20 DC Heroes We Still Need to See on the Big and Small Screens
Marvel Studios may get all the praise for their movies and recent Netflix series, but their DC counterparts still have one leg up on them: they’ve simply brought more of their major heroes to the big or small screen.
Of course, this may seem hard to believe considering how many live action Avengers related franchises Marvel is populating your local movie theater with, but DC has been working the small screen since the 1960’s. Even before the current Arrowverse universe of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl Warner Bros. introduced many familiar characters or heroes in one form of another in Superboy, Lois & Clark, Smallville and even a short lived Birds of Prey series. And yes, famous characters making one episode cameos still count for something.
We recently reviewed the 20 Marvel Heroes fans still need to see on the big or small screen and you were pretty passionate in your feelings over who deserved to be on the list and who didn’t. We’re happy to report DC still has a lot of popular properties to explore and, in fact, they might actually be more interesting than what their competitors have to offer.
First appearance: Batman Beyond “Rebirth,” 1999 (TV), Superman/Batman Annual #4, June 2010
Real identity: Terry McGinnis
Lowdown: Set in 2039, the animated Batman Beyond series introduced fans to Terry McGinnis, a 16-year-old former juvenile delinquent who comes under the tutelage of a very aging Bruce Wayne who provides him with a futuristic Batman suit to battle crime in Gotham City. After being integrated into the DC comics cannon McGinnis was popular enough to receive his own solo title.
Best Chance: Is this the WB series Fox should be developing as a bookend to Gotham?
First appearance: Omega Men #3, June 1983
Lowdown: During the ‘90s this immortal alien mercenary with a fetish for biker wear and his beloved spacehog (think a Harley in space) was one of DC’s most popular characters. Over the years he’s wavered between being more hardcore (think an alien Wolverine with bigger muscles) or intentionally comical (not Deadpool in space but not not Deadpool in space). Considering the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Warner Bros. execs must still be pulling their hair out from not moving forward with a Guy Ritchie directed flick earlier this decade. They could have beaten Marvel at their own game (well, maybe).
Best Chance: The success of Deadpool prompted Warner Bros. to commission a new script for a solo Lobo flick, but doesn’t the already announced Green Lantern Corps movie seem like the perfect place for Lobo to make his DC cinematic universe debut?
First appearance: The Brave and the Bold #57, Jan. 1965
Real identity: Rex Mason
Lowdown: He has a complicated origin (a radioactive meteorite, the Egyptian god Ra, etc.) but due to circumstances out of his control Rex Mason becomes a non-human being who can transform into any element he can think of. Unfortunately, and much to his dismay, he longer even appears to be human. In many ways, Metamorpho was one of the first DC heroes who believed his powers were a curse and became determined to reverse them. Strangely, he’s also been killed and resurrected more often than you’re average DC or Marvel hero.
Best Chance: It’s unclear how long Warner Bros.’ current DCU will live, but even with his Justice League history it just seems as though it will be a long time before they find a way to bring Metamorpho into the mix.
First appearance: Green Lantern vol. 2 #59, March 1968
Lowdown: Han Jordan’s first official replacement, Guy Gardner brought Bro culture to the Green Lantern Corps before anyone could have dreamed up the term. Cocky, tough and ready to rumble at any moment, Gardner is the polar opposite of Hal Jordan’s usually reserved, uptight personality (and, no, we’re not counting Geoff Johns’ rebirth incarnation). Gardner’s character and background has been more well rounded in recent years, but if Ryan Reynolds should have planed any Lantern it was this one, not Jordan.
Best Chance: If Guy isn’t in Green Lantern Corps fans will riot.
First appearance: Green Lantern/Green Arrow vol. 2 #87, Dec. 1971/Jan. 1972
Lowdown: Incredibly popular because of his long running stint on Cartoon Networks’ Justice League animated series, Stewart was the second Earthling to replace Hal Jordan as this sector’s Green Lantern. He has a long and distinguished history in the comics and was a no-brainer when it was announced he was part of George Miller’s Justice League movie that was cancelled before filming could begin.
Best Chance: Green Lantern Corps or a Justice League sequel. Assuming either happen, of course.
First appearance: Strange Adventures #180, Sept. 1965
Real identity: Buddy Baker
Lowdown: Baker isn’t the only hero in the DC universe who can mimic the powers of animals (see Vixen), but he’s been the center of two of the more acclaimed series DC has ever published. The first was a post Crisis on Infinite Earths run by legendary author Grant Morrison in the late 1980’s. The second was arguably the most critically acclaimed title from the publisher’s “New 52” reboot in 2011. The latter featured stunning artwork and an independent sensibility rarely seen from the two majors. The more recent series focused on Baker’s family and his young daughter who starts to manifest some creepy powers of her own that at first involve resurrecting dead animals.
Best Chance: That recent run would make for a very strange and intriguing HBO series even if it would be a hard sell even to the network’s Peak TV audience. Then again we’re still sort of shocked Buddy Baker or Animal Man never made it onto Smallville. Still, we’re willing to bet he’ll appear on Legends of Tomorrow or in another corner of the CW’s Arrowverse within the next two years.
First appearance: All Star Comics #58, Jan./Feb. 1976
Real identity: Kara Zor-L
Lowdown: Kara is the Supergirl of Earth 2 all grown up. She’s the younger cousin of a Superman who first appeared in the 40’s (or maybe it’s the 80’s at this point, the timeline gets so confusing) and became a major force in the Justice Society of America on this alternate earth (for those playing at home all the heroes you know and love from the Justice League are technically on Earth 1). She’s been incredibly popular however not only thanks to a sexy costume and the physical attributes provided by numerous artists (basically she and Lara Croft have had a lot in common), but also because she’s a bad ass. As an adult Kryptonian she’s simply one of the most powerful heroes around no matter what the universe she’s living in. Important note: her BFF is Helena Wayne, the Huntress, a character that in theory could exist in Warner Bros. big screen DC universe.
Best Chance: Supergirl or Legends of Tomorrow seem most likely, but we wouldn’t be against a Justice League sequel debut either.
First appearance: Captain Atom vol. 3 #1, March 1987
Real identity: Nathaniel Adam
Lowdown: His origin recently changed with DC’s pesky New 52 and it’s unclear if it will remain that way after the company’s “Rebirth” which brought much of the older cannon back (did we mention it’s confusing? ). Never the less, Adam was a US Air Force pilot who has massive energy absorption powers or is a being of living energy very similar to Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen or even Marvel’s Wonder Man. Originally a Carlton Character that DC acquired the rights to, he’s been popular since the 80’s because of his unique appearance and massive power set. As a standalone character, however, he’s sort of been a bore.
Best Chance: Captain Atom would be a great way for the Justice League franchise to add some heavy ammunition for a battle with Darkseid, but we’re pretty convinced Adam or Atom will show up on Legends of Tomorrow first.
First appearance: DC Comics Presents #26, Oct. 1980
Real identity: Koriand’r
Lowdown: One of the original members of the massively popular Teen Titans relaunch in the 80’s, Starfire is the sexy alien teenage boys (and no doubt some girls) have drooled over for generations. A Tamaranean, she has the natural ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation that provides her with the ability to fly, superhuman strength and some invulnerability. After she was experimented on by another alien race she ended up with the power to channel that energy in “starbolts.” She’s had a long on again and off again relationship with Dick Grayson and was part of the popular Cartoon Network Teen Titans animated series. DC was also justifiably criticized for portraying her as a dumb sex object when the New 52 launched. That certainly wouldn’t fly today or in any other media.
Best Chance: Something tells us Kory isn’t arriving on screen until a solo Teen Titans or adult Titans movie. So, it’s probably gonna be awhile.
First appearance: Infinite Crisis #3, Feb. 2006
Real identity: Jaime Reyes
Lowdown: Ted Kord already appeared on Smallville, but the most recent Beetle, Jamie Reyes, has only appeared in animated series. Unlike Kord whose Beetle would remind most moviegoers of Owl Man in Watchmen, Reyes’ abilities are provided by the powerful Blue Beetle scarab which has fused itself to his back. It transforms into a protective suit of armor around him that if you described as an alien Iron Man suit wouldn’t be that off base.
[Update: Update: Whoops. If you remember Jamie Reyes and Blue Beetle appearing on Smallville you are not mistaken. Reyes met up with Booster Gold in the 18th episode of the 10th and final season of the long running CW series.]
Best Chance: We’re just counting down the hours until Reyes is cast as part of a February sweeps plotline on any of the Arrowverse shows, right?
First appearance: Showcase #37, March/April 1962
Roster: Gold, Iron, Mercury, Tin, Platinum
Lowdown: Created by Dr. William Magnus, the Metal Men are androids whose super powers reflect their namesakes and, um, materials. At times their personalities have been programmed by Magnus and in other eras they have the thoughts and memories of Magnus’ friends and colleagues. Often depicted as adorable enough for little kids (they appeared on Cartoon Networks’ DC Nation Shorts) the are surprisingly formidable as a team.
Best Chance: If DC and WB have their own version of a “phase 2” Metal Men is the perfect property for an out of the box standalone film. Assuming , of course, WB would be willing to take that chance.
First appearance: Stormwatch vol. 2 #4, February 1998
Real identity: Lucas Trent
Lowdown: Midnighter is much more than the “gay, more violent version of Batman that simply loves to people up” hero he’s often characterized as. A Wildstorm character that was integrated into the DC Universe, Trent was abducted by a mysterious character known as the Gardener who gave him superhuman abilities including super strength, speed and the ability to predetermine an adversaries moves while in combat (at least that’s his current origin). He also was the longtime lover of Apollo, Wildstorm’s version of a solar juiced Superman although they are no longer dating in Midnighter’s most recent solo series. And, yeah, I’ll go there – it would be great for gay kids to see a gay superhero that truly kicks ass.
Best Chance: Dare to dream Midnighter and Apollo get their own movie, but that seems like an epic reach. A streaming service series seems ideal, but the comparison’s to Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil would be too hard to overcome. That means an appearance of a watered down version of Midnighter on Arrow might be the best and only option at this point.
Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters
First appearance: Justice League of America #107, Oct. 1973
Roster: Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady, The Ray, Human Bomb, Doll Man, Black Condor
Lowdown: This patriotic pack has been in existence for over 40 years either on alternate earths or as part of whatever “current” DC continuity was in place at the time. It’s a more recent version under the guise of writer Grant Morrison that is the most intriguing. This alternate earth finds the Freedom Fighters truly representing the diversity of America. The Ray is a gay man (something an upcoming solo comic will explore), Black Condor is African-American (he’s also been Hispanic in the past), Doll Man is a rare Jehovah’s Witness superhero and Phantom Lady is Romani or “gypsy.” Throw in an incarnation of Uncle Sam which is seemingly a spiritual representation of the nation and you’ve got something very intriguing to play with in TV form.
Best Chance: With the right creative team behind it, Uncle Sam and his fantastic friends could be a great DC project for DC’s first series on – no joke – HBO. The characters are just fringe enough within the DCU to let them stand on their own and in this current political environment it could go in a more serious direction than the Arrowverse.
First appearance: 52 #7, June 2006
Real identity: Kate Kane
Lowdown: A Gotham City socialite who was kicked out of a West Point-esque military academy for being a lesbian (a lot has changed in 10 years), Kane became fascinated with Batman following an encounter where the Caped Crusader appeared after she fought off an attacker on her own. With her father’s help she transformed herself into Batwoman because there’s never enough heroes to take down the crime in Gotham. What’s most intriguing about Batwoman besides her dramatic modern look is that the acclaimed 2010 self-titled series always found her purposefully battling more supernatural foes than Batman usually does. It was a nice twist considering how many Batman spinoff characters and titles there have been over the years.
Best Chance: Warner Bros. television has shown no inclination to bring a DC character to a streaming service so far, but Batwoman could be a perfect fit. Our guess is, however, that she’ll somehow find her way into the current CW TV universe before that happens. Then again if Wonder Woman turns out to be a major blockbuster a big screen incarnation would make a lot of sense for DC and WB.
First appearance: Black Lightning #1, April 1977
Real identity: Jefferson Pierce
Lowdown: A DC “metahuman” (i.e., mutant) with the inherent ability to generate electromagnetic blasts and force fields, Pierce became a gold medal winning decathlete who took the mantle of Black Lightning to fight crime in the inner city (his base of operations has fluctuated over the years). He was the first African-American character to headline his own DC title and has been a member of both Batman’s Outsiders team and the Justice League.
Best Chance: Good question. It would be fantastic to see Pierce in a future Justice League film, but will Jamie Foxx’s turn as Electro in Amazing Spider-Man 2 scare WB off from bringing another Africa-American character with electric powers to the big screen? (And, no, obviously it shouldn’t.) That being said, an eventual appearance on The Flash just seems to make too much sense doesn’t it?
Beast Boy or Changeling
First appearance: The Doom Patrol #99, Nov. 1965
Real identity: Garfield “Gar” Logan
Lowdown: A member of the Teen Titans at the height of the group’s popularity, Logan actually has a long history in the DCU that began with his membership in the Doom Patrol. Logan has the ability to physically transform into any animal and has almost always played the part of the wisecracking jokester on any team he’s been a part of. Like many heroes, he’s suffered a ton of tragedy from the death of his parents (which he feels responsible for) to continual romantic heartache.
Best Chance: In theory, Logan stopping by National City would be a nice fit, but not even CBS could afford to properly afford to showcase his powers. Unless it’s a de-powered Logan you’re pretty much in the same boat as Starfire waiting for a Teen Titans or Titans movie.
The Phantom Stranger
First appearance: Phantom Stranger #1, Aug./Sept. 1952
Real identity: Judas Iscariot (implied)
Lowdown: Arguably the most intentionally mysterious character in the DCU, The Phantom Stranger is an all knowing immortal whose powers are still evolving after 60 years of existence. He’s a powerful force who usually appears to gather heroes such as the Justice League to battle one evil threat after another. Oh, and heads up: he doesn’t get along with The Spectre very well.
Best Chance: If the Justice Society of America is appearing on Legends of Tomorrow we’re got to be a season away from Phantom showing up there as well. If the Justice League Dark movie ever happens (and that’s a big if) a cameo wouldn’t be out of the question.
First appearance: Blue Beetle #1, June 1967
Real identity: Charles Victor Szasz or Renee Montoya or Vic Sage
Lowdown: For most of his comic book history, Vic Sage was an investigative reporter who hid behind a faceless mask to tackle crime often with ruthless methods in Hub City (he was a partial inspiration for Rorschach in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “Watchmen”). At one point he handed over his mask to Gotham City police detective Renee Montoya. Later DC brought him back as a man searching for his real identity (apparently not Vic Savage). However, no matter who has been wearing the mask, The Question has found him or herself smack in the middle of some of the biggest events in the history of the DCU.
Best Chance: It depends on which version of the character you’re referring to. Montoya’s prominent role is Gotham makes that a possibility. Then again, with Sage’s hometown appearing in both Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow is The Question that far away from dropping by the Arrowverse instead?
First appearance: The Marvel Family #1, December 1945
Real identity: Theo Adam (or Teth-Adam)
Lowdown: Whether villain, anti-hero or hero, there is something inherently cool about Captain Marvel, er, Shazam’s archenemy. Maybe it’s his costume. Maybe it’s because his responsibility as the protector of the fictional Arab nation of Kahndaq is inherently more interesting than anything Billy Batson is up to. Whatever the case, the god-like Adam has a cult following that has been waiting to see him on the big screen for decades.
Best Chance: Dwayne Johnson is supposed to play Adam in a live action version of Shazam. The film has an April 5, 2019 release date but is still looking for a director. Considering how long this project has been in development fans should believe it when they see it.
Jason Todd (Red Hood)
First appearance: Batman #357, March 1983
Lowdown: We’ll admit this is a bit of a cheat. Todd has never appeared in a movie or a live action TV series, but a Red Hood gang did appear on Gotham. Todd’s story of rebellion, resurrection and independence from the shadow of Batman is a story that deserves to be told on its own. Moreover, Todd’s willingness to use weapons and to kill set him apart from the rest of the Bat family and the less rules the more creative a screenwriter or filmmaker can get.
Best Chance: He’ll probably appear on Gotham at some point in some form or another, but a solo movie in the WB DC universe could launch a major franchise that could easily stand on its own.