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Which Second-Tier Superheroes Might Soon Be Movie Stars?

Photo: Marvel Comics
Photo: Marvel Comics

Everyone is familiar with superheroes like Superman and Batman, but Thor — a Marvel superhero better known to comic-book fans than to the general public — was considered a somewhat riskier property for Marvel to adapt into a film, at least until it blew past its initial expectations at the worldwide box office over the last month. Now that Thor has proved that audiences have an insatiable appetite for all things caped and crusading, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the next tier of superhero projects, from Ant-Man to Luke Cage, who may soon get the chance to suit up on-screen. Some of them may have dorky powers or toil in near-obscurity, but all of them are hoping that with a little luck and a development greenlight, they could be the next big thing.

​Superpowers: Scientist Hank Pym develops a formula that will let him alter his size, and couples it with an ant-controlling helmet to become Ant-Man.Development History: Ant-Man (and his lady-friend the Wasp) won’t be appearing in next year’s The Avengers, even though they’re crucial team members in the comics. That’s because Scott Pilgrim vs. the World director Edgar Wright is still working on a stand-alone Ant-Man picture, and has been for several years — which is an unusually long development time for Marvel, a studio that likes to develop with a release date in mind. “Because that character isn’t one of their biggest properties, it’s not like a tentpole deadline,” Wright explained last year.
​Superpowers: Super-speed, natch.Development History: Long in development (Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy was hired to direct the project in 2007, though he eventually fell out when the film never got greenlit), The Flash is assumed to be one of Warner Bros’ next high-priority superhero movies, and Green Lantern co-writer Greg Berlanti turned in a script for it in December. For years, Ryan Reynolds was attached to the project, and though he eventually flew to Green Lantern instead, if DC ever moves forward with a Justice League movie, Reynolds would get to share the screen with the superhero whose red tights he’d once expected to don.
​Superpowers: After discovering a gravity-defying “ninth metal,” archaeologist Carter Hall dons wings and gains the gift of flight. Some versions of Hawkman also have super strength and the ability to breathe underwater.Development History: Though Hawkman (not to be confused with Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, briefly glimpsed in Thor this year) has always been a minor supporting member of the Justice League, Warner Bros. is developing a stand-alone Hawkman movie that’s internally — and optimistically — described as “part Indiana Jones/Da Vinci Code, part Ghost.” They might want to revise the dorky costume, since it comes in for derision even from other superheroes.
​Superpowers: One of the first black superheroes, Cage submits to an experiment that leaves him with impermeable skin and super-strength. Development History: John Singleton was attached to direct Luke Cage back in 2004, though the project never quite got off the ground. Still, Marvel has indicated that the movie remains a current priority for them, and Old Spice guy Isaiah Mustafa has expressed interest in the role, going so far as to film a mock-trailer for the movie.
​Superpowers: Thanks to his Atlantis origins, Arthur Curry can swim real fast, breathe underwater, and talk to sea creatures. Development History: Already the subject of a fictional movie on Entourage — and a 2006 CW television pilot that didn’t go to series — Aquaman nevertheless remains in contention for a big-screen bow, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way is developing the property.
​Superpowers: Teen angst, mainly. The young superheroes in question discover their powers around the same time they learn that their parents are supervillains.Development History: The Runaways was supposed to start filming three months ago under the direction of Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), but Marvel abruptly pulled back on the project last fall, claiming that higher-priority projects like The Avengers and Iron Man 3 has stolen too much of their focus to progress at that time. Still, Sollett remains attached and Marvel says The Runaways is still in development.
​Superpowers: A collision with a military vehicle carrying radioactive materials leaves high-schooler Jessica Jones (a classmate of Peter Parker) with enhanced strength and flight. After graduation, Jones opens up her own detective agency.Development History: Wonder Woman was a high-profile bust for NBC during this past development season, but ABC still has faith in superheroines, and is developing AKA Jessica Jones alongside a potential Hulk series. Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg is penning the pilot.
​Superpowers: The futuristic Dredd has the morally questionable (yet legally bestowed) ability to act as judge, jury, and executioner at once …Development History: … though Dredd’s most important, yet-unproven superpower will be erasing the memory of the cheesy 1995 Judge Dredd film starring Sylvester Stallone. A much grittier, more faithful take will come out next year, starring Karl Urban in the title role.
​Superpowers: Like Wolverine, he’s got an incredible ability to heal, though he’s also scarred-up and more than a little insane in the brain.Development History: Ryan Reynolds played the supporting role of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though the character was changed so much that fans cried foul. A stand-alone Deadpool movie is in the works, and Reynolds has promised that it will be much more faithful to the concept of Deadpool as “the merc with a mouth.” Special-effects artist Tim Miller will make his directorial debut on the film, which Reynolds hopes to squeeze in between his Green Lantern obligations.
Which Second-Tier Superheroes Might Soon Be Movie Stars?