5636 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

John Constantine Hellblazer (DC Comics)

John Constantine


Power Level: ,
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“I’m the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I’ve got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I’ll drive the demons away. I’ll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they’re down, and then I’ll be gone back into the darkness, leaving only a nod, a wink and a wisecrack. I walk my path alone… who would want to walk with me ?”


Context

Wow, what an amazing project researching this writeup has been !

John Constantine was a signature DC Comics occultism expert, trickster, arsehole and tragic figure. He appeared in 1985 in Alan Moore’s landmark Swamp Thing arcs.

Constantine graduated to his own book, Hellblazer. It ran for 300 issues and was a core of DC’s Vertigo imprint.

The profile is my tribute to all the fine authors (Moore, Delano, Ennis, Jenkins, Ellis, Azzarello, Carey, Mina, Diggle and Milligan) and artists that have made Hellblazer into an excellent, gritty, fascinating and mysterious tale !


Background

  • Real Name: John Constantine
  • Other Aliases: The Constantine, Hellblazer, Hero of the Counterculture, Knight of Humanity, The Laughing Magician, Man for All Seasons, The Magus, Conjob, Leo Sumner, John Collier, Conj, John McMahon, Adrian Brown, Slayer of Devils, Slayer of Demons, Seducer of Succubi, Prince of Darkness, Captain Comequick, The Fool, The Master of Bad Luck Magic, The Liar, The Man With a Thousand Faces, The Baron of Bullshit, The Sultan of Scam, The Sodfather, Prisoner B8076AG
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Known Relatives: Epiphany Greaves (wife), Terry Greaves (father-in-law), Tefé Holland (surrogate daughter, 1989-), Maria Constantine (daughter), Cheryl Masters (sister, 1946-2005, deceased), The Golden Boy (unborn twin brother), Maria (demon daughter w/Rosacarnis, 2004-), Adam (demon son w/Rosacarnis, 2004-2005, deceased), Saul (demon son w/Rosacarnis, 2004-2005, deceased), Thomas Constantine (Father, 1914-1990 deceased), Arthur (uncle), Nergal (“father-in-law”), Gemma Constantine (niece; formerly Masters, 1978-), Mary Ann Constantine (mother, 1923-1953, deceased), Tony Masters (Brother-in-Law, -2005, deceased), “Demon John Constantine” (magic clone, 1996-), Lord Constantine (possible future version), Kon-Sten-Tyn (ancestor, c. 520, deceased), Constantine (ancestor, c. 564, deceased), Jack Constantine (ancestor, deceased), Pyotr Konstantin (ancestor, 1630-1986, deceased), Hugh Constantine (ancestor, c. 1731, deceased), Lord George Constantine (ancestor, c. 1775, deceased), Lady Harriet Constantine (ancestor, c. 1775, deceased), Lady Johanna Constantine (ancestor, 1760-1859, deceased), Harry Constantine (ancestor, 1649-1993, deceased), James Constantine (ancestor, c. 1797, deceased), “Dark Conrad” Constantine (ancestor, 1780?-1826, deceased), Aloycious Quinn (ancestor, c. 1840, deceased), Marilyn Constantine (ancestor, c. 1870s, deceased), Lance Corporal William Constantine (grandfather, 1880-1916, deceased), Alice Constantine (grandmother, deceased), Charles Constantine (grandfather’s brother, c. 1885, deceased), Inspector Frank Constantine (ancestor, c. 1939, presumed deceased), Jack Constantine (uncle, 1916-1941, deceased), Dolly and Harry (aunt and uncle), Roy (uncle?), Aunty Jean (aunt?), The Royal Fetus (possible future son, 2020-), Zatara II (Elseworld future son w/ Zatanna Zatara), Archetype (possible far-future incarnation or template)
  • Group Affiliation: Former singer of Mucous Membrane, part of the informal Trenchcoat Brigade
  • Base Of Operations: London, or mobile
  • Height: 5’11” Weight: 150 lbs Age: 34 years in Hellblazer #1, currently 59 years
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond


The truth, innit ?

“Constantine was the ideal weapon. Cunning, resourceful – but stupid. Trying to outwit me, he served me nonetheless.” – Nergal

“To tell the truth, Constantine — you’ve become something of a project with me.” – Nergal

“Why? Because of the family connection, perhaps. We are very close, you and I. Almost obscenely close. I lent you my blood. You repaid me almost equally exquisite. And now, since you’ve sired three children on my daughter — I must acknowledge you as my son-in-law. So yes. Let us do this thing.” – Nergal

Constantine may not be as free an agent as he thinks himself to be. In this section, a rather convincing case is given that many of the important events of his life have been due to the machinations of one old fiend, namely Nergal.

Constantine’s life is bound to Nergal in more than a few ways. Nergal, the archduke of Hell, is a masterful manipulator and trickster who is nearly impossible to destroy, and who far too often is underestimated by his foes.

In fact, his defeats may be only for show as well to lull his enemies into a false sense of security. Nergal has all the time in the world, and it could be argued that everything in Constantine’s life, through various behind the scenes actions by Nergal, has led to very desirable results for Nergal personally.

Let’s review the case:

  • Constantine had a twin brother, the so-called Golden Boy, greater in every possible way and who was supposed to lead Earth into a new age of glory. Constantine, however, strangled his brother in the womb, and thus instead himself became the next master magus.
    While not proven, it is possible that Nergal split the forming fetus into two, to create John Constantine, a more suitable agent on Earth. After all, Nergal seems to have known of Constantine’s existence ever since his birth.
  • Nergal got Constantine into smoking at a very young age, while he was wearing a human disguise, which eventually led to Constantine contracting lung cancer. Trying to survive this led to Constantine dealing with the triumvirate rulers of Hell, which nearly led to a civil war over claiming Constantine’s soul.
    Eventually, the first of the three, the Devil, managed to destroy the other 2 lords, which severely upset the balance of power in the nether domains. The result: 2 fewer powerful foes for Nergal to deal with.
  • Nergal led Constantine into a dark path in his life through the Newcastle incident. Instead of the demon Constantine was trying to summon, Nergal came like he had been waiting for it to happen, and the rest is history.
  • The succubus Ellie was rescued from pursuit by Nergal (and the Devil), and she eventually repaid the debt by destroying the Devil. The result: the last major foe of Nergal gone.
  • The injection of demon blood by Nergal into Constantine made him an unwilling tool of Hell. When he had sex with Zed, who was supposed to give birth to the returning Messiah, she became unsuitable for the task. The result: no agent of the Lord on Earth that can combat the forces of Hell.
  • Nergal later managed to take over and inhibit his own brother’s indestructible body with the direct help of Constantine, who tried to save the soul of his sister, Cheryl. The result: Nergal now has access to a body, impervious to magic and physical damage, stored at an unknown location, in the search for ultimate power.
  • Nergal’s daughter, Rosacarnis, managed to magically give birth to three children of Constantine, only one of which currently still lives. The result: Nergal thus has a possible future heir or helper with Constantine’s and Nergal’s unique genetic makeup
  • When Constantine died during a case in the Middle East fighting a Djinn, Nergal – an old god of the area – and his cousin Ishtar were handily there and allowed him to play poker for his life against some demons, but of course the master of gambling couldn’t loose, which resulted in Constantine’s physical rebirth.
    Thus, and was thus free to continue as an agent of magic on Earth.
  • During Constantine’s recent wedding Constantine’s demonic duplicate involuntarily managed to temporarily turn Gemma Constantine-Masters into a foe of Constantine by supposedly raping her.
    Of course, Nergal was again present, and quite possible liberated the demonic duplicate from Hell in the first place to accomplish this, only to again be defeated easily and handily by the hands of Constantine (too easily actually). While Constantine was later cleared in the eyes of Gemma, their relationship remains strained.

The ultimate result of Constantine’s life and actions has thus perfectly played into the hands of the Archduke. One could argue that all of this has been Constantine’s unknown fate all along; to be the agent of Nergal, but the facts and ultimate details of Nergal’s plans remain to be seen.


Powers and Abilities

Constantine rarely uses magical spells, unless he has to, especially in combat. Constantine faces most of his challenges relying primarily on his cunning, his vast knowledge of the occult, manipulation of opponents and allies, and an extensive list of contacts.

Constantine is very much a “brains over brawn” character, while he has been known to engage in combat with someone he would much rather outsmart his opponents then beat them up. If he is in a physical confrontation he has been know to utilize magic or fight dirty.

He is considered a master con artist and is expertly manipulative (even conning the Devil himself). His manipulation and cunning are how he prefers to win against his opponents.

Constantine’s blood is also tainted with demon blood (first from Nergal, and later from Chantinelle/Ellie), which gives an extended longevity (slowing his aging process but not stopping it) as well as a slight enhanced healing ability. It has also proved helpful when it came to fighting vampires (a sort of “bitter taste” defense).

At any rate, due to his special, magic blood, he is fully detectable by those with the Magic Sense power, and is often discerned as a source of evil.

Although John has generally been shown to lose most fights against a superior combatant and generally avoids physical battles. He has been known to win fights, either by using a magical weapon (Hellblazer #217), combat magic (Hellblazer #281) or by fighting dirty (Hellblazer #42, #57 and the graphic novel All His Engines).

Unusually enough, he doesn’t appear stressed out when he spends Hero Points . It’s all part of his attitude, mystique and ability to appear to act cool.

Constantine is also famous for being a magical adept with his use of magic spells and sometimes potions. Some examples of the magic John has used are Divination, Demon Summoning, Cursing, Golemancy, Oclumancy, Necromancy, Vivimancy, Illusion, and various stage magic tricks like hypnosis, sleight of hand, and escapology. 

Old friends die young

Constantine has known at lot of occultists and magic-users throughout the years. Some are readily available as Connections as outlined above, while others have met their demise through misfortunes of their own. Others still have died through their association with Constantine. These were semi-Connections while they were alive, and some may still be.

Constantine can use his Omni-Connection advantage with half the price in discount to boost his standard Low Level Connections to a full High Level Connection. Further, all of the below are usually accessed via his Omni-Connection advantage, but with a 5 HP discount due to their near-Connection status:

  • Papa Midnight. Dangerous necromantist and voodoo master who runs his illegal affairs in New York. Sometimes does deals with Constantine, usually at a great price because they are not friends, more like enemies. While it appears as if Midnight committed suicide, his death is far from a certain fact.
  • Wong. The I-Ching master, who works in a Chinese restaurant.
  • He used to have dealings with “Lucky” Fermin, a notorious criminal, and currently has to deal with another gangster, his father-in-law, Terry Greaves.
  • Zed the holy hedonist
  • Weeble the ghost channeler (within whom Crowley lives)
  • Jack the forest spirit
  • Arch the psychic
  • Map the guardian of London
  • Joe the street oracle
  • Gloria the succubus
  • “swami” Charles Parkhurst-Hawk in India
  • Clarice Sackville the rich, elderly magician

Constantine shows a modified Joker card

Before Newcastle

His old team, in his early 20s, before Hell impaled and toasted them, were actual High level Connections and consisted of:

  • Gary ’Gaz‘ Lester
  • Anne-Marie (a psychic)
  • Ritchie Simpson (computer freak, deadhead and quantum magic pioneer)
  • Benjamin Cox (spooky 12-year-old genius and encyclopedia of arcana)
  • Frank (American outlaw)
  • Judith (adept of tantric yoga)

All but possibly Lester are now dead.

Gary Lester is thus still theoretically a High-level Connection. He is considered an old friend, counter-culture clone, and member of Constantine’s old punk band Mucous Membrane, and a small-time conjurer and babbler in eclectic magic.

While he was sacrificed by Constantine in order to trap and exorcise the major metropolitan threat of the hunger demon Mnemoth, he has been shown to be alive still in the most recent of issues.

More recent contacts

In more recent years his closest associations, all also High Level Connections, were:

  • the Reverend Rick ’the Vic‘ Nielsen (an occultist with an unorthodox take on his job)
  • Header
  • Nigel Archer (a psychic and political activist)
  • Mange the Rabbit
  • Arcadian (the spirit-lord of celebration and Christmas)

All of these except for Arcadian died when the Devil and later Constantine’s demonic children were hunting for Constantine.

It seems as if Constantine’s friends are destined to die due to their association with him. In game terms, any follower might have the Unluck Drawback as long as they adventure with Constantine, and may also be unwillingly included in a Magic Catastrophe subplot during this time.

Not only are his friends commonly killed, but they often go to Hell too and then get used as pawns to manipulate Constantine (usually through guilt). In game mechanics this usually is a subplot, or (in DC Heroes terms) the result of John failing to pay his Guilt fee, but could be used as a major plot point.

Constantine walks under the rain

The friends that haunt him (usually the ghost group consists of friends from the Newcastle incident, and later some were added, and some lost), sometimes warn him, sometimes curse him. They thus serve as a distraction and major playing piece in whatever machinations John has going between him and the current devil he’s dealing with.

Usually this results in the ghost either being painfully ripped back into hell, or John tricking said devil into their release.

It is unclear to what degree the ghosts are symptoms of his guilty conscience or actual, haunting ghosts. Occasionally, albeit rarely, the ghost may even redeem themselves giving John a true sense of victory (unfortunately, this usually costs John the life of one of his current friends, starting the cycle over again).


Description

Constantine is normally wearing a dark brown trench coat with shirt and tie. Variations in clothing include a dark blue or black suit including the suit jacket with a white shirt and tie. His hair is short, often slicked back and blond (looks quite a lot like Sting actually).

He is always seen smoking his Silk Cut cigarettes (30 or so a day – here it should be mentioned that these are an ultra-light, somewhat ’wimpy‘ brand and are thus quite comparable to the American Virginia Slims), and will usually light one up at the most dramatic of moments.

Nowadays he has a scar running down his left eye (and he was missing his left thumb), but if anything it enhances his mystique. Women generally find him very mysterious and highly charismatic and attractive.


Personality

John Constantine is an incorrigible trench coat-clad anti-hero, conman, joker, thief and magus in equal measures. As such, he is a rogue demon hunter, a magician and exorcist well known for his cynicism, wit and overwhelming smoking.

While an anti-hero, he is a humanist driven both by extreme guilt and by a heartfelt desire to do some good with his life. A part of him feels that he could fix the world, and another part thinks that he doesn’t deserve to get credit for anything good that he does.

He is a compassionate humanist who struggles to overcome the influence of both Heaven and Hell over humanity.

Constantine has a huge reputation in the occult community. Everybody thinks that he is much more of a fighter and magic combatant than what he actually is (and Constantine hates guns).

This reputation can be used to acquire goods or favors from others if they believe in his legend. And there really are lots of rumors flying around about him, while these are likely far from as extreme as his real life accomplishments and adventures!

It’s also excellent for intimidating others even if most other occult characters could easily defeat or kill him in physical combat. This might be something like the Reputation Schtick (which in this case always is a GM call).

As such, bluffing, blackmailing, threatening and tricking are his forté. However, primarily his wit, attitude and capacity for improvisation are the reasons for him still being alive. He is also good at mocking and denigrating.

Extremely well-read about all matters occult, he has studied all major religious texts in the world too, and is extremely skeptical about the Bible in particular.

Constantine smoking in a pub

John is actually a stranger to himself. He sees himself as a shadow at the end of the street. A pale face at the window. He knows what he is capable of at it scares the f-ckin’ sh-t out of him (his own words); people die around him, and he leaves a trail of human wreckage in a victory where only he is being left alive.

He is painfully aware that all of his friends tend to die due to their association with him (so he isn’t too keen on getting new friends). He also knows well that he will, eventually, end up in Hell, plagued like few others before him have been, unless he can pull up a last minute saving trick that is, as he has so often done.

Still, it doesn’t seem to worry him too much.

Constantine has done and still does a lot of bad things. Guilt over all the lives that have been lost due to him over the years weigh heavily upon him, and in particular the Newcastle incident where his overconfident and direct actions led to young Astra Logue being sent to Hell which hits him the hardest.

After that he was an inhabitant of the Ravenscar Asylum for two years of insanity. Then there is the fact that he supposedly killed his twin brother, the Golden Boy, who was supposed to be the better part of him, in the womb, and for which he also feels guilt.

Such past failures drive him forward still today, which is clear since he panicked completely when he met what he thought was Astra the demoness come back to haunt him. At various low points in his life he sees the ghosts of his dead friends (often the consequence of him not paying his Guilt fee).

Perhaps him being a near-alcoholic and a heavy smoker dampen his sense of guilt. He temporarily lost his guilt when he created the demonic Constantine who got all his bad side, but he has since accumulated new guilt through his actions (by the only way to get things done, as John expresses it).

Still, eventually, he returns with renewed vigor, strength and purpose – the guilt in essence gives him drive and purpose – and the minor good things he does for people and the major victories over the forces of evil and Hell seem to balance out his inner demons.

Still, he is only human and needs friends and lovers, always feeling that he is risking their lives due to their association. Perhaps this is why he travels so much around the world: to avoid close human relations. Despite this, he has lots of associations all around the world, and then in particular within the magic community.

It seems Constantine may be bisexual (Hellblazer #51). People easily trust him (which they shouldn’t) since he has a powerful and rare ability to inspire maximum loyalty for minimum effort.

Constantine is a borderline alcoholic and a chain smoker, and can get very cranky when out of cigarettes. His brand of choice is Silk Cut, though he has been seen smoking Marlboro or Camel’s from time to time, presumably when out of the country or when Silk Cut are unavailable.

Despite being a chain smoker himself, Constantine does not take any other drugs, and once called a friend a “Dirty lowlife bastard” when he found a needle with a nondescript drug in it. This is somewhat hypocritical as he has used many drugs to enhance his consciousness, for magical purposes or for mere recreation.

During his Mucous Membrane days he certainly wasn’t drug-free either, and the band’s goal was making music and getting laid. John had some talent as the lead singer and songwriter.

For relaxation he goes down to the pub for a couple of pints. His best buddies were:

  • Brendan Finn (who died from sickness, and who Constantine saved from Hell by defeating the Devil himself at the cost of getting the worst possible enemy forever; Constantine still sometimes drinks with Brendan’s ghost though)
  • Chas Chandler (a London taxi cab driver, who Constantine saved from his witch mother Queenie and her familiar when they had completely enslaved him)

Chas, somehow still alive, is often the only constant in Constantine’s life, and often works as his muscle, transport, storage facility, both due to them being friends and since Constantine has saved him and others around them many times over.

Constantine also gets beaten up physically by Chas at times when he has gone too far, or messed up Chas’s life a bit too much, and yet they eventually rekindle their friendship. Most of his friends are working-class fellows like himself.

There have been many women in his life as well, while only Kit Ryan and his recent, younger wife Epiphany Greaves have left any real and long-lasting impressions on his character.

He is protective of his occultist niece Gemma. He has an Odd, half-seductive relationship, although it’s usually kept professional only, with the succubus Chantinelle aka. Ellie. Nergal is by now spoken to as a very familiar enemy.

There’s been a lot said about John Constantine, all right, and everyone who’s known him has their own pet theory. Really, though, he’s just a man. Perhaps one day, if we let him, he can be a hero.


Quotes

“We get a sniff of sorcery and oh ! What plans we make ! We’ll shake creation and leave nothing but smiles and wit and a reputation all men envy !”

“You’ll be in heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.”

“First principle: never volunteer. Second: I’m pathologically incapable of taking orders. And third: I don’t make war, or support anyone who does. Sorry, chaps, my nonalignment policy is fanatical. An absolute line drawn in the sand.”

“Look, I’ve been whoring around in the magical house of fun too long not to know when one of its dodgy punters is feeling me up. Only question is : whose scabby hand is scrabbling inside the velvet glove ?”

(To the Devil) “You’re just another tosser thought he’d lead us to his promised land ! So you’ve twigged you were played for a twat in the first place : big bloody deal ! Don’t come whinin’ to me about it, bollocks !”

(Cursing a man by laying his hand on his forehead and quickly speaking) “It’s a pity about Keith’s TV set, Belshazzar. Baphomet, it’s a pity about Keith’s bowels. It’s a pity, Belial, about Keith’s erectile dysfunction.”

“No one has a line and no one has a soddin’ moral code either, not outside of a John Wayne movie.”

“You think I’m putting on an act, eh ? Man of mystery pretending to be Joe Average, right ? I don’t suppose it occurred to you it might be the other way ’round ?”

“I lost my thumb in a madhouse. Now, I bet there ain’t too many of you who can say that. This thumb here, it recently belonged to a careless driver. The road was wet. He took a corner too fast. Guess who was waiting with a pair of cutters ?”

“The double bluff is a complex business. Like most sleight-of-hand, it relies on the target wanting to be deceived.”

“I’ve had enough of this, Marston. Either you tell me what you want me for right now, or I send you straight to Hell. What’s it to be ?”

“Well ? This is what you wanted, isn’t it ? All right, Constantine. It’s time to find out just how much of a bastard you really are.”

“She’s really my type. The kind of creature that’d make your cold grandfather claw his way out of the pit for one last poke at life. I think I’m getting somewhere with her. I consider using a bit of the dark art on her but that’d be wrong. Not wrong in any moral sense (in these matters I have no moral sense). But dark art has a way of fucking with you if you misuse it.”

(Constantine sent the demonic Mako to a blissful soul cage designed for Burnham the crimelord, with whom he is talking to on his death bed) “I can see it all now. All the angles, all the little people you’ve fucked over — all the innocent lives you’ve destroyed — in your scramble for money and power and nasty kicks without consequences. Well, I’m the fucking consequences, sunshine. And I’m thinking Mako won’t be too chuffed that you got him trapped in that soul cage for the rest of eternity. Your private heaven just turned into a private hell, mate — and Mako’s the devil. Give him my best when you get there, won’t you ?” [Burnham panics] “You made your bed, Burnham. Fuckin’ lie in it.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Constantine

Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Int: 11 Wil: 10 Min: 08 Occupation: Rogue demon hunter, Exorcist, Occult dabbler, Conman, Joker, Thief, Magus
Inf: 09 Aur: 12 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 024 HP: 075

Powers:
Hypnotism: 06, Magic Sense: 02, Mind Probe: 06, Regeneration: 02, Speak with Spirits: 05, Synchronicity Sense: 07

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Hypnotism, Magic Sense, Mind Probe and Speak with spirits are skilled Powers
  • Regeneration and synchronicity sense are Mystic-Linked
  • All Powers, except Hypnotism, are Minor Marginal (-1)

Skills:
Artist (Musician): 05, Charisma: 10, Medicine (Forensics): 03, Occultist: 14, Thief: 06, Weaponry (Firearms, Melee): 03

Advantages:
Attractive, Expertise (Astral traveling, Gambling & Hazard Games, Sleight of Hand, Hallucinations), Familiarity (Streetwise), Genius, Gift of Gab, Iron Nerves, Languages (Latin, some French and Spanish, fragments of Haitian Creole and Mandarin Chinese), Luck, Magic Background, Omni-Connection, Reputation (in mystic communities only; GM Call to allow its use), Scholar (Cults, Demonology, Spellcraft), Slowed Aging

Connections:
Chas Chandler (High), Gemma Constantine Masters (High), Madam Xanadu (High), Magic Community (Low), The Swamp Thing (Low), The Trenchcoat Brigade (i.e. Dr. Occult, the Phantom Stranger and Mister E, Low), Zatanna Zatara (High), Timothy Hunter (Low), The Spectre (Low), shade the changing man (Low) and others (see below for details).

Drawbacks:
Guilt, MIA (Nicotine), Married (Epiphany Greaves, very recently only, 0 pts.), Misc. Drawback (Tainted, 5 pts ; due to an infusion of demon blood John is detectable and trackable by Magic Sense as an evil character and his blood is extremely toxic to vampires and will boil in holy water and likewise will his semen spoil a holy virgin, while an infusion into another character will drive him homicidal, 5 pts), Minor Physical Restriction (Missing left thumb, only during Hellblazer #268-278), Unluck


Magic runs high

Constantine has grown a lot in occult knowledge over the long years. In his twenties, during the Newcastle incident (as retold in Hellblazer #11), his Occultist was at around 8 APs, and has since slowly raised it up to its current value.

As a rule of thumb, his Occultist skill has increased by 1 AP every four or five years of his life since that time.

The version of Constantine that most people recognize, the one in his late thirties, has an Occultist of 12 APs, and this is also the version partaking in various crossovers in other titles. His specialty has always been Demonology, and he has always had at least an Expertise advantage in this field.

Constantine doesn’t always use exactly the right Necessary Component in a Ritual if such components are hard to obtain; he calls this improvising, and it often works, but sometimes with odd or disastrous side effects (or increased Casting OV/RVs).

He first got the Guilt advantage after the Newcastle incident, and has also, in periods had various degrees of the Psychological Instability drawback.

At all times it seems Constantine has access to certain mental and mystical disciplines including hypnotism, mind reading, astral communication and regeneration. He’s also an expert illusionist, but this seems more skill-related than magic-related.

Naturally, he often rides the synchronicity highways meaning he travels real fast and is real lucky (sometimes unlucky).

Different authors tend to make different aspects of the character prominent – for example Hypnotism (Delano, Ellis, Jenkins, Diggle), Mind Probe (Delano) and synchronicity sense (Gaiman, Jenkins) – and so a Player is urged to select what Powers will be available during the adventure, and pay the Marginal Power costs to unlock said powers (usually a max of 2).

Magic sense is an excellent power that makes for great adventure hooks, and that may be granted freely by the GM.

Most of his magic is in Ritual form, however, and he’s good enough to cast rituals others consider impossible or only told of in old legends. Other times he just combines effects from many magic disciplines, thus creating new rituals on the fly.

He has also, on occasion, cast spells that some would classify as combat magic (particularly the Milligan version).


Examples

Below are some non-exhaustive examples of Constantine’s magic – rituals which are mostly manipulative or defensive in nature and that are always available for use (their use will require that the GM and Player work out the details since Necessary Components and Casting Time are often not clear in the source material):

  • Breaking and entering – by use of a pendulum and an ouija-board for a few minutes he can simulate Thief (Locks & safes) of 10 APs.
  • Divination – Used a pendulum and map for up to an hour to find the location of a magical disturbance (Hellblazer #4 and #182). The same technique – jokingly referred to as invoking the car wreck gods – was used with a map for two hours to predict the location and time of the next lethal car accident in the city (Hellblazer #277).
  • Demon summoning – Summoned the demon Nergal, using candles, incense, a magic wand, blood, the demon’s name and a power glyph inscribed by a feather pen that is burned, and cast for 9 APs of time, to destroy a monster for him, which it did (although John lost control, due to his inexperience) (Hellblazer #11), and a lot of other summonings over the years. The spell of Summoning of 12 APs also allows the caster to temporarily control the demon if glyph and name fit.
  • Curses – Placed a curse, using dead animals and formaldehyde, on his father that caused him to waste away. In game terms the curse may have been a Cannot Heal drawback (Hellblazer #31). Another temporary curse hastily placed on a snotty bastard, using only power words, that caused him bowel problems, erectile dysfunction and his television to malfunction (Hellblazer #202) – this works as if the target temporarily receiving the Unluck Drawback.
    He also knows a powerful Gaulish curse, although it is extremely difficult to cast requiring perfect intonation of the words, and its effect has not been seen (Hellblazer #281).
  • Exorcism – John has many times applied regular exorcism techniques to drive out possessing spirits and demons (for example, Hellblazer #120), which requires knowledge of Christian scripture.
  • Psychic mediation – Acted as a psychic medium, allowing the spirit of a boy’s dead mother to speak through him during a séance (Hellblazer #213).
  • Obscure ward creation – Placed a magical sigil on a succubus named Chantinelle which prevented the forces of Heaven and Hell from tracking her (Hellblazer #60), and later carved the sigil directly on her soul thus giving her permanent detction protection (Hellblazer #61), as well as using sigils to hide himself from Satan (Rake At The Gates Of Hell TPB).
    Also placed various sigils on an abandoned caravan that he housed himself in to hide himself from the demon Nergal (Hellblazer #12). Such time-consuming wards, sigils and protecting circles (requiring crayons and candles) effectively prohibit any type of minor and major demon, angel, monster or spirit from finding the target. These anti-tracking versions obscure the view of anyone trying to track or find him or the protected target by Obscure 20 APs (Hellblazer #81).
  • Barrier ward creation – these wards powerfully prevent all types of mystical creatures, perhaps even the Devil himself, from entering a marked area or door (an apparent barrier effect of around 20 APs). There may be at least one Rare Necessary component to some of these since a Magic Field ritual done with few resources in a prison failed (Hellblazer #282).
  • Golemancy – Raised a golem that did his bidding until he erased the first letter from its head (Hellblazer #167).
  • Oclumancy – Erased a man’s traumatic memories, presumably by using Hypnotism (Hellblazer #217), and another time erased an old woman’s memory of supernatural happenings to give her peace (Hellblazer #107).
  • Necromancy – Raised a group of murder victims as zombies to attack their murderer (Hellblazer #230) and raised a soulstorm that blew a hole in a wall and killed a weapons tester. Clearly, this was the Animate Dead and required a hacksaw and some other necessary components and a few hours of time.
  • Vivimancy – Explained to his niece Gemma how to commune with his still living soul, after making himself brain-dead to avoid “The Beast” getting into his mind (Staring At The Wall TPB). This was a Speak with Spirits Ritual.
  • Illusion – Making people think he’s someone or something else. Or using Illusion to scare susceptible opponents into catatonic insanity (Hard Time TPB, Hellblazer #274 and several other times). As such he may know a simple horrifying Ritual, which is not merely Illusion, but Aura of Fear or Phobia. Another time he hastily cast a hallucination that made him appear dead and rotting (Hellblazer #260).
  • Synchronicity highway or synchronicity wave traveling – An instinctual supernatural ability to be in the right place at exactly the right time. This has led John to uncanny luck at games of chance (practically guaranteeing that he will win), the ability to avoid harm and to meet the right kind of ally to help prevent or stop an apocalyptic event from happening (mostly during Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer run, but also in the more recent Roots of Coincidence TPB).
    He once, recently, seemed to use this ability – through a place of power – to travel back in time to find someone (Hellblazer Bloody Carnations TPB).
  • Dimension travel (traveling, summoning, banishing; Hell only) 10 APs or so. The ritual is a drawn circle, by use of crayons, within which a two-way portal is opened (Hellblazer – City of Demons #5, among others)
  • Influence Identification – this ritual, which requires a crystal ball, incense and a painted rune on the caster’s face, is used to gather information about a target that is the influence behind a given event. As such it just produces RAPs of information using Remote Sensing.
  • Revelation – Constantine may reveal simple illusions and disguises by a spell of revelation. While the casting time is immediate and requires only a Scholar in Demonology, yielding Truesight of 6 APs, it is rare and costs 5 HPs to cast (Hellblazer #261).
  • Regular Binding spell – Constantine’s usual binding spell, which he claims to have used on the Norfulthing, requires no necessary components, has a casting time of 3 APs and provides Mystic Freeze of 8 APs. It’s very rarely used, however, and requires him to pay 10 HPs to temporarily access it (Hellblazer #262 and Hellblazer #264). Variants of these spells are likely also used for binding ghosts, djinns and such into bottles (Hellblazer #1).
  • Persian Binding spell – Once, during a lethal and extremely stressful situation, Constantine cast an extra powerful binding spell that effectively stopped a major demon in its track for a while. The supposed game effect is Mystic Freeze 12 APs or so. This powerful spell has no necessary components and a Casting Time of only 2 APs. He has cast this particular spell only twice in his lifetime, which is best simulated by making access to this particular spell a Seriously Marginal ability (i.e 25 HPs) (Hellblazer #281).
  • Magic surgery – Constantine once attached a thumb to replace his own lost thumb by magical means. He used a welding torch as one of the components, as well as, of course, the replacement thumb kept in a container referred to as God’s Breath (Rare component). Also, as the binding substance, was some sulphur taken from Hell. The effect of Medicine (surgery) 15 APs or so comes with the additional effect of rejuvenating any rotting effects (Hellblazer #278).

Use of the Genius Advantage

The Genius Advantage represents Constantine’s occult ability to create impossible spells, far beyond those of anyone else’s ability. Furthermore, these often require but simple components that wouldn’t usually be acceptable for such elaborate Rituals.

Further, it enables him to regularly exchange rare and expensive necessary components of found Ritual descriptions with junk and still successfully manage to cast the Ritual as if he had used the right ingredients. His spells have taken even major demons and the devil himself by surprise as no one in existence was supposed to be able to do what Constantine just pulled off!

By Dr. Peter S Piispanen

Source of Character: All appearances 1988-2012 – Hellblazer 1-282 (DC Vertigo books), All His Engines Graphic Novel, Pandemonium Graphic Novel, Bad Blood Graphic Novel, Dark Entries HC, The Trenchcoat Brigade (miniseries), The Books of Magic (miniseries), Hellblazer – The Books of Magic (miniseries), Hellblazer – City of Demons (miniseries), Vertigo Secret Files – Hellblazer, Hellblazer Annuals and specials, various guest appearances

Helper(s): Frank Murdock, Adam Fuqua, William Chamberlin, Azrael, Woodrow Hill, wikipedia

Writeup completed on the 24th of February, 2012.

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