DC’s latest installment in their Animated Feature Empire (which seems to be better received than that live action film empire) Justice League Dark hits digital services from today, and will drop on DVD and Blu-Ray February 7th. At last nights Los Angeles premiere of Warner Brothers Animation’s second foray into R-rated DC fare, we had the chance to catch up with some of the film’s cast and crew to learn a little more about the film and its process.
Justice League Dark revolves around Batman (Jason O’Mara) enlisting the help of John Constantine (Matt Ryan) to form a new league with Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), Deadman (Nicholas Turturro), Swamp Thing (Roger R. Cross), and Etrigan (Ray Chase). Together they must save the Earth from a supernatural plague they have yet to understand.
Matt Ryan, who has now had the opportunity to portray John Constantine both as a live-action hero and an animated one, had a lot to say about the contrast. “There’s a lot of freedom, there’s not the time constraints that you have with a live action show,” he gushed about his animated work. “But then there are the downsides, you’re not interacting with the actors.” His experience recording Justice League Dark was a wholly positive one despite the somewhat isolating booth. “They’re an amazing team and they’ve got a great storyline and the way that the characters interact is fantastic, and it was just really great to be able to get under his skin and flesh him out.”
He went on to admit that he felt gratified by the fans clamoring for him to reprise the role when the film was first announced. “I was asked all these questions and I couldn’t say anything, but I had already recorded it. I’d already done it. I was like, I don’t know. I can’t say anything, but I’d already done it, which is great.” Even though millions of viewers associate his face and voice with Constantine, Matt was sure to give props to the crew that worked on creating the film. “All the designers, character designers, and the writers, they all have such a great knowledge of the characters. They’re the ones that really bring it to life after you do your voice.”
Matt is getting yet another chance to play an animated Constantine thanks to the new CW Seed series. Once David Goyer let him know, he was immediately on board. “I just said two words, I’m in. I love the character so much and the chance to flesh him out in any medium is something that I jump at.” Perhaps this will lead to a live-action Constantine on Legends of Tomorrow? Only time will tell.
Jason O’Mara has played Batman in several different iterations, and remarked on how different Justice League Dark is tonally. Despite that, he maintained that Batman is the connective tissue in the animated universe. “Even though this seems very different to a lot of the Batman movies that have come before, it’s still the same character. He’s bringing all that emotional baggage into this, even though he’s not at the center of this.”
Bruce trades quips with Constantine throughout the film, but for the most part he has to stand back and let others take charge. How hard is that for him? “It’s a contradiction for Batman because there’s a very odd problem, supernatural problem that needs a supernatural solution,” O’Mara replied. “He’s smart enough to know that but at the same time has to employ really strange people to try to combat this villain.”
At the moment, O’Mara is currently known for playing Patriot on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. In the spirit of friendly rivalry, we asked who would win in a fair fight: Batman with no gadgets or Mace with no injections. His reply was quick and decisive: “Batman. Without his injections Mace is just a guy with a marketing degree.”
We also spoke with Phil Bourassa, the lead character designer of Justice League Dark. He was very open about discussing his character creation process, especially when it comes to paying homage to the source material while still adding his own modern spin. “Just for me, it’s definitely being very familiar with the stuff that has come before. The look from the comics,” he explained. “It’s very intuitive, to be honest. Because stylistically, it’s all set within the same continuity that we’ve been establishing.”
While the hilarious Phil insisted that “handsome dude” Matt’s version of Constantine was straight off the comic book page and thus easy to recreate in animation, he admitted that he had the most fun with the design of Etrigan. “I really love drawing the demon, because I love drawing monsters. He’s cool. He has a big sword and he speaks in rhyme, so that’s fun. Swamp Thing as well was fun. It’s really fun to do the pushed characters.”
Finally, James Tucker gave us some interesting tidbits as the executive producer of Justice League Dark, as well as the head of DC’s direct-to-video department. He explained that he chose an alternative to the Justice League precisely because “it would expose the audience to the occult members and the sorcery,” which casual fans aren’t necessarily aware of.
Interestingly enough, audiences heard about the animated film around the same time that there were rumors of a live-action version. But James was clear that he decided on this story independently of the film producers. “The two really didn’t have anything to do with each other actually. They don’t consult us and we don’t consult them.” This even extends to the television world, and he cited the various Flashes coexisting in DC as a reference. “Not all of them are the same, but each division has its own autonomy to a degree.”
As for how the producers decided which characters to include in the film? “Basically once we locked down what the basic tent poles of the story were going to be, the choice of characters fit in,” he answered. Constantine and Zatanna were immediately picked, but the rest fell into place easily as well…except for one. “I think I was the only advocate for Black Orchid. So I had to work to get her in there, but she was on the team in the books so I wanted to replicate as much as made sense.”
Fans of Batman: The Animated Series have been wondering if Batman and Zatanna will have a similar dynamic in Justice League Dark, but James was a little coy on that front. “I would say it echoes what it was in [the animated series]. They have knowledge of each other and we don’t go into just how much or how little, but they’re definitely friends.”
To learn more about their dynamic, as well as the entire supernatural league, check out Justice League Dark on demand – and on DVD/Blu-Ray on February 7th!
GS Writer: Tatiana Hullender