John Constantine faces his dark side in ‘Forever Evil: Blight’

(CBR) DC Comics has definitely gone to the dark side, and Ray Fawkes is loving it. Last week, the publisher announced an 18-part “Forever Evil” tie-in crossover titled “Forever Evil: Blight.” The event will run through four of its Dark titles: the Fawkes-written “Constantine” and “Trinity of Sin: Pandora,” and writer J.M DeMatteis’ “Justice League Dark” and “Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger.”

A long-time fan of DC and its classic Vertigo characters, “Forever Evil: Blight” is a dream project for Fawkes, one made sweeter by his working hand-in-hand on the project with DeMatteis, one of his childhood favorite creators. Though, if you’ve seen Blight — the physical manifestation of the significantly enhanced levels of evil in the universe” — maybe it’s more aptly described as a nightmare project.

“Forever Evil: Blight” features Constantine, Swamp Thing, Nightmare Nurse and the Trinity of Sin (Pandora, Phantom Stranger and The Question), though Fawkes told CBR News that all of the dark characters, not to mention “every single mystical character in the DC Universe,” will be appearing in the four monthly titles comprising the crossover.

Fawkes also shared his thoughts on NBC’s recently announced Constantine TV series, which is being developed by Hollywood heavyweights Daniel Cerone (“The Mentalist”) and David S. Goyer (“The Dark Knight” Trilogy), stopping short his choice of the perfect actor to play the titular anti-hero, though he did point out that the mystic conman needs to be portrayed as both sleazy and charming.

CBR News: Thanks to “Forever Evil,” the DC Universe has become a very dark and sinister place. Does this new climate make for good storytelling?

Ray Fawkes: Absolutely, yes. I think a lot of the readers know that the dark characters, who I’m basically writing, seem to be at their best when things are at their worst in the world around them. These are the guys that are used to dealing with the nightmares so when the whole world turns into a nightmare, these guys are probably the best psychologically to deal with it.

I mean, they will be until they encounter what happens to the mystical plane and then they’ll be on the same psychological ground as everyone else. [Laughs]

News broke today about a new 18-issue tie-in crossover “Forever Evil: Blight,” featuring a supervillain Bob Harras calls “the physical manifestation of the significantly enhanced levels of evil in the universe.” And judging by Mikel Janin’s teaser art, he’s a real badass.

It’s funny — Mikel did a spectacular job on that design, but that’s actually only one of Blight’s forms. But, yeah, he’s going to be quite a challenge. These are characters that understand the concept of evil better than most of the superheroes in the DC Universe. If nothing else, they’ve seen Hell itself, and now they’re going to be dealing with something that they don’t even fully get how it exists. This is a thing that really does embody every evil in the universe. From the great genocidal evils to the tiniest, pettiest lies and misdealings. Not only are they going to have to fight this thing, but some of them, like John Constantine, are going to have to face the fact that, to a certain degree, some of the things that they do can definitely be categorized as evil and are feeding this thing.

I wanted to ask that very question. Like you mentioned, the DCU “dark” characters aren’t afraid or opposed to bending the rules, or, as you’re describing them, doing evil things. John Constantine might be a perfect example of superhero who is inadvertently feeding this monster.

I’m not going to be the person to call John evil, but there are some characters out there that could make the argument. John is going to be face-to-face with a physical manifestation of the truest darkness in the universe, and it’s going to be so much stronger because of what’s happened in “Forever Evil.” He is going to have to face the fact that he is — and has been — contributing to it, to some degree. Maybe it will make him redefine things that he thinks are right or wrong, but maybe not. We’ll see.

John, of all the characters, is the one that I think is going to be the most shocked by what he faces. But he also may be the — how do I say this — most mentally shielded by his own attitudes, if that makes sense.

I know from past interviews that you’re huge DC guy, and I imagine, like me, you were a big fan of “Justice League International,” which was written by J.M. and Keith Giffen. Does the fact you’re working with J.M. make this project extra special?

Absolutely. And I was reading “Moonshadow,” too. I had to have a little talk with him about that [Laughs] when I first started working with him — because I’ve been a fan since way back — which he took with an admirable amount of grace. It’s very, very cool to be working with this team, which also includes some fantastic artists like Francis Portela and Mikel Janin — just some great, great artists.

The name Blight has been used in the DC Universe before, for a supervillain in “Batman Beyond” and an entire alien race “Legion of Super-Heroes.” Does this version have any ties to those classic characters?

It’s not really tied to them. Honestly, it’s not even a name that Blight uses for itself. It’s more of a descriptive term for this creature. It’s really just a way for them to refer to it. It shares the name with the characters, and we’re aware of the characters, but it’s not tied to them directly.

This is a major crossover, with 18 parts threading through four titles over the next couple of months. But by my calculations, all of the issues are written by you or J.M. Dematteis. Despite “Forever Evil: Blight” running through four ongoing series, with just two writers, does that keep storyline pretty tight?

We’ve actually written the first part, and you’re right, it’s not a miniseries — it’s basically an 18-part story running across four series. If you look at the release schedule, the issues actually come out each week. It’s essentially an 18-issue, weekly series. It runs over four months and a bit. We’re talking about an 18-part story, but it’s not going to take a year-and-a-half.

And they’re four titles that are basically interconnected even without the crossover, as the characters often appear in each of these series, most significantly, I’m talking about John Constantine.

Exactly. The main characters are already appearing in all of these titles but they will be crossing over even more during this story. I’m finding that when I’m reading J.M.’s scripts and my scripts that the transition is very smooth from one book to the next. I don’t imagine that readers will find it jarring at all. It’s really J.M. and I co-writing this very large story. We’re breaking it out into the parts that we’re writing in our own scripts, but we’re working together very closely.

To clarify, all of these characters will be showing up in all of the books. For instance, they’ll all be appearing in “Constantine?”

Yes, to varying degrees. Everyone is going to play a role in all of these titles. Obviously, in “Constantine,” the focus is on John, and we’re going to see his perspective on some of these other characters. Likewise, Phantom Stranger and Pandora and Justice League Dark star in their own books, but to some degree, yeah, everyone will be playing a part in all of these titles.

Your love of John Constantine, Swamp Thing and the other classic Vertigo characters is well documented, but I would love to know what you think about the new character Nightmare Nurse as it appears she is going to be playing a major role in this story.

John doesn’t like her very much [Laughs]. So you may see a perspective of her that’s a little bit different than in “The Phantom Stranger.” I don’t think she likes John very much either. There’s definitely some fun interplay there.

The Trinity of Sin, which you can imagine from seeing the titles, is also heavily involved, and we’re going to see some interesting interplay. How does Phantom Stranger get along with Swamp Thing? And what’s John Constantine like when he has to face up against somebody like Pandora? There’s going to be lots of pretty wild stuff going on.

I have to say, for as long as I have been writing “Constantine,” John has been saying that superheroes are going to mess the world up — and he’s absolutely right. Now, we get to have these dark characters taking the lead. They’re admittedly the freaks and the weirdos, but I have made no secret of the fact that they’re my favorites. We get these guys stepping up, and if the Justice League is off the plate and the villains are running amok, the dark characters are going to show their true character. They’re going to show that they are worthwhile, too, and that they are characters to be excited about.

Before we get to “Forever Evil: Blight,” John is facing off against Sargon the Sorceress in the pages of “Constantine.” You’ve reimagined Sargon the Sorcerer for the New 52 by introducing his daughter into Constantine’s mythos. Can you talk about the decision to make that change?

As Sargon’s daughter, she is basically dealing with all of the power that her father had, but with very little of the experience and the wisdom. It’s interesting — the Sargon of the old DC Universe, as people know him, was this gray area character. Sometimes he was a villain, and sometimes he was a hero. In the New 52, this female Sargon is a very early version of a sorcerer. You can see her, maybe 30, 40 years from now, being a very wise, even beneficial character, but right now, she’s out of control. She’s wickedly powerful. And she’s extremely greedy for certain things. And she’s a really fun character to play within Constantine’s context because she’s kind of everything that he doesn’t like about magic. He thinks the wrong thing to do is allowing anyone to have more power than they understand. And Sargon demonstrates the dangers of that. She has inherited a lot of power from her father but she hasn’t quite taken his lessons to heart so she is like a wild child throwing magic around and she’s exactly the type of person that John does not want on the playing field.

Of course, she’s taken a very personal interest in John and she wants him to suffer just for stepping in her way. Things come to a pretty strong head in the next couple of months.

Do Sargon and the Cult of the Cold Flame have a role in “Forever Evil: Blight?”

Every single mystical character in the DC Universe plays into “Forever Evil: Blight.” [Laughs] So yes, Sargon and the Cold Flame will appear in the story.

Before I let you go, I have to ask — as a huge fan of Constantine, were you excited to hear the news about the planned TV series?

I’m totally excited about it. I can’t wait to see what they do. I’m sure it’s going to be cool. I love the character at his core, and I love to see the different interpretations of him. I can think of nothing better than after a week’s work to kick back and watch a TV show with one of my favorite characters.

Who would you dream cast as John?

[Laughs] I’m going to lay no boundaries on it — I just want to see somebody who is sleazy and charming! “Constantine” #7, written by Ray Fawkes and featuring art by Renato Guedes, goes on sale this week.

“Forever Evil: Blight” crashes into Constantine’s world with december’s issue #9.