DC Comics: 5 Properties that Deserve the Spider-Verse Animated Treatment

Joe Meola ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

On June 2, 2023, Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse–the long-awaited sequel to the 2018 film Into the Spider-Verse–hit theaters, and it is no secret that the animated superhero flick has taken the world by storm, surpassing box office expectations and spawning an endless stream of fan art and still-ongoing discussions. Like its predecessor, Across the Spider-Verse captured audiences with its well-rounded story, compelling characters, and breathtaking animation that truly pushes the limitations of the medium. 

2018’s Into the Spider-Verse has ushered in a new era of theatrical animation, clearly influencing the style of films like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, while also encouraging filmmakers in animation to keep pushing the boundaries of the medium and reminding audiences that animation is an art form that should not be taken lightly.

In an era where films based on Marvel Comics properties are dominating the box office, it is only a matter of time before competitor DC Comics tries to achieve similar success through theatrical animation (because, let’s face it, while James Gunn’s upcoming slate of DC films seems incredible, DC’s films that don’t have “Bat” in the title are really struggling to find their footing critically and financially). While DC has made some recent attempts at theatrical animated films, namely Teen Titans Go! to the Movies and DC League of Super-Pets, such recent efforts are largely geared towards children and lack the widespread appeal that the Spider-Verse films hold.

What the DC Comics library may need to succeed is the Spider-Verse treatment. No, this does not mean DC should make a film that rips off both the plot and style of either of the Spider-Verse movies. Superheroes don’t need to explore the multiverse to have compelling stories, and the multiversal aspect is not what makes the Spider-Verse movies so special. DC needs animated features that take both its characters and the medium of animation seriously, while surprising audiences with what can still be achieved in animation and creating unique, breathtaking visuals that simply cannot be achieved in live action. Here are five DC Comics properties that would work perfectly if adapted in this fashion (plus some fan castings  for the lead roles, because why not).


Plastic Man

Doused with chemicals in a robbery gone wrong, former crook Patrick “Eel” O’Brian gave up on his life of crime and used his newfound stretching powers to fight crime as Plastic Man. This elastic-powered superhero is, for all intents and purposes, a living cartoon character. His powers allow him to stretch any part of his body to great lengths and mold himself into a variety of shapes. O’Brian’s cartoony abilities would be a visual spectacle in a high-budget animated film, and his tragic past as a former criminal trying to do some right in the world would make his story very compelling. Plus, the often more comedic nature of this character and his stories would set this hypothetical animated film apart from something like the Spider-Verse movies. There is certainly no shortage of A-list comedians who would absolutely kill it in the leading role; two names that instantly come to mind are John Mulaney and Ben Schwartz.


Batman Beyond

It would be impossible to make a list of potential theatrical DC animated films without mentioning the Batman of the future himself, Terry McGinnis. In 1999, Paul Dini (Emerson College alum!), Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett debuted the Batman Beyond animated series, a futuristic take on the Dark Knight featuring an entirely original teenage protagonist mentored by an elderly Bruce Wayne in a Blade Runner-inspired Gotham City, now dubbed “Neo Gotham.” The series was a hit with audiences, and its lead hero is still a fan favorite to this day. A futuristic take on the DC Universe is rich with storytelling potential on the big screen, especially once you key in on the Batman mythos in particular. Batman Beyond has long been rumored and demanded by fans to be adapted for the silver screen. Recently, two separate rumors have surfaced about possible theatrical projects based on the property, one, an animated project, the other, a live-action film featuring Michael Keaton returning as Bruce Wayne, and both of them ultimately were scrapped (if they ever truly existed to begin with). Simply put, an animated project based on Batman Beyond made with similar effort and heart to the Spider-Verse films would be a marvel to witness on the big screen. So much can be done with the setting and world-building with modern filmmaking/animation and a Hollywood budget that simply could not be done in a network television cartoon back in 1999. This film has the opportunity to entirely reinvent the aesthetic of the futuristic world of Batman Beyond, leaning even more heavily into the cyberpunk aspects while also perhaps implementing some Tim Burton-esque gothic elements in order to craft something truly unique. The character of Terry McGinnis (played by Boy Meets World’s Will Friedle in the show) would be a delight to see adapted for a modern audience; similarly to the aforementioned Plastic Man, his background as a former criminal would make him a unique fill-in of the hero archetype. Someone like Tye Sheridan (who played Cyclops in some of the recent X-Men movies) or Ryan Potter (who had been campaigning to play the DCEU’s Robin and ended up portraying Beast Boy in HBO Max’s Titans) could play this lead quite well.


Wonder Woman

Although she is a member of DC Comics’ Trinity alongside Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman has not had nearly as much time in the spotlight as her male counterparts. While the legendary Diana of Themyscira has had a fan-favorite television series and two theatrical films, that pales in comparison to the number of on-screen adaptations given to the Dark Knight and Man of Steel. Wonder Woman is certainly a more difficult character to adapt, as her origins draw heavily from Greek mythology, potentially making it harder to set her apart from the various other pop culture icons that also draw from such myths. However, this connection is also what makes this character so special amongst a universe of superpowered aliens, super-smart billionaires, and science experiments gone wrong. In order to set her apart from characters that some may deem similar, perhaps the next Wonder Woman feature should delve even further into her mythic roots. To truly capture the awe-inspiring wonder (no pun intended) of a superhero directly linked to the Greek Pantheon, Wonder Woman’s next big screen outing could easily be a high-budget animated feature. Her home island of Themyscira would look breathtaking and the most visually distinct it’s ever looked. Key locations from Greek Mythology like Mount Olympus and Tartarus could also be gorgeously reinvented in a new, unique animation style, and key items of Wonder Woman paraphernalia like her Lasso of Truth and Invisible Jet could really pop. Ahsoka star Rosario Dawson or She-Ra’s Aimee Carrero could each bring a truly distinct voice to the heroine worthy of the big screen.


New Super-Man

Superman has died quite a few times within the pages of DC Comics. Most notably, he perished in the iconic “Death of Superman” storyline at the hands of Doomsday, inspiring the emergence of four separate successors–Steel, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and the Eradicator–in his temporary absence. Something similar happened in the buildup to DC’s 2016 “Rebirth” relaunch. Up until this point, DC’s main line of comic books all existed in a rebooted continuity spawning from the “Flashpoint” story arc and 2011’s “New 52” publishing line. Before Rebirth, DC killed off the New 52 version of Superman… who was subsequently replaced by several successors: The pre-New 52 incarnation of Superman, Lex Luthor in a Superman-styled armor and more heroic public persona, two Superwomen (Lois Lane and Lana Lang, who were both granted powers by Superman’s passing), and (most importantly, for the purposes of this list) Kong Kenan, the Super-Man of China. First appearing in the 2016 series New Super-Man by Gene Luen Yang, high schooler Kong Kenan does not have the typical background of a hero. Kenan is a bully who is granted the opportunity to become a hero due to a misunderstanding of his ideals. Following an encounter with a supervillain (whom he stood up to for attacking a kid he was just bullying), the Chinese government takes notice and runs experiments on him to create their personal equivalent to Superman, alongside their versions of Batman (Bat-Man), Wonder Woman (Wonder-Woman), and eventually the Flash. Kenan goes on an incredible journey throughout this series, shifting from a self-centered jerk obsessed with fame and fortune to an incredible hero and leader, even splitting off from the Chinese government to fight for good on his own terms. His story is also interwoven with elements of Chinese mythology, as Kenan has to hone different aspects of his qi (life force) in order to master and balance his superpowers. As a standalone animated film, an adaptation of New Super-Man could build upon the comics’ use of Chinese mythology to truly celebrate how special Kenan’s background truly is. Furthermore, it can play around with the continuity of the DC Universe at large in order to further contribute to Kenan’s journey ( for example, maybe the deceased Superman does not have countless replacements, including a Superman from another timeline, leaving Kenan on his own to learn what it means to be the Man of Steel). Characters from this series have been given very little to do since its conclusion. Kenan is a side character in the current run of Action Comics, while China’s Bat-Man has made small appearances in the pages of Batman Incorporated. The only character from this run that has been somewhat in the spotlight is the series’ Flash, Avery Ho, who has consistently been a supporting cast member in the Flash title, and is set to headline the upcoming Speed Force series alongside Ace West. A theatrical film starring these characters could perhaps motivate DC to continue these characters’ comic story together in a new mini or ongoing series. There are countless actors whose voices could bring Kong Kenan to life on the big screen, and the beauty of animation is that an actor of any age could voice him. Shang-Chi’s Simu Liu would fit the role quite well, as would Ross Butler of 13 Reasons Why fame.


Batman Incorporated

There have been a variety of international Batman teams over the years, but the most well-known of these is Batman Incorporated, writer Grant Morrison’s reimagining of the Silver Age “Batmen of All Nations.” Both of these teams consist of masked vigilantes from across the globe following in the footsteps of the United States’ Dark Knight, and many members of the original Batmen of All Nations have been carried over to or homaged in some form by the modern-day Batman Incorporated. Batman Inc. came about in an effort by Bruce Wayne to unify these masked crime fighters into a single global network. Many of the group’s members are relatively unknown and have not been given much to do for the most part, providing a mostly blank slate for filmmakers to really play around with these heroes and reinvent the Bat-mythos. Furthermore, there is an opportunity to create wholly original characters for this movie in order to add some size to this organization, similarly to what was done in Across the Spider-Verse. Having a diverse cast of Batmen (many are not even bat-themed at all, but you get the idea) can provide audience members with plenty of character options to gravitate toward, and this could potentially lead to social media art trends like the Spider-Sona trend that resulted from both Spider-Verse movies. Additionally, what is so promising about a Batman Inc. film is that Bruce Wayne himself does not need to be in it at all, at least not in the lead role. If anything, an under-utilized member of the traditional Bat-Family such as the Cassandra Cain incarnation of Batgirl could take up the leading role, while prominent Batman Inc. characters like El Gaucho–a crime fighter hailing from Argentina–Jiro–AKA Batman Japan AKA the second Mister Unknown–Knight–an armor-wearing hero from the UK–and Batwing–the Batman of Africa–among many others could play major supporting roles. Eliminating the multiverse angle of Spider-Verse while maintaining the concept of a diverse cast of heroes allows the film to delve into how the legacy of Batman has inspired people across the globe, hitting home the idea that Batman truly does make the world a better place. Plus, it makes Batman as a concept feel far more relatable, borrowing the idea from Spider-Verse that “anyone can wear the mask” through its use of different Batmen from different nations and different backgrounds. There are far too many possible combinations of main characters to give such a film a brief yet proper fan casting, but this film should cast actors hailing from the actual nations that these characters are from so that audience members from these places can feel truly represented.

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