Sifting Through the Ashes:

Analyzing Hellblazer, Part 3

Issue #4 “Waiting for the Man”
Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: John Ridgeway
Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters: Annie Halfacree

It’s said that a comic book character is only as memorable as its supporting cast. Villains, family, friends, and other associates are what help to define and develop the main character throughout his or her adventures. Over the years, the supporting cast of Hellblazer would either change with the creative team or likely meet their untimely demise because of their proximity to Constantine. However, other than Chas Chandler, forever in Constantine’s debt, one of the few characters that would remain in Constantine’s life throughout the series is his niece Gemma Masters, daughter of his older sister Cheryl and brother-in-law Tony. Opening on an evening in Liverpool at a playground, Gemma Masters laments at how she has no control over the choices being made for her in life. Gemma’s complaints are typical of a 10-year old who has been forced to pick up and leave a familiar place for a new one. In this new place she is greeted by three girls whom she attempts to befriend, each claiming to be the wife of a man living close by. Consequently, the girls invite Gemma back to their house. Gemma’s initial hesitation and rough demeanor is defensive, typical of any child and aids her characterization as a normal Liverpudlian girl.

Meanwhile, back in London, Constantine strolls about the streets with a grin on his face ready to take what the world gives him. Turning a corner he spots a green eyed woman, Zed, who sits in front of some street art she has just finished: a dark doorway before a large featureless man with a young girl in the foreground. Intrigued by this woman, Constantine takes her to dinner and goes home with her. Arriving at her apartment Constantine notices a collage of faces Zed has painted along her wall, some of which he recognizes including his own. Intrigued and attracted to this mysterious woman, Constantine’s move on Zed is cut short by a radio bulletin of 4 missing children in Liverpool, with Gemma Masters being the latest. As they appear, each scene touches on Constantine’s multifaceted personality. Constantine knows things can only last for so long, therefore he jumps at every opportunity to ride the high as long as he can before the bizarre and weirdness of his life catches back up with him. This issue shows that not only is John attuned to the bizarre, but also his family as well. Generally, Constantine’s motivation to aid others is for his own greater benefit, at least initially. (Concerning Gaz from the opening issues, Constantine only intervenes to get his apartment back.) This, on the other hand, marks the first time Constantine jumps to help someone without motive. But it is apparent that Constantine is only moved to action because of the imminent danger posed to his family. The bastard that Constantine is often called, he truly cares for his sister and niece, even though he thinks his brother-in-law Tony is a ponce.

Arriving in Liverpool with Zed in tow, Cheryl and Tony Masters are with members of the Resurrection Crusade, their employers which have resulted in the Masters’ relocation to the suburbs. The Resurrection Crusade is actually a fundamentalist militant Christian group that serves as the main antagonist of the opening arc of Hellblazer, and serves as a stand-in for the Satanic moral panic that ran rampant throughout the United States and other countries through the 1980s until the 1990s. Cheryl’s comments on her and Tony’s prior unemployment and how they have already made enough money to purchase their new house is a small comment on the unemployment in the United Kingdom at this time and the increase in homeownership that was fostered by Thatcherism. When Constantine attempts to perform a divining ritual to try to find his niece, the head of the Crusaders forbids it as “The Lord will surely turn his back on the girl.” Constantine ignores them and proceeds to divine a location of where Gemma is. Zed also sketches a picture of the house where Gemma is, with Constantine joking that Zed is trying to upstage him. Constantine doesn’t feel threatened by this display of magical aptitude, but after the events of the issue, feels indebted to Zed which accounts for some of his motivation in helping her in coming issues.

Gemma awakens with the three girls and is made ready for her wedding to The Man. When he does arrive home the panel where the reader first sees him mirrors Zed’s street art from earlier in the issue, only now his face is revealed. Taking her down to the basement The Man begins a wedding ceremony in front of an obviously satanic altar. During the “ceremony” Constantine and Zed have found the house and search the premises to find the corpses of three young girls in the bed upstairs, making the girls that Gemma was talking with ghosts. This alongside a dream she had of her uncle riding in on a horse to stop a marriage in a cathedral denotes that Gemma is starting to show some magical aptitude that would develop over the course of the series. Stopping the ceremony before Gemma is strangled to death, Zed and John knock out The Man and flee with Gemma. Constantine is awestruck at Zed’s ferocity in dispatching the occultist, which contrasts with Constantine’s lack of force he employs throughout the series. Before leaving, John and Zed notice the phrase “Damnation Army” branded into The Man’s flesh, foreshadowing the larger threat at hand. Gemma’s parents and member of the Resurrection Crusade arrive and the house is consequently set ablaze. Acting before the arrival of the police sets the Resurrection Crusade as being above the laws of man, conjuring foreboding implications. The issue concludes with Constantine and Zed slipping away, with Constantine eager to discover what Zed knows about the group. Fewer times has the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” been more appropriate to a character such than to Constantine.

The fourth issue of Hellblazer does much for the story progression of the series, introducing Constantine’s family, his first of many love interests, and the two main antagonists of the opening arc. The issue’s tone varies slightly between what has been seen in both Hellblazer and in Saga of the Swamp Thing so far by placing his family in danger and allowing the reader to observe as Constantine rises to the occasion to save his niece. The threat shows that even unconventional characters like John Constantine, primarily known for singular, cast iron traits,  have other sides to themselves when in different situations.  The notion that comics as a medium is directed only at children and features one dimensional characters is something that comics have struggled to overcome throughout their history, and it is through the writing of titles such as Hellblazer during the 1980s and onwards that have helped overcome this mindset.

To be continued.

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Max Nestorowich is a Michigan Technological University graduate with a degree in Chemical Engineering. To keep his sanity in the perpetual winter of Houghton, in his free time he dove head first into exploring all that comics had to offer, which worked to a certain extent. He eventually started writing about them at every opportunity, settling on a blog at some point. When not reading, watching, or writing something, Max can be found in the Analytical Chemistry Lab in which he finds employment, doing science.

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Also by Max Nestorowich:

Judging Dredd: Examining the World of Judge Dredd


The Mignolaverse: Hellboy and the Comics Art of Mike Mignola


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