The clash of superhero universes is harsh, ongoing combat for box office supremacy. At this moment, Marvel and its team are winning – the MCU has become the most lucrative movie franchise in history, grossing more than $23 billion at the box office.
The world’s best-known (super)heroes are still in DC’s corner of the ring, though – Batman and Superman have had more screen time than probably all others combined. Their story has been told and retold countless times, their suits and masks have been worn by countless actors over the decades. And there’s more to come: the CW is working on a brand new take on Krypton’s heroic son and his journalist alter ego, while DC Films is preparing the next Batman film that will simply be called The Batman.
All this while an entire army of comic book characters from DC’s vast library is waiting for its chance to shine.
Characters like Changing Man, Deadman, Madame Xanadu, and John Constantine, well-known in the US and taken abroad by the ever-growing number of major international comic conventions, with a ton of potential for a deeper, darker stories to be told. Apparently, though, it’s their turn to take on the silver screen: J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot has reportedly partnered with Warner Media to develop both film and TV ideas based on Justice League Dark.
If all but one of the names above sounds unfamiliar, that’s because John Constantine is the only one of these characters to ever find a way out of the “drawn” world. His adventures were adapted into a feature film starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Francis Lawrence – which was not a box office bomb, but not a blockbuster either – and a live-action TV series starring Matt Ryan that, despite the critics’ praises of both his performance and the series as a whole, was cancelled by NBC due to its poor ratings. It was pretty close to the comics, adapting a few Hellblazer releases (“A Feast of Friends”, “The Saint of Last Resorts” and “Waiting for the Man”). Since then, Ryan has appeared as the character in several episodes of various CW Arrowverse series, and voiced his character in the animated web series Constantine: City of Demons.
DC’s dark ensemble got its own feature-length animation in 2017, titled Justice League Dark, featuring Zatanna, Deadman, Etrigan the Demon, the Swamp Thing, and Black Orchid along with John Constantine (again, voiced by Matt Ryan).
It was a success, warranting a sequel called Justice League Dark: Apokolips War that’s set to be released sometime this year.
Darkness, Magic, J.J.
Bad Robot hasn’t produced any comic book movies and series… but it was involved in several successful movies and series – think Fringe, a successful amalgam of the antics of a goofy old scientist and the gruesome effects of his research, HBO’s Westworld series, that J.J. Abrams executive produced, Stephen King’s 11.22.63 miniseries and the upcoming Lovecraft Country series, and their own Cloverfield series.
And a little phenomenon called Lost.
It’s safe to say that, based on the company’s previous record, it seems to have what it takes to successfully adapt the dark, mysterious, and often bloody and disgusting nature of the Justice League Dark comics to the screen – no matter if it’s a TV screen or the silver screen. The collaboration is still in its very early stages, though – there’s no telling whether J.J. Abrams himself will direct any of its results or if he will only produce.
Whichever the case, it’s a good thing that the darker side of the DC Comics is finally getting its chance to shine after so many Superman and Batman adaptations.