Preview: Ray Fawkes on CONSTANTINE #1

Constantine #1 cover by Renato Guedes

Constantine #1 cover by Renato Guedes

Ray Fawkes has the unenviable task of helping John Constantine make the move from his condemned longtime walkup at Vertigo to his new digs at DC’s New 52. News of Hellblazer’s cancellation after a generation left readers gutted, but DC hopes to give the mangy mage a fresh start in the world of Superman, Batman and his old pal Swamp Thing. Of course, John’s already a charter member of Justice League Dark, but 2013 sees his full debut as a solo star in a brave new world.

We spoke to Fawkes about the controversial project and the challenge before him.

“My initial reaction? Probably a simultaneous wave of terror and excitement,” said Fawkes of the project’s arrival to his desk. “I love John Constantine. I’ve loved him in comics for, I guess it’s close to 30 years now. The very notion that I could be involved in the next stage of his evolution was mind-blowing. Actually, I didn’t know how to respond for a couple hours. Obviously my response was ‘Hell yes! Please! Absolutely! Don’t even think of asking anybody else if they want to do it.’”

Of course, Fawkes is well aware of the uphill battle involved with this task. “My greatest challenge in this transition is making John make sense in the same world as some of the massively super-powered characters that are around. John is essentially one of the DC Universe’s experts on magic, which is incredibly powerful and incredibly threatening, and that would put him front and center on the world stage. But by nature, John is someone who operates in the shadows. So there was some thought as to how to make it work for him, to allow him to do what he wants to do and yet still be this rather important character. He can’t really live the way he lived in Hellblazer. Characters like Superman or Sargon will come across him and they will want to deal with him.”

As for the most significant changes, the new John is of course younger than the 50-something mage in these final issues of Hellblazer. Fawkes describes the younger John as “impulsive, a bit more willing to get his hands dirty personally.” As for the qualities he felt vital to maintain, the legacy of Vertigo’s Constantine, the writer points to his straddling of the gray. “He’s a good guy, but he’s willing to do very bad things to get the right thing done.” He also hopes he’s successfully captured the character’s wit and charm as well as “a healthy degree of his cynicism and bad habits. Without bad habits, John would not be John.”

We asked, too, about that signature Constantine cadence. How important is language? Incredibly. “Because John is such a wit. So much of his survival depends on his wits. People call him a silver-tongued devil. So language is crucial. Everything he says has to matter. Hopefully it’s appealing too. Charming and funny and dangerous.”

If today’s John Constantine of the New 52 were to meet the curmudgeonly Constantine of Hellblazer, would they like each other? “I doubt it,” said Fawkes with little hesitation. Then, after a pause, “I don’t think John would like himself if he met him. I think the older John would think the New 52 John was living too dangerously, maybe. A little too brash? The New 52 version would think the old one talks too much.” Another pause.  ”I’m sure they could sit down and drink together.”

That got us thinking. What kind of music does John Constantine like? Fawkes chuckled at this. “It’s really hard to answer that question without throwing my own taste on top of it. John, I think, is into a lot of new wave stuff that would’ve been around while he was growing up in England.” It became evident that Fawkes considered this the most difficult question in our ten minute conversation. This was vital, but elusive. Tough to pin down. “I think he likes stuff that’s really sort of dark. Joy Division. Other post-punk things. As for modern music, I’m not sure John has time to sit down at a computer and listen to a proper satellite radio station.”

We closed by asking Fawkes how he might put the legions of scared, nervous, even angry Hellblazer fans at ease when it comes to this major change for a character the spent their formative years with, grew up alongside. “All I can say,” said Fawkes, “is that I am one of them. That I came up with John. I was buying Swamp Thing off the racks when he first showed up. I was buying Hellblazer back in university when it first came out. I am just as big a fan of the old John Constantine as many of them are. All I can say is ‘trust me.’ I hope that you will be as entertained by the new John as you were by the old one.”

We’ll find out next month when Constantine #1 by Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire and Renato Guedes lights up on March 13th.

Comments

  1. Limitless Limitless says:

    This has got to be nerve wrecking. I have only read a little of Hellblazer, but I’m…tentatively excited about this book. It can’t be what it once was, I think we all know that going into it, but I hope that the core of who John was and is is maintained as best it can be.

    The absolute pessimist in me just keeps screaming “DC EDITORIAL STAFF!” though, and I can’t even drum up much of an argument. Just have to hope for the best and have faith that eventually DC will get out of its own way.

    Fingers cross folks!

  2. IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

    I love that cover image. I’ve read 3 or 5 “Hellblazer” books and to me it was a cool book, but not one that I felt compelled to continue reading. I felt that certain issues or particular arcs where more enjoyable than the books themselves. It might be because I liked the movie and wasn’t “ready” for the comics, but I read the books in my freshman year at college so…I’m considering picking this up since I’m dropping “Swamp Thing” when Snyder leaves, and I’ll have some gaps in my pull file in the coming months. Pretty much all I ask besides a cool, faithful series is to not make Constintine the DC version of Dr.Strange.

  3. If an old Constantine who, two issues ago, stood in front of an oncoming train while it derailed and caused mass mayhem all around him thinks his New 52 self is too dangerous, I’m in.

  4. HailScott HailScott says:

    No disrespect to Fawkes, but I would really like to know why Milligan is not doing this. Has anyone seen any articles about this? Has Milligan commented on the subject?

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      I can’t speak for any past work on “Hellblazer”, but I read “X-Men:Decimation” recently and thought it was awful. “Red Lanterns” has been the lowest Lantern title that I’m aware of, he got replaced on JLD by Jeff Lemire and replaced on “Storm Watch” (can’t remember by whom). Based on all that, do you really want him to write “Constantine” still?Maybe a better question is why DC would give him the job. Again, I haven’t any read of his “Hellblazer” work so I can’t judge if he’s good with the character, but if he was given the job I wouldn’t consider picking up this book.

    • He’s still on Stormwatch. And read Hellblazer, Shade the Changing Man, or X-Force/X-Statix to see why he’s one of the greats.

    • daccampo daccampo says:

      Milligan is woefully inconsistent. When he’s good, he’s AMAZING. But then there’s the other stuff.

      But to IthoSapien, I say: as a guy who has every issue of HELLBLAZER, I have pretty high standards when it comes to JC. And Milligan has been CRUSHING IT on his run on the book.

      That said, my only fear of putting him on the New 52 John would be that maybe he’s not a writer who can play well with a heavy-handed editorial. He does seem best when left to his own devices: X-Statix, Shade, Enigma, The Extremist, Skreemer, etc.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Ok, I was wrong about him being replaced on “Stormwatch”, my bad. I’m interested in trying Shade after that special Milligan wrote with “Flashpoint”, but I just came off a long and uneven X-Men binge so I’ll save x-force/x-statix for later. It’s been ages since I read anything “Hellblazer”, the last one I read was the one with Garth Ennis where Constantine sells his soul to the 3 lords of Hell. If you say Milligan’s been crushing it as a longtime “Hellblazer” reader then I’ll check it out.

    • smmarx smmarx says:

      I’m a longtime Hellblazer fan AND a longtime Milligan fan. I’m definitely bummed out that he’s ending his run but 50 issues is pretty long for a Hellblazer run, and I feel like I heard him saying that it was about time for him to wrap it up. I’d rather he goes out feeling confident about his work than having it go on too long.

      Also, to IthoSapien, definitely read X-Statix. So much fun. Just get the Omnibus. Other amazing Milligan work is Enigma, The Extremist mini-series, and Shade. The Eaters one-shot is also pretty awesome.

  5. AquaPimp82 AquaPimp82 says:

    Was going to start reading Hellblazer until news of its cancelation. I’ll pick this up since I’ve been enjoying New 52 JC.

  6. daccampo daccampo says:

    Fawkes responses here are interesting, and I can definitely see that he *gets* it. That said, I don’t necessarily think that this book can rise to the heights of HELLBLAZER, but I don’t put that at the feet of the writers. Constantine needs some room to breathe, to be allowed to evoke that classic British Horror that Hellblazer conjured up so well. And, frankly, I’m just not sure it can happen in the current environment.

    We’ll see. I’m definitely more curious about the book than I was before. ;)

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Not to sound dumb, but isn’t the point of this to be something new? I mean, a bunch of you guys love “Hellblazer” and that’s great, but I don’t think this one should be or attempt to be like the old series (exactly). If the old series was what DC wanted to put out, they wouldn’t cancel it and replace it with this new series. Look at all the New 52 titles thus far, same characters with new interpretations. Some are great (Batman, Wonder Woman, etc) and some suck (Superman mostly), but it’s revitalized the line I think. I said in my previous post that while I thought the old series was great, it wasn’t something I was committed to sticking to. Yes I want a John Constantine comic, yes I want a horror comic, and yes I want it to be DC, but I don’t want it to be just like the old series. I could be wrong and it could be a disaster, but this is the first time in years that I considered picking up “Hellblazer” as a monthly at my LCS.

  7. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    Fawkes sounds like a helluva guy, but I just can’t bring myself to check this out. The wound is too fresh, and I know myself well enough to know that I won’t be able to read this objectively. Maybe somewhere down the line, if I’ve heard good things, I’ll give it a shot in trade.

    For now, I’m gonna stay angry. Immature? Perhaps. Stereotypical? Possibly. Honest? You bet your arse.

  8. I’m sure it’s not going to happen but I really hope Josh gives the first issue a try. Not like force him to read it all the time. Just feel like he should give it a shot just in case.

  9. sitara119 sitara119 says:

    What’s Lemire’s role?