Brandon Jerwa has always written strong female characters well, from Scarlet, Lady Jaye and Baroness from GI Joe to Starbuck and Number 6 from Battlestar Galactica. So when his frequent writing partner was leaving Vampirella, Jerwa was the obvious choice to take over. Jai Nitz chatted with the writer about the latest collection Vampirella Vol 4: Inquisition.
JAI NITZ: Vampirella has a mixed bag history. What do you think is the best interpretation of the character?
BRANDON JERWA: MINE, obviously! Hahaha. Seriously, though: I think there are good aspects to be taken from each version of the character, and I have certainly tried to make my own interpretation an amalgam of all the best parts. I think I like the old magazine take on Vampirella the best, though. She would appear out of the fog, and enter some strange, supernatural mystery…but in the next issue, she might end up fighting aliens. You can see a lot of that influence in my run on the book.
JN: What drew you to the character?
BJ: I was sort of obsessed with monsters at an early age, maybe 6 or 7 years old. Just like THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES or THE TWILIGHT ZONE, a VAMPIRELLA comic was another glimpse into the weird for me. I didn't really ever follow the comics, but I would read them whenever one crossed my immediate proximity.
When my friend and collaborator Eric Trautmann started his run on Vampirella, I was naturally paying attention. Eventually I was tagged-in to do a single issue during his run, and that opened the door to get me a gig writing the first Annual. Even then, I never imagined I'd be writing the series full-time. When that time came, I was definitely ready. Eric had already built a great foundation, so we were off to the races.
JN: What's this TPB/arc about?
BJ: It's definitely a bridge between Trautmann's fantastic run, and my overall story that will end in issue 38. Vampirella has been working for a black-bag, private militia arm of the Vatican, called Cestus Dei, since Dynamite's first issue…and now she and Cestus Dei have mutually decided to end their affiliation permanently.
What Vampirella doesn't know is that she's being scrutinized by some cosmic-level higher-ups, who feel like she's shirked her duties as an enemy of Chaos. Meanwhile, Dracula and the sadistic Von Kreist are both making big moves, and all hell is breaking loose on Earth. In fact, the second arc in this same collection is called "Hell on Earth". So, I feel like we really deliver on that idea! Haha!
That may sound a little daunting for new readers, but I *absolutely promise* that you can read this book, even if you don't who or what Vampirella is.
JN: Talk about Heubert Khan Michael. I met him a few years ago online when I saw his Filipino self-published comics. I love his stuff. What's it like working with him?
BJ: Heubert's so great! He knows how to communicate, he ACTUALLY READS THE SCRIPT (10 points!) and he has some fantastic instincts. It didn't take long for us to develop an easy shorthand between ourselves, and the book has really been a true collaboration. I trust him enough We finally met at the 2013 Emerald City Comicon, and I'm happy to report that he's a super-nice guy to boot. I will HAPPILY work with Heubert anytime, anywhere, on anything.
JN: You're known for your GI Joe, Highlander, and Battlestar Galactica work. How big a leap was it for you to write Vampirella?
BJ: On the one hand, Vampi is really no different from other iconic female characters that I've written: Scarlett, Lady Jaye, The Baroness, Starbuck, Number Six, etc. On the other hand, the Vampirella universe has allowed me to play with so many different motifs and genres that I haven't had enough chances to explore in other work. I've hit some big notes of horror, superhero action, cosmic drama, and even some time-travel. I have loved writing this book, and I hope that issue 38's finale is not the last time Vampirella and I get together.
JN: How does music factor into your comic book writing?
BJ: It's funny. I've been a musician much longer than I've been writing comics, but the two rarely have interaction. I actually struggle with listening to music while I write; I'm one of those weirdos that prefers to have some kind of talking in the background: DVD director's commentary, Marc Maron, or whatever. With Vampirella, there have been some musical elements directly within the stories. If you look at the very end of Issue 21, my very first issue (which kicks off "Inquisition") you'll see that Thomas Criswell is wearing an Iggy Pop t-shirt. That is a quiet moment in which I am subtly foreshadowing things that will come later, kicking off a recurring motif that concerns Criswell, Vampi, and even a new villain.
JN: What's next for you at Dynamite? What other projects do you have upcoming?
BJ: Vampirella ends at issue #38, so that's…well, pretty soon. I have the all-ages LI'L BIONIC KIDS one-shot coming, as well as the PANTHA funnypage-strips that my son Orion and I co-wrote for Trautmann's LI'L VAMPI one-shot.
I'm literally writing the last few pages of a modern literary adaptation that I've been working on for a while, but I don't know when that's coming out. Other than that, I have nothing new from Dynamite. Are they reading this? Do you think they can see this? Hey, guys! I'm available! Uh—guys? Hello?
Vampirella Vol 4: Inquisition is available now.
Jai Nitz is a writer in his own right having written for Marvel, DC, Image and currently Dynamite on Grimm: The Warlock debuting next month.