Everybody knows the Justice League of America, and we can’t wait to see them hit the big screen at the end of the year. But they are far from the only superhero team-up that we want to see brought to life in the DCEU. When it comes to all things supernatural, there is only one team that can save the day — the Justice League Dark. This ensemble of magic-wielders has been called up to deal with all kinds of demonic and paranormal threats, and while they are far from pure heroes, they can always be counted on to do what’s right in the end.
Although leader John Constantine has made it to both big and small screens in the past, and some other members have shown up in superhero series over the years, we’ve yet to see this team as a whole get the kind of attention that they deserve. Now, however, it looks like we could see the DCEU get a little bit more magical in the near future… so while we cross our fingers that this project will find its way out of development hell, we’re also counting down some of our favorite lesser-known facts about this occult Justice League.
15. JLD Was Created For The Swamp Thing Comics
Although the Justice League Dark has since received their own comic book title, they were not created as a standalone team. Nor were they created for Constantine’s comic, which many people assume (because he is usually the leader of the JLD). Instead, the JLD first appeared in the pages of a Swamp Thing comic, in 1986.
Released by the DC imprint Vertigo, this Swamp Thing run saw John Constantine and Swamp Thing join forces to gather a team of magic-wielders and supernatural types in order to travel to another realm and take on a massive force of evil. This two-part introduction to the team saw some members battle it out in the other realm, while the Earth-based members projected their awareness into the fight to lend their aid. Although they did manage to vanquish the evil that threatened their world, this first battle saw more than one member bite the dust along the way.
14. Constantine Leads Them, But Didn’t Create Them
John Constantine, the trenchcoat wearing magician and occult detective, is usually found at the head of the JLD. He’s the de-facto leader and probably the best-known member of the team. In the original appearances of the team, it was Constantine that brought everyone together (along with the Swamp Thing, that is). However, in the current continuity, it was not John Constantine who founded the team, but Madame Xanadu.
In the New 52, Xanadu has a vision of a future catastrophe that would require a team of magic-wielders to combat it, and so she decides to bring the Justice League Dark together. However, she does it by splitting Enchantress and June Moon, driving her mad and causing her to start wreaking magical chaos — all so that the team will be forced together to reunite Enchantress and June Moon. Although they do manage this, they also discover that it was Xanadu who caused the problem in the first place.
13. The Characters Crossed Two Comic Universes
Longtime comic fans will be well aware of how Vertigo and the primary DC universe interact, but new fans of these characters may be a little confused. Vertigo was the more adult-oriented corner of the DC universe, and for many years, it was kept almost entirely separate. Then, with the events of Flashpoint and the creation of the New 52 universe, the DC, Vertigo and Wildstorm universes merged, and Constantine and his magic friends were able to cross over.
However, Justice League Dark is quite unusual in that most of the team members actually appeared in both DC and Vertigo stories before Flashpoint — like Zatanna, Spectre, and Deadman (who has been around in the DC universe since the ‘60s). This means that certain members of the JLD team have managed to wander back and forth between the universes of Vertigo and DC before they were officially combined; an impressive feat, but nothing for a team that routinely wanders between worlds.
12. Only Constantine, Zatanna, And Deadman Are Founding Members Of Both Teams
Like any other comic team, Justice League Dark’s roster changes from time to time, depending on who is alive, available, and relevant to any particular storyline. However, there are a few members who appear in the first incarnation of both the original Vertigo incarnation and the later, New 52 version of the Justice League Dark.
The original ‘80s team included Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Deadman, Zatanna, Spectre, Etrigan, and Phantom Stranger. The New 52 reboot gathered together by Madame Xanadu, meanwhile, included herself, John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Shade, and Mindwarp. Various other members would come and go, and the team would cross paths with Etrigan, Phantom Stranger, and other characters from their past — it’s a small world of magic wielders!
However, the three core members that were involved from the beginning in both versions of the team are Constantine, Zatanna and Deadman, making them the true heart of the JLD (and the ones that are most likely to show up on the big screen).
11. Ragman And Spectre Were Nearly In The New 52 Team
During the run-up to the launch of the New 52, there was plenty of speculation about who we might see in the Justice League Dark title. Although the eventual team roster turned out to be Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Shade, and Mindwarp, there were several other characters who nearly made it in. The Search For Swamp Thing miniseries that was created in the lead-up to Flashpoint featured John Constantine looking for the new Swamp Thing (Alec Holland), leading many to assume that he would be an integral part of the new team. Spectre and Ragman were also mentioned as possibilities for the new team by writer Peter Milligan, who said that he would “rule no-one out” when asked about the possibility of a Ragman appearance, and of Spectre said “you’re damn right it could [be the place for him]”.
10. There’s An I…Vampire Crossover
Constantine and his crew do battle with a whole range of supernatural beings in the DC universe, and that includes vampires. For those fans who are particularly into the blood-sucker angle, there’s even an extensive crossover with DC’s fanged solo title, I… Vampire to check out. Titled ‘Rise of the Vampires’, this two-month crossover from 2012 saw Constantine and the JLD battling a horde of vampires attempting to take over Gotham. The location also sees a few of the other DC heavy hitters involved, including Batman, Catwoman, Batgirl, Dick Grayson, and Damien Wayne.
As well as being a fantastic crossover with another popular supernatural title, ‘Rise of the Vampires’ is a great story arc that explains exactly why the Justice League Dark exists. In it, the Bat Family is stymied, and Constantine and Deadman have to travel into the afterlife to save the day — something that they are intimately familiar with, and that Batman wouldn’t know how to approach.
9. They Were Named By ARGUS
Although the team has been around for a long time, they weren’t officially named until quite late in the game. The original team-up never named themselves, probably because they never became a team in quite the same way as the Justice League or the Justice Society — they simply banded together when the situation required it.
Even in the New 52 version, despite starring in their own ‘Justice League Dark’ title, they didn’t officially have that moniker until the 9th issue of the run. In this issue, Steve Trevor came to find John Constantine to offer him and his team a place with ARGUS, saying that while they had superheroes on the payroll, ARGUS needed some help from people capable of working with magic. They’ve been keeping an eye on Constantine and his friends for quite some time, and even have a nickname for them in the office: the Justice League Dark.
8. Shade Left The Team Because The Artist Changed
One of the founding members of the New 52 Justice League Dark, Shade the Changing Man only stuck around for eight issues before being written out of the series. His brief tenure with the team was not, however, a decision made because of the story, but out of respect for writer Peter Milligan, who left the title along with this character.
Shade was actually first created by Steve Ditko in the ‘70s, and he starred in his own title for a brief period before become an occasional guest-star in other series (and not much else). However, in the ‘90s, Shade was rebooted by Milligan, who gave him a much more successful solo title for Vertigo, one which saw Shade cross over with Hellblazer on occasion.
Both Shade and Milligan started out with the New 52’s Justice League Dark, but when Milligan left the series after its eighth issue (to be replaced by Jeff Lemire), Shade left as well. Lemire said on Twitter that this was out of respect for Milligan, as the character was iconic for him.
7. They Have A Hulk
Obviously they don’t have the Hulk, given that that particular big green superhero is a Marvel character, not DC (and has nothing to do with the supernatural or occult), but they do have a big green monster or two of their own. Not only has the Justice League Dark been closely associated with the Swamp Thing since day one, but the New 52 team also includes Frankenstein in their roster.
The monster created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein appears in the comics with the same origins that he has in classic literature (more or less). A self-aware creature created of various folks’ body parts, this immortal, super-strong (and huge) creature has spent his long life learning about magic and taking on supernatural threats. He has traveled through time and even headed up his own SHADE team, the Creature Commandos. He has also been a member of the Justice League Dark, joining the team in issue 14 of the New 52 series.
6. They Would Have Appeared In Constantine’s TV Series
Although superhero TV shows and movies are enjoying an incredible amount of success right now, not all have managed to make it. One of the superhero shows that failed to land was the short-lived Constantine, starring Matt Ryan as John Constantine. The show was a fairly straightforward adaptation of the comic book character, with Constantine using his occult abilities to deal with a range of supernatural evils. However, the show was canceled after only thirteen episodes, and although Ryan has reprised his role with a guest appearance in the Arrowverse, Constantine is off the small screen for now.
If the show had carried on, however, the plan was to introduce the rest of the Justice League Dark over time. In an interview back in 2014, showrunner David Goyer revealed that “If the show takes off and we get our back nine and come back a second season, we sort of have access to that whole corner of the occult universe. So, hopefully we’ll be introducing [the Justice League Dark] characters as is appropriate.”.
5. They’ve Had Dealings With Steve Trevor And The Flash
Although the team didn’t make it to the live-action DC universe in Constantine, they have had plenty of dealings with characters who are joining the DCEU and the Arrowverse. The Flash has helped the Justice League Dark deal with nightmare illusions that were causing chaos among the team (as he could dispel them by vibrating through them), and with his quasi-mystical connection to the Speed Force, a crossover here certainly makes some sense.
Now that Matt Ryan’s Constantine is also an established part of the Arrowverse, we could even see a version of this story come to The Cw series The Flash in future. In the movie world, meanwhile, the Justice League Dark is most closely connected to Steve Trevor, who will be making his big screen debut this summer in Wonder Woman. Trevor, now working for ARGUS in the comics, recruited the JLD to help him out in the New 52 series — and should Trevor’s on-screen counterpart also join the agency in the modern day, we may well see him do some magical recruiting for the DCEU.
4. Enchantress’s Inclusion In Suicide Squad Is A JLD Lead-In
We may have also seen a lead-in to a Justice League Dark inclusion in the DCEU already, in last year’s Suicide Squad. Although Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman and co. didn’t show up in the film themselves, the Enchantress storyline certainly reminded a lot of fans of how the Justice League Dark came together in the New 52. When Madame Xanadu brought the team together, she did it by separating June Moon and Enchantress, driving her mad and creating a situation that brought the members of the JLD together. We saw this same kind of Enchantress-driven magic chaos in Suicide Squad, although it was obviously Waller’s team that took the witch-goddess down in the end.
It certainly wasn’t an easy task, however, and definitely showed the heroes of the DCEU how magic can cause problems for their super-teams, leading many to speculate that the long-term ramifications of Enchantress’s attack on this city will be the formation of a supernatural group of heroes: the Justice League Dark.
3. They Had An Animated Movie This Year
Another hint that we may be getting a Justice League Dark live-action movie in the near future was their feature-length animated film released earlier this year. The movie starts with the Justice League talking about magical threats to the world, before we see Constantine and his crew brought together by Batman to take on a supernatural foe. The film has been well-received by critics and fans, and it hints at the Justice League Dark taking a bigger role in the DC universe. Why’s that? Well, this isn’t the first time that DC has given a team a ‘trial run’ of sorts before bringing them to the live-action universe.
The Suicide Squad got a feature length animated outing in 2014’s Batman: Assault On Arkham. Testing the waters with an animated feature is a fantastic way for the studio to see how this kind of dark storyline could be received without risking the kind of budget that a live-action movie takes. And judging from the response to Justice League Dark (and the small but devoted Constantine fanbase), we’re predicting that DC is going to be moving these guys to the front of the queue very soon.
2. Guillermo Del Toro Nearly Made A JLD Movie
Of course, if DC does decide to add the Justice League Dark to the DCEU, it wouldn’t be the first time that this team has had a shot at the big screen. In 2012, rumors began to surface that a Justice League Dark movie was in the works, one that was set to be directed by Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim). In 2013, Del Toro confirmed that he was working on the film, and over the next couple of years, several updates were given on the project’s progress. The director revealed which characters he would have in the film (including Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Deadman, and Spectre), and commented that he thought it could exist alongside the live-action TV series and as part of the DCEU.
In 2015, however, Del Toro officially stepped down from the project, giving it up in order to work on other films that weren’t quite so firmly lodged in development hell.
1. They May Still Join The DCEU
So where does that leave the Justice League Dark? The good news for fans is that the project is still in development, and didn’t die when Del Toro exited. Last summer, it was announced that Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, the Bourne franchise) is now attached to the Dark Universe film. Scott Rudin (Ex Machina) is signed on as producer for the film, with a script being written by Michael Gilio.
The project has been described as a ‘priority’ by DC, and will be part of the DCEU. Liman himself has said that the movie will be ‘unconventional’, although we have yet to hear any details on how exactly it will fit into the world currently being created, who might star, or exactly when we can expect to see these guys on screen. The Enchantress lead-in in Suicide Squad and the animated feature certainly point toward this fantastic supernatural team coming to the big screen soon, however, and we’ll keep you updated as this story unfolds.
How much are you looking forward to a Justice League Dark movie, and who do you think should star in it? Let us know in the comments.