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City of Demons: Hellblazer mini for October 2010

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There's a new Hellblazer mini-series starting this month called "City of Demons",

 

It's 5 issues written by Si Spencer and illustrated by Sean Murphy.

 

If this one passed you by like it did me, here's the scoop, including where you might have heard of those creators before:

http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/07/vertigo-announces-hellblazer-miniseries-by-spencer-and-murphy/

 

hellblazer-cod-1.jpg

 

There's that zippered trenchcoat again. :wink:

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Murphy talked at a bit more length about his "changes" to Constantine's look on his blog a while back - the reasons he gave were completely sound (mainly a dissatisfaction with the extent to which JC's clothes have become an unchanging uniform over the years, a criticism with which I wholeheartedly agree), but he copped to the fact that the outfit he eventually went for may not have been ideally suited to the character. By the sound of things, he'd never read an issue of Hellblazer before (the fact that the first Constantine story he was ever exposed to was Jason Aaron's rather unsatisfying Newcastle punks two-parter doesn't help), and was given absolutely no editorial guidance until he'd nearly finished drawing all five issues of this arc, when it was suddenly decided that it might have been a problem after all. That's around the time when it was decided to make it a miniseries, rather than just an arc in the core title.

 

DC/Vertigo editors, man. W, T, and indeed, F?

 

I'd still love to have seen what Murphy would have come up with if he'd been given the sort of guidance which you'd normally expect when taking on an unfamiliar but long-established character, because he's a gifted artist, and dubious sartorial decisions aside, I think he does a brilliant Constantine. I'd also have been keener on this project if it was being written by someone else - Spencer's previous output hasn't impressed me hugely, although I'm willing to be surprised - but I'm going to be giving it a look anyway, based solely on the art. One side-effect of the completed series being held back for so long is that we got to see a lot of preview pages, and there's some really stunning work in there.

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Funny thing is, a very traditional-looking JC action figure appears in Murphy's 'Joe the Barbarian' among the toy army. Don't know which he worked on first - but Joe is a blinder, visuals-wise.

 

I liked Spencer's 'Books of Magic', which did good Constantine.

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Don't know which he worked on first - but Joe is a blinder, visuals-wise.

 

Well, this has been sitting completed in the archives for over two years now, while Joe is currently delayed while Murphy waits for script pages, so I wouldn't be surprised if that Constantine almost-cameo was a little Easter egg inspired by this whole mess.

 

I haven't read JtB yet, because I'm waiting for it to be finished first. Reports I've heard have been mixed, but even if it winds up slightly disappointing, there's no way I'm missing out on a Morrison/Murphy collaboration - worst case scenario, I end up with eight issues of Sean Murphy art, which can't be a bad thing. The guy's a major talent, and I look forward to seeing where his career takes him in the future.

 

The characterisation of Constantine in BoM:LdW was definitely fairly solid, but there were a few other things about the series which didn't work so well for me, and I found the two issues I read of Vinyl Underground to be seriously weak. Still, I'll wait to judge this book on its own merits - it's not like I've read enough of Spencer's work to have a complete picture of what he's capable of as a writer.

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DC/Vertigo editors, man. W, T, and indeed, F?

 

And that was before they started laying editors off. I dunno. It's baffling, really. It surely can't be that hard to send an email to the artist at the start of a gig to see whether he's okay with what's going on. Or demanding to glance over the pencils/breakdowns before Murphy inks them or something.

 

I dunno, it could be down to endless red tape and bullshit meetings eating away at the actual job of editing. Or it could be down to sheer incompetence or inexperience (which is what I suspect Vankin's editorial run suffered from). Whatever the reason, something is very wrong at DC HQ.

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Murphy talked at a bit more length about his "changes" to Constantine's look on his blog a while back - the reasons he gave were completely sound (mainly a dissatisfaction with the extent to which JC's clothes have become an unchanging uniform over the years, a criticism with which I wholeheartedly agree), but he copped to the fact that the outfit he eventually went for may not have been ideally suited to the character.

 

Also, by the looks of things the 'different look' consists of a slightly more fiddly-looking jacket. I'm not entirely sure why they couldn't have used it as a buffer between Diggle and Milligan. It's hardly going to make anyone's head explode and it's not as big a leap of continuity as, say, Constantine growing all his hair back almost immediately after Milligan's punk two-parter.

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And that was before they started laying editors off. I dunno. It's baffling, really. It surely can't be that hard to send an email to the artist at the start of a gig to see whether he's okay with what's going on. Or demanding to glance over the pencils/breakdowns before Murphy inks them or something.

 

According to Murphy's original post (which, irritatingly, I now can't find, although there's a more recent entry here where the subject of editorial guidance comes up again, which is also pretty revealing), it's even worse than that - he knew enough to realize that the jacket, braces, pointy-nose etc might be a problem, so asked about it very directly, and was reassured that "no, it's fine, keep doing what you're doing". Only later did they suddenly decide that it was an issue, and that it might have been better if he'd done a more traditional, "on-model" version of the character. Apparently, one of the reasons it's now a miniseries is that Murphy's version of the character was deemed so off-model that it would work better in an out-of-continuity standalone context. Which, as you so correctly point out, is nonsense.

 

That's without even mentioning the repeated scheduling clusterfucks. I tend to agree with you that "incompetence" is an appropriate word to use here.

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Also, by the looks of things the 'different look' consists of a slightly more fiddly-looking jacket. I'm not entirely sure why they couldn't have used it as a buffer between Diggle and Milligan. It's hardly going to make anyone's head explode and it's not as big a leap of continuity as, say, Constantine growing all his hair back almost immediately after Milligan's punk two-parter.

 

 

I completely agree that Murphy's version of Constantine, while not exactly traditional, is well within what I'd consider "acceptable parameters" of on-model anyway. Especially now that he's got a colorist who realizes that the zippered coat is meant to be black, not brown, which was one of the big problems with the art in the Aaron two-parter - it just looked like a poorly-realized version of John's normal coat, rather than the completely-different one which was intended. I don't think the new coat looks very good as an item of clothing - zips on a leather trenchcoat? - but I don't particularly mind it from a character-suitability standpoint - if nothing else, Murphy does a better job of evoking the physicality of the iconoclastic 50-something working-class ex-punk John's supposed to be than most artists who've handled the character in the past decade.

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I don't know if u guys know that, but "City of Demons" comes out twice a month starting in October. Karen Berger called it an "Elseworld" for Vertigo, the story takes place in John's "another life". For anyone interested - they are also reprinting Milligan's "The Extremist" finally.

 

That's not Constantine, that's Sean Murphy's face on the cover.. :)

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There'd better be a really good in-story reason for that "elseworlds" tag, because if it's just that John's looking old and wearing a different coat, I'll be thoroughly narked.

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I completely agree that Murphy's version of Constantine, while not exactly traditional, is well within what I'd consider "acceptable parameters" of on-model anyway. Especially now that he's got a colorist who realizes that the zippered coat is meant to be black, not brown, which was one of the big problems with the art in the Aaron two-parter - it just looked like a poorly-realized version of John's normal coat, rather than the completely-different one which was intended. I don't think the new coat looks very good as an item of clothing - zips on a leather trenchcoat? - but I don't particularly mind it from a character-suitability standpoint - if nothing else, Murphy does a better job of evoking the physicality of the iconoclastic 50-something working-class ex-punk John's supposed to be than most artists who've handled the character in the past decade.

 

Oh, for crying out loud. What is 'on-model' anyway? So long as he's a white guy with blue eyes and blonde hair (and, preferably, a scar on his left cheek), that's all you need. I mean, look at the Constantines drawn by Ridgway, Dillon, Philips, Bisley and Camuncoli - still the same guy, but different in proportion and detail. So long as he's not a 500 pound black guy then it shouldn't be an issue.

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So long as he's not a 500 pound black guy then it shouldn't be an issue.

Or a dark-haired septic.

 

I dunno, Constantine continuity's starting to make Doctor Who look simple.

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Not really. It'd all be very simple if I could be arsed to figure out how Wikipedia templates work, so I could update that Hellblazer wiki.

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Yeah, since when did wearing different clothes become a continuity issue?

 

Didn't they refer to All His Engines and the Ian Rankin one as "out of continuity"? Elseworlds used to mean an interesting idea for an alternative reality tale (sometimes even well written). Nowadays it is fanboy short-hand for "editorial laziness".

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Also, if we're not allowed to get more lovely Sean Murphy art because his drawings diverge too far from some imaginary ideal then I'll be very annoyed indeed.

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Yeah, since when did wearing different clothes become a continuity issue?

 

Didn't they refer to All His Engines and the Ian Rankin one as "out of continuity"? Elseworlds used to mean an interesting idea for an alternative reality tale (sometimes even well written). Nowadays it is fanboy short-hand for "editorial laziness".

 

All His Engines? Really? That'd be a shock to me. I hadn't heard that, and I didn't see one detail which wouldn't fit with the monthly continuity.

I can't even say how it'd be an Elseworld book...

"What if John Constantine saw an Aztec spirit in his childhood?".

I looked for details on Wikipedia...but I'm thinking the writer of the article might not speak English as a first language, because it's listed as a "tangent" of the Hellblazer monthly comic.

 

I think they went back and forth on the Ian Rankin book. They had some valid reason for questioning if it would be an in continuity tale or not when it was in production, I'm not sure how they ended up with that though. I still haven't read that book actually.

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If I recall correctly, someone around here figured out - using the date shown on a newspaper page seen in All His Engines - that it would take a fairly extraordinary set of mental gymnastics to neatly fit it in alongside the then-current Mike Carey run on the ongoing title. That, and John's father with his Magic Re-appearing Arm, are the only reasons I can think of, and neither is remotely significant enough to warrant an "out-of-continuity" tag.

 

I haven't actually read the Rankin book yet either, which is weird given how much I was looking forward to it. I'll have to either buy myself a copy or talk to my Friendly Local Red Library at some point soon.

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I haven't actually read the Rankin book yet either, which is weird given how much I was looking forward to it. I'll have to either buy myself a copy or talk to my Friendly Local Red Library at some point soon.

If you promise not to lose the comic behind the Xbox, we will consider renewing your library card.

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"What if John Constantine wore a different coat?"-Worst Elseworlds take ever!

 

heh...

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Are we discussing the actual comic here?

 

Hellblazer:City of Demons #1-I like this a lot better than the monthly title. There's some problems with the dialogue, I found, but overall, this is much more like the HB stories I want to read. There's still some continuity, dealing with the demon blood, which I'd rather totally avoid because I'm so sick of seeing continuity in the monthly comic. But, this is a horror story removed from plots about John's dead girlfriend and his new lover and all that bullocks. I'll give this a 7. I do really like the street feel and the "old fashioned" John Constantine flavour, and we'll see. Compared to the monthly title, this is more like an 8 or 9.

I wonder when this story takes place in the Hellblazer canon?

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What Christian said. I agree with most of what he said. I don't prefer it to the monthly EXCEPT for the Shade shit, can't stand the Shade shit, so it's cool to see John flying solo again and fucking with punk criminals, etcetera. I like the art a lot except for Johns gigantic pointy nose. Eh, what's a boy to do?

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Ripping off Bill Hicks on the FIRST FUCKING PAGE makes Garth's Alfie routine back during Son Of Man look alright by comparison.

 

Might go back and read the rest when the trade comes out.

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