So DC revealed in a news release the other day that John Constantine, Hellblazer is to end with issue 300 and Constantine will appear in a new ongoing series as part of DC’s New 52.
It would appear from a Newsarama interview with DC’s Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham that the decision was taken due to the character’s popularity in a number of current New 52 titles – most notably, of course, the Justice League Dark title.
The decision comes as the long-running Vertigo title (it is the only ongoing title from the start of the imprint in 1993) is enjoying its most enjoyable story lines for some time under current writer, Peter Milligan, who has returned the character to the dark roots of his early days.
In the Newsarama interview, the DC executives deny the long held belief that DC has been systematically reclaiming DC characters from Vertigo to use in the DCU. But there seems little point in denying the fact that with the return of Constantine, all the remaining Vertigo titles will be creator owned and that now seems to be the distinguishing characteristic of Vertigo over DC. The test will come with the new Sandman prequel, due at the end of next year, and whether it remains a Vertigo title – as the executives say it is still scheduled to be.
As to my opinion on the news, while DC of course has the right to do whatever it likes with its properties, I have to say that I am not terribly happy about it for two main reasons.
One, moving to the DCU is bound, I think, to change the nature of the story lines. I will be extremely happy to be proved wrong but I doubt that many of the dark story lines in Hellblazer would fit in with the New 52, and the core audience for those titles, especially when crossing over with the superhero community. If the new book remains within a magical, supernatural clique within the wider DCU then maybe the nature of the character and the stories might not have to change too drastically but I fear that it will become a Hellblazer-lite. I have not yet read a lot of Justice League Dark but my main issue with it is the assumption that Constantine could be a team player – when he works in a team it tends to work out badly for the other members of the team.
Secondly, the book has been given to an American writer. I have not read anything by the chosen writer, Robert Venditti, so I have no opinion on or issue with the quality of his work, and again I will be more than pleased to be proved wrong, but I feel that Constantine is a very British character and creation and needs a good British writer to bring this out. The only American to have an extended run on the main Hellblazer title was Brian Azzarello. I love most of Azzarello’s work but his Hellblazer run was my least favourite of the series.
As a result of the news, I have decided to do a re-read on the Hellblazer series – something that I have been meaning to do for some time. I will start with his roots in Swamp Thing and move on to the main series and the various spin-off books and major appearances in other series and also the movie. I will try to start by next month and hopefully by the time I work my way through to the Justice League Dark series I can end with opening story line from his new DC series.
I have a new blog that will be dedicated to posting about series I re-read. It is called Revisited and all things John Constantine will the first subject.
[11th November 2012]