November may be unbearably cold to some, but for DC Comics and writer Dan Jolley, they got plans to heat things up for DC fans- namely a crossover between "Firestorm" and the critically acclaimed "Bloodhound" series. With the attention surrounding his work seemingly increasing daily, Jolley spoke to CBR News about the crossover and explained how it all came to be.
"It really got started with a character named Luis Salvador," explains the writer of "Voltron." "He was originally slated to appear first in 'Bloodhound,' but in the course of refining and tightening up the story, Luis's whole presence got excised from the first arc; Ivan and I just figured we'd use him somewhere down the road instead. But then when I started plotting out some events in Firestorm that follow up on what happened in that series' first arc, suddenly it became obvious that the perfect character to use would be Luis Salvador. So Salvador shows up first in 'Firestorm #7,' even though I had originally created him as an antagonist for Travis Clevenger in 'Bloodhound.'
"Salvador's a Miami drug lord who calls himself 'the King of I-75' (that being a major drug artery, since it runs from Miami all the way up to the Canadian border -- and passes through Detroit), and up to this point, the person Salvador has hated most has been Travis Clevenger, the main character in Bloodhound. But it turns out that Salvador had an employee running things for him in a small section of Detroit -- a fellow named Stevie Golek (who died as a result of Firestorm's actions in 'Firestorm #3'). So now Salvador's in Detroit, finding out exactly what happened, since he was told one of his men got killed by a brand-new superhero who might be interfering further in his business. At the same time, Clevenger is in a particularly vulnerable situation back in Georgia... and in the space of about ninety minutes things go from bad to much, much worse.
"This crossover will affect both series pretty significantly; for Jason Rusch, the new Firestorm, it becomes an ordeal which forces him to learn things not only about his newfound powers (and learn them really damn fast), but also about his own character, and what he's willing to do in a crisis. For Clevenger, it forges an alliance, which we'll see again later, but more importantly it takes a conflict that was already pretty severe and makes it about a thousand times more dangerous. This crossover will have very long-reaching and pretty intensely dire ramifications for both Jason and Clevenger."
Both series are fairly new and while one could easily pick up the early issues, some might want to jump in with this crossover and Jolley says it isn't a bad time to join "The Pack," as some have dubbed "Bloodhound" fans. "Yeah, if you pick up 'Firestorm #7' cold, it'll catch you up pretty quickly on the general state of things to begin with -- namely who Jason is, what situation he's in, and what kind of dynamic he has going with his father, Alvin. From there it jumps headlong into the action. And yes, I would recommend picking up both 'Firestorm #7' and 'Bloodhound #5' to get the full effect -- though if you had to pick one, I'd go with 'Bloodhound,' because you can figure out (more or less) what led up to the situation. If you only read 'Firestorm,' you'll miss the last half of the story."
Now that readers know a good time to jump into the fray, it seems only right for Jolley to provide further insights into the minds of the titular heroes. "Jason Rusch, the protagonist in 'Firestorm,' is a seventeen-year-old African-American Detroit native in the summer between graduating high school and going off to college in Chicago. He lives with his single father, Alvin, a man who lost his left hand in an industrial accident ten years ago and has been making life hell for everyone around him since then. Before he became Firestorm, Jason's biggest worry was figuring out how to get enough money together to pay tuition for Fall term (he thought he'd have enough cash, so he didn't apply for financial aid) after losing his summer job. Now that he's the new Nuclear Man, his life has become vastly more complex, and his home situation hasn't improved any, either.
"Travis Clevenger, the main character in 'Bloodhound,' is a thirty-five-year-old Nordic-looking ex-Atlanta police detective who used to specialize in tracking down metahuman criminals -- that is, until he grew so corrupt and let his life spin so far out of control that he ended up going to prison. While inside, the formerly-overweight Clevenger dropped 135 pounds and developed into sort of a mountain of muscle. He also grew even more vicious, becoming one of the most savage brawlers in the DCU. Now the FBI has gotten Clevenger out on a very tightly supervised work-release program to help them track down a metahuman serial killer... who's targeting the daughter of his ex-partner, the man Clevenger went to prison for killing."
As one can see from the above explanations, both characters are intensely different and it'd seem odd to put them together. Then again, as Jolley reminds readers, opposites attract. "Jason and Clevenger are really like night and day; Jason's very young, timid, inexperienced, a rookie in every sense of the word, while Clevenger is the epitome of the super-competent, older expert. I think readers might not be expecting the level of ferocity that comes with Clevenger's presence, but they'll also probably be surprised by the compassion -- understated though it is -- that Jason inspires in Clevenger."
The announcement of the crossover surprised many fans on Jolley's Studio Phoenix message board and though he admits the story wasn't planned from the beginning, it feels very organic to him. "No, I didn't have it planned from the beginning, but it did seem like a very logical step -- not just because, this way, you can be very sure the continuity and characterization is preserved between the two books, but also because the circumstances as they arose just naturally lent themselves to the crossover. Plus DC loved the idea and are very enthusiastic about it."
Tying the continuity of the titles together- which are already admittedly both in the same universe due to being set in the DCU- may seem reminiscent of fellow DC superstar writers Judd Winick and Geoff Johns, who have developed their own little corners of the DCU. Don't worry- this isn't the beginning of a "Jolleyverse" that'll require readers to read all the books by Jolley. "'Jolleyverse'... heh. Nah, I'm not trying to monopolize anything. That said, however, DC did hire me for both these series specifically because they like the distinctive vibe, or style, that I write with. So maybe eventually there will be a dark, twisted little corner of the DCU where people get set on fire and maimed a lot [laughs]."
While the venerable Leonard Kirk continues his artistic work on "Bloodhound," artist Liam Sharp will be working with Jolley on "Firestorm," at least as a fill in before Jamal Igle takes over. "I hadn't ever worked with Liam before, and so far we've only communicated through multiple e-mails, but he's great! His style is completely different from anything we've seen before in Firestorm, and it's just beautiful, even more so with Andy Lanning's inks over it. Just in this one issue Liam accomplished two really important things: first, he designed the look of an amazingly dangerous and influential new character, and second, he'll be giving readers who've not picked up 'Bloodhound' before their first glimpse of Travis Clevenger -- who looks amazing. It's a different take from Leonard Kirk's in the regular title, but equally impressive."
Despite critical acclaim from all sectors, including high profile writers such as Warren Ellis and Geoff Johns, "Bloodhound" hasn't been selling well and Jolley is happy to comment on that situation. "Yeah, 'Bloodhound' could be higher on the charts. But we knew it was going to be an uphill battle going into it. We've got a book starring a brand-new character with no super-powers whatsoever, who doesn't wear a costume, and doesn't use a code-name. On top of that, this is a pretty visceral book; it's an intelligent story, but we've got a level of ugly, savage violence that has made more than a few people ask why it isn't a Vertigo title. Springing this onto the mainstream DCU readers, we expected some of them to say, 'What the hell is this?' and that seems to be the reaction we got; it's human nature, really, to stick with the comfortable, the familiar. But DC flipped for this property as soon as I showed it to them; they really believe in it, and as you mentioned, it's gotten quite a bit of critical praise as well. At this point we're just hoping word of mouth will spread, and sales will begin to climb."
Not content to write comics that are loved intensely by fans, Jolley reveals he has projects in a few mediums down the pipeline. "I've got a few comics in the works right now -- ranging from big to huge, actually, and this is killing me -- but I can't talk about them yet. As soon as I can, you'll be the first to know. Outside of comics, I've written the screenplay for a short independent film, which is going into production later this month. We're going to try to get it screened at San Diego next year, so be on the lookout for something called 'Ghost Vector.'"
For regular readers of "Bloodhound" and "Firestorm," Jolley has a gift for you- teasers! "Firestorm's going to be dealing with a lot of ghosts from the past pretty soon, as he encounters Firehawk, Killer Frost, and a few other names I can't mention; and around issue 9 in particular I think a lot of jaws are going to drop in a big way. Clevenger, on the other hand, gets to spend his next -- and last -- stint in federal prison, during which readers will get to see some more glimpses from his past, including one event from his childhood so traumatic that reliving it may well kill him."