- Eric Webb American-Statesman Staff
“Justice League” opens in theaters this week, and for the most part, it stars the heroes you would hope to see in a big-screen adaptation of DC Comics’ marquee super team. You’ve got Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash, members of the team’s classic lineup from way back in 1960. In the most recent retelling of the team’s origins, Cyborg has been added as a founder, so he’s in the movie, too. Superman might not appear in the promotional clips for “Justice League” — in the DC cinematic universe, he came down with a nasty case of being dead at the end of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — but you know he’s totally going to show up.
Because comic books are my sports, my thoughts before even seeing “Justice League” have already drifted to “who’s going to be in the sequel?” If we look to Marvel’s “Avengers” movies as a guide, there are certain second-tier members who are natural second-round draft picks. Just like “Avengers: Age of Ultron” added classic Marvel heroes like the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, it’s not a big leap to guess that a “Justice League” sequel might include DC mainstays like shapeshifting powerhouse the Martian Manhunter or backward-talking magician Zatanna.
So, let’s keep things interesting and rule out the obvious candidates (basically, anyone who joined the team before, say, 1986). For the purposes of this list, let’s take a look at some deep cuts from the Justice League’s decades-spanning roster. We’ll probably never see these characters in a big-budget flick, but gosh, it would be so fun if we did.
Fire: This Brazilian crimefighter, in my mind, is the ultimate C-list Justice Leaguer. She’s at the top of every one of my fantasy lineups. Fire’s backstory is just too bonkers not to love: Beatriz Bonilla da Costa, a model-turned-secret-agent caught in an explosion of MAD SCIENCE, gained the ability to breathe green fire. Why is it green? Who cares! She soon gained the ability to turn her entire body into living green flame, which is a visual that just begs for CGI treatment. Fire’s had staying power, too. Introduced in the “Super Friends” comic in 1979 as Green Fury, she was the long-running life of the party in the comedy-oriented Justice League International stories of the 1980s. DC took advantage of her espionage past in this millennium by making her a (surprisingly cutthroat) operative of super-intelligence agency Checkmate. She’s even appeared in a few DC Comics TV adaptations. Bonus for potential screen chemistry: She’s half of one of the greatest female friendships in comics history, with Norwegian hero Ice. Comics: not always subtle with names.
Congorilla: *ahem* Congorilla is a jungle explorer from the 1940s who looks like William Powell and who can inhabit the body of a super-strong, golden gorilla with the help of a magic ring. I am confident that as soon as someone tells the producers of “Justice League” that this character exists, he will immediately be written into the sequel, though his tenure on the comics team was relatively short.
Power Girl: Do you like watching “Supergirl” on the CW? I have good news! Power Girl is Supergirl — literally, she is a version of Superman’s cousin Kara from an alternate Earth — who got stuck on our Earth and joined its superheroic ranks. But there’s better news! Power Girl is like if you took Supergirl and asked, “How can I take her as far out of Clark Kent’s shadow as possible?” She’s tough as nails, she takes no prisoners and she’s a brawler par excellence. There’s a reason she’s got “power” in her name. The superhero film world needs more invulnerable women punching monsters, don’t you agree? Cast Ronda Rousey and call it a day.
The Ray: There have been multiple incarnations of this light-powered crusader, all the way back to 1940. But the version I am interested in for a box office debut is Ray Terrill, specifically as he’s appeared since the recent DC Comics event “Rebirth.” Raised in darkness and told from a young age that light will kill him, Terrill discovers that it in fact gives him rad energy-based powers. The vibe is very “Spider-Man but shinier.” He’s openly gay these days, has an undeniably cool costume (think “The Rocketeer” meets “Tron”) and is already a part of the CW’s TV superhero lineup.
Plastic Man: Many people know Plas from his late 1970s cartoon show. He’s even older than that, created in 1941 by comics genius Jack Cole. But he’s on this list because, whether you know it or not, the stretchable hero was actually a mainstay of the Justice League. He stuck around for years as a core member alongside Batman, Superman and the rest of the big names after joining in 1998 as part of a lineup expansion. A walking Tex Avery cartoon, Plastic Man is the big-hearted id of the League and also low-key one of its most powerful members. In one storyline, the malleable mischief-maker survived on the ocean floor — disintegrated — for thousands of years. His past as a small-time crook is rich with narrative possibility, too. The cinematic version of the League could use this stretchy shot in the arm.
Mister Miracle: There is nothing I want to see more in a Justice League movie than a super escape artist from an interdimensional race of gods who was raised on a hell planet by space Satan himself. Mister Miracle, aka Scott Free, has a costume straight out of a Christmastime acid trip, per his creation by comics king Jack Kirby. Watching this guy bust out of some silver-screen death traps would make any fan of blockbuster spectacle salivate. Sidenote: Check out the currently running “Mister Miracle” comic, which is bleak and beautiful in all the right measures.
Green Lantern Kyle Rayner: Finally, the most glaring omission from the cinematic Justice League is Green Lantern. Any Green Lantern! I’m not picky. For the non-initiated, the superhero we know as Earth’s emerald ring-slinger is actually a member of an intergalactic army of space cops, all possessed of great willpower and those pretty rings that can make your thoughts a glowing reality. The 2011 “Green Lantern” film seemed to sour folks on the concept; he remains on the sidelines until 2020’s “Green Lantern Corps” reboot flick. But if I had my druthers, the Kyle Rayner version of the hero would be rubbing elbows with Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot. Rayner, controversially introduced in the 1990s as the last Green Lantern after the entire corps had been wiped out, is the epitome of cool. At least, that’s what I’d say. He starred in one of the first comic books I ever owned, so my bias shines bright. A league without a lantern doesn’t seem right.