It’s time to embrace the dark side of the DC universe. Director Jay Oliva has brought to life DC’s newest animated feature film that highlights the supernatural side of the DC universe with Justice League Dark, the “horror” movie Oliva has been dying to make ever since he had the chance to direct Halloween episodes of Young Justice. The director was present at New York Comic Con panel, along with Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, producer James Tucker, and character designer Phil Bourassa, who made quite an entrance by revealing new footage from the upcoming movie.
The first begins in the Hall of Justice as the Justice League (including Martian Manhunter and Hawkman) meets around their HQ table discussing the possibility of magical phenomena that is taking control of their city. Batman is unsure if magic is truly the cause of all the chaos, suggesting instead that the League members should spend more time on the streets “instead of flying over them.” But when Batman gets home, he receives a supernatural message reading “Constantine,” which appears all over his bedroom in what looks like blood. Suddenly, Batman seems more open to the idea that magic could be involved.
The animation is very similar to what audiences have seen in Young Justice, but the animators were excited to represent the Justice League in a new way. “The Justice League characters are all perfect,” Bourassa said. “God-like and almost carved in marble, you have to stay close to the established tradition. With these characters that we’re introducing in Justice League Dark they’re the freaks and the monsters, they’re more off the wall and bizarre there’s more room to play almost as much as when we’re introducing villains but in this case we turn it on its ear because the monsters are the heroes.”
For Matt Ryan, Justice League Dark is his introduction to DC’s animated universe, and it’s no wonder fans have been anxious to see what he will bring to Constantine. To help the audience get a better feel for him, the panel revealed another clip showing Constantine in battle against a slew of demons alongside Jason Blood (aka Etrigan the Demon). The demons ask Etrigan if they can “just talk” and use their words rather than engage in combat. Etrigan ignores their offer. Once the demons are successfully destroyed and Jason Blood regains control, he berates Constantine, who insists that breaking Blood’s strict hold over the Demon was less important than him getting eaten by demons. The scene is extremely funny and light, which is refreshing in relief with the darkness surrounding the film itself.
While discussing his unique aptitude for Constantine, Ryan was asked if he’d ever return to Arrow, to which he coyly responded, “throughout my career, I’ve learned not rule anything out,” and that he’s open to an eventual return because he “loves the character.” He said that in terms of an Arrow return, he’s open to it, because “I love the character.” And as far as animated John Constantine goes? Oliva said that they want to keep Ryan around as long as he is willing.
To keep the fight sequences unique, Oliva used inspiration from Final Fantasy and Full Metal Alchemist when creating the magic and mystical combat in the film. The magic of each character is color specific, with Constantine’s being green, and Zatanna’s being white/blue. The chemistry between characters in the film is something everyone on the panel was very pleased about, especially between Batman and Constantine, who have a buddy comedy vibe in their repartee. The third clip gives audiences a taste of the two together as Constantine, Zatanna, Batman and Deadman travel to find a friend, Richie, whose home is surrounded by “shrouds,” waiting to collect his soul after his upcoming death. The shrouds immediately target Batman, but he’s able to dispatch them quickly.
One of the most anticipated characters of Justice League Dark is, of course, Swamp Thing. “He is so cool and there are so many different directions that you could make him work in,” Bourassa explained. “It’s almost an artists playground, he’s so organic. He lends himself to be able to take on a bunch of different shapes and stuff.” The next clip, which was heralded to reveal the character, does take place in a swamp, as Jason Blood and Constantine explore the murky waters, provoking him to reveal himself. The woods begin to come alive and… the screen goes black. No Swap Thing reveal for us!
In regards to the films timing in the DC universe itself, it is was revealed that while time may have passed since the events of the last film, Justice League Dark will be a vital part in the new series of DC animated features. When asked if Lucifer would appear in any future DC animations, Tucker said, “Yeah, sure. Yay for the devil.” But no such luck for Young Justice Season 3 – saying that it’s not in the works right now, though he promised that if fans buy Justice League Dark and continue to watch Young Justice on Netflix, it’s possible we might see a third season on the horizon.
Though no official release date has been announced, Justice League Dark is expected to arrive sometime in early 2017.