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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that everybody?” Ghost Spider asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It will only hide one of them.”

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

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

“Spider-Man?”

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

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

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

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

“Madame Web what-”

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

“But-”

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

“Where the hell?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Madame Web,” Julia says from the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mattie?” Miles asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And responsibility?” Silk asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cool.”

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

“Who?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We needed him alive,” Lady Spider says.

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

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

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

“Mayday!” Web scolds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tooth,” Web says.

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

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

“Gross,” Mattie says.

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

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

Cut to credits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You see flickers of them, but-”

“Was that really MJ?”

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

“I sensed it,” Peter says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Man,” Peter says, “Spider-Man.”

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

“Really not much better,” Peter mumbles.

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

Man,” Peter says feebly.

“Oh yeah. He’s creepy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It does sound kinky,” Anne says.

“Don’t egg him on,” Dan complains.

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

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

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

“You love me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Spoilers,” Deadpool says.

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

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

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

“So you can’t do it?”

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

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

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

“Now when you say ‘banish..’”

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

“I was afraid you meant that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To the Poisons?” Anne asks.

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

“That’s a stupid plan,” Brock says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’ll miss you, too. Spider-Man?”

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

“Take care of this big lug, okay?”

“Sure thing, miss, ma’am, uh…”

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

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

Credits.

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

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

Pitchmas 2021, Part 2: Sinister Seven

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

The Pitch

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

Venom Suit, Venom Suit

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

Alien goo and sexy too,

Lethally protects you and you!

Look out!

Here comes the Venom Suit!”

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

“Why not?” the Suit asks.

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

“You’re in it. Because you’re in me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is your cavalry?” Ock complains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Credits Scene

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

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

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

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

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

End Credits

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

Pitchmas 2021, Part 1: Spider-Man 2099

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I hate this job,” he says.

“The fame? The fortune.”

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

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

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

“To quit?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sorry about that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who cares, we cut his feed?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid Credits Scene

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

End Credits Scene

Latveria

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

Pitchmas 2020, Bonus: Gwenpool

We start in on  Duckman – I mean Howard the Duck- during his stint as a PI. He’s narrating, and the dame that waltzes in is Black Cat (though we can always sub someone else in, if her rights are tied up with Sony… maybe Madame Hydra or Elektra?). She’s looking for someone who stole something dangerous from her, but before she did that, this previously unknown and clearly unhinged person dropped a safe on her inside man in the NYPD. We get a flashback, on top of an NYC roof over Black Cat’s shoulder. She’s conducting some shady midnight business with three robed figures, when Gwenpool drives a big bike up a flight of stairs, stabbing Black Cat’s triggerman through the hand and taking his gun, and firing wildly, before snatching what Cat was offering to the robed figures. Gwenpool drives off the other side of the roof, and the camera follows her down. She wonders aloud how she’ll survive this, before landing in the back of a truck, sending feathers flying. “A pillow truck,” she says with a laugh, “Classic!” We hear quacking and the driver yelling about his ducks as we cut back to Howard’s office.

The Black Cat tells him the assailant wasn’t finished with her henchman, that the next day she stopped him on the street, standing over a big chalk X. She wanted to make sure he was who she thought, before dropping the safe on him. We cut back to Howard’s office, and can see he’s anxious, and we pan down and can see why- he’s got a pistol pointed at his crotch. The rest of the scene plays differently; now that we understand Howard is compromised, his questions of his femme fatale have a different spin, and we recognize his loyalties are at least somewhat up in the air until she exits. That’s when Howard rolls back his chair and Gwenpool stands up.

She tells him she figured the femme fatale would pursue her to get the item back, which is why she attacked her henchman- and figured that attack would send her looking for a less likely option, which she pegged as being Howard. He was, until that moment, pacing, doing the noir detective thing, but spins around, as he realizes what she means. He sees she’s aiming her gun at him, and dives for the window, making it out as shots hit the frame.

Howard lands hard in a puddle, flopping around before scrambling to his feet and running, as gunfire rains down around him. Gwen lands impressively in the puddle, before yelling to him, while firing, “No one stays dead for long in the comics; comic movies are the same. Even Bucky wasn’t dead for more than half a movie. And maybe you’ll get your own adult cartoon on Hulu like M.O.D.O.K.”

Gwen’s going to begin to narrate, so we barely hear Howard squawk, “Why would anyone want to watch cartoon M.O.D.O.K. screw?”

“Okay, so… I’m not from around here. I’m from…” we fade to black, and do “Five years earlier.” And after a beat, add, “And in our world.” Gwen narrates, “Yeah, the real world, the one where the MCU is something we watch on the big screen.”

Gwen is nerding out with her friend in a movie theater. They’re psyched they’ve got good seats for the midnight opening of End Game as they make their way to their seats. Gwen is excited to have resolution for Peter, and gushes over Tom Holland. Her friend thinks she has a crush. She says it isn’t sexual; he’s almost a teddy bear, that you want to hold him and tell him the Spider-Man thing will totally work out. Of course, the friend points out, it doesn’t. Gwen says still, she’ll track down Kevin Fiege if he lets anything happen to her precious Spider-Tom.

We cut a little later in the movie. Gwen is shifting uncomfortably in her seat, and tries to take a drink from her soda, which is almost as big as she is, and realizes it’s empty… and then realizes where all of that fluid went. She runs, full-speed, to the bathroom. We see her kick her way triumphantly out of a stall, glance at the sinks, and run out, again at full speed, and her hear saying Captain America would understand this is no time for hand-washing. She runs at full-speed into the theater, which is engulfed in light, only to come skidding out of the portal Captain America disappeared in.

She hides, and sees an older Captain America give Sam the shield, nerding harder still.

We cut back to the alley, where Gwen is chasing after Howard. She tackles him, and they talk for a moment, him mocking her outfit. She tells him she needs the outfit.

We see another flashback, her wearing what she was in the theater, as she’s walking through New York. The Fantastic Four fly overhead, and she grins, big and wide. She makes eye contact with a cute guy who’s also staring adoringly up. A Doombot lands on him, splattering him. Gwen’s mouth drops open, and she runs, full-speed, into a costume shop, specifically Big Ronnie’s Custom Battle Spandex. She explains that she needs a costume, that if you have one, you’re a character, but if you’re not wearing one, you’re collateral. A stone gargoyle lands on a taxi driving by outside, crushing the driver and his fair. The seamstress, who seems mad in her own way, sews her something ridiculous (but also kind of rad).

We cut back to Howard and her talking in the alley, or, rather, Howard has slunk away while she’s remembering, and is more convinced than every she’s out of her gourd. Gwen reveals that she sold the bioweapon to Hydra, which seemed the thing to do with it, but it’s no big, because they Avengers will handle it.

Howard dials the Avengers hotline to find that the Avengers are currently in space aiding the Guardians of the Galaxy. Then he convinces Gwen they’ll have to get it back. She takes him to her tailor, who sews him a black variant of her costume; she continues to refer to him as her sidekick, to his chagrin. Inside, Gwen’s knowledge fails, when she misidentifies the bad guy running the lab. She’s unable to beat her in hand to hand combat, but as a last-ditch effort injects herself with the virus, knowing there’s an antidote. The villainess gives it to her, before she kills them all.

Howard gives her a little pep-talk, which makes her feel good, until she realizes she’s broke and homeless as she walks the streets of New York. So she goes to the only other person in the city she knows, her tailor. Ronnie likes her insanity- likening it to some of the biggest mad villains around, like “the Green Gob-” Gwen interrupts her to tell her they don’t have the rights to Norman Osborne, unless Disney bought Sony since she fell into the MCU. Ronnie laughs- she has no idea what Gwen’s saying most of the time, but she has the stuff of greatness. Gwen says she lacks the stuff of hot dugs and bedsheets. Ronnie offers an advance on her first job, including a line on an apartment.

Gwen ends up going to a bank. She figures there’s got to be a reasonable loan program in the MCU to help up-and-coming heroes build their first set of rocket boots, or at least afford a kebab. Things aren’t going well when a five men in ridiculous animal masks come in to rob the place. Using the remains of the guns Ronnie loaned her, Gwen stops the robbers. However, the cops start shooting at her, and she manages to scramble out the back door, and finds the car the cops arrived in still running out front, with one of the perps, Cecil, handcuffed in the backseat. Gwen steals the car and drives off. The terrified perp and her talk as she flees. They agree to help each other- him as her logistical support. He agrees to introduce her to the person who set him up with his last job- which had not mentioned it involved five morons robbing a bank.

It turns out his contact is Gwenpool’s seamstress, Ronnie, who has a side-hustle in farming out merc jobs. She tries to set Gwen up on a cake walk job, since she’s learning the ropes. Gwen insists on taking the hard case, the one Ronnie won’t even show her, it’s so dangerous. Gwen tries to convince her that the only way she stays alive is if she stays interesting- the moment she stops putting butts in seats- or asks Disney for too much money- she might as well walk into New York traffic. Reluctantly, Gwen agrees to a compromise, middle-tier job, and Ronnie offers to make her tea to cheer her up. She returns a moment later (she’s got an insta-hot, because we don’t have all the time in the world to wait for boiling water, damnit), and her smile drops- as does her tea cup. Gwen is gone, as is the fancy hard job Ronnie denied her. Ronnie mumbles that the girl is going to get all of them both killed.

We cut to an alien-looking ship on the harbor. We pan past terrifyingly looking alien squid men, before realizing they’re corpses, a liberal amount of black-green alien blood spattered around the walls. Gwen is sneaking through the bowels of the dark ship, and momentarily we think, “Maybe she did this.” She hears something behind her in the shadows, and spins, slicing at the darkness with a sword. It’s subtle, but it was already dying when she slashed it, but it falls, too.

She continues talking to Cecil as she walks through the carnage, and we start to realize she’s not the reason for all the dead aliens, and is in way over her head- something Cecil grasps and is trying to talk her into running, but which she’s certain she can’t accept. She comes upon an A.I.M. assassin interrogating one of the squid monsters in front of a big open burner. Eventually, he thanks the Teuthidan for the price on his head, as well as all of the fabulous alien tech he’ll be claiming, and cuts his head off.

Gwen tells Cecil she’s about to handle it. She runs up to the assassin and shoves him into the furnace, before saying, “I wonder who he was.” We cut to Ronnie, bent over her sewing machine. She gets a text from Gwen, a selfie of her with the decapitated head of the Teuthidan with a sword sticking out of it.

We cut to Gwen in soaking in a tub in her costume (too be fair, it probably reeks of dead space calamari). Cecil is in the adjoined room, talking to her about the news- that the calamari were apparently intergalactic arms dealers. She tells him they’re blowing up as her phone rings once again. Cecil worries that will change when they find out she didn’t take out the Teuthidans- and he worries that if she had remote support, the assassin could have, too.

The news broadcast cuts to a harangued and angry Captain Samerica. Sam’s annoyed, and barks back, “We were in space, making sure the Shiar didn’t send their Imperial Guard to scour Earth looking for a Phoenix Egg. They don’t search the haystack, the burn it and sift through the ashes.”  

Gwen talks out loud about whether or not she should try and join the Avengers, how Captain Oldmerica wouldn’t work with a merc, but Sam’s from the modern military- contractors are integrated into the service. Come on,” she says, ribbing Cecil, “Gwenpool, Avenger”.

The wall the TV as hung on disappears in a fiery explosion. M.O.D.O.K. arrives (I’d have Patton Oswalt do the role in live action/CG, because that casting is about perfect). He tells her she killed his best henchman, and that means she’s better- and will take his place, otherwise there will be consequences. Gwen actually laughs out loud, because he’s M.O.D.O.K.- M.O.D.O.K. is threatening her. M.O.D.O.K. vaporizes Cecil, and she collapses to the ground, defeated. She narrates, that she thought she was a hero, but it turns out, she’s just a henchman.

The rest of the series is Gwen working with M.O.D.O.K.’s elite team, while trying to figure out a way out. In the books Batroc the Leaper is the putative leader of the team, and also becomes her trainer after figuring out she has absolutely no useful skills whatsoever; you could just as easily replace him with any number of mid-tier merc/villain characters- Taskmaster’s a good option, if he survives the Black Widow movie.

She doesn’t exist in the MCU, on paper, so she can’t be put on M.O.D.O.K.’s payroll, which leads her to track down Dr. Strange and try to get his help. He’s annoyed to be interrupted, but intrigued when at a glance he can tell she truly doesn’t belong there. He’s able to pull her existence out of our Earth, and put it in theirs, creating the trail she needs to live there. He also helps her be able to contact Cecil.

Shortly thereafter, M.O.D.O.K. does the predictable and tries to kill Gwen. By now she’s bought enough high-tech doodads, including a shield, to survive the fight, even give him a brief run for his money. In desperation, she uses Cecil’s skull, which brings him back as a ghost, and he’s able to use the fact that he’s a ghost but also a tech wizard to compromise M.O.D.O.K.’s systems and send him into the atmosphere, before making him eject his fuel, leaving him floating in orbit. It… probably would make more sense to have Gwen’s team aid in defeating M.O.D.O.K., even though they’re sidelined early, since the resolution is all of them deciding to leave A.I.M. and strike out as a for-hire merc team.

Pitchmas 2020, Part 12: The Sentry

This is it, the season finale of Pitchmas 2020. I’ll still be working on Old Ventures, and Pitchgiving 2021 will likely start September 24th. I’ve been going back and forth on other projects, and what specifically I’ll be pitching then, though the crashing and burning of the Snyder Cut likely means that projects pitched at continuing that continuity are likely out of the running.

The Sentry

This is a big one, like, you could and should hype this as the biggest Marvel TV project, ever. It would cost a fortune, but done right I think would meld prestige TV with superhero cinema.

1. “All That’s Gold Is Gone” or perhaps “Whatever Happened To The Golden Guardian?”:  We start on Robert Reynolds, in bed with his wife, startled awake by a storm- but he doesn’t buy that it’s a freak storm, it drives a terror through him that at first he can’t put his finger on. The episode should be filled with building dread. The tension becomes too great, and Bob reaches for a bottle in its hiding place. There are two, and as he reaches for the one, his hand shakes violently. So he takes a swig from the other, normal booze. He pours a little into the cap of the bottle for his faithful dog to lap up, then tries to polish off the rest, but the bottle’s empty. He returns to the other bottle, and this time he powers through the shakes, and an image of him in a cheap, hand-sewn costume flashes in his mind and over the screen just as lightning strikes outside.

This time he isn’t consumed with nameless worry, this time he knows. He calls his dog Watchdog, and scans the horizon as lightning strikes again, and says they must be vigilant, because they’re humanity’s only hope if the Void returns. Bob’s hand shakes violently as he uncorks the bottle, but then recorks it, and tells the dog they have to be vigilant.

Only this time the dog talks back, and mocks his “vigilance.” We see the dog engulfed in shadow, with black tendrils snaking out from them and snapping at the air like a scorpion’s stinger. Throughout this first episode even Robert can’t be sure if he’s nuts or not, even as he fights his dog, who he thinks is being controlled by the Void to attack him, then has to explain to his wife why he hurt the dog, when its yelp jars her from her sleep.

She sees the bottle on the floor, and scolds him for drinking, and for taking his frustration out on the dog. She says she’s been thinking, for a while, now, about staying at her sister’s, and says she’s going to take the dog. “Okay” is the only answer he can mumble. He talks to himself after she’s gone, trying to make sense of the fact that no one- not even his wife – remembers the Sentry. But he knows he isn’t crazy. He can’t be. He reaches deep into the back of their closet, and for a moment he doesn’t find what he’s looking for, and doubts, but then his hand alights on and pushes aside a panel, and retrieves the costume we saw in the flash earlier.

I think we spend the first episode gaslighting Robert and, vicariously, the audience, trying to convince him that there is no Sentry, there never was a Sentry, and it’s crazy to think there ever could have been a hero who knew and was loved by the entire hero community, who had the power of a million exploding suns and saved the world as many times.

Subtly, his costume shifts over the course of the next few episodes, from the clearly home-made one he first digs out of his closet, until it’s the impressive comics-accurate one he’ll wear for the rest of the series. It still looks like a piece of crap, however, when we see Robert climbing up to the top of a crane on top of high building in New York City, his cape billowed by the wind. As we pan out, we can see a gigantic “4” atop the tower- that’s right, Bob is pretending to fly on top of the Baxter Building. A strong wind kicks up, and he rocks a little bit, but is able to hold his balance- until a pigeon flies into his face, flapping its wings, and he starts to fall, and we cut to credits.  

2. After the first episode, we take a kind of a hybrid approach, as Robert begins to remember his previous exploits with the heroes and confront them, and they start to question whether or not they really do know him, and if they do why they forced themselves to forget; each would combine elements from the mainline Sentry miniseries with the spin-off books. The episodes would be titled to foreshadow who was going to be featured, so the first guest episode, would be “Fantastic Friends,” where Robert confronts Reed. It picks up right where we left off, with Robert catching the crane, then pulling himself back up. Reed is there an instant later, curious how he got past his security.

Bob tells Reed that Reed was at his wedding, and Reed finds the unicorn Bob mentioned that he gave him, as well as a tape from the wedding. Meanwhile, Robert, still unsure whether or not he’s nuts, reminisces about his exploits with the Four, and how Reed really was his best friend… until he betrayed him. Reed is confronted by Dr. Strange, who tries to convince him not to tug at the thread, that the unraveling could very well end the world. But Reed is a man of science, and an unknown is irresistible; Stephen even shows him their shared past, when he begged Stephen to intervene in just this event.

With each subsequent episode, the Sentry becomes more certain of who he is, and also more determined that he must make them all remember the truth, or he won’t be able to rally them against the Void- and he’s going to need everyone to stop the Void. Also, building in the background, are these storms and natural disasters- hundreds, eventually thousands dying in what the world initially writes off as freak storms, but the heroes slowly recognize as the growing influence and power of the Void.

3. Incredible Heroes: Sentry tracks down the Hulk. It’s a time when Banner wasn’t with the Avengers, but was off smashing on his own. He’s a timid, even pitiful creature, smashing not because he’s angry, but because he’s scared, and he hides behind his anger, puffing out his chest- we learn, over the course of the episode, it’s because of how badly thrashed he was by the Void (note: this is basically the state Hulk returns to after his whupping by Thanos). Hulk has a rapport with the Sentry- he helps him not be afraid, helps him not take his anger out on other people. Their reunion should be a really tender moment- and also a terrifying one, because whatever makes he Hulk afraid, should scare the crap out of everyone else. It should also show a pattern: the heroes all lost something important, even vital, to their lives, when the Sentry was erased, something that would have spared them a lot of personal anguish over the intervening years; this was personal for all of them.

4. Amazing Adventurers: Okay… this one would depend entirely on whether or not Spider-Man is part of the Sony deal or not. It’s also probably the most superfluous of these episodes; Sentry’s big contribution to Peter’s life was that he let him take the first picture of the Sentry, a photo which was monetized to a degree that he didn’t have the same kinds of money troubles as he used to- and forgetting him cost him his safety net. But it was also the Sentry’s coming out party- when the character went from blur and urban legend to the Superman of the Marvel Universe (with about as much baggage as that entails).

5. Uncanny Exemplars: This one would basically be a cross-over with the X-Men: The Beginning crew. I’d probably make it more of an ensemble piece, than the book, which was very Angel-centric; in fact, I’d probably focus it more on Xavier/Jean, since they’re going to play a bigger role later, as the MCU’s telepaths have to try and give him the equivalent of telepathic brain surgery to help save him; they also, subtly, share a powerset, so I could see Sentry being able to bridge the gap between the stoic, stern mentor figure who mostly says, “Do as I say, because I don’t do,” and a scared kid trying her darnedest to invent a whole new branch of heroic ethics while trying not to get herself and her friends killed.

6. The Void: The heroes, in particular those we’ve focused on, are gathered at the Empire State building, waiting to war with the Void under the Sentry’s command. This includes Sentry’s old sidekick, Scout, who lost an arm and an eye in one of their adventures, and has since lived without suspecting he was once superpowered, and is ecstatic to be reunited with his mentor.

Only something doesn’t sit right with Reed… and he and Stephen Strange put together the truth. Now, the book is good, so if you haven’t read it before, I’d suggest you go read the Sentry series by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee. But if you want the spoiler, here goes: the Void isn’t a separate person. The Void is manifested by the Sentry’s powers- a kind of evil version of him. Realizing this, the heroes realize why they forgot the Sentry- they did it to stop the Void- and that they’ll have to forget him all over again. Played right, the energy of the episode goes from heroic determination to tragedy- even the Sentry grasps immediately that their only choice is to put them all back under the same hypnotics that hid him away, and hope that this time it holds.   

7+: I think the back-half will be the Sentry arc from New Avengers, where he joins the MCU proper, now.

First, not because we’re exploiting the joke but because the time-skip actually kind of matters here, we do the five years later thing again. After a break-out of prisoners from the Raft, Sentry is discovered inside, having turned himself in for the murder of his wife. The other heroes dutifully locked him away, because if  Superman  Sentry insists he’s dangerous and should be locked up, you don’t ask questions, you just do it. He assists with containing some of the damage of the break-out, before disappearing. The Avengers then track him down. He’s suppressed who he is, again, and is back with his wife, neither of them the wiser.

Everyone shows up (or, since it’s a TV show, a hitter or two from all of the bigger franchises- preferably at least the characters from the feature episodes earlier in the season). The telepaths engage him, while the other heroes fend off the Void, who appears and attacks them (this time surprising no one). We see some more of Sentry’s past exploits. I think it might be fun to do a flashback of the 80s Avengers banding together to stop the Void, and the Ancient One using her abilities to make the rest of them forget their team-up, foreshadowing what happened shortly before the arrival of Thanos (which is when the Sentry disappeared in our story). 80s Avengers: T’Chaka (Black Panther), Ancient One (Sorcerer Supreme), Howard Stark providing access to his Bad Babies, Odin, a previous Ghost Rider, the previous Iron Fist.

After a fairly epic battle, the telepaths find it, hidden fairly expertly- the memory of his unmaking. Apparently, Sentry gets captured by a villain. The book doesn’t explain, but since Mastermind is involved, I’ll say that he was secreted to the Sentry’s home, where he convinced the Sentry’s mind to keep him asleep even as he was carried away. In the original telling, it was ‘The General,’ one of Sentry’s own arch villains, pulling Mastermind’s strings, but I’d probably instead swap in one of the better-known characters who are actively against super-powers, like Zemo or General Ross (or in the event that Disney buys Sony, Norman Osborne). They used an X-Men villain (and mutant) named Mastermind to convince the Sentry to subconsciously create the Void any time he used his powers, a nemesis he could never defeat, who created atrocity in equal to whatever measure of good the Sentry could do, and then erase his tracks. If we did use Ross or Zemo, we could go a step further with it- that Mastermind was trying to convince all heroes they were just normal people without powers, but that the Sentry fought his influence enough to preserve the other heroes, while losing himself.

The telepaths are able to hold the mind-control at bay long enough for Robert to become the Sentry, enter the memory of his brain-washing and destroy it (I’d say when he does, that’s when he learns who it was who captured him- that while we can hear them and see them in silhouette, they aren’t clear until he invades the memory and symbolically destroys its influence). In an instant, the Void disappears, and the Sentry flies away, leaving everyone else uncertain whether they won. Sentry reappears a moment later, his manipulator grasped in one hand, and Mastermind in the other, and he drops them to the ground, where they vomit profusely. He says he must have flown too fast for them. Captain Samerica offers his hand, and a slot on the Avengers, which he declines. He says he has a lot to process, scoops up his wife, and adds that he’s got a lot of lost time to make up for, too. Captain Falcon asks if they can call him if something happens, and he says, of course, and nods at the sky, at his Watchtower floating above them, and adds he’ll be watching, and flies away. Fade to black. White text: The Sentry will return… when we need him most. Then roll credits.

Pitchmas 2020, Part 11: Avengers Academy

This show is kind of New Mutants for everyone else, letting us seed in characters that will make up the Runaways, more Young Avengers, maybe the Champions, if we’re feeling squirrely, New Warriors, Defenders, and of course there’s likely to be churn amongst the main Avengers team, too. And really, there are so damned many X-Men we probably can’t cover all of them in New Mutants, or maybe some who don’t want to be X-Men or join Magneto’s Brotherhood.

But honestly, it’s also so we can have the dark sequel series, where we feed them all into a woodchipper, Avengers Arena. Because that series is basically Battle Royale meets a world full of teenage sidekicks. It is darkly addictive fun.

In the books, the Avengers Academy is a reaction to Civil War, specifically that now that heroes have been drafted, there’s an Avengers Initiative to have a team in all 50 states, which means they need a hell of a lot more heroes, and they need them trained and not just winging it.

I don’t know that I was ever sold on that set-up, and it’s not available to us, anyhow. Possibly we could build something with the New Warriors, and a disaster like the Stamford one that precipitated Civil War in the books. But there’s lower-hanging fruit, since I set up in last year’s Pitchmas (and Marvel have been following a similar plan in everything they’ve been releasing) setting up Young Avengers.

The existence of untrained knock-off characters would likely prompt the Old Avengers to want to make sure a whole new generation of untrained heroes weren’t suddenly joining the fight, and start off a training program.

In lieu of getting into the weeds on the set up I’d want to see, I’d probably set up a core of characters that would be with us for a five season arc. The first three would cover their training and origins; we’d probably Lost it up a bit, with entire episodes basically being where characters came from, so we could show some of Bloodstone from Cullen’s perspective, do some of Runaways as told by Nico Minoru, an episode telling about X-23’s origins (presumably her having become something of a character in her own right on New Mutants by then- maybe even with Dafne Keen reprising, if the timelines worked out all right) that kind of thing- and yes, the clever amongst you see how it’s basically a series of backdoor pilots intermingled with the hero academy storyline.

I think in the books the Academy was largely the brain-child of Hank Pym, but I imagine that might be a tall order, getting Michael Douglas to commit to. Paul Rudd would probably be a fun alternative, and you could get him interacting with his daughter, Stature, again, and try to rebuild that rapport with the now adult(ish) version of his daughter. Better if you could get both (and/or with a Wasp or 2), since I think the Ant Man family already have a pretty solid family feel and training capabilities.

The first three seasons would be a beginning, middle and end for the Academy, season 4 maybe technically being a spin-off as the characters are captured by a powered-up Arcade and forced to fight for survival, and season 5 being a revenge arc, as those who survived 4 delve into the world of anti-heroics in a bid to hunt Arcade for what he done did, while also being secretly groomed by Zemo to do his bidding.

Season outlines

1. This functions similarly to the way New X-Men series does for mutants, but pulls from all groups, including borrowing some characters from that show (if Wolverine can be an Avenger and an X-Man, I don’t see why we can’t put his clone in both shows)- especially for characters who will go on to be part of the government-run X-Factor. It’s a training program for everyone else, and borrows adult characters when/wherever possible. It might be hard to have too many of the important characters pop up, beyond maybe the Ant Man crew, but we can bring in really anyone; need a magical character, draft Agatha Harkness. Or Damian Hellstrom (actually- I’d suggest Hellstrom, since his character features into the story in 5). 

2. It becomes clear that the Academy is more of a daycare than a training facility; the kids aren’t allowed to hero outside of their bases, and are forbidden from joining other teams during that time. It’s only when they reach 18 that they’re allowed to join the big boy leagues. But that doesn’t stop an old Avengers Threat (I’m going to say Zemo, since he’d see this as an Ubermensch program and want to dismantle it) manipulates a team of villains into attacking as a way to gut the hero community and get their collective revenge, but to everyone’s surprise, the kids are able, Red Dawn style, to beat back the villains long enough for the grown-ups to arrive (or maybe just some clever smoke and mirrors by the kids).  

3. Realizing that they can’t child-proof the world, Hank hires on a nerd nicknamed Arcade; basically, he wants something like the X-Men’s Danger Room, but encompassing an entire city and suburb, a place to simulate combat as these kids will meet it in the outside world. Arcade feels mistreated, and eventually takes all of the teachers hostage, forcing them to watch as their students run a life and death version of the obstacle courses he was supposed to build. They’re eventually able to help free the heroes, who stop Arcade. Losing control of the school and training that way gets the school shuttered for good, with the government pulling its support and the kids all getting sent home.  

4. A powered up Arcade, snotty about his humiliation the year before, starts kidnapping the children who were returned home, and pits them against one another, Battle Royale style, on a remote island. It’s all an elaborate revenge for foiling his plans in the previous season. The meddling kids, however, manage to disrupt his plans yet again- though not all of them survive the experience.

5. Angry that Arcade escaped, the survivors go underground, and start running with a bad crowd, because they’re the only ones who know where Arcade is hiding. The remaining instructors basically fall into two camps- one trying to find the kids and save them from themselves, and the other hunting Arcade to bring him to justice themselves. But that’s all background noise. The main attraction is the kids being set up by Zemo to do something so publically villainous it will taint the kids, their teachers, and all of the superhumans- with Arcade’s fate hanging in the balance. But will the kids realize in time that they’ll be destroying their world if they win? Or will Zemo finally manage to deal the Marvel heroes a death blow?

What? You think I’d spoil the answer here? Think again, True Believers.

Pitchmas 2020, part 10: X-Men: The Beginning

Pitchmas this year is a weekly pitch for a new Disney + series set in the MCU, lasting 12 weeks.

10. X-Men: The Beginning

This is basically X-Men Evolution, but in live action, featuring the first five students (maybe eventually introducing younger versions of those who were teachers at the beginning of New Mutants, too, and the rest of the Giant Size X-Men crew). Could probably even use the same sets as New Mutants on a rotating schedule, too, to get double the value out of them.

I think to make this not perfunctory, we’ll need to really make it sizzle. The pitch is basically the first class of X-Men by way of Stranger Things.

I think the first half of the season would be assembling the team, which in our case means them being found by Xavier. I want to tell the stories from the perspective of the teens, and only briefly touch on Charles- at least for the first half. The second half of the season is entirely Xavier-based, his friendship (and its fallout) with Magneto, and his strained relationship with his brother, Cain Marko.

1. Phoenix: Jean is a special girl. Everyone knows it, and they all tell her so. Every one does. We spend a day with her, at first, and slowly, subtly, the creepiness sets in- they all have the same wooden expression, say the words exactly the same way. Everyone except her parcel carrier (not USPS- a private label). He speaks candidly with her, a little too candidly for someone of her age, and we think his eyes start to glow, and his teeth look too sharp. The young Jean screams out, and every neighbor on the block comes outside in lock step, and he doffs his cap and leaves. A SHIELD touchstone (Fury is always the preference, but Samuel L. Jackson can only be in so many places at once, so it could be a Coulson, Hill or someone else) delivers Professor Xavier to the town. Xavier knocks on the Grey residence’s front door, and is greeted by her father. He says that she’s studying, because she’s an extraordinary girl and can’t squander those gifts. Xavier smiles, and says those are his sentiments exactly. Mr. Grey’s eyes glow, and he shakes off the manipulation. Xavier explains that he’s come at the request of SHIELD because their daughter has formed a psychic cocoon around herself; everyone in its radius gets drafted into her army. Her father laughs off the idea, because the things that feel frightening to girls her age include boys and algebra tests. But Xavier doesn’t hear it, because his attention is drawn by the parcel carrier. Xavier sees him clearly, surrounded by a purple psychic flame as his eyes glow red; his teeth appear too sharp. Xavier tells him his daughter’s instincts are sharper than he realizes, and asks to see the girl. The parcel carrier tries to ring the doorbell, but it doesn’t sound. Xavier turns to look at him through one of the windows in the front door, and he glares as Xavier regards him coolly. Mr. Grey brings Jean down. Xavier explains mutants, and their gifts, and tells her she’s one of the strongest people he’s ever met- that the danger she sensed was drawn to her because of that power- he is a monstrous being known as the Shadow King. Xavier encountered him before- but managed to pierce the veil of his thoughts, and discovered that the Shadow King wished to use him as a host to regain access to the physical realm. Jean accuses Xavier of trying to manipulate her, the way the Shadow King had tried to manipulate her, the way her parents had. She demands that he leave, and he does. The Shadow King, in the form of the delivery man, blasts through her front door. Suddenly, Jean is in her home in the psychic realm. The Shadow King stalks through, and as she tries to defend herself with very limited control, he’s clearly able to shape this realm with a whim. It’s terrifying, looking like he’s won, towering over a terrified Jean, before he drops to his knees. Xavier is behind him, with his fingers outstretched, and yellow tendrils burrowing into the Shadow King’s head. We flash back. The moment Shadow King blasted through the door, Xavier was there, behind him, tendrils piercing his skull. Jean stops cowering and stands, triumphant. Xavier tells him he’s going to be furious, but it was the little girl’s plan- the second he walked through the door; he told her what mutants were as they traded details of her plan. She let him think he was in control, that he was winning, as she systematically took away every element of his power. They’re both fairly certain he’ll be trapped on the psychic plane forever; psychics may stumble upon him from time to time, but he’s lost most of the gimmicks that allowed him to trick his unwitting victims. They leave him, chained, on that plane, and return to Jean’s room. She admits to Xavier that she didn’t mean to manipulate people around her, but she couldn’t control it. She asks if he could teach her how, and he smiles, and says of course.

2. Cyclops: Scott Summers as a child is on a plane flying over Alaska. The plane shimmies, and his father, the pilot, tasks him with checking to make sure his younger brother Alex is fastened tight, then check the cargo. Out of one of the windows, he sees the engine start to smoke, burst into flame, and is completely torn from the plane, taking some of the wing and the door nearest it, sucking out the parachutes. Scott runs back to the cockpit to tell his father. He looks at his boys and smiles. “Lucky I always bring a spare,” he says, and pulls one out from behind his seat. “You two’re small, so it should work for the both of you.” Scott asks about him, and he tells him he should still be able to land it, but he’s not putting all of their mom’s eggs in one basket- “especially since this world is out of perfect eggs.” He helps Scott get Alex clamped into the chute, then tells him to hold on, tight. His father helps him out of the plane. One of the chute straps breaks, and they start to fall, too fast. Scott wraps himself around Alex, to shield him from the landing, and we cut as they hit the mountain. We pull back, to see their father’s plane overhead, a moment before it smashes into the mountain.

We cut later, as Scott, blood dried along the side of his face from a nasty impact with the ground, drags his brother, whose leg is splinted, in the remains of the parachute, towards the nearby town. At the edge of town, Scott collapses beside a chain link fence surrounding a dour-looking building (it was an attempt by a priest to capture the majesty of a cathedral, but scaled to this remote community- the effect is more sinister than anything). We see a sign on the fence, too, “Essex Home For Special Boys.” A man with sharply-defined facial hair is standing with a gloved hand threaded through the fence, just on the other side of the two boys. We pan up his arm, and stop when we reach his jaw, as a thin smile spreads over his lips.

Scott plays with Alex, who can’t really join in the other reindeer games because of his leg (now in a cast). That is, until another boy, a burly one, with big hands and feet and a toothy grin, tells him they need another to even out teams for a game of touch football. Scott’s reluctant at first, but Alex snaps at him, like he wants his pity attention. Scott’s hurt by that, and goes off with Hank. We linger on Alex, reversing the shot as Scott starts to play (he quarterbacks, because he’s got a good eye, a good arm, and talent for leadership; Hank, meanwhile, is a natural catcher with those hands, and is agile to boot), and we watch a knowing smile spread across Alex’s lips.

Scott tries to loop Alex back in, but Hank and his friends are slightly older, and especially having been wounded, Alex is extra socially handicapped. At lights out, Hank nervously confesses to Scott that he’s anxious about an upcoming dance- that there’s a dance with the “Frost Academy for Talented Ladies.” He’s worried no one will want to dance with him. Scott thinks a moment, before telling him that women like to be held- his mom told him that- and with his hands he figures Hank would make any woman feel extra safe and secure. The moment is sweet enough Hank gets quieter, more conspiratorial. He tells Scott he’s not sure it’s safe there, that he isn’t an orphan- that his parents are still alive and he was taken– that they need to get out of there, and Scott’s eyes go wide- so wide we know what’s coming next as ruby red energy bursts from his eyes, shattering through a window. Hank hits him from behind, as Essex appears behind him. Hank explains that he didn’t know what else to do- that Scott might have hurt someone. Essex pats his shoulder gently, telling him he did the right thing.

3. Beast: The episode opens largely as the last ended, only Hank and Scott are asleep on their cots. Mr. Essex, the smiling man who put a gloved hand through the fence in the last episode, preps a syringe. He slides it into Scott’s arm with inhuman precision, then twirls in his heavy dark blue coat (that’s almost a big cape). Essex opens a secret panel into a small lab behind his study. He feeds Scott’s blood into a machine, and lights come up on the room, showing a host of gene-sequencing machines.

We go back to Hank, sleeping fitfully. We hear a voice, Essex’s, but I want it to be supremely subtle, almost subliminal, where some portion of the audience won’t catch it during the first viewing. His eyes open manically, and he yawns, before stumbling out of bed. He uses the same secret entrance to Essex’s lab, and clearly knows his way to Essex once inside. Essex calls him, “Young Mr. McCoy” and claims he was quite the discovery. Hank pouts, and Essex chides him; he says his gift would have been wasted living with his parents- that Hank is free to hate him, if need be, but his education is paramount.

Indeed, once Essex begins speaking to him about Scott’s DNA, he comes alive. While the testing is ongoing, it seems that Scott is one of the catalysts he’s been searching for, that his ability allows him to harness great amounts of energy- possibly enough to finally finish his work. They work together through the night, testing the sampled blood, until Hank falls asleep, and Essex gingerly carries him back to bed.

The next morning Scott wakes slowly. He’s attached to an IV, keeping him partially sedated. Hank tells him that most so-called mutant powers are controlled via the brain- which would explain the catastrophic damage caused by his head injury, preventing him from being able to control it. He segues awkwardly via a joke about controlling himself that evening, when they go to the Frost Academy for the dance, and notes it’s good they aren’t having it there, because of the hole Scott blasted in the wall.

We have a scene where they boys dress. Despite the short notice, Essex was able to have the seamstress in town customize clothes for both Summers boys. Alex doesn’t want to go, especially since he can’t dance on his leg, but Scott convinces him to try and have fun.

At the dance, Essex greets Ms. Frost as Hazel, and tells her it’s lovely to see her, and kisses her hand. She’s a wealthy socialite, her family money coming at least partially from Alaskan oil, hence her interest in giving back to that community. With her is her daughter, Emma; she wears white with furs, not as revealing as the outfits adult her will wear, obviously, but just as sharply stylish. Hank asks if she wants to dance, and she stares at his big hands and says she wears the fur of beasts, she doesn’t dance with them.” He says something cutting in reply, and they both stomp off. Scott follows Hank, and consoles him, and tells him he’s a sweet guy, and he’s going to find someone who loves him for who he is, not the size of glove he wears. Scott convinces him to try again, with another girl, this one staring at him. Scott watches as she smiles, nods, and follows him to the dance floor.

Scott starts looking for Alex when he hears sobbing, and follows it back to Emma. She insists she wasn’t crying. He smiles, and says that doesn’t mean she isn’t upset, and if talking would help, he’s there. She’s stand-offish, and rude, but it also becomes clear that she’s lonely, and scared, and doesn’t really know how to handle people at all. He explains that she sounds like Hank; he was worried no one would dance if he asked them, but that he found someone who said yes, that sometimes to really get to know the best side of people, you have to give them a second chance. He asks if she’d like to dance, and she says yes. We follow them to the dance floor, but as we pan past Essex chatting with her mother, we stay on them.

Essex is boring her, it’s plain. He’s chatting her up because he’d like more funding, and mentions that his work is focused on helping people just like her daughter, that he isn’t looking for a hand-out. She isn’t paying attention to him, because a late guest has arrived. She tells Nathan she has to introduce him to a dear friend of hers, a fellow philanthropist, Charles Xavier. Essex goes white, as we pan to see Xavier. He’s also brought along Jean Grey, as well, both dressed appropriately for the occasion. Xavier peers at him curiously; he can’t seem to read Essex’s mind, which is peculiar. 

Back with Scott and Emma, she tells him she knows he’s scared. He tells her he’s not; his mom taught him how to dance before she died (though he trails off before saying the word “died”). She says not about that. About last night, what happened with his eyes. He stops, and she tells him it’s okay, she’s special, too. That his secret’s safe with her, just like she feels safe with him, she says, nuzzling into his shoulder. As the music fades, Emma leans in and kisses him, and Scott’s eyes go wide. “Oh, no,” she says, realizing her mistake. Scott’s eyebeams blast through the wall and the ceiling.

Ms. Frost screams for her daughter, and runs to protect her; Emma protests that she’s fine, she’s safe, Scott would never hurt her. Essex moves towards Scott, but Charles grabs his wrist, and tells him he doesn’t know who he is, or what his designs on the boy are, but it ends tonight. He calls him a “Sinister” man, and tells him to leave all of the children behind, that he and Emma have contacts that will get them situated in proper homes- we see an overlay of Hank, as he says he was taken, and rage spreads over Xavier’s face. Essex shoves Xavier, knocking him into the wall hard enough he dents it, as his eyes begin to glow red, and we think this is going to go downhill quickly, only Essex’s eyes roll back in his head and he falls over.

Jean tells Xavier she turned him off, like a light switch, and asked if she did good, and he says she did very good. We stay on Essex, who watches a single hair fall from Jean’s shoulder. He can barely move, but with great effort manages to grab the hair as it falls.

Later, we pan through the now empty orphanage, into the no longer shut lab. Essex is extracting DNA from the hair, and that same sinister smile spreads over his lips.

I’m going to be a little less thorough with the remaining episodes, but to give you a taste of what we’re looking at.

4. Angel: Angel flies. Depending on budget, this can be POV, and just be some drone footage, or it could be fairly elaborate. But then Warren wakes to his father knocking on his door. He’s low-key abusive about hiding his son’s shame, binding his wings and tying them down in a way that’s painful. When Warren cries, he shames him for that, too.

Warren goes to his school, something private and high-end. His father shoves him along, past students picking on a girl there on a scholarship, her uniforms second-hand, her supplies in some disrepair. Warren tries to direct his father’s wrath in their direction, only for him to state that she’s “beneath” them, and Warren stares daggers back at him for that.

We recognize one of the boys picking on the girl when he slides into a seat next to Warren; he acts friendly towards him, but Warren doesn’t return the warmth. Cameron asks what’s up, says their families have been friends for generations- that the Worthingtons and Hodges have been thick as thieves since before either family bought their way into respectability. Warren complains about his treatment of the girl, and he says they were only having fun- that they wouldn’t hurt her. Warren isn’t interested. Cameron says this is a lousy way to end a friendship, and Warren spits back that they were never friends, that he was a jerk his father made him be nice to- but he’s tired of being a cog in a machine of jerks that only mints fresh jerks and money. Warren leaves, tells the teacher he needs to use the bathroom.

We linger a bit on Cameron’s day, as he stews.

At lunch outside, Cameron and his buddies make fun of Warren. They intimate that he’s got a thing for the girl, that that’s why he’s being such a girl about it. And he shrugs. He doesn’t care if they think that, because what would be so wrong about it. Not getting what they want, they leave, and Warren watches a bird fly by, and we intercut with his dream from earlier, until a dropped lunch try stirs him from his daydreaming.

It’s Cameron and his buddies, surrounding the girl again. Only Cameron shoved her. His friends are half-shocked, half drooling for more. Cameron’s clearly agitated, realizing he’s probably gone too far, and at the same time feeding off the energy his friends are putting off. He reels back to hit her, and his hand comes down on Warren’s back. That’s enough invitation for all of his friends to start attacking. For a moment Warren hunkers over her to protect her from their fists and feet, until…

Warren tears through his harness, and his school blazer in one motion, then spins, knocking Cameron and his flunkies back with his spread wings. Warren pulls the girl to him, and kicks off the ground, taking flight. We linger a moment on Cameron, as someone approaches, and offers him a hand up. He calls Warren a filthy “mutie,” and says they’re no “friends of humanity.” Then introduces himself as Graydon Creed.

We join Warren and the girl in the clouds, as her scream turns to excitement. He flies them down to a picturesque spot on top of a hill. She tells him he didn’t have to do that. He says he couldn’t stand idly by. They have a cute, flirty sort of thing, and she is very gentle and understanding about his, er, coming out. She asks if she can kiss him; she wants to, but she doesn’t want to make something really powerful and brave about her. He kisses her, and tells her it was about her, that he would have been too scared to do it if it wasn’t for her. She kisses him back, and we linger on that happy moment, because we’re going to need that to power through what comes next.

Warren’s dad berates him on the way to school, treats it like something Warren did to shame him, and the family name, and legacy. He protests, that they were going to hurt her, to which he says, “So?” They pull up at the school. Angry parents have formed a human chain outside, and are wearing, “FoH” arm bands, standing beneath a banner that says something to the effect of “Mutants Stay Out.” The Elder Worthington slides lower in his seat, when there’s a knock on the car window.

It’s Charles Xavier. He offers his help. Worthington asks if he’s a lawyer, and Charles smiles that no, he is not. Xavier walks inside, past the crowd, who murmur. One, who recognizes him, steps to him, and he smiles, and the person steps back, cowed.

Warren watches a bird fly by, and his dad snaps at him, telling him he’s never flying again. Xavier emerges, walking lightly. Behind him comes the principal, who tears down the banner. Xavier says he was glad he could change his mind, before turning to walk away. The protestors howl at the principal as he balls up their banner, and points to their cars. If we can hear him, he’s telling them they have to disperse, and if they don’t, he’ll be forced to call the police.

Worthington asks if his son can go inside. Xavier says that he can- but that he shouldn’t- that this school isn’t good enough for him. He deserves a school where he can be who he wants to be, and where he doesn’t have to threaten legal action or use of the ADA to keep the wolves at bay. He hands Worthington a card, saying he happens to run just such a school, a school designed for special people just like his son. Worthington is skeptical, downright hostile, until he says that it’s remote, far away from prying eyes and ears, from society gossip or any of the other arenas where they might look down on his son’s gifts. Worthington stops himself, and in an uncharacteristic moment of humanity, says that it should be up to his son to decide.

Charles opens Warren’s door, and says that nature has given Warren wings, that it would be his honor to give him a chance to fly.

5. Iceman: Bobby Drake is a pain in the butt. He can’t stop complaining about his mom’s traditions, about her weird smelling fish, or the fact that their “Christmas” presents are wooden and from another century; specifically, they’re getting ready for Purim. She’s hurt by the assertion, but hides it, and tells him it’s important for him to know their heritage. People died for that heritage. Carrying it was honoring their sacrifice, and their strength, and the determination that carried them through centuries of oppression and discrimination. For a moment, it seems like she’s getting through to him, before he says, “Yeah, but my bringing stink-fish on wrye for lunch is ensuring further centuries of oppression.” She glares comically at him. He clarifies that he’s not saying they have to 86 all the Jewish stuff, but dad’s Christian, so can’t this be the half of their heritage they don’t talk about, like how he’s not supposed to talk about anything covered by his jeans when they have company. She glares again, before breaking into a smile, making it clear that she loves him, despite his being a pain in the butt.

There’s a knock on the door, and we see a man we assume is her husband. She greets him as Erik, and he asks if he’s late for the kiddush, and she says they waited for him. They all sit at the table, and she lights two candles, and says a blessing. Then they have a meal, during which Erik asks about her husband, who works swings and isn’t ever there that time. She asks after his work; he does aid work for Jewish charities and the like, and is planning another trip to Israel soon. She tells him she’s struggling to get Bobby interested in his heritage. I think he tells a story from Jewish history, showcasing one of their many struggles just to survive (I’m not sure which would be more on point).

Erik mentions that his parents were both children during the Holocaust, each was the sole survivor from their families- entire lines wiped out but for those single branches. I’m kind of assuming that for this generation of Magneto, he won’t be a Holocaust survivor himself, but have been conceived by two people who lived through it, who were scarred by it, who were orphans of it, that it colored every aspect of his growing up, that everywhere his family ever lived they had contingency plans for escape, not just from the house, but from the city, from the country, from the continent, that it wasn’t until they finally settled in Israel that they found a home they weren’t looking to escape from.

Bobby attends a Purim carnival with his mom. He eats some hamantaschen, and goofs off to impress a girl. He also draws the ire of a bully, who follows them to the Ferris wheel. He shoves Bobby into the cart, elbowing the girl out of the way; the not-paying-attention operator starts the wheel with the two of them on it. The bully is fuming; he doesn’t like the way Bobby was looking at the girl. He says she’s okay, but there’s someone else, someone who he sees when he closes his eyes, when he thinks about sharing his first kiss. The scene is, essentially, Bobby coming out as bi, the dialog reading ambiguously, and thinking the bully shares his feelings (because he’s a dumb, inexperienced kid). He takes the bully’s hand, squeezes, and kisses him. And… it goes okay. The bully was jealous of the girl and not him. Except…  when he took his hand, Bobby accidentally froze it- froze their hands together in a block of ice. That freaks him out. He tries to get away, even trying to climb out of the Ferris Wheel enclosure as Bobby fights him. As the car reaches the ground the Bully punches him in the eye and stumbles backward, shattering the ice, and running. The commotion catches the attention of others at the carnival that a crowd has gathered, who look like an angry mob.

Next shot is Bobby getting locked in a cell. He uses the block of ice still around his hand to ice his black eye, and tells the Sheriff it helps. The Sheriff explains that he had to take him into protective custody; he’d seen that look before, and didn’t want to have to try and ward off a lynch mob at gun point. He says he can release him once the mob disperses and his parents can come for him.

Bobby notices another young kid in the cell beside his, and asks what he’s in for. He says it’s arson- though he didn’t do it, before using flame from a lighter to create a small dragon that melts the ice around his hand. Bobby thanks him, just as the wall behind them collapses, and in walks Magneto. From inside, a door opens, and a bald man in a nice suit strolls in. “Erik, I see you’re still tearing down walls.”

“I prefer to think of it as removing barriers to our people, Charles,” Magneto replies.  

Xavier tells Bobby that he’s secured his release and return to his mother, and can escort him safely out of the building. Magneto tries to coax him to go with him- that he needn’t fear those weaker. Xavier appeals to the bonds of family- to his mother, who is scared, and wants nothing more than to hold her precious child in her arms and tell him everything will be okay. The Sheriff returns, and his eyes go wide. Xavier tells him not to notice Magento until they’re gone, and he unlocks Bobby’s cell. Bobby glances back at Magneto, before leaving with Charles.

We cut to later, Bobby at home. She’s reading the Purim story, and mentions Hamen, and he uses his noisemaker, but peters out. He says he has to tell her something, that he’s different. She corrects him- that he’s special, and she’s known he was special from the moment she first held him in the hospital. He tells her he kissed his first boy today. And accidentally froze their hands together. She asks how it was. “Cold,” he says, then, “not bad, though. Moister than expected. But pretty good, until I got hit in the face.” She smiles, and tells him it took her a while to get the hang of kissing, too, but it was all worth it, because that’s how she got him. He groans. “Mom, you’re going to warp me.” She tells him she’s pretty sure that ship has sailed.

6-10: Now we focus on the X behind the Men. 6 starts with a young, even arrogant Charles Xavier. I think the framing story is the 5 original X-men talking, coming to realize that while they’re grateful for his help, they don’t really understand why he does what he’s done. He finds them, and Jean asks. Now it’s flashback time.

He’s kind of an obnoxious, arrogant prep school jerk. His mother calls him away from his prep school to return home because his father is dying of cancer, presumably related to his work in nuclear physics. Charles decides to stay home with his grieving mother after his father’s death, and witnesses her seduction at the hands of Kurt Marko, a family friend who provides a shoulder for her to cry on. Kurt’s son from a prior marriage, Cain, is in tow; he’s resentful of Charles and bullies him relentlessly. Eventually Charles’ mother and Marko marry. Large portions of the Xavier fortune are put into a trust for Charles, including the mansion where the new family live. Xavier’s telepathy develops, and he discovers, too late, that Kurt is only interested in his family’s money, and doesn’t care for either he or his mother. He tries to convince his mother to leave the emotionally neglectful Kurt, but she refuses, so he seeks refuge by returning to school.

At school, Xavier met and fell in love with Moira. The two had a whirlwind romance, until Xavier received a call from his step-brother. Cain was struggling with a deal going south in Cairo, and needed Charles to bail him out, literally, from prison. Charles, however, isn’t about to unleash Marko on the populace, and follows him. That’s where he bumps into a young thief named Ororo Munroe, being forced to work by a man she knows only by the name Shadow King.

But Xavier’s first concern is limiting the damage his step-brother can do, so he follows Marco. Cain was using their family’s resources and connections to fund an archeological dig. However, the Egyptian government got wind of the unsanctioned archeology, and seized his prize, including a crimson gem, that had ensorcelled Cain on sight. Because of his control over the family fortune, Charles is able to cut off most of his resources; Cain uses the last of his cash on hand to purchase a group of mercenaries to help him fight past the Egyptian authorities. Charles is too late to stop them from penetrating the chamber, and when he attempts to stop Cain’s mercenaries telepathically he finds they’re dead, save one, who is merely dying, all murdered by the vicious Juggernaut his brother has become. Charles tries to stop him mentally, but is unable to so much as speak telepathically to his brother.

Ashamed of his failure, Xavier falls into a depression. He starts drinking, though isn’t too deep in the bag when he senses the presence once again of Ororo Munroe. He feels her fear even more acutely than the last time, and goes to her. This time he listens as she tells him the full story of the Shadow King, how he can control people with his mind, how he uses innocent people as his hostages, threatening to harm them if she doesn’t steal for him. In that way he’s become the premier underworld figure in all of Cairo, and is well on his way to controlling all of the levers of government.

Xavier promises Munroe he will free her. He doesn’t get far, before he’s accosted by local police, but sensing a presence behind them, he severs it, and they crumple to the ground like puppets with their strings cut. Ororo leads him to the Shadow King, still a human at this point. His guards attack, only for them to freeze. Ororo turns, her eyes flashing white and subtly crackling with electricity, before she freezes. Xavier leaps over Shadow King’s desk, and they start to fight, before Shadow King tears him onto the psychic plane.

They battle for a time, before Xavier reveals that he’s sealed Shadow King off from his own body. They both race for a door out, each hoping to take control of Xavier, instead. When they reach the door at the same moment, we cut back to Xavier, probably a close-up on his eye, zooming out, before he starts to move. Everyone in the room resumes moving. Charles directs Ororo away from the desk; on instinct she wanted to make sure the Shadow King was really gone, like checking for a monster under the bed, but he doesn’t want her to see the catatonic body of the Shadow King. We zoom in on his pupil, and inside, in the psychic realm, we see Shadow King banging on an invisible wall, unable to escape.

Through his contacts, Xavier is able to find someone to help rehome Ororo- to take her back to her original home, really. And this is where he meets Erik for the first time. Typically, he works with Jewish charities, and, more secretively, for underground mutant-supporting ones, but he happens to be in the area, and is happy to help the child find her home. He says something to the effect that aren’t we all just searching for a place, to be happy and safe?

Their meeting, and his time in Cairo changes Xavier. He tries to go back to school, but Moira has moved on, and he realizes that academia isn’t for him, that his calling lies in helping. So it’s no surprise that the next episode finds him working in Palestine. We see him doing the hard aid work within the Gaza Strip, sweating through his suit out doors, helping to soothe angry refugees. There is a conflict at the border; it seems an NGO has accidentally promised the same supplies to both groups on the Israeli side as well as those on the Palestinian one. Feeling that the Palestinian need was more urgent, they tried to direct the supplies to Gaza, but were stopped at the border. Word of what was happening got back to some Palestinians, and a protest ensued, that threatened to spill over into violence with the addition of Israeli security forces. Peace is finally brokered at the arrival of Xavier on one side, and Erik on the other, each subtly influencing their sides towards piece, Xavier by calming the crowd somewhat, Erik by causing tanks and trucks to break down before they can reinforce the troops there. The two of them are able to build a compromise, though it’s to stop bloodshed, not for ideological reasons.

That comes later, when the two men share a drink on the Israeli side of the border. They talk well into the night, Charles learning of Erik’s parents surviving the Holocaust, and then dying in a terrorist attack in Israel in front of him. Charles argues that in this scenario, the Palestinians are the ones in camps- that to protect itself Israel is perpetrating something like the worst sin committed against them on another people. Erik is horrified, even angry, but he also recognizes there’s some truth there, too… that maybe the way to protect his people isn’t with a closed fist.

Author’s Editorial Note: After concerns were raised about this passage, I am adding this clarification of the purpose of this passage: Xavier, without using the word mutant, is able to convince Erik that Jews were the mutants of World War II, just as Palestinians are the mutants of that moment in the Middle East- that they deserve to be sheltered from the storm just as he wished his family was, just as he’s dedicated his life to doing for mutantkind. Xavier’s true power, to me, has always been his deep well of empathy; he doesn’t need to manipulate anyone, because he’s seen so deeply into the human soul- including his own- that the pain of others is his pain, and briefly, he’s able to share that gift with Erik in words.

Erik is still proudly Jewish, and I don’t believe he would be able to be completely won over- but that wasn’t ever Xavier’s hope- he views any dichotomy as a false one, any splitting of people into the deserving and the damned to be ceding the solution to the worst of human instincts. So for a time, he convinces Erik that there can be that fragile peace; Erik doesn’t stop believing Israel has a right to exist and protect itself, but he’s more easily able to see the humanity of those who get caught in that crossfire, too, regardless of which side of a border they’re on. -Nic

They work together for a time, building aid agencies that aren’t for either Israel or Palestine, but that coordinate aid between them, and build greater ties between both groups. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship… until it ended.

Gabrielle Haller was a fellow aid worker. She mostly worked on the Arabian Peninsula, but was moving medical supplies through Egypt because of an outbreak. While making their way through some largely overgrown roads, their caravan was caught in an earthquake. Their vehicles were swallowed up, as the quake broke open an underground chamber that had been covered for centuries with sand. The rest of the caravan were lost, supplies, vehicles, everything. Gabrielle was able to crawl from the hole, but had been rendered speechless by her ordeal, and sunk into a catatonic state once she reached help.

She was brought back to the camp used by Xavier and Erik. Not only did it have some fairly advanced equipment, but it was where her friends and coworkers were. There didn’t seem to be anything medically wrong with her, but she remained catatonic. Using telepathy, Xavier was able to help her push past her trauma, and regain consciousness. She was still traumatized, and still feared the evil stench of the thing in the hole, but with time she was able to go back to work helping people, which seemed to be the best medicine for her. It was only at night, when her mind was unguarded, that she succumbed to the fears, and would often wake up screaming. Because of their proximity, because of how much he’d helped her, because they were both going through something of an existential crisis, Xavier and Gabrielle cleaved to one another. Sleeping in his arms the terrors finally began to fade. For her. Unconsciously, Xavier finally felt the full brunt of her terror, and just as unconsciously, reached out telepathically to the place where her horror lied… and discovered that it was real.

Charles woke in a sweat, and got up, to find Erik pacing. He had a problem he didn’t think he could bring to Xavier. Xavier, exasperated, tells Erik they both know they’re both mutants, and that Erik’s untenable problem involves them- and that he’s happy to help. But perhaps more importantly, there is a graver threat to humanity, one hidden beneath the sands for millennia, an evil so unspeakable history scoured its existence from all record, a doom sleeping in an ancient tomb, waiting for the ripest moment to spark an Armageddon that would make the Holocaust look quaint by comparison- a living Apocalypse.

Magneto tells him to shut up. Xavier, thinking he sounds like a raving lunatic, persists, only for Erik to silence him more forcefully with a shout. Then he hears it, too: gunfire. They rush through the camp as people run in the other direction. But the sounds of gunfire are becoming further, and they find Xavier’s tent has been shredded, the bedding he shared with Gabrielle empty and torn. Xavier reaches out with his mind and tells Erik they have her, and he needs his help… and that Gabrielle is pregnant. And that the child will be like them. Magneto tells him “Mazel tov, Charles,” but protests that he didn’t need further motivation than rescuing Gabrielle.

Xavier tells him he needed Erik to understand what was at stake for him- and that she doesn’t know yet. Xavier is able to track them to the place we saw in Gabrielle’s flashback, the sinkhole where her caravan disappeared.

When they arrive, they find a decent size encampment of Hydra soldiers. Magneto is incensed at this, seeing them as little better than Nazis. Xavier tries to argue him down, reasoning that they can get to Gabrielle with no loss of life. Magneto’s having none of it, that Charles’ solution leaves them alive to keep spreading their poison. Xavier does what he can to stem the loss of life, but Magneto rampages. It all comes to a head when they find the officer holding Gabrielle, Baron Strucker. Magneto uses his powers to rip the rifles from the arms of Strucker’s guards, turns them on the Hydras, and fires. Xavier yells out in protest.

Strucker calls them “Ubermensch” and explains to them that the most fervent search Hydra undertook was looking for this buried messiah. “He was waiting for the rise of mankind’s superiors;” Strucker sees mutants and Hydra as natural allies, both representing the pinnacle of human achievement. Magneto is bemused at his arrogance, and sees Strucker as far beneath him, and tries to kill him. Only he can’t. Xavier has restrained him telepathically. It’s hard to put into words the depth of this betrayal to Erik; they’re friends, and Xavier has violated his mind- all to protect a man no better than a Nazi.

Xavier knows what he’s done, but he’s consumed by the evil thing pulsating beneath them. He shares its thoughts with Magneto, in an attempt to persuade him to stay and help. Only Magneto sees the creature differently; he feels that if Strucker’s right, then it was waiting for them- it is doom merely for the humans. “I now see which side you’ve always been on, Charles,” he sneers, before flying away.

Xavier telepathically flattens Strucker, then gets Gabrielle into a truck so she can drive herself back to safety; she says she knows the way, but she wants him to come with her. He says he can’t; he’s seen the thing in her nightmares, felt its rancid breath on his face. He can’t sleep, knowing it draws breathe still- he has to face down this demon. She’s heartbroken, because they both understand, on some level, this is him leaving her, him deciding to go down a dangerous path she cannot possibly follow, that even if by some miracle he survives the ordeal, their love is over.

Alone, now, Xavier descends into the sinkhole. The architecture is Egyptian-esque, think pyramids mixed with alien tech (Celestial, if memory serves). In the center of the chamber is a black cocoon that is nearly an obelisk. As Charles approaches it, it begins to send out pulses of force that nearly knock him over. But he continues forward, struggling against the tide, before eventually touching the obelisk. I think from this point forward we go to a battle on a psychic plane. Probably to preserve long-term casting possibilities, Apocalypse appears as a young Egyptian boy. He tells Xavier that only the strongest should survive, so he welcomes his challenge. Then the boy grows in size, until he’s replaced by a giant blue boot trying to stomp on Xavier. Charles tackles through the foot, ripping the boy out of the construct, grabbing hold of his head. Xavier’s eyes glow, then his hands, then the boy’s eyes, then everything is engulfed in light.

The psychic feedback sends out a bigger pulse, throwing Xavier into the wall, and causing a second cave-in. Most of the architecture collapses inwards as sand rushes in. We cut to the remains of the Hydra camp. The soldiers fled, taking everything they could quickly grab. Out of the sand Xavier thrusts a hand. He crawls out of the hole. And keeps crawling, his legs pulled limply behind him. He manages to pull himself by morning to a small village, and he’s airlifted back to Cairo for medical treatment.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t anticipated seeding Apocalypse like this, and so hadn’t expected to injure Xavier… but I’m toying with 6th Sensing it. So characters who can see through telepathic manipulation talk to him as he is- a man in a wheelchair (off the top of my head, Jean, Essex, Shadow King, Emma). And everyone else sees him walking- that he admits at the end here that it was a crutch, that he felt he needed to project strength- but he understands now, having gotten to know all of them, that true strength comes from being who you really are, not projecting what you think others need to see.

The finale of the season is Cain Marko, now the Juggernaut, attacking the school as Xavier wraps up his tale. His young X-Men have to deal with the Juggernaut, showcasing their new attempts to work cohesively as a team. Iceman freezes the ground, Cyclops knocks him over with an optic blast, Beast grabs him by the ankles and spins him to keep him disoriented while Jean Grey telekinetically unbuckles his helmet, which Angel flies off with, leaving Cain vulnerable to his brother’s psychic assault.

Bonus Pitch: I could absolutely see a spin-off out of this being Magneto: Hydra Hunter, covering the time from after he and Xavier part ways, until he graduates to Supervillainy, basically him going after Nazis/Hydra and doing a riff on Munich (the Spielberg movie) as he tries to wrangle with his own demons; because I don’t think he’s quite there, yet, as a villain. I think what would probably get him there is him trying to focus on just killing the worst of the worst, in the hopes that without the Nazis and Hydra, humanity could learn to get along with mutants, and then with the rise of the Friends of Humanity movement, with the return to the public square of Nazis- it all just becomes too much for him to bear- he starts to think it isn’t a few bad apples, that the whole damn orchard is the problem.  

Even still, I could see needing a third series for Magneto to really gel as a villain. I’d probably go for an Asteroid M storyline, him trying to have his own mutant Israel, only learning that if they displaced anybody they could never have peace so he builds an asteroid out of metallic space debris for his people to live on. And of course, when human governments can’t abide what is basically a weapons platform floating above their heads and attack what was meant as a peaceful gesture, that seals things for him. That is a Magneto you probably could get away with selling shirts saying, “Magneto Was Right.” Not that I think you should… even pop-culturally ironic endorsements of genocide are a bad idea, no matter how sympathetically you build out an origin story. But that is a damn fine villain, if I do say so myself. And I just did.

Pitchmas 2020, part 9: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

The episodes start off as a grudge match, with the initial title being “Squirrel Girl vs…” but after some initial fisticuffs, her positive nature takes over, and she helps the villians/heroes with their problems, instead. Like she helps Deadpool with his ennui, Thanos with his lousy philosophy… it means the episodes end with kind of a goofy Aesop but also include superheroics, action and drama. The key, and this is a balancing act, to be sure, is she doesn’t detract from the overall threat level of her adversaries, she just finds ways around them; she might not be able to overpower Dr. Doom, but she can help him with his self-loathing- or at least give him a friend.

Because it’s a comedy show and it’s good to show contrast, I’d have her first guest be Deadpool. This would also allow her to receive, in universe, a complete set of Deapool’s Guide to Supervillains cards, which I think are great.

I think Disney’s got the rights to the ’67 Spider-Man cartoon, so presumably we could use her improvised theme song to that tune by Ryan North, which she sings in the cold open to the first episode as she stops a gang of muggers in the park:

Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Girl! She’s a human and also a squirrel! Can she climb up a tree? Yes she can, easily. That’s whyyyy her name is Squirrel Girl! Is she tough? Listen bud: she’s got partially squirrel blood. Who’s her friend? Don’t you know: That’s the squirrel Tippy-Toe. Surprise! She likes to talk to squirrels! At the top of trees, is where she spends her time like a huuuuman squirrel she enjoys fighting crime!! Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Girl! Powers of both squirrel and girl! Finds some nuts, eats some nuts, kicks bad guuuuuys’ evil butts! To her, life is a great big acorn! Where there’s a city crime-torn, you’ll find the Squirrel Girl!!!

The first episode might need to be double-length, because we have to set up the premise, namely that Doreen Green, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, is going to college. She foils a mugging on her way to meet her new dormmate, Nancy Whitehead. Nancy’s immediately suspicious, because Doreen has a pet squirrel that she seems to talk to. Tippy Toe is very animated, babbling about a threat, that her squirrel sense is tingling. Nancy asks what’s wrong, and Doreen tells her TT’s squirrel sense is tingling- though sometimes that means she just has to pee. Doreen opens her window to let the squirrel out.

It’s while she’s packing her things into their room that she sees Deadpool go running after someone. I’m assuming he’s being very loud and disruptive, and not being familiar with him, she goes after to see if she needs to help him (or save someone from him). They have a fight, before they start talking. Turns out, Deadpool is feeling ennui, no longer satisfied being the clown he’s been, and not yet comfortable existing in the leadership role he’s created for himself with X-Force. She helps him by explaining that her army of squirrels are strong enough to take on villains- as well as trigger-happy mercenaries- together, even if they’re vulnerable individually.

I’d probably like to use Kraven as Deadpool’s quarry, to stick to the book as closely as possible, but it’s possible we could need an alternative, since I don’t know if the deal with Sony covers the ability to use Spidey characters or no, in which case I’d slot in U.S. Agent or Bucky. Deadpool is convinced that, since either character returned from the ‘dead’ they’re zombies, and that he needs to “quarantine” them (with a bullet to the brainpan). From his ranting, it’s clear that Deadpool is aware of the Marvel Zombies show, though he says he might have dreamed that part.

Both concerned for his sanity, and also concerned that there might be some truth to his concerns, Doreen decides to help Deadpool, and together they track down his quarry. Because it’s Doreen’s show, in the final fight Deadpool gets shot in the head, and Squirrel Girl beats them, before helping them with their personal problem (respectively: siccing Kraven on Gigantos as a more worthy foe, helping John Walker with his imposter syndrome, helping Bucky with his sense of loss), finishing in time to prevent Deadpool from shooting them and convincing him they aren’t the hungry dead.

2. I’d probably do the next episode as a flashback, to the time when she met both Dr. Doom and Iron Man. Tony wasn’t too impressed with her, until his armor was disabled by Doom, and Doreen single-handedly (okay, with the help of her squirrels) managed to take out Doom, before helping him with at least some of his crippling emotional problems (though not so much that he’s emotionally ready for the reemergence of Reed Richards). I think, because I have a punchline for this in a couple of episodes, her squirrel attack manages to rob him of his pants, and he wraps his cowl around his waist like a towel.

3. I’d probably due a variation of the Ratatoskr story. Doreen hears chatter from her squirrel sidekick Tippy Toe that there’s an evil squirrel. They’re attacked by the squirrel, which reveals Doreen’s secret to Nancy, but they manage to escape, and seek Norse help. They can’t find either Thor (unless we can get them- in which case, sure, why not?) but she does manage to find Loki, which is mostly a flimsy/brilliant excuse to bring in Cat-Thor, which is just what it sounds like: Loki uses his illusions to make him look like Thor as a humanoid cat furry. He knows about her evil Norse squirrel, and helps fight it. As Cat Thor. Wielding his own tiny, adorable Meowlnir. After the good guys win, Loki proposes a sequel, and that he do that oen as Frog Thor- this time as a tiny frog in a Thor costume (more comics accurate). Nancy writes it off as too ludicrous- that they don’t live in a comic book. Loki looks to camera, and we do a Warner Bros. esque end to the episode with a knock-off version of their theme song.

4. Tippy wakes Doreen up by biting her eyelid and pulling it. She’s finally got an idea of what the tingling was all about, and informs Doreen that Galactus is coming- in fact, the Devourer of Worlds is almost on top of them. Doreen reasons that she has to stop him from reaching Earth, and that the best way to do that is borrow one of Iron Man’s armors (maybe to grease the skids on this idea, Pepper, as a memorial to Tony, has lent out an exhibition of his armors to the school). Doreen is caught by one of the suits acting as a Sentry, but once she’s ejected, an army of squirrels with stolen armor pieces arrive, and she assembles them into a makeshift Iron Squirrel costume. The armor is locked, but when Doreen says she isn’t sure what the password is, the suit recognizes her voiceprint, tells her welcome, and tells her her new password is, “IBeatthePantsOffDrDoom.” She starts towards the Moon, Tippy Toe flying with her in a helmet attached to a glove. Here’s where things get convoluted: Thanos didn’t stop using the Time Stone after the Snap. He used it to check the future, and found the one instance where the Avengers could win- and that it required Tony Stark. So he tries to go back in time and fight him. But Strange used magic to make it so that if he attempted it, he would end up at this point, instead, where he would encounter the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl- thinking it was Tony, and lose. That’s right, Thanos attacks her in the armor, and gets his butt kicked. Because I say we go for broke, he has the gauntlet and all its powers- only for Tippy to steal all the stones as he fails to hit the acrobatic Squirrel Girl. It might be funny to have a Dr. Strange cameo, so he can explain all the weirdness, and send Thanos back to where he came from, with the stones, but the idea of going back to stop Tony erased from his mind.

5. Galactus arrives, and Strange tells her this is, unfortunately, not a fight they can win, opens a portal and abandons her. For a moment she’s demoralized, before frowning and deciding he doesn’t know everything, and she’s not about to stop kicking butts and eating nuts now. She gives fighting Galactus the old college try, before realizing that him coming there is the equivalent to him ordering in, that he knows the Earth is filled with countless heroes that will drop everything to help him find an uninhabited planet to devour, instead. So she helps him find a new planet to devour.

Odd sequel series pitch: Squirrel Girl’s Dirty Half-Dozen: Maybe a special, maybe a direct to Disney+ movie, or you could probably make it work over six episodes. Doreen gets targeted by an assassin- but someone with cosmic power. Galactus, sensing the danger, contacts the others she interacted with in Season 1, and they all gather, because they’re strange folks, many of them with no other real friends- but for Doreen they’re willing to show up. They interact with one another, even as the assassin arrives, only for Squirrel Girl to first vanquish them, and then befriends them (I’d throw out Terrax as a possibility, maybe having stolen Beta Ray Bill’s hammer or otherwise powered-up in a way that would give Galactus pause). Doreen arrives with the assassin in tow, and the gathered villains improvise, pretending it’s just a party, instead (or maybe that was always the plan, and it’s her birthday?)

Pitchmas 2020, Part 8: Books of Doom

I think the pilot, “Falling For Thirty Minutes” focuses on Loki, both because his rise somewhat parallels Doom’s, but also because he’s already better established than most of these, and because I have a really fun idea where this takes place. We borrow a moment from Thor Ragnarok, Loki charging at Dr. Strange who portals him away. We find him falling through a black void, falling indefinitely. Only he realizes he isn’t alone at all- falling beside him (but also posed like he’s standing still with his arms crossed, his flapping cape the only indication he’s moving at all) is Dr. Doom. He tells him he has a proposition for him. Loki asks if it includes getting out of “here” and Doom says it does. He opens, without a sling ring, a portal beneath them, and Loki slams unceremoniously into a conference table inside a castle. Seated around it are people we’ll get to know over the course of the series: Namor, Justin Hammer (in Whiplash’s armor, modified to make him Whirlwind), Maximus the Mad, Baron Mordo, one of the Deviants (from Eternals), the Hood (I’d bring back Walton Goggins, and tweak the character’s backstory accordingly so his established character from Ant Man and the Wasp could fit into that character’s backstory) and Sebastian Shaw. Loki has a look around the room, then says, “No. You can take me back to my void, now.” We notice a character in shadow just beyond the candle light from the candelabra adorning the table who tenses, his eyes glowing purple- but this is very subtle. “I have no interest in joining your Injustice Legion of Doom.” Doom waves his hand, and the other guests, chairs, and tables disappear as made of smoke he wafted away, and Loki falls to the floor (the creature in the shadows doesn’t disappear, but remains so far back in shadows some viewers may not even notice him on first viewing).

Doom and Loki walk through the halls of Doom’s castle. Doom explains to Loki the world needs an Illuminati- an enlightened counterpart to the Avengers boorish brutes, sauntering in and trying to punch threats to death. “Doom is not a villain.”

“Then Doom may wish to consider a change of name, or at least to first-person.”

“Doom is a ruler, from a proud heritage. Doom is answerable to his people, who deserve better protectors than these,” he conjures an image of the Avengers. Loki’s tempted by the opportunity to do good while showing up his brother. But that also raises his skepticism. He says he won’t be used as a weapon against his brother. Doom laughs, and tells him he wants him for his knowledge of Asgardian magic and tech. From the way Doom speaks, he regards Loki almost as a protégé, a would-be ruler, whose mother taught him magics; their paths diverged when Doom succeeded to the throne, and Loki lost his. Loki realizes he’ll have to go back to the void, and Doom opens a portal for him, and he jumps down into it.

We stay on Doom, whose mind is consumed by his reverie, zooming into the bloodshot eye within his armor. We see Victor as a child. His mother is teaching him magic, telling him that with their strength, they can free their band of Roma from the Baron’s tyranny. But something happens; his mother’s eyes go red, and she looses an evil smile. She speaks with a voice that is several, layered over top, and Victor realizes she’s been possessed, and turns his magic to trying to free her. The demon that’s possessed her is too strong, and blasts him back. It taunts him, with his weakness, with his inability to save his mother, and blasts a hole through the wall and leaves. An injured Victor pursues, following a trail of blood and fire towards the village’s chapel. As he approaches, it goes up in flames, and screaming can be heard from inside. Victor tears his way in, half with magic, half with his bare hands. Since it’s a Disney+ show, I assume we should be coy about the carnage, but the village’s children, and many of its adults, have burnt to death. The flames do not touch a small bubble in the center, where his mother remains safe from the flame. Despite his youth, young Victor carries his mother outside, before dropping her in the earth, and collapsing with her, exhausted from the feat. He crawls to her, and shakes her, but she’s gone, and he cries out.

We cut to Infinity War, aboard the Asgardian ship filled with flames. A beaten Loki grins and proclaims, “We have a Hulk.” We watch, however, as Loki’s smile fades, as he watches Hulk fall to Thanos’ onslaught. Cut a few moments later, as Loki charges Thanos himself, only to be caught, and killed (we don’t need to linger on him turning blue, because this is a Disney+ show, damnit).

Loki wakes up, again in a black void. He asks if it’s the same black void. Doom is suddenly behind him, and informs him it is not. It was once Hela’s realm, but after her unfortunate collision with Surter, it’s been… under different management. He informs Loki that all fees have been rendered; subtly, in the background, we see a wagonload of Latverians being driven away by a man in a red suit, who tips his hat to the two of them. Suddenly, Loki gasps, and we’re in a different room, with the part of Loki now being played by Lady Sif. Doom explains that they needed an Asgardian vessel to house him; frost giants being eminently more accessible, he tried them first, but only an Asgardian would do, and it just so happened he’d come into the possession of Lady Sif some time prior to Ragnarok.

Later, a sullen Loki is plied with liquor, furnished, it seems, by Doom himself. Loki tells him he isn’t thirsty, but thanks him for the thought. The real Doom enters, takes a stein for each of them from the Bot, and sits opposite him. He tells Loki that he hoped they’d have a moment to talk, so he could pass his condolences to Loki for the loss of his mother. Loki’s surprised, both that he knows this, and at Doom’s gentility. Then he sees something in Doom’s eyes, recognizing a kindred spirit. “You lost your mother, too,” he says quietly. “But you brought me back…”

“Some monsters are easier to deal with than others,” Doom says. He sets down his stein, and we see his ale swirl as we transition to a cauldron. A now adolescent Doom is casting a violent spell that’s created a tempest in the stone room he’s in; we can see that the book he’s using is one of the chanied books from Kamar-Taj. Victor’s fighting just to maintain his footing, let alone continue throwing in reagents and properly speak the words. An explosion shatters his cauldron, sending Doom flying back into the wall. As the contents of the cauldron spill out, his mother, her eyes glowing red, climbs out of the sludge. She tears a bacon-strip starting from her collar-bone and ending along her jaw. The demon inhabiting her explains that he flays Doom’s mother nightly; that her torment is all the sweeter, knowing that Doom suffers just as much above as she does below- but that she made her pact, and she belongs to him, and there’s no magic than can sever her from him. Doom attacks anyway, only for his spells to rebound on him.

Back in Castle Doom, one of Doom’s handmaidens brings Loki a refitted costume, and she tries it on; it’s similar to his old one, but appropriate to Jaime Alexander, instead. She’s admiring herself in a mirror, only when she gets to her face, her smile fades, as she looks into her own eyes. Doom knocks at the door, and she tells him to enter. She doesn’t feel right, having stolen Sif’s body. Doom tells her that Sif should be dead- at the hands of Hela, that she was delayed in Latveria because she tried to reclaim an Asgardian artifact in his position- that subduing her left her unresponsive; it might be a fun conceit, as the series goes along, to have Loki Sif talk to Lady Sif inside their shared head, trying to get her to respond, her slowly becoming more conscious… even as he becomes more attached to being alive in her body. But he tells her that if Loki wishes to vacate her, he will do everything in his power to revive Lady Sif- provided Loki renders aid, first. Doom claims to have mastered human technology at a fairly young age, but that Asgardian technology and sorcery are an entirely new field- perhaps this time giving him enough power to free his mother.

Loki is surprised by that assertion; he thought Doom lived for Latveria. Doom agrees that he does- that he would sell himself and his mother into damnation for his country; but that he would happily damn himself to save his mother. “And if you can…” Loki says, clearly thinking of his own mother. Doom says he would happily share the knowledge with her, if he discovered that secret. Sif asks if he can’t just bargain for her mother. He says he can’t; intercepting a soul not in Hell is simple enough; prying one loose from its maw requires more power than even he has been able to amass… thusfar.

We go back to a teenaged Doom. His armor is cruder, closer to Iron Man’s cave armor and clearly hand-pounded. He blasts his way into a military base, mowing through soldiers until he reaches a rip in reality- a literal mouth opening into Hell. He steps through, and is immediately assailed by an army of monsters- and nearly as quickly repels them. He looses a drone that chirps, flying into the air, then moving in the direction of his mother. He flies after it, landing beside his mother, chained to a throne, where sits the red-eyed demon. It taunts him. Doom unleashes on the demon a truly spectacular amount of magical and technological mayhem, only for it to laugh. Last, Doom tries to snap the chain that binds his mother with his armored hands, to no avail. Collapsing from the exertion at her feet, his mother stands, her eyes glowing red, and punts him back through the rift. He lands badly, several of his bones broken, his armor so destroyed it’s falling off of him as he flees. A young Nick Fury picks up one of the pieces and watches as the kid runs.

We zoom back out of Doom’s eyes as a single tear slides from it, disappearing beneath his mask. We go to credits.

The series continues this way, each episode featuring a different member of his Illuminati, their travails in some way paralleling his rise. Doom would be recruited by SHIELD who would sponsor his formal education; he was bright enough that the super-scientists of the previous generation basically fought over him, Howard Stark and Hank Pym and anyone else we can think of taking turns teaching him to be even brighter; it’s also here that his rivalry with Reed Richards begins. However, once Doom’s inventions start paying off, a Latverian father comes forward, backed by the Latverian government, demanding the boy’s return. Doom is torn, at first, until Valeria, his childhood sweetheart, joins the entreaties, and Doom decides to return home. Once there, however, he’s placed under the thumb of the very same Baron his mother had tried to fight when he was a child. Only this time, Victor fights back, and between his magic and technology routes the Baron- but doesn’t stop there- at the urging of those who had long been held under the Latverian aristocracy’s thumb, Doom topples the entire nobility. His work done, he tries to return to his village, and Valeria, only for the people to insist that he lead their new country. At first, Doom is reluctant- his heart is in his science, after all. Thankfully, his dilemma is circumvented by a threat to the entire Earth- so he can go back to the US to join the international effort, while still faithfully serving Latveria. This is the space mission that Doom undergoes with the Fantastic Four in the 60s (see my pitch for that movie from last year). When he exits the portal, it’s a few years later. Latveria is once again at the mercy of the aristocracy; in his absence, Valeria attempted to rally her countrymen, and was executed. By now Doom doesn’t take off his armor; he’s scarred, and also disgusted by humanity. With relatively little urging from his countrymen, Doom embarks on a bloody coup, executing the nobility to a man by hand. When he notices that even his lieutenants aren’t up to the task of leading his armies or watching the country while he sleeps, Doom builds his army of automated Doom bots. Doom’s technological breakthroughs make Latveria, a once poor, agrarian nation, one of the wealthiest per capita in the world, and it is so highly sought after in the rest of the world that they sweep his atrocities and human rights violations under the rug (not so much in his own country, but basically anywhere that Roma or witches are being persecuted, he repays the atrocities a dozen-fold). It also means that despite his aggression against the Fantastic Four upon their return, he enjoys diplomatic immunity and is untouchable.

Depending on whether or not there’s enough there to last ten episodes, this entire series could be set up for a big confrontation with the Avengers in one of the movies, but there’s always the possibility of having the first 5-6 episodes be Doom’s intermingled origins, and the last 4-5 episodes be interspersed with what the Illuminati actually does once assembled. I would probably have their anti-Thanos plan basically be to try and redirect the energies of the Snap; that they plan to spare humanity by redirecting its murderous energies onto alien worlds, instead, using the combination of their various magics and technologies. They even have a backup for themselves, a prison within Latveria where they can redirect any Snap energy directed at themselves to convicts who would otherwise be put to death. Their larger plan fails (obviously), and their secondary plan partially succeeds, in that they’re able to save themselves… but it destroys both the prison and the surrounding city, as well, killing tens of thousands. I think part of their journey would also be a parallel attempt to get the Infinity Stones. Depending on budget, a pretty great season finale could be them tracking down and brawling with Thanos to try and wrest the gauntlet from him- it looks like he’s in fact going to lose, but at the last minute uses the Gauntlet one final time to destroy the stones. Half the Illuminati want to execute him- but Doom, understanding a man who would gladly die to complete his life’s work, insists they leave him in peace, since there’s nothing more to be done here.

Most of the Illuminati go home, dispirited. Save for Loki. He’s known Doom long enough to know that he’s never understood how to give up. So he asks him what the next phase will be, and Doom reveals he’s working on his own time machine- that they’ve been looking at the problems all wrong. Instead of undoing their losses, they can simply prevent them.

This could be set up for nearly anything; we could have a rollicking dual time-traveling adventure with the Avengers, we could do a version of the Doom and Iron Man in King Arthur’s Camelot storyline; it could even be a set up for some version of the Battleworld story, where Doom goes back in time and makes himself instrumental in every important event in Marvel history, so that he’s revered as its most important and central hero, likely twisting Marvel’s heroes in a Doomward direction, say by turning the Hulk into the Maestro, Iron Man into a Superior version, an Old Man Logan version of Wolverine (all of which could be set up for a new phase, where the heroes, once they’re returned to normal, have to work against what they now realize is a potential future of theirs, that Hulk could become the Maestro again)… until of course it all falls apart and things are set mostly right. I’d probably start small- do the King Arthur thing, but with Rhodey maybe, alongside of a version of Tony’s intellect uploaded into his armor’s AI so he can keep up with Doom’s inventing (but he gives it a different voice, we find out, because hearing Tony in his head was too painful… maybe the end reveal is his suit is catastrophically damaged, and can’t do the voice change anymore- so he has to say his real goodbye to Tony …), do a Disney+ TV Movie that’s riffing on a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, but the possibilities really are pretty limitless.