Over the past several months, Warner Bros. has been surprising fans left and right with the characters it has announced to be adapting to film. One surprise was Sasha Calle being cast as the newest Supergirl in Ezra Miller's The Flash. More shocking was that J. J. Abrams would be involved in a Superman reboot that will star a black man as the Man of Tomorrow.
A recent report also detailed that the studio will be adapting Hourman, an obscure superhero even by comic book fan standards.
Warner Bros. isn't afraid to branch out and not follow one strict path for its shows and films like the Kevin Feige-led Marvel Studios, which is exactly the studio's strategy to follow moving forward.
JIM LEE IN THE MIDDLE OF EVERYTHING
In an extensive interview with Variety, WarnerMedia Studios CEO Ann Sarnoff was asked whether there is “one person calling the shots” for the DC films in a similar vein to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.
Sarnoff responded by saying that while there isn't “one person” at the helm, Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee of DC Comics does act as “connective tissue in the middle” for the comics and films:
“Jim lives and breathes the canon of DC and he works with all of the divisions to make sure the storylines are true to the canon. He helps them come up with ideas for new storylines. Jim is very much in the middle of everything. But the group together helps spur on new ideas. But there’s not one person calling the shots, because I want all the voices in the room to offer their expertise and knowledge of their formats.”
The WarnerMedia Studios CEO was then asked about “superhero fatigue,” how she makes sure there isn't “too much of a good thing,” and how the studio plans to avoid oversaturation in the genre. Sarnoff said the studio is avoiding that by having the films be “multidimensional” moving forward:
“One of the reasons, I’m excited about our strategy going forward is it is multidimensional. We’re not just serving the same fanbase with the same creative vision, we’re trying to expand it. Not every fan has to love every piece of what we’re doing, but we’re putting out more tentacles to be able to reach people with different stories on different platforms, so there isn’t fatigue.”
Sarnoff explained further that due to this new strategy, the studio won't be depending on one demographic along with “a broader array of characters:”
“It’s not just the same cadence. We’re going to mix things up. We’ll have a slate of DC movies but it will be richer and more multi-dimensional with a broader array of characters. That will help reduce the fatigue, because you’ll see a whole story about the Flash and then you’ll see sequels like “Aquaman 2,” or new takes on Superman, or Shazam which plays to a family audience.”
Additionally, Sarnoff said that because the movies no longer follow a “singular path,” it is easier for them to broaden audiences:
“There would be fatigue if we stayed on a more singular path, but because we are broadening, we’ll have much more potential to grow the franchise across various demos and various types of fans.”
BROADENING CONTENT AND PLATFORMS
When Ann Sarnoff said that Warner Bros. was putting in the effort to “reach people with different stories on different platforms,” she was serious. Even before this comment, DC already had multiple animated shows and movies aimed at various demographics, live-action shows hooking more mature audiences, and even planned films giving new interpretations of familiar characters.
It certainly is a surefire way for audiences to have a diverse set of options to choose from when picking what to watch at home or in theaters. This is the opposite strategy from that of Kevin Feige and co. at Marvel Studios, which is essentially one cohesive franchise, albeit with the films being much closer in tone to one another and all aimed at similar demographics.
So, it'll be interesting to see what else Warner Bros. will put out when the studio no longer has to adhere to a singular universe or strategy.