Who the Clix? is a series of articles featuring information on comic book characters that have been made into figures for the popular tabletop game Heroclix. These articles are meant to help Heroclix players learn more about the characters behind their favorite pieces.
Today we look at that some times lovable rogue of the mystic arts: John Constantine
Appearances in Heroclix: Justice League 52, Justice League Trinity War
First Appearance: The Saga of Swamp Thing #37
Team Affiliations: Justice League Dark
Created By: Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben
John was born in Liverpool. His mother died during birth and his twin brother was stillborn. As a result of these tragic events, John grew up resenting a father that hated him. John spent some time, along with his older sister, living with their aunt and uncle in Northampton. As a descendant of “Laughing Magicians,” John became interested in the occult. One of his first magical feats was hiding all of his childish innocence and vulnerability in a box in order to mature faster and become more powerful. As a teenager, John attempted a botched curse on his father that left the elder Constantine withered and frail. John soon after made his permanent home London and met his long time companion, Chas.
John spent the following years traveling the world. He met and had a short relationship with Zatanna Zatara. He formed his own punk band (Mucous Membrane) and even released an album. He also became famous for predicting the attempted assassination of US President Ronald Reagan. Soon after, John tried his first hand at heroism that resulted in horrible consequences. Constantine and his band mates came across an abused child that had conjured a demon, who in turn murdered her abusive father, the owner of the club in which she was found and other patrons that had taken part in the torment. The demon, however, refused to leave. Constantine’s solution was simple: summon another demon to destroy the other. After some coercing, his band mates and occult friends agreed. The summoned demon Nergal, however, was not properly bound. It destroyed the other demon then tortured Constantine’s friends before taking the child to Hell anyway. This would lead to John having a nervous breakdown and being committed for years. Even after being released, he still suffered nightmares related to the incident for years. It wasn’t until he helped Dream of the Endless that the nightmares abated. And it wasn’t until John managed to free all of the children from hell (including the one Nergal had taken) that he was free of the guilt.
Years later, John meets the Swamp Thing and attempts to help him investigate the Brujeria cult. In the course of this, he is able to reassemble most of the “Newcastle Crew” that had first summoned Nergal. Unfortunately, many of the crew were murdered by the cult, only compounding John’s guilt over the proceedings. The sacrfices were not in vain, however, as Swamp Thing was able to learn enough from the Parliament of Trees to help save the world from the impending darkness.
John’s powers are not enough to prevent him from developing lung cancer from years of chain smoking. He seeks out the advice of a help that was dying and had sold his soul to the First of the Fallen. John tricks the First and prevents his friend’s soul from being properly collected. The First swears vengeance once John’s soul arrives in Hell. Realizing he was not long for this world, John decides to play a deadly con: he sells his soul to the other two lords of Hell. Once they realize his deception, they are forced into a desperate position. If John were to die, they would have to go into all out war to remain dominant. They also cannot trust each other in any sort of alliance and thus resolve to cure John of his cancer.
John was later able to purge himself of his negative attributes and ensuring that he could never actually go to Hell. This resulted in “Demon” Constantine, however, yet another foe for John to contend with. Demon Constantine is reabsorbed by John, again bringing forth the threat of damnation. Ultimately, with no friends or allies left, John is able to commune with God. Constantine explains that, if he were ever allowed to enter Hell, he would make sure to take it over. And then let everyone out, locking the doors behind them so that the demons and the damned had no resting place. All of this to convince God that John’s soul never going to Hell is a good thing. It works, but God warns him that there are consequences.
John returns to London only to find himself in a magic war against a creature known as the Shadow Dog. This ultimately led to the release of the Beast and John being forced to give birth to three demon children who hunted down and murdered anyone John had ever met. This ultimately leads to John having to ally with the demon Nergal and go down into Hell, where he meets numerous demons and former allies. Including the First of the Fallen. The First gains another victory, in convincing John’s innocent sister’s soul to remain in Hell to spare her husband some torment. This tortures John who cannot justify this to his niece Gemma, now a witch in her own right.
John continues adventuring for several more years before receiving a prophesy that he will die in five days. In response, Constantine fakes his own death and attempts to keep a low profile. His niece Gemma is conflicted by this and, at first, attempts to kill herself. When he reveals himself to save her life, she confesses that she knows her life will be better without him. As he is too self obsessed and pulls others into his life, rather than letting them live their own. He tells her to make her own decision and she tearfully damns him before closing her eyes and shooting him. Once her eyes are open, however, he has clearly escaped this fate and is shaken that the last of his relatives would murder him.
John, along with Zatanna, is a member of the Justice League Dark. He now has a history with Nick Necro, another magical conman that was previously in a love triangle with John and Zatanna. John soon tries to steal Shazam’s magic and only succeeds in making young Billy Batson distrustful of others. John’s enemies are no longer demons from Hell, but Sargon the Sorceress and Tannarak, members of the Cult of the Cold Flame which John tries to destroy. This ultimately leads to John being sent to Earth-2, which is dying as the result of an attack by Darkseid and his parademons.
John attempts to return to Earth-2 but is foiled by the existence of a second John Constantine (the one born on Earth-2). John decides to try and find his Earth-2 counterpart. When he does, he is amazed to find all his friends and loved ones are alive and well. His Earth-2 double grabs what he thinks is an impostor and the two see visions of the other’s life. Earth-2 John has had a happy and quiet life full of love and family while Earth-0 John is full of regrets and pain.
This leads to the two working together to try and enact a complicated spell to get away from Darkseid and his parademon army. Dr. Fate arrives and offers to help the Constantines, hoping that they can all escape. John soon realizes that he or his counterpart must die to power the spell. While the Parademons grow closer, John is torn between doing the right thing and saving himself. But in the end, John is John and he murders his Earth-2 counterpart, hiding his presence from Dr. Fate and escaping with the family and friends of his Earth-2 self.
The journey back to Earth-0 is treacherous. The family realize what John has done and name him a devil. They watch as Earth-2’s Heaven is also assaulted by Darkseid’s forces and his Earth-2’s mother is dragged by an angry Dr. Fate. This pushes John’s Earth-2 father to attempt suicide. John sacrifices some more members of his entourage alone with his own joy and happiness to create a web that tricks Darkseid into thinking Earth-0 is already dead. This ultimately saves the world and those that were journeying with Constantine. This forces John to confront the fact that he is not now nor ever has been a good person or a hero. But he is the only one willing to do what is necessary.
John endeavors to return to London and free himself of a curse that makes him physically ill whenever he is on London soil. John is then wrapped up in a scheme involving Swamp Thing, the rot, and lots and lots of djinn.