The Hellblazer #141 That Almost Never Was:

Hellblazer #141 for "Shoot"Written by Warren Ellis; art by Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning; painted cover by Tim Bradstreet

The second of six self-contained stories teaming writer Warren Ellis with a surprising array of artists pairs Ellis with penciller Phil Jimenez (JLA/TITANS, THE INVISIBLES) and inker Andy Lanning. When a female psychologist researches a wave of premeditated mass killings in the American heartland, an enigmatic, chain-smoking Brit  shows her that the roots of evil run deeper than she'd ever imagined.

"We follow a female psychologist in America as she gathers and prepares research work on the wave of 'schoolyard slayings' - children gunning down other children en masse that's slowly sweeping the country - for a Senate investigative committee. She's also writing a paper on not only the pathology of premeditated mass killing, but the psychology of the victims. Jonestown is her starting point. She's heard the tape of Jim Jones' last sermon while his followers were screaming out in pain, the poison chewing through their guts. The children were poisoned too. They screamed too."

"In this unslept state of constant horror, she notices one cohesive factor in the last few instances of children blowing away their playmates in the playground. A lean, rumpled, middle-aged Englishman in a trenchcoat. She starts investigating him, suspecting a connection. But Constantine - the original, spooky Constantine, seen from a distance, enigmatic, appearing and disappearing at will - prowls round her, bringing her to understanding of what's really going on.   He makes her look properly at the video evidence of the thing he came from England for (an old friend's son who moved to America was shot dead in one of these incidents)."

—Warren Ellis Speaking on Hellblazer #141, on Mike Doran's Newsarama.


Time-Warner chickened out on publishing this issue in the wake of the Columbine shootings.  Hysterical finger-pointing was rampant, and anyone in a trenchcoat was a possible motivator, especially those without the weight of mainstream America behind them.  Warren, realizing that DC/Vertigo was not going to stand on a principle for him, decided to leave the title. 

I think in this case, Warren probably hit far too close to home, seeing as some writers do the cancers and demons that underlie American society.  Unable to look ourselves in the eye, unwilling to be shown what we do to our own children, we as a society played the blame game rather than look with pity on two lives that were so alienated and lonely, all they could think to do with themselves was go on a killing rampage, and blow up a library.

 —John Goodrich    2/28/2000

Update 12/30/2010: With the departure of Paul Levitz as the senior editor at DC, "Shoot" was dredged from the vaults, and finally released in Vertigo Resurrected. But then, we have other things to worry about.

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