I have a new collecting guide for you today: John Constantine, Hellblazer!
The guide covers Hellblazer’s every appearance, from beginnings as a guest star in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing through his two decade run in his solo title to his multiple relaunches since 2012.
There’s something about Constantine that draws readers in and makes him a prime choice for screen adaptations.
A big part of that is that he is by no means a hero. Sure, Constantine is a supernatural detective and occasional magician, but he has little interest in saving anyone – in fact, his actions are often as likely to get people killed as to save them!
Another hallmark of Constantine was years of exclusivity. He was created by Alan Moore in a pre-Vertigo Swamp Thing and than shuttled off to his own title written by Jamie Delano, who was hand-picked by Moore to launch the character in Hellblazer.
Constantine made very few appearances outside of his own title, his mini-series, and Swamp Thing for the next twenty years. This insulation was furthered when he became a part of the Vertigo family of titles and allowed Constantine to age in real time with his readers.
That means Constantine is very easy to read sequentially, with just a few limited series and OGNs to fit in to his reading order. However, he’s a bit harder to collect. Despite DC keeping early Jamie Delano issues evergreen in print, Hellblazer went over a decade without his new arcs seeing collection (until #146 in 2000), though occasional trades went back to collect short bursts of issues.
His first 145 issues were finally filled in sequentially via a 2011 line of paperbacks that has now extended to #188 in a newly-solicited Volume 16 with no signs of slowing. However, those TPBs aren’t quite as comprehensive as they could be, omitting some OGNs and mini-series that remain uncollected since their original publication.
Hellblazer’s status quo changed in a big way in from 2011-2013 with the advent of DC New 52.
First, an alternative, younger Constantine was introduced into the superhero world in a major way as the anchor of Justice League Dark, a magic and slightly horrific team that co-starred Zatanna and Deadman, amongst others. While Constantine’s relationship was Zatanna was maintained, his full history was not.
When Hellblazer reached its #300 issue his title was relaunched as Constantine starring the Nu-Constantine of JLD. His League membership saw him tangling with DC’s wider cast of heroes for the first time – including a one-on-one encounter with Shazam during the Trinity War crossover.
This newer, younger, but still just as surly Constantine is a breeze to collect – every issue hits trade paperback at a reliable interval from the end of each arc. The confusing part is knowing what title to collect – he jumps from Constantine in 2013 to Constantine: The Hellblazer in 2015 and back to The Hellblazer in 2016.
Between the new title-go-round and the multiple means of collecting his original series, the result is a pretty dizzying reading guide. If you’re happy to have it, you can thank my Patrons – this was their choice for me to tackle in January after I finished Wonder Woman!