by Bradley Cobb

It was 1991. Memories of the Red Circle era were still floating around in some comic fans’ minds. Some of the more astute fans were still wondering where the Spectrum Comics line went. It was a time when X-Men and Spider-Man got “BRAND NEW TITLES” which sold WAY more than they should have (and is McFarlane’s art really THAT good?).

Mike Gold, along with Brian Augustyn and Paul Kupperberg, were coming up with some plans. Mike Gold, for quite some time, has been a champion of bringing in younger readers to comic books. The big three really haven’t paid all that much attention to the idea (Batman Adventures being a notable exception from DC), but in 1991, DC Comics gave it a shot.

The premise was simple: find some old characters that have some name recognition, and update them. And while not “dumbing them down” make them easily accessible to the 8-12-year-old age group.

How well it worked can be debated forever (and seeing that Impact folded after two years, the naysayers may have a point), but it brought this reader into comic books, and into the world of cool super-heroes.

After deciding not to go with the THUNDER Agents (there were legal issues still surrounding the characters at the time), it was decided that the Mighty Crusaders would be good candidates. So, Archie Comics was approached, and the rest is history.

Artists were brought in, as well as writers (and some doubled as both), and the first Impact Comics Conference was held. Pretty much, all the creators involved spent a weekend together getting ideas, and pitching them. It was from this conference that most of the stuff that appeared was created.

The first books to hit the stands were Legend of the Shield and the Comet. The following month, The Fly hit the stands, then the Web and the Jaguar.

As the summer went by, a new character emerged in the books. The Black Hood was a Punisher-type vigilante who shot first and asked questions later. He was going around the country recruiting the various super-heroes to join together as a team called “the Superiors.”

In the Winter of 1991, Impact Comics put out what could be considered it’s “annual” for the year. The Impact Winter Special was a spotlight of each of the books in the Impact line–it featured short stories featuring each of the characters done by their respective creative teams–and was tied together with bookend stories by Mark Waid and Carmine Infantino. This could be considered the first appearance of the Crusaders in Impact.

The Black Hood finally got his own series shortly thereafter, only to be killed off in issue #1. Mark Wheatley, writer of the title, said: “surprised you, didn’t it?” From that issue on, the Black Hood was Nate Cray, a teenager who “happened” upon the hood (except for a few issues where Hit Coffee was the hood, but that’s another topic).

After 3/4 of a year into the line, the first big crossover event happened. The Coming of the Crusaders spread into each of the 6 books that Impact had on the shelves. This crossover also introduced Fireball, a hero who would be a core member of the team. The story was this: a villain from the days of the American Crusaders (the super-hero team from the 60’s…according to Impact Comics history) has escaped, and is trying to conquer the world, starting with New York City. It takes the combined efforts of all the heroes, working together, to defeat this menace. Sound familiar? After the 7-part crossover ended, it was continued in The Crusaders 1-3. So, truth be told, it was a ten-part storyline. At the end of the story, a guy from the Web tries to convince them to join together as a team. Most of them agree, except the Comet who is having problems of his own.

About this time, we’ve learned that the Comet is an alien trapped in a human body, the Shield has quit and is replaced by a new one, the Fly is accused of having an improper relationship with his own alter-ego, The Black Hood (Nate Cray) quit the super-hero business only to get it thrown back at him a few issues later, the Jaguar’s secret identity has been discovered by her friend/enemy/roommate, and the Web is well, dysfunctional as ever. Oh, did I mention that the Crusaders almost broke up?

Also around this time, the Impact people were made aware of the problem. Sales were low. The line was going to be retooled. The original idea for this retooling was to send the Crusaders into space and cancel all the individual titles, and just have the Crusaders continue through this space-faring period. When they finally get back to earth, then a few titles would be restarted. But, this idea was scrapped for a new one.

Crucible was the new answer. The Crusaders would still be sent to space, but instead of following their adventures, the focus would stay on earth, where people are trying to cope with the disappearance of the Crusaders (much like the American Crusaders “mysterious disappearance” years earlier).

So, the edict was handed down for the writers to wrap up the stories, and as best as they could, get it to point towards the Crucible. Mind you, the some of the titles still ran another 5 or 6 issues after they knew it was doomed. So, the Shield who quit came back while the replacement “died”; the Comet “died” after finding that all he held dear was a lie; the Jaguar’s dad was kidnapped, and she was going to Brazil to investigate; the Black Hood’s history was revealed, and the Fly kept being his fun self.

In the last issue of the Crusaders, the team thought they were headed home through the transporters, but instead were sent to some alien land. Thus ended the Impact universe for 90 days. Then came Crucible.

Crucible was supposed to have been drawn by Joe (Daredevil, X-Factor) Quesada, but due to his heavy scheduling, he only did layouts–and only for the first four issues at that. So, in comes Chuck Wojtkiewicz who’d already been the artist on the Jaguar and the Crusaders, to do the book. Back before he was so popular, Mark Waid’s name appeared in the writer’s spot on this series, along with Brian Augustyn.

The series followed the Black Hood–who never really joined the Crusaders, to begin with, so he didn’t suffer their fate–, the Shield–the new one who was actually the replacement one who died…but didn’t, I guess–, and the Comet–who also apparently didn’t die either. The Hood brought the Comet out of hiding (he was tricked into it by the bad guys), the Comet went nuts trying to kill himself, and the Shield had to help stop it from happening at a nuclear plant.

The idea for Crucible was to set the stage for Impact Comics: Phase Two. The final issue was supposed to lead to the three new series that were planned. After sales of the 6-issue mini-series failed to impress, the line was canceled. Because of this, the final issue of the Crucible series was re-written to provide some closure to the line. The Crusaders were brought back at the VERY end of the book, the Comet officially died, and the Black Hood officially quit. Crucible #6 carried the subtitle “The Final Impact.”

DC Comics’ lease on the characters expired, and Archie took control of them once more.

Even though it caught a lot of slack for various things (such as “it’s written for kids!” or “they ruined the characters!”), Impact had a lot of high points and good things going for it. Before they hit it big, Impact was the home of creators such as Mark Waid, Tom Lyle, Rick Burchett, Peter Snejbjerg, as well as many others. Many people insisted on comparing these characters to their predecessors when the names were the only real similarity. If taken on their own, the books were very good stuff. Even when compared, the Impact stuff holds up better than the 60’s versions of the characters.

No matter what the opinion held on Impact Comics (aka the Mighty “!”), the fact remains that it kept fans hopes up for the possible return of the Mighty Crusaders to the comics racks.


Impact Comics Character Stats

BLACK HOOD
Wayne Simondson

F- GD (10)
A- EX (20)
S- GD (10)
E- GD (10)
R- GD (10)
I- EX (20)
P- RM (30)
H- 50
K- 60
R- PR
P- 0

Equipment: Black Hood
raises Reason to EX
raises Psyche to IN
raises Endurance to RM

Limitations: The Hood heightens these abilities only in that it allows the Black Hood to think more clearly and quickly and to know instinctively how to make the best use of his abilities.

BSA Double-Edged Throwing Knife
EX Electronic Eavesdropping Equipment
First-Aid Kit
German Heckler
Glass Cutter
Grappling Hook and Line
Koch VP070 Automatic Pistol
Soviet AK-47 Kalashnikov Assault Rifle

Talents: Repair/Tinkering, Knives, Guns, Military, Execution/Torture.

Background:
Real name: Wayne Sidmondson
Marital Status: Married
Known Relatives: Darcy (wife), Len and Kris (kids)
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Formerly St. George (Miss.), now Mobile
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 223 lbs
Eyes: Green Hair: Reddish brown
Motivation: Seeking Justice
Occupation: former restaurant owner, vigilante

History: Wayne Sidmondson is a good man with a strong moral sense and an energic entrepreneur. He owned the first McBonnie franchise in his hometown of St. George and made it a quite profitable business. However, he had a serious problem with random crime around his business and was held up about once a year. Worse, the criminals he had problems with tended to be in and out of the judicial system in record time. With time, Sidmondson started to crack. He became obsessed by crime and punishment and started to collect weapons and instruments of torture and execution like other men collect hunting equipment.

This mania led him to purchase an antique: an authentic executioner’s hood from the Middle Ages. This piece of clothing had quite an interesting history: it had actually been cursed by a sorcerer before he was decapitated. The curse was that “whosoever wears the hood, be they compelled: do only good !”. The curse was quite effective; the hood was passed from one man to another during the centuries, worn as a cloak, a coat or a mask and becoming old and frayed – and invariably forcing its owner to do what he believed best. Given his obsession, it was only natural that it would turn Sidmondson into a violent vigilante.

Personality: Sidmondson is single-minded, tenacious, resourceful and so completely consumed by the idea of exacting justice as the Black Hood he has thrown his entire personal life into ruin. By now, he has exhausted his savings, taxed his credit limit and left his wife and children far behind in order to follow a trail of crime across America. Travel ling from city to city and from fight to fight, he was obsessed to the point of psychosis while gripped by the power of the hood.


THE COMET
F- EX (20)
A- EX (20)
S- RM (30)
E- RM (30)
R- EX (20)
I- TY (6)
P- EX (20)
H- 100
K- 46
R- GD
P- 0

Powers: Energy Blast AM
Flight AM

Talents: Scientist, Vehicles.

Drawbacks: Minor Rage: when he is faced with a frustrating situation he cannot control, Comet becomes violently angry.

Motivation: Responsibility for Power

Background: The second title to appear on the stands was The Comet. Written and drawn by former Starman penciler Tom Lyle, this titles featured the most powerful character in the Impact universe. Before he got really famous, Mark Waid was the script person on this title (and sometimes co-plotter), and he later went on to write the series outright.

Rob Conners was your average college student, into whatever issues of the day hit him, and in love…Average except for the fact that he could fly, melt things with heat blasts from his hands, blind people temporarily with his own radiance.

Throughout the early part of the series, Rob got to defeat villains (like the stalker, AppleJack), beat petty thieves (the Tech Wizards), and meet seemingly new superheroes (The Hangman). Then, after Tom Lyle departed the strip, the focus became more on figuring out where The Comet came from.

Once again, early on, Rob Conners had the origin part all figured out. He was with his parents at a lab in Alaska, when the radio tower he was climbing (it was broke at the time) fell and emitted some radioactive-ish stuff about him. His parents were missing, and he was searching for them. Well, he started having visions of stuff he had apparently forgotten. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In issue #11, Rob Conners is killed…or is he? The Comet comes face to face with his own alter-ego, but this alter-ego is speaking some weird language. The villain, Inferno, ends up destroying Rob’s house, along with this other Rob. From that point, The Comet is wanted for the murder of Rob Conners (strange, eh?).

Anyway, Mark Waid and company take us on a wild adventure which finally reveals that Rob Conners and his family were abducted by aliens, and the aliens then took their place on earth. During a storm of some sort, The connection between Rob Conners brain and the alien’s was fried, and the alien (in Rob’s form) actually had Rob’s consciousness.

Needless to say, things got complicated when Rob found out this. He decided to go public and reveal that he was indeed Rob Conners. The only problem was that when he removed the mask, everyone saw him as the alien he was.

And we also got to find out that the aliens were working with Rob’s girlfriend, Victoria. She died. And in order to disable a nuclear-type bomb, Rob took it and flew into the stratosphere, and apparently died. At least, that’s the story.

He came back in The Crucible mini-series, and was even supposed to have his own series once again after Crucible was finished, but instead, Impact was canceled for good.


THE FLY
Jason Troy

F- GD (10)
A- RM (30)
S- EX (20)
E- IN (40)
R- GD (10)
I- EX (20)
P- GD (10)
H- 100
K- 40
R- PR
P- 0

Powers: Wall Crawling RM
Flight EX
Sonic Generation EX
Circular Vision

Limitations: Circular Vision is limited to 270 degrees – The Fly can’t see directly behind his head.

Sonic Beam is actually the buzzing of The Fly’s wings which can shatter glass or burst eardrums. This attack can only be used when using the Flight power.

Equipment: Fly Amulet
EX material

Talents: Acrobatics, Skateboard.

*Motivation: Thrill of Adventure
*Occupation: high school student

Background: Jason Troy was your average teenager. He was into video games, girls, sports, and daydreamed a lot. He also didn’t pay attention very much in school. It was one day in high school that Jason Troy was faced with an assignment to create a modern-day hero. He started with a humble beginning (what’s more humble than a housefly?), and created the Flyster!

Well, the Flyster was turned in to the teacher, who gave Jason a magical amulet, with a Fly encased in amber. Later, Jason was walking downtown, and the local mall had caught fire (due to the pyromaniac, Burnout). Jason held the amulet and wished to himself that he could become the Fly. And he did.

Len Strazewski, along with Mike Parobeck, set the fun tone on this series with their combination of animated-style art and storytelling. Parobeck also was the only regular series artist to also draw the Annual issue.

The series was the third to debut, after Legend of the Shield and Comet, and with the exception of the Comet, the Fly was the longest series (17 issues) in the Impact Comics line.

Throughout his recorded adventures, the Fly had fun. He got to travel with his grandpa, Jason Troy Sr.–a former Web agent–to places such as Las Arena, where he met the hero BlackJack. He got to team up with the Comet, and also met his biggest fan, a southerner known as Fireball. This storyline was the beginning of the “Coming of the Crusaders” story, which led to the seventh Impact title, The Crusaders.

Jason also had some personal problems. In trying to juggle his home life with the super-heroics, he failed. Suspicions arose about his exact relationship with the Fly. When he was missing for a few days (as told in the “Coming of the Crusaders” storyline, as well as Crusader 1-3), people suspected the Fly was having an “improper” relationship with young Jason Troy.

Things seemed to get better after Jason denied those charges against Crownes Point’s own super-hero. But not for long. The events told in The Crusaders #8, which tied into The Fly #17 showed the Fly, as well as Jason Troy, vanishing from the face of the earth.

The Fly was not seen again until the last issue of Crucible, in which the Crusaders were returned to earth from their interstellar travels. He was not involved in the story much, but he did end up marrying the Jaguar (Crucible 6), with whom he started a relationship with Crusaders #8.

And they lived happily ever after.


JAGUAR
Maria Concepcion de Guzman

F- EX (20)
A- AM (50)
S- MN (75)
E- AM (50)
R- EX (20)
I- RM (30)
P- EX (20)
H- 195
K- 70
R- RM
P- 0

Powers: Claws RM
Danger Sense PR
Hyper-Leaping UN
Hyper-Running EX
Thermal Vision IN
Tracking RM
Hyper-Olfactory RM
Hyper-Hearing RM
Stealth RM

Talents: Acrobatics, Military, Brazilian Rain Forest, Mathematics, Tracking, Stealth.

Motivation: Responsibility for Power
Occupation: college student

Background:
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Timon de Guzman (father), Julia Timmerman de Guzman (mother, deceased), Fredo, Ric, Pedro (brothers), Luiza Timmerman (aunt, deceased), Jacob (great-great-granduncle).
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Elm Harbor, Michigan
Height: (as the Jaguar) 7′ Weight: (as the Jaguar) 300lbs
Eyes: (as the Jaguar) Green Hair: Black

History: During her youth, Maria lived with her aunt Luiza, who secretly was a Brazilian jungle warrior and protector of the land. At one point, Luiza took Maria with her and performed a ritual to channel certain mystical powers that passed down intermittently through the family line. However, seeing Luiza turn into a werejaguar, Maria panicked and fled. She was found by her father who, believing that Luiza was badly caring for her, took her home. Maria has since studied maths and science, in order to avoid the merest hint of magic and mysticism.

Meanwhile, Luiza was becoming more and more predatory and killed many government men in order to protect the rainforest; the Brazilian army finally caught up with her and killed her, but young Maria, who had been sent to study in the US the day before, inherited her powers. She also received a costume as a last gift from Luiza and discovered she could at will become the superpowerful Jaguar, a fierce, feral avenger of evil.

Personality: Maria Concepcion de Guzman is a shy and insecure young Brazilian girl who has been given by her father the responsibility of someday inheriting and controlling the considerable de Guzman fortune. Consequently, despite her protests, she has been sent to study business and mathematics at Elm Harbor University in America, where the poor girl is a stranger in a strange land.

The cool Maria finds herself excited by the fire that the Jaguar lights in her soul and is enticed by the animalism her new alter ego [what is it with all that women/cat sexual symbolism ?] ; nevertheless, she has yet to find a satisfying balance between time spent as The Jaguar and time spent pursuing her academic studies. Since becoming the Jaguar is very tiring, she must learn not to let her super-heroics affect her study habits.


THE SHIELD
Joseph Mitchell Higgins

F- EX (20)
A- EX (20)
S- GD (10)
E- EX (20)
R-EX (20)
I- RM (30)
P- RM (30)
H- 70
K- 80
R- GD
P- 0

Equipment: Shield Armor
raises Strength to RM
raises Endurance to AM
raises Health to 120
Energy Blast IN (electrical – from wristbands and boot cuffs)
Body Resistance AM
Force Field MN
Radio Communication RM
Thermal Vision RM
Telescopic Vision RM

Limitations: Force Field closely surrounds the body and can only be employed once every 2 hours for a duration of 10 minutes. Radio Communications is located in his helmet and must be accessed by contacting the visor or the star on his chest with a sensor in the left glove forefinger. Thermal and Telescopic Vision must be accessed by contacting the visor with the sensor in the left forefinger.

The Shield armor is based on a predominantly red, highly patriotic theme. In the !MPACT! “universe”, it was used by Joe Higgins, a sergeant who went AWOL due to a conspiracy inside the military and became and wandering righter of wrongs.

Talents: Military, Guns, Martial Arts B, Leadership.

*Motivation: Seeking Justice
*Occupation: U.S. Army Sergeant (A.W.O.L.)

Background: This title was the first–along with the Comet–to appear on the stands. It featured Joe Higgins, a career army man who was hand-picked to participate in the Shield experiment. The Shield project was based on a suit of armor that makes the wearer practically indestructible if he knows how to use it.

Joe was sent on an assignment, during which his best friend was killed. He later discovered that his dad was behind it, as well as being behind Joe’s court-martial. In trying to clear his name, Joe went AWOL with the Shield Armor. In his travels, searching for truth, and fighting for freedom, Joe met many a hero. He crossed paths with the Black Hood, the Fly, the Web, and even Dusty, the Boy Detective (albeit Dusty had aged quite a bit).

The title “Legend of the Shield” implied that Joe is only the latest in a succession of people using the name the Shield. The original Shield was named Roger Deleihs and happened to be Joe’s uncle. He created the original Shield armor, and after retiring, turned it over to the government (minus one important component, as is revealed in L.O.T.S. 11-12). He later returned to help Joe clear his name, and even went so far as to begin training him as well.

There were other people who used the name “The Shield” as well. A man who called himself S.K. (Shield Kid) had his place in the Legend of the Shield (he appeared in one of the Impact Annuals).

There was also a man named Stephen Michael Barnes who took over as the Shield for a short period before “dying” in a helicopter accident (L.O.T.S. 13-15). He was later shown to be severely disfigured and had to walk with arm braces. But, after the mysterious disappearance of the Crusaders, and the advent of some amazing new technology, he was brought back as the American Shield (see the Crucible mini-series).

Joe Higgins and the rest of the Crusaders returned from their mysterious banishment (Crucible 6), and with that, the Legend of the Shield came to a close…or did it?

Originally, the plan was not to have the Impact Universe cease. Originally, the plan was to make the whole line a success, but when it appeared that Impact was dying, certain steps were taken. Crucible was the way of “jump-starting” the Impact Universe. Unfortunately, in a market bogged down with every brand of mutant and super-hero who were already established (plus having the buzz from the new kid on the block–Image Comics–to contend with didn’t help either). Crucible fizzled away. To bring a sense of closure, the final issue was rewritten.

The final issue of Crucible was not going to have the return of the Crusaders. Instead, it would have set the stage for the adventures of the new American Shield, and his goal to find the Crusaders, and get as many of the old super-heroes (such as BlackJack) back in action. However, with Crucible dead, the new “American Shield” series was as well.


Agents and Equipment

WEB Equipment
WEB Armor
raises Endurance to AM
raises Strength to IN

Arm Mounted Tractor Presser Beam: Attraction/Repulsion RM
Microwave Handgun- EX
Radiowave Control EX

Limitation: the handgun is only the heat of the microwaves, not true fire.
Limitation: Radiowave Control can only neutralize radio broadcasts.

Entrapment Device
Tracking RM
Glue RM
Limitation: Tracking can only detect heat.
This device is a grenade that projects heat-seeking plastic polymer tentacles to entrap a foe.

The Web armor can only function for a few hours at a time; however, it is possible to remotely transmit its energy. When the energy arrives, the armor wearer experiences a “boot”, visualized by a brief web-like pattern of green light around the armor, who then become fully functional.

The armor is an armored exoskeleton with a tractor beam, a microwave handgun, and a tangle grenades launcher. Most Web agents carry supplementary weaponry.

It is a classic, AIM-yellow combat armor, with plates on most joints and a green web motif on the upper chest; it does not include a helmet.

In the !MPACT! universe, the Web was a SHIELD-like US organization, whose main function was to keep tabs on the emerging super-heroes, and whose secondary objective was to fight various villains and super-villains. It had a lot of GI Joe-style agents.
Big Daddy
F- EX
A- EX
S- EX
E- GD
R- EX
I- GD
P- EX
H- 70
K- 50

Talents: Repair/Tinkering, Guns, Military, Martial Arts B, English Literature.

Gunny
F- GD
A- GD
S- TY
E- GD
R- EX
I- EX
P- EX
H- 36
K- 60

Talents: Occult, Guns, Military, Martial Arts B, Voodoo (Swamp Magic).

Brew
F- GD
A- EX
S- EX
E- GD
R- EX
I- GD
P- EX
H- 60
K- 50

Talents: Martial Arts B, Guns, Military.

Jump F- GD
A- EX
S- EX
E- GD
R- EX
I- GD
P- EX
H- 60
K- 50

Talents: Martial Arts B, Guns, Military.

Sunshine Kid
F- GD
A- GD
S- TY
E- GD
R- EX
I- GD
P- EX
H- 36
K- 50

Talents: Akido, Guns, Military.

St. James
F- EX
A- TY
S- TY
E- GD
R- EX
I- GD
P- EX
H- 42
K- 50

Talents: Martial Arts B, Guns, Military, Tactics.

Silver
F- GD
A- GD
S- GD
E- GD
R- EX
I- TY
P- EX
H- 40
K- 46

Talents: Martial Arts B, Guns, Military.

Buster
F- GD
A- GD
S- GD
E- GD
R- EX
I- TY
P- EX
H- 40
K- 46

Talents: Martial Arts B, Guns.

Rowdy
F- TY
A- GD
S- EX
E- GD
R- EX
I- TY
P- EX
H- 46
K- 46

Talents: Guns.

Rad
F- GD
A- EX
S- EX
E- GD
R- EX
I- TY
P- EX
H- 60
K- 46

Talents: Martial Arts B, Guns.

In addition, every WEB Agent has the following:
Contacts: U.S. Government, WEB.
Resources: EX
Motivation: Responsibility of Power
Occupation: Secret Agent