Issue #29 “Sick at Heart”
Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Ron Tiner & Kevin Walker
Colors: Tom Zuiko
Letters: Gaspar Saladino
Cover: Kent Williams
While being comprised of many styles of stories that can be grouped together under the genre of “horror” Hellblazer variety allows for different arcs to explore different aspects of John Constantine’s character and the series supporting cast. While Original Sins touches on a little bit of everything that makes up Constantine, and The Fear Machine is a Lovecraftian charged political thriller, The Family Man is a much more personal story that removes the supernatural aspect of Hellblazer almost entirely from the story. Along with dealing with a more “real” threat than in previous stories, “Sick at Heart” also brings John’s more grounded supporting cast back to the series.
The only aspects vaguely supernatural about The Family Man are the ominous dreams that both John and Samuel Morris (The Family Man) have throughout the story arc. This issue opens with a brief sequence of John attacking The Family Man with a knife, first dismembering his left arm and then stabbing him in the chest. As Constantine’s attack progresses The Family Man slowly turns into his father, Thomas, who was killed in the previous issue. While the dream sequence is an omen to Constantine who will find out about his father’s death this issue, it also shows just how alike Constantine, his father, and The Family Man are in appearance. Awakening and almost stabbing him, before getting clocked in the jaw, Constantine’s friend Chas Chandler plays a larger part within this issue and arc. Aside from his single page appearance last issue, Chas has otherwise been largely absent from the series other than in issue #21 when he drove John back to Scotland. Often acting as Constantine’s working class foil, Chas is often the victim of John jokes but is someone who John legitimately cares for and can depend on, and is an anchor that reminds both the reader and John about the real world and the real problems of real people. Along with being in debt to Constantine, Chas is often seen complaining about his wife, a character left off screen and to the imagination until both would be revealed by Jamie Delano returning to the series after nearly 4 years in issue #84. In this sense Chas can be seen as a less manic Cosmo Kramer, Michael Richards’ character from the TV series Seinfeld, in that he often remarks on characters and events never revealed or fully explained to the viewer but in which characters are fully aware, and is often the brunt of physical punishment.
Being more mundane than most of Constantine’s other friends and associates, Chas often scoffs at the supernatural dealings of Constantine. However due to the nature of the arc Chas is able to provide John what most of his other friends and contacts could not, namely a gun. To readers in the United States, the laws concerning the possession of firearms that other countries employ can come across as a bit of a shock when first encountered. In the United Kingdom firearms, particularly pistols, are much more regulated than in the US resulting in one of the lowest gun homicide rate in the world . While Constantine sets out to obtain a pistol, The Family Man has tracked John down via his pissed off bookies, and assaults Chas when he lies to him to about knowing Constantine. Upon returning, Chas gives John a postcard “Greetings From Liverpool” splotched with blood, informing John of his fathers death. Despite the animosity between the two, Constantine sits in the fetal position crying, trying to cope with the fact that he is responsible for his father’s death. Aware that he is being followed Constantine enacts a cat and mouse plot, loudly broadcasting his travel plans to a prostitute (also arranged by Chas) he spends the night with, all the while having Chas tail The Family Man back to his own hotel.
“Sick at Heart” continues the back and forth between John and The Family Man, and although they have yet to meet again face to face, the tension builds rapidly throughout the issue, namely with the acquisition of a revolver by Constantine, and The Family Man discovering exactly where John resides and his delivery of the postcard. The few uplifting moments of the issue are provided by Chas, and his part in the issue as something other than a taxi driver provides a nice variation to the usual magical contact that Constantine employs but ultimately serves the same purpose. It is amusing to see him roundhouse kick a bread-knife wielding Constantine though.
- Oddly enough in the 2005 adaptation of Hellblazer starring Keanu Reeves, Constantine, Chas Chandler is renamed Chas Kramer (played by Shia LeBeouf) and acts as Constantine’s apprentice.