Saturday, January 08, 2011

I am John Constantine, you don't want to be my friend.

John Constantine first appeared in issues of Swamp Thing, then in January 1988 DC launched Hellblazer as a black and white comic, with the launch of Vertigo comics five years later, the already popular Hellblazer became of the of the imprints launch titles.

Constantine is a hard bitten mess, he might have saved the human race from extinction a dozen times, but he can't stop the dark forces from harming those closest to him, or even in the case of more unfortunate friends like Gary Lester, sacrificing them to hold a greater evil at bay.  Constantine is quite literally haunted by his failings, the ghosts of friends and family follow him around, appearing to him at his lowest points to remind him of how weak a man he is.

Constantine has powerful allies, but not necessarily many friends. Chas chandler is his true friend for much of the series, despite the awful things that happen to him as the Hellblazer's closest pal.  Others come to Constantine's aid because it suits their own needs and plans, Map - the powerful city entity dwelling in the London Underground, Swap Thing - guardian of the gaia, Clarice Sackwell - the high society witch.  He does have true friends of course, Ray Monde the antique dealer, Ritchie Simpson the computer genius and Jerry O'Flynn the rare items dealer, but becoming a close friend of Constantine is seldom a good idea, and death does not bring an end to their sufferings.

In Hellblazer's 23 year run John has faced countless enemies, some few he has defeated outright, others he has had to deal in power and favours to sidestep, others still have only been sidelined, there to wait in growing hatred and cunning. These themes of rash decisions and ill thought out consequences are a constant in the series, many times Constantine has pursued a route which seems to achieve his immediate aims, only for it to cause pain, bloodshed and loss in the future.

Some of the very best writers in the comic's field have worked on Hellblazer, Garth Ennis, Mike Carey, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, the authors list contains the big guns in the genre.  Hellblazer is an intelligent and disquieting read, it is blood soaked and often without hope of redemption for Constantine and his associates, but through it all John maintains his own personal, hard bitten style.  The wisecrack in the face of death, the fag hanging from the corner of his mouth, the dirty coat and a pint in hand, Constantine faces down the threat of apocalypse in his cynical and world weary manner

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