Gordon Rennie Expands "Rogue Trooper's" World In "Jaegir"

"2000 AD" publisher Rebellion continues its push into North America with this week's release of "Jaegir," a US-format one-shot by writer Gordon Rennie and artist Simon Coleby. "Jaegir" takes place in the "Rogue Trooper" universe, co-created by Dave Gibbons and Gerry Finley-Day, exploring for the first time the origins and culture of long-time villains the Norts -- and finally explaining how they received their deformed appearances.

In discussing "Jaegir" with CBR News, Rennie explained exactly how the one-shot connects to the classic "Rogue Trooper" series, Atalia Jaegir's origins as a male protagonist and the importance in giving the traditionally one-dimensional Nords a true POV character.

CBR News: Gordon, what is "Jaegir" about? And how does it connect to classic "2000 AD" thrill "Rogue Trooper?"

Gordon Rennie: "Jaegir" is a detective-war strip set in the "Rogue Trooper" universe, a universe dominated by an endless war between two implacable enemies, the Nordland Republic and the Southern Cross Confederacy. Or the Norts and the Southers, as they've always been known to fans of "Rogue Trooper."

But whereas all previous "Rogue Trooper" stories have been set on war worlds like Nu Earth, a planet completely toxified, irradiated and polluted by the war being fought over every inch of its surface, and has always featured Rogue Trooper, or other combatants on the Souther side, this strip is a little different. The main character is Kapiten-Inspector Atalia Jaegir, a Nort officer, and her adventures are all set in Nort society and the dystopian workings of the Nort military state.

As you mention, "Jaegir" is from the point of view of Rogue Trooper's classic enemies the Norts. How much of the Nort identity was already established and how much did you get to create?

The Norts were always one-dimensional Space Nazis, whose characterization wasn't that much further on from the way Germans were depicted in the era of the British war comics that preceded the advent of "2000 AD." They were all "Stak! Nain! Genetik infantryman! AAAAAAGH!!!"

I thought we could do a lot better than that. And, frankly, we have.

I looked at the history of regimes like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and how there were still always real people in these totalitarian organizations, many of them doing what they did for what they thought were valid reasons -- patriotism, protecting their own people, or because they thought the enemy were even worse than their own rulers. That's the Norts we have in "Jaegir" -- characters, not caricatures.

And I really, really wanted to have a reason why, in the old "Rogue" stories, Norts were often drawn as being facially deformed. When I came up with a reason why that was, then that's where the whole idea of the Jaegir story came from.

Will any characters we already know from "Rogue Trooper" be spilling over into "Jaegir?"

Rogue appears in flashback in the second series, called "Circe," because Jaegir encountered him in her military service on Nu Earth and lived to tell the tale, even if he still haunts her nightmares. I'm not anticipating ever using any other characters from the "Rogue Trooper" stories.

What's it like working with artist Simon Coleby?

Simon and I have worked together before, on "Judge Dredd" and some old "Rogue Trooper" stories, but back then it was simply a case of me writing the scripts and the editor assigning them to an artist. Who happened to be Simon.

I always liked his Norts, though -- he drew great ugly and deformed-looking Norts, which is a crucial aspect to the Norts' newly-revealed backstory that we've given them. So, when I came up with the idea of a Nort war crimes investigator who hunts down the genetically tainted mutants among the Nort warrior caste, I naturally thought of Simon.

Why create a series in an existing universe as opposed to starting a new one, or having it share a universe with one of your own series?

Because the series grew out of niggles I always had about the "Rogue Trooper" universe, first as a reader, and later as a writer. And I've written a whole bunch of "Rogue" -- comic strips, a novel and a computer game.

Why do the Norts all look deformed? How did the war with the Southers start? Who started it? Can all the Norts be as impossibly villainous and evil as it seems? Are the Southers really the good guys here?

What initially inspired "Jaegir" and your heroine Atalia?

The above questions, a love of history -- all those totalitarian regimes to study -- and an interest in what it must have been like to serve in those kind of regimes, in live in a society controlled by them. "Jaegir" was going to be part of that system, but trying to do as much good as she could within it.

And, for ages, she wasn't a woman. It was pitched with her as a man -- her name was Armand Jaegir -- and it was only very late in the day that I decided she would be much more interesting as a female character. It changed her, too. It wasn't simply a matter of changing her first name. A lot of the personal baggage the character has -- her family history and her relationship with her monster-hero of a father -- suddenly became a lot more personal.

"Jaegir" is a one-shot, but these characters are appear again --

The second series featuring the character -- called "Circe," and keeping the mythological title refs going -- is running at the moment in "2000 AD," and I've just started work on a third "Jaegir" story, to appear in the big, end-of-year issue of the comic.

Switching topics, the first collection of your series "Department of Monsterology" hits soon. What's it about?

It's about a college academic department that studies weird stuff like cryptozoology, parapsychology and UFOlogy, and sends field teams out around the world to investigate lost worlds, ancient secret cities, haunted houses etc. It's got a large cast of oddball characters -- there's three field teams, each specializing in one of those different disciplines -- and it great fun to write and got us some great reviews. The first collection's out in October from Renegade Entertainment, and we're working on the second book now, after the publisher confirmed it for a five book arc.

Another graphic novel you have coming out soon is "Robert Burns Witch Hunter." Can you tell us more about this project?

It's about Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, and his adventures as an 18th century witch hunter. One of Burns' most famous poems -- after "Auld Lang Syne," which is one of the world's most sung songs -- is "Tam o' Shanter," about a drunk who runs into a coven of witches on his way home from the pub. We take the premise that this is based on a real incident in the life of the young poet. Burns was a colorful character, and the story's a bit of a bawdy romp. It's co-written with Emma Beeby, and the artist is Tiernen Trevallion, who I work with on the "Absalom" horror strip for "2000 AD." Tiernen gives great demons and witches, and really expressive and lively characters.

"Jaegir" by Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby is available now from "2000 AD."

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