[Warning! – SPOILERS for CONSTANTINE and the comic HELLBLAZER – Proceed with caution.]
While the new TV season of Fall 2014 brought forth a number of series based on comic books, no series stayed truer to the original vision of its source material than NBC’s Constantine. A bold statement? Yes, but also a truthful one. As good as The Flash is and for all the nods it makes to the original comics, the fact of the matter is that there is little resemblance between the core cast of characters on TV and the supporting cast in the comics. Gotham, too, was built upon a bedrock of being unlike any other story told utilizing the characters and the legends of the Batman mythos.
By contrast, Constantine not only pays tribute to its roots – it actually utilizes them in building a universe, crafting a world in-line with the aesthetics of the original Hellblazer comics. Forget brief sight-gags like the Helmet of Fate and Sword of Night being on John Constantine’s workbench. We’re getting Original Sins on the small screen!
Virtually every one of the first eight episodes of Constantine has referenced the early issues of the comic in some fashion. Indeed, the fourth episode – “A Feast Of Friends“ – was directly adapted from the first two issues of Hellblazer. These comics also introduced the character of Papa Midnite – a voodoo priest and crime-boss who is both a reluctant ally and an enemy of John Constantine – who has so far featured in two episodes of the TV series.
Perhaps the biggest nod to the original comics – and indeed the biggest change to the series after its pilot – was the introduction of Zed Martin as a series regular. In the comics, Zed was an artistic mystery woman with a bit of magical talent who ran into John while he was in the middle of investigating the kidnapping of his niece. The case is changed for the television series, but otherwise the circumstances of how the characters meet is exactly the same, with Zed’s talent, snarky personality and mysterious past intact.
The mid-season finale of Constantine went back even further into John’s past, bringing characters and creatures from John’s first appearance in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing into play. The episode also reveals the dark secret in Zed’s past that sent her on the run and into hiding. While these revelations offered little surprise for veteran Hellblazers, the episode still found a number of ways to shock the viewers.
It should be noted that while Constantine does utilize its roots it is not entirely beholden to them either. One of the great mysteries of the show for fans of the comics is what exactly has become of Chas Chandler. In the original comics, Chas was John’s chauffeur, muscle, and the only one of John’s friends who had yet to die a gruesome death despite knowing him for decades. Chas fulfills the same role on the show but is now blessed (or perhaps cursed) with some kind of magic power that allows him to absorb a superhuman amount of damage and even return from the dead! An explanation is reportedly coming in the series’ tenth episode.
If you haven’t given Constantine a shot yet, you would do well to give it a try. Paranormal dramas are a dime a dozen on TV right now, but the adventures of John Constantine offer a far richer and more unique setting than any other series of its kind. The cast are all top notch actors, with Matt Ryan playing a picture-perfect ConJob. The writing is also quite good, with witty dialogue and a well-researched mythology that draws off real-world arcana.