Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Time to Reboot HELLBLAZER's John Constantine

Even though the character of John Constantine has only been around since 1985, he's really showing his age these days...and that's a big problem.  The star of DC Comics' VERTIGO series Hellblazer  is a rare comics character allowed to age in real time, which means he was officially 35 years old in 1988 and 40 in 1993, making him now 58 (or very close to it) in 2011.

Debuting in Saga of the Swamp Thing #37, Constantine was created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben as a morally dubious British sorcerer who was based physically on Sting, the former lead singer of the legendary rock band The Police.  In 1988, before the creation of the VERTIGO imprint, he was given his own spinoff monthly series Hellblazer that remains in publication to this day.  Over the years, Hellblazer has featured a number of talented writers crafting memorable runs, including Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey, Denise Mina, Andy Diggle and now Peter Milligan.  And there was even a big-budget movie, Constantine, that starred Keanu Reeves as an Americanized version of the character.

In recent issues, Constantine has had his blond hair turn white with age, cut off his own thumb in a fit of temporary madness and married Epiphany Greaves, a considerably younger alchemist who is the daughter of a London gangster.  Yes, the badass manipulative bastard who once flipped off the First of the Fallen right after tricking him into fixing Constantine's terminal lung cancer has gotten old and settled down with a girl young enough to be his daughter.  Of all the unsettling, horrific things to happen in Hellblazer over these past 23 years, the sight of these two getting it on just might be the creepiest.

So as far as I'm concerned, it's way past time for a reboot.  Something has to be done before Constantine ends up in a wheelchair or even worse, one of those scooters, sucking on an oxygen mask.  It doesn't have to be a complete continuity reboot, mind you, maybe something that takes him back to just after Ennis' original run and then freezes his age like most comic book characters.

According to Bleeding Cool, Constantine is scheduled to return to the DC Universe after the upcoming even series Flashpoint.  His reappearance in the DCU is probably related in some way to Swamp Thing's return in the pages of Brightest Day, although there has been no indication that Hellblazer will cease publication.  It could simply be there will be a younger, sanitized DCU version of the character while the older, less restrained version continues decaying year after year in his VERTIGO series.

Hopefully, the VERTIGO Constantine is allowed to continue, but not in this current aged state.  I miss seeing him in his prime, without a scar on his face and having both thumbs and color in his wild hair.  I could always go back and reread earlier stories, of course, but if Superman and Batman get to have new adventures without the sign of wrinkles or even a hint of gray, then why shouldn't Constantine?  If he can beat terminal lung cancer, then surely he can beat old age.


  1. I agree Charles. I had been picking up the book for awhile, but I dropped it once 7-8 issues stacked up unread. Isn't this the longest running Vertigo series? The comic always featured solid writing, but the strength is in the cast and that has waned. Maybe Constantine is better off as a supporting character in other comics...

  2. Cheers, Chris.

    Yeah, Hellblazer passed Swamp Thing's run about a year ago so it's definitely the longest. I'd like to see the series continue, but obviously with major changes to Constantine and the book's current format.

  3. I've read a handful of Constantine stories (aside from his appearances in Moore's Swamp Thing) and didn't realize he was aging in real time.

  4. John is an old bastard. It's part of what makes him great. If you want to read about characters who never age or change, go pick up a Geoff Johns comic. Why can't one character in a comic book age? I've already read comics about young John. I want to read something different now. John's real time aging makes that possible.

  5. Well, that's Peter Milligan heard from.

    IMHO, Constantine shouldn't age for the simple reason that aging fictional characters causes them to lose their edge. Look at the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Live Free or Die Hard compared to each film series' first three if you need more proof of that.

    If you want to tell a story of Geezer Constantine, then tell it, but as a stand-alone storyline instead of making it the new status quo. Constantine is far more interesting young than he is old and unless you want the series to end, then something needs to be done about it.

  6. I'm a firm believer in time. Watching John age into the old bastard he was always destined to be, we've also been watching his niece Gemma mature into a badass mage in her own right. And remember, Constantine's gift/curse is a family one, going back hundreds of years. Helllblazer needs a wily magician called Constantine, not necessarily John (or Johanna, or any of the others). If you miss the JC of yore, go back to those classic stories, but let the book evolve.

    Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that any DCU-rooted, "Justice League Dark" Constantine (like he would ever join anything with that pompous name, or any of them would survive a single story arc with him) will be a wholly different, kiddified continuity.

  7. And the verdict is in, re: Hellblazer: Two distinct continuities, DCU & Vertigo:

    I'm still rooting for Gemma in the Vertigoverse. If she wins over an audience, perhaps those more cautious, bottom-line editors of the DCU will notice ...

  8. I enjoy this comic. I just don't want him dying of old age! This is the man that fought so many demons and laughed at the devil himself; flicked him off even.

    Hopefully he gets close to dying and conjures something up desperately to make him around Epiphany's age because he doesn't want to be apart from her or something in that nature.

  9. on all accounts there is to be a Hellblazer tv series..heres hoping they do it the right way, but i think its a tad unfair that scouser boy gets to age normally whilst others around him wonder he is a tad bit pissed off with the spandex brigade..come on reboot johnny boy just so he can avoid the old biddies at the post office on pension me being battered with an old womans shopping trolley is no fun when the offers are on

  10. I think they should reboot it and take John to his early punk rock days. I haven't enjoyed Milligan's run too much other than seeing a young John Constantine. Call it Hellblazer: Year One, or something of that sort. =D

  11. sadly anyone who feels hell blazer should be stopped in any way is busy with their head up ass (=. Hell blazer just needs to be taken over again by a solid writer, artists like ennis and let things work themselves out. Do have to alter the story to go back in time but just start another arc in the past.

    1. Well, Anonymous, as you might already know, Hellblazer is indeed ending next month with issue #300 and being replaced with the DC Universe title Constantine.

      I'm certainly going to miss Hellblazer, but hopefully the book will return to VERTIGO with a new #1 some day soon.