I was right. The search for The One – a Kevin Feige-like messiah to lead the DCEU to the promised land of an interlocking universe AND box office success – was doomed to fail. Because The One did not exist.
Instead it was The Two – filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran have been named co-heads of the film and TV extensions of DC Comics, THR reports, in what is being termed “a shocker” by onlookers.
Gunn and Safran will share the titles of co-chairs and co-CEOs of DC Studios, a newly formed division that will replace DC Films. They will report to WBD head David Zaslav while working closely with studios heads Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy. Gunn, whose Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special just launched a trailer today, has signed a four year deal with Warners, and will oversee the creative end of things. Safran, who has produced such things as Shazam, Aquaman, and THE Suicide Squad (and also Crawlspace, let’s be fair), will run the business side of things.
The details are stunning:
In recent weeks, Gunn and Safran were spotted on the Warner Bros. lot, meeting with Warners film co-chair Michael De Luca about future projects. And according to sources, the initial overture to Safran and Gunn came from De Luca over the summer, even as the studio was in shaky talks with producer Dan Lin to take the job.
Unlike Marvel Studios, DC has multiple films set in separate creative universes, and according to sources, Joker filmmaker Todd Phillips’ work on the upcoming sequel, which goes into production later this year, will not fall under Gunn and Safran’s purview and instead will be overseen by De Luca and Abdy. Matt Reeves, who worked under Hamada, has a budding universe based on his The Batman movie. It is unclear under whose purview Reeves’ future projects would fall, but everything else moving forward would be under Gunn and Safran’s.
The ascent of Gunn is great news here at Stately Beat Manor. The Suicide Squad is one of the best superhero films ever made, a raunchy, violent and yet heartwarming narrative that never strays from the core of the characters motivations while demonstrating a solid understanding of what makes superhero tick. He followed it up with Peacemaker, surely one of the best written superhero TV shows ever made, which showed many of the same qualities, gave us the best dance sequence of the year outside of TikTok, and made it safe to be a hesher again
It’s also a reach though – Gunn’s a quirky filmmaker with his own distinct approach to material. Bringing out the best in other people is a different skill but…we think he’s up for it! Sadly, this will mean that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 – coming out next may – will be Gunn’s last work for Marvel for a while, but he’ll have finished his trilogy so no shame in moving on.
The Gunn/Safran duo winning the talent hunt is also – we think – good news for the beleaguered comics publishing division simply known as “DC” now. Gunn is a big comics fan and always has been (Feige didn’t read comics as a kid), and as someone who gave Harley Quinn, Starro, and the Calendar Man some of their finest moments on screen, hopefully he understands that having cheap R&D in the form of comic books, webcomics and graphic novels is a very good thing to have on hand.
We’re already hearing some very, very cautious optimism from sources close to DC Comics. But they’ve been burned before. One thing that has been pointed out to us: Gunn gets the ENTIRE DC universe, not just Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. If Kevin Feige’s unique genius was in making an obscure character like Groot a household name, it was Gunn who carried out the plan.
Questions remain – what of the recent “Shadow Feige” campaign by Dwayne Johnson, who has a whole media plan of his own for a Black Adam universe and an eventual battle with Henry Cavill’s Superman.
Well, Gunn and Safran have led Dave Bautista and John Cena to stardom, so working with ex-wrestlers seems to be prominent in their skillset.
Meanwhile, comics twitter was in a race to see who could compliment Gunn fastest – with all good things being said.
EXCELLENT! As a DC fan my entire life & @JamesGunn fan for 20 years there couldn't be a more exciting appointment. James is one of those dudes all other pros root for. He put in the years and just earned his rep in spades. Totally DELIGHTED for him. Well done, WB! https://t.co/K2yRUCZrbE
— Millarworld (@mrmarkmillar) October 25, 2022
This breaks my GotG heart but this is a brilliant move by DC/Warner. Now please higher-ups, get out of the man’s way and let him do his thing! https://t.co/sV8w80nN04
— The Dread Pirate Mark Brooks (@MarkBrooksArt) October 25, 2022
So here it is, the super talents we've been waiting for to take over & have some actual FUN!
I cannot say enough about both @JamesGunn and Peter Safran & how they both get the characters in the DCU. They understand them at a level that lines up with how Amanda and I view the DCU https://t.co/LE0Cs7d2Zc
— Jimmy Palmiotti (@jpalmiotti) October 25, 2022
There’s literally no better choices. THIS is exciting! https://t.co/rAc5mVq1eb
— Mitch Gerads (@MitchGerads) October 25, 2022
True DC Comics nerds who tell epic and intimate stories. Astounding stuff coming. https://t.co/V86K4jX1r5
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) October 25, 2022
Excited for this! Back at Marvel, James was helpful solving an animation problem I had pre-GotG coming out (& bugging pal @andyparkart) & was a joy to work with on @ConManSeries! As a longtime @DCComics fan & many times former DC/WB employee can’t think of a better choice! #DCU https://t.co/pWFHnjvX0t
— Shannon Eric Denton (@ShannonDenton) October 25, 2022
While David Zasklav and company seem to have pulled off something no one saw coming – a business decision that people are actually happy about – there is one group that was unhappy: Snyder Cultists who feel that this is going to prevent the long awaited return of the Sn*derverse and gold help us The Ay•rs Cut.
The first four stages of grief. pic.twitter.com/EqxYdxS6OZ
— Ryan Higgins (@RyanHigginsRyan) October 25, 2022
The wild thing about this is that Snyder and Gunn actually kind of came up together through Hollywood – Gunn even wrote the script for Snyder’s break out film, Dawn of The Dead. While a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, it’s even possible that Jame Gunn and Zack Snyder are….friends? Which makes the Snyder Cultists woeful reaction even more divorced from reality. Go figure.
This shocking but overall positive news is still soaking in everywhere. As we’ve noted here many times, the history of superheroes at Warner Bros. has been fraught with false starts and bizarre concepts (Kevin Smith Green Lantern, Tim Burton Superman). In Gunn and Safran they would seem to have found two steady hands who actually like superheroes and comic books. With that in place, just about anything could happen.