Thursday, November 3, 2011

Writing stories for other writers - Special One-shot, 2nd print

The idea of taking a comic book superhero "Back-to-Basics" is nothing new. Every few years, Batman has to demand a little "Alone Time" from his surrogate family of sidekicks and goes solo. The Justice League headquarters gets blown-up or abandoned in favor of a new pad run by a smaller team of six or seven. A hero retires for the civilian life and passes the costume to someone else (though this is often not as smooth as it sounds). A company goes belly-up and a new company aquires the characters and decides to start fresh. The Green Lantern Corps and the X-Men have a massacre or two. Savage Dragon gets regular 'breaks' -killed off and replaced by other 'Dragons' for a time in rotations. Spider-Man and Superman have chunks of recent history erased. The latter three are the most extreme examples.

There is an alternative to having a character wipe the slate clean to tell new stories - wipe the continuity slate clean to re-tell familiar stories. Now, it's one thing to re-tell the story of how Batman met the Joker to a new audience that's never read the old stuff before. It's one thing to want to re-tell an old story because the original seems dated (the origin of the Fantastic Four is an example). It's one thing to joke about how it seems like the only Spider-Man stories anyone wants to tell are the ones with the clone, the dead Uncle, the crappy boss, the dead girlfriend, and the feeble Aunt. But how about this: I'm re-telling a familiar story because I want a Hollywood screenwriter to see it and take ques from it.

Let us suppose that a movie starring ... J'onn J'onnzz, The Martian Manhunter is in development hell because the screenplay gathering dust lacks snap.  Well, how about re-launching his comic book (he managed to have one for a while on the heals of the successful JLA launch, which made the animated Justice League/Justice League Unlimited possible, which is a good example of this phenomena) but within the context of something hip and happening right now.

Bear with me...these pitches only sell in a single sentence, more or less:

"Martian Manhunter - It's like Twilight with superheroes - Taylor Lautner as J'onn J'onnz, the Manhunter from Mars - he'll have his shirt off for 1/2 of the film."

Now I'll plot a 12-24 issue arc that incorporates his origin, along with all the bells and whistles to make it fit my one-sentence pitch, and be sure to set it up in a way that could help launch a Martian Manhunter film.

That's an example of using a character that's okay, yet kind of so-so...he's actually the only member of the League that does NOT have a movie in the works. Not a single one. I figured playing an all-purpose superpowered semi-clothed Martian would be a cinch for a former sharkboy-turned-werewolf.

Now Geoff Johns has a storyline in the new Justice League comic book that's easy to visualize as a storyline for a movie - the league meets and teams up to fight the ultimate representation of pure evil in the DC Universe. Sure, they've spent the last two issues fussing over a Mother Box, but that's the stuff of deleted scenes. Besides, Mother Boxes are nifty. They're iphone12's - can you imagine? That's their function, yet they're often portrayed/talked about casually like old Rubix cubes, dial-up or Compuserve. Not here. They've spent two issues picking at it like the fancy toy that it is, even at risk of seeming like hitting a creative dead end. Whatever. I wish Marvel did something like that with the Cosmic Cube - what the heck is that, really? It's a strong-enough Macguffin to build an Avengers movie, that's what, and what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Besides, I don't find Darkseid very exciting. He's become more like a sparring partner at a boxing match than a really entertaining villain. A large statue with blinking laser eyes. All rope-a-dope. zzzzzzzzz...If the 1st six issues are devoted to this cosmic Chinese puzzle box with Darkseid creeping in for a cameo in the final panel - well, this was written for me to read, then!

Don't get me wrong - I'm not using my deductive powers for evil and predicting that Johns is going to try to top Joss' lil' ol' film before it clears the editing room, or that he's telling a familiar story with familiar plot devices to show how easy it would be to get a JLA movie made... well, yeah, I just did. I'm pretending I didn't so that I won't spoil my fun.

I wonder if Lautner has his own production company? He's got to stock-up on green spray paint for the big screen test...


  1. You write: “If the 1st six issues are devoted to this cosmic Chinese puzzle box with Darkseid creeping in for a cameo in the final panel - well, this was written for me to read, then”.

    Isn’t that how they did it the first season of Superman the Animated Series?

    By this time, there’s nothing new… It’s all in how WELL you do it!

  2. Joe,

    Just the Darkseid intro, whereas the rest was a Miami Vice episode, Fourth World style.

    I recall an issue of Superman Adventures where a petty thug got hold of a Mother Box and it turned the thug into a parademon while speaking to him like an automated teleprompter.

    Another nifty gadget is Mr. Miracle's multi-cube. It's like a mini-sonic screwdriver. That gadget could take up ten issues!