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Through the looking glass

John is well acquainted with desperate gambits. He's a big risk player. All or nothing. Right now, though, he's just hoping this balances out in the end. If so, maybe he'll never be back here again. A man shouldn't have to visit hell too many times in a lifetime. It can't be good for the mental and spiritual health.

John's done what he said he'd do. He's seen his promises through. To everyone. The Endless, the incubus, the pirate: all set right. Death will be chewing his ear soon enough, he knows, but he's counting on that. Counting on it because there's one favor left to call in and two debts to be satisfied. First, his wicked double has requested a bit of vacation time. He'd rather refuse and piss in the man's eye, but the demon's the only reason he could get Jack and Pearl out of here. In trade, John will suffer a little time in hell...and the other..well...he plans for his twin to be 'surprised' by what waits for him. Again.

To make this work, though, he needs a professional. A little native skill to make it perfect. Balthazar has helped where absolutely necessary in this journey, but here's where he might actually be useful, in John's opinion. The evil double stands impatiently smoking while Constantine --the real Constantine-- explains what he needs from the smug ex-demon.

"Right... If 'e gets t'take the long joy cruise on the S.S. Constantine, 'm spendin' my time here in style an comfort. So, I need t'pass for his nibs, lock stock an' infernal barrel. All the spit and shine. Course, it's not like I'll be going through customs. Just need t'fool the rest of the damned for a bit. Little existential disguise work. Ephemeral plastic surgery, like. It'll be easier with an extra set of hands, see, and you'll earn yer wings and get the trip out."
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Down where the dead men go

Outside of the physical, time and distance distort. They stretch and collapse and the grand vastness of all that exists is clear, as is the smallness, chaos and fragility of it all. That's enough for existential thinking, though. Perception may alter, but it's no more the answer to the universe than a handful of mushrooms or a few tabs of LSD will provide. It's the hubris of the human mind to think that just because it's perceiving differently that it's perceiving more accurately. That's a load of bollocks. John watches the world and what's beyond it's veiled edges flow by and knows it's bollocks. He's been here before. The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.

Hell is an engulfing sort of place. Once you're in it, you're part of it. It overloads the senses. Warm and wet and full of unsavory smells. Blood and sex, sweat and shit, hot breath and rot. Like the massive insides of some desperate dying animal trying to hunt, feed and reproduce as much as it can in its last fleeting hours. And this spastic dance of primal need and anger goes on constantly. Every moment. For eternity.
John walks the roads of hell like a long time resident. Like a native. He doesn't know what all lies in wait for him, but he's aware of a few. He doesn't even know for certain where he's going, but he left himself a trail of bread crumbs. The trouble with breadcrumbs, though, is that they draw crows. The signal he left has faded and it's hard to feel out. He worries what else may have noticed it and -- worse yet-- what may have been able to sense his hand at work in this.
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You must be at least this smug to ride

Once he has enough people to assure he gets the job done with minimal collateral damage and, more importantly, with his own ass in tact, John gets together the material components. It's a minor demon. Shouldn't take much. He imagines he'll be dealing with the twins himself. They wouldn't be stupid enough to go running after a dangled rabbit. He's betting his arse, quite literally, that a minor incubus like Izrham will go for the bait in an instant. He gets a few things from the lock-up and his flat, rents a no frills bed-sit in the Nexus, and goes about calling up the aforementioned 'bait' and helping hands.

It will be odd working with two Tim Hunters at once, but he's been in stranger situations. He trusts the kid well enough, so why not trust two of them? The wild card here is the shaman. Njoki. She rubs John the right way, but that's all the more reason to worry. Women who intrigue him are usually dangerous and end up wanting his head on a pike. Still, she's the best option he has right now for getting him into hell without lighting any signal flares. Especially with one of two Tim's not feeling up to much abracadabra at the moment.

He calls on Njoki first, then both Tims. He sets out the necessary kit: chalk chiseled from the walls of the Hellfire caves, candles, a bit of sand he stuffed in his pockets while in the locker, the sharpened skeleton of a crucifix fish, a small paintbrush with baby's hair for bristles, and a bottle of what looks to be ink. He lights up the candles and lights a cigarette off the last.
All that's left is to sit on the miserable cot they call a bed in this place and wait for his guests to arrive.
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Attention: Under New Management ((OOC))

This puppet now has a new maestro at the strings. Little of note should be changing, this is just a notice for your convenience. Have something to say about it? Want to vent some bile or just toss out a few questions? Toss it here.

The dustman comes around twice a week to sort it all out.
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Quotes

Issue 3, Going for It by Jamie Delano
John: [Thinking] I've never bothered with the cats for this ritual - too hard to catch, and they shriek like fury when you impale them. Anyway, all that messing about with rotten corpses and pain stuff is just to impress the marks - all you really need are the right contacts and a bit of nerve.
John: [Aloud] Wake up Blathoxi, you bladder of bile. It's me, John Constantine. I want a word with you. C'mon, you pus-sac. Don't keep me waiting. I'm calling in your marker, now.
[A demon dressed as a butler appears]
John: Who the hell are you? I called for the lord of flatulence, not one of his discharges.
Steward: In Hell I am the steward of the club wherein the Lord Blathoxi takes his ease. He commands me to inform you that your ritual was incompetent and insulting. You should have used the cats!

First Demon: I think we're going to have to skin him and tan his hide.
Second Demon: Good, I need some new seat-covers for the BMW.

Issue 41, Dangerous Habits, Part 1: The Beginning of the End by Garth Ennis
John: 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 your 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 darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack. I walk my path alone... who would walk with me?

John: Few people really think about dying... paranoids worry about it without really understanding it. Victims of fatal accidents and murder don't have time to think. You only really think about it if you take the time to. And you only take the time if you know it's going to happen.

Issue 44, Dangerous Habits, Part 4: My Way by Garth Ennis
John: All I ever wanted was for the world to be free of your kind, whether you were here in Parliament on in senate or junta or Hell or Heaven. Maybe that's pointless, then. Maybe the people are too small and scared to be free. Maybe they want you there, shitting all over them. But like a salesman who's only too eager to sew up his market and stitch up his customers, you're happy enough to exploit that. Aw, sod it. Sod you. For whatever it's worth, you were always the enemy. So you can listen to what I have to say. Matt was right. I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed.

Issue 50, Remarkable Lives by Garth Ennis
King of Vampires: You seem very sure of yourself, you little mortal bastard, so I'll tell you what.... If you can tell me why your ordinary, piss-boring life is better than mine, you can walk out of here alive. If you can't, I'll cut your throat and drink my fill and leave you half alive forever.
John: Easy. Can you go for a walk in the park and hear the birds sing in the morning? Can you kiss a girl and know she loves you? Can you go out and get pissed with your mates? I can. And just so we're sure who's better off, why don't we sit here together and watch the sun come up in an hour or so?

Issue 76, Confessions of an Irish Rebel by Garth Ennis
John: [on Dublin] There's something about a town where nothing gets done 'cos they're all in the boozer talking about the best way to do it.

John: What was dying like?
Brendan: Could've done it in me sleep.
John: You did.
Brendan: There yeh are, then.

John: Tell you who else is dead, came as a complete surprise: Terry Butcher. Header did him in.
Brendan: Oh? I'd heard he ended up in a pie. D'yeh remember the time he lost his head wi' me? 'Cause I laughed at his idea for the book about the serial killer?
John: Was that "The Noise of the Sheep?"
Brendan: I tried to tell him, but what can yeh do?


Issue 78, Rake at the Gates of Hell Part 1 by Garth Ennis
John: Christ, I hope she's strong enough. After this it starts getting nasty.

Issue 79, Rake at the Gates of Hell Part 2 by Garth Ennis
John: It's just the way of it, son. We all sell our souls sooner or later.

Issue 81, Rake at the Gates of Hell Part 4 by Garth Ennis
John: Now I'm just like the bastards I've hated all me life.

Issue 82, Rake at the Gates of Hell Part 5 by Garth Ennis
John:You came back to find me: here I am. Whatever you want to do,wherever you want to go,just say the word and I'll do it. you want me to leave London and give up magic and even knock off the soddin' Silk Cut, no problem. anything . anything at all. I'm yours.
Kit: I'm sorry...
John: No. I don't want it. I don't want sorry, I don't want just friends, it's just bollocks that's what it is!

Issue 83, The End of Rake at the Gates of Hell by Garth Ennis
[John, dying of lung cancer, coughs up blood while the First of the Fallen stands over him and gloats]
The First of the Fallen: The air pressure alters and the air fills up with artichokes/A smell of piss and sodium, a noise like bitches twisting inwards, caught and left for carrion/(Razorlight, Razorlight)/And/I/Fall.
John: What the fuh- hch-- What are you on about?
The First of the Fallen: It's your friend's poetry. The twenty-nine-year-old teenage rebel. Execrable, isn't it? How does a bitch twist inwards? And is it only me, or do poems that don't rhyme reflect a fundamental lack of effort?

[Hugging Helen goodbye]
John: When I let her go, it felt like life itself was slipping through me fingers.


Issue 129, Son of Man, Part 1 by Garth Ennis
John: We are not children of celestial fuckin' light, walkin' arm-in-arm into the Age of Aquarius. We are wankers who wreck the planet an' piss on each other, 'til half the world's starvin' an' the other half's busy findin' new ways to keep from noticin' it. That's the fuckin' limit've our potential, believe me.

[On hating children]
John: I know, I know. "You were one once." I was a sperm once, but you don't see me wantin' to cuddle up to a fuckin' wankstain, do you?

Issue 130, Son of Man, Part 2 by Garth Ennis
Church Congregation: Satan! I'm worshipping Satan!/'Cause Satan has the things I adore.../Satan! I'm worshipping Satan!/'Cause Satan keeps me stocked with drugs and whores!
Mrs Potter: How are we supposed to worship alongside these-- these perverts? These practitioners of the black arts? This is blasphemy!
Rick the Vic: Mrs Potter, that's what the church of the blessed reconciliation is all about... How can we expect our dear lord god to welcome his fallen angel back into the fold, to love the unlovable-- if we ourselves turn our Satanic bretheren away from our door? Please, Mrs Potter. In the name of universal peace: share your hymnbook with Lord Gorgamoth Scumflagon.
Brendan: What in the name've Jaysis is he doin' this for?
John: Bet with the Pope.


Issue 132, Son of Man, Part 4 by Garth Ennis
John: Some soddin' possessed brat's about to rip this town apart an' God knows what else an' all of a sudden big bleedin' expert Chas Chandler turns into a fuckin' necromancer? Do me a favour...!
Chas: 'Least I know how to drive a cab.
John: Gettin' pretty fuckin' lippy in your old age, aren't you?

Issue 133, Son of Man, Part 5 by Garth Ennis
Fuckpig: You belong here, don't you, Constantine? This is your world. Eyelids slit off and babies on hooks. Guttings and rapings. I swear to fuck, yours is the kind of life serial killers wank off to.

Issue 134, Haunted, Part 1 by Warren Ellis
Detective Inspector Watford: [On seeing a boy inhaling from an aerosol] I had one like 'im the other day. Little girl. She did five cans of that. Froze her lungs solid. Nine years old.
John: Hello, Watford. Life in the police still a little ray of sunshine every day, is it?
Detective Inspector Watford: Never been a better time to be a copper, John. Thought we'd miss a Tory government something chronic, you know? But this new lot: "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime." Great stuff. Things get worse every bleedin' day. It's like Maggie never left office. Lovely jubbly.

Clarice: John, I've known you a long time. I know you. I've known what you are since I went down on you in Highgate Cemetery when you were twenty-four years old. You're an adrenaline junkie. Don't turn some poor dead girl into today's fix. She can't deserve that.

Issue 138, Haunted, Part 5 by Warren Ellis
Clarice: Talk to me, John.
John: Dead girlfriends, Clarice.
Clarice: Ah. Your favourite drug.
John: And magic.
Clarice: Your favourite fuck.

Issue 139, Haunted, Part 6 by Warren Ellis
John: My name's John Constantine, and here I stay: haunted by London. And London, haunted by me.


Issue 143, Telling Tales by Warren Ellis
Man: I got into a fight with this bloke last night. Didn't like the way her was looking at me girlfriend, know what I mean? Weird fucker, he was, all covered in tattoos and shit. And, you know, I was a bit lagered up, know what I mean? He he hit me. Here. And his hand was all twisted up when he did it, and he was laughing. So I go to the bog this morning, and... well, I've got it in the bag here. I think I shat out me own heart.


Issue 175, High on Life, Part 1 by Mike Carey
Angie: I'm into [magic] meself. I can probably help you.
John: Okay. So who are the big players locally? If I want my wife's toy boy to start shitting razorblades, who do I go to?
Angie: Oh, for fuck's sake!
John: What about zombies? Say I want to shag one, or rent a few to work someone over. Or I'm desperate to score a pint or so of baby blood. Where's the best place to buy?
Angie: Is that the lot, or is there more after the adverts?
John: I'm just making a point, love. Magic's a nasty game. Go and play with your dad's chainsaw instead.


Issue 176, High on Life, Part 2 by Mike Carey
Detective Inspector Watford: It's half past three in the sodding ante meridian. Whoever you are, your organs of generation are in hanging in the balance. Speak.
John: You couldn't find a balance big enough for my balls, Watford. Are you ready to play "Inspector Fuckwit Investigates"?
Detective Inspector Watford: Constantine, Interpol have got your down as dead. If you're looking for directions, move towards the light.
John: Can't, your fat arse is blocking the view.

Issue 177, Red Sepulchre, Part 1 by Mike Carey
John: I've already blown my cover, so I may as well drop my pants and bugger it properly.


Issue 182, Black Flowers Part 1 by Mike Carey
Slimy Demon: I am the emissary of King Arawn Pen Annuvin, who wishes you health and plenty.
John: Plenty of what? Mucus on my duvet?


Issue 186, Third Worlds, Part 3: The Pit by Mike Carey
Angie: You're going to stoke up on magic mushrooms and talk to ghosts?
John: I'm going to take a dream walk. Find some of the locals and have a chat. This is a quick and easy way to get started.
[Later]
Angie: And this is all historically authentic, is it? The torches? the mushrooms? The stripping down to your y-fronts?
John: I told you, they died out. And they didn't have a written language. This just-- just felt--
Angie: A) Pretentious. B) Stupid. C) A good excuse to get naked. Jesus wept!


Issue 194, Ward 24 by Mike Carey
Peter Gill: Thank Christ I can put this thing away now. I hate guns. Killing someone with a gun-- that's like shagging with a rubber on.


Issue 213, The Gift by Mike Carey
John: My talent's for lying. For sticking the knife in when people least expect it. Then walking away with a smile and a wave before they even realize they're bleeding.


Issue 214, R.S.V.P. Part 1 by Mike Carey
John: Four o'clock and it's already getting dark. Solstice only a few days away. Winter magic, where we kill and eat the sun to give us strength to make it through the cold. Only it feels like it's already dead.

John has been handed an invitation to a magician's ball.

John: Well I'm just lost for words, mate. Overwhelmed, that's the only word for it. I mean, two hundred generations of bearded old geezers have used magic as a tool for unlocking the mysteries of creation. Breaching the walls of life and death. Stuff like that. But fuck them if they can't take a joke, right? It's time we all put our glad rags on and had a good old knees up. A verbal answer? I'd rather have my guts drawn out with hooks than waste an evening with a shower of chinless fuckwits like you.
Etheridge: That's-- I'm-- I find that really disappointing, John.

John: I don't know where it comes from, this impulse to set everything by. To save it up. As if the past doesn't die unless you give in and fucking bury it. Or as if you can read your own past, like runes. But the past is another country, and there's razor wire along the border and machine-gun nests every fifty yards.


Issue 215, R.S.V.P. Part 2 by Mike Carey
John: So. Magic. What's it all about, then? I wonder what you were after when you go into the game. It's usually something. Something specific that you think is worth taking risks for. Money. Sex. Revenge. Power. Enlightenment. Thinner thighs in thirty days. It's a long time ago for most of you, I know. Maybe you don't remember. Fuck, maybe you don't even want to. But I'll tell you something for free. At rock bottom, it's always about the same thing. It's always about entropy. The Universe is winding down. Things fall apart. The moving finger writes, and what it writes is "Tough shit." You can't get something for nothing. Like God said to Adam when he kicked him out of the garden, "Now you've got to work for a living." If there ever was a free lunch, it ended right there. So we push and we pull and we sweat. Putting in a shit-load of energy to get a little back. Third Law of Thermodynamics, right? The one we all love to hate. Cheers. But with magic, it's different. Or it could be. Case in point -- this fine old plonk. How did it get here? Grapes had to ripen. Peasants had to toil. Some plucky kid in Marks and Sparks had to zip a long the aisles with his pricing gun. Lots of effort. Lots of energy. And once it's gone, it's gone. When things fall apart -- they do not put themselves back together again. But if you ask a demon to bring you some wine -- or jiffy some up with a spell -- well, you're cheating the taxman, aren't you? It comes for free. No grapes. No peasants. No entropy. So here we all are, then. Chasing the earthly paradise. Trying to sneak back into Eden through the back door, because work is for mug punters. You stupid arrogant little shits. We're not playing fire, -- here we're playing with napalm. There's a war on and we're whoring with the enemy for pennies. Innocent people die when we fuck up. And we fuck up all the time. Oh, don't get me wrong. Eden's a nice place. I was there a few months back. Left a piece of myself buried in the ground there, for reasons I won't go into. So I can you, God hates our kind most especially. The cheats. The hellblazers. The collaborators. Look -- this is what Heaven has to say to the likes of us.

Clarice: They'll never forgive you. As long as you live, no magician in the world will ever lift a finger to help you again.
John: London isn't the world, Clarice. It just thinks it is. You people need to fucking well get over yourselves. I like to think I've helped.
Clarice: You showed them their death. You showed them how small they are.
John: Yeah. Total perspective vortex, that's me. They should give me a vote of fucking thanks. After all, there's no point in kidding yourself, is there? That way madness lies.

John: All my best mates. Just like old times, eh? Because the old times were never less than fucking terrifying. I don't know if they're an honor guard or a jury. Probably both. So I walk down the avenue they've left between them, past Frank, Ben, Judith. Looking them all in the eye, one at a time. Because you can't smack a roomful of people in the face with their own mortality and then hide under the bedclothes when Death comes calling on you.

John: It's coming on to rain, with perfect timing. The first drops running down my face so that from a distance you could mistake them for tears. Don't you believe it, mate. Don't you fucking believe it.

All His Engines, graphic novel by Mike Carey
Chas: You'll still need a driver. And there's me martial arts training-- that'll come in handy.
John: Tai Kwon Wheel Wrench? Shut up now, okay?

Melosa: He wants to know if you're-- devout. If you believe.
John: Devout? No. But there's not a lot I don't believe in.

Mictlantecuhtli: You forget yourself. I am no upstart demon, scrabbling in the dirt of the human soul. I am Mictlantecuhtli. I am a god.
John: Great stuff. I'm John-- and I'm a bastard.

John: Happy Families. What's that all about, eh? A bloody busted flush is what it is. You surround yourself with other people so the night doesn't seem quite so dark. Shout down the sound of the wind with arguments about whose turn it is to wash the dishes. Best not to kid yourself. Best not to give any hostages to fortune. You're on your own in the end. Always. Where else would you want to be?

Sandman Presents: Love Street, mini-series by Peter Hogan

Estella: I think we should drink to love. That's what Pammie would have wanted.
John: I generally drink because of it, darlin'.

Oliver: To ideals, then?
John: Yeah... Alright. I think I've got a couple left.
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Alternates

* The character of Jack Carter in Warren Ellis' graphic novel series Planetary is an analogue of John Constantine. Ellis had previously written several issues of Hellblazer, a run which ended when DC Comics refused to publish his story "Shoot" because it dealt with the sensitive subject of high school shootings (such as the Columbine High School massacre).
* Constance Johnansen was also created by Ellis for his Pryde and Wisdom series for Marvel Comics. She is a female parody of Constantine. Like John, she is wracked with guilt over the loss of many friends.
* Grant Morrison originally wanted Constantine to become a supporting character in his Doom Patrol series, but DC's editorial policy at the time prevented Constantine from making extended appearances in superhero comics, for fear of spoiling the realism of Hellblazer. As a result, Morrison created the magus Willoughby Kipling.[5] Like Constantine, he was a chain-smoking, trenchcoat-wearing cynic. Unlike Constantine, however, he was a lifetime alcoholic and looked rather like Richard E. Grant's character in Withnail & I. It was revealed in Hellblazer #51 that he and Constantine have met, and he had a brief voice-over cameo in Warren Ellis' JLA: Classified story "New Maps of Hell".
* Ambrose Bierce was used by Phil Foglio for Stanley and His Monster, after being refused permission to use Constantine. He looks exactly like John. As the character described it "You learn the basics, have a hideous experience in a graveyard, they give you a trenchcoat and steal your razor. Like an assembly line, really." (The character is named after the author and journalist)
* Rasputin is a magician who has helped Firestorm come to terms with his position as a fire elemental, in much the same way that Constantine helped Swamp Thing. His role was originally going to be taken by Constantine himself, but like Morrison and Foglio, author John Ostrander was refused permission. Rasputin also turned up in Captain Atom.
* Neil Gaiman, a long-time admirer of Alan Moore, created John Constantine's ancestor for his award winning series, The Sandman. Johanna Constantine, despite being more polite than her descendant, showed the same daring attitude. The crowning achievement of her career was transporting the severed Head of Orpheus from France to Greece. After a deal with the Witch / Tramp Mad Hetty, who John himself had made contact with several times, she died at the age of 99, despising her immediate family and was buried somewhere near the temple where she had left Orpheus. The Two Constantines have met on at least one occasion.
* In the Doctor Who Virgin Missing Adventures novel Millennial Rites, a wave of psychic energy engulfs the world. Amongst those affected is "a blond-haired man in a dirty beige trenchcoat" in a Dublin pub.
* While it is never stated explicitly, the narrative character in Ookla the Mok's song "Stranger in The Mirror" mentions several things which make it clear that he is supposed to be Constantine, including a reference to 'the Newcastle incident'.
* In John Shirley's novel Hellblazer: War Lord, the British Constantine describes alternate universes, mentioning his movie counterpart (Shirley also wrote the novelisation of the movie):
“There's many another world. I don't know how well they briefed you on the other side, but alternate universes ain't a myth. There's a kaleidoscope variation on this full-tilt mess always goin' on. Blue Sheikh told me there's another John Constantine in an alternate universe, has black hair and lives most of his life in Los Angeles. Gets the bloody lung cancer and gets out of it, too, just like me. Black coat instead of a trench coat: he's me but not me. I sure as bleedin' hell don't want to be him — point is, with lots of everyone around in some universe somewhere, who needs this world?"