Next month, comics’ most versatile publisher Archie Comics reminds the world that they know their way around superheroes too in “New Crusaders”, a brand new, all-ages digital series from writer Ian Flynn and artist Ben Bates. Picking up where Archie’s Red Circle titles left off in the 80s, “New Crusaders” finds the world revisited by evil, and the aged Shield guiding a new group of young heroes as they face humanity’s latest threats head-on.
We recently spoke with “New Crusaders” scribe Ian Flynn and found out a little more about the series. Take a look behind the cut for the entire interview, as well as a look at the cover to the first issue and a few character designs.
Chad Bowers: Let’s start with an easy one: What’s “New Crusaders” about and what can we look forward to in the first issue?
Ian Flynn: “New Crusaders” is, at its core, about the next generation rising to meet – or challenge – the expectations set before it. It’s average teens being given the keys to secrets and powers they never dreamed of and how they handle them. At the start of the first issue, Good has triumphed over Evil and there is no need for heroes. By the end of the issue, that will have been turned completely on its head.
CB: As many readers know, DC Comics licensed and published stories with the Red Circle characters on two separate occasions. First, under the Impact imprint in the 90s and more recently with their Red Circle titles. But the “New Crusaders” looks to be something of a proud homecoming for the characters. What’s it mean to have these guys back at Archie, and how is your take different from what we’ve seen before?
IF: It’s exciting because it’s our characters and we get to give them the modern treatment they deserve. That isn’t to knock the DC stuff – I liked a lot of it, personally – but it was still “DC does Archie characters.”
And unlike the DC venture, or even the reboot in the 80s, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead of revamping the same characters and applying a sliding timescale, we’re continuing where they left off. This is the next generation of heroes inspired by and building from the foundation built by the original Mighty Crusaders. It’s paying homage to the originals while doing our own thing. We’re having our cake and eating it too.
CB: So why did you choose to stick with the original continuity instead of starting from scratch?
IF: It ties into the legacy theme we have going on with the New Crusaders. A lot of older properties get that slash-and-burn approach where they take the core elements and slap a new coat of paint on them. We wanted to approach it differently. Yes, all that wacky stuff from the 40s, 60s and 80s happened, and it still applies to the heroes of today. Why limit ourselves to what we can play with and enjoy?
CB: Some of these characters have been around since the 1940s, so there’s a lot of history there and a lot to pull from. How much research went into the project and was there anything you just couldn’t bring yourself to keep?
IF: We all read everything. EVERYTHING! And I’m going back and re-reading it. Those books are the wellspring we’ll be drawing from. I wouldn’t say there’s anything we’re actively dropping, except maybe the sensibilities of the time that aren’t acceptable today.
CB: I know this is like asking you to pick your favorite kid, but is there one character you’ve found yourself gravitating to more than the others? Is there one stand out in your mind?Continued below
IF: Ivette Velez, the new Jaguar, was my first favorite. Once we had her character down I was ready to do her spin-off. “What Crusaders? Nah, give me a Jaguar monthly!” But as I get to work with each of the characters more, they’re each growing on me. This is a great cast, and I’m having a blast working with them.
CB: Tell us a little more about your version of the Jaguar. Obviously, she’s female here, so was the Impact version of the character an influence at all?
IF: No, we’re going a different route with our Jaguar. We’re playing into the mythos built around Ralph Hardy’s magic belt and expanding upon it. As for Ivette, she is the most removed from the super hero scene out of the teens. She’s not out-going, she’s not courageous, she’s not even in shape. How she copes with the many aspects of her powers and super-persona is going to be fascinating to watch unfold.
CB: Along those same lines, the entire cast of “New Crusaders” is a pretty diverse group. Which heroes would you say are the most different from their classic counterparts, and do those differences play into your story at all?
IF: Most of the cast is a departure from their namesakes. We’ve already covered Ivette/Jaguar. Our new Web, Wyatt, doesn’t bring any brawn with his brain. Our new Comet, Greg, is much more reserved and controlled than his father. On the other hand, the new Fireball, Tyler, is far less responsible than his uncle. Even the new Steel Sterling, Johnny, is more reserved than his father. Kelly, the new Fly Girl, is perhaps the most like her predecessor, but even her mother wasn’t as independent as Kelly is at the start.
CB: I’m really digging the updated costumes and overall look of the team. How did you and series artist Ben Bates work together to come up with these designs?
IF: Ben is amazing. You say “I want this, with this kind of theme.” And – boom! – he makes it happen. He’s an incredible creative force, and it’s always a pleasure to work with him.
CB: Besides the updated versions of the classic Red Circle characters, will you be adding any new heroes to the Red Circle universe?
IF: Eventually, sure. It’s our universe, and we’ve got loads of room to play with its potential. Initially, though, we’ll be sticking to our New Crusaders. They’re as new to this universe as many of our readers will be, so they’re our vehicle into the narrative. Once we’ve established everything, then we can go wild.
CB: Any plans to expand the line? Can we expect any solo books in the future?
IF: It’s too soon to say for sure, but the will is there. Any one of these characters could hold their own. I’m really looking forward to the day where we can do that.
CB: Finally, talk a little about the weekly digital release schedule: How’s it work?
IF: Digital subscribers will be getting six page installments every week, although we’ll be debuting with a double-dose – a full twelve pages – at launch. You’ll also be able to download full issues after the fact.
CB: Did “New Crusaders” weekly schedule change anything about the way you approached the project?
IF: Not especially, no. When writing any comic, you want to have something to entice the reader onto the next page so they don’t put it down and want the next issue immediately. For this, I just made sure everything sixth page ended a little stronger than a regular issue.
CB: And later on, a print version will be available?
IF: Yes, we’ll be doing a monthly printed copy as well. If you want to get the pages first, you’ll want to subscribe to the digital version. If you can wait, there’s the printed version. Or, heck, do both and have the physical copy for your collection.Continued below
Check out RedCircleComics.com on May 16th when “New Crusaders” and the Red Circle App go live.
And here’s a quick peak at some of the first issue’s variant covers!