Tomorrow, Constantine will finally make its NBC debut, and fans will at last be able to see one of the most iconic, unique characters in comic book history come to life on the small screen. Throughout his storied history, John Constantine has conned, collaborated and collided with a diverse cast of characters. We know we’ll be seeing some of them brought to life on the show, as well as being introduced to some brand new characters for the first time.
However, Constantine is built around a core cast of just a handful of people and characters, which means it’s not difficult at all for someone inexperienced with the comics to get a sense of what to expect. One of these characters, Harold Perrineau’s angelic Manny, is original to the show, so we’ll have to discover him together. However, the remaining three all have their roots in comic lore, starting with the main man himself…
Introduced in the pages of Swamp Thing back in 1985, John Constantine soon became the star of Hellblazer, the longest-running comic in Vertigo’s history, before eventually making the leap into DC Comics – The New 52, where he anchors his own self-titled series and serves as part of the Justice League Dark. He’s been written by some of the most brilliant, popular and notorious writers in all of comics including Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Mike Carey, Jamie Delano, Brian Azzarello, Warren Ellis and Peter Milligan. While Constantine doesn’t wear a costume per se, he does have a very recognizable look—disheveled clothes, trench coat and a cigarette—that’s reproduced on the show. (Showing actual smoking on network TV is tricky, but it’s clearly inferred.)
A British magic user, Constantine is just as much of a con man as a conjurer. Cynical and possessing a wearying knowledge of the supernatural, it’s not that Constantine is a bad man. However, dealing with demons is a tricky business. It frequently requires sacrifice, and for the greater good, Constantine is usually willing to make that sacrifice. As a result, he tends to keep people at arm’s length and avoids getting emotionally attached, since he may get asked to, say, trade a friend’s mortal soul to save a child. However, he’s not entirely without attachment, as you’ll see in just a moment.
John Constantine is played on the show by actor Matt Ryan. Ryan’s the second actor to play Constantine onscreen, after Keanu Reeves’ portrayal in the 2005 feature film. However, Ryan is the first actor to play him who hails from the UK.
John Constantine’s oldest mate and one of the oldest Hellblazer characters, Chas made his first appearance back in Hellblazer #1. In the comic, Chas is a cabbie and a former roadie for Constantine’s former punk band, Mucous Membrane. (If the show decides to tell THAT story, you may want to put the kids to bed for that episode. Seriously.) The pair met early in life, with Chas feeling a real sense of loyalty towards Constantine after Constantine freed him from his mother’s magical slavery. For much of the comic’s run, Chas is the only long-running confidante that Constantine has.
Chas isn’t a magician himself, but he certainly has run-ins with the supernatural, even getting himself possessed by a powerful demon at one point and coming out the other side a pretty different person. He also has a bit of a temper, and is one of the very few people who can lay out Constantine without greatly regretting it later. In Hellblazer, Chas is often seen inside or alongside his distinctive yellow cab, and the same is true in the TV series. However, there is one key difference concerning Chas. You’ll discover it in the pilot.
On the show, Chas is played by Charles Halford, who once again is the second actor to embody the role. Shia LaBeouf played a much different version of the character in the earlier film.
Mary “Zed” Martin
Another very early Hellblazer character, Zed is a fellow magic user who is a sometime lover, sometime adversary to John Constantine. When it comes to magical capability, Zed’s every bit Constantine’s equal, though their approaches to the art are pretty different. In one of Zed’s more infamous storylines, she’s tapped by a bizarre religious cult known as the Resurrection Crusaders to give birth to the second coming of Christ. However, it doesn’t quite work out, due to Constantine’s…involvement.
The show’s take on the character will likely bring a few changes. We suspect that Zed won’t be running off with a cult shortly after she’s introduced, and we certainly hope she doesn’t decide to sport the funky, mostly bald hairstyle the comic book iteration eventually adopts. (Gotta love the 80’s!) In the most recent episode of DC All Access, it’s revealed that Zed gets visions on the show, inferring that she’s more of a psychic than a magician. This makes sense if she’s going to be a bigger character on the show than she ultimately was in the comic series—you want each character to contribute something unique to their pursuit.
Zed will be portrayed by Angélica Celaya on Constantine, which marks the first live action appearance of the character. Look for her in the premiere, but her storyline really takes off afterwards.
Constantine, Chas and Zed are the three most prominent Hellblazer characters to make the leap to the show, but they’re by no means the only ones. Look for Papa Midnite and Jim Corrigan to emerge this season, as well as other less human types. We may not know what’s on the way, but if you know the comics, it’s sure fun to speculate about who.
Constantine premieres tomorrow, October 24th, at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CST) on NBC.