John Constantine has done quite well for himself as far as characters go.
The character essentially started off as kind of a throw character that Alan Moore created because then Swamp Thing artists Steven Bissette and John Totleben wanted to draw a character that looked like Sting.
As in the dude from The Police.
Take a look.
But yet from these humble beginnings, John has garnered a bit of a following. Following his debut in Swamp Thing, Constantine went on to his own book Hellblazer first written by Jaime Delano for 35 issues and then by a bunch of up and comers.
Well, up and comers then. Now this line up of writers is almost a hall of fame of comic book writers:
Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Eddie Campbell, Paul Jenkins, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzerello, Mike Carey, Andy Diggle, Jason Aaron and now current writer Peter Milligan.
Even best selling novelist Iain Rankin had a go at the character in last year’s graphic novel Dark Entries.
The character also has really good staying power. Hellblazer is currently the only comic published in the Vertigo line that has been continuously published since the line’s inception. It should also be noted that Hellblazer was around before Vertigo existed (the book became a Vertigo comic with issue #63) and not only has it survived the highs and lows of the comics industry but it also survived a film adaptation with the main role going to a 2×4.
Constantine himself has been somewhat of a versatile character. While under the different writers the title has been a horror comic, a super natural detective comic, a hard crime/revenge tale but at the same time it never feels like it’s a different character, all of these variations seem to fit John Constantine.
And on a completely random note, John Constantine is one of the very few characters that seems to have aged in real time. There is a reason I’m mentioning this, keep reading.
But for a lot of people’s money, the version of the character and the guy who understood how to handle the character the best was Jaime Delano. It was Delano who fleshed the character out and created a good chunk of the supporting characters. And Jaime has come home bringing with him artist Jock for the stand alone graphic novel Pandemonium.
Pandemonium finds our good bastard Constantine being duped into helping out the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq. Seems they have taken a prisoner that is a lot more then they bargained for and need John’s brand of mysticism to help sort things out.
I loved it.
I’ve always been a fan of Delano’s and I’m glad to see him return to a character he made great. I think the format is a perfect suit for Delano as well. A one shot story with enough pages to tell it. While long time Hellblazer fans might read the material as something of a retread to some of his earlier work, I thought it was really well played and had enough of a change to it to feel like his old work but still have something new to say. I will say, I feel there are parts that new readers might feel are slightly over written (there is a lot of monologue text boxes) but it’s really part of Constantine’s charm. I’ve always thought of him as a character that runs his mouth off a little too long and usually gets popped one in the mouth for it.
I especially love the end which has all the ear marks of classic Constantine and left a big smile on my face.
On art duties we have Jock who I’m not really familiar with beyond his work on The Losers. He’s adapted more the style that he uses on covers to this book and it works phenomenally. I must admit, there are one or two pages where I found the page layout a little confusing but reading on, I’m pretty sure that was intentional. As well Jock has clearly been informed of the current age of John and has done a great job of keep that consistent for this one shot. Not being an artist, I always figure that doing a one shot is harder to keep correct continuity for character appearances then doing a monthly. A monthly you draw Captain America the same way every issue (more or less). For an artist doing a fill in or one shot of graphic novel such as this, I always assume a bit of prep research must be involved to make sure appearances are consistent all the way through.
Although I have a hard time drawing stick figures so what do I know.
Either way, great job Jock.
Final verdict time.
I love the fact DC does original graphic novels. If there’s anything Marvel could learn from DC, it’s the fact that this is a format that can work beautifully and can sell. Brian Azzerello’s Joker graphic novel from last year is a prime example of it and now we can add Pandemonium to the list. If you are a fan of the character, this book is worth the cover price. If you’ve always wanted an entry way into the world of John Constantine but haven’t a good clue where to start, this is a good entry way for you.
Now a few follow ups from previous columns:
Not to start rumors but last week I write a column about how DC can fix it’s film line with a Superman film and this week they announce Christopher Nolan well be shepherding a new Superman film.
(and yes I’m well aware that it sounds like a reboot at this point but I’m still available to work on the film for a nice fee and the option to write a Swamp Thing comic).
And in other news after a great streak of two whole issues coming out on time, Image Untied ran late. Apparently issue #3 will arrive February 24.
There may be a small snag in the Marvel/Disney deal. Okay well if you run a theme park it’s a very large snag. This may sound a bit financially technical but here’s the basics.
Universal Studios has a deal with Marvel to use their characters, locations, etc in Universal Studios theme parks, mainly the one in Florida. Now when the Disney/Marvel deal was announced, it was mentioned that despite Disney being very involved in the theme park industry, that the Universal Studios deal would stand (probably due to a few iron clad contracts but anyways).
Apparently because Disney does theme park stuff and “owns” Marvel (once the deal is final), Disney would then be working with Universal Studios directly. In theory this could lead to all sorts of financial mischief like price fixing. Antitrust people are being brought in to take a look at it.
And finally everyone should check out http://howardexperimentswithhisbrain.blogspot.com/
It’s a blog written by Marvel Comics writer (and former editor of your truly along with being a hell of a guy) Howard Mackie. Howard is a liberal minded guy who has decided to experiment on himself by getting his news for an entire month from only one source.
It’s worth checking out.
Brent Chittenden is a Canadian freelance writer who also moonlights as a supernatural detective. He once caught a demon in a barn but it turned out to be an owl. If you have need of his services you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter at @BCNerdhole and his podcast Two Assholes Talking About Nerd Stuff. Feel free to become a fan of him at his Facebook group Brent Chittenden: The Writer.