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‘New Crusaders’ Writer Ian Flynn on the Return of Archie Comics’ Red Circle Heroes [Interview]

Coming in 2012, Archie Comics’ Red Circle characters return to regular adventures in New Crusaders, an ongoing digital series by writer Ian Flynn and artist Ben Bates. Establishing a new continuity inspired by many of the classic Red Circle stories told over the years, the book will follow the adventures of a young team of legacy heroes lead by the original Shield, who spring into action after their suburban community known as The Red Circle is attacked by sinister forces. Six-page New Crusaders installments will have a regular release schedule as part of an iVerse-powered digital subscription service that will additionally provide users with access to a library of previously-published Red Circle comics. ComicsAlliance got in touch with Flynn to get an idea of what to expect out of the activities of this new team of heroes. Read the full interview and get an exclusive first look at the new Steel Sterling from Archie Comics after the jump.ComicsAlliance: The Red Circle characters have seen a number of different incarnations over the years, but in most regards, the team readers will meet in the first chapter of New Crusaders is all-new. What makes the Red Circle mythos worth expanding upon and what do you think will draw readers to this next generation of characters?

Ian Flynn: The Red Circle characters are brimming with untapped potential. We’ve seen how other super hero properties have grown and matured from their silly, sometimes zany origins into the blockbusters they are today. The Red Circle heroes are no different. They have powers, desires and stories that can be fascinating when run through today’s filter of modern sensibilities. Everything is so wild and free, it’ll be a lot of fun to make it all work in one coherent world.

At the same time, the average reader isn’t going to be as enthralled with nods to yesteryear heroes, and that’s why we have the New Crusaders. It’s a new team with fresh faces for new readers to get to know and connect with from the start. The rich background will be what fills in the foundation of the book and will be there for the older fans. Everybody wins!

CA: So far promotional art shows six new characters plus the original Shield. Who are some of the initial characters readers will be introduced to?

IF: The Comet will be the de facto leader under Shield. He’s arguably the most powerful member of the team, and he has the restraint needed to control that power. The problem comes when he tries to extend that control over the others.

Steel Sterling is your classic “gentle giant;” nigh-invulnerable and super strong. He’s the most devoted to the idea of the team and honoring the legacy of his father, the first Steel Sterling.

Fly Girl inherits her special power-granting ring from her mother and becomes a fantastic heroine. But it’s more than that – the ring makes her a representative of an entire alien culture, and she’ll have to juggle both those responsibilities (as well as having a life outside of the costume).

Fireball was a troubled kid who had moved in with his uncle, the original Fireball, to try to get his life back on track. Now his uncle’s gone, and this kid has been thrust into a life full of super powers, heroes and villains. Part of his story is seeing which path he chooses to take.

Jaguar is unique in that she doesn’t have a direct tie to any hero’s legacy and was brought in from the outside. She’s not that popular at school and her magic powers give her an escape from all that. How she chooses to live her life will be a big part of her story.

Finally, the Web is the son of two heroes – and he’s not even remotely hero potential. He’s a scrawny little geek with no offensive powers, so this entire super hero business is going to be intimidating for him.

CA: The character we’re debuting art for today is Steel Sterling, who seems to have inherited abilities from an ancestor. Aside from super strength and resistance to damage, will this new Steel Sterling sport any new abilities or characteristics that will set him apart from his predecessor?

IF: That’s something we’re playing close to the vest at the moment. Part of New Crusaders is about the next generation coping with the legacies foisted upon them and how they manage to do their own thing. A lot of the classic heroes got their powers accidentally, so it’s not an exact science they can pass on to the next generation. You never know how a growing boy’s powers might also grow.

CA: The original Steel Sterling, like a few other Red Circle heroes, had a pretty strange secret identity arrangement. Will the New Crusaders team have to balance personal and costumed lives the way the original heroes did?

IF: Absolutely. Their transition into the world of costumes and super powers won’t be a gentle one, and they’ll be receiving a lot of attention from their home town because of it. We want this book to be more than “new kids with powers punch bad guys.” To that end, a big part of the story will about their lives as kids thrust into this crazy situation.

CA: You and Ben Bates have worked together before on Sonic the Hedgehog. What do you think made him the right artist for the New Crusaders?

IF: Ben is, in a word, amazing. Crack open a thesaurus and just implant every synonym for that and you’ll start to get the idea. He has this marvelous style that finds the perfect balance between cartoony liveliness and realistic solidity that will make the book a delight to read. He also has an incredible sense of design, and as you can see from the promo art, he comes up with brilliant stuff. He’s really captured the scope and energy I wanted portrayed in scenes during Sonic the Hedgehog, so I can’t wait to see what he does for New Crusaders.

CA: The New Crusaders stories will be released in six-page installments on the upcoming app. Can you give us an idea of how these story installments will come together? For example, will the narrative run almost continuously like a traditional newspaper comic strip, or should it be thought of in chapters, volumes, etc.?

IF: Think of each six-pager as part of an episode, and the time between releases as “commercial breaks.” Four of these sets will make up one solid issue, or “episode” to continue the metaphor. For traditional comic readers, you’re getting your usual comic in chunks. For non-traditional readers, you get six pages of comic every week. Everybody wins!

CA: Even though Archie has been something of a comic book industry leader in pursuing digital publishing, this new app and its simultaneous delivery of both new and classic content is a fairly experimental move. What makes the Red Circle characters and the New Crusaders a strong franchise to spearhead this initiative with in your opinion?

IF: It’s the wealth of material. There are decades of classic Red Circle material to pull from, and it’s got something for everyone. Are you a bit of a historian? The comics are a window into the thinking and artistic styles from the ’40s, ’60s and more. Are you a collector? Now, instead of digging through bin after bin of decaying newsprint, you have it all in immortal digital form. Are you entertained by the campy older comics? We’ve got it in spades.

And for everyone who isn’t, we’ve got a new book with new heroes outside of the “Big Two” for you to pick up and enjoy without any prior reading experience. Do you want something fun, colorful and at the same time engaging? New Crusaders is right here.

CA: In addition to the new stories you and Ben will be releasing, the app will also function as a library for previously-released Red Circle material. How much have you been digging into the original material as you write the New Crusaders?

IF: I liken it to jumping off the high-board and into a pool filled with comics. I’ve been studying material ranging from the 1940s to today, taking notes by the pages, making sure I find a way to make the world for the New Crusaders to work for them.

CA: Do you have a favorite hero or villain from the original stable of Red Circle titles?

IF: It’s too soon to pick! Even as we move forward with the New Crusaders, I’m still going through around forty years of comics. I could give you a list of why all of them are cool in their own way, but I don’t think you want to sit here and read for the next two hours.

CA: New Crusaders, like most Archie releases, is an all-ages title. How important do you think this kind of content is to the overall health of the comic book industry?

IF: I don’t want to sound like I’m getting up on my soapbox here, but I think it’s paramount we have all-ages content in as many genres the comic book medium can support. The reason comics are around today is because it got the kids of the previous generations hooked, and they faithfully supported their favorite books all the way to today. Now, those books grew up with their fans and brought in all the blood, sex and violence they’d come to expect as adults. That’s fine and dandy, I like it too, but what’s left for the kids?

I’m not saying children need to be sheltered from every ugly fact of life. At the same time, they don’t need to see a couple of heroes bumping uglies on a rooftop or someone’s face shaved off and nailed to a wall. You can tell an engaging story and deal with big concepts while keeping the language tame and the bodily fluids inside the bodies. Look at stuff like the Pixar movies – they illicit all the excitement and sense of peril without losing a G-rating. That’s what New Crusaders will be: all the fun of a super hero book without the blood and T&A.

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