Jaime Reyes has donned the Scarab and buzzed into theaters in DC’s newest film, Blue Beetle. The first superhero film led by a Latino hero, Blue Beetle sees Reyes attempting to control the powerful, insectoid alien technology as he battles the villainous Carapax and the corrupt CEO of Kord Industries, Victoria Kord. The film acts as an origin story for the young adult superhero, highlighting the many possibilities of the technological armor.
With the ability to shape-shift and produce a multitude of powerful weapons, the Scarab is one of the most powerful tools in the DC Universe, and fans are excited to see it finally adapted for the big screen.
Blue Beetle has seen some highly positive reviews and a fantastic box office release, meaning that Xolo Mariduena’s character will likely make a big return in future films. However, Blue Beetle isn’t the only superhero in the comic book landscape. There are plenty of similar characters, whether in terms of age or power set, that would be perfect for the silver screen. The 15 included in this list are simply the tip of the iceberg. Some are the best and brightest of the genre, while others have flown further under the radar and deserve more attention. Either way, with the success of Blue Beetle, the path is paved for these incredible heroes.
First introduced in Batman Beyond, the animated series sequel to Batman: The Animated Series, Terry McGinnis’ Batman is one of the most beloved characters on this list. Batman Beyond told the story of a futuristic Gotham, where crime has run rampant since the retirement of the Batman. Terry McGinnis spent much of his youth as a small-time criminal, but during a run-in with the Jokerz gang, he is saved by an elderly Bruce Wayne and discovers the Batcave in Wayne’s basement. After his father is killed by the current CEO of Wayne-Powers Industries, Terry and Bruce begin to work together to bring the man responsible to justice, with Terry donning a brand-new high-tech Batsuit.
Fans have been clamoring for a Batman Beyond film since the series came to an end in 2001. The futuristic Gotham setting would be a perfect addition to the live action DC Universe, allowing artists to go crazy with the intense cyberpunk aesthetic from the animated show. More than that, Terry McGinnis is an incredible character.
While the Blue Beetle film sees Jaime Reyes as a post-graduate, the original iteration of the character was a teenage superhero, and at 16, McGinnis is one of the most popular teen heroes out there. More than that, the darker tone of Batman Beyond, paired with its incredibly complex lead character, would allow for an incredible film.
Radiant Black (and the Supermassive Universe)
The newest character on this list, Radiant Black only made his debut in 2021, but despite this, he has made a massive impact on the industry. Fans have loved this thrilling, unique take on the superhero genre, and creators Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa have started to build their own, complex superhero universe called Supermassive, consisting of several “Radiant” heroes and villains that would be perfect for a live-action film. Radiants Black, Red, Yellow, and Pink, Rogue Sun, Inferno Girl Red, and Dead Lucky have added some much-needed life to the superhero genre, but who are these unique new heroes?
Radiant Black is Nathan Burnett, a struggling writer who feels that his life is going downhill. After turning 30, his future feels hopeless until he is granted the incredible cosmic power known as “the Radiant.” However, the beings who created this power want it back, and they are willing to go to any lengths to tear it out of Burnett.
Teaming together with gaming-streamer-turned-teleporting-superhero, Eva; a middle school teacher named Satomi who can change her size by absorbing material; an elderly man named Wendall who can see potential futures; and a host of other heroes, Nathan is the perfect superhero for the modern generation.
Marc Silvestri is one of the founding members of Image Comics, and Witchblade is one of the classics of his Top Cow Studios imprint. The Witchblade is a powerful artifact, one of 13 that have the power to change or destroy the world. Passed down generation after generation, the weapon was created to act as a balancing force between the Darkness and the Angelus, two diametrically opposed artifacts whose hosts wage constant war against each other. This generation’s host is Sara Pezzini, a detective in New York City, and with the Witchblade on her wrist, she not only has to tackle the city’s criminal underworld, as well as the supernatural forces of the real underworld.
The original run on Witchblade is full of ’90s extremism, full of blood, gore, grotesque monsters, and over-sexualized costumes. This has made many comic book readers shy away from the series, but as time has passed, Sara Pezzini and the other wielders of the Witchblade have become more complex and interesting.
The story has themes of workplace discrimination and motherhood, while also introducing some supernatural insanity for good measure. If you liked Blue Beetle’s shapeshifting powers in the film but wished they had a bit more of a supernatural bend, Witchblade might just be for you.
The original Deathlok was released in 1974 as a techno-Frankenstein’s monster, a deceased human reincarnated using cybernetic technology. There have been many different Deathlok’s throughout Marvel continuity, but the creator of the technology has always been the same: Harlan Ryker. Given the threat his technology poses, Ryker’s family was attacked (Terminator-style) by a resistance group of time-traveling Deathloks. The only survivor was his daughter, Rebecca, but she was horribly maimed in the attack. In order to save her life, Ryker subjected his daughter to the Deathlok treatment.
Rebecca Ryker is likely the least-known character on this list. She has only ever made appearances during event comics, first appearing in 2012’s Avengers Arena, and then returning for its sequels, Avengers Undercover and Journey Into Mystery. In general, this Cyborg knock-off has had very little time on the page, but her story is so interesting. She had barely recovered from her near-death experience before she was whisked away to a Hunger Games-inspired murder fest, and her complete lack of control makes her a danger to herself and the other teens. She is a fascinating character who deserves far more attention than she has received.
Cloak and Dagger
Cloak and Dagger made their debut in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #64 in 1982, and in that initial appearance, the pair were actually villains for the wall-crawler. The pair were hyperviolent vigilantes, seeking to stop the sale of drugs in the city. As a pair of runaways, Cloak and Dagger were kidnapped and administered an experimental drug that gave them darkness and light-based powers, respectively, and since that day, they have sought to protect other runaways from the same fear and fate. In the 40 years since their debut, they have cooled off a lot, still protecting teens and stopping dealers but doing so in less villainous ways.
Cloak and Dagger have already received their own live-action television series on Hulu. However, given the Hulu series’ ambiguity as to their place in the MCU, this pair of characters may not be officially canon. However, they would be perfect picks for a film. Not only are they often considered the quintessential teen superheroes (mirroring Blue Beetle’s modern incarnation), but their adventures into the morally grey helps them stand out.
The film could see the pair having to come to terms with their origin, the trauma of the experimentation, and the violence they have willingly committed. It could be a fascinating character film that the MCU hasn’t yet done.
Debuting in 1991, Doreen Green, a.k.a. Squirrel Girl, has exploded in popularity. Originally intended as a comic relief character, many fans have become attached to her upbeat personality, inspirational characterization, and college-life storytelling. Though not a mutant, Doreen developed a strange genetic mutation when she was 10 years old. This mutation gave her all the abilities of a squirrel, namely a prehensile tail, enhanced strength and agility, and the ability to speak to the furry critters.
Since she saved Iron Man with a squirrel army when she was 14 years old, Doreen has gone on to defeat several major villains, including Dr. Doom, Thanos, the Norse squirrel god Ratatoskr, and Galactus.
Given her age, attitude, and more recent adventures into college, Squirrel Girl’s stories are perfect for fans of Blue Beetle. While she doesn’t have the same powers nor the more serious storytelling, she fits the relatability. Many of her comics deal with the balance of social and superhero life, while also focusing on more school related difficulties.
She is, after all, a girl with a tail, which comes with its own set of challenges. However, just like Beetle, she just loves being a superhero, even with all of its struggles. Though her live-action debut in New Warriors was canceled, the MCU needs an inspirational hero like Squirrel Girl in its upcoming slate of films.
Admittedly, we have already seen Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider in live action. He made his debut in the loosely semi-canonical Agents of Shield, played by Gabriel Luna. However, this version of the character didn’t get nearly enough screen-time. Robbie is an incredible character, one who has risen through the ranks to become a main team member on the Avengers.
More than that, he has taken the Ghost Rider powers to the next level, even once possessing a celestial. This doesn’t even speak to the depth of his character as a representation of disability caretakers and Latino superheros. His focus on family and culture makes him perfect for fans of DC’s newest live-action hero.
Growing up in East Los Angeles, Robbie is the sole caretaker of his younger, disabled brother. Wanting to escape the gang wars that plague their neighborhood, Robbie enters a high stakes street race by stealing a car from the mechanic’s shop where he works, but he doesn’t realize that the car has a bag of experimental drugs in the trunk.
Robbie is gunned down by mercenaries seeking the drugs and dies, but the spirit of serial killer Eli Morrow possesses him. This possession heals Robbie and gives him incredible hellfire superpowers, and he decides to use them to make his home safer for him and his younger brother, even if Eli has darker motives.
Milestone Comics was started in 1993 as a means to give a voice to African-American writers and artists in the comic book industry. Published and distributed by DC Comics, Milestone created several superheroes that soared to popularity, and though the company went under in 2008, the characters still have a presence in modern DC Comics and animated series. Of their creations, though, Static stands out as one of the best and most memorable.
The star of his own animated series in the early 2000s, Virgil Hawkins has become one of the most popular teen superheroes of all-time, with his stories focusing heavily on social justice, racism, and gang violence.
Virgil Hawkins’ origins have changed many times. In his original incarnations, Virgil’s powers originally stemmed from his involvement with gangs. In both the comics and the animated series, Virgil is present during a police raid on a gang war. Police douse the groups in experimental chemicals in an event known as the “Big Bang,” causing everyone to develop superpowers.
However, his most recent debut ties Static less to gang violence and more to social justice, with Virgil gaining his powers while protesting at a George Floyd rally. Static is one of the most beloved superheroes of the modern day and wholly deserves his own live-action film.
Icon was meant as Milestone Comics’ Superman equivalent. An alien, Icon, possessed incredible strength, speed, and durability, as well as the ability to produce energy bolts. However, Icon wasn’t the main character of his comic. In fact, the story focused on his sidekick, Rocket.
Raquel Ervin grew up in a poor district of the fictional Dakota. Along with some friends, she broke into the home of Augustus Freeman IV, paying witness to the man using his powers to defend his home. Raquel convinced Augustus to become a superhero, using technology from his ship to develop powers of her own, and together, they worked to make Dakota a safer place.
Much like Static, Rocket is a superhero obsessed with social justice. It is a key aspect of every one of her stories, and while her popularity has waned in recent years, the Milestone Returns line has seen her and her mentor return to the DC Multiverse in a big way. Now is the right time to have this character make an appearance, especially with James Gunn at the helm of the new DC live-action universe.
Gunn is proficient at bringing more obscure characters into popularity, as he did with Guardians of the Galaxy. More importantly, superhero movies suffer from a lack of diversity. Icon and Rocket could provide a deep look at that particular issue.
Despite DC’s commercial and critical flop in the Ryan Reynolds-led Green Lantern film, this doesn’t change the fact that the character is one of the most interesting in the company’s history. With the ability to create anything they can imagine and an interstellar narrative covering the deepest reaches of the DC universe, the Green Lantern Corps. has literally endless possibilities.
While we have been promised a John Stewart and Guy Gardner-led Lanterns film in the new DC universe, there is one Lantern that has fallen to the wayside in DC’s efforts.
Kyle Rayner has some controversy surrounding him (seriously, look up Women in Refrigerators), but he is still one of the most interesting and versatile Green Lanterns. An artist by trade, Rayner’s constructs take on more fantastical appearances, like Mechs, fantasy armor, and myriad pop-culture references. Rayner is most often depicted as the pinnacle of Green Lantern power.
In one story, he becomes the host for the spirit powering the Green Lantern Corps., while in another, he becomes the White Lantern, a guardian of life itself. While Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardener are more recognizable names, Kyle Rayner deserves his shot at the live-action spotlight.
Hazmat (and Avengers Academy)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone to great lengths to bring the Young Avengers to the big screen, but one more obscure teenage superhero team has largely been forgotten by Marvel in recent years. The Avengers Academy was instituted in order to help mold the next generation of superheroes. Past Avengers like Giant Man, Quicksilver, and Tigra all played a role in training and developing these young hopefuls.
However, if you know anything about the faculty, you know the true motivations behind the Avengers Academy: keeping powerful young people from turning into supervillains.
The students at Avengers Academy were all experimented on by Norman Osborn in his efforts to create the ultimate superheroes. Most displayed less than heroic attitudes, and this is none the more apparent than in Hazmat. Hazmat showcases the worst potential of superpowers.
She produces intense radiation, like a living nuclear reactor. She is forced to wear a special suit for fear of irradiating everyone around her. This darker side to superheroics is something the MCU has only briefly touched on, but the storyline is perfect for the live-action universe. The trauma they have experienced is a difficult topic to explore, but the chance to tell a more personal and serious story in this universe needs to be taken.
Valiant Comics is one of the lesser-known comic book publishers, but their superhero universe is vast and diverse, mixing in tropes of the superhero genre in an often R-Rated package. Their storylines can get really dark and serious, and this has drawn in fans since they began publishing in 1989. X-O Manowar is one of their most interesting characters.
Aric of Dacia was a Visigoth soldier battling the oppressive Roman Empire. One night, he and his fellow soldiers are abducted by an alien species known as the Vine. While aboard their ship, Aric manages to don their most powerful weapon, a sentient set of armor with a myriad of energy and shape-shifting abilities.
Returning to Earth in the modern day, Aric dedicates himself to battling the Vine hidden amidst our culture. While X-O Manowar is definitely the Superman equivalent of the Valiant Universe, there are several parallels between him and Blue Beetle. The sentient armor that can shape-shift, as well as the interstellar storytelling, make these two something like multiversal cousins.
However, X-O Manowar adds a layer of blood, gore, and intense storytelling into the mix. He is an ancient soldier in the modern day, and a royal one at that. He answers to no one unless it suits him, and he isn’t afraid to kill or destroy anything that gets in his way. This could lead to some thrilling action storytelling.
The Nova Corps. has made several appearances throughout the MCU, most notably in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. However, their portrayal has only left fans wanting more. A galactic peacekeeping force, the Corps uses high technology and access to the ultimate supercomputer, the World Mind, to ensure the safety of their people.
What the films haven’t shown us, though, is the pair of Earthlings that have not only donned a Nova Corps. helmet, but have also become their greatest weapons. Richard Ryder and Sam Alexander are two Marvel superheroes with incredible, energy-based powers, and fans have been begging for them to make big-screen appearances.
The Novas are more akin to Blue Beetle and the Green Lantern Corps., young teens that stumbled upon alien tech that transformed them into intergalactic police officers. Given the more militaristic angle of the Nova Corps. in the MCU, it may be difficult to justify their incredible superpowers, but given that the series is trying to incorporate some younger heroes, adding the Novas would only make sense.
After all, Richard Ryder was a founding member of the New Warriors, and Sam Alexander was a key part of the Champions and later the Avengers. No one knows why they still haven’t made appearances. Given the struggles the MCU has had in 2023, now is the time to bring them to life.
Darkhawk is the Marvel Universe’s equivalent of DC’s Blue Beetle. A young man named Christopher Powell stumbles across a discarded piece of alien tech, and when he bonds with it, he gains technological powers that allow him to spawn shape-shifting armor. Any weapon is at his disposal; he can produce massive bolts of energy, he can grow bladed wings, and he has even turned into a giant mech in one storyline.
The only real differences between Darkhawk and Blue Beetle are their aesthetic (birds vs. bugs), and their popularity, with Blue Beetle far surpassing Darkhawk in the latter regard.
Marvel has been giving a little more love to Darkhawk over the last decade. He made a guest appearance in the Runaways comics, a major appearance in Avengers Arena, and even starred in his own solo comic that spun off of the Infinity Countdown story arc. He even joined the Guardians of the Galaxy. At the time of this writing, Marvel is even publishing a new Darkhawk series, though the torch has been passed from Powell to Connor Young.
While an underground favorite for only the most devout Marvel fans, Marvel would do well to bring this character out into the light. They have succeeded with other obscure characters, meaning they could build a lasting legacy with him.
The Original Blue Beetle
Many fans of the new Blue Beetle film might not know that Jaime Reyes is actually a legacy hero, i.e., he isn’t the first to bear the Blue Beetle name. The original Blue Beetle was Ted Kord, the CEO of Kord Industries, who used his vast wealth and technological prowess to become a vigilante. In truth, he started as a bit of a Batman knock-off for Charlton Comics, but over the years, he has developed his own identity and has left a major mark on the superhero landscape.
This is especially true after the character was bought by DC Comics, where he befriended Booster Gold and became the inspiration for Watchmen’s Nite Owl.
While he doesn’t have a lot in common with Jaime Reyes, it only makes sense to bring the original version of the character to the big screen in a potential sequel. In fact, he technically already has made an appearance. Rather, his voice did, as the mid-credits scene of Blue Beetle saw the characters listening to a voicemail left by Ted Kord. What his role will be is still a huge mystery, but with talks of a sequel in the works, there is a good chance we will see this version of Blue Beetle make a big appearance.
There aren’t a lot of mentor/mentee relationships showcased in modern superhero movies, so this could be a great change of pace.