There’s not much John Constantine wouldn’t do, but when Marvel set out to parody the character, they found new depths to the Hellblazer pastiche.
John constantine has earned a reputation as one of DC’s leading wizards, an unlucky wizard who trusts his wits as much as he does magic. However, in the Marvel Universe, there is a female version of Constantine who does the one thing she would never do: she works for the police. Readers know about this unique pastiche of Constantine in the first issue of 1996 Pryde and wisdom miniseries, from writer Warren Ellis (who would write the real Constantine a year later) and artists Terry Dodson and Karl Story.
Companies creating pastiches of another company’s character are nothing new – America’s Supreme Squad started out as a Justice League riff, and DC rallied with its Avengers-like Retaliator gear, but Ellis and his collaborators carry this to the next. on the level of a gender-swapping John Constantine that pokes fun at the trademark features of the true Hellblazer.
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Pete Wisdom and Kitty Pryde are searching for a mutant serial killer who has the ability to fossilize his victims. Sensing a deeper hidden connection, the two search for the mysterious F.66, a paranormal police agency operating in Britain. Kitty and Pete Wisdom are introduced to the various agents of F.66, including Constance Johanssen, a chain-smoker with blonde hair and a raincoat described as a “hidden detective.” Readers learn that people close to Constance tend to suffer horrible deaths, and so far the count is 200. During a briefing, Constance reminds everyone of this, saying that “all my friends are dead and they are after me with blood”. She prepares to engage in a dramatic soliloquy before she is interrupted and called back to work.
Sometimes you can play pastiches for a laugh, and that’s clearly the case with Constance Johannssen. The name is an obvious riff on Constantine’s, and his biting personality, trench coats, blonde hair, and cigarettes perfectly match Constantine’s looks and quirks. But the really funny thing about Constance is that she works in law enforcement, even if she is a hidden unit. The personality and demeanor of the real John Constantine would never allow him to become a cop, or even a government employee, so seeing him in his Marvel counterpart adds a layer of humor. Writer Warren Ellis would follow up with a brief, but memorable, run with Hellblazer a year later, so it’s interesting to see that John Constantine was already very much on Ellis’s mind at the time.
Constance Johanssen, and other pastiches like her, are ways writers and artists can do new and creative things with a character that they might not otherwise do; Ellis created a female version of John Constantine with all of John’s cliches turned up to eleven, but what’s really mind-blowing is that this version has embraced law and order, something the real Hellblazer would resist. While John constantine he’s stood up to the establishment a few times enough to rip him off, the idea of him taking on a full-time job, let alone one that works for the rozzers, is the main difference it means as funny as the version is From Marvel, she can’t hold a candle to DC’s perennial con man and rogue.
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