Pitchgiving 2021, part 4: Outsiders 2

We pick up immediately from the mid-credits scene, close on the picture Arsenal’s using of himself for target practice, from when he was Speedy (timeline-wise we’ll probably play fast and loose with this, but the general idea is that he and Ollie were friends, and when Ollie started heroing, Roy tried to help, but was too eager to get out there too quickly, and got the hell stomped out of himself, which required some pain meds while he healed… which led to him shooting heroin; he’s upset at Ollie for cutting him loose rather than helping him through rehab; Ollie’s perspective is that he was helping by cutting him loose, that he’d put too much on the kid’s shoulders and had no right to keep asking for something he couldn’t give). An arrow bullseyes him in the other eye. Jason tears the photo down, the way it tears leaves a sinister-looking happy face torn through the photo. “Self-loathing can be a great motivator,” Jason says, “provided it doesn’t become a problem. You sure you’re good?”

“Fiddle-fit, boss-man.”

“Don’t try to fool me, Roy; you know who trained me.”

“The Joker?” Roy asks.

Jason breaks the leg of the chair Roy’s sitting in so he falls forward, towards one of his arrows Jason freed from his target board. Jason stops him about an inch from the arrow jabbing into his throat. “You get that one crack for free. Next time you bleed for it.”

“I had been pulling your chain,” Roy complains, “but you ain’t convincing me the Bat would pull what you did.”

“There’s plenty of places he and I disagree, but reading people, knowing what they don’t want you to,” he slides a newspaper clipping out of the desk Roy’s sitting at, “I had a hell of a teacher.”

Roy tries to be unphased. “It’s just a newspaper clipping.”

“It’s that girl you failed to save.”

“I tried. She was pinned.”

“Wrong answer,” Jason says, his voice softening. “I was there, remember. We couldn’t lift it, even before Killer Croc knocked me unconscious. There was nothing you could do, Roy.”

“I could have asked for help sooner.”

We see a flashback, Arsenal trying to budge a bolder pinning a little girl under water, but he can’t even wiggle the damned thing; it’s important, for the arc of this, that it at least be feasible a human being could, even if we’re talking men who do those silly strongmen competitions where they pull semi-trailers with their teeth. It might make more logical sense that Roy has to swim rescue breaths down to her as the chamber floods; however, it might not be possible to film that in a way that it visually reads. Regardless, the girl points out that Jason is now underwater, too, and will drown without help. Roy swims Jason to a ladder or something, and by the time he gets back to the girl, she’s gone. Budget allowing, Artemis and Natasha arrive and move the boulder and help Roy with Jason- but the girl can’t be revived.

“Tash and Artemis were busy with Croc. They peeled off as soon as they could…” he squeezes Roy’s shoulder, “it wasn’t your fault. We are a band-aid in the violent patient wing of Arkham; we’re trying to save a world that wants to bleed itself to death. We save who we can. But we can’t save everyone. Probably not even ourselves. But so long as we can lace up our boots we do the job, and we try, anyway, to make this crazy place sane again. You did everything you could- everything I would have.”

“That’s not what you said, then.” I think we just cut to Jason, soaking wet, berating Arsenal. We probably don’t need (or want to hear it), but it’s brutal, cruel even by the standards of what you’d expect from this kind of scene because Jason is beating himself up, too; even in the present, he’s trying to save Roy because he can’t save himself from that guilt, from that pain.

Jason sighs. “World-class detection I learned at the feet of the master. But compassion… was never his strong suit. I was angry, and I was wrong, on the merits, and taking my guilt out on you. With the two of us, with our tech, maybe we could have got her loose,  but I lost focus, and got myself knocked out.”

“I’ll meet you half-way,” Roy says: “We both suck.”

“That’s probably fair,” Jason says. “But use it. Hit the weights harder in the gym. Remember it the next time you’re exhausted and don’t think you can go on- because you know what happens when you fuck it up. No pity party, no wallowing- you make the ones you can’t save count, by using them to help you save the next ones.”

“The Bat let any of you people drink?”

“You think that’s a good idea.”

“I neither want to be alone or sober tonight. Sounds like a perfect solution.”

Jason sighs. “Fine. But we’re planning the mission- and the moment you’re too sloppy for that I start pouring you coffee instead.”

“This gig doesn’t work out for you, something tells me you’ve a promising career as a dominatrix.”

“A male dominatrix is called a dominant.”

Roy gives him a side eye. “I know what I said.” We need to end this scene. I get addicted to banter, and we’ve got a whole movie to plot out, here.

Roy drops off a much sillier Jason a few hours later. Artemis is annoyed he didn’t call, until she sees him with Roy, and realizes he really has been with the other Outsider all night and not either patrolling without her or visiting strip clubs.

“I am going to give you the best sex of the last twenty minutes of your life,” Jason whispers loud enough the neighbors definitely hear it.

Artemis tells Roy she isn’t sure exactly what he means by that, but she is intrigued. However, Jason faceplants loudly across her couch- clearly in no position to deliver on whatever he promised/possibly threatened. She thanks Roy for seeing him home, then hopes he didn’t drive; Roy says he’s got a car waiting to take him back to his place.

Artemis sits on the couch. Jason’s still drunk, still a bit silly, but we also find out he’s got more of his wits about himself than he let on. She asks if Roy’s okay. Jason asks if any of them are. She ponders a moment, before saying Natasha seems fairly well-adjusted, all things considered. And Jesse seems to have a reasonable head on her shoulders, too, probably on account of being a scholar of super-hero history. He grins, saying he mostly meant the pair of them. She smiles back, and says they are screwed up in ways that are adorably complementary, and that she intends to hold him to his boast, and turns out the light.

The next day, Natasha and Jesse are patrolling Gotham, Natasha from the air, Jesse from the street. They’re speaking by radio, trying to understand what it is they’re looking for, but also just chatting, some girl talk- namely about how the Speedsters did start patenting their tech through the QuickStart company she’s now helping run- which Natasha is interested in, because she’s now helping her uncle John run Iron Works. Eventually, Red Hood breaks through to explain to them this is Gotham. With its night time freak parade you might think it’s all one big anarchic carnival, but during the day the city runs on corruption- that if Lex had plied his corrupt scheme here he wouldn’t have had to feed Ivo to the wolves, his polling would have gone up if his corruption was exposed. He points out that Gotham’s corruption is old, as much a pillar of the community as the Waynes, that it’s persisted through years of reformers like Dent and Gordon and even the Batman because it’s run like a company- you take down the head and they just promote somebody else. So while it’s possible you’d see a brutal gang like the Snake Kings take territory – the only way they keep it is paying for it- either in blood or treasure. They’re looking for disruptions, namely violence. Jason’s watching the financials of the hundred or so crime figures most likely to be involved.

Natasha doesn’t like this plan. “So we’re waiting for bodies to drop, or for the corrupt rich to get richer- riches that will be used to fortify their position through bribes and hiring more thugs.”

Jason tells her these aren’t their only irons in the fire. We cut to Roy, showing up at a gang initiation for the Snake Kings. They make him give up his weapons- no projectiles, including some guns and a crossbow. Roy, a little concerned, talks nervously to himself (really a concealed earpiece) about his odds in this crowd hand to hand. Red Hood, on the other end of the radio, tells him that they said he couldn’t bring in any projectile weapons- that didn’t mean he couldn’t turn weapons into projectiles. He also tells him Artemis is standing by to extract him if it comes to that- but they’ll have to try and mop up enough of the Snake Kings to cripple their organization- if they fail to infiltrate them this time they’re done. Roy says he’ll try to handle it.

Artemis complains to Jason on a dedicated channel and says she doesn’t like this- that it isn’t the Amazonian way to use guile and subterfuge. He basically tells her too bad, that if the Snake Kings get their asses handed to them by an Amazon, and think Wonder Woman’s in town, that’s a whole kettle of fish. But dressed like she is, she’s just one more distant cousin in the Batfamily- and even he can’t keep track of all of them. We only see her in silhouette for now, because it’s going to be more fun to wait for the reveal, but she’s definitely wearing a batsuit with pointy ears and the spikey cape.

We cut back to the air. Natasha dispatches Jesse to check out a shooting at the LexCorp. branch in Gotham. She’s in and out, quickly assembling clues. It’s almost an afterthought that she moves a woman out of the way of rifle fire before taking the rifle, unloading it and disassembling it at the shooter’s feet. I imagine she takes the ID out of the first dead woman’s purse and compares the address to the ID from the man’s wallet (and we see that she’s already tied him to a desk with Cat 5 cables). We next see her taking keys from a police sergeant to get into a filing cabinet. “It’s a domestic violence beef. Killed his ex, who had a restraining order on him, and looked about to execute any cute young brunettes with a passing resemblance. Not our guy.”

Natasha asks about Rupert Thorne. On paper, she says he just looks like a run of the mill corrupt politician, but before he came to Gotham, he was linked to organized crime figures in a handful of cities- pictures taken with the local bigshots, never involved in any kind of arrest. Red Hood breaks in to tell them that he’s just the kind of guy the mob would bring in as a face- a lightning rod for criticism and protest, but also always just removed enough from the action to act as a shield for the rest of their exploits. Course, if he doesn’t feel the mob are paying him his due, he might start working on a side hustle. Jason tells them to check it out, but to keep their presence subtle for the time being.

We cut back to Roy, as he’s punched in the face. Roy stumbles backwards, his puncher apparently confident, until he reaches for his belt, where he’d kept a knife in an overly-ornate scabbard- the missing blade for a moment pinched between Roy’s fingers before he lets fly, the blade sticking deep into the meat of his leg. He goes to pull it out, but Roy’s on him, and puts him in a sleeper hold, informing him that it cut his femoral artery, and the only thing keeping him from bleeding out is the knife sheathed in his skin.

King Snake, presiding over the fight, stands and declares Roy hasn’t won. These fights are to the death, and he must kill the man. He also moans about using a weapon as a projectile, which was firmly against the rules. Bane stands, and voices that he feels Roy has won; he’s cut the man’s femoral artery, and he will die without assistance, but in preventing the death, he’s also proven both his skill and his desire not to waste the Snake Kings precious resources. He waves away the concern about projectiles; they don’t want the entries to be gunfights, but that doesn’t mean a man shouldn’t be able to use what they left him with to his advantage. 

Bane gives a handful of gestures, after which the next three applicants attack Roy together, even as the one Roy wounded is carried off the field. King Snake is furious with Bane, says something to the effect of “How dare you contradict me in front of my Snakes?” Bane swells up to his full size (no artificial inflation from Venom), and tells him even at his prime the King Snake would have been no match for his Bane- and that he is most certainly now no longer at his prime. Then he pivots; he tells Snake King that if Roy can survive a fight like this, without the time to strategize, without being able to take the short-term pain to gain the advantage, then he deserves a place in the Snake Kings, regardless. And if he dies, then the previous fight was a fluke and he doesn’t.

I’m thinking, just for giggles, he’s up against a man with a long, pliable staff, another with a whip, and a final man with a thin machete. Roy gets the staff first, because he’s used to having to fight with a bow with a broken string. Then he gets the man with the machete to cut specific notches in either end of the staff, before stealing the whip, and threading it through the notches. Finally, he gets the blade. The three men, however, are formidable hand-to-hand combatants, and he’s still having trouble keeping them at bay. He manages to catch them off guard a moment, drop-kicking the first into the other two, so they’re lined up in a row, firing the sword from his makeshift bow through them as all four fall. Personally, I’d cast these three so that they could come back as Bane’s henchmen, that they weren’t using their signature attacks because Bane told them not to, but are otherwise formidable even then.

King Snake is irate this time, believing that Roy leaving them alive is a personal insult after the last match. Roy responds: “I came here to stand with men worthy enough to have my back. If you want me to kill everyone in this room weaker than me, we aren’t going to have enough men left for a basketball team, let alone a gang. But it’s your dime,” Roy grabs the blade, and is about to yank it up and out of them, likely causing fatal wounds. Bane rises, and stops him. He knows Roy could have aimed for the throat, or the head, even the heart, but he can see from there they’ve been pierced just below the ribcage; painful, debilitating, but intentionally avoiding their organs or spines. Bane tries to play it off as a playful thing- that his father would chop off Mozart’s hands if he played a symphony at a different tempo than he preferred- but that he has an appreciation for talent, and that Roy stays.  

Roy leaves to get some air, and is accosted by a handful of thugs, who blame him for throwing off the curve- now anyone who can’t fight 3 guys at once isn’t going to get their shot. Roy’s had the holy hell beaten out of him, and they’re armed with guns, and have enough distance Roy’s screwed. Someone in black rubber drops on all three at once. It’s Artemis. There are, honestly, a lot of permutations of why this would be funny. It could be a cheap Batman costume Jason bought her from a Halloween store, or one he clearly hand-sewed. It could be an ill-fitting Batgirl costume the taller, curvier Artemis is shoved into. It could be funny just putting her into one of the Snyder-era muscle suits just because putting a woman in one would emphasize how silly those were. I’m not sure what the best version of this joke is, but Roy snickers. “I could kill you with one of them; you realize that, don’t you?” She asks, and he snickers again and tells her it might be worth it.

Red Hood, over the radio, and cameras, we now see, switches his focus to Jesse and Natasha, and asks how things are going with Thorne. Natasha’s going over digital records, and tells him Jesse installed a network dongle she could access remotely. Jesse’s read two-thirds of their physical records- would have been done, but at about the 40% mark figured out how the records actually functioned as both the clean transaction records- but, once decoded, showed the dirty records, too- records of payouts to corrupt municipal authorities, contractors. Jason’s concerned she’ll be seen; she says people can’t see things that don’t stay in their vision longer than 1/220th of a second, and that she paces when she reads, anyway; the Speed Force, which protects her (and by extension everyone in contact with her) from the truly devastating impacts of someone moving at those speeds blunts the problems she would otherwise have moving through an office at thousands of miles per hour (otherwise the air she displaced would essentially create tornados in her wake wherever she went).

Jesse clarifies that it’s clear that while Thorne might be their cut out, he functions as a separate entity, a free agent- so that even if Thorne got nailed, they’d just move on to the next cut out. Natasha has the final piece- that isn’t represented on the paper records Jesse’s been scanning: Thorne’s been consulting for a Santa Priscan outfit, namely the mercenary corporation that took over the government, and now operates the gangs and drug funneling operations they’re targeting. The money doesn’t seem to even be acknowledged in any of his political fundraising or disclosures; it’s off the official books. Jason thanks them, and tells them that they’ve done good work- and that they should meet back at the hotel- he’ll be joining them soon.

We go back to Roy, within the Snake Kings compound. He’s at the head of a group lead into the inner chambers. He is greeted by the three mean he pierced together, now bandaged. One each grabs his arms, while the third puts a knife to his throat. “What the hell is this?” he asks. Bane tells him that they’ve had many attempts to infiltrate, from the Bat people, Checkmate, even a Gardner for the Superfriends. And from every law enforcement alphabet you’d care to imagine. They never cared. They let them in- if they passed this final test. The secret to the Snake Kings’ tenacity and strength is their Venom. They sold its weaker form on the streets, like heroin, if heroin made you feel like you could push over a car or a tyrannosaur. But the good stuff, the pure stuff, the strain Bane has hooked to his gauntlet- that was a high no one could walk away with. Strength you could never go back to living without. Riding the Venom meant pledging yourself til death to the Snake Kings. Most of those infiltrators were wise enough to pass, to walk away; the few who weren’t served the Kings, turned on their lives, their lovers, their coworkers, whatever they had believed in their life before the Kings. Venom isn’t a test- it’s a rebirth.

Jason is legitimately worried. “Roy, stall; I can have Artemis there before they can so much as call you a mean name.”

“I can handle it,” Roy says out loud, and snorts a line of Venom, and proceeds to beat the crap out of his attackers. Bane watches, with his hand on the dial of his own Venom supply. After thrashing the three, Roy spins on Bane, ready to attack him, too. But he stops, and says that he can’t stand people trying to kill him.

“Then you don’t like me,” Bane says.  Roy shrugs. He’s not against someone wanting him dead. But doing somebody else’s wetwork? That’s just low class. Besides, he knows if Bane really wanted him dead, he’d turn that dial and do it himself. He tells Bane he puts other people in harm’s way to understand who they are- but they both already understand who they are- the only thing left to be gained is violence. Bane opens his hands, removing the one from the dial as he extends the other to Roy. “Welcome, brother, to the Snake Kings.”

Artemis and Red Hood chat on their private link. She’s pleased with the progress of their mission, and underconcerned with Roy. Jason cuts off abruptly, saying he’ll have to call her back. Because finally, we pull back to confirm that, yes, Jason has been in the Batcave this entire time. And 2, that Batman is standing there, glaring angrily at him. “I asked a question, Jason: what the hell are you doing here?”

Red Hood shoots back that Nightwing called about his little Venom problem. Batman says he doesn’t have a Venom problem. Jason replies that Gotham sure as hell does, and given his history of… performance anxiety, Dick was concerned he might need some help- help he would never, not if he lived to be 9000 years old, ask for.

“I want you the hell out of my cave. Your mission’s concluded. I want you out of Gotham, too.”

“What’s your favorite pie?”

“Rhubarb.”

“It isn’t.”

“But that is the password, if you’re trying to find out if I’ve been doubled or mind-controlled. I haven’t. I just want you gone.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because you put together a team consisting of has-beens and wash-outs, all with a chip on their shoulder or something to prove, most of whom would content themselves with petty revenge. Maybe you just see enough of yourself in them that you want to give them the second chance you feel I haven’t given you. But you put a junkie undercover in a drug sting. You put an Amazon who was too extreme for other Amazons into a batsuit. Your judgment is beyond compromised. And I thought I told you I didn’t want to see that symbol back on your chest until you earned it.” Yup. Subtly, just essentially an indented detail like some of the latter-day Batsuits, Red Hood’s costume has a bat symbol carved into the chest. Eventually he’ll have the full red symbol he wears. I think it should probably be there from the moment we do the mid-credits scene in the last film- Jason essentially considering himself having earned it while Bruce… clearly disagrees.  

“Guess you really can’t go home again,” Jason says, trying not to show how hurt he is. Then he spins on his heels, a smile on his face. “No. You almost had me. I don’t know if this is your pride, or you trying to protect me after you failed so spectacularly to. But you don’t get to tell me not to help. I’ve got an agent in with the Snake Kings. And we’ve put together who the cut out is they’re using to pass a percentage to the local cappos to stave off a turf war.”

“Thorne,” Batman tells him. “I’ve known for a week.” But there’s something beyond intensity in him, perhaps a little pride. “We couldn’t get past the initiation. Everything I tried, every barrier, every countermeasure, anti-toxin or anti-dote, failed to even slow Venom down. Nightwing thought he could talk his way past it- when he refused to snort the stuff Bane tried to kill him. GCPD ignored my advice, put in their most seasoned undercover; Venom hit them so hard he put a bullet in Gordon; he barely survived.”

“Roy can handle it.”

“He’s an addict. Pull him out.”

“You don’t get to give me orders anymore.”

“It’s not an order,” he says, his voice softening. “It’s concern. They look up to you. It means they’ll do most anything you ask. Even when you have no right to.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him.”

“If you think that’s best.”

“I do.” Jason turns to leave, feeling triumphant.

“Just stay the hell out of my cave.”

That night, Artemis arrives. They discuss their progress. Natasha tells them that she installed surveillance equipment on Thorne’s phones, and still has Jesse’s backdoor into his campaign’s equipment. Arsenal’s tracker starts moving. Natasha checks, no emergency communications from any of the known Snake King associates. Jason says that he doubts the Kings tell Thorne everything- only what he needs to know to keep them good with the mob- especially if we’re talking shipments of something a rival might decide to try to take for themselves.

So they follow Roy’s tracker. Red Hood and Artemis ride on a Batbike together. Jesse, mostly a blur, runs beside them, with Natasha in the air overhead. Jason asks Natasha if she’s sure she isn’t exposed. She tells him that with the cloud cover and the gray sky, she’s practically invisible to the naked eye. The rear of a moving truck opens, the back metal gate hitting the pavement with a shower of sparks. One of the King Snakes fires a stinger missile at her. It’s one of the men who Arsenal fought earlier, specifically Bird, tipped off by his falcon. Jason asks Jesse to confirm Arsenal’s location; last thing they want is for him to get hit in the crossfire. Jesse zips up to the truck, then zips back as gunfire hits a sideview mirror where she’d been. She tells them he’s in the cab, and she thinks he took a shot at her. Jason tells her he’s probably preserving his cover, then says, “Natasha, stop the truck.”

She plops down in front of it, planting her feet in the pavement and pushing against it, stopping the truck. Bird leaps out of the back, onto a follow car. “Artemis?” Jason says, but she’s already flying through the air towards the car, letting a spear fly. It goes through the driver and into one of the passengers in the backseat, and she kicks the front passenger through the windshield. We get a quick, brutal fight scene where she fights four men in a confined space and just dominates; it’s more about speed and skill than powers, though- think John Wick. Jason brings his bike to a stop beside Arsenal’s door. Arsenal kicks the door open, and it smacks Jason in the face, bloodying him. Jason opens the door violently, prepared to smack Roy for his little Joke. But we see Arsenal’s eyes- he’s stoned out of his gourd, and his blood is up, his veins bulging, maybe his muscles, too.

Jason’s caught flat-footed as Arsenal draws on him. Artemis leaps between them, her shield on her arm, as she dives past, deflecting the shots. As she clears, Jason flings a fistful of red batarangs into Arsenal, the pain making him drop his gun. Artemis relates that she’s seen that look, fighting Norse berserkirs- that Arsenal isn’t himself. There’s a gunshot, hitting the grill of the truck; there are more Snake Kings at the overpass. Jason and Artemis exchange a glance, and she flies off to deal with the assault.

Jason and Arsenal spar for a moment, Arsenal demolishing him, before picking him up and throwing him onto the hood of a car. From the pavement, Jason tells Jesse to put Arsenal down. Arsenal is suddenly hit with several dozen punches, before falling over. Jesse stands over Jason. “So, when you said ‘down’ I assumed you meant as in lying and not as in like a quadriplegic St. Bernard with a bad heart.” He nods.

Jason checks out the truck, and finds out it’s full of Venom, big enough containers that Jesse can’t lift them, and enough of them that while Natasha and Artemis could maybe each carry one or two, it that would leave too many. Jason calls Batman, and asks him if he knows a way to ruin a shipment of Venom. Batman asks what chemicals they have immediate access to. He says he might be able to whiz in one, and if they weren’t currently shooting at the truck, he might be able to siphon some gas- but the tanks appear to be hardened against heat, and there isn’t enough gas for an explosion- besides which aerosolizing a truckload of Venom in the middle of a city seems like a bad idea. Batman complains that they aren’t giving him a lot of options. “You’re the one with the head for chemistry. We might only be able to hold this truck for another sixty seconds.”

“And where are you- nevermind, I got enough tower pings to triangulate. Can you start the car? Because you’re only a couple blocks from Axis.”

He tries to start it, but the battery took a bullet in the fighting. He calls out, “Irons, start the car.” She routes power to her outer shell and shocks the car to life- also blasting off a couple of Kings who had grabbed her. Jason gets it to turn over, and peels off. “Axis? Thought it was a Superfund.”

“It is .It takes an average of 12 to 18 months to clean up a Superfund site- and this is the third time it’s been designated as such.”

“And that will destroy it?”

“Even if they manage to clean the toxins out of it, would you be willing to take a hit if it might turn you into the Joker?”

“For some people that might be a selling point.”

“Not enough to build a stable market.”

Artemis tells him over the radio she’s led a retreat- which was easy, because the Snake Kings are all following him- some on foot (could make for an interesting scene as several Kings pump after him, T2 style).

Jason says they should keep retreating, but he’ll need one of the flyers with him- to literally pull his ass out at the last minute. He thinks a moment before clarifying- just him- he needs the Venom to be contaminated.

Jason bursts through a chained gate onto the Axis property. Jason checks the side mirror, and sees a King chasing after him, getting close. He drops a batbomb out of the truck, blowing the King off his feet. Jason asks Batman what the shelf-life is on the gases in his grapnels. He says 18 months. Jason says he’s pretty sure the one he has is older than him, and his team aren’t responding. Jason drives the truck up a ramp of fallen wall, and the van tips into a chasm over the pits Joker threw Harley into. Jason jumps out the door, firing his grapnel… which sputters, barely gaining another couple of feet before dropping limply. His oustretched hand is grabbed by Natasha Irons, who flies him over the pit.

She flies him back over the pursuing Kings. They’re firing at them, and Jason gets agitated. She tells him she’s been thinking about his cute little gas bombs, and considering the need for crowd control. Panels in her suit slide open, and a couple of dozen gas canisters shoot out, into the Kings, enough to put even the enVenomed Kings down. “Cops may not be able to get all of them, but they should get some of them, and that should make all our jobs easier.” Jason congratulates her.

Arsenal is in the Snake Kings infirmary. He’s woken by Bane, who puts a bow in Arsenal’s hand; he has his own, even heavier duty, slung on his back. Bane leads him out into the night, specifically to a rival organization’s headquarters. He’s skeptical of Arsenal- that in the infirmary he refused more Venom. “It enhances healing, counters pain. It also makes my men more predictable, and dependable.”

Arsenal’s in pain, and irritable from the detox, so he can’t keep himself from sniping back, “And pliable.” Bane doesn’t deny it, and we get the sense, from his voice, that he’s amused that Roy’s so much more aware than the rest- he’s grooming him for an important position in the Snake Kings. He tells Arsenal to shoot the man in charge, who, on closer inspection, seems to be a ventriloquist dummy.

“Not the dummy, the man with his hand up its ass.” Arsenal pulls the shot at the last minute, only cutting the Ventriloquist’s throat- it’s a nasty wound, one the Vetriloquist may never speak again after, but he’ll live, if his mooks can keep pressure on it while they wait for an ambulance.. Bane grabs him by the arm and twists it behind him, straining it until it pops loudly and Arsenal screams in agony.

Bane releases him, and says that he refused to kill a criminal on command- even when it would save his life. That strength of will makes him very dangerous. Bane breaks Arsenal’s bow, and sets his own down at his feet. He tells him it was custom-made, that it cannot be pulled by a normal man, especially not one with a fractured radius. He puts a syringe down beside the bow, tells him he read about him; he preferred needles when he apprenticed to Green Arrow, yes? He offers him a choice. Shoot up with Venom, and he can use the bow to stop Bane. Or stand and watch while he kills an innocent bystander. He picks a woman at random from the street, and jumps down a fire escape. Bane follows the woman into an alley, and is reaching for her when an arrow strikes the brick beside his head. He sees Roy, with a second arrow waiting, aimed right at him. Bane smiles.

We cut to King Snake stalking powerfully around his chamber. Bane is cool and collected, with Arsenal standing by with Bane’s bow. King Snake is furious that Bane is trying to depose him, to use failures beyond his control- failures in part due to Bane’s hiring choices, to push him out. But Bane isn’t similarly passionate at all. He’s cold. Collected. “I inherited the tactical brilliance you used to turn a losing mercenary campaign into a successful coup, but none of your weakness: your vanity or venality. I synthesized Venom from the sciences I taught myself while serving out your prison sentence- from an infant. If I must end you to take my rightful place, I will do so, with regrets. But I will no longer stand by and excuse your failures.” My thinking is that, like in the comics, Bane was part of the experimentation in the Peña Duro prison, working from the Miraclo serum used by Hourman back in the day as a template, to create a longer-lasting formula. Most prisoners died from exposure. While Bane survived, it still only gives him a short burst of strength. However, Bane had taught himself many things, including enough science that he was able to help the scientist fill in the blanks on why his Venom didn’t work. Once it finally did, the scientist promised that he’d help him get out of prison, he’d see to it that he was granted a full pardon. Bane said he will help him escape the prison, but not the way he thought. Bane killed him, and uses his credentials as well as the Venom, to escape.

King Snake complains that he has no right. Bane corrects him, that it is King Snake’s short-sightedness that would have doomed their operations, because without the tribute to keep the other gangs at bay, the Snake Kings would become a losing proposition. But Bane refused to carry out his orders; only a portion of their shipment arrived the previous night- the rest arrives tonight by alternate means. Bane tells his father this proves his superiority of mind, but that if he must, he will prove his superiority in strength, as well. King Snake relents.

The Outlaws still have Arsenal wired for sound; they don’t know whether they can trust the intel, or whether they’re walking into a trap. Jason says it could be a trap, but Arsenal is snared in it. He’s getting him out, and trying to stop the shipment, too, if he can, but it’s his mistake, if they don’t want to come with him. The other Outlaws, in grand speechmaking tradition, relate their own mistakes, which brought them to the Outlaws in the first place. “The Outlaws are where you end up if you’re too traumatized for the Titans, too violent for a Justice League, or too good for the Suicide Squad.”  

They do a Fast and Furious heist of the rest of the Venom, with Jaime Reyes again showing up to assist in the finale. He says he’s sad he missed Jason’s crow-eating speech- but agreed to help, because Natasha says she taped it. He’s sure it’s a lie, before Natasha plays some of the speech over their comms.

The Outlaws win again, this time echoing the Dark Knight Rises having Batman pick up the armored truck of Venom in a batwing and fly off with it.

The Outlaws then travel to the Snake Pit (what the Snake King’s nest is called) and soften them up for the cops, who are finally coming because the Snake Kings can’t afford to bribe Thorne without Venom to sell- who was in turn keeping the cops as well as the cappos of their backs.

Bane and his three henchmen are absent, as is Arsenal. They attack the Outlaws back at their hotel, initially humbling all of them methodically. The foursome all sport Venom upgrades similar to Bane. Bane doesn’t bother with Arsenal, buying him off, essentially, with the narcotic form of Venom he’s been hooked on, expecting him to stay out of it.

Roy is able to resist his demons long enough to help turn the tide, putting an arrow through Bird’s bird, and one into Bane’s leg, buying the other Outlaws enough of an edge it becomes clear Bane can’t win. Bane manages to escape, remarking that he’s learned a lesson: to isolate his foes, removing their friends first, their strengths second, and finally, exploiting their weaknesses. It seems like a win, until they realize Arsenal is shooting up with Venom- in fact, he’s ODing. Luckily, Batman gifted Jason a Narcan derivative he mixed that can keep himalive.

I think next is a tough love moment between Arsenal and Red Hood, where he locks him up. At first, Jason is angry at him, it seems, saying, “You told me you could handle this.” His expression softens. “But that’s on me. I shouldn’t have asked what I did. You wouldn’t take a gambling addict to Vegas and stay on the strip. I put you on the casino floor and told you to stay put. ,I” Jason takes off his mask, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let this happen to you. But I am going to make it right.” Roy starts chattering at him to let him out, thinking he can talk his way into an opportunity to get off the chain. “I’m getting you clean. Whatever it takes.” As Jason closes the peephole, Roy realizes Jason’s his jailer.

“Don’t say it,” Jason says. Batman asks what he would say. “I told you so, or any variation on that theme.”

“I meant there’s nothing to say.”

“That’s… not like you.”

I’m honestly not sure if this conversation is better, or him just leaving it there, and sitting with Jason. But because it’s a pitch and not an edit of the movie, I can have my cake and eat it, too. “Every one of you reminds me of myself in some facet,” Batman tells him.

“Let me guess: I inherited your temper.”

“I don’t think I was ever as angry as you are. Dick… Dick is the me I wish I could be, that I wish I could heal enough to be; he’s the hope I usually don’t have the courage to live. Tim has the mind everyone thinks I do.”

“But no one can take a crowbar to the face from the Joker like me and you.”

“Kind of. In a lot of ways I’m lucky. Born with money. Health. A good mind. But the one thing that felt like it was mine, that I didn’t inherit, was will. To keep going. Keep fighting. Survive, even when everything inside me told me to roll over and die. To get up, even though you don’t know where you find the strength to. To build something that will outlive you, filled with people who are better than you. And to shoulder your failures. I know what you think, Jason, but you are not one of my failures. I failed you; I know that. Failed to keep you safe. Failed to teach you how to channel your rage, temper it, into something you can use to change the world. But you haven’t failed me. Not a day.”

“Not even with these?” Jason asks, pulling his pistols.

“There was a time they would have been a deal breaker for me. Watching my parents die the way they did… but fighting with Nightwing, of all people, taught me every man has to forge his own path. My path can’t be yours, as much as I might wish it, as much as seeing you so much as hold those hurts.” He sighs. “But I will ask that you use them as a last resort; only when there’s no other way-  that you only take a life in order to save one.”

“You know I can shoot to wound, right?”

“In a fight? With a hundred variables, including enemies moving at least as fast and erratically as you do? I’ve almost killed people with batarangs, and a grapnel, once. I don’t care how cautious you are, you’re going to kill someone with those things. So you should only use them when that’s an acceptable trade. But… I didn’t come down here to ask for that. I came because, I think you’ve been reckless, trying to accomplish more, and bigger. That when I said I wanted you to earn it, you heard I wanted fireworks. I wanted Joker in bracelets, with a few of his teeth left in his skull to show you’d learned restraint.”

“What, even that wouldn’t do it?”

“It might have. But this was what I was waiting for. Consequences, you accepting them, with maturity and grace. We all fail, son. Even Clark, though none of us shoulder it quite as well. But our failures only define us if we let them- and that includes trying to run from them. You made a call, and Roy got hurt. Accepting that you’re going to do the hard work putting him right, and accepting your culpability, that was how you earned it.”

They hug. Credits. Mid-credits scene. Batman and Red Hood continue to hug. Jason says, “If anybody asks I’m telling them I earned it kicking Bane in the nards.”

“I will too, son.” Resume credits. End credits scene. We start on a radar screen. An operator tells someone over radio that that’s negative, still no atmospheric radio contacts. The person on the other end says “Good. Then we still have time.” We recognize this voice from Outlaws 1, belonging to Lex Luthor. We can also see his face, because despite the fact that he’s built himself some Iron Man armor, he still really needs you to know it’s him sitting in it, so the face is see-through. He’s standing on top of the LexCorp. Tower, holding someone shiny in his hand by the throat. “I meant what I said when I thought you were dead, John, the world really would have been poorer for losing your genius. Lucky for it, I’ve got it- backed up every little thought you and that precocious little niece of yours ever had. Your recent stuff, I think we’ll live without. You’ve started repeating yourself, John. It’s sad, really; I know how we’d all prefer to go out on a high note.” He squeezes, crushing the armor around John’s throat, before dropping the armor.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 3: Emerald Twilight

This would function as basically Green Lantern Corps 1.5/Justice League Interplanetary 1.5, in the same way that Captain America: Civil War was Avengers 2.5 (this sentence will be utter gibberish in a handful of decades). We open on an attempt to fortify Oa against Jordan’s oncoming assault, with John Stewart told this defense is their only hope of stopping Jordan. To safeguard their power supply, the Guardians send Kyle, Jade and Soranik Natu (I’m going to keep pushing this love triangle, because done right it’s good, clean character drama), because, “There is another.”

The basic idea is that Jordan wages war on Oa, taking on most of the heroes from Green Lantern Corps., and decimating most of the unnamed ranks yet again. Jordan is also doing something different this time around- he’s taking rings and/or absorbing power from the defeated Lanterns on both sides. He attacks the Guardians, and absorbs as much of their power as he can before John and the gang show up and give him some actual resistance, at which point he flees- absorbing the energy he can from the central battery.

Soranik Natu interrogates Sinestro, for information on Jordan. At first he’s too proud, and refuses to admit to his errors (reversing some of his growth at the end of the last movie, not because he can’t change, but because real change is rarely a flicked switch). She softens, and asks him to tell her about her mother. Sinestro tells her that when he first became a Lantern, he tried to save Korugar from a military junta. However, upon overthrowing the junta, the planet looked to Sinestro for leadership. At first, he hardly weighed in, his intention having been to free his people, not rule them. On one of his periodic visits, however, he caught the eye of Katma Tui, a passionate activist who wanted him to use his influence to make Korugar into the planet it could be, rather than the planet it was. The pair fell in love, and she encouraged him to put in place reforms to make the planet more democratic, and kinder to its lesser citizens. Over time, however, their love faded, and his duties to the Corps meant that he neglected both his love and his world, and in his name his hand-picked administrators created a dictatorship crueler than the junta it replaced, using green energy weapons to signify Sinestro’s power, and leading the people to hate Green Lanterns. When he finally returned, he found that Katma Tui had fallen out of love with him, and had given birth to their daughter. As one last show of love for her and their people, she asked that he put things right, and dismantle his government- quietly. Sinestro did so, orchestrating the overthrow to look like a popular revolution. However, his abuse of power was discovered by the Guardians. They stripped him of control of his home Sector and rank within the Corps.. To keep Katma Tui quiet about these indiscretions, they inducted her into the Corps. and gave her control of the Sector. However, Korugar still mistrusted the Lanterns, especially Sinestro, who they called ‘the Wicked’, and held Katma Tui as suspect, calling her ‘the Lost.’ While Tui vowed to use her power to protect her people and those like her across the Sector, she recognized that to give her people peace of mind she would have to do so from the shadows, while her sister raised Soranik in her stead.

Soranik asks where her mother is now. Sinestro admits that she was not among those he fought on Oa, and that she hasn’t been seen for some time. He tells her there are rumors she is one of the Shadow Lanterns, lanterns given the dual mandate of maintaining the quarantine around sector 0666 (I imagine they read this as, ‘Zero-triple-six’ just because reading it out loud as , ‘Sector Six-Six-Six’ feels a little too silly); he’s never seen her, or any other Lanterns, there, but given that he was violating the quarantine, was doing what he could to avoid those guarding the Sector. Soranik tries to transition back to the interrogation without hardening her manner, but he resists, until she calls him, “Dad.” Sinestro relates that Jordan called him a fool, that he mocked him for thinking he could prevent the Blackest Night, that he saw his sniveling fear as readily as a child’s. He told Sinestro there was no breaking the black wave- that the only rational thing was to cleave to their loved ones and mourn the dark death racing towards them- but that at least Hal could try to put right was Sinestro broke- that Sinestro believes Hal means to resurrect Coast City.

Hal proceeds to Earth. The human Lanterns arrive first, because they’re willing to spend energy to move faster- time is of the essence for them, while Jordan requires every last drop for what he’s about to do. They speed to Earth, and contact Justice League Interplanetary, who rally the Earth’s defenses and heroes to try and stop Hal. See, there’s a problem with Hal’s plan- the Lanterns really can’t create life; the closest such attempt by another, earlier Lantern, to undo his failure to save a planet from destruction, raised an army of half-alive monstrosities that nearly razed the entire sector. There’s also the very real possibility that in combining the green and yellow energies, he’ll create a release of energy that could cleave the planet in half. “So if he fails, everybody dies. If he succeeds, everybody dies,” John Stewart sums up. The heroes assemble messily. It might pay to have the major teams have an ‘assembling’ montage, so we see the Justice Society discussing the threat, and the League, and the Interplanetary League, Outsiders, Outlaws, Birds of Prey, etc.. We get a big, bombastic series of montages and action pieces, as the Batman-related characters try to defend Gotham, the Superman-related defend Metropolis, etc., all a feint to draw attention from Jordan’s real target, where Justice League Interplanetary and Stewart and the other human Green Lanterns are waiting, because they know what he plans to do.

Unfortunately, they can’t stop Hal. I imagine we get quite a few little fights between Green and Yellow Lanterns, until Hal descends. He takes on both Superman and Martian Manhunter at the same time, frantic that they’re spending energies he needs to try and resurrect Coast City’s fallen, lashing out at them more violently for it. I imagine he eventually just flattens everyone, friend and foe alike, taking all the rings and basically using his rings to make energy hands to operate the additional rings. At that point, Jordan knocks Superman out of the galaxy; we see a red and blue blur go flying out of the system and beyond. At the same time, he seals Manhunter in a bubble, squeezing the volume of air. Hal explains that the Lanterns have extensive files on Martians, and that increasing the pressure in the bubble will increase the temperature, until the Manhunter’s flesh reaches its firing point. Manhunter screams, instinctively turning intangible and falling from the sky in a ball of fire, which is, mercifully, extinguished on impact with the soil.

Jordan turns to the task of recreating Coast City. We watch it build up, a brick at a time, at first. We see Jordan’s eyes, as he processes all known information from government and internet sources about every citizen of Coast City, lingering when he reaches Carol, and he whispers, “Carol,” as his voice catches. The other Lanterns are helpless to resist, still ringless. Superman returns, and Stewart fills him in on what he missed, and asks if Superman can stop him. He tells him he can’t- not without killing those people. Superman points to the light constructs, and tells Stewart that they are, down to the atomic level, alive, that he’s in the process of reconstructing them on the molecular level, that it would be the equivalent of taking a million people off of ventilators at the same time. The light coming off the rising city dims for a moment, and we cut back to Hal, who grimaces, and begins to shake because he needs more power. A yellow light shoots from Jordan towards the sun, and we see a fireball sucked along it, as the city returns

Superman is troubled, but recognizes that he can’t let billions die to save millions. Stewart stops him, and tells him there might yet be another way. I imagine we won’t show much of what Kyle, Jade and Soranik Natu’s mission entails, because it’s kind of a reveal, but they could have a skirmish with some Yellow Lantern stragglers that’s going poorly, until there’s a purplish light, and we cut away, but here’s where it pays off:

Carol Ferris floats to Jordan, flying over the light construct of Coast City he’s trying to will back into existence. She tries to engage him, but he assumes she’s just another ghost haunting him. “I’ve had enough of ghosts!” a distraught Hal yells at her, refusing to stop… until she strokes his cheek, and he stops, and whispers her name, and asks “How?” his voice breaking.

She tells him she wasn’t in Coast City… but her heart aches for those who were. He asks again, clarifying- how is she there now, how is she flying? She uses her powers to peel away her civilian clothes, revealing her (probably less revealing than the one in the books) Star Sapphire costume. “What, did you think you were the only one who got to go on interstellar missions for remote alien civilizations?” she asks with a light laugh.

He maybe tells her that statistically he would have assumed so, yeah. She flies to his side, this time directing his eyes to the sky, and the sun, and what his yellow ring was doing to power his reconstruction. “What-“ he’s taken aback by what he’s done, the damage he’s done to the entire planet. Hal’s going to heel-face turn, here, and work with the heroes to fix the sun.

This is an excuse to gather all of the bigger brains of the DC Universe into one room. They’re somewhat at a loss, because none of this should be possible, and no solution should be workable. Hal insists there is one, that he has more computing power at this fingertips than they have on the entire planet- even if they were networked in a way to leverage it- which they aren’t, that if he can at least get the sun back to a degree of homeostasis, knocking it off the unstable path its on, now, that should work- it might not put all the years back on the sun’s dial, but stop it from prematurely going nova.

It’s totally possible to keep Hal alive after this part, but I have plans for him, you see, very black plans indeed… so I’d have Hal sacrifice himself to save the Earth. I think you could get a really poignant moment out of it, Carol and Hal flying towards the dying Sun to reignite it, her determined to do whatever it takes to save him, him determined to do whatever it takes to make up for what he’s done. But eventually she fails; her powers aren’t enough to protect the both of them from the heat and gravity, and she stops him for their tearful goodbye. She tells him love should conquer all; that if he comes back with her they can figure out another way, together. He tells her the damage he did to the sun is so severe, it will be irreversible by the time they could make it back to the planet. “I can’t be a man who deserves you if I don’t make this right. I’m sorry. You truly deserved better than me.” He flies into the sun, and a moment later, there’s a ripple of green and yellow energy that reignites the Sun- but its beaten to Carol by green energy pushing her far enough back to be unharmed by the it- Hal’s last gesture is saving the woman he loves as a Green Lantern.

Superman and Ion salvage the green lantern rings from the sun, leaving the yellow ones there. The depowered Yellow Lanterns are taken into Waller’s custody. Clark hands over John’s ring, and Stewart tells him they should talk, about the prophecy of the Blackest Night.

Credits. Mid-Credits scene: We see a red-skinned Green Lantern flying on the edge of Sector 0666 (I’d probably have some familiar-looking planets from the beginning of Green Lantern Corps.); she looks a bit like Soranik Natu. She’s flying in a relatively straight line before veering suddenly, narrowly avoiding a blast of red energy. I’m currently undecided; in the books, Atrocitus used the blood of the other four Inversions to power his battery. It might save time/amp up the threat if the other Inversions become Red Lanterns themselves; an unkillable hierarchy of ring-powered terrorists rightfully pissed about the massacre of their homeworlds… that sounds pretty terrifying. And of course they recruit the cat, because a pissed off cat Lantern sounds like fun. Tui manages to evade the Inversions, hiding in an asteroid field. The Inversions start smashing their way through it, flinging kilometers of rock away at a swipe. Atrocitus tells them to leave her, he wants the Oans to know they’re coming, because there isn’t a thing they can do to staunch the Rage of the Red Lanterns. Dex-Starr, a cat with a Red Lantern ring on its tail, attacks Tui in her hiding place, clawing at her face, before being torn clear by one of the other Red Lanterns, and scampering off after them; Dex-Starr doesn’t float, at first, but bounds from red energy ledge to another to gather up speed before flying. Tui sends out an all points bulletin: there’s another Corps. of Lanterns, and they’re headed straight for Oa.

Pitchgiving 2021, Part 2: Green Lantern Corps.

Author’s Note: Sorry about the late start, folks. Pitchgiving should continue from here on out as a weekly Friday post featuring a pitch for a new DC movie, and should continue on into Pitchmas, when we switch over to 12 Marvel in December. Happy Pitchgiving!

The story starts with a flashback. Sinestro leads Hal Jordan through Sector 0666; his ring complains that they’re entering forbidden space, and Sinestro has Hal give him his ring so he can mask their trespass. He’s reluctant, at first, but hands it over, and Sinestro silences it. He explains the Sector as the Guardians biggest failure. The predecessors to the Green Lantern Corps, the Manhunters, were robots; their moral inflexibility led them to raze the sector, killing every living thing within it during the war against the Empire of Tears. “Well, almost everything.” Sinestro is still in his Green Lantern uniform, though subtly we keep showing him with lighting that yellows it. They land on Ysmault, and speak with the Five Inversions, most prominently their leader, Atros, and their seer Qull. Atros is trapped in a pool of blood with walls that prevent him from clambering out; Sinestro lifts him out with his ring to speak to him, before dropping him back in. The other Inversions are crucified, stuck to the walls; it is their blood that Atros is drowning in (but it flows at just the right speed to replenish that lost to evaporation, making the mix ever more concentrated). They tell Jordan about the Blackest Night. Jordan, horrified, asks if they can stop it, and how. The Inversions set the pair of Lanterns on a course, instead, to cause the Blackest Night, utilizing their fear. Subtly, Sinestro smiles as he watches Jordan give into it (and we see him, again, cast in light that tinges his uniform yellow).

We head to Earth, as Kyle Rayner, feeling like an update of Marty McFly from the first Back to the Future, is woken up by his alarm. We see from his sketch table that he’s an artist, very manga and comics inflected. He stumbles, blearily, out of bed and starts to dress. Only it isn’t his alarm at all. It’s Jade, using her own ring to mimic his alarm. She offers him a slot in the Green Lantern Corps. He asks if it will make him green, and she smiles flirtatiously, and says that’s all her. He smiles back, and tells her green would not have been a deal breaker- it looks great on her. Continuity note: This Jade is the great grand-daughter of Alan Scott, along with her brother, Obsidian; their grandmother was Scott’s only daughter, fathered with his wife who remained his wife even after he came out, and raised their daughter with his partner after Scott disappeared with half of the JSA.

We cut to Oa, where the Oans have recruited a whole new crop of Green Lanterns. Supposedly, they claim, the emergence of Parallax has made them question whether or not the rings can be trusted to seek out those worthy themselves, and have decided to take a heavier hand in candidate selection. They claim most of the current Lanterns are dealing with an Intergalactic threat. That’s why there are multiple humans in this class: Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, Jade, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz and Sojourner Mullein; there are also other known lanterns from the books in their class, as well, like Soranik Natu and Laira. The first part of the story is one-half military training (with John, the one with Marine Corps. experience, becoming the natural leader of the human contingent, I expect with some rival squads under other named characters); also, to maintain some continuity between this movie and Justice League Interplanetary, John would need to have been trained as Jordan’s back-up, in the event that something happened to him- then got tapped when Sinestro’s forces started killing Green Lanterns, so he’s a little more seasoned than the rest. As we pick up steam, the human lanterns begin to question the Oans- something just doesn’t smell right.

Around the midpoint of our training, Kilowog, their trainer, offers Stewart a drink. He slips them information that leads the Terrans (Earthlings,  if you prefer to be known as dirtpeople) to a recording taken by Sodam Yat. He was tasked with following Sinestro. Yat finds him, and Jordan. Sinestro is still wearing both rings, only now Sinestro’s ring and uniform are yellow. He stalks around Jordan, who is crucified similarly to the Inversions. Subtly, they’re on the military base by Coast City. Sinestro is berating Hal- that he’s heard the truth the Guardians tried to keep from them, that the entire Universe will fall unless they can stop the Blackest Night. Hal tries valiantly to resist, even though he is terrified of what the Inversions told them.

The Terrans return to their truncated training, which culminates in an obstacle course where the teams have to disband and help each other to survive (something they aren’t told and have to figure out for themselves); for my money it’s Kyle who reaches out to save Soranik Natu, that spurs John to realize that this isn’t a fight any faction can win, and rallies them together, falling in line after Soranik when she’s reluctant to follow him. After that we get their graduation, with a big, swelling version of the oath: “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!”

The earthlings confront Kilowog. He shares with them another video from Yat. After Parallax failed its assault on Earth, the disillusioned Sinestro rescued it from its imprisonment within the Sun’s gravity. There’s a cut to the dark side of the moon, where Sinestro forged a new Yellow Lantern battery. Kilowog explains that the Yellow Lantern exploited a flaw in the Green Lantern rings, which made them susceptible to its power- that it makes sense, when you think about it, that willpower is naturally susceptible to fear. More video, of a group of Green Lanterns attacking Sinestro, a batch immediately recruited into the Sinestro Corps just by being exposed to this yellow light; others in the contingent tried (but failed) to resist, and were killed. Of those remaining, only Hal Jordan, from Earth, was able to truly fight back. But he was outnumbered and outgunned. He was able to prevent the outright destruction of Oa, but not to prevent severe damage to the central battery.

Most of the rest of the Green Lanterns died in an incursion to try and free Jordan and defeat the Yellow Lanterns, leaving only a handful on Oa, including their trainer, Kilowog. Now that we’ve established the rings also work as bodycams, that should give us an opportunity to have some Saving Private Ryan-esque special effects photography, to really sell the Lanterns losing badly.

What we find out, however, at the midpoint, is that things are even more dire than we realized. Sinestro took Jordan to try and figure out why he was able to resist. In trying to unlock his secret, Sinestro took Jordan back to Earth, where he tortured him, and threatened those he cared about, including anyone from the first Green Lantern movie we can convince to do a cameo (you could kill two birds with one stone by enticing Taika Waititi back to direct- I’m sure this story could pretty readily be mapped onto one about imperialism/colonialism). But Sinestro underestimated himself and the Parallax entity, and accidentally destroys Coast City while torturing Hal- which breaks him.

Sinestro is cautious about Hal’s conversion, and tells him he needs to swear it to accept his ring, and recite: “In blackest day, in brightest night, beware your fears made into light, let those who try to stop what’s right, burn like my power, Sinestro’s might!” Jordan glares at him, and tears free, and ringless beats Sinestro half to death, simply shrugging off his attacks, whether made with his yellow or Jordan’s green ring.

Jordan takes his ring back from Sinestro, then tells him to call his goons. A rain of Yellow Lanterns attack, hitting the place Jordan stood with a hail of yellow spears. For a moment we think Hal’s gone, and then we see that his constructs, now a yellow-green, were able to parry the fear-weapons enough to spare him. He walks through the Yellow Lanterns like they’re mist, snatching their rings and flinging them away, claiming the rings for himself.

The rings resist him, and Sinestro tries sneak attacking him. Jordan beats him, green ring to yellow, before Sinestro’s ring, too, is removed. Jordan now has a ring on each finger, and he gives the oath, “In blackest day, in brightest night, beware your fears made into light. Let those who try to stop what’s right, burn like my power, fright’s awful might!” It’s as he finishes the oath that his ring switches from green to yellow, too. Jordan’s suit becomes bulkier, looking more like a suit of armor, and a cape grows out of it.  

Hal then tries to use his stolen rings to try to recreate Coast City, succeeding for a moment before it all falls apart. He collapses, utterly defeated, until he’s roused from his melancholy by Sinestro’s laughter- that even with all of the power of his Corps- even his Corps and the power of Oa- you can’t just will people back into existence. Jordan strikes him, and Sinestro cowers, but Jordan walks away.

Sinestro says he’s surprised Jordan doesn’t kill him- but Jordan says he will, but he’s saving him for last- after he takes care of everyone who let this happen- everyone who put a demented little madman in charge of a weapon like the rings- including the Guardians and their Lantern Corps. Parallax leaps from Sinestro’s chest into Jordan’s, and Yat gasps loudly, falling. Jordan notices him, and charges at him, and the last thing we see before losing the video is Yat raising his hands defensively, as yellow constructs slice through his green shield like it wasn’t there.

The new Lantern recruits assemble for an attack on Mogo, the living Green Lantern World, that Sinestro was able to convert to a Yellow Lantern- which means that the only rings the Green Lanterns have left are those left by Lanterns who fell in the defense of Oa, and they don’t have access to more. Ganthet explains to them the truth of the lanterns, that it wasn’t their genius that led to the lantern’s creation, but the discovery of an emotional spectrum, and entities that seem to feed off and feed into this spectrum. At the heart of the green battery was one of these creatures, a being known as Ion; when the Yellow Lanterns attacked, they kidnapped Ion, and without it, the power of the battery, and in turn all of the Green Lanterns, is fading. So the battle is two-fold. On one half of the planet, Sinestro and his Corps keep the imprisoned Ion caged. They need to free it, or the war is lost already. On the other, Jordan is garrisoned with the other half of the Yellow Lanterns, protecting the yellow battery. The plan, then, is to send most of their forces after Jordan, hopefully diverting the Yellow Lanterns to the main battle, while a smaller team inserts in an attempt to rescue Ion. With the entity returned to the green battery, perhaps they can stand a fighting chance.

We split our humans in half; personally, I’d keep the newer and older ones separate, with the older timers doing the stealth mission. That would also keep tensions higher, since we could potentially kill off newer and less well known characters, but the name Lanterns are probably relatively safer (it might make sense to add a newer, completely original character to this story to kill, just to cement that this is a war and not the usual superhero patty-cake).

The team with Stewart, Rayner and Gardner wait in the shadow of a moon as the majority of the Sinestro forces rally to protect their battery from the main Green Lantern assault. We’d get a few moments of it, think the D-Day landing from Saving Private Ryan but in space, but most of this section would be focused on the characters who have been around longer. For my money, I’d bring along Jade and Soranik Natu, too, because I like them, and this is otherwise a little sausagey (plus, love triangle).

They sneak past a few Yellow Lanterns, incapacitate others. They work decently well as a team, despite Gardner being a hothead and John being enough of an authority figure for Guy to buck against; Kyle plays peacemaker, and between them they do well, until they hit Sinestro’s throne room. He’s got guards, and it takes some intense fighting before they’re subdued and Sinestro taken captive. However, the facility is massive. The battery has been hidden deep beneath Mogo’s surface, so deep, in fact, that they’d never get to it without help. So it’s fortunate that Sinestro is freaked the hell out. He felt the Guardians had betrayed them- all of them- and wanted to make them pay; he was fooled into thinking Parallax felt similarly. But he’s seen it with Jordan- now he knows real fear– not just for his plans, or his Corps, but for the galaxy- and there’s enough of the good man he’d been to want to help them.

Sinestro leads them, imprisoned in green cuffs, to the containment; as they’re lowered through a cavern dug through the planet, Sinestro casually whispers to Soranik that she “Looks so much like your mother.” She reacts violently, as if he had something to do with her mother being harmed.

Guy says he just assumed they were related, because they look alike. “That wasn’t racist, was it?” Everyone turns to him and says “Yes” in unison. They arrive at Ion’s prison. It uses a giant yellow ring wrapped around part of Mogo to generate a yellow prison to keep Ion trapped. While the others work to free the planet, Kyle is distracted by the entity behind the field. He’s drawn into the barrier, where it takes on the appearance of one of the Guardians, so as not to perturb him overmuch.

It explains that its friends mean well, but that it can’t survive in its current state without aid- that they’re about to kill it. So far from its battery, the only way it can live is through a host- provided the host can survive the process. Ion sighs wearily. He killed many hosts inadvertently until he and the Guardians discovered one another, and they were able to build it a containment that would allow it access to the energies upon which it feeds, while finding ways to utilize its byproducts. It doesn’t wish to imperiously harm another living soul again; it would rather die, than risk another unwitting life. Kyle says he’s witting… he understands the potential cost, but also the consequences if he doesn’t, for the Corps., probably for the Universe. He accepts.

We cut outside of this vision, to see the others manage to free Mogo by cracking the yellow ring, dissipating the field. They’re surprised to find the container gone, and Kyle doubled over. He’s not-so-subtly glowing, the green light growing in intensity. John asks, “Kyle, what have you done?”

Kyle stands up straight, turns towards them, and when his eyes open they glow green, as well. “Not Kyle,” he says with two voices. “Call us Ion.”

We cut to the planet’s surface, as they fly very fast. John’s lost control, but is still trying to reason with Ion. “I still think we should follow the plan; get you back to Oa. If we lose you, the whole universe loses.”

“Correct,” Ion says. “But if we lose the Corps., there will be no one to protect Oa. Our fellow Lanterns are falling, even now. And I refuse to hide while we lose any more.”

“What about him?” John asks about Sinestro. “He’s a war criminal- he started all of this. Taking him off the board has to matter more than a few more warm bodies in the field.

“I’ll watch the Wicked,” Natu says.

“What about you, Big Guy? Back on the side of the angels?” At first we don’t know who John’s talking about, until trees shoot up out of a continent below, forming the symbol of the Green Lanterns. “Well, with him, we just might have a shot.” At that, the Lanterns scatter, as a yellow blast shoots through the middle of them. They engage the battle.

It doesn’t need to last long, but between the addition of these troops, as well as, more importantly, Ion’s power, Mogo, and Ion himself, the Corps turn the tide. Our heroes land, reuniting with the other humans, to storm Jordan’s golden citadel. They fight a handful of straggler Yellow Lanterns, but find the yellow battery cracked, and a big smoking hole in the back wall where Jordan and the rest of his forces escaped. Our heroes fly into the atmosphere, where Kilowog and a few remaining Green Lanterns are seeing to the wounded. Depending on the rating we’re shooting for, they might be awash in a sea of zero g blood. Kilowog says that they did what they could to contain Jordan, but that he was more powerful than ever- and they were outnumbered ten to one. Stewart asks about their numbers. Kilowog asks his ring how many of theirs survive- and whatever the number says that the Yellow Lanterns escaped with 3 times their numbers- assuming none of their injured succumb to their wounds… Kilowog realizes he’s hitting the panic button a little hard, given that he trained most of them, and they look up to him… and says that they have Mogo back, and the entity, and Green Lanterns are always outnumbered- but never outclassed. He says the first round back on Oa is on him.

We cut to a montage, as the human Lanterns (sans Kyle) all discuss how they feel about things. There’s some controversy over excluding Kyle, but Gardner expresses what John’s uncomfortable to: they aren’t sure he’s exactly still one of them. John uses that as a pivot, which serves as a nice transition for Kyle and Soranik, as John says and Kyle mouths: They feel responsible for Jordan- he’s one of theirs. Soranik tells Kyle she knows how that feels. He asks her if she wants to talk about it. She says, “Nah,” and leans her head against his shoulder, “I just want to look up at the stars and appreciate how pretty they are, without thinking about the trillions of planets each with billions of life forms that we’re responsible for.” We pan up into the stars, and start the credits.

Mid-credits scene: We’re submerged in a vast pool lit by dim red light. We see an alien, muscular, whose body seems to be skinless, so his jagged, yellowed teeth aren’t encumbered by lips, and he looks like he’s constantly wearing a snarl; we recognize him as Atros from the prologue. He narrates, “I hear it.” He opens his eyes, which glow yellow. “Beating like a war drum.” As a brighter light illuminates the pool in the shape reminiscent of the Green Lantern symbol, but on the top side it is lopsided, so the beam reaching the central sphere is amplified as it exits. From its center, the alien sees a shining object, and swims towards it, and as his outstretched hand touches the ring, it slides onto his middle finger. The alien rises from the pool, which is ringed by skeletal husks. “For millennia, I have roiled in my rage for the Oans.” As he narrates this next line, we pan past the half-destroyed body of one of the Manhunters. “Their Manhunters massacred my sector; I am the last of a race annihilated by their android enforcers. And from my hatred is born the means to pass judgement, on Oa and all her guardians.” He pulls from the pool of blood a red lantern, and speaks the words of the Red Lantern Oath: “With blood and rage of crimson red, ripped from a corpse so freshly dead, together with our hellish hate, we’ll burn you all–that is your fate!”   

Pitchgiving 2021, part 1: Milestone Comics

Okay, I didn’t expect Juneteenth to become a holiday virtually overnight, so this wasn’t planned in advance. But I just happened to be working on Pitchgiving (rather than the novel I’m currently posting because I have a complicated relationship with what most people classicaly term productivity), and the one that I got caught in and poured a lot more time, love and effort into feels appropriate. I’m moving it to number 1, and posting it now. Just know, that when September 17th rolls around, you already got your first present under the Thanksgiving tree, because this is it (so expect the second on the 24th):

Intro:

I think Pitchmas 2020 only went okay. There are really 2 reasons, the first being that pitching 10 episodes of a show is a lot more work, which either led to extra-long pitches (lead-time permitting) or corner-cutting, with what feel to me like somewhat mixed results. The second is I started before the debut of WandaVision or WinterFalcon or LokiLoki, so I made the assumption that the shows would be, er, shows, in the more traditional sense, and not miniseries, or perhaps better understood as slightly extended movies- always designed to feed directly back into the movies themselves, which means some of my concepts don’t fit as well as I’d have liked them to (Sentry, though, still feels like a high point, to me- since it was written later and got to adjust accordingly- and was always a more tightly plotted/planned story, thanks largely to Paul Jenkins’ original). 

But for those reasons I’ll probably stick to movies this year. And yes, the plan is to start with Pitchgiving, and roll right into Pitchmas. For both, I think we’ll keep around the same basic ruleset of no sequels to existing properties, though I can pitch a story for something that’s been announced but for which I know no story details. The exception I’m rolling with is I can pitch sequels to my own pitches half the time, and that’s the plan: a 50/50 split of sequel pitches and new property pitches. This could be interesting, since between what Marvel and DC have already tapped and what I’ve previously pitched, we’re going to start scraping the bottom of the barrel at some point. But if need be, I can always change the rules.

Milestones

Okay, so some of you may not know this, because it’s relatively obscure comics ephemera. But there is a Black Superman, and a Black Iron Man, both running around the DC Universe (along with a kinda-sorta Black Spider-Man). And I’m not talking about Steel or the Superman from Multiversity (or Spider-Boy in blackface, either- I don’t think that’s a thing that happened, but even if it had, not what I’m talking about). I’m talking about Milestone Comics. It was created in the 90s as an Own Voices type of deal for comics. In the early stages It involved Christopher Priest, but it was Dwayne McDuffie who got it past the finish line. Those of us who were kids (or kids at heart) in the early 2000s will know its biggest cultural contribution to date: the Static Shock cartoon. DC has already green lit a Static movie; I hope they make it, because even in the wake of Black Panther, I think Black audiences deserve still more representation, and I think the Milestone brand in particular is still relatively unknown enough that there’s more room at the margins to make harder points; it’s possible Disney would balk at BP marching with Black Lives Matter, but it’s honestly expected that the Milestone heroes would be there. Milestone was also ahead of its time (in some ways ahead of our current time, too) in other ways, with better LGBT representation than most franchises today. Some may, likewise, view this as a cheat; Milestone isn’t owned by DC (at least as far as I know), but licensed to them, and at a minimum doesn’t fit people’s conception of what the DC Universe proper is. But that’s kind of the point, and they were recently reintroduced back into the comics universe, so I’m counting it.

The first hurdle we hit, though, is the name, maybe names, plural. The universe was called the Dakotaverse, for the fictional city of Dakota that functioned as their home turf. In general I’m against fake cities, especially when an existing city will do nicely, and this one seems easy. We make it Detroit, set the dial somewhere between modern, post-white-flight Detroit and RoboCop Detroit, and it’s basically if Wakanda had been in charge of rebuilding New York after the Chitauri attack in the first Avengers movie- making it a big black-majority city with some renown, wealth and reach.

The next stumbling block isn’t so simple. The big team in Milestone was known only as Heroes. Not only has NBC subsequently snapped up that name, but it was generic and bland to begin with- not a name you can market a $200 million hero flick on the back of. At present, I think the strongest idea I have is just calling the team Milestone- because it is one, an all-Black superhero team, especially one built by Black creators- it makes sense both within their world and within ours. We could even go a step further, have it not just be a Milestone, but because the fictional universe contains a pastiche of all kinds of Black characters from Marvel and DC, you could even have Milestone refer to the fact that it was the first hero team, period, back in the 70s, when a teenaged Black Lightning (no need to use Buck Lightning, since this is set in the DCU proper and he’s, you know, around), a Luke Cage homage (Buck Wild, Mercenary Man), Buck Goliath (I’m… not sure why so many of these just replace Black with Buck… ), a Captain America pastiche we probably can’t call Patriot anymore (I imagine Marvel have been keeping up on their trademark for the Young Avenger- especially with him recently having debuted in the Captain Samerica show)… and I’m not sure whether or not calling his Falcon-alike “Jim Crow” is going to fly today, no pun intended. But that, fighting alongside our Black Superman (who was thankfully not named Buck Superman) ,could cement them as the Pre-Justice League premier superheroes of the DCU (once the Justice Society disbanded after half of its members disappeared, for those who think I have no sense of my own continuity)… they were just more localized and less well known.

And then there’s Icon. Look, it’s probably the strongest of the names I’ve complained about, and I even get why having a Black Superman in ’93 was legitimately iconic… but it’s still a little on the nose, and not my favorite name. Hardware fairs better, for me, and Static as a name actually does feel pretty iconic to me (even if, next to Black Lightning, I’d expect Static’s powerset to be more limited, possibly just to cling, and maybe the occasional annoying zap- which is not really the case). I’m also uncertain about the name “Bang Babies” for their metahumans… I feel like back in ’93 it wouldn’t have read as oddly dated or a slogan you’d see on a NAMBLA shirt, but we can replace with a more generic term like metahuman, transhuman, superhuman, mutant, or whatever if need be; but your mileage may vary on all of these names, and I hope this all reads as one creative gently but lovingly ribbing others, cause the folks behind these properties have a lot more cred than I do, and deservedly so.

And the usual caveat, as I start, here, is that I’m white, and am just doing the synopsis for funsies; any Milestone movie should absolutely be written, directed and to the greatest extent possible shot and performed by Black creators, who have an intuitive experience of the Black experience that no amount of research or empathy could give me (though I’d be happy to consult or help in some degree, if anyone were interested); the one exception to that might be Tarantino being a possibility to direct; I think even in that scenario, the optimal outcome would be he and Spike Lee co-directing. They might kill each other, but they’d turn in a hell of a movie (and thirty years from now the making of doc would be better than that).

And before I go further, a caveat: DC are supposedly making a Static Shock movie. But… they were supposedly making a Cyborg movie. And while I buy that someday that Flash movie will get made, I’d put about even money right now on it taking so long Grant Gustin will be age appropriate to play their version of Jay Garrick. Both for the uninitiated and because it’s a slightly more interesting story, I’m assuming it gets folded into our movie, here- not because I wish the Static movie ill, but because I wanted to play with all the toys, damnit, and folding Static’s origin in made sense to me.  

We’d start with Icon, named Arnus, in the 1800s. He’s an alien, traveling in a starliner that malfunctions, and he crashes into a cotton field in the American South. His lifepod scans an enslaved woman named Miriam, and alters his physiology to look like her. She raises him as her own son, and he grows up as a slave; he was quickly discovered to be personally unpunishable- not a one of the hands could manage to break the boy’s skin no matter how long they flailed him- and his spirit was even more unbreakable. They threatened Miriam, and the other slaves, which served to keep him malleable for a time. Early in his teenage years, however, he realized how great their fear of him was- and engineered a revolt, and saw his adoptive mother and the other slaves safely along the Underground Railroad.

He spent the years of the Civil War and after continuing his work aiding freed and escaped slaves, after which he retired to a relatively reclusive manor in Michigan. He played the stocks, and when necessary did labor, reasoning he would some day use human technology to fix his craft and return home- but even by the 2010s we were still far behind the tech he needed. But that’s why he takes an interest in young Curtis Metcalf, perhaps the brightest young man of his age. He seeks to mentor Metcalf, and provide for his education.

Here we shift perspectives, to follow Curtis as a boy, scraping gum off of desks and tables; we assuming he’s an overly polite young man, until he catches sight of a big for his age kid chase a frailer student into the boy’s bathroom. He crams the remaining already-been-chewed gum into an invention that envelopes the bully in a thick, pinkish sludge that prevents him from moving. The bullied kid and Curtis run in opposite directions, Curtis running home. We lace in his mother speaking about the opportunity this represents for her son, how thankful she is that his gifts can be nurtured, maybe a little guilt about how she couldn’t afford the tutors or fancy school she knew would help him, not on a lowly teacher’s salary (she doesn’t mention it, but her husband is a doctor, but at a poor community clinic, barely making enough to pay off his med school debt), and is in the process of profusely thanking the man sitting on her couch when Curt arrives, surprised. We are, too, because it isn’t Arnus, it’s Edwin Alva, a white man who looks enough like Edison (genial, but definitely evil) for people to get the message (though some white people will get to it later). He smiles, and explains that he’s going to see to it Curt gets the leg up he didn’t- that he’s going to remove ten years of hard labor to get him where he was always going to end up, inventing better ways for man to thrive.

We follow Edwin outside of the Metcalf home, where he meets Arnus who was clearly about to make his approach, living under the name Augustus Freeman IV (he was also I-III, over the years). Edwin tells him that the boy is his- his genius, his inventions- all of it, and not-too-subtly threatens to out Arnus as something other than human. He also leans, hard, into calling him “Free Man.”

We follow a deflated Arnus home, where he continues to monitor Curt growing up. He doesn’t feel he has a free hand, though at one point he does try to intervene, managing a few minutes with the 15 year old college graduate at his graduation to tell him he should understand Alva has his own machinations. Curt isn’t surprised, but trusts some old dude who jumps out at him in a green trenchcoat even less.

More years pass, and we see Arnus in his study, becoming more and more disillusioned. As dust gathers in his home, webs in the windows, it’s clear he’s interacting with humanity less and less in his depression. Suddenly, the webbed-over window is lit by a flashlight, that smashes its way inside. A hand juts through the pane, and unlocks the window. It belongs to one of a handful of youths, but the only one we really focus on is the one called Rocket. She’s pretty, and sounds more worldly than the others. She’s also the one that Arnus catches, inadvertently demonstrating his superpowers. Her friends run, but she’s intrigued by this powered recluse. She asks why he doesn’t use his power to help people- their people, to set an example. Now… Icon was originally very much in the Bill Cosby, respectability politics mold; I’m probably not the right person to make the call, but personally, I’d update him, as someone who tried, but failed, that not only did he hero in the 70s with the other previous generation of Milestones, but he’s been trying for nearly 200 years. Past a point, he couldn’t handle pulling cats out of trees but not being able to stop police from beating Black people to death on the street. I think we could split the difference by having him state that their people don’t need an example, they need a lighter load. She could still respond to that with something like, “It’s easy to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you can fly.”

We return to Curt, who is now an adult, and is working on a new kind of tear gas. His lab partner protests, that the specs the police have asked for require a dose of their proprietary irritant ten times that level- which Curt protests, because even double the current dose has been shown to have mutagenic and carcinogenic properties in testing- that as it stands it can only be used by domestic police because its use in war would be against international law. Alva bursts in, and fires Curt’s partner, saying they were hired to get Curt on the same page, and clearly can’t do that, so security escort him out. Alva then asks how the exoskeleton is coming along.

Curt says they’ve made some progress, but expresses reservations; the police are already heavily militarized, and its had devastating effects, especially in Black communities. Alva doesn’t seem moved, and turns to leave, at which point Curt asks about his proposal- that he helped Alva build this company, that a full 25% of profits are directly attributable to his patents and discoveries, and he would like to benefit accordingly. Alva is savage, explaining that he isn’t a partner or a protégé, but an employee, one who signed a contract, one that Alva is willing to enforce in court, if need be, that deals with patents, royalties and all other compensatory forms, and prohibits any productive work for any company in any capacity related to his work at Alva industries, or the education it provided for him.” Curt protests, that between the breadth of his education and his multi-disciplinary work for Alva, there’s nothing he could do elsewhere (someone else would have to weigh in whether or not he should go the extra step and say, he’s “practically a slave”); Alva makes a joke about never using him to work on food extracts, and that being an exciting field- that he’d even put in a good word with Wilcox for him, laughing as he leaves.

And here’s where we meet Virgil. He’s a geeky 15-year old more into comics and nerd-stuff than anything else. He wakes up early, with his friend still asleep in his room as he plays with his Legos. His mom ducks her head in, and says they need to be getting dressed, that breakfast is ready and the bus will be here in a few minutes. Virgil and Rick discuss going back to school after a fun weekend hanging out; Virgil’s not terribly keen, because he’s being bullied. We watch as the two boys chase after the bus with juice-boxes and toast in hand as they run.

After school, we witness Virgil get bullied. Rick stands by, unable to help, because his bully, Francis, is flanked by two other gang members, wearing similar colors to help hammer home the point. Francis wants to stay and continue to beat on Virgil, but the others convince him they have to go, that they’re making plans for the Big Bang tonight.

Later on, Virgil, with Rick talking through how he wished they could get the bully alone, is tapping away at the internet trying to find out information on dark portions of the web to find out about the Big Bang. He clicks one link and up pops an adult site, which is immediately blocked by their internet settings. His mom yells in from the other room, wanting to know if he’s looking at something he shouldn’t. He hollers back that he was just trying to research on the Big Bang. After a pause, she tells him to be careful which links he clicks on for that.

We cut to another screen, but this one’s different, littered in icons, dissertations, spreadsheets, science. We see Curt’s reflection in the monitor. He’s opening and closing documents and spreadsheets at a fast clip, but from it we can gather that he’s doing research on his boss, Edwin Alva, and finding out he’s both incredibly dirty and untouchable. I’d say this might be a good moment to inject Arnus back into the story. Curt is surprised he’s there, that he got past Alva’s security. It takes him a moment to place Arnus, before he calls him the flasher from his graduation. Arnus stuffily protests that it was just a trenchcoat, that he had on a full three piece underneath, just like he’s wearing now (I think, in his civilian guise, he wears a green trenchcoat over a red three-piece suit, similarly if more mutedly colored to his costume).

Arnus relates all he knows about Alva- that he’s dirty, that he’s even tried, at various times, to leak information to the press, to prosecutors. But Alva’s too well-connected. He’s bribed everyone in the state, and his defense contracts are so central to the Defense Department that there’s no way they’d let anyone jail their golden goose. Curt mutters that he’s the goose bitterly. Arnus tells him he didn’t come to tell Curt to give up hope- he came to provide it. He has a plan, to hurt Alva’s legitimate and shadow organizations strategically; he just knows that he needs an inside man, someone with access who can help him navigate the portions he can’t see from outside. Curt smiles, saying he wants a “man inside the machine,” and says he came to the right guy, hitting a button that pops out the exoskeleton he’s been working on. Curt falls back into it, and it seals around him. Arnus may not be impressed, but it’s still the closest anyone’s come to the kind of tech his people had in a couple hundred years, so he’s intrigued.  

Rocket walks into the room. She’s got her own costume, now, as well as some flying tech she rigged from Arnus’ craft. Icon confirms she’s with him, and Rocket confirms she adapted his tech to her needs on her own, but his suit “Looks neat, too.”

We cut to the underground meeting of one of the gangs. I’m picturing the Foot Clan from the first Ninja Turtles movie, because that’s the era this stuff took place in, but if we could shift the relatively realistic feel of that to a modern context we’re probably set. Francis, essentially a peon, listens intently to their leader talk about what’s really just a street brawl amongst a couple gangs; big, in terms of numbers, but he’s discouraging most of them from bringing guns or anything that might impact people’s parole, that this is about a public display of power- sticking a knife in someone’s ribs is a private display- you don’t do that in front of witnesses. Someone cast in shadow arrives, and the leader tells his boys to all scram.

And here’s where we thicken up the plot a bit. Alva meets with the head of one of the gangs. He uses the youth gangs basically as a minor league- he’s always looking for talent, and implies that he’s had his eye on the gang leader for some time, that he views this Big (gang) Bang [yeah, this might be another name from the 90s we have to change] as their All Star Game, that he’ll be watching for his own draft. After the gang leader leaves, he asks his assistant if the new irritant will be ready for tomorrow. The assistant says that Metcalf fixed all the technical issues, the only remaining issue was the irritant cocktail, and that they’ve already increased it to the requested levels. Alva asks what the LD-50 is on the compound, and is told it’s five times greater than current levels. Alva tells him to ‘only’ triple it, then; that there’s bound to be more Black Lives Matter protests, and other police departments will be watching to see how effective their new irritant is- and he wants to give them a fireworks show.

The next day at school, Virgil stops Francis from bullying a different kid, inadvertently getting his attention. Virgil’s saved from a particularly bad beating by a rival gang member. Virgil asks him about the Big Bang, and he tells Virgil if he’s thinking about hopping off the sidelines, he’ll have a shot at Francis- and that his two cronies will have their hands full- that he can guarantee. Rick pantomimes for him not to, but Virgil says he’ll think about it.

After school, Rick tries to convince Virgil not to go, playing the pity card, that Virgil only just started warming up to him, and it took years– he doesn’t have that kind of time to break in another new best friend before high school ends. “Your confidence in me it’s, frankly it’s just embarrassing,” Virgil deadpans. Virgil tells Rick, when he threatens to stay with him the rest of the day, that he won’t go. Rick cops to the fact that he’s got a dentist appointment, so it was a bad bluff, but he appreciates it, really. He’ll sleep better- and that if Virgil wants to come over after his appointment, they can game or something. Virgil tells him he’s got a lot of homework, a big paper due. Rick eyes him, but decides to trust him.

We cut to later, as lines are being drawn. One of the gang leaders chugs a beer, crumples it and throws the empty into the street between them, says something to the effect of they might as well get things started. The Big Bang lights off. During the fighting, Virgil is able to isolate Francis and get in a few good licks, before the cops arrive. They barely hesitate before showering the place in tear gas. I imagine we pop into a police helicopter for a moment, where the officer weighs whether or not it violates the safety instructions to fire a second cannister into the smoke, and decides to, anyway.

We cut away as Icon tells them the plan, that he, Rocket and Hardware will start out the evening at three different locations, starting havoc, setting charges, destroying caches; while coordinated, they’re also coordinating to leave open the possibility of accidents or industrial sabotage- at least as long as possible.  

We cut back to the Big Bang as the sun starts to set. The cops go into the smoke with riot gear and gas masks, thinking that’ll protect them. They walk into a Cronenbergian body horror exhibition, with several of the gang members mutating in real time before their eyes. We spend a few minutes with the cops, who freak out and just start shooting everyone they see, until the first of them says he thinks there’s something wrong with his mask, reaches up and realizes the gas has eaten through the plastic shield of his mask. He collapses to the ground and starts convulsing, and one of the cops shoots him. I think from here the exposed cops retreat out of the gas; the other cops refuse to let them rejoin their line, so they form a second ring within it, to keep the gang members in the smoke.

Icon finishes destroying the conveyance of both legs of a smuggling handoff, and cocks his head, smiling as he hears an approaching siren. He turns, as Hardware lands relatively quietly behind him. Hardware informs him of the news- a riot breaking out amongst two rival gangs, with the cops on the scene shooting. Icon calls Rocket over the radio, and she says she heard, “And he was so worried your old ass wouldn’t know how to work a radio, he schlepped over to you.” 

The three heroes fly to the scene of the riot. At first they’re horrified, as the cops just outright murder injured gang members- most of them underaged kids. Then they see one of the shot gang members get back up and tear the cop who shot him in half. They spring into action, Icon telling them to stem the loss of life- all life. He tells them to handle the gangs- that he’ll move the cops back- the last thing a situation this complex needs is cowboys shooting blindly into the smoke.

It’s Rocket that finds Virgil and shakes him awake. He was passed out beside Francis. He says he doesn’t feel good, but says he should be able to walk. “I was less worried about you walking than who was going to carry your unconscious cuddle buddy,” she says, nudging Francis with her foot. A cop pops out of the smoke, too close for Rocket to respond. Virgil, instinctively, puts up his hands, tearing a manhole cover out of the street and shunting it between Rocket and the policeman’s shotgun as he fires. The cop cocks his head, before Rocket punches him. Rocket and Virgil exchange names, and as their guards are down, Francis, now the powered F-Stop, jumps up. Virgil again puts out his hand, and the manhole cover smacks Francis, putting him back on the ground. Rocket asks Virgil if he’s good, but doesn’t wait for confirmation as she disappears through the smoke. Virgil continues to play with the manhole cover, sending it flying left, then sending it flying right, but too far, where he looses control of it and we hear it clang into someone, who groans. Virgil glances around, before saying, “He did it,” and pointing at the unconscious Francis.

We cut to a couple of bangers who came armed. “Pigs are armored,” one of them says. The other says that means it’s open season on bacon. They start shooting into the smoke in the direction of the police line. Hardware walks into their hail of gunfire, bullets pinging off his armor. He reaches forward and grabs their guns, crushing them, then grabs them, and pulls them into the smoke.

Icon floats in the air above the gas. A policeman in the helicopter he’s been trying to shoo away fires off a burst of bullets that bounce off of him. Icon glares. “You okay?” Virgil, who’s awkwardly floating on his manhole cover, asks.  He’s about 80% of the way there to being Static at this point (design-wise; he tore the bottom half of Francis’ t-shirt to make himself a mask, even). Icon says it kind of tickles… but he’s not sure how to get them to shove off without knocking their helicopter out of the sky- which could be dangerous. Static says he’ll give it a try. He magnetically bends the barrel of the gun that moments before was used on Icon, then gestures for them to shove off. The pilot doesn’t hesitate.

Icon smiles at him, then wonders if he has any thoughts about breaking the police line. He asks Icon if he really just asked him to “Fuck the police?” Icon says he’s certain he didn’t use those words, but he would appreciate the help- nonlethal, of course. Static looks up the block, and notices their cars are all in pretty close proximity to some street lights. He relates that his physics teacher told him that electricity and magnetism are just different names for the same phenomenon, so he might have an idea. He claws his hands across the air, and the metal lightposts warp enough to shatter their bulbs, ever so slightly angling their exposed wiring towards the cops. Then electricity leaps from the lights, burning the paint off the cars. The cops who had been holding the line behind the cars run; without them keeping the exposed cops in a smaller circle, they too, flee.

I think at some point in the fighting I would cameo a lesbian couple, who eventually hero under the names Donner and Blitzen but for now run a coffee shop on the nearby corner, and were caught in the gas as it wafted through. Donner is a big blonde German powerhouse, and Blitzen is a Japanese speedster. It’s more a cameo, though it probably wouldn’t hurt to cast them now and just assume they’ll get more play in the sequel, but they help keep the bangers contained and pedestrians/passersby safe. Probably they stop and pose at the end of the fight, with the other heroes. 

Between Static and Icon, the cops get the message, and leave. Hardware says the equipment in his suit has analyzed the gas, and confirms it was the compound he was working with, but at a much greater concentration; he confirms that it’s relatively harmless in lower doses. Icon does a couple of quick fly-bys to suck the gas away with him, cutting its concentration to safe levels. Static helps by plonking the blades off the helicopter he grounded and using them as a big fan.

Most of the remaining gang members, no longer feeling hidden by the gas, and even with powers don’t want to fight heroes. Maybe the gang leaders and their respective entourages do, with Virgil having to help take down the one who he was quasi-friendly with. The cops try to come back, looking for payback, after getting chased off. The heroes stand between them and the captured gang members to prevent a bloodbath, until live TV crews are on the scene (or maybe enough of a crowd gathered filming with camera phones is a better modernization).

Alva blames the issue with the gas on the police adding a radioactive isotope to help them track people from the ‘riot.’ Because of his wealth and reach, the media largely go along with it, and the stink stays off him. But privately, he’s pissed. He lost millions, and his contacts in organized crime all saw how much egg he took in the face. But that’s fine… he’s pretty sure he knows at least one person he can make pay.

He stampedes into Curt’s lab the next day, flanked by security personal in a flying V. He accuses Curt of misusing company property, and says he’s already been in contact with his lawyers about suing him for any damage done to the exoskeleton prototype. Curt acts surprised, and says he has no idea what he’s talking about- he’s been working in the lab all night. He pulls up the security feed, which does, indeed, show him hard at work. Alva demands to have the footage authenticated, and storms out.

Curt talks to Arnus and Rocket over lunch in the park, all of them in their civilian clothes. Curt explains that he’s never really trusted Alva, always figured there would come a day when he was going to have to go against him, and need some cover. First project he undertook working for him was worming inside his security system, and capturing enough archival footage he’d have just about any kind of loop he’d need. Didn’t hurt that he had been working a lot of late nights, after his proposal for a royalty sharing agreement- he figured he was demonstrating value, that he had a dozen ten-million-dollar ideas he’d planned to give up to show his own good will. Rocket asks if they’re better ways to kill people, or things that might do somebody some real good? Curt tells her that most any idea can be used to hurt people, or help them, if you’re clever enough, but that these ideas are some of his most clever- he thinks he could change the world, so long as Alva doesn’t stop him from putting these patents out into the world. Arnus tells him he’s got the resources to make sure they go public and stay public… that maybe he’s been thinking too small, about only helping himself, when the best way to help everyone up is to lift everyone up. He and Rocket exchange a knowing glance.

I think we shoot to credits, just the cast, real quick, then do an early credits scene, Rick confronting Virgil. Virgil thinks he’s in for it. He’s already had an ass-chewing from his mom, because he’s bruised up and obviously been fighting. And he just doesn’t have it in him- he could have died and he knows he was an idiot and- Rick latches onto him like a scared baby koala, and tells him how scared he was. He saw the fighting and that the cops were there on the news and Rick just knew that Virgil was there, and he wouldn’t pick up his phone and- we pull back, and Rick realizes they’re floating a few inches off the ground. He lets go of Virgil, and drops. Virgil tells him that the gas the cops used changed him. He can manipulate metal and electricity. He wants to use what he’s got to do good, and he’s been thinking names. We’ll throw out some others, either jokes or references.

“Lightning Lad?”

“What is it the 50s? Black Lightning?”

“What is it, the 70s? Also, I think there’s a guy.”

“Magnet-o. Mag-neat-o?”

“What is it, the 80s? Plus Disney has very scary lawyers.”

“Maybe we ditch the call and response. What is it, the 90s?” They both turn to camera and stare for a fraction of a second too long. We’ll do some fast-cuts now to burn through a few more.  

“E-Diddy?”

“Electric Boogaloo?”

“Racists ruined that one,” Virgil says.

“Man, racists ruin everything,” Rick says, and Virgil shakes his head in agreement. “Electro?”

“Marvel did it.”

“Electra.”

“Feminine. Also, Marvel did it.”

“Man, what didn’t Marvel do.”

“A Black superteam,” Virgil says.

Virgil pauses. “How about Static?”

“Like cling? Like if this is about the hug… I don’t like the term needy, but I was scared for you. I thought maybe I’d never even see you again.”

“No,” Virgil insists. “Static.”

“Like what you give your mom?”

“Like what I’ll give to cops, and bangers, and whoever else needs it.”

Editorial note: You may have noticed I’m capitalizing Black when it refers to the cultural identity, but not white. On grammar grounds I couldn’t make the switch; I agree that white shouldn’t be capitalized because it’s not a monolithic cultural identity, and I think Black is the same (I just don’t think my high school gym teacher from Compton’s experience was anything like Barack Obama’s, just as as an example). However, after the 2020 election, when Black voters pulled our collective asses out of the fire, again, I decided that grammar wasn’t the only metric to judge this by. I’m capitalizing Black as a sign of respect for people our country has repeatedly harmed, but who have repeatedly fought to save us from our worst selves. Mistakes may happen along the way, of course- grammar me and socially-conscious me aren’t always working in tandem. I’m uncertain about my back catalog… it’s a pain largely inflicted on my editors and formatters if I try to change that, too, but I am considering it, as well.

Pitchgiving 2020 Bonus: Birds of Prey 2

We open on a mugging/assault in an alley, filmed to remind of the opening of Batman 89, taking place on top of a rooftop. In swoops a younger woman in black, rubber armor, without Bat accoutrements. Underneath it is Cassandra Cain. The rescuer throws the attacker down, and the victim squeals while fleeing, and the camera follows her, revealing Harley, watching from the shadows, whispering, “You got this.”

Cassandra tries to make herself bigger with each word, building dramatically towards the ellipsis, “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am… still working on the name. What do you think of Bian-Fu?” The attacker turns his head, then dives at her, and they both roll over the edge of the roof.

Harley runs to the edge of the roof saying, “Shit shit shit shit shit.” There are two cracks, followed by the sound of zipping rope.

The attacker is suspended just above the concrete, close enough he could lick it, while Cassandra is holding onto a grapnel beside him. She drops down to the concrete. “You okay?” a woman asks from behind her. Cassandra spins to see Batgirl, looking really cool in her costume, but also confident and personable. Cassandra nods, a little starstruck. “I won’t be a hypocrite and tell you not to do this, but I will tell you it takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of training. Give me a call some time, if you want some tips, or just somebody to talk to.” She gives her a card with a bat symbol and a phone number on it.

Harley, a freaking wreck, runs up as Batgirl grapnels away, huffing and bent over. “Y’okay?” she wheezes.

“So cool,” Cassandra says, barely aware of Harley’s presence.

Cut to Harley’s car, as they drive away.

“So I’ve been thinking about the name. My whole thing kind of keeps petering out. How about Bat-Woman?”

“I’m not sure the homage comes through if you’re one-upping her in the name. Plus there’s already one of them.”

“Bat… wing?”

“There’s already a guy. Or person.”

“Bat… Rock… the Lepper?

“That is the stupidest name I’ve ever heard. How about Black Bat?”

“But I’m not Black.”

“Aw, honey, it’s not the 60s anymore. Black heroes don’t have to put ‘black’ in their names just so the cops don’t shoot them.” Very quick cut to Bat Wing getting shot by cops (he’ll survive, because of the armor- but it still stings). “Right, Bat Wing got shot by the cops just last Thursday; should have went with Black Bat. But there aren’t a lot of ‘Bat’ names left. Unless you want to be a Bat Hound.”

They sing spontaneously together with an Elvisy twang, “You ain’t nothing but a Bat Hound- you ain’t never caught a Riddler and you ain’t no friend of mine,” and then go back to the conversation as if nothing happened.

Harley: “Or, you could choose to name yourself after another woman who selflessly saved your life.”

“Yeah. I could be Harley’s Hemorrhoid.”

“Turned out that was just Chipotle. I wonder if that counts as product placement?”

“That depends on where you put the Chipotle.”

Harley’s phone alarm goes off. “Oh, we’ve got to meet the girls.” Harley drives out into the Gotham Hills, to a plant sanctuary. They get out of the car, and Poison Ivy descends from an open window of a glass dome atrium, riding atop a magnificent, vicious looking plant, looking both elegant and terrifying (if you’re looking for a casting suggestion Lake Bell is great and voices her on the animated series- a nested suggestion: go watch the Harley Quinn animated series).

“Hey, Harles,” Ivy says.

“Great, she’s babysitting again,” Catwoman says, melting out of the shadows. Cassandra flips her the bird.

Harley leans in to Cass and whispers, “Okay, I see why you didn’t want to go with Cat Girl.”

“That, and the weeaboos would never leave me alone.”

“We ready?” Ivy asks.

Harley: “Joker’s taken so much- from all of us. I think it’s time we show him how loss feels.”

Actiony scene, where Catwoman sneaks in and disables the security alarms, Ivy infiltrates the guard station and subdues them, all while Harley and Cass create a distraction.

They all meet up inside the warehouse, planning to mop up, only for it to turn into a shoot out. See, the warehouse in question is a weapons cache- most of the Joker’s arms storage. So the few remaining goons are able to arm up, and quickly, so we get a high caliber fight scene.

“I thought if we cut off their weapons supplies, the rest would be easier,” Harley says as bullets whiz past her.

“I don’t think we should let her do the thinking anymore,” Catwoman says, whipping her way up into the rafters. She drops behind one of the shooters, taking him out. Ivy uses undercooked broccoli in one of the gunmen’s stomachs to grow, popping out of him like an Alien. Harley fires a novelty gun that shoots a boxing glove wrapped around a brick into the third shooter. There’s a fourth, surprise gunmen that Cass takes out before he can shoot Harley in the back.

Cut to later, the Birds of Prey surveying the damage. “We’re too late,” says the Question (Montoya); and yes, she is wearing the faceless mask. There are burnt crates of weapons and ammo still smoldering.

“What the hell happened here?” Canary asks.

“Arms smuggling seems a given,” a new voice says, as Batgirl lands right behind Huntress. Huntress reacts by spinning, and jabbing with a knife from her belt. Batgirl rolls her, peeling the knife away and dropping her on her back fluidly. “Didn’t mean to surprise you. But these guns have been illegally modified, and there are enough to assume this is more than just a personal stash. It’s enough to arm a small army. Or a gang. Name on the deed is Jack White-”

“The White Stripes guy?” Huntress asks, dusting herself off.

“It’s probably an alias.”

“So we assume these are gang related. Who would trash their weapons? A rival gang would take them for themselves.”

“That is the question, Question; your name is kind of confusing.” I’m suddenly hearing Rachel Brosnahan as Batgirl… and I really like that idea.

I think we stay with the Birds, as they try to figure out where the next strike on Mr. White’s holdings will be, back at Barbara’s Clocktower. It’s here we meet Oracle, Batgirl’s logistics expert (in a wheelchair, and I’ll reiterate my support for casting Kiera Allen from Run because she- and it- are amazing). Babs saved her, once upon a time; for my money, I think it’s more compelling if she was already in the chair. Oracle used her savvy with computers to track her back down to repay her- by saving her life (I think her original attack was designed by Joker to smoke Batgirl out- which Oracle figured out, preventing Joker from shooting her). Since then, she’s been feeding her, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Bat Family, with leads, intel, research- whatever they need that she can provide remotely.

This includes an extensive web of Jack White’s holdings. She notes that Jack White doesn’t exist (Canary asks who wrote all the White Stripes’ music, then?), but that several of his businesses are definitely fronts for illegal activity. She theorizes that either he himself is dirty, or his anonymity or even his name are being used by someone as a shield. Oracle and Batgirl have figured out the five most likely targets, and each one of them is going to sit on one- not to engage, but to observe, and call in backup if and when anyone of interest shows. The targets are divided into the likeliest attackers: a rival gang would likely look to cripple White’s biggest money maker, a night club, on the assumption that it disrupts his legitimate cash flow, but also disrupts his ability to clean cash from his clandestine enterprises. A vigilante or rogue law enforcement would try to expose him as a criminal, which means hitting his shipping warehouse, likely the point of entry for the guns and also likely any other illicit substances. Anyway, they all take one, with Batgirl handing out assignments. Batgirl takes Ace Chemical, bought by White for pennies on the dollar after Harley Quinn destroyed it. Rumor has it that White uses it as a sort of de facto headquarters. She’s able to listen through the vibrations in an unbroken window to White making plans, but doesn’t see him, and is just about to confront him when Canary calls them in.

She admits she thought about taking Harley herself- until she saw her entourage, and thought maybe she’d need the backup, after all. They arrive after the fighting is done, as the Sirens are torching more of White’s merchandise (I’m going to say it’s a chemical supply company). The Sirens flee when the Birds arrive, and they give chase. The Sirens run into a sewer, and Montoya hopes they won’t have to fight any killer crocs down there, when a sewer plant grows to the size of a person (giving the middle finger), and blocks their entrance. Batgirl calls Oracle for a map of the sewers, but unfortunately they’re right at a junction point- the Sirens could have gone virtually anywhere. Batgirl, conspiratorially, asks Oracle how their tracker is working, and she says they’ve got a clear signal.

We zoom in on Black Bat’s new cape, black and fringed like Batgirl’s. There’s a tracker attached to it (with a blinking light, if it’s too subtle- but I otherwise want to be subtle with it). The Sirens are triumphant. They’ve not only knocked over two of the Joker’s places, but they managed to get away from Batgirl and ‘those other dorks’ (Harley’s words). They feel on top of the world.

Harley argues they go for the kill, now. If they keep nipping around at the edges, it’s only a matter of time before “Puddin’- I mean, Mistah J, sets us up an ugly surprise. He almost got the Bat a couple of times, with those surprises. He’s got a real knack for hurting people.” Catwoman argues the counter- wanting to be methodical. She wants to take his empire away a piece at a time, so that a broke, disarmed and alone Joker is their prey- and they don’t have to wade through an army of goons with guns. Black Bat sides with Harley, but Catwoman argues she’s a sidekick, and a trainee, and Harley’s Hemorrhoid, so she doesn’t get a say. So it all comes down to Ivy, who sides with Harley, because she knows him, and not just as a gross ex, but as a patient- about as intimately as a person can know someone like him. Catwoman refuses to get killed for their vendettas, and leaves. They ask Black Bat if she can handle Catwoman’s part of the plan; she reminds them she was a pickpocket and a thief.

Cut back to the Clocktower. Batgirl plays back audio for the rest of them of the end of the last line in the previous scene. She tells them she got a tracker on one of them, and Oracle picked up audio with a drone- that they can put an end to these break-ins if they work together. The Birds aren’t sure about her- especially her compartmentalizing, but reluctantly agree. Cut to later, them on an adjacent rooftop outside of Ace. They watch as Harley kicks in the front door, and we follow Harley inside. She doesn’t get far, before she’s picked out by a spotlight.

Jack White emerges, looking human for now, giving her a slow clap. He threatens her, not too subtly, pretty much confirming he’s who we think he is in the subtext, but with just enough gaslighting that we can’t know completely for sure. The lights go off, then all the lights come back up. White’s gone, and Ivy and Black Bat have arrived. They’re attacked by the Birds of Prey, who gain the upper hand until Catwoman emerges from the shadows to even the odds, telling Black Bat “Cats may seem fickle and disloyal- independence and stubbornness are in our nature. But we always come back for those we care about.” And they are very even, with Ivy as the only really super-powered one (Canary’s cry notwithstanding), it’s a very street-level fight; Barbara takes on Ivy, and has a bevy of gadgets Bruce has used on her in the past so she’s able to keep her at a manageable threat level.

Eventually, a disgusted Jack White emerges once more from the shadows on a gang plank. He’s having a good time, even if it’s clear he’s roiling with anger over the damage done to his operations. He tells his henchmen to end the stalemate and kill them all. There’s lots of possibilities, here, but probably I’d throw in Firefly (who I imagine fights Ivy and Batgirl), who’s always a colorful, visually interesting villain, and then some regular hench people for the rest of them to kick. When it looks like he’s winning, a triumphant White removes his mask to reveal that he is in fact the Joker.

Harley and Black Bat are able to break away from the fighting to chase him (because I like the idea that this mirrors the first BoP). He uses several joke shop gag weapons, all of which Harley is able to dodge while pursuing him. He stops, spins around, and says they’ve got him, only to drop into a folding chair, onto a whoopie cushion that fires a bullet in slow-mo into Black Bat. He tells her she can catch him- but her partner will bleed out by the time she gets back. She punches Joker, breaking his jaw (it dangles sickeningly in an exaggerated rictus grin). “That wasn’t funny,” he says overly seriously, standing by a hole in the wall that used to be a door leading to a fire exit. He grabs a life raft off the wall, steps to the ledge, and inflates it. It rips him into the air as it rapidly inflates with ultra light gases, carrying him away. He can’t help himself, laughing as he flees.

Harley attends to Black Bat. She can’t stop the bleeding herself- even her medical training can’t compensate for the fact that she doesn’t have any supplies and they’re in a filthy derelict chemical plant. Until Batgirl arrives. She has an adhesive to stop the bleeding, and one of Oracle’s drones is actually equipped with medical supplies; together they get Black Bat stable enough for transport to the hospital. As an ambulance arrives, Batgirl supplies them with one more item; a pair of surgical scissors. She tells them Cassandra Cain might have to explain a gunshot wound to the ER staff, but Black Bat would almost certainly be arrested on site. Black Bat says, “You knew?”

Batgirl says she knew the whole time, that she recognized her picture from juvenile records. She tells them both her secret is safe with her. Montoya comes in, barking orders at the medics, explaining the GSW. Batgirl swings Harley away from the police, dropping her off on the neighboring rooftop. Harley asks where that leaves them- are they going to fight now? Batgirl tells her she isn’t prepared to judge anyone else who chooses to fight for a better world- at least not while they’re picking worthy targets like the Joker. She says she likes her- and likes the kid even more- so she hopes they’re never going to be on opposite sides of that divide. As she swings away, Harley says she’s all right, for one of the bats. Then she realizes she’s been stranded on a rooftop, and looks over the edge and asks, “Wait, how do I get down?”

Back at the Clocktower, Huntress is annoyed she let them escape. Batgirl clarifies that they let Harley and Black Bat escape from the Funhouse (in the previous movie). Canary adds that they also let Catwoman and Ivy go, too. Batgirl smiles, and says she’s sure they’ll see them around. To black, with the text, “The Birds of Prey will return.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene. Ivy and Harley, in civilian clothes, are dragging a clearly uncomfortable Catwoman into the hospital. Cassandra’s eyes light up at the site of them. Harley’s got an oversized beaver for her, Ivy’s got a potted plant, and Catwoman has a jewel case, which she opens to reveal the Bertinelli Diamond from BoP1. “Helena’s going to be pissed,” Harley says. Things are kind of awkward, and it’s sort of clear Ivy and Catwoman are kind of looking for a reason to exit. Harley brings up their next big score. She says she’s been thinking, and the Penguin’s always been a dick. Last time she ate at the Iceberg Lounge, he pinched her ass- and not over the clothes, either, he got his flipper up her skirt. Prick’s just asking for it.

“The Arctic Bird does have a lot of nice ice,” Catwoman purrs.

“He bulldozed the only natural habitat for the Gotham Lilly to build his tacky little lounge,” Ivy says angrily.   

Camera pans to Cassandra, and the others are waiting for her reply. “Uh, I’m pretty sure he has fish-breath.”

Close on Harley. “Gotham City Sirens,” cut to black, as she says, quieter, “assemble.”

We’re going to play some games with text. First, white text on black: The Gotham City Sirens Will Be Back.

“We’re already here,” Ivy replies.

A red marker rearranges the sentence to, “Will The Gotham City Sirens Be Back?”

Harley: “Then it’s Clobberin’ time.”

“What does that mean?” Catwoman asks.

We do a circle zoom in on Cassandra. “Wait, I think I got it. Stop: Hammer Time.” Back to black. Over the rest of the credits, Harley, with her big mallet, Hammer Dances in Hammer pants to “Can’t Touch This.” You’re welcome.

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 12: Kingdom Come

Starts just a few years in the future, with Superman failing to save Lois from the Joker at the Daily Planet. Superman is frog-marching him into the Metro PD building, when Joker is shot by Magog, essentially a Cable parody, wrapped in some trappings of ancient Egypt/Sumeria. Cut to the future, Clark tending to his farm. Wonder Woman and Batman visit him, trying to get him to rejoin the modern world, that a world without a superman is a lonely place (in the timeline of the story, this is shortly after he first disappears- it’s also a very trailer friendly sequence). This is the superhero movie Zach Snyder always wanted to make, full of epic grandiosity, pretentiousness and a conservative mindset, and would serve as a fitting denouement to his DC Universe, so I’d say let him make it; just give Mark Waid final cut, a cattle prod, and keys to the Snyder residence, to keep some of his worst excesses in check.

A further note: you can get more bang out of your buck with this concept by hiring old Hollywood legends, folks usually thought of as past their prime. Imagine doing what Tarrantino’s been able to do for a handful of older stars for a whole Justice League.  

We tweak the story to cut out the preacher man, and instead keep an aged Wesley Dodds around as our viewpoint character. The reason is this: we’re going to have our cake in this movie, and in subsequent JSA movies, older Dodds is going to get a message to his younger self to try and get him to eat this cake before so many people have to die unnecessarily. And here you thought I was pitching a JSA movie just to exploit Power Girl’s cleavage window. We see one of Dodd’s visions, mostly impressionistic but terrifying, before zooming out to see Dodds talks to Norman, who I won’t cut out entirely, who views the superhuman conflict- and the nuclear detonation in Kansas- through a very human lens. But he’s got a sermon to get to, and doesn’t know how he can find the hope he’s supposed to give to his congregation. Norman leaves, and Wesley is confronted by the Spectre. He tells Dodds that the dreams he’s having, of superhuman annihilation, are visions, that there is a coming calamity- that they must bear witness.

Dodds is curmudgeonly about it- his heroic side refusing to accept that there’s nothing to be done to change things. He and the Spectre talk, about the new breed of metahumans, who lack the discipline, care and empathy that made their forebears heroes- they are a collective menace, and their danger grows daily, to the degree that it will boil over in time, burning the world.

Wonder Woman returns to Superman’s ‘farm,’ and we discover it’s a hologram in his Fortress of Solitude. She tells him that Kansas is gone- and he flies through the wall. His parent’s farm is gone, the home flattened by the compression wave, the untended fields scorched by the fire that followed. He picks up a headstone, knocked over by the blast, and repositions it in the earth, and we see that it’s his mother’s headstone. His eyes are full of emotion as Diana lands behind him. “How many?” he asks without turning to face her.

“Early estimates are 2 million dead. There’s another million suffering from severe burns radiation sickness… best guess is half of those die soon, the rest have a greatly increased chance of cancers.”

“Lana?” he asks, this time turning to her.

“Her family were away at the time, staying in Metropolis.”

“How did it happen?”

She shares footage of the fight, as recorded by a news crew. We watch a pitiful, shrunken parasite pleading for mercy. Magog’s team grants none. In his flailing, Parasite manages to tear Captain Atom’s containment suit, then sucks the nuclear energy out of him, growing immensely, unstably. He screams that he can’t contain it, and an explosion tears through the gathered heroes before hitting the camera.

“Magog,” Clark whispers, angrily. We cut back to the Joker’s still smoking corpse. Superman takes Magog’s weapon from him, and marches him into the MPD building instead. Cut to a courtroom, where a judge is summing up. “I concur with the Jury’s verdict, but feel I must go a step further. In light of the Joker’s crimes, the thousands of deaths and the tens of thousands of lives mutilated in his wake, you did not just protect innocents, but you did what our system of justice is designed to be incapable of. We may never be able to fully thank you for what you’ve done today, but I hope your acquittal is a start.” Magog, a free man, stands and smiles.

Cut to the blackness of space, as we watch the Earth spin placidly beneath us. We see a red streak across it, again, and again. Suddenly, there’s a second, criss-crossing in the opposite direction, on a collusion course. We cut in, to see Superman flying, rage and anguish playing across his face. He’s struck by Wonder Woman, the force of her blow knocking him into a mountain. He emerges an instant later. “Clark,” she says.

“No,” he answers. “Everything that Clark was is gone. The world he lived in is dead. I’m not him anymore.”

“Wait,” she puts up her hand, but he’s gone.

Cut back to the present, the pair of them standing in the ruins of his family’s farm. “Cla-” she stops herself, “Kal.”

“I could have stopped this,” he says. Her eyes are full of empathy; inasmuch as you can get across the words “this wasn’t your fault” with a look, she does. “I should have tried.”

“That doesn’t matter. It’s too late to stop what happened here. But there are more fights like this one coming. The world has been too long without a Superman.” His eyes flash, filled with anger, or purpose, we don’t quite know.

We cut to the Statue of Liberty, where a group of fascist ‘heroes’ have decided that there isn’t enough space in America for immigrants, and are attacking boatloads of them. Superman’s new league, including most of our key players, like Diana, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Power Woman, descend and save the day.

“They look familiar,” Dodds says, scratching his head. Spectre tells him he knows some of them, but they have all changed profoundly since he was last active, and we do the montage of character introductions from the book, that Green Lantern has a floating emerald satellite where he monitors for extraterrestrial threats, that Flash isn’t so much a person as an unseen force righting even minor wrongs in his city. Dodds asks about Batman, and we find out Bruce has a swarm of robotic Bat sentries that keep Gotham safe. Superman flies over the ruins of Wayne Manor, and finds the Batcave beneath. Superman asks what happened, and he says that when he was outed as Batman, Two Face and Bane destroyed the mansion. Batman wears an exoskeleton over his suits that lets him move about despite years of injuries. Bruce is stand-offish, though I’m not thrilled with how that works in the book. See, I think Batman needs a better reason for it- that he’s seen the statistics, that metahuman accidents are on the rise, even though they’ve ostensibly eliminated all of the villains. That they’re on this path, where eventually either humanity or metahumanity is going to go extinct- likely the one at the hands of the other.

“I don’t believe that,” Superman says.

“Doesn’t change the math one bit. Right now you’re asking me to side with the few at the cost to the many, Clark.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Isn’t that what Martha named you?”

“Don’t say her name.”

“Isn’t that who Lois married?”

“Don’t say her name!” he booms.

“Or what, Clark? Either you’re Jonathan Kent’s boy, or your Magog’s father.”

“I had nothing to do with-”

“I’m not interested in your denial. You had as much of a hand in creating him, as the Kents had in creating you. I notice you haven’t tracked him down, yet. Would it help if I told you where he is?” He turns, and Superman is gone.

Superman arrives in front of the UN, where Wonder Woman is standing at the podium. She smiles graciously, before stepping down. “You’re late,” she says. “And Bruce?”

“Playing his own games.” Superman gives a speech, about how the superhumans were wrong to step away, to leave the newer generation unheeled, that it’s their job to correct them- that these are but the first.

Cut to Superman’s Fortress. They set up their captured fascists in cells, but it’s already a problem, with alien animals from his menagerie displaced. Superman is perturbed. “I hadn’t wanted to be anyone’s jailer,” he says.

“This never occurred to you?” Wonder Woman asks, wielding the second largest lantern in this story, after Alan Scott. “We’re fighting a war, Kal. There are going to be prisoners- unless we decide to give no further quarer.”

“Don’t even joke-”

“I wasn’t. Paradise Island didn’t become a paradise because we spared the rod. Our justice is firm, and severe. Very few people infract, and none infract again.”

“No,” he says, and she shrugs.

“That’s what I thought,” she says. “I’ve also thought about some possibilities. I want you to go to Apokalips. I’ll see if we can make a deal with Arthur in Atlantis.”

Cut to Atlantis, an aging Arthur and Mera on the thrones. “The answer’s ‘No,’ Diana.”

“But it wouldn’t even need to be near your subjects.”

“The ocean is already home to far too much of the surface’s refuse.”

“Then at least lend us your strength.”

He chuckles at that. “You have 30% of the planet, and 99% of its metahumans. I rule the other 70%, just myself and Mera beside me. You even have my children fighting in your war, Diana. Atlantis has already given enough.”

Superman Boom Tubes to Apokalips. He floats overhead, his senses drinking in the hellscape of the world. Then he flies into the throne room, where a dark figure sits, mostly in shadow. Menace radiates off of him, and those who know should be permitted a moment to quake at the thought that this is Darkseid. He leans forward, and we see that he is Orion, looking more like his father every day.

Superman starts, “I came to ask-”

“I know what you would ask-”

“What happened to you?”

“We won. Overthrew Darkseid. Freed Apokalips- only to find there was no true way to do either. The people, if you would stretch the term to cover these wretches, refuse freedom- refuse anything but the yolk of Darkseid. Even dead, this world remains his slave. I may look its ruler, but I am just another prisoner here.”

“Then why not leave?”

“Because the only thing crueler than leaving this Hell in place, would be abandoning it. So yes, if you ask me to house your wretched refuse- what, I would ask, are a few more damned souls in Hell? But I would ask, as a friend, if your soul could handle damning them so… and I suspect we both know the answer. But if you are interested in constructing a better, more humane mouse trap, the best possible engineer is nearby.”

Superman arrives at Barda and Mr. Miracle’s place. “I need your help,” he says.

The smile conspiratorially to each other, before saying in unison, “We’re in.”

“Don’t you want to know what I need?”

“In due time. But we know you. We trust you. We’re in.”

We cut to a board room, where an older, bald Luthor sits at the head of the table. Luthor is attended at all times by a body man he calls Bill. “We’ve all worked together before, on various enterprises. We’ve called them various silly things, like an Injustice League, or a Legion of Doom. But I believe, at our core, that we have always operated on the same core value, that humanity was not meant to bow and scrape at the heels of gods, but to be master of his own fate. Allow me to make introductions. To my left is Damian Al Ghul, perhaps better known as Ibn Al Xu’Ffasch, head of the League of Assassins as well as the rest of The Demon’s vast empire. To his left is Lord Naga, head of Kobra. To my right is the King of the Royal Flush Gang- now King of… well, some island nation in the Atlantic. His companion is Vandal Savage, who makes up for his lack of tact with millenia of experience. The return of a certain Kryptonian has accelerated our plans- though not significantly altered them. Metahuman events continue to escalate- even before our… encouragement. Through various channels, we have warned them that they’re playing with explosives. Their response has been to gather them together in a single powder keg. It’s not surprising that self-styled heroes are victims of their own hubris. It might surprise some of you, then, the newest member of our enclave. Some of you know him; other perhaps fear him. Bruce, would you like to introduce yourself?”

Bruce Wayne clears his throat before dramatically stating, “I’m Batman.” We pull back, and can see that Batman has his own entourage of heroes, mostly second-generation leaguers.

We cut back to the superhuman prison. Superman and Wonder Woman are on a platform that lets them look down at the gathered inmates. Its designed to look as little like a prison as possible. She tells him, “Nearly every metahuman is accounted for, either joined our side, or housed below. Nearly.”

“Diana.”

“It’s time, Clark- Kal. He began this. You’ve known where he is; you had to. He’s practically living in the shadow of this place. It’s past time you deal with him.”

Clark flies to a hovel, assembled from materials clearly scavenged from the fallout. It’s dark inside, lit by candles. There’s simple furniture, three chair, a coffee table, and a cot. Magog is sitting farthest away from the door, watching as Superman enters. We circle around the room as he talks. “I grew up here. Did you ever know that? Kansas, born and raised. Like you- except you not being born here. Maybe that’s why, when I got word Parasite was in Kansas I thought, ‘Not in my backyard,’ and formed a posse. We weren’t even all that green; between us we had fifty years under our belts. I ever introduce you to my folks? This is my dad; he don’t say much; and opposite him is mom. She never shuts up.” We finish panning over the occupants of the two chairs, skeletons, burnt badly in the explosion, tattered rags and baked flesh all that keeps them upright in their chairs. “I grew up thinking you were a pussy. That if you just took things seriously, put a hand through the Joker and every other psycho, that the world would be a Norman Rockwell painting. I thought I was doing what you didn’t have the strength to do. I learned it’s easier to break things, than it is to fix them, with maybe one exception.” Magog holds out his gun. “Can you fix me?”

“Not like that I can’t,” Superman says, and pushes the gun towards the ground. “But I’d like a chance to try me way.”

“We need to talk, Luthor.”

“Lex, please. Bruce.”

“You got your coup. Now we need to talk strategy.”

“And you don’t want to share with the rest of the class?”

“The rest of your board might have organizations behind them, wealth, power, but no vision. Without a plan to deal with Superman, none of our plans will come to fruition.”

“I have a Marvelous anti-Superman strategy.”

“So you’ve said. But he can tear through my robobats like tissue. He’ll make short work of all of our countermeasures, unless we neutralize him.”

“I’m sure your stock of kryptonite has decayed just like mine; doesn’t have the same punch as it used to. Meanwhile, Kent has spent years soaking up solar radiation. I tinkered with a kryptonite atomic weapon; all the test device did was give Power Woman bronchitis.”

“Stop telling me things I already know.”

No. You’ll forgive me, if your convenient last-minute conversion isn’t entirely taken on faith. Or you won’t. I don’t see as you have an alternative.”

“Alfred, my coat.”

“My god. Pennyworth is still alive? Did you drop him in a Lazarus Pit? There really is no escaping the Batman, is there? Not even in death.” He leans into Bruce, eyeing him, before menacing, “I’m afraid you’ll find me equally inescapable,” before he exits.

“John?” Bruce asks ‘Alfred.’ Alfred transforms into a feeble-looking version of the Martian Manhunter. He is all but completely broken, and stammers out his replies.

“I know what you want, but I can’t,” John says. “I can’t stand the thoughts. I can’t let anyone in. You don’t understand what it was like.”

“I know what it did to you,” Bruce soothes. “And I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I need to know if Bill is Marvel.”

“There’s so much noise. So many voices. Too much.” He gasps, collapsing into Bruce’s arms. “Too much,” he whimpers.

“Is Bill Marvel?” Bruce asks. John nods.

“What now?”

“Now you rest. This was already almost too much.”

“I can help.”

“You have. Every time you’re asked. I’m trying not to ask too much. Rest now. If it comes to the worst, I’ll call you again. But only as a last resort.”

Cut to Green Lantern’s satellite base, which has become the headquarters of the new Justice League. We’re following Red Robin as he runs through the various halls to get to the main hall, where Superman is watching earth below through a window. “It’s happened!” Dick yells. “The prisoners are rioting.”

Superman hesitates, and Wonder Woman leaps to fill the void. “Flash, Green Lantern, Power Woman, subdue the rioters.”

“With reasonable force,” Superman tries to assert.

“By whatever means necessary,” Wonder Woman barks over him.

“Everyone else, form up in your battle groups, and prepare in case you’re called to join the fray.” Everyone scrambles, quickly clearing the room. Wonder Woman and Superman retreat to a side chamber. “You undermined my authority.”

“I acted when you hesitated,” she corrects him. “Now control yourself. We’re overdue at the UN. I’m sure by now they know about our prison.”

His eyes narrow. Match cut, to a room at the UN. Superman and Wonder Woman are being upbraided by the US Ambassador to the UN, furious that they’ve built a superhuman prison in the middle of a US state. “We tried to find another way- another place,” Superman says.

“Most of these prisoners are Americans,” Wonder Woman says. “Americans you let run roughshod for years.”

“To be clear, Princess,” the US Ambassador starts, “am I talking with the Ambassador from the Amazons, a woman whose dedication to peace and diplomacy most at this table have admired for years, or am I listening to the general of an alien warlord whose set up his own Gitmo in the ruins of the state of Kansas without so much as asking Uncle Sam what he thinks about it?”

“We’re trying to solve a problem,” Superman says. “I hear you; we should have spoken with you about this sooner.”

“You mean before your little prison had its inaugural riot?”

“You two are hanging by a thread,” the UN Secretary says, stepping in. “If you want to work with us, first you’ll put down that riot. Then you’ll come back here and we’ll figure out next steps, as equals. But know this: both of you are subject to justice at the International Criminal Court, both of you on a trajectory for a long stay at the Hague. Measure your next steps accordingly.”

Superman and Wonder Woman fly away. He’s angry. “You didn’t think they’d wait forever for us to solve this, did you? Like it or not, you’re a public figure- a world leader. They need you to take decisive action- we need you to. Before things get so bad there’s no coming back from them.”

We cut back to Luthor’s shindig. He’s popping champagne, thrilled at his good fortune. “The riot is bubbling over. The UN has been made aware, and are furious. Our moment of maximal leverage is at hand. One little push- and we can rid the world of these tyrannical Ubermensch once and for all. And for that, it’s time we finally loose or secret weapon.” Luthor strokes Captain Marvel’s cheek. “Tear the walls of their prison down. Start the last battle of this war, so we can finally finish it.” He says he’s scared, and Luthor tells him that he has faith in him- that he’s humanity’s last hope for peace- but that he’s secure in that fact.

Suddenly, Batman punches Marvel. “Hello, Billy.” He tries to speak, but Batman crushes down on his windpipe with his shoe. “Billy Batson’s been missing for ten years- as has Captain Marvel. You’ve kept him that entire time, twisting his young mind, terrifying the hell out of him. I suspected it, and John confirmed it.”

“But our goals,” Luthor stammers.

“My goal was figuring out your secret weapon. Marvel was a wild card- and I hate wild cards. So I’m taking him off the table.” Green Arrow asks if that’s the signal? Bruce smiles, and says, “Strike,” and the members of his second generation Justice League attack Luthor’s goons.

Billy manages to twist out from under Bruce’s foot, and he gives chase. “Billy, wait! I understand better than most what happened. This dark, new reality, it’s been hard to adjust to. Captain Marvel was the best of us; fools saw it as naivete, but he was an inspiration, and an aspiration. But all the death, all the pain, and horror, and hate… one day it gets to be too much. I hid in my cave. He hid inside a scared little boy. But it’s time we both stopped running.”

He runs down a different hall. “I know Luthor found you. Took fear and turned it into something worse, guilt, paranoia, and paralysis. And it only got worse, because with each passing day, you felt more responsible for not doing more- and more terrified of what the other part of you would do if you let him out. Luthor’s lost. We can still fix things. We just have to-” Billy crashes into a tank filled with mind controlling caterpillars. He’s buried under a wriggling pile of them, more traumatized than we’ve seen.

“The worms secrete chemicals that eat away at you. What Luthor did to you was torture. And I know you’re scared. But if you stay calm, we can-” Stuttering, Billy eventually gets out the magic word, “Shazam,” and is gone, leaving Batman alone with a hole in the wall. Green Arrow catches up to Batman. “Marvel’s no longer a wild card,” he says, as they both stare out of the hole in the wall. “God help us.”

Cut to the orbital HQ, where Wonder Woman, dressed in her metal bird armor, unsheaths a sword. “I can’t sanction lethal force,” Superman protests.

“We don’t all have heat vision.”

“We’re better than this. We have lines we don’t cross- because human life is too precious.”

“No,” she says. “You have lines. And because you’re invulnerable, you can afford to. But your rules won’t save our friends here. And they won’t prevent the next Kansas if we fail. You’re welcome to join us, and save as many as you can. But I’m don’t fighting with an arm behind my back, and I’m through asking anyone else to.”

The silence for an instant is deafening, before we hear a transmission from Green Lantern, pleading for help. He tells them the walls are breached, that Captain Comet is dead. Wonder Woman smashes the table they’re gathered around, and walks out. The rest of the League follow her, leaving Superman alone.

He flies down to Earth, smashing through the Earth’s crust and emerging in the Batcave. He pleads for help, which Batman refuses. He explains that the League has the prison surrounded, ready to bring it down on the prisoners’ heads.

“Did you ever consider this might be the optimal outcome?” Batman asks. “That perhaps humanity’s only chance is for the superhumans to swallow each other up?”

“I know you don’t believe that. We don’t always see eye to eye, Bruce, but when you scratch everything else away from Batman, you’re left with someone who doesn’t want to see anybody die. Please, tell me you’ll help me.”

“I don’t know that I can. Captain Marvel’s back. Luthor had him, spent ten years turning him inside out. He’s header for the prison, to break it wide open. You don’t need Batman, you need a m-” he turns, realizing Superman’s gone. “So that’s what that feels like,” he says with a smile on his face.

We cut back and forth between Wonder Woman, as the horror of Marvel’s intervention dawns on her, and Superman, flying faster than he ever has in an attempt to stop what he knows he can’t. From over Superman’s shoulder we see the prison, but also a red and gold streak that’s going to get there faster, and it does, blasting the prison open.

From here on out it’s a lot of punching. Superman vs. Shazam (he’s pretty vulnerable to magic so Superman doesn’t really stand a chance), the League vs. the new breed of heroes.

Cut to the Oval Office. The US Ambassador to the UN delivers the news, that the General Secretary agrees with his assessment- that if they let the Superhuman threat outside of Kansas, the human race is lost. The Defense Secretary tells him that the bombs and bombers are hardened against superhuman powers- that one ought to do the trick, but three guarantees success. The President is tentative, and wants to be sure the world will stand with him, and aren’t going to leave America holding the bag. “They’re behind us, 100%. It’s the only way for the human race to survive.” The President asks for his speech, says he needs to be talking at the UN when it happens. They need as united a front as they can have.

Fight fight fight, going badly for Superman and the League. In fact, they’re losing, perhaps definitively. Until Batman and his young league arrive, him in his mechanical Batsuit. This might be harder to get across on film, but Batman’s forces in particular try to stem the loss of life, intervening to stop both Leaguers and bad guys from killing.

Batman stops Wonder Woman from running through Von Bach, subduing him instead, and then they get into it. He pokes at her over the inconsistencies in the Amazonian philosophy (peace through strength); she’s mostly just got her blood up and angry, perhaps fighting more with Superman than with Bruce when she screams that she won’t be judged by him (it’s subtle, but in the fight she damages his communications). Their fight takes them above the fray, above the clouds- and they see the incoming bombers, and realize what’s about to happen. They break off the fight immediately to deal with the bombers.

We cut to the ground, Superman pleading with Captain Marvel to remember that they’re friends, to remember their shared goals of helping people. When that doesn’t work, he asks him to say something, to which he says, “Shazam,” hitting him with magic lightning. We pan around and see the rest of the fighting as we hear the thunder again, again, and again.

Batman and Wonder Woman each take out one of the bombers, (Batman trying but failing to raise help via his comms), but one remains, dropping its payload.   

Back to Superman and Marvel, but this time Superman springs forward, picking him up and putting him in front of the lightning while covering his mouth, and Marvel is transformed back into Billy. Superman sees the bomb, and tries to use heat vision on it, but it glances off. Superman is full of rage, but he catches sight of Billy’s eyes, full of fear, tears welling up. “I don’t know what to do, Billy,” he tells him. He holds Billy so he can see the fight raging around them. “Every decision I’ve made, everything I’ve done, has been wrong, has brought us here. Bruce says if we survive this fight, we’ll unleash this Hell on every corner of the globe. If the bomb drops, almost every good person I’ve ever known dies in an instant. I can stop the bomb- but I don’t know if I should be allowed to. Lois used to say I too often put the man before the super; I know lately I’ve put the super over the man. But of all of us, you were always the best of both. I’m sorry to put the weight of this whole world on your shoulders- especially given how many times I’ve buckled under the same. But I’m not fit to choose. You have to.” Superman lets him go, and flies up towards the bomb.

We close in on Billy’s face, a tear sliding down his cheek as he says, “Shazam.” Marvel rockets out of a cloud of smoke and lightning, grabbing Superman by the ankle and hurling him at the ground. Marvel continues upward, grabbing the bomb and screams, “Shazam!” and both he and the bomb disappear in a cloud of smoke and lightning, that becomes a blinding white light.

Superman, kneeling in the fallout, screams silently.  We pan over the battlefield, covered in bleached skeletons. Superman struggles to his feet, his eyes glowing, a being of pure, incandescent rage. He flies off.

We linger on the smoke and stillness a moment, and start to see signs of life. Green Lantern has preserved a small bubble of people, and there are others who survived, as well.

We cut to the UN, with the President speaking at the front. “It was with a heavy heart that humanity severed the bonds between our community and superhumanity.”

Superman bursts through the wall, spraying chunks of rock into the assembly. He flies to the ceiling, and presses against it, spiderweb cracks forming out away from him as diplomats scatter. We see Wesley Dodds and the Spectre, witnessing the scene as Wonder Woman flies in through the hole Superman made. “Clark,” she says, “Don’t.”

“I know anger, Clark,” Batman says, flying in. “And you have every right to be. But you’re forgetting what it feels like to be a human in the presence of a Superman.” Bruce nods towards the people below, continuing to scatter, or staring up at him in awe.

“You’re not real. You’re not here. You both died.”

“Not all of us,” Green Lantern says, as a whole slew of those who survived, filing in.

Wonder Woman strokes his cheek. “This won’t solve anything. Because you aren’t angry with them. You’re angry with yourself. You’re angry it came to this. But you have to let that go. Right now, the world doesn’t need a Superman, it needs Clark Kent.” He lets go of the roof.

Clark lands, collapsing even under his own weight. “How?”

Wonder Woman: “Marvel detonated the bomb above ground zero. Green Lantern and others were able to shield some of us.”

“How many?”

Batman: “Enough that we have the same problem as before. The same impasse. The same dangers. Distrust. Everything.”

“Then it’s time we tried a new solution.” Superman walks towards the President and the UN General Secretary. “Years ago, we let those we protected drive us away. We saw ourselves as… superior, above it all. We were wrong. But I’m tired of dwelling on past wrongs. What we need- what we all– human and superhuman- need, is to come together, to build a better tomorrow. So many of our mistakes come from trying to solve problems for you. I realize now, we need to solve them with you. As partners. As equals.”

Superman hands Captain Marvel’s cape to the General Secretary. “I asked Captain Marvel to choose between humanity and superhumanity. It was the wrong question, but still he found the right answer. Which is life. We’d like to join you, formally, with his cape as our flag.”

Cut to Superman, in Kansas, building a memorial with rows of tombstones spanning as far as the eye can see (remember, we’re talking 3 million dead in Kansas). Superman is putting the finishing touches on the nearest one. Wonder Woman flies in. “Quite the memorial.”

“As it should be. Not just to those who lost their lives to the bomb, or to Magog, but in memory of all those who lost their lives to our mistakes.”

“I hope it helps you let them rest in piece, Clark. Remember what they taught you, but don’t let their loss haunt you. Speaking of which…” she hands him a hand-carved wooden box. “A gift,” she tells him, handing it to him. “To help you see more clearly.” They’re a pair a spectacles. He puts them on, and smiles. His hand brushes hers, and he pulls her in for a kiss.

It’s the present day, and a younger Wesley Dodds wakes up, a little freaked out. “That was a messed up dream,” he says, yawning. Then he sees the reflection of the Spectre in a portrait, and nearly jumps out of his skin. “Oh, crap,” he says, and we cut to black, and roll credits.

Mid-credits scene. At the Planet Krypton restaurant. Clark and Diana are seated, Clark rolling his eyes at the cheesiness, and Diana soaking in the adoration, as she puts it, “accustomed to seeing mortals pay tribute to the gods.” They speak conspiratorially. Bruce sneaks up on them, surprising Clark. Clark asks him about his kids, and Bruce asks how much time he has, mentioning Dick is making a swift recovery Damian just might clear the fog of his brainwashing, Tim’s well, Barbara’s still not speaking to him but otherwise healthy…

A man at the table behind taps Bruce, and asks if he… is using the ketchup, because they’re out. Bruce smiles and hands it to him. Depending on how much epilogue we want we can get into lots of the little world-building, but the important point is this. Diana’s about to make an announcement, but Bruce, not bothering to even look up from his steak, says, “You’re pregnant.”

“Always the detective,” she says. “So I’ll test your escape artistry. I want a commitment from you. I want you to be the godfather.”

“My record as a parent is hardly spotless,” he replies.

“There are things Batman can teach our child that Clark or I couldn’t. Some we would never even think of.”

“Our child more than any other will need the leavening influence of a mortal man,” Clark offers, “a moral man. One we can count on. And despite our differences, I’ve always counted on you.”

“So have I,” Diana says. Bruce is touched. And shocked. And shocked he’s touched. “So it’s settled, then?”

Bruce rubs his chin. “The child of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Almost makes you pity the villains of the future.”

“Really?” Clark asks.

“No. Not really.”

And resume credits.

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 11: Justice League: Interplanetary

Lobo has been hired by Darkseid to snatch up Kryptonians. He manages to get Superboy in the prologue, listening to a voicemail from Clark in San Francisco. “I know we haven’t known each other long, and I know you don’t always feel Kryptonian, but you’re family. Whether you’re living in Kansas with mom, or if you decide to stay in Titans Tower in California, if there’s anything I can help with, let me know.”

He makes quick work of it, sticking mostly to the shadows (I suspect his has a kryptonite hook on his chain to help). Cut to Martha Kent, calling Clark. She hasn’t heard from Connor and is getting concerned. Clark is fighting Metallo, talking on a Bluetooth headset. He suggests Martha send Kara (Supergirl) to try and find him, and tells her to call if she finds anything strange, and he’ll be there in the blink of an eye. We dissolve to Kara, landing in San Francisco, touching a footprint where Connor stood, noticing the brick where his heat vision scorched it. We notice Lobo’s silhouette in the alley behind her, punctuated by a pair of red eyes, then he leaps out and we cut.

Superman flies through the air as a message from Martha plays in the background. “Clark. Kara still hasn’t checked in, and I checked her phone. She made a call to you that didn’t go through. I’m getting worried.” Superman lands in the alleyway. We see red eyes behind him as a dramatic sting plays. Out of the alley steps the Martian Manhunter. “Power Girl was taken from her home, following a struggle. I followed the energy signature of an alien craft here. I think someone has been collecting Kryptonians.”

“Manhunter. Good to have you along.” A chunk of the first act is a hard-boiled mystery being investigated by Clark, an investigative reporter, and John, a detective. Things get worse with the arrival of a Green Lantern (I’d go with Hal, personally, as I think he fits most into this scene, but Stewart could work, too- either way playing the part of more an official policeman). He’s tracking a New God, who he believes has violated treaties not to interfere with the Earth that both they and Apokalips have signed. Really, Scott Free is there because intelligence pointed to a plot to kidnap and turn Kryptonians into an asset for Darkseid, who he believes has taken Barda, as well. The Hawks show up, largely because they view themselves as a rival influence to the Lanterns, and don’t want to give the Corps too much sway over Earth affairs. I imagine Blackfire shows up, frustrated that Tamaran is being excluded from this now intergalactic meeting. Essentially, there are supposed to be non-interference treaties they’ve all signed, which they all think the others are violating. There’s a big old brawl, mostly destroying Clark’s orbital Fortress of Solitude. Lobo returns, fights Superman basically to a standstill; the fight is bombastic enough the others stop fighting, and start watching. Superman eventually asks for help, and Lobo gets walloped by the rest of the assembly.

Lobo puts in a call to his boss, and a Boom Tube opens up, dropping Granny Goodness (it all but has to be Kathy Bates, right? Offer her all of the Aquaman money, it will be worth it) and a selection of Furies, including Supergirl, Power Girl and Big Barda (Superboy is acting as Granny’s personal protection). Superman and Mr. Miracle plead with them not to hurt their friends, and try to talk down the Furies. They fail, and a new fight ensues. They’re pretty evenly matched, but Lobo, fighting the Martian Manhunter, overhears Superman trying to reason with Connor (Lobo buys himself a moment spitting a liquor fireball lit on his cigar at John, who recoils in horror at the flame). Connor’s trying to fight his programming, but it’s clear he’s terrified, that he didn’t fit before, and now, after all this, there’s no way he won’t be an outcast. “You’re family, Connor. You have a home, with us. People who care about you, and who know that it doesn’t matter if you screw up- what matters is that you try to do better, to be better, every day. We want you back, but you have to want to be back.”   

“Ah, what the frag,” Lobo says, shrugging, and face turns, smacking Superboy from behind with his hook. He and Superman share a moment. With Lobo on their side, the fight turns, and Granny’s forced to crawl off, humiliated. But obviously there’s a huge, looming threat from off-world that none of them can ignore. The New Gods argue that they should all join war against Apokalips, but the rest largely argue for containment; they need to be able to protect themselves against Apokalips, and form an alliance to that affect, but aren’t ready to declare an interplanetary war (I’m sure you all see where this is going, though). If there’s too much overlap between this and DuVerne’s New Gods, you can swap in Mongul and War World with relatively little fuss (we’d just have to increase his power levels accordingly).

There’s a tense moment at the end, where no one is sure what to do about Lobo. He’s kind of stand offish, before asking, quietly, if Superman meant what he said. “Bout having a home. The main man hasn’t had a home since Czarnia.” Superman puts out his hand, and Lobo shakes it.

“It’s a big universe. If you want to help us keep it safe, you’ll always be welcome here.” Lobo walks into the living room and drops onto the couch, putting big, gross boots up on the coffee table, and drinking the rest of his bottle of booze. A subplot going forward will be an Odd Couple dynamic between Clark and Lobo at the Fortress, because that should be funny.

Bonus: In part 2, Mongul is used by Darkseid to start a proxy war with Earth’s heroes, scooping most of the Interplanetary League up to join his games. They free Battleworld and end Mongul’s reign, in the process recruiting Adam Strange and freeing the planet Rann, and discover Darkseid’s influence, teeing up part 3. In 3, we feint towards Brainiac, but he’s really just working with Darkseid (as he has since the destruction of Krypton), and weakens our heroes in preparation for Darkseid’s invasion. The movie ends with Superman shoving Darkseid through a Boom Tube, and being swallowed up with him, lost, presumably on Apokalips. Part 4 would be an invasion of Apokalips to liberate the planet, as well as rescue Superman; I would expect this to be an Avengers 3/4  style crossover with the New Gods, likely bringing in even more of Earth’s heroes for at least cameos for part 4.

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 10: Justice League Dark

I’m just proceeding on the assumption that there likely won’t be a Swamp Thing sequel, and we’re just following it all up here- which works just fine for me, since my concept was to adapt the epic Alan Moore Swamp Thing story that draws in Zatara and a huge chunk of DC’s magical world, maybe mix in some of the Gaiman Books of Magic. Now, I’m going to acknowledge the Harry Potter elephant in the room and propose a drastic revision, namely, to make Tim Hunter a girl. I know Tim existed first, I know he’s not a knock-off, but he’s still going to feel like one if it’s a spectacled brunette boy. Even the name, Tim Hunter, seems like the slightly cooler but still everyman name you’d give to a character like that. I’d probably go a radical step further and make it a black girl; in a way, it would be kind of like finally doing Hermione justice, and at the same time, thoroughly differentiate them. But I know it’s a tough sell, so I’ll call them Tim for the duration.

We start where the post-credits scene in Swamp Thing ended. Abigail rushes Swamp Thing and kisses him. To not be too weird about it, she sees him as he ‘really’ is, Alec Holland, and sees herself kissing Alec. She runs her hand over his face, and then we cut back, and see her running her hand over Swamp Thing’s face. “Oh, Alec, what happened?”

“I died. But I came back as this, as a plant elemental.”

“Who knows Batman.” He nods.

“I’m working to save the world in a different kind of way. And as happy as I am to see you-

“We can all see the vine- we know,” Batman says. “Remind me to buy you some pants.”

“Constantine asked me to ask about your father. We might need his help.”

“Constantine?”

“A magician. A mystery.”

“A smart-ass in a trenchcoat,” Batman adds.

“He’s the one who told me what I am, and what I need to do.”

“Then, if this mission is so important, where the hell is he?” she asks.

Abby,” he takes her hand, “we’re here because I needed to see you. It was only after I said I was coming, that Constantine asked after your father.”

“You wouldn’t lie in front of Batman, would you? Also, I feel weird that we’re doing any of this in front of Batman.”

“He likes to watch.”

“Hey!” Batman protests.

“Sorry, ‘detect.’ And Constantine said he had somewhere else he had to be.”

Constantine is in London, walking the streets, on the phone with his artist hookup from the previous film. I know there’s a time difference of I think 8 hours, but it’s mid morning in London. “And you’re sure that’s where I’ll find him?” John asks into his phone. She says that’s what she painted. He calls her a life saver, and they end the call. She notices a noise, and tells John pretending to hang up then breathing heavily into the phone is juvenile, even for him. But the call did end, and she traces the sound to her closet, where the creature she painted last time (which is hanging on her wall), lays in wait. It lunges at her, and we cut back to John.

Or rather, we cut back to Tim, skateboarding through a smaller, more claustrophobic part of London.

Tim is essentially our POV character, which we’ll likely need, since things are going to get weirder before anything else, and making someone explain that will be a help. The world is on the brink of madness. The skies run red, storms and other cataclysms ravage the world. The recent rampage of the Swamp Thing through Gotham has further tilted the balance, and the events of whatever DCEU movies have further destabilized the world. You wouldn’t know it, to look at London. It looks ordinary. That’s the world where we discover Tim Hunter skateboarding. As he goes, we notice the shadows start to peel away from their positions and follow him; he’s unaware of the gathering tsunami of darknessdarkness until he all but runs into the Phantom Stranger and the rest of the Trenchcoat Brigade. Behind Tim, Constantine dispels the malevolent shadows with a flick of a match used to light a cigarette without a sound.

They discuss Tim as the most powerful magician of the age- potentially, and how they’re here to give him a choice. A nervous Tim fiddles with his yo-yo before dropping it; one of them, (probably Constantine), picks it up, and transforms it into a snowy owl, before handing it back to Tim.

Constantine says he has to go off and handle logistics, they walk Tim through some magical realms- it’s a truncated version of Books of Magic, with the three of them not splitting up. They’re pursued by more and more persistent shadows, assassins or kidnappers from the Cult of the Cold Flame. In desperation, E takes them to the future, where they bear witness to Tim potentially leading the Cult in its destruction of everything. E decides the risks are too great, and tries to kill Tim. The other two are able to handle him long enough to escape into a magical realm where time moves backwards in the form of a river- they just have to float backwards to the proper time.

Meanwhile, the rest of the conflict continues to escalate. Constantine introduces Swamp Thing to his inside man, Dead Man- who knows whatever the dead know and the Cult have been leaving behind a lot of bodies to ask questions of. Then he calls Zatanna, to see if the ‘tights set’ have responded. ‘And then some’ is her reply; not only have all of the magical heroes agreed to help, but most of the magically inclined normals, too- that everyone is meeting at Dr. Fate’s Tower. She notes she hasn’t heard from her father, though- and is angry Constantine kept his part in this from her. Constantine says it was Zatara’s plan- a race with the devil that could maybe put an end to all of this- though neither man expected it to succeed. We cut to the streets of an exotic location, at night. Zatara is running as if his life depended on it- as if all life depended on it. He spots a raven with a black pearl in its mouth, and sprints hard for it. The creature from before leaps from the shadows at him, so fast he doesn’t even get out a scream. He’s dead before his body hits the pavement.

We watch as the bird arrives at the Citadel of the Cold Flame, and deposits its pearl in a magical object, setting off a chain reaction that sees a portal open up, and something horrible start to crawl out of it.

“Damnit,” Constantine says, as he walks in the door. Others murmur words to the effect of, ‘He’s dead,’ as the psychic reverberations of the murder shudder through them. “I’m so, so sorry, Zee.” She’s angry, but at the same time, she knows the stakes are too high for her to kick the hell out of him like she wants to do- she’ll save that for later. Constantine asks after the man he wanted her to find. She still doesn’t understand.

 Constantine explains that a lot of the heaviest hitters there are a signal flare- the Cult can sense them in the heart of the sun. But he wants to take the fight to them- to infiltrate their headquarters and cripple their plans. To do that he needs the smallest, most subtle guns who can still get the job accomplished possible. Dead Man doesn’t have all that much earthly power; the Swamp Thing registers as an interesting house plant despite the deep wells of power from the green he can call upon. And Jason Blood is just a man. He’s going because he can’t ask anyone to stick their head in the lion’s mouth if he won’t- and he’s still trying to make amends for Newcastle. They should all be able to sneak right under the radar. She insists he should be back in Ravenscar if he thinks he’s leaving her behind- and he says she’s a clever combat witch, but her skills come from experience, not raw power- he expected she’d 6demand to come and the cloaking spell should be able to accommodate her. Might be cool if Batman sticks around to join the infiltration, but that may be down to contract shenanigans more than anything.

Just then Dr. Occult and the Phantom Stranger arrive with Tim, saying they ran the cult a merry chase but couldn’t keep away any longer, and mention how they lost E. John expected as much would happen- even if he hoped for more time. Tim asks why he’s there, and Constantine says he’s the whole ball game- if the Cult get their paws on him, that’s checkmate. Constantine and Zatanna arrange all of the other magic types, including Occult and the Stranger, to concentrate on a barrier keeping their location safe. At a precise moment, they’re going to open it up, and let Justice League Dark out the back door. John gives a speech about how this one is for all of sentient life, in this realm and all the others. Some of them will die, he has no doubt, but if they fail- then surely they all will. John has a word with the Spectre before leaving, and then goes. They leave Tim with Occult and the Stranger, in the center of a chanting circle- the magicians in it can’t break contact without leaving holes in the barrier. The Lovecraftian horror, now building-sized, exits from a portal and attacks the tower; it is held at bay for the moment by the barrier.

We cut to the Citadel of the Cold Flame with Justice League Dark. I’m assuming it exists kind of on the cusp of a parallel realm- so not just in Calcutta, but basically the precipice of the abyss from beyond which the creature assaulting their base came. They’re attacked by some gargoyle-like creatures, and Swamp Thing is able to use the vines growing up the Citadel to defend them long enough for everyone else to get inside. Zatanna is last, and bids them to “Nruter ot enots,” and they turn back into stone, and break after falling out of the sky.

They’re caught by a cultist with what looks like a big, scary magical weapon. He shudders, and then we hear Dead Man’s voice coming out of him. “Now I wouldn’t do this to an upstanding fella, but even on top of the evil death cult, he sucks. He beats his wife. And his neighbor’s wife.” The cultist balls his fist and punches himself across the face. “That’s gonna hurt when he wakes up.” Dead Man explains where the central chamber housing the Cult leadership is, and wears the cultist the whole way, advising them about traps and the like.

They find the central chamber, and Constantine tells them the plan was always a Hail Mary, and takes out a gold lighter. He sets it on the floor, and it grows into Tim. We cut back to the base, and the ‘Tim’ there shrinks down to Tim’s yo-yo. Constantine tells Tim he’s the only one among them capable of closing the opening through which the creature is projecting itself. Constantine tells Jason it’s time, and we get his rhyme, “Gone, gone, the form of man, Rise the demon Etrigan!” and he becomes the Demon. He and Swamp Thing launch upon the cultists that attack.

As the barrier is assaulted again and again, the strain is showing on the magic users. One bursts into flames, and another faints. As the barrier is failing, the Spectre asks them to open it, and leaves, growing in size so he can attack the monstrous creature on its level. The barrier strengthens, again.

Dead Man makes a sacrifice play to draw most of the cultists away, and buy Constantine and Zatanna more time. They fight their way to the McGuffin with Tim. We cut back to see the Spectre, defeated, tossed aside by the horror, which continues towards the Tower. The climax is Zatanna and Constantine defending Tim as they’re being closed in on by cultists, while the other members are all fighting elsewhere or neutralized. Constantine tells Tim to take the black pearl from the magical device beside them that is keeping the portal open. Zatanna asks Constantine if he’s sure- that if he’s wrong he will be catastrophically wrong. The Cult’s leader tells him he can also take its power for himself. Tim says he doesn’t want it, and manages to close the portal. The cultists continue to advance, and it’s clear that Zatanna and Constantine are about to be overwhelmed when Dr. Fate opens a portal for them, and he and the Spectre step out.

Constantine says they can stay- if the Cult demand it- and fight- or they can agree the day’s been a costly draw. They collapse on the other side of the portal, with Zatanna surprised they didn’t know he was bluffing. He’s not sure he was, in that moment. They take their wounded back to their stronghold.

Mister E arrives from the end of time. He says he’s pleased to see he was wrong about Tim, but that he should understand he never really had a choice. From the moment Constantine told him about magic- he was in. There was no going back for him. Tim, upset, turns to Constantine, who takes his time lighting a cigarette and taking a long drag before responding. He tells him he did what he had to, to protect Tim and the whole rest of the universe- there wasn’t any other way that let Tim stay above the fray. Dead Man, inhabiting whatever person is handy, tells Tim that might be the closest he’s ever heard to an apology out of Constantine- and anyone else in earshot agrees. “That doesn’t make any of it right,” Tim says.

“No. It doesn’t,” Constantine agrees; and because this is the year of Pedro Pascal playing flawed father figures, I’m going to suggest he play Constantine, because that could be fun. “The thing they don’t tell you about magic, or doing the right thing, is there’s always a cost to bear. And you bear it, because someone has to, and you hope it doesn’t break you. But sometimes, just for moments, it’s worth it.” Constantine picks up Tim’s yo-yo, and transforms it back into his bird. Tim’s delighted to see it, even if he now understand a bit about the cost Constantine’s talking about. Tim asks if he can go home- if it’s safe. Constantine promises that he’ll be under their protection, from now on. That anyone here who wants out of protecting Tim can speak now about it. No one does.

Later, in a bar, Zatanna and Constantine are drinking together. She’s still uncertain why it had to be Tim at the end, why she or he couldn’t have removed the pearl. “I’ve seen magic half as strong as that corrupt men ten times stronger than me- two times stronger than you. He could reject power like that because he’s young, and idealistic, and naïve. I don’t know if he’d do it again- I know I’m not fool enough to ask him to.”

“He would,” she says confidently. “Do you think we did the right thing?”

“Would you give up magic? For anything?”

“Save the world, maybe.”

“But only maybe, right?” he asks with a smile.

“Save my dad,” she says bitterly.

They hear the bartender, speaking with a Louisianan accent, telling someone they don’t serve his kind here, before stopping abruptly, and in Dead Man’s accent welcoming him inside. We pan over to see that Swamp Thing is entering the otherwise empty bar. As Constantine turns back to their table, he notices Jason Blood sitting in the corner.

“Jason. I didn’t see you come in.”

“You’ve been having difficulty seeing anything but Zatanna since before I came in.”

“What’s your poison?” Dead Man asks Swamp Thing.

“Water.”

I kind of hope we could have Batman along for the assault team, just because it would be great to bring him back here, haunted by the world he’s just been exposed to- but also, knowing it’s there, recognizing the need for people like them to try to get these kinds of genies back in the bottle. He offers to pay to keep them on retainer, for the things that go bump in the night.

“I thought you were one of those,” Constantine says with a smirk.

“There are worse things in the dark than me.” Constantine tells him to stop being so melodramatic, of course they’re in. Because if something sinister threatens to destroy all life, of course they’ll help stop it- everyone but Dead Man being rather attached to being alive.

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 9: Swamp Thing: War on Gotham

Adapting the Alan Moore run, particularly the story focused on Swamp Thing making war on Gotham, leading into Justice League Dark. I think he teams with Poison Ivy, allowing him to draw a line by the end where he doesn’t agree with Bats, but knows Ivy’s so committed to plant life that she’d kill all the animals, too, and that’s too far (if we’re careful, setting her up for an eventual face turn later). We’ll also use this as a backdoor pilot for Constantine, and work Zatanna into it as a conduit between Batman and Constantine, trying to negotiate a peace. In part, this should feel like a disaster/alien invasion movie, with Bats and Zatanna researching possible scientific or magical means of ending the conflict, while the plantlife under Ivy’s control is largely a force of nature unto itself.

We open on the Wayne Green Initiative, an internal environmental science group within Wayne Industries; they have a dual mandate, researching green technology breakthroughs while also providing autonomous oversight to Wayne’s industrial divisions. Its director, Jason Woodrue, is young, handsome and charismatic. Most of the women in the office seem charmed by him, but not Pamela Isley. She values brains and ethics over clout- and she has it bad for Alec Holland. He’s a researcher from Louisiana, doing research on the restorative properties of certain kinds of plantlife. Pam’s research is more dealing with plant interactions with hormones, pheromones and attraction; she posits that there’s more to giving flowers than meets the eye- that plants are working on humans on a more subtle level than that- her work is proving the underlying chemical reaction. She’s also got a dual doctorate in plant toxicology.

A coworker brings Pam flowers; it’s completely inappropriate, but what she really objects to is that they were cut. “Would you bring an equestrian Mr. Ed’s severed head? Would you bring a dog lover Lassie’s excised tail?” She’s also annoyed at the unwanted workplace advance, but it’s filtered through her moral outrage. We see her apologizing to the flowers as he walks away.

He’s concerned Alec, who shares lab space with her, saw what transpired, and to save face tells him, “Watch out for that one- she’s a man eater.” He goes on to tell him she’s been through most of the staff, that most are haunted by the experience, that she’s the real reason Gary transferred. Alec says he thought Gary’s mother was sick, and the coworker- it might save time to make it Jason, is skeptical. Alec is mostly still disinterested- science is his first love. We montage our way through the day, and in time-lapse watch as every other lab and office is deserted, save Pam and Alec’s. We see an unknown man strolling through the halls, dumping a can of gasoline. We watch as the electronic locks go from displaying a green light to a red one, and hear the thunk of them locking; the noise is surprising enough for Alec to finally look up from his work. Pamela catches his attention, and smiles at him.

We see from her POV, as her vision lights up and she sees Alec framed by flames, and she lets out a breathy, “Wow.” Alec sees the same- only he doesn’t mistake it for an Ally McBealian daydream, and springs from his chair to tell her there’s a fire. They try the doors, try the suppression system, try the phones- nothing’s working.

“Someone sprung a trap for us,” he says. That’s when the valves to the chemicals and tissue samples start to open, flooding the floor with chemicals, and the air with green mist. They’re both terrified, and say that in these concentrations their research materials are toxic. Alec tries to throw a chair through the glass, but it rebounds with a thud. Alec sees the hood vent over Pam’s station, and asks if she thinks she can fit through there (it needs to be just big enough to accommodate her, but not him). Alec tears down the hood, which is basically a bunch of sheet metal, bloodying up his hands.

She doesn’t want to leave him, and he tells her she isn’t- she’s going for help. She kisses him as the music swells. He gives her a boost into the vent and she shimmies away. Alec goes to his desk and pulls out a bottle of champagne and two glasses. We see a framed picture of Abby Arcane in the drawer where they’d been, a striking woman with white hair with a black streak in it (we can reverse those if it’s hard to make look realistic). We match cut to Abby, only instead of smiling, she’s sad. We pull out, through the ring Alec is holding out to her, as she says, “Alec, I can’t,” with dreamlike reverb. She gets up and runs away, disappearing into the green of the wooded swampland.

We cut back to the lab. The smoke now is so thick we can scarcely see through it, but we can make out the opened champagne bottle on the desk, and one spilled glass of champagne. We follow that trail to Alec, face down in the chemicals, and in his open hand, the ring.

We cut away, to a man knocking on a door. A blonde brit in a trench coat, smoking like a chimney. A young psychic woman in New York opens the door into her condo. On her easel is a horrific drawing of a creature that was once a man. “Looks to be the thing that was keeping Benjy up,” Constantine mutters. “Coarse, he thought it was Cthulhu and Elder Gods coming back. Judith thought it was Elvis, or maybe Elvis by way of aliens. The only bleeding thing every psychic in America can agree on is it’s coming. I haven’t bothered with Sister Anne Marie- she’ll tell me it’s Jesus and to get my affairs in order.”

She starts sketching, filling in details of a classic Swamp Thing cover, but dancing around the central figure, leaving him as a silhouette. She tells him the others were lacking for one thing: inspiration. She tackles him to the ground with a kiss. We cut to the aftermath of their romp, John putting back on his shirt. “But is he the one we need?” John asks. She doesn’t think he knows what he’s growing into- so she really can’t say. But what she can tell him is where it’s happening- Louisiana- and that it’s starting right now.

Cut to Alec in a black void, naked and curled in the fetal position, kind of echoing the void in Under the Skin. “Alec?” we hear in a woman’s dreamy sing-song.

“That’s a nice name,” we hear from a voice nearer by. “I’m Dead. Man.” Alec doesn’t look up, but Dead Man is kneeling beside him, chattering. “Also dead. Not like you. You’re only mostly dead. Pre-dead. Nearly. Apparently you’ve still got work to do, but no mortal coil to shuffle back to. Hmm. Anyway, I get this sinking impression we’ll be meeting again. You can call me Boston, by the way, or Brand if you’re nasty.”

“Alec?” this time it’s even more melodic and drawn out, and Alec sits up; Dead Man is gone. “There you are,” the voice is full of warmth and affection; it’s Pam, but also, it seems to be emanating, visualized with green ripples, from a solitary red rose that is growing, with tendrils of ivy reaching out from its base. Subtly, as the scene goes on, the black void takes on a green hue; we’ll also be filling the space wall to wall with plant life. As she speaks, the rose grows larger, until Poison Ivy, in all of her splendor, including clothes grown out of ivy and moss, steps out of it. By that point, the plant life has spread, revealing that it’s not so much a dark room, as an endless overgrown forest. “I was sorry I couldn’t save you. I tried. But I didn’t even really save myself… but when I woke up, I could hear you. I thought I was going mad; a not-improbable side effect of the chemical exposure. But it was you.” She embraces him, and their world is engulfed in green light. And suddenly we’re back in the real world, with Ivy holding the Swamp Thing. “Welcome back, Alec.”

“Back?” he asks in a halting, inhuman voice, taking a step back from her. He sees the crude approximation of a body he’s suddenly in, formed from vines and muck. “What am I?” She tells him he’s so much more than a man, and encourages him to feel the green- the collective voice of the plant world around him. She tells him they are those plants’ hands- and their righteous fury. While searching for him she dug through their files. Some of Wayne Tech’s divisions are producing more pollution than they’re supposed to, a lot more. Rather than clean up their act- Wayne Industries decided to take care of the watchers. She holds up her phone and thumbs through story after story of Wayne Industries and chemical spills, environmental fines. She tells him she thinks they’re back for a reason.

“And I think she’s barmy,” Constantine says from the darkness, before he’s lit by a match and then the cigarette he lights with it. He tells them if he was resurrected mysteriously his first act wouldn’t be to lash out at an entity maybe tangentially related to his death or figuring out the fastest route to becoming plant Hitler. “But I can tell you what you really are.”

“No,” Ivy says, “he can’t. Because he doesn’t know you. You’re Alec Holland. And that’s all that matters.” He’s swayed by Ivy for the moment, who’s familiar, kind, beautiful, and feels almost like a part of him. Constantine protests, says he could stop them in a way that is at least plausibly threatening to her. Swamp Thing reacts on instinct, spinning towards Constantine, who is seized by vines and branches, one in particular tightening around his throat. Alec is surprised at himself, and turns away from Constantine, as the branches and vines release him.

Constantine takes one last drag from his cigarette before stubbing it out on a nearby tree, and saying, “Bollocks,” in the darkness.

Cut to a hotel room. We see new chopper footage of a dam being destroyed by vines, tearing a large “W” symbol in half, and its reservoir flooding onto the science buildings below. “Unfortunately, the Batman was nowhere to be seen as ecoterrorists destroyed the Wayne Industries facility with quick-growing plantlife.” I think that’s the point the sound gets slowly drained away with the remote, but here’s the rest of the dialog, which can be subtitled on the TV even as it mutes. “The facility, once infamous for chemical spills and safety violations, has turned its record around in recent years thanks to the personal involvement of CEO Bruce Wayne, who oversaw an overhaul of executive staff…”

Alec is pouting under all his Swamp Thing makeup. “People could have been hurt,” he complains. Ivy soothes, a little too aggressively sexual, but says that she compromised, and they gave the staff hours to clear out.

“You don’t have to be this,” he says.

“Be what?” she asks angrily.

“You’re beautiful. Kind. Intelligent. You don’t have to be, uh-”

Oh,” she says, and laughs bitterly, “those rumors. You know Jason starts them about any woman who doesn’t sleep with him- which since most of us have figured that out, is basically everyone. But that’s also beside the point. If I want to throw you down on the bed and have my way with you,” she pushes him back onto the bed, “I should have as much right as you to express that. Though right now I don’t even want to look at you.”

From the bed, he can see himself in the bathroom mirror. “I know. I’m hideous.”

“No. Because you’re being an asshole.” She lays between him and his reflection, and strokes his face. “You’re beautiful. You have a beautiful mind, a beautiful body, and a beautiful soul. You just can’t let men like Jason Woodrue pollute you. Just like we can’t let people like Wayne pollute this beautiful green world we have.”

“Let’s do it,” he says, a bit more animated, and her eyes light up. “Let’s hit another Wayne facility.” She’s maybe a little disappointed that it wasn’t her that piqued his interest, but she also wants that, so it’s not a huge loss, either. She tells him she’ll be out in a moment.

Swamp Thing steps outside as she disappears into the bathroom. “Using the facilities,” Constantine says, lighting another cigarette from behind him. “Curious how you haven’t needed anything. Not the bathroom. Not food.”

“You say you know about me. I think you want to control me.”

“Like she isn’t?” Constantine stares at him for a long moment. “I’ll tell you one thing. This,” he jabs Swamp Thing in the chest with two fingers holding a cigarette, “isn’t you. It’s a borrowed car you’re driving, nothing more. You could borrow another, half the world away, or decide to drive something… more impressive.” Constantine flicks his cigarette as Swamp Thing spins towards the door as Ivy exits.

“Talking to yourself?” she asks.

“Just considering possibilities…” She puts her arms around him, saying she likes the sound of that. He guarantees she will.

We’re in a production plant. A pair of guards are on extra alert, after what happened to the dam. The coffee in one of their cups shakes, and he asks the other guard if he heard that. He didn’t. Outside, we see the trees around the facility shake. They’re shaking in a line- something is coming, something big. A Swamp Thing stories tall smashes his way through a ten foot high electrified fence, sending a shower of sparks across the parking lot. Then it walks to a transformer in the parking lot and tears it out of the ground, and tosses it through the front doors. Back inside, one of the guards shoves the other out of the way as the transformer caves in the entrance. The extra large Swamp Thing falls into the parking lot, and Ivy climbs off it, while a normal sized Swamp Thing grows out of its scalp. They walk past the two guards in the entrance, cowering.

Cut to deeper inside the facility, Ivy kicks a guard in the stomach, and he collapse against the wall, smacking his head and falling to the floor. Swamp thing tendrils a security guard, then broods. “This isn’t like last time.”

“No,” Ivy agrees, but she’s kind of having a fun time with it, growing a potted fern into another guard, “this time they’re resisting.”

He grabs her hand. “I don’t like hurting people.”

“Are you sure they even think you’re people?” she asks. There are several gunshots through him, and we get close up on the holes as they close automatically. Swamp Thing tendrils the guard who shot him as he runs away. “Because he just shot you in the back, yet here we are, pulling our punches.”

“I didn’t say it isn’t necessary,” he menaces, “but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“Maybe we should start there,” Batman says, swaggering out of the shadows wearing a gas mask. “Exactly why is this necessary?” The room fills with mist, a mist that has defoliating agents in it and visibly weakens both Ivy and Swamp Thing. Batman has a fancy-looking ‘gun’ that’s basically just a high tech bottle of weed-killer. “The only reason we’re talking is that you’ve been pulling those punches. But I’m not convinced either of you are people, either; if a big dose of weed killer would kill you, maybe we’d have our answer.”

Suddenly, a vine tears Batman’s weapon away, and we find out that while Swamp Thing is reasonably weakened by the defoliant, Ivy is not. “I wonder what it would do to you,” she says, as still more vines seize Batman’s limbs and tear away his gas mask. This Batman is looking a little ragged; not to get ahead of ourselves, but he was out of town researching, and had to fly back, so he’s been up 48 hours at this point. The vine with the poison menaces him, as Ivy talks about the ability of plants to leach toxins out of the air. It sounds like she’s wrapping up, and is going to spray all of the poison down Batman’s throat when Alec protests, barely able to hold himself off the ground.

“He defends the status quo. That means everyone who’s powerless, remains powerless, and everyone who’s exploited- including the green world that speaks through us- remains in chains.”

A door that has been in the back of the scene kicks open with surprising force, ruffling Constantine’s trench coat as he lights a cigarette, and blowing the defoliant away. “Still raving like a nutter,” Constantine says, walking into the room, he pauses noticing Batman, “though, when in Rome…”

“Thank you,” Alec coughs, finally strong enough to stand back up.

“Come with me. I’ll tell you what you are, and why the rest of us need you in fighting shape and not wheezing on the floor here.” While Swamp Thing is distracted with Constantine, Ivy gets in too close to Batman.

“Freeze countermeasure gamma,” Batman says. Panels in his gauntlets and boots heat up and start to glow red, singing the plants enough to free him, and he headbutts her, before using the underside of the fins on his gauntlets to cut the vines. Attacking the plant seems to hurt Ivy, which demands that Swamp Thing rescue her and flee. Constantine turns towards Batman, reluctantly preparing to propose an alliance- to discover he’s gone.

Constantine says, “That’s rude.” More guards arrive, and try to cuff him at gunpoint. He ignores their demands, and opens the door he entered through. The guards tell him it’s a maintenance closet, and we can see it’s no wider than the door and no deeper than a man. “I know. I just need to borrow it. Wont’ be a second.” He closes the door, and when the guards open it he’s gone.

Similar to the scene earlier with Constantine knocking on a door, only this one is a red door with a gold star and the name, “Zatanna” painted on it. She opens the door and smiles, in her hat and coattails performing/heroing outfit. “John!” she says, pulling Constantine inside and hugging him. “It’s been too long- which probably means something horrible’s in the offing.”

“Right you are. And you’ve contacts in the charge of the tight brigade, and I thought…”

“Who do you need an introduction for?”

“The one in Gotham.”

“Oh, um,” she’s most of the way to blushing.

“That a problem?”

“No, I just… didn’t expect it to be someone I was so intimately familiar with.”

“Oh, um…”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she protests a little too eagerly. “He trained in the escape arts with my dad.”

“But no proper magic.”

“No. He didn’t like power he couldn’t wrap his head around. I think that’s why he can’t keep a woman around… something the two of you might have in common.”

We cut to profile, as they’re preparing to exit via her dressing room door. “You’re ready?” she asks.

“The enemy of my frenemy is a prat in long underpants.”

“Play nice, John. If push comes to shove you’re the one intruding on him, so if I’m forced to take sides, it won’t be yours. Rood ot evactaB”

She opens her dressing room door, only now it’s opening up into the Batcave. Batman’s voice echoes off the walls. “I don’t like it when you come here unannounced.”

“Can the theatrics; dad taught us both most of the same tricks.”

“Don’t think they were for your benefit, love,” Constantine says.

Batman makes himself seen, then turns, leading them into his labs. We see several beakers with lengths of the vines he collected earlier in them. Most of the vines look pristine, and have numbered labels on them, save the last that’s black and shriveled. “What are you planning?” Constantine asks. Batman looks tensely at him.

“You can trust him; I vouch for him.” He relaxes somewhat.

“I’ve found a compound that should work even against Poison Ivy.”

“That’s not her name,” Constantine protests. “It’s-”

“Dr. Pamela Isley. Unfortunately I hadn’t gotten the fingerprint match back, or I might have been better prepared for her.”

“And less flippant about their humanity?”

They glare at each other a moment. “She’s calling herself Ivy, now.” Batman displays notes left at their last two break ins, signed by Poison Ivy. “DNA is no longer remotely a match for Dr. Isley, though the remaining human chromosomes are; she seems capable of introducing plant DNA into her physiology; and of course you saw the control she has over plants. That’s why I needed samples from that vine. If my defoliant works on it, maybe it has a chance of slowing her down, too. But I’ve been watching footage of the dam. He can grow himself a new body, over a range of at least a mile. I think I need to spray defoliant over a five mile radius, to make sure they can’t get away.”

“You kill every plant in a five mile radius, you won’t need to worry about that- you’ll need to worry about picking out a plot.”

“He isn’t Alec Holland. I checked the reports. Holland’s body was found at the scene. But still, I did my due diligence. Checked this swamp thing’s fingerprints, compared its DNA. There isn’t any part of Alec Holland in it. It’s in no way human.”

“It thinks it’s Alec Holland,” Constantine argues. “It thinks it’s human. Of their little Bonnie & Clyde road show, he’s been the voice of compassion. Maybe he’s not technically human, but does that give us an excuse to be inhumane?” Batman balls his fist, on the verge of taking a swing at Constantine.

Zatanna puts a hand on Batman’s shoulder. “Don’t,” she says. “He’s not wrong, and you know it.” His fist unclenches.

“What do you need?” Batman asks.

“I need you to get him away from Green Thumb Barbie long enough for me to talk sense into him.”

“And if you can’t?”

“Then the world probably ends in a screaming ball of agony.” Batman’s eyes narrow. “But we can discuss that later.”

“We’re definitely going to need to.”

Cut to Ivy and Swamp Thing in a chemical treatment plant. He’s concerned, and wants to make sure they don’t hurt anyone. She’s a little dismissive, but makes it sound like she’s honoring his wishes. Part one of their plan is introducing her growth hormone into the water supply, which should counteract Batman’s defoliant and protect not just them but all the plants in Gotham. Then they meet up to execute part 2, but first they need to empty the right amounts in 2 different reservoirs.

After Alec leaves, we see Ivy add something poisonous to her formula, and is about to add it to the reservoir when Batman arrives.

“That isn’t what he wants,” Batman says from behind her. “I don’t think it’s what you want, either, Pamela.”

“Pamela’s dead,” she says.

“No. Alec died. You survived. Metamorphosized, perhaps, but alive. But I know who tried to kill you.”

“Jason Woodrue,” she says.

“Yes. Strangely, his fingerprints match those of a man who disappeared in the 70s- he was fingerprinted in relation to disappearances, lab assistants and colleagues had a way of disappearing around him. The match doesn’t makes sense. That Woodrue would be over 90 if he were still alive. And Wayne subsidiaries fingerprint employees for background checks; Jason Woodrue’s fingerprints on file with Wayne were different. So either there are 2 Jason Woodrues, or one who can change his fingerprints and appearance. Woodrue may have disappeared, but if anyone can help you find him, help you get closure, it’s me.”

“That is curious,” she says, the last word coming out as steam. “As is that. You lowered the temperature. You’re trying to convince the plants in this reservoir it’s winter, so they’re more sluggish. I never pegged you for a man of science.”

“I dabble,” he says, ducking a vine that swings over him.

We cut to Swamp Thing, at the other reservoir, “You don’t want to do that,” Constantine says from behind him.

“I’m just protecting my own,” he says.

“No. Ivy wants you severed from humanity. She wants you to herself. She’s put poison in that vial, in hopes that once you’re a murderer, you’ll need her all the more.”

“The green speaks to me. It requires an avatar.”

“Right it does, sunshine. But it also requires the rest of it to work, the spinning rock, the big puddles, even needs the chimps flinging dung to propagate.”

“You mean to say the world is threatened.”

“I’m not sure we’re limited to just the one globe, but that’s about the shape of it, yeah.”

“And you say there’s more than Ivy’s growth hormone in this vial?” Constantine nods. “Prove it.”

“I’m pretty sure whatever’s in that vial would kill me at that concentration, so I don’t know how.”

“With a lab, obviously; I don’t expect you to do it now.” He hands Constantine the vial.

“Batman’s with Ivy. He promised to leave on the kidd gloves, though I suspect that’s to the side of things. You know she’s still human. There’s rules about killing them. Plants? You stick it in the bin and it’s like you never had a ficus.”

“That’s macabre.”

Now’s the big fireworks show finale, Ivy and Batman duking it out. She’s more capable than he hoped, he’s using everything at his disposal just to keep her at bay and talking. Eventually he gains the upper hand, maybe injecting her with a massive amount of horse tranquilizer, and telling her she’s only 15% biologically human, otherwise it would probably kill her, but plant parts of her should be immune. Then he says, “I know Jason Woodrue wasn’t the first man who hurt you. He likely won’t even be the last. But you didn’t deserve what happened. Everything I’ve seen tells me you’re a good person, put in a difficult, even impossible position. I want to help. We’ve all done things to be sorry for. But please, Pamela, let me help.”

“You can’t,” she says, defeated, and we see for the first time how traumatized she’s been by everything that’s happened. “I’m sure you’re loaded. That private plane of yours must have cost as much as a city. But we’re not talking about problems that can be fixed- not even with millions of dollars. You need billions, to start, and infrastructure, and-” she turns to see he’s removed his mask, and a smile crosses her lips as she recognizes him. “And Mr. Wayne, I think we just might be able to change the world together.”

We cut back to Constantine and Swamp Thing, walking out of the reservoir. They’re met by Batman and Ivy, her hurrying because she’s afraid he’s poisoned the reservoir. She runs towards them when she sees him, and asks, “You didn’t?” Constantine holds up the vial. “Thank God. Alec, I’m so,” he puts his finger to her lips.

“I know. But I think I need… something else. You helped me. And I’ll always owe you a debt for that. But I think we’ve become toxic for one another. And we both deserve to be happy.”

“Yeah. We do.” She kisses him. “So go be happy.”

“And what about you?”

“I think I need to do some work on myself. It’s not healthy for me to be this volatile; a friend told me they have a very compassionate outpatient program at Arkham, administered by Dr. Quinzel. And I need to stop judging based on first impressions,” she gives a glance back in Batman’s direction.

“I hope that will make you happy, Pamela. You, too, deserve to be.”

“I think it will. But what might help is some closure.” She turns to Constantine. “You’ve been promising to tell us what we are. So?”

“He’s a plant elemental. As far as I can see, you are a science experiment gone wrong.”

“But I can talk to the green.”

“Maybe. Or maybe you talk to plants, and he’s a big dumb ficus who can talk to the green without even thinking about it. Really it’s potato, poh-tah-toe, because he came back through plant magic, and you didn’t.”

“That doesn’t change anything,” Alec soothes. “You’re still Ivy.”

“Pamela,” she says. “I think I’m going to try to just be Pamela for a while, first.” To credits.

Mid-Credits Scene: Stunned silence, lasting a good ten seconds, as Batman, Ivy and Swamp Thing stare at Constantine. “I should be dropping all of you off at Arkham,” Batman says.

“Can’t be any worse than Ravenscar,” Constantine quips.

“So the world is going to end…” Ivy says.

“No. The world is trying to end. Isn’t it always?” he asks Batman, for some reason expecting a game answer and not the silence he receives. “I’ve spent all this time and aggravation because we need your big dumb ficus to help stop it.”

“He has a name- Alec.” Ivy says.

“I’m not sure I still feel like an Alec. I think I may be more comfortable considering myself a-”

We do the cutesy thing where we cut to a title card for Swamp Thing, then add text, “Will return in Justice League: Dark.” More credits.

Another Mid-Credits Scene: We pan slowly around Ivy in an evaluation room. It’s a little dingy and worse for wear, but nowhere near the hellscape Arkham eventually becomes. The doctor, mostly off camera, rattles off her impressive list of credentials and research projects, especially proud of her work with metahumans and those with nonhuman physiology. She also mentions that in preparation for treating her, she read her work, and was impressed. “You really care about the environment, and plants in particular. You don’t see that kind of passion often, particularly not outside these walls. Other therapists might try to extinguish that flame, but I think that fire is part of what makes you unique, Pamela. I want to work with you on channeling it in healthy directions.” We finally reveal a pre-crime Harley Quinn sitting opposite her, preparing to examine her. “Don’t think of this as a search for a cure; I want to help you develop the skills and coping techniques it takes for you to heal yourself.”

Post-Credits Scene: Batman arrives in Louisiana. We see some swampland, then Batman landing a harrier-style jet on it. He walks inside a home in the middle of nowhere. “Ms. Arcane, I have some… news about your fiancé.”

“Alec’s dead. Believe it or not we still get Google out here. And even before he got dead, he was just an ex- I never said yes.”

“He said you were on a break. And you would, eventually.”

That gives her pause. “So you really did know Alec. I’m not surprised he met some strange friends in a city like Gotham.”

“I do know him. He’s still alive. And if you’re willing, he’d like to see you. Though to warn you, he’s been through some changes…” We can see Swamp Thing’s giant silhouette in the doorframe behind Batman, before we cut to black.

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 8: Batmen

Focused mostly on the relationship between Batman and his Robins (current, ‘dead’ and Nightwing), but also with a healthy accounting of Batwoman/girls as well (they would take over in the sequel, reversing the amount of screentime as we give Batwoman the spotlight in Batwomen, presumably ending with “Batfamily” where we bring them all together which I think would have to introduce a nonbinary member of the gang, because otherwise this is getting a little too gender-normative- Batwing might be a good candidate, or maybe Duke- possibly the new Oracle (I’d make this Oracle a person in a wheelchair inspired by Babs- and of course cast Kiera Allen from Run because she- and it- are amazing), if DC are squeamish about using an existing character. Specifically focuses on the death of Jason Todd, how it caused a rift between Nightwing and Batman, and how it impacts a current case. I think it adapts part of Sword of Azrael, loosely. The sequel would necessarily follow Batgirl (Gordon), Batwoman and any other lady bat-family members we want (I’d probably try to work in Cassandra Cain over Spoiler- unless we could fit them both- but that’s my preference- though Stephanie Brown might be worth adding if she were a Robin at the time); it would likely involve Batwoman’s family and the machinations of her sister.

A blonde, spectacled man is running through the dark streets, clutching his bag like it’s his salvation. A man in a cape drops down in front of him, surprising him, and he falls into a puddle. We think for a moment it could be Batman, until he draws a sword that lights on fire, and in the glow from its flame we see he’s Azrael (the old-school, knight design). He cuts down the blonde man, and we cut away. Morning, Bruce is eating breakfast with Alfred and Tim, with the news on in the background. Tim asks about Dick, and why he left. Bruce talks about him becoming his own man, and needing to live his own life. Tim says he gets that, but that Dick hardly even comes around, and asks what happened. Bruce drops his silverware loudly, and the sound on the TV fades up, “body found decapitated in Gotham’s infamous Crime Alley has been identified as one Ludovic Valley. Police suspect it was a mugging gone wrong, as Valley’s effects were stolen after his murder.”

Cut to a different blonde, bespectacled man, Ludovic’s son, Jean Paul. He’s studying at a religious school, and is interrupted by a priest. Cut to him in the priest’s office, along with a lawyer. We hear words intermittently, like “sorry for your loss,” and enough that we gather that the priest has his father’s Will. He hands him a parcel around the size of what his father was carrying, and then says words we don’t hear; Jean-Paul loses consciousness, hitting his head as he falls to the ground, which we see from his POV.

Alfred and Tim are alone in the mostly dark manor. Alfred asks Tim to remember how he came to them, how he deduced Batman’s identity and asked to be taught. But he wasn’t the only Robin who wanted Dick’s old job. Jason Todd stole the wheels off the Batmobile. Bruce took him in. Trained him. And the Joker killed him- beat him nearly to death with a crowbar, then blew up his body. That was the real end of Bruce and Dick’s relationship. Dick blamed Bruce, for being too eager to fill the hole he left; Alfred says he probably blamed himself for leaving the hole, too. And the tragedy is both men, proud, and stubborn, couldn’t get over their grief enough to admit that they needed each other more then than they ever had.

Cut to POV shot, upside-down, hanging over Gotham. Azrael drops (the Jean Paul Valley redesign), landing outside the Joker/Quinn hideout we saw in the climax of Birds of Prey (this is set before that). He wades through circus freak thugs, slicing them up with his burning gauntlets. He manages to fight his way to the Joker, who is at first amused. His smile starts to fade as the religious fundamentalism starts to seep in- he realizes Azrael is incapable of getting the joke- which is about the scariest thing possible to him. Azrael cuts him pretty badly with his burning gauntlet, and he only escapes with the timely intervention of Harley Quinn- who he promptly abandons. Azrael chases after Joker, but loses him.

We’re in a gym in Bludhaven. Nightwing, in civilian garb, is beating the crap out of a punching bag. Tim, also in his civvies, steps out of the shadows. “You’re the new guy, right?” Tim introduces himself. Dick has kind of a fine line to walk, here, because the Dick we know and love is kind of unceasingly positive, and he’s at kind of a personal crisis point, here, at the same time. So he wants to be friendly, and supportive, but he’s also worried Bruce is endangering Tim, and that he needs to work his stuff out before someone gets hurt. But Tim used his detective skills to track Dick down, even though he’s largely living off the grid. Dick’s impressed, and they agree to go a round. Dick’s the better fighter, and bigger, but Tim does a decent job holding his own, and more importantly he’s really good at reading Dick and compensating. “I knew Jason. I don’t think Bruce ever knew that. But when I heard there was a new Robin, I reached out. Tried to give him some friendly advice. Mostly we just commiserated over Bruce. He was pissed off- but I don’t know that I could say he was wrong to be angry. I tried to help. I tried to get Bruce to see that Jason’s volatility made him vulnerable… but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what he’s like.”

“Proud. Stubborn.”

Dick stops, glares for an instant before smiling. “He must love you.” He tousles Tim’s hair, and we cut away.

At night. Joker attacks the GCPD. To save time, we might just want to cut to the rooftop, where he’s shot Gordon, broken the glass on the batsignal but is using it, with a smile sliced into the paint on the symbol. He wants Batman to protect him from Azrael- that he knows Batman wouldn’t let some other vigilante murder him. Batman punches him. Repeatedly. Gordon gets taken to the hospital, Joker gets taken to a safe house. Later that night, as the storm rages on. The safe house gets broken into; at first it’s unclear what’s happening, but there are in fact 2 Azraels acting in concert. Batman puts up a token fight, Robin is useless. Surprisingly, the Joker puts up the best fight of all, but is eventually taken. That’s when it’s revealed that Tim is in the Batsuit, Joker’s in the Robin suit, (and complains about there being “too much room in the tights” while tugging at the crotch), and that Batman was in disguise as the Joker.

We cut to the Azrael safehouse. LeHah, who we recognize as the Valley lawyer from earlier, is our old school Azrael, and Jean-Paul Valley is the newer one. Jean-Paul is brainwashed, barely able to respond to questions. LeHah is convinced that the Joker is their antichrist risen (Biis), and they need to murder him. The rest of the Order weren’t convinced, and so he’s also taking them out, one at a time, and had to remove their previous Azrael, Ludovic. He’s in control of their newest one, controlled by the System. But LeHah recognizes the boon they’ve found. Batman is Bruce Wayne, in control of the Wayne fortune. With his resources, Azrael’s war on the wicked can expand beyond its current humble expression, so they’re going to break him, for his financial secrets and for the location of the Joker, then they’ll kill him for aligning with the demon Biis.

Nightwing shows up in the cave, to help Tim save Bruce. “I wasn’t sure you’d come,” he says.

“You’re a better detective than that,” Dick replies. Tim accepts the compliment, and pivots to the other Azrael sightings. They all correspond to a religious rotary club’s membership- all connected, powerful Gothamites, specifically targeting the leadership. Next in line is a man named Harcourt. We have a cameo, here, from the Batwomen, and how they’re going to handle the rest of the crime in Gotham, including the mysterious appearance of Alice, so they can focus on rescuing Batman and watching the Joker.

Robin and Nightwing stake out Harcourt’s. He’s hired his own security, which the two Azraels plow through. NewAz is robotic, hurting because it’s the most efficient path from A to B. LeHah relishes doling out religious punishment a little too much, and likes to throw out maxims like, “Azrael does not protect,” and “Azrael does not wound,” as commandments to his protégé. Despite Nightwing and Robin’s intervention, they’re unable to save Harcourt. New Azrael pauses to hear Harcourt’s confession as LeHah flees, and the opening is enough for Robin and NIghtwing to subdue him. They’re able to break through the System enough to talk to Jean-Paul, who is terrified, because he’s been a prisoner essentially since meeting LeHah. He’s tried fighting the System, but it’s like trying not to breathe. They receive a note from LeHah, offering an exchange: Bruce for the Joker.

They meet in the mountains surrounding Gotham. Joker is anxious about their plan, rambling like the lunatic that he is, and at the first opportunity tries to bolt. He’s shot by persons unknown, (presumed to be LeHah), preventing him from escaping. Though it turns out the Joker had his own plan, and his thugs arrive, and it becomes Joker, Harley and clowns vs. the Batmen, while the two Azraels duke it out, accidentally setting fire to the trees and chalet. In the end, Jean Paul makes a conscious decision to save Batman rather than kill LeHah, carrying him out of the burning chalet, even as LeHah screams that “Azrael does not protect!” at him. LeHah tries to attack Azrael as he carries him out, only to be shot himself. The mysterious shooter tells Azrael to go, then tells LeHah , “You can walk out of here, and live to avenge another day. Or you can keep coming, and I’ll put you down like Old Yeller.” We cut away to Azrael carrying Batman away. We hear gunfire as the chalet collapses in on itself.

Tim and Dick fight back to back, holding off the Joker’s thugs long enough for Azrael and Batman to arrive. Joker laughs, and says Batman’s too weak to fight, that they can finish them all off right now. Batman stands in a fighting stance, does that little come get some wave like Neo in the first Matrix, and the Joker and his crew lose their nerve, and head away. Dick’s grinning. “I thought he was right. I thought you were bluffing. I thought-” he turns, and realizes Batman is face down in the snow. “Yeah. That’s exactly what I thought.” He bends over to help him up.

The four men are in the Batcave. Bruce has a blanket around him and a cup of cocoa to warm him up. Dick says one thing is still bugging him: he can’t figure out who the shooter was. “I would have thought that was obvious by now,” Tim says.

“So, this is awkward,” Jason says, stepping out of the shadows. “Especially because Bruce doesn’t like it when I shoot people.” Dick says his name in disbelief: Jason Todd. Tim launches into his explanation of the facts, that the Joker blew up someone alongside Jason’s mother. But that a few months later the Red Hood appeared on the streets of Gotham, and Bruce told him they’d “lost” one of their safehouses, without answering any follow-up questions.

Dick isn’t impressed. Instead, he turns his attention to Batman, who stands, and drops the blanket. “He asked me not to tell. Not you. Not anyone. He said he could never undo what was done to him. But for it to have any value, any meaning– Jason Todd had to stay dead. I’m so, so sorry. I wanted to tell you the truth. But it wasn’t mine to tell.” Nightwing balls his fists, and for an instant we really don’t know if he’s going to throw a punch. If it doesn’t feel like too much, I’d have a single tear fall down Batman’s mask, and Dick embraces him. 

Credits scene setting up the sequel, basically an excuse to adapt the Rucka Batwoman Alice storyline, because it’s good. I might throw in Mad Hatter, too, since it’s hard for me to have an Alice without him- just eventually have her discard him and turn out to be the real big bad all along. Really, for those unfamiliar with the story, it could make for an interesting midpoint reveal, that she isn’t an innocent caught in his web, that she’s been manipulating him this whole time- it just has to be handled carefully so you don’t end up completely undermining him, as happened to Bane in Dark Knight Rises (though conversely, a part of Jervis’ charm has always been how truly pathetic he is).