It’s the return of a hero. Bloodhound is back! And with some old friends.
Launched in 2004 by DC, this hero has found a new life at Dark Horse with a five-part limited series, Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine, beginning in October. Incredibly, the mini will feature Bloodhound’s original creative team, including writer Dan Jolley, artist Leonard Kirk, inker Robin Riggs, letterer Rob Leigh and colorist Moose Baumann.
To discover more about this mysterious hero and what awaits him in his new limited series, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively sat down with Jolley to get the 411.
Cosmic Book News: Dan, how does it feel, after almost a decade, to be working on Bloodhound again, and with virtually the original creative crew intact?
Dan Jolley: It’s a fantastic feeling. One of the reasons I waited so long to try to do some new stuff was that I really wanted the same creative team on it, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get everybody back if I tried to self-publish or go through a company like Image. So when Dark Horse decided they were interested, I jumped at the chance, because I knew they’d have the budget to do new material the way I wanted it done.
And because everyone’s back (except for the awesome Ivan Cohen, though new editor Brendan Wright is also awesome), writing new Bloodhound stories just feels as if I’m picking it back up where it left off. I was worried for a little while that I might have lost touch with the character, but once I got into the scripts, I just felt right at home again. And, y’know, I think everyone involved has gotten better in the intervening years; Leonard and Robin and Moose have all refined their already-brilliant styles, and Rob Leigh is still at the very rarefied top of the lettering profession, and I’ve learned a lot about what needs to go into a compelling script.
I guess, to boil it down, the property’s been given a second chance, and we’re all determined to make the most of it.
Dan Jolley: Clev, whose full name is Travis Clevenger, is an ex-Atlanta police detective with a knack for tracking down and apprehending superhuman criminals. Not the kind of attention-seeking, costume-wearing weirdoes who fly around in broad daylight and leave gimmicky clues — the kind with sense enough to keep themselves hidden. When I originally pitched the series to DC, it was supposed to occupy its own dark little corner of the DC Universe (which ultimately didn’t work out so well, as Bloodhound’s corner was so little and so dark that hardly anyone even knew it existed). Now, the series is set in Dark Horse’s superhero universe, alongside X and Ghost and the rest of them, but Dark Horse is being incredibly, wonderfully hands-off about how I tell these stories; because of that, the world Clev lives in is now a lot closer to the real world than I’ve ever been able to get before. So the people Clev goes after don’t wear costumes, don’t use code-names, and typically behave how I think superhuman criminals would behave: they commit crimes and disappear. I mean, if I were of a criminal frame of mind, and I could walk through walls, why would I EVER draw the attention of the police directly? I’d just walk into a bank vault, help myself, walk back out, and be home in front of the TV before anyone knew anything was wrong.
When Clev was a cop, he established the best record for collaring superhumans of any police department in the country. But his life was a lot more complicated than just tracking these people down — for one thing, Clev’s partner Vince Crosby was corrupt, and dragged Clev into a lot of shady deals that he should’ve known better than to be a part of. For another, Clev and Vince’s wife, Trish, had been having a years-long, on-again-off-again affair, and one of Vince’s daughters is actually Clev’s. Everything came to a head when Clev agreed to testify against Vince; Vince found out about that
The original series started when Clev’s first partner on the force, Jerry Price, comes to see him in prison. Jerry’s an FBI agent now, partnered with a tough, beautiful young woman named Saffron Bell, and they make Clev an offer: help them track down a superhuman rapist/murderer, and they’ll get Clev out of prison for a while. Maybe permanently if it all works out. For those who haven’t read the original series (which is now available in a sharp collected edition from Dark Horse, entitled Brass Knuckle Psychology) I won’t reveal any more details of the story, but Clev’s reluctant exit from prison is what kicks everything off.
As for how Clev operates, there are some elements of his personality that are a little like Sherlock Holmes, and some that are more like Conan the Barbarian. Clev is even smarter than he is tough, which is saying something, because Clev is 6’5″, 260 pounds, and his favorite weapon is a pair of brass knuckles. He’s not going to glance at someone and say, “Oh, you’ve obviously been to Uruguay in the last three days because of the blah blah insect larva on your cufflink,” but he is a truly excellent judge of character, and he can get his mind wrapped around what it would be like to have superhuman abilities better than practically any other investigator. Plus Clev can take punishment just as ferocious as the kind he dishes out, so much so that almost every case he solves ends up with him in the intensive care unit.
There’s a little bit of wish fulfillment in Clev, not just because he’s a huge, imposing guy, but because he’s lost respect for almost everything and everyone on the planet. Clev sees no reason not to say exactly what he thinks about whomever he’s talking to, since he’s not afraid of anyone, and he figures, what’s the worst that can happen? I get sent back to prison? Clev is, in general, more comfortable behind bars than out in society, because he’s become convinced that the world is better off without him in it. He considers himself the lesser of two evils, at best. Watching him try to figure out how he fits into society again — or if he does at all — is just as important a part of the series as watching him track down superhuman criminals.
Dan Jolley: Crowbar Medicine takes Clev’s path in kind of a new direction. The premise is that, after a superhuman loses control and causes some extreme devastation, this rogue scientist decides the citizens of America can’t protect themselves well enough; he’s developed a device called the Power Chip, and if you can afford it and you pass his background check, the scientist will use one of these devices to grant you a superhuman ability of your choice.
So it’s not so much that Clev is going after superhuman criminals in this one, as he is dealing with the fallout from an unprecedented amount of power suddenly being given to dozens and dozens of otherwise ordinary, law-abiding citizens. Things go horribly wrong — like, horribly, personally wrong, in a way Clev has never had to deal with before. Plus I’ll be introducing an original superhero character of my own in this story, a character that, depending on how things go, I might do something else with down the road. (Since Clev just absolutely despises anyone with a superhuman ability, he doesn’t get along too well with this new guy.)
Crowbar Medicine takes the essence of Bloodhound and boosts it exponentially. I mentioned earlier that I think we’ve all gotten better since the book left DC in 2005, and I think this new mini is evidence of that. I can say without reservation that this is the best work I’ve ever done in comics, and I’m really freaking proud of it.
Dan Jolley: Saffron is, in many ways, Clev’s opposite number. Clev grew up on a farm; Saffron was born into a super-wealthy, old-money family. Clev went to public schools and a state university; Saffron had private education and went to Princeton. Clev operates largely on instinct, both when he’s putting a case together and when he’s fighting (Clev is a brawler who fights really dirty); Saffron is cool, analytical, and spends at least three nights a week training in a dojo. She sees things from a different perspective than Clev’s, and sometimes serves as his moral rudder.
Saffron decided on a career in law enforcement all the way back at age nine, when she went through a severe childhood trauma that left her with physical and emotional scars and alienated her from her father. She’s grown up to be incredibly tough and resilient, and it’s that strength of mind and character that lets her stand up so well to Clev; she is one of a tiny handful of people that Clev actually respects. One of my favorite moments between them comes from the original series, when Clev kept needling her to give him details on that childhood trauma. She refuses repeatedly, and finally says, “God, no wonder people keep trying to kill you,” which Clev thinks is hilarious.
It was supposed to be Jerry Price and Saffron Bell acting as Clev’s handlers when they got him out of prison, but Jerry got badly hurt and had to spend a lot of time recuperating. Now Saffron and Clev are starting to think of each other more like partners than like a handler and an asset. Developing the bond between them is another pillar of the series.
Dan Jolley: Definitely, yeah. I had been a working writer for several years before I really understood what people were talking about when they mentioned “themes.” Moby Dick, for example, is about revenge. The theme isn’t what happens in the story, it’s what the story is about. So I tried to incorporate that in everything I wrote. But it wasn’t until just a few years ago, when I read the book Invisible Ink by the incomparably talented Brian McDonald, that I understood that having a theme wasn’t enough. A good story needs to have a point. It needs to make a statement. (To use McDonald’s words, “It’s not enough to say the theme of your story is loss. That’s like saying the theme of your story is red.”) You can tell a story that’s just chock-full, front to back, of cool, awesome stuff, but if there’s no point to it, you’ll forget about it. Stories that make good, solid, resonating points are the ones that stay with readers for years and years, and that’s what I’m aspiring to. Brendan read the script for Crowbar Medicine #5, and said, “If we can get people to read this thing, they’re going to be talking about it for a long time.” So I’m hopeful.
There is definitely a point to Crowbar Medicine, and it’s a point concerning the current debate in America over guns, gun rights and gun control. I don’t want to say which side of the argument I fall on, because I don’t want to give anything away about the story, plus I want people to come to their own conclusions. (If I’ve done my job right — fingers crossed — maybe I’ll even change a few minds here and there.)
Back in 2005 I wouldn’t have had the guts to try to tell a story like this (and again, here’s hoping I’ve succeeded). These days, while I still want to pack my writing with cool, awesome stuff, I also wouldn’t want to tell a story that didn’t make some sort of point about the world around us. I think that might just be a function of getting older. I’ve been doing this for quite a while now.
Dan Jolley: When I get the Bloodhound art back, it’s as if Leonard has just reached into my head and scooped out the images I saw there and crafted them beautifully on the page. Every now and then we have some small difference of opinion, which we always hash out respectfully, but 95 percent of the time it’s like some sort of freaky direct thought transference. So, because of that, the action and the emotion and the drama and the tension that I hope to convey in the script comes out either exactly as I’d envisioned it, or even better, all thanks to Leonard (and Robin and Moose and Rob). Bloodhound didn’t have a huge readership back in its DC days, but the people who did read it really seemed to love it, and I credit at least half of that devotion to the gorgeous (bloody, bone-crunching, wince-inducing) art.
Dan Jolley: Yeah, the story in DHP — “Plain Sight” — fits into the Crowbar Medicine story pretty seamlessly. Not that you have to read one to understand the other, but if you read them both, it’s very clear that the people and events interconnect.
I was just talking to a friend of mine earlier today, and the only Bloodhound he had read was the DHP story. He said, “Man, I can’t believe how brutal that third chapter was!” And I got to tell him, in complete honesty, that he ain’t seen nothin‘ yet. “Plain Sight” sort of serves as a primer, I guess, for what Bloodhound’s all about, but the volume on that story only gets turned up to a 6 or 7. Brass Knuckle Psychology hits about 9.5, and Crowbar Medicine buries the needle, so to speak.
Dan Jolley: Yeah, as a matter of fact — the superhero character I mentioned earlier actually got his start in the first real novel I ever wrote. It never got published, and for the very reason I was discussing before: it didn’t have a point. It was filled to the brim with cool stuff, and I think some pretty engaging characters, but it wasn’t about anything. Being able to bring that story’s protagonist into Bloodhound gives me a second chance to get him right, too.
Dan Jolley: Well, I’VE talked about it. (wink) At this point, I can neither confirm nor deny anything from Dark Horse, but … we’ll see. I’m certainly not opposed to it.
Dan Jolley: There’s one that I would LOVE to discuss, but it’s too early in the process yet to announce it. Maybe if we talked again in, say, two or three months? Then I bet I’ll be able to give you an earful.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Dan Jolley for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. We would also like to thank Dark Horse’s Jeremy Atkins and Aub Driver who helped make this interview possible.
“Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine” #1 (of 5) from Dark Horse will hit shelves in October!