Everyone has a happy place. For me, this is a constantly shifting thing. Sometimes its a good video game, or a great conversation, or a nice bourbon. Lately, it’s been sitting on my couch, listening to ambient music from Drone Zone, and rereading Hellblazer comics.
For anyone how doesn’t know, Hellblazer was a Vertigo comic staring John Constantine – a character created by Allen Moore for Swamp Thing. When it first came out I don’t think anyone really expected anything from it. It was a spin off series not written by the original creator, and about ten years too late for the end of the horror comics boom.
It ran for three hundred issues.
While it isn’t my favorite series of all time, it’s certainly up there for me. I love how the book mixes back and forth between supernatural horror like demons and human horror like serial killers. And let’s not forget about John. Probably one of the best characters in comics. When I first started reading the trades in college, I formed a very strong love/hate relationship with Vertigo’s coolest magus. I would fall in love with how cool John was, only to be horrified at something supremely awful he’d do to someone. I almost put the series down a few times because he’s such a bastard. But then I’d keep reading and John would win me back only to do it again.
After a while I understood the truth: John Constantine does the things in horror situations that you would actually do.
If you were confronted with a demon from hell you would not stand your ground and fight it. You would run. And if you could run faster than your friends, you absolutely would. Sure you’d feel bad about it later but you’d still be alive. It’s not exactly what you want a main character to do in escapist fiction – be truly human. “No, John. Be selfless, and fight the monster, and save your friends, so I can pretend that’s what I would do.” It isn’t. That’s what makes John such a compelling character. The Punk Rock attitude doesn’t hurt either, I suppose.
I would put Hellblazer in front of anyone I could. A lot of people couldn’t get past the first trade. “He’s an asshole.” “I know, right? Isn’t it great.” Not everyone was willing to take that ride with me.
My love of loaning out comics wound up bitting me in the ass because I lost about ten Hellblazer trades during that time. It sucked, but I always kind of knew that I would replace my collection one day.
That day came a few weeks ago. There’s currently a Constantine TV show on NBC, and while the show does water down some of the comic’s concepts a little bit, there really hasn’t been a better time to be a Hellblazer fan. In an attempt at marketing synergy, DC is finally trading up the series the way they always should have: in chronological order. Back when I was really hardcore into the series, they would trade up random story lines. The first eight issues were collected, but then they would skip forty issues start Garth Ennis’s run with “Dangerous Habits.” While I love that story, this sucked because it almost completely skipped Jamie Delano’s run which established the voice of the series that would carry it all the way through it’s 300 issues.
But now those stories are being collected in these new additions. It’s great to go through the series and reread some of my favorite stories but have the issues before and after them so that I have a greater context for the meta stores that each writer was trying to tell with John.
Now I really do love the show even though I’m pretty sure that it’s not going to make it to another season. It’s a shame because I think the show runners are finally starting to find the voice of the show, but even if they don’t get picked back up, I think its justified its existence because it has gotten DC to give me the versions of the trades I’ve always wanted .
It’s given me my happy place. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to grab a nice bourbon and get back to some reading.