Saturday, July 7, 2018

Thirty Years of The Hellblazer

As I sit here and type this, it is hard to fathom that it actually has been three decades since I first met John Constantine in a humid sweat box of a comic book shop back in 1988. I was about 13 at the time and I can remember vividly staring at the rack at the latest offerings from the industry's leading publishers. My attention kept going back to the Vertigo label affixed to the corner of an eye-grabbing cover. The cover in question was to the first issue of a comic book entitled, The Hellblazer. Now I had already had my selection of titles from
Marvel and DC of that day, but something told me to give this one a chance. I sucked it up and threw down the extra cash for the issue. Ever since then, I have kept an eye on John’s whereabouts through the years. For those loyal, diehard readers, you pretty much knew what you were getting with John. While most of the mainstream heroes are still too busy gallivanting about in their dramatic costumes, what you see is what you get with the golden tongued con-man. His soul exudes toxicity. Even though his methods are questionable, albeit controversial, he gets results. He is the arrogant loner but he is well aware of this and I cannot help but sympathize with him. In fact, he’s somewhat more relatable and more genuine than most of the capes and tights crew in the DC Universe. I remember sitting for hours reading that Vertigo series while listening to Social Distortion, The Misfits, and other similar musicians. Just some of the things John would say to the demonic horde, and then getting away virtually scot-free was entertaining alone, if not hilarious, in of itself. John is a rebel to the bitter end, walking to the erratic tune of the punk band that plays inside of his head. He walks his path alone, all the while leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. Some of those dead bodies over the years have been those who tried in vain to cultivate some type of friendship with John.

    As of today, I picked up the penultimate issue of The Hellblazer series under the Rebirth initiative. I have mixed feelings on the cancellation of this series, but I do understand why this decision was made due to the poor sales of the title. Overall, the book failed miserably in its long term execution. To be fair, I did enjoy the Rebirth issue and the first couple of issues to follow it. It was nonsense that trailed afterwards that caused me to mentally check out of this series. I don't feel like there was any clear direction for John Constantine, whatsoever.  With a recently cancelled television series and a moderately successful animated mini-series, Constantine has had no shortage of other media appearances. Currently, he is enjoying a tenure on DC's Legends of Tomorrow.

    While television and film credits are all well and good, this does not quell the rumors and speculation regarding the character's future in the realm of comic books. During the New 52 era of DC Comics, John enjoyed a healthy spotlight in the pages of Justice League Dark. As the recent solicits have shown, John is not a featured member on that roster headed up by Wonder Woman. The members rounding out that new incarnation are Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Detective Chimp, and Man-Bat. Writer, James Tynion IV though has not ruled out a possible appearance in the title's future of Constantine.

With the announcement of DC's Black Label imprint, comes the only new story featuring Liverpool's occult detective and The Dark Knight. The book is a three issue miniseries that will be published once every other month beginning in September of 2018. The book is entitled Batman: The Damned and will feature John co-starring with Batman in a tale that is sure to garner interest. Another piece of information that was recently divulged was the fact that the musician, Sting, will give an introductory piece to an anthology collection put out by Vertigo Comics. The 30th Anniversary anthology will feature the best stories of John Constantine's career in DC Comics. This is certainly one book I will not be missing out on when it's released in the latter part of October.
    While it does certainly feel that there's no shortage of things to check out in terms of The Hellblazer, the question of a future ongoing series remains unanswered by DC at this time. Personally, I would like to see John make a triumphant return to Vertigo. It would appear that DC is working on giving that imprint a much needed makeover with new titles being introduced this fall. A big part of me feels like I would have been perfectly fine with DC holding off on the Rebirth title altogether. John Constantine is at his best under the banner of Vertigo and a return to form would give the character a proper "Rebirth". However, at the end of the day, the decision is not up to me. I do realize that I am just a fan who has his own interpretation of this property. I will though be keeping a close eye on my news feeds as to the whereabouts of John Constantine in the future.

    So why a blog about Liverpool’s Working Class Occult Detective? John Constantine is without a shred of doubt the very last of my absolute favorite DC comic book properties of all time. He is my fandom’s best kept secret, until now.  In the past, I have tried only to fail in my efforts to launch other character driven blogs. Those were either already being covered by others or there was simply not enough material, in my opinion, to warrant a fan website. I also searched high and low among the denizens of the internet and found scarcely nobody, as of this writing, covering this character. John Constantine can come across as quite polarizing to fans and I can understand that. But that is basically in his nature though isn’t it? He tends to have that effect on the people that he interacts with on his lonely road. Constantine can be a tough one to swallow and digest and there has been moments in the character’s continuity that have left me scratching my brain in bewilderment. This is part of what makes him so fascinating to me and why I have kept him in my back pocket this whole time. What I am trying to say to you essentially, dear reader, is that I have saved the best for last. This will be my final attempt at making a comic book character blog work out for the presumably long haul. I intend to post here sporadically, though in no particular order, as no stone will be left unturned. Having learned from my previous mistakes, the reason for this is to let each published post breathe and to avoid a quick burnout. I understand that John Constantine is a bit of a niche character. Having said that, that could possibly spell the forecast for this site’s future. I am perfectly fine with that possible inevitability.

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