It’s a hard fact of life that our favourite superhero film franchises and TV shows must inevitably come to an end – but what if they didn’t? That’s the thinking behind DC’s two recently announced digital first comic book mini-series, Batman ’89 and Superman ’78, which will continue the adventures of Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight and Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel.
This isn’t the first time DC has revived a dormant live-action or animated property, either. Projects like Smallville Season Eleven, Batman ’66, Wonder Woman ’77,and Batman: The Adventures Continue each kept their respective small screen stories going, so it was only a matter of time before DC’s big screen outings received similar treatment. The real question now is what’s next? With any DC comics movie or TV show seemingly up on the table, here are my top five picks for which continuation comics should be published next (and who their creative teams should be).
5. Shazam! ‘74
Admittedly, the 1974-1976 Shazam! series starring Michael Gray as Billy Batson (and Jackson Bostwick as his alter-ego Captain Marvel) doesn’t have quite the same cultural cache as Batman ’66 or Wonder Woman ’77. Nevertheless, the show boasts a cult following among older comic book buffs, and if DC can successfully court younger fans of the recent DC Extended Universe Shazam movie as well, that’s probably a large enough readership to sustain at least a six-issue mini-series.
In terms of its creative team, a heavyweight writer/artist duo wouldn’t hurt boost a Shazam ’74 book’s sales prospects. I’d tap superstar scribe Grant Morrison – who previously unlocked the character’s retro appeal to great effect in his The Multiversity event series – pair him with regular collaborator (and artist’s artist) Frank Quitely, and let them both cut loose with outrageous concepts like Mister Tawky Tawny that 1970s network TV show could never have pulled off!
4. Batman ‘12
Full disclosure: I had absolutely no idea what to call this one. Should it be Batman ’12? The Dark Knight Rises ’12? Neither is the sexiest of titles, but I’m not sure anyone will really care – so long as they get a direct follow-up to the final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy.
True, this would mean adding yet another Batman book to DC’s comic book continuation slate, however, Batman ’12 (or whatever we’re calling it) would set itself apart from Batman ’89 thanks to its grittier, more grounded tone and aesthetic. Heck, they wouldn’t even star the same character, since this book would chronicle the exploits of rookie crimefighter John Blake (originally portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he assumes the Batman mantle and tries to live up to the legacy of his predecessor.
Writer Brian Azzarello is the obvious choice to pen Batman ’12 – thanks to his experience emulating Nolan’s sensibilities for 2008’s Batman: Gotham Knight tie-in anthology animation – while the work of artist Lee Bermejo (who worked with Azzarello on the Joker graphic novel) could pass for still frames from the trilogy itself. Between Azzarello’s knack for writing tormented souls like Blake and Bermejo’s gift for reimagining classic Bat-villains in suitably twisted, Nolan-inspired fashion, you’re almost guaranteed to have a top-selling comic book on your hands.
3. Green Lantern ‘11
I know, I know: pretty much everybody hated 2011’s Green Lantern (including star Ryan Reynolds!), but surely that represents a huge opportunity for a comic book continuation? After all, casual and hardcore fans alike are bound to pick up the first issue out of morbid curiosity, at least – and if it was actually done well, DC might even redeem this failed franchise to some extent.
So just how do you do a Green Lantern ’11 book well?
First, you recruit Green Lantern co-screenwriter (and experienced comics writer) Marc Guggenheim and encourage him to embrace what worked about the movie (likeable leads, breezy vibe, sweeping scale) and rethink everything else. Next, you team him up with a “widescreen” artist like Bryan Hitch; someone who can nail the actors’ likenesses and deliver jaw-dropping pen-and-ink set pieces. Then you sit back and let them craft a six-issue Green Lantern “sequel” that pits Reynolds’ space cop against Mark Strong’s villainous Sinestro, and watch the readership grow!
2. The Flash ‘90
The Flash might be racing towards its seventh season on The CW next month, but the Scarlet Speedster’s first live-action outing turned out to be more of a sprint than a marathon. Featuring John Wesley Shipp as its eponymous costumed adventurer, the 1990 incarnation of The Flash was cancelled after only one season – which meant fans never got to see the epic showdown between the Fastest Man Alive and the combined might of his entire rogue’s gallery.
It’s time we got to see that titanic tussle, unfettered by the limitations of 90s network TV visual effects – and who better to write it than one of the show’s co-creators (and occasional comic book wirter) Danny Bilson? To handle art chores, I’d set my sights on a rising star like Joëlle Jones – someone equally adept at dynamic action scenes and quieter, character-driven moments – to bring some modern gloss to this throwback mini-series.
1. Static Shock ‘00
Kids’ WB animated series Static Shock was a modest critical and commercial success when it aired from 2000-2004, but with its African American teen protagonist and focus on real world social issues, it always felt a little ahead of its time. Fortunately, its moment has finally arrived: a Static Shock ‘00 comic book continuation series would be one of many titles on the stands today that caters to a more diverse audience.
In that vein, a Black creative team seems appropriate for a book so clearly rooted in Black culture, so why not hire Static co-creator Denys Cowan (a producer on the animated series) to script Static Shock ’00 and see if Jamal Ingle is interested in adapting his style for the comic’s cartoon-inspired artwork. Together, they could do a comic book continuation that faithfully captures the spirit of Static Shock, even as it addresses some of the show’s shortcomings (like downplaying Ritchie’s homosexuality).