The Original American Hero A Review of The Shield—Volume One trade paperback from Archie Comics

Archie Comics is finally catching up with the rest of the comics industry as far as graphic novels and trade paperbacks go. This is how to make money. Raid the vaults and reprint the treasures. It’ll bring in the big bucks. We’ve already seen Archie in the Forties and Archie in the FiftiesSixties, ad infinitum. Now they have finally started hitting their long lost superhero material.

Archie Comics, known as MLJ back in the 1940s, was doing what all comic book companies were doing back then—superheroes. They had quite a few, some of them pretty cool. Although comebacks have been attempted time and time again over the years, no one seems to have captured the magic of the MLJ originals of the 1940s.

MLJ produced the adventures of the Black Hood, Steel Sterling, the Hangman and the Web but foremost among their stable of costumed crusaders was The Shield. The Shield was the first of the patriotic superheroes predating Wonder Woman, Uncle Sam and even Captain America. He used to be ordinary Joe Higgins whose government agent dad was offed by enemies of our country. Through the use of secret chemicals and a special suit, Joe fights the foes of America as the bulletproof and super-strong Shield.

The trade includes the Shield stories from Pep Comics #1-5 and Shield-Wizard Comics #1. It should be noted that Pep was also the home of a certain redheaded teenager named Archie Andrews who first appeared in #22 and quickly replaced the Shield as the lead feature. He and his friends from Riverdale would eventually become the main thrust of the entire MLJ line giving the comics their new name.

The Shield stories from 1940 are drawn by legendary artist Irv Novick. He had extraordinary runs on DC Comics’ Flash and Batman in the 1970s. It’s hard to imagine any artist staying on a feature for more than a few months these days, he did these for years. It’s interesting to see this slice of early Novick in the collection.

Also of note in the volume is the cameo of fellow MLJ hero the Wizard. This is the first superhero crossover, a trend that in the 1990s would ruin comics in this reviewer’s humble opinion. This one, the original, is pretty cool though.

As is this whole volume, chock full of Golden Age humor, flavor and good old-fashioned Nazi-bashing adventure. Worth the price, check it out.