([identity profile] wrote in [community profile] scans_daily2009-07-20 09:34 pm

Secrets of THE SHIELD (no, not the cop show)

You do wonder what he would have done if the colors had stained his costume yellow and green, or orange and purple....

The Shield premiered in PEP COMICS# 1, January 1940-- more than a year before Captain America. Actually, Cap's own shield in his first issue was triangular and looked an awful lot like the emblem on the front of Joe Higgins' costume. So much so that MLJ cleared its collective throat and shot a dirty look at Timely, which promptly directed the artists to change Cap's device to a circular disc (better in the long run, both for aesthetic and practical reasons). The Shield was successful enough; he didn't get his own title but he did get a title he shared with the Wizard and he was as close to a flagship character as MLJ had. Until Archie Andrews came along, of course, and staged a coup that drove out all the super-hero strips in short order ("I claim this publishing house in the name of Riverdale!").

The Shield never had art as dynamic or tales as wild as what Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were producing for Captain America. He relied on art by Irv Novick and stories by Harry Shorten which were crude, simple, primitive but also energetic and action-filled. Just what young readers at the time wanted. The character survived in PEP COMICS until # 65, then faded into comics Valhalla with hundreds of other super-heroes in the great postwar shift. He was revived a number of times. In 1965, Archie Comics (formerly MLJ and now using the tag "Mighty Comics" to try to lure Marvel readers). This time, it was Joe Higgins' son Bill wearing the bulletproof costume. Joe himself was brought back in the 1980s for a while, and later still DC purchased the character and reworked him as part of the Impact line. Whether Joe Higgins or not, the Shield might return again. You never know with comics heroes, even the Katzenjammer Kids might get a big-budget movie.

The origin of the Shield was detailed six months after the first strip, in SHIELD-WIZARD# 1. It has some interesting elements. In 1916, Lt Tom Higgins of US Army Intelligence in killed trying to prevent the "Black Tom incident" (a real-life case of enemy sabotage). He leaves his young son Joe a secret chemical formula designed to give a human being supernormal powers (kind of like a "Super-Soldier Formula" you may have heard of). The father's dying words are "anatomy formula S-H-I-E-L-D. Carry on, Joe." The son takes this to heart, and the fact his late father was wrongly implicated in the Black Tom explosion only motivates him further. He gets his PhD in chemistry and (inevitably) figures out what his father meant by "SHIELD."

The Shield costume is bulletproof and fireproof, and his own body now has enchanced strength and resilience. Adding to these powers are that Dr Higgins is a genius himself; he's the hero and the wise mentor in one package. As the Shield, Joe becomes a special agent for the FBI and proceeds to slaughter enemy spies, mad scientists, gangsters and crooks of all descriptions. At some point in the summer of 1942, the formula wears off and he is unable to duplicate it. At least he still has the protective costume, although he takes to wearing a pair of trunks over it (maybe just for convenience in bathroom breaks). He also adopts a young orphan named Dusty to help on cases, AND gets a comic relief assistant named Juju Watson. All he needs is a Shield Cave and Shieldmobile to have it all. And maybe a girl reporter trying to figure out his secret identity (although frankly, leaving a mop of red hair exposed in an open-top cowl suggests he wasn't much concerned with secrecy).

[identity profile] 2009-07-21 04:46 am (UTC)(link)
"Now I must lie perfectly still for 12 hours..." Talk about breathtaking action! Presumably the movie version had to be directed by Andy Warhol.

[identity profile] 2009-07-21 06:35 pm (UTC)(link)
I was thinking Ang Lee...

[identity profile] 2009-07-21 06:26 am (UTC)(link)
...later still DC purchased the character and reworked him as part of the Impact line.

Actually, no, it didn't. It got an exclusive license from Archie Comics, which (as far as I know), still owns most of their Golden Age characters.

[identity profile] 2009-07-21 06:46 am (UTC)(link)
I hope and pray to whatever gods are listening that the Katzenjammer Kids NEVER get a big-budget movie. The Katzenjammer Kids filtered through what some idiot Hollywood screenwriter thinks are modern sensibilities would be the most fiendishly annoying thing EVER; it would make the 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' movie look like 'Citizen Kane'.
Also, how the HELL do you remain perfectly still for twelve hours without the benefit of anesthesia? And am I correct in assuming that these rays don't just give him his powers, they also dye and pattern his unitard, mask, gloves and boots, and turn the skin of his arms and legs bright red? 'Cause that's what it looks like from here.

[identity profile] 2009-07-21 08:30 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm guessing he probably would have rationalized it anyway:

'Ye gods! The rays have dyed my uniform in stars and stripes of blue and... green? But wait! Last year, when I was taking a tour of the White House grounds, I saw a delphinium in just these colors! It's a sign! I shall become... THE PATRIOTIC DELPHINIUM!'

'My word! The rays have dyed me in stars and stripes of brilliant orange and purple! It's a sign! I shall become the... uh... hrrm. Aha! I have it! I shall become... THE AMERICAN SUNSET!'

Never try and stump someone who's REALLY determined to be a superhero. He'll find a way.

[identity profile] 2009-07-21 09:43 am (UTC)(link)
There appears to be a blue beam pointing at his crotch.

So the rays gave him blue balls, as well?