Watching Doctor Who this weekend I was reminded of an on spec script I wrote a couple of years back and submitted (without success) to one of the Dr Who mags. Thought it would be interesting go reproduce it here… The TRUE origin of Davros!
Had a brilliant time at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on Friday, in the very pleasant company of Ben Aaronovitch, Joe Abercrombie and Mitch Benn (unfortunately Sarah Pinborough was unable to make it). If you came along, thanks very much for being a brilliant audience, and thanks to everyone at the festival for making it such a great event that ran like clockwork. Hopefully see you there next year!
Exactly 15 years ago, on February 21 1999, I read a piece in the Guardian by the author Jenny Colgan about how she had secured a £1 million book deal. She spoke at length about her agent, Ali Gunn, who she described as “blonde, glamorous and completely terrifying”. I was 29 and had not long before completed my first novel, an urban fantasy sort of thing called Hinterland, and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I’d rather randomly sent it off to a couple of publishing companies but not had much in the way of a response.
So I sat down and wrote a letter to Ali Gunn. I don’t have the letter but I can remember it well. “Hello,” I wrote. “I read all about you in the Guardian. I have just finished a novel and would also like a million pounds, please.” I packaged it up with three chapters and a synopsis, went to the library to find a copy of the Artist’s and Writer’s Yearbook to get the address of Ali Gunn’s then employers, the agency Curtis Brown, and sent it off.
Yes, I was pretty naive. I think I’d only just got my first PC not long before, and with it the wonders of dial-up internet. It was a simpler time for the aspiring author, when you sent off your three chapters and an stamped, self-addressed envelope and waited three months for it to plop back on the doormat with a form rejection. There was no following editors or agents on Twitter, not much chance of emailing people in publishing directly. It was what it was, and it took a long time. So I thought nothing more about it.
Until, one day at work (I was on the newsdesk of a local paper in Lancashire) I got a phone call. It was Ali Gunn. “Hello,” she said, cutting to the chase in a no-nonsense sort of way. “I’ve read the three chapters of Hinterland. Can you send me the rest straight away?”
Somewhat gibbering with excitement, I did. It was probably another three months – by which time my enthusiasm had waned and I’d forgotten all about it – that she called me back. “I like it,” she said.
“Um, what exactly does that mean?” I wondered, having no experience with literary agents.
Ali Gunn was very patient, as though explaining to a small child how to assemble a tower of blocks. “I am going to meet with editors and tell them about your book and why I think they should publish it. I am going to tell them that I think this could be marketed as a sort of contemporary blockbuster novel.”
I was silent for a moment, then said, “So I should get some champagne?”
“Not yet. Well, maybe, but don’t open it yet.” Ali asked me to send her seven copies of the completed manuscript and set me some homework. “Go and read One Of Us by Michael Marshall Smith. I’ll call back.”
So I ordered the book from Waterstones and went into work one Sunday to give the office photocopier some hammer. I sent off a crucifyingly heavy box of paper and sat down to read One Of Us. A few weeks later Ali called again. “Did you read it? What did you think? I’m going to pitch it as being on the same lines.”
Eventually I got what was to be my final phone call from Ali. “I’m afraid I couldn’t get anyone to share my enthusiasm about this book,” she said in a tone of voice that suggested this wasn’t what she was used to.
“Oh.” I said. “What should I do, then?”
“Keep at it,” she said.
And that was my involvement with Ali Gunn. I never met her in person and never had much contact with her again after that. I’m not really the ideal person to mark her passing – she represented a raft of highly successful authors all of whom are far more eligible than me to pass comment. But my brief encounter with Ali actually gave me some self-belief as a writer. Hinterland was eventually published by a small press, garnered some great reviews but sold next to no copies, and slipped out of print a year or so ago. I now have a wonderful agent in John Jarrold, and have started my publishing career in earnest. But my first brush with the proper world of publishing also gave me the best bit of advice any writer needs, and it’s this: Keep at it.
Those easily offended by cussing, bad language and profanity might want to clear off now. Though, to be honest, if that’s the case you’re not going to be well pleased when you read Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl and meet Aloysius Bent.
Anyway, enough about me. This is a post about the young lady who you can find on Twitter and at her own blog under the name Bookcunt. Well, I say “young lady”, I’ve no idea at all if she is what her online identity suggests. She may well be a 45-year-old man living in his mother’s basement and struggling with real-life relationships. Possibly with a collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer statuettes on a shelf above the tumble-dryer.
This is the internet. Anything’s possible.
But unlikely, because Bookcunt has written a book (under the pen-name Anonymous; maybe being filed under “B” wasn’t good enough for her). It’s called A Fucked Up Life In Books and it made me have something in my eye at the end.
Those familiar with Bookcunt’s blog will recognise the format of each of the chapters in this ebook from The Friday Project. Each episode is ostensibly about a book which the author was reading at a certain point in her life. But the relationship between the book and the incident can be fleeting; sometimes it’s barely given a mention.
At other times, the book is very, very important. It’s sometimes an escape tunnel, or a rope made from knotted sheets, or just a friendly face to fall back on. Yes, this book is filled with swears and naughtiness and sex and more swears, but it might just be all about the redemptive power of literature.
Bookcunt is let down by a lot of people in this book. It might not be what you think it is. You’ll definitely read some of the chapters and mutter, “Oh my God.” You might not laugh as much as you thought you would. You might cry a bit more than you expected to.
Yes, it’s a little rough and ready in parts. Yes, if you’ve read her blog for any length of time you’ll already have seen maybe a quarter of this already. Yes, you wonder if the cussing is ramped up for little apparent reason sometimes. But anyone who has an interest in a) books, b) people or c) all of the above should get their hands on this sometimes moving, sometimes astonishing and always readable memoir. It’s like nothing you’ve read before.
BUY IT HERE
I’m delighted to unveil the cover to GIDEON SMITH and the MECHANICAL GIRL, published in the US by Tor Books on September 10 2013.
The wonderful cover art is by the Spanish artist NEKRO – you can see more of his work here. Thanks to Tor’s art director Irene Gallo and her team, including designer Jamie Stafford-Hill, and of course my editor Claire Eddy, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and my agent John Jarrold for all making it happen!
Here’s the catalogue copy for the book:
In an alternative 1890, the British Empire’s reach and power is almost absolute, and from a technologically-advanced London where steam-power is king and airships ply the skies, Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world – including the east coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.
But London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast, where Gideon Smith whiles away his days fishing on his father’s clockwork gearship and dreaming of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, as presented in Gideon’s favourite “penny dreadful” periodical, World Marvels & Wonders.
When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances, Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work. The writer Bram Stoker, holidaying in nearby Whitby, fears that a vampire from Transylvania is abroad on English soil, but is the dark agency that killed Arthur Smith and his crew even more ancient and foul – murderous, mummified creatures from the shifting sands of Egypt?
Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him in his search for answers, Gideon sets off for London, and on the way rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities.
Looking for heroes but finding only mysteries and unanswered questions, it falls to Gideon Smith to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day… but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?
And, if that floats your boat, here’s where you can put in pre-orders for the book:
And all, as they say, good book shops.
There’s a thing going round the internet and it’s called the Next Big Thing, in which writers answer a series of set questions and then tag five other writers to do the same. I was tagged by Paul Cornell, writer of comic books, novels, TV scripts and practically everything, which was very nice of him. It’s not called “Next Big Thing” because Paul considers me to be the next big thing, sadly, but because it’s about the next big thing each author is working on. Hey ho, here we go!
What is the working title of your next book?
Well, the next book to be released is Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, which is published on May 28, 2013. That’s more or less done from my point of view, but I’ve just started revisions on the second book in the series, Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, and am about a third of the way through the first draft of the third Gideon Smith novel, which is as yet untitled.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The dark horn’d god to whom all writers annually sacrifice small furry mammals gifted it to me in a dream one storm-tossed night. Either that or I wanted to write something that captured the spirit of pulp adventures but with a contemporary feel.
What genre does your book fall under?
File under fantasy/steampunk/alt.history/new pulp/thumping good read
What actors would you choose to play the parts of your characters in a movie adaptation?
Getting out of the way that it’s never a good idea to give readers preconceptions about what characters should look like, and that we don’t write novels so they’ll be turned into films, we write them for the pure joy of literature, etc etc etc, here’s a fun dream cast for a handful of the main characters in the first book:
Maria, the Mechanical Girl of the title – Keira Knightley has a certain unreal quality...
Aloysius Bent, foul-mouthed, gin-soaked journalist – Mr Timothy Spall
Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire: Ronald Pickup
Dr John Reed, constant companion of Captain Trigger – Keith Allen.
Elizabeth, about whom saying too much at this stage might be too spoilery. But Alex Kingston can have the part.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
In an alternative 1890, a young fisherman searching for heroes finds his idols have feet of clay… but can he step up to save the British Empire from the greatest threat it has faced when his dreams have been shattered? Or something like that.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Hard to say… maybe a year? But it underwent several redraftings for various reasons, and from getting the initial idea to being accepted by Tor was a full two years.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
If I was being particularly big-headed I might say Michael Moorcock’s Oswald Bastable books, but Moorcock and his fans would probably have something to say about that.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My wife, Claire, and my children, Charlie and Alice. I did it in the hope they would think I was dead cool.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
It comes with a free bottle of wine. No, not really. Um, it’s got Bram Stoker in it as a major character? There’s some really cool stuff in Egypt? Aloysius Bent swears a lot? It starts off in Whitby then the action heads to London? There’s a homage to Jaws buried in the middle?
As part of this thing, you’re supposed to tag five more writers. It’s been described previously as a thing for British authors working in the SF/fantasy/horror fields. I don’t know if those rules are fixed but I’m afraid I’m going to have to bust them wide open. Thus…
Back in 2003, Marvel Comics opened writing submissions to the great unwashed as part of a very short-lived project that revived their Epic imprint for a while. I submitted a script for the first issue of a projected series – along with story beats for a further 11 issues – starring Union Jack, one of the few British heroes in the Marvel pantheon.
I got a letter back saying the script was under consideration, then the whole project belly-flopped and that was sort of it. I thought it might be interesting, as I’m on something of a superhero tip with these half-forgotten fragments, to post the script here. As will become clear, I had very little idea how to write a comic story, so apologies if the formatting and story infuriate those in the know.
Also note: Racially offensive language, which I’ll remove if people find unpalatable even in context
Unless Marvel come a-knocking, I can safely say this is a story I’ll never finish. Oh, and a legal disclaimer: Union Jack, Captain Britain, Captain America, and any other superheroes mentioned in this piece are, of course, copyright of Marvel. This piece is now essentially fan-fic, but will be taken down immediately if it is decided to be in a breach of Marvel’s copyright.
UNION JACK: CRUEL BRITANNIA
PART ONE: I STARTED SOMETHING I JUST COULDN’T FINISH
Interior. Night. We are in the apartment of JOEY CHAPMAN. Joey is an artist, and lives in a “work-live space” in Hoxton, East London, the haunt of artists and writers. His apartment is basically a floor of a converted warehouse, open plan with living area, sleeping area and work area. We are in the work area, which is in darkness apart from a pool of light illuminating Joey standing in front of a huge white canvas – at least 12ft long and 6ft tall. Joey has his back to us, regarding the white space which he is about to use to create his masterpiece. In his left hand there dangles a tin of red paint – normal household paint. In his right hand there is a wide brush. Joey is in his mid-20s, about 5’10’’ tall, slim and toned but not musclebound, with blond hair cut into a “Hoxton fin” – short at the back and sides and coming up to a mini-mohican in the centre. He wears a set of paint-splattered overalls.
Interior. Night. We close in on the scene and see Joey’s right hand painting a vertical red stripe down the centre of the canvas.
Exterior. Night. A lonely East London street. It is a former industrial area, not residential. Tall red-brick warehouses blackened by soot and pollution rear up on either side of the street. Occasional streetlights – half of them not working – illuminate the street with a yellow glow. Towards us is running USMANN, an asylum seeker. He is Eastern/Central European in appearance, in his 30s, with curly hair and a beard. He is quite shabbily dressed and has a look of utter terror on his face. Behind him are three figures chasing him down the street. These are THUG 1, THUG 2 and THUG 3. Thug 1 is wearing a suit and a polo shirt underneath; he is quite smartly turned out. Thug 2 wears a soccer shirt – probably white, such as West Ham United, and jeans. He has a shaved head. Thug 3 wears a Ben Sherman-style smart checked shirt untucked into a pair of jeans, with a stubbly head and a scar down one cheek. He carries a baseball bat.
(1) THUG 2: Run, Paki, run!
(2) THUG 3: All the way home!
Interior. Night. Close up of Joey’s hands as he carefully cuts an article out of a newspaper. The headline reads: FEARS OVER MISSING ASYLUM SEEKERS.
Exterior. Night. Back on the street. This time the view is from behind the thugs as they chase Usmann down the road. Usmann is looking over his shoulder in panic; the thugs are gaining on him.
(1) THUG 1: Give it up, Paki! Come quietly and we won’t hurt you.
Interior. Night. Long panel along the bottom of the page. We see Joey sticking the clipping he has just cut from the newspaper on to the canvas he has been working on. He has painted a stylised Union Flag on the canvas, the paint running and dripping. The cutting is one of several already dotted about the painting to create a collage effect. We can see some of the other headlines. They include: POVERTY GAP WIDENS, RACIST ATTACKS ON INCREASE; GAY BISHOP “A DISGRACE”, NO HOPE FOR UNDERCLASS.
Exterior. Night. Back on the street that the thugs are chasing Usmann along. We are a little further along the street, where there is a soup van with a line of downbeat homeless people queuing outside. The soup van is a caravan with a hatch in one side, from which a florid, fat, middle-aged man with a neat moustache and thinning hair doles out cups of watery soup. This is EDWARD WRIGHT, dressed conservatively in a shirt, tie and trousers. Slightly to one side are AMINA ALI and PAUL DINSDALE. Amina is a British Asian in her early 20s, dressed trendily in cargo pants and a zipped up leather jacket with fake fur around the collar and cuffs. She has a shoulder bag and carrieds a notebook and pen in her hand. Paul is slightly overweight and jovial with it, in his 30s and dressed rather scruffily in ill-fitting jeans and a waterproof coat. Over one shoulder he has a camera bag and a camera hangs around his neck on a strap.
(1) AMINA: Remind me again why I’m in East London on a Tuesday night in October??
(2) PAUL: Because you’re a trainee reporter who has to do all the jobs no-one else wants to do.
(3) AMINA: And why are you here?
(4) PAUL: Because I don’t have a life.
Exterior. Night. Usmann, pursued by the three thugs, tears past the soup van, jostling Amina out of the way.
(1) AMINA: Hey!
Exterior. Night. As Paul and Amina are looking down the street to where the thugs have disappeared, they are joined by Edward Wright, who has handed over the job of doling out soup to an assistant.
(1) WRIGHT: Oh, don’t worry yourself about that, love. It happens all the time round here. Not a nice neighbourhood any more. Not since… well.
(2) PAUL: Maybe I’ll just fire off some shots of the soup van while you talk.
Exterior. Night. Wright and Amina in the foreground with the soup van in the background, Paul snapping pictures. Amina has her notebook out and is taking shorthand notes.
(1) AMINA: So, Mr Wright… uh, can I call you Edward?
(2) WRIGHT: No, I think Mr Wright’ll do for you, love.
(3) AMINA: Um, okay. So, Mr Wright, why do you do this?
Exterior. Night. Reverse shot from panel 4, with Amina and Wright in the background, the soup van to the fore.
(1) WRIGHT: The soup run? Look at these people, Miss. They have nothing. I had a shop around here and I just wanted to put something back. Under different circumstances these people might be my customers and I might still be in business.
(2) AMINA: What happened?
Exterior. Night. Close up on Wright, looking down his nose at Amina.
(1) WRIGHT: The neighbourhood changed, love. Different people moved in. Didn’t want my wares. They eat different stuff, don’t they?
(2) AMINA (off panel): They?
(3) WRIGHT: Oh, you know, Miss. Your lot. Where you come from.
Close up on Amina, looking disgruntled at Wright’s suggestion.
(1) AMINA (small voice): What, Yorkshire?
Joey stands in front of his masterpiece, a paint can in one hand and a brush hanging loosely in the other. We see him from behind, looking at his huge canvas. It is dotted with newspaper cuttings and the paint is running, giving it a sloppy, transitory, almost nightmarish feel.
(1) JOEY: Garbage.
(2) JOEY: Utter, utter garbage.
Reverse angle shot so we are now facing Joey, whose face is contorted in rage. He is hurling the can of red paint at us and roaring in anger.
(1) JOEY: What’s happening to me?
Back to the angle of panel one. Joey is kneeling dejectedly in front of his montage, almost as if in supplication. His shoulders are slumped and his head is bowed. in the centre of the montage is a huge red splash, like a massive blood-stain.
(1) JOEY: Why can’t I do this any more?
Rear-view shot of Joey scrabbling in a wardrobe, throwing out items of clothing as he searches in the depths of the recess for something.
Joey is holding up what we will see later is the Union Jack costume. It is made of soft, navy blue leather, with a huge Union Flag on the chest.
(1) JOEY: This is all your fault.
Interior shot of the stylish, well-designed offices of Buzz Public Relations. We are focusing on the desk of FIONA HAMMOND, who is Joey Chapman’s girlfriend. She is in her early 20s, smartly dressed in a suit and white blouse, with a neatly-cut bobbed hairstyle. Fiona is sitting at her desk in front of a PC, talking to a similarly dressed female colleague, EMMA, who holds an overcoat across her arm. Fiona looks a bit glum.
(1) EMMA: Well, that’s me. Hey, you okay, Fiona?
(2) FIONA: I’d be a lot better if I could come up with a decent account. I haven’t brought a new client in for weeks.
Interior of Buzz PR offices. Emma is climbing into her overcoat. Fiona looks a little more cheery as their conversation turns to men.
(1) EMMA: It’s slow at the moment. Things’ll pick up. So anyway, how are things going with the artist?
(2) FIONA: Joey? Brilliant. It’s been three months now… almost a record for me. He’s even given me a key to his flat in Hoxton.
(3) EMMA: Ooh, serious! And is he the lusty, temperamental type? Moody? Given to wild passions?
Interior of Joey’s flat. He is wearing the Union Jack uniform – dark blue leather with the Union Flag on the chest, a brown belt from which hangs his silver dagger and Webley pistol. He is holding the mask in his hands and stands with his back to his montage, a frown on his face.
(1) CAPTION: “Well, it’s fair to say he has his moments… You know what these artistic types are like. Don’t give too much away.”
Interior, Buzz PR offices. Fiona has also put on her coat and is walking through the office with Emma.
(1) EMMA: So what’s his stuff like, then? His art?
Exterior, night. In an alley just outside the old warehouse where Joey’s converted loft apartment stands, the three racist thugs have cornered Usmann at a dead end. The alley ends in a brick wall and a huge refuse bin stands against it. The asylum seeker looks terrified; the three thugs are calm and assured as they advance on their bewildered victim. THUG 1 is pulling a hammer from the inside pocket of his jacket, THUG 2 has found a half-house-brick in the alley, and THUG 3 is brandishing his baseball bat.
(1) CAPTION: “Dark. Very dark. And a bit violent, sometimes.”
(2) THUG 1: Oh dear. Paki seems to have taken a bit of a wrong turn, don’t he?
(3) THUG 2: Yeah, somewhere near Calais, I reckon.
(4) USMANN: Please… I not from Pakistan… I am Kurdish…
Exterior, night. Relatively close-up shot of the three thugs. Thug 1 is in front, slapping his hammer into the palm of his hand. Slightly behind him are the other two. All bear evil smiles on their faces.
(1) CAPTION: “Violent? Well, I hope you know what you’re doing, girl. Don’t get yourself into anything you can’t get out of.”
(1) THUG 1: Don’t matter where you’re from, sunshine. It’s not here, that’s all that matters. Let’s take him, boys, and remember: don’t cut him.
(2) THUG 2: Remember what they say, Paki: There ain’t no black in the Union–
Big splash page. Exterior, night, in the alley with the three thugs and Usmann. Now Union Jack is here, standing on the big garbage skip, surveying the scene a few feet beneath him. Usmann is looking up, not sure if Union Jack is a saviour or another threat. The three thugs look a little incredulous, if we can see their faces.
(1) THUG 2: …Jack..?
(2) UNION JACK: Don’t tell me. There’s a really good explanation for all this.
(3) CAPTION: “Oh, don’t worry about me, Emma. Somehow I don’t think Joey’s going to have any nasty surprises in store.”
Titles and credits: UNION JACK in CRUEL BRITANNIA PART ONE: “I STARTED SOMETHING I JUST COULDN’T FINISH”
Thug 1 standing with his hammer held pacifyingly out. Thug 3 lets his baseball bat drop slightly, looking confused. Thug 2 looks menacing, holding the brick.
(1) THUG 3: Who is that? Is it Captain Britain?
(2) THUG 1: Look, I don’t know who you are, but this isn’t any of your business. Back off.
Union Jack looking down at the thugs. Usmann is backing up on his hands and knees towards the wall, looking terrified.
(1) UNION JACK: It’s my business now.
Thug 3 looking very confused. Turning to Thug 2.
(1) THUG 3: Well, is it? Captain Britain?
(2) THUG 2: Ner, it’s just some fruitcake. Probably a queer.
Thug 1 smiling, holding his arms wide to show he’s not threatening UJ.
(1) THUG 1: Did The Butcher send you? You must be in the wrong place, pal. This is our patch. We collect round here.
Thug 3 looks worried and is pulling at Thug 1’s shoulder. Thug 1 looks over his shoulder with a mean look on his face.
(1) THUG 3: Kev, I’m sure that’s Captain Britain, you know.
(2) THUG 1: Will you bloody leave it out? He’s one of us, innee? I mean, look at that flag on his chest…
Close up of Union Jack’s face, his eyes narrowing in anger at the implication in Thug 1’s statement.
(1)UNION JACK: One… of you..?
Exterior, night. The soup van. Amina is taking notes as she interviews Wright. The photographer, Paul, is pointing down the street to an area off-panel, in the direction where the thugs chased Usmann.
(1) PAUL: Jesus! Look at that!
Exterior, night. Long shot of the street with the entrance to the alley where Union Jack tackled the thugs. The action has now moved to the main street, and we see Union Jack standing in the centre of the road holding Thug 2 by the front of his shirt and punching him as Thug 3 hits him a glancing blow on the shoulder with the baseball bat. Thug 1 is not in shot.
Exterior, night. Close up on the action, a similar scene to the previous panel, except Thug 1 is staggering out of the dark alleyway, his face bloodied and clutching shattered ribs. Thug 3 is hitting Union Jack again with the baseball bat, but UJ is more intent on punching Thug 2
(1) THUG 3: Get off him, you queer.
(2) THUG 1: Enough. Let’s get out of here. You can keep the Paki, flag boy.
Union Jack has flung Thug 2 to one side and in one fluid movement swipes the baseball bat off Thug 3 and begins to advance on Thug 1
(1) UNION JACK: Get out of here? I don’t think so. You’re coming to the police with me.
Shot of Paul Dinsdale, standing in the street with his camera to his eye.
(1) PAUL: Hey, masked man!
The flash goes off and Union Jack throws his hand in front of his mask against the bright light.
Taking advantage of Union Jack’s momentary confusion, Thug 1 belts him around the head. with his fist. Union Jack staggers slightly.
The three thugs run off down the street as Jack gets back to his feet. Paul is taking more pictures.
(1) UNION JACK: Bollocks.
(2) PAUL: Aren’t you going to get after them?
Jack heads off down the alley at a run just as Amina runs up to Paul.
(1) AMINA: Who is he? Where’s he going?
Paul and Amina at the mouth of the alley, peering in.
(1) AMINA: Hello?
Paul and Amina in the alley, at the dead end. It’s empty. Roof-top view.
(1) PAUL: He’s gone… vanished into thin air…
(2) AMINA: We’ve got to get back to the office now.
(3) PAUL: But I need to get some more shots of the soup van…
(4) AMINA: Paul! Now! You can come back for those later!
Union Jack and Usmann on the rooftop, looking down on Paul and Amina as they trudge out of the alley.
Exterior shot of unprepossessing building with a sign fixed to the wall: RECEPTION CENTRE FOR IMMIGRANTS AND ASYLUM SEEKERS. There is barbed wire around the roof and racist graffiti on the walls – stuff like PAKI’S GO HOME and YOUR NOT WELCOME (sic). This is a temporary centre for those who come to Britain fleeing tyrannical regimes abroad. They will be kept here until their applications have been processed and they are either granted citizenship or returned to their country of origin. Asylum seekers are unpopular among many sectors of the populace because they are considered to be freeloaders who come to a soft-touch country because of the benefits on offer
A door opens cautiously in the building and MISS FORREST peers out to see the dishevelled form of Usmann standing there wretchedly. Miss Forrest runs the reception centre and is in her 40s, with long hair tied up at the back and wearing glasses. She is casually dressed in jeans and a shirt.
(1) MISS FORREST: Usmann..? What on Earth..?
Behind Usmann we see the shadowy figure of Union Jack emerge from the darkness.
(1) MISS FORREST: Who the hell are you..? This place has an alarm straight to the police station…
Union Jack stepping into the light.
(1) USMANN: No… please, Miss Forrest… this man in the mask, he save me.
Miss Forrest’s office. It is small, with a desk covered with files and papers. She’s quite untidy. Family pictures are tacked to the wall by the desk. There are also posters, some asking for help tracing people missing from home. The office is lit only by a desk lamp. Union Jack is hugging the shadows. She sits at her desk and lights a cigarette.
(1) MISS FORREST: So what’s with the costume, then? You East London’s answer to Captain America?
(2) UNION JACK: No, I…
Miss Forrest leaning back, regarding UJ, blowing smoke out.
(1) MISS FORREST: Well, whoever you are, thanks for intervening. Most people wouldn’t have.
(2) UNION JACK: I suppose I’m not most people.
(3) MISS FORREST: It’s just a pity you couldn’t have saved the others.
Union Jack has moved more into the light and is flicking through a book of newspaper cuttings. All of them, if we can see them, are about asylum seekers missing from the centre or attacks on the residents of the centre by thugs.
(1) UNION JACK: Others?
Miss Forrest waves a hand at the missing posters, stubbing out the cigarette with her other hand.
(1) MISS FORREST: We’ve had sixteen people disappear from here in the last two months. Some of them could have gone to other cities, I suppose, or found work, or had family elsewhere…
(2) UNION JACK: Or?
(3) MISS FORREST: Or something’s happening to them.
UJ and Miss Forrest standing at the door.
(1) UNION JACK: You think someone might be kidnapping them?
(2) MISS FORREST: Just talk I’ve heard. They do talk, you know, the asylum seekers. They’re intelligent people like you and me. They had good jobs, families, lives.
(3) MISS FORREST: They all have their own reasons for fleeing their countries. Bad things were happening to them all.
Close up of Miss Forrest’s face.
(1) MISS FORREST: I just hope they haven’t come here to something worse.
Union Jack is fading into the darkness outside the reception centre.
(1) MISS FORREST: So what are you going to do about it, then?
(2) UNION JACK: Do? Look, I’ve got to go…
(3) MISS FORREST: You always do something, you super-people, don’t you? Investigate or something?
(4) UNION JACK: I’m not really a… a super-person. I don’t really do this…
Miss Forrest lighting another cigarette. She is alone; Union Jack has disappeared into the night.
(1) MISS FORREST: Shame.
Exterior of Joey’s apartment block. Fiona stands on the step in front of the door, pushing the button on the intercom.
(1) FIONA: Come on, come on… don’t let me down, Joey, not after I was just singing your praises to Emma.
Fiona digging into her handbag.
(1) FIONA: Well, I guess it’s time to use that key…
Interior, Joey’s apartment. Fiona is letting herself into the flat. We see her opening the door and poking her head around it.
(1) FIONA: Joey? It’s Fiona. Sorry for just letting myself in, but you said…
Main panel on the page. We see what Fiona sees as she opens the door fully. Joey, in the Union Jack costume but without the mask, which lies on the floor besides him, is on his knees in front of his collage, which he has slashed to ribbons with the silver dagger he holds in his right hand.
(1) FIONA: Oh my God.
Interior of Joey’s apartment, which is shrouded in darkness. Joey is sitting dejectedly on a chair, still wearing the Union Jack costume. Fiona stands with a concerned hand on his shoulder.
(1) FIONA: Joey… what is this outfit? What’s going on?
(2) JOEY: You weren’t meant to see the Union Jack costume. Nobody was, not any more. It’s supposed to be over.
(3) FIONA: Union Jack?
Fiona is on her knees in front of Joey, clasping her hands in his.
(1) JOEY: I can trust you, can’t I Fiona? I mean, really trust you?
(2) FIONA: Of course you can! Is this where we exchange secrets, Joey, because if this is some kind of… of fetish thing, I’m afraid I haven’t got much to match it…
Quite big panel, more of a montage really. To the left we see half of Joey’s face as he narrates the following story. To the back of the panel is the first Union Jack, in the foreground the Invaders in typical pose – reference Raab/Cassady’s UJ miniseries for Union Jack 1.
(1) CAPTION: “The first Union Jack was a spy. Lord Montgomery Falsworth. Don’t ask me why they dressed him up in his country’s flag for covert operations behind enemy lines, but I suppose it seemed a good idea back in 1914.”
(2) CAPTION: “During the Second World War, Falsworth took up the mantle of Union Jack again, but he was getting on a bit and passed it along to his son Brian who fought alongside Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner against the Nazis. And the vampires.”
Shot of Baron Blood in his purple costume looking suitably menacing.
(1) CAPTION: “The Falsworths have been plagued by vampires like normal families are plagued by debt. Falsworth’s brother was a vampire; Baron Blood they called him. A few years ago he came back. Captain America was on his tail. Brian Falsworth was too old to put on the Union Jack costume again but Captain America needed someone to draw the vampire into the open.”
(2) CAPTION: “You?”
A younger Joey with longer hair dressing in the Union Jack costume as Captain America and a weak-looking Kenneth Crichton look on.
(1) CAPTION: “Yeah. Pretty mad, uh? The working class docker’s son posing as a blue-blood super-hero. Falsworth’s nephew Kenneth should really have done the job, but when it came to the crunch he wasn’t up to it. I knew Kenneth from art school, and I was visiting him at Falsworth Manor. It was a crazy idea…”
Captain America decapitating Baron Blood with his shield as Union Jack stands in the background.
(1) CAPTION: “But it worked. Captain America… dealt with Baron Blood. And that was meant to be an end to it.”
(2) CAPTION: “But once you put on that costume… it has a hold on you. It’s more than a bit of old leather. It carries the weight of generations of tradition with it.”
Joey holding the burned and ruined body of Kenneth Crichton in his arms – Crichton wearing the Baron Blood costume. Reference Raab/Cassady UJ issue three.
(1) CAPTION: “A couple of years later it all kicked off again. The vampires came back. Kenneth was still weak… and this time I had to watch him die.”
Back in Joey’s apartment, the two of them talking in the darkness, Joey’s slashed collage dominating the scene behind them.
(1) FIONA: And can you… can you fly or anything?
(1) JOEY: Nothing like that. I hung about with some freaks who called themselves the Knights of Pendragon for a bit… I picked up some weird stuff… I’m a bit stronger and a bit faster than most people, but that’s it.
(3) FIONA: That’s it? Oh my God. You’re a super-hero, Joey, a real super-hero. Like Spider-Man or something.
Joey looking angry as he talks with Fiona, his arm indicating his painting.
(1) JOEY: No! I’m not a super-hero! I wore the costume and did what I did because I had to, not because I’ve got any stupid desire to dress up in tights and beat up muggers. I’m an artist, Fiona. This is what I do.
(2) FIONA: So why tonight? Why wear the costume? What have you been doing?
(3) JOEY: Beating up muggers. Heh.
Joey slumping in front of the collage
(1) FIONA: And the painting?
(2) JOEY: I was angry. Angry at what’s going on out there. Angry because I think one man in a stupid costume can do anything about it.
(3) JOEY: Angry because I feel I have no choice but to at least try.
Fiona looking at a copy of a magazine – it can be modelled on the famous Vanity Fair cover of a few years ago which featured Liam Gallagher from Oasis in bed with his then squeeze Patsy Kensit under a massive Union Jack duvet, with the tagline “London Swings Again!” We can give it a feel of this, maybe change the title of the mag. Joey is in the background, looking grim.
(1) JOEY: Fiona, what am I going to do?
Close-up of Fiona’s face. A small smile plays on her lips.
(1) FIONA: I think you should take me to bed. And Joey… put the mask on.
Close up of some grainy photographs of Union Jack fighting the three racist thugs, obviously the work of photographer Paul Dinsdale. This is going to be a scene in the newsroom of the London Gazette, where Paul and Amina are employed. Speaking off-panel in this panel will be Terry Macintosh, the editor of the newspaper.
(1) MACINTOSH (OFF PANEL): This is good. Oh, this is very good. Who is this? Captain Britain?
Pull back to a bird’s eye view of TERRY MACINTOSH inspecting a sheaf of photographs. He is a large Scottish man, wearing a shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a loosely-knotted tie. He has white, wild hair. He is surrounded by the photographer, Paul Dinsdale, who we met earlier, and two other newspaper editorial types, a sharp young reporter called JEFF and an older man, a picture editor called PHIL. On the outskirts of the group is the young reporter, Amina Ali, now wearing a smart business suit.
(1) PHIL: Nah, it’s one of them X-Men, isn’t it?
(2) JEFF: There’s no Brits in the X-Men.
(3) AMINA: Excuse me…
(4) MACINTOSH: Ask Bob. He’s been to New York.
Shot of the aforementioned BOB. He is a grizzled looking old reporter, in his early sixties, sitting at his computer terminal on a desk piled high with papers. He is peering over his spectacles at one of the photographs he has been handed.
(1) BOB: I’ll tell you who that is. It’s Union Jack.
Macintosh again, looking at the photographs. We can see Amina at his elbow again.
(1) MACINTOSH: Union Jack? Never heard of him. Can he fly?
(2) AMINA: Mr Macintosh?
Bob handing the pictures back to Paul and sitting back in his chair. Macintosh is still standing by his desk, studying the other prints.
(1) BOB: He was in the war, he was.
(2) MACINTOSH: War? Which war? The Gulf? The Falklands? Iraq? How come I’ve never heard of him?
Close up of Bob, chuckling and lifting up a plastic cup of coffee.
(1) BOB: The War. The Second World War. He fought with the Invaders. I remember my old man telling me about him. He saw him one time in France.
Macintosh with his hands on his hips, the photos still clutched in one fist, looking reprovingly at Bob. Amina in the background.
(1) MACINTOSH: Don’t be daft, Bob. That’d make him… Christ. Older than you. I’d like to see you move like that.
(2) BOB: I don’t care, Mac. That’s him. That’s Union Jack.
Big panel showing the newsroom, ranks of reporters at their desks, a TV in the corner, lots of hustle and bustle. If there’s a clock anywhere on the wall it shows 7am. Macintosh has taken control of the situation and is sending his troops out to battle.
(1) MACINTOSH: Right, Bob, get in the archives. Find out what we’ve got on this Union Jack and the Invaders.
(2) MACINTOSH: Jeff, give the Daily Bugle in New York a call. They’ve got these weirdos coming out of their ears. Maybe he went over there and had a team up with… I don’t bloody know, Frog-Man or something.
(3) MACINTOSH: And someone get on that website, Herofile.com, see what those geeks have on him.
(4) MACINTOSH: Jesus, our own super-hero in London. It’s about bloody time.
Everyone has disappeared to their duties except Amina, who stands resolutely at Macintosh’s shoulder. Finally he hears her.
(1) AMINA: Mr Macintosh?
(2) MACINTOSH: Yes, love? Anila, isn’t it?
Macintosh is stalking off towards his office, Amina jogging to keep up with him.
(1) AMINA: Amina. I brought in the Union Jack story.
Macintosh has stopped and is looking down at Amina.
(1) MACINTOSH: Och, good work, girl. Look, this is a big story, I need my best people on it. But don’t worry, you won’t get frozen out. You sit down and tell Jeff exactly what you saw. I’ll make sure you get a by-line.
Macintosh going into his office, marked EDITOR on the door, and then turning thoughtfully, as though he’s remembered something.
(1) MACINTOSH: Oh, and you’d better get on with that soup run feature as well. We’re still holding page eighteen for that.
The interior of Joey’s apartment. Daylight is shafting through the window. Joey is alone in bed, sitting up after being awakened by the telephone. He is alone as Fiona has gone to her job with a public relations company. He is running a hand through his mussed hair as he yawns. The Union Jack costume is abandoned on the floor near the bed.
(1) Sfx: RIIIIIIIIIIIING! RIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!
Close up of Joey rubbing his eyes as he answers the telephone.
(1) JOEY: Fiona?
(2) FIONA (FROM PHONE): Joey? Are you still in bed? It’s nearly midday.
Fiona is sitting at a desk in an office. On the wall behind her is a big graphic stating this to be the offices of BUZZ PUBLIC RELATIONS. There is activity in the background. She’s got a bagel and a cup of coffee on her desk and is dressed in a smart but trendy business suit as she talks on the phone.
(1) JOEY (FROM PHONE): Fiona, you haven’t told anyone about last night, have you?
(2) FIONA: What, the kinky sex or the secret identity?
(3) JOEY (FROM PHONE): Fiona!
Exterior shot of a typical British newsagents shop. There is a sign across the top of the window announcing it to be EAST LONDON NEWS. The window is full of posters advertising the national lottery (LOTTO) and various magazines (OK!, HELLO, FHM) as well as confection such as MARS. Joey, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and maybe a slim-fitted denim jacket, is leaning against the window looking shocked as he looks down at the copy of the London Gazette newspaper in his hands. We can only see the back-page which has a Gazette Sport masthead and a headline something like CHELSEA CRASH OUT OF EUROPE. Beside him there is an A-board with a London Gazette bill on it proclaiming LONDON SUPER-HERO EXCLUSIVE, giving us some clue about what’s on the front page.
(1) CAPTION: “Look, Joey, I might work in PR but I can keep a secret. Anyway, I’m ringing you to tell you to get your arse down to the newsagents. You really need to see the first edition of the Gazette.”
(2) JOEY: Oh, Jesus.
Interior of Joey’s loft. He is sitting at his kitchen table with a cup of coffee, poring over the newspaper. We can now see the front page – it is taken up mainly by a photograph with a small text box at the bottom and the massive headline JACK’S BACK!
(1) CAPTION: “Why the hell did I go out last night? What am I trying to prove?”
Long shot with Joey’s slashed montage painting in the foreground. In the background Joey is holding up the limp Union Jack costume by his bed, regarding it levelly.
(1) CAPTION: “I should never have got this out. I should have thrown the damn thing away years ago. That’s what you do with old things you have no use for.”
(2) CAPTION: “I’m supposed to be an artist, for God’s sake. That’s what I pulled myself out of the gutter to be. If I hadn’t got into art school I might have turned out no better than those thugs last night.”
Joey tossing the costume over a chair and walking back towards his kitchen.
(1) CAPTION: “Am I going to throw all that away because of some stupid costume? Some tradition?”
(2) CAPTION: “No. This sort of thing might be okay for people like Spider-Man and Captain America, but I’m not like them.”
(3) CAPTION: “I’ve done my bit.”
From over Joey’s shoulder we see the story he’s reading – it’s headlined SOUP RUN HELPS THE HOMELESS and the byline is By Amina Ali. There’s a photograph of Edward Wright standing proudly outside the soup van with a line of homeless people queuing for soup. In the background is a figure.
Extreme Close up of Joey’s face set in a grimace, his coffee cup poised at his mouth.
(1) CAPTION: “I’ve done my bit.”
We are inside a small office in the Houses of Parliament. Sitting at a desk in front of a computer is ALISTAIR ROONEY, the Minister for Superhuman Affairs. He is Afro-Caribbean, in his 40s, thick-set and good-looking. Think President Palmer from 24. On the desk is a copy of the London Gazette with the Union Jack story on the front. Leaning over the desk is STEPHEN LAISTERDYKE, Rooney’s parliamentary secretary. He is wearing a sharp suit, is in his late 20s, has a thin face and slicked back hair.
(1) CAPTION: Whitehall.
(2) ROONEY: The Gazette’s gone to town on this Union Jack, hasn’t it? I suppose we can expect the nationals to be full of him tomorrow.
(3) LAISTERDYKE: Well, it’s big news, sir. A super-hero in London.
Laisterdyke stands straight and consults a notebook as Rooney picks up a paper to look at it.
(1) ROONEY: What have we got on him, then? The PM wants a report by close of play today.
(2) LAISTERDYKE: Well, not a lot, I’m afraid, Minister…
Exterior shot of the House of Commons.
(1) ROONEY (from within the House): Right, well, get on to S.H.I.E.L.D, see if he’s in their database. And it says in the paper someone using the codename “Union Jack” was active in World War Two… see if the Ministry of Defence have anything on him. And I suppose we’d better call Thoroughgood at C-Section.
Laisterdyke making notes on the pad. His mobile phone is ringing in his jacket pocket.
(1) LAISTERDYKE: Very good, Minister.
(2) SFX: BZZZZZZZZZ!
(2) LAISTERDYKE: Ah, that’s my phone, sir. Shan’t be a tick.
Laisterdyke has gone out into the corridor and has closed the door into the office, which has a frosted glass panel inscribed with “MINISTRY OF SUPERHUMAN AFFAIRS”. He has taken out his mobile phone and is speaking into it.
(1) LAISTERDYKE: Yes… yes, I’m working on it now with Rooney, chairman. Of course, whatever I get I’ll bring to the club tonight.
(2) LAISTERDYKE: Yes, that is the area where The Butcher operates. I’ll get a message to him to be careful. No, even if the worst happens, there’s nothing to connect him directly to the club.
(3) LAISTERDYKE: Very good, chairman. Of course we shall prevail. This Union Jack will be nothing more than a slight inconvenience, I am sure. See you this evening.
Small panel. Laisterdyke has killed the connection on his mobile phone and is frowning at the handset in his hand.
(1) LAISTERDYKE: Bloody Yank.
The same day. We are back in the offices of Buzz PR. Fiona, her friend Emma, two or three other public relations types, are all sitting or standing in a small office belonging to the head of the department, FRAZER. He is in his 30s, clean-cut, wearing a pin-striped suit and an open-necked shirt, with slick hair and fine-features. He is holding a meeting for the staff, who look a little concerned.
(1) FRAZER: So that’s the news, folks. Sorry it isn’t a bit more positive. But in the last quarter we’ve lost more accounts than we’ve won. We need to reverse the trend and pronto. Any questions?
Emma is holding up her hand and speaking as the other members of staff look at her.
(1) EMMA: Frazer, tell us straight: Are we looking at redundancies here?
Frazer is rubbing the back of his head with his hand and looking a bit harrassed.
(1) FRAZER: Everyone’s hoping it won’t come to that. But we need more accounts. That’s the bottom line. I want everyone to get out there and bring me back something a little special.
The staff are filing out of Frazer’s office, looking generally despondent. At the front of the line are Emma and Fiona.
(1) EMMA: Great. Bloody great. I can’t afford to lose this job, not with the size of my bill at Harvey Nicks.
(2) FIONA: I’m sure it won’t get that bad.
(3) EMMA: Oh, so you’ve got some killer account up your sleeve have you?
Fiona is seated back at her desk, thoughtfully glancing at the cover of the London Gazette with Union Jack at the cover.
Fiona on the telephone, holding the London Gazette.
(1) FIONA: Hi, is that Amina Ali? Ms Ali, my name’s Fiona Hammond from Buzz PR. How would you like an exclusive interview with Union Jack..?
Exterior shot of Joey’s apartment block in Hoxton. There is a light coming from his window. It is night.
(1) JOEY (from inside): You did what?
Fiona sitting at the kitchen table sipping a bottle of beer. She has a smug look on her face. Joey, wearing normal day clothes, is stalking behind her, holding the Gazette in his clenched fist, looking none-too-pleased.
(1) FIONA: Fixed up an interview with the Gazette. With the girl who spotted you last night. It’s a perfect opportunity to establish yourself.
(2) JOEY: I don’t want to establish myself! Fiona, I’m not a super-hero, remember?
Close up shot of Fiona counting off on the fingers of one hand. On the table is a telephone which springs into life as she’s speaking.
(1) FIONA: Joey, which part of “super-hero” do you not understand? You’re strong, you’re fast, you wear a costume, you save people…
(2) SFX: RIIIIIIIIIIIIING!
Close up of Joey on the telephone.
(1) VOICE (from phone): Joey, it’s Steve. I just heard today. Welcome back to active service.
(2) JOEY: Uh, thanks, but I’m not…
(3) VOICE: We can always use a good man like you in the field. I was delighted when I heard. Well, stuff to do. But glad to have you on side again.
Joey looking non-plussed as he kills the connection on the telephone. Fiona looking up expectantly at him.
(1) FIONA: Who was that?
(2) JOEY: Uh, Captain America.
Fiona looking even smugger as she takes another drink of her beer.
(1) I rest my case.
Exterior, night, the alley where Union Jack tackled the thugs on the first night. We see Amina and Paul lurking around the darkened corners.
(1) PAUL: This is hopeless. He’s never going to turn up.
(2) AMINA: He will.
Joey’s apartment. Fiona and Joey are arguing.
(1) JOEY: Well, I’m not doing any stupid interview.
(2) FIONA: Oh, I think you’d better.
Amina and Paul again. Paul is loading up his camera bag.
(1) PAUL: Look, we’ve been here three hours. He isn’t going to show. I think we should go.
(2) AMINA: You can. I’m staying.
(3) PAUL: Amina, it’s not safe around here…
Fiona and Joey again. Fiona looks triumphant as she scores a point. Joey looks stricken.
(1) FIONA: You’re meeting Amina Ali. She’s young, female, Asian, and right now probably all alone in the alley where you rescued that asylum seeker last night.
(2) JOEY: Oh, Fiona…
Paul and Amina. Paul is preparing to leave but looks doubtful.
(1) AMINA: Paul, you go. I’m just going to give it ten minutes then get a taxi. Okay?
(2) PAUL: Well, if you’re sure…
Long shot of Amina standing all alone in the darkened alleyway.
Interior of Joey’s apartment. Joey standing with his arms crossed, Fiona looking unrepentent.
(1) JOEY: I can’t believe you did that. Sent a lone girl to that place? Well, on your conscience be it. I’m not going.
Similar scene. Fiona is ignoring Joey and reading the front of the Gazette again. Joey’s shoulders have slumped and he looks defeated.
(1) JOEY: Oh, bollocks. You win.
Big panel showing Amina on her own in the alleyway. She is twisting and turning in response to some sudden noise. She looks scared.
(1) AMINA: Hello? Who’s there? Is that..?
Long panel along the bottom of the page. It shows our three thugs from the beginning. All of them look pretty bashed up after their fight with Union Jack – band aids and scuff marks etc. Thug 1 is at the front of the other two, smiling an evil grin which shows a missing tooth. He has a band-aid over his nose and a black eye. We can probably just see their heads and shoulders.
(1) THUG 1: ‘Ullo, darlin’. Looking for some company?
TO BE CONTINUED.