The DC comic universe is undergoing a seismic shift — but not in the pages of its books.
On Monday, DC Entertainment announced that comic-writer-turned-executive Geoff Johns would step down from his role as chief creative officer to “create content across multiple divisions of the Studio, including films, television and comic books, based on current DC properties as well as new and reimagined IP,” according to a press release. Jim Lee, the artist and writer who became DC’s co-publisher in 2010, will take over the job while continuing his current duties.
After 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice polarized fans and fizzled out at the box office, Warner Bros. Entertainment put Johns and WB executive Jon Berg in charge of DC Films, in hopes of recharging the mega-franchise with the kind of thinking that made Marvel Studios’ universe so cohesive. While Wonder Woman was a smash hit, Justice League brought on another wave of poor reviews and meager (a relative term in the business of superhero movies) returns, with only $229 million in domestic receipts, prompting WB to find fresh talent to take over the operation. This January, Warner Bros. hired Walter Hamada, an executive who oversaw the development of It and The Conjuring, to take the reins on DC Films.
Johns stepping down as CCO and into an auxiliary role cements the handoff, although his presence should be felt throughout DC’s multimedia multiverses for years to come. Through his newly created Mad Ghost Productions, the writer-producer will pen the screenplay for WB’s Green Lantern Corps. movie, based on his own nine-year run of the title. Johns co-produced the ill-fated 2011 Green Lantern movie, which was co-written by Greg Berlanti of The Flash and Arrow fame, though this movie is not expected to continue that timeline. It’s unclear whether Johns’ version of the movie will lift anything from a Corps. screenplay by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Justin Rhodes (2019’s Untitled Terminator Reboot), reported first in 2017, but the DC Entertainment press release notes that Johns will also produce the new film.
Along with Green Lantern Corps., Johns will also earn a co-writer and executive producer credit on this December’s Aquaman and November 2019’s Wonder Woman 2. Next April’s live-action Shazam movie will also lift from Johns’ take on the character from 2013’s New 52 run.
On top of his film assignments, Johns will continue carving out a space for DC’s properties on the small screen. His deal will see him continue developing and producing the DC digital service’s first series, Titans, which is set to debut later this year with Pirates of the Caribbean 5 actor Brenton Thwaites as Robin. According to the press release, he has also penned an episode of Titans that will spinoff the popular team Doom Patrol into its own 13-episode series for the service.
No stranger to a packed schedule, Johns also has a slate of comic projects in the works, including a pop-up imprint called The Killing Zone, which will focus on lesser known DC characters, and a new run of Shazam set for this fall, just in time for the movie. He’ll continue writing Doomsday Clock, and will also launch a book called Three Jokers, a long-teased project that will reveal the Joker’s true identity, or rather, reveal that the Joker has actually been three separate people over time. It’s an idea that Johns and DC have hinted at for over two years, since the first announcement of DC’s Rebirth relaunch, and now Johns will have time to see the idea through.
“Geoff is one of DC Comics’ most prolific writers, and we can’t wait to see what he does next now that he will be dedicating 100 percent of his time to telling the best DC stories possible across all media,” said Lee and co-publisher Dan DiDio in the press release. “The new publishing projects we are working on together will be instant fan-favorites.”
What does the future hold for DC Films? While Johns and the regime charged with invigorating the brand after Christopher Nolan’s successful Dark Knight trilogy have been reappointed to new tasks, and power shifts at the highest level — Diane Nelson, DC Entertainment’s president, will not return from a personal leave, Hollywood Reporter reported earlier this month — it’s unclear what in-the-works projects will come to fruition and which will fade into the annals of movie rumors.
Johns’ deep connection to the storytelling side of DC means the Green Lantern reboot remains a possibility. So do the rumored Man of Steel 2, Suicide Squad 2, the Harley Quinn-led Birds of Prey from indie darling Cathy Yana, a Cyborg standalone, a Flashpoint movie, Ava DuVernay’s take on The New Gods, a Batman reboot from Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves, multiple Joker solo movies (including one from The Hangover director Todd Phillips and one spinning off Jared Leto’s version), a Nightwing movie from the director of LEGO Batman, Batgirl (which recently swapped Joss Whedon for Bumblebee writer Christina Hodson), a Black Adam movie starring Dwayne Johnson, Justice League Dark, a Booster Gold movie that Greg Berlanti hopes to direct himself, a Deadshot spinoff, a Lobo movie circled by Michael Bay, and a Justice League 2, which could all happen if Wonder Woman 2 continues to solidify Gal Gadot as a beacon of hope for the universe. Anything can happen with the new talent coming in.
For now, Johns will retreat to what he knows best: telling stories at a rapid pace.
“I took on a role at DCE because I love the characters and this universe more than anything. But, I want to spend my days writing and on set. I’m thrilled to get back to a more hands-on creative role. It’s a dream job on dream projects, reaching even deeper into DC’s vast pantheon of characters,” Johns said, as part of WB’s statement. “I’m also excited to continue to work with the amazing team at DCE and my colleagues at Warner Bros.”