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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #390

Welcome to the three hundredth and ninetieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, in honor of Halloween (divide this week’s installment by three and you get 130!) and in honor of Sonia Harris’ ode to John Constantine in her latest Committed column, this week is a special Hellblazer week! All legends involving John Constantine, including whether Keanu Reeves was to blame for Constantine being American in the film, whether Grant Morrison and Phil Foglio were denied usage of Constantine (and in Foglio’s case, denied usage of a Constantine STAND-IN) and whether Jamie Delano really wanted to call Hellblazer “Hellraiser” originally.

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and eighty-nine.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Jamie Delano originally wanted to call Hellblazer “Hellraiser.”

STATUS: True Enough for a True

Amazingly enough, Hellblazer, which launched in 1988, is currently the longest-running active comic book series by either Marvel OR DC that has never been relaunched. It is still on its first volume (Action Comics and Detective Comics were way ahead of it until the New 52. So was Uncanny X-Men until Schism).

The original writer for the series was Jamie Delano.

Rumor has it that Delano originally wanted to name the series “Hellraiser,” which, of course, was the name of a horror film that had just come out in 1987…

based on the novella, The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker.

I asked Jamie about it, and here is what he had to say:

As I dimly recall my first instinct was to call the book Hellraiser, but Clive Barker beat us to it with his movie. I suggested a few alternatives, but DC came up with Hellblazer and that’s the one that stuck. I was always a little ambivalent about the ‘Hellblazer’ choice – confused by its derivation – but it worked out good in the end, I guess.

An interesting question that I’ve been unable to find out, so if any of you folks happen to know, please e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com, was whether the name ever got off the ground at DC. Jamie did not recall it ever getting past him suggesting it and DC squelching it because of the Hellraiser film, but I know I’ve seen some people suggest it got a little further along in development, even perhaps to the point of the series being ANNOUNCED as “Hellraiser” to the comic book press before quickly changing it. I have seen no indications that that is actually what happened (the only promotional material I’ve seen promoted the series as “Hellblazer”), but if I just missed it, please let me know!

Thanks so much to Jamie Delano for the answer!

COMIC LEGEND: Grant Morrison had to invent Willoughby Kipling because they were denied usage of John Constantine in Doom Patrol.

STATUS: True

Over the last twenty years or so, it has become a common thing for characters like John Constantine to be essentially relegated only to appearing in Vertigo comic books, and not DC superhero comics. It was only in the last few years that John Constantine began appearing regularly in DC superhero comics (he obviously DID make some cameos over the years, of course). What is interesting to note is that this protectiveness even existed BEFORE Vertigo existed, even with books theoretically under the same basic umbrella!

To wit, Grant Morrison wanted to use John Constantine in Doom Patrol #31 in 1990. I checked with the editor of the book at the time, Mark Waid, and he confirmed that they were denied the use of the character, causing Morrison to have to create a Constantine substitute, Willoughby Kipling, based on Richard Grant’s character Withnail in the British film Withnail and I…

Here is Kipling’s introduction…

And here is where he tells Doom Patrol his name…

Thanks for the info, Mark!

COMIC LEGEND: Phil Foglio had to invent Ambrose Bierce in Stanley and his Monster because he was denied usage of John Constantine AND Willoughby Kipling.

STATUS: True

The whole thing gets a lot funnier when you come to the case of Phil Foglio’s 1993 series, Stanley and his Monster. Foglio, too, wanted to use John Constantine but was denied the usage. Amusingly, though, he was ALSO denied usage of Willoughy Kipling! Yes, he couldn’t use the COPY of the guy he initially wanted to use!

By this point, DC had established Vertigo, so presumably it was that general (not always enforced) “Vertigo characters are off limits to non-Vertigo comics” edict that kept Kipling out of Stanley and his Monster. After all, it was not like Waid or Morrison cared, they had both left the book some time earlier.

So Foglio introduced his OWN riff on John Constantine, Ambrose Bierce (named after the satirical writer of the same name). Only Foglio decided to have a little fun with the fact that he wasn’t allowed to use John Constantine…

and then…

and later…

Hilarious stuff. Thanks so much to Phil Foglio for confirming that he was, in fact, denied the use of both Constantine and Kipling (as he noted, though, it all worked out for the best).

COMIC LEGEND: John Constantine was American in the Constantine film because of actor Keanu Reeves.

STATUS: False

In 2005, the horror film Constantine was released, starring Keanu Reeves as John Constantine…

Among the changes made to the character were stuff like him no longer being blonde. Also, perhaps most notably the character was no longer BRITISH!

As Constantine was played by dark-haired American superstar Keanu Reeves, the presumption among fans was that the character was made American because of Reeves.

However, that is not the case. Kevin Brodbin, who wrote the original screenplay for the film, explained in an interview with Chris Wehner that the change was made well before any actor was cast (and in fact, before the screenplay even sold). As Brodbin explained:

I originally pitched him as English, no one really knew the comic book. He wasn’t like Batman or X-Men, where part of the deal is that the character already has a fan base. This was the opposite. No one knew about the comic book, especially here. So, as you can imagine, an English character they’ve [the producers] never heard of and a comic book they never heard of, I decided to make him American. As long as his voice worked it wouldn’t matter how his accent worked.

So whether you liked Reeves in Constantine or not, you can’t blame him for the accent!

Thanks to Brodbin and Wehner for the information. Here‘s their full interview. It is an interesting read.

Okay, that’s it for this week! Have a hellblazin’ Halloween, everyone!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Here’s my new book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? It came out this week! The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).

If you want to order a copy, ordering it here gives me a referral fee.

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Urban Legends Revealed, where I look into urban legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at urbanlegendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

69 Comments

Gods I love Phil Foglio’s work. :-)

I’d guess Ambrose and Willoughby are not in the New 52 :-)

Huh. Looking at the Withnail poster, the Willoughby Kipling resemblance to Richard E Grant’s character is obvious. I love both the film and Morrison’s Doom Patrol, but I never made the connection. Panel 5 on that page is a dead giveaway!

I fondly remember reading that issue at the time but just wrote Kipling off as a Constantine parody.

Keanu Reeves is Canadian not American

LOL, sure, nobody knew about a Hellblazer comic and he didn’t have a fanbase. What a stuck-up dork that movie guy is.

Laurence J Sinclair

October 26, 2012 at 9:57 am

Keanu Reeves is not from the USA, but he is from the North American continent. ;P

Funny, when I read that DP arc it annoyed me Morrison had created a new character who was virtually identical to Constantine. Now I know why.
Bierce, on the other hand, works great. It’s hard to imagine Constantine being that funny.
The story is probably the best use of the “your afterlife is whatever you imagine” concept.

Keanu Reeves is not from the USA, but he is from the North American continent. ;P

Hehe, that was why I used the general term “American.” :)

Just in case, since you don’t seem to indicate knowledge of this fact in the article, I’ll point out here that Ambrose Bierce is the name of a famous writer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrose_Bierce

Oh yeah, sure, that should be thrown in there. Good point.

Re: JimL

If you were to do a vox pop about comics books and characters in the middle of a random shopping mall in the US, Canada, the UK or the rest of the English speaking world most people would probably list you off Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the X Men, the Hulk, and since the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. After that you’d probably have a reasonable amount of people who’d know Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Fantastic Four and Archie comics. After that there’d be a massive drop off in recognition so I don’t think you can blame Brodbin for saying nobody recognised Hellblazer when he pitched the movie. And as he says, he did originally pitch the character as being English so do give him some credit.

And Bierce disappeared mysteriously IIRC. Which explains Foglio using him in this.

The Foglio comic mentions “like the writer?” but yeah, everyone should read up on Bierce. He’s not just a character in a goofy From Dusk Til Dawn movie, he was a sharp satirist and writer and his disappearance is still considered a mystery (though it is kind of obvious what happened. Just no one’s definitively found the body).

Chief, I think Amazing Spiderman is still volume 1 and thus beats hellblazer. Ok it’s gone off and donw other things but keeps returning to it’s original numbering

I remember the Aztec Ace comic from the 1980s has him show up in some kind of limbo with Amelia Earhart. But yes, in the real one, nothing terribly strange.

Oooh, 4 Comic Book Legends tidbits revealed to us. We are so spoiled. Mr. B.C. is good to us!

I always wondered what ever became of Willoughby Kipling? Last I remember of him in Morrison’s DP, he had half of his arm burned off leaving the bones intact. Did DC ever continue the use of this character?

As to Keanu Reeves, he grew up in Canada, but was born in Lebanon. For those nitpickers.

Keanu Reeves’s slo-mo middle finger while ascending to heaven was so wonderfully in character.

” Keanu Reeves is not from the USA, but he is from the North American continent. ;P”

“Hehe, that was why I used the general term “American.” :)”

General as it may be, I’ve never encountered any Canadian who would describe themselves as ‘American’.

‘North American’? Sure. But ‘American’ by itself is ‘general’ly used only for people from the USA.

Chief, I think Amazing Spiderman is still volume 1 and thus beats hellblazer. Ok it’s gone off and donw other things but keeps returning to it’s original numbering

“is currently the longest-running active comic book series by either Marvel OR DC that has never been relaunched”

Is Amazing Spider-Man an active comic book series that has never been relaunched?

So, does anyone else read Willoughby Kipling’s “chin-chin” as him doing his own “Law & Order noise” as he’s talking? Because that makes it funnier.

–yo
*chung chung*

The real Bierce also wrote “The Devil’s Dictionary,” which sounds like something Constantine would read. (It’s actually satire, not occult.)

Philip, Brian said “longest-running active comic book series by either Marvel OR DC that has never been relaunched”. Clearly ASM was relaunched as I had an “ASM 1″ in my basement for years. I know we would all like to forget the Howard Mackie controls the Spidey universe era, but it did happen.

Who cares? Keanu Reeves’ nationality is seemingly quite fluid and it’s not worth quibbling over.

I will say that Reeves is a dual citizen, but IDs as Canadian.So while it might be ok in this case, Brian – calling a Canadian an American will likely get you the same reaction from the Canuck as when you call a New Zealander an Australian. Not a good idea, so I’d urge you to reconsider “American” for everyone on the N. and S. continents.

Anyway, aside from all that an excellent article! Good to see Constantine get some well-researched love. I love Foglio and would be interesting to see Kipling in the new52 someday.

Nick A, is yours as valuable as my ASM 1 from 1999?

@Matthew Murray: Oddly, about 20 years back I got into trouble at the American/Canadian border because of this very thing. A friend and I (both of us from the USA) were stopped for a random check crossing over to the Canadian side and I was asked my nationality. I said “American” and was indignantly reproached by the Canadian border guard: “Canadians are Americans, too!” So it seems to me that at least with some folks the nomenclature may indeed be a sticking point…

I hope Keanu doesn’t read what Brian wrote about him.

Mathew Murray,
Many US people seemed to take posesion of the American name, But I heard Many south and central american people call themselves Americans.

Also, usually in the context of being american agaisnt being European, so it fits its use in the text.

I would have to do some research, but the Constantine series was referred to as Hellraiser in print. My recollection is that it was in the Swamp Thing letter column in advance of the series being released.

If John Constantine was designed to look like Sting, does that mean Phil Foglio’s Ambrose Bierce was designed to look like Rod Stewart?

I’m almost positive that Hellblazer was called Hellraiser when it was first mentioned in Swamp Thing. It would have either been an ad or in the letters pages. I don’t have my comics here so I can’t look it up though.

Those Foglio pages are nicely done! Been way too long since I’ve read any of his stuff.
The Constantine movie was surprisingly decent. Not great by any means, but much better than I expected.

Ambrose Bierce wasn’t just a clever satirist, but one of our greatest horror writers. I highly recommend people check his stuff out.

Mike Blake:”Ambrose Bierce wasn’t just a clever satirist, but one of our greatest horror writers. I highly recommend people check his stuff out.”

Agreed. Among 19th century American horror writers, Bierce is second only to Poe. To anyone who has not read his horror fiction, I strongly recommend reading THE DAMNED THING or THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER, two of the finest horror short stories ever written. And, of course, his Civil War stories (CHICKAMAUGA, AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE, PARKER ADDERSON, PHILOSOPHER, etc) are also well worth checking out.

It wouldn’t be the first time confusion over a name got into print–Son of Satan was known as Mark of Satan until right up to the first story.

Amazing Spider-Man ends soon with #700 anyway and Hellblazer is scheduled to continue publishing.

Stephen Conway
October 26, 2012 at 10:42 am

Re: JimL

If you were to do a vox pop about comics books and characters in the middle of a random shopping mall in the US, Canada, the UK or the rest of the English speaking world most people would probably list you off Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the X Men, the Hulk, and since the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. After that you’d probably have a reasonable amount of people who’d know Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Fantastic Four and Archie comics. After that there’d be a massive drop off in recognition so I don’t think you can blame Brodbin for saying nobody recognised Hellblazer when he pitched the movie. And as he says, he did originally pitch the character as being English so do give him some credit.

====================================================================================

Blade did reasonably well, and prior to 1998 he had never appeared outside fo comic books.

Come to think of it, prior to 1976 or so, how many people could name Luke Skywalker or Mark Hammill? (If someone says, Luke Skywalker started as motion picture property, he had no prior print appearance other than the novelization-would that make him more unestablished?)

By the way, did the makers of the 2005 film realize how many adventure heroes have British origins? Aside from Harry Potter:

if you look at the supposedly well-known adventure franchises, they curiously usually feature British heroes, even if created by foreigners (Tarzan, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Harry Potter, Horatio Hornblower, Allan Quatermain, Richard Hannay, Sherlock Holmes, etc.).

PB210:”By the way, did the makers of the 2005 film realize how many adventure heroes have British origins? Aside from Harry Potter:

if you look at the supposedly well-known adventure franchises, they curiously usually feature British heroes, even if created by foreigners (Tarzan, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Harry Potter, Horatio Hornblower, Allan Quatermain, Richard Hannay, Sherlock Holmes, etc.).”

Tarzan is the odd man out in the list, as he is almost never played as British. Even a film like GREYSTOKE, which actually used Tarzan’s background as a British nobleman, had a Swiss-French actor playing the part. As a further bit of oddness, most films also tend to swap Jane’s nationality for Tarzan’s. In the books, Jane is an American, but most films have played her as British.

PB210–

I’m surprised you left out James Bond.

Two Bed Two Bath

October 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm

It should also be mentioned that in John Smith’s Hellblazer story, “Counting to Ten,” (#51), Constantine mentions having worked some cases alongside Kipling…

Let’s just call everybody on this side of the world Columbians, OK?

Reeves is Canadian. Just like Joe Shuster. We have a rule up here – you can be a dual citizen. If you renounce your Canadian citizenship (like John Byrne), we let you go. That’s why we still lay claim to people like Travis Charest and Todd McFarlane.

BTW Brian – call Sean Connery “British” and let me know how that goes for you…

FWIW, PB210, Blade had appeared in the popular Spider-Man animated series in the mid-1990’s, so that might have played a part in it.

Star Wars opened in the summer of 1977, so outside of fans of a series called The Texas Wheelers, no one probably would have recognized Mark Hamill outside of an animation studio in 1976. Even then, the guy did a lot of voice work )thanks, iMDb)

Going to join the chorus of commenters here requesting a change in the Constantine Film entry. Keanu Reeves is super Canadian. How Canadian? He once starred in a Winnipeg production of “Hamlet”.

I definitely remember Hellblazer being initially promoted as Hellraiser, but I can’t point to anything specific where that was printed. maybe Amazing Heroes or something?

@PB210: It’s worth noting that Blade also had a little thing that may have worked in his favor that completely eclipsed his comic-book origins: VAMPIRE. Before Blade made it to the big screen in 1998, we’d already seen vampires in about a half-dozen major films just in the 90s.

1992: Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Buffy the Vampire Slayer
1994: Interview with the Vampire
1995: Vampire in Brooklyn; From Dusk till Dawn
1998: John Carpenter’s Vampires (which opened a couple of months before Blade)

And a couple dozen or so lesser vampire flicks in just the 90s.

Also, there was the fact that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had become a TV series about 2 years before Blade opened. And, from what I recall, a lot of Blade’s advertising focused on the “vampire” aspect with almost no mention of his “comic book” background. (And I’ll pretty much bet that more people went to see Blade because it was a “vampire film” rather than a “comic book character.”)

JosephW

October 26, 2012 at 11:59 pm

The Constantine film did not emphasize its comic book roots; it did not have an animated opening, shots of the comic book in the opening credits, etc. Constantine does not wear a body condom or spandex, he does not have a boy sidekick in pixie shoes with shaved legs, Constantine wears normal clothes, he does not face foes wielding giant pennies, etc. Constantine mostly faces what one would find in any number of horror thrillers (or the roughly contemporary Harry Potter films).

Your answer kinds of reminds me that people seem afraid of some sort of “mainstream audience” which does not seem to represent the case.

Hellblazer was initially publicised as Hellraiser by DC. It was advertised as such in the old British magazine Speakeasy, before they quickly changed it to Hellraiser shortly before the comic was published. If I remember right it was only changed a few months before.

James Bond was also Americanized for his first on-screen appearance–an adaptation of Casino Royale for the American TV show Climax! Available on Netflix for the curious.

While I don’t know how significant it was to his success, Blade is a vampire/half-vampire himself in the movies. In the comics, he isn’t.

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I bought a stack of old Amazing Heroes earlier this year, and I believe I read that it was originally called Hellraiser before release. I’ll have to go back and find it, if I can.
I found all kinds of neat info in those old Amazing Heroes.

I almost think I’ve seen it, reading something years after the fact, as “Hellraiser” at some point, because I of course went HUH?! However, I couldn’t begin to tell you where I might have seen it. Most likely, though, in one of those text pieces that DC had in their comics back in the day.

Cool almost-Constantines. Foglio is underappreciated, but he did this Stanley and his Monster, an Angel and the Ape, and a Plastic Man mini for DC back late ’80s/early ’90s. The Plas one is decent, iirc.

Hmm, will it be revealed that the Constantine in JL Dark is actually Kipling or Bierce?

And hey, did Foglio name Bierce the way he did because of (Rudyard) Kipling, to continue the literary motif?

With all the hoo hah here over Keanu as Canadian, all I have to say is

“Whoa.”

(bonus side note — I originally read this column on my phone, which isn’t all that impressive until you realize it’s the crappy little one that I took pics with at the Boston Con in ’11. The text is fine, but I couldn’t read the comics pages at all. But I am very glad to be able to catch this site if I’m not near a computer.)

Other cool bit I thought about — how cool is it that Mark Waid was Morrison’s editor for a time? Can you imagine those editorial meeting phone calls? Damn!

(Oh, that’s right, I thought about a possible Legend because of that. Expect an email!)

i could be wrong but i am pretty sure blade was half human and half vampire in the comics also

No, J. He was born as his mother was vampirized by Deacon Frost but the only effect was that it rendered him immune to vampire bites.

After the movie, the comics Blade was changed to be more like the movie (gaining extra abilities from Morbius)

I’m a huge fan of Withnail & I, so it was quite interesting to read here that Willoughby Kipling was inspired by Richard E. Grant character from that film.

And now I really need to seach through the back issue bins to find that Stanley and His Monster miniseries by Phil Foglio! Looks like great stuff. I even used to live in Hartsdale, NY.

I had heard Morrison wasn’t allowed to use Constantine before, but I had always assumed from Kipling’s introduction that he was created to take the piss out of Constantine a bit.

so was the hellblazer film changed to constantine to remove any similarities in people’s minds to the hellraiser film? or because of hell in the title? or just to market it a bit differently?

…and now DC cancels Hellblazer!

Well, I think the English got their revenge on us for casting a (North) American as Hellblazer, since they took American icons Batman, Spider-man, and Superman.

Sorry for another post…but does anyone know what will be the longest running continuous series once Hellblazer goes bye bye?

Regardless of whether or not Hellblazer goes byebye, it will still be one of the Archie series. Or 2000AD.

If you’re talking big 2…who knows at this point, with all the renumberings.

Spawn is up to 225, Savage Dragon is about 183.

Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories, maybe?

Have all those kept their original numbering? In any case it was Marvel and DC, but I’m not sure any of them have numbers that haven’t rebooted recently. Heck, even rebooted a title like X-Factor may have the biggest number in the stable (and that jumped up after a new #1 on one of those anniversaries).

Does anyone else find it ridiculous that an Image series is now likely the longest running continuous series that hasn’t been relaunched…and Image probably has the next several contenders in line too.

Archie is still going well past issue #600. I dunno about Walt Disney Comics, though. Is that still going?

Actually, grinningdemon, I never thought about it until you brought it up, but it actually makes a lot of sense that Image would have such long-running series. Think about it. Who chooses to relaunch titles? Editorial.

Image, having been founded as a place for creators to do creator-owned projects, has much less of that. And both “Spawn” and “Savage Dragon” have been going since the company launched (over 20 years ago now, isn’t that bizarre to think about??) and are still in the hands of their original creators, at least editorially if not always creatively.

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