Yes, tonight is the night—the third of DC’s fall TV shows debuts on NBC at 10 pm EDT, Constantine starring Matt Ryan as the man, Harold Perrineau as Manny the angel, Charles Halford as best bud Chas, and in the pilot, Lucy Griffiths as the companion, Liv. This role is changed in future episodes to Angelica Celaya as Zed. (In a few stills, Liv bears a striking resemblance to Liz from Garth Marenghi, so perhaps this was for the best.) Also on board eventually, Jeremy Davies, Joey Phillips as Nergal, Miles Anderson as Dr. Roger Huntoon, Michael James Shaw as Papa Midnite. and Emmett Scanlan as Detective Jim Corrigan, who may become the Spectre if pasty white legs become a thing.
The show is brought to you by DC expert David S. Goyer and Daniel Cerone whose credits include Charmed, The Mentalist and the first few (good) seasons of Dexter. Cerone is a DC fan and claims that there will be something of the feel of Dexter, which would be okay if it’s the GOOD Dexter.
I’ve had the rough cut of the pilot kicking around for a while but haven’t wached it…I’m told what airs is quite a bit different so I’m happy seeing it with those of you who stay home on Friday night.
If you want to know more about Constantine and his comics history—and I do mean more— Abraham Reisman has written a near definitive guide, with quotes from Karen Berger, Peter Milligan, and even the guy who made Constantine Hellblazer, Jamie Delano, who wrote the first 44 issues of wha would become the Vertigo flagship.
Readers were enchanted. “There was a great buzz about Constantine,” Berger said, recalling the letters she’d receive from fans. “Alan very deftly planned him as this character who kind of drifted in and drifted out, leaving clues for something ominous and impending.” Which is, of course, the core of what keeps readers of superhero comics coming back to any given series.
Nearly all the subsequent Constantine writers I spoke to remembered how those Swamp Thing issues gripped them — especially because he gave so little away about his origins or what he knew. “You know that quotation from Moby-Dick, ‘It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a great secret in him’?” writer Mike Carey said. “That’s how Constantine was in Swamp Thing.”
Flavorwire offers five Hellblazer stories to read before the show, and they’re the ones you’d expect—Delano, Gaiman, Ennis, Azzaello, but a nice shout out to the Mike Carey standalone graphic novel.
Hellblazer ran for 300 issues and it’s definitely one of the great horror comics, even given the uneven nature of the various runs. Whiel the TV show is poised to put it more into the popular culture, or sink into oblivion, nothing will change my view of the comics, yadda yadda. I’m trepidatious over how “network” TV will treat this subversive character but is there even such a thing as network TV any more? And comcis have held their own as a culural force now. Let’s face it, you could NEVER EVER get away with casting Keanu Reeves as Constantine any more, and I guess that’s progress of a sort. Reviews have been middling, but it’s only the first episode.
I’ve rounded up some stills from the show, but before we get into that…here’s a few of the classic comic images, four by Glenn Fabry’s whose cover run was phenomenal and one by Leonardo Manco.
And the new version:
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.