I sat down a week ago to write out three things I wanted to add to the Arrowverse. As I should have expected because it happened when I did this with the MCU, I had so many ideas that the list got longer. Instead of cramming 6 points into one post, I decided to break this up into two. You’ll want to read the last one first, because the last point on that list – adding magic to the Arrowverse – stretches perfectly into the first thing I want to see. Except it’s not a thing, but a character, and one of my favorite DC characters at that…
The Arrowverse has already brought in a lot of great characters, and that’s one of its major strengths. Now it’s time to introduce one of my DC favorites that so far has not appeared anywhere except for Young Justice (which is excellent): Zatanna Zatara.
If you’re not familiar, Zatanna Zatara is a character that…has a complicated history. For a large chunk of DC comics, it felt like they didn’t know exactly what to do with the character, but kept her around because thigh high boots, fishnets, and a leotard was a look that appealed to a certain demographic. Especially because her magic requires hand gestures and speech, and that particular demographic also loved seeing her drawn bound and gagged.
That is NOT why I’m suggesting they bring her into the Arrowverse. To be honest, the costume could probably use an update.
What makes Zatanna interesting, and what they need to lean into, is that she’s a magic user who also is a skilled illusionist – not in the magical sense, but in the stage magician sense. There’s a ton of interesting things that can be done with that, especially if they focus on the duality inherent in the character because of the conflict between “real magic” and “illusion”.
Given that magic isn’t yet well known in the Arrowverse, that would make her a perfect character to introduce magic becoming more common. Or at least something the superhero community knows more about. There’d be an added twist with her interacting with other heroes too – given that she’s known as an illusionist as well as a mage, they would have to wonder if she was legit or if she was playing with them. Once they know she does do real magic, I could see a lot of fun coming from a reccuring joke – namely, her using magic or illusion, and other characters trying to figure out which. Like the ongoing joke that John Diggle is a bit overwhelmed by metahumans, but for the entire cast.
Outside of magic, Zatanna would be a good addition to the overall Arrowverse cast because of what she provides to the overall narrative by her personality. Zatanna is, in a rare turn for a female character in a comic book, relatively angst free (in her more modern incarnations, I mean), so she’d be a welcome presence to call characters out when they’re getting too dark. The Arrowverse already has fun with doing a weirder episode involving cosmic imps or musical numbers or something off the chain when the shows get melancholy, and Zatanna’s presence would provide a strong presence to reinforce the lighter tone during those episodes.
5) Apokalips and the New Gods
Darkseid has become one of the most iconic DC villains. Often compared to Thanos, the two have some similarities, but there are some key differences that make Darkseid worth exploring. See, Darkseid is not a loner that wants to court death or balance the universe. Darkseid is a megalomaniac that rules a planet and wants to expand that rule to the entire cosmos by finding the Anti-Life Equation, which will give him unlimited power somehow.
A lot of people want this for the DC movies. I don’t. With the MCU’s Thanos, we already got a giant monster man with a weird chin and vast cosmic powers in film. Even though Darkseid came first in comic book publication, he’ll seem like a cheap imitation if done in film.
Instead, DC needs to take advantage of the ability to use long-form storytelling through television, which would actually be a better way to integrate this plot. Remember how the Black Order in Infinity War was really cool and flashy but mostly in the background the entire time and underdeveloped? Well, that is what the Arrowverse can do that the movies can’t – bring Darkseid’s minions to the front and center.
Think about it. Supergirl and the DEO vs. Granny Goodness, a evil matriarch with her own femme fatale minions. The Flash being hunted by Devilance the Pursuer, a master tracker that basically is Darkseid’s Boba Fett. Batwoman vs Kanto, a ruthless assassin that would be a perfect foe for Gotham’s new bat. The Legends going into the past and squaring off against Steppenwolf, Darkseid’s uncle. Black Lightning and his family against Kalibak, Darkseid’s super strong and sycophantic son. Throw in Parademons as disposable mooks and Bruno Manheim to give a human face to all the bad guys, and you’ve got a story that impacts all the shows…without being a crossover.
And then you don’t have Darkseid permanently defeated. They do a big Justice League crossover with Superman, Darkseid gets beaten back…but he’s still out there. He can return. He’s not a one and done villain. He comes back in the future, equipping new minions. You could get a full season out of all the shows of just dealing with that, and you don’t even need a full crossover to do it.
And, finally, speaking of crossovers…
6) Trim the Fat, and Give us Justice League
I cannot think of a single Arrowverse season that would be harmed by cutting four episodes off its run time. I love these shows, but there are at least four completely disposable episodes in every. Single. Season.
So cut those episodes. Move the shows down from 22 episodes to 18, or from 16 to 12 (depending on how long the individual show’s season usually is), and use the time and budget you save to give us a Justice League show that happens after every season wraps up. It wouldn’t need to be long – a nice tight 12 episodes, and given that cutting 4 episodes from each of the 5 shows means they’re replacing 20 episodes with 12, that should resolve the concerns about budget or time.
Unlike the other points, I have a specific plan for this one:
For the first season, they don’t need to deal with some big cosmic threat. Save that for the sweeps week crossovers. Instead, have them deal with something that’s big enough to need the entire league, but small enough to be interesting. Perhaps they go to space to help an allied planet out. Perhaps they have to stop Brainiac’s return. Perhaps doctor Morrow returns with more androids of doom. It doesn’t really matter, because the first season is about establishing how these characters work together over the long term. Not the short, “immediate crisis” threat that we get in the crossovers. Longer term threats that require the characters to work together for weeks or even months. A chance for the team to really start to clash and gel in a way that isn’t possible in a crossover or an Avengers style movie.
Then in the second season, you directly attack the Justice League. And you do so through Lex Luthor founding the Injustice League. A collection of villains from across the shows, brought together by one charismatic and brilliant man, organized to take out their greatest foes. Bring back every interesting bad guy the shows didn’t kill off and hurl them at our heroes. Besides being the kind of thing that can’t be done in movies because they won’t stop killing off their bad guys, it also gives us a ton of interesting dynamics as heroes explain their villains to each other, and as we see the villains interact and watch those explosive personalities play off each other.
Then, for the third season, you hit the heroes where it hurts. Bring back the multiverse, and you’re going to have them square off against the Justice Lords, their evil incarnations.
Yes, I know Arrowverse did “evil versions of the characters” already, but those were all “Nazi Evil.” The Justice Lords aren’t that kind of evil. Instead, in most incarnations, the Justice Lords are the result of a terrible tragedy driving the superheroes to extreme ends. Lethal force becoming a first resort, incarceration without trial, and eventually becoming the de-facto leaders of America if not the planet – all in the name of justice and making sure no tragedy like the inciting incident ever occurs again. You’d get to see the heroes realize they could become like the Justice Lords if they go too dark, and that would just be glorious.
Join me next week, when I look at what I want to see from the Valiant Comics Extended Universe films that are definitely happening after Bloodshot. Right? Right? No? Oh thank God. Well, then next week will be a surprise! In the meantime, why not read my book?