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Over on the Andy Diggle Q&A thread, both Christian and I agreed that Mike Carey's run would have been (even) more satisfying if he'd thrown in an issue here or there where Constantine stopped to consider all the horror that's gone down, rather than bouncing from one crisis (Shadow Dog/amnesia/demon kids/Hell) to the next.

 

Obviously we got The Gift and RSVP at the end, but I think it would have improved the pacing slightly if a few more such issues had been thrown in.

 

Then JasonT said...

 

I don't see anything wrong with every once in a while having an issue where John is miserable about his life, or what have you.

...

There should be issues where John catches his breath amidst all the action.

I agree that's desirable for a panel, or a page; but a whole issue? Hellblazer doesn't chronicle every second of John's life, just the bits that are entertaining. The catching of breath happens between issues. What you're describing might be best left to fanfic (not that there's anything wrong with that).

 

...

 

If John's character isn't seen to participate in entertaining stories, no new readers will come to love that character.

 

I disagree with a couple of points here. First of all, when reading the comic on a monthly basis, I do need breathers here or there to break up a constant flow of arc story, otherwise I end up with narrative fatigue. It happened with the middle part of Carey's run, with the transfer from Amnesia storyline to the kids storyline and it might have happened in Mina's run without the little one-shot flashback issue.

 

Secondly, I don't think that character-based stories are necessarily going to be boring or otherwise lacking in entertainment. I enjoyed the first half of Carey's RSVP, for example, which is mostly just John moping about and setting fire to things, and Ennis did some cracking issues that had little going on plot-wise, like John's 40th birthday party.

 

Thirdly, character-based stories won't necessarily kill off interest in the comic: Ennis's run remains the highest-selling period that Hellblazer went through, for example. Just so long as there are enough story-based, exciting plots to balance things out, I doubt that the readership would drop the comic on that basis.

 

You need the quiet moments to give the important stuff some kind of context, otherwise the action just becomes white noise.

 

What do you think?

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As I said in the original discussion, I'm all for the occasional quiet, character based issue as long as it does not lead to the marginalizing of genre content (which happened in Azzarello's run which wasnt too hot on characterization either come to think of it). HB is not HB if there are no supernatural elements in it but other than that I'm all for the characterization issues.

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What about the Crib? Huh? Huh? What then, hotshot?

 

Actually, I don't mind a lack of supernatural content at all, so long as it doesn't become the status quo. Spending an arc or issue without magic, ghosts, goblins or gods might make a nice change.

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What about the Crib? Huh? Huh? What then, hotshot?

 

Actually, I don't mind a lack of supernatural content at all, so long as it doesn't become the status quo. Spending an arc or issue without magic, ghosts, goblins or gods might make a nice change.

 

An issue, maaayyyyybe. An arc?! No way.

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It's possible to tell horror stories - very good horror stories, even - without supernatural content. The fact that you don't think Azzarello did a very good job of it when he attempted to do so doesn't mean that the idea is inherently flawed.

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It's possible to tell horror stories - very good horror stories, even - without supernatural content. The fact that you don't think Azzarello did a very good job of it when he attempted to do so doesn't mean that the idea is inherently flawed.

 

You're right, I'll rephrase. I don't think it is a good idea to have HB stories with no genre content at all. Which is to say that an issue or two with non supernatural horror is fine by me but non supernatural horror is (in my book anyhow) genre content too. However, that said, a whole ARC of HB without any supernatural presence would be a bit much in my view. It's just not that kind of comic.

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I think it's necessary to Hellblazer that John every so often has some quiet time (which could be as much as a whole issue if it's done well) for reflection, introspection, and self-flagellation. 8-)

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Without the 'quiet' issues, Hellblazer could lose a lot of what sets it apart from the competition, the fact that John is (to a degree) a normal bloke. All the zooming around also leaves less time for character interaction than I would like, or for him to change as a person.

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The occasional breather issue would be alright, especially with some comedic elements thrown in. I don't care to read a whole issue about John moping about being depressed.

Too much of it would be boring.

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You wouldn't have said the issues where Constantine investigates his lock up being done over and pauses for a drink and a moan with the nergal infested Chas counted as a couple of breathers, James?

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I think part of the reason that Garth's run is, generally, held in high regard stems from his ability (at the time, cause Lord knows he seems to have long since lost it!) to balance the big nasty stuff with moments of quite reflection.

 

Dangerous Habits is the perfect example, half-of-it is John struggling to come to terms with the situation he finds himself in, whilst the other has him bottling the devil and spoofing ugly shapechanging things. Then, when all was said and done, we got an issue to see the fallout of John's actions, on himself. Jenkins did a pretty good job in that regard too and, when I think about it, I'd probably have to say that a lot of my favourite Hellblazer moments are more natural than supernatural in tone.

 

Andy's said that he's not a big fan of John-down-the-pub tales, which is a real shame cause it's been far too long since we had that take on Constantine - though Denise has dabbled teasingly close to indulging my tastes in the regard!

 

You need the quiet moments to give the important stuff some kind of context, otherwise the action just becomes white noise.

 

So, yeah, agreed 100%.

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I'd broadly agree with your three points, James, with the observation that there can be pauses within an issue that is otherwise full-on - ironically some of the moments when Chas was beating the crap out of John serve that very purpose. Carey used a few of those and (inadvertently) a flashback/diversion tale with the Gruinard arc. Ennis and Jenkins used the "punctuation" stories best (when they were at their best).

 

I do think that Azzarello's stronger moments came with a hint of con-magic rather than actual supernaturalism, and that on the whole he was best at the non-supernaturist arcs. Ellis's two attempts are pretty good but single arcs.

 

Overall, I'd prefer an approximate structure of ARC-single-single-ARC (4-5 issue for the arc, perhaps 2 issue tales) with the threads holding them together being mostly the fact that it's about this guy, you know? And that's a very loose structural guide given to illustrate the point rather than a rigid framework.

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Nobody got a sense of doom and dread from the fact that Carey was making an effort to keep the character under pressure for most of his run, then?

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You wouldn't have said the issues where Constantine investigates his lock up being done over and pauses for a drink and a moan with the nergal infested Chas counted as a couple of breathers, James?

 

In terms of pure story, yes. But not from a character point of view - in that respect they were more like distractions.

 

Carey used a few of those and (inadvertently) a flashback/diversion tale with the Gruinard arc.

 

Yeah, I think that would have been a lot better all round if it had taken place after Staring at the Wall, as was originally planned.

 

Overall, I'd prefer an approximate structure of ARC-single-single-ARC (4-5 issue for the arc, perhaps 2 issue tales) with the threads holding them together being mostly the fact that it's about this guy, you know? And that's a very loose structural guide given to illustrate the point rather than a rigid framework.

 

Agreed. And overall I'd rather have a lot of smaller stories than fewer, longer ones. But that might just be my greed and appalling attention span.

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It's possible to tell horror stories - very good horror stories, even - without supernatural content. The fact that you don't think Azzarello did a very good job of it when he attempted to do so doesn't mean that the idea is inherently flawed.

 

You're right, I'll rephrase. I don't think it is a good idea to have HB stories with no genre content at all. Which is to say that an issue or two with non supernatural horror is fine by me but non supernatural horror is (in my book anyhow) genre content too. However, that said, a whole ARC of HB without any supernatural presence would be a bit much in my view. It's just not that kind of comic.

My comments and your reply from the other thread weren't carried over, but I took it that you didn't enjoy stories with little action or adventure, as your comments pointed out that you had a serious problem with much of Paul Jenkins' run being boring even though you could not think of an issue that did not contain a horror/fantasy/supernatural element. I'm sure you could see why I would get confused about the intent of your comments.

 

I do feel that issues without any genre elements in them are fine and interesting and would like to see them, but even issues lacking in adventure or action but still featuring some supernatural element as seen in issue #51 and many of Jamie Delano and Paul Jenkins' issues is just as acceptable.

 

And, my comments also called for an occasional non-genre story, not to turn Hellblazer into Breakfast After Noon, or anything. I don't see why anyone would become bored and stop reading Hellblazer because we had an issue in between story-arcs about fighting big, nasty demons where John mopes about the fact that he's lonely.

And by non-genre, I do agree, in that I feel that horror elements without any supernatural elements is still a genre element.

Azzarello's run had severe problems, and not putting supernatural horror elements in most of his stories was not the problem.

 

*By the by, I don't diasagree with you about a lot of Jenkins' run being boring, but it had to do with the supporting cast and the supernatural elements for me. If John had a better supporting cast and was involved in non-genre stories, I would've enjoyed Jenkins run so much better, because I absolutely loved his characterization of John. I just couldn't stand any of his supporting cast and hated all the mythology elements that he used constantly (it reminded me of Sandman:Lite).

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Nobody got a sense of doom and dread from the fact that Carey was making an effort to keep the character under pressure for most of his run, then?

No, because John just kept going on and on, giving no hint that he was going to have a breakdown. He seemed to take it all pretty much in-stride.

And seeing the depressive, alcoholic, suicidal John Constantine from Delano and Ennis era, it seemed at the first signs of too much stress, John would've been slitting his wrists.

Oh wait! John did do that in Carey's run! Yeah....

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I disagree with a couple of points here.

Just based on reading your first post in this thread, you seem to be disagreeing with things I didn't actually say:

 

First of all, when reading the comic on a monthly basis, I do need breathers here or there to break up a constant flow of arc story, otherwise I end up with narrative fatigue. ...

What I thought we were originally discussing was — for want of better terms — "adventures" vs "the quiet times in between". Or, Constantine's life as an unbroken series of crises, as opposed to times of introspection. (Christian, if I've got that wrong, please jump in.) And what I said was (emphasis added):

I agree that's desirable for a panel, or a page; but a whole issue?

But James, I suspect you're now referring to the need for occasional changes in tone or pace; or possibly the need for shorter stories to break up a series of long arcs. If so, then a) that wasn't what we were talking about, and b) I agree.

 

 

Secondly, I don't think that character-based stories are necessarily going to be boring or otherwise lacking in entertainment.

Neither do I. "If John's character isn't seen to participate in entertaining stories..." clearly refers to a universe in which the two are compatible. :) You cited a couple of examples yourself.

 

Thirdly, character-based stories won't necessarily kill off interest in the comic: Ennis's run remains the highest-selling period that Hellblazer went through, for example. Just so long as there are enough story-based, exciting plots to balance things out, I doubt that the readership would drop the comic on that basis.

I like character-based stories; what I was warning against was issues that are 100% navel-gazing, which isn't the same thing.¹ I advocated character participating in entertaining stories; you defend character-based stories. (My emphasis.) See? It's like we were separated at birth. :)

 

What I was implying might kill off interest in the comic is plotless mopey angst studies, the sort of indulgent thing that's the staple of fanfic. I'm not trying to insult the tastes of anyone here — understandably, fans always want to see more of their favourite character. But it isn't necessarily healthy for the franchise.

 

 

You need the quiet moments to give the important stuff some kind of context, otherwise the action just becomes white noise.

Agreed, but as I said, not for a whole issue. That hypothetical issue would only cater for the readers who've followed the title for long enough to need a break. I believe each issue should, ideally, have appeal in and of itself.

 

I maintain that what we were originally talking about — the need to see John contemplating his life on his days off — is inherently fannish.

 

James, I hope my scissoring hasn't removed any of your remarks from their context.

 

EDIT: 1. This bit rewritten for clarity.

Edited by JasonT

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You said it was fine for a panel or a page, but not a whole issue. That was what James was referring to, in that he sees no problem with an entire issue based on that concept.

James wasn't saying there should be an issue to break up longer arcs. Maybe he did make that point at some time, but that would be irregardless of the wider discussion, and his point seems to be the same as mine, that every so often, there should be an issue where John takes stock of his life and doesn't get involved in any adventures.

 

Even superhero comics have had issues where an entire issue consisted of nothing except characterization and angst. The original Chris Claremont run on Uncanny X-Men had tons of issues where the X-Men sat around the mansion and lived their lives, with no action in the issue at all. It was something that happened every so often to break up the X-Men beating up Juggernaut and Magneto every issue.

Also, John Constantine is a strong character. Most people get drawn into Hellblazer because of John. It's not as if it's hard to find a horror comic book, but finding one that is worth reading month after month for years is much harder because usually the characters take a backseat to cool scenes of monsters doing scary stuff.

 

It's unfair and wrong to say that "navel gazing" is the ground of fan-fiction. More likely, it is the ground of indy comic books. Most indy books are about realistic people living their lives. Usually with an overt amount of angst. John Constantine is a realistic person. There's no reason that the reader cannot sit back and enjoy an issue of Hellblazer which is based on this premise. Most of Jamie Delano's issues were really just focused on John feeling sorry for himself and wishing he were dead.

I think it screams "fannish" to say that Hellblazer can only be a horror comic. That non-genre stories should not exist in a horror comic. Not every reader of Hellblazer is a horror fan or reads Hellblazer because it's got demons and ghosts.

Hellblazer has always been about John Constantine. He's supposed to be a normal guy dealing with crazy events and somehow managing to come out alive, even if not always the victor. His world was very existential. Lately in Hellblazer, we've been moving away from this, where John becomes a protagonist as seen in any other comic book. A guy who deals with the supernatural. He always finds a way to win in the end. He's lost a lot of the original appeal of the series.

John used to be someone I could relate to, who happened to keep getting involved in crazy supernatural events. He was the "bad luck magician". He didn't always deal with things well.

The end of Jamie Delano's run was pretty much John realizing, "My life sucks. I hate myself. What am I going to do?". He was a man trying to deal with his life.

Now John just accepts everything his life as totally natural and just goes with the flow, seemingly almost apathetic to everything going on around him. And while this could make a good plot point, it's not a part of the plot, it's just the way John is written, just like Batman going against the Joker.

 

To do the non-genre stories monthly would be too much and would lose most readers unless they were big fans of Adrian Tomine (I AM! heh). But, it can be a needed respite, as the reader wants to empathize with John, wants to feel with John. New readers want to discover who John is.

I do not believe that Hellblazer is the best horror comic being published today. If the reader wants to read a good horror story, I don't think they'll stay with Hellblazer, because it's not scary anymore. New readers want to know about who John is, why he is. He was an unique character in mainstream comics, and that's what drew in readers. These are types of things you discover in quiet issues.

John's been dealing with some heavy shit of late, with everything that's happened in his life.

As James pointed out, the first part of RSVP was a wonderful issue and was a needed break. It was an issue based solely on characterization, where John did nothing except deal with the events of his recent life.

It was my favourite issue of Hellblazer since "Haunted" (which wasn't an issue, I know, but....).

 

Wpuld I like to see more characterization put into each issue, for a few panels or a page? Yes. I think that's something that is needed in most issues, and that goes for any comic book too.

But, there's no reason why Hellblazer can't go back to the way it was before, when there were quiet issues purely of introspection and characterization. No one complained back then. A lot of people feel the book was better back then too.

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Yeah, I'm pretty sure fanfiction is the realm of:

"What if John met Wolverine?"

"What if John fought Harry Potter?"

"What if John and Kit got married?"

"What if John had sex with Nicholas Cage?"

"What if John was my uncle?"

"What if John lived in Wonderland?"

 

You've confused fan fiction with literature....

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Yeah, I'm pretty sure fanfiction is the realm of:

"What if John met Wolverine?"

"What if John fought Harry Potter?"

"What if John and Kit got married?"

"What if John had sex with Nicholas Cage?"

"What if John was my uncle?"

"What if John lived in Wonderland?"

 

You've confused fan fiction with literature....

If it doesn't involve Alysson Hannigan's character out of Buffy having sex with somebody, then it isn't fanfiction.

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Definitely need "breather" issues mixed in. 5-7 issue long arcs, one-off issue, shorter arc. Some combo of those lengths always works best for me. At the very least, have a breather issue after a major arc in which the characters deal with what has gone on. For all the faults the X-Men books have had over the years, they've always been really good about having an "epilogue" issue after every major event.

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How long has John been "on the run"?

 

Does he really need a longer break? (whole 2-5 issue arc)

5 seems bit too much. 1 or 2 would probably mean there's gonna be another flashback(s). I'd go for 3 if he really needs it that much.

 

Wonder what would that be about apart from visiting bars and meeting old friends (if anyone suddenly pops out like Brandon)

 

"Let's have one with vampires in it, eh?" :] jk

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John was supposed to take a break from his life, but lo and behold, his entire life from London up and moved to Glasgow with him! :rolleyes:

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Maybe he did.

Having scientifically proved that there were several time lags in Mike Carey's run, perhaps there was one between Mike's last and Denise's first? For example, the events shown so far in Denise Mina's run have not taken ten months.

 

They key is how much does a new writer show and is there a need for "later" captions?

 

Actually, perhaps Hellblazer was an unannounced title in that "one year later" thing.

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