Each year, Rolling Stone Magazine does a survey to find the best unsigned bands in the country, and many of these bands go on to major record contracts. I'm hoping for similar success for my special guest this week, Brendan "Nightwing" Hockenberry, undoubtedly one of the finest fan writers out there.
I first became aware of Brendan's dark visionary take on traditional superheroes through a conversation with his girlfriend Fern, who was raving about this young man's talent in a Birds of Prey chat room. It's my special honor to present a sample of his work here in my column, so that you too may experience the razor-sharp insight he has into the Batman family. Let's hope that this is the LAST "fan" fiction this gifted junior college student has to write. Those who hate fanfic are in for a real treat!
And now, I give it over to Brendan.
NOTE TO DC COMICS:
Dear fellow creators.
I write this story not for money or "fame". I write this story becauseI believe in the Batman. And I believe in the man "INSIDE" the Batman. You see, I write because, as writers must, I feel I have something to share with "pros" and "fans" alike. I write Batman because I believe in him. Maybe YOU did, too...Once upon a time.
Maybe you look at this story as just the work of a "fan." Or maybe, just maybe, you're willing to look beyond that and just enjoy my vision. You may not like my "take" on Batman, but you can't ignore it. If you're reading this, and you like what you see, well, then, you know how to find me. If you see a glimmer of truth in my words--if you see a ray of hope for the Batman in my ideas...maybe it's not too late.
For EITHER of us.
Thank you for listening.
NOTE TO READERS:
It is for you, ultimately, that I set these words down on paper. Not for the "suits" or for the toy manufacturers or for Joel Schumacher. For you, the "fan." I dedicate this story to you, since it's YOUR opinion that ultimately matters most. Even if I "make it" and become one of those names you see in the credit box...I promise you this: I won't sell out. I'll tell the kind of tough stories you're about to read here. This I vow. I feel I "owe" it to you.
For you see, I'm just like you.
I'm a "comics" "fan."
ACT ONE: A NEW HOPE
"The world is now a darker place.
"The old heroes will no longer do."
These were the bleak thoughts that swirled like ashensnow behind the stern, stencilled-on eyebrows andarched white eyes of The Batman as he stood upon the high rooftop surveying the angry, hellish streetsof Gotham City, the very city he so long ago swore anoath over his slain parents' dead interred bodies toprotect, his cape billowing and ears erect (LOL!)against a really large full moon.
"The world needs... new heroes," concluded the moredynamic half of the Dynamic Duo. "Yes, new heroesindeed."
But what would Clark say about this? Or Diana? OrKyle? Or Wally? Or J'Onn? Or Arthur? Or Eel? Howwould they react?
It wouldn't matter, thought The Dark Knight. Theywould not get the chance to react.
The Batman wouldn't give it to them.
Blood dripped/seeped slowly from the flesh wound onThe Batman's skull as he dangled his athletic frameone-handed from a gargoyle on the corner of the roof of the Museum of Gemstones. "Ignore the pain", hethought grimly to himself, and wished, not for thefirst time, that his parents were alive to see hisdedication. He wished the way he did everything. Hard.He wished really hard.
A "gangsta" named "Paco" had gotten off a lucky shot. Instinct had saved him. Instinct and years of training. Instinct, years of training, and a Kevlar hat. He had put the "homey" and his "posse" away, but now the pain was catching up to him.
He was all right, but right now, all he wanted was oneof his faithful manservant Alfred's quiches and hisown comfortable bed. He could feel his arm start tothrob and he could feel the blood coagulate on hisscalp. The pain was blinding, but his vision wasclear.
But he couldn't leave--tonight was the big galacharity exhibit. The Museum of Gemstones was having agrand party to announce the arrival, for one nightonly, of the TWIN CAT BIRD diamonds. Call it a"hunch," call it guesswork, or call it thefinely-honed thinking of a truly brilliant mind...but the GothamGuardian expected trouble--something was about to "go down". But WHAT?And HOW?
His injury was taking its toll. "I'm not likeSuperman or Wonder Woman," the Dark Knight thought tohimself, "Bullets can piece my skin. Bullets can killme."
It was time to call in his new team. They were wildcards. Not the kinds of people you brought to a JLAmeeting or a meeting of the JSA or a meeting of the ORIGINAL Outsiders or even a meeting of the TeenTitans. But they could get the job done. Because ifthere was one thing the world needed, it was newheroes.
Using both hands, he reached for his signal device. He felt the warm electrical vibration against histrunks that meant his invisible signal was flyingthrough the carbon monoxide-stenched air, between thefat blood moon and the gridded mean streets. "The call is going out : ) " thought The Batman as the vibration intensified. It felt good -- -- until an old man's scream exploded the DarkKnight's reverie to little tiny pieces.
LEGENDS OF THE BATMAN AND THE DARK OUTSIDERS: EPISODE ONE
ACT TWO: THE FALLING OF A HERO
Glass exploded inward, showering the Vincenzo ExhibitHall of the Museum of Gemstones with a shower ofsharp, jagged, glittering window-stuff. "It's beautiful, like a cleansing shower," the Batman wouldhave thought had he seen it, but see it he did not, for his cape wasthrust protectively over his eyes as he leapt throughthe window into Vincenzo Hall. He landed, bat-like,his cape outstretched like sinewy wings, at thefeet of a prone form of a familiar old man. Aprecious gemstone, the O'Neill Sapphire, jutted fromthe old man's blood-spitting throat.
The Batman knelt beside the dying man and grimlypulled the razor-sharp gemstone from the tragicfountain that used to be his neck. "How dark theworld has become," thought the masked man, "that anobject of such rarepreciousness could be used so heinously, thatlifeblood could spurt under such pressure from thethroat of a man even as charity revellers laugh andeat 'Or Durves' just a few chambers away."
The dying man tried to speak. "I (gurgle)..."
"Save. Your. Strength." commanded the LeathernLawman. But the death-filled old man would have noneof it. He had something to say. Something he couldn'thold back. Something important that had to besaid. This the Caped Crime-buster could sense.
The Darknight Detective held his pointy ear close to the old man's mouth, listening to the faint voice and the words it strove to say.
"Yes?" intoned the Gotham Goliath.
"You always...?" questioned the Darknight Detective.
"I... always... knew.. it was you... Bruce."
And with that, Commissioner Gordon died.
"NOOOOOOOOOO!" shrieked the Batman at the ceiling,and beyond it the sky, and beyond it whatever Gods hadabandoned him, his fists balled in horror, hisnosepiece casting a triangular shadow over histightly-stretched lips and clenched, white, seamlessteeth as he leaned over the emptied earthly vessel of the one man on the Gotham City Police Department hewould trust with his very life, and who trusted himalso. This night was supposed to be a beginning... a beginning of a new kind of hero. Instead it wasthe end of an old kind of hero. The gore-filled endof the good, honest, brave, single-handed cop theBatman called, when of him he spoke, "friend."
Whatever "perp" perpetrated this made a big mistake, thought the Caped Crook-catcher. *This made it PERSONAL.*
As personal as losing his parents on that hellish long-agone night, which was traumatic enough without this. Tears stung his eyeslits as he wondered, what would he tell brave Barbara, the dead man's daughter, who once dared the perilous rooftops in the shapely guise of Batgirl before the Joker crippled and undressed her and took pictures of her leading her to now seek a new kind of justice on the mean streets of the Information Superhighway as a contemporary hero for an up-to-date world? But Fate (or Providence, if you wish) would give him no more time to dwell upon this loss. The Batman heard a sound. The sound of something beautiful but deadly tip-toeing terribly toward him in the twilight.
Springing limberly to his agile feet, The Batman saw a shapely, pulchritudinous figure in the doorway, backlit, filled in with black. He immediately "pegged" the statuesque newcomer as a female. With catlike grace, the well-developed "hottie" extended an arm lit by a glint of moonlight that ricocheted off of the razor-sharp gemstone she pointed at him as one would wield a deadly dagger.
The Batman pointed a long, accusing finger at the magnificently proportioned intruder and exclaimed, "YOU! You did this! You slayed Jim Gordon!"
The curvaceous Selena Kyle purred evilly and aimed the Idelson Ruby at the Caped Crusader's throat..."I wouldn't reach for your fantastic gadgets, if I were you, Batman. Unless it's one that ISN'T in your utility belt!" Her green eyes flashed.
The subtle innuendo was lost on the grieving side of The Batman. The side that was still human. "Selina, but why are you...", The Batman paused," Of course! The Twin *CAT* Bird diamonds!"
Selina laughed, causing her skin to ripple in her tight-fitting purple costume, "That's right, Batman. I could never resist...", she looked him over slowly, "big stones."
The Batman sneered through his cowl. "You're like an M&M, Selina. A hard shell on the outside, soft and dark on the inside. You won't shoot me. You CAN'T. We have too much...history."
The Felonious Feline quavered, then seemed to melt as she moved towards him with her arms extended, the heat of her passion overcoming her lust for greed. "Oh. Oh, BATMAN.", she said as she swooned towards the Urban Warrior.
Suddenly, a dark whispering voice rang out, "Well, well, well. Ain't this a pretty picture. Don't let me interrupt. I'm just here for the TWIN Cat Bird diamonds! Course, I wouldn't mind shooting you TWO, since my crimes are based on twos!" and from out of the liquid shadows of the darkened museum came a dark figure, like a man standing in front of half of a funhouse mirror. He had twin "45s" aimed at the heart of the homicidal feline, and also The Batman's heart as well. There was an implied threat in those guns.
"Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face, once my former friend and now one of my deadliest foes..." muttered The Dark Knight loudly to himself. Two-Face held the two at bay with his guns and pulled a coin, scarred like his own twisted visage, on one side, from his pocket and began flipping it carelessly, the coin catching the light like some kind of great big metal disk flipping in the sun.
"What do you think, Batman? Should I see how manylives the pussycat has? Maybe I'll let the COINdecide...?", Harvey "Two-Face" Dent said, stillflipping.
Each flip could spell D.E.A.T.H. for Selina, and eventhough she had just killed The Batman's best friendexcept for his trusted manservant, he couldn't allowthat to happen.
The Batman's brilliant mind was moving quickly,leaping from one idea to the next like a skilleddecathlete. There seemed to be no way out of this,with two of his deadliest foes fighting each other andhim. THINK, Bruce, he thought.
Flexing his clockwork mind, The Batman knew he wasrunning out of time. Where was his TEAM?! If he hadto, he knew he could nimbly leap the twenty feet towhere "Two-Face" stood darkly, but the danger toSelina's sultry form was too great. "The REAL WORLDisn't like it is in the comics", Batman thought."Here, life or death can hang on my every move..."
"Time for my final flip, Batman. You might want to saygoodbye to the pussy, just in case.", grinned themalevolent half of "Two-Faces" bifurcated head. Thecoin arched gracefully in a up and down motion asthe crescent moon shone down through the skylight andBatman watched on helplessly, painfully aware of thebeating of Selina's ample heart as she leaned in closeto him for protection. The coin was rotatingcrazily as the "Two-Face" snatched it violently out ofthe air and slapped it on the fleshy part of hiswrist, making a sound like a snapping turtle mightmake if it was hit with a hammer or another big heavyobject.
It was the scarred side up. "Two-Face" raised his guns and aimed at the heaving, generous chest of Selina Kyle...
END PART ONE!
Note from Gail: Woah! You can almost FEEL the excitement! Unfortunately, Brendan's parents made him try out for a sport of his own choosing or they'd sell his POKEMON CCG collection, and he was unable to finish the story in time for this column. So, he's asked me to ask you dear readers to participate! Who do YOU feel should be in Batman's new team? Remember, it's a DARK team of heroes...heroes for TODAY! I'm nominating Blue Devil and Looker, but you can send your OWN faves, and we'll tally them up and Brendan will include them in the conlusion to this thrill-stuffed story! Mail your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and DON'T DELAY! Gotham NEEDS YOUR HELP!