What Would John Constantine Do?

faust

At the Revenge signing yesterday at Banbury, yesterday, I met Ian Harvey Stone, magician and mesmerist, performing with a geek-themed twist, demonstrating powers of Professor X, or the Jedi, or even time travel powers of The Doctor. He also showed my the Glenn Fabry artwork above, for a new project on Kickstarter. I asked him to tell me more, and he did…

Ian Harvey Stone writes,

I've been a geek long, long before it was ever remotely chic or at least OK to be so. I spent my youth supping tea in a garage playing war games, role playing and hanging out with about five other friends (all teenagers, all male) debating movies, staging epic campaigns for illusory heroes and reading comics. The role playing thing graduated into acting, the hanging out changed as we grew older, went our separate ways and discovered the chops to hang around girls but the comics never really went away. Comics like the X-Men, Judge Dredd/ 2000AD, Daredevil, Captain Britain and Batman proved to be the gateway drug to titles like Hellblazer, Sandman, The Books of Magic, The Invisibles, Marshall Law, Luther Arkwright and Preacher.

Always been a big fan of Hellblazer though, always loved Constantine. I reckon it's something to do with Constantine's laconic, lop-sided, chain-smoking delivery of some of the best lines ever written, drawn by some of the finest artists working in the comic medium coupled with the magic thing that has always had me coming back for more.
So I hit upon an idea.

I have been a bit 'Constantine' for the majority of my adult life. What I mean by that is that I've been travelling across the planet, picking up skills and getting into and out of scrapes by manipulating the circumstances, being lucky or found charming or on more than one occasion, running away. I've met many interesting folk from Shaman and witch doctors to high pressure sales gurus, the pick-up artist communities, martial artists, hypnotists, holy men, grifters, storytellers, spirit mediums and magicians and mentalists.

I have a pretty useful skill-set. I'm also an actor and teacher of Theatre specialising in modes of actor training and a qualified instructor of stage combat.

I feel I should add I made 'Elite' playing Elite on the BBC micro. :)

In performance when things have gone awry, I've winged it, trusted to luck/the universe/the powers that be/improvised*. (*delete as appropriate to your particular flavour of belief) and has been doing exactly what mentalist comedian or 'comedium' Peter Antoniou voiced as his mantra by thinking 'What Would Constantine Do?'

And I thought, hang on! There's a show there somewhere!

So I came up with a conceit based around JC, I pitched it to Alan Moore and asked his permission to use the character as he created it. He replied that he didn't mind at all and didn't like to look back on work over thirty years in his past. I had his grace but he said he doubted DC Comics would let me do it, as they owned the character. I then wrote to Neil Gaiman and Jeff Lemire, pitching the idea and asking for their help with who to pitch at DC. They wrote back writing of the recent change around at DC, so didn't know who to suggest but both wished me luck, thought it was cool and hoped I got permission. I also wrote to the current guys working on Constantine as part of the New 52, but they were in the same boat. I tweeted Dan Didio who retweeted my tweet! But it went no further. So I sent it in to rights and permissions and it got knocked back in a day or so. A solid, fat, unequivocal NO.

That got me thinking.

Maybe a homage to Constantine wasn't the thing. Surely, the comic and character had influenced my ideas and my approach to magick, but rather than playing Constantine, I started to think about the archetype. Those of you who may have read Neil Gaiman's wonderful, wonderful Books of Magic will know all about the Trenchcoat Brigade and where Constantine ends up at the end of the universe. I looked back at tarot, I looked at John Dee, Gerald Gardner, Aleister Crowley, Newton, Ashmole and the fictitious sorcerers Prospero and Faust. And it struck me that the theme that kept recurring was one of seeking knowledge, pushing boundaries and in many cases persecution or misfortune.

There is a popular plot in stage magic called the 'magician in trouble' ploy. It is an old ruse, the audience believe that the Mage is failing, that the demonstration has gone wrong (as so it appears to have done) and then at the last, our valiant thaumaturge redeems himself. But in the world of 'real magick' the magician in trouble seems to really be in trouble. It was at this point I turned to Faust or Doctor Faustus, the play by Christopher Marlowe based on the story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil for twenty four years of everything he wants: knowledge of arcane arts, women, the power to turn invisible, to fly, to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting, in fact, almost anything he desires. He gets what he wants until the contract comes to an end- and so does he- dragged down to Hell by the agents of Lucifer into eternal damnation.

But what if he wasn't?

What if the knowledge he'd gained was enough to stay a few steps ahead of his infernal pursuers? What if he was still around?

And so 'What Would Constantine do?' Became 'The Devil Without', a re-imagining of the Faust story.

So here's what I hope to do: (and hang on to your hats, because it's very ambitious.)

The conceit is simple, Faust is on the run, he has summoned you (the audience) as you dream, to gather about him a psychic shield. He has holed-up in a secret location riding out a 'manifest night' a time when demons can walk the earth. Somewhere outside the sealed room, the servants of Hell search for him. He just has to see out the hour and then he is safe until the next manifest night.

One bare hour to live!

But the Devil Without finds him and wants to get in

And if it gets in not everyone will be waking up tomorrow…

The Kickstarter campaign video details more of what the play is about *spoilers!

And who is involved. It's an immersive piece, which means its different each time and the audience are complicit in the action. I can tell you that it will be scary and that members of the audience will experience some disturbing phenomena including one lucky soul who will get to share his or her body with a demon! Live possession on stage. I think that's a first!

Please pledge your support. It is through like-minded people that projects like this get to be realised. I have tried to tailor the rewards to be comic-centric. There are limited edition high quality prints and signed prints by Glenn Fabry and some more stretch goals to come including some postcards with original sketches by Glenn showing how the poster came to be.i

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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