In an age where fans have a never-ending hunger for any crumbs of information about their favorite pop culture franchises, leaks are a fact of life. Whether they’re true or not, these unofficial spoilers about upcoming stories entice fans with rumors about things they shouldn’t know (yet) about the fictional worlds they love. While leaks have affected just about every company in the modern media landscape, they’ve hit DC Entertainment especially hard. For decades, details about DC’s biggest projects have been leaked out and traveled all around the world, even before the Internet age.
Now, CBR is counting down some of the leaks that rocked the DC Universe. In this list, we’ll be looking at examples of leaked storylines from DC’s comics, movies and TV shows. Even after their details were made public, some of these storylines continued on as planned. In other cases, these stories were altered or abandoned after they leaked out early. Still, the details of other stories were only leaked after they were canceled, so they gave readers a tantalizing glimpse at what might’ve been. Regardless of when they were released, these leaked stories gave fans an illicit tease about the near future of the DC universe.
THE FLASH AND SUPERGIRL PILOTS
Throughout the late 2000s and 2010s, a curiously high number of pilot episodes for upcoming TV shows leaked online. In June 2014, the first episode of the CW’s The Flash was leaked online, a full three months before the show officially premiered. Although the episode was “for promotional use only,” an untold number of viewers got an early look at Grant Gustin’s Flash. Despite the leak, the well-reviewed pilot scored 4.9 million viewers when it officially aired in October 2014, which grew to 13 million viewers with the CW’s official streams.
In 2015, the pilot for Supergirl leaked online a staggering six months before it premiered on CBS. Like The Flash, the Melissa Benoist-starring show garnered some much-needed positive buzz after the first episode leaked. Though some wondered if the leak was intentional, the first episode Supergirl still pulled in 12.96 million viewers when it premiered in October 2015.
DICK GRAYSON’S DEMISE
In the 2005 DC crossover Infinite Crisis, DC’s then-executive editor Dan Didio wanted to kill Dick Grayson. Even though he might not seem like the most important character, Grayson has quietly become the heart of the DC Universe from his time as Robin, leading the Teen Titans and working alone as Nightwing. Under DiDio’s plan, Grayson would’ve been killed off and Jason Todd, the second Robin, would’ve taken his place as Nightwing.
While the vague details of that story leaked online, internal opposition to the plan from creators like Geoff Johns ultimately nixed the idea. After the details of this abandoned plan were discussed publicly, the outpouring of support for Grayson helped him rise to a more prominent position as he took over Batman’s mantle in 2009. This incident also influenced the lead-up to the 2013 crossover Forever Evil, where Grayson’s secret identity was revealed to the world.
JUSTICE LEAGUE’S PRODUCTION TROUBLES
Before Justice League hit theaters in 2017, the Zack Snyder film went through a famously troubled production cycle. As the movie went through reportedly “extensive” reshoots under Joss Whedon’s hand, a stream of leaks gave fans a detailed look at the film’s changing nature.
According to various leaks, some major plot points changed during the film’s production. Although he died in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Henry Cavill’s Superman was going to be resurrected in Justice League. In an Instagram post, Cavill even teased a black costume similar to the suit Superman wore after his 1993 comic book resurrection. That outfit and other reported scenes didn’t appear in the movie’s theatrical cut, which left fans wondering about how the movie changed during production. These rumors of filmed-but-unused scenes have fueled the fan-driven campaign to get Warner Bros. to release an extended, possibly non-existent, “Snyder cut” of the movie.
In 2008, the slightly underrated, often-misunderstood crossover Final Crisis made a number of shocking changes to the DC Universe. Over the course of Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy and Doug Mahnke’s series, the Martian Manhunter died, Batman was seemingly killed and Barry Allen’s Flash was resurrected after a decades-long death.
On their own, any one of those plot points would be a shocker for comic book fans. However, their impact was muffled since every one of those points was leaked online early. In 2007, reports about Batman’s impending “death” at the hands of Darkseid began to surface. Those rumors only intensified when DC announced that Morrison would be writing a Batman story called “Batman R.I.P.” Although Bruce Wayne survived that deceptively-titled story, he was seemingly killed when Darkseid sent him hurtling through time in Final Crisis.
THE BATMAN SCRIPT
In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman was a cultural juggernaut that introduced the public to the idea of a serious Batman through Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight. Even though the movie was made in the 1980s, the film faced some distinctly modern problems during its lengthy production process. Throughout the decade, the script went through almost a dozen rewrites. After Burton was hired to direct the film, he approached screenwriter and comic book fan Sam Hamm to rewrite the script again.
In the late 1980s, a few versions of Hamm’s Batman screenplay leaked out and were bootlegged at comic book stores and conventions. While that kind of leak isn’t unheard of today, it was rare for the time and almost certainly illegal. Despite that, fans were generally relieved by the serious tone of the rough script, which included an appearance from Dick Grayson and more screen time for Harvey Dent.
THE NEW 52 REBOOT
Even though DC Comics has had a few major reboots in its history, it seemed like all of those were in the past in 2011. However, that summer, online leaks suggested that a major DC relaunch would occur after that summer’s Flashpoint crossover. Rumors claimed every DC title would be relaunched with a new first issue, even series like Action Comics and Detective Comics which had kept the same numbering since the 1930s. While this news shocked longtime fans, it didn’t prepare them for the full extent of the New 52.
As DC confirmed later that summer, the publisher would be rebooting its entire universe and relaunching every series as part of the New 52 initiative. While this move alienated some older readers, it led to chart-topping sales that successfully reinvigorated DC’s line and energized the larger comic book industry for a few years.
TALIA AL GHUL IN DARK KNIGHT RISES
Since she was created by Dennis O’Neil and Bob Brown in 1971’s Detective Comics #411, Talia al Ghul has been one of Batman’s greatest foes, one of his greatest loves, and the mother of his son, Damian Wayne. With that in mind, Talia was arguably the most prominent Batman villain who hadn’t appeared on film at that point. That would change with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, where Marion Cotillard’s Talia worked with Tom Hardy’s Bane to take over Gotham City.
Almost as soon as Cotillard was cast as “Miranda Tate” in 2011, numerous rumors claimed that she was really playing Talia. While she maintained that her character was simply a Wayne Enterprises board member, these rumors intensified after leaked pictures from the set showed her in a costume-esque tunic. When the film hit theaters in 2012, most audience members weren’t exactly surprised when her true identity was revealed.
THE DEATH OF JOHN STEWART
Thanks to his hefty role in DC Animated Universe shows like Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, John Stewart is the Green Lantern to a generation of fans. Even though there are a few other equally iconic Green Lanterns in comics, Stewart is still one of the most prominent African-American characters in the DC Universe. When DC editors’ alleged plans to kill Stewart were leaked in 2013, that proposed storyline didn’t sit well with some fans and comic creators.
Before that news broke, Joshua Fialkov was set to take over writing duties on Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns. Fialkov walked away from both titles before a single issue was released, citing “creative differences” with DC over Stewart’s editorially-mandated death. After Fialkov’s public exit, DC apparently abandoned the storyline, and Stewart remained alive during Robert Venditti, Van Jensen and Bernard Chang’s run on Green Lantern Corps.
THE CONSTANTINE PILOT
Like The Flash and Supergirl, the pilot episode of NBC’s Constantine leaked online months before it officially premiered. While those shows didn’t change much between their leaks and their premieres, the leaked Constantine episode was considerably different from the official first episode of the series. But in both versions, Matt Ryan delivered a well-liked performance as John Constantine, DC’s mystical antihero.
While Constantine stayed the same, his sidekick was completely replaced between the leaked pilot and the official premiere. In the leak, Lucy Griffiths played Liv Aberdine, the precognitive daughter of one of John’s friends. After that character was taken out of the series, Angélica Celaya’s psychic artist Zed Martin took her place as Constantine’s partner. The pilot also made Constantine into a slightly warmer character. Still, these changes didn’t help the series survive past its first and only 13-episode season in 2014.
After DC’s New 52 reboot began to result in diminishing returns, DC announced plans to embrace the pre-New 52 universe in the DC Rebirth initiative. DC’s editors even told fans to avoid spoilers for Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis and Phil Jimenez’s DC Universe: Rebirth #1. That got much harder when the comic’s biggest moments were leaked online a week before it was published in May 2016.
That issue contained a number of shocking revelations that are still reverberating around the DC Universe today. The story featured the return of Wally West, the original Kid Flash/the third Flash, along with hints about the long-absent Justice Society of America. It also set the stage for the ongoing event Doomsday Clock by bringing characters from Watchmen into the DC Universe. These jaw-dropping moments were widely circulated online in the days leading up to the comic’s release.
WONDER WOMAN’S SETTING
Even though Batman and Superman got top billing in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman stole the show during her dynamic cinematic debut. But after Zack Snyder’s film, films still weren’t sure what her solo feature would look like. In 2015, the direction of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman began to take shape publicly when details about its unique World War I setting leaked out.
Although Wonder Woman has a fairly extensive history with World War II, setting Wonder Woman in 1918 made it an unlikely period piece. Some fans were initially skeptical about the setting, which echoed the hesitant initial reaction to Gadot’s casting. Those fears were put to rest when the gritty, mechanized war provided a perfect contrast to the pristine shores of Themyscira. That setting also didn’t keep the film from making an astounding $821.9 million at the international box office.
In 1998, four of the best superhero writers in comics put together a plan to save Superman and redefine the hero for the 21st century. Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Tom Peyer and Mark Millar put together a pitch known as “Superman 2000” or “Superman Now.” While the details of what happened are fuzzy, the pitch was rejected by DC and quickly became a minor legend in the comic book community.
Over the years, several parts of this infamous pitch have leaked online. The storyline would’ve allegedly seen Superman’s powers reach cosmic new heights, his marriage to Lois Lane dissolved and his secret identity revealed by Lex Luthor and Brainiac. While this story never happened, each of those writers went on to write Superman stories on their own. Some aspects of the pitch were used in several stories, notably including Morrison and Frank Quietly’s 2006 series All-Star Superman.
In the summer of 1991, the crossover “Armageddon: 2001” dominated DC’s comic books. In that story’s far-off future of 2001, one of DC’s heroes turned into the villainous Monarch, killed DC’s other heroes and took over the world. The crossover was largely built around the mystery of finding out which DC hero would eventually turn into Monarch. Originally, this hero was supposed to be the Justice League’s Captain Atom, and that shocking revelation leaked out while the crossover was being published.
In response to this, DC changed the story at the last second. Instead of Captain Atom, Monarch was revealed to be a future version of the young hero Hawk. This alteration required narrative gymnastics to make sense, and most readers responded poorly to the last-minute switch. Decades later, this ending was undone, and Monarch was revealed to be a version of Captain Atom after all.
BATMAN V. SUPERMAN’S DETAILS
In the lead-up to Superman and Batman’s highly-anticipated cinematic meeting, the Internet was filled with leaks and rumors about Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. A decent number of these alleged spoilers were simply untrue. For instance, some of these rumors suggested that Scoot McNairy’s unidentified character was the Flash or Jimmy Olsen instead of a Wayne Enterprises employee.
Still, several early rumors traced out a moderately accurate version of the film. Warner Bros. desire to cast an older-than-average Batman was leaked in 2013, a year before Ben Affleck took the part. Details about Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jessie Eisenberg’s jittery Lex Luthor and his affiliation with Doomsday also hit the web in 2014. Later that year, additional leaks claimed that the film directly addressed the criticisms that many fans had about Snyder’s 2013 Superman movie, Man of Steel.
TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHEROES
For a suitable follow-up to DC’s universe-ending crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths, superstar writer Alan Moore pitched a massive unproduced crossover called “Twilight of the Superheroes.” Allegedly created in 1987, the story was never approved for publication by DC, and Moore had a very public, acrimonious split with the publisher a few years later.
In the 1990s, a detailed copy of the proposal was leaked online. According to these leaks, the story would’ve taken place in a future ruled by superhero families and teams like a married Superman and Wonder Woman, the Captain Marvel/Shazam family and the now-adult Teen Titans. As these factions threatened to consolidate power and wipe each other out, a time-traveling Rip Hunter and John Constantine traveled to the present to save the future. Although this story was never published, later epics like Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come offered similar dystopian visions of DC’s future.
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