At the 2009 Baltimore Comic Con, DCU Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler revealed to the world that writer Matthew Sturges had made a big mistake. And now he’s paying for it.
“Sturges made the mistake of handing things in on time to us,” Sattler told the crowd during the DC Nation panel a moment after announcing the increasingly busy writer was taking over “The Web” from Angela Robinson, beginning with #6.
Sturges – undoubtedly considered a rising star at DC Comics – is currently writing “Jack of Fables” and “House of Mystery” for Vertigo Comics, as well as the Blue Beetle co-feature in “Booster Gold” and the soon to be released “JSA All Stars.”
His latest assignment, “The Web,” is a new DC property, which just saw the release of its debut issue last month. The book’s titular character is one of the classic MLJ/Archie Comics superheroes recently integrated into DCU via J.M. Straczynski’s summer event series, “The Red Circle.”
Originally appearing in “Zip Comics” #27 in 1942, The Web was introduced as the alter ego of John Raymond, a criminology professor and mystery writer. His primary motivation for fighting for justice was that his brother Tom was a criminal. Raymond’s son, John Jr., stayed in the family business and fought crime as The Web II during the 1980s revival of the Archie Comics superheroes under the “Red Circle” banner.
Realizing that the Olympic level athlete and superior intellect shtick may not cut it in modern day DCU, JMS re-imagined John Raymond as a womanizing technology wizard that thwarts evil-doers by utilizing his web-suit which allows him to fly, makes him bullet-proof and gives him heightened strength.
Operating from a lair, which may be second only to Batman’s in terms of gizmos and gadgetry, the new Web stays connected with troubled citizens through his supercomputer but only goes out on crime calls after being contacted via his website www.summontheweb.com.
CBR News summoned Sturges who said to write a character described as ‘Earth’s jerkiest hero,’ you have to keep him cocky – but Han Solo cocky. The kind of hero a reader would love to hate.
Before we tackle the new Web, let’s talk about the old Web. Were you at all familiar with the Red Circle heroes before DC decided to repurpose these classic characters?
I was familiar with them, but not in any significant way. In another instance, taking over a book like that would make me pretty leery. I had been reading “JSA,” for instance, for years, but I still went back and reread “JSA” stories for months before starting on that book. Here, though, the focus is on reimagining the characters, so it’s not as critical. I’ll go back and read some to get a bit of the flavor and look for interesting characters to plunder, but the emphasis with these titles is to reinvent them, which J.M. Straczynski did earlier in the year. I usually cringe when I hear writers say with an almost perverse pride that they wrote a movie without ever reading the source material. I don’t have a perverse pride in it, but I’m not too worried about it, either.
Have you been following along since JMS folded the Red Circle heroes into DCU proper?
Yes. Straczynski did a great job with the one-shots, and Eric Trautmann is killing it on “The Shield.” I’ve been talking with Eric and Brandon Jerwa, and we’re hoping to get everyone who works on these titles on board a love train that will create a coherent, significant little corner of the DCU where we can tell great stories and generally be awesome, and create a sensibility that fits into the DCU, but still has its own flavor.
With all due respect to the character, was The Web actually on your radar as a potential project or did this assignment come out of left field?
It never occurred to me that DC would offer me the book. But as soon as I sat down and read what was being done, I knew that I wanted to be involved. The concept is really cool, and it’s a great sort of mad scientist rush to be handed a book with very little history and just be told to go nuts with it. That rarely happens in superhero comics.
You’re new to the character, but so are many readers. What do we need to know about The Web coming into your run?
I’m not relaunching the title, no, though I do intend to put my own stamp on it from the get-go. The opening few issues that Angela Robinson’s written are very clever, and put the character in an interesting place, so it’ll be fun to see where it goes from there.
That said, when I start my run on the title, I will aim to make it new-reader friendly, in case there are a few incorrigibles who don’t start until then.
As you’ve been prepping for this assignment, what do you like about the character, both as The Web and John Raymond?
The great thing about the Web, and the thing that makes it so easy to get into him is his gleeful arrogance. He’s got a Tony Stark-like quality about him that’s endearingly smug, which I intend to play to the hilt. I like love-to-hate ’em characters. He’s this interesting kind of anti-Batman. You know how you can look at Batman in the sense that he’s really a gruff crimefighter masquerading as a billionaire playboy? Well, here it’s reversed. John Raymond is a billionaire playboy masquerading as a crimefighter. And that difference will cause him no end of grief as he goes about trying to become what he’s pretending to be. Often skirting utter failure as a result of this distance between the two, but ultimately prevailing because he has to try a bit harder in order to be that person. And he has to look good doing it.
The important thing with a character like this is to make sure that at the end of the day, the reader is on his side. I think we can all identify with a cocky character – Han Solo springs to mind – as long as his cockiness is matched by his actions. If The Web is cool enough, his attitude will be an asset.
Any similarities between John Raymond and Jaime Reyes or The Web and Blue Beetle?
I can’t imagine two more disparate heroes to write. The great thing about Jaime is his innate goodness; he’s the most mentally healthy superhero there is. Good self-image, grounded, great family, supportive friends. Whereas John Raymond is a self-centered ass who probably thinks a bit better of himself than he has a right to; his family has fallen apart around him, and he’s not sure if he can trust anyone in his life. Probably the only thing the two of them have in common is that they’re both good at cracking wise.
Obviously it doesn’t bug you, well maybe it does, but do you think it’s weird that a book like “Blue Beetle,” featuring a hero that at least in name has been around DCU for some 40 years, gets canceled and yet DC has decided to launch these new titles with heroes that are, for lack of a better term, hired guns?
As the man said, “I don’t know nothin’, I just work here.” Publishing is a world with a lot of moving parts, and when fans cry foul on decisions like this, I think often it’s because they don’t have the complete context of why the decision is made or the business reasons behind it. As a creator of popular culture, I’ve come to accept that this is a business, and that business decisions get made for all sorts of reasons. Obviously ‘what the fans want’ is a big factor in that decision, but it’s not the only one. Trust me. Nobody wanted “Blue Beetle” not to be canceled more than I did. That said, Jaime and friends are alive and well in the “Booster Gold” co-feature, so he’s still there, even if it’s not quite so many pages a month.
Can you share any details about your first arc on the book?
I’m going to be really cagey here and make it out like I’m keeping all of the plans a big secret, when in reality, I just got word that I was taking over the book a very short time ago and have been focusing on getting caught up on all my other stuff before I really sit down and sink my teeth into it. Like I said, I’m excited about working with the creators of the other Red Circle titles to create something really cool. So get back to me in a bit and I’ll have the usual vague, misleading answer to this question that I typically give, given in full confidence that I’m actually misleading you about something that’s really happening. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of ideas, but nothing’s set in stone yet.
Angie Robinson is bringing the new Batgirl to the book next month. Any plans for you to parachute other DCU regulars into the title?
Only if I can do it literally. If I could have Oliver Queen parachute directly into John Raymond’s skylight and give him a lecture about how to be an effective billionaire hero, then I’m all over that.
Seriously, though, these are DCU books and so The Web will be interacting with the rest of the DC characters, although hopefully in ways that are unique. I’m hoping that The Web can be not just an interesting character in and of himself, but also a lens through which we can see some of these other heroes in a new light. What does this guy think about Superman? Or Green Arrow? Probably not all good things. I don’t see him as a big hero-worshipper.
Marc Guggenheim is writing “The Web” #5 and is introducing one of the most popular Red Circle characters, the Black Hood, to the DCU proper. Any plans to use Black Hood in the book as a regular player moving forward?
One thing that’s going to be fun is going back and looking through the existing Red Circle canon and seeing what toys we can take out of the toybox and reimagine in the same way. The Black Hood’s a fun character, and there are plenty others. I’m interested to see what Marc’s take on the character is, and if it’s something that I can run with, I definitely will.
Any plans to crossover with Eric Trautmann’s “The Shield?”
I think that’s definitely going to happen. Eric and I have just started talking, but it’s clear from our few brief conversations and the books of his that I’ve read that we have very similar ideas about what makes good comics, so I foresee a lot of fun stuff happening in the Red Circle books once we synchronize our watches.
Are Roger Robinson and Hilary Barta staying on as your artists?
I don’t know. That would be great, because I think they’re doing a killer job, but only time will tell.
“The Web” #6, Sturges’ first issue, is expected in February.