John Constantine, Hellblazer, has had a variety of on-screen interpretations based on his comics origin. Most of these have been mediocre at best, though that may be because no interpretation will ever live up to his original Vertigo series. The original series lasted for about 25 years and had a slew of creative teams, all of whom sought to capture the horror elements of Hellblazer.
Here are the standouts from the long-running Vertigo series.
In terms of fan-favorite Hellblazer runs, Jamie Delano’s is arguably the best-received along with Ennis’. No other story of his is as celebrated as Original Sins. It’s the first detailed introduction to Constantine’s uniquely horrific world.
John Ridgeway’s art has a raw nature to it, making the world and character more believable than that of the average horror protagonist. These nine issues are essentially loosely-connected short stories fleshing out the world and showing all sides of the character, good and bad. In fact, it’s the ideal place to start learning about the character.
Brian Azzarello is one of the few American writers to have left a significant mark on John Constantine. Following in the steps of some previous writers, he interjects some sharp and blunt commentary into the series.
For many reasons, Hard Time is the highlight of Azzarello’s run. One of these is the commentary on the awful conditions of the U.S. penal system. The prison to which Constantine is sent is cutthroat and the story takes place mostly in cells and specific locations. It has a very claustrophobic feeling, reflecting the dialogue and themes of the story. Richard Corben’s art is reminiscent of John Ridgeway’s in the sense that it feels incredibly gritty, matching Azzarello’s hard-boiled dialogue.
In the late 2000s, Vertigo released a series of original graphic novels. In addition to Brian Azzarello’s Filthy Rich, famous crime author Ian Rankin produced a John Constantine book called Dark Entries at the launch of the Vertigo Crime sub imprint.
It’s a dark and oddly fun story about Constantine investigating a reality TV show. It’s a humorous comment on the entertainment industry and its hollow nature. Those who’ve read Knots and Crosses or his other John Rebus novels, as well as fans of Hellblazer will enjoy this entry. Werther Dell’edera’s excellent use of negative space really highlights the heavy noir dialogue at all the right moments.
Warren Ellis’ run on Hellblazer is almost criminally short. It feels as though there were more stories to be told. Luckily, Haunted is a certified classic reflecting a kinder Constantine than previously shown in the series. When an old girlfriend is brutally murdered, she haunts him and he investigates who’s responsible for her death.
This is a simple story brought to life by Warren Ellis’ flushing out a different side of the character. John Higgins previously worked with Garth Ennis on another Hellblazer story, Son of Man, but his artwork is better here. In Haunted, it feels tamer at points compared to the ridiculous amounts of gore in Son of Man. By comparison, it works with the tone of the story and matches the slower pace of the book.
The original Hellblazer series is a classic and there are numerous individual, unique takes that make each run different across its 300 issues worth reading. If readers aren’t familiar with the character, the classic series is a must.
The original Hellblazer series ran for more than 25 years. Here are the best arcs from the Vertigo title.