Comic book fans were excited when The Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was named co-CEO of DC Studios. It feels like someone who understands the characters and their importance is finally in charge of the film universe. Now it appears Gunn is reciprocating that excitement by requesting movie ideas from die hard fans.
Recently, the filmmaker took to Mastodon to ask his followers, “Which DC character/s who hasn’t yet had their own film do you want to see most on the big screen?” Responses included Batgirl, Nightwing/Dick Grayson and Martian Manhunter. All great ideas, but this being The Root, we have some thoughts about Black DC characters who definitely need live-action adaptations. Even though Gunn asked for those who haven’t been seen on the big screen yet, I decided to also avoid memorable or long-running TV portrayals, as some Black heroes have been the subject of unforgettable performances. Let’s start with first-time appearances.
Green Lantern John Stewart
All discussions of Black DC characters begins and ends with John Stewart. He is the best Green Lantern, an extremely impactful character and somehow has never gotten the big screen treatment. Of course, based on how 2011’s Green Lantern came out, maybe it’s a good thing that we’ve had to wait a while for John to get his own feature film. HBO Max recently announced that it was changing its long-gestating Green Lantern series to focus on John, so why not go one step further and make it a movie? If you’re breaking out the big bucks, it might as well be on a high-profile blockbuster movie that fans have waited decades for.
And as for casting, I’m inclined to agree with Shanelle Genai, my collegue here with The Root, and say that Trevante Rhodes or Damson Idris would be great in this role. I could also see John Boyega as a more experienced, veteran Lantern. The Woman King star is the perfect choice to help anchor a new DC film universe alongside Henry Cavill’s Superman and Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam.
Fans of the animated series Young Justice are familiar with Kaldur’ahm a.k.a. Aqualad. He’s the leader of a team of young heroes that includes Nightwing, Miss Martian, Superboy and Kid Flash. His powers are a mix of Atlantean science and magic, which sets him apart from Arthur Curry’s Aquaman. He’s an excellent strategist, often making the tough choices that others don’t always understand. For example, he let everyone think he had left the team to join his evil father Black Manta, when he was actually a spy for the good guys. Aqualad is also one of the few queer Black heroes in comics, which makes his on-screen representation more important than it’s ever been. Kaldur can be portrayed as anywhere from teens to 20s, so I think The Flash’s Keiynan Lonsdale, Strange World’s Jaboukie Young-White and Queen Sugar’s Nicholas L. Ashe are fun possibilities for the hero.
Static, Hardware, Rocket, Icon
How awesome would it be to get a team up movie featuring the Milestone characters? Seriously, this seems like a slam dunk and I’m shocked that DC hasn’t announced it yet. Virgil Hawkins is just a regular teenager who accidentally gets the power to control electricity. He’s a funny, nerdy guy who feels like a familiar friend. Add in tech genius Curt Metcalf/Hardware, alien Augustus Freeman IV/Icon, his badass sidekick Raquel Ervin/Rocket and you have a hero for everyone. If done properly, with the right script and director, this could be DC’s Black Panther.
In terms of casting, I’d love to see Gangs of London’s Sope Dirisu as Icon, Descendants’ China Anne McClain as Rocket, Fire Country’s Jordan Calloway as Hardware and Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin as Static.
I think we can all agree that The CW’s Naomi was never really given a fair shot. Why not pick up the story where it left off with a cool movie starring Kaci Walfall as the teen hero anxious to discover her true origins. Put the focus on her backstory and spend a little less time on the teen drama. Oh, and obviously, series co-creator Ava DuVernay needs to direct.
Expanding the Universe
Amanda Waller, Cyborg, Black Canary
And just in case you forgot, the DC film universe already features some fascinating Black characters. Yes, Peacemaker gave us a small glimpse of Amanda Waller’s life away from being the woman with all the secrets, but we need more. Are you telling me you don’t want to see Viola Davis and Danielle Brooks explore their characters’ complicated mother/daughter relationship? Of course, you’re not. I’d also be very interested to see Jurnee Smollett return as Black Canary in a story centered on Dinah and her crime-fighting partners Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). So much focus was on Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, we weren’t really given a chance to get to know Black Canary.
After everything he went through, I know there’s no way Ray Fisher is returning to DC Studios, and frankly, I wouldn’t ask him to. However, Victor Stone/Cyborg is too good of a character to keep on the sidelines. Whether the studio starts over with a new story or picks up the hero where he left off in Justice League, it’s long past time for Cyborg to get a proper big screen feature.
In closing, I understand that DC Studios has a lot of issues to work through, but if James Gunn really wants to get things back on track, these characters provide the best, most interesting and unexpected ways to do that.