When the cancellation of Hellblazer in favor of a more superhero-friendly New 52 Constantine solo title was announced, it was said to be helmed by X-O Manowar's Robert Venditti alongside aritst Renato Guedes. Well, without much fanfare, it seems Venditti has been shown the door, as today, DC Comics has announced that Justice League Dark writer Jeff Lemire, who's been writing John Constantine as the pseudo-leader of that group already, will be taking over the Constantine series before it even got started, with his JLD co-writer Ray Fawkes handling the actual scripting duties. Guedes, however, will stay on as the artist.
In a CBR interview, DC's Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras explained it thusly: "Robert came to us with a fantastic pitch for Constantine; we really loved what Robert's doing — he's working on Demon Knights now, and he's also working on another project for us that I really can't go into which is a big deal for us. But at the end of the day, Robert and Dan [DiDio] and I spoke, and Constantine was, for him, one book too many. It was the one thing that we had to go, 'If we want you to focus on this one project, maybe we should make a change on Constantine.' Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes very professionally, very nicely stepped up to the challenge [of launching "Constantine"]."
"John Constantine is my favorite character," Lemire says. "He has been since I was sixteen and I grabbed a copy of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Hellblazer #61 from my local comic shop, Olympic Records in Windsor, Ontario. I was hooked from the moment I saw that amazing Glen Fabry cover with John, leaning, exhausted and bloody, scalpel in hand, against a door frame. I quickly went back and scrounged for every back issue I could, discovering the rest of Ennis' amazing run as well as Jamie Delano's groundbreaking original issues."
The big question remains thus: how much will John Constantine have to be neutered to fit into the shinier DC super-world rather than the darker Vertigo book? This is Lemire's answer.
"As someone who has nothing but respect for the character and the incredible legacy of writers and artists who have worked on him in the past, I want to do everything I can to help create a comic that pays respect to who John was, but also reintroduces him to a whole new audience. Constantine will be different from Hellblazer. No doubt about it. For one thing JC now haunts Manhattan instead of London (the reason for the move will be explained in Issue 3!). And, he once again has one foot planted firmly in the DC Universe, much like he did in the original Swamp Thing stories. But rest assured, Ray and I are not pulling any punches in Constantine. John's still the same as he always was."
Well, Lemire's earned some trust on that score, given the gruesome lengths that his Animal Man has gone to in its pseudo-horror New 52 incarnation. It remains to be seen how much latitude he'll get.
Other creator-team swaps are Jim Zubkavich being taken off of Birds of Prey before he began, and Sword of Sworcery: Amethyst writer Christy Marx coming on board instead.
Harras had this to say about that: "Jim had a great pitch for Birds Of Prey, but as things came together in discussion and the creative churn, we all saw what Christy was doing on Amethyst, and we were looking at Birds Of Prey and internally and editorially we were thinking of taking it in a different direction. The decision was made that we were going to go in a different direction than what Jim had originally envisioned. We definitely, definitely want to continue working with Jim, but at this moment, we wanted to go in a particular direction. In the creative process, these things sometimes happen and he totally understood. Obviously, he was a bit disappointed, but he understood. We hope to work with him on another project."
What's interesting is Harras' comment on the Gail Simone firing/rehiring for Batgirl, wherein Fawkes was going to take her place. "What we had was Ray [Fawkes] coming on for two months to help out, schedule-wise. We're very happy Gail is back; she's on the book moving forward, so to me, that was a moment in time where we were just looking for Gail's next plot to come in and we're moving forward."
So… Simone was fired for being late? Is that what we're to gather from that? Obviously, they don't really want to talk about that whole thing.
Also of note: Jim Starlin is going to be doing Stormwatch, and guess what, renumbering freaks? They're going to do a special Detective Comics #900 celebration – which WOULD have been what the New 52 Detective Comics #19 would have been if not for the funky renumbering. No, they won't revert numbering, but they'll have an oversized 80-page issue and a story revolving around a group called The 900. They may not have the old numbering, but they won't be ignoring such things.
Lastly, it seems I, Vampire is ending cancellation-style with issue #19. I did enjoy that series, for the most part, but this may mean I can go back to not caring about vampires. DCU Presents, the revolving-cast anthology series, will also be ending with #19 – a Tony Bedard/Jesus Saiz story about a 'time-displaced hero.' Could it end with the return of Booster Gold?