When it launches at the beginning of May via tablets, smart phones and RedCircleComics.com, Archie Comics superhero series "New Crusaders" will reintroduce readers young and old to a universe of heroes that started in the 1940s and have been kicking around the comics marketplace in one form or another ever since. While the impending app developed by iVerse Media will allow readers access to Crusaders comics of the past, the main focus for Archie is building that heroic legacy into new adventures courtesy of "Sonic The Hedgehog" and "Mega Man" creators Ian Flynn and Ben Bates.
In "New Crusaders," the classic Red Circle heroes are ambushed by a returning villain, forcing their children to take up various mantles from the Comet to the Web and fight crime under the guidance of the original patriotic hero The Shield. CBR News spoke to Flynn and members of the "Red Circle Braintrust" building the series earlier this spring about Shield's role in the book, and today we're happy to launch a two-part discussion of the series with Editor Paul Kaminski about the comic – who Archie revealed has just been promoted to Executive Director of Editorial for the publisher.
Below, Kaminski describes the path to "New Crusaders" that ran through his other "Archie Adventure" series, how his new role will bolster the kind of storytelling Flynn and Bates have become known for, what the heroic legacy of the company and the Crusaders will mean for the book and new details and art from inside the series on heroes including the Comet, Fireball and Fly-Girl.
CBR News: Paul, readers have gotten to know your name over the past few years as editor of Archie's "Sonic The Hedgehog" titles and then their "Mega Man" launch. When you joined the company, did you come in with an eye towards making action/adventure books?
Paul Kaminski: That was kind of the way it seemed. It seemed sort of like a happy accident, but it's also what was in my wheelhouse. I grew up reading a lot of superhero comics, and getting to know that storytelling real well, a lot of those action/adventure stories seemed like a natural fit. It did just happen that "Sonic" was the opening when I arrived, and "Mega Man" came from that. So "New Crusaders" seemed like a logical progression for me.
Did "New Crusaders" come about as a way to expand the Archie Adventure part of the line in a similar way to "Mega Man's" addition?
Well, it started with a conversation between Mike [Perellito, our President], Alex [Segura, our marketing coordinator] and Michael Murphy at iVerse in San Diego. In terms of the creative team, when Alex brought the idea to me late last summer, Ian Flynn seemed a natural for a new Action/Adventure book no matter what it was. I'm such a huge fan of his writing and we have a great working relationship in general, I recommend him for everything. It's like how Kevin Smith would recommend Ben Affleck to play the shark in "Jaws." Well, I'd recommend Ian Flynn to write every book known to man. And the thing with Ben Bates, he was my first new hire, and he showed a crazy amount of promise beyond just "Sonic." With what I saw him do with the storytelling on "Mega Man," I thought he'd be a great fit for a superhero title. He's really efficient and a pleasure to work with. It was more a matter of "I've got these great working relationship with these guys, and we've got a rhythm going. 'New Crusaders' since it's a new title that could really benefit from a built-in rhythm, and besides which it would really work out well in their hands."
For your new role as Executive Director of Editorial, can we expect you to be branching out and doing more work with the Archie line as a whole, or is this pretty much an acknowledgment of what you've been building with the Adventure books?
It's funny. It's a "play it by ear" thing right now. This started with the Archie graphic novels, and I'm playing a bigger role in our graphic novel releases, and that obviously means Sonic and Mega Man and superheroes too. But it also means I'm dipping my toe into Archie and Riverdale. So that's been the biggest transition day-to-day, but it's also looking like Executive Director of Editorial is going to be a generalized oversight of the broader Archie line over time. I'm looking to bring that "Sonic" formual to some of our other books. Mike Pellerito, who's now the President at Archie, established that format when he edited "Sonic," and when I took over, I just tried to build on that. It's worked out really, really well. We'll spice things up a bit over time and breed an atmosphere of as much creativity and collaboration as possible.
Last time we spoke about "New Crusaders," we focused on the Shield as the classic lead hero of the book, but there are also a ton of characters with legacies and histories tied to Archie's past. The Comet is an interesting character because originally in the 1940s, he was the first superhero ever to die, and he was also the first Archie hero to get a major redesign later in the '60s. What can you tell us about who the new Comet is and what his ties are to the original?
The Comet is such an awesome character, and I'm such a nerd for the two-parter of the Red Circle line from the '80s where they went back and tried to culminate all of the disparate pieces of continuity into one coherent story. It's kind of a continuation of that idea that we're trying to do in "New Crusaders." So our Comet is the adopted son of the original comic. It is a continuation of that lineage. And lineage and legacy is one of the key points of this whole project. There is a link to what came before, and what came before will be acknowledged. It's not like we're wiping out years and years of history as a gimmick. I think we're keeping that history intact in a real fresh and interesting way.
The new Comet is more of a noble spirit than his adopted father is. He grows into the role of team leader eventually where his father had a lot of reservations about what he's doing and was at times a borderline alcoholic. At the beginning of his superheroing career, he was going around murdering people and going "What's wrong with murdering people?" [Laughs] So Greg – our new Comet – is a little more altruistic, and there's going to be some tension when he finds out his legacy and what that legacy means. The original Comet went through a lot of transitions – obviously in the Silver Age "Mighty Crusaders" series he got that terribly awesome rainbow helmet and mustache, and that was a product of him traveling to another planet and all this other crazy stuff. So we've tried to boil the character back down to the core of what he was originally and what he circled back to in the Red Circle comics of the '80s.
And the Comet is one of the Crusaders characters with a kind of cosmic/space connection. Have you talked about using him to bring in more things like space travel and robot armies and the like?
Yes. All the continuity of the old books exists in "New Crusaders." Whether or not that will play a big role moving forward has yet to be seen. But the important thing here is that that stuff actually happened, and all the consequences of that have had an impact on these characters that it happened to. Are we going to make this a space adventure book? No. But it's something we plan on dealing with in the book.
Some of the New Crusaders characters are well known to readers or at least familiar in passing. But Fireball is a guy who's a bit of a mystery. I know the Red Circle heroes have had a lot of fire-based characters over the years. What drew you to him as a big part of this book?
Everything is connected in Red Circle, and nothing happens without a reason. This was a conscious effort to bring one of the Golden Age characters who didn't get a lot of spotlight if non at all in the later incarnations back into our universe now to show where he had been. Inferno had kind of been done, and Fireball had been in those very early issues of "Pep Comics" so he had a legacy himself to explore. And we wanted to give the Shield a context in terms of his age. He was in suspended animation for a while, but we wanted to show some more heroes from the Golden Age era alongside him.
Lastly, let's look at Fly-Girl. This is the first time in the Red Circle we've seen her out on her own rather than partnered up with The Fly. Was your goal here to try and define her as a hero all her own?
Yeah, I think you could say that was a challenge, but they were all a challenge in their own way. But Fly-Girl may have been the easiest to deal with simply because the way Ben designed her. We didn't really have an idea of what she'd be like until we got Ben's sketches, and she just looked like a no-nonsense, modern teenage girl in his drawing. That's something we've tried to emphasize in her character profile.
She's kind of a popular girl at school, and she hangs out with the in crowd. But she's also got a deeply altruistic vein, and in a way she's got a lot in common with Greg because of that. And as far as her powers go, she never really needed the Fly to hang around. [Laughs] It was easy for her to make her own role on this team.
Stay tuned for part two of our "New Crusaders" spotlight where we look at Steel Sterling, the Web, the Jaguar and more on Archie's digital first format!