TITLE: Mighty Crusaders #4
PUBLISHER: Mighty Comics Group (Archie Comics)
WRITER: Jerry Siegel
ILLUSTRATOR: Paul Reinman
COLORS: Victor Gorelick
LETTERS: Sam Rosen
EDITOR: Richard Goldwater
COVER: Paul Reinman
SUMMARY: The formation of the Mighty Crusaders inspires other heroes to come out of retirement and petition for membership.
COMMENTS: The story is titled “Too Many Super Heroes” Archie Comics had launched their superheroes in the silver age with two Simon & Kirby classics, The Fly and The Double life of Private Strong. As the Fly series continued he became Flyman. More in line with heroes like Superman and Batman as Superman creator Jerry Siegle took over the title. In the pages of Flyman #31, Jerry Siegle revived many of the Golden Age Archie Superheroes to create an Archie superhero team similar to the JLA. They were the Mighty Crusaders and less then a year later they had their own comic.
In this issue, Jerry decided to revive almost all the Golden Age superheroes. The Mighty Crusaders consisted of The Black Hood, The Comet, Fly Man, Fly Girl, and The Shield (Son of the Original Shield). In this single issue, Jerry and Paul Reinman re-introduced Black Jack, Bob Phantom, Captain Flag and Yank his pet eagle, Dusty, Fireball, Firefly, The Fox, Hangman, Inferno the fire-breather, the Jaguar, Kardak the Mystic, Mr. Justice, Roy the Super Boy, Steel Sterling the man of steel, The Web, The Wizard, Zambini the Miracle Man, and Rose Raymond who would become Pow-Girl at a later date.
Clearly “too many superheroes” for one story. But they were all here. The only Golden Age Archie heroes not to be revived were Red Rube and Mister Satan. Who would guess that ’60 wholesome Archie Comics wouldn’t want to publish a hero called Mister Satan?
In one issue all of the Golden Age greats were back again! However, Hangman and the Wizard had been taken over by the Dark Side and were now evil. It’s one of the first times in comics history where the good guys went bad, and it wasn’t just a plot for this issue. The ramifications of this “heal turn” lasted for decades.
One of the bad raps that the Mighty Crusaders and Might Comics Group get is that some readers felt like they were trying to copy the Marvel style and didn’t quite get it. That is an assumption made my Marvel fans who sampled the Mighty Comics line and didn’t quite get it themselves.
Other people who don’t know their comic history well think they were trying to copy the success of the Batman TV show. But all true comics fans know the wildly successful Batman TV Show with Adam West debuted January 12, 1966, and this very story was cover-dated May 1965. Further Belmont Books released “High Camp Superhero” in April 1966, just 3 months after the debut of the Batman TV Show, the book was in full production before the launch of the TV show.
In the ’60s DC Comics remade their superheroes science fiction heroes under the helm of Julie Schwartz, with many of the origins now sci-fi inspired. At the same time, Marvel Stan Lee would re-made their heroes as soap opera heroes with personal problems, angst and they didn’t have the public admiration of their DC counterparts. At Archie they were the third flavor; the strawberry to DC and Marvels Chocolate and Vanilla. Archie Comics was filled with silly teen romance featuring Archie, Betty, and Veronica’s romantic triangle. Unlike other romance comics, these were silly stories with over the top humor. With the Archie superheroes, they used the same concept. The Mighty Comics Group had taken a similar approach with over the top Camp humor added to the stories. Camp humor is absurdly exaggerated and artificial feeling humor. With the Mighty Crusaders, Jerry Seigle captured everything that made the Archie Heroes wonderful in the ’40s and exaggerated the actions and reactions until the Archie superheroes who took themselves seriously were in fact silly.
Right from the first splash page with a folk singer to what the Mighty Crusaders are doing in their private lives, The Black Hood is decorated for bravery, Fly Girl misses her awards ceremony, Flyman wins a trial, The Shield getting fired, and this becomes a running gag where Bill Higgins is fired in almost every story. We also have the Comet having to leave the girl of his dreams to rush off to the Mighty Crusaders meeting. Jerry sets up the arch types and humor all in the span of two pages. We also get the superheroes fighting with one another. In the Golden Age, the friendship between the Shield and Wizard was legendary, here the heroes engage in squabbles much like Archie and Reggie do in their comics. We also get a glimpse of the Web and his wife Rosie. The Web is the henpecked Husband, his wife doesn’t want him to be a superhero. It is a different approach to the superhero story and also brings in more humorous elements. At the end of the story, you also get a kiss between Flyman and Flygirl bringing in some of Archie’s trademark romance.
The Mighty Crusaders are not the Justice League or the Avengers. They are a group of heroes that bring fun and comedy to a group of characters that take themselves all to seriously in less than serious situations.
I highly recommend you pick up a back issue of the Mighty Crusades #4 at your local comic shop or The Mighty Crusaders: Origin of a Super-Team TPB that reprints these wonderful stories.