Issue #4: The Enemy Within, Part 1

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Issue #4

The Enemy Within”

Part 1

Metropolis.

The morning clouds had parted, bathing the bustling city in golden sunshine. The streets began to fill with people heading out to start their day.

Somewhere down below, among the canyons of skyscrapers and office buildings, sirens screamed.

“Damn it! Step on it! The cops are closin’ in!” Thug #1 spat as Thug #2 drove.

“Shut your trap! I’m doin’ my best!” Thug #2 snapped as he jerked the steering wheel.

Thugs #3 and #4 were leaning out of the back windows firing machine guns at the phalanx of screaming police cars behind them. Like all good first time bank robbers, they wore black ski masks.

A mid-morning bank robbery was bold. Trying to outrun the cops in downtown Metropolis in mid-morning traffic was near suicidal.

An 18 wheeler pulled into the next intersection, forcing Thug #2 to jerk the steering wheel hard to the right, sending the black sedan tearing down the next block onto the busy boulevard.

Mrs. Denton led her class of third graders down the sidewalk. With the Metropolis Natural History museum only two blocks from the school, she thought it would be a great idea for the kids to take a walking field trip.

“Class, we’re almost to the stop light.” she called as they approached the street corner. “Everyone hold the hand of the person next to you…I don’t care if boys are gross, do it, please. “

“I’m not goin’ back to jail! I’m not!” Thug #1 shouted.

My God, why won’t you shut up?!” Thug #2 growled. “I’ll lose the cops, don’t worry!”

As they sped into the next intersection, a city bus made a sudden turn in front of them. Thug #2 swerved to avoid a collision and careened straight towards the sidewalk and the class of third graders.

The children screamed. Mrs. Denton grabbed the child nearest to her and attempted to shield her from the imminent collision.

A red and blue blur whooshed past them. The sedan slammed into something and whatever it was smashed in the front of half of the car, stopping it instantly.

The criminals sat, momentarily stunned. They stared at each other.

What…what the hell…?” Thug #3 stammered.

The roof of the sedan suddenly peeled back and was ripped from the car, exposing the four robbers to the early afternoon sunlight.

They looked up to see…Him. The imposing, square jawed figure in blue with a red cape. Metropolis’ favorite son and hero.

“Superman!” shouted Thug #4 who just that morning had been admonished by Thug #1 for always stating the obvious.

“Waste ‘im!” Thug #1 shouted.

The four men unloaded their guns, firing a rapid hail of bullets at The Man of Steel, who maintained his solid footing on the hood of the car as the bullets ricocheted off of his chest.

He smirked and stared them down with his piercing blue eyes.

Are you gentlemen done yet?”

The men looked at each other as the police cars arrived, then threw their guns from the car and raised their hands.

“Wise choice.”

Thanks for the assist, Supes.” one of the police officers called as they surrounded the car.

“Anytime, Officer.” Superman replied as he levitated above the car. He turned and flew across the intersection where he landed in front of the schoolkids.

“Everybody okay over here?” he asked.

The children swarmed him, hugging his legs and waist.

“Thank you. Thank you, so much.” Mrs. Denton cried.

Glad I could help.” he said, resting a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“Thank you.” she said again, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

Okay, kids. I have to go now.” said Superman. “Have fun on your field trip. Stay in school.”

He waved to the class as he lifted off the ground and soared across the sky.

XXXXXX

The Lexcorp tower was an imposing fixture of the Metropolis skyline. Equally imposing, if not more so, was Lex Luthor himself.

Tall, with broad shoulders and that famous bald head, wearing a thousand dollar suit, he stood before the large window beside his desk that afforded him a view of the city.

He was deep in thought when a voice caught him off guard.

“Mr. Clean! What’s up? Love your commercials! Never thought I’d actually get to meet you in person…”

“You fool!” Luthor snapped as he turned. “Startling me like that is not conducive to longevity. If I weren’t expecting you…”

“Yeah, yeah.” said the stranger sitting on a couch in a darkened corner of the room. “So we’re on your dime here, Cue Ball. Tell me all about your evil plans or don’t. Long as I get paid, I’m good.”

“Evil is in the eye of the beholder.” said Luthor, taking a seat at his desk. “I believe it was Nietzsche who once said…”

“Oh my Gawd! You are soooo boring! Just tell me what you want me to do already! I have a short attention span! I can’t…you hungry? Damn, I could go for some enchiladas. Or maybe some chimicha-”

Luthor sighed.

Are you familiar with black Kryptonite?”

“No. Is he a rapper?”

Black Kryptonite,” Luthor continued. “Is the result of super-heating Kryptonite until it is blackened. This changes the properties of the element. Consequently, it changes the way that it affects Kryptonian DNA. There has never been a documented case of Superman being exposed to it, but in theory, according to several of my chemists, it should result in some sort of mental trauma, most likely a split-personality.”

“So you wanna make Supes go crazy and you need me to make it happen?” replied the man sitting in the corner.

“More or less. A mentally unstable Superman is a volatile Superman and we can’t have that, can we? Eventually, SHIELD or his comrades in the Justice League or even the Avengers will be forced to neutralize him. Then he’ll be one less obstacle impeding me from all of the things that I want to accomplish.”

“And…what if I refuse?”

You would seriously refuse me? Refuse the handsome sum that I’ve offered you?”

The mercenary known as Deadpool leaned out of the shadows, the sunlight slicing across his red and black mask.

“Hah! Nah, just kidding. I just always wanted to say something like that.

You want me to turn Superman into Gary Busey, I’m your man!”

XXXXXX

Clark Kent made his way into the newsroom of the Daily Planet, Metropolis’ premier newspaper.

“Did you get extra horseradish on my roast beef, Mr. Kent?” asked a red haired, freckle faced kid as he walked by carrying a stack of files.

“What’s that, Jimmy?” Clark asked, distracted.

“You said you were picking up lunch. Roast beef on white, extra horseradish, pickle on the side? That’s mine.”

“Gosh, I…I’m sorry, Jimmy.” Clark pushed the glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “Something…came up. I can go back out…”

“Aw, that’s okay, Mr. Kent.” Jimmy Olsen said as he placed the files on a nearby desk. “I’ll go get it. Been itchin’ to get outta the office, anyway. Slow news day.”

“Smallville, where ya been?” called Lois Lane, the beautiful, dark haired reporter as she stalked past Clark and sat down at her desk.

“I uh…stepped out to pick up lunch, and-”

Yeah, you didn’t get me a salad again, did you, Clark?” she asked, typing away at her computer. “I’m famished. I could really go for a burger.”

“Gee, I uh meant to…” Clark scratched the back of his head.

That’s great. Do you know if my source on the city hall story called back yet?”

“Maybe you should check your voicemail?” Clark offered, sitting down at his desk.

“Ah. Good one, Lois.” Lois sighed in annoyance as she dialed her phone.

Clark looked at her and sighed. She was so pretty. He loved her attitude. He loved how focused she could be about things. Face it, he loved her.

So why not tell her? What’s the worst that could happen? He knew very well what could happen. One of his enemies would find out that Superman was in love with Lois Lane and then use her to get to him. For now, Clark was content to admire her from afar. He wondered if there were any other superheroes in the same boat as him.

“Kent!” Perry White, the Planet’s Editor-in-Chief barked as he stepped from his office. “You finished that write up on the death of the Green Goblin yet?”

“Check your e-mail, Chief.” Clark replied.

Whattaya think, Clark?” asked Lois, still typing away furiously. “You think the Goblin really killed himself or do you think Batman, ya know…skriiiiiik!?”

“Killed him?” asked Clark. “No. I know Batma…I mean, I kind of know how Batman works and that’s not what he does. He’s not a killer.”

“Maybe, but I’m still on the fence about Batman. Guy just creeps me out. That black suit and the ears. Now Spider-Man, on the other hand…”

Suddenly, Clark heard the low rumble of an explosion, followed by another. Maybe two miles away, he figured.

He quickly stood.

Um, I think I’ll head back out to get those sandwiches.” he said.

“Okay.” Lois replied, deep in thought as she studied her computer screen. “Hey, get me burger, will ya? Medium rare. No, wait…medium well. Now I can’t decide. How do you take your burgers, Clark? Clark?”

She looked up to see that he had disappeared.

Clark quickly made his way down the hall and stepped into an empty elevator.

As soon as the double doors slid closed, he pulled open his dress shirt to reveal the large red ‘S’ on his chest.

XXXXXX

“Bang!” Deadpool called out as he tossed a grenade over his shoulder. It exploded several feet away in the middle of the street.

People abandoned their cars and ran in the opposite direction. Smoke emanated from a small crater in the intersection where he had tossed another grenade, moments earlier.

“Where’s everybody going?” he called. “Come on! I’m just randomly discharging ordinance in an urban environment. Nothin’ to see here! Come on back!”

“Deadpool.”

The mercenary turned to see Superman land in the street before him.

“Took you long enough!” Deadpool said, exasperated.

Superman folded his arms and glared at him.

“What’s the meaning of this?”

Uh…to draw you out in the open. Hello!? Dude, you should really have like, a MySpace page or something. It’d be a lot easier to contact you and I wouldn’t have had to blow up Main Street to get your attention. I’m not complaining, though. I love making things go boom and all…”

“You have my attention now. Drop the weapons. I’m taking you in.”

Deadpool doubled over, laughing.

“Oh man! You say that so earnestly! I love it! No, Supes. You’re not taking me in. I do have a gift for you, though…”

Superman quickly used his X-Ray vision to scan Deadpool’s body. Aside from the usual ungodly amount of weapons that the mercenary managed to pack onto his person, he didn’t appear to be carrying anything unusual.

Deadpool slung a high powered rifle that resembled a small cannon off of his shoulder.

“A gun?” said Superman as he took a fighting stance. “You know who I am, right? It’s going to take more than that to stop me.”

“We’ll seeeee….” Deadpool sang as he raised the weapon.

Superman charged towards him. Deadpool fired the weapon. In a millisecond, Superman deflected the round with a swipe of his left hand. He landed in front of Deadpool and in one swift motion, yanked the rifle from his hand and lifted him into the air by his throat.

“Well, that…didn’t go…like I thought it would…” Deadpool gasped, clutching Superman’s arm as he kicked helplessly at the air.

“Let’s go see the nice agents at SHIELD.” said Superman. “I know you’ve been on their wanted list for some time and…I…”

Superman paused and looked down at his left hand. It was bleeding.

He suddenly felt weak and dropped Deadpool who laughed as he landed on his rear.

“It worked!”

What did you do, Wilson?” Superman demanded as he stared at his trembling hand. “What kind of bullet was that?”

“Ohhh…you know what kind of bullet it was.” Deadpool replied as he dusted himself off.

Superman dropped to his knees.

Krypt…”

“Krrrrrrryptoniiiiiite!!!” Deadpool crooned in his best Sinatra. “Gotta love the stuff!”

Superman struggled to stand, but he was too weak. He fell down on one elbow.

Deadpool stalked forward and kicked him in the jaw, knocking the Man of Steel onto his back.

Superman coughed up blood as he stared at the sky. Deadpool retrieved his rifle and cocked it.

“Well, I have to say…now I know how Cuba Gooding felt when he won the Oscar. I did it. I really did it! I am gonna kill Superman. I’m…I’m getting all misty eyed just thinking about it. Why, if the boys back at Weapon X could see me now…”

He placed one foot on Superman’s chest, then lowered the rifle and pointed it square between his eyes.

Unbeknownst to Deadpool, the wound on Superman’s hand suddenly sealed itself. The blood dribbling from his mouth disappeared.

Deadpool squinted as he slipped his finger around the trigger.

This is the easiest money I’ve ever made.”

Superman smiled menacingly up at him. Deadpool lowered the gun.

Wait…why are you…” he stammered. “And where’s all the blood…wait…”

Superman punched Deadpool so hard that he flew twenty feet and hit a tree, splintering it.

“Son…of…a…bitch!” Deadpool groaned.

A jagged branch had pierced the back of his skull and exited through his right eye socket.

He yanked out the branch, then ripped off his red and black mask to reveal a horribly disfigured bald head and face that had been marred by countless healed injuries.

“Wait! Stop the fight! Gotta find my eye!” he called as he dropped to his knees and swept his hands through the grass. “AH! Here it is!”

He picked up the eye with nerve tendrils dangling from it. He blew on it, then shoved it back into it’s socket.

He blinked several times.

Yeah…okay…I’m good.” he said as he stood. “Game on-”

He looked up to see a station wagon flying through the air straight towards him.

Deadpool tapped the teleportation device on his belt and disappeared as the car crashed back to earth.

He reappeared on top of a drugstore.

What the hell, Supes?! I know I tried to blow off your head and all, but you threw a freaking car at me! That’s like…waaayyy overkill, man!”

Superman glared up at him from the street.

I will kill you. And I will enjoy it.” he said coldly.

Deadpool held up his hands.

Whoaaaa! Look, I know I’m just a mutant and all…but everybody knows that Superman doesn’t kill. That’s like…a major thing of yours and…”

Deadpool slapped his forehead.

That’s right! The black Kryptonite! It’s supposed to split your personality! Now, I get it! This should be fun to watch…”

Superman was poised to lift off and fly when he suddenly began to shake. He had never experienced anything like that before.

He had to leave. Whatever was about to happen would not be good and he was in the middle of downtown Metropolis. He didn’t want to risk anyone getting hurt.

He launched himself into the sky and soared off towards the edge of the city.

“Hey! I wanna see the meltdown!” Deadpool shouted after him. “I brought popcorn…”

Superman flew out over farmland, as far away from the city as he could get before he landed on a two lane highway. He fell to his knees. He continued to shake until…suddenly there was a blinding flash.

When Superman opened his eyes he saw something entirely surreal.

He saw Clark Kent sitting across the highway from him, wearing a white dress shirt, black tie and slacks.

Kent adjusted his glasses and squinted at Superman.

How…?”

Superman struggled to his feet. He shook his head.

I…I don’t…”

Superman suddenly felt as if his head had cleared. He felt as if a weight had been lifted. He was rid of him. He was rid of Clark Kent. He was rid of that cumbersome part of his psyche that always forced him to hold back. That part of him that wouldn’t let him realize his full power.

Well, he was almost rid of him.

Clark stood and ran a hand through his hair.

I don’t know where to start…first…I think we should…”

Superman flew at Clark and slammed him into the pavement.

You are finished, Kent!” Superman roared as he slammed Clark’s head into the ground.

Clark socked him in the jaw and leapt to his feet.

It was the Kryptonite!” he shouted. “It was black Kryptonite! It separated my personality into two different beings!”

“I know that Kent, you idiot!” Superman snapped. “You damned boy scout! I’ve had it with you! You’ve stopped me for too long. I’m a god to these people! I could rule them! You held me back! That ends today!”

“No!” Clark shouted back. “This is my home! The people here, they need me! They need someone to protect them!”

“No! They’re weak! Just like you!”

Superman ran at him and threw a roundhouse punch so quickly, he connected with Clark’s jaw before Clark could even block his fist and his glasses went flying as he hit the ground. Superman pounced on him and repeatedly pounded on him with a berserk fury, landing blow after powerful blow.

Clark could barely fend off the assault. He was losing strength and was starting to black out.

“No…” he growled through clenched teeth. “NO!”

He mustered as much power as he could and kicked Superman in the gut, sending him flying off down the highway.

Clark came to his knees, coughing blood. He picked up his glasses and slipped them back on. He had never needed them, but he did it out of habit.

He struggled to his feet. The next thing that he saw was a fist, then everything went black.

Superman picked up the lifeless body of Clark Kent and with one herculean throw, sent him soaring off into the sky over the cornfields.

“Good riddance.” he sneered.

He turned and stared at Metropolis off in the distance.

He smiled wickedly and flew off towards the city.

End of Part 1

All characters featured in this piece of fiction are the copyrighted property of their respective owners, creators and studios.

Issue #3: The Spider and The Bat. Part 3

DCMU cover 3A

Issue #3:

The Spider and the Bat

Part III

The next morning, Peter woke to the smell of breakfast wafting into his attic bedroom.

He sat up in bed and winced painfully. He was bruised and sore. He explained his injuries to his aunt by convincing her that he simply had a nasty fall while running from the fracas at the Stark benefit.

May Parker trusted her nephew and believed the story, but not without reservations. Peter felt bad about lying to her, but he knew that it was best to keep the truth from her.

After all, he’d been hiding the fact that he was Spider-Man from her since he was in high school, so this wasn’t all that bad.

“Peter, Mary Jane is here to see you!” his aunt called from below.

He groaned as he stood before the full length mirror in the corner of his room.

He could see the faint imprint of the Goblin’s foot on his ribcage.

Young man, do not keep your guest waiting!” she called again.

“I’m heading down, Aunt May!”

He threw on some sweats and sneakers and trotted down the stairs to find MJ standing patiently at the front door.

“Peter! What happened to you?” she called, staring at the bruises on his face.

“I fell.” he sighed. “What brings you by, Mary Jane?”

Can we talk?” she motioned for him to step outside.

“Sure.”

I…I don’t know how to say this, Peter.” she began as they walked towards the street.

Well whatever it is, it can’t be that bad, thought Peter, because his spider sense wasn’t going off.

“I know you…kind of have feelings for me…” she said.

Peter’s heart began to race. Had he been that obvious? Was she going to tell him that she loved him too?

“…so I just wanted you to hear this from me before anyone else.” she continued. “Harry and I…we got back together.”

“Oh…” was all he could muster.

Just what Peter needed. Another punch to the gut.

He came over the other night and he was so upset about his dad escaping from jail and everything…”

Harry! Peter had completely forgotten about his best friend Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn’s son. He knew how shaken Harry had been last year when he had first found out that his father was the Green Goblin. He couldn’t imagine how distressed Harry must be now. How could he have been so absentminded? You’re a lousy friend, Peter Parker, he thought. The worst.
“Are you okay, Peter?” Mary Jane asked, staring up at him. “You seem to be in your own little world.”

“No…I’m fine.” he forced a smile. Man, it even hurt to smile.

So, anyway…” she continued, staring at the ground as she shifted her weight from foot to foot. “We had a long talk and we realized that we still had feelings for each other…I don’t know…I guess we’re going to give it another try. He needs me, Peter. Can you understand?”

“No, I understand.” Peter smiled painfully again. “Harry…he’s a good guy. I just want you two to be happy. In fact, I think I’ll go by and see him later today.”

“I knew you’d understand, Pete.” Mary Jane kissed his cheek. “You’re a good friend. Anyway, I’m late for an audition, so I’ll see ya.”

He offered a feeble goodbye wave before heading back up the steps.

Geez, this week had really begun to suck.

XXXXXX

Norman Osborn kept several properties around the city that he had purchased off of the OSCORP books. He had taken refuge in one of these properties, a nondescript Brooklyn apartment building that not coincidentally was home to his auxiliary arsenal and glider.

He sat on the edge of his bed, staring out of the window. Once again, he had been consumed by his demons. He had allowed the Goblin to gain control of his soul, but he never felt more alive than during those times when he actually became the Goblin.

He regretted a few things as well, though. He regretted the late night visit he paid to his son, Harry last night. Harry was terrified of him. He would barely listen to anything that he had to say.

He regretted the fact that he could never have a normal relationship with his son. He knew that he had never treated him as well as he should have. Placed too much pressure on him to succeed, to one day take his place.

Harry had argued that he was more of a father to his friend Peter Parker than he was to his own son.

Norman had to admit that sadly, Harry was right. He saw so much potential in Peter. He was smart and knew so much about science and technology, things that Harry never showed much interest in. He wondered what had ever become of Peter.

“Forget him. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” hissed a familiar voice.

Norman glanced up at the window to see his sneering reflection in the glass.

“Can’t you leave me alone?” Norman sighed.

Shut up. You need me. You know it.” the reflection answered.

“Talking to yourself again, Normy?” asked the Joker as he lounged on an antique chair in a darkened corner. “People will say you’re craaaaaazy.”

“How long…how did you get past my security systems?” Osborn snapped.

“You don’t earn a name like The Clown Prince of Crime without learning a few sneaky tricks.” Joker replied. “Now, to the matter at hand. I think we did so-so last night. Batman showed up sooner than I thought he would and I didn’t reckon on Stark having his fancy armor so close nearby, but overall, not bad. We’ve already got the city buzzing.”

He tossed a copy of the Daily Bugle at Osborn’s feet. The cover read: PANIC IN MANHATTAN! GOBLIN AND JOKER HOLD HOSTAGE NYC’s WEALTHY! BATS AND SPIDEY ACCOMPLICES?

“So what next?” asked Osborn, staring down at the newspaper.

We’ve got the city scared. Now, we need to demoralize it. We need to crush its soul.”

Osborn sat back down on the bed.

How do you propose to do that?”

The Joker leaned into the light and grinned wickedly.

New York loves her heroes. Nothing is as painful to a community as the loss of one of its heroes, one of its protectors. So I propose that we scrap the rest of the plan and go straight for the heart. We kill one of her heroes publicly and for all to see. Tonight…we kill Spider-Man!”

XXXXXX

Bats and Spidey Accomplices?” Bruce read the morning headline while standing before the window of his rented, tenth story penthouse. “Is that the kind of yellow journalism that passes for news in this city?”

“Well, the Daily Bugle does tout itself as New York’s Picture Newspaper, Sir.” said Alfred as he poured a cup of coffee for his employer. “After said photographs, I assume the rest is only filler.”

Bruce sat down at an antique oak desk and flipped open his laptop as he sipped his coffee.

“I know Joker. He’s going to strike again, and quickly. Goblin, he’s going to be harder to figure out. The question is, why are they working together?”

He clicked through article after article about Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin.

“I’m afraid theirs will be neither a stable nor enduring relationship, Master Bruce.” said Alfred, laying out a suit out on the bed.

Bruce continued searching the websites of several of the local newspapers. He began to notice a pattern that several of the Daily Bugle’s photographs featuring the Goblin fighting Spider-Man were credited to a Peter Parker. A further search showed that a great many of the Bugle’s Spider-Man photos were also taken by Peter Parker.

Bruce picked up the phone and quickly dialed a number.

Gotham Public Library, Head Librarian Gordon speaking.” answered a polite voice on the other end.

“Barbara, it’s Bruce.”

I knew you’d need my help sooner or later.” Barbara Gordon laughed excitedly. “Shall I hop on a train?”

“I just need a favor.”

Of course you do.” she sighed, disappointment in her voice. “How can I be of service, Mister Wayne?”

“I need you to hack into the employment records of the Daily Bugle.”

The newspaper in New York? Why?”

“I have my reasons. Can you find a file on a photographer named Peter Parker and email it to me?”

“Of course I can.” Barbara sighed before whispering. “But the next time the Joker skips town and you go looking for him, Batgirl is coming with you.”

“No promises.” Bruce replied before hanging up.

Ten minutes later Bruce received an email containing the Daily Bugle employment history of one Peter Benjamin Parker with an attached photograph and a note from Barbara reading “He’s cute! Tell me he’s not a bad guy!”

As soon as the photograph of a smiling, square-jawed kid with short brown hair appeared on his monitor, he knew who he was looking at. He was the same photographer that he had bumped into at the Stark benefit last night, and even though Parker had been there, no pictures credited to him had appeared in that morning’s Bugle.

Bruce Wayne knew that he was looking at a picture of Spider-Man.

XXXXXX

Peter stood on the balcony of the large apartment belonging to his friend Harry Osborn, staring out at the Manhattan skyline.

“Sorry Pete. Business call.” Harry said as he slid open a glass door and stepped out onto the patio. “It’s been hard trying to manage my father’s duties at the company after…”

He sighed and looked off.

So…how have you been?” asked Peter. “I mean, since he escaped…”

“He came to see me last night, Pete. He just showed up right here on the balcony.”

Harry rubbed his eyes with his palms.

He’s…he’s not my dad anymore, Pete. He was just…he’s a…a monster now.”

“What did he say? What did he want?” asked Peter apprehensively.

He…he told me that he missed me. That he was sorry for all of the mistakes he had made in raising me. He’s never said that to me before.”

“That’s it?”

No.” Harry sighed as he gazed down at the traffic below. “He told me that…we were going to be together again soon. That he was going to reclaim the power that he had lost. That…I could have the same power too…”

“What did he mean by that?”

Harry shrugged and sat down on a lounge chair.

“I don’t know, Pete. I know that he was a man who relished power. He loved being in charge, being the best at everything. I think that’s what drove him to take that serum in the first place that…turned him into that…thing.”

Peter didn’t know what to say. He felt bad for Harry. At the same time, he had hoped that Harry could shed some insight onto what his father’s next move would be.

“What else did he say?”

Harry sighed.

“I asked him to surrender. To turn himself in. He just laughed and flew off. It sounds crazy, but I almost wanted to go with him. I mean, my old man was a bastard, but he’s still my dad you know? All I ever wanted was to make him happy…for him to be proud of me.”

Peter nodded as he slipped his hands into the pocket of his sweatshirt.

Well, maybe Spider-Man can catch him and get him the help that he needs…”

“Don’t talk to me about Spider-Man.” Harry sneered. “I saw on the news that Spider-Man had a chance to catch my dad last night and he let him get away. So did Batman. I don’t trust any of those costumed freaks.”

“Well, I heard it was quite a fight…”

Whatever. Hey Pete, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you about me and MJ getting back together. I know how you’ve felt about her and-”

Peter waved him off.

It’s in the past, Harry. She’s your girl.” he almost choked on the words. “I just want you guys to be happy together.”

Harry stood and gave his friend a hug.

“Thanks, Pete. You’re a good friend.”

So everybody tells me.” Peter forced a smile. “See ya around, Harry.”

XXXXXX

Peter made his way down the street on his way to Dr. Connors’ class at the university and cut through the usual alley that he cut through when his spider-sense kicked off.

He froze momentarily, swiveling his head, searching for any sign of danger.

“Spider-sense tingling, Mr. Parker?” said a voice from the shadows.

Oh no. Somebody knew who he was! Peter took a fighting stance and waited.

“Relax. I just want to talk.” the voice said calmly.

Who’s there?” Peter called.

“Not here.”

Batman fired his grappling gun and ascended to the roof of the warehouse that abutted the alley.

Peter checked over his shoulder, then scaled the wall in a few short seconds. He climbed over the retaining wall to see Batman standing before him.

Batman eyed him in the light of the afternoon.
“Goblin really worked you over.”

Peter self-consciously touched the bruises on his face.

You know who I am.” he said quietly.

“Yes.”

But how did you-?”

“I’m Batman. That’s how.”

Peter folded his arms.

“Are you going to tell anyone? Because if my enemies knew who I was…the lives of everyone I care about would be in danger.”

“I know how to keep a secret. We all have our own reasons why we wear these masks.”

Peter nodded. Relieved.

Soooo….do I get to find out who you are?”

“No.”

Peter folded his arms.

“What a gip.”

You know the Goblin.” Batman said as his cape rustled in the breeze. “You know how he thinks. What’s his next move?”

“Ah, so the legendary Batman needs advice from your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.” Peter smiled proudly. “What a turn of events!”

Batman stared at him.

“Okaaaayyyy.” Peter sighed, tossing up his hands. “Well, Osborn stopped playing with a full deck ever since he ingested that serum. But before that, he was one of these guys who needed to excel at everything he did. Had to be the best at business, at play, all of it. When he took that serum, it magnified everything about him. His size, strength…personality. It drove him insane and part of that insanity is his constant desire for power. Since I stopped him last time, I think he’s looking for an even bigger way to impress upon everyone exactly how powerful he really thinks he is.”

Batman nodded as he slowly paced with his hands behind his back.

The Joker enjoys an audience. He likes being the center of attention. The bigger, the better. He enjoys killing as many people as possible. He’s impatient, too. Since he was thwarted last night, I expect him to strike again quickly. Maybe as soon as tonight. The question that I keep coming back to is…why are the Joker and Green Goblin working together? Aside from his girlfriend Harley, the Joker pretty much prefers to operate alone.”

Peter slipped his hands into his pockets and kicked at the gravel roof.

Maybe he doesn’t know the city? He needs the Goblin because he knows the territory?”

“Possible.” said Batman. “Since the Joker broke Osborn out of custody, it’s safe to assume that the Joker is the instigator in all of this. He and Osborn have never teamed up before, so why would he invite him in on whatever his plan is? There has to be some kind of link.”

“It’s me.” Peter felt queasy. “I fought the Joker after he got into town. The next day he breaks Osborn out of prison. Anybody with access to Google knows that Spider-Man is the Goblin’s sworn enemy. I think that somehow, I’m in the middle of this. I’m the link.”

“So all of this is to bring down Spider-Man?” asked Batman. “I know better than anyone how the Joker can become fixated on one enemy, but I don’t know if that’s what we’re looking at here. Maybe you’re just the bait.”

“Well, it’s nice to know I’m wanted.”

Maybe the Joker lures Osborn into his plan by promising to take care of Spider-Man for him. Perhaps he’s just using the Goblin, but using him for what?”

“At any rate, I have a feeling that they’re going to strike again tonight.” Peter sighed as he stared off at the city’s skyline. “Tonight’s the opening night of the World Unity Festival. They’d have a huge audience and a large gathering of people. It’s right up their alley.”

“We’ll need to be on our toes, then.” said Batman.

You’re right. And we can’t order them to cancel the festival because-” Peter turned to find the Batman had disappeared.

XXXXXX

It was early evening and the sun had not yet set as people filled Times Square for the World Unity Festival, a relatively new tradition in New York, designed to promote peace and understanding as well as inject revenue into the economy of the country’s largest city.

Spider-Man perched on a stone gargoyle at the edge of a building high above the street. He scanned the crowd below for any sign of trouble.

He paused momentarily to think about Harry and Mary Jane. He wondered if he was ever going to find someone, or would Spider-Man always come first? He sighed, and shook his head as he focused on the job at hand.

Inspirational images and animations flashed on the large digital screens around the square as several large balloons shaped like popular cartoon characters hovered above the scene, tethered to crews on the ground.

He was sure Batman was around here somewhere. At least he hoped.

Music played loudly as Katy Perry and four backup dancers took the stage that was surrounded by a massive crowd.

“Katy Perry?” Spider-Man sighed to himself. “I suppose AC/DC would’ve been too much to ask for.”

He continued to scan the streets for any potential threats. There was a virtual army of NYPD officers lining the streets with several ESU snipers perched strategically on several buildings.

Spider-Man still didn’t have the best relationship with New York’s Finest and he was nervous as to what actions they would take if they spotted him.

Everything seemed to be going fine. Ms. Perry was half way through her first song when one of her backup dancers stepped out of line and began to do her own dance independently of the other three.

“What are you doing?” Katy Perry hissed, covering her mic.

The blond dancer danced closer to the singer, spinning. As she came out of the spin, she pulled a large knife and held it to Katy Perry’s throat, pinning an arm behind her back.

The music immediately stopped and the crowd shrieked in horror.

Oh boy.” Spider-Man sighed as he quickly stood.

Several police officers rushed the stage when the Joker’s laughing visage appeared on all of the screens in the square.

That’s far enough officers.” the Joker’s voiced boomed.

Yeah, back off coppers or I turn the girl into a Pez dispenser!” Harley Quinn shouted before she whispered in Katy Perry’s ear. “Big fan! Got all your albums!”

“Oh God, this is so not cool!” Katy Perry cried.

Now, I suppose you’re all wondering why New York’s newest pal, the Joker, (that’s me) would interrupt the World Unity Festival.” the Joker called. “Well, I have big plans for this sleepy little hamlet of yours and I think it’s time that I tell you about them.

Spider-Man looked for a spot that the Joker could be broadcasting from. There were several TV news and satellite trucks parked all over.

You see, I’m a man who likes challenges.” the Joker continued as the crowd watched the screens in stunned silence. “And the challenge that I’ve issued myself is a tall one. I want to see if I can bring your fair city to its ever-loving knees. You people have been through plenty and well, I want to see how much you can truly endure. Are you really as resilient as you claim to be or will I crush your souls? My money’s on me! AHAHAHAH!!!!

People in the crowd screamed and gasped.

Now, I know he’s here, so he might as well come on out.” the Joker taunted from the digital screens. “Here, Spidey! Come on out or Ms. Quinn slices up one pretty little pop singer!

“Oh gawd!” Katy Perry squealed.

Spider-Man fired off a web-line and swung down from his perch, dropping onto the stage.

“Okay, Bozo. You wanted me, you got me. Now show yourself!” Spider-Man shouted at the large screen behind the stage.

Who are you to be giving orders at a time like this?” the Joker crowed down at him. “You heroes, you’re all the same! So cocky and arrogant!

Several blocks away, the Batmobile raced towards the scene, swerving through traffic with precision accuracy.

On the next block over, the Mayor had exited his limousine when he was met by several police officers from the Emergency Services Unit.

“Your Honor, the Joker’s here! We can’t let you into the event.” said Captain Stacey of the ESU. “We need to get you to a safe location, Sir.”

“My God!” was all the Mayor could utter before something exploded off

to the right.

The Green Goblin swooped down out of the sky, firing his glider’s dual machine guns at the ground.

The police officers opened fire at him. The Goblin cackled as he hurled pumpkin bombs at the ground. Gas exploded from the bombs and the officers and the Mayor fell unconscious.

The Goblin landed long enough to throw the Mayor’s body over his glider before soaring off into the evening sky.

“Let her go, Joker!” Spider-Man called. “I’m not telling you again!”

I have a confession to make, Webs.” called the Joker. “I had my girl Harley threaten the lovely Ms. Perry there in the hopes that I would lure you out of hiding. You see, I plan to show your beloved city that no one is safe from me. And I’m going to do that by killing Spider-Man in front of eight million people! AHAHAHAHHAHAAAH!

Again, terrified screams went up from the crowd. The screens suddenly went dark and the rear doors of a nearby satellite truck slammed open.

The Joker hopped out carrying a chrome Desert Eagle pistol at his side. The massive crowd of people scattered in every direction. The Joker strode confidently across the square towards the stage, his eyes narrowed at Spider-Man.

Spider-Man’s spider-sense was buzzing like crazy.

Oh God oh God oh God…” Katy Perry sobbed as Harley Quinn continued to press the knife to her throat.

“Go ahead, make a move, I dare ya!” the Joker called. “I triple dog dare ya, Spidey! Make a move and I’m gonna blow a hole in you the size of Queens. Come on! Let’s see how fast you really are-”

“No, damn you!” the Goblin shouted as he flew down and circled over the crowd. “I told you that I’m killing Spider-Man!”

“Oh shut it, Norman!” the Joker snapped as he fired off a shot at the Goblin. “You were supposed to kill the Mayor! That was supposed to distract you while I squashed the spider!”

Just then, the Batmobile roared around the corner, racing towards the stage as the crowd continued to scatter.

Spider-Man fired two lines from his web shooters, one at the knife in Harley’s hand and the other at Katy Perry.

He yanked the knife out of Harley Quinn’s hand and tossed it aside and with the other hand spun the singer away from Harley Quinn and into his arms.

“Oh muh Gawd, thank you!” Perry squealed as she slumped against Spider-Man.

“Not now.” Spider-Man said as he pushed her away and hit Harley with a barrage of webbing, causing her to fall to the stage in a virtual cocoon of webs.

“No! This sucks!” Harley squealed, thrashing on stage. “Mr. J! Ya gotta help me!”

“Daddy’s busy, Pumpkin!” the Joker shouted as he fired at the Batmobile. The bullets ricocheted off of the vehicle’s armor as it screeched to a halt.

As several police officers rushed Katy Perry off the stage, Spider-Man made a run at the Joker. He used a web-line to pull the pistol from his hand. He caught the gun and twisted it in his hands, dropping it harmlessly on the stage.

The Goblin made another pass and dropped a pumpkin bomb just a few feet away from the Joker.

When the smoke had settled, the Joker had disappeared. The Goblin circled over Times Square as he climbed higher in the sky.

“First things first!” he called. “I told you all how powerful I was! And to prove my point, I’m going to destroy the most powerful man in the city! Literally!”

Spider-Man watched as the Goblin kicked the Mayor’s lifeless body off of his glider.

“No!” he shouted helplessly as he watched the Mayor plummet fifteen stories.

He raised his hands to fire his web-lines when seemingly out of nowhere, Batman descended through the air, his black cape billowing behind him. He caught the Mayor with one arm, then turned and fired his grappling gun at a nearby building.

They swung down towards an office building and crashed through a plate glass window. Batman dropped the Mayor on the carpet as he came to a rolling stop.

“Please see that he gets medical attention immediately.” he said to the stunned office staff as he turned, then ran and jumped through the shattered window.

He landed on top of a giant clown balloon and watched as the Goblin circled back towards him.

“This isn’t your town, Batman! You don’t belong here!” the Goblin shouted as he raced his glider straight towards the Dark Knight.

Batman slung a small bat shaped disc at him that hit the Goblin’s chest and then exploded, knocking him off of his glider which veered off into the sky unmanned.

The Goblin landed on top of the balloon. He scrambled to his feet, struggling to maintain his balance on the billowy, rubber surface.

He and Batman both took a fighting stance and stared each other down.

Spider-Man wanted to help Batman, but he knew that tracking down the Joker had to be his first priority. There were too many innocent people around.

He leapt onto the side of a building and clung to the fifth story wall as he searched for the Joker below.

People continued to run away from the square in large droves. Spider-Man scanned the crowds for anything unusual. Well, anything even more unusual than people fleeing an attack by the Joker and Green Goblin.

Then he saw it. A vendor in a white coat and cap pushing an ice cream cart down the middle of the street in the opposite direction of the fleeing people.

“That’s not good.” Spider-Man said as he swung through the air.

The Joker grinned up at him from under his white cap and flung several of his razor sharp playing cards at Spider-Man.

One nicked his arm, throwing him off balance. He let go of his web-line and landed hard on top of a delivery van, caving in the roof.

“I got plenty more where that came from, little Spider!” the Joker laughed as he tossed away his hat and coat. “Come on Spider-Man! Come at me!”

Spider-Man shook his head and hopped down from the van. The fall had dazed him.

“Come at me?” Spider-Man replied, steadying himself against the smashed van. “How original. You really have to steal your lines from YouTube videos? I think you need a new writer.”

Back on top of the balloon, Batman socked the Green Goblin with a roundhouse punch to the jaw, knocking him down.

The Goblin kicked Batman’s legs out from under him, then pounced on him. He wrapped one hand around Batman’s throat and made a fist with the other. He energized his fist with crackling electricity as he cocked his arm for the punch.

Batman landed a quick jab with his left fist, knocking the Goblin off of the balloon.

He disappeared momentarily before rising again on his glider. As he attempted to fly off, Batman fired his grappling gun at the glider. The anchor and line wrapped around one of the wings and the Goblin soared off above Manhattan with Batman trailing behind him, sailing through the air.

“No! Get off!” the Goblin screamed as he fired blasts of electricity at Batman which missed.

On the ground below, the Joker threw more cards at Spider-Man. He dodged them as he leapt into the air.

He landed in front of the Joker who began to cackle ominously.

Spider-Man grabbed the Joker and hurled him into the delivery van. The Joker fell to his knees, still laughing.

Spider-Man fired a web at him and yanked him closer so that he could punch the Joker in the face.

“Come on! Finish me off, Webs!” the Joker spat, still smiling.

Spider-Man gripped the Joker by the throat and lifted him off the ground. The Joker continued cackling as blood trickled from his lips and down his chin.

“What is wrong with you?” Spider-Man shouted. “You maniac! You murder people and you just keep laughing?”

“Oh, but..it…it really is funny…” the Joker coughed, his voice tight as he struggled to breathe. “You…you can keep on…pummeling me…but…it won’t mean anything. Lots…lots of people are…are gonna die…us included.”

“What are you talking about Joker?” Spider-Man demanded.

The Joker’s eyes darted to the left and Spider-Man followed his gaze to the ice cream cart.

“What did you do?”

The Joker chuckled.

Go on…” he whispered. “Look inside…”

Spider-Man covered the Joker in several blasts of webbing, wrapping him from shoulders to feet, then suspended him from a nearby street light.

He pulled open the doors of the ice cream cart and peered inside to see several sticks of C-4 explosive, connected to a detonator and clock, wrapped around three large glass containers filled with a green liquid.

“Oh no…” Spider-Man said quietly.

That’s right.” the Joker howled as he kicked and thrashed as he hung from the light. “I made my own dirty bomb. But instead of nuclear material, it’s a highly concentrated mix of my lethal laughing gas! Ten times more powerful than what I used at the parade! What’s the over under on how many are gonna kick off? A hundred thousand? Five hundred thousand?”

As the Green Goblin raced through the sky he hurled a pumpkin bomb at

Batman, who continued to swing behind him from the attached line.

“Give up!” the Goblin shouted.

The Batman pulled another bat-shaped disc from his utility belt and whipped it at the glider. It attached itself to the bottom of the glider and then exploded.

Batman let go of the rope and did a somersault in the air.

The glider spiraled out of control and crashed onto the roof of an apartment building in a fireball.

The Green Goblin landed hard on the roof as Batman dropped down behind him, landing on his feet.

Batman stalked towards the Goblin who lay dazed on the roof.

Game over, Goblin.”

As Batman reached down to grab the Goblin, he was blasted with electricity.

He stumbled backwards. The Goblin jumped to his feet and ran towards him.

Batman dropped to one knee and kicked the Goblin’s legs out from under him. As soon as the Goblin hit the roof, Batman landed on him and socked him repeatedly in the face, momentarily stunning him.

Batman quickly ripped off the Green Goblin’s gloves and tossed them aside. Then he cut the strap from the Goblin’s satchel that contained his pumpkin bombs and hurled it across the roof.

Smoke billowed up from the damaged and burning glider, drifting across the roof.

“It’s over, Osborn. You’re going back to prison.” Batman said as he stood over him.

“Nnnnooooo….” the Goblin moaned. “You…you can’t…”

“I said it’s over.”

As Batman reached down to pull him to his feet, the Goblin’s eyes snapped open and he smiled wickedly. He headbutted Batman, causing him to fall back.

As Batman struggled to his feet, the Goblin ran at him, catching him in the stomach with a shoulder and rammed him into a brick wall.

Batman kneed the Goblin in the stomach. As he doubled over in pain, Batman pulled off the Goblin’s grotesque green mask, revealing Osborn’s face.

“No. It…it can’t end like this…” Osborn sneered. “My revenge. I…must have my revenge on Spider-Man…”

“You should thank Spider-Man.” said Batman as he loomed over him. “He did what he could to help you. Prison is the best place for a man like you, Osborn.”

“I…will…never go back…to prison.” Osborn replied as he pulled a small remote control from his belt and pressed the glider’s self-destruct button.

The glider exploded, sending a small fireball into the air. The concussion from the blast knocked Batman off of his feet.

Osborn stood and dashed for the edge of the roof.

STOP!” shouted Batman as Osborn leapt from the roof and disappeared from sight.

Batman raced to the edge of the roof and gazed down at the alley below to see Norman Osborn’s lifeless body laying in a rapidly growing pool of blood.

A mile away, back at Times Square, Spider-Man stood over the bomb. He had to act fast.

He carefully pulled the device from the cart and placed it on the ground.

What’re ya gonna do, Spidey? Huh? Disarm it?” the Joker taunted. “Go ahead…let’s see what happens…”

“If I disconnect the wires from the power source, you’ve installed a fail-safe, so it’ll blow anyway, haven’t you?” Spider-Man called over his shoulder as he studied the bomb.

The clock ticked away. Three minutes left before detonation.

You’ve lost, wall crawler!” the Joker laughed. “Admit defeat!”

“Wow, you’re dumber than you look.” Spider-Man said as he punched a hole in the side of the ice cream cart. “You used a real ice cream cart.”

“Don’t half-ass it, I always say!” the Joker laughed.

Well, see… since it’s a real cart, there’s real refrigerant inside.” Spider-Man said as he ripped out a metal tube from inside the cart.

“NO! Nooooo!” the Joker cried.

Spider-Man broke the tube in half and white refrigerant sprayed out. He twisted the tube so that he could blast the bomb with the substance, covering the clock and detonator in frost.

The numbers which had been rapidly counting down slowed and then finally stopped.

If I had interrupted the circuit by yanking out the wires, the bomb would have gone off.” Spider-Man said, folding his arms. “So instead, I kept the circuit intact and just stopped the clock.”

“No! No fair! I call shenanigans!” the Joker screamed. “No fair! No fa-”

Spider-Man fired a quick shot of webs that covered the Joker’s mouth.

Batman swung down and dropped to the pavement beside Spider-Man.

Nice work.”

“I do okay.” Spider-Man replied. “Where’s Osborn?”

He killed himself.” Batman sighed. “Nothing I could do.”

Spider-Man stared at the ground. This was going to hit Harry hard. He was glad that MJ would be there for his friend.

Sirens screamed from every direction as police cars, fire trucks and ambulances arrived at the scene.

“That’s my cue, Bats.” Spider-Man said, firing off a web and swinging away.

“That’s some nice work, Batman.” said one of the police officers as they hauled away Harley Quinn.

“Thank Spider-Man.” Batman replied as he headed towards the Batmobile.

“What, you guys partners now or somethin’?” asked another cop.

No.” Batman replied as the driver door swung open. “We’re colleagues.”

He climbed inside the Batmobile which backed up and then roared out of sight.

XXXXXX

That night, Spider-Man stood on top of the Daily Bugle building, staring out at the twinkling lights below. It seemed like just another Manhattan night.

He slipped off his mask and breathed in the brisk air. He was glad that he and Batman had stopped the Goblin and Joker, but it scared him the way that he pounded on the Joker. He almost lost control of himself.

“Not a bad evening.” said Batman from behind him, causing Peter to jump.

“Geez! Stop doing that!” Peter threw up his hands.

You did well. The Joker’s not easy to defeat.” said Batman as he stepped into the moonlight. “I should know.”

“Well, I’m smarter than I look.” said Peter.

So it would seem.”

“Ah, Batman’s got jokes.”

Batman stood beside him and gazed at the horizon.

“You have my respect, Mr. Parker.” he said. “Protecting New York definitely has its challenges. You’re more than capable of handling the job.”

“I do all right.” Peter replied. “That was a neat trick you pulled by the way, sending the Batmobile in by remote control as a distraction.”

“A distraction.” Batman mused. “That’s all the Green Goblin was. The Joker roped him into his scheme so he could distract us as he tried to kill half a million people. At least the Goblin can’t do anymore harm.”

Again, Peter thought of his friend Harry. He would have to check on him tomorrow. See if there was anyway that he could help him.

“So, I suppose this is where we part ways, eh, Caped Crusader?”
he said, slipping his mask back on.

“Well done, Spider-Man.”

Aw thanks, Bats!” Spider-Man sang. “And if you ever need me to head over to Gotham and-”

“I won’t.” Batman replied.

Never say never.”

Spider-Man blasted a web-line then leapt from the roof. Batman watched as he swung off through the canyon of skyscrapers, yelping.

“Whooo-hoooooo!!!”

Batman smirked as he disappeared into the darkness.

XXXXXX

Meanwhile, Harry Osborn stepped out into the cold, quiet hallway of the morgue and leaned against the wall.

“Oh Harry!” Mary Jane called as she ran down the hall to him.

She wrapped her arms around him, but he didn’t hug her back. He just stood there, numb.

“It’s him.” he sighed. “I…they showed me the body. It’s him.”

Oh Harry. I’m so sorry.” MJ sighed, resting her head on his shoulder.

He pushed away from her and turned his back.

They…they said it was a suicide…that he jumped…but I know better…”

“Harry?” Mary Jane touched his back. “What are you saying?”

Batman was on the roof with him. I heard the reports. My father didn’t jump…Batman…this is all Batman’s fault. He’s responsible for my father’s death.”

“Harry, no…”

He turned back to face her. His face was blank and he stared past her, almost as if he couldn’t see her.

“I’m going to make him pay. I swear by every fiber of my being, I’m going to make Batman pay for what he did, if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

Epilogue

20 miles outside of Metropolis.

“And can you describe this object that fell from the sky, ma’am?”

Well…it looked like a man.” the elderly woman replied, standing at the front door of her modest farmhouse.

“Yes Sir, looked like a man fell plum out of the sky and landed over yonder.” her husband added, standing beside her. “Brought up a huge cloud a dust, too. We stayed away. Thought it’d be best.”

“What did you say your name was, young man?” asked the woman.

Coulson, Ma’am. Agent Coulson.” replied the man in the dark suit. “This man landed ‘over yonder’? Would yonder be that cornfield?”

“Yeah….yonder.” the farmer said as he pointed at the field across the two lane highway.

“Thank you for your time.” Coulson said as he turned to leave.

Well, what do you think it really was?” the woman called after him.

“Probably a weather balloon.” Coulson replied as he trotted down the front steps and marched towards the cornfield.

He crossed the highway, then switched on his small flashlight and held it above his head as he waded into the cornstalks.

He made his way in about twenty feet when he stopped at the edge of a small crater. He shined his light across the earth until something glinted in its beam in the middle of the crater.

He made his way down and stooped to pick up a mangled pair of eyeglasses with broken lenses.

He continued to inspect the glasses as he brought his cellphone to his ear.

“Director Fury. I’m outside Metropolis. I’m fairly certain we have a situation, Sir.”

End of Episode 3

All characters featured in this piece of fiction are the copyrighted property of their respective owners, creators and studios.

Issue #2: The Spider and The Bat Part 2

DCMU cover 2

Issue #2:

The Spider and The Bat

Part II

“Bruce, I can’t tell you how good it is to see you again.” said Reed Richards as he and Bruce descended an elevator towards the basement of the Baxter building, home to the Fantastic Four.

“Same here, Reed.” replied Bruce. “I just wish it was under better circumstances.”

“Please, no apology needed. This is the life we’ve chosen. We do what we have to.”

The doors slid open and the two men stepped out into a spacious garage type area. Off to one side sat the sleek, high tech, rocket powered vehicle known as the Batmobile.

“This is awesome!” said Johnny Storm, AKA The Human Torch, as he and the musclebound Thing circled the car. “How fast can it go?”

“As fast as I need it to.” Bruce replied.

How ’bout a ride, Bats?” asked the Thing, in a gravelly Brooklyn accent.

Bruce smirked.

Not sure how I’d shoehorn you into the cockpit.”

“We have to go, boys. Sue’s upstairs right now and we don’t want to keep her waiting, do we?”

“You are so whipped!” Johnny called as he and the Thing strolled past.

We’d love to stay and help you with your…problem,” said Richards as he followed the others. “But SHIELD has requested us to assist them on a mission and well, you know how Nick Fury can be.”

“Indeed I do. We’re not very big fans of each other.” said Bruce. “Thank you again for the use of your facilities.”

Hey, is Batgirl seeing anybody?” called Johnny as he stepped onto the elevator.

Richards extended his right arm fifteen feet and clasped his hand over his brother in law’s mouth.

“It’s the least we could.” he replied graciously.

XXXXXX

“Where am I?” asked Osborn as he sat on an old couch inside of a darkened warehouse. He was still groggy from the collision.

“A cozy little abandoned toy factory on Coney Island.” the Joker replied, as he stepped into the light. “I gotta say, Norman, I am a huge fan of your work. I mean, HUGE! The pumpkin bombs? I love ‘em! Brilliant!”

“The Joker?” Osborn said in amazement.

The one and only!” the Joker did a quick tap dance before him and clapped his hands. “Impressive, aren’t I?”

“What do you want with me, exactly?”

The Joker plopped down onto the couch beside him and crossed his legs.

“A collaboration. A duet, if you will. I’ve longed to work with a fellow artist of your caliber. I mean, the opportunity doesn’t come along all that often, you know?”

“Why do you want to…collaborate with me?” asked Osborn suspiciously.

Why? WHY?!” the Joker cackled as he stood. “Because, my dear Norman, when it comes right down it, you’re just as stark raving mad as I am! We’re kindred spirits, you and I!”

“I’m not…insane.”

Oh sure you are. You know it. I know it. The crazy little voice in your head knows it.”

Osborn stared down at the cement floor. He noticed a puddle of stagnant water and in that puddle, he saw his reflection. His reflection grinned back at him menacingly, even though he, himself was not smiling at all.

He broke his gaze from the water and looked up at the Joker.

Why should I work with you? What do you want?”

“Now we’re getting somewhere!” the Joker replied, pacing in front of him. “As you know, I’m from Gotham. I’ve grown tired of Gotham. There’s this creepy guy in a bat suit over there that chases me around and won’t ever let me have any fun. Do you know how annoying that is? I mean, I’m a grown man. If I want to say…slaughter the city council, who he is he to stop me, right? I mean, this is America! If I want to rob a bank here and there, I should be able to…ah, but I digress.”

The Joker clasped his hands behind his back.

I just want to have a little fun, Norman. That’s all. Of course, my kind of fun involves killing people and blowing things up. Things that you’re all too familiar with. Am I right?”

Osborn arched an eyebrow.

Go on.”

“What is it most in this world that you crave, Norman?”

Osborn narrowed his eyes at the Joker.

“Power.” he quietly growled. “I crave power.”

I knew you would say that!” The Joker sang. “You had it all until you went all batty, for lack of a better term, and started flying around killing people. You were one of the richest men in the world. You had it all. But it wasn’t enough, was it? You wanted more. Your quest for ultimate power, well it sort of backfired, didn’t it? Eh, Normy?”

“Get to the point, clown.”

“I’m going to set up shop here in the Big Apple. I want to see if I can take the soul of the greatest city in the world and crush it to dust. I want to drag this town down to depths even Gotham city hasn’t seen.”

“And how do you propose to do that?”

Simple enough, really. I will destroy the city’s elite. The rich, the ruling class. I will destroy New York’s leaders. I will destroy her beloved landmarks. Her culture. I will spread fear across this city and soon, it will be a shell of its former self.”

“Why?”

Eh, just for kicks, really. It’s what I do. But I need you, dear Norman, or more precisely, the Green Goblin. Together, we will own this city. I must admit, I’m pretty fearsome on my own, but I followed the Goblin’s exploits and you had New York scared to death. It trembled at the very mention of your name. Well, that is…until somebody stopped you.”

Osborn stared at his reflection in the puddle. The reflection glared back at him.

“Spiderrrrrr-Mannnnnn.” the reflection hissed.

Helloooo, Earth to Norman!” the Joker called, waving his arm.

“Spider-Man.” Norman said quietly.

That’s right! Spider-Man stopped you. The little bastard in footy pajamas crossed my path the other day. Annoying, isn’t he?”

Osborn stood and took two steps toward the Joker who slipped his right hand under his jacket and gripped the pistol that was tucked into the back of his waistband.

“What is your proposal?” Osborn asked haltingly.

The Joker released his grip on the pistol.

“You help me accomplish my goals…and I kill Spider-Man for you. Easy peasy.”

“No.” said Osborn.

No?” the Joker reached for the pistol again.

“I help you…then I kill Spider-Man.”

Hey, whatever, big guy!” the Joker laughed, resting his hands on Osborn’s shoulders. “Either/or. I’m flexible. Now, let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?”

XXXXXX

Peter snapped pictures as he made his way through the ballroom of the swanky downtown hotel that hosted the benefit for the Maria Stark foundation.

He was thankful for the distraction. He’d searched the Internet for news of the Joker, hoping to somehow find a pattern in his crimes, something that might tip him off as to what the Joker hoped to accomplish, but it was frustrating. There seemed to be no purpose behind anything that he did. It was all madness. The fact that Norman Osborn had escaped police custody was another headache that Peter didn’t need.

He had even thought about asking the Fantastic Four for some sort of help, but they were out of town. Sometimes it was lonely being a superhero.

Bruce brushed past some kid photographer from one of the local tabloids as he navigated the crowd of New York’s glitterati.

He saw the evening’s host and reluctantly decided to say hello to the arrogant little snot as he tapped him on the shoulder.

Tony Stark turned to face his friendly rival, Bruce Wayne.

Bruce Wayne! Good to see you, buddy.” Stark smiled as they shook hands. “I want to thank you for the generous donation. I was really surprised. Particularly because Stark Industries beat out WayneTech for that big government satellite contract. Just goes to show what a class act you are. No hard feelings or anything?”

“Of course not.” Bruce forced a smile.

Tony, you are playing nice, aren’t you?” asked Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts as she glided over wearing a tasteful black dress and slipped her arm around Tony’s.

“You know me, dear. The perfect host.”

Bruce gave Pepper a friendly kiss on the cheek.

“Good to see you again, Ms. Potts. You’re looking lovely as ever.”

Thank you, Bruce. It’s great to see you! I don’t see anyone on your arm tonight. Going stag?”

“I’m afraid so. Just in town for a couple of days on business and I thought I’d stop by to personally drop off my donation.”

“Well, that was very gracious of you. Thank you.”

So, I’m amazed you’re even here, Tony.” said Bruce. “I thought playing superhero kept you pretty busy these days.”

“Well, even Iron Man needs a night off.” Stark smiled.

Bruce folded his arms.

“Billionaire playboy, superhero, not to mention the work you do with The Avengers. I don’t know how you fit it all in, Tony. I know I couldn’t do it. My life is busy enough as it is without having to save the world as well.”

“Well, some of us have it, some don’t.” Stark raised his glass. “I should be in Gotham next month on business, Bruce. We must get together and hit the links. Wait, do they have any golf courses in Gotham? Is there grass in Gotham?”

“I apologize for him.” Pepper smiled. “Come on, Tony. I think the Senator would like a word with you.”

“Nice seeing you again, Bruce!” Stark called over his shoulder as they headed off across the ballroom.

Peter had just snapped a picture of Tony Stark as he passed when suddenly his Spider Sense kicked in.

The lights in the ballroom went out and the room was plunged into darkness amid a collective gasp from the gathering of people inside.

A spotlight switched on from above and followed a gaunt man wearing a purple suit and fedora as he strolled across the stage.

“Joker!” Bruce and Peter whispered in unison before each man raced from the room in opposite directions.

“Is that the Joker?” Stark whispered to Pepper who nodded uncomfortably.

“Goooood evening New Yooork!” the Joker called, twirling his walking stick. “How about this party? Let’s hear it for Tony Stark! Am I riiiiight, folks?”

He was met by stunned silence.

Lights, please. Can we have the house lights turned up?” the Joker called, cupping a hand over his eyes.

“Sure thing, Puddin’!” Harley Quinn called from above.

The crowd began to murmur as the lights switched back on.

“Happy! Where’s Happy?” Stark whispered, glancing around the room.

I don’t know.” Pepper replied desperately. “I think I saw him in the back eating shrimp.”

As Stark began to make his way through the crowd, the Joker pulled a gun and pointed it at him.

“Not so fast, Mr. Stark.” he called. “Bad form if the host leaves early, isn’t it?”

“Look, buddy,” Stark said as he stepped forward. “I don’t know what your game is, but if it’s money you want, well, you know, I’ve got that. How much do you need? Couple grand? I think I’ve got that much in my sock, here…”

“You think I want money, Mr. Stark?” the Joker laughed as he held up a remote control and all of the doors in the hall suddenly slammed shut. “I don’t want money. I just want to kill each and every person in here.”

Shrieks and screams went up from the crowd.

I’m going to slaughter a room full of the fattest fat cats in New York, just to show that no one is immune from my particular brand of terror!”

You’re not touching anyone in here, you hear me?!” Stark shouted.

“And who’s going to stop me?” the Joker howled. “I don’t see your fancy tin suit anywhere, Mr. Stark. Are you going to stop me?”

The skylight above the stage shattered and a figure in black dropped to the floor in a hail of broken glass.

“I’m going to stop you.” Batman said as he stood.

Well that didn’t take long!” the Joker cried. “You can’t even leave me alone when I’m on vacation?”

“Let these people go, Joker.” growled Batman.

No, I don’t think I’ll be doing that.”

There was a maniacal, cackling laugh from above and Batman turned to see the Green Goblin swoop in through the shattered ceiling on his glider.

He circled the room, his terrifying green visage and yellow eyes eliciting frightened screams from the crowd.

I’ve got a partner, this time, Bats!” the Joker called. “This may present a bit more of a challenge for you!”

Spider-Man swung down from the rafters on a web-line and collided with the Joker, feet first, sending him sliding across the stage.

“Remember me, Bozo?” Spider-Man called as he stalked towards the Joker.

“SPIDER-MAN!” the Green Goblin shouted as he set his glider on a collision course with his nemesis.

Stunned to see the Goblin, Spider-Man was taken aback, which gave the Joker time to draw his .45 and level it at him.

Batman pulled a Batarang from his utility belt and whipped it at the Joker’s hand, knocking away the pistol.

Spider-Man ducked as the Goblin made a tight pass at him with his glider.

Happy! Where the hell are you?!” Stark shouted as he pushed through the panicked crowd.

“Here boss! Here!” shouted back Happy Hogan, Stark’s friend and personal driver as he held a large red and silver briefcase above his head. “I’m comin’!”

“Just toss it! Give me the case!”

Spider-Man! Get these people out of here!” Batman shouted as Spider-Man swung into the air in pursuit of the Goblin.

The Joker leaped from the stage and ran into the crowd as Batman gave chase.

Hogan tossed the case to Stark who caught it, then quickly dropped it and kicked it open. He stepped inside as the red and silver case began to unfold and then attach itself to Stark’s body with several loud mechanical whines and clicks until he was covered from head to toe in the Iron Man Mark V armor.

“The doors!” Batman shouted as he ran past. “Get these people out of here!”

“Whatever you say, Dracula.” Iron Man replied as he raised a hand. “Stand clear folks.”

He fired a repulsor blast from the palm of his metal gauntlet at the nearest doors, blowing them off their hinges.

He turned and did the same to the doors behind him. The people streamed out as fast as they could.

“Everyone, please form a single file line…aw forget it.” Iron Man sighed as he stomped off across the floor.

Meanwhile, high above Manhattan, Spider-Man swung from web-line to web-line in pursuit of the Green Goblin as the two of them soared between the canyons of sky scrapers.

The Goblin hurled a pumpkin bomb over his shoulder at Spider-Man who narrowly dodged it as it exploded above his head.

Give it up Goblin! You’re going back to prison!” Spider-Man shouted.

“Am I?” the Goblin laughed as he spun his glider around to face him. “Try and stop me!”

He raced his glider straight towards Spider-Man who swung towards him.

Spider-Man kicked the Green Goblin off of his glider and the two men landed on the rooftop of an apartment building.

Back at the hotel, the Joker fired several wide shots at Batman who dodged the gunfire easily.

Batman leaped the short distance between them and pounced on the Joker where he punched him in the face.

“Need any help, Bats?” asked Iron Man.

We’re fine here.” Batman replied as he socked the Joker again.

“I’m gonna go see if the kid needs any help with the Goblin.”

Iron Man blasted through the skylight and soared off into the night.

“Mercy! Mercy, Sir!” the Joker whined as Batman cocked his fist. “I beg of you!”

“Did you show any mercy to those people you killed at the parade?” Batman snapped as he gripped the Joker’s lapels.

“Yes, yes. I’ve been a bad widdle boy.” the Joker gasped. “But before you haul me in, you might want to turn around.”

“Batman…” called a small voice.

Batman turned to see Pepper Potts on her knees, with a bomb strapped to her chest and a grinning Harley Quinn holding a large gun to her head.

Happy Hogan lay unconscious several feet away.

Let my boyfriend go, Mr. B!” Harley called. “This broad ain’t got too much time!”

“Batman…please…” Pepper sobbed.

Batman dropped the Joker as he stood.

“This isn’t over.”

It’s been fun, Bats!” the Joker giggled. “Come on, baby! Let’s go get a steak!”

Harley blew Batman a kiss and ran out of the room behind the Joker.

Several blocks away, the Goblin fired several blasts of electricity at Spider-Man from his gloves. Spider-Man was forced to roll across the rooftop to elude the blasts.

“You’re just gonna go to jail tired, Gobby!” Spider-Man called as he jumped to his feet.

The Goblin hurled another pumpkin bomb at Spider-Man. This one exploded at his feet and a red gas cloud floated up in front of him.

Spider-Man was disoriented and the Goblin tackled him. He punched him, then headbutted him.

Spider-Man was left reeling. The Goblin had deployed one of his most effective weapons that nearly led to Spider-Man’s downfall the last time they tangled. It was a gas that temporarily dampened his spider sense, allowing the Goblin to attack him much more easily.

“If it weren’t for you, I would have had everything! Everything!” the Goblin screamed as he stomped on Spider-Man’s abdomen. “You ruined it all,

Spider-Man!”

“Seems…like you did…a pretty good job of ruining everything… yourself…” Spider-Man coughed as he kicked the Goblin’s legs out from under him.

As Spider-Man stood, the Green Goblin fired another blast of electricity

at him that threw him against a brick wall.

“This ends tonight, Spider-Man!” the Goblin howled.

Spider-Man struggled to stand. As the Goblin raised his hand to blast Spider-Man again, Iron Man swooped down from the sky and sent him flying ten feet with one punch.

“Wow, you can shoot electricity from your gloves? That’s cute.” said Iron Man as he raised his own hand to reveal the glowing repulsor beam in his palm. “So can I. Wanna see?”

The Goblin laughed as he stumbled to his feet and pulled another pumpkin bomb from his satchel.

“Your party favor’s aren’t gonna hurt me, Osborn.” Iron Man scoffed. “You know, The Invincible Iron Man? There’s a reason they call me that.”

The Green Goblin hurled a silver pumpkin at Iron Man. It flashed in mid-air, sending a rippling shock-wave that knocked him off of his feet. Suddenly, all of the electronics in his armor shut off.

Another time!” the Goblin called.

He remotely summoned his glider then hopped onto it and disappeared.

Meanwhile, Batman knelt before Pepper Potts, examining the bomb strapped to her chest. The large digital clock affixed to it was rapidly counting down from sixty seconds.

“You can stop it, right?” she sobbed. “I mean, you can do that? You’re…you’re Batman after all, right?”

“Please don’t talk, Ms. Potts.” Batman said as he opened a pouch on his utility belt.

The Joker’s insanity could be seen in the way that he had wired the bomb. There were so many wires. No doubt some were only there as red herrings while others were truly connected to the detonator secured to three sticks of dynamite.

“Approximate blast radius for sticks of dynamite this size is fourteen feet.” Batman said as he cut the straps of the harness that held the bomb to Pepper’s torso. “Multiplied times three means a blast radius of approximately forty-two feet. Detonation time of about five seconds…”

“Five seconds?!” Pepper shrieked.

Batman checked the clock which had just clicked past fifteen seconds.

“We’ve got a few seconds to play with.” Batman said as he stood, then hurled the bomb and attached harness to the far end of the ballroom.

He dropped in front of Pepper and pulled her close as he draped his cape over her.

The bomb exploded, showering them in a small hail of debris and knocking them to the floor.

Members of the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit rushed in, wearing full tactical gear, armed with assault rifles.

Batman brushed some of the debris from Pepper’s red hair.

You’re safe now, Ms. Potts.” he said, standing. “These officers will see to you.”

“Thank you?” was all that Pepper could say, though the words were somehow not enough.

“Batman!?” called an ESU sergeant as he slipped off his helmet. “What are you doin’ here?”

“Sorry, Sergeant. No time to chat.” Batman responded. “The Joker and Green Goblin were both here. Tell your men to use extreme caution.”

The sergeant waved feebly as Batman fired his grappling gun at the skylight and ascended out of site.

Happy slowly sat up and rubbed the back of his head.

What’d I miss?”

XXXXXX

Spider-Man had temporarily lost consciousness and when he came to, the first thing he saw was Iron Man sitting a few feet away tapping his helmet.

“JARVIS? JARVIS? Can you hear me?” Iron Man called.

Wow, Goblin must’ve really nailed you.” Spider-Man said as he struggled to his feet. “Who is it you’re talking to, exactly?”

“JARVIS.” Iron Man replied. “An AI program I designed that runs things for me. Sort of an ‘invisible butler’.”

“Ah, so you’re one of those eccentric billionaires.” Spider-Man sighed, using air quotes over the word eccentric. “Gotcha.”

Suddenly, the eyes of Iron Man’s face piece flickered and all of the familiar gauges and icons reappeared on Stark’s HUD inside his helmet.

My apologies, Sir, but it appears you were the victim of an electromagnetic pulse which momentarily incapacitated your armor.” called an automated British accent in Stark’s ear.

“I figured.” Iron Man sighed. “Damage assessment?”

System rebooting now, Sir….all systems functional. Power at 85%.

Thank you, JARVIS.” he pulled off his helmet and stared at Spider-Man who was leaning against an air conditioning unit to steady himself.

“You look like hell, kid.” Stark said as he stood. “Why don’t I take you to a hospital…”

“Nope. I’m fine.” Spider-Man sighed as he slapped his head. “Is somebody gonna answer that phone or what?”

“Look, I’ll take you back to my place and fix you up. I get the whole secret identity thing, even though it’s not for me, I understand. I’ll ensure your anonymity…”

“Thanks, Mr. Stark, but I’ll be fine. I’ve been knocked around worse.”

Could’ve fooled me.” said a voice from the shadows, startling both men.

Batman stepped from the darkness.

Oh I think I just peed in my armor a little.” Stark quipped.

“Goblin got away?” asked Batman.

Uh yeah, I had him on the ropes…and then uh…” Spider-Man sighed. “Yeah, he got away…”

Batman knelt and picked up the silver pumpkin bomb.

Miniature EMP generator. I’d heard OSCORP had one of these on the drawing board a few years back.”

“What about the Joker?” asked Stark. “I assume you made that little prick pay for crashing my party?”

“I let him go.”

Whoa, wait a minute. You let him go?” asked Spider-Man. “No wonder Gotham’s overrun with crime! The Batman has a catch and release policy!”

“What do you mean you let him go, exactly?” asked Stark. “I get that you’re a living legend and all, but that seems like a bit of a bonehead move.”

“Ms. Potts had a bomb strapped to her chest.” Batman replied plainly. “I opted to let the Joker escape and recapture him at a later date so that I could prevent your girlfriend from exploding. Did I make the right choice?”

“Is she alright?” Stark’s demeanor turned serious.

She’s fine. A little shaken.”

Stark slipped his helmet back on.

I need to be with her.” he said. “Anything you need to take these two down, you let me know.”

He blasted off into the night sky.

Soooo, guess I’ll be going…” said Spider-Man.

“We need to talk.” said Batman.

Spider-Man exhaled and crawled up the brick wall nearby where he turned and had a ‘seat’.

“Here’s where the crusty ol’ veteran teaches a lesson to the handsome young upstart, right?” he sighed as he hopped off the wall. “Well, spare me, Pops, because I’ve had a rough night and-”

Shut up.” Batman replied tersely.

“Yes Sir.”

Batman stared off across the rooftops.

“Those people needed our help. Instead of ensuring their safety first, you took off after your enemy. If you want to wear the mantle of hero, you have to earn it and act like one.”

“Are you serious?” Spider-Man asked incredulously. “Do you know how many people I’ve saved in this city? Do you know how many criminals I’ve put away?”

“And all of that means precious little if lives are lost because you didn’t have your responsibilities straight.”

“Responsibility? You think you can lecture me about responsibility? You have no idea what I’ve had to deal with in my life! I wear this kooky outfit and swing from skyscrapers after bad guys because I know exactly what my responsibilities are!”

He paused as painful images of his Uncle Ben flooded his memory. Images of him dying because he didn’t use his powers responsibly.

Batman turned to face him.

You’ve done good work in this city, Spider-Man. I don’t doubt that. Your tactics leave something to be desired. You need to hone your skills. You can’t be ruled by your emotions.”

“That’s rich. Sorry, but any guy who dresses up like a giant bat has some kind of emotional issues. No offense.”

Batman ignored the comment as he continued.

It took me years of training to get to the point that I was ready to take on the job that I knew I had to do.”

Spider-Man folded his arms.

Sorry, Chief. I didn’t have years. People needed me. I had no choice.”

“You’re pigheaded.” Batman sighed. “I’d tell you to leave this to me, but I know you wouldn’t listen.”

“No Sir, I wouldn’t.” Spider-Man said as he stood before Batman. “You may not like the way I do things, but since it’s obvious the Joker and Goblin are working together, wouldn’t it make sense that we do the same? I know Goblin. You know Joker…”

“I work better alone.”

Hey, I hear you. No shame in teaming up with somebody once in a while, though. Try as I might, I’ve learned that you can’t do everything yourself. Even you hook up with the Justice League from time to time.”

Batman turned and approached the edge of the roof.

I have no doubt our paths will cross again soon, Spider-Man.”

“Can I ask you a question, Batman?”

Batman shot him a sideways glance.

“What?”

“What’s Superman really like?”

Annoying.”

With that, Batman leapt from the roof and disappeared.

End of Episode 2

All characters featured in this piece of fiction are the copyrighted property of their respective creators, owners and studios.

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DCMU_UNLIMITED cover 01

Issue #1:

 

The Spider and the Bat

Gotham.

The guard made his rounds. His footsteps echoed through the long hallway.

He hated this place. He was grateful to have a job, but he hated this place all the same. It gave him chills, just knowing that the cells on either side of him contained the most notorious, bloodthirsty and all around insane criminals in the history of Gotham City.

He peered through the plexiglass window of the cell that had the name J. Tetch marked on the door.

The small man inside seemed harmless enough, sitting on his cot, idly sipping tea. However, the guard knew that a man known as the Mad Hatter, most likely didn’t earn such a moniker by actually being harmless.

He continued down the hall, glancing briefly through the window of the next door. The room’s usual occupant leaned against a wall, flipping a coin.

When he noticed the guard peering in at him, he sneered and turned his head to reveal the horrible disfigurement on the left side of his face.

The guard quickly moved on, passing the cells marked J. Crane and P. Isley, and stopped at the final cell. The maximum security cell. The one without a window. The one simply marked: Joker.

He stared at the monitor above the cell door that broadcast a live feed from the small camera mounted in one corner high above the cell inside.

The thin, almost gaunt, man inside with white skin and green hair lay on his bunk, doodling on some paper, an assortment of Crayons scattered beside him.

When he finished his masterpiece, he scrambled off of the bed and peered up at the camera.

“I’m going to show you my latest work.” he called, tentatively. “Be honest. Brutally honest, if you must. I can take it.”

He held up a childlike drawing of a stick figure Batman with a knife through its head and two crosses for eyes.

“Tell me…how much do you love it? A lot? A bunch? Bunches, even?”

He glared up at the camera, then ripped the paper in half and tossed it to the floor.

I’m never going to grow as an artist without some encouragement!” he shouted, pointing at the camera. “How will I ever rehabilitate myself and rejoin society as a productive and well-adjusted citizen?”

The guard looked away from the monitor. He exhaled. God, that guy gave him the creeps.

He looked at the clock on the wall above. Almost quitting time. The guard looked forward to heading home and forgetting about this place for the rest of…

He heard a low rumble. Suddenly the floor began to shake. Small tremors at first, followed by increasingly larger ones.

Just outside of the building, the ground erupted in the large exercise yard of Arkham Asylum.

A large boring machine used to dig tunnels appeared from down below in a cloud of dust.

The giant machine, with a spinning cone-shaped drill, appearing very much like a tank on large treads, rumbled through the yard straight towards the building.

Warning sirens sounded as the guards in the watchtowers fired rounds from their rifles which were harmlessly deflected by the machine’s metal hull.

The vehicle crashed into the building, boring a hole into the Joker’s cell.

The rotating drill on the front of the machine slowly spun to a stop and the hatch on top opened.

A woman with a white painted face, wearing a red and black harlequin costume appeared from below and threw her arms in the air.

“Hi Puddin’! Did ya miss me?”

You have no idea, my dear Harley!” the Joker exclaimed as he scrambled onto the machine. “These philistines have little to no appreciation of the arts. Now I know how Picasso felt!”

They both descended into the machine and Harley Quinn closed the hatch. The vehicle rumbled back out of the building and then disappeared into the hole from which it had appeared.

Seconds later, a beam of light shot across the night sky, flashing the silhouette of a large bat on the evening clouds.

XXXXXX

New York City.

Three weeks later.

Throngs of people lined the street as they clamored to get a look at the Empire Circus parade as it made it’s way through Manhattan. Elephants slowly marched ahead of happy clowns and acrobats as a pipe organ on a flatbed truck played a festive tune.

Everyone loved the circus parade. Almost everyone that is, except for one Peter Parker, rookie photographer for the Daily Bugle, New York’s premiere newspaper for celebrity gossip and other innuendo as well as whatever news can be squeezed onto the back page.

He’d been stuck with this assignment after three other photographers had passed on the opportunity to earn the grand sum of fifty bucks. Peter wasn’t complaining really, after all he needed the money. Going to college and helping to support his Aunt May had really taken a toll on his wallet. He was grateful for the opportunity. It was just that, when he had pictured himself as a photographer, he envisioned himself doing grander things than snapping shots of elephants relieving themselves in the street.

“Peter! Hey, Peter!” he heard a sweet, familiar voice calling to him.

Peter turned to see Mary Jane Watson smiling at him as she made her way through the crowd. He ached inside whenever he saw that beautiful face that he had been so enamored of since elementary school.

“Fancy meeting you here, Mr. Parker.” she beamed, standing before him, a slight breeze tousling her long red hair.

“Yeah, um.” his voice cracked. “The Bugle sent me down to get some pics of the parade, ya know. Everybody loves the…uh, circus, right?”

“I know I do. I haven’t been to the circus since my aunt took us when we were kids.” she giggled.”Remember that, Petey? That clown scared you so bad!”

“Well, I’m not scared of clowns anymore.” he said. “Years of therapy have cured me. I think.”

She laughed and folded her arms.

You’re so funny, Pete. Well…I was just on my way to an audition. I should get going…”

Do it, Parker, he thought. Just ask her out. Ask her to the circus. She already gave you an opening when she mentioned it. Don’t be a wuss.

“Hey, MJ? I was wondering if…”

Yeah, Peter?”

She looked at him and he melted.

Would you like to-”

Suddenly that tingling feeling that he knew all too well gripped him.

Peter? What is it?” Mary Jane asked. “You look like something’s wrong.”

Something was wrong. Or it was about to be.

Peter focused on a green and purple VW bus that suddenly stopped in the middle of the street. The doors swung open and a small army of men wearing clown masks suddenly stepped out.

Then Peter’s senses nearly overloaded.

The clowns pulled machine guns from under their coats.

MJ, I think we’d better go.” he said urgently.

“What kind of clowns are those?” she asked. “I mean guns aren’t funny at all-”

The clowns fired into the air, scattering people in every direction. Mary Jane screamed.

“MJ! Run!” she heard Peter say, but when she turned around he was gone, swallowed up by the crowd.

The gunfire frightened the elephants and one of them rared back and charged towards the crowd.

The clown car exploded and a green cloud billowed up into the air. Suddenly, those people who couldn’t clear the street fast enough began to laugh uncontrollably and collapse.

One of the elephants charged straight for a small girl who had been separated from her mother.

“Becky!” screamed the little girl’s mother, watching helplessly as an adult African elephant thundered towards her seven year old daughter.

Just as the elephant was about to trample over her, the large beast flipped backwards and slammed against the pavement.

The frightened little girl looked up to see Spider-Man standing on top of the dazed elephant which was secured to the street by a massive web. He waved to her.

“Don’t worry, Jumbo here’s just gonna take himself a little nap.”

The girl’s mother scooped her up and sobbed.

“Thank you Spider-Man!”

Before he could tell her to take cover, three of the clowns unloaded their machine guns at him.

He leaped in the air and as they whirled around to fire again, he swung down on a web line and smashed into the clowns, scattering them across the street.

“Good grief!” Spider-Man called as he landed on his feet. “Where did you guys learn to fire a gun? The Stevie Wonder Shooting Range?”

He heard the crowd laughing behind him and turned to face them.

Look folks, I know I’m funny, but you really should be running for your lives right about…oh no.” he felt sick when he saw that the people who had been laughing had begun dropping to the pavement.

Spider-Man leaped the fifteen foot gap to the fire hydrant on the corner. He ripped the cap off of the hydrant, spraying hundreds of gallons of water at the van, extinguishing the fire and dissipating the deadly green cloud.

He twisted the heavy cap back onto the fire hydrant’s iron shell, shutting off the water’s flow.

“No no no! You’ve ruined my fun!” a voice squealed from behind him.

Spider-Man looked up to see a white faced figure with green hair and bright red lips, standing in the street wearing a purple suit, flanked by ten more armed clowns.

“I’ve got a bone to pick with you, Ronald.” Spider-Man called. “I love your happy meals and all, but the quality of the toys has been severely lacking lately! I mean, no more Hot Wheels? What’s that about?!”

“Oh, I’ve heard about you, Webs!” The Joker called, pointing at Spider-Man with his walking stick. “You fancy yourself a comedian? Well, I’ll show you what comedy really looks like! Fire, boys!”

Spider-Man watched as the phalanx of clowns leveled their machine guns at him.

“Aw crap.”

He leaped in the air and fired his web-line at the fourth story ledge of a nearby office building.

The clowns attempted to follow, shooting randomly in his direction.

He let go of the web-line, did a twist in mid-air and landed on the gang.

With lightning quick agility, he punched and kicked the clowns, sending them flying in every direction. At the same time, he used well placed shots from his web-shooters to yank the machine guns from their hands.

When all of the clowns had either been knocked unconscious or webbed together, Spider-Man turned his attention to their boss.

“Well that’s what I get for hiring mental patients!” the Joker chuckled. “I guess you get what you pay for. I should be happy they didn’t soil themselves this time!”

“Play time’s over, Bozo!” Spider-Man called. “I’ve heard of you too, Joker, and this isn’t Gotham city. You’re in the Big Apple now and we don’t put up with riffraff here! That’s what Jersey’s for!”

“But I thought New York welcomed everybody! That’s why I’ve chosen to take a little vacation in your fair city!” the Joker laughed maniacally. “Gotham just doesn’t do it for me, anymore!”

He pulled a pack of razor sharp playing cards from under his jacket and flung them at Spider-Man, who dodged them easily by leaping and performing a mid-air limbo.

“What can I say? It’s been a gas, but Daddy’s got some business to attend to!” the Joker shouted as he pulled a hand grenade from his jacket and hurled it towards a small crowd of people who were too terrified to move.

Spider-Man fired a line from the web shooter on his wrist and caught the grenade. He swung the line over his head once and released it, sending the grenade flying off into the sky where it exploded harmlessly.

When he returned his attention to the insane clown, he was gone.

Several NYPD patrol cars arrived on the scene with sirens screaming.

Hey, right on time, fellas!” Spider-Man called as he swung into the air.

XXXXXX

“New York.”

Sir?”

“The Joker, Alfred. He’s in New York.” Bruce Wayne tossed an evening copy of the Gotham Gazette onto the table beside his dinner plate.

“Millions of dollars in telecommunications available to you and you learn the Joker’s whereabouts from…a newspaper?” mused Alfred, Bruce’s trusted butler, as he stood beside the table.

“He’s been off the radar since he escaped from Arkham three weeks ago.” Bruce ignored Alfred’s quip. “That makes me think he’s planning something. Something big.”

“Shall I summon Master Timothy from his trip abroad, Sir?”

No. Tim needs a break, Alfred.”

“Ms. Gordon, then?”

No Alfred. I think I can handle this on my own.”

Bruce pushed back from the table and crossed the room to the large picture window that overlooked the grounds of Wayne Manor.

“Alfred, do you still have that RSVP to the Maria Stark Foundation benefit?”

“Indeed, I do Sir.”

I was going to send a check and my well wishes. Perhaps I should deliver them in person.”

Bruce moved the chime on the antique grandfather clock, then swung it open to reveal a darkened doorway.

Alfred removed the plate of uneaten filet mignon.

I’ll start packing now, Sir.”

“Good man.” said Bruce as he descended into the Bat-Cave.

XXXXXX

“Perfect! Just perfect!” J. Jonah Jameson grumbled as he marched through the offices of the Daily Bugle. “Another costumed creep terrorizing the city! Green Goblin? The Vulture? They’re not enough? Now we’ve got some clown killin’ people in Mid-Town! Ya know who I blame for this Robbie? Do ya? Huh? Do ya know who I blame?”

Robbie Robertson, the Bugle’s Editor In Chief stared back at Jameson with a tired expression

“Spider-Man, J.J.?”

Spider-Man!” Jameson called, chomping his cigar as he dropped down behind his desk, propped up his feet and clasped his hands behind his salt and pepper crew cut. “It wasn’t until after he showed up that all of these other costumed super-villain creeps started showing up and wreaking havoc on the city that I love so dear! Curse that wall crawler!”

“That’s not fair, J.J.!” Robbie snapped back. “I told you, Spider-Man’s one of the good guys! He helps people! And there have been plenty of superheroes floating around this city already! What about Iron Man or the Fantastic Four? “

“Yeah, but we know who they are! They don’t hide behind a mask like the Web-Head does.”

“Iron Man wears a mask.”

Jameson stared at Robertson.

“ Get Parker in here.”

Robertson walked out of Jameson’s office shaking his head.

“You’re up, Pete.”

Peter gathered his backpack and books and made his way into the office of his employer.

“You wanted to see me, Mr. Jameson?”

Jameson sat up and placed his hands on his desk.

“Nice work on the circus parade job. Great photos, all of ‘em. I particularly enjoyed the shots that showed Spider-Man duking it out with a gang of clown school dropouts. That’s front page stuff, there! Simply outstanding!”

“But, I didn’t take any pictures of Spider-Man fighting the clow-”
“That’s right, Parker! I was being facetious! How in the name of William Randolph Hearst can you be front and center for a battle between Spider-Man and the Joker and not have one, single, solitary picture to show for it?!”

Peter could have told him the truth. He could have told him that he was Spider-Man and that he had been just a little too preoccupied at the moment to snap a few awkward pictures of himself, because of a silly little thing like trying to stop a psychopath from killing any more people than he already had.

Instead he just cleared his throat.

Uh…I’m sorry, Mr. Jameson. I just got…swept up in the crowd of people who were trying to escape and by the time I got back, Spider-Man was gone. And so was the Joker.”

Jameson pointed at him with his chomped and withered cigar.

You’re a good kid, Parker. I like you, but I’m firing you. Nothing personal. Ms. Brant will cut you a check on the way out.”

Peter felt sick. Once again his personal life was headed into the gutter because of Spider-Man.

“But, Mr. Jameson…”

Wait. Strike that.” Jameson, said, shuffling through a mound of papers on his desk. “I need a photographer tomorrow night for the Stark benefit. A hundred bucks American and all the hors’ d’oeuvres you can stuff in your pockets. You in?”

“Um…uh…sure.”

Done. Ms. Brant will give you the address. Now get lost. I have to find a picture to splash across the front page of tomorrow’s edition. Robbie! Do we still have that picture of the baby born with horns?”

“I told you, that was Photoshopped, J.J.!” answered Robbie from outside the office.

“Well…is it a bad Photoshop?” Jameson called back.

Peter got the necessary info from Betty and headed towards the elevator. What happened at the parade yesterday had continued to gnaw at him. People were killed in front of him by the Joker and he couldn’t stop it. The Joker escaping was salt in the wound. He felt like a failure. He felt as if he let down the people of his city, the people that he had sworn to protect. Deep down, he knew that he couldn’t catch every villain in the world. He also knew that one way or another, he was going to catch the Joker.

XXXXXX

Meanwhile, a small motorcade consisting of several police cars and an armored truck made it’s way from Riker’s Island toward the courthouse where Norman Osborn was soon to stand trial for his crimes.

Osborn, known more familiarly to the NYPD as his other persona, the Green Goblin, sat shackled on a bench in the armored transport.

Two armed officers sat across from him. Staring at him menacingly.

Are those shotguns really necessary, officers?” asked Osborn. “I mean, really, now. What threat could I pose to anyone in my current state?”

The officers stared back in icy silence.

Osborn had been captured a few months earlier after a lengthy battle with Spider-Man who had tracked him down after Osborn had gone on a rampage against the board of directors of his own corporation.

It had been over a year since Osborn ingested a serum of his own devising that enhanced his physical strength and intellect with just one pesky side effect: it drove him insane. He adopted the character of the Green Goblin and set out to wreak havoc, basically for havoc’s sake.

The only things that kept him incarcerated were the indestructible shackles designed by Stark Enterprises and the high tech, maximum security cell built by SHIELD that he now lived his life in.

Osborn had once been a captain of industry, one of the world’s wealthiest men and he was now reduced to this unbearable existence. He glared at the guards who glared back.

Suddenly, the armored transport was violently knocked on it’s side, sending the guards and Osborn tumbling. Even though the van had been overturned, it was still being pushed through the streets by the semi truck that had collided with it, plowing the vehicle into the police cars that had been its escort.

Suddenly the truck, the van and the damaged police cars came to a rest.

The rear doors of the van slammed open and someone fired a gun inside, killing the guards.

“Today’s your lucky day, Normy!” Harley Quinn sang as she stepped into the overturned van with a still smoking pistol.

Osborn, having injured his head during the collision, and his ears still ringing from the gunshots, passed out.

End of Episode 1

All characters featured in this piece of fiction are the copyrighted property of their respective creators and owners. Believe me, if I did own these characters, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing fan fiction because I would be rich. No, seriously. Like, filthy rich. I would have a pet tiger. Maybe a llama, too.