Comics/Graphic Novels

B-List Bonanza: John Constantine’s Tree Tattoo

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

I was working on my Haunted Riot post for this most wonderful time of the year and decided to include Swamp Thing on my list of Creepy Comic Creatures. This led me to considering my favorite Swamp Thing moments and the realization that the majority of them involve his bemusedly exasperated dealings with one John Constantine: occultist, purveyor of whatever the hell kind of magic he wants, and general enormous pain in the ass.

This train of thought ultimately screeched into irony station with the thought, “Of course, Swamp Thing is the reason Constantine has that tree tattooed on his ass.”

Which…is a pretty good story, so rather than summon up a whole person from the comic ether today, we’re going to summon up a story line and its symbolic culmination on John Constantine’s butt.


Please, don’t pretend you haven’t wanted a peek at the derriere that inspired Justice League Dark: Apokolips War’s King Shark to say, “King Shark is a shark.”

Okay. Brace yourselves because this is about to get weird. Which…comics, come on, if you’re here, you should know that by now.


The character of John Constantine was first introduced in The Saga of Swamp Thing #37 (1985). Born in Liverpool, he began to experiment with magic at a young age, though the mysterious personage who introduced him to the art failed to mention that their gift of a power building spell required a sacrifice; that sacrificed ended up being John’s mother and father. Despite the tragedy, John continued to build his magical skills, using them mostly to con people as a matter of survival, growing up to be a loudmouthed, belligerent, and extremely talented magician.

Alec Holland and his wife Linda were in their lab in the Louisiana swamp (it was a super secret lab of course, because 1974) working on a “Restorative Chemical” that would solve the world’s food shortages when a couple of thugs working for a crime boss (because of course) found their super secret lab and blew it up. Alec, who had been drenched in his experimental chemical, woke up from being knocked unconscious (sure) just as the bomb exploded and was only able to make it to the swamp, where the chemical forged a bond between the scientist and his subject. The resulting creature was a hybrid of plant life and Alec Holland’s consciousness (but missing large swaths of his memory) that called itself Swamp Thing and had control over every cell of plant life on the planet. He declared himself protector of the Green.

After some weird shenanigans with more labs and hallucinogenic tubers, and some time in a punk band and some really bad decisions, John showed up on Swamp Thing’s turf claiming to be able to fill in his memory gaps but refusing to do so until Swampy helped him solve some supernatural problems around the country. Swamp Thing did as Constantine asked, which led to his surviving Crisis and The Great Darkness that followed in the Spirit Realm. He then met the Parliament of Trees, a group of retired plant elementals who took responsibility for making certain there was always an active elemental protecting The Green.

Here’s where the possession comes in.

During the weird shenanigans, Swamp Thing had met Abby and they fell in love. There were ups and downs, one of said downs being Swamp Thing being napalmed and retreating to an alien planet to regrow a body (again—he does that a lot). You can forgive the Parliament of Trees for thinking he was dead and sprouting a new elemental, yes? Yes. But also oops, because two living elementals would upset the balance of nature = calamity. The Parliament gave Swamp Thing the choice of leaving Abby forever and joining them in retirement or killing the Sprout who was, effectively, his kid. He refused both options and went to hatch a plan with his old pal, Johnny; the duo figured that grafting The Sprout to a human host until Swamp Thing was ready to retire would buy them them the time they needed.

Their first candidate, Solomon Grundy, didn’t work out.

Evil guy who had just died in a terrorist attack, ditto.

John negotiated with an average dude whose plane was about to crash but The Green accidentally escorted Gary Holland’s (yes, that’s right) soul to heaven with the rest of the crash victims. Yikes.

After additional failed attempts, Swamp Thing took control of a somewhat reluctant John Constantine’s body and did the deed with Abby, conceiving a child in which they could plant The Sprout and at which it would develop at a normal human rate.

Before returning John’s body, Swamp Thing very thoughtfully had it decorated.

And that’s how John Constantine ended up with this week’s B-List Hero, the tree tattoo, on his ass.