Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blogathon 17: Hellblazer: Haunted

[Discussed in this post: Hellblazer: Haunted (#134-139).]

I wrote about this arc somewhat previously in my Art Discussion Month 2010 post on John Higgins's art. Before discussing the arc a little more properly, I want to share something Ellis wrote about writing this title for his "From the Desk Of..." e-mail list:

Hellblazer is proving to be a strange write. It's taking me back to a younger version of myself, a past time; but couldn't be written by any other than the thirty-year-old version of me. It happens in places I walked first at the start of the decade - hell, old Stuart Green would recognize a couple. It draws on so many old memories, guts them and uses them for backdrop; the feeling of being in love in St James Park, in the summertime, or of being in love in Camden Town on a Friday afternoon at the edge of winter. Walking the shore of the Thames at sundown. Buying a mythic pint at the Coach And Horses and listening to the barman yell "Fuck off to the Epicure Restaurant if you don't like me bleedin' menu"... the exact feeling of knowing you can't go home because some poor bastard threw himself in front of the Tube train at Brixton station and is now a hundred-yard stain on the rails.... seeing a guy lay down on the corner of Denmark Street, turn blue, and die, right there, and as his arm loses tension and falls, seeing the needle roll from it... watching sunlight dapple the roof of St Paul's from Hungerford Bridge... watching a beautiful woman sink down in tears by the corner of Greek Street, among the pubs and arcades and stripshows and porn stores and the encroachment of the cafe society tables on the pavement, a privileged balcony from which to watch the sleaze and dissolution and pain and collapse and hopeless doomed glamour of poor sinking Soho...

Now, at thirty, I walk the lines of the city. Brixton to Stockwell. Liverpool Street to the Hackney Road, via Christ Church. The tangle of Soho. Prop up the old lady of Threadneedle Street as I light a cigar. Step out of Camden Town Tube station, where she and I used to kiss (I discover last week that the station's site used to be Camden's execution spot) into the World's End, where we drank, and where, I find, a witch lived, three hundred years ago. I walk the parks, stand in the open air theatre where another I once saw the RSC do "Romeo and Juliet", poke around... the wonder's gone, but I'm left with understanding. And that's good enough.

I sit in "The Moon Under Water", George Orwell's little dream of a bar given form, on the Charing Cross Road. I transfer a few notes and thoughts into the handheld. Transcribing London. Gone are the days where London was my girlfriend, and I was wrapped up in the newness and sexiness of her. I'm older now; the me of '86, '88, '90 all gone, gone as the women I shared London with. I found my long-time love somewhere else, and now I shall be London's friend and confidant, her agent in the wider world.

Me and John Constantine walk London's streets, only learning.

June 1998

London plays a big role in Haunted. I won't touch on the plot too much since that's handled in the art discuss post a bit more. It's mostly John riding to the rescue/revenge of an ex-girlfriend and giving a good shitkicking (in a sense) to an asshole magician by the name of Joshua Wright. What I find I enjoy when I reread Haunted is that sense of London and I'm fascinated by the idea that Ellis would use Hellblazer to reconnect with the city, to relearn it, to take him back to his youth... through a character older than he is (sort of). If you read the above, you'll notice a lot of what Ellis mentions in the comic. It's fascinating. I can't think of another comic is feels so much of its setting.

Another thing to notice about Ellis: because of his short run, he only adds to John Constantine's world. In this arc, we get Clarice, Map, Watford, Josh Wright... he added key characters that Mike Carey would use, not taking them off the board as most writers on the book do. They may leave one or two out and about, but Ellis didn't kill any aside from Isabel and Sparrowfart. That's interesting.

Sorry that we're going through a period of shorter posts. Since I wrote about this before (same with the collection of shorts that will be coming up next), it's hard to come up with some stuff that hasn't been touched on before. I will say, though, that the creation of Clarice and Albert here does raise some questions from me in future issues in Carey's run where I wonder what the fuck is going on.

I still love how John almost looks his age when John Higgins draws him.

In 30 minutes, we'll do the five stories of Setting Sun...

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