Wednesday, February 6, 2013
A Love Letter and Goodbye to "Hellblazer"
You all know me pretty well it seems, i.e. you know I'm a comic book geek. Though the medium mostly revolves around people in tights punching the shit out of each other, there's one comics line in general that re-affirmed my faith in the medium back in the days of me being a super cynical teenage know-it-all: Vertigo Comics. Vertigo is the mature-themed adult line of comics that is a part of DC Comics as a whole. Over the decades, there have been numerous titles, mini-series', and ongoing series' that have become nothing short of legendary. Just look at these titles for fuck's sake: "Sandman", "Saga of the Swamp Thing", "V For Vendetta", "Preacher", "Y: The Last Man", "A History of Violence", "Orbiter", "Transmetropolitan", "Lucifer", "Deadenders", "100 Bullets", "Scalped", "DMZ", and many many more. But there was one title in particular that drew me to Vertigo. One title in particular that drew me into dark comics in general and was the stepping stone for me getting into the aforementioned titles.
Now what the fuck is "Hellblazer" you may be asking yourself? Well, it's Vertigo's longest ongoing title. It mostly revolves around the horrific adventures of John Constantine. Wait, now you're thinking to yourself "John Constantine? The John Constantine from the movie 'Constantine' that starred everyone's favorite wooden actor extraordinaire Keanu Reeves?" And yes, you're kind of right about that. However, unlike how he was portrayed in that piece of garbage 2005 adaptation, John Constantine is a blonde, British, chain-smoking, master of black magic and super street smart con-man. He was created by Alan Moore (!) during his seminal run on "Saga of the Swamp Thing", and eventually got his own title in the late 80s with "Hellblazer". It was writer Jamie Delano that really molded John's backstory, history, and supporting cast as he took the original reigns on the title, followed by celebrated and brilliant runs by Garth Ennis (which made him famous and led him to create the brilliant "Preacher"), Paul Jenkins, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey, Denise Mina, and currently Peter Milligan among others. Even industry legends like Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison have dabbled on the title before to boot.
The stories of "Hellblazer" weren't quite what the shitty "Constantine" movie made them out to be. John Constantine is not a demon hunter that is constantly at odds with Satan. In fact, John Constantine is a bit of a prick. There have been numerous occasions where he's put the lives of his friends and loved ones at risk strategically just so he can get the upper hand (most of the time). And while John has had a couple run-in's with Satan and various demonic forces, John's biggest enemies usually wind up being those in the use of black magic that are using it for wrong purposes. That, and there's a laundry list of people that John has managed to piss off over the years (he ages in real time).
Now, you may be wondering why I'm having a "Hellblazer" themed wankfest here, and that's because towards the end of this month, the 300th, and final, issue of "Hellblazer" will be hitting the stands, marking John Constantine's last hurrah as part of the Vertigo line. Why is this happening? Well, because ever since DC launched the "New 52" over a year ago, they re-introduced a younger and less foul-mouthed John Constantine into the mainstream DC universe. That, combined with the fact that it feels like Vertigo is getting squeezed to death by its parent company (leading to the departure of Karen Berger, the longtime editorial leader at Vertigo that helped bring so many legendary titles to life) means that my beloved John Constantine will be laid to rest...at least in his chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, rip your guts out of your stomach version that we've come to know and love for over 20 years now.
So, it goes without saying, that "Hellblazer" will be supremely missed, and in my honest opinion, it seems like Vertigo Comics as a whole isn't far behind. It's a crying shame too, because things just aren't going to be the same without John fucking Constantine the way we know and love him.