Random Thoughts! (November 13, 2012)
Random Thought! I love bookcases. I especially love the new bookcase that’s acting as my bedside table. It’s Random Thoughts time! Get excited!
Random Thought! The final Riding the Gravy Train on new Avengers vs. X-Men comics went up this past weekend and it’s about how not just mutants were reborn, but the X-Men franchise status quo as well. Also, over at the Chemical Box, an abandoned Direct Message with Alec Berry on Alex Ross went up. And, finally, the Avengers vs. X-Men Reading Order! The entire event put into a proper reading order, because someone had to do it and Kieron Gillen said “No fucking way! Not me!”
Random Thought! So, they shitcanned Hellblazer. The news took me off guard, because I’m a little dumb sometimes. Actually, it left me pretty stunned. I can’t remember the last time a book being cancelled left me with that sinking feeling in my gut and hands shaking a bit. I look over at my bookshelf and I’ve got 40 Hellblazer books (if you count the Vertigo Resurrected: Bad Blood little collection). I own more Hellblazer comics than any other comic series, I believe. Aside from the odd single issue like the Neil Gaiman-written one or the two-parter by Darko Macan, the only stuff I’m missing are the end of the Delano run (which is getting collected in early 2013… I assume that’s still happening at least) and the Jenkins run. Because of the way DC and Vertigo were when I got into the title, I’ve gotten it almost exclusively in trades. I’m a ‘buy it the day the trade comes out’ sort of reader and the once or twice yearly Hellblazer dose is one of the things I love most about comics. It looks like, with only nine uncollected issues that there will be one more Peter Milligan trade and that’s it. Aside from their efforts to go back and collect the entire series, the book is done. And, honestly, I could see those efforts peter out once they get the Garth Ennis run back in print.
I spent 24 hours a couple of years back writing fairly extensively about Hellblazer and always meant to write more. Actually, when I was pitching the fine folks at Sequart on a book to do, they asked that I give them my top three ideas and one of those ideas what an anthology of essays on Hellblazer (I had come up with a big list of topics the day after I did the Blogathon). They didn’t bite, partly because they weren’t sure there was enough interest in the title and I can’t say I blame them. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the end of the title since it sells for shit and is usually one of those “I used to read that title and then stopped…” books where lots of people have a fond feeling for it that extends just short of reaching into their wallets. And that’s fine. I guess I just didn’t think DC would actually do it. For some reason, I always assumed that Hellblazer would continue on for a good long time… hell, Constantine didn’t even make his 60th birthday… The series couldn’t have lasted until he hit the big 6-0? Only three more months…
What bothers me in many ways is that this is the end of one of the consistently best comics DC (or Marvel) has published over the past few decades. I’ve read the majority of this series and I can only point to a very small number of issues that I would say fall below three stars (to give an idea of quality). Definitely less than ten, maybe even less than five. Even runs that I didn’t particularly enjoy like the Denise Mina or Andy Diggle ones were at a level that puts most other comics to shame. And those were the short runs! This was a title that had extensive runs by the likes of Delano, Ennis, Jenkins, Azzarello, Carey, and, now, Milligan. It had the wonderful promise of the Ellis run, which was cut painfully short (but gave way to Azzarello, never forget). And the artists! This is the title where Sean Phillips cut his teeth and grew from a talented newcomer into a damn good artist. Where Steve Dillon and joined Ennis in American comics, where you had David Lloyd drawing a Grant Morrison two-parter, Richard Corben doing Azzarello’s first arc, John Higgins reminding you how scary London can be, Marcelo Frusin giving us the creepiest John Constantine ever… until Giuseppe Camuncoli came board, at least. Leonardo Manco putting the dark and the gritty back into the book. And so many, many others who popped in for an issue or two. Go take a look! Tell me another book that produced 300 issues with creators at that level. You can’t. And we won’t get to see what comes next. See the next crop of talented writers and artists step up and try to top what came before.
Hellblazer was a comic unafraid to change. Granted, like most corporate serialised comics, it could only change so much. John Constantine is always John Constantine. But, aside from that core, it was a book that went anywhere and everywhere with everything and everyone surrounding Constantine. Taking place in real time (or an approximate given that it’s a monthly 22-page comic), characters age, they grow up, they grow old, and they die. Oh, how they all die. They all fucking die. And it’s tragic, because it’s the ones you think are safe that are the ones that wind up getting it worst. It is a book that can put its characters through the worst possible experiences and continue on to break your heart again and again. Sometimes, you get lucky, like with Kit. Mostly, it just sucks to know Constantine. Worse to love him — or him love you. Mike Carey was particularly cruel in his run. Bastard.
Constantine himself is so malleable. He can be a cold bastard, a funny trickster, a mysterious shadow, an immature dick… You can go anywhere with him. He be the star or a supporting player, all with ease. As I said back when I was doing the Blogathon, he is both the best and worst of humanity… with little in between. He is either capable of the most generous kindness or the most despicable cruelty. He will do anything for a friend and will do anything to an enemy. That’s a reason why he’s so engaging. He’s both everything you want to be and everything you’d hate to become. He’s a charmer that will most likely get you killed — or, worse, damned. When he wins, there’s usually a high price. And, sometimes, you enjoy seeing him get fucked over, because he deserves it.
His malleable nature means that there’s a lot of variety in how he’s portrayed. My favourite Constantine will always be the Azzarello/Ellis one (I think their takes were somewhat similar). Confident, sly, not one to get involved with a lot of rubbish about the devil and demons and all of that crap. He’s more conman and image than anything. He wins because he convinces you that he’s won before the game begins. But, I like all of the other versions, too. I love Carey’s run and how it’s two big stories, both rooted in such a love of the title and its history to that point. It’s the run where you can see that the writer is a fan — and that’s a good thing, because he knows all of the right buttons to push. Carey’s run could have been the end of the title and I would have been happy. The cruelty of it… and the two-part finale with the ‘drunken speech’ to end all drunken speeches… But, that also would have meant not getting Milligan’s run where Constantine is feeling his age more than ever, has gotten married, has looked useless more often than not, and been just as cruel as ever.
I won’t be reading Constantine when it starts. Sorry, that’s not the character or the comic I’ve been following. It isn’t. I don’t wish anyone ill for it, because that would be pretty silly. I don’t own the character or comic. I have my sense of entitlement and that’s understandable and unfortunate in its own way… But, I’m an adult and I know how the world works (sometimes). I’m just saddened by this turn of events. It sucks.
Random Joe Casey Question! Did anyone notice ahead of time that there’s a giant naked breast on the cover of Gødland #30? Not you and Tom, but retailers/readers/etc? Any negative reactions at all? Because it seems like a cover with a giant naked breast would cause SOMEONE to get pissed off…
Random Joe Casey Answer! Listen, when it’s a breast that’s as boldly cosmic — not to mention, one that’s full of seething, milky goodness — as the galactic mammary Scioli and I can conjure up between us, who’s gonna crawl up our asses about that? We may go more phallic with the FINALE issue…
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Later.