Tuesday, December 24, 2013

BobRo Archives: The "Lost" 'Mazing Man Script

A comment on Facebook about 'Mazing Man led me to the Wikipedia entry about the character that Stephen DeStefano and I created almost thirty years ago. In the article, there is a dead link that used to lead to an online column I wrote about a "lost" 'Maze story, one that we plotted and I wrote up, but that we ultimately decided not to use. From the archives, here is a lightly edited version of that column...

“With ‘Mazing Man… we’d work out a plot and get three-quarters of the way through and sometimes say, ‘No, this wouldn’t happen. They wouldn’t DO this.’” – Bob Rozakis, 1986

Writers, editors and artists plot stories all the time. Good thing, too, because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be too many comic books to read. When it was time to plot an issue of ‘Mazing Man, editor Alan Gold, artist Stephen DeStefano, and I would head to a local Bojangles fried chicken place and work out stories while munching on wings and thighs, biscuits and fries.

Sometimes we’d have an idea from the start. Other times we’d be looking for a jumping off point. In this particular case, Stephen had come into the city on the subway and had seen a magician moving from car to car doing tricks. He suggested that it might be something we could use in a ‘Maze story.

We worked out a basic plot and I went home to write it up. What follows is the breakdown I delivered to Alan a few days later. Though it is done with individual panels, Stephen was free to expand or contract the number he needed to move the action along. [Stephen and I worked in a variety of ways when it came to doing ‘Mazing Man stories. Sometimes I’d give him a very tight plot – like this one –  and even plug in sample dialogue. Other times he’d go home with the idea and break down the story. In rare cases, “Brenda’s Story” in MM #6 the one example I recall, I’d give him a complete script.]

“IT’S MAGIC” – 7pp – PLOT

1. LOGO and title in the top panel. It’s sunset or a little later. Shot of the skyline perhaps?
2. KP is coming into the apartment. She’s dressed like she was out on a date. She looks upset, angry, disappointed. The date was a bust. Maze and Denton are sitting in the living room watching TV.
3. Denton glances up as her. He’s being unsympathetic, remaking that this is a new record because she’s home from her date at 8:15 on a Saturday night.
4. KP tells them how bad the date was, what a scuzzbucket the guy was. She remarks that there just doesn’t seem to be any magic in her life any more.
5. Maze perks up. The word “magic” has given him an idea.
6. KP is trying to get her shoes off, but Maze won’t let her, dragging her by the arm and telling her he’s got the solution to her problem. Denton is watching, not understanding what he’s talking about. KP is looking to Denton for help.
7. Denton follows along as Maze literally drags KP out the door.

1. Now we’re on the subway platform. A train is pulling into the station. Denton is remarking that this is the fifth train they’ve watched come in. He wants to know what exactly they are waiting for. Maze is telling him to be patient. KP is smoking a cigarette, having given up trying to figure out what it is that Maze is up to.
2. As the train goes past them, Maze spots something inside and announces that this is the train for them.
3. Maze drags KP and Denton onto the train. They’re looking around at the car, which has the usual collection of off-hours subway commuters, daters, deadbeats, etc. Denton wants to know what makes this train different from all the rest.
4. Maze points to our magician, who is just getting ready to put on his act for a new audience.
5. KP looks at Denton and remarks that Maze takes everything too literally.

1. The magician spots Maze waving and recognizes him.
2. Maze introduces KP and Denton. Magician pulls a bouquet of flowers from his sleeve and tells KP he’s charmed to meet her. KP is softening; she’s thinking that the guy is kind of cute.
3. Meantime, Maze spots some kids at the other end of the car. They’re holding wide-tip magic markers inside their jackets, conspiring with one another. Maze realizes that this is a case for him  -- these kids are going to graffiti the car.
4. Maze follows after the kids as they head into the next car. Denton, figuring that Maze will end up getting clobbered, follows him.

1. In the next car, we see the kids taking the caps off the magic markers as Maze charges into the car, yelling at them to stop. Denton is behind him, telling him that perhaps he should leave these kids to the transit police.
2. The kids take off into the next car ahead as Denton is treated to a monologue from Maze about keeping the subways clean. It’s everybody’s job.
3. They continue the chase through the train.
4. Meantime, the magician has focused his entire act around KP and she’s charmed by him. The rest of the people in the car are watching. They thinks she’s part of the show.

1. The train pulls into a station and stops. The doors open. Maze and Denton are coming into a car in time to see the graffiti kids getting out. Maze is proud of himself that he’s prevented vandalism.
2. Behind them, we see the kids sneaking back onto the train in the car Maze and Denton have just left.
3. The train is starting up again. In the car where the magician is doing his act, one young guy jumps up where he was sitting next to his girlfriend, saying they just missed their stop. The girl is telling him to sit down and shut up; this is cheaper and better than the disco they were going to.
4. The magician is doing a rope trick for KP, romantically charming her with his banter.

1. The magician is doing a trick that everyone is engrossed in.
2. Suddenly, the door at the end of the car bursts open and the kids with the markers come racing in. Each of them is holding his marker out like a sword.
3. Right behind them comes ‘Mazing Man, followed by Denton.
4. As the kids charge past the magician, he waves his coat out and when they go past him, the markers have disappeared from their hands.
5. The magician stops Maze and asks him what’s going on. Maze says they were going to mess up the cars with their markers.
6. The train is pulling into a station. The magician points out that they don’t have any markers, winking at the kids like he’s in on a conspiracy with them.

1. The kids, thinking they’ve been saved from Maze by the magician, razz Maze as they get off the train.
2. The doors close and the train is pulling out again, with the kids standing on the platform laughing at Maze like they’ve put something over on him.
3. Now Maze and the magician are laughing as the magician hands Maze the markers. They have obviously worked this routine before. The kids don’t realize that without their markers, they can’t do anything.
4. Later. The train is pulling back into their home station. KP is happily waving goodbye to the magician, who is holding a piece of paper with her phone number on it. Maze is happily proclaiming that he’s kept another subway train graffiti-free for another night. (Don’t show Maze from behind.)
5. Last panel shows Maze from behind as they get off the train. There is graffiti all over the back of his helmet.

So why was this story, originally scheduled for 'Mazing Man #8, never published?

Because, as Alan pointed out when he read the plot outline, Maze lets the kids get away unpunished. He knows the kids will just get more markers and will graffiti some other train. Plus the kids did manage to graffiti Maze himself, though there doesn’t seem to be any time when they could have done so.

After arguing that Maze’s heroics involve “little victories” – there’s no way he can prevent all the New York City subway trains from being vandalized – I reluctantly agreed with him. We agreed to drop the idea and plot something else. (Yes, well, it was an easy decision for Alan and Stephen – I was the only one who had actually done any work!) 

I still think we could have salvaged the plot, but I was so caught up with that final sight gag that I ignored a solution. Fifteen years later, it’s easy to look back and come up with one: After the kids have run out onto the subway platform and are laughing at Maze, he just waves at them. As the train pulls away, we see a pair of transit cops come up behind the kids. Though the kids argue that they’ve done nothing wrong, the cops nod and lead them away. Now we see the kids from the back and see that Maze has written on their jackets something like “I’m a subway graffiti vandal. Please arrest me.”

In any case, I hope you enjoyed this lost ‘Mazing Man story.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Friday in the Park With Alex

I was helping Chuck with babysitting Alex the other day and, since the weather was unseasonably warm, we ventured over to the park on the next block. Alex had a great deal of fun walking the paths, changing direction each time something caught his attention. "Hey, I wonder where that boy on the bicycle is going." "Why is that dog barking?" "That lady is in a hurry; let's go see why." "What's the squirrel doing?" (All the preceding is my own rough translation of Alex-speak; he knows what he's saying even if the rest of us can't understand it.) We zig-zagged back and forth and I was reminded of the installments of The Family Circus which show Billy's incredibly circuitous path from point A to point B.

He enjoyed a ride in the swing, but it was climbing up the steps of the playground structure and going down the slide that was far more exciting. The slide (the straight red part towards the left end of the structure above) is perhaps eight feet long. When he was seated at the top, Alex was all smiles and ready to go. While sliding, he had a momentary look on his face of "What have I gotten myself into?!" And then he was back to all smiles at the bottom... and ready to do it again!

He was not interested in trying the circular slide (at the right end of the structure) except to watch a boy of about five trying to climb up the slide, getting about halfway, and then sliding back down. And then we were on our way again, around and underneath the structure, stopping every now and then to pick up a leaf or a twig that looked particularly interesting.

Once we had checked out everything that needed checking out and decided there were no more people or animals that needed to be followed, we headed home, where Alex (and Grandpa) took a nice nap. Because it's tough work having an adventure in the park!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Grab Bags

During my tenure as the head of Production at DC Comics, the Christmas season would bring a large number of vendor gifts to my desk. Probably as a throwback to the "Mad Men" era, most of these gifts were bottles of alcohol. There was the occasional box of candy or a cheese selection, but wine, champagne, vodka, scotch, et al made up the majority.

Non-drinker that I am, I had virtually no use for all this booze, so I would give it away to the people in my department. One year fairly early on, I got the idea that, rather than just giving it away, I would have a Gift Grab-Bag at our department Christmas party. I piled all the various packages on a table in the middle of the room. As each staff member entered the party, they drew a slip of paper from a bowl and that determined the order in which they would get to pick.

It went pretty well the first year. However, after the first couple of people picked up various packages to get an idea of what might be in them, I made a "You touch it, you took it" rule. This resulted in a gift-trading after-market as some people tried to get something they liked better.

In the second year, when I tallied up department personnel versus the number of available gifts, I found myself one present short. So, I took a bottle of champagne out of its box and then put a couple of cans of Diet Coke in the box, turning one into two and creating the first "You got coal" (or, more accurately, cola) gift. It was quite amusing to see the face of the staffer, who had traded numbers to get an early pick, when she grabbed that very fancy box and discovered she had two cans of soda. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to trade with her.

The following year, I added another twist. One of the gifts appeared to be some comic books with a ribbon tied around them and everyone avoided picking it. There was much laughter as the numbers were called and all the other gifts were chosen, leaving the comics for the guy who had the final pick. He was not so disappointed, however, when he opened the comics and discovered there was a $25 gift certificate with them!

As time went on and my departments grew, so did the number of gifts. My production managers contributed gifts they received. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that my female managers would get things like soap and candles instead of the usual bottles of liquor, so there were a wider variety as well. One year there was a really ugly clock made from a piece of a tree-trunk; no one wanted to trade for that one and it came back into the gift pool the following year!

One gift that no one ever seemed to want was the fruitcake. In fact, one year, when that was the only thing left, the person who would have gotten it opted out of taking it. Actually, that was fine with me. I may be the only person on the planet who does, but I like fruitcake. So I took it home.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alex Meets Santa

The secret uncovered...

"You know, Santa, you seem awfully familiar."
"Aha! I was right!"

"Daddy, don't tell anybody, but Santa Claus's secret identity is Grandpa!"

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where Were You...? JFK Edition

Some of my CTY students believed that, since I was born in the previous millennium, I was there for everything that occurred. I was not, in fact, present at the Battle of Hastings, nor was I aboard the Nina, the Pinta or the Santa Maria. I did, however, suggest to Thomas Jefferson that we buy Louisiana and kick out the French. ("We don't have much money, Bob." "I know, Tom, but they're busy fighting a war so make them a crazy offer and see what happens.") And, of course, there was the charge up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt.

I wasn't standing on the grassy knoll in Dallas fifty years ago. I was a seventh-grader eating my lunch in the Elmont High School cafeteria with a couple of my classmates. It was a Friday and the day that our first seventh-grade dance would take place after school. Admission was an item of non-perishable food for a drive the class was running; I had brought a can of green beans. Our big concerns were whether we would be forced to ask girls to dance and what we would do if a girl asked one of us.

The news was quite sketchy at first. I don't know whether it came from a student who was listening to a transistor radio or from a teacher who'd heard it in the teachers' lounge or the main office. This was long before smart-phones and the internet and 24/7 news broadcasts.

As word spread around the cafeteria, I recall someone scoffing, "Yeah? Who shot him? Caroline with a popgun?" When the bell rang, no further information was forthcoming, so we all proceeded to our next class.

For me, it was gym class. We changed into our gym clothes and went outside, where we did calisthenics and then started playing soccer. Not long into our game, someone came out and told the teacher to bring us all back inside. We got back to the locker room just in time to hear the principal making an announcement over the P.A. that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

The principal said that all after-school activities were being cancelled. Students who had brought items  for the food drive should drop them off but the dance would be rescheduled. He also advised us all to go straight home.

He didn't have to tell us why we should go straight home. This was the Cold War era. Nikita Khrushchev had promised to bury us. The Russians had tried to put nuclear missiles in Cuba, only to be stopped by our now-dead President Kennedy. The assassination could, in fact, be the start of World War III with the Commies, with mushroom clouds blossoming all around us. We should be home with our families if that was what happened.

I don't recall much more about the weekend, though I do remember that I was watching when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in front of all those Dallas cops and the TV cameras. That was, perhaps, more unbelievable than the assassination.

One other odd thing I remember: Channel 5 was showing reruns of The Untouchables on Wednesday nights at the time.  According to TV Guide, scheduled for the following week was the first half of the two-part "The Gun of Zangara." It was the story of the attempted assassination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Giuseppi Zangara that resulted in the death of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. Not surprisingly, Channel 5 pulled the episode; I did not get to see it until the series was released on DVD decades later.

Despite the grave concerns of that weekend, World War III did not happen. Nikita Khrushchev didn't bury us; in fact, he was replaced as Soviet Premier the following year. Lyndon Johnson took over as President and our lives went back to normal. 

Our seventh-grade dance was never rescheduled. The great concern about having to dance with a girl was forgotten. I hope someone eventually got to eat the can of green beans.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Driving to Work (and Home Again)

My route to work includes a two-lane road that takes me past a stone-crushing facility. Not surprisingly, there are a number of large trucks coming in and out of its driveway. One did so this morning as I was coming up the road and it headed in the direction I was traveling.

A large sign on the back of the truck read "Construction Vehicle. Do Not Follow." I've seen this message on trucks before and wondered what it is supposed to mean, especially as I am driving on a winding road that has no passing lane nor any portion in which is is safe to cross over and pass said truck. Should we all just pull over and sit on the side of the road until the truck is out of sight, so as not to be accused of following it?

And just what is the penalty for following a construction vehicle? Other than, presumably, driving more slowly than you might if the truck was not in front of you? Are there Construction Vehicle Police who will magically appear and give you a ticket?


The speed limit on this same road is 40 mph, except for a short stretch in front of an elementary school, where the limit is 30 mph between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on school days. As you approach the school from either direction, there is one of those speed-sensor signs that flashes and tells you what your speed is. (On the occasions that I ride my bicycle to work, I am amused to see that the sensor notices me and flashes that I am going about 11 m.p.h. This must baffle some of the drivers passing me.)

Unfortunately, when you approach from the north, the sensor seems to be aimed at some spot about a quarter mile up the road. More often than not, I'll be nearing the sign at a speed around the limit, but the sign will be flashing 42 or 45 or 47 or higher because it is registering someone who not yet within the speed zone. I suppose this doesn't really matter as long as there isn't a ticket-writing police officer sitting there using the sign as the basis for determining who is speeding.

Still, it's become a habit to check my speedometer and compare it to the flashing sign as I go by. It never seems to match.


The distance from home to the office is just over five miles. Along the way, I pass three 7-11 stores. There are no fast-food franchises and no gas stations along the route. It would seem obvious that there is a market for Slurpees, but none for Big Macs or five gallons of fuel.


According to Mapquest, it should take me thirteen minutes to drive to work. It's usually between fifteen and twenty, however, depending on how much traffic there is and how many of the traffic lights I hit driving through Farmingdale village.

The key, however, is to be ahead of the various school buses that make their way along the same route, rather than behind one because that adds ten minutes to the trip. And if it's a school bus that's behind a sanitation truck on garbage day? Might as well have another cup of coffee before leaving the house.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Patch" Me In

  Like many other communities around the country, Farmingdale has an edition of The Patch, the hyper-local online news-blog. From time to time, there are news items that I find interesting and/or informative, but more often there are days when it seems like they are grasping at straws to come up with anything important to report. Farmingdale is not a hotbed of crime or any other big news.
  In addition to a daily email with links to the news highlights,subscribers also receive "Breaking News" alerts from time to time. Alas, whoever is responsible for these seems to have an odd idea of what constitutes "Breaking News."
  To be fair, I do recall receiving one alert reporting that Route 109 was closed down because of a major fire. The alert came in the mid-afternoon and the firefighters were still on the scene when I passed by on my way home about an hour later.
  More recently, however, there's been a substantial time lag between when the event took place and when it is finally reported. Last Monday at 5:10 p.m. I received a Breaking News report about a 3-year-old boy who had been injured in a car accident... on Sunday just after noon. Not much of a scoop there, but a day or two time delay seemed to be the norm these days.
  But then on Wednesday I received an alert about cars being vandalized in Farmingdale. Something I might want to know about, especially since one of the cars was parked on a street not that far from my own. But the vandalism took place a full week earlier! How does this constitute "breaking news"? (Unless, of course, the "breaking" refers to the windshields involved.) And why has it taken them a week to report anything about it?

  For the past three days, work crews have been closing down and digging up portions of Main Street. As a result, I've had to take a detour route to get to work. It would have been nice to know about it in advance, so that I could have taken the alternate route from the start, rather than having to loop around to do it.
  Alas, there has been no report at all on The Patch about what is going on. I suppose, however, there might be a Breaking News alert sometime next week. Maybe even before all the work is completed!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween in Alex's World

  King Kong scales the Empire State Building as Fay Wray swoons. But is the Eighth Wonder of the World trying to figure out how he's going to swat that pesky bi-plane or how Mommy turned into a blonde?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Swimsover 2013

Those of you who follow my maniacal desire to get maximum use out of the pool know that Columbus Day is the unofficial last day of the season. On Monday, with the water at about 65 degrees according to the Temperature Team, I went in, but only up to my knees. (I have been known to go for an actual swim with the water that cool, but that's only when the air temperature is higher than the water temp, which was not the case.)

So now the cover is in place and all the components are packed away. Oh, I'll still get a few more afternoons of sitting poolside if the weather is nice, but it's not the same when you can't see the water.

We've scheduled the reopening for April 15, 2014, so it is only six months to the next First Dunk! Or about a week and a half, the way time seems to fly by.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Just a Story...

The new president of the Tenants' Association at 438 Washington Street calls the meeting to order. When it is time to discuss new business, he tells the members, "As you know, we have allowed tenants to occupy the two apartments in the basement, though the plumbing layout has them sharing a single bathroom. I propose that we hire a company to renovate the piping down there and allow each tenant to have a separate bathroom."
One of the building's tenants, Richie, objects. He says that the plan is impractical, far too expensive and will never work properly. He also says that the Association should vote to cut back on the existing plumbing system because it is becoming more and more expensive to maintain. The president and many of the members are puzzled by Richie's reaction, but nod and smile politely.
The members vote on the proposal and pass it by a substantial margin. The president calls Don the Plumber, who listens and comes up with a plan. "But," Don cautions, "it is not going to be a simple job and I may run into glitches -- meaning additional expenses -- as we install it."
"That's okay," the president assures him, because providing adequate plumbing to the basement tenants is an absolute necessity.
At the next meeting, the president presents Don's plan for the renovations, including the costs and how it will be paid for. Richie objects; he announces that he is determined to stop the work. He demands another vote, which, in order to mollify Richie, the president allows. Once again the proposal is approved.
Richie demands that a select committee be formed to review the plans and present its findings at the next meeting. Because he is so vociferous, enough of the members vote in favor of forming the committee. Not surprisingly, Richie demands he be appointed to it.
At the next meeting, the committee presents their findings: The plan is sound, the funding is practical, and the work should begin. Their vote was not unanimous; there was, to no one's surprise, a dissenting vote cast by Richie.
Richie now demands that the entire association vote on the issue again. Realizing that arguing against another re-vote will simply be a waste of time, the president again puts the issue on the floor. For the third time, it passes.
Don and his crew arrive the next morning, ready to begin the work. They are confronted by Richie, placard reading "Stop the Project Now!" in hand, blocking their path. The president and several of the tenants try to move Richie, but he refuses to give way. Reluctantly, the president calls the police.
When the officer arrives, he explains to Richie that, while he is free to express his opinion, he cannot prevent Don from working. Richie objects and claims that there is no permit for the work and that Don's license is a fake. Presented with these claims, the police officer has no choice but to investigate their veracity.

The work is delayed as Don has to get a letter from the County Clerk affirming his license as well as have the Department of Public Works verify that they have reviewed and approved the plans.
While Don is doing this, Richie goes to some of the neighbors, telling them that the plumbing plan is wrong, that it will hurt property values, and will ultimately destroy the entire plumbing system of the building. Several of these neighbors go to the president demanding an explanation; he calmly explains the plan and points out where Richie is blatantly lying. Since none of them disagree about each tenant having a separate bathroom, they decide there is, in fact, nothing to be concerned about.
Finally, Don is about to start the work. He and his crew arrive, mildly surprised that Richie is not in front of the building again trying to block the way. The president is relieved that Richie appears to have given up.
Don and his crew have just started to work when all the electricity in the basement is turned off. He comes upstairs to report the outage to the president and discovers many of the neighbors in the hallway, all complaining that their power is also out.
A quick check determines that the outage is the result of something outside the building. Tenants make their way out to the street. Down the block they spot Richie, sitting at the top of a utility pole, waving. "I've cut off the power," he yells, "and I'm not turning it on again until you give up your plan to put in those bathrooms!"
When a tenant complains that, in addition to cutting off power for Don and his crew, Richie has also cut it to their apartments, he points at the president and says, "It's all his fault."

"We all voted in favor of doing this work," shouts another tenant.

"Not all of us. Those bathrooms will bring ruin to the whole building!" Richie replies.
"I'll leave this to you," says Don to the president. "We've got battery-powered lanterns and tools, so we can go to work anyway." He and his crew return to the basement.
"How long do you think he'll stay up there?" one of the tenants asks the president.
"Who knows? A couple of hours? A day? At this point, he's ticking off the rest of the tenants. Probably only a matter of time before one of them comes up with a way to get him down..."

Scott Carpenter (1925-2013)

Courtesy of my Uncle Jimmy, a photo autographed by all seven of the Mercury astronauts, though some of them don't show up in this scan. That's Alan Shepard, Wally Schirra and John Glenn in the back with Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter, Deke Slayton and Gordon Cooper in the front. I did not mention to Scott Carpenter that he had smudged his signature on this photo.

I met former astronaut Scott Carpenter when we were both guests at an I-Con at SUNY Stony Brook back in the late 1980s. (Unlike other comic conventions, I-Con had a "hard science" component and the guest list included noted scientists, professors, and explorers.) We were sitting in the guest lounge shortly before we each had to head off to sit on panels.

I mentioned to Carpenter that he and I had a connection that dated back to his days in the space program. My Uncle Jimmy was a NASA engineer, working at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia back when the Mercury astronauts were also stationed there. My cousin Peter went to school with the sons of Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Gus Grissom. To my surprise, he remembered Uncle Jimmy -- "He was that little bald guy!"

We chatted about his post-NASA days and his interest in sea exploration. We also noted the coincidence of I-Con being at Stony Brook, as that was also the name of the housing development the astronauts and NASA staff lived in in Newport News.

With the time of our respective panels approaching, I said that I wanted to use the men's room before going on my way. I told Carpenter about Schwartz's Law, named for DC Editor Julie Schwartz: "Don't go anywhere without going first."

Carpenter replied with his own version, courtesy of President Lyndon Johnson. "After I made my space flight, I was in a ticker-tape parade, riding in the car with then-Vice President Johnson. He told me, 'Now that you're famous, there are two things you should never pass up: Free lunch and a chance to go to the bathroom!'" And thus was born Lyndon Johnson's Corollary to Schwartz's Law.

Our paths did not cross again at the convention, but I was glad to have had the chance to speak with him. When I next spoke to Uncle Jimmy, I mentioned that Carpenter remembered him. My uncle's response? "He called me 'that little bald guy'?!"

Monday, October 7, 2013

This Month in Alex's World

  Alex had his first sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's as Chuck and Rebecca celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary with a one-night weekend away. He had great fun exploring the house and playing with Grandma's stash of toys. He even got to spend time with Aunt Sammi, who was in town for a visit.
  He (and we) had a wonderful time and look forward to the next visit.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

BobRo Archives: The Harlequin

As I mentioned in the previous posting, I had written a script for the first in a back-up series and said series would have started in issue #2 of The Vixen, a book that never even had its first issue published. The star of the series was to have been none other than Duela Dent a.k.a. The Harlequin a.k.a. The Joker’s Daughter. From the archives is a lightly edited online column from back in 2000...

Duela’s comics career began in Batman Family #6, where she was introduced as a foe for Robin. She reappeared in following issues, taking on such guises as Catwoman’s Daughter, The Penguin’s Daughter and the Scarecrow’s Daughter. Somewhere along the way, editor Julie Schwartz and I decided that we wanted to keep her around and so we moved her over to TEEN TITANS, where she took on the new identity of The Harlequin.

Oh, yes, and we established that she was actually the daughter of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Using what I called “selective aging” so that Duela could be the same age as Dick Grayson -- despite the fact that Harvey became Two-Face when Dick was already a Boy Wonder -- we glossed over the blatant flaw in her history. This incidence of playing fast and loose has resulted in other writers using the character in ways I’m not particularly fond of -- turning Duela into a patient in a psych ward who doesn’t know who she really is.

But back in 1978, Duela was an accepted member of the DC Universe, so much so that Jack C. Harris, editor of The Vixen, chose her to fill the back-slot in that magazine. As far as I can remember, no artist had been selected for the series I don’t know if I was even paid for writing it. It has been sitting in a file in my basement for more than thirty years, a lost piece of a DC history that might have been if not for the DC Implosion.

Panel 1:           [We’re in an alleyway in the dark. Working with a flashlight, a pair of two-bit crooks – Ace and Biff – are trying to jimmy a lock on a door marked DOUBLE-K HARDWARE – DELIVERY ENTRANCE.  They are startled by laughter echoing in the darkness.]

CAPTION:     MIDNIGHT in a darkened alleyway in STAR CITY…
LAUGHTER: HAHAHAHAHA! (open lettering, floating)
ACE:               Whuzzat?!?

Panel 2:           [Okay, here’s a tricky bit we’re going to establish here and use from time to time. We’re looking over the shoulders of Ace and Biff down the alley. What we see in the dark are the face and white diamonds on the costume of the Harlequin. Make this look really weird and unnerving. She’s still laughing.]

BIFF:              Lookit! Some kinda SPOOK!
HARLEQUIN:       HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

Panel 3:           [SPLASH PANEL – 2/3 of the page. Now Biff shines the flashlight on Harlequin and we see she is standing with hands on her hips, staring at the two startled crooks.]

ACE:               Looks like THE JOKER…in DRAG!
CAPTION:     Not quite, friend – and too bad for you… because the laughing lady is NOT on YOUR side of the law!

CAPTION #2:            To your distress, you will learn all too soon that she is one of the good guys – and that her name is…


Panel 1:           [In a multiple image we see Harlequin pulling something from her “bag of tricks” on her hip and throwing it at Ace and Biff. Harlequin is laughing.]

CAPTION:     Though her costume seems designed to amuse, her moves are not those of a clown…
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

 Panel 2:           [Now we see that what harlequin has thrown are a pair of diamonds similar to the shapes on her costume. Both are arcing through the air at Biff, still holding the flashlight.]

HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

Panel 3:           [One of the diamonds hits Biff in the arm, causing him to drop the flashlight. The second goes through the top of his jacket, pinning him to the wall behind him.]

CAPTION:     …and, indeed, her opponents will find this no laughing matter.
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)
BIFF:              YEEOWW!

Panel 4:           [Okay, here’s where you get to play with some strange lighting effects. The flashlight is now lying on the ground, so the scene is lit only from below, giving it a weird look. We see that Ace has snapped open a switchblade, which gleams in the light.]

ACE:               Cute trick, lady – but let’s hear how much you laugh after I cut you open!
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

 Panel 5:           [Close on Harlequin reaching up and grabbing part of her neck ruffle. She continues to laugh.]

HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

Panel 6:           [Now we see Harlequin flipping her arm towards Ace, who is approaching her with the switchblade held menacingly in front of him. We see Harlequin’s neck ruffle is loose from around her neck and one end is flying through the air at Ace, while Harlequin holds the other end.]

HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)
ACE:               WHA--?!?


Panel 1:           [The ruffle wraps around Ace’s knife hand and the trunk of his body in such a way that the switchblade is now pointed at his own throat.]

ACE:               YIIII!
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHA! Now – give me the answers I want … or that SWITCH-BLADE will end up someplace most UNCOMFORTABLE!

 Panel 2:           [Now we see Ace, sweating, scared as the knife in his hand is held against his throat. Behind him, Biff is struggling to pull himself free of the wall, still held fast by the diamond.]

ACE:               Yeah, yeah – anything you want to know! Just ask… but, please don’t TUG on that thing!          
HARLEQUIN:           Agreed… if you tell me where I can find TWO-FACE!

 Panel 3:           [Ace stutters and gulps visibly. Biff is offering information from behind.]

ACE:               T-T-TWO-FACE?? We ain’t seen him in years… since we quit his old gang!BIFF:              But we heard something through the grapevine… about how he broke out of ARKHAM ASYLUM last week –

Panel 4:           [Harlequin pulls slightly on the ruffle, nudging the switchblade against Ace’s neck. He’s scared, telling Biff to talk. Harlequin is laughing.]

ACE:               AWWK! Tell her, Biff!
BIFF:              The word is TWO-FACE is in NEW YORK, setting up somethin’ LEGIT…

Panel 5:           [Now we’re looking over the shoulders of really scared Ace and Biff as we see only the white diamonds of Harlequin as she disappears back down the alleyway. Ace is rubbing his neck, holding the switchblade in his other hand, staring down the alleyway.

CAPTION:     “…as a front for a new operation! But that’s all we heard – HONEST!”
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)
BIFF:              WEIRD! All she wanted was that information and she let you go –
“#2:                 -- she didn’t even try to turn us in!

Panel 6:           [Now we are looking at Harlequin as she is into an old, somewhat beat-up small car, along the lines of a Volkswagen Beetle. She’s smiling.]

HARLEQUIN (thot):  Not a bad routine, that! Sort of a cross between BATMAN and THE JOKER…
“#2 (thot):       …and VERY effective!
“#3 (thot):       But I wonder what those two would say if they knew…


Panel 1:           [Now we see Harlequin’s Volks going down a four-lane highway. There’s a sign reading NEW YORK – 60 MILES.]

HARLEQUIN (thot):             …that the frightening woman so interested in TWO-FACE is HIS DAUGHTER!

Panel 2:           [FLASHBACK! See TEEN TITANS #48, page 2, panel 2. Gilda Dent is carrying baby Duela in one hand and a suitcase in the other.]

CAPTION [Harlequin’s head inset]: “A daughter whose mother was driven away by her husband’s mania --
BOTTOM CAPTION:  “--his obsession with the number TWO could not allow him to love or even accept ONE child!”

Panel 3:           [FLASHBACK! Gilda Dent is sitting in a chair with eight-year-old Duela on her lap. There is a photo of an unscarred Harvey Dent on the table next to them. Duela is pointing at the picture.]

CAPTION:     “But Momma always loved him and kept his secret from me for years – praying for the day when he would be cured…”
DUELA:         Momma – when is Daddy coming home?
GILDA:          Someday, Duela… someday soon!

 Panel 4:           [FLASHBACK! Now seventeen years old, Duela is shocked, comparing a magazine page photo of Two-Face to the photo on the table. Same scene as previous panel, just ten years later.]

CAPTION:     “But it was a secret I seemed destined to discover—“
DUELA(thot):            It-It’s UNBELIEVABLE! My father is…TWO-FACE!!

 Panel 5:           [Montage panel across the bottom of the page. The montage shows The Joker’s Daughter battling Robin atop the Hudson University Unispan (from Batman Family#6); Joker’s Daughter with the Teen Titans (TT #48, page 2, panel 4); and Harlequin in her present costume battling Captain Calamity (TT #52, page 4, panel 3).]

CAPTION:     “From that day, I vowed that at least one member of the Dent family would serve the side of the law – to atone for the sins of my father…”
BOTTOM CAPTION: “First by becoming THE JOKER’S DAUGHTER to learn ROBIN’s secret identity –
“#2:     “—which proved to him I was a worthy recruit for the Teen Titans…
“#3      “…where I changed to my HARLEQUIN identity and perfected my act before they broke up!”


Panel 1:           [Back to the present. Now we see Duela Dent getting out of her Volks in a New York City parking lot. She is getting a numbered ticket from the parking attendant. In the background is a sign showing the outlandish parking rates and another that reads NEW YORK'S MOST CONVENIENT PARKING LOT. It is daytime.]

DUELA(thot):            Call it a vendetta…or maybe just the desire to keep it “in the family” – but I feel obligated to bring Daddy back whenever he escapes!
“#2(thot):        Sure, BATMAN or one of the other big names could wrap him up just as fast – but THEY usually wait till he pulls something!

Panel 2:           [Close on Duela flipping through a phone book.]

DUELA(thot):            I’m determined to stop him BEFORE he starts!
“#2(thot):        Hmmm… so many possibilities –

Panel 3:           [Her ‘bag of tricks” doubling as a pocketbook, we see that Duela has disguised herself, placing a short-cut blonde wig on her head. She’s wearing a man-tailored suit with a scarf and boots.]

DUELA(thot):            -- only thing to do is check them all out…but NOT as Duela Dent!
“#2(thot):        Daddy would recognize me in a minute!

Panel 4:           [Weary-looking Duela, still in the blonde wig, is on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, looking southward at the city. The World Trade towers are in the distance. The sun is setting.]

CAPTION:     But, after an exhausting day all over the BIG APPLE…
DUELA(thot):            Whew! I’ve checked everything from SECOND-hand furniture stores to DOUBLE-dip ice cream parlors…
“#2(thot):        …and come up with ZIPPO!

Panel 5:           [Now focus over Duela’s shoulder as she stares at the World Trade towers.]

DUELA(thot):            I don’t think there’s ANYWHERE in this city I haven’t checked…
“#2(thot):        …except…the WORLD TRADE CENTER –

Panel 6:           [Now we’re in the lobby of the World Trade Center. Duela is still in the blonde disguise, staring at the building directory.]

CAPTION:     “—otherwise known as the TWIN towers!”
DUELA(thot):            Curious! One firm has TWO offices – one in each of the towers… and BOTH with the same number!
“#2(thot):        It’s worth checking –


Panel 1:           [Now we’re upstairs in one of the Towers. Don’t make it too obvious, but the office Duela is breaking into is 2222. The office is dark inside.]

DUELA(thot):            Looks like nobody’s home here –

Panel 2:           [In the darkened office, Duela is staring out the window across at the other Tower. There is one window lit and it is directly opposite the room she is in. We can see into the lit office and there is someone sitting at a desk. Duela is removing her blonde wig here.]

DUELA(thot):            -- but somebody is burning the midnight oil in the firm’s OTHER office…

Panel 3:           [Series of tight vertical panels across the middle of the page showing Duela turning her outfit into the Harlequin costume. The wig is turned inside out to show purple hair. The scarf becomes her neck-ruffle. The suit jacket turns inside out to become her top. The slacks unzip at the sides and fold back to show the Harlequin design inside.]

DUELA(thot):            …and the odds are TWO-TO-TWO…
“#2(thot):        …that the “late worker” over there…
“#3(thot):        …is really the ONLY member of the firm –

Panel 4:           [Across the bottom of the page. Give us a nice dramatic shot looking down at the street far below as Harlequin swings via rope from the one office towards the lighted window in the other Tower.]

HARLEQUIN (thot): -- none other than ‘DEAR OLD DAD”!


Panel 1:           [Nice shot of Harlequin crashing through the window into the lit office. Two-Face, sitting at the desk, looks up, only mildly startled.]

TWO-FACE:  Hunh?!
HARLEQUIN:  Hiya, Daddy – bet you never expected ME to come and visit your office!

Panel 2:           [Two-Face is standing up as Harlequin reaches into her bag of tricks. We see his silver dollar on the desk.]

TWO-FACE:  Harlequin…DUELA!
HARLEQUIN: Nice of you to remember who I am –
“#2:                 -- but I must admit this isn’t a friendly visit…

 Panel 3:           [We see that Harlequin has pulled out a small “can” with a screw-top lid, which she is unscrewing.]

HARLEQUIN: …I’ve come to take you back to Arkham –

Panel 4:           [The lid is off the can, and shooting out of it is a “snake” like in those gag peanut butter jars. The “snake” is flying right at Two-face, who stands still, doing nothing to avoid it.]

HARLEQUIN: -- where they’ll try again to keep you WRAPPED up!

Panel 5:           [The “snake” now wraps around Two-Face like a cocoon, making him virtually helpless.]

HARLEQUIN: Hey, are you sick or someting… not even putting up a fight?
TWO-FACE:  No, Duela – I have every intention of returning to Arkham with you… after we TALK!


Panel 1:           [Harlequin is puzzled. Two-Face continues to talk. He motions with his chin towards the silver dollar on the desk.]

TWO-FACE:  I arranged my escape only so that YOU would track me down… I KNEW you would!
“#2:                 If you don’t believe I’m telling the truth, look at my lucky silver dollar!

Panel 2:           [Harlequin is staring down at the silver dollar which lies on the desk, unscarred side up.(The date on it is 1922, by the way.)]

HARLEQUIN: The GOOD SIDE is up…which means –
TWO-FACE:  -- that what I’m about to tell you is reliable!

Panel 3:           [Close on Two-Face, still wrapped up.]

TWO-FACE:  Even in Arkham, the underworld news gets around… and I’ve heard something really BIG is cooking!
“#2:                 One of the ROOTS is growing out of Hudson University, where YOU got to school!

Panel 4:           [Now focus on the puzzled Harlequin.]         

HARLEQUIN: But why this elaborate scheme to let me know? Why not just write me a letter?
TWO-FACE:  Would you have BELIEVED it?
HARLEQUIN: No…I guess not!

Panel 5:           [Two-shot. Harlequin is starting to unwrap Two-Face.]

HARLEQUIN: Wouldn’t it be better to pass the info on to BATMAN… or maybe the JUSTICE LEAGUE?
TWO-FACE:  Possibly, but YOU are my daughter…

Panel 6:           [Tight shot of Two-Face with a bemused look on his face.]

TWO-FACE:  …and at least HALF of me is proud of what you’ve done – and wants to help you to succeed!

Panel 7:           [Blurb across the bottom of the page.]

BLURB:         What information does Two-Face hold? And how will it affect The Harlequin? The answers will stun you… NEXT ISSUE! Be here!

I sure hope the answers would have stunned you, but thirty-plus years after I wrote that script, I have no idea where the plot was going. Since I was scripting the Robin, Batgirl, and Man-Bat series at the time, it’s a safe bet one or more of those characters would have ended up involved. (Two-Face’s comment about Hudson University, where Dick Grayson was also a student, makes the Teen Wonder’s part in it a virtual certainty.)

It’s quite possible that somewhere else in my files is a handwritten sheet of notes outlining plans for the Harlequin… and maybe some day I’ll find it. Till then, your guess is as good as mine.