[x] I thought some people might find it useful to have a reading order for the John Constantine, Hellblazer books since they are one of the trade series that DC/Vertigo has thusfar left mostly unnumbered. They have started releasing new numbered volumes, but there is still a lot missing and they've even skipped some books with the new releases. It always drives me nuts trying to check the inside of each book for what issue numbers they contain and all that, and I figured other people probably go through the same trouble when rearranging book shelves or loaning comics, so I wanted to try to save you the hassle.

I'm going to do my best to put these in the most logical reading order, but nothing is perfect, especially as some books (like Rare Cuts) contain issues that span multiple other books. The primary Hellblazer series itself will be bolded for easy reference, one-shots, mini-series, Swamp Thing, and other books that feature Constantine prominantly will be in standard font, and other less-than-notable appearances will be italicized. Asterisks indicate books that I do not (yet) own and/or have not yet read, so my knowledge of their contents is limited to online research.

For now, this list will only include the classic Hellblazer version of John Constantine, though you can find a new incarnation of the character in the New 52 as part of Justice League Dark and in his own new ongoing series. The Constantine TV series on NBC is also very much worth watching.

I'm no expert, but I am a collector and this is my best effort at putting such a list together. I hope you find it useful and share it with your friends or fellow collectors.

-elfie


[notes | author | edition | ownership] full list | no notes | titles only


Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman  (Hardcover, Absolute Edition)
It was the end of the world, you didn't think Johnny boy would show up for the party? His appearance here is actually rather brief, but still noteworthy as it occurs pretty much concurrently with his first appearance in Swamp Thing. Certainly not required Hellblazer reading though.
You did know that John Constantine finds his origins in Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, right? And that Moore created him because he wanted to write somebody who looked like Sting from The Police? Well if you didn't now you do! The Curse marks Constantine's introduction as the Swamp Thing's Jimminy Cricket as the Hellblazer sends the Earth Elemental on a quest that will forever change his life (if you can call it a life). In a Murder of Crows, Swamp Thing continues his journey of discovery as set out by Constantine, meeting Deadman, the Phantom Stranger, the Specter, and Etrigan along the way. In Earth to Earth, much to the chagrin of John Constantine, Swamp Thing must take a break from his quest in order to locate his spouse, Abby Arcane, who is being persecuted for their relationship. Along the way Alec will go up against Batman and Lex Luthor.
Original Sins collections several early issues of John Constantine's first break-away from Swamp Thing into his own monthly title. It is here that John obtains his demon's blood from Nergal. If you're reading Swamp Thing as well, check below for skipping-around instructions.
The end of Regenesis and all of Spontaneous Generation actually take place concurrently with Original Sins. They tell completely separate stories except for the very last issue in Original Sins, which takes place between the last two issues of Spontaneous Generation. To get everything in the right order, read Original Sins up to page 231, then read all of Regenesis and continue into Spontaneous Generation until page 126, then finish up Original Sins, then finish up Spontaneous Generation. Swamp Thing spends most of Regenesis and Spontaneous Generation dealing with a new entity that was intended to become the next Swamp Thing when he was thought to have died. As a last ditch effort, he decides to inhabit John Constantine's body in order to sire a child which this new spirit will become. Etrigan and the Phantom Stranger also appear to run a little commentary during the last chapter of this story.
John Constantine, Hellblazer - Volume 2: The Devil You Know by Jamie Delano
With the Devil You Know, Vertigo is finally releasing the follow-up to Original Sins in which Constantine achieves his first victory in his long battle with Nergal. Follow-up is also provided for the events of Swamp Thing: Spontaneous Regeneration as well as containing the two-part epic, The Horrorist.
Swamp Thing - Volume 9: Infernal Triangles by Rick Veitch
A bit more of the Spontaneous Regeneration plan is revealed in Infernal Triangles, where you will find appearances by Superman, Lex Luthor, and Guy Gardner as well as Swamp Thing's involvement in DC's Invasion! crossover. Constantine, however, stars only in the first chapter of this book. His scenes actually take place somewhere within the first few chapters of The Devil You Know, but there are no important plot elements which require you to read this story intermixed with that one.
Sandman - Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman  (Hardcover)
Constantine makes a brief appearance in Sandman as Dream tries to recover his symbols of power.
John Constantine, Hellblazer - Volume 4: The Family Man by Jamie Delano, Dick Foreman, Neil Gaiman
In Fear Machine, as Constantine is searching for a way to reconnect with humanity he finds himself thrown in with a group of neo-pagans with psychic abilities, who are approached by a defense contractor interested in exploiting their powers. Then in the conclusion of Jamie Delano's run on Hellblazer, John Constantine must face a serial killer known as the Family Man.
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Rare Cuts by Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis
Rare Cuts was one of many Constantine books that were released in conjunction with the movie in order to boost cross-media interest. It contains several one-shot stories (and one two-parter), including the often-mentioned "Newcastle incident," in which we see the demise of Zatara. Unfortunately, its ordering is difficult because it contains issue that span from The Devil You Know to Rake at the Gates of Hell. I have placed it here because most of the stories do take place before Dangerous Habits, and those that don't do not reveal any major plot points and are therefore safe to read early. Again, this isn't necessary, but if you want to be meticulous about reading order: skip "Newcastle: A Taste of Things to Come" as it's already printed in The Devil you Know, skip "Early Warning" since it's part of the new printing of Family Man, read "How I Learned to Love the Bomb" between The Family Man and Dangerous Habits, read "This is the Diary of Danny Drake" after the eighth chapter of Bloodlines, and finally read "Another Part of Hell" after Rake at the Gates of Hell.
Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days by Neil Gaiman
Midnight Days is not a Hellblazer book. It's just a collection of one-off Neil Gaiman stories geared at fan-boys-and-girls. It does, however, contain one issue of Hellblazer, which is only collected in newer printings of Family man. Your third option for this one story, if you absolutely must have everything Hellblazer would be to pick up Constantine: The Hellblazer Collection, which is listed below along with the movie.
Doom Patrol: Magic Bus - Volume 5 by Grant Morrison
Again, this is definitely not a Hellblazer book, but John Constantine does make a brief appearance. Okay, that's not entirely accurate. It would be more accurate to say John Constantine makes a brief appearance as a spandex-clad parody of himself alongside the Phantom Stranger during the psychadelic dream of Danny the Street. Strange doesn't even begin to cover it.
The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman writes John Constantine as one of the Trenchcoat Brigade, a name Constantine gives to a group comprised of himself, the Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult, and Mister E, as they start Timothy Hunter on his journey to become the most powerful magician in history.
If you want to see where much of the inspiration for the movie came from, Dangerous Habits is the book to read. Centered around Constantine's bout with lung cancer, this is a far darker take on the situation than you will see portrayed in film. This is usually the first Hellblazer book I lend to people, as it is one of my personal favorites. In Bloodlines, a member of Britain's royal family is posessed by the same demon that once controlled Jack the Ripper. Bloodlines also contains the first appearance of Kit Ryan. Fear and Loathing gives us more Gabriel than the brief glimpse we get in Dangerous Habits. Gabriel's story here is also a lot less viewing-audience-friendly than it was in the movie. In Tainted Love John must face a vampire that has stalked the Constantine family for generations and the return of an ex-girlfriend, Kit. Damnation's Flame is greatly a spiritual journey for Constantine as he struggles with his relationship with Kit and takes a hallucinatory trip across America, confronting his demons, his past, and his own funeral. John has one last meeting with Kit in Rake at the Gates as Satan returns to claim revenge for the events of Dangerous Habits.
Eddie Campbell writes a brief time-travel story before Paul Jenkins begins his run in Critical Mass, pitting John against the Rainbow Serpent. Constantine later finds himself In the Line of Fire, helping out his epileptic neighbor, battling a demon that thrives on hooliganism, and meeting "the most evil man in the world."
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Son of Man by Garth Ennis
Have you ever heard the interpretation of genies where they grant you wishes, but always take the most literal interpretation of your wish in order to give you what you asked for but not what you wanted? John seems to like that idea as well, because Son of Man tells a story of a mob boss, Harry Cooper, who wanted his dead son, Ronnie, back from the dad. John gives him what he asked for, but not what he wanted. Though Dillon did not return for Son of Man, all of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's classic run on Hellblazer reflects the high quality of writing and art seen in their Preacher series.
Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan, takes on the Master of Bad Luck Magic as he must track down the killer of his old friend, Isabel Bracknell in Haunted. Setting Sun is a collection of one-shot John Constantine stories, written by Warren Ellis during his last four issues of Hellblazer.
Brian Azzarello, perhaps most famous for 100 Bullets, takes on John Constantine in these books. His run on Hellblazer finds Constantine in some of the most twisted situations I have ever read, including a small-town porn ring in Good Intentions and joining up with some Neo-Nazis is Highwater. Hard Time looks at life behind bars, while Freezes Over provides an interlude between Good Intentions and Highwater as Constantine meets up with FBI Agent Turro before continuing his trek across American's back roads.
Names of Magic by Dylan Horrocks
Names of Magic was a transitional book between the Books of Magic and the Age of Magic series, the latter of which has never been collected in trade. In Names of Magic, Tim briefly makes contact with members of the Trenchcoat Brigade in order to ask them for tutelage.
Lucifer - Volume 1: Devil in the Gateway by Mike Carey
Prior to his run on Hellblazer, Mike Carey briefly wrote Constantine into his Lucifer series as an observer to Lucifers machinations.
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Lady Constantine by Andy Diggle
The Lady Constantine mini-series, which follows the story of one of John's ancestors, was actually released during Mike Carey's run on the primary series, below. However since it is a complete off-shoot, I thought it would be best to place it outside of that group rather than break up the pace of Carey's run.
During Mike Carey's run on Hellblazer, something big is coming, something that could destroy everything, and Constantine must bring together a group of allies to stop it. Last time he got a bunch of magic-types together like this, many of them did not survive. Before this arc is concluded, major changes will come for the Swamp Thing, leading to his new ongoing series. Red Sepulchre starts off Carey's run with a story about John's niece, Gemma, who is kidnapped by a group that believes they can use her to control him. Next, in Black Flowers, we see the beginnings of the comic apocalypse. Now, have I mentioned that DC released a bunch of books at the same time as the movie in order to boost interest in both? Papa Midnite was killed off rather early in the Hellblazer series, but since he was going to be a major character in the movie, he needed a quick resurrection. That's what you're looking at in the interlude above. It's an interesting story on the origins of this foe, but, as they point out at least twice in the book, this is not the same grass skirt and top hat wearing Papa Midnite that you might remember. This incarnation is based absolutely on the character from the movie and, as far as I know, has yet to be used in the primary series at all. Johnson ties the framing story of Papa Midnite back into the main Hellblazer series by making reference to events that take place just before Staring at the Wall, even though it was actually written at least a year later. In Staring at the Wall, the apocalypse arrives, a defense is formed, and all is lost. Among the things that are lost is John's memory, which he struggles to regain during Stations of the Cross. In Reasons to be Cheerful, John tries desperately to control the damage brought upon by the price he paid to regain his memories during Stations of the Cross. The Gift is the conclusion to Mike Carey's run on Hellblazer in which John has to confront one of his his oldest and fiercest foes, Nergal, and ask him for help.
Swamp Thing - Volume 1: Bad Seed by Andy Diggle
John Constantine's actions in Staring at the Wall lead directly into Swamp Thing's new ongoing series, in which John makes several appearances.
John Constantine, Hellblazer: All His Engines by Mike Carey  (Hardcover)
All His Engines was part of the blitz to release several Hellblazer books around the same time as the film. But don't let that detract from this book at all, as it was excellently written by Mike Carey, who was the author of the primary series at the time. It did not tie-in to Carey's ongoing plot, however, so that is why it is separated from the rest of his run.
Denisa Mina picked up Hellblazer after Mike Carey's run, cursing Constantine with empathy for his fellow man in Empathy is the Enemy. The story continues in Red Right Hand as John's empathy continues to haunt him, as do a few old friends, as he fights to save Glasgow.
These three books span the entirity of Andy Diggle's run on Hellblazer. In Joyride, Constantine discovers a supernatural cause for the violence, crime, and drug abuse happening at the Hunger Hill community of South London. Then in the Laughing Magician, after running into his old friend Map, John Constantine receives a strange birthday gift from an African Shaman who explains that he is now the target of a magical serial killer. Finally, in Roots of Coincidence, John discovers that someone has been manipulating the events around him and to track this foe down, he must travel back to the Ravenscar mental hospital where he spent several years of his life.
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Chas - The Knowledge by Simon Oliver
Francis "Chas" Chandler gets his own spin-off while John is enjoying a beach vacation. "The Knowledge" is something every London cabby must posess. It is an elaborate system of routes through the city and Chas is a master. The demon Tuma'el wishes to posess this Knowledge for himself and Chas must find a way to stop him while coming to terms with being middle-aged.
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Pandemonium by Jamie Delano  (Hardcover)
For the first time since his original run, Jamie Delano returns to writing Hellblazer for this stand-alone graphic novel. Intelligence specialists have discovered elements of the Iraqi insurgency may be demonically possessed. Constantine is taken to Iraq to help with this little problem, but also because of his interest in a female Iraqi agent.
Dark Entries by Ian Rankin  (Hardcover)
In this stand-alone black-and-white graphic novel, paranormal investigator Constantine is recruited by a television executive to look into a locked-room mystery reality show that appears to be haunted. The guests are tormented by terrifying visions that only they can see. The only way for John to investigate is to join them, and the job becomes very personal very quickly as Constantine comes to know and care about the people who share his privacy-free prison. The show's producers are more concerned with ratings than the human suffering before them, and in a way, they seem almost as inhuman as any horror Constantine has gone up against.
Scab begins Peter Milligan's run on Hellblazer. In it John discovers that he has an unexplained, dark, disgusting scab on his body. And it's growing. This scab seems to somehow have something to do with a bloody dockers' strike twelve years ago in Liverpool. In Hooked, after getting dumped by his girlfriend, John Constantine goes to extremes to get her back, possibly even considering the use of a love potion. Constantine's enemies, the shape-shifting demon Julian and the young alchemist Epiphany, will have something to say about this turn of events as well. India opens with Constantine wanted for a murder he didn't commit. He leaves the UK and heads to India on a quest for purity in an effort to reconcile a very unfortunate turn in Hooked. But something wicked haunts the slums of Mumbai, leaving beautiful young women in its wake. While in India, Constantine mingles with street kids, billionaires, and Bollywood. Bloody Carnations finds Constantine trying to enlist the help of Shade, The Changing Man in order to regain his sanity. In Phantom Pains, John looks to replace his missing thumb while his niece, Gemma, plots revenge against him. The Devil's Trenchcoat, part of John Constantine's trademark look, gains a mind of its own after Gemma auctions it off to spite him. Death and Cigaretts concludes Hellblazer's 300-issue run before the series was cancelled in favor of resetting John Constantine in the New 52 universe.
Books of Magick: Life During Wartime - Volume 1 by Si Spencer
In this sometime-in-the-future apocalyptic tale that culminates the warnings of Tim Hunter's power, John Constantine plays a major role as leader of the remainder of the human race, working alongside Zatana in a great war amongst beings of magic, prophecised in Gaiman's original Books of Magic. So far, the second half of this story has yet to be collected in trade. I hope very much that it eventually is.
[o]See Also
Kingdom Come by Mark Waid  (Absolute Edition)
The Kingdom by Mark Waid
Another sometime-in-the-future apocalypse, Constantine does not actually make an appearance in Kingdom Come and the Kingdom himself, however a new Zatara shows up here as the child of John Constantine and Zatana, who is the original Zatara's daughter.
[o]Other Media
In my most humble opinion, Constantine was actually a pretty good film. I was able to completly ignore the fact that this was Keanu Reeves with the exception of that one "Woah. Cold." moment. Other than that though, I actually thought it was rather enjoyable. As I mentioned above, some of the movie was based on Dangerous Habits, though the movie takes more of the high road whereas the comic took more of the low. The Hellblazer Collection was again part of the whole Lets Get A Bunch Of Books Out Right Freakin Now For The Movie thing. In my opinion, this one isn't worth the effort, as everything released here had already been released elsewhere with the exception of the movie adaptation, which neither did the movie nor the comic justice. The only reason to buy this book would be to read Neil Gaiman's single Hellblazer issue if you absolutely did not want to pick up Midnight Days and have an older printing of Family Man.
Constantine  (Playstation 2, XBOX) *
Yes, there was a Constantine video game. Yes, it was based on the movie. But hey, it's got shotguns and flamethrowers!
John Shirley was tasked with writing the novelization for the movie. I never read it, but apparantly it was good enough that he has since written two more novels, which I'm told are more based in the comic book world than in the movie world.
Constantine
The new Constantine tv series is now airing on NBC, and is definitely worth watching.
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