Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reader's Diary #1356- Irv Novick: The Shield

Starting to explore the world of non Marvel/DC superheroes as well as Archie comics beyond Double Digests, The Shield was a perfect find. This collects the first 8 Shield comics from January to the summer of 1940, published originally in PEP Comics.

The Shield started out as the alter-ego of Joe Higgins, a chemist who's devised a suit to give him super strength, speed, and make impervious to bullets and flame— all while defending his country. He's a pretty patriotic guy, in case you haven't guessed, answering to the one person who knows his true identity, real-life J. Edgar Hoover. The publishers refer to him as the first truly patriotic superhero. (Yes, he predates Captain America.)

One must read early superhero comics with an understanding that times were different, superhero comics were new, and haven't had scores of writers and artists perfecting the genre. One notable thing to normally expect is a large dose of racism. Granted, in terms of these early Shield comics, the racism is relatively low. 1940 predates America's involvement in WWII, so perhaps that explains it; the villains are from fictional lands, the Stokians and the Moscovians. The latter is clearly based on the Germans with exaggerated accents, but still mild compared to many comics of the time. 

The quality, however, is 1940's. There's little character building, almost every scene is narrated as if there's little faith in the art that readers can extrapolate what's going on, and the dialogue is over-the-top with cheese. The Shield keeps referring to everyone as "boys" like he's the host of Amazing Race Canada. 

The art isn't terrible but man, I did get more than a little hung up on The Shield's ridiculous suit. It's basically a red leotard with a flag patterned woman's one piece bathing suit stretched over the top. Too funny.

All that said, one good thing about not having a lot of character building is that future writers and artists have a lot to develop, without having to work overcoming or rewriting past creative decisions.


Buried In Print said...

There's something nostaglic about reading old comics, but one does have to forgive a lot!

John Mutford said...

Buried in Print: That's definitely true. That said, The Shield was not exactly a nostalgic trip as it predates any time that I could be nostalgic for, but I didn't like reading it for historical purposes.