'Bloodshot Salvation' Writer Jeff Lemire on Reinventing the Action Hero

Valiant Entertainment’s Bloodshot has gotten a major boost ahead of its new comic book series.

On Tuesday, news broke that Jared Leto is circling the role in the Sony movie adaptation. Meanwhile, comic book writer Jeff Lemire is preparing to return to the character in a new series that continues his ambitious comic book reinvention of the concept.

Bloodshot Salvation, like Lemire’s earlier Bloodshot Reborn, sees the writer — who’s also written Extraordinary X-Men for Marvel and Justice League United for DC — team with artists Lewis LaRosa and Mico Suayan for a series that mixes superheroic action with social commentary, tackling fundamentalism in America as well as gun violence. The series sees the lead character and his girlfriend Magic facing off against her estranged family, and the threat of something far more insidious than your average supervillain.

Heat Vision spoke to Lemire before the Leto news broke about what’s kept him interested in Bloodshot, and what readers should expect from the new series.

Bloodshot Salvation is your third Bloodshot series since the 2015 launch of Bloodshot Reborn (the remaining title being last year’s miniseries Bloodshot U.S.A.) — are you surprised that you’ve stayed with the character this long?

I thought I was done with it after Reborn, to be honest with you. My original contract was for that series, for the storyline that ended with Bloodshot U.S.A. That was going to be the end. But after I’d been working on the book for about six months, I just kept getting all these other ideas. The more you invest in the character, the easier you get new ideas, I guess. It became hard to walk away, I just felt like I wasn’t done, you know? But I wanted Bloodshot Salvation to be two things — I wanted it to build off what I’d already done, but also start fresh and new, and it wouldn’t just feel like the same thing, it’d feel like a new series.

The idea of using Bloodshot as the anchor of a story that deals with fundamentalism in America might seem like a strange one at first glance — Bloodshot being, originally, a paramilitary fantasy fueled by unstoppable nanites — but it follows on from what you were doing in Reborn, which was, at least in part, about gun violence, and violence in general.

It’s been an interesting evolution of my ideas for that character — it’s been a good three or four years since I’ve been working on Bloodshot, and I know when I was first offered the character I didn’t think too much of him; I kind of saw him as a two-dimensional, ultra-violent ’90s throwback. As a writer, you kind of take that [impulse] and think, “Well, what would make that interesting to me, what would make this compelling,” you know? What would make me want to write this character? From those early discussions I had with myself and my keyboard, I came up with the idea of using Bloodshot, this ultra-violent action hero, as a way of commenting on violence, and violence in media — using the opportunity to take this character who’s known for one thing and subverting him.

And then, after writing the character for a couple of years and touching on subjects like violence in America, he kind of became this vehicle for me to comment on America as a whole. In the last year and a half especially, there’s been such a shift in American politics, with Trump and everything — it’s hard to not want to comment on that, and Bloodshot felt like a great vehicle to do it.

The trick, of course, is that at the end of the day, this is still a comic book and it has to be a fun read. Or, at least, a compelling and interesting read. You can easily fall into the trap of becoming too political and having the book become preachy and a one-dimensional political allegory, but in general, that’s kind of boring and on the nose. You have to be careful; you still want it to be fun, mysterious and compelling, and if you do it right, you can still comment on things.

You’re also fascinated with focusing on the humanity inside what has been, traditionally, a comic where action takes priority and character comes second.

If it was just a straight-up action book, I might think it’s interesting for, like, one issue, and then I’d be bored of that, you know? For me, the thing that stuck out immediately about Bloodshot was that he was so cold — he’s quite literally part-machine. I thought, if I couldn’t create a more human version of him, make it easier for the reader to relate to him as a person, then there was no point for me as a writer. That really was my main focus. I ended up doing it very literally: I kind of stripped the machine out of him for awhile, made him as human as he could be, and then built him back up — and also started building up his supporting cast, bringing in the humanity that way as well, starting obviously with [love interest] Magic, concentrating on the chemistry they have, this relationship that formed out of happenstance but these two people were clearly meant to be together and make each other better. It’s kind of cool that you can take this violent character we’ve been talking about and have this romantic love story in there, too, that — I hope — seems kind of real. I enjoy writing it.

Getting back to what you said about the series remaining a fun comic book even as you’re focusing on the larger thematic level — something that’s been a thread through your Bloodshot work to date is expanding the idea of what Bloodshot actually is. You’ve introduced an entire legacy of Bloodshots throughout the past, and Salvation‘s first issue hints at the future of the concept, as well. It’s not just one soldier who has been injected with nanites anymore.

My favorite thing about doing work-for-hire, whether it’s with Valiant or elsewhere, is that I love tapping into these characters and the core concept, and building it out into a bigger mythology — that can mean a huge supporting cast or whatever, but in this case, it was building out the Bloodshot Squad and the history of the nanites. A lot of that stuff was there, Matt Kindt had done a little bit of work in Bloodshot No. 0 in the past, showing the Vietnam-era Bloodshot. When I saw that, it seemed like the perfect thing to pick up and expand, push it even more.

I love taking the mythology and building this big, sprawling mythology around a character. I just love that kind of world building, and Valiant in particular provides that [opportunity], because it’s such a young universe still, and there’s not 50 titles every month, just seven or eight or whatever. There’s so much more opportunity to tackle stuff no-one else has written yet, and there’s so much room in the universe to add to it in a significant way, and that’s really rewarding.

It reminds me of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, in a way. The idea of, you thought it was this kind of story, it’s actually this story…

The Swamp Thing run is my favorite run — if I had to pick a desert island comic, it’d be Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, it just has everything in it I love about comics. You can be completely experimental, or literary, or create really fun genre works — as a writer of these characters, he really set the standard for how to take one of these characters and really rebuild a mythology around them and bring a point of view to them. It’s the archetype of what a lot of comic book creators try to do today, and the joy of Valiant is that there’s still so much space to do that. The history hasn’t been written yet, so we can take a character like Bloodshot, or Ninjak or whoever, and build the character out from their core into something different.


Bloodshot Salvation No. 1 will be released in comic book stores and digitally Sept. 20. Below, a preview of the first issue’s flash-forward opening sequence by Lemire and Suayan.

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