Review: Down at the Pub with HELLBLAZER #300

Opening remarks are a prerequisite to talking about the final Vertigo issue of the imprint’s longest running series, the only from Vertigo’s original armada to last nearly so long, and a series which, totaling its original DC imprint and Vertigo lifespan, has lasted for 25 years. The series’ past and future are apt to be reassessed in much the same way that John Constantine reassesses his past and future in issues #299 and #300. In fact, it’s hard not to read these issues without interpreting them on some level as a metaphor for the series as a whole, weighing its achievements and milestones.

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[Vertigo’s first HELLBLAZER, cover by Dave McKean]

When DC announced the conclusion of Vertigo’s HELLBLAZER with issue #300, and the subsequent migration of the character John Constantine to the DC universe proper with a new series entitled CONSTANTINE, negative reactions dominated discussion of the news. Though no doubt this had plenty to do with deeply committed fans not wanting such a massive change to their beloved character’s existence (and can we assume that sex and profanity, staples of Constantine’s life, will no longer appear in the DC universe incarnation?), but also because it seemed to hint darkly about the future of the Vertigo line itself. If the flagship series is cancelled, can the imprint be far behind? But, truth be told, there’s no solid evidence that Vertigo is on the way out. It’s more clear that Constantine became an attractive character to take part in the DC universe proper in much the same way that Swamp Thing faced a more indefinite relocation. This suggests that it was the strength of HELLBLAZER that led to this change-up, not a lack of sales or performance as a Vertigo imprint. Those who are not amused by this co-opting of Constantine might consider the working man’s magician cursed by his own success.

[SPOILERS for HELLBLAZER #299 and #300 below!]

Since John Constantine’s first appearance as a character in SWAMP THING #37 (1985), he has been the subject of fascination. The stellar roll-call of those who have worked on HELLBLAZER over the years is staggering, and most who have worked on the series, including plenty who never got the chance to, have expressed an absolute fixation with the comic, largely due to the nuances of the character himself, much more an anti-hero than a hero, at least part con-man, largely self-destructive, and capable of weathering the fact that he can be unlikeable. Issues #299 and #300 grapple more firmly with that “unlikeable” aspect, questioning the wholesale destruction he’s often brought to those around him and more or less pose the question: does Constantine have a conscience about what he’s done? If he had the chance to make a redeeming gesture, would he? Fans may think they already know the answers to these questions, after all Constantine is a “bastard”, but writer Peter Milligan (from issue #250-300) does his best to dispel this certainty.

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[Constantine’s appearance in SWAMP THING #37]

Also working in Milligan’s favor is that he isn’t prepared to let major characters recede into the background in the drama of Constantine’s perplexing death and less perplexing resurrection. Epiphany Greaves, Constantine’s young wife, plays a substantial role in this final drama and establishes some visceral emotion for the reader to identify with, given their own anxiety over the possible “end” of Constantine after a quarter century of brushes with death. Their love story, spanning decades, could have been shuffled aside in favor of tying up the entire series, but instead becomes a linchpin of Constantine’s final internal struggles. Both issues #299 and #300 are also well-paced, full of feints and misdirections that keep readers guessing, and Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini’s layouts give admirable weight to meaningful transitional moments in the narrative that reflect both Epiphany’s and Constantine’s psychology. #300, particularly, represents very strong visual storytelling that’s appropriate to such an important moment in comics history.

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[Cover art for HELLBLAZER #300]

But what about the conclusion itself? Some readers will consider it ambiguous enough to be satisfying, leaving room for interpretation, and drawing together the many dimensions of the character’s history, presenting plenty of silent panels for them to populate with their own reactions. It’s possible that no ending to HELLBLAZER could be truly satisfactory, given the fact that most fans don’t want the series to end. Even the fact that the conclusion is well executed can’t fully redeem that fact. But the conclusion does leave the series with a haunted feeling, which is certainly what the series, if it must end, deserves to hold onto.

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[Cover art for HELLBLAZER #299]

In issue #299, Epiphany’s thoughts, in narrative text boxes, lead the reader down some dark paths while memorably traumatic images take center stage. The issue opens with Epiphany kneeling in a pool of gore over Constantine’s body, his chest blown open. Any shred of hope that the magician might survive is dispelled by Epiphany’s commentary, feeling him “slipping away” on the way to the hospital. Epiphany’s explosive reaction, shooting the man her father, Terry Greaves, presents to her as her husband’s killer, point-blank in a spatter of brains reinforces the seriousness of these jarring events to the reader, who might be second-guessing whether Constantine is, in fact, dead at this point.

When Constantine’s ghost begins to appear, it seems even more conclusive that this is, in fact, the end of the anti-hero’s mortal days. While the funeral itself is short and understated, Epiphany’s series of responsibilities, from surveying John’s corpse, the orchestrating the collection of his ashes, draws out the process of coming to terms with his death. This is a fairly successful way of giving the reader time to contemplate their own reactions. Issue #299 ends with a seeming cliff-hanger as Epiphany returns home to find Constantine waiting for her. This is the conclusion to issue #299 that readers are desperately hoping for. Surely, there had been some mistake, or ingenious plan to fake Constantine’s death. It provided some relief to readers waiting for the final issue of the series.

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Milligan opens issue #300 with a rather endearing argument between Epiphany and Constantine, and plenty of sex (possibly reinforcing all the things about the Vertigo series that make it Vertigo versus the upcoming DC Constantine series) before the false sense of security is swept away. In typical fashion for the series, things are rarely what they seem, and Epiphany has been sleeping with a proxy, demoniacal version of her husband. Another loss ensues, and readers again are faced with the shocking realization that Constantine seems to be dead for good. Epiphany’s dalliance with Constantine’s nephew Finn reinforces this and puts some emotional distance between Epiphany and the death of her husband. Several weeks even pass before John’s ghost begins to throw a wrench in this process of moving on. When John proposes that Epiphany helps resurrect him in physical form, it seems almost too easily done, but again, is what readers have no doubt been hoping for. In a series where death and hell are rarely much of a barrier, why not bring back Constantine so that he can resume his arcane lifestyle in more fleshy form?

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For readers getting a little uneasy about all these backward and forward movements in possibility, they might be wondering at this point, “Is that all?”. After all the hullabaloo, a simple exercise in resurrection seems almost a let down. Apprehension about Constantine’s return aside, seeing the familiar yellow textboxes of his thoughts return to the narrative is pretty electrifying and moving after an issue and a half of silence from the leading man. Constantine’s revenge on Terry Greaves, and his warnings to the wayward Finn about occult pursuits ring true to character, and it’s easy to forget about any previous misgivings. They resurface, strongly, however, in the last third of the book, and are emphasized by Milligan,  Camuncoli, and Landini in ways that can’t be ignored.

Epiphany’s quip about Constantine’s plan to escape the Fates in a quiet Irish village, “You are biologically incapable of living a quiet life”, becomes sinister and resonant. Camuncoli and Landini’s strongest page in the narrative depicts Constantine closing his eyes in bed with Epiphany, thinking, opening them again, and then staring in an almost grotesque way out of the panel as he reaches some kind of realization about himself. It’s only a matter of panels before Epiphany has to bid him farewell yet again. Is it believable that she’d let him go at this point? The narrative suggests that she’s learned to let go due to previous iterations of losing him, but it’s also a little rushed and simple, maybe due to a desire from Milligan not to get too repetitive in farewell scenes.

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Leaving the choice of whether Constantine lives or dies up to his conflicted niece Gemma may be a convenient solution to the conclusion of the series, but her actions are actually not surprising and her conversations with Constantine help hammer home the dilemma of the entire series. Does John really take responsibility for his actions? How far does he allow other people to be responsible for their own fate, and does he recognize that they can affect his? Gemma takes up that symbolic role of those who have been wronged in some way by Constantine’s more narcissistic pursuits, and if it’s a game of roulette to see if he’ll get what’s coming to him, he wins or loses depending on your vantage.

Constantine is released from the burden of cause and effect, the awareness of the harm he’s likely to keep bringing to others, particularly Epiphany, by Gemma’s bullet. He may well suspect in advance what will happen and be participating in a form of assisted suicide. But this is where all the ambiguity sets in. It’s almost like the constraints of the series ending mandate that Constantine must choose a way to exit the stage, and he does. The choice he makes is telling: it seems like a sacrificial act, one that expresses at least a desire for redemption. This makes a final statement about Constantine’s humanity and alters the way he’ll be remembered by others.

The last three pages of the comic could merit a review on their own, and Camuncoli once again shows his confidence and versatility in handling heavy, iconic moments. After an explosion of light, the viewer’s vantage rises over London, travels along a motorway toward Liverpool, glides through the streets and approaches a pub aptly named, of course, “The Long Journey’s End”. Those are the basics. It’s reasonable to assume that this represents Constantine’s disembodies spirit traveling somewhere important. The final panel is what leaves readers with whatever sense of closure or uncertainty they are prepared to generate for themselves. Constantine appears, surrounded by homage including the comparatively younger figures of possible contributors to the series, but with the same staring, uncanny expression on his face that marked his decision to leave human life. It’s a static image, and Constantine appears aged and uncertain of his own identity.

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[Constantine in the DCU]

No doubt plenty of planning went into the scene, from the finely drawn tributes to HELLBLAZER contributors on every bottle behind the bar to the decision to portray a form of afterlife for the anti-hero. As final scenes go, it throws the gates wide on interpretation. That allows the series to form a kind of eternal loop of narrative, a fitting farewell to a pocket universe within DC. Though it’s not exactly a celebratory bon voyage to such a beloved character or series, it suits the downbeat, often backfiring lifestyle of Constantine himself, a life wherein plans almost always went awry and left him playing his perennial role of the “bastard”. If you wanted more redemption for Constantine, you probably should have settled on a character for whom a “quiet life” is not some form of hell (and that may be one interpretation of the final panel, that being retired and down at the red-lit pub is his punishment for a life less than virtuous).

Any interpretation of the final issue of HELLBLAZER is tempered by the knowledge that a younger Constantine will soon be born, a Constantine who will go “back to his roots in the DC universe” as Dan Didio claimed in response to negative reactions when HELLBLAZER’S conclusion was announced. Yes, it’s true, HELLBLAZER ran for 62 issues as a DCU series before being launched as a Vertigo title, but that doesn’t assure us that it won’t be a bumpy ride for Constantine heading toward a reincarnation. That’s not to say that he won’t be well received. Constantine has always shown that he’s a virtuoso at jumping between worlds and handling all the horror thrown at him. If he’s anything, he’s tough, and if the new series CONSTANTINE from DC is the only way for readers to reach the character on the “other side” of his most recent demise, it’ll be hard not to follow him into the DCU rather than truly saying “goodbye” to John Constantine.

 Title: JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #300/Publisher: Vertigo, DC/Creative Team: Peter Milligan, writer, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini, artists.

 

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Carter says:

    I enjoyed the fake-out of Finn turning into the new Constantine, complete with sideburns, magic, smoking, etc. Lots of cleverness in #300.

    I honestly can’t remember what the dart gun at the end is supposed to do, or where it came from. That might help me interpret the last few pages.

    I still think it’s too bad DC didn’t have enough faith in its readers’ ability to understand two different versions of JC at once. They didn’t need to be mutually exclusive.

  2. Saipman says:

    Carter says:

    “I still think it’s too bad DC didn’t have enough faith in its readers’ ability to understand two different versions of JC at once. They didn’t need to be mutually exclusive.”

    These are the same people that believed for decades that readers would be confused if both a Justice Society and a Justice League series were being simultaneously published.

  3. David D. says:

    That was a great review and fitting tribute.

    This is picky, but I wouldn’t call those pre-Vertigo issues of Hellblazer DCU books. Sure, they were DC, and the imprint didn’t exist yet. But they were not set in the DCU, or in a world that had super heroes in it. So for all that Didio or others would like to say that Constantine is returning to his DCU “roots”, really they are only talking about a handful of appearances in Swamp Thing (versus 25 plus years of Hellblazer existing on its own), and in those appearances, there were probably only a few pages where he interacted with DCU characters other than Swamp Thing. The character’s time in the DCU feels more like a footnote at this point than roots.

  4. David: That’s not correct. Hellblazer WAS set in the DCU. He wasn’t separate from it. He crossed over with Swamp Thing, Sandman and other DC titles.

  5. Dandru says:

    Milligan’s entire run was crap, and the final storyline was simply awful. Thank god it’s finally over–Milligan can no longer crap all over a once-great set of characters.

  6. Spike says:

    I bought every issue since issue 1. It’s one of the few comics that I bought issue after issue. I remember the joys of the first issues. Just great! I thought Miligans run was great! He brought a touch of humanity to the bastard. I ALSO liked that he confirmed Johns age, Constatine is in his 60s. He says it in issue 297 or 298? He was 40 back in 91? 92?
    I’m going to re-read the last few issues again to get the full flavor of the story, but I thought it was a good ending.
    Oh, and one nitpick…wasn’t JC’s first appearance in Crisis of Infinty Earths? Issue 4 or 5? Just a few panels.

  7. David D. says:

    Re: Morn

    Constantine may have been put in some DCU comics concurrent to Hellblazer (like Books of Magic) where he interacted with DCU characters, but it was clear from the outset that Hellblazer was set in its own world, and not one that had superheroes in it. And even when Swamp Thing made one of his few appearances in Hellblazer, they didn’t reminisce about their time on the Justice League satellite. It wasn’t even clear that this Swamp Thing was the same one that had been in the DCU. In the same way that, long after the Vertigo launch, when Swamp Thing would occasionally appear in Hellblazer, he was just another mystic figure that Constantine had history with. Swamp Thing was in the world of the Hellblazer book that way, but that world was not the DCU.

    Even if Constantine had a number of appearances in the DCU, Hellblazer was never a book set in the DCU. It is a small distinction, but I think an important one for the history of Hellblazer as a title and what was remarkable about it from the start. And that was by design. Berger and Delano set it up that way. Not only to give it a voice distinct from Swamp Thing, but also from the DCU as a whole. In that way it was one of the titles that proved the concept of what a Vertigo imprint could be.

  8. Thanks for the feedback guys! I personally think he could have easily just inhabited two universes and don’t see the problem with that either. As for whether Constantine pre-Vertigo was DCU, maybe it’s better titled proto-DCU. It’s really not clear enough that it’s a separate universe before Vertigo to say that Hellblazer had its own universe, in my opinion. Saying he’s returning to “DCU roots”, though, is pretty much a whitewashing of fears about how the character might change (aside from age). This whole subject is full of grey areas.
    I haven’t found anything about Constantine appearing in other comics before Swamp Thing, though it’s possible be appeared previously in Swamp Thing? (in issue #25? of Swamp Thing before #37 though I have yet to visually confirm this).

  9. Carter says:

    Yeah, the whole “DCU roots” is whitewashing but there’s very little ambiguity (to me) about whether or not Hellblazer started off in the DCU. The guy played a role in Crisis on Infinite Earths for goodness, sake. Just because the book didn’t feature a crossover with Green Lantern doesn’t set it in a different universe. Heck, we could easily play “Six Degrees of Superman” to link Hellblazer into the DCU (Children’s Crusade is a pretty good starting point). “It wasn’t even clear that this Swamp Thing was the same one that had been in the DCU”? One word: Tefe.

    The important historical distinction is that Hellblazer (and other proto-Vertigo books) succeeded *despite* being placed in a super-marginalized corner of the DCU.

    It’s only through later, insane editorial policy that a bright-line division of appearances was ever made (probably some marketing in there, too, so people buying Sandman could still feel superior to people buying Batman). I don’t think it was until Flashpoint that anyone explicitly said, “these are different worlds”.

  10. David D. says:

    We can debate it if we want, but when I interviewed Karen Berger for an article on the 20th anniversary of Hellblazer, she clearly stated that when she launched Hellblazer and hired Delano to write it, the plan from the beginning was to set it in its own world. However the Constantine character was used in other books before or after, Hellblazer was not set in the same world as Superman. So I will defer to Berger on that one.

    And even though Constantine the character got borrowed out of Hellblazer to go be the surrogate to make Tefe, notice how Tefe never showed up in Hellblazer. Nor did Swamp Thing, in any of his rare appearances, go on about (nor talk about past adventures they’d had with superheroes). Swamp Thing could appear in HB without it becoming a DCU book.

    However Constantine might have appeared, the world of Hellblazer was its own thing. That was by design, or at least, that is what the person who established it told me. I would need to dig to find the quote, but that was done not just to make Hellblazer a distinct world, but also to give it an identity separate from Swamp Thing (which may be why I don’t think Swamp Thing even gets mentioned for the first 6 or 7 issues).

  11. That’s an interesting insight from Berger- thanks.
    I think this just illustrates the fact that unless a separate universe has it’s own name or own imprint, it’s very hard to designate. Thankfully they eventually did that with Hellblazer which helps avoid confusion.

  12. Carter says:

    @David D. Thanks David! That’s a really fascinating historical/process aspect of Hellblazer. Of course, I think they did a pretty terrible job of maintaining that idea but that poor maintenance is, itself, an interesting look at how editorial and marketing decisions can affect story and purity of ideas in a shared universe.

    In the collected Hellblazer TPs, they include the two issues of Swamp Thing involving the conception of Tefe. So I get the feeling that, even years later, most people on the inside never “got” that HB was supposed to be its own thing.

  13. I hope that the new Constantine fails hard. What a dumb fucking move by DC. I really can’t wait for Nelson, DiDio, Lee, and Harris to leave the company.

  14. David D. says:

    Re: Hannah and Carter

    Thanks. And I definitely agree it was a very strange line and hard to see line drawn between Hellblazer as a book, and the way in which the character would still appear and interact with DC characters in books like Swamp Thing and Books of Magic. As well as the difference in character between the Constantine of Hellblazer and the Constantine that was in other books- the Constantine in Swamp Thing seemed very powerful and wise, as his role in that book was to be a mentor figure. Whereas the Constantine in Hellblazer was more down to Earth- he was tired, rumpled, and often scrambling to outsmart and outcon forces larger than himself. Which is more in line with being a lead character rather than the Obi-Wan figure.

    I think, pre-Vertigo, the various “Bergerverse” books and their characters moved at different rates out of the DCU and into their own continuity. Pre-Vertigo, what we would think of as the DCU characters started to appear less and less in Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Doom Patrol until, shortly before the Vertigo imprint launch, they weren’t there at all. And Hellblazer seemed to lead the pack on that, by having its own world (albeit one that Swamp Thing could poke into) from the start.

    By the way, if you don’t mind me making a plug, and perhaps if anyone is still reading this far into the comments they are enough of a Hellblazer fan to be interested– the two part article on the 20th anniversary of Hellblazer that I did for the now-defunct Comics Now! magazine is still online at the following links. It is an overview of Hellblazer era by era right up to the anniversary (basically right before Milligan started) and includes original quotes by many of the people involved who I had the pleasure of speaking to.
    Part One: http://comicgeekspeak.com/articles/hellblazerPart1_1.php
    Part Two: http://comicgeekspeak.com/articles/hellblazerPart2_1.php

  15. Hannah Means-Shannon says:

    Thanks very much David! Those observations about differences in Constantine’s personality are really spot-on. And thanks for the articles. We usually don’t allow links in comments, but in this case, these are really helpful for the argument we and others are pursuing about universes and since I’m a comics scholar too I appreciate you sharing those resources.

  16. Lord Badger says:

    For my money JC definitely started out in themainstream universe. He appears in the first story arc of ‘Sandman’ – a story arc which later features Martian Manhunter and Scott Free, as late as issue 90-something in the ‘Critical Mass’ arc he alludes to ‘the big green fella’ and has a meeting with the Phantom Stranger.
    Oh, there’s also the ‘Trenchcoat Brigade’ stories where he’s seen teamed with Mr E, Phantom Stranger and Doctor Occult.
    For my money ‘Hellblazer’ occupies a similar corner of the DC universe that Punisher and 80’s Daredevil do/did in the Marvel universe. Part of it, but rarely impacting on wider events.

  17. David D. says:

    Re: Lord Badger

    No argument that Constantine as a character was in some DCU books and (briefly) interacted with some DCU characters. Heck, a Crisis issue of Swamp Thing that had them on the Justice League satellite (and feeling out of place, perhaps in a bit of meta comment).

    My point is only that Constantine’s time interacting or being in the DCU is so brief (really a handful of pages, all told) that I find the assertion that his “roots” are there to be a bit of a stretch. Sure, publishing history wise, those were his first appearances. But celebrating (as Didio seems to want us to feel) his grand return to the DCU like it was the place where he belonged seems a stretch to me, as the 25 years of Hellblazer comics and related OGNs and minis, probably thousands of pages of material, where all in a world outside the DCU.

    And- this is super-picky of me, and I suppose a reminder of how confusing the migration of some characters to and from Vertigo can be- the characters that appeared in The Trenchcoat Brigade, like Phantom Stranger or Dr. Occult should probably be thought of as the Vertigo versions of those characters. There is no indication that they are the same ones that had been in DCU stories. In the same way that the Unknown Soldier that appears towards the end of the recent Dysart/ Ponticelli series was a Vertigo version of that classic character. But that didn’t mean that the whole story was now a DCU book, you know what I mean?

  18. Player 2 says:

    @David D. I’m willing to accept Berger’s assertion that she wanted HB to be in its own universe but really, that’s the strongest argument for “it’s a different character”. Everything else sounds like “except for all the evidence to the contrary, Constantine has never had anything to do with DC-proper”. You can’t just pick and choose.

    Yes, as time went on all the Vertigo stuff was clearly separate. But that doesn’t necessarily apply retroactively. It’s comics. I think everyone will agree that the the change was gradual. The JC of early HB issues was clearly the same character from previous Alan Moore Swamp Thing issues, Newcastle-trauma and all. Those, in turn, are very clearly related to the DCU.

    And, yes, the characters in the Trenchcoat Brigade are very, very clearly the same. Unless you want to say that they were giving a tour of magic that somehow included a Vertigo-version of the Legion of Superheroes.

    Unknown Solider? Published at a different time with a different standard and a different perception of what Vertigo was supposed to represent in the publishing world.

    You may want it all to be separate, but it wasn’t.

    Of course, Didio is wrong, too, but in the same way he was wrong when he trumpeted the return of Swamp Thing to the DCU. It’s all about modern general perception. I doubt many people now ever considered a magic swamp monster anything other than a DCU-related character. In the same way, modern readers wouldn’t think of JC as a DCU-character. Didio is speaking from inside a bubble that most people neither know nor care about. It’s why this debate exists at all. If he had just said, “Sales on the Vertigo book suck. We want to make JC more accessible and reintroduce him via Flashpoint,” no one would have any illusions about what was going on.

  19. Moses Horowitz says:

    Alan Moore created Constantine for his run in Swamp Thing in the early Eighties, a series that included appearances by Batman and several other DCU characters. That, plus his cameo in Crisis means that he was definitely a DCU character. That would change with the creation of Vertigo, a change that seems to have excised him from the timeline, so to speak, or at least isolate him from the spandex crowd.

    There was also an unnamed cameo in a Batman comic, the title escapes me, where a news team doing a story on the Joker asks for a vox populi comment, and he says something like “Sorry, squire, I`m from out of town.“

  20. Player 2 says:

    Also, I think the Berger quote you’re relying on is this (from your excellent article, btw):

    “Clearly Constantine is going to have his own world outside of Swamp Thing,” says Berger, “and to do a series and keep Constantine in Swamp Thing’s world doesn’t make sense considering the potential of what you have when you’re starting a new series. You want to take the character and put him in his own direction. So the idea was to take Constantine and set him off as the start of his own book in his own world with his own adventures.”

    She means “his own world” figuratively. That is, telling stories about Constatine fighting constantly wars between heaven and hell or other big, cosmic fantasy threats (a la Swampy) would not make for a sustainable series about the character. If Batman appears in a bunch of Green Lantern issues you don’t put him in space, fighting aliens in his own book. Different characters can fill different niches.

    She didn’t mean that they created a new universe around him.

  21. David D. says:

    re: Player 2

    Thanks for checking out the old articles. My original point was never to suggest that John Constantine didn’t start out in a DCU book. Clearly he did. But I still stand by my belief that Hellblazer never took place in the same world as Superman and Batman (even if John Constantine had prior appearances with them both). For that article I re-read all 20 years of Hellblazer to that date, and I was curious if there was a point where the book clearly left the DCU and became its own thing. And my finding was that it was its own thing from the start. Other readers may disagree, and I respect that. But Berger’s quote (taken from a longer conversation) confirmed what I thought from my reading- that on purpose Hellblazer was being set up to stand alone from the DCU, and to not rely on Swamp Thing.

    Now that could be thought of as being a different character from the character that continued to pop into a few DCU places, or not. It is up to the reader to decide. But the Hellblazer book seemed to very carefully avoid suggesting that there was such a thing as a superhero, alien races, Justice Leagues, or anything like that in it. (Just as readers of the Mike Grell Green Arrow were left to decide whether or not that down-to-Earth GA was the same one that had been in the Justice League– all of those references to past history were kept very vague, and even when Hal Jordan appeared he was only called “Hal”, was in regular clothes, and there was no indication he had a super ring.)

    So while his appearances in Books of Magic or things like that feel like proof to the contrary, I get that. But I would not try to prove that John Constantine was not in the DCU (he was, briefly). Rather, I think the actual issues of Hellblazer from the beginning, establish and prove issue after issue, by careful omission, that the London in that book is not on the same planet as Superman. And from what Berger and I talked about, that was by design.

  22. David D. says:

    . . . But to your larger point, I agree– it is all a bit academic at this point. At the end of the day, if a standalone Vertigo Hellblazer was making enough money, it would have lasted, no matter where else the character was being used.

    I just hope that there is still room for the right authors to still do a mature readers John Constantine story at some point in the future, whether an OGN or a mini. But I worry that once the character is established as a PG-13 rated mystic superhero that is where he will exclusively stay. We’ll see.

    But, even if this is it, we got an unlikely 300 issues, as well as several OGNs and a half-dozen or so minis. That is a pretty remarkable body of work for a title that isn’t even named after its main character, and is in a trenchcoat rather than tights. So I am happy with what we got, even if I wish there were more.

  23. Jesse says:

    Constantine is a serious well serious-ish character that lives in a world of consequences. Putting him in a world with Superman only makes him stupid by association. I cannot think of a Hellblazer story in the past few decades that would sit well with a jack-ass in red and blue tights. DC is trying to make characters relevant that should only be nostalgic or “classic”. That’s why New Frontier worked so well, DC superheroes makes sense in a retro way but are ridiculous modernized. Unless of course you can swallow a character from 2011 that would actually refer to himself as “Superman.”

  24. Lord Badger says:

    To my mind, Constantine, a man who regularly greets the Devil with phrases like ‘Fuck me, it’s Naughty Nigel’, faces down demons, fucks animals(I’m looking at you Azzarallo) and has an unborn mystical twin who’s been manipulating the lines of fate so’s things turn out how he wants them to is no less daft than an alien who can’t work our that his undies should go underneath his trousers.
    Granted, he’s more grounded than say, Superman or the multi-millionaire Batman but for me he’s no less part of the DCU than an of them. Waaaaayyyyy off the main drag yes, not pat of it no. Hell, he’s in the ‘Wake’ storyline of Sandman, complimenting Phantom Stranger on his trench coat and attending Dream’s funeral along with Batman, Superman, Martian Manhunter and Darkseid.
    As I said, for me, he part of the wider DCU, but at the blurry, this-is-where-the-worlds-all-blend bit. He’s in that part that Swamp Thing, The Endless and Phantom Stranger ‘live’ – where the edges blur and the lines of reality and Other Things cross over.
    Basically, that bit Where The Stories Meet, at Dream’s funeral in ‘The Wake’.

  25. Lord Badger says:

    Also: If the above reads like a drunken rant, that’s because it is. there’s definitely a point there and I’ll explain properly when I’m sober. And you’re my best mate, you are.

  26. Alan Stewart says:

    Hannah, I really enjoyed the detailed review of HELLBLAZER #300, but, um… you do realize that John Constantine has been back in the DCU since the New 52 started, right? No need to wait for CONSTANTINE #1 for the “migration of the character… to the DC universe proper”. He’s been appearing in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK every month since Sept., 2011.

  27. I like to think that John is surprised to see us checking in on him.

  28. treewhiz says:

    What a goofy thread. A fun read, tho.
    Never stood next to a president, but we do exist on the same planet. Fiction is a playground for the mind. Plausability is elastic. I suggest people relax and enjoy.

  29. Mr. Hectic says:

    Personally, I think maybe he just discorporated and ended up somewhere familiar. Probably didn’t even know he was doing it, or could do it, which would explain the face. Doing two resurrections in a short span of time is bound to take it out of you, could have just aged him a bit due to wearing himself then. Of course, maybe he’s in hell or purgatory, or some other forsaken place, but I choose to hope. It’d be just like John Constantine to survive by the skin of his teeth and end up in a marooned somewhere, with fewer resources and poorer health. As endings go, it would fit. Don’t know if this is a helpful set of words to post, or even appropriate, but whatever. Need to put them somewhere, might as well be here.

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