LinkExchange FORWARD


by Michael Hutchison
Artwork and Ideas by Bob Riley

"Dark Knight, Shining Knight"

Catwoman breaks into Gotham's historical museum to lift some items from an "Arthurian England" exhibit. She picks up numerous tapestries, daggers, goblets…and the famed "mirror of Merlin", which rests in a secured case. As she's overriding the security system, she idly reads the plaque; supposedly, a magic spell had trapped Merlin's guardian knight inside the mirror and Merlin had never found the spell to release him. If you hold it up to the light at the right angle, you can see Sir Justin astride his winged horse. Selina scoffs and tucks it away.
Sir Justin

Catwoman exits the museum by the roof…and runs straight into Batman and Nightwing! Fleeing across the rooftops with her booty (the loot, we mean), Nightwing tackles her and the mirror falls to the alley below. Shattering, a bright light cascades from the face of the mirror. The wraithlike figures of Sir Justin, the Shining Knight, and his horse, Winged Victory, emerge and solidify. Catwoman thinks it's pretty stupid that all Merlin had to do was shatter his mirror! Catwoman tries to tell the dynamic duo about the Shining Knight, but they don't see him until it's too late to catch him.

Sir Justin is ready to fight his attackers, but there is no one around. Wandering out into the streets, his anger turns to fear. Justin finds himself surrounded by bright lights, whizzing metal vehicles, angry voices, bizarre people and horrid music thumping from boxes on people's shoulders. After a few altercations with the crowd, he hies Winged Victory to the air. Dodging wires, cables and a police blimp, they ascend to the skyscraper tops. Justin tries to get his bearings but cannot see many stars due to the light pollution. As they take in the frightening visage of Gotham City, Justin tries to recall what's happened to him.

In the year 526 AD, Justin is in Merlin's chambers when the wizard and his apprentice, Jason Blood, conjure up a demon to aid them in the coming war. The Demon goes on a rampage and begins destroying the castle of Camelot. Merlin magically strengthens Justin's armor and weaponry, that he may combat the Demon. He even transforms Victory into a winged horse. Justin and the Demon do battle, but the Demon finally traps the Shining Knight in a nearby looking glass, and Justin's memory ends there.

Batman arrives in the Batwing and tries to calm Sir Justin, but Batman's appearance is similar to the Demon's and Sir Justin attacks him with ferocity. Batman leaps back into the Batwing and tries to lead the Knight from the city, but Justin's invincible sword incapacitates the craft, downing it in the Harbor. Justin announces that he is not a killer, but he will use his magic sword to cast the demon back to hell. Batman removes his cowl, figuring that a 6th century knight won't pose much threat to his secret identity. Batman reasons with Justin, explaining that he is a knight just like Justin is, albeit in different armor. Justin apologizes for mistaking Batman for a demon.

A voice behind Sir Justin causes him to turn. Standing behind him is the Demon! Justin goes for his sword, but Batman restrains him while the Demon becomes Jason Blood. Blood explains that Merlin tamed the demon by tying it to a human soul. Batman ponders the good fortune that Justin should find a friend 1500 years later. Justin corrects him: he has found two friends.
Sir Justin, the Shining Knight: Colm Meaney

"Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright…"

Long ago, Bruce Wayne learned martial arts under the tutelage of the deadliest artist in the world, Lady Shiva. He trained alongside a man named Ben Turner. Ben and Bruce became good friends, although Bruce didn't use his real name. Bruce quit when Lady Shiva wanted him to learn lethal arts.
When an assassin named the Bronze Tiger arrives in Gotham, Batman sees him executing extremely rare maneuvers and fears that it's his old friend. Why has he turned bad? And how will he defeat someone who is his equal, possibly even his superior?

Investigating Ben's family, Batman discovers that Ben continued at Lady Shiva's school until he suddenly severed all contact with his family. Meanwhile, Nightwing investigates Shiva's old school, which has been closed for a decade. Searching through the records, he realizes that all of the murder victims were people who had left the school without completing their training!

Nightwing suspects that the next victim will be Kathy Kane, a famous acrobat and aerialist who runs a traveling circus. Batman waits for the Bronze Tiger at Kane Circus, while Nightwing (haunted by the similarity to his parents' own murder) urges Kathy to not perform that night. Kathy insists that the show must go on.
Bronze Tiger

Batman spots the Bronze Tiger climbing the rigging to the tightrope where Kathy is performing without a net. Batman chases the Bronze Tiger onto the tightrope, and the two carefully trade blows while balanced. When asked why he's doing it, Bronze Tiger exclaims, "The League of Assassins has decreed that Kathy Kane must die!" Their combat shakes Kathy loose and she falls towards the sawdust below. Nightwing grabs a trapeze and swings out to catch her, relieved to prevent another murder under a big top!

Batman realizes that Lady Shiva must be running the League of Assassins. They've brainwashed Ben, and now they're using him to wipe out all others who may have learned some of their secrets. Batman refuses to fight Ben, since he does not know what he's doing. When Ben begins to use one of Shiva's lethal moves, Batman falls backward and catches the tightrope with his hands. Batman swings his legs up to strike Ben's feet and knocks him off. Batman catches Ben with a Batrope and leaves him swinging in midair.

Saddened at the depths of Ben's mental conditioning, Batman asks Gordon to see that he gets the best treatment. Batman swears to Nightwing that he will track down Shiva someday and see that she never corrupts another good man like Ben Turner.
Bronze Tiger: Avery Brooks

Lady Shiva: Mira Furlan

Kathy Kane: Kristen Johnston

"Your Biggest Booster"

Superman is faced with Booster Gold, a new arrival in Metropolis who fights crime for all the wrong reasons. Lois and Clark cover Booster's press release for a new soft drink with his name on it. The grandstander, who seems to spend 5 times as much time promoting products as he does fighting crime, perturbs Lois. Clark wonders where Booster came from.

Booster Gold

Superman and Booster team up to fight a raging fire in a large Suicide Slum tenement. Despite his egotistical manner, Booster saves numerous lives and impresses Superman. Booster is rescuing an old man when the tenement collapses on top of them. Superman quickly clears the debris to find Booster sheltering the man with his force field. Superman is pleased, until Booster begins plugging his upcoming appearances to the news cameras. Leading Booster away from the crowd, Superman counsels him that a hero should behave better than that. Booster's angry reply is cut short by the arrival of a spinning vortex in the sky.

A Linear Man emerges from the vortex and announces that he is placing Booster under arrest. Superman asks what authority he represents. The Linear Man says that he represents a temporal police force, and Booster Gold is a felon from the future using stolen technology in his crime fighting.

Booster flees the scene. Superman flies much faster than the Linear Man and catches up to Booster easily. Booster explains that he was a washed-up 25th Century sports hero whose gambling had ruined his reputation. Working as a security guard at a laboratory, he'd stolen some gear and a time machine to start a new life in another era. Superman, disgusted with Booster's criminal actions, chastises him for thinking he could start over by engaging in theft. Booster desperately pleads with Superman to let him go, but Superman places him in the custody of the Linear Man. As the temporal vortex opens, the Linear Man comments that Booster should enjoy his last few hours of existence. Superman is shocked to learn that the penalty for stealing a time machine is death!

A protective energy bubble envelopes Linear Man and Booster Gold and the two enter the vortex. Inside the timestream, Booster looks back to see Superman plunge through the shrinking vortex. Superman fights the raging energies of the timestream, attempting to catch up to the time bubble. The Linear Man tries to evade Superman and lose him in the fierce storm. Superman finally catches up to the bubble as they emerge at the Linear Men headquarters, Vanishing Point.

Superman demands that Booster receive some leniency from the Linear Men tribunal, as helping people in the present is better than being dead in the 25th Century. The Linear Men are adamant that anyone guilty of disrupting history be condemned to death. As Booster is being lead away, Superman asks whether Superman's final fate was to disappear in the time stream. When told that it's not, he points out that the Linear Man tried to abandon him to the deadly energies of the time stream, thus invalidating Superman's history. Aghast that their own law officer almost wrecked history, they make a deal and allow Booster to return with Superman.

Back in Metropolis, Superman and Booster make a deal of their own. As payment for his past crimes, and as thanks to Superman for saving his life, Booster will leave Metropolis, donate most of his proceeds to charity and behave himself.
Booster Gold: Scott Bakula

Linear Man: David Rasche

"Work Release"
(possibly a two-part episode)

Batman is checking Killer Croc into Arkham Asylum and inquires as to the whereabouts of the brainwashed martial artist, the Bronze Tiger, who had inhabited the next cell. The doctor dismisses the inquiry, saying that he's on a "work release program." Batman had been keeping an eye on Ben's deprogramming and hadn't heard of any release.

Suspicious, Batman hacks into the Arkham database. Batman is unable to turn up any information on the government program that Bronze Tiger was released to, but he finds similar releases for Clayface, Deadshot, the Australian gimmick villain known as Captain Boomerang…and a new one just issued for Killer Croc!
Suicide Squad

Batman races back to Arkham in time to leap aboard the departing truck…but his arrival does not go unnoticed. Bronze Tiger climbs out of the cab and onto the roof. The two masters face off atop the speeding truck, dodging highway signs, traffic signals and tunnels in moves that would awe Jackie Chan. Batman keeps trying to reason with his friend, urging him to tell him what it's all about, but to no avail. The two are stalemated and tiring when Captain Boomerang tosses a 'rang from the rear of the truck and hits Batman from behind. Bronze Tiger hauls Batman inside the truck, unwilling to pitch him over the side as the other villains in the truck would have him do.

Batman wakes to find that he's wearing an explosive bracelet. Amanda Waller, a tough government agent, informs him that he's forced his way into the "Suicide Squad", a government effort to put criminals to good use in defense of their country. The criminals and Batman, led by agent Nightshade, are going to attack Ra's Al Ghul's fortress in Africa and destroy the biological weapons he has amassed. If they survive, the criminals' sentences are reduced to time served and they'll be released. Batman is all for stopping Ra's but is equally repulsed by the idea of releasing unreformed criminals that he's worked to capture.

Ben Turner and Nightshade are friendly enough, and once their mission is underway, they remove Batman's bracelet. At Ra's' Fortress, the criminals tackle his guards and destroy his stockpile while Batman slips away to confront his great enemy. Deadshot and Boomerang attempt to escape but are tackled by Bronze Tiger. Ra's is furious at the invasion of his grounds and fights Nightshade, but Batman prevents Ra's from killing her. As the Fortress falls apart due to the exploding chemicals, Nightshade teleports the team away.

Nightshade teleports the team to Gotham to drop off the Dark Knight. Batman is angered that Bronze Tiger could belong to the Suicide Squad; Ben says that he is content to have found a way to productively use his inner demons and hopes Batman would understand that. Batman states that they're nothing alike, and vows to shut them down. Nightshade states that he'll have to find them first, and they disappear. Batman growls that he will find them one day.
Nightshade: Claudia Christian

Captain Boomerang: Paul Hogan

Deadshot: Ed Wasser

Amanda Waller: Marsha Warfield

Here's a preview for next month!
Supergirl and the Legion

All characters are ™ DC Comics

This column is © 1998 by Michael Hutchison.

All artwork is © 1998 by Bob Riley.