On October 30, Archie Comics adds a new title to its Red Circle line of superhero comics with “The Fox” written by Mark Waid and plotted and drawn by Dean Haspiel. Taking place in the popular timeline of “The New Crusaders,” “The Fox” follows Paul Patton, Jr. — the son of the first Fox — in his own book of adventures.
To get a better bead on the series, CBR News spoke with Waid and Haspiel about “The Fox,” how it relates to “The Mighty Crusaders,” the challenges of working on a legacy or vintage character, and bringing a modern sensibility to one of the Red Circle’s classic heroes.
Gentlemen, what can you tell readers about your upcoming Red Circle project, “The Fox?” How does it tie in to what Archie’s done so far with “The New Crusaders?”
Mark Waid: It’s certainly all in the same universe, and we’re taking our cues from “New Crusaders” (with admiration — nice work!). “The Fox” is sort of an oddball player in that universe in that he has no special powers or abilities, just a thirst for justice and a bizarre outlook on life.
Dean Haspiel: “The New Crusaders” established that a lot of the original Mighty Crusaders, the parents of this new era of Red Circle, were slaughtered and the offspring are charged with picking up the proverbial pieces as mentored by the original Shield. I see The Fox, who was in Japan when most of his comrades were killed, as a kind of uncle who has one foot out of the superhero door but keeps getting dragged in because he’s a freak magnet and he’s trying to be responsible. He already walked away from his estranged daughter once and he knows he can’t ever do that again. If given the chance, I want to explore his role as a possible mentor, especially since he’s got two very special kids and a wife who likes to dress up and play hero, too.
For those that might not be familiar with The Fox, what kind of power set have you chosen to retain with the character? How does he connect to the previous incarnations?
Waid: He’s the son of the original (and we all know how I enjoy legacy characters!). Paul Patton, Jr. doesn’t have any super-powers per se, unless you count the fact that he considers himself a “freak magnet” for all the strange circumstances that seem to befall him. But he is athletic and whip-smart, and boy, can he take a beating.
Mark, you’ve worked on a number of iconic vintage characters — like John Steed and Mrs. Peel; and most recently, Green Hornet for Dynamite — but The Fox is a little more obscure. How does writing for a character like The Fox compare to writing some of the other pulp heroes in your back pocket?
Waid: It’s just as fun because it all comes down to the same approach — figure out what the core concept is, what the core elements are, and build off those. Find some thematic resonance without taking it too seriously that it feels like homework. And always remember what I like about the character and show you that.
Dean, you’ve done superhero comics before, but what do you feel makes “The Fox” a unique project for you to work on? What kind of creative muscles does it stretch for you?
Haspiel: Creatively, I get to write and draw the kind of stuff that attracted me to comic books in the first place. As much as I respect drawing memoir and non-fiction, I started to feel stifled by real lives and historical facts and wanted to excavate the emotional truths that spring from fantasy and fiction. I cherish the Silver Age of comics when Stan Lee added domesticity to super heroism, and I wanted to make something that paid homage to that era while making modern commentary.
Tell us a bit about your approach to designing The Fox for a new generation in this series? How did you help give him a modern sensibility while still staying true to his roots?
Waid: To be fair, that’s more a Dean Haspiel question — Dino is a longtime friend and we’ve been looking for a collaborative gig forever, and when he went after this as plotter/artist, he asked me along to dialogue and kibitz from the sidelines, and I was happy to! We’ve had a lot of good, long talks about the character, the stories and the overall craft of comics! Haspiel’s a dream collaborator, man.
Haspiel: The Fox is a photojournalist who confronts extraordinary people which sometimes leads to extraordinary trouble and he takes extraordinary measures to resolve them. My father was a photographer and writer. When he was young, he made friends with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Shelly Winters (my godmother), and he took pictures and wrote stories about them and other famous performers. He also grew up on the streets of New York City and lived a very tough childhood. There was a time when my father couldn’t leave our home without experiencing conflict and he sometimes took justice into his own hands. He would have made an interesting policeman. It must have been genetic because I, too, used to experience a lot of drama and I would be witness to and/or be confronted by trouble.
Growing up reading superhero comics, I sometimes thought about protecting lives but I wasn’t crazy enough to be a vigilante and I wasn’t brave enough to become a cop. Instead, I wrote and drew some of the stuff I experienced and filtered my feelings about sacrifice and heroism into my fiction. In a way, I can sympathize how The Fox could happen and he’s easy to relate to. He’s timeless and hardly needs modernizing because he’s iconic. Sure, telephones and jukeboxes are now wireless cameras and global positioning systems and social networking has become a necessary demon, but the human condition is always ripe for reportage and we never stop learning from our fellow neighbors.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in bringing a character like The Fox into the Red Circle universe?
Waid: Honestly? Figuring out how a guy with no powers can survive some of the stuff we throw at him!
Haspiel: The Fox is a superhero who doesn’t have superpowers and is trying desperately to be normal and having the worst time achieving it. He is the opposite of Batman and more like a journeyman experiencing a mid-life crisis who can’t “see” that he’s actually right where he’s supposed to be as he dives head first into the next leg of his very own monomyth.
Mark, take us through your collaborative process with Dean. How much back and forth is there between you two?
Waid: Plenty. He sends me plot synopses, we go back and forth on those a little, and then he sends me pages and leaves all them fancy words up to me — but it’s a constant communication. That’s what makes it most appealing!
Haspiel: I provide Mark with a beat-sheet; page and panel breakdowns with some loose suggestions for dialogue, and we go over my art work and have a conversation about tone and intent. Mark’s brilliant dialogue sews my story elements into one seamless through-line and he brings a lot of pep, personality, and plausibility to my sometimes absurd sensibilities. I’m honored to collaborate with him in this old school way of making comix. I was particularly proud in the way Mark nuanced my spin on Madam Satan. It made me fall in love with her.
What do you think will appeal the most about this series to fans of the original Fox and Mighty Crusaders?
Waid: High-flying adventure and bizarre threats and straight-out superhero action!
What do you find most rewarding while reimagining pulp characters like The Fox?
Waid: Reintroducing the readers to a streamlined, resonant version of the hero I love — something dramatic but sometimes swashbuckling, serious but sometimes humorous, and relevant without being the least bit cynical.
Haspiel: I’ve only ever read a handful of proper Fox tales but the older material I’ve skimmed seemed to keep him at arm’s length via short stories and cameos. I’ve yet to find anything substantial or weighed down with continuity like most characters invented in the Golden Age and I was free to throw curve balls into The Fox mythology. Visually, I was inspired by Alex Toth’s noir version from the 1980s while Irwin Hasen’s original 1940 design is deceptively simple yet sexy and his floppy ears are a joy to draw. Why would I change that? The Fox looks perfect since inception.
“The Fox” #1 hits stores October 30 from Archie Comics.