Driving a story with an antihero has a long history in fiction, dating back to the times of Homer as the Greek poet featured the flawed Thersites in parallel to the ultimate warrior Achilles in “The Iliad.” Merriam-Webster actually defines the term “antihero” as a main character in a book, play or movie, who does not have the usual good qualities that are expected in a hero. And while there is no picture accompanying the entry, it easily could have been tagged with the annotation, “See also: Constantine, John.”
Because while the term antihero has been used to described characters ranging from Han Solo and Walter White to Omar Little, and some — but not all — interpretations of Batman, Ray Fawkes, the writer of “Constantine,” told CBR News that his series, currently illustrated by the artist Aco, may be the only current one in DC Comics’ New 52 that can claim to feature one who truly straddles the line of good and evil. Which makes John’s life all the more difficult as he descends deeper and deeper into “Forever Evil: Blight,” battling the collected force of all of the pure evil on Earth and two of its mightiest foot soldiers, namely Nick Necro and Felix Faust.
With a story spinning out from the mega-event “Forever Evil,” the 18-part crossover is being told in DC’s Dark group titles, including “Constantine,” “Justice League Dark,” “Trinity of Sin: Pandora,” and “Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger” by Fawkes and industry legend J.M. DeMatteis. And after Constantine’s prime adversaries were both revealed this past week in “Constantine” #11, CBR News connected with Fawkes to discuss living on the edge with the original hellblazer, why Felix Faust should not be underestimated, where Nick Necro has been hiding and what the awesome power of Project Thaumaton truly represents for the world’s greatest magical superheroes, anti or otherwise.
CBR News: We’ve talked about your love for John Constantine in the past, but it must be a blast writing him and telling his stories with him smack dab in the middle of DC Comics’ mega event “Forever Evil”?
Ray Fawkes: Obviously, I’m super-honored and happy to be writing John Constantine. And yes, I love the character in all of his many incarnations — from his earliest appearances in “Swamp Thing” through several amazing writers’ tenures on “Hellblazer” so now to be writing the new version of him in the New 52 is awesome.
He brings something to the New 52 that no other character brings and you’re right, it’s a real blast. The greatest thing about the role he played in “Trinity War” and now “Forever Evil” is that these stories about good and evil, in a very serious way, magnify where the division falls for a lot of characters and John is well known for straddling that division. It’s really cool that we are now at a point where readers can debate whether or not John’s motives are good at all. And that’s what makes him such an interesting character in the DC Universe. I don’t think very many of the other books can claim that they are featuring an actual antihero but I think that’s where John sits.
That’s very much on display in “Constantine” #11, when he’s fast to ditch the rest of Justice League Dark in an effort to find Zatanna. But then he needs them and wishes that they weren’t so cutthroat when he finds himself captured by Nick Necro and Felix Faust.
[Laughs] Yes, John is very impulsive, as we are discovering, and very selfish. If anything, if this version of John has weakness, it’s those two things combined. And yes, as you can see in this most current issue, what ultimately flattens him is that once he sets his goal, he starts to race towards it without much concern for friend or foe. There is something that he thinks is more important than everything else and is willing to sacrifice anything to get to it. And that’s not the last time that something like that is going to bite him.
But again, there is that internal conflict. While he is singly driven to this one goal, which is to find Zatanna, it’s for the good of another person, which would mean that he isn’t totally selfish — except that he wants to find her for his own happiness. So I guess that takes us back to selfish, right?
As you have seen, and as you will see, Zatanna means a whole hell of a lot to Constantine. In some cases, I would say she means more to John than himself. We’re going to see exactly why that is, we’re going to see more about their history together and we’re going to see more about what he thinks about her versus what he thinks about himself. While John’s love for Zatanna is definitely driving him here, his attempt to rescue her is for her but it’s still a selfish act.
As stated, we don’t see a lot of the new Justice League Dark members, namely Pandora, Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing, in this issue, it’s mostly Constantine and Nightmare Nurse. But one of the many big reveals in this issue is that it’s not Nightmare Nurse after all, it’s actually John’s mentor-turned-enemy Nick Necro. Was he a no-brainer when he considering a cast for “Forever Evil: Blight”?
Before we get into that, what actually happens to the rest of the Justice League Dark at that moment is shown to you and explained in “Trinity of Sin: Pandora” #8, which is just out this week. We split paths here and we see where John goes.He leaves the team, and then we will see what happened to the rest of the team the moment John disappears in “Trinity of Sin: Pandora” #8.
As far as Nick Necro is concerned, we had to bring this guy back, especially for John to face off against. With “Forever Evil” hitting and all of these villains being showcased, it made sense to us that he would find his way into the story. He’s just as tricky as John and he’s not going to end up roped into anybody else’s crazy plans for what’s going to happen to The Flash or anyone else. It made sense to us that he would hook himself up with Faust and to start work on Project Thaumaton.
I would say that the main reason Nick did it is because he knew perfectly well that sooner or later, it would mean that John would come to fight him.
Project Thaumaton is a wild idea, in which the souls of DC’s magic characters are being drained by Nick Necro and Felix Faust and repurposed as a super-weapon. That’s better than pulling a rabbit from a hat.
Yes, it is. As readers are discovering, Project Thaumaton is a huge weapons system that’s been created by Felix Faust and Nick Necro on behalf of the Crime Syndicate. What they are doing is capturing any magical character that they can get their hands on and they perform these experiments on them that basically turn them into weapons that can be fired off with nuclear force. The reason that they’re doing that will be revealed, but it all has to do with the Syndicate’s plan for the world — and it’s pretty nasty stuff.
While John may only be concerned with saving Zatanna, the rest of the crew is rapidly becoming aware that something very big is happening here.
Tell me about the inclusion of Felix Faust, who, for my money, was featured on one of the coolest covers ever on “Justice League of America” #10 in the ’60s. He really is the alpha dog for magic-based villains in the DCU, isn’t he?
Felix Faust is basically the Lex Luthor or the Joker for the magical part of the DC Universe. He is the ultimate evil mage, so it made perfect sense to us that if anyone was going to cut a deal with the Syndicate from the supernatural side of the house, Faust would be the first to step up.
Faust is a lot cannier than most of the superheroes in the DCU think. A lot of them think that he is a bit of a weirdo, or a joke, or a toady, but they will all soon discover that he is quite brilliant and extremely dangerous. I think part of it is that it is so hard for them to get a handle on exactly who he is and what he’s all about. And really, he’s a mage that dreams bigger than most of them do.
I realize that you don’t want to spoil the ending, but you mentioned at the beginning of this interview that Constantine is a true antihero. At the end of this arc, will he come to understand the line that he straddles on a daily basis? Because in this issue, he has really lost his head — both literally and figuratively.
[Laughs] I’ve said this before, but John is either the best bad guy or the worst good guy. In the end, he does do the right thing. In the end, he does give a leg up to the good guys. And we find that what he does in the end, most often winds up being for the best, even if the reasons he does it are wrong or selfish.
As far as the ending of this story goes, I don’t want to give too much away because it’s a big deal, but John will be, in some ways, satisfied, and in other ways, quite unsatisfied.
Your event within the event is titled, “Forever Evil: Blight,” and you and J.M. DeMatteis have been tasked with bringing pure evil to life. Have we seen the full might of Blight yet?
This is the thing: Blight is the collection of the world’s evil. Over the course of our story, the characters, most especially John and the Nightmare Nurse, have had to go face-to-face with exactly how much evil they carry within themselves. It’s not just that they have to fight evil; things aren’t that cut and dry. They actually have to face the evil within them and the evil of the world, and it’s going to change them and it’s going to change their outlook. You can’t come face-to-face with the collected evil of all of human consciousness and come away without it having profound effects on the way you see people and the way you see the world.
Interestingly, it’s also true of Pandora. But what’s funny about her is that she’s actually coming away from this having tapped more directly into all of the world’s light and goodness. This is something that John is not privy to. She’s seen all of the goodness in the world. Even though he went to the edge of Heaven, all John’s learned is how much he can’t trust anybody and how much evil there is waiting for him in the world.
Finally, we talked about Nightmare Nurse not actually being Nightmare Nurse up to now. Are we going to see the real Nightmare Nurse before this thing is over?
We definitely will. You have not seen the last of her. She is going to go through the wringer in a way that some of the other characters will not, but she is going to play quite a role by the end of the story.