So, clearly, Warner Bros./D.C. doesn’t like Disney/Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. budding into what had previously been exclusively D.C. territory: television. Tony Stark and the Avengers can rule superhero films all they want, but they’ve never had a critically adored animated series on the level of Batman: The Animated Series or long-running live-action shows like Smallville. So, now that Marvel is branching out into live-action TV Warner Bros./D.C. is not merely resting on their laurels with Arrow but prepping a Flash spin-off, a stand-alone Commissioner Gordon origin story (Gotham) at Fox, and now a Constantine show at NBC.
That’s right. Even after 2005’s Keanu Reeves-starring Constantine got most everything wrong about the character of John Constantine (wrong city, accent, hair color, personality), one of the coolest characters in all of horror comics is getting a second chance, on the small screen this time.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, this project is not on nearly as solid ground as Gotham, which need only produce a good first script and Fox will bypass the pilot stage and go straight to series with it. With Constantine, NBC has simply committed to a script, which will be written by David S. Goyer (Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel, upcoming Batman Vs. Superman, currently a showrunner for Da Vinci’s Demons) and Daniel Cerone (Mentalist executive producer who was previously a show-runner for the second season of Dexter). However, if NBC passes on the resulting script they’ll have to pay a penalty meaning Goyer/Cerone and WB-TV are guaranteed to get paid either way. Such a commitment on NBC’s part increase the likelihood they’ll ultimately order a pilot from the script as the resulting fee from not doing so lowers the marginal cost of production vs. non-production.
This is a reminder to the non-comic-book reading public that not all comic books involve superheroes. John Constantine began as a chain-smoking, trenchcoat-wearing British street magician/conman and supporting character in the pages of The Saga of Swamp Thing in 1985, created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and Jamie Delano. He was initially simply meant as an homage to the musician Sting (thus explaining the physical resemblance). However, he proved so popular with readers he got his own series, Hellblazer, which became D.C.’s longest-running modern series (from 1988 to this year) before being ending and relaunching under a new name, Constantine.
As a paranormal investigator constantly tasked with looking into the latest supernatural happenings on the seedy streets of London in Hellblazer, Constantine has most notably beaten cancer, journeyed to hell, and even made appearances in stories with Sandman and Batman. He is a notoriously cynical, irreverent anti-hero, an individual around whom loved ones drop like flies and return to haunt him as literal ghosts. Constantine is rarely ever granted the chance to savor his meager, consequence-laden victories. The most famous single story arc for the character might be comic book writer Garth Ennis “Dangerous Habits,” during which Constantine contracts lung cancer. This was the basis for the Keanu Reeves film, which regrettably turned it into a literal heaven vs hell battle with Constantine caught in the middle.
Given NBC’s recent success with using the supernatural-leaning Grimm to fortify its Friday night programming, a Constantine TV show makes a lot of sense, even if a faithful adaptation of the comic would be better served on a cable network. Plus, the on-going success of American Horror Story on FX, early success of Sleepy Hollow over at Fox and anticipation for Showtime’s forthcoming Penny Dreadful indicates we might be ready for some more supernatural fun and horror in our TV shows. This is a good thing since Supernatural has been holding that fort down on the CW all by their lonesome for a while now, with an end undoubtedly just a year or so away for it. A Constantine TV show could end up being like a quite darker version of the regrettably short-lived The Dresden Files, which sounds like something worth watching.
The presence of David S. Goyer adds a big name and prestige to the project, and as the writer for all three Blade films (and director of the third one) he has experience with the supernatural genre. Cerone brings with him a background in writing for a sociopathic anti-hero on Dexter, which could greatly inform a TV version of Constantine. But we’re still just talking about a script here, and the quality of Goyer’s work on any project not involving Christopher Nolan is incredibly suspect (he wrote and directed the generally hated 2009 horror film The Unborn).
What do you think? Does this sound like the right show but written by the wrong guys and at the wrong network? Don’t care because why should we care until we actually know there will at least be a pilot? Just can’t get past the Keanu Reeves film? Let us know in the comments.
For those of you keeping score at home, this news now means the following comic book properties are either in development or on the air: Fox (Gotham, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), ABC (S.H.I.E.L.D.), The CW (Arrow, Flash, Amazon), and NBC (Constantine) with Marvel’s Agent Carter a potential free agent.