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QuietScholar

What do you want from Hellblazer?

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well, i guess i have to ask this question - its one i asked a while back, but given the thread i feel validated for asking again.

 

What are you looking for out of a John Constantine story?

 

The past few writers who have helmed, have more or less been panned on this website and others. Milligan, Mina, et al. Mike Carey escapes most of the time, although he's criticized for his continual use of.....Continuity - as if John is trapped/married to his past.

 

And that's true in a way - when in doubt, recycle the Norfulthing! or Ravenscar! or Nergal! or the Golden Boy!

 

There's a genuine sentiment amognst many HB fans that something has been wrong, and wrong for a while.

 

But what would make it right?

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Don't forget that negativity is the default setting on the internet.

 

So here's what I don't want.

There have been different issues with each of the writers for me, rather than a consistent batch of complaints.

 

Continuity's not a problem if it's used to establish a character, I liked most of Carey and Diggle's use, but the former's long arc was not as satisfying as his short stories, and Diggle's petered out. When writers (and marketting departments) proclaim "Something New", I don't want big showboaty things. On reflection, Azzarello's idea to take Constantine from the forefront sounds good, but it was not carried through (it's all well trying a story from everyone else's perspective, but you have to be a bit clearer or else some people think it's ALL true) and in some stories it came at the expense of him not being a recognisable character. Milligan's "Something New" should not have been the wedding, but the way that Constantine interacts with Epiphany, and the wedding issue gave us a bog-standard soap opera event - "In This Issue Someone Dies" becomes "In This Episode Someone Gets Into Trouble And Wrongly Seeks Revenge On Our Hero". I like Milligan's ideas more than his stories - as discussed at length, the latest one was a definite touch of Azzarello non-Constantinian behaviour.

 

What I'd like to see in a book that's gone on for this long, if it is to continue as a serial * is

 

1) less reliance on the elements of Constantine's life.

I am less interested on the trials and tribulations of his married life and more interested in him getting on with what he does. In order of preference: deals with things that require his expertise, not so much supernatural threats to himself or his loved ones. That's the Hellblazer equivalent of a breakout from Arkham Asylum at this point. But people who know he's out there or come into contact with him might see him as a threat, or a potential ally (usually turns out bad if you are a politician or businessman).

 

2) horror that does not mean demons demons demons. And sometimes could be Scooby Doo villains rather than just supernatural. By that I don't mean cartoony villains, but people using the pretence of supernatural. Some of Milligan's arc has had that, but Andy Diggle's gangland villains were way more horrifying than the current bunch - because they were real.

 

3) when established supporting cast members appear that they have evolved off screen rather than being shoe-horned into a staple set-piece story (eg Gemma's woman near the refrigerator vulnerability after her mother's death - I have no idea if the empathy virus thing was responsible for her appearance in Denise Mina's arc, but I'd expected better handling of Gemma from her, then there's the shift in her latest appearance (although there's a fumbled attempt to set it up) along with that of Angie (again, not unreasonable if we didn't know more of her from Carey's run). I'd like Hellblazer's cast to develop like the real world - some people move on, and we see them years later and some are the same as they were, others have changed. Only Carey tried to do that (and we all remember dead people coming back to life!) as opposed to creating a new person to fill a role (which is also logical storytelling for someone who loses friends like Constantine does). Epiphany should speak to Chas's missus.

 

4) Those political /real world stories.

But to be a bit more complex than (to paraphrase Stewart Lee on the writing of Dan Brown) "The bad man does a bad thing. Out hero punishes the bad man."

oh "And then Nergal/FOTF turns out to have been behind it all along".

 

(* and everyone should know by now my views on how the series should move on from the real time life story.)

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I want exactly what A. Heathen wants. Oh, and I want the remainder of my subscription issues that won't arrive now, thanks to DC being a bunch of ass-hats.

 

 

Don't forget that negativity is the default setting on the internet.

 

So here's what I don't want.

There have been different issues with each of the writers for me, rather than a consistent batch of complaints.

 

Continuity's not a problem if it's used to establish a character, I liked most of Carey and Diggle's use, but the former's long arc was not as satisfying as his short stories, and Diggle's petered out. When writers (and marketting departments) proclaim "Something New", I don't want big showboaty things. On reflection, Azzarello's idea to take Constantine from the forefront sounds good, but it was not carried through (it's all well trying a story from everyone else's perspective, but you have to be a bit clearer or else some people think it's ALL true) and in some stories it came at the expense of him not being a recognisable character. Milligan's "Something New" should not have been the wedding, but the way that Constantine interacts with Epiphany, and the wedding issue gave us a bog-standard soap opera event - "In This Issue Someone Dies" becomes "In This Episode Someone Gets Into Trouble And Wrongly Seeks Revenge On Our Hero". I like Milligan's ideas more than his stories - as discussed at length, the latest one was a definite touch of Azzarello non-Constantinian behaviour.

 

What I'd like to see in a book that's gone on for this long, if it is to continue as a serial * is

 

1) less reliance on the elements of Constantine's life.

I am less interested on the trials and tribulations of his married life and more interested in him getting on with what he does. In order of preference: deals with things that require his expertise, not so much supernatural threats to himself or his loved ones. That's the Hellblazer equivalent of a breakout from Arkham Asylum at this point. But people who know he's out there or come into contact with him might see him as a threat, or a potential ally (usually turns out bad if you are a politician or businessman).

 

2) horror that does not mean demons demons demons. And sometimes could be Scooby Doo villains rather than just supernatural. By that I don't mean cartoony villains, but people using the pretence of supernatural. Some of Milligan's arc has had that, but Andy Diggle's gangland villains were way more horrifying than the current bunch - because they were real.

 

3) when established supporting cast members appear that they have evolved off screen rather than being shoe-horned into a staple set-piece story (eg Gemma's woman near the refrigerator vulnerability after her mother's death - I have no idea if the empathy virus thing was responsible for her appearance in Denise Mina's arc, but I'd expected better handling of Gemma from her, then there's the shift in her latest appearance (although there's a fumbled attempt to set it up) along with that of Angie (again, not unreasonable if we didn't know more of her from Carey's run). I'd like Hellblazer's cast to develop like the real world - some people move on, and we see them years later and some are the same as they were, others have changed. Only Carey tried to do that (and we all remember dead people coming back to life!) as opposed to creating a new person to fill a role (which is also logical storytelling for someone who loses friends like Constantine does). Epiphany should speak to Chas's missus.

 

4) Those political /real world stories.

But to be a bit more complex than (to paraphrase Stewart Lee on the writing of Dan Brown) "The bad man does a bad thing. Out hero punishes the bad man."

oh "And then Nergal/FOTF turns out to have been behind it all along".

 

(* and everyone should know by now my views on how the series should move on from the real time life story.)

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1) less reliance on the elements of Constantine's life.

I am less interested on the trials and tribulations of his married life and more interested in him getting on with what he does. In order of preference: deals with things that require his expertise, not so much supernatural threats to himself or his loved ones.

 

2) horror that does not mean demons demons demons.

 

 

Now you see, i'd think that Number 1 is in fact a consistent complaint. Arguably Hellblazer started off as a mix of political angst/horror. The serial has definitely moved away from that toward family man concerns (no pun intended);.

 

Is it right to even call Hellblazer a horror comic at this point? Sure we get the odd-standalone story that brings back the old '80s/'90s rush of Constantine the Trickster. But those nuggets are awash in a sea of personal drama stories.

 

4) Those political /real world stories.

But to be a bit more complex than (to paraphrase Stewart Lee on the writing of Dan Brown) "The bad man does a bad thing. Out hero punishes the bad man."

oh "And then Nergal/FOTF turns out to have been behind it all along".

 

But wouldn't that require the writer to be invested in those issues in the first place?

 

And how hard would it be to find someone who is strung up like that these days?

 

Actually here's a general question to anyone reading: Does anyone have any candidates for a new writer?

 

As for the Nergal/FOTF story cruch, I guess writers find the use of those characters as easy and safe - like pitting Superman against Luthor.

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I think it is possible to do the soapy stuff and the horror, and would indicate several stories from the back issues (Carey being most recent, but also Jenkins, Ennis and Delano, and though it might curdle the very blood of some folks here, even Ennis did it with Kit. Azzarello chose to step away from it, Ellis didn't really get into it.).

 

In answer to your other question: China Mieville.

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I'm over the stories in which the whole planet is in peril.

 

Sometimes good & evil don't need to be universal.

 

Tired of digging up the past. Crossovers aren't always badass.

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answer to your other question: China Mieville.

 

Now that's someone i can get behind. China might be it, unless someone wants to venture another Ellis run, not like he'd ever consider doing it of course.

 

I'm over the stories in which the whole planet is in peril.

 

Sometimes good & evil don't need to be universal.

 

Tired of digging up the past. Crossovers aren't always badass.

 

I agree. I think the last few writers have been pretty good about avoiding the "world is going to end" business, although Carey let a bit of that show during the Shadow Dog arc.

 

As for digging up the past - thats an addiction few writers seem to want to break. As much as i disliked the run, Brian Azzarello at least tried to do that - although we ended up with someone who essentially wasnt John.

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But, digging up the past is a fairly new trend in Hellblazer.

It only started with Mike Carey.

Jamie Delano. Garth Ennis. Paul Jenkins. Warren Ellis. Brian Azzarello. None of them did.

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Jenkins did do a bit of continuity-fiddling, but yes - Carey was the first guy to mine the seam of continuity to any great extent. He was also the guy who brought back Nergal for the first time in about 200 issues, which is why it's kind of weird that he's now a Big Deal again.

 

Er, so what do I want? Satisfying long-term arcs - either plot or character (or, preferably, both) - told via several smaller, almost entirely self-contained individual arcs. Like the first half of Carey's run, actually, which is actually rather brilliant, even on re-reading (which is what I've been doing a lot of lately).

 

Beyond that? I dunno. Some political commentary, if the writer is so inclined. A great sense of place and time (something that Ellis was great at, and Delano even more so). More stories about Constantine discovering/dealing with something interesting on a small-scale basis rather than more BIG APOCALYPTIC STORIES! Definitely no Mina/Diggle-style rolling arcs.

 

Basically what Milligan is doing right now, I suppose. But... better?

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I want Brisithness. I want John Constantine to outsmart his enemies. I want his enemies to be well-developed bastards, not fucking muppets. I want him to have trouble doing it, and to do so at some cost. I want John to fuck with the pompous, the greedy, and the small-minded.

 

I want strange. If it's not completely in Britain, I prefer the international stage.

 

I want well thought-out plots, interesting characters, fascinating locations.

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In addition to what Ade and Qusoor said, I'd add better promotion by DC. Hellblazer is it's longest running Vertigo series, not to mention one of the longer running title in DC's entire line. It has been and should be the flag ship for Vertigo. You would think with a book pushing the 300 mark, there would be more pride and promotion. Also, they should maintain using Hellblazer as a sort of window, from time to time, into the supernatural/horror world of Vertigo; Swamp Thing, Shade, Phantom Stranger, etc. Although, most of those characters have been brought back in the DCU proper.

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