In 2009, I finally got the chance to write for DC Comics; editor Mike Siglain commissioned four scripts for the comic based on the whimsical animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
I had a blast, using
mostly heroes who had not appeared with Batman either on the show or in the
comic the show was based on. I loved the way the series mixed and
matched, often pitting Batman and a co-star against a villain who was
not associated with either of them.
I got paid. I got excited.
Then the title got canceled.
Since it is now
unlikely that these stories will be published, I will share them here.
All characters, of course, are copyright DC Comics. This installment: Batman and Zatanna.
“Trouble in Reverse in Trouble!”
Page 1, panel 1
Evening. People enter a theater with a poster advertising “Zatanna, the Maid of Magic!” Plastered at an angle over the poster: “Tonight Only: Surprise Guest!” Among the crowd is someone conspicuously shorter and even more conspicuously dressed in an orange trench coat and purple derby hat.
(to himself, quietly)
Surprise guest indeed! Or perhaps I should say deedni…
Page 1, panel 2
Inside the theater, Mxyzptlk is at the concession stand.
theatergoer (in background)
Mr. Miracle is a good guess. But I bet it’s Flash.
Page 1, panel 3
The concession stand employee looks blankly at Mxyzptlk.
Page 1, panel 4
< sigh > Peanuts, please.
Page 1, panel 5
In the theater, Mxyzptlk takes a seat in a full house.
—will need my special surprise guest for my very first trick. Ladies and gentlemen, a man who is no stranger to danger...
Page 2, panel 1
Batman swings onstage alongside Zatanna.
CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!
Page 2, panel 2
(leaning in to Zatanna)
Make this quick, Zatanna. Crime doesn’t take an intermission.
Zatanna (balloon 1)
(whispering back to Batman)
It’s only one trick. Besides, I never draw this big a crowd—rumor of you sold out the house. So try to enjoy it.
Zatanna (balloon 2)
[presume here there would be an editor’s note explaining that Zatanna speaks words backwards when casting spells]
Page 2, panel 3
A saw pops into Zatanna’s hand as Batman positions himself and his annoyed expression inside the typical coffin-like magician’s box.
You’ve seen a magician saw a man in half—but never a Batman!
CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!
Page 2, panel 4
Come on, Batman. Give your adoring crowd something.
Hnh. Uh…Killer Croc has gnawed on all my limbs. You think this is going to hurt?
HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Page 2, panel 5
Mxyzptlk gives a discreet twirl of his finger.
Page 2, panel 6
The head half of the box hits the floor.
The foot half hits the floor running (literally). Batman looks bewildered and Zatanna horrified.
Batman, my magic didn’t do this! Let me try to fix it—
Page 3, panel 1
Mxyzptlk, smirking, gives another tiny finger twirl.
Page 3, panel 2
Man-Bat, Bizarro, Reverse-Flash (with the lightning bolt in his emblem mirror imaged), and Mr. Terrible (with the order of the words “FOUL PLAY” on his jacket reversed—i.e. “PLAY FOUL”) appear onstage in a poof of multicolored magic smoke. Members of the audience SHRIEK.
Page 3, panel 3
Bizarro lunges at Zatanna.
The magic is over, witch!
Orrazib pirt no epac!
Page 3, panel 4
Bizarro trips on his cape. He face plants.
Page 3, panel 5
Reverse-Flash zooms at Zatanna from behind her.
Page 3, panel 6
Batman’s upper half (now out of the box) discreet positions his cape in Reverse-Flash’s path. (If possible, the upper half can be shown slipping out of the box in the background of whichever of the previous four panels allows for it most easily.)
Page 4, panel 1
Reverse-Flash slips on the cape.
Page 4, panel 2
Reverse-Flash is flung forward into the stage curtain. The force is pulling it down over him.
Page 4, panel 3
Mr. Terrible throws his coat around Zatanna’s head. In background, Batman’s upper half can be seen hand-walking over to a dangling stage pulley rope.
Page 4, panel 4
Batman’s lower half (also out of the box now) trips Mr. Terrible.
Page 4, panel 5
Batman’s upper half tugs on the rope, sending the requisite stage sandbag smashing into the head of Mr. Terrible (who is on the ground from the tripping).
Yowch! Just terrible!
Page 5, panel 1
Man-Bat swoops down and grabs both halves of Batman, one in each foot.
Skree! I’ll rip each half into half!
Oh no you don’t, Mangy-Bat! There’s already too much mess to clean up here.
Page 5, panel 2
Mxyzptlk is floating and cross-legged in front of Man-Bat. His finger is twirling.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Batman together again. But none of them were as talented as Mxyzptlk!
Page 5, panel 3
Still in Man-Bat’s clutches, Batman “snaps” back together (so that Man-Bat is now holding him by the shoulders).
Page 5, panel 4
With his feet, Batman yanks a stage light off its mount.
You’re not the only one here who can think on his feet!
Page 5, panel 5
Batman swings his legs up to smash the light into Man-Bat’s head.
Page 6, panel 1
Batman lands next to Zatanna. In the background, Man-Bat and stage light can be seen plummeting into Bizarro. (If possible, Bizarro can be shown staggering to his feet in the background of whichever of the previous few panels allows for it most easily.)
(quietly to Zatanna)
The only way to send Mxyzptlk back to his home in the 5th dimension is to get him to say his name backwards.
Page 6, panel 2
Mxyzptlk, still floating, zips over to Batman and Zatanna.
I save you, Bratman, and no thank you? At least the audience appreciates me!
Page 6, panel 3
Looking over the shoulders of Batman, Zatanna, and Mxyzptlk into a now-nearly empty theater.
Page 6, panel 4
Mxyzptlk (from left side of panel) glares at the two remaining audience members (on the right). The audience members are feebly clapping.
I said at least the audience appreciates me!
Page 6, panel 5
Bizarro spoke properly and Man-Bat, well, spoke. Those weren’t the real villains.
So? They were still threats and I bravely if uncharacteristically helped stop them so now you owe me.
Don’t act the hero, Mxyzptlk. I can tell you conjured them in the first place. What do you want?
Page 6, panel 6
Mxyzptlk (balloon 1)
When you speak backwards, big things happen. When I do, either nothing happens—or I’m sent back to the fifth dimension. Both are the opposite of fun!
Mxyzptlk (balloon 2)
So all I want, Zatannuts, is the teeny tiny key to your magic.
Page 7, panel 1
Your nicknames are more painful than the saw, Mxyzptlk. How’d you like it if we called you something corny like My Pixie Stick, Sir-Myx-a-Lick, or Kltpzyxm?
My Pixie Stick is not even close to a true rhyme. Sir-Myx-a-Lick is a bit better, but a bit dated. And Kltp…ah ah ah. Now come on. Do you think I’m stupid?
Page 7, panel 2
That depends. Who picked out your outfit?
Look who’s talking.
Mxyzptlk, if you thought you could get Zatanna to “repay” you by revealing how her backwards spells work—
Page 7, panel 3
—thus giving you the power to stay here forever, the answer is no way.
Not fair, Zatannoying!
This explains why you used only reverse-themed villains. You have backwards on the brain.
Page 7, panel 4
Mxyzptlk summons up a big blue ribbon or medal labeled “World’s Greatest Detective” stuck on Batman’s costume.
You’ve really earned it this time, Brightman. And I’ve earned one myself.
Page 7, panel 5
Mxyzptlk summons up another (much bigger) blue ribbon or medal labeled “Multiverse’s Greatest Magical Being Despite the Lack of Just One Ability Who Will Keep Bugging You Until You Help Me Acquire It So I Can Escape My Home World for Good.”
Page 7, panel 6
You know, Mxyzptlk, I’ve met others from the fifth dimension. Unlike you, none of them have whined about it.
And I’ve actually been there. It’s hardly horrible. In fact, the parts I saw were lovely.
Page 8, panel 1
Mxyzptlk is steaming.
Whine, huh? Hardly horrible, huh? Fine, superheadaches! See for yourselves!
Page 8, panel 2
Mxyzptlk grabs a wrist each of Batman and Zatanna.
Page 8, panel 3
Great idea, Batman.
Great job following along, Zatanna.
Page 8, panel 4
Now hold on, dulltastic duo! You didn’t trick me. I chose to come back.
You’re finally showing some sense. And we’ll be leaving now. Nruter Namtab dna em ot—
Not so fast! Not before I show you why I brought you here. Things have changed…
Page 8, panel 5
The three round a hill to see a field of what must be hundreds of imps that resemble Mxyzptlk, only that half are wearing the reverse color scheme (purple dominant with orange trim) of his outfit. The “oranges” and the “purples” are playing practical jokes on each other—some familiar (pies in faces, squirting lapel flowers, tripping, even wedgieing if possible to show) and others possible only in the fifth dimension (magically removing pants, replacing ears with ears of corn, floating upside down, and other hijinks the artist would enjoy drawing).
Mxyzptlk looks distressed and clasps the sides of his head as if he’s witnessing the pinnacle of madness.
It’s uncivil war!
Page 9, panel 1
But it’s just pranksters like you.
Mxyzptlk (balloon 1)
Exactly! Here, I’m nobody special—I’m just like Zkpymtlx who acts the same as Tzlmykxp who is the spitting image of Kltpzyxm. Where is the fun is that?
Mxyzptlk (balloon 2)
I’ll tell you where—in your dimension, where I’m one of a kind!
Page 9, panel 2
Batman (balloon 1)
Now I get why you’d want out of this place. When everyone is alike, it’s easy to lose sense of who you are. Differences help us feel human—and, er, whatever you are.
Batman (balloon 2)
So we’ll help end this war.
But only if you promise never to return to our dimension.
You make it fun here and it’s a deal. To the prankfield!
Page 9, panel 3
As Mxyzptlk leads Batman and Zatanna down to the melee, a jumbo pie hurtles toward them. Zatanna, distracted by Mxyzptlk’s question, doesn’t notice it.
Can’t you put a stop to all this just by casting a quick spell?
Page 9, panel 4
Zatanna is covered in pie and looking as happy about it as you would.
I’m not that powerful.
No matter how long it takes, we’ll get it done.
Page 9, panel 5
Pie bits fly off Zatanna and reassemble into an intact, floating pie.
But first: Naelc eip ffo em!
Page 10, panel 1
Batman deflecting several thrown pies (or, for variety, slicing off several squirting flower lapels) with a skillfully thrown Batarang.
Page 10, panel 2
Zatanna (looking out of corner of her eye in disgust/modesty) repantsing several imps.
Stnap og kcab no sgel!
Page 10, panel 3
Mxyzptlk switching back transposed heads of several imps.
(small print to indicate exasperation)
You know, you could’ve fixed this yourselves.
Page 10, panel 4
With the field of imps now standing at peace, Zatanna’s final act is bringing some diversity to their outfits (i.e. colors beyond orange and purple).
Dda erom sroloc!
Page 10, panel 5
Thank you, superhelpers. And now that the Zatmanna team and I are chummy colleagues, feel free to finally share the secret to effective backwards spellcasting.
Page 10, panel 6
I believe Zatanna was already clear on that, but put another way: tegrof ti.