Top Five Desires for James Gunn’s DC Universe


If you went back in time five years ago and told me that the director of Guardians of the Galaxy and Super would be taking the helm of Warner Brothers fifth and most desperate attempt at a DC cinematic universe, I would have laughed at you. 

But somehow, it’s true. Somehow I’ve entered the bizarro timeline where Gunn has proudly jumped of Disney/Marvel billion-dollar train and onto the poor, decaying, and half broken down train that is DC Studios. But, as a DC fan, I must have hope that Gunn and creative partner/producer Peter Safran are going to do what 20-years of half-hearted work could not. 

There was a time where DC was the top dog, now it’s a laughing stock. It’s a dog that needed to be put down twelve years ago, but has refused to die out of sheer stubbornness. 

So many projects, both film and television, have been unceremoniously cancelled that it’s pathetic at this point. And everyone knows it. 

And the worst part is that Warner Brothers doesn’t have the self-respect to try and hide the fact that DC Studios only has about $12 to its name. The video announcement for Gunn and Safran’s DCU looked like it was created on Google Slides five minutes prior. 

But for some reason, this makes me more hopeful about the DCU. Yes, the title cards look cheep. But it feels as if we’re looking inside the fan-fiction notes of a young James Gunn. 

So far, the DCU feels like a homemade passion project, and I genuinely hope this continues. 

This new DCU is Warner Brothers fifth chance at a successful cinematic universe.

Yes, you read that right. They have unapologetically tried four separate times to launch a proper cinematic universe. It’s laughable, but also makes me appreciate their willingness to fail and fail until they get it right. 

Or to at least throw everything at the wall every few years and pray to every divine being in history that something, anything, sticks. 

So, in honor of their fifth attempt to bring the entire DC Universe of the comics to life, here are my top five desires of what I hope Gunn and Safran will do as co-chairmen of DC Studios. 

Strong World Building – The DC Universe is not the real-world. That may sound like an obvious statement, but for some directors it seems impossible to not create a Superman or Batman film adaptation without trying to crush them down to “gritty” and “realistic” versions of the almost a hundred-year-old characters. Marvel’s original mindset on their comics was their stories and characters were meant to reflect the world outside of your door. The Marvel heroes we read about live in New York and Los Angeles, not some fictitious city. This is what makes the Marvel Universe what it is, the characters are meant to reside in a world that’s like ours, just with some fantastical elements weaved into it. Characters like Iron Man and the Punisher were involved in the Iraq War. Spider-Man is constantly swinging across the real Manhattan skyline. Doctor Strange lives on at an actual New York address. But DC is meant to be the opposite. There is nearly a century of deep lore and iconic fictional locations just waiting to be used properly. Gotham is an unlivable gothic hell. Metropolis is a bright retro-futuristic paradise. The world building of the DC Universe has more in common with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars than it does with the Marvel Universe and for some odd reason Warner Brothers is embarrassed by this. Gunn and Safran should embrace what makes their franchise special and allow the world of DC to become its own living breathing entity. 

A Proper Trinity – Before Marvel’s Big Three, there was DC’s Trinity. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, each of these rich characters have all failed time and time again. Superman is not a god. Batman is not some geriatric serial killer. And Wonder Woman should not be considered an afterthought. The deeply personal friendship that connects these three completely fictional people warms my heart in ways nothing else can. Gunn and Safran should ensure that the Trinity’s love for one another comes first and foremost. They should have the comfortability to lead down their guards when they are all together. We should see them cracking jokes in the Batcave and grabbing drinks together at a Metropolis bar. We should see Wonder Woman and Batman arriving at the Fortress of Solitude, both eager to give Clark his birthday presents as portrayed in the comic “For The Man Who Has Everything”. The Clark, Bruce, and Diana of the DCU must treat each other like siblings. And if they don’t it would be a serious misstep. 

Embracing the Source Material – Filmmakers like Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan have not made it a secret what they think of the original DC comics which inspired their films. Nolan argued that the Batman of the comics is too ridiculous and fantastical to be taken seriously, and the only way to tell a proper Batman story is to drag him into the real world. Snyder was only interested in portraying characters as melodramatic figures of Greek myth, because in his mind the heroes of DC are not “silly superheroes” but world-destroying gods who we should worship and bow to. Instead of trying to recreate the magic of comics, they toss it into the trash proudly. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of masterful comic storylines worthy of a big screen adaptation. We need to see arcs like Blackest Night and Forever Evil played out in this new universe. And to give credit where credit’s due it seems like Gunn is using the source material to his advantage. He’s openly talked about how he plans on adapting comic books written by Grant Morrison and Tom King. And I can only hope this willingness to pick up an actual comic, read it, and use it as inspiration continues. 

A Return to the Ridiculous – The concept of superheroes is a ridiculous one. And why should that be a bad thing? So many DC filmmakers of the past run far from the silliness and campiness of these iconic characters. Gunn and Safran need to do the opposite. The DC Universe is inherently an odd place to be. It’s filled with talking gorillas, alien war lords, and hilarious interdimensional beings. Why should that be an issue? And films like Guardians of the Galaxy and shows like Peacemaker prove that there is an audience for it. I want to see Superman wearing a ridiculously bright costume with red trunks. I want to see the Flash battling a mind controlling talking gorillas. I want to see Batman and Robin fighting an enormous clay monster. A return to the ridiculous is the only way for the DCU to thrive. 

A Better Superman – Superman: Legacy (2025) seems to be the first film entry of this brand new cinematic universe. Some have criticized this idea, but I relish it. Because of the creative minds behind the character of Clark Kent in the last ten years, he has become a stale character that many feel represents a bygone era. But this is what makes him who he is. He’s the first hero. The best. The greatest. He is the epitome of the American dream. He’s an immigrant raised by farmers in a small town and moves to the big city to achieve his dreams. He’s all of us. He’s humanity’s best friend. We all should look up to a guy like him. Writer Grant Morrison said it best: he will help us accomplish wonders. But he’s not a god, he’s just a man trying his best to do the right thing. He’s a nerdy Boy Scout who will always do the right things for the people around him. And thankfully it seems like Gunn and Safran know this. The new DCU will start with Superman having its foundation, and eventually other heroes like Booster Gold and Swamp Things will follow in the Man of Steel’s footsteps. He is the heart and soul of an entire universe and I hope and pray this new cinematic universe doesn’t mess him up.