DC Universe Might Already Be Dead

Photo: Alex Cranz/io9
Photo: Alex Cranz/io9

DC Universe’s excellent $US75 ($105) year-length subscription is reportedly dead. New subscribers will be limited to only the monthly $US8 ($11) plan, which averages about $30 more annually than the defunct annual plan. It’s a major bummer and another significant hint that DC Universe, one of the absolute best deals in streaming, is headed to wherever superheroes go when they die before they’re inevitably resurrected three years later for a multi-issue crossover event that makes no sense.

When the DC Comics-specific Warner Bros. streaming service launched in late 2018, it seemed like a shoddy cash grab — a way to make one more buck off the same kind of comic fans who buy multiple variants of a cover or three different releases of a movie. But over 2019 it started to rapidly improve. It had a small library of movies and shows that only a true nerd could love, as well as the addition of legitimately fantastic original programming. Shows like Doom Patrol, Harley Quinn, and Swamp Thing were so entertaining they almost made the service feel like it was worth it.

But the secret weapon of DC Universe, and the reason I’ve been subscribing since early 2019, is the massive library of comics that are free to read. Not just fairly recent stuff, but a lot of books that are prohibitively expensive on Comixology, or just not available digitally. Jack Kirby’s entire Fourth World run is on DC Universe, so is Legion of Super-Heroes, and I spent three weeks flying back and forth from San Francisco for work while consuming Alan Moore’s entire Swamp Thing run on the DC Universe app on my iPad.

Editor’s Note: DC Universe never launched in Australia, but much of its content wound up on Foxtel or online.

If you’re not into comic books DC Universe doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the combination of its solid library of old movies and shows, excellent original programming, and fantastic digital comic catalogue make it practically required for the discerning nerd. It’s what makes the news, via a report from CBM, so concerning. Gizmodo has reached out to DC Universe for comment and will update should we hear back.

When I recently went on a service cutting binge — axing subscriptions I rarely or never use — Showtime and CBS All Access got cut, but DC Universe was never even considered for the chopping block. But WarnerMedia probably has a different opinion of DC Universe than I do.

Robotman having a rough go of it. (Photo: DC Universe)

Almost immediately after AT&T acquired Warner Bros. in 2018, it axed FilmStruck. DC Universe, which had barely launched at that point, oddly survived the streaming service culling. It seemed to chug along, quietly and competently, in the background. But when HBO Max launched in May its original programming was padded with an HD version of Doom Patrol, and the show continues to air there in HD (it airs on DC Universe in 4K HDR). Then late in June, it was announced that Harley Quinn was coming to HBO Max.

HBO Max’s video library continues to be pretty lacking compared to DC Universe’s when it comes to superhero stuff, but it’s clear that the biggest and flashiest DC Universe content is being used to prop up Max, which is otherwise lacking in original nerdy programming.

With Swamp Thing and Stargirl both airing on the CW, Stargirl’s second season renewed exclusively for CW, Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn both shouldering HBO Max’s load, and the bargain annual DC Universe subscription killed, it sure feels like WarnerMedia is prepping to sunset DC Universe — or just hope its handful of subscribers move over to HBO Max and the CW app. And that’s a bummer, because if you love comics it has been a spectacular deal.