Who Is Johanna Constantine in The Sandman?

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Who Is Johanna Constantine in The Sandman?

preview for The Sandman - Official Trailer (Netflix)

Adapting a comic book like The Sandman for the screen comes with many challenges. Author Neil Gaiman has had three decades to tweak and update his story since the first issue went to print but making changes—even small ones, like a character’s appearance—has the potential to upset long-time fans.

Though many Sandman characters, such as Lucienne and Lucifer, have been gender-swapped in the Netflix live-action series, which just wrapped up its first season, doing the same to create occult detective Johanna Constantine was potentially the most controversial choice.

The character, played by Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman, is actually based on the DC Comics warlock John Constantine from the Hellblazer series. (Fans may have recognized the name from a 2014 Constantine television series on NBC starring actor Matt Ryan, or even further back in 2005 with the Keanu Reeves-starring Constantine film.) While both John and Johanna Constantine appear early in The Sandman comics, only Johanna exists in the Netflix series. Also, Johanna is meant to be John’s 18th-century ancestor, but Netflix’s Sandman chose to go in another direction by having Coleman play both her and her identical descendent in the present day.

According to Gaiman, that decision was made because of Coleman. “I think Jenna is the best Constantine on screen so far and weirdly somehow the truest because she both has the humor, and the attractiveness, and that sleazy, doomed quality,” Gaiman told SlashFilm. You know that if you fall in love with her, you are dead and demon-fodder. And you also know that you can’t help falling in love with her.”

Coleman’s Constantine has also been a hit with fans so far, despite only appearing in two episodes of The Sandman‘s first season. For eagle-eyed fans of the DC Comics warlock, her main starring episode also featured countless references to Hellblazer characters such as Ric the Vic, the demon Agileth, and the haunting nightmare sequence from Hellblazer #11. Johanna’s ex, Rachel, even name-drops several of John’s exes from the comics including Oliver, Sarah, And Kit Ryan.

It’s been a delight to watch—and an entirely new character to embrace. “She’s not a gender-swapped John. She’s another Constantine,” Neil Gaiman wrote on Twitter—and fans seem to agree.

Though the brand new series has yet to be renewed for a second season by Netflix, talk of a potential Johanna Constantine spin-off is a good sign. “I was just so excited to enter that world of dark, epic fantasy,” Jenna Coleman told Harper’s BAZAAR of taking the gig. “There aren’t many female roles like [Johanna] – she is really complex and layered; she uses humor as a defense mechanism, but she is obviously a really tortured soul… I mean she is an exorcist.”

Here’s hoping that Coleman can exercise her way into Season Two!

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