Justice League Dark, DC Comics’ coterie of macabre heroes, has long been on the DC Extended Universe docket in multiple forms, having spent years as a movie project before being put into development this past April as a television series for HBO Max. Now, an interesting artifact has emerged from one of its canceled movie iterations in the form of concept art revealing a (let’s just say “unique,”) aesthetic for team member Swamp Thing.
Concept artist Houston Sharp posted his planned designs for Swamp Thing that he worked on with David Masson for the version of Justice League Dark that was to be directed by Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity). As you can see in the dramatically fire-strewn image, seen in full below, the classic character was to manifest in the ensemble film in a form that radically differs from any version we’ve seen—at least in the live-action adaptation arena. However, the skinny, tree-branch-riddled reinvented appearance of the normally-hulking plant-based hero might have understandably yielded derisive comparisons to another tree-like hero who’s enjoying success on the big screen; that, of course, being Groot in Marvel’s The Guardians of the Galaxy films.
Yet, as Sharp explains of the inspiration for the image and this particular manifestation of the hero, “Doug had the idea of Swamp Thing being a spirit of the swamp, coming into form when a group of arsonists set the plants ablaze.” Having succeeded a previously-appointed helmer in Guillermo del Toro, Liman’s tenure as Justice League Dark ultimately proved fruitless, and came to an end back in May 2017 when he exited the frequently-delayed project over scheduling conflicts with other projects. Ironically, one such project was the notoriously delayed film, Chaos Walking, which, starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, which is still tied up in post-production purgatory to this day after years of allegedly expensive reshoots. However, Liman’s version of Groot…err, Swamp Thing does reveal a sharp contrast between his intended interpretation of Justice League Dark and that of predecessor del Toro, whose vision did see the release of concept art for his entire team lineup, notably bearing a more traditional-looking Swamp Thing.
Of course, Swamp Thing went on to be the centerpiece of an extravagant television series for streaming service DC Universe. Yet, the series, which bore the physical presence of Derek Mears (seen in the title image,) as the towering titular scientist-turned swamp creature, was critically-acclaimed, but too extravagant (or, perhaps, exorbitant,) for its own good, resulting in DC Universe canceling the series over creative differences just one week after its May 31, 2019 debut episode premiered on the streamer. However, Swamp Thing will get to enjoy some new life salvaged on the barren, COVID-era television schedule of The CW, which will air the show’s one-and-only season weekly, starting Tuesday, October 6.
In the meantime, the status of the HBO Max Justice League Dark television series remains unchanged, with no news having been provided at this past weekend’s FanDome virtual festivities and its bevy of DCEU-related news drops. For now, we can probably just file that under the “no news is good news” category.