Bloodlines Featured Interviews 

J.T. Krul On Resurrecting “Bloodlines”

By | March 21st, 2016
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

“Bloodlines” was a 1993 DC Comics crossover that was really quite strange. It was designed to create new characters for the DC Universe (very few of which actually stuck aside from Hitman), and ran through the annuals of a number of DC’s titles, confusing young readers like myself. The crossover, in retrospect, is one of those ideas that worked better in theory than practice, and the event was, more or less, forgotten for the past twenty years.

But next month, DC is bringing back “Bloodlines” as a miniseries from writer J.T. Krul and artist V. Ken Marion. I had the opportunity to talk with Krul about the series, the challenges of reviving a property such as this, and why it has more in common with classic 80s action/horror films than the superhero comics it will sit alongside on shelves.

In addition, DC hasp provided us with an exclusive preview of the first three pages of the issue, which hits your local shop on April 6.

Bloodlines #1 Variant Cover by Jill Thompson

I’m always intrigued with projects like this, because this is a project that like if you woke me up in the middle of the night a month ago and was like, “Name a DC property that’s going to come back soon,” I don’t know if “Bloodlines” would have popped in my head. But I love that; I love the unexpected nature of it. How did this project come about?

J.T .Krul: You haven’t been watching the CW series Bloodlines on Tuesday nights after The Flash?

I must have missed that one somehow.

J.T.K.: That’s crazy. [Laughs] This is one of those things where there’s like the big guns, the main characters, your Batmans, your Supermans, your Wonder Womans, and a lot of times there’s a lot of plans and internal stuff going on, and those are the hard toys to get to play with. A lot of times as a comic book writer, you kind of find yourself trying to find those characters that serve a couple of needs. One is that you’re interested in them, and you want to write something about them, and you want to do something with them. Two is that they’re available, and you can kind of do stuff with … You can kind of have some wiggle room to do some fun things.

“Bloodlines,” for me, was … I actually liked the character Loose Cannon, and he was probably I guess the focal point of this whole idea. It really boiled down to liking the concept, and liking that notion of people being infected and getting powers from them, but I really wanted to be able to take a story like this and kind of tear it down and rebuild it in a completely new way, so that we’re doing less of a … Because when it originally came out, it was through the annuals. The storyline ran through all the annuals, and it was about them trying to create new characters for the DC universe.

For [artist V. Ken Marion] Ken and I, what we’re trying to do is really tell a certain story where it’s not about creating these new characters as much as … The story is really about almost like an alien infestation. It’s about people who get powers, but they’re not treated as powers. They’re treated as curses. They’re treated as signs of their own apocalypse, so in thinking the idea for the story, I really kind of … And I think I said this before in other interviews to DC and other people … That I really liken it to almost like John Carpenter’s The Thing or Invasion of The Body Snatchers. I really like that kind of type of story where you take ordinary, flawed individuals and you thrust them into these incredible situations, and it’s about watching the sense of humanity and kind of what happens to them through this process.

L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual #4 Cover

Yeah. I was going to say I was, I guess, 11 or 12 years old when the first “Bloodlines” storyline happened, and I remember picking up my comics in the store and not really understanding what was happening, because it was a crossover constructed in a very unusual way, coming through the annuals. I got an advanced copy of the first issue to read before this interview, and I have to say that in that first issue, there really isn’t a lot about what’s going on, yet I understand the plot so much better. I think you do a really nice job in that first issue developing a world and showing us the consequences before telling us really what’s causing those things, so I really enjoyed the issue.

Continued below

J.T.K.: That’s exactly it. Again, I think it’s because of the concept, and so obviously there’s a lot of comic books … There’s kind of that cinematic kind of quality to it or a more TV show kind of quality to it, where this is kind of like opening up that world kind of thing. With a first issue, you can really just kind of tease kind of what’s going on in … It’s funny enough. Actually, I initially wanted to not have Eddie, Loose Cannon, on the cover. At the very beginning when I started talking to DC about it, I kind of wanted to do it where we didn’t call it “Bloodlines” and we’d call it something else, so that you wouldn’t automatically know going in that Eddie was going to have this transformation.

I like the notion that people can hopefully come to this, and if they don’t have a connection with “Bloodlines” and don’t have a familiarity with the concept or the previous incarnation of it, that it’s this notion of … I kind of structured it that you’d meet all these characters, and yes, Eddie’s a central one, but until he transforms, you don’t really have an idea of what’s going on. And even as he starts transforming, it’s very kind of mysterious as to why he’s transforming and what not. That’ll start to fill stuff out over the subsequent issues, but I wanted to kind of tell it just as much as I had to but not any more, in order to kind of set the stage, get the kind of the emotional impact going, especially for the ending of the issue, which I think really kind of changes kind of the dynamic of everything.

Absolutely. I’m a man of a certain age, and so this stuff has a certain amount of nostalgia attached to it for me, but what I was really appreciative of was how familiar the world felt while also feeling really new. Like, to me, the scenes in the high school, at the party, all of that reminded me of 100 TV shows and movies that I’ve seen in the past, not in a derivative way but in a very familiar way, and so I kind of knew what was happening and then when the transformation happens. It kind of throws that world into upheaval, and I thought that was a really interesting way to approach it, to bring people into a very familiar world. And really, the only hint of this being a comic set in the DC universe is somebody’s wearing a Superman shirt in the school.

J.T.K.: Right.

Was there any apprehension of taking this story from such a left field angle or did you feel at some point you couldn’t tie it into the DC universe? You know, it was important for you to bring it in as its own thing as opposed to tie it to something else.

J.T.K.: Well, a couple of things on that. I think that that’s what gives this story so much weight, is letting it be its own thing. Actually, in the early talks with Dan DiDio, I had posed this notion of like including some of the DC characters in a certain part of the story, and he had a great point, which was once you bring the big guns in, it tends to become their story. And he was like, “I’d really rather not risk that, and rather just be able to focus on the “Bloodlines” characters themselves,” which was great, and I’m really glad that he kind of steered me more in that direction, because I think that allowing the story to exist on its own … It ups the threat factor, because it’s kind of like all bets are off. Because it’s one of those things where like if say the Justice League got involved in it or what not, then it does become their story. And also, we kind of have more of an indication of what’s going to happen, because the Justice League and the heroes kind of show up to save the day, except the heroes do, whereas this one, it’s not really like that.

Continued below

Again, I keep coming back to this. Like, there aren’t really … No one’s a hero to start out in this book, and I don’t even know if anybody’s really a hero at the end of the book. I think it’s just that it’s kind of like a horror monster movie disaster kick, in the same way you’d have in something out of San Andreas or The Day After Tomorrow or a zombie movie or one of those things where … Or The Thing, where you have ordinary people, something extraordinary happens, and it’s just about them trying to literally hang on to their world as it rocks to a destructive end around them.

An exclusive reveal of the cover to Bloodlines #3

And to go on your point about the world and having it feel very familiar, I think we’re probably in the similar demographic age wise. I’ve been around a little while, so I grew up watching [Steven] Spielberg and [George] Lucas movies. So I think that for us, that kind of imagery and that kind of feeling is like our Norman Rockwell stuff. Like, our parents had a Norman Rockwell childhood visually, in that kind of more like Andy Griffith kind of environment, and I think that for us, we kind of had more of the E.T.‘s of the world and The Goonies. And like when Super 8 came out, the amazing thing was like … Super 8, to me, was like a very trip down memory lane, like I thought that-

It felt like my childhood, yeah.

J.T.K.: Yeah. I felt like I was in a Spielberg movie. It had all those hallmarks. I felt like I had walked into a movie theater in 1985 or 1988 and was watching a Spielberg movie that he made three years after E.T. That’s exactly the feel that I got of it, and I really love that about that movie, that it could really just kind of … It’s amazing how a movie like that could connect with you, even though like that’s not exactly the environment I grew up in. I did grow up in small town America, but it wasn’t exactly my childhood at all, but it just kind of hit all those buttons and it made me feel like that, because it’s the same thing that we experience in all the stuff we’re exposed to as kids growing up. And I think, for me, the town of Pine Ridge and where this story is located in, I just tried to kind of tap in to that, so there’s a lot of elements that remind me of my small town.

The town I grew up in, Hastings, in Michigan … There’s 6,000 people in the town, so it’s like a very, very small town, sovthe high school life, kind of the partying in the forest kind of thing, this whole thing, everybody knows everybody kind of stuff. But you also have people like Dana. Dana’s a great example of kind of pulling someone into the modern world, where she’s all about the technology and all about kind of getting her stuff out there, because for her, being in the small town isn’t where she wants to be, and she has dreams of being someplace else. And so she’s using social media as a way to kind of try to expand herself and expose herself to the world, and almost brand herself in a way.

Which I think a lot of people do nowadays, where they try to get out their shell, try to get out of their small surroundings, through the internet, and try to expose themselves to the wider world around them.

Yeah, that’s a really great point actually. She was actually one of my favorite characters in the issue. I felt that was a really, really well-established character. Just from a few panels, you obviously know who she is.

J.T.K.: Thanks.

I want to talk about Ken for a minute. Ken’s a guy who I was not super familiar with his work before. This is his first DC work. I know he’s done some work with BOOM! and some work with Aspen, but Ken brings a really interesting style and dynamic to the book. What is it about working with Ken that you really enjoy?

Continued below

J.T.K.: Well, everything he’s turned in has been great, and I’m really excited for people on a wider platform to be able to see his work because he’s a tremendous talent. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to work with him for several years now. We actually first worked together at Aspen. I’ve been working with him for almost three years now. We did the “Fathom: Elite Saga.” Vince Hernandez and I wrote it and Ken did the art on it. Then he came onboard, and he and I did all new “Soulfire” together, and then we just finished up … Before jumping on “Bloodlines,” we did a volume of my creator owned book at Aspen called “Jirni.” He’s just great.

The thing with Ken is you look at his style and he’s obviously influenced by Michael Turner and Jim Lee. They’re big influences on him, and it’s apparent when you see his art. Actually, one of the reasons that Aspen actually started working with Ken was of that kind of similarity, and that they wanted something to kind of emulate what Mike’s style was like. But it’s funny, because I have to say that while that is the case, where Ken really shines on – and not that Jim Lee doesn’t and Michael Turner didn’t – but it’s on his faces and in his character moments. I love his big blowout action pages. In “Jirni,” he did a lot of that, and in “Soulfire,” but the thing that I love about this book is that you wouldn’t be able to really get a Jim Lee or a Michael Turner to do this book, I guess because of what it doesn’t have. Does that make sense?

Yeah, absolutely.

J.T.K.: It’s like if DC was going to hire Michael Turner on a … If they’re going to say, “We’re going to get Michael Turner a book, and what are we going to put him in? Are we going to put him on Superman, are we going to put him on Batman, are we going to put him on Justice League? No, no, no. We’re going to put him on these obscure characters, and there’s no costumes, and it’s just kids and high school and people in the town, and there’s a guy in a gas station.” Then it’s like what? Like why … But I think that he just really just killed every page, and the emotion on every page, like I just really … It gets me.

I think one of the reasons like you like the Dana page … It’s one page. She’s in one page. And the reason that resonates with you is because of how it looks, and how he’s able to make her appear, and the expression she has, and what the page makes you feel, and how you’re able to connect with her. And that’s all Ken. Yeah, the dialogue’s great, but the way he’s been able to do each of these characters, and give them their own look and their own kind of presence. And that’s what this story’s about, that the story has its bigger moments. It’s a horror story and a science fiction story, but in a way, the faces of the characters are the windows to the souls of the characters, but they’re also like the windows to the story if that makes sense. We see more about the story in how they react to things than anything else, and I think that that’s one of the strengths that he brings. He’s just great.

Like I said, we’ve been working together for a few years now. He’s a huge DC fan, and that was one of the things he really wanted to work together again, and I was like, “Wow, I had this idea. We could present it to them and see if we could get this going,” and here we are. It’s been great. It’s been really great. I’m very happy with it.

A lot of times, a miniseries can be a tough sell for people initially. A lot of times, a book that doesn’t have those big, famous characters we talked about can be a tough sell for people. What would you want people to know about this book to get them to try it out the next time they’re in their local store?

Continued below

J.T.K.: I would just say that it’s a book trying to do something different. There’s a lot of superhero books out there and that’s great, and it’s not to take anything away from Superman, Batman, whatever, but this is a different type of story. This is like that really cool, new show on the SyFy channel. This is the Mr. Robot. This is the Battlestar Galactica. This show that kind of comes on that not a lot of people know what to expect. There’s no big names in it. There’s no characters people recognize in it.

But it’s just a really cool story, and if people give it a shot, I really think that right in the first issue, I think people will be hooked and they’ll really want to know what happens. And it’s scary, and it’s gory, and it’s creepy, and it’s a little fun, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, because the other beautiful thing is how many movies or shows do you walk into … Or even comic books where you know exactly what’s going to happen, because it’s got that kind of thing where it’s like, “Well, obviously they’re not going to do this, so this is” … You kind of have an idea of what’s going to go on. It’s like you’ve seen the trailers, so you know the whole movie already, whereas you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t who’s going to get infected in this, you don’t know how it’s going to affect them, you don’t know what they’re going to do, you don’t know what their fate’s going to be. I like that.

I like being able to tell a story like that, where it’s kind of like Lost. When you went into Lost, you didn’t know what was going on. and you just tuned in every week because you wanted to see what was going to happen next and how characters are going to change. I just think if your looking for another cool book, you’re looking for something different, and you like that kind of Stephen King/John Carpenter/H.P. Lovecraft kind of world, building stuff, then you should check it out.

Brian Salvatore

Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).