I am a Marvelite longstanding, but DC simply does magic better. It’s darker, wilder and the people writing and drawing it know their RL occult stuff, often grounding in history which makes it WAY more creepy than the random demon from another dimension as Marvel does it. Marvel too often treats magick well, like magic: A wave of a wand to fix problem. Magick in the DC’ verse is much less under the control of human magick-users, they are playing with fire in a big way and it is just as likely to bite them in the ass as help.
Constantine is not the Sorcerer Supreme of the DC ‘verse (if anyone, that’s Doctor Fate, and even he is a double-edged sword). He is a wildcard badass who uses more trickery than magick to end evil. Sure he knows magick, but he is not magically powerful (or at least not the most powerful). It’s more that he is dead clever with it which makes him much more dangerous than your average bear.
I can’t find scans of it, but in one story, the mobster-type bad guy has tied Constantine up on the edge of the Thames where the tide will drown him. Constantine gets the guy to name everyone he’s killed.
“Funny thing, names. Names have power…”
And the corpses of all his victims rise up out of the river and kill the guy.
He’s an Alan Moore character. Need I say (no pun intended) more?
Constantine’s stories tend to walk more of the horror side of the fence (and being dark and off on the Vertigo imprint, the writers also have more freedom in their storytelling to sometimes get profound), so I have not read about lot of Hellblazer or his eponymous series. But what I have seen of him in other series and Gaiman’s Books of Magic, he is awesome.
I watched the pilot of the Constantine TV show over the weekend. I thought it was solid. Pilots are never awesome, they are usually too busy establishing everything to tell a first rate story. I thought Ryan did a good job (though Constaintine is supposed to be a Scouser). It looks like they set up a lot of the universe fairly true to form, with some nice fanservice/continuity nods (the helmet of Doctor Fate being the biggie). It’s made clear he does smoke, he just doesn’t do it onscreen. Yes, it’s sanitized, but did we really expect a occult horror story on primetime network TV? It will be interesting to see if they keep his bisexuality from the comic. And I am *really* hoping they bring in Swamp Thing.
There is a lot of potential in the show. I’m waiting to see how it develops over the next few episodes.