JD Moores' Fan Fiction DC ALTERNATES


For years, I avoided dabbling in fan fiction, aware of the legalities and too prideful to veer from what I thought was the wholly original. Then, I realized that while so much of a working Hollywood screenwriter's job nowadays seems to be adapting, reinventing, or following-up somebody else's creation, the ability to tell a good story in another writer's sandbox could be an asset if I could get feedback on my efforts. To some extent, I believe my own rationalization as I playfully concoct original stories for characters I love, aware that in a time before copyrights, generations of artists, musicians, and writers told versions of the same stories with the same classic and culturally embedded characters over and over again.

For now, I divide my exploits between the worlds of DC Comics superheroes and Gene Roddenberry's STAR TREK... or, more specifically, my idea of a fitting conclusion for JJ Abrams' film series reinventing Roddenberry's original characters. As I work, I wish to not only learn how to respectfully tell stories with other people's creations, but also the underlying reasons I have been so disappointed by more recent versions of the properties I love. Currently, I am working on scripts for Superman and Batman that reflect and privately correct what has bothered me and countless others about DC's beleaguered and perhaps short-lived cinematic universe of films. They're the first two in a would-be line of stories dubbed DC ALTERNATES, which embraces a smaller scale and a finite timeline. It serves as a spin-off of the DCEU rather than a replacement, with virtually every story's shared catalyst being two major human villains' decision that they cannot withstand the DCEU's Justice League, so they've used a piece of alien technology to form and cross an inter-dimensional breach onto another Earth with slightly different, younger, and as yet unaffiliated versions of the same superheroes.

The first is SUPERMAN WORLDS' FINEST, which - like the similarly titled comic book series - has moments shared by both Superman and Batman, but is foremost a Superman story. Weeks after his intervention in a high-speed chase ends in a getaway car exploding with former reporter-turned-robber John Corben inside, the alternate Earth's Superman and alter ego Clark Kent are investigating the disappearances of Metropolis dock workers with Lois Lane when Corben reemerges as a Kryptonite-powered cyborg barely able to remember his name or his reasons for targeting the Man of Steel. Corben's situation seems connected to the disappearances and to LexCorp, but CEO Lex Luthor voluntarily points Superman in the direction of Kasnia, where a long-time business rival is rumored to have teamed with a mad scientist to create an army of monstrous, yet obedient super soldiers. Meanwhile, a one-time acquaintance from Smallville named Rudy Jones becomes the newest victim-turned-monster, reminding Clark of his youth and his intergalactic internship with the evasive and battle-hardened Orion, who trains and educates him in his heritage and powers in exchange for help recruiting a small army of alien soldiers to fight Orion's despotic biological father.

LEGACY OF THE BATMAN moves the focus to Gotham City, where Batman's alter ego Bruce Wayne is visiting the set of a horror movie remake at the studios he helped renovate when a young couple, two former circus trapeze artists turned stunt people, is killed on set by the original film's washed-up lead actor turned bitter hit-man Basil Karlo. Disfigured in an accident, Karlo's dependency upon a dangerous and abandoned face sculpting product from Wayne Enterprises not only makes him hard to find, but puts Bruce and his company in the cross-hairs of Karlo's vendetta. Batman must now split his time between investigating the new crime syndicate supposedly controlling Karlo - headed-up by a man known only as "The Conductor" - and finding the couple's preteen son Dick Grayson after the boy escapes protective custody to find his parents' killer. Little does this Batman know that his seductive criminal informant Catwoman is heiress Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne's would-be fiance.

Now in her late twenties, Selina grew up going from one foster home to another while being told that her mother was a drunk. Recently, she was called to the death bed of a high-ranking intelligence officer claiming to be Selina's mother and coming clean about why Selina was given up. Now the heir to a small fortune, she's dating Bruce Wayne and trying to fit into same high society she robs in the guise of Catwoman, essentially punishing the society that tormented her as a girl.

While writing these fan scripts, I've come to the realization that while classic superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and others are universally recognized characters whose stories can reflect our times and deal with a wide range of issues, one of the biggest mistakes made by a number of recent superhero movies, in particular, has been the attempt to bring these characters into our specific world and our specific times. The truth is that no matter how similar to ours, a big part of the appeal of these characters is that they more or less inhabit their own unique worlds - or, at most, their own unique versions of our world. These are often worlds that are the way they are so that the existence, actions, and success of these heroes can make the most sense.

Though one is from DC and the other from Marvel, Superman and Captain America are joined at the hip in that they were created in response and in service to their times, placed in fictional cities or versions of our real Earth in which circumstances align to make them seem as necessary and heroic as possible. Superman was created by two Jewish teenagers in a time when people were eager to trust in powers greater than themselves and to see basic ideas of justice prevail, whether it was defending the American worker from the pitfalls of urban living and industrialization gone awry, or resisting some mad man's tyrannical efforts overseas in solidarity with American allies and pursuit of world peace.

In Zack Snyder's BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, a young Lex Luthor remarks that power cannot be innocent. For all of that movie's alleged problems, this one line is evidence that Henry Cavill's Superman is trying to exist and operate in the literal world of today, and as such, is almost incapable of being or seeming truly heroic. Whether it's trying to drain the swamps of legislative power or identify victims of intolerance and inequality by which groups lack control, most of today's world sees power and authority as an affront to popular social ideals of the day. Superman was created and exists in a world that embraces classic ideas of individual heroism, benevolent power, and justice for all. In today's real world, heroism is a relative term, dependent upon who is rescuing who and in what way. Power is regarded as a social commodity for the masses and a weapon for the individual. And finally, justice for all is neither possible nor desired as equality is traded for the satisfaction of seeing a group of people, allegedly guilty of social crimes, experience hardship similar to that which their kind caused for others.

My Pencil-Drawn/Digitally-Painted Costume Concepts

Fiction is often most successful dealing with real world issues while allowing their characters and settings to be as fantastically different as possible. Therefore, my Superman lives in a world with modern technology, yet a blend of aesthetic fashion and social ideas drawn specifically from America of the 1950's and 1970's. Superman is arguably the only superhero whose popularity never truly wavered in the Eisenhower years, when his family of humans, aliens, allies and adversaries consistently grew. Two decades later, the social turbulence that had threatened his relevance in the sixties was silently creating the pent-up desire for Superman's return to form, which was unleashed by Richard Donner's SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE in 1978.

Meanwhile, my Batman is the world class detective pulled straight from the middle and late forties. At the heart of his quest for justice is a darkness he tries to control by limiting his physical fighting and wearing a cape and cowl in the same shade of blue as the law enforcement he tries to work with... at least at first. He's also realizing that he can't do it alone forever and sees in young Grayson a kindred spirit that could be a potential ally... but only with training, of course.

As respect for the medium of cinema and its capabilities has grown, a misguided and narrow-minded elitism has emerged equating exacting realism with storytelling quality and effectiveness. I believe the truth is that if superhero and other such tales were meant to reflect the real world with total accuracy, characters with superhuman strength and beams that shot from their eyes wouldn't exist on paper or on the silver screen. It is often through distance that humans get clarity. You don't approach a painting or large monument with great significance and stand close enough to see every crevice and imperfection. You stand far enough away to take in only what you need without too many details distracting you from the totality and its meaning. Instead of trying to force Superman and other such heroes to live in the world right outside our doors, we should let them be who they are, where they are, as we find truth and relevance in the bigger picture.