Monday, July 03, 2017

Number 2070: The original patriotic hero

Pep Comics lays claim to the original dressed-like-a-flag costumed hero, the Shield. He was prewar, but the first in a line of guys who wore their patriotism as American heroes.

According to the caption in the splash panel, only one person knows that Joe Higgins is the Shield, and that is the head of the FBI himself, J. Edgar Hoover! The Shield is a G-Man, who works for the FBI. They must’ve had a superhero division in the FBI at one time. Plastic Man worked for them, too.

I showed the origin of the Shield back in 2009, and you can see it by clicking on the link below.

From Pep Comics #3 (1940). Art by Irv Novick.

An origin of the Shield was featured in Shield-Wizard Comics. Just click on the thumbnail.


Ryan Anthony said...

The line "with America's dream of peace close to shattering" brings up a question: Before Pearl Harbor, was it a foregone conclusion that the US would get involved in the war? We'd remained out of it since it began in '39, so why couldn't we just hold the status quo until it was over, which could've been at any moment?

Count Zongarr's willingness to tell the Shield how he does everything reminded me that I was recently thinking about this habit of the villain to reveal his plans to the hero because he's going to die, anyway. But, seriously, if I were the baddie, I wouldn't waste my time and breath explaining all that stuff to a guy who won't benefit by it at all. It's a ridiculous storytelling cliche that has deserved every joking jab or parody it's ever endured.

I don't know if there's a definitive volume of the Shield's golden-age exploits, but this particular strip was included in a TPB of stories that I own and quite enjoyed reading. It's not great literature or even great comics, but it's diverting enough.

Daniel [] said...

I confess that I rather like the way in which the Shield defeated the villain at the conclusion of this story. (Though, truth be told, the broadcast equipment would have been unlikely to transmit the vibrations with sufficient fidelity to trigger such a result.)

I also quite like the artwork by Novick, though I have repeatedly told James Gill that he is going to H_ll for failing to hate some of Novick's later work.

I don't much care for how the superpowers are used in the story-telling — they seem no more than fantasies designed to appeal to the ineffectual.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I see Irv Novick's work in a different light than I did in the early '70s, when he and Neal Adams rotated as pencil artists on Batman. Back in those days I missed some good stories by refusing to read the ones drawn by Novick. I wouldn't make that mistake now.

Pappy said...

Ryan, I believe it would have been impossible for us to stay out of World War II. We had reached the point in our history where we could not stand back and watch. Of course, Japan attacking Pearl Harbor was the perfect reason to declare war.

Having the villain explain his motivations seems like a remnant of the Victorian era, where the sneering bad guy twists his mustache and tells the hero and the beautiful maiden why he has them tied to a log about to go through the saw. It was good to explain that to an unsophisticated audience who couldn't figure out the motivation for themselves (greed, lust, etc.)

But wait! Nowadays we have people who release their motivations on social media, so maybe we're not so far ahead of the Victorians as I had hoped.