DC head Diane Nelson dishes on Tsujihara, Sandman, Wonder Woman

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Just as Comic-Con kicked off, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson did an extremely rare interview with The Hollywood Reporter. You’ll want to pore over every word if you’re a DC Kreminlinologist, especially on the new hierarchy at Warner Bros—on new studio head Kevin Tsujihara “So now that I’m working solely for him, reporting to him, I think it’s just the greatest time ever. DC is one of his biggest priorities.”—and characters who are slated for movies—Sandman, Fables, Metal Men (!), Justice League, and Aquaman—and these other two notable quotables:

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.


READING BETWEEN THE LINES on the most basic possible level: Nelson has a new boss, Tsujihara, and is cementing her priorities in public. So good! More attention for DC Entertainment.

Nelson appeared at a press conference yesterday to unveil the final Justice League Kia and announce that her Heroes for Hope charity has raised more than $3 million to combat starvation in the horn of Africa (wonderful news) and totally cracked up the room by announcing that her nine year old son was going to finish painting the KIA live in front of them, before adding, “No, I meant Jim Lee is going to finish it.” It was a cute moment from someone who is well capable of launching a formidable charm offensive when needed.

Comments

  1. Synsidar says:

    Nelson:

    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.

    I’d interpret that to mean that doing whatever is needed to make the character and her story accessible is more important than retaining her backstory. If she works best as a member of a group of modern feminists, with enhanced abilities, then go with that. Her origin and mythological aspects only date her.

    SRS

  2. I do wonder how much of that $3 million actually goes to those that need it. People have been starving there for the past 30 years. All this money gets thrown at it but nothing ever gets better?

    But I digress, as far as Wonder Woman goes she isn’t as hard as they are making her out to be. The Gail Simone penned 2009 animated movie is a near perfect take on Wonder Woman in the cinematic medium. You could use the animated movie as a guide for a live action portrayal, any friction towards this idea is misguided. You need a strong intro for Wonder Woman, but there are still too many that see Wonder Woman as Lynda Carter, letting that baggage get in way must not happen.

    But fine, whatever happens happens. I do think they will make her more akin to the New 52 version tying her to the Greek pantheon as the daughter of Zeus which is generic in terms of her initial, and superior origin.

  3. Torsten Adair says:

    You know how you get rid of the television perception of Wonder Woman?

    You get Frank Miller to write a graphic novel about her.

    Hey… it worked for Batman!

  4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the main storyline from Wednesday’s Comics was perfect as an “origin” for the character. A coming of age tale of a young lady gathering artifacts she’ll need to be a hero is straight to the point, and allows them to incorporate the mythic/epic elements. They need to quit over thinking this.

  5. Synsidar says:

    I do think they will make her more akin to the New 52 version tying her to the Greek pantheon as the daughter of Zeus which is generic in terms of her initial, and superior origin.

    Superior how? Connecting her to the Olympians gave her instant connections to a powerful family that has violent disputes. Her old origin set her up as a symbol, but that’s all it did. To justify the Amazons not having children, they were made immortal. So readers and viewers are asked to believe that Greek mythology exists in the present, that the time-displaced Amazons are immortal, and that despite being a member of an implicitly man-hating society, Wonder Woman will be romantically attracted to men.

    Those aspects of her origin are reasons for a writer to avoid the character, not to be drawn to her.

    SRS

  6. “Superior how? Connecting her to the Olympians gave her instant connections to a powerful family that has violent disputes. Her old origin set her up as a symbol, but that’s all it did.”

    Superior because she did the mythical side of “what it means to be human”, the notion that some of the best science fiction stories have touched upon. The fact that she stands out amongst the likes of Hermes, Ares, Apollo, etc. by not having the connection to Zeus. She has enough drama being wrapped into the Greek myths without having to share a branch on the family tree.

    Any writer to avoid the character because, “…readers are asked to believe that Greek mythology exists in the present, that the time-displaced Amazons are immortal, and that despite being a member of an implicitly man-hating society…” that writer lacks creative vision. It’s about being creative, making you care for some character that isn’t real, to feel like your time is not being wasted.

    Some writers feel that because she was made of clay, no male presence in her creation, and that the spark of magical life was given, that makes her hard to write as a real person. I don’t understand that. My vision of her character, who she is has been shaped by those that came before, Dini, Perez, Jimenez, and Simone.

    Wonder Woman is better than most of her sisters, better than most of humanity, as well as the gods she contends with at times. She is a warrior who has an immense about of love within her. While Batman represents a City, Superman a Country, Wonder Woman represents the World.

  7. I am so sick of hearing that Wonder Woman is “Tricky” or “Complicated” from DC brass. It can’t be too complicated to make a movie about an amazon with a bondage fetish fighting crime in her underpants. Sure she’s an icon with a cherished back story but I think if they try to please everyone with a Wonder Woman project they will please no one. Basically, they can’t focus group her. “We’re trying” indicates to me that they’re trying to make a big tent Wonder Woman picture. They need to pick an interesting director and screenwriter and go from there.

  8. Laurie S. Sutton says:

    Warner Bros. should do a live-action version of WW as portrayed in the newest DC Nation animated short. That was cool!

  9. Paralysis of analysis for sure.

  10. Synsidar says:

    The fact that she stands out amongst the likes of Hermes, Ares, Apollo, etc. by not having the connection to Zeus. She has enough drama being wrapped into the Greek myths without having to share a branch on the family tree.

    Wonder Woman and the Amazons wouldn’t exist without the Greek gods and goddesses. A question is whether to make the connection to them simple and direct, as Azzarello did; to make it indirect and clumsy, as Marston did; or to eliminate the connection completely, in the interest of modernizing the character concept. The immortality aspect is lousy, since explaining why the Amazons are immortal to a skeptic is practically impossible.

    Then there’s the question of why a writer would do a Wonder Woman story. Because she’s an icon isn’t a good reason. A six-year-old kid can draw something and tell you what it’s a symbol of; using an icon in a story for nothing more than to tell the reader/viewer she’s an icon is utterly pointless. If a writer does a story in which someone becomes an icon, to promote what the icon represents, then the writer’s done something.

    Nelson naturally wants to exploit the Wonder Woman property and might want to do more, but developing a storyline for Wonder Woman isn’t her problem. It’s a problem for someone who wants to write her as a person while retaining the mythological aspects.

    SRS

  11. “The Gail Simone penned 2009 animated movie is a near perfect take on Wonder Woman in the cinematic medium.”

    While I would agree with the assessment, I’d also want to give credit where it’s due and point out that Gail Simone did early work on the movie, but Michael Jelenic is the screenwriter for the finished film. He openly admits that he cribbed a lot of stuff from Simone’s first drafts, and I can see her fingerprints all over it, but I can also see Jelenic’s handiwork in there, too.

  12. Snikt Snakt says:

    “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.”

    Yeah, it may be too late for this. Its like closing the barn door after all the horses have fled.

    In this case the horses have gone to Image and other independant companies! :-p

  13. Jason Michelitch says:

    ” A coming of age tale of a young lady gathering artifacts she’ll need to be a hero is straight to the point, and allows them to incorporate the mythic/epic elements.”

    I haven’t read Wednesday’s Comics, but that description makes it sound like a very post-Promethea Wonder Woman origin, which, if that interpretation made it through to a film adaptation, would bring up some obvious and at least half-interesting thoughts re: adaptations/influences of Moore in DC Entertainment products.

  14. In that quote that Snikt Snakt pulled, Nelson is dodging the question. The question was, “One reason for the decline was that other publishers offered creators better contracts when it came to media rights. Has that changed?” All those creators are not going to Image and elsewhere because they don’t think Warners Brothers is going to notice their property. I think everyone is pretty cognizant of DC’s role as an IP farm for Warners (and Marvel for Disney). The question is how much direct control and profit are they going to get from Vertigo vs. other publishers.

  15. MattComix says:

    Too often she gets written as a very pretty Klingon. I think they should dial down the angry warrior stuff and find other ways to make her strong while at the same time giving her plenty of action scenes.

    Despite how bad the 70′s tv series could be Lynda Carter brought across the character as someone who was kind and compassionate but also very strong and fiercely determined to save lives. She was able to do that with just her bare hands and the lasso. She didn’t need a huge axe and blood splattered all over her. She’s not Xena. She’s not Red Sonja. She’s Wonder Woman.

  16. Sphinx Magoo says:

    Forbes (yes, Forbes!) featured an article on how a Justice League movie might work (http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2013/07/05/how-a-justice-league-film-can-top-the-avengers-diversity/), and one of its main points was in having Wonder Woman as the central character.

    My two cents: rather than trying a Marvel model, just jump into the story and worry about possible origin movies later. It worked for “The Magnificent Seven”: there was no origin story for each of the characters, we just jumped right in.

    So, playing Fantasy Casting, we have Henry Cavill as Superman, a mystery man for Batman (Christian Bale has said he isn’t interested, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a big question mark but I’d prefer to see him as Nightwing), and maybe Idris Elba as Green Lantern John Stewart. (And just for fun, Lee Thompson Young reprises his role from “Smallville” as Victor Stone/Cyborg!) Wonder Woman, with hints to her origins, acts as diplomat and leader to get the boys to get along. A bit of dialogue to help fill in backstory for other members and we’re off to the races as everyone joins forces to battle Starro, or a Martian invasion as in the premiere of the Justice League animated series.

  17. DrCharlesForbin says:

    “You know how you get rid of the television perception of Wonder Woman?
    You get Frank Miller to write a graphic novel about her.
    Hey… it worked for Batman!”

    No, it was Neal Adams (Blessed Be His Name) whose run on Batman in the 1970s erased the memories of the campy Adam West Batman.

  18. Nelson sound rational, savvy and human. She has my vote. Best of luck to her.

  19. Solo500 says:

    Vertigo shouldn’t be an incubator for “other media”, it should focus on making good COMICS.

  20. Torsten Adair says:

    @DrCharlesForbin

    Neal Adams’ Batman didn’t erase the PUBLIC’s perception of Batman as a campy superhero. Heck, I was watching those reruns in the late 1970s as a kid (along with the Superfriends and the Batmite Batman series), and I never read the comics. Which is good, because that Batman is AWESOME for kids! Swing on ropes, utility belt, crazy villains and fistfights!

    Tim Burton was inspired by TDKR and The Killing Joke. That movie is what nailed the coffin on the campy Batman.

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  1. [...] sensible, hard questions. The whole thing is a must read, of course, and triangulates nicely with Diane Nelson’s interview in the Hollywood Reporter. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2. Some [...]

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