When the news that the character of John Constantine was coming to television, there was fear that much of what made the character great was going to get lost in translation. In the “Hellblazer” comics, Constantine was a rude, crude, chain smoking demon killer who was never a strong protagonist but was always cunning enough to escape with his life.
News is starting to leak from the Constantine TV show that is coming to NBC, and one of the biggest vices in Constantine’s life has been omitted and it is all because of NBC standard and practices. Constantine smoking won’t be allowed on the television show. While this may not seem like a big deal to average fans, it completely throws out one of his biggest character traits.
“It’s the one thing, a compromise I guess,” director Neil Marshall told Collider. “On network it’s the one thing you can’t smoke on network. That’s one of his character traits. We’re working around that. We’re trying to get aspects of it in there as much as possible. We’ll see.”
The biggest thing to understand about Constantine smoking is that it is shown from the start to not be good. He smokes a lot and it really messes up his life. It is one of his vices and leads to his biggest downfall. The fact that NBC standard and practices won’t allow smoking in any manner or form is similar to when the comics code wouldn’t allow Marvel to write stories about the dangers of drugs because drugs were banned in every way. It is shortsighted and hurts the stories.
The results of Constantine smoking are explored in the fantastic “Dangerous Habits” story. It is here that Constantine, after years of beating every demon possible and living through adventures that he never should have survived, gets lung cancer. John Constantine basically kills himself because of his bad habit.
The way that Hell is set up in the “Hellblazer” comics is that there are three demons that run Hell. This is so no one demon can take over and there is always a balance of power to keep things under control. However, all three demons are consistent in their contracts for souls, so when Constantine secretly sells his soul to all three, there is a stalemate where he becomes protected. They can’t let him die or Hell will be torn apart. It is this act that makes Constantine the most hated human in existence to Hell.
Standards and practices have killed this opportunity and one has to wonder what other changes are coming. Marshall, a director I have a lot of faith in seems optimistic about the Constantine TV show though.
“Whatever the regulations are, you can be as dark and disturbing as you want and we’re going to go in that direction,” Marshall said in the Collider interview. “The intention is to be as dark and scary as possible with the show. And that was our whole kind of plan going in, to make it scary. So we’re going to explore all kinds of things. But the smoking is very frustrating. Who knows where it will go; where the story will go; where the character will go? There’s still lots of options.”
Is John Constantine smoking necessary for any story about the character? Is this a sign more changes might be coming for the Constantine TV show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.