A “Justice League” movie was confirmed to be in development at Warner Bros. in late April, following years of speculation and rumor, not to mention a general sense that such a thing was probably inevitable after the massive success of Marvel’s “Avengers” film.
Another Justice League team — “Justice League Dark,” focusing on the supernatural superheroes of DC Comics — has also been in development at Warner Bros., with “Hellboy” and “Pacific Rim” director Guillermo del Toro attached since 2012. It’s been a while since the last update on the long-percolating film, but as of last November, it was still in the works according to del Toro, and intended to be part of a shared live-action DC Universe.
If the DC film franchise grows into the Marvel Studios-type success Warner Bros. clearly hopes it will — just look at the title for 2016’s “Man of Steel” follow-up “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the multiple superheroes set to in the film — “Justice League Dark” might become a reality sooner rather than later. But which heroes might play a part in the film? Here are 13 educated guesses.
Doctor Fate has been around since 1940, defending reality from primal gods and nether beings. As the mightiest wizard in the DC Universe, Fate has served on many teams over his storied career, including comic’s first super-team, the Justice Society of America. Del Toro could perfectly capture the heroic Kent Nelson, wielder of the Helmet of Nabu and Amulet of Anubis, a man possessed by a Lord of Order and charged with protecting the Earth from all things monstrous. From his earliest stories in “New Fun Comics,” Fate’s adventures have been some of the strangest and most most mind bending stories readers have ever experienced — right up del Toro’s dark alley. Plus, Fate’s costume is one of the all-time greats on the printed page and is practically begging for a shot as a movie icon.
Just like in the comics, Doctor Fate could be joined on-screen by his greatest ally, his wife Inza, who is every bit the champion her helmeted husband is and even wielded the Helmet of Fate herself for a time. This is a husband-and-wife team who defends reality from demons and darkness that would add an emotional, human element to a film otherwise steeped in the supernatural.
Sandman (Wesley Dodds)
With Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David S. Goyer both attached to DC Entertainment’s planned “Sandman” film, a “Justice League Dark” movie would likely need some connection to the storied Sandman name. Wesley Dodds, the first of several DC characters to bear the Sandman moniker, could act as a precursor to the world of Morpheus. A masked crime fighter gifted (or cursed) with premonitions of crimes in his dreams, Dodds could serve as a bridge between DC superheroes and the strange world of Vertigo. There are tons of stories that could begin with a man who journeys to the Dreaming to find whatever devil the dark Justice League must face. DC has so many amazing Golden Age heroes whose heydays all came before big budget comic book movies became the norm, and it would be nice to see a DC film pay tribute to the company’s heroic roots. Dodds starred in Vertigo’s “Sandman Mystery Theatre” for years, so his horror cred is already well established. Before fans potentially journey to the Dreaming in a “Sandman” feature film, their first guide can be the first Sandman, the brave and mysterious Wesley Dodds.
Some of the greatest creators in comic book history have worked on the Phantom Stranger — Len Wein, Paul Levitz, Mike Mignoa, Robert Kanigher, Jim Aparo, Neal Adams, Tony DeZuniga and most recently, J.M. Dematteis — each adding to the legacy of DC’s most mysterious hero. The Phantom Stranger’s enigmatic nature would play well in a “Justice League Dark” film; in fact, the Stranger could be the one to gather the world’s strangest heroes to stop some massive conflict that can’t be attacked with brute force alone. The Stranger has played a vital role in the “New 52,” and has had ties to the Justice League in the past, making him a natural fit for del Toro’s film. If you’re going to have a grouping of strange heroes, it needs at least one of them in a trench coat and a fedora. The Stranger has walked through history, and with this mysterious mystic as part of del Toro’s “League,” the Cinematic DC universe could have a greater sense of cohesion to its own developing past.
While Zatanna would be a fantastic recruit for the regular Justice League,” this powerful sorceress is one of the few characters that can walk in both the light and the “Dark.” Zatanna is equally comfortable amidst superheroes as she is the more sublime and fantastic world of magic. She could appear in both films as a liaison between the Leagues and could be the gateway character for viewers with which to see the monsters, mages and other characters who inhabit the shadows. If expansion is the goal for the DC Cinematic Universe, fans could suffer a much worse fate than Zatanna as the connective tissues between movies.
Though he’s already starred in two movies and a live-action TV series, none of them have done the Guardian of the Green justice. Swamp Thing needs a proper film treatment, worthy of the character reinvented by Alan Moore in the ’80s that helped give birth to DC’s Vertigo Comics imprint. It would take a skilled filmmaker to give fans such a tale, but Guillermo del Toro is exactly such a filmmaker. With “Constantine” coming to television this Fall, it’s important for fans to remember that John Constantine got his start in the pages of Moore’s “Swamp Thing.” In fact, numerous elements that make up DC’s modern world of magic began in those same pages. Del Toro showed his chops and deft hand on the “Hellboy” films and if anyone could reintroduce the concept and character to a wide audience — he’d be the guy. It’s possible his arch nemesis, Anton Arcane, could even be the perfect villain for a “Justice League Dark” film.
A classic version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is another project del Toro has circled for years (the most recent rumor had Benedict Cumberbatch in the leading role). There is no doubt del Toro has the sensibility to give fans a unique view of the “Frankenstein” legend, and it doesn’t get more unique than mashing Frankenstein up with the world of DC Comics. “Frankenstein and the Agents of S.H.A.D.E.” was one of the more creative spots in the early days of the New 52, and much like “Swamp Thing” and “Hellboy,” it seems like a perfect playground for del Toro. An established literary legend could only enhance the cool factor of the potential “Dark” franchise, albeit with the proper twists and updates. DC’s version of Frankenstein is a globetrotting adventurer with the soul of a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, a super spy and freedom fighting monster that is more hero than monster — on top of that, this version of the monster killed Hitler. There may not be another character in DC Comics’ roster that screams del Toro louder than Frankenstein.
Etrigan, the Demon
Every comic film should have a little Jack Kirby, and the Demon would be perfect for this one. Thanks to the brilliance of not only Kirby, but Alan Moore, Matt Wagner, Garth Ennis and more, Etrigan is one of DC’s most iconic monster heroes (and sometimes villain). The story of Jason Blood is a sweeping saga that begins in Camelot and continues in the modern day, perfect movie plot fodder. The character’s rhyming tendencies may be tricky to get across in a sufficiently imposing manner, but the demonic Jekyll and Hyde story of a good man and the evil locked inside would be just too solid to pass up, and visually, Etrigan is right in del Toro’s wheelhouse.
How is it that there hasn’t been a “Deadman” movie or television show yet? A dead circus performer who possesses the bodies of the living to solve crimes while trying to find his own murderer — now that’s a procedural! From the original “Deadman” by Arnold Drake, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams and Jack Miller to the modern day adventures of the character in the “New 52,” Deadman has always been the core of DC’s stable of weird characters, a ghost “detective” trying to solve his own murder — the character fits in perfectly with the JL Dark characters in the comics, and in del Toro’s hands could be the breakout star of a “Dark” film.
First appearing in “Strange Adventures” #187 (April 1966) and created by Bob Haney and Howard Purcell, June Moone is one of the lesser known heroes in DC’s pantheon. In John Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad,” she was presented as a troubled but very powerful sorceress, an emerald-clad, very visceral and disturbing character. The Enchantress has flip-flopped from hero to villain over the years, an unstable force of magic in the DC Universe, vacillating between mystic savior and potential threat. The character could serve as a counterpoint to the white magic-wielding Zatanna, providing del Toro’s “Dark” squad an air of monstrous uncertainty.
Ragman is one of the lesser known of Joe Kubert’s many creations, but he is also one of the most compelling. Kubert is best remembered for his genre defining war comics, but with Ragman, the legendary artist proved he could do effective horror as well. The Tatterdemalion of Justice was introduced in 1976 in a self-titled series, and ever since, Ragman has maintained a a fringe horror-based presence in the DCU. Rory Regan was a junk shop owner who was bonded with a mystic suit of rags after he was murdered, each rag of the suit containing a murdered soul seeking justice. A modern day golem, Ragman is a character steeped in Jewish history and mysticism, a shadowy vigilante prowling the streets in search of justice for the helpless, the lost, and the broken. The mind boggles at what del Toro could do with one of strangest and most original characters waiting for a chance at film glory.
Yeah, we know — he’s soon to be a television sensation, but since we’re discussing del Toro’s hypothetical movie, there’s no way we’re leaving John Constantine off our roster. Everyone’s favorite British bastard has been a staple of DC’s magical realms since Alan Moore first introduced the magical con-man in “The Saga of the Swamp Thing” #37. Some of the greatest visionaries in comics have crafted Constantine’s mythology, including Jamie Delano, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, and more, giving del Toro decades of stories to mine for the big screen Constantine fans have always dreamed of. Constantine lives in a perpetual shade of grey, protecting reality from otherworldly demonic threats. Constantine would set del Toro’s film apart from the crowded comic book film pack; a non-costumed, chain smoking egomaniac who also happens to be the only man who has the nerve to bring together a team of monsters, demons, wizards and myths.
He was DC’s first character, and arguably, the first superhero in comics, which feeds right into del Toro’s love of the classics — it simply doesn’t get more classical than the original super-powered mystic detective. Richard Occult (who can resist a character with that moniker?) was created by none other than Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two young men from Cleveland who would go on to create Superman just three years later. Two of comics’ greatest fountainheads cut their teeth on a character who was the mystic Sam Spade, a hard-hitting, hard-nosed investigator of the supernatural. It would be beautiful to include the trenchcoated hero that not only began the tradition of mysticism in the DC Universe, but was also created by the men whose greatest character became the spark for the entire DC Universe.
Another Golden Age hero, Kid Eternity has one of the coolest power sets in comics and would be a natural fit on the big screen. When “Kit” Freeman’s life was taken sooner than destiny had preordained, he was returned to life and granted the power to temporarily bring any dead person back to life by shouting the word “Eternity.” Just think about the film potential of that power! Kid Eternity might not be the most well known of DC’s pantheon of mystic heroes, but he has a compelling origin, a rich history and perhaps the coolest ability on the list. Seeing him pal around with Deadman as interpreted by del Toro could be worth the price of a ticket alone!