A YEAR IN THE LIFE
Watchtower Personal Log
A lot can happen in a year.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been just over a year since the night Oliver returned to us. By "us", I mean those of us in the JLA and the superhero community at large. Oliver Queen’s tragic death almost 7 years ago, while brave, left a whole in many of our hearts. We mourned his passing greatly, but eventually moved on with the realization that he was truly gone. Then, he mysteriously re-appeared at our first "get-together" of the year, seemingly unharmed and good as new. Apparently, he’d been back for some time, living on the streets of Star City. We later discovered it had been Hal Jordan who had been responsible for his return -- some kind of self-penance he performed before he heroically sacrificed himself re-igniting the sun. Oliver would spend the next few months attempting to reunite his body with his soul, but that night when he showed up at my apartment, he was still a "husk" - a soulless body. But that didn’t stop him from being the same old Oliver. He spent the entire evening trying to sneak a little Bailey’s into Clark’s milk. We decided that night to orchestrate his "official" return the following day. We called all of the current League members up to the Tower and had Arthur present Oliver as if he had just run into him in the harbor of Star City. Those of us who had been at our monthly "get-together" the night before promised to act surprised to see him, but that certainly didn’t take a whole lot of acting prowess when Diana grabbed Ollie and kissed him full-force on the lips right in front of everyone.
Oliver’s return sparked an excited energy in all of us. With Hell Month finally over, the League settled into its normal routine of weekly meetings with all involved. It felt like we were finally getting ourselves back on track and ready to take on the world. Little did we know, that we would essentially be doing just that.
In retrospect, there were a lot of factors that lead to the huge decisions we made this past year. The press battles, the overblown reports of our activities, the Imperiex "battle" which was little more than a fantastic light show designed to conceal a species with limited actual power and delusions of grandeur. The worst, though, was the in-fighting amongst the League itself. With such differing personalities and points of view, differences of opinion are the norm for us; it’s part of what makes the League so effective. But for some reason, something that should have been relatively mundane -- the establishment of the Public Relations Subcommittee -- snowballed into a massive breakdown between us all.
It’s been a year that included so many positive things for us and for those around us, including the (eventual) marriage of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, both of whom have special connections to the League -- and not just through Batman. Dick, Bruce’s adopted son and former Boy Wonder, Robin, now continues his crime-fighting career as Nightwing. He is not only a Reserve Member of the Justice League, but is also a close, personal friend of Wally’s that started all those years ago when then helped form the Titans. And Barbara, daughter of retired Gotham Police Commissioner James Gordon and former Batgirl, now serves the League as our Information and Communications Specialist and all-around techno-whiz Oracle. Their nuptials should have been a happy and proud moment for many of us, but unfortunately, that and many other great things that happened this past year were somewhat overshadowed by the problems we were all facing, both together as a unit and separately in our own lives.
And to think it all started with Diana’s little explosion on the SHMB…
Twelve Months Earlier…
"What in Hera’s name is this!"
Diana slammed the newspaper down on the conference table right in front of Superman with a thud. Clark stared down at the all-too-familiar Daily Planet logo adorning the top of the page, just over the headline:
Wonder Woman calls Internet Insipid, Inane.
Clark had begged Perry not to run the story. "Clark, my boy, it’s news! We can’t not print something just because you have some soft spot for the Amazonian Princess," was the reply he had gotten. That went over real well with Lois. He had managed to convince Perry to run it in Monday’s edition, hoping that the 5 days between the story’s release and the weekly League meeting would be enough to calm Diana’s ire. Apparently, they hadn’t.
"The story was everywhere, Diana. We couldn’t avoid it…" Clark replied evenly.
"Bullshit," she spat. Clark and J'onn were taken aback by the sound of profanity coming out of Diana’s mouth. Arthur, on the other hind, simply smiled.
"Diana! Language!" the Atlantian mocked, using the same tone he’d heard a thousand times aimed in his direction. Diana stared daggers at him as he sat still in his chair, staring back and defiantly smirking. J'onn nudged him telepathically, telling him not to provoke her.
She returned her attention to Superman. "This is ridiculous, Kal. It’s an outright lie! I didn’t call the whole Internet insipid or inane. I may have said that some of the comments on one board were such, but certainly not everyone! I can’t believe you let them print this… this… tripe!"
"I think you overestimate my position at The Planet, Diana." Clark remained calm and passive, trying to diffuse her anger as best as he could. "I’m a reporter, that’s it. This wasn’t even my story."
Diana fumed silently for a moment, then finally resumed. "Still, this is an outrage, Kal! It’s a smear campaign! They're all trying to make me into some raving lunatic!"
"That’s fantastic!" Kyle chirped, strolling into the conference room in mid-conversation with Wally and Eel, completely oblivious to the conversation they were walking into.
"Yeah, no kidding," Wally replied. "I’m so incredibly stoked it’s not even funny! Although I will say it’s about… damn… time…" his statement slowed to a halt as all three looked over at the table full of stares aimed in their direction.
Between the look on Diana’s face and whatever newspaper was sitting on the conference table, it was suddenly pretty obvious to Wally what they had been talking about. He didn’t even need to see what newspaper it was -- although considering the brow-beaten look on Superman’s face, Wally was relatively certain he knew -- because every newspaper, news channel and internet news site had been blasting the story all week.
It had all started three weeks before, just after Diana’s post on the SHMB. Many internet sites had picked up on her post and re-posted it all over the 'Net. Bloodyknife.com, a now-notorious internet "news" site that took stories like these and researched them, discovered that the post had in fact come from Diana herself (thanks to a tip off from someone at her ISP) and published their findings on Saturday. GNN caught wind of it via bloodyknife.com and started reporting it on TV on Sunday. By Monday morning, half the newspapers in the world were reporting it and by Tuesday, the rest had joined in.
Wally, however, was in such good spirits over his news that he didn’t really care. As far as he was concerned, she'd brought it on herself. "Hey guys!" he greeted in an overly-chipper tone, "Great news!" He added a quick "it certainly looks like you need it" under his breath before walking up to the table, smiling widely.
"Dick’s getting married!!" he announced as Eel and Kyle joined him at the table, smiling as well.
"Dick? Nightwing Dick?!" Superman asked, standing. He seemed overly exited about the notion, but that probably had more to do with the fact that he was escaping Diana’s clutches for the moment.
"Yes, Nightwing Dick," Wally confirmed, chuckling.
"To who?" J'onn asked, equally excited.
"Listen to you," Wally joked, looking in the Martian’s direction, " 'To who?' To Babs! Y'know, Barbara Gordon."
"Jim Gordon’s little girl?!" Eel gasped. "You never told me that part!?"
"Yes," Wally replied, "though she’s hardly a 'little girl' anymore. She’s all growed up now, but yes Jim Gordon’s daughter. And the former Batgirl…"
Wally could almost see the light bulb flickering on above Eel’s head. "Oh… OH!" The Man of Plastic responded, once he realized the full extent of Dick and Barbara’s 'relationship'. The Superhero rumor mill being what it was, he had heard all the stories over the years about Robin and Batgirl. The stories were almost as legendary as the Batman/Catwoman stories out there, though far less… seedy. They were only kids, after all. Though considering Bruce and Catwoman’s current 'relationship'… that bastard…
The rest of the room chuckled at Eel’s sudden realization, a general happiness breaking through the earlier tension in the room.
"And current Oracle," Wally thought, then kept to himself when he realized that Oracle had not been involved with the revelation of identities and he didn’t know exactly who did and didn’t know the truth. Instead, he looked over at the conference table and saw Diana now sitting in her seat, her dour expression replaced by an indifferent (and slightly patronizing) smile and Arthur sitting in his seat and nonchalantly cleaning his fingernails with his harpoon. Arthur looked up and met Wally’s gaze, then smiled.
"You don’t seem very excited there, Arthur," Wally prompted.
"Oh, I’m plenty excited for them," Arthur replied. "Just not surprised." He looked around at all of the confused looks, then winked at Wally. "Garth told me last night."
"You knew?!" Superman asked Arthur incredulously. "And you didn’t tell us?"
Arthur’s eyes flicked momentarily over toward Diana, who wasn’t paying any attention to him, then bit off the "I didn’t have the time" reply before it came out -- opting to avoid a Princess Prattlehead debate in light of the current "up" mood of the rest of the room. "Hey guys," he replied instead, looking up at Superman and J'onn in turn, "Nightwing’s getting married!" J'onn slapped him playfully on the back of his head, eliciting more chuckles all around.
"Hey! There’s the proud Papa!" Wally chimed, turning to see Batman enter the conference room. He strolled up, holding his hand out for Batman to shake it. "Congratulations, big guy!"
Batman stopped and looked down at Wally’s extended hand like it was a container of Smilex gas. Then, he looked back at Wally’s face and said in a flat, even voice: "For what?"
Wally stood there, hand still outstretched like a limp fish and eyed the Dark Knight warily. "For… Dick’s upcoming nuptials…" Wally prompted slowly, suddenly unsure if Dick had even told Bruce about it.
"Oh… that" Batman replied evenly, not a hint of any emotion on his face, then added in the deadest of deadpans: "Thank you." He shook Wally’s hand (much to Kyle’s surprise) and moved on toward his place at the table, barely acknowledging the various other congratulatory greetings hurled in his direction. He sat, glancing around to the other Leaguers. "If we can get down to business…"Arthur rolled his eyes at J'onn. Same old Bruce. The others shared similar thoughts as they all took their seats to begin the meeting. All except Clark, who watched Bruce intently and smiled quietly to himself as he noticed the nearly undetectable twitch at the corner of Batman’s mouth.
The meeting went on as normal, save for Diana’s continual interruptions. Every topic discussed and every issue addressed, she somehow managed to weave back to the current stories in the Media. An hour and 45 minutes later, they finally got around to the final topic: Oliver’s return. And as per usual, Diana had plenty to say.
"I still think he needs to be put on the Reserve Roster until we have a definite answer as to whether or not it’s actually him."
"I agree," Batman replied. "The tests were inconclusive. It certainly looked, sounded and moved like Oliver, but until we know for sure…"
"Where are we on that?" J'onn inquired.
"Connor, Dinah and Roy are working on that right now." Batman answered. "I've asked them to keep me abreast of everything and let me know once they have something definite."
Superman nodded toward Bruce, indicating the topic was closed. "Thank you, Batman. So we keep him on the Reserve Roster until we hear anything from you."
"And we need to try and keep this one quiet," Diana chimed in, obviously not quite through with the topic yet. "A current member of the League roster who could potentially be some fiend from another plane of existence is the last thing we need right now. Just another public black eye for the League."
There were a few muffled groans and some uncomfortable shifting of seats. "As this last week has proven once again, public perception…"
"Diana…" Superman interjected, hoping to stem her ramblings this time around. She shot him a stern glare, then returned her attention to the rest of the League.
"Public perceptions are…"
"Oh, for Poseidon’s sake, shut up!" Arthur bellowed. "We get it! You're pissed at what’s been written about you this week. Okay! Enough! Let’s move on please!"
"No," Diana retorted, "we will not 'move on'. This is an important issue that must be addressed! Now while I may be a little biased considering this week’s reports…"
"A little biased?!" Arthur blurted.
"Yes!" Diana cut him off. "A little biased considering this week’s reports, the fact remains that we… all of us… have been the victims of some rather egregious fabrications and untoward manipulations in the press recently and I think it’s high time we do something about it."
"Like what? Blow up every TV station and news agency on the planet?" Wally joked, feeling a little more confident about airing his own opinions now that Arthur had broken the ice.
"This isn’t a joking matter, Wally!" Diana spat, turning a nasty glare in his direction.
"Actually," Arthur interjected before Diana took Wally’s head off, "I think it’s pretty damn funny. You're all bent out of shape because what you wrote didn’t have the effect you expected it to…"
"No," Diana retorted, returning her attention to Arthur, "What I wrote was taken out of context by the press and blown up into…"
The voice was Bat-like, causing every set of eyes to instinctively glance over at Batman… who was sitting quietly in his chair with his fingers steepled under his nose. Everyone slowly scanned to his right to see Superman, now standing with his hand laying flat on the table. He caught each of their gazes with a stern stare, then paused and took a deep breath.
"Enough," he repeated much more calmly, though the agitation was still evident in his voice. "Diana, you do have a legitimate gripe, we all see that. But I think we're all familiar enough with it now. You don’t need to keep rehashing it for us."
"But Kal, I…" she began.
"NO!" Superman growled at her, "I said 'Enough'. Now, instead of debating the problem ad nauseum, how about offering up a solution. We all… well, most of us… agree that there is a problem when it comes to the press’s handling of this group. And it could be debated that the problem is getting worse…"
Diana opened her mouth to interrupt, but Clark’s glare deepened, causing her to stop.
"So how do we fix it? Do you have any suggestions? Does anyone?" He glanced around the table, looking at mostly blank (and some shocked) stares.
"A Subcommittee" Diana replied almost instantly, forcing several of the League members to realize that she had this in mind all along. "A Public Relations Subcommittee whose purpose it is to discover ways to correct and eliminate this growing problem."
"A Public Relations Subcommittee?" Clark asked. "Okay, and do you have any idea who would be on it. Or how many people would be involved?"
"Well, actually…" she began proudly, having thought through the entire roster beforehand.
"Five," Batman interrupted, drawing everyone’s attention. "Five people. Odd number. All votes are guaranteed to have a majority."
"Actually, Batman, I was thinking…" Diana retorted, already sensing control of the Subcommittee slipping away from her.
"The first committee member," Batman continued, completely ignoring her, "is Diana. It’s her Subcommittee, her idea and her request for a solution, so she gets to run the committee."
Diana was still not pleased about being ignored, but Batman’s suggestion that she lead the committee was enough for her to keep quiet and at least hear him out. Then she could take back over and tell them all how the committee would really be run.
"Second member," Batman moved on, "is Superman. Your experience in the Newspaper field makes you an obvious choice. Third member is Oracle. Her ability to collect, process and distribute mass amounts of publicly published data makes her invaluable to you. I’ll handle making sure that she’s on board. The fourth member is J'onn."
Batman received several incredulous stares, mostly from Diana and J'onn himself. Batman looked directly at the Martian and explained.
"You generally stay below the public radar, J'onn. You can provide the necessary outsider’s perspective. Plus, your unique view on the human condition and public perception may prove to be invaluable in the decisions that the committee must make. And the final member," he glanced to his left, "is Arthur."
"WHAT?!?" Diana and Arthur both chimed in unison. Batman focussed his attention solely on Arthur.
"Arthur, as the sole voice of dissent for this whole affair, your opinion is the most crucial for the group. You're the only one who can make sure that the decisions reached are within reason and for the ultimate benefit of the entire League. That dissent is necessary to insure that all sides of the decisions are addressed. You are the most obvious choice of all."
"I agree," added Superman. "That sounds like the perfect group for this situation. Anyone have a problem with that?"
"YES!" Again, both Diana and Arthur in unison. Then, they started their complaints simultaneously, talking over one another. Clark held up his hands, stopping them both, then pointed at Diana. "Diana?"
"It’s completely ludicrous! Arthur will spend the entire time arguing the validity of the whole committee! It'll be counterproductive to have him in the meetings…"
"Actually, Diana, he’s only one vote." Superman explained. "If he’s that off base, the rest of us can override him four-to-one. And as far as him being disruptive… well, as Chairperson of the Committee, it’s your responsibility to keep the meetings on-track." He turned to the other opposition. "Arthur?"
Arthur slumped back in his chair, staring at Batman for a long moment before looking up at Superman. "Do I even get a say in this? Ol' Dark and Broody here says it’s so and so shall it be?"
"Of course not, Arthur," Superman reasoned. "You are free to say 'No' if you want to. However, I would ask that you take a week to think it over and get back to us at next week’s meeting. Look at it logically and give it some real thought, then let us know. Okay, if there are no other objections, I’d say that’s our committee."
He glanced around the table, waiting for any other responses, then nodded. "Good. Diana…" he paused, suddenly realizing that if he continued his line of thought that Diana would be making up the Subcommittee’s meeting schedule, they'd meet twice a week for the rest of their natural born lives. "The Public Relations Subcommittee will meet next week after the regular weekly meeting to discuss a regular schedule. That’s all for today, folks. Have a good weekend."
Diana immediately rose from her chair and stormed out of the conference room. Wally, Kyle and Eel instantly started muttering among themselves. Batman looked to J'onn and nodded, the Martian standing and coming over behind Arthur to place a hand on his shoulder and keep him in his seat. Noting this, Superman walked around the table to the muttering trio and placed a friendly hand on Wally’s shoulder.
"That’s great news about Dick, Wally. How did the proposal go? What did he do?"
Wally chuckled. "Well, it didn’t go exactly as he originally planned it…" he explained as Superman led the three out of the conference room. Once the others were gone, Arthur shot a nasty look over his shoulder at J'onn, then turned to the still sitting Batman.
"Bruce, what in Hades was that all about?!"
Batman replied in a calm and even tone. "What I said was true, Arthur. You are the necessary voice of dissent for that group. You know as well as I do that if Diana had her way, we'd be on the cover of every newspaper and magazine on a weekly basis, extolling the virtues of a Superhuman moderated society. You're the only one who can make sure that doesn’t happen. We need you in that group."
"Whaleshit," Arthur spat. "You just put me in the damn committee so that you wouldn’t have to be there…"
Batman leaned forward suddenly, coming in close to Arthur’s face. "Do you know why I’m in this League?" he growled roughly.
"Because you're Batman" Arthur sneered, unfazed.
"No! It’s not because of who I am; it’s because of what I am. I’m human. I don’t have a metagene or an alien physiology or a magical power ring. I’m just a human being. There’s enough collected power in this room on a weekly basis to completely obliterate this or any other planet in a matter of minutes. Or worse, to attempt to rule the entire world. I’m here to make sure that that never happens! I’m here to guarantee that all of you stay firmly tethered to the real world and not just up and decide to take over the world because it’s not going the way you think it should. That’s why I’m still a part of this League and that’s exactly what we need in this ridiculous committee: someone to keep them grounded; make sure they don’t go too far. And you're the perfect person for the job."
Arthur stared at him for a moment, then looked up at J'onn, who merely nodded
his agreement. Sighing, Arthur shook his head and stood. "I’ll think about
it," he grumbled.
"That’s all we ask," J'onn replied honestly.
Arthur stared a moment more, then turned and walked out. Once he was gone, J'onn spun Arthur’s chair around and sat in it, glancing over at Bruce.
"Do you think it'll work?" J'onn asked.
"No, the whole Subcommittee thing."
"Not a chance." Batman replied sourly.
"So what do we do?"
"I don’t know," he replied honestly. "I've got my own public perception problems right now. I've got an entire manor full of International Food and Wine snobs invading my house next week."
J'onn chuckled. "I don’t think I want to know."
"No," Batman confirmed. "You don’t." He stood and headed for the door, the unspoken understanding that they would both think over the other possible solutions for their current situations.
"Hey Bruce," J'onn called just as Batman reached the doorway. Batman turned to regard him silently.
"It’s going to get worse before it gets better, isn’t it?" J'onn asked.
Batman stared for a moment in silent reply, then turned and walked out the door.