Jason Aaron Blazes Hell and Invades Wakanda

Just a few years ago, Jason Aaron was waiting for a lonely bus to pick him up from his day job so he could go home to write comic books. Now on the heels of the success of his Eisner-nominated Vietnam War graphic novel The Other Side (with Cameron Stewart) and his hugely acclaimed Native American reservation noir series Scalped (with R. M. Guéra), Marvel Comics has Aaron hard at work on a number of books including Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and Black Panther. But Aaron's latest gig came about, somewhat appropriately, in a barroom deal in New York City. Starting in June’s issue #245 with art by Sean Murphy (Batman/Scarecrow: Year One), Jason Aarron will lend his talents to Vertigo’s longest running series, Hellblazer. CBR News caught up with Aaron to discuss his John Constantine tale.

“One night, out of the blue, when we were passing each other outside the restroom in a New York bar at 2:00 AM, “[editor Casey Seijas] asked me if I'd ever be interested in writing something for Hellblazer,” Aaron told CBR News. “I was instantly terrified of the idea, because the list of writers who've worked on the character is such a long and intimidating one, going all the way back to Alan Moore himself of course, but I knew I couldn't say no.”

That list is indeed great and long. Self-styled occult detective and infamous troublemaker John Constantine was created by Alan Moore in the pages of Swamp Thing, but was brought to an original series platform by writer Jamie Delano (2020 Visions, Narcopolis) and artist John Ridgway. Over its nearly 250-issue run, Hellblazer has been blessed by many comic book luminaries such as Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Mike Carey. In fact, Aaron is only the second American to write the distinctly British John Constantine. 100 Bullets mastermind Brian Azzarello was the first, and his tenure wasn’t without some outspoken voices of discontent.

“Thank God for Brian Azzarello, that's my main thought,” said Aaron. “I know he took a lot of flack for being the first American on the series, so it'll probably make things a little easier for me.”

Aaron says he’ll be exploring two pieces of Constantine’s mythology, “the disastrous events that took place at Newcastle years ago,” and Constantine's time spent as the lead singer of the punk band Mucous Membrane. “What I really enjoyed about the two issues I've done is that they're very different from each other in terms of structure. In the first issue, Constantine himself barely appears, though his presence is still felt throughout… the story focuses on a group of American filmmakers and punk rock enthusiasts who are making a VH1 Behind the Music-style documentary on Constantine's old band, Mucous Membrane.”

In the second issue, Aarron continued, “the story is told in Constantine's voice, and he's on every page. He's one of those characters who's just so strong that he can carry a story on his own, or just act as a cipher, a means of telling someone else's story.”

Aaron will be guest-writing only two issues of Hellblazer, after which regular series scribe Andy Diggle will resume his run. Diggle was actually one of the very first people to champion Jason Aaron online, praising heavily his early work on The Other Side. Aaron doesn’t think Diggle had any part in his getting the Hellblazer gig, but said, “He was definitely very supportive of me once he heard. Andy is a great guy, and I've loved what he's been doing on the series. He was the perfect choice for it.”

Aaron wrote his story for the Vertigo mainstay just before he signed an exclusive agreement with Marvel Comics -- that does not affect Scalped -- and can be seen in every month in the publisher’s Ghost Rider, as well as in Wolverine, with his four-issue “Get Mystique” arc coming to a close in May. Additionally, Aaron is taking on a three-issue Secret Invasion tie-in in the Black Panther title beginning in July’s Jefte Paolo-illustrated issue #39.

Black Panther editor Axel Alonso hired Aaron because of his war comic The Other Side, feeling Aaron was ideal for the three-issue story that pits Black Panther, Storm and his fellow Wakandian subjects against a Skrull invasion. Aaron characterizes the arc as “Braveheart but with green-skinned, shape shifting aliens.”

“It's exciting to be able to tie-in to a big time crossover like Secret Invasion, but still do my own thing,” continued Aaron. “What I'm writing is basically just a war story, just Wakanda and the Black Panther vs. an army of Skrulls, hand to hand on the African plains. How can you not have fun writing that?”

Hellblazer #244, the first of Aaron’s two-part story with artist Sean Murphy, hits stands June 18 from Vertigo, and Black Panther #39 with Jefte Paolo hits in July.

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