The Mystery Men of June part five

The days dwindle down apace and it’ll soon be July. Pressures at work mean I am way behind with posts but today I want to look at a super-team who relaunched one June a couple of decades ago.

I’ve been thinking about the icons of DC and Marvel over the last couple of days: Spidey, Cap, Wolvie, the Surfer; Supes, Bats, Hal’n’ Ollie, Selina… But there are other iconic super-heroes to whom I was introduced in b/w reprints from the Alan Class stable: the Mighty Crusaders.

Alan Class comics have become highly collectable but in the early 70s, I considered them a poor substitute for Marvels and DCs. They were always a random mix of Marvel, Charlton, Tower and ACG strips but they introduced me to Fly Man , Fly Girl, the Hangman and the other Crusaders.

Black Hood’s colourful garb replaced by an ominous Dark Knight outfit

In the early 80s , the success of the X-Men and DC’s team books New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes paved the way for Rich Buckler’s relaunch of The Mighty Crusaders.  He folded in Kirby’s Lancelot Strong and a new heroine, the mysterious and vampy Darkling.

I went on to pick up a few of the Mighty Comics originals at comic marts but was now very conscious of Jerry Siegel’s corny and blatant imitation of Stan Lee’s self-mocking bombast.  The hen-pecked Web is certainly unique (if ridiculous) but the campy dialogue was unbearable.

The Crusaders returned nearly a decade later when the !mpact comics line made its DC début in 1992.  Aimed at younger readers,this was a collectable  new universe (ahem)  with colourful and cartoony heroes, Mike Parobeck’s Fly being my favourite. Unfortunately, the line folded after barely a year.

In 2009, the Shield, Hangman, Inferno and the Web were re-introduced as characters in a typically grim-looking new DC imprint, the Red Circle. I never sampled it so I have nothing to say on the subject.

Happily, the Crusaders have been relaunched by Archie Comics once more as an all-ages title, including revamps of  the Web, the Comet,  Fireball,  Fly Girl, the Shield and Steel Sterling. I hope this digital-format venture is successful and that these heroes charm a whole new audience.

Other Mystery Men who made their first appearances in June include Black Orchid and Blue Devil– again, since I’ve never read any of their stories  I’ll pass on them this time. However, I did read a couple of late 70s issues of Shade, the Changing Man.

A surreal, other-dimensional rebel, Rac Shade made his début at a time when I was less  receptive to Ditko’s idiosyncratic work. An alternate version was a member of the New 52’s Justice League Dark but that title didn’t make a favourable first impression on me.

I was similarly disenchanted with Roy Thomas’ pulpy Young All-Stars in the late 80s, especially his unlikeable  POV character , Iron Munro. The cursed Fury was interesting but, although I persevered for the first six months, in the end I drifted away from this  meandering All-Star Squadron spin-off and eventually so did everyone else.

One young all-star who did have some longevity was the second Star-Spangled Kid, later known as Stargirl. This perky heroine was a mainstay of the Justice Society in the last decade and gained immortality as one of the handful of JSAers who appeared on tv in Smallville. I’d like to see Courtney restored in the pages of Earth-2.

There is a new Kid Flash in the New 52 but the most recent was the teen superhero with ADD: Impulse.  I’m sufficiently old enough to think KF is a better brand but I also think that there’s room for light-hearted, even downright comical super-heroes (neatly returning us to the New Crusaders!)

Coming soon: more 100-page Super Specs and later this year, Tabloids and Treasuries!

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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