I have a new collecting guide for you today: John Constantine, Hellblazer!
The guide covers Hellblazer’s every appearance, from beginnings as a guest star in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing through his two decade run in his solo title to his multiple relaunches since 2012.
A big part of that is that he is by no means a hero. Sure, Constantine is a supernatural detective and occasional magician, but he has little interest in saving anyone – in fact, his actions are often as likely to get people killed as to save them!
Another hallmark of Constantine was years of exclusivity. He was created by Alan Moore in a pre-Vertigo Swamp Thing and than shuttled off to his own title written by Jamie Delano, who was hand-picked by Moore to launch the character in Hellblazer.
Constantine made very few appearances outside of his own title, his mini-series, and Swamp Thing for the next twenty years. This insulation was furthered when he became a part of the Vertigo family of titles and allowed Constantine to age in real time with his readers.
That means Constantine is very easy to read sequentially, with just a few limited series and OGNs to fit in to his reading order. However, he’s a bit harder to collect. Despite DC keeping early Jamie Delano issues evergreen in print, Hellblazer went over a decade without his new arcs seeing collection (until #146 in 2000), though occasional trades went back to collect short bursts of issues.
His first 145 issues were finally filled in sequentially via a 2011 line of paperbacks that has now extended to #188 in a newly-solicited Volume 16 with no signs of slowing. However, those TPBs aren’t quite as comprehensive as they could be, omitting some OGNs and mini-series that remain uncollected since their original publication.
Hellblazer’s status quo changed in a big way in from 2011-2013 with the advent of DC New 52.
First, an alternative, younger Constantine was introduced into the superhero world in a major way as the anchor of Justice League Dark, a magic and slightly horrific team that co-starred Zatanna and Deadman, amongst others. While Constantine’s relationship was Zatanna was maintained, his full history was not.
When Hellblazer reached its #300 issue his title was relaunched as Constantine starring the Nu-Constantine of JLD. His League membership saw him tangling with DC’s wider cast of heroes for the first time – including a one-on-one encounter with Shazam during the Trinity War crossover.
This newer, younger, but still just as surly Constantine is a breeze to collect – every issue hits trade paperback at a reliable interval from the end of each arc. The confusing part is knowing what title to collect – he jumps from Constantine in 2013 to Constantine: The Hellblazer in 2015 and back to The Hellblazer in 2016.
Between the new title-go-round and the multiple means of collecting his original series, the result is a pretty dizzying reading guide. If you’re happy to have it, you can thank my Patrons – this was their choice for me to tackle in January after I finished Wonder Woman!