My horror-themed month continues with one of the best John Constantine, Hellblazer stories: Dangerous Habits. For this, we have to go back in time to 1991 when Garth Ennis became the regular writer of DC Comics’ horror title Hellblazer. This was in the days before the Vertigo imprint existed. (Alas, it is no more!) Hellblazer was “suggested for mature readers,” and was one of a group of “mature” titles being published at that time. These included Swamp Thing, Sandman, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Shade the Changing Man.
John Constantine has faced all manner of ghosts, demons, and even serial killers before. But this time it’s serious! Years of smoking 30 cigarettes a day has left John with terminal lung cancer. That’s right, he’s going to die, and there aren’t any magic spells he knows to make it go away. In fact, he’s even contemplating giving up and ending it all. Who would’ve thought it? “Conjob” Constantine not even trying to talk or trick his way out of something? Unbelievable! But hang on a minute. Perhaps there are a couple of possibilities still open to him. Now you think about it, if anyone can actually pull this off, it has to be John Constantine, right?
Written by Simon Spurrier, Art by Marcio Takara, DC Black Label
“I’m a nasty piece of work, chief. Ask anyone.”
HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2019!!
Being a fan of the original run of Hellblazer (1988-2013), I was delighted to hear that DC were bringing the “nasty piece of work” himself, John Constantine back to comics. If I’m being honest, I was also wary of what it would be like after the last couple of uninspiring interpretations of the character. Well, if this special one-shot is a sign of what’s to come, I needn’t have worried. The sarcastic, foul-mouthed trickster magician is back with a vengeance. And I’m delighted to say The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 is a powerful, dark, chaotic blast of magick from start to finish. Check it out now!
‘Yesterday I was shivering in London. Now the Sudanese sun scorches the skin from me, like a blowtorch.’
In this premiere issue of Hellblazer, streetwise magician John Constantine meets an old friend and goes in search of a hunger demon.
Hellblazer #1, January 1988, Cover by Dave McKean
The first Hellblazer issue I bought was number 31 back in July 1990. It was written by Jamie Delano with art by Sean Phillips. The story is titled “Mourning of the Magician” and tells the tale of John Constantine’s father’s funeral. I was vaguely aware of the character of Constantine but had no idea who anyone else was. What I do remember is how much the story pulled me in. It was a ghost story set in England with references to occult magic. I instantly wanted to know more about these characters and the world they inhabited.
I continued to buy Hellblazer monthly and made it my mission to get hold of the previous thirty issues that I’d missed. Some were easy to find, others not so much, especially the first ten issues. I remember tracking down issue one at a comics fair in Manchester, England. I don’t recall how much I paid for it but it can’t have been very much because I was in college at the time. I can trace my infection with the “collector-bug” to this comic book as well as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
Dark and dirty, this is magic that comes with a very high cost. Jamie Delano’s depiction of working-class John Constantine is brilliant. It’s a bit dated now with its comments on Thatcher’s England, but definitely worth a read for the dark, horror-themed storylines and John’s sarcastic Scouse humour.
The art looks a bit rough compared to more modern releases, but I think it suits the style and feel of the book. There’s a dark, scratchy, gritty and grim atmosphere to both the art and the stories in this first collection. The covers are wonderful, though.