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jpshirley2005

So many John Constantines to choose from...

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Well--I'm writing this Hellblazer novel and I'm having to create my own John Constantine,finally, because he really does not seem *all* that consistent from issue to issue, apart from drinking and smoking and the hair and coat. His face, of course, changes from artist to artist. You'd think they'd have picked one and would give each artist a drawing guide of some kind. I kind of like the one that's on the sculpture! You got that? A threedee full color limited release sculpture of JC, having a drink with some demons? Cigarette poking out very nicely...really well done...I got it as a gift from the fellows at Vertigo when I got this job...I'm gonna put it on my desk here...He has a *really* sardonic expression, practically diabolic...

 

But the character of the guy, that's what I have to get clear on. I mean in some things he seems almost utterly decadent. Just really disturbed and unhappy and sick. In others he's practically the fucking Buddha. In some he cares about no one. In others he's practically mother teresa in a trenchcoat. I suppose you could argue that people have that pendulum in them...

 

His sense of humor and mockery is pretty consistent, and important, but that vanishes sometimes.

 

I really liked this first one by Paul Jenkins--I think it's 89 or 90?--where he chills with some aborigines. What I like most about it is, Jenkins has done his homework about aboriginal dreamtime ideas, and so on, and yet he ends up with Constantine sort of repudiating them or putting them in their place. He makes fun of them, finally, and sees them as a niche. Yet he's sympathetic to the aboriginal people and has more respect for them than the white assholes trying to take over their land. His mock of Abo spirituality (sort of mocking, but taking it seriously too, all at once) is NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT. New age types get all gooey about this and that ethnic spirituality, while really knowing dick all about it. Jenkins doesn't do that. He gets it pretty well but he blows off the political correctness. It reminds me of the new age fad for pre-Columbian south american spirituality. Celestine Prophecy or whatever. What crap--ALL those people were into human sacrifice. How spiritually evolved is that?

 

I like too how the woman who's a villain is this interesting fat middle aged lady who had a trauma in her childhood...Not a cliche two dimensional villain...

 

So Jenkins seems good. I am just getting into his HB period though...

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Jenkins's J/C has his ups and downs, but i think you'll be writing more praise directed at him really soon. :D

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Jenkins is a really interesting author. Critical Mass is one of my favourite Hellblazer stories ever.

 

If you want to iron out the wrinkles in John's personality, you can put it down to changes in his mood. Sometimes he's pissed off and doesn't want to waste his time with morons. Sometimes he's got enough time to spare to help someone in trouble. Sometimes he's too distracted to bother. You know, like in real life.

 

I think you're being a little extreme, though. I can't think of any time when he's been like "the fucking Buddha". Towards the end of Delano's run, maybe, but he's supposed to have escaped the Thatcherite "me generation" and crippling recession by fleeing into the country with his pseudo-family. He's quite clearly not in the same position he was at the star of Delano's run, and that's inevitably going to affect his personality.

 

Same thing with Ennis' run - when he's together with Kit and everything's going right, he can almost completely push away the sicker parts of his personality, but once that comfort zone is taken away, he reverts back to bitter loner type.

 

You'll see that Jenkins' run has him entering a kind of deadened mid-life malaise as he hangs out with another family through whom he lives a vicarious "normal" life. He's nicer, because he has that comfort zone to rest in.

 

Once you get to Ellis', Azzarello's and Carey's runs, you'll note that he has no "normal life" to escape to, so the more venal aspects of his character come to the fore.

 

It all sort of makes sense. Azz did fuck up by making him too nasty to people who didn't deserve it though.

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Paul Jenkin's in the only Hellblazer author where I'll pick up a random issue and read it when I'm feeling meloncaly or shitty about myself. Also, aside from Delano, he's probaly the most poetic Hellblazer writer.

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Jenkins has always been my favorite of all the long-term writers, which has always earned me quite a bit of flak in the past (but to this board's credit, I've yet to get shit for it once here). I liked the "normalfication" aspects of his run ... a sort of mid-life crisis and a supporting cast who could be your next-door neighbors. I liked Ennis' run as well, but having John Constantine do something like, say, chainsaw off an archangel's wings makes it harder to relate to the guy.

 

I can see the point about John's personality changing, but you have to remember that the book tends to move in (relatively) real time. How many personality alterations and quirks have you gone through in the past 17 years?

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well for what its worth here are some of the character traits which seem to be consistent to me over the years

 

I think that one of the key components of Constantine is that he adapts to any situation in whatever way he thinks best at the time...he always follows his own agenda. and as readers we seldom know what hes up to

 

this gives him a great unpredictability as he rarely reacts the same way twice

 

hes not that proactive.....trouble seems to find him rather than the other way around. and in that sense hes a metaphor for most of us, and how we fight our own demons

 

hes us between heaven and hell , a reflection of our duality between buddist intentions and hedonistic realitys, a modern day Faust

 

but when his games on hes the ultimate chess player and you never know whos gonna be used as a pawn or a knight. when hes on top form , he always appears to have a knowledge of the bigger picture,and where all the pieces are on the board. sometimes its a bluff, sometimes he hasnt got a clue , but he always leaves us and what hes up against second geussing right down to the wire

 

 

 

theres two "scenes" for me that sum him up

 

one is issue 44 page 14 where he stands outside Big Ben and disses blind faith and belief in anything that has power over us if we let it. to John "everyone votes for a dictator" and it ties in nicely to his "Apolitical correctness" Hes his own man and his relationships always fail because he wont compromise that

 

and the other is a recent posting on the IMDB about the movie and the scene with Constantine saying

 

"into the light i command thee !"

 

wheras the comic book version would say

 

"sod off you daft C......T "

 

thats our boy! and thats my two cents worth

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i've been rereading my Jenkins era HB... and was thinking that i was fondest of sean phillips conjob.

 

hb119.gif

 

i am also highly appreciate of jenkins. characters like rich the punk, crowley,

 

Tim Bradstreet aint no slouch neither

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Delano's will always be my favourite John.

 

OK, now I adore Paul Jenkins as a writer, and I really enjoyed his characterization of John Constantine; but that was the only thing I consistently enjoyed about Jenkins' run on H.B.

Some of his stories were really good, while other ones just bored me.

I hated Jenkins' supporting cast so much!

But, his John was great! I kinda blanked out the plots on a lot of Jenkins' issues and just concentrated on John. I think it was a very good natural progression of John's character post-Ennis. I think Ellis would have carried John even farther, but he got canned, and Azzarello took over and pretended that Jenkins' character development never occured.

That's my feelings on it all!

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Add me to the list of folks who enjoyed Paul's take on Constantine - I think it was a natural reaction to years of brutal living under the pen of Garth Ennis, Jenkins took John's life down a notch - letting him relax and adapt to a somewhat more serene life. Very much read like a mid-life crisis in parts.

 

As for there being many incarnations of the Constantine character - well obviously how he acts is going to be dictated by the situations he finds himself in. If things are quiet and he's spending his days down the pub with his hippy mates, then everything's Zen. On the other hand, if the First is walking the earth, slaughtering his mates and wrecking bloody ruin as he makes his way to collect John's soul, then you'd expect Constantine to be at least a tad more antagonistic.

 

If you look at pure order numbers in the US, readers seem to prefer the harsher, bloodier and more nastier take on John - Azzarello and Ennis got higher numbers that Carey and Jenkins.

 

Personally, I'm all about Constantine down the pub and moaning about how shit everything is - but then I'm generally a grumpy sod myself.

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Yeah I'm beginning to get it now. You guys are right - Ha I liked this:

 

'and the other is a recent posting on the IMDB about the movie and the scene with Constantine saying

 

"into the light i command thee !"

 

wheras the comic book version would say

 

"sod off you daft C......T ""

 

 

also this seems right--

 

when he's together with Kit and everything's going right, he can almost completely push away the sicker parts of his personality, but once that comfort zone is taken away, he reverts back to bitter loner type.

 

You'll see that Jenkins' run has him entering a kind of deadened mid-life malaise as he hangs out with another family through whom he lives a vicarious "normal" life. He's nicer, because he has that comfort zone to rest in.

 

Once you get to Ellis', Azzarello's and Carey's runs, you'll note that he has no "normal life" to escape to, so the more venal aspects of his character come to the fore.

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that sounds about right, JP...

 

i guess that explains why i 'm not as fond of azz and careys work as i am of ennis ,delano (with the exeption of what I've seen in the issues after 35.

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Yeah, I have to say that part of the appeal of Constantine is the contrast between his "normal" life and the insane shit he gets up to on a regular basis in his other life.

 

The thing is that since he's fifty-ish and most of his regular friends are dead or estranged, he doesn't really have much outside magic any more. Even his current relationship with Angie is sort of an office romance.

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You'll see that Jenkins' run has him entering a kind of deadened mid-life malaise as he hangs out with another family through whom he lives a vicarious "normal" life. He's nicer, because he has that comfort zone to rest in.

 

Once you get to Ellis', Azzarello's and Carey's runs, you'll note that he has no "normal life" to escape to, so the more venal aspects of his character come to the fore.

 

 

I'd definitely agree with that take on the pattern of JCs 'life' over the past decade or so (although I'm not entirely sure to what extent it was the way the authors, Azzarello in particular, intended it to be understood). It's one of the things I liked most about Jenkins' run - it really did feel like the character had been beaten down by the increasingly-overwhelming array of horrors he'd been subjected to over the previous few years (under Ennis, basically), and had finally snapped - he'd had enough, and was consciously trying for a more normal life, to make up for his failure to achieve the same with Kit. Ultimately, this meant subjugating his own more venal, cruel side (quite literally, in fact, with the events of 'Critical Mass'), and goes some way towards explaining why it all went wrong. It's been said here many times that Constantine's relationship to magic is not unlike that of a junkie to heroin - it's destroying his life, his relationships, and his friends, but he can't help going back to it eventually. The end of Jenkins' run is a peculiarly powerful evocation of that, for me.

 

Since then, of course, we've had Ellis' run which, while good, was simply too short to get an entirely comfortable grasp of what he had planned long-term for the character, and Azzarello's run marks something of a break from earlier continuity. While a lot of his ideas about the character diverge from my own, I don't think it's too wild a stretch of the imagination to posit his stories as showing what amounts to John's 'mid-life crisis' - after the slump of Jenkins' run, we see an embittered, raging Constantine, whose excessive cruelty and venal cynicism represent an attempt to regain his lost youth - the manipulative, sneering, elusive figure of his earliest appearances in Swamp Thing. Under Carey, some degree of balance has been regained - we've seen John renew contact with some of his old friends and his family, and reaching out to people again - mind you, with the exception of Chas, everyone John's been in contact with during Mike's tenure on the title has been involved with magic in one way or another. Even Gemma, who, when last we saw her, was heading for a (relatively) normal life, has been ensnared in that trap, and, given Carey's excellent grasp of the characters and their history, it'll be interesting to see what the long-term fallout of recent events may turn out to be.

 

Of course, that's (a) just my take on things, and (b) a ludicrously pretentious and analytical attempt to reconcile what is, in reality, most likely simply a result of different writers wanting to tell different types of stories. But as a reader and long-term fan of the character and title, it's what comes naturally.

 

Any thoughts?

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I'd agree, and I had similar thoughts about an Azzarello Constantine raging against the onset of old age as he approaches fifty - something which would probably have been more effective if Ellis' run hadn't provided some kind of buffer between Azz and Jenkins.

 

Obviously I've no idea if that's what Azz intended, but hey! It's not unreasonable.

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That's the way I approach it, at least. Obviously, characterisation is never going to be entirely consistent over the course of the 200+ issues and 10 writers to date (and that's not counting any Constantine appearances in other titles), so as readers, we have to either come up with our own ways of rationalising this sort of stuff, or just ignore it as best we can. Much as many people have railed against Azzarello's 'misunderstanding' of Constantine as a character, I really don't have too much of an issue with it, a few minor instances of outright (and unconvincingly) vindictive cruelty (and some truly ghastly attempts at 'English' slang) aside. In the context he was placed, I didn't find his version of the character so utterly unrecognizable as some long-term readers apparently did, anyway. His run wasn't without some serious flaws, but I'm not inclined to adopt the 'just pretend it never happened' approach, when several other perfectly sensible interpretations for why John was acting the way he was can be applied.

 

Definitely agreed about the Ellis run-ette acting as a frustrating buffer, though. Azzarello's Constantine makes a lot more sense following directly on from the end of Jenkins' run, despite (or more accurately, as discussed above, because of) the massive disparity between their depictions of the character.

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The original by Alan Moore has always been my favorite.

 

My favorite Constantine line has always been his last one from Moore's Swamp Thing.

 

How do you keep a vegetable in suspense?

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#2 would be whoever came up with the Newcastle story.

 

Moore mentioned Newcastle, talked about how horrible it was, but never explained it. Coming up with a story for it that turned out as dead-on as it did was fantastic.

 

#3 would be whoever did the Demon Constantine. Not bad at all, except for the gripe that he handled Crowley about as well as Hollywood handled Constantine.

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Of course, that's (a) just my take on things, and (b) a ludicrously pretentious and analytical attempt to reconcile what is, in reality, most likely simply a result of different writers wanting to tell different types of stories. But as a reader and long-term fan of the character and title, it's what comes naturally.

 

Any thoughts?

 

I think that one of the points of any good literature is that you be able to take what you can from it, often regardless of what the author meant to do. I seriously SERIOUSLY doubt that SHakespeare, a man who was just trying to make a living, INTENDED everything that millions of pages of criticisms, billions of hours of discussion and centuries of reflection has attributed to his work. I don't think its ludicrous or pretentious to try to put these differences in the various manifestations of Constantine into a logical context. If it makes sense (which it does) it just makes the whole series that much more coherent. So I will say that Mark does indeed speak the truth.

 

For my money, I found something of worth in every single author's rendition of Constantine and I cannot eliminate any of them (except perhaps Azzarello's) in favour of the others.

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Hmmm. This is interesting, because it's not your usual, "Who is your favorite HB author?" question.

 

I'm going in extreme directions with this one!

 

1) Azzarello. Yup, that's right. Azz. When I first heard about HB, I heard the usual surface stuff people rattle off: bastard street mage, but uses his wits more than the tricks up his sleeve. Azz is the only one who I thought really encompassed that soundbite and made it real. Of course, that's more a problem with the typical soundbite given, than a congrats on Azz himself---but he fulfills the image I have of John, and I really, really like that. Unlike some of the board users, I never saw him as being outrightly cruel. From what I've seen, that tends to be directed to the scene with the old folks playing bingo, and, as I take what he said to be true, I think it was brash, but not undeserved. Plus, the writing there was fab, the whole bit about them seeing him and the hooker as people would see rats or roaches.

 

2) Jenkins. Could he be any more opposite of Azz? I doubt it! But he's the yin to Azz's yang, and that's why I love it so.

 

3) Delano. 'Cuz he's Delano, man. Really, he and Jenkins kinda flip-flopped on this one, but I think I was giving more cred to Delano's storytelling capabilities than the actual John portrayal.

 

4) Ennis. While I find some moments to be rude (the lesbian thing, one) I think he was more interesting than Ellis or Carey.

 

5) Ellis and Carey, tied at last. I find their John to be a bit dull. 'Sall.

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1) Azzarello.

2) Jenkins.

3) Delano.

4) Ennis.

5) Ellis and Carey, tied at last.

 

Wow, swap Jenkins with Ennis and my list is the exact opposite of that.

In fact, if you take the worst of each, then my list is exactly the reverse.

(Ennis - his worst being the throwaway "come back" Son of Man arc - was more consistent than Delano and Jenkins)

 

However, if you look at their quintessential Hellblazer stories, it's different again:

 

Delano: Newcastle, Family Man, Going For It.

 

Brian Azzarello: Freezes Over, Hard Time, (Mad Dogs and Englishmen).

 

Warren Ellis: Haunted, The Crib.

 

Mike Carey: Red Sepulchre, Ward 24/Out of Season, A Game of Cat & Mouse, All His Engines.

 

Ennis: Dangerous Habits, Rake at the Gates of Hell, Fear & Loathing.

 

Paul Jenkins: Widdershins, Last Man Standing, How To Play With Fire, Critical Mass.

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Mine:

 

Ellis

Carey

Azzarello

Delano

Jenkins

Ennis

 

Now, whilst I think Ennis did tell some engaging stories on the book his John never rang true to me, the whole Guiness drinking "man's man" aspect is the complete opposite of what I want from the book and First of The fallen and King of the Vampire are two of the most hackneyed villains imaginable.

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Shift Delano to the top (even allowing for the fact that he wrote his share of duff stories, his best issues really are my absolute favourite Hellblazer material, and the book has never really surpassed it for me), and Tom's got it nailed for me. Particularly with regard to Ennis.

 

Azzarello and Jenkins are jostling for the same position in my list. Both have some major strengths (I think I covered most of them in my first post here), but a good number of equally great weaknesses. Swings and roundabouts, really. I prefer Jenkins' characterisation of Constantine, but some of Azzarello's stories are more interesting to me.

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Heh, it's only the fact that his first three issues are my favourites of the whole series and the one with Chas' mum's monkey that have put Delano above Ennis.

 

If I start thinking about his run on Animal Man or Worlds Without End I might strike the fucker off the list altogether.

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