have to be your father. You don’t have to hurt people. You care- I get that now. You want to connect- and not with your fists.” Guy stops, and tears the red ring off his finger with a howl of unadulterated anger, sending it bouncing across the floor.
Sinestro is being beaten, badly, by Atrocitus, who is using the moment to preach to William Hand about his destiny, about his greatness, about the bleak havoc he will reek on a deserving universe (one he blames for allowing the Guardians to run rampant). Things change as Guy and Hal, now both wearing Green Lantern rings, burst in. The three Green Lanterns, even with two of them being relatively green (pun intended), make short work of Atrocitus, and recapture him.
In the aftermath, Hal, now back in civilian clothes, finds Carol. Hammond has left, an extended sabbatical, leaving Carol in charge of his entire operation. Her head is swimming, and she’s freaked out by the increased responsibility. He puts his hand on her shoulder. “I don’t want to add to an already overfull plate, but… I know I’m not always the easiest man to know. So I wanted to thank you, and your family, for looking out for me. You didn’t have to. What happened with my dad, it was an accident; accidents happen, especially when you’re a test pilot on the bleeding edge. Dad loved being there, and he understood the risks, just like I do. And I know the risks you’ve taken with me, and I wanted to tell you I am so grateful for that, and so sorry for not being able to process all of this in a healthier way sooner, and for all the crap you took from me because of that. But there’s one last risk I’d love for you to take on me: would you let me take you to dinner?”
“No,” she says coldly. “But I’ll let you buy me coffee, and we’ll see how that goes.”
They don’t even realize Hector is lurking in the background. We follow him as he storms away, back to his room. He opens a safe, a lead-lined safe, and takes out a gleaming rock, and we see his head pulse.
We have two end-credits scenes. In the first, Hammond, still clutching his rock, visits Hand in his lab. He’s in possession of the Red Lantern ring Gardner removed- although he can no longer activate it. But during the fight his equipment got enough solid readings from them that he thinks he can reverse-engineer their power signature- he suspects his black ring can steal the energy of a Green Lantern ring and use it himself. Given enough time, he might even be able to figure out a way to power it himself. Hammond smiles.
In the second, Sinestro takes Hal to Oa, to speak with the Guardians. They tell him the first prophecy in the book of the Black has come true with the return of the first of the Five Inversions. They say they’re going to need to begin recruiting for the battles ahead, and Hal says he might know some good guys.
Note: I got really excited at the prospect of using AI art to mock-up these pitches, cause real talk, a pitch with pictures is a thousand times more exciting than one with just words (I think that’s how the quote goes). And AI is largely not up to the task. But we can still have some weird fun as we roll with this punch.
I’m going to try not to duplicate myself, despite this not being my first Wonder Woman rodeo. Or my second, for that matter…
Wonder Woman begins with a hunt. The Amazons are tracking a sacred deer, hunted only once a year and slaughtered in honor of Artemis. We cut back and forth, to earlier in the day, where Hippolyta wants her daughter to participate in the hunt, to really participate, to compete. Diana doesn’t want to; she doesn’t want to use the advantage of her gifts over her sisters, and she doesn’t like killing. Hippolyta offers her what she’s wanted so desperately for over a century- permission to leave to intervene in Man’s world. If she wins. Diana leaves, angry at her mother’s attempts to control her.
Many Amazons loose their arrows, but it is eventually Diana who overtakes the beast. She lunges at it, deflecting her sisters’ arrows with her bracelets. She refuses to kill it, and lets it free. The other Amazons are in awe; most of them can’t hit it with an arrow, but Diana captured it by hand. We intercut with earlier; Antiope pulls Diana to the side, and says winning doesn’t have to involve killing- in fact, in winning she can make sure there isn’t any death. The Amazons stare in amazement at Diana. One murmurs about her being a hunter to rival the goddess Artemis herself.
We pull back, and Artemis, the goddess, slaps the reflecting pool she was watching the hunt through. Hera, her adoptive mother is there, and asks what troubles her. She’s angry, at the deer not being sacrificed to her, at the Amazons daring to compare Diana to a goddess. Hera asks if mercy, and forgoing its flesh, is not itself a sacrifice. Artemis angrily tells her that a hunt does not end in mercy, and storms off.
We flash back, to show Wonder Woman has been asking to intervene in the world of man since the first World War. Every time, her mother consulted Athena, and every time, the goddess of wisdom told the Amazons to stay hidden.
We cut to day. Steve Trevor and Barbara Minerva are in a dogfight in the skies near Paradise Island. Her tail has Cheetah stripes; she’s developed a reputation as a Cheetah, ripping scores from the jaws of meaner and hungrier predators. For that reason one of her prized possessions is a cheetah-skin wrap she was given after the completion of a successful job, and she’s rarely without it. He’s pursuing her, but they’re both gifted pilots. The fight lasts long enough to justify featuring in the trailer, so we can go after that Top Gun: Maverick money.
Minerva’s jet crashes into the island’s invisible bubble, which keeps the Amazons hidden, even from satellite, an instant before Steve’s does. Normally Barbara could take him hand to hand, but his landing was slightly softer, since he had a moment more to prepare for the crash, so Steve triumphs, and pockets a canister of microfiche she had.
The Amazons find him standing over a bloodied Minerva. Being naturally distrustful of men, they believe Barbara’s story that Steve is a spy she was hunting, and they hold him captive. She gets free reign of the island, and begins stealing artifacts and sizing up the Amazons defenses.
This Barbara Minerva’s stepfather abused her and her mother; he made her feel small, inconsequential, vulnerable, so she joined the military immediately after high school. She told everyone it was to pay for her degree in anthropology… but both were means to never having to feel like a bigger predator’s prey ever again. Since graduating she has been working as a mercenary in world conflicts to gain access to sacred sites to pillage them, occasionally passing intelligence between shady groups as a side hustle (because when in Rome). That’s why Steve was after her- she has information that could be vital to stopping a terror attack. It’s not a huge detail, but it’s being orchestrated by higher powers; it isn’t a coincidence she ended up on Paradise Island. Eventually she finds a shrine to Artemis. Sensing a kindred spirit, Artemis lures a cheetah to the shrine, and it attacks Minerva, shredding her fur. She kills it with her bare hands.
Artemis blesses Barbara for her killer instinct with a boon, and turns her into her avatar on Earth- transforming her into the mystically powered Cheetah, in the hopes to use her new disciple to gain revenge for the snub during the hunt. She’s capable of transforming into a lethal cat woman and back at will- subterfuge being one of a hunter’s greatest strengths. She continues hunting for artifacts and intelligence, but also has new prey in her sights: Wonder Woman.
Diana wants desperately to leave the island. She knows with her gifts she could be doing so much good in the world, even if she’s naïve about what the world actually is. To that end, she splits her time between Barbara and Steve, trying to learn as much as she can, initially building a friendship with Barbara and a rivalry with Steve. But she personally knows the goddess of wisdom; eventually she starts to realize something isn’t right about Barbara, and that Steve maybe isn’t what her prejudices tell her.
During the day, Trevor is interrogated brutally by Amazons. At night, Diana sneaks in, to question him about world conflicts she regrets them not intervening in, and the state of the world. He sees it as a technique; she’s keeping him from sleeping, while also playing good cop. Eventually he snaps and confronts her, and her naivete convinces him that she really is genuinely concerned about the damage their inaction makes them complicit in. He tells her he’s been through SERE school- Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape- that the first principle of interrogation is that all the prisoner has to do is hold out until his intelligence is no longer valuable. The problem is he’s on the other side of that equation- the intel he needs to get out to the world to stop harm is only useful for a very short, very set period of time. Minerva was the go-between, putting teams in place for a strike. She doesn’t know what it is, only that she needed a diverse team from certain groups, to make an assault look like a coordinated attack from the Axis of Evil, potentially touching off World War 3, but at a minimum hurting a lot of innocent people and sowing conflict.
Meanwhile, Hippolyta uses her tiara (which will eventually be part of Diana’s costume) to open a portal to Olympus. She asks Athena what they should do with Trevor. Athena tells the queen he must be executed- but not just any execution, it needs to be shown to the world, so that they know Amazonian sovereignty is not to be infringed on. Hippolyta is troubled by the demand, but has learned over the years not to question the Gods, and sets about making preparations.
Diana discusses with Trevor her reservations, finally resolving to confront her mother. But on the way she’s attacked by Minerva. She’s a fierce, formidable woman, now, even beyond her mercenary skills and training, and nearly kills Diana before Steve intervenes, having picked his restraints some time ago. After helping her chase off Cheetah, he willingly walks back into his cell and puts back on his chains. Diana tells him he should flee, that they plan to execute him. He says he knows- that she’s stayed because of him, but when she leaves she might be able to pass his intel to someone who can stop the attack- that the mission is more important than one man.
Diana goes to her mother. Hippolyta doesn’t take much convincing, and agrees to take Diana to speak with Athena, believing that a goddess of wisdom must see reason. Athena gives a speech, a sweeping one, about the old Gods not being respected, and the Amazons, as their chosen daughters, similarly not being respected, that the only way to place both in the esteem they deserve is with a sacrifice. Diana squares to Athena. “I was gifted wisdom by the goddess Athena, and he is no Athena,” her hand instinctively goes to her lasso, to telegraph that her next step is forcing the truth from him.
Ares laughs, ending his charade. “I overplayed, didn’t I? Ah, well, the deed is done. You’ve delayed Trevor’s mission long enough there is no stopping what comes next, and the nations of the world will still blame you.”
They leave, and Diana asks if they finished studying Steve and Minerva’s planes- it turns out the Amazons have been reverse-engineering them since the incursion. Hippolyta says yes. Diana tells her to feed the information into their invisible dome- a gift from the gods to keep them hidden- that if she can form it into a plane it might be able to get her there in time to stop Ares’ plan. Hippolyta objects, because that will leave their island exposed for all the world to see, and Diana says, “We are rejoining man’s world, mother; that decision has been taken from us by Ares. But we can still decide who we are when we do.” Hippolyta allows her to go.
Steve flies, since the plane is largely designed after his aircraft; as it takes off we see Minerva latch on to the underside, before all three of them and the plane disappear.
Steve gives Diana the microfiche, and she’s able to form one of the panels of the ship to make it readable. She studies it on the trip.
The attack is on Brussels, and the European Union seat. Three teams, one Baltic, one Middle Eastern, and one Asian, attack the EU. The perimeter guards aren’t up to fighting off this many trained infiltrators, who start setting bombs. Wonder Woman lands on one of the teams, and proceeds to systematically take the teams apart, knowing precisely where they’ll be and prepared for the fight thanks to Steve’s intel.
There’s a final fight with Cheetah, who ambushes her at an inopportune moment- say as a bomb is about to go off near a pair of wounded guards. Minerva baits her, believing she can force Wonder Woman to sacrifice herself to save the men- which would make her worse than prey- she’s a willing sacrifice for the men around her. Diana lets herself be knocked towards the bomb; an instant later it flies into the air, where it explodes relatively harmlessly. Diana catches Cheetah in the lasso, pulling her back for one last haymaker.
An EU security team descends on Diana, guns drawn. Steve arrives, shouting that he has an Interpol contact, that she’s with them, and they aren’t with the terrorists- they stopped them. They get confirmation quickly- Steve’s handler knew the attack was imminent and was waiting for his intel to try to stop the attack.
We pull back, and see that it’s Ares rewatching Diana through the watery portal. He’s smiling. “You’re in high spirits, considering you lost,” Artemis pouts.
“Did I?” he asks.
“Didn’t we both?” she sulks.
“I sowed chaos, forced the Amazons to reveal themselves, and their nature. You taught your most ardent believers not to take you for granted. We’re Gods. We don’t lose, we just evolve the game.”
Artemis is getting tired of him. “I think you are about to lose, some teeth, maybe an eye.” He doesn’t see what she does: Wonder Woman is behind him, and throws a punch that knocks his helm off, and sends its sliding across the floor.
“Where’s Athena?” she demands. Ares believes they can strike up a compromise, but Diana isn’t hearing it. “Produce her, or I’ll be the only one doing any striking.” Artemis is now actively amused, and taunts him that Athena is going to be very cross with him, idly wondering what happens when a God and Goddess of war go to war. Then Artemis, always on the hunt, goes for the kill, and taunts him that Athena is the goddess of wisdom- intelligent combat and strategy. He’s the god of drunken bar brawls and soccer riots. You can see how much it grinds Ares, because he knows she’s right.
We cut to Athena, Hippolyta and Diana later. Athena’s apologetic over Ares impersonating her, but also restrained- she knows what would come of a war with Ares. She also knows what Ares’ plots have cost them. Hippolyta is glad to have her wisdom back to guide the Amazons, especially now. Athena is more concerned; her wisdom tells her that the consequences of Ares’ plots are not yet complete- but recognizes that her absence has allowed one particular conflict to grow, and bids Hippolyta to tell her daughter the truth. Hippolyta tells Diana that she leaned on Athena not just for her wisdom, but because… “You raise a daughter, hoping to protect her from the world, knowing you will utterly fail. I couldn’t stand the thought of failing to protect you… which became a failure of a different kind.”
Diana puts a hand on her mother’s arm. “A mother’s task is not to protect her children, it’s to ensure they have the tools, strength, and courage to defend themselves, and the wisdom to know when to show mercy.” She pulls her mother close. “You’ve protected me long enough.” She lets her go. “Now it’s time for me to protect our sisters, our home, our world.”
“Our world,” Hippolyta says breathlessly. “I dreamed of a day the Amazons’ world would not be so small… now I worry it’s grown too wide and too wild.”
“Then it’s good I have so many sisters to help me keep her safe,” Diana says, throwing an arm around her mother.
In an end-credits scene, Cheetah is being escorted away by Interpol in cuffs. They’re met by Amanda Waller, and a detachment from Task Force X to take her into custody. Minerva doesn’t look up at Waller, not until the very last word. “Dr. Minerva. You’re going to spend the rest of your natural life in prison- possibly an unnatural life- depending on what exactly Artemis did to you. There might be an alternative, though it’s not without risks. Some might even call it suicide.” Minerva fixes Waller with a glare; she’s practically feral, but we cut to black before she can snap her restraints.
END NOTE: Okay, so I feel I have to justify the image I shared this with. See, after attempts to get the AI to create a were-cheetah failed, I just had it create Wonder Woman fighting a werewolf. And for some reason, in one of them, the werewolf was wearing her costume. I don’t… know why. But it’s an amazing image. I couldn’t not use it (I don’t personally have that kind of restraint).
Back in 2013, I pitched this Wonder Woman movie. I still dig it, as a coming-of-age version of her story- a true origin for her.
The Wonder Woman Movie
In the Amazon throne room, Diana’s mother forces her to choose in a Solomon-like conflict between two Amazons. She finds a solution that seems to half-please all involved. Hippolyta gives 18-year old Diana a dressing down. She says her daughter has absorbed too much of the philosophical ideas about being an Amazon, without learning their practical application- that a leader must be prepared to be tough and ruthless. Diana is more concerned with what she saw as right, and storms off.
Cut to a US fighter jet. He’s flying in a joint NATO exercise over the Mediterranean, when one of the French planes breaks formation. Over the radio, the pilot, Steve Trevor, is informed that they can’t raise the pilot- he isn’t responding. A moment later, more excitedly, they explain that the plane has been ‘mistakenly’ armed with a nuclear warhead.
Trevor breaks formation to pursue the other craft. Over the radio, Trevor hears a command from an unknown source. “Kill the American.” The other French planes break formation, and attack him. Trevor manages to shoot down two of the planes, before his own jet is damaged to the point of being incapable of firing. Rather than let the rogue pilot escape with a nuclear warhead, he smashes his plane into him, and both planes go down.
Trevor wakes up on Paradise Island, surrounded by beautiful women. He asks if he’s in Heaven. Hippolyta tells him that for him, it’s closer to hell, and stomps him into unconsciousness. We cut to Trevor in a cell, looking haggard. He tells them what he can: his name, rank, and serial number.
Cut to Hippolyta, discussing with her inner circle the man’s presence and its implication- someone has discovered their island- and worse, he brought war to it. Both planes crashed on the island. The advisers tell Hippolyta there were casualties and she storms off, and into Trevor’s cell. She rages at Trevor for the deaths he caused. He’s visibly shaken by the news, and apologizes. He explains that the man he killed had stolen a weapon of great power- the kind of weapon no sane person wants to wield. “Peace through force,” she says, signaling a kind of understanding. But his presence is still troubling, and his methods still violent and imprecise. Hippolyta retires to think, but also calls her advisors.
Meanwhile, Diana converses with an Amazon of African descent a few years her junior named Lyta. Because of Diana’s mother, they know about Trevor, while it’s being kept secret from most of the Amazons at this point. And they’re fascinated. Diana admits that she’s always felt stifled on the island. She feels like she’s been a caged bird, or a fish in a tank, when she’s meant to swim and to fly. Her friend is skeptical, and tells her it must be terrible being the beautiful daughter and heir apparent to the most powerful and respected woman on the island. Diana asks if she’s never wanted to see more of the world. Lyta hesitates, because she knows that look: Diana is about to do something reckless.
Cut back to Hippolyta, now meeting with her advisors. The outside world has made contact. She knows they can’t maintain their isolation any longer. Her scouts tell her that US ships patrol the area near the mouth of the Mediterranean, where it meets the Atlantic, looking for Trevor, his ship, the French pilot or the bomb. Hippolyta discusses with her science and military advisors. Her scientists are skeptical that their cloaking tech will stand up to this kind of scrutiny. Moreso, they understand that while they’ve held a technical edge, they are going to lose it; a small island nation can’t continue to outpace an entire industrialized world. One military advisor, Antiope, wants to attack the ships, while the other, Philippus, says, “There will always be more ships.”
Hippolyta knows that there must be peace; perhaps through force- but peace is her ultimate goal. She tells her advisors that they need an ambassador. Antiope quietly tells her second in command, Drucilla, to interrogate the prisoner, to see what else he might know. Drucilla is about Diana’s age; she’s a mirror image of Diana, what the character might have turned out to be if she was a part of the Amazon’s military instead of its Princess. And yes, this is a stealth introduction of Donna Troy- Wonder Girl.
Diana sneaks into the prison where Trevor’s being held. She brings him food, and water. She asks him about his world. He assumes he’s being played- that she’s good cop, but he plays along. Diana hears Drucilla enter, and hides. She throws the food Diana brought him against the wall, then throws him into the wall after it. She sneers, and reels back to hit him. Diana intervenes, and uses a martial arts roll to redirect the attack and leave the lieutenant on her back. She’s stunned a moment, before realizing who attacked her. She knows she can’t brutalize the prisoner with Diana there, but needs to leave, quickly. “Your mother will hear of this,” she says, and storms off.
“And your commander will, too,” Diana hits back.
Cut to the throne room again, and Hippolyta is holding back her daughter while Antiope holds back Drucilla; they’re arguing, but it’s moments from becoming a brawl. Hippolyta asks if it’s true, and the bickering continues, until she directs her glare to Antiope. She sighs, and admits that it is. Hippolyta says that she’ll overlook the indiscretion, so long as she and her second can be more discreet in the future. Then she instructs them to leave.
Hippolyta tells Diana that they’re going to nominate an ambassador, decided by a trial. Diana’s excited. She talks at a fast clip about how the island should share its advanced technologies and philosophy, of all the lives they could change and save. Her mother forbids her from participating; she says by right the position should be Diana’s, but that she’s proven that she isn’t ready for the weight of the responsibility- tonight being the most recent example.
Diana storms off. Lyta follows her to the beach, still scarred by the wreckage of Trevor’s plane. She sits on the shore, and stares at the ships patrolling just a little ways off. The friend talks about Diana, and how she’s special- particularly in that she’s not a clone, like most of the Amazons. But beyond that, she’s always known Diana was special, that she’d do special things. She hated it a little, because it also meant she’d leave her. But she never blamed Diana- she can’t blame birds for flying away, it’s simply who they are.
Hippolyta posts her personal guard outside Trevor’s cell to prevent further attempts to harm him. Drucilla is at first annoyed, because it means they can’t further interrogate him. Antiope sees it as an opportunity. Without her guards, Hippolyta is vulnerable. She tells Drucilla to assemble likeminded soldiers for a coup, set for the climax of the trials.
Hippolyta announces the nature of the trial. There will be three parts, centered around the most important values of their culture: strength, wisdom, and stamina. The first test is strength- personal combat. Diana defies her mother, and stands for the trial. Hippolyta tries to argue that her daughter should be disqualified. Philippus disagrees; if they gods favor her, who are they to disagree?
Diana is well-known for her fighting prowess, and the gathered Amazons quickly favor her with chanting and applause. But coming up on the other side of the bracket is a fighter whose brutality is difficult for the other warriors to cope with, named Artemis. During their climactic fight, Diana allows herself to be bested, while protecting an Amazon bystander from some environmental hazard caused by the fight (debris, a loose spear, whatever).
Hippolyta argues for her daughter to lose. The advisors, in this capacity also serving as judges, discuss it, and one of them announces that “Strength is not to be equated with unchecked violence. On occasion, that means having the strength to lose with grace, and the strength to protect others over ourselves.”
Diana is presented the tiara for winning, but is warned that because it increases her empathy, it could tilt the rest of the contest in her favor, in particular the next event. She wisely sets it down at the table in front of her mother, for safe keeping, a move that pleases the other judges, and annoys Hippolyta.
Next comes wisdom, an oral argument for each candidate’s place as the Amazonian ambassador. Artemis believes that “Man’s world” needs to be brought to heel. Diana argues persuasively that, “It isn’t man’s world. It’s ours. We’ve spent too much time living apart from it, pretending like we’re above it. We have failed this world with our silence. We can brook that failure no longer.”
Hippolyta is furious that she seems to have won the crowd. One of her advisors points out, “She’s every bit her mother’s daughter.” She’s still angry, but it’s hard for her not to look on her daughter with some pride.
Diana is awarded the bracelets, and is permitted to wear them, as they should have no bearing on the next contest. Hippolyta reminds all the candidates that the contest is not over. Her daughter’s awards for besting individual contests does not rule her the winner. Because the trial is about their conduct, how they maintain themselves in the face of odds, against dangers and adversity- particularly the adversity of defeat. She looks at Artemis when she says this.
Next is the stamina trial, to quest for a sacred lasso. It’s essentially a foot race, over the island. But the island is filled with dangers, and animals our world has never seen. Artemis plans out a trap for her. She captures Lyta, and uses her as bait, to lure Diana into a fight with a monstrous lizard. It’s doubly clever, because violence in this contest will cause Diana to lose instantly. Diana manages to evade the creature, while saving Lyta, only for Artemis to then be attacked by the lizard. Artemis panics, and assumes that she’s about to die, largely by her own hand, when Diana rescues her, and gets the lizard to trap itself beneath the roots of a large tree.
Diana gets Artemis to safety, then goes back to the lizard. Artemis doesn’t understand, but Lyta does. “You don’t get it, do you?” she asks.
“It will kill her,” Artemis says.
“And it will die if she doesn’t help.” Even while the lizard snaps at her, Diana works to free it from the tree. She manages to get its head loose, and it immediately attacks her. She runs for her life. Artemis notices that she’s being careful where she leads it, particularly away from the other contestants, and away from the city. “They could help her,” Artemis says.
“They’d kill it. And maybe some of our sisters would be hurt, too.”
Artemis goes back to the chase. We see her climb a rocky tower, intercut with Diana, running through the trees as the lizard tramples smaller trees chasing her, getting closer with every second. Artemis lays hands on the rope, which glows. Diana turns, and the lizard chomps on her bracelets, but can’t break through them. She scrambles out from underneath it, and runs again. We see her run between two trees. Suddenly, the golden rope is pulled taught between them, and catches the lizard in the jaw.
Artemis loosens the rope from the tree, and runs at the lizard, and manages to tie the rope the rest of the way around the lizard. Once it’s done, the rope glows brightly, and the lizard lays down, docile. She unties it. She walks to Diana, with the rope in hand. Then she kneels, and presents Diana the rope. “I was never worthy of it,” she says. Diana refuses to take it. “Worth is something proven, and earned.” She helps her rival stand. “We’re worth our measure only when we continue to strive to be better.”
Artemis holds onto the lasso, until they reach the arena. She places it on the table before Hippolyta, beside the tiara, to make it clear she believes the lasso to be Diana’s. Hippolyta is first confused by the gesture, then understands it. She recuses herself from the final judgment; she realizes that she’s been feuding with Diana as a daughter she wants to protect, not the woman she is.
Philippus delivers a speech, “That true leadership means inspiring the best in all of us, even from our rivals.” She commends everyone’s performance- and says that she has never been prouder to be an Amazon, and mentions in particular Artemis as a woman she wouldn’t want to stand on the other side of a spear from- or a lectern. Then she instructs Diana to rise, and join them on the podium.
That is when Antiope rises, and stands menacingly over Hippolyta. “Your daughter isn’t going to be ambassador. Our ambassador will be the point of a spear.” She levels one at Hippolyta. At that moment, Drucilla runs Antiope through with a short sword. She’s heartbroken, and explains to Hippolyta that she tried to gently guide her away from her destructive path, but failed. It’s clear from the guards’ and soldiers’ reactions that the coup never went farther than her. Hippolyta asks Philippus to take the woman into custody, for debrief. Then she says that it’s her honor to name her daughter their ambassador.
In private, Hippolyta reveals two things to her daughter. One, the Amazons have reverse-engineered the two planes, and crafted one of their own. Second, as the Amazon’s champion, she is bestowed with additional gifts, bestowed by their gods: strength, speed, flight, hardiness.
Diana leaves the meeting with her mother. And then she runs, all the way across the island in the blink of an eye, overshooting, and running across the water, past one of the US ships, before taking to the air. A lookout on the US ship asks another seawoman what he just saw- a UFO. “I don’t think I saw anything,” she says, “and I don’t think you did, either.”
Cut to the exterior of the prison, where Diana lands somewhat roughly leaving an impact crater. She walks inside, and asks if Trevor’s ready for transport. One of the guards explains that the doctor hasn’t cleared him. Diana tells one of them to get the doctor right away.
The next day, she flies herself, Trevor, the remains of the two planes, and the bomb, in a stealth jet- based on the same tech that hides her island away. She tells him it’s her first flight, though it looks to be the same interface they use for all of their computer systems- which doesn’t make him feel at ease.
The plane cloaks as it leaves the island’s own cloaking shield, as Hippolyta watches from the throne room from the first scene. Cryptically, Philippus says to her, “You didn’t tell her.” Hippolyta says that her daughter has a world to protect- now isn’t the time to burden her with an Underworld, as well. Philippus is concerned- they’ll need her for the coming struggle. Hippolyta is convinced her daughter will come when the time dictates it. Essentially, Paradise Island sits on top of a Hellmouth- it’s the place on Earth where things from the Underworld can spill over. Gotta lay ground for that sequel.
As Diana’s plane approaches New York, Trevor implores her to let him contact his superiors. “You can’t just fly a nuclear bomb onto a US air field and expect to be greeted as anything other than a threat.” She lets him set up a landing at a US base.
They’re met by the entire base, including its commander, all pointing guns at Diana. He tries to arrest Diana. Trevor protests. “That woman’s an ambassador, from a nation so technologically advanced you can’t fathom it. They built that plane over the course of a week after looking at scraps of mine and the French one I shot down. You don’t want to start a war with the one nation we might not be able to beat.”
The commander hesitates a moment, before the US Ambassador to the UN walks out, and nods at him. He puts away the cuffs, and asks, “Is there anywhere I can escort you, madam ambassador?”
Cut to the UN. Diana is presented by the US Ambassador to the general assembly. Trevor is with them. She thanks Diana, and by extension her people, for returning the nuclear weapon, and for not proliferating their use- possibly getting in a dig about discussing international patent law over the tech in her plane. Diana looks uncomfortable at the applause she receives, as Trevor leans over to ask the ambassador how the hell the weapon ever got off the chain.
A diplomat sitting near them listens intently in his headphones. Through an unused set of headphones, Trevor hears the voice from earlier say, “He heard my voice.” The diplomat takes a pistol from his desk, and tries to shoot Trevor. Diana steps between them, and blocks the bullets with her bracelets.
Diana uses her lasso on the would-be assassin. It breaks the diplomat from his hypnotic spell. Trevor and the US Ambassador convince the police to give her a moment with the diplomat. He explains that he saw a therapist, and that he heard that therapist’s voice a moment before he tried to shoot Trevor, and found it irresistible. He claimed not to know how the gun got there. Diana believes him, but the ambassador’s skeptical. Diana hands her a piece of the lasso. “Tell me something true you don’t want to.” “Your age and weight,” Trevor adds. Before she can, Diana takes the rope back. “I would have told you; I don’t even like that my doctor knows.”
Trevor accompanies her to find the diplomat’s therapist. He drives, remarking that he can’t believe all of this was caused by some, “Psycho Doctor,” (the character’s comic name is Dr. Psycho). She asks why a woman wouldn’t want to admit her age or weight. He explains that some people think women have a shelf life. He says he thinks they get better with age.
We see men on the military base. We hear what they hear over their radios: “Stop them.” Suddenly, a tank drives out into traffic in the streets ahead of Trevor’s car. Diana opens the door. “Don’t stop,” she says. He tries to tell her that’s a tank, as she rolls out of the car. The tank fires, and she’s engulfed in smoke and flame.
Music swells as the fireball dissipates, and the concussion from the blast carries the smoke away. Diana has her arms crossed in an x in front of her, where she blocked the shell with her bracelets. She reels back, in a fighting pose, then sprints toward the tank. A machine-gun mounted on the tank tries to track her, only managing to pepper the ground where she’d been with bullets- perhaps occasionally requiring her to deflect the odd one with her bracelet. She reaches the tank, and tears the turret away. An instant later she’s on top of the tank, and drops her lasso around the tank crew. “Where is he?” she asks.
“The doctor is in,” they say in unison, before coming to their senses.
Cut a few hundred feet down the street. We see the outline of a plane flying overhead, towards the tank, and pull back to reveal the fighter jet itself, flying low between the skyscrapers. It begins to fire from a machine-gun, strafing fire towards Diana. She looks behind herself, at the tank crew who would be caught in the fire if she simply sidestepped. She stands her ground, and deflects the shots from the plane- though these knock her around a bit because they’re bigger, and require more jumping around to deflect.
One of the bullets ricochets back down the plane’s fuselage, breaches its engine and fuel, and the plane catches fire. She flies after it. The plane is about to smash into a bus full of frightened but also entranced schoolchildren. We see Diana’s reflection in the window as a young girl watches her fly in front of the plane, drop her lasso around it and yank it above the bus at the last second. “Whoa,” the little girl says.
Diana uses the rope to guide the plane to a controlled crash on top of a building. She rips the canopy off the plane, and the pilot fires a shot at her from his sidearm. She deflects it, and lassos him. He stares unbelieving at the gun, then manages to mumble an apology. She flies off.
Trevor has arrived at the high-rise offices of the diplomat’s therapist, and he’s got his service weapon in hand. He’s mumbling about her telling him, “Don’t stop. Not all of us can stop bullets, in ways that don’t,” he jabs himself in the chest, “hurt.”
He hears the voice again. “An excellent idea. Stop all the bullets.” We see the owner of the voice, a short, but relatively handsome man, in a suit. He points his finger as if it were a gun at his own head. Trevor follows suit, with his gun. He’s trembling, trying to fight it, but he can’t.
Diana’s lasso wraps around his hand, and jerks the gun down and away as he fires. “Don’t,” she says. “K,” he mumbles, and drops to the floor.
“You,” the doctor says, “should tell me how to get you out of that little number. Zipper in the back, snaps in the front?” He smiles, pleased with himself. She tosses the lasso around him, and cinches it tight. “Crap.”
Trevor gets up off the floor, complaining that it feels like he was kicked in the head by a donkey. Then he asks if he can kick the doctor. A helicopter strafes the building, filling it full of gunfire that conveniently misses the doctor. Trevor, huddled behind a desk, asks her if she can fight off a helicopter, and when a second appears, firing on them from the other side of the building, “or two.” She says she can, but innocent people will get hurt. “Stop them,” she says to the therapist. He picks up his radio, and sighs. “Stand down,” he says.
Then she tells him he’s going to explain what he wanted with the weapon. He tells them that the weapon was merely a means to an end. “What ‘we’ wanted was violence, chaos.” A world where a man like him could rule. She asks what he meant by “we.” He tries to resist, to not tell the truth. Then he screams out in pain, and passes out.
Trevor says that he thought she said that no one could avoid telling the truth under the lasso’s sway. She says that’s what she thought. They get the doctor up, and lead him to the reception area of the office. A befuddled guard is trying to keep a gathering of reporters outside, to protect patient confidentiality. Trevor remarks that the vultures descended fast. He tells her it’s a whole new world out there, now, and asks her if she’s ready to meet it.
“No,” she says, “I’m ready to join it.”
Stinger: We see Ares. “That was fun,” he says. A beautiful if bookish woman is with him, and seems bored by their conversation. She’s Athena. “That’s what you said after the Balkans. And the Gulf Wars. After every war. But it’s over. Your attempt to create a perpetual conflict failed. Again.”
“This fight might be over. But the world just got a little smaller. And as the world gets smaller, humans more and more feel the press of their fellow rats in the cage, and the more they trample over one another, for resources and gain. No, sister. I think this conflict is only just beginning.”
Couple of side-notes
The Amazons speak several languages. Their original language was an offshoot of ancient Greek. But as outside societies changed, and the possibility of discovery increased, they learned others, to be prepared for the inevitable contact- and to better be able to stave off conflict. They’ve spoken English primarily since the Second World War, when it became clear that the US would dominate world culture for some time to come. Though a few of the older Amazons still speak German- they hedged their bets, just in case the Germans won the war.
Fashion-wise, I think it’s silly if they go the full on toga route. It would also be boring for them to just go full modern. Instead, what I’d like to see is kind of a fusion- basically a parallel evolution of fashion from a Greek-heavy beginning, but then only marginally influenced for thousands of years by occasional contact with the outside world. If designed right, it would be modern, but almost sci fi, but with a hint of their togic origins- but always with an eye to practical active wear.
When James Gunn and Peter Safran took over the DC cinematic universe and decided to reboot it rather than continue the Snyderverse, I decided they shouldn’t get to have all the fun. What follows is my slate of DC Reboot Pitches, beginning with the hero who started it all:
This is the third in a series of pitches for the rebooted DC Movies. I have thoughts about how to retool Aquaman to draw out the elements of him that are unique, and build out his own niche within the broader DC landscape, none of which include turning him into the most obnoxious dude in your frat (and you know from obnoxious- you were in a frat [I kid- many of my best friends are obnoxious]). But I’ll refer you to that explainer post for info on the whys and wherefores, and try to stick to narrative here.
We start on a beach by a lighthouse, an idyllic couple stroll as their child, three years old, frolics in the surf. Adult Arthur narrates, telling us he always took after his mother. They explore the coast, looking at crabs and creatures. She makes sure he’s gentle with the creatures, despite his youth. Arthur’s narration tells us he always felt a kinship to the oceanlife.
His father… saw in it a different kind of life. We see him fishing, the crazy, dangerous, storm-riddled fishing they make reality TV out of. But we cut back to the beach. Young Arthur is smiling, but his expression changes as the surf runs red. Sea creatures float to the surface, dead. At first, Arthur’s father doesn’t know what to make of it, but his mother does- it’s a message, written in blood, to her. If she doesn’t come home, and now, the bloodshed will never end. She walks into the ocean, and disappears, as Arthur’s father holds the boy back, knowing he can’t understand what he’s seeing.
Later, he takes the boy fishing, trying to teach him his trade. But Arthur is horrified, certain he can feel the pain and terror of the fish. His father is understanding, but it opens a rift between them. Arthur loves his father… but he can never look at him the same way. Still, he tries to raise the boy as best he can, spinning wild-sounding yarns of Atlantis. His parents ignite in him twin obsessions: ocean life and archaeology. The day Arthur goes off to school, his father waves goodbye, and walks into the ocean, the same as his wife had.
Arthur graduates with a doctorate in both obsessions he inherited from his folks. But the more he studies, the more he learns, the more he begins to believe that his father knew more about Atlantis than his tall tales would imply. He manages to trace some artifacts to dig sites, with still further clues. A jealous colleague publicizes that Arthur is hunting Atlantis, that he’s a fantasist, wasting the school’s money and threatening its good name. His funding dries up, just as he reaches the most expensive portion of his research: underwater excavation. Reluctantly, he finds an outside sponsor in Hyde and Seek, a family salvage company with a reputation for acquiring rare antiquities for the highest bidder.
The Hydes have been developing proprietary diving tech, exoskeleton diving suits that are both stronger and lighter than the kinds of wearable submarines usually used at depth. They’re basically Iron Man suits built around diving. These are 90% of the way to Black Manta’s eventually power armor suit, with the main exception being there are lights that shine from the eyes, but they don’t shoot energy- yet. There are only two of them, so Arthur is going into the water with the Hyde patriarch.
Their underwater drone finds a site right where Arthur expected, and the Hydes broach divvying up the spoils. Arthur tells the Hydes legitimate museums and collections will pay a finder’s fee- that they can have all of that- he’s here for the discovery. The Hydes pretend to accept, but once in the water the elder Hyde sabotages Arthur’s gear, so that his oxygen will deplete too quickly, and his gauge won’t read properly. Arthur is entranced by the find, seeing not just proof of Atlantis but proof that this is just a way station outside the greater city- that he’s nearly at the answers he’s spent his entire life seeking. Hyde, both impatient and concerned every second risks their find, severs Arthur’s oxygen line, and his suit begins to fill with water.
Arthur convulses, ‘drowning,’ before his eyes shoot open. He takes off his helmet, and touches the place on his neck where his gills are pulling in water to ‘breathe.’ Arthur swims after Hyde, cutting the distance with great speed, and sabotages the elder Hyde’s tank the same way Hyde sabotaged his, causing him to drop a container of treasure. He swims down for it, even as Arthur reaches out to him with his mind. “Leave it. Your oxygen is running out.”
“Screw you,” Hyde thinks, “I’m not leaving empty-handed.” Then he realizes he didn’t ‘hear’ it with his ears, but in his head. “How am I hearing your thoughts?”
Sea life swim past them, each with its own unique voice. “You hear him the way he hears us- all creatures, above and below, evolved from the oceans- and the oceans recognize their champion.”
Hyde still refuses, and picks up the chest. But he’s slowing, and we start to hear the slowed thumping of his heart. He gets about halfway back, before passing out. Arthur swims to him, lifting him to safety aboard the vessel, but Hyde is having a heart attack. His son attempts CPR, but to no avail. “What did you do?” he asks Arthur, but Arthur isn’t equipped to handle this moment; he tried, damnit, and being confronted with his failure so immediately is more than he can bear, and he returns to the water. To the autistic son, it looks like a cold-blooded murder- one that will fuel his rage, aided by the one red gem that his father managed to hold onto from the treasure hoard that will hypercharge Black Manta’s diving suit.
Arthur’s upset. He sits in the ruins, halfway hoping to drown. “I shouldn’t have touched his tank,” he lectures himself. “I was so angry.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” a Prickleback tells Arthur. “My neighbor, a usually gentle hermit crab, got surprised by a passing school of clown fish, and pinched me, and I got so upset I ate him. It’s the natural order of things; you shouldn’t anger someone big enough to eat you.”
“I… didn’t eat him,” Arthur says.
“Not in the sense of consumption, no. But you struck back.”
“Don’t listen to him,” a different hermit crab says. “According to him it’s perfectly all right to vent your frustration at anyone weaker. Not that I think you blaming yourself makes sense. Seems it was pure hubris that killed the diver.”
“I’m having a nervous breakdown, aren’t I?” Arthur thinks.
“Let’s examine that, shall we?” an octopus asks, floating in front of him. “While certainly this is a unique blend of circumstances, is it more likely you’re hallucinating, or that your perceptions are, indeed, authentic. Wait… you didn’t eat one of the purple cucumbers, did you? Those can cause hallucinations.”
“Only in cephalopods, you eight-legged snob,” the cucumber barks back.
“But the most important question, Arthur, is what do you want?” the octopus asks. “You can swim back to the land, avoid the water and sealife at all costs. Whether or not this is an hallucination, you can convince yourself of that. But is that what you really want?”
“I want to know the truth. About my mother. About my father. About Atlantis.”
“That’s a good lad. Come with me.” They proceed back to the chamber where Hyde tried to murder Arthur. The symbols on the wall, only a handful Arthur was able to translate with years of study, begin to be legible to him, with glowing English letters hovering over their Atlantean equivalents.
“This language is ancient. It’s a part of the sea, and all the life that dwells within it. You could see it, just a little, even on land, just as you could feel who you were, even on land. But here, under the sea, you’re connecting with parts of yourself you never knew were there.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I’ve lived here most of my life, hearing whispers from the other creatures about Atlantis, its history, its myths, and its champions. For every age, there has been one- every age but this one. Because you were lost, marooned on the desert surface. Until now. And I know you the way every creature in this ocean does. You are a part of us, of everything. You’re finally home.” As he says that, they crest the hill, and the magnificent city of Atlantis sprawls beyond them.
Arthur causes something of a commotion, because the ocean life are following him. And the Atlanteans can feel it, too. This isn’t just some random stumbling upon their home, they feel the same pull as the rest of the sealife towards Arthur, even if it’s more distant. And he, in turn, follows what he feels coming off of them, that he’s needed, in the city center.
Inside, Ocean Master is orating. He views the presence of the Hyde and Seek ship so close to their capital as the last straw. Man has been polluting the oceans, damaging the climate in such a way that temperatures are becoming far more volatile, and now they are seeking Atlantis herself. The time has come to reveal themselves, and strike. Half of those present rise and cheer. The rest are silent. But one of them in particular recognizes the stranger who swam in, and abandons her seat at the head of the opposition. She is Atlanna, Arthur’s mother. She embraces him, and feels in him something she knows the ocean has been lacking. She turns towards the Ocean Master, and gives a masterful oration of her own, lamenting that the time for action is here, getting some of the pro-war Senators on board, before the turn, where she says that they’re better than humans, more civilized. She suggests they send her son as envoy, to announce to the world that the oceans are inhabited, and deserve a place at the table; she tells them he is the oceans’ champion. Orm argues against it, but there just isn’t support for a first strike when the opposition leader is offering her son to sue for peace.
They hold a celebration of Arthur’s return- the once prince of Atlantis is home. Atlanna tells him she returned to try to save the kingdom, and for a time, succeeded. However, when Arthur’s father came to her, Orm threatened to have him exposed and killed; she gave up her kingdom to save him and avoid civil war. She tells Arthur not to trust Orm. She takes him to see his father, who is kept in a reasonably well-appointed cell- and we understand why when Atlanna joins him inside. He’s a prisoner, and she lives inside the cell with him. “I’d complain, but the food’s not half bad, and it’s got one hell of a view,” his father says, staring adoringly at Atlanna.
Arthur insists he’s not a politician, which is why she sends Mera, her right hand. The pair set off the next morning, planning to go to the United Nations and officially declare Atlantis a nation, and begin the likely arduous process of figuring out Atlantean territory on the world stage. They’re attacked en route by assassins, who torpedo their craft. With the help of a pod of whales, Arthur is able to destroy their ship, as well, though they manage to take Mera hostage, and keep her alive in the hopes of drawing him out.
Arthur is able to make it to a largely deserted island, where he’s able to use his understanding of historical warfare to craft some low-tech booby traps, and take out the assassins. Mera proves capable of freeing herself, and had actually remained a prisoner longer to continue to probe her captors for information, hoping for proof as to who is behind the attack.
Orm, meanwhile, is back in the Senate chamber where he presents ‘evidence’ that their diplomatic mission was attacked, that even attempts to hail the attackers and explain their peaceful mission didn’t dissuade their violence- because humans are just that bloodthirsty. Even some in Mera’s camp are willing to attack the surface, given that story- even if she refuses to believe her son is dead, or literally anything coming from Orm’s mouth.
Arthur and Mera arrive just as Ocean Master is about to lead the Atlanteans to battle. He’s still naive enough to figure that they can just pop up, and accuse Orm, and that will be that. She understands there’s a momentum to these things- too many people have hung their hats on the idea of war for it to just stop in its tracks. “We can’t stand by and watch innocent people die.”
“War is almost entirely innocent people dying,” she says solemnly.
“No. I mean I’m going to fight. If Atlantis needs to hit someone- I’ll give them someone else to hit.”
Arthur swims, alone, into the middle of Ocean Master’s march. He tells them all, telepathically, what happened. Orm speaks through his telepathy to them, too, denying his involvement. Arthur admits that his father is a human, and he was indeed raised among them. He knows the great and terrible things people do. But he is also Atlantean, and has seen one of them lie, and betray his oath, to secure more power. People, whether on the surface or in the ocean, aren’t good or bad because of where they live, or who their parents were, but because of who they are. He’s spent his whole life wanting to find Atlantis- he’d rather die than let Ocean Master risk either of his homes like this.
Ocean Master attacks, and reluctantly, so do some of the soldiers. But suddenly Arthur is joined by all kinds of ocean life. They’ve been rallied by the octopus; Arthur was risking himself, but the animals know that he is their hero, too, and what happens if there’s a war with the surface. “Protect the champion!” the octopus cries.
It’s a line, I think, to walk, because the Atlanteans are using weapons of war, but the animals don’t actually want to do anything but stem the loss of life, so you’d probably have kind of goofy attacks like dolphins teaming up to knock the ‘wind’ out of a soldier, then one of them swims off with their weapon. Ocean Master’s sea horse bucks him off, and I like the idea that something lands on Ocean Master’s helmet, and spends a lot of time there, both making him an ineffectual leader, and also ends up squirting some eggs on him.
I think the fighting ends when Atlanna arrives, and tells them to heed the wisdom of the ocean, and remember they are a part of it, “and not the ocean’s masters.” I think the fighting largely has ceased, by that point, anyway, since the soldiers are more annoyed and bemused by the animals. Arthur tells Ocean Master he has a little egg on his face, as he turns to swim angrily off.
Back in their congress, Ocean Master pushes for Arthur’s execution, as an enemy of the state, or at least, his expulsion. Mera leads Arthur’s father there, where he heckles Orm, as having had his son clean his clock the once already- then says it’s no way to talk to the rightful king of Atlantis. Orm stammers out that Atlanna renounced her crown. Arthur hears a voice he doesn’t recognize, but it’s old, and learned. “That’s not how I recall it.” Arthur is the only one who can understand the old squid, who has been with Mera always, as her attendant. But he is able, by concentrating, of projecting the squid’s recollections into the Senator’s minds.
The squid provides the ink Mera uses for all of her official duties, including, as Arthur’s father points out, their marriage certificate. Further, he was there the night Orm threatened the both of them, to expose their marriage, her ‘divided loyalties,’ that he could use resentment of the surface world to ignite a civil war, one that, win or lose, would deeply wound Atlantis. Her only choice was to abdicate, and he would promise no harm would come to them.
Everyone’s shocked, but Mera recognizes Arthur is going to kill Orm, and demands that the guards arrest Orm for treason. Atlanna raises a hand to calm the furor, after that, and assures them that whatever form of government Atlantis chooses, it will not rely on the divine right of kings and queens, nor on might making right.
Behind closed doors, she tells Arthur he could be king. He says he doesn’t want it. “The first mark of a good executive is not wanting the power,” she says gingerly, but she also tells him what he wants may not matter. She says ultimately Atlantis will choose its destiny- that their role is to shepherd it, whether from its battlements or seated on its throne. His father claps him on the back, and says he did exactly that for Atlantis, and the world, and they are both so very proud of the man he’s become.
In an end-credits scene, we see a team of marines take control of the Hyde and Seek vessel. General Wade Eiling and Amanda Waller are having a heated exchange. Eiling says the ship broke several treaties and maritime laws- he wants to play it heavy. Waller sees something in the boy’s eyes- sadness, but also rage. She plays a hunch, and they go inside to talk to the younger Hyde, cuffed in an interrogation room. “Arthur Curry stole your father from you. How’d you like a chance to gut him like a carp?” His eyes shoot up at Waller, full of anger, and we cut to black.
Since the DCEU is rebooting, I’m pitching my own reboot here. I’ll likely continue on with my older pitches, too, but given that the Snyderverse is as dead as Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent (um, spoilers, I guess, if you somehow missed the first movie in the Snyderverse, but also still care about details from a 10 year old movie), my focus will likely shift to these. To differentiate continuities, the new ones will be given a DCNu tag.
I think I’m going to continue to ladle out details of my overarching plans, but I’m scheduling things to take advantage of the fact that we have a lot of well-known, even successful franchises and also a lot of question marks. By padding the more questionable stories between more known quantities, you aren’t going to accidentally derail the entire project if say Martian Manhunter doesn’t catch on with the public- because it might not, for the same reason that projects like “Black Adam” or even “Blue Beetle” might not.
This will draw on the write-up I did for John as an Unsuck Hero, but will hew more towards narrative.
We start on Mars. The man who will eventually be called the Martian Manhunter is just called John. He’s preparing to leave again, and his wife is uneasy. For years he’s been on the trail of a White Martian terrorist responsible for igniting a civil war between Green and White Martians that’s still raging. John hopes that by bringing the terrorist to justice, the war can finally end, and their family can be finally safe. His wife shifts, her skin turning White. She’s afraid, afraid his efforts could see them targeted, afraid of being exposed as a White Martian, afraid for their son and daughter. John shifts into his uniform; it’s not quite the one we know, and is somewhere between that and the Oan Manhunters.
In this continuity, the Oan Manhunters spread as far as Mars. However, they were ill-equipped to deal with a civilization that had no spoken language or even body language, relying entirely on telepathy, and so recruited locals to interface with the population, which eventually became a Martian Manhunter Corps., essentially their police force. The Oan machines have since been recalled, but the Manhunter Corps. continues in the same tradition, even keeping the name for its protectors.
John’s wife is an extra skilled telepath; the Manhunters usually employ them for long-range recon, but because she’s a White Martian she couldn’t pass their security checks, so she scans for John under the table. She’s the one who found the terrorist, hiding on Earth.
Manhunter pilots a ship from Mars. He talks to his superior in the Manhunters, who tells him he’s going out on a limb, because there haven’t been any unauthorized launches since the terrorist was last seen on Mars. John feels confident, which leads to the superior probing for information on his CI, but John plays coy, saying only that he trusts the informant with his life- and the superior warns that he could be- John wouldn’t be the first Manhunter caught in a separatist trap, tortured for intel then set on fire.
John lands, and scans the local population for information on what they look like, eventually settling on a detective, blue trench coat with an exceedingly high collar and a hat (I think his eventual uniform will incorporate elements of this disguise and his Manhunter uniform; you could even give him a red vest and a red belt). The people in his immediate area are predominantly watching a detective movie on the TV, the lead played by the actor playing John, so when he makes himself look human, he resembles that actor (I’d probably have the TV version wearing some prosthetics, just so it’s not too 1:1, otherwise he’d be in disguise as relatively well-known actor- someone likely to draw attention).
We’re going to do a riff on a noir story, here. There’s a femme fatale waiting in his office, and she pounces on him, kissing him passionately. He pulls her away. “Shiera, I said this can’t happen.” She corrects him, that he said it can’t happen again. “I know what I said,” he says coldly. She softens, asks if things are okay at home. He remains cold, because he’s angry at himself, and snaps at her that he didn’t go back home for gossip, he went to find a lead- and he did. She asks if she should get her wings, or even call in her people.
He tells her this is his fight- that if his intel is good, he’ll call for backup- that it’s too dangerous a fight for her- or really anyone who isn’t Martian.
John can’t just scan for his target; the separatists have developed a method of hiding from telepathy, something that is strictly illegal in their society. But his wife’s scan puts him on the trail, and he’ll have to track him the old fashioned way. He finds an apartment the White Martian had been using, which gets him known associates, leading eventually to the discovery of the terrorist himself- unfortunately he ‘feels’ John at that moment, and runs, so John pursues him on foot for a fun little chase through the rain, before their confrontation.
Their fight appears to be a massive shapeshifting battle, until the terrorist realizes the entire thing is happening in their minds, that John is trying to limit the fallout and exposure to the native Terrans. The terrorist tries to lash out in the real world, but splitting his concentration just makes him vulnerable in his own mind, and John’s able to subdue him.
John stops back at his office to say goodbye, to Shiera, to Earth, to this whole assignment. Shiera doesn’t want him to stay gone, and tries to justify their affair, largely to herself; deployed so far from home, she has an agreement with Katar. John says he doesn’t have that kind of relationship, nor is Mars as distant as her home world; he understands how all of this is different for her, but he’s betrayed the woman he loves. Shiera is smart, though; she tells him some part of him felt betrayed by his wife. If it wasn’t for her White Martian heritage, for her ties to the terrorist he’s been hunting- his eyes flash red and she doesn’t finish.
On his ship, the terrorist teases John. I think I’d make them both rivals for John’s wife’s affections- that before she married John, she was in a relationship with the terrorist, finally leaving when his extremism and the danger that placed them in became clear. He reads John’s guilt over the affair, something John takes as a threat to tell her. “John, she has one of the strongest minds I’ve ever encountered. She already knows. She’s just waiting for you to be honest with her. She deserves at least that.” John says he doesn’t think he should be taking relationship advice from a terrorist. “Remember, I know her at least as well as you do.” John delivers him to a cell.
John confronts his wife with the truth of his affair. She’s… very understanding, all things considered. She knows their life together was never easy, but as the civil war mounted, she became consumed with her fear. She knew hiding her put a strain on him, but she could barely contain her own fears over their children. She left him alone in their relationship, just as surely as he left her on his missions. It’s not a justification, but she is keenly aware of their circumstances.
On Mars a psychic disease quickly becomes a pandemic. The infection pattern first makes the Manhunters believe it’s a deliberate attack, until they isolate it down to psychic contact with John’s prisoner- but given the nearly constant contact of Martian telepathy, universal spread occurs quickly. Most horrifically, the disease burns out the Martian host- literally using the Martian’s powers to set fire to the body, utilizing the species long-standing fear of their vulnerability to fire as the catalyst, taking over control of their shapeshifting to move their cells together to set them alight.
John’s wife starts to smoke first, but their son is behind her only a moment. John holds them, and their daughter, and as they burst into flames, he screams out.
We cut to later, John walking onto the planet’s surface. Every building has fire and smoke rising out of it. He flies to his headquarters, smashing through the walls and into the cell of the terrorist. At first the terrorist is confused, then reads it on John’s face, and says he would never do anything to harm John’s wife. Then he makes the mistake of asking John what he did. John flips out, and punches him a few miles, catching him even before he can impact the surface and tackling him into a mountain. The terrorist is grief-stricken in his own way, and as John hits him tells him how he got to Earth, that he was pulled there by a scientist, the same scientist who created their telepathic blocks, who was working with them on a weapon to kill Green Martians. He’s horrified at the realization that he was that weapon- that his hubris was used to infect his own people, too.
The only Martian population untouched by the plague are the separatists living underground in hiding- the terrorist’s people. John tells the White Martian that suspended animation is the only plausible cure- that he knows they have the tech, and the separatist agrees to safeguard his people while John deals with the double-crossing scientist.
John goes to Earth, to hunt down the man he now believes responsible. First he stops back at his office, and talks to Shiera. This is where we reveal that his daughter survived- though technically, while he raised her, she’s biologically the separatist’s spawn. He tells Shiera to protect Megan with her life, and she agrees to. After he leaves, Megan asks if she’s going to die like her mother and brother. Shiera tells her that according to her scans, both she and John have a subtle mutation- one she learned from him, that made them impervious to the psychic virus- but that they’re carriers, that the disease could mutate itself and attack them anew at any moment.
John tracks down our mad scientist. I know in my previous write-up I suggested creating someone new, but I may have a more elegant solution, here: the mad scientist is Vandal Savage. At first he tried to partner with the White Martian separatist, thinking he could use them as his own army of supermen, but it quickly became obvious that the White Martians viewed the Greens as their inferiors- that if they ever came to Earth it would be as conquerors. So he decided to wipe the Martians off the board completely, aware that he had an easy scapegoat in the separatist, and very little likelihood of blowback.
We cut back, to the White Martian using the machinery to put the rest of the White Martians into suspended animation remotely. He hallucinates John’s wife. She tells him to go into suspended animation. He’s worried that he might accidentally infect the other White Martians. She starts to burn in front of him; he tries to apologize. She tells him it doesn’t matter; she’s dead, he’s just trying to assuage his own guilt. “You don’t need to,” she says. “You didn’t do this.” He says he knows who did. We see a Martian ship launch, and cut back to John and Vandal.
They have a quick dust-up, but the nature of the fight changes when Vandal discovers John was exposed and survived, as Vandal’s curiosity leads him to ask questions even as he’s using a combination of science and magic to keep John (barely) at bay- and John realizes Vandal might be able to cure Megan, so she isn’t a ticking time bomb, and he starts counter-interrogating to that effect, and it starts to look like they might be able to come to some kind of agreement- until the White Martian bursts through the wall, his fury dwarfing John’s. A desperate three way fight ensues, John and Vandal barely able to hold back the White Martian’s assault. He’s hurt and confused by John’s intervention, cursing the fact that he’s the other last Martian projecting his guilt onto John for failing to save the woman they both loved.
“We are not the last,” John says, and telepathically connects the Separatist to Megan, and the antagonist drops to his knees, whispering his daughter’s name. “He lives, so she can.”
So now the White Martian is going to play bad cop with Savage. “You heard the Manhunter. You’re going to develop a cure, and give us two doses, which we’ll administer at random, so if your cure doesn’t work, or harms us, there will be one of us left to end you. And if it’s me, I’m killing everyone sharing even a single strand of your DNA- your line burned off the face of the planet. And the ones who knew you, remembered you fondly, they’ll die screaming.”
“I’m not sure it would be any great loss. Most of my children weren’t worth the hour it took to make them.”
“Not even Cassandra or Scandal? To say nothing of the fact that, by your own estimates, a full ten percent of the population bear some small part of you.”
“Okay,” John says, “I think he gets the idea.”
“So you’re the good cop, then?” Savage asks.
John spins on him, predatory and alien. “I am a father. You killed one of my children, and the mother to both. And the authority that might have checked my anger died when you killed my world.”
“So you’re both terrorists, now?” Savage asks with a smile. “No judgment. I’ve been on the weaker end of a conflict; you use the tools you have at your disposal. Your proposal is acceptable. And…. for whatever it is worth, I, too, have been on the losing side of genocide. I am truly sorry to have given you that pain.”
After they leave, John tells the White Martian Megan isn’t getting either dose- they’re going to synthesize it and test it on the White Martians in suspended animation. The Separatist bristles, at first; but John points out two things: one, they’re not using their daughter as a guinea pig, and two, the White Martian survivors survived only because they were terrorists hiding out. He offers it as their penance- that as far as he’s concerned they’re still at war, and the war ends once the White Martians ensure it is safe for them to be released from their suspended animation.
“The other option,” John says, “is that the war continues. That you and I fight, here and now, and if I win, I’ll put you into suspension with the others, and I’ll ensure you never wake up.”
“My mind is open. Tell me I’m lying.”
“You would.” He stops. “You’re right. Not about all of it. With Savage we have to be strategic… and I couldn’t be the reason Megan lost her father, too.”
John flies back to Megan and Shiera. “I need to tell you something, something your mother and I hoped to tell you together one day. About your father.”
“I’ll… make tea,” Shiera says, as an excuse to leave.
“The only thing I’ve ever needed to know about my father was that you loved me.” She grabs onto him. “You kicked his ass, right?”
“I did. But things have changed. You and I are the last Green Martians, and the only White Martians who survived were terrorists. I’m sorry. I hoped to give you a better, safer world.”
“It’s okay,” she says. “It just means I get to help you make it, instead,” and shifts into a female version of his costume.
I’ve decided to write a new series of essays taking a character that sucks and making them not suck, or at least suck less. This exercise is, honestly, less about the characters under discussion, and more about understanding why they suck, and how to make your characters suck less.
Caveat: Every character has its fans. I’m not interested in arguing whether a character sucks. I’m not even saying any character sucks, actually. Think of it more like characters, over time, drifting farther from what made them interesting and unique, and growing barnacles and crud on its hull.
Yes, the boat metaphor isn’t a coincidence, we’re going to start with Aquaman. There have been many attempts to make Aquaman not suck. In fact, almost every Aquaman story in the modern era has been an attempt to make him not suck. Now, I’m not knocking on the creators who have worked on him; frankly, given their caliber, I’d be a fool to. I think, in fits and spurts, they’ve likely succeeded… but also, none of these have really stuck. So I want to think long and hard about why Aquaman sucks, and really do a full tear-down.
1) Aquaman talks to fish. So did Nemo, and the Little Mermaid. It’s not that he talks to fish that sucks. It’s how it’s been used. But let’s get one thing straight. He isn’t talking to fish. He’s commanding the goddamned ocean as its king. The movie version did this by making him command a leviathan… which is okay for your climax, but I think what Aquaman needs is to use some knowledge. The sealife he has access to is a toolbox, essentially no different from Batman’s utility belt or Superman’s powerset. He should regularly have at hand an entourage to handle the day to day. He’s s superhero sovereign, so there’s always a lot on his plate. You’d obviously want a shark, sure, as his enforcer, but you’d want some electric eels, an octopus for stealthily getting into and out of tight spaces. For giggles I’d have them all named for historical pirates.
2) Aquaman is just a dude whose dad boffed a fish. I’m not one to judge, and maybe you can say there’s some shared common ancestor not that far back down the evolutionary chain… but that sounds a lot like trying to add a romantic subplot into Congo with the sign-language gorilla. All kidding aside, this puts Aquaman squarely in the ‘chosen one’ category of protagonist, who by luck of birth has powers and -abilities. And that usually sucks (it’s the reason Harry Potter is a more bland character than Hermione). This fix here is more extensive. Arthur’s mom disappears when he’s just a boy. His dad raises him to be a fisherman, working on a boat. Arthur doesn’t like it. There’s a brutality to fishing that disturbs him, and he swears when he stares into the fish’s eyes, right before the cleaver impacts, that he can feel their fear. His dad raises him on tall fisherman’s tales, some mythological, but some… feel more real. They’re stories from his mother. Arthur eventually gets a dual doctorate, archaeology, and marine biology. He embarks on a quest to find Atlantis. His colleagues mock him, and his funding is pulled at the last minute, making him desperate enough he goes into business with the Hydes, who he suspects sell stolen antiquities. They find some of the ruins he originally mistook for Atlantis, and they sabotage his dive gear, intending to keep the spoils for themselves. Instead, he discovers that he can breathe underwater. He sabotages the Hydes’ equipment, enough they can make it back to the surface, but not with any of their spoils. Jesse Hyde refuses to leave empty-handed, and he runs out of air before reaching safety. Arthur discovers that he can feel the minds of the sealife around him, and through them finally decipher the ancient Atlantean language he had only been able to understand pieces of before. This leads him to the true Atlantis, still a thriving underwater metropolis. He uses his knowledge and burgeoning abilities to retake the throne from the usurper Ocean Master, and become Aquaman. So yeah, Indiana Jones with a knowledge of the oceans that rivals Batman’s knowledge of criminal psychology… I think that works.
3) Aquaman is just a suckier Superman, powers-wise. This one honestly kind of stings, because it’s… pretty true. He has strength, and durability, just not as much. Which is fine. In some regards, Wonder Woman is just a slightly less powerful Superman. But it’s also fixable, and Grant Morrison opened the door. He said that Aquaman was durable because he needed to be able to survive at the deepest ocean depths. I think I’d lean into that, that he is the ocean’s chosen champion. It’s not just that he’s king of Atlantis. It’s that he’s meant to represent all of the ocean’s denizens, designed to protect them in all of the corners of the Earth’s waters. So he can swim fast enough to be able to shoot through the air like a flying fish and land in any land-locked body of water. I’d give him some kind of underwater propulsion; simplest might be that he can essentially suck water in through his gills and shoot it through the bottoms of his feet, though aquakinesis is also a possibility, but he should be nearly as fast on water as Superman is on land. I’d probably even lean into his weakness, that he has to stay hydrated, but that his body is pressurized, so that he’s essentially carting around a ton of ocean water at a time, which he can release in jets of water. He still wouldn’t be able to beat Superman one on one (except maybe in a prolonged battle at the darkest depths of the ocean where Superman’s photovoltaic cells couldn’t recharge), but the ways his powers worked, and the things he could do would be more interesting and unique to him.