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Does the 'Swamp Thing' Cancellation Portend A Bleak Future For DC Universe?

By Jodi Smith | Industry | June 12, 2019 |

By Jodi Smith | Industry | June 12, 2019 |


It wasn’t until the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend that I was finally persuaded to watch Doom Patrol on the DC Universe streaming service. I had heard nothing but good things up to that day, but assurances that the show really was that weird and very in my wheelhouse managed to convince me.

I really enjoyed Doom Patrol, stretching out the watch in order to stay with the characters longer and savor every odd twist and turn that delighted me with its innate insanity. Brendan Fraser was indeed spectacular as Cliff Steele/Robotman and somehow DC and Warner Bros. got lucky with a second charismatic and talented actor in the role of Victor Stone/Cyborg (Joivan Wade). I finished the series with glee and then turned to the newest available on the platform: Swamp Thing.

Perhaps garnering more press than it would have otherwise, DC Universe’s Swamp Thing sparked multiple explanations for its abrupt cancellation less than a week after its first episode aired. It also panicked DC fans enjoying not only Doom Patrol but the service’s flagship show Titans (which I finished last night).

Titans ended with a definite intention to continue the story of Dick Grayson/Robin (Brenton Thwaites), Kory Anders/Starfire (Anna Diop), Rachel Roth/Raven (Teagan Croft), and Garfield Logan/Beast Boy (Ryan Potter). There have even been releases from DC Universe confirming the appearance of an older Bruce Wayne/Batman portrayed by Iain Glenn, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Esai Morales), and Mercy Graves (Natalie Gumede) in Season 2. However, we only know that the next season is coming this fall.

Can we trust that? Was Swamp Thing really an outlier or mistake instead of a death knell for the still-new streaming service?

On April 17, 2019, DC Universe announced the initial order of 13 episodes trimmed to 10 due to creative differences with Warner Bros concerning the series. On May 31, 2019, the show aired its pilot and the cancellation was announced on June 6. The cast and crew were reportedly stunned by the demise of the show, as were viewers and critics who gave Swamp Thing high marks. Initially, the state of North Carolina and a mishap with their tax breaks took the brunt of the blame, with reports that the $85 million budget was supposed to receive more relief from the incentives there.

When North Carolina and Warner Bros. refuted the tax incentives as the cause, a rumor surfaced that the studio didn’t want to pay to keep their sets in the state. That makes no business sense, but a spokesperson for Warner Bros. dismissed that claim as well while dodging requests for a real reason why the highly lauded Swamp Thing would never get to have its supposedly planned three season arc. Of course, I think we all know what’s happening.

WarnerMedia is launching its own streaming service this year. While DC Universe costs around $7 or $8 per month, WarnerMedia will cost $16-$17 per month with the addition of non-DC films and shows from their catalog. While the WarnerMedia price tag — which includes HBO and Cinemax plus the company’s other cable channels — is competitive compared to HBOGo on its own, the price is above what most users pay to stream. Plus, can the fans trust WarnerMedia to keep their DC Universe shows at the forefront of their list of priorities when it is cheaper to show existing content from their expansive library of movies and television?

Supposedly DC Universe is giving us the animated series Harley Quinn this fall and Stargirl next year, with hazy promises of more Titans later this year. Will those transpire before or after the existing service is enveloped by WarnerMedia’s streaming service as a way to get viewers immediately on the books? Are DC fans doomed to a continuous cycle of excitement and disappointment as Warner continually mishandles its collection of comic characters (with few exceptions, especially lately) or will this all work out in our favor eventually?

Only time will tell which version of the DC Universe original shows will survive the next several months. Just keep Snyder away from all of it, please.

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Jodi Smith is a Senior Reporter, Film & Television at Pajiba. You can email her or follow her on Twitter.

Image sources (in order of posting): DC Universe, Warner Bros.