James Gunn & Peter Safran Unveil Big DC Plan With New Movies For Batman & Robin, ‘Swamp Thing’, ‘The Authority’; ‘Lanterns’ TV Series & More
In the midst of their third month as newly appointed DC co-Bosses, James Gunn and Peter Safran finally revealed their plans for an inter-connective universe for the comic book giant spanning largely film and TV in a strategy unlike the Warner Bros. brand has ever had before.
Entitled Chapter One, “Gods and Monsters”, a portion of what will unfold between 2025-2027 includes five movies including the Gunn-penned Superman Legacy, a new Batman and Robin title, The Brave and the Bold, a Swamp Thing feature, and films centering around Supergirl and the deeper universe DC rogue squad The Authority. On the TV side, there’s an animated series, Creature Commandos written by Gunn, the Peacemaker spinoff live action series Waller with Viola Davis, a Lanterns series, Booster Gold and Paradise Lost.
Outside of Waller, which has some of the returning cast of Peacemaker, there isn’t any talent or directors attached to these projects.
Safran and Gunn conceived their grand design with an assembled writers room who riffed off the latter’s basic ideas, that group including Christina Hodson, Jeremy Slater, Drew Goddard, Christal Henry and Tom King.
Jump below to read the details on each project.
Overall the gameplan is two movies a year, and two series for HBO Max in what is an eight to ten year plan.
As for which projects are right for TV and which for film Gunn said, “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?”
It might seem like it’s all deep, deep universe stuff, straying from the core Batman and Superman of it all, but there’s a method to Gunn and Safran’s madness.
“One of our strategies is that we take our diamond characters — Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman– and we use that to help prop up other characters that people don’t know. Like what happened with the Guardians (of the Galaxy) in some way. Like taking teams like The Authority, which is I know is just as spectacular idea for a film that is completely different take on superheroes. Because it’s really connected to Superman. It’s about to use those well-known properties to help lead into lesser known properties,” says Gunn.
“We’re going to promise that everything from our first project forward is going to be unified,” said Gunn.
“But we’ve gotten very lucky for the next four projects,” added the filmmaker on the slate that was previously shepherded by former DC boss Walter Hamada.
Those being Shazam! Fury of the Gods (March 17), The Flash (June 16) the latter which Gunn says “resets everything.”
“I will say here that Flash is probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made,” Gunn added.
Then wiping away any doubt about the future of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, and Zachary Levi’s Shazam, Safran emphasized, “These four movies are terrific. There’s no reason why any of the characters or the actors that play in those characters are not part of the DCU. There’s nothing that prohibits that from happening.”
“We’ll incorporate characters from the past, but mostly we’ll cast anew,” added the producer of Aquaman and Suicide Squad.
Ditto for the creators of these recent projects. Gunn and Safran would love to reteam with Flash filmmaker Andy Muschietti. Currently James Wan is focusing on finishing Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Then there’s Blue Beetle on Aug. 18 “that sort of has its own world and fits in directly into our DCU” followed by Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom on Christmas Day which leads into the universe that Gunn and Safran are mapping out.
“As everyone here probably knows, the history of DC is pretty messed up. There is the Arrowverse. There as the DC EU which then split became the Joss Whedon Justice League at one point, became the Snyder-verse at the other point. There was Superman and Lois, there’s the Reeves-verse. There’s all these different things,” Gunn said at the top of the session.
“Even us, we came in and did Suicide Squad and that became Peacemaker and all of a sudden Bat-mite is real guy that’s never been set up,” said the Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker and Marvel Studios vet.
“No one was minding the mint,” Gunn criticized, “they were just giving away IP like they were party favors to any creators that smiled to them.”
What of Todd Phillips’ sequel Joker: Folie a Deux and Matt Reeves’ Batman sequel and HBO Max Penguin series? As previously reported, Safran confirmed that such veers from his and Gunn’s plan will be “labeled clearly as DC-Elseworlds, just like the comics do.” Also still in the works? J.J. Abrams’ Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Superman project. A draft is being waited upon.
“The bar is going to be very high for projects outside of the DCU,” asserted Safran.
Winking at the history of previous DC films, read David Ayer’s Suicide Squad and Snyder/Whedon’s Justice League, productions were known for their reshoots, Gunn promised, “People have become beholden to dates, to holding dates, to getting movies made no matter what. At the end of the day, I’m a writer at my heart, and we’re not going to be making movies before the screenplay is finished. And if that means our plan has to shift a little bit–it’s going to happen, we know it’s going to happen…we’re not going to be making movies and putting hundreds of millions of dollars in a film where a screenplay is only two-thirds of the way done and we have to finish it while we’re making the movie. I’ve seen it happen again and again, and it’s a mess. I think it’s the primary reason for the deterioration in the quality of films today versus 30 years ago.” Gunn mentioned how on Suicide Squad he did no reshoots, and on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 he did a day of picking up “and it’s because of having screenplays prepared before we shoot. I don’t want to get into this massive spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on reshoots.”
The TV and film projects in the first portion of Gunn and Safran’s “Gods and Monsters” include:
Creature Commandos animated TV series. “Animation will lead into live action and back into animation,” said Gunn. “It’s a way to tell stories that are gigantic and huge without spending $50M an episode. Gunn has written this, it’s done. Creature Commandos is comprised of military superhumans including a human leader, a werewolf, a vampire, Frankenstein’s monster and a gorgon. Gunn pointed out that Weasel from his Suicide Squad will be on the show. This band of misfits were introduced in Weird War Tales #93 (November 1980), created by J. M. DeMatteis and Pat Broderick.
Waller HBO Max live action series, the spinoff of Peacemaker. “We’re using the same actors, this is a continuation of Peacemaker. I’m working on Superman, so we can’t do Peacemaker season 2. We’re working on Waller in between,” Gunn told the room. Christal Henry (Watchmen) is writing the show along with Jeremy Carver (creator of Doom Patrol). While none of the features are rated R, the TV series could lean into being more adult.
Superman Legacy feature. “This is really the start of the DCU,” says Safran. The project was already announced by the duo with Gunn writing. No director attached, but Safran was elbowing Gunn yesterday that he’d really like him to helm. The release date is July 11, 2025. “It’s not an origins story, it focuses on Superman’s balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing. He’s the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way, he’s kindness in a world that thinks of kindness as old fashioned.”
Lanterns HBO Max live action series. “Our vision for this is True Detective,” Safran says, “It’s terrestrial-based, it’s got two of our favorite Green Lanterns –Hal Jordan and John Stewart…it plays a really big role in the main story that we’re telling across our film and television. This is a very important show for us.” Safran specified that this version is different from one that Greg Berlanti had in the works; the latter’s being a space opera.
The Authority feature. “There’s great wildstorm characters that were popular for a long-time and we’re incorporating them into the DCU,” says Gunn. He loves the property because it’s a mix of antiheroes, who take matters into their own hands despite what governments advise. A basic story is being written out. The Authority was created after StormWatch, a planetary defense force against aliens, was destroyed. The former member of that group, Jenny Sparks, created the Authority with her StormWatch Black teammates Swift and Jack Hawksmoor. The team includes The Engineer (Angela Spica), Jeroen Thornedike (the latest Doctor), Apollo and Midnighter.
Paradise Lost HBO Max live action series. “It’s going to be a Games of Thrones-ish story about Themyscira, the home of the Amazons and the birthplace of Wonder Woman. This drama is really about the political intrigue behind the society of all women. How did that come about?” says Safran. “What’s the beautiful truths and the ugly truths behind all of that and what’s the scheming like between all the power players in that society?” adds Gunn. The series will take place before the birth of Diana (aka Wonder Woman).
The Brave and the Bold feature. This will be Gunn and Safran’s version of the DCU Batman outside what Matt Reeves already created. The movie will feature Batman and his son, Damien Wayne, as Robin “who is a little son of a bitch,” bills Gunn. “Assassin, murderer who Batman takes on, who is Batman’s actual son that he doesn’t know exists for the first 8-10 years of his life….it’s a strange father and son story about the two of them and based on Grant Morrison’s run of the Batman.”
Added 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.”
Gunn said that Reeves’ Batman 2 script is still in the works and once that comes to fruition “it’s something we’ll have to balance out with this movie.” The duo revealed that Reeves’ Batman II will be Oct. 3, 2025. While Robert Pattinson is the Dark Knight for Reeves, Gunn and Safran will be seeking a new actor to play Batman for The Brave and the Bold. While they floated Ben Affleck’s name again as a director in the DCU, they didn’t name him for a project.
Booster Gold HBO Max TV series is about a loser from the future, who uses future technology to come back to today, and pretend to be a superhero. “Imposter syndrome as a superhero,” describes Gunn.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow feature based on Tom King’s comic book series from 2022. “In our series we see the difference between Superman who was sent to Earth and raised by loving parents from the time he was an infant, versus Supergirl who was raised on a rock, a chip off Krypton, and watched everyone around her die and be killed in terrible ways for the first 14 years of her life, and then came to Earth when she was a young girl. She’s much more hardcore, she’s not exactly the Supergirl we’re use to seeing.”
Swamp Thing feature will investigate the dark origins of the creature. Tonally, different from Superman and Batman and Robin. The belief here from the duo is that darker character will interact with the mainstream DC characters. There was a Swamp Thing movie back in 1982 starring Adrienne Barbeau, which also spawned a 1989 sequel. Then there was a 2019 CW series.
Added Safran of the project and how it relates to the rest of the slate, “It’s important to point out that in these stories, although they’re interconnected, they’re not all tonally the same. Each set of filmmakers bring their own aesthetic to these films, and the fun is seeing how these tonally different works mash up in the future.”
Gun elaborated: “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.”
That, he indicated, is a lesson he took from his Marvel experience.
“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.’ “
Some rules that the duo will abide by in creating their universe:
–Anyone cast on the DC TV side as a character will also respectively play that character on the film side.
–No one actor will play two parts. Hence, Momoa is Aquaman going forward, not Lobo.
What does the thrifty, cost-cutting Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav think of this plan? Will he go cheap on DC?
Not so per Safran. “Their investment in content creation is huge,” says the DC co-Boss, “There’s no question we have the resources.”
“We’re going to put these scripts together, get our directors and then discuss with Zaslav what the appropriate spend is on each of these. I have zero doubt that they will commit appropriate funds on each one,” asserted the Conjuring franchise producer.
“Stakes are enormous,” adds Safran, “It was a brand in chaos and it’s an opportunity to build an extraordinary standalone studio with the best IP and the best stories in the world.”
Gunn released a video today in which he went over much of this for fans.