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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

10 Characters Who Should Be In Gotham Sirens

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In their latest effort to stave off obsolescence and ride the meager coat tails of their decidedly meager successes, DC has chosen to produce a Gotham Sirens film, starring and produced by Margot Robbie and directed by David Ayer.  This decision most likely comes in response to the high DVD sales for Suicide Squad, which itself strikes me as an odd occurrence given the film was pretty universally disliked and also isn’t very good.  

However, I will concede that there was enough right in Suicide Squad to justify some kind of a fan base, most, in particular, being Margot Robbie and Will Smith giving their all in a film that didn’t really deserve it, hence why Deadshot is also being considered for a spin-off movie.  

While bringing Ayer in to direct a movie with women leads is exactly the kind of stupid you’d expect from studio execs that long ago stopped caring, the premise at least opens up the question of what other women villains should appear in the final film.   In that spirit, I’ve got 10 women that either should be or probably will be in the Gotham Sirens movie. 

I feel like this is such an obvious choice it pretty much goes without saying.  Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn have been joined at the hip since season 4 of Batman, the animated series, to the point that Ivy would be ubiquitous by her absence in this flick.  Beyond that, she’s one of the only other women Batman villains people would actually know given she’s made it into the films previously.  It also helps that she is, hands down, the best woman Batman villain, mostly because she avoids a lot of the pitfalls of the others.  

Unlike Harley who exists more for comedy and tragedy Ivy can embody real menace, there’s none of the “will they/won’t they” romance that so often dooms Talia, and she’s actually got more to her personality than a skintight suit like Catwoman.  Add in the fact that she’s also the most powerful big name Batman villain and she makes perfect sense for a movie, honestly more so than a lot of his more limited foes like Riddler or Two-Face.  

On top of all of this, there’s also the fact Harley and Ivy are a couple and there’s no way DC/WB doesn’t want to score the double point value of “first LGBT representation in a superhero film” and “Margot Robbie in a lesbian romance.”  Sure, that’s a cynical outlook, but no more so than Marvel’s approach of “every hero has a black sidekick, so check that demographic box.”

Of all the names on this list, this is the one I most hope I’m wrong about.  I understand that we all kind of have to praise Catwoman because she’s one of the few superhero women to actually be very successful.  She’s enjoyed 6 live action adaptations, a spot in all of the cartoon shows, and is one of the few comic book superwomen people could actually name who isn’t merely a girl version of a male hero.   

I accept all of that and even still I just cannot like Catwoman, mainly because she usually just ends up a prop for romance with Batman.  Still, even with that reservation, I will concede there are good Catwoman adaptations, so there’s at least the possibility of a good one here.   

Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns is still my favorite take on the character, but Julie Newmar’s more sexually comedic version of Batman ’66 is a real standout as well.  Also a lot of people like the Eartha Kitt version, who added some much-needed diversity to the part and a megalomaniacal streak that’s ended up defining a lot of her ‘60s appearances.  

Actually, Catwoman as a more classic crazy villain type with Harley and Ivy as her comedic hangers on would manage a much better balance for the trio than casting her as the Larry of this villainous Three Stooges group. 

So the very idea of “Gotham Sirens” goes back to the DC animated universe of shows from the ‘90s and early 2000s.  This was the era that created Harley Quinn and later got the inspiration to pair her up with Poison Ivy and even a bizarre Flash-animated web series with Catwoman that I don’t recommend.  

But, they also produced a pretty cool Supergirl/Batgirl team-up story where Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Live Wire teamed up to take on the dynamic duo.  It was a really great team-up, and the movie would seriously do well to follow suit because Live Wire is excellent, even if her live-action debut on Supergirl was…less than stellar. 

If you don’t know Livewire, she’s one of the most ‘90s characters this side of Spawn while also being one of the best examples of how the ‘90s actually rocked.  She was a radio shock jock (haha) who got struck by lightning, gained electric powers, and blamed Superman.  

Basically, she was a big, rude, angry bundle of the anti-establishment guff that so often populated ‘90s kids fair and she was awesome.  It also helped that she was played by Lori Petty, who just crushed the role, and would be a superb addition to this film even if she wasn’t reprising the role. 

Another creation of the DC animated universe only this one never made it into the comics.  Roxie Rocket came about as part of a season 4 initiative of the Batman animated series to add more women villains to the show’s roster.  The idea with her was that she was a thrill seeking daredevil who had a real thing for riding around on a sort of rocket sled that she’d use to commit High-rise robberies and go for dangerous joy rides.  

She’s basically a perfect fit for a supporting character for this kind of an adventure- rich enough to bankroll some shenanigans while also sane enough to back out of the harsher stuff that Harley or Ivy might want to get up to.  What’s more, her rocket obsession would give cart blanch for a ton of really fresh and engaging CGI set pieces that would help the film escape the grungy aesthetics and tone of Suicide Squad.  Also, her steampunk style would be a welcome addition to the leather and fetish wear that tends to inform most of the rogue's gallery. 

The final one of the new, women villains cooked up by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for the late period of Batman the animated series is Calendar Girl, a gender-swapped re-imagining of Calendar Man, the classic Bat-foe.  I actually quite like Calendar Man but I can’t deny that he’s gotten a bit curdled for me lately, mainly because of the modern day insistence that all Batman villains by the most sadistic and screwed up serial killer you could imagine.  Calendar Girl, on the other hand, is a much more subversive and well-realized character, even sporting an actual motivation rather than Calendar Man’s “my name is Julian Calendar, so I must be a super villain now!” origin. 

Calendar Girl was a model who was forced out of the industry for her age and developed a kind of body dysmorphia, convinced she was hideous when she wasn’t.  Hiding her face and taking up the identity of Calendar Girl, she set about seeking brutal revenge on the people that destroyed her life using calendar themed attacks because this is a superhero story.  While that back story wouldn’t fit for a role in a team movie, I could easily see her working as a fellow villain moving in the same circles or maybe even an antagonist for our main characters.

This one makes more sense for setting up future films than it does for making a great movie, but given DC/WB’s obsession with this family, I’d still probably expect it.  So Ravager is, in reality, Rose Wilson, the daughter of Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke.  Deathstroke has become the go to super villain of DC, basically working as the evil answer to the marketability of Wolverine and Batman.  

I’ve discussed my many issues with Slade previously, but Rose isn’t one of them.  She’s a unique character as the daughter of a villain, even if the books go way too far out of their way to make her a duplicate of her father, even having her lose an eye to become more a mirror image.  

Still, she’s deadly, she’s taciturn, she’s devastatingly sarcastic and would fit perfectly as the heavy hitter type for a team outing, as we learned from her great appearance on Teen Titans Go.  In addition to all of that, Deathstroke is still slated to be the big bad of the upcoming Batman solo film so bringing his family into the mix would be a smart way to expand his brand, especially if DC are hoping for a Deathstroke spin-off flick (which, spoilers, they are.) 

Here’s another character that might fit more as the villain of the film than a fellow compadre of the titular Sirens.  If you don’t know her, Lady Shiva is one of the weirder parts of the DCU, mainly because she was kind of imported into the mainstream universe.  She originally appeared in the ‘70s comic Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter, this being during the time when Kung-Fu flicks were a big cultural touchstone, so comics were keen to copy their success.  She basically acted as a bad ass kung-fu chick in that comic but, after the 1986 reboot, Shiva moved into the main universe as part of the Batman mythos.  

She’s the deadliest fighter in the world and a frequent antagonist/mentor of heroes like Batman, Robin, Black Canary, and the Birds of Prey.  She’s often framed as a killer for hire so having her hunt the Sirens through Gotham to drive the plot would be a cool approach, or alternatively she’d make a nice addition to the team as “the muscle.”  I’d actually really like to see Shiva make it to the films if, for no other reason, then a way to correct the way DC, Marvel, and Fox have so spectacularly wasted their Asian characters. 

Fans of Legends of Tomorrow might remember Scandal from the episode last season that involved the Atom growing giant-sized to fight Chemo, the walking chemical weapon, but she has a long history in the comics before that.  She’s the daughter of Vandal Savage, an immortal caveman, and conqueror who’s threatened global domination several times.  On her own Scandal ran her own super villain mercenary team called the Secret Six, a group of low-rent bad guys who do bad things for cash.  

She’s a pretty cool character, deadly and clever without every ending up a stick in the mud or overshadowed by her whackier teammates, what’s more, she’s also another queer super villain worth bringing into the fold.  Actually, her girlfriend in the original comics run was Knockout, one of the female furies of the New Gods.  Given that DC is plotting for the New Gods to be the big bads in Justice League it might be worthwhile importing more elements into the adjacent universe. 

Here’s a character I’m kind of surprised didn’t make it into the Suicide Squad movie, I guess they had to make room for Killer Croc and Slipknot.  Plastique is one of the preeminent Squad members, transitioning into the role after a handful of altercations with the superhero Firestorm.  

She’s got explosive touch powers, so she’s a good asset to have around for black ops and heist situations.  That would make her an ideal fit for a member of Harley’s group, but she could also fit pretty nicely into the film as an antagonist working for Amanda Waller.  

After all, for Harley to be out on the town in Gotham Sirens she must’ve slipped Amanda Waller’s leash, and there’s no way the Wall is going to let one of her soldiers go without a fight.  As such, sending a heavy hitter and veteran Squad member after Harley, especially one with a big, dynamic power like Plastique, would be a great way to tie Gotham Sirens into the whole DCEU structure. 

Chalk this one up to the “not going to happen but just imagine if it did” category of list entry.  Duela Dent is one of the weirdest enduring parts of the DCU.  She showed up prior to the ’86 reboot as the daughter of Two-Face, but she was so mentally unstable she claimed to be the daughter of several villains.  

That idea of “she’s crazy and claims to be a villain’s daughter” is pretty much the only thing that’s actually stuck with her character through her multiple revamps and reboots.  For a time she actually was the Joker’s daughter, emerging from a parallel Earth where the Joker was a hero and Batman was the villain.  Most recently, she’s joined the Suicide Squad and taking to wearing the skin of the Joker’s face (the details of that choice are deeply unrewarding.)

While I’m not a huge fan of Duela Dent it does seem like she’s got an editorial angel looking out for her given how often writers keep coming back to the character.  Given that and the fact there are actually very few cool women super villains in the Batman mythos, she’d be a pretty good fit for Gotham Sirens.  At the very least it’d be cool to see Harley, whose Joker obsession is receding, interact with someone who’s even more obsessed than she ever was.  There’s easily enough there for a satisfying story arc. 

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