With all of the comic-based shows coming to TV, it’s getting harder for nerds to find things to complain about – but we always find a way. It’s less than a month until the premiere of NBC’s Constantine, so the time is ripe for speculation. We were disappointed to learn that John Constantine won’t be shown smoking, and that he’ll be straight-by-default, but there are enough references to familiar faces and places in the pilot to appease the fans. Still, allusions aren’t enough to sustain the series. Here are some of things that fans of the Hellblazer comics might like to see in the show:
- Punk Rock. Since it’s probably set in the present, the TV show won’t be colored by the same era as the comics, but hopefully John’s punk background – and his band, Mucous Membrane – will at least be referenced. John’s time as a punk (and before that, a hippie) served to demonstrate his counter-culture leanings, an integral part of the character. American punk rock doesn’t have quite the same connotations as the British scene of the 70’s, but it’s still associated with anti-establishment sentiments, so it wouldn’t be alien for the North American audience. His punk days are also tied up with his first major failure – when he lost a girl’s soul – and since that event is mentioned in the pilot, I think we have a good chance of seeing some flashbacks.
- “Johnny Con-Job.” One of the reasons that the Keanu Reeves version of the character doesn’t work for fans is an over-reliance on magic. John is an adept mage, but Doctor Strange he is not; most of his victories are won through lying, manipulation, and trickery. Spells are usually used in service of some larger scheme, and he was called Con-Job by his punk buddies for his skills at playing anyone and everyone. Even the highest-ranking demons in Hell aren’t safe from him, and I hope we see a version of the character who succeeds because he’s a bastard who’s willing to gamble with any price to win – not someone who gets in super-powered battles every week.
- Politics. Hellblazer was a very British and sometimes a highly subversive series. Some writers explored British folklore and mythology, but generally the series was rooted in contemporary problems in England. Politicians and members of the royal family, wars, and football hooligans all made numerous appearances alongside more general issues like tensions stemming from class and racial prejudice. The show has obviously chosen the United States as a base of operations, but America has its own problems that the series could explore if it isn’t too sanitised by studio censors.
- Family Ties. John’s immediate family members provide a lot of conflict over the course of the comic series. John’s mother died giving birth to him, and the resultant guilt and blame led to a rocky relationship with his father. His sister Cheryl and her dull husband do everything they can to keep their daughter Gemma away from magic, but she’s drawn into it anyway. Further, the series sometimes explores other Constantines throughout history; an aptitude for magic (and ruining their own lives) plagues the whole family line. John even learns that his twin died in the womb and was the golden child his parents would have wanted – making John the evil twin. Whether in the present or distant past, bringing John’s family into the story will always complicate things in interesting ways.
- Ladies. John has a number of really interesting love interests in the series, and unlike his platonic friends, the ladies he dates tend to make it out alive. Hopefully that will be the case for departing original character Liv as well as her replacement on the series, Zed. Unlike Zed, not all of John’s romantic partners were involved with the occult. Kit Ryan, who saw right through John and wouldn’t take crap from him or anyone else, eventually left John when he couldn’t keep her and his magic separate. Dani Wright, an American reporter, was drawn into the world of magic but never got involved willingly. On the other hand, Epiphany Greaves, daughter of a London crime-lord and adept alchemist, and Angie Spatchcock, a skilled magic user herself, often fought demons and monsters themselves. John doesn’t need to date all of these women (how many seasons will it realistically get), but their inclusion would be a great way to round out the cast. Platonic lady-friends like Chantinelle the succubus and child-psychic Mercury would be welcome too; we can expect a lot of friends of John’s to die, but hopefully they won’t all be women, and ideally a number of these ladies will be regular presences on the show.
The pilot demonstrates that the show will be taking some departures from the comics, but that is the nature of adaptation. Hopefully some of these elements will be incorporated into the show so that it, to some reasonable extent, reflects the comics we love.
What elements from the comics would you most like to see realized on TV?