DC Entertainment Chief Reveals What's Next for Superman, Wonder Woman and 5 Superheroes Who Deserve Movies (Q&A)
Diane Nelson, Warner Bros.' brand manager for superheroes, reveals why "Man of Steel" worked but "Green Lantern" fell flat.
THR: And how do you contrast that with the disappointing results of Green Lantern?
Nelson: That balance of what matters wasn't quite right on Green Lantern. I know everyone involved with the project wanted it to work as much as every one involved with Man of Steel wanted it to work. In the debate of art versus science, sometimes the mix isn't just right. But we will find some other way to bring that character to the screen.
THR: I guess you can't say anything about plans for Justice League or Man of Steel 2?
Nelson: I know you have to ask. I can't confirm, sorry. I would love to be able to give you that, but I can't. I can say the success of Man of Steel has been incredibly great for our company, the studio, Warner Pictures, DC, and it obviously just reinforces the potential of that universe just moving forward.
THR: If it were up to you, what five characters or titles would you like to see on the screen?
Nelson: Sandman is right on top. I think it could be as rich as the Harry Potter universe. Fables. Metal Men. Justice League. And yes, I'm going to say it: Aquaman.
THR: There have been a few attempts at bringing Wonder Woman to the screen -- the Joss Whedon feature that was canceled in 2007, David E. Kelley's 2011 TV pilot -- but nothing has stuck.
Nelson: We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn't have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes. There are lots of facets to Wonder Woman, and I think the key is, how do you get the right facet for that right medium? What you do in TV has to be different than what you do in features. She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she's tricky.
THR: You are bringing back, or re-energizing, DC's creator-owned Vertigo comics line -- which gave us Sandman, Preacher and Fables -- after a long decline. One reason for the decline was that other publishers offered creators better contracts when it came to media rights. Has that changed?
Nelson: I can't comment on deals. But I do believe we recognize that we have to take certain steps -- that maybe we didn't in the past -- to make sure that Vertigo is a place where creators feel they can bring a property and have a good chance of it getting seen, prioritized, appreciated and hopefully developed into other media. We need to make sure that they are getting access to New Line and Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner TV and Warner Horizon. And that those parts of the studio understand that Vertigo is an incubator of the best talent in our business.
THR: Where do you see DC in 10 years, screenwise?
Nelson: We don't want to oversaturate with superheroes, and DC is much more than superheroes. If we do our jobs as well as I think we can among our partners within Warner Bros., there is no reason why there wouldn't be multiple slots across every one of our production businesses that is populated by DC Entertainment properties. We know that within this building, but part of our job is getting consumers to understand that there is more breadth and depth to DC beyond those primary DC characters. Our job has to be, let's have great success with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman but then build on that to expand the universe for the broad populace.
THR: How do you value the fan community's opinions?
Nelson: I think it's incredibly important to know it, be in touch with it, respect it. That said, I don't believe we should take fan feedback into the direct creative process. I am a believer that what Warner Bros. does, what DC Entertainment does, is to be in the business of creating professional storytelling. There's a craft to it, honed by storytellers across each medium. And we have to trust them and give them freedom and latitude. You can't do it by committee. And you would be paralyzed if you tried to take in the feedback we get every day from fans that care desperately. On one hand it matters, and I'm always conscious of it, but you have to consciously turn it off because it will cripple the creative process.
THR: Three words: Harry Potter comics?
Nelson: (Laughs.) I. Don't. Think. So. How many words is that? J.K. Rowling controls the publishing rights, and I've not heard her express a desire to do it. If she ever wants to, we're here for her.