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A. Heathen

Hellblazer #1

  

15 members have voted

  1. 1. What are your marks out of ten for this issue, where 0=Celine Dion and 10=Elizabeth Frazer

    • 10
      5
    • 9
      3
    • 8
      5
    • 7
      1
    • 6
      0
    • 5
      1
    • 4
      0
    • 3
      0
    • 2
      0
    • 1
      0


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OK, I've read it. These are just a few ideas I have.

 

1) This was a lot more scary than I remembered, especially the first three pages.

2) It's surprising that so many of the elements I associate with Hellblazer are to be found in the very first issue, such as: a) Addiction. The whole thing is about addiction!

b) The Ghosts. Emma is either a ghost or is in his head

c) "Tough luck on the priest." Very Constantine.

3) The amount magic Constantine uses. He puts Gary Lester into a trance, he does the vision thing with the witch-doctor guy, he even uses on Papa Midnite's goon. On the other hand, he didn't use magic for travelling, which is something he usually does later. Does that come after the Books of Magic only?

4) He uses physical violence on Papa Midnite's goon! OK, it was just a slap, but it was weird.

5) It's interesting to see the differences in how Newcastle affected John and Gary. As amoral he sometimes is, I don't think he would ever do what Gary did with the kid in Morocco - would he?

 

Um, this is all much messier than I planned it to be.

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AH! I'm in charge for this one?!

 

Are we posting in this thread, or making a separate thread for our reading discussion?

 

Can we have a poll with all these issues we review, like we do with new issues?

I'd like to see a consensus ranking of all Hellblazer issues on this site.

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First thing that stuck me about this issue : A BIG MONSTER!

 

A big fly thing seems weird (to me) in terms of what I expect from a Hellblazer story yet there is is! The Shadow Dog...the Third Place Beastie....

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I'm trying to remember what it felt like to read this for the first time, I came to it through a friend and had started reading during the The Fear Machine, so it wasn't the freshness that some would have got by starting at the beginning. But reading through it now I love the Faces on the Street introduction, it gives us some of the great basic concepts: betting on the exact time of Lyndon Johnson's heart attack, South London accent tinged with scouse, smallish fit looking fellow?? Don't know about that anymore. Anyway for me a great intro.

 

The urban scenes of London at the start are very evocative, the art appeals to me (although it is a bit inconsistent) but I've always enjoyed a scratchy type style to a polished look, so I guess that's partly why. The coloring is very different to today's style though, it looks as if they had a job lot of primary colours to get rid of - some of it works, some doesn't. I love the way Ridgway portrays rain soaked streets with lined reflections.

 

The story is great and it does feel strange to see a big monster so early up doesn't it. No holds barred exorcism and occult dealings stuffed in all the way through. I think Delano's talent shines through so quickly for me because he can hold together the central story of the AWOL demon, fit in the back story of the previous possession, introduce Constantine and large parts of his personality, hint at his Ghosts, have him in three different continents and still fit in a bit of social commentary - quotes about the empire, racist abuse, famine etc. and yet it flows really well, perhaps not for others though?

 

The prose within Constantine's introspective running narration is really fantastic as well, especially on the first few pages - something that I guess you take for granted so much that it is only this reading that has really brought it home to me...

 

Toothless gnawing of an early November Wind.

 

The streets are hardened arteries leading to the City's dead heart.

 

I inhale the City's breath -- rain-soaked diesel.

awesome

 

Negatives - Silk Cut?? Fer fucksake Jamie you could have asked anyone :tongue:

 

Ok I'm probably on a nostalgia trip here and I'm often accused of over praising things I like, before having their flaws pointed out to me. So I'll see if anyone can knock my happy thoughts down a few pegs when I get back after the weekend.

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Questions to consider:

How do you feel about the portrayal of John in these two issues as compared to later in Jamie Delano's run on the title?

 

I feel it wasn't until issue #11 that Delano really got a feel for John's character, although the seeds were being planted.

 

I still want a poll!

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Negatives - Silk Cut?? Fer fucksake Jamie you could have asked anyone :tongue:

 

And, as if that wasn't enough, he has the man drinking G&Ts...though that mightened be till issue seven or eight.

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Yes, but the man's man John Constantine didn't come around until Garth Ennis. This was pre-Ennis, Delano days, when John wasn't ashamed to bawl like a baby when his emotions shifted, and was thinking about slitting his wrists every other day just for the hell of it.

None of that Ennis "I'm such a man. I drink hard and fuck longer!" for nearly 4 more years!

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For me the issue 1 and 2 is the first and original. Even better than the first appearance in Swamp Thing. For me, of course.

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2) It's surprising that so many of the elements I associate with Hellblazer are to be found in the very first issue, such as: a) Addiction. The whole thing is about addiction!

 

I think it's actually supposed to be a comment on the decadence of British/Western society. In Africa all the people hunger for is food, whereas in the West they desire non-essential, petty things like jewellery, the perfect body etc. The only character who also desires food above everything else is grossly obese.

 

Also note the Oxfam poster in the background when John meets up with Chas outside the British Museum.

 

4) He uses physical violence on Papa Midnite's goon! OK, it was just a slap, but it was weird.

 

That was more about psychology than violence.

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I love this issue.

Didnt read it again right now but i remember loving this old noir-horror style.

I loved his social commentaries, the violence, England, Lester, Midnite, almost everything. Even the coloralization and art screams "Im nostalgic!".

Cool.

As far as i reckon.

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b) The Ghosts. Emma is either a ghost or is in his head

I love this issue. If you go back and read the original Swamp Things though the "Crisis on Infinite Earths/American Gothic" story arcs you will see Delano picks up where Moore left off with the character. The neat (not rumpled!) blue suit, the Silk Cuts, the G&Ts, the looking like Sting. This issue takes place right after Constantine gets back from South America (after hopefully a nice rest somewhere). All of his mates have been killed: Emma is especially evocative since John was living with her in New York before the Brujera got her, and that's where Gary sent the bottle. Also, Gary is the last survivor of the Newcastle crew, and this is, as we know, the formative event in his life.

 

So Delano has done three things, aside from writing a smashing story: he has established the tone of cultural criticism that will continue throughout his run (and Ade--is it too much to ask to read issue #3--Demon Yuppies from Hell--or maybe the football hooligan/Nergal issue?), he has taken and firmly established the character as defined by Moore, however he immediately emphasized major character development points including: Newcastle (mentioned as an aside in Swamp Thing), and the fact that under his vaneer John really cares about people ("what about the boy Gary?"). Oh, and Pappa Midnight and Chas. Can't forget them--great characters.

 

I also remember back in the day being less impressed by the art, but rereading it now I see that it really works, doesn't it?

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Ridgway's a bit of an acquired taste, but like a lot of those is well worth the effort.

 

Kim Newman made an interesting observation in an interview shortly before the turn of the millenium (I think it was ostensibly plugging Dracula Cha Cha Cha) that over the course of the '80s and '90s horror as a genre had pretty much given up on social factors and turned instead towards narcissism, monsters and monstrous characters no longer having anything to say about or any particular connection to society as a whole, and instead concerning themselves with solipsism and conceit. Hellblazer has long been an exception to this tendency.

 

(I could do without the reference to Liz Fraser though: nice enough voice, but she's hardly Alison Shaw or Diamanda Galas, is she?)

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Ridgway's a bit of an acquired taste, but like a lot of those is well worth the effort.

 

Kim Newman made an interesting observation in an interview shortly before the turn of the millenium (I think it was ostensibly plugging Dracula Cha Cha Cha) that over the course of the '80s and '90s horror as a genre had pretty much given up on social factors and turned instead towards narcissism, monsters and monstrous characters no longer having anything to say about or any particular connection to society as a whole, and instead concerning themselves with solipsism and conceit. Hellblazer has long been an exception to this tendency.

 

Not really since Delano's run, Dog.

It's highly arguable whether you can even call Hellblazer a horror book after Ennis' run, and Ennis' run usually fell prey to exactly the solipsism, conceit, and nihilism that the article was referring to.

 

I quite enjoyed the art on these Hellblazer issues. I love the gritty look to DC's mature readers books from the 1980s. They had a real feel to them that was lost with the advent of the glossy paper and brighter art.

This dark and rough style fits the tone of Delano's stories so well.

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I read it again and loved it again.

 

Can I just copy-and-paste a thing I wrote a while back? ...I can? Thanks! :)

 

SunHB1.gif

 

The task of a first issue is to set up its series' milieu without sacrificing entertainment. The way Jamie Delano achieves this in Hellblazer issue 1 demonstrates nothing short of mastery.

 

Without the reader noticing the trick, Delano cleverly disguises the groundwork for later issues as background detail, as atmosphere. The skinheads and the graffiti artist Zed, both to reappear later with more importance, seem no more than London colour; and the first reference to Newcastle is used ostensibly to fill out Gary Lester.

 

We've also got the first signs of Delano's indictment of 1980s Britain: on page 15 Lester narrates, "...the scene's changed. Everything's different now."(1) The very next narrative box says "It makes me lock myself in. Makes me a prisoner." And the next, "It works on me constantly. Promising me freedom; from fear, from pain; if only I will give it the same release." It's intentionally ambiguous whether 'it' in the second and third narrative boxes refers to 'the scene' — conditions in 1980s Britain — or to the hunger demon Mnemoth. Delano of course is equating the two.

 

The most important piece of setup, though, is the establishment of John Constantine's driving force. "I don't really want to know, but we're all junkies at heart", he rationalises on page 10, as he begins another entanglement with the occult.

 

Later on page 12, Gary Lester's own compulsive involvement with the occult parallels Constantine's: "...a black passion seizes me. It's irresistible. I want to do it... I need to." But Lester's dabbling will cause his undoing, which on the one hand is essential to the plot, and on the other hand hints at possible future consequences for Constantine.

 

In a medium arguably characterised by mediocrity and shallowness, Delano's script for issue 1 is a rare thing. Almost every element does double duty. And because the elements of the story are pregnant with significance and foreboding, horror in this issue is more than bugs and death and demons. It goes one level beyond, to a creepiness that underpins every scene. All of this, without compromising a nasty and visceral thriller that can be enjoyed without any awareness of its resonances.

 

After a stunning series debut like this, Delano should have gone on to become a great of the medium, but he didn't. Instead he found obscurity. What a shame the issue's deftly incorporated hints of things to come didn't extend to the reputation of its writer.

 

 

---------

1. In Bangkok in November 2005, an English woman used nearly these same words to describe post-Thatcher Britain to me.

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The first thing I'm struck by is that cover really was a groundbreaking one.

I am of the opinion that covers do not need to represent what lies within using literal images, although that can work. But that does a decent discreet job.

 

Anyway, Dave McKean's in the past now.

Just like the colour pallet used in this issue ...

 

You know how old films appear differently coloured? That's what it feels like here, and to open a "Vertigo-esque" book and see bold blues and yellows really warms the cockles of my eyes.

 

Last night we were watching an episode of CSI where a guy ate himself to death, and the scenes of an eating competition and the victim's gorging himself were really quite disgusting. They could have taken those scenes from this first page.

 

As you all may have noticed, I am quite pedantic when it comes to views of London in Hellblazer. Well that's because the standard has been set right from issue #1. The simplistic art could be used to portray anywhere, but it's definitely London.

 

Note that in Constantine's opening discourse on returning home to find Gary Lester, there are plenty of almost impertceptable references - the "Just Say No" poster outside his window. The drug paraphenalia & references to skin-crawling (annotation: skin crawling is an alcohol withdrawal symptom, not a drug one, but it's just a nice bit of wordplay)

 

Blimey that lead in takes FOUR pages of John "thinking out loud". You really don't get that kind of character these days, do you?

 

And the splash page in the bath is a genuine shock reveal - not something that's easy to manage in a comic.

 

Pages 12 to 16 betray Hellblazer's roots in Swamp Thing, with organic page layouts, something that is used throughout the panels in this issue, but quite striking here. Note that when Chas arrives, the page becomes almost a regular 6-panel grid.

 

I'm with James' reading of this issue as social commentary. It was much more common in Delano's run, but each writer has tried it in their own way (as discussed during the latest issue thread).

 

As mentioned already, John's combative skills against Midnite's servant are mostly show, but it'd work better for me if there was no blood. The power of words.

 

Emma as a talking ghost is quite a different introduction, I prefer to think of the ghosts as John's mental processes given form - him seeing them out of guilt as much as wise ghosts telling him what's going on.

 

J.Mac mentioned the Big Monster climax of this episode. Interesting to note that the three most enduring "demons" in Constantine's life are the three humanoid ones.

 

Overall this issue sets the Hellblazer ball rolling with most of the set pieces that now know very well.

 

The supporting cast, the world threatening demons, the ghosts, the Constantine bravado.

Plus we get Jamie Delano's rather lyrical story-telling which I don't think anyone (except Grant Morrison & Eddie Campbell?) has attempted in quite the same way.

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Grant Morrison's style is more stream of consciousness. Eddie Campbell, eh, maybe....Not exactly the same, but maybe the closest.

Jamie Delano has a uniquely poetic style.

Neil Gaiman's style is very poetic, but in a different way to Delano's. Gaiman's style is about flow, whereas Delano's is quite simply poetry in prose form.

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I just didn't like it all that much or really that whole arc in issues #1-3 with the flies and the starving gluttony. I would not have started to read Hellblazer at that time if I saw them when they first came out.

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Ridgway's a bit of an acquired taste, but like a lot of those is well worth the effort.

 

Kim Newman made an interesting observation in an interview shortly before the turn of the millenium (I think it was ostensibly plugging Dracula Cha Cha Cha) that over the course of the '80s and '90s horror as a genre had pretty much given up on social factors and turned instead towards narcissism, monsters and monstrous characters no longer having anything to say about or any particular connection to society as a whole, and instead concerning themselves with solipsism and conceit. Hellblazer has long been an exception to this tendency.

 

Not really since Delano's run, Dog.

It's highly arguable whether you can even call Hellblazer a horror book after Ennis' run, and Ennis' run usually fell prey to exactly the solipsism, conceit, and nihilism that the article was referring to.

I disagree with that. There were no social undercurrents to Paul Jenkins' run? Come off it. There was even the occasional trace of social commentary in Ennis' work.

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