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Throwback Thursday 2/13/14

Hellblazer: Original Sins 1988

John Constantine was introduced in the pages of Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing”. A smooth talking magician who is always one step ahead of everyone and who will do whatever it takes to achieve his goal, even if that means sacrificing his friends. Jamie Delano took the character over from “Swamp Thing” and brought him into his own title. He wrote the first forty or so issues and created the mythos that would follow John Constantine though the next twenty five years. The book is really dense. So many concepts and characters that are synonymous with Hellblazer are introduced here. John is practically a fully realized character by the time the book starts. He had shown up in Swamp Thing but this was his chance to shine and boy does he. Shine might not be the right word, there is nothing shiny about John Constantine, he is grimy and dirty. Yet he is one of the most compelling character I have had the pleasure of reading. I don't relate to John, I find a lot of what he does deplorable. Yet I can't help but get sucked into his world. It's like he has used his persuasiveness to lure me into this book.
The first story collected in this book is one of my favorite Delano stories. It shows how much of a bastard John can be, and what he is willing to sacrifice in order to keep the world from ending. A famine demon is loose and causing people to eat themselves to death. No matter how much someone eats they waste away, or they eat themselves because of their hunger or their spouse, or they eat whatever is in front of them even jewelry. All this havoc was caused by an old friend of John’s who comes and asks for help. John helps of course, but when dealing with Constantine it never ends well. John’s friend Gary becomes a prison for the demon and John watches as it consumes his mate while he curses John with his dying breath. Gary isn't the first and won’t be the last of John’s friends to die by his hand.
The other stories in the book are of varying quality. The introduction of John’s niece Gemma is particularly good. John has to find his missing niece and deal with his sister’s husband and their church goers from Resurrection Crusaders who will be a reoccurring group during the first chunk of Delano’s run. John meets the mysterious Zed, a young woman who he immediately sleeps with and begins to care for, which is never a good thing. When John cares, people get hurt. John also has his first run in with Nergal a powerful demon from hell who has created a Damnation Army in the hopes to stop the messiah from being reborn. Nergal melds four skinhead together and creates a four headed, six armed monstrous skinhead and sends it after Zed, who is the soon to be mother of the messiah. Even though the monster is bigger and stronger than Constantine, John is able to defeat it with his greatest weapon, his mind. John provokes the monster by pointing out that half of the monster cheers for Arsenal and the other half for Chelsea, the four who are one revert to their base nature, football hooligans. And they tear each other apart. It's brilliant.
One major thing in these issues is the introduction of John being infected with demon blood. Nergal gives John a transfusion to heal him quickly. John's demon blood is something that comes into contention much later on in the series. It is a lot of fun to see the set up. Also in this trade I discovered where John gets his oft mentioned tree tattoo. Swamp Thing takes over John's body to impregnate his wife. On the way back to the swamp the possessed Constantine gets a tree tattooed on his ass, a little bit of revenge on Swamp Thing's part for all the horrible messes John has dragged him through over the years.
I discovered “Hellblazer” when I was in middle school. I found it at my local library. I was an avid reader and a huge comic fan. I had read every Marvel and DC book that the library had so I started moving on to all the non big two books. “Hellblazer” was one of the first books I read, and it scared me to death. I remember that first arc I mentioned with the famine demon and how freaked out I was over all the people eating themselves and the bugs, THE BUGS! I can't stand bugs, so throw them in a movie or comic and I'll be terrified. After being scared, I realized I really liked this book, and tried my best from then on to read more non Marvel and DC (Yes I know this is Vertigo and technically at the time it originally came out it was still DC proper). “Hellblazer really opened my eyes to the wider world of comics at an early age.

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