John Constantine: literary child of Alan Moore, blue-collar wizard, con man, bastard.
Since his first appearance in The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 in June 1985, Constantine has captured the imaginations of readers, writers and artists. Now though, within DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint/universe that housed him for 28 years, John Constantine is dead. His own comic, Hellblazer, came to an end this month with issue #300 and I, like many others, followed the final storyline, knowing it would be the last within Vertigo; knowing he would die. We all wondered what end would be fitting for so iconic a character and speculated whether he’d be able to cheat death one last time.
In my opinion though, it ended with more of a whimper than a bang. It was satisfying, I suppose. It tied up loose ends, I suppose. It got good reviews, I suppose. But to me the ending just didn’t feel… Constantine enough.
So here instead are my own ideas for how Hellblazer, and Constantine with it, could have been brought to an end:
- Constantine has always had a tumultuous relationship with The First of the Fallen, and the denizens and regents of Hell. Having Constantine, seeing the end of his life approaching, launch a coup on Hell itself, would be the ultimate con. A man destined for Hell, ending up as its ruler, and upsetting the apple cart of all of reality would be a very Constantine ending.
- I misunderstood the nature of the character Map, a potential king of the magi who draws and lends power to London. I saw him instead as the embodiment of London, it’s deity or genius loci. This too, would be a satisfying ending for Constantine, in my view; to become the very spirit of London, a city that he has become intrinsically linked to. To wear London like a mantle and guide it through its next era, before he too eventually passes on the responsibility.
- The first storyline of Hellblazer, told in issues #1 and #2, tells of John battling Mnemoth, a hunger spirit accidentally unleashed on New York by his friend Gary Lester. It possesses people and then makes them hunger for what they desire most in the world. They will try to consume the objects of their desire while their bodies waste away. John managed to trap it inside Gary’s body, and had his friend’s corpse and the spirit bricked into a cell. It would be interesting to take Constantine’s story full circle and, dying, take Lester’s place as the prison of Mnemoth, thereby freeing Lester’s spirit.
Finally, arguably the best ending to John Constantine has perhaps already been written by Warren Ellis, in Planetary #7. John Carter, the stand-in John Constantine, performs one last con and walks off into the night to become someone else, leaving the trappings of his origins behind. Dead to the world, but ready to move on.
DC Comics are, of course, not quite finished with John Constantine. Hellblazer might now have ended, but John returns to the DC Universe inhabited by never-ageing men in tights in his own comic. It will be interesting to see how writers handle the character now that he isn’t burdened by his own ghosts, history, age or being the only last bulwark against the weird.