Logan; that’s all you need to say to get a shiver out of a certain group of comic book movie fans. From its heart-wrenching trailer set to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” to its historic Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, Logan quietly crept through 2017 changing the game for superhero cinema and leaving emotional devastation in its wake, without the big splash of a The Dark Knight or The Avengers.
Logan wasn’t simply a “gritty finale,” nor simply “a superhero Western.” It was a rhetorical referendum on the contemporary powered hero, a long-coming reckoning, like Clint Eastwood did for the heroes of the old West in his Oscar-winning Unforgiven. However, unlike The Dark Knight, a film whose gritty social relevance many blockbusters since have tried and failed to replicate since, giving another iconic character the “Logan” treatment requires no magic trick, no complex series of twists and turns. It asks of its author only a love of the character. Though Logan uses its character to explore a very particular American archetype, the same approach to other popular characters can offer new windows into various facets of the human experience through the common language of pop culture. From heroes of the comic book page to video game gunslingers, here are a few more characters we’d love to see get the Logan treatment.
20 DICK GRAYSON/NIGHTWING
Obviously, the Bat-mythos lends itself to the “Requiem For A Caped Crusader” old-man action genre, as the self-reflective Dark Knight Returns remains a landmark moment in contemporary comics. So to some, it might seem like revisiting that angle with a new member of the Bat family, especially one of the now seemingly-endless Robins, might be a waste. Yet, anyone who read Tim Seeley and Tom King’s memorable take on the character will realize how much untapped potential is in Dick Grayson.
We’re not suggesting Dick be placed in some post-apocalyptic landscape of mutants, flying cars and Frank Miller’s deranged imagination. Instead, we’d love a grounded story of a grown man who never could escape the shadow, publicly or privately, of his surrogate father. A young boy born to be a star, Dick was plucked from orphanhood and bred to be a vigilante. Stoic, somber and standing watch over Gotham City, this older Dick Grayson would reflect on the Robins lost and those who remain, with their lives and psyches in tatters, and wonder why he’s the only one to come out alright, and if indeed he even had. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker gave Tim Drake and Barbara Gordon their reflective character moments. Shouldn’t the original sidekick receive the same treatment?
19 RICK GRIMES
The Walking Dead hasn’t quite been pulling the numbers that it used to, in part because the way ratings for television shows is measured is absurd and archaic, but also in part due to the perceived decline in the show’s quality. Yet, even those of us who had written the show off seasons ago were stunned by the announcement that Andrew Lincoln, the actor who played Rick Grimes, would be leaving the show this coming season. Naturally, this led to speculation that the character was almost certain to die in Season 9.
There's widespread speculation that Rick might perish in The Walking Dead's next season.
We’re not opposed to the show offing the often-times wrongheaded Rick. We just wish the show would off him with the kind of integrity and tact it hasn’t really shown since Frank Darabont’s show-running career bought the metaphorical farm and then made us sit through an entire season on that farm knowing the whole time that kid was in the barn. Rick’s Logan treatment wouldn’t be about his death per se, but rather his acceptance of it. Ever since the pilot, Rick has been raging against the dying of the light, for the sake of his wife, for the sake of his son and for the sake of those around him. To send Rick off right, let him have an episode completely alone, out in the woods with no survivors and no walkers. Just force our hero to have his Gethsemane moment, to reckon with whatever higher power he might still believe in, whether or not his life is still worth living.
18 OLIVER QUEEN/GREEN ARROW
The journey of Oliver Queen in the public consciousness is one of the more fascinating in DC Comics’ long history. A cast-off Batman knock-off in his early days, Green Arrow never achieved the fame of the Big Three, nor even of the lower-tier Justice Leaguers who often appeared in cartoon shows and parodies. His evolution as an activist, first in pages alongside Green Lantern and later a solo run by Mike Grell, brought him to a level of politically-charged prominence nearly unheard-of in mainstream comics. After a memorable turn as a Batman-surrogate on Smallville, the once-ignored hero was shockingly selected to headline his own show on the CW.
Of course, his television version seems to have an aversion to politics, at least in terms of taking hard left-wing stances on issues like his comic book counterpart, probably because of America’s fun habit of, upon hearing an opinion different than theirs, turning off the program, unplugging the TV and then setting it ablaze. Yet, the proper Logan-treatment for Oliver Queen would have to be political. Ideally a period piece, allowing for the actions of Oliver and Hal Jordan to have actually happened in the activist era of the ‘60s and ‘70s, our old man Oliver would find himself in the depths of the George W. Bush era. Like outlaw activist Hunter S. Thompson before him, Oliver would be forced to reconcile with whether or not things he had done, stances he took, demands he made, helped usher in the age of selfish, ethnocentric consumerism he saw around him.
17 BEATRIX KIDDO/THE BRIDE
Can you ever stop being a killer? Is there a second act in cinematic life, or is killing a brand that sticks? Not only is a return to Quentin Tarantino’s iconic katana-wielding warrior something the public has been clamoring for like no other character in his canon, it’s the only one already set up for a sequel. Tarantino has talked about returning to the world of Kill Bill, often alluding to the dangling thread left in Volume 1: Vernita Green’s daughter Nikki. After she witnessed her mother’s death at the hands of Kiddo. Beatrix told the young child that when she wanted revenge, she would be waiting.
Another Kill Bill could offer a unique perspective on honor and revenge.
Far too many movies have examined revenge from the bland angle of “Revenge is bad/revenge begets more revenge.” It’s a trite and overwrought sentiment that, while true, yields no new dramatic tension (no matter how many nominations Three Billboards… got). Instead, it would be great to see Tarantino, whose recent works like Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight demonstrate a newfound degree of depth, explore the trappings of living by an honor code built around revenge. So often our protagonists are young, fiery and out for revenge, approaching a pensive and penitent older figure who often says “I’ve been waiting for you.” For once, let’s see the waiting instead. Her daughter now moved on to her own life, away from the torturous allure of the blade, Beatrix lives for only one reason: waiting to be killed at the hands of the child she wronged all those years ago.
16 CONAN THE BARBARIAN
Though Robert E. Howard’s tales of the Cimmerian warrior Conan have influenced everything from Cerebus to the entire heavy metal genre, the character himself hasn’t had much cinematic success. Sure, Conan the Barbarian, the 1982 John Milius film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a smash hit that spawned two sequels, Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja. Yet the public’s hunger for Conan was never again so fervent, even in the sword-and-sorcery boom of the post-Game of Thrones media landscape (as evidenced by the failed 2011 reboot).
Likewise, Arnold used to be king of the world, banging out record-breaking action and comedy hits seemingly every year. After his turn as governor, however, he’s failed to achieve similar success, even returning to the Terminator franchise to diminishing returns. And perhaps that’s a fitting reason to return to Conan, not as a refutation but an embrace of the death of the “strong man”, the Reagan-era ideal of some powerful, uber-masculine figure for whom domination is his only goal. Set at the end of the Hyborian Age, during the rise of the Sons of Aryas, an aged Conan would sit upon his throne, the once-conquering hero, asking all around to look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair.
15 NATHAN DRAKE
Now, we know what you’re thinking: You can’t continue the story of Nathan Drake when the last one was called A Thief’s End. Need we remind you that Indiana Jones, the main inspiration for Nathan Drake, had a film entitled Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and yet proceeded to have yet another adventure years later? Ok, sure, invoking Crystal Skull isn’t exactly a promising way to pitch an Uncharted sequel, but we’d actually rather see it go in the direction of the aforementioned Last Crusade.
We'd love to see Drake in a supporting role as his daughter, Cassie, gets into the family business.
Nathan Drake never really had parental figures, since his mother’s suicide and his father’s financial woes caused him to become a ward of the state by the age of five. By the end of A Thief’s End, Drake has built a life for himself running a salvage company, and his teenage daughter Cassie inquires about his past life as an adventurer. That hunger for exploration likely burns just as brightly in the heart of Drake’s daughter, and it would be great to have one last outing. Drake could be the Sean Connery to Cassie’s Harrison Ford, begging her to be less reckless and trying hard to stop her from falling into the same dangerous habits he did, while all the while swept up in a wistful nostalgia for the life he once led.
14 SUE STORM/THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
The Fantastic Four has gotten the short end of the stick lately. They were all-but-excised from Marvel Comics, their fan-base is continually dwindling and they can’t seem to get a successful film franchise off the ground, even though Brad Bird’s cinematic tribute band is about to run laps around them with Incredibles 2. And while many might jump to Reed Richards or Ben Grimm as the ideal candidate for the Logan treatment, that is, in and of itself, the reason Sue Storm is in need of this creative re-evaluation.
Sue Storm, from not only a story but a sociological perspective, is the most fascinating figure of the Fantastic Four. Admittedly a powerful, significant female figure in the history of comics, her depiction throughout the decades has been rife with problematic personality traits, contorted to fit whatever agenda, stereotypical complex or more recently, manic-pixie-dream-girl delusion her typically male writer fixates on. The right (female) writer could explore why Sue stays: why she stays with the emotionally-neglectful Reed, why she stays in her painfully matriarchal role, not just to Franklin and Valeria but in a broader sense to most of the Marvel Universe. it could explain why someone like Sue, who often has the opportunity for a new life with, say, Namor or Doom, seems tempted by it, though never to fully embrace it. Such an exploration wouldn’t just be a breath of fresh air, it would also make those moments where Sue does turn her back on Reed, like in Civil War, all the more powerful.
13 BOBA FETT
While many entries on this list will likely never come to pass, a Logan-esque Boba Fett film might actually be a reality, now that a one has been announced by Logan director James Mangold. Sure, the spin-off "Star Wars Story" films have been divisive thus far, but if anybody can deliver the gritty, Western-tinged blue-collar character drama we need from a Boba Fett movie, we think the guy behind Cop Land, 3:10 to Yuma and the two good Wolverine movies can do it.
Boba Fett's movie needs to be a story instead of a cinematic encyclopedia entry.
Of course, we see the beginning and the end of Boba Fett on film already, so there’s no “significant” ground to cover, and that’s just the beauty of it. Solo got too bogged down in explaining the origins of things no one asked for (We were all wondering where he came up with the nickname Chewie, right?). Boba Fett shouldn’t bother explaining his relationship with IG-88 or how he got the dent in his helmet. Like Logan, give us a story about who the character is beneath the armor, not how they got there. Give us an interesting cast of characters, not gratuitous cameos. Give us a story that can run alongside those we ourselves created in our childhood basements instead of being so determined to fill in the blanks.
Easily the oldest character on this list, Zorro may well be the first superhero ever committed to the page (and if you don’t think a dashing wealthy vigilante who wears a mask and an all-black costume, uses a cave as a hideout and fights for the common man doesn’t count as a superhero, we don’t know what to tell ya.) The valiant hero has had an enduring legacy in the American cultural conversation, not only gracing the covers of countless comics and novels, but portrayed on screen by everyone from Douglas Fairbanks to Antonio Banderas. In fact, depending on which origin story you read, a young Bruce Wayne and his family attended a screening of Tyrone Powers’ The Mark of Zorro before the infamous stroll down crime alley.
And while the story of an aged Zorro has technically already been told in 1998’s The Mask of Zorro, where Anthony Hopkins’ Don Diego passes on the mantle to a young Alejandro (Banderas) in a very Batman Beyond-esque way, it would be much more fascinating to keep the focus on Don Diego. There’s a great opportunity to explore the dark origins of contemporary California, decades before James Ellroy’s nourish saga, where the man who once defended the Pueblo de Los Angeles from the vicious grasp of the Spanish elite is now forced to see his city overrun by a new, pseudo-egalitarian form of leadership.
11 MASTER CHIEF
As is the case with all great gaming icons, it’s hard to remember a time before Master Chief. To think now, it’s as though the armored, near-silent Spartan had always stood alongside the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and that beloved red-suited plumber. Since 2001, and especially in the original Halo trilogy, Master Chief functioned as a player surrogate in the games.
In other Halo media, Master Chief is a much more fleshed-out and nuanced character.
The melding of these two personas, uniting the stoic soldier millions of players placed a piece of themselves within and the rich history and symbolism of John-117 is a role the much-demanded screen adaptation of the series could easily play. District 9 visionary Neil Blomkampf was originally meant to tackle the character before Chappie showed us he might not understand nuanced characters (or just…characters), and no new names have been floated recently. Yet, it’s somewhat inevitable that the armored warrior will get his day onscreen, considering the impact he’s had on pop culture in his near twenty years of life. We can only hope whoever gets it gets it right.
10 BILLY BATSON/SHAZAM
We know we’re getting a Shazam movie relatively soon, we’ve all seen the shots of Chuck’s Zachary Levi in the muscle suit and we’ve heard the Rock repeatedly hint at Black Adam. All of this is true. Yet, we can’t help but worry this installment will be more concerned with setting up a franchise than examining the rich history and complex dual-identity inherent to what sets the character apart from his peers.
It would be easy to play the dynamic of the young boy Billy Batson becoming the grown man Captain Marvel a.k.a Shazam, like Big with capes and cowls. However, there’s a much more intriguing aspect of the child wielding the weapon of superheroism. This dichotomy was explored to great success in the proto-Young Justice miniseries JLA: World Without Grown-Ups, where Billy Batson was the only one able to traverse both the world of children and adults. Conversely, Alan Moore explored the effects of a childhood sharing a soul with a superhero in his iconic revival of Miracleman. Considering the huge cultural influence Captain Marvel once had (once upon a time he outsold Superman and even inspired the look of Elvis Presley), there’s a lot about the American identity that can be explored through such a fascinating character, which could yield a much better film than just bright colors and sequel set-up.
9 JACK SPARROW
Sure, you see the name and roll your eyes now. The hero we once loved watching narrowly escape death now refuses to die, trotted out again and again by the all-powerful Mouse for sequels no one stateside asked for but continue to kill in lucrative foreign markets. But take yourself back to those halcyon days of 2003. “Hey Ya!” is all over the radio, Madonna and Britney kissed at the VMAs, and everyone is emulating the tipsy swagger of Johnny Depp’s make-up heavy pirate.
Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Sparrow still deserves a cinematic ending.
Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End, the third in the now five films deep franchise, set about giving a fitting end to the arc of Will Turner (if you ignore the fifth film, which everyone did), the protagonist of the franchise played by Orlando Bloom. Yet, to give a rich and satisfying conclusion to Will and not Jack is like if Fox had decided to give Cyclops the gritty, emotional solo movie and keep plugging Wolverine into sequel after sequel. Jack Sparrow may have seemingly worn out his welcome after a string of unnecessary entries, but the public still deep down has a small affection for the character, and the promise of one final installment that would get to the heart of the character and remind us why we all fell in love with him to begin with might be exactly what Disney needs to do with the flailing franchise. Or, you know, they could just keep throwing in giant sea monsters to get that sweet, sweet Chinese box office money.
8 BRUCE BANNER/HULK
Though an undeniable star of the Marvel comics, Hulk hasn’t had a solo film in the MCU since 2008’s oft-ignored The Incredible Hulk, and he likely won’t again due to a bizarre rights agreement with Universal, the 2008 film’s producer and distributor. As such, Bruce Banner has had a fascinating character arc on the periphery of the MCU: Mastering his anger, finding calm in the nervous heart of Natasha Romanov, fleeing to space and finding himself further divided from his hulking alter-ego.
We’ve watched epic battles play out in airport hangars, miniature train sets and the sprawling fields of Wakanda. Yet, we’re well overdue to explore the war raging within Bruce Banner. Not only has he found himself growing even more distant from the Hulk, as demonstrated by his inability to transform in Avengers: Infinity War, but he’s had to watch all those around him fade into nothingness while he, despite his best efforts, seemingly cannot die (based on his comments in the first Avengers). To imagine an aged Bruce Banner, shackled by the effects of time but his strong heart still pumping, alone with his memories of friends lost and the rumbling manic energy of the beast within is a fascinating prospect. Old Man Logan was already mined for some depth with Logan, why not adapt the Hulk elements of that story as well?
7 INDIANA JONES
People love ripping into Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as though it’s some singular abomination, but the truth is the quality of Temple of Doom is comparable to anyone who doesn’t cling to the idea that all of pop culture declined the minute they outgrew their Chevron jackets and corduroys. The idea of an older Indiana Jones isn’t inherently terrible, and indeed allowing the setting and style of the film to evolve to reflect the times the character would inhabit was a brilliant move by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the derided, delayed sequel.
Spielberg has stated his interest in taking another swing at the Disney-owned character.
Yet, while some may be fearful of revisiting the classic character, it’s worth noting that Harrison Ford, once notorious for sleepwalking through roles in his later years, has given two of his finest performances delivering requiems to his iconic roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Blade Runner 2049. To say that he’s guaranteed to deliver, or that the public would even be willing to accept, a final meditation on his archetypical American hero would be a tad presumptuous. But if anyone could deliver such a profound and heartfelt final film, Spielberg could.
6 FRANK CASTLE/THE PUNISHER
The Punisher is one of the more fascinating characters in Marvel’s history, less due to his personality and more due to perception. Beginning as an antagonist to Spider-Man, and later an anti-hero, the character has been misinterpreted, co-opted and fetishized over the years. His trajectory was similar to that of his silver-screen analog Rambo; originally an example of the scars America’s overzealous war industry left on the pawns in their game, the character’s merciless ammunition-enforced masculinity was later held up as a beacon of patriotic duty, slaying perceived enemies of the state and the “low life criminals” for President Reagan and the American Way. By 1991, when the rug of “Morning in America” became too unwieldy to have anything else swept under it, The Punisher had, in sincerity, become the character Alan Moore had satirically crafted with The Comedian in 1986’s Watchmen.
People have tried to tackle the flawed-hero/fascistic-fanatic dichotomy of Frank Castle to varying degrees of success. Lexi Alexander used the character to criticize the George W. Bush-era military-industrial complex in Punisher: War Zone, and Garth Ennis drew critical praise for his haunted anti-hero in the pages of The Punisher MAX. With Jon Bernthal brilliantly portraying the character on Netflix, and the national discourse around gun violence, the treatment of veterans and a wave of aggrieved Americans entertaining the idea that they, too, are a one-man army, it’s time that Frank Castle's flawed patriotic hero be re-examined.
Though the day-walking vampire hunter has existed in Marvel comics since 1973, there’s no way anyone thinks of Blade in any other way than Wesley Snipes, adorned in all black, wandering through a vampire nightclub set to “1/2 & ½” by Gang Starr and M.O.P. After the Blade trilogy ended on a disappointment, and the television series failed to garner any noteworthy numbers, the character has lain dormant. There have been the occasional grumblings that Blade could come back, even with Snipes in the role, playing a Whistler-like mentor to a new vampire hunter.
A new Blade movie doesn't have to be a simple franchise-starter.
It could also serve as an opportunity to examine a subgenre that has pervaded cinema since the earliest days: vampire films. Nosferatu, an attempt to make a Dracula movie without securing the rights, is one of the earliest horror films, and Universal’s Dracula in 1931 helped form one of the first cinematic universes. By the time Blade hit the page in 1973, vampires had found their way in exploitation films like the martial arts cult-classic The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula and the infamous Blacula, and 1998’s Blade hit screens in a post-Interview With A Vampire, post-Buffy The Vampire Slayer landscape of romantic, sympathetic vampires. A new Blade film could use the character to reflect this rich legacy, especially in the light of recent additions to the history like Let The Right One In, Only Lovers Left Alive and yes, even Twilight.
4 LARA CROFT
A blend of Indiana Jones, James Bond and Tank Girl, the cultural impact of Lara Croft when she first appeared in 1996 could even be felt by those who had never held a controller. She was hailed as a feminist icon, a new step forward in the depiction of strong women in a medium often dismissive or downright hostile to them, and immediately became one of the most recognizable collections of polygons in pop culture.
Of course, Crystal Dynamics’ recent successful reboot of the game franchise and Warner Bros. less-successful cinematic reboot suggest a desire to rejuvenate the character and reintroduce her to a new audience that holds up Nathan Drake as its #1 adventurer. However, it would be fascinating for some medium to really examine Lara’s place in pop culture, how she was simultaneously seen as a breakthrough figure and objectified worse than practically any other pop culture figure of her era (for the young folks out there, there was an actual uproar when Angelina Jolie was cast as Croft in the first two films.) Add in the element of a British character who gleefully raids foreign nations as portions of Britain reconcile with (or adamantly stand by) their viciously imperialist past, and you’ll see there’s a lot more to do with Lara Croft than simply having her dangle from cliffs.
3 TONY STARK/IRON MAN
There’s an argument to be made that Tony Stark already received the Logan treatment in Shane Black’s brilliant but divisive character study Iron Man 3. However, that was before Avengers: Age of Ultron. That was before Captain America: Civil War. That was before his surrogate son died screaming in his arms, knowing he couldn’t help, knowing he led this boy and all those like him to their death through his hubris, his recklessness and his self-righteousness. Quite frankly, the argument for Stark receiving the Logan treatment is made in that single shot from Avengers: Infinity War where a haunted Tony, hands pressed to his face, comes to grips with the horrors he witnessed on the surface of Titan.
If Tony Stark survives Avengers 4, he'll have to do some more soul-searching.
As a penitent, broken man, Stark will have to fight a battle that no metal suit nor team of super-friends can help with, one with the demons inside himself. Indeed, this would give Marvel the opportunity to finally tackle arguably the most iconic story in Iron Man history, and one that has retained its power and potency when so many other “special issue” story arcs have fallen into irrelevance: Demon in a Bottle. To show that even the definitive hero of the most recent decade could fall prey to addiction and self-doubt would be a powerful statement to make in these dark times.
2 ELLEN RIPLEY
Ridley Scott introduced the world to Ellen Ripley and showed even the stodgiest sci-fi fan that women could be action heroes. James Cameron reinforced that with Aliens. Alien 3 proved that a woman could… shave her head, and Alien: Resurrection…had clones. The point is, the Alien franchise seriously dropped the ball on Ripley after the second film, and as Ridley’s return to the Alien franchise with the “Blade Runner With Michael Fassbender As A Homicidal Robot And Sure Fine We’ll Through In Some Aliens If It Will Make You Fools Happy” series (better known as Prometheus and Alien: Covenant) has shown, we’ve all come to accept that Ellen Ripley is essential to the series.
Unlike some iconic actors who seem to lose their magic over time, or simply lose interest in trying (Al Pacino’s best role in the last 15 years was Jack & Jill), Sigourney Weaver is still turning in stellar work in projects like Cabin in the Woods and Marvel’s The Defenders. And even though James Cameron keeps threatening us with more and more Avatar sequels to pull Sigourney away for decades, we want to believe there’s still a chance a fierce but world-weary Ripley could once more stare down the creature that has come to define her later years one last time.
1 PETER PARKER/SPIDER-MAN
Not only is Spider-Man Marvel’s most iconic character, and a mask-wearing vigilante even the most averse to superhero cinema know, but his impact on contemporary pop-culture is undeniable, as it was his 2002 film debut that saw the fuse lit by Blade and X-Men reach the powder keg and explode, giving us the modern superhero boom we see today. The character was inescapable, especially in New York, a city in need of symbols of hope in the early 2000s.
Spider-Man's as iconic as Wolverine in the modern cultural landscape.
With Spider-Man on par with Wolverine in terms of iconography within the contemporary American cultural landscape, he’s easily the best candidate for a Logan-esque story. Some might think that, since the newest incarnation of the character is (finally) a teenager, Marvel wouldn’t want to jump ahead to an “old man” Peter, but they wouldn’t have to. Logan worked because it got to the heart of the character and used it to explore something fundamentally true about the world. Indeed, Peter Parker is poised for the same level of exploration in the aftermath of Avengers 4: Not an old man resigned to the world around him, but rather, like many Americans in recent decades, Peter will be forced to cope with growing up believing in one world, one “way things are” only to have it all radically ripped away from him the moment he’s thrust into adulthood. Giving Peter the Logan treatment would mean putting that famous resilience to the test, and making the audience confront their own struggles, their own flaws and the hardships they’ve caused others.