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Adapting all-age superhero comic books for television is one thing, but adapting a distinctly adult comic for mass audiences is something else entirely. NBC’s Constantine is one such challenge, and the character’s fans have been anxious to know just how close Matt Ryan’s TV persona will get to the source material. And by that, I mean whether or not John Constantine will be a chain-smoking bisexual demon killer. It turns out he’ll be at least two of those things, with more to possibly come later.
While we were under the impression that NBC would be balking on the smoking, it turns out that’s not entirely the case. (Though liberties will be taken.) Here’s how executive producer and developer Daniel Cerone put it to Comic Book Resources in a recent interview.
Is he chain-smoking? Absolutely. We're limited by what we can show. We just hope comic book fans understand that. Instead of decrying the fact that they don’t see him with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in every scene, we're hoping they will actually give us credit for really trying to stay true to the character.”
That’s a pretty interesting take on things, as cable has become the main place to find characters smoking these days. But as he points out, we won’t be seeing him with a lit cigarette all the time. That means they’ll probably show him putting cigarettes out when scenes start, and lighting them when scenes are done. Or maybe the prop department will just create a bunch of cigarette packs for him to have around. Either way, the bad habit will make itself known in one way or another, which is a good plan.
Now, as far as Constantine’s sexuality goes, Cerone is a little more hesitant to be straightforward. Here’s how he explained it.
I would take issue with the presentation of Constantine through the run of the comics as a chain-smoking bisexual. He's been chain-smoking without a doubt, but this curious character aspect of him was revealed very late in the run. It might have been followed up once. It just wasn't a defining part of who he is. Could that exist in our universe? Sure. Look, we are following the course of the comic. I don’t mean this as a cop-out at all. The comic ran for a very long time, presenting a character and building out this character, who was different with many passions and conflicts and torments and tragedies. That's what we're hanging our stories on.
So don’t expect John Constantine to have a line of hot Latin male lovers right out the gate (obviously), but at least they’re not immediately ruling out the possibility that his “curious character aspect” will be introduced. I won’t be surprised if, four years later, the show still hasn’t made even passing mention of Constantine’s flippant libido, but at least they weren’t verbally against it from the beginning. Is that a victory here? Probably not.
Audiences have gone through many different iterations of other comic-to-TV characters over the years – hell, we’re dealing with a Batman series that doesn’t even have Batman in it. If people choose not to watch Constantine because it’s a poorly written show, that’s understandable, but hating on it for network-specific behavioral changes is a tad less insightful.
NBC recently gave Constantine an extended episode order, which means the network is already impressed with the content, even without the ratings numbers to back it up. Find it when it debuts on Friday, October 24.