A new Batman movie without Robert Pattinson (but featuring Bruce Wayne’s murderous son). A Superman movie on the release schedule (mark your calendars for July 11, 2025). A Game of Thrones-style drama set on Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira (Amazonian palace intrigue). And an animated series already in production (Creature Commandos … wait, what?).
That’s just part of what will be coming to theaters and TV screens as part of DC Studios bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran’s new slate.
The pair have been busy in the three months since taking over and combining the film and television slate of DC properties, including live-action and animation, as well as gaming. They revamped the way the movie and TV sides do business, cutting ties with projects and creators. A writers room was formed to find an overall story that will launch a unified DC Universe. Creators have been approached. And a plan, at least part of one for what is being billed as Chapter 1: God and Monsters, was formulated and a slate of projects put into development.
Now after ambitiously promising fans that they would have something to show by Feb. 1, Gunn and Safran have unveiled the first part of their slate. It’s a combination of big and known heroes along with lesser-known characters, who may just become big, like the once-obscure heroes of Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films over at Marvel Studios. The duo shared their plans Monday with reporters in a petite and tidy screening room on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank.
“One of our strategies is to take our diamond characters, which is Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and we use them to prop up other characters that people don’t know,” explained Gunn.
And continued Safran, “To build those lesser known properties into the diamond properties of tomorrow.”
While plans may yet shift, cautioned the duo, here is initial slate of Chapter 1, in the order they hope it will appear.
Creature Commandos: An animated seven episode series, written by Gunn, that is already in production. Originally a team of classic monsters assembled to fight Nazis, this is a modern take on the concept. The voice actors have yet to be cast but the executives are looking to find people who can voice the animated characters and also portray the live-action versions when the anti-heroes to show up in movies and shows.
Waller: A spin-off of Gunn’s own HBO Max hit series, Peacemaker, Viola Davis will return as the ruthless and morally ambiguous head of a government task force. It is being written by Christal Henry (Watchmen) and Jeremy Carver, the creator of the Doom Patrol TV series.
Superman: Legacy: The movie featuring the Man of Steel that Gunn is writing and may direct, although no commitments on that end have been made. While the two previous titles are meant to be “aperatifs,” in Safran’s words, Superman is the true kick off for the duo’s DCU plans. “It’s not an origin story,” Safran said. “It focuses on Superman balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing. He is the embodiment of truth justice and the American way. He is kindness in a world that thinks that kindness as old-fashioned.” A release date of July 11, 2025 has been penciled in.
Lanterns: Greg Berlanti’s long-in-the-works Green Lanterns TV series has been scrapped and the duo have parted ways with the longtime DC series steward. In its place will be a new take on the space cops with power rings. “Our vision for this is very much in the vein of True Detective,” Safran described. “It’s terrestrial-based.” It will feature prominent Lantern heroes Hal Jordan and John Stewart and is one of the most important shows they have in development. “This plays a really big role in leading into the main story we are telling across film and TV.”
The Authority: a movie based on a team of superheroes with rather extreme methods of protecting the planet that first originated in the late 1990s under an influential imprint known as Wildstorm, run by artist and now head of DC publishing, Jim Lee. “One of the things of the DCU is that it’s not just a story of heroes and villains,” said Gunn. “Not every film and TV show is going to be about good guy vs. bad guy, giant things from the sky comes and good guy wins. There are white hats, black hats and grey hats.” Added Safran: “They are kinda like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. They know that you want them on the wall. Or at least they believe that.”
Paradise Lost: The duo describe this HBO Max series as a Game of Thrones-style drama set on the all-female island that is Wonder Woman’s birthplace, Themyscira, filled with political intrigue and scheming between power players. It takes place before the events of the Wonder Woman films.
The Brave and the Bold: “This is the introduction of the DCU Batman,” said Gunn. “Of Bruce Wayne and also introduces our favorite Robin, Damian Wayne, who is a little son of a bitch.” The movie will take inspiration from the now-classic Batman run written by Grant Morrison that introduced Batman to a son he never knew existed: a murderous tween raised by assassins. “It’s a very strange father-and-son story.”
And, importantly, it will feature a Batman not played by Robert Pattinson…
The Batman sequel: Pattinson will continue to portray the Dark Knight in at least one more crime saga movie directed by Matt Reeves. That movie, the executives revealed, will be released Oct. 3, 2025 and is being titled The Batman Part II.
“2025 is going to be a very big year for DC,” crowed Safran. “Superman and Batman within the same year.”
Booster Gold: an HBO Max series based on a unique and lower-tiered hero created in 1986. Safran said of the series, “It’s about a loser from the future who uses basic future technology to come back to today and pretend to be a superhero.” Gunn described it as “imposter syndrome as superhero.”
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow: Taking its cues from the recent Tom King-written mini-series, this movie project promises to have a different take than what most think of when the idea of Superman’s cousin comes to mind. “We will see the difference between Superman, who was sent to Earth and raised by loving parents from the time he was an infant, versus Supergirl, raised on a rock, a chip off of Krypton, and who watched everyone around her die and be killed in terrible ways for the first 14 years of her life and then come to Earth. She is much more hardcore and not the Supergirl we’re used to.”
Swamp Thing: a horror film that promises to close out the first part of the first chapter.
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).
The duo are high on the quartet, made by the previous film regime and under the aegis of DC Films, run by former head Walter Hamada. Gunn calls The Flash, directed by Andy Muschietti, “probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.”
He also said the four leads of those films could potentially continue playing their leading roles in DCU projects down the line. “There is nothing that prohibits that from happening,” said Gunn.
Among those actors is Ezra Miller, the troubled star of The Flash who has found themselves in several criminal investigations, and pled guilty to trespassing earlier this month, but who also told studio executives that they were getting help.
Safran said the executives remained hopeful Miller was on a path to betterment. “Ezra is completely committed to their recovery. We are fully supportive of that journey they are on right now. When the time is right, when they are ready to have that discussion, we will all figure out what the best path forward. But right now, they are completely focused on their recovery. And in our conversation with them, in the last couple of months, it feels like they are making enormous progress.”
The duo discussed their approach to casting, whether it was returning or new actors. The TV series will look to cast actors who will also play the parts on the big screen. Just as John Cena played the violent figure Peacemaker in Gunn’s The Suicide Squad then in the Peacemaker series, anyone cast in Hal Jordan and John Stewart in Lanterns, for example, will then cross-over into the films.
“We don’t want the series to feel in any way like step-children or lesser than,” said Gunn. “It’s just another way to tell a story.” (They like being able to spend eight hours digging deep into certain characters.)
And they took on the touchy subject of Henry Cavill, tipped to return as Superman thanks for a cameo in last year’s Black Adam, but who in the end, will not return as Superman, much to the chagrin of a vocal fanbase.
“We didn’t fire Henry. Henry was never cast,” said Gunn. “For me, it’s about who do I want to cast as Superman and who do the filmmakers we have want to cast. And for me, for this story, it isn’t Henry.”
He added: “I like Henry, I think he’s a great guy. I think he’s getting dicked around by a lot of people, including the former regime at this company. But this Superman is not Henry, for a number of reasons.”
And the executives also tried to walk the line of if and how to deal with actors who stepped into controversy, with Shazam!‘s Zachary Levi being the most recent example. On the weekend, Levi tweeted words against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, known for its COVID-19 vaccine, which many interpreted as the actor having anti-vaccine views.
“Actors, filmmakers that I work with are going to say things that I agree with, and things that I don’t agree with,” said Gunn, who in 2018 was temporarily fired by Disney as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 due to old, offensive tweets. “I can’t be changing my plans all the time because an actor says something that I don’t agree with. At the same token, if someone is doing something that is morally reprehensible, that’s a different story. And we have to take that into account.”
Though the duo are working in one DC Universe, some stories will stand apart. Reeves’ Batman movies and Todd Phillips’s sequel to the Joker will fall under a banner titled DC Elseworlds, which will, just as in the comics, fall outside the larger continuity of the DCU. The Black Superman project, being written by Ta-Nehisi Coates under the previous regime, remains in active development and would also fall under that category. Teen Titans Go, the popular and long-running cartoon series on Cartoon Network also falls under that banner, the duo said.
“The bar is going to be very high for projects to be outside the DCU, the Elseworlds projects,” explained Safran. “But every now and then there will be something that lives up to that.”
The duo are putting a premium on screenplay writing, saying that would prevent the dreaded feeling of “superhero fatigue” and also give the projects a tonal and thematic difference from each other. Gunn called out the degradation of screenwriters in Hollywood and also said that the duo wanted to be respectful of the voice of filmmakers they were working with … up to a point.
“It’s not the Gunnverse, it’s not,” Gunn said. “It’s got to be all these different feels from all these different stories. That’s what makes it so fun. The stories are completely different and each has the individual expression of the writers and the director that are making those projects.”
But, he added, “We’re not stupid. Not every filmmaker is going to be happy. Because if someone is doing something that isn’t working, we’re going to be honest.”
Gunn and Safran’s hirings were the culmination of over a half year quest by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav to find someone to lead a screen division of DC. In his own words, Zaslav was looking for a ”Kevin Feige,” the storied and successful head of rival Marvel Studios, who has led the Disney-owned company a seemingly an endless string of hits, all the while telling a unified and interconnected story. Gunn became an A-list filmmaker under Feige, who hired him to direct 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but he was quick to note this is not a Marvel redux: “A lot of people are thinking this is Marvel 2.0. It’s not.”
“Zaslav had a vision in mind of a standalone studio that would have everything DC centralized,” said Safran. “And that was the appeal for us, coming in and having access to any character, any story, and to tell the stories we wanted to tell across all the mediums.”
As Gunn said, “the history of DC is pretty messed up,” referring to the turmoil and dysconnectivity that has roiled DC plans of Warner Bros. Pictures for the last dozen or so years. There was filmmaker Zack Snyder’s multi-movie universe that sputtered half way through. There was an attempted course correction by Joss Whedon, that maybe made things worse. There the several changes in studio leadership and ownership. And there was the Arrowverse, the successful if niche TV side of DC that aired for over a decade on the CW.
“No one was minding the mint,” says Gunn. “They were giving away IP like they were party favors at any creator who smiled at them.”
For Gunn, being handed the keys to a comic book universe are like something out of a childhood dream.
Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Gunn described himself as “a lost, screwed up kid” who didn’t feel like he belonged.
His father and mother were so concerned that they sent him to a psychiatrist who advised them to take interest in his interests. Which happened to be reading, writing, and drawing comic books. In one attempt at connecting, Gunn’s father took him to Creation Comic Con, a big comic convention in Chicago. It remains the best weekend he’s ever had, a time that solidified a magic and connection to the medium and its colorful characters.
Gunn now wants to bring that magic and connection to moviegoing and TV watching audiences by revamping DC Studios in a way that hasn’t been done before.
“I have an incredibly deep connection to these characters, to these stories, and to wanting to create that type of magic not only in the kid that I was, but in the connection that I had with my father, with friends later on,” Gunn explained. “And wanting to create a unified world in DC where we tell stories.”
In the end, both Gunn and Safran know not only what is at stake but also the enormous opportunity being presented to them. For Safran, it’s the chance to impact and change the culture, be it the company culture of how it approaches storytelling to the broader pop culture.
Gunn lit up in giddiness at the pure magic of it all.
“This is a not only a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s a once opportunity. It’s me, now. No one has ever gotten to do this before. And how could I say no to that?”