While DC are still on the back foot, cinema-wise, when compared to Marvel, we have a cinematic Man of Steel, and a new Batman coming our way, a big-screen Wonder Woman, and now, it's rumoured, even an Aquaman. Meanwhile Green Arrow, The Flash and Constantine are tearing up the small screen, while a huge number of DC characters are at various stages of development (or already sneakily with us: Black Canary appears in Arrow; Dr Fate seems to be heading to Constantine). But which, we wondered, are not in development at all? Which of DC’s massive pantheon are yet to start their journey to the screen? Here are 15…
(The rules: we’ve ignored animated films and series, and we’ve allowed characters who showed up briefly in Smallville).
Introduced: Adventure Comics #428, 1973
Created by a botanist who spliced human and orchid DNA, Black Orchid has a Swamp Thing-like connection to the elemental world of The Green. She has superhuman speed, strength and agility; she can fly; and she can sort of regenerate by transferring her consciousness into host bodies being grown in greenhouses. But as a detective she generally chooses to forgo all that and blend into the background in a disguise.
Movie potential: She has a complicated history (there have been at least four Black Orchids to date), but Neil Gaiman’s three-issue Vertigo series from 1989 is both a perfect standalone and an easy way in. If the cinematography managed to look like Dave McKean’s artwork it would also be a uniquely beautiful movie.
No-brainer casting: Olivia Wilde
Introduced: All-Star Comics #58, 1976
Take your pick of Kara Starr’s origins: depending on when you started reading she’s either Superman’s cousin from Krypton, or was sent into the future from Atlantis before the oceans drank it. Either way she has similar powers to Superman’s, and was something of a Supes protégé for a while. She’s been affiliated with the Justice Society of America and Infinity Inc.
Movie potential: The cheesecake factor is a problem: a postergirl for male-gaze comic heroines, she sports gratuitously exposed cleavage rather than a logo on her chest. DC tried to get rid of the boob-window when they rebooted their big comics in The New 52, only to come up with something even less popular and reinstate it a little later. But maybe with a costume rethink she could be reborn as the female lead the movie superhero genre sorely needs.
No-brainer casting: Kaley Cuoco
Detective Chimp / Angel & The Ape
Introduced: Rex the Wonder Dog #4, 1953 / Showcase Presents #77, 1968
Bobo the chimp was captured in Africa and brought to the States as part of a novelty circus act. But then some business with the Fountain of Youth gave him enhanced intelligence and the ability to speak, after which he became a true detective and solved the murder of his handler.
Angel And The Ape, meanwhile, are New York private investigators. Normal human Angel discovered Sam Simeon in a secret talking-ape city in the Amazon (of course!), and he now moonlights with her as a detective while drawing comics as his main gig. He has telepathic powers that stop people noticing he’s a gorilla.
Movie potential: As high-concept comedies, sure, maybe. Detective Chimp in particular had a hilarious recent comics resurgence as a washed-up alcoholic who nobody takes seriously.
No-brainer casting: Andy Serkis for either, and Amanda Seyfried for Angel.
Introduced: Enigma #1, 1993
A mystery about a superhero, rather than a superhero story per-se, Pete Milligan’s mini-series is about bored everyman Michael Smith, who's set on a journey of discovery when his favourite childhood comicbook character inexplicably comes to life. Teaming up with Enigma’s original creator along the way, Smith learns as much about himself as he does about his erstwhile hero.
Movie potential: As a grown-up, borderline-satirical superhero tale (villains include Envelope Girl), this could be something strange and wonderful, but it’s probably too weird to fly. Also, depressingly, given the furore over a black Human Torch, it’s doubtful whether fanboys are ready for a gay superhero or Smith’s sexual awakening (see also: Apollo and the Midnighter).
No-brainer casting: Benedict Cumberbatch as Smith and Tom Hiddleston as Enigma. Or the other way round.
Introduced: Strange Adventures #180, 1965
Rock musician-turned-stuntman Buddy Baker doesn’t change his shape to become different animals but, thanks to an unplanned encounter with a shaman, he can use the “Morphogenic Field” to mimic their abilities. He initially used his powers to solve mysteries and fight crime, but later on became more of a god-like figure, getting into more horror-based scrapes and pushing an environmental agenda.
Movie potential Depends on which era you were thinking of adapting. There’s a level of quite basic animal-powered hero antics in his early days that might work as an unremarkable screenplay. The Grant Morrison and Jamie Delano years, however, are much more interesting but probably unfilmable.
No-brainer casting: Channing Tatum perhaps, were he not busy with Gambit.
Warlord / Arak: Son Of Thunder
Introduced: First Issue Special #8, 1975 / Warlord #48, 1981
Vietnam pilot Travis Morgan managed to fly his plane through a wormhole and ended up in a savage parallel world; always a bummer when that happens. There, thanks to the power of his boomstick, he picked up the never-noticeably-dressed Tara, and fought evil sorcerers and kings as The Warlord. Arak, meanwhile, got his start in the pages of Warlord and has similar adventures, but is otherwise unconnected. A Native American raised by Vikings, his barbarian wanderings see him encountering demons and other supernatural threats, as well as historical figures (principally Charlemagne). Roy Thomas, who wrote Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan for years, was his creator.
Movie potential: Despite very different set-ups, they’d be very similar properties once they got going. If we had to plump for one over the other, we’d take Warlord, simply because that Lost World vibe might help it escape the shadow of Conan the Barbarian.
No-brainer casting: Josh Brolin for Warlord. The Rock for Arak.
Introduced: Weird War Tales #93, 1980
A paramilitary unit created during WWII as a psychological warfare experiment, The Creature Commandos were genetically experimented on to turn them into monsters, leading to a unit that consists of a vampire, a werewolf, a Frankenstein monster and a Medusa. Deployments included Nazi android factories and an island full of dinosaurs - engagements which were inexplicably not covered in The World At War. Later additions to the team have included a cyborg, a mermaid, a mummy and something rather like The Creature From the Black Lagoon.
Movie potential: As original editor Len Wein said, “It’s so silly it’ll work”. A knowing screenplay and the right director could make this a cracker, although the monsters-and-weird-tech-in-WWII angle take it close to Hellboy territory.
No-brainer casting: Jonah Hill as the human Lt. Matthew Shrieve; Danny McBride as Lucky Tailor (the monster); Jay Baruchel as Vincent Velcro (vampire); Seth Rogen as Warren Griffith (wolfman); and Elizabeth Banks as Myrra Rhodes (Medusa).
Introduced: Showcase #73, 1968
Journalist Jack Ryder, investigating a gangster called Manny, got himself caught at one of Manny’s masquerade parties. For reasons clear only to themselves, the gangsters dressed Ryder up in a weird goblin costume, fed him a bunch of hallucinogens and then took him out to the woods to shoot him. But he didn’t die, and was found by a mad scientist who performed a procedure that bonded the drugs and the costume to Ryder at a molecular level. Best origin ever! As the Creeper, Ryder can fight crime with enhanced strength, speed, wall-crawling, healing ability and combat skills. But, surely uniquely, changing into The Creeper also brings back the drug psychosis.Trippy, dude!
Movie potential: We’re going to say this one’s too mad for anything but a very low budget indie.
No-brainer casting: Johnny Depp, somehow waiving his normal fee.
Sandman Mystery Theatre
Introduced: Adventure Comics #40, 1939
The other Sandman, Wesley Dodds, predates Neil Gaiman’s by decades. Dodds is a vigilante detective who wears a gasmask for the practical reason that he also uses a sleeping gas gun to sedate criminals. Obscure for decades, he was revived by Vertigo in the wake of Gaiman’s Sandman for the excellent, noirish Sandman Mystery Theatre series, which ran for 70 issues. Dodds and Morpheus shared the same story for one night only, in the Gaiman-penned special Sandman Midnight Theatre, in 1995.
Movie potential: Very strong. A period set series of noir mysteries – separate from the superhero continuity that saw Dodds dallying with the likes of the Justice Society of America in his early, pre-Mystery Theatre years – would work well, and there’s a great Nick-and-Nora style central relationship between Dodds and the District Attourney’s daughter Diane Belmont.
No-brainer casting: Toby Jones
Introduced: Detective Comics #20, 1938
Considered by the JLA as the first masked crimefighter, the original Crimson Avenger was newspaper publisher Lee Travis. He wore a trenchcoat, a fedora and a red mask and cape (surely overkill with the trenchcoat?), and took to the streets to fight bad guys with his trusty Asian sidekick/driver Wing. If he doesn’t tickle your fancy, however, there is another. In the 2000s, a nameless female Punisher-type vigilante picked up Travis’ pistols in a pawn shop, and became the second Crimson Avenger when, once used, the cursed guns fused themselves to her body. She’s now supernaturally charged with gunning down evildoers, able to travel by 'crimson mist'. And she’s stuck with the job: she once tried to shoot herself, but it didn’t work. She and Hulk should form some sort of support group.
Movie potential: In Travis form, not unlike Wesley Dodds, there’s the potential for period noir (although without the gasmask and the Diane relationship, this would arguably be the less interesting version). In the more recent incarnation, we guess we’d be looking at something akin to a Ghost Rider or a Crow. Whether we need another one of those is debatable…
No-brainer casting: Jason Statham / Zoe Saldana
Introduced: Showcase #76, 1968
Bat Lash is a dandy cowboy and ladies’ man who always wears a flower in his hat. After gunning down a crooked sheriff’s deputy, he set out on the trail of the varmint that murdered his folks, getting into wild-western adventures along the journey. Later on he travelled to the Far East, and embarked on a quest to Dinosaur Island to retrieve some mystical swords.
Movie potential: We’d drop the dandy / flower business, but the continual crash-and-burn of high profile Westerns notwithstanding, we could see this working. The idea of a sort of Last Samurai-type Far-East Western with dinosaurs is, frankly, sounding all sorts of awesome to us.
No-brainer casting: Owen Wilson. With a soundtrack by Bat For Lashes.
Introduced: Transmetropolitan #1, 1997
Rendered hairless in a shower accident, Hunter Thompson-inspired gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem returns from life as a mountain hermit to once more peddle his excoriating anti-establishment wordsmithery to an ungrateful public. With his long-suffering filthy assistants Yelena and Channon, he exposes political corruption in no fewer than two US administrations, while finding time to comment on smaller-scale stories unfolding in the cyberpunk society around him.
Movie potential: A film was vaguely developing for a while, but writer Warren Ellis now says it’s too prohibitively expensive. That might still be the case, although the continual leaps in green-screen technology mean a sci-fi political thriller in Spider’s world actually now seems thoroughly plausible at a less-than-astronomical cost. The biggest problem is convincingly representing the work of the supposedly greatest journalist the world has ever seen: something the comics really don’t manage at all.
No-brainer casting: Tim Roth is a fan favourite for this.
Introduced: Firestorm, the Nuclear Man #1, 1978
There are several incarnations of The Nuclear Man, but for reasons of simplicity let’s stick with the original. Actually two characters fused into a single being, Firestorm is student Ronnie Raymond and Nobel-winning physicist Martin Stein. An accident melded them together, with Raymond in control and Stein a bantering voice in his head. Together they have the ability to rearrange the atomic and subatomic structure of matter. They fought the elemental fight against the likes of Killer Frost, Black Bison and the Russian atomic-powered Pozhar.
Movie potential: It’s all a bit complicated, and a hero with his head on fire can’t help but seem a bit Ghost Ridery on screen. What's more, that "Nuclear Man" subtitle recalls both The Simpsons' Radioactive Man ("Up and at them.") and Superman IV's Nuclear Man (shudder).
No-brainer casting: Zac Efron (Raymond) / Patton Oswalt (Stein).
Introduced: Fury of Firestorm #24, 1984
More molecular costume bonding (see also The Creeper). Daniel Cassidy was a movie stuntman and special effects expert who got stuck in the Blue Devil suit following an unexpected encounter with a real demon. Initially understandably miffed about the whole business, he eventually comes around to the idea of being a superhero, to the extent that he hangs out with Superman and the JLA. In recent years he’s been part of the magical alliance The Shadowpact, with the likes of Detective Chimp and Zatana. His weapon of choice is the Trident of Lucifer.
Movie potential: He’s been rather beaten to the wry-demon-antihero punch by Hellboy.
No-brainer casting: Michael Jai White
Introduced: Detective Comics #225, 1955
A Martian as his name suggests, J’onn J’onzz survived the mad priest’s plague that killed his family on Mars, and was teleported to Earth, where he took over the identity of the murdered, conveniently monikered Denver cop John Jones. Later coming out as an alien, he was a founding member of the JLA, and stayed in it through every incarnation and line-up. His extensive superpowers include telepathy, shapeshifting, energy attacks, x-ray vision, invisibility, flight, forcefield projection, super-human speed, super-strength and super-endurance, and he’s no slouch as a detective either
Movie potential: He ought to be integral to the Justice League movie, but we haven't heard anything about his involvement yet. Oft-screenwriter David Goyer recently, succinctly, laid out the adaptation problems. "He can't be fucking called the Martian Manhunter because that's goofy. He can be called Manhunter... The whole deal with Martian Manhunter is he's an alien living amongst us... So he comes down to Earth and decides, unlike Superman who already exists in the world now, that he's just going to be a homicide detective... So instead of using super-powers and mindreading and like, oh, I could figure out if the President's lying or whatever, he just decides to disguise himself as a human homicide detective. Dare to dream!" It's a shame, since on the page he somehow entertains.
No-brainer casting: Denzel Washington