Amidst the slew of overkill that formed Justice League Dark: Apokolips War was a memorable moment revealing that John Constantine and King Shark used to be lovers. And although it’s only a brief and throwaway joke that’s never followed up on, the script initially went into much greater detail about it.
It comes up when the shattered remains of the Justice League enlist the help of the Suicide Squad after their disastrous defeat at the hands of Darkseid two years previously. Constantine declares the shark man as his ex, the humor partly coming from Raven’s initial assumption that he’s referring to Harley Quinn.
According to executive producer James Tucker, the exchange had been intended to go into greater detail, as he explained the following:
“I can’t remember exactly what happened to get to that. We were in a room, and when you’re breaking story, it’s like making a stew: everyone’s cutting up bits and throwing it into the pot. And the bits that get made are often ingredients that multiple people had contributed. Somebody had said something about Constantine’s ex, and somebody else said Constantine and King Shark should have had a thing. Or it might have been another character and somebody said, ‘Oh, maybe King Shark,’ the least likely candidate. If it made me laugh in the room, I would say ‘Yeah, let’s go for it.’ But then what happened is that the script came in and there was a whole page about them. I was like, ‘No, that’s too much.’ Let someone write fan fic about it. The alchemy of writing is that you put in more than you need and then you strip away. So that scene was like a page and a half more than it needed to be.”
Tucker’s decision to pare back the details of the amorous encounter was probably for the best. The joke landed with the reveal, capped off with King Shark’s sly and wordless reaction to it, leaving the audience with appropriate WTF thoughts. Exploring the logic or mechanics of the relationship wasn’t necessary to justify the reference, or even noting exactly when it took place to avoid contradicting this incarnation of Constantine being largely attached to fellow magic wielder Zatanna.
The amount of brutal violence and wanton slaughter that takes place throughout Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is part of what makes it such an impressive achievement, but relentless carnage needs to have some moments of levity to prevent it from becoming too disheartening, especially after seeing the eviscerated corpses of so many of your favorite heroes. A joke about the world’s least likely relationship, in all its tacit simplicity, perfectly provides this.