Slate from DC Studios demonstrates the importance of superhero comics

On Monday, DC Studios CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran announced the first batch of titles that will be part of their new DC Universe, the most collaborative effort yet to connect movies, television shows, and video games inspired by the publisher’s characters. The storytelling initiative, which will be dubbed “Chapter One: Gods and Monsters”, will consist of five films: Superman: Legacythe Batman centric The Brave and The Bold, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Swamp ThingAnd The authority; and five exclusive TV shows from HBO Max: Creature commands, Waller, lanternsthe Wonder Woman prequel lost paradiseAnd Booster Gold. While Gunn and Safran’s studio is far from the first or last to unveil their “slate” of storytelling, and we’re still at least a year away from seeing the fruits of their labor, something felt about this announcement unique. It wasn’t just the months of anticipation from diehard fans, or the years of ill-fated attempts to create a cohesive universe for it – it was what happened after the announcement.

Outside art for the animated Commands from creatures, Gunn’s video announcement had no official look at characters, concept art of costumes, or confirmations from cast members. Instead, it showed the best hint yet of what’s to come: art from DC’s comics. Of course, this was the most logical option to announce the slate, since almost all of the characters in these projects have yet to be cast in the new canon, and previous regimes that ran DC have repeatedly made the mistake of revealing fancy logos for projects a lot too soon, only to disappoint fans when they don’t actually come to fruition. But by bringing the iconography of the comics to the forefront, DC Studios not only showed its reverent approach to the source material, it gave fans a concrete starting point for what kind of stories to expect — and, surprisingly, motivated them to get out. to check out these stories for themselves.

At the time of writing, just days after the announcement was first made, the trade paperback or omnibus collections of Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, All-Star Superman, Batman by Grant Morrison, Booster Gold: The Big FallAnd The authority book one have sold out or have topped the bestseller lists across multiple online retail platforms, with retailers at individual comic book stores reporting that they have also sold out of their existing copies. Gunn himself had to take to Twitter Friday night to confirm that DC is rushing out new printings of many of the books to meet demand. While there have been occasional instances of superhero adaptations boosting sales of their source material, namely Disney+ WandaVision leading to months of delays in new printings of Marvel’s Scarlet Witch and Vision-related books – the demand for the books indirectly linked to DC Studios’ slate feels unprecedented. It could also illustrate, in the process, the cultural and emotional resonance that superhero comics can still have.

Many arguments can be made as to why the books that inspired DC Studios’ slate suddenly gained a lot of demand – they cover a wide variety of genres and characters, ranging from A-listers like Batman and Superman to cult favorites like The Authority and Booster Gold, making it increases the likelihood that someone who heard the announcement will want to explore the source material. They also represent a broader scope of DC’s stories than previous live-action efforts, including books published in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and even as recently as last year. Of course, it was safe to assume that, outside Woman of tomorrow, the DCU won’t directly and perfectly adapt the story of these aforementioned books — Gunn essentially confirmed this later in the week by tweeting that “the feel, look, or tone” of these various books serve as “touchstones.” for the franchise’s team of screenwriters. (A team that happens to include an actual comics writer – Woman of tomorrow writer Tom King.) But fans were still eager to get ahead of the curve and experience these stories for themselves, delving into a source material full of breathtaking art, lovable characters, and the near-infinite possibilities that await in other comics.

Compare that to the inspiration for most of the main universe DC movies of the past decade, many of which fell back on the gritty perennials of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, or the definitive (for better or worse) rebooted books of the New 52 – books that have generally remained in print and are easy to obtain for new readers. Marvel Studios, meanwhile, turns almost all of its movie or TV characters into household names, but prioritizes its own overarching story first and foremost, even going so far as to not want diehard comic book fans to write their projects. When Marvel Studios has incentivized fans to read the source material, it’s by literally gamifying the entire experience, sneaking QR codes for free digital comics into blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments of its Disney+ shows . Both approaches are based on an even more awkward history of superhero adaptations’ relationship with superhero comics, including X-Men director Bryan Singer bans comics from the movie set.

For as long as there have been mainstream comics, there have been naysayers who subverted them as a “lesser” form of storytelling – even Stan Lee, Marvel Publisher Emeritus and the co-creator of several well-known superheroes, argued in 1971 that comics were merely “an apprenticeship to enter a better field” of movies and television. The rise of superheroes has only made that argument more frustrating, with superhero movies grossing billions of dollars, while superhero comics are bought and enjoyed by a small portion of that ticket-buying audience. All the while, superhero comics (especially those published by DC) have consistently offered an aspirational, hopeful, and creative world unlike any other, if any reader can find it. It’s incredibly exciting that stories like Commands from creatures and that of Grant Morrison Batman will inspire some weird and wonderful movies and TV shows in the years to come. But honestly, the fact that this new chapter of storytelling is propelling people straight to the greatness of DC’s comics is really exciting.

The DCU’s “Chapter One: Gods and Monsters” begins with Superman: Legacywhich is currently scheduled to hit theaters on July 11, 2025.

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