But fans of the Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totleben creation no doubt have been enjoying the antihero’s hellblazing monthly adventures for years, most recently in the New 52 “Constantine” comic book series written by Ray Fawkes.
The Canadian writer just finished telling an epic time-traveling tale with Constantine as he battled Cult of the Cold Flame assassins in Germany’s Black Forest, but according to the writer that’s nothing compared to what’s coming next for the modern day mage. With new series artist Jeremy Haun along for the ride, Fawkes is making John look directly into mirror (and he’s not going be happy by what he sees) as he comes face-to-face with his Earth 2 counterpart in “Constantine” #18.
CBR News recently connected with Fawkes to learn more about what’s to come in “Constantine” and the writer shared his thoughts on where John ranks amongst the DCU’s magical characters, what rules apply for using magic in the New 52 and the upcoming “Constantine” TV series starring Matt Ryan.
CBR News: You’re a longtime fan of the character, and you’ve been writing John Constantine for nearly two years now. What has surprised you most about the character in terms of his personality or the kinds of stories you can tell with him?
Ray Fawkes: Surprised me? I suppose it’s surprising to see how much sadness is built into John as a character, how much the charming, slick, cruel conman is carrying real despair, real disappointment in the world around a lot of the time. I mean, he’s a man who’s aware of the existence of magic, has actually seen the edge of Heaven and none of it has done anything to fix what he considers his shithole of a world.
I always knew it was there, that sadness, having read so much of the material featuring him before, but I didn’t expect it to inform so much of the story about him.
Do you personally like him more since you’ve started writing the series?
Of course, I like him more. How can you do otherwise, working so closely with a character? My hope is that readers like him more now too.
Zatanna has played an important role in the series since its launch, even though she doesn’t physically appear in every issue. Will their relationship continue to drive the series moving forward and do you feel Zatanna’s heightened presence in his life has changed John for the better — even if it is by way of magical spell?
I think Zatanna is just as confused as John ever was. And while she is a genuinely caring, optimistic person, her efforts to influence John have met with the same success that malicious mages find. John’s will is incredibly strong, and it doesn’t matter how you’re trying to push him. He’ll eventually figure out what you’re up to and almost always fight you. Even if John was becoming a “better person” due to Zatanna’s efforts, it had little to do with his own choice and that makes him very angry. Some philosophers would argue that being forced to do good has nothing in common with actually being good.
Also, Zatanna’s nearly unique in that John genuinely loved her when she worked her spell on him. Then again, John genuinely loved Nick Necro, once upon a time and when the chips were down, John sent Nick to Hell. One day, John and Zee are going to have to face each other and put all their cards on the table too.
Since “Constantine” is more fantasy series than traditional superhero comic, how do you go about governing magic within the New 52? More specifically, is it possible to make John too powerful without checks and balances?
It comes up again and again in the book — all magic exacts a price in the DC Universe. Some mages are just more aware of it. John, or any other mage featured in the stories, could potentially exert the power of a God but then they’d need to weather the irresistible backlash of the universe itself, which seeks to balance any actions that fall outside the natural order.
As the more aware mages in the DC Universe explain it: How does the typical advanced mage look? Well-balanced, comfortable, happy? No. After exerting years of magical influence over the world around him or her — or in John’s parlance, “cheating the universe” — the typical advanced mage is homeless, without family or friends, shivering in the cold, and usually crippled and insane, mumbling to themselves about how they have power no mortal will ever comprehend.
Look at the mages around John: Mister E, who lost his sight and his mind; Tannarak, scarred and isolated in his throne room at the top of the world; Sargon, loveless, lost, and forever angry; Felix Faust, withered and sadistically insane; Zatanna, famous and respected but never satisfied, never feeling like she’s done enough.
And John himself. He’s half deaf, sick with smoke and drink and never able to allow himself to grow close to a friend or lover because he knows they will be claimed by the magic sooner or later.
Not exactly what you want to read on a Monster.com posting. In your “Future’s End” one-shot, John goes head to head with the Helmet of Nabu — and wins. Where would you rate Constantine within the hierarchy of DC’s homo magi, meaning if Mr. Terrific is the third smartest person in the world, what’s John’s rank amongst Earth’s magic-based heroes and villains?
Well, that’s a tricky one. John doesn’t have the fireworks like most of the mages do. He might be capable of powerful magic, but he also knows the price, and is understandably reluctant to pay it. However, I believe that John is the smartest, quickest thinking, most systematically aware mage in the entire DC Universe and those qualities give him the edge over every mage who believes that raw power is all they need. That’s why John could defeat Nabu — although it was a close scrape and almost went the other way — and that’s why he stands a chance against anyone out there.
Even against the Constantine of Earth 2? According to the solicitations, John is about to face his biggest challenge yet. Is John going to like seeing what he sees in the mirror?
John is going to be absolutely shocked by his Earth 2 counterpart. He’s not what you’re expecting. I don’t believe he’s what anybody is expecting. And he represents the worst possible truth John could face about himself. There is one fundamental difference and it’s one that affects absolutely every decision he’s ever made in life.
The other tease from the solicitations is that Earth 2’s John Constantine has a family. Are we going to see Cheryl and/or did John’s family on Earth 2 survive the house fire that killed them on Earth 0?
They did survive it, in a way, because it never happened on Earth 2. Why not? You’ll have to read and see.
What else can you share about the upcoming arc as John journeys to Earth 2?
The journey to Earth 2, and the process of returning to his own world, is going to start a whole new chapter in John Constantine’s life — one that’s never been explored before. John will be terribly traumatized and will also face a terrifying new challenge for him. What’s the worst thing that can happen to someone who has found a way to adjust to a world without hope? Give him something to believe in again.
Jeremy Haun has joined the series as the new regular artist. What can readers expect to see from your work together?
You’re going to love what Jeremy’s bringing to “Constnatine.” I just know it. He’s got this incredible range, bringing forward the small, real emotional moments that are so crucial to John, and then suddenly blowing things out into world-breaking, cosmic dimensions. How he moves between the two with such aplomb, I may never understand but I’m glad as hell that he does it.
Awesome. And I have to ask, what’s up with the guitar on the solicited cover of “Constantine” #19?
I don’t know. What is up with that?
[Laughs] This fall, you’ll add another DC series with the launch of “Gotham By Midnight”. With the supernatural Jim Corrigan on the case, any chance we will see the Spectre team up with John Constantine in “Gotham By Midnight,” especially considering the character has been cast in the NBC’s “Constantine” series?
It’s been made clear that John is bound for damnation, sooner or later, and the way he behaves is intrinsically offensive to The Spectre. There’s nothing Heaven’s Blade would like more than to pick the so-called gutter mage up by the scruff of the neck and send him spinning down into the inferno without delay.
So yeah, of course they’re going to meet. And it’s going to be roses and smiles and claps on the back all around. [Laughs]
Speaking of which, are you jazzed for the upcoming “Constantine” TV series? And what do you think about the casting of Matt Ryan in the title role?
Yeah, I’m jazzed for it. I’ve always loved seeing different interpretations of the character, and I’m eager to see what this one’s like. I haven’t watched the pilot. I’m waiting to join the global experience, which I think will make it more fun for me. Matt Ryan looks perfect, and by all accounts, he’s wonderful. My hope is that the show is great, and that people go nuts for it. Wouldn’t that be cool?
“Constantine” #18 by Ray Fawkes and new series artist Jeremy Haun goes on sale October 10.
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