The DC Extended Universe, as DC Comics’ movie and TV line was originally called, has gone through some major growing pains since it launched with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel in 2013. Looking for ways to compete with Marvel Comics’ massively popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC has repeatedly switched tracks and tactics on the DCEU, sometimes steering toward a single interconnected universe, then backtracking into a more director-driven plan where movies like Todd Phillips’ Joker could be made without fitting into any specific previous continuity.
With Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad director James Gunn and producer Peter Safran taking the reins of the newly branded DC Studios, DC has come out with a new long-term plan. The new projects on the DC docket are meant to reboot or reshape DC’s best-known heroes, while reaching into some deeper corners of the DC canon for more obscure characters. And it’s wrapping up the DCEU era, replacing it with just “the DCU,” a mainline continuity that will exist alongside other DC film and TV universes. Here’s everything DC is currently planning to put in theaters and on TV screens, in 2023 and well into the future.
[Ed. note: This story only covers Warner Bros.’ DC projects and doesn’t include The CW’s Arrowverse, which is effectively ending in 2023.]
Shazam! Fury of the Gods: March 17
The relatively cool response to Black Adam in October 2022 may not bode well for this sequel to 2019’s Shazam!, a well-received, lightly comedic movie that seemed to mark a shift in DC Comics’ “no banter, no humor” policy for its superhero films. Zachary Levi is back as Black Adam’s traditional nemesis Shazam, aka Billy Batson, a kid who sidelines as a superhero after gaining access to superpowers and an adult form. This time around, the villains are the three daughters of the god Atlas (played by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and West Side Story breakout star Rachel Zegler.)
The Flash: June 16
Ezra Miller’s considerable legal troubles appear to have put future planned Flash projects on hold: Producer Peter Safran recently said Miller was “completely focused” on recovery and that the door was open for future work with Miller. But the completed movie The Flash now seems to be the only Miller project on DC’s docket. It and It Chapter Two director Andy Muschietti wound up directing The Flash after a long series of development shifts and personnel swaps. It’s expected to be based in part on the Flashpoint arc from the comics, with Barry Allen/Flash going back in time to prevent his mother’s murder, changing the world as a result. Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck both reprise their past roles as Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Blue Beetle: Aug. 18
The DCU’s first Latinx-led superhero movie stars Parenthood and Cobra Kai’s Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes, the comics’ third incarnation of the Blue Beetle. This version of the character is a Mexican American teenager who encounters and bonds with an alien artifact/entity that can transform into body armor to give him an array of powers. Susan Sarandon co-stars as the villain, Victoria Kord — recently established in the comics as the sister of Ted Kord, the original Blue Beetle.
Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom: Dec. 25
Expect online fandom debates to go ballistic again as we get closer to the sequel to James Wan’s joyously goofy 2018 under-the-sea extravaganza Aquaman. Jason Momoa is back as the titular superhero/sea-king, with Nicole Kidman returning as his mother, Atlanna. Ben Affleck is reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Patrick Wilson is back as undersea usurper Orm the Ocean Master, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is back as the villain Black Manta, and Wan is back at the helm. But most of the early noise about Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has been about the return of Amber Heard as Aquaman’s love interest, Mera — after the long, contentious legal battle between Heard and Johnny Depp, she’s reached a J.K. Rowling level of polarization where she can’t crop up in a project without stirring debate. Expect the lead-up conversation about this one to be noisy.
Joker: Folie à Deux: Oct. 4
Todd Phillips’ acerbic 2019 drama Joker — effectively a DC-themed riff on Martin Scorsese’s King of Comedy — didn’t necessarily call for a sequel. It ends in a wide-open place that invites viewers to write their own next chapter. But nothing breeds sequels like success, and the first Joker was a billion-dollar hit for DC during a period where it was struggling to find that kind of payday from any of its properties. It feels like DC may have handed Phillips a blank check and a free rein — at least, that seems like the best way to explain why the Joker sequel is reportedly a musical thriller with Joaquin Phoenix reprising his role as Arthur Fleck/the Joker, and Lady Gaga taking over the role of Harley Quinn. Zazie Beetz will be back as Arthur’s neighbor and entirely unwitting love interest, Sophie.
The Batman Part II: Oct. 3
The long, contentious history behind 2022’s The Batman didn’t leave much room for hope — one of those movies that got bounced from team to team for years, changing shape at every bounce, it looked like a project that was destined to be driven more by market calculation than by a specific vision. But director and co-writer Matt Reeves found an effective take on the Dark Knight that resonated with audiences and landed solidly at the box office, and DC immediately greenlit a sequel, again with Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader. No plot details are clear yet, though Pattinson and Reeves have been blue-skying about a lot of things they’d like to do: The Court of Owls storyline, maybe? Mr. Freeze? Calendar Man, for god’s sake?
Superman: Legacy: July 11
The first of the new Gunn/Safran projects to actually get a release date, Superman: Legacy seems expressly designed to break the DCEU mold. Henry Cavill is moving on from the Superman role, and Gunn, who plans to script the film himself, made several pointed references to this film being a break from past visions of Superman: He called the film “the true foundation of our creative vision for the DC Universe,” and said he “can’t wait to introduce our version of Superman.” The advance description for this one currently just says it’ll feature the character “balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing.”
HBO Max’s TV spinoff of Matt Reeves’ The Batman is meant to bridge the gap between that movie and Reeves’ sequel, as Penguin (Colin Farrell) solidifies power in the Gotham underworld immediately after the death of Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) in the movie. The eight-episode series, produced by Reeves and overseen by Agents of SHIELD writer-producer Lauren LeFranc, is meant as a lead-in for The Batman Part II, so expect it before the movie hits.
The actual title for the second of Reeves’ two HBO Max The Batman spinoffs hasn’t been revealed yet, but this one is meant to be a prequel to the movie. Previously planned as a series about the workings of the Gotham police department, the series mutated in the development stage, and Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter, originally in charge of the series, departed the project. Reeves has described this series as an origin story for characters seen in Arkham in The Batman, with more of a horror movie or “haunted house” feel. The Staircase’s Antonio Campos is now the showrunner for the series.
Gunn’s hilarious, heartfelt Suicide Squad spinoff series Peacemaker was greenlit for a second season in February 2022, but Gunn has now said he’s going to have to put that project on hold for a bit to concentrate on other things — including Waller, the previously untitled Peacemaker spinoff centered on Viola Davis as no-nonsense supervillain resource broker Amanda Waller. The character, introduced to DC’s movie continuity in David Ayer’s little-loved 2016 version of Suicide Squad (though she’s been part of the comics continuity since 1986), is one of the few elements of Ayer’s movie that was held over in Gunn’s 2021 reboot/reshuffle movie, called The Suicide Squad. She also turned up for a quick cameo in Black Adam. Now she’s getting her own show — which “features Team Peacemaker,” so it may feel like a stealth season 2, depending on who from the team winds up on the series.
A ‘Black Superman’ movie
DC announced in early 2021 that writer Ta-Nehisi Coates would reboot Superman with a movie that would put a Black man in the title role. Details have been thin regarding whether this film would tie into an existing DC comics story — for instance, whether this might be a movie outing for temporary Superman successor Steel or a complete reimagining of the character — but the film was meant to be produced by J.J. Abrams under his Bad Robot imprint. Reportedly the project is still going forward in the wake of Gunn and Safran’s new slate, but no release date has been announced.
Brave and the Bold
Taking its title from a silver age DC Comic, Brave and the Bold will introduce Batman’s biological son Damian to the DCU — he’s the fifth of Batman’s many Robins — with a story inspired by Grant Morrison’s interpretation of the character in the Batman and Son run of the Batman comic. This will be Damian’s first appearance in film, though the character has appeared in animated form in TV and movies. The continuity of this film will be separate from Matt Reeves’ planned The Batman trilogy; it’s meant to establish the new DCU continuity for Batman and Robin.
The WildStorm imprint — founded as an independent company in 1992 and bought up by DC in 1999 — maintained its own superhero universe separate from DC’s, until DC shut it down in 2010 in preparation for its characters to join the mainline DC Universe in the company’s 2011 reboot. In its day, Wildstorm published independent and creator-owned comics, alongside superhero series like Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s The Authority, about a group of seven heroes with high-concept superpowers, like the Engineer, a woman with nanotech blood, and Jack Hawksmoor, a man who psychically bonds to cities. This will be the first appearance of WildStorm canon in live-action film.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow
Just as Superman: Legacy is meant to present a new view of Superman for the DCU, Woman of Tomorrow is being billed as “a science fiction adventure” that “presents a Supergirl viewers are not used to seeing.” The movie will be based on Tom King’s Supergirl comics, and will presumably not touch on anything from the six-year run of Supergirl on The CW starring Melissa Benoist as the title character.
The recent appearance of Man-Thing in Marvel’s black-and-white special Werewolf by Night suggested that there can be space for mainstream superhero comics’ occasional forays into EC Comics-style “weird horror” territory. But it’ll be a while before we get to see what that looks like on the DC side. Swamp Thing, a plant-elemental hero who (depending on which comics you’re reading) might or might not be a mutated version of scientist Alec Holland, dates back to 1971, and was successfully rebooted by Watchmen author Alan Moore in 1984. He’s had several previous screen incarnations, including Wes Craven’s 1982 movie Swamp Thing, a three-season USA Network Swamp Thing series starting in 1990, and a little-watched, quietly dropped one-season series in 2019. DC Studios says this movie “will investigate the dark origins of Swamp Thing.”
James Gunn is listed as the writer for this seven-episode animated series, which will also include Suicide Squad head Amanda Waller. This time, she “creates a black ops team out of monstrous prisoners.” The team will include Frankenstein’s monster (here just called Frankenstein), who has a long, complicated DC history of his own.
DC hasn’t said much about this TV series, which brings the comics’ fan-favorite comic-relief character to the screen for his own adventures. The company’s logline for the show is just “Booster Gold uses basic technology from the future to pretend to be a superhero in present day” — which is pretty much Booster Gold’s traditional comics depiction as well.
The 2011 live-action Green Lantern movie (starring Ryan Reynolds as original Green Lantern Hal Jordan) was such a legendary flop that it scuttled DC’s plans at the time for a new interconnected superhero universe, and Reynolds keeps finding new ways to publicly mock the film, especially in his Deadpool movies. This intergalactic-cop TV series will attempt to revive Hal Jordan for the screen, teaming him up with later Green Lantern John Stewart to “uncover a dark mystery.”
This series is set in Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira, and DC’s press release says it “focuses on the genesis and political intrigue of an island of all women.” Sounds a bit like The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, in terms of turning a familiar fantasy story into a political origin story. It’s unclear as of yet whether Wonder Woman herself will have a role in the story, and whether the series will connect with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman movies.
Sandman season 2
Netflix announced in November 2022 that its live-action series Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s seminal horror-fantasy comic, had been greenlit for a second season. No date has been announced yet, and given the scale of the visual effects involved in the first season, it’s a fair bet that we won’t see the second season until late 2024 or early 2025 at the earliest. Given that the first season covered the arcs of the first two Sandman graphic novels, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House (with side stories from the third volume, Dream Country), it’s a fair bet that season 2 will continue with book four, Season of Mists, the heavily foreshadowed confrontation between Morpheus (Tom Sturridge) and Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie).
Dead Boy Detectives
In spite of a series of cancellations and shakeups at HBO Max, Neil Gaiman confirmed in January 2023 that the streamer’s Sandman comics spinoff Dead Boy Detectives is actively in production and currently shooting, which means it might get a late 2023 or early 2024 release date. The series is based on a pair of ghost boys, Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, who were introduced in Sandman’s Season of Mists storyline and later got their own 2001 comics miniseries. They also turned up in season 3 of HBO Max’s Doom Patrol series. The eight-episode first season is described as “a fresh take on a ghost story that explores loss, grief, and death through the lens of Edwin Payne (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri), two dead British teenagers, and their very alive friend, Crystal Palace (Kassius Nelson).”