The more things change the more they still screw things up.
Yesterday, DC dropped a whole bunch of new info from their DC Studios branch, where all the accepted media formats and video games will be coming from as a sort of shared universe, with whatever projects are remaining forming some kind of Elseworlds situation. We kind of knew this is what the Flashpoint adaptation was going to lead to.
Also dropped yesterday were interviews with DC Studios James Gunn And Peter Safran as they go over what they have planned for this comic-free new universe that only acknowledges the source material when it suits them. Again, Zaslav and the people he hires have no interest in the comics outside of a place to create stuff for the real stuff that matters, TV/streaming and movies. The fact that video games are here surprises me frankly, though of course nothing was announced on that front. Three articles dropped on DC’s website but we only need two of them to go over Gunn and Safran’s plans…and I am so not impressed.
The first article is more of an overview, accompanied by a separate article simply listing the planned projects. We have a more in-depth one for the second article so let’s start with what Gunn and Safran are thinking going into this new DC MovieTVNotStreamingNoComics universe. Okay, that’s too long. Let’s call it the DC Hollywood universe, or “DC Hollyverse” for short. All the Hollywood approved story sources without those messy paper things the media snobs still hate.
Since being placed in charge of DC’s upcoming slate of films and TV series, the two newly minted execs had to hit the ground running, kickstarting the development process for their first batch of projects—ten of which were announced this morning—while shepherding already existing DC films and TV shows forward. Unsurprisingly, finding ways for it all to coexist was not without its challenges, but by Gunn’s own admission, they were aided by some good fortune.
Getting the TV, streaming, and movies to get along only has a challenge when it comes to being able to follow it all. Streaming means HBO Max and not everyone has that service. I don’t. So anything on there I don’t have access to. The CW is no longer owned or co-owned by Warner Brothers and they don’t currently have a network that will air those shows unless they have plans for TBS and TNT. Maybe Cartoon Network but while animation comes up in the discussion I’m betting we’ll see few of those and less for kids who graduated fourth grade but haven’t hit high school or college yet.
“I think that we’ve gotten lucky with the next four movies because we have Shazam [Fury Of The Gods], which leads into Flash, which resets everything, which then goes into Blue Beetle, which is totally disconnected (from everything that came before) and can be a part of the DCU, which goes into Aquaman, which leads into Superman: Legacy, our first big project,” he explains. “But the one thing that we can promise is that everything from our first project forward will be canon and will be 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.”
So Blue Beetle, as in Jaime Reyes, joins Black Lightning in being excluded…sorry, I meant segregated from the main universe. I think Gunn wants to send all of Walter Hamada’s projects into hypertime. DC fans would be happy just seeing Snyder’s films go away, maybe give Snyder his own and owned superhero universe to leave DC alone and give Snyder fans what they really want instead of a corrupted DC universe…unless that’s what they want and then the defense of the “Snyder Bros” ends. We’re also still getting a Joker sequel movie from Todd “my arthouse is better than your comics” Philips and another overdark Batman sequel from Matt Reeves. Now I really fear what that Batgirl movie was going to be if that’s the movie they deleted from reality.
Following that is a series of questions about what direction this new DC Hollyverse is going to be like.
On why a shared universe is the right approach going forward…
Peter Safran: DC has had great individual movies over the years, but we think that what the audience really appreciates and needs is a connected universe. It minimizes audience confusion and it maximizes their connectivity to it across all the platforms.
James Gunn: I think that’s something that people love. I know that from my own experience. But again, we do have Elseworlds tales we’re telling. The bar for an Elseworlds tale is going to be higher than the bar for a movie within the DCU. Not that we’re not always going to have a high bar, but it’s got to be something really special for us to tell that story outside of our regular continuity and to spend the money to make it.
Yeah, they’re calling what they’re doing DCU but since that’s always the comics (and the MMO) to me I’m sticking with DC Hollyverse. I’m not against a shared universe but when Marvel seems to be abandoning it by hiring writers and directors who don’t care to put in the effort I’m not sure they’re going to do any better.
About how they decide which medium to use for which project…
Gunn: It’s all story-based. To us, storytelling is 100% king. So, if it’s a story that’s more complicated, like the Lanterns or Waller story, or has more of an independent TV vibe, like Booster Gold, then that’s more suited for television. It has to do with tone, storytelling and if it’s something that we can tell in two hours and ten minutes. Or is it something that we need seven, eight or nine hours for?
Safran: We certainly debated a couple of these projects and where they fit better, but ultimately, this is where we landed.
Credit where it’s due: that’s not a bad approach. It’s what comics used to do. Some projects were better suited for an ongoing series, some for a miniseries, and some for a graphic novel. Now all their stuff is for the trade.
On how they decide on ratings and whether something should be live action or animated…
Gunn: It depends on the story. We’re going to give every story what it deserves. Some things we know. Superman is definitely something we know we’d like to be PG-13, so I’m going to make sure it is. Other things, like the Waller TV show, are a little bit more mature. And we have other things that are aimed a bit more at young women or at kids that are still within this world.
Safran: And in terms of animation, it’s sometimes just a fun way to introduce characters or introduce stories that would frankly be too expensive to be done otherwise.
Gunn: Creature Commandos is a good example of that.
Safran: With Creature Commandos, they’re all digital characters.
Wait, the animated productions are going to be part of this? Along with video games, cartoons are one of those things Hollywood pats on the head, calls cute, and then slaps the concept into something that barely resembles it. So only the comic book books, the SOURCE MATERIAL, are going to be persona non grata here? And are they saying Creature Commandos are going to be animated?
PG-13 Superman. Screw you, kids who like Superman. You still get nothing. I wish I had that headline from Superman IV. You know the one I mean.
On whether they’re planning any big, Justice League-type crossover events…
Gunn: Everything’s crossing over throughout. These characters are all interacting throughout the different stories.
Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean always. Brave and the Bold may just be Batman, Robin and the characters involved in that. But I know a lot of other times these characters cross around. In Creature Commandos, one of the main characters shows up in Waller.
The MCU, when it was good, worked because each character got their own movie, with hints of a larger universe out there until it was time for something like the Avengers movies. It sounds like DC Hollyverse still wants that big crossover that the MCU became without earning it, one of the big issues with Dawn Of Justice and both cuts of Justice League.
About the role of that games might play in the shared universe…
Gunn: It’s not like we’re going to have the Superman movie come out and have this Superman game come out. It’s more like we’ll have the Superman film come out, then maybe two years later, we have the Supergirl movie coming out. So, what’s the story in between there? Is there a Krypto game that we can play that comes in between them? Something that’s still set in the world with these characters, but is its own thing. We want to give the prominence to games that they deserve.
I’m still surprised they’re acknowledging the game. I know they’re using Krypto as an example because I doubt their games will be any more kid-friendly than their shows and movies, despite most of us coming to DC as kids, but I’d play a good Krypto game. Emphasis on GOOD! Not that they mentioned any games of course.
On whether the animated movies from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will continue…
Gunn: We’re dealing with all that. Some of that stuff will continue as Elseworlds, but a lot of other stuff we’re starting to bring into animation with (Warner Bros. Animation President) Sam Register so that we’ll have things that are connected with this. I think there have been a lot of really marvelous DC cartoons, so we’re going to keep moving forward with that.
Overall the DC Animated movies have been pretty good, though some of the latest ones have shown a weaker budget. It would be a shame if that was ruined.
About the writers helping to build this story and universe…
Gunn: We have Tom King. He has been my partner throughout all of this. He was giving me answers to [stuff] before I took the job. So it’s me; him; Christal Henry, who worked on Watchmen; Christina Hodson, who wrote The Flash; Drew Goddard, who you probably know; and Jeremy Slater, who just did Moon Knight. That’s the group of people we’ve been meeting with and putting all of this together.
You lost me at Tom King. I mean, here’s a list of his sins against not only DC characters but fellow DC creators. Using a Watchmen writer sounds like something Snyder would do given a shared cynical view of superheroes. I don’t a lot about the others but none of those projects represent the bright, colorful, optimistic DC universe fans have been wanting back. Apparently we have to watch Batwheels to see that…and that’s the one where Batman’s garage become crimefighters without Batman, Robin, and Batgirl knowing it.
On the difference between DC Studios projects…
Gunn: Even though this is all a connected universe, it’s really important to me that the individual writers and directors on the projects give their own self-expression to it, just like they do in the comics. Everything doesn’t always look the same. Everything doesn’t always have the same expression. Different artists bring remarkably different looks, feels and tones. This is not the Gunnverse.
I want each project to have the feelings of the individual artist that’s working on it and to give them a lot of freedom—as long as it works—to create something special because what I’ve found through Marvel, what wasn’t exciting was when movies were tonally the same. What was exciting was when you had something like Guardians come out and everyone was like, “How is this raccoon going to be dealing with this God of Thunder? That’s going to be weird.”
But then when you actually see the mash-up happen, that’s what makes it so fun. So, to see seemingly tonally incongruent things come together is part of the fun of all this.
Oh no, they’re doing the Omniverse approach…except for Yamada’s Elseworlds.
Okay let’s take a quick look at the projects already announced. I’m not really that interested in Creature Commandos (which apparently IS animated), The Authority (The Boys lite), or Swamp Thing (I’m satisfied with the USA network series, or the Fox Kids cartoons if I’m in the mood). Amanda Waller’s solo project is just the James Gunn version and will guest-star his Peacemaker, so no shocker there. As for the rest…
Safran: (This) is really the launch of the DCU. The first two projects are an amuse-bouche for what’s coming up with Superman: Legacy. James is currently writing it. We’re hoping that he will 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.
Um, no, if Creature Commandos and Waller are coming first they should be laying the groundwork, like Iron Man did for the MCU.
Gunn: With our stories, we want to take it away from good guy vs. bad guy. There are really good—almost saintly—people and Superman is among them. There are really terrible villains like Gorilla Grodd or the Joker. And then there’s everybody in between them, so there are all these shades of gray which allow us to tell complex stories.
If you read the full list, get used the shades of grey talk. It comes up a lot. Kind of funny that they used the All-Star Superman cover image in the announcement because this supposedly too young for Henry Cavill Superman may not reach that height, given everything else we see here.
Safran: Our next project is another television series. We call it Lanterns and it is starring two of our favorite Green Lanterns—Hal Jordan and John Stewart. It’s going to be with HBO Max, as all of our series are that we’re going to talk about today. It is more of a True Detective-type mystery with our two Lanterns. A terrestrial-based mystery—
Gunn: —that leads into the overall story that we’re telling throughout the different movies and television shows. We find this ancient horror on Earth, and these guys are basically supercops on “Precinct Earth.”
Safran: The story is going to weave back and forth between the films and the television shows. Peacemaker is a good example of how that works, and that’s what we’re going to do with this big overarching story that we’re telling.
So if you didn’t like Peacemaker I’ve got some bad news for you. Gunn isn’t as bad as Taika Waititi but I still expect way too much quirky. And of course they went with Hal, because they can’t stop using Hal, and John, representation casting before representation casting was a sport. He’s also where the idea of having a ton of Green Lanterns on one sector started, so we ended up with Guy, Jessica, Simon…at least Kyle came in when all the GLs were powerless or dead. Also, why aren’t we using the color name? Between this and Arrow do we hate green now? I guess Kermit was right.
Safran: This is a Game of Thrones-type story about Themyscira/Paradise Island…
And I’m out! Apparently Paradise Lost, an HBO Max Wonder Woman prequel series because why not, is going to stick with the Greek Amazons rather than the traditional DC Amazons who, contrary to the New 52, were so NOT the Greek version that we actually meet the Greek version at one point who isn’t from Themyscira. Let’s go right to Brave & The Bold, which isn’t going to be tied to the previous Batman movies despite Matt Reeves still getting his sequel.
Gunn: This is a story of Damian Wayne, who’s Batman’s actual son that he didn’t know existed for the first eight to ten years of his life. He was raised as a little murderer and assassin. He’s my favorite Robin. It’s based on the Grant Morrison comic run, which is one of my favorite Batman runs. We’re putting it all together right now.
Safran: This is going to feature other members of the extended Bat-Family. Just because we feel like they’ve been left out of the Batman stories in the theater for far too long.
It might be overdue for the others to show up. Damian has appeared in animation but of course live-action and big screen are the status symbols. It might be nice to see a live-action Nightwing that isn’t going “#$%$ Batman” though. Next up is the Booster Gold series for HBO Max.
Safran: A total fan favorite, as you know. A loser from the future who uses his basic future technology to come back to today to pretend to be a superhero.
Gunn: I think of it as basically the story of a superhero’s imposter syndrome. How do you deal with that? (It’s about) how he tries to use this future technology to be loved by the people of today and what is really at the base of that. It’s a character story that’s going to be a very different type of show, and we’re talking to an actor about it now.
I can hear Comic Drake crying already. “Impostor syndrome” was never Booster’s personality, even when he was being poorly written by Keith Giffen. Finally, and speaking of poorly done takes on characters, the Supergirl movie they want to make.
Gunn: This is based on Tom King (and Bilquis Evely)’s wonderful comic. Tom has been one of the architects of this entire situation. He’s been one of the guys in the room with us, along with four or five other writers. I love his take on these characters. He just turns them slightly to be something very unique.
In our story, we have Superman who was sent to Earth and raised by incredibly loving parents. Kara was on Krypton. She was on a piece of Krypton that drifted away from the planet and she lived there for the first fourteen years of her life in a horrible situation where she watched everyone around her die. So, she’s a much harsher and more f*cked up Supergirl than you’ve been used to thus far.
So Supergirl 52 and Tom King’s “it’s my birthday so I’m going to go get drunk on another planet instead of spending time with people I know on my adopted home because @#$% them” version of Supergirl. Supergirl has never been “f-ed up”, she’s a bright happy child who takes what’s thrown at her and rises above it. She’s caring and intelligent. King however has every character suffer from PTSD. I do not want to see a mentally destroyed Supergirl any more than I want to see a constantly angry one. Another hard pass.
So…I am not looking forward to any of this. The bright, hopefully, happy DC universe I grew up with continues to rot in the grave…ironic given the state of death in comics. I don’t see how this is going to be any different than the Snyderverse rejected by non-Snyder fans. It’s still dark, shades of grey, mentally messed up heroes, and none of it sounds the least bit fun. If this direction works out for DC Hollyverse I’ll be really surprised…and really disappointed.