DC Comics recently announced the Mighty Crusaders Special, followed by the cancellation of both Red Circle titles. At the same time DC just renewed the license of the Red Circle Heroes from Archie for another year. So as DC gears up for Red Circle 2.0 we invited the Red Circle creators, Brandon Jerwa, Matt Sturges, Eric S. Trautmann and John Rozum to help straighten things out for us.
First Comics News: What brings these characters together?
Eric S. Trautmann: Fairly traditional superheroic derring-do. It’s sort of a “snowball-to-avalanche” tale, really. One seemingly small event leads to a bigger event leads to a threat large enough to unite our heroes.
Brandon Jerwa: I’ve likened it to the old DC team get-togethers, where certain characters split up into chapters to do their part against a bigger threat. This is sort of like those events in spirit, but in this case the characters are going to come together one-by-one and end up in a loosely-knit team situation.
Of course, there’s also just a trace of “Cannonball Run” to the whole thing.
1st: How is the special being written by all 4 of you?
Eric: Well, first of all, we’re all BRILLIANT…
Brandon cooked up a solid plot outline based on some backstory development work we’d done, then augmented by Matthew, and once it was knocked out, we all made whatever tweaks we thought were needed. From there, we were all off to the races, each writing our segments (which flow pretty logically, based on the characters we’re associated with).
Matt Sturges: It’s been said of co-writing that it’s twice the work for half the pay. In this case, it ought to have been four times the work for a fourth of the pay, but that’s not how it worked out. We had a blast working out the details of the story; it all proceeded very smoothly, with no ego or competing philosophies getting in the way. I wouldn’t have thought such a thing was possible, but it all came together with surprising smoothness.
1st: Other then the 4 main characters will we see any other character from the Red Circle?
Brandon Jerwa: The Comet makes an appearance, and a couple of classic Red Circle villains will be making their debuts as well.
Matt: I’m especially proud of the Persian. Brandon and Eric came up with a basic notion for the character and I got the chance to flesh her out in what I hope is an interesting and re-usable fashion.
1st: How will you connect them to the DCU?
Eric: Duct tape.
Eric: There’s a fairly large and obvious connection right at the outset of the book where dozens of DCU characters are very present.
Matt: It’s true—if you had to do a roll call for them all it’d take up half the book.
John Rozum: In the Hangman portion of the book, the very long lifespan of the Hangman does factor in to things and we see some other threads that connect this story and these characters to the DCU’s history.
1st: Fans who have followed the series know The Shield thinks his father is still alive, and has ask the Web for help. In fact the Shield father is alive and worked with the Hangman to develop the tech for the suit and finally inferno is working for the military to investigate a defense contractor that created the Comet and has ties to project Shield. Does this conspiracy that connects all these heroes, become apparent to them?
Eric: I’d say the leading edge of this conspiracy is revealed to them, though not all questions are answered.
1st: This is a big story, why an extra large size one shot instead of a mini-series?
Eric: One of the criticisms leveled at the Red Circle books is price point. It makes a certain amount of sense to give readers the biggest bang for their buck, without requiring commitment to a miniseries, one which would likely fall victim to tradewaiting. That’s my theory, anyway. Some of this started when Brandon and I first chatted about the linking backstory to the various Red Circle characters, and we formulated a fun “jam issue” and pitched it as an Annual. That may have had some bearing on it.
1st: DC just announced that the Shield and Web are canceled. Will the current storylines be wrapped up by the time the series ends?
John: The Hangman does wrap up the storyline featuring the Jackal, the Ugly Man and Dead Hand Legendre. There is definitely a feeling of closure. I also did sow some seeds that Eric and Brandon to take up if they’re interested. There are also some elements I’d like to explore somewhere down the road.
Eric: In the case of The Shield, Operation: Gunslinger reaches a conclusion, yes. Some of the established ongoing plot threads will not be resolved in the final issue, though there are plans to complete them…elsewhere.
Brandon: The Fox serial will have a clean ending with issue 10, so we’re all clear there.
Matt: I had enough lead time to get in and tell the first story that I wanted to do with the Web, and to do a final issue that feeds into the future of the Mighty Crusaders, but only time will tell if Brandon and Eric take up some of the longer-term threads that I spooled out and make something out of them. I know where they live, so I expect good things.
1st: Since Inferno won’t be coming back to the Shield will we resolve his loose ends somewhere?
Brandon: Absolutely. Inferno has a very important role in the next phase of the Red Circle.
1st: Are any of these characters moving on as co-features in existing DC titles?
Brandon: Not that we’re aware of.
1st: Will there be some kind of closure for the series?
Eric: Well, the books will stop coming out…
Brandon: That will be a pretty clear indicator, yes. But we kid. There will be closure in the months following the final issues of THE SHIELD and THE WEB.
Matt: Whenever a series that I’m working on gets canceled, I go out to the woods and do a lengthy cleansing ritual, and then sit and ponder the uncertainties of a career in comic book writing. And then I go online and write fanfic about the characters under an assumed name.
I’m kidding, of course. Mostly.
But yes, a future for the characters is in the works, and I’m especially happy that Brandon and Eric have decided to use the character Kitcat that I created for the Web, because I’m quite fond of her.
As for the new Mighty Crusaders title, what is your involvement with the new on-going title?
Eric: I’m plotting, Brandon is writing full script from the plots.
Brandon: What he said. Basically, we come up with the over-arcing story together, and then Eric goes off and writes a fairly thorough outline for each individual issue, laying out all the story beats and a wide variety of notes per-page, ranging from “there’s a big superguy fight” to specific action and conversation descriptions.
Once he’s finished his part of the process, I jump in and turn that outline into a proper script, with panel descriptions and dialogue. We both move to eyes-on mode again before sending it off to our editor, making final tweaks to dialogue or whatever. The rest is pure comic book gold!
1st: What type of issues did you leave in the Shield and Web monthly titles that need to be explored in the team book?
Eric: The fate of Joe’s father is a big one.
Brandon: We’re covering everything for the sake of loyal readers and new folks alike: Joe’s dad, Inferno’s burning secrets, and all the loose threads from The Web and Hangman.
1st: Will the Team book have a co-feature?
Eric: As of this writing, no, but I’m not sure we have a definitive “no” for that yet.
1st: How will the Mighty Crusaders differentiate themselves from the other teams in the DCU?
Eric: To shamelessly steal, er, I mean “paraphrase” our editor, Rachel Gluckstern, if the JSA are the family-oriented “legacy” heroes, the JLA the “premier” superteam, the Titans the “training ground,” or the Outsiders the “outlaw heroes,” the Crusaders fall squarely into the DCU’s “Government” superteam, formed in reaction to some of the perceived abuses of metahuman power that fall out of military involvement in the War of the Supermen.
Brandon: Despite their collective status as the “new heroes on the block”, the Crusaders will enjoy a fair degree of access and flexibility, thanks to their federally-backed standing. It’ll take some getting used to, and they won’t be fully aware of their authoritative extent at the outset. Oh, and Uncle Sam will probably expect them to file reports and keep expense receipts; I’m pretty sure the Justice Leaguers don’t have to deal with that.
1st: What is the main objective for the heroes to operate as a team?
Eric: Everyone has different reasons for being on the team, but ultimately, it’s about restoring a citizenry’s shaken confidence.
Brandon: That’s the public aspect of their existence, but it will be very clear from the first issue that the Crusaders are front-and-center in a very specific sort of extended engagement. Where some teams fight the villains-of-the-week, our heroes have a potentially massive, ongoing situation to deal with while they’re conducting the day-to-day business of being government action figures. This is actually the story that Eric and I have been planning to tell pretty much from Day One; it’s been a strange road to reach this point, but now we can blaze ahead and tell that tale for a (hopefully) large, receptive audience of new readers and loyal Red Circle fans alike.