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It's strange. If you ask your average guy on the street, he'll tell you superheroes are child-friendly. Especially when it comes to superhero animated series. He couldn't be more wrong; after all, this year is going to see the release of Batman: The Killing Joke, a brutal R-rated animated adventure with terribly consequences for Barbara Gordon. And now we know DC isn't going to stop making more of this darker action...
It hasn't been officially announced, but the British Board of Film Classification website is listing the extras on The Killing Joke DVD. One of them carries a telling title:
"A Sneak Peak at Justice League Dark"
Just what is Justice League Dark?
Where do you go when Superman's been defeated by a swarm of witch's teeth, and Wonder Woman's plunged into a Hell of her own making? Who helps when riots sweep the globe and the world's superheroes struggle to hold back an insane hatred?
Who saves the world when magic is the threat?
Enter the Justice League Dark, an informal band of unlikely and self-centered mystics who have been brought together to protect the world from sorcery gone bad. As writer Peter Milligan told Newsarama:
"It was the “dark” bit that really appealed to me. The idea of taking these characters and this kind of story into some dark places. That doesn’t always or necessarily mean supernatural black magic dark. It can mean emotionally dark. A messed up confused kind of dark. The basic screwed up human condition transplanted onto a superhero/supernatural comic."
The team included popular mystical superheroes such as John Constantine, Deadman, Madame Xanadu, and Zatanna. True to Milligan's comments, the sorcerers were seriously messed up - they were frequently their own worst enemies.
Curiously enough, a live-action script for Justice League Dark has long been on the table, and fans are eagerly anticipating it becoming part of the DC Extended Universe. But it looks as though the animated universe is about to get there first!
It makes sense. The mystic powers involved in Justice League Dark would undoubtedly be expensive - a good 90% of the film would be CGI, and it would be very easy to mess up with that.
What plot could DC plan to do?
It seems logical that the film could adapt "In The Dark", the first arc of the book, in which Enchantress - a character who will be familiar to most after Suicide Squad - unleashes her powers in a devastating swathe across the world. It's almost a textbook Justice League Dark plot, with the characters clashing, and ultimately the innocent being sacrificed to save the world.
That said, Justice League Dark has always been an excellent title. When Milligan moved on, Jeff Lemire - another top-quality writer, currently working with Marvel - took over. His run establishes a number of key parts of Justice League Dark continuity, such as their crazy base, the House of Mystery. So I wouldn't be surprised if some of Lemire's run was absorbed into the animated film as well.
One thing's for sure. DC has already proved that they can capture a powerfully dark tone in animation, and Justice League Dark is their chance to release something truly spectacular. I couldn't be more excited!