On Friday, I posted the art for an 8-page Batman story
I wrote that appeared in Gotham Knights #29
. This is the script that artist John Watkiss drew the story from. The illustration is by the talented Rick Burchett, a piece for a Batman reader that I edited.
GOTHAM KNIGHTS #29: BATMAN Black & White
"No Escape" (8 Pages)© DC Comics
1. ONE-HALF PAGE SPLASH, VERTICAL PANEL.
NIGHT. The old, abandoned CIRCUS MIDWAY of THE HURLEY BROS. CIRCUS on a deserted waterfront section of GOTHAM CITY. The Circus was third-rate in its hay day, old and always kind of seedy, with a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, concessions and carnival games, a rotating roster of Big Top attractions, and an old fashioned sideshow with "freaks" and human oddities. Now, the attractions are boarded up, old posters featuring a variety of attractions and bizarre sideshow acts dark with age and peeling from walls. Darkened light fixtures dangle from poles and walls. Torn tent canvas, blackened with weathering and age, flaps in the wind. Litter blows across the gloomy, shadowed midway. This place was boarded up 10 years ago and has experienced a lot of abuse and vandalism since.
A TORN POSTER on a wall in the FOREGROUND FEATURES ESCAPE ARTIST "THE GREAT DODGE," hunched over, wrapped in thick chains secured with heavy padlocks, his hands chained in front of him, but smiling mysteriously out at the viewer (this is a take-off on a famous shot of HOUDINI, ATTACHED). In the poster, he's young, handsome, thick head of hair, muscular...but this is a 30 year old poster.
PROMINENT IN THE SCENE IS THE FERRIS WHEEL, as old and rusted as everything around it, half its cars missing, others hanging from the large, dark wheel. And, chained spread-eagle and upside down to the hub of the great wheel is BATMAN, his UTILITY BELT GONE.
(We won't see this amount of detail in this shot, but for the record...) BATMAN is PHYSICALLY CHAINED TO THE HUB by heavy-duty chains that crisscross his chest and wrap around him, held by many locks. His arms and legs are held by heavy iron, padlocked manacles, one chain to each limb, but NOT CHAINED TO THE FERRIS WHEEL ITSELF, but rather stretch off to attach to the wheel's support structure or some such: the whole idea behind this trap is that as the wheel begins to turn, twisting BATMAN'S torso, the chains hold his arms and legs stationary so that he'll be torn apart.
1 LOGO: BATMAN BLACK & WHITE
2 TITLE: NO ESCAPE
3 BATMAN CAP: MAX DODGE said, “You get IN, there's a way OUT. It’s EASY, when you know HOW.”
4 BATMAN CAP: He also said, “Of all escape mechanisms, death is the most efficient.”
5 BATMAN CAP: Both quotes run through my mind, the only options of escape: success or DEATH.
6 BATMAN CAP: Max Dodge had taught me everything I know about escape.
7 CREDITS: PAUL KUPPERBERG + Writer
JOHN WATKISS + Artist
JACK MORELLI + Letterer
MARK CHIARELLO + Editor
BATMAN created by BOB KANE
2. CLOSER IN ON BATMAN, your basic grim and determined, so we can better see how he's chained up.
9 BATMAN CAP: He also created THIS gag.
10 BATMAN CAP: I was there. Watched him crack it a hundred times, step-by-step, as he did.
3. FROM BEHIND BATMAN'S HEAD, LOOKING OUT at the windswept, dark and gloomy deserted midway.
11 BATMAN CAP: A hundred times...EXCEPT for how to get out ALIVE.
12 BATMAN CAP: He kept that to himself.
# # #
ESTABLISHING SHOT OF THE HURLEY BROS. CIRCUS MIDWAY, 15 YEARS EARLIER. There was life in the circus in those days, the midway alive with customers, the concessions and sideshows thriving. With the lights and the color and balloons and excitement, you almost don't see the flea-bitten tackiness of the place.
1 BATMAN CAP: Max Dodge kept a lot of secrets.
2 FROM BIG TOP: You Dodge?
INSIDE THE BIG TOP, currently deserted between shows. In the middle of the ring stands MAX DODGE, a man a little older than the one in the poster on page 1, middle-aged, starting to get a little thick around the middle, hair thinning, and his overindulgence in alcohol starting to show on his face.
DODGE is wrapped up in a whole mess of chains, secured with padlocks, concentrating as he squirms to free himself. Standing outside the ring is a YOUNG (20ish) BRUCE WAYNE, wearing jeans, t-shirt, denim jacket and boots.
3 DODGE: You THINK?
4 BRUCE: I'm an admirer of your work and...
5 DODGE: I'm kind of TIED up here. Buzz off, willya?
6 BATMAN CAP: Houdini. Thaddeus Brown. Zatara. The Great Dodge!
Still squirming, the chains are starting to slip a little from around DODGE as BRUCE looks on.
7 BATMAN CAP: Geniuses all. Except Dodge never broke out of the carny circuit.
8 BRUCE: I want to learn escape.
9 BRUCE: From you.
The chains are slipping from DODGE'S shoulders as he squirms and contorts, except now he's laughing. BRUCE is totally serious.
10 DODGE: HAH! Dream on, junior. Kind’a idiot you think I am, give away everything I know for NOTHING?
11 BATMAN CAP: A monumental TALENT...housed in a MISERABLE human being.
DODGE'S hand is slipping out of the chains now, reaching for the thick wad of $100 bills that BRUCE is offering to him. DODGE'S eyes are wide.
12 BRUCE: Not for nothing.
15 DODGE: >whew!< style="text-align: center;"># # #PAGE THREE
The chains are falling away from DODGE as he steps out of them, clutching the wad of bills in his fist. He's walking away from BRUCE.
1 DODGE: You'll get it. I think this calls for a DRINK.
2 DODGE: Bring those with you, willya, kid?
3 BATMAN CAP: I needed his knowledge, his skill.
2. BACK TO THE PRESENT, for a MEDIUM-SHOT of BATMAN chained to the ferris wheel.
4 BATMAN CAP: How does Dodge fit in with THIS?
5 BATMAN CAP: A TIP on a CRYSTAL METH LAB in the area...
6 BATMAN CAP: Ambushed at the gate...
3. PULL BACK, to show a VIDEO CAMERA MOUNTED on an old, leaning light pole, pointed at the ferris wheel and BATMAN.
7 BATMAN CAP: A lure to a DEATH TRAP.
8 BATMAN CAP: WHY go to the trouble...? Doesn't matter.
9 CAP: "Awake is he?"
4. CUT TO: an ESTABLISHING SHOT of the old, battered and weathered SIDESHOW TENT. There is light coming through the holes in the tent.
10 FROM TENT: Good!
5. CUT TO: INSIDE THE SIDESHOW TENT, still hung with banners, now faded and torn, featuring the array of oddities it used to house: the LIZARD MAN, THE INDIAN RUBBER MAN, FAT LADY, THE GORILLA-MAN, HALF-MAN/HALF-WOMAN, BEARDED LADY, etc.
Not much left inside, except for some shelves on the wall on which sit large jars containing an array of “oddities,” now just vague shadowy objects in murky liquid. Lots of dust and gloom...and THE RIDDLER, with a trio of HENCHMEN...and MAX DODGE, older than he looked in the flashback. He is a tired, defeated man, twitchy from too much drink and hard living, unshaven, his suit worn and way out of style.
RIDDLER is standing before a small TV sitting on an overturned bit of debris, showing the view of the video camera of BATMAN, chained to the ferris wheel. RIDDLER’S enjoying the scene as he reaches for a large, old fashioned gear level, jerry rigged inside the tent with a large cable snaking out of it. The HENCHMEN all have some heavy duty fire-power on hand, pointed at DODGE, who looks like he doesn’t want to be there.
11 RIDDLER: Wouldn’t want him to MISS this, eh, Mr. Dodge?
12 DODGE: I...n- no, RIDDLER.
13 RIDDLER: Well, then, as you carny folk say...
6. CLOSE-UP OF RIDDLER’S HAND as it shoves the gear-level forward.
14 RIDDLER: ...Let’s get this show on the ROAD!
15 SFX: KLANK!
7. Smiling broadly and dusting his hands together in a gesture of a job well done, RIDDLER is turning to face the quivering, cowering DODGE.
16 RIDDLER: Power ON...’round and ‘round she GOES, where she stops...
17 RIDDLER: ...heh heh heh!...The Batman DROPS!
18 DODGE: I- I did like you asked, Riddler...did my part...
# # #
1. RIDDLER, grinning maliciously, is shoving his face into DODGE’S, sending the old man recoiling, sweating in fear.
1 RIDDLER: Then TELL me, Dodge...if I dropped YOU and Batman from a roof at the SAME instant...
2 RIDDLER: ...WHO would hit the ground FIRST?
3 DODGE: ...I don’t...I don’t know...who?
4 RIDDLER: Who CARES?
2. RIDDLER is crouching down, looking happily at the TV screen at the image of BATMAN, chained and seemingly helpless.
5 RIDDLER: Still, you DO give good death trap...for an OLD RUMMY.
6 RIDDLER: Don’t you just LOVE the GESTALT of the MOMENT? What says DISMEMBERMENT better than a CIRCUS?
7 BATMAN CAP: It’s starting...
3. CUT TO: BATMAN, still in place, of course, but now the ferris wheel has started up, old and disused, creaking slowly into operation, starting to turn clockwise. With the chains attached to his arms and legs, holding them stationary while his torso begins to rotate with the ferris feel, he doesn’t have long before he’s torn apart.
8 BATMAN CAP: With my TORSO chained to the ROTATING hub...
9 BATMAN CAP: ...My arms and legs IMMOBILIZED, I’ve got maybe THREE minutes before I’m torn to pieces.
4. NARROW PANEL: On the open palm of BATMAN’S GLOVED HAND. His THUMB is crossed over the palm, pressing on the base of his pinky, which is forcing a small, flexible narrow strip of metal--a lock-pick--up from where it’s hidden in the seam of the glove, on the inside of the pinky finger.
10 BATMAN CAP: Time enough...provided the gag’s on the square.
11 BATMAN CAP: One PLUGGED LOCK and I was OUT of time, dead.
12 BATMAN CAP: Dodge, he never cheated.
5. NARROW PANEL: CLOSE-UP of the UPSIDE DOWN BATMAN, just a portion of his face, showing his concentration, biting the corner of his lip.
13 BATMAN CAP: No gaffed locks or tricked out boxes for him.
6. NARROW PANEL: back to BATMAN’S hand, maneuvering the lock-pick between his fingers, getting a better grip.
14 BATMAN CAP: “Nothing drives ‘em out of the tent faster,” he’d say...
It’s still 15 YEARS AGO, out behind the midway, where the trailers the performers live in are parked. DODGE is sitting on the step outside his trailer, wearing a t-shirt and holding a bottle or bourbon, drinking while he watches BRUCE rehearse.
BRUCE is hanging from a gravity-boot-like set up, chained at the ankles, upside down, and wrapped in a straitMaxet, which he’s struggling mightily to wiggle out of. His head’s only a few inches off the ground in this gizmo.
15 DODGE: ...Then the rubes knowing you were never REALLY in danger.
16 DODGE: They wanna think you might DIE. CHEAT that and they’ll know.
17 BRUCE: Uhhnn...I think I’m STUCK, Max.
# # #
DODGE is standing now, leaning against one of the uprights of the gravity-boot-like thingie BRUCE is dangling from. He’s ignoring BRUCE, who’s struggling, twisting around at the end of the chains holding him up, raising the bottle to his lips.
1 DODGE: I don’t just DO escapes. I GIVE them escape.
2 BRUCE: Could you give ME a HAND?
SAME AS ABOVE, except now DODGE is glancing down at the struggling, twisting BRUCE.
3 DODGE: Escape’s a TRICK...but never a CHEAT.
4 BRUCE: Max...?
5 DODGE: Done trying to do it YOUR way, kid?
6 BRUCE: >Sigh!< style="text-align: center;"># # #PAGE SIX
1. CUT TO: DODGE, eyes riveted on the TV screen as he pushes forward, brushing past RIDDLER, who’s looking at the old man in surprise.
1 BATMAN CAP: I learned.
2 DODGE (small lettering): ...Can’t take the pain...
3 RIDDLER: What? Is he SUPPOSED to do that?
4 DODGE: Umm...INFLATABLE lining in the boot he deflated to give him SLACK to slip the chain.
2. RIDDLER is looking suspiciously at DODGE, who’s face is almost up against the TV SCREEN, watching it like he’s searching a crowd-shot for a familiar face. RIDDLER is reaching for a knob on the front of the set.
5 DODGE: Can I ZOOM IN...on his face, I mean.
6 RIDDLER: Something I should KNOW, Mr. Dodge?
3. TIGHT CLOSE-UP on DODGE’S EYE, wide and staring, with a CLOSE-UP of BATMAN’S inverted face reflected in it, still contorted in that grimace of pain.
7 RIDDLER (off): What’s the DIFFERENCE between ME and the LETTER “T”?
8 RIDDLER (off): I DON’T like being CROSSED!
4. RIDDLER has grabbed DODGE by the hair, yanking his head back, DODGE shouting out in pain.
9 DODGE: I WOULDN’T...
10 RIDDLER: Yes, you WOULD. But you SHOULDN’T.
11 RIDDLER: I told you--either Batman DIES...or YOU do.
5. CLOSE-UP OF DODGE, in the foreground, looking down in shame as the angry RIDDLER towers over him, looking down at DODGE with disdain.
12 RIDDLER: Some thanks I get for giving a broken down, drunken HAS-BEEN a LAST shot at glory!
13 DODGE (small lettering): Last shot...?
Once again, 15 years ago, this time on the MIDWAY, DODGE, BRUCE and the CIRCUS MANAGER standing in front of the ferris wheel, talking.
14 DODGE: ...My last SHOT, Wally! I’ve been working on it for a YEAR!
15 MANAGER: I CAN’T, Max. There’s liability issues...
16 DODGE: That’s GARBAGE!
TIGHT IN ON DODGE, surprised, is looking down at his hands, which are trembling, as MANAGER walks away. BRUCE is looking away from DODGE, embarrassed for the man.
17 MANAGER: You’re a DRUNK, Max. I let you try this stunt, I’d be as good as KILLING you.
18 DODGE: Bu- but...I NEED this...!
19 BATMAN CAP: Max Dodge had no chances left.
# # #
1. CUT TO: DODGE, in the present, looking down at his trembling hands, miserable, a man on the edge.
1 BATMAN CAP: He disappeared after that. The Wheel escape was never performed.
2 BATMAN CAP: Until tonight.
3 DODGE (small lettering): ...last shot...
2. DODGE is suddenly up on his feet, shouting out in determination as he races for the flap in the tent to escape. RIDDLER is looking after him, angry, signaling for his henchmen to get the escaping DODGE.
4 DODGE (burst): LAST SHOT!
5 RIDDLER: HEY!
6 RIDDLER: Don’t just STAND there, you dolts!
3. EXTERIOR OF THE SIDESHOW TENT as DODGE races from it, across the MIDWAY, towards the FERRIS WHEEL. The HENCHMEN are just emerging from the tent.
7 DODGE (burst): HUB LOCK’S GAFFED, KID! The HUB LOCK...!
4. Stumbling, almost falling over on his face, DODGE is racing around to the front of the ferris wheel, the HENCHMEN in hot pursuit, raising their guns.
8 DODGE (burst): SLIP THAT, CHAINS’LL GO SLACK...
5. DODGE is stopping, looking up at the ferris wheel in wide-eyed shock.
6. FROM DODGE’S POV: the chains that were holding BATMAN captive are there...but BATMAN ain’t! The chains are hanging loosely, still swinging on the turning wheel.
9 RIDDLER (off): Oh, Maxie! You PROMISED me ESCAPE-PROOF!
7. DODGE is whirling to face RIDDLER and the HENCHMEN, who have caught up with him. RIDDLER is pointing angrily at the frightened DODGE.
10 RIDDLER: So tell me...what’s DEADER than your CAREER?
11 RIDDLER: YOU are!
# # #
1. BIG PANEL, as BATMAN swings down the ferris wheel on one of the chains that had been holding his legs, swinging feet first into the HENCHMEN. But he’s not in time to save DODGE, as one of the HENCHMEN is getting off a shot that’s hitting DODGE, spinning him around. RIDDLER is starting to run.
1 BATMAN CAP: Dodge never would show me the BIG FINISH.
2 BATMAN CAP: It took me all these years to figure out WHY.
3 SFX: BLAMM!
4 DODGE (burst): Unnnghh!
2. The HENCHMEN down, BATMAN is throwing a BATARANG at the fleeing RIDDLER, taking the criminal down. DODGE is crumbled to the ground, clutching his chest.
5 BATMAN CAP: He didn’t HAVE one.
6 BATMAN CAP: He’d RIGGED it so that ONE lock, once opened, LOOSENED all the chains.
3. BATMAN is kneeling beside the downed DODGE, still holding his chest, clearly on the way out.
7 DODGE (weak): Cr- cracked it, huh, kid?
8 BATMAN: Finally. The more COMPLICATED the set-up, the EASIER the trick.
9 DODGE (weak): Never...could make it...work...
4. CLOSE ON DODGE, fading fast, while BATMAN leans in to talk to him, urgently.
10 DODGE (weak): ...had to...>koff!<...had to CHEAT it...
11 DODGE (weak): Hey...nice mask, kid...heh heh!...bu- but you STILL can’t t- take...the pain...
12 BATMAN: I make do, Max. Hold on, ambulance is on the way.
5. CLOSE-UP OF DODGE, head starting to slip to one side.
13 DODGE (weak): Heh! Like I always...said...“Of all...escape mechanisms, death... is the most efficient.”
14 BATMAN (off): You stole the line, Max. From Mencken.
6. SAME AS ABOVE, except now MAX’S head has sagged to one side, his eyes closed, dead.
15 DODGE (weak): ...yeah...another...ANOTHER...cheat...
16 BATMAN CAP: And then, on the midway, for the final time, Max Dodge slipped his bounds...
7. LONG-SHOT of BATMAN, kneeling over DODGE’S body on the midway, against the backdrop of the circus.
17 BATMAN CAP: ...And made good his ESCAPE.