A Solution For Marvel

First, Spider-Man. Soon, the Fantastic Four. And eventually, the X-Men. One by one, the various Sony and 20th Century Foxes of the world are coming to the conclusion that “if you can’t beat ‘em, at least enter into a shared-revenue licensing deal with ‘em.” The rival studios are all slowly realizing that not only can they just not do these stories as well as Marvel, but the epic nature of the films is damned expensive to produce. The upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse flick is make-or-break. And realistically, even if it DOES make money, is it worth it to the studio? Or is the smart move to just go halfsies with the big boys and reap all of the profit with zero risk?

 

But when that day comes, Marvel has a bit of a problem on its hands: how to explain all of these mutants suddenly appearing in the same universe that has slowly expanded from one guy in a suit of mechanized armor into, well…Age of Ultron?

 

Fear not, Marvel. I’ve got you covered. Here’s the scene that makes the transition, and I don’t even want any money. I just want a screenwriting credit. Deal? Good.

 

 

INT: AN UPSCALE RESTAURANT IN MANHATTAN

 

TONY STARK is already seated as his friend DR. BRUCE BANNER slides into the seat opposite him. The contrast is painfully obvious. TONY is dressed in a $3000 sharkskin suit. BANNER wears what looks like an un-pressed corduroy blazer over a white cotton shirt, no tie.

BANNER: Impressive. Really, I can never get a table anywhere in this town.

TONY: (Checking the wine list, distracted) Hmm? Oh. Yeah, no problem.

BANNER: So, what is the problem?

TONY: Did I say there was a problem?

BANNER: I don’t hear from you in like ten weeks and all of a sudden you’re flying me here to New York. That’s…forgive me for sounding paranoid, but I know you.

TONY: Can’t I simply have a friend over for dinner?

BANNER: (Picking up a menu) You fly all your friends halfway across the world for steaks?

TONY: It’s Wagyu. And I don’t have a lot of friends.

BANNER: Excellent point.

 

A BEAT as the two regard each other, neither speaking.

 

TONY: God, you know me so well. Okay, I wanted to get your take on something.

BANNER: There it is.

TONY: You got me. So, here’s the thing—

BANNER: Wait, so, is this work stuff? We’re not at your place. I’m guessing that’s by design. Where’s the rest of the team? Is this SHIELD?

TONY: It’s not like that. I just, I need someone smart to run this by.

BANNER: What about Richards? Didn’t they move into the Baxter Building? That’s right up the street.

TONY: Okay, first, Reed creeps me out a little bit. He’s…arrogant.

BANNER: Oh, he’s arrogant?

TONY: Plus, all that stretchy stuff. I can’t help but hear “Rubber Band Man” in my head every time he opens his mouth. But no, he’s not a geneticist, and—

BANNER: Neither am I. But you know that.

TONY: Would you just shut up for a second? Please. This has been…it’s been driving me nuts.

BANNER: Okay. Sorry. Not sure what I can offer, but I’m here now, so go ahead. Lay it on me.

TONY: Thank you. Seriously, because—okay. Anything strike you as odd about the spider kid?

BANNER: You mean Spider-Man?

TONY: Man? Really? He won’t even shave for another three years. That’s what he’s calling himself?

BANNER: That’s what the press is calling him.

TONY: We’ve gotta get ahead of that, nip it in the bud. But what do you know about him?

BANNER: I hear he’s smart. And, ability-wise, I understand he’s strong. Sticks to walls? Shoots webs?

TONY: He’s incredibly smart. He made those shooters, did you know that? Came up with his own formula. I’m going to hire him, he’ll be an asset to Stark Industries. But yeah, the crawling stuff. Strength, too. He’s not as strong as Thor, or…you know, Jolly Green Giant…but he’s way past normal human parameters.

BANNER: And so far he’s using these abilities for good. So…what’s the issue?

TONY: The issue is “how?” “Why?” Where did this all come from? Supposedly he got bitten by a magic spider or something.

BANNER: Magic spider?

TONY: I don’t know, like radioactive or genetically enhanced. But see, that’s what got me thinking.

BANNER: Go on.

TONY: What if he already had these…abilities. What if he were sort of waiting to manifest. And then, bam! Something happens. Maybe a spider bite. And sure, let’s say it’s radioactive or bears some sort of unknown toxin. Suppose his body’s way of responding to the threat is to mimic the attacker?

BANNER: So you’re saying we could’ve had the Sensational Snake-Man? Rat-Boy?

TONY: Yeah! Maybe! In other words, the bite just released what was already there. Inside. Waiting.

BANNER: I could see that. So…

TONY: So, why? What’s so special about this kid? What caused his body to do that? Everyone else that runs in our little circle, there’s a perfectly rational explanation. I built a suit. You altered your body’s chemistry with questionable gamma radiation exposure.

BANNER: I’d say it was more than questionable. So, take this to its logical conclusion: a couple of assassins, an AI that we created, a eugenics experiment gone right, and an extraterrestrial superman…sure, okay. But the twins were, what…some HYDRA experiment?

TONY: Ah, now we’re getting there. What if they weren’t? I mean, what if HYDRA twisted them a bit, poked ‘em, prodded them. The Avengers started an arms race. Now the bad guys need bigger guns. Granted. But what if the same thing happened to those two? The same thing that this Parker kid experienced when he got bitten or stabbed or whatever really happened?

BANNER: You’re saying that they were…predisposed? That all they needed was a trigger, some sort of trauma? To release their abilities?

TONY Exactly. I heard about a girl in Chicago who just started walking through things, walls, the ceiling, like a ghost. Roughly the same age as Spider-Boy.

BANNER: Spider-Man.

TONY: Whatever. So take it further…what if there are more? What if we’re seeing something unprecedented? What if we’re witnessing the dawn of a new species?

BANNER: Whoa, hang on…like evolution? That happens over millions of years, and—

TONY: Climate change. Climate change happens. Historically, geologically, we know that it goes in waves. Millions of years of change, from swamps to ice age and back.

BANNER: Okay..?

TONY: Human behavior has accelerated it. Pushed the clock forward.

BANNER: And you think we’re doing the same thing with evolution. Huh.

TONY: Think about all the above-ground nuclear testing we’ve done, as a species, since World War Two. All the genetically-modified crops. Growth hormones in the food. Pesticides. All of that has to have a cumulative effect, right? What if this is it?

BANNER: Mutations. You’re saying that humanity has started a chain-reaction of mutations, altering our very DNA. That’s a lot to take in.

TONY: But it’s possible.

BANNER: Well, it’s certainly not impossible.

TONY: Bruce, maybe that’s why we’re here. To help, I don’t know, usher in a new age. Or, you know…keep things from getting crazy.

BANNER: Crazier than dropping cities out of the sky? Or alien invasions?

TONY: You know what I mean.

BANNER: Huh. It’s noble to want to keep a lid on the bad stuff, Tony, but we’re all just tired. And it hasn’t exactly worked the way we wanted it to every time. I figured you’d be tired, too. Done with the police bit.

TONY: Look, I don’t want any more fighting. But I’m also tired of getting caught with my pants down.

 

ANOTHER BEAT as the pair look at their hands and fidget wordlessly.

 

BANNER: Mutations.

TONY: Mutants.

 

FADE OUT.

 

 

BONUS AFTER-CREDITS SCENE!!

 

 

FADE IN on TONY STARK sitting in a darkened office. It isn’t his; it’s an old, opulent-looking office straight out of Cambridge (actually, Oxford.)

 

We HEAR a door open, and light slashes across TONY as he raises a hand to shield his eyes. Suddenly the LIGHTS come on. From OFF-SCREEN we HEAR…

 

PROFESSOR X: What the devil are you doing? How did you get in here?

TONY: (standing) Sorry, didn’t mean to freak you out. Apologies. I just didn’t want a lot of attention.

PROFESSOR X wheels his chair into frame.

PROFESSOR X: Tony Stark! I recognize you! To what do I owe the pleasure?

TONY: I have a proposition for you.

PROFESSOR X: Yes. Yes, I imagine you do.

 

FADE OUT.

 

 

 

 

Why Bernie

Well, this is something new. I usually write funny nonsense or sci-fi short stories or a combination of both. I may discuss comic books, movies, or music, but I’ve shied away form one area of discussion: politics. Gods, I can hear you rolling your eyes at the very mention of the word. Politics. Ugh. So I’ll forgive you if you check out right now and browse elsewhere on the vast prairie of the interwebs. I completely understand. But if you have the gumption, or simply want a bit of insight into my personal beliefs, then read on.

A friend of mine asked me recently to explain to him my support of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America. He went so far as to throw down the gauntlet of “Convince me.” Wow. There’s a big difference between explaining your position and trying to compel the other party to change theirs. I’m not sure I’m up to that challenge. I don’t know if I’m eloquent enough. Maybe my words aren’t that great. But what I hope, what I believe, rather, is that by reading this, and reading all of it, maybe you’ll at least come to accept that my beliefs, my hopes, are not so crazy as perhaps you imagined.

 

Why do I support Bernie? Because I believe America is already pretty great…but I think it can be better. I think that we have to improve not only the lives of citizens (like me, for example. Like my brother. Like everyone, gay, straight, man, woman, Christian, atheist, Muslim, artist, worker, soldier, teacher…everyone.)

I support Bernie because Big Money has always run the show, realistically. But until the Reagan years (and yes, Bill Clinton played a part with the deregulation of the media companies and the NAFTA agreement), those entities were at least held in check. Now the corporations act with impunity. They beg for tax cuts, then move their factory overseas anyway. They bitch about raising the minimum wage, yet accept billions in bailouts (from OUR taxes) and reward their CEO’s with insane bonuses and salaries.

I support Bernie because he believes that if you have the money to send soldiers to war, then by God, you have the money to care for them when they return. Not just with medical care and such, but with mental health care. There’s an epidemic of our fighting men and women committing suicide or sleeping on the streets, and Big Money (and the Republican party that acts as Big Money’s political arm) not only don’t care, they hinder efforts to spend tax money on solving the problem. Yes, I know that some of those bills probably have pork or other attachments that make lawmakers balk, but it’s happened over and over and over.

I support Bernie because he tells it like it is. He speaks his mind. But unlike Trump, he does it 1) because he actually believes it, not because he figures it’s what the crowd wants to hear and 2) with dignity and grace, not scraping down to cater to ignorant, racist, homophobic, misogynistic pricks.

I support Bernie because he wants to use our taxes the way they were meant to be used. Not increasing taxes on you or me (or anyone not ‘rich’) but by allocating those taxes to where they need to go. Instead of a couple of billion for jets that are obsolete before they even enter the theater or another bailout and tax breaks to a multinational corporation , he’d use them to rebuild the bridges, dams, and highways that are not only out-of-date, but dangerously close to total collapse. And yes, he’d use that money for education. Speaking of which…

It’s not “free shit for everyone.” The state colleges would offer free tuition…but only to students that were accepted. You’d need to pass the same entrance exam, maintain the same GPA, do the same work as anyone else who had received a grant or scholarship. Don’t do all that? Buh-bye. Seeya. Collect your things and go. And the private schools would still be private. If you could afford them, hey, God bless. Go for it. Spend mommy and daddy’s inheritance on that sort of education. Good for you! But for the rest of us? It’s a chance to finally narrow the gap between ourselves and Japan or Germany. To have the best-educated workforce in the world. And on a personal note, it’s a scientific fact that the college-educated folks may not be smarter than the kids that stay in their hometown and get a job at the factory…but they are more tolerant. Respectful of other cultures. Less racist or homophobic. Why? Because they will have been exposed to all those things, different accents and skin tones, different dress and eating habits…in other words, the WORLD. And the more you know about the world, the less you fear it. And the less hate you harbor as a result. So, more college students = more cultural harmony.

And finally, let’s talk about healthcare. I’m not a huge fan of Obamacare. I think it’s a half-measure. I think it was a way to kiss the ass of the insurance companies (once again, Big Money calls the shots.) But I also have a friend who has insurance provided by her company, and she’s considering going back to part-time to work on other projects. I was concerned about her lack of insurance coverage. She told me “I’ll just go back to the ACA. It was better than what I have now, anyway.” Of course, that could be more an indictment of the standard of care offered by employers nowadays, or it could be that the ACA just really works out to be a great deal for a single mother of two (as is her case.) Either way, she wouldn’t have even had the option before Obamacare. But let’s take it further…

Say they raise my taxes to pay for Bernie’s universal healthcare. The good shit, the “show up at the emergency room, get your broken bone set, go home. No deductible, not co-pay…it’s just done” variety. The sort of thing they have in, you know…every other civilized country in the world. Every. One. Say I end up paying an additional 2.2% in taxes. Maybe my work pays me a bit less to pay for my proposed payroll tax. The fact remains: The typical family of four making $50,000 a year would pay less than $46 a month under Bernie’s plan for three months of paid family and medical leave and universal health care. (That’s from TIME magazine, January 28, 2016.) In other words, I’m coming out ahead. Also, The typical American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored health care plan paid $24,671 last year on health care costs alone, according to the non-partisan Milliman Medical Index. So, as it stands right now, they’re taking money out of my paycheck to pay for coverage…and I’m STILL paying a shitload in health costs. Maybe it’s not a big deal to people without kids. Maybe it’s not a big deal to rich people who can afford it. But to my family and me, that’s huge.

And the other thing to consider: say I end up actually losing money. Maybe I’m short about $3000 a year, all things being equal. That’s too bad. Perhaps I’ll have to skip playing hockey and forget about taking a vacation. But if it means that every single parent, every kid, every human being in the country has access to medical care when they need it, then, dude…that’s not even a question. Hell, take it. I’ll even chip in a bit more. That makes every taxpayer a big damn hero. That’s what society is supposed to be. That’s why we live in communities, why we have police, why we elect a mayor, a governor, a president, why there’s a highway system, air traffic controllers, and a standing army: because it’s us. Not me. We’re all in this together.

So, in conclusion, I’ll answer your question. Why Bernie? Because I want to live in a better world. I want my kids to have a better opportunity. I want the people to reclaim some of the power from the corporations. I want freedom and equality for every human being in the United States of America. Right now, Bernie Sanders offers the best possible hope of beginning the process that moves us towards those things. It won’t be easy. It won’t all happen right away, especially as Big Money pushes back hard and exerts its force on politics. But it can happen. And it must happen if we are to survive as a nation, rather than a bunch of individuals fighting one another for the scraps thrown our way by Big Money.