“Charm City Kings” director Angel Manuel Soto is set to direct “Blue Beetle,” DC Films and Warner Bros.’ first superhero movie starring a Latino character, individuals with knowledge of the project exclusively tells TheWrap.
The screenplay is from Mexican writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, who wrote Universal’s “Scarface” remake and Sony’s “Miss Bala.”
In DC Comics, Blue Beetle is the superhero alter ego used by three different heroes, but the film will focus on Mexican-American teenager Jaime Reyes, the third character to assume the Blue Beetle mantle.
“It is an honor to direct Blue Beetle, the first Latino superhero film for DC,” said Soto in a statement to TheWrap. “I want to sincerely thank everyone at Warner Bros. and DC for trusting me to bring Jaime Reyes to life. I can’t wait to make history together.”
The film is eyeing a fall production start, with Zev Foreman executive-producing for Warner Bros.
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Blue Beetle was created by Charles Wojtkowski for Fox Comics in 1939 as the alter ego of Dan Garrett, a police officer who uses experimental vitamins to develop super powers. After Fox went out of business in the 1950s, Charlton Comics obtained rights to Blue Beetle and reimagined Garrett as an archaeologist who receives his powers from ancient Egyptian technology. In 1966 Charlton introduced the character Ted Kord, an athlete and inventor created by legendary comics writer Steve Ditko, as a new version of the hero.
Charlton went out of business in the early 1980s and its characters were bought by DC Comics, which introduced them into the mainstream DC Universe after the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event. Ted Kord remained as Blue Beetle during the transition and notably served as Alan Moore’s inspiration for the character Nite Owl in “Watchmen.”
Created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner in 2006, Jaime Reyes was introduced during the “Infinite Crisis’ crossover event ahead the launch of a new “Blue Beetle” in May 2006. In contrast to Kord and Garrett, Reyes is a working class El Paso teenager devoted to his family and with no connections to superheroes prior to receiving his powers.
Jaime Reyes discovered the Blue Beetle scarab on the way home from school with two of his best friends Paco and Brenda, half-buried in a disused lot. Reyes took the scarab home, curious as to what it might be. That night, the scarab came alive, and grafted itself to the base of Jaime’s spine, and provided him with a suit of extraterrestrial armor which can be modified to enhance his speed and strength, as well as to create weapons, wings and shields.
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While DC has had Latino characters in its movie universe, (Jay Hernandez as El Diablo in “Suicide Squad,” and Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya in “Birds of Prey”), and cast Latina Sasha Calle to play Supergirl, this will be the first stand-alone title to feature a Latino lead.
According to the MPAA, in 2017, Hispanic/Latino audiences had the highest per-capita attendance at the movies, going to the movie an average of 4.5 times a year. Latinos make up 18 percent of the population, and they buy 24 percent of the movie tickets sold in the United States. It is also worth noting, superhero movies tend to draw the most diverse audiences as Latinos made up 22 percent of the audience for “Wonder Woman” and 21 percent of the audience for “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Soto discovered soccer and boxing at an early age, which inspired his first film “El Pugil,” a homage to the kids he had grown up with and the power of sports in economically repressed communities. Angel pursued his interest in art, studying architecture and eventually documentary filmmaking and writing. He began his career in entertainment as a TV producer and later focused on Art Direction at a local advertising agency.
He made his feature directorial debut with “La Granja” (The Farm) which sheds a thought provoking light on the tough realities facing the people of Puerto Rico. He went on to create several groundbreaking narrative VR pieces such as “Dinner Party” and “Bashir’s Dream” which have premiered to critical success at festivals. More recently, Angel directed the Award Winning Sundance 2020 darling “Charm City Kings,” which is now streaming on HBO Max. He’s in development on several features set up at various studios, as well as a TV series.
Angel Manuel Soto is repped by CAA and manager Jairo Alvarado at Redefine Entertainment.