New DC Studios co-heads James Gunn and Peter Safran are now focusing on making a unified DC Universe across film, television, and gaming. But they have said there is still room for stories outside the shared continuity. Movies like The Batman: Part II, and Joker: Folie à Deux. These projects would have their own branding based on DC Comics — Elseworlds.
In fact, James Gunn recently mentioned on Twitter that some upcoming animated projects will be Elseworlds tales. Over the next few years, there are some much-wanted DC Comics adaptations that fit perfectly into the Elseworlds brand, based on stories from the comics. Here are some key Elseworlds tales we hope to see come to life over the next several years.
As of right now, there are going to be two big-screen Batmans, with the DCU’s Batman in The Brave and the Bold, and Matt Reeves’ Dark Knight in The Batman: Part II. But what about Michael Keaton’s Batman, who is showing up soon in Flash? We don’t want just a “one and done” for him. Well, we have a solution. For years fans have been asking Warner Bros. to make a Batman Beyond movie, especially one with Keaton as “Old Man Bruce.” This would be based on the classic animated show. One which later became a comic set in its own universe apart from the main DC timeline. So, it is an Elseworlds of a sort.
True, right now might not be the time for this, what with two cinematic Caped Crusaders already. But we really want to see a film set in a Blade Runner-style future where young Terry McGinnis becomes the new Dark Knight, trained by the elder Bruce. This teenage Batman is part Spider-Man, with all the high school drama, part Iron Man, with the advanced armor, but mashed up with Gotham City mythology. Maybe this would be best served as an HBO Max series? All we know is that we’re dying to see it.
Superman: Red Son
While Batman has many great Elseworlds stories, Superman has about half as many. But there is one that stands above the rest, and that’s Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son. The story imagines a world where baby Kal-El landed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas. In Russia, he becomes the symbol, and ultimate weapon, of the totalitarian state. Krypton had a red sun, Superman is now the “red son” of the USSR. Clever, Mr. Millar.
The story also features other DC characters, given a Cold War-era makeover. An animated adaptation came out a few years back. However, it didn’t have the running time to do the original graphic novel justice. We probably won’t see an alt-Superman until our Clark Kent one is firmly established. Yet at some point down the line, a Russian Man of Steel seems like a no-brainer as an Elseworlds story.
Wonder Woman: Amazonia
Right now, aside from the prequel series Paradise Lost, there doesn’t seem to be any plans for Wonder Woman in the “Gods and Monsters” chapter. We still don’t even know if Gal Gadot is going to play Diana Prince when we see her next, or if it will be someone new. But while they figure out what the heck to do with the primary DCU Wonder Woman, maybe an Elseworlds tale could be squeezed in?
The 1998 graphic novel Amazonia by William Messner Loebs and Phil Winslade, imagined Diana in the Victorian era. We see her fighting against an era of systemic sexism, oppression, and uncomfortable corsets. Heck, if Gal Gadot doesn’t return as the DCU Wonder Woman, her swan song could always be this excellent Elseworlds tale. We’re in it just for the costumes alone.
DC: The New Frontier
We are clearly several years away from a new Justice League forming in this DCU. Gunn isn’t going to make the same mistakes the previous regime did, and rush a team-up film before it is ready. Having said that, a TV series adapting Darwyn Cooke’s epic series DC: The New Frontier could scratch that JLA itch until the eventual main DCU version arrives. The New Frontier is about the era of superheroes during the late ‘50s Atomic Age, coming out of McCarthyism and into the Space Race.
This story is set on an Earth still in the late ’50s/early ’60s. In it, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are the “old guard,” the last heroes still fighting the good fight post-WWII. They find themselves dealing with a new generation of Space Age heroes like the Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern, who represent the idealism of the JFK/Camelot era. Eventually, an apocalyptic threat unites them all. Cooke’s series explored American history through a superhero lens, and would make for a great HBO Max series.
The Crime Syndicate of America
This entry is a bit of a cheat, as there’s not one specific Elseworlds comic based on the Crime Syndicate to adapt. However, they are alternate versions of iconic DC heroes. And they do live on the parallel world of Earth-3, so we say they count as an Elseworlds. The Crime Syndicate are twisted, criminal versions of the Justice League. Powerhouses who are brutal crime lords and dictators on their Earth. However, they are not exact analouges for the League. Ultraman isn’t an alien like Superman, Owlman isn’t an evil Bruce Wayne, etc.
The best stories featuring these characters are the animated film Justice League: Worlds Collide, and the Grant Morrison graphic novel, JLA: Earth 2. (And we know James Gunn loves Morrison’s work). This would probably work best as an HBO Max series, since it would definitely be pretty dark and violent. There are a lot of “evil Justice Leagues” in media these days, like the Seven on The Boys. But the Crime Syndicate did it first, and arguably best. Let this be their time to shine.
You probably guessed this one was coming. Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ 1996 mini-series Kingdom Come is the granddaddy of DC Elseworlds stories, seen as the “final chapter” of the DC Universe. It’s set in the not-too-distant future, one where violent superheroes become the norm. “Heroes” who spend more time fighting each other than saving lives. After a personal tragedy, Superman retires, leaving these unruly characters to run amok. But after a terrible incident that costs millions of lives proves the world needs Superman, he returns. And the League follows him. But as you might guess, things do not go smoothly.
We’ve made the case before that this story would be the perfect final chapter for the Snyderverse heroes. It would be a fitting farewell to their versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as played by Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot. Right now, it seems James Gunn wants to focus on the future, and not tie up loose threads from the past. But maybe five or so years from now? Maybe then it will be time to do Kingdom Come. And if you wait some time, those actors will have aged into their roles naturally. Hey, in the meantime, an animated adaptation might work.