Gunn - who previously worked with Marvel Studios on the Guardians of the Galaxy films - is set to usher in a new era of DC storytelling, with a first wave of movies and tv project he calls DCU Chapter 1: Gods and Monsters.
Given the success of the MCU, many have wondered what Gunn (and his DC Studios partner Peter Safran) will do to emulate that.
Gunn has remained adamant that they are keeping their distance from the Marvel Studios formula, reminding fans that "[the DCU] really is another universe" compared to what is going on in the MCU.
James Gunn's Big DCU Difference
Fans finally have an idea of how James Gunn's new DCU will differ from the MCU when things kick off in 2025 with Superman: Legacy.
In a conversation on Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum, Gunn revealed the biggest difference between the super-powered universes comes in the form of its world-building.
He noted that "there are very few traditional superheroes" in the MCU:
“…The biggest, if you look, at the MCU… there are very few traditional superheroes… There was never a guy with a secret identity until Spider-Man in the MCU. Their Cap was turned into a soldier, even though he wears a mask… Iron Man outed himself at the end of the first Iron Man, because they don’t want to deal with the secret identity stuff."
Adding that, comparatively, the DCU has "a bit more of a fantasy element" with "these larger-than-life superheroes," Gunn floated that the challenge is "find[ing] a way to deal with them that’s as grounded as possible:"
"So there is a bit more of a fantasy element to DCU, because there are these larger-than-life superheroes and… you’re not going to make– I mean, people are going to do whatever they’re going to do in the future. But for me, there’s Superman and Clark Kent. They’re two different characters and you have to find a way to deal with them that’s as grounded as possible within this world of DC."
Pointing out what specifically he is excited to tackle in the world of DC, The Suicide Squad filmmaker called out getting to craft "another alternate history" of sorts:
"One of the things I love about DC and excites me about DC is that in a way, it’s another alternate history. It is Gotham City, and Metropolis, and Star City, and Bludhaven, and all these different places in this other reality. And it makes it a little bit like Westeros in some ways. I love that about it. I love that we get to create true world-building in DC. It isn’t just, ‘We’re throwing some superheroes on Earth.’ So I think that, right now, that’s one of the key differences."
How Will the DCU Stand Out From the MCU?
This is not the first time James Gunn, or someone involved in these big-screen superhero worlds, has discussed the idea of the MCU and DCU being different.
However, it is one of the first times Gunn has addressed specifically how he sees these two differ.
Gunn and his Marvel counterpart Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige have inherently different perspectives on the process of comic book moviemaking. While Feige comes at his universe from his executive and producer point of view (which has its merits), Gunn is jumping right from the director's chair and into the executive suite with his move to helm the DCU.
And the Superman: Legacy writer/director is completely right. It is the world building where these two brands ultimately deviate.
While the MCU takes place largely in real-world locales like London, New York City, and San Francisco, the world of the DC mythos takes place on a completely fictional Earth with nothing to base itself on.
That means Gunn and the various creatives he brings in get to design the look and feel of this world from the ground up. Yes, this sounds a little daunting, but this blank canvas idea could be exciting for a filmmaker or showrunner wanting to define their little corner of this super-powered world.
Of course, there will be plenty of other ways in which the MCU and DCU differ, but Gunn may be right, the angle of creative world-building is probably the biggest.
Gunn's DCU is set to kick off on July 11, 2025, with the release of Superman: Legacy.