Steven Grant is probably best known for his run on The Punisher as well as his recent story-turned-film, 2 Guns. Now he is tackling the Jennifer Blood character created by Garth Ennis. Byron Brewer caught up with the writer to talk about how the new series came about and why he likes working for different companies.
BYRON BREWER: Steve, how does it feel to be working with Dynamite Comics for the very first time? And on such a special project!
STEVEN GRANT: It’s interesting. I like working with different comics companies, to get an idea of how they’re similar & different & get a view of how different approaches work creatively. Being published by Dynamite was something I felt was worth doing. So far so good.
SG: In the wake of the 2 Guns film last summer, when things momentarily appeared nice and relaxed, I ran into Nick at the San Diego con. We’d loosely chatted about doing something for years, we’ve know each other for decades now. I told him to throw anything at me for a limited series, his choice. He took it under advisement. A couple months later he dropped me an email saying he’d really like me to resurrect Garth’s Jennifer Blood. All he had to do was say Garth Ennis, one of the most consistently interesting comics writers working today. I was pretty relieved, really. I realized after I’d said “anything” that John Carter was potentially on the table. Edgar Rice Burroughs is not my thing. But Jen made an interesting challenge.
SG: My version? She’s sane, but she has bad habits. She trying to learn how to break them – consciously she knows she has to break them – but she inadvertently slips into them at the worst times. We’re sort of producing a self-help manual for killers. Jennifer Blood is a psychopath but being a psychopath isn’t the same as being psychotic. It’s not insanity, it’s an absence of empathy. I liked the way Garth handled her originally, very loving toward her family but perfectly willing to drug them all into stupors every night for weeks on end so she can pursue a vengeance agenda on her father’s killers. She didn’t disregard them, but rationalized away any potential harm they could suffer. That’s an approach I can play with. There’s an essential disconnect in her head. She accepts as a matter of faith that what serves her goals serve the greater good, and that she has an innate superiority to other people that will protect her. On a conscious level she also knows it’s really stupid to think like that, but it’s what’s drummed into her lizard brain. She literally takes it on faith that she can get away with murder. Like most people who have an innate sense of superiority, a part of her wants to get found out so other people can be amazed by her prowess. These are the sorts of behaviors she has to fight against in the mini-series. She gets some very peculiar unexpected help
SG: Nick asked nicely, & Garth created her. I felt, still feel, she has potential.
BB: I loved your version of the Punisher at Marvel. Do you see that same street-level gritty atmosphere working for Jennifer?
SG: Very much. She’s considerably different from the Punisher as a character, but they both spring from the same well. I see them both inhabiting a demimonde of extreme moral ambiguity, and they belong in crime scenarios, not other ones.
BB: Women characters are definitely on the rise in comics. Fad or future?
SG: I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I created Whisper at Capital in 1983, and Vienna and Mockingbird at Marvel around the same time, so I’ve always been drawn toward heroines, esp. ethically ambiguous ones. (Like Jen, those three were basically street level characters in my hands. Later versions differed somewhat but that milieu has always held an attraction for me.) A side effect of watching lots of femme fatales in noir films in during my film society days in the ‘70s. Back then it was mainly because there was a pretty rigid concept of the subject matter & emotional spectrum “heroes” were allowed to deal with – and by “hero” I mean white male protagonists in a modern setting (& most other ones) – but editors paid less attention to those things if the heroes were female and/or minorities. They weren’t held to the same narrow standards. So I found writing female characters more interesting, for the most part. There may be more appreciation for them today – I hope so – but if it’s new for the market, it’s not especially new for me.
SG: She’s relocating. She’s been in hiding, under a false identity, in an odd place since the end of her series. But in her world she has become iconic, and that’s where the trouble starts. A very violent capable woman with military training takes over the identity, without Jen’s permission, to use the legend of Jennifer Blood to take over the Los Angeles underworld. It doesn’t go down well with Jen, who feels the need to make a comeback to let’s say protect her intellectual property.
BB: I understand Jennifer’s bid to take control of the L.A. mobs goes very wrong very fast. Tell us about this complication, if you can.
SG: It’s her double who’s trying to do that. Jen has no interest one way or the other, until she ends up in the middle of things. The mobs aren’t especially discerning about who Jennifer Blood is or isn’t. The double is playing mind games for personal gain. But Jen finds she likes Los Angeles, and the mobs leave little doubt either she or they have to go, and her choice is pretty predictable. The problem is she’s still operating the way she did in the New York area. She knew that area well. She doesn’t know Los Angeles at all. Her disadvantages pile up rapidly.
BB: What does artist Kewber Baal bring to the table?
SG: Great verve and mood. You only need one look at his work to see what he brings to the table.
SG: I’m up to my neck in things, but when they’ll appear is anyone’s guess. My main thrust now is original material, most likely out of Boom, who recently published Deceivers and 3 Guns, the sequel to 2 Guns, as well as published a trade paperback of the crime series Damned that Mike Zeck and I did at Wildstorm a few years back. Several of my old properties are in various stages of film development and a couple possible TV deals, but Hollywood moves glacially and attrition can be sudden and brutal, so who knows what will ultimately show up. I’ve been involved in a redevelopment/modernization of Gil Kane’s His Name Is Savage for a while now, and that suddenly looks like it’s kicking into third gear. And I’ve recently formed a development team with Paul Gulacy; we have an original property we’re shopping around, and I was just on a call this afternoon about us redeveloping another old comics property. A producer friend named Shane Riches, currently writing a WWE comic with Mick Foley, and I are developing a number of original properties we’ve collaborated on. I know I’m forgetting things. There’s plenty going on. It’s a gratifying time to be alive.
For more on Jennifer Blood: Born Again, click here.