Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Spotlight: John Constantine

Original Photo via Flickr user mrgreen09 (CC BY 2.0 license)

Today's spotlight is cast on the one and only John Constantine, star of the long-running Hellblazer series (and a better-than-you've-heard Keanu Reeves movie).

First appearance in Swamp Thing #37

Constantine originated in Swamp Thing during the legendary Alan Moore run (which you should learn more about with Amy Dallen's two-part YouTube feature), when the artists Stephen R. Bissette and John Totleben expressed a desire to create a character that looked like the singer Sting.  Not only did they accomplish this, they also created one of the most popular DC characters who would later star in the flagship comic of the Vertigo imprint, Hellblazer.

Swamp Thing #74
Surprisingly, considering Alan Moore's history, Constantine's queer side did not come out until after he had left the pages of Swamp Thing (not withstanding beating up some queer-bashing neo-Nazis). 

The first queer reveal about Constantine has to do with the company he keeps.  While he will associated with anyone, from nuns to hackers to demons, he has a short list of people who could be called his friends.  One of the most important of these friends early in Hellblazer is Ray Monde, an elderly gay man who runs a clippings agency and supplies Constantine with information on demonic and magical activity in London.

Hellblazer #3
In Ray's first appearance in Hellblazer #3, Constantine describes him as an "old queen" and an "outrageous fag" with a "penchant for the bizarre," but he also says he is as good as gold.  He is one of the few people besides Chaz and Constantine's family to come to his (false alarm) funeral in issue #77.  Ray, like most people Constantine associates with, doesn't have a happy ending, but we're never given the sense that it's because he's gay.  He probably should just have picked a different friend.

Constantine befriends another gay man in issue #68 while living on the streets.  The two share a mattress and blanket, and Constantine only starts to warm up to him after learning that he is a hustler. Unfortunately, the man is killed in the middle of the night by the King of vampires, prompting Constantine to remark that he must have been his friend, because he's dead now.  Naturally, Constantine takes revenge both on the vampire and on some police offices he later hears mocking the guy's corpse.

Constantine himself was only mentioned as having had females partners until issue #51, when writer John Smith gifted us with this little grenade of information:

And a great squeeing was heard amongst the queer readers of edgy, alt-comics. 
Now that his queer sexuality was officially canon, the door was opened to exploring it further.  We got something of what we were hoping for during Brian Azzarello and Marcelo Frusin's "Ashes and Dust" arc.  Finally, we get to see Constantine's first same-sex kiss with Stanely Manor (and his first same-sex BDSM-dungeon sex scene).  
Hellblazer #173
Constantine has rarely been sexier than he was in some of these scenes.  The affair perfectly embodies the spirit of Hellblazer:  you know as the reader that it's all going to end horribly for everyone involved, but until then, it's certainly a wild ride.



Post a Comment