James Gunn has a big job ahead of him in creating a shared cinematic universe out of the ashes after nuking the old guard. While he’ll smartly focus on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League, he’ll also have to keep it fresh by bringing some new blood to the DCU. With that in mind, we have a handful of suggestions for Mr. Gunn as he gets things moving ahead in 2023.
Joao Roque Pinto on Mister Terrific
Dream casting: John Boyega, John David Washington, Scarlett Johansson
When thinking of a character that will allow for interesting storylines (be it through solo outings or as part of a team), with interesting powers without them being too out there, someone who big screen audiences have little to no knowledge of who it is and its back story, and that will be able to play well with the biggest names in the DC catalog, Mister Terrific (Michael Holt) came immediately to mind.
Gunn usually thrives when defining characters within team dynamics and Mister Terrific can be integrated into several teams the character has been a part of over the years. From the Justice League to the Justice Society of America, from Task Force X’s subdivision Checkmate to The Terrifics. His Genius-level intellect, “a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes”, can also allow for a more plot-driven type of story, moving away from the spectacle that most team-up movies tend to be.
Not discounting his use of T-Spheres, he remains a character that can easily be combined with almost any sort of comic book movie approach, from the more grounded to the most fantastical, all while also bringing to the table a representation factor into the larger DC Universe that should never be dismissed.
Jeffrey Peterson on Clayface
Dream casting: Denzel Washington, Josh Brolin, or Brad Pitt.
An origin story that starts in the 60s, maybe 70s, but definitely after the ‘golden age’ of cinema. Automatic buy-in through casting a respected Hollywood star that’s on the older side, but the film also gains the benefit of really only effects of makeup or CGI when really necessary. The film can still use noir and thriller elements of The Batman while leaning into a more physiological terror space. The movie has the opportunity to discuss body dysmorphia and alteration, self-help, generational trauma, and the arts, specifically film, without doing any of it too directly. The other golden opportunity is that Clayface’s abilities only have to be hinted at since those actors are good character actors anyway. The more monstrous reveal once the powers get out of hand can naturally happen in the third act or the first, depending on the classic film a director (Jordan Peele or Alex Garland) wants to reference.
I know there’s going to be a consensus for all sorts of Green Lanterns to show up, so I’m going to get in front of that and say that Simon Baz is the Lantern we need to see. As a hero who ends up wielding a fusion of Sinestro and Hal Jordan’s power ring, and as the Corps’s first Arab-American member, Simon has the chance to bring some much-needed diversity to a DC Slate that is predominantly cis hetero white men. Showing Simon’s street racing, and racial persecution following a subsequent car accident, would make some amazing TV.
Now, who to play him, you ask? How about 40-year-old Lee Majdoub, who played Agent Stone in Sonic The Hedgehog? You’ll next see him playing the villain in Assassin’s Creed: Mirage, and he’s still young enough to where he could theoretically play this Lantern for 10 years.
Bat-Mite, as John Economos puts it in Peacemaker, is “a two-foot-tall interdimensional imp who stans Batman.” There are many interesting things DC Studios could do for a Bat-Mite project or an appearance elsewhere. Bat-Mite is similar to the Superman villain Mister Mxyzptlk, with a very different characterization. He is a being from the Fifth Dimension, which means Bat-Mite has access to phenomenal cosmic powers. And while Mister Mxyzptlk uses his powers to toy with Superman, Bat-Mite uses his powers to “help” Batman, because Bat-Mite is at his core, not a bad guy. His biggest problem is just that he is irritating. Basically, Bat-Mite is the fan from hell. He critiques Batman, makes things more difficult, and ruins Batman’s plans. The closest thing to Bat-Mite is probably Syndrome from The Incredibles. And in the wrong situation, Bat-Mite is dangerous. Sure, he likes Batman and wants Batman to succeed, but if Bat-Mite gets angry at Batman or wants to make a task more difficult for him to make it more fun to watch, there really are not many limits to what Bat-Mite can do. He is a nerd who just cannot help himself. Sometimes he is more bad than good, but a lot of the time, in his heart, he does just want to help.
To be fair, since he is not showing up in a Batman movie anytime soon, James Gunn could totally make a Bat-Mite movie and it would probably be a lot of fun. However, this is not really where he would be the most useful in the DCU, especially since Bat-Mite has already come up in Peacemaker. And since a second season of Peacemaker will probably factor into whatever Gunn is cooking as Co-chairman and CEO of DC Studios and is more of a lock than the majority of other DCU projects, Bat-Mite should 100% show up as part of season 2. Imagine, Bat-Mite shows up floating next to Peacemaker. Only the audience and Peacemaker can see or hear Bat-Mite as he spends most of the show telling Peacemaker that he is not as cool as Batman. Is Bat-Mite real or is he a figment of Peacemaker’s imagination or some subconscious manifestation of his inadequacy? Who knows? But a stylized cartoon or weird CGI-man thingy floating around Peacemaker in season 2, telling him how he needs to do a better job of being a hero like Batman is the totally out-of-left-field choice that Gunn would absolutely make. When season 1 started, nobody thought that Peacemaker would be fighting aliens. So, why not throw in a being from the Fifth Dimension, especially one who would not really work in many other movies or shows? Bat-Mite as the angel and devil on Peacemaker’s shoulder in Peacemaker season 2 would be so much fun.
Who better to be an entry point character for the present state of the Batman Family and all of its tentacles than Bruce Wayne’s son, raised by Ra’s Al Ghul in the world of assassins, then introduced into the world of vigilantes as the next to carry on the legacy of Robin? Through him, we can meet all of Bruce’s surrogate sons and daughters and explore a different dynamic with Bruce, as he needs to find his softer side to connect with an offspring who might be more intense than even him.
My #2 choice would be Nubia. While the idea of a “Black Wonder Woman” might seem at first glance to be one note, through her we can learn about the secret history of the lost Amazon tribe of Bana-Mighdall, who left Themyscira’s magical protection and gave up their immortality to create a society of warrior women in the Amazon way, but amidst the tumult of Northern Africa. Through interactions with Diana, Nubia could be a doorway into juxtaposing a more militant vision of the Amazons against the utopian one we were exposed to in some of the previous Wonder Woman outings. Nubia’s heroic journey can be about her learning to inspire hope in Man’s World rather than instilling fear.
Charles Murphy on The Spectre
As Marvel Studios’ fans wait for Ghost Rider to make his way into the MCU, DC’s own Spirit of Vengeance could serve an important role in James Gunn‘s new DCU. The being known as Aztar is as old as the universe and serves as the hand of divine vengeance for DC’s One Above All. There have been a whole lot of different iterations of the character over the years and Aztar has been bound to a few different human hosts, but a combo of the New 52’s modern version of Gotham PD officer Jim Corrigan mixed with the brilliant work done by John Ostrander in the 1990s offers the perfect mix of a character tied into the connected universe Gunn is building while also being able to do his own thing. Is this the right superhero role for Gunn’s bestie Nathan Fillion?