Pop quiz: when you hear that one of your favorite comic books is being adapted for the screen, what’s the first question you ask? If you’re anything like us, it’s something along these lines: “How faithful will it be to the source material?”
A little over five years ago, when the beloved Hellblazer comic series was announced as the next big DC television project, this was the question on everyone’s minds. How much of Hellblazer’s influence would be present in this adaptation? Would John Constantine be allowed to swear? Could he smoke on camera? Could it get as gruesome as the comic's art, and as bleak and uncompromised as its subject matter? Would Ol’ Johnboy be the right bastard we know and love (or love to hate)? Would this Constantine really be “Constantine?”
Even from early press photos and the first trailers, it was clear to fans that whatever problems may arise, they wouldn’t be with the show’s star. Matt Ryan’s smarmy charisma oozes out of every frame, truly inhabiting the role like he was cursed into it. Everything from the exact neighborhood of his accent to the shade of beige on his trenchcoat was damn near perfect… so much so that Ryan would even survive the end of the series, reprising his role as Constantine for a guest spot on TV’s Arrow — and later, as a regular cast member (and utter delight) on DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Constantine very vividly honored its hellacious source… and nowhere is that more apparent than in the series’ fourth episode, “Feast of Friends.”
What makes “Feast of Friends” so special is that unlike most episodes of -- well, practically every other comic book series -- this one is damn near a direct adaptation of a comic book story. Beat for beat, “Feast of Friends” pulls its story, its characters, and its imagery directly and lovingly from the source: writer Jamie Delano and artist John Ridgway’s landmark 1987 comic, Hellblazer #1. The issue, which pulled Constantine out from Swamp Thing’s shadow, established him as a self-preserving bastard in his own right once and for all.
As a tone setter, Hellblazer #1 is a perfect vehicle. The visceral body horror, the agonizing sacrifices, and the lengths Constantine will go to in order to save his skin -- including sacrificing the people who mean the most to him -- are all right here. John Constantine is not a hero; he is a necessity. And not even God can help you if you place your trust in him. It was Hellblazer #1 which proved that, and a point which is perfectly reiterated in “Feast of Friends.”