A cure for alt-itis?

The first time i ever played an MMO was back in 2006 when i discovered City of Heroes.  The humongous, persistent world of colorful costumed superpowered individuals had me hooked with the non-linear gameplay, vast character customization options and if i’m honest, the super-jump power was worth the price of admission alone.  i’d never experienced a video game quite like that, with hundreds (or thousands) or other characters running, jumping, flying and teleporting all over the place – all controlled by another human somewhere in the world.  For that last reason, i believe i developed a case of alt-itis.  In fact, it seems that City of Heroes is cited as a major contributor to the affliction.  But for my money (paid for in monthly subscription fees) it lay more in the idea that the figure superjumping around was representing me in its digital way.  Did i imagine myself shooting jets of flames from my hands?  Hefting tractor trailers over my head?  Controlling the minds of my enemies?  As it turns out, i settled mostly on a sleek, cybernetic looking fella with a cowboy hat and samurai sword.

Since then, i’ve sampled quite an array of MMOs, immersing myself more heavily in some than others, and over the years i think i’ve got a pretty good grasp on what sort of characters i enjoy playing.  Not an exhaustive list by any means, my MMO journeys have taken me to Dungeons and Dragons Online, Final Fantasy XI and XIV, City of Villains, Champions Online, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars (I & II), The Secret World, DC Universe Online, Maple Story, Neverwinter, Phantasy Star Online (which actually predates City of Heroes but at the time i didn’t really understand what i was playing), and a few random Korean games like Kal Online, Mabinogi and probably a few others i’ve since forgotten.  The client server for The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is also sitting there inert on my taskbar.

Most recently, after considerable research as well as pelting a FB friend that i met through FFXI based on his spurt of FFXIV screenshot posts, i decided to give A Realm Reborn a shot.  Technically, i suppose this isn’t entirely new for me, since i’d tried out the initial version of the game and withdrew before they shut it down based on bad press and player experiences.  If i’m honest, i didn’t find it to be all that terrible.  The game’s Armory system, which allowed you to switch jobs as easily as changing weapons, was really cool and i played a significant portion of the game as a goldsmith rather than any of the myriad jobs suited for battling monsters.  Like it’s predecessor FFXI, players’ freedom to explore any of the games classes without creating an entirely new character was definitely my favorite feature.  If i recall correct, i cancelled my sub for that game due to tightening down my finances, the death knell of many (and for an altoholic like me i mean many many) characters in lots of different games.  FFXI was still around though, and i returned there once in the intervening years, but that game’s progression is just painfully slow.  i wanted very badly to try out the beastmaster class – which is widely regarded as the best job for those who like to play solo, but after about two months of grinding i still wasn’t anywhere close to unlocking it and i threw in the towel on my tarutaru monk.

Isn't he cute?  And also savagely deadly?

Isn’t he cute? And also savagely deadly?

So, A Realm Reborn.  The clincher for me was the elegantly simple crafting system, something i typically have every intention of getting into in the various MMOs i’ve played but never seem to progress really far.  My interest in this standard game subsystem harkens back to FFXI actually, when i imagined my little fella traveling the land as a pizza delivery guy after a chance encounter with a high-level toon out in the wilderness who saved me from certain death and followed it up by handing out some homemade goodies.  Crafting in that game was like a beta version of A Realm Reborn, except there was no Crafting Log to provide recipes and you had to largely stumble your way through it while pursuing other jobs.  So in addition to my eventual goal of attaining that special pet-controlling beastmaster, i hoped to some day boast a complete collection of jobs and their accompanying relic gear, any of all of which would be just fine for a traveling culinarian.

Tarutaru of every flavor

Tarutaru of every flavor

Now, if you’ve noticed, i haven’t yet talked much about A Realm Reborn…because i haven’t yet had a chance to really sink my teeth into it yet.  It’s been a while since i installed a new game, and my Sunday evening plan went awry when the d/l showed an estimated 6 hour installation time.  That would have put the clock at around 8 p.m. that evening, except i’d forgotten about the time needed to update the client once the initial installation completed.  And since i have to sleep sometime, it was not meant to be for the weekend.  Follow that up with a 10 hour workday on Monday and some much-needed errand running put the kibosh on that plan, too.

Fortunately, today was a coveted day off!  So after a healthy breakfast i got right down to it.  My first instinct was to create a character of the lalafell race, basically an analog of FFXI’s tarutaru (pictured above).  But by the time the intro cut scenes left me at the gates of Limsa Lominsa i was already over his portly stature.  Next, i thought i’d model a toon on one of my favorite comic book characters, so another fledgling adventurer arrived at the seaside city-state – a Hyur highlander named Barda.  But it bothered me that i planned to invest time into a character that was based on someone else’s originality so into the graveyard of alts she went.

Finally, i decided on an Elezen duskwight.  To start off his career, i chose the lancer job and fancied him the closest i’d come to playing what i consider the greatest D&D character i’d ever made – an air genasi spear fighter. During one of the many times an honest-to-goodness play group formed, we planned to start a campaign based around a story of dragons’ return to the realm.  Since we got to create characters who’d begin at level 9, with the standard starting wealth given in the DMG and authorized to equip them with basically whatever we could afford, i made this guy one bad-ass battler of great wyrms.  It took quite some time of pouring through splatbooks to find the right combination of classes, feats and gear, and in the end he was a straight-up fighter that could leap great distances both vertically and horizontally, driving the deadly end of a spear before him.

Sound familiar?  To anyone who’s played any of the Final Fantasy series starting with II, it should.

 

Kain_DS_CG_Render

Here there be dragons…for him to fight!

i named him Jindra Wolkstreit, a combination of a cool-sounding last name i came across through a customer database at my job IRL and a rough translation of “cloud fighter” in German.  Incidentally, Wolkstreit is one of my go-to MMO names along with Ogdu and Longshotist – so if you ever run across me in one persistent world or another stop and /wave!  In Eorzea, where A Realm Reborn takes place, there’s a new lancer arrived in Gridania named Wolkstreit Gold.

Thus far, i accomplished much in FFXIV other than the basic tutorial, but i’ve got a feeling i’ll be sticking around this one for a while.  With all my various MMO experiences, i’ve got a sort of mental checklist of features that i look for, and while none of them have a complete package, this one has enough to keep me coming back for more.  The best feature imo is the job system.  Like FFXI and FFXIV 1.0, a single character can eventually reach level cap in all of the possible jobs and freely switch between them by simply equipping the proper gear.  That is an absolute godsend for altoholics, who one day may feel like tanking and the next slinging arcane magick.

Once i figure out how to take screenshots and where they are stored once taken, i’ll be able to share Wolkstreit’s adventures visually as well.

The way things are shaping up, this summer looks to be a busy one for me, but part of that busyness is adding as much content as i can here at The Long Shot. In addition to narrative features and television commentary i plan to expand the Stuff i Played category with regular updates from Eorzea.  There’s an awful lot to do in A Realm Reborn, and as i explore and learn about it myself i hope to do it justice by sharing my commentary here.

Thanks for reading!

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A film for anyone who enjoys films

A typical web-surfing session, that ritual many of us consider an integral part of the day, found me checking in rote fashion the usual suspects of all the most important sites.  Sending out a cleverly worded Tweet about the proliferation of Michio Kaku in televised scientific discussion inspired by my latest binge, clicking through some Castle Age adventures (join my army, please!),  and keeping up to date on the important news of the day.

Incidentally, i came across this fantastic piece of artwork which struck me so profoundly that i was rethinking a recent position i’d taken during a conversation with a friend about the Great Debate of which is better: Marvel or DC?  Okay, not really – i’m still firmly in the camp of the former – but this splash panel had so suddenly and powerfully taken root in my imagination that i thought if the Distinguished Competition were heading in this direction it would provide them some serious ammo for changing my mind.

apokolipsnew11

A black Superman, Beyond-ish inspired Batman and Apokolips in the background? i like where this is going. The fact that Grant Morrison is beyond the ‘Multiversity’ event turned this radar blip into a full-fledged alarm beacon.

The last article i landed upon asked the question ‘The Matrix cast: where are they now?’ and, while the sequels disappointed me because of their grossly squandered potential, i gave it a read because as a Fannibal i wanted to see what the entry about Laurence Fishburne said of the show i’ve been eating up lately.  And thankfully, after reading that “Reeves also produced the 2012 documentary ‘Side by Side,’ where he interviewed directors Christopher Nolan and George Lucas,” Netflix actually had the film available for viewing.

Now, i’ll be the first to tell you that these days, i’m more of a television guy.  The new Golden Age of TV that we’re experiencing, with its remarkably engaging hyperserialized programs that have given rise to the binge-watching phenomenon, has me hooked as surely as the blue sky Walter White cooked up brought the whole trend into cultural consciousness.  But there was a time when i was a strictly avowed movie buff, one of those snobby elitists who enjoyed cinema exclusively.

But with a one-sheet featuring names like David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh offering their perspectives on both digital and photochemical film creation along with the aforementioned Nolan (yay!) and Lucas (nay!) i felt compelled to give it a go.  And on a personal level, my own meager contribution to the world of film would not have been possible without digital technology, so there was some individual investment at stake as well.

By the time the 98 minute run time was completed, i’d been given a comprehensive guided tour through the history of cinema from a creation standpoint that kept my attention more than any Blu-Ray extra feature ever could.  For any fan of film or student of the genre, ‘Side by Side’ should be viewed at the earliest opportunity, offering an insider’s perspective on the art of filmmaking like nothing i’d ever seen.  For anyone who is serious about a career in cinema, this thought-provoking documentary is required viewing and if it’s not already part of film school curriculum it ought to be.

Reeves, who both produced the piece and took the role of narrator and interviewer, was certainly a fine choice for the position.  With his experience as an actor, he brought a credibility to his questions while connecting to those he spoke to with.  There were a few scenes early on during which i felt like ‘Side by Side’ leaned more heavily on projects he was personally involved in like ‘Henry’s Crime’‘A Scanner Darkly’ and of course ‘The Matrix’ films, but these thoughts were quickly brushed away while he met with folks responsible for creating films every step of the way.  From directors to cinematographers, colorists and editors to the engineers and scientists who develop the technology used in cinema, ‘Side by Side’ approaches the comparison of film and digital capture from every angle.

It was particularly fascinating to hear what the old guard of film had to say on the matter.  For instance, it was widely publicized that Martin Scorsese was abandoning film for the digital format because the collapse of the format was “impossible to fight.”  But his perspective on the issue carried a hefty gravitas.  Here is a guy who’s been making celebrated movies through the traditional photochemical film process for 40 years, and although i suspect the acceptance and transition to the digital format was not a decision made lightly, you can sense the excitement in his voice and demeanor when he explains his feelings regarding the possibilities.

Interspersed throughout the documentary are segments wherein Reeves helps the viewer understand the technology involved, both historically and on the cutting edge of today.  Thankfully, these segments were well-crafted so that even someone like me, who couldn’t tell you the first thing about a film camera or any of its components, was able to understand.  And to hear the creators speak of their tools was equally engrossing.  Many of these people are rarely seen by audiences, and hearing their stories about the increasingly superior tools at their disposal was as much a treat for me as using these toys is for them.  David Fincher, in particular, offered some of the most down-to-earth experiences.  He was exceptionally impressed with the Red Digital Cinema Camera Company, manufacturers of the cameras he used while shooting ‘The Social Network.’  He and several other directors were blown away by the emergent relationship with equipment makers.

Fincher talked about shooting a scene of kayakers, and how even the relatively lightweight cameras they were using proved too heavy to mount on the boats he described as about as thick as a potato chip.  So he called up Oakley founder Jim Jannard, who founded and finances Red, on a Friday to explain his dilemma.  By Sunday night, Jannard called him back to say a carbon-fiber body would reduce the weight to where Fincher needed it to be, and in fact had the specialized model sitting in front of him on his desk already.

But not everyone in Hollywood is on board with the digital revolution.

One of the staunchest holdouts to abandoning film was Christopher Nolan, acclaimed director the ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy, ‘Inception’ and ‘Memento.’  He and frequent collaborator Wally Pfister were downright adamant in their opposition to the digital format, with very little in the way of praise.  Really, only Pfister reluctantly even acquiesced that a completely digital process was inevitable.  They were perhaps the most fierce proponents of film, but certainly not the only ones.  The pair did, however, seem to be a bit obstinate in their position, with other diehard photochemical filmmakers at least conceding that there were pros and cons to digital and simply preferring traditional film.

As a counterpoint to their perspectives though, the biggest advocates of digital film – folks like Robert Rodriguez and George Lucas – made the strongest and simplest appeals for the virtue of digital filmmaking.  Both creators made note that photochemical filming has reached the highest potential it could, something even film users admitted.  They reason that, as either an artist or technician, it would behoove them to make the jump to digital because it offered a chance for them to help develop the technology that was only growing in prominence, giving them an opportunity to shape the course of where it was going.  To further illustrate this point, the documentary notes that photochemical film cameras are no longer even manufactured, but does discuss their unique place as both a capture and archival tool.

As the documentary winds down, one of Reeves’ interviewees makes the most profound statement regarding the debate, framed in a way that can be applied to any similar argument and therefore gives it a universal appeal. He tells Reeves that, in any revolution, if a group of people washes their hands of the debate and walks away to let others fight the battle, then they’re the only ones who have truly lost because a revolution of any kind will result in change, meaning that to be stagnant in the conversation is, essentially, giving up.

That being said, whether you’re a filmmaker yourself with a stake in either side of the argument, or if you’re a fan of the medium who enjoys classic cinema or can’t wait for the next big blockbuster, there is a wealth of wonderful insight into how and why movies are made that should but ‘Side by Side’ in your Netflix queue.

Cleveland Stater, page one

This is the front page of the first issue of The Cleveland Stater that i worked on for my capstone in journalism at Cleveland State University during the summer of 2013.  During our first editorial meeting, i pitched the story as an article about how the filming of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was affecting traffic coming and going from downtown Cleveland.  Once i got down to the shooting location, i spotted a group of people protesting.

Although i was a little nervous, being my first time out on the beat as it were, i could hear my professor from an earlier class in my head, urging us to find the stories within the stories.  So i walked right up to them to see what was up, and wound up with the front page story.  My editor-in-chief and our faculty adviser were also impressed with the photo i got to go along with the story.

Just a few weeks ago, during my final class before graduation, the professor referenced this story as a good example of getting out there and finding stories to tell.  Also, i was able to help another student with a feature he’s working on by referring him to some contacts i made through this article.  So for several reasons, this one has a special place in my portfolio.  I added the body of the story below this image, since it has a jump and it’s pretty difficult to read this converted PDF image online, too.

First Stater story

 

For the past several weeks Clevelanders – and superhero movie fans worldwide – have watched the streets of downtown Cleveland with excitement while filming takes place for Marvel Studios’ big budget feature “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

But not everyone lined up along the sets’ perimeter was there to catch a glimpse of Hollywood stars like Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Evans, or witness exciting car chases and explosions.

On Thursday, May 23, members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) arrived to raise awareness about what they say is unfair practice by Marvel Studios. According to the AFM, the studio is exporting jobs that should belong to American musicians. They’re using tax credits to outsource the film’s musical score to Europe and hiring foreign musicians.

“It’s about jobs, and it’s about fairness,” said Linda Rapka, communications director of the AFM Local 47 in Los Angeles, who traveled to Cleveland for the demonstration. “Every other person associated with the film is U.S. based and receives the union benefits that these tax credits are intended to keep jobs here – except for the musicians.”

At the end of production the studio will receive a $9.5 million tax credit from the state of Ohio. Additional credits are given by the federal government. The intent of these movie production incentives is to encourage in-state film production.

The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Incentive – a state specific program – provides a refundable credit to eligible productions equal to 25 percent off in-state spending and non-resident wages, as well as 35 percent in Ohio resident wages, according to the Ohio Film Office website.

The credit does apply to wages paid to workers outside of Ohio, but only for work done during “shooting days” – the days when principal photography takes place. At hand is the issue of the language used in specifying what constitutes film production. A film’s musical score, along with other processes like special effects and editing, are part of post-production. The distinction is what allows studios to collect incentives for the actual shooting while retaining the ability to delegate other tasks outside the U.S. The AFM, as a labor organization, works to bargain and negotiate on behalf of professional musicians.

“We want to spread awareness to studios such as Marvel and other studios that it’s wrong to use U.S. tax credits and then ship jobs overseas,” Rapka said. “And it’s wrong to treat musicians unfairly.”

Marvel Studios could not be reached for comment about the issue raised by the union.

In the film industry, collective bargaining and union negotiations are nothing new. In the case of “Captain America,” the AFM saw an opportunity to raise awareness through the nature of this particular film.

“It’s peculiar to us that the work for film scores is offshored,” said Leonard DiCosimo, president of the AFM Local 4 here in Cleveland. “We’re totally supportive of all the work that SAG, AFTRA, the teamsters here locally and the iron workers are doing. And the film commission for that matter. “I think, personally, that it’s highly ironic that tax dollars are being given to an American corporation and the industry that I represent is being handled by foreign workers. I think it’s highly ironic that it’s also ‘Captain America,’ and comic book characters which are primarily an American institution.”

In seeking to raise public consciousness about film production practices, the AFM’s international leadership hopes to start a dialogue with Marvel and other studios on behalf of American musicians. The organization would like to increase opportunities for the artists they represent.

“It’s been unsuccessful for the past few years,” DiCosimo said. “But hope springs eternal, right?”

The Big Waynowski, Act II

Note: this is an incomplete work that got posted on accident while tinkering with categories.  But since there’s a disclaimer about half-finished projects, i’m letting it go. 

 

A GANG OF THUGS

Scattered by a roundhouse kick.

THE VIGILANTES

Tim calls out from the circle of streetlight:

TIM

Shazam Bats – They’re dead in the water!

As the Bat walks back to the shadows he looks up to see female bat-themed costumed vigilante in black perched on the corner of a two-story building.

BAT

Your streets, Cassandra.

Jason, just arriving, is carrying a red metal helmet under his arm and accompanied by a young boy wearing a black-and-white bodysuit, red tunic and grayish hood and cape.  He is also wearing brass knuckles.

JASON

Way to go, Bats.  “Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts.”

BAT

You’re fucking twenty minutes late.  What the fuck is that?

JASON
Detective Comics #33.

BAT

Huh?

JASON

Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom.  “I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible…”

BAT

What the fuck’re you talking about?  The kid.  What’s with the fucking kid?

JASON

Huh?  Oh – Talia’s Damian.  Can’t leave him alone or he goes on a killing spree.

BAT

What the fuck are you –

JASON

I’m saying, Talia’s Damian.  I’m looking after him while Talia and Ebeneezer Darcel are in Tibet.

BAT

You brought fucking Damian out crime-fighting?

JASON

What do you mean “brought him out crime-fighting”?  I didn’t invite him to join the Bat family.  I’m not giving him fucking utility belt.  He’s not gonna take your mantle, Bats.

He waves the furtive boy off.  He stalks the area, snooping about and staying alert for signs of danger.

BAT

Hey, man, if my fucking ex-lover asked me to take care of her fucking genetically perfected son while she and Doctor Darrk went to Nanda Parbat, I’d tell her to go fuck herself.  Why can’t she put him in suspended animation?

JASON

First of all, Bats, your ex is from an alternate dimension of the multiverse.  Secondly, he’s a fucking killing machine, with fucking League of Assassin training.  If he gets bored, he’ll start offing people.

BAT

Hey man –

JASON
Fucking genetically perfect killer, Bats. – Over the line!

JEAN PAUL VALLEY turns from his last brawl, where he’s savagely beat several criminals with flaming gauntlet blades, to look at Jason.

JASON

Over the line, Jean Paul.  I’m sorry, you’re not Bat family material.

JEAN PAUL

Bullshit.  I’m staying on patrol, Bat.

JASON

Excuse me!  Hang it up.  Next justice seeker.

JEAN PAUL

Bullshit.  Jason!

JASON

This is not No Man’s Land.  This is the New 52.  There are rules.

BAT

Come on Jason, it’s just – it’s Jean Paul.  So he’s not the most restrained, his genes are spliced with animal DNA.

JASON

This is a War on Crime.  This could determine who becomes the next Robin, am I wrong?

JEAN PAUL

Yeah, but –

JASON

Am I wrong?!

JEAN PAUL

Yeah, but I wasn’t over the line.  That guy had it coming, Bat, I’m still going to patrol the city in the dark of night.

Jason takes out a gun.

JASON

Jean Paul my friend, you’re entering a world of pain.

BAT

Hey Jason

JASON

Swing away on a grapple line, you’re entering a world of pain.

JEAN PAUL

I’m not –

JASON

A world of pain.

A uniformed Gotham City police officer is running for the radio in his squad car.

JEAN PAUL

Look Bat, I don’t hold with this.  This guy is your protege, you should –

Jason primes the gun and points it at his head.

JASON

HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE CRAZY?  AM I THE ONLY ONE HERE WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT CONTINUITY?  HANG UP YOUR CAPE!

Damian is excitedly scurrying about Jason’s vicinity, shadow-boxing and performing acrobatics.

BAT

Jason, they’re calling in SWAT, put the piece away.

JASON
HANG IT UP!

JEAN PAUL

Jason –

JASON

YOU THINK I’M FUCKING AROUND HERE?  HANG IT UP!!

JEAN PAUL

All right!  There it is!  It’s fucking gone!

He removes his cape and cowl frantically and surrenders it to the Bat.

JEAN PAUL
You happy, you crazy fuck?

JASON

This is a war on crime, Jean Paul.

HIDDEN GARAGE

Jason and the Bat walk to the Bat’s car.  Damian lurks sneakily behind Jason who totes the red hood.

BAT

Jason, you can’t do that.  These guys are like me, they have damaged psyches.  Jean Paul was a test-tube baby conditioned to become a remorseless Angel of Death.

JASON

You know Bat, I myself dabbled with insanity at one point.  Not pre-retcon punch, of course –

BAT

And you know Jean Paul has emotional problems!

JASON

You mean, beyond knowing only how to kill?

BAT

He’s unhinged, man!  He’s very unhinged!

As the two men get into the car:

JASON

Huh.  I did not know that.  Well, it’s water under the bridge.  And we do still only have three official Robins, am I wrong?

BAT

No, you’re not wrong –

JASON

Am I wrong!

BAT

You’re not wrong, Jason, you’re just an asshole.

They watch a SWAT van take a squealing turn around the corner.

JASON

Okay then.  We go on patrol with Helena and Stephanie next week.  Should be a cakewalk.

BAT

Just, just take it easy, Jason.

JASON

That’s your answer to everything, Bat.  And let me point out – neuroses are not – look at our current situation with the obsessive-compulsives in Arkham – neuroses are not something to hide behind.

BAT

Well, just take it easy, man.

JASON

I’m perfectly calm, Bat.

BAT

Yeah?  Wavin’ a gun around?!

JASON

(smugly)

Calmer than you are.

This irritates the Bat further.

BAT

Just take it easy, man!

Jason is still smug.

JASON

Calmer than you are.

BAT’S LAIR

A giant, shiny penny stands amidst the Bat’s beat-up old crime-fighting memorabilia.

At the table next to the Bat-Radia the Bat is combining three luminescent chemicals together.

VOICE

Bat, this is Jean Paul.  Look, I don’t wanna be a hard-on about this, and I know it wasn’t your fault, but I just thought it was fair to tell you that Barbara and I will be submitting this to the Justice League and asking them to sponsor me for membership.  Or maybe revoke yours –

BAT

Shit!

VOICE

– so, like I say, just thought, you know, fair warning.  Tell Jason.

A beep.

ANOTHER VOICE

Mr. Waynowski, this is Alfred at, uh, well – at Mr. Waynowski’s of manor.  Please call us as soon as is convenient.

Beep.

ANOTHER VOICE

Master Waynowski, this is Maxwell Lord with the International Justice League.  I just got a, an informal report, uh, that a uh, a member of your crime-fighting legacy, uh, Jason Todd, drew a loaded weapon during routine patrol.

We hear the doorbell.

THE DOOR

It swings open to reveal a gorgeous, red-haired woman with a greenish-hue to her skin and vines entwined around her body.

BAT

Hiya Pamela.

PAMELA

Bats, I finally got the venue I wanted.  I’m going to create a tropical paradise – you know, my usual M.O. – at Robinson Park starting Tuesday night, and I’d love it if you came and gave me notes.

The Bat takes a swig of his serum.

BAT

Sure, Pamela, I’ll be there.

PAMELA

Bats, uh, tomorrow is already the tenth.

BAT

Far out.

PAMELA

Just, uh, just slip the rent under my door.

BAT

Oh, oh yeah, okay.

BACK IN THE LAIR

The voice continues on the Bat-Radia.

VOICE

– serious violation of the Comics Code, and examine your mentoring.  Thank you.

Beep.

VOICE

Master Waynowski, Alfred again.  Please do call us when you get in and I’ll send the limo.  Let me assure you – I hope you’re not avoiding this call because of the giant penny, which, I assure you, is not a problem.  We need your help and, uh – well we wound very much like to see you.  Thank you.  It’s Alfred.

TRACKING

We are pushing Alfred down the high-ceilinged hallway.  Distantly, we hear a German libretto.  Alfred talks back over

HIS SHOULDER:

ALFRED

We’ve had some dreadful news.  Master Waynowski is in seclusion in the West Wing.

BAT

Huh.

Alfred throws open a pair of heavy double doors.  The music washes over us as we enter a great study where Bruce Waynowski, a blanket thrown over his knees, stares hauntedly into a fire, listening to Die Fledermaus.

ALFRED ANNOUNCES, AMBIGUOUSLY

ALFRED

Master Waynowski

Bruce Waynowski waves the Bat in without looking around.

WAYNOWSKI

It’s funny.  I can look back on a life of grim justice, on tradgedies met, villains incarerated, death traps overcome.  I’ve accomplished more than most heroes, and without the use of super powers.  What…What makes a superhero, Mr. Waynowski?

BAT

Bat.

WAYNOWSKI

Huh?

BAT

I don’t know, sir.

WAYNOWSKI

Is it…is it, being prepared to do the right thing?  Whatever the price?  Isn’t that what makes a superhero?

BAT

Sure.  That and a pair of tights.

Waynowski turns away from the Bat with a haunted stare, lost in thought.

WAYNOWSKI

You’re joking.  But perhaps you’re right.

The Bat thumps at his utility belt.

BAT

Mind if i pop a Miraclo?

WAYNOWSKI

Dick.

He turns back around and the firelight shows teartracks on his cheeks.

BAT

‘Scuse me?

WAYNOWSKI

Dick Grayson…He is the light of my life.  Are you surprised at my tears, sir?

BAT

Fuckin’ A.

WAYNOWSKI

Dark Knights also cry…dark knights also cry.

He clears his throat.

WAYNOWSKI

I received this fax this morning.

Alfred hastily pulls a flimsy sheet from his clipboard and hands it to the Bat.

WAYNOWSKI

As you can see, it is a riddle.  Sent by a superstitious, cowardly lot.  Men who are unable to successfully function in society.  Men who will not use their real names.  Weaklings.  Bums.

THE BAT EXAMINES THE FAX:

WE HAVE ROBIN.  WHAT KIND OF PINS ARE USED IN SOUP?  WHAT WAS JOAN OF ARC MADE OF?  THAT’S WHERE YOU’LL FIND HIM.

BAT

Terrapins.  Orleans.

WAYNOWSKI

Alfred will fill you in on the details.

He wheels his chair around to once again gaze into the fire.  Alfred tugs at the Bat’s cape and points him back to the hall.

HALLWAY

The libretto is once again faint.  Alfred’s voice is hushed:

ALFRED

Mr. Waynowski is prepared to make a generous offer to you to act as caped crusader once we solve the riddle.

BAT
Why me, man?

ALFRED

He suspects that the culprits might be the very people who, uh, soiled your coin, and you’re in a unique position to mete out and bring these criminals to justice.

BAT

So he thinks the coin-pissers did this?

ALFRED

Well Bat, we just don’t know.

THUGS

WHAM – spun like a top by a crossbow bolt, in slow motion.

WIDER

Still in slow motion.  We are looking across the length of the dark alley at an athletic, shapely Italian vigilante displaying perfect martial arts technique.  She wears a purple spandex singlet with a purple cape, boots, and mask.

FAST TRACK IN

On the Bat, perched next to Jason on a stone gargoyle on the side of a building.  The Bat is staring off towards the vigilante.

BAT
Fucking Helena – that woman can fight crime, man –

BACK TO THE VIGILANTE

Displaying great slow-motion form as the Bat and Jason’s conversation continues over.

JASON

Yeah, but she’s a fucking killer, Bat.

BAT

Huh?

JASON
The woman is a loose cannon.  With a violent history.  Spent time Sicily until she turned 16 and returned to Gotham to track down and kill the people that had killer her parents.

FLASHBACK

We see HELENA learning a variety of forms of combat.

The VOICE-OVER conversation continues.

BAT

Huh.

JASON

She was inspired to become a costumed crime-fighter and adopt a now de guerre after she saw one crash through a skylight.

At a extravagant function, Helena witnessed the Bat interrupt the event by crashing through a skylight.

TIM

What’s a now de guerre, Jason?

JASON

Shut the fuck up, Tim.

THUGS

Scattered by a sweep kick.

HELENA

wheeling and thrusting a purple gloved fist into the air.

Fastened to her chest and forming the clasp for her cape is a large white cross.

BACK TO JASON AND THE BAT

They have been joined by Tim.

JASON

Anyway.  What did they offer you?

BAT

Kidnapping case.  And of course I still keep the coin.

JASON

Just for rescuing the young ward?

BAT
Yeah.

He slips a little black box out of his shirt pocket.

BAT

…They gave the Bat a Waynowski Enterprises gadget, so whenever this riddle is solved –

JASON

What if it’s during a patrol?

BAT
I told him if it was during Justice League business –

Tim has been watching Helena.

TIM

If what’s during Justice League business?

JASON

Cases don’t solve themselves at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit.

TIM

What’s wrong with Jason, Bats?

BAT

I figure it’s an easy adventure, it’s all pretty harmless.  I mean he probably kidnapped himself.

JASON

Huh?

TIM

What do you mean, Bats?

BAT

Coin-peers did not do this.  I mean look at it.  Young trophy ward.  Adopted by a guy for partnership but he isn’t treating him equally.  He fights crime all over town –

JASON

That…fucking…bitch!

BAT

It’s all a goddamn fake.  Like Strange said, the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see.  Our eyes, uh, you know, see only, uh, you know what I’m trying to say –

TIM

By the Vishanti.

JASON

That fucking bitch!

BAT

Yeah.

TIM

By the Vishanti.

JASON

Shut the fuck up, Tim!  Professor Strange!  Professor Hugo Strange!

TIM

What the fuck is he talking about?

JASON

That’s fucking exactly what happened, Bat!  That makes me fucking SICK!

BAT

Yeah, well, what do you care, Jason?

TIM

Yeah Bat, why is Jason so pissed off?

JASON

Those rich fucks!  This whole fucking thing – I did not watch multiple universes get destroyed by Anti-Monitors so that this fucking sidekick –

BAT

I don’t see any connection to the Crisis, Jason.

JASON

Well, there isn’t a literal connection, Bat.

BAT

Jason, face it, there isn’t any connection.  It’s your patrol.

JASON

Have it your way.  The point is –

BAT

It’s your patrol –

JASON

The fucking point is –

BAT

It’s your patrol.

VOICE

Are you ready to be impressed, man?

They both look up.

Helena, about to disappear into the night, looks up at them from the street.  Her crossbow is loaded with a grapple line.  Behind her stands her team-up for this patrol, Stephanie, a young girl with a purple bodysuit and hooded cloak, her face concealed completely by a dark blue hood.

HELENA
I see you fought your way back from the distant past.  Mio dio, man.  Stephanie and me, we’re gonna impress the fuck out of you.

BAT

Yeah well, that’s just, ya know, like, your opinion, man.

Helena looks at Jason

Let me tell you something, stupido.  You pull any of your crazy shit with us, you flash a Bat-signal up in the sky, I’ll show up on the GCPD rooftop, talk to Gordon and track down the criminal lickety-split.

BAT

Huntress.

HELENA

You said it, man.  Nobody fucks with the Huntress.

Huntress fires her grapple line and swings away.  Jason nods sadly.

JASON

Extreme measures, Bat.

BAT’S LAIR

We are looking up at the Bat who is hanging upside down from the ceiling in front of the giant penny. His eyes are closed.  We wears his cowl.  Leaking tinnily through the pointy ears we can just hear an intermittent clatter.

In his hands, clasped over his chest, he holds a leather notebook labeled BLACK CASEBOOK.

The Bat absently licks his lips as we faintly hear the blast of an ice gun.  The impact produces a cracking sound, and the Bat opens his eyes.

He screams.

A black-haired woman stands eye to eye with him.  Next to her a punchy older man winds back and throws a wallop at the Bat.

The punch catches the Bat on the chin and sends his head thunking back against the giant penny.

A million bats explode against a field of white.  We hear the “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na” of the Batman theme.

The white field dissolves into an image of the giant penny.  The giant penny falls away to reveal an aerial view of the city of Gotham at night, moving below us at great speed.

The Bat is flying over the city, his arms thrown out to the sides to steer his glider cape.

Ahead the mysterious black-haired woman wings away, riding on the Bat’s giant penny like a New God on an aero-disc.  She is outpacing us, growing smaller.

The Bat does a couple of dives and then notices that a letter has materialized in his hand.  His surprise turns to concern over the words written by his father Thomas Wayne just as the letter seems to suddenly assume it’s emotional weight, abruptly snapping his arm down, and him after it.  He is falling.  From a high angle we see the Bat hurtling down toward the city, dragged by the alternate timeline letter.

A reverse looking up shows the Bat hurtling toward us out of the inky sky, his eyes wide with terror. Led by the letter, he zooms past the camera leaving us in black.

We hear a distant