When Dynamite Entertainment editor Joe Rybandt e-mailed to ask if I would be "up for more Highlander," I'm pretty sure I gave my laptop screen a sarcastic look. I'd been bugging Joe and Publisher Nick Barrucci for more Highlander work since the final issue of my original 12-issue run hit the stands. I told him I was ready to go at any time, and he said, "Great! It's the origin of the Kurgan and you've got two 32-page issues. Go!"
And here we are!
"Highlander Origins: The Kurgan" required a lot of serious history research, continuity reconciliation, fan-fearing panic and deep love for the Highlander franchise. Luckily, I had most of that tucked away under my skull-helmet and in my sword scabbard.
I have to give some big props to Andrew Modeen, a diehard Highlander fan (and fellow Seattlite) who was an absolutely invaluable help with continuity research, not to mention acting as a much-abused (by me) sounding board along the way.
I've chosen some key moments to talk about from the first issue of "Highlander Origins: The Kurgan," so without any further ado (or adon't)...
After we meet our villain (hero?) as a young foundling, we follow him through an early catastrophe that leads him top be taken in by a clan of Kurgan people. He would later come to be known by their cultural name, as Connor MacLeod would one day be known as "Highlander."
Here we see that he is already starting to wear out his welcome with adoptive father Grig. After revealing his resentment for their situation, Grig gives the boy his first puppy in a completely terrible way!
Writing a villain at a different stage in his life is something I've done a couple of times before, and I think you run a real risk in doing these big villain stories sometimes. Nobody wants to see their favorite bad guy choosing their path in life because everybody was mean to him in the eighth grade, you know? It's a balancing act between reasonable motivation and inherent evil. Then you have to deal with why a villain ends up thinking that his way is the right way!
The Kurgan is a little different in that he ultimately knows that what he's doing is wrong in the eyes of the world, but he simply rejects the notion of that sort of judgment. And he can do that. I mean really, now - are you going to tell him he's wrong?
I don't want to give away every cool moment here, but this is something that was mentioned in the novelization of the movie, and expanded here. Grig learns the hard way that he has made a terrible mistake in bullying the kid.
BONUS HISTORICAL FACT! This sequence also illustrates how Pop Rocks were invented. True story.
The Kurgan dies his first death at the hands of some desert raiders that he had been working with for some time. I love sword-related violence; it's so easy to be creative with it, and such a wonderfully brutal tool for action. On the flip side, you can be really elegant with swordplay, too.
I...uh...did not exercise that option here.
Okay, I'm going to give away one of my recurring motifs here. Maybe you noticed a long time ago, maybe you didn't, but I can't count the times I have used a multi-season montage sequence to convey the passing of time. I think it's a really natural means of storytelling that plays to the way we remember things in our own lives.
Or maybe I'm a hack who keeps using the same trick over and over again. Let's not put to a vote right now, though. Point it out after I'm dead.
In any event, The Kurgan is now embracing his Immortal destiny with the mentor who took him in and trained him in the ways of the franchise.
Carlos is a great artist for this book. He draws very manly men, and very curvaceous, alluring women (see issue #2 for very illuminating examples of that particular talent.) I thought I'd share this splash page, in which The Kurgan witnesses his first Quickening.
Let's end with a great example of The Kurgan doing what he does best. I wanted to deliver a book that delivers on the kind of action people have come to expect from the Highlander world, and sequences like this accomplish what I set out to do with a big cherry on top.
I hope you've all enjoyed this look at "Highlander Origins: The Kurgan." I also hope it's the first fresh sword-swing in a full-on attack on more new Highlander books! I can't wait to get to work on a brand new Immortal adventure as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Thanks for taking a peek!