I’m a fan of The Mary Sue and if you’re not you should definitely check them out (www.themarysue.com). So, when I saw that they posted an article on the coming of a new Batman TV show (“Gotham”) that would explore how the man became the Bat I was more than a little interested. Nice piece and it looks like the Caped Crusader is going to get the “Smallville” treatment.
(It should suit him well. Lots of emo music. Crying about never really knowing his parents. Pep talks from the butler. Cue heartstrings.)
But that wasn’t what really got me excited.
Tucked away at the very end of the article was a very short, secondary piece of news that read:
“In other, brief, news, NBC has officially ordered a pilot for David S. Goyer’s Constantine project we previously reported on.”
And with that my brain parts started to go all buzzy.
If you haven’t read my previous thoughts on what has happened to John Constantine in print then I’ll sum up in short: loved him with Vertigo and switching him to the “New 52” was like having your favorite Golden Book pissed on and then set aflame before your eyes.
So here are the upsides and downsides as I see them.
Upside: “John Constantine: Hellblazer” is possibly getting a TV show.
Downside: “Constantine”, the filmed abortion starring Keanu Reeves, Shia Labeouf and the lead singer from Bush might be getting a TV show.
Upside: It’s being written by David S. Goyer, who brought us “Blade”, “Dark City” and “The Dark Knight”.
Downside: It’s being written by David S. Goyer, who brought us “Kick Boxer 2: The Road Back”, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” and “The Dark Knight Rises”.
Upside: The pilot has been ordered by NBC, who have had some real gems as of late.
Downside: The pilot has been ordered by NBC, who have brought us some true dreck to go along with those gems.
So, in the end it’s a crap shoot and I can’t quite wrap my brain around how they are going to pull it off without letting the character be who and what he really is. Does the Peacock know who they are getting in bed with? Or is Goyer promising that he’s going to play nice with the rest of the kids? Because if John has proven anything over the years it’s that he doesn’t play well with others. To quote Fox Mulder “You what? Called up the devil and expected him to behave?”
Or maybe that’s not the plan.
NBC has made some interesting moves as of late by employing characters that are, on the surface, about as cuddly as a ragey Bella Blitz hopped up on peyote and absinthe. If you don’t believe me give “Hannibal” and “The Blacklist” a watch. Both Lector and Red are, at the core, nasty bastards who can pretend with humanity for a while…but only for a while.
And John would fit nicely amongst their ranks, if you let him be himself. Even then, well, it’s complicated.
The two other shows I mentioned work because there is a cast of characters around our anti-heroes that are generally, well, likeable. They are upstanding people who are either trying to do the right thing or don’t quite realize that they are in bed with a monster. John’s friends, if you want to call them that, don’t suffer from these delusions or they themselves aren’t exactly on the up-and-up either.
You could throw some of his more well meaning friends like Chaz into the mix but how long is the audience going to watch John screw his buddy over and throw him under the bus before they are screaming at the screen. “Why is he putting up with this? He knows John’s an asshole.” Indeed, and with that you run the risk of turning the viewer off to his antics and tuning into, I dunno, “Hillbilly Hand Fishing”.
So how do you get viewers to tune into someone as grey as Constantine without turning them off by showing who he really is? You could water him down, try to tame the devil, but then you’ve turned off the fan base that you’re relying on to spread the word and bring in the casual viewers. It’s a tough nut to crack but they might be on to something.
The Mary Sue originally reported that the plan for the show was to be “Breaking Bad meets Supernatural”. It’s an interesting idea and points to the premise of letting John be John. The problem is we’ve always known him as he is. Walter White didn’t start off the hell-spawn he eventually became. That was grown with time and, by comparison, John was a long time coming to become who he is. Longer than the audience will stick around.
The ball is now in your court, Mr. Goyer and NBC. Play with the devil and see if you can get him to become the type of rogue that audiences will love. I know I’ll be watching to see where you go with this and I’ll be more than ready to tell you if you fail or if you can somehow do what no one has done before. Tame the actual John Constantine: Hellblazer.