The DC character Ragman is getting a new approach in October, one that not only reinterprets his supernatural suit of rags but also gives him the power to see people's suffering and save them from both outside and inner threats.
Created by writer Ray Fawkes and artist Inaki Miranda, Ragman is part of what Fawkes calls a "wave" of "interesting, really unusual" titles that are being given a chance by DC right now — a group of risky books that he says kicked off with Mister Miracle.
The character, who was featured last season on Arrow, wears a cloak made from rags and fights crime. In his latest incarnations, the character's rags have supernatural powers, each holding the soul of a villain punished by Ragman.
The new Ragman centers on a war veteran named Rory who carries the grief of losing his partners in a failed mission to raid a tomb in the Israeli desert.
When the character returns to Gotham City, he realizes the tomb has given him more than just memories, and there's a villain coming after what Rory's brought home. And according to Fawkes, this Ragman's cloak also gives the character the power to detect people's inner suffering.
The setting of Gotham means the title will interact with the Bat-family — in ways that Fawkes doesn't want to spoil — but it also gives Miranda the chance to combine the dark background of Gotham with the supernatural elements of Ragman's story.
Fawkes is well known for his work in the supernatural realm of DC, from his time on Constantine to his innovative series Gotham by Midnight. Miranda has also honed his skills on supernatural and fantasy characters, including the Vertigo series Coffin Hill and Fairest, although he's worked more recently in superheroes.
Newsarama talked to Fawkes and Miranda to find out more about their thoughts when designing Rory's suit, how the book honors past incarnations of the character, and what readers can expect from Ragman.
Newsarama: Ray, this character has generated a lot of interest because he was on a TV show. But it looks like you're doing something new with him. Did you come up with this approach, Ray?
Ray Fawkes: Yeah. Ragman is a fantastic character at his roots — Joe Kurbert introduced him as a sort of humble guy living in the low rent neighborhoods, defending the downtrodden. And then a lot of layers of the supernatural got added to him.
When I was pitching on him — I love the supernatural, but I kind of wanted to tell a new story with him that brought him more firmly back to the way he started out, where he's kind of down with this little people. He's one of them. He's trying to defend them against things that maybe other people can't see or don't notice.
So it's a new version of the character, but definitely paying homage to his roots and also paying homage to the supernatural stuff. You know, I love the darkness and I love DC's supernatural cast.
Nrama: Inaki, the character looks a little different. What approach are you taking to the costume? How did you end up going in this direction visually?
Inaki Miranda: At first, I didn't really know the character besides maybe here and there.
So once I got into it, I loved the concept — even more when I read Ray's premise, with the atmosphere, the concept, everything.
But I didn't quite like the patchwork of his suit. I also thought with Ray's premise, it didn't quite fit the way he was portraying the character.
So I asked if I could try a new design. And they said yes.
Ray told me he's like the rags to move wildly and independently, because the suit is alive. So I had a lot of influences from all those characters — Spawn, Batman, the Darkness, and Soul Reaver, this video game character. I just mixed all them together and this is what I came up with.
Fawkes: Inaki did a spectacular job interpreting what I was going for into a visual. I remember one of the first things I said to Inaki was that I wanted to convey the feeling that he can barely control the suit and the fact that it's alive.
He just does a beautiful job with that.
And I love the way the suit looks. Inaki takes the tatters a little more literally. They become more like bandages than rags, because that way they can just sort of fly all over the place.
It looks amazing on the page. I can't wait until you guys see it.
Nrama: It looks less like a cape and more like a tattered costume that moves. Is that accurate? No cape?
Miranda: Yeah, I didn't want to take a mummy approach. So the rags needed to behave more like, you know, the structures of a muscle, like an exoskeleton, not just wrapped around his body. It was important to me to not make him look like the mummy.
I remember we tried the cape, and I spoke with Ray, and we just decided no, to lose the cape. I like the dynamic of playing with the rags, the way they move.
It's more like a tactical suit, with a military feeling, to me.
Nrama: Ray, what's this character's background. Can you describe him?
Fawkes: This version of Rory is one or two steps removed, as far as decisions he made in his life, from previous versions.
He's still a really great guy. His dad owns this shop of sundries and used items — he really buys them from people to help them out.
And Rory has this instinct where he wants to help people.
In this version of Rory, that instinct led him to joining the military service and trying to do some good that way.
As you'll see in the first issue of the book, things that happened to him during his military service have left him with some serious wounds, emotionally and mentally.
This story is about people like Rory who are wounded, people who are really hurt, and yet still they're selfless. Still they try to help other people.
Everything in the story — the villains that Rory fights, the way the cloak of rags behaves — all of that reflects that about Rory, that he is in pain but trying to still put other people ahead of himself.
Nrama: You mentioned that he's trying to protect people from unseen threats. Are they mostly supernatural adversaries?
Fawkes: Yeah, Rory's mostly in the supernatural side of things. But what I meant by that — the threats are unseen, but this story, since we're talking about the wounds people suffer, the unseen threats that he's facing are things that are like, people who are suffering in silence or people who are suffering alone, and the things that they're vulnerable to because of that.
Rory can actually see physical manifestations of them, because of the cloak. And he can do something about it.
Nrama: Wow. And where does this take place?
Fawkes: It's in Gotham City.
Nrama: So does he interact with the Bat-family?
Fawkes: He does. I don't want to give away what nature that takes, because I don't want to spoil everything for the readers. But yeah, there are Bat-family members in this story, and there are actually a number of other DC characters that will show up in this book and interact with Rory.
Nrama: Inaki, since you're working with the setting of Gotham, how does that lead to the overall tone?
Miranda: With Ray's script, it was so easy for me, because it feels very oppressive, with grief and uneasiness.
I like to imagine Gotham with a lot of neon lights and a little bit of cyber-punk. Gotham lets you play with so many facets of the architecture. You can put an industrial building next to a futuristic one and it looks cool. So I really had a lot of fun with that.
First came Ragman's design, and then came playing with Gotham in my mind. I had fun with it. Gotham gives you so many possibilities — it was cool for me to play with that setting.
Nrama: Then Ray, is there anything else you want to tell potential readers about the series?
Fawkes: I just want to say that we're really thrilled to see this book coming out right now. I think DC's experiencing a wave of putting forward these really interesting, really unusual titles. I feel like the first book in that wave that's really caught fire is Mister Miracle.
We're just really proud that Ragman is part of this wave and really happy that DC gave us a chance to put this out right now.
Miranda: I second that totally.