Friday, September 17, 2010
Fair Trade: The Shield: America's 1st Patriotic Comic Book Hero
Our hero, the first patriotic superhero type, is "G-Man Extraordinary" Joe Higgins, who developed a supersuit thanks to a secret formula his father developed. A full-blooded American. Higgins went to work for the FBI as both an agent and a crimefighter. And he stays busy -- battling foreign saboteurs, spy rings, and multinational terrorists using his strength and wits.
This is not a thick volume, only 96 pages, but it does feature 6 issues worth of Golden Age material in color, so it's pretty well-packed at least. The stories are pretty standard Golden Age fare; at least, given my limited amount of Golden Age exposure. Higgins doesn't kill his enemies most of the time, instead capturing them and telling some onlooker to phone the FBI. (It was the 40s, I guess you could still do that.) The stories themselves are creative, with The Shield using his powers in some bizarre ways, such as when he lights himself on fire and jumps at his foes. I can definitely see how this title was a popular as it was in the months leading up to the war. The character is a solid concept and the idea of a flag-emblazoned hero was still new. Amazingly enough, Pep Comics #3 predicts an attack on Pearl Harbor, not by the Japanese but rather by the evil Count Zongarr, some 18 months before it actually happened.
There's some interesting cameos in here as well. The Wizard, Shield's fellow Archie/MLJ star, pops up a few times, including letting our hero borrow a small jet. The foreword indicates that over the span of a month in 1940, both The Shield and The Wizard did battle with the evil Mosconians (rough Soviet analogues, actually), in something of an early crossover of sorts! We also get a small appearance by The Midshipman, a Navy character who shared the pages of Pep with The Shield, which was novel.
Overall, this was a good read for someone who only got into The Shield from his recent revival over at DC. I would have paid full price for this volume, but getting it on the cheap made it all the better.