Thursday, 20 October 2011

Comic Book Ramblings: Archie Comics' Digital New Crusaders

More announcements that came out this year's NEW YORK COMIC-CON that was that first reported by the NEW YORK TIMES was that ARCHIE COMICS will revive it's old MLJ/RED CIRCLE COMICS Superheroes in Spring 2012.THE NEW CRUSADERS by writer IAN FLYNN and artist BEN BATES will be a part of a NETFLIX-like online subscription service offered by ARCHIE COMICS and iVERSE MEDIA, offering an original 6-page weekly stories and access to an vast comic book archive.

The NEW CRUSADERS picks up years after of the MIGHTY CRUSADERS defeated their greatest enemy, the BRAIN EMPEROR, settling down and rising their kids in the town of RED CIRCLE. But the BRAIN EMPEROR returns for revenge, destroying the entire town, with only a few kids and a grumpy old man surviving by taking refuge underneath the town in a secret facility. The kids learn of their superheroic legacies and that the grumpy old man was once known as the superhero THE SHIELD, who takes it upon himself to train that next generation of superheroes. The NEW CRUSADERS' line-up from ARCHIE's teaser poster shows a an older SHIELD, newer versions of THE JAGUAR, STEEL STERLING, FLY-GIRL, THE COMET, THE WEB, & FIREBALL with plans to feature other characters like the BLACK HOOD & THE FOX down the line.

Pep Comics #1
The CRUSADERS have had a rocky history in the world of comics. ARCHIE COMICS originally started out as a superhero comics publisher back in 1939 at the start of the GOLDEN AGE when it was then known as MLJ Magazines (named after it's founders MAURICE COYNE, LOUIS SILBERKLEIT, & JOHN L. GOLDWATER), before switching it's focus to the popular teen-humor character ARCHIE in the late 1940s.

Archie #58

Founders of MLJ/Archie Comics

Simon and Kirby
By the late 1950s, a new SILVER AGE of Comics had begun and ARCHIE COMICS jump on to the superhero bandwagon by hiring comic book superstars JOE SIMON & JACK KIRBY, who created 2 new superheroes for them.

Double Life of Private Strong
With SIMON & KIRBY's track record on super-patriotic heroes, creating CAPTAIN AMERICA for MARVEL COMICS in the 1940s & the FIGHTING AMERICAN in the 1950s, ARCHIE COMICS had them revive the SHIELD in a title called THE DOUBLE LIFE OF PRIVATE STRONG in June 1959.

Pulp Hero Doc Savage
In the comic the origins of the character Army Private Lancelot Strong are strikingly similar to that of 1930s Pulp magazine hero DOC SAVAGE, possessing superpowers much like DC's SUPERMAN, which caused DC COMICS to file for copyright infringement after only 2 issues being published.
Actin Comics #242

Advs. of the Fly #1
Second superhero SIMON & KIRBY came up with for ARCHIE was THE FLY, based on an used character they created in 1954 for CRESTWOOD PUBLICATIONS' BLACK MAGIC title called the SILVER SPIDER (which KIRBY says was the bases of the creation of MARVEL COMICS' SPIDER-MAN also).
Silver Spider art by C.C. Beck

Whiz Comics #4 starring Capt. Marvel
The FLY's origins followed that of FAWCETT's 1940s superhero CAPTAIN MARVEL, were a young boy magically transforming into an adult superhero. THE FLY would first appear in the back-up pages of PRIVATE STRONG before getting his own title, the ADVENTURES OF THE FLY in August 1959.
Simon's New Shieldmaster
In 1999, the rights to these 2 characters reverted back to JOE SIMON and the KIRBY estate, with SIMON renaming the LANCELOT STRONG character the SHIELDMASTER on his wesite. Plans to take publish this new version are on there way, hopeful we'll see THE FLY also.

The Jaguar #1
By 1961 ARCHIE COMICS added more new superheroes to their growing line like THE ADVENTURES OF THE JAGUAR & adding female counterparts like FLY-GIRL & THE CAT GIRL.

The Fly #9

Archie Comics' The Shadow #1
Then in 1964 ARCHIE COMICS secured the rights to classic pulp hero THE SHADOW by their way of BELMONT BOOKS, a paperback publisher owned by ARCHIE COMICS, who was republishing classic SHADOW stories much like BANTAM's DOC SAVAGE reprints in the 1960s.

Archie Comics' The Shadow #2
By issue 2 of THE SHADOW, ARCHIE COMICS' had transformed "the dark avenger" into a blond hair, muscle-bound, green & blue costume wearing superhero with stories penned by SUPERMAN Co-Creator JERRY SIEGEL.

Mighty Crusaders #6
By the Mid-1960s ARCHIE COMICS had grouped them together as THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS, and to capitalize on the popularity of the BATMAN TV series, writer JERRY SIEGAL was instructed to make them more campy. But the when that trend wore off the entire line was cancelled in 1967.

Chilling Advs. in Sorcery #1
During the early 1970s, ARCHIE COMICS tried to publish more "serious" comics than their teen-humour comics, put out a weak horror comic titled CHILLING ADVENTURES IN SORCERY AS TOLD BY SABRINA in October 1973.
Red Circle Sorcery #8
It was later renamed RED CIRCLE SORCERY and published under the RED CIRCLE COMICS brand with THE SUPER COPS (based on the 1970s movie) and MAD HOUSE (a re-titled MAD HOUSE GLADS) added to the line.
Madhouse #97

Black Hood by Gary Morrow
ARCHIE COMICS had decided to add a revamped BLACK HOOD comic to the line, going as far as paying the great NEAL ADAMS & GARY MORROW (who was RED CIRCLE's editor at the time) to do the comic, but by early 1975 the line was canned.
Black Hood by Neal Adams

Archie's Super Hero Digest #2
The stories would finally be published when ARCHIE COMICS release 2 digest comics in 1978-79, ARCHIE'S SUPER HERO SPECIAL (& later reprinted in a 1980s issue of BLUE RIBBON COMICS).

Mighty Crusaders Vol.2, #1
The MIGHTY CRUSADERS would lay dormant until the early 1980s. Across North America comic book speciality shops began to pop up and the Direct Market was just coming into place, ARCHIE COMICS decided to relaunch their superhero line under the RED CIRCLE COMICS banner with THE ALL-NEW MIGHTY CRUSADERS #1 (March 1983), under the direction of writer-artist RICH BUCKLER as Managing Editor.
Intro Buckler's Darkling
BUCKLER even created a sexy new superheroine named DARKLING to join the team.

The RED CIRCLE COMICS line would go to include such titles as:

The Fly #1, cover by Jim Steranko
THE FLY (May 1983), were SPIDER-MAN Co-Creator STEVE DITKO would do some amazing superhero action in.
The Black Hood #2
THE BLACK HOOD (June 1983), featuring a beautifully drawn FOX back-up by comic book legend ALEX TOTH.
Lancelot Strong, the Shield #1
LANCELOT STRONG, THE SHIELD (June 1983) drawn by BUCKLER himself in the style of JACK KIRBY, the series would be later renamed SHIELD-STEEL STERLING, and finally as STEEL STERLING
Steel Sterling #4

The Comet #1
THE COMET (October 1983), drawn by CARMINE INFANTINO (THE FLASH), originally to be a 6-issue mini-series, but sadly only 2 issues ever got published.

Blue Ribbon Comics Vol.2, #2
BLUE RIBBON COMICS Volume 2 (November 1983), was RED CIRCLE's anthology title featuring new stories ever issue.

The Original Shield #3

Remco's The Comet
In 1984 ARCHIE COMICS would even make a deal with the REMCO TOY COMPANY to create action figures of the MIGHTY CRUSADERS, each would come with a secret sonic signal shield. 4 heroes & 4 villains were included in the line (THE SHIELD, THE FOX, THE COMET, THE WEB, THE BRAIN EMPEROR, THE BUZZARD, THE ERASER, & THE STING), with more if it prove successful.

The Mighty Crusaders vs. the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents
RED CIRCLE would even have THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS have a crossover with another classic team of superheroes, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS, who would also appear in an issue of BLUE RIBBON COMICS (#12, September 1984).
Blue Ribbon Comics Vol.2, #12

Thunder Bunny #1
RED CIRCLE would also publish MARTIN GIEIM's creator-owned superhero THUNDER BUNNY in a one-shot special in January 1984, then have the character appear in both THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS #7 and PEP COMICS #393 in March 1984, and finally in BLUE RIBBON COMICS #13 along side THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS in October 1984.
Blue Ribbon Comics Vol.2, #13

Katy Keene Special #1
RED CIRCLE would also publish a girls romance title when they revive ARCHIE COMICS classic comic character KATY KEENE for a series of bi-monthly "Specials" with reprints from creator-artist BILL WOGGON, and new art by DAN DeCARLO and VINCE COLLETTA.
Katy Keen Special #6
KATY KEENE would be the only title survive when the line once again cancelled by ARCHIE COMICS in September 1985. But THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS would unknowingly influence the comic book world by being the inspiration for what now is considered "the greatest comic book of the 20th Century", WATCHMEN by writer ALAN MOORE and DAVE GIBBONS.

Alan Moore

ALAN MOORE in a interview in from COMIC BOOK ARTIST #9

 ~ "The initial idea of Watchmen—and this is nothing like what Watchmen turned out to be—was it was very simple: Wouldn't it be nice if I had an entire line, a universe, a continuity, a world full of super-heroes—preferably from some line that has been discontinued and no longer publishing—whom I could then just treat in a different way. You have to remember this was very soon after I'd done some similar stuff, if you like, with Marvelman, where I'd used a pre-existing character, and applied a grimmer, perhaps more realistic kind of world view to that character and the milieu he existed in. So I'd just started thinking about using the MLJ characters—the Archie super-heroes—just because they weren't being published at that time, and for all I knew, they might've been up for grabs. The initial concept would've had the 1960s-'70s rather lame version of the Shield being found dead in the harbor, and then you'd probably have various other characters, including Jack Kirby's Private Strong, being drafted back in, and a murder mystery unfolding. I suppose I was just thinking, "That'd be a good way to start a comic book: have a famous super-hero found dead." As the mystery unraveled, we would be lead deeper and deeper into the real heart of this super-hero's world, and show a reality that was very different to the general public image of the super-hero. So, that was the idea".

So with release of such ground breaking works like ALAN MOORE & DAVE GIBBONS' WATCHMEN and FRANK MILLER's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS in 1986, the "grim & gritty" superheroes became very popular, so the idea of revamping ARCHIE's superheroes came up again. This time it would be publish under the SPECTRUM COMICS label with whole new concepts created for them, and only the names kept.

Spectrum Promo Fly art by Mike Blair
Writer STEVE ENGLEHART and artist MIKE BLAIR would do THE FLY with the idea of a person getting superpowers from an alien virus that eventually kills that person, then infecting a new person. So every issue there would be a new FLY.

Spectrum Promo art by Dave Dorman 
THE HANGMAN would be written by MARV WOLFMAN with art by KELLY JONES, covers by DAVE DORMAN. WOLFMAN crafted a story of a supposedly dead policeman Craig Harden tracking down the man responsible for his death, Dr. Creighton Cavdaver. THE HANGMAN would take on Cavdaver's henchmen, "Giggler", a freckled faced red haired psycho who bare a resemblance to a certain RIVERDALE HIGH student, and "Beef", as in "a side of...", a giant of a man, all muscle.

THE SHIELD would be drawn by then newcomer ROB LIEFELD.

Shadowhawk by Valentino
THE FOX would be done by JIM VALENTINO (who would later brush off his FOX concept in 1992 for his creator-owned project at IMAGE COMICS, SHADOWHAWK), with characters like THE JAGUAR and MISTER JUSTICE introduced later on. But the big-wigs at ARCHIE COMICS pulled out of the venture altogether in July 1989 after seeing some of the promotional art by KELLY JONES of the HANGMAN, fearing the dark direction it would take with the characters.
The Hangman by Jones

Then ARCHIE COMICS took an offer from DC COMICS to license their superheroes which was looking to create a line that would be aimed at a younger audience and more reader friendly. So DC COMICS created the IMPACT COMICS imprint with books available mainly though newsstands.
Impact Comics logo
IMPACT COMICS would release 5 titles during their initial launch which included:

THE LEGEND OF THE SHIELD (July 1991) by writer-artist GRANT MIEHM . A sort of combination of GOLDEN AGE & SILVER AGE SHIELDS, US soldier wearing an indestructible armored suit.

THE COMET (July 1991) by writer MARK WAID and artist TOM LYLE.

THE FLY (August 1991) by writer LEN STRAZEWSKI and artist MIKE PAROBECK. Sticking to SINON & KIRBY's original idea of the young boy magically turning into adult superhero.

THE JAGUAR (AUGUST 1991) by writer WILLIAM MESSNER-LOEBS and artist DAVID ANTOINE WILLIAMS. Now a mousy female University student who transforms into a muscular "were-cat" heroine.

THE WEB (September 1991), also by writer LEN STRAZEWSKI, with art by TOM ARTIS. STRAZEWKI transformed THE WEB into a top-secret Government Agency with a number a "WEB" agents.

THE BLACK HOOD (December 1991) by writer MARK WHEATLEY and artist RICK BURCHETT followed soon after having IMPACT's version of THE PUNISHER/THE VIGILANTE appearing in various IMPACT COMICS' titles. In that very first issue WHEATLEY had the main character killed off and a new BLACK HOOD replacing him in issue 2.

DC would publish a IMPACT COMICS WINTER SPECIAL one-shot which tease a possible teaming of all IMPACT Superheroes which would lead to an new series.

THE CRUSADERS (May 1992) by writer-editor BRIAN AUGUSTYN and artist RAGS MORALES, IMPACT COMICS' superheroes now officially join forces as a superhero team.

The Crucible #6
Sadly due to a lack of advertising support from DC's marketing, internal conflicts with the editorial, and lack of sales the entire line was scraped in favour of another reboot with the 6-part mini-series THE CRUCIBLE (February 1993), written by MARK WAID & BRIAN AUGUSTYN, art by CHUCK WOJTKIEWITCZ & JOE QUESADA. The mini-series would be the start of what would be called "Phase 2" of the IMPACT COMICS Universe, focusing on THE BLACK HOOD, THE COMET, & THE SHIELD with 3 new titles spinning-off set to debut.



WRATH OF THE COMET by writer MARK WAID & legendary X-MEN artist DAVE COCKRUM.

STEEL STERLING, a new shape changing superhero that would've be introduced during THE CRUCIBLE would appear as back-up feature would appear in each of the books as well by writer PAUL KUPPERBERG & artist GENE HA. But DC decided to cancel the whole thing by the time issue 3 of THE CRUCIBLE it the shelves. WAID already written the first issues of the new line and all artists turned in finished pages. DC did keep the licence for a number of years for some reason, but did not renewal it when the option came up, thus reverting back to ARCHIE COMICS who did nothing with them for 16 years.

DC Promo Art for Red Circle
Meanwhile at MARVEL COMICS, superstar writer J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI's exclusive contract was coming to an end in 2009 (leaving his mini-series THE TWELVE with artist CHRIS WESTON unfinished with #8, which piss me off) and would be signing with DC COMICS, taking over writing duties on THE BRAVE & THE BOLD. During the talks the idea of once again licencing the ARCHIE/RED CIRCLE superheroes came up again. This time they would be introduced into the DC UNIVERSE through THE BRAVE & THE BOLD. The plan was change in favour of a series of special one-shot issues titled RED CIRCLE written by STRACZYNSKI, with covers by artist JESUS SUIZ.





After these one-shots, STRACZYNSKI left these characters to handle DC's main franchises SUPERMAN & WONDER WOMAN, leaving the 2 spin-off on-going series to others.

THE SHIELD by writer ERIC TRAUTMANNN (CHECKMATE) and artist MARCO RUDY (FINAL CRISIS), featuring a INFERNO back-up series by writer BRANDON JERWA (G.I. JOE) and artist GREG SCOTT (GOTHAM CENTRAL).

THE WEB by writer-director ANGELA ROBINSON (D.E.B.S.) and artist ROGER ROBINSON (BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS), featuring a HANGMAN back-up series by writer JOHN ROZUM (DETECTIVE COMICS) and artist TOM DERENICK (REIGN IN HELL)

Green Arrow & Black Canary #20
THE RED CIRCLE superheroes would next cameos and guest appearances throughout the DC UNIVERSE in the pages of GREEN ARROW & BLACK CANARY (20), WONDER WOMAN (36), SUPERMAN (688), JSA (36), & MAGOG (3, 8-9).

Superman #688

The Hangman, The Jaguar, & The Black Hood
More RED CIRCLE superheroes were introduced into the DC UNIVERSE like THE COMET (in THE SHIELD #5), THE JAGUAR (THE SHIELD #5), and the FOX (THE SHIELD #7) appearing.

The Fox

The Mighty Crusaders Special
This lead to THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS SPECIAL (MAY 2010) written by all 4 RED CIRCLE writers TRAUTMANN, STURGES, JERWA, & ROZUM with art by JAVI PINA.


The Crusaders #1, Pages 4 & 5
But DC COMICS just had too many Superheroes for anyone to take notice, despite how good the comics were. So by the Summer 2011, DC COMICS Co-Publisher DAN DIDIO confirmed that DC COMICS no longer licensed the RED CIRCLE Superheroes from ARCHIE COMICS, cancelling the entire line all together due to poor sales and response from the DC fans. Two trade paperback collections from THE SHIELD and THE WEB were published in 2010, but nothing else.

Now with ARCHIE COMICS returning with THE NEW CRUSADERS, they hope to cut costs by only featuring them in digital format online. I wish them luck in this new venture. Makes me think the only reason they are releasing this characters is to keep the copyright on  hope that some Hollywood movie produce might see them and make a movie about them. Why spend the money & time putting out "real" comics right?

~ Rajadevilman74

1 comment:

  1. ShieldMaster created and copyright Jim Simon