Red Circle 2.0: The Mighty Crusaders

DC Comics recently announced the "Mighty Crusaders Special," which was almost immediately followed by the cancelation of both current Red Circle titles, "The Shield" and "The Web." At the same time, DC has just renewed their licensing arrangement of the Red Circle Heroes from Archie Comics for another year.

Now, as DC gears up for Red Circle 2.0, CBR News invited the Red Circle architects, writers Brandon Jerwa, Matt Sturges, Eric S. Trautmann and John Rozum, to discuss the upcoming special and subsequent ongoing series, explain what the future holds for the characters at DC and how and when various storyline threads from the current series will be addressed.

CBR News: The Mighty Crusaders is a classic team, of course, but when we're talking about this new incarnation and all-new continuity, what is it brings these characters together?

Eric S. Trautmann: Fairly traditional superheroic derring-do. It's sort of a "snowball-to-avalanche" tale, really. One seemingly small event leads to a bigger event leads to a threat large enough to unite our heroes.

Brandon Jerwa: I've likened it to the old DC team get-togethers, where certain characters split up into chapters to do their part against a bigger threat. This is sort of like those events in spirit, but in this case the characters are going to come together one-by-one and end up in a loosely-knit team situation.

Of course, there's also just a trace of "Cannonball Run" to the whole thing.

The Special is being co-written by all four of you - logistically, how does something like that work?

Trautmann:  Well, first of all, we're all brilliant...

Brandon cooked up a solid plot outline based on some backstory development work we'd done, [which was] then augmented by Matthew. Once it was knocked out, we all made whatever tweaks we thought were needed. From there, we were all off to the races, each writing our segments (which flow pretty logically, based on the characters we're associated with).

Matt Sturges: It's been said of co-writing that it's twice the work for half the pay. In this case, it ought to have been four times the work for a fourth of the pay, but that's not how it worked out. We had a blast working out the details of the story; it all proceeded very smoothly, with no ego or competing philosophies getting in the way. I wouldn't have thought such a thing was possible, but it all came together with surprising smoothness.

Other then the four main characters (The Shield, The Web, Inferno and Hangman), will we see any other character from the Red Circle in the Special?

Jerwa: The Comet makes an appearance, and a couple of classic Red Circle villains will be making their debuts as well.

Sturges: I'm especially proud of the Persian. Brandon and Eric came up with a basic notion for the character, and I got the chance to flesh her out in what I hope is an interesting and re-usable fashion.

How will you connect them to the DCU?

Trautmann: Duct tape.

Jerwa: It really can be used for anything!

Trautmann: There's a fairly large and obvious connection right at the outset of the book where dozens of DCU characters are very present.

Sturges: It's true - if you had to do a roll call for them all it'd take up half the book.

John Rozum: In the Hangman portion of the book, the very long lifespan of the Hangman does factor into things and we see some other threads that connect this story and these characters to the DCU's history.

Fans who have followed the previous Red Circle series know that The Shield thinks his father is still alive, and that he has ask the Web for help. In fact, the Shield's father is alive and worked with the Hangman to develop the tech for the suit. Finally, Inferno is working for the military to investigate the defense contractor that created the Comet and also has ties to Project Shield. Does this conspiracy that connects all these heroes, become apparent to them in the Special?

Trautmann: I'd say the leading edge of this conspiracy is revealed to them, though not all questions are answered.

This really is a big story. What was the thinking behind releasing it as an extra-large one-shot instead of a miniseries?

Trautmann: One of the criticisms leveled at the Red Circle books is price point. It makes a certain amount of sense to give readers the biggest bang for their buck, without requiring commitment to a miniseries, one which would likely fall victim to tradewaiting. That's my theory, anyway. Some of this started when Brandon and I first chatted about the linking backstory to the various Red Circle characters, and we formulated a fun "jam issue" and pitched it as an Annual. That may have had some bearing on it.

Just as this project was announced, DC also let fans know that "The Shield" and "The Web" are being canceled. Will the current storylines be wrapped up by the time their respective series ends?

Rozum: The Hangman does wrap up the storyline featuring the Jackal, the Ugly Man and Dead Hand Legendre. There is definitely a feeling of closure. I also did sow some seeds that Eric and Brandon to take up if they're interested. There are also some elements I'd like to explore somewhere down the road.

Trautmann: In the case of "The Shield," "Operation: Gunslinger" reaches a conclusion, yes. Some of the established ongoing plot threads will not be resolved in the final issue, though there are plans to complete them...elsewhere.

Jerwa: The Fox serial will have a clean ending with issue 10, so we're all clear there. Also, Inferno has a very important role in the next phase of the Red Circle.

Sturges: I had enough lead time to get in and tell the first story that I wanted to do with the Web, and to do a final issue that feeds into the future of the Mighty Crusaders, but only time will tell if Brandon and Eric take up some of the longer-term threads that I spooled out and make something out of them. I know where they live, so I expect good things.

Are any of these characters moving on as co-features in existing DC titles?

Jerwa: Not that we're aware of.

What type of closure can fans of the series expect?

Trautmann: Well, the books will stop coming out...

Jerwa: That will be a pretty clear indicator, yes. But we kid. There will be closure in the months following the final issues of "The Shield" and "The Web."

Sturges: Whenever a series that I'm working on gets canceled, I go out to the woods and do a lengthy cleansing ritual, and then sit and ponder the uncertainties of a career in comic book writing. And then I go online and write fanfic about the characters under an assumed name.

I'm kidding, of course. Mostly.

But yes, a future for the characters is in the works, and I'm especially happy that Brandon and Eric have decided to use the character Kitcat that I created for the Web, because I'm quite fond of her.

Assumedly, some of that future will be in the form of the new "Mighty Crusaders" title. Eric, Brandon - how are you both involved with the new on-going?

Trautmann: I'm plotting, Brandon is writing full script from the plots.

Jerwa: What he said. Basically, we come up with the over-arcing story together, and then Eric goes off and writes a fairly thorough outline for each individual issue, laying out all the story beats and a wide variety of notes per-page, ranging from, "there's a big superguy fight," to specific action and conversation descriptions.

Once he's finished his part of the process, I jump in and turn that outline into a proper script, with panel descriptions and dialogue. We both move to eyes-on mode again before sending it off to our editor, making final tweaks to dialogue or whatever. The rest is pure comic book gold!

What plotlines from the previous solo titles will be explored and dealt with in the new team ongoing??

Trautmann: The fate of Joe's father is a big one.

Jerwa: We're covering everything for the sake of loyal readers and new folks alike: Joe's dad, Inferno's burning secrets, and all the loose threads from The Web and Hangman.

Will "The Mighty Crusaders" have a co-feature?

Trautmann: As of this writing, no, but I'm not sure we have a definitive "no" for that yet.

What is the main objective for the heroes to operate as a team?

Trautmann: Everyone has different reasons for being on the team, but ultimately, it's about restoring a citizenry's shaken confidence.

Jerwa: That's the public aspect of their existence, but it will be very clear from the first issue that the Crusaders are front-and-center in a very specific sort of extended engagement. Where some teams fight the villains-of-the-week, our heroes have a potentially massive, ongoing situation to deal with while they're conducting the day-to-day business of being government action figures. This is actually the story that Eric and I have been planning to tell pretty much from Day One; it's been a strange road to reach this point, but now we can blaze ahead and tell that tale for a (hopefully) large, receptive audience of new readers and loyal Red Circle fans alike.

Aside from being made up of the Red Circle characters, how will the Mighty Crusaders differentiate themselves from the other teams in the DCU?

Trautmann: To shamelessly steal, er, I mean "paraphrase" our editor, Rachel Gluckstern, if the JSA are the family-oriented "legacy" heroes, the JLA the "premier" superteam, the Titans the "training ground," or the Outsiders the "outlaw heroes," the Crusaders fall squarely into the DCU's "Government" superteam, formed in reaction to some of the perceived abuses of metahuman power that fall out of military involvement in the War of the Supermen.

Jerwa: Despite their collective status as the "new heroes on the block," the Crusaders will enjoy a fair degree of access and flexibility, thanks to their federally-backed standing. It'll take some getting used to, and they won't be fully aware of their authoritative extent at the outset. Oh, and Uncle Sam will probably expect them to file reports and keep expense receipts; I'm pretty sure the Justice Leaguers don't have to deal with that.

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