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AICN COMICS Q&@: BottleImp steps inside the Red Circle and talks with Ian Flynn and Paul Kaminski about Archie Comics’ NEW CRUSADERS: DARK TOMORROW!!!

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Q’s by BottleImp!

Ian Flynn & Paul Kaminski!!!

BottleImp here. Being a fan of classic comic book storytelling, one of my favorite titles on the stands right now is Archie Comics' NEW CRUSADERS, a series that truly captures the excitement and wonder that came out of the superhero stories from my youth. And by using my Brain Emperor-like powers of mental domination, I was able to rip the secrets of this comic book straight from the minds of series writer Ian Flynn and editorial director Paul Kaminski and reveal them to you lucky readers (actually I used email, but it basically amounts to the same thing). Included in this article are the regular cover and silver age style variant by Phil Jimenez with colors by Steve Downer.  Enjoy!

BOTTLEIMP (IMP): Younger readers probably don’t know it, but Archie Comics was right there with their own superheroes when the so-called Golden Age of comic books began in the 1930s and ‘40s—Archie’s The Shield actually predates Captain America as the first patriotic superhero. How familiar were you with these characters before working on NEW CRUSADERS?

IAN FLYNN (IF): I'd known of them, and they were part of the stacks of comics I had when I was growing up. I actually remember the action figures the most clearly. Once I was brought onto the project, though, I made it a point to know the series inside and out. I've read pretty much the entire library of MLJ characters [note: MLJ was the original name of the Archie Comics publishing company] , so it stops being a question of "when" I knew of them. They are a part of me now. We are one (cue creepy Borg assimilation mantra).

PAUL KAMINSKI (PK): I got started on what remains my favorite incarnation of the heroes to this day - the 80's Red Circle re-launch. Particularly the often-amazing Blue Ribbon series! I loved the approach there, the incorporation of the old continuity with the new storytelling, and its what we've tried to do on NEW CRUSADERS. And if I might be a salesman for a moment, ALL the incarnations of these heroes are available for download right now on the New Crusaders app - the folks at iVerse really to a fantastic job with taking readers on a guided tour throughout the whole history of Red Circle.

IMP: With NEW CRUSADERS you’ve made the decision to make this new series a continuation of the superhero stories published by Archie over the years, from the comics of the ‘40s to the later ‘60s and ‘70s issues put out under the Mighty Comics and Red Circle imprints. Why did you go this way rather than the “reboot” route that might have been the more obvious way to go with these characters?

IF: Because there was no need to. Reading over the series and watching it evolve over the decades was fascinating. Looking at how they told stories and presented the characters in the '40s versus the '60s and '80s was just as entertaining as the material itself. And because the world has been growing and evolving, I felt it only appropriate to continue the process. Fifty years from now, you can look back on this latest run and look at how it continued the evolution of the universe.

That, and there's so much crazy crap from the various periods I don't ever want to pass up. It's fertile ground, it's rich veins to mine, and other harvesting/cultivating metaphors.

PK: We stand on the shoulders of the great stuff that came before us, and are able to build and expand on that stuff in really cool ways. And expand we will - this story has only just begun. There are HUGE plots going on right now, and we'll continue to catch glimpses of those as we pull back the scope more and more. I explain it like this - saying "NEW CRUSADERS is about teen super heroes" is like saying "LOST was a show about a plane crash".

IMP: Being that NEW CRUSADERS is all about the legacy that these young heroes are continuing, the adventures and experiences of the first generation of Crusaders are an integral part of their training—and the readers of this series are more than likely also seeing the original Crusaders for the first time. You’re helping fill in those blanks with the two backup features: reprinted classic Crusaders stories and new material entitled “Lost Crusade.” Can you tell us more about these segments?

IF: The classic material is self-explanatory. We give you the best of what came before to help new readers understand what's going on. It's a little more focused than the whole library that's available on the Red Circle app.

"Lost Crusade" is where it gets really interesting, though. When the series ended back in the '80s, it left a ton of dangling plotlines. Where we pick up with "New Crusaders" is well after those events. There's tons of room to tell new "old" stories and fill in the gaps. We get to scratch the itch of those veteran fans who miss their old favorites while building upon the foundation of the current series. It's having our cake and eating it too.

PK: Absolutely - uniting the continuity is SO fun for comic nerds like us, that we can't NOT tell those stories. And there's a lot of cool creators that also will play a role in those Lost Crusade stories - Ian, Chuck Dixon, Howard Mackie, Sergio Cariello, Scott and David Tipton, Vicente Alcazar, Thomas Mason, Terry Austin, Jim Amash, John Workman - and the list goes on!

IMP: Attempts have been made in the past to reintroduce the Archie superheroes to the comic-reading public, with DC’s Impact imprint in the ‘90s and the same company’s more recent, shorter-lived Red Circle titles. Why do you think those versions of the Crusaders failed to catch onwith readers, and are there any lessons that you’ve learned from those failures that are being applied to NEW CRUSADERS?

IF: I don't think there's any one reason they failed, and I'm not going to pretend I know the whole answer. I really liked a lot of the more recent attempt. But I think one part of it was they rebooted the characters. They had no legacy to them. They were just another group of heroes stapled on to or wedged into the DCU. To the greater universe, they didn't mean anything. For us, though, this is their world, their stories and their legacy. I think that inherently brings some weight to the series.

IMP: In a time when the majority of superhero comics are excessively dark, violent and clearly geared towards adult readers, one of the aspects of NEW CRUSADERS that I find most appealing is that it’s very clearly written for an all-ages crowd, but doesn’t feel dumbed-down for a juvenile audience. In tone and execution the series reminds me of the Spider-Man stories of the 1960s and ‘70s—classic comic book storytelling that combines action, drama and most of all a sense of excitement. Is it difficult to walk that fine line between safe, “kiddie” comics and having the storyline being overwhelmed by the darker aspects of the plot?

IF: It can be at times since we're not aiming to make this a "safe" book, so the line can get a little fuzzy. But I'm also a firm believer that kids don't need to be coddled. They don't need to be traumatized, either, but it's not like they can't handle a bit of grit. Ultimately I'm trying to tell honest stories, and I think everyone can appreciate that. Bad things happen to good people, and the heroic ones pull them and everyone else through it. You don't have to trot out the gratuitous sex and violence to tell that kind of story.

IMP: Another thing I love about this series is that this clearly isn’t an easy journey for these kids—aside from Kelly Brand, the new Fly Girl, none of them actually seem ready or even willing to take up their predecessors’ mantles. It’s a marked difference from most new superheroes who are in costume and fighting bad guys by the end of the first issue. Why did you make the transition from everyday kid to costumed hero more of a struggle here?

IF: Like I said - I'm trying to tell and honest story. If tomorrow some government suit showed at your door and said, "Your parents are dead. They were super heroes.You're getting eye-beams now," your first response wouldn't be "Oh boy! Spandex time!" Additionally, it's the struggle that's the most interesting. You can throw a dart in any comic store and find a book about brightly costumed heroes beating the crap out of some ne'er-do-well. The spectacle is fun, but it's the seasoning. The real meat of it all comes from the characters. And when you can relate to them - such as dealing with loss in the face of disaster - it makes it all the more fun to root for them when they start setting alien invaders on fire.

As for Kelly - she got off light for now, but she's not getting a free pass. You'll see.

IMP: My favorite character thus far (aside from Dusty the talking space ape, because who doesn’t love a talking space ape?) is Ivette Velez, who is destined to become the new Jaguar. She’s such an un-heroic figure right now—just look at issue #3 where she confronts the Jaguar god and is reduced to a near-catatonic state—I can’t wait to see how she’ll finally transform into a costumed hero. Do you have a favorite character in the series, or does it all depend on which character you’re writing at the time?

IF: Straight out of the gate it was Ivette, and for all the reasons you said. But as I started to get into the heads of the other characters, I found a reason to want to focus on all of them. I could take these guys off into their own spin-offs individually without hesitation. The tricky part now is managing who gets to be "my favorite" from page to page.

IMP: I’m a traditionalist myself—I like to feel the weight of the comic and flip the pages as I read—but a lot of readers these days are going digital. NEW CRUSADERS was launched fully prepared for the 21st century by being released digitally before print publication. Tell us more about the challenges and benefits of reading comics digitally, and about Archie’s new Red Circle app.

PK: Digital is a whole new frontier for comics, and it’s exciting to be exploring the possibilities and boundaries of that frontier. As a collector and avid reader of comics, I can often use myself as a gauge for what works and what doesn’t when it comes to readership experience. Digital is great if you want content quickly and effortlessly, which is why I think we’re seeing a lot of mass market-type readership flocking to it. But a huge part of comics is that collector mentality - it’s such a passion for so many, including myself, that I think the print comic is equally as important. With NEW CRUSADERS we’re trying to serve both those audiences, saying we value both, and I think “day-and-date” digital accomplishes that. Digital readership get’s the book at the same time as the comic shops, so both audiences are on equal footing. It’s funny, we often talk about how the NEW CRUSADERS series is about living up to your legacy and at the same time blazing an all-new trail on your own terms. Our heroes in the book do this, but the series itself kinda does it too.

IMP: Last question: what do readers of NEW CRUSADERS have to look forward to in 2013?

PK: Red Circle Comics is proud to announce that NEW CRUSADERS will be back in an all-new 6-issue series debuting May 1st at a comic store near you! NEW CRUSADERS: DARK TOMORROW picks up exactly where “RISE OF THE HEROES” left off, with the kids still reeling from the traumatic prison riot that left one of their own (spoiler alert) dead! This new series will introduce some new characters to the team, and some familiar faces to the Red Circle universe will be back as well. I don’t want to spoiler WHO that will be, but I can give you a subtle clue. Subtle like a FOX! Dark Tomorrow will take our kids back to normal high school, where they begin to juggle their super hero identities with the normal trials of high school life. We will also finally learn the answers to the burning questions surrounding the disappearance of Mr. Justice, and just what the deal is with this “blue ribbon” everyone keeps talking about! The 6-issue limited series format will allow us to pace out the long-form story just as Ian has crafted it over time, and that story is INTENSE. If you thought “Rise” was cool – you ain’t seen nothing yet!

IMP: Thanks to Ian and Paul for their time, and if you haven't yet seen the sheer awesomeness that is NEW CRUSADERS, now is the time to get on board for one of the most fun comics on the stands.

When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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