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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.

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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.

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And the new version:

 

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liv goes liz

Constantine - New Set of Cast Promotional Photos NUP_163187_2111_595_slogo NUP_165564_0047_595_slogo NUP_163187_1090_595_slogo

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. In Alan Moore’s famous anecdote he once met John Constantine who told him “I’ll tell you the ultimate secret of magic. Any cunt could do it.” No evidence to support that here.

    No plot spoilers in what follows but you have been warned.

    A fair amount of the Constantine backstory developed over several arcs of the comic is introduced but this only succeeds in reducing Constantine’s motivations to some rather one dimensional banalities. It’s very plot heavy for a 45 minute show but it’s still not paced quite fast enough for some giant narrative holes not to be obvious.

    The various special effects set pieces are very well mounted. Unfortunately so many are crammed in that some don’t achieve their full potential. It will be interesting to see how much fx budget is left for future episodes (and whether director Neil Marshall will be missed).

    Losing the political overtones of the original is hardly surprising but there is every warning sign that handling the religious themes so as ‘not to offend’ and still play to some religious audiences might in practise render them even more offensive to other people (the ‘Man of Steel’ effect).

    The differences with the original version of the pilot are interesting. The idea of saddling Constantine with a Dr Who style magic pixie companion was about as far from the original comic as you could get since she was never going to suffer the fate of the original character’s various significant others. But having to rework the pilot to write out her out again didn’t help. Losing some exposition in such a plot heavy piece seemed to have an effect surprisingly out of proportion to the small number of lines involved. The substantially reworked climactic exorcism is quite clever. However the completely re-shot coda in the bar seemed a bit feeble and just highlighted the obvious danger that the show is going to slide into the sort of pseudo-hardboiled sentimentality that Hellblazer the comic generally managed to avoid.

    From a Brit perspective I find myself scratching my head. I’m not the target demographic but if this is typical of the rest of the series I wonder how well this would play in the UK if it got picked up. The whole thing rests on Matt Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine. In line with the character he’s playing a type 2 Brit (a ‘bit of rough’) as opposed to a type 1 (a toff). But to me the result seems very much an American’s idea of a Brit. (As for the accent – what IS that supposed to be?).

    meh.

  2. “But to me the result seems very much an American’s idea of a Brit. (As for the accent – what IS that supposed to be?)”

    Dave, we Yanks feel the same way when we hear Christian Bale’s strange “American” accent in the Batman movies.

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