The Shield drops in on the bad guys. Artist: Irv Novick.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: MLJ/Archie Comics
First Appeared: 1939
Creators: Harry Shorten (writer/editor) and Irv Novick (artist)
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When we think of superheroes with an American flag motif, Captain America is usually the first one that comes to mind. But Cap …

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… was a relative latecomer to that sub-genre of costumed do-gooders. With a January, 1940 cover date, The Shield's first appearance beat Cap into print by no less than 14 months.

MLJ's Pep Comics #1, where the character first appeared, told the story of Joe Higgins, the son of scientist Tom Higgins, whose research had included a quest for a chemical to give super powers to ordinary humans. With success within his grasp, the elder Higgins was killed by foreign agents. The son used the process on himself, then made a skin-tight outfit based on the American flag. As The Shield, he then offered his services to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — thus acquiring his nickname, "G-Man Extraordinary".

The Shield was a success right from the start — successful enough to almost get a comic of his own. Shield-Wizard Comics, the first issue of which had a summer, 1940 cover date, teamed him up with the so-called "Man with a Super Brain", who starred in MLJ's Top-Notch Comics. (The two had first met in the May, 1940 issue of Pep, which, tho a mere cameo, happens to be comics' first superhero crossover.) Shield-Wizard Comics lasted 13 issues, the last of which had a Spring, 1944 cover date.

In Pep #11, The Shield took a cue from Batman and began sharing his adventures with a kid sidekick, Dusty the Boy Detective. Later, Dusty started hanging around with The Wizard's sidekick, Roy the Super-Boy, as Boy Buddles. But six months after hooking up with Dusty, The Shield started sharing the cover, as well — The Hangman debuted in the 17th issue, and from then on, The Shield was no longer the only Pep Comics cover feature.

It was on the 36th issue (February, 1943) that The Shield and The Hangman first shared the cover with Archie Andrews, the "typical American teenager" who had debuted in #22. Before long, Archie was the main cover feature, with The Shield appearing in the background, if at all. The last vestige of a Shield cover appeared on issue #51 (August, 1944), which showed Archie wearing a football uniform that looked a lot like The Shield's costume. A few months later, the name of the company itself was changed to Archie Comics, and the superheroes were no longer even mentioned on the Pep Comics cover.

The Shield continued in the back pages until #65 (December, 1945). In #66, Nevada Jones, by Bill Woggon (creator of Katy Keene), replaced him.

In the late 1950s, DC Comics was having some success with new versions of such 1940s stars as The Flash and Green Lantern, and the Archie company tried to do the same. Their updated Shield character lasted only two issues. In the mid-1960s, they brought back the old version, in the person of Joe Higgins's son, as a member of The Mighty Crusaders. This Shield's first appearance was in Fly Man #32 (July, 1965). According to the newly-minted back-story, the original Shield had been turned to stone by a villain named The Eraser — but, as so often happens in comics, he later got better.

In the early 1990s, DC licensed the Archie superheroes, and did a completely different version of The Shield for its "!mpact Comics" imprint. This version lasted 16 issues, and has not been seen since.

Nowadays, all versions of The Shield except DC's are seen from time to time, whenever Archie Comics trots out its old superheroes — which isn't very often, but they do turn up in cameos and on Web sites from time to time.

Other than having published a book reprinting a few of his early adventures in 2002, the company doesn't seem all that much interested in exploiting the first of the flag-draped superheroes. But it does keep him at least marginally in the public eye.


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