Just three months after James Gunn and Peter Safran began running the newly created DC Studios division of Warner Bros. Discovery, the co-chiefs have announced the first 10 film and TV titles within the new DC Comics DCU (DC Universe).
On Monday, Gunn and Safran met with press on the Warner Bros. studio lot to present what they said was the first part of Chapter 1 of the DCU, which they are calling “Gods and Monsters.” (See James Gunn’s video statement on Twitter.)
There are movies based on major DC heroes — including a previously announced recast Superman feature written by Gunn, now officially titled Superman: Legacy, a Batman and Robin movie, a Wonder Woman prequel series, and a Green Lantern mystery series. Plus titles featuring lesser known characters, including Booster Gold and Swamp Thing. Safran said The DCU exists as a multiverse, but the titles will exist within one singular universe.
DC had a previous attempt at creating a multiverse to rival Marvel back in 2014, that had mixed results.
“DC Studios is unprecedented,” Safran said. “It is a standalone production entity and studio. It is the first time ever that everything DC related — film, television, live-action, animation, gaming — is all centralized under one creative vision, that of James and myself.”
Gunn and Safran were adamant that they would not greenlight a movie until it was ready.
“People have become beholden to [release] dates, to getting movies made no matter what,” Gunn said of the current studio approach of scheduling tentpole films and sequels for theatrical release long before the creative teams are actually ready. “I’m a writer at my heart, and we’re not going to be making movies before the screenplay is finished.” This is a writer-centric approach that is more like indie films.
Following this approach, only one of the 10 DC Universe projects has a release date: “Superman: Legacy,” set to open on July 11, 2025.
“The degradation of the writer in Hollywood has been a terrible story,” Gunn said. “It’s gotten much worse since I first moved here 23 years ago.” Gunn further said this demoting of the writer is: “the primary reason for the deterioration in quality of films today, versus 20-30 years ago.”
Given this is still in the early stages of development, no directors have been attached to any projects and no actors are attached. (although they said they’re “very close” on signing at least a couple)
The exception is Viola Davis, who will star in the HBO Max series Waller as the amoral, government supervisor of the DC universe heros, Amanda Waller. (similar to Marvel’s Nick Fury)
Safran and Gunn are open to Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Zachary Levi to continue playing their respective DC Comics superheroes of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash and Shazam, but Gunn repeated that Henry Cavill will not continue as Superman, as announced by Cavill.
Gunn brought together a writers room of Drew Goddard (“The Martian”), Jeremy Slater (“Moon Knight”), Christina Hobson (“The Flash,” “Batgirl”), Christal Henry (“Watchmen”) and comics writer Tom King (“Batman,” “Mister Miracle”) to create the new stories. “We sat down in a room for a few days and we started to bash out what the basic overall plan could be,” Gunn said.
The pair said they plan to release roughly two films and two TV series per year into the DCU. But will not sacrifice quality.
What do you think of the new plan?
Set to open on July 11, 2025, “Superman: Legacy” will mark “the start of the DCU,” as Safran put it, but it will not be an origin story of the proverbial Man of Steel.
“It focuses on Superman balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing,” Safran said. “He is the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way. He is kindness in a world that thinks of kindness as old-fashioned.”
Gunn is writing the project, and Safran said he hopes Gunn “can be persuaded, perhaps, to direct it as well.” (Gunn, sitting right next to Safran, remained uncharacteristically poker faced in response.)
“‘Superman’ is for everyone,” Gunn said. “That’s a four quadrant film that should speak to everyone in the world.”
(A separate Superman movie produced by J.J. Abrams through Bad Robot, and written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, remains in development and would exist outside the DCU.)
From global fame to relative obscurity, “Superman: Legacy” will lead directly into “The Authority,” an ensemble movie about superhumans who have a less-than-idealistic approach to saving the world.
Gunn spoke at some length about “The Authority,” a project he said he’s “really excited” to bring to life. The characters come from Wildstorm, which was launched in 1992 as an independent entity under current DC Comics chief Jim Lee. The Wildstorm characters were later folded into the main DC comics universe with the New 52 initiative in 2011. Gunn said he and Safran intend to do the same with Wildstorm characters in the DCU.
As a comic, “The Authority” was created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch as an ends-justify-the-means superhero team, an approach that appealed to Gunn and Safran’s desire to diversify the storytelling within the DCU.
Gunn said the film “is being written now,” but he declined to say who was the screenwriter.
The Brave and the Bold
Along with introducing the DCU’s version of Batman — who will exist separately from the version played by Robert Pattinson in The Batman movies — “The Brave and the Bold” will introduce “the Bat family,” Gunn said. First among them is Robin, who is returning fully to live-action movies for the first time since 1997’s ill-fated feature Batman and Robin.
This version of Robin is Damian Wayne; Gunn described him as “our favorite Robin,” “a little son of a bitch,” an “assassin” and a “murderer.”
Damian is Bruce Wayne’s biological son, a fact unknown to Wayne for the first eight to 10 years of Damian’s life. “It’s a very strange sort of father-son story about the two of them,” Gunn said.
The project is based on the run of Batman comics authored by Grant Morrison, who Gunn said was “exceptionally influential” on the DCU. The other comics writer Gunn mentioned by name was Tom King — who participated in the DCU writers room and leads right into the next feature project.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow
Based on King’s comics run of the same title from 2021 and 2022, Woman of Tomorrow features Superman’s cousin, Kara Zor-El, who, as Gunn explained, “is a very different type of Supergirl.”
“We see the difference between Superman, who was sent to Earth and raised by loving parents from the time he’s an infant, versus Supergirl, who was raised on a rock chip off of Krypton, and watched everyone around her die and be killed in terrible ways for the first 14 years of her life.”
Gunn called this Supergirl “much more hardcore” — though King’s series also involves Krypto, the superdog.
Easily the most extreme example of Gunn and Safran’s conviction to diversify the DC Comics universe, “Swamp Thing” will investigate the dark origins of Swamp Thing,” Safran said, through the prism of horror.
Gunn referenced the initial reactions to the Guardians of the Galaxy joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and initial questions about how Rocket Raccoon would work standing next to Thor. “That mashup quality” wound up being one of the highlights of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” Gunn argued.
Gunn said they’re “one-upping” that approach with “Swamp Thing.”
“This is a much more horrific film, but we’ll still have Swamp Thing interact with the other characters,” he added.
(I hope Marv Wolfman is consulted on at least Swamp Thing, and hopefully other titles. He is possibly the greatest living comics writer and creator)
This animated series is for HBO Max and is the very first DC Comics project greenlit by Safran and Gunn, who has written every episode. The show is in production now.
The Creature Commando characters were first launched in 1980. The premise features Frankenstein’s monster teaming up with a werewolf, a vampire and a gorgon to fight Nazis in World War II. It doesn’t appear that Gunn’s version takes quite the same approach — Weasel, one of the characters from Gunn’s 2021 film “The Suicide Squad,” is one of the Commandos, along with Rick Flag’s father, Rick Flag Sr.
Animation, Gunn said, allows their creative collaborators to “tell stories that are gigantic, but without spending, you know, $50 million an episode.”
Crucially, Gunn said that the actors cast to voice the characters on the show will also play the roles in live action later on in the DCU.
With Gunn focused on Superman: Legacy for the foreseeable future, Season 2 of Peacemaker has been put on hold. Instead, “team ‘Peacemaker’” will appear alongside Davis as a “continuation” of that show, Gunn said — which (spoiler alert for Season 1 of “Peacemaker”) ended with Waller’s daughter Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) outing Task Force X (a.k.a. the Suicide Squad) and Waller’s role running it to the world.
Along with Christal Henry, who was part of the DCU writers room, “Waller” will be executive produced by Jeremy Carver, who created the beloved DC series “Doom Patrol,” which was recently canceled by HBO Max.
“They are crushing it,” Safran said of Henry and Carver’s work on “Waller.”
“It’s just the greatest show ever,” Gunn added.
Safran called them the “aperitif” for the DCU.
Of all the DC comics TV series, Safran and Gunn seemed most excited for “Lanterns,” which Safran described as “a huge HBO-quality event” that is “very much in the vein of ‘True Detective.’”
The show will focus on two of the best known members of the Green Lantern corps.: Hal Jordan (the test pilot first played on screen by Ryan Reynolds in 2011’s “Green Lantern”) and John Stewart (an ex-marine and one of DC’s first Black superheroes), who investigate a mystery that Safran said “plays a really big role leading us into the main story that we’re telling across our film and television.”
“So this is a very important show for us,” Safran continued.
This project is separate from a Green Lantern series that was being developed by Greg Berlanti for HBO Max, which is now no longer moving forward.
“Greg’s vision was more of a space opera,” Safran said. “Our vision is much more ‘True Detective,’ terrestrial-based investigation story.”
This “‘Game of Thrones’-ish story,” Safran said, is set on the island of Themyscira before the birth of Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman).
“It’s really about the political intrigue behind a society of all women,” Safran said.
Added Gunn, “How did that come about? What’s the origin of an island of all women? What are the beautiful truths and the ugly truths behind all of that? And what’s the scheming like between the different power players in that society?”
The provocative title recalls the “Paradise Island Lost” DC comics series authored by Phil Jimenez and George Pérez, which followed a civil war on Themyscira.
Finally, there’s “Booster Gold,” which allows the DCU to fully stretch into outright comedy. While he may not be familiar to casual fans of DC, the character, also known as Mike Carter, is a fan favorite among devoted readers. Safran called Booster “a loser from the future who uses basic future technology to come back to today and pretend to be a superhero.”
In the 25th century, Mike is a disgraced former football star who uses a time machine on display in the Metropolis Space Museum.
Before audiences get to those films and series, however, there is a matter of this year’s crop movies, starting with Shazam! Fury of the Gods, coming March 17, and continuing with The Flash (June 16), Blue Beetle (Aug. 18), and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (Dec. 25).
David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.