Issue #66, Page 13: The Origin of Archangel Gabriel, Splash Page

©1993 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon & Vincent Locke
Issue #66, Page 13:
The Origin of Gabriel, Splash Page
Graphite and ink on board
11" x 17"

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Hellblazer has showcased a veritable who's who of comicdom's best writers, but it's not Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison or even creator Alan Moore who fans and critics most identify with the character John Constantine. It's Garth Ennis...

John Constantine is much more of an anti-hero than hero, but the character has been popular with readers since his very first appearance in Saga of the Swamp Thing back in 1985. The creation of Alan Moore, John Totleben and Stephen R. Bissette earned his own series, Hellblazer, in 1988. The format of that initial run (penned by Moore's Northampton neighbor Jamie Delano) was a shadowy predecessor to the X-Files, featuring Constantine as an occult investigator in a succession of self contained adventures. It wasn't until enfant terrible Garth Ennis came onboard in 1991 that the comic addressed any consequences for Constantine's hard living and soul sacrificing lifestyle. That first story arc, Dangerous Habits, served as the source material for the 2005 Constantine film, and the next 40 or so issues helped cement Hellblazer as the cornerstone of the DC Vertigo line. Steve Dillon became the regular series penciler during the Fear and Loathing run, from which the above page is taken.

If Neil Gaiman's Sandman was a study in Greek mythology on tour through the rich tradition of English fables, Garth Ennis' Hellblazer was pure Christian mysticism: equal parts Dante, Milton and Lenny Bruce. Ennis revealed a cosmic, spiritual struggle involving angels and demons not just metaphorically, but literally. His hero was a charlatan more interested in his next cigarette than the fate of humanity, but there is no free lunch in Garth Ennis' world, and the chickens most definitely came home to roost for John Constantine. The page above is simple, stylistic and perfectly reflective of the collaboration between Ennis and Dillon. This experimental page would become a template for the storytelling mechanic the team would use to greatest effect on their creator-owned title Preacher, and to a lesser extent in their Punisher MAX series for Marvel. The origin of the Archangel Gabriel is told in a single image split into three panels, with minimal text and utilizing only objects to convey the tragic fall from grace. Never before (and posibly since) has a page without a figure revealed so much about a character.

Not surprisingly, the team was nominated for four Eisner Awards in 1994: Best Serialized Story, Best Short Story, Best Continuing Series, and Best Writer. Todd Klein won Best Letterer.

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