The classic superhero team Mighty Crusaders is finding new life. Rob Liefeld, the writer and artist best known for Deadpool, will launch a four-issue series reviving the classic superteam for the modern era, with Archie Comics planning a 2021 release.
The Mighty Crusaders first debuted in 1965 in a series written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. The team has included an assortment of heroes, including the Shield, the Comet, the Jaguar and Fly-Girl, but never quite broke through into the public consciousness a la Archie, Sabrina and other hit characters from the publisher. Archie Comics dusted off the property in 2017, and with this new take, it hopes to bring Mighty Crusaders to greater levels of awareness.
“The most important thing is to introduce this to today’s fans,” Liefeld tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The Shield, in particular, has a storied history that has captured Liefeld’s attention. The hero debuted in 1940 and is considered the first patriotic-style comic book hero, predating Marvel’s Captain America. Cap’s original shield, famously on display on this Hitler-punching cover, looked similar to an emblem on the Shield’s chest, leading to a lawsuit that eventually saw Cap’s shield changed to today’s familiar, round shape.
For Liefeld, a comics history buff, it’s tales like that which make Mighty Crusaders a property he’s revered for decades. Liefeld first read the exploits of the team in the 1980 in a revival Archie was publishing at the time. By the late ’90s, Liefeld was an established name in comics, and dreamed up a story for the Shield, never thinking he’d get to use it, and not even bothering to write it down. He just kept it in his head.
Decades later, Archie called the creator to ask if he’d be interested in doing something, and he surprised the publisher by having a fully formed story to pitch, one that takes inspiration from government conspiracy movies such as Three Days of the Condor and Enemy of the State.
“You have to say, ‘Here’s why you haven’t heard of this character’ and ‘here’s why this character went on the lamb,'” says Liefeld of his take. “Now the truth of this character is coming out and the cast of characters around him have to deal with this truth and ultimately decide what side of justice are they going to stand on.”
Negotiations between Liefeld and Archie took a while to hammer out, and there were moments it looked like it might not come together. But Liefeld began penciling the first issue in secret anyway, thinking if the deal fell through, he could tweak it and turn the comic into some other patriotic character.
“So when it was over, I said, ‘I already drew the first issue. We are ready to go,'” Liefeld says of his deal finally closing.
“When I learned that Rob – a creator of the highest caliber with a long, sterling track record – was a fan of our characters, I knew we had to act fast,” said Archie Comics CEO/Publisher Jon Goldwater in a statement. “Along with Marvel and DC, Archie Comics is one of the few media companies with an entire catalogue of superheroes dating back to the earliest days of comics that are beloved and bursting with potential. I knew right away that Rob Liefeld was the person to make them shine again. This series will remind people why these characters matter, and put them in the A-list, where they have always belonged.”
“Rob’s work has always been dynamic, in terms of storytelling, action, character, and style. One of my earliest comic book memories was picking up a copy of X-Force #1 and being completely enamored,” said Archie Comics co-president Alex Segura in a statement. “To have Rob bring that same energy and fearless creativity to Archie’s stable of superhero characters is a dream come true. I’m so excited for people to read these stories, and to show everyone why heroes like the Shield, Jaguar, Comet, Fly-Girl, and others matter more today than ever before.”
For Liefeld, working on The Shield marks a trifecta of patriotic character he’s tackled, including Captain America and Fighting American, created by Captain America co-creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. And this work caps a year in which he’s gotten to dive into a number of characters he has a deep affection for, including the G.I. Joe character Snake Eyes and Marvel’s Deadpool, which he’s returning to for next year’s 30th anniversary.
“Thes are important characters in the history of comic books,” Liefeld says of Mighty Crusaders. “But they have been dormant. It is a great opportunity to refresh.”