Patton Oswalt’s Unpublished DC Pitches Mix Batman With ‘The Dirty Dozen’
Patton Oswalt is pretty well-known as a comic book fan — there’s even a scene in the Comedians of Comedy movie where he and Brian Posehn hit up a comic shop while they’re on tour. What’s a little less well-known, however, is that he’s also a comic book writer with a few DC Universe stories under his belt, including the highly entertaining (and highly underrated) JLA: Welcome to the Working Week, and a backup story in Batman.
But as it turns out, those stories weren’t the only ideas he had for comics, and on his website, Oswalt has posted two more pitches he took to DC that, unfortunately, were never picked up.The first pitch, “J”, which Oswalt describes as a tribute to “those low-stakes, early ’70s noirs” is far and away my favorite of the two:
The Joker once again breaks out of Arkham Asylum, and Batman – along with the Justice League – tears apart Gotham to find him.
And who feels the heat the worst when the League is cracking down hard? Gotham’s criminals.
And because Batman works his way up from minor street thug, higher and higher on the chain, it’s the “C” list criminals who suffer first.
Barely escaping a beatdown and capture, The Cluemaster (who I’m going to make a much younger, inexperienced criminal) gathers a literal “C”-list of other, frightened criminals – Crazy Quilt, Crime Doctor, Calendar Man and Copperhead – to hunt the “J”.
What follows is a desperate night search through Gotham’s underworld, during which our protagonist – The Cluemaster – sees firsthand the effects of crime (Calendar Man’s failed, broken life; The Crime Doctor’s past victims and wasted potential; Crazy Quilt’s petty “goals” and Copperhead’s pointless savagery). It all comes to a head when they confront The Joker – who personifies every awful quality of his teammates. He stops them from killing “J” – they each have their reasons for wanting The Joker dead – and then leaves the “team”. The last page shows him leaving one last clue for The Batman – the location of the loot he stole earlier that night.
The Cluemaster’s redemption is something that was played with in the second volume of Suicide Squad, although it never really came to a satisfying conclusion in the way that this idea lends itself to. Having him realize that being a villain in a world of heroes is a losing proposition by showing him interacting with failed arch-criminals at the end of their ropes is exactly the sort of thing Identity Crisis tried to pull off, but lost in favor of mopey grotesqueries.
Even the basic premise, a gang of super-criminals motivated purely by self-interest to hunt down one of their own, a is a nice inversion of the format that really lends itself well to a setting like Gotham City, and finding an alliterative team of actual C-listers is a pretty fun hook all by itself.
Plus, the more stories we have with the Crime Doctor and hs amazing glasses — which he wears while operating on people — the better.
The second pitch, Arkham’s Arsenal, takes a similar tactic of drawing on Batman villains as a direct tribute to another cinematic classic, The Dirty Dozen:
WORLD WAR II. The entire planet’s fate hangs on the outcomes of massive and not-so-massive skirmishes. Guadacanal. Messina. Iwo Jima…
…and skirmishes left moldering in classified files, even today.
One such story is uncovered by an Army researcher, hunting the whereabouts of several MIA “dis-honorables”, who seemingly fell off the face of the Earth in the mid-40’s.
The 12 – known to Eyes Only researchers as “Arkham’s Arsenal” – allegedly completed a joint US/British mission deep into Germany, where they killed a number of high-ranking officials at a top-secret meeting, prior to D-Day.
These 12 were:
“John Doe“, a special forces operative gassed by the Germans with an experimental compound which killed his entire platoon. He managed to get a gas mask on, but ended up with bleached skin a permanent rictus. Since his unit was required to undergo missions without dog tags or service flashes, no one now knows his identity. It’s said that “John Doe” took on the other 15 personalities of his dead platoon, all of them trained killers, all of them slightly psychotic.
Sgt. Dent, half of his face blown off by a grenade.
Pvt. Nigma, an encryption expert, caught selling codes to the Nazis
Cpl. “Killer” Crockowski
Cpl. Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton
Pvt. Jonathan Crane
Pvt. Maxie “Maggot” Zeus
Pvt. Victor Zsasz
Pvt. Aaron Helzinger (Amygdala)
Pvt. Joseph Rigger (Firebug)
Pvt. Dick Grayson
Col. Bruce Wayne breaks the 12, and turns them into a fighting force.
The War Game, against Wayne’s rival in the Allied alliance – Col. Henri Ducard. Arkham’s Arsenal comes out on top, defeating Ducard’s forces (which will contain some cool cameos of other DC heroes and villains)
The Mission – killing the gathered VIPs at the Chateau al Ghul. Some of the visitors – all of them contributing to the Nazi death regime – will include Dr. Hugo Strange, Deacon Blackfire, Dr. Victor Fries, Professor Milo, etc.
In the end, only Col. Wayne and Pvt. Grayson survive.
Well…”Jon Doe” goes missing – but he’ll turn up somewhere else. You’ll see…
This one seems like it’s a little more rife with fan-service, but the nice touches — “Killer” Crockowski! The surprise return of The Cult‘s Deacon Blackfire! All of Batman’s mad scientist villains on one Nazi super-team! — make it sound fun enough that as a guy who really likes both Batman and the Dirty Dozen, I’d hop on in a heartbeat just to see Oswalt have fun with it.
Unfortunately, the fact that we’re seeing these pitches on the Internet pretty much means that they’ll never happen as comics — Oswalt says as much on his blog — but they’re fun ideas to see. And hey, if there’s room on DC’s fall schedule for something called Justice League Dark, then maybe Arkham’s Arsenal isn’t such a lost cause after all.