[Spoilers ahead for today's Brightest Day #24! Click on the link for a preview.]
Swamp Thing is back in the DC Universe after years at Vertigo, but he didn't travel alone.
John Constantine came along for the ride.
In Brightest Day #24, the grand finale of DC's bi-weekly series, John Constantine officially returns to the DC Universe, opening the door for even more migrations between the two DC lines.
And according to DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, Constantine's appearance comes as a result of plans to expand Swamp Thing's role in the DCU.
"[John Constantine's return] was 100 percent a story decision," DiDio told Newsarama. "As we were starting to bring some of the [Vertigo] characters back into the DCU for storytelling, so they could interact with the rest of the universe, naturally once you introduce Swamp Thing, Constantine was such an integral part of so many important stories featuring Swamp Thing that we felt that we would be remiss if we didn't have him make that appearance also, at this time."Constantine, a chain-smoking British occultist, was originally introduced as a cast member in the then-DC Universe title Swamp Thing during writer Alan Moore's legendary run. But when the Vertigo line of mature comics was launched, Constantine was among the characters moved out of the DCU, and he's now starring in the John Constantine: Hellblazer comic series, which is one of the longest running comics at Vertigo. The character was also featured in the 2005 Constantine movie starring Keanu Reeves.
The Hellblazer series, which is in the midst of an acclaimed run by Peter Milligan, currently has Constantine aging in real time, growing old and recently getting married. DiDio said that version of John Constantine will still exist, simultaneously with the one in DCU comics. And there will be no change to the current Hellblazer series.
"There may be two John Constantines — one who is running around in Vertigo, who has gone through an important change in his own story arc recently with the marriage, and now you'll see a little bit different version of Constantine in the DCU," DiDio said. "He'll be a little bit younger, he'll be more in line with the character as he appeared when he was last in the DC Universe."
And will the DCU version still be a chain-smoker?
"There are some things you can't get people to quit," DiDio laughed.
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi, Brightest Day recently identified Swamp Thing as Earth's "new champion" and has returned the character to his original status in the DC Universe, complete with Alec Holland as the creature's actual identity. But the series doesn't completely finish Swamp Thing's story, and that's where John Constantine comes into play.
The end of Brightest Day sets Constantine up for his next role as the lead character in Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing, a three-part DCU mini-series by Jonathan Vankin and artist Marco Castiello.
"When you have a search for Swamp Thing, what better person to search?" DiDio said. "There's a definite place we leave Swamp Thing at the end of Brightest Day, and Constantine is an important part of that. How that plays out, we'll see over the course of time."
DiDio wouldn't clarify what Swamp Thing and John Constantine might be doing after the conclusion of the three-issue Aftermath mini-series. "That would be giving a little too much away," he said. But Newsarama learned earlier this month that DC has talked to Swamp Thing's co-creator, Len Wein, about possibly doing something with the character in the DCU.
Constantine's presence in both Vertigo and the DCU is not without precedence. As Newsarama recently highlighted, the barrier between the lines has been broken before, with characters like Phantom Stranger, Black Orchid, Animal Man and Deadman.
Now DC has opened that door for dual citizenship again, with Swamp Thing, John Constantine and even the recent appearance of Sandman character Death in Action Comics #894 and today's Action Comics #900..
"In the earlier days, when Vertigo was first starting up, we had a number of DCU characters migrating over to Vertigo," DiDio pointed out. "There was a point there that if you saw the Phantom Stranger, he was one of the few characters who was able to transcend both lines of series between DCU and Vertigo. He was appearing in DCU books as he was appearing in Vertigo books."
That level of shared characters between the DCU and Vertigo now returns with John Constantine. But even though there will be two versions of Constantine, DiDio said there are currently no plans to do the same thing with Swamp Thing.
"There's always been a consistent Constantine: Hellblazer book, and that's running non-stop. But Swamp Thing has started and stopped so many times," DiDio said. "There were so many interpretations of Swamp Things, with the character interpreted several different ways over the years over at Vertigo, and we've had him appear in several incarnations through the years.
Besides, the co-publisher said, there is currently no Swamp Thing title at Vertigo. "Starting two new versions of Swamp Thing simultaneously didn't make any sense," DiDio said. "So the goal was to start Swamp Thing up here in the DC Universe.
"But who knows?" he added, opening the door for a Swamp Thing at Vertigo. "If a Constantine can guest star in a book featuring Swamp Thing [in the DCU], why couldn't Swamp Thing guest star in a book featuring Constantine in Hellblazer? So the opportunity is always there.
"But right now the focus is the reintroduction of Swamp Thing in the DC Universe, and to make that as big and important as possible to all the characters here, and then not just put him out there, but bring back the things that people remember the most as part of his world, part of his universe, starting with John Constantine," he said.
Now that the door has clearly opened for Vertigo characters to show up in the DCU, DiDio said any character that was formerly a citizen of the DCU could be called home if the story warrants it.
"We're hoping that not only are we calling the characters home at some point, but we're calling some fans home as well," he said. "Our hope is to make these things as exciting to everybody as possible.
"What we want to do is use all the characters we have available to us to tell the best stories possible, in any way possible," DiDio said, "just to get people re-energized by all the big stories we have taking place in the DC Universe right now."
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