If you’re a regular to Biff Bam Pop!, John Constantine, everyone’s favourite mystical hellblazer, needs no introduction. We’ve written about the character a number of times here, most recently with the news of the cancellation of his long-running Vertigo Comics series called, appropriately enough, John Constantine: Hellblazer. You can read that article here.
I don’t need to reiterate my disappointment, which actually verges on anger, over that particular decision. The monthly Hellblazer title is the longest standing comic book that I have continuously read. I was there when Constantine first appeared within the pages of Saga of the Swamp Thing (issue #37) in June 1985 under the pen of writer Alan Moore. And I was there when the popular character received his own series in 1988, written by the great Jamie Delano and foundationally illustrated by John Ridgeway.
That was twenty-five years ago, the series continuing each month, uninterrupted. Until now.
Hell has finally frozen over for our trench coat-wearing, silk-cut smoking, demon-slaying hellblazer.
Written by: Peter Milligan
Illustrated by: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini
Published by: Vertigo Comics
Peter Milligan, the current writer of John Constantine: Hellblazer, has been relaying the tales our con-artist mage since issue #250. That’s longer than any other distinguished writer on the series including Mike Carey, Brian Azzarello, Garth Ennis and Jamie Delano. During that time, Milligan gave Constantine a scar, cut off his thumb, had him married, discovered him a half brother, made pacts with demons, devils and desperados and then, two issues ago, killed him. And that’s where our current storyline, the final instalment of the affectionately named “Death and Cigarettes”, concludes.
Constantine has always been a conniver. He’s the master of second chances – and he’s had a whole host of those over the years. But the question is, to come back from death itself, does he have one more second chance left in him? The cover of the double-sized issue #300 looks ominous enough.
Truly, this is the end of the Vertigo Comics imprint as we know it. The publishing company, a mature and sophisticated off-shoot of DC Comics proper, that gave rise to Sandman, Preacher, Shade the Changing Man, The Invisibles and Fables, always had John Constantine as its caretaker. How John went, so, too, did Vertigo. Alas, all that’s to end now. But the final issue of John Constantine: Hellblazer isn’t the end of John Constantine the character.
Next month, he gets a brand new monthly series. This time, it’s published under the DC Comics name, hopefully to a wider comic book audience. And to make things easier for that audience, it’ll be called, simply enough, Constantine. I smell a play for a film sequel here. Bring the character back, front and centre, into the minds of the general public – not the niche that Vertigo was – in order to market John as a viable Hollywood property.
That’s cool. Guillermo Del Toro has been kind of attached to the character for a long time now.
But make no mistake. This new Constantine series will not be our old John. Nope, he’ll be watered down quite a bit for a broader and younger audience, mixing it up with the masks and capes like he did, from time to time, in those early Saga of the Swamp Thing issues. This John will be under duress from editors who want to fit the character into summer tent pole comics. He won’t be buggering demons, nor uttering the word “bollocks”, nor flipping two fingers at his enemies.
This move just finishes what the publishing company started a year and a half ago with their “New 52” initiative. Hell, John’s already the leader of a mystical super group in the pages of Justice League Dark! I mean really! Constantine? Justice League? Yes, the series is a fun read, but it’s a read that would give our Constantine absolute fits. Leading a group of paranormals would ruin his time down the pub!
That said, there are always possibilities of greatness, and I’ll be there for the first issue of Constantine in March. Biff Bam Pop! will let you know how it is.
Until then, though hell has frozen over and the lights in the Vertigo realm grow dimmer still, let’s raise a glass for that foul-mouthed scouser, that blue-collar mage with the bad nicotine habit, John Constantine. If he were any more real, you’d hate him. But you’d still love him to be your mate.
Cheers, John! As always, this pint’s on us!
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!