The ultimate franchise showdown is just a few years away.
After scoring a huge legal victory on Wednesday when a federal judge ruled that Warner Bros. and its subsidiary DC Comics may retain the rights to Superman, the studio is now aiming to fast-track development on a Justice League film featuring the Man of Steel, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and other DC characters.
The goal? To release its superhero squad in summer 2015 and go up against Disney and Marvel's highly anticipated Avengers sequel.
A source told the Los Angeles Times the fact that the court decided against the heirs of Superman's cocreator, Joe Shuster, who were seeking some of the Superman copyrights they failed to re-up 20 years ago, means Warner is in the clear to move forward with movies based on the comic after 2013.
As a result, not only can studio brass get down to the nuts and bolts of putting together its long-awaited Justice League—for which a script has already been commissioned—but they can also greenlight a sequel to next summer's Man of Steel.
Then comes the arduous process of casting its superhero ensemble and tapping the right director. Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, who's producing the Man of Steel, has already nixed the idea of producing Justice League, while George Miller, who was attached to the film and nearly got it off the ground before the project stalled a few years ago, has since moved on to directing a Mad Max reboot.
If all goes according to plan, the source says Warner Bros. would shoot Justice League next year in time for a 2015 release that would then be followed by spinoffs featuring Superman's pals, some of whom, like Wonder Woman, have yet to get the big-creen treatment (though not for lack of trying).
That's the exact opposite approach that Marvel took with its Avengers characters, having made separate movies of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk before uniting them in one big blockbuster.
No doubt given the $1.5 billion plus in grosses Disney and Marvel made on The Avengers, Warner Bros. will have a lot riding on The Justice League.