For those of you who haven't heard, DC has announced that Vertigo's longest running title will be coming to an end with issue #300. Hard to put into words how I feel at the moment. I suppose I could compare it to having your favorite television show suddenly canceled (for the love of Satan, don't die on me Community!).
Here's the official press release:
John Constantine has been a constant presence in the pages of DC Comics, having first appeared in SWAMP THING in the 1980s and up through his current adventures in the pages of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, ANIMAL MAN and SWORD OF SORCERY.
Now, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS announced this morning that the chain-smoking British occult detective will headline his own ongoing comic book series as part of DC Comics-The New 52.
Launching in March 2013, CONSTANTINE will be written by upcoming DEMON KNIGHTS writer and New York Times bestselling author of The Homeland Directive and the sci-fi graphic novel series The Surrogates, Robert Venditti, with incredible art by Renato Guedes (SUPERMAN).
"Few characters in comics are as complex and entertaining as John Constantine, and I'm finding him to be every bit as enjoyable to write as he is to read," says Venditti. "It's my goal to have the new CONSTANTINE series be equal parts familiarity and surprise. This will be the Constantine we all know and love, but facing new and unexpected challenges from both inside and out."
HELLBLAZER, Vertigo's longest-running series which currently headlines John Constantine, will end with issue #300 in February. John Constantine has escaped, cheated, narrowly avoided and even reversed death on multiple occasions. Now, in the conclusion of “Death and Cigarettes,” longtime writer Peter Milligan and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini will test whether he’s got one more second chance in him, giving him the bloody best sendoff he deserves.
Anyone who knows my taste in comics knows that Constantine is second only to Batman as my favorite comic book character of all time. The cynical con man and working-class warlock has long been my favorite Alan Moore creation and the character that has most inspired the kind of writing I would like to do.
I do look forward to Peter Milligan's swan song with Con Job, as his run has been as excellent as it has been lengthy. Part of me even thinks the New 52 series that will follow Hellblazer will be enjoyable. But can it truly replace Vertigo's signature title, one of my favorite comic book series out there?
As you can tell, it's a mixed bag of feelings right now. On the one hand I'm very intrigued as to how things will come to and end before starting anew, and on the other I feel far more peeved than when Marvel decided to renumber Uncanny X-Men.
At least X-Men just continued with the same format under a new numbering, the story and characters remained intact. Hellblazer, along with the Vertigo-based Constanine that we know and love, on the other hand, will cease to exist. The new title, "Constantine", will instead be based on the "New 52" character that we know from Justice League Dark.
Now, I do in fact utterly LOVE Justice League Dark. It's easily one of my favorite titles to emerge from the New 52 along with Animal Man and Swamp Thing.
The Constantine portrayed within (first by veteran Peter Milligan and later by the stellar Jeff Lemire) still retains most of the qualities that make him the great character readers like myself adore. He's a sarcastic, British bastard, with a burning desire for black magic, an endlessly volatile wit, and a cigarette always present between his lips. This isn't an unfamiliar character to say the least, and he's still DAMN fun to read and root for.
However, is he truly a replacement for the seasoned Vertigo character that has been handled masterfully by the likes of Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Mike Carey, and Warren Ellis? Will his magic-fueled exploits be able to compare to the mature and morally ambiguous landscape that Vertigo offered? Here are some of the reactions that industry writers had to the announcement via twitter:
HELLBLAZER cancelled, replaced by PG version. Sad to see that place for British horror stories go.
RIP Hellblazer. One of the greats. The end of Planetary 7 comes to mind. "Time to be someone else". http://readrant.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/be-seeing-you.jpg ...
(Part of me also thinks "You're not a real British Comics Writer unless you've written Hellblazer". So that's me doomed)
Desperately sad to hear that HELLBLAZER will be coming to an end after 300 issues. I cannot overstate the importance of that book, and the character of John Constantine, not only to my work but to my worldview. I was lucky enough to write Hellblazer a few years back, and it was like meeting up with an old friend. I just *knew* him. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. Just that I’d been following him since his first appearance in Swamp Thing when I was 15 years old. True fact: John Constantine is the reason I started reading (and eventually writing) American comics. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing led me to my first comic shop to hunt for back issues. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing led me to my first comic shop to hunt for back issues. F@#k, I feel like I’ve lost an old friend.
It's really hard to say how things will go from here. Again, I'm hoping for a proper finish to one of my favorite books. Yet still, will this new title really hold a candle to it's predecessor? One could look at Scott Snyder's Batman reboot and certainly say that as long as the spirit of the character remains true, the changing to a new timeline isn't detrimental. We'll just have to wait and see.
So I'll be saying farewell this February to one of the greats, the one comic that has consistently held my interest and inspired me with every issue I read. To John Constantine, the bad-ass blue-collar mage who beat the devil and gave him the finger.
"I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I'll drive the demons away. I'll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they're down, and then I'll be gone back into the darkness, leaving only a nod, a wink and a wisecrack. I walk my path alone... who would want to walk with me?"
We walked with ya Johnny, all this years, and Lucifer-willing we'll continue to walk the path between Heaven and Hell right alongside you.