Breaking Down The Upcoming DC Studios Slate

On January 31st 2023, DC Studios CEO James Gunn finally made public the first ten projects of his and co-CEO Peter Safran’s new direction for DC films, now officially called the DC Universe, clarifying that this new vision for the next decade of films, both live-action and animated television, and gaming would be a unified force. Not only will the overarching narrative (because there has to be one in a shared superhero universe, of course) carry through all mediums, but actors hired to play characters will also be voicing them in animated or gaming projects. And Gunn made sure to clarify that these ten projects are just the start of the first Chapter. There will be more to come.

All in all, it was a simple video with a ton of huge potential for the future, and yes, the DCEU – or Snyderverse – is officially dead.

For now.

We also were given some clarity about DC properties that will not be included in the DCU. Films like Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson’s The Batman or Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, as well as their upcoming sequels and spin-offs are now going to be labeled as DC Elseworlds projects.

As for the current slate of films due out over the course of the new year, well, things are still a little iffy about some elements. Shazam! Fury of the Gods (releasing March 17, 2023) could end up merging or not, depending on its reception. Up next is the troubled The Flash film (June 23, 2023) that is going to apparently be the keystone for shifting into the new DCU, given its “Flashpoint” storyline, where Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) breaks the universe, rebooting a whole new reality. Given this, Blue Beetle (August 18, 2023) seems likely to carry over, if only for the fact that is stands fairly isolated from the rest of the previous DCEU projects. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (December 25, 2023) is also likely to continue in the new continuity, mainly for the fact the films are fairly standalone, Gunn loves Jason Momoa, and the last film made a billion dollars despite being dumber than a bag of hammers.

All of these films were conceived of and produced by creative teams that were in place before Gunn and Safran came on board, so they have had very little hand in them – but that’s not to say they’ve had none. It looks like at least for The Flash, there may be some tweaking of the ending to help set up the DCU in advance of the new titles created specifically for the new shared universe. And given that Gunn called The Flash “One of the greatest superhero movies ever,” the word on the street is that director Andy Muschietti will be sticking around for future DCU projects.

The next eight-to-ten year stretch of DC storytelling will be broken up into two Chapters (as opposed to Marvel’s Phases), and the first will be entitled GODS AND MONSTERS. If you’ve been paying attention to YouTube, you’ve probably seen a bunch of ding dongs relating this to a recent DC animated film about alternate reality versions of the Big Three. Ignore that noise. Those people may mean well, but they seem to lack the ability to think creatively about stories, instead only being able to refer to what they’ve already seen or to only take business matters into account.

Gunn emphasized that the new DCU was all about story first. As such, I think it’s fairly safe to assume, given the breakdowns of the new material, that the Gods and Monsters referenced is going to refer to the central thematic element of the first Chapter. There seems to be a clear leaning toward a conflict between the heroic and the corrupt – the idealistic vs the cynical. With that in mind, a lot of these upcoming releases make a lot more sense.

One of the most interesting, and I think, important things that Gunn revealed in his video is that they would not be scheduling projects unless the script was locked (or virtually locked, as the case may be). The new DCU is designed to be exceptionally creator-friendly – which is comforting, given Warner Bros. recent flurry of cancellations. I have to assume that there is a clause in the contracts Gunn and Safran signed that allow for lower returns for early films and TV shows in order to give the universe time to build and breathe, much as Marvel Studios did in their beginnings.

Building on this, in another interview, Gunn and Safran revealed that brain trust for developing the DCU roadmap included comics writer Tom King (Vision, Batman, Strange Adventures, Mister Miracle, Rorschach, and the currently running Human Target and Danger Street), Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), Jeremy Slater (Moon Knight), Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey, The Flash), and Christal Henry (Watchmen). We’ll see some of these names again down below.

Another intriguing element of Gunn’s video is the choice of imagery used to accompany each of the new titles. Whether the stories are directly inspired by specific storylines in the comics or not, it seems that the images displayed may be providing clues to the narrative approaches – or even some plot elements – of the coming works. I’ll discuss these in the summaries below.

And speaking of which, here they are in the order discussed in the video:


Creature Commandos (STREAMING)

The first project out of the gate in 2025 will be the seven-episode animated series, Creature Commandos, featuring scripts by Gunn. Originally introduced in Weird War Tales #93 in 1980 and created by J.M. DeMatteis and Pat Broderick, the modern version of the team first appeared in their own miniseries in 2000, written by Tim Truman with art by Scot Eaton, before reappearing in The OMAC Project in 2005. This current version (sort-of) appeared as part of the New 52 alongside Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Alberto Ponticelli.

This iteration of the team will be made up of The Bride of Frankenstein, Weasel (from Gunn’s The Suicide Squad), the amphibian doctor Nina Mazursky, the classic villain, Doctor Phosphorous, G.I. Robot, Eric Frankenstein (Frankenstein’s monster), and Rick Flag, Sr., father of the recently murdered Rick Flagg (in The Suicide Squad).

According to Gunn, this team will be organized by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and some characters, particularly Rick Flagg Sr., will be showing up in other live-action projects.


Waller (STREAMING)

Green-lit before Gunn and Safran took over and following Creature Commandos, will be Waller. This live-action series will be set between the events of Peacemaker Seasons 1 and 2 (Yes, folks. Season 2 is coming despite Gunn and Safran saying it was on hold) and will apparently deal with the fallout of the Peacemaker S1 finale, where Waller was publicly exposed as corrupt as fuck. According to Gunn, some of the Peacemaker team will be showing up here, which seems like the natural progression of things and the artwork chosen here seems to emphasize the nature of the story we’re going to get, with Waller in handcuffs and looking pissed as hell.

The series is still in the early stages (there’s still 2 years before its possible airdate) and is being written by Christal Henry (Watchmen) and Jeremy Carver (Supernatural, Doom Patrol). With that pedigree, I think we can expect some nicely grounded social criticism, swearing, and big imagination.


Superman: Legacy (FILM)

The full-fledged official beginning of the Gunn and Safran film fingerprint, Superman: Legacy will tell the story of a younger Superman attempting to balance his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing. It’s written (and potentially directed by) Gunn and is intended to reset Superman as a character whose main focus is “kindness in a world that thinks of kindness as old fashioned.” And I think that’s essentially going to be the logline for the whole Gods and Monsters chapter. The use of an image from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman adds to that sense, being the quintessential Superman story of the past couple of decades with its focus on Superman’s intellect, imagination, and compassion.

In another quote, Gunn has emphasized moving away from the traditional good guy vs bad buy motif, noting that “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.” So, while giving away no details about his current script, we should probably expect something a little more nuanced than a traditional knock-down, drag-out fight between two similarly powered titans.

And we’ve got a release date, folks!

Look for Superman: Legacy to hit theaters on July 11, 2025.


Lanterns (STREAMING)

Next up in the video is the HBO Max streaming series Lanterns. While there had been a Green Lantern Corps series in development for a while now from Greg Berlanti that was intended to be a big space opera style show, the new regime has quietly nixed that for a more grounded, terrestrial-based cop show in the vein of True Detective.

What we know so far is that it will feature both the Hal Jordan and John Stewart Green Lanterns investigating a mysterious “ancient horror on Earth” that will evolve into a major element of the DCU main story overall. Gunn also casually mentioned that there will be a sprinkling of other GLs showing up along the way, but no creative team or release date was announced.

I may be off on this but calling it an “ancient horror” may tie directly into something that could potentially be introduced in the upcoming Swamp Thing film, but more on that below.


The Authority (FILM)

Because next up is one of the biggest surprises of the announcement. The Authority is a passion project of Gunn’s and he promises that they will be interacting with the rest of the DCU moving forward.

For those unfamiliar with the team, they are a group of superhumans who think they’re the good guys, but “they think that the world is completely broken and the only way to fix it is to take things into their own hands, whether that means killing, people, destroying heads of state, changing governments – basically, whatever they want to do to make the world better.” I think it’s safe to assume that this will put them at odds with Superman, if not other mainstream heroes and could potentially lead to the formation of the Justice League in response. They’re potentially, quite literally, the Monsters in that Gods and Monsters chapter title.

The scripting is currently underway, but no writer has been tagged for the project, although Gunn has said that he’s worked on “a lot of the outline” for Authority and hasn’t sworn off of eventually taking up the full scripting duties if time allows.

Personally, I think there’s probably no project in this announcement that lends itself more to Gunn’s skillset. I’d be surprised if he hands this off to someone else, despite the claims running the DCU overall has on his life. And given the number of times the cast of The Authority has changed over the years, using this image of the original team implies both the line-up and that the attitude of the film may line up with the original Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch series.

Also, while I don’t really get into fan-casting normally, I’d love to see Henry Cavil come back to play Midnighter. Sure Apollo is the more popular fan-cast, but he’s already played Superman and Apollo is really just a version of that character already. Midnighter is a very different, darker, more violent character who would be a great way for Cavil to avoid typecasting moving forward.

And if you don’t know, Apollo and Midnighter are a gay couple who are also ultra-violent Superman and Batman analogs. Midnighter is genetically enhanced and able to visualize an opponent’s moves before they even know themselves. He’s amazingly complex and distinctively simple at the same time. He’s the bad boy and potential breakout character of The Authority.


Paradise Lost (STREAMING)

For those wondering about, well Wonder Woman, this next bit should give us some insight into the role she’ll be playing moving forward. But for now, she’s seemingly not involved at all. Instead, we are getting the streaming series Paradise Lost. While this title is inspired by the classic George Perez and Phil Jimenez run dealing with a civil war on Themyscira, what we’re getting here is a prequel set before the birth of Diana.

Gunn compares it to Game of Thrones, exploring “the political intrigue behind a society of all women,” and examining the “beautiful” and “ugly truths” behind the history of the island nation. This project has maybe the least attention in the video, but what is said could hint at something interesting. Especially if they go into the actual origins of Themyscira and involve the Greek gods.

It could also build up to a new origin for Wonder Woman that goes back to the 1941 comics origin, where she was formed from clay and given life and supernatural abilities by the gods. This would be an interesting and otherworldly approach that we lost when Diana was retconned into being the lovechild of Hippolyta and Zeus. But this is pure speculation, and as of right now, we know nothing.

For all we know, the recent two Wonder Woman films could still be considered canon, as we have no word on whether or not Gal Gadot is still in the picture, despite some YouTubers casually mentioning that she will be a producer – a claim I can’t find anywhere official. And there’s no release date or creative team announced.


The Brave and The Bold (FILM)

Next, we get the second Grant Morrison reference (after the visual chosen to accompany Superman: Legacy), with a film directly inspired by Morrison’s Batman run. The Brave and The Bold will not only introduce the world to a new Batman distinct and separate from the current and continuing Robert Pattinson Elseworlds iteration, but we will also be getting the first Robin since the ill-fated Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997) that killed off the original 1980s Batman cinematic universe launched by Tim Burton.

This is maybe the most refreshing and interesting element of the new DCU lineup so far, as every Batman we’ve gotten since Batman Begins (2005) has gotten increasingly darker and darker (both thematically and visually), making it virtually impossible to even think of introducing a character like Robin.

For the newbs, Batman’s son, Damian Wayne is the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, daughter of Batman’s nemesis Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins. When Talia drops him off on Bruce’s doorstep, Bruce tries to tame what is essentially a psychopathic child ninja assassin. He’s also James Gunn’s favorite Robin and serves as the beginning of the introduction of the Batman Family in the DCU. Safran has said, “This is going to feature other members of the extended Bat-Family,” so internet whiners can rest assured Damian is not the first Robin.

Which opens up the world of the DCU in exciting and untouched ways, meaning that more likely than not we’ll be getting a Dick Grayson who has already graduated up into his Nightwing role. Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl is still on the table, as is the potential tragic Jason Todd storyline where Joker beat the kid to death with a crowbar. Don’t worry though, he got better and returned as the bloodthirsty vigilante The Red Hood.

And if all of this is implied as the backdrop of the new DCU’s Batman, we could be in for a very exciting and diverse ride moving forward with a much more comic-friendly version of Batman, as well as his Rogues Gallery. Could we be getting more absurd comic villains like Clayface or Man-Bat in the future? The potential is there. At the same time, Batman trying to check a murderous and ultra-violent Robin also ties back into that Gods and Monsters theme I was talking about.

That said, there is no creative team or release date announced yet, but could this be where Ben Affleck returns as director? Or will it be Andy Muschietti, as critic Jeff Sneider suggests?


Booster Gold (STREAMING)

Moving back to streaming series announcements, Gunn next introduced fan-favorite Booster Gold. This one is described by Gunn as an “outright comedy” according to Variety and is the story of a loser from the future “who uses his basic future technology to come back to today to pretend to be a superhero.”

Given Gunn’s proclivity for providing comedic characters with horribly tragic backstories while having full-blown, wonderfully emotional heart (Super, Guardians of the Galaxy) at their core, I think we can expect a little slight-of-hand with Booster Gold. There’s no creative team or release date, and no casting rumors with any real weight, but the odds-on favorite for this role is Chris Pratt. Personally, I think it’s a bit too on-the-nose, given what Gunn and Pratt have accomplished with Starlord in Guardians. I doubt they’d go this way with the casting, but I have to admit, the role was practically made for Pratt’s skill set.

Including Booster Gold in the first wave of Chapter One also has me wondering just what’s going on in this DCU future that would inspire Booster to come back in time to the present and try to ingratiate himself with the superheroes of the DCU.


Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (FILM)

Directly inspired by Tom King and Bilquis Evely’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow miniseries from 2021-22, this film promises to help provide a bit of thematic contrast between the idealized heroism of Superman and the rest of the DCU. As stated by Gunn, this version of Supergirl isn’t just a female version of Superman.

Whereas Superman was raised by loving parents on Earth, Supergirl grew up on a chunk of Krypton that survived the destruction of their planet and has witnessed the deaths of everyone she loved. She’s a jaded, harder-edged character than we’ve seen before and Gunn promises a huge, science fiction epic.

The comic series was essentially a retelling of True Grit, with Supergirl in the Rooster Cogburn role, so if they intend to go this way with the film, we could be looking at something remarkable. Especially since Tom King has been one of the architects of the DCU, working alongside Gunn from the very beginning. As of the writing of this article, Amazon has sold out of the graphic novel.

Again, no creative team or release date, yet.


Swamp Thing (FILM)

Lastly, Gunn introduced a brand-new Swamp Thing film as a “very dark horror story” and “the origins of the monster who is Swamp Thing.” Promising to “investigate the dark origins” of the character, Gunn could be leaning any number of ways with this one, especially given that he emphasized how tonally different this film would be from the rest of the DCU, while still being a vital part of the overall worldbuilding.

I think this could be something very special, again. The 2019 Swamp Thing TV series was unfortunately cut short before it could really begin to build into something interesting, and I have no doubt that that show’s executive producer, James Wan (Saw, Insidious 1 & 2, The Conjuring 1 & 2, Malignant, Aquaman, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom) could be just the person to make a full-blown horror film out of a character he already has done some work with. Although, it seems that James Mangold (The Wolverine, Logan, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny) has thrown his hat into the ring on Twitter.

EDIT: As this was going to press, it was announced/rumored that Mangold was indeed in talks to direct Swamp Thing!

As to what I mentioned earlier with Lanterns about that “ancient horror”? Well, this is pure conjecture, but the 2011 New 52 version of Animal Man introduced a force called The Rot, which was an elemental force guarded by a Parliament represented in the physical world by an avatar, in this case an Avatar of Death. There are other forces as well. The Red represents the animal kingdom and was championed by Animal Man, and there’s also The Green. Guess who the Avatar of The Green is?

If the ancient horror uncovered in Lanterns has anything to do with The Rot, we could be getting a DCU big bad that is more than just a big guy that can be punched into submission. We could be getting a force of decay that corrupts the very idea of heroism into, I don’t know, some sort of Gods and Monsters-type scenario that folds back into every one of the projects on the slate so far. Maybe of note, also, is that the image used for this announcement is from the Swamp Thing Winter Special (2018), written by DCU architect, Tom King, where Swampy is “separated from the Green and stripped of his powers” and on the run, protecting a kid from a snow monster in what is described as a “dead world.” Needless to say, the story isn’t as simple as that, and the main focus is on Swamp Thing reconciling his monstrous identity with his loss of humanity.


I’m probably wrong with most of my speculations, but just the fact that these projects lay the groundwork for something that could be so potentially original and interesting, says to me that hiring Gunn and Safran as co-CEOs of the new independent DC Studios was definitely the right choice and a major step in the right direction for DC films and television.

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