Hellblazer #63
Hellblazer #63, $0.99



So, I’ll admit it, I never really read comics as a kid. I was a total bookworm, devouring Bradbury, Asimov, Lovecraft, Stephen King, anything that was dark, violent and strange, but comics had barely registered on my radar. As I made my way into my later teens, I slowly discovered the joys of indie comics, making regular after-school trips to the Graham Crackers in Downers Grove (the old-old Main Street store) to pick up those awesome early issues of Hate, Eightball, Milk and Cheese, and Dork. Still, comics were just a passing fancy to me until my college roommate dropped a tattered stack of random Vertigo issues in my lap. After going through a few issues of Sandman and the Invisibles, I came across Hellblazer #63 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. This is a one-shot story that takes place the night of John Constantine’s 40th birthday party. As befitting a roguish con-man/necromancer, the party is a wild affair. John urinates on the Phantom Stranger’s shoes. Swamp Thing drops by to lend some, uh, hydroponic assistance. A bitter bunny rabbit talks trash, while Zatanna talks backwards. It’s hilarious, weird, profane and wise. It is tender and raunchy. It made you wonder what happened to this character before and anticipate where he might go next. It was the one comic that finally broke through to me, that showed me how truly great this medium could be. Of course, Ennis and Dillon went on to launch Preacher a year later or so and change the game completely, but before that, they told the story of a lonely magician and his birthday party. And I was hooked.

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