Mark Millar sparked a lot of chatter online when he began spreading word about Warner Bros. looking at Superman: Red Son as a potential live-action adaptation outside of the currently existing DCEU (which Zack Snyder started with Man of Steel). This is an example of an alternate universe story, outside of main comic continuity, which DC has dubbed as “Elseworlds,” allowing creators to subvert characters as they saw fit to tell fresh, contemporary stories. This polarized fans who felt that the studio should stick to developing the current slate of movies, after Justice League comes out next November.
However, this is a thought-provoking concept because such standalone stories can fit the medium, as seen with Logan, which despite looking like the end of X-Men continuity, was inspired by an alternate Marvel universe. The point is that every now and then a studio can take inspiration from outside of either publisher’s main continuity and spin pure cinematic gold. Red Son is a different take on Superman, but with so many other similar stories out there, CBR decided to look at 15 others published by DC Comics, which we’d love to see in cinemas someday.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for several alternative universe stories from DC Comics
15. JSA: THE LIBERTY FILES
JSA: The Liberty Files would be a powerful period piece if Warner Bros. wanted to explore that territory. It has a Watchmen aura about it but Tony Harris, Dan Jolley and Ray Snyder set their story earlier in history with their take on Batman, Hourman and Doctor Mid-nite fighting a version of the Joker, as well as Hitler’s Nazis. It was filled with twists and turns that brought in aliens like Martian Manhunter and Superman as well.
It could also flow into The Unholy Three which saw Batman trying to protect Gotham City years later only for a conflict with Russia to appear. This led to him recruiting more allies such as Sandman to end up taking on another Superman, who turned out to be Zod. Justice League and Justice Society fans would be downright gleeful watching this!
14. GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT
Gotham by Gaslight is a critically-acclaimed work of art by Brian Augustyn and drawn by Hellboy legend, Mike Mignola in 1989. This pioneer story focused on Bruce, having returned from Europe, now drawn into a web of deceit and betrayal as he battled Gotham’s version of Jack the Ripper.
He required aid from the likes of Alfred and Inspector Gordon as he had to overcome being locked away in Arkham Asylum, but eventually Bruce found his way to the light. This was a cerebral story that took readers on quite a journey, as our hero was tested, not just mentally, but physically too. It also toyed with the death of his parents, further placing weights of tragedy on Batman’s shoulders, testing the Dark Knight’s resolve to the fullest.
13. JUSTICE RIDERS
Justice Riders, a one-shot from 1997, was written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by J.H. Williams III. This revolved around Wonder Woman as a US Marshal using a team of heroes to fend off the threat of Max Lord and the supernatural Felix Faust. It didn’t rely on the big two in Batman and Superman. Instead, the story in the wild west dealt with a wild gunslinger, Wally West, a gambler in Booster Gold, and an inventor in Ted Kord, among many other reimagined heroes.
It also involved aliens (Martian Manhunter) and Hawkman, so there were a lot of comic threads plugged in for fans of the Justice League. This could be refined with a cinematic flare similar to Westworld, combining new takes on characters in a setting that wuld breathe new life into their roles on-screen.
12. BATMAN: CASTLE OF THE BAT
Batman: Castle of the Bat is yet another angsty trip down memory lane for Bruce Wayne, but this time, it’s done with the twist of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Bruce plays a scientist who tries to revive his dead father, Thomas, and ends up bringing back a creature called the Bat-Man.
Joe Chill, Alfred and Jim Gordon play big roles in this story as it’s one embedded in corruption and deep, dark and dirty secrets. It’s a neat spin on Bruce as well, because entangled as he is in the drama of the story, he finds himself in love but overcome by circumstances. Published in 1994, the story was written by Jack C. Harris with art by Bo Hampton, and had a noir-ish verve, spicing up the tale of horror at hand, especially for fans of the mainstream Man-Bat!
11. SUPERGIRL: WINGS
Supergirl: Wings is a comic published in 2001, written by J. M. DeMatteis and illustrated by Jamie Tolagson. It downplayed the concept of aliens in the Superman mythos and instead focused on things from a rather more divine perspective. Think Supergirl meets Touched By An Angel, as it was all about demons and guardian angels.
It revolved around the battle for Linda Danvers’ soul with the angelic Clark, the judgmental Spectre, and a few other DC icons being twisted into more religious tropes. The story explored sin and corruption, and while it may seem a bit heavy-handed at times, there were a lot of intriguing elements that made it unique. It may not have been the best-received alternate take on the character, but it definitely did an interesting job of reinventing the modern Supergirl mythos.
10. BATMAN: HOLY TERROR
Batman: Holy Terror is a landmark one-shot written by Alan Brennert and illustrated by Norm Breyfogle in 1991 that dealt with corruption and conspiracies running amok in Gotham. The religious fabric of the story was strong as it focused on Bruce Wayne as a vigilante reverend. It subverted a lot of his origins, particularly the death of his parents, while tussling with his concepts of faith and justice.
It’s provocative to say the least and roped in the likes of Barry Allen, Superman and Zatanna, shifting around a lot of the lore regarding the Justice League as well. This was a story defined by its controversial and violent bent, but it still felt like a comprehensive take on what drove Bruce as the Batman, and also captured how murder really haunted him as a child.
9. GREEN LANTERN: EVIL’S MIGHT
Green Lantern: Evil’s Might was a love story filled with drama and tension in 2002 — written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman, and illustrated by the late Marshall Rogers. It was just three issues but it re-purposed the origins of Alan Scott using Kyle Rayner in 1888 New York. It focused on Rayner as the protagonist who found a magic lantern and gained powers, which he used to help the immigrant masses.
Things got sticky as he romanced Carol Ferris, who wanted to leave her thug fiancee, Hal Jordan, for the hero. Scott himself was a gang leader in a story that felt like Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, as it transformed the guys we’re accustomed to as Green Lanterns into a guys with serious anger issues. It was a tension-filled subversion of the mythos as we knew it, and it would look great on-screen!
8. SUPERMAN’S METROPOLIS
Superman’s Metropolis was written by Jean-Marc Lofficier, Randy Lofficier and Roy Thomas, and illustrated by Ted McKeever. Influenced by German Expressionist cinema, it followed in the vein of Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis, which actually inspired the famous fictional city. It was a tale of class and social revolution, humanizing Superman like never before.
It had Clark fighting against the industrial tide to change his city for the better, only for his heritage and relationship with Lois to flip things on its head. His disagreement with his scientist and tycoon father, Jon, and the tyranny of Lutor (a maniacal take on Lex) formed the center of the story, as Clark had to rise above a lot in order to fulfill his destiny as a savior, not just for his people, but the woman he loved.
7. JLA: THE NAIL
JLA: The Nail was conceived by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer in 1998. It focused on a world fearing metahumans and waging war against them. Heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman were pushed to their limit trying to uphold the Justice League, who were without Superman as a nail flattened the Kents’ tire that fateful day they were supposed to find Kal-El’s spaceship.
The butterfly effect saw Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen tipping the heroes over the edge, with Batman killing Joker and Wonder Woman being framed for destroying the White House. Eventually, Superman (raised by Amish parents) entered the fray, but it was a conflict filled with a lot of casualties, and also one that was packed with political undertones and civil unrest.
6. WONDER WOMAN: AMAZONIA
Wonder Woman: Amazonia has an aura of Penny Dreadful around it. Written by William Messner-Loebs and illustrated by Phil Winslade in 1997, it has a Victorian-era feel that really flips the mythos on its head. Diana was abducted by a villainous Steve Trevor and forced into marriage and servitude. She broke free and began forging a heroic identity for herself, pushing feminism for those who needed it.
The story involved politics of the King and Queen of England, where it was set. It also looped in Jack the Ripper! Wars, misogyny, religion and the arts all factored into a plot that ran very deep with messages and philosophies about human rights. This would be another strong statement, especially on the heels of Wonder Woman’s success.
5. BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER
The DC Animated Universe is a fan-favorite alternate universe which gave us a bunch of epic stories. Remember how Kevin Conroy owned it as Batman? It also provided fans with amazing Superman stories in the ’90s. One of the top ones we would love to see adapted though is one from the future — Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
We may not see Terry McGinnis in the DCEU movies anytime soon, so this would be a great property to adapt as a one-off film. It could focus on Jared Leto’s Joker or perhaps take a twist and go the route of Christopher Nolan’s Joker meeting a future Batman (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt). Either way, it would be awesome seeing this futuristic take of Batman Beyond because these cartoons and the comics often leave us wanting more.
4. BATMAN: LEATHERWING
Chuck Dixon and Enrique Alcatena reshaped Batman as a pirate in 1994 for Batman: Leatherwing. He was a cavalier swordsman, a story that has potential to be done like the Black Sails or as a grittier take on Pirates of the Caribbean. Dixon crafted Leatherwing as one who was willing to kill, albeit minimally, as he pillaged rivals of the English crown while keeping a cut for himself.
It also boasted Alfredo (an Italian) as his right-hand man and felt very Euro-centric. Dixon also wove alternate spins on Robin, Joker and Catwoman to give a very diverse and international feel to the story, which revolved around action, romance and of course, double-crossing in order to get Leatherwing’s treasure. This detour was definitely one of DC’s more adventurous and swashbuckling ones.
3. WHOM GODS DESTROY
Whom Gods Destroy is a 1996 four-issue comic book miniseries by Chris Claremont, with artwork by Dusty Abell and Drew Geraci. It turned heads in how outlandish it was, but in a good way. It married Greek mythology with some of DC’s biggest superheroes in yet another sociopolitical story.
It dealt with the Nazis using Greek monsters to maintain a grip as a global superpower. Wonder Woman aligned herself with them and it took Superman, Lois Lane and Lana Lang to help fight their threat. The latter two would be bestowed with powers on the journey, with Lois eventually becoming the new Wonder Woman. It was a story of men and gods, but done with a flavorful DC twist, allowing two iconic women in Superman’s lore to really rise to power and prominence.
2. KINGDOM COME
Kingdom Come from Mark Waid and Alex Ross is a work of art fans would love to see on-screen. They took four issues in 1996 to really make bold statements about vigilantism and superheroes in the world as they pushed into a dystopian future where Magog’s blood-filled crimefighting stood as the norm. The loss of innocents would then bring Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League back into action.
However, Batman remained bitter towards Kal-El, and his Outsiders teamed with Lex Luthor’s Mankind Liberation Front as they didn’t trust super-powered beings anymore. This led to a lot of battles among heroes like Batman vs. Superman and Marvel’s Civil War, with the obvious Luthor twist coming, but it still proved to be a grand spectacle that would be perfect for cinemas. It was a story that felt organic and wasn’t simply political for shock value.
1. SUPERMAN: RED SON
Superman: Red Son gave us a Superman that hit home pretty hard. Mark Millar and his artistic team, consisting of the likes of Dave Johnson, crafted a three-issue series in 2003 that saw the Kryptonian infant who would become Superman land in the Soviet Union instead of America. This gave fans a wild take on global politics and world wars.
Millar loves sociopolitical missives and here, he flourished with Batman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor factoring in against the godlike entity we often visualized as the great American icon. Millar conversed online with Kong: Skull Island director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, about Warner Bros. shopping it around, and the director revealed he actually pitched to make the film. It would be great to see DC Entertainment go this bold route, as they’re still shaping a heroic Superman (Henry Cavill).
Let us know in the comments which DC alternate universe stories you’d like to see from Warner. Bros!
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