The seeds of Image Comics' "The Circle" were planted back when Brian Reed and Ian Hosfeld met while working on the "Ultimate Spider-Man" video game. Now that they are established comics creators in their own rights, they've finally been given the opportunity to bring their pet project to fruition. CBR News sat down with Reed to talk about "The Circle," and why friends of the author are characterizing the book as a "21st century 'A-Team.'"
The Circle is a cabal of international mercenaries led by a pair of Balkanians named Ulee and Illona, who were on the losing side of a civil war in their home country. "The evil dictator who won the war started hunting them in their own country, so they went on the run, and ever since then they've been mercenaries for hire around the world," Brian Reed told CBR News. In the years since their exile, Ulee and Illona have assembled a circle of friends within the intelligence community whom they call upon when needed. "We're going to slowly see what this network of people around the world is that they deal with."
In "The Circle's" first arc, "Goliath Trap," the CIA sends an assassin to exterminate the leaders of The Circle, but the mission is a failure and Ulee and Illona go to ground.
"One day, this agent for MI-6 named Wallace gets word that one of The Circle members has just been involved in the theft of something called the Goliath, which is this Soviet era missile train," Reed explained. "And it was something the Soviets really had, a train that they could put on tracks that was capable of launching ICBMs at any target on Earth, and couldn't be tracked at the same time because of the way the Soviets laid out their train tracks."
MI-6's Wallace learns The Circle had no involvement in the theft, and that it was in fact perpetrated by the CIA -- specifically by the agent who botched The Circle assassination in the first place, as a means of drawing Ulee and Illona out. "So it becomes this big chase to get to the missile train and stop her before she can blow something up," Reed said.
Reed is approaching "The Circle" as an ongoing series. "Our first arc is five issues long," Reed said. "We've kind of got big ideas for where things go. We already know pretty well what our second arc is, and we've got ideas on the table for at least three or four more arcs after that and we're shooting for five to six issues per arc."
Brian Reed first met co-creator Ian Hosfeld while working on the "Ultimate Spider-Man" video game. Reed was the lead designer and Hosfeld was a concept artist. The initial collaboration with was based in creating storyboards for the cinematics in the game, based on the script Reed co-wrote with Brian Bendis.
"Ian and I would go into a conference room with white boards up and talk through the game script," Reed said. "And as he drew things up on the white board, we'd take digital pictures of them and then that would become our storyboards for the artist to do the cinematics from."
The two were fast friends, and hit upon the idea to collaborate on a comics project. "So, evenings and weekends, we started hashing out this idea," Reed said. "And it was always just kind of like a hobby thing we had on the side, we were never really serious about doing it back then." But after Reed's writing career took off and Hosfeld began working as a freelance artist full-time, they got it in their heads to dredge up their old project. "We looked at it and said, 'Wow, we still really like this, let's pitch it as a series,' and Image picked it right up for us."
Reed and Hosfeld's history together certainly contributed to the success of their most recent collaboration. "We both love the fact that the other one can see right through us when we're cheating a little bit," Reed said. "As soon as one of us doesn't do something 100%, the other one calls him to the mat on it. We pick at this thing from the first draft of my script through his thumbnails, we rearrange finished pages in Photoshop, we reorder the pages, we rewrite dialogue right up until the moment we turn it into Image, until we get to the point that we're like, 'Okay, this is so polished and perfect, we can't fix it anymore.'"
Reed has long been a fan of the spy genre, and counts "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," the "Mission: Impossible" TV series, the comic strip "Modesty Blaise" and Ian Flemming's original James Bond novels among his influences for "The Circle." "You can definitely trace the DNA to 1960s pop spy stuff, but it's being told in a really modern setting," Reed said. "Whereas 'Casanova' is that '60s pop sci-fi, we're playing it totally straight and modern, but you can definitely see the lineage."
"The Circle" isn't the only project Reed is working on. His first issue of "Captain Marvel" hits stands the same day this month. Additionally, Reed's "New Avengers: Illuminati" is coming to an end, and he's co-writing Dynamite's "Red Sonja" with Mike Oeming. "I just signed on to do an issue of the 'Young Avengers Presents,' where several different writers, myself, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Paul Cornell, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, are all doing individual issues of 'Young Avengers' starting in the Spring," Reed confirmed.
For more on "The Circle," check out the official site. "We really want the site to be sort of a creator blog more than an advertising thing," Reed said. "Just somewhere where we really talk about what we're doing, why we're doing it, the genesis of the idea, how this issue or this story arc or this character came to be, and kind of give people a behind-the-scenes look."
The Circle" #1 hits stands on November 14.
Now discuss this story in CBR's Image Comics forum.