John Cena, James Gunn Tackling 'Peacemaker' Series for HBO Max, DC

John Cena and James Gunn
<p>John Cena and James Gunn</p>   |   Yanshan Zhang/Getty Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage
The announcement of the prequel series spinoff comes 11 months before 'The Suicide Squad' comes out.

The Suicide Squad isn’t due out until August 2021, but it’s already getting a prequel series spinoff.

James Gunn, the writer-director behind the movie, is reteaming with actor John Cena for Peacemaker, an action-adventure-comedy series for HBO Max.

HBO Max has given a straight-to-series order for an eight-episode first season with Gunn writing all eight episodes and directing several, including the first. Cena will reprise his role from the upcoming movie for what will explore the origins of the character.

Gunn and Peter Safran, a producer on The Conjuring horror movies as well as DC movie Aquaman, will serve as exec producers with WWE superstar turned actor Cena acting as co-executive producer. Gunn’s Troll Court Entertainment and The Safran Co. are the entities involved as is Warner Bros. Television.

The goal is to have Peacemaker go into production in early 2021, prior to Gunn beginning work on rival Marvel Studios' third Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The Suicide Squad is scheduled to be released in theaters by Warner Bros. Pictures on Aug. 6, 2021.

Peacemaker first appeared in a 1966 comic published by Charlton Comics, which was later acquired by DC. The character of Christopher Smith is a man who “believes in peace at any cost — no matter how many people he has to kill to get it,” according to HBO Max, which announced the series Wednesday.

Sources say the character has proven to be a favorite among the Warners executives, thanks to his scene-stealing ways in early cuts of the movie.

Peacemaker is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag,” said Gunn in a statement.

The announcement of the series gives a sense that HBO Max should be renamed DC Max at this point. Peacemaker becomes the latest DC character getting his own series for the recently launched streamer that seems to be betting more and more on the DC brand.

In the works is a crime drama spinoff of Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman, centered on the police working in Gotham City. Mega producer J.J. Abrams has pitched a tent in the Justice League Dark territory of the DC Universe, working on supernatural shows featuring Constantine and Zatanna, among others. WarnerMedia’s other mega producer, Greg Berlanti, has his four color heroes in a sandbox, which is separate from the CW shows he oversees such as Flash, Batwoman, and the upcoming Superman and Lois. He also has shows such as Doom Patrol, which moved from the DC Universe streaming platform to HBO Max. And the DC shows on CW also pop up on HBO Max, giving more armament to WarnerMedia’s platform. HBO Max is also spending dozens of millions of dollars on making Zack Snyder's unrealized version of the Justice League movie into a four-part event.

Betting heavily on the comic book universe, and taking elements from the big-screen tentpoles and translating them into digital series, is straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe handbook. Marvel will be debuting its first series, Wanda Vision, on streaming platform Disney+ by year’s end and has several others in production. It is well underway on developing two or three waves at this stage but today’s announcement shows that DC is on the move to catch up.

Cena, who has appeared in movies such as Blockers and Bumblebee, next appears in Fast & Furious installment F9, scheduled to be released in April 2021. He is also the author behind the best-selling Elbow Grease picture books. He is repped by ICM Partners.

Gunn, repped by UTA, Safran and Frankfurt Kurnit, previously wrote and directed Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which have collectively earned more than $1.6 billion at the global box office.