Studio ramps up effort to maximize DC's Justice League heroes via games, TV, pics
Until Warner Bros. assembles its creative team around a “Justice League” movie, the studio and DC Entertainment are focusing on getting audiences used to seeing the group’s superheroes together in other ways.
Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash already appear in Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s “Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes,” released in June, and will reunite for the videogame division’s “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” out next year.
But Variety has learned that WBIE is expected to reteam some of the characters in some form for the next installment in Rocksteady Studios’ gritty vidgame series that began with “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City.”
New, highly stylized title is being developed as a prequel that revolves around Batman’s first meeting with the Joker. It’s based on the Silver Age of DC’s comicbooks from the 1950s when the Caped Crusader teamed with other heroes like Superman and founded the Justice League of America.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill voiced Batman and the Joker, respectively, in the previous games. Hamill has already said he won’t be back to play the villain in the next game.
Warner Bros.’ games group introduced the gritty “Batman: Arkham Asylum” game in 2009, followed by last year’s “Batman: Arkham City,” which was heavily promoted at Comic-Con.
Sequel sold 2 million units worldwide in its first week and quickly topped 6 million within the first month, besting the 4.3 million that the first sold overall.
New game, “Batman: Arkham Origins” bows in November. Title was not discussed during the E3 games confab in June, with WBIE focusing on unveiling “Injustice.”
Opening up Batman’s world would make sense given that Warner Bros. is eager to replicate the success Marvel and Disney have had with “The Avengers,” which has grossed $1.5 billion this summer at the worldwide box office and minted even more coin from the sale of toys and other licensed merchandise.
As Warner Bros. polishes a “Justice League” script by “Gangster Squad” scribe Will Beall that it hopes to get up on the bigscreen in 2015, the rest of the studio’s divisions are making moves to fulfill Time Warner’s mandate to monetize its stable of iconic superheroes:
• The studio is prepping the family pic “Lego: The Piece of Resistance,” which will star Batman and Superman as animated mini-figures.
• Warner Home Video released its animated feature-length direct-to-homevid pic “Justice League: Doom” in February.
• Cartoon Network launched a new DC Nation programming block in the spring, showcasing heroes from DC’s library, with shows anchored by “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern: The Animated Series.”
• The CW will premiere “Arrow,” about the Green Arrow, this fall.
• Warner Bros. Consumer Products brokered a deal with Lego and Mattel to create action figures and playsets featuring all of DC’s heroes, which include the Justice League’s main members. Division earned $6 billion from licensing deals last year and hopes to grow that through the new toy pacts.
• DC Comics relaunched the “Justice League” books last year as part of the New 52 reboot.
• And DC Entertainment kicked off its “We Can Be Heroes” campaign in January, with singer Chris Daughtry as its ambassador, to raise awareness and funds to fight hunger in Africa. Effort involves Warner Bros. and Time Warner’s other divisions and leans on the Justice League characters to educate the public on the issue. At Comic-Con, DC is hosting a “Darkness & Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope & Heroism” art exhibit at the Michael J Wolf gallery, with sales benefitting the campaign.
These are just the first of a slew of projects expected to bow from WB’s various divisions, sources tell Variety.
The first films to feature DC’s heroes are coming together after Warner Bros. Pictures president Jeff Robinov took back control of how the characters are utilitzed in the studio’s features in 2009. At the time, “Harry Potter” franchise steward Diane Nelson was put in charge of the reorganized DC Entertainment. Shortly thereafter, plans for “Man of Steel” were announced in 2010.
While Nelson is consulting on all projects involving the Justice League and its characters, the mandate for all of WB’s divisions to boost their exposure comes from higher up the Time Warner executive ladder, perhaps from CEO Jeff Bewkes, sources tell Variety.
It will be another several months before Warner Bros. announces a new slate of superhero pics, Robinov has said. Until then, all roads already appear to lead to a “Justice League” team-up in some form.
“Green Lantern” scribes Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green are writing “The Flash” for director Greg Berlanti, while another “Green Lantern” scribe, Michael Goldenberg, has been hired to write “Wonder Woman.”
Warners toppers say they plan to reveal their upcoming film plans for DC’s characters within the next several months.
Until then, it’s clear that Christopher Nolan — who has close ties to DC’s top crime fighters after his Batman trilogy and producing duties on Superman reboot “Man of Steel,” out next summer under helm of Zack Snyder — won’t direct “Justice League.” While promoting “The Dark Knight Rises,” he told reporters he’s “finished” with Batman and “this is the end of our take on this character…I’ve got no plans to do anything more and certainly no involvement with any Justice League project.”
WBIE declined to comment on upcoming game plans, as did DC Entertainment on the “Justice League.”