Unlike the Justice League, Justice League Dark is filled with demons, monster, ghouls, and devilish detectives. But despite all these supernatural beings, they somehow manage to all seem utterly human. It could be that Superman and Batman represent a more perfectionist and therefore unrelatable character than that of “heroes” like John Constantine and Deadman. It could be because these monsters are on the side of redemption rather than glory. But, overall, these characters represent a side of humanity that is not often shown in mainstream comics, and it allows us to see the darker sides of ourselves.
How Monsters Can Be Human
A common character trait of most superheroes is having a strong moral compass – Superman has one, Green Lantern has one – and the characters in Justice League Dark are no exception.
John Constantine is one such example. By every other account, Constantine is an ordinary man, that is unless you factor in his demonic personality, and devilish ability to lead people astray. However, Constantine is a man who is aware of his monstrous actions, and corrupt soul. He is so aware of this that he often gambles his soul away. Constantine often quips that there is a long line waiting for his soul; a quote that would be hyperbole in most cases, but for him, it’s actually true.
Constantine questions his own worth, which is understandable given he makes a living stealing from people. He is a man on the fringe of society, he is lost, and yet he never gives up hope. With Constantine, we see the very essence of self-hatred. This could even be considered his driving force. While Superman’s strong moral compass is almost the definition of perfection and inner strength, Constantine represents the sad, degraded soul that simply needs a spit shine to gleam. It could be said that Constantine gives us a mirror into what redemption really looks like.
Magic Tricks of the Trade
Two other key Justice League Dark characters that remind us of our humanity are Zatanna and Deadman. These two characters represent two sides of our desire to be excepted. In Zatanna’s case, she literally puts on an act early on in her career that showcases her magical powers. Yet her audience doesn’t realize the reality of her magic. Zatanna is literally putting on an act so she can hide in plain sight. She believes that she can do greater good by only showing the more beautiful part of herself. As time goes, she learns that by embracing her more mysterious side she can help save others.
This trait is similar to the way that most people want to feel excepted. This is demonstrated more predominately with Zatanna in the Justice League Dark film. Zatanna has to accept herself fully and her role in the world before she can help others, and this identity struggle is far more pronounced than it is with characters like Wonder Woman.
Fame in Life, Anonymity in Death
Deadman (Boston Brand) represents our human desire to live for glory and shows the downfall as a result of it. He was once a famous aerialist, but he squandered his fame and hid behind his persona. When he was murdered, he was given a second chance and given powers that allow him to possess others and use their skills to save others. A man once famous, yet lacking in character, now fighting for justice under the guise of others.
In Deadman’s case, we see another side of humanity – the desire to be seen and heard. He remains forever unable to be truly heard and grasp life’s joys as he plays second fiddle to the person’s body he inhabits. In him, we see a character that shows that being forgotten and hiding behind appearances are not much different. For Deadman, he is always the one behind the curtains, always hiding. Deadman reminds us that our pursuit of glory can be harmful and that appearance is only skin deep.
Justice League Dark’s Bright Humanity
These key Justice League Dark characters show humanity’s darker sides, and in doing so, they reveal the ways our inner demons can destroy us. These are themes that most DC heroes never face. In the end, Justice League Dark shows us what humanity really is.