Pretty soon, Marvel and – to a lesser extent – DC are going to realize that they have a problem: they're going to run out of household name superheroes to turn into big movie franchises. That's when they're going to have to look past the A-list and figure out which of their superheroes are actually worthy of getting their own movie based on story and character alone. We're here to help. Here are The Top Ten Superheroes Who Deserve Their Own Movie, courtesy of the CraveOnline Film Channel.
In the interest of spreading the love around, we're going to look past the heroes who are already rumored to have a movie in the pipeline – folks like The Runaways, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Dr. Strange and so on – and limit our choices to DC and Marvel Comics, since they're the ones who are actually going to experience a shortage in the near future.
10. Ka-Zar – "Tarzan on Skull Island"
That’s pretty much it: Tarzan on Skull Island. Ka-Zar never was one of Marvel’s most original characters. First published as a straight-up “Lord of the Jungle” knock-off by Marvel predecessor Timely Comics in 1936, Ka-Zar was retconned as another, slightly different Tarzan knock-off almost thirty years later in the pages of X-Men. Born Kevin Plunder, he's the son of a rich British family who was raised in The Savage Land – home to dinosaurs and other fantastical creatures – by a sabertooth cat named Zabu. He protects The Savage Land from those who would exploit it, like his villainous brother Parnival Plunder (yes, that’s actually his name). It’s not exactly what you’d call a “high concept,” but when was the last time anyone made a good Tarzan movie? Answer: the f*cking 1930s. Just add dinosaurs.
Dream Director: With Fast Five, Justin Lin took a rather generic action franchise and – after three tries, at any rate – elevated it above the material thanks to canny casting and classy action sequences. If anyone can make Ka-Zar entertaining despite its complete lack of originality, it’s Lin.
9. Livewires – "Philip K. Dick's Mission: Impossible"
Livewires stars an ensemble cast of androids designed to look like human teenagers. Their mission, which they are programmed to accept, is to infiltrate, sabotage and destroy clandestine organizations around the world. But they were programmed too well, and are now rogue agents pursuing even their own country’s black ops programs. Their newest member, Stem Cell (who can create new machines using nanotechnology), has been programmed with human psychology, which gets in the way of their missions but puts a human face on the team. Livewires has a great original storyline – with a doozy of a twist – and a young and exciting cast of characters with unique personalities.
Dream Director: Josh Trank, whose recent low-budget hit Chronicle captured the wonder of superheroics without sacrificing his characters’ moral complexity.
8. Sandman Mystery Theatre – "Batman meets Se7en"
No, not that Sandman. This is Sandman Mystery Theatre, written by Matt Wagner (Mage) and Steven T. Seagle (Uncanny X-Men), based on the original Sandman comics. Wesley Dodds is a young, wealthy entrepreneur in the 1930’s, whose villains are serial killers with a gimmick. Wagner and Seagle used Dodds’ adventures to examine the changing socio-political climate of the 1930’s, focusing on such relevant issues as racial tensions, eugenics and early American apathy to Hitler’s rise prior to World War II. Dodds is not your typical superhero – he feels so much empathy for the murder victims that he loses sleep and is sometimes moved to tears – and has the single healthiest romantic relationship in the history of comics with his love interest, Dian Belmont.
Dream Director: Nicolas Windng Refn, who proved himself a master stylist with last year’s critically acclaimed Drive, a film that hit all the conventional action movie beats while placing refreshing emphasis on the emotional pain caused by acts of violence.
7. Hitman - “Quentin Tarantino with Superpowers”
Tommy Monaghan is just your typical assh*le hitman, with one exception: he has superpowers. Nothing crazy; just x-ray vision and mild telepathy, but that’s enough to give him a niche in the criminal underworld, as a hitman specializing in killing superhumans, like a radioactive Santa Claus. Originally created by Garth Ennis (Preacher) and artist John McCrea, Monaghan is DC’s answer to Deadpool, without the incessant quips.
Dream Director: Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry was a fantastic, high-octane acid trip through B-movie supernatural action craziness. He’s got a knack for humor, action and good-natured ultra-violence. He’d be perfect.
6. Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. – "Superhero with a Chaperone"
Before he was one of the biggest writers in comics, Geoff Johns got his start with a short-lived but beloved series called Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., about a teenaged girl whose stepfather is an ex-superhero sidekick. In an fit of youthful rebellion, she steals some of his souvenirs and turns herself into a superhero, so he builds himself a suit of power armor to keep an eye on her as her sidekick. It’s high concept, got a built-in dramatic subplot and full of fun characters… perfect movie material, if somebody can just convince Hollywood to make a superhero movie with a female lead.
Dream Director: Chris Weitz has had an odd movie career so far, ranging from American Pie to The Golden Compass, but he’s at his best when he’s dealing with parental relationships, like this year’s Oscar-nominated A Better Life, or the Hugh Grant comedy About a Boy. He’s already cut his teeth on fantasy action, and proved he can cater to the teen market with the second Twilight movie. Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. is totally in his wheelhouse.
5. Nova - "The Last Starfighter meets Superman”
Richard Ryder is a typical American teenager until he’s chosen – at random – to inherit the power of an intergalactic police officer. Yes, it’s a lot like Green Lantern. Nova didn’t ever find a unique identity of his own until the events of the crossover series Annihilation, in which the rest of the Nova Corps (look, we said it’s a lot like Green Lantern) was destroyed in an interdimensional attack. Suddenly, the human rookie is forced to fight an intergalactic war all by himself, with only the Nova Corps’ living supercomputer – downloaded directly into his mind – to help him.
Dream Director: We never thought we’d be saying this, but Shawn Levy’s the man for the job. After disappointing family films like A Night at the Museum, he finally stepped up to the plate with the excellent adolescent wish-fulfillment sci-fi flick Real Steel, and proved he can do this kind of thing with Spielbergian aplomb.
4. Manhunter – "Death Wish with Supervillains"
Kate Spencer is a federal prosecutor with a problem: these supervillains always wind up back on the streets. When a homicidal villain named Copperhead escapes custody and goes on a killing spree, she breaks into an evidence locker, steals high-tech weapons and turns vigilante, killing super-criminals who won’t stay locked up. Spencer’s a complex character whose activities can’t be written off as harmless heroics. She probably belongs in a jail cell right next to her bad guys.
Dream Director: We’d say Joe Carnahan’s got all the right sensibilities for a Manhunter movie, but he’s remaking Death Wish already. So instead, let’s offer the film to J.C. Chandor, whose film debut Margin Call, another movie about intelligent adults dealing with powerful ethical dilemmas, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
3. Aquaman – "The Lord of the Rings in Atlantis."
Alright, go ahead and laugh. Get it out of your system. When you’re done, ask yourself the following question: Why do we make fun of Aquaman? It’s because his character sucked on Superfriends, an already bad Saturday morning cartoon show that hasn’t been on the air in decades. Aquaman has superhuman strength and telepathy, which yes, allows him to talk to fish, but also do all the other stuff telepathy can do, so unless you’re also prepared to start badmouthing Professor X, it’s time to give it a rest. The Aquaman movie finds the lost Atlantean prince reclaiming his underwater throne from wizards and monsters in a hardcore fantasy adventure best described as an underwater Lord of the Rings. That’s pretty darned cool.
Dream Director: Brad Bird made one hell of an impression with his first live-action film Mission: Impossibe – Ghost Protocol, which, when combined with his first superhero movie The Incredibles, makes him the perfect choice to bring DC’s most underappreciated hero to life in an badass fantasy epic.
2. The Initiative – "Avengers meets Full Metal Jacket"
Ignoring the whole Civil War angle (please), Avengers: Initiative is an excellent addition to the superhero film universe, and an ideal place to audition new characters for their own, future solo films. The series follows a team of superhero recruits training to be official, government sanctioned crimefighters, and potential Avengers. If nothing else, Marvel Studios won’t have to shoehorn in the obligatory cameos, since the actual cast of The Avengers could show up as guest instructors before the young heroes are forced into action by whichever supervillain subplot the filmmakers decide to use for the big climax.
Dream Director: We need somebody who can handle the hard stuff – since the film is basically a PG-13 version of the first half of Full Metal Jacket – but also the air of youthful exuberance on the part of the young cadets. We’d enlist Craig Brewer, the director of the harsh dramas Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan as well as the surprisingly good remake of the teen classic Footloose… if he has the initiative.
1. Squadron Supreme – "Oliver Stone's Justice League"
Before DC gets around to its Justice League movie, Marvel Studios could steal their thunder with Squadron Supreme, based on Mark Gruenwald and John Buscema’s classic mini-series. The Squadron Supreme are team of superheroes bearing archetypal similarities to DC’s team of superhero all-stars, who decide to use their powers to turn the world into a utopia. They overturn the 2nd Amendment, resurrect the dead and rehabilitate criminals via mind control, and are thoroughly corrupted in the process. The team finally turns on each other in a deadly climactic battle. In the end, Superman-analogue Hyperion realizes (far too late) that their best intentions have turned them all into fascist dictators.
Dream Director: On one hand, Squadron Supreme needs to be as action-packed and thrilling as a typical superhero movie. On the other, it needs to be a complex allegory that comments on the superhero myth, religion, and politics on every level. Can you think of anyone better than David Fincher? Because we sure can’t.