I'm often asked about my work in TV animation and I thought it would be fun to pull the curtain back a little and shine a light on the process; a process that always starts with a discussion of the story: sitting down or (since I'm usually three thousand miles away from most of the studios) getting on the phone with staffers to dissect the episode. That could mean a two hour call, bouncing ideas back and forth, shaping the basics of the tale, or it could mean starting with specific notes from the producers, explaining what they want to accomplish with the story, laying out the basic beats of the episode—which I'm then expected to flesh out into a very detailed outline.
The outline is the bedrock of the process and, in many ways, the most difficult part. It's where you fall through every hole in your story, bump into every flaw. Once you've got a solid outline in hand, writing the actual script is generally—for me, anyway—a relaxed, and enjoyable, experience. But outlines are where I sometimes tear out what little hair I have left.
What you'll find below—warts and all, I didn't comb it for typos or spelling glitches—is an outline I wrote, a few years back, for the late, lamented Legion of Super Heroes animated series, a first-rate show run by two first rate writer-producers: James Tucker and Michael Jelenic. As I recall, Michael gave me the basics of what they were looking for in the story, then I went off, banged my head against the wall for a few days, and wrote the outline. Give it a read and see what you think.
If you enjoy this let me know and, next week, I'll post the teleplay—if I can find a way to upload it with all the formatting intact. (Oh, and let's not forget that what you're about to read is ©copyright 2014 Warner Bros/DC Entertainment.)
LEGION OF SUPER HEROES
Note: This episode is narrated, in FIRST PERSON VO, by Timber Wolf.
We’re on the planet HEISENBERG-7, at a conference of some of the top scientific minds in the galaxy. (Dozens of SECURITY GUARDS, in full Kirbyesque regalia, around the room.) On a stage, expounding on his success with genetic manipulation, is DR. MAR LONDO. Londo’s presence has the crowd in an uproar, many demanding that he be denied the right to speak. (As this goes on, we see a CLOAKED, HOODED FIGURE push his way through the mob.) Others demand that Londo be allowed to have his say. “The great scientific discoveries,” one ALIEN SCIENTIST says, “have not come from the conformists, they’ve come from the radicals, the renegades. Without men like Dr. Londo, we’d all still be living in the Dark Ages.” Londo says that he’d like to share some of his work with the gathering. “A little something I threw together from...spare parts.”
A screen slides up revealing a half-dozen creatures—all, Lando proudly explains, created from unliving synthetic tissue that he has developed—each one more hideous than the next: their bodies, as Londo suggested, seemingly cobbled together from dozens of random parts. Dr. Londo slips a metallic headband around his head, explaining that these BIOGOLEMS, as he calls them, have been implanted with a new generation of nanites, keyed to his own brain waves. This allows Londo to control the creatures completely (via the headband) with thought alone—“making them living extensions of my own mind, my own will.” A single thought—the headband glows eerily—and the Biogolems stagger forward, terrifying the crowd. Another thought and they stop, frozen in their tracks. Most of the scientists are horrified, disgusted, by what they see. Londo takes in their horror with great satisfaction.
The cloaked, hooded figure calls out from the floor. These Biogolems may be synthetic beings, he says, but he knows that Lando often works with living subjects. “But you don’t talk about them, do you, Doctor? The men and women with homes, families, lives—that you destroyed.” Londo coldly explains that “all of my subjects were volunteers—whose families were richly rewarded for their involvement in my experiments.”
“In other words,” the figure says, “they were poor, desperate...and you used them—the way you use everyone...” He throws off his cloak, revealing himself to be TIMBER WOLF: hunched forward, claws at the ready. A hungry, savage gleam in his eyes. “...including your own son.” He advances on the stage. The Security Guards scramble—each one carries the weaponry of a small army—but Timber Wolf is like a force of nature, easily defeating them.
TW makes an astonishing leap above the crowd, landing on the stage before his father. With each step, Timber Wolf seems to morph, becoming wilder, more animalistic. Dr. Londo backs away, mentally ordering his Biogolems to attack. They do: charging Timber Wolf...pounding at him, tearing at him...but, again, TW is triumphant. He hunkers down, lets fly a bestial HOWL, then slowly advances on Dr. Londo. “You don’t want to do this, Brin,” Londo pleads. “I...I’m your father. You don’t want to—” Timber Wolf roars—and leaps, straight and sure, for Dr. Londo.
VERY CLOSE on DOCTOR LONDO: SCREAMING. “Freeze image,” a VOICE says—and Londo halts, in mid-scream. We PULL BACK to reveal that we’re in the Command Center of the Legion’s Mobile Headquarters. (Everything we’ve just seen has been playing out on a large holo-screen suspended from the ceiling.) The room has become a makeshift courtroom for a Legion Tribunal: Timber Wolf stands, in hi-tech shackles, under a harsh spotlight, CHAMELEON BOY by his side—acting as defense attorney. COSMIC BOY, FUTURE SUPERMAN, COLOSSAL BOY, and SUN BOY stand behind a tall, intimidating podium. Other Legionnaires are gathered as witnesses to the proceedings (some present in the room, others watching on viewscreens), PHANTOM GIRL prominent among them. “All the evidence has been presented,” a grim Cosmic Boy says. “Brin Londo, you have repeatedly refused to help Chameleon Boy mount a proper defense. Do you have anything to say before this Tribunal pronounces its verdict?”
Timber Wolf doesn’t seem upset in the least. He just smiles a cold, harsh smile. “Bring it on,” he growls.
“It is the judgment of this court,” Cosmic Boy says, “that you are guilty as charged and that you be imprisoned on Riker’s Maximum Security Planet...” He slams down his gavel. “...for the rest of your life.”
Picking up exactly where we left off in the TEASER—as Chameleon Boy approaches Cosmic Boy and the other judges. “You can’t do this!” he demands. “You know this was a set-up! Londo must have genetically-altered someone to look like Brin and—” Cosmic Boy cuts him off, saying that they’ve gone over the evidence a dozen times. They have DNA samples from the scene, more than a hundred reliable witnesses, holographic records of the crime. Incontrovertible proof that Timber Wolf is the one responsible. (We periodically CUT to Phantom Girl, watching all this, extremely agitated.) Chameleon Boy insists that it’s got to be a trick. “Lando’s alive! He’s got to be! I’ll bet he’s sitting somewhere right now, gloating and—” Cosmic Boy, losing patience pounds the gavel and says, “The court has rendered its verdict. The prisoner will be transferred to Riker’s Planet at precisely—”
“The prisoner,” Timber Wolf says, straining against his bonds and shattering them, “has other plans.” He bolts for the exit, smashing through the door. An ALARM sounds. Total chaos as dozens of Legionnaires swarm across the HQ in pursuit of TW—
—who single-handedly takes on this army of super-heroes. There’s a moment when Cosmic Boy almost has TW—but Timber Wolf suddenly becomes insubstantial, slipping away from him. (CB shoots an angry glare at Phantom Girl, who tries—and fails—to look innocent.) Future Superman finally spots Timber Wolf, grabs him—and lets loose with a powerful blow that sends TW flying through the air and smashing into—and partially through—a wall: he falls to the floor, unconscious.
The others gather around TW...only to watch in astonishment as he morphs...into Chameleon Boy. Cham’s eyes open, he looks up at an extremely angry Cosmic Boy who says, “Do you know what you’ve done?” “Yeah,” Cham replies, “I’ve given him a chance. Which is more than you were willing to do.” He tries to stand, wobbles, starts to fall: Phantom Girl catches him. CUT TO:
New Metropolis. Night. Rain and thunder. Timber Wolf on the run, leaping from roof to roof, deep in VO THOUGHT. He knows he’s been framed—that his father has somehow staged this assassination—but he’s got to prove it. Far from being shaken by everything that’s happened, he’s exhilarated. Being in the Legion sometimes feels like being in a cage. Now, at least, he’s free...to be himself, without their rules and regs. Yet for all his exhilaration, there’s also doubt. He’s been having headaches, lately (in fact, he’s got a fierce one right now). Blackouts. There’s a gap in his memory: nearly a day that he can’t account for.
He enters a futuristic slum: tenements and sleazy bars. These headaches and blackouts, he says in VO, worry him. Ever since his father turned him into a walking nightmare, he’s lived with the fear of losing control. Of completely giving in to his animal side. What if that’s what’s happening when his mind goes dark? “What if I really did it?” He approaches a bar called THE DARK SIDE, peers through the front window: a sea of human and alien criminals within. Cruel and dangerous
TW climbs the side of the building, moving up toward an apartment above the bar. “No,” he thinks, “that’s not who I am.” He slips in through the window, drops down quietly into a cramped, filthy apartment, filled with books and papers and scientific equipment. “At least...Brin Londo isn’t. But what about Timber Wolf?”
CUT BACK to Legion HQ. “The real Superman,” Phantom Girl snaps at Future Supes, “would never have attacked his friend.“ “Oh, really?” FS replies, “And would the ‘real’ Superman have helped a convicted criminal escape the way you just did?” “I hope so,” she says, then adds that she’s taking the injured Cham to his quarters. He needs to rest.
“We’ll deal with those two later,” Cosmic Boy says, rushing to a computer panel in the wall. In several keystrokes he determines that TW has teleported down to Earth. Future Superman: “With his abilities, if Timber Wolf doesn’t want to be found—” “We’ll find him,” the grim Cosmic Boy says. “And we’ll bring him to justice.”
CUT BACK TO TIMBER WOLF. The apartment above the bar, we learn—via TW’S VO—belongs to PROFESSOR NEERGG: a contact Dr. Londo uses to buy black market goods and to find subjects for his experiments. Neergg was once a brilliant scientific scholar...before he got involved with Londo and quickly fell from grace.
Knowing that Neergg is in regular contact with Dr. Londo, TW tears through the Professor’s things, looking for any clue that might shed light on his father’s scheme. Going through the computer, he comes across a series of personal HOLOGRAPHIC FILES of Dr. Lando’s—stopping when he comes to one labeled BRIN. We see Lando’s face appear as he talks about the experiment that transformed his son into a human-animal hybrid. Lando’s concern is that Brin went off with the Legion before the work was completed. Had TW stayed with his father, Dr. Londo claims he would have helped Brin find a balance between his human and bestial selves. “He would have emerged as a new, superior species. But now, without my help, I know it’s only a matter of time before the beast within him takes control. And Heaven help us all when that happens.” Timber Wolf’s fist shatters the computer screen. “No,” he hisses, “it’s not true. It’s not—” And then, sensing something, he freezes a beat then suddenly whirls—
—leaping across the room and smashing a fist through the door, shattering it, grabbing hold of a figure in the hall and yanking it inside. “Hello, Professor,” TW says. Neergg—a corpulent, green-skinned, octopus-like alien with tentacles—stammers: “B-b-brin? Why, Brin...how d-d-delightful to see you. If I’d known you were c-coming I would have—” “Left town?” TW effortlessly hurls Neergg across the room and into a chair.
Timber Wolf indicates the smashed computer. “How did you end up with my father’s personal files?” “When I heard he’d d-died, I h-hacked into his database. D-d-downloaded them. There’s quite of bit of i-i-incriminating information in there...a man has to p-protect himself, you know.” “No one could just hack into my father’s files...unless he wanted them to.” “W-wanted?” TR, agitated, feverish: “He knew I’d come here...knew I’d find them. He’s playing games with me.” “A trifle p-p-paranoid, aren’t we?” Neergg says, starting to get up. Timber Wolf pounces on the Professor, places a claw against his neck, snarling: “I need a ship. One that can’t be traced. And you’re just the man to get it for me.” “Wh-why?” “If I can get to Heisenberg-7...study the crime scene. With my enhanced senses, I’ll be able to find things the police missed, I’ll—”
Neergg—peering over TW’s shoulder—suddenly looks twice as terrified. Timber Wolf’s eyes ice over: “They’re here, aren’t they?” ANGLE ADJUSTS to reveal Cosmic Boy and Future Superman standing behind TW. “We don’t want to hurt you,” Cosmic Boy says.
TW’s head starts to pound mercilessly (we HEAR it as a DRUMLIKE BEATING). His voice and body language become more animalistic. “Well I want to hurt you!” He leaps—high into the air, kicking Cosmic Boy in the face and sending him flying. Future Superman moves quickly, pounding TW right through the floor—
—and into the bar below. All the goons stop dead as Future Superman and Cosmic Boy fly down into the room. Colossal Boy and Sun Boy rush in through the front door. “You’re going to prison,” Future Superman tells TW, “where you belong.”
Timber Wolf grins. “Hear that?” he says, turning to the goons. “You’re not gonna let these super-cops take down one of your own, are you?”
The Legionnaires suddenly find themselves surrounded by dozens of human and alien thugs, brandishing everything from broken bottles to formidable Kirbyesque weapons. Future Superman, Colossal Boy and Sun Boy take on the thugs—
—while Cosmic Boy and Timber Wolf go at it, one-on-one...a terrific struggle that, at first, seems to tip in Cosmic Boy’s favor. But as the pounding in Timber Wolf’s head increases, he becomes more and more savage. After Cosmic Boy lands a magnetic blow that sends him crashing through a wall, Timber Wolf rises up from the wreckage, eyes wild...body seeming to grow wider, taller, more inhuman...and he launches himself at Cosmic Boy. For all his power, CB can’t stop Timber Wolf—who slams his team-mate mercilessly, battering him into semiconsciousness. Just as Future Superman and the others finish off the last of the goons—
—Timber Wolf makes a spectacular leap through a nearby window, into the thunder and rain. IN THE ALLEY OUTSIDE—Neergg is waiting. “Th-this way!” he whispers. TW rushes to him, Neergg pushes a button on his belt, and the two of them teleport away—just as the Legionnaires come smashing out of the bar through the wall.
END ACT ONE
A battered, ramshackle old ship sails through space. INSIDE we find Professor Neergg and Timber Wolf, Neergg devouring some revolting, foul-smelling alien food; TW, head pounding, paces back and forth across the cabin. “P-perhaps,” Neergg says, shoving the food toward Timber Wolf, “s-some nourishment will help?” TW snarls and swats the food away. “Or not,” Neergg says. Timber Wolf stops a beat—suddenly alert, aware. “Wh-what’s the matter?” “You can stop now,” TW says. “I d-d-don’t understand what you—”
Timber Wolf leaps across the cabin, hoists Neergg in the air with one hand. “I said you can stop now...Chameleon Boy.” And Professor Neerg’s form changes...revealing that it is indeed Cham. “It was Neergg in the apartment...but you in the alley. With all the confusion, I wasn’t focused...but here, now...with just the two of us—” “You’re good,” Cham says. “I don’t just change my form, I alter my body chemistry. You’re probably the only person alive who could tell that it was me.” “Was this little trick Cosmic Boy’s idea?” “Mr. Pompous? Are you kidding?” Cham says he wasn’t as badly hurt as he led the others to believe. A little shape-shifting and it was easy to tail the other Legionnaires to Neergg’s place. “Why?” TW asks. “Because I’m your friend, you idiot—that’s why.” “I don’t have any friends,” TW says. “Melodrama and self pity,” a voice-from-nowhere observes. “A toxic combination.” Phantom Girl shimmers into reality.
“I don’t want any help from either of you,” TW says. “You didn’t complain,” PG says, “when we saved your butt back at HQ.” “I didn’t need you two to get out there,” Timber Wolf says. “I could have done it—and done it better—without you.” “Modest, isn’t he?” Cham says to PG. Phantom Girl puts a hand on TW’s shoulder. “Face it, Brin...you’re stuck with us.” He glares down at her hand, growls, and she yanks it back. “You come as far as Heisenberg-7,” he says, “and then we part company.” “You’re welcome,” Phantom Girl says as TW pads across the cabin, hunkering down in the corner. His headache is getting worse: the DRUMBEAT pounding, pounding, pounding. And (TW says in VO) with each drumbeat it’s as if something is rising up from the deeps of his soul: something dark and angry and hungry. A part of himself he’s always kept in check. A part of himself he’s starting to like. Cham and PG share a concerned look and we CUT TO:
Heisenberg-7. The conference center from our TEASER. POLICE mill around outside the main hall...as a tall INTIMIDATING MAN demands admittance. “No one,” a POLICEMAN tells him, “is allowed in without—” Intimidating Man flashes his I.D. “Sorry, Commissioner,” the cop says, embarrassed, “I didn’t realize it was you.”
The Commissioner enters the otherwise empty hall, closing the door behind him. “Neither did I,” he chuckles...before turning back into Chameleon Boy. Phantom Girl comes wafting down through the ceiling and Timber Wolf slips in through an air vent.
“Now what?” Cham asks. “Now I do,” TW says (his head still pounding), “what I do best.” We HEAR the rising, frenetic DRUMBEAT as, in VO, Timber Wolf tells us how he’s sorting through every scent in the room...every trace of every person that was here that day. THROUGH HIS EYES we see TW begin to visualize the events of that day...GHOSTLY, MIST-LIKE FIGURES forming in his field of vision. WE HEAR, OVER THE DRUMBEAT, the sound of ECHOING VOICES: the scientists...Dr. Lando...and Timber Wolf himself on that fateful day.
TW leaps onto the stage...watches as the attack plays out again, in GHOSTLY SLOW MOTION. And then, suddenly, he swipes the air with his claws...the ghostly figures evaporating. TW throws his hands to his head. “No!” he roars. Cham and Phantom Girl rush over. “What is it?”
The DRUMMING in TW’s head reaches a fever pitch now. “The scent...of the attacker,” he says, is voice an inhuman, animalistic growl. “It’s...my scent. My scent. I was here that day. I remember now.” Timber Wolf’s body grows, morphs—into something far more savage and inhuman than we’ve ever seen before: “It was me!” he rages. “I did it!”
END ACT TWO
This new, primal and monstrous, Timber Wolf hunches there in the hall, growling, watching the two Legionnaires with hungry eyes. He inches toward them, drool dripping from his slavering jaws. CB and PG freeze in their tracks. “I think,” Phantom Girl says, “the change is related to his emotional state. If we can just calm him down...” Timber Wolf leaps, roaring, straight at them. “Well, that should be easy,” Cham says sarcastically, as he transforms into an insect to dodge the beast. “Oh, I’ll do it,” PG sighs.
Phantom Girl goes intangible, floats in the air above Timber Wolf. “This isn’t who you are, Brin.” TW leaps at her...through her. Frustrated that he can’t get at her. “I know you. You’re a good and gentle person. You’re no monster.” The beast leaps again, his claws whipping through PG’s intangible form. Then PG takes a big risk. She becomes corporeal again. Standing before TW, totally vulnerable. “You’re no monster,” she repeats. TW growls, raises a clawed hand...then stops. We can see him struggling against the bestial urges. His body reverts to something between this monstrous shape and his normal form. “I don’t know what I am,” he growls. his hand going to his head, which is pounding, aching. “We’ll help you find out,” Cham says as he and PG approach Timber Wolf. He looks up at them, with real vulnerability in his eyes. It looks like they’ve reached him. But just then—
—the police rush in. “Commissioner, we thought we heard—” And they stop dead when they see TW and the Legionnaires. “That’s him!” a POLICEWOMAN shouts. “The fugitive!” As the police rush them, weapons drawn, Timber Wolf bounds through the crowd, swatting officers aside and effortlessly escaping. Cham and PG, on the other hand, find themselves surrounded...and under arrest. “You can’t arrest me,” PG huffs. “My mother is the President of the United Planets.” “Tell it to the judge,” the policewoman says. “I don’t have time for this,” PG says, going intangible and slipping through the floor. “Excuse me,” Cham calls after her, “didn’t you forget somebody?” PG shoots back up through the floor and, before the police can react, grabs Chameleon Boy, turning him intangible and yanking him out of there.
OUTSIDE—Phantom Girl and Cham emerge to see their ship rocketing up from the surface. Jumping into hyper-space. TW’s gone. She hits her com-link. “I’m calling Cosmic Boy.” “Oy, is he gonna yell,” Cham says.
INSIDE the ship, Timber Wolf at the controls. In VO he says that he’s everything they said he was. Everything he’s been afraid of since his father transformed him. He doesn’t belong among people. There’s only one place for him now. He’s going home.
CUT OUTSIDE—as the ship emerges from hyper-space, heads down toward the planet Raal. TW comes leaping out of the ship, racing into the jungle, into the night...toward his father’s compound. This is where I belong, he thinks. And this is where I’m going to stay. CUT TO:
EXT. SHOT of Dr. Londo’s compound. Silen—except for the the sounds echoing from the surrounding jungle. Then we’re—
—INSIDE: Timber Wolf walks through the lab. It’s like a tomb. Dark, dust-covered. Moonlight filtering in through the windows, creating an eerie, chiaroscuro effect. With every step through the shadows, his head pounds; he feels that beast inside him trying to claw its way out. That darkness inside him is rising...threatening to engulf him. Take him over, once and for all. Then he catches a scent, something that startles and surprises him. He comes to a sealed door—a COMPUTER VOICE asks for bio-ident—and smashes through it, entering the inner room—
—where he finds a figure sitting in a chair, welcoming him. At first we can’t see the figure, but then the man steps forward into a shaft of moonlight. Dr. Lando. “Welcome home, son,” Lando says. “So you are alive—” “After a fashion,” Lando says. And then, to TW’s horror—
—Dr. Londo begins to melt...dissolving into a pool of steaming, bubbling ooze. “Quite a lovely piece of work, isn’t it?” another voice says. “A clone...a combination of my DNA, synthetic tissue and nanites. Just like the one I used to fool those idiots in the Science Police.” And then Dr. Londo, the true Dr. Londo, MATERIALIZES in a wave of light. (He’s wearing the headband he was wearing in our TEASER.) “This one has a unique design...made to last for only 36 hours. Quite a mess after that, I’m afraid.” Timber Wolf whirls—both relieved that his father’s alive...and yet ready to tear him apart at the same time. He hunkers down in the center of the lab. “You set me up,” he growls. “Yes and no. You see, my dear boy, you did attack me. The...other me. And rather gruesomely, I must say.” Through the pounding in his head, TW sees the same ghostly visions of the attack that he saw earlier in the conference hall. He knows his father’s right. It was him. “The blackouts, the headaches...all your doing...?” Lando nods. “How?”
Dr. Londo says that TW is, once again, at the forefront of his research. His new generation of nanites, the smallest and most advanced in the history of science, were able to travel, invisibly, from Raal to Earth...implanting themselves in the limbic system of TW’s brain. “The amygdala to be precise. Which governs aggression and fear. I used them—and this...” He indicates the headband. “...to call you to Heisenberg-7. Imposing my will upon yours. Forcing you to attack your beloved father. To show you just how far—you could really go.” “Why?” Timber Wolf roars. “Why would you do that to me? Why would you turn your own son into a criminal?” “Why?” Doctor Lando repeats. “Because I want you back!” This stops TW in his tracks. “I’ve always wanted you back, son. You saw my holofiles,” he continues. “Our work together wasn’t done. I can help you master this power within you...you can be more than you’ve ever dreamed.” “What if I don’t want to be more?” TW asks. “Do you think this...Legion of yours is where you belong?” Lando laughs. ”The Legion is a child’s charade. Did you see how quickly they turned against you? Oh, I suppose they’ve done an adequate job helping you develop your powers...but you’ve grown beyond them now. Beyond their insipid laws and worthless morality. Now it’s time for you to step into your destiny. Together, son...we can do great things.” The headband glows and, in response, a wall of SHIMMERING TELEPORTATION ENERGY erupts across the room—
—and dozens of warriors beam in. All of them with Timber Wolf’s face. “Your DNA is alive in every one of them,” Doctor Lando says. “Which is why you were born to command them.” Lando says that he’s recently allied himself with other like-minded men. (This can tie in to the Imperiex storyline at a later date, if you’re so inclined.) “Radicals and renegades like myself—with a vision of what this galaxy can be. But in order to bring that vision to reality...we need armies.” He looks squarely into his son’s eyes. “And Generals. It’s what I’ve wanted for you...what I’ve planned...all along, son.” “No!” Timber Wolf shouts. “Never!”
Lando concentrates, the headband glows, and the TIMBER WOLF WARRIORS advance on TW—overwhelming him, mercilessly beating him back. How, he wonders, can he stand against super-soldiers created from his own DNA?
“It’s who you are. Who you were meant to be,” Lando says—as the headband glows, brighter and brighter. Timber Wolf HOWLS—clearly in pain. “Don’t resist,” Lando goes on. “Allow the inner beast to have free reign. Show me your true face.” And TW does—his body morphing, becoming the monstrous form we saw on Heisenberg-7—as he attacks his Warrior-clones with a raw, brutal savagery. All trace of the man seems gone: only the animal remains. “Don’t fight it,” Lando says, smiling coldly. “Don’t fight me. I’m all you have. Without me...you’re alone.” And that’s when—
—a magnetic wave sweeps through the Warrior-clones, blasting them back. Cosmic Boy flies in—followed by Future Superman, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Sun Boy. “He’ll never be alone,” Chameleon Boy says, “as long as he has us!” Phantom Girl lands at TW’s side. Timber Wolf turns on her, roaring, raging...but PG goes intangible. “You can do this, Brin! You’re in control, not him! You’re in control!”
We launch into our final, spectacular battle—as the Legionnaires take on the Timber Wolf clones and the real TW struggles to do what Phantom Girl said: fight off his father’s control. Timber Wolf HOWLS in AGONY from the effort. The DRUMBEAT in his head pounding, pounding, pounding. He falls to the floor, nearly overcome by the effort to fight off his father, to fight off the darkness of his own soul. But then:
Doctor Lando staggers back in pain and amazement as the headband begins to smoke...and then EXPLODE. (When it does, the clones all stop fighting. They stand, arms hanging at their sides.) TW then leaps to his feet...restored to his true form—
—springing across the room toward his father. With one angry swipe, he knocks Dr. Lando to the ground. Terrified. (It’s as if we’re replaying the attack we saw in the TEASER.)
“Brin—no!” Phantom Girl shouts, rushing toward TW. Cosmic Boy holds her back. “No. Let him do it.” The others look at CB, stunned: “Let him?”
Timber Wolf yanks Dr, Londo to his feet, slams him against the wall, presses his claws against his father’s neck..
But he can’t do it. Not to his own father. Not to anyone. How is it possible, he muses in VO, that after all he’s done...I still care about him? I still love him? “You’re letting me live?” Doctor Lando asks. Then his expression becomes cruel, mocking. “A pity,” he says...and then he melts into bubbling ooze. Before TW can even react, a viewscreen in the lab erupts into life and another Doctor Londo, the real one (we assume) appears there. “If only you’d actually done it...of your own free will...you would have made me proud. Ah, well,” he goes on, sighing, “I’ve got new sons now, don’t I? And new plans...” The screen goes black...and a wave of teleportation energy sweeps through the lab, carrying the Timber Wolf Clones away. CUT TO:
Later, back at Legion’s HQ. Brainiac Five, having removed the nanites from Timber Wolf, is developing new defenses to insure that this doesn’t happen again...to any of them. Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy and Phantom Girl gather around a somber Timber Wolf. “Hey,” Cham says, “why so grim? It’s a happy ending. You’ve been cleared of all charges.” No answer from TW. “Your father was controlling you,” Phantom Girl insists. Again, no reply from Timber Wolf. “That thing you attacked at the science conference,” Cosmic Boy adds, “wasn’t even human, it—” TW, a look of incredible sorrow on his face, turns to face Cosmic Boy. “But it just as well could have been,” he says—
—walking away from the others...standing alone by the viewport, staring down at the Earth below. In VO he says: “I’ve battled the beast...and I’ve won. But for how long?”
I was thinking about asking you something before saw this post of yours, so permit me to apologize if I seem to be ignoring it.ReplyDelete
When I went to pick up my little pile of comics, including PS, I noticed there were no display copies of new issue 18 on sale. When I asked why, I was told that the store only buys enough to fulfill orders because of the small number of buyers. What isn’t sold, the store has to keep. This immediately struck me as a lousy business policy. How could the casual reader find PS if it wasn’t on the newsstand? Basically, it creates a death spiral for small volume books because, as the occasional reader drops off, no new buyers are around to step in.
I think the majors (at least) need to come up with a better business plan which allows retailers to display low volume books and return them for full credit. I know there used to be a system in which retailers would keep a smaller percent of the cover price for each sold issue, and then return the top 1/3 of the cover for full credit on the whole issue. At least that approach brought in new readers.
What I was thinking about was a system in which a company like DC would send a collection of, say, 2 copies of each low volume book each month to each retailer in a package in exchange for a deposit. When something was sold, the cost would be deducted from the deposit. If unsold, they could be returned and the next issue would be sent the same way. When the deposit amount dropped down to a low threshold, the dealer would be expected to replenish the deposit. If the publisher wanted the actual books back, instead of just 1/3 of the cover, they could be donated to charity or sold at bulk volume discount to close to the actual printing cost. That should recoup most of the program’s cost.
Anyway, is there anything being done to improve the ability of retailers to sell small volume books besides publicity? I did my bit, by the way, by giving the dealer $6 for 3 advance display copies of issue 19 on condition he sell them for $1 each to new potential readers. My approach obviously isn’t viable (or particularly rational) as a business model, but something is really needed. Rick
You're a kind and generous man, Rick. Thanks so much for your support of the book.Delete
That said, I'm not privy to the behind-the-scenes thinking when it comes to Marvel and DC selling strategies. I've got enough on my plate trying to craft the stories! Maybe you should be working for them.
The idea that some shops don't even display the books is...well, let's be kind and say it's annoying. How in the world can you attract new readers if they can't stumble upon a series? Ridiculous!
It's more than annoying. It's counterproductive. Any publication has fixed costs, like the cost to pay writers and artists, and variable costs, like extra paper to print the publication. The higher the sold print run, the lower the cost per unit because the fixed costs are spread out between more sold copies. By extension, if a comic makes a small profit at a 20,000 print run due to high unit costs, it makes a big one with a 40,000 print run. Furthermore, it's also a lot harder to make an audience than to grow an existing one because you already have a core of readers (look at how many Batman books there are, for example, where there is always a core readership). That means publishers ought to go out of their way to grow small books. This sales policy works exactly the opposite for small books (although it's okay for bigger books where display copies will be seen).Delete
Perhaps if you get the chance you might suggest something that helps everyone (including readers like me who want books to survive). I hear there is a retailer meeting at DC in May. Rick (And no, I have no connections. My comic dealer shared this with me because I was "annoyed" and he got a kick out of my personal promotional effort).
By the way, if you're trying to craft stories and want some more team-up ideas, how about PS and the Joker? Can PS find a spark of decency in him; can even the Joker find the light? I'd also like to see PS and Bat-mite: a character who has to find his own self-worth to stand on his own.Delete
I've never been invited to, or attended, a retailer meeting, so, sadly, I'm not the guy for the job. But, again, I appreciate your thoughts and your support, Rick.Delete
Re: the Joker. I did a Batman story years ago called "Going Sane" —maybe the best super hero story I've ever done—that explored the "spark of decency" at the Joker's core. I followed it up, some years later, with a Justice League story (featuring the Hal Jordan Spectre) that revealed the light that still existed within the dark mind of a madman. So great minds think alike, I guess.Delete
By "great minds" I mean mine and yours, not yours and the Joker's! : )Delete
I kinda figured. :)Delete
By the way, do you realize that Bat-Mite may be the most dangerous character in the DC Universe? Basically, he's a big kid with the power to turn the earth into an over-sized gardenia bush. Do you know what happens when you neglect a good kid? He can become a bad kid, or at least, a kid whose behavior demands attention. See my point?
I think the big push for books with smaller runs will come from the digital side of things, where once a comic is uploaded into the 'cloud,' there's no additional costs (aside, of course, from the overall cost of maintaining said cloud).ReplyDelete
These are the proverbial best and worst of times for comic fans. The films have increased the cultural currency of popular characters, reaching a wider audience than ever before, but that hasn't exactly translated into booming sales for the comics themselves. And the digital market has the potential to be the modern dime spinner rack, though it hasn't quite blown up yet. But look for that to happen soon, especially now that Amazon owns comixology.
Very interested to see what comes from this Amazon-Comixology connection, David. If anyone has the reach to get digital comics to the widest possible audience, it's Amazon.Delete
Agreed. Lots of exciting opportunities for both mainstream comics and creators looking to tell stories outside corporate constraints. (Books like Phantom Stranger, Larfleeze and JL3K occupy a strange and wonderful middle ground: close enough to the DCU proper to get cameos from Superman, Batman, etc, but far enough on the periphery to do their own thing. I love that approach.)Delete
As far as LEGION OF SUPERHEROES goes, it is very much lamented. Not sure why it fell through, but things were getting good when they pulled the plug.
Yes, things WERE getting good. I contributed to the two-part season finale that would have set things up for the next year. But, sadly, there wasn't one.Delete
Rick here. I think digital is more limited than some people think. Permit me to offer a small anecdote. I publish a newsletter for my clients and others (a 5,000 print run), and have put it out in print for about a dozen years. With all the hoopla about digital, I decided to give it a try. Before I did, I asked a client of mine what he thought. He said he didn't like the idea. When I asked him why, he said he couldn't read it "in the can." (Would you really bring a tablet to the can?)
Nevertheless, I did try. While my readership ran 50% higher than for average lawyer newsletters (ESP's accumulate statistics on things like open rates and click-throughs), I did not get nearly the feedback I did with print. So, I'm going back to print (just like Newsweek just did). The costs are higher, but so is the return.
Comic book readers don't just read. They save and collect. A digital image just isn't collectible.
Good points, Rick BUT we're in an age where a new generation of readers is growing up digital and, to them, it's just not going to matter. I think there will always be a market for comics as collectables, but, given the world we live in, I suspect that, in the next decade, digital will continue to sweep print away.Delete
I'm sure David has some thoughts on this!
Hey, Rick, how's it going? Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, as I just read your comment!Delete
I agree with JMD that digital will continue to grow in the next decade. And that doesn't mean print will go away, but digital will eventually surpass print as the primary vehicle for comics. Digital comics will have the same kind of 'disposability' that floppies did in the 60s and 70s, except you don't have to give them up to make room for more.
I also think that collectability has become something of a prison for collectors, with many not getting the joy they once did out of it, and acting more from compulsion than anything. I know I HATE to get rid of a comic, but I can't store them all. So digital offers the advantage that I can buy and read once or a thousand times, but I never have to worry that it isn't there.
And if I really like a comic, I like to have it in both print and digital form. I love oversized hardcovers, and that's an experience digital will never mimic. But it's nice to have the option!
Also, I watched a short clip of TEEN TITANS GO! with the kids on youtube, and we all LOVED it.Delete
Great! Hope you and the kids get to see the actual show one of these days, David!Delete
Reading this, I'm reminded how much I loved LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. My son, who was only four or five at the time, still has very fond memories of the show and has asked about it from time to time. (Last I checked, only the first season is on DVD, and it's the second where things got REALLY good.) At any rate, when you factor in their excellent work on BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD, Jelenic and Tucker have been quite the formative influence in my young son's life.ReplyDelete
Yeah, the second season really took off.Delete
Does you son watch TEEN TITANS GO? Jelenic is the producer on that and it's certainly a kid-friendly (and very funny) show.
We haven't really watched TEEN TITANS GO yet. We don't have CARTOON NETWORK, so a lot of BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD we watched on DVD or at my in-laws' house. But it's on our list!ReplyDelete
Maybe it'll migrate to Netflix soon. I think you'll both enjoy it.Delete
Well, I bet Mr. Mxyzpytlk (wonder if I spelled that right?) could give him a run for his money!Delete