Bloodshot Reborn #1 hits stands April 15, and series writer Jeff Lemire aims to hit fans of both his previous work and the title character with something entirely different from what they might otherwise expect.
Following his Valiant debut with The Valiant mini-series, co-written with Matt Kindt, Bloodshot Reborn #1 represents Lemire’s first ongoing title with the company. What’s surprising is the candid nature of his response to working on the series, which isn’t something one typically encounters in a standard interview; however, it’s a refreshing change of pace. Likewise, Lemire hopes to breathe new life into this character alongside his artistic collaborator, Mico Suayan. Here’s what he had to say about coming over to Valiant following his tenure at DC and the no-nonsense reason for his decision to tackle Bloodshot.
Newsarama: First off, you’ve had a lot of experience making comics throughout the industry: from the indie publishers to the Big Two, and creator-owned to corporately owned work. Why is it Valiant was a company you felt compelled to be a part of?
Jeff Lemire: Quite simply, a number of my best friends in the comics business work there and I really wanted to work with them. Matt Kindt, Josh Dysart, and Rob Venditti are three of the people I’ve known best in the ten years I’ve been in comics. Matt especially, and our careers have generally run alongside one another, but never really overlapped. So it was fortunate when my exclusive contract with DC expired and I could work anywhere I wanted. It comes down to this: When you can work anywhere you like, why wouldn’t you want to do so with your friends?
The more I got to know Warren Simons, the Editor-in-Chief, the more I wanted to work with him. He’s a lot of fun to be around. After four years of working in the same place, I just wanted to go somewhere I could have fun. Valiant seemed like a place where they would have complete faith in what I was going to do, even if it meant completely changing one of their characters around. [Laughs] They know I have a story to tell, and they’ve put enough faith in me to let me put together a 25-issue run for Bloodshot Reborn that’s being executed now. That’s great to be able to think so far ahead with a character and not have to worry about some event that’s coming down the line, which could leave me having to trash all of my ideas. I don’t have to tie into some event. I can execute myideas.
Nrama: Jeff, when we look at your body of work – both as an artist and writer – your sensibilities don’t tend to skew towards the traditional approach for mainstream superhero storytelling. Bloodshot, in many ways, is an all-too-typical type of superhero – a model made popular by the Punisher and capitalized on by creators in the early 1990s, a period out of which Bloodshot himself was born.
How was this character appealing to you?
Lemire: Bloodshot was … okay, I’ll tell you the blunt truth: Nothing about Bloodshot was originally interesting to me. But he became interesting. I started to think about Bloodshot as a challenge. “How could I make that interesting to me,” I asked. “Why could I do to that character to make him more human, more compelling to me?” Sometimes asking yourself those questions can help lead to a story of how that happens. That’s a story you can fall in love with and that’s what happened here.
I found myself asking “How do I take this fixation on ultra-violence and turn it in on itself and the book becomes a way of commenting on that?” When those things began to click, I felt I had something.
And it was something that was going to be truly different for me, too. I haven’t done anything like this before. That’s good, too, to do something completely different. If you look at All-New Hawkeye or Descender, I’m very proud of those books, but you can draw a direct line from them to works I’ve done in the past. Young Clint and Barney could have just as easily come out Essex County. You can also see a number of similar thematic elements in Descender that are found in Sweet Tooth. With Bloodshot Reborn, I also want to try some new stuff, try out some new things, and new directions. I’ve never really done a dark, noir, thriller, horror sort of book. And I finally felt like I had some stuff I wanted to explore.
Nrama: Without spoiling the details of Bloodshot Reborn #1, it does seems as if you are flirting with a sort of parody-as-commentary of the superhero genre, particularly the grim-and-gritty anti-hero type of which Bloodshot belongs. What led you to introduce these elements?
Lemire: I don’t know parody is the right word. It seems more like a commentary.
Nrama: One might argue that parody done well is a form of commentary…
Lemire: You’re right, that’s true. Parody is a very fair word for it.
And I think I know which elements you’re referring to, so I want to be careful not to spoil anything. I’ll just say that there are elements that border between real and surreal, which lead us to question what’s going on with Ray / Bloodshot. Some of these elements do seem to parody the original Bloodshot to the extreme, which forces our Bloodshot to come face to face with what he was. That’s really what the book’s about.
Nrama: But it’s clear that humor isn’t necessarily what you’re aiming for here.
Lemire: We’re definitely going somewhere with that, but again, I don’t want to reveal too much.
Nrama: Of course!
Lemire: I think if people read it as a silly parody, that’s fine. It can work on that level, but there is another level of depth there that is going to be really terrifying as well.
Nrama: We also see that Bloodshot Reborn makes it all-too-clear that the status quo leading up to the four-part story in The Valiant has been irrevocably changed. In that storyline, it was a sort of “superhero orchestra” where everyone’s respective storylines were intertwined. Now, we see our hero move in a markedly different direction. Why the shift?
Lemire: That’s just the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to tell a story about Ray/Bloodshot becoming completely human again. He’s this guy who basically never had an identity and only perpetrated violence and killed people. Suddenly, that’s taken away, and he’s able to look at that from a distance and see the monster that he was. Now, he’s left just trying to deal with this, and I really wanted to tell that story. That is what this book is about without going any further and spoiling the story.
Nrama: Let’s talk about the art. Mico Suayan has an incredibly photo-realistic approach to the story while … there are other elements brought into the first arc that stand in direct contrast. What were you looking for in blending the different aesthetics?
Lemire: It should be very jarring. I want readers to look at this and say, “What the fuck is going on here?!” Let’s be honest: When you look at a book like Bloodshot Reborn, it would be very easy for it to become a two-dimensional shoot ‘em up book. And I really want to do something different. I think when you get to that point visually, you’re going to recognize that this comic is going somewhere altogether unexpected. [Laughs]
Hopefully, readers will finish this first issue not knowing what’s going on, not knowing what’s happening with the character, and what direction the story’s taking.
When you take Mico’s art, which almost photo-realistic, it’s a perfect way of capturing the idea that this is happening in the real world. Then, when you throw in my artwork – a style that’s already pretty cartoony and this is already a level beyond that – that contrast on the page is very strong and should feel pretty jarring.
Nrama: In a post-Bloodshot Reborn world, Jeff, what Valiant character do you want to tackle next?
Lemire: That’s interesting. With Bloodshot Reborn, I have a 25-issue plan, so I don’t think I want to go much further beyond that. We had a retreat recently, and all of these writers have their own corner carved out, so I don’t really think about the other characters. I’m just really loving my little Bloodshot corner of the Valiant Universe.