Since it was announced late last year, Archie Comics incoming all-ages superhero revival "New Crusaders" has been having traditional comics readers asking one question: what about print?
Launching on May 16 as a special digital app via RedCircleComics.com where readers can download new installments of the story by Ian Flynn and Ben Bates every week as well as accessing the history of the franchise through Archie's long list of old school superhero comics, the book to date has been focused only on 21st Century tech. But today, CBR is able to report that print plans are underway for a traditional print component to the series.
In our second big interview with Archie Editorial Director Paul Kaminski and Marketing Manager/Red Circle brain trust member Alex Segura (read the first right here), we go deeper inside "New Crusaders" to get a look at how the teen heroes will adapt to life after tragedy, why Steel Sterling was central to the series creation, what new powers and predicaments await the Web, what's behind the mask of the new Jaguar and when and how Archie will roll the series out to print.
CBR News: One of the things that we haven't talked too much about yet is the fact that this is a teenage superhero book. How much will the fact that we've got these young heroes factor in in terms of school as a setting and a theme having an impact on how the team forms?
Paul Kaminski: The high school setting will definitely play a role in "New Crusaders" over time. When we first start out, we're kind of thrown in to the middle of an explosive situation. As the dust settles and everybody is hit with the reality of what's happened, those same realities of their everyday, day-to-day functions in society do return – which means for the kids being normal high school kids. That means that some of them aren't necessarily popular, some of them are extremely withdrawn, and some of them are kind of jocky. Like Steel Sterling, he's kind of like Chris Kline's character in "American Pie." He's like an all-American football player with a heart of gold. I mean, obviously we hope to go more in depth than "American Pie." [Laughs] But those social hierarchies continue to play a role. The Web is more nerdy and maybe a little more passive aggressive – a jokester type. Fireball seems like more of a delinquent and a little more sarcastic. Fly-Girl is more popular. And they will be in a regular high school throughout the story.
Let's talk some more about the characters you just mentioned. Steel Sterling looks as close to the original character as any of the cast in the book, but with the moderns effects of comics coloring, you really see the steel look of his skin. What kinds of notes did you give Ben in helping craft who these characters would become both as superheroes and as characters in general?
Kaminski: It was different for all of them. For Steel Sterling, he was the first one we did. Ben and I – prior to the conversation with iVerse's Michael Murphy and Alex [Segura] and Mike [Pellerito] at San Diego last year – had actually been working on a pitch for a Steel Sterling comic and trying to find a way to bring that character into a modern setting. We had some different ideas we were kicking around. That design he came up with was supposed to be a real classical interpretation of who Steel Sterling is as a character. That got shelved for a while, and then eventually it mutated along with the new ideas you see in the project now. So that character really served as a kind of style guide for the entire series.
Ben had some real fun with that one and had a lot of freedom in what he wanted to pick and choose from. We typically get designs from him and the Red Circle braintrust of Alex, Mike, writer Ian Flynn and myself look over them, say what we like and what we don't, and Ben goes back to modify them. He's so talented that he usually hits the note like 99% right out the gate. There's rarely a time where we're like "No." He's really on point.
The Web, like you said, definitely has a personality that comes across in his final design, but I wanted to ask about his background. The original Web was a classic billionaire playboy superhero, but in the '60s he got married and a lot of the stories became about the social comedy of him having to fight crime behind the back of his wife and mother-in-law. How do those old stories impact this new kid?
Kaminski: In the Silver Age issues, you realize the Web is the best character ever because he's constantly trying to sneak out and fight crime, but his wife and him are fighting about it ALL THE TIME. And then there's this awesome scene where he comes home, and his wife is like "Where were you last night?" and before he gets a chance to answer, she pours his spaghetti dinner all over his head and goes, "I know where you were!" [Laughter] He's like "What? Come oooooooon!"
But that kind of stuff has an impact on a kid. It's a lot for a child if your parents are not only fighting all the time, but they argue so much that the mother goes out and becomes Power Girl just to tick off her husband? That kind of household – while it was used to comedic effect in the Silver Age and only slightly touched on in the '80s stuff – would have an effect on a child. So we'll be exploring a little bit of that, and a lot of the Web's personality will spring from the fact that he had to rely on himself a lot of the time because his parents were so busy knocking each other out. He sort of had no choice but to become this super efficient computer expert. It was like dog-eat-dog. He had to rely on his own wits.
One of the standout things about this new piece of art is that it looks like he's got some kind of powers that we haven't seen before. What can you say about that?
Kaminski: I don't want to reveal too much, but there is something special about the Web that isn't special about the other characters. And that will be elaborated on hopefully by the time we hit Season 2 of "New Crusaders." We have this whole thing plotted out pretty far in advance! [Laughs] But there is a hint of this in issue #1, so eagle-eyed readers will have to not take anything at face value. He does have a broader connection to the Red Circle universe, but I can say no more. I've said too much already!
Jaguar has a very new look – a tough, almost Aztec feel to her armor. The original Jaguar was something of an Indiana Jones-type adventurer. How does this new version compare?
Kaminski: Evette or "Ivy" as she's known to her friends is really withdrawn. She is the complete opposite of an Indiana Jones type. In fact, she's super shy. She's also one of the few kids here who's not directly related to the legacy that she inherits. She becomes the apprentice to the original Jaguar, Ralph Hardy, in his various zoological, Steve Irwin-type escapades. Post supervillainy in the age of retirement, Jaguar became this kind of zoological crusader rather than a mighty one. And Ivy was taken under his wing, so she is probably the least prepared for any kind of superheroics. But we'll also see as the book goes on that she's maybe more prepared for this than she thinks and that it's maybe a more natural fit than she thinks. But her character is someone I'm really excited about because it's the antithesis of what you'd think of a superhero as.
And Ben's design on that armor is so, SO cool! That'll play into the broader Jaguar mythos. The explanation in the Silver Age was that Ralph found this belt and he became the avatar of one of these ancient gods. And then in the '80s they elaborated on it a bit more, so now our "New Crusaders" will elaborate even more on that. You'll learn more about what the armor means. It has a very special connection to her powers.
Finally, let's talk about distribution as we know the iVerse app has been coming together for a while. But are there longterm plans for this material too once readers have experienced the "seasons" of the book serialized in weekly chapter form?
Kaminski: The digital launch has us looking at a May 16 launch date, and that will start witha double-sized "Season Premier" which is double the length of what will be our standard six-page weekly installment. And as the digital goes on, in the late summer....
Alex Segura: ...we will be launching a print version of "New Crusaders" with "New Crusaders" #1 which will ship to the direct market and the newsstand!
Kaminski: It'll compile the issues the digital readers have already experiences. We're so excited for this app in a lot of ways because the people at iVerse have just blown this thing out of the water.
Segura: Michael Murphy was a huge Crusaders fan and Red Circle fan.
Kaminski: And his team has been incredible. That app is going to be such an all-encompassing experience. But for the people who are not going to be able to get the app, whether it be because they have no device or are hesitant about the world of digital, we have that print component so that everyone can enjoy "New Crusaders." What's most important to us is that as many people can enjoy it as possible. We know the digital is the centerpiece of the project as a whole because it's such a unique approach to the modern distribution of comics. As Mike Pellerito is fond of saying, "Digital is the new newsstand" and that's an interesting idea to explore with the app. But fear not. We've got you covered if you like print.
Segura: And it's truly the first Archie superhero book on the newsstand. That's a big step for us. It harkens back to the time when you could find a superhero comic at a grocery store or a pharmacy. That's Archie's bread and butter, and we're making this book available to everyone.
Has it changed how you guys create this material since you're telling these stories as weekly installments that build into issues that build into seasons?
Kaminski: That's one of Ian's strong suits. Ian can write any kind of story, but building bigger ideas is one of his strong suits. We're particularly excited about building some trades up in general because it hits all kinds of mass market that sometimes the digital or single issues can't hit. This is all about getting this material out there. And Ian's done a terrific job of taking the smaller concepts he might have done in a one part story and being able to integrate them into a larger narrative. With the "New Crusaders," I'm really excited about this idea of a season – having a beginning and an end and then launching it again with a new story. It's exciting. I'm stoked!
Stay tuned for more on "New Crusaders" from Archie and CBR!