How "DC Universe: Rebirth" Fulfills Its Promise of Restoring Legacy to DC Comics
Writer/director Richard Reynolds and Waking Dream Studios have a simple message for DC Comics and Vertigo: “Bring back Hellblazer.”
To that end, they’ve produced “John Constantine: Hellblazer — Soul Play,” a short film described as an “all-swearing, all-smoking, all-grifting tale of John Constantine is set in the Vertigo Hellblazer continuity, months after Peter Milligan’s final issue.”
DC Entertainment will get a head start on the holiday-shopping season with a seven-day Black Friday sale on Batman digital comics.
Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1, the publisher will offer 750 Batman issues — titles ranging from Gotham By Gaslight to The Dark Knight Returns to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s current run — for 99 cents each. They’re available for purchase from the DC Digital Store, Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, comiXology and Google Play.
As that offer ends, Vertigo’s Cyber Monday sale begins, with the first collected volumes of 23 titles — from The Sandman to 100 Bullets to Promethea — available for download for $4.99. The offer is for one day only, on Dec. 1.
Eddie Campbell has made a name for himself among the upper echelon of modern comics creator, both for his collaboration with Alan Moore, From Hell, and for his own stories like Alec, Bacchus and the recent, great look at the concept of money, The Lovely Horrible Stuff. He’s created a lot of stories, but he’s far from finished.
This summer William Morrow will release the cartoonist’s illustrated version of Neil Gaiman’s The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, and Top Shelf will publish a two-part omnibus edition of Bacchus. In addition, the Glasgow-born artist is working on two new projects, the first being a book about the roots of sports cartoons in late 19th-century San Francisco, and the other a collaboration with Audrey Niffenegger, author of the smash prose novel The Time Traveler’s Wife. ROBOT 6 spoke with Campbell about these upcoming projects, as well as his past works and the stories behind them — including last year’s From Hell Companion, which he compiled and wrote using never-before-seen materials from both himself and Moore.
While the announcement of a Constantine series on NBC may be good news for Warner Bros.’ DC Comics-based television plans — the project joins Gotham and the Arrow spinoff The Flash on the agenda — it won’t mean immediate financial benefit for the creators of the fan-favorite character. It seems those media rights are part of an earlier deal.
“As of this morning, it appears there will be NO payment to the Constantine creators for this series,” Stephen R. Bissette, who created John Constantine with Alan Moore and John Totleben, wrote Monday on his Facebook page. “This option apparently rolled out of the already-paid-for option for the Constantine movie in the 1990s. Thus, we’ll only see $$ waaaay down the road, it appears, IF this series makes it to being a series. If it makes money. If it trickles down.”
The movie Bissette references is actually the 2005 supernatural action-thriller that starred Keanu Reeves as the cynical occult detective. Although the adaptation was lambasted by many fans for its casting of the American Reeves as the English Constantine and the liberties taken with the source material, it managed to gross more than $230 million worldwide on a reported $100 million budget. Its option apparently included sequel and television rights.
Remember the sound that resonated around the world on July 24? The unison gurrrr-klap! noise made by thousands of readers groaning and slapping their foreheads simultaneously, accompanying the release of Constantine #5, and the eponymous warlock usurping the powers of Shazam? Yeah, you’re bound to. That earth-shaking racket was the first thing I thought of when I saw this the other day at Sean Phillips’ blog, drawn for the 1995 UKCAC convention booklet.
In March, DC Comics debuted Constantine, a new series focusing on the hard-living occult detective John Constantine. No big deal, right? Not so. For more more than two decades, the character was one of the pillars of the the publisher’s “mature readers” Vertigo imprint, starring in the long-running Hellblazer.
Following brief minor dalliances in some event titles in 2010 and 2011, Constantine was made a key figure in the New 52 title Justice League Dark. The aforementioned Hellblazer ended earlier this year with its 300th issue, paving the way for a full-fledged transition of the Liverpudlian warlock into the realm of superheroes. Readers greeted the new Constantine series with both hope and trepidation, and although the first issues are out — so is the jury.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at other characters that have called Vertigo home, and how they might fare in the DC Universe of the New 52. Some, like Constantine, crossed over with a bang, while others like Lucifer Morningstar and Kid Eternity, not so much. For this installment of “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six characters or teams that could possibly make the transition well. Please note than many of Vertigo’s best-remembered series aren’t wholly owned by DC but rather in creator-participation deals like Preacher, Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets; so while the idea of Spider Jerusalem reporting on the state of things in Gotham City might be amusing, I’ve left those off the table for reality’s sake.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Everyone still may be coming down from the excitement of Free Comic Book Day and the blockbuster opening of Marvel Iron Man 3, but we’re already looking ahead to Wednesday’s releases and Saturday’s two noteworthy events: Kids Comic Con and Long Beach Comic Expo.
But first, back to Wednesday, as ROBOT 6’s contributors single out some of the best titles going on sale this week, including a new edition of Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack and Red Handed.
“I don’t know if it’d be the same thing. I mean, of course I would do it, but I don’t know if it’d be the same thing. It’d feel strange, indeed, doing Constantine in that world. It’d feel surreal. All the guts would have to come out of him. It’d be amusing to see him wind up with all these superheroes while he’s all gnarly and scarred and carrying around a bottle of whiskey. If he was darker and practicing magic on his own, that could work, but a cleaned-up version wouldn’t work. He’s not Doctor Strange, is he? He has to be the mysterious Englishmen on the corner by himself, having a drink muttering to himself. A guy who has to sober up and get his shit together. A misfit among misfits. I’m very interested to see how they portray him, very interested.”
– longtime Hellblazer cover artist Simon Bisley, when asked by Comic Book Resources whether he’d consider working on the new DC Universe series Constantine
The news of Karen Berger leaving Vertigo spread quickly. It wasn’t so much that it was a surprise, but that it finally happened. DC
Comics Entertainment has been going through significant changes over the past couple of years, including grabbing characters long associated with Vertigo and returning them to the DC Universe, and rumored changes to creator contracts. Despite the unfortunate end, Berger leaves behind an amazing legacy no matter what becomes of the nearly 20-year-old imprint.
I have a very clear memory of high school in the 1990s where kids much cooler than me were reading The Sandman. These were kids who otherwise didn’t read comics, and certainly not the superhero stuff from Marvel and DC. This was not an isolated incident. Vertigo in the ’90s brought a new audience to comics, a maturing audience with interests in horror, fantasy, suspense and mythology. These readers didn’t have access to, and probably weren’t ready for, the underground or alternative comix scene. As superhero comics turned into garish collector items, Vertigo provided the alternative: stories.
“… more time has passed between John Constantine being created and now than between the creations of Hal Jordan and John Constantine. That is … I don’t know if that’s depressing or astonishing or what. These characters aren’t young. An era of comics that many of us think of as still ongoing is really receding in the rear view mirror.”
– Tom Spurgeon, making me feel old
I hear a lot of rumbling from the February solicitations — the First Lantern, the last Hellblazer, the new JLA — like the Next Big Things are simmering under the surface. Yes, this is how DC wants me to think, but there’s no guarantee that my anticipation will live up to the books themselves. Still, at least things are happening, which is nice. There are endings and beginnings, changes and reintroductions, and a few good reprints too.
So, without further ado …
JUST BE GLAD IT’S NOT “20,000 LEAGUES”
The “expansion of the Justice League” advertised in Justice League #17 may be related to the new Justice League of America, but I suspect it will have more to do with the main League’s roster additions (which, if memory serves, were teased back in summer 2011). I base this mostly on the fact that JLA #1 comes out two weeks before JL #17, and therefore I doubt DC would want its latest high-profile first issue to spoil the end of “Throne of Atlantis.”
It’s Saturday, which means it’s time for one lucky comic creator to spin the big wheel–of questions, that is. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where we’ve come up with 36 possible questions, and each week I will randomly select which of those questions our guest has to answer.
Our guest this week is Mike Carey, writer of The Unwritten, X-Men: Legacy, Hellblazer, Ultimate Fantastic Four, My Faith in Frankie, Lucifer and many other comics. My thanks to Mike for agreeing to answer some of our questions today; now let’s get to it …
Seemingly in response to blowback from Thursday’s surprise announcement that one-time Vertigo flagship Hellblazer will be canceled and resurrected in the New 52 as Constantine, DC Comics has released a statement from Co-Publisher Dan DiDio expressing pride in the nearly 25-year-old series.
“We’re supremely proud of Vertigo’s Hellblazer, one of the most critically-acclaimed series we’ve published,” DiDio said. “Issue #300 concludes this chapter of Constantine’s epic, smoke-filled story in style and with the energy, talent and creativity fans have come to expect from Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini. And no one should worry that John is going to hang-up his trenchcoat — he lives on in March, in the pages of the all-new DC Comics New 52 ongoing series, Constantine, by writer Robert Venditti and artist Renato Guedes.”
If the statement was meant to soothe fans of Hellblazer, the only remaining title from Vertigo’s 1993 launch, it didn’t work. One commenter on the DC Comics blog insisted that, without the comic’s trademark vulgarity, nudity and adult themes, “it cannot possibly be the same.” Another referred to the upcoming Constantine as “basically Hellblazer-lite.” Still another fan offered his take on DiDio’s comments, summarizing, “We are very proud of Hellblazer so we are cancelling it. This logic is perfectly sound!” (At our sibling blog Comics Should Be Good, Sonia Harris offers her own thoughts on the announcement, and ideas for making Constantine for financially lucrative.)
However, Venditti, best known for his work on The Surrogates and the newly revived X-O Manowar, assured his Twitter followers that, “I have a TREMENDOUS amount of respect for Constantine and the creators who made him who he is. I’m taking this very seriously.” Asked whether the New 52 version of John Constantine will still be bisexual, he replied, “Keeping everything under wraps right now, but the goal is to keep Constantine recognizable. Don’t fix what ain’t broke! “
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15, I’d start with Image’s new anthology Thought Bubble Anthology #1 (Image, $2.99). That Becky Cloonan cover is great, and seeing that the book holds new shorts from Andy Diggle, Duncan Fegredo and others is enticing. Next up would be a DC three-pack: Swamp Thing #4 (DC, $2.99), Animal Man #4 (DC, $2.99), Action Comics #4 (DC, $3.99). DC really wins this week when it comes to my wallet, and these three books are becoming the key titles in the New 52.
If I had $30, I’d try out Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson’s Defenders #1 (Marvel, $3.99). While I was nonplussed by their previous collaboration in Uncanny X-Men, I remain high on other segments of their work and hope this one lives up to that potential. Next up would be X-Club #1 (Marvel, $2.99), based solely on this eclectic line-up. The X-Club was one of the few parts of the previously mentioned Fraction run on Uncanny X-Men I enjoyed, and I hope this mini makes them a more viable part of the universe long-term. Next up I’d get iZombie #20 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) for the ongoing adventures of Roberson and Allred and Irredeemable #32. I’m really enjoying what Diego Barreto brings to the book, and Mark Waid continues to deliver.
If I could splurge, I’d get IDW’s collection of Mike Grell’s Shaman’s Tears maxi-series. This was one of the early Image titles, and gave me my first glimpse of Grell’s work and the potential for Image outside the original 7. As the series went on I ended up going back to track down Grell’s earlier work, but Shaman’s Tears holds a special place and I’m anxious to relive it without dusting off my longboxes.
The above cover by Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes’ is the book’s final cover, with John Constantine and Zatanna appearing where big blobs of black once dwelled. And after the jump is J.G. Jones’ variant cover, featuring Batman, Swamp Thing and Constantine.