Hellblazer #250This week marks the 250th issue of the Vertigo flagship series, Hellblazer. John Constantine, despite the many attempts of both the forces of darkness and his own self-destructive nature, has survived twenty years of serial publication. To mark the publishing anniversary, Vertigo has assembled a team of comics’ all-stars to jam out on a collaborative celebration. We caught up with comics’ luminaries Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd, Peter Milligan, and Giuseppe Camuncoli, just a portion of the monster #250 squad, and got their thoughts on the title and its titular character.
Newsarama: Could you describe your personal connection or experience with this book?
David Lloyd: I only read a few of the early issues that Jamie [Delano] wrote, but admired the basic value of Constantine as a character-type. There's a long history of detective-style ' demon fighters ' in fiction and I was glad to see such a character appear -courtesy of Alan, of course - in the super-hero flooded world of DC comics. A healthy development. Liked John Ridgway's very brimstone-ish art, too.
I didn't get the opportunity of doing a Jamie-Hellblazer as a first shot at the series, but I was asked to work on a nice, nightmarish, politically-charged two-parter with Grant Morrison. It was a great story and I had a great time drawing it - I used fibre-tips all through it and inked on rough pencils. It's important for me to experiment in my drawing if I get the chance, and the technique gave the story the gritty look the series always needs to have in some form.
Then I was asked to do an issue with Garth Ennis - The Diary of Danny Drake. And then, at last, I worked with Jamie on The Horrorist, which seems now to be a widely-appreciated addition to the Constantine series, though at the time it came and went quickly, like almost everything does, in the fast-flowing river of the industry's output.
Dave Gibbons: Written one short text story (illustrated it, too) and one short strip. Not much, but I feel I know him very well. We speak the same language, the same way.
Giuseppe Camuncoli: Well, to be completely original, I could say that "it's a kind of magic!". I fell in love with the character lickety-split, in the Italian edition of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. There was something about that Constantine guy that made him very distinctive and unique, a blend of attitude, class, bad habits and natural charm.
My personal experience as an artist on the book, then, is also something that I'd call "synchronic", to quote the fabulous song from the Police (see? Another coincidence, with Sting being the original inspiration for John's likenesses): during my first signing session at Vertigo, at the 2001 edition of the San Diego Comicon, a guy asked me to do a sketch of John, and then he came back the next day and showed it to Will Dennis, then editor of the book, who showed it to Brian Azzarello, then writer of the book... They liked it and they asked me to draw my first 2 issues of the book (168 and 169 if I'm correct...). I couldn't fucking believe it. And now the magic goes on, as I've come back from time to time to draw Mr. Constantine. What a lucky strike!
Peter Milligan: My personal connection is, I have no personal connection. After all these years with Vertigo until very recently I’ve never written Constantine. Or even thought about wanting to write it -- though as soon as I was asked if I was interested, it became a very obvious thing for me to do. Like it was there waiting for me.
NRAMA: What is your favorite Hellblazer story?
GC: Wow, there's so many great stories out there among the 250 issues that have been published so far that it's really hard to tell. But if I have to choose, I'd say it's still the American Gothic story from Swamp Thing, by the legendary Moore, Bissette and Totleben team. It's still a remarkable tale, after so many years. It still scares me, even after all the times I've read it.
DL: Haven't read enough to judge, and I'm loathe to pick one of those that I've worked on.
PM: I'm not sure. But if I had a gun against my head, maybe I'd say Garth Ennis' episode End of the Line, which might be- my god- episode 62. It has Kit in it, and a bit of Constantine's family.
DG: I always liked that Gaiman/McKean one. Hold Me?
NRAMA: What do you feel is the significance of Hellblazer lasting for over 250 issues in the larger context of the Vertigo brand?
DG: A real bloke in a made-up world.
GC: It means that this character and his "universe" have found a place inside modern day's comic history, and inside the readers' hearts. It means that the book has told many awesome stories over the years, and that it still has a lot to say. It means that John Constantine is, at least inside the Comicdom, an icon. And that's not bad, I'd say.
PM: The fact that a book like this ¬ about a skuzzy character like this – has lasted for this long, with all those different creators and editors, while so much other stuff has been going on around it. It’s remarkable, really. And a real testament to Vertigo and its readers. Constantine has been like a wayward brother who though living a reckless life somehow manages to continue. No matter what you do, or what happens, you know he¹s out there, liable to turn up any minute.
DL: Shows that a character that's well-produced doesn't have to wear tights to have a long life in comics.
NRAMA: What single characteristic do you think every story about John Constantine should have?
GC: If it was for me, I'd squeeze the fundamentals into a few words: Silk Cuts, fear, surprise and English humor. And a small, dim spark of hope, in the end.
DL: Cigarette smoke. It shows his constant closeness to Death.
DG: Bad language.
NRAMA: If you had to, how would you spend a Christmas with John Constantine?
DL: With liters of Gordons and Glenmorangie. And a fan so that I could direct any drifting cigarette smoke into the dark corner where it belongs.
DG: Getting pissed and talking bollocks.
PM: I probably wouldn’t choose to, but if I were forced it’d be in a pub. One of those small, crowded, unthemed pubs. I’ll ply John with drinks and then slip away before he could screw up my entire life.
GC: That's easy! In a pub, one of those in which smoking is still allowed, drinking Guinness and smoking! Cheers, mates!
Hellblazer #250 his the stands December 17th, by Jaime Delano, David Lloyd, Dave Gibbons, Sean Phillips, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, Peter Milligan, Eddie Campbell, Brian Azzerello, Rafael Grampa, and China Mieville.