After almost three months of waiting and speculating, James Gunn has finally given us a peek behind the DC curtain. Gunn, who was named co-CEO of the newly formed DC Studios with Peter Safran, shared a video where he talked about the first ten movies and TV shows of the upcoming DC film universe, which he is officially called the DCU. Details were scant, as these are the early days of development, but Gunn delivered a good amount of information for this early in the planning stage. You can see the video below:
For me, this is a mixed bag. Some of these projects excite me, one worries me, and the others are fine but nothing that gets me on my feet. Let’s take ‘em one by one. I’ll also mix in some clarifying quotes from a couple of articles – one from Variety, one from The Hollywood Reporter – that detail Gunn’s and Safran’s comments at a press conference following the video’s release.
Gunn’s initial remarks about creating a cohesive shared universe across all platforms are good, especially because he and Safran are leaving room for one-offs that exist outside that continuity, which they’ll label “Elseworlds.” This is smart, not just because it pleases everyone – there’s room for whatever you like – but because it encourages creativity and allows for more artistic freedom, which Gunn talks about later. The Matt Reeves Batman movies will fall under the Elseworlds umbrella, as will Todd Phillips’ Joker movies and Teen Titans Go!, and that’s perfect because they wouldn’t work in the shared universe. It’s hard to imagine Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker looking up in the sky and seeing Superman flying towards an alien invasion.
Next, Gunn runs down the films that were already in the can when he and Safran took over, all of which are hitting theaters this year. It sounds like these movies will be part of their universe, with Gunn saying, “Shazam has always been off in his own part of the DCEU, so he connects very well.” Given that Zachary Levi has been so upbeat about Gunn and Safran’s plans – and was seen vacationing with Safran and family – it was a good bet that he was safe, but this appears to confirm it. Gunn then says The Flash will “resets the entire DC Universe,” which I believe was always the plan, although with a different end product than the one Gunn and Safran are cooking up. I assume this means there have been or will be reshoots to conform to the new universe. Blue Beetle and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom only get quick mentions, but Gunn says the latter “leads directly into” what follows, which, again, indicates that Jason Momoa is staying as Aquaman. According to the Hollywood Reporter piece, Gunn is allowing room for the actors from these films to return at some point.
This is where Gunn gets into the stuff he and Safran are directly developing, the first leg of which he calls “the first chapter,” titled “God and Monsters.” This feels like a repainted version of Marvel’s “phases,” which is fine; there’s room for Coke and Pepsi. He also emphasizes that the titles he’s about to mention are only part of “Gods and Monsters,” so this is a very long-haul vision. First is an animated TV series called Creature Commandos, written entirely by Gunn. I’ve never heard of this before, but the oddball nature of it seems like Gunn’s kind of thing, and he managed to fit in Weasel from The Suicide Squad. I don’t feel much about this one way or the other, although the original lineup sounds cooler than what Gunn has (unless that thing that looks like Weasel is actually a werewolf; the skin and fur colors are different, but he has Weasel’s crazy eyes). Gunn also says they’re going to feature characters moving back and forth between animation and live-action, with the live-action actors doing the animation voices as often as possible, which is a neat idea.
The other show is Waller, the Amanda Waller series on HBO Max starring Viola Davis. I’m not sure about this; I like Davis as Amanda Waller, but I don’t see how that character works as a lead. She’s like a more sinister Nick Fury, better used as a dark x-factor or an outright villain; that being said, The Suicide Squad basically turned her into a joke, so maybe she’s a changed woman. I’m not comforted by Gunn naming Christal Henry, one of the writers on the abysmal Watchmen TV series, as the creative force behind it. He also says it will feature some characters from Peacemaker, which, combined with Weasel possibly being in Creature Commandos, lends credence to the theory that the things Gunn worked on before taking over – Peacemaker and The Suicide Squad – would be safe and part of the new continuity.
After that is the one everybody’s been waiting for, and what Gunn calls “the true beginning of the DCU,” Superman: Legacy. Gunn is writing this himself, and it has a release date of July 11, 2025. He doesn’t say much about it, but the picture in the video is of All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison, so it’s likely that Gunn is taking inspiration from that run, if not adapting it directly. According to THR, Peter Safran explained the film this way:
“It focuses on Superman balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing. He is the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way. He is kindness in a world that thinks that kindness is old-fashioned.”
That sounds great and exactly what Superman needs after his sojourn in the Snyderverse. As much as I don’t like what happened to Henry Cavill (which, for his part, Gunn acknowledges via THR: “I think he’s getting dicked around by a lot of people, including the former regime at this company”), I’m hopeful for this movie.
Next is an HBO Max series called Lanterns about two Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan and John Stewart, with “a few other Lanterns peppered in there.” Gunn likens Lanterns to True Detective, with Hal and John being a cosmic pair of buddy cops who investigate something “that ties into our larger story of the DCU.” This sounds like the repurposed version of that canceled Greg Berlanti series that was to feature Guy Gardner and Alan Scott. Supposedly, Berlanti remains involved, and Gunn calling it a “terrestrial-based TV show” jibes with reports of the budget being scaled back. I’m fine with this; I don’t care much about Green Lantern, but it sounds like it will be a big piece of the “Gods and Monsters” puzzle.
This next one is the biggest surprise, and for me, the most pleasant one: The Authority is going to be a movie! I read the first five or six Authority stories – all of the Warren Ellis/Bryan Hitch run and part of the Mark Millar/Frank Quitely run – and loved them; I like the team dynamic, the fact that these are more ruthless versions of classic DC heroes, and that they do a lot of the things people in real life wonder why Superman et al. don’t, like topple dictators and such. It tackles some heavy moral questions, and the answers are not black and white. Based on the video, Gunn sounds excited about this one, and I’m glad because so am I. I hope they make it a period piece so they can use my favorite team member, Jenny Sparks, but something tells me that’s a pipe dream. (Or maybe they’ll repurpose her as the Spirit of the 21st Century instead.) I hope they go for a hard R with this one; it won’t feel right otherwise. Gunn says they’ll “interact with all our primary DCU characters,” which paves the way for some excellent conflict with the more upright heroes, especially Superman. I’m mega-excited for this movie!
Then, Gunn talks about Paradise Lost, a TV series about Themyscira and the Amazons before Wonder Woman’s time. He says it’ll be reminiscent of Game of Thrones. This could be cool, and I imagine it will end in a way that will lead into the DCU’s version of Wonder Woman, be that Gal Gadot or a new take on the character.
Then is the one that worries me the most: the next Batman movie (aside from Matt Reeves’ cosplay movies). It’s going to be called The Brave and the Bold and will star Batman and the Damian Wayne version of Robin, which Gunn says is his favorite. This movie will be based on Grant Morrison’s Batman run and will lead to introducing the Bat-Family to the DCU. None of that sounds good to me. I’m not a fan of Robin as a concept, but I figured he’d be a part of the DCU since they’re going to veer away from the grimdark tone of the Snyderverse, at least with the main heroes. But I wish they’d gone with Dick Grayson, or really any of the others, because Damian Wayne is the worst, an arrogant little punk that needs his ass kicked six ways from Sunday. This also raises a problem with Batman’s evolving story: Damian Wayne is, by necessity, a character that surfaces later in Batman’s career. Batman will not only have had to have three other Robins but will have already met and tangled with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins and fallen in love with Talia al Ghul. That’s all great stuff, and it’s only been done on film in a very truncated version in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. But they’re going to skip over all that to get to Damian? Why? I’d much rather see a great “Daughter of the Demon” adaptation and build to this down the road. This is one of the same problems Marvel has: they’re adapting all the modern stuff and leaving the classic stories that have stood the test of time in the dust.
Booster Gold is next. That will be a TV series on HBO Max. Gunn calls it “the superhero story of imposter syndrome,” which sounds like it could be a lot of fun. My only experience with the character is an episode of Justice League, so I’m not all that fussed one way or the other, but the concept has potential.
Gunn describes the next movie as “a big science-fiction epic film” called Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, based on the Tom King comic book run of the same name. This version of Supergirl will be “a much more jaded character,” a Kryptonian who grew up without the love and guidance of the Kents like Superman. I didn’t read the comic – although since this was only published last year, it’s another instance of skipping decades of stories for the most recent one – but it could be interesting to contrast Supergirl with her cousin and create tension that way.
Finally, Swamp Thing will be a “very dark horror story” that explores Swamp Thing’s origins. Gunn says it has a different tone from the rest of the DCU but will be entwined with the other movies and shows. I’ve never read any Swamp Thing comics, including the beloved run from Alan Moore (who already hates this film), but I used to love the two movies made in the 80s when I was a kid, and the cartoon that came from them. I like the idea of going for different tones, though, like making this one a horror movie.
The rest of the video is Gunn expressing his love for the DC characters and, more importantly, promising to always keep the focus on the storytelling. Variety has him elaborate:
“People have become beholden to [release] dates, to getting movies made no matter what… I’m a writer at my heart, and we’re not going to be making movies before the screenplay is finished.”
“The degradation of the writer in Hollywood has been a terrible story… It’s gotten much worse since I first moved here 23 years ago. Writers have been completely left out of the loop in favor of actors and directors, and making the writer more prominent and more important in this process is really important to us.”
I’m glad he feels that way because you can see the effects of working around a release date instead of waiting till the movie is ready to go. The only film in that slate that has a date is Superman: Legacy, which has a script, or at least most of one. The rest are just ideas right now, ones waiting for scripts to make them something tangible. Marvel would have had release dates for all despite not having writers or directors nailed down to make them.
As for how he and Safran will be dealing with the creatives they hire, Gunn said:
“It’s not the Gunnverse, it’s not… It’s got to be all these different feels from all these different stories. That’s what makes it so fun. The stories are completely different, and each has the individual expression of the writers and the director that are making those projects.”
“If somebody is doing something that isn’t working, we’re going to be honest… One of my primary focuses is being honest with everyone. Somebody brings me an idea that doesn’t work, I’m honest about it. We’re building right now the foundation for a studio that we want to last, and it just can’t last if we haven’t built on anything other than rigorous honesty.”
Do I have to pretend to cough before I say “Taika Waititi”? This approach sounds great, and while I’m not jazzed about everything (and I really want to be jazzed about Batman), some of these movies have me very excited, and I’ll give everything a chance – including Peacemaker, which I guess I have to watch now. I hope for the best, and I think we just might get it.