|Real name:||John Constantine|
|First Appearance:||The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 (June, 1985)|
|Created by:|| Alan Moore|
|Affiliations:|| Justice League Dark|
The Trenchcoat Brigade
Expert fraud and con artist
|Portrayed by:|| Keanu Reeves|
In Constantine's early appearances in Swamp Thing, his past was a mystery; his life as a child and young adult was not developed until Jamie Delano's Hellblazer stories. There, we found out that he was born in Liverpool, England, on May 10, 1953. His mother, Mary Anne, died giving birth to John and his stillborn twin brother because an earlier abortion forced on her by John's father, Thomas—had weakened her womb. Because he was unable to accept responsibility for his wife's death, Thomas blamed John and the pair grew up with a deep dislike for one another.
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.
In their childhood, John and his older sister Cheryl lived briefly with their aunt and uncle in Northampton to escape from their father's alcoholism and subsequent imprisonment for stealing a female neighbour's underwear. They moved back to Liverpool when their father was released. One of John's first acts of magic, as a child, was to hide all of his childhood innocence 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 caused his father 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 since gone on to become John's closest—and longest surviving—friend.
During the 1970s, John became involved in occult circles in London. He traveled other countries and visited San Francisco, where he met, and subsequently began a relationship with, the female magician Zatanna Zatara (in DC's The New 52 however, the two met in New York). He also became enamored of punk rock; after seeing the Sex Pistols at the Roxy Club in London in 1977, John cut his long hair and formed his own band, Mucous Membrane, whose members included Chandler (as a roadie), a drummer named Beano and fellow Liverpudlian Gary Lester. They later released an album called Venus of the Hardsell.
John's first venture into occult "heroism" was a disaster. On tour with Mucous Membrane at the Casa Nova Club in Newcastle, he found the aftermath of a magical orgy gone horribly wrong: an abused child, Astra, had conjured a hideous monster that took revenge on the adults who were tormenting her, and the monster refused to leave. 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.
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. However in The Sandman (vol. 1) #3, Dream relieves Constantine of the nightmares that had plagued him since the incident.
Years later, John was able to persuade the same group to help with his investigation of the Brujería cult, as seen in Swamp Thing #37–49. However, the cult murdered most of them, including John's then-lover, Emma. These people, and others who have died due to John's carelessness, have continued to appear to him as silent, reproachful ghosts. Chas is the most prominent one of very few human friends to have survived a long-term association with John.
In 1991 while in his late thirties, John contracted terminal lung cancer. During this time, he sought the help of a dying friend, Brendan, who had sold his soul to the First of the Fallen, the most powerful lord of Hell. When the First came to collect the soul, John tricked him into drinking holy water, which rendered him helpless and prevented him from collecting the friend's soul at the appointed time.
For this, the First promised to make John suffer unprecedented torment in Hell when he dies. Slowly dying from cancer, John hatched a plan to save himself from eternal torment. He secretly sold his soul to the other two Lords of Hell. When they discover Constantine's actions they realized that they could not allow him to die, or else they would be forced to go to all-out war over his soul — a war whose only winner would be "the Lord of the Hosts" (i.e. God) and his angels. However, they were also far too stubborn and proud to enter anything resembling an alliance. As a result, they were forced to cure John of his cancer. This led to the First plotting a grand revenge on Constantine, who manipulated the demon via his ally Ellie (a succubus) into coming into a trap; the plan only barely succeeded, and while the First was temporarily defeated many of John's friends were killed.
Constantine then went on to have a series of adventures and misadventures playing the role of puppet and puppeteer with his signature style and profane sarcasm. He managed to free Astra and every other child in Hell, but at the cost of the First returning to power; also, as part of the scheme, John's worst attributes were given separate existence as "Demon Constantine" which meant he himself could not go to Hell. As part of an attempt to regain his nastier edge, he used Ellie, and this led to her taking out a revenge scheme in 1998 that forced him to turn to the First for help; Ellie ended up in Hell, several of John's oldest friends left him, and he sold his soul ensuring he was damned once more.
The 21st century
On return 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 — whom he'd wanted to keep out of this life—had become a witch. He soon ended up organising a counterstrike against a creature known as the Shadow Dog, having been 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. In the process, he was rendered an 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 Constantine, from friends to enemies to people who'd only briefly met him. Among them was his sister Cheryl; one of his sons had exploited her husband's religious fanaticism to make him see his wife as a witch — and thus a person to be killed. This forced Constantine 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.
While in Hell, John and Nergal met the demon Constantine, 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 Constantine's children, the First, and many demons from all Hell. 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 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 does not deserve that mercy. Despite all that has happened, Cheryl still loves her husband enough to accept The First's deal and decides to stay. 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.
After the loss of his sister Cheryl and the very strained tension with his closest friend Chas, Constantine has an adventure during which he discovers a cult devoted to unleash empathy across the world so as to combat "The Third Place" that appears to be a metaphysical plane of apathy. John goes along alone and sorrowfully pitiful until his services are requested by an incarcerated gangster. In the process of asking for the magus' assistance in the passing on of his dead daughter, he makes a comment that will make him question who he has become. After being attacked by a disloyal crony of the gangster boss, John is tied to a port column as the tide comes in. He tries several times, unsuccessfully, to talk the crony into revealing the names of other victims he has brought to this spot. Finally the crony blurts some of the names of his victims. Constantine then frees himself from his handcuffs, almost drowning in the process, and raises people that the crony had killed from the dead to take their vengeance, including the boss' daughter. He then offers to send her on, to the jealousy of the other ghosts. He warns her, however, that she will go to "where you think you belong." She agrees, but soon regrets this as she is being dragged into Hell.
Following this he returns to the gangster to inform him of his daughter's death, neglecting to mention where she actually ended up, and winds up with the criminal in his debt. At first it appears as though it is too much for him and that he will be overtaken by the images of the ones he has hurt, but the being turns into the form of a baby. This baby, who is the sum of all his guilt and self-hatred, is then promptly thrown off a cliff and into the sea. After killing the creature, Constantine is now free, and becomes even a bit more cocky and picks back up his earlier style from the beginning of his book and his appearances from Swamp Thing: a double-breasted blue suit underneath his trench coat, and slicked-back gelled hair.
Later on, a Sudanese shaman who had first bound the hunger demon Mnemoth has been having dreams of Constantine and a war-mage named Mako who is coming to kill him and devour his being. The reason that Constantine is a specific target of the war-mage is because he is "The Laughing Magician" who is also known as "The Constant One." Mako wants to devour him so he can absorb that power and have his being made a fixture of the universe. To counter this attack to come the African magus puts a dream of his into a tree root, with Constantine's true nature in those dreams. After doing this a young man is sent as a messenger to find John and deliver the message. Constantine later notices that something is wrong on the synchronicity lines and it seems that he is going head first against the traffic. Remembering that Mako mentioned Ravenscar when he found out about Constantine, he tries to summon his unborn brother, but instead is summoned to his brother. The soul of Constantine's brother tells John that he was not to be born and that it should have been he who had been born instead, as he is the Laughing Magician, he requests that he and John merge their souls so that they become one and can fix the world, they had previously attempted this but John was apparently too strong willed. John then makes the link that it was the soul of his unborn brother that caused him to get cancer and for his relationships to fail, and that anytime he tried to take control of his life, something bad would happen to make John weaker, so that the souls might be able to merge. After realizing this, John cuts the soul of his brother out of his own soul, so that he can control his life and live his way.
Alerted by a magical shift in reality that had him falling from the sky in London, John began scrying in search of Zatanna, once again, as he believed she might be in trouble. He managed to track her down in the United States, but she was in a trance state, and he was forced to wake her up with backwards magic. Afterwards, she explained that the danger he sensed was the return of the Enchantress, who was causing havoc in search of her host, June Moone.
John's first instinct, then, was to seek out Deadman, but he could not find him - and so, he went directly to Madame Xanadu, whom he had already come to understand was responsible for splitting June from the Enchantress, which would inevitably result in a magically tinged doom.
Knowing that June was about to be consumed by the Enchantress, John appeared next to her and drew a protective circle around them both. He realized, then, that a rhyme that she had stuck in her head was part of the spell that Xanadu had used to separate her from the witch, and so he began reciting it himself in order to put them back together. Deadman attempted to stop him, having grown attached to June, but to no avail. Thanks to the efforts of both John and Mindwarp, the Enchantress' threat was nullified, and June was lost forever.
Afterwards, John revealed that the entire ordeal had been Xanadu's fault, and the magicians all parted ways bitterly. However, Madame Xanadu's visions of a future of doom had not ceased, and would not cease unless the team she had alienated remained together.
Powers and Abilities
- Magic: Constantine is a magician but unlike most magicians, Constantine rarely uses magical spells, unless he really has to, especially in combat.
- Demon Summoning
- Spirit Ward Creation
- Illusion Casting
- Synchronicity Wave Traveling: An instinctual supernatural ability to be in the right place at exactly the right time. This has led John to uncanny luck, like winning incredible amounts of money from Arcade machines and Casinos. Avoiding harm. And more times than not - to meet the right kind of ally to help prevent or stop an apocalyptic event from happening. This also lets him reshape the battlefield to his advantage.
- Mind Control
- Deception: John Constantine is an excellent con artist and negotiator. These skills are often more useful than his magical ones. Constantine faces most of his challenges relying primarily on his cunning. He is widely considered as the world's greatest con man.
In Other Media
Guillermo del Toro film
Constantine will be featured in Guillermo del Toro's upcoming film, based on the Justice League Dark comics.
- THQ released a video game movie tie-in of the movie entitled Constantine. An analogue of the character made an appearance in The Golden Dawn, a Call of Cthulu RPG book by John Tynes, John T Snyder, Garrie Hall and Alan Smithee. The authors recommended Hellblazer in the book.