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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah,” Harley says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catwoman sits quietly in her chair and stares.

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

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

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

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

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

“Let us get dressed.”

“Oh, God, no more,” Cassandra moans.

“We’ll be out in a minute.”

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

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

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

“And I couldn’t even do that right.”

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

“Yeah?” Harley asked.

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

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

“I love you, too, Harls.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

“And he called you, uh, B-girl.”

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

Oh. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

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

“We’ll fix it.

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

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

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

“Obsession.”

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

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

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

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

Everybody?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harley.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And they said ‘no?’”

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

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

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

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

“Sure,” they both say with a shrug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchgiving 2021, part 12: Batwomen

Prologue

White text tells us this happened fifteen years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s bad policy, dad.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’s our girl?” Batgirl asks.

“Woman,” Batwoman croaks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me, too, kiddo.”

Credits

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

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

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

Bonus: Birds of Prey 3: Birds of a Feather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah,” Harley says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catwoman sits quietly in her chair and stares.

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

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

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

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

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

“Let us get dressed.”

“Oh, God, no more,” Cassandra moans.

“We’ll be out in a minute.”

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

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

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

“And I couldn’t even do that right.”

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

“Yeah?” Harley asked.

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

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

“I love you, too, Harls.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

“And he called you, uh, B-girl.”

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

Oh. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

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

“We’ll fix it.

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

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

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

“Obsession.”

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

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

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

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

Everybody?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harley.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And they said ‘no?’”

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

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

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

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

“Sure,” they both say with a shrug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who the Hell cares? I’m a demon.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I won’t ask,” Batman agrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchgiving 2021, part 5: Batman Beyond

We see a thinner version of a mechanized Batsuit, all black, with a red bat symbol, flying through the air with boot jets. He tears through a group of paramilitary hostage-takers, making short work of them. He gets to the hostages, and is about to free them when he stops, clutching his chest, and falls. The bad guys rally, gather around him and stomping him. We hear a click, as he raises one of the sidearms they dropped in his initial attack. He aims it, and the attackers decide it isn’t worth it- that no one said anything about going up against the Batman, let alone a Batman holding a gun. Bruce waits until they’ve gone to stand, flings batarangs freeing the hostages without looking. He leaves the building as sirens approach, and collapses against the side of the building, tearing clear his mask to reveal a much older Bruce beneath the mask (for my money I’d use Kevin Conroy, because he’s mostly a voice on the radio, though that might be entirely why they brought back Michael Keaton). He realizes he’s still holding the gun. His hand starts to shake, and he drops it, and as it falls we see flashbacks of his parents falling, his mother’s pearls falling, blood hitting the street. He flies off.

We do a several years later, and meet Terry at school. He’s bullied by a jock, but isn’t impacted, because he’s focused on Dana. She wants to spend time with him but his dad calls; he needs one of his offline files from his personal drive at home. The jock hits on Dana, makes it clear he’ll be where she’s going, whether or not Terry shows. Terry promises he’ll catch up with Dana. Terry runs the file in to his dad at Wayne-Powers, bumping into an older Wayne (literally) who uses a cane; we get from the rushed nature of the conversation that Powers is getting into all sorts of things he shouldn’t (like literally there are archived items that were never to be opened without the express permission of Wayne; Bruce is fighting in the courts to try and get him to stop, both because it’s a Pandora’s box, and because it may reveal his identity).

Terry has a fight with his dad over responsibility, Terry wanting to spend time with Dana instead of watching his little sister; his dad grounds him, and he leaves in a huff.

Terry goes to spend time with Dana, and stands up to some Jokerz who bust into the place, leading them on a chase that ends at the gates to Wayne Manor. The Dee Dees are involved, because they’re fun, and I’d prefer to have them established by the time of the sequel.

Wayne and Terry fight the Jokerz back to back, turning them back; the head Joker says they can’t treat them this way, they’re the Jokerz, and Wayne pops off, “Sure you are.” As the Jokerz flee, Wayne clutches his chest and says he needs his medicine.

Terry helps Wayne back to his Manor, and gets him his nitro pills. Wayne collapses in exhaustion, and Terry ends up corralled inside by Ace (the Bat Hound). He finds a bat stuck in the old clock, and accidentally discovers the steps down into the Batcave trying to free it. Terry descends the stairs, and we get a big dramatic sting as Terry finds the cybernetic suit and the flying Batmobile. Wayne discovers him and kicks him out.

Terry returns home, to find Commissioner (Barbara) Gordon presiding over a crime scene. His dad was working from home, instead of in the office, while watching his sister. It looks like the Jokerz figured out who Terry was and broke in to get to him. Barbara is almost aggressive in asserting the need to be there for him, telling him she knows how hard one bad day can hit. But Terry feels like he’s to blame, as his mom arrives. He confesses that he yelled at his dad, and she hugs him, trying to sooth him, but he’s looking past her, to her car. We see that same car abandoned outside the gate to Wayne Manor.

We see a bat-symbol shaped slab of beef land at Ace’s feet. He sniffs it warily, before taking it. A sleeping Ace doesn’t stir as someone sneaks past him. We see the front door ajar, a hair pins still sticking out of it. We start to hear snoring, even as we see the clock down to the cave is ajar. Then the empty mannequin where the suit sat earlier, and the missing car. The snoring is louder, and we see that it’s Bruce Wayne, having an old man nap in his lounger, but he stops snoring for a moment, and our ears prick up as we imagine the Batmanly wrath headed Terry’s way… before the snoring resumes.

Terry doesn’t smile as he flies the Batmobile, which is likely a challenge, because it is a hell of a ride. He ends up flying some pretty daredevily paths, before ending up under the bridge where the Jokerz play. Terry chews through them. The suit enhances his strength, true, but it’s mostly the legacy behind the symbol; the Jokerz are straight-up scared. He’s also having an easier time because half the Jokerz were arrested, found with valuables stolen from his house. The Dee Dees profess their innocence, even as Terry hangs them up for the police (or just to be a jerk).

But their protestations stick with him. On his way back to return the gear to Wayne, Terry decides to stop at his own home, instead. He uses the detective tech in the suit, finding things the police missed (like the deliberate, not incidental damage to his father’s computer; he’s able to reconstruct missing data to know what his dad was working on, and enough to make that seem shady, leading him to break into Wayne-Powers).

Terry finds out that Powers is trying to bury a bioweapon that is basically weaponized necrotizing fasciitis; the researcher working on it died from exposure to it after reporting his concerns to Terry’s dad. His plan is to sell off the entirety of the program to the Corto Maltese- and the reason there’s security everywhere is it’s happening tonight- right now. Terry is discovered and gets attacked by Powers security. Wayne shuts down the suit as he’s being attacked. Eventually, hearing the pain in Terry’s voice as he talks about his dad, and how he’s responsible, makes Bruce relent when he says: “If that evidence leaves Gotham, his murderer walks.”

I think it also sets up a conversation between Bruce and Terry, later, after he stops Powers. But for now, Terry intervenes, catching Powers making the hand-off personally. When his guard, who we recognize as one of the hostages Bruce saved in the first scene, refuses to fire on Batman, Powers takes his gun and tries to shoot him, inadvertently hitting the weapon, spilling it on himself. Bruce has him spray Powers in an adhesive designed for Clayface to seal the bacteria in, then carries him back into the research wing where the virus was created for quarantine. Then he blasts both of them with radiation, the batsuit absorbing some of it.

Powers’ team arrives, and take control over Powers’ recovery themselves. A scan of the batsuit says he’s no longer contaminated, so Terry leaves.

Terry brings back the suit, expecting to get his head handed to him. He might have, but Bruce can see Terry’s being harder on himself than he would be. Bruce tells him that he spent years blaming himself for what happened with his parents, and Terry should learn from him what it took years of punching people and getting punched- it wasn’t your fault. “I read about what happened to you. You were a kid.”

“So are you,” Bruce says. “What happened with your father… I think I had more to do with it than you.” 

We do a scene similar to the Joker finding out he’s disfigured in Batman ’89, but high-tech. Powers is subtly glowing as a Geiger counter’s chirping continues to increase in speed. The head of his team, Dr. Lake, tells him that while the team has made use of the available technology, the amount of radiation he’s producing seems to be escalating, and seems to correlate to distress, which is a problem, since it’s a distressing condition he has. She suggests cloning as a possible way to undo the cellular degeneration, that she has a test subject in mind.

Back in the cave, Bruce relates that he was working with Terry’s dad, who was an internal watchdog for the company, one of the few checks and balances remaining in the company from when he was the undisputed head. Bruce explains that the Wayne corporation wasn’t just the family business, or even where he sourced his tech. It was where some of the most important, and dangerous, things he ever fought, are buried. The fasciitis he suspected was developed by a madman named Ra’s al Ghul; Bruce had kept a sample, along with an antidote he devised, in case he ever attempted a similar scheme.

We start on a high-tech looking freezer door. It opens, and we see Freeze’s thawing, cryogenically frozen head clamped in place. They reanimate Freeze, and clone him a body. While at first it appears that he’s cured. Because of his history with Batman, Terry trails him, to be sure he’s on the up and up. But for all appearances Victor seems to be a changed man. He uses money he’d set aside, a small trust initially, grown large by decades untouched, and puts together a charity in Nora’s name to benefit those he hurt. He also starts a romance with Dr. Lake, who feels shortchanged by the fact that she feels she’ll never live up to Nora.

Inque, a Clayface-like saboteur attacks Foxteka at Powers’ behest, run by the son of Lucious Fox. Powers has been looking to buy out the company for years, which Bruce was always able to forestall. But now they’re also home to an advanced skin-graft tech that might allow Powers to resume something like a normal life (he’s burning through the inferior Powers competitor in hours, not days), and while Dr. Lake seems confident, he’s not the sort to put all his eggs in a single basket. The facility is on the harbor, and Terry discovers that Inque doesn’t like the water (though he isn’t able to use it to his advantage- he just gets tossed into the drink).

Fries starts to degenerate, proving that Lake’s cloning therapy requires more research- she decides she needs an autopsy. She doesn’t hesitate to try to kill him, motivated in part by feeling jilted by the memory of Nora. She tosses him into a cell and bombards him with heat. She also reveals that Powers has siphoned off most of his wealth from his charity, and used it to open the Nora Fries Advanced Cryogenics Institute. However, the name is a misnomer; it is instead monetizing the experiment that caused her so much pain, and all of his work to try to restore her, at once a huge tax write-off and a way to sucker rubes with the promise of miracle cures just barely this side of research- it’s a perversion on every level of what Fries wanted.

To Lake’s dismay, it doesn’t just kill him- it forces a reversion of his degenerate physiology, he becomes Mr. Freeze again, and is able to break loose. It turns out, he also had a spare of his old armor, too, one he refits to look even more sci-fi. Freeze decides to bring the entire complex down, with Lake and Powers inside it.

Freeze attacks Dr. Lake while she’s working on Powers. Freeze is surprised when Powers puts up more of a fight than he intended; apparently Lake has convinced him one of his better chances is her cryonics research, and he fights Freeze, until Batman arrives. Powers attacks Batman on sight, and it’s eventually Freeze who saves him. Enough damage has been done to the facility in the fighting that it’s going to explode. Terry tries to get Fries to leave with him, but he coldly says there’s no one left to mourn him. He’s able to postpone the destruction until Terry is away safely, but stays behind.

The next day, Terry is opening some of Bruce’s mail, when he discovers Freeze’s will, leaving everything to Bruce. “Why you?” Terry asks, suspicious.

“I couldn’t save Victor… but we managed to free Nora from cryonic storage twenty years ago. She lived about a decade; years of experimental medicine took its toll. But she remarried. She has a daughter in the city.”

“He didn’t leave this to Batman.”

“And I didn’t keep him in the cave.”

“You told him.”

“Fries was a genius, and unlike most of the other Arkham inmates, he wasn’t obsessed with keeping our ‘game’ going. There were a few times I think I only survived because he didn’t want to succeed enough that he could justify killing me.” There’s also a storage locker key in the envelope. Terry raids it as Batman, and finds all kinds of goodies, including a futuristic-looking freeze gun.

Bruce calls him, and Terry slips the gun into his waistband. Bruce tells him there’s another break-in at Foxteka, this time the skin-graft research facility. Batman arrives, and takes samples from Inque, but is too late to stop her. He gets back into his car and flies back to the cave. Inque hitched a ride inside, and attacks them both. Terry provides a distraction while Bruce gets a firehose, and is able to soften her up. She manages to sever the hose, and knock Terry into the Batmobile, going after Bruce, reasoning that he’s the brains of the operation. I’m warming to the idea Bruce grabbed one of the Joker’s gag lapel flowers, and squirts her with water to free himself. Terry then freezes her with the gun.

Blight throws a hissy fit. Inque had the tech stashed, and hasn’t been heard from since she called Powers to tell him she was hitching a ride back to Batman’s hideout, to get him and his partner (I imagine we play back some audio of her call). Powers has an important meeting with the board, one that won’t keep. His doctors warn him that his rage is an accelerant, that the angrier he gets, the faster he burns through the prosthetic skin.

Terry and Bruce have a little tete a tete when he drives him to the shareholder meeting. Bruce has suspected something for a while, that he knows who Blight is. He tests the theory by provoking Powers in the meeting. He expected him to have more control, to make an attempt on his life, but instead he freaks out and shoots green radioactivity all over the place, including other board members. This was broadcast worldwide to Wayne-Powers shareholders, and Powers is only stopped from killing Wayne and the rest of the board by the timely intervention of Batman. Powers goes on the lamb.

Powers, in a last, desperate Gambit, tries to have his son act as his proxy. The son, however, gives him up, leaking his whereabouts to Terry. Terry attacks Blight in one of the only locations he can hide (without a Geiger counter giving him away), a decommissioned nuclear sub once used by the late Doctor Phosphorus that still leaks radiation. Bruce tells him it’s safe, despite what his suit is telling him. Terry plays with Blight before confronting him. “You killed my father.”

“Do you have any idea how little that narrows it down?” Blight asks. Terry manages to subdue him, albeit temporarily, only for the entire submarine to be detonated around them. Terry barely escapes. Bruce explains it to Terry as he flies back to confront the younger Powers, that his father’s shares were about to be seized by the government; he had a tiny window in which to see to his father’s tragic demise in an industrial accident, likely leading to him inheriting his father’s shares, his wealth, and maybe even letting him collect on a sizeable life insurance policy.

Terry asks if there was any chance it was the sub that went off. Bruce tells him the sub was decommissioned by the Justice League- namely by Captain Atom and Ray Palmer “Between them I wouldn’t expect a single atom of radioactive material remained.” Bruce is coy, and Terry realizes he had radioactive material he was hiding nearby.

Terry arrives in the cave at that moment, hopping out of the car. “You need to show me everything.”

“I was waiting for you to ask.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene: the Dee Dees are in a holding cell amongst the other Jokerz. “Delia and Deidre Dennis, your bail’s been posted. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” We see him long enough we’ll remember him- you definitely want an actor with an easy to remember face. The Dee Dees have rope-burns from Terry tying them up.

They’re greeted by an older woman, who doesn’t look pleased to see them. She comments about having “plenty of rope-burns in my youth, and blisters from where a chain would catch and pinch you; one time I got tied up in Plastic Man, and I’m still not sure it wasn’t just an excuse to rub against me.” She stops reminiscing. “Now what have I told you girls?” We pause a beat. “Always have a fall-guy to take the rap.”

“Yes, Grandma Harley,” they say in unison. Yes, this is elderly Harley Quinn. And yes, I do want her played by Margot Robbie in age makeup. Or if her grandmother’s still alive, I guess you could cast her. But I think paying Margot Robbie to be old would be hysterical. Hell… I kind of want to make the character a presence in the sequel so we can have some more Old Lady Harley.

End-Credits Scene: the same hallway we just watched the Dee Dees walk down. We play something like the theme music of the Joker from the animated series, but relatively slow, relatively dramatic. The halls are filled with acrid green smoke. The officer from earlier is hanging off the now wide open holding cell door, a rictus grin plastered on his face, and we see that the rest of the Jokerz are gone. Another cop has a “Bang” flag planted in his back, and is slumped over a desk. If we want to be real fancy, pan to frame the entire bullpen, showing that the bodies of officers lay in the shape of a smiley face, then fade to black, where white text appears, each line appearing after a short pause:

continued in

Batman Beyond 2: Return of the Joker

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 12: Kingdom Come

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did it happen?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t call me that.”

“Isn’t that what Martha named you?”

“Don’t say her name.”

“Isn’t that who Lois married?”

“Don’t say her name!” he booms.

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

“I had nothing to do with-”

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t even joke-”

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

“No,” he says, and she shrugs.

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

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

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

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

“Then at least lend us your strength.”

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

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

Superman starts, “I came to ask-”

“I know what you would ask-”

“What happened to you?”

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

“Then why not leave?”

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

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

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

“Don’t you want to know what I need?”

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

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

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

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

“Diana.”

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

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

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

“We need to talk, Luthor.”

“Lex, please. Bruce.”

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

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

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

“I have a Marvelous anti-Superman strategy.”

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

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

“Stop telling me things I already know.”

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

“Alfred, my coat.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What now?”

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

“I can help.”

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

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

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

“With reasonable force,” Superman tries to assert.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But our goals,” Luthor stammers.

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

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

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

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

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

“We don’t all have heat vision.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How many?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” Clark asks.

“No. Not really.”

And resume credits.

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 10: Justice League Dark

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

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

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

“Who knows Batman.” He nods.

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

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

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

“Constantine?”

“A magician. A mystery.”

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

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

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

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

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

“He likes to watch.”

“Hey!” Batman protests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Would you give up magic? For anything?”

“Save the world, maybe.”

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

“Save my dad,” she says bitterly.

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

“Jason. I didn’t see you come in.”

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

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

“Water.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t have to be this,” he says.

“Be what?” she asks angrily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Talking to yourself?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who do you need an introduction for?”

“The one in Gotham.”

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

“That a problem?”

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

“Oh, um…”

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

“But no proper magic.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And less flippant about their humanity?”

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you need?” Batman asks.

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

“And if you can’t?”

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

“We’re definitely going to need to.”

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

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

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

“Pamela’s dead,” she says.

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

“Jason Woodrue,” she says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You mean to say the world is threatened.”

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s macabre.”

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

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

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

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

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

“And what about you?”

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

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

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

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

“But I can talk to the green.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He has a name- Alec.” Ivy says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 8: Batmen

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Proud. Stubborn.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 1: Teen Titans

Okay, I had a lot of fun last year doing the 12 Days of Pitchmas, pitching 12 films set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So this year I’m doing Pitchgiving for movies set in the DC Extended Universe. My plan at the moment is to do one pitch a week for twelve weeks, posted on Friday. Depending on how this goes, I might also do a Pitchmas, too, but given that that’s 3 months from now I’m not making any promises.

The rules are basically:

No sequels to already established movies/teams

No stories I’m already aware of (it’s possible I’ve missed reporting of a thing, but I’m the one holding me accountable for this)- I may pitch a movie that’s only been titled but that I know nothing about (as I did with Blade last year).

Hopefully you have as much fun with this as I do.

Teen Titans

I’m assuming we’d go with an arc featuring Deathstroke as their big-bad, setting up Terra to get recruited in the first one, then betray the team in the second, for a third-part finale. I’d shoot for a combo of the Johns era team, and the classic team (Robin, Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire and Cyborg); for this one probably add in Superboy and Wonder Girl, reserve Impulse and Aquagirl for the sequel, maybe pull in Speedy and Ms. Martian for the third. I think Batman convinces Robin to attend/run a ‘camp’ for young heroes on the West Coast, one part Heroing 101, one part getting them out of their mentors’ hair while they deal with something big and dangerous. Robin is, at first, a controlling, entitled dick, assuming he’s the only one who knows what he’s doing (to be fair, he is the most experienced- though if we keep JL Cyborg that might be a point of contention- which could be fun). His co-leader is Wonder Girl, who runs the women’s side of things. Yeah, this basically starts as a summer camp thing.

“This is dumb,” Robin says, throwing his tights into a suitcase.

“It’s an opportunity,” Batman says. “To build your own community.”

“A redundant web of superhumans independent of yours, in case the Justice League is ever incapacitated.”

Batman smiles, ever so slightly. “It isn’t just that. The work we do is… unique. There aren’t a lot of people who can understand it- or us. Being understood for who and what we are can make the difficult choices we have to make worthwhile.”

“It’s summer camp.”

“It’s a team building exercise.”

“Two problems with that: we aren’t a team, and I’m not a team player.”

“You’re already an excellent partner; being on a team is just being a good partner to multiple people at once.”

“You’d never have made Dick join a team,” he pouts.

“The Titans were Dick’s team. They helped him become a man- it helped him become his own man.”

“So you’re trying to get rid of me.”

“I didn’t want to get rid of Dick.” Batman sighs. “One of the hardest things about being a father is letting your children go. It was hard, with Dick; we fought, a lot, and there’s still a strain there. I hope I’ve learned from it. But you’re always welcome here, and you’re always welcome as a partner. I want you to have the freedom to be the man you choose- whoever that ends up being.”

I think we do similar scenes, at least with the big 3, setting up that Wonder Girl (Cass) is uncertain about taking on a leadership role, since she’s pretty green. Diana reminds her that she trained with the Amazons, so she knows how to support people, build them up, and strengthen them as a group.

Superboy is worried about getting pushed around by Robin as he and Superman fly to San Francisco. “Tim’s, the current one, is the third Robin. Dick was the first.”

“No, I said a.”

“Language.”

“Jerk, then. Why is everyone in Batman’s entourage a jerk? Is that their organizing principal? An overdeveloped jerk gene?”

“Our ‘family’ are lucky, Connor. We were blessed with extraordinary abilities, and the responsibility to use them to help people. Batman’s people… come from tragedy. They’re trying to put the world right, so what happened to them doesn’t happen to anyone else. Sometimes that makes them tightly wound. But they are good people.”

“Is that why you let Batman push you around?”

“There isn’t anyone I couldn’t push around. But you know what takes more strength? Not letting what you can do overtake what you should do. The world is better off when I work with Batman, so I do.”

“He’s still a jerk. I am not ready to deal with all these jerks.”

Cass and Robin meet first. They share an intellectual connection- both type As who are organized and competent and used to carrying others on their shoulders. Connor bumbles in and he’s a bull in their China shop, but he also sparks Cass’s curiosity. I don’t want a full-blown love triangle, but Robin getting miffed at Connor for being the easy heart-throb of the team can spark the larger conflict between them, that Tim doesn’t see him as serious, and Connor sees him as overly serious.

We meet the rest of the campers: Starfire, Raven, Terra and Beast Boy. Starfire is an aloof but passionate weirdo warrior princess from beyond the stars. Raven is a haunted, sardonic witch who likes people more than she’s figured out how to articulate. Terra is a bubbly, girl next door with a smile that melts hearts. Beast Boy is the youngest, or at least the youngest at heart, he’s everybody’s goobery little brother who can’t stop making animal/fart jokes. The dynamics are roughly that Raven is jealous of the easy charisma/fitting in of Cass, and Starfire is both the biggest outcast and the least aware of that fact. Terra’s a bit of a tomboy, and she and Beast Boy get along swimmingly. I think Cyborg is there as support personnel, utilizing his tech to cook their meals. He’s also quasi there to keep an eye on them, too, though his instructions were to let them make their own mistakes. We also meet the camp site, a series of small cabins, and a central meeting hall where they dine. There’s also a lake for them to swim at.

I’d probably play most of the story as a coming of age/campground flick, but as things progress, the place goes from spooky to downright malevolent, with an escalating series of ‘accidents’ that nearly hurt them. Robin narrowly prevents Beast Boy from dying in a freak accident as a support beam collapses, nearly hitting him. The beam doesn’t look tampered with- but the odds that the beam fell when it did, that naturally occurring damage eroded it in just the way it did are infinitesimal. He tells Beast Boy that if they’re under siege, the skill, talent and caution of their attacker rivals Batman’s, which of course makes them immediately assume it’s a test. Robin calls Bruce, who is in the middle of a fight with criminals but doesn’t stop talking (or punching) while denying involvement.

So Tim and Cass set up a trap, maybe revolving around them doing a dance. That gives us a chance to pair our characters off, at least in the short term. Cass asks Connor. Starfire asks Tim. Terra asks Beast Boy. And the set up works, and they end up ensnaring Deathstroke in their trap. He monologs, and the Titans get cocky- only for Rose to shoot Deathstroke loose, and provide covering fire. Connor stands in the path of the gunfire, amused. Tim gets hit. At first Connor is flip, while Starfire rushes to his side. “He’s a bat person. They play 9th degree chess and have armor built into their Underoos.” When he doesn’t hear more, his voice trembles when he glances back, “Right?” Tim’s bleeding.

Connor wants to fly him to a hospital, but Tim says he’ll bleed out if they don’t stabilize him first. Tim barks orders, essentially overseeing his own emergency surgery. Cass uses her lasso to tourniquet the leg. He has Connor use x-ray vision to tell him about the shape of the bullet, which pancaked and continues to slice at his femoral artery. He has Raven clamp down on the artery so he doesn’t pass out, then Beast Boy shrinks down and becomes a small creature to block the artery. Wonder Girl goes in after the bullet with her fingers, and manages to pluck it out. “I need a ride to the hospital.” Superboy steps forward. “Not you.” Wonder Girl picks him up. “We aren’t all bulletproof,” Tim says through bloodied teeth as he strips away his mask. Wonder Girl flies off with Tim.

We cut back to the dark dining hall, where Superboy is standing alone. Cyborg enters.

“I screwed up,” Cyborg admits.

“Really? Cause I’m pretty sure I’m the one who let Robin get shot.”

“Batman asked me to come here. Keep an eye on you kids.”

“Us kids?”

“It was on me to keep you safe.”

“I assume you don’t have kids,” Connor says. “Even normal kids get hurt. Put them in tights and tell them to charge a super villain with a gun and- you weren’t here to keep us safe. You were here to make sure we didn’t get each other killed. And I nearly did.”

“Kind of sounds like we both screwed up,” Cyborg says.

“Yeah,” Connor says. “So what are we going to do to make it right?”

The answer is, they track down Deathstroke, using Cyborg’s sensors and Connors senses. They find the cabin at the lake he was staging his attacks out of, and then track him to a base on the edge of the city. Cyborg wants to charge in, to get some payback. “No,” Connor says. “I screwed up last time by not thinking. We need a plan. And we should get backup.”

Back at the hospital, Robin waits until the nurse is done checking his vitals, then hobbles out of his room. The rest of the Titans are in the waiting room, dressed in their civilian clothes; Terra is missing, but don’t draw attention to it. “You shouldn’t be walking,” Starfire says, moving to support him.

“You don’t honestly think that’s the first time I’ve been shot, do you?”

“I kind of want to shoot him right now,” Connor says, before realizing it’s probably too soon. Pan around the room, everyone else looking horrified. “Uh,” Connor’s flailing.

Stop at Tim, and we linger a moment before he bursts out laughing, and slaps Connor on the back. “I’m actually starting to like you. Now lets get out of here before the cops show up.”

We cut to Deathstroke’s base. Cyborg is there, monitoring, until he’s hit from behind by a chunk of rock. Terra enters. She’s shaken up. Whatever the plan was, watching Robin get shot really messed her up. I think I would tweak the Deathstroke/Terra relationship. She’s desperate for a familial connection. She wants a family, and to feel loved. She gets the former from Deathstroke and Rose, but he’s also essentially grooming her at the same time. To my mind, it’s not because he wants her, personally, but because he knows that he needs his hooks in her deep for the betrayal that is to come. I’m sure even this idea is controversial- even for a villain, and I wouldn’t be surprised if DC balked at getting anywhere close to that topic (I mean, I’m not the one who made Deathstroke a statutory rapist- this is, if anything else, a slight modernization of the concept). But the key takeaway is Rose and Deathstroke love-bomb her to make her feel appreciated and cared for, with just enough withholding to keep her seeking approval.

The Titans arrive, with Cyborg rubbing his head. Terra flees, so as not to ruin her cover, getting out just in time. This fight goes differently, with Deathstroke having set traps specific to the Titans all over his base. The traps whittle down the Titans, until it’s just Robin fighting Deathstroke- which might have been a good fight, if he weren’t recently gunshot. Robin’s losing, trying to buy time and keep Deathstroke talking. Deathstroke claims they’re a job- nothing more. Robin’s horrified that the job might be from Batman, and trying to pull that information out of Deathstroke while losing… he doesn’t get confirmation. But he does buy enough time for his team to rally, and take Deathstroke down. At the last minute Rose arrives with a helicopter, dropping a ladder for Deathstroke.

“Flip a coin for who gets to rip it out of the sky?” Superboy asks Cass. The chopper fires a volley of missiles across the bay at San Francisco.

“Shoot them down,” Robin barks, and anyone capable of firing (Cyborg, Starfire, Raven) shoot down as many as they can. It’s not enough. “Flyers!” he yells. Everyone takes flight, with Starfire looping back and picking up Robin. She drops him on a missile that he disables and flips off of, and she catches him after destroying a missile herself. The rest take out missiles, too.

They meet atop a giant T shaped tower. “Deathstroke?” Robin asks. Cyborg scans, Superboy too.

“Must be some high end tech if we can’t find it.”

“Yeah,” Robin says, his eyes narrowing.

Cut to an underground base. Deathstroke is having a video call with Lex Luthor. “And he thinks it was Batman?”

Deathstroke is a little worse for wear, maybe in a sling. “The seed was there without my having to plant it. All I did was give it space to grow.”

Back to the rooftop, Terra lands behind them. “Where were you?” Robin asks, coldly, even for him.

“Sorry,” she says. “Seeing you get shot, I needed to clear my head. I went for a run. Then I saw the fighting,” she drops the remains of a missile, smashed between a pair of rocks, “so I came to help.”

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” Beast Boy says, nuzzling her. “Yeah,” Robin says, as we zoom in on his face, clearly suspicious, “me, too.”