Whatever the causes, whatever the successes, failures, or underwhelming releases, the time has come for every movie studio looking to put out superhero blockbusters to get a successful formula in place. While Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment found success (Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy), failure (Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern) and controversy (Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman) in adapting the company’s biggest heroes, the coming of the fully DC Extended Universe demanded steps be taken – making sure the ship was being steered by the right hands.
So it was no surprise when word broke that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment were restructuring their film divisions, placing DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns at the very top. The move would be formalizing an authority already in place, with Johns taking an active role in assisting the studio’s filmmakers in adapting DC heroes. But with the company still refusing to confirm or clarify whether Johns (along with WB Executive Vice President Jon Berg) would be guiding the Justice League universe, we decided to ask two people with an inside line: Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck.
While visiting the set of Snyder’s Justice League, we had the opportunity to speak with the director about the role being played by Johns, comic writer turned DC Entertainment ‘godfather,’ behind the scenes. Those familiar with DC Entertainment know that Johns has played an informal or formal role in the development of just about every DC adaptation that requested it.
As a walking, talking guide to the company’s history and vision, it’s no surprise that Snyder claims Johns has already been putting his knowledge to work in the building of the DCEU:
“Geoff and I have had a great working relationship, even on Batman v Superman, and on Wonder Woman we worked together really closely. And we have a project coming up that we want to do together… I can’t talk about that.
“His knowledge of comics is just crazy. He’s like an encyclopedia of comic books. Like I’ll be like, “Hey, is there a weird [Green Lantern] from–?” and he’ll be like, “You know…” He’s just amazing about keeping everything in canon that I’ve not even heard of. He goes, “Yeah, it’s back!” Like we’ll look through some archive. You know, there’s DC-pedia, but he’s even crazier than that.”
Fans can dream of what DC properties Snyder and Johns may be discussing between conversations focused on the current slate of DC movies, but the director seems to confirm WB’s stance on the creative direction of the DCEU. Mainly, that it’s the filmmakers, not the studio, determining where and why the stories take place. After all, Zack Snyder, David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio have been planning and polishing the future of the Justice League story for years, meaning Johns (a writer by trade) isn’t literally steering the ship – just sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, for when he’s needed.
That’s the relationship also alluded to by director James Wan, in pre-production on the Jason Momoa-led Aquaman movie. According to Wan, the reported ‘shake-up’ in DC and Warner Bros. oversight hasn’t been noticed in the slightest. As he works to make audiences finally take the aquatic superhero seriously, he’s pointing to the same source material that Zack Snyder did before casting Momoa in the role: Geoff Johns’ own reinvention of the character as part of DC’s New 52 reboot.
Of course, the most excitement surrounds the collaboration between Johns and Ben Affleck. It’s no exaggeration to call it a perfect storm for any DC fan: a Batman solo movie written, directed, and starring Oscar-winning writer and director Ben Affleck, conceived of between himself and Johns (arguably the most influential DC writer in a decade). Affleck made his support and respect for Johns known prior to the launch of “DC Rebirth” (calling him “a f***ing genius”), placing him in line with most DC Comics fans, and suggesting the pair’s collaboration was already under way (and the affection was mutual).
And even though Johns has yet to confirm his position with Jon Berg at the top of DC Films, he did confirm that he is developing the Batman solo movie with Affleck. It makes sense, since Johns is the ideal person to help Affleck in his goal of borrowing “or stealing” great ideas from the comics. When the question of Johns’ involvement was raised on the Justice League set (a film Affleck is also producing to help his own story fit with Snyder’s), Affleck implied that the reports of Johns and Berg taking the helm are accurate:
How big is the role of Geoff Johns in this?
Ben Affleck: Uh, big! Geoff is a big part of things. He’s not here right now, he’s having a baby, but Geoff’s a great guy and there’s nobody that knows more, that I know, about comic books. He’s got great taste and he’s really super smart and super nice, and Jon Berg as well has a big role. Really this is Zack [Snyder]’s role and we’re here executing Zack’s vision.
A two-pronged response that should encourage those in Affleck’s camp: first, that Johns and Berg (a producer already on board the DCEU) are “a big part of things,” and that as big as those future plans may be, it’s still director Zack Snyder’s vision for Justice League that he’s focused on. It’s far too soon to say that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have found the right people to not just shape, but guide other directors in pursuit of their own stories, but they’ve most definitely called on some of the best.
Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.