Superpowered: The DC Story (2023): Season 1, Episode 3 - A Better Tomorrow - full transcript

In order to give voice to underrepresented characters and tales that were inspired by their own experiences, a group of varied creators who were fed up with being left out of the conversation founded Milestone Media. After more th...

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
[dramatic music]

- The very thing that
makes you different

is what makes you special.

- I need you to hope,

hope that you will remember
that you can all be heroes.

[heroic music]

- It's not who I am underneath

but what I do that defines me.

- Beneath this mask,
there is more than flesh.

Beneath this mask,
there is an idea.

And ideas are bulletproof.


[men screaming]

♪ ♪

- From paper to pixels,

DC Comics has
incubated new ideas

for more than 80 years.

Every generation of creators
brings its own point of view

and its own vision for
DC's iconic characters.

- We ask a lot, how can we take
the essence of this character,

the heart of this character,

but actually render it in a way

that reflects the
world we live in today?

- We're not born good or bad.

The choices you make
define your destiny.

- [screaming]

- What's changing is
not just the mythology

but how the stories
are told and who gets

to tell those stories.

- I cannot wait to have
you guys out there.

- I've never seen so many

strong, beautiful women.

This is gonna be history.

- The characters
of DC have edge.

And I love the edge.


[explosion booms]

- The world needs stories
that show us who we are

and shape who we want to become.

But will an
ever-expanding DC Universe

stretch its iconic characters

past the breaking point?

- Right now, DC is
at a crossroads.

We're trying to
build to the future

without doing a
disservice to the past.

♪ ♪

[light music]

- Comics give us a sense
of what's possible.

They give us a sense
of our better natures.

They give us a
sense of the future.

If comics represent the
future and aspirations

for a lot of people

and Black people are
left out of that mix,

therefore we're not
part of the future

and we're not part of
anyone's aspirations.

We wanted to be a part of that.

And I realized the only
way we were gonna do it

it is if we did it ourselves.

[hip-hop music]

In the '90s, there was a
lot of Black consciousness,

Black awareness going on.

And all that set an
atmosphere in society,

in the world

that was not being
reflected in comics at all.

The idea was to get a
group of Black creators,

create some characters,

the likes of which
had not been seen

in comics before,

and really tell our stories.

But we have to filter it
to our own experience.

- Veteran artist Denys Cowan,
along with Dwayne McDuffie,

Derek Dingle, and Michael Davis

created Milestone Media in 1991.

And while they had
no shortage of ideas,

they needed an investor
and distributor.

- What DC represented
to us at the time

was, one, a potential partner,

and as people who
are probably more

open to what we
were trying to do,

which is why we went to
DC in the first place.

♪ ♪

- And it's extraordinarily
rare for a company

that is the oldest and most
corporately owned company

in a field to be the
disrupter and the innovator.

And we were that.

♪ ♪

- With DC's backing,
Milestone set out

to become the first
successful comic book company

owned by creators of color.

Their characters turned
superhero archetypes

on their heads.

- So instead of a strange
being from another planet

crash landing on Earth to
be found by Ma and Pa Kent,

we had a strange being from
another planet crash landing

on Earth founded by slaves.

- We have African-American
writers and artists creating

characters and talking about
their lives and communicating

something very personal
about themselves

through these superhero stories.

- We never set out
to tackle issues.

We set out to tell
great stories.

There was a lot of themes
about police violence

and racial inequality.

People weren't even
dealing with that.

And we were, like, all in it.

- There was just this
range of characters,

this range of identities.

The diversity within the
diversity was so, so powerful.

Always led with entertainment,
but it was never

afraid to get in people's
grills and be real.

- When I was growing
up, I rarely ever saw

people who looked like me

in the comics that
I was reading.

And when they did show up,

they were almost
always either villains

or comic relief sidekicks.

They were never the
hero, almost never.

I collected those
early Milestone comics.

I came away with this feeling
that anybody could be a hero.

- In their head-to-head battle
against storied superheroes,

Milestone's characters
initially held their ground.

But the founders faced
ongoing resistance

in the majority White industry.

- We ran into executives at DC.

And these marketing
and sales people

would get up and
say they can't sell

no Black comic books.

That's the kind of stuff we
had to deal with all the time.

So the people who were
supposed to be helping you move

your product are
the very people who

don't think your product
is worthy of being moved.

- The Milestone team put more
sweat equity into their work

than any human beings should
ever have to do on anything.

They work with passion,
with dedication.

Milestone did things that
changed what comics were

and that reached people that
we'd never reached before.

- As new icons drew
fans to comics,

Tim Burton's Batman
returned to the big screen.

Michael Keaton donned the
cowl and cape once more,

with a feline,
Michelle Pfeiffer.

- I am Catwoman.

Hear me roar.

- Inspired by the growing hunger

for the enigmatic
caped crusader,

Bruce Timm designed and helmed
a brand new animated series.

He envisioned a dark
and gritty Gotham

unlike anything else
on Saturday mornings.

- ♪ We're tiny ♪

- ♪ We're toony ♪

all: ♪ We're all
a little looney ♪

- Saturday morning animation,
at that time, it was,

well, they're cartoons. Don't
forget they're cartoons.

And, you know, you can't
beat 'em up too bad.

And don't make 'em scary.

Give them some laughs
and things like that.

And we didn't have to.

There really was a sense
communicated from the top

on down, "Do the
Batman you want to do."

[epic music]

- We knew what we didn't want.

We didn't want the
show to seem like

every other
adventure show on TV.

We wanted the show to
be appealing to kids

because we knew they were our
primary intended audience.

But at the same time, we
wanted a show that we ourselves

would watch as adults.

♪ ♪

- Once I saw what Bruce
was doing with the artwork,

with the storyboards, and
then the animation coming in,

and you add on that the
music that Shirley Walker

was adding and the voices...

- [laughing maniacally]

- Then it really was
a dream come true.

[Danny Elfman's "Batman: The
Animated Series (Main Title)"]

♪ ♪

Kids liked it.

Adults liked it.

Comic book fans liked it.

It was one of those
rare times when

you get to work with a
team and everybody hits

the bullseye the first time out.

- The show featured Batman's
classic rogues gallery

but also introduced a
wild card to Gotham...

- Harley Quinn.
Pleased to meet ya.

- Joker's wisecracking
sidekick, Harley Quinn.

- Harley Quinn had
a very modest start.

I was writing an episode
called "Joker's Favor."

And then I was
thinking, like, OK,

Joker's gotta have
some henchmen.

Maybe there's a couple of goons.

And maybe there's a girl.

And that's all I really
thought about it.

- Hear, hear!

- When I was coming up with
the character, I thought,

what if she can crack
jokes and she gets laughs

and the Joker doesn't?

- It's amazing what you find
in people's glove compartments.


- To be a creator of these
characters in any capacity,

you're kind of a kid
playing in a sandbox

with communal toys.

Even though I created
the character,

it's only mine to play
with for, you know,

a brief amount of time.

- When Gothamites hear
the name Harley Quinn,

I want 'em to piss themselves.

I want a taste of that.
- You want to taste of...

- It's very rated R in here.

- Here we go. Let's just
play the scene once, please.

You're in the middle of
a bloody gunfire fight.

- Ah!
[imitating gunfire]

I [bleep] love science.

- Will you make it
totally sincere?

- Ugh! I [bleep] love science.

I should mention it is
a very adult series.

[laughs] I would not recommend
young children watching it.

[splat] [grunting]

If you want an adult series,

you want it to be Harley Quinn.

You don't think I'm
chaotic and crazy

and make a bunch of messes?

She's as edgy as it gets.

I basically spend most
of the time in the booth

screaming and cussing,
which has been

really therapeutic for me.

[bleep] off. I'm
busy reflecting!

- Thank you.

As psychotic as she is,
she is quite grounded.

And she really takes
care of her crew.

- This whole scene...
- Yes.

- You are begging
her to understand you

and to believe you.
- Yes.

- Oh, I love you, Ive.

- It's really about her growth
as an adult and as a woman

and as someone who's in
control of her own destiny

because she relied
on Joker for so long.

It's very female
empowerment. [laughs]

She's kind of, weirdly,
a good example.

She shouldn't be killing people,

but she is actually a
good example because

she wants to step
out on her own.

- You gonna kill me now?

- No, I want you alive so I
can see the look on your face

when I'm running this town.

♪ ♪

- Before DC's runaway success
evolving its characters,

the company stumbled
in the late '90s.


[ice cracking]

- The Iceman cometh!

- Superheroes turned into
self-parody on screen.

Comics sales stagnated after
comic book investors failed.

And Milestone Media shut down

after just four years,

its demise relegated
to a footnote.

Faced with a midlife
identity crisis,

DC sought to sign the
industry's hottest talent.

They first set their sights
on rock star artist Jim Lee

and his company Wildstorm.

- I started at DC in 1998.

That's when they
bought Wildstorm.

One of the reasons
I sold the company

was so that I could hand
the business functions

off to the people
that worked at DC.

And then that would allow
me to get back and draw

and create comic
books, you know,

which is the reason why
I got into the business

in the first place.

- Jim Lee coming to DC after
the work he did at Marvel

and Founding Image Comics
is about as seismic

as Jack Kirby coming
to DC from Marvel

in the early 1970s.

[intense music]

♪ ♪

This is somebody who redefined
comic book storytelling

for an entire generation.

Nobody would have expected
him to end up at DC,

and not just at DC, but
as somebody stewarding

the future of the company.

- As the millennium
dawned, Jim Lee's dynamic

and detailed artwork
revitalized DC's image

and defined its
roster of characters

for the 21st century.

- As creatives, we
tell these stories

'cause we love these characters

and we love storytelling.

[light piano music]

But we also know that
storytelling is a great way

of dealing with our own
personal anxieties or fears,

and certainly during
tumultuous periods of crisis

that has been proven
over and over.

♪ ♪

- I was working on
a Wonder Woman story

where the Joker had taken
control of Air Force One

and crashed it
into Times Square.

As that book was going to print,

the events of 9/11 occurred.

We very quickly had
to pull the book back.

We had to alter that story.

Wonder Woman saved Times Square.

But more importantly,
there was a big fight

at the end between
Superman and Wonder Woman.

And it ended on a page...

[sighs] and it ended on
a page where Superman

sort of crumpled in
Wonder Woman's arms

as he reflected on the
people that he couldn't save.

[solemn music]

And she comforted
him and said that

we're gonna make it through.

And I remember
having a big fight

with the editor in
chief about this.

His belief was that Superman
should be heroic and powerful

and that that was what
the nation needed.

And I tried to explain that
this one moment would not take

anything away from Superman.

And also, it was a
Wonder Woman moment.

This is what she does.

To this day...

I'm so glad I fought for it.

And I think DC made the
right decision to keep it.

- When the nation fell victim
to an act of terrorism,

superheroes gave way
to real-life heroes,

ordinary citizens who
risked everything to restore

people's faith in humanity.

- Most of the comic
book companies

wanted to do something
to benefit the victims,

the first responders.

DC decided we
wanted to do a book.

The cover's an homage
to a classic DC cover,

"The Big All-American
Comic Book,"

sort of one of the first annuals

ever done in comics.

And we managed to raise a
few hundred thousand dollars

for the good cause
and do some stories

that I think have some
real power and some impact.

- The more complex
our world gets

and whether it's an external
force or an internal strife

that we're having as a country,

the more we rely on
these characters.

They're the perfect stories
by which to, I think,

question things and challenge
these things but also

remind us that, at
the end of the day,

you can overcome
these challenges

and be better for it.

♪ ♪

- An uneasy post-9/11 world
called for a superhero

to conquer fear itself.

- Action.

- A British director with
no background in comics

harkened the Dark
Knight's return.

[dramatic music]

- Along comes Christopher Nolan

with a movie called
"Batman Begins"

back when reboot wasn't
really a word that was

so commonly associated
with movies and franchises

and everything else.

And the idea that they
were gonna tell Batman's

origin story again and tell
it in a really granular way

felt kind of revolutionary.

[thrilling music]
[bats chirping]

♪ ♪


♪ ♪

- My interest was in
taking on a superhero story

but treating it in
a realistic fashion,

grounding the film in reality,

admittedly a heightened reality,

but never looking at it
as a comic book movie

or just a comic book movie.

Roll cameras, please.

Good luck, everyone.


- [screams]


- The second installment
of Nolan's trilogy

expanded on the psychology
of the characters

and transformed the Caped
Crusader's arch nemesis

into a full-fledged terrorist.


- Good evening,
ladies and gentlemen.

- I think the Joker is
the logical response

to a character like Batman.

- Why so serious?

- Partly because Batman
raised the sort of extremity

of behavior in Gotham.

You know, he's
putting on a mask,

jumping off buildings,
and fighting crime.

[tires screeching]

- [laughs]

I don't wanna kill you.

What would I do without you?

You complete me.

♪ ♪

- Heath Ledger's
performance earned him

a posthumous Academy Award,

the first for a
cinematic portrayal

of a comic book character.

- People say to me, which
one did you like the most?

I said, Christopher
Nolan, in my opinion,

only made one movie
in three acts.

It is beautifully
structured that way.

What Christopher Nolan did was
elevate the genre from people

just saying, "Oh, that was
a great comic book movie,"

to at last they just say,
"That was a great film."

- Christopher Nolan's
trilogy dominated

the box office, earning
nearly $2.5 billion worldwide.

But the success put pressure

on newly appointed copublishers

Jim Lee and Dan DiDio
to save the slumping

comic book business.

- People used to say to me,

"Who do you consider

And I would say, Marvel's
not my competition.

I said, TV and film,
that's my competition.

If they become the arbiters and
the voices of the characters,

then what we do
becomes irrelevant.

- For inventive ideas, DC
turned to fan favorite writer

Geoff Johns for his bold
take on a classic character

from the '50s, Barry
Allen as the Flash.

- I thought, I needed
to rethink his origin

'cause literally he'd never
had a modern-day origin.

And so I went into, like,
time travel and, like,

having someone who
is a crime scientist.

Their mother was killed.

Their father went
to prison for it.

He was obsessed with trying
to find out who did it.

And because of
that, his life had

just stood still emotionally.

And then becoming the Flash
is all about just you've

gotta keep moving forward.

No matter what tragedy happens,

you gotta keep moving forward.

Right when I settled
on that story,

I knew that I wanted to tell a
two-year arc for Barry Allen.

And the last story
I wanted to tell

was "Flashpoint," with
him going back in time

and saving his mom
and changing history.

♪ ♪

And it was gonna be
this crazy version

of the DC Universe that
was overly violent.

And it looked different
because of this change

that Barry made.

- Taking a page from
Johns' "Flashpoint,"

Lee and DiDio seized
the chance to upend

every single DC storyline.

- They came to me and
said, "We're gonna reboot

"the DC Universe, and we
wanna use this to do it.

The truth is that "Flashpoint"
was never designed to do that.

They kinda, like, hopped onto it

because there was an
opportunity that time was open

and we wanna change everything.

♪ ♪

- DC relaunched the
universe with 52 new titles,

a nod to the number of
earths in the multiverse.

The company released new issues

in print and digital formats

simultaneously for
the first time ever.

- "New 52" was basically
an opportunity to reach

a new fanbase, to find an
entry point for everyone

to find our characters,
to contemporize them,

to bring them down in age
so they weren't our fathers'

and grandfathers' superheroes.

In order to make
the level of impact,

we had to do
something of a scale

that we hadn't seen before.

♪ ♪

- Head upstairs.
Thank you, sir.

- Here in Midtown
Manhattan, fans are

anticipating the release
of the new number one issue

of "The Justice League."

- I came as the
"New 52" Supergirl.

- And Black Canary.

- Because of "New 52,"
people were really excited

about this reboot,
this fresh chance

to hop onto this new
universe and read

about these characters
with fresh perspective,

with none of the baggage
that came before.

- It's cool.

- There you go.

Just go around that way.

- Fairly or unfairly,
DC does have

a reputation with
fans of constantly

trying to reset things.

♪ ♪

When the biggest headline
grabbers are things

like, "We've just
restarted the entire line,

"and not just with
new first issues

but with brand-new
continuity," it worked.

It got readers into comic shops.

But there was a certain segment
of the audience that felt

a little betrayed by that, too.

- I think the people in charge
know what they're doing,

and I hope that
everything goes great.

But it's a huge risk.

- Normally, when you're
a fan, you go like,

oh, if I were in charge,
this is what I would do

with the characters, these
are the kinds of stories

I would chart.

And you find yourself
in that position.

You go, like, oh crap, like,

what can we do with this?

We wanted to be
respectful of the past.

But at the same time,
we wanted to forge

a new future going forward.

- Part of my goal was to bring
a little bit of a swagger

to DC.

We've gotta get people
excited about what

we're doing now than what
they read when they were kids.

And that was the
mission, and "New 52"

was the realization
of that mission.

And it set fire to the business.

♪ ♪

- As it sought to
expand its fan base,

DC showed a willingness
to take even more risks

with its characters

by evolving the
universe in video games.

- I'd played video
games all my life.

But I hadn't really done
the nuts and bolts of it.

Writing a video game on the
scope of "Arkham Asylum"

was extremely challenging.

♪ ♪

- [grunts]

An engaging experience
for a passive viewer

is not the same thing
at all for a gamer.

- The Batman "Arkham" series
merged superhero fantasy

with action adventure.

Players experienced the freedom

to explore a vast, open world.

That immersion pushed
role-playing games

to the next level.


Upping the ante, DC
teamed up with one of

the most successful and
controversial video game

franchises, Mortal Kombat."

- "Mortal Kombat" is this
hyperviolent universe.

And DC isn't.

♪ ♪

A big part of my childhood was
comic books and video games.

I never wanted to cut
Batman's head off.

I felt that was just
kind of crossing a line.

- [grunts]

- But we really
wanted to do something

that was kind of really
pushing that envelope

with DC characters.

That coupled with the
head not covering it

and you'll totally see his hand.

- Ed Boon persuaded
executives to let him create

a violent DC Universe inside

a "Mortal Kombat"
-style fighting game

called "Injustice."

- Up until that
point, the DC stories

had Superman as a boy scout.

And we really wanted to
kind ask the question,

what if Superman went bad?

What if Superman
actually killed?

- [grunting]

- The last thing you wanna do
is just constantly just create

the same thing over again.

There's a pretense that these
characters are porcelain,

meaning you can't touch 'em.

Gotta put 'em on
shelf. Don't touch.

They're breakable. You
could destroy them.

You could destroy
this, destroy that.

And the truth is they're not.
They're rock-hard diamonds.

So that means you've
gotta take risks.

You've gotta try.

- [grunts]
- We felt like we were

carving out our own
piece of the pie

of the multiverse.

We really helped solidify video
games as a form of telling

these amazing stories.

- To cultivate
players of all ages...

- Is that a new spacesuit?

- DC LEGO games took characters

in the opposite direction.

The interactive adventures
gave fans a chance

to embody any
character, regardless

of race, gender, or fashion.

- Now, children are
playing video games

as their first entrance
into that imaginative world,

their first exposure
to these characters.

[inspirational music]

Reading a story means
living the story

with those characters
in your imagination.

But playing the
story gives players,

and particularly young
players, the opportunity

to create their own story.

- DC's video games seeded ideas

that flourished elsewhere.

- [gasp] Batman! Whoa!

- You're darn right, whoa.

[upbeat electronic music]

- With President Diane
Nelson at the helm,

DC Comics changed its
name to DC Entertainment

and sought to exploit
the characters

more aggressively
across all media.

- I love these characters
and these stories enough.

For me, they should be
adapted in everything

they can be adapted in 'cause
I wanna see them everywhere.

- With superhero fandom
reaching an all-time high,

Marvel and DC battled for
supremacy at the cinema.

But neither rival had yet
to fully conquer television

when DC approached
Greg Berlanti,

a prolific drama producer
and lifelong comic book fan.

- You had these
characters who were

of the world but different.

♪ ♪

And their difference was
the thing that ultimately

kept them distant
from everyone but also

was part of their heroism.

And I was a closeted gay kid.

And they were, you
know, my friends.

I remember connecting
with them in that way

and feeling like, oh, these
were people that had a secret.

I was very often as
interested in their alias

as I was their
superhero character.

- Berlanti's first
series premiered in 2012

and centered on billionaire
Oliver Queen, who fights crime

as the alias Green Arrow...

Part Robin Hood, part Batman.

- Action!

- There was a sense
of a man getting

vengeance for an
entire community

that felt left behind.

[dramatic music]


We pitched that at the end
of act one of the pilot,

we would see the Green
Arrow kill a character.

- Nobody can know my secret.

- [grunts]

- And I think it was so
shocking for the audience

at that time that it immediately

made people realize,
narratively, they didn't

know what we were gonna do.

Hopefully he becomes a hero.

- I used to think the
vigilante was a criminal, too.

But it seems to
me whoever he is,

he's willing to sacrifice
an awful lot to help

the people of this city.

It kinda makes him
a hero, doesn't it?

- By using a character that
isn't one of the big three,

you can have a lot more fun
and be a lot more experimental

without being bogged
down by the expectations

that come with being a
much bigger character.

- "Arrow" attracted
a sizable following.

And after just two seasons,

Berlanti was tasked with
taking on another superhero,

expanding the DC TV
Universe in a flash.

♪ ♪

- They had tried a Flash
show 20 years before.

They couldn't render the spirit
of the character's powers

for... you know, with
the technology they had

on a network television basis.

- 3, 2, 1. Action.

- We wanted to sort
of go into his speed

and make the audience feel
what that would feel like.


And that was the most
connectivity I had

to that rush I had as a kid.

- As more series spun
off, like "Supergirl,"

each one delivered a
signature mix of heart,

humor, and spectacle.

- By far, my most favorite
bit about "Supergirl"

really comes from
her motto that's

been there throughout
the comics up till now,

is hope, help, and
compassion for all.

I just love her kindness.

And I love how much she cares
about really helping people

and making a difference.

- Earth doesn't have
just one hero anymore.

Now it has me.

- The interconnected
television world became

known as the Arrowverse.

- That's what they would
do with the comic books.

We were building
the world the way

that they probably built
the world initially

and expanding the
universes that way.

I always felt like
comic books in general

lent themselves much more
to television than to film

because they were
episodic in nature.

It just felt like the
art form really fit.

[dramatic music]

- We were just really impressed

by the ambitions that they had

and how they brought
the DC Universe to life.

[explosion booms]

They started building off
the foundation of the comics

and doing their
own storytelling.

We kind of lamented the
fact that, in a way,

they kinda replaced some
of the audience that

was following comic books
because they could get,

essentially, their fix through
watching these TV shows.

- As DC characters flooded
the entertainment landscape,

the company decided to relocate.

After eight decades,
DC publishing

closed its New York offices.

For some, it marked
the end of an era.

- The comics come and
go. The people change.

But the heart that's
been felt here

from everybody that's
been here from day one

has been spectacular.

And I want to thank
you all for being here

and being part of
this final day.

- Hear, hear.

All: Cheers!

- It was heart
wrenching, you know?

And it was physically

But the staff was exceptional.

We're trying to
still put out books

'cause we're a monthly business.

That's something you
gotta remind yourself

on a regular basis when
you work in comics,

you know, it's a business.

At the end of the
day, it's a business.

The president of DC
Entertainment, Diane Nelson,

called the decision
and resulting layoffs

the most difficult
of her career.

DC's move West made it clear.

America's first comics company

now had its heart
set on Hollywood.

Epic action director Zack Snyder

presented an ambitious
crossover vision

for an extended universe

in "Batman v Superman,
Dawn of Justice."

- Bruce Wayne meets Clark Kent.

Ha! I love it.

- Snyder also
reintroduced a character

who'd been sidelined
since the '70s.

- She with you?

- I thought she was with you.

- The film's 2016
release coincided

with Wonder Woman's
75th anniversary.

That fall, the United
Nations named her

honorary ambassador
for the empowerment

of women and girls.

- We are working with new
and unconventional partners

and forming creative
alliances so that

we can reach the widest
possible global audience.


- But the distinction
sparked backlash.

[somber music]

- We don't think that
a fictitious comic book

character wearing
basically what looks like

a Playboy Bunny outfit is
really the right message

we need to send to girls, or
even boys for that matter,

about what strong
women are in the world.

We think that is a toxic
message to be sending.

- The controversy
didn't deter director

Patty Jenkins,
who blazed a trail

to Wonder Woman's
solo film debut.

- In the process of making
a Wonder Woman film,

you're facing resistance at
every step from the world.

- Stay here. I'll go ahead.

- I struggle all the time
with my faith in mankind,

as I'm sure we all do,

going through the social crisis

in every way on our planet

and watching the
vitriol and hatred

online and amongst people.

And yet, what would
Wonder Woman do?

- Be careful in the
world of men, Diana.

They do not deserve you.

- I came into a
situation where everyone

was very afraid to make her
incredibly attractive at all.

- What are you doing?

- You can't do that because
you're not wearing any...

You're not wearing any clothes.

- And I kept saying, well, you
wouldn't do that to Superman.

Like, you wouldn't do that to
any of these other characters.

Why are you doing
that to my character?

- Is this what passes for
armor in your country?

- It's not about
sleeping with her.

It's not about that.

It's about making
her my dream...

of if I could have it
all in this kind of way,

I would look great too,
just like the men would.

I'd be bigger and stronger
and cooler and taller

and all the... you know,
like, all these things

that we all have.

Get at them, and then
get down, looking around,

looking at what you're
doing, getting in position.

Keep the electricity
of, am I lined up?

Is it gonna hit? Is
that a good target?

Yes, it is. Eyes on the
prize of what you're doing.

[dramatic music]

♪ ♪

- Patty and I actually had many,

many creative conversation
about this character.

Her vision for Diana
was in line with mine.

Wonder Woman, she's everything.

She can be vulnerable and
sensitive and being strong

and being badass and fight.

♪ ♪

[crowd shouting]

- Wonder Woman shattered
the cinematic ceiling,

making history as the
first superhero blockbuster

directed by and starring women.

- All the critics kind of
point to that one scene

in the no man's land where she
rises up out of the trenches.

It was literally the physical
act of empowerment of agency,

of standing up for yourself.

I think that that came at
the right cultural moment

and just really resonated
with audiences worldwide.

- Wonder Woman came out right
before a global uprising

against sexual violence,

the #MeToo Movement.

All: Hey, hey, ho, ho, sexual
violence has got to go.

- Me too. All: Me too.

- Me too. All: Me too.

- She's forever relevant.

♪ ♪

She will be relevant in
the 2040s, in the 2090s.

She'll be relevant
because she's us.

[glass shattering]

- An all-star team up soon
followed in November 2017.

From the Flash to Aquaman,
even more superheroes

joined the same universe
in "Justice League."

- I'm putting together
a team of people

with special abilities.

- But after an underwhelming
box office run and the promise

of streaming, filmmaker
Zack Snyder got the chance

to realize his original vision

with a four-hour
director's recut.

- Part of the reason why DC
is such a global phenomenon

today is, obviously,
the media...

The movies and the TV shows.

But I think the
storytelling obviously

needs to change to stay
relevant and contemporary.

Our storytelling
is sort of the tip

of the spear in making social
change at the end of the day.

- When I originally
pitched "The Other History

of the DC Universe," I had
no idea how they would feel

about a reassessment,
a deconstruction of

the DC Universe, looking
at it with regard to race

and representation and
really taking moments that,

to be kind, haven't aged well.

- In his five-part
series released in 2020,

Oscar-winning writer John
Ridley corrected problematic

storylines from DC's
past and gave voice

to marginalized characters.

- If we're not doing
everything we can to make sure

that the storytelling space is
more reflective when we leave

than when we arrive,
we're really not building

on the real legacy
of companies like DC.

- If you look at the folks
that are telling stories

within the universe today, I
would argue that it's probably

the most diverse set of creators

that the universe has ever seen.

- When acclaimed graphic
novelist Gene Luen Yang

joined DC, he
traveled back in time

to tell a contemporary
story about race in America.

- Faster than a speeding bullet.

- In 1946, the Superman
radio show aired

"The Klan of the Fiery Cross,"

a story where the
Man of Steel defends

a Chinese-American
family against

a group of hooded racists.

[dark music]

♪ ♪

- In "Superman
Smashes the Klan,"

Yang reinterpreted
the radio classic

through the modern
lens of an Asian family

who had moved to Metropolis.

- The themes that they
were talking about in 1946

on the Superman radio show
still resonated so deeply.

We wanted to use
the story as a way

of examining things that were
happening in our world today.

All: You will not replace us.

[somber music]

[uplifting music]

♪ ♪

- I do think, though,
that that's one

of the powers of DC Comics.

You can talk about the
present by reflecting

on the past, all within
this one universe

that's decades old.

- Looking at my kids who
are half Korean growing up,

I would hate for them to
feel embarrassed or...

Or wanting to
distance themselves

from who they literally are.

And I think that's why it's
paramount that the content

we create, the storytelling
we do really elevates

and showcases the importance
of being different,

why that is something
to be celebrated

and how that is a superpower.

♪ ♪

- That hunger for
diverse points of view

led to the relaunch
of Milestone Media

in 2021, nearly three
decades after its

groundbreaking debut.

- You have to constantly
reinvent what you're doing.

You have to constantly pump
new life into these characters.

But you know what?
Let's try this.

Let's try that.
Let's try this.

Let's keep it fresh.

♪ ♪

- Alongside two of
the original founders,

Hollywood heavyweight
Reginald Hudlin

signed on to help
resurrect the company.

- We knew we didn't want it
to be a nostalgia company.

If we're gonna remain true
to the spirit of Milestone,

we can't be stuck in the past.

We had to take those
characters and move them

into the 21st century and go,

well, what's cutting edge now?

We're gonna do
classic characters.

We're gonna create
original characters.

And we're gonna be true to
the name Milestone Media.

- Milestone is undeniably
the most important

Black superhero universe.

I think had there been more of
a push to get those characters

into the collective

of the mainstream, maybe it
never would have went away.

- We were way ahead of our time.

When we first started
doing that material,

the things we were talking
about is stuff that people

are starting to talk about now.

It's a good time
for us to come back,

to keep raising these
questions and keep

exploring these topics,
especially in light

of what's going on today.

- There's been a movement in
our fandom in recent years

to strip the politics from
the comics that we produce.

The funny thing is that so many
of these DC Comics characters

were inherently political
from their inception.

- It is no secret DC Comics
has ruined superheroes,

quite possibly for good, folks.

It removed Superman's patriotic
slogan, "the American way."

- Instead, it will be replaced
with, "and a better tomorrow."


Why do you have to mess with
something that's already

been there for so long?

If you want to create a woke
superhero, create a new one.

- I woke up this
morning to find out

the new Superman,
bisexual. [laughter]


- Whatever you don't like about
comics today, take a breath.

It will change tomorrow
because it always does.

You have to change with society.

People are freaking out

because Superman's
son is bisexual?

Are you alive today?

It's reflecting
who we are today.

You can't write stories
like it's 1966 forever

or like it's 1986
'cause it's not anymore.

And the world is really,
really different.

- Comic book fandom
is complicated.

There is no fandom
more passionate.

And there is no fandom
harder to please.

When I think about "Watchmen,"
I think about how skeptical

I was, because with "Watchmen,"

you're dealing with
a fandom that thinks

it shouldn't be touched.

- Skepticism among fans ran deep

when DC announced plans for
a Watchmen television series.

Creator Damon Lindelof, known
for the sci-fi series "Lost,"

sought to update the beloved
comic for a modern audience.

- When I was 13 years old
and I first read "Watchmen,"

it was a religious experience.

It taught me everything that
I know about storytelling.

♪ ♪

- The original
"Watchmen" took place

in the '80s, the Reagan years.

Nuclear anxiety was the
defining fear of that time.

So Damon said, OK,
well, if I do it,

what am I gonna talk about?

- Rather than retell
the "Watchmen" comics

beat for beat, as
the 2009 film did,

Lindelof and his team
created an all-new

nine-episode story arc,
as well as new characters.

- Hello, detective.
- Angela, right?

Oh, am I not supposed
to know who you are?

- I started feeling like I
might have an interesting way

to do this that would
honor the original without

ripping off the original.

- One of the questions
that Watchmen asks,

both the original
and our version,

is why do you put on a mask?

Why would you do that?

Where is the line
between a superhero

and a vigilante and a cop?

- Masks save lives.

- Masks make men cruel.

- I don't think HBO or DC or
Warner's or anybody thought,

we're gonna take the
Holy Grail of comic books

that isn't necessarily
known for its Blackness,

and we're gonna turn
this into the most

profound discussion of race
in the superhero medium.

- Sir, I'm with the FBI.

Are your civil rights
being violated?

- They didn't read
me my rights...

- OK, sorry. I
was just kidding.

I don't care.

- We want the
America of "Watchmen"

to feel familiar to people.

- Roll them out!

[crowd clamoring]

- So if it was an
issue in our 2019,

those things have to be
issues in their 2019,

because if it weren't,
it wouldn't be relatable.

- The story revolves around
Angela Abar, a detective who

battles police corruption
and White terrorists

as the masked hero Sister Night.

- I got a nose for
White supremacy,

and he smells like bleach.

- She's a superhero
without superpowers

but super skills and a brain.

You don't have superpowers
and you save the day,

aren't you just,
like, even more super?


[upbeat music]
[fireworks booming]

- The year after Sister Night,
a starkly different kind

of heroine stormed
back on screen,

devoid of both
superpowers and sanity.

- Hi, boys.

- [groans]

- Harley is a catalyst of chaos.

I always think of her that way.

And I actually think it's
better when she doesn't have

to be your moral center or
even your emotional center

all the time because
it just gives

her more leeway to
behave, I think,

more authentically like her.

- [screams]

- What?

- Guided by director Cathy Yan,

Robbie's performance
in "Birds of Prey"

cemented Harley Quinn
as one of DC's hottest

and most unhinged characters.

- I love Harley because
she is pure madness.

And isn't there
really a part of us

that wants to just do whatever
we want to do in the moment

no matter what that is?

- Harley's meteoric rise
underscored the appeal

of anti-heroes and
helped pave the way

for James Gunn's
"The Suicide Squad."

- So the first little sequence
I have completely worked out.

We open up in the cellar,
pulling back from her

as she comes out with
the machine gun...

[gunfire] [people screaming]

And then her walking
forward and firing

as all the flowers and unicorns
and shit come out of her.

[rapid gunfire]

♪ ♪

Superheroes are often
presented as gods and goddesses

and stuff like that.

But my superheroes are not that.

- Hey, guys. Sorry I'm late.

I had to go number two.

- Good to know.

- Give them a pissed
off look, like,

"Are you [bleep] kidding me?

You just shot across my face?"

- Yeah.
- My superheroes

are the assholes that are stuck

playing in the fields
of gods and goddesses.

[energetic rock music]


- He does throw
polka dots at people.

- "The Suicide Squad" was
such a great comic book.

The superhero movie
became the most

dominant form of
cinematic storytelling

because of technology.

We're seeing superheroes
do things on screen

that were exactly
like what we saw

them doing in the comic books.

And we were able to believe it.


- [roaring]

- Yes. It's gonna be...
Yeah, it's gonna be

all probably jump cuts...
Jump, jump, jump, jump,

jump, thomp, thomp, thomp.

- James is such a
visionary director.

You can tell that the
scope of the project

is just gonna be massive.

And it's also his humor is
just so bizarre and funny.

Like, the more specific
something is, sometimes I feel

like the more funny it is.

And his humor is, like,
incredibly weird and specific.

- Hand.

- Yes, that is
your hand, Nanaue.

Very good.

- I do tell these stories
that are pretty ugly stories.

But finding something in
them that is meaningful

or hint of having faith
in something greater,

that's really important to me.

And I think it grounds those
stories more completely

by grounding it in real
emotion and real human strife.

♪ ♪

- "The Suicide Squad's"
antihero ensemble

ran counter to the
Righteous Trinity

and proved that DC's vast,
ever-expanding universe

could appeal to almost anyone.

- Superheroes, super
villains, anti-heroes.

For every person in
the world, there is

a DC character for them
that they can relate to.

- You have two choices.

You can be the
destroyer of this world

or you can be its savior.

- When I was a kid, a
guy like Black Adam,

he had his own moral code.

And that meant something to me.

- Comics are an
incredible medium.

You can tell impactful
stories about anything.

What you need is the
courage to tell them.

♪ ♪

- It's a privilege
to tell these stories

with these characters.

But you're also a guardian

of them for a period of time.

- It's always a
challenge to make sure

that as you're evolving,
that you don't lose

the people who got you here.

And so that balance
of making sure we have

enough to fuel our core superfan

but also deliver enough
to create a new fan,

that nuance is really,
really difficult.

- DC has endured for
more than 80 years

by taking risks and pushing
the envelope of storytelling.

- There's a saying in DC,

"publishing is
the cornerstone."

We are making comics for
the comic book market.

But we wanna come up with
something new and cool

that the TV and movie people
have never thought of.

♪ ♪

We can do anything.

We don't have a
special effects budget.

♪ ♪

Our job is to
incubate cool stories.

And we have no
limits, essentially.

It's whatever we can draw.

- DC Comics,
especially, it became

a place for ideas to be free
and grow unlike anything else.

The ideas that are
being developed

in that pool right now

are gonna be the ideas
that conquer the world

for the next 25, next
100, next 200 years.

♪ ♪

- With each generation
of creators,

the stories they craft in panels

and in pixels evolve DC's
roster of characters.

- Yeah!

- But their core remains true...

The power to restore
our faith in humanity

and the promise of
infinite possibility.

- Yeah!
[crowd cheering]

- All of us need to go back
to being kids and picking up

comic books again and
reminding ourselves,

why are we attracted
to these stories?

Is it having power
for the sake of power?

Or is it having power
because we believe that

we can do the right thing?


- There's a reason
we love superheroes.

They've embodied
these great ideals.

And they're inspirational
to all of us.

- [screaming]

- At the end of the
day, I think people look

to our characters not
just for entertainment

but for heroes that
they look up to.

We recognize the role we play

and the difference we can make.

And we are united
in that mission.

♪ ♪

- Greg, move your head.