Guillermo has always been very vocal about his love for the darker DC characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing, and Etrigan the Demon, long before this project was even considered. He’s on record as saying he loves the mythology of all these characters and that they were his childhood. Del Toro has the utmost respect for the material here and he wants to see them done properly, but I don’t think even Del Toro would believe he is bold enough to think of the story that could bring all of these characters together, especially when it can be found in the source material.
With that in mind, this article is by no means a “confirmed scoop” as the kids so love to see these days. I’s not “insider knowledge” either, this is simply my theory about what we’ll be seeing in the ‘Dark Universe’ movie (if it even happens), but it should be noted that I am at least 80% sure I’ve found the comic that will be its basis (not that it was hidden, I just stumbled upon it).
Since this idea has been in the ether, it is the cast of characters that has hooked so many into their want for this project. John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, The Phantom Stranger, Etrigan, all characters that are just as interesting and well written as the big hitters at DC but will likely never see the light of day in a cartoon or big screen film. Now, these characters don’t always interact with each other in the source material, but there is one story in particular where quite literally all of them are present and accounted for.
In June of 1985, issue #37 of the award winning and ever popular “Saga of the Swamp Thing” was published. Written by a quite hairy and hermit-like man named Alan Moore, the comic introduced a character that would go on to be the longest running Vertigo series and the focus of a feature film, John Constantine Hellblazer. This issue also planted the seeds of a monstrous storyline that Moore would tackle down the road. Throughout the course of the next eleven issues, Constantine would meet with the Swamp Thing to discuss his full potential as an avatar of the green, to show him the things he is capable of doing, and to make him see how much bigger the world around him really is.
This “Swamp Thing” storyline took place during a comic book event called “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which saw the destruction of many different planes and universes. The destruction of all these worlds is the catalyst here and is what a continuously mentioned cult called “The Brujería” use as their opportunity to awaken “The Great Darkness.” Still with me? Remember back to when this Del Toro project was first rumored and it was called “Heaven Sent”? Guess what the target of The Brujería and The Great Darkness actually is? It’s not Earth like what Swamp Thing first thought, it’s Heaven. The cult plans to destroy Heaven.
This is why the team is formed. Constantine and Swamp Thing spend much of the set-up issues wandering the world (both the physical and other worldly planes) locating and convincing characters to help them stop The Brujería. Along the way they recruit Deadman, The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre, Etrigan the Demon, Dr. Fate, Zatanna, Zatara, Sargon the Sorcerer, Dr. Occult, and Mento to help them (of which most of these have been mentioned by Del Toro as being a part of the cast). Together they all band together as a group of unlikely heroes charged with saving Heaven, and with a band of angels in tow they are indeed “Heaven Sent.” I won’t tell you how it ends, but needless to say its quite poetic in its execution and if done exactly that way on the big screen would leave a lot of audience members scratching their heads.
While this story does have plenty of opportunities for amazing battle sequences, it could still do with the flair that Del Toro is known for with a few more punches to keep the audience interested. But think about it, a film that takes these great characters who are rich with history and stories themselves and introduces them to an audience who doesn’t even know they exist, in a story that has them battling the ultimate incarnation of evil itself and saving not just Earth but Heaven, Hell and countless other existences. This is the kind of story that should be described as “unfilmable” even by today’s standards, but I’m confident that it can be pulled off, especially with someone that loves it all like Guillermo del Toro.
The story, collectively referred to as “American Gothic,” unfolds in a way that could easily be translated into film. Swamp Thing is the gateway for the audience, he’s still unsure about what he is and the world around him. By using Constantine to help guide him toward his powers and helping introduce the other magical characters, you’ve got something that could easily mirror what they did with Marvel’s The Avengers, which after all is what everyone wants to emulate these days anyway, right?
What do you think the story of Dark Universe will be? Sound off below!