DC Showcase takes us to some of the wildest corners of the DC Universe

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If you’ve always dreamed of exploring the DC Universe, then the new collection of DC Animated Shorts, DC Showcase: Constantine – The House of Mystery, will blow your mind. This disparate set of tales takes you across multiple time periods and genres, from the dystopian world of Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, to the candy-colored 1960s of blue beetleto the war mixture of Losersto the unimaginable horror offered by the brand new short film in the collection, Constantine – The House of Mystery.

“All of these shorts ended up inhabiting these different times and places in the DC Universe,” noted supervising producer Rick Morales. “The powers that be asked me if I’d be interested in doing some shorts. I said yes and started talking to writer Jim Krieg about it. He’s already had the idea to do that Constantine short, and it became clear very quickly that this would be the essential short.

Constantine – The House of Mystery picks up where the last appearance of the magician, in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, left out, as John Constantine deals with the consequences of messing with reality.

“Krieg had the idea to tie together the universe of James Tucker’s animated film with what comes next,” says Morales. “I did not work on Apokolips War, but that’s one of the reasons I brought in Matt Peters to direct. He co-directed that movie, so it felt like he was the one who had to be involved.

“I had just finished working on Apokolips War, we thought we were done, and then Rick approached me and asked if I wanted to do Showcase shorts,” the director recalled. “One of them was John Constantine, which served as the epilogue to the film I just worked on.”

It’s kind of a dark and twisted epilogue, as the titular House of Mystery throws everything it’s got at John in what feels like a modern take on a classic sci-fi/horror tale. As Morales says, “What interested me most about this move was that it felt a lot like a blurred area episode. It was a contained mystery that turned violent and bloody.

We won’t divulge the ending, of course, but the short film offers viewers a new understanding of what drives the enigmatic John Constantine.

“Constantine would never accept an award,” Peters says. “He could never accept being happy, and the House of Mystery punishes him for it. It’s a great character study. We had the opportunity to explore the dark side and add some humor to it.

Matt Peters also directed Kamandi: the last boy on earthwhich acts as a love letter to the original Jack Kirby series.

“We tried to take things straight from the comics for this one,” Morales recalled. “It took a lot of work because Kirby has a very particular way of breaking down anatomy, dealing with shapes and rendering backgrounds. I wanted to have all that freebie, right down to the color choices.

So the creative team immersed themselves in the character’s classic comics.

“When we started working on this movie, we brought in a bunch of old comics and showed them,” Peters explained. “The designers got to look at it and the storyboard artists got to look at it. I really got to study the comic itself.

Kamandi: the last boy on earth follows its main character as he goes through a series of trials in a dystopian future.

“What appeals to me is that he’s this hopeful character in a hopeless world,” muses Peters. “There’s something tragic but also uplifting about it. These characters can inspire us to focus on the better things in life, and that’s what makes them so heroic.

Losers, meanwhile features a team of military outcasts battling dinosaurs on a South Pacific island – a throwback to Darwyn Cooke DC: The New Frontier, the comic that introduced many of today’s comic book readers to the team.

“It’s every little boy’s dream to do something with dinosaurs,” enthused Morales. “In my head, when I think of the Losers, I think of new frontier and Darwyn Cooke. I decided to go back to the Kirby look and asked one of my favorite comic book artists, Dan Panosian, to do the first drawings. It was a great pleasure to work with him on this subject.

Losers was directed by Milo Neuman, who also directed the Blue Beetle short, and the two couldn’t be more different in tone. blue beetle is a fun send-up of 1960s superhero cartoons, especially one about a wondrous arachnid.

“I had a talented creative team and I kind of had to tell them, ‘Whatever you’re good at, don’t do that,'” Neuman jokes. “We were shooting footage and putting out designs wherever we could do a weird cut. We were taking organic mistakes from old cartoons and doing it on purpose.

The whole idea was conceived during a conversation, again with the writer and Showcase DC producer Jim Krieg.

“Jim Krieg said it might be fun to pay tribute to Charlton,” Neuman says. “I thought if we were going to do that, since we were doing Kirby with Kamandiwe should do Steve Ditko with blue beetle and Charlton characters. Then I realized that if we were going to do this, we should do this as a tribute to Ralph Bakshi Spider Man cartoon.”

Matt Lanter, who voices Blue Beetle, loved the bombastic tribute.

“The script was really great on paper,” he shares. “I understood the tone of where we were going from there. I’ve been a fan of parody stuff all my life. Much of online delivery is big and bold. Each line is almost an ad. I had a blast with this.

The Blue Beetle couples short with the question, which quickly irritates Beetle.

“The question is way too smart for him,” Lanter admits. “Blue Beetle’s intentions are in the right place, but he is distant. You kind of have a thing with Watson and Sherlock Holmes, if Sherlock Holmes was just a little distant. He just doesn’t understand the Question’s intelligent thought process.

It’s an approach to character and material that certainly wouldn’t have been taken if blue beetle been a feature rather than a short. But that’s always been the great thing about DC Showcase. Creative teams are free to experiment and take risks, with the results almost always speaking for themselves.

“We tried to do something that looked like it was done in the ’60s as a pilot and then shelved and lost to time,” Morales says of blue beetle. “It was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done.”

DC Showcase – Constantine: The House of Mystery is now available on Blu-ray and Digital 4K.

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