25 DC characters we really want to see in the DCU
At the end of January, after months of speculation, new DC Studios heads James Gunn and Peter Safran finally announced the ambitious first phase of their new DC film and TV slate. Officially titled Chapter One: “Gods And Monsters,” it’s a massive list of projects, including everything from a new Superman film to a Creature Commandos series, and many other things in between.
Obviously, we don’t yet know the full breadth of each of these stories, but with every new incarnation of DC live-action comes the chance to integrate more heroes, villains, and antiheroes into the fold. With that in mind, here are 25 characters who’ve never made a big-screen impact that could fit right in as part of Gunn’s brave new cinematic world of DC.
"Weird Al" Yankovic's most essential songs: 25 stinging satires that still endure
Animal Man has one of the most fascinating and visually interesting superhero power sets in DC Comics. His gifts allow him to basically take on the abilities of any animal he wants for a limited period of time, from the flight of an eagle to the strength of a bear to the speed of a cheetah. Visually, it’s a great hook for a character, it makes stories more fun and improvisational, and thanks to writers like Grant Morrison and Jeff Lemire, we know he can fit perfectly in everything from magical realism to horror.
Introduced in the late 1990s and eventually integrated into writer Grant Morrison’s blockbuster time on JLA, Aztek “The Ultimate Man” was conceived as the champion of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, a man tailor-made by a secretive organization to be humanity’s last line of defense in a battle between ancient gods. Of course, his backstory turned out to be a bit more complicated than that, but Aztek’s blend of magic and science, and his devotion to his cause, made him an intriguing character from the beginning. He could inject some interesting diversity into future Justice League lineups on the big screen, and the right actor could make a meal of him.
The Batman Who Laughs
“What if Batman and the Joker were the same person?” sounds like a one-off gag that would pop up in an Elseworlds story, but after The Batman Who Laughs was introduced as a key villain in the Dark Nights: Metal event, he quickly rose in stature to become one of the most terrifying figures in the DC universe. If Gunn and Safran want to move into all-out horror territory, look no further than this guy for a great Big Bad.
One of the greatest female heroes in the history of DC Comics, Big Barda was created by Jack Kirby as part of his Fourth World universe, and any attempt to build that world and those characters into a big-screen DCU would have to include her. She’s big, she’s strong, she’s determined, and she has a sense of humor that helps her stay hopeful and powerful in a universe dominated by Darkseid. Even if the Fourth World doesn’t materialize right away, having Barda around on Earth would be a welcome way to shake up a new film universe.
Yes, his name might sound like a bad Batman pun, but there’s more to Catman than his gimmick might suggest. In the hands of writer Gail Simone, the character became a vengeance-driven, clever villain with an eye toward some heroism as a member of the Secret Six, and he’d be a welcome foil to quite a few DCU heroes if given the chance.
James Gunn knows the power of infusing the weird into a superhero universe, and if he wants to get really odd with the new DCU, introducing the Creeper might be the way to go. Created by Spider-Man legend Steve Ditko, the Creeper is a former talk show host turned private investigator, who gains the ability to transform into a yellow, green-haired weirdo who runs around the city in underwear, fighting crime while laughing maniacally. He is deeply strange, and in the right hands, he could be a compelling supporting player in a movie universe.
Speaking of infusing the weird, there’s Detective Chimp, who is … pretty much exactly what his name implies. He’s a chimp who’s also a detective, but recent appearances in DC Comics have infused the character with much more depth than his name implies. He’s even become a member of the Justice League Dark, which means a movie version of that team could be made more interesting by adding him to the fold.
Jessica Cruz (Green Lantern)
A modern Green Lantern addition who’s worthy of inclusion in the new Lanterns series and beyond, Jessica Cruz arrives at her superhero status through a very fascinating confluence of events. Her original power ring is actually from an alternate universe, and she has to endure intense physical and psychological trauma before she can master it. That alone sets Cruz apart from her fellow Lanterns, and the ways she’s forced to prove herself in order to become a full-fledged Green Lantern could make a great standalone superhero journey.
Etrigan The Demon
Another legendary Jack Kirby creation, Etrigan the Demon has the versatility to fit into horror, fantasy, or straightforward superhero stories, depending on the storyteller and the supporting cast. A demon bound to a human soul who speaks in rhymes and makes bargains with superheroes, he’s a wonderful agent of chaos who could be either terrifying or simply fascinating, depending on where he shows up in the movies.
Created as part of writer James Tynion IV’s fantastic Batman run, Ghost-Maker is the mysterious, wealthy vigilante who trained alongside Bruce Wayne throughout his youth, matching him step for step until each man took a different path. When he shows up in Gotham City, the rivalry resumes, and Ghost-Maker makes a name for himself as one of the city’s most fascinating antiheroes. If the Batman Family really is set to keep expanding in the new DCU, don’t count out what Ghost-Maker can bring to the table.
We’ve already had the massive starfish alien known as Starro in a DC movie, along with his many little star-shaped minions, but Jarro is something else entirely. A Starro alien that’s been captured by Batman and essentially groomed to be a good guy, Jarro (so named because he lives in a jar) is both a hilarious sidekick and a surprisingly effective fighter, and sometimes he even dresses up as Robin. He might not get his own movie, but it would be a blast to see him onscreen.
Kite Man is doing just fine in the world of animation thanks to Harley Quinn, but the famously unlucky supervillain could do just as well in the right hands if he made the leap to live-action. As writer Tom King laid out in his Batman run, Kite Man is more than a weird gimmick and a silly catchphrase. There’s depth there, and a Kite Man story in the vein of Peacemaker could dig it up.
Knight And Squire
America has Batman and Robin, but Britain has Knight and Squire. Introduced as the primary defender of the U.K., the superhero vigilante known as Knight and his trusty sidekick The Squire have been through a few different iterations over the years, but writer Grant Morrison’s expansion of their roles through stories like Batman Incorporated have ensured they’ve got a place on the global DC Comics stage. If the DCU ever wants to get just a little more British, this is exactly where to turn for stories both serious and silly.
Introduced as the World’s Greatest Escape Artist, Mister Miracle became an integral part of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga, then went on to become an essential part of Justice League International in the 1980s. Since then, he’s been able to shift from pure adventure stories to darker tales of mental health struggles and beyond, making him an adaptable character for the DCU onscreen. Plus, Mister Miracle and Big Barda remain, with apologies to Superman and Lois Lane, the greatest love story in DC Comics.
One of the greatest Superman villains never adapted to live-action, Mongul’s daughter Mongal made it to The Suicide Squad, and now it’s time for her father to get his own blockbuster spotlight. The master of the dystopian battle society known as Warworld, Mongul is capable of overwhelming Superman physically, but he’s just as capable of breaking the Man of Steel’s spirit through his sheer cruelty and devotion to combat above all else. He’s fascinating, scary, and a great excuse for an adventure on another planet.
Sojourner Mullein (Green Lantern)
The upcoming Lanterns series is set to introduce several major Green Lantern players into the DCU, including John Stewart, but if Gunn and company are looking for more recent key players, they should definitely remember Jo Mullein. A Green Lantern from Earth who’s assigned to a faraway sector in deep space, she’s a great detective and a great diplomat, and would complement Stewart perfectly if they ever teamed up.
Jack Kirby was fascinated with alternate looks at potential DC Comics futures, and one of his imaginings eventually led to OMAC, the One Man Army Corps, a super soldier who’s a corporate drone by day, but transforms into the hero of the future when necessary. The concept has since been expanded by several different writers into a much bigger sci-fi universe, and while it’s been hinted at in live-action, it’s never been fully realized there. The time might be coming soon when that changes.
Yet another Jack Kirby New Gods creation, Orion was born the son of the ultimate evil, Darkseid, but was traded to the benevolent leaders of New Genesis as a baby as part of a pact that was meant to ensure peace. That peace obviously didn’t happen, leaving Orion as New Genesis’ greatest warrior in the fight against Darkseid, his own father. That alone is a fascinating setup for the character, and his warrior nature has made him both a great teammate and a difficult collaborator throughout DC Comics history.
One of DC’s stranger superheroes, Plastic Man generally emerges in comedic scenarios, though that doesn’t stop him from taking part in major crossover events. Beyond the comical exterior, though, there’s a backstory here involving a ring of thieves, a job gone wrong, and a man moved by kindness to turn his life around. That classic setup, combined with Plastic Man’s seemingly endless visual dynamism, would make him a welcome addition to the odd side of the DCU.
While one Question, Renee Montoya, has appeared in live-action before, we have yet to see the classic blank Question man and fedora emerge, so the original detective character still hasn’t been given a movie or TV spotlight. That’s worth changing, because The Question’s presence as a detective working outside the realm of traditional law, obsessed with conspiracies and determined to carry out his or her own version of justice, could be a great counterweight to other street-level DC characters like Batman.
Though several characters have carried the Rag Doll moniker over the years, we’re referring specifically here to Peter Merkel Jr., introduced in 2005 as a member of the Secret Six. With a backstory that features surgery to augment his body in order to please his supervillain father, a great androgynous appearance, and a power set that makes him as creepy as he is endearing, he’s a character who could work as a hero, a villain, or someone lurking in between.
We’ve talked a lot about the Secret Six on this list, because they’re a fascinating antihero team with a role that could set them apart in many ways from other groups like the Suicide Squad. But the team isn’t complete without Scandal Savage, daughter of the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage. Her relationship to her dangerous father makes her interesting, but her relationship with her teammates and her own brutality makes her truly great.
Solaris the Tyrant Sun
Exactly what its name suggests, Solaris is a sentient, artificial sun who turns evil sometime in the future of the DC Universe. It first popped up in Grant Morrison’s DC One Million crossover event, and became a fascinating enemy for the Justice League, and for Superman in particular, since his powers are derived from the yellow sun of Earth. He hasn’t been used much, but if you want an unconventional Big Bad for the Justice League to battle in a future epic, Solaris might be exactly what you’re after.
Starman (Jack Knight)
Though other characters using the Starman name have appeared in live-action, we have yet to see Jack Knight make that leap, and that’s a shame, because he’s the most interesting Starman of them all. An antique dealer who has a complicated relationship with his superhero father, Jack is forced into the role of the new Starman when his brother David dies on the job, but of course he has to do it all his way. His incredible 1990s series Starman lays out how that all works, and would make an incredible HBO series in the right hands.
One of the most influential black superheroes of all time, the electricity-powered icon known as Static famously starred in his own animated series back in the 2000s. There’s been a lot of talk about bringing the character to live-action over at DC, and while it has yet to materialize, a new DCU seeking young heroes with their own distinct styles could be the perfect place to finally make it happen.
More from The A.V. Club
Sign up for The A.V. Club's Newsletter. For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.