It's an understatement to say that Kevin VanHook is versatile.
Writer, artist, filmmaker, FX man. He is a one-man studio himself. And his best-known achievement, the comic-book character Bloodshot that he co-created for Valiant Comics with Don Perlin and Bob Layton, is about to have his own big-budget film released starring Vin Diesel. The following is Part I of a multi-part interview with VanHook, peering closely into a long career that is about to explode with a hot new film.
Mikey Sutton: How did the creation of Bloodshot come about?
Kevin VanHook: A complex question, but the nutshell version is that Bob Layton, Don Perlin and I created the character. Bob brought aspects like the idea of utilizing nanites— I created the Angelo Mortalli character and the Mafia connection and the two of us developed Project Rising Spirit with Don handling the art chores and doing design work. I pushed to keep Bloodshot’s memories a blank slate— frankly to give me time to figure out who he was.
MS: When did you find out that the character was optioned for a film?
KVH: I actually got the word from Dinesh Shamdasani several years ago about the option just before an article appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. That may have been as far back as 2014.
MS: What was your reaction when you discovered Vin Diesel had the title role?
KVH: I thought he was a great choice. I had loved him in the Riddick Films and Saving Private Ryan as well as his big franchise— The Fast and the Furious.
MS: How would you describe your experiences at Valiant Comics in the speculator boom of the ‘90s?
KVH: I had a great time during that era. Every now and then, we may be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and if we’re luckier still, we’re prepared to take advantage of the timing. That was my case. I had been working in comics since I was 17, but it wasn’t until about nine years later with Valiant that I had massive success. I was there to ride the wave of the company’s success and contribute to it with my writing on Bloodshot, Solar and Eternal Warrior as regular books and help guide the Valiant Universe as Executive Editor. Bob Layton and I worked closely together to try and keep the books’ incredibly tight continuity and I think that helped contribute to our popularity. The artists and writers in-house were an incredibly talented bunch of folks and I consider them family.
We vacationed together, we hung out at each others’ homes and there was a mutual respect and affection for each other. I’m glad to say that I’m still friends with most of those people to this day. Our rapid rise in sales can’t be understated. We went from selling 25,000 copies of average titles to several hundred thousand copies per issue. Bloodshot #1 was close to a million. That commercial success brought a certain amount of notoriety and attention that felt like a nice reward for all the hard work.
MS: What do you miss about those Valiant days?
KVH: The opportunity to create stories in a very cohesive world where almost all bets were off. I also miss interacting with the people on a daily basis.
MS: How did get attracted to reading comic books? What were your earliest favorites?
KVH: One of the very first comic books I picked up as a child was Swamp Thing #7 guest-starring Batman. Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. How lucky was that? I was 8 years old. As an adult, I was friends with both men. A few years later, I fell in love with The Fantastic Four and then I was hooked on collecting.
MS: DC...or Marvel?
KVH: I was a Marvel Kid, but I’ve created more for DC Comics. I’ve always been treated well by DC’s Editors and Publishers. I grew up reading comics by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, John Byrne, George Pérez, Keith Pollard, Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, Bob Layton, Bill Mantlo, Doug Moench and Gene Day, and so many others. It was a great time to fall in love with the medium.