With recent changes behind the scenes and rumors that Ben Affleck’s Batman might hang up his cape and cowl early, the future of the DC Extended Universe is in an uncertain place. Although “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League” will bring some long-awaited franchises to the big screen later this year, DC’s recent films like “Suicide Squad” divided audiences and critics alike. Despite that, the DCEU still has the potential to grow into cinema’s biggest superhero universe.
Now, CBR is taking a look at 15 DC Comics stories that would make epic movies in the DCEU. For this hardly comprehensive list, we’ll be looking at stories from the history of the publisher that could help set it apart from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and DC’s current television offerings.
15. BRUCE WAYNE: MURDERER
While Batman has appeared in over a dozen feature films, none of them have really focused on Bruce Wayne. Although his nocturnal activities might draw more attention, Bruce Wayne is a billionaire business tycoon with some level of celebrity. On film, those aspects of the character have remained largely unexamined or confined to a handful of scenes, even though actors like Christian Bale thrived in those moments.
An adaption of the 2002 “Batman” crossover “Bruce Wayne: Murderer,” could give Bruce Wayne his biggest spotlight in film. In that 2002 story by creators like Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, Wayne’s ex-girlfriend, Vesper Fairchild, is found dead in Wayne Manor. Since he was working as Batman at the time, Wayne is left without an alibi and accused of murder. The story focuses on Batman’s allies like Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl as they try to solve the crime, and could be a good way to establish them in the DCEU with major roles. An adaption of “Batman: Murderer” would put mystery back at the heart of Batman’s film franchise and could examine the importance of Wayne in the Batman mythos.
14. BLACKEST NIGHT
In 2009, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis captured an era’s zeitgeist with the blockbuster crossover “Blackest Night.” In that massive story, Nekron, a living embodiment of death, revived dead heroes and villains as super-powered zombies in an effort to end all life in the universe. This dark, gruesome crossover pits these Black Lanterns against Green Lantern in one of that character’s biggest starring roles.
While an adaption of “Blackest Night” would give Green Lantern a compelling debut, the premise could would especially well in the DCEU. In 2013’s “Man of Steel,” a massive number of civilians infamously died in the climactic battle between General Zod and Superman. That controversial plot point influenced 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but those thousands of casualties could pose an existential threat as an army of Black Lanterns. While the idea of the Justice League fighting zombies has an irresistible commercial appeal, a Blackest Night movie could answer critics by casting the DCEU’s heroes as beacons of light against the threat of total annihilation.
13. SUICIDE SQUAD: THE JANUS DIRECTIVE
While DC’s colorful superheroes usually take center stage, the shadier, more espionage-focused area of the DC Universe was the focus of 1989s’ “The Janus Directive.” With work from creators like John Ostrander, Kim Yale and Greg Weisman, the crossover took place over several of that era’s underrated paramilitary titles like “Suicide Squad,” “Checkmate” and “Captain Atom.” In the comic, Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad seemingly go rogue after a failed assassination attempt and battle other government-sponsored teams in order to defeat the supervillain Kobra and weed out his followers.
One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most critically acclaimed films is 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” An intrigue-filled adaption of “The Janus Directive” could be DCEU’s answer to that movie and establish the Suicide Squad’s place in DC’s larger cinematic world. In the same way the Marvel Cinematic Universe is bound together by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller could be cast as the hidden mastermind behind much of the DCEU, influencing world events from the shadows.
12. GREEN LANTERN: SINESTRO CORPS WAR
The critical and commercial disappointment of 2011’s “Green Lantern” soured audiences on one of DC’s most iconic characters. Two Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan and John Stewart, are set to star in 2020’s “Green Lantern Corps,” and the franchise needs to redeem those characters with an undeniable success. An adaption of “Sinestro Corps War” could honor those characters and introduce a wide audience to the kind of grand, intergalactic sci-fi action where Green Lanterns flourish.
In the 2007 story, by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason and Ethan Van Sciver, the Green Lanterns battle their longtime foe Sinestro and his newly-created army of fear-powered Yellow Lanterns. A “Sinestro Corps War” movie could be a quick way to introduce a slew of Green Lanterns and establish the order of the DCEU’s cosmic side. While the 2011 film was criticized for its tonal inconsistency, an adaption of this story would give filmmakers a chance to recast Green Lantern as an action-oriented sci-fi franchise.
11. SUPERMAN: THE ELITE
According to some critics, Superman is just too powerful and too moral to be interesting. Despite decades of engaging stories across media, this perception helped shape the DCEU’s Superman as an isolated and guilt-ridden figure. In 2001’s “Action Comics” #775, Joe Casey, Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo responded to these criticisms with “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?”
In that modern classic, which was adapted in animation as “Superman Vs. The Elite” in 2012, Superman comes into conflict with the Elite. Inspired by comics like “The Authority,” the Elite are a team of hyper-violent heroes with extreme methods. The story literalizes the philosophical differences between Superman and the new heroes, and ultimately makes a compelling case for why Superman’s old-fashioned morality still matters. An adaption of this story could rejuvenate Superman in the eyes of a cynical, disinterested public. Beyond providing a venue to introduce several new superheroes, this could also give filmmakers a chance to respond to critics who say DC’s films are too dark and tonally recalibrate the DCEU.
10. WONDER WOMAN: WAR OF THE GODS
Despite the character’s 75 year history, Wonder Woman has only been at the center of a few universe-spanning crossovers. In celebration of her 50th anniversary in 1991, Wonder Woman was a focal part of the crossover “War of the Gods,” spearheaded by George Pérez and Russell Braun. In the story, the sorceress and Wonder Woman villain Circe causes a war between the Greek gods, the Roman gods and various other pantheons that threatens to destroy the Earth.
With hefty roles for both Wonder Woman and the Suicide Squad, “War of the Gods” could tie those wildly different film franchises together. After battling Cara Delevingne ‘s Enchantress in 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” the Squad already has experience dealing with magical threats, and they could operate similarly in a mythology-focused movie. Although Marvel’s films have introduced Thor and Asgard, it hasn’t used figures like Hercules yet. With an adaption of “War of the Gods,” DC could mix the mythology-adjacent Wonder Woman with other pantheons before Marvel has a chance to use them.
9. GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD TWILIGHT
Despite almost two decades of modern superhero movies, a few long-standing comic book troupes haven’t made it into a feature film yet. While there are dozens of examples from comics books, a superhero hasn’t turned into a supervillain in film yet. An adaption of Ron Marz and Darryl Banks’ 1994 “Green Lantern” tale “Emerald Twilight” could change that. In that story, Hal Jordan goes mad and eradicates the Green Lantern Corps after the annihilation of his home Coast City. While it was later revealed that he was controlled by the cosmic entity Parallax, this was an ignoble end for one of DC’s oldest heroes and introduced the new Green Lantern Kyle Rayner.
On screen, “Emerald Twilight” could legitimately surprise jaded audiences with a story they’ve never seen before. Like its comics counterpart, an adaption of this story could shift a focus from Hal Jordon to a new crop of Green Lanterns. This story could inject a sense of legitimate stakes and unpredictability into the dormant Green Lantern franchise, transforming it from an afterthought into a must-see feature.
8. DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING
Although plans to bring Neil Gaiman’s iconic Vertigo epic “Sandman” to the big screen have had some setbacks, the Endless could still help distinguish DC’s cinematic identity. While that series’ expansive scope makes it difficult to adapt as a single film, the more grounded, personal story of “Death: The High Cost of Living” is ideal for a feature. In Gaiman, Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham’s 1993 miniseries, the embodiment of Death, posing as the goth teenager Didi, walks the Earth for the first time in a century and has a few encounters with the humans she will one day claim.
Where Marvel’s films are defined by colorful costumes and quippy dialogue, DC’s films have leaned in a darker direction. In a Death movie, DC could claim ownership of that darker tone with a prestige picture that would have a different appeal from the rest of their superhero fare. Although a major attempt to adapt the story failed, Death could launch a film universe dedicated to the Endless that could run parallel to the DCEU.
7. BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy set a new standard for superhero films and will likely remain a generation’s definitive take on Batman. With their mix of globe-trotting adventure, gritty urban crime and psychologically compelling villains, those films highlighted some of the best parts of the Batman mythos. Although the DCEU seems to take place in a rebooted universe, an adaption of the 2010 story “Black Mirror.” In that Scott Snyder and Jock story, Commissioner Gordon’s psychopathic son, James, returns to a Gotham protected by Dick Grayson’s Batman. As Grayson tries to determine Gordon Jr.’s true motives, the tale examines the dichotomy between the sons of Gotham’s two greatest protectors.
Surprisingly, Dick Grayson hasn’t had a live-action film role since 1997’s “Batman & Robin.” An adaption of “Black Mirror” would give that iconic character his first major live-action role in 20 years. Between the story’s cerebral tone and the appearance of Gordon Jr., the story already has a few callbacks to “The Dark Knight.” By following “The Dark Knight Rises” and casting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a surrogate Grayson, the film could even be a direct follow-up to Nolan’s Batman movies.
6. JUSTICE LEAGUE: TOWER OF BABEL
In “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Ben Affleck’s Batman explicitly stated his distrust of Superman and prepared plans to defeat him. Since that’s an established part of the character in the DCEU, it would be logical for Batman to have contingency plans for the rest of the Justice League in an adaption of “Tower of Babel.” In that classic 2000 tale by Mark Waid, Howard Porter and Steve Scott, Ra’s al Ghul steals Batman’s files and activates his counter-measures against the Justice League.
An adaption of “Tower of Babel” would highlight the cynical, paranoid nature of the DCEU’s Batman while introducing one of his major villains in the DCEU. While this wasn’t part of that specific story, a “Tower of Babel” feature could also include Batman’s rogue super-human surveillance program Brother Eye. Together, all of this could redefine the DCEU’s Batman in his traditional role as a dark loner, who puts a distance between himself and the other heroes.
5. SUPERMAN: BRAINIAC
After seven live-action Superman movies, one of Superman’s most iconic villains, the alien android Brainiac, still hasn’t appeared on screen. Since the character’s a largely intellectual force, his various machinations have historically provided a threat that Superman can’t simply punch his way through. Although the character’s 59 year history is filled with quality stories, 2008’s “Brainiac” by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, would make an ideal feature film.
In that story, which was adapted as the animated “Superman: Unbound” in 2013, Superman finds one of Brainiac’s drones and flies off into space to confront him. After learning that Brainiac miniaturized cities, including the Kryptonian capital of Kandor, and destroyed planets, Superman teams up with Supergirl to save Earth from the same fate. Since this story includes Kandor, a “Brainiac” film would be the ideal place to introduce other pieces of Kryptonian lore. With a good portion of the action taking place in space, this could also be an opportunity to help establish DC’s cosmic order or to pair Superman with space-based characters.
In 1990, Howard Chaykin and José García-López reshaped the outer reaches of the DC Universe in the criminally underrated series “Twilight.” In the comic, the creative team crafted a post-modern sci-fi epic using forgotten Silver Age sci-fi heroes like Tommy Tomorrow and the Star Rovers. In the wake of “Watchmen,” this comic deconstructed these older characters and portrayed them as corrupted or unbalanced by dangerous levels of power.
The stars of “Twilight” are essentially blank slates. Since they hadn’t been defined in decades, Chaykin was able to twist them into the contortions needed for his plot. For that same reason, a “Twilight” movie could be a wild card in the DCEU. Marvel had a huge success by following a similar formula with 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Similarly, a “Twilight” film could use these forgotten characters to make a standalone space epic or as part of DC’s larger plans. With the aged, lived-in feeling that permeates through the comic, a “Twilight” film could give DC’s cosmos a lived-in feeling that sets it apart from other cinematic universes.
3. CATWOMAN: SELINA’S BIG SCORE
While Catwoman is one of Batman’s most well-known villains, her 2004 solo feature is largely regarded as one of the worst comic book movies ever made. Although she seems likely to appear in the upcoming “Gotham City Sirens,” Catwoman could thrive on her own in a solo film based on “Selina’s Big Score.” In that 2004 graphic novel, by Darwyn Cooke and Matt Hollingsworth, Selina Kyle returns to Gotham City with insufficient funds after faking her death. When she gets a tip about a mob-operated train filled with millions of dollars, she and her ex-mentor Stark assemble a team to pull off the heist while eluding the detective Slam Bradley.
With Cooke’s stylized noir-ish art, the comic reads like a DC Universe version of “Ocean’s Eleven.” A film adaption of that title could operate in a similar manner. With so many action-focused features, a straight crime story like this could be an unexpected but rewarding curveball in the DCEU. With relatively few special effects needed, this could be a quick, efficient way to build out the infrastructure of the DCEU’s Gotham City.
2. JUSTICE LEAGUE: WORLD WAR III
In the final story of their acclaimed run on “JLA,” Grant Morrison and Howard Porter unleashed Mageddon the Anti-Sun and Primordial Annihilator. In the 2000 story “World War III,” Mageddon starts destroying the Earth by turning its populace against one another through hate and fear. In their desperate effort to defeat the ancient being of pure hate, the Justice League calls on its full reserves before temporarily giving every human on Earth super-powers.
Although that could be a fitting finale to any superhero universe, it could be a great way to quickly distribute powers relatively early in the DCEU. By retrofitting that finale as the way hundreds of characters got powers, filmmakers could eliminate the need for repetitive origin films. The cartoon “Justice League Unlimited” sold itself on a huge roster of heroes, and that spirit could live on in a “World War III” film. The galaxy-size Mageddon would make an imposing figure on the big screen who could believably cause the Justice League to take such a drastic action.
1. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
In 1986, DC rebooted its comic book universe with Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” In that epic miniseries, thousands of universes and beloved characters like Supergirl and the Flash die fighting the cosmic force known as the Anti-Monitor. That story streamlined the DC Universe, collapsing its various alternate realities into one primary new world.
With a “Crisis” movie, DC could tie all of its past and present live-action universes together in one of the most ambitious films of all time. In a film that could easily dwarf Marvel’s biggest moments, a “Crisis” movie could give the Batmen of Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, Michael Keaton and Adam West a chance to team-up. Beyond the commercial allure of battalions of Batmen and Supermen working together, the CW’s DC shows have already explored alternate realities, and “The Flash” has explicitly teased a “Crisis.” By finally uniting the DCEU with DC’s televised offerings, DC could create the ultimate maximalist epic for the modern media landscape.
Stay tuned to CBR for all the latest on DC’s upcoming films. Be sure to let us know what stories you want to see on film in the comments below!
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