Anyone growing impatient for the long-gestating Dark Universe to go into production, could get their appetite for the supernatural side of the DC universe sated in early 2017 with the release of the animated Justice League Dark.
In the film, Batman takes a break from the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and The Flash to team up with, among others, Deadman, Swamp Thing, Zantana and The Demon, as well as the film’s focal point character, John Constantine (Matt Ryan reprising his role from the live action Constantine TV series).
Jason O’Mara, currently co-starring on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Director Jeffrey Mace, provides the voice for the Dark Knight, much as he has in six previous animated films beginning with 2014’s Justice League: War. In Justice League Dark, Batman is contacted by Deadman and told to seek out Constantine for help in taking on a supernatural threat to the world. Constantine in turn pulls together a team consisting of, among others, Zantana, The Demon and Swamp Thing.
Taking a break from the Marvel side of the universe, O’Mara, in an exclusive interview, shares with Empire his feelings about Batman as a character while previewing Justice League Dark.
Let's start by playing fanboy's advocate: how do you get through your day torn between Marvel and DC?
It's really not a problem. I mean the thing is, you know, I've had this DC commitment now for the past couple of years. For me, from my point of view, I go in, I record a Batman movie in one day, I might go back a few months later for another day. Then, once it comes out, I'll go and promote it. It's really not a huge commitment in terms of time
Because it's DC and because it's Batman, I think some fans think it's kind of amusing that I'm also playing the Director on S.H.I.E.L.D. Listen, the rivalry is a healthy thing and I think as long as it stays friendly and in the spirit of good fun and people get a kick out of it, then great. If you take it too seriously, then ...
That's your problem.
That's your problem. Exactly
What's Batman's role in Justice League Dark?
It's kind of appropriate to me that Batman is still a part of the Justice League Dark story. I think it would be strange if any of the other Justice League characters were involved in putting together this kind of motley crew of dead people and mediums and ghosts and demons and phantoms. Batman should be in the middle of that. He's very skeptical, though. He's very skeptical about magic. It's all nonsense to him. He's the smartest superhero ever as far as I can make out, and he's smart enough to know he's going to need help with this seemingly unsolvable mystery, these demons and why some people can see them and some people cannot. That help comes to him through a tip from Deadman, which is that he basically needs to get in touch with John Constantine. Then, once Batman gets Constantine involved, it's really Constantine's movie. Batman is there to sort of hold his hand, if you like. Constantine takes the focus, but that's good for Batman. Those are the situations where Batman comes alive.
When he has a little more distance from everybody else.
Exactly. A little more distance. I don't think Batman should spend a whole movie yapping, you know? He should choose his words carefully and speak low.
Yeah, the gravelliness.
Is that a word?
It is now, I guess. That distance actually frees Batman up to have a bit of a sense of humor about the whole thing. I guess when you're as dark as Batman, the only way is the other way. He gets the opportunity to be a little lighter this time.
How familiar were you with the whole concept of Justice League Dark?
I had heard about it, but I don't think I'd ever read or seen a full story start to finish of Justice League Dark. I know it's a fan favorite. I was intrigued when I heard they were doing it, because I think it's a great concept. I also think it's a bit of an opportunity for Constantine to come back into popular culture. That show was yanked away too soon. I think the fans are going to get a kick out this one. And the good thing is that Constantine does like to talk, whereas Batman would rather kind of just make remarks.
You've voiced Batman a number of times at this point. Do you find there is an opportunity for the character to evolve or is he kind of locked in place as to who he is?
This is the New 52 universe, which is supposed to mean there are fifty-two parallel realities in the DC multiverse. So clearly there are all different kinds of Batmans. My Batman is not involved with the Killing Joke Batman or the Arkham video Batman. And there are other versions of Batman. This version of Batman I play, he's a dad. Nightwing has graduated the Batcave and left the mantle for Damian to become Robin. He just put the Justice League together in Justice League: War. Now he's got this other team of dark guys. He sent Damian to train with the Teen Titans, almost like boarding school. That's the Batman that we're exploring in this. It's nice to have a kind of Batman that isn't the "I work alone, I'm darkness, I am the night" kind of thing. This version of Batman has all of this very specific emotional baggage. I don't think we could ever just ignore any of that. If we continue with this Batman, I think we will be continuing to tell stories in that vein. To me, it would be unfair to this Batman to go a different route. Besides, we have Kevin Conroy for that. I think that darker, kind of standalone Batman is Kevin territory to me. Whereas, I'm kind of the Batman who's got his family baggage.
On some level, it does get a little complicated.
The thing is, I think it's working. Clearly Killing Joke was a smash hit and this series of Batman inspired stories have been very successful, so it seems to work for DC and will continue.