John Constantine is a character I feel very strongly about. I wouldn't claim that Jamie Delano's run writing it was the best comic ever, but it is the single comic series that is dearest to my heart. For a whole host of reasons, John Constantine is a character with a lot of personal resonance for me. So this cartoon sums up how I feel about the forthcoming Constantine film.
For all I know, Constantine will be a pretty good movie for folks who don't know anything about the comic. The trailer has some cool eye candy in it. My trailer-dar makes me suspect bad writing, but it could be wrong. So a fun movie is plausible.
I'm trying to resist a fanboyish response that the movie should star Sting, because that's who Alan Moore says he told Steve Bissette and John Totleben to use as a reference when drawing him ... blah blah blah. I recognize the need to change some things around in the transition from a comic or a novel to a film. The Lord of the Rings and X-Men are good recent examples of genre films that take a lot of liberties with the details of the source material, but do it with respect for the spirit of the original. Both did things I wouldn't have done had I been making a film, but most of their changes really worked. In some places --- like Gollum's final moments, or Stryker's driving motivation --- the little changes actually feel like an improvement truer to the spirit of the story than the original.
To that point, Alan Moore, the writer who created the character, has shrugged at other film adaptations of his work. Asked about From Hell shortly before it was released, Moore said:
I think that it'll probably be a very, very good film. It won't be my book, and I kind of understood that from the beginning. I mean, From Hell takes about five hours to read. Even with some serious editing, you've got to take out about three-fifths of the book before you've got it down to something like film length, and the three-fifths that'll be taken out will obviously be a lot of the stuff that I was most interested in: the strange architectural ruminations, or the sort of ponderings upon history and mythology and geography. But that's not really going to play in Poughkeepsie, and it really wouldn't work for a Hollywood movie. So I accept and acknowledge that it's obviously going to have to be very different, but I'm sure it'll be a good film. What I'm hoping for is a situation like, say, the one with Philip K. Dick's short story, "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" It was a very, very good short story, and the film Blade Runner was a very good film which didn't necessarily have a great deal of connection with Dick's story. But both were successful entities in their own right. I think that's the kind of position that I have to take with the film.
But Constantine takes the liberties of adaptation too far. In the comics, John Constantine is a snarky blond working class Brit whose iconography includes chain smoking and wearing a dingy yellow trenchcoat. He is not a mopey black-haired American with a big gun and tattoos. Calling the guy in this movie John Constantine is an insult. If you made a movie of From Hell, which is largely about Jack the Ripper, and decided to change Jack the Ripper into an American stalking the streets of '20 Chicago with a tommy gun, no matter how good the movie was people would be rightly upset.
So I'm pissed. As rumour has it Alan Moore has
instructed (DC Comics) to not credit him as the creator of the character. And putting his money where his mouth is, he has instructed that the royalties that he was splitting with his co-creators goes exclusively to the artists (Rick Veitch and Stephen Bissette) .... Often we hear about an artist upset that his creation has been butchered but this is the first I can recall where the creator asked that both name and money be rejected.