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DC Studios’ Big Picture: What Can We Expect from the New DCU?

An impossible task?

Last week, James Gunn, co-CEO of the newly founded DC Studios, announced the initial slate of films and TV series based on beloved and deep-cut DC Comics characters and storylines. Gunn and his producing partner Peter Safran’s plans are ambitious, to say the least. They hope to build a new DC Universe that ties together narrative threads from film, live-action TV, animation, and video games. 

It feels like an unthinkable task to get this enterprise off the ground whether it’s rival Marvel Studios’ complete and total box office dominance for the last decade to Warner Bros. Discovery’s own self-sabotaging efforts.

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As fans, we are naturally thinking of DC in relation to Marvel. But let’s be honest with ourselves, Marvel has blown DC out of the water. There’s no catching up! Marvel Studios set the standard in crafting the interconnected cinematic universe. The MCU is the highest-grossing film franchise by a huge margin. And characters like Ant-Man and Groot are household names. How can you possibly compete?

Now hear me out. Let’s take our eyes off of the 800-pound gorilla in the room and instead turn our attention to the way less intimidating 400-pound gorilla that is Star Wars

A long time ago (the year 2012), in a galaxy far, far away (San Francisco, California) Lucasfilm Ltd. was purchased by The Walt Disney Company. Then in 2014, It was announced that the beloved Star Wars Expanded Universe would be deemed non-canon and that a new continuity would be forged in the process. At the time, this was devastating news. Nearly 40 years of novels, comics, and video games would be turned into what the company refers to as “Legends.”

There would be some overlap though, the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars would be a part of the new canon as would the upcoming Star Wars Rebels. What Star Wars fans went through almost a decade ago is not all that different from what James Gunn announced last week for DC Studios. 

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Gunn, Safran, and company are drawing a line in the sand, so to speak. Their DC Universe begins with Superman: Legacy and the Creature Commandos animated series. Support will still be given for the release of DC’s 2023 films as well as the sequels to Joker and The Batman. Making those clear distinctions between their vision and the one of the preceding administration has rubbed some fans the wrong way. 

Gunn, for better or worse, likes to reply to folks on Twitter, all but saying “trust the process.” But when all fans have to go on are some titles and inspiring comics art it’s pretty easy to be skeptical that this initiative will work out. 

In the years since its acquisition, Lucasfilm has had its fair share of hits and misses, but overall the rehabilitation of the Star Wars brand has been a success. The Mandalorian has breathed new life into the franchise for a mainstream audience. The High Republic novels are New York Times bestsellers. Andor proved there’s room for more mature storytelling in the galaxy. 

The more unified Star Wars has even pulled off one of James Gunn and DC Studios’ most ambitious promises– having the same actor portray the same character across different mediums. Actors Katee Sackhoff, Corey Burton, and Forest Whitaker have all played their respective characters in animation and live-action. Whitaker specifically played the role of Saw Gerrera in film, live-action TV, animation, and a video game. 

These characters may not be at the center of the galaxy – they’re not Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader – but they certainly have their fans. Fans were excited to see Cad Bane’s slow, menacing march through the desert in The Book of Boba Fett

It’s now up to DC Studios to make sure fans care about the Cad Banes of the DCU because I don’t think we will see the actor who will play Superman show up in a Superman video game and a Superman TV series, it’s just unrealistic. 

DC Studios' Big Picture: What Can We Expect from the New DCU?

It’s a little more plausible that Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen pop up here and there for some cameos. I mean, who else is going to report on the sudden appearance of the time-traveling hero Booster Gold? Or maybe Frankenstein from Creature Commandos can team up with Swamp Thing in an eventual Justice League Dark film. 

If there’s one other lesson DC Studios could take from the Disney-era Lucasfilm, it’s to have patience. We all saw in real time what an unplanned Star Wars trilogy looked like. Not to mention the constant baton-passing as directors were fired mid-production on more than one occasion. The result of which were films that had middling-to-poor reception. There hasn’t been a new Star Wars film since 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker

The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit reported that Gunn said, “It’s not the Gunnverse, it’s not… The stories are completely different, and each has the individual expression of the writers and the director that are making those projects.” It’s a hopeful note to leave the announcement on. Refocusing on the creative teams behind the films and shows, and showing fans that there is a plan set in place will hopefully alleviate some of the anxiety people have surrounding this new DC Universe endeavor.

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