Hellblazer is DC/Vertigo's longest running title (and the only remaining publication from the imprint's original launch), it has been continuously published since January 1988. The lead character was originally introduced in Swamp Thing, which was written by Alan Moore. The book was intended to be published under the title "Hellraiser", but this was changed before publication due to the release of Clive Barker's unrelated film of the same name.
John Constantine, the star of Hellblazer, is a confidence man who does morally questionable things, arguably for the greater good. He usually triumphs through guile, deceit and misdirection, but often makes more enemies in the process than he defeats. Indeed, it is a common theme in the book that Constantine is unable to effect any lasting change or enjoy unequivocal victories. While sometimes striving for the good of mankind, Constantine is often manipulative and a dangerous person to have as a friend, as the lives and souls of those around him become perilously involved in his misadventures. He takes pains to protect himself from direct attacks, but his friends and relatives are often endangered in order to strike at him. The spirits of deceased friends haunt him, individually or as an entourage of ghosts.
Hellblazer is set in a contemporary world, albeit a world of magic and behind the scenes supernatural conflict. Although there have been passing references to superheroes, the series has developed its own pocket universe in which the supernatural or paranormal does not play a large role in the lives of most ordinary people, and in Earth-threatening circumstances no superhero interventions are usually shown or hinted at, suggesting that superheroes no longer exist there. However, some DC Comics characters—most notably the fringe supernatural characters such as Swamp Thing, Zatanna and the Phantom Stranger have all made appearances.