DC Relaunch: Drawing The Line At Constantine
(Editor's Note: Our latest column to hit Cosmic Book News comes from Chris "DOC" Bushley who will be taking a look at the less "cosmic" characters in comic books with his "Just What The Doc Ordered" OPED column!)
By Chris "DOC" Bushley
(That's right, no matter what they called Keanu Reeves horrible movie, it's pronounced "kon-stuhn-tahyn!" Not teen!)
So, how many of you out there knew who that cigarette smoking, blonde haired fellow was at the end of Brightest Day? Not many I am assuming, considering the CBN offices were at a fifty-fifty split! Everyone was either so caught up with the fact Swamp Thing was the White Lantern (is he still?--who knows!) or the horrible conclusion of a mediocre storyline to even notice that Vertigo's longest running book was sending over their star - John Constantine! But who can blame fans for not immediately recognizing Mr. Hellblazer himself, it's not as if everyone is a huge Alan Moore Swamp Thing fan nor was there any real hype about what was going on. It was supposed to be shocking, and it was to Hellblazer fans like myself, but it was shocking for all the wrong reasons! It was shocking because John Constantine doesn't belong in the normal DCU and especially not on some magic super team, Justice League Dark - really?! The only "team" John Constantine was ever on was in 1999, as a member of the "Trenchcoat Brigade," which consisted of Phantom Stranger, Mister E and Dr. Occult. It was a Vertigo mini series that made sense for the characters to all be thrown together, and at the end - they all went their separate ways! No secret team handshake, snazzy logos or magical headquarters to hang out in. Just four guys, that never trusted each other, thrust together for a single goal.
But a better reason as to why good ol' Johnny doesn't belong in the world of super teams, is at the core of the character, he is a genuine bastard! At the end of the day, when the doors of Hell have been shut and the dust has settled, only one thing matters to Mr. Constantine - his own survival. Though he has had plenty of friends and family over the years that have cared for him, and he in return, no one is as important to John Constantine as himself. Not that I'm saying he purposely goes out of his way to undermine those that have asked for his help, it just always seems to go that way. And each time it does, it further enriches the character, perfecting the art of self loathing to a honed edge while doing everything he can to live one more day. If he fails at saving his friends and family, what chance do a bunch of magic welding freaks stand against his skills of self preservation?
But the change that will hurt Constantine the most is the neutering of the character and his tales to fit into the DC proper. No other book at DC delves into such an array of poignant yet controversial issues the way Hellblazer does! From the very beginning, it has been a book not only revolving around such a thought provoking character, but one that pushed the limits on current political, social and economic issues. It has tackled everything from the affects of nuclear and chemical warfare, civil unrest in South Africa, the hell and splendor of America's prison system, racism in the U.K., the hatred between both young and old, poor and wealthy, abortion, murder, gang violence, alcoholism, rape, bestiality, black magic and the bastardization of the Royal family! And let's not forget challenging every nuance of the Catholic religion so much, that it makes Dan Brown look like the thirteenth apostle! From the Devil himself being the main villain to a conversation with a homeless man that turns out to be a de-winged Michael, Hellblazer has always challenged itself to be unique and controversial. And a lot of that controversy occurred during Garth Ennis' amazing run, where we find out exactly how The Virgin Mary conceived a child; it wasn't quite as immaculate as I remember from Catholic school!
It's not just the smoking, drinking, sex, and vulgarity that makes up John Constantine; it is the aspect of making the reader actually think about issues in the real world - things that matter and view points that may have never been perceived before. This above all else is what will have to be lost in order to conform to the regulations of a "proper" DC book. So let's call Justice League Dark Johnny, the now defunct moniker of Johnny DC and the original Vertigo badass by his proper name - Constantine! I have drawn a line as well, and I choose to stay on the side where the shadows hide secrets we don't want to know. A place where wives make deals with succubi to take care of cheating husbands, where technology sometimes eats your soul and where an Englishman just might be able to save you if you don't get in his way!
Choose Vertigo, I know Alan Moore's head is spinning over this announcement - so yours should, too!