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5 More Chances For DC To Get It Right

When I asked, a couple of weeks ago, what Warners could replace the Harry Potter franchise with, I was fairly dismissive about DC Entertainment’s chances for coming up with something to fill multiplexes and offer the same kind of crossover appeal as the boy wizard. And then I realized that I was thinking way, way too narrowly.

What changed my mind was listening to former DC staffer and creator Martin Pasko talking about the “three ring-binders” full of files on every single DC character he used to maintain, just in case anyone wanted to license any DC project for development in television and movies. Just the mention of Ron Raymond, TV Detective as a potential DC movie to cash-in on the success of LA Confidential got me thinking: Maybe DC should try and build a franchise out of something other than superheroes. After all, they’re a publisher that’s been around for more than 75 years, and they own almost all of the intellectual property that they’ve put out, so what else could hit the sweet spot of mass-market success?

Shade, The Changing Man
The idea of an alien trying to assimilate into American culture is an extremely potent one in media, which is why a (probably more mainstreamed) take on Peter Milligan’s revival of Steve Ditko’s character – which places the emphasis very much on a dissection of American culture, with a side order of alienation (literally) and doomed, overwhelming romance – feels as if it could be something that, if done well – would appeal to a lot of people, and provide enough material for at least a trilogy. Who doesn’t want to see the dynamics of Twilight reconfigured for an adult audience wanting the off-kilter pleasures of True Blood, but with less vampires?

The Creeper
Staying with Steve Ditko creations, there’s something appealing about the mix of genres in his reporter-cum-crimefighter character. Like Spider-Man, but somehow weirder, there’s a lot of material to play with here, especially for producers wishing to take things further than they’d originally been set up to be: Take more of a hard crime angle with the mundanity of Jack Ryder’s reporter side, and more of a Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect to the transformation into the Creeper (Oddly enough, Steven Moffat’s Jekyll TV show reminded me strongly of Ditko’s Creeper for some reason), and you have the potential for a buddy movie or TV show with only one lead.

The Fourth World
It doesn’t get more epic than Jack Kirby’s unfinished grand opus about a new mythology of beings rooted in modern concerns about war, destruction, and individual identity. If treated with respect – but not the slavish devotion of Watchmen or Green Lantern – movies based on Kirby’s work (including The Hunger Dogs, which brings not only an ending to the story, but also a dramatic weight to what’s come before that is necessary, I think) could easily provide Warners with a Star Wars or Lord of The Rings of their very own. But, of course, if done badly then you have another Masters of The Universe, and no-one wants that.

Potentially the holy grail of potential comic book movies, especially now that Watchmen has been done, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman offers the rich scope and strong story of Rowling’s Potter (but with enough differences that it stands apart from any potential allegations of copycat syndrome) and enough critical plaudits for its initial run that any adaptation would have buzz from the very first announcement. Plus, with its relatively short run, each of the major storylines could get a book of their own, marking a fully-fledged franchise waiting to happen. No wonder Warners has been trying to make this happen for years.

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld
Weirdly enough, though, this little-remembered series from the 1980s feels like it offers the best chance to fill Potter‘s shoes: Teen hero brought from the real world into a fantastic, magic-filled reality fits the demands of the audience abandoned by the end of Harry’s journey, but as with Sandman, there are enough differences to prevent it from being accused of being a rip-off (plus, of course, Amethyst came first by more than a decade). More importantly, perhaps, there isn’t such a cult following for the series as there is for Sandman, giving any potential filmmakers the freedom to change and update the concept as they see fit, ensuring – ideally – the best film possible. (Plus, there’s a female hero: Another chance for Amanda Seyfried to try and prove that she can carry a movie all by herself.)


  • the 4th survivor

    They should make a movie about Dumbledore and Grindelwald. 

  • Rob

    What about “Tailgunner Jo?” I don’t know that they could squeeze three (or even two) movies out of it, but it has interesting characters in a strange story, which could draw audiences in much the same way that “Sucker Punch” did.

  • Jffphllps86

    I don’t think you understand the concept of “crossover appeal”. The characters and concepts listed above would have very little chance of being successful in the mainstream. Making movies is an incredible financial risk and studios arent gonna invest in characters that no one has ever heard of. I know as comic book fan it would be great to see this stuff on the big screen. But it just ain’t going to happen.

  • Stephen

    Given the current crop of RLSH’s out there, ‘Mazing Man doesn’t seem like much of a stretch anymore.

  • Steve Barbe

    Along the lines of Amethyst, I think that you can make a case for a Warlord (Skartaris) franchise.  This could work really well as an Indiana Jones style pulp movie with the hollow earth thing, magic and supernatural creatures, etc.  Perhaps if Princess of Mars does well, this would get optioned.

  • Mulligan-d

    DC should just do JLA movies. Origin stories have become so trite, and besides, with the exception of Superman and Batman (and everyone knows their origins off by heart anyway), the DC heroes origin stories are essentially superfluous. It’s one of the things that separates DC from Marvel. A few JLA movies, with a suitably epic scope (I’m of the opinion that a trilogy based off of Final Crisis could be the greatest thing ever) would get asses in the seats.

  • Darksnide!

    I think if they did it just right, Shazam would be a cool replacement franchise for Harry Potter. Look at the things they have in common: Magically empowered kid, wizard that acts as mentor, evil villains the heroes are afraid of yet set out to battle. Also is the factor of child empowerment to consider. One of the main reasons why back in the 1940s and onward that Shazam was so popular to kids was that idea of wish fulfillment. Children are essentially the powerless and tend to gravitate toward characters with vast powers and abilities. Shazam had the idea of a kid just uttering a magic word…SHAZAM!…and suddenly they were a fully grown adult hero with the strength, speed, agility, wisdom, etc, of the Greek Gods.
    I’d pick someone like the writer(s) of the Harry Potter films and even it’s director David Yates to do a Shazam film. Amethyst (to me) has always seemed like a little girl’s fairy tale fulfillment in much the vein that Shazam is a wish/power fulfillment for little boys. On the slant of a modern magical fairytale, Amethyst could possibly work. 

    Love the idea of Jack Kirby’s Fourth Worlds brought to the screen. I like the idea of doing it in a Lord Of The Rings way, but I’ve also always thought of The New Gods as DC Comics’ answer to Frank Herbert’s Dune, to be quite honest. The New Gods would be the story I’d focus on for the big screen and possible sequels. Or as a sci-fi series.

    Sandman, I think would work better as a tv series on HBO or Showtime. Doing it on network television would possibly dilute it too much. There’s so much in the way of mature themes and subtext that could get lost if it were to go to CW.

  • @zombieundergrnd

    Amethyst should at worst be a cartoon on Cartoon Network with a line of toys to go with it. Get with the program Warner Brothers.

    Another good possibility for a TV show would be House of Mystery with Cain and Abel.

  • Darksnide!

    I can see what you’re saying there. But to be honest something doesn’t have to be all that well known to succeed. Look at the first Blade movie. When that one came out and did huge box-office hardly anyone that went to see it didn’t even know it was first a Marvel Comics property.

  • Seamuskeaneart

    They need to stop thinking trilogy and start doins some done in one movies. So sandman is out, Shade is too weird for mainstream success. I’d love Grant Morrisons Animal Man but again its too weird for mainstream. I think a Martian Manhunter movie would work, if you make him the Detective.

  • guest

    Shade would make an amazing movie. 

  • Jayz

    Something doesn’t have to already be well known to become a hit, that’s true. But all those properties listed are way too niche and geeky. DC should be creating new properties that do have mass market appeal. Why shouldn’t the next Harry Potter or Twilight appear in comic book form, instead of as a series of prose novels?

  • Foswell

    The Fourth World should be done as a 3D animated movie in a Kirbyish style (by someone like Dreamworks), not as live action.  For a live action film (particularly if you’re trying to fill the gap left by the end of the Harry Potter series) they should do the Demon.  And in fact, Neil Gaiman mentioned in an interview once that he had been in discussions with Guillermo del Toro to collaborate on a Demon movie, with Gaiman writing the script and del Toro directing.  I’d like to know what became of that, because I think that would have been pretty awesome.  And while we’re on the subject of Kirby’s DC properties, I’d still love to see a Kamandi cartoon from Warner Bros. Animation — and I’ll bet a lot of other people would too.

  • Matthew Lane

    none of those have much in the way of appeal, or marketability. An yet no ones mentioned a Legion of Super-Heroes live action movie. Do a founding story, the first meeting of the Trinity & the rescue & the inevitable founding of the legion of superheroes, while there is a bigger story behind the attack which is revealed during the movie.

    Not only is it a property that DC hasn’t over saturated the market with, it has marketablity, cross genre appeal (for both old school fanboys, reboot fan boys, threeboot fanboys & the kids who loved the cartoon) & has bookoo merchandising options… toys, legion flight rings, costumes, back packs, Happy Meal Toys.

    Oh well, suppose i’ll just wait for the Marvel Runaways movie instead.

  • Anonymous

    As opposed to Roy Raymond?
    Amethyst has been on the top of my list of things that should be made into a kids’ franchise for years. From its original run, it was tailor-made for a toy line. Indeed, Amethyst was one of the characters in the addlepated girls action figure line, Wonder Woman and the Star Riders, long with Dolphin and Ice. They were all but unrecognizable, but they were there.
    I’ve also been crowing about going forward with Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew – I know already that my kid fell in love with them as soon as she found my copies of the original books.  The Omnibus that never happened was one of the disappointments of that year.  The Just’a Lotta Animals was originally designed for a cartoon series, but it never came off, so the concept turned into Captain Carrot and the JLA appeared in a brilliant takeoff of the REarth-One and Two stories.
    Over on the old Newsarama boards, some guy came up with a GREAT concept for Martian Manhunter, playing him as they did in the early stories, posing as human, similar in idea to Nick Knight.  It was inspired.
    A lot of folks have been saying Books of Magic deserv a chance, but the fact that most people don’t know they tried it speaks volumes.

  • DoubleWide

    How about a 2-D animated film for Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew?

    As for TV, an obscure character from the old First Issue Special series called “Lady Cop.” As a child her family was brutally murdered, she survived by hiding under her (?) bed. The only thing she remembered is that the killer wore a fancy pair of shoes with an ace of spades symbol on them. She grew up to be police officer but the murder still haunts her.

    And, just because I love the concept, “Rose and Thorn.”

  • Darksnide!

    I understand that, but aren’t you kind of sidestepping the entire issue of this article? Nothing says the next Harry Potter or Twilight can’t appear in comic book form. But that’s not the issue at hand here. The issue posed by this article’s writer is what DC properties could be good adaptations to the screen. Besides, what’s geeky and niche to you may not be as geeky or niche to someone else. It tends to be rather subjective to the material used. Aside from those listed above, DC HAS done many other properties not even named here.

  • Darksnide!

    And my reply on characters don’t have to be all that well known to succeed was a reply toward who I was replying to, not specifically on this overall article. Just that person’s comment and meant with all due respect. Don’t take my name of DarkSNIDE all too literally. LOL! Cheers! ;)

  • Darksnide!


    ……Okay…..I’ll stop yelling now. ;)

  • Darksnide!

    I’d be all for a 2D animated Captain Carrot too! I like the idea of a cgi movie, but love 2D animation so much I’d more than welcome a 2D version.

  • The Hero Business

    I’ve been beating that Amethyst drumb for awhile now. See:

    I also think “Dial H For Hero” could be a great mystery-adventure series, using Chris King and Vicki Grant finding the dials. Could be live action or a cartoon.

  • Jason Tippitt

    Nathaniel Dusk, Private Investigator. It would exist in the shadowland between BOARDWALK EMPIRE and MAD MEN.

  • Evil_s2003


  • Kevin M. Brettauer

    Chronos, anyone?

  • kalorama

    I’ve long thought the Demon (Etrigan), Question (Vic Sage), and Adam Strange all had good film potential.

  • Hugo Sleestak

    I would push for Ditko’s original vision of Shade the Changing Man: a superhero whose basic power is putting bad guys on a really horrific acid trip! Plus, you’ve got the back story of an alien hunted across the dimensions by his former girlfriend for crimes that her “comatose”mother, Darth Momma, committed. I’ve always loved that concept.

  • Bigfgee

    How about ‘Challengers of the Unknown?’

  • Daryll B.

    The only with this is I guarantee some clueless exec will say: “This sounds like a ripoff of Ben 10..”. And that will cause all sorts of geekrage!

  • Daryll B.

    whoops….that was supposed to say “the only problem’….sorry

  • Kronos

    The Worst Witch

  • demoncat_4

    always though shade and the creeper would work as a tv show .fourth world the live action motu movie was suppose to be a fourth world film but the producers could not get the rights. sandman has been tried by almost every studio and no results as film for Neil has stated if sandman can not be done right as a film he doesn’t want sandman done though now dc is looking at sandman as a tv show. ameyst  sadly is too obscure to suceed as a film.

  • FloydBDaGr8

    Some good ideas here. I don’t know if Shade will be able to keep it’s core appeal if it’s altered to fit the taste of a mainstream audience. Without it’s more controversial elements it’s just another fish out of water protagonist story. I would love to see an attempt at Sandman and many of best Vertigo works, specifically Hellblazer. But I fear they’d have to be too toned/dumbed down to get the go ahead. I think now that HBO’s less gun shy they should make another run at adapting Preacher. Timothy Olyphant IS Jesse Custer and after seeing what they’ve done with Game of Thrones I’m sure they can pull off the much more budget friendly Preacher. 

  • Mrmister

    6 DC Properties and where they should use them

    Film: Adam Strange

    Animation: Flash ( Wally West). Done in DCAU Bruce Timm style.

    Novels: Alfred Pennysworth ( Chronicling his life and times prior to becoming Waynes butler.)

    Video Games: Suicde Squad ( Halo style)

    Podcast Plays: Starman/ JSA

    TV: Hellblazer

  • Martingray1

    Amethyst and Nathaniel Dusk would be great. I’d also love a Night Force TV show and an Arak film.

  • Jason

    Somewhere, Tim Hunter is reading this and getting pissed off. “Hello?!? I predate that Potter wanker! And I never got a full-ride scholarship to a witches ‘n’ wizards boarding school! That Potter brat wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds in my book! Crap, he probably would’ve hung himself two days after meeting Molly!!”

    I don’t really remember Molly, save for her being a handful. I just wanted to express how mad Tim feels.

  • Rob

    Honestly, Shazam would make a great film.  Take a look at the way he was handled in that 1 episode of Justice league Unlimited he showed up in.  That was perfect.  You knew he was really a 10 year old kid (or thereabouts) and as Captain Marvel he really did act like a 10 year old would if he had those abilities.  The trust, the optimism, etc.  That’s the hook and that’s what makes Captain Marvel different from other super heroes.  If done right, and with respect like Bruce Timm and his team have done, it could be great.  Actually, why not let Bruce and his team right the script for it.

  • J.R. LeMar

    Agreed. SHAZAM is a potentially huge film franchise. Although it would probably work best as an animated TV series.

  • Philip A Moore

    why wasn’t unwritten mentioned it would be a fun movie is done write even if it is basicly harry potter as and adult with a more literary take . I know this has nothting to do with harry potter or kids frachise but I would love to see holly would do anadaptaion of Cender and Ashe easily the best book I ever got from a quater box it reads like both a well told book and a fantastic movie only its as comic

  • Ian33407

    I dream about a SHADE movie by Damon Packard (if you ever saw “Reflections of Evil” you’ll see my point, if no Google it dude) and THE CREEPER by Shinya Tsukamoto..

    Adam Strange and Challengers of course have potential, as Jonah Hex before it was ruined, but c’mon, no Kamandi ?

  • Anonymous

    no Preacher? seriously? :o

  • Anonymous

    Most of these would work better as tv shows.
    not really sure about the creeper tho.

  • Seamuskeaneart

    they did Books of Magic, but they called it Harry Potter!! Hahahahahaha. Yeah I mentioned Martian Manhunter above myself,.definate potential. Just make him like Darwyn Cooke did in New Frontier. Classic.

  • Sijo

     Amethyst would work as an animated series, it has both Young Female and Fantasy Fan appeal; do it “Anime” style to draw in Magical Girls fans too.

    I second doing the Fourth World as a series of CGI movies.

    Sandman would have to be an HBO miniseries.

    Rose & The Thorn could work as a live action mystery, with a woman investigating her father’s death while the mob is attacked by a sadistic female crimefighter. The mystery would not so much be that they are (unknowingly) the same person, but rather how that happened. Probably HBO material too.

    And Shazam would make a great live action movie. Think (classic) Superman Movie meets “Big”.

  • Anonymous

    Just do Tim Hunter as a more adult version of Harry Potter if you want to go down that road. I still really hope we get a Gotham Central TV show, it seems so blindingly obvious an idea for an adaptation. Plus Vertigo had numerous other examples, a Lucifer film would be oh so awesome.

    Also WB have made a couple of bad films, but their properties, including superheroes, are no worse or better than Marvel’s, it comes down to, you know, actually making a decent film that works for that specific character.

  • Anonymous

    “Sucker Punch?”  Are you referring to that Zack Snyder film from earlier this year?  THAT “Sucker Punch”?

    “Draw audiences?”  Are you REALLY referring to a film which took in less than $40 million at the US box office?  At a LOW-END ticket price average of $7, that’s an audience of less than 6 million people (in a country with at least 280 million people over the age of 16).

    Even taken on a worldwide basis, the film has netted a mere 8.5% profit–(worldwide box office) minus (estimated production budget) divided by (est prod budget).  And the advertising budget is typically NOT factored in with the est prod budget.  (And sales of the basic DVD are currently estimated at a bit over $7 million after 3 weeks of release–meaning the film has *possibly* started making a REAL profit.)

  • Lady’sMan217

    Sandman could be epic. Do it. Do it right.

  • Boyblunder

    The flash, superman, batman, green lantern, wonder woman, captain marvel, aqua man, hawk man, green arrow, Martian manhunter……there’s ten……some have been great, some have been bad, some haven’t even been made…..but they a llllll have potential to be great. People don’t get the green lantern didn’t fail, the green lantern movie did, cus it was not a good movie…ironman succeeded because it was a good movie. It’s that simple.

  • Banson

    That’s not true at all. The studios just invested in Cowboys & Aliens, and that wasn’t a well known comic. Plus, there are original concept movies that have characters that no one has ever heard of because they were just created. 

  • Todd Matthy

    If DC does Shazam with the Rock as Captain Marvel, they will be printing money. I cannot think of a project I’d green light quicker.

  • Leo_darkheart03

    The Rock? Dwayne Johnson? Seriously? I couldn’t think of a worse looking actor for the role. Sure and have Shia Labuff as Billy Batson. Wait he’s too old for that now…