June 2013. That’s when the DCEU kicked off, with the debut of Zack Snyder’s modest hit, Man of Steel. It’s almost 10 years to the date, and a crowd of press has been summoned to the DC offices on a quiet January afternoon. Why? Because, as promised by new co-head of DC Studios, James Gunn, the new fate of the DCU was about to be unveiled!
But let’s back up a bit. While there are many who consider Man of Steel to be a masterpiece, there are others who saw a promising start quickly devolve into a “cool for the sake of cool” series of “bam, smash, crash” choices and destructive action sequences; from the perplexing and unnecessary tornado death of Jonathan Kent, to seeing the world’s greatest hero murder a villain straight up. And for better or worse, that ended up setting the tone for a divisive cinematic universe.
The situation only worsened with 2016’s Batman V Superman. While Man of Steel wasn’t a game changer, it was at least relatively well received by audiences. But the same couldn’t be said for BVS, which was met with less than stellar reception from critics, and divisive reactions from audiences. A “B” Cinemascore from your audiences during a time where Marvel Studios was turning out pretty consistent A’s wasn’t what you wanted in your big tentpole franchise film with your biggest guns. To put it in perspective, that’s the same score 2010’s Green Lantern got. Even today, the much maligned Thor: Love and Thunder scored a higher B+ Cinemascore last year.
And while several on Vero who may be reading this are ready to raise hell, it’s fair to call a spade a spade. This was not what WB wanted. This was not what DC deserved. And it led to an ultimately confused hodgepodge of bad decisions, several rounds of the blame game, controversy, mistreatment of actors, and a revolving door of executives who didn’t understand or care about what to do with the material, throwing everything at the wall and seeing if anything stuck. All leading up to the release of last year’s underwhelming dud, Black Adam (which lost the studio about $100M), along with Dwayne Johnson’s failed attempts at a DC coup.
So if you’re newly minted Warner Bros. Discovery owner, David Zaslav, what do you do with a franchise that has so much potential but hasn’t lived up to it?
You hire a team of fanboys that were born and baptized into the world of comic books to set things right: Guardians of the Galaxy director Gunn, and Aquaman producer Peter Safran.
Which brings us back to this week, and the duo’s unveiling of, according to Safran, “the first half, of The First Chapter of the DCU,” which he and Gunn are calling, GODS AND MONSTERS.
The duo took to members of the press to discuss Chapter 1 of the DCU, and to answer some of the biggest questions fans have had since both were first announced to head the studio. Here’s what they had to say:
WHY DID GUNN TAKE THE JOB?
As members of the press were seated, Gunn, with his trademark candor, opened up to everyone about why he took the job as DC Studios Co-Chairman and CEO alongside Safran. “People have been asking me a lot, ‘why did I take this job?’ I knew there was going to be a lot of hitches, a lot of problems. But as many of you know, comic books are in my blood. These characters are in my blood.” He opened up about being a child with very little friends, who just loved DC and Marvel comics.
“I didn’t interact well with my peers, and my parents sent me to a psychiatrist when I was 11 years old to try and figure out what was wrong with me because I never went to school. I just stayed home and read comic books, and wrote and drew comic books,” he began. “And the psychiatrist said to my dad, ‘Why don’t you take an interest in what your son does?’ And my dad did. And it was the most wonderful thing my dad ever did. He started asking me about comics. He drove me to Creation Comic Con in Chicago, which is probably the greatest weekend of my life. Probably to this day… it was just the best…We bought a bunch of comic books. The happiest moments of my life are walking upstairs and seeing my dad reading a copy of Superman. And I just wanted to take care of these characters. And we know it’s been a f**ked up road for them these past few years. And I really thought — it is a challenge — but there’s a possibility to create something wonderful with these characters.”
WHAT IS DC STUDIOS?
Following Gunn’s introduction, the duo went into what DC Studios ultimately is.
“DC Studios is a stand-alone studio and production entity,” began Safran. “And it’s unprecedented. Because it’s the first time all film, all television, live action, animation, gaming is centralized under one creative vision… centralized under James and myself.”
Safran asked Gunn to talk about the history. “Well the history’s been s**t!” Gunn humorously quipped. “It’s been a real f**ked up journey for DC. I think there was no one minding the fence, and they were giving out IP to any creatives that smiled at whoever was in charge. There was never any power given to the people who were in charge. And so somebody could go over there and do whatever they wanted. So we had the DCEU, which then became the Joss Whedon Justice League, but it also became the ‘Snyderverse.’ Then we have Wonder Woman, then Wonder Woman 2, which doesn’t even match what happened in Wonder Woman 1. Then we have the ‘Arrowverse.’ And even us coming in with The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker… so how can we take these things together and make them make sense. Have them unify, and have them be one real universe — one real world?”
Gunn went on to say that he and Safran got real lucky with the next four DC projects coming out this year. “We have Shazam, which leads into Flash, which resets everything. Which then goes into Blue Beetle, which is totally disconnected and can totally be part of the DCU. Which goes into Aquaman, which leads into Superman — our first big project.”
Gunn elaborated, “The one thing we can promise is that everything from Superman forward… will be canon and connected. We’re using some actors from the past. We’re not using other actors from the past. But everything from that moment forward will be connected and consistent.”
“The DCU is a multiverse, but we’re going to be focusing on one universe from that multiverse,” stated Safran. “And if something isn’t DCU, we’re going to make that very clear. So strictly adult fare like Todd Phillips’ Joker or kids animation like Teen Titans Go! We’re going to make it clear that those are DC Elseworlds. Like with the comic books.”
IS THIS JUST “MARVEL 2.0?”
“A lot of people think this is going to be ‘Marvel 2.0,'” started Gunn. “And definitely I learned a lot of stuff there. [But] I think we have a lot of differences. One of the reasons why I love DC is it really is another universe. It’s an alternate world. In Marvel, generally, it’s New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and then everywhere else in the world is a fictional universe for some reason. Here at DCU, we have Metropolis, and Gotham, and Themyscira, and Atlantis and Bialya… This is the world we’re creating. We’re coming into a world where superheroes exist, and have existed for some time in one form or another. And that’s the universe.
“We are telling a big huge central story. That is like Marvel. Except for I think we’re more planned out than Marvel in the beginning, because we’ve gotten a group of writers together to work that story out completely. But we’re also creating a universe that’s like Star Wars; different times, different places, different things. Or like Game of Thrones. Where characters are a little bit more morally complex.”
ENOUGH TALK! WHAT ARE THE PLANS?
Now came the meat of the presentation — the unveiling of (as Safran called it) the first part, of the first chapter of the DCU. And oddly enough, there were several surprises in store for this first half of Chapter 1!
“Many of the following projects are already being worked on,” commented Safran. “But we are remaining flexible, and we’re going to adjust. Because we are never putting any project into production until the script is right. So this is a general timeline.”
“And I think that’s a really important thing,” added Gunn. “Because I’ve been making studio movies for over 20 years. And the thing I’ve seen — the biggest change between the past and today — and the biggest reason I think movies in general aren’t as good as they used to be is because too many movies get set into a date. And then they’re made no matter what. And then you have movies where they don’t have a third act. But they’re already shooting hoping that somehow they’re going to work it out, even though they couldn’t work it out after two to three years of script writing. So we want to elevate writers again. Make writers as important as they are, and become architects of this thing.
“And that is our commitment to this process for sure!” concluded Safran.
“So the first series we’re doing, and I’ve already written the entire series, is Creature Commandos,” stated Gunn.
Inspired by an obscure DC team that debuted in Weird War Tales #93, the Creature Commandos were a group of misfit monsters, including a vampire, a werewolf, a Frankenstein monster, and a gorgon, who would go on missions.
“This is an animated series, this [above] is actually the art from the animation company that’s doing it,” continued Gunn. “What we’re doing in the DCU is having animation tie directly into live action, television, movies, and games all intertwined within the same universe. We’re going to cast actors who are going to play the same characters in this, as well as other things — some of which have already been cast — and I’ve written all seven episodes of this show. And it’s in production now.”
The characters will comprise of (from left to right): Rick Flag Sr., Nina Mazursky, Dr. Phosphorous, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein (the leader), G.I. Robot, and Weasel.
Next up: An HBO Max series — Waller.
“This is Viola Davis. She’s coming back as her character Amanda Waller. This is also going to have some of Team Peacemaker in it as regulars on the show. This basically follows up to Peacemaker,” Gunn began. “We have two great creatives working on it: Crystal Henry, who worked on Watchmen, and Jeremy Carver who created Doom Patrol. Who have this incredibly marvelous story worked out that I think is really fantastic, and that HBO loves.”
“And this story will sit between Peacemaker Season 1 and Season 2,” added Safran.
“Because I don’t have time to do Peacemaker Season 2,” joked Gunn.
“Our next project, a feature film, is really the launch of the DCU,” declared Safran. “These first two [Creature Commandos and Waller] are the amuse bouche for what’s coming up with Superman: Legacy. So James is currently writing it. We certainly are hoping [he’ll] direct it. It’s not an origin story. It focuses on Superman balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing. Superman represents truth, justice, and the American way. He is kindness in a world that thinks of kindness as old fashioned.”
“We want to take [our stories] away from just good guy versus bad guy,” stated Gunn on Superman: Legacy. “There’s all sorts of saintly people. Superman is among them. There’s really terrible villains, like Gorilla Grodd or The Joker. And then there’s everybody in between. So all these shades of gray… which allows us to have more complex storytelling.”
“And we have a release date for this,” stated Safran.
Superman: Legacy will be hitting theaters July 11, 2025.
The next project covered is an HBO Max series called Lanterns.
“It is starring two of our favorite Green Lanterns: Hal Jordan and John Stewart,” stated Safran. “It’s going to be with HBO Max as are all the series we’re going to be talking about today. And it’s more of a True Detective-type mystery with our two lanterns. A terrestrial based mystery.”
“That leads into the overall story that we’re telling throughout the different movies and tv shows,” added Gunn. “We find this ancient Core on Earth, and these guys are basically super-cops on precinct Earth.”
“The story is going to weave back and forth between the films and the TV shows,” confirmed Safran. “Peacemaker is a good example of how that works. That’s what we’re going to do with this big overarching story we’re telling.”
Gunn and Safran are about to make WildStorm happen! The company, which later became an imprint of DC, had a series that followed a group of Warren Ellis-created heroes that would take matters into their own hands to complete their missions by any means necessary.
“This is one of my real passion projects,” Gunn began. “We’ve been working really hard on it with the writers. We’re starting to put together the entire story.”
“And this is a movie,” added Safran.
“This is a big movie,” continued Gunn. “WildStorm characters… bought by DC that I really love. We’re moving a lot of these characters into the DCU. The Authority is a very different kind of superhero story. They’re basically good intentioned. But they think the world is completely broken. And the only way to fix it is by taking things into their own hands, whether that means killing people, changing heads of state, changing governments; whatever they want to do to make the world better. Like I said earlier, there’s morally gray characters, which these are.”
Next, Gunn and Safran moved to an upcoming HBO series set in Themyscira called Paradise Lost.
“This is a Game of Thrones-type story set on Themyscira, aka Paradise Island: home of the Amazons, and the birthplace of Wonder Woman,” started Safran. “And this involves all the darkness, and drama, and political intrigue behind this society of all the women there.”
“It’s an origin story of how this society of women came about,” added Gunn. “What are their politics, what are their rules, who’s in charge? What are the games they play with each other to get to the top?”
The duo confirmed it’s live action and will be taking place before the birth of Diana.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
The next film signifies the introduction of Gunn and Safran’s DCU Batman to the franchise.
“This is the introduction of the DCU’s Batman,” Gunn said. “It’s not Robert Pattinson. It’s not Ben Affleck. We are working with Robert on The Batman — Part II, and filming that with Matt Reeves… but this is the story of Damien Wayne — Batman’s actual son, who he didn’t know existed for the first 8-10 years of his life. He was raised as a little murderer and assassin. He’s a little son of a bitch who’s my favorite Robin. It’s based on the Grant Morrison comics runs, one of my favorite Batman runs.”
“This is obviously a feature film. And it’s going to feature other members of the extended Bat-family,” added Safran. “Just because we felt like they’ve been left out of the theaters for way too long.”
There is no casting as of now.
Following that, will be Booster Gold, a series for HBO Max.
“A loser from the future who uses his basic future technology to come back today to become a total superhero,” detailed Safran.
“Think of it as a story of a superhero’s imposter syndrome,” added Gunn. “And how do you deal with that. How does he try to use this future technology to be loved by people today, and what really is the base of that. It’s a character study. It’s going to be a very different type of show. And we are talking to an actor about this right now.
SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW
A feature film based on Tom King’s comic book run from last year.
Gunn specified that King has been a major part of the writers room for the DCU acting as one of the architects of the overarching story.
“I love his take on these characters where he turns them to be something unique,” described Gunn. “Within our story we have Superman, who was sent to Earth and raised by incredibly loving parents. Whereas Kara was from Krypton, on a piece of Krypton that drifted away from the planet, and lived there the first 14 years of her life in a horrible situation where she watched everyone around her die. And so she’s a much harsher, and more f**ked up Supergirl than we’ve seen before.”
“The final film we want to talk about is Swamp Thing,” started Safran. “We bring it up because it’s important to point out that these stories, although interconnected, are not tonally the same. So each set of filmmakers brings their own aesthetic to these films. And the fun is seeing how these tonally different things mash-up in the future. So this is a film that will investigate the dark origins of Swamp Thing.”
The five films and five shows that Safran and Gunn revealed were the full extent of what was ready to be unveiled yesterday. Three out of the five films have had director conversations recently. However, Gunn stated that several other things are in development, but cannot be revealed at this juncture just yet.
That being said, Gunn and Safran were on hand to address many of the questions brought up by the rest of the press attendees. Here are a few things that were learned.
- The overarching story of the DCU will span 8-10 years. And will be comprised of two chapters. There will be and ending to this basic story at the end of Chapter 2, but that won’t end the universe.
- What was revealed is only *half* of Chapter 1: “Gods and Monsters.” Another half will be revealed in time, and Chapter 1 will culminate in an event film that will conlclude the chapter itself.
- While everything is connected, certain projects will tie more heavily into the overall central story than others. Gunn compared it to the Guardians of the Galaxy films having their own stories that didn’t tie in heavily to the overall Infinity Saga that culminated in Infinity War/Endgame. So if any one of the “tentpole” projects that ties directly into the overarching story gets delayed, the other key stories will shift accordingly. But the primarily stand-alone stories can move forward without shifting.
- There will be about two movies and two HBO Max series per year
- Gunn wants to make sure audiences understand the story of each individual project in and of itself, and by itself, no matter what interconnected part of the franchise they may or may not have seen. There may be small confusions which are unavoidable. But each individual project needs to be understood by somebody going to see it, and only it.
LEGACY FILMS AND ELSEWORLDS
- With the 2023 films marking the end of the DCEU, some events in the previous continuity will be “a rough memory of what happened [in the DCEU]” but once Superman: Legacy comes out, anything can be changed.
- Per Gunn, the bar for stand-alone Elseworlds tales outside the already established ones (e.g. The Batman and Joker) has to be really high for the studio to invest in a story completely outside the DCU continuity.
- There have been some conversations about who’s staying and who’s going from the DCEU:
— Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are officially out (though Cavill “was not fired” he just wasn’t “hired” as Superman in the new continuity).
— Conversations with Gal Gadot have happened. “She’s up for doing stuff. Not sure what to do with that,” said Gunn.
— Viola Davis and John Cena are definitely continuing on
— Mamoa is coming back, but he “will not play two characters.” But it’s too early to say if he’s Lobo or Aquaman. “We’ll figure it out after Aquaman 2,” stated Gunn.
- According to Gunn, “The Flash is f**king amazing! It’s truly one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen. Andy Muschietti did an amazing job!”
- The two movies/two HBO Max series releases don’t count toward Elseworlds projects. So those could be released outside of the usual two movies/two HBO Max schedules.
- Matt Reeves’ The Batman is still being envisioned as its own separate Elseworlds “crime saga” that includes The Penguin series and a trilogy of films.
— Reeves is currently working on The Batman Part II which is slated for release on October 3, 2025.
- Gunn and Safran have had *some* input in The Flash, and they are potentially bringing in Andy and Barbara Muschietti for future projects.
- On Ezra Miller returning as The Flash in the future beyond the 2023 film, Gunn said, “Let’s see what happens.” Safran added, “Ezra is fully committed to their recovery right now. We talked to them. When the time is right, we’ll have a conversation to discuss what’s best for them and for us.”
STUDIO STRUCTURE AND KEY PLAYERS
- DC Studios will be treated as its own separate entity with Gunn and Safran reporting directly to Zaslav.
- The writing staff of the DCU consists of the following creatives:
– Tom King
– Christal Henry
– Jeremy Carver
– Drew Goddard
– Christina Hodson
– Jeremy Slater
- Animation will be used to tell stories that are tied to this universe and possibly the central story, but in cost-effective ways, and ways that service the story.
- Games will also be released, not as tie-ins to film or TV releases, but as ways to contribute to the overarching DCU story by filling in gaps between releases.
In addition to the details about yesterday’s private event above, Gunn and DC have also taken to social this morning to formally announce the projects to fans publicly and talk about DC Studios on a high level via the below video. Get excited!