As the Red Circle's integration into the DCU is now in full swing, readers are learning about a whole slate of existing heroes that are being introduced with new stories and mythologies.
One of the new ongoing titles debuting from the Red Circle line is The Shield, which will also have a co-feature focusing on another Red Circle character, Inferno. Written by Eric Trautmann, the main stories in the comic follow the adventures of the Shield, while the co-features by Brandon Jerwa focus on The Inferno. Both characters debuted in one-shots this month by writer J. Michael Straczynski, who is introducing the characters from Archie into the DC Universe.
"The Shield is akin to The Fighting American, a Joe Simon/Jack Kirby creation who was anticedent to Captain America," Trautmann explained. He's a patriotic superhero, created a year before the famous Captain by Harry Shorten and Irv Novick. "Lt. Joe Higgins is an American army officer who has technology that gives him powers of strength, flight and invulnerability. But he's also a military asset, so it will be two-fisted military action. We'll see lots of moving around the world to various hotspots, including real world hotspots and DCU hotspots, and he'll be having action-packed adventures."
As revealed in this week's The Shield one-shot by Straczynski, Higgins' origin is a little different from the Archie version of the character. "The technology is all nanotech derived, which gives him all sorts of interesting powers," Trautmann said. "[Artist] Marco Rudy and I have been playing around with what that means he can actually do. So he also has a detection package that's unparalleled. He's basically a walking wireless cloud if he needs to be. He can access computer systems. He can be pre-loaded with languages and map data for whatever theater of operations he's going into. We even started monkeying around with him using the nanotech to grow radio devices to hand to other people. So we're really playing around with it."
At this point, Higgins is still learning what the suit can do, so Trautmann said that the first three or four issues of The Shield will show the character evolving along with his understanding of the technology. "Marco, who as near as I can tell, is both a brilliant artist and is insane, likes to go design the pages using a lot of Lt. Higgins' point of view, so you actually see quite a bit of what Higgins is seeing in the suit," Trautmann said. "It's rather fascinating to watch the pages come in."
The character is still a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and in The Shield #1, he'll be given his first mission, which takes place in the mountains between Bialya and Kahndaq. "We established some time ago in Checkmate that there are around 100,000 to 200,000 refugees that were out of the country the day Black Adam went nuts, and they've been clustered in refugee camps on the border of Bialya. And a bunch of insurgents have taken to the mountains. So American Special Forces teams have gone in after them, and they've started going missing," Trautmann explained. "So The Shield is sent in to figure out what's going on, and try to support the Special Forces teams -- or rescue them if they need it.
editor of the Red Circle titles, also hinted at both an appearance of the JSA and Superman characters, since the military is keeping a close eye on New Krypton. The character will also end up working with other Red Circle characters, including some crossover between the Shield's main story and the Inferno's back-up stories.
"There is a plan to have those characters interact," Trautmann said. "It won't be in the first three issues, but it will happen."
"Some co-features don't have anything to do with the lead feature," Jerwa said, "and rightfully so. But this is something that has some pay-off."
But although they share a comic title, the Shield and Inferno stories will have different tones, Jerwa said. "Where Eric's story is the two-fisted military action, Inferno will be a shadowy, mysterious thriller," the co-feature writer said. "Frank Verrano is a man that doesn't quite know who he is when we first meet him."
The co-feature of Issue #1 picks up right where Straczynski's one-shot leaves off, with the character on the run, trying to figure out who he is, what he is and how he got into this situation. "He was last seen in San Francisco, so his travels take him to Star City," Jerwa said. "Star City is probably not the first stop you want to make when you're on the run, because the 'man in green' and the 'woman in black' are going to show up."
At the outset, the story is very fast-paced, Jerwa said, because Frank can't slow down. "He is horribly confused. He has no memores. He will have the occasional flashback, and those will confuse him even more," Jerwa said. "He won't even have the chance to put the pieces together at first because he's constantly moving and constantly in danger, both from people who are trying to find out more about him because of the things he's done so far, people who do know who he is and want him for different reasons, and then the random characters that he's going to run into along the way, who will be obstacles in his path as he tries to find out more about himself."
And because he doesn't know his history, the character isn't sure if he's a "black hat" or a "white hat" or how he fits into everything, Jerwa said.
"And it's definitely the strangest first superhero story I could ever imagine writing. I've waited my entire career to write a superhero, and I'm writing one, but he's not a superhero yet," he laughed.
The two writers have been working with the scribes on the other Red Circle titles to coordinate the line, and said Rachel Gluckstern tasked the team with coming up with a mythology. "And boy, did we come up with one. We have been given the pass to make a cornerstone, and we've been talking with John Rozum and Angie Robinson, who are doing the Web and Hangman. And we've shared what we've done with them, and they've come to us with what they have. And we all seem to be on the same page.
"And so, while these characters are part of the DC Universe, they also have their own corner of the world to inhabit. And we're doing our best to really bring that to life," Trautmann said. "There's definitely a bigger story building. Ultimately, tone-wise, our stories fit well together, and as things unfold, I think that it's going to be really rewarding for the readers."