The DC and Marvel comic film franchise juggernaut is showing no signs of slowing down. However, lucky for them, their universes are filled with underrated superheroes that could carry their own movies.
Here are 10 underrated characters that should be brought to the screen.
The Underrated Superheroes of Detective Comics Comics
Let’s start with the good folks at DC Comics. The DC film franchise needs new blood. They appear to have a Superman movie and *checks notes* 72 Batman-adjacent films in development. Luckily, the DC catalog is full of rich characters and incredible stories.
Ones that don’t involve characters whose names rhyme with “Shmatman!” Here are the top 5 DC heroes who deserve a shot at the silver screen!
1. Vic Sage/Renee Montoya A.K.A. The Question
Created by Steve Ditko in 1967, Vic Sage, aka The Question, has a strange but fascinating history in DC Comics. After Ditko’s run on the character, The Question lay dormant for a while. He became overshadowed by his Watchmen-analogue Rorschach. Then, he starred in a hidden-gem series written by Denny O’Neil.
Many fans know him best as the conspiracy theorist in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon (masterfully voiced by Jeffery Combs). Any Question fan knows the character’s vast potential, and you don’t have to limit yourself just to Vic Sage. One of my personal favorite stories with The Question is 52.
In this comic, a terminally-ill Sage trains Renee Montoya – a former Gotham cop – to succeed him as The Question. It’s a perfect combination of a buddy-cop film for a pair of underrated superheroes. What makes The Question a perfect choice for a film adaptation is it wouldn’t require massive spectacle or special effects. It could be a gritty noir film with strange conspiracies and mysteries you can only get in comics.
WB clearly has an interest in this type of comic movie considering they’re currently filming Scorsese-inspired Joker movie. The Question can give audiences a look at how the superhero film can mold into any genre. He will also give audiences a break from a hero they’ve already seen a million times.
2. Space Cabbie
Out of all the characters on the list, Space Cabbie is the one that has never reached his full potential. Who is Space Cabbie? I don’t know! Where’s he from? Who knows? What does he do? Look at his name, brother! My dude drives a CAB. In SPACE.
So, Space Cabbie drives a cab in space, right? Imagine a Doctor-Who/Hitchhiker’s-Guide-to-the-Galaxy-style yarn about a driver trying to get from one end of the galaxy to the other. The Space Cabbie character is such a blank slate, a film could do literally ANYTHING with him, and it’d be fine.
What makes Space Cabbie an underrated superhero character is that few people have explored how fun this concept could be. A movie would be an amazing way to do it.
3. The Legion Of Superheroes
Now, I know this sounds crazy, but audiences really enjoy sci-fi films featuring huge world-building and memorable characters (*cough Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy cough*). However, a good Legion of Superheroes movie shouldn’t be a rip-off of already successful film franchises. In fact, the Legion film should explore a concept that is crucial in DC Comics: legacy.
In a nutshell, the Legion of Superheroes is a team of super-powered teenagers from the 31st Century. The Legion has always had its own cult following, and it’s easy to see why. They were the Claremont X-Men before the Claremont X-Men. They are a rich ensemble of characters with interpersonal conflicts layered between superhero action.
The Legion forms inspired by heroic teams like the Justice League in the “modern” DC timeline. A Legion film would be a great way to explore why people love superhero stories within an actual superhero story. It would also be a powerful way to explore the strength of cultural diversity in these troubled times.
Each member of the Legion comes from a different planet and has different abilities. Their individual abilities make them stronger as a unit. Diversity is their greatest superpower; that’s a great premise to build a film on.
4. Jack Knight, Starman
Speaking of legacy, Jack Knight, the son of Golden-Age-superhero Ted Knight, is a character begging for a 2018 update. In the original comics, Knight is a proto-hipster (he was a hipster BEFORE it was cool). He owned a vintage store and spouted off random factoids about his home, Opal City.
The one piece of nostalgia he can’t abide is his father’s legacy as Starman. But, when his brother dies shortly after taking on the mantel, Jack decides to become Starman in his own way. DC often stumbles in trying to make its pantheon of god-like heroes relatable. However, in Jack Knight, they have a character who’s relatability is central to the character. If done correctly, Jack Knight could become the DC version of Spider-Man.
5. Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers
Okay, let’s get weird. My favorite thing about superhero comics is that “superhero” is a genre that contains every genre. To paraphrase Alan Moore, comics are adventure-romance-fantasy-sci-fi-western-horror-action stories. Nowhere is that more evident than in Grant Morrison’sSeven Soldiers.
This series pulls together characters from every conceivable corner of the DC Comics universe. From top to bottom, there’s Zatanna, The Bulleteer, Manhattan Guardian, Frankenstein, Klarion the Witch Boy, Shining Knight, and Mister Miracle.
Now on paper, you look at this team and think, “Well, this line-up makes absolutely no sense.” And guess what? You’re right, and that’s kind of the point! In the original Morrison comic, the full team never actually meet! Instead, each character had their own four-part mini-series with book-end one-shots that tied their separate adventures together.
Look, it’s one of those Morrison comics where taking peyote beforehand might be the best way to read it. But it also is vastly different from anything the film world of comics has ever seen. Different is what we need right now.
What Do You Get For The Film Franchise Who Has Everything?
It’s almost become laughable at this point how good of a job Marvel is doing. Ask anyone what their favorite Marvel movie is and you’re likely to get many different answers. However, with their big “finale” Avengers 4 on the way, Marvel needs to shake things up. So let’s sit and rap about how they can do that.
1. Marvel Boy
The intergalactic rebel without a cause. Marvel Boy first appears as a Kree prisoner who decides to unleash unholy hell on our planet. He saw humans as ants compared to his superior alien genetics. That is until he discovered the Ronettes. Yes, unsurprisingly, in the hands of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, it was music that soothed the savage beast.
Marvel Boy blends the fish-out-of-water comedy of Thor and Captain America, the sci-fi action of Guardians, all with a layer of teen angst. Plus, if cast correctly, Marvel Boy will carry on the proud MCU tradition of hunky, beefcake heroes.
2. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
This is a comic about a child super-genius and her best friend, who’s a dinosaur.
That’s it. Do I need to say it again?
This is a comic about a child super-genius and her best friend, who’s a dinosaur. This movie will make so much money.
3. Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu
An action-movie renaissance is happening right under our noses. Big-budget, superhero spectacles have dominated the conversation for awhile. However, franchises like Ip Man, The Raid, and John Wick are proving that audiences are starving for a more visceral action movie experience.
While Iron Fist gets more-or-less wasted on Netflix, Marvel gets a chance to branch out into yet another genre of movie-making. A low budget, stripped-down, bone-crunching Shang-Chi film can keep Marvel from becoming creatively stagnant. Not to mention keep the new crop of great martial arts movies going.
4. Beta Ray Bill
Marvel has had a great deal of success with their rollicking, space adventures. However, Beta Ray Bill offers a chance to bring a level of gravitas to the cosmic-side of Marvel.
The story of Beta Ray Bill, slave to a system he never understood, could be the Ben-Hur of the Marvel canon. It’s a chance to cut loose on an epic character who has never gotten the recognition he deserves.
5. Isaiah Bradley A.K.A. Captain America
Black Panther showed that the MCU is willing to use their characters to address the political questions. However, Isaiah Bradley’s story would be the most politically charged and powerful film that Marvel Studios could produce.
In Truth: Red, White, and Black, writer, Robert Morales, and artist, Kyle Baker, reveal the truth behind the WWII’s Super Soldier Program. Before using the perfected serum on Steve Rogers, the American government tested the serum on a regiment of African-American soldiers.
The serum arrives, as if they were lab rats, without care for how it would affect their livelihood. This seems like the horrific actions of a comic book super-villain, but the story is inspired by the Tuskegee experiments.
With Isaiah as the only survivor, the American government sent him on clandestine missions against the Nazis. They would then whitewash his legacy with Steve Rogers, who was in the dark about the existence of his predecessor. It’s not an easy story to tell, but it’s an important one.
Maybe a superhero story will finally make America understand that exploited people of color created its foundations.