I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I'll drive your demons away. I'll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they're down and then I'll be gone back into darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack. I walk my path alone... who would walk with me?
John Constantine was born in Liverpool, England, on the 10th of May, 1953. His mother died giving birth to him and his stillborn brother. John's father, Thomas, blamed John for her death, and a deep dislike grew between them. Whilst in the womb, John strangled his twin brother with his own umbilical cord; in a parallel universe the twin survives to become the well-loved and well-adjusted magician that John never was. When children, John's older sister Cheryl and him lived briefly with their uncle and aunt in Northampton, to escape their fathers alcoholisim and he was currently imprisoned. When their father was released they returned to Liverpool. One of John's first acts of magic as a child was hide all of his childhood innoncence and vulnerability in a box to rid himself of it. Later, in the 1960s, a teenage John ran away from home, but not before a botched curse on his father caused him to become withered and frail. John eventually made his permanent home in London in 1969, rooming with Francis "Chas" Chandler, a young man who has now gone on and become John's closest and longest surviving friend. In the 1970's John starting becoming involved in the occult circles in London. He visited San Francisco where he had a relationship with the magician Zatanna.
John also fell in love with punk rock, after seeing the Sex Pistols at the Roxy Club in London in 1977. John cut his hair and formed his own band, the Muccous Membrane, which consisted of himself, Chas as a roadie, a man named Beano for a drummer, and Gary Lester, who was also from Liverpool. Once, on tour with the muccous membrane John attempted to get rid of a monster that was at the Casanova Club, in Newcastle. With typical recklessness, John convinced some members of the band, along with several occultist friends, to try destroying the creature by summoning a demon of their own. Unfortunately, this demon was not under their control and after it had destroyed the child's monster, it tormented Constantine's friends and took the child to Hell. John suffered a nervous breakdown after this incident, and was committed to a mental institution, which he drifted in and out of over the years.
He was severely abused by the staff there, as they believed he was the one who had molested and murdered the girl who had created the monster, Astra. John was never actually cured, as he was sprang from the asylum by London crimelord Harry Cooper, who wanted John to resurrect his son. (Since John couldn't do this he just summoned a demon to inhabit the body and just tried to forget about the whole thing.) The guilt of Astra hung over him for many years until, in his mid-forties, he used some magic and con-artistry to free not only her, but also the souls of all the other children trapped in Hell. As for the rest of the "Newcastle Crew," the incident left the group both physically and psychologically scarred.
Death and Rebirth
A habitual smoker, John learned he had contracted lung cancer during the Dangerous Habits arc. After several failed attempts to save his own life -- and royally pissing off the first of the fallen in the process by cheating him out of a friend's soul -- John made a deal with each of the three rulers of hell. He promised his soul to each of them, and each was too eager to own the infamous John Constantine's soul that they all individually accepted without any real question. To bring his plan in to motion, John was forced to commit suicide by slitting his wrists, bringing each of the Fallen forth to collect on their deals. None of the three were willing to give up their claim on Constantine's soul, and they knew if he were to die they would go to war over it -- thus ripping Hell apart. Tricked, the demons were forced to save John's life and subsequently remove his lung cancer -- in the most painful manner possible -- to ensure he continued living. Upon their exit, he flipped them the bird.
No matter how his own life goes, John stays committed to battling evil -- if it is in his own best interests.
In the year 2000 John was framed for the murder of his old friend "Lucky" Fermin (who had actually commited suicide), and locked up in a maximum security prison. After arranging a prison riot and having his release orchestrated by FBI agent Frank Turro, John (officially killed in the riot) traveled across America for a time on a personal quest to ask the forgiveness of the widow of Lucky, for whose death he felt responsible even though he was innocent of his murder. After encountering a psychotic pornography-making relatices of Lucky, a huge black bear, and a group of snowboard killers, John's journey culminated in his discovery that Lucky's widow Marjorie had joined a neo-Nazi group. John, who has often shown a dislike for "fascists", disassembled the group from the inside and burned Marjorie's house to the ground after Lucky's ghost revealed he had killed himself as part of a deal he and Marjorie had made with Stanley Manor, a billionaire who John once swindled in the 70's, to frame John for murder. At this point John was contacted by Agent Turro, who had initiated his release from prison, and asked to take part in an attempt to incriminate billionaire Stanley Manor (whom the agent knew was responsible for numerous illegal and immoral acts, but who, because of his wealth, could never be brought to justice).
To this end John frequented a BDSM sex club, raised the ghost or created the illusion of the ghost of Stanley's parents, and finally faked his own death, all part of a con to get Stanley to commit suicide, and it worked. Unfortunately, Agent Turro was killed in the process.
When John returned to Britain in 2003, and after reconciling with his sister (who believed he was dead), he went on to be involved in a magic war in London and was horrified to find his niece Gemma - who he'd wanted to keep out of this life - had become a witch. He soon ended up organising a counterstrike against the Shadow Dog, warned of its coming and believing it was an entity that brought death and madness; instead, it was a guardian against the true enemy, the Beast, who was manipulating John into giving it free access to humanity. Horror and carnage swept the globe, and only with the help of Gemma and the Swamp Thing did he resurrect the Shadow Dog and defeat the Beast.
In the process, he was rendered amnesiac, leaving him vulnerable to the schemes of the demon Rosacarnis. To get his memories back, he had to spend a day in her service in which she had him father three demonic children, who went on to massacre anyone who knew John, from friends to enemies to people who'd only briefly met him. Among them there was also his sister Cheryl; one of his sons had in fact exploited her husband's religious fanaticism to make him see his wife as a witch - and thus a person to be killed. This would set up John to go on journey to Hell in the hopes to return his sister's soul. Accompanying him was Nergal, the demon he thought he had killed by sending him to the border of Heaven. Actually Nergal had escaped that fate, but was punished by the First with death; yet his essence survived, was able to build a surrogate body, and tried to get his power back from Rosacarnis, his own daughter. Greatly weakened and without his original demonic body, Nergal could do nothing when Rosacarnis ordered him again killed.
Notably, Nergal possessed Chas in order to contact and help John - when the possession ended, Chas found himself briefly but totally uninhibited, and this led him to betray his spouse with a barely-of-age prostitute - and later, when he got back home, he also beat his wife. John's demonic daughter spied him, contacted him and got some fragments of Nergal's "soul" out of Chas, rendering him again his old self - this was not an altruistic act, as she was able to discern who was aiding John. She subsequently left Chas to the wreckage that his life had suddenly become. While in Hell, John and Nergal met the demon John, who tried to kill the original one. John was forced to let Nergal enter his body in order to finish him. Later they also encountered Ellie, who seemed to have quite pardoned John for him selling her out to the First. She was not subject to any torture or punishment, either.
The couple finally arrived at Rosacarnis's hall, where there was a feast with all three of John's children, the First, and many demons from all Hell. Nergal left John's body and went to inhabit that of his brother, whom Rosacarnis had poisoned for years (he had an invulnerable body, and wanted regency; so she incapacitated him with poison and kept him that way ever since). After doing this, Nergal storms towards his daughter and John Constantine. John forces Rosacarnis to "swear so it will stick" that she will release his sister's soul if he stops Nergal. She agrees and John then offers himself as a human voodoo doll. Because of Nergal's earlier possession of his body, any damage done to John would be mirrored on Nergal. Nergal, however, calls the bluff, showing that the effect goes both ways by clawing at his chest slightly. John begs Rosacarnis to kill him in order to save his sister, but just as she's about to, the First of the Fallen intervenes and immediately kills Rosacarnis, since Constantine's soul is his by "right of insult" and will only be taken when he deems fit. The First also kills Rosacarnis' two sons, but spares the daughter, who had been dealing with issues of identity and had doubts about whether she wanted to continue to exist.
Following this, The First commands Nergal to release the soul he's holding. Cheryl's soul is pure and innocent and does not belong in Hell, but The First offers her a truly devilish deal. Informing her that her husband, Constantine's brother-in-law Tony, has killed himself with her blood still staining his hands, thus making him twice damned, and offering to fairly divide her husband's punishment between the two of them if she stays of her own free will. Constantine attempts in vain to argue that Tony murdered her and doesn't deserve that mercy. Despite all that has happened, Cheryl still loves her husband enough to accept The First's deal and decides to stay (though it is later revealed that she believes she deserves the punishment she is recieveing). Constantine can do nothing as The First gloats over his victory and then sends him back home. Unable to look at his niece Gemma's tear-filled eyes because of his failure, Constantine runs barefoot down the stairs and into the Liverpool night.
In Peter Milligan's current run of the series John becomes engaged to Epiphany Greaves, the daughter of a gangster. They get married and many of John's old friends (those that are alive... or ghosts) attend. But John is replaced by Demon John; the demon form of himself he put in hell to take his place many years ago. Demon John corners Gemma in the bathroom after the wedding and afterwards she swears to make John feel the same pain she is feeling (believing it is her real uncle).
John and Epiphany defeat Nergal (who was trying to ruin John's wedding, to stop his chance of being happy) and then they do the ceremony over again (as it was Demon John at the altar the first time). They leave on their honeymoon.
Gemma gets a witch to help her summon a demon to attack her uncle. She also steals her uncles trench coat and sells it online. Eventually John must confront the demon and he does defeat it (with the help of Epiphany and Gemma). Gemma later asks John to return to Hell to ask her mother what she had been crying about years ago when Gemma was a little girl.
John does return to Hell for Gemma, because otherwise Gemma will continue to date Terry Greaves. So, John returns to Hell. Cheryl does tell John the problem, and makes him swear to go and meet the son she gave up when she was fourteen. John promises, even though he has no real intention of doing so.
Justice League Dark
The John Constantine that appears in Justice League Dark has been stated to be a distinct character from that in Vertigo (although they are both written by Milligan), and he will remain a distinct seperate version; a younger DC Constantine.
Powers and Abilities
Unlike most comic book magicians, Constantine rarely uses magical spells unless he has to, especially in combat. Constantine faces most of his challenges relying primarily on his cunning, his vast knowledge of the occult, manipulation of opponents and allies, and an extensive list of contacts
Constantine's blood is demonically tainted , initially by a blood transfusion from the demon Nergal, and later by sex with a succubus. His blood has been shown to have healing properties. It also acted as a defense mechanism when attacked by The King of the Vampires.
Constantine's skills in unarmed combat varies depending on the writer. Some portrays him as a poor physical fighter, while others as a capable hand-to-hand combatant. However, he has occasionally won fights, either by using magical weapons (Hellblazer issue 217 and Chas: The Knowledge ), by fighting dirty (All His Engines), or by quick-thinking . During his fight against the god-demon Nergal , John ripped the spine off of his back with ease. Aside from conventional close-quarters combat, Constantine also uses stealth to take down foes, like using illusions and sigils to sneak on opponents. His magical prowess varies from writer to writer as well.
Though he hates using firearms, he is adept at using them and is a capable marksman (The Fear Machine and Stations of the Cross). He owns a Scott Webley revolver which he used against the Family Man (later retconned as a .357 Magnum in R.S.V.P. ). While Constantine is adept at summoning demons to fight in battles, he can also create and raise his own powerful demons with ease. Constantine's trademark trenchcoat is shown to be tough, sentient, and has its own demonic powers. Constantine has defences against psychic assaults, curses, spells, mind control, and demonic/spirit possession (Reasons to be Cheerful part 2). He also carries with him an asortment of magical tools and weapons, such as his own trenchcoat that has its own sentient demonic powers, and the Twin Blade .
Even with pressure, lack of time and preparation, Constantine can think of a strategy to defeat his enemies in a fight, letting him outwit both Heaven and Hell while striking fear into them. Although his IQ is never stated he is known to possess great intellect, he can plan a strategy on the go. Constantine has fough against many of the most powerful; gods and great intellectual minds alike. His achievements stand amongs gods.
Some examples of Constantine's magic:
- Divination — Used a pendulum and map to find the location of a magical disturbance.
- Demon summoning — Summoned the demon Nergal to destroy a monster for him, which it did (although John lost control, due to his inexperience).
- Black magic cursing — Placed a curse on his father that caused him to waste away, casting a curse on a host for vengeance (Reasons to be Cheerful), or putting a curse to a gang that put them into catatonic insanity . Constantine's curses are strong enough to affect demons (The Red Right Hand).
- Psychic mediation — Acted as a psychic medium, allowing the spirit of a boy's dead mother to speak through him during a séance.
- Exorcism — bounded, immobolized, and sealed the demon goddess Kali), or destroying a demon using a spell. During the Son of Man arc, Constantine summoned a demon. He made it physical thus rendereing it powerless and vulnerable, before Header shoots it with a shotgun.
- Spirit ward creation — Placed a magical sigil on Ellie's soul that prevented the forces of Heaven and Hell from tracking her. As well as using sigils to hide himself from Satan He also placed various sigils on an abandoned caravan that he housed himself in to hide himself from the demon Nergal.  Constantine can also write sigils in his bodies that protects him from magical attacks and possessions, and to prevent any demons from physically touching him. (Hellblazer issue 181 and 206)
- Magic circles — protection magic that John uses for defence against both supernatural and physical attacks (The Search for Swamp Thing ).
- Realm travel — being chased by Nergal, Constantine opens a path to Heaven. He leads Nergal to the borders of Heaven where the angels attacked Nergal and ripped him apart.
- Golemancy — Raised a golem.
- Oclumancy — Erased a man's traumatic memories, or mind-conrolled a whole penitentiary of inmates to madly riot and bring him a cigarette.
- Necromancy — Raised a group of murder victims as ghosts to attack their murderer, (Hellblazer issue 230) or raising soulstorms to attack his enemies.
- Illusion — Making people think he's someone or something else (Hellblazer: Pandemonium), or change another person's image.
- Evocation — summoned a djinn to attack some military officers. (Hellblazer: Pandemonium)
- Ressurection — In the graphic novel Pandemonium, he once allowed himself to be killed, but later resurrects himself by exiting the afterlife.
- Pyrokinesis — creating fires or hellfires sometimes from his cigarette or lighter to attack his enemies.
- Invicibility - used sigils to make himself invisible.
Synchronicity Wave Travelling - Constantine's signature magic. This allows him to make his own luck resembling a slightly reality warping. This is also one of the reasons how he survived for some time.
Constantine has also exhibited considerable mastery in "stage magic skills" - hypnosis, sleight of hand and escapology.
Notes and References
- John Constantine was ranked #29 on IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes in 2011
- John Constantine appears in the DC Universe Tarot Card deck as The Fool
- ↑ Hellblazer #40
- ↑ Newsarama interview with Peter Milligan
- ↑ Hellblazer #69
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Hellblazer #42
- ↑ Hellblazer #57
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Hellblazer #250
- ↑ Hellblazer #4
- ↑ Hellblazer #182
- ↑ Hellblazer #11
- ↑ Hellblazer #31
- ↑ Hellblazer #146
- ↑ Hellblazer #213
- ↑ Hellblazer #180
- ↑ Hellblazer #60
- ↑ Hellblazer #85
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Hellblazer #12
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Hellblazer #181
- ↑ Hellblazer #206
- ↑ Hellblazer #167
- ↑ Hellblazer #217
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 Hellblazer #149
- ↑ Hellblazer #150
- ↑ Hellblazer #227
- ↑ Hellblazer #258
- ↑ IGN Top 100 Comic Book Heroes