10 John Constantine Hellblazer comic arcs they could use in ‘Constantine 2’

Keanu Reeves Constantine

It’s happening. Keanu Reeves is returning to the mystical, magical, dark world of John Constantine. It’s been 17 years since he puffed on a cigarette as the tricksy DC magician, but the hints have been there. Reeves always talked warmly of the role and his work with returning director Francis Lawrence. In 2020, a 15th-anniversary panel that reunited director and star with producer Avika Goldsman went down well with fans and kept the flame alight. 

2005’s Constantine took many liberties with its source material, the long-running DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer. Despite that, it was uncompromising, riddled with horror and nailed the tone of the comics that endeared it to many fans. Reeves’ John Constantine may have lived in LA, spoken with a North American accent, and had trouble hanging on to his cab-driving pal Chas, but there was something distinctly Constantine about it.

Making a magician

It helped that the movie drew on some seminal arcs from the comic. Garth Ennis, who’d later create Preacher, The Boys, and write a legendary run on Marvel’s Punisher Max, helped shape the mage we all know today. His Dangerous Habits story arc ran in Hellblazer #41 – 46 and inspired the magician’s illness and gambling with heaven and hell in Constantine.  Fan favorite Papa Midnite was picked up, too, having made his fair appearance in Hellblazer #1

Constantine arrived three years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off, well before today’s comic domination. The movie didn’t exactly set the world alight like the comics — those influenced the whole occult detective comic genre. Still, John Constantine remained one of DC’s proven box office winners outside Superman and Batman until Wonder Woman jumped into movie theaters in 2017. Constantine was the magician’s first screen appearance, but the subsequent years have seen the character’s profile rise across the Arrowverse, DC Animated Universe, and The Sandman.

Like Constantine, we expect the sequel to attract a strong cast. It would be a crying shame if Djimon Hounsou didn’t return as Papa Midnite, Tilda Swinton as the Archangel Gabriel, and the scene-stealing Peter Stormare as Lucifer.

The new Constantine should be confident to stick with its canon changes but take similar inspiration from the comic books as the original.  Here are ten story arcs the movie could magic into its plot. 

Take him to Louisiana — The Saga of the Swamp Thing (Swamp Thing #37)

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Image via DC Comics

Constantine‘s first appearance was in Alan Moore’s seminal run on Swamp Thing. He’s moved on a bit since then, as has Swampy. But the two have stayed in touch, if that’s the right word. It’s unlikely the sequel will give up its urban Earth/Hell dynamic, but if it does take a trip to the swamps, this should be a great duo.

Go back to the beginning Newcastle – A Taste of Things to Come (Hellblazer #11)

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Image via DC Comics

Writer Jamie Delano introduced Constantine to his own title and had the chance to delve into the magician’s origins. That meant exploring the cocky young mage’s punk roots and exactly how he damned a young soul to Hell and ended up in Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility. We glimpsed the collateral damage that follows in Constantine’s wake in the first film. Yes, that version had a different origin, but stepping back to explore the past could be just the way to get under the mage’s skin. 

Steal his coat — The Devil’s Trench Coat (Hellblazer #276)

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Image via DC Comics

Reeves’ Constantine preferred a dark suit and coat combo to the camel trench coat the magician has refused to lose in most of his comic appearances. But nearly 20 years on, he may have found a good deal on a lighter wardrobe, particularly if traveling outside America.

Constantine contends with one of his greatest foes in this late arc — eBay. When his long-worn trench coat is sold, it leaves a trail of destruction across London as its previous owner’s powers start to unravel.

Send him to jail — Hard Time (Hellblazer #146)

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Brian Azzarello was the first American to take on the Scouse mage, and he promptly locked him up in a maximum security prison in the States. This is one of Hellblazer’s darkest, most violent, and vicious stories. But trapping Constantine in one location, especially when there’s a mystery around his imprisonment, could make for a claustrophobic movie.

Tone down the supernatural — The Family Man (Hellblazer #23)

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Image via DC Comics

Peeling back the mysticism is unlikely, but some of the comic’s most significant moments came when it turned a magnifying glass on humanity. Family Man was a serial killer Constantine stumbled across early in the Hellblazer run. Taking a step back from the overtly supernatural, it was a very human tragedy that led the mage to take down the killer himself. The next Constantine movie could use a good focus to explore the magician’s gray lines.

Make it personal — Haunted (Hellblazer #134)

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Image via DC Comics

Warren Ellis’s run on the Hellblazer dug into some dark places, including a controversial storyline around a school shooting. In Haunted, Ellis and artist John Higgins achieved something rare — have Constantine deal with the murder of an ex-girlfriend, avenge her, set her up in the afterlife, and almost reach a happy ending. Thematically, a good pick-up from Constantine’s relationships with Angela Dodson in the first film.

Reignite the war between Heaven and Hell — Original Sins (Hellblazer #1)

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Delano started Hellblazer with a series of stories that led to a monumental scrap between good and evil. A certain magical conman was there, of course, whingeing about being stuck in the middle while playing both sides off against each other. We want to see Lucifer, Gabriel, and Papa Midnite back in the sequel, so why not return to the Hellblazer’s roots?

Put him through Hell — Fear and Loathing (Hellblazer #62)

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Image via DC Comics

It’s not uncommon for a comic book villain to destroy a hero’s personal life to keep their powers out of the picture. Legendary writers like Frank Miller, who inflicted agony on Daredevil, have found it’s an excellent way to peel back over-inflated myths and get under a character’s mask (or trench coat). Garth Ennis subjected Constantine to a succession of events that sent the mage into one of his deepest spirals. A similar approach could ramp up the threat and consequence in Constantine 2.

Give him a simple mission — All His Engines (graphic novel)

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All His Engines was a standalone intro to the character released to coincide with 2005’s Constantine. Writer Mike Carey played with iconic elements of Los Angeles in a tale that saw Constantine trying to retrieve the soul of his best friend’s granddaughter from an infernal war. Picking up some plot points would be a neat reference to the massive gap between the two Constantine movies.

Put him on reality TV — Dark Entries (graphic novel) 

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Image via DC Comics

Acclaimed crime writer Ian Rankin wrote this one-shot novel that flipped the lens on the mage. Constantine is the last person you’d expect to enter a reality TV show, but then the reality TV show in this story isn’t all it appears to be. Constantine is one character you should never trap, and if the new movie wants to match the trickery that closed the first film, a triple bluff could be the way to do it.