Could J.J. Abrams Oversee the DC Universe at WarnerMedia?

Could a new deal see J.J. Abrams act as the DC Universe’s Kevin Feige, the famed Marvel Studios producer who maneuvered the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a $20 billion franchise?

The star director-producer has entered into final negotiations with WarnerMedia for a $500 million pact that would see Abrams’ Bad Robot create and develop new projects for Warner Bros., with Abrams and wife-slash-co-CEO Katie McGrath supervising other producers across film, TV and digital platforms, including WarnerMedia’s coming SVOD service.

Unlike the Disney-owned MCU, which has Feige act as franchise architect, the DC Cinematic Extended Universe is not overseen by a single guiding vision. And as declared by Warner Bros. Studio chairman Toby Emmerich at the Produced By Conference earlier this month, the future of the DCEU will be driven not by the concept of a shared universe, but by the visions of directors and their producers:

“Great directors are the lifeblood of a studio, but they need great producers,” Emmerich said.

A noted producer — Abrams’ many producing credits include the Cloverfield and Mission: Impossible franchises for Paramount, Alias and Lost for ABC, Fringe for Warner Bros. TV, and Westworld for WarnerMedia’s HBO — Abrams could be DC’s answer to Kevin Feige.

Marc Bernardin floated the possibility of Abrams overseeing the DC Universe in the most recent episode of Fatman Beyond, telling co-host Kevin Smith:

“Suddenly you have J.J. Abrams, the foundry of remaking IP, of overseeing massive universes of characters, and Warner Brothers, who currently has nobody overseeing the DC Universe... that is just conjecture, but it would not surprise me one whit if it was like, ‘Hey man, you know who’s awesome at doing his thing? That guy. You know what we have that needs doing? Those guys,’” Bernardin said. “And he’d be fantastic.”

Beyond his producing prowess, Abrams is a comic book fan: before revamping Star Trek for Paramount and relaunching Star Wars for Disney, Abrams attempted to reboot the Man of Steel with Superman: Flyby, an origin story pitched by Abrams in 2002.

Abrams’ script passed into the hands of Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) and McG (Terminator Salvation) before it was abandoned entirely; the studio instead opted to move forward with the Bryan Singer-directed Superman Returns before rebooting entirely another seven years later with Zack Snyder’s DCEU-launching Man of Steel.

Abrams will next team with son Henry as scribe on a freshly announced Spider-Man limited series for Marvel Comics, promising a “new and different and exciting take” on the wall-crawler, indicating Abrams’ interest in superheroes is very much alive.

Additionally, the superhero genre could be looked at by Abrams as the final frontier: for all his high-profile productions, Abrams has yet to explore that realm despite his flirtation with Superman so many years ago.

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When fielding offers for the Bad Robot partnership — Sony Entertainment, Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Universal Pictures owners Comcast reportedly competed for a deal — it was made clear Bad Robot prioritized a future as part of a larger company already offering film and television distribution.

Not only does WarnerMedia boast such distribution as well as an extensive history with Abrams — according to reports, CEO John Stankey was determined to keep the star producer in-house — but a deal with Warner would undoubtedly become extra enticing when considering the plethora of largely unexplored IPs offered by the DC Comics library.

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