BY JENNIFER M. CONTINOBrandon Jerwa
has carved out
quite a place for himself in the Highlander
universe. The scribe has penned several tales featuring Connor MacLeod and clan. Now, he's teamed with uber fan Andrew Modeen
to chronicle the history of the villainous Kurgan in Highlander Origins: The Kurgan
, a two-part miniseries from Dynamite Entertainment
. Jerwa told THE PULSE Kurgan is " ... all impulse, like Id gone wild. If he wants it, he takes it, and God help you if you get in his way."THE PULSE: You've spent so much time creating in the Highlander universe, how much of a second nature is it for you now to script a new page in its history?
Itís actually not as instinctive as you might think. Weíre talking about a mythology that spans thousands of years here! I tend to stay pretty tightly focused on whatever character Iím working with at the time, so each new project begets a new round of immersing myself in the particulars. I actually brought in a helper this time, in the form of Andrew Modeen
. I knew Andrew from various outlets in the Highlander fandom, and drafted him in to help me reconcile the continuity. THE PULSE: How is working on any part of this universe now different from when you were first scripting a tale featuring these immortals?
When I was first offered the ďmainĒ book, I still had a lot to learn about the larger Highlander universe. I had only seen three of the movies (one of which doesnít even count!) and had never watched the TV series. That has since been corrected, so I feel a lot more comfortable with the mythology now. There will always be research involved, but at least now I have some things that I just know off the top of my head. THE PULSE: Why do you think this concept, over others featuring warriors with a history, has thrived and grown even more popular with each new incarnation, while others have been forgotten?
Iím honestly not sure! I think Highlander is definitely a little more multi-faceted in its overall storytelling, helped largely by the TV series, which had a prolific run by any standards. At the same time, there are pieces of the overall canon Ė entire movies! Ė that are disavowed by the fans and even the people who worked on them. That would normally be the kiss of death, but Highlander has always managed to soldier on. Itís pretty fascinating. THE PULSE: What is it about this concept that you find the most imaginative? I like the idea of the battle between good and evil and that bloodthirsty lust to have the most power ....
Thereís a lot about Highlander that draws me in. In the case of this book, that lust for power is a HUGE draw. When you really boil it down, we all lust for some form of power in one way or another: striving for power in your work, your relationships or your creative outlets is really part of human ambition, isnít it?
Craving power and control doesnít have to be an evil pursuit, but there is definitely a tipping point in that process; the Kurgan is someone who has nothing BUT a drive for power and control, so he doesnít allow himself to be restrained in the way that you and I might be. Thatís always a rich vein to tap for a writer, and this was no exception.THE PULSE: Who came up with the idea to reveal a little of the secrets behind the evil Kurgan?
This was something that Dynamite
wanted to do. They knew that I was dying to do more Highlander, so they dropped this one in my lap and I ran with it. THE PULSE: Sometimes when you learn the history of certain, mysterious characters it takes away from the mythos instead of adding to it. How are you ensuring your reveals are going to pay off from what people might have imagined or thought in the 20+ years since he first appeared as a very real thorn in the side of Connor MacLeod?
Thatís one real benefit to the Highlander world: when youíre dealing with Immortals, there will always be questions about the past. I would challenge anyone to find me a fictional world that has half as many flashback sequences as this one! Theyíve really got the monopoly on it.
The Kurgan is one of those characters that has retained a sort of ďAĒ list status without actually being a key player in the big picture. Heís certainly the most well known villain in the franchise, but there hasnít been a lot written about him. This story pulls from the existing sources (the first movie and its novelization, primarily) and draws some lines to other parts of established lore. Iím sure there are a million fan-fiction writers who have their own idea of what the Kurganís life was like, but I think this book delivers a pretty logical take on the whole thing. THE PULSE: What are the challenges of detailing his history in a way that satiates longtime fans, but also, perhaps, doesn't give away too much to leave a few secrets of the character?
On the flip side of my previous answer about the benefits, you also have the curse: there is absolutely no way to cover every square inch of creative real estate in a situation like this. Plenty of room for secrets left untold.
As for satisfying the fans, itís always a juggling trick when youíre trying to create something that anyone can pick up and read without alienating the fans who know the various ins and outs of the continuity. Iíll say modestly that I think Iím pretty good at that, so I feel confident that weíve succeeded in putting together a story for new and old fans alike. THE PULSE: What do you think of as the essential defining characteristics of Kurgan?
Heís all impulse, like Id gone wild. If he wants it, he takes it, and God help you if you get in his way. This is a villain who doesnít have the psychological justification of, say, Doctor Doom or someone like that. He doesnít act this way because he believes heís right or that his way is better; he simply wants to live his life at the absolute top of the mountain. And in this case, itís a mountain of bodies that have been relieved of their headsÖ THE PULSE: Aside from his desire to assume the power of fellow Highlanders, what drives him? How is he different from a Connor MacLeod?
I donít know how to describe this, other than to say that heís a willful force of his own nature. He just wants to be the last man standing, period.
Speaking of Connor, Iím definitely going to explain why the Kurgan is specifically looking for him in the first movie. Thereís a specific reason, and it actually allows us some real insight into the Kurgan. THE PULSE: Speaking of Connor MacLeod, what kind of role does he or any of the others of their kin play in this tale?
Öand plays an interesting role in the telling of this story. There are some other Immortal characters that will be familiar to longtime fans, but those details will stay in the pages of the book for now. THE PULSE: How did you decide the way to incorporate the tidbits of information revealed about Kurgan in his Highlander appearances, how did you decide what to flesh out, what to include and what to add to the tale?
When Andrew and I started poring over the existing information, we found that there wasnít really an entire story, but the fragments made a nice framework. From there, it was all about simple logic to get from point A to point B, and then filling in the blanks. THE PULSE: About how long did it take you to come up with a backstory that you were really satisfied with?
Not long at all. A couple of days, maybe. I donít linger too long in the outline stage. Usually, I just build the basic map and leave myself room to color it in during the actual writing. Highlander material is always slightly more dense from the outset, due to having specific dates involved and having to research different time periods, etc. THE PULSE: Once you had all your elements in place, did it have to go through an approval property from the licensors? If so, did all your ideas remain intact or did you have to alter a few bits here and there?
There was an aspect to the framing sequence that Andrew had suggested, but my editor felt might be too continuity-steeped for new readers, so we killed that. I already had a plan ďBĒ in place, though, so that wasnít a huge problem. As for the licensors, I assume thereís a process in place, but I didnít get any notes out of it. THE PULSE: Two issues doesn't seem like a lot of space to detail the history of a character like Kurgan, how did the space constraints affect your story?
Well, the two issues have 32 pages of story each, so that helped. We also knew at the outset that our story would only go up to a certain point. This wasnít a deliberate tactic to leave room for a sequel, but more a decision to avoid rehashing things that weíve already covered. Iíd love to pick up the story and tell the whole shebang at some point, but this mini serves its purpose and ties in nicely with the existing media as it stands. THE PULSE: What do you enjoy the most about working with these characters?
Itís just a really wide-open playing field in terms of characterization and concept; you can do so many things within the Highlander universe. Iím hoping my next foray into the franchise, should that happen, will allow me to do something new with it. THE PULSE: What has the collaboration with Carlos Rafael been like for this story?
We actually donít talk. I write the scripts, he makes the pictures. At a ridiculously fast pace, I might add! THE PULSE: What's coming up in some of your other comics projects?
Letís seeÖXENA / ARMY OF DARKNESS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: GHOSTS should both be nearing their final issues as you read this. Iím not sure what my next Dynamite
project will be beyond that. I have some things brewing with a couple of different publishers, but the big enchilada right now is an original graphic novel for Vertigo that Iím co-writing with Eric Trautmann. I canít say anything more about the book (or the amazing, incredible, fantastic artist whoís drawing it) but Iím absolutely ecstatic about it. 2009 is looking good.
The first part of this two-part Highlander miniseries should be in stores this January. You can learn more about Brandon Jerwa here: http://brandonjerwa.com