Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Public Service Announcement

As some of you will know, there is a film shortly to be released called "Constantine". It stars Keanu Reeves as the eponymous 'hero'; John Constantine; the central character of the Vertigo Comics series Hellblazer. Although I did read comic books from time to time as a kid... I was actually a bit dismissive of them back then. My parents encouraged me to read books and newspapers from a very early age, and - even at the time - I was perfectly happy with that. Everyone else my age might have been reading comic books and watching television. But I preferred books, and didn't have a problem with being different.

So during the early to mid 1990s when I was at university in London, I was introduced to comics pretty much for the first time. It was mostly this bloke who made the introductions. And the comic book that I liked above all others; and which is still to this day probably my favourite after Grant Morrison's The Invisibles; was Hellblazer. It had been going for about 10 issues before I first discovered it (John Constantine had, I believe, been introduced as a minor character in a Garth Ennis penned Swamp Thing storyline - though there's all manner of strange gaps in my memory with regards to that period of my life and the things I learnt then... so I'm willing to be corrected as to John Constantine's origins if anyone can do so. Update: Chicken Yoghurt believes that Constantine may have been an Alan Moore creation. This has now been confirmed by Nick). I quickly bought the previous nine issues (as a complete aside, 95% of my comics were purchased in Mega-City Comics in Camden.... just 10 minutes walk from college) and continued reading it faithfully up until somewhere around the 65th issue (I think).

There was a moment of staggering discontinuity in my life in the mid-90s. My interest in comic books was one of the things that seemed to just fall away. It took the aforementioned The Invisibles to rekindle that interest some years later.

However I never lost my deep love for the great character that is John Constantine. I spent more than five years reading about his exploits and disasters. I used to hang out in a lot of the places Constantine did, drink in a lot of the same pubs, and know a lot of the same (type of) people. It was the first comic book I'd ever encountered that was written about the people I hung out with... about me.

And as for all the demonology, black-magic, drug-overdoses and angelic vision-type stuff that showed up in Hellblazer... well, I was doing an awful lot of psychedelics at the time... my life and the lives of most of the people I knew seemed to be just as fucking weird as a lot of the shit that happened in Hellblazer. The fact that it usually stopped being quite so "Vertigo Comics" when you came down the next morning was a moot point if you tended to spend more time up than down.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that not only is Hellblazer a truly brilliant piece of writing; not only is John Constantine one of the greatest fictional characters in any artform; but for me personally there's a massive "nostalgia" thing attached to it that's absolutely sacrosanct. If someone were to suddenly... ohhh, I dunno... take the John Constantine character and make him hugely popular in a twisted, barely-recognisable, safe and sanitised mass-market format... well; it would be almost sacreligious in my eyes. It would be like a personal attack on my past... on who I am as a person... on a lot of good memories.

And before anyone trots out my favourite come-back "How can you judge it before you've seen it?" I would like to point you in the direction of an image... it is the final page of the graphic-novelisation of the film story. This is how the film ends, OK? So it's obviously "a spoiler"...

John Constantine deserves better fucking treatment than this!

Fuck that shit! What say we all get together... me, and all of you reading this...? We whip up a pentagram of goat's blood, a few black candles, maybe we'll chant or play a Marilyn Manson record backwards or a Barry Manilow one forwards... and we put an end to this godforsaken film before it gets released here in the UK and impacts upon cherished memories in any way. So who's with me?


Blogger Justin said...

Fuck. I knew it was going to be bad but not that bad.

BTW, I'm pretty sure Alan Moore created Constantine. He alludes to it during his recent Chain Reaction interview with Stewart Lee.

Incidentally, the whole series of Chain Reaction is available for download with a BitTorrent client at uknova.com.

17/2/05 09:06  
Blogger Rachel said...

Marilyn Manson, please. Barry Manilow brings me out in a rash.

I'll bring the goat.

17/2/05 09:56  
Blogger Nick said...

It was Alan Moore - he created Constantine as Swamp Thing's guide during the American Gothic series of stories in the 80s. That was where most of his friends got killed, and it's well worth reading if you can track down a copy.

As for that final page - it's basically saying 'let's piss all over the source material by killing off the one character who's never been killed', isn't it? You can hear the 'woah' in every line of dialogue like a blade through the heart.

17/2/05 11:11  
Blogger L said...

no, no-- you have it mixed up

if you play Marilyn Manson backwards, I think it says "go...to...church" and "vote...for...Bush" and "eat...at...McDonald's"

if you play Barry Manilow backwards, it says "smoke crack and worship Satan"

18/2/05 03:36  

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