Here’s my latest reward sketch for the 2016 Die Kitty Die Hollywood Or Bust Kickstarter campaign. This time its a character I have a little bit of history with… Archie Comics’ the Shield.
I first discovered the Shield in the early 80’s when Archie Comics was in the midst of an ambitious revitalization of their old MLJ super-heroes under the banner of Red Circle. In those days, I had a hard time regularly following the line which seemed to turn up very inconsistently at my local newsstand but whenever I came across The Shield, The Mighty Crusaders, Blue Ribbon Presents, or any of the other books of the line, I’d scoop them right up. The line lasted only a couple of years, but the characters left a lasting impression on me.
Once I started drawing for Archie Comics in 1994, I eagerly awaited any opportunity to work with any of the cRusaders. In fact, almost right away, I started sneaking the Shield and other Crusaders into the backgrounds of the Archie stories I was working on every chance I got. If Archie was reading a comic book, it was usually a Shield comic book. If Archie was going to a movie, The Shield: The Movie was usually playing at the theater. If there were action figures in the story, they were of the Shield, the Comet, and the rest.
I should mention that very early on, one of the first Crusaders I tried sneaking into an Archie story was the Fly, another old favorite of mine from the MLJ line. I always loved his design. Archie managing editor, Victor Gorelick, a fan of the MLJ characters himself, caught the Fly right away and had me change him to the Shield. At the time, legendary writer, Joe Simon, creator of the Fly as well as Captain America, was going after Marvel Comics over Cap and Archie Comics was afraid he’d go after them if he that that the Fly was being used again. Any of the other Crusaders were okay but the Fly was off limits.
Eventually, I did get a legitimate assignment featuring the Crusaders. While working on the series, Archie’s Weird Mysteries, the third issue of the book was going to feature a team-up between Archie and the Mighty Crusaders. In order to keep the super heroes looking more consistent with the Archie characters, I was asked to draw them in a style similar to the style Bruce Timm developed for Batman: The Animated Series. A big reason for this team-up was Archie’s Weird Mysteries writer, Paul Castiglia, who was a huge fan of the Crusaders as well. Paul packed the issue with as many of the MLJ characters as he could including many secondary characters like Firefly, Inferno, Captain Flag and others. Plus he also included many of their villains. Of course, the Fly was still not allowed so he was noticeably absent.
One of the best things about working on that issue was that I was given access to Archie Comics’ own bound volumes collecting many of their Crusader comics from the 1960’s revitalization. Those bound volumes were great. They reminded me of DC Comics’ Archive Editions. I always wished Archie had put out a nice hardcover collection similar to those bound volumes.
I should mention that Archie’s Weird Mysteries #3, featuring the Crusaders, would also feature the very first cover I ever drew. That cover is the only piece of my own original art I never want to part with. It currently hangs framed in my studio.
I would officially draw the Crusaders two more times. They made a return appearance in Archie’s Weird Mysteries #14 and then I drew them in an Archie Comics Halloween ashcan, where the Archie gang went to see a Crusaders movie and ended up meeting the real heroes themselves. After these two appearances, I went back to sneaking the Shield and his pals into the backgrounds of the regular Archie stories. Occasionally, I would be asked to draw the Shield for commissions and sometimes I would even be asked to draw Archie as the Shield!
Are there any other Crusaders fans out there? What other Crusaders would you like to see me take a shot at? Please let me know in the comments below!