Sometimes I forget about my Hellblazer obsession and how it’s always been this low burning flame, like the flicker of light on the end of a chain smoker’s cigarette, and then I start talking about comic books again and I stare at the figurine that sits on the corner of my desk, perpetually grumpy with the perfect touch of smugness, and I’m just overwhelmed by emotions.
Here’s this guy, John Constantine: he’s bisexual, he’s fucked-up beyond belief, manipulative, conniving and full of guile to the point he can talk the Triumvirate of hell to cure his lung cancer (caused by constant chain-smoking, of course), with a whole catalogue of magic at his finger tips, but he’s a shit fighter and even shittier at getting his friends out of the blast zone of his mistakes. He can use magic, sure, but more often than not it makes things worse; not just for him, but for the people he tries to help, when he’s in the right mood. He’s bad, his impact on the world in body count is well into the negatives, and yet he’s good, or tries to be. He’s dark and gritty and brooding, but he’s not caught up in himself, not exactly. He’s no one worth emulating, but you never feel fully ready to condemn him either.
I don’t know why I found myself identifying so intensely with a bisexual psychologically damaged Liverpudlian ex-punk rocker magician, but I did. And I always will.
(He was the first character I ever read about where his own writers erased his sexuality, and I remember so perfectly how angry it made me. As if John was somehow less himself because of his occasional dalliance with a man. As if John wasn’t defined by fucked-up relationships of all sorts, whether they be with men or women, friendships or romantic partners. It didn’t matter how vague it was, how the only relationship he ever had with a man in the comics themselves was terrible and flawed and so many people hated the run; I had already seen too much of myself in him, no one was going to tear that feeling of kinship from me.)