The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
the star of Hellblazer comics and the movie Constantine
John Constantine is the central character in the comic book series Hellblazer. He is portrayed as a humanist in the comic book series, but was overtly portrayed as a Catholic character in the feature film adaptation titled Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves in the title role.
From: David Wade, "Culture Watch: Holy Warrior Nuns, Batman! Comic books take on the world of faith and spirituality", published in Sojourner Magazine, July 2004 (http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0407&article=040738; viewed 6 June 2006):
The offspring of Eisner's groundbreaking work is found in Vertigo Comics, an imprint of DC Comics, the home of Superman. These comics have had a love affair with Christian eschatology since day one, according to Vertigo writer Mike Carey. Titles such as Hellblazer, Preacher, Sandman, and Lucifer have all drawn on Christian imagery and ideas for some or all of their setup, characters, and backdrops.
From: "An argument for why religion should stay out of comics" message board started 17 May 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000076170&start=15; viewed 30 May 2006):
Posted: May 22, 2006 9:47 AM
No religion in comics?
Here are some of the things that may be missed or have to be adjusted.
From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632; viewed 8 June 2006):
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm
Post subject: Religious Inclinations of heroes
What about other heroes? I notice religion rarely plays a part in mainstream superhero comics (absent things like the Vertigo line) but have you ever picked up on hints or outright admissions by some heroes as to their religious inclinations?
Seems that atheistic heroes are as rare in comics as in real life. If they are religious it's a sort Judaeo-Christian wishy washy sort of religion... Any other examples of guesses?
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 11:14 pm
What category would Constantine fall under? He knows God and the devil exist. He's literally given the finger to the three rulers of hell and caused an archangel to fall from grace. Course, he despises Catholicism with an extreme passion. Can't say he doesn't believe in them, since he's had first hand encounters. So... where would he fit in?
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:14 am
From: "Claremont's 'Revenge' / CC Trademarks" thread on rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/browse_thread/thread/b6c76ad39ebedbac/82cfea80ebc7bade; viewed 12 June 2006):
Date: Thurs, May 14 1998 12:00 am
re: "Alright. Does anyone have any other instances of positive (or negative) portrayals of religion in comics?"
Preacher, Hellblazer, Books of Magic, Sandman, Invisibles, Swamp Thing, Hitman. Just off the top of my head. It does rather depend on what you define as religion.
From "TS: Liberality For All vs. DMZ" discussion page started 30 November 2005 (http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?msgid=6419391; viewed 13 June 2006):
Huk-L (handsomishbo...), November 30th, 2005
...does the lack of clearly religious characters prevent those to whom their faith is a defining characteristic from finding characters they can identify with?
kingfish hobo juckie (jdsalmo...), December 1st, 2005
I wonder how that guy feels when angels and demons and Lucifer show up in Hellblazer?
From: reader comments accompanying "Holy Superheroes" article, written by Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, posted 12 June 2006 on BeliefNet.com website; reprint of "Beliefwatch: Good Fight" article published in Newsweek, 19 June 2006 issue (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19306_1.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
6/15/2006 11:25:06 AM
I agree, this is a great topic. Jestrfyl, thank you for mentioning Testament, which is a wonderful comic. I would also mention Promethea (paganism), Sandman..., Kirby's New Gods... and even Hellblazer.
I'm impressed that comics have been so daring in this subject...
From: "Superheroes and religion", posted 14 June 2006 on "On Christopher Street" blog website (http://somacandra.livejournal.com/410090.html; viewed 16 June 2006):
Date: June 16th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC)
I find this [religious comic book characters] an interesting topic... BTW, one Hellblazer annual (John Constantine's book) was extremely Pagan. ;-) [winking smiley emoticon]
From: "Religion and Superheroes, Not Just for Thor Anymore", forum discussion started by "Christian" on 4 May 2007 on "Voices from Beyond" website which provides forum service for "Straight to Hell: A Hellblazer Site" website (http://hellblazer.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5540&st=0; viewed 10 May 2007):
May 4 2007, 12:55 AM
My alternate title for this topic was "Mommy, what religion is the Hulk?".
This web-site has a listing of most superheroes and supervillains and their religious affiliation. I've been having lots of fun with this site!
John Constantine is listed as a humanist.
Apparently Superman is Methodist. Who knew?
Apparently someone named Orgazmo is a Latter Day Saint . . . well, now.
How many of the villains will be atheist? Most?
No, Mothman, for one, is Jewish. Of course.
Holy sh--! Death is Mormon! I kid you not! That blows my freakin' world!
All these questions and more will be answered here!
post May 5 2007, 08:10 PM
...Now I think about it, wasn't Constantine raised Catholic as well? You get that impression from a lot of Delano's stuff*, even if he's turned to secular humanism since.
*(And all of Ennis', obviously.)
post May 6 2007, 09:09 AM
What was Constantine's parents' religion? Would it be safe to guess Church of England?
post May 6 2007, 01:52 PM
Cheryl and Tony were Protestants of some kind (I can't see Catholics going along with the Resurrection Crusade).
post May 6 2007, 02:27 PM
QUOTE: Cheryl and Tony were protestants of some kind (I can't see Catholics going along with the Resurrection Crusade).
That was more Tony than Cheryl though, wasn't it?
(Although now I think about it, there's suggestions that he cold have been raised as either. Ennis has that line about the first priest he ever met trying to cut his dick off with a razor [apparently a "humorous" reference to circumcision], which suggests more that he's Anglican. Jenkins and Delano, on the other hand, seem to suggest that he's more likely to be Catholic.)
post May 6 2007, 06:33 PM
QUOTE: Ennis has that line about the first priest he ever met trying to cut his dick off with a razor, which suggests more that he's Anglican.
In Rake At the Gates Of Hell: it's a reference to a story Ennis did for an annual, in which he runs into a priest with a few odd hang ups while he's in his late teens. If that was the first priest he met, then presumably he'd been dealing with vicars as a child.
post May 6 2007, 06:46 PM
I got the reference to the Hellblazer Special; I just didn't realize that they weren't called "priests" in the Anglican church.
post May 6 2007, 08:33 PM
Can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure it's vicars not priests the Anglicans have.
post May 7 2007, 12:39 AM
Right. But, the guy who tried to cut his dick off is referred to as a "priest" in the Special, isn't he? So, that'd make him Catholic, not Anglican.
post May 7 2007, 03:14 PM
That's what I was saying Christian (possibly not very clearly, for which I apologise): if the sort with a razor was the first priest Constantine met, then he must have been raised within the Anglican church, where they have vicars rather than priests, y'see?
There's also the fact that the clerical sidekick Ennis introduced for him was CofE as well, though that may have more to do with Ennis' bile against the Catholic church than anything else.
post May 7 2007, 03:27 PM
I think that makes sense, Dogpoet. When I read that line "The first priest I ever met..." I understood that he wasn't raised Catholic.
post May 8 2007, 12:16 AM
Oh, OK. You were referring to Constantine as an Anglican, not the priest. I thought you were saying the priest was an Anglican, because the Anglican church only has Vicars, which makes no sense. I'm pretty sure Jay was confused in the same manner and that's why he thought you were making a joke about Anglicans earlier.
I always assumed that John was raised Anglican. After all, it isn't just Catholics that have ownership of guilt!
From: "Superman is a Methodist..." forum discussion, started 6 Marach 2006 on "Catholic Answers" website (http://188.8.131.52/showthread.php?t=102037; viewed 31 May 2007):
Mar 6, '06, 7:10 pm
I think John Constantine is Catholic, too.
Bruce Wayne might be Zen Catholic, but I'm just guessing here.
Mar 6, '06, 7:50 pm
Constantine isn't Catholic in the graphic novel, and he is barely Catholic in the movie. Good B movie though, I love how they portray Satan...
From: "Unpractical Ethics: Superheroes", posted 11 October 2005 on "Millenial Star" website [which comments on topics relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] (http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/10/11/unpractical_ethics_superheros; viewed 5 June 2007):
Comment from: Eric Russell
What I find ethically disturbing is the relatively new wave of badboy superheroes who are dark and dirty people but obtain the good guy status just because they fight bad guys. In terms of recent movies, I'm thinking Hellboy, Constantine, Spawn, The Punisher, the guys in Sin City, etc. It's like writers want to make their characters as cool as possible to the fanboy masses while still maintaining an image of a hero who does good.
Eric, I think part of the problem here is that you're lumping characters who are nominally superheroes, though on the outside edge of that definition, with characters who really AREN'T superheroes. They're comic-book characters; that's not the same thing. Constantine and the Sin City cast draw much more of their foundation from the moral ambiguity found in hardboiled pulp (Sin City especially, though it's stylized almost to the point of parody). This isn't new by any stretch. It's an expansion of the format to include engaging characters who aren't part of the "changing clothes in a phonebooth" crowd.
10/12/05 - 16:02
From: "Superhero Religious Views?" forum discussion, started 9 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-116001.html; viewed 13 July 2007):
06-10-2007, 01:47 AM
I think writers should avoid the subject [of religion] so as not to alienate the fans. Unless it an important part of the story, like in Hellblazer.
From: "Increasing comic circulation through different perspectives" forum discussion, started 30 November 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-15542.html; viewed 20 July 2007):
December 1st, 2005, 02:39 AM
...I also disagree that liberals are inherently more artistic. Some of the greatest artists in comics history have been conservative. Steve Ditko just to name one.
Now, granted, most of those who graduate with liberal arts degrees are in fact liberal, but I tend to think that's more of a function of the schools themselves. Look at some of the most popular authors in America to draw a comparispon to a related industry. Tom Clancy's books have an extremely conservative hero and morals written in to their very fabric.
I myself have walked away from comics because the message was simple too overt, its one of the reasons why I no longer read Hellblazer.
December 1st, 2005, 02:55 AM
Really I guess what bugs me are the unspoken assumptions in Comics.
Businessmen are bad, Politicans are inherantly bad, Soldiers are rarely good, Religon is rarely positive, Poverty is evil.
Capital punishment is non-existent, Republicans are very bad, bankers are bad, writers, artists, lawyers, teachers, and swocial workers are inherantly good, the rich are greedy and evil while the poor are noble and good, etc.
Like I said, it's why I stopped reading Hellblazer and, in fact, why I no longer read anything by Alan Moore. As good of a writer as he is, as talented as he is, I know that if I read anything he does, I am going to be beat over the head with the message that conservatives are evil, small minde-people who are ruining the world and sending it to hell.
And I am not paying good money to get insulted.
From: "Religion in the DCU?" forum discussion, started 25 October 2006 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-37480.html; viewed 20 July 2007):
October 25th, 2006, 11:06 AM
I posted this in another thread, but since it goes off-topic I decided to start my own. Anyways...
If Fourth World is still in continuity and The Presence is the God of the three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) I was wondering...
Where do Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed stand in the DCU?
I know the Spear of Destiny is laced with the blood of Christ, but is there anything else that's been mentioned?
October 25th, 2006, 11:11 AM
I know in Hellblazer, they've confirmed Jesus' existence numerous times. I remember (either Ennis or Ellis' run) where Gabriel stated that he had impregnated Mary, and Jesus came from that.
October 27th, 2006, 01:10 AM
In Hellblazer all religions and all gods are "true". Jesus and the Christian mythos is just part of a larger spiritual world that Constantine is always railing against.
From: "Is Bruce Wayne A Religious Person?" forum discussion, started 20 April 2006 on "Killer Movies" website (http://www.killermovies.com/forums/f50/t400582.html; viewed 27 July 2007):
7 July 2006
Well I know [Batman] KNOWS there's a God. He was on the Justice League (not sure about anymore, have been busy with things other than reading comics) with Zauriel, who's an Angel. Haven't they come into contact with The Spectre, who is God's Wrath? Too many supernatural things, and things that have to do with a higher being have taken place for him to just ignore those things. I think he's too smart to remain ignorant on that.
BUT there is a difference in KNOWING and BELIEVING in it. I think he knows but chooses not to believe in it. Chooses not to think that Him being there will change any thing of have any effect in his life. Wasn't that the case with Constantine? He knew but didn't believe? Something like that.
Constantine knew and believed, but hated it. I guess if you had to do God's dirty work and fight Demons and Hell while still being mortal you would hate to believe what you know as well.
From: "Comics and Faith/Religion" forum discussion, started 12 August 2007 on Jinxworld website (http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/showthread.php?t=122876; viewed 18 August 2007):
08-12-2007, 08:30 PM
I am looking for some new comics, or old ones I've missed, dealing with faith and religion. So far I have... I am looking more for mini-series. It need not be pro- or anti- religion, I am open to both. Suggestions?
Did Hellblazer get mentioned yet? I think it was the first comic I ever read that put forth the notion that Angels might not be so good, Devils not so bad. Goes back at least to Jamie Delano's original run, but might extend to some degree back to Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.
I remember thinking it was some pretty crazy, subversive stuff back in the late 80s, though it became more and more conventional at Vertigo over time.
Webpage created 30 May 2006. Last modified 18 August 2007.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.