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Constantine: The House Of Mystery Writer Shares How The DC Showcase Short Was Inspired By Doctor Who

John Constantine surrounded by demons in House of Mystery DC Showcase short
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation)

Outside of the comics, John Constantine has primarily been brought to life by Matt Ryan, between his live-action portrayal in the Arrowverse (mainly Legends of Tomorrow) and the animated take from the DC Animated Movie Universe. Following the events of 2020’s Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, the latter version of Ryan’s Constantine is back for his own supersized DC Showcase animated short, titled Constantine: The House of Mystery. Apokolips War writer Ernie Altbacker also tackled this Constantine short, and it turns out the story was inspired by modern Doctor Who.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ernie Altbacker about his work on Constantine: The House of Mystery, which is the main short in a compilation available to buy now that also includes Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!, The Losers and Blue Beetle. The House of Mystery sees John Constantine finding himself in a hellish time loop scenario within the title location, and when I asked Altbacker if he’d thought up any alternate punishments to put Constantine through, he revealed that producer Jim Krieg helped him figure out the premise by tipping him off to a specific episode from the Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. As the writer explained:

Writing anything, it’s like a stew, and you have all these ideas… So Jim Krieg is also a huge Doctor Who fan, and he got me into it. And he’s like, ‘Did you also see the Doctor Who episodes this week?’ And that week it was “Heaven Sent,” which is a Peter Capaldi one that [Steven Moffat] where he’s in a castle and he keeps getting killed by some mysterious thing. And [Krieg’s] like, ‘How about we use that gimmick?’ In addition to it being a coda to the 16-episode thing, and we’re gonna put Constantine in the House of Mystery, and we want to make it a very Twilight Zone-y story where it ends and you’re gonna be like, ‘What the hell?!’, and also it should have the gimmick of where Constantine keeps getting killed and he doesn’t know why. So you’re throwing all these things in the stew, and then it’s the writer’s job to stir it around and make all of that seem not only logical, but inevitable that it should have been done that way.

Following Clara Oswald’s death in “Face the Raven,” the Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent” saw Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor being teleported to a mysterious castle where he was pursued by a mysterious figure. Eventually The Doctor learns that he’s been trapped in this castle for thousands of years, and that with his ability to regenerate being disabled, this figure had repeatedly killed him and tossed his body into a teleportation chamber that produced a new copy of The Doctor, with the process repeating. After roughly 4.5 billion years of going through this, The Doctor was eventually able to break through one of the castle’s walls and ended up back on his home planet Gallifrey, but what went down in “Hell Bent” is a topic for another time.

“Heaven Sent” aired on November 28, 2015 as part of Season/Series 9, and with Jim Krieg soon after informing Ernie Altbacker about what happened in it, the basic premise of Constantine: The House of Mystery was born! Taking place after The Flash ran back in time to create another Flashpoint to undo the devastation wrought in Apokolips War, per John Constantine’s suggestion, The House of Mystery sees Constantine waking up within the House among friendly faces (including a few new ones), only to have them turn into demons that kill him. Just like what happened with the Twelfth Doctor, the process keeps repeating itself, and all the while Constantine struggles to figure out how he ended up in this relentless time loop and how he can escape.

The DC Showcase — Constantine: The House of Mystery compilation can be purchased on Blu-ray and Digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. If you’re interested in learning more about the shorts in this box set, read our coverage on the DC character who almost appeared in The Losers and why Blue Beetle pointed the spotlight on other Charlton-era characters.

Adam Holmes
Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.