Valiant Entertainment’s Summer of Valiant relaunch continues July 11 when the publisher relaunches “Bloodshot” by writer Duane Swierczynski and artists Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi and . A part of the original Valiant lineup, “Bloodshot” was created by Don Perlin and Kevin VanHook and centered on the titular character, a broken soldier brought back to life by nanotechnology to be the perfect soldier with the ability to interface with technology, a healing factor and more.
CBR News spoke with Swierczynski and Valiant editor Warren Simons about bringing the character back to the publisher’s revampled Valiant Universe, Swierczynski’s experience with the loner-type character, dealing with continuity conundrums and the research that went in to recreating the character for a new generation.
CBR News: Duane, “Bloodshot” #1 is relaunching in July with you at the helm. What can you tell us about your take on the character and what you’ve got in store for him?
Duane Swierczynski: The beauty of this character right now, in terms of relaunching him or bringing him back to comic stands, is that he basically has amnesia. He doesn’t know what the hell happened before, so as he figures out things about his life, we do as well. The reader is along with him for the ride, which is always kind of fun. He has quite a story, a very checkered past. Warren and I talked about great, cool noir amnesia stories and this whole big unique [aspect], especially with a character like Bloodshot, who is just very, very hard to kill. He can survive almost anything. The question Warren and I are trying to ask is, can he survive the trauma of knowing what he was and what he is?
Warren Simons: I think the really wonderful thing about Duane’s pitch that I really loved is that there are some questions about Bloodshot’s identity based on the previous incarnation of the character, the VH1 version of the character or the VH2 version of the character. There were just some things that we were juggling when we were deciding what to do with him. Duane came up with this high-concept that absolutely annihilated it and brought everything together. As Duane said, a lot of this has to do with who the character was previously.
So, this version of “Bloodshot” utilizes the previous incarnations of the character, keeping them in-continuity?
Swierczynski: It doesn’t dissolve anything that’s come before. What it kind of does is almost like — those stories in those previous universes played out in a certain way, and if you step back and see it in a larger context of what was happening, hopefully, it’s an, “Oh, my God” moment where you realize these things did happen, but not for the reasons we thought they were. If I’m being cryptic, it’s on purpose because I don’t want to ruin any surprises. The big element at play here is of memory. A guy like Bloodshot, who is a living weapon and sent on missions — there are certain things you have to do to motivate a guy like Bloodshot. This arc is about what motivates a man like Bloodshot, and that touches on his past a lot.
How familiar were you with Bloodshot when you first took on the job of writing the book?
Swierczynski: I’ll be honest — not at all. [Laughs] The ’90s, in its heyday, was about the time I was in college, out of college and not reading comics. I jumped back on board in ’99 or 2000 and really, I missed a lot of stuff. But when Warren first started talking and he mentioned the character, he sent me a bunch of stuff. I did some research and I realized that I really should have been into this guy big time in his heyday. I’ve been playing catch up, but I wasn’t familiar with him at all.
That said, you’ve had experience writing a relatable solo-gunner type character with your run on “Cable” post-Messiah CompeX and your work with characters like Punisher and Deadpool. How do you feel your experience with these solo-type gunner characters influenced your approach to “Bloodshot?”
Swierczynski: It certainly does help, but I kind of see Bloodshot as very different than Cable or the Punisher, in some very fundamental ways. Cable had a certain mission, the Punisher has his own personal mission. Bloodshot, from the gate, doesn’t know what his mission is other than finding out who he is and what he can do and where he should go from here. It’s very true, it’s a lone, badass, tough-guy iconic character, but it’s playing in a different ballpark than what came before in my career.
Now that you’re intimately familiar with him, what appeals to you about Bloodshot as a character?
Swierczynski: I guess what appeals to me is, I love characters in crime novels and noir movies where they get the crap beat out of them almost to the point of breaking. A character like Bloodshot, who can heal and can push insane limits, that just ups the ante across the board. You can really do a lot of serious damage to this poor guy before he even has a hint of being down for the count. Heightened circumstances appeal to me, and the idea or mystery of self, the mystery of who we are, plays out in a fun way. That’s new. As far as comic characters, I haven’t had that. Whenever I’ve written about someone, they come with a ton of backstory. So does Bloodshot, but it’s offering me a chance to reinterpret it more than ever before.
Has your experience reinterpreting characters on the New 52’s “Birds of Prey” help out when it came time to re-imagine “Bloodshot?”
Swierczynski: Every experience helps. I’m not sure there are any direct [correlations]. One’s a female superpowered crime-fighting team, this one’s a loner badass who can’t remember who he is. [Laughs] It’s not the most obvious of comparisons. I just think that, in my career, every experience helps me be a better storyteller. Warren can tell you, [there is a] slight difference from my first days writing for Marvel writing “Iron Fist” and “Werewolf By Night.” Hopefully he’d agree that he’s inherited a Duane that’s a little sharper and wiser for it, years later.
Simons: Absolutely. Unquestionably. If you have a chance to read some of Duane’s novels, whether it’s “Wheel Man” or some of the recent ones, he has a way of creating these absolutely relentless protagonists and he just puts them through the grinder. You just wonder how much more these people can take. It’s just action-packed and on fire. As I was reading the Bloodshot comic and digging in, I just thought he would do a wonderful job on it, and he has. If you’re looking for the vibe of his work, a lot of it comes from that stuff that’s in “Bloodshot” right now, so I couldn’t be happier with how it’s coming along.
So, what can you tell us of your plans to put Bloodshot through the grinder?
Swierczynski: Oh boy, without ruining things or spoiling things, the very first issue — God. Severe amounts of bodily trauma. [Laughs] One panel in particular, where maybe his soul is kind of removed. I’m not sure.
Simons: It’s not just physical trauma. It’s really just 22 pages of kerosene-soaked comic book. It’s relentless from start to finish and it only gets crazier from here.
Swierczynski: Actually, Warren makes a great point — the personal torture is far worse than the actual physical torture. I really can’t say anything without ruining a bunch of important things, but I’d rather endure the physical side more than what I have in store for him mentally.
Obviously, Bloodshot, much like all the other Valiant characters, have ties to a larger universe. Will there be threads of that larger universe in the story you’re telling?
Swierczynski: From the beginning during our first conversations together, Warren and I were keenly aware of how this would fit into the larger Valiant Universe. I guess I see it in an organic way, as if Warren is planning this one massive novel and these series are sort of chapters in that saga. It’s all really thought out before hand to make sure everything is true to this world as opposed to the idea of, “Oh, let’s just cram X with Y and see what happens.” It is, I think, very well thought out, but Warren is the guy to answer this because he’s the mastermind, the evil genius behind this.
Simons: [Laughs] Evil, definitely. Within the opening pages of “Bloodshot,” the events that occur will have massive repercussions across the rest of the Valiant Universe almost for an entire year. The great thing about the book is it definitely stands alone, so you could read the entire story and it’s a stand-alone, four issue arc. Or, conversely, when you read the first 12 issues, you’ll see how we’re plugging everything together. That’s really our goal here: To tell individual stories you can pick up and read and you could love. By the same token, one of the strengths of the Valiant Universe is that we are a universe and the characters can play off of each other.
The synopsis describes Bloodshot as “a walking WikiLeaks that is a reservoir of dirty secrets that could set the world on fire.” Beyond just reading individual back issues of “Bloodshot,” what sort of research went into this story?
Swierczynski: For me, it’s been unconscious research, even before I started talking to Warren about “Bloodshot.” I’m very fascinated by things like WikiLeaks and military intelligence — all the crazy things that the government cooks up to either get information or destroy people or what have you. It’s almost as if Bloodshot — if you have a drone, a predator drone plane, and it was full of the most devastating or compromising secrets the government has in that vessel, what would happen if you crashed it and got it? Remember that story a few months ago when a foreign government shot down a drone and they actually had it and showcased it? It’s almost like, “Wow, what was on there? What embarrassing things will this reveal about our covert operations?” That inspired the vibe of what happens to Bloodshot in the first issue.
“Bloodshot” was recently optioned to be a live-action film, an announcement made before you were even confirmed as writer of the book. As a result of the announcement, do you feel any pressure to really knock it out of the park?
Swierczynski: I can confirm I’m not playing Bloodshot. I’m sorry. I know that fans are clamoring for me portraying Bloodshot, but I’ve got to say no. I’m too busy writing. [Laughs]
Pressure? Not really, honestly. Honestly, the pressure of making a killer first issue is great enough. I don’t worry about the movie end of it. I don’t know. Warren, do you feel pressure?
Simons: No. Part of the reason I cast Duane, wanting him to write this, is I feel like, regardless of the external circumstances, whether it’s the “Bloodshot” movie that’s been optioned, or whether this is a very small character that no one’s ever heard before, or whether it’s a key summer blockbuster, I know that Duane’s going to put his heart into it and he’s going to write the best story possible regardless of the audience.
Swierczynski: I approach it the way I approach my novels. I write my novels not with an eye on whether it will be optioned to Hollywood or not, I think the novel has the work on its own. It’s the same thing here; the comic has to just be great on its own. That’s why I make it. We can’t worry about the other end of it. That’s sort of an aftereffect or something else entirely. The comic has to work on its own.
Simons: We’re really focused on publishing the issues that we’re working on and just making sure month in, month out, the comics are exceptional; that every issue’s great, that every month is great, that every year is great. That’s really our goal. He’s a great character with an immense amount of potential, obviously, but by the same token, what we’re focusing on is that it’s a stellar, great first issue.
What are you most looking forward to for when “Bloodshot” #1 hits the stands?
Swierczynski: There are certain surprises where I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ll be received — part of the mental anguish we mentioned. You’ll see a lot of that toward the end of the first issue and it goes full bloom in the opening of the second issue. It’s something really different, for me at least, as a writer, and I’m curious to see how fans take to it.
Simons: We have some extraordinarily beautiful art from Manuel Garcia. We also have an artist named Arturo Lozzi who’s contributing to the issue. I don’t want to get into why we’re framing sequences or why they have separate artists. All will be revealed in early July. We have some extraordinarily beautiful art. Esad Ribic, Arturo Lozzi, David Aja and Mico Suayan all did covers for the first issue. They’re really, really quite beautiful. July 11 is right around the corner, and we’re really excited for this issue to hit the stands.
“Bloodshot” #1 hits store July 11 from Valiant Entertainment.