After NBC’s Constantine debuts on Friday, October 24th, DC will have four television adaptations of their comic book properties on the small screen. Fox’s Batman prequel series Gotham has done well ratings-wise, the CW’s Arrow is still going strong now that it’s third season has begun, and spinoff The Flash will hang around for at least one whole season.
Meanwhile, DC and Warner Bros. shook things up when they unveiled their line-up of interconnected films set in the universe established by 2013’s Man of Steel – one which continues in a big way when Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives in 2016. One of the more interesting and initially surprising listings was the solo Flash film slated for 2018, which will star Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and not the CW’s Flash, Grant Gustin.
We should’ve expected something like this, though, given DC creative chief Geoff Johns’ previous assertions that DC’s TV and movie universes will remain separate. Now, in a interview with BuzzFeed, Johns seems to have a slightly different outlook on the DC television and film continuities and how they could “co-exist.”
Johns touched on the in-development Supergirl series, saying “It’s well past time there’s a female superhero out there, both in film and on television, and it’s awesome that we’re on the forefront of that.” He also spoke about the curious-sounding iZombie which he is producing for the CW and the cinematic quality of Gotham, but we need to zero in on his take on the DC’s film and TV worlds, which he now refers to as a “multiverse.”
According to Johns:
Well, Arrow and Flash are the same universe, and we get a lot of great story out of that — especially when we have episodes that cross them over, but that’s also where our superhero universe lives. We look at it as the multiverse. We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist. For us, creatively, it’s about allowing everyone to make the best possible product, to tell the best story, to do the best world. Everyone has a vision and you really want to let the visions shine through. I think the characters are iconic enough. I like [Marvel’s Agents of] S.H.I.E.L.D. a lot. I love what Marvel does. I’m a huge fan. It’s just a different approach.
While the concept of a comic book multiverse is of course not exclusive to DC, they are known for several famous events, from Crisis on Infinite Earths to the Flashpoint saga which launched their universal “New 52″ mass reboot. While Johns acknowledges that when it comes to DC and Marvel, they are both “embracing” their respective material – the faithful-to-the-comics tone of CW’s The Flash is one example – it seems clear that Johns and DC are developing their TV shows one at a time.
When asked if DC was restricting certain aspects of the IP’s to one medium or the other, Johns said:
We don’t want to be policemen. The last thing in the world that we want to do is say no to something. The best thing we can do is work with the producers and try to be additive and collaborative and try to figure out how to expand it. Firestorm’s role in The Flash grew organically, but now it’s become something big and great because we can get Firestorm out there and his Rogues and everything. The key for all of this is to expose more of the DC universe and the Vertigo books to people so they fall in love with them too. We share that love of these characters. So for us we’d rather expand than contract.
And as for the big question of whether or not the shows and the films could link up down the line, Johns replied:
There’s been discussions over the years for both, obviously. You never say never. Maybe one day we’ll link a show to a film if it makes sense, but the creative process we’re going through right now is to let the stuff live and breathe and be its own thing and own it.
To be fair, what Johns says makes a good deal of sense. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really seemed to be treading water, story-wise, for a good two-thirds of its first season, before the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier upended the show’s status quo, and all for the better.
These shows need to stand on their own, but Johns is still rather tellingly vague on the subject of casting Ezra Miller as the Flash in the movie version. When asked if that casting announcement was meant as a clear signal that the universes would be distinct, Johns said:
We had talked about it previously being distinct, but I can’t really talk about the films. We haven’t really gone into detail about what that stuff is so I don’t want to get too detailed yet. The cool thing about what they’re doing with Grant and Stephen [Amell] on Flash and Arrow, respectively, is both shows explore different parts of the DC universe, but there is limitless potential there.
Which may or may not be setting up the possibility of a film/TV crossover down the line. Still, Johns and DC’s focus is on exploring characters that may never show up in one of their blockbuster movies. Johns referred to Constantine‘s inclusion of Jim Corrigan, a.k.a. The Spectre and the fact that Doctor Fate’s helmet will be seen in the pilot, saying:
There might be someone out there who sees Dr. Fate on an episode of Constantine and suddenly they love that character and they become a creator later on and tell me they have a great take for a Dr. Fate TV show. That’s what we want to happen. We want to inspire people with this stuff. And we want to get it out there. Like, I can’t believe Gorilla Grodd’s gonna be in a Flash TV show. That’s insane. Like, I say it out loud and I still think it’s insane. But that’s what we want to do; we want to break new ground. Like, Firestorm [Robbie Amell] is going to be seen in live-action! We’re going to have a freakin’ Justice League movie! How crazy exciting is that? To see all this stuff happen, it gets me really, really excited. Who ever thought we’d see an Ant-Man movie? Like, if you’re a fan of superheroes or comic books, to see all this stuff coming to life — and done with skill and talent … we never could have made a Flash show with effects like this a few years ago.
Johns also acknowledged that the successful translation of the Flash’s powers to the small screen made him think about other DC properties he thought couldn’t be adapted, but when asked to name them, said:
No. [laughs] I’ll say this: Arrow was a step, Flash was a step, Supergirl is kind of the next step because she flies! Like, Supergirl flies! How can we do that on television? But, Greg’s super confident in that. If we can make a guy run at superspeed and have a guy create a tornado, we can probably make somebody fly.
While some fans might see the separation of DC’s film and TV universes as a missed opportunity, it’s clear that Johns and DC are not simply throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. The prospect of more shows based on some of the brand’s more outlying and fascinating characters (The Spectre, Doctor Fate) is an exciting opportunity. But, of course, first it remains to be seen if the strong debuts of Gotham and The Flash are echoed by Constantine…
The Flash and Arrow are currently airing on the CW. Gotham can be seen on Mondays @8pm Fox. Constantine debuts on Friday, October 24th 2014 on NBC.