Writer commentary time!
No, I’m not privileged enough to write Batgirl in anything other than fanfiction, but I did it and now let’s learn from it!
Today we’re looking at the third chapter of my Batman/ Iron Man fanfiction, “Armored Underworld!” After a bit of explanation, we’ll jump right in!
When I wrote this fanfiction, I used Green Ronin’s “Mutants and Masterminds, Third Edition” tabletop role-playing game. I played out all the combat and some of the investigative/ social stuff through their system.
Stuff like “RPG (role-playing game),” “player character,” or “non-player character” refer to that game.
Okay. NOW on to the story and commentary!
For those just catching up, Batgirl breaks up the party between the Heavy Playas gang and their Russian counterparts. A mystery woman stirs the pot.
Seeing both the stolen weapons and the new product was enough for Batgirl. It was time to break up the party.
Again, I wanted the Gotham vigilantes to be more than punishing machines who beat up random thugs. I wanted them to at least nibble at the edges of proper police procedure.
In this case, after Batgirl takes these guys down, there’s enough evidence, so when GCPD does show up, these guys will go to jail based on evidence and not their thug-like looks.
I’ll ignore the fact they were unlawfully assaulted and the ensuing lawsuits if they can afford a good lawyer.
She began her assault with a smoke pellet, dropping it the five stories and right on the Russians’ steel container. It exploded, covering the area between the van and the truck in a plume of black smoke.
Batgirl switched her cowl’s lenses to infrared. She could see all the players below, but they couldn’t see a thing. Drawing two weighted Batarangs from her utility belt, she threw them at the two Russian thugs by the container, figuring they’d pose the biggest threat. Her aim was true; both men fell out from the blows to the head.
Usually, you’d stay with the thugs’ point of view and see the vigilante rain Hell upon them. I switched back to Batgirl so we could see her methodology. Plus, coming at it from the role-playing game angle, this is how’d it would play out with Batgirl as a player character.
The lead Russian, a man Batgirl had never seen in Gotham before, was the quickest to react. Instead of drawing a gun and looking for a target, he dashed through the smoke toward the passenger side of the van. His driver was a pro too; he had started the van seconds after the smoke contained the area.
The Playas weren’t as smart. Their leader, Marcus, went to the side of the truck, searching for something. His boys inside the truck loaded the assault rifles and sent a barrage of automatic weapons fire at the Russians. Like Batgirl thought; not very smart. Not very accurate either. The container took a few rounds, but not much else.
Here I do some characterization among the Non-player characters. The Russians are professionals and know when to GTFO when under attack from an unknown source. The Playas are street thugs who want to be pros. Instead of fleeing or accessing the situation, they attack the nearest target.
A word too about positioning.
I learned from John Woo that the most essential thing in an action sequence is to define the space for the audience. I spent the previous two chapters assigning where everyone was and what was around them. The payoff comes in the action sequence.
Because the audience knows the space, they can better picture the fantastical action in their heads. Knowing the area is especially crucial in Mind’s Eye Theater (is that a trademark?) scenarios that account for all readers and most RPG gamers. Though gamers also have maps, miniatures, and online-equivalents of the stuff mentioned above.
But RPG gaming is another post entirely.
The Playa at the mouth of the alley drew his handgun and searched for something to shoot. When Batgirl made her move down to the street, he’d have a target. Best to take him out now. She threw a Batarang and hit her target, but it bounced harmlessly off the punk’s leather jacket.
Sometimes the heroes hit their target, and the bad guys have protection. Or, sometimes in an RPG, the heroes miss, but you don’t want them to look stupid. I wrote this so long ago I don’t remember the exact die roll. Either way, the “bounced off the jacket” excuses both scenarios.
Now he drew a bead on Batgirl’s position. He took a shot; the bullet lodged itself in the concrete wall of the building beneath Batgirl.
The SUV behind the punk started up. More automatic fire came from the Playas in the truck.
Batgirl grabbed the edges of her cape and leaped from the rooftop. Using the cape as a glider, she sailed down and crashed into the punk firing at her. Both fell back onto the street outside the alley. Batgirl recovered first, instantly standing.
And then the SUV bathed her in its headlights. A clever trick, except the bright lights, didn’t affect her infrared lenses. Batman had taught her to use them instead of typical night vision, his lessons saving her once again.
Tying back to the “he’s grumpy, but he’s smart” characterization of Batman from the first chapter and also showing the methodology of the Gotham vigilantes. The only miscue may be that infrared lenses would also enhance vision in light and blind Batgirl.
Typically I’d research because you must keep that suspension of disbelief for the audience. This time I slacked off because this is fanfiction, noting that’s generating a profit. Really, though, I should have looked.
But on with the excitement!
Turning to the SUV, Batgirl saw a single Playa in the driver’s seat. He couldn’t ram her; he’d hit his partner.
He could and did hang out the side window with a handgun — and it was a big one.
I mostly avoid getting specific with the types of guns used. For one, I’m not an ammosexual obsessed with the things. Two, in a game context (hell, even in life!), does it matter that the bullet that killed you comes from a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum with chrome plating and single trigger pull or a big fucking handgun?
Batgirl was a quicker shot. She drew a shuriken and threw it at the driving Playa, knocking the gun out of his hand. The move left her open to the other Playa. He’d gotten to his feet and tried to grapple her from behind. She spun out of his reach and punched him square in the face. Her reinforced knuckles knocked him into next week.
And then Batgirl heard tires squeal.
Looking back to the alley, she saw the Russian’s van burst from her cloud of smoke and head straight at the SUV blocking the alley’s mouth. The driver Playa didn’t have time to react. To his credit, the Russian leader did. He tumbled out of the van just before it plowed into the SUV, crashing to a halt. The SUV’s driver slammed against the driver side door. Airbags deployed, locking him into place.
Walking past the van, Batgirl saw the Russian driver unconscious and pinned in by airbags. She turned her attention to the Russian leader. He was on the ground, but still conscious. As she moved to him, Batgirl drew a pair of bat cuffs from her utility belt. She slapped them on the Russian, who was too battered to resist.
Her lenses still in infrared mode, Batgirl looked back to the smoke. She had to give Marcus more credit. In the melee, he’d found the alley wall and walked along it to find his way out of the smoke. He was just about clear, a shotgun in hand.
Batgirl threw two shurikens at Marcus, one from either of her hands. One took the shotgun out of his hand. The other slashed his face, drawing blood. Marcus’s hand covered the wound while he yelled some insult about Batgirl’s femininity.
The caped vigilante closed the distance between her and Marcus. She grabbed him by the front of his jacket. He tried to resist but ended up getting slammed against the wall. Batgirl released him. Marcus stumbled to the ground.
“What are you up to, Marcus?” she demanded. Her normal voice had a higher pitch, but not so high to be annoying. Batman had taught her how to drop her voice an octave to sound more menacing. She’d mostly gotten the hang of it.
It wouldn’t matter now.
More training and methodology. I was on the right track; years later, this is the same technique Kate Kane uses in the CW TV show Batwoman. Which Ruby Rose just left. WTF?
Batgirl heard something hit the pavement behind her. Turning from Marcus, Batgirl whirled around.
A woman in a black bodysuit stood at the edge of the dissipating smoke cloud. She was the same height as Batgirl, with flowing red hair and a dancer’s physique. And she was beautiful. Bewitchingly beautiful. Batgirl would be jealous if she weren’t too busy trying to figure who the woman was. Or why she’d just dropped two assault rifles (presumably those used by the Playas in the truck) at her feet.
“I’d be more concerned with getting out of the blast radius,” the newcomer said.
Batgirl tagged the woman’s Russian accent. Was she with the other men?
“You’re bluffing,” Batgirl said.
The Russian woman shrugged. “Believe what you want. Reality has its price.”
I always liked wise-talking mysterious woman entrances. The casual fan of Marvel Comics will recognize the description as the Black Widow. Batgirl doesn’t know her; she’d refer her to her as a mystery.
Even if the audience knows the Widow, there’s still the mystery of why she’d interfere in a low-level Gotham arms deal. If she’s working for SHIELD, why would they care? This is where world-building comes in.
This story is a sequel to my “Doppelganger” story in which HYDRA cloned Black Widow and other SHIELD agents. SHIELD destroyed most of the clones by the end of that story. Black Widow’s clone escaped. Could this Widow be that clone?
Questions, questions! That’s what keeps the audience hooked!
The woman backed into the smoke. With her infrared vision, Batgirl watched her run toward the building she had once perched.
“Upon which she had once perched.” Wow, that’s some shit grammar checking!
A fire escape led up the side of the building — it was the only quick exit.
Batgirl knelt to Marcus and punched him in the face, knocking him out. She then looked back to the mystery woman. As Batgirl expected, the woman climbed the fire escape. Drawing her grapple gun, Batgirl fired a line to the escape two floors above where the woman was. As the gun reeled her toward her location, Batgirl saw the woman look at her.
She held a detonator in her hand.
Just as Batgirl crossed the street on her ascent, something beneath her exploded. The blast threw off her trajectory and shook the grapple gun out of her hand. Batgirl sailed through the air, landing hard near the mouth of the alley.
The explosion shook her up, but she’d live.
Batgirl switched her cowl’s lenses back to regular viewing mode. Looking to the explosion’s epicenter, she deduced the woman had destroyed the steel container and its contents. Batgirl looked for the woman.
The intruder was gone.
Maybe the container held stolen SHIELD stuff, and the Widow came to destroy it. Or is there something else at play? Guess you’ll have to read on!
The other hook is leaving with the mystery mentioned above: who is this redhead in black, and why’d she disrupt a clean bust? Also, Batgirl’s pride at losing to the woman demands a rematch!
That’s it for this chapter. I’ll have another this Friday.
If you want to read “Armored Underworld” without me yacking, follow the link below. You can also link to “Doppelganger” and my other comic book fanfiction, listed in the order in which they occur.
The “Star Wars” stuff is not in the comic book continuity as it takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (see what I did there?).
TFTS Episode IX – Inside the Writer’s Mind, Part 2