Superhero movies are big business these days, and with so many major heroes already either on screen or making their way within the next few years, the number of top tier characters for feature films is dwindling. But that doesn't mean there aren't some great characters out there waiting for their moment in the spotlight. In fact, some amazing heroes have been forgotten or overlooked.
In this list we look at ten obscure, unlikely, or downright quirky Marvel and DC heroes that we believe truly could make a successful transition to the big screen, if given the right approach.
This is a weird selection of characters, sure, but it's all too easy to dismiss B- or C-list characters and the diversity they bring to comics. When Marvel and DC had two of their biggest hits with Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad, it's important to acknowledge that every "bad" character can be something great, and superhero comics has a wealth of strange ideas that are ripe for reinvention.
THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
The Legion of Super-Heroes might seem needlessly complicated and a little old fashioned, and in all honesty, it is. There’s a core cast that numbers in the dozens, and names like “Element Lad” and “Light Lass” are unavoidably corny. But if we’ve learned anything from the past few years of genre films, people are definitely ready for stories about teenagers in space that build on a long and complicated history of sci-fi adventure stories. And look, I know Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac aren’t currently available to play Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic Boy, but there’s probably somebody out there who could do a pretty great job with it. The core idea of the Legion has so much potential for the kind of interpersonal drama that fandom thrives on; this is a story with so many potential love triangles that one person could be a love triangle all by herself! [Chris Sims]
THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL
There's little about superhero films today that goes beyond expectations, which is why a film starring Doreen Green, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, could be such a great idea. We've even postulated what a Squirrel Girl movie could look like in the past, but honestly, it could use a bit of star power to get it made. That's why it would be smart to team Anna Kendrick with her Pitch Perfect 2 director Elizabeth Banks again for a movie that isn't just about a girl with the powers of a squirrel; it's a film about being a hero that goes further than using punching for problem solving. After all, Squirrel Girl's greatest power is empathy, and we could all use a little more of that right now. [Luke Brown]
Danny The Street has the potential to be the focus of not just a great film, but the first superhero film to gain real acclaim during awards season. The thing is, a Danny The Street film wouldn’t be about Danny himself as much as would be about all the people whose lives he touches and improves. Imagine a Wes Anderson movie where Millie Bobbie Brown plays Dorothy Spinner, who struggles to accept herself for who she is until she wanders into a strange side alley and her life is changed forever? And hey, if they wanna slip John Cena in there as Flex Mentallo, I’m not gonna complain. [Kieran Shiach]
Ulysses Solomon Archer (played by Liam Hemsworth) is a trucker that has to get from one side of the country to the other with a dangerous, experimental and possibly alien cargo in the back of the US1. He’s hunted by The Highwayman, a demonic rival trucker who is actually his brother (played by James Marsden) who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the payload. It’s a sci-fi/horror/action race across America directed by Justin Lin, and it’s going to be the most metal thing you ever see in your life. Do action movies about crazy vehicles make a lot of money? Oh they do? OK then. [KS]
The pulp-inspired swashbuckling domino-masked superheroes of the Golden Age don't get much love these days, unless they've enjoyed a few decades of reinvention to distance them from their hokey roots. Red Bee is an especially silly example, with his stripy tights, puffy sleeves, and a bee companion named Michael who lives in his belt buckle. Though updated in the 2000s, with the original Red Bee's granddaughter claiming the mantle, the first Red Bee can still work with the right attitude. Sure, he seems like a joke, but he fought Nazis with a bee, so maybe the joke's on them? Cast a dashing actor with comic chops like Rob Delaney or Rahul Kohli in the leading role, and Red Bee could be the next Deadpool-sized superhero comedy hit. [Andrew Wheeler]
It's easy to dismiss Dazzler as an example of comics' fondness for zeitgeist characters — the Adam-X the X-Treme of her day. But light-controlling mutant pop star Alison Blaire is a fan favorite for a lot of longtime X-Men fans, not despite the flamboyant camp of her mirrorball rollerskates and KISS-style facepaint, but because of it. Superhero movies love to explore a hypermasculine self-seriousness, but Dazzler is one of comics' finest examples of how pain and pathos can hide behind glamour and flash. Dazzler is a resonant hero for a lot of people, and a Dazzler movie could shake up the focus and aesthetics of superhero movies. But if you think the character is passe, maybe you missed Lady Gaga's audition for the role in last weekend's Super Bowl halftime show? [AW]
Mister Terrific is already one of the best parts of Arrow, but the show presents him as a bit too bumbling and not quite the genius Olympian that he is in the comics. A Mister Terrific film could be DC’s answer to Iron Man, starring a self-assured, cocky businessman humbled and forced to re-evaluate his life’s purpose. Cast an up-and-comer like Shameik Moore, and maybe reunite him with director Rick Famuyiwa (newly available for a superhero project since dropping out of the Flash movie) and Mister Terrific could defy expectations of what a superhero film can be. [KS]
Studios always play around with the idea of a dark, dramatic, adult superhero movie, but they never fully commit to it, and that’s why it never really works. Gin Genie, based on an obscure character from Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s run on X-Force, could really take that extra step into adult drama. Alejandro González Iñárritu will direct the story of Beckah Parker (played by Michelle Williams), a woman who has superpowers only when she drinks, and grows more powerful the more alcohol she consumes. Beckah’s moved to a small town and joined a twelve-step program, giving up the life of a hard-partying hero. But when villains arrive to threaten her new home and the life she’s built, she must make the decision to sacrifice her own health to save the people she loves. [Elle Collins]
In my lifetime, there have been ten major theatrical Batman movies, plus seven animated shows and a live-action series about the Dark Knight as a Troubled Teen. That’s a lot of Batman to be a fan of. Thus: Bat-Mite. He is, at heart, the embodiment of Batman Fandom, compressed into one little all-powerful interdimensional elf. That’s a weird part of the Batman canon, sure, but it’s also one that works because there is a Batman canon to be a part of. There’s enough Batman out there that it doesn’t have to be one thing, and as the very existence of The LEGO Batman Movie shows, filmmakers can get a little weird and fun with it. Using Bat-Mite as a lens to look at the idea of Batman through the fandom that surrounds him could bring a whole new aspect of the character to pop culture. A fan’s journey to becoming a hero, inspired by Batman, told in the style of a Pixar comedy tearjerker? That’s a slam dunk. [CS]
A Thundra film wouldn’t be a parody of Wonder Woman, but it would take the same basic ideas we can expect from that movie and push them to outlandish degrees in the name of both satire and over-the-top action. WWE Superstar Charlotte Flair could play Thundra, a warrior from a far-flung future where women have conquered the world and have little use for men. Finding herself transported to the 21st Century, she attempts to make the world a better place, according to her own ideas about how the world should be. She befriends a group of women who attempt to soften her anti-male views, even as they begin to wonder if she might be making some solid points. Will Thundra change the world, or will our world change her? [EC]