One thing that the MCU and DCEU share is they don’t seem to get on well with their television properties. In the MCU, the Agents of SHIELD started off notionally as part of the main universe, and drifted further and further away; the Netfllix Defenders were tenuously connected at best (I was disappointed, but not surprised, they didn’t show up for the huge fight in Endgame), and other shows seem to be off on their own. In the Arrowverse, several characters they were developing were ordered to be killed off (or were refused permission to use) because of moves, even though at the time, everyone insisted the Arrowverse and the DCEU were wholly separate. Since then, the movie Flash and TV Flash have met in a surprise cameo during the major Crisis on Infinite Earths event, so that’s not necessarily true anymore. Willa Holland, who played Thea/Speedy on Arrow, was very vocal a few times about how the tv properties were treated by the people calling the shots for the movies.
The Multiverse has been part of the DC canon since the groundbreaking “Flash of Two Worlds” story back in 1961. There are many Earths, with different heroes on them, some with different versions of heroes we know. Michael Keaton’s Batman, for example, is set to return in the Flash movie, when this Flash has already worked with the Ben Afleck Batman. So we know there are different characters out there. Not to mention how many different versions of heroes popped up in Crisis (two Supermen had a lengthy battle and shared screen time). There have been at least two Flashes regularly on the Flash tv show.
All of which makes one of the most recent decisions by the head honchos at DC utterly incomprehensible. John Constantine has been a popular character in DC’s darker titles for many years. He was the lead character of a movie that had mixed reviews at best, and was also the lead of a short-lived tv show on NBC. Fan reaction to the cancellation was so strong that the character, played superbly once again by Matt Ryan, made an unexpected guest appearance on Arrow, thus becoming part of the growing Arrowverse. That one appearance met with great approval from the fans, and Constantine found his way to Legends of Tomorrow, adding some mystical muscle to the team. He’s been a great addition and provided some snark, sexual tension, and bi representation, which is unfortunately rare. Now, suddenly, because of an upcoming project from JJ Abrams on HBO Max, the show has been told they can’t use the character any longer.
Arrow lost Amanda Waller and Deadshot, who had been recurring characters, when Suicide Squad came out, as well as being told they couldn’t use the name “Suicide Squad” and being denied permission to use Harley Quinn as more than a random, unidentified voice-only cameo. Considering that movie, while I enjoyed it, didn’t do well either at the box office or with critics, it made a choice that seemed questionable at the time look even worse. Now they’re doing the same thing with Constantine, and I can’t see why they feel the need to do this.
As a nod to the fans, they are “letting” Matt Ryan now play another character of some kind. Because there can be two people that look like Matt Ryan on the same show, but not two different Constantines on wholly different projects? On a show that deals with changing timelines and history being altered, that’s not something that strains the suspension of disbelief, but that’s not really the point here.
Speaking as a long-time comic book reader, a careful watcher of almost every single hero tv show out there, I can’t think of anyone who brought a character to life better than Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine. He’s done a great job with a complex character and not shied away from Constantine being bi, manipulative, and ruthless.
This decision does a great disservice to the fans of the character and show, to the show itself, and to the actor. Ryan has made a few positive comments, but really, in his position, he’s unlikely to do anything else, possibly even not able to do anything else. There are many versions of many characters throughout the DC Multiverse. We’ve seen them interacting at times, and, to the best of my knowledge, no fans have gotten so confused they couldn’t follow what was happening and quit watching. Assuming fans can’t grasp this idea is an insult to them. Saying that Constantine can’t be on Legends because of the other project, that the people behind it want it that way, is selfish.
I can generally see at least some positive spin, or at least follow some logic and reasoning, behind choices made about characters in movies and shows. This one utterly escapes me.