A hard-drinking, heavy-smoking, constantly swearing wizard with a thick British accent doesn't seem like the sort of thing Americans would easily buy into. But DC says its comic "Hellblazer" and its star, John Constantine, do have what it takes, and they're bringing him to television in the U.S.; the first official picture of the character was released by NBC this week.
"I've been a fan of John Constantine since he was first introduced in 1985. This Constantine, envisioned by Neil Marshall and embodied by Matt Ryan, looks like he sprang directly from the comic's covers. Fans old and new are going to be in for a treat," said executive producer David S. Goyer.
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Keanu Reeves played the titular role in the 2005 film "Constantine," which made a respectable $230 million at the box office but was panned by critics and comic fans who felt the role had been watered down and Americanized.
Watch the trailer for the 2005 "Constantine" movie:
Gone, now, are the dark hair and American accent of the Reeves Constantine — which earns a big sigh of relief from fans. Though, as comic writer and longtime "Hellblazer" fan Korey Hunt remarks, "The look is right, sure ... but how hard is it to loosen a guy's tie and throw a trench coat on him?"
Matt Ryan could not look more perfect as Constantine. :) http://t.co/dEaXbItPMO
— Eric Holmes (@ericholmeslive) March 14, 2014
I can guarantee this Constantine TV show will be full of so much AWESOME.
— Peter Parker (@YoungAvenger_) March 14, 2014
I am very ok with this casting of Constantine. I wish the show was called 'Hellblazer' but that was a pipe dream. http://t.co/FJHOdyjNtJ
— Martin Baker (@CyberGrim) March 13, 2014
Some of the across-the-board approval can be attributed to Internet backlash against the 2005 Constantine, but expect that anger to boil up much hotter in the next few months as the showrunners hash out whether or not to let the character swear and/or smoke — two deeply integral parts of his character.
That pic of Matt Ryan as Constantine is completely ruined by the fact HE IS NOT SMOKING THAT CIGARETTE.
— Kevin H. (@KVN_HFN) March 13, 2014
Unlike most smoking heroes, this one actually did have to deal with the issue of lung cancer; whether this is enough to loosen the unwritten ban on smoking on TV is still under discussion.
"Hellblazer" is a dark comic, though, and what it loses in attitude, it may make up for in gore. "If NBC allows Constantine the same level of gross/creep/gore/weird that they've allowed Hannibal," Hunt says, "they could do it right."
DC describes the character as a "con-man-turned-occult-detective," so it makes sense that the pilot was written by Daniel Cerone, executive producer of "The Mentalist" (also about a lapsed con artist) from a story co-penned by Goyer, who wrote the screenplays for "Ghost Rider" and "Blade."
Ryan will be joined by Lucy Griffiths ("True Blood") as Liv, whose ability to see the supernatural traps her in the battle between good and evil. Harold Perrineau ("Lost") will play the angel Manny, tasked to observe, but willing to step in to save a life. And Charles Halford ("True Detective") will play Chas, an old friend of Constantine’s perhaps possessing supernatural powers.
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Constantine first appeared in the pages of the "Swamp Thing" comic and proved so popular he was given his own title, "Hellblazer." Creator Jamie Delano wanted to call it "Hellraiser," but it was changed to avoid confusion with the Clive Barker movie of the same name. "Hellblazer" became "Constantine" when the movie was released because the name was deemed too similar.
The title — near 30 years old now — has been written by some of the greatest comic writers working: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Delano. It's so influential, in fact, that Castiel, a regular on the show "Supernatural," was based on the character's look. Naturally, this has led to some confusion.
looks like a Supernatural rip-off, Constantine, not only does the name sound a lot like Castiel, they totally ripped off his look as well.
— Robert Carey (@Mansloth) March 13, 2014
Castiel's look was based on Constantine, but now people will think NBC's Constantine is ripping off Supernatural. Ah, adaptations. ;)
— Geonn Cannon (@GeonnCannon) March 13, 2014
But quickly enough, fans learned to find the love.
Looks like we'll need to be prepared to play "Castiel or Constantine?" at conventions soon. http://t.co/9Gbz6UfmWu
— Winchester (@dreaminpng) November 20, 2013
I can't wait for Constantine to start airing so we can kick the 'not sure if Tenth Doctor or Castiel' cosplay game up a notch.
— Halloweenie (@WaywardPun) March 13, 2014
Though, fun fact, Constantine's look was based on Sting, lead singer of the Police. So maybe someday. ...
Castiel is not-Constantine. Constantine is not-Sting. Therefore: Supernatural/Constantine musical TV crossover. You heard it here first.
— Adi Robertson (@thedextriarchy) September 27, 2013