January 31st, 2023 was a momentous day for the always dramatic saga of the DC comics universe on its journey in Hollywood. DC Studios co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran sat in front of a room full of handpicked entertainment reporters and unveiled Chapter One of what they hope will be a 10 year interconnected saga of DC-based films and tv programs. It might be Chapter One for this plan, but it’s Chapter 17 or so for the larger quest to answer the world-shattering success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at WBD.
I don’t have time to lay out the remarkable timeline for all these chapters, but the journey goes from what might be called the Christopher Nolan/Diane Nelson Era to the Tsujihara/Snyder Era to the Hamada/Kilar Era to now. It’s exhausting to even think about.
But before talking about all this, I’d like to lay out why I do it. The late, great Tom Spurgeon always used to rag on me for covering comics media news, but my reasons now are the same as then: comics media affects comics publishing. Even more so in the (now passed) Streaming Era, when it become the entire business model, but it’s always had impact. Media adaptations sell comics, boost bottom lines, give greater reach, bring in new talent, bring in new fans and readers. It’s part of the comics ecosystem, and it’s that ecosystem that I’ve always been fascinated by.
So let’s topline how all this affects DC Comics, the publishing unit. It was brought to my attention earlier this week that both the final trailer for Shazam: Fury of the Gods, and the final poster contained overt plugs for DC Comics. The trailer was a big one!
The poster was fine print, but it’s all fine print.
This kind of synergy has been around for a while – I noted it with the poster for The Suicide Squad which included a comics plug. (There was even a special poster that had an Easter Egg for the squad’s comics debut.) It also happened for The Batman.
I am told that this synergy is currently much appreciated in the halls, er, open plan office spaces of DC. It’s especially welcome after the division has been gutted by layoffs for the last several years, and C-suite support for the unit has seemed to be lacking since the AT&T takeover. I’ve been told by everyone I asked that DC is now viewed as so bare bones that further layoffs are unlikely. I find that unconvincing in this corporate era, but I hope it is true.
Chapter One is extremely comics friendly. Can you imagine how many copies of All-Star Superman and The Authority it will sell? Green Lantern! The prominent position given to DC Comics in yesterday’s announcement was another boost. Could things be looking up?
In one of the links above I actually correctly predicted that James Gunn was the leading candidate for the position of DC’s Feige. And he is popular amongst comics people, because he reads comics, likes comics, likes comics people, and is as much a writer as a director. So as you’ll see in the tweets I gleaned in an afternoon sweep, comics folk had a lot of positive things to say about Chapter One: Gods and Monsters.
I’m sure it’s been a hair-raising few months for Gunn since he took the job. I mean, look at his hair. He was already candid on twitter, and now his every utterance is fodder for dozens of posts on Screen Rant and beyond. I suspect its time for him to install that screentime app and get down to writing.
Because now the really hair raising part begins. WB Discovery head David Zaslav has proven himself to be a man who doesn’t really understand content that isn’t reality TV house flipping. To his credit, he also seems aware that he doesn’t understand scripted entertainment. In my experience, top execs who understand their blind spots and listen to other views about those blind spots are often the most successful. The bad news is that Zaslav listens mostly to ominously named CFO Gunnar Weidenfels who really does think that content is just so many jenga pieces to be priced out and moved around on the spreadsheet.
The DCU is one of the key pieces in this jenga tower, as Zaslav and Weidenfels are keenly aware. But they’ve been stripping it down from the horrific Batgirl write down to cancelling Doom Patrol and Teen Titans and just about everything leftover from previous regimes. Do they really know how to leave the creatives to do their thing?
So we have the new guys on the (chopping) block, Gunn/Safran. The honeymoon period for their quirky slate has lasted for a day, which is a promising start in these fast paced times. The long time Kremlinologist in me did note that Gunn was very candid about how “fucked up” previous WB attempts at universe-building were. I’m not sure how many WB execs are left over from these previous fuck-ups, but I am damn sure that they are no friends to this new regime. The Warner Bros. way in the past was based on making quality films with quality filmmakers – this led to successes like the Nolan trilogy, Wonder Woman and Joker. The Warners way has also always been competing factions who go around front-stabbing each other. Fun times!
The reality is 2023 will see four promising DC-themed films starring Shazam, The Flash, Blue Beetle and Aquaman. Setting aside any problematic stars, these movies have a pretty good chance to make some money, which WBD and it’s $3 billion debt desperately need. But it’s an awkward transition at best.
Aside from the animated Creature Commandos show, which is seemingly already in production and partially written, we won’t see much of Chapter One until ’24, and the new Superman movie is two years away. That’s ONLY two years. Writing, casting, VFX…it’s gonna be a while, and lots of time to devote to axe sharpening.
In other words, enjoy this honeymoon.
Speaking of occasions, a wake for the Arrowverse. It had a good, long run. Greg Berlanti, the producer behind all of those shows, is OUT in the new regime. You can read details on the stop and start, now stopped forever Green Lantern TV show he was producing, but in the words of Safran “We have nothing currently in development with Greg.” Superman and Lois and Gotham Knights and that’s it. His big new TV deal was his exit package.
And now let’s get to the tweets and other reports. My favorite of the latter is from The Ankler’s Richard Rushfield who has a way with words and was in the room for the announcement – despite the fact that he’s a superhero agnostic. His newsletter is paywalled, but a few choice bits.
The consequences are of course, monumental. If DC could turn into another Marvel — even half of another Marvel à la Sony’s Spiderverse, they could change the world. Having a division that reliably creates multiple tentpole hits each year… if you get that right, then everything else just pales in the face of that. “The history of DC is pretty messed up”, as Gunn put it, who throughout did not spare any tears for mistakes of regimes past.
But every time you start thinking such thoughts, one’s mind turns immediately to the long trail of tears DC has walked, the ballyhooed resets of the past, the visionaries who have come and gone through its doors. Will this time be different?
Gunn referred to his Guardians of the Galaxy miracle — and miracle it was — propelling unknown characters to the forefront of IP on the planet. It’s a plan that depends not just a lot, but everything, on execution. A veteran franchise producer friend expressed shock that they would let so much of the division’s fate rest on the creative talents of one man (teamed with Peter Safran’s producing superpowers.)
Maybe so, but the one man expressed a stark awareness of the pitfalls awaiting him in this world. Asked about Superhero Fatigue, Gunn, already having defined did not demur for a moment. “Superhero fatigue is real,” he said, blaming so many mediocre movies, “films that started shooting with no third act so you’re left off having to end on just 30 minutes of them punching each other.”
But enough of insider analysis. What did Twitter think!
Well, you had the acknowledgement from those who just got a career boost:
Supergirl was a small, ambitious book that got out there and got attention because of the passion of all the fans who took a chance, read it, and shared it. We saw what you did; @BilquisEvely and I are nothing but grateful. pic.twitter.com/lgpBjCAidv
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) January 31, 2023
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow movie is coming! @TomKingTK @_matlopes_ @ms_brittanyjean @JamesGunn pic.twitter.com/j0EAumiVuO
— Bilquis Evely (@BilquisEvely) January 31, 2023
Thrilled with the news that Booster Gold is heading to HBO Max courtesy of @JamesGunn and company. Amazing to think these initial character sketches from 1984 would lead to this. Excited to see what's next in the life of the greatest hero you never heard of! pic.twitter.com/c8cNcVvIFj
— Dan Jurgens (@thedanjurgens) January 31, 2023
Fond thoughts from former Wildstorm exec John Nee:
Really heart warming to hear news about The Authority and WildStorm today. https://t.co/iXBAcwi1ok
— John Shen Yen Nee (@johnnee) January 31, 2023
And then just general excitement from the comics crowd:
G.I. JOE#CreatureCommandos #DCStudios @DCComics @JamesGunn pic.twitter.com/sEaJBc6SyM
— Francesco Francavilla (@f_francavilla) January 31, 2023
BLUE BEETLE & BOOSTER GOLD#DCStudios #DCU @JamesGunn pic.twitter.com/0e8hG0rrFQ
— Francesco Francavilla (@f_francavilla) January 31, 2023
I'm totally excited and looking forward to seeing what @JamesGunn and team are organizing for us, but most of all…as you might imagine, I'm looking forward to seeing the Superman Legacy movie. This is going to be amazing I'm sure!!! @superman pic.twitter.com/jPIMEldOmT
— Jorge Jiménez (@JorgeJimenezArt) January 31, 2023
Did any of these characters get a mention in @JamesGunn’s announcement? Mary Marvel? KOMAC? Asking for a friend. pic.twitter.com/4HmWtcFRgc
— Thomas Scioli (@tomscioli) January 31, 2023
this looks crazy exciting. DC is in great hands with @JamesGunn https://t.co/AEZMmikose
— Scott Snyder (@Ssnyder1835) January 31, 2023
This @TomKingTK that @JamesGunn keeps talking about, should I check him out? He sounds bald. pic.twitter.com/oTS4VWAmXI
— Mitch Gerads (@MitchGerads) January 31, 2023
Folks have DM'd me about @JamesGunn 's vision since I was a producer of TITANS (ending with this season).
In short? I trust it. Never met James, but I know he's got TRUE LOVE for this universe. You can see it in him when he talks about it.
Let's support him. He's a real one.
— Hilluminati (@bryanedwardhill) January 31, 2023
And of course, thespians and writers waving their hands to remind Gunn that they exist:
Very excited about the new slate and can only hope @shawnabenson and I find our way back to the DCU writing TV. How inspiring to hear @JamesGunn supporting writers! (Also congrats @TomKingTK et all for the films!) https://t.co/i1qCVa7hyX
— Julie Benson (@TheJulieBenson) January 31, 2023
Dear @JamesGunn , can I be your Professor Pyg? #DCEU
— Dominic Burgess (@dominicburgess) January 31, 2023
Turned the ringer on my phone back on incase @JamesGunn calls.
— devon sawa (@DevonESawa) January 31, 2023
Even wrestling demon Danhausen got into the act and cursed it up!
.@JamesGunn can Clayface be in something? Thank you, have a nice time making movies. pic.twitter.com/Pjp8xyYqYk
— Danhausen (@DanhausenAD) January 31, 2023
And other voices, other tweets, other scoops (some from dubious sources but this is a round-up.)
When asked about the future of Superman and Lois, James Gunn responded:
“It’s a show everybody likes, so it’s going to keep going for a little bit.”
(Source: https://t.co/e7NS12AskW) pic.twitter.com/v9tcQZ8REW
— Bam Smack Pow (@BamSmackPow) January 31, 2023
The ending of ‘The Flash’ has reportedly been changed once again to fit James Gunn’s plan. This film will reset the DC Universe.
via @GraceRandolph pic.twitter.com/lJmUv75n8h
— Matt Ramos (@therealsupes) January 31, 2023
DC Studios co-heads James Gunn and Peter Safran explain 2-chapter plan for DCU
“We already know the eight to ten-year plan [are these] two chapters, and there's an ending to our basic story that we tell there."https://t.co/s88SBUDGKE
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) January 31, 2023
"I think he's a nice guy. I think he's been misled by a lot of people, including the old regime at this company. But this Superman [of the new DCU] is not Henry, for a lot of reasons." – James Gunn
— The Den of Nerds (@TheDenofNerds) January 31, 2023
And maybe Terence Malick is coming to the DCU?
James Gunn is already talking to an actor for BOOSTER GOLD. He also has a director onboard a top-secret DC movie that wasn't announced today. That director is notorious for taking his time. Any guesses? https://t.co/btohdehtJd
— Jeff Sneider (@TheInSneider) January 31, 2023
Okay I’m sure your head is spinning, but Tim Leong gave us the reading list:
And finally this tweet resurrected an idea that is floated time and again. Just NO. It doesn’t work!
Biggest thing i want @JamesGunn to announce for DC today: putting comics in theaters. Every time a DC film plays, just put a display kit with all types of comic books featuring that character. Gimme an all ages book, a origin, the greatest hits, etc, etc. #BringBackTheSpinnerRack pic.twitter.com/Ywh9o37rDR
— Stan Lee Presents, Oscar! Jaina Solo stan (@OrlandoGeekly82) January 31, 2023
WHEW. We’ll have more Kremlinology as all this unfolds…but let’s just enjoy the excitement for now. We earned it.
I miss Tom Spurgeon.
I’ll mention that I told Gail Simone its too bad her Secret Six wasn’t announced yesterday….and she got very Gail Simone with her response. And Gunn is a big fan of hers. So I guess that’s one to watch….maybe tied to the Waller TV show.
I miss Tom Spurgeon also.
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