Last week Jeff Lemire let me know that he and Ray Fawkes are committed to keeping John Constantine’s life filled with self-sabotage, demons, sex, and all kinds of insanity. After a sneak peak at the script for Constantine #1 (on shelves in March) I found some points of interest, certainly enough to make me look forward to the release of Constantine in March), and Lemire kindly agreed to answer a few questions. Talking about his intentions and the future for our favorite misanthropic anti-hero gives me hope that the core issues Hellblazer was able to wrestle with may not be entirely lost in this forthcoming take on the character.
Sonia Harris: Is Constantine a book you wanted to write? Do you have interest in this character specifically, (because I know he comes with quite a lot of baggage)?
Jeff Lemire: Well, first off, I should qualify all my answers by saying that Ray Fawkes is really the point man on this project. He and I are plotting the first five issues together and working together to build the direction of the book and the character in the New 52 DC Universe. But Ray will be writing the actual scripts. Having said all of that, I will say that I have an intense interest in Constantine as a character. John Constantine is probably my favorite comic book character and has been since I was fourteen. And, like a lot of fans I was really disappointed to see Hellblazer get cancelled. It was the one book I still bought monthly every month and I loved what Peter Milligan and company were doing. But, at the same time, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled to have a chance to write him now.
To me Constantine in Justice League Dark, was a fun take on the character. It was a chance to see John interact with the larger DCU and with the other DC Dark characters. His solo book however will be a chance to re-establish John’s character and go deeper into who he is and what motivates him.
SH: Once I let go of the name “John Constantine”, I was able to enjoy your version as an entirely new character. Did you need to find a way to approach Constantine as a new character?
Jeff Lemire: No. To me our take is true to who he was to a large degree. Ray and I are working really hard to maintain the integrity of the character, to keep him consistent with what we loved about the Vertigo version, but to also reintroduce him to a new audience and make him a part of the larger DCU again like he was when he was originally introduced in Swamp Thing in the 80’s.
There are certain words we can’t use, but otherwise we aren’t pulling any punches. The two key differences are that he younger than he was in Hellblazer, and he is operating in New York now. Though we will see JC in London again.
SH: There has been a lot of speculation about how the move to the DC universe will change John Constantine. Outside of obvious differences (e.g. age, marital status, country of residence, etc), what kind of a man can we expect to see in this new Constantine?
Jeff Lemire: John is a man who is very much motivated my his thirst for knowledge. I also believe that deep down he does want to do the “right thing”, but that often is blurred together with what’s right for him. As a result he can be selfish and brutal. He is also a man who has a very hard time trusting anyone else.
SH: Apart from a few notable exceptions, Hellblazer was written by British writers. Did you feel any trepidation about finding John’s “voice”?
Jeff Lemire: Sure, at first I did. It’s a learning process to be sure. There are issues of JLD I’d like to have another go at, and some that I’m quite pleased with. But I felt like Constantine 1 was a chance to course correct and refine certian aspects of his character. I will say that Ray has a better ear for John’s dialogue than I did.
SH: In Hellblazer, the city of London and politics (or more specifically – John’s hatred of Tories), played an important role in many stories. Are either of these going to show up as devices in the future in the book?
Jeff Lemire: London will continue to play a role in the book and in John’s life. He returns to London in Issue 3 in fact. As for the politics. I feel those were aspects of the character that were very specific to Hellblazer and to the time the early issues of the book were being written. That’s not to say that our book won’t have political undertones, but I think they need to come about organically and John’s worldview in 2013 as opposes to 1989 when those early issues were published.
SH: In the past, the worst of Constantine’s battles have been against his self-destructive tendencies and the vitriol of damaged people (and demons). By placing him within the DC universe, will he be fighting more flamboyant, super villain types from now on, or will he continue to be his own worst enemy?
Jeff Lemire: John’s greatest enemy should always be himself. If it’s not that I think it’s not Constantine any more. I don’t plan on seeing JC fight Doctor Polaris or Crazy Quilt any time soon. Having said that, we will see other mystics appear in the book, MR. E, SARGON etc. But again, John will have a more complex relationship with them than the typical “good guy/bad guy”dynamic.
SH: Some of my favorite old Hellblazer comic books were one-shots, simple stories about the bizarre, ridiculous, and tragic that John deftly handled. Is that something that you’ll have room for, in between long-form, epic battles with big evil?
Jeff Lemire: Absolutely. In fact we are focusing almost exclusively on shorter arcs and one shots, with an underlying mythology running through everything.One of the things I learned form Animal Man was that huge story lines can be good, but if your only telling one story all the time, the reader can loose patience. We made that mistake with Rotworld, and I don’t want to do it again with Green Arrow or Constantine, or with Animal Man after Rotworld for that matter.
Our first five issues of Constantine will be composed of a 3-parter and then two stand alone issues.
Constantine #1 is out in March from DC.
Other articles I’ve written for CSBG about John Constantine include:
Committed: Hellblazer – DC Shoot Themselves in the Foot (again)
Committed: DC Got Their Marketing All Over My Constantine
Committed: Neonomicon, Hellblazer & Fables… NSFW?
Committed: Why You Wish You Read Hellblazer