With the Warner Bros. Discovery merger complete, all eyes have turned to one of their biggest IP assets: DC Comics. A recent Variety article has suggested that getting the DC Comics “house in order” is a top priority for Warner Bros. Discovery. And in the original article, the word “overhaul” was used. And most of fandom would agree—DC is not the cultural juggernaut their rival Marvel is. It’s hard to deny that.
But there is also a narrative going on that all DC media is somehow a failure, which is also clearly not true. The sheer amount of successful DC products out there refutes this. Regardless, the DC brand does need a makeover and shakeup. Because things could be handled way better than they have been. And we have some very easy fixes for Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC “problem” that simply need the right creative minds to push them through.
Warner Bros. Discovery Needs to Find an Executive Who Truly Loves DC
Whoever Warner Bros. Discovery puts in charge of DC needs to understand and love the characters. This is why Kevin Feige has had so much success at Marvel Studios. He’s a true movie studio guy, who came up in the business working for Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner. So he knows and understands the true nitty-gritty of making movies. But he’s also a genuine fan and cares about fidelity to the comics universe. You need someone who understands the creative side and the business side. And not just “how do we exploit this IP and make everything like Batman?” Without that person, DC will continue to have the same issues repeatedly.
Warner Bros. Discovery Should Keep the DC Comics Side of the Business Healthy
Speaking of the comics, Warner Bros. Discovery can’t even think of selling off DC Comics or licensing off their characters to another publisher. The comics themselves are the foundation for everything and the petri dish for ideas later used in other media. The folks at Marvel fully understand this. They don’t just mine older comics from the ’60s through the ‘90s for material, but also relatively recent ones like Ms. Marvel and Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers. A viable comics brand is good for the bigger flashier media brand overall, even if they don’t make the kind of money as movies, TV, or video games. Everything begins with the comics themselves, and they must not forget that.
Embracing Stand-Alone Projects Will Help the DC Universe Go Far
While Warner Bros. Discovery might be inclined to do a hard DC reboot and start from scratch again, there is simply no need. Just look at how DC has operated its comics for the past 35 years. There’s always a mainline “universe” of monthly titles, starring their biggest characters in a shared narrative. But alongside those have been a metric ton of standalone projects like The Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, and All-Star Superman that exist outside the main universe that readers love. DC gave these titles the label “Elseworlds.” But fans always understood the difference between the main DCU found in monthly titles, And that approach has worked.
In this regard, Warner Bros. Discovery should continue doing what they’ve been doing with DC. You keep the connected DCEU with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Shazam, etc., going. All of these movies made millions, and their take on those characters was well-liked. So why end them for a hard reboot? At the same time, they should continue doing stand-alone things like The Batman and Joker. Just like the DC Comics has done for decades. The hardcore fans will know which are “in-universe” and which are not. And for the casual fan who just wants to see a movie? Frankly, they won’t care. There’s no need to throw out the super baby with the bathwater.
Creating a Hopeful Superman Is a Wise Move
The Man of Steel is the foundation of DC Comics. Without Kal-El, there is no Batman, no Wonder Woman, or anything else. Superman is a character everyone knows, sells tons of merch, and the Man of Steel is an icon. But somehow, WB keeps fumbling the ball with him. Both Superman Returns and Man of Steel failed to launch solo franchises for the character. The reason might be because as different as these films were, they were both very self-serious and dour. (And I say this as someone who basically likes both movies, flaws and all). But it’s time WB simply looked to the comics on how to do Superman right. DC Comics has, in fact, been pretty good at telling Superman stories for over eighty years. And they know he works best as a hopeful, heroic figure.
The truth is, Superman is such a ubiquitous character in pop culture, that you can do multiple versions of him at once, and the audience will get it. If we can have three Spider-Mans at once, we could easily have three Supermans. Henry Cavill was born to play the character and wants to continue. Let him do a bright, positive version of the classic character. And keep Superman & Lois going, giving us Clark Kent as a loving husband and dad. And Ta-Nehisi Coates/J.J. Abrams’ version of Superman can also live alongside him. But the Big Red S needs to be a part of whatever Warner Bros. Discovery has planned. And replacing him with a new Supergirl, as rumored? Just like in the comics, these two characters should co-exist. The big guy can’t be benched.
Let the Arrowverse End, But Keep Investing in Greg Berlanti
For the past decade, producer Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse on the CW has created a live-action DC Universe that is cohesive, fun, and beloved by fans. It’s done so while the big screen DC films have struggled with a cohesive continuity and tone. It began with Arrow, and has continued through with six other series—Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and Superman & Lois. But with a lot of the anchor shows over or soon ending, it might be time to let the Arrowverse come to its natural conclusion.
However, we do feel it’s time to promote Greg Berlanti, the man behind them all. With HBO Max now in play, we say Warner Bros. Discovery should let Berlanti play in the bigger sandbox of the DCEU—and with a bigger budget. That seems to be the plan with his upcoming Green Lantern series. But he’s already proven he can produce non-Arrowverse style series with shows like Doom Patrol. He’s not a one-trick pony. Plus he loves and gets the DC characters more than almost anyone at the company. Reward that success. Heck, why not put him in charge?
So, Can Warner Bros. Discovery Transform the DC Universe?
Warner Bros. Discovery realizes that DC Comics is one of its most valuable creative assets. But unless it takes the right approach, DC media will always be one step behind. Let’s hope this new merger is the beginning of the end of DC’s many woes, and the start of a new golden age for the company.