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SYFY WIRE The Sandman Universe

Constantine is back in exclusive preview of Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer

By Matthew Jackson
Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer Cover (2)

Last year, DC Comics launched The Sandman Universe, a line of comics curated by Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman that featured new stories following the likes of Timothy Hunter, Lucifer, the characters that populate the Dreaming, and more. Now the second year of the line is kicking off with the introduction of one of DC Comics' most beloved magical characters. Get ready for the return of the Hellblazer.

Yes, John Constantine joins Sandman Universe this week with a special one-shot issue from writer Simon Spurrier and artist Marcio Takara that will return the character to the mature readers tone that defined his run as a Vertigo Comics mainstay, and we've got an exclusive look at the story.

John Constantine's bounced around quite a bit over his years at DC Comics. He was introduced in the pages of The Saga of the Swamp Thing, giving him roots in the more horrific side of DC Comics, and for years his adventures in the pages of Hellblazer kept him firmly in the realm of gritty, street-level sorcery. Then came the New 52 and Justice League Dark, which roped Constantine into the main DC Universe in a very active way. He participated in crossover events, had adventures on multiple Earths, and spent a lot of time with superheroes both magical and otherwise. Now, he's heading into The Sandman Universe, and he's getting yet another second chance.

In an email chat with SYFY WIRE, Spurrier discussed how he approached the task of uniting the various versions of Constantine into one character heading into an all-new story.

"Well, the answer to that core question is that our Constantine is very similar to the one cut from the classic Hellblazer cloth: a cynical, manipulative, deeply flawed trickster, who lives in a world haunted by supernatural horrors and underscored by adult themes," he said. "This is not a tale of superheroes and zappy magic; it’s a tale of demons and dread.

"To earn the right to tell stories about that guy, it felt important to first acknowledge the character’s many lives and contradictory alternate selves. Apart from anything we have to accept that even though they may not always feel like 'our' Constantine, some of the more recent versions — the DCU’s New 52 John, for instance, or the excellent TV show version — have been responsible for some great stories, and have brought the character to the attention of a lot of new readers. So the function of the Special 38-page oneshot, which drops Oct 30, is to confront and celebrate the pluripotency of the character — and then to find a neat way to home-in on the one version we really want to take forwards."

In The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1, Spurrier and Takara achieve this, in part, by tying Constantine's story back to a potential future glimpsed in Neil Gaiman and John Bolton's original Books of Magic miniseries from all the way back in 1990, which showed Timothy Hunter turning into the ultimate Big Magical Bad and destroying everything in his path, including John.

"Basically, we realized that a vision of the future, glimpsed long ago, would give us all the excuse we need to drop our John back into the 'real' world, with all his old Hellblazer memories intact, and a few more besides," Spurrier explained.

Thanks to The Books of Magic series launched in The Sandman Universe, young Tim has the chance to avoid that future, and now Constantine does too. As we see in the preview pages below (featuring some NSFW language, because this is Mature Readers Constantine once again), John is near death when he gets a very interesting visit from what would appear to be an older, alternate version of himself, offering him the opportunity to try all over again. Check out the exclusive preview pages below.

The Sandman Presents: Hellblazer #1 will be followed by a new ongoing Hellblazer series from Spurrier and artist Aaron Campbell, which will launch next month. Here's Spurrier explaining what readers can expect from the launch of that series.

"We launch with a three-part arc called A Green And Pleasant Land, which mixes literary elements with gangland crime and a very gritty street-level haunting. That’s drawn by Aaron Campbell, and it’s shaping up to be extremely beautiful. The next arc will be a little lighter in tone - a two-parter called Scrubbing Up. One of the joys of Hellblazer is that it can pivot between different tones with each mini-arc. The term 'horror' covers a multitude of sins."

The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 is in stores Wednesday.