It’s difficult to not feel sorry for Henry Cavill. Despite your feelings towards the “Snyderverse” era of DC films, or the broad colloquialism, the DC Extended Universe, which extended past Zack Snyder’s influence on these films, and even despite your personal thoughts about his performance. He signed on to play Superman in Man of Steel, continued it in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, fully expecting to continue in the role. Depending on whatever source you read, he was either let go from the franchise, or was held on retainer with nothing happening. Eventually, Superman appeared in Shazam! only for a body double to take the role. Depending on who you believe, either he wasn’t available, or he wasn’t offered the cameo. He fought the good fight, desperately wanting to reprise the role. Suddenly, he appeared in Black Adam (which I, like the majority of the world, given its lack of success, have not yet seen), a cameo appearance thanks to the Rock’s wheeling and dealing. Following the cameo, it was official: Henry Cavill was back as Superman, baby, ready to headline another film, and preparing to square off against Black Adam!
And then along came James Gunn and Peter Safran.
Tasked with cleaning up the mess of DC films, in a state of flux following the commercial and critical failures of the Snyderverse films, Gunn, known for Troma horror and the Guardians of the Galaxy, who recently directed The Suicide Squad and spun it off into Peacemaker, and producer Safran were handed a mop and bucket with a mandate to clean up DC’s movies. Soon, it was announced that Cavill would no longer star as Superman.
Word also broke that Patty Jenkins would not be returning to direct a third Wonder Woman movie, with various news sources publishing contradictory stories about how amicable a parting it was. Already, the collective fan media was in conniptions about Gunn and Safran’s approach. Is it a reboot? Are they just shitting on what came before? Are they changing everything other than The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker? Holy shit, is Jason Momoa going to be Lobo? Is he going to still be Aquaman?
With four movies from the old regime due to hit throughout 2023—Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom—January turned to February and Gunn and Safran announced the beginning of their ten-year plan for less colloquially named DC Universe, dropping the unofficial “Extended.” Eclectic fare like sequels to The Batman and Joker and, uh, Teen Titans Go! would fall under the “Elseworlds” banner (a name taken from an old DC imprint for stories outside of the regular continuity, while the other ten movies and TV series announced would form the beginning of this new chapter.
“Chapter One: Gods & Monsters,” that is: Marvel has phases, DC has chapters. It’s a point of difference, you see.
I enjoyed the Snyderverse movies. Not to the point that had me demanding Warner Bros #ReleaseTheSnyderCut (although it’s far better than the version finished by Joss Whedon) or #RestoreTheSnyderverse. I enjoyed many of the post Snyder DCEU movies, particularly Gunn’s, and I plan on seeing the 2023 releases. There’s been a tonal dissonance as Warner Bros has insisted on moving forward with the movies with no plan. That’s okay; I’m a DC fan, and have been for the vast majority of my life, and I like seeing different interpretations of these characters. Most of these versions haven’t been “mine,” and until Gunn and Safran decide to reach out to me to write some of these movies, I expect it to remain the same.
But as a fan, I find myself encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. It’s a bizarre mix of projects, some mainstream and others less so. While it adds variety, on the surface, it seems to lack consistency. If the stories strike different tones but work as a universe, awesome. If the universe falls flat but we get quality movies, awesome. Despite Marvel’s success, a shared universe trying to tell a story across multiple shows and movies, begging people to watch the lot because of a confected sense of importance isn’t necessary. It might be fun, but it’s bad for film. No longer are we content to have fun movies pop up, no longer is setting up a few sequels enough to build a franchise, it must be all-consuming. And it has to be marketed as a grand plan.
And the grand plan has revealed ten titles so far. At half of Chapter One, it means a series of twenty different movies and TV shows, but don’t worry, there are also videogames involved, too.
There’s plenty to be sarcastic about (and if you read my newsletter, The Wonderful World of Was, you’d have noted my sarcasm there, too). But as a fan, who loves stories with these characters, I find myself more excited than I have been for these movies. Yes, I’m a James Gunn fan, and no, I don’t expect Superman to be a smarmy dude commenting on A-holes, nor do I expect a misogynistic, uberviolent alpha male.
Gunn is a fan. I’m a fan. Snyder’s a fan, too.
Snyder wore his fandom on his sleeve. He’s a fan of The Dark Knight Returns, and before that, he directed Watchmen (in what I feel was a misunderstanding of the text, but that’s not here nor there). He’s a fan of the gritty, the adult, the deconstructionist comic books. I enjoyed those, but I love the stories that didn’t mind getting fucked up. The stories that know they’re comic books and have a hell of a lot of fun with their stories.
Whether it’s Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad or Peacemaker, or his prior works, Gunn also has an appreciation for the fucked up. He also has an appreciation for stories with heart, and stories about what it means to be a hero.
And it turns out he loves a lot of the comic books I love. We share some favourites, and apparently some of those will be influencing his and Safran’s DC Universe.
Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Batman. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. All phenomenal works. If you follow my newsletter, you’ll know what a fan I am of both authors. Morrison’s my favourite author in any medium, and I have a huge respect for Moore, recently completing his BBC Maestro course. I never got into The Authority, but the Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch run, particularly, has a huge number of fans.
And the Woman of Tomorrow references the Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow comic series. Being a huge fan of Tom King, I recently shelled out a couple of dollars for it on Comixology, and it was phenomenal. A modern classic.
When these characters hit the screen, they may be “my” versions of them, or they may not. Again, the only way to guarantee that is if they bring me on board—James, Peter, I’m free. Reach out, and we’ll talk.
Whether Gunn and Safran tap me to work on any of the already announced projects, or something in the future, let’s take a look at the announcements. I’ll keep it brief, because if you’re interested enough to read this, chances are you’re familiar with it all.
Written by Gunn, a seven-episode first season of this animated series casts the Bride of Frankenstein as it’s league, with Rick Flag Sr. (the father of Rick Flag as seen in both David Ayer and Gunn’s Suicide Squad films), Nina Mazursky, Dr. Phosphorus, Eric Frankenstein, G.I. Robot, and Weasel (as seen in The Suicide Squad). It’s not anywhere near the team from the comics (which I’m not particularly au fait in, anyway), but it’s an eclectic mix of characters, with Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein being particular favourites of mine.
We may be getting a new Superman, but we’ll be keeping Viola Davis’s awesome performance as Amanda Waller. Falling between season one and the upcoming season two (one day down the track) of Peacemaker, this series it’s from Crystal Henry, a writer of the Watchmen TV series that told a new story but had a greater understanding of the source material than the film, and Jeremy Carver, who brought the brilliant Doom Patrol to TV.
A story about Superman balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing, posited as a story about kindness in a world that thinks kindness is old-fashioned. After Man of Steel worked to modernise the character, darkening him and his world, I’m looking forward to seeing this approach. And All-Star Superman is apparently an influence, and All-Star Superman is the greatest superhero comic book of all time. You can disagree, but you’d be wrong.
DC couldn’t get Green Lantern off the ground, the Greg Berlanti’s series we were expecting is now dead, and the less we think about the Ryan Reynolds film, the better. A series focusing on both Hal Jordan and John Stewart, as a detective show set on Earth, compared to True Detective. It’s an interesting concept, but the great thing about Green Lantern tends to be its wacky space adventures.
Lots of people love The Authority, but I’m not one of them. A gritty tale where its heroes are analogues of DC’s has merit as an idea, but after Jim Lee moved Wildstorm to DC, analogues of DC’s heroes became a bit redundant. But if it has something different to say about superpowered characters, this movie could be intriguing.
Pushed as DC’s Game of Thrones, because HBO Max doesn’t have enough Game of Thrones spin-offs. It’s a story about Themyscira (otherwise known as Paradise Island), but not featuring Wonder Woman, so we’ll have to wait and see if Gal Gadot’s invited back or not. If it’s based on Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons, which I hear is great and am waiting to read, it could be interesting. And proof the Game of Thrones comparisons are hyperbole.
The Brave and the Bold
What are the odds of this being renamed Batman: The Brave and the Bold? Probably better than Diedrich Bader returning to a movie that shares a name with his Batman cartoon. Introducing Batman’s son, Damian Wayne, and based on Grant Morrison’s Batman comics means I’m down. My favourite author and my favourite character.
Described by Safran as a “loser from the future” sums this series up. Booster’s a comedic character that tends to work best when paired with Blue Beetle. No, not the Blue Beetle who has a movie coming out, the other one. Creator Dan Jurgens made the point that Booster’s all about media and fame, and since the world’s become all about social media fame since his creation, he’s more relevant now than ever. If the series leans into that, it could be fun.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow
Have you seen the news reports about the Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow comic selling out after the movie was announced? I’m glad people are picking it up, Tom King and Bilquis Evely’s comic is a revelation. After grabbing it cheap on Comixology, it was one of 2022’s great surprises for my reading. Since Taylor’s tapped to be working on these movies, I hope it means good things for this film adaptation.
One last movie, Swamp Thing is once again relaunching the character after a Wes Craven movie and a sequel, not by Craven, a TV series based on those movies, and another TV series built for the defunct DC Universe streaming service, not to be confused with the film franchise. Alan Moore’s work being cited as an influence and James Mangold hinting he’s directing the movie make it a little more encouraging than any of the previous adaptations.
And there we have it. Ten projects included in the plan for the first chapter of the DC Universe. Some entice me more than others; once again, it’s all about a shared universe where “everything will matter.” As a fan of the characters, I’m curious to see where it goes.
To paraphrase Buzz Lightyear, who has absolutely nothing to do with the DC Universe, “to 2024 and beyond!”