This ain't your Daddy's DC Comics. Heck, it might not even be the DC Comics you remember.
With a plethora of original DC Universe comic book series or radical re-imaginings appearing this year from the venerable DC Comics, it seems as though the creative juices are flowing like never before at the Distinguished Competition. CBR has decided to spotlight five of these series over the coming five days and first up is "Bloodhound," a very personal project that writer Dan Jolley couldn't wait to explain to CBR News.
"Radio edit: it's like 'The X-Files' if you replace Mulder with Conan the Barbarian," laughs Jolley when talking about the series shipping later this month. "Extended dance mix: it's a story of redemption, about a brutal ex-Atlanta police detective named Travis Clevenger, who's given a second chance after screwing up his life so royally that he's landed a 15-to-25 year prison sentence. Clevenger (a completely non-powered, regular human) has a knack for understanding and tracking down metahuman criminals, and when a superhuman serial killer starts stalking the next in a string of victims, the FBI gets Clevenger released from prison to help them track the killer down. Clevenger agrees to this very reluctantly; he's fully recognized his own monstrous nature, and even after he's been convinced to assist the Bureau, he still sees himself as the lesser of two evils. Once he's out, it's not so much he's been enlisted to help as that he's been unleashed."
Jolley isn't shy about calling "Bloodhound" his "baby" and explained why the project is so important to him. "This is my baby because I created it from the ground up (other than the terrific character designs supplied by the inimitable Drew Johnson and, later, series penciler Leonard Kirk). The concept, the characters, the stories, all of it came from the pitch I took to DC - specifically to series editor Ivan Cohen - in the summer of 2002. The project got accepted in late November of that year, then went through a couple of incarnations and format changes, but ultimately it's my book. I co-own it with DC, and it is by far the most personal project I've ever done in this industry.
"The project got started when I approached Ivan Cohen about pitching him a new idea; he hesitantly agreed to listen, as long as whatever I gave him did not involve a martial artist, an expert marksman, or a computer whiz (since DC had those bases thoroughly covered already). So, with those guidelines in mind, I came up with Clevenger, a guy who's somewhat reminiscent of three of my favorite characters: Riddick from 'Pitch Black,' Lucas Davenport from John Sanford's 'Prey' novels, and Vic Mackey from 'The Shield.' Ivan was intrigued (in spite of himself, I think), and a few months later we were in business."
Fans of television's "The Shield" will be no doubt drawn to the complex moral situations presented in "Bloodhound" and Jolley has taken great care to craft a diverse cast to challenge all readers. "The most significant character in the story besides Clevenger is the FBI agent who becomes Clevenger's de facto partner, Saffron Bell. Saffron is a very smart, capable agent in her mid-twenties who comes from an ultra-rich family; she's in the FBI because of a dark, violent incident from her past that we'll be exploring as the story progresses. Then there's Jerry Bryce, Clevenger's first partner, who left the Atlanta PD and joined the Bureau; he's the one who initiated getting Clevenger released (on a very limited basis), since he doesn't think Clevenger's as bad as everyone seems to think he is. There's also Patricia Crosby, the wife of Clevenger's last partner, Vince Crosby. Their relationship is easily the most complex in the book, since Clevenger went to prison for shooting and killing Vince."
There's a certain level of wish fulfillment operating in "Bloodhound." Clevenger is apt to say the first thing on his mind and unlike most of us, it's either something witty, "bad ass" or, as luck would have it, it is usually both. "You're right - Clevenger does indeed represent a certain lack of restraint that a lot of people wish they could get away with in their own lives," said Jolley. "He feels as though he's got very little left to lose, and basically doesn't care who he pisses off or what people think of him - but the main reason he feels that way is that his behavior and his choices have essentially ruined his life almost beyond repair. He's incredibly entertaining to watch, but never in a million years would you want to trade lives with him.
"If there is any social commentary in there, though, it's unintentional. I just want to tell good stories [laughs]."
While the series is set in the super powered world of the DCU, Clevenger has no super powers nor does he have the pseudo powers some might attribute to someone like Batman. This might make some worry about Clev's life expectancy in a world where most people have super strength and Clev simply has 24-inch biceps. "It just makes it more interesting. In a way, on top of being a redemption story, it's also a story about being an outsider; not only has Clevenger successfully kicked himself out of regular society, but he's also very much an outsider looking at the world of metahumans all around him. It's his awareness of his outsider status, though, that gives him his most profound advantage; he's able to observe the behavior and patterns of metahumans objectively, analyze them, and then predict what they're going to do. Part of that is skill, but part is innate talent; he takes into account the unpredictable, random factor and incorporates it into an informal profile. That's why he had the best arrest record for metahuman criminals in the history of the Atlanta Police Department. This whole story really highlights what a guy can accomplish using nothing more than intelligence, intuition, discipline, and a tremendous amount of anger. Clevenger does not play well with others."
As he's done with Devil's Due's "Voltron" series, Jolley has put a strong female lead front and center in "Bloodhound," namely Saffron Bell and he says it's not too hard to write a good female character. "I've never had a problem writing female characters, but for the past couple of years now I've been very fortunate to have the insight of my part-time writing partner, Marie Croall (she and I work on the Devil's Due title 'Voltron' together). Marie has been extraordinarily valuable with her input on Saffron's development, and has taught me a few things about how women think and feel.
"And while there is definitely a spark of some kind between Saffron and Clevenger - you can see it in the first issue if you're looking for it - you'll just have to wait and see where it goes, I'm afraid."
Where the series does go is stored safely in Jolley's mind and make no mistake about it: "Bloodhound" is a series with a plan. "I think I'd be pretty happy to see a five-year run on 'Bloodhound,' I guess, but right now I'm not even thinking about where the series would end. I've got so many ideas bouncing around my head for the series, I feel like it could run for twenty years."
If you're only thinking of the Dan Jolley from "Micronauts" and "Voltron," you might be surprised at the graphic nature of "Bloodhound." "I'd been working on so many dark-themed projects - 'JSA: The Liberty File,' 'JSA: The Unholy Three,' 'Sabretooth: Mary Shelley Overdrive,' all the stuff I did for Chaos!, that I jumped all over the Devil's Due projects just to show people that I wasn't exclusively about wholesale slaughter and disembowelments. That said, though, you're correct, 'Bloodhound' is definitely not a book for the faint of heart - as originally pitched, it was slated to be a Mature Readers title, and was very patently R-rated. And even now, after I adapted it to fit in with mainstream DCU, some things still happen in the first story arc that will raise a lot of eyebrows and inspire more than one 'oh shit.'"
While "cinematic" storytelling is quite popular with many writers and fans, Jolley's initial issues on "Bloodhound" show very tight, dense writing that gives the reader bang for their buck and the scribe explained why he took that approach. "The density, or lack thereof, really varies from story to story; sometimes I'm going for a certain effect, sometimes I'm following an editorial directive; sometimes I find that I've been given a certain amount of space to tell a story, and I work with that. On 'Bloodhound,' aside from a couple of broad, over-arcing elements, I was more or less left to my own devices. So I guess this is how I like to write [smiles]."
Joining Jolley on the joyous jaunt through Clev's life is fan-favorite artist Leonard Kirk, who fans remember fondly from his run on "JSA." "Ivan actually suggested Leonard; I'd known Leonard for several years, but we'd never quite connected on a project, so when Ivan mentioned Leonard's name I immediately and enthusiastically agreed he'd be great for it," explains Jolley. "And let me tell you, Leonard is going above and beyond on this series (with inker Robin Riggs hot on his heels). It's the best work of Leonard's career, no exaggeration. He's most of the way through issue 4 as I write this, and the pages coming in are literally making my jaw drop; when the series hits the stands, I don't think anyone will think of Leonard just as the 'super-clean Supergirl' artist any more."
So why try "Bloodhound?" The always funny Dan Jolley is happy to provide the hook. "Teasers...hmmm... Okay, in this series you will:
- be shown a practical, one-step way to stop a full-scale prison riot
- observe the effect of automotive glass as applied with gusto to the human nose
- predict how many times and under what circumstances one man can get set on fire
- develop either a distinct aversion to or distinct affection for semi-automatic shotguns.
"'Bloodhound' is like nothing else in the DC Universe right now. Read it, and you'll discover what you didn't even realize you were missing."