Archie Comics is out to change the way you think of the stars and stripes.
Although many identify Marvel’s Captain America as the premiere patriotic superhero, the truth is that Jersey boy turned hero Steve Rogers’ debut in 1941 was preempted by The Shield by more than a year! Debuting in the now-defunct MLJ Comics’ Pep Comics #1 (1940), The Shield has a long and complex history that has taken the character to various publishing houses including DC Comics’ Red Circle Imprint.
Now though, The Shield is settling back into Archie Comics’ Dark Circle imprint. Re-envisioned as the undying spirit of America, The Shield manifests in the body of various patriots throughout history. In the new series The Shield, which debuts on October 21st, the avatar of America is channeled through the body of a present day American woman, the so-called “Daughter of the Revolution.”
The Beat recently sat down with series co-writers Chuck Wendig and Adam Christopher to discuss what it means to them to have the opportunity to recreate an American legend, what political issues they hope to tackle, and what it means for this classic hero to be reimagined as a woman.
Alex Lu: Adam, Chuck, you’ve both had successful careers as novelists. How did you end up getting involved with Dark Circle and The Shield? What brought you to comics in general?
Chuck Wendig: I’m just dipping my little toesy-woesies into the comics field, but I’ve been doing the novel thing for about 14 books now, and I’ve known Adam for a while. Alex [Segura] was looking for some new voices from the novelist pool and he found us wandering around like lost puppies. Or maybe I misremember that part.
Adam Christopher: It was one of those great moments when everything just came together—Chuck and I are pals and have been noodling on various comic projects for a while, and I think Alex knew that, and we both knew him through not just from comics but in his other life as a crime novelist. So everything kinda intersected at the right moment—Alex was spearheading the new Dark Circle imprint at Archie, and one day we literally got the call.
Lu: The character of The Shield has a long and storied history. The hero hasn’t received a lot of mainstream attention in recent years, but is, in truth, older than Captain America! What was your relationship to the character before signing onto the book?
Wendig: My relationship was minimal – I knew of the character, but really only that.
Christopher: I was introduced to The Shield—and the rest of the Archie superheroes—when DC Comics licensed them under the Red Circle banner back around 2010. From there I went back into the archives and discovered this whole superhero universe. So to now be co-writer on The Shield is something of a thrill!
Lu: What, in your mind, is the key difference between The Shield and other fashionably patriotic heroes?
Wendig: Her history is deeper, for one. She’s bound up with the entire history and origin of the United States. She wasn’t just some Nazi-puncher.
Christopher: That’s exactly it—The Shield might have first appeared in the 1940s, before Captain America, but times have changed and our new version of the character is a reflection of that. Through her, we can really explore the nature of patriotism and heroism, and what it means to wear a country’s flag as your costume.
Lu: Since the both of you function as co-writers on The Shield, how do you two divide tasks? How do you make sure your creative “voices,” so to speak, combine to create a cohesive book?
Wendig: We each write different issues, but always take separate passes on them too to unify – plus, we do outlines and beat sheets to make sure we’re on the same page. We work very well together!
Christopher: It actually helps that Chuck and I are very different writers—our novels, for example, are so utterly different in style and voice. So each of us will come up with stuff that the other would never have thought of in a million years, and we put it all together we get something truly unique. We also know each other well and respect each other’s talent and creative opinions, so we trust each other to say if something isn’t working or that there is a better way of doing it. It makes for not only a fun working relationship but one that is very rewarding too.
Lu: What’s it been like working with Drew? How has his style influenced your writing process?
Wendig: Drew’s work drops my jaw daily. And I mean daily, because as he finishes pages, he sends them to us. It’s like Christmas every day in my inbox.
Christopher: If anything, I think the sheer quality of Drew’s work makes us want to work harder ourselves! And he knows exactly what he’s doing—and if he comes up with a better way of showing something, he has our blessing to go ahead and do it his way. He’s 50% of the creative team, after all. We’re super lucky to have him. As a book, The Shield looks beautiful—and as a character, she looks so amazing when drawn by Drew.
Lu: As you bring The Shield into modern era, what elements of her character and history did you want to preserve? Were there any that you decided to discard in favor of a brand new direction?
Wendig: Obviously, the root of that character as a patriotic superhero is still in play – otherwise, this is a pretty new version. Our own take on all that.
Christopher: She does have links to previous versions of the character, which is something we will explore in the future. But yeah, she is a new character—she has a new history, a new origin, and a new purpose. And just to throw the cat among the pigeons, so to speak, it turns out she was The Shield right from the very beginning. We’ve essentially created a brand new character who is, at the same time, the real original.
Lu: One of the big selling points of this incarnation of The Shield is that, for the first time, “the spirit of the revolution” is a woman. Can you tell us a little bit about her background and where the inspiration for her character came from?
Wendig: We were allowed to take the pitch away from the source material and do something different, and I’m a fan of writing women characters as complex, interesting ones – and feel that there aren’t nearly enough women superheroes, so it seemed the right choice. Women can be soldiers and heroes, too.
Christopher: We certainly need more female superheroes, and I’m proud that the new Shield can help in that regard. I have an affinity for female superheroes so it felt very natural for us to re-interpret what was an existing male hero from the Golden Age of comics into a completely new, female, character. It’s difficult to pinpoint inspirations, but certainly the women like Deborah Sampson, who actually fought alongside male soldiers in the American Revolution, are a touchstone.
Lu: As male writers, does it ever worry you how the audience might feel about you writing a female-centric book— especially one that’s so politically charged?
Wendig: Not really– we’ve both written women characters before. They comprise over half the population in the US, and men should be able to write competent, complex characters who are both men and women. The politically-charged component isn’t really gender-based in this case, too.
Christopher: To be honest, it doesn’t really come into it for me—The Shield is a cool, kick-ass superhero, and I adore her and I adore writing for her. Our intention is create and write a strong character and I think she is exactly that. Originally we were going to reboot the original, male, version of The Shield, but Archie soon steered us in a new direction which I think is far more interesting and exciting.
The Shield #1 hits stands on October 21st. Check back tomorrow evening for an exclusive interview with series artist Drew Johnson!