Writer Christos Gage returns to the DC Universe in October, giving the mystical character Ragman a new focus in his own one-shot.
Ragman: Suit of Souls, which features art by Stephen Segovia, will re-tell the origin of Rory Regan — the hero known as Ragman whose powerful cape is filled with the souls of his defeated adversaries.
Marvel fans know Gage well for his work on the new Avengers Academy series and its predecessor, Avengers: The Initiative. But his recent work for DC has been with WildStorm, where he helped orchestrate several universe-wide events, while also writing titles featuring the WildCATS and The Authority.
But DC fans will remember that Gage began his comics career with a well received Deadshot mini-series and stories in Legends of the Dark Knight.
Now he returns to the DCU to flesh out the background of Ragman, a hero that's been little-seen since he was a character in the short-lived Shadowpact series. The comic promises to explore not only the character's background, but also his "strained faith," since he's one of DC's few Jewish comic characters.
DC's reason for the Ragman love may be connected to an image that was revealed by the publisher last week — the cover to Untold Tales of the Black Lanterns — which featured Ragman on it.
Newsarama spoke with Gage to find out why he's writing Ragman, how he's approaching the character's link to the Jewish faith, and what readers can expect from the series.
Newsarama: Is this Ragman story something you convinced DC to let you write? Or is this a character DC approached you about?
Christos Gage: It was actually [editor] Joey Cavalieri, who I worked with on my Deadshot miniseries and four issues of Legends of the Dark Knight, approaching me to write a story that retold Ragman's origin.
Other than that, I was free to put my spin on it, and rather than just retell past events, I decided to use this opportunity to flesh out the character's back-story while also hopefully reconciling some of the contradictions that exist…such as, why does a Jewish character have an Irish name? And if Ragman was created centuries ago, who wore the suit before Rory Regan?
Nrama: What makes Ragman such a unique character in the DCU?
Gage: Well, visually he's unique…and what a wonderful character design! He's also equal parts supernatural and super-hero, rather than one or the other. And, of course, he's one of the DC Universe's most prominent Jewish superheroes, as well as one of the few superheroes in general whose faith is a major part of his heroic identity…as the story in our one-shot will examine.
Nrama: As a fan, what do you find most compelling about Rory Regan as a character?
Gage: All the above, plus I like the fact that he's a blue-collar guy — no mansions or satellites for him; he operates out of a junk shop. And he's kind of a hard-luck everyman. He doesn't have it easy. He struggles. I think he's a very relatable character.
Nrama: Are there any Ragman stories in particular from the past that you are drawing upon? Or that influenced your take on the character?
Gage: The good thing about Ragman is that there isn't a huge amount of old material, so you can read it all. I basically read everything there was up to the point I began writing and did what I always like to do, which is let the past influence me but not shackle me, hopefully presenting the story in such a way that readers brand new to the character will have no trouble following what's going on.
I was trying to combine prior origin stories into a cohesive whole while also adding new elements that, I hope, shed new light on the character and who he is. As a fan, I love the story from the original run where Ragman helps a blind kid and his pet cat, but that didn't really have much bearing on this one-shot.
Nrama: How are you approaching this one-shot as far as style and tone?
Gage: Hopefully it's inward looking without being navel-gazing. I wanted to examine the character's past while adding to it, and also have Rory struggle with his relationship to his father and his heritage, but I didn't want a “poor me” kind of story. I hope this is the sort of tale that readers can enjoy while also finding something in it that may relate to their own lives, or the lives of people close to them.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the story you'll be telling about Ragman in Suit of Souls?
Gage: Ragman is conflicted over the fact that his father, who was the WWII-era Ragman, not only never mentioned that, but never even told him they were Jewish. He changed his name when he immigrated to this country and gave his son, Rory, an Irish sounding name. For Rory, being Jewish is now a huge part of his life and identity, and he is disturbed by evidence he sees that his father may have been ashamed of being Jewish. And his father is long dead, so he can't talk to him about it. He wants answers, and this sends him on a journey of discovery about the past history of Ragman…his own past, his father's, and that of the Ragmen before them. And if you think I couldn't resist throwing in cameo appearances from some of DC's awesome historical characters, you're right!
Nrama: How important is faith to his story? And how was it for you, as a writer, exploring that concept as you wrote the comic?
Gage: Faith is extremely important to his story. Ragman is one of the few mainstream comic book characters whose religion is closely tied to his heroic identity.
For me, it was a little nerve-wracking, because I'm not Jewish. I certainly didn't want to make any stupid or ignorant mistakes. But a lot of what the story deals with is universal: immigrant stories (my father was an immigrant and lost family in the World War II era), questions of history, cultural identity, father/son stories, redemption. So rather than trying to write a “Jewish story,” per se, I tried to write a story about a human being who, by exploring his Jewish heritage, asks questions people of all faiths and backgrounds have asked. Obviously, I didn't downplay the specifically Jewish aspects of the story — for those who know his history, Ragman is closely tied to the tale of the Golem, the persecution of his people, and so forth. But for me, as a non-Jew writing a story about a proud Jewish man exploring his heritage, I tried to find a way into it that enabled me to draw on my experiences rather than speculating about something I have no knowledge of. Hopefully, that will make the story resonate with Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike.
Nrama: What does Stephen Segovia bring to the comic?
Gage: His general awesomeness! Stephen can deliver dynamic superhero storytelling combined with a dark, moody quality that, to me, is the essence of Ragman…part superhero, part horror/supernatural. It's a perfect match!
Nrama: Does this comic tie into images we've seen for Ragman's appearance in Untold Tales of the Black Lantern?
Gage: Not to my knowledge. But there's a lot I don't know.
Nrama: Is there a possibility we'll see more Ragman stories from you?
Gage: Never say never. I like the character a lot. But there are no immediate plans.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Ragman and this one-shot?
Gage: Just that I hope they'll give it a try. Ragman is one of DC's coolest underappreciated characters, and while we all love the Batmans and Green Lanterns of the world, these guys can be pretty awesome too, if you get to know them!