It's rare for a fairly obscure character to have both a writer and artist separately begging to work on it.
And it's even more unusual that the two would be on the exact same page with their ideas, particularly when the character is being completely reinterpreted.
But when The Fox gets his own comic story in March, Brandon Jerwa and Michael Avon Oeming will not only be getting to work on a character they specifically requested, but they'll be introducing that character to the DC Universe with a mythos they both conceived.
Beginning in March, Jerwa's Inferno co-feature in the back of The Shield will be replaced for a while by a new origin story for The Fox. Featuring art that is reminiscent of the work Alex Toth did on the character, the Fox story will debut the newest Red Circle hero in the back of The Shield #7.
Giving the Red Circle character a modern twist, the writer and artist are introducing him as the embodiment of the Japanese Kitsune totem known as the Fox. Incorporating the underground gangster world of Japan, the story follows how filmmaker Paul Patten Jr. is transformed into the hero known as The Fox.
And the Red Circle characters are also coordinating a bigger story that is just starting to build as the books introduce the characters into the DC Universe.
Newsarama talked with Jerwa to find out more about his story and why working with Oeming on The Fox has been such a unique experience.
Newsarama: Why the idea to switch to a different character?
Jerwa: A couple of reasons. When I was offered Inferno and we started this hole Red Circle thing, I told my editor, Rachel Gluckstern, if they ever got around to doing The Fox, my only request would be that she at least look at a pitch from me. Costumed martial artists and characters with a slightly mystical bent -- that's right in my wheelhouse. And I love the Fox. I've always loved the Fox. Out of all the Red Circle characters, he was the one that I was the most aware of growing up. I even had a little Fox action figure. You know, they made Mighty Crusaders action figures. And I had a Fox figure that I played with constantly.
Fast forward a little, and they decided the Inferno story, after Issue #6, was going to be at a point where the next chapter of Inferno's life would be moving on to a new phase in the story. It was at a natural breaking point. So they decided that The Fox would be the next character and that I would get to write it. The characters themselves and the stories of these characters could not be more different. They're night and day, which is great because it allows me to show this audience of DC readers that I can work in different styles, and of course I'm hoping the DC editors will take note of that.
DC has really wanted to expand the world of the Red Circle. And the co-features are a pretty accessible way to do that. So they decided to go that route with The Fox, which is great. They'll take a four-issue break to introduce The Fox, and then we'll return to The Inferno.
Nrama: But is the story of the Inferno pretty different from the Fox?
Jerwa: Oh, these characters and their stories could not be more different. They are night and day, which is great because it allows me to show this audience that I have of DC readers that I can work in different styles.
Nrama: Who is The Fox to you, and what's so cool about him that you want to write stories about him?
Jerwa: The Fox is relatable because he's an "everyman." And sure, I guess you could say that about most superheroes. But he is an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances. A lot of his story has to do with making choices and choosing to tread particular paths. I think people can relate to that because he comes to a couple of crossroads during his origin. And it's those decisions that define who he is.
As a superhero, we have a kind of unique motif because he's the bearer of a Kitsune totem, which is the Japanese fox spirit of mischief. It's interesting because I came up with that before Mike was on board. And then Mike came on board, and one of the first conversations we had was, "Hey Brandon, what do you think about maybe incorporating the myth of the Kitsune? The Japanese fox spirit of mischief?" And I said, "Are you kidding me? Have we already talked about this? Have you seen my notes?" And he says, "What notes?"
It was one of those moments where you realize you're on the same page without even having said a word about it. But maybe it also just seems like the right thing to do. And with that, there's ninja training that he undergoes, and mystic disciplines that he learns. We're going to leave it a little ambiguous as to how much influence this totem has over him, and how much influence he believes it has over him. And whether his accomplishments come from the power of the totem or whether they come from the man.
Nrama: Artistically, what does Mike Oeming bring to the project?
Jerwa: I had asked for the Fox; he had asked for the Fox. He's very enthusiastic about the project.
I have to tell you, Rachel came to me and she said, "We've chosen an artist for The Fox, and I just wanted to run it by you to see how you feel about it." And I wondered why. And then she said, "It's Mike Oeming." And I was like, "How do I feel about that??? It's Mike Oeming!!! He's brilliant!" And there's no dispute over that. Everyone knows it.
I know Mike from Highlander. When Dynamite started the Highlander series, Mike and I co-wrote the first four issues. We didn't really have a close collaboration, in that I would do my thing and he would do his thing. We were even on the same page then, so honestly, we didn't talk that much. We'd had a couple of conversations.
You know, it's funny; right after I turned in my script, I went to Disneyland. And Mike started working on it. And I kept getting these images from him of sketches and art and it was incredible. I mean, sitting and eating a churro at Disneyland and looking at Mike Oeming art on your phone -- that's a good life. It doesn't get much better than that. And one of the reasons he loves the character is because he's an Alex Toth fan, and let me tell you, it's like he's channeling Alex Toth. It's still Mike Oeming. He's not copying Alex Toth. But that inspiration that has always been in his work is so clear in these pages.
I can't even describe how much he's brought to this project. He's such a collaborator. He takes what you've done and elevates it because he possesses his own storytelling skills.
Nrama: The plans that you guys have for the Red Circle characters, as you mentioned, is to integrate them as much as possible into the DC Universe. Will we see this character interacting with the DCU, or is this more of an origin story?
Jerwa: This is an origin story, and in fact, it takes place over the span of about five years. So there are a lot of flashbacks going on, and a lot of non-linear storytelling. But the one thing that I would love to get across to everybody is that Eric Trautmann and I, from word one, have been building this back-story, and this sort of over-reaching plot idea, that we were going to incorporate into at least The Shield and The Inferno. And as new opportunities have developed, we have found ourselves with the opportunity to expand that into the line as a whole with Matt Sturges and John Rozum totally on board with the program as well, bringing their own things to the table.
We've been working diligently on a particular project all together. We're totally stoked about it because Matt came in with Eric and I already starting to build our little mystery. And he had something of his own for The Web that literally locked into place with what we were doing so seamlessly that it was like we all came up with this together.
So the short answer to your question is that not only will The Fox play a role in the DCU, but everyone will play a role. Everything that's happening in the Red Circle corner of the DCU is happening for a reason. We're really trying to build a foundation here that will have long-term pay-offs, presuming we get the opportunity to tell long-term story. It's really amazing how it's coming together, and I hope everyone will give these stories a chance.