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Trenchcoat Brigade

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A trenchcoat brigadier in his natural environment.

"You learn the basics, have a hideous experience in a graveyard, they give you a trenchcoat and steal your razor. Like an assembly line, really."
Ambrose Bierce, Stanley and His Monster

The most famous spitting image of an Occult Detective, many creators figure that if they give a bloke a trenchcoat, a pack of smokes, a five o'clock shadow, a quick wit, hard-boiled and self-referential dialogue and a dark, mysterious past, they've got themselves a Magnificent Bastard of an Anti-Hero that they can send out to fight various occult foes.

Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. What they always do get, though, is a member of the Trenchcoat Brigade.

Members of the Trenchcoat Brigade are those characters who are strongly influenced by, inspired by, or out and out expy/copies of the character of John Constantine, first introduced in 1985 by DC Comics. He has all of the above characteristics, as well as being British, blond, and pretty much a loner. (The strings of loved-and-lost women — or occasionally men — they may take up with don't count.)

For the trenchcoat itself, see Badass Longcoat, mere possession of which does not automatically make one a member of the Trenchcoat Brigade. The item of apparel in question is also (and was earlier) a stereotype of "stale beer" Spy Fiction, which lends plenty of inspiration to the characters on this page. Not as much overlap with Trenchcoat Warfare as you might expect. Distant cousin of Angels in Overcoats.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero. He wears a grungy longcoat, smokes so much and has cold and calculating facade. Top of all that, he's also a Mage Killer specializing in killing rogue mages with his own brand of magic.
  • Alucard from Hellsing. The guy's a cold-hearted bastard who loves to taunt his foes, but occasionally sides with the good as an Occult Detective.
  • Ginko from Mushishi. The guy attracts supernatural plague called Mushi and has to deal with unfortunate people who had encountered it occasionally.
  • Damien from Nightschool. He doesn't have stubble, but when you can stop bullets from reaching your skin, break bones, and flatten NYC just by thinking about it then you can be a nitpicker.
  • Phantom Quest Corp. has U Division's Detective Karino, who's usually seen in his trencoat and Perma-Stubble, and he's a smoker. Subverted in that he isn't hard-boiled. Instead, he's an Unlucky Everydude who's overworked and a bit of a bumbler, but still reasonably good at his job.
  • Tatsumi Saiga of Speed Grapher fits the bill to a T. Smokes, cynical and snarky- hes a photo journalist investigating a fetish ring. Top of all that, he's also got some nifty occult powers.

    Comic Books 
  • Bizancio: Marcos Bizancio is an Argentinian equivalent.
  • Bujarin: Alex Bujarin.
  • Criminal Macabre: Cal McDonald from the comics by Steven Niles isn't British, but otherwise fits this trope to a T. He even uses ghouls as informants.
  • Excalibur: Pete Wisdom (even when he wasn't being written by Warren Ellis, his creator) was always like this. He's cleaned up a bit recently, though. Given up smoking and everything. Some fans have theorised that the original character was the '90s Anti-Hero version of the character, and this is just a natural progression. Since Excalibur deals with Marvel's mutants in England, and lots of dimension-travelling, there's no question about the supernatural elements he's had to face.
  • Fables:
    • Bigby Wolf, who wears a trenchcoat and smokes thin cigars. The actual Big Bad Wolf, Bigby nonetheless has supernatural powers in him, and he's a detective too.
    • Beast is also one when he plays dress-up as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe as he tracks down his demonic wife.
    • The character Jack Horner also fits this trope. While not wearing a trenchcoat, or smoking that many cigars, or being British at all, Jack fits the bill for being the snarkiest selfish bastard in the Fables series, much akin to John Constantine. Like him, Jack also tricks gods and devils from time to time and also does some hustling conjobs along the way.
  • Hellblazer: John Constantine is the Ur-Example, of course. He first appeared in Swamp Thing and spun-off into his own series some years later. (Swamp Thing showed the title character and John Constantine both active in Crisis on Infinite Earths, although Constantine had only a very small role in the actual miniseries.) Constantine was created by Alan Moore based on his idea of "creating a character who looked like Sting", although Sting did not tend to wear trenchcoats or smoke (at least in public).
  • Hellboy: Not only is Hellboy an occult detective, he's a trenchcoat fan and a heavy smoker.
    • He first appeared on earth in Britain (though he was actually born in Hell.) He considers himself American, though.
  • Invincible: The demon detective Damien Darkblood, who's something of an expy of both Constantine and Hellboy; solving cases gets him a reprieve from being sent back to Hell for a few years each. Unfortunately for him, he isn't very good at his job (when he finally pieced together the case of Omni-Man's murder of the Guardians of the Globe and revealed his findings, the truth of said case had already become public knowledge for some months).
  • Planetary: Jack Carter, also by Warren Ellis.
  • Pryde And Wisdom: Constance Johanssen was Warren Ellis's homage/parody of Constantine in the mini-series: "Constance Johanssen. Excellent occult detective. Has a habit of getting her friends killed. Two hundred at last count."
  • The Sandman (1989): Neil Gaiman created John Constantine's ancestor, Johanna Constantine. Even though she doesn't wear a trenchcoat, she's still a Magnificent Bastard. It's also implied that Constantines gravitate towards this trope especially if their initials are "JC".
  • Trese: Trese is a relatively rare female example: a babaylannote  who works as an Occult Detective who in fact wears a trenchcoat and has a rather moody personality, at times involved in surreal antics fitting of John Constantine. The animated adaptation does the additional work of removing her signature Horned Hairdo and (at least per Word of Gay) making "sapphic" much as Constatine is bisexual.
  • Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse: The comic has the lifestyle and ruthlessly morally ambiguous style of battling evil of one of these, but has the persona of a slumming public school type.
  • X-Men: Gambit has a trenchcoat, stubble, mysterious past, and dubious morality. All that's missing is the occult specialty, though he's had his fair share of occult dealings both as a member of the X-Men and before that as a member of the Thieves Guild.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has John Constantine, Pete Wisdom and Harry Dresden, all of whom are mentioned on this page. Wisdom gets extra points for also being Regulus Black.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The film version of Alone in the Dark (2005) has a more snarky and jerky (but less life-like) Edward Carnby.
  • While his literary counterpart below has some aspects of this, Anton in the Night Watch films is an even better example, wearing a trenchcoat and Cool Shades, and is clearly an alcoholic. Dealing with the "Others" is probably enough to turn anyone sour.

  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden, private investigator and wizard, ticks every box on the list but the smoking. He technically wears a leather duster rather than a trenchcoat, but the visual effect is the same. It's also justified, because the duster is enchanted to be bulletproof, fireproof, and waterproof. His book covers add a nice hat to the formula, but the actual character makes a point of not being a hat person. The Magnificent Bastard tendencies take a while to come in, but when they do...well, suffice to say that you really don't want to hurt Harry's loved ones.
  • In the virtual reality world of the Escapist Dream, geeks and visitors can visit and role-play as their favorite fictional characters. Jim Broughton, one of the main protagonists, was inspired to base himself around the character of John Constantine, complete with the trenchcoat, Silk Cut, snarky attitude, and being from Liverpool. Jim's image of John Constantine goes beyond just costume. In most of his adventures, he tended to defeat his foes not with brute strength but by wit and manipulation.
  • Lindsey Davis doesn't let the fact that her Roman public informer Marcus Didius Falco lived seventeen centuries before the invention of the trenchcoat get in the way of this trope. Falco is often seen on investigations lurking in a dark out-of-the-way corner whilst wearing a big dark hooded cloak, often loosely fastened in front with a belt.
  • Simon R. Green's Nightside series has John Taylor, who is basically a nicer John Constantine.
  • The Red Room series is about Derek Hawthorne, a snarky trenchcoat-wearing secret agent who deals with the supernatural. Later, he learns the bare basics of magic and becomes sort of John Constantine meets James Bond.
  • A recent addition to the brigade is Jimmy Stark, antihero of Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim. Ragged & snarky, with a dark past and hellish powers; wearing a black silk trenchcoat with no irony, and smoking Maledictions, the cigarettes from Hell.
  • A lot of the groups in The Solomon Code are like this, but of specific note are the Templars when Chad first meets them. It's evident that the Templars wear the long coats specifically to look cool.

    Live-Action TV 

     Tabletop Games 
  • Thomas Rhymer in the Freedom City setting for Mutants & Masterminds is blatantly a Northern Irish Helblazer, with his illustration in Atlas of Earth Prime showing him complete with trenchcoat, stubble, and cigarette (and shoulder length red hair, for variety). His back story has much the same beats as Constantine's, born with significant magical ability, tried to ignore it and formed a band, had a horrible experience which left him in a psychiatric ward, and eventually ended up Walking the Earth, solving magical problems with "a combination of cunning, knowledge and sheer determination".

    Video Games 
  • Edward Carnby from Alone in the Dark who uses more guns to fight monsters than magic.
  • Devil May Cry: In the game’s manual and Hideki Kamiya’s description, Dante is described as a wisecracking British paranormal investigator, complete with trench coat (faded red rather than brown, in his case.) While a few of these traits still made it into the early games, every entry beyond 2 made his sense of humor and wardrobe more brash and flamboyant, his accent more American, his allies more plentiful and his already ostensible job as some kind of investigator seemingly supplanted by superhero.
  • Sissel from Ghost Trick.
  • Ronan O'Connor from Murdered: Soul Suspect. Though he doesn't wear a coat, he still smokes and snarks like it's running out of style, even in the afterlife.
  • Bigby Wolf from the adaptation The Wolf Among Us. While Bigby doesn't do trenchcoats, The voice actor really did great job in making him a Hellblazer-standard Snark Knight.
  • Constantine movie also had a video game adaptation.
  • The title character of the Gabriel Knight games has the blond hair, the trench coat, the snarky disposition as he does battle with voodoo cults, werewolves, vampires, and his own personal demons.

    Visual Novels 
  • "Omen" from Super Nova 2022 is pretty much Constantine as a pine marten. Mnesis finds his supernatural antics very annoying, since he often interacts with the magical criminal underworld.

  • Andrew Cross from morphE is a by the numbers example. An agent of the occult with a long coat, thick stubble and a crazed paranoid outlook.
  • Nick from Schwarz Kreuz. Dark and Troubled Past? He's a virgin vampire (this requires suicide), and that's just for starters. The Alcoholic? Check. Unkempt? Check. Badass Longcoat? Check.
  • Riff of Sluggy Freelance fits most of the trope. His dark and troubled past working as a Hereti Corp freelancer is often brought up even today. His inventions potentially destroying all (or most) of mankind is another for which he's visibly trying to redeem himself for. Dimensional travel, hell's kittens, and time travel all rear their heads in this (supposedly) Slice of Life series. He also has a string of girlfriends he left behind. He doesn't smoke though.

    Western Animation 
  • Dante Vale from Huntik.
  • Damien Darkblood has the same role in the Invincible (2021) series as in the comics, but is noticeably better at it since he figures out Omni-Man is the Guardians of the Globe's killer much sooner. Unfortunately for him, he ends up banished back to Hell for his troubles by a third party.

"I heard that, Constantine."