Brandon Jerwa’s no stranger to licensed comics. He’s written across the spectrum from “G.I. Joe” to “Battlestar Galactica”. Now he gets a chance to put his stamp on the Stargate Universe with Dynamite’s initial offering. The first book out of the Stargate stars Vala Mal Doran, the character brought to life onscreen by fan favorite Claudia Black. Jerwa tells us why Vala, what makes her great, and why Jack O’Neill fans should be on board, too.
Newsarama: Out of all of the characters in the Stargate Universe, Vala Mal Doran gets one of the first looks in comics form. What about her is particularly compelling to you?
Brandon Jerwa: How can you not love her? She’s snarky, duplicitous, self-centered, easily enraged and somehow still adorable.
Nrama: One of the hooks of Vala is that she was played by fan favorite actress Claudia Black; is there one thing that Black did with Vala that you made sure to incorporate into your take?
Jerwa: I think I really just tried to capture that biting sarcasm in both the dialogue and the panel descriptions. I don’t think I’ve ever written so many specific notes in regards to facial expressions.
Nrama: Where in the framework of Vala’s history does your story take place?
Jerwa: The story is actually divided into two sections: The first two-and-a-half issues take place before Vala’s first appearance in Stargate SG-1 continuity, but after her time as a host for the Goa’uld named Qetesh. In this part of the story, she’s a free agent, making her way in the universe as a thief.
The second half of the mini-series takes place in current Stargate continuity. Vala is trying to settle down and maintain the integrity of her new life with SG-1…but the past is going to come back and haunt her in a big way.
Nrama: In the tale, Vala’s putting together a team for a particular job. Given her roguish past, how is she as a leader?
Jerwa: She’s acting as a leader because it serves her personal interests. As for doing that job, she’s bossy, aggressive, and tends to give orders quickly so that no one in her crew will have time to realize what’s being asked of them.
Nrama: Will other familiar characters or races be appearing?
Jerwa: The whole SG-1 crew will make an appearance later in the story. And yes, that includes Jack O’Neill.
Nrama: What in particular does artist Cezar Rezak bring to the story?
Jerwa: Cezar is really delivering some craziness to my little heist story. He likes to “go big” and that really fits the flavor of the series. The action is wild and the characters are well-defined in terms of their emotions and reactions. He’s doing a great job.
Nrama: You’ve worked in other licensed franchises before. In what way do you approach the Stargate world, and does that differ significantly with how you looked at, for example, Battlestar Galactica?
Jerwa: Stargate allows me to bring the big sci-fi epic action that has sort of become part of my stock in trade, but I’m free to be as funny and sarcastic as I’d like to be. With other franchises, there can be a varying level of humor; in this one, it’s expected. When Dynamite came to me and said the words “Vala Mal Doran” my response was “GIMME!”
Nrama: Is it at all intimidating to deal with interpreting a transmedia character that arrives with a pretty firmly established fan-base?
Jerwa: Not to sound too cocky, but…well, I think I’ve gotten the hang of writing licensed properties by now! Lord knows I’ve done enough of it.
In all seriousness, I think it just comes down to doing your research and finding a comfort zone with the characters you’re writing. Hopefully, that translates onto the page and into the hearts and minds of the readers, too.
Nrama: Take us through your own process as a writer.
Jerwa: I’m really kind of a script factory at this point, so my process tends to be pretty consistent. Starting from a licensor-and-publisher-approved outline, I write the panel descriptions first and then go back and add the dialogue, which has usually been formulating in my head during the plotting process. It takes me about a week to ten days to write a 22-page script; that usually doesn’t involve weekends; I write from 9-3 or so on weekdays, like a “day job,” and only work on weekends if I absolutely must for the sake of a deadline.
Nrama: What does the Stargate virgin need to know to pick this one up, and how would you hook said reader?
Jerwa: This book could really be read by anyone, I think. I try to do that with licensed material as much as possible, at least at the outset. At the end of the day, I can only write a story that I believe will be compelling to new readers and die-hard fans alike from page one. The rest is up for them to decide.