Despite a robust box office return for both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. live-action DC Comics universe has been mired in controversy, setbacks, and criticism. Even fans have divided into extremes: those who will defend the franchise against any perceived slight and those who see the worst in every new press release and publicity shot. But love how the iconic characters are being handled or loathe it, Warner Bros. is struggling to keep pace with their self-imposed film schedule. The latest casualty of which being The Flash, who not only can’t seem to hold onto a director but is now being sent in for a “page one rewrite”.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the prevailing criticisms of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad focused on the incoherent yet overstuffed plot lines. David Ayer famously wrote the script for Suicide Squad in only six weeks, a rapid turnaround by any standard. Allowing more time to set the character beats, examine the film’s themes, and fill in any plot holes can only be a positive sign. But who has Warner Bros. brought into perform triage on The Flash script? Joby Harold, who’s next project will be Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Before that, the only thing Harold is credited with writing was Awake in 2007, which admittedly did give me an ongoing fear of surgery. Now I’m not disparaging Harold, who may well turn in a polished draft of The Flash. I’m just baffled that Warner Bros. has a deep well of veteran DC writers that they seemingly refuse to acknowledge. I’m talking, of course, about the stable of writers from the DC Animated Universe.
Since the early 1990s, DC Animation has been the gateway drug for fans. From Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited to the more recent Teen Titans and Young Justice, animation has introduced new generations heroes both iconic and obscure. But while these shows were aimed at children and tweens, the stories being told were layered enough for even adults to appreciate. Themes from domestic abuse and the pain of feeling different to learning to trust and standing up for the vulnerable, these shows had arguably some of the best arcs DC’s stable of characters of seen (many adapted from comic book source material). So why haven’t the writers — some of whom have been working on these cartoons for decades — been asked to help transition these superheroes to live-action? There’s probably some weird Hollywood politics behind it, but in case there isn’t, here are four DC Animated Universe writers who’s resumés speak for themselves.
Other than Paul Dini and the late Dwayne McDuffie, perhaps no one has had their hand in more DC Animated projects than J.M. DeMatteis. After working in the comics industry since the 1970s, DeMatteis entered the world of DC animation writing episodes for the Superboy cartoon. After that, he went on to work on fan-favorite series Justice League Unlimited, including adapting Alan Moore’s Superman story “For the Man Who Has Everything.” After JLU was canceled DeMatteis moved on to Legion of Super Heroes, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Teen Titans Go!, and was recently tapped for the upcoming Justice League Dark animated film. Between this and his fantastic work on the comic book series Justice League International that put the spotlight on lesser known characters (at the time) like Martian Manhunter and Booster Gold, DeMatteis would be a boon to any superhero script.
Another longtime DC Animation veteran, Alan Burnett has been in the trenches since 1984’s Superfriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. Burnett has been a writer on nearly two dozen DC shows and direct-to-video films over the years, and a producer on over 40 animated projects for the comic book company. He even won a Primetime Emmy for his work on Batman: The Animated Series and three Daytime Emmys over the years for his work with DC Animation Studios, with a dozen more nominations.
While Amy Wolfram’s resume may not be as illustrious as some of the other suggestions, her work on Teen Titans alone makes her worth notice. Her work on the show has been ranked among the Top 10, including the episodes “The End,” “Aftershock,” “Betrothed,” and “Hide and Seek.” Beyond that, her work on Terra’s character arc showcased how difficult it is for women to leave an abusive situation in a way that was palatable to a younger audience. Since the end of Teen Titans, Wolfram has worked on multiple projects, including Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and Teen Titans Go!
While live-action television shows such as Elementary have pulled Bob Goodman’s focus in recent years, the writer has a long history with DC’s Animation division. From The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond to Justice League Unlimited and Superman, he’s written over 100 episodes covering two decades.
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list. Dozens of talented writers with resumes as long as my arm have penned the iconic characters in DC Comics stable for their animation division. IMDb is overflowing with experienced scribes with comprehensive knowledge of these superheroes, yet Warner Bros. has yet to tap into this well of expertise. One of the biggest problems with the DC films is the misrepresentation of beloved characters. Superman is Space Jesus, not a brooding murderer. The Joker and Harley Quinn are not #RelationshipGoals. Bringing in writers with decades of steeped in both comic book lore and the psyche of these characters could only improve the quality of the franchise and perhaps even buy goodwill from disenfranchised fans. If The Flash rewrite and last minute Suicide Squad reshoots have shown us anything, there’s still time for Warner Bros. to bring in the cavalry.