DC Comics has announced that the long-running and much-beloved Vertigo series Hellblazer will be coming to an end with issue #300, concluding the "Death and Cigarettes" arc written by Peter Milligan with artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini.
Why is this happening? Because they're launching a new Constantine book by bestselling author Robert Venditti (who currently writes Valiant's X-O Manowar and will be writing Demon Knights soon as well) and artist Renato Guedes. This one will be set firmly in DC's New 52 superhero land rather than Hellblazer's uncensored and for-mature-audiences-only world that began way back in 1988.
The idea of integrating John Constantine into the main DCU was always a little suspect, considering how much of his character was about chain-smoking, drinking and making, uh, very adult choices, we'll say. However, it seems to have worked, with the success of Justice League Dark (also initially written by Milligan before being taken over by Jeff Lemire) even making him believable as the leader of a freakin' team, as opposed to being the completely anti-social backstabbing asshole as established in Hellblazer.
"Few characters in comics are as complex and entertaining as John Constantine, and I'm finding him to be every bit as enjoyable to write as he is to read," Venditti says. "It's my goal to have the new Constantine series be equal parts familiarity and surprise. This will be the Constantine we all know and love, but facing new and unexpected challenges from both inside and out."
He'll be the one we know and love minus all the canon established in Hellblazer, one expects, and instead a bunch of stuff about Batman. Some of that continuity may resurface in a new form, surely, but one more palatable to younger readers – the crucial market toward which they're gearing him, perhaps in preparation for the rumored DC-magic-user movie (even though Guillermo Del Toro debunked it – or at least his involvement with it).
In a CBS interview, Venditti adds: "He's going to be the same age that he is in Justice League Dark and the same character that people know and recognize — the drinking and smoking, the con man aspect of him — that's going to be very much part of the series."
"The mission is very much the same," he continued. "While I'm aware of all the rich history, I can't look at it from 'How am I going to compete with that?' I am going to come to the book and tell the best stories that I can."
Initial reaction to this has not been positive – even to DC's own employees. Batwoman writer/artist J.H. Williams III tweeted this:
Williams does tend to keep his Batwoman separate from most of the standard DCU – he didn't tie into the Night of Owls crossover and seems to prefer doing his own thing. This would be one more reason for that. This seems to be the general feeling for Vertigo fans.
What do you think? Do you enjoy the New 52 version of John Constantine enough that you think it should replace Hellblazer? Should the two versions of him have co-existed instead, or would that be too confusing? Is Constantine appearing in JLD, Animal Man and Sword of Sorcery not enough already, or will he be the new Wolverine?
By the by, here's some concept art.