How Warner Bros. Discovery could create a new DC Universe

Since taking over as CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery director David Zaslav has made clear his desire to create a cohesive DC Universe that spans both film and television, much like Disney’s hit Marvel Cinematic Universe. The studio has had some success in the shared universe with both the polarizing DC Extended Universe and the soon-to-be-defunct Arrowverse. More recently, however, the prospect of a unified vision for DC properties has become increasingly unlikely. Executives decided to permanently suspend the nearly full $90 million bat girl movie, and Ezra Miller’s growing collection of terrible headlines and disturbing allegations may force those who are long-suffering the flash in a similar fate. The next black adam and Shazam! Fury of the gods might be enough to help right the ship, but that’s far from a guarantee. To help ensure a brighter future for DC movies and TV, Warner Bros. Discovery should turn to DC Comics history.

Unlike the Marvel Universe, which Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others largely conceived of as a cohesive shared world, the DC Universe has long been something of a patchwork. Throughout the Golden Age, the trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman sometimes appears in the same books, but never in the same stories. Essentially, they lived in their own worlds. Once the Silver Age started that obviously changed, but by then DC had started absorbing other publishers and putting those characters on worlds of their own, as it had done with its Golden Age properties. This siled approach ended after Crisis on Infinite Earths consolidated the multiverse into a single universe. Suddenly characters who shouldn’t have co-existed on the same Earth did.

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Often the convergence didn’t make sense. Different stories contradicted each other and the canonicity became nebulous. The creators did their best to bring the universe back into alignment, but their success rate was decidedly mixed. Still, somehow, this hodgepodge of characters and concepts worked. As long as readers have good stories with their favorite heroes and villains, many might overlook the inconsistencies. Warner Bros. Discovery would do well to emulate this patchwork approach. Rather than starting from scratch or sticking with something that doesn’t work, he can combine the best elements of existing movies and TV projects into something both familiar and new.

Rumors indicate that Warner Bros. hopes to bring Henry Cavill back as Superman. If he refused, albeit unhappy, it could give the studio the opportunity to combine two of his most critically acclaimed projects – The Batman and Superman and Lois — in a single universe. Tonally, the two franchises are noticeably different, but neither are the Superman and Batman comics that have co-existed in the same continuity for decades. Plus, the self-contained nature of each property means the two could be combined with minimal hassle. Superman and Lois established that while no other superpowered heroes currently operate on Earth, non-powerful vigilantes like Oliver Queen did. For Bruce Wayne, doing the same would not be a stretch. The Batmanmeanwhile, makes no reference to other superheroes, but also does not explicitly deny their existence. Superman and Lois and The Batman could easily form the basis of Zaslav’s 10-year plan for a shared universe of DC film and television.

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From there, Grant Gustin or someone new could replace scandal-ridden Ezra Miller as The Flash and follow through on Barry Allen’s supposed plan to inadvertently alter the timeline. This, in turn, could lay the groundwork for Black Adam, Shazam, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Peacemaker to exist alongside Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman and Robert Pattinson’s Batman. With a few tweaks, Warner Bros. Discovery could create a new DC Cinema and TV Universe using parts it already owns.

For years, characters from DC Comics, Fawcett Comics, Charlton Comics, Milestone Comics, Wildstorm Comics and more have existed in a single DC Universe made up of pieces of an editorial multiverse. This approach has often been messy. It certainly lacks the cohesion of Marvel’s Earth-616, but it more than makes up for that with flexibility and adaptability. Blue Beetle wasn’t originally a DC character, but once he was, he became a central figure in one of the most beloved versions of the Justice League. In the same way, Superman and Lois and The Batman are currently separate projects, but while Warner Bros. Discovery takes a chance and combines them, Hoechlin and Pattinson could become an iconic version of the best team in the world and the answer to the studio’s growing list of problems.

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