Diane Nelson was tapped as DC Entertainment’s President at a time when the comics industry was going through a major shift – Marvel was riding high on the success of the Iron Man movie while its comics sales did the same, and DC was in distant second on both fronts. Now four years later, Nelson has been taking point in catching up to Marvel’s success and restoring the luster to DC’s foundational comics line as well as ushering its storied characters to other media. And in a Q&A with The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, the one-time brand manager for Harry Potter opens up about DC as a comics company and an incubator for the next big movie or television franchise.
When Nelson was promoted from being the President of Warner’s Direct-To-Video division to being DC’s President and brand manager, the comic industry was in what THR describes as a “free fall,” pointing out its one-time marquee title Batman was selling at a low-key 55,000 units per issue, down from a height of 1 million at one point. With Nelson now firmly entrenched at DC, the Batman series has rebounded to sales around the 150,000 range – with no small part played by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. When asked about where she sees DC in 10 years – and 14 years into her tenure – Nelson was very optimistic.
“We don't want to oversaturate with superheroes, and DC is much more than superheroes,” Nelson tells THR. “If we do our jobs as well as I think we can among our partners within Warner Bros., there is no reason why there wouldn't be multiple slots across every one of our production businesses that is populated by DC Entertainment properties. We know that within this building, but part of our job is getting consumers to understand that there is more breadth and depth to DC beyond those primary DC characters. Our job has to be, let's have great success with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman but then build on that to expand the universe for the broad populace.”
When asked about Nelson’s personal picks of which characters in DC’s host of characters is the ripest for a big screen adaptation, she gave some surprising choices.
“Sandman is right on top. I think it could be as rich as the Harry Potter universe,” Nelson said. “Fables. Metal Men. Justice League. And yes, I'm going to say it: Aquaman.”
Although Nelson resisted to talk about the rumored development of Justice League film or a second Superman film (which THR said is rumored to be announced at Comic-Con), Nelson did say the success of Man of Steel was “incredibly great” for DC and Warner, and “reinforces the potential of that universe just moving forward.”
The DCE President was straightforward when asked about her company’s difficulty in developing a live-action Wonder Woman franchise in the wake of previous fumbles with a Joss Whedon-led movie and a David E. Kelley TV pilot.
“The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn't have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes,” Nelson explains, echoing comments Whedon said when he was developing a Wonder Woman screenplay. “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.”
Nelson went on to reveal that the development of Wonder Woman for a live-action role, either TV or in film, has been “one of the top three priorities” for DC and Warner Bros. since she took over at DC.