Recently, it was announced that HELLBLAZER is coming to an end and that they’re giving the character his own series titled CONSTANTINE. John Constantine is becoming a strong B-list hero in the New 52, and he leads the way in the mystic side of things at DC.
Issue 300, which is currently DC's longest running comic, marks the end of HELLBLAZER under the Vertigo imprint. The comic debuted in 1988, five years prior to the inception of Vertigo. The book was known for its violence, sex, and overall, mature content. Over the years, the book hosted a slew of fantastic writers most comic fans are familiar with: Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Brian Azzarello, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, and Andy Diggle, many of the writers hailed from the United Kingdom.
Since the New 52 reboot, however, John Constantine has become a bigger part of the DCU by leading a team in the book JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. In addition, he's guest-starring in the current issues of ANIMAL MAN. DC Comics feels there is a need a book starring the character now, and in March, he will have his own title. Will fans of the HELLBLAZER book be satisfied with the new CONSTANTINE series?
This is not the John Constantine people are familiar with from the Vertigo series, however. As many people are saying, this is a watered-down version of the character. While it's true that a stand-alone CONSTANTINE book can't get away with the same things his Vertigo counterpart did, it's not as if they're throwing the whole character away. Writer Robert Venditti (X-O MANOWAR and upcoming DEMON KNIGHTS writer) reassured fans on his twitter page that this is important to him:
I have a TREMENDOUS amount of respect for Constantine and the creators who made him who he is. I'm taking this very seriously.
He went on to say that he plans on keeping the character recognizable and keeping the same tones. The majority of fans on the net have a bittersweet feeling about this, at best. Many of the creators are sad to see it go, and a few, like Warren Ellis, are jokingly calling it the "PG Constantine." And that may be true since the already established John Constantine, within the New 52 universe, isn't as crass as his Vertigo counterpart. Sure, the basic character outline is there, but the New 52 counterpart is a bit lighter to reach younger readers. So readers can safely assume the days ultra-violence and crass language are behind them.
However, Venditti is not new to writing revamped characters. This year, he took on a reboot of the classic Valiant book X-O Manowar, for a whole new generation and made it one of Valiant comic's top selling series. His challenge isn't as large with CONSTANTINE because the character was established last year in the New 52, but his experience with taking on projects like this make him a great candidate for the job. Readership interest will also grow as artist Renato Guedes (WOLVERINE, SUPERMAN) jumps on board as well.
While there are a few people excited about John Constantine getting his own book, even if it is a "PG" version of the character, will the book be sustainable? Can CONSTANTINE survive on its own or will it be cut later down the line? Over the past year, according to The Comics Chronicle's numbers, HELLBLAZER was selling around 9,400 issues, with September's numbers dropping down to 9,143. On the other hand, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, which Constantine appears in monthly, is averaging around 33,000 the past few months, with September's numbers at 34,000.
It's safe to say the first few issues will have inflated numbers due to reader curiosity, as it always is with every new series. Hopefully, it can sustain readers, so it's not just another New 52 series that ends up getting canned after a handful of issues. JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK seems to have a solid following, so a spin-off of that book, with an experienced creative team behind it, could lead to steady readership numbers.
Writer Jeff Lemire's run on JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK has added a ton of depth and development to this version of John Constantine, making him a favorite among JLD readers, so his own spin-off book isn't out of the question. So far, he's spent time searching for The Books of Magic, he won the House of Mystery in a poker game, and he's stolen Zatanna away from once friend, now enemy, Nick Necro. John Constantine has been pretty busy since his reintegration into the DCU.
There's a lot to work with, so much so that it can't be all contained within the just the pages of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK alone. It's completely understandable that John Constantine can hold his own in his own on-going series. John winning the House of Mystery alone would be a great read. While it's a bummer that the character may come out a bit tamer to fit the DC mold, readers should still be excited that we get a little more Vertigo flavor in the DCnU. Sure, it may not be the John Constantine HELLBLAZER fans are familiar with, but there's a good possibility that there's enough to work with here to keep some fans happy.
The biggest question is "What's going to happen to Vertigo?" Aside from CONSTANTINE, SWEET TOOTH is also wrapping up in December. The imprint still runs FABLES, AMERICAN VAMPIRE, FAIREST, SAUCER COUNTRY and UNWRITTEN, but these two series ending leaves a big hole at Vertigo. Aside from the mini-series here and there, what's going to be the next Vertigo book people will latch onto?
All-in-all, fans will have to wait and see. CONSTANTINE debuts in March, 2013. What do you guys think? Will HELLBLAZER fans latch onto this book? Will you read it?
Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring is a writer, comedian, and first appeared on the cover of HOUSE OF SECRETS 13.