SDCC ’14: Constantine Cleans Up His Act for Telly.

See John Constantine smoking his trademark Silk Cut cigs? You won't on the telly, mate.

See John Constantine smoking his trademark Silk Cut cigs? You won’t on the telly, mate.

He also won’t be cursing, or generally being all that inappropriate. In the plus column, he also won’t be Keanu Reeves. You can check out the official trailer for the series here, and make rulings for yourself.

Without being a chain smoker, the lung cancer plotline that really drives one of the best arcs pretty much can’t happen. In that, Constantine is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He travels the world, looking for a magical way out, and fails. In desperation, he sells his soul to more than one client, and then attempts suicide. For all of the legal problems with the contract dispute, the various devils agree that it is a better call to revive and heal Constantine, in order to hold him accountable later, once their lawyers have worked it all out.

It’s a fascinating plot, that questions mortality and ethics, with the idea of being cheeky to outwit the devil. It ends with Constantine lighting up a cigarette, restarting his “Dangerous Habit”…the title of the arc.

Great stuff. Can’t happen.

Although, that’s pre New 52, when the book was “Hellblazer” not “Constantine.” Even in comics, he has been profoundly sanitized.

No "sod off," or "bollocks" even...New 52 Constantine says "twit" as an insult.  He's like a mean Harry Potter character.

No “sod off,” or “bollocks” even…New 52 Constantine says “twit” as an insult. He’s like a mean Harry Potter character.

Old school Hellblazer era Constantine, looking shabby and generally ready to be awful.

Old school Hellblazer era Constantine, looking shabby and generally ready to be awful.

Hellblazer was a pretty groundbreaking book…re-imagining horror comics after a long time without any horror to speak of. Using Alan Moore’s creation, the blue collar mage John Constantine from Swamp Thing, the story presents him as a sort of A-list occult investigator. The average Hellblazer tale has John in things way overhead, and as a Vertigo title, has little to no interaction with the Mainstream DC universe.

The cover of Volume one.  Recommended reading, people.

The cover of Volume one. Recommended reading, people.

Later on, teams like Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon took over the book. In these earlier issues of the series, John was less shabby, a classier, late eighties, early nineties figure. For many american readers, it was their first introduction to Steve Dillon’s clean, minimalist linework. That team of writer and artist went on to do “Preacher” which still sells well for Vertigo, years later.

Final page art from that less shabby, but just as hard edged era.

Final page art from that less shabby, but just as hard edged era.

Back to the sanitized show….news from HollywoodReporter.com is that Lucy Griffiths is already leaving the series before the pilot even airs. Griffiths, the former True Blood and Robin Hood star, played Liv Aberdine, a woman with the ability to see the dead spirits in the world. She gets marked for death by a demon and this is how John Constantine gets involved. The series creators have decided to go in a different direction since filming the pilot, saying they plan to bring in Zed, a character from the source material.

The character of Zed first appeared in Hellblazer #4 as the daughter of an evangelical family whose father offers her up as the vessel for an angel to conceive a child. Constantine saves her by spoiling her with his blood first. No joke…he has a quantity of demon blood in him…I legitimately can’t remember why. Makes me want to get out my own Volume One Copy…

Still…I’m looking forward to the series. SDCC is shilling it pretty hard, even giving out complimentary bags with the actor and the shows logo as one of the bags for the Con. One hopes that it will in fact, be pretty good, despite John having cleaned up his act for television…what with the no smoking and cursing.

About the art…I just assumed that our hero would have hung around with him in the late nineties and early 2000’s. That’s when i started teaching, and at that time…the dark storytelling of Hellblazer made a lot of sense to me. Go figure.

Right you are, John.

Right you are, John.

In fact, I can’t say for sure that our hero’s initial shabby brown coat wasn’t inspired by his. I do know that my own shabby brown leather coat is hanging in the closet. Everyone should have one, I think.

Next Issue: The Rascals!

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