On Tuesday, DC Universe announced the casting for its upcoming Swamp Thing show. The comic upon which this show is based centers around a man transformed into an elemental plant monster, but Swamp Thing’s most important cultural contribution is still probably John Constantine. The wisecracking magician — rarely seen without a drink in his hand, a trench coat on his shoulders, and a cigarette in his mouth — was first introduced in the pages of writer Alan Moore’s mid-’80s Swamp Thing comics, and then got his own series, Hellblazer, starting in 1988. John Constantine has been a star ever since.
Constantine’s résumé includes a 2005 Keanu Reeves movie, a TV show that morphed into a starring role on Legends of Tomorrow, a central part in DC’s recent mature-readers Batman: Damned graphic novel (yes, the one with the penis), and a presence in Justice League Dark and pretty much every DC comic that involves magic. But one of the most interesting things about the character (co-created by Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Jamie Delano, and John Ridgway) is that he’s heavily modeled after the musician Sting.
To commemorate the similarity, Sting actually wrote a foreword to the upcoming 30th-anniversary hardcover collection of various Hellblazer comics from over the decades. Check out an exclusive excerpt below, in which Sting writes about having a spiritual connection to the character that may have originated at birth.
John Constantine, Hellblazer: 30th Anniversary Celebration goes on sale Nov. 13. Pre-order it here.
Hellblazer 30th Anniversary Celebration: Introduction by Sting
Apart from the act of creating life and giving birth there is perhaps no deeper intimacy than that of murder, especially murder by strangulation, and even more so when perpetrated by ones own brother. Fratricide is perhaps the oldest crime on the statute.
He and I had fought and struggled blindly for weeks in the suffocating darkness to locate and navigate the miraculous opening in the cervical wall with that primal instinct to enter the birthing canal triumphant and most importantly, first.
My brother and I are identical in features if not entirely in demeanor, and so the stronger twin would rob me of my life with the expedient noose of my own umbilical cord, pulled taut and held fast around my neck until I croaked. I didn’t stand a chance and John, the victorious brother would be first to taste the sweetness of the new air while I was left behind, inert, stillborn.
If it’s true that the souls of murderers and their victims are cursed to be shackled together through countless eternities then that would explain the fact that I can speak of this now, and would indicate that my consciousness has somehow been sustained in some parallel universe only partially linked to the one that my brother currently inhabits, we are still identical, although our paths have diverged.
Occasionally and for reasons I don’t dare to explain these separate universes will conspire to converge, John as a powerful sorcerer in his, and me as a musician and singer in mine.
I wish him no malice, he lives in his world with the curse or the dubious blessings of his original sin, while I have been amply compensated in my own, he occupies my dreams and so I like to imagine that I must haunt his.
John Constantine’s current fame and the longevity of his success have long intrigued me although I feel he may be singularly unimpressed by any of my own achievements, but that’s just the way he is.
From the humblest of beginnings his series, Hellblazer, is the longest-running and most successful title for DC’s Vertigo imprint. The character himself was ranked #3 in their “50 Greatest Comic Characters of All Time” by Empire Magazine, #29 by IGN, and #10 by Wizard Magazine.
My own success as a musician began towards the close of the ’70s. I had moved to London from Newcastle, got lucky fronting an ersatz punk band, (just like John did with Mucous Membrane) then had to get smart real quick, because fame is an odd reckoning, an odd and troubling recognition, not actively sought but hard to shake off and a lot like being under surveillance, the whole time.
And so I will develop a protective mask, a public mask, a persona and a brisk walking pace whenever I chose to wander the streets of the city alone.
I wore the trench coat a lot in those days.
I remember climbing the stairs of a sandwich shop one day in Central London and there, sitting alone at a corner table is an extravagantly bearded man with a tractor beam of a stare, his left hand nursing what looks like a cold black coffee, all the while his eyes fixedly upon mine.
I have learned over the years to differentiate the merely star-struck from those exhibiting a genuine intelligence, Francis Bacon would often stare at me across the bar in the soho pub we would both haunt, and so this guy looked like some kind of an artist too, scruffy and intense. I nod flirtatiously with only a thinly veiled mockery, but he keeps on staring, unfazed. I make a quick exit.
A few years later, a thin package will be mysteriously delivered to my office and I will see evidence of my long lost brother for the first time within the pages of a DC comic book, Alan Moore is the author and I struggle with a vague memory of having bumped into him somewhere…