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James Gunn Is Right To Tap Into The Authority, But WildStorm's Too Weird For The DCU & Deserves To Break Free

Several projects in the slate of movies James Gunn and Peter Safran announced for their DC Universe reboot in late January are intriguing, but for a certain subset of fans, one particular title stood out — and that's the upcoming DCU adaptation of "The Authority," based on DC Comics' WildStorm imprint. 

This news is, obviously, a huge deal for all WildStorm fans — including Gunn, who considers "The Authority" one of his DCU passion projects. It's also not enough. While it's great that WildStorm readers will finally get some big-budget movie love, we can't help but feel that Gunn and Safran should go even further. The imprint's many worlds are simply too big and strange to shoehorn into the already packed mainstream DCU. There's also the fact that much of WildStorm's stuff is explicitly and deliberately removed from what a casual observer might consider "regular" superhero comics. 

WildStorm is big, bold, beautiful, and weird. For reference, "The Boys" started its life as a WildStorm title before moving to Dynamite Entertainment, and eventually making its way on Amazon Prime Video as one of the freakiest superhero tales ever told in live action. WildStorm is full of similar left-field takes, which is a problem since Gunn has said that every DCU project will share the same universe. Sure, "The Authority" might be just about conventional enough to find its place in the DCU proper, but Gunn and Safran should allow the larger WildStorm universe to break free from the DCU and exist as its own thing. Let's take a look at the opportunities this approach would present.

Gunn could create an X-Men-style movie universe before the real X-Men turn up in the MCU

One of the most interesting titles in the WildStorm Universe is WildC.A.T.S. The best way to describe Jim Lee and Brandon Choi's cumbersomely-named supergroup is that it's not a store brand version of the X-Men, but it's not not a store brand version of the X-Men, either. Instead of a mutant gene, this team's lovable outcasts tend to get their powers from their alien ancestry, and often deal with conflicts between the Kherubim and Daemonite alien factions. Their woes don't really mesh with established DC heroes like Superman and Batman, and their cast of heroes, villains, breakout character and adjacent superteams is so huge that it would make far more sense to let them be their own thing. 

So, why adapt them at all? Well, there's always the fact that they give Gunn an opportunity to put a comparatively obscure, yet likable team on the silver screen — in other words, pull yet another "The Suicide Squad" or "Guardians of the Galaxy" with WildC.A.T.S. This time, however, the stakes would be higher. Improving on the first "Suicide Squad" movie wasn't exactly a tough hurdle to clear., and "Guardians" didn't really have any competition when the filmmaker brought the goofy li'l space team to box office success. Adapting WildC.A.T.S., on the other hand, would give Gunn a chance to bring a X-Men-style superteam on the big screen ... before the real X-Men enter the MCU. In one fell swoop, the little-known generic brand would get a chance to cast a shadow over the globally recognized market leader, simply by getting there first and putting in a good show. Will this happen? At this point, there's no way to tell. Have Gunn and Safran at least discussed it? Would be very difficult to believe otherwise. 

Oh, and if WildC.A.T.S. isn't James Gunn's jam, there's always Gen13, which is a very similar gang of superpowered misfits. If nothing else, they might come in handy should the DCU decide to go with a "one team for TV, the other for the big screen" approach.

WildStorm titles like Top 10 are already universes in their own right

If the WildStorm universe proper seems too vast to adapt as part of the DCU, even the quickest glance at the imprint's licensed properties will add a whole new dimension to the situation. Adapting them in the DCU would likely be a whole can of rights issues worms, but hey, stranger things have been done. 

Alan Moore's America's Best Comics operated as WildStorm's sub-imprint, so if DC wants to go there, we could one day witness some of Moore's lesser-known, but still extremely ambitious superhero work. If we were James Gunn, we'd be particularly interested in something like "Top 10," an IP Moore is probably already getting ready to be offended about when asked of its potential adaptation. 

"Top 10" takes place in a city where everyone has superpowers, along with the dramatic backstories that tend to come with the package. This very much applies to the titular law enforcement unit, which includes folks like Kemlo "Hyperdog" Caesar, an Aloha shirt-loving dog in a human exoskeleton; Jeff Smax, a powerhouse who seems like your grumpy detective archetype until you learn his very out-of-the blue backstory; and Irma Geddon, a decidedly ordinary middle-aged lady whose work uniform just happens to be a nuclear supersuit. The world they live in — not to mention the cases they have to handle, given that everyone else in the city is at least as far out as they are — is more than enough to create a movie series around each and every one of the characters, or at the very least a series of big-budget case-of-the-week style procedural films.

Astro City could tell Silver Age stories outside the DCU

Speaking of fascinating superhero cities, Kurt Busiek's "Astro City" is a world that both deconstructs and pays homage to Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Here, the superheroes have to struggle with both their traditional troubles and the logical drawbacks of their absurd existence. 

The primary strength of "Astro City" is how it explores classic hero archetypes realistically playing out in a Silver Age setting, without losing any of said setting's old-school charm. The city itself is a lethal place to live, with paranormal creatures lurking about — yet remains a popular tourist destination because, hey, superheroes. The resident Superman-style hero, Samaritan, is a genuinely good guy who's always on duty, but he's also quietly struggling because this doesn't leave him any time to have a life, much less a decent night of sleep. A Daredevil-slash-Nightwing expy wages a losing battle against the ravages of time after trying to keep up with superpowered heroes for decades. A supervillain heavy is trying to reform and lead a quiet life after decades in prison, but finds this difficult because he has no civilian skillset, and also happens to be a hulking guy who's made of metal.

The combination of very classic comic book storytelling, subtly realistic twists that ground the more fantastical elements, and genuinely great plots make "Astro City" a unique property that simply can't exist alongside the likes of Justice League. While its singular vibe does deserve a chance to shine in live action, it needs to be its own, isolated universe outside the DCU. 

As of 2018, the Astro City universe's rights were with FremantleMedia, but nothing's been heard of the planned TV series since. With current developments regarding WildStorm-adjacent properties, who knows what lies in the IP's future? 

Ex Machina could be the ultimate superhero prestige series

Anyone who has access to WildStorm-adjacent properties should make a beeline toward "Ex Machina," Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris' slow-burn superhero political drama that has all the makings of the next great prestige show. 

"Ex Machina" tells the story of Mitchell "The Great Machine" Hundred, a city engineer who gains machine-controlling powers, and begins a bumbling superhero career that he manages to turn into a political one in the aftermath of one extremely high-profile success. As such, the bulk of the series focuses on his life as NYC mayor. As much a political drama as it is a superhero tale (and even a cosmic horror story), "Ex Machina" is a rare superhero title that manages to genuinely surprise the reader on occasion. What's more, it explicitly takes place in a universe that's very close to our own, and the only superheroes and villains that exist are directly related to Hundred and his powers. 

The series might actually end up making its way to live action without the DCU's involvement. Its rights are currently with Legendary Pictures, with Oscar Isaac potentially starring as Hundred — in which case the project will likely be renamed "The Great Machine," for obvious reasons. While early whispers indicate that Legendary's project will be a movie, "Ex Machina" is a sprawling story that would work better as a TV show. In fact, it has potential to stand proudly beside any prestige show that you can name. Regardless of whether the live-action adaptation will be a movie or a show, there's no possible way it can be a part of the DCU — or even a separate WildStorm universe. "Ex Machina" could never work if The Great Machine flew into battle with other superheroes.

The Authority can easily exist in the DCU and in a separate WildStorm universe

All of the aforementioned is just a small glimpse of what WildStorm can potentially bring to the table, and doesn't even really touch any of the most intriguing individual heroes in the universe — think WildC.A.T.S. breakout Grifter, or military-minded Superman expy Mr. Majestic. From the superpowered mystery archaelogists of "Planetary" to ... pretty much everything in the old sub-imprints, really, WildStorm is teeming with titles that are just waiting to be adapted. 

Of course, the amount of WildStorm-themed goodness heading our way is probably largely determined by how the audiences receive "The Authority" — which, as stated, will quite specifically be a DCU thing. Still, it seems clear that The Authority will become the central WildStorm characters, in the way the Avengers and Justice League are/were the lynchpins of the MCU and the DC Extended Universe. How can they fulfill this function if they're stuck in the DCU proper?

Fortunately, this isn't a problem, since the comics version of the group has long had one foot in the WildStorm universe and the other in mainline DC Comics. Much like Marvel, DC has its own parallel universe thing going on, and Authority members — likely breakout characters Apollo and Midnighter, in particular – have already appeared in DC Prime Universe in the comics. "The Flash" will likely introduce alternate realities-slash-timelines in the DCEU/DCU movies, and failing that, the Authority's own Carrier shiftship is specifically designed to travel in the multiverse. As such, even if a version of the Authority remains locked in the main DCU, there's no reason why the team couldn't be present in some of the ... wilder corners of WildStorm, as well.