This February, IDW Publishing proves that it’s not easy being blue in “Rogue Trooper” #1, written by novelist Brian Ruckley with art by Albert Ponticelli. Co-created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons in 1981, “Rogue Trooper” followed the adventures of a blue-skinned genetically enhanced soldier who begins to question everything around him after his entire squad gets massacred. “Rogue Trooper” is the second ongoing series resulting from the partnership between IDW and “2000 AD” publishers Rebellion, following in the boot-steps of Duane Swierczynski’s “Judge Dredd.”
Ruckley spoke with CBR News about what fans can expect from IDW’s “Rogue Trooper” re-imagining, why the novelist chose this challenge for his first comic book work, his hankering for a US version of “Slaine” and more.
CBR News: How did you land the monumental task of adapting “Rogue Trooper” for a US audience?
Brian Ruckley: I guess the short answer would be, “By writing a pitch document that people apparently liked.” The longer version is that one of the good folks at IDW — Tom Waltz — contacted me long ago, as a fan of my novels. We got to talking, and the possibility of me writing comics came up. It’s taken a long while for those discussions to bear actual fruit, but this year I got myself an invitation to pitch for “Rogue Trooper.” I did, and here we are.
Is this your first major comic book work?
It’s my first comic book work of any sort. As for why now, it’s just one of those occasions when the stars are correctly aligned. The opportunity’s there, the character is one I know and like, I’ve got the time to give it the attention it deserves. I’ve had it at the back of my mind for years that I’d like to write for comics — this just happens to be the year when I decided I could and should pursue the idea, and that decision led to the stellar opportunity that is “Rogue Trooper.” I received the e-mail telling me I’d got the gig on my birthday, which must mean it’s plain old fate, right?
I noticed you have a short story on your site called “Gibbons.” Is the title of the story a head nod to Dave Gibbons in any way?
Ha! That would be the craziest thing, wouldn’t it — if I’d written a story referencing a comics artist and then ended up writing a character he co-created? Sadly, it’s just the strange workings of chance, because the story and its title are actually a head nod to the little hairy apes that swing through trees. Long ago I spent a chunk of time following them around in the rainforests of Borneo, and the story was inspired by that experience.
What’s your take on “Rogue Trooper” like? Are there any big changes to the original formula?
The basics are still there, unchanged. You don’t need to mess around too much with the original “Rogue” concept — that’s my theory, anyway. My Rogue remains the ultimate outsider: A genetically engineered super-soldier, the last of his kind, out to avenge a massacre and uncover treachery. But we’re producing this series for a different audience, in a different time, in a different format, so sure, we’ve tweaked things a little bit. There’s a new look for his equipment (and long-time “Rogue” readers will know that equipment is uniquely central to the whole “Rogue Trooper” vibe); there are a few new twists on character and plot, theme and tone, to keep things interesting for old and new readers alike.
What’s your first story arc about?
It’s about Rogue Trooper, the lone survivor of terrible, horrible disaster, fighting the good fight against crazily long odds. People on both sides of the planet-wide war on Nu-Earth want to take him down, and he’s stuck in the middle, trying to stay alive and — crucially in this first arc — trying to keep other folks alive. By the end of the first arc, readers will have the outline of Rogue’s back-story — not the full version, which is still a few issues down the line, but enough to know where he’s coming from — and they’ll have met some of his friends and enemies (there are a whole lot more of the latter than the former, unsurprisingly). They’ll have seen just what him and his hi-tech kit are capable of on the battlefield, why his enemies fear him, and where he’s heading as he pursues his self-appointed mission of vengeance and justice.
Seeing as how you’re from the UK, were you a “Rogue Trooper” fan growing up?
Oh, yes. Back then, every child in the UK was legally required to read and enjoy “2000 AD.” Okay, that’s not true, but as laws go, it wouldn’t be such a bad one, if you ask me. Anyway, I read Rogue’s very first appearance in “2000 AD,” and a whole heap of his adventures after that.
Favorites? Lots. I think the very first 7-page strip is a great, concise, intriguing bit of character, world and story introduction. I like the “Marauders” storyline, where Rogue battles a load of deserter-bandits. And “All Hell on the Dix-I front” was the sort of large-scale war storyline that appealed to me enormously as a kid.
Why do you think “Rogue Trooper” is such a timeless tale?
Because, like most timeless tales, at its root, it’s simple, clear and deals with potent and persistent human emotions or drives. “Rogue Trooper” in its distilled form is one man — a warrior-outsider — on a quest for vengeance and justice in an insanely hostile world. Around that, you can build all kinds of interesting and spectacular additions — bio-chips carrying the minds of his dead comrades, an entire planet that’s one big toxic nightmare, the war story, the whole genetic engineering angle — but the bottom line is: Rogue’s the ultimate warrior, driven by noble motives, misunderstood or betrayed by those around him.
What other “2000 AD” properties do you think deserve the IDW treatment?
Well, my heart wants to say “All of them.” My head recognizes there’s some stuff in that vast library that would be kind of tough to translate. Still, there’s a whole lot of it that could work. “2000 AD” has always been, above all else, an incredible machine for generating strong, diverse ideas and characters: “Strontium Dog,” “Slaine,” “Nemesis,” “ABC Warriors” — the possibilities are far too numerous to list. They all worked for me back in my youth. I admit, I’ve got a particular soft-spot for “Slaine,” though. Conan turned up to eleven and injected with a cocktail of cruel humor, Celtic mythology, prehistory and weirdness.
“Rogue Trooper” ships out this February for IDW Publishing.