In some ways this is a follow-up to my post about the Anatomy Lesson a few months ago. While Alan Moore was revolutionizing horror comics, he also created possibly his most influential character, working-class Englishman and full-time wizard John Constantine.

Heavily influenced by Sting, Moore wanted to create a character who was tied to the world of the supernatural in way that was more accessible to someone who wasn’t a product of Britain’s stuffy ivory halls. But instead a product of the dingy alleyways and low-class night clubs that Moore recognized as his home.

Constantine proved so popular that he was given his own series.

The book’s original writer Jamie Delano was tasked with filling in the details of Constantine’s life, as Moore had left the character a cypher. Delano’s take was heavily influenced by Thatcher-era England. He also established Constantine as a man whose lifestyle took a heavy toll on his own friends and family.

When Garth Ennis came on to the book he drastically changed the tone of the series, from one of a protagonist plagued by external horrors, to that of man haunted by his own demons. In the first book Dangerous Habits, Constantine discovers that his ever present smoking has caught up with him and he has contracted terminal lung cancer. But more importantly Constantine was forced to come to terms with the consequences of a lifetime of putting his need to thumb his nose at the powers that be above the lives and happiness of those around him.

Constantine’s cancer became symbolic for the anger and self loathing that was already killing him and everyone around him. The shift from Delano to Ennis was like the shift in punk rock aesthetics of the Dead Kennedy’s to the Pogues.

Over the course of Dangerous Habits, Ennis ruminates on the nature of friendship, loyalty and living with the consequences of your actions. While confronting his illness Constantine is forced to face his own questionable decisions, and more importantly the way he has rationalized them. There’s a real horror there, the sudden inescapable conclusion that you are not the person you think you are and will never be.