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DC Comics: 16 Characters That Need Films Now

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DC Comics: 16 Characters That Need Films Now

Between the ever-growing DC Extended Universe and the CW’s Arrowverse, DC Comics is in the middle of a live-action renaissance. While DC’s biggest heroes like Batman and Superman have starred in plenty of well-remembered productions over the years, today’s DC adaptations are filled with characters that have been plucked from the most obscure corners of the DC Universe.

RELATED: 17 Indie Superheroes Who Need Movies Now!

While the Arrowverse has expanded into a full slate of programming, DC’s movies have a lot more room to grow. Now, CBR is taking a look at DC characters and teams that should have their own films. For this list, we’ll be focusing on characters who have never starred in their own live-action film and who are not currently scheduled to appear in any ongoing or upcoming live-action productions.

16. NIGHTWING AND THE ROBINS

Nightwing and Robins

While Batman has had plenty of success on the big screen, his partner Robin has only made a few cinematic appearances. Both Burt Ward and Chris O’Donnell played a teenage Dick Grayson in the 1960s and 1990s, respectively. Since Joseph Gordon-Levitt played an original character named Robin in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” a comic-inspired Robin hasn’t appeared in live action on screen in two decades. While Grayson remains the definitive Robin in the larger pop cultural landscape, his successors like Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne have shockingly never appeared outside of animated adaptations.

Since Ben Affleck’s Batman seems to be older than his cinematic forbearers, a movie focusing on an adult Dick Grayson as Nightwing and the other Robins could help give Affleck’s Batman some context. There have already been some highly-publicized allusions to Jason Todd’s demise that could be expanded upon with a Robin-centric tale. As the 2015 crossover “Robin War” showed, Batman’s four most famous Robins have a compelling group dynamic and play off each other well. A Robins movie could also take another hint from that crossover and examine the public’s perception of Batman in the DC Universe.

15. GREEN LANTERNS

Green Lanterns

With the news that “Green Lantern Corps” will feature both Hal Jordan and John Stewart, two of Earth’s most prominent Lanterns will finally meet on screen. While Hal has already had an ill-fated solo outing, John and the rest of Earth’s Lanterns still haven’t headlined their own feature film. The pioneering Alan Scott, brash Guy Gardner, artistic Kyle Rayner and the current duo of Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz have all become meaningful parts of the Green Lantern franchise and they all deserve a moment in the spotlight.

With so many stories that could be translated into ideal summer blockbusters, the Green Lantern franchise represents one of DC’s greatest untapped resources. Given its universe-spanning scope, there’s really no limit to the galactic heights the Green Lantern franchise could reach on film. An Alan Scott film could follow in “Wonder Woman’s” footsteps and explore what World War II was like in DC’s cinematic universe. A Guy Gardner film could be DC’s “Ant-Man” and show a more flawed kind of hero. Any of these Green Lantern movies could go a long way to helping expand the DC’s cosmic universe and set up major threats.

14. LOBO

Lobo-finch

While Fox had tremendous success in 2016 with the strictly-for-adults “Deadpool,” most of DC’s cinematic humorous experiments have come in kid-friendly fare like “The Lego Batman Movie.” The intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo could be the perfect way to inject some mature audiences laughs into the DC Universe. Lobo was created by Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen in 1983 and developed into his familiar persona thanks to creators like Giffen, Alan Grant and Simon Bisely in the 1990s. Although the ultra-violent Last Czarnian was meant to parody the extreme anti-heroes of the era, Lobo was enthusiastically embraced by readers and remains popular today.

With projects like his unreleased video game and his little-known web series, Lobo has never really been able to successfully break out of comics in a major way. After years of superhero movies, a Lobo movie with the violent humor of “Deadpool” and the inspired designs of “Guardians of the Galaxy” could be a commercial hit. A Lobo movie would also have the chance to greatly expand the cosmic side of DC’s Extended Universe and could tease any number of space-faring films.

13. THE QUESTIONS

Questions-vic-sage-renee-montoya

Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy combined superhero action with a sophisticated urban thriller to great success. While DC’s other movies haven’t followed that same tonal model, a movie featuring either or both of the Questions could be a worthy successor to that famous franchise. Created by Steve Ditko in the 1960s, Vic Sage was an investigative reporter who used brutal methods to interrogate criminals. After Dennis O’Neil and Denys Cowan redefined the character as a philosophical hero in the 1980s, Sage passed the mantle down to Gotham City cop Renee Montoya in the 2000s.

While both of these characters are compelling enough to hold down their own film, pairing the two characters together could be an ideal set-up for a Questions movie. Sage has been portrayed as a conspiracy theorist, a shaman and a brutal vigilante, and any of those traits could create a compelling dynamic with his mentee Montoya. Given Montoya’s relationship to the Batman franchise, a Questions movie could also work in less flashy elements of the Batman mythology that haven’t been brought to the big screen yet.

12. STATIC SHOCK

Static Shock

Thanks to the fondly-remembered Saturday morning cartoon “Static Shock,” the electric teenage hero Static is beloved by a generation of fans. Static was created by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and Michael Davis for DC’s Milestone Comics imprint in 1993. While the diversity-focused line folded after a few years, Static’s show lasted for four seasons, and the character eventually joined teams on some other DC shows. While there have been a few attempts to reintroduce some criminally underrated Milestone characters in the DC Universe, Static remains the late line’s most famous success.

While a “Static Shock” movie would benefit from name recognition and a built-in audience, it could help expand the scope of DC’s features. All of DC’s films have been focused on more adult heroes so far. Static’s supporting cast and personal rogues gallery would make him the ideal candidate to star in a standalone film about a teenage hero. Plus, a Static film could introduce the other Milestone heroes or open up a door to a Teen Titans movie.

11. THE NEW GODS

Alex Ross New Gods

While Darkseid and Apokolips seem to be major players in DC’s upcoming slate of films, their counterparts the New Gods don’t seem like they’ll be appearing on the big screen anytime soon. Created by Jack Kirby for his Fourth World saga in 1971, the New Gods include a roster of dynamic characters like Orion, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda. The New Gods have been a big part of the wider DC Universe for decades, with several members joining the Justice League or holding down their own books.

The New Gods come with a fully-fleshed out mythology that’s ready to be adapted and explored in a major film franchise. In the same way that “Guardians of the Galaxy” complements the earthbound Marvel movies, a New Gods film could add a sense of fantastic adventure and cosmic wonder to DC’s movies. With their main antagonists already set to appear in “Justice League,” the New Gods come with a built-in reason for a massive superhero team-up in the DC Extended Universe.

10. WILDC.A.T.S

Wildcats-jim-lee

When Jim Lee’s “WildC.A.T.s” debuted in 1992, the blockbuster success of the WildStorm Productions comic helped established Image Comics as major publisher. Although DC bought WildStorm in 1999, the world of the “Covert Action Teams” would still make a solid basis for a standalone film. Created by Lee and writer Brandon Choi, the team was made up of human and alien Kherubim heroes who protected the Earth from their ancient alien enemies, the Daemonites.

While the book evolved under creators like Alan Moore, the premise of superheroes fighting a hidden alien war on Earth is a great basis for a sci-fi action film. With semi-iconic characters like Grifter, a WildC.A.T.s film could stand on its own well and be the center of a WildStorm cinematic universe. In the late 1990s, WildStorm pioneered new comics storytelling techniques and dealt with bold ideas. A WildC.A.T.s film franchise could follow this model or evolve into experimental directions in ways that DC’s icons simply can’t go.

9. BATMAN BEYOND

Batman Beyond

More than any other superhero, Batman has been allowed to age, especially in film. While the boundless influence of “The Dark Knight Returns” likely has something to do with this, it creates the opportunity to tell another story with an older Bruce Wayne: Batman Beyond. Created by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, the animated series “Batman Beyond” followed the young Terry McGinnis and his adventures as Batman of the future. Under the tutelage of an elderly Wayne, McGinnis fought crime for three seasons before jumping into the main DC Comics Universe.

Batman is still DC’s strongest cinematic franchise, and a Batman Beyond movie could introduce a new teenage character with a clear link to Batman. A Batman Beyond movie would be the perfect venue for an older Batman actor like Adam West or Michael Keaton to reprise their role as Bruce Wayne. A future-set film like this could also set up a time-traveling crossover with Ben Affleck’s Batman and the rest of the Justice League.

8. MANHUNTER

Manhunter kate spencer

While several DC heroes have operated under the name Manhunter, the Kate Spencer version of the character could help tie several parts of the DC Universe together. Created by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz in 2004, lawyer Kate Spencer raided an evidence locker to become a costumed vigilante after seeing the super-villain Copperhead evade justice. Her weapons included a super-suit from an intergalactic police force called the Darkstars, Batman ally Azrael’s gauntlets and a former Manhunter’s staff. While her series was a critical success, her title was canceled and the character hasn’t appeared in costume since DC’s New 52 reboot.

A big part of DC’s current crop of films deals with public animosity towards superheroes. A Manhunter movie could easily fit into a similar mold and could also help expand the ground-level cinematic DC Universe. Since her existence relies on pre-existing gear, Kate Spencer could help give the universe a lived-in feel and could draw on its previously unseen history.

7. JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL

justice league international

Since “Man of Steel” and “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” gave DC’s movie universe a dreary start, the Justice League International could lighten things up considerably. During the late 1980s, several creators led by Keith Giffen, J.M DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire injected DC’s premiere super-team with a strong sense of humor. While “Justice League International” still had high stakes and dramatic moments, the team of lesser-known heroes was defined by goofy adventures and personality conflicts.

While it couldn’t be further tonally from DC’s current output, the JLI is one of the League’s most beloved incarnations. A JLI movie could dramatically upend and redefine expectations by showing the lighter side of DC’s heroes. As the existence of “The Lego Batman Movie” proves, there’s an audience that wants to laugh with these characters. Given the team’s international roster, a JLI movie could be uniquely positioned to capitalize on the lucrative global market.

6. PLASTIC MAN

Plastic Man

With the current crop of comedic superhero movies, there’s a big gap between the kid-friendly fare of “Big Hero 6” and the mature humor of “Deadpool.” With his stretching abilities, Plastic Man could easily fill that gap. Created by Jack Cole in 1941, the former crook turned silly hero has a lengthy history that rivals DC’s biggest icons. The elastic hero starred in his own cartoon in the 1970s and brought some comic relief to the Justice League in the late 1990s.

Whether as a live-action or animated feature, Plastic Man could combine light thrills with slapstick humor to delight adolescent and pre-teen audiences on the big screen. As a spiritual successor to films like “The Mask,” a Plastic Man movie could serve as a showcase for comedic talent and special effects work. While Eel O’Brien’s origin might draw more than a few comparisons to Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” the character could still serve as a gentle introduction into DC’s other films.

5. THE SPECTRE

the-Spectre

Although superhero movies have embraced comedy, action and science-fiction tropes, none of them have really embraced the horror genre. The Spectre would be the ideal candidate to cross that boundary. Created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily in 1940, the spirit of the deceased police officer Jim Corrigan became host to DC’s Spirit of Vengeance. With an almost omnipotent level of power, the Spectre has brought justice to criminals in gruesome, censor-testing fashion and has been on the front lines of reality-shaking conflicts like “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”

On film, the Spectre could essentially operate like Freddy Kruger from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise. With his immense power, the Spectre could defeat criminals in countless creative ways. A Spectre film could also take a cue from the character’s 1990s series and take a more philosophical approach. While that sheer level of power would probably work best in a standalone film, the character could be used to help establish the magnitude of a cosmic-size threat to the wider DC Universe.

4. ZATANNA

Zatanna-sook

With 2016’s “Doctor Strange,” Marvel began to establish the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a fairly serious tone. While a live-action Justice League Dark movie has been in the works for years, a solo Zatanna movie could offer a more accessible introduction to the magical side of the DC Extended Universe. Created by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson, Zatanna has mixed stage magic with supernatural powers since 1964. As an occasional member of the Justice League and childhood friend of Batman, Zatanna has been one of DC’s more visible magic users across media for decades.

Zatanna’s charming personality could contrast well against the unspeakable evils that lurk in the shadows of DC’s world. With supernatural powers that revolve around saying commands backwards, a Zatanna movie could offer an accessible, grounded introduction to magic in the DC Universe. Since it could have a smaller cast than a team movie, a Zatanna film could also take its time to naturally lay out groundwork that could be expanded upon across DC’s slate of films.

3. BIRDS OF PREY

Birds of prey

Although Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is set to lead some of Gotham City’s villains in “Gotham City Sirens,” their heroic counterparts, the Birds of Prey, haven’t been mentioned. Created by Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Chuck Dixon and Gary Frank, the Birds of Prey have been made up of several street-level superheroes, most regularly Barbara Gordon, Black Canary and Huntress. While Gordon originally masterminded the operation as Oracle, she joined the group as Batgirl after the New 52 reboot. Since the team’s inception in 1996, they’ve maintained a steady presence in the DC Comics Universe.

Between Katie Cassidy’s Black Canary in the Arrowverse and the short-lived “Birds of Prey” show, the team has been moderately well-represented on TV. Despite that, a Birds of Prey movie could give all of its characters, shockingly including Barbara Gordon, a big screen debut. Given their close connection to Batman, a Birds of Prey movie could be a sensible extension of existing films and its characters could help fill out the Justice League’s roster.

2. TEEN TITANS

New Teen Titans

Between the “New Teen Titans” comics of the 1980s and the “Teen Titans” cartoon of the early 2000s, DC’s team of teenage heroes is known and beloved by two generations. Since its debut in the 1960s, the Teen Titans have arguably become DC’s second most recognizable team. In some of the best comics of the 1980s, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez took the group to new heights by combining interpersonal drama with superheroic action. Thanks to that run, sidekicks like Robin and Kid Flash and young heroes like Starfire, Cyborg and Beast Boy became indispensable parts of the DC Universe that remain relevant today.

A Teen Titans movie would most likely be the definitive teenage superhero film. With Cyborg set to make his full cinematic debut later this year in “Justice League” and his own film in 2020, a Teen Titans movie could be a bigger venue for that character to shine alongside some other younger fan favorite heroes. With the Titans’ archenemy Deathstroke set to appear in the next solo Batman movie, a Titans movie would fit perfectly within the developing DC Extended Universe.

1. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES

Legion of Super-Heroes

The Legion of Super-Heroes represent everything that the DC Extended Universe hasn’t been so far. Where DC’s present day movies have been defined by grimy conflict and darkness, the intergalactic Legion is the product of a hopeful 31st century. With dozens of teenage members from countless worlds, the Legion has had one of the most expansive rosters in comics since its 1954 creation by Otto Binder and Al Plastino. Although most of their stories take place in the far future, the Legion has maintained a connection to the modern era and gone up against immortal threats like Darkseid and Ra’s al Ghul.

With decades’ worth of well-regarded space epics, there’s easily enough Legion material to fill out a film franchise. With its lighter tone, a Legion movie could be DC’s answer to “Guardians of the Galaxy.” While a Legion movie could have plenty of standalone cosmic action, it could also make a retroactive statement about DC’s existing films. A Legion movie could detail the brighter future that comes in the wake of the modern age’s hard battles. The superhero genre is built around hope, and a Legion movie could explicitly deliver on the genre’s promise of a better tomorrow.

Stay tuned to CBR for all the latest on the DC Extended Universe! Be sure to let us know which DC movies you want to see in the comments below!

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