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Dan Jolley - comic book writer
1999 - Chatting with Jennifer Contino of Sequential Tart

Dan Jolley's always loved to write and tell his kind of stories. Over the last few years he's been doing more and more work for Marvel, Dark Horse, and DC. This month he has one of the coolest Elseworld's stories around for the prestigue format books in the DC stables, JSA: The Liberty File. A story which features three of the icons of WW2 era-Batman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Hourman. Issue one is already on the stands and issue two will be out in the middle of January. Kaos caught up with Dan during one of his few brakes and managed to nab a few answers to some of our burning questions.

K2K: Have you always been intersted in comic books?
DJ: Well, I guess it depends on how you define "always." I've been in love with the whole comics medium since I was about seven, when my older brother began bringing comic books home with him when he'd come to visit from college. (He's eleven years older than I am.) I've known I wanted to be a writer since I was about thirteen, but I didn't entertain the notion of writing comics until I was nineteen, when I met Tony Harris and Craig Hamilton. Before that I had intended to write short stories and novels, but didn't even know how to begin writing for comics.

K2K: What characters are your favorites to work with?
DJ: If I had to pick one set of characters that I'd really love to get my hands on, that would have to be the old Marvel group The Rangers. They're pretty obscure - they've never had their own series, just some appearances as supporting cast - but I see tremendous potential in them. I wrote up a proposal for a Rangers story arc, and came up with a number of follow-up stories, but that never went anywhere. C'est la vie. Of the characters that I HAVE written, aside from the ones I've created myself and with Tony Harris and Ray Snyder, I guess I've had the most fun with The Bat, the analog of Batman in The Liberty File. He's very blunt and sort of brutal, but he has this dry sense of humor that shows up every now and then. I definitely have a greater affinity for the sort of low-energy, Clint Eastwood-type characters than for the hyper-kinetic Jim Carrey ones. I think I'd write a particularly lousy Spider-Man, for instance.

K2K: Would you rather write a super hero type tale or a Sci-Fi one?
DJ: I guess I'd rather write something that could be considered science fiction, because then you have the best of both worlds. Don't let the lack of a "costume" fool you - Luke Skywalker classifies as a superhero any day, as does Neo in The Matrix. That's why I've been having such a good time writing the Star Wars stories that Dark Horse has let me do (the first one, "Incident at Horn Station," is in the upcoming Star Wars Tales #2). It depends on who's setting the parameters, I guess - a lot of "super hero" comics have incorporated science fiction to varying degrees - but if given the choice, I'd readily pick sci-fi.

K2K: What's it like to co-write something? Do you sometimes get left out in favor of the 'big guns' during promotional things?
DJ: Co-writing as an experience totally depends on who the co-writers are and what their relationship is like. Co-writing The Liberty File with Tony had a very free-flowing, organic sort of progression; we'd get on the phone and just b.s. for a while, throwing ideas around, and we could usually tell when something good was happening when one of us would burst out, "Ooh! Ooh! I got it! Listen to this-!" He had his personal tidbits that he insisted go in - such as Whispering Pete and Bob in Book One, who are entirely his creations - and I had mine, such as the Scarecrow's "condition" in Book Two. Sometimes I throw in my own touches while I'm writing the scripts, and sometimes he'll throw in some more once he gets the scripts and starts pencilling. But for the most part, it's difficult for me to remember who came up with what, since our ideas get so thoroughly meshed.

The process is different with my best bud and screenwriting partner, Josh Krach. While we do initially come up with a broad concept in person or on the phone, the next step for us is that one of us writes the first draft of the thing - be it a proposal, a treatment, a full script, or whatever - and then sends it to the other, who goes through and makes revisions. The story gets batted back and forth like that till we're both satisfied with it. The one screenplay he and I have shopped around in Hollywood so far has generated a truly thunderous lack of interest.

As far as promotional things go, yeah, I frequently get left out in favor of highlighting the "big guns," but so far it's been more or less understandable. When our Doctor Strange mini-series was getting promoted, there was Tony Harris - Eisner-award-winning artist - and me, a nobody. I don't mean that in a bitter way; it was simply the truth. What little work I had done up to then was very obscure, and no one knew who I was, so it only made sense for the marketing people to play up Tony's presence. Who knows, maybe now that Liberty File is out and has my name right there at the top of the credits, I might get upgraded from "who?" status to "man, that name sounds familiar."

K2K: When did you, Ray Snyder, and Tony Harris propose JSA: The Liberty File? How long did it take from proposal to finished product?
DJ: Let's see, that was right in the middle of the whole blitz we put on DC, pitching Liberty File and Obergeist and Lazarus 5 (those last two are creator-owned mini-series due out next year). I guess it was spring of 1998 when we first started putting things together, and we got approval early in the summer. My memories of the exact dates are sort of hazy, but I do know that the year-and-a-half or so between when I finished the scripts and when the book debuted have seemed VERY long. And it'll be longer still before Lazarus 5 comes out (May 2000) and even longer for Obergeist (release date as yet undetermined). A really big part of writing comics is the saying popular in the military: hurry up and wait.

K2K: Can you tell us a little about JSA: the Liberty File?
DJ: It's an Elseworlds story - a DC story set in an alternate universe, where the characters are very similar in many ways, but startlingly different in others - featuring Batman, Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Mr. Terrific as covert agents in World War II. Opposing them are analogs of the Joker and the Scarecrow, with a number of other characters making cameo appearances. As my friend Mike Ray observed, it has a sort of Indiana Jones feel to it; a kind of swashbuckling air. It's a lot of fun, if I may say so.

K2K: How much time passes in this story? Does it span weeks, months, or years?
DJ: The whole story, both volumes, takes place in about six days.

K2K: Do you have any more 'Elseworld's' titles in the works?
DJ: Nothing definite, at least, nothing I can report on with any accuracy. DC has clamped off a lot of its freelance arteries, so to speak, for the year 2000, and work is pretty limited there (well, it is for me; people like Mark Waid and Alex Ross have no shortage of it ; ) ). I'd be happy to tell you about any projects I have as soon as they firm up, though. I can say with confidence that I'll have another Star Wars story coming out next year, as part of the series of one-shots focusing on the members of the Jedi Council from Episode One. I've been contracted to write a 24-page story feauring Depa Billaba, the sort of East Indian-looking woman with the metal studs in her forehead, and if things go well I may have another story or two in upcoming issues of Star Wars Tales.

Starting early in 2000 I'll also be working on a series called Adventures in Oz, published by Arrow Comics, which will faithfully adapt all fourteen of the original L. Frank Baum Oz books. That'll be bi-monthly - my first ever continuing series.

K2K: How hard is it to take a story from a book and make it into a comic?
DJ: That's a good question; I've never really tried to adapt a whole book before. I did an adaptation of a movie - the original version of The Mummy, from 1932, starring Boris Karloff, published by Dark Horse back around 1992 - and once I adapted an H.P. Lovecraft short story ("The Dreams in the Witch House" - it never got published). But as for taking an entire novel, it would depend on what sort of book it is, I think, because some stories lend themselves to visual media and some do not. I would love to adapt my own novel to a comic book series - that was how I originally envisioned it, in fact - but if I were to do so I would want to take my own sweet time about it. Probably one novel would provide enough material for three or four YEARS worth of 22-page comic books. I guess my best answer would be: I don't know. What book did you have in mind?

K2K: What's your New Year's Resolution?
DJ: I resolve to take over a small Third World country and establish myself as a benevolent dictator. That, or lose weight. Whichever is easier

Visit Dan's website at:
Dan Jolley - Writer-type Guy http://members.xoom.com/DanJolley/index.html

Written by Jennifer M. Contino / SequentialTart.com

Jen has loved reading comics since her earliest days of reading. The whole world of good versus evil-with colorful tights thrown in as an added bonus-has intrigued her since she first viewed Wonder Woman, Batman, or the Adventures of Superman. She's always wanted to work in comics and talking with creators / artists / writers, etc. is more fun than work.

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