AMERICA’S 1ST PATRIOTIC HERO
By Irving Norvick, Harry Shorten & various (Archie Comics)
In the dawning days of the comic book business, just after Superman and Batman had ushered in a new genre of storytelling, many publishers jumped onto the bandwagon and made their own bids for cash and glory. Many thrived and many more didn’t, remembered only as trivia by sad blokes like me. Some few made it to an amorphous middle-ground: Not forgotten, but certainly not household names either…
The Shield was an FBI scientist named Joe Higgins who wore a suit which gave him enhanced strength, speed and durability, which he used to battle America’s enemies in the days before the USA entered World War II. Latterly he also devised a Shield Formula that increased his powers. Beginning with the first issue of Pep Comics (January 1940) he battled spies, saboteurs, subversive organisations and every threat to American security and well-being, and was a minor sensation. He is credited with being the industry’s very first Patriotic Hero, predating Marvel’s iconic Captain America in the “wearing the Flag” field.
Collected here in this Golden-Age fan-boy’s dream are the lead stories from Pep Comics #1-5 and the three adventures from the spin-off Shield-Wizard Comics #1 (Summer 1940). Raw, primitive and a little juvenile perhaps, but these are still unadorned, glorious romps from the industry’s exuberant, uncomplicated dawning days: Plain-and-simple fun-packed thrills from the gravely under-appreciated Irving Novick, Harry Shorten and others whose names are now lost to history.
Despite not being to everyone’s taste these guilty pleasures are worth a look for any dyed-in-the-woollen-tights super-hero freak and a rapturous tribute to a less complicated time.
© 1940, 2002 Archie Publications In. All Rights Reserved.