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Superhero Origins: Constantine

Superhero Origins: Constantine
VOICE OVER: Dan Paradis
Script written by Selina Antonucci


Exorcist, Demonologist, Master of the Dark Arts… and definitely not the kind of magician you'd hire for your kid's birthday party. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're exploring the comic book origins of John Constantine aka The Hellblazer; not only a working class magician and con man but also a detective who specializes in the occult.


Special thanks to our users Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez, Shakib Ahmed, TheNicho223, Mike Honcho, Nick Warrick, Parichithayerakala, Charles Finley and Parichithayerakala for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest.

Script written by Selina Antonucci.

< h4>Comic book origins: John Constantine
Exorcist, Demonologist, Master of the Dark Arts… and definitely not the kind of magician you’d hire for your kid’s birthday party. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re exploring the comic book origins of John Constantine.


As with most comic book characters, there are many reimaginings and different versions to a character's past. We have chosen to primarily focus on the first twelve issues of ‘Hellblazer’ beginning with 1988’s Hellblazer #1, along with 1991’s Hellblazer #39 and The New 52’s 2015 Secret Origins #11.


John Constantine, aka The Hellblazer is not only a working class magician and con man but also a detective who specializes in the occult. Even though he’s adept in casting spells, John proves his resilience by relying more on his supernatural knowledge, quick wit and ability to manipulate friend or foe to his benefit.


John’s first official debut was in 1985’s Swamp Thing #37; appearing as a young man with a shock of blond hair, tan trench coat and chain-smoking like it’s nobody’s business. This antihero was created by Alan Moore and designed by artists Steve Bissette and John Totleben who were visually inspired by singer/songwriter, Sting.


When Constantine was initially introduced, his past was a mystery. This changed when Jamie Delano fleshed out the character in the 1988 Hellblazer series, and gave John Constantine’s haunting upbringing. Born in Liverpool on May 10, 1953, his mother, Mary Anne, died giving birth to John and his stillborn twin brother. As it turns out, the womb was weakened as a result of a previous abortion attempt done by John’s father, Thomas, and against the mother’s wishes. It is also revealed that while in the womb, John strangled his twin with his own umbilical cord. This dead twin became known as The Golden Boy, and thanks to the miracle of plot twists, would make additional appearances in future issues and in an alternate universe. The Golden Boy is a powerful magician and the exact opposite of John. The deaths of John’s mother and healthier twin, along with denial that his own actions doomed his wife’s wellbeing, Thomas blamed John, calling him evil and a killer. John’s upbringing was troubled and both he and his father remained resentful; for a brief period, John, with his older sister Cheryl spent their childhood living with their aunt and uncle and away from their alcoholic father.


During his adolescence John traveled around the world, participated in various occult circles and formed a punk rock band called Mucous Membrane; some of the band members became part of the Newcastle crew. While on tour, John came across the result of a magical orgy gone wrong at a club in Newcastle. An abused girl named Astra had summoned a demon that exacted revenge on her tormentors. However, the demon refused to leave and John devised a plan with fellow occultist friends to conjure another demon, known as Nergal that would destroy the threat. John’s recklessness and failure to control Nergal resulted in Astra being dragged to hell, her soul forever damned. Oops. The incident had also permanently scarred John’s friends and John suffered a nervous breakdown that led to him being committed to Ravenscar, a psychiatric facility for the deranged.


The event in Newcastle remains a festering wound for John, this compounded with the ghosts of friends that haunt him, and Constantine is continuously reminded of his failings that weigh heavy on his psyche. As if the man isn’t plagued enough, he encounters Nergal once again while hospitalized and is forced to make a deal with him, including getting his blood tainted by the demon.


John’s abilities didn’t emerge from just dabbling with the occult, but from his bloodline and ancestors who were skilled in the art of magic. This bloodline is known as the Laughing Magicians and spans all the way across mankind’s history. Not all members of the bloodline were capable or worthy of wielding the title; those gifted enough were able to perform the instinctual ability known as Synchronicity Wave Travelling. This ability enables the mage the power to tip luck and shape fate in their favor, increasing their chances of success. Due to this ability, John can easily escape and evade opponents, protect himself from harmful spells and weapons and be at the right place at the right time. The ability to manipulate synchronicity can also attribute to how John consistently foils his enemies. It’s safe to say that John Constantine is one lucky yet miserable bastard; despite the advantageous perk, John’s a walking bad omen, bringing misfortune and death to whoever crosses his path, especially his friends.


In DC’s New 52 reboot, John’s origin alters, providing a preview of the Hellblazer before earning the moniker. In 2014’s Constantine #14, John’s childhood was set in the 1980s and as a young boy, he was taught his first magic spell by a sorcerer named Tannarak. The sorcerer failed to warn Constantine that the cost of such a gift was the lives of his parents and the destruction of his home.


John Constantine’s origin was again retconned in 2015's Secret Origins #11 when a magical creature named Legendbreaker is summoned by a group of kids who inquire aboutConstantine’s true origin. The creature offers three diverging narratives: the first origin had John’s mother dying while in labor, leaving him with an abusive father; the second showed him being raised in a loving home with parents who care for him with the third having John born in an average household but with an older sister gone mad and possibly possessed by a sinister entity. One pattern is consistent as each story ends with the death of his family and placing John Constantine on the path towards magic.


John Constantine has appeared in both the big and small screens throughout the years. In 2005, the movie Constantine was released with Keanu Reeves, who himself is supernaturally ageless, cast as the occult detective. Reeves’ portrayal of the character was even darker than in the comics, and the film took many liberties with the character. Constantine, the TV series aired in 2014 and breathed new life into the character while also sticking closer to the source material. Despite the show’s faithful interpretation of John’s world and Matt Ryan’s impressive performance, the show was cancelled after the first season. In what could be described as a small miracle, Matt Ryan reprised his role for a guest appearance in season four of CW’s Arrow, thus illustrating not only the resilience of the character but also the potential in having John Constantine as a valuable ally in superhero TV shows that contend against dark and supernatural forces.


John Constantine has been outwitting foes, defying fate and musing in dark corners for over thirty years, yet his appeal hasn’t. He’s troubled and incredibly flawed but always finds a way to stay relevant and consistently present in the DC universe.


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He is a Petty Dabbler of the Dark Arts, not a master
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