Another fun-packed weekend, complete with travelling long distances and little sleep, this comes as harsh contrast to my much preferred method of traveling little distances and long sleep.
We all suffer in the name of art, none more so than my girlfriend whom spent 8 hours in a tattoo studio getting an absolutely lovely back-piece done.
Still, whilst I was there, I re-read some old Hellblazer GN's, the recently released "Rare Cuts" and the brilliant return-to-form which was Ennis' "Son of Man", and one thing was made abundantly clear: Hellblazer is broken and needs fixing.
Hellblazer has pulled an Icarus.
From the dark beginnings of Delanos Newcastle mystique, through Ennis' character building (and best work I'd add), the oft-forgot Paul Jenkins run and into Ellis' short lived but well-realised stint; Hellblazer flew high. Too high.
And then came the dark-times.
Then came Azzarello.
I am sure this is going to come off as quite pretentious at times, but bear with me and try and remember one thing: I am not a patriotic person. Never have been. Nothing against the UK, there are worse places to live, but in the past and in the present, people get a little too caught up in the greatness which is "their homeland". Its associated glory like football fans who chant "we won" when actually all they did was drink beer and smack their wives about a bit. But I digress.
John Constantine is a Brit. He was created by a Brit, he walks like a Brit, talks like a Brit and for the first 145 issues of his comic series, he was written by a Brit. And that should never have changed.
I actually like Azzarello, I just realise their are some books he shouldn't write, like Batman, or Superman, or Hellblazer. By the same token, I wouldn't like to see Ellis writing Sonic the Hedgehog. Different books suite different people.
Azzarello is not a Brit, and as such his Hellblazer was sorely lacking in style and attitude, he rarely felt like "our John", not unlike the crappy movie which should have been called "Reeves Vs. the Devil 2", not Constantine. If you don't know the merits of a good old cup of tea, have never seen what Silk Cuts look like and don't feel a little piece of yourself die everytime you hear the first few notes to the Coronation Street theme, then you shouldn't be allowed to write Hellblazer.
Since that time, Hellblazer has struggled to find its way (Absolutely no offence meant to Mike Carey who I've heard is a very nice man, and I did really enjoy the "All His Engines" GN he wrote). Compared to the heights it reached in previous times, and partly due to the damage done by its Americanisation, it is still struggling to refind its place. In a world where Constantine cleaned up at the box-office and the TPB sales are way up throughout the industry, Hellblazer is still struggling to attract new readers, which is a crying shame for Vertigos flagship title.
Hellblazer is a book with a lot wrong with it: Ellis left the book under strained circumstances after DC refused to print the excellent story "Shoot", due to the badly timed Columbine High School Massacre (selfish selfish murdering bastards) and a Tpb range which, although extensive is incomplete and has no spine numbering, making the book less accessible to new readers.
Yet at its heart lies one of the best characters in the history of comicdom. Constantine - or John as long time readers no doubt refer to him as - feels like someone you've met, he transcends the pages of his comic book series, not only onto the screen and into other comic series but into reality. Constantine is at his best not when he's fighting devils or exorcising girls, but when he is being human. He makes mistakes, he cocks up, he is selfish, he can piss you off and that something we can all relate too.
And I would kill to write him.