"I'm looking at a 40 issue run here, more or less. Seems to be the thing to do, after all...".

Warren Ellis speaking to this site shortly after being announced as the new writer on Hellblazer.   But some things, apparently, where never meant to be and as of Hellblazer #141, Warren Ellis has stepped down as the ongoing writer of the title in question.

Online Reprint Of The Banned Comic

The Press Release
The Offending Issue
The Writer On Shoot (With special thanks to Mania)
The New Writer (With special thanks to Sequential Tart)

Return To Hell

For Immediate Release
Contact: Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis resigns from DC Vertigoís HELLBLAZER

I have resigned as writer of the DC Vertigo title HELLBLAZER effective with #143.

This follows an incident regarding #141, a story entitled ďShootĒ. ďShootĒ concerned the recent spate of child-on-child schoolyard slayings in American schools. Its creation and treatment predated the Columbine massacre. At the last moment, DCís executive level felt that the story could not go out in its original form. All media, particularly the narrative arts, are particularly sensitive to the politics of post-Columbine blame-placement at this time, and their concern was entirely justified given their position and special responsibilities. But the changes required created a story that I could not stand behind as a writer.

I therefore requested that DC Vertigo either make those changes themselves and remove my name from the work, or, in the preferred scenario, not publish the work at all. Rather it go unseen than be released in a compromised form.

To their credit, DC Vertigo have chosen to not release ďShootĒ at all.

Given this, and other situations where I have been required to make or submit to alterations to make my HELLBLAZER work more palatable to the company, I have chosen this juncture to resign from the book. HELLBLAZER is a work owned by DC Comics, and so there is not the latitude for elements of horror than is given in creator-owned works such as my own TRANSMETROPOLITAN, or PREACHER. My work on HELLBLAZER simply makes life too difficult for everybody. So Iím moving on. Itís the mature thing to do, I think.

Everyone involved -- Axel Alonso, Karen Berker, Paul Levitz and Jenette Kahn -- tried their best in this strange political climate to save this story. It should be noted that Paul Levitz could just as easily have shot the book down. The effort was made. Everyone involved behaved impeccably, I believe, and this situation leaves no hostility in me to the company or to individuals. Special mention should be made of Axel Alonso, who worked like a dog to resolve this situation and stood by me all the time, and Karen Berger, who believed passionately in and fought passionately for the work from the start.

Obviously, I wouldíve liked to stay with HELLBLAZER longer. What might have been a four-year run will now total only ten issues, a six-part novel and four short stories. This will, in any case, free up time to develop new projects both within and without comics.

This decision was not taken without regret. But itís the best thing to do.

Warren Ellis
July 1999

Image courtesy of www.westfield.com HellBlazer #141

(W) Warren Ellis
(A) Phil Jimenez
(Cover)Tim Bradstreet

When a female psychologist researches a wave of premeditated mass killings in the American heartland, an enigmatic, chain-smoking Brit shows her that the roots of evil run deeper than she'd imagined.

Note: intended for mature readers.   FC, 32 pages

"We follow a female psychologist in America as she gathers and prepares research work on the wave of 'schoolyard slayings' - children gunning down other children en masse that's slowly sweeping the country - for a Senate investigative committee. She's also writing a paper on not only the pathology of premeditated mass killing, but the psychology of the victims. Jonestown is her starting point. She's heard the tape of Jim Jones' last sermon while his followers were screaming out in pain, the poison chewing through their guts. The children were poisoned too. They screamed too."

"In this unslept state of constant horror, she notices one cohesive factor in the last few instances of children blowing away their playmates in the playground. A lean, rumpled, middle-aged Englishman in a trenchcoat. She starts investigating him, suspecting a connection. But Constantine - the original, spooky Constantine, seen from a distance, enigmatic, appearing and disappearing at will - prowls round her, bringing her to understanding of what's really going on. He makes her look properly at the video evidence of the thing he came from England for (an old friend's son who moved to America was shot dead in one of these incidents)."

Warren Ellis, speaking to Mike Doran's Newsarama on Hellblazer #141.

"Iím a fan of baseball, but John Constantine? Thatís a tough call."

Brian Azzarello speaking to the folks at Sequential Tart.   Brian's first major work, a four issue Jonny Double mini-series for Vertigo, won him critical acclaim and the right to produce that latest ongoing Vertigo title - 100 Bullets.   Shortly after Ellis left Hellblazer, it was announced that Brian would be coming on board as the new writer.   The following is an excerpt from an interview given by Brian to Sequential Tart...

Brian Azzarello, speaking on Hellblazer :

"I got no worries, really. I had some apprehension, but that stemmed from questioning myself-- like do I have anything to add to this guy. I mean, heís been talking to himself for what, like twelve years now? I think readers feel they gotta pretty good grip on what makes John tick, Ďcause heís told them, right? The thing about him though, the thing thatís most interesting to me, is that when you strip away all the hocus pocus mumbo jumbo, Constantineís a grifter, a con man. Maybe heís been conning himself about what he is, and what he can do. And if heís conning himself, heís been conning us too..."

ST : What's your plan to come out of the gate at a dead run?

"Well, Constantineís the kind of guy who really values two things; his freedom and his cigarettes, so Iím going to them away from him. Iím sending his ass to prison, which considering his sordid past, ainít no stretch. Heís been involved in some pretty unsavory events over the years, and things finally catch up with him. Heís no longer one step ahead of the game; actually, putting him behind bars changes the game entirely. Prison is a world so savage and violent that it may force John to dig even deeper into himself than he has ever before-- maybe even dig up some things heíd rather keep buried. Heís always been a rather cold-blooded son of a bitch; so why not send him to a place full of the coldest of the cold. How would he cope?"

ST: How do you view your approach to Hellblazer to be different than 100 Bullets and Jonny Double?

"The approach wonít be any different, other than the fact that Iím gonna to have to be sensitive to this guyís past. Heís a character with a lot of baggage, which is unlike Double, who nobody cared about, or 100 Bullets, which I created. Readers have expectations with Constantine; if I donít deliver theyíre gonna scream foul. Not that Iím not gonna toy with those expectations, but at this point, we know who he is, and what heís capable of. All Iím doing is upping the ante. Letís see how John plays the hand I deal him."

ST : How, if any way, do you think it will be different than the writers who have come before you?

"Well, Iím the first Yankee to write the damn book, so my perspective is bound to be different, yíknow? That said, one thing Iím gonna do is tell stories from the viewpoint of the supporting cast, sort of a "What do the people around him think of this bastard?" shtick. Play up the enigma which made him such a seductive character way back in Swamp Thing. My take on the guy is heís at his best when heís playing all sides against the middle; he may not be in control of the game, but everyone else playing thinks he is. Thatís part of the illusion he creates."

ST: Warren Ellis pushed the envelope with the graphic intensity of his (albeit short) run on Hellblazer. How will you handle the gore levels in your run?

"Iím looking at this as an extremely brutal book. Like I said, prison is a savage and violent place, the worst fuckiní place to be on earth. Itís scary Ďcause itís real. Gore levels, I donít know, I mean, in prison, all violence is gratuitous, but it happens every goddamn day, so gratuitous violence is a mundane part of life. That in itself is intense, yíknow?"

ST: How long have you been following the series? Are you a Constantine fan?

"Iíve followed Constantine off and on for the length of his career. Iíve read certain stories from each writer thatís worked on the book, but not everything-- other than Warrenís run, I read all that. Am I a Constantine fan? I donít know... Iím a fan of baseball, but John Constantine? Thatís a tough call. He ainít an easy guy to like. Ask me again when Iím through with my run."

ST: How many issues are you slated to write?

"At this point, Iím concentrating on the first arc. After that, weíll see. I guess it depends on whether or not I do become his fan. Hell, that ainít true; it depends on how many readers become fans of my work on the book..."