Justice League director's cut

Two trailers out of this year’s Comic Con that had everyone abuzz were Aquaman and Shazam!, the forthcoming films from DC Entertainment. The “DC Extended Universe,” as it’s colloquially known, began by positioning itself as an alternative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with uber-serious posturing taking precedence over, well, pretty much everything else. Even Wonder Woman, by far the best and most joyful of the bunch, could only swing so far in the opposite direction since it was set during World War I. These next films two however (and by all accounts, next year’s Wonder Woman 1984) appear to represent a mea culpa for the saga, as it transitions into something more akin to the classic comics.

Aquaman follows Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry as he “YEAYUH!”s his way through Atlantis, a world where merpeople ride sharks into battle, while Shazam! is essentially Big with superheroes. The former, from Furious 7 director James Wan, looks like a goofy, CGI-laden romp (I’m here for it) while the latter appears to be an all-out comedy, and both are far cries from Batman v Superman’s “Do you bleed?” and the generally grim, sluggish tone of the series. Superheroes can certainly be used to tell serious tales, but their escapist nature is a major draw. Even if the story is about lofty ideas of power and responsibility, people want to be entertained when they go to the movies; for a film series whose very name began as a joke, it would only seem prudent to embrace the material’s inherent campiness.

With the DCEU finally headed in a new direction, here are some characters from the comics who could bring hope, positivity and simply fun back to the movies:

10. Booster Gold

Most superheroes still adhere to some form of a call to destiny, but Michael Jon Carter, AKA Booster Gold, has a unique origin. A disgraced sports-fixer from the 25th century, he travels back in time and uses his knowledge of future events to prevent tragedies — not out of a drive to do good, per se, but out of the desire to become a celebrity. Superhero meets car salesman, Booster Gold is a zany reflection of corporate America, often sporting company logos on his costume as part of sponsorship deals, as he navigates the spotlight with his superhero B.F.F. Ted Kord/Blue Beetle and his security droid Skeets. As expected, Booster does eventually learn to become a true hero, but in the meantime, picture a goofball with the ego of Tony Stark, trying to simultaneously manipulate time while protecting its overall fabric.

9. Plastic Man

First of all, Plastic Man’s name is Eel O’Brien. Second, he’s chums with an inept-middle aged sidekick named Woozy Winks. The character is right out of comics’ Golden Age, a crook-turned-crime-fighter who’s left with the powers of shape-shifting and elasticity after an industrial accident, though he fits right in with the modern “meta” breed of superhero too, rattling off pop-culture references like Marvel’s Deadpool. He’s rarely seen without his signature goggles (I can’t recall a single panel that didn’t have him wearing shades indoors; what a prick) and his whole function as a member of the Justice League is to annoy its more serious members and provide some levity.

8. Zatanna

What better way to introduce mysticism to the DCEU than a stage magician with actual magic powers? Starting with her superhero costume, a magician’s getup including a wand and a top hat, Zatanna Zatara’s very purpose is to dazzle and entertain. After the disappearance of her father, from whom she both learned and inherited her magical abilities, she enters the wider world of superheroes to help get him back from the forces of Dark Magic. She looks gloriously out of place in a lineup of capes and spandex, as hers is arguably the rare superhero costume you can’t dumb down or make more “realistic” without sacrificing who she is. Her powers make for interesting moral dilemmas as well, since she can wipe people’s memories and has previously done so to not only various supervillains, but to Batman.

7. Damian Wayne

Batman’s son is a jerk, but at least he’s honest about it. The genetically enhanced spawn of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul, Damian was born and raised to be an assassin, though he eventually takes up the mantle of Robin after his father dies – err, gets lost in time and Dick Grayson becomes Batman. It’s a ridiculous reversal on the classic dynamic, a cheerful Batman alongside a hilariously brooding, bloodthirsty Boy Wonder. And yes, the spoiled little twerp eventually comes around to the good side after being reined in, though his way of establishing heroism happens to be declaring himself a vegetarian and christening “Bat-Cow,” who he then brings to live in the Batcave.

6. The Legends of Tomorrow

Fittingly the outliers on this list (which technically features more than 10 characters; sue me), the Legends didn’t exist in the comics until the DC TV Universe decided it needed a time-traveling spinoff. Combining villains and side-characters from Arrow and The Flash, The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow was a moderate success at first. That is, until it took a step from grim to light-hearted in its second season, before going bat-shit bonkers in its third, a story culminating with the group fighting a demon using a giant fluffy teddybear made from their collective souls. If the folks at DC were to lean in to the comics’ multiverse concept like the shows have, it would be a hoot to see the likes of Wentworth Miller’s calculating Captain Cold, Dominic Purcell’s hot-headed Heatwave, Brandon Routh’s boyscout genius Atom, Nick Zano’s hard-headed historian Citizen Steel and Caity Lotz’s reluctant captain White Canary make the leap to the big screen.

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