Earlier this year, Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. made waves when they announced their respective film slates through the end of the current decade, and it seems like every major comic book character will be making a film appearance in the very near future. This mind boggling schedule along with the past decade and a half of comic book films dating back to 2000’s “X-Men” has seemingly brought every major comic book character to the big screen, right?
Not even close.
As die hard fans know, there are still scores of major comic book characters who have yet to grace he silver screen, heroes and villains who have been confined to the pages of comic books since their inception. With the way Marvel and DC Comics’ film plans are going, and the success they’ve had thus far, this probably won’t stand for much longer. CBR takes a look at the heroes and villains, the teams and concepts, that have not made the jump to celluloid as of yet. With so many comic book movies coming from Marvel, DC, Fox and (presumably) Sony, it would be a shame not to see these icons get in on the action.
Join us for the first of two installments spotlighting some of the greatest comic book characters who have yet to make the transition from four-color to big screen heroes.
Plastic Man was one of the most popular heroes of the Golden Age, transitioned into the Silver Age thanks to DC Comics’ acquisition of the Quality Comics line of characters, and has been an iconic name in popular culture since Jack Cole created the pliable sleuth at the dawn of World War II. Yet, through all that, Patrick “Eel” O’Brian’s stretchable alter ego has never graced the silver screen. There are so many potential directions for a “Plastic Man” film, from a period detective piece set in the ’40s to a modern day bit of super hero postmodern madness. The hero’s seventy years of history and visually stunning that could finally be done cinematic justice thanks to modern movie effects could make for a very refreshing addition to DC’s film pantheon.
You know Nathan Dayspring, the time-hopping mutant warrior known as Cable, will be appearing in an “X-Men” film sooner rather than later — especially given his long ties to Apocalypse — but despite the character’s immense popularity, the leader of X-Force has never appeared in a film. Cable is like Dirty Harry meets Doctor Who meets the Terminator; a badass cybernetic time traveler with a take no prisoners attitude and a big gun. The character’s creator, Rob Liefeld, has been claiming up and down Cable is on the way and there have been persistent rumblings of an “X-Force” film for several years. With fellow Liefeld creation Deadpool coming to the big screen in 2016, elements of time travel recently introduced into the cinematic X-Verse and Cable’s parents Scott Summers and Jean Grey (sort of, it’s complicated) alive and well thanks to the awesome “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” it’s probably only a matter of time before Cable and his iconic pouches and guns thrill audiences on the silver screen.
Oliver Queen kicked off the super hero television renaissance fans are currently enjoying, but Green Arrow has never appeared in a film despite the character’s almost constant publication since the early ’40s. You might think Green Arrow would make for a perfect movie serial back in the day, but that was not to be. The character could have been pulled off in any decade thanks to the minimal special effects budgets Oliver’s particular skill set would require, but nothing came of it. There were even persistent rumors of Green Arrow making his film debut in a movie that would have seen the hero desperately trying to escape from a prison designed to hold the world’s most dangerous super villains. This film, entitled “Supermax,” was the brain child of Justin Marks and Mr. DC Films himself (and “Constantine” executive producer), David S. Goyer, but this superb sounding actioner was also stillborn. With Oliver Queen’s Q-rating now higher than ever thanks to the consistently superb “Arrow,” and the coming of a fully realized DC Film Universe, it could be time for Green Arrow to hit the target and finally make the jump to features. Hopefully, Goyer will dust off that “Supermax” script because, man, that just sounded awesome.
Other than General Zod and his fellow Phantom Zone villains, Superman has never fought a super powerful foe on the big screen. Fans have been salivating for Brainiac ever since Christopher Reeve first donned the red cape and blue union suit and made fans believe a man could fly. There are a number of of “Superman” sequel scripts floating around that would have featured Brainiac as the big bad, but the cybernetic menace never made the jump from the page to the screen. It seems like the upcoming “Justice League” films could change all that as persistent rumors indicate that Brainiac will be the League’s inaugural opponent. He would be a fitting choice considering how long this iconic villain has had to await to be used in a film. Brainiac’s time has most definitely come.
He’s Marvel’s oldest character and has been a major player since 1939. How is it possible that Namor, King of Atlantis and Ruler of Seven Seas, has never appeared on film? Perhaps the legal status of the Namor film rights is more murky than Atlantean algebra, a shame considering Namor is such an integral part of Marvel history from the dawn of the Golden Age to the modern era of the Avengers and the Illuminati. Namor could be inserted into Captain America’s back story as part of a cinematic Invaders or become a huge player in the contemporary age as a hero or as a villain. Or Fox could opt make Namor a huge part of their “Fantastic Four” reboot and eventually spin the Scion of Atlantis off into his own film. Alas, the legal hoops any studio would need to jump through to bring Namor to life are rumored to preclude any story plans.
The New Gods
Many film and comic scholars have postulated that many ideas in the original “Star Wars” were inspired by Jack Kirby’s grand opus, “The New Gods.” Whether this is true or not is open to debate, but what is not debatable is the fact that Kirby’s Fourth World is one of the most cinematic concepts in mainstream comics. Even so, none of Kirby’s huge cast has ever appeared in a live-action film. Yes, Darkseid is rumored to be the villain in one of Warner Bros’ upcoming “Justice League” films, but as of right now, no denizen of New Genesis or Apokolips has made a film appearance. Imagine Kirby’s locales, his designs, his rich and diverse cast of deities — the possibilities could be endless for film representations of Highfather, Orion, Mister Miracle and Big Barda, the Forever People and the countless minions of Darkseid. Hopefully more than just Darkseid will appear in upcoming DC films so the scope and majesty of Kirby’s greatest DC creation can finally be realized in film, potentially creating a film epic to rival the Galaxy Far, Far Away it may have inspired.
The Legion of Super-Heroes
Speaking of epic, isn’t it past time the nearly endless members of DC’s greatest team of future heroes got some film love? The Legion of Super-Heroes not only features a huge core cast of rich, well-realized characters, it also features one of most compelling worlds ever built for the comic book medium. Some of comics’ greatest creators have added to the tapestry of the 30th Century creating a world of the future like no other. The futuristic feel along with the youthful cast could appeal to today’s youth market with the right casting in addition to scratching the itch of nostalgia in fans longing for a Legion revival. DC can put elements from their contemporary films into this future world to give this feature a sense of cohesion and the huge cast of heroes and villains a “Legion” could feature just screams marketability. “The Legion of Super-Heroes” was once DC’s most popular title, and while their exposure has waned, their members remain much beloved.
Starfire, Raven and Beast Boy
We will see Cyborg in the “Justice League” films and his own solo movie in 2020, but the rest of his former “New Teen Titans” teammates remain conspicuously absent from DC’s big screen plans. From the “The Judas Contract” to “Thee Trigon Saga,” Marv Wolfman and George Perez have already created many templates for a potential “Titans” film, any of which would need to feature the core Titans: Starfire, Beast Boy and Raven. Each character has added so much to the DCU that it would be a shame if only Cyborg is realized on film. Thanks to the two “Teen Titans” cartoons featured on Cartoon Network, these characters already have a recognition factor and it could be postulated that fans who grew up with the trio of Titans would love to see more serious versions of the characters in live-action. Like the Legion, the Titans were the cream of the DC crop, something the company should not forget as they craft their expanding movie universe. Cyborg is on the way, and there may be a new film Robin or Nightwing joining him. Now all we need is these three classic and fan-favorite heroes to round out a proper version of the Titans for the whole world to fall in love with.
The Metal Men, DC’s zany crew of sentient robots, are just made for an animated feature. Imagine Gold, Platinum, Mercury, Tin, Lead, Iron and their creator Will Magnus in a modern animated adventure using cutting edge 3D animation. The Silver Age adventures of Magnus’ creations, with their diverse personalities and hyper visual powers were greatly ahead of their time and Warner Bros. is potentially sitting on an “Incredibles” or “Big Hero 6”-size pot of gold with this classic group of battling ‘bots.
There is probably money to be made from a film featuring a young bespectacled British lad with the potential to become a great wizard — too bad it was already made. Tim Hunter, the protagonist of Vertigo’s “Books of Magic,” predated Harry Potter, and while Hunter’s creator Neil Gaiman denies any copyright chicanery by J.K. Rowling, the boy wizard will probably never be featured in his own film thanks to the vast similarities between Hunter and the Boy Who Lived. Considering Gaiman’s tale could make for a perfect contemporary fantasy, it’s a shame that the surface similarities will draw frequent and likely damaging comparisons to Rowling’s Potter. The Vertigo library is ripe for film exploration and Tim Hunter could be a great place to start if WB didn’t already have a British boy wizard with glasses and an owl.
It’s Iron Man meets Conan the Barbarian. A solo “X-O Manowar” film could mash up elements of historical fiction, science fiction and the super hero genre, or just as it did for the Valiant Entertainment relaunch, “X-O” could be springboard that launches a shared Valiant film universe. There are numerous X-O stories that could provide inspiration for the film, from the great Valiant work of the ’90s to the kick butt contemporary revival. “X-O Manowar” could potentially be a super hero film like no other, blending fantasy and hard sci-fi in a way that could leave fans breathless.
DC doesn’t seem to know it, but Carter Hall could be the perfect film hero. Hawkman combines elements of time travel, mysticism, science fiction, super archaeology and classic super hero action — think “Star Wars” meets “Indiana Jones” meets “Batman” meets “The Fountain.” Hawkman has been around since the dawn of the Golden Age and a successful film could show the world the same untapped potential that Geoff Johns harnessed during his run on the title in the 2000s.
A “Doom Patrol” film could invite many comparisons to the vastly popular “X-Men” franchise, but the world’s strangest super team could make for a very unique film experience especially if Warner Bros. taps into Grant Morrison’s Vertigo take on the franchise. Imagine the Doom Patrol with a Tim Burton-esque feel, a freakish celebration of the weird side of the DCU. Characters like Crazy Jane, the Brotherhood of Dada and, of course, Robotman, Elasti-Girl and Negative Man could make for a decidedly different super hero film experience for the adventurous moviegoers.
The Justice Society of America
In their upcoming films, it is clear that DC and Warner Bros. is digging deep into their pantheon of heroes to create a very diverse and classic shared universe, but DC’s original heroes, the Golden Age greats of the Justice Society of America, seem to have been lost in DC’s plans which is almost a crime because without the JSA there would be no DC Universe. With every member of the world’s first super team, DC has a potential Captain America, an anachronistic hero from the greatest generation that could give their film universe a sense of history and cohesion. Allowing for the classic members of the JSA to become part of their film universe, DC could also open the door to the modern day versions of such characters as Hourman, Mister Terrific, Wildcat and Doctor Mid-Nite. Characters like Jay Garrick, Alan Scott and Wesley Dodds are just too important to never appear on the big screen. And how cool would a Wesley Dodds “Sandman” serial running before each feature film be? With the JSA, comics’ most classical heroes, the possibilities are truly endless.
“Man of Steel” was serious and somber, effecting a tone that sadly leaves no room for one of Superman’s most enduring foes, Mr. Mxyzptlk. It’s seems a shame that an actor like, say, Patton Oswalt, will ever grace the screen with that special brand of Mxyzptlk chaos. I guess if a space raccoon can generation a billion dollars, anything is possible but I can’t imagine a world where Mxyzptlk, one of Superman’s oldest and most persistent (and annoying) enemies, could make his fifth dimensional film debut anytime soon.
Stay tuned to CBR News for Part 2!
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