Interview: Ray Fawkes Conjures Street Magic In ‘Constantine’

Writer Ray Fawkes (“One Soul,” Oni) knows that being on a book called “Constantine” featuring the magic-wielding anti-hero is potentially fraught with minefields. When he was introduced into the New 52 in “Justice League Dark,” it was greeted with some skepticism, the long-held invisible wall between the DCU and Vertigo knocked down completely to allow the chain-smoking, morally complicated Brit potentially rub shoulders with Batman and Superman. “It’s a little bit daunting because I know that there are fans of the old version of John who are very, very serious about the way they see him […] and I hope that I can win them over.”

Fawkes will be joined by co-writer Jeff Lemire and artist Renato Guedes in March for “Constantine,” the character’s spinoff from “Justice League Dark,” presenting “a new version of John,” the guy “who [uses] magic and knows what’s going on with it” in the DCU, according to Fawkes.

“They have no idea what kind of cost they’re incurring with their magic,” Fawkes says of the magical adepts that populate the current DC Universe. “John gets to put on this friendly face and gets to know these characters, and in some cases, manipulates them,” Fawkes explains. “Constantine” will be the place where DC readers will see the character’s true face, exposing a secret world of magic within the secret world of magic–layers within layers and secrets within secrets. John, living as he does in the innermost circles of arcane knowledge knows that “a little bit of magic is a dangerous thing,” Fawkes says–“He’s the guy who knows enough about it to know when not to use it.”

“We both very much loved the old ’Hellblazer’ title,” Fawkes tells me, but that doesn’t mean “Constantine” will be constrained by the character’s fictional history on the Vertigo side. He and Lemire aren’t taking anything as canon, so much as using them as guiding elements for their take on the character with an eye towards taking John in their own direction. It’s less about the “theological magic” and the ongoing conflict between Heaven and Hell, pushing the character towards more blue collar magic, Fawkes describing magic as something like a criminal act for John.

Fawkes says the collaboration with Lemire has been a very smooth process with very little ego involved–the duo has been able to bounce ideas off of each other with ease. And that’s great, because the two of them had to define the rules of magic in the DCU with “Constantine”–something Fawkes says he and Lemire have began documenting together (although readers shouldn’t expect to see anything called “The Rules of Magic” anytime soon). Somewhere out there is a bible of magic for the DC Universe–its limits and capabilities as a shared resource among the company’s writers which Fawkes describes as instructional but not necessarily binding.

The new DC is still flexible right now, and it seems like Lemire and Fawkes are trying to keep things flexible enough so that John can interact freely with classic magic characters while also coming into contact with more traditional heroes in the capes and tights set, or villains like Lex Luthor. “John is the right kind of character to offend those kinds of characters–he’s smart, he’s slick, with an indeterminate power level, and he’s willing to run a game on anyone he thinks deserves it.”

“Constantine” #1 will be available March 13 from DC Comics.

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