Written by Alisha Weinberger

justice-league-dark-comic-book

Say what you want about DC’s silver screen track record, the one thing they got down solid is their animated features. Where they lack in live action films, DC makes up for in a majority of animated projects. So when the rumored live action Guillermo Del Toro JL Dark film was shelved and Matt Ryan’s Constantine series met an unfortunate cancellation, fans were thrilled to find out an animated feature of DC’s paranormal team was on its way. This year’s panel attendees got a first look at Jay Oliva’s newest project and its looking good.

Moderator: Gary Mariano

Cast:

  • Phil Bourassa (Character Designer)
  • Jay Oliva (Director)
  • James Tucker (Producer)
  • Matt Ryan (Constantine)
  • Jason O’Mara (Batman)

Clip 1-Hall of Justice/Batman makes a burn

Opening with the Hall of Justice, Wonder Woman and Superman present disturbing footage of law abiding citizens mowing people down with their cars. These sudden and mass acts of violence have become a global epidemic. Watching the calamity unfold, is Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter at the table. Concluding that these occurrences are occult related, Batman enters the scene to shoot that possibility down. An overt skeptic of the magical and paranormal and looking for a rational explanation, Batman makes a quip that the rest of League has been too busy “flying above the streets” than spending times investigating them. It later cuts to Bruce in a Wayne Manor bathroom and a close up (to some fans delight and catcalling) to his animated abdominals. While shaving, Constantine’s name is scrawled in the steam of the bathroom mirror, Bruce exits to his bedroom to find the British sorcerer’s name written all over the walls, this time in blood. And so begins Batman’s descent into the world of the occult.

dsc_0122

When asked about the sudden cameo of Hawkman and Martian Manhunter, who never made a significant appearance in Oliva’s prior animated movies, Bourassa explained that they wanted to start incorporating more characters “organically” into the animated universe without their own separate movie or origin story. It may appear that Oliva’s animated universe is going to get even larger, not only with more obscure, occult heros like JL Dark, but with the subtle addition of other characters.

Clip 2- Constantine and Etrigan

In what appears to be a bar, Constantine and James Blood are cornered by a trio of hellish demons. With Blood behind a pillar, refusing to help, John is forced to use a spell to drag Etrigan out of Blood. What follows is a short but exciting brawl between Etrigan and the demons, who eventually get decapitated. Clearly, JL Dark isn’t just dark in name alone. The disembodied demon heads swear revenge against Constantine, and Blood (now back in human form) sucker punches him and calls him a bastard. Being in a cartoon doesn’t change John Constantine’s seedy reputation.

Jay Oliva, in discussing animating the fight choreography and action sequences, admitted he is a huge anime buff. Taking influence from Final Fantasy games and movies, as well as being a huge Full Metal Alchemist fan. Matt Ryan also shed some insight on the difficulties of speech patterns and accents when reciting spells as Constantine. Luckily his time on the live action series gave him ample practice.

Clip 3-“Boo”

More JL Dark members are revealed as the next scene is of Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), a floating Deadman (Nicholas Turturro), Constantine, and Batman taking to the streets. While approaching John’s ailing friend Richie’s apartment, they are met with Dementor-like creatures called “Shades” as Boston Brand describes them. One of the Shades comes face to face with Batman, who as a mere skeptical mortal, can’t see them (including Deadman). But mortal or not, Batman as the badass he is, makes one of the Shades flinch with a simple ironic “boo”. Constantine banishes them and they, like everyone else, swears revenge against him.

Although Luddington and Turturro weren’t there to attend the panel, the cast praised their voice acting performances and discussed the challenges the two faced. Matt Ryan especially gave props to Luddington, true to her in print counterpart, the actress not only had to recite spells with the same inflection and accent as Ryan but backwards. O’mara, in reference to Deadman, discussed the character’s “Brooklyn”-like accent. He divulged at some point in the film, Deadman possesses Batman which served as a challenge to O’mara. In that particular scene, not only did  O’mara have to voice Bruce Wayne but incorporate Boston Brand’s vocal mannerisms.

Bonus Clip- Swamp Thing…sort of

After much begging from attendees, the cast screened a bonus clip that would introduce Swamp Thing into the film. Constantine, Batman, Deadman, and Zatanna make their way through a swamp, logically. Batman who adamantly knows Swamp Thing’s alter ego, Dr. Alec Holland, died years ago is thoroughly annoyed. But he is proven wrong as Constantine eggs the floral giant on by threatening a flower bed. Just as Swamp Thing’s vines rise from the swampy depths, the clip cuts before we could fully see him. A cruel joke on the cast’s part.

Bourassa was equally excited about the first significant on screen appearance of Swamp Thing. In terms of character design, he was looking forward to a change of pace as the typical DC universe characters are godly and anatomically perfect. Whereas some JL Dark members such as Etrigan and Swamp Thing are radically different in design.

dsc_0094

No release date has been confirmed for the release of the animated debut of Justice League Dark, but early 2017 is the projected timeframe. Fan Q&A didn’t reveal much else, as the most popular question of the evening was Matt Ryan whether will dawn the live action trench coat ever again. As much as Ryan would love to, a return of the live action Constantineseries is unlikely. Overall, the film has great potential, albeit the plot does seem to stray from the original story arc of the comic. This is forgivable as the JL Dark members are not major players in the DC universe, so they’re canonically flexible. The in print story arc didn’t feature Batman as much, but one of the film’s underlying plot is the skepticism of Bruce upturned. Despite this Jay Oliva seems to have captured the occult super team tonally, this is looking to be another DC animated great.

Alisha Weinberger is a comic book, video game, and animation enthusiast and critic. Along with comic reviews, she also maintains The Pop Break twitter feed. Alisha thoroughly enjoys the warm embrace of coffee, says "dawg" and "dope" ad nauseam, and shares a reluctant resemblance to Tina Belcher.