The pieces make the whole. This concept applies to everything – in this case, not only to the costume of the DC Comics hero Ragman, but also to the approach writer Christos Gage decided to take when tackling both the character and his legacy in the October one-shot “Ragman: Suit of Souls.”
Ragman first appeared in his own self-titled series pre-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” as an Irish hero operating out of a pawnshop and imbued with powers granted through the death of his father and his father’s friends. However, post-“Crisis” the character’s origin and story took a more mystical turn, and now each piece of rag on his suit contains the soul of an evildoer Ragman punished and absorbed. This suit of souls grants Rory Regan magical powers and allows him to tap into the abilities and powers of those imprisoned within his outfit’s tapestry. The character has risen to prominence as one of the few Jewish super heroes and played a role in a number of DC Comics’ big events as a member of the supernatural super team Shadowpact.
This October, Ragman and his tattered tale get a bit of a polish courtesy of Gage and artist Stephen Segovia. With their upcoming comic, the creators both re-introduce the character to readers and explore the legacy aspect of the hero as previously established in the pages of “Shadowpact.” Gage took some time out of sewing his printed page tapestry to speak with CBR News about the upcoming one-shot and what went into stitching together the pieces of Ragman.
“I like working on obscure characters,” Gage admitted to CBR News. “It was an opportunity, because let’s face it, you’re not going to say anything new about Batman. But with Ragman, you can put your mark on [the character].”
In order to begin making that mark, Gage first went back and re-read all of Ragman’s previous appearances – an easy task according to the writer, because another benefit of obscure characters is a relatively limited comic book library. By going through the hero’s continuity, the story began to present itself – ragged pieces that Gage felt he needed to bring together. “I basically looked at the origins of the character. He has an Irish name but he is a very strongly identified Jewish character. For me, the big question is, how did this happen? Why does he have an Irish name? What is his relationship with his father, who was retconned as having been the previous Ragman,” explained the writer. “There’s this idea that there have been many Ragmen throughout history. So, I tried to reconcile all those things into a story about Ragman trying to explore his past and his identity and specifically his father’s identity. It’s an interesting character exploration that also looks at the past of the character and gives glimpses of Ragman throughout history.”
Every DC fan is familiar with the concept of heroic legacy, a long-standing tradition found throughout the company’s various titles. Almost every hero and villain in the Universe stems from a long line of successors – from the Flash to the entirety of the Justice Society of America to even Batman – and the “Shadowpact” series introduced Ragman into that world. Gage said that he explores this thread in the one-shot, specifically when it comes to the previous incarnation of the character during World War II. “Obviously, during World War II the Holocaust occurred, so you’re left wondering how that affected the champion of the Jewish people. So, we see Ragman in the Warsaw Ghetto,” said Gage. “That’s one of the things about working in the DC Universe – you want to take advantage of its strengths, and [the idea of] legacy characters is one of them. It’s cool to have this concept of history and to be able to look at these different points in history and say, ‘Okay, if Ragman was around here, what would he be doing?'”
Although part of the story takes place during World War II, Gage admitted that the heroes of the time – the world’s first super team, the JSA – don’t feature heavily in the one-shot. Neither do Rory Regan’s current teammates in Shadowpact. The writer explained he really wanted to spotlight Ragman himself for the single issue. That said, Gage did reveal that he planted a few Easter Eggs here and there for fans. “There’s this one spread that looks at the history of Ragman, and there are four DCU characters from different historical periods who are there in cameos, either fighting Ragman or fighting alongside him,” teased the writer. “There is one panel in which Detective Chimp appears, but he is a scene stealer.”
Ragman himself is set to steal the entire issue, especially since weaving a tale focused solely on the raggedy vigilante actually proved rather easy for Gage. The writer said he sees Rory Regan as someone he connects with as, unlike Batman, a billionaire playboy who operates out of the Batcave, Ragman falls more into the everyman category. “He’s very relatable to me. He’s got this jaded, cynical view because his suit is composed of all these evil souls that it’s absorbed, so that’ll give you probably a jaded world view. But at the same time, he’s kind of a wise-cracking character in certain situations,” Gage said. “To me, Ragman is a guy who has seen a lot of negative things in life and has developed a defense mechanism as a dry sense of humor, but at the same time, deep down inside, he has this core of hope and redemption because that’s what he’s all about.”
This idea of redemption also plays directly into how Gage approaches Ragman’s powers and abilities in relationship to his signature suit of souls. while adding another piece to the tapestry Gage weaved together for the story. “The idea as I understood it, is that Ragman can draw on the combined strength of all the souls in his suit, and by helping Ragman in the service of good deeds, some of the souls can achieve redemption,” he explained. “It’s like being in Purgatory. That also made me think; are all these souls in this suit ones that he has used or are there souls in there from the 1700s? What is that like? Can he draw on the specific skills of someone who is in there? For example, let’s say that there’s a marksman [in the suit]. Can he use that to make an impossible shot? It was a really cool thing to think about and think of the implications of.”
Readers get to see these implications take form this October when “Suit of Souls” makes its debut. Although Gage admitted there are many other characters in the DC Universe he’d like to take a shot at writing – such as the equally obscure Creature Commandos – he admitted that he hopes the upcoming one-shot allows for future further additions to Ragman’s metaphorical suit of stories. “I think it’s a really cool character and people have asked me if DC has future plans,” he said. “I honestly don’t know, but hopefully it’ll lead to more appearances for the character. I just think he’s a really cool character and would love to see him in more stuff.”
“Ragman: Suit of Souls” casts its spell in comic shops on October 20.