In a universe populated by heroes and villains clad in colorful, tight-fitting outfits, you might not expect a chain-smoking ex-punk rocker wearing slacks, a tie, and a trenchcoat to stand out among the rest. Yet when British occultist John Constantine showed up in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, that’s exactly what happened. Constantine’s arrival elevated Swamp Thing profoundly, and it wasn’t long before John had his own spinoff title, Hellblazer, which outlived its parent series and spawned several onscreen adaptations.
Quick with a quip, hesitant to involve himself in others’ lives yet often compelled to do so, Constantine has a weakness for narcotics and alcohol binges, an unnatural obsession with the occult, and a long list of lovers he’s betrayed, hurt, and discarded. John has slain his twin brother, taunted Satan, outwitted demons and angels alike, been trapped in Hell, and even fathered an elemental. Through all of this, he has somehow managed to come out on top, though his loved ones have usually ended up caught in the crossfire.
Edited by Rich Handley and Lou Tambone, the editors of Sequart’s Somewhere Beyond the Heavens: Exploring Battlestar Galactica, this volume examines the mage’s history from his earliest appearances to the present — not only in the pages of Swamp Thing and Hellblazer, but also on film and television. Essay contributors include Swamp Thing scribe Nancy A. Collins, Constantine TV series writing assistant Matthew Levine, former DC Comics editor Robert Greenberger, and a wonderful lineup of other talented comics historians.
At times, John Constantine can be a complete bastard. He has questionable hygiene and a lack of ethics, and he’ll likely hurt anyone foolish enough to let him into their lives. But John is nonetheless a hero — well, a Byronic hero, in any case. As fans, we wouldn’t have him any other way.