The Watchtower

Hello one and all. Little light on the workload for me today, not only because Megan isn’t here to carry the column, but because I figured I deserved a little break after busting my little butt on the return of The Mean over in wrestling (as Widro always says: one good plug deserves another). Not to worry as I will still turn in a full column through”¦the magic of using good writing by other people to fill space!

Yep, two weeks ago I challenged y’all to finish my JLA movie and this week it’s time to make the winner famous.

Actually”¦make that winnerS!

There were two entries I really enjoyed and thus I’ve decided to declare a tie. Interestingly enough, neither one of them actually finished my plot per se! This is a tremendous commentary on the creative strength of the readers of this column (and/or the weaknesses of my plot”¦whatever, Jude Law would rock as Aquaman, fish cracker!)

Without further adieu”¦the winners (and don’t worry, I’m not totally slacking, I’ve still got a message for Brian Michael Bendis vis a vis The Avengers to conclude this shindig written by ME! I’ve got to start billing content written for my column that is actually by me as being a special attraction or something”¦

JLA movie contest winner #1: Michael Weyer

In a sense, Michael did complete my plot, but rather than outline a synopsis, he did it through a series of quotes that better flesh out the characters and give you a sense of where this team is going; some are taken from existing comics, but the fact that he took the time to think about which quotes would give the best indicators of the characters is merit worthy. It leaves us with an incomplete story (though we do get an ending), but his work so clearly hammered home for me a lot of the character stuff I was trying to develop that I had to give him props.

My JLA thing is mostly small stuff, character stuff that I think will give
added nuance to the film. Such as when they’re all in the Batcave”¦

Green Arrow: “Ease up, will you? Come on, take the mask off, be yourself.”
Batman: “When this mask is on, I am myself.”

Superman: “I just don’t think people are that oblivious.”
Batman: “This coming from a man who works in a newspaper with only a pair of
glasses to conceal his identity.”

Wonder Woman: “You do not approve of us, do you? Or at the least, you are not comfortable.”
Batman: “Nothing personal. I just don’t have super-strength or speed or heat vision or anything like that. I can’t afford to dress in some bright and colorful outfit. And I’m not comfortable around people who do.”
Wonder Woman: “Why do you do this then? What makes you dress in such a way and fight the way you do? Why risk your life night after night for a war you know you cannot win?”
Batman is silent before replying.
“When I was eight years old”¦I saw my parents shot and killed by a petty mugger.”
Everyone stares at him as he continues. “I”¦needed something to keep myself sane. To make some sense in the world. Maybe you’re right, maybe I can’t win this war. But if I can keep just one child from going through the pain I have”¦I consider that victory enough.”

Black Canary: “Tone down the attitude, will you? You keep acting like we should treat you like royalty!”
Wonder Woman: “I am royalty.”

Green Lantern: “I don’t know who or what these things are, but by God, we’re going to take them down.”
Martian Manhunter: “I have never understood the human need to invoke God every time you march off to slaughter an enemy.”

I do see something with Despero capturing Superman, holding him down with Kryptonite and trying to turn him to the alien’s side. Naturally, the League wants to rescue him but of course, only one of them can get to him”¦
Despero: “He’s only one human being. I should be afraid of a human being?”
Superman: “He’s not a human being”¦he’s BATMAN.”

While they’re gone, the rest of the League tries to handle the invaders but are weakened by internal bickering and suspicion. When Supes and Bats return, they’re all ready to call it quits.

Wonder Woman: “You want us to work together but I don’t see how that’ll happen. We don’t even know each other. Not at all.”
There’s a long silence, each Leaguer standing alone. Superman looks down and reaches for a pouch at his belt. There’s a blur of motion and suddenly a mild-mannered man in glasses and a suit stands in his place.
“My name is Clark Kent. I’m a reporter for the Daily Planet.”
Everyone is stunned, more over the fact that Superman even has another identity. After a pause, Black Canary pulls off her blonde wig.
“Dinah Lance. I’m a florist in Star City.”
Green Arrow: “A florist?”
Dinah: “Not now. You?”
GA (removing mask): “Oliver Queen, formerly CEO of Queen Enterprises, now crusading on welfare.”
Flash: “Wally West. I work in the motor pool at the Central City police department.”
Atom: “Ray Palmer, professor at Ivy University.”
Manhunter (shifting shape): “I have several human identities. The one I have spent the most time in is John Jones, detective for the Midville police
Green Lantern: “John Stewart. Youth counseler, Star City.”
Aquaman: “My father”¦called me Arthur.”
Pause as they all turn to Batman.
Superman: “This only works if we all do it.”
Batman: “I’m not one for”¦trust.”
Superman: “Too bad. Because we’re trusting you. The least you can do is the same.”
Batman remains silent before pulling back his mask.
Black Canary: “No. Way.”
Green Arrow: “Bruce Wayne?!”
Flash; “Makes sense. Who else can afford all this stuff?”

I’m sure you’ve got lots of ideas on the big battle but I do see a retelling of a classic Alan Moore moment”¦

Despero: “Any last words?”
Close on Superman’s eyes as they snap open, glowing red.

Despero: “You could have ruled this planet? Why are you protecting these ants? Why?”
Superman: “They believe in me. And I believe in them even more.”

And at the end, after the JLA formerly assembles, a private moment as Superman gives Batman the piece of kryptonite Despero used.
Superman: “He almost broke me. He’s not the only one who wants to try. I don’t”¦I can’t handle the idea of my power used against this planet. If that day comes”¦I want you to have this. The others wouldn’t be able to do it. But you would. I know that.”
Batman: “Do you realize what you’re asking me?”
Superman: “Yes. I want the means to kill me to be in the hands of a man I trust with my life.”

Michael scores extra points for using and modifying the identity reveal scene from JLA: Year One, one of my favorite comic moments of all time! Congrats, Michael.

JLA movie contest winner #2: Jacob Z. Clinton

The message board poster formerly(?) known as Metal_Jesus (and former writer of ZARJAZ! Holla! Someday we will have ZARJAZ vs Across The Pond in the ultimate British smackdown!) liked my casting, but chose to use a very different plot; I suppose I should be offended, but said plot rocked hard, and I am a man who loves rocking very much.

I loved your casting but the inter-group descriptions had already sown the seeds in my mind of a totally different JLA film.

The point made of Martian Manhunter/Batman having worked together before…that just set me off on a Tower of Babel/Year One idea. Batman and J’onn have been keeping tabs on the JLA in case any of them goes rogue but someone finds the files and sets up his own Injustice Gang to take down the JLA with the information garnered. At this point I’d hope the comics fans are interested from my using the storyline and get the everyday movie goers to be like ‘Whoa well Batman is kind of dark…and I’ve never really heard of this Martian guy so he could be evil’ when the main villain congratulates Batman and J’onn on helping him. Yeah Morrison would heavily influence my vision as well.

I’d have to throw Johnny Depp in there as a villain, at the risk of him stealing his scenes, Prometheus I thought at first but then I remembered I’d been rereading my JSA TPBs earlier and bang I thought of the modern Icicle who’s been made such a great character through the lack of relationship with his father, I think Depp could carry off that second generation villain who might have an inkling of redemption but is so wrapped up in a bitter need for revenge. (That sentence was far too long)

I love your casting of Despero so I’d keep him instead of the General, although I’m not a fan of overuse of CGI, and maybe have his evil bastard conqueror ways be part of the downfall of the Injustice Gang.

Evil women though, hmmmm, I’d like to use Poison Ivy because I want to use a member of Bats Rogues gallery who isn’t called the Joker and I can’t think of any decent WW villainesses. I can’t cast women, they all look the same with different sized top bollocks to me guv’nor.

Deathstroke is a must; he’s been getting a big push in the comics, and the merc could counter Green Lantern and Black Canary…he’d get most of the smart alek put downs of the rest of the villains…because I’m a big Tarantino fan I’d be inclined to cast Michael Madsen.

Now comes the choice between Ra’s or Luthor or Vandal Savage….I’d be inclined to say Savage, give him an army at his disposal for that climatic heroes being swamped by numbers scene…give him a line like ‘I’m immortal; I’ve planned for thousands of years against those that might rise up against me but never could I conceive that their downfall would have been engineered internally…kudos Batman, Manhunter, Atom…’

My only problem would a counter to the Atom…at which point I’m tempted to throw him in with Batman and J’onn as a third accomplice to which the JLA are truly shocked…

Thus the plot runs…establishing shots of the JLA first in their civilian identities with loved ones, the cut to costume and giving a clear display of their powers…opening credits finish and we get them sat in the Watchtower (the moon based one), giving a nice Tarantinoesque discussion about something seemingly irrelevant which only serves to establish their characteristics…then they start getting distress signals and are broken into teams…keep Batman/J’onn/Atom separate…but when the other members on their teams start being taken down by villains gloating about inside knowledge (I’m thinking finding Despero sat at the bottom of the sea meditating would be one creepy scene)…the three start to do the shifty eyes…the JLA are badly beaten in each scene, returning to Watchtower to heal up only immediately to find their loved ones in danger…during these attacks Savage makes his entrance and thanks Batman et al…..Savage doesn’t strike straight away, he gives some mandate like the JLA must remain in the Watchtower and let Savage do what he wants with Earth or countries will be nuked with a warhead onto which the person each leaguer holds dear will be strapped…they can’t beat him…so they shouldn’t try….the League kick out Batman/Manhunter/Atom….you get the rest,….the three work out a way to overcome Savage….big fight scene with Savage’s army…Despero turns against Savage…happy reunited ending…..

Heavily influenced by Morrison I know and I didn’t really answer your’ column in the way you wanted but like I said, I wouldn’t dream of trying, just had to send you this email because it was your casting that inspired me (and Morrison) to envisage my version of the film.

I live to inspire my friend”¦and to rock.

Michael & Jacob, congratulations to you both; e-mail me with your addresses and you shall both receive”¦a copy of JSA #61 (debut and death of Zombie Ben Morse) signed by”¦ME! Awesome, huh? What”¦oh fine, just e-mail and I’ll figure out some sort of prizes for you”¦sheesh”¦thanks to all who entered.

An Open Letter to Brian Michael Bendis (and other writers) re: The Avengers

Dear Mr. Bendis,

Congratulations on writing like a billion titles and doing it well; I could not do that. I am sorry Jesse Baker hates you, but don’t worry, the restraining order is still in full effect and I’ve got Jamie Hatton ready to go after him with a broken bottle of JD the minute he breaks out of confinement.

Anyhow, like much of the comic book reading world, I am following your run on Avengers with great interest. I know the issues to come out so far have not gotten the best of reviews, but you’ve certainly accomplished your goal of getting people talking about Avengers again, so that’s something. I admit I have not been the biggest fan of “Chaos” so far, but you have impressed me in interviews with your passion for the project, so I am willing to stick it out and, moreover, you’ve actually got me very excited for the potential of New Avengers.

That said, some things you and other writers have recently said in interviews and/or done during your tenure writing the book have rubbed me the wrong way. Since I know you’re a big fan of this column (unless that’s just Tim Stevens posing as you again”¦oh crap, it is”¦) I figured I’d just lay them out on the table for you. I like to call it”¦

Three Simple Rules for Writing Avengers

1. The Vision is not a “vacuum that talks” and his relationship with The Scarlet Witch really wasn’t that creepy

I read either you or Mark Millar or both describe The Vision using that designation and definitely recall reading comments from both of you essentially thumbing your noses at the Vizh/Wanda love affair.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but as you are a self-professed long time fan of the Avengers, I must admit, this opinion confounds me.

The Vision is one of the most complex characters in comic book history; his struggle with what he is has been far more compelling than similar plots involving countless similar characters, in my opinion. Not only does he straddle the line between man and machine, he has to cope with the fact that he’s living with the echoes of another man’s brain, a man he has often had to work side by side with! He feels and yet often questions whether he has the right to do so”¦a true tragic hero.

Certainly not a “vacuum that talks.”

The saga of Vision and Wanda was truly something to behold, especially under the pen of Roy Thomas. It was a beautiful illustration about the power of love being about feelings and commitment to one another, not about classifications. Given when it was written, it was truly ahead of its time as far as sending a message of tolerance and perseverance.

And it’s comic books; to imagine that Vision and Scarlet Witch getting it on is no more perverse or strange than imagining any other two-dimensional (not in terms of characterization, in terms of actual physical dimensions), fictional characters being “together.” Come on guys, this is the medium where you get to break rules, not get all starchy because a robot is making out with a girl.

2. As much as you may like to ignore them, other people have written stories about Hank Pym

I know that you do not like the character of Hank Pym; again, your prerogative. But, as a professional and, again, a fan, you (and other writers who may or may not have immediately preceded you on this title) must tip the hat to what has been done with him since the 1980’s when he hit Jan.

Roger Stern, Steve Englehart and others wrote a long series about the redemption of Hank Pym as a man. Jan forgave him. Hawkeye helped him through many of his problems.
Kurt Busiek portrayed Hank and Jan as reconciled and being as happy as either had ever been during the beginning of his run. Less than a year ago, Geoff Johns had Hank proposing to Jan.

It doesn’t make sense that Hawkeye suddenly doesn’t recall being Hank’s friend during his time of need or Hank considering Jan a horrible ex-wife when he wanted to remarry her just a few months ago.

You may not have liked these stories, you may not have thought they made sense or were morally in the right in the redemption of a wife beater, but you must acknowledge that they happened. Write in an explanation as to why these stories were wrong, why these characters acted this way and why they have changed their views; you owe it to the characters and you are a talented enough writer to do it. Readers will appreciate this more than you ever know. Ignoring past stories just because you think the only way Hank Pym is interesting is as a jerk is lazy writing and unworthy of your skills.

3. About the killing”¦

The only time Avengers was EVER the top book on the market was during Kurt Busiek & George Perez’ run.

They didn’t kill a single Avenger in over thirty issues.

Roger Stern & John Buscema’s “Under Siege” is widely considered the best Avengers arc in history.

Nobody died except a second rate villain (Blackout).

I’m not saying that having deaths in your storyline is wrong”¦ok, I’m just being a smartass, ignore this one”¦number three can be that Quasar shouldn’t be able to be on Earth because he contains the essence of Ego and if he sets foot on the planet we all blow up.

Good luck with everything,
Ben Morse

Next week I’m aiming to get the TPB Guide good and finished”¦or possibly just good and advanced, we’ll see.

I do promise a full update on my fantasy sports situation”¦and that’s a promise!

In the mean time, thanks for reading.

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!