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Just Got into Hellblazer...

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Christian    734

The story actually wasn't very good though. It may have made a few good points, but the fact that the story ends with a student telling the gunman to shoot him was probably something that DC rightly worried about following the mass-school shooting.

The problem with the story is that it really wasn't a John Constantine story. He was just there as window-dressing.

It's not as if the story was a lost classic.

I'm sure keeping Ellis around would have been better than Azzarello, as I did enjoy most of what we saw of Ellis, unlike my feelings for Azzarello. Although, maybe Ellis would have gotten bored in the middle of his next story-arc and moved on to other projects, and we'd be here bitching about how Ellis did that again, this time on our favourite comic book creator.

Maybe if we go to an alternate reality where the "Shoot" controversy didn't happen, Ellis would have lost interest in Hellblazer half-way through his next story-arc, and Vertigo in a panic to find a new writer (as Azzarello would be busy now) has to stick Chuck Austen on HB. Maybe the fates were in our favour and saved us from something far worse.

 

Also, welcome to new Forum member. It's nice to see that some people are still discovering John Constantine.

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25 minutes ago, Christian said:

The story actually wasn't very good though. It may have made a few good points, but the fact that the story ends with a student telling the gunman to shoot him was probably something that DC rightly worried about following the mass-school shooting.

The problem with the story is that it really wasn't a John Constantine story. He was just there as window-dressing.

It's not as if the story was a lost classic.

I'm sure keeping Ellis around would have been better than Azzarello, as I did enjoy most of what we saw of Ellis, unlike my feelings for Azzarello. Although, maybe Ellis would have gotten bored in the middle of his next story-arc and moved on to other projects, and we'd be here bitching about how Ellis did that again, this time on our favourite comic book creator.

Maybe if we go to an alternate reality where the "Shoot" controversy didn't happen, Ellis would have lost interest in Hellblazer half-way through his next story-arc, and Vertigo in a panic to find a new writer (as Azzarello would be busy now) has to stick Chuck Austen on HB. Maybe the fates were in our favour and saved us from something far worse.

 

Also, welcome to new Forum member. It's nice to see that some people are still discovering John Constantine.

Had the Ellis of 1999/2000 already started the trend of abandoning projects halfway through?  Planetary was still going on a relatively regular basis at that time, he saw Transmetropolitan through to the end, and had only recently finished his long Stormwatch/Authority run.  In a few years, yeah, then came the Ellis with the attention span of a gnat, but late 1990s Ellis I think would have stuck with Hellblazer through his planned 40-issue run.

That said, though, I totally agree with you about "Shoot".

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dogpoet    442

That said, I really couldn't have seen Ellis doing a Freezes Over or Hard Time, and it wouldn't have been beyond him (having quit the book in a tantrum over having an ill timed, but far from brilliant story pulled) to produce something over a forty issue run that made all that made all of the dogfucking and sweetly musky balls nonsense look like The Dead Boy's Heart by comparison.

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14 minutes ago, dogpoet said:

That said, I really couldn't have seen Ellis doing a Freezes Over or Hard Time, and it wouldn't have been beyond him (having quit the book in a tantrum over having an ill timed, but far from brilliant story pulled) to produce something over a forty issue run that made all that made all of the dogfucking and sweetly musky balls nonsense look like The Dead Boy's Heart by comparison.

That seriously just made my day, thank you!  :laugh:

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dogpoet    442

Thanks, I'm here all week. Remember to tip your waitress...

:wink2:

(Straightfaced: the up vote stuff is a nice touch. Thanks for that. That's come in with the revisions, hasn't it?)

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seventhcircle    580
17 hours ago, Ixnay by Night said:

I wonder, had DC agreed to pull the issue from the publication schedule with the promise that it would be printed at a later date, once the freshness of Columbine had faded, would Ellis have stayed on the book?  I mean, even he surely must have recognized the incredibly poor timing of the comic's release, through no fault of his own or the publishers of course.  If Paul Levitz hadn't stamped a D-Notice on it, publicly stating "Shoot" would never be published as long as he was running DC, maybe they wouldn't have lost such a high-profile creator at the start of a long-term series run.

are you seriously underestimating woozas ego?

i mean nothing against that guy, if he performs at top level i think he is one of the two/three best writers there is, he is funny, he does well with the community and he has some brilliant insides. but if that man hasn't gotten some giant artistic ego, than i am santa claus.

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12 hours ago, Ixnay by Night said:

Ellis was such a missed opportunity.  I thought "Haunted" went on way too long with too much early-2000s padding for the trade, but stuff like "The Crib" and "Telling Tales" were quite good.  I wouldn't put him up with Jenkins, though, that cat was my favorite writer on the series.  Still, I'd love a glimpse at the alternate reality where "Shoot" was published as intended and Ellis had his 40-issue run on the book.

Most six-part stories feel like a bit much for me (which is odd as I much prefer longer arcs...just not in comics)  Rake at the Gates of Hell is probably the only time it seemed to have all been paced well.

Haunted just had a really great conclusion.  The worst part of Ellis's run was the way it was forced to end.  Sad that Ashes and Honey is the last Ellis arc.  Not that it was bad, just that it wasn't well...an ending.

10 hours ago, dogpoet said:

(I'd also question that he didn't still get plenty of character points into the stories: there's several stories where he digs pretty deep into Constantine, Gemma, Chas and Angie in particular and even the disposable villains get some backstory and something resembling an inner life. Hell, he even treats the FOTF as a character rather than a convenient plot device, doesn't he?)

And hello, Jason. It's always nice to see new posters in here.

Hey!

Carey has a lot of great actually characterization in the situations he has.  The only thing missing is the more individual, character driven issues, which were replaced with denser plots.

8 hours ago, seventhcircle said:

He must've felt like a fucking prophet and then dc takes that away from him for reasons of decency. the guy must've been fucking pissed.

Was there any particular reason he even wrote "Shoot"?  I'd be really interested in hearing that.

8 hours ago, Christian said:

The story actually wasn't very good though. It may have made a few good points, but the fact that the story ends with a student telling the gunman to shoot him was probably something that DC rightly worried about following the mass-school shooting.

The problem with the story is that it really wasn't a John Constantine story. He was just there as window-dressing.

It's not as if the story was a lost classic.

I'm sure keeping Ellis around would have been better than Azzarello, as I did enjoy most of what we saw of Ellis, unlike my feelings for Azzarello. Although, maybe Ellis would have gotten bored in the middle of his next story-arc and moved on to other projects, and we'd be here bitching about how Ellis did that again, this time on our favourite comic book creator.

Also, welcome to new Forum member. It's nice to see that some people are still discovering John Constantine.

Hello!  Yeah, I just got someone else into it too.  Need to spread it around a bit.

Even without the inherent  controversy, that ending would have still caused an uproar most likely.

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Christian    734

"Ashes and Honey" was actually by Darko Macan, not Ellis. It was a two-part fill-in story between writers. I am a fan of the "Ashes and Honey" arc though, it was very good.

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seventhcircle    580
17 hours ago, Christian said:

The problem with the story is that it really wasn't a John Constantine story. He was just there as window-dressing.

I found that brilliant. especially after columbia it would have perfectly captured how helpless society (a.k.a. john even with all his tricks) is.

17 hours ago, Christian said:

I'm sure keeping Ellis around would have been better than Azzarello, as I did enjoy most of what we saw of Ellis, unlike my feelings for Azzarello. Although, maybe Ellis would have gotten bored in the middle of his next story-arc and moved on to other projects, and we'd be here bitching about how Ellis did that again, this time on our favourite comic book creator.

Maybe if we go to an alternate reality where the "Shoot" controversy didn't happen, Ellis would have lost interest in Hellblazer half-way through his next story-arc, and Vertigo in a panic to find a new writer (as Azzarello would be busy now) has to stick Chuck Austen on HB. Maybe the fates were in our favour and saved us from something far worse.

On the other hand, if it would have been published, maybe it could have started a debate that would've ultimately lead to us-society reinventing itself into something sane and we would have never seen president trump become a reality.

now that i think about it, your scenario is more likely, but i still like mine better :P

8 hours ago, JasonWanderer said:

Was there any particular reason he even wrote "Shoot"?  I'd be really interested in hearing that.

I have never seen it. But i mean, either he used it to get out of the book, or: i always read it the way, that ellis speaks directly to the reader when john speaks to the investigator. so i'd go with: he was pissed?

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Yeah, I'd say "Shoot" was Ellis editorializing, because its really nothing more than an angry soapbox rant with John as the writer's stand-in.  I don't think it was particularly engaging as a story, like someone said earlier in the thread it's not really a Hellblazer story in the traditional sense.  Lovely art by Phil Jimenez, though.

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That's very true, but in most cases (thinking mainly about Transmet) the ranting was at least in some service to a story.  "Shoot" was shoehorned into a series that it didn't belong, even with the hamfisted justification for Constantine being involved at all.  "My mate's son was taken to America, got shot in a school, RAAARRGGHH!".  

Not Ellis or Hellblazer's finest moment.  Had it been released as planned, it would have been a mite bit controversial but ultimately a small piece of a much larger run.  Banning it from being published built it up into this mythic thing that it doesn't deserve to be.  

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seventhcircle    580

oh true, it would'nt have been the worst hellblazer story, but thats about the extent to which i would go. like dog said, it was propably for the better how it played out after all.

 

what shoot did was set precedence on how far the creative freedom at vertigo really goes and for that it deserved mystification.

in the end columbine should not be enough reason to pull this story, even if it was sub-par. we all know, that if we would really look into the WHY of school-shooting, we would get an answer, that we as a society are afraid to face, that there is transformation required from all of us, that the western world with it's narcicisst-centric reward-driven model for society is not a good place to raise children and that everyone is at fault: the parents, the teachers, the media, the schoolmates and politicians. but after every-school massacre, after every mass-shooting, we always do the same bullshit: we talk about guns and about video games/music/movies and about how a single ill mind is not represantative of all of us (spoileralert: it is), or of any problem at all. i am not saying that i know what to do, because that would be a lie, but i think that we need a different kind of debate, not dominated by agendas of dubious acteurs and for that i would take in any voice, even this lunatic from essex that writes stories around little colored pictures.

Our biggest problem as a society is the superficiality to which we so often succumb. Whereas humanities biggest strength is in inventing, experiencing and exploring the unknown no matter how afraid we are of it. History has shown that there is no such thing that humanity can't master and that our biggest weakness is our fear to do so out of conformity.

In other words: i think pulling a book for reasons of decency is a shit move.

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Christian    734

Unfortunately, deciding to write a story where the conclusion seems to say, "Hey, these kids are asking for it!" is probably not the way to go about addressing a serious issue, even though, as I said, Ellis did make some good points in the story. There's also a question as to whether such a heavy work of social criticism, at the expense of the character of the series, actually belongs in the Hellblazer comic book.

Look at how well Delano usually managed to blend characterization and a sense of the series moving forward with politically aware commentary, compared to something like "Shoot". It was the equivalent of Delano's heavy-handed "Don't Eat Meat!" two-parter, which was the low point of Delano's run.

You could argue (and I'd agree with) a commentary about the way we humans treat animals and barbarity of factory farming is an important message. Yet, the way Delano went about that story was moving away from "this is a story about John Constantine and it shows how he feels about an issue" to "I'm Jamie Delano and I have something very important to tell you!".

Anyway, you could go back to see how DC censored Rick Veitch's Swamp Thing story as a more egregious example, pre-dating "Shoot".

Yes, you could argue that happened before Vertigo existed, but I'm pretty sure the same editors were involved with the decisions, and Swamp Thing was a "mature readers" comic book, and the issue being addressed in Veitch's comic was far less contentious than a school shooting story which almost seemed to blame the victims in the end (and I'm not saying that everyone who died was innocent either). Plus, I'm sure Veitch's story was probably a better actual story than Ellis' "after school special" approach to speaking on an issue.

So, it's not without precedent, I would argue.

EDIT: I'm not favouring censorship in any way, in case that comes out as the point of what I wrote above about "Shoot". I believe that the story should have been published originally. I'm just saying that "Shoot" really isn't an important story, and I can understand why DC (a corporation) did what it did, even though I completely disagree with the decision.

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Balthazar    167

I actually jumped in during the Mike Carey run. It was 201, I believe. It was after the Constantine movie was announced and I came in wanting to find out about the Balthazar character. :laugh: Come to find out that was just a creation of the film but I was still curious to find out about the book. I was hooked on Carey's run, how fast pace it was but the characters themselves hooked me. I jumped on "Haunted" by Ellis and took me awhile to get accustomed to it because of how different it was from how Carey was writing the book. I then read the issues that focused on Ellie and her baby by Ennis and I was definitely in for the long haul. I started buy as many of the back trades I could find. Thus far, nothing has matched my enjoyment of the first 9 issues of Jamie Delano's run, including the art, the whole package.

I lost interest during the Mina run and would pick up an issue or so on the following writers. I was in for a lot of Milligan's run and actually quite enjoyed it but funds got in the way. 

I think I read on issue of Azz's run and that was enough for me.

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6 hours ago, Christian said:

Unfortunately, deciding to write a story where the conclusion seems to say, "Hey, these kids are asking for it!" is probably not the way to go about addressing a serious issue, even though, as I said, Ellis did make some good points in the story. There's also a question as to whether such a heavy work of social criticism, at the expense of the character of the series, actually belongs in the Hellblazer comic book.

Look at how well Delano usually managed to blend characterization and a sense of the series moving forward with politically aware commentary, compared to something like "Shoot". It was the equivalent of Delano's heavy-handed "Don't Eat Meat!" two-parter, which was the low point of Delano's run.

Anyway, you could go back to see how DC censored Rick Veitch's Swamp Thing story as a more egregious example, pre-dating "Shoot"

EDIT: I'm not favouring censorship in any way, in case that comes out as the point of what I wrote above about "Shoot". I believe that the story should have been published originally. I'm just saying that "Shoot" really isn't an important story, and I can understand why DC (a corporation) did what it did, even though I completely disagree with the decision.

Would have probably worked better overall as some sort of special/PSA (even though the content of "Shoot" isn't that great for it, the base idea and the limitation of Hellblazer-esque aspect makes the concept work better as a non-regular issue).

Would you mind elaborating on the Swamp Thing censorship?

4 hours ago, Balthazar said:

I actually jumped in during the Mike Carey run. It was 201, I believe. It was after the Constantine movie was announced and I came in wanting to find out about the Balthazar character. :laugh: Come to find out that was just a creation of the film but I was still curious to find out about the book. I was hooked on Carey's run, how fast pace it was but the characters themselves hooked me. I jumped on "Haunted" by Ellis and took me awhile to get accustomed to it because of how different it was from how Carey was writing the book. I then read the issues that focused on Ellie and her baby by Ennis and I was definitely in for the long haul. I started buy as many of the back trades I could find. Thus far, nothing has matched my enjoyment of the first 9 issues of Jamie Delano's run, including the art, the whole package.

I lost interest during the Mina run and would pick up an issue or so on the following writers. I was in for a lot of Milligan's run and actually quite enjoyed it but funds got in the way. 

I think I read on issue of Azz's run and that was enough for me.

I had a similar situation.  I heard about Hellblazer a while ago, but didn't think to read it until the show came out.  Then it kind of fell to the wayside as I thought it followed the supernatural formula, but was surprised to find it to be incredibly unique.

 

What made you enjoy the first 9 issues most?

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Christian    734

Rick Veitch was in the middle of a story-arc in which Swamp Thing was being cast backwards in time. He was stopping in different time periods....World War I, the Middle Ages, etc.

Veitch's next planned issue was to see him arriving in the time of Jesus Christ. The story was going to be about how Jesus Christ was a ritual magician, involved with Hermetic and Kabbalistic esoteric magic.

DC's editors decided there was no way they were going to publish a story like that, completely rejected it, and Rick Veitch left DC Comics, not returning again until the 21st century.

While it might generate some controversy, it's hardly something beyond the realms of being publishable, especially if you look at a novel like The Man Who Died by D.H. Lawrence (for example), which is considered a classical work of literature (although certainly it is controversial also). DC Comics was basically laying down the case that comic books cannot deal with sensitive subject matter in a similar way to Literature.

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On 9/13/2017 at 1:10 AM, JasonWanderer said:

Jenkins – A solid run overall, not necessarily anything spectacular, but that was more because nothing in it was awful as well. “How to Play with Fire” had a very well executed anything (even if the story itself was a bit messy), that sums up John’s life perfectly. As a whole, Constantine was characterized incredibly well, but none of the other main cast really provided much. They weren’t bad by any means, but they weren’t spectacular either. Still, a tear does come to the eye thinking about Astra’s soul being released.

Azzarello – I don’t particularly like condemning writers, but this set of issues was a pain to get through. I’m sure Brian can write, but certainly not for Hellblazer. That’s really all there is to say about it. The first few words of the first issue alone had me already think that something was “off”. Ultimately, I’m sad to say, I couldn’t finish this run properly and ended up giving in and skipping over to when Mike Carey started.

I think Jenkins' run is underappreciated. He certainly did a lot of good shorter stories.

And I also agree on Azzarello. I heard he can write pretty well but this really seemed like he was trying to write a different series and just got saddled with John Constantine, hence why the setting and characters are all so unfamiliar and divorced from the usual Hellblazer fare.

As for Ennis, well, I think Ennis was kind of the catalyst for a bit of a dip in overall quality. Because he was the one who introduced his "Devil but not the Devil but much more Deviler than that Gaiman's Poser devil, honest !" character and the First remained a rather unimaginative go to shorthand for most supernatural events that happened in the series after that.

As for Carey, I actually enjoyed the fact he was making the series more plot centric. I did feel, especially during the Ennis run, that sometimes certain issues were like little more than filler, like the pointless gun factory story where the dude ends up gouging out his eyes at the end.

Somehow Constantine really didn't get much plot heavy stuff.

 

On 9/14/2017 at 9:41 PM, Lou K said:

 

This, IMO. Dangerous Habits always felt like the definitive Constantine story to me. Kind of has it all.

 

A massive re-read of the good stuff is in order, to remind me why I loved this character to begin with. Then I am chucking the floppies in favor of the trades. Simply no room at the inn.

 

[edit] oh, and welcome.

Floppies ? As in actual floppies, or a term of endearment for old single issues ?

I'd say to not chuck them, if only for the insight into the weird obscure shit Vertigo was publishing at a given time, which may be fun to look up and also as a bit of a time capsule of what the readers thought at the time via the letter's column.

At least for as long as they had it.

On 9/19/2017 at 1:50 PM, Ixnay by Night said:

 

Azzarello's run, to me anyway, was a real mixed bag. "Good Intentions" and "Ashes and Dust" are abominable outside of the Frusin artwork, probably two of my least favorite Hellblazer stories. But, then, Azz also has the really fucking excellent "Freezes Over" and "Lapdogs and Englishmen" in the middle of his run (even "Highwater" was pretty good, I thought).

 

 

I quite liked Carey's run on the book, but he was much more concerned with plots than with characterization. Everything had to tie back into his two mega-arcs (Shadow Dog and Rosacarnis) with very little room for side stuff. Compared to Delano, Ennis, or Jenkins, who all had the space to meander out into other areas of interest, Carey was all about Point A to Point B to Point C.

I think the bit where he has John fuck another dude was a bit weird. I mean, he's always been a bastard but I can't see him going that far, given he's always shown to be obscenely into women, just for the sake of a story.

Not being homophobic here,, just saying that added onto the whole feeling of it being wholy out of the ordinary and unlike anything that came before.

Also had no idea about the Ellis controversy with "Shoot".

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dogpoet    442

The other big issue with the supernatural stuff under Ennis is that became a lot less eclectic during his run: the FOTF is just part of that. Suddenly all of the occult stuff was deeply Christian and the whole thing is about the war between Heaven and Hell, and nothing else, which seems a bit reductive after all of the various flavours of paganism (and even African animism) in Delano's run. You could even read Midnite's presentation during his reappearance as being a sort sniffily Catholic "all this voodoo stuff is really just satanism in disguise" approach given that he sends John to Hell rather than the more ambiguous afterlife voodoo mythology involves.

(I'm always a bit surprised that isn't talked about more, as it's the thing from Ennis that was dropped immediately somebody else took over as writer: Campbell had a demon in his story and a satanist's ghost in his story, but he also made a point of dragging in an aboriginal seer and a load of new age ecological mystics as well, as much to stress that these approaches to the infinite are just as valid as the christian ones Ennis spent his run favouring over everything else. That set things up nicely for Jenkins' diversions into Celtic mythology and the matter of Britain, and Ellis' apparently feeling that there is no religious content at all to the hermetic magic tradition that provided the supernatural underpinning to most of his stories in Hellblazer.)

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56 minutes ago, dogpoet said:

The other big issue with the supernatural stuff under Ennis is that became a lot less eclectic during his run: the FOTF is just part of that. Suddenly all of the occult stuff was deeply Christian and the whole thing is about the war between Heaven and Hell, and nothing else, which seems a bit reductive after all of the various flavours of paganism (and even African animism) in Delano's run. You could even read Midnite's presentation during his reappearance as being a sort sniffily Catholic "all this voodoo stuff is really just satanism in disguise" approach given that he sends John to Hell rather than the more ambiguous afterlife voodoo mythology involves.

(I'm always a bit surprised that isn't talked about more, as it's the thing from Ennis that was dropped immediately somebody else took over as writer: Campbell had a demon in his story and a satanist's ghost in his story, but he also made a point of dragging in an aboriginal seer and a load of new age ecological mystics as well, as much to stress that these approaches to the infinite are just as valid as the christian ones Ennis spent his run favouring over everything else. That set things up nicely for Jenkins' diversions into Celtic mythology and the matter of Britain, and Ellis' apparently feeling that there is no religious content at all to the hermetic magic tradition that provided the supernatural underpinning to most of his stories in Hellblazer.)

Remember the story of the guy dragged away by Winnie the Pooh because a court of fictional characters declares he's not real ? Ennis would never write a story like that.

The thing with Ennis is he doesn't really care about the supernatural or mythology. He just likes to say how much they suck and have someone literally piss on them. I haven't read his more recent stuff but that was his MO during this time period, where he was at his most acclaimed.

Also I hate how Ennis screwed Midnite over and killed him so easily.

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dogpoet    442

Ennis does, to be fair, give Jerry O'Flynn an appearance in a flashback during his friendly ghost story with Brendan. I think the only other scriptwriter who did any riffs on metafiction was Paul Jenkins, so it wasn't just Ennis who wouldn't do a story like that, it's everybody else except Delano and Jenkins.

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Lou K    1,054
18 hours ago, Bran the Blessed said:

 

Floppies ? As in actual floppies, or a term of endearment for old single issues ?

I'd say to not chuck them, if only for the insight into the weird obscure shit Vertigo was publishing at a given time, which may be fun to look up and also as a bit of a time capsule of what the readers thought at the time via the letter's column.

 

Yeah that's a fair point. Some of the fun is looking at all the old adverts when Vertigo was still mighty. But I am having a crisis of space lol

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I suppose Ennis felt he really needed to emphasize the HELL in Hellblazer, what with the Christian mythologies taking precedence.  There was the Lord of the Dance, as an example of a non-Christian myth being appropriated for the series during his run, but even it was tied back around to Christianity stamping out all other faiths.  Delano, on the other hand, got way too heady for my taste during his run, to the point where stuff like "Sundays are Different" is near-incomprehensible to me.  I think that's why Jenkins is my favorite writer on the series; while Delano was all brain and Ennis was all heart, Jenkins was a perfect distillation of both approaches.

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dogpoet    442

I was forgetting that story, now you mention it. Thanks for the reminder.

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Christian    734

Ennis certainly had an axe to grind, as a lapsed Catholic. I can't blame Ennis for deciding to put himself in to the character of John Constantine, as that has often been a recurring motif for different writers on the original Hellblazer series. Just as Delano made John a socially-aware, Existentially despairing, Socialist because those are the concerns that Jamie Delano has as a person.

Most of the Western esoteric tradition was based on Christianity too. From the Church turning competing deities in to the demons of Hell, the usage of the angelic powers, or the invocations of the countless demons who were dreamed up to try to explain how things in Nature worked to a fearful populace during the Middle Ages.

The idea of earlier multi-ethnic (as opposed to Hellenism) pagan ideas or Eastern concepts being incorporated in to the Western esoteric tradition didn't come along until later.

Of course, Delano is the far better writer and a much more cerebral person, but what better character for Ennis to work out his own frustrations and questions about his own organized religion with than a character like John Constantine?

Not that this makes me enjoy the Ennis run anymoreso. It's a pale reflection of what Delano and Jenkins brought to the title.

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