Friday, November 9, 2012

At Least They're Not Letting J.T. Krul Write It..

In keeping with my usual practice of bringing you yesterday's news today, you might be interested to learn, in the unlikely event you haven't already heard, that DC has cancelled its longest running title--or, rather, its longest running title that has never been rebooted or renumbered--Hellblazer
Dan DiDio pulls the trigger on Hellblazer
Actually, I held off writing about this development until I could figure out exactly what, if anything, I had to say about it.  After all, there are plenty of comics news sites where you can get the bare facts.  I like to season my posts some opinions, analysis, and insight, no matter how poorly reasoned or ill-informed.
Anyway, enough of this meta-crap.  Let's get to the pontificating...
We should have seen this coming.  
After all, it was almost two years ago, I believe, well before the advent of the New 52, that DC announced that the mainstream DC Universe would be reclaiming all of the Vertigo characters who had originated there.  This immediately led to questions concerning the future of Hellblazer, as John Constantine was the only such character whose adventures were still being chronicled in an ongoing monthly comic.  Doom Patrol and Animal Man, two more of the six titles that formed the original core of the Vertigo imprint, had long since migrated back to the main line, and Swamp Thing was in publishing limbo.  
However, when no announcement of Hellblazer's impending end was immediately forthcoming,  it seemed as if the venerable title would remain unaffected.  Even when Constantine was eventually reintegrated into the mainstream DCU with the New 52's Justice League Dark, Hellblazer continued and for more than a year now, DC has been giving readers two different versions of John Constantine on a monthly basis.
That ends in February, when Hellblazer comes to an end with its 300th issue, to be replaced in March by Constantine, a comic set firmly in the world of the new 52.  
Its my guess that DC was planning something along this line all along, and was simply waiting for the series to reach the milestone tricentennial issue before pulling the plug.  
I definitely plan on picking up the final three issue story line "Death and Cigarettes", which, by the way, is the perfect name for a story about John Constantine and I'm sort of surprised no one's used it before this.  I will also probably grab at least the first issue of the new series, just to see if its any good.  However, I'm not holding out much hope that it will be.
It's not that, as has been decried by some other on-line opinionators, that the new writer, Robert Venditti, is an American.  He will not, after all, be the first American to chronicle the character's life.  While, as I wrote last week, Brian Azzarello's first storyline may have  ultimately disappointed me, he did, despite not being British, manage to capture the essence of Constantine's personality.
It seems to me there's a double standard here.  Fans react with indignation to the idea of an American writing John Constantine, but I don't recall ever hearing of anyone having problems with the very British Alan Moore writing Swamp Thing, a series set mostly in the southern United States,  or with any of the other Brits, from Neil Gaiman to Paul Cornell and including Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and James Robinson, who have written comics with American characters and settings. 
What matters, far more than the nationality of the writer, is whether they can tell good stories regardless of where they are set or where the characters hail from. Besides, as I say in the title of this post, at least they haven't handed the new book to one of their staff hacks such as Krul, or Dan DiDio or Geoff Johns.
My doubts about the new Constantine title have to do with Max Lord.
I have, for some time, been of the opinion that the reason that characters like Maxwell Lord and Amanda Waller have so poorly handled in recent years, including in OMAC, a New 52 title I otherwise enjoyed, is that, as originally conceived and written by their creators, these characters do not fit neatly into the black and white categories of hero or villain, existing instead in a grey area between the two, and it seems to me that, under  the leadership of Dan DiDio, there is apparently no room in the vast DC Universe for moral ambiguity.  Now, there is no more morally ambiguous character in all of comics than John Constantine.  This aspect of his character is, to me, what makes him interesting and, I believe, the secret to Hellblazer's longevity.  If that part of Constantine's character is ignored or played down,  I'm sure that his new comic will not have nearly as long a run as it predecessor.

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