With the recent news that James Gunn has been hired by DC to write the script for ‘Suicide Squad 2,’ his transition from “Marvel Guy” to “DC Dude” seems firmly in motion. To be fair, Marvel started it, of course, when they decided to unceremoniously cut ties with Gunn after an alt-right online group unearthed years-old tweets from Gunn that were likely jokes but still highly offensive to some. Gunn endured the online hate-storm that followed – with lots of support from many in the entertainment community, including the actors of the Gunn-written-and-helmed ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ film series – and then laid low for a while. His return to comic movie-dom, though, seemed inevitable.
While Gunn has been brought on to script ‘Suicide Squad 2,’ he has not been announced to direct the film as of yet – which makes us here at ScienceFiction.com think that maybe DC has bigger plans for Gunn in their “Extended Universe” of films. While Gunn has long been an excellent filmmaker – see his early work with Troma Entertainment, ‘Slither,’ and ‘Super,’ among others – he shines brightest when he’s able to fully immerse himself into a property, writing and directing the story as he did with both ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films.
So, the big question, then: what properties could DC still have out there that Gunn could potentially give the “full treatment” of writing and directing a feature film? For this idea, we’ve focused on DC characters that have not been given their own feature film or have starred prominently in another DCEU film as of yet. DC has been making comics for over 80 years now, so there is quite a wealth of interesting and quirky characters to pull from. Without any further ado, then – to the list of, in no particular order, 10 DC Properties That James Gunn Could Direct the Heck Out Of:
Challengers of the Unknown
Let’s start with a group that has several parallels to the Guardians of the Galaxy – DC’s Challengers of the Unknown. Both teams are heavily focused on science-fiction and paranormal-type adventures. Both have been rebooted and “reinvented” over the years on the comic page. Both groups feature “of the” in their names. Look, the list literally goes on and on!
Okay, that’s not entirely accurate; the Challengers are a team comprised of four humans (with additional members coming and going as story lines dictate). The original quartet of Challengers were pilot Kyle “Ace” Morgan, scientist Walter Mark “Prof” Haley, daredevil Matthew “Red” Ryan, and strong-man Leslie “Rocky” Davis. (Apparently, a prerequisite for admission into the group was having a nickname.) The four met when they all survived a plan crash without a single injury or scratch; concluding that they were “living on borrowed time,” they adopted the team’s moniker and parlayed their newfound fame into accepting “challenges” from the government and other various world citizens in need.
Even though they might sound more like the Fantastic Four than the Guardians of the Galaxy, the heavy sci-fi element could play well into Gunn’s ability to take a group of diverse characters and mold them into a (semi-)cohesive unit. Throw in a dash of comedy (as the Challengers recently experience via an extremely small-but-funny role in ‘Teen Titans Go to the Movies’), and this is a project that seems right up the director’s alley.
Originally created and published by Quality Comics in the 1940s, Plastic Man was acquired by DC in the 1950s and has been a quirky staple of the company ever since. Plastic Man has the distinction of being one of the first superheroes in comic books to ever incorporate humor into the “heroic” stories, so this is already a marriage between the two genres that speak to Gunn’s talents. Rumors are already swirling that DC is ready to create a Plastic Man film in the not-so-distant future.
Originally a two-bit criminal named Patrick “Eel” O’Brian, the character underwent a radical change after a heist gone awry at the Crawford Chemical Works. He had a vat of chemicals spilled on him, and during his escape, he passed out from a gunshot wound; upon awakening, O’Brian discovered that a monk had nursed him back to health, causing the character to have a change of heart about his life of crime. The chemicals transformed his body, allowing it to stretch and take the form of a variety of objects; thus was born the (quite snarky) superhero Plastic Man (not to be confused with Elongated Man, Mister Fantastic, or Stretch Armstong).
Wouldn’t it be cool to just, like, be able to make yourself into anything you wanted? That’s pretty much the conceit of DC character Rick Mason, who was transformed into a man able to change the chemical and physical elements of his body by an ancient Egyptian artifact, the Orb of Ra.
Created in the 1960s originally as a parody of the wildly-powerful characters that were inhabiting comics at the time, Metamorpho proved very popular with readers, and he holds the distinction of being only the second character ever to decline an invitation to join the Justice League (the first character appears a little later on this list – spoilers!), although he did finally accept years later.
The character also has a bit of pathos to his story: his elemental powers make it impossible for him to ever again assume a “normal” human form and appearance. As a result, he spends much of his time being displeased with his powers and trying to find a cure – a twist on most super-powered beings that Gunn could certainly play into in a feature film.
Another product of the “superhero explosion” of the 1960s, Deadman is a rather unique individual with a singular back-story. In his debut in Strange Adventures #205, Boston Brand was a trapeze artist who actually performed as the persona of Deadman, replete with the now-iconic red suit and white zombie-like facial makeup. Brand’s story begins just as he is murdered, mid-act; thanks to the intervention of the Hindu god Rama Kushna, Brand is given the ability of his spirit to possess any living being, so that he may search for his killer.
Deadman has played a peripheral role in the DC Universe in the last 50 years, and he’s been slated to have his own TV show or film several times. In 2000, a deal was struck with TNT for a Deadman series, but the project never came to fruition; likewise in 2011, ‘Supernatural’ creator Eric Kripke was hired by the CW to create a new series based on the character, but sadly this version never materialized either. Variety reported in 2009 that Guillermo del Toro was looking to produce a Deadman film, but – you guessed it – things never came about for the project.
Lobo, while introduced in the 1980s, rose to prominence quite by accident in the ’90s, and recent storylines have just the right amount of fun-meets-odd to make a director like Gunn the perfect choice to perfect the character on the big screen.
The bullish alien’s rise to prominence began in his first appearance, The Omega Men #3, but the character languished in relative obscurity until the early 1990s, when creator Keith Giffen and writer Alan Moore presented Lobo as a parody-style take on the “ultra-strong violent anti-hero” like Wolverine, The Punisher, and Cable. Surprisingly, fans took this satirical approach as an actual character development and clamored for more. DC, of course, was happy to oblige, and the character enjoyed not only his own series but several cross-company team-ups, including pairing with the likes of the Mask, Judge Dredd, the Avengers, and even Wolverine himself.
Another sci-fi type of super-hero-ish team that exists on the fringes of the DC Universe popularity, the Metal Men have a decidedly “Guardians of the Galaxy” type of feel to them, enough so that Gunn would likely feel right at home in taking on. Created in 1962 as “last-minute filler” for the DC Showcase comic, the team of artificially-intelligent robots were brought to life in the tale by Dr. William Magnus, and they were literally named after the elements that composed each of their android bodies: Gold, Iron, Lead, Mercury, Tin, and Platinum (who is female, despite the male-centric team moniker).
It seemed that for a long time, DC simply didn’t know what they wanted to do with the Metal Men. The team proved popular enough that they earned their own self-titled comic series a year after their debut; DC let that series go over 20 issues, however, before they made any “official” connection for the Metal Men to be in the larger DC Universe. Due to the unique team dynamic, quirky mish-mash of personalities, and potential for “what does it mean to be human/have emotions/etc.” pathos, this could be a series that would translate well to the big screen, given the right creative guide.
One of the classic Silver Age science-fiction characters of DC Comics, Adam Strange has been a part of intergalactic travel and tribulations for over 60 years now. The character was originally conceived when then-editorial director Irwin Donenfeld asked his editors to come up with a sci-fi hero that lives in the present day; Julius Schwartz created Strange, a human man who travels to the faraway planet Rann using a radiation-infused Zeta Beam.
Strange is a classically-styled retro-heavy sci-fi character: he uses a jetpack for flight, he has energy-based “ray guns,” and uses special eyewear to let him see the whole electromagnetic spectrum. He’s crossed over with pretty much every major DC hero at this point, and like Metamorpho, he is the other entrant onto the very short list of people who have turned down a membership invitation from the Justice League.
With comics being published for decades and decades, it can sometimes seem hard for creators to come up with unique background stories for new characters; perhaps this is part of what made Booster Gold so immediately popular when he debuted in his own DC comic in 1986.
The origin story goes thusly: Michael Jon Carter was born in 25th-Century Gotham City to a very poor family. Through his natural athletic talent, he achieves a football scholarship to Gotham U., but his shot at a pro career is ruined when his estranged father convinces him to throw games for financial benefit. Still obsessed with getting rich and making a name for himself, Carter becomes a night guard at the Metropolis Space Museum, where he is able to steal “artifacts” from our present time, including Rip Hunter’s Time Sphere. Carter decides that he’ll travel to the 20th Century, where his futuristic technology and knowledge of events will position him as a super-hero.
It works, to a degree. A character that is immensely flawed but learns the error of his ways through personal tragedy and growth, Booster Gold struck a chord with many, many readers in the ’80s and ’90s, and he’s a study in human emotion and hubris that a creative mind like Gunn could really sink his proverbial teeth into.
Could Gunn throw down on a buddy-buddy superhero comedy movie? If so, the aforementioned Booster Gold would be a perfect candidate, to pair with his BFF from the 1990s Justice League comic-book run, the Blue Beetle.
Blue Beetle was originally a character at Charlton Comics, appearing all the way back in 1939, before DC bought the rights to the Charlton characters in the early 1960s. There have actually been three different Blue Beetles throughout the characters’ existence, but the one we’re focused on here is the second incarnation, Ted Kord. During the ’90s, Ted was in the Justice League and bonded with Booster Gold over their perception to the world as “second-tier superheroes” not on the same level as A-listers like Superman, Wonder Woman, and the like. From Ted’s perspective, the reason for his apparent mediocrity is clear: the first Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, was Ted’s mentor, and got his powers from a mystical Egyptian scarab; when Dan died and gave the scarab (and his legacy) to Ted, the stubborn thing would hardly work for him! This meant that Ted had to rely mostly on his natural skill and athletic prowess as opposed to any actual superpowers, and this is a situation that could be refreshingly ripe for a big-screen incarnation.
This is a bit of a “dark horse” entry to the list, to be sure. ‘Scooby Apocalypse’ is an ongoing DC comic series that has been published since May 2016, and reimagines the well-known characters of Scooby-Doo and his gang in a, shall we say, much different and darker light.
The group’s back-story is significantly altered, having them all meet mostly through kismet and extreme circumstances during an “end of the world” type of scenario. A laboratory has “accidentally” released a nanite-fueled virus into the atmosphere, turning most of the world’s population into nightmare-inducing creatures of destruction. Scooby, Fred, Daphne, and Velma all hunker down in a fortified-tank version of the “Mystery Machine” and try to not only survive against impossible odds but also unravel the mystery of what has happened to world. Y’know, as any good detectives would!
There you have it, friends: 10 (largely) untapped DC properties that it would certainly be intriguing for James Gunn to sink his directorial teeth into. Which of these options would you be most interested to see Gunn take on? Do you have other DC characters or titles that you’d like to see on this list? Give us a quick comment below and let us know!