Ian Flynn Revives Archie's Original Red Circle in Mighty Crusaders

This season Riverdale, the town has been terrorized by a serial killer called The Black Hood. In response, Archie organized a student group dubbed "The Red Circle" -- something of an elevated neighborhood watch -- with the name inspired by a comic book Archie comes across early in the third episode of Season 2.

In the real world, both The Red Circle and The Black Hood share a common ancestor: Archie Comics' superhero line, which have origins all the way back to 1940, and have frequently been published under the Red Circle imprint, with The Black Hood as one of its most prominent characters.

In recent years, Red Circle has transitioned to Dark Circle Comics, and taken more of a neo-noir, Vertigo-inspired mature readers approach. The line looks to shift gears this December with its latest reinvention, the new ongoing series The Mighty Crusaders by writer Ian Flynn and artist Kelsey Shannon. The series lands closer to the tone and content of Marvel and DC Comics' monthly superhero books than recent Dark Circle releases, and features characters including Shield, Firefly and Comet.

CBR spoke to Flynn -- best known to comics fans as the longtime writer of Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog series, a character he'll follow to its new home at IDW Publishing -- about what Mighty Crusaders looks to offer that readers may not find in other superhero books. Plus, CBR has an exclusive four-page preview of issue #1, scheduled for release on Dec. 6.

The Mighty Crusaders #1 cover by Kelsey Shannon.

CBR: Ian, Mighty Crusaders #1 is a more mainstream superhero book than what we've seen from Archie in recent years. What are you looking to do here that isn't being done at the big superhero publishers?

Ian Flynn: Crusaders is the kind of fun, dramatic, character-driven cape book many fans have been wanting for a long time now. It’s easily accessible without decades of backlog to read up on so you can get what’s going on. The Crusaders each have their stories and history, of course, but discovering that is part of the adventure; it’s woven into the narrative rather than being required pre-reading. Fans of the franchise will be in familiar territory, but everyone’s getting a new experience.

Fans know your all-ages work from Sonic, and soon, the upcoming Cosmo; Dark Circle up to this point has primarily been a home for more Vertigo-esque mature readers books. This is somewhere in between -- what audience are you aiming for with this series?

I’m casting a wide net -- anyone from “young adult” to “veteran comic reader.” It’ll be a bit rough for grade school kids, but everyone else should be able to get a satisfying superhero story out of this.

While this series is self-contained at this point, it wouldn't be a superhero comic if there wasn't a potential of building out from here with spinoffs and more -- have you approached the writing with that in mind at all? And given the amount of characters and presumably relatively open canvas, how much fun is the world-building aspect of this book for you?

I adore world-building. I do it as a hobby, truth-be-told. I know exactly where I want to take Crusaders for the next two years, easy.

Archie readers saw Kelsey Shannon recently on Josie and the Pussycats, but he has many superhero comics among his credits. What makes him the right creative partner on this series?

Kelsey has this fantastic style that is lively while serious; the exact combo you want for larger-than-life superheroics. We also gel really well in how we approach storytelling. We’ve talked about how much we’re excited about the first issue and how he was bringing in nuances to pages that weren’t necessarily scripted, but exactly what I was thinking.

You've written these characters -- or versions of them -- before, in New Crusaders a few years back. How has your perspective on the Archie superheroes changed in the interim years?

It was a growing period for both me and the New Crusaders. We were both relatively new to the Red Circle universe, and we go our hands dirty together. Now as we all graduate into Crusaders, we’re ready for anything.

These characters have seen a lot of reinvention over the years -- are you envisioning this as a long-term prospect, firmly establishing these characters for the current era? How much story do you have planned?

Everyone who has approach the Crusaders over the years has left their mark; imparted on them their vision. I’m no different. I see the epic struggles they’re about to embark on, the challenges they’ll face, and who comes out on the other side. This series has all the makings for another legacy cape book, and I’d love to build it for years to come. We’ve got the first arc nailed down, but I’ve got big, big plans for the future.

Surprisingly enough, this season of Riverdale has seen overt nods to the Archie superheroes, namely the "Red Circle" patrol that Archie put together, as inspired on the show by a comic book. How fun has it been to see that homage to these characters on network TV?

I love that kind of cross-title stuff. Who’s to say that, somewhere in Crusaders, there isn’t a sleepy little town called “Riverdale” somewhere with heroes of their own…?

Speaking of which -- are there plans for the Black Hood in Mighty Crusaders?

Black Hood does exist in this book, but he won’t be showing up in the first arc. However, with the support of our to-be-minted fan-base, we just might see him show up afterwards.

The Mighty Crusaders #1 is scheduled for release on Dec. 6.

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