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For all the fuss about Constantine's new leather coat, the general policy seems to be to overlook Andy Diggle's attempt to reboot Hellblazer and bring us the status quo again and again (see what I did?)

 

I've not been bored by this repetition as some have, but it's diminishing returns plus annoyance that twice decent changes of direction have (apparently) been ignored by the incoming writer.

 

:icon_rolleyes: to the power of :mong:

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Confronting the demons of one's past should be familiar ground for John Constantine. But some vicious memories are so horrible and buried so deep that digging them up could leave no one to pick up the pieces.

 

Nice to see they're still using the generic Hellblazer synopsis generator that we sent them.

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For all the fuss about Constantine's new leather coat, the general policy seems to be to overlook Andy Diggle's attempt to reboot Hellblazer and bring us the status quo again and again (see what I did?)

 

Not really. But I'll assume it's a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that Diggle's "reboot" was just as much a let's-get-back-to-more-of-the-same-please effort as Mina's, Carey's, and indeed just about any other run since Paul Jenkins (with the honourable, although flawed-in-execution, exception of Azzarello), in which case hear, hear.

 

Not that it's necessarily a terrible thing, of course - it'd certainly be nice if Hellblazer didn't follow the same rules that every other long-running series eventually, and inevitably, falls into, but it'd be a bit daft to actually expect - or even hope, in all but the most futile of ways - for it not to. But I didn't see anything in Diggle's final issue to tie the incoming writer into any specific direction - like most of the final issues we've been given over the years, it seemed to leave things open enough that the new writer could go in any direction they chose.

 

The only real exception I can think of to that would be Carey, who - while I thoroughly enjoyed his final two-parter - seemed to construct his ending in such a way that the only possible ways to follow it up would be either [a] completely and radically alter the fundamental nature of the book (which was never going to happen, for reasons which should be obvious to everyone), cancel the series, or [c] pay it lip-service for a few months, then reverse it as soon as seemed politely feasible. Of those, I'd probably have most enjoyed [a], but think that Mina did a perfectly respectable job of [c] all things considered.

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No, you are wrong twice.

 

First:

I was not talking about the stories, so much as the transition between writers.

Andy Diggle used a lot of what has gone before to leave John in a more positive frame of mind than we have seen for a long time. Pretty much since Delano's days which was the point. Exceptions being as you've said Azzarello and as you did not say Ellis. Similarly Mike Carey left Constantine swearing off the Magicohol which would have been fairly simple to continue with the character's predilection for smarts and cons. AND would have been interesting to see him dealing with that empathy thing with knowledge and reputation only.

 

If writers taking over the book want to ignore anything it should not be what has gone immediately before.

Mina's story did that but as I said at the time one could assume that Vertigo chose not to publish any tales from the possible 9 months of interim between her story and Mike's. Constantine probably spent most of it in the pub with his mates.

 

Second:

For all the fuss about Constantine's new leather coat, the general policy seems to be to overlook Andy Diggle's attempt to reboot Hellblazer and bring us the status quo again and again (see what I did?)

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Andy Diggle used a lot of what has gone before to leave John in a more positive frame of mind than we have seen for a long time.

 

Indeed, which worked well (or not at all, depending on taste) for his own run. But the final few pages of his last issue seemed to be a lot more open-ended - it wouldn't be at all unreasonable for John to go back to perpetually-pissed-off Master Of Hard Luck Magic after those events. A new writer certainly COULD use it as a springboard to continue Diggle's version of the character, but he could equally treat it as a blank slate to go in whatever direction he chose. It's pretty similar to Delano's final issue in that regard, just a bit less drastic.

 

 

Mike Carey left Constantine swearing off the Magicohol which would have been fairly simple to continue with the character's predilection for smarts and cons. AND would have been interesting to see him dealing with that empathy thing with knowledge and reputation only.

 

It would be interesting - and fairly simple to do, given the nature of the character - to see Batman using Bruce Wayne's business contacts to fight crime by using political influence to effect social change, too. That's not going to happen either, and for the same reason - "working-class magician" is the high-concept core of Constantine in every bit the same way as "guy who dresses up as a rodent to fight crime" is for Batman. I agree that one could certainly remove that aspect and still tell interesting, true-to-the-character stories, but the odds of it actually happening for more than a couple of months were, and remain, slim-to-bubkiss. "What if Hellblazer wasn't a corporately-owned serial comic" is an interesting game to play, but we shouldn't mistake it for a reasonable expectation of what might happen in reality.

 

 

 

Oh, and well-played on the Status Quo gag.

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I think that it is vaguely silly to confuse discussing such wasted potential with an expectation that it would happen.

 

Given that one the strengths of Hellblazer has been its organic (almost real time) growth, it is almost like comparing Apples with Carrots in the mistaken belief that they are oranges to make that Batman comparison.

 

I also think that "anti-establishment conman and magician" is to Constantine as "(upper-middle class) rodent-based crimefighter" is to Batman. But then "working-class magician" is probably the most simplistic high concept since we all laughed at "he's a bad ass bastard mo-fo" that seemed popular when Azzarello took over Hellblazer.

What is working class about what he does ? Apart from drinking with taxi drivers and disliking Tories ?

 

Actually, the working class magician thing does seem to be one of the facets of the solicitations for Milligan's story that appeals to me. I bet the unions don't come out of it well.

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I think that it is vaguely silly to confuse discussing such wasted potential with an expectation that it would happen.

 

Fair.

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The "working class magician" angle was, of course, to differentiate John from other DCU magician characters.

It applied both to his background, his own type of magic, and his personal life.

Phantom Stranger is a celestial being.

Baron Winters was a nobleman in Tsarist Russia who lives in a palatial manor.

John came from a normal background, he's a conman as much as a sorceror (of any type), and he's perfectly happy to live in an apartment and hang out a local pub.

Granted, in John's current world, where almost all vestiges of the DCU have been removed or ignored, and where John can travel to Hell and fight demons, the epithet doesn't have the meaning it once did.

As you pointed out, Adrian, Milligan seems willing to work with the "working class" part a bit more than it seems most recent writers have cared.

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Indeed - I didn't pick that line out of my arse (or even use it because I think it's a wholly fair or accurate summation of everything the character's about, because I don't), it's a phrase that was used quite a bit to sell the character in the beginning, and I'd bet that it's still something DC/Vertigo would see as the marketable core of the character/title. I wasn't comparing Bruce Wayne to John Constantine, I was comparing BATMAN with JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER to explain why I don't think some of the demands and expectations fans have for the title are necessarily entirely fair. Mina came under a lot of flak around here for not sticking with Carey's "no more magic" ending for longer than her first few issues, and I didn't think that was a fair criticism, any more than it will be if and when Milligan takes the character in a slightly-different direction from the one he seemed to be heading in during most of Diggle's run.

 

I certainly wouldn't argue with Ade's "diminishing returns" assessment - if anything, I'd press the theme further into yet another of my tedious whinges about the damage I think the ongoing monthly format risks doing to the character at this point - but given the realities of that format, it's not something I'm going to complain about too much either. I'd rather that Milligan be free to tell the kind of stories he wants to tell with the character, rather than feeling overly beholden to continue in a smooth line from what a previous writer's vision dictated. If those two aims can be made to coincide that's even better, but it's not something that I think should be editorially-enforced, because ultimately I think that'd do far more damage to the book than some slight inconsistencies in characterisation over the course of several years ever could.

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That'd be nice, aye, although a bit late now. Other than Manco, has anyone been drawing the scar lately? I can't remember if Camuncoli included it in his issues, but I'm pretty sure it hasn't made it to Murphy's pages, from the ones I've seen. It's small, but that sort of thing would actually make a difference, and it should be well within the bounds of possibility for someone in charge to get on top of it.

 

Vagueness of the solicitations aside, I'm finding myself looking forward to Milligan's run more than I had been previously. Some of the snippets and hints in the pages Murphy's been showcasing have me distinctly curious.

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Either Camuncoli or his inker Stefano Landini included the scar in the China Miéville story in #250.

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Splendid. Hopefully it'll still be there in the next story, too.

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He has magicked it away.

Or demon blood or something.

 

I don't see how the scar (or the coat) can be that important if the writers are allowed to ignore major plot elements.

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I also think that "anti-establishment conman and magician" is to Constantine as "(upper-middle class) rodent-based crimefighter" is to Batman.

Fie upon you. Master Wayne isn't middle class! :tongue:

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I also think that "anti-establishment conman and magician" is to Constantine as "(upper-middle class) rodent-based crimefighter" is to Batman.

Fie upon you. Master Wayne isn't middle class! :tongue:

 

Rich American. Obviously not Upper Class dear boy...

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I don't see how the scar (or the coat) can be that important if the writers are allowed to ignore major plot elements.

 

It's not more important, it's more realistically-achievable. You're quite right that it's not a huge deal either way, though.

 

Anyway, what "major" plot elements are you talking about? I thought our previous conversation was about the general direction of the book, not specific plot stuff. To use the Mina example again, it's not like she actively ignored the end of Carey's run, after all - she just shifted direction away from it fairly quickly. A little awkward in the transition, perhaps, but hardly "ignoring a major plot element".

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I don't see how the scar (or the coat) can be that important if the writers are allowed to ignore major plot elements.

 

It's not more important, it's more realistically-achievable. You're quite right that it's not a huge deal either way, though.

 

Anyway, what "major" plot elements are you talking about? I thought our previous conversation was about the general direction of the book, not specific plot stuff. To use the Mina example again, it's not like she actively ignored the end of Carey's run, after all - she just shifted direction away from it fairly quickly. A little awkward in the transition, perhaps, but hardly "ignoring a major plot element".

 

Actually she might be thought of as having been handed a poisoned chalice given the state Carey left our chum in. Although she made a hash of it, the outline of what she did works well enough in rehabilitating the wrecked and burned out Constatntine to the point where he can feel again after the massive traumas of his visit to hell and his losing his sister and so on.

 

Her getting him to say "it isn't really magic" etc. shows him to be a magic addict in denial and it was inevitable that he'd return to it, but the way she wrote it was rather clumsy.

 

Seen in such a framework then when Andy took over there's a strong logic for this battered old scruff to seek renewal and to do so in what he knows, returning to his former self as it were, but then, in the later part of Andy's run leaving his trenchcoat behind and even his tie.

 

 

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Actually she might be thought of as having been handed a poisoned chalice given the state Carey left our chum in.

 

Yeah, that's more-or-less what I was arguing upthread.

 

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i'm torn. first, it was john's basic character (flaws?) and sarcastic while saving either the block or the universe that sold me on hellblazer to begin with, but it does seem like everytime it seems like a change will come, the new writer takes us back to familiar territory and leaves us there til he or she is ready to depart, then it's something uncharacteristic and back to same ol'.

 

a drastic change might be too much for some readers (perhaps including myself) but it would be nice to see john in situations that didn't involve world ending demons, or mundane observations of others being cursed or something. i'm not really sure what i'm trying to say other than it would be nice to see john in a new setting, plot, etc, that isn't too strange, but a definite change of pace.

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Agreed - I like to defend Azzarello's run on that score, even though the execution of most of his stories left plenty to be desired.

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I'd say for people wanting something new out of Hellblazer, Mike Carey left an open goal rather than a poisoned chalice.

Andy Diggle's story makes a better attempt of following that up, but then he did some of the most cumbersome magic thereafter.

 

Mina's first half would barely have been troubled by Constantine not using magic, and if he'd had a bit of a struggle with that it'd have had great potential. In fact the arseholes he broke the abstinence for are barely worth a three card "Lady vanishes" trick. As an unexplained act, it's up there with why didn't he cut the lady from the tree in Doglick for me.

 

If Constantine swore off magic it'd be comparable with the major story arcs that Batman (Azbat), Superman (Death of) and Swamp Thing (sprout) had back in the days when they did not also have to tie in with ten year long multi-title crossovers. We know he's coming back but how will he get there. Surely this is preferable to "We know he's going to defeat this demon etc etc" ?

 

It is not clear that Milligan is ignoring the Diggle run, but the artist apparently is.

 

Was it Tom who pointed out the scene where Constantine faces down a room full of Demons with only his (other kind of) charm ? Incidentally, I agree with that synopsis of Azzarello and it is a shame that his essence of Constantine could not dwell in better stories after the first year.

 

All of which leaves us with some (traditionally crap) pre-solicitations and some art previews which I would sum up thus:

 

Bermejo's covers = YES

Apparent return to harrassed Constantine = NO

Cartoony Constantine in Mid-Life Crisis Trenchcoat = NO

New artist with some decent reference material and Dynamic Panel Structure = YES

Nice choice of writer, bringing more political themes and a look back at Constantine's past = YES

 

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i'm torn. first, it was john's basic character (flaws?) and sarcastic while saving either the block or the universe that sold me on hellblazer to begin with, but it does seem like everytime it seems like a change will come, the new writer takes us back to familiar territory and leaves us there til he or she is ready to depart, then it's something uncharacteristic and back to same ol'.

 

a drastic change might be too much for some readers (perhaps including myself) but it would be nice to see john in situations that didn't involve world ending demons, or mundane observations of others being cursed or something. i'm not really sure what i'm trying to say other than it would be nice to see john in a new setting, plot, etc, that isn't too strange, but a definite change of pace.

 

I'd say there's nothing wrong with familar territory - as a starting point, it is a matter of where you go from that point. If I were writing Hellblazer (and if it were even slightly feasible that I'd be asked you should pray I never do!) I'd probably want to tease you all and set up expectations and then trick you by going against those expectations (which Andy seems to have managed several times). So, if I were folowing on from the newly groomed Diggle version I might first show JC at his very tattiest, but make it for a reason and have him go home, shower and change. I'd certainly not want him to abandon his trenchcoat, but he isn't meant to be Seth Brundle, so he should have some different clothes knocking around, a few striped shirts, worn open-necked, a leather jacket that doesn't look like a shiny trenchcoat that shrunk in the wash, a few pairs of jeans.

 

London provides a natural centre for Hellblazer stories and although it frequently features, it is sadly under-utilised. There was a French novelist who wrote a series of detective novels, each featuring a different arrondisment of Paris and he covered all the arrondisments that way. Imagine doing a long series of Hellblazer stories, each set in a different part of London and with the area informing the plot. (The writer's name was Leo Malet, his character for these novels was Nestor Burmah if you are interested).

 

Even the magic aspect could be pushed into different directions. it strikes me that most Hellblazer writer don't actually know that much about the subject and there's a whole load of stuff, both deeper plotting and incidentals that could enrich the mix just by reading a few books and going to a few funny meetings, looking around the occult scene and satirising it. (That would be richly deserved btw).

 

 

All of which suggests to me that with even a few tweaks the whole Hellblazer concept can be renewed several times at the very least and the result would be good and fresh, thoughtful and funny and nasty as hell.

 

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