Since his first appearance in Alan Moore's landmark Swamp Thing run, and over the course his subsequent starring role in the comic Hellblazer (which ran for 300 issues!), DC Comics' John Constantine has been many things: a trickster, an antihero, a con artist, a Brit, a womanizer, a married man, a blonde, and also Keanu Reeves.
(And a badly-animated Keanu Reeves, in the movie's video game tie-in).
But there's one other thing he's been: bisexual. Unfortunately, that won't be the case for the new Constantine TV series, which makes its debut on NBC this fall.
Actor Matt Ryan as John Constantine
Via Entertainment Weekly:
Ever since NBC announced it was taking on DC Comics’ character of snarky John Constantine, aka Hellblazer, some fans have wondered: Will the broadcast TV version played by Matt Ryan this fall be bisexual like in the comics? When asked about this at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour Sunday, executive producer Daniel Cerone ran down the various editions of the character that have existed since the demon fighter was introduced in 1985 to suggest his sexuality is not a crucial aspect of the character (nearly all of the character’s relationships in the comics have been with women). “In those comic books, John Constantine aged in real time,” he said. “Within this tome of three decades [of comics] there might have been one or two issues where he’s seen getting out of bed with a man. So [maybe] 20 years from now? But there are no immediate plans.”
In all fairness to Cerone, it's true John Constantine's bisexuality has rarely been at the forefront of his characterization. It wasn't until well into the run of Hellblazer that it was even mentioned; in issue #51, John references his string of “girlfriends... [and] the odd boyfriend.”
It was rarely referenced again, though a storyline by Brian Azzarello depicted him as a lover of a billionaire playboy named S.W. Manor (a Batman analogue; his name referenced “stately Wayne Manor.”)
Still, it's frustrating to see the possibility shot down, given that LGBT characters are largely absent from comic-based media, in spite of all the progress that the comics themselves have made for queer representation. The hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe has thus far had no room for the inclusion of gay characters, save for a brief reference to a same-sex prison relationship in a short that appeared on the Thor: The Dark World DVD and Blu-Ray. Meanwhile, the MCU's TV spinoff, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., introduced Victoria Hand, an Avengers-tied character who, in the comics, had been depicted in a lesbian relationship, then killed her off before her sexuality could be established in any way on the show.
Not on ABC.
Meanwhile, the X-Men franchise, despite the presence of an openly bisexual director and openly gay stars, and source material that's frequently included both gay characters and gay subtext, only has room for the subtext, not for explicit LGBT inclusion.
Over at DC, things are at least a little better. Sure, the long-running Smallville had no major LGBT characters, and, like S.H.I.E.L.D. years later, introduced a queer character from the comics while failing to establish her as gay on the show.
Maggie Sawyer: also not a TV lesbian.
The current Green Arrow-based TV series, Arrow, has an openly gay executive producer, and has made room for a lesbian storyline. And we can hope the the upcoming The Flash series will manage to be inclusive.
Actual dialogue: “Lightning gave me abs?” They know their audience.
There's no shortage of gay viewers out there, and no shortage of queer characters and themes in comics. Let's hope the networks and studios start to recognize that.