In comics, you can't keep a good superhero down, and at Archie
Comics, it turns out that you can't keep an entire universe of
superheroes down, either.
Last weekend, the publisher dropped the surprising news that they'd
relaunch their "Red Circle" line of superheroes in 2012 in the form
of a new digital subscription comics app. Described as "Netflix for
Comics," each week sees the release of a brand new "New Crusaders"
story by the team of Ian Flynn and Ben Bates (known for their work
on the publisher's "Sonic The Hedgehog" comics) and access to
archives of Archie-published versions of the superheroes from their
original 1940s appearances through the Radio Comics of the '60s into
the Red Circle books of the '80s and on to the Impact Comics of the
"You're essentially getting your monthly comic book fix,
but with a built-in weekly format on top of the library that goes
all the way back to the Golden Age," said Archie President Mike
Perellito who teamed with Executive Director of Publicity and
Marketing Alex Segura and "Sonic" editor Paul Kaminski to mastermind
the "New Crusaders" idea. The format of the stories will built large
arcs out of the individual "episodes" of the new series with a full
"season" of "New Crusaders" comics running approximately 25
To uncover the story behind the story on how "New Crusaders" went
from idea to incoming Red Circle comics app, CBR News spoke to both
Perellito, Segura and Kaminski about the digital and creative sides
of the launch AND "New Crusaders" writer Ian Flynn about his plans
for the characters. Read on to see how digital is driving the
content of Archie moving forward, what classic villain causes the
New Crusaders to form and what other characters and ideas will be
born when the Red Circle returns in 2012.
CBR News: Gents, this is an all-new kind of project for Archie.
Why launch a subscription-based app for new comics content?
Mike Pellerito: Distribution
books has always controlled the content, meaning the
newsstand made for done-in-one kinds of stories because you never
knew who was coming by. When the Direct Market exploded, people like
me went, "Wow! I can read this 12-issue maxi series, and I'm there
every week. This is awesome." So comics has always drifted towards
new distribution, and Archie has embraced every single new format,
and we've stayed vibrant in all of them. Now we're embracing and
actually leading the way with this new distribution of digital
dictating content. We've found that fans want new, fresh stuff, but
they also want access to everything. That "Netflix for Comics" line
is exactly it. You want new stuff, and you want everything that
feeds your huge appetite.
Last week, Archie released this New Crusaders teaser on an
unsuspecting comics industry
How did this conversation about new models get rolled up with the
Crusaders? Have you ben trying to find a way to bring those heroes
back into the mix?
there is no better place in the world to work if you're a comic book
fan than Archie. It's got everything you want, including the most
creative people doing the most creative things. There's no crazy
corporate structure like at the other places. We just go, "Let's get
a good idea and do it." Speaking for myself only, I am a comic book
nerd. I go to the store every Wednesday. I go to book stores all the
time. I'm downloading comics now. It's addictive. And we have a
tremendously awesome library of superhero characters that are so
great. They've had a legacy of great creators working on them.
And personally, I just see less and less stuff I like out there in
superheroes. There's tons of great comic books, but what I buy every
week has been less about superheroes. It kind of bummed me out. A
lot of people feel the same way. And we started talking about how
we've got this great library where we can do great action and great
superheroes. And it doesn't have to be for the guy like me who's
addicted and has to go to the comic book store every week. I got
into comics as a kid at the corner candy store. My kids love
superheroes and Archie and all this stuff, but I can't give them
most superhero books. This new series is for daddy, but I can leave
it out, and my six-year-old can also pick it up, and I don't have to
freak out about Batman having sex with Catwoman. You know, The
Shield will beat up a bad guy, and he might go on a date, but it
won't be too freaky. It's entertaining and interesting.
Alex Segura: Yeah,
these aren't watered down superheroes. This isn't what we think is a
kids version of Superman or Batman. This is a comic like "The
Incredibles." You can read it with your kids, and you'll both get
different things out of it. It appeals to all ages in that way.
Pellerito: The "Justice
League Unlimited" TV show had a nice mix like that where it
dealt with some heavy stuff, but whether you were six or 60, there's
something in there for you. Like "Incredibles" has something in
there for you, this can feed your comic book addiction, OR if you
haven't read a book in years, it's still cool. That's what this
company has always done. We make comic book entertainment available
The Red Circle characters come back every few years with the most
recent run being at DC, but it seems to me there's been trouble
getting them to go over in a sustained way. With "Sonic The
Hedgehog" now being a franchise at Archie and a new "Mega Man"
series fleshing out that Archie Adventure format, did you guys feel
more confident being able to launch a superhero series that can
Paul Kaminski: Tonally
speaking, those books where the catalyst for this project. The way
Ian writes and the way Ben draws -- what they're able to deliver on
the "Sonic" and "Mega Man" books really walks that fine line in
terms of appealing to both kids and adults. We've been experimenting
with and honing that for years starting with Mike's editorial run on
"Sonic" and continuing into mine. We just hope to bring that feel to
the Crusaders. The DC stuff that came along a few years back with
the Red Circle guys, there was nothing particularly wrong with that.
We just want to take these characters to the level we know they can
be at. It's not just a standard superhero book, but a superhero book
that's going to be innovative.
are Archie's toys. No one's going to give them the love we are. And
Paul always gets red in the face when I say this, but he is the best
editor "Sonic" has ever had. "Sonic The Hedgehog," "Sonic Universe"
and "Mega Man" as a comic book fan are my three favorite monthly
superhero books. I say that in comic book stores, and people lose
their minds, and then I give them my copy, and they agree with me.
So for people saying, "But in superheroes I want to see boots and
capes" -- well, here are your boots and capes. Now you've got even
more of the best superhero comics going on. There was stuff in that
DC launch that I loved, but without that Archie love, the Red Circle
comics will just be another book. Archie Comics puts so much love
into everything we do -- including Sonic and Mega Man -- that we
know how to make them work.
Look at something like Kevin Keller. We brought a gay character into
Archie's world and made people go, "It's about time!" We can tell a
story about anything and make people want to read it in a way that's
enjoyable to anyone.
Kaminski: And our
excitement reads through in the final product. Even in the initial
pitch phase of "New Crusaders," we got so excited about how cool
this project was going to be that you could feel it when you're
reading it, and you cans sense it when you're looking at the
artwork. We're stoked about this one, and we know that everyone will
be as well when we read it.
So what can you tell us at this point about that proposal and the
fictional world of the "New Crusaders"?
Archie's Red Circle characters most recently saw publication
through a deal with DC Comics
Segura: It's the
kind of thing where we met with Michael Murphy over at iVerse who
are the engine behind this app, and literally after that meeting,
Mike, Paul and I walked back to our hotel and hammered out the
basics of the proposal. This doesn't negate what came before. All
the classic Crusaders stuff happened for the die-hards, but this is
really a reintroduction of these characters for a new audience.
superheroes won, and they retired. So they founded a town called Red
Circle where they went on with their lives. They became regular
citizens and had families. It became this huge community where they
all felt safe because, obviously, they were all together. A lot of
the powers of the parents were bestowed upon the kids, but it wasn't
something that was really outwardly discussed in the town. You have
all of this bubbling under the surface, and then the catalyst for
the series is that the Brain Emperor returns!
villains come back.
they get vengeance, big time. Red Circle as a city is wiped out. All
that's left is this handful of kids and this grumpy old dude who
never had kids. This was the guy in the neighborhood you grew up
with who you never wanted to go near his property. That's the guy
they all get stuck with, and he turns out to be The Shield!
Pellerito: So he
takes these kids under his wing and says, "We've got to fix all
this. And by the way, you don't know your legacy. You don't know
your history. I'm going to show you all that, so we can save the
day. And by the way -- underneath this town of Red Circle is this
massive training area filled with all the weapons tools and outfits
we'd ever need." This book is every little kids dream. You wake up
one day and find out that there are superheroes galore. These kids
find out they're superheroes and that they have everything they need
to beat up the bad guys.
Kaminski: They are
the last best hope. They are the New Crusaders. [Laughter]
The teaser image reveals our core team: The Shield, The Web,
Fireball, Steel Sterling, Fly-Girl, The Comet and The Jaguar. I'm
assuming that even though these are the first kids we'll meet, other
heroes like the Fox or the Black Hood are out there, too.
And all of the personalities and quirks of those characters that
have existed play into the way we're handling these new characters.
So for example, Paul Patten was the Fox, and he was a photo
journalist. We're playing up that angle of him and how it revolves
into what happens next. Each one of these heroes has a great, rich
back story. There's an incredible legacy, and we're bringing it
forward. This isn't a reboot. I don't want to knock those other guys
because they're doing some fun stuff, but this approach keeps
everything the fans -- whether they've been around for 70 years, ten
years or five minutes -- loves. This makes it so the series can
still be theirs. Our approach is "Comics for Everyone."
To wrap, what are your hopes for this project as a whole? Is more
on the way from Archie in this mold? Would a successful "New
Crusaders" launch mean more Crusaders comics, more digital?
Jon Goldwater [our CEO] came to Archie two years ago, we kept making
one step after another after another. Mike Murphy had an incredible
love of these characters as he build up iVerse. And now, Archie's
got the most downloaded apps and the most downloaded comics of all
time. This is a first step into a bigger and broader plan for all of
Archie's properties -- not just the Archie, Betty and Veronica gang
but also Josie and the Pussycats and the new Sabrina stuff. These
are characters for everyone that target every audience. The Red
Circle is the next step in Archie's continued evolution.
talks about day and date now, but day and date is an old story for
us. We've been day and date since April. This is our next step. It's
new superhero content in a digital only format, and it's really a
whole new imprint. You download the Red Circle app, and you get new
comics by two of our best creators, some classic stuff by everyone
from Joe Simon to Alex Toth to Gray Morrow. This is classic stuff
that we've never reprinted and probably will not reprint for a
while. It's very much an immersive experience. Say we reintroduce
the Fox in chapter 8. We'll then upload ten or 12 old Fox stories so
you can get a sense of who the character is. It's not just one new
title. It's a whole new arm of the company.
CBR News: Ian, to begin with, the Red Circle characters have been
around quite a while and have had many different publishing eras to
call their own. What's your first memory of the characters, and do
you have any favorite comics starring the team members?
Ian Flynn: I
remembered seeing them in the Archie comics I had as a kid, and I
was always curious about them. So, as I began to dive into the huge
history for this project, my main question was “why haven’t we been
using these guys sooner?!”
Subscribers to the New Crusaders app will have access to the
complete back-library featuring all the previous incarnations of
The crew at Archie put some thought into the set up for the world
the New Crusaders would be seen in. What was your first response to
their pitch? Did you immediately start thinking of places for the
character and story to go?
Absolutely. I loved it from the first word. It’s a great premise
that allows us to create anew and utilize the past material. And
it’s a fun super hero book. Who wouldn’t want to jump onto a
project like this?
Let's talk about the team! Obviously, at the heart of every
Crusader team is the Shield, though the version we're seeing here is
a bit different than some past iterations. What's your take on old
Joe Higgins, and how does he play a central role in the story from
the first page?
I don’t want to go into too much detail yet -- part of the allure of
the book will be seeing what’s happened to the original Crusaders
over the years. Joe is still every bit the hero he was before, but
he’s older, and he’s conscious of it. The world has changed around
him and he knows it. And while he has high hopes for the New
Crusaders, he’s not sure if these kids will all make the cut. He is
their mentor, their leader, and he sets the bar for the team to
reach for; but he’s not going to just hand them a costume and let
them slug villains. They’ve got to earn their positions in his
Beyond that, we've got a lot of young characters in the roles of
classic heroes from the Web to the Jaguar to the Comet. How did you
land upon these six heroes as the core of your team? Who are your
favorites to write so far?
The roster was nailed down in a group effort, because there’s no way
I could just pick a few. As for who’s my favorite, it’s honestly
hard to choose. Each kid will be accessing their powers in
different ways, and they’ll be tackling them uniquely. Again, I
don’t want to spoil anything, because they’re each so new and fresh
to read and write for I don’t want to spoil the surprises.
Speaking of which, there's obviously a strong legacy thread to
this series, and that kind of begs the question: what's come before?
Do all the previous Archie Comics versions of these heroes work as
canon for the new series? If so, how much of the original versions
will we be seeing alongside these new kids?
We’re going to do our best to honor the old canon that came in the
40s, 80s, and under the Impact line. We’re approaching it with a
kind of new J.J. Abrams/“Star Trek” approach, where we can use and
adapt stories to apply to the stories of today. That way, older
material that wouldn’t necessarily work with today’s sensibilities
or our current tone is still viable. We’ll be taking occasional
glimpses into the past to show what’s been “missed.”
We know the book opens with the return of major villain the Brain
Emperor to the scene. What can you tell us about opening battle and
how its story unfolds?
Spoilers! Oh the spoilers! The Brain Emperor has been gone for
years, and our heroes had ever reason to be sure he’d never come
back. So his return to the scene will be a huge event in itself.
The battle with the old Mighty Crusaders won’t go how anyone
expects, and it opens the door for the New Crusaders to seek out
their legacies and become heroes themselves.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the launch is the digital
format. On a basic story level, how do you tackle the challenge of
telling this epic over a year of six-page stories? Will you be
working on longer arcs with soap operatic plot lines, or will the
six page stories focus on one member of the team at a time?
The New Crusaders app is Archie's first step in expanding beyond
It’s not all that different from telling a regular comic story. In
your standard 32-pager, the story progresses in three acts. A lot
of the stories will be like taking each act as a bite-sized
installment, while others will be stand-alone vignettes to flesh out
the past and the world. This puts the choice in the customer’s
hands. You have the option to follow week-to-week,
episode-to-episode, or season-to-season!
In what other ways does the digital distribution model change
about how you approach the creative work on the series with artist
The digital distribution doesn’t really affect how I’m approaching
the project. It’s still a comic book, and it still needs a fun
story with interesting characters. Knowing that I’m working with
Ben Bates, though, tells me I can go nuts with the scope of the
scenes. Ben has an amazing, fluid, kinetic style and I’ve loved
what he’s done with my stuff on "Sonic The Hedgehog" and "Mega
Man." I can’t wait to see more of his "New Crusaders" stuff!
You've been on quite the tear over the past few years: a
reinvention of Sonic's world, a big launch for Mega Man and now a
return of the original Crusaders universe. What do you feel all
these books have in common as the main writer for Archie's latest
In terms of approaching the projects, all three have these
wonderfully rich backgrounds to utilize. Tons of characters, worlds
and lore are right there to be played with. And the old rules make
it all the more interesting, turning them into puzzles. So I want
to do something new -- how can I make that fit into what’s come
before? How can I make it feel like an organic extension of the
world? How can I use old and new together?
In terms of tone and content, they’re all fun action-adventure
books. The characters are bright, colorful, approachable and
enjoyable. They have amazing powers to delight us, and they’re good
people and become endearing to us. They’re all the kind of stories
everyone can pick up and enjoy together.
Finally, there are obviously so many more characters from the
world of the Crusaders that aren't in the poster from the Fox to the
Black Hood on down. Any teases of who else might be along for the
The world of "New Crusaders" has gotten to be a little sleepy and
complacent. The return of the Brain Emperor and the rise of the New
Crusaders are going to shake that up a lot, and we’ll be seeing a
lot of old and new faces join this new renaissance of super
heroics. And not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye with how
Shield is reviving the team.