James Gunn proved with Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad, and Peacemaker that he could take largely unknown characters from comics and turn them into great characters. Whether he pointed out their inherent humor, like with The Detachable Kid, or created new depths, like with Bloodsport, James Gunn knew how to get the most out of who he put in his movies.
Gunn has a second season of Peacemaker and a spin-off in the works for DC and still has two Guardians projects over at Marvel coming out. Fans are waiting to see which characters are next on his list and how he will elevate them beyond the source material.
10 Improved: Rocket Raccoon
Rocket started as the head ranger of a planet called Halfworld, where he was one of many animals with human-level intelligence. Rocket Raccoon was always a fun character in the comics, but he felt a little gimmicky in his original form. While he did occasionally have some depth, his main draw came from the fact he was a cute animal who acted gruff and was a weapons expert.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn preserved Rocket’s original personality but changed him to be more of an outcast. Fans got to see some of Rocket’s insecurities. Guardians 2 took this theme a step further. A character who started as a cute gimmick suddenly became one of the emotional centers of a big-budget movie.
9 Should Do: Big Bertha
Big Bertha is often played for laughs just like the rest of the characters who appear in the Great Lakes Avengers books. While there’s nothing wrong with a comedic character, the comedy surrounding Bertha felt a little more mean-spirited and targeted at her weight.
James Gunn’s ability to treat all of his characters with empathy and make them well-rounded could help revamp Bertha as a character. Instead of presenting a stereotype caricature, Gunn could develop a relatable character who positively represents an often underrepresented group in superhero media.
8 Improved: Peacemaker
Originally published by Charleton Comics, Peacemaker was originally a pretty contradictory character. Christopher Smith was a pacifist. Despite this, he designed a variety of different weapons and stockpiled them, vowing never to use them. When the Peacemaker character was acquired by DC, he was turned into a violent vigilante who openly killed.
In The Suicide Squad, Gunn leaned into Peacemaker’s inherent contradiction between his methods and ideology, using it to create a comedic villain who audiences loved to hate. Then, Gunn surprised fans with a sympathetic look at the character in the Peacemaker series. After learning of Peacmaker’s terrible upbringing, viewers felt sorry for and could even root for the character they weren’t meant to like.
7 Should Do: Condiment King
Its huge roster of largely unknown characters helped make 2021’s The Suicide Squad refreshing. Not only was this good for a few laughs, but it also created tension when fans realized any character could die at any time. If Gunn creates a sequel to the movie, Condiment King would perfectly fit into this dynamic.
While this ketchup and mustard shooting villain has appeared in several animated iterations, Condiment King has always been seen as a joke character. James Gunn has done a great job taking joke characters and giving them surprising depth. He’ll probably relish a chance to tackle this one.
6 Improved: Polka-Dot Man
When Polka-Dot Man originally appeared in Detective Comics back in 1962, he was named Mister Polka-Dot. He was somewhat of a joke villain who threw polka-dots from his costume which were actually a variety of different weapons. Since the 60s, the comics did little to evolve his character in meaningful ways.
While Gunn kept Polka-Dot Man as a comedic character in The Suicide Squad, he also gave viewers more insight into the character’s past and his reasons for being a villain. Audiences were slowly won over by Polka-Dot Man as he began showing more of his heroic side, making death one of the most tragic in the whole movie.
5 Should Do: Swashbuckler
A couple of different characters in DC Comics have gone by the name Swashbuckler. One of these was a hero and the nephew of one of the many characters named Vigilante. Although not the same Vigilante who appeared in Gunn’s Peacemaker series, this character is obscure enough to reinvent.
In Peacemaker, there are a few references to Vigilante having an older brother. Knowing how Adrian Chase turns out, there is a good chance his brother might share similar traits. Seeing a nephew of Vigilante’s trying to be a superhero would be a great way to continue exploring the impact fathers have on their sons.
4 Improved: Ratcatcher
In DC Comics, Ratcatcher is a rarely used villain who lives in Gotham City and has the power to control rats. He is simply a gimmick villain, an allusion to the Pied Piper, and has never had a lot going on as a character. When James Gunn uses Ratcatcher in The Suicide Squad, he dramatically changed things.
The Ratcatcher fans see in The Suicide Squad is a wholly different character, keeping only the original character’s ability to control rats. Now a young woman named Cleo, Ratcatcher serves as the emotional center of the team. Her love for the rats she controls even emphasizes one of the movie’s most important themes, that all life has value.
3 Should Do: Kite Man
In HBO’s Peacemaker, Kite Man was referenced several times as a villain Peacemaker had defeated in the past. This got fans excited that the character might be making an appearance in the upcoming second season of the show. If true, the character could serve as an interesting foil to Peacemaker.
In more recent comics, Kite Man became a villain to get revenge for the death of his son. Peacemaker became a villain in the show to try and live up to his father’s expectations and make up for his past. Both characters deal with the theme of fatherhood, a subject Gunn often addressed in some way throughout most of his superhero work.
2 Improved: Vigilante
Vigilante was a mantle that’s been assumed by 9 different characters in the main DC Comics universe. The version Gunn chose to adapt was Adrian Chase, originally a district attorney with connections to the Teen Titans. He became Vigilante after his family was killed.
James Gunn decided to completely revamp the character, mainly just keeping his name and costume. This new version of Vigilante had a unique demeanor. Acting polite and respectful in certain ways, he clearly enjoyed killing in other moments. Gunn took a pretty standard anti-hero and turned him into a character viewers couldn’t stop watching.
1 Should Do: Goodness Silva
Goodness has only appeared in 7 issues of Great Lakes Avengers back in 2017, making her one of the most obscure comic book characters out there. She is a human girl who has the power to transform into an anthropomorphic male wolf code-named Good Boy. Her unique design and powers make her an interesting choice for adaptation.
James Gunn never shies away from using characters people have never heard of, and it allows him the freedom to make the characters his own. Goodness is a conceptually interesting character with very little published history, giving Gunn a lot of creative freedom to make her a new fan favorite.
NEXT: 10 Peacemaker Season 2 Theories We Hope Come True