This month for the most underrated hero I decided to give the spotlight to someone that I think was robbed of their chance at a solid television series, that would be none other than John Constantine. I personally was a huge fan of the Constantine television show starring Matt Ryan, and I was even happier when he made a guest appearance in Arrow during their horrible fourth season… Keanu Reeves did an awesome job capturing the essence of Constantine during the 2005 film, but Matt Ryan is the physical incarnation of Constantine right down to his sarcastic wit.
That being said let’s move onto Constantine’s rich backstory…
John was born in Liverpool, Lancashire on May 10, 1953 to Mary Anne and Thomas. Mary Anne died in childbirth as did John’s still born brother; Thomas blamed John for their deaths which caused a severe strain on their relationship growing up. In later publications it is revealed that John had actually strangled his twin in the womb with his umbilical cord. John and his older sister, Cheryl, lived with their aunt and uncle in Northampton briefly while their father was in prison. When their father was released they moved back to Liverpool where John learned of his lineage. John’s family comes from a long line of powerful mages known as the Laughing Magicians, mages of great power known for bluffing and tricking Gods. John decided to follow in his bloodline’s footsteps and become a magician and his first act was to lock away his chilhood innocence and vulnerability in a box so he would be rid of them. In his teen years he botched a curse which left his father withered and frail, John subsequently ran away from home to London where he roomed with his oldest friend Francis Chandler a.k.a. Chas.
John then began travelling the occult circles in London and even ventured into the United States where he met and became enamored with Zatanna Zatara. He also formed a punk rock band called Mucous Membrane of which he was front man. The band toured London while John became a famous stage magician on the side. During a trip to Newcastle to play at the Casanova Club, the proprietor had been having a magical orgy and his abused daughter, Astra Logue, had accidentally conjured a monster to take revenge on her father and the other club patrons for their torment, but the monster refused to leave. John convinced some of the band members and some of his occultist friends to summon their own demon to destroy the monster. When they summoned their own demon, it killed the monster, but then it taunted the group and dragged the little girl screaming to hell. When conducting the summoning spell John hadn’t used the demon’s true name, Nergal, and thus it was not bound to obey his commands. John suffered from a mental breakdown after this and was committed to Ravenscar institute where he drifted in and out for many years. John eventually used some magic and con-artistry to rescue Astra from Hell along with any of the other children being held there. The rest of the “Newcastle” crew remained both physically and psychologically scarred.
John has many adventures over the years since he was broken out of Ravenscar by a group of mobsters looking for him to resurrect their boss’ dead son, and threatening to kill his sister if he doesn’t. He summons a demon and convinces it to take the boy’s place which ends bloody for him the long run. He has quite the friendship with Swamp Thing, both of them helping the other out every now and then with John even inviting Swamp Thing to his birthday.
John was diagnosed with lung cancer and was told it was terminal. He sought the help of a dying friend Brendan, who had sold his soul to the most powerful Lord of Hell, the First of the Fallen. When the First of the Fallen arrived to take Brendan’s soul, John tricked him into drinking Holy Water which rendered him powerless and unable to collect Brendan’s soul, which then went to heaven. In retaliation for this act the First promised John unprecedented torture and agony when he finally died and came to Hell. To stop this John secretly sold his soul to the other two Lords of Hell. Since they didn’t want to go to war over a soul,and take each other out, they resigned to cure John of his cancer which would allow them more time to come up with a plan. The first did not like this and set a trap which resulted in many of John’s friends dying. John then blackmailed God to help him because he stated “…If I go to Hell, I will take the whole damn thing over and close the gates leaving nowhere for the damned to go”.
To keep the sob train moving… John loses his memory, and to get it back is then forced to father three demon children which then go out and massacre anyone associated with him. Among these is his sister Cheryl, who was killed when one of the demon spawn caused her overtly religious husband to see her as a witch, and thus someone to kill. When John finally gets to Hell, he tries to convince a demon to kill him and trade his soul for Cheryl’s, because Cheryl doesn’t belong there. The First kills the demon and tells John his soul is his ” by right of insult”. Before he releases Cheryl the First of the Fallen informs her that her husband, who had killed her, became so distraught over what he had done he had killed himself, making him twice damned. The First agreed to split his punishment between Cheryl and her husband’s soul if she agreed to stay on her own free will. Cheryl agreed and John was cast out of Hell.
John has various other adventures until he fakes his death in the Three Fates storyline. The end of that storyline sees his niece Gemma attempt to shoot him to save herself future torment and pain. She closes her eyes and pulls the trigger of the revolver she had pointed at him, only to open her eyes and see that he was gone.
POWERS & ABILITIES
Constantine is well verse in many forms of both magical arts and “Stage magic”. He is adept at hypnosis, sleight of hand, pickpocketing, escapology, and is an adequate hand to hand fighter. His magical skills range from spells to rituals and curses. He is proficient in evocation, necromancy, illusions and invisibility. Constantine’s most prominent magical ability is synchronicity wave travelling, which is a fancy way of saying he is able to make his own luck. Whether it’s just narrowly avoiding harm, finding the right spell at the right time, or turning the battle in his favour, Constantine’s luck making has kept him alive more times than anything else.
He is also proficient in counter spells, teleportation, elemental magic, telekinesis, and immobilisation magic. He is also able to resist telepathy, possessions, mind control and is even able to avoid omnipresence.
His blood is demonically tainted, causing him some healing abilities and an age-managing ability. It is also highly corrosive and poisonous to the King of Vampires.
In addition to all these abilities John also controls the House of Mystery. which allows him to transport to different dimensions and across the universe. It also allows him to control anyone who he invites into it and accepts. His trademark trench coat also has been imbued with some demonic powers.
Regardless of his magic abilities Constantine is also the world’s greatest Con man, He has duped the First of the Fallen, Superman, and even Batman at various points in his comic run.
REASONS HE’S UNDERRATED
Constantine is one of the major players in the DC magic universe that seems to be underplayed a lot. Dr. Fate, Zatanna, even Zatara are more widely recognized than he is; although, that might be in part to their affiliation with the Justice League, whereas Constantine has always been more of a lone wolf. In the New 52 Justice League Dark, Constantine was actually the leader of the squad which also included Black Orchid, Deadman and Frankenstein.
Constantine’s lone wolf tendencies as well as his overtly closed off and sarcastic persona have put him at ends with several members of the Justice League on more than one occasion, Batman and Superman included. He likes to cast an air of superiority wherever he goes and that can sometimes get him into hot water, especially if he is grandstanding for a new ally. The main problem with Constantine is that he always looks out for himself and his, and that doesn’t include anyone else unless he says so. This approach has led to MANY allies of his either ending up dead or broken (both physically and mentally). Mostly the reason he is underrated is because he has shown on multiple occasions to have bluffed some of, if not THE most powerful magical beings in the universe, not to mention two of the pillars of the Justice League (Batman and Superman). He bluffed God, freaking GOD! He pitted the Lords of Hell against each other and convinced them to cure his cancer! He might be a dirty and selfish con-man but you gotta admit, he is good at what he does.
I really want Constantine to make more live action appearances in the Arrowverse. I think Matt Ryan was robbed of his time in the sun and he should be given more time to shine. How awesome would it be for him to be added to the roster of Legends of Tomorrow? I think he would fit in there perfectly.
This concludes another edition of Most Underrated Heroes! See you next week!