By now you’ve heard the news that the long running Hellblazer series is to be cancelled, one of the original and longest running staples of the Vertigo line. Replacing this title will be the new Constantine, firmly ensconced in the DCnU following his appearances in Justice League Dark and I, Vampire.
An event containing both tragedy and triumph, I am led to think of my very first introduction to our beloved chain-smoking manipulative occult warrior, back in the pages of Swamp Thing during the event of the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Whereupon our favorite plant elemental was confronted with the more colorful (and plentiful) aspects of the DC multiverse in a satellite hovering in a realm beyond time. Juxtaposed with this was Constantine’s down to earth, get on with business attitude. In such an environment, I firmly believe that John’s place is exactly where the new New 52 have placed him, smack bang in the middle of every dark shadow and damp corner of the DC universe. Wherever we warm ourselves at a brazier ignited by hellfire, it is John’s face we see through the flames.
Conversely, the tragedy. With Hellblazer’s previous status of only have less than one foot in the DCU, being more self-contained within the patchwork Vertigo-verse, one automatically assumes that the writers have had a far greater latitude with the stories they were able to craft. No mandatory Underworld Unleashed, Judgement Day or Reign in Hell crossover. Subject matter that even after the abandonment of the Comics Code still requires a ‘Suggested For Mature Readers’ label, not due to excessive gore or sex (all undertones aside), but simply due to taking a look at those areas of life that even in metaphor do not translate to a younger mind. Maybe they just haven’t developed the adequate cynicism yet.
What baffles me is the thinking within the corporate minds that assume that because they intend to release a Constantine ongoing, that the Hellblazer title has to be sacrificed. I mean, come on guys!! We are comics fans! We thrive on alternate versions of a character. I mean, just how many incarnations of Superman have there been over the years, incarnations that keep coming back? Or Batman? Hell, even Spider-Man? Do we really get confused between Spider-Man, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, the cartoon Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, numerous Scarlet Spiders and whoever is Venom this year?
When comics are all renumbering themselves back to zero and first issues, losing that great sense of legacy and establishment that Detective Comics or the Fantastic Four possessed, why kill a title that has been a leader in its field and still remains reasonably unique and definitely a trendsetter? I think I have a magical incantation that could prevent such abuse of our comics’ history.
Did you hear that, oh corporate gods of little imagination? What about drawing people to digital back-issue sales? If it is a small issue number on the stands, why should a new fan want to go diving into the seemingly unconnected previous series, especially if they would do so in a digital market, where you get to cut out the local back-issue store and gain revenue from something that was previously dead to you?
Fingers crossed, just like in the Nineties, the original numbering should reappear in a few years. After all, one writer pointed out it’s only 82 issues until Action Comics #1000. They really going to pass that anniversary up?