Monday, December 9, 2013

Justice League Unlimited: “Shadows and Ghosts”

In 2005, I penned and pitched DC a sample Justice League Unlimited story; it is in the style of the thin mass market paperbacks based on the Justice League animated series, which were aimed at young readers. That explains the requisite hokiness (including exclamation marks).

Alas, I think they did not end up producing JLU-branded books in this format.

All characters are, of course, copyright DC Comics. 

“Shadows and Ghosts”

The Aparo Aquarium had been closed for hours, but two figures approached the main entrance. [a banner reading “Don’t Miss the First Giant Squid in Captivity!” should be prominent over entrance] Even in the light of the full moon, they were both unnoticeable to the average eye, though for different reasons.

One was the Shadow-Thief, a devious crook who wore a high-tech suit that enabled him to transform into an untouchable shadow. The other was the Gentleman Ghost, the sinister spirit of a man who died over a century ago.

The Shadow-Thief slipped through a door crack. The Gentleman Ghost did him one better—he simply walked right through the wall. They snuck past the security guard.

“Night watchmen, alarms, surveillance cameras,” the Gentleman Ghost said. “None can catch the Gentleman Ghost!”
“Shh!” the Shadow-Thief whispered. “What good is invisibility if you insist on shouting?”

But the Shadow-Thief’s warning was too late. The guard heard a voice and mysterious footsteps, then spotted a flicker of darkness cross the moonlight that spilled in through the window. He didn’t see much, but he saw enough to worry.

“Something fishy is going on,” the guard said to himself as he picked up the phone. “Something out of my league. Luckily, I know another league…”

Within minutes, five more figures appeared at the entrance. Superman, Aquaman, the Creeper, Mister Miracle, and Vixen looked the exact opposite of the lawbreakers inside the aquarium—no night is dark enough to hide the bright colors of the Justice League!

“Sorry we didn’t knock,” Mister Miracle said with a showstopping smile. “It was quicker for me to pick the lock.”

The security guard didn’t bat an eye. He pointed down an unlit hallway and said, “Whatever it was, it headed that way!”

“I have a hunch I know who we’re up against,” Superman said as the quintet started down the hallway. “The sneakiest…”

“…slipperiest…” Aquaman said.

“…slimiest…” Creeper said.

“…souls this side of a worm colony,” Vixen said.

“Enough talk,” Superman said.  “Time to end this game of hide and seek!”

The transparent trespassers were treacherous, but even more than that, greedy. They had two targets: the ink of the rare giant squid, which the Shadow-Thief suspected was so powerful that it could mask the loot they steal, and the loot itself. The aquarium had been doing record business since the squid exhibit opened, and the phantom pair wanted to pilfer those profits.

“Okay, Ghost,” the Shadow-Thief said in a hushed tone. “Let’s find that fish fast.” [they are now standing in a shadowy room surrounded by huge tanks stocked with a diversity of marine life such as sharks and morays; sign reads “Dangerous Denizens of the Deep”]

“It’s a mollusk, actually,” the Gentleman Ghost said.

“I don’t care if it’s a mashed potato, as long as its ink can cover up the money we’re carrying as we escape from our crimes.”

From out of the darkness a voice said, “Who said anything about escaping?” Mister Miracle zipped out on his aero-discs, with the rest of his colleagues behind him.

“See!  I told you to keep quiet!” the Shadow-Thief hissed as he bolted to another room.

Aquaman, the Creeper, and Vixen followed the Shadow-Thief. Superman flew at the Gentleman Ghost and tried to grab him—but passed right through and smashed into the thick glass of a tank, causing a tremendous crack.

“You should know better by now, Superman,” the Gentleman Ghost said. “I’m still a tricky fellow to get a hold of! And soon a much richer one at that!”

“The only thing you’ll be buying is prison time,” Mister Miracle said. He sped to the Gentleman Ghost—and picked him up!

“How can you do that?” the Gentleman Ghost shrieked.

“I’m not from around here,” Mister Miracle said. “And neither is the technology in my miraculous suit.” Mister Miracle held the Gentleman Ghost in the air. “Superman—now!”

Superman used his heat vision to seal the leaking crack in the tank, then turned to the Gentleman Ghost. He swelled up his chest and then blew an frigid blast of air at the Gentleman Ghost’s legs.

“This can’t happen!” the Gentleman Ghost said as the shape of his legs became visible, coated in ice.

“Everything has a freezing point, Ghost,” Superman said. “Even cold-hearted criminals like you.”

Meanwhile, in the marine mammals wing, the other three heroes were tracking the Shadow-Thief.

“He forgets that some of us use other senses as much as sight,” Vixen said, sniffing the air.

Silently, she nodded to the center of the room. [visible in the drawing is a large whale model hanging over the room, similar to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, except for originality’s sake let’s make it a sperm whale] With animal agility, she leapt to where the Shadow-Thief thought he was undetectable.

“Even a whale’s shadow is not big enough to hide you,” she said. She tried to deliver a sharp kick to the Shadow-Thief’s shins, but because he was in shadow form, her leg went right through his. However, he quickly adjusted the controls of his shadow suit so he was solid, then he tripped Vixen.

A deafening SNAP came from above. The model sperm whale was falling right toward them!

“A big something to remember me by,” the Shadow-Thief said as he scurried away.

A blue and red blur rocketed into the room. When the whale was only inches away from Vixen, Superman intercepted it!

“Glad you were whale watching,” Vixen said.  “Thanks.”

“The Shadow-Thief must’ve somehow loosened the cable before we came in,” Superman said. “Now he’s gone again.”

The heroes looked around.  The Creeper was gone, too!

The Shadow-Thief had prowled into the next hall, which was dedicated exclusively to the giant squid. He remained motionless near a corner of its enormous tank.

Without warning, yellow arms snatched him from behind, accompanied by a mischievous laugh.

“Got you, got you, change your suit back you forgot to!” the Creeper sang. “You’re not the only one around here who’s good at creeping.”

“And you’re not the only one here who talks too much!” the Shadow-Thief said as he elbowed the Creeper in the gut, causing him to let go.

Before the Shadow-Thief could scramble away yet again, Aquaman acted with the speed of a geyser. Using his grappling-hook, he pulled himself into the tank. He splashed water in the Shadow-Thief’s direction, short-circuiting the controls in his suit.

Using his aquatic telepathy, Aquaman asked the giant squid to lend a tentacle. From the top of its tank, a thick pink appendage slithered toward the de-shadowed Shadow-Thief. The tentacle snatched him with ease.

“That’s as close as you’ll come to getting any ink from him,” Aquaman said.
“The sun has set on your shady scheme,” the Creeper said with a bounce and a cackle. “Say that ten times fast!”

“Where they’re going, they’ll have plenty of time to practice their tongue twisters,” Mister Miracle said as he entered with the glacial Gentleman Ghost.

Aquaman thanked the squid, then turned to the villains. “And there’s not a ghost of a chance either of you will escape from there anytime soon.”

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