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If Guillermo del Toro’s Dark Universe really does herald a spate of DC movies that draw from characters connected to the superhero universe without being straight-up superhero movies, then why stop with the one-time Vertigo/Justice League Dark characters? Here are five more possibilities for Warners and DC Entertainment to consider.
There came a time when the Old Gods died, as the opening to Jack Kirby’s visionary, sprawling (and unfinished) epic went. Often misunderstood and mischaracterized in the comics as essentially another group of alien superheroes, Kirby’s Fourth World saga has enough parallels with the original Star Wars movies to have obvious potential as a cinematic space opera waiting to happen. Even better, by adopting Kirby’s conceit that the one thing that the series’ major villain Darkseid is seeking is contained within the minds of humanity, it becomes Star Wars on Earth. If ever there was a high concept just waiting for the right people to bring it to life…!
Another Kirby concept, and another science fiction tale that feels as if it would fit into today’s pop culture even better than it did in its 1970s heyday: OMAC is, at its heart, a tale of technology being abused in all manner of ways and the one abuse of technology – A man transformed without his knowledge or consent into a superhuman soldier obedient to the faceless Global Peace Agency – created to try and bring everyone else in line. Imagine Iron Man by way of Philip K. Dick, and you have the bones of OMAC – and, surely, something that would strike a chord in the hearts and minds of today’s audience.
Challengers of The Unknown
A perfect concept – Four men who survive an accident that should have killed them set out to dedicate their lives to the unknowable and un-doable – that is just waiting for the right cast to become an action movie franchise. Picture a team of Indiana Jones-es, but ones who exist in a world even more hyper-real world than Spielberg and Lucas’ creation, offering the possibility of even more outrageous adventures – and, of course, because it’s a team, there’s also the chance to cycle out characters if the actors decide that they want to take a break, and still keep the whole thing going. Everyone wins – If, by “everyone,” you mean “the studio.”
Another group, although this hook is somewhat weaker than the Challengers in someway; there’s no superhuman or supernatural element to the Blackhawks, but they almost don’t need one: They’re an international team of flying aces formed during WWII to fight the Nazis in the air. That’s pretty much all you need in terms of central concept in order to build a team around, but I’d be interested to see what producers could do if they followed the post-WWII set-up that surfaced in the 1980s, where the team essentially became adventurers for hire as the world was struggling to rebuild itself post-war. Who wouldn’t want to see a period piece about the rebuilding of society complete with intrigue and aerial fights?Add in a romance subplot and it’ll be Downton Abbey Plus.
…Okay, I’ll admit that Wonder Woman is as super-hero-y as it gets… But here’s the thing: It really doesn’t have to be. The core parts of the story are essentially fantasy and magical realism, and if you cut out any crime fighting and keep the story to one of Diana being raised on Paradise Island and then leaving it when she discovers the rest of the world, there’s a clear throughline for a movie to hang itself on… especially if you play up the Amazon world that she left. Re-positioning Wonder Woman as fantasy rather than superhero is something that may not please the purists, but it may allow moviemakers to finally get a handle on the character, something that has apparently escaped them so far. How long do we have to wait, dammit…?
I’m curious, now: What other DC Comics series should be made into movies that don’t feature superheroes centrally, but take place in the same shared universe as Superman, Batman, et al? Leave suggestions in the comments for those you’d happily pay money for.