Everyone knew it was coming, but after numerous fits and starts it’s nice to have it finally confirmed. After Superman and Batman team up (or fight) in director Zack Snyder’s just-named “Man of Steel” sequel, “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the filmmaker and Warner Bros. will finally present “Justice League,” a movie fans have been clamoring for since, well, forever. We already know that Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman will join Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, and it was recently been confirmed that Cyborg will make his film debut in “Batman/Superman” as played by Ray Fisher. That’s a generous helping of heroes, but with “Justice League” on the horizon and the stakes undoubtedly going up, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg will need more allies from among the ranks of DC Comics’ greatest champions.
Who will comprise the cinematic Justice League is a question on the minds of many fans. With a literal pantheon of heroes to choose from, will DC go in the opposite direction of “Marvel’s The Avengers” and feature a large team, or, like Marvel, will DC go with a small group to ease fans into the world of “Justice League.” Big or small, the heroes that are chosen to answer the call will be vital to DC’s potential film success. CBR visited the the Justice League Watchtower to look through the team’s many members over the years and has some ideas about who might work best with the heavy hitters already announced.
It’s a good time to be a Flash fan. Recently, The CW announced its pick-up of “The Flash” TV series starring Grant Gustin as the titular speedster, and with the arrival of the new Wally West in the pages of DC’s New 52, all eyes are on the legendary scarlet blur. But things could get even cooler if the Flash were included in the upcoming “Justice League” film. The DC Cinematic Universe introduced in “Man of Steel” is certainly a bleak one, and very much in need of heroes to shine a light on this dark world. The Flash is just such a hero. Remember how audiences reacted to Dash in “The Incredibles,” running free, unaffected by physics? It was pure joy to watch, and the same could hold true for the Flash in “Justice League.” Gustin’s exuberant Barry could provide a positive counterpoint to the dour, slightly older Batman and serve as an inspiration for a Superman in desperate need of hope. Barry Allen could be a great problem solver and point man for any squad, and if Quicksilver can appear in two different Marvel movies from two competing studios, DC can certainly put their iconic speedster in as many projects as they want. While the creators behind DC’s burgeoning “Arrow-verse” have said they aren’t going to tie into whatever cinematic universe WB develops, plans change, and this one in particular definitely should. Somehow a “Justice League” film without the Flash just wouldn’t seem right, so let’s hope that Warner Bros. sees the merit and stretches Barry Allen’s legacy beyond the TV screen and into the stuff of big screen legend.
Speaking of television, for the past two seasons fans have been treated to weekly doses of Oliver Queen on The CW’s “Arrow.” While some might think this cancels Ollie out of the “League” equation due to projects occupying two different DCUs, that might be short sighted thinking. “Arrow” has proven to be a massive success in its second season and star Stephen Amell’s savvy social media presence is quickly putting him in rarified air. An easy solution to separate these two live-action Emerald Archers would be for “Arrow” to stay the course with Ollie’s younger adventured while a more mature, goateed Arrow could appear in “Justice League.” While that would likely cancel out Amell’s involvement, it does fit more in line with Green Arrow’s Justice League adventures, where he has always been the experienced swashbuckler who flies into danger with rudimentary weapons and unabashed courage. While the portrayal and age of Ollie might still need some sorting, and “Justice League” story needs a down to Earth character to ground it, and Green Arrow, particularly the older, more pragmatic Ollie Queen would definitely hit the mark.
The DC Cinematic Universe needs a little magic, and who better than Zatanna to deliver it? For decades, Zatanna Zatara has been a major part of many different eras of the Justice League. A compelling character with a fantastic history in her own right, her unique power set would play well against the other Leaguers and work well visually onscreen. Her status as a second generation hero could establish that there were vigilantes before the arrival of Superman, something that would make the DCU seem grander in scope. Zatanna could also serve as a connection to the oft rumored and much anticipated “Justice League Dark” film project from fan-favorite director Guillermo del Toro. The “League” film could also benefit from adding another woman to the roster in addition to Wonder Woman and Zatanna has consistently been one of DC’s most popular, complex, and enduring females. In other words, ekam ti neppah.
The magic doesn’t have to end with Zatanna, and if the cinematic DCU keeps following DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns’ lead, it won’t. Billy Batson, also known as Shazam, is deeply immersed in the world of magic. Shazam has long been long rumored to star in his own film (also from Warner Bros.), rumors that have been tempered recently with rumblings that the former Captain Marvel is considered too similar to Superman. While Warner Bros. may not want a competing superhero franchise, they could definitely stand to introduce him in a “Justice League” film and allow moviegoers to see why their similarities exist only on the surface and why Shazam is a character who uniquely stands alone in the annals of comic history. Shazam could also be used as the film’s point of view character, to allow fans who haven’t seen the previous “Man of Steel” movies to get a sense of what this new world is like. As comic book readers know, Shazam’s secret identity is a young boy named Billy Batson whose wide-eyed reactions to the gods and champions of the League could really drive home just how awe-inspiring each member of the team is and they could serve as mentors to the young hero. Shazam’s connection to the Greek gods could also be used to tie the character in with any future Wonder Woman film efforts, and his youthful spirit could bring some much needed humor and levity to the rather bleak world introduced in “Man of Steel.” Billy Batson could instills a little innocence in the world of Superman and Batman, a hero who shows the other champions that there is still joy left in the world. With one magic world, the DC film universe could be changed forever.
J’onn J’onzz is one of oldest, most classical superheroes in the DCU who rarely gets his due. He has the presence of Batman, the physical prowess of Superman and the psychic powers of Charles Xavier, all neatly tied together in a backstory that is part noir, part sci-fi. It makes one wonder how no previous movies have attempted to introduce the Manhunter onscreen. Any villains formidable enough to provoke a response form the Justice League will be big, possibly even otherworldly, and the Manhunter’s inclusion could help DC expand their cinematic world beyond Earth and Krypton. Martian Manhunter would be just as comfortable battling aliens in space with Superman as he would solving a mystery in a darkened ally with Batman. J’onn is arguably the most adaptable character in DC’s pantheon and it’s high time mainstream audiences discover the awesome potential of DC’s first Silver Age character.
While often maligned, mocked and made the butt of jokes, there are plenty of reasons why Aquaman keeps finding himself a valued member of the Justice League. Given the proper treatment, Aquaman could easily become DC’s Thor — a kickass warrior who provides the DC Universe with plenty of world building potential. Need a foe worthy of the League? How about the hordes of Atlantis led by Ocean Master invading the surface and their deposed King Arthur seeking help on the surface from the World’s Greatest Heroes? Fans have been waiting years to see Aquaman take his rightful place on film alongside DC’s other greats. A film version of Aquaman, commanding legions of sea creatures, could easily dispel any doubts about Aquaman’s legacy as more than a punchline and propel him into the great king and warrior DC loyalists know him to be. Atlantis could be DC’s Asgard, Mera their Sif; all these huge ideas work if done intelligently and with respect to the audience. If Asgard works, Atlantis will work, and whether Arthur is portrayed as the classic orange-shirted king, or the hook-handed Conan-like undersea warrior, Aquaman’s day has come. Writers like Peter David, Geoff Johns, Jeff Parker and Steve Skeates have all made Aquaman into a truly special comic book hero, and giving him a shot to share the screen alongside the best of the best would allow the King of the Seven Seas to do the same as a cinematic hero.
Not every hero needs to be larger than life. The Atom could serve as a great counterbalance to the League’s more physically powerful members. DC shouldn’t let Marvel have all the shrinking fun with the upcoming “Ant-Man” movie. After all, Ray Palmer did it first. This science-based superhero’s powers would be visually stunning on the big screen, as the Tiny Titan journeys into molecular realms beyond imagination. Any group shot of the League would hardly feel complete without a miniaturized Atom perched on one of his fellow Leaguers’ shoulders. There are tons of big ideas packed into the world’s smallest hero — ideas filled with possibilities that could take a “Justice League” film beyond typical superhero tropes. The Atom always made the League seem cooler by his very presence alone. He may be small, but in that tiny body lies a brilliant scientific mind possessing a visually awesome power overflowing with story potential.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl
Best friends with the Atom, foil to Green Arrow, Hawkman would bring a great sense of connection and history to a “Justice League” movie. Carter and Shayera Hall are story engines of monumental proportions, heroes who could be connected to the distant past or alien worlds — or both, depending on which version of the Hawks Warner Bros. opts to go with. WB certainly has a plethora of Hawks that can be exploited in a “Justice League” film, from the reincarnated Egyptians of the Golden Age, to the Thanagarian intergalactic beat cops of the Silver Age, to the modern age warriors trapped in an endless cycle of death and resurrection, the history of Hawkman and Hawkgirl has been as diverse as it is complex, but one clear film arc and Hawkman and Hawkgirl could finally be defined for generations. The idea of a married super couple, bonded by centuries of love, is just too dramatically ripe to dismiss. The rest of the League fight for justice, but the Hawks fight for their eternal love and the right of others to love as deeply as they do. Plus, what fan wouldn’t marvel at the image of the winged warriors braining evildoers with their signature maces, leaping off the screen in all their Joe Kubert-esque glory? No Hawkman or Hawkgirl comic has lasted long, but the complex story of love, heroism and resurrection is just begging for big screen glory.
Saving the toughest sell for last, a “Justice League” film without a Green Lantern — any Green Lantern — wouldn’t seem right. Like Hawkman and Martian Manhunter, the concept of Green Lantern opens the door to a galaxy of possibilities, with the world of Green Lantern and the mythology of the Lanterns the closest thing Warner Bros. has to a “Star Wars,” and any “League” movie that excluded these possibilities would likely feel a great void. The critically-maligned 2011 “Green Lantern” movie starring Ryan Reynolds watered down the concept with a predictable and disappointing plot, but the Green Lantern’s light cannot be extinguished and there are plenty of ways a “Justice League” film could reintroduce Hal Jordan, the Corps, Oa and all the concepts that have made Green Lantern so great. Who wouldn’t want to see the bond between Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen, meet John Stewart or Kyle Rayner or, dare we dream, witness a big screen confrontation between Guy Gardner and Batman. Whatever Lantern of Earth Snyder and company potentially decide to go with, the world of Green Lantern deserves a second shot at the big time. If WB believes people audiences have a bad taste in their mouths from their last flight with Hal Jordan, there are at least three other long-tenured Lanterns to choose from (not to mention GL newcomer Simon Baz), or the studio could see this as an opportunity to show the world just how awesome Hal Jordan could be when not saddled with a less than stellar story.
…And The Rest
While the biggest players all make sense to join Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg in the Justice League, there are many more DC Comics heroes who have played in role in one Justice League iteration or another. Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Black Canary, Red Tornado, Vixen, Supergirl, Adam Strange — it will be a difficult job to decide who’s in and who’s out from among the seemingly endless pool of DC legends. Whomever they choose, each and every one of these heroes could serve to enrich DC’s developing film universe. As the “Man of Steel” sequel continues its march to theaters, we’ll have our ears to ground waiting for word on who will compose DC and Warner Bros.’ Justice League.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on Warner Bros./DC Entertainment’s “Justice League” movie.