Writer Dan Jolley has worked for damn near everyone in comics, from DC to Viz. Heck, It’d be easier to list the people he hasn’t worked for. But now, he’s working for the toughest boss there is.
Jolley is one of the co founders, along with Marie Croall and Brandon Jerwa, of the new imprint being released under the Speakeasy banner; Voicebox Comics. The creator owned and shared universe will give all three a new playground to work in. Jolley jumped at a chance to tell stories his own way, in his own world.
“It was Brandon’s idea; he approached Marie and me with it, but I jumped on the concept almost immediately,” Jolley told CBR News. “The chance to tell a story that’s absolutely 100% mine, published through an established brand like Speakeasy, and working with Marie and Brandon? There was no question.”
Jolley had been writing comics for more than fifteen years for pretty much every publisher imaginable, everything from “Obergeist” to the recent reboot of “Firestorm” over at DC. The eclectic career all stemmed from a chance introduction into comics writing.
“I got involved in comics purely by accident. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but a chance introduction at age 19 put me in contact with the members of Gaijin Studios in Atlanta. They opened some doors for me and I walked on through.” said Jolley.
We spoke with Jolley about his contribution to Voicebox Comics, the hardboiled detective tale, “Sawed-Off Mojo.”
“It’s about Mark Adderhold, a private detective in Savannah, Georgia with a powerful natural gift for magic,” said Jolley. “Gifted though he is, he was raised in a rigid, authoritarian home that considered magic so loathsome and vile that it was never mentioned at all; he was profoundly affected by this, and now he’s uncomfortable around other magic-users as well as mundanes.
“The first story revolves around a missing-persons case, when a wealthy businessman suspects his teenage son has fallen victim to a bad (in other words, ‘magic-using’) crowd, and hires Mark to find him. The case rapidly escalates into something vastly different and much, much bigger, forcing Mark to make some choices more difficult than any he’s ever had to before. Plus a lot of stuff explodes, there’s a sexy (mostly naked) other-dimensional love interest, and at least one giant spider shows up. Also you get to see what happens when someone fires a really thoroughly cursed shotgun. Don’t expect much ‘down time.’
“Ultimately it’s about identity,” continued Jolley. “It focuses on a guy who’s very much a part of two worlds, but has been rejected by both, so he’s become convinced that there’s no place for him anywhere. I like writing about characters like that– outsiders who don’t fit into any kind of pre-written script, so to speak, and have to figure out their lives as they’re living them, bit by bit.”
The Voiceverse is magic centered, a choice that paradoxically gives the titles a solid footing in the real world.
“It provides a ready explanation for all of the weirdness that takes place in our various titles,” explained Jolley. “But for another, dedicating the origins of that weirdness solely to magic let us neatly sidestep a lot of the elements in comics that we wanted to steer clear of. No alien refugees; no mysterious mutagenic fogs; no outer-space goings-on. A lot of otherworldly stuff goes on in our titles– a lot of it– but the stories are also all very much grounded in reality.”
The magic helps form a common thread through the titles, but don’t expect any big reality smashing crisis type events or shoe horned in crossovers. For now, the titles will remain separate, each reaching out to a distinct set of fans.
“We’re very purposefully aiming at three different audiences here,” said Jolley. Brandon’s got the superhero goodness tied up in ‘The Last Bastion’; I’ve got the somewhat WildStorm-esque non-costume blockbuster thing going in ‘Sawed-Off Mojo’; and Marie’s going after the fans of eerie, psychological horror with ‘Shelter.’ As Brandon said, they’re all in the same world, but we want each of these stories to stand up on their own legs and run for a while before anything else happens.”
The art on “Sawed-Off Mojo” will be handled by rising new talent Mirko Colak, with Jolley himself handling the lettering for that extra special personal touch.
“He’s Serbian, and while not many people have heard of him in this country, that’s about to change in a big way,” said Jolley. “Mirko is phenomenally talented and has been all over the European scene for a while, most recently working for some French publishers. I’m lucky to have nabbed him. He’s doing the line art and the colors, and since I’m lettering the book myself, it’s just a two-person team. I think I like it best that way.”
All three Voicebox titles are being released through the now somewhat controversial publisher Speakeasy, who has come under fire recently for some of their announcements on how low selling books will be handled.
“I had spoken with Adam Fortier several times on the phone, as had Brandon and Marie, plus we’d met him in person at a convention, and he was clearly a stand-up guy. He had just really started pushing Speakeasy when Brandon came up with the Big Idea, and it seemed like a natural fit; I called him up and gave him the pitch, and he went for it right off the bat.” explained Jolley.
These days, starting any comic without established characters is difficult, something Jolley has experienced firsthand with his creator owned DC book “Bloodhound.” In spite of that, Jolley is convinced that it’s quality and not hype that will lead Voicebox to success.
“We’ve got our eye on a couple of promotional efforts, but honestly, the thing we’re concentrating most on is pouring our hearts and souls into making these books as good and engaging and memorable as possible,” said Jolley. “Somebody asked me recently what I was working on, and I was able to describe ‘Sawed-Off Mojo’ thusly: ‘It’s a Southern Gothic hard-boiled magic-using detective story set in Savannah, Georgia.’ It’s just plain fun to say that.”
“Sawed-Off Mojo” is the first book that is really and truly Jolley’s own, and he hopes that fans of his other work will come on board for the ride.
“Marie and Brandon and I wanted to create Voicebox so that our own visions could reach the readers, and ‘Sawed-Off Mojo’ delivers on that in a big way. This is my book– much more than ‘Firestorm’ ever was, even more than ‘Bloodhound’ was. So, if you liked either of those — or ‘The Liberty Files’ or ‘Obergeist’ — it’s all been leading up to this. I couldn’t be more proud.” Said Jolley.
“Sawed-Off Mojo” is a six issue limited series that kicks off in March, available in comic shops and other dens of iniquity.