Surprised no one has started a thread on this, since I know there are Hellblazer fans around here. Of course this version of John Constantine is probably intended to be based on the New 52 version: I didn't see a Vertigo logo in the credits, just a DC one.

Constantine actually made the transition back to the DCU relatively intact. The main differences are no smoking, and frequent use of magic. In Hellblazer he did such a small amount of magic that it was often questionable that he could do it at all. He clearly preferred to get by on his wits, anyway. And he never used his fists.

Really good casting this time. Matt Ryan looks, acts and sounds just how I imagine Constantine. I like the rest of the cast, too, but none of them have nearly as well-defined a visual template to match up with. The first episode wasted no time establishing the most significant act in John's early life in magic: the failed summoning in Newcastle that damned young Astra to Hell.

His oldest friend Chas is on hand with his taxicab, too. The others aren't taken as directly from the comics. The appearance of the computer hacker Ritchie is a sufficiently obscure character that I'd consider it an Easter Egg.

The early scenes are set in England, as they should be. But the main action happens in Atlanta, of all places. Works fine, but I'll be curious if the location is ever explained. I don't remember that happening in this episode.

Off to a good start, all in all. I'll just have to accept Constantine doing lots of magic. It is more visual than him standing around smoking and looking moody.

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Responding to Figserello ...

Actually the series made it more obvious that John was motivated by guilt and a sense of responsibility than in the comics.  In the comics he's more of a superhero, just fighting evil ... just because, and evil crosses his path by comicbook coincidence.   In the show, he's more serious about his mission, and his debts, and actively seeks out evil, even though he presents the same front as the comics.

I would disagree that John was a superhero in the comics, fighting evil for its own sake. When he was introduced in Swamp Thing, he was very selfish and did what was good for John -- which sometimes ended up being a good thing, or when he came in contact with superheroes, was forced to align himself with them to get what he wanted. He was much more of a trickster god in those days, a coyote or anansi with a Cockney accent.

And even later, when he was haunted by Newcastle and his friends were dying off, Constantine was still a selfish guy -- and sort of belligerent to "good guys," who he considered dangerously naive (and hoity-toity). He was in constant battle with Hell, having pissed off a number of important demons, but he had no use for Heaven, which he considered a bunch of pompous assholes running roughshod over the rest of us.

At least that was my interpretation. Which is derived from having read literally every Constantine appearance until 2011, from every writer. You, on the other hand, have only read the good stuff. You might have the stronger case.

 Is Zed from the comics?  Lester?

Zed is not from the comics, although she incorporates some traits of a couple of women in the course of the series. But mainly she is a creation of TV, serving standard TV purposes.

Gary Lester, OTOH, is very important in the comics' Constantine's life. He first appeared as a lifelong friend in Hellblazer #1, represented Constantine's past (especially Newcastle), was later killed, and is the chief ghost of the many ghosts that follow Constantine around. He is a badge of failure for Constantine, constantly reminding him of the many people he's sacrificed for the "greater good," which Constantine suspects -- often rightly -- is just the greater good of Constantine.

Was Chas's many lives a thing from the comics?  I'd guess not.

You'd guess right. In the comics, Chas was pretty much the only old friend Constantine had left, because everybody else was dead -- usually because of proximity to Constantine, or because Constantine sacrificed them to prevent something worse from happening.

This is actually a constant through the run of Constantine comics, which he was actively trying to prevent toward the end. Newcastle was this: Constantine sacrificed the soul of an innocent child to Hell to prevent everyone at the seance from going to Hell instead. He sacrificed the one to save the many. An innocent one, yes, but he saved a lot of people.

But here's the kicker: None of them would have been there, none of them would have been in danger, if Constantine hadn't been arrogant enough to try something he couldn't control. He "saved the day" at the end, by sacrificing a little girl, instead of himself, but there would have been no danger if he hadn't created it. That's the original sin of Constantine's life, but it's also a sin he can't stop himself from doing over and over again, by marrying arrogance with selfishness and just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Sadly, Constantine is well aware of his personal failings. which causes him much pain -- and keeps him, more or less, on the side of the angels. A lesser man would have just, I dunno, taken over Germany and invaded Poland.

Where was I? Oh, yes, Chas.

He's just Constantine's only remaining friend. For reasons unclear, Chas is devoted to him, always ready to drive John around when he's in London. Chas' wife, of course, wants Constantine to stay the hell away from her husband, so he won't be killed. She and John don't get along.

But Chas has no powers of any sort, and is completely ignorant of all things magical. That's one of the reasons John likes him -- he's a breath of fresh air, unconnected to what Constantine does all his life. Some of John's best days are just getting drunk with Chas in a bar. No angels, demons or superheroes need apply.

As the TV series progressed it became clear that Constantine was drawing on magic and rituals and using the language of all sorts of living and dead cultures.  The Abrahamic cultures were just a few among equals.  I recognised the final sun-spell in the hospital as Irish btw, but I watched it in subtitles and it was clear that different languages were being used (and possibly nonsense ones too!)  So things have moved on that far, at least, concerning privileging white European blah blah blah!!

I'm jealous you can pick out an Irish spell! I love languages, but I don't know much about Gaelic, to my shame. I can pick out some Latin, Greek, German and Slavic here and there. But that's all I got.

Papa Midnite's Voodoo was largely old-school villainy, though, as presented here, and could have done with the more even-handed, and sympathetic (and accurate) treatment that Morrison used in the Invisibles.  Yes we were told that Papa Midnite was straying off his path, but still....

Papa Midnite comes from the comics, too. He and Constantine are not foes, but they are not friends. (And they don't seem to like each other.) Both have different agendae, which sometimes conflict but usually dovetail or are dis-associated. They usually trade favors so that both of them get what they want.

Yes, the accent.  As the series averred to, John isn't a Londoner, but a Liverpudlian (wonderful word for a native of Liverpool!)  However, he clearly spent a lot of his life, particularly his formative young adulthood in London, so I don't really mind if his accent wavers between those two.  Actually it makes sense.  John's personality is as Cockney as Liverpudlian, although both are anti-authoritarian, stick-it-to-the-man sort of working-class cultures.  What John takes from the Cockneys is a certain archness, and an overly dramatissed cheeriness that covers a wariness and distance from people.  "Love all, and trust none!" might be a Cockney dictum.

Again, I envy your knowledge of these things. My knowledge of Cockney is derived from whatever bastardized version hit American movies in the '30s and '40s, and a book my roommate had on "Cockney rhyming slang" in college. My knowledge of Liverpudlian is entirely derived from hundreds of hours of Beatles interviews on TV and radio. And I am vaguely familiar with "posh" English from old radio programs, World War II documentaries and various movies. (I am aware that most of what we Americans hear is as high-class English is actually "mid-Atlantic," which a lot of Hollywood types and American radio announcers adopted in the '30s and '40s. Colin "Dr. Frankenstein" Clive is my poster boy for that.)  I do catch that both are working-class, and that class is (or was) a lot more formalized in England than I am used to in America (where class snobbery is disguised more).

By the end he sounded like a Beatle who was in a bad mood.


Speaking of locations, I sensed a certain tension between the showrunners wanting to do a sort of road movie, like Moore's American Gothic and them depending on the Millhouse as a base and source of plot macGuffins for the characters.  So they had a map of the US, but when trouble brole out they'd nip out of the house and return shortly after.

My attitude toward that was dismay and hostility. Constantine is a creature of London, so you put him in ... rural Southern America? What an idiotic move! Plus, Constantine doesn't have a "sanctum sanctorum" full of mystical artifacts -- that's Dr. Strange. I guessed that TV writers did what TV writers always do, regardless of source material, and turned him into Matlock.

No, Constantine works best in London. If you can't do that, then New York. He's an urban boy. Putting him in the American South ...? Dude, I live here, and I don't recommend it for anyone. Especially snotty foreigners in trenchcoats. He'd spend every day fighting good ole boys, and eventually get beaten to death outside a roadhouse.

Also, nipping out to fix trouble elsewhere in the U.S. only works when you're near major airports or train stations. This is a HUGE frickin' country. It takes three days to drive across Texas alone. It takes two days to drive from the top of Florida to Miami. I live in Memphis, Tennessee, and I am at least 1,000 miles (sexteen umphectares in kilometers) from Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. (You don't want to know how far it is to Canada or the Pacific.) And the South isn't noted for infrastructure.If you want to drive from, say, Memphis to Houston, you're going to be finding yourself on some two-lane roads in bad country. You'd be better off driving the wrong way to Nashville and taking a plane to Houston.

But here's some good news: If you want to see Constantine handling himself in the American South, read Brian Azzarello's run on Hellblazer. The first few issues, where Constantine finds himself handcuffed in the back of a pick-up truck by a couple of KKK boys, is good reading. His later issues fell off, but in the early going Azzarello made it work.

Just out of curiousity, how much of the series had you seen when you wrote that piece?

None. I do my research. Just out of curiosity, why do you ask?

Speaking of accents, Gary Lester in this episode had a Northern Ireland/Belfast accent, by the way.

I'm beginning to learn a lot of this, as more actors from other English-speaking nations are getting roles in America, and fewer of them are disguising (or are unable to disguise) their native accents. The more I learn, of course, the more aware I am of how much I don't know.

I do know this, though: I used to do a party trick when I was younger, where I would repeat the same phrase in different Southern dialects -- central Texas, northern Florida, west Tennessee, central Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina -- and have people howling in response, because it was so true. As I've been more exposed to British material, I've come to realize how many thousands of accents there are in just that collection of islands -- lots more than in my native South. Probably. And people who know the accents respond to them, assigning respect or contempt as needs be. As I gradually learn the distinctions, Monty Python skits suddenly leap into high relief, as I suddenly realize why this character is talking down to that character, or why it's funny that a London mine owner can't understand a Northumbrian mine worker.

We Americans aren't hep to a lot of these distinctions -- I was probably in high school before I twigged to the difference between "British" and "English" -- but it's seeping in.

That scene really worked for me. Poor John is a lot more of a softy than he admits...

I think that's true in the comics, too, but is a lot more subtle. John is all rough edges and snark and anger at upper classes, and he actually does do some absolutely heartless things without a second thought if it's the right thing to do. But the guilt gnaws at him, and it's implied that the reason he has ghosts following him is because of that guilt -- if he was actually a thoughtless bastard, they wouldn't be there.

In his heart he wants to do the right thing. He just can't be bothered to most of the time, is all. That selfishness is always on full display, and it's true enough. But he's smart enough, and enough of a Boy Scout at heart, that he knows his solutions are not what Superman would do, or what any good man would do, and it eats at him. He wants to be a "good man," but that's not his business. He's a sewer worker in the eternal fight of good and evil. And he's got conscience enough to feel guilty about the shit he does.

Wait, I wandered off again, didn't I? Sorry. I just really enjoy Constantine.

The TV Arrowverse has come to start replicating much of the techniques and storytelling forms of superhero comics, to an extent we have never seen in superhero television before, with the crossovers and same shared overall setting.

Agreed! And more than that: Arrow is re-inventing the pulp/comics sensibility for a new medium (TV) for a new century. Sometimes it doesn't work, but mostly it's hooked an audience that can placidly watch show after show after show. That is a thing that is working.

And now Flash is bringing the pulp SF-via-comics sensibility to TV. And Legion is doing psychedlic-via-comics sensibility to TV. And Riverdale is bringing comics' teen humor thought the back door as telemundo.

The common denominator here is comics. They were the country's second-biggest mass media in the '30s and '40s (after radio) and they were the first media to soak up all the other crap that was out there before there was mass media for fiction. And for decades, "mainstream" media tried to ignore comics as somehow braindead or retarded. But that's where the myths and legends and desires of the American populace took root before there was TV.

And now, finally, TV is going "ohhhhh ... I get it. It's not Shakespeare, but it makes people tune in each day/week/month. Comics were telling us this 50 years ago. Let's use it."

I'd love to see some of the threads left dangling from Constantine addressed in another show - possibly Arrow is closest in tone, although it is a pulp show, and Constantine is horror.  In comics creators tie up old loose ends in other comics after cancellation all the time.  Is it too much to hope that that might happen here?

Unlikely. But HERE'S THE LATEST.

What's really encouraging here is that Greg Berlanti is involved. He's the guy who made Arrow and Flash a hit, then dreamed up Legends, and when CBS canceled Supergirl, lobbied to have her move to The CW (under his umbrella). He's deeply involved in making superhero characters work on TV, and to be seen as responsible for making them work.

And here's the really important point: Supergirl was canceled at NBC for low numbers. Those numbers are HIGH for The CW. So Supergirl -- a "failure" at NBC -- is a "hit" for The CW, with the same numbers. The same could be true for Constantine, if Berlanti pulls the trigger.

I don't think he will -- he's got better options on the table -- but he's obviously keeping his options open on the property, as he is with Vixen. And he's keeping Matt Ryan on speed dial, which can only be a good thing.

Captain Comics said:

Responding to Figserello ...

And here's the really important point: Supergirl was canceled at NBC for low numbers. Those numbers are HIGH for The CW. So Supergirl -- a "failure" at NBC -- is a "hit" for The CW, with the same numbers. The same could be true for Constantine, if Berlanti pulls the trigger.

I don't think he will -- he's got better options on the table -- but he's obviously keeping his options open on the property, as he is with Vixen. And he's keeping Matt Ryan on speed dial, which can only be a good thing.

CBS. Supergirl was on CBS. Constantine was on NBC.
Thanks, CK!

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