The Shield

 

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┬áthat 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. ┬áPaul 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!

 

Thanks, Everybody!

 

 

 

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8 comments on “The Shield”

    • fernando

      I love the Fly and Fly-Girl.

      One of the earliest cameos I ever inserted into my work was the Fly. I forget in what context I did it, but I was told to change him into the Shield. At the time, Joe Simon, creator of the Fly, was making noise about going after Marvel over the rights to Captain America and Archie was skittish that he might set his sights on them if they did anything with the Fly. As a result, the Fly was put on ice for a while and this is why you didn’t see him in those Mighty Crusader appearances in the pages of Archie’s Weird Mysteries. I don’t know how long the moratorium on the Fly lasted but I opted not to use him again as a cameo until I heard differently… which I never did. I guess though Archie did at some point did feel safe enough to use the character again.

  1. Dennis Roy

    Or how about a nice, moody Hangman illustration? I always felt he was relatively darker than the other heroes, with that hangman’s noose. Somewhere between Batman and the Punisher? I can’t recall if any of the Golden Age stories ever showed him dispensing a lethal style of justice, but the Comet, with his disintegration-vision, definitely did on occasion, and the Hangman was avenging his dead brother. You should check out some of those old Golden Age MLJ public domain stories, which have a darkish feel for the 1940s. The 1960s stories turned the rope into a magic lariat that could do weird stuff, almost like Wonder Woman’s Silver Age lasso. Hangman seems like the one who would be more of a loner, and not join a team of superheroes.

    I have lots of definite ideas (tone and characterization-wise) about the various MLJ heroes: Black Hood, Steel Sterling, the Web.

    • fernando

      I definitely need to read more of those, Dennis. Did the Hangman ever learn that his brother wasn’t dead and that he was the Comet? Did they ever interact again after becoming super-heroes? I remember one of the 1960’s issue of The Mighty Crusaders which brought back a bunch of the MLJ characters. It may have been #5 or 6. The cover blurb read something like “Too Many Heroes.” I can’t recall however if the Hangman was included in that one or not.

      Incidentally, the Hangman was a favorite of Archie Comics editor-in-chief, Victor Gorelick, and according to Victor he used the Hangman as his handle during the CB radio craze of the 1970’s.

  2. Dennis Roy

    The Hangman and The Wizard were both VILLAINS when re-introduced in the 60s. “Too Many Heroes” brought back Dusty and Roy, kid sidekicks of the Shield and the Wizard, and I think resulted in both villainous versions of the former heroes renouncing their evil ways.

    • fernando

      That’s right! I’d forgotten about the Hangman going bad. Years ago, I was told that making the Wizard turn “evil” was a decision that was wildly unpopular with hardcore Mighty Crusaders fans. I never found out if this was really the case or not.

  3. Dennis Roy

    I’m not sure what Jerry Siegel (or Vic, the editor) was thinking there. Maybe a “Hangman” seemed to gruesome for a CCA-approved hero? Anyway, in those stories the Hangman was a bad guy, who mentally willed his magic rope to do whatever he wanted it to.

  4. Dennis Roy

    The Wizard had an aged, decrepit appearance and could perform real sorcery (unlike the Golden Age hero, who was merely a ‘mental wizard’). The early appearances of both characters made no reference to their former careers as heroes, and this was only acknowledged (due no doubt to older readers’ questioning letters) in “Too Many Heroes”.

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