Earlier this week, the comic book industry was rocked by widespread layoffs at DC Comics and its streaming service, DC Universe. While DC Publisher Jim Lee confirmed that he remains at the company, he also told The Hollywood Reporter that the DC Universe originals are migrating over to HBO Max.
“The original content that is on DCU is migrating to HBO Max,’ said Lee. “Truthfully, that’s the best platform for that content. The amount of content you get, not just DC , but generally from WarnerMedia, is huge and it’s the best value proposition, if I’m allowed to use that marketing term. We feel that is the place for that.”
However, Lee indicated that DC Universe will remain as an online resource for DC’s comic book library.
“In regards to the community and experience that DCU created, and all the backlist content, something like 20.000 to 25,000 different titles, and the way it connected with fans 24-7, there is always going to be a need for that,” added Lee. “So we’re excited to transform it and we’ll have more news on what that will look like. It’s definitely not going away.”
HBO Max has already picked up Doom Patrol and the Harley Quinn animated series from DC Universe. But both series are also without official renewals. Stargirl will be back for a second season on The CW. However, it will no longer stream on DC Universe after season 1.
That leaves Titans and Young Justice for HBO Max as well. Titans season 3 was slated to premiere on DC Universe later this year. Additionally, Young Justice was renewed for a fourth season. But it’s unclear if production on the fourth season has even started production.
Lee also touched upon plans for DC Comics, which include dropping “the bottom 20 percent, 25 percent of the comics line that wasn’t breaking even or was losing money.” He went on to characterize the cuts as “more punch for the pound, so to speak, and increasing the margins of the books that we are doing.”
Regardless, Lee insisted that DC is not abandoning print comics or transitioning to digital and trades only.
HBO Max continues to become a new destination for DC Comics fans who want to see their favorite characters in live action, as more HBO Max DC shows are in the works for the streaming platform. While The CW has and will continue to be the primary broadcasting network for DC TV shows, including the Arrowverse series, the tables are shifting regarding streaming services. Despite DC Universe initially being Warner Bros.’ targeted platform to make original DC shows, HBO Max has taken over.
There are multiple original HBO Max DC shows in the works, and it has become the home of former DC Universe shows. After Stargirl left the DC Universe to become a CW exclusive, similar situations happened with Titans. At the same time, Doom Patrol went from simultaneously airing on DC Universe and HBO Max in its second season to being HBO Max exclusive for season 3. Even the animated Harley Quinn moved to HBO Max, where it will air season 3. While most of the platform’s upcoming shows are still in various development stages, HBO Max has announced premieres for a couple of them.
While there will likely be more HBO Max DC shows announced, the future isn’t as certain as it once was. The DC FanDome events, as well as SDCC, continue to be used to announce and tease more of what’s to come for the ever-changing slate, but recently these haven’t always brought good news. The Discovery takeover of WarnerMedia has brought with it huge shakeups to HBO Max and WB Studios DC properties. Here are all the still-confirmed HBO Max DC shows, as well as what the Discovery Warner Bros. merger means for their future.
While Berlanti’s first take on Green Lantern in 2011 didn’t go too well, the Arrowverse mastermind has another opportunity to explore the Emerald Knight in an HBO Max DC show. Berlanti is executive producing a Green Lantern show that he promised to be “our biggest DC show ever made” upon announcement. Seth Grahame-Smith was brought on board as showrunner/executive producer for the series, which got a ten-episode order. Green Lantern will span several decades and feature Sinestro as one of the confirmed characters. Besides the iconic DC villain, Green Lantern introduces Alan Scott, Guy Garner, Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Kilowog.
Additionally, an original character named Bree Jarta, part-human/part-alien, is set to join the principal cast. Thus far, Jeremy Irvine and Finn Wittrock are attached to the cast as Alan and Guy, respectively. The Arrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths established the HBO Max series as existing on Earth-12 in the newly formed multiverse. While HBO Max aimed for Green Lantern to debut in 2021, the pandemic meant it won’t appear anytime before 2023.
Green Lantern isn’t the only DC series that Berlanti is working on, as the mega-producer is also developing DC’s first anthology show: Strange Adventures. HBO Max describes the project as “cautionary tales set in a world where superpowers exist.” John Stephens, who led FOX’s Gotham for several seasons, is attached as the showrunner for Strange Adventures. This is one of the DC originals with the least amount of information since its initial announcement and was mysteriously absent from the 2021 slate. Unless it’s been silently scrapped, an anthology series with close-ended stories in the DC world would be a refreshing addition to the comic book TV genre. As of 2021, there haven’t been any updates about Strange Adventures, which may allude to it possibly being canceled. However, until Warner Bros. TV and HBO Max officially declare if it has been canceled or not, Strange Adventures is presumed to still be in development.
While HBO Max shows from the DC Universe are mainly dramas, a comedy is also in the works with Elizabeth Banks executive producing DC Super Hero High. Banks is joined by executive producers Max Handelman (Shrill), Scott Weinger (Fuller House), John D. Beck (Disjointed), and Ron Hart (According to Jim), while Dannah Shinder (Shrill) is attached as co-EP. Banks’ upcoming comedy tells the story of a group of teenagers that are all destined to become superheroes. DC Super Hero High will be set in a boarding school for gifted children and will follow these students dealing with ordinary teenage issues before becoming known DC heroes. The series was expected to premiere in 2021, but there hasn’t been much news since it was announced, and HBO Max hasn’t revealed any further information about it, including casting or character updates.
An animated series similar to Cars, Batwheels will be about Batman’s Batmobile. The series will see Batman’s various vehicles (of which he has many) — including the Bat Truck, Batwing, and The Batgirl Cycle — taking to the streets of Gotham for some crime-fighting adventures. Batwheels is an animated outing strictly aimed at kids. The Bat vehicles will act as a team and will be joined by the human vigilantes, including Batgirl, Batman, and Robin, to fight Gotham’s criminals. The voice cast consists of Noah Kaye Bentley, Jacob Bertrand, Kimberly Brooks, Ethan Hawke as Batman, and Leah Lewis as Batgirl. Batwheels doesn’t have a confirmed release date yet, but it should be available to stream on HBO Max at some point.
The animated DC series will follow Clark as he becomes Superman and embraces the role. Meanwhile, Lois is an integral part of the story. She’s not only an ace reported but a mentor for Jimmy Olsen, the Daily Planet’s photographer. Together, Lois and Clark put their journalistic expertise to good use as they take down bad guys and more. My Adventures with Superman was announced in May 2021, with HBO Max ordering two seasons of the series right out of the gate. The voice cast includes The Boys’ Jack Quaid as Clark/Superman and Alice Lee as Lois (Jimmy’s voice actor has not been announced). My Adventures with Superman is set to release on HBO Max at some point in 2023.
A new animated series from Bruce Timm, James Tucker, Matt Reeves, and J.J. Abrams, Batman: Caped Crusader, is being compared to the canceled Batman: The Animated Series. In this reimagining of the Gotham City hero, Batman is a lone vigilante in the world, and there is no Justice League, no Robin, and Jim Gordon is not yet a friend. During DC FanDome (via Polygon), Timm revealed Batman: Caped Crusader will lean more heavily into noir and German expressionism. Fans can expect the animated series to premiere on HBO Max at some point.
Abrams is entering the DC realm, as he was initially announced to be developing a Justice League Dark universe that would consist of connected TV shows and films. The filmmaker is developing a series based on DC’s supernatural team for HBO Max. Aside from a planned 2021 premiere date (which is now likely shifted to 2023), details are being kept under wraps – including who will be part of the line-up for the HBO Max original. However, similarly to Green Lantern, the Justice League Dark show will have a movie quality to it, as HBO Max content chief Kevin Reilly has confirmed the big production commitment they’re making to these shows. Other than Abrams developing it, no showrunner or writers have been announced. Once more details are officially revealed about the show, it might also give a better picture of what Abrams has in mind for a Justice League Dark universe, including shows and films.
Madame Xanadu has appeared in Swamp Thing and the animated Young Justice series, but Madame X will mark the first time the character will headline her own series, which was announced in June 2021 and doesn’t yet have a release date. In addition to Justice League Dark, Abrams is expanding that particular franchise with the introduction of Madame Xanadu. Abrams and his company Bad Robot are developing a drama series for HBO Max called Madame X featuring the Swamp Thing character. The series will be written and produced by Angela Robinson, who wrote and directed Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Madame Xanadu was first introduced to DC Comics in 1978. She’s a sorceress who has helped the Suicide Squad and the Justice League Dark.
Arkham Asylum is replacing a previously approved Gotham P. D. spinoff series. Initially, Matt Reeves was all set to create The Batman’s spinoff for HBO Max, and the show was greenlit for production. However, after the success of 2022’s The Batman, studios decided to put the series on indefinite hold, and the filming slot was replaced with that of Arkham Asylum. Arkham is the home of many villains from the Batman Rogues’ Gallery, and it’s where Paul Dano’s The Riddler and Barry Keoghan’s The Joker reside after the events of The Batman. The Gotham City P.D. show was originally set during Batman’s first year of crimefighting and was meant to focus on the corruption of Gotham City as a whole.
The upcoming Arkham Asylum show is still set early in Batman’s (Robert Pattinson) career, but the focus will be on the inmates and the destruction they cause. This means that crime in Gotham will likely be at an all-time high, promising an intriguing and action-packed premise for the HBO Max television show. Matt Reeves has explained that he wants Arkham to be like a horror movie, with the asylum itself at the very center. The show will explore many Batman villains’ origins and how they fit into the new universe, as The Batman isn’t part of the DCEU. The idea for the show came when Reeves was working on the Gotham P.D. series, and the production team realized that they should be leaning more into the criminal aspect of Gotham city. There’s not yet a release date for the Arkham Asylum TV show, but as of now, it’s at least in planning mode.
Similar to how The Batman spinoff about the Arkham Asylum will continue building out the world director Matt Reeves established, HBO Max is reportedly developing another spinoff series set in the same world. This time it will follow The Penguin (aka Oswald Cobblepot). The Penguin series will likely chronicle the villain’s rise to power, with Colin Farrell reportedly reprising his role from The Batman, and Lauren LeFranc is expected to lead as showrunner. Since the series is still in the very early stages of development, there is no information about the plot, what other characters will be included, or when the spinoff might land on HBO Max. Stay tuned.
Michael B. Jordan and his production company, Outlier Society, are developing a limited series about Val-Zod for HBO Max. The project is still in early development, but Deadline has confirmed that Darnell Metayer and Josh Peters will write the series. Metayer and Peters previously wrote the pilot for American Snow, which they piloted, Hannibal the series, and Transformers: Rise of the Beast. They also wrote The Nola, which Spider-Man helmer Sam Raimi is directing for Amazon. Jordan is producing the series for now, but he could also star as the Kryptonian. However, that hasn’t been confirmed as of yet. In the comics, Val-Zod is the Superman of Earth-2, a parallel world in the multiverse. He’s orphaned after Krypton’s high court murdered his parents, and he was saved by Kal-El’s parents, Jor-El and Lara, before Krypton exploded. Val-Zod ultimately takes over the mantle of Superman from Kal-El and helps other superheroes in their world-saving. Jordan has been interested in developing a Black Superman project, so this would be right up his alley. The limited series about Val-Zod doesn’t yet have a release date, and there hasn’t been any information about its plot or its other characters since it was first announced.
While Justice League Dark is still in the works, HBO Max has revealed the first character that will star in Abrams’ shared new universe. Even though Matt Ryan starred as John Constantine in the Arrowverse’s Legends of Tomorrow, the Hellblazer is getting rebooted for the HBO-branded service. Abrams is executive producing a Constantine series, with Guy Bolton as the lead writer. This Constantine will be significantly different as the series is meant to move away from the comics’ religious aspects and be more horror-centric. The big takeaway is that Warner Bros. TV is looking to cast a diverse actor as a young Constantine, meaning the reboot will possibly see him in his early days as an exorcist and occult hero. This is the second time Constantine has had his own show, following Ryan’s short-lived version on NBC before joining the Arrowverse.
Since the February announcement, Bolton was said to be opening up a writer’s room in March, suggesting the first season is being worked on. There have also been reports to reassure inquiring fans that Constantine will be connected to Justice League Dark. Whoever stars in the reboot will then be featured in Abrams’ Justice League Dark ensemble. Given that Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions is involved with the Zatanna movie, which Emerald Fennell is penning, the team-up show may not happen until much later. Besides Constantine and Zatanna, HBO Max may take The Defenders’ approach by giving each member their own solo show or movie before coming together. Besides HBO Max’s upcoming originals, their DC TV line-up expanded since Doom Patrol and Titans moved over from DC Universe to HBO Max.
Other DC TV Shows Coming To HBO Max
Batman prequel Pennyworth has officially been renewed for season 3 and will move from their original home at EPIX to join HBO Max. The first two seasons are available to stream, with Pennyworth season 3 also set to premiere in 2022. This move may give the series a lot more viewers since many might be subscribed to HBO Max but not EPIX. It also denotes the continued trend of DC TV shows moving from one network to another, like what happened with Harley Quinn and Titans (DC Universe to HBO Max). With so many DC TV shows in the works, HBO Max has a lot to offer to subscribers from the world of DC in the coming years (animated and live-action). Now that they’re using the platform to launch shows based on one of Warner Bros.’ ongoing cinematic universes, anything is possible in terms of spinoff content. Both Warner Bros. and DC Films executives have been clear that they are always looking at each film franchise to see what could get its own spinoff show on HBO Max, in addition to original DC TV content.