Since the new Constantine title launched in March, the clever magical hero has been struggling to maintain the balance of magical power in the DCU.
That has given a unique opportunity to writer Ray Fawkes, who's soon going solo on the title after getting an assist for the few couple issues from Jeff Lemire. By focusing Constantine on the mages of the DCU, Fawkes has been able to introduce a slew of magic characters back into the rebooted "New 52."
Constantine's struggle so far has centered on The Cult of The Cold Flame, an extremist group of mages, led by Sargon the Sorcerer, Mister E, Zatara, and Tannarak. But his adventure has already gotten the attention of The Spectre and others, with more magic-based characters showing up in the next few issues.
Lemire and Fawkes also co-write Justice League Dark, where John Constantine serves as team leader. Through both series, the writers have faced the challenge of building John Constantine's life within the New 52 universe, after the character was relegated to a separate Vertigo universe previously.
Fawkes told Newsarama that Constantine's encounters in the first three-issue storyline are all part of an over-arching story for John Constantine. Newsarama talked to Fawkes to find out more about the mages we've seen so far, why Papa Midnight's appearance will be significant and what readers can expect from this summer's "Trinity War" story.
Newsarama: Ray, now that we've read the first couple issues of Constantine, what comes next for the series? Is this storyline coming to a conclusion with this week's #3?
Ray Fawkes: Yeah, the third issue wraps up this storyline. "The Spark and the Flame" will come to a close, and we'll see who wins the race to assemble Croydon's Compass.
Then issue #4 brings John back from the jaunt around the world that #1 through #3 comprised, and takes us into the next set of dangers.
Nrama: You're taking Constantine to London in the next issue, which I think a lot of readers are anticipating. What does that bring to the story?
Fawkes: London is quite literally out for John's blood, chiefly because of the folly of his youth. We're all going to see what can happen when a mage in the DCU goes too far. It's not a pretty sight.
Nrama: In the first issue, we got a peek at where Constantine lives. Are the items we see in his room representative of who he is as a character, and are there any hints in here about what you're hoping to explore in the coming months?
Fawkes: Yes. And yes. I don't want to give anything away here. Careful readers might want to have a close look at some of the items in that room. They do tell some of John's story to date, and we will see them again.
Nrama: Mr. E, Zatara and other magical characters are being featured in your first arc. What were your thoughts behind the challenges you're bringing up against Constantine in his first arc?
Fawkes: These guys aren't just first-arc threats. The mages of the Cold Flame are shaping up to be John's first concern — not a little bit because he's cast himself as their nemesis, blocking their nefarious plans. They are, in many ways, the worst aspects of DCU magic users brought to life, and John has more in common with them than he'd comfortably admit. Beyond that, I can't say much without revealing future plans.
Nrama: You're implying that these characters aren't as short-lived as they seem. Does that include The Spectre, whose scene was particularly short-lived? Does he play a bigger role in the story? And if so, can you tell us anything about that role?
Fawkes: Yes. And no. Let me put it this way: nobody shows up in this book without having a part to play in the unfolding story. John Constantine is an opportunist and a con man — he'd never let something as powerful as the Spectre appear on the scene without trying to find a way to turn it to his advantage. But to elaborate on the role the Spectre will play is to give away some of John's game? That's something I'll never do until the time is right.
Nrama: Let's talk about John's character a little. You seem to be utilizing John's ability to talk his way out of situations, using his wit and cunning to fight his battles. Is that the central idea behind his actions in the series, or will we see different aspects of John's abilities?
Fawkes: You'll see more. John has many strengths, and no great strategist relies on the same trick too often. His cunning is certainly the most useful weapon in his arsenal, but it's far from being his only go-to in a bad situation.
Nrama: One of the new characters you're incorporating into the book is Papa Midnight. How would you describe Papa Midnight, and what's the significance of his relationship with Constantine?
Fawkes: Papa Midnight is a perfect example of the kind of mage John's been talking about in the issues you've seen already: one who's traded so much for his power that he can never go back to what he was before, even if he wants to. He's cruel, he's probably mad, and he's very, very dangerous. And Constantine lives and operates within the territory that Papa's claimed for himself, so the relationship is...rocky.
Nrama: You seem to be looking at this idea of trading for power. It was interesting to hear Constantine start off an issue's narration by pointing out that when you lose everything, that's when you become really powerful. Is that central to the themes you're exploring in the series?
Fawkes: Yes, very much so. The road followed by every mage who seeks real power in the DCU is paved with sacrifice, and most of them don't realize that to get where they want to go, they're going to have to lose almost everything they already have. That's why so many of them go crazy or turn sour.
But those who do get that far, and end up with almost nothing of themselves left, are the ones who gain access to incredible power. Readers will be meeting one of those mages very soon in Constantine.
Nrama: Sounds like some big things coming up. But I have to ask about the covers, because many people have wondered about the gatefold cover to issue #19, because it showed a scene that wasn't in the book.
Fawkes: What happened on the cover very nearly happened in the book. But for John's quick thinking, he was fated for the bloody death on the cobblestones depicted. And that danger's not gone — just deferred.
Nrama: OK, then here's another question for you: At what point does the story arc in Constantine take place, compared to what's happening in Justice League Dark? Are they just loosely concurrent, or are you thinking one happens after another?
Fawkes: The story in Constantine is roughly concurrent with the stories in Justice League Dark. Obviously we're playing a bit fast and loose — it's not like John is jetting off to Myanmar at the same time he's in Manhattan in Justice League Dark's currently ongoing "Horror City", but those events are happening in roughly the same period.
Nrama: That "continuity" thing is going to become more important this summer, since Justice League Dark is playing such an important role in "Trinity War." I know you've got a tie-in with the event. How does the Constantine title fit in with "Trinity War?"
Fawkes: Issue #5 of Constantine is a tie-in, and readers will see exactly how a man like Constantine operates in the world of superheroes.
Nrama: Will there be any other interaction between Justice League Dark and the Constantine book?
Fawkes: Yes, but we don't have any full crossovers planned at the moment. The events of the two books inform and affect one another, but each is its own beast as well.
Nrama: Then to finish up, can you give us a glimpse at what else is coming up for Constantine in the coming months?
Fawkes: Double-dealing, powerful mages, a strange oracle, decapitation, undead torment, stealing time with Zatanna, and a grab for ultimate power. And more. Much more. Poor John's hardly going to get a chance to catch his breath this year.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Constantine?
Fawkes: I just want to thank the fans who've been picking the book up, making its launch a great success! I promise you won't be disappointed with what comes next.