Who Is In The ‘Justice League Dark? Get To Know The Dark Side of the DC Universe
Even though we've got a Justice League movie in development and Suicide Squad on the way next summer, it looks like DC and Warner Bros. aren't quite done bringing their teams to the big screen just yet. As you might have heard, Justice League Dark is back in development, a bit of news that sent excited superhero fans all over the world eagerly asking, "Wait, what the heck is Justice League Dark?"
The basic idea is that they're a team of mystical heroes, so named because they fight against the darker magical threats to the DC Universe (and because we all agreed Justice League With Almonds was just a bit ridiculous), but if you need more information, look no further. We have your back with a breakdown of the characters you're likely to meet if Justice League Dark ever makes it to the big screen!
Real Name: John Constantine
Rhymes With: Constant whine
Does Not Rhyme With: Constant teen
So What's His Deal: Back when he first appeared in the pages of Alan Moore, Steve Bisette and John Totleben's Swamp Thing, John Constantine was an immaculately dressed mystery man who wore white gloves, smoked fancy cigarettes, and knew a whole lot of things no one should ever know about the occult. By the time he got his own ongoing series, he swapped out that tailored suit and slicked-back hair for a perpetually rumpled shirt and tie and a tendency to chain-smoke pretty much anything he could get his hands on, but that forbidden knowledge stayed — and had all the terrible consequences that you expect.
Constantine has no small amount of talent with magic, but his real skill is that he's a master manipulator, a cynical con-man who once tricked the forces of Hell itself into repairing his body when his constant smoking resulted in lung cancer. He's a cynic with a tendency to get the people closest to him killed (or worse), but more often than not, he tends to act to help people — it just so happens that this often lines up with his own self-interest.
While he was created as part of the DC Universe, he rose to prominence in a long-running Vertigo series, Hellblazer, that was decidedly and definitively set apart from superheroics before being folded back into the mainstream DCU in 2011. He's been the subject of a movie (of dubious relation to its source material) and a short-lived TV series on NBC where he was played by Matt Ryan, a role that Ryan reprised on Arrow, meaning that escaping cancelation may have been Constantine's greatest trick of all.
Recommended Reading: Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits, Hellblazer: Red Sepulchre, DC's current Constantine: The Hellblazer.
Real Name: Zatanna Zatara
That Name Is Ridiculous: I'd say it's about a 0.7 on the Turner D. Century Scale, yes.
It Would Be The Best Scrabble Word Ever Though: Proper names aren't legal in Scrabble.
So What's Her Deal: Zatanna is one of DC's most successful legacy characters, to the point where it's sometimes tough to remember that she is a legacy character. Her father, John Zatara, first appeared in the Golden Age of comics in an otherwise unremarkable issue called Action Comics #1, as a stage magician who fought crime with real magic in the form of spells that he cast by speaking backwards.
Zatanna would follow her pop into the family business, becoming far more successful as both a crime-fighter and an illusionist, serving as an occasional member of the Justice League of America, and teaming up to help Batman with the weirder side of Gotham City every now and then. Mostly, however, she works on her own, dealing with magical threats.
While she's one of DC's more notable magicians, she's also arguably one of the most powerful, as her spells don't seem to have many limits beyond the idea that she has to be able to speak (or write) them backwards. She did, however, add a "esaelp" to a few, because it's always nice to be polite to the forces of magic.
Recommended Reading: Black Canary & Zatanna: Bloodspell, Detective Comics #833-844
Real Name: Alec Holland, sort of. Sometimes.
Wait How Can You "Sort Of" Have A Real Name: Listen, it's complicated.
So What's His Deal: Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, Swamp Thing started out as a scientist named Alec Holland who was attacked by gangsters and ended up plunging into the swamp, burning alive and covered with a regenerative formula. Thanks to the formula, he would bond with the plant life of the swamp and emerge as the Swamp Thing, battling it out with various monsters including the Un-Men and the sinister Anton Arcane.
When Alan Moore, Steve Bisette and John Totleben took over the book, they added a whole new layer to things, starting with an anatomy lesson that revealed that Swamp Thing wasn't Alec Holland at all. Instead, he was an avatar of the Green, a network of the world's plant life, and he was created by nature itself using Alec Holland's mind as a template to guide him. Free of his humanity, he still had to deal with increasingly horrifying monsters and a mind-bending trip through space courtesy of Lex Luthor. But eventually he got that bit of humanity back. Like I said, it's complicated.
As a creature made entirely of plants, Swamp Thing is notoriously difficult to kill, since he can simply abandon his body and grow a new one any time he pleases, even spreading his consciousness around multiple forms. Also, he grows hallucinogenic potatoes out of his back that he can use to have sex, so, you know, that's in there.
Recommended Reading: Saga of the Swamp Thing v.1 - 6, Swamp Thing: Darker Genesis, Swamp Thing: Root of All Evil.
Real Name: Jason Blood / Etrigan the Demon
Best Cover Blurb: "I'M UNLEASHING EVERY TERRIBLE THING YOUR MIND CAN THINK OF! CAN YOU TAKE IT?!"
Best Villain Name: Baron von Evilstein
So What's His Deal: Of all the characters Jack Kirby created during his time at DC in the '70s, the Demon is probably the most successful, headlining multiple series over the years and becoming a mainstay of DC's supernatural characters. Which makes sense, because he's rad as hell.
During the fall of Camelot, Merlin bonded a young knight named Jason Blood with Etrigan, a demon conjured up from Hell itself and sworn to service. Sadly, this desperate measure didn't save King Arthur's kingdom from collapsing, but it did leave Jason tied to Etrigan for eternity, granting him immortality and the ability to change places with his demonic other half with the use of an incantation: Gone, gone, form of man, arise the demon Etrigan!
The rhyming would eventually become A Whole Thing.
In addition to Jason's seemingly endless wealth of arcane knowledge, gained over centuries of study, Etrigan has the strength and resilience that you'd expect from a literal demon, as well as the ability to breathe soul-sizzling hellfire. Kind of makes you wonder why his most enduring enemies are a small child and his cat.
Recommended Reading: Jack Kirby's The Demon.
Real Name: Nimue Inwudu
That Seems Like An Improbable Name: More improbable than "Madame Xanadu?"
Fair Point: I thought so.
So What's Her Deal: Unlike her teammates, Madame Xanadu was created — with a design by Michael Kaluta — as something less like a superhero and more like a horror host, appearing in a spooky anthology as a minor character that connected the otherwise unrelated stories. Eventually, though, her connection to the mystic side of things would bring her to greater prominence, including an ongoing series where it was revealed that she comes from a pretty accomplished family — her two sisters are Morgaine Le Fey and the Lady in the Lake.
In addition to a healthy dose of immortality, Madame Xanadu's powers tend to manifest themselves as divination through Tarot carts, something that she hands out pretty freely to anyone who drops by her fortune-telling business in Greenwich Village.
Recommended Reading: Madame Xanadu #1-29.
Real Name: Boston Brand
Twin Brother's Name: Cleveland Brand
Does He Have A Sister: No, but I did once meet a woman named Portland, so if anyone's looking to add that wrinkle to continuity, I say go for it.
So What's His Deal: Created in 1967 by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, Boston Brand was a circus acrobat in the DC Universe, and as you might already know, that's an occupation that has a shockingly high mortality rate. Sure enough, he was gunned down by an assassin in the middle of his act by someone who clearly didn't know that this is a surefire way to make a new superhero.
Fortunately for Brand, his stage name was "Deadman" and his act included corpse paint makeup, so he was already suited for the afterlife. Unfortunately, he was denied a peaceful afterlife and instead dispatched back to the world by Rama Kushna, with the ability to possess anyone by entering their body.
As a result, Deadman usually operates as an intermediary between the spirit world and the physical plane, occasionally passing along messages and causing some very confused people to do spectacular trapeze stunts.
Recommended Reading: Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2 (trust me on this one).
Real Name: Anton Arcane
Desires: Super gross.
So What's His Deal: Anton Arcane made his debut in Swamp Thing #2 as a mad scientist obsessed with creating life, building himself a new body that would last forever rather than his own frail and failing form. But what started as a slightly grosser version of Frankenstein — with an army of misshapen Un-Men instead of a single monster — would eventually become one of DC's most genuinely horrifying villains.
The most notable example on that front was — and spoiler warning her for a comic that came out thirty years ago — the reveal that after years of experiments that saw him building increasingly misshapen bodies for himself, he transferred his mind into the body of his niece's husband after he died in a car crash, spending months as her lover before the switch was finally and horrifically revealed. Unsurprisingly, he was condemned to Hell soon after, but managed to claw his way out to keep causing trouble.
In addition to his own macabre experiments Arcane has recently been cast as an avatar of the Rot, the opposite number to the Green, spreading death and decay across the world.
Recommended Reading: Pretty much the same as Swamp Thing's — those two are inextricable.