Having been let down by a number of sub-par film sequels, I was cautiously optimistic when Dynamite Entertainment announced back in 2006 that they were producing a comic book based on the Highlander franchise. I soon learned that the series was in the very capable hands of writer Brandon Jerwa. Over thirteen issues, Jerwa gave us some great adventures in the finest Highlander tradition, deftly adding to the mythos without resorting to Zeist-ian retcons (long-time fans will cringe at that reference). Now, Jerwa returns to the Highlander universe with a two-issue mini-series that explores the history of the evil immortal from the original film, the Kurgan. We talked with Jerwa at the 2008 Emerald City ComiCon and he briefly mentioned this mini. This week he agreed to go into a little more detail about the comic.
PCZ: I think we touched on this at Emerald City last year, but tell us again how you came to write the origin of the Kurgan?
BRANDON JERWA: After wrapping up the 12.5 issues of the “main” series, I had been hounding Dynamite for more Highlander work. There wasn’t much movement on that front for a while, but then my editor, Joe Rybandt, just sort of dropped this in my lap one day. He knew I was an easy mark for it!
PCZ: What specifically appealed to you about the character?
BRANDON JERWA: I’m fascinated by the overall concept of the Immortal world, and the Kurgan is one of those characters who has managed to stay in the public’s mind when they think of “Highlander,” even though he really doesn’t have a prolific presence in the overall scheme of the franchise. And it’s always fun to write the villain.
PCZ: In the first Highlander film, the Kurgan is pretty much just an out-and-out twisted bad-ass. Do we see any other sides to his personality and what led him to become who he ends up being?
BRANDON JERWA: There are other aspects to his personality that come through, yes, but I also wanted to make sure that there wasn’t much ambiguity in terms of his true nature. He’s a bad guy, plain and simple, and while a lot of that was due to early survival instinct, I think there really had to be something sort of twisted-up inside the core of his nature to choose the path that he did.
PCZ: You’ve already shown us a previously unseen encounter between Connor MacLeod and the Kurgan in main the Highlander series. Are there any other such encounters in this mini, either with Connor or other known Immortals (Duncan or Methos perhaps)?
BRANDON JERWA: Oh, he’ll definitely run into some familiar faces, but that’s my secret for now. Muahahaha!
PCZ: Do you reveal any of the Kurgan’s Watchers or is this strictly film continuity?
BRANDON JERWA: I had intended to use the Kurgan’s Watcher as part of the framing sequence for the story, but it was decided above my pay grade at some point that using that element might narrow the appeal for the readers who aren’t completely versed in Highlander lore. Which I guess is understandable to some extent. So, while the Watchers don’t appear per se, there’s nothing in the book that disavows them or removes that aspect of the continuity.
This story also reaches a specific stopping point, rather than going right up to the Kurgan’s death in the first movie. A lot of that decision had to do with not wanting to go over the same ground that we’ve already covered in the comics; it would really be the equivalent of a “clip show” at that point, so we agreed on a fixed point in time, a key moment, where this story would complete itself. I’d certainly be willing to do a sequel, though, and if that opportunity comes up, I think the Watchers would be a must.
PCZ: A big one, does the Kurgan get a name other than just the Kurgan?
BRANDON JERWA: Yup. Turns out his name was “Steve” all along. You can see why he went with the darker, more ominous title. Nobody ever says, “Oh, crap, here comes The Steve!”
PCZ: Continuity is a complicated issue in the Highlander universe. What source materials did you draw from in writing the Kurgan’s origin.
BRANDON JERWA: Boy, is that continuity comment an understatement! After being exposed to the hardcore fanbase and seeing a lot of the online discussions about what is and isn’t canon, I actually drafted in some help for this project in the form of Andrew Modeen. He’s a fellow Seattlite whom I had met a few times after the main series had started, and I felt like he had a pretty logical, middle-of-the-road view of the continuity. I asked him to sort of act as my sounding board during this process, and he really stepped up to the plate. Within 24 hours, he had gathered every bit of canonical material available on the Kurgan and we started devising a timeline. It was a huge help.
The sources that came into play were the first movie, the novelization of the movie, and a few mentions from the TV series. There was also some consideration for what was going on in the larger Highlander universe, and how that might affect the Kurgan. From there, I set about filling in the blanks and building the larger story, with Andrew as my sounding board. It was nice to have a loyal fan’s perspective when it comes to a franchise that so many people have really adamant views on.
PCZ: How was the approval process with Davis-Panzer for your scripts?
BRANDON JERWA: I honestly have no idea. I usually get one round of notes – when I get any, which really isn’t that often – and I generally don’t know if they’re coming from Dynamite or the licensor.
PCZ: Carlos Rafael did the art on issue twelve of the main series. Did that make him a natural for carrying over to this mini-series?
BRANDON JERWA: Absolutely. He also worked on J.T. Krul’s “Way of the Sword” mini-series, and I’m sure it just seemed like a natural fit.
PCZ: This title is under the umbrella “Highlander Origins.” Are there any other Immortals you’d like to tell the history of?
BRANDON JERWA: Oh, sure. I’d love to tackle Methos, but only in the proper format. We’d need an easy twelve issues to even get into that! The Horsemen could be a blast, too.
PCZ: Any plans for the main Highlander book to continue?
BRANDON JERWA: None that I’m aware of at this time. I’m still extremely interested in working in the franchise, and I’ve been bugging Dynamite about having something new to announce at the Highlander Worldwide convention in L.A. this spring, but your guess is as good as mine right now.
PCZ: What other books do you have coming up?
Let’s see…Xena / Army Of Darkness II is currently wrapping up, as is the Battlestar Galactica: Ghosts series, so as far as officially-announced things, that’s about it. I’m collaborating with Eric Trautmann on a Vertigo OGN right now, but the secrets of that project are locked up tight for the moment. It’s coming along very well, though, and I’m really excited about it.
I’ve been pretty lucky thus far in my career overall; there’s always been something new and exciting waiting right around the corner. I’m approaching a new corner right now, just in time for a new year, and I’m fully expecting the next surprise to be bigger and better than the ones that came before it!
Thank you to Brandon Jerwa for taking the time to answer our questions. Highlander Origins: The Kurgan issue one is in comic shops January 28th with issue two on sale February 25th.