For some people, it can be intimidating to start reading comics. There is a long, rich history and many great new stories coming out all the time. I want to share some of the more well-known and seminal titles to help you become more aware of the variety of narratives that exist within the comic realm.
Today we are talking about the first several issues of Hellblazer, the volumes collected into the first volume known as Original Sin. If you’re watching Constantine on NBC but haven’t read Hellblazer you might want to give it a try. As you learn a lot about who John Constantine is and why he is the way he is. Plus, there’s Papa Midnite…
You may have first heard of Constantine from the 2005 movie starring Keanu Reeves. Or maybe from the young version in the New 52’s Justice League Dark or Constantine books. Or maybe you discovered him through NBC’s show (watch it if you aren’t!). But John Constantine was actually introduced by Alan Moore in Swamp Thing in 1985. After the favorable response to the character, he was given his own title, Hellblazer, in 1988. Hellblazer has actually run continuously until 2013. But today I just want to focus on the first nine issues which are collected in a volume known as Original Sins.
Original Sins begins with Hunger (Issues 1 and 2). We are introduced to Gary Lester and Papa Midnite as John attempts to deal with a demon named Mnemoth. We learn that John is a haunted man with ghosts in his past, literally and figuratively. And we see how tortured he is as he deals with Mnemoth, and by extension Gary Lester. I’d like to point out that episode four of NBC’s Constantine actually does a beautiful job of bringing this story line to life. From Hunger we move into a very progressive and timely story (when it was published) dealing with stockmarkets and politics. And here we start to see some of the understated horror that makes Hellblazer brilliant. It is disturbing without being overly graphic (though it does do that too at times).
We also meet Zed and begin a long story arc dealing with her mysterious past and the fight between good and evil, between the Resurrection Crusade and the Damnation Army, and the control for souls on Earth. It’s brilliant in the way it depicts the extremists on both sides and forces you to think about what is good and what is evil. And it does it with feeling. There are truly horrifying and heart-breaking aspects, but there is also humor (like John referencing Katherine Hepburn and the African Queen).
Original Sins ends (if you don’t count the Swamp Thing issues) with an issue where John is dealing with his 35th birthday. This is significant because over the run of Hellblazer, John Constantine actually aged in real time. Pretty interesting right? And Hellblazer gets better too. In fact, in the next volume, The Devil You Know, we learn what happened in Newcastle. But that is a discussion for another day….or you can pick it up and read for yourself (which I highly recommend!).
I know I normally write about DC comics, but I couldn’t resist making you all aware of this new book (it debuted on December 31, 2014). This book is a way to build off the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D television show and really dive into the Marvel universe. Each book gives Agent Phil Coulson the opportunity to assemble the right team for the right job. This means that any Marvel character, superhero or otherwise, can potentially make an appearance over the life of the book. And each book is intended to be a one-off mission. This makes this a perfect gateway comic book in my view – a way to introduce new readers to characters they wouldn’t necessarily know without long drawn-out storylines and it’s got Coulson.
Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1
I know the holidays are over, but if you didn’t pick up this book you should do yourself a favor and get it. It’s yet another wonderful entry by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner into the wacky mind of Miss Quinzel (and we even get a glimpse back into her shrink days too). It’s just plain fun. And there’re multiple stories in this book too. Fantastic holiday read. Pretty sure I’ll pull it out every Christmas from here on out.
My Top 10 Comics of 2014
And speaking of the Harley Quinn holiday special… that’s just one of the books that I considered to be in the top 10 of 2014. You can see the rest of my favorite book’s from last year on mesulli.com.
That’s all for me. I’ll be back with more comic stuff next month and DC on TV returns on January 12th. But for now, let’s talk about Hellblazer and John Constantine. Have you read it? What do you think?