With a solo series, a team series, two solo animated movies and two team animated movies under his belt, Matt Ryan has become the definitive version of John Constantine for a lot of fans. And in spite of the character's canonical ties to Justice League Dark in the comics, the forthcoming series based on that team should leave it that way, keeping Constantine at an arm's length for now and leaving Ryan to finish out his time with DC's Legends of Tomorrow rather than asking audiences to accept a new take on the characer at the same time Ryan is still working his -- ahem -- magic.
While the non-comics audience likely knows Constantine form the 2005 Keanu Reeves movie as much as anything else, Ryan's 2014 NBC series introduced a take on the character that hewed much closer to the comics. Matt Ryan not only had the look and the accent, but a deep understanding of the comics and the character that comes from being a fan.
It showed: while Constantine was sometimes uneven, the series developed a cult following in part becuase Ryan was so perfect in the role. After it was cancelled, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment tapped Ryan to reprise the role of Constantine in some animated projects, helping cement him as "the" Constantine in the minds of fans. Eventually he was brought back to live action -- first as a guest star on Arrow and later as a series regular on DC's Legends of Tomorrow, where he has remained.
With a Justice League Dark series in development at HBO Max and a season-long storyline that's very Constantine-centric, it's easy for fans to worry that Ryan's time as the character may be limited. The Arrowverse shows, while popular with fans, have sometimes had characters disappear mysteriously, only to appear shortly thereafter in projects that are higher-priority for management at Warner Bros., such as the Suicide Squad movie. Still, everything fans (and we) have heard so far seems to suggest that there are no plans for getitng rid of John Constantine on Legends anytime soon, so there's that.
Justice League Dark is a concept introduced during 2011's New 52 reboot. The team brought together a number of DC's most powerful mystics in one title and, since concepts like that have traditionally had a hard time succeeding for DC, it was branded as part of the Justice League family of books, lending it a sense of urgency that titles like Shadowpact and The Spectre never had. It worked -- kind of -- and the series lasted longer than it otherwise might have, but was eventually cancelled in one of the early rounds of New 52 bloodletting. It returned again recently, when Scott Snyder's Justice League: No Justice miniseries spun out into a trio of books including a Justice League Dark title that reunited most of the original cast of the series.19comments
And since The New 52, Constantine has been a more persistent presence in the DC Universe. An old relationship with Zatanna now firmly a part of his backstory, the character has been rumored to appear in virtually every abortive Justice League Dark project Warners has toyed with over the last few years, and has been a lead character (again, voiced by Ryan) in both the existing Justice League Dark movie and the upcoming Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.
Still, it's hardly like doing a Justice League movie without Superman and Batman. THere are comparably few Justice League Dark comics, and in all likelihood the series will not feature every character to appear in either of them. It's also likely that there will be an infusion of some more marketable characters for casual fans. Constantine could be avoided -- at least at first -- and it would have a pretty minimal impact on the series' mythology. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan continues to knock it out of the park on Legends, even coming full circle this year on a storyline from the comics that was teed up during his short-lived NBC series.