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EXCLUSIVE: Harris Joins Valiant For “Armor Hunters: Bloodshot”

by  in Comic News Comment
EXCLUSIVE: Harris Joins Valiant For “Armor Hunters: Bloodshot”

2014’s “Armor Hunters” marks the first event series for Valiant Entertainment, and the publisher is using the opportunity to put a lot of new cards on the table, one of which involves some significant developments for Bloodshot. In July’s “Armor Hunters: Bloodshot,” creative team Joe Harris (“Great Pacific,” “X-Files: Season 10”) and Trevor Hairsine (“Eternal Warrior”) position the nanite-powered killing machine as the only thing that stands between the Armor Hunters and Earth.

“This is going to be our ‘Alien,’ in a sense,” Harris told CBR. “We’re looking to tell a story that is very much about one person being that last line of defense against something very horrific and very destructive. We need to tell a story in this enclosed space, where the hunter can become hunted very quickly.”

Picking up threads from Robert Venditti’s “X-O Manowar” — like the story of head of M.E.R.O. (the Military Extraterrestrial Reconnaissance Outpost) Colonel Capshaw and the mysterious Malgam — “Armor Hunters: Bloodshot” follows the conclusion of “Bloodshot and HARD Corps,” introducing a new status quo for the character as he becomes involved with the world-shaping events of “Armor Hunters.”

EXCLUSIVE: Valiant Brings Back Chromium Covers for “Armor Hunters”

CBR News spoke exclusively with Harris and Valiant editor Josh Johns about the upcoming miniseries and how it ties into the “Armor Hunters” event. Plus, Harris discusses the challenges of the character, his excitement at exploring the man/machine dichotomy, his love of the Valiant characters and more.

CBR News: Gents, first off, tell us a bit about where Bloodshot is during the “Armor Hunters” event. Where does your series pick up with the character?

Josh Johns: After the very shocking conclusion of “Bloodshop and the HARD Corps,” we establish a new status quo for Bloodshot as he’s in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar enemies and challenges, and that’s really where the book picks up — his involvement in “Armor Hunters” starts there as well.

Joe Harris: Essentially, we’re bringing Bloodshot in from the cold a little bit. He’s been a character that’s a little lost in terms of after what Josh is talking about and leading up to the events of “Bloodshot” #1, he’s going to be lifted to take on something pretty big. He’s essentially going to be all that stand between humanity and the assault from the Armor Hunters once they come seeking one of their own that he’s tasked with guarding.

What’s Bloodshot up against in the miniseries? Who are the primary antagonists?

Johns: In “X-O Manowar” #23 by Robert Venditti and Diego Bernard, there’s a new character and a new threat to X-O Manowar in Malgam. He’s one of my favorite characters in the entire series. I won’t give away to much, but Malgam poses a very interesting and new threat to X-O Manowar. After the events of issues #23 and #24, we’ll be able to see the scope of his possible involvement in the Armor Hunters and the rest of the Valiant Universe as a whole — especially Bloodshot, who has some involvement with that character as well as the Armor Hunters in general.

Harris: Essentially, Malgam becomes a very high value chip. X-O Manowar is going to meet him first, and then he’s going to become the problem — as are the Armor Hunters — of the entire Valiant Universe. Bloodshot is going to have this pretty heavy lift of keeping him incarcerated as the rest of the Armor Hunters team comes looking for him. It’s not going to be very easy. Nobody really trusts Bloodshot because nobody really knows what Bloodshot is all about, not the least of which is Bloodshot himself. You’ve got this character with a very checkered past, with this really broken sense of self and his own history, his own biography. The matter of his humanity is actually a question mark, because Bloodshot is this character that straddles the line between him being part machine [and part human]. He’s going to find himself in this really daunting position when the greatest threat to the Valiant Universe, let alone Earth, is basically trained on him because he’s what stands in their way.

Bloodshot certainly is somewhat of a mystery, and a lot of the writers in the modern Valiant Universe have certainly tackled that very concept. During the “Armor Wars” series, do you plan to explore any of his past or bring any new information to the table?

Harris: We’re going to make some reference to some of the events that are happening at the end of “Bloodshot and the HARD Corps” and the beginning of this “Armor Hunters” event. There are some events that I think will shed some light on him as a character and give him some interesting — and by interesting, I mean kind of fucked up — circumstances that he had to extricate himself from both doing noble things and things that would probably haunt him. I think we’re going to be most focused on Bloodshot in the present as he wrestles with and tries to establish himself, to do the right thing. That’s more our focus: to take this character that nobody has much reason to trust — he himself doesn’t have that much grounded sense of himself — and throwing him into the fire to see how he does.

Talk a bit about the supporting cast of the series. Who are the secondary players here after Bloodshot?

Harris: Well, Colonel Capshaw, the head of M.E.R.O. is going to play a role in this. We’ll see an appearance by Livewire, you’ll see more of the Armor Hunters as well as they’re rolling out in the other main books leading up to our Bloodshot series. It’s going to be a small, big story and it’s going to focus on Bloodshot as the last line of defense when all the shit hits the fan. In that regard, it’s going to have a limited cast, but we’re going to see more of M.E.R.O., what they do, the layout of the facility, what they’re actually storing there. We’re going to show the scope of their operations a bit, and Bloodshot’s going to be our eyes and ears through all of this. It couldn’t be more of an intimate story. It’s going to be small in scope, but pretty wide in scale.

Johns: Capshaw and M.E.R.O. are two characters created by Robert Venditti in “X-O Manowar,” and we’ve gotten to see a little more of Capshaw in the recent issues of “X-O Manowar” as her and Aric had this strenuous relationship with one another. In this book, she plays a very key role as does a [section] of M.E.R.O. and I’m super excited to explore both of those. Rob created a super rich character in Capshaw, and we’re going to see a lot of her both in “Armor Hunters” and in this “Bloodshot” book. She’s going to offer a lot of surprise for the reader. I think they’re going to be shocked at what she becomes. We’re going to get to see her.

M.E.R.O.’s a location that we’ve only gotten to see the command base of. In “Armor Hunters” and “Armor Hunters: Bloodshot,” we not only get to see the scope of that facility, but what a government operation that monitors and controls the alien presence in the world, do and why they’re important; how they react to the most devastating of circumstances. Those are two things from the Valiant Universe that we’re going to see fleshed out here.

Joe, this is your first series in the modern Valiant Universe. How familiar were you with Bloodshot before coming on to the book? What does it mean to you to come on fresh to these characters for the publisher’s first big event?

Harris: It’s a lot of fun for me, obviously. These characters, these properties, mean a lot to comics fans — they mean a lot to me as a longtime comic book reader. I remember being a kid kicking around New York City and knowing freelancers that worked for the old Valiant Comics as well as editors that worked there at the time when I was just inspired to make comic books. Characters like X-O and the Eternal Warrior and Ninjak, and so on, are icons to me. I have long admired what these guys have done in picking up that mantle and getting this publishing endeavor off the ground. For me, I’m really impressed, I’m a fan of these books, I love that they have refreshed these concepts and focused them so that they haven’t gotten too broad too fast. It’s been very deliberate and just a lot of fun. I’m really excited to step into something that isn’t weighed down by too much continuity. It still feels fresh, even if it feels familiar, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity here. I’m having a great time.

Johns: [Valiant] is a smaller line, and it’s always good to have fresh perspectives; fresh writers coming in and looking at our line, reviewing what they like about it and the threads that are so interesting to them. Joe comes in, having not done a Valiant book, with a totally fresh perspective not just on the character of Bloodshot, but on the universe as a whole. That’s been not only tremendously fun for me, but invaluable as we continue to move forward with our universe.

Bloodshot is unlike many of the other high-profile characters you’ve tackled recently — certainly from the level of the punishment he can both take and dish out. However, back in 2001, you worked on Wildstorm’s “Cybernary 2.0” series, which has a bit in common with “Bloodshot.” What was the experience like for you coming back to a character that’s much more action-oriented, and conceptually, has a little bit to do with a character you’ve worked with before?

Harris: [Laughs] Your memory of it is probably better than mine.

Well, I don’t know if my career memory is as strong that I can really articulate a contrasting thing between “Cybernary” and “Bloodshot,” but I can tell you that I’ve always liked characters that are some melding of humanity and technology. I’ve always been attracted to it both as a fan and a writer, exploring where the man ends, where the machine begins; how other people respond to a character like that whether it’s good or evil — and most importantly how the characters themselves wrestle with how much of a man he might be as opposed to a computer, robot or whatever.

It’s one of the most vibrant sub-genres in science fiction that we have. I have a lot of influences and a lot of points that I take away from my childhood to adulthood to present, what to draw on and what I like about that. [Bloodshot] is like stepping into something familiar, but I wouldn’t say it’s because I worked on a miniseries for Wildstorm all those years ago.

[Laughs] Circling back specifically to “Armor Hunters: Bloodshot,” what parts of writing the character were a new challenge for you? How did you approach tackling him?

Harris: Specific to what’s unique about Bloodshot, just taking stock of what he can do in terms of how his powers have manifested, what he’s done with his abilities — the visual moments, like seeing him blown to shit, that’s a big Bloodshot moment. He’s got that Wolverine aspect to him where he can heal on a dime, no matter how much it hurts, even though you know it hurts and awful lot. I take stock of all that stuff, and from there I ask, “What else can we do?” Based on what we’ve seen, we have ideas on what he probably shouldn’t do, but from there, I just started spitting out ideas and tying those to plot points and cliffhangers and keep upping that ante in the best ways.

You’re working with Valiant alum Trevor Hairsine on this project. What about Trevor’s art do you think makes him a great fit for your story?

Harris: I just think he’s badass. His recent stuff in “Eternal Warrior” is gorgeous and kinetic and filled with all this rippling energy. I’ve seen a few of the pages now so far and I’m over the moon. I just think it looks fantastic.

Johns: It’s no surprise or any shocking news here that he’s one of the best artists out there today; certainly one of my favorites. I was over the moon when I was told not only that I would get to work with Joe, but that we would sign Trevor on the project. He’s wanted to do Bloodshot for a while, so that was a real treat. He does everything great — his storytelling is so precise, his action is so dynamic and kinetic on the page. I’ll say this: we just got the pages in on one of the opening scenes that takes place in the jungle, and it is beautiful. Trevor has drawn out the jungle, bullets raining through the trees and the brush. It’s one of the most exciting sequences in comics that I’ve gotten to see in some time.

Also, I should mention that one of our talented colorists, David Barron, is going to be joining this project. He’s done several series for us and is a true superstar in the industry. This is quite the little dream team scenario.

How does writing an action-oriented character like Bloodshot compare to your current work on books like your creator-owned “Great Pacific” or IDW’s “X-Files: Season 10?” Has the experience been rewarding to stretch your legs back into the action genre?

Harris: Yes, absolutely. I love all the things I do, and I’ve gotten more projects in the works that fit into different categories, so I love different things and I want to keep doing so — but Bloodshot really is a breath of fresh air, maybe because it is so kinetic and action-packed and so involved with things getting shot and blown up. I can script aliens, government conspiracy stuff all day long — and writing Mulder and Scully dialogue is one of the pure joys I’ve had as a professional writer. But it’s nice for a contrast, just as a change of pace, and Bloodshot is a very welcome addition to my current workload.

Joe, as a screenwriter, what are your thoughts on how well Bloodshot will transfer to the big screen for his announced movie adaptation?

Harris: Oh, wow. I would imagine he would transition quite well to the big screen. The character’s rock-solid, so the time is certainly right to take comic book properties to film and have them look and feel like comic book fans and the broader audience need them to to be taken seriously. In that regard, I could totally see Bloodshot getting pulled off and get made into a big Hollywood movie. I’d say have at it. It sounds like a very doable thing for me.

Are there any other characters in the Valiant Universe that you’d like to tackle?

Harris: Everyone’s doing such a great job on them, I’ve been such a fan of everything Robert’s doing on “X-O” — I think the mythology they’ve built up is so wonderful. I love the concept of the Eternal Warrior — I’m very open minded. I don’t see anything that needs fixing, though. [Laughs] That’s my both diplomatic and honest answer.

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