Archie Comics has made a lot of news lately by dabbling in real world issues and icons, but for their next foray into monthly print comics, the publisher focuses on a completely fictional one.
And it's one that Archie President Mike Pellerito said echoes movie.
New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes, a series of monthly print comics that kicks off in September, revives the publisher's superhero licensed properties known as the "Red Circle" characters, named after the former imprint under which they were released.
Archie is often equated with "all ages" comics, but Pellerito said these comics are not aimed at kids. Instead, it's got an older feel to it — without being dark or gritty. "We want this to reach the biggest audience possible," Pellerito said. " movie got it right. I went to see the movie twice, and it was successful as it was because it went out to everybody.
" is like that. I wouldn't necessarily put it in front of an reader," he said, "but I wouldn't be horrified if an reader read it, the way I might if they picked up one of those modern Marvel or DC books that kind of scare me, that I don't want to leave out with my kids around the house. Some of the stuff other companies do is great, but the thinking around was perfect. Big, bright, amazing colors, superheroes you want to root for, a couple of jerks, a couple of supervillains, a couple people die along the way, and I think we struck that right balance here with New Crusaders."The release of a monthly print comic is a change in strategy for Archie, who was originally going to just release the stories digitally first, then later in collected form.
"The response to the digital stories has been overwhelmingly positive, but the only complaint was that people said they wanted to read it as a monthly print comic book. And we thought, OK, we can do that," Archie President Mike Pellerito told Newsarama. "There are so many characters and so many good storylines. So now the editorial team, led by [Editor] Paul Kaminski, is coming up with a lot of different ways to play with the characters and universe."
The creative idea behind the new Crusaders series, which is written by Ian Flynn and illustrated by Ben Bates, is that superheroes won their battle against evil, so they moved to a suburb they called the Red Circle. But their enemies found them and eliminated them, leaving their children to pick up their former superhero mantles under the direction of surviving veteran hero, The Shield.
While it does revive the original stories, Pellerito said it does "reboot" anything. "The one thing that bugs me about comic book reboots, and I hate to pick on other companies, but you know, you dedicate so much time, and you read these comic books for a year or five years or 20 years, and all of the sudden, all the time you've invested and all the things you've memorized are now useless," he said. "And that just drives me nuts.
"The cool thing about comic books is it has this tremendous legacy that goes back forever, and all these stories that keep evolving," he said. "We think it makes the characters richer when they still have these histories."
The comics reference the layers of history behind the new stories, but they don't require the reader to know it, Pellerito said. "Everything that's gone on before matters, but you don't have to have memorized it," he said.
While the New Crusaders app has access to many of the old Archie stories about the characters, Pellerito said the new print comics will have editorial content that gives some of that background. The company also hopes to soon release collections of older Red Circle material, particularly if this new comic is successful.
"What's cool about the digital app is that, as each story releases, we release the pieces that are important," he said. "So if you want to read them, they're there for the 99 cents a week that you pay for these stories. Like, if the story features The Shield and The Jaguar, we hand pick stories that make sense and have to do with that relationship. So if you want to understand more, it's there."What you'll see in the prints comics is, one of the neat things about the character The Web is that he understands people's connections," he added. "We're using that as a great story device to figure out connections in history and everything else. And part of the editorial content of the first issue will feature those Web powers and how these strands tie together.
"That will give people a small understanding without it being a 4,000-page graphic novel," he said. "But we also have graphic novels planned collecting the old material. We're going to launch those. But they'll be presented in the same way. Welcome to the clubhouse. You're part of the team. You're part of the Red Circle/New Crusader universe. All these pieces fit together."
As Newsarama readers probably recall — since the comics are barely off the shelves – DC to integrate the Red Circle superhero characters into their own line-up by launching several new ongoings in 2009. That effort arguably failed miserably, since the new line of comics barely lasted a year.
But Archie is hoping this new approach catches on with readers who frequent print comic shops, because the story is building in a way that Pellerito thinks those readers will particularly enjoy.
"I get chills thinking about it," he said. "I know what this is going to lead to, and it's the most fun reading a superhero comic I've had in a very long time. Everything matters. Everything is cool. Everything means something. And the surprises are intense."