DC has had loads of success with its original graphic novels aimed toward younger readers. These books take familiar DC superheroes and characters and typically place them in more youthful settings, particularly high school. One of the newest DC Middle-Grade books coming next year is The Mystery Of The Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel by Ryan North, Derek Charm and Wes Abbot.
This book, as its name would suggest, has a magically mysterious adventure fit for kids, starring the premiere British magician in the DC Universe. To make things kiddy, of course, certain changes have had to be made for the more adult-oriented character. The most obvious change is that of Constantine's regular oral fixation, and the switch to a confection unintentionally makes him eerily similar to the 4Kids version of Sanji from One Piece.
Kiddy John Constantine's Lollipop
The cover of the kid-friendly Constantine book depicts the British occult expert in his typical look: blonde hair, a green overcoat, button-up shirt and red tie. This is how the character's been portrayed universally (with the exception of the Constantine movie) ever since his introduction in the pages of Saga of the Swamp Thing in the 1980s. One major difference, however, is the item in Constantine's hand. Instead of his typical cigarette, this young Constantine has a lollipop.
This change is honestly completely logical, and a far different situation than typical attempts to censor Constantine's tobacco use. Not only is the book geared toward young children, but Constantine himself is also a young adult in the story. But the change also has the unintended effect for anime fans of recalling the very much poorly-censored 4Kids version of One Piece and the distributor's handling of the similar-looking Sanji.
4Kids' One Piece
Like Constantine, Sanji is a scruffy yet dapper-looking blonde man, though the physical characteristics don't end there. In the Japanese version of the anime, at least, Sanji is always seen with a cigarette hanging either from his fingers or his mouth, which was incredibly problematic in 4Kids' repackaged version of the anime for American audiences. This rather infamous dub of One Piece had a number of questionable attempts to censor potentially offensive material, with simple firearms being edited to become completely innocuous and equally as dubious contraptions.
The dub also famously gave Sanji an arguably fitting Brooklyn accent, as well as digitally edited his cigarette into a lollipop. This edit could logically be seen as necessary, given the fact that One Piece was aired at a time slot aimed toward young children. When combined with the 4Kids' other controversial changes to the material, however, it was the recipe for endless criticism among the fanbase.
The manga and anime would both later give sly references to this by having Sanji with a lollipop instead of a cigarette. Given both character's similar appearances and snarky attitude, it's possible that the creative team behind The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher are themselves referencing one of 4Kids' most debatable decisions in bringing One Piece to the West.