DC Comics is currently in the midst of rebooting their comic book universe in the hopes of attracting new readers. This news comes as little surprise, as we've known that DC was in for a bit of overhaul ever since their restructuring venture with Warner Bros. created the DC Entertainment brand earlier this Fall.
DCE's primary goal has been to streamline their brand into a cohesive multimedia package, where comic books, video games, TV projects and feature films are all being planned and coordinated under one creative umbrella to optimize brand appeal across all media formats.
On the comic book front, DC will soon be debuting Earth One, an ongoing series of graphic novels that will re-imagine classic DC Universe superheroes in modern context, much the same way Marvel did with its "Ultimate" brand. So what does re-introducing audiences to the DC Universe and its heroes mean for future DC superhero flicks? Let's take a look...
AICN had a chance to interview J. Michael Straczynski and Geoff Johns, two acclaimed DC Comics writers who will be tackling the two biggest names on the Earth One slate, namely Superman and Batman, respectively. If you want to know what this Earth One universe is all about, here are a few choice quotes from the Q&A with Straczynski and Johns:
AICN: Tell me a little bit about the premise behind SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE.
J. Michael Straczynski: Clark [Kent] comes to Metropolis in his 21st year to decide what he really wants to do. And this is someone who can be anyone, do anything. If he keeps his background secret, as he's done for the preceding 21 years, he can be the best athlete the world has ever known, he could be the next Stephen Hawking, could take away the golf crown from Tiger Woods, create patents that could earn billions. He can finally step out of the shadows and into the light.
By contrast, if he chooses to become Superman, then Clark must live forever in the shadows, dedicated to a life of service and self-sacrifice that could eventually get him killed. That's a hard choice for anybody to make, let alone a 21 year old kid who wants to look after his mom and is lured by the idea of money and success and fame. So the story is about Clark's...moment, when he has to finally make that choice, why he makes it, and what follows after.
This is probably one of the most often told and re-told stories in comics history...But I'll be straight up with you: I'm not here to change his story into something it was never intended to be so that I can "make my mark" on the character. It's about respecting the character and his origins...
Will we ever see these Earth One versions of Supes and Bats on the big screen?
AICN: So what is BATMAN: EARTH ONE all about?
Geoff Johns: BATMAN: EARTH ONE allows [artist] Gary Frank and I to break the restraints of any continuity and focus on two things: character and story. Add to that the idea of working on a line of graphic novels instead of being limited to twenty-two pages, it’s a challenge and I love a challenge...Our Batman is a decidedly different Batman yet it is, of course, Bruce Wayne.
I want to let the book will speak for itself, but Batman, Alfred, Detective Gordon, Arkham Manor, the twisted origin behind Gotham City, the Bat-Mobile and, of course, the world’s greatest group of villains are all a part of the world we’re creating. Some of it the characters will more closely resemble the classic interpretations while others will be wildly different. We’re introducing a lot of new characters and elements to this Batman...The first graphic novel features an entirely new villain.
For the full transcript of AICN's interviews with Straczynski and Johns, go HERE.
Ok, so like I said, this kind of venture sounds a lot like Marvel's "Ultimate" universe, which was introduced a few years back. But what does this mean for the superhero films that DCE/WB hopes to make in the next few years?
Well, Chris Nolan has already succeeded in lifting the Batman lore out of its traditional comic book origins, re-introducing the character to movie audiences in full modern, real-world (some of you argue dark and depressing) splendor. However, Superman needs a fresh cinematic start right about now, and you can bet that DCE is keeping that fact tucked somewhere in mind when launching this new graphic novel series.
Just as a fun little bonus, here's some concept art for the Superman: Earth One version of Clark Kent, as drawn by hot new artist Shane Davis:
Click image for hi-res version
Understand: Straczynski and Johns are two of DC Comics' hottest writers at the moment - Johns in particular has done an almost miraculous job catapulting the characters of Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash (that's Hal Jordan and Barry Allen) from the second-tier status of dead and irrelevant, back into the comic book industry limelight. Johns' work with the characters has been so celebrated that he's now branched out behind the scenes, lending his wisdom and guidance to DC/WB movies like The Green Lantern, The Flash and Shazam!
If Johns and Stracynski are being given the free reign to re-imagine the most carefully-guarded characters in DC's stable, it's a small leap of deduction to say that they (and other eventual Earth One creative teams) could ultimately become key players in envisioning forthcoming DCE/WB movies according to their Earth One mythos. In a lot of cases, what is done on the comic book page serves as the preliminary storyboards for an eventual feature film; when you think about it like that, it's easy to wonder if we aren't seeing the future of DC Superhero movies being plotted out before our eyes...
For now, we'll keep you posted on how DC's Earth One venture develops, and what (if any) affect it will have on DC Superhero movies. Stay tuned.