Still at last week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow, we find John Constantine meeting another figure from his past in the pub in 1977 Liverpool, one that this time he’s not too happy to see: his father. In Dancing Queen, Constantine tries to repay (in advance) years of abuses and violence by attacking a young Tommy, portrayed by Chris Walters, but there are rules to time travel to prevent paradoxes (even if the series is literally cramped with them), and ends up being beaten in turn. From what we can learn from John’s words, Thomas Constantine will grow up to be the abusive father we all love to hate from the comics, more than enough to justify such a grudge from his own son. Let’s see together.
Thomas Constantine was born in Liverpool in 1914, son of a working class man, a working class man himself in his immediate future. His father, Bill Constantine, died serving his country and His Majesty in World War I, and Thomas was raised by his mother Alice. It wasn’t exactly a solitary life, as he had quite a numerous family, with six brothers and one sister, all like him slaves to their social class and destined to heavy work and a small salary. Alice died when she was still relatively young, so Thomas learnt quite soon to take care of himself. Before dying a soldier, his father had been a stevedore at the docks, and Thomas followed his footsteps, obtaining the same job. A hard worker and a heavy drinker, he soon became a living stereotype, but he somehow changed the moment he met Mary Ann Quinn, a woman he fell in love with and who soon after became his wife. Mary Ann had a positive effect on Thomas, and the two of them were moderately happy for the first years of their marriage. Things got even better when they had a daughter, Cheryl. Then they got worse. Much worse. One day, as he was completely drunk at the docks, he started a brawl with some other workers, and unwillingly caused an accident: when he woke up, he had lost an arm. From that day, his life appeared to him as totally meaningless: as he couldn’t work anymore, all he did was drinking, and he vented his frustration on his family and on whoever else had the misfortune of crossing his path. Mary Ann got pregnant other times after Cheryl, but Thomas forced her to abort each time: he couldn’t take care of other kids, he didn’t have money to raise them with. Even if he had more than enough to get drunk all day and night, apparently.
In 1953, Mary Ann got pregnant with twins, and this time she was more than determined to keep them, despite Thomas’ usual objection. Even this time, though, it was the husband who got the last words, and Mary Ann underwent another abortion… but only one baby died, while the other kept growing inside her. Time for legal abortion had passed, and Mary Ann delivered a boy, John… her body, however, had been weakened by the previous abortions, and she died of fatigue immediately after the birth. Thomas was overridden by guilt, but he simply couldn’t recognize himself as the responsible of the death of the woman of his life. Because of this, he found a better and easier solution in blaming John, seeing him as the actual murderer of his own mother. Thomas started drinking even more, if it was possible, and he often beat John, venting on him decades of frustration, rage and humiliations. Since he was out drinking more often than not, it was Cheryl the one who acted as a parental figure for her little brother, and she spent most of her time trying to protect him from their dad. Finally, after getting particularly drunk, in 1961, Thomas was arrested for stealing women’s underwear, and was put in prison for some time. John, who was 17, exploited the occasion to flee, and left his home never to come back, while Cheryl went to live nearby to keep an eye on her old man. Thomas came back to his house, and there he stayed, alone and embittered, until 1990, when he became the target of the Family Man, a serial killer that John Constantine had tried to stop, and who in revenge wanted to hit his hunter’s family… not knowing that by killing Thomas he was actually doing a favor to John. Not being surprised the least, John saw his father one another time after his death, during one of his trips to Hell, that was now the permanent residence of his abusive father.
Thomas Constantine is the perfect product of his time and social class, of course, but also of his own bad choices and his impossible character. Violent, abusive and full of rage, he’s a heavy drinker who tries to forget the humiliation of being himself drowning his sorrow in alcohol, obtaining only an even shorter temper and a number of drunken exploits he’ll maybe remember and regret after. With no love to give, even to his family, and nothing at all to give to the world, Thomas decided to leave a mark at least in his kids’ memories by haunting their nightmares, but this is a choice he’ll have to pay for, eventually…