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Bilirubin

Bili's stream of consciousness

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Hi all,

 

Yes, I've decided to reread my way from number one to the present, to refresh my memory about why I like the writers I do, and see what else pops up. Most of Hellblazer from, oh, #54ish, I've only read once, so this is a good time to take another look at the authors you all deign to like above Delano (blessed be his name). As the forum's number two Delano fanboy, I owe it to the other authors to be fair minded, which I hope to be.

 

As I go I will pop my thoughts into this here thread. This will be intermittent throughout the summer, because I'll be on the road a fair bit, but I will bring my collection along with me virtually and try and keep this moving along at a reasonable pace.

 

Please share your thoughts as you wish, read along too if you should be so inclined, or tell me to bugger off. I will respond or ignore as I wish, and unless Ade or James shut me down early (or bust this into n-teen different threads), I hope to learn from you all (me not having much in the way of training in serious literature criticism) as much as my own impressions.

 

Oh yes, spoilers will be found in these pages. If you intend to read any of the books and haven't before I get to them, well, sucks to be you. You have been warned.

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OK, so the Mnemoth two parter has been much discussed of late (see this thread for last year's reading club take on #1) because it is from there that Andy Diggle has taken his inspiration for The Laughing Magician.

 

My impressions after rereading this for about the 20th time: it makes a seamless transition from the American Gothic story in Swamp Thing, both in timing of the story (John returning from South America, recalling Emma, Frank, and the other ghosts) and in the presentation. Especially the later. I have failed to appreciate just how much it LOOKED like AG. Ridgway uses a very sketchy style--in fact, I think I prefer Manco's style over this, because Manco's work is tighter--Ridgway looks as if he could have used an eraser before inking all those lines. The colour palate is exactly the same (or has faded in the same way I suppose).

 

I just love how Jamie worked in foreshadowing elements for pretty much all of the next year's books, from introducing the ghosts, to the subtle hints at Zed, Rambo and the other skins, the occupants of John's boarding house, and of course Chas. He also makes John's ethical stance very clear in his stark comparison with Midnight, and this makes the sacrifice of Lester (and John's subsequent guilt) the more wrenching for me. I think this stance is why John never becomes a truly powerful magus, TBH. And that, IMHO, is why his modus operandi is the con. Show false strength, and false weakness, and hit them where they aren't expecting it. Like Mnemoth. And Lester.

 

Formative issues.

 

Regarding the ghosts: Christian has previously raised the idea that they are all in Constantine's head--an outward expression of his guilt and self loathing. (Christian has also raised the idea that the whole of the Delano run is a figment of a delusional mind inside a body rocking itself gently in an insane asylum, but I do not buy that for a second). This is an interesting idea, and I will consider it as I read further. However, whereas the Delano run is as much psycho as supernatural thriller, his John still lives in a world where hunger can create a demon that expresses itself as an accumulation of insects. Meaning, of course, that ghosts aren't too much a stretch of the imagination in this world.

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I'm excited about this, Bili--I'm rereading a lot of the middle stuff, from late Ennis to Azzarello, since during my first read I zoomed through them. On second reading of Azzarello, I'm actually starting to appreciate some of the coded conversations in between-arc issues like ...And Buried or A Fresh Coat of Red Paint. He actually got some of that shit right. I think, since you're rereading it all, I may go back to the beginning and do this reread properly. I'm looking forward to rediscovering Delano.

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My "Delano's run is a figment of John's delusional mind" was pretty much a piss-take for me to explain away the actual supernatural elements of Delano's run. I wasn't totally serious. I see Delano's run as mostly metaphorical, but for the reader. The Hunger Demon and Nergal can't be properly explained away as only symoblic, although the Hunger Demon is certainly a metaphor.

So, it does create a more ambiguous line as far as John's ghosts. They're certainly symbolic, both to John and to the reader, but in a world where there is a Nergal, it's not necessary to chalk the ghosts down as only psychological.

 

The back-story to that whole idea is actually a paper I wrote for a college Psychology course, where I played fast and loose with Jamie Delano's actual stories to create the impression that the supernatural elements were purely delusions of John's psyche.

 

Oh, also I feel that the supernatural elements being real in John's world works best from the social angle.

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Hey cool! It would be great to have some company in this romp through Constantinian history. And thanks for the clarification Christian.

 

#3 Demon Yuppies from Hell still makes me laugh, even though it is the least psychologically dark of the first number of issues. Its also a real nice reminder of those bygone times (and my raging hate for Reagan and Maggie). But I've always had a hard time with how his "long shot" comes in. OK, so he tries to get Blathoxi to bite on his greed motivation and suspected Tory loss, knowing he wouldn't, but implanting the thought in hell that the election would not go the expected way. Understood, although I find it surprising that hell wouldn't be watching the polls closer--guess that is the pre-CNN world. OK. Belial pulls out of UK souls on this info. So far, so good. So then, while hanging and watching the results come in with an even larger Tory win, he says "improves the chances of his long shot coming in". But but but, despite the Belial pullout, I would think that the market would have been stabilized with the knowledge that folks in the UK would still have the motivation to sell their souls for cash--markets go up and down all the time, right? Would this electoral result in fact IMPROVE the UK soul market? Or does this simply magnify the losses suffered by Blathoxi, that had the market not been disrupted, he would be stinking rich (yes, he threatens his junior cronies should they simply disrupt the market, which they most definitely did)? HOW DOES THE SOUL MARKET DEFY REASON LIKE THIS?!? Ack. I hate economics...

 

#4, Waiting for the Man, is better than the aces I remember it being. Wow, such a tight story. Our first glimpse of Zed, Cheryl, and of course Gemma. First knowledge of John being a scouser too [edit: no I'm wrong here, the Sachimo Hawkins bit in #1 makes a passing mention to this]. But what got me most this time around was the opening scene. The Rose and Crown. The Taj. My mate and I were in BOTH places in the same evening on my last visit. That's bloody Stoke Newington isn't it? Where was John living in the early Delano years anyway?

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Zed, again.

I just finished "The Land Where Dead Men Go". It's the second time I hear about Zed today.

Mike Carey have a capability of systematization and summarization that left me breathless.

I really loved the arc. Specially the end. I was anyway a little bit dissapointed with the encounter of John with his old 'friend', but it was the only spot I saw. The rest is, for me, Pure Gold.

Viva Carey!

 

(Mike)

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at the risk of sounding like a complete newbie, oh wait I am :hattip: I have got out my Originial sins trade and started reading it :) and Now have less questione then I did the other Week. Here;s hoping I can get the the trades or not be lost, as I read this...cheers with the good work

 

VT

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Regarding the ghosts: Christian has previously raised the idea that they are all in Constantine's head--an outward expression of his guilt and self loathing. (Christian has also raised the idea that the whole of the Delano run is a figment of a delusional mind inside a body rocking itself gently in an insane asylum, but I do not buy that for a second). This is an interesting idea, and I will consider it as I read further. However, whereas the Delano run is as much psycho as supernatural thriller, his John still lives in a world where hunger can create a demon that expresses itself as an accumulation of insects. Meaning, of course, that ghosts aren't too much a stretch of the imagination in this world.

 

 

Well, most of Christian's posts are a figment of a delusional mindOHSNAP!

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What Christian's posts?

 

Jay, I think these so-called "posts" are just outward expressions of your guilt and self-loathing.

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#5, When Johnny Comes Marching Home underwhelmed me when I first read it, but this time I got a very strong sense for the desperation of the villagers, especially the guilt ridden Frank. This, and all of the Resurrection Crusade issues, hit a personal nerve with me, having come from a fundie, brainwashing background, which makes those characters all too real and believable, especially how they prey on the desperation of others. Ridgway's art seems to be smoothing out somewhat too. I was left thinking how similar the RC/DA arc paralleled American Gothic in having a number of isolated (including geographically) incidents, which serve as decent standalone stories, slowly come together via the larger unifying plot. This is in stark contrast with what Jamie will do in The Fear Machine.

 

#6 Extreme Prejudice, aka Ironfist the Avenger! I do love this issue, but can't shake the abrubtness with which Zed and the RC were brought together. I would have much preferred more character development--as it is she winds up sort of a mystical social chameleon in all of her appearances in Hellblazer, Girl of Mystery here being my favourite incarnation of her. First introduction to Nergal, and beautifully done parallel action between him and John. I'm disappointed Ray Monde didn't get a longer run too before the big--and at the time it was still a big deal--reveal of his having AIDS. This personal sadness serves as nice counterpoint to the haha of Ironfist's undoing.

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Well, I've left this long enough...time to resume.

 

Issues #7-12, what I consider to be the quintessential Hellblazer arc. Just a ton happens here, with the death of Ray Monde, Zed's recapture by the Resurrection Crusade (and their eventual downfall), the ghosts, the cat and mouse game with Nergal ("Your situation gives me an idea for a musical instrument."), demon blood, Richie Simpson, betrayal and used friends, Newcastle. And one of my favourite issues, "Shot to Hell". I like Rainer's art more this time I think, especially the dinosaur trunk and hind limbs he gives Nergal.

 

I noticed that we see the disheveled look of Constantine for the first time in Shot to Hell--tie undone, shirt unbuttoned, badly wrinkled coat. Its an interesting foreshadow of pretty much the rest of the run of the book post Delano. Its also interesting counterpoint to Delano's portrayal of him--when casual he goes without the tie, but always has the matching blazer and pants.

 

Its also a nearly seamless cross over with Swamp Thing, where we see the arse tatoo get applied for the first time.

 

All in all, IMHO this run established to a great extent the themes that will play out for the next 20 odd years in Hellblazer.

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But Shot to Hell was written by Delano right? so how is the disheveled look at odds to how he portrays John? Or is it that it's not normal the dishelved look, or at least normal at this point in time? Will there be more?

 

Trav

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But Shot to Hell was written by Delano right? so how is the disheveled look at odds to how he portrays John? Or is it that it's not normal the disheveled look, or at least normal at this point in time? Will there be more?

 

Trav

Right, its not the normal portrayal of John in Delano's run. Its only when he is at his most desperate that he looks like that--and I'm not sure we see him like that again (but memory fails--I'll keep an eye out for it as I read on). Others took that as his normal look--and I grew weary of it. Glad Andy cleaned him up.

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These are some fantastic posts, Bili, keep 'em coming. I started reading back through the series from # 1 a few weeks ago, and I'm halfway through Carey's run at the moment. As much as I loved Delano's "Family Man" run, I always struggle to make it through "The Fear Machine". Wow does that story drag on longer than it should have.

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For me, I think it was a decent idea for a story that was stretched to fill WAY too many issues, giving it the pacing of a snail stuck in tar. The first issue in particular can be summed up in one sentence: John meets hippies. Did Delano really need to spend a whole issue (and the majority of the next) on that? I dunno, I really like Delano's run, but Fear Machine just didn't work for me.

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Also, the whole yin/yang gender balance mumbojumbo didn't click with me.

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Also, the whole yin/yang gender balance mumbojumbo didn't click with me.

 

Yeah, it doesn't seem very in character for John. It was kind of like:

 

John: Standing stones have a lot of good magic in them.

Zed: No! Standing stones are evil male energy!

John: Well, I stand corrected. You females sure are super!

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Also, the whole yin/yang gender balance mumbojumbo didn't click with me.

 

Yeah, it doesn't seem very in character for John. It was kind of like:

 

John: Standing stones have a lot of good magic in them.

Zed: No! Standing stones are evil male energy!

John: Well, I stand corrected. You females sure are super!

John (to self): Sure hope that gets me some hot pagan action.

 

Am wading back into this run now. I have no problem with the representation of pagan cosmology as the run ended. I DO have a problem with the short period of time in which Zed manages to escape the angel induced carnage in Glastonbury, hook up with a bunch of pagans, and get herself elevated to high priestess. Mind, she looks good doing it...

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Issue 13, On the Beach. Ick. Never really liked it in the day, and it has not aged well for me. However, it is a foreshadow of the use of Jungian archetypes to tell a story that is Delano at his best. Mnemoth and Norfulthing are both manifestations of human misery and fear, and I would count them as early steps in the progression, but they are only archetypal characters. On the Beach is the first archetypal world, where everything is symbolic. I think this trend hits its highest expression in the Horrorist.

 

Or I could be full of shit. Its an early formed idea of mine that I have to think more on as I read more.

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The Fear Machine.

 

This went down much better than when I first read it, to be honest. It is probably too long, but its varied enough to make up for this quite a bit--like 3 acts in a play: Hippie time, hunting in London, resolution.

 

I found the resolution itself, with the male-female thing, acceptable and in keeping with what I know of neopaganism/Wicca (remember at the time this was written Mists of Avalon was a terribly popular book, which single handedly probably did more for Wicca in North America than any other writing). However, the build up to it was unconvincing. Zed now the high priestess of this pagan village, after, what, 6-12 months after Glastonbury? Actually, the timing of events is all wrong: John split for the hills after Nergal's efforts at his flat, hides out in Brighton until his skin clears and hair grows out some, what, 3 months? Meets the hippies, Zed has already met Errol down Glastonbury but already hooked into the pagan thing (Glastonbury being a decent place to do that of course in real life). Hide with hippies until he grows a decent beard--what, another few months? Then the shit hits, Merc is kidnapped, John fucks off to London (a logical place to search given activities in the COUNTRYSIDE FFS), pisses away another few months in London chatting up retired cops and still working gay journos, then shit hits fan. Total of a year is that? Meanwhile, Zed becomes high priestess by screwing her way to the top? I dunno.

 

And the final issue or two: rushed, deus ex machina et ova. Lots of chatting to tie up loose ends in that. And fractal mathmatics as magic? Um, no. The butterfly effect isn't even fractal mathmatics, other than the idea of scaling.

 

Anyway, there were some smashing moments in this run. The image of Simon "in the closet", the hanging of Fungus Face is still one of the more attention grabbing panels ever drawn I think (and nice the foreshadow of that event with John coming to after getting nutted by Sergei). The introduction of the dragon imagery was nice, and a foreshadow of the coming Annual and the idea of Constantine as an archetypal magician. This is especially true from issue 15 when John, in his dream, mentions seeing a spot where a man could commune with the earth goddess--where we later see Kon-Stan-Tyne. First time we get a sense for John's attitude towards Chas (an idiot) and the first time John promises him they are quits after one last ride. Another comment about John (Jamie?) hating psychedelics. John stealing Abbey Arcane's phrase about the "bad craziness". Arse tatoos.

 

There is lots here, given it was 9 issues long I know I have forgotten a lot of what I thought to mention here, but hopefully I will recall as I go along in conversation here (assuming anyone gives a rats ass)

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#23. Bump bump bump, down the funny stairs.

 

I love this one to pieces. Constantine hangs out with Falstaff.

 

Who were Nancy and Bill?

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