Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review- THE SHIELD: AMERICA'S FIRST PATRIOTIC COMIC BOOK HERO


THE SHIELD: AMERICA'S FIRST PATRIOTIC COMIC BOOK HERO (Red Circle/ Archie, First Printing, 2002; Softcover)

Collects The Shield stories from Pep Comics #1-5 and Shield-Wizard Comics #1 (cover dates January- Summer, 1940)

Writer: Harry Shorten
Artist: Irv Novick



More than a year before that other star-spangled superhero made the scene, The Shield was cracking Nazi skulls and defending liberty from fascists. While the novelty of reading old, obscure, expensive comics has worn off here in the second decade of the Golden Age Of Collected Editions, The Shield remains an entertaining and at times compelling read.

On a purely historical level the character is fascinating. Joe Higgins is a chemist who finishes a secret formula from a fellow chemist who was slain by a Nazi saboteur, using it on himself to fight for America. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? He becomes a G-Man and fights Nazi looking and acting sorts as well as the “Mosconians”, who do a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in a story cover dated May, 1940. I am not sure how many months in advance of the cover dates Golden Age comics were sold, but this story was published more than eighteen months in advance of that attack. I enjoyed another MLJ hero, The Wizard, who had a brief guest appearance here in this story.

The Shield's costume design was ripped off by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who based Captain America's original shield on it. MLJ (later called Archie Comics) complained and Timely quickly changed Captain America's shield to the iconic Frisbee shaped flag shield.



The stories are above what Timely was doing at this time in terms of quality but a notch below what DC was doing. The Shield does the usual displays of strength and power which were so new to readers of the day. I love the absolute black and white, good versus evil of old comic books. It is a refreshing escape from comic books of today where everything is supposedly so sophisticated. Sometimes it is cool to just see a good guy beat the crap out of bad guys and save the day. All of the stories were equally enjoyable and were well written and drawn. Irv Novick was a comic artist for decades after this, with a career running into the 1990s.

This was a fun read that obviously didn't sell well enough to warrant further volumes, which is a shame because the strip ran until 1948. It would be cool if Archie would revisit it or farm out a series of hardcover Archives to Dark Horse.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I like how the book is as wide as the original comic books. Golden Age comics were wider than comics have been for the last 60 years.

I dislike how there are no creator credits in the Table of Contents.

Linework and Color restoration: The linework looks surprisingly good. I compared this book to many scans I found online and everything looks tight. The original color palette is faithfully maintained, although some of the color blends have a harsh gradient to them not found in the original comic books. Still, this is a top notch restoration job for 2002 and it looks very good even today. I can live with it.

The covers look awful, though. They are scans with no restoration, and look like they were either sourced from microfiche or were low resolution scans of the original comics. Color microfiche was rare but it cannot be ruled out here.
Paper stock: Thick uncoated stock with zero sheen under any light source.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. It should be noted that there was nary a creak in the binding, and this book is fourteen years old no less. Solid.
Cardstock cover notes: Very thick laminated cardstock.

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