Let’s just get this over with. DC Entertainment, which not only covers the comics but the TV shows, movies, and HBO Max content, is kind of a mess at the moment. That’s to be expected really, given that all of Warner Brothers’ various subdivisions are in a mess as Warner Brothers Discovery tries to figure out what they’re doing with the new fusion. David Zaslav, as noted before, really doesn’t care about the comics. He’s a TV guy, part of the same Hollywood system that looks down on comics except when it can be exploited for the media he cares about.

So what’s happening with their “DC Studios” content? After ditching the low-returns The CW TV network and cancelling the race-swapped Batgirl not for the race swap but because the movie was apparently so bad they’d lose less money NOT releasing, Zaslav has been trying to save the DC brand when it comes to TV and movies. (Again, not the comics.) There have been some interesting and controversial changes, and before I drop into full Christmas mode here at the Spotlight, followed by a Christmas break, I wanted to look at some of those controversies and how positive or negative they really are going into 2023 and beyond.

Alternate title: Scrappy-Doo and Guess Who.

You can already guess at least some of my opinion of James Gunn being put in charge of DC movies going forward. Even before Discovery took over Warner Media, and even before Warner Media took over Time Warner, Warner Brothers have been trying to get their Kevin Feige, the guy who used to make good Marvel movies and shows for the Marvel Cinematic Universe until the crazy decisions started. While apparently making fun of pedophilia is okay in Hollywood while any negative-sounding comment about LGBT+ or minorities will get you canceled, that’s just a personal problem I have with the guy and supposedly he apologized for those tweets. Whether it was a real apology or a Hollywood apology I can’t say, but my problem with him is similar to the problem with Zack Snyder, but in a more general sense.

Snyder has a style and he sticks to it. This is why he has a large fanbase, because they love his style. It worked for his own productions, and it worked for his adaptation of Watchmen (though some comic fans are still salty about the giant squid monster being replaced with Doctor Manhattan) but not for the DC Universe as a whole. Snyder’s style and view of superheroes runs counter to the DC universe that I fell in love with and I’m not alone in that assessment.

James Gunn as well has a style, only his is more along the lines of comedy. It’s why his Guardians Of The Galaxy was seen as a good example for his Suicide Squad, and that’s fine for those projects. However, as the comic notes, many of his decisions about Scooby-Doo, and even Scrappy among those of us who don’t hate the character, did not go over well. I don’t think he’s the Feige replacement they really want any more than Snyder. His style may work for certain projects but not the DCU as a whole. Say what you will about Joss Whedon or Kevin Smith (and I have), they’re at least comic people who know movies. I’m not sure I’d want them as the head of the DC movieverse either for different reasons, and Feige himself seems to be bringing in creators who don’t really care about the comics or are outright hostile to the comics and comic fans (the She-Hulk writers are somewhere on that scale), but there was a point where he tried to make a good translation of the comics without being stuck to them. This is what DC actually needs, someone who can please the comic fans while still creating a good experience for non-comic fans who still want to see a good superhero movie.

We never got Cavill in the bright colors.

Another controversial choice is that Henry Cavill is out as Superman, after giving up his role in The Witcher to devote himself to the character after a cameo in Black Adam that Dwayne Johnson fought for because…well, I already discussed that. This has to be a hard blow to Cavill. He fell in love with the Witcher novel series and really wanted to play Superman. Then he’s given a show or movie run by creators who outright hate the source material. We already heard that The Witcher‘s writing rooms didn’t care about the show and Zack Snyder gave him Superman In Name Only, so he’s never really played Geralt or Clark Kent because he wasn’t given those roles to play, just (well, I can confirm for Superman because I’m unfamiliar with the entire Witcher franchise of books, games, and web series) namesakes who were either overshadowed by the writers’ prefered characters or a poor take on a light and caring hero.

This change, as well as reports that Gal Gadot had her cameo removed from the upcoming Flash movie along with Cavill (more on that in a moment), because Gunn and producer Peter Safran are trying to kill the Snyderverse. While I’m all for that given that Snyder should just create his own superhero universe, hopefully with more success than M. Night Shyamalan did with his failed attempt, there were people hoping that Cavill would finally get to wear a proper Superman outfit and be allowed to actually play Kal-El properly rather than the Snyder version. Supposedly they’re looking to cast him as another character. I don’t know about that. Brandon Routh was a bit better off playing The Atom after his failed attempt at Superman because fans already wrote him off for a dumb reason, being a former soap opera actor. People were really excited about Cavill as Superman because he was so excited about it…and then we got Man Of Steel and it went downhill from there because of the stories he was given.

Photographic rendition of Cavill’s geek dreams.

Cavill, despite his appearances in non-geek action movies like remakes of The Man From UNCLE and the Mission: Impossible movie series, has a geeky side. The next project he’s working on is an adaptation of the Warhammer games. Though given Hollywood’s history with video game movies he’s bound to be disappointed again, especially since he’ll be working with Amazon Studios, whose adaptation track record is…not the best. Gunn, meanwhile, wants to start over with a younger Superman for some reason. I know, he who controls the origin controls the story, and using Gadot, whose first Wonder Woman movie had issues but still had fans while the sequel made some very bad decisions storywise, and Cavill will invoke memories of the Snyderverse they want to purge for how not-DC the movies were. Still, fans are taking it hard, and no it isn’t just the “Snyder bros”. There were people who really wanted Cavill to finally get to play a proper Superman.

Meanwhile as noted, they’re still going ahead with the Flash movie without Gadot and Cavill, despite all the mess Ezra Miller is up to, which seems like a very bad and toxic decision. How bad was the Batgirl movie when a potentially worse PR nightmare is in their laps and they’re still going to run it? Also not on the chopping block is the Black Superman movie using one of the comics’ alternate universe black Superman characters and written by author turned comic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, known for anti-American tirades and produced by J.J. Abrams, who has had a questionable history with is Star Trek and Star Wars entries, another odd PR decision. And while Gunn is currently denying it, reports were they wanted to keep Matt Reeves’ questionable take on Batman in their new DC movieverse.

Gunn has said that he not only wants to follow Marvel Studios in making movies and TV/web shows set in his DC universe but video games and some animated movies (not sure about TV cartoons, and obviously nothing about comics), which I guess is a good thing but that depends on how good the main product is, and how well he can connect these different media. Writers at Marvel Studios are rejecting their shared universe, especially the ones making shows for Disney Plus, so finding enough people at all four formats willing to go along with this in modern Hollywood is going to be a task Gunn may not be up for if the guy who jump started the “shared universe”, and the only one successful at it this century, is having problems. And what does this say for the currently remaining DC shows that came over from the failed DC Universe streaming service and the CW to join others at HBO Max or whatever they’re going to replace it with after all the dust has settled at Warner Brothers Discovery?

Could the end product be good? Maybe and I’ll give them a chance as both critic and decades long fans of the DC multiverse, but with everything that’s happened to other properties, the level of the task before him, and just my personal concerns with Gunn’s signature style and how much influence it will have on the related projects he’s not part of, I’m not placing any bets. The more modern storytellers tear apart the characters I’ve loved since I was a child, and all but deny them to the next generation, the less hope I start having in their future. Some day there may not be a Superman for kids to look up to, and I fear for that generation and the ones after.

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About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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