Black Adam is set to join the DC Extended Universe later this year. As exciting as this is, it brings to light the growing pains the DCEU has struggled with since the very beginning, which is the franchise failing to produce an unmistakable leader over the course of its ten films. With the noticeable absence of DC’s two most famous superheroes, Batman and Superman, in recent years, the DCEU must look elsewhere for leadership.
While the DCEU’s Batman and Superman have struggled to get off the ground, especially with the exit of Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, other heroes have managed to gain traction both onscreen and among fans. It is among these other characters that viewers will find the next protagonists of the franchise.
Dwayne Johnson is set to make his long-awaited DCEU debut in one of the most exciting films of the latter half of 2022, Black Adam. Set for release on October 21st, the film will introduce the titular antihero counterpart to Zachary Levi’s Shazam, inevitably setting the two powerful beings on a collision course.
Black Adam has incredible potential for the DCEU’s future. With a major star like Johnson, who appears quite enthusiastic about the upcoming film, attached to the role, the franchise can gain the much-needed traction that recent box office disappointments have failed to garner themselves. Should Johnson continue to return to the franchise, his often lucrative charisma could work wonders in revitalizing DC’s flailing cinematic universe.
Supergirl is less than a year away from making her DCEU debut in The Flash, which, despite the recent drama surrounding star Ezra Miller, is still set to release on June 23rd, 2023. With Sasha Calle attached to star as Kara Zor-El, the cousin of Superman, Supergirl is expected to make numerous appearances throughout the DCEU, perhaps even in her very own spinoff film franchise.
With the ambiguous future of Henry Cavill’s Superman, Calle’s Supergirl is the perfect answer to the Kryptonian gap that currently plagues the DCEU. Rather than making the inevitably unpopular decision to recast Superman, the executives at Warner Brothers can instead replace the famous superhero with his closest counterpart, leaving it to Calle to make the character’s future her own.
Aldis Hodge will be making his debut as the superhero Hawkman in Black Adam later this year. The DCEU’s version of the famous winged superhero will appear as the leader of the Justice Society of America, potentially setting up future appearances from the character.
Gaining fame for his roles in The Invisible Man and Leverage, among others, Hodge has the perfect level of notoriety to gain traction as a new character in the DCEU, harkening back to the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s casting process. His casting as Hawkman portends a pivot in Warner Brothers’ own casting process, shifting away from major stars to instead focus on up-and-coming actors with the potential for long-term commitment to the franchise.
Leslie Grace has been confirmed as the first live-action adaptation of Batgirl in the DCEU, who will be leading her very own solo film, slated for release on HBO Max in late 2022. While there has been some mystery surrounding Batgirl‘s place in the DCEU given Michael Keaton’s appearance as Batman, it would appear that the film does indeed take place in the cinematic universe’s Earth-N52.
While Warner Brothers continue to work on Batman projects that take place outside of the mainline DCEU, Leslie Grace’s Batgirl has the perfect opportunity to fill in for the Caped Crusader within the confines of the larger cinematic universe. With Bruce Wayne absent, and as one of the most intellgient members of the Bat-Family, Barbara Gordon may indeed become the newly sworn protector of Gotham City in the DCEU, possibly putting her on a journey toward joining the Justice League itself.
Idris Elba joined the DCEU last year in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad as Bloodsport, a former supervillain who joins the titular team, eventually growing into a leadership role among the various reformed criminals. While Elba has not yet been confirmed for a return to the franchise, many fans have speculated that he could appear in one of Gunn’s various HBO Max projects taking place within the DCEU.
Elba has repeatedly proven himself to be a bankable star over the years, including among the DCEU’s direct competition at Marvel Studios. Additionally, thanks to Gunn’s poignant character work, Bloodsport has become one of the most empathetic and lovable characters in the entire franchise, setting him up for a potentially long future within the cinematic universe.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn became the unchallenged breakout star of the DCEU following her debut in Suicide Squad in 2016. Since then, Robbie has appeared as the character twice more, including in what was essentially her own spinoff film, Birds of Prey. While her next project in the franchise is still unclear, Harley Quinn is expected to remain a major player within the DCEU.
As unexpected as it may be, Harley Quinn has proven to be a pillar of the DCEU, already having made just as many appearances in the franchise as several members of the Justice League. So long as Robbie’s take on the character remains a cultural phenomenon, fans can expect to see plenty more of Harley Quinn in the DCEU’s future.
Fans are eagerly anticipating the release of Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the sequel to what is still considered by many to be the best film in the DCEU so far. With Zachary Levi returning to the franchise as the titular superhero, viewers are left to wonder if the sequel will feature more connections to the larger cinematic universe than its predecessor.
Though Shazam! Fury of the Gods was not the box office draw that Warner Brothers may have hoped for, it proved to be the kind of quality entertainment that many viewers had sought in the DCEU, causing all eyes to fall on Shazam himself as he prepares for his second appearance in the franchise. With the release of Black Adam predating Fury of the Gods, it would appear that DC is setting up its first crossover storyline since 2017’s Justice League, indicating a spot of hope for fans of the cinematic universe.
John Cena first appeared as the morally challenged antihero Peacemaker in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, a film that directly spilled over into the character’s very own self-titled HBO Max series. After the widespread enthusiasm for the series caused its renewal for a second season, it would appear that Cena’s foul-mouthed antihero is here to stay.
The back-to-back success of The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker seems to have reinvigorated audience interest in the grittier and comedic side of the DCEU, leading to several undisclosed projects helmed by Gunn himself being greenlit. As the antihero that started it all, Peacemaker can be expected to make frequent appearances throughout Gunn’s projects as one of the most recognizable faces in the newest corner of the DCEU.
Wonder Woman‘s release in 2017 immediately shot Gal Gadot’s eponymous superhero to the very top of fans’ favorite members of the Justice League. Though the 2020 sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, was not met with nearly as much praise, the character has remained one of the most beloved adaptations of a DC character in recent years.
Gadot’s Wonder Woman has already proven to be one of the most frequently appearing superheroes within the DCEU, providing a much-needed connection between various films set within the franchise. With a third solo outing on the way, Wonder Woman is one of the few members of the Justice League to still be transparently active in the world of the DCEU and is therefore one of the franchise’s best shots at redemption.
Jason Momoa has completely reimagined the character of Aquaman with his portrayal. 2018’s solo Aquaman film shot the character into the spotlight, making him a breakout star among the DCEU’s catalogue of superheroes. With Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom slated for release in 2023, the king of Atlantis is clearly being set up for a large role in the next phase of the franchise.
Despite recent controversy regarding the production of the upcoming film and certain members of its cast, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is still an object of much fan excitement, as viewers eagerly anticipate being reunited with Momoa’s Arthur Curry. The character’s rabid reception and box office draw perfectly set Aquaman up to be one of the most prominent heroes in the entire DCEU moving forward.
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