Cover to Hellblazer #220 (July 2006)
Art by Leonardo Manco
|First appearance||The Saga of the Swamp Thing #25 (cameo) (June 1984)
The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 (June 1985)
|Created by||Alan Moore
Stephen R. Bissette
|Alter ego||John Constantine|
|Place of origin||Liverpool, England|
|Team affiliations||The Trenchcoat Brigade
Justice League Dark
|Supporting character of||Timothy Hunter|
Expert fraud and con artist
John Constantine (//) is a fictional character, an antihero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. The character first appeared in a cameo with The Saga of the Swamp Thing No. 25 (June 1984), revealing himself completely in The Saga of the Swamp Thing No. 37 (June 1985), and was created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben. He serves as the lead character of the comic books Hellblazer (1988–2013) and Constantine (2013–present).
The titular Hellblazer, Constantine is a working class magician, occult detective and con man stationed in London. He is known for his endless cynicism, deadpan snarking, ruthless cunning and constant chain smoking, but is also a passionate humanist driven by a heartfelt desire to do some good in his life. Originally a supporting character who played a pivotal role in the "American Gothic" Swamp Thing storyline, Constantine received his own comic in 1988. Pop artist Sting served as visual inspiration for the character. A live-action film was also released in 2005 entitled Constantine, where an Americanized version of the character is played by actor Keanu Reeves. Welsh actor Matt Ryan was cast in the role of Constantine for the 2014 NBC television series Constantine.
The Hellblazer series was the longest-running and most successful title of DC's Vertigo imprint. Empire Magazine ranked Constantine third in their 50 Greatest Comic Characters of All Time, while IGN ranked him No. 29 in their Top 100 Comic Book Heroes, and the character ranked No. 10 in Wizard Magazine's Top 200 Comic Book Characters of All Time.
- 1 Creation and conception
- 2 Fictional character biography
- 3 Appearances and mentions
- 4 Powers and abilities
- 5 In real life
- 6 Reception
- 7 In other media
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Creation and conception
In these early appearances, Constantine was depicted as a sorcerer of questionable morality, whose appearance was based on that of the musician Sting (specifically, as Sting appeared in the films Brimstone and Treacle and Quadrophenia). Alan Moore created the character after artists Stephen R. Bissette and John Totleben, who were fans of the Police, expressed a desire to draw a character who looked like Sting. They had already drawn at least one such character in Sting's likeness, as a briefly glimpsed background figure wearing a black-and-red-striped T-shirt, in Swamp Thing No. 25 (1984). In his earliest Swamp Thing appearances, the character is drawn with a marked resemblance to Sting, and in Swamp Thing No. 51, Constantine appears on a boat with the name "The Honourable Gordon Sumner" on the bow.
John Constantine's official debut was not until Swamp Thing No. 37 when he was drawn by Rick Veitch. Moore describes the creation of Constantine as being drawn from a number of "really good ideas... about serial killers, the Winchester House, and... want[ing] to draw Sting in a story." Calling these disparate strands a "big intellectual puzzle", Constantine was the result of "fit[ting] it all together." Initially created "purely to get Sting into the story", by the time of the 1985 San Diego ComicCon, Moore stated that "[i]t's turning into something more than that now." Veitch's contribution was to give Constantine an earring, something he considered risque for 1985.
Asked in 1985 about the similarities between John Constantine and the character Baron Winters (from Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's Night Force), Moore revealed that he was a "big fan" of Wolfman and Night Force, but that there was "no intention to rip off Baron Winters." He stated
|“||With Constantine, I don't know who I was thinking of. I just wanted this character who knows everything, and knows everybody—really charismatic. Who knows nuns, politicians and bikers, and who is never at a loss for what to do. I suppose there is a similarity with Baron Winters in that he is another manipulative character who has a bunch of agents working with him.||”|
Constantine and Winters met each other during Moore's run on Swamp Thing and again during Gaiman's The Books of Magic.
Speaking to comics magazine Wizard in 1993, Moore elaborated:
|“||One of those early notes was they both wanted to do a character that looked like Sting. I think DC is terrified that Sting will sue them, although Sting has seen the character and commented in Rolling Stone that he thought it was great. He was very flattered to have a comic character who looked like him, but DC gets nervous about these things. They started to eradicate all traces of references in the introduction of the early Swamp Thing books to John Constantine's resemblance to Sting. But I can state categorically that the character only existed because Steve and John wanted to do a character that looked like Sting. Having been given that challenge, how could I fit Sting into Swamp Thing? I have an idea that most of the mystics in comics are generally older people, very austere, very proper, very middle class in a lot of ways. They are not at all functional on the street. It struck me that it might be interesting for once to do an almost blue-collar warlock. Somebody who was streetwise, working class, and from a different background than the standard run of comic book mystics. Constantine started to grow out of that.||”|
In 1988, Constantine was given his own title, Hellblazer, published by DC Comics. In 1993, at the launch of DC's Vertigo Comics imprint, Hellblazer was made an official Vertigo publication. It was the longest continuously published Vertigo title. The policy was reversed in 2011, when a version of Constantine appeared in the DC Universe crossover series Brightest Day, a spin-off series, Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing. Peter Milligan added him in the roster of The New 52 series Justice League Dark. Milligan began writing Justice League Dark while also writing the Vertigo's Hellblazer series, being a writer of both series at the same time. In an interview, Milligan told Newsarama,
|“||Yeah. Sorry about that. I felt pretty bad and it was quite strange, sitting on a few panels and then having a few interviews where I couldn’t actually say that I'd be writing Constantine for DCU. I have to say, though, that that didn't change what I said, which I still stand by. Namely that as far as I'm concerned, it's important that the Vertigo Constantine and the DCU Constantine are kept separate, with no cross-over things going on. The DCU Constantine has to be the guy we know and love, with his same failings—otherwise what's the point of using him? But as I'm writing him he's younger and has perhaps been through a bit less than the battered aging old sod we meet in Vertigo. Unlike my Vertigo Constantine, the guy we see in JLA Dark is definitely not married! I also said and believe that the average DC reader—Vertigo and DCU—is sophisticated enough to be able to read both versions without getting confused.||”|
Beginning in Justice League Dark issue No. 9, Jeff Lemire assumed writing duties on the series, replacing Milligan who had remained on the Vertigo title. Speaking with CBR News exclusively, Lemire said he considers Justice League Dark his dream gig at DC Comics because Constantine is one of his all-time favourite characters not just in comics, but in all fiction. Lemire also teased that while Constantine, Zatanna and Deadman would remain on the roster, the team would change in his opening arc and expand.
Although a compassionate humanist who struggles to overcome the influence of both Heaven and Hell over humanity, and despite his occasional forays into heroism, Constantine is a foul-mouthed, disillusioned, British cynic who pursues a life of sorcery and danger. His motivation has been attributed to an adrenaline addiction that only the strange and mysterious can sate. He also seems to be something of a "Weirdness Magnet" (a term also used to describe Blue Devil).
Constantine is shown to be someone with a wide and international circle of contacts and allies, and is adept at making friends. He has had many girlfriends as well, and one story mentions past boyfriends too. At the same time, his close friends inevitably suffer or are outright killed simply by being in his life; this has left a severe mark on him. In No. 69, when the King of Vampires killed the man next to him and casually asked if he'd been a friend, John replied "Must be. He's dead." His relationships shown in New 52 have included numerous women, most significantly Zatanna, and the sorcerer Nick Necro; all have been fraught with distrust and mutual disappointments.
Constantine also has a reputation as being one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world. Despite this, Constantine rarely uses magic, instead choosing to use his wits to trick his opponents. Constantine is also referred to as "The Constant One" because of his whole family tree being somewhat connected to the occult. Many of his ancestors are sorcerers from different eras of history, and have taken part in many known historical events. Some of his ancestors have roles in other works outside Hellblazer, such as Batman: The Order of Beasts, The Sandman and Books of Magic.
While Constantine has worn many clothes over the years, he was originally portrayed as often wearing a blue pin-stripe suit, tan trench coat. and occasionally gloves. As the series progressed, his trademark attire became a grungier (or perhaps the same, just older) trench coat, white shirt, and black tie, but has recently returned more to his earlier fashion. Constantine smokes Silk Cut cigarettes, consuming thirty or so a day. John also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, where he talks to the reader and narrates the story himself.
Real time aging
Constantine is unusual among comic book characters in that he has aged in real time since his creation. During the first year of his solo series, Constantine celebrated his 35th birthday. In the relevant issue Constantine is reading a newspaper when he notices the date on the cover is his birthday, making his date of birth 10 May 1953. Five years later, on May 10, 1993, he turned 40. In Hellblazer, it was mentioned multiple times that the aging process of Constantine himself might be different due to the demon blood that he obtained from Nergal. In a 2011 interview, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio said that "Constantine in the Vertigo universe is in his 60s, and what you have in the DC Universe is a character who is markedly younger".
Fictional character biography
In Constantine's early appearances in Swamp Thing, his past was a mystery; his life as a child and young adult was not developed until Jamie Delano's Hellblazer stories. John Constantine was born in Liverpool, Merseyside on 10 May 1953. His mother, Mary Anne, died giving birth to John and his stillborn twin brother because an earlier abortion—forced on her by John's father, Thomas—had weakened her womb. Because he was unable to accept responsibility for his wife's death, Thomas blamed John and the pair grew up with a deep dislike for one another. Whilst in the womb, John strangled his twin brother with his own umbilical cord; in a parallel universe, the twin survives to become the well-loved and well-adjusted magician that John never was.
In their childhood, John and his older sister Cheryl lived briefly with their aunt and uncle in Northampton to escape from their father's alcoholism and subsequent imprisonment for stealing a female neighbour's underwear. They moved back to Liverpool when their father was released. John's bloodline and ancestry were known as the Laughing Magicians, legendary mages who have the power over synchronicity and were infamous for bluffing and tricking gods. This ancestry later drives John Constantine to partake in his lineage and practice magic. One of John's first acts of magic, as a child, was to hide all of his childhood innocence and vulnerability in a box to rid himself of it. Later, in the 1960s, a teenage John ran away from home, but not before a botched curse caused his father to become withered and frail. John eventually made his permanent home in London in 1969, rooming with Francis "Chas" Chandler, a young man who has since gone on to become John's closest—and longest surviving—friend.
During the 1970s, John became involved in occult circles in London. He travelled other countries and visited San Francisco, where he met, and subsequently began a relationship with, the female magician Zatanna Zatara (in DC's The New 52 however, the two met in New York). He also became enamoured of punk rock; after seeing the Sex Pistols at the Roxy Club in London in 1977, John cut his long hair, called himself Johnny Con-Job, and formed his own band, Mucous Membrane, whose members included Chandler (as a roadie), a drummer named Beano and fellow Liverpudlian Gary Lester. They later released an album called Venus of the Hardsell. John also performed as a famous stage magician in the 1980s, where he became famous for predicting the assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
John's first venture into occult "heroism" was a disaster. On tour with Mucous Membrane at the Casa Nova Club in Newcastle, he found the aftermath of a magical orgy gone horribly wrong: an abused child, Astra, had conjured a hideous monster that took revenge on the adults who were tormenting her, and the monster refused to leave. With typical recklessness, John convinced some members of the band, along with several occultist friends, to try destroying the creature by summoning a demon of their own. Unfortunately, this demon was not under their control and after it had destroyed the child's monster, it tormented Constantine's friends and took the child to Hell. John suffered a nervous breakdown after this incident, and was committed to Ravenscar Psychiatric Hospital, which he drifted in and out of over the years.
The guilt of Astra hung over him for many years until, in his mid-forties, he used some magic and con-artistry to free not only her, but also the souls of all the other children trapped in Hell. As for the rest of the "Newcastle Crew", the incident left the group both physically and psychologically scarred. After helping Dream retrieve his sands, Dream in turn relieves Constantine of the nightmares that had plagued him since the incident.
John is later freed from Ravenscar by London gangsters, threatening him to resurrect a mob boss's dead son whilst his sister's family pays the price. John organises a group and manages to resurrect the boy. Years later, John was able to persuade the same group to help with his investigation of the Brujería cult, as seen in Swamp Thing Nos. 37–49. The cult murdered most of them, including John's then-lover, Emma. These people, and others who have died due to John's carelessness, have continued to appear to him as silent, reproachful ghosts. Chas is the most prominent one of very few human friends to have survived a long-term association with John.
John first met Swamp Thing in 1985 after being interested in the creature. John later acts as the Swamp Thing's protector, guide, and voice of omen, even teaching the Thing to amplify his powers. Both would have further adventure with each other, such as John introducing the Thing to the Parliament of Trees, Thing using John's body to make love to his wife and father a child named Tefe, and fighting off the Damnation Army from summoning the Anti-Christ. Both carry a dull, but nevertheless fruitful friendship with each other. Constantine even invites Swamp Thing to his 40th birthday and assures the Thing he'll try not to bother him again. In 1991 while in his late thirties, John contracted terminal lung cancer. During this time, he sought the help of a dying friend, Brendan, who had sold his soul to the First of the Fallen, the most powerful lord of Hell. When the First came to collect the soul, John tricked him into drinking holy water, which rendered him helpless and prevented him from collecting the friend's soul at the appointed time.
For this, the First promised to make John suffer unprecedented torment in Hell when he dies. Slowly dying from cancer, John hatched a plan to save himself from eternal torment. He secretly sold his soul to the other two Lords of Hell. When they discovered Constantine's actions they realised that they could not allow him to die, or else they would be forced to go to all-out war over his soul, a war whose only winner would be "the Lord of the Hosts," i.e., God and his angels. They were also far too stubborn and proud, however, to enter anything resembling an alliance. As a result, they were forced to cure John of his cancer. This led to the First plotting a grand revenge on Constantine, who manipulated the demon via his ally Ellie, a succubus, into coming into a trap; the plan only barely succeeded, and while the First was temporarily defeated many of John's friends were killed.
Constantine then went on to have a series of adventures and misadventures playing the role of puppet and puppeteer with his signature style and profane sarcasm. He managed to free Astra and every other child in Hell, but at the cost of the First returning to power; also, as part of the scheme, John's worst attributes were given separate existence as "Demon Constantine" which meant he himself could not go to Hell. As part of an attempt to regain his nastier edge, he used Ellie, and this led to her taking out a revenge scheme in 1998 that forced him to turn to the First for help; Ellie ended up in Hell and several of John's oldest friends left him. John, being tired of all this, contacted God. God appears and the two converse in a campfire. John then tells him his reason for contacting Him. He warns God that if his soul is ever sent to Hell, he would easily take over, and do nasty things such as unleashing the demons and locking away Hell so that the damned cannot enter and have no resting place. John blackmails God to do his bidding, and that's to keep his soul away from Hell. God, knowing of John's abilities, does so. But warns him of what will come next.
The 21st century
On return to Britain in 2003 and after reconciling with his sister (who believed he was dead), he went on to be involved in a magic war in London and was horrified to find his niece Gemma, whom he'd wanted to keep out of this life, had become a witch. He soon ended up organising a counterstrike against a creature known as the Shadow Dog, having been warned of its coming and believing it was an entity that brought death and madness; instead, it was a guardian against the true enemy, the Beast, who was manipulating John into giving it free access to humanity. In the process, he was rendered an amnesiac, leaving him vulnerable to the schemes of the demon Rosacarnis. To get his memories back, he had to spend a day in her service, in which she had him father three demonic children, who went on to massacre anyone who knew Constantine, from friends to enemies to people who'd only briefly met him. Among them was his sister Cheryl; one of his sons had exploited her husband's religious fanaticism to make him see his wife as a witch — and thus a person to be killed. This forced Constantine to go on journey to Hell in the hopes to return his sister's soul. Accompanying him was Nergal, the demon he thought he had killed by sending him to the border of Heaven.
While in Hell, John and Nergal met the demon Constantine, who tried to kill the original one. John was forced to let Nergal enter his body in order to finish him. Later they also encountered Ellie, who seemed to have quite pardoned John for him selling her out to the First. She was not subject to any torture or punishment, either. The couple finally arrived at Rosacarnis's hall, where there was a feast with all three of Constantine's children, the First, and many demons from all Hell. Because of Nergal's earlier possession of his body, any damage done to John would be mirrored on Nergal. Nergal, however, calls the bluff, showing that the effect goes both ways by clawing at his chest slightly. John begs Rosacarnis to kill him to save his sister, but just as she's about to, the First of the Fallen intervenes and immediately kills Rosacarnis, since Constantine's soul is his by "right of insult" and will only be taken when he deems fit. The First also kills Rosacarnis' two sons, but spares the daughter, who had been dealing with issues of identity and had doubts about whether she wanted to continue to exist.
Following this, the First commands Nergal to release the soul he's holding. Cheryl's soul is pure and innocent and does not belong in Hell, but the First offers her a truly devilish deal. Informing her that her husband, Constantine's brother-in-law Tony, has killed himself with her blood still staining his hands, thus making him twice damned, and offering to fairly divide her husband's punishment between the two of them if she stays of her own free will. Constantine attempts in vain to argue that Tony murdered her and does not deserve that mercy. Despite all that has happened, Cheryl still loves her husband enough to accept the First's deal and decides to stay. Constantine can do nothing as the First gloats over his victory and then sends him back home. Unable to look at his niece Gemma's tear-filled eyes because of his failure, Constantine runs barefoot down the stairs and into the Liverpool night.
John later revisits Ravenscar Asylum, the place where he was thrown after being framed for Astra's murder. John remembers all the maltreatment he suffered, and remembers every suffering and guilt he had for the past years. At first it appears as though it is too much for him and that he will be overtaken by the images of the ones he has hurt, but the being turns into the form of a baby. This baby, who is the sum of all his guilt and self-hatred, is then promptly thrown off a cliff near the asylum and into the sea. After killing the creature, Constantine is now free, and becomes even a bit more cocky and picks back up his earlier style from the beginning of his book and his appearances from Swamp Thing: a double-breasted blue suit underneath his trench coat, and slicked-back gelled hair.
Later on, a Sudanese shaman who had first bound the hunger demon Mnemoth has been having dreams of Constantine and a war-mage named Mako who is coming to kill him and devour his being. The reason that Constantine is a specific target of the war-mage is because he is "The Laughing Magician" who is also known as "The Constant One." Mako wants to devour him so he can absorb that power and have his being made a fixture of the universe. To counter this attack to come the African magus puts a dream of his into a tree root, with Constantine's true nature in those dreams. After doing this a young man is sent as a messenger to find John and deliver the message. Constantine later notices that something is wrong on the synchronicity lines and it seems that he is going head first against the traffic. Remembering that Mako mentioned Ravenscar when he found out about Constantine, he tries to summon his unborn brother, but instead is summoned to his brother. The soul of Constantine's brother tells John that he was not to be born and that it should have been he who had been born instead, as he is the Laughing Magician, he requests that he and John merge their souls so that they become one and can fix the world, they had previously attempted this but John was apparently too strong willed. John then makes the link that it was the soul of his unborn brother that caused him to get cancer and for his relationships to fail, and that anytime he tried to take control of his life, something bad would happen to make John weaker, so that the souls might be able to merge. After realizing this, John cuts the soul of his brother out of his own soul, so that he can control his life and live his way.
In 2010s, John entangles himself in further adventures. He goes to India and fights a ghost of a British soldier of the Sepoy rebellion, fights a Babylonian shape shifter named Julian, gets his thumb cut off to contact Shade: The Changing Man, marrying a young girl named Epiphany Greaves who was also the daughter of an infamous gangster, looking for his lost trench coat that his niece sold, finding his sister's long lost son named Finn, and finally getting his sister's soul from Hell.
By 2013, John was contacted by the Three Fates, who tell him that he will finally die in five days. Having lived a good and adventurous life, John happily accepts his fate rather than trying to fight it like he always does. When the 5th day came, John Constantine was murdered in his own home when he was ambushed and killed by a gangster. His funeral was attended by many of his friends and family. But it later turns out that he had faked his death yet again. Constantine decides he should keep a low profile, because he doesn't want to hurt the people around him again. He bids farewell with Finn and Epiphany, and finally visits Gemma. In the meanwhile, Gemma, hearing about her uncle's return from the Fates, tries to kill herself with a poisonous revolver, but Constantine sneaks the last remaining dart from his niece. Gemma says her life will be better without him, because he takes up too much of it and she is either hating him or loving him too much. John suggests he leave her be, but Gemma fears he will return and put her life to misery. John tells Gemma to make her own decision, and she reluctantly points the revolver at him. Gemma closes her eyes before muttering, "Damn you, John Constantine." and pulls the trigger, but when she opened her eyes again, Constantine had vanished. The last scene shows Constantine in the Long Journey's End bar, holding a glass of liquor with a vacant look.
The New 52
In The New 52, Constantine appears as one of the lead characters in Justice League Dark. His history is slightly altered, such as meeting Zatanna in New York instead of San Francisco, and the origins of how he got his trademark trench coat. During the gap where he travels the world to learn magic, the New 52 added the history of him meeting Nick Necro, who was implied to be John's mentor and original owner of the trench coat. The Forever Evil: Blight storyline would establish that the three characters were all involved in a magical pact and a love triangle, which fell apart due to Zatanna ending her relationship with Nick to pursue John. Nick refers to John as having been his lover as well, stating "We were all in love, and you two shut me out!" The character also stars in the ongoing series Constantine, which replaces Hellblazer. He is still an unsavory trickster in the New 52 universe, as, while during the Trinity War between the three Justice Leagues, he tries to trick Shazam (14 year old Billy Batson) so that he can steal his magic. He fails, causing Billy to become even more distrustful of other people than he already was.
In Constantine #14, it was revealed that John Constantine, as a boy, was taught and cast his first magical spell—at the cost of the lives of his parents and his house burning down (it was implied that his mother, unlike in Hellblazer, survived the childbirth). It was also revealed that he spent his childhood in the '80s in Liverpool, England (it is not shown if he had any sibling, like Cheryl Constantine in Hellblazer). The one who taught John his first spell was Tannarak from the Cult of the Cold Flame (Constantine #15).
His primary enemies in Constantine are Mister E, Sargon the Sorceress (the original Sargon's daughter), and Tannarak: all are members of the Cult of the Cold Flame. Together with his allies Papa Midnite, the psychic mage Spellbinder, and a witch called Julia Everheart, Constantine attempts to destroy the Cult by conspiring a scam to take Sargon and Tannarak by surprise. However, prior to the planned battle, Constantine is thrown into the battlefield in Dar es Salaam in World War I because of a ritual going wrong, making his plan ultimately fail. An encounter with Doctor Occult there results in Constantine being transported to Earth-2 - a world dying under siege from Darkseid and his army of Parademons.
In Earth-2, he is assaulted by the Parademons, but Wotan comes and rescues him, before trapping him to open a gateway to escape the dying Earth. Constantine manages to convince Wotan to spare his life, then works with the ancient sorcerer to open a door through his body to Earth-0. As Wotan enters the doorway, he is split into two halves, because there are two John Constantines in this world: the original Constantine and the native one of Earth-2, who is surrounded by his friends and even gets married. After the death of Wotan, Constantine resolves to find his Earth-2 counterpart. He travels to Liverpool and witnesses all the horror and despair of the dying world. As soon as John reached the destination, he is shocked to find his "parents" (actually the Earth-2 John's parents), his friends Gary Lester, Chas Chandler and his former love interest Maureen still alive.
The Earth-2 John quickly attacks him by grabbing him in the neck, but they are engulfed in visions of their lives in parallel right after: a dangerous life marred with sorcery, adventures and regrets of Earth-0 John and a much quieter, much happier life of Earth-2 John. Constantine quickly earns the trust of the Earth-2 family, who consider him to be a wonder. Together, they escape to a warehouse where John instructs them to draw sigils to cast a complex spell. As John is lecturing about the unpredictability and the price of magic, Doctor Fate appears in front of his eyes, claims to have foreseen his arrival and offers to help him.
Doctor Fate reminds John of an incoming horde of Parademons and tells him to quickly cast the spell to escape from the dying world, himself hoping to flee with John and the family too. John discovers that the spell requires one Constantine dies: either himself or the Earth-2 John. As the Parademons storm in and take each family member down one by one, John is torn over between saving his own life and let the good, honest Earth-2 John live by sacrificing himself. Finally, he chooses to save his own skin: as he is kissing the other John, he holds his hand and drives the knife into his heart, ultimately kills the "other John". As the spells start working, John casts an additional spell to trick Doctor Fate, masks his presence from the ancient sorcerer.
The Constantine Futures End tie-in tells the story of John Constantine five years into a possible future of the New 52 universe. He somehow obtains the ultimate occult artifact, the Helmet of Fate, and manages to trick and kill the ancient magician Nabu with the help of an old ifrit.
Appearances and mentions
John Constantine appears in an early issue of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. There in 1989, he helps Dream recover a pouch of sand which had served as one of Dream's totems of power. John had purchased the pouch during Dream's imprisonment and it had then been stolen from him by an ex-girlfriend. John and Dream find the woman using the sand as a drug and driven mad by it. Dream recovers the pouch, granting the woman a peaceful death at John's request and promising to end the nightmares John had been having "ever since Newcastle". John's ancestor Lady Johanna Constantine also plays a significant role in storylines of The Sandman and an Elizabethan-era "Jack Constantine" is mentioned.
In another of Gaiman's comics, The Books of Magic, John is at hand to show the hero Timothy Hunter around the then-present day DC Comics Universe, along with Mister E, Doctor Occult and the Phantom Stranger. He later appears several times in both the monthly "Books of Magic" series and several mini and maxiseries featuring Timothy Hunter.
During a crossover, Constantine met Shade, The Changing Man during the Hotel Shade era, by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo. Constantine also makes a small cameo in Vertigo's Lucifer. In issue No. 5 he is seen drinking at Lucifer Morningstar's bar Lux, among guests that seek an audience with Lucifer about the gateway to the void outside of creation. According to himself he's not there to propose a trade with Lucifer, only to take "a quick look at the field". Lucifer Morningstar makes a return cameo in Hellblazer No. 192. Lucifer writer Mike Carey wrote Hellblazer between issues 175–215.
Constantine is one of the few people aware of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and one of the few to have foreseen it. Although longtime allies Zatanna, the Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing are still either active or frequently referred to in the DCU's world of superheroics, the world of Hellblazer became more realistic and no mention was made of John's interactions with superheroes, which included attending the funeral of Hal Jordan uninvited, drinking with Doom Patrol member Mento, meeting Batman, attending the opening of Guy Gardner's Green Lantern theme bar, helping an incarnation of the Challengers of the Unknown save London from one of the Millennium Giants and, in his own comic, playing host to a stoned Zatanna at his fortieth birthday party. He does complain about superheroes not getting in trouble for collateral damage as he does at the beginning of The Fear Machine story arc. Constantine was slated to be a main character of the aborted company-wide crossover Twilight of the Superheroes, however the project was ultimately shelved.
John Constantine can be seen in a panel in Neil Gaiman's Batman: Secret Origins story "When is a Door". In it, a film crew is asking people on the street what they think of Gotham's super-villain problem, John is shown smoking a cigarette, responding "Sorry squire, I'm not from 'round here' make that "no comment."" Though it is not stated that this is Constantine, he has the same appearance, speaks in a decidedly British fashion, and this would not be the first cameo Gaiman has given him in a comic. The story was later reprinted as an extra in Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader". He briefly met Oliver Queen in a London pub, telling him to mention his name to the dark forces in Sherwood Forest, although Queen ignored the request.
While not seen in the Justice League Unlimited comic books he was mentioned. He also rates a mention along with Swamp Thing as unavailable in The Spectre (vol. 2) No. 11 (a crossover with Millennium, to which he alluded in Swamp Thing, trying to get the latter to assist). Constantine appeared in the pages of Justice League of America: Wedding Special, during the bachelor party of Green Arrow. He was walking behind Metamorpho during a conversation between Hal Jordan and John Stewart.
In the final issue of the Brightest Day series, Constantine appears on the last page, remarking "Bollocks" at news that a new Swamp Thing has appeared. Constantine starred in Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For Swamp Thing, a three-issue mini-series that saw John interact with various DC superheroes during his pursuit of the new Swamp Thing. DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio stated that the John Constantine in the DC Universe will be closer to his original incarnation while Constantine in Vertigo's Hellblazer would continue unaffected.
John Constantine debuted in the Injustice Year Three comic series as Batman's newest ally against Superman, written by Tom Taylor. He takes part in the war to protect his illegitimate daughter Rose, whose "parents" are killed in the crossfire of the war between the Green Lantern Corp - Batman allies and the joint force of Superman and Sinestro's Yellow Lantern Corp. He hides Rose inside the Tower of Fate, which resides in a separate magical realm, and proceed to strike a deal with Trigon, then recruit Detective Chimp and other magical characters including Klarion the Witch Boy and Etrigan the Demon. Together, he has to face a new enemy who allies himself to Superman's side: The Spectre (who is later revealed to no longer reside in Jim Corrigan, but a malevolent host). Later on, John Constantine unsuccessfully attempts to recruit Swamp Thing, who cites Superman and Luthor's efforts in protecting the environment as a reason to join the Regime's side. This leads to John conspiring to kill Swamp Thing.
- The character of Jack Carter in Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's comic book series Planetary is an analogue of John Constantine; he fakes his death and turns into an analogue of Ellis' Spider Jerusalem, stating that with the 1980s over, it's "time to be someone else": this has been interpreted as Ellis criticising the Constantine character for being too tied to his origins as a reaction to 1980s politics and stating that more modern characters have since taken on his mantle.
- Constance Johanssen, a blonde, chain-smoking British woman in a trenchcoat was also created by Ellis for his Pryde and Wisdom series for Marvel Comics, described as "Constance Johanssen. Excellent occult detective. Has a habit of getting her friends killed. Two hundred at last count."
- Grant Morrison originally wanted Constantine to become a supporting character in his Doom Patrol series, but DC's editorial policy at the time prevented Constantine from making extended appearances in superhero comics, for fear of spoiling the realism of Hellblazer. As a result, Morrison created the magus Willoughby Kipling. It was revealed in Hellblazer No. 51 that he and Constantine have met, and he had a brief voice-over cameo in Warren Ellis' JLA: Classified story "New Maps of Hell".
- Ambrose Bierce is the name of a character intended to be John Constantine in Phil Foglio's Stanley and His Monster limited series, but changed at the last minute due to editorial policy. Gregori Eilovotich Rasputin played a similar role for Firestorm and Captain Atom as Constantine did for Swamp Thing, while Hellblazer was a Jack Kirby-style reinterpretation of the character who appeared in Doom Patrol and The Books of Magic.
- According to actor Misha Collins, the wardrobe of the character Castiel on the TV show Supernatural is based on that of John Constantine.
- In the CrossGen title Mystic No. 15, magical characters from different literature, including DC and Marvel's sorcerers, made some appearances in a bar. John Constantine appears in the background.
- A reference to him was made in the Marvel universe in Hellstorm No. 2, where a full description of Constantine was made by Doctor Strange and Hellstorm while sitting and talking in a bar. Hellstorm described him as a Brit who "smokes like a fiend."
Hellblazer boosted the popularity and image of the occult detective fiction genre and shaped it to its modern form. Many modern examples of the genre such as Hellboy, Supernatural, Grimm, The Originals, Felix Castor, and The Dresden Files have been influenced by the character. Many imitators of both the series and its character flourished such as Criminal Macabre, Gravel, Planetary, and others. Its elements and style have been used countless of times in other works and many analogues of the cynical John Constantine have appeared.
Powers and abilities
Unlike most comic book magicians, Constantine rarely uses magical spells, unless he has to, especially in combat. Constantine faces most of his challenges relying primarily on his cunning, quick-thinking during fights, vast knowledge of the occult, manipulation of opponents and allies, and an extensive list of contacts. These skills are often more useful than his magical ones. He is known to have deceived many of the most powerful beings in the universe, such as The First of the Fallen and The Presence. In the DC universe, John managed to recruit Batman and Superman through his own manipulation. He is considered by many as being the world's greatest con man. Constantine is also one of a few people knowing all the routes to Heaven, Hell, and the afterlife, which he uses to escape and teleport without the danger of being chased by enemies. In the graphic novel Pandemonium, he once allowed himself to be killed, but later resurrects himself by exiting the afterlife.
As a sorcerer, Constantine is armed with the knowledge of many magical spells, rituals, and curses, such as evocation, necromancy, illusions, invisibility, and can even use magic to time travel. He also has a wide range of protection magic such as sigils and magic circles that can protect him from both physical and supernatural attacks. But John's most signature ability is synchronicity wave travelling, which is an instinctual supernatural ability for Constantine to make his own luck. This has led John to uncanny luck at games of chance, the ability to avoid and escape harm, meet the right kind of ally to help prevent or stop an apocalyptic event from happening, and reshape the battle he's fighting to his own accord. Constantine is also highly resistant to many psychic attacks such as telepathy, possessions, and mind control. He can even use magic to block off omnipresence, seen where he once used sigils to hide himself from the First of the Fallen. By the New 52, other magical powers such as mild teleportation, counter spells, electrokineses, telekinesis, and immobilisation have been added. He can also use magic to reflect damages done to him unto his enemies.
Aside from sorcery, Constantine has also exhibited considerable mastery in "stage magic skills"—hypnosis, sleight of hand, pick pocketing and escapology. John also carries with him an arsenal of powerful magical artifacts to aid him in battle, such as The House of Mystery which also serves as his transport to different realms of the universe, and his trademark trench coat that also possesses powerful demonic powers. Ever since tricking the Lords of Hell into curing his lung cancer, he was perpetually in good health and physicality. Constantine's blood is demonically tainted, initially by a blood transfusion from the demon Nergal, and later by sex with a succubus. His blood has been shown to have healing properties, and is noted to have an age-managing effect. It also acted as a defence mechanism when attacked by the King of the Vampires, as it is highly corrosive and poisonous. Constantine's skill at unarmed combat varies depending on the writer. Some portray him as a poor physical fighter, others as a capable hand-to-hand combatant. Over time he has won occasional fights using magical weapons, by fighting dirty, or by quick-thinking.
Constantine also made deals with two lords of Hell, ultimately to play them off against each other and keep himself from hell. The demons were essentially forced to be his guardian angels to keep him from dying and for a time the forces of darkness could not touch him, as evidenced by his rescue of Tim Hunter and Zatanna from a mystical Halloween party in the Books of Magic series. Each of the two demons made a deal with him. It has yet to be mentioned what exactly he got out of the deal and if Hell was affected by the New 52 story line. If not with Lucifer quitting his position and Azazel still under the Sandman's care the remaining demon may want to claim his due. However it has yet to be mentioned what John sold his soul for a price that would not alert them to his real plan and the demons had been very eager to claim it, so Constantine's powers may be a bit better than he lets on.
In real life
|“||One day, I was in Westminster in London—this was after we had introduced the character—and I was sitting in a sandwich bar. All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine. He was wearing the trenchcoat, a short cut—he looked—no, he didn't even look exactly like Sting. He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar.
I sat there and thought, should I go around that corner and see if he is really there, or should I just eat my sandwich and leave? I opted for the latter; I thought it was the safest. I'm not making any claims to anything. I'm just saying that it happened. Strange little story.
His second meeting with his creation was illustrated in 2001's Snakes and Ladders, an adaptation by Eddie Campbell of one of Moore's performance art pieces:
|“||Years later, in another place, he steps out of the dark and speaks to me. He whispers: " I'll tell you the ultimate secret of magic. Any cunt could do it."||”|
They met a third time in fiction, when Moore was written into issue No. 120 of Hellblazer by then-author Paul Jenkins. Moore is seen sitting in silhouette at the back of a bar as John Constantine (who is on a pub crawl with the reader) raises a drink to him.
The character won the 1986 "Favourite Supporting Character" by Eagle Award, followed by winning it again in the same category a year later. In addition to being ranked third in Empire magazine's 50 Greatest Comic Characters and being ranked No. 10 in Wizard Magazine's Top 200 Comic Book Characters of All Time, he is also listed in IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes as No. 29, stating that "John Constantine is pretty low on the totem pole as far as DC's magical players go. But through a combination of guile, trickery, and plain old ornery charm, Constantine battles the worst Hell has to offer and lives to tell the tale. Constantine is a byproduct of both the punk rock era and Margaret Thatcher's Britain. He isn't very nice, he drinks and smokes like they're both going out of style, and his friends always seem to pay for his own magical misdeeds. And yet we can't help but love this crusty old magician all the same."
The character also garnered some negative reception, where UGO.com listed both Constantine and Zatanna in UGO's the Dirtiest Comic Book Sex Scenes, where they comment that, "One DC heroine who often finds herself unlucky in love is the backwards magician Zatanna, who can never seem to find a quality dude. One of the most fulfilling relationships she's had to date is with that reprobate sorceror John Constantine, who is the very definition of a "love 'em and leave 'em" kind of dude. The pair hooked up a number of times but their respective worldviews were just too different, plus he's straight Vertigo and she's wiping minds in the Justice League. The commute would be hideous." During Brian Azzarello's run on the series, the Ashes & Dust in the City of Angels story arc gained controversy for portraying Constantine in a bisexual relationship, though it wouldn't be the last time Constantine's bisexuality was explored.
Fandomania.com ranked the film Constantine in No. 13 of their Ultimate 20 Comic Book Film Adaptations, stating that Keanu Reeves's performance "was good", although saying it might have been better if "played by the person the character was originally modelled after: Sting of the Police." TopTenz.net ranked him No. 5 in Top 10 Comic Book Anti-Heroes, saying that "Just knowing John Constantine is likely to get you killed: during his comic's run just about every member of his supporting cast has either been killed, maimed, mutilated, tortured and coerced into making deals with fiends from the Pit. And yet Constantine goes on, a supernatural warrior willing to pay almost any price to keep the darkest evil at bay. In recent times Constantine has got rid of the guilt and self-loathing plaguing him by magically giving it the physical form of a baby and throwing it off a cliff. What a magnificent bastard..."
Sonia Harris from Comics Should Be Good praised Hellblazer, saying that "watching John delve into his past in order to exorcise his (and the worlds) literal and metaphorical demons is a delight. Simon Bisley does an incredible job of visually contrasting the pretty young version of Constantine with the imposing man he has become. Time and misadventure have scarred and hardened John, and the man he has become has the strength and will to transform his environment by channelling the anger that pained him so much as a young, fresh-faced, suicidal punk kid." Constantine ranked 30th on ComicsAlliance's 50 Sexiest Male Characters in Comics list that even though almost all of his relationships end badly, they can't warn others against his wily charms.
In other media
John Constantine appeared in the 2005 film Constantine portrayed by Keanu Reeves. The film used some elements from Garth Ennis' "Dangerous Habits" story arc (issues No. 41–46) and others—such as the inclusion of Papa Midnite—from the "Original Sins" trade paperback. The film changed several aspects of the source material, however, including a number of cosmetic changes to the lead character, e.g., his name is spoken as "constan-teen", and Reeves played the role with his natural accent and hair colour, as well as the film basing him in Los Angeles (although the director pointed out that the comic book was not exclusively set in London either). Other differences to the comic were made, for example giving him a psychic ability to see "half breeds" as they truly are—a curse that caused him to attempt suicide which in turn damned him to Hell. He was also given the ability to render invisible beings in his proximity visible by using the incantation "Into the light I command thee" and two magical glyphs (called "The Perfect Red King" from Eugenius Philalethes's "The Speculum Veritatis") on his arms to combine, which he uses to uncloak the archangel Gabriel directly after he attacked his friend Chas. Unlike the comic version, Constantine's exorcism tools are primarily based on Christian relics rather than generic supernatural items; the novelisation expanded on this by explaining that, as Constantine comes from a Christian culture, he has a greater natural understanding of the power of Christian relics that makes it easier for him to use them. Constantine's exorcisms are motivated by a desire to redeem himself for his past suicide, yet they are constantly doomed to fail as everything he has done has fundamentally been for his own benefit rather than for the selfless betterment of others. The resolution of the lung cancer plotline in the film was also amended, with Lucifer saving the redeemed Constantine to give him a second chance at failing after Constantine willingly sacrificed a chance to save his own life to ask Satan to send the innocent Isabel Dodson to Heaven (Isabel having committed suicide to prevent herself being used as a host for a demonic incursion). This selfless deed allowing Constantine to regain his place in Heaven. Constantine was also restored to life and his lung cancer was removed.
A live action Constantine TV series was development for NBC with Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer writing and executive producing the series. On 31 January 2014, it was confirmed that Constantine will be British and will have blond hair, much like in the comics, and later on Twitter, Cerone confirmed he would also be bisexual. It was announced on January 30, 2014 that Neil Marshall will direct the pilot of the series. On 21 February 2014, Welsh actor Matt Ryan was cast as Constantine. On 23 February 2014, it was announced that Papa Midnite will be the main villain of the series. On March 4, 2014, Lucy Griffiths, Harold Perrineau, and Charles Halford were cast as Liv, Manny, and Chas, respectively. On 10 March 2014, Goyer discussed that the Constantine character in the series will be closer to the source material from the comics than that of the film. On 8 May 2014 NBC picked Constantine up for series. Griffiths was dropped from the series when it developed in a different creative direction, and it was later announced that the character of Zed will be written in with Mexican-American actress Angélica Celaya in the role.
In this TV series, John Constantine checks himself in a mental asylum called Ravenscar after a failed exorcism in Newcastle and stays there for a few weeks (unlike the two-year stint in Hellblazer). After being warned "Liv Dies" by the ghost of his former friend Jasper Winters, Constantine checks out and starts finding Liv, Jasper's daughter who, like him, is a psychic. She is being hunted by the demon Furcifer who has the power of manipulating lightning and electricity. After taking down the demon, Liv leaves John, seeing his dangerous life as well as his "bastard" side. Before departing to California, she leaves behind a scry map, marked with blood stain, which predicts supernatural troubles related to a "Rising Darkness". John Constantine also forms an uneasy alliance with Manny, an angel tasked to "watch over" John. Driving John around and cooking meals in Jasper's house (John's new headquarter, stocked with mystical artifacts) is his life-long mate Chas Chandler, who is an American and has the mysterious ability to survive any types of injury.
Later on, John finds Zed, an artist and a psychic who keeps seeing visions of John and cannot stop drawing about them. She insists on John training her to control her power, and John reluctantly lets her tag along. She has a secret dark past, which is later revealed that she used to escape from her parents, who have ties to a mysterious Christian cult and are trying to catch her back.
THQ released a video game film tie-in of the film entitled Constantine. An analogue of the character made an appearance in The Golden Dawn, a Call of Cthulu RPG book by John Tynes, John T. Snyder, Garrie Hall and Alan Smithee. The authors recommended Hellblazer in the book.
John Constantine also appeared in the MMORPG DC Universe Online. In the heroes side, he resides within the Hero Garrison in the Gotham Wastelands. He must be talked to for the Wrath daily missions, while in the villains side he is random boss in the Cathedral duo for Villains.
The noir fiction author John Shirley is credited in writing three Hellblazer novels, including the novelisation of the Constantine film. The novel Hellblazer: War Lord features Constantine talking about "another John Constantine in an alternate universe, [who] has black hair and lives most of his life in Los Angeles" whilst giving a brief summary of the film's plot.
DC Direct created a toyline of John which is more related to his comic book appearance. Another action figure toy line was created by DC Heroclix, which resembles the Constantine in The New 52. Film-tie in merchandise of the film were also released.
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