The news report has shaken the geek community to its core–“Warner Bros. Discovery Exploring Overhaul of DC Entertainment.” And that cacophonous blare you hear was the applause, joyous weeping, and stream of party favors going off at the news. Why? Why?!
Well, that’s why the Bat Night Light is begging for help from anyone who still cares about the on-screen product.
If you are in the drastic minority asking questions like that, look at Marvel Entertainment and the master class of universe building created by Kevin Feige. And if that’s you, here is a line that even sabermetric analysts can’t blow off.
- 22 films
- 11 origin movies
- 10 years
- 3 phases
- $25.8 billion in ticket sales and overall marketing ROI
- All connected by 1 massive story of Thanos collecting the Infinity Stones
- In the process, Marvel became the most profitable film franchise of all time
The closest the ham-handed partnership of DC Comics and Warner Bros Entertainment ever got to establishing the DC Extended Universe was permitting Zack Snyder to create two movies and summarily using a personal tragedy to take everything over (and away from Snyder). And, uh…how’d that work out?
And now, $43 billion later, we have a new company with an anomaly for anything geek related to Warner Bros.–a voice that made sense. It belonged to the newly minted CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav.
What He Said
Thanks to Variety, this is why people are freaking out internationally.
The move would potentially affect DC feature film development in Warner Bros. Pictures Group, streaming series at Warner Bros. Television, and the creative arm within DC proper — all in an effort to have the disparate elements more closely aligned in order to maximize the value of the superhero stable — one often seen as punching up against Marvel.
Zaslav has seen the nonsensical and greenhorn business actions Warner Bros. have made during the past decade and believes everything fans have been saying. You know since it was clear that Romper Room of non-comic fans would never listen to peons who pay to see the movies.
He wants “a Kevin Feige type” to helm DC Entertainment. Well, “Who the hell would that be?” The blogosphere has been exploding Mount Vesuvius style with ideas to answer this riddle. Some of this Top 10 GVN listicle will include names you’ve heard. Others may be, “Huh?”
So, keep an open mind and understand what DC Entertainment needs, other than a nerd who utterly understands the content (critical to making comic book movies, Joss Whedon). DC needs a master storyteller who loves connecting the dots, understands the basic tenets of marketing, and is a wise business executive.
You know? A president and chief creative officer. Kinda, like Kevin Feige dude.
Here are the Top 10 choices for people who could lead the DC Entertainment overhaul.
Word of Warning: Zack Snyder
…yeah, the god is dead. (Sorry, Darkseid.)
As much it pains you to read and me to write, this will not happen. The wheels flew off that bandwagon long ago. Zack Snyder is lauded, celebrated–even venerated–among the DC faithful because of his allegiance to canon and his mesmerizing vision to tell stories. He gave us one of the most bewildering origin stories in history with Man of Steel. And Warner Bros. went R-Kelly all over that. Oh, DC Comics did nothing about it.
The bridge has burnt to a crisp, and there’s no repairing it. Also, Zack Snyder is not Kevin Feige. Behind the camera, he is a savant. Behind the desk, he can be polarizing because of his judgment–his way or highway mindset at times. He is also why Matt Reeves, David Ayer, Todd Phillips, Patty Jenkins, James Gunn (who our Ben Belcher believes should run DCTV for HBO Max–and he’s right), Dave Filoni, Christopher Nolan, and Cathy Yan aren’t on this list. They’re incredibly skilled storytellers with rich imaginations, but the head of DC Entertainment requires a “Kevin Feige” type, which means the ink on the paper must be even better than the characters on the screen.
Oh, Geoff Johns had his chance and wet the bed. DC Entertainment proved to be too much to handle. He is still part of the fold, but chief oversight isn’t his bailiwick. But there could be a chance with him later…
Honorable Mention / WTF Moment: Dwayne Johnson
Now, now. I get that you are asking, “What would he know about anything related to leading the charge for DC Entertainment?” If you missed it, Black Adam is one of the most anticipated movies for the last several years — we’re talking borderline bloodlust here. And why? It has squat to do with The Rock’s appeal or influence.
Dwayne Johnson‘s production company, Seven Bucks, lays the foundation for America’s Justice Society. His company is doing it. The Rock is doing it. Period.
We already met Atom, Flash, and Stargirl. We have seen the teases of Hawkman and Doctor Fate. It’s Justice League’s fresh slate since DC and WB screwed that pooch already. This is happening with creative control, insight, understanding, and commitment to canon seen in the trailers and images.
So, why not? What’s the worst thing that could happen–WB gets in the way, gets rid of Superman and Batman, then screws up everything? Oh, wait…
9. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm (and Friends)
If you know about DC Comics or what is now being considered DC Entertainment, you know Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. (And yes, they are inseparable for Zaslav to consider.)
Dini has been with the Detective brand since 2006. Before that, he joined the WB Animated Group in 1989 to work on Tiny Toon Adventures. His DCAU filmography is littered with hits–Zatanna, Joker’s Wild, The Last Son of Krypton, Rebirth, The Brave, and the Bold. Those title tags are only a taste of his capabilities. And riding shotgun during a good portion of his career has been Bruce Timm. Because of Timm’s excellent characterization and plot development, Batman the Animated Series won a Primetime Emmy in 1992.
Together, they have created the origin and backstory for Harley Quinn and envisioned some of the most honored animations in history like Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited. Simply put, they are the DC Animated Universe.
Yet even they can’t do everything.
Imagine this: Paul Dini and Bruce Timm head up DC Entertainment, but as their Vice-Chairs, they open the door to the aforementioned Geoff Johns. He has done it all, and everyone deserves a redemption story. With his Ken Jennings- or Sheldon Cooper-like brain about comic book canon and characterization, you can’t ignore his record of accomplishment, astounding comic IQ, and ardent love for the product.
But that’s not all. The troika hires the most prolific director of nerd animation, Lauren Montgomery. Her resume is enough for any nerd to shut up because the exclamation will be, “Wait, what? She did that?!” Together, these four could be unstoppable without Warner Bros. interference or questionable calls about fan service, universe development, and cluelessness.
8. Neil Gaiman
All we want for Christmas is for The Sandman to appear on Netflix magically! This hypnotizing series from 1989 to 1996 gave nerds and other graphic novel enthusiasts a world as an escape. All seven of the siblings–known as the Endless–became almost as well known as the members of the Justice League. Seriously, the Endless put the “fun” in dysfunctional, which is why this series is so popular among the faithful. Neil Gaiman’s voice and innate ability to push the boundaries all the way down, like Samson, he was asked to judge and edit Netflix’s adaptation.
If you aren’t a fan of “Dark Comics,” as DC was labeled during the Nolanverse, then you may not like this choice to helm DC Entertainment. However, he would do a fantastic job. His mind works in ways others don’t. Whether he was dropped on his head or not, Gaiman knows how to build a universe, stick to a script, run a business, and blow folks’ minds. That’s something that DC fans only seem to get with every new Batman post-Schumacher.
Hey Zaslam, an interview for this pioneer, please?
7. James Wan
To every rule, there is an exception. All the forenamed directors are amazingly skilled, but there is something about James Wan. The proof is in what many comic enthusiasts believed when Wan was announced as director of Aquaman. So struck by the negative backlash toward Warner Bros., Wan told the world in the New York Times, “If this doesn’t work, blame me.” After a catastrophic fart-and-fall-down moment offering ‘JOSStice League,’ WB and DC knew the King of Atlantis had to be gold.
It was becoming Warner Bros. first-ever $1 billion CBM, topping the GOAT (at the time) of The Dark Knight. The movie had its flaws (like that stick-a-fork-in-both-ears soundtrack…Pitbull, really?!), but people kept returning to the theater because James Wan did. Yes, he is a gifted storyteller, but the man can build a universe without fail. His franchise includes eight movies, all released out of order, yet connected under a single theme. Remind you of anybody?
Yeah. DC Entertainment may be calling, even though the ill-fated DC Universe screwed him in mighty fashion with Swamp Thing.
6. David Goyer
He’s proven. He’s brilliant. And he’s not feared by the WB establishment. David S. Goyer would make a splendid leader of DC Entertainment because his fluid writing and ability to look years past a blank page on his laptop is second-to-none. (Well, if you look at this Top 10 list, sixth to none, you get it.) Sure, he has been involved with some Razzie-worthy films (i.e., Zigzag, Ghost Rider 1 and 2) but takes a look at where else his quill and direction have been — The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, The Night House, Krypton, The Birth of a Nation.
Being involved with Nolan and Snyder, his ability to world build and develop connective tissue should be unquestioned. Even Goyer will tell anyone he is a “comic book fanatic.” He knows things about major and independent labels you can’t find on Google. With that kind of command over what is written, seen on film, and said among the geek community, few people have the credentials to take over DC Entertainment than him.
5. JJ Abrams
There is no list on the planet about who should commandeer DC Entertainment worth two turds that do not have JJ Abrams‘ name. If all he had on his resume were two lines, those on their own would be enough to get Zaslav’s attention and make him consider writing a fat check. When two of the most storied franchises in cinematic history–sci-fi or not–one man was asked to resurrect both. That is how incomparable JJ Abrams’ talent, nerddom, understanding of the business, and allegiance to chronicled material are considered worldwide.
Back in 2018, JJ Abrams and DC Films (at the time) signed a contract of undisclosed terms that pushed the rumor he would be directing the progress of the DCEU. Then, Covid showed up, and it’s like the agreement with Bad Robot never existed. This includes the duct tape connection between Abrams and Justice League Dark, which faded away like a fart in the wind. Don’t think that David Zaslav hasn’t been kept apprised of this situation, and don’t believe these two won’t be having coffee soon.
4. Gail Simone
Welcome to the Bruce Lee of comics. For those who aren’t familiar with his bold, badass force of nerd nature, you must get acquainted with the work of Gail Simone. Because then–and only then–will you truly understand the term “Girl Power” in the world of geeks. Let’s summarize her career in comics: In her eyes (and she was right), female comic characters were ancillary, uncredited characters, or the one dolt shopping the vegan menu at a Brazilian steakhouse. They were shunned, sexually assaulted (really), plain stupid, or silently killed.
Her voice was on a website speaking against the trope, and that’s when someone from Marvel hired her to write for Deadpool. From there, she goes to DC Comics and sets the heroine world on fire. Huntress, Birds of Prey, Black Alice, Agent X, Alysia Yeoh, Batgirl, Queen of Fables, Domino, Red Sonja, and the Secret Six–all Gail Simone, all excellent storylines.
To have Gail Simone in your company means you have a voice of liberation, strength, and comic savvy few can top. She even stood for principle over profit at DC Comics. That means, girl don’t take ish from nobody! If Zaslav wants her to helm DC Entertainment, we would be better off for it, but it will take an enlarged boot belonging to Atom (she also created him) to convince her. Memo to WBD, she’s worth it.
3. Grant Morrison
Disclaimer: Next to the oh, so deserving Number 2 on this Top 10 list, Grant Morrison is my man crush all day! This guy is freakishly gifted at making comics. Regardless of introducing a new character, storyline, or freshly concocted universe, Morrison should be named Midas.
This is one of the few people in comic history to make a sizable impression on both Marvel and DC. There’s even a novel coming out by Morrison entitled Luda. With a mind like a mentalist and skill like an illusionist, why wouldn’t Morrison be the perfect fit to helm DC Entertainment? Maybe because when Grant offered ideas for two of the DC Trinity and Aquaman, Warner Bros. exhaled a large “Meh.” Just because Warner Bros. wouldn’t know a great idea if it perfumed its thigh and sat on Hamada’s lap doesn’t mean whatever they declined from Morrison was bad. In fact, it was probably awesome.
Golden touch, remember? Supergods, Batman RIP, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, The Filth, JLA, All-Star Superman. If you aren’t familiar with that dynamic material and love some comic creations that wouldn’t even appear in your dreams, get back with us and tell us Grant Morrison wouldn’t revive this franchise to excellence.
2. Jim Lee
Imagine Marvel without knowing the name Stan Lee. You can’t do it. Jack Kirby is the only one to even come close to that prestige in Marvel (because he deserves it). Stan Lee and Marvel are inseparable. Even from the very beginning, Marvel Comics understood the meaning of a plan, path, and profit. If the face behind the brand is beloved, what do you think will happen to the brand? (For those who understand this reference, think about the next time you walk by a Trump Hotel. Wherever you land, that sentiment fits.)
Now, quick quiz: Name the founder of DC Comics. (That sound you probably hear is wind buzzing in your ears.)
That absence of recall produces the name “Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson,” who wrote his first comic in 1934 from National Allied Publications. It wouldn’t be until the late 1970s that Detective Comics would become a brand. Yet, since 1934, the purpose of DC Comics has always been about art and stories. Always. (Not that Marvel is not, but this is a marketing statement, not a purpose one.) How fitting that an exemplary artist, gifted storyteller, and a bit of a wise leader in proxy leads DC Comics today.
Comics! Unfortunately, Walter Hamada didn’t work closely with the man behind the brand. So, when Hamadama-Ding-Dong fired many DC artists and storytellers (thanks, WarnerMedia), Jim Lee had to speak up. Yet, this is coming from a publisher’s point of view. If a fantastic publisher leaves his post to bring characters to life, who will oversee the development of more characters? Pay attention to the video tutorial below. He is a supremely talented person vital to DC Entertainment’s future, but he’s not the best choice for Grand Poobah.
Before we get to the one seed, if you don’t already have a guess, understand in the same decade, Kevin Feige changed the cosmos with the Infinity Saga. The best thing the current management of Walter Hamada, Toby Emmerich, and their toadies created was a one-minute video.
It wasn’t the Snyderverse because they didn’t let it sustain and almost destroyed his creation. It wasn’t bringing James Wan because they turned their back on his attempt to get us Justice League Dark (for no damn reason). It wasn’t Wonder Woman because even though they gave Patty Jenkins every ounce of room to flex, they took her muscle with lackluster marketing. It wasn’t even the COVID-inspired DC FanDome, which is great but will be stunted by whatever Marvel will do.
It’s this video, and it’s beautiful.
So, who should be the hero of DC Entertainment?
1. Deborah Snyder
Hear us out. This is not a DC Comics’ stan move. (Although, if you’re in the #RestoreTheSnyderverse, can you blame that thought?) Go back to look at the corequisites.
- Expert knowledge of the content
- Connector of the dots
- Master of marketing
- Possessor of remarkable business savvy
Note: Not one of those lines has anything to do with “sleeping with Zack Snyder.” On with the show…
From 300 to what will be Gotham City Sirens, there has been Deborah Snyder getting a crash course in what it means to be an intrinsic part of DC Entertainment. As a producer, she has 30 credits to her name (and no, if you’re hating, they’re not all Zack’s films). Although there aren’t many revealing articles about Deborah’s psyche, one in Backstage from Lisa Granshaw is mandatory reading–not just because she could lead a new DCEU renaissance. Still, there is leadership, foresight, acuity, and a great helping of geek in her words.
This is a bright, brave, and insightful person who understands the business of DC Entertainment inside and out. She has solid relationships with every person on this list already and understands their strengths. There is a stadium full of institutional knowledge Deborah Snyder has, like she knows the fallbacks and cutbacks, idiots and geniuses, lively minds, and the dead weight. Whether or not Zaslav chooses to #RestoreTheSnyderverse, having this powerhouse at the lead, the DCEU has a chance to breathe.
Yes, it would be good if certain maltreated and abused actors returned to the DC fold because that casting was superb. Yet, if the Etch-a-Sketch is shaken for a clean slate, Deborah Snyder understands what it means to be a “Kevin Feige”-type. She’s married to one, but this would allow her to prove to everyone that she was always one on her own.
Featured Image Source: Warner Bros./DC Comics/Ratpac Entertainment
Since he saw ‘Dune’ in the $1 movie theater as a kid, this guy has been a lover of geek culture. It wasn’t until he became a professional copywriter, ghostwriter, and speechwriter that he began to write about it (a lot).
From the gravitas of the Sith, the genius of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or the gluttony of today’s comic fan, SPW digs intelligent debate about entertainment. He’s also addicted to listicles, storytelling, useless trivia, and the Oxford comma. And, he prefers his puns intended.