The Mighty Crusaders team will hit comic stores in May in a special issue that pulls together not only the four main Red Circle characters, but also the four writers behind them.
Featuring more than 30 DCU characters in a story that brings together the team for the first time, the oversized one-shot Mighty Crusaders Special features pencils by Superman artist Javi Pina. The quartet of writers who are putting together the 56-page special are Eric Trautmann of The Shield; Brandon Jerwa, who writes The Inferno co-feature; Matthew Sturges of The Web; and John Rozum, who writes The Hangman co-feature.
The four characters were introduced last year in a series of one-shots by J. Michael Straczynski, who tweaked the origin stories and modernized the characters based upon their original appearances in Archie Comics' Red Circle line of superhero comics. The characters are officially part of the DCU now, and they're being integrated through stories in their own monthly comics, along with guest appearances in others.
In May, the Shield, Web, Inferno and Hangman will unite as the Mighty Crusaders, which was also the team name used by the Archie Comics line. Newsarama talked to the four writers about the process behind this special and how the characters they write will react to being thrown together to fight a DCU threat.
Newsarama: Eric, I know you guys have been working for awhile on how to not only make these characters an important part of the DCU, but also how to bring them together. How did this all build toward the Mighty Crusaders Special?
Eric Trautmann: A lot of the stuff that became the story seeds for this Mighty Crusader Special started very early on, when I started working on The Shield. We all got the marching orders that these characters needed to be integrated into the DC Universe, and while we were given this great vision through what had been done in Straczynski's one-shots, there wasn't a lot of guidance on how to do that.
So Brandon and I had started back when I was writing Issue #2, and he was probably on Issue #5 at the speed he writes, about the story threads and unified material that could be applied to all the Red Circle characters. We kind of fell in love with the concept we came up with, and we managed to successfully pitch that to DC. Over time, little threads have worked their way into The Shield and The Inferno that will become more apparent in the Mighty Crusaders Special.
Nrama: Matt, when you joined The Web with Issue #6, did the story have some beats that fit in with this overall idea?
Matthew Sturges: Well, the first time I talked to Eric and Brandon, it was after they had masterminded this whole scheme. They had already started talking about the Mighty Crusaders book before I came on board. For me, it was a little bit of playing catch-up, but I had some ideas I wanted to incorporate into The Web that were similar to a lot of the things Brandon and Eric were talking about over in their book. And so it dovetailed really nicely into this whole idea.
Once we started talking, it was really easy and very enjoyable for me to make what I was doing fit in with the larger picture.
Nrama: How do they all come together into the Mighty Crusaders?
Trautmann: Well, the short answer is "to fight the big monster who's tearing up the city." [laughs] But there's a number of connections, a number of threads that connect these characters together that they may not all be fully aware of yet, which we kind of laid in deliberately to inevitably pull them all into a gathering. But the giant extra-dimensional monster is probably the big one.
The story is structured in such a way that a seemingly small event snowballs into something bigger that necessitates all their involvement. And it happens in a way where it's kind of inevitable that these are the characters who would be involved. Unfortunately, we're dealing with a conspiracy storyline, so I'm a little reluctant to throw out too many details.
Nrama: What is the Shield's reaction to working with these other characters?
Trautmann: For him, it comes down to, well, these are my orders, and I have to go deal with this thing, and these are the guys who are on the ground. So guess what? They're assets. He does approach it fairly tactically, in a lot of ways. Inferno is a great example, because he has military training and background, and the Shield is able to spot that and know it's somebody he can work with.
Interestingly enough, there is friction between the Shield and the Web. They know each other, but the Shield is going to approach things like a soldier would, and the Web has kind of an attitude of, "You're not the boss of me." So he's open to the whole situation because there's a threat and the guys around him are the weapons he has, or the assets he has, at his disposal. That's the way he approaches it.
And to a certain extent, as we've started exploring in the Shield monthly book, he's starting to dig this whole superhero thing. It's kind of fun for him.
Nrama: Matt, is that true? Does the Web feel that "you're not the boss of me?"
Sturges: Definitely. Eric may have actually down-played it. The Web is kind of a self-important bastard who doesn't want to play by anyone's rules, other than the ones he sort of makes for himself. For him, the idea of a big, happy team-up where everybody gets together to join their powers and fit the big-bad is not really his idea of a good time. So he's definitely going to have to be coaxed into working with and getting along well with others.
Nrama: John, what's the reaction of The Hangman to this situation? It's got to be a little different for him, right?
Rozum: Yeah. Just by his very nature, he's more isolated. He's this man who's been around for almost 150 years now. He doesn't die, but everyone else he knows does. And he's just moving further and further away from people. In the course of the regular book, I've been exploring what makes him connect with people again.
That's what kind of allowed me to hook him in with these other characters. They're all sort of still figuring out who they are. And I think because there's a connected thread to them, along with discovering who they are and their place in the universe, that's why they end up coming together. And we found a way for the Hangman to sort of fit into that.
Nrama: Brandon, I know you've taken a bit of a break from writing The Inferno to introduce The Fox to readers in the co-features. Is the Fox involved in this story, or is it just the Inferno who teams up with the other Red Circle characters?
Brandon Jerwa: The Fox will not be involved. The Inferno and the Comet will. The Comet is a character that recently cameoed in the Inferno co-feature. So he's involved on the outer edge of things in this story.
But really, we were tasked with bringing together the four Red Circle characters that started all of this in Straczynski's one-shots. So our focus is there.
Nrama: How does Inferno react to the idea of a team-up?
Jerwa: Due to the change in the status quo that was left at the end of Issue #6, which is that he's now working for the government, who have promised to help him regain his memories once he does a little something for them, he's coming into this sort of with the attitude that this is just part of what's going on in his life right now.
He still feels very funny about the idea of having a code name and a costume and all of that. So he's really looking to just do the job, but at the same time, he has an awareness of the bigger picture that some of the other players don't. So he's going to be working at somewhat cross-purposes in the effort to do the right thing. And not everybody's going to be on board with that immediately.
We know that Inferno has some degree of military training, so when the situation erupts, that's going to be kind of an instinctive thing for him, and he's going to react appropriately. As a team player, Inferno is probably going to be more of a team player than he even realizes himself. He's going to sort of fall back into that mindset without giving it a second thought.
Nrama: It's odd to have four people writing together like this. How did the writing job break down?
Rozum: It definitely is unusual, but it worked out easily. Brandon and Eric masterminded the whole story, and for me and possibly Matt, I just went along with their plot. Then we worked our characters into it and made some suggestions and shared ideas for it. It went pretty smoothly.
There was a designation of focus on each character, and that's how we divided it up into parts. It wasn't so much that we would do a few panels that our characters were in, but it was divided when the focus was on our character. There were some of their characters that I hadn't seen how they had written them yet, like for me with the Comet, so it was a little guesswork sometimes, but we knew we'd have each other rewrite the dialogue a little when our own characters were involved. But it went pretty smoothly.
Trautmann: I actually want to clarify, since everyone keeps saying Brandon and I were behind all of this coming together. The fact of the matter is, beyond the plotting stage, I didn't really do a lot. Brandon was the guy who kind of drop-kicked this, and I think that's important for everyone to realize.
Rozum: Plus we all know who to blame later if it all falls apart. [laughs]
Trautmann: Exactly! [laughs] No, Brandon really stepped up and coordinated a lot of this, and he was keeping us all talking. And that was hugely valuable.
Sturges: Without Brandon we'd be nothing. [laughs]
Jerwa: No, everybody played their part. Despite the fact this book had four writers, I think it has a great flow to it. The way it's structured, it really allowed us to pull that off without the readers seeing the strings too much.
Nrama: I know the Red Circle characters are all DC Universe characters now, so will we see any other DC characters showing up in the Mighty Crusaders special?
Trautmann: Yes. Quite a few actually.
Sturges: It's apparent right from the get-go that this takes place in the DC Universe.
Trautmann: How many were on the list that we were allowed to use?
Sturges: It was something like 30.
Rozum: Yeah, there were over two dozen.
Trautmann: There's something like 30-35 other characters from the DCU that show up in the first few pages. So right away, we establish that this takes place in the DCU.
Nrama: Are there more plans for the Mighty Crusaders as a team?
Sturges: There are a lot of plans for a lot of things with these characters. A lot of big plans that we can't talk about, and that includes this team.
Trautmann: I can confirm that we'll see this team again, and it won't be too far down the road. Beyond that, I don't think we're allowed to discuss what the shape of the project is.
Nrama: What kind of a visual feel does it Javi bring to this special?
Sturges: He's a brilliant, energetic artist who's brought a lot to this book. You're going to be blown away by his pages.
Jerwa: He's able to handle the big screen punch-'em-ups really well. He's got a knack for action. And there's definitely plenty of that in this story.
Nrama: Do people have to be reading the Red Circle comics to understand this one-shot? Or is this a good entry point?
Jerwa: Anyone can pick up this book. I firmly believe that. If you have been reading The Shield and if you have been reading The Web, then there are certainly going to be several "ah ha!" moments where you see things that are connected to those storylines.
But for anyone new to the Red Circle characters, this is definitely a great introduction to the characters and an ideal entrance into their stories.