So it appears that everyone’s favorite magician, John Constantine, is back. Well, he’s never really been gone, but in recent years Constantine’s involvement with the DC Universe has been very, very limited. Now, though, it appears that the Laughing Magician will soon be making his return to the world of brightly-colored capes and tights – and in a Brightest Day tie-in, no less. That’s cool, I guess, but I think the protagonist of Vertigo’s longest running title deserves a bit more than a supporting role in a wrap-up for a more or less critically-panned superhero story.
According to current Hellblazer writer Peter Milligan, the Constantine of the DCU and the Constantine of Hellblazer will more or less be the same character, just in different situations. As many fans have deduced, it seems like it will be a Punisher/Punisher MAX sort of thing. That’s definitely a pretty cool idea – and an interesting reversal of how Marvel handled Frank Castle – but I think it would be a terrible waste for this great character to be brought into the mainstream DC Universe just to be used as a plot device in things such as The Search for Swamp Thing. If John Constantine is going to become part of the DCU once again, it needs to be done right.
Now, the seemingly logical choice might be to make a New Earth counterpart book, simply entitled Constantine or something of the sort. Listen to me: this is a terrible idea. The reason why a 616 Punisher book and a MAX Punisher book work together is because the Punisher debuted in a mainstream Marvel title. Constantine, on the other hand, first appeared in one of DC’s fringe titles, and has since grown even more disconnected from the DCU. Tell the majority of Punisher fans that you’re going to give him another book that is outside of the confines of Marvel continuity, and they’ll be excited. Tell longtime Hellblazer readers that Constantine is going to be given another title that’s set in the mainstream DCU, and I bet you that they aren’t going to give a rat’s ass. Giving Constantine an ongoing within the DCU won’t sell well, simply because fans love the lack of confines that the long-running Hellblazer has.
I know, it seems like I leave no other option for Constantine than being involved in the next big, earth-shaking, nothing-will-ever-be-the-same mega event. And, if it wasn’t apparent, I’m one of those who let out a massive sigh of disappointment upon hearing the news of Constantine’s return. But it can be done, and it might even be done in a manner that people would be interested in reading! It’s as simple of a fix as changing the publishing method; that is, a miniseries as opposed to an ongoing. Did you ever read Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic? Think of it like that, only exploring the magical community of the DCU and John Constantine’s place therein. This could pull in both readers that are unacquainted with the character and longtime Hellblazer fans that wouldn’t want to commit to an ongoing series, but are curious enough to see how things play out. Most importantly, though, it allows the character some room to stretch his legs in the DCU, rather than just tossing him back and forth between writers who “need him” to make their story work – a fate I’m afraid of seeing the Vertigo character condemned to.
Who, then, would be the best choice to write Constantine’s Magical Mystery Tour (official title pending)? It took a while for me to settle on the best choice, but now that I’ve settled on Paul Cornell, you can’t convince me otherwise – and no, I didn’t just nominate him because he’s a Brit. Cornell’s comic work so far has proven that he has what it takes to write the character and his world well: a dark sense of humor, witty dialogue, and a brilliant – if sometimes twisted – imagination. Of course, Cornell’s oeuvre is more science fiction-related than anything else, but he hasn’t given any reason to doubt that he would be able to write fantasy well. Additionally, with his “Black Ring” arc in Action Comics, he has shown that he can rotate through a wide cast of characters without appearing to be pulling a gimmicky “guest appearance of the week” sort of thing.Continued below
My pick for the series’ artist is a bit of a Hellblazer veteran, having illustrated two issues in the ongoing, as well as a spinoff miniseries. Artist Sean Murphy is a Multiversity favorite, and for good reason: nearly every page that he illustrates pushes the boundaries of what comic art can do. His style is an odd fit for Constantine’s world, but it does fit in a delightful way. In particular, though, I love seeing creators that I love working together – especially if they haven’t worked together in the past – and I feel that Cornell and Murphy would have a great synergy that would truly be awesome to behold. Plus, I am interested to see how Murphy would draw certain DC characters, but I wouldn’t want to waste his incredible talents on a basic superhero comic.
Constantine is a great and fascinating character. As wary as I am concerning his future in the DC Universe proper, I’ve moved past the outrage that I first experienced upon hearing the news. You never know, it might work. And if it doesn’t? Well, Hellblazer itself should be safe.