Every Wednesday we read stories about colorful comic heroines fighting off equally colorful comic book villains. But what if the bad guys didn’t make themselves known to the world? What if they didn’t dress up and instead focused on the crime itself, and the payoff. Who could find them, and who could stop them? That’s the key tenet of the comic series Bloodhound. It may sound new, but DC published the series back in 2004 for nearly a dozen issues. Lost in the shuffle with Identity Crisis and Avengers Dissassembled at the time, series creator/writer Dan Jolley has extricated the series and its rights from DC and found a new home at Dark Horse. And not only are they reprinting the original issues, but they’re doing more.
Announced last week, Jolley has partnered with Dark Horse to collect the long out-of-print Bloodhound series by him and artist Leonard Kirk. As part of that, Dark Horse has reunited that original team – ten years after they originally created that series – to do a new Bloodhound story in Dark Horse Presents. We talked to Jolley to find out more, and he brought along some exclusive artwork for the ride.Newsarama: First of all, Dan – how’d you manage to get Bloodhound out from under DC?
Dan Jolley: I'd like to be able to give you a sensational answer to that -- make some crack about how influential I am, or hint at some sort of corporate espionage or something -- but I can't. I just followed the normal channels and requested a rights reversion. It took a lot longer than I was expecting it to, two or three years, I think, but eventually DC signed the paperwork, and now I own it all, right down to the artwork and logo. I even made a deal with Drew Johnson; he and I had done some work together on another concept, and in exchange for me relinquishing my part of that, he relinquished his part of Bloodhound, so now it's 100% mine. I think Drew felt okay about that, because while his contribution to the project was important, it was also very brief: he did two initial character sketches, one of Clev and one of Saffron (both of which will be in the collection), and he suggested that the scar across Clev's nose be placed so that it kind of hinted at a mask. Other than that, he basically just listened to me talk about it, because before he could do any further work, Bloodhound’s series editor Ivan Cohen grabbed him up and put him on Wonder Woman. Given how amazing Drew is at drawing beautiful females, that might have been a better fit anyway.
Nrama: For those unfamiliar with the story when first came out, the title refers to your lead character Travis “Clev” Clevenger, an ex-cop who specializes in hunting down supervillains. First off – how do you get into that line of work?
Jolley: Well, Clev started out as just a regular detective in the Atlanta PD. His involvement with superhuman criminals arose thanks to one of the book's central concepts: that most people who gain superhuman abilities are probably NOT going to dress in flashy costumes and adopt code-names. If there were no superheroes in the world, maybe someone would be tempted to do that, but with people like Ghost or X out there? I've always thought wearing a flamboyant costume would be like putting a giant target on your back. Why make it *easier* for people to find you? If you wake up one morning and realize you can walk through walls, what would you be more tempted to do: stroll into a bank vault, help yourself, and walk back out without being noticed? Or adopt a conspicuous alter-ego and draw attention to yourself?
So you'd have plenty of crimes committed by NON-conspicuous superhumans, with the majority of them investigated by regular police. And most cops are not going to know how to deal with superhuman criminals effectively, costumed or not, because there's no precedent for it. There's no class at the Police Academy on apprehending telekinetics. If a criminal has some kind of super-power, it changes the whole game, and puts the case into territory that regular cops are not trained for at all.
By way of comparison, police work is like martial arts: human bodies have always been put together a certain way, and martial artists know exactly how the body works, exactly where its weak points are, and exactly how to damage or subdue an opponent. A joint lock will always work a certain way, because that's the way that joint is constructed. But what would happen if a martial artist tried to grapple an opponent, and discovered that the guy's joints didn't bend the right way, or weren't in the right place, or didn't have the same kinds of ligament-and-tendon connections that normal joints do? All the skill and training goes out the window, because everything you've learned just abruptly, bafflingly no longer works.And criminals have been criminals since the dawn of time, so traditional police work takes advantage of basic, known human behavior and psychology. That's why an experienced cop can read a suspect so well, or break someone down in an interrogation, or solve a case based on a hunch; they learn *people*, inside and out. But what happens when, all of a sudden, someone can fly, or teleport, or read minds? That changes everything, the nature of the crime, the nature of the criminal. There's no precedent for that, and relying on your training might get you nowhere. Clev, as it turns out, has a mindset that's just warped enough for him to take a perpetrator's superhuman abilities into account, often on an instinctual level. That's what allowed him to track these people down with a better success rate than anyone else on the force.
Nrama: How would you describe this collection as a whole?
Jolley: In practical terms, it's nine of the ten original issues (we skipped the Firestorm crossover), presented with a brilliant introduction by Kurt Busiek, a beautiful pinup gallery from artists including Jamal Igle, Mike Norton, and Tim Seeley, and a great afterword by the series' original editor, the esteemed Ivan Cohen. Bloodhound was always meant to occupy its own dark little corner of the DCU, so removing the "DC elements" barely changed anything about it. The collection, entitled "Brass Knuckle Psychology," is basically the essential Bloodhound.
Nrama: Did you have to make any changes to the original Bloodhound issues to re-release them here at Dark horse?
Jolley: Yeah, we had to strip out anything that made reference to the DCU. That was no problem, except for Issue #5, which was part of a crossover with Firestorm, a book I was also writing at the time. I never truly wanted to do that crossover in the first place, though, and I made sure you could just skip over it and pick the story right back up -- so that's what we did. The collection won't include issue #5, and I don't think anyone will even notice.
Nrama: Bloodhound originally came out as part of DC’s superhero line in 2004, just after Identity Crisis. Why do you think it didn’t grab readers back then?
Jolley: You said it right there: Identity Crisis. DC made a baffling choice with Bloodhound's timing. They approved it in late 2002, but then for reasons unknown to me they sat on it for a solid 18 months, and released it after Identity Crisis was up and running -- and if you remember anything about DC from 2004, you know that every last ounce of energy they had was poured into Identity Crisis. Once they decided to do this massive event, focusing entirely on the costumed superheroes, it seemed as though everyone at DC except Ivan Cohen stopped giving a rat's ass about Bloodhound. There was no promotion, nothing. People just didn't know it existed, and in 2004, it was a good bit harder to get the word out than it is now; plus DC's marketing department took a very dim view of anyone other than them disseminating information. So the people who did read it thought it was great -- in fact, in his introduction, Kurt Busiek actually calls it DC's best book at the time -- it was just that hardly anyone read it.
It's time to fix that.Nrama: How’d this Bloodhound revival turn from a mere reprinting of the DC material to doing new stories inside Dark Horse Presents?
Jolley: It's all about the guys at Dark Horse believing in the property. When I first talked to new editor Brendan Wright about it, he said words to the effect of, "This is a great series! It's exactly the kind of book I like -- how did I miss it?" From him it went to Scott Allie, and then all the way to Mike Richardson, and the consensus was that Bloodhound would be a great fit for Dark Horse. So not only did they want to do the collection, they also decided that a Dark Horse Presents story would be a great way to introduce new readers to the property. We even got a new Dave Johnson cover for the first installment, and it's every bit as awesome as the work he did on the original series, if not better.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the story you’re doing in Dark Horse Presents?
Jolley: It's called "Plain Sight," and it starts out with a series of murders, committed in visible, public places, by someone or something that no one can identify. That's what brings Clev on board (and gets him back out of prison). But it's also about Clev's complicated relationship with the widow of his former partner -- the partner that Clev killed several years ago.
It's a three-part story, eight pages each. So in the space of one regular-sized issue, more or less, it establishes the characters, familiarizes readers with what Bloodhound is all about, tells a complete story, and paves the way for possible further stories. It's a pretty densely-packed tale, and gives readers a lot of bang for their buck.
Nrama: Will Leonard Kirk or any of your old Bloodhound collaborators be re-joining you, or is it someone else drawing this series for DHP?
Jolley: I was thrilled beyond words when Brendan confirmed it: we got the entire team back for this. Leonard Kirk on pencils, Robin Riggs on inks, Moose Baumann on colors, Rob Leigh on letters and a cover by Dave Johnson. The only one not present from the original run is editor Ivan Cohen (who might be even more excited about this revival than I am).
And let me tell you, I am grateful to these guys like you wouldn't believe. Leonard is so in sync with my thought processes you'd think he actually could read minds. The explosive energy in Bloodhound's action, the subtlety and detail in the quieter moments, the intense emotions, Leonard makes it all come alive so fluidly and perfectly and *convincingly*. I don't know if I'll always be able to create Bloodhound comics with him, but I hope to God I will. And Robin and Moose, supplying the deep shadows and the intense splashes of color (mostly red), complete the art in ways that I truly don't think anyone else could. To quote Kurt Busiek's introduction to the collection, "The words and pictures didn't just work well together, they practically vibrated, they were so in tune." Combine that with Rob's letters, brilliantly conveying the mood and urgency of the dialogue and the bone-crunching sound effects, and I've been in the company of comics royalty.
Wow, that was kind of gushing, wasn't it? Ah well -- they deserve it.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!