Shield (Archie Comics)
|Publisher||MLJ (Archie Comics)|
|First appearance||Pep Comics #1 (January 1940)|
|Created by||Harry Shorten
|Alter ego||Joe Higgins|
|Team affiliations||Mighty Crusaders|
Wears an indestructible costume
The Shield is the name of several fictional patriotic superheroes created by MLJ (now known as Archie Comics). The Shield has the distinction of being one of the first superheroes with a costume based upon United States patriotic iconography, appearing fourteen months before Captain America.
The name was used by MLJ/Archie for 3 characters. DC Comics' Impact line, which were licensed versions of the Archie characters, also used the name for several characters. In 2010, DC announced plans to integrate the Shield and other MLJ characters into their DC Universe (DCU) line of superhero characters.
The Shield first appeared in MLJ's Pep Comics #1 (cover-dated Jan. 1940). Writer Harry Shorten and artist Irv Novick created the character. With the American populace reacting to the beginnings of World War II and wartime patriotism stirring, the Shield debuted as the first patriotically themed hero. He was soon followed by three other patriotic comic characters: Captain America (December 1940). Minute-Man (Feb. 1941), and Captain Battle (May 1941).
Fictional character biography
The origin of The Shield is in Shield-Wizard Comics #1 (Summer 1940). He is really chemist Joe Higgins, the son of Lieutenant Tom Higgins. Tom was working on a chemical formula for super-strength which the Nazis were after, and is slain by German saboteur Hans Fritz in the Black Tom explosion, for which Tom was blamed. After Tom's death, Joe continues to work on it while continuing his studies of chemistry. Joe finally figures out the solution, which requires applying the chemicals to certain parts of his anatomy (Sacrum, Heart, Innervation, Eyes, Lungs, Derma), and exposing himself to x-rays. This gives him super strength, the ability able to make great leaps, and invulnerability. Joe uses the initials S.H.I.E.L.D. as his secret identity. His white costume becomes the familiar colors under the process. He becomes an FBI agent (whose secret identity is known only to FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover) after clearing his father's name, and fights foreign agents and other threats to the US.
After a partnership with fellow G-Man, Ju-Ju Watson and girlfriend, Betty, he is joined by a kid partner, Dusty Simmons, in Pep #11 in 1941. Dusty's father had been killed by foreign agents, and he is adopted by Joe and given a costume. Both heroes wear their patriotic costumes beneath their street clothes and change for action whenever the need would arise. Dusty also partners with The Wizard's kid partner, Roy, as the "Boy Buddies".
In Pep #20, Joe is called "The One and Only Shield" at the start of the story and "The Original Shield" at the end of the story because of the success of Captain America, another 1940's-era patriotic superhero. In his first appearance, Captain America had a shield similar to the main part of the Shield's costume, but it was changed to a round shield for the second issue over accusations of plagiarism.
The Shield and Dusty were featured in the first crossover storyline in American comic books. The storyline had them team up with the Wizard (the headlining character from Top-Notch Comics) to stop the invasion plot orchestrated by Moskovia (a fictional country made up of elements from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union).
The Shield was one of MLJ's most popular characters, even spawning a club, the "Shield G-Man Club". He starred in Pep, and several other MLJ titles: Shield-Wizard, Top-Notch Comics. But then a new character arrived who would overshadow him: Archie Andrews. He would take the Shield's cover spot on Pep, take his fan club, and cause the end of the MLJ superheroes.
In June 1959, a new Shield was published by Archie that had no connection to the previous version.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had been hired by Archie to create characters for a new "Archie Adventure Series" line of superheroes. They created a new Shield, whose real identity was Lancelot Strong, who appeared in a new title, The Double Life of Private Strong. Most collectors refer to this Shield as "Lancelot Strong" to differentiate him from the previous one.
Lancelot's scientist father developed a method to create a superhuman by expanding the mind, which he used on his infant son. After his father was killed by foreign agents, Lancelot was adopted by a farm couple and raised as their son. Once he hit his teens, he discovered the truth of his background and his powers: strength, flight, near-invulnerability, vision powers, the ability to generate lightning, and a few more. His father had created a patriotic costume for him, and he started off as the new superhero, the Shield. He soon joined the Army, acting like a Gomer Pyle-style country bumpkin, while leading a double life as the Shield (hence the title of his comic). DC cried 'foul', claiming this new Shield was too similar to Superman, so after 2 issues, his comic ended.
In 1999, Joe Simon and the Kirby estate regained ownership of the character by terminating their shares of the copyright. The character is currently available for licensing - something which no one took advantage of as of this writing.
When Archie revamped their superheroes under their "Radio Comics"/"Mighty Comics" line, a new Shield also appeared (since they probably felt they couldn't use the new Lancelot Strong Shield). This one was revealed to be the son of the original Shield.
The new Shield is Bill Higgins, son of the original Shield. He would appear in the new Fly-Man #31, and becomes one of the main founders of the Mighty Crusaders. It would be revealed that his father was turned to stone by the villain, The Eraser, and Bill was carrying on his father's work. Bill's 'powers', which seem to be enhanced strength and limited invulnerability, were derived from his costume. He would appear through the end of the Radio/Mighty Comics run.
When Legend of the Shield was revamped, Lt. Michael Barnes became the new Shield. Although his predecessor was implied to be single, Barnes was a married father with a young daughter. Barnes would continue as the lead character until the series' 1992 cancellation and also appeared as the Shield in the six-issue miniseries The Crucible, which was intended to reinvent the Impact Comics line, but instead served only as a finale, for various reasons, mainly low sales. Michael Barnes would have been the star of the title The American Shield if Impact Comics had continued publishing.
DC Comics revival
The Red Circle Comics characters, aptly named "The Red Circle," were again licensed by DC and rebooted. During the Discord crisis a version of the Shield character was seen helping Green Arrow and Black Canary, performing crowd control. First appearing as a secondary character in The Web, another former MLJ hero, the new Shield is Lieutenant Joseph Higgins, stationed in Afghanistan, from where he tries to contact The Web to find his missing father. On the same day however his crew fall victim to Taliban terrorists, and Higgins is grievously wounded. To save his life, he agrees to be subjected to secret government experiments, after which an advanced, nanotech battle suit is merged to his burned epidermis. The suit appears on his body at will and grants him the same array of powers of the earlier incarnation, including superhuman strength, limited flight and advanced sensory abilities. Due to his severe injuries, the only major drawback is that if ever he tries to remove the war suit permanently, his bodily functions could shut down. Still fighting as the new, patriotic hero, he is again contacted by The Web, accepting his request for help  The Shield also appeared in the 2010 DC Comics mini series The Mighty Crusaders.
In New Crusaders, an older Joe Higgins is the sole survivor of the Brain Emperor's attack on his fellow Crusaders. He gathers their teenage children to form a team dubbed "the New Crusaders".
- "Dan Didio on Bringing the Archie Heroes to the DCU". Newsarama.com. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
- Goulart, Ron (2000). Comic book culture: an illustrated history. Collectors Press, Inc. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-888054-38-5.
- Ask the Archivist - "Didn't you guys used to publish superhero characters?". Retrieved July 1, 2008.
- Green Arrow/Black Canary #19-#23 (2009)
- The Red Circle: The Web (2009)
- The Red Circle: The Shield (2009)
- Mighty Crusaders entry on Shield I
- Toonopedia entry on Shield I
- International Superheroes Catalog entry on Shield I
- Joe Simon's website