Warner Bros. reboots DC Comics in bid to rival Marvel on big screen
Sick of being second banana to comic book competitor Marvel Entertainment in the movie world, the studio has brought DC in-house and appointed Diane Nelson, a brand management executive who has overseen the Harry Potter franchise since 2000 to run the unit.
Along with the move, Warner Bros. is changing DC Comics' corporate name to mirror that of its rival. The division will now be known as DC Entertainment.
While Warner's move has been long rumored in Hollywood, it comes just a week after Walt Disney Co. agreed to acquire Marvel for $4 billion.
Warner is hoping Nelson will be able to duplicate Harry Potter's amazing track record with DC's rich library of characters across movies, television, video games, the Web and consumer products. The Potter franchise, the most successful in the studio's history, has generated more than $5.4 billion in worldwide box office and billions more from DVDs, video games and other markets.
DC Entertainment will be a separate division of the studio, with Nelson reporting to Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov.
While rival Marvel has turned super heroes including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men into big screen juggernauts, the only DC hero with a hit series of films in the last decade has been Batman. "The Dark Knight" generated more than $1 billion in worldwide box office, while "Batman Begins" grossed $373 million. However, March's "Watchmen" was a disappointment, 2006's costly "Superman Returns" wasn't successful enough to merit a sequel, and 2004's "Catwoman" was a major flop.
DC Comics' predecessor company began publishing in 1935 and launched the super hero phenomenon, which came to define the medium, when Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 in 1938. The late media mogul Steve Ross acquired DC in 1968. The next year he bought Warners' then-parent company Warner Communication and folded DC into it.
Warner currently has several DC projects in development as movies, including "The Green Lantern," starring Ryan Reynolds, which the studio hopes will be its next super-hero tent pole when released in 2011. Other movies include "Jonah Hex," a supernatural western that just completed production; "The Losers," which started shooting in July; and "Lobo," based on the space-faring anti-hero. It also recently released a direct-to-DVD animated movie about Green Lantern and video game starring Batman. A television series based on DC's "The Human Target" is on the Fox network's mid-season schedule.
As part of the corporate reshuffling, DC's longtime publisher Paul Levitz, who has been with the company since the 1970s and became president in 2002, is stepping aside to become a consultant. He will also serve as a contributing editor and continue writing comic books, which he has done for his entire career.
The news of Warner Bros.' move was first reported on Deadline Hollywood.
Update (Sep. 10, 12:55 AM): For much more on the reasons behind and implications of Warner Bros' shake-up of DC Comics, read the story in today's Times.
-- Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz
Image: DC Comics logo. Credit: Warner Bros.
Photo: Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight." Credit: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.