The Answer to the DC Problem

With the controversy and disappointment around Black Adam and Shazam 2 and the 50/50 chance that the same thing will follow for The Flash in June, it’s time for DC to reconsider things. Yes, they have a new head on their shoulders with James Gunn and Peter Safran taking over, but the plan so far seems like a repeat of the same mistakes made in the last 10 years.

Currently, there’s Blue Beetle which seems like a stand-alone movie that will tell a new story to an audience that’s been waiting for something different for quite a while. Other than that, the most exciting thing DC has planned is the musical Joker: Folie à Deux, which will either be a unicorn or a trash fire. 

It seems they brought Gunn in to use his experience and likely familiarity with the MCU way of doing things to help get DC out of its hole. This makes sense in a conservative sort of way, but at the same time, it also doesn’t. The MCU is its own thing, and it has already been done, and DC is not that thing. 

So my answer is to use DC’s own creation, Elseworlds, to solve all their current problems and make the company a consistently successful, liked, and united operation again. 

Elseworlds came out of DC comics, and it’s kind of a sub-banner that comics go under, or at least used to go under, when they fell outside the main storylines or continuity. The Justice League in the Old West, Batman reimagined as Frankenstein’s monster, or Kal-El becoming the protector of Gotham instead of Metropolis are some examples of these stories, which were often single issues or stand-alone graphic novels. These Elseworld stories were so popular that many have been made into full-length animated DC movies, such as the recent release, The Doom That Came to Gotham.

Gunn already made his mark by calling some outlying(yet successful) DC films that don’t fit with one conducive universe and story as “Elseworlds” films. For now, it seems that’s just his way of covering DC without having to make extra movies or creative decisions to explain themselves. Instead of just calling a few movies Elseworlds, make all your movies Elseworlds. Rather than make a 10-year plan and try to pull off what the MCU worked really hard to do and also did first so there were no questions or comparisons, make your own 10-year plan and do something unique as well. 

Gunn could set up a plan using his skill at taking obscure characters and making them work, combined with his experience working at a company with complex moving parts like Marvel, and create a decade of Elseworld movies. Gunn has a pretty good track record as he succeeded in turning the relatively unknown Guardians of the Galaxy into household names with two releases in 2014 and 2017 and the third arriving this year. He similarly did the same with Suicide Squad, albeit with a bit of help from some fan favorites such as Harley Quinn and Amanda Waller. Suicide Squad was so successful that the mostly unlikable Peacemaker, played by John Cena, got his own series and is now a huge success. 

With Elseworlds, Gunn could make or take any characters he wanted and make them do whatever he wanted. Elseworlds stories don’t damage the DC continuity. There can be five different Batmans because they all have their own worlds, personalities, costumes, and villains. Instead of Kal-El, Kara Zor-El(Supergirl) or even Lois Lane could be The Woman of Steel and the sole protector of Earth. Each movie needs a fascinating character/world and a just as intriguing story. There doesn’t need to be sequels; they don’t even need to crossover and lead up to a big bad. There hasn’t exactly been an Elseworlds crossover, though, so Gunn could be the first to do that and wow audiences with something they’ve never seen before. 

The pieces are all there: Gunn’s ability to make unknown characters interesting, a format that allows him to tell any story he wants, a company that needs a fresh start, and an audience that wants something else. Although plenty of Elseworlds stories exist in the comics and animated movies, DC could make up entirely new ones for their live-action movies. Want to see the vampire version of Batman, who has no problem killing villains? Want to know about the Superman who crashes into Ukraine instead of the U.S. and becomes their hero? Want to learn about the Justice League that began in the Industrial Age?

Although Marvel is still pumping shows and movies out, the superhero movie craze is slowing down a bit. Everybody got to the end of the first 10 years/end of the story for the MCU as we know it, and now things afterward don’t seem as necessary or as thrilling. So trying something innovative is essential, especially if you’re DC and dealing with the fallout from the still lingering and messy Snyderverse. Bring on new characters for people to fall in love with, like the Guardians of the Galaxy, or make new versions of people’s favorite characters that they suddenly like more than the original. 

Once the ten years are over and there is some sort of culmination to the decade of Elseworlds, DC can return to making Superman 2, 3, 4, etc. That option will always be there, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Unfortunately, right now, the opposite is going on for DC. The Batman and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker are different takes on the characters than we’ve seen and are DC’s current hits. Allow some new characters or versions to make either way into the spotlight instead of trying to compete with yourself. The Dark Knight and Batman (1989) will always be there and make other Batman movies feel inferior, so why not skip that comparison?

Aside from the Spider-Man situation, which is actually Sony, not Marvel, Marvel has yet to compete with itself. Hulk is a one-off, but they quickly saw their mistake there as well. They have learned to hand the mantle off or to bring in new characters rather than make another series of Tony Stark-Iron Man movies with a younger actor. Spider-Man did it, but it took time and somewhat of a misfire with The Amazing Spider-Man films. 

Yes, they are beloved, but they could have made four or five if there weren’t issues, but instead, the project was abandoned. Sony learned from that and made a different Spider-man in the Homecoming series, a kid working alongside billionaire-inventor Iron Man using a suit of armor to enhance and focus his spider powers. DC could easily do the same.

Elseworlds could become Gunn’s legacy. People could get used to the “Elseworlds” opening logo, similar to what Marvel plays before each of their movies. Crowds will be excited to see another divergent comic book movie but also anxious since they won’t know what to expect. We’ve seen Bruce’s parents die in an alley many times. What if his father disarmed, killed the robber, and became a punisher-type character instead…shocking and interesting. It may be a stretch, but it’s a sound plan and an easy choice with Gunn at the helm. So far, DC’s live-action “Elseworlds” entries have been a hit. Will they embrace that data and continue the trend, or revert to rebooting a universe that doesn’t seem to want it?


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