For years now, Warner Bros. has been in pursuit of a DC Cinematic Universe that lives up to the gold standard Disney has set with the MCU. From the inception of the MCU, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has sat at the helm of it all, producing every entry in the franchise and overseeing the direction, and finding DC's equivalent has been no easy task.
It's tough to narrow down exactly what DC needs in its franchise chief, but Feige has long been described as the template for what Warner Bros. needs to emulate. Not only will this figure serve as a top executive, but also a creative leader who needs to have a passion and knowledge of the franchise.
Over the years, director Zack Snyder, comic book writer Geoff Johns, TV producer Greg Berlanti, and even Feige himself have all had their names thrown into the ring for the top job at the DC franchise. But with Warner Bros. now under new management as CEO David Zaslav unites a team to formulate the next ten years of the comic book franchise.
Now, producer Dan Lin has been the latest of those names put into contention with reports claiming he may be the top candidate for the job. Although there are reportedly still obstacles to Lin receiving the job - in which he would replace current DC Films President Walter Hamada - there's plenty to suggest he may be the right man for the job.
How DC Almost Launched a Cinematic Universe in 2009
Following reports that producer Dan Lin is being eyed at Warner Bros. Discovery to replace Walter Hamada as DC Films President, both recent and old comments of his have surfaced that reveal why he may be the perfect choice for DC's Kevin Feige-like figure.
Speaking with The Ankler earlier this month, Lin revealed there were plans for him to lead the DC franchise as far back as 2008 when George Miller's Justice League Mortal was in the works. The producer referred to the job as "the one that got away" and teased the "really exciting" things he wanted to do in the DC franchise:
"Honestly, DC was the one that got away. When I first started my producing career in 2008, I was producing Justice League Mortal with George Miller directing. I moved my family to Australia, I was going to have a very different life, and I was basically going to be overseeing the DC franchise, but that got away. Why I wanted to make LEGO Batman is my way of getting back into DC but in a very different way. If I could have only done the things I wanted to do with DC, that would have been really exciting."
The plan was for Justice League Mortal to launch a DC franchise with younger actors that would grow into their roles over several movies and years. The cast included D.J. Cotrona's Superman, Armie Hammer's Batman, Megan Gale's Wonder Woman, Santiago Cabrera's Aquaman, Common's Green Lantern, Adam Brody's Flash, and Hugh Keays-Byrne's Martian Manhunter.
Unfortunately, Justice League Mortal, which was planned for a summer 2009 release, never came to be after several delays and even having been near production. Warner Bros. opted to shift its focus to standalone projects like 2008's The Dark Knight and 2011's Green Lantern, a decision it probably regrets to this day.
DC's Rumored New President is a Super Fan
Rewinding to December 2009, Lin discussed Justice League Mortal with Collider and referred to the superhero event as his "dream project," before going on to reveal his DC fandom and why he may be the right person to lead the franchise today.
The producer said his DC ambitions were "the reason [he] started his production company" before explaining how Warner Bros. plans changed from starting with the Justice League assembled to building towards it over time:
"Yeah. I mean it's...I'll say it's the reason I started my company. You know, I thought that was the ultimate project. I was a fanboy, so for me to work with all those characters together on a team and kind of the themes of that movie. That's my dream. It's on hold right now as DC sorts out its strategy but as you've talked to Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov it seems like they're building to Justice League instead of going with the team movie first and doing individual movies after that."
Lin discussed the plans at the time to reveal a DC strategy in January 2010, which never came to be, but also revealed he was working on a Suicide Squad movie inspired by Dirty Dozen:
"Right. The only one right now as you probably know, they're unveiling their DC strategy in January, so you'll hear more about that, and they'll speak about that in the new year. The only other one besides Justice League that I'm working on is the Suicide Squad. So that's a different kind of superhero movie. For us, that's a supervillain movie. It's almost Dirty Dozen set in the world of supervillains. That's the only one for me that's on the front burner."
When asked if it was becoming easier to pitch comic book movies since their success was beginning to build, Lin explained the three key factors in pitching a project including their source material, fan base, and a recognizable brand name:
"It's certainly helpful. I would say what is easier, in general, is to pitch something with the source material. So the first layer is it's easier to set something out with source material, so it's something tangible that executives and even producers can discuss. The next layer is if they have a fan base. So, that's certainly comic books that would qualify as that. And I would say the next layer on that if we're looking at this like a cake-the next layer would be a real brand name. So not only do they have a fan base like Bone, but I'd say Justice League is the next layer up where I'm in the street....you talk about Batman Superman that's really well known. So those are the 3 things that really factor in."
He went on to discuss the difficulties behind pitching superhero movies with so many on the market, which given this interview was conducted in 2009, is nothing compared to the number of superhero outings coming out every year today:
"Is it easier to set with a comic book? Yes, for sure. Because now the business model has been proven, but just like any other comic book movie there's a glut of them in the marketplace now. So the question now is how do you differentiate the comic book you bring to the studio or even the comic book movie you bring to the studio makes it different. Because you mentioned Losers comic book, Avengers comic book, you know even in the Justice League comic book even in the area of team movies there are already a lot of comic books. You have to figure out how you differentiate yours."
Being asked if DC might copy Marvel's early plan for how to build a cinematic universe, Lin shared that he felt that may be the direction being taken:
"I don't know for sure, but as a fan, it feels like that's what they're doing as I watch their movies being laid out."
Why Dan Lin Should Be DC's Kevin Feige
So, Dan Lin was already being lined-up to lead a DC Cinematic Universe over a decade ago, back in the early days of the MCU. With Justice League Mortal having cast the original seven members, there's no denying this was close to becoming a reality, as the ensemble expected it to then spin-off into movies starring Hammer's Batman, Cotrona's Superman, and more.
The thought of seeing Marvel and DC build franchises alongside each other, but in reverse, as one started with a team-up and the other ended with it, is truly fascinating. But alas, this never came to be, as Marvel followed through on its plans to great success while DC is still trying to kickstart a connected universe fourteen years later.
Lin clearly proved with Justice League Mortal that he was not only committed to this franchise, but also an avid fan of it. Who knows how we would handle the DC franchise today? Perhaps he would stick to his guns of starting with the Justice League assembled, or maybe he would follow the Marvel template, but either way, his nod to "the things [he] wanted to do with DC" is intriguing.
Only time will tell whether the Warner Bros. producer is able to secure the job. Lin currently has conflicts that could prove troublesome in taking on such a major position with the studio as his production company has existing contracts with other studios.
But as the producer has shown his commitment to DC, experience in working with major franchises, and a strong relationship with Warner Bros., he will be one to keep an eye on as the search for a rival to Marvel's Kevin Feige reaches a head.