JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER
"I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes every last drop of your blood, I'll drive your demons away."
NOTE: The following sections are still being written. I hope to add one a week. Be patient!
When Alan Moore began his run on DC Comics' horror title Saga of the Swamp Thing, he asked then-illustrators Steve Bissette and John Totleben to make a list of things they wanted to draw. Amongst the monsters and marvels, Moore noted a common factor: both expressed an interest in drawing a character who looked like the pop star Sting. Using this as a base, Moore began to develop a new supporting character who would replace those members of the old cast that he had seen fit to discard. In contrast to the scientists and journalists in the preceding issues, Swampy's new co-star would be a magician, a character who would sit more comfortably with the comic's supernatural storylines.
Until that point, most comic-book mystics had been either aloof and enormously powerful or slightly pretentious upper-middle-class sorts given to wearing ostentatious clothing at all times and speaking in elaborate tones; see Sargon the Sorceror, Zatara and The Phantom Stranger as examples. Moore decided that a more interesting approach would be to create a working-class magus whose strength would come from his cunning rather than his magical abilities. Thus John Constantine was born.
Although Constantine's first appearance is technically in Saga of the Swamp Thing #25, "The Sleep of Reason" (glimpsed in a crowd scene as a man is skewered by a silver swordfish), his first speaking role would not arrive until #37, "Growth Patterns". He is quickly established as a devious, aggressive character: within the first issue he's blackmailed the Swamp Thing's girlfriend and insulted Swampy himself, safe in the knowledge that he's in no danger whilst the plant creature regrows lost tissue. As the series progresses, however, it's made clear that Constantine is working on the side of good, though he sometimes uses somewhat questionable tactics to do the job; he leads Swampy on a trail of horror across America that would later be known as the American Gothic saga, climaxing in an epic battle that saw the armies of both Heaven and Hell stand together to combat a pre-creation Darkness that threatened to consume them all.
Constantine proved popular with readers. His acerbic wit and abrasive personality complimented the Swamp Thing's melancholy personality so well that the star of the comic soon found himself turning into a straight-man to Constantine's wisecracker. In fact, he became so popular that in 1987, when Moore left Saga of the Swamp Thing to penciller-turned-writer Rick Veitch, he was asked to spin the character off into his own title. Moore declined, and the floor was turned over to any other British writers who were interested in the job. The successful candidate was one Jamie Delano, who had previously taken over from Alan Moore on the Marvel Comics title Captain Britain. In a clever pun on Constantine's brash personality and occult prowess, the comic was to be titled Hellraiser, but Clive Barker's film of the same name put paid to that plan, and the slightly less impressive-sounding Hellblazer was born. It is here that Constantine as we know him truly began to take shape.
Onwards to Part 1- The Jamie Delano Era