A DC Comics Film Wishlist – Nightwing Please!
Currently, there are nine undisclosed DC films in development. There have been confirmations for Shazam, Justice League, Sandman and a sequel to Man of Steel. That still leaves five other films open for complete fan obsessed speculation. Some properties like Secret Six, Sleeper, and The New Teen Titans are definitely on the list but have been detailed in another article.
Here are some possibilities:
Justice League Dark: Okay, it’s a terrible name—even the characters in the book say it is. Guillermo Del Toro has claimed he’s working on the film but nobody has confirmed it’s in production. This Justice League spinoff follows the supernatural/horror elements in the DCU. The cast is a large and shifting one, though the best line-up for the movie would be John Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Zuriel, Deadman, Black Orchid, Frankenstein and Jenny Quantum, while characters like the Spectre and The Phantom Stranger appear on the periphery. Felix Faust would make for a good starting villain before giving way in sequels to characters like Lady Blaze, Lilith and Neron. DC’s supernatural side is rarely given attention. It’s often weird and nightmarish and deeply violent. A common complaint is that DC’s characters tend to be perfect or overpowered—here, these are people who can do magical things but they’re living in a world of terror where everything else is much more powerful than they are. At the same time, the JLD deals with mystical threats to reality: they have the potential to be the greatest heroes but their efforts are never brought to light. It’s that level of unacknowledged heroics that is often the most fun to see because the characters get no payoff even if we do.
Given that the superhero film genre is fairly static, having the JLD brought to the screen can accomplish many goals—it can give proper attention to a largely underappreciated aspect of the DCU, it can add a breath of fresh air to the often rote superhero films and it can elevate lesser known characters to a greater platform.
Wonder Woman: This is the biggest no-brainer. While I’m not exactly in love with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, my love for the character overrides most hesitation. Wonder Woman is a tough character to get right even in the comics. She has many contradictions to her—she’s an ambassador of peace, she’s a warrior; she has endless compassion, she snapped Maxwell Lord’s neck; she dislikes fighting, she is made the God of War. What makes her a contradiction often makes her three dimensional and this can be frustrating as a writer attempting to define her for a new audience. Over the years, most writers have failed to do her justice, though Brian Azzarello, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Greg Rucka and Gail Simone have all elevated Wonder Woman and her accompanying mythology to new heights.
If there is a Wonder Woman movie is the works, the film should be based largely on Azzarello’s run—the nightmarish imagery, the designs of the Greek gods, the word play—but should also give Wonder Woman a stronger focus. If there is one thing that Azzarello’s run falters in, it is showcasing the actual titular hero. However, the plot is highly original and very exciting and serves as a how-to guide for making a Wonder Woman movie.
The Flash: This is kind of a strange one. He’s going to have a show on the CW in the next few months, but the rumor is that the TV and film universes will not mix, so there will potentially be two different Flashes. If this is the case, then I would like to see Wally West as the Flash on the big screen. Wally West was the Flash when I was growing up. When Barry died in 1986, Wally, his nephew, took over. While Barry was a humorless dial tone, Wally was fun and flawed. He cracked jokes yet thought strategically to a Machiavellian level. He was the Flash in the Justice League Animated Series, he was the Flash from 1986-2008.
In the 90s, a live action Flash series ran for a brief time. While Wally was the Flash in the comics, the TV series was about Barry. There is no reason we couldn’t do something like this again—and it would keep the Barry Allen character from being overexposed or confusing audiences with possibly contradicting story and character elements.
There’s a rumor that there is a Flash movie in development; that it would be a team-up of Barry Allen’s Flash and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern (they’re good friends in the comics). This would serve as an introduction to Flash’s big screen portrayal and as a soft reboot to the 2011 embarrassment of a Green Lantern movie. Which brings us to my next item—
A Green Lantern Reboot: The Green Lantern comic book franchise is one of the most unique and exciting ones in all of comics. It’s mostly space-faring and features bizarre aliens; the Green Lanterns are essentially space cops who are trying to enforce the law. The 2011 movie failed in a number of ways to show non-fans why the GLs rule. Its failings are too numerous to name so I’ll just throw out a few—terrible writers, terrible actors, terrible casting (though Mark Strong was excellent), terrible CGI, terrible humor—and if anyone deserves a second chance on the big screen, it’s the Green Lantern Corps. Rather than waste another movie with yet another insipid origin story, have this movie begin totally new: a soft reboot. Get different actors, different writers (preferably ones with talent) and base the movie on Geoff Johns’ seminal Sinestro Corps War. Whatever happened before is irrelevant. Drop the characters and the audience in the middle of the action and establish things from there. It’s surprisingly simple: the good guys are in green, the bad guys in yellow.
If they want to go in an entirely different direction, fine. Cast Idris Elba as John Stewart and focus on his rise and fall from getting the ring to losing Xanshi. It’s a great, dark storyline and could help with the general lack of diversity DC and Marvel films have been accused of.
Nightwing: This is as much of a no brainer as a Wonder Woman movie. Nightwing is Dick Grayson, the original Robin. He’s between 17 and 19 when he takes up the role as Nightwing, so there’s a certain coming of age story you can mix in there. Grayson was raised in the circus—he’s an acrobat and a trapeze expert. Despite the tragedy of watching his parents die and being raised by a schizophrenic billionaire, Grayson is a make-the-best-of-it guy. He moves quickly—always forward—he tends to improvise and has a strong sense of humor. He is DC’s equivalent to Spider-Man (though Dick Grayson has been around far longer). His main villains include Deathstroke (who once nuked the city Grayson lived in out of spite), Brother Blood and Lady Shiva.
Nowadays, Grayson has given up the Nightwing mantle and is working as a double agent for the group Spyral. They’re morally ambiguous and a possible danger to the superhero community. He’s taking it down from the inside. The visuals in the series are surreal and hallucinogenic like 70s James Bond movies or 1967’s The Prisoner. Either of these versions would make a fine movie since they take already familiar sub-genres well established in comics and film and combine them with an infinitely identifiable character in Dick Grayson.
As far as portraying actors are concerned—Steven R. McQueen, the grandson of screen legend and inventor of cool Steve McQueen would be a fine choice. He’s got the right build, the right look and is obsessed with the Dick Grayson character.
Batman reboot—Ben Affleck is Batman now. Deal with it. Considering the Batman in BvS is supposed to be older, the rebooted Batman line can take place at any point before, during or after these events. It’s long overdue that Batman’s onscreen portrayal actually resemble the characters, look and themes present in the comics. Bring in the Joker (for god’s sake make him funny this time) and cast Michael Pitt to play him. Anyone who has seen him as Mason Verger in Hannibal will know why. Embrace the comic book feel of the Batman series—it’s noir, old fashioned, yet high tech. Combine the Burton look with modern steel.
Star Spangled War Stories: These are war stories with either a supernatural or sci-fi twist (though not as ridiculous as the laser beams in World War II stuff from that Captain America movie.
Use Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, use GI Zombie or the Unknown Soldier, Negative Man, Rick Flag and King Faraday—build up lesser known characters!
Blue and Gold: (Blue Beetle and Booster Gold): Here’s something that will never happen but should anyway. These characters were introduced/re-launched during the Justice League International days in the late 80s. The JLI was a Justice League offshoot with characters that were generally dysfunctional and didn’t like each other. The series was based more on interpersonal problems and character development than it was on fighting crime. That’s what made the series fun. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were on that team and it’s where they became friends. Booster Gold comes from the future (where no one liked him) and is obsessed with fame. Sure, he’ll do something heroic, but he’ll call the press ahead of time to let them know where to find him and what he’ll be doing. He takes endorsements and sells ad space on his costume. He does cereal commercials and ribbon cuttings. He uses his modest fame to pick up girls. Booster Gold is a normal person if given the means to be a superhero. He’d do what we’d all do—try to get rich and get laid.
When the real Justice League said they were taking all members, Booster was the only one turned down at the door because of his reputation.
What’s fun about Booster is that despite all of this, he actually is a good guy. He’s not the best superhero (he constantly screws up) but he’s trying to get better because of a looming threat in the timestream (long story). His depressed talking robot friend Skeets and his handler Rip Hunter are trying to make him a decent guy because records in the future say he’ll be important (though no one will ever know).
Meanwhile, his only friend (besides Skeets) is Blue Beetle who is a brilliant guy but his sense of humor, ridiculous gadgets and general superhero mediocrity keep him from being taken seriously. These are two regular guys who never get taken seriously trying to win respect and recognition. They’re also no exactly well known to non-fans. This is why superhero films should exist—exposing lesser known characters to up their profile!
Jack Kirby’s The Fourth World: In the 1970s, when Jack Kirby’s relationship with Marvel Comics crumbled (due to unpaid wages and ungiven credit), DC Comics offered Kirby something rare: complete control over whatever project he wanted to undertake. He created The Fourth World through the series The New Gods—alien deities fighting for control of the universe. It was, as Kirby put it, “An epic for our times.” His creations would go on to become some of the most imaginative and influential characters and storylines. Kirby had an almost child-like imagination—it was broad and unfettered—and the mythology that he created with its overwrought dialogue and art was something that ended up revolutionizing the medium. A New Gods movie could easily fit between Justice League films, explaining and developing Darkseid, one of Kirby’s signature creations, who is also considered the Big Bad of the DCU.
Also, given its very specific angles and art, a New Gods movie could be one of the most visually arresting and bizarre creations ever made for camera.
Fables: Shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time are popular because of Bill Willingham’s Vertigo series Fables. The idea is that all fables from all cultures are true and that most of them are living in our world because their worlds/dimensions have been taken over by an occupying force called The Adversary; the story largely is a social commentary of Israel and the Middle East.
The characters have been modernized and despite whatever special powers some might have, they’re quite human and flawed. In 2013, the popular series spawned an excellent video game called The Wolf Among Us which has the potential to win Game of the Year.
Willingham updated the fables for modern audiences, especially considering they live in New York in the present day. For instance:
Cinderella and Mowgli are secret agents.
The Big Bad Wolf is known as Bigby Wolf and is the Sheriff of Fabletown.
Beauty and the Beast are in couples counseling. Beauty is quite a meanie.
Prince Charming is divorced from Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. He’s a lothario that most of everyone can’t stand.
Snow White is the primary administrator running Fabletown. She's politcally astute and quietly powerful.
Hanzel is a religious fundamentalist who instigated and escalated the Salem Witch trials and eventually murdered hs sister for having impure thoughts.
Pinocchio is several hundred years old but stuck in the body of an eight year old. He is a sexually frustrated functional alcoholic.
Goldilocks is a militant leftist akin to the Weather Underground Movement.
Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) is a grifter and a thief.
After a decade, Willingham’s series will be concluding with issue 150. It is ripe for adaptation because it draws both male and female audiences for different reasons. There’s love and adventure but there’s also severe violence and many battles.