One of the first comic books I read as a child was IMPACT!’s new take on the Mighty Crusaders. At that age story wasn’t the most important thing in the world, we just liked seeing the bad guys get beat up! Everyone had their favorite, personally I always wanted to be The Comet, so it was with great enthusiasm that I picked up the first one shots of DC’s new take on The Red Circle almost two years ago. I had a chance to share some of the lingering questions I’ve had with writer Brandon Jerwa. Brandon was responsible for the Inferno and the Fox co-features in The Shield as well as co-writer on The Mighty Crusaders special and the regular series.
In recent years there’s been a resurgence of older comic book characters being revamped and reintroduced to new audiencs, DC Comics reintroduced characters like The Shield, The Web, Inferno and Hangman under the Red Circle banner after Final Crisis. With so much background from Archie Comics and IMPACT to draw from, how did you begin to develop the characters?
I don’t remember much discussion with (fellow writers) Eric Trautmann, Matt Sturges, John Rozum or Angela Robinson about drawing from the previous incarnations of the characters, but none of us were leaning too hard in that direction in terms of overall story planning. I did take a look at the really early comics – none of the Impact stuff, honestly – but it was really more for the sake of embracing that old-school feeling and (hopefully) letting it influence my take on Inferno and the Fox without consciously trying. Man, I hope that made sense.
I think the Mighty Crusaders special (a four-writer jam session with Eric, John, Matt and I) had a really nice bit of old-school superheroics. We did discuss that approach going in, so it was definitely a mutual choice. That tone set the stage for what Eric and I wanted to do with the Mighty Crusaders mini-series that followed. I like to think we pulled it off!
How familiar were you with The Crusader characters before taking on writing duties? Were you a fan already or did you have to familiarize yourself with them more?
I actually learned about the characters via the action figure line from Remco in the mid-80s. They were cool superhero figures that – from an imagination standpoint – were a blank slate for me, so I grabbed them up and started having all kinds of comic book adventures with them. Having the toys helped me recognize the comics when I came across them in quarter bins over the next few years, and then I learned more about the legacy later. So yes, I was familiar, but not in the traditional sense.
A lot of different writers were involved with The Crusaders, J. Michael Staczynski wrote the one shots before yourself and the others took over the regular series. How was planning the storylines for the characters done between so many people?
Well, we didn’t talk to JMS at all. The marching orders were to take his blueprints – basically, those four one-shot stories and the handful of notes that accompanied them – and then run free. There were things that were locked into place that we had to use at some point; one that springs to mind immediately is the (SPOILER) eventual reveal that Inferno was a combat android.
Eric and I were friends and collaborators already (he pushed me forward to DC for the gig, actually) so working together on the storytelling front was a natural choice. We spoke to Angela a couple of times, but she had her own plan from the outset with The Web, so we all just sort of moved ahead with the idea that we could plant some seeds of a large continuity down the line if we had the chance.
John was writing the Hangman co-feature in that book, and he seemed game for some world-building, so we had a few talks with him as well. Once Matt Sturges took over the Web, the serious collaborative effort between the two books started to bear fruit. It was a really exciting process, with that kind of genuinely enthusiastic approach within the group as we tried to make something great. I know our editor Rachel Gluckstern seemed quite pleased to have her writers happily working together. Maybe we should have thrown some diva-level fits just to keep things exciting, but that’s just not our thing.
Having written both the Inferno and The Fox co-features, then working with Eric Trautmann as co-writer on The Mighty Crusaders, is writing for an ensemble cast of characters more challenging or difficult then working with one main character?
I prefer a large cast, but keep in mind that I started in comics by writing G.I. JOE – which has literally hundreds of characters, if you choose to use them. And I did! Eric and I both have solo character writing experience, but he worked on Checkmate, so he definitely understands the team dynamic as well. There’s something to be said for narrowing your focus on a single lead character, though, and I think that Mighty Crusaders really benefited from the groundwork that all the writers had laid with the individual heroes.
Who created War Eagle and what are the chances of seeing more of her in the future?
Y’know, I don’t actually remember. We had a list of characters that were available to us, and I think that I sort of grabbed onto that particular name. The original War Eagles were a WWII fighter ace team, but I thought we should apply it to a single character. I think Eric took the lead on creating her Project Cadmus backstory, though. We toss so many ideas back and forth, it’s hard to remember the genesis of each concept sometimes.
You’ve done a lot of work on characters from other media like GI Joe and Battlestar Galactica. How does it differ writing for a “tie-in” as opposed to characters who’ve only ever been in comics?
I don’t really see any difference. They’re all someone else’s toys, but this time we had a lot more leeway to play with them as we saw fit.
The Shield/Inferno book and The Web/Hangman book were combined after 10 issues each into the Mighty Crusaders. It always seemed planned for this to eventually happen, but was it meant to happen that soon?
There were discussions about the Crusaders from a fairly early point in the process, but I don’t think anyone planned for the solo books to end as quickly as they did. But so it goes in comics, you know.
Eric and I did have to adjust some things on the fly to make our big plan come together. Believe it or not, the Durlan invasion was literally part of our overall concept from the earliest stages of writing The Shield. Things played out far differently than we planned initially, but we brought it together. The willingness of John and Matt to play along was a very key part of that, and I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate them trusting us with the end of an era.
Crossovers and big event books have been happening more and more lately. Do you think they had any part of the Crusaders not catching on in the DCU?
In my opinion, it’s almost impossible to speak to that one way or the other. Sure, a crossover might have helped bring some new readers into our corner, but what if they hadn’t stuck around? We would have eaten up an entire issue (or more) of storytelling real estate that wouldn’t have helped our own story in the long run. You could literally flip a coin on that point, and that’s the difficulty in making those decisions.
With the end of the Mighty Crusaders title, is there a future for these characters in other titles or do you think they’ll be “put on the shelf” by DC?
No double-speak or obscuring of the facts here: I honestly have no clue. Keep in mind, this was a licensed property, and those traditionally come at a cost. The sales figures presumably don’t justify that cost – not to mention the production costs – so there’s not much leeway to argue in favor of continuing. I know that Eric and I would love to work with the characters again under the right circumstances…and personally, this experience has given me the super hero fever. I need to write more capes and cowls!
And finally, Am I the only one who thinks The Web and Booster Gold should be the next big “buddy team”? They could be like Green and Gold, instead of Blue and Gold!
A special thanks to Mr. Brandon Jerwa for being my first interview for the site and I hope we get the chance to talk with him more in the future about his other projects!