An Interview with Gordon Rennie – writer of Jaegir (and more)

JAEGIR coverJaegir is the latest US format one-shot from 2000AD, reprinting the story first serialised in 2000AD, part one was in the ‘jump on Prog 1874 (there is another jump on Prog coming soon Prog 1900 is on sale 27th September). Jaegir is set in the original Rogue Trooper continuity.

Gordon Rennie has been writing for 2000AD in 1993 (or more accurately Judge Dredd Megazine) with Missionary Man. Later he was ‘promoted’ to Judge Dredd in the Megazine. His first story published in the parent weekly anthology was Vector 13 in Prog 987.

This isn’t his first foray in to the world of Rogue Trooper, he wrote a number of flashback stories starring Rogue after the Friday reboot had ended. The last of those stories was on Progs 1462 to 1464 in 2005. Returning to that continuity with The 86ers in 2006.

In 2013 Gordon brought us the critically acclaimed Department of Monsterology with 86ers artist PJ Holden.

This interview deals mostly with Jaegir.

Semple: Did you pitch the idea for Jaegir or did Tharg ask you to submit a script?

Gordon: I pitched it. Tharg took a fair bit of convincing. He thought Rogue Trooper had had his day in his old skool form – and I’d agree; if the character was ever to be brought back again, he would need a reboot up the biochips – but, then, this wasn’t Rogue Trooper I was pitching. He came round, but was unsure if it made sense for the character to be female. (As originally pitched, Jaegir was male, and I changed the character’s gender in the revised pitch.) He thought Nort military culture was so throwback macho that a female Nort officer wouldn’t make sense, but I was confident it would work and her being female would just make more of a contrast with the world around her.

Semple: This isn’t a reboot of Rogue Trooper, in fact he isn’t actually in the story but his legacy is. Why a new story now after so long?

Rafe

Rafe from The 86ers

Gordon: I had already revisited the Nort-Souther war in a previous strip called The 86ers, which taught me the valuable lesson that space opera really isn’t my bag. It had a few Nort characters in it – Nort renegades who had joined the Souther side and were still nasty and duplicitous but just hated their fellow Norts more than they hated their new Souther allies – and I realised I found them more interesting than any of the other characters. That idea bubbled away for a few years, and resulted in Jaegir.

Semple: More to the point perhaps, why from the perspective of Nordland?

Gordon: Because it hadn’t been done before – although I have a vague memory of Alan Moore once having written a Rogue Trooper one-off story showing the Norts as a bunch of scared young rookie recruits rather than the fanatical Space Nazis they’ve always been written as. They’re so despicable and one-dimensional in the original Rogue Trooper stories that I decided the only way to read those stories is pretty much as Souther war propaganda, or from the deeply skewed perspective of Rogue Trooper, an artificial creature who was grown in a vat and trained from birth to hate and kill Norts. There’s two sides to every story, and Jaegir is the other side of everything we’ve seen so far.

Semple: Atalia Jaegir is from one of the elite families of Nordland why someone from an elite family? How did you decide on the supporting cast?

Atalia

Atalia Jaegir

Gordon: Because her father is – or was – one of the senior figures in the state’s ruling regime, and responsible for the disastrous decision to genetically hothouse the population, and I wanted to saddle her with that extra burden of guilt. She hates the regime she serves, but she was born into it. Her duties include hunting down the Strigoi mutants that are a side-effect of her father’s attempts to breed a race of super-soldiers from Nort military caste.

As for the supporting cast, she’s a cop, and cops have junior investigators working for them. The most important of them is Klaur, who’s her old squad sergeant from their says fighting on Nu Earth. In Nort society, which is riddled with informers and undercover security agents of the regime, when you find someone you trust, you keep them close to you. Klaur is the person Jaegir can trust.

Semple: Nordland was given a Russo-Germanic feel in the original version but we saw little of Nordland, did you draw on anything in particular to give you the setting you have used?

Gordon: I don’t think we ever saw anything of Nordland society in the original stories. Rogue never went there, so his enemies remained faceless bad guys. Since Jaegir was going to be set on the Nort homeworlds, we had to have a strong idea what they would be like. And what they would be like was over-populated and polluted, covered in giant munitions factories and military facilities, and with wartime and regime propaganda everywhere on the streets. And, yeah, I looked at things like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in wartime, to get an idea of what this kind of society might look and feel like.

Semple: Simon Coleby’s art is very much in keeping with the original look while retaining a style of his own. Did you have any input regarding having Simon involved?

Gordon: I had Simon in mind right from the start. We talked about it before I pitched the idea, and he also had very firm ideas about what the character’s world would be like. When I pitched it was definitely with Simon and I as a team on this story.

Semple: Rogue Trooper is 33 years old this year and despite its popularity it hasn’t enjoyed the success of Judge Dredd or Strontium Dog. In your opinion what would make the story work for a modern audience?

Gordon: Good question. I’d give him something resembling a proper personality – the success of Jaegir proves that’s there’s an appetite among 2000AD readers for characterisation deeper than “Eat las-knife, Norty!” – and make him much more of a proper renegade. Despite his rogue status, he’s still doing pretty much exactly what he was designed to do, which is wandering about the place killing Norts. I’d also suggest that the biochips need a drastic re-think for a more sophisticated readership than the young kids reading the original run in the early 1980s. The talking hat needs to go.

Semple: What other currently unused 2000AD characters do you think might be worth breathing fresh air in to? What artist would you like to see drawing the story (stories)?

AQUILA BLOOD OF ICENI COVERGordon: These days, I’d much rather concentrate on my own roster of characters that I’ve built up over the last couple of years – Aquila, Absalom and now Jaegir and another one that’s yet to debut. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stood down from writing any more Judge Dredd stories. There is one Dredd universe strip coming up that’s a radical rethink of an old character’s origins, but it’s so far removed from current continuity that it’s really in its own little alternative continuity microverse.

Shako1

Shako

One old 2000AD story that I’ve always wanted to take a stab at is – I kid you not – Shako, about a killer polar bear, (review of the original here) although the very different-from-the-original pitch for that went nowhere. I dunno….maybe Flesh, which continues to squander away its original greatness with every new series that appears.

Semple: The second Jaegir story is currently being serialised in 2000AD and will hopefully also be released in US format – what can you share about that story? Is there a long-term plan for the story?

Gordon: The current series is called Circe, and is about Jaegir hunting down the source of a new street drug that devolves the psychologically-damaged war vets who take it into mindless beasts. It’s another fun stroll through the underbelly of a society that’s driving itself to self-destruction in pursuit of victory in the war against the Southers. There’s still a lot of places for Jaegir to go in this world, in pursuit of both her own personal agenda and of the perpetrators of the war crimes she investigates.

Semple: What projects are you working on at the moment?

Gordon: I’ve just finished a story called Brothers In Arms, for the big bumper end-of-year issue for 2000AD. It’s about Jaegir’s relationship with her brothers and her father, and about the cause of the start of the war. Simon sent me a message after he’d read it, describing it as ‘dark as f**k’, so I guess it’s carrying on in the now established vein.

I’m also writing the second series of Department of Monsterology, the creator-owned series I do with PJ Holden for Renegade Entertainment, and afore-mentioned Dredd universe series with artist Lee Carter, a new series of Absalom with Tiernen Trevallion, and co-written with Emma Beeby, the comedy-SF series Survival Geeks, which got a successful trial run in 2000AD early last year.

***

You can read brief reviews of each episode of Survival Geeks from Progs 1827, 1828 & 1829.

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One comment on “An Interview with Gordon Rennie – writer of Jaegir (and more)

  1. […] you’re interested in the background to how Jaegir was created by Gordon Rennie, then check out this great interview over on the Judge-Tutor Semple blog which Matt Badham kindly picked up on and directed us at last week. And if you like Gordon’s […]

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