Hellblazer Has Been So Good for So Long, It’s Ridiculous

Yesterday, I read Hellblazer #272 from Vertigo Comics.  I started reading the title back in 2000, with Hellblazer #146 by Brian Azzarello. At the time I picked it up, I did so on a whim.  I didn't know what it was even about.  I didn't know who John Constantine was, and I didn't know who Azzarello was.  What I did know was that I was a big fan of the show, Oz, and that story was about prison, according to the cover.  I've been reading the title ever since.  It always comes out on time, and for the last decade, it's almost always been good.  Going backwards from where I started, I learned that it was also incredibly good before I started reading it.

Name me one other ongoing title in comics that's been as good as Hellblazer for as long as it has been?

Go ahead, take your time.

Tough, right?

After Azzarello moved on, Mike Carey showed up, and did some of his best work outside of Lucifer.  Then there was a little bumpy road where some people came and went.  Denise Mina, a novelist, did an arc or two, and they weren't great, but it was far from bad.  Then Andy Diggle took over, and absolutely owned it the entire time he wrote the book.  Now, Pete Milligan is keeping those balls up in the air still.

Right after we've put the "Where do I start with Green Lantern" question to bed, the next thing I'm emailed constantly is "Where do I start with Hellblazer."  As with most comics, I say, "Start now," and most of the time it works out.  It worked out for me.  The book is just handled in such a way that as soon as you get to know Constantine, you'll get it.  There are demons, Hell, the devil, and a lot of criminals.  After that, it's pretty easy to follow along. It's a soap opera with a lot of cigarettes and swearing.  John Constantine is the best anti-hero I know.  If a character gets involved with him, that character will get screwed over at the least, or die at the worst. It's a certainty.  That's the game. John can't be happy, and the people around him are fucked.

This latest arc, with truly amazing art by both Guisseppe Camuncoli and Simon Bisley, is about John realizing he wants to marry a much younger girl, Ephiphany Greaves. She's smart, tough, the daughter of a gangster, and knows everything John's has up his sleeve.  He loves her for it.  I can't imagine she'll make it out of this alive.  But I keep watching.  I cannot look away.

That's my pitch for one of the strongest, most consistent titles on the stands.  If you've thought about reading it, just read it. Please don't worry about having read everything that's come before.  You'll get it, unless your'e nearly braindead. Plus, it's been $2.99 all along, and Keanu's got nothing to do with it.

Who's with me?

If you're not, you can also watch this odd video of me on a park bench, talking about Ennis' run on the book from the iFanboy Mini archive.

There was also this iFanboy Mini, one of my personal favorites, dealing with some illegal drug use and the title.


  1. I was thinking the same thing the other day! This current run has been a favorite of mine, I had no idea Milligan had it in him.

    On another note, I just wish DC would get of their ass and collect the Paul Jenkins/Sean Phillips run as it’s my personal favorite.  

  2. Agreed. I jumped off after Diggld left only to get caught up on the last two years just before last issue.

  3. AGREED 1000X times over, and I haven’t even read the article yet. I started collecting round about Azzarello, went back and got the ennis trades, then found all the issues from 1-60 or so in a .25 bin at a used book store. I’ve been collecting ever since, have the entire run, and with the exception of some very minor dips in quality (even the Minna stuff is good – not great) it’s probably in my top 5 ongoings ever.

     Now to read what Josh wrote.

  4. Abso-freaking-lutely. Love this title.

    I had a few sparse issues from the original Ennis run and then the entire storyline from when Ennis came back for "Son Of Man" then nothing for years! The about two years ago my friend introduced me to the Az trades and I just ran wild from there. Got all of Az, then all of Diggle, then just filled in the gaps. The only "run" collected that I don’t own are the Delano trades outside of the very first trade.

    Some much good stuff in the Ennis run, followed by Ellis, Az, Carey, Mina, Diggle, and now Milligan. I had the first Milligan trade for a few months and hadn’t read it, dusted it off on monday and read it. Immediately went out and bought the 2nd Milligan trade and then rejoyced when I went to the shop yesterday and saw the third Milligan trade is out. I now own more Hellblazer trades than any other title in my collection. It’s hard not to jump to singles now that I’m all caught up, but I think I’ll stick to trades.

    Hope they do eventually complete the "runs" by trading up Jenkins’ lengthy jaunt.

    Good, good, good, good, great stuff.

  5. If I had to rate the runs:

    1 Carey 2 Ennis 3 Milligan (very underrated) Azz 4 Diggle 5 Delano 5 Ellis (wish there was more) 6 Milligan (jury is still out but good so far) 7 Mina.

    And of course there have been great fill ins by the likes of Aaron, Gaiman, Cambell, etc. I think the Delano stuff is quite good, but read quite dated and it takes me out of it, late 80s British writers just don’t grab me during that era. Same reason I’ve never really enjoyed swamp thing as much as others.


  6. When is DC going to get their head out of their ass and print trades numbered, in order, and without issues missing.

  7. I’ve got the entire series. Started picking it up maybe with issue 30 or so (around ’89-90), but quickly went back and grabbed the back issues (including the Swamp Thing issues). Followed it ever since (wow, that’s kinda bizarre to realize I have 272 invidual issues of this comic book – plus annuals and mini-series!).

    Some runs have been better than others, but on the whole, this is a series that’s consistently a cut above most others. Some of the weakest stuff was probably… Eddie Campbell’s brief run that’s never mentioned? And if you’re talking about a series where Eddie freakin’ Campbell was the low point… really, what’s that say?

    One of my all-time favorite ongoing series, that’s for sure.

  8. Every issue of Hellblazer I’ve ever read has been enjoyable.  They weren’t all excellent, but they were all worthwhile.

    Also, I LOVED the minis. 

  9. I would recommend one starts by reading Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing where Constantine is created. Also, for you smoking nerds out there, if you ever go to the UK, make sure to pick up a pack of Silk Cut cigarettes – they are Constantine’s brand and smokes two packs a day. 

  10. So that’s why you like Hellblazer! All the pot you can have in one comic…..

    Seriously though, great write up josh. I’ve been reading up on Constantine too lately. I read the most recent trade to come out, the ‘Dark Entries’ ogn, and now Vertigo Resurrected and they have all been amazing to read. A friend of mind did give me a CD-DVD with the first 250 issues….I need to go read that. 

  11. And one of my favorite individual issues remains issue #27 – Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean doing a ghost story. I started it right after that, and it was a TOUGH one to find in back issues (even in 1990), but man, it was worth it.

  12. It truly is always reliably great.  I love the fact that each creator takes a different tack and approach, often approaching the politics of the day.  Notice Delano’s anti-Thatcher mood along with Milligan’s stance against the Tories of today.  I also think that the Carey stuff often seems overlooked.  The other year I read through the collections one after another and it reads exceptionally well like that.  Great spotlight.

  13. Also that two part Grant Morisson/David Lloyd story is crazy good. All this Hellblazer love makes me a happy man.

  14. Also, if this article has piqued anyone’s interest, go to the wikipedia page for this book and find out which trades are out of print. go get them now! you don’t want to only have parts of ennis’ run or parts of az’ run.

    There are about 6 or 7 out of print and are almost always in different parts of each writers run, never back to back trades.

  15. @MeanOldPig – that Morrison/Lloyd story was killer!

  16. That Lloyd art is some of my favorite ever.

  17. Constintine is consistantly my favorite comic character. I picked up the first Azzerello trade when I got back into comics and the character has been a favorite ever since. I thought Azz killed on this title, but I remember at the time it was a lot of "an American can’t write Constintine" – load of BS if you ask me. His run still holds up today.

    Ennis just killed on this title – really one of the most underrated works of his career. If you like comics and don’t like Dangerous Habits, well, then, you really don’t like comics.

    Like a lot of others, I went back and pieced together the Jenkins/Campbell/Ellis runs over the years, and am pretty encouraged to see Vertigo starting (somewhat spottily, I’ll agree) reprinting the Delano run.

    Man, Hellblazer love.

  18. This article is scary on how much of a coincidence it is. I was about to send a voicemail talking about how I just got every issue of the Ennis run and thought its one of the best things ive read. Voicemail may still come. But seriously, I have never read a series that is fucking awesome everytime i pick up a trade, issue, or ogn.

  19. Completely agree!

  20. Thanks Josh. I punch myself in the nuts everytime I see that cover for the Hardtime tpb online. I had a chance to buy it twice before. Damn me! What I thinking, putting it back on the store shelf. Ahhhh!

    Regarding the current run, everytime Biz gets on the interiors, my brain melts. Brilliant.

  21. I completely agree.  I started picking this up regularly right after Denise Mina left the book, and it has been one of the most solid titles since then.  I have most of Diggle’s run in trade because he absolutely crushed this book, especially with Lenardo Manco’s art.  I’ve been totally loving everything Milligan’s been doing, but I gotta say that this current arc is so strong.  I love this book and this character.

  22. I can’t believe Hard Time isn’t in print. I think it’s a great intro to Constintine’s ability to remain a bastard and neutral at the same time. Plus awesome Corbin art as well.

  23. I just bought the first few issues on the ComiXology app, will see if it’s as good as they say =)

  24. Hellblazer, Sandman.  These are what got me back into comics.  John Constantine is my favorite character, bar none.  I like Scalped, Dash Badhorse reminds me of Constantine, always on the razor’s edge.




    4.Ellis, Azarello (mainly for 1st arc).

    5.Carey and Milligan

    -Aaron’s arc was among the best, too bad it was only one.

    **Too bad there are still some Delano and Ennis stories that have never been collected.

    **Gaiman was good also, and I would include his Books of Magic as being part of the Hellblazer reading list.


    but actually, the Jenkins run drove me off the book. 

  25. The Jenkins run was one of my favorite.  I wish they’d collect it for trade.

  26. Man purse? 😉

  27. Damnation Army.

    I have been here since the ground floor….there has been thick and thin, but i have never questioned my purchasing of this title. If you are here to dabble start with AZ that shit kicks, and you most likely have no commitment to JC so why bother going through the growing pains- head straight to the clitoris.

    Long live the Bastard ! 

  28. Josh, 

    I know most of Milligan’s early work isn’t up your alley, but have you given his Human Target stuff a shot? His stuff post-2000’s doesn’t really resemble books like Shae or Rogan Gosh anymore.

    Anyway, I totally agree with this. Hellblazer has been my favorite monthly title [well in terms of consistency] for the last 10+ years and the one character I follow regardless of creative teams.

  29. You sold me.  I had exactly two open slots on my monthly purchases – one for a mini and one for an ongoing.  I added Loki and Hellblazer.  Here’s hoping they pan out.

  30. Well, I had meant to read Hellblazer for a while and I went online and reserved the first three trades at the library.

  31. Thanks for a great article. I have every issue of Hellblazer and it is the ONLY book I will never drop. In my opinion Constantine is the best character in comics. Also of you like the current run try to find the three issues he appeared in Shade the Changing Man. They’re great and tie into what is going on in the current storyline.

  32. I actually lied about the Loki.  I did really add Hellblazer though.

  33. I’ve been interested in this book since the movie came out, but never jumped on board (I was intimidated by the huge amount of issues released and didn’t want to jump in at the end).  It is a tradegy that these runs are not reprinted or collected as large HCs (they are doing it for swamp thing).  On the bright side, they are starting to release them starting from #1 on comixology so someone like me who hasn’t read any of them can start from the beginning and enjoy.

  34. @rjspring: Take it from me, you can read HELLBLAZER just about anywhere. I’ve read tons of random collections and have enjoyed them.

  35. @conor – Thanks for the info – when I was primed to start reading the books after watching the movie I wasn’t yet into comics and didn’t know you could just jump in anywhere.  After the many mentiones you guys have given it on the show and web I’m confident I could enjoy the series from just about anywere, but am glad that DC is going back and releasing the series from the very beginning… now if I only had an iPad (Christmas is coming thank goodness)…

  36. Absolutely my favorite series.  Ever.

  37. After reading this article back in October I put in an InterLibrary loan request and got the first 4 Delano trades + the Rare Cuts trade to get started and all I can say is wow. My library has most of the later trades but I’ll have to use ILL to get the earlier stuff. I know you said that you don’t have to start at the beginning but i am glad I did as these stories are actually really really good. I am on the last issue of the second trade and can’t wait to continue on through the rest of the series.

    After doing a little research I saw that it is pretty well covered in trades as a series except for a large chunk from the 80s to the 120s or so. Why such a big gap? Was anything in there any good and worth seeking out?