Archie Comics’ New Crusaders has been a hit continuation of some of comics’ longest-lived characters – and now, new readers will get to experience their legacy first-hand with New Crusaders: Legacy, a new GN featuring classic tales of the original Crusaders as told to their successors. We talked with Ian Flynn, writer of New Crusaders and the new material in this GN, along with editor Paul Kaminski about this new work, the many, many, many faces of the Crusaders, and more.
Newsarama: Tell us about this anthology.
Ian Flynn: This is more than just a reprint collection. There’s brand new material from New Crusaders linking the classic stories together, making them relevant to the new heroes of today. It’s both a collection of older stories and a new installment to the mythos. It’s the best of both worlds.
Paul Kaminski: You’ve never seen a graphic novel collection quite like this before!
The New Crusaders are a super team of teen heroes that have picked up the mantle from their murdered parents and guardians – the original Mighty Crusaders. We’ve seen the kids’ story in New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes GN on sale now! – plugplugplug –and now it’s their parents’ turn for the spotlight.
The Red Circle comic universe dates back to the birth of the comic book itself, and as we come up on 75 years of these characters it was time to start opening the vault and introduce these stories to a new generation of hero and reader alike!
Nrama: How does it tie in with the current Crusaders series?
Flynn: It takes place after the end of “Rise of Heroes” and fills in a few of the days between it and the next story arc, “Dark Tomorrow.” It’s a story of the kids coming to better understand the legacies they carry.
Kaminski: The idea is to take readers on the exact same journey of discovery that the New Crusaders themselves are on – and build a deeper connection between the characters and the audience.
So you’ve got Joe Higgins, the world’s first patriotic super hero, the Shield schooling the New Crusaders about their parents’ lives as super heroes. For the kids it’s via top-secret government files, for the reader it’s via some of the very best comic book stories from Red Circle Comics’ past.
Nrama: What are some of the tales readers will encounter in this storied volume?
Flynn: There’s a bit of everything. There are origin stories, tales of the Mighty Crusaders’ daring-do, and one particularly novel story where The Shield is put on trial for a crook that died at his hands.
Kaminski: You’ve got the incredible artwork of Gray Morrow on The Black Hood, you’ve got the legendary Steve Ditko who lends his talents to Fly-Girl, the names go on and on. Alex Toth, Carmine Infantino, Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Chris Ward, Rich Buckler, Rich Margopoulos, Stan Timmons, Lou Manna – I could go on forever!
That’s the beauty of these comics, some of the biggest names in comics have worked on these characters – and starting with this book we can start to showcase these stories in all their cleaned-up, freshly colored and digitally re-mastered glory.
Nrama: REAL TALK: Did you have the Mighty Crusaders action figures of the 1980s with the karate chop and "signal shields?" ADMIT THE TRUTH.
Flynn: No, unfortunately, but I remember seeing the ads for them in books and wanting them. I’m a figure collector of sorts, and I’d try to hunt down a set if it wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg.
Kaminski: Oh man, I really wanted those but never got my hands on them! I think Archie editor-in-chief Victor Gorelick has one or two, though – maybe if I ask real nice…?
Nrama: Of these older stories, which stood out to you the most and why?
Flynn: The story of Shield on trial stuck out to me since it seemed very different from the kinds of super hero stories being told at the time. Plus, there’s something stirring about the entire Red Circle super hero community pulling together for Shield.
Kaminski: My two personal favorites from New Crusaders: Legacy are the first issue of the COMET, brought to life through the masterful illustrations of Carmine Infantino, and Alex Toth’s ground-breaking take on the Fox
I was always aware of Toth when I was growing up, but about 5 years back Archie President Mike Pellerito introduced me to Alex Toth’s Fox stuff and it absolutely blew me away. Mike is a huge Toth fan and I quickly became one myself. It’s so cool to see these stories crisp, clean and included in this collection!
Nrama: Has reading these older stories affected how you approached writing the modern-day Crusaders, and if so, how?
Flynn: I’d already read all these stories – and then some – when preparing for New Crusaders. In a way, my discovery – and in some cases, re-discovery – of the series is channeled through the kids as they learn this information for the first time themselves.
Kaminski: I think the approach that the Red Circle Comics team took in the 80’s is the primary influence for us in this latest iteration. There was a real attempt to tie the universe together with what had come before and build on it in a way that made chronological sense, and that’s exactly what we continue to do on titles like New Crusaders.
In a more specific way, Toth’s Fox has been a key influence of some of the biggest comic book creators working today, and this October Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid will bring this take (with their own spin) on the character to an all-new Fox series!
Nrama: The Crusaders have been through many, many, many incarnations, from the 1940s to the ultra-campy version in the 1960s to the Red Circle books of the 1980s to the Impact books of the 1990s to briefly hanging with Archie to the Red Circle (again) at DC, to this version (pause for breath).
Though many of the modern versions have been short-lived, there is still an awareness of these characters and repeated revival efforts. What do you feel brings people back to these characters again and again, and what are you trying to capture from previous runs in this new version? For that matter, what are you trying to do differently?
Flynn: The neat thing is, aside from the Impact and late-2000’s runs, the continuity for Red Circle runs from the ‘40s to today. The Shield who saved Pearl Harbor in 1941 (a full 6 months before Pearl Harbor was actually attacked) is the same Shield we have in “Rise of Heroes.” The Mighty Crusaders were created in an era of comic story telling where there was no limits, no bounds to the imagination, and that kind of starry-eyed whimsy is something that keeps them appealing today.
What we’re doing now with New Crusaders is approaching the material with a modern comic’s mentality. Looking back over it all, it is – and will be – a fascinating study of how the medium has changed over the years.
Kaminski: The best way I’ve heard it described is that these heroes are from the birth of comics. They’re super heroes in their purest form, since they come from the source of the entire medium. That holds a special appeal with fans, and a tremendous amount of potential for the creators.
Nrama: Have you a favorite Crusader? HONESTY TIME.
Flynn: Initially it was Jaguar – Ivette Velez. But as I’ve come to understand each of the characters, I’ve grown to love them equally, and could launch a spin-off for any of them at a moment’s notice. If you want to limit it to classic Mighty Crusaders, I might have to go with Comet. His power set is a lot of fun, and he saved an alien race, married a sexy space-queen and single-handedly fought off a killer robot horde. It doesn’t get better than that.
Kaminski: The Shield, baby! In the words of the Comet from New Crusaders: Legacy, “You were in the Hudson Tunnel, staring down a terrorist with a rocket launcher – and you charged him?!” I mean, come on – how ice cold is that??
Nrama: What's coming up for the Crusaders?
Flynn: The Fox, one of the ‘80s era Mighty Crusaders, is getting his own mini-series which will serve as a lead-in of sorts for the return of the New Crusaders in their next volume, “Dark Tomorrow.”
Kaminski: The Fox series by Haspiel and Waid kicks off this October and will take the Red Circle Universe to places it’s never been to before! From there we’ve got a couple cool announcements coming up that will keep the train chugging along at full speed right into New Crusaders: Dark Tomorrow (which picks up where “New Crusaders: Legacy” leaves off). Get ready for the answer to the biggest question of them all: what is the BLUE RIBBON?
Nrama: What are some other comics/creators you're currently reading/enjoying?
Flynn: I’m writing four titles right now and slowly, slowly working on original material of my own. I don’t have time to enjoy anything else right now!
Kaminski: Ian’s work on the Sonic/Mega Man crossover has been fantastic, and I love every second of those scripts as they come in! The post-crossover plans are gonna be pretty sick too – people are NOT going to see what Ian’s got planned coming!
As for other books, I read a lot of comics so it’s hard to narrow it down -- I really love what Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are doing on Saga, been digging Mark Millar’s imprint, Seeley and Norton’s Revival has been great, and I love anything Mark Waid is writing!
Nrama: What's next for you? 'cause I know you got a lot on your plate...
Flynn: We’re gearing up for “Dark Tomorrow” in New Crusaders, which will bring some big changes for the team as they deal with the fallout of “Rise of the Heroes.” We’re charging through the Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man crossover, “Worlds Collide,” and preparing for the two big story arcs that will follow that. It’s nothing but big things coming up, which is really exciting.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Flynn: Be sure to snag New Crusaders volume one, “Rise of Heroes,” to get good and primed for Legacy.
Check out the New Crusaders: Legacy this July.